As I have decided to cease sending email newsletters, which only go out about once a year anyway, this seems like a good opportunity to sum up what has been going on during the past 12 months and what I hope will be happening during the coming year.
2016 began with an intense bout of preparation, editing and excitement over the newest story 'The Testament of Sophie Dawes' which was released in March. For once I decided on a cover that did not feature a person or any faces, but just a retro-look Victorian-style piece of text on a dark background. It soon became apparent that the printers of the paperback and I were not quite on the same wave length, however, and I had to bump up the contrast of everything to make it work. I also learnt a lot then about the importance of having one's computer screen properly calibrated for brightness when designing things of this kind. Following a couple of disappointing proofs, the cover eventually turned out beautiful and sparkly, and almost seems to glow in the dark.
Sparkly, with black poppies and antique Chantilly lace.
I had wanted to write about Sophie Dawes, the Baronne de Feucheres for many a year, as her story really is the ultimate rags to riches tale, but I was always put off by the fact that there seemed so little to actually like about her. This was largely due to the biography (about the only proper one ever written of Sophie in English) by Marjorie Bowen. This was published in 1934 - and was pretty scathing, to say the least. A quote from Bowen's introductory chapter should suffice:
"The story of Sophie Dawes and the circumstances that made her notorious provide no material for either poet, novelist or moralist. The history of an old fool of noble blood and a young slut from the gutter lacks any romantic appeal."
Yikes! Well, I thought, I'm not going to let that pass without a challenge. Poor Sophie! And so I resolved to write a story of her rise and fall and also the peculiar parallel life she led to our own Queen Victoria. For though they were years apart in age, and almost certainly never met, they did share many important acquaintances who helped shape the course of European history. And for that fact alone, her story is a worthy one.
After publication, I turned attention to developing further my website. This is now a proper one, built from scratch rather than using the standard 'off the peg' templates as provided by Wordpress etc that I had relied on before. It has, in fact, proved to be a fascinating journey of discovery and learning. At the start, I had not anticipated this. But there really is so much to the whole process. It puts one in control of design, and exactly what content appears on each page, without any interference or 3rd-party advertising. It has become a creative project, after all, and great fun.
The other great project of the year has been the studying and learning by heart of several Romantic-era poems. Unanticipated and marvelous things happen when you learn a great poem by heart or have the temerity to try reciting it aloud. Again, you discover so much more going on beneath the surface and come away with a renewed admiration for the brilliant people, such as Keats and Blake who wrote such extraordinary lines. As relevant today as ever. I recorded the results here on YouTube. Video clips and trailers are somethings I enjoy doing anyway. So it was a good match for me at the time and a good way of coming down from the highs of finishing the novel. I shall no doubt continue doing these, albeit on a more modest scale.
In-between all this excitement, there has always been the garden, of course (regular visitors to these pages will recall that I am a keen gardener), and though I might not always know or remember all the various Latin names of plants, I find great pleasure in designing and growing. Here are some of the highlights ...
Purple flowering Sage.
The next book?
So, what about the next book? Well, I have been doing a little research and thinking of ideas for a couple of stories. But the one I am settling on at the moment will probably take us back to Elizabethan England. It will be a romantic comedy. After the writing of my Sophie Dawes novel, which really was relentlessly Gothic in tone and quite bleak, I have a hankering for something more light-hearted and fun. All being well, there might be something to show by way of a finished story this time next year.
So, that's the state of play so far, folks. 2016. All that remains is to thank you for visiting Endymion over the past 12 months, and to wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous 2017.
Let's keep history alive - in our places of learning, our libraries, our bookshelves and in our hearts - because it really is so important and for so many reasons.