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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Collecting Cooper

Some years ago, I was talking over coffee with a New Zealand publisher, and she observed, very ruefully, that she had brought out a crime novel by a new New Zealand author that was "absolutely brilliant," but had not done well in New Zealand.  "Yet he's a bestseller overseas," she told me with a great sigh. "Readers in Europe love him."

It's something odd about the average New Zealander who is looking for a page-turner novel.  He or she does not go for a fellow Kiwi's effort, though he or she will buy New Zealand non-fiction (as long as it is about the New Zealand environment and other New Zealanders, either "blokey" men or sports stars).  The deep suspicion is that New Zealand fiction is either pretentiously literary, or just plain bad.  Embarrassing, you know.

I strongly suspect that this is why Paul Cleave is not better known in his own country, despite those overseas sales, gushing reviews, and a raft of awards.

I picked up Collecting Cooper because I was urged by KiwiCrime blogger and energetic promoter of New Zealand crime fiction, Craig Sisterson.  And from the first page I just could not put it down.

The word has been that Cleave's books are "black," and "noir" and "violent," and I don't particularly like any of that, especially when serial killers are involved.  My problem with serial killers in fiction is that they kill for no apparent reason, and in the grubbiest, most sick-making ways possible. Simply unbelievable.

Cleave, on the other hand, is very clever. There are two serial killers involved in this book (if one doesn't count the detective), but the reasons they turned out like that are sketched out very plausibly.  They're not grotesque scarecrows.  Instead, they are real, repulsive, but understandable creatures.

And the violence is implicit, rather than explicit. Instead of wallowing in blood, Cleave leaves it to the reader's imagination.  And that is the most effective ploy possible.

Brilliant writing. I can't wait to read the next.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Save Sean Bean

Here he is in Game of Thrones, where I believe he was beheaded.

And I vaguely remember his corpse being floated off in a boat towards the end of the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

According to The New Zealand Herald, the actor with the funny name has been killed off perhaps a couple of dozen times.  Usually in nasty ways, what's more.  Sean Bean has been decapitated, perforated with arrows, and impaled on an anchor in a boat that explodes. In Black Death, he was tied to horses that galloped off in different directions.  Ouch.

The man who has met all these horrid fates in the world of film has now lent his support to a social media campaign called "Don't kill Sean Bean."

Linked to his current American TV series, Legends, the campaign, supported by several hundred fans, demands that Sean Bean plays a character that actually makes it all the way to the final credits.

"I've died a lot of different deaths," Bean mused. Maybe, he thought, it was the manner of his dying that made him famous. People wondered what manner the next demise would be and became fascinated by the mystery.

So will he survive the end of Legends?  Apparently, it depends on the ratings.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

William Mein Smith

After the Edward Hughes arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, and Lady Anne Barnard settled in to being the hostess of Cape Town, there were just a couple more significant entries about Little Mary Mein in her diary.  Both of them were happy.

November, 1797, at the Cape:  “The little Crumb to our astonishment was married soon after her arrival to the contractor for naval stores, a worthy and clever man . . . he dined with us though she did not, as he hinted there was a Family reason which prevented her.”

February 10, 1800, at the Cape. “Monday we all dined with the Smiths, it was the little womans birthday, and the wedding day [anniversary] of Anne [Elizabeth] and the Col[onel]: so we drank a bumper to each the Smiths are Happy people, and tho she is less good tempered, consequently less amiable than Anne, yet I think their Happiness is justly more likely to last than that of my two friends who I do not think so well fitted to get chearfully thro the world as the other two . . . much depends always on the Man & Smith is of an uncommon worth & gentleness of temper I hear -- they have a fine Healthy boy bigger than its mama & we may safely pronounce her a lucky woman.”

The worthy Little Mary married was William Proctor Smith, and the baby boy was none other than New Zealand's first surveyor general, William Mein Smith, the fellow who laid out the first of Wellington's streets.  The picture of him, above, is not quite as beautiful as he doubtlessly was as a fine Healthy boy, but it is the best that we have.

You can read a biography of William Mein Smith HERE.

And to read Lady Anne's diary on board ship and over her first year in Cape Town, you need to find a rather scarce copy of:

The Cape Journals of Lady Anne Barnard, 1797-1798, edited by A. M. Lewin Robinson, with Margaret Lenta and Dorothy Driver. Published in Cape Town by the Van Riebeeck Society (Second series no. 24, 1994 for 1993).  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Met Museum puts 400,000 free images online

Free for scholarly use, that is ....

FROM Open Culture On Line

On Friday, The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that “more than 400,000 high-resolution digital images of public domain works in the Museum’s world-renowned collection may be downloaded directly from the Museum’s website for non-commercial use.” Even better, the images can be used at no charge (and without getting permission from the museum). In making this announcement, the Met joined other world-class museums in putting put large troves of digital art online. Witness the  87,000 images from the Getty in L.A., the 125,000 Dutch masterpieces from the Rijksmuseumthe 35,000 artistic images from the National Gallery, and the 57,000 works of art on Google Art Project.

The Met’s online initiative is dubbed “Open Access for Scholarly Content,” and, while surfing the Met’s digital collections, you’ll know if a particular work is free to download if it bears the “OASC” acronym. In anFAQ, the Met provides these simple instructions.
How can I identify the Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) on the Met’s website?
Look for this icon Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) Icon below images in the Collections section of the website to identify images that are part of the OASC initiative.
How do I download an image designated for Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC)?
Look for this icon Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) Icon below the image in the Collections section of this website, then click on the download icon next to it Download Icon to save the image to your desktop or device.
 Undoubtedly, if you hunt the site, you will find out how you can use these wonderful images for jacket art.

With thanks to Jacqueline Church Simonds.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Challenge to a duel

Back to the East Indiaman Edward Hughes, in the year 1797, on the way to the Cape ...

Cartoon by George Cruikshank
I haven't quite finished the seating at the saloon table in the Edward Hughes, having neglected Major Baynes, who sat at the elbow of Little Miss Mary Mein (the Little Crumb).

Lady Anne did not have much to say about him, apart from the fact that he changed his uniform often -- "he appeared at Dinner in a Scarlet coat, having been in dark blue at breakfast" -- but he featured large in the dramatic events to come.

Remember my mention of Mr. Barnard's illegitimate sons, whom he brought as a kind of dowry to the marriage?  One was ten-year-old Hervey, who traveled with Mr. B. and Lady Ann on the Edward Hughes, and proved both a problem and an entertainment.

Mr. Eastfield, by the way, was the ship's purser.

On March 29, 1797, Lady A wrote about her cousin, Anne Elizabeth, who had sailed as her companion, and who received several unsuitable proposals of marriage during the voyage, passages by sailing ship being so long and boring.  Then:

“Miss Mein in her band Box, the little Crumb, has got a lover too of late she has begun to improve . . . filling out a little . . . talking a little . . . and the trifle has become a little animated without being a "whipped trifle." But what do I say? she has two lovers . . . the first was Hervey . . . he ten years of age . . . she 17 . . . & their little round heads exactly parallel. Never was poor Boy more enamoured, and Jealous as a Turkey Cock, kicking and boxing every one who comes near her, the consequence is that to provoke him all the Men make love to Miss Mein, and the elegant purser whom I have so much extolled as being a Prince fit for a Romance, having began this in play now not only loves but adores the crumb, & knows no longer what he is about.

"That such a young Man as Eastfield my Lady" said the first mate, "so well educated! . . . his Father so rich & so fond of him, sticking him in here for one voyage only, I know not why, should be caught by such a Mouse as this little lady, and ready to marry her, is a thing I never knew the like of, since the day I saw Pompeys Pillar! . . . It is a thousand pities, but Master Hervey here, tells me that Miss Mien has promised to keep herself for him, so may be she will refuse Eastfield."

"What, he think of marrying Miss Mein" cried Hervey disdainfully as he skipped with his Rival on deck to us where we sat . . . "No no Mr. Purser, she is not your mark, mind your beef and mutton Sir and your Pigs and your split pease. Miss Mein has promised to keep herself for me when I shall be a Man and that is not far off, for Girls marry at fifteen and so should boys and five years will soon slip away."

"Hervey" said I, "in the first place that Gentleman's name is Mr Eastfield -- in the second place we will talk over your marriage when the five years have slipped away, mean time be so good as to slip away to your lesson and let me have the writing well done within an hour."

April 2. To Lady Anne’s astonishment, she found that a challenge to a duel had been made on board.

“I found a challenge of the most regular nature had been sent by Hervey not to the Purser (whom he reckoned beneath his notice) but to Major Bayne, whom he desired might instantly give up his pretensions to Miss Mien who "by his squintings" he saw very well he was in love with, or give him satisfaction by pistols at which he believed he was his match, as he "had already shot two Cock Sparrows."

The Major was a good deal annoyed with the prospect of being accused of cowardice by the little love, but as we all thought it best to treat the Challenge as a Gambol it passed over.

And so it did ... as did the voyage.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Around the cabin table ...

... on the Indiaman Edward Hughes.

Lady Anne Barnard recommences her voyage ... and her shipboard journal.

On 25 February 1797, after the untrustworthy HMS Trusty was fixed, and the convoy had successfully made its departure from England, Lady Anne settled down to describe her fellow passengers, one by one, according to their seating in the cuddy—the ship’s big saloon. 

Presiding at the head of the table was Captain Urmston. “A well bred worthy Irish Man of 48, whose complexion varies from yellow to Orange and from Orange to black as matters go ill or well.” 

At his right was Lady Anne herself, with Mr. Barnard at her elbow. Opposite was Miss Anne Elizabeth Barnard, Lady Anne’s cousin, who was sailing partly as her companion, and partly to find a husband.  Next to Miss Anne Elizabeth was General Hartley, who was gentle, brave, sensible and rich, and very pleased to be heading out to India, where he would have a command. 

“By the General’s left hand sits ‘notre belle’”—Mrs. Campbell, wife of Captain Campbell, an army captain who appears to be firmly under her thumb—“When things go ill with her, then woe to the Captain . . . for then in a low voice ‘Brute’ is often heard, which makes the Men gaze at her and bless their Stars if they are Bachelors and still more if they are Married men.”

Next to this commanding figure sits Dr. Patterson, who sits opposite his wife, who is sister to Little Mary Mein. At Dr. Patterson’s elbow is Mr. Keith, whom Lady Anne calls a “pretty” young man, in the fashion of the time. He is going out as an “aid du Camp at the Cape . . . and by him Colonel Lloyd an honest Welch man, hot . . . hearty . . . Brave and good natured.” And right at the bottom of the table sits the first mate, Timothy Goldsmith, “the picture and model of a Chief Mate of an India Man”—who is in love with Mrs. Saul, “and hopes earnestly to hear of Saul’s death when we arrive at the Cape.”

Obviously, it was going to be an interesting voyage!   

So what did this lady with the malicious, entertaining pen have to say about little Mary Mein?

Half a line should be sufficient to describe the Body & mind conversation and powers of the little—little Miss Mein,” Lady Anne wrote; “Sister to Mrs. Patterson, to whom she sticks fast, and who is a comely unaffected Girl, who makes the doctor very happy and who will make me also a very reasonable companion at the Cape.  

“‘Doctor . . . Doctor’ said I, ‘with so many handsome Sisters in law round you in the House of Mr. Mien, what could induce you to select this Crumb for the Cape?’  

“He shook his head sorrowfully . . . ‘Ah’ said he—‘you may wonder! but I am more grieved at it than you can be surprised.’ He then told me that Mrs. Patterson had petitioned for a good looking cheerful lass to go with her who infinitely wished to be of the party, but Mr. Mein the Contractor for prisoners, I could see had been so much in the habit of putting off bad stock on a hungry market that there being one little daughter at home who was no favourite, contracted in mind and body so much that . . . ‘She is to sleep in one of my Wifes bandboxes’ said the Doctor.

The KU confusion continues

Good for authors or bad for authors?

Something unexpected has happened.  Kindle Unlimited borrows are affecting the Amazon bestseller list.

From Digital Book World

Kindle Unlimited is minting best-sellers, or so it seems.
According to Publishers Lunch, the number of ebooks on the Kindle best-seller list that are Kindle Unlimited titles has just about tripled since the launch of the all-you-can-read service from Amazon last week. Amazon is counting Kindle Unlimited reads as well as Kindle store sales in its best-seller rankings.
Last week at this time, there were 15 ebooks that would have been part of Kindle Unlimited that were top 100 best-sellers on Kindle; this week, that number has ballooned to 45.
kindle unlimited best-sellers
As the chart shows, Amazon Publishing titles (which are in Kindle Unlimited), titles by other publishers included in the service, and Kindle Direct Publishing Select titles (those by self-published authors who only sell on Amazon and not other platforms like Nook and iBooks, which are included on KU), seem to have all benefited greatly from being a part of Kindle Unlimited. Books by self-published authors who aren’t exclusive to Amazon and those from publishers not participating in Kindle Unlimited have suffered — at least when it comes to hitting top-100 Kindle best-sellers.

And it could be the way that the borrows are marketed that is making such a difference.

Have a look at the change in the "Buy now with 1-click" box, reproduced at the top.  Quite subtle, really, but significant. 

Perhaps it is the reason that Island of the Lost -- published by Algonquin, which opted into KU -- is selling a few more copies than usual.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Little Mary

"Wellington's grandmother"

On the right (wearing the hat) is Mary Mein, who was apparently the plain one of her family. She married William Proctor Smith in Cape Town, and in 1798 she bore a son, William Mein Smith, who was the architect of Wellington.

Yes, he was the progenitor of our beautiful city.

No one has thought much about his father, let alone his mother, but to my surprise, while going through the journals of an eighteenth century female seafarer, I found several references to Little Mary Mein.

The female seafarer was Lady Anne Barnard, who sailed on the East Indiaman Edward Hughes in 1797, to accompany her husband, "Mr. Barnard," who was to take up a plum job as secretary to the colony.

Formerly Lady Anne Lindsay, she had married beneath her social station, to "Mr Barnard," a man 12 years younger than she, with whom she fell madly in love.  She brought him her noble connections (and the posting as colonial secretary at the Cape) when they married, and he brought her his two illegitimate sons, as they did in those days.  One of the boys, Hervey, sailed with them to the Cape (they were glad to send him back to school in England the following year). Hervey was an independent soul. Lady A tried to control him by setting him the task of keeping a journal, but it didn't work very well.

(I should also note that Lady A used full stops the way Barbara Cartland does, as long pauses in thought and action.  They don't mean that I have missed out words.)

The convoy, which included the Edward Hughes, was delayed in Plymouth, England, after their escort, HMS Trusty, sprung a bad leak, and during the enforced interval Lady Anne went on shore to dine with Mr and Mrs Mein, who were the parents of one of her fellow passengers, Mary Mein, and parents-in-law of another fellow passenger, Dr. Patterson -- who was, by logic, the husband of one of Mary's sisters. And here, in February 1797, is what Lady Anne wrote about the day.

[We visited] "... Mr and Mrs Mein, he, the Agent for Prisoners, and Father in law to Doctor Patterson, a good humoured Scotchman who was making an enormous fortune without any reflection being thrown on him, by his contract for supplying the French prisoners with necessaries which he did so judiciously and at the same time to liberally that good sense was making him rich and good Character kept pace with it.

"Of one thing I was certain, that Mrs. Mein gave us amongst other excellent things, a very uncommonly good but odd dish, A Cornish pye, in which she had imprisoned two fowls, a piece of ham, some sweet breads, apples, two ducks, a large quantity of stuffings, truffles, mushrooms and pickles, the whole having poured into it before it left the oven two quarts of rich clotted cream.  It sounds ill but it was good."

I have already blogged about this pie, but not in this context.  Much more about "Little Mary" to come.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More about Kindle Unlimited

Perhaps I spoke too fast when I said that Kindle Unlimited is good for Indie authors.

A remarkably pertinent discussion on Digital Book World points out that in the world of Kindle Unlimited nothing is equal.

As Michael Sullivan muses, the system turns some ... but not all ... Indie authors into second-class citizens.

I must admit I did a double-take when I read that Algonquin/Workman have signed up for the KUnlimited Launch.  Island of the Lost, which Algonquin published in 2007, continues to do very well, both in digital and print format, but particularly so in the first. Does this mean that my income will be drastically reduced, Island of the Lost being borrowed instead of sold?  Will I get just my fraction of the share of the KDP fund that Algonquin will earn each time the book is checked out?

Apparently not.

Publishers that have signed up for KU will get exactly the same amount that they would have received if the book had been bought, when borrowed.  This means that my royalties for Island of the Lost are unaffected.

Not so, if I had signed up for KDP Select with any of my Indie Old Salt Press books.  As Sullivan summarizes, "Amazon has a pool of funds which is established at the start of each month. This is the same fund that has been used for “borrows” for people who are enrolled in Prime (they get 1 borrow a month). The fund does not take into account the size of the book or it’s price. Instead it takes the total amount of the pool divided by the number of borrows to calculate a unit price. This unit price is then multiplied by the number of times an author’s books are borrowed. Historically, the per unit price has been about $2 (sometimes a bit more, other times a bit less). The “downloads” from KU will be treated like a “borrow” once the reader gets past the first 10% of the book."

This is a long way from the 70% royalty for each Indie book sold (when the cover price is between $2.99 and $9.99). 

To sum up: Self-published authors are paid from a pool set by Amazon each month. They have no idea how much they will be paid per book. 

Traditionally published books get paid exactly as they would if a sale were made. They know exactly what the unit price will be for each book.

Fair?  I don't think so.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Unlimited good for Indie authors

From Good E Reader

It looks as if Amazon's announcement of Kindle Unlimited might have been somewhat premature.

Some publishers have signed up for the program, but by no means all.

Major publishers such as HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster will NOT be contributing content with the Kindle Unlimited launch. 
Smaller publishers will play a major role in Unlimited with Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Open Road, Scholastic and Workman. Amazon intends on paying them a wholesale rate for each title opened and read. This direct agreement is also being made to all of the Harry Potter Books via Pottermore and also the Hunger Games Trilogy
This - in the meantime, anyway - is a major boost for Indie authors.
The bulk of the 600,000 titles that are available for Unlimited will be contributing by self-published authors who enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing Select. Writers who participate under this program will automatically be opted in and paid out whenever someone reads 10% of the book or more. The money will be paid to the authors through the one or two million dollars that is added to the KDP Select pool per month.
For the interesting podcast hit the link at the top.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Definitely unlimited

Well, Amazon have done it, just as the rumors suggested.

There is now a Kindle Lending Library.  Their announcement:

Today we are excited to introduce Kindle Unlimited--a new subscription service for readers in the U.S. and a new revenue opportunity for authors enrolled in KDP Select. With Kindle Unlimited, customers will be able to read as many book as they want from a library of over 600,000 titles. KDP authors and publishers who enroll their books with U.S. rights in KDP Select are automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. Inclusion in Kindle Unlimited can help drive discovery of your book, and when your book is accessed and read past 10% you will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund. For the month of July we have added $800,000 to the KDP Select global fund bringing the total to $2 million.

To explain.  KDP Select is an optional program that makes your book exclusive to Kindle. This means that it cannot be made available on any other eBook site, such as Nook.  Up until now, only paid-up members of Amazon Prime were able to borrow KDP Select books. To compensate for lost royalties, Amazon set aside an amount of money every month, and this was divided among the authors whose books were borrowed.  It was rather like the lending schemes that are run in some countries, where the government sets aside an amount that is shared out at Christmas between local authors who have their books in public lending libraries.

So does this new development really provide a "new revenue opportunity" for authors?  Not really, in my opinion. Their books are now available to the general reader, and not just those who belong to Amazon Prime -- but that is not necessarily an advantage. More books will be borrowed, but the amount of money in the monthly fund is still capped, so the shares will simply be smaller.

That's the way it happens in the government schemes, anyway.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Kindle Unlimited?

From Digital Book World

Amazon is testing an all-you-can-read subscription ebook service to compete with firms like Scribd and Oyster, according to multiple blogs, citing Web pages on that have now been removed.
The service is reportedly dubbed “Kindle Unlimited” and has over 600,000 titles for $9.99 a month, many from Amazon Publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing, the self-publishing arm of Amazon. A quick survey byGigaOm revealed no “big five” publishers in the mix. Both HarperCollins and Simon &Schuster do business with Scribd and Oyster, which offer a selection of about 400,000 each to readers for $8.99 and $9.95 a month, respectively.
No word yet on how the service would work in conjunction with the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which allows Amazon Prime customers who also own Kindle devices to borrow one ebook a month free of charge. Also no details have emerged on how authors and publishers will be compensated. Amazon has not yet responded to request for comment.
UPDATE: Publishers Lunch is reporting that at least some publishers will be paid as if an ebook has been purchased every time one is read on the Kindle Unlimited platform. Scholastic has confirmed as much.
According to cached pages linked by GigaOm, Kindle Unlimited offers “unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks on any device for just $9.99 a month.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Strangling vines, thuggery, and the Raj

It was yet another unexpected outcome of visiting the Wellington Public Library.

The library's website, that is.

Being immersed deeply in the India that Eleanor, wife of Captain Reid of the East Indies ship Friendship, found in September 1800, I am reading anything pertinent to Calcutta of her period. So, my search of the library catalogue simply asked for books on the subject of the East India Company.

And for some strange reason a novel came up.  A first novel by non-fiction writer, M. J. Carter.

Did I want to read it?

Here is the annotation on the library website.

'M.J. Carter has cooked up a spicy dish: a pinch of Moonstone, a dash of Sherlock and a soup├žon of Fu Manchu added to a rich stew of John Masters. A splendid romp and just the job for a cold winter's evening in front of a blazing fire' William Dalrymple Calcutta 1837. 

The East India Company rules India - or most of it; and its most notorious and celebrated son, Xavier Mountstuart, has gone missing.William Avery, a down-at-heel junior officer in the Company's army, is sent to find him, in the unlikely company of the enigmatic and uncouth Jeremiah Blake. A more mismatched duo couldn't be imagined, but they must bury their differences as they are caught up in a search that turns up too many unanswered questions and seems bound to end in failure.What was it that so captivated Mountstuart about the Thugs, the murderous sect of Kali-worshippers who strangle innocent travellers by the roadside? Who is Jeremiah Blake and can he be trusted? And why is the whole enterprise shrouded in such secrecy?
I imagine that this is the publisher's blurb.  Who, I wonder, is William Dalrymple?  A descendant of the East India Company hydrographer who did his best to sink Captain James Cook's career?  That, and the over-the-top blurb almost dissuaded me, but the book, I found, was in the local branch library, so next trip into the village, I took it out.

And I am very pleased that I did.  The blurb does the writer a grave disservice.  Instead of comparing her to old detective story writers, I would liken her to the Indian novelist who made the Booker shortlist with Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh.  The characters are as alive, and the writing as harshly brilliant.  There is the same vividness, the sense of being there, in that place and at that time.

In the story, a silly young officer, William Avery, is coerced into agreeing to head upriver from Calcutta in search of a mad poet he greatly admires, Xavier Mountstuart. His companion is to be a European fakir, Jeremiah Blake, and they are to be escorted by two Indians.  On the eve of their departure, Avery's best friend is murdered, and his reputation disgraced.  Therein lies the only mystery.  This is NOT a detective novel.

Instead, it is a fascinating picaresque, with the mission of questioning the reader's acceptance of the myth (or maybe not a myth) of thuggery -- thugs being members of a sect who worship the warlike Kali, and waylay innocent travelers to murder them in the goddess's name.

When I returned the book today, I recommended it to the librarian, who said, "Is it violent?"

My answer was no.  This is a book that you could read alone in the house at night.  But it is also one that will leave you thinking deeply about India and the Raj, and whether our mental pictures of the Orient in the nineteenth century are, in fact, correct. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Katherine Mansfield recipe

Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand's iconic author was also, it seems, a keen cook.

Thee Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington reports that a significant recent acquisition is the last of the Katherine Mansfield material held by the estate of John Middleton Murry.

While a lot of it is writing-related, including previously unread story drafts and letters, there were some intriguing scraps, including handwritten recipes for Orange Souffle and cold-water scones.

And here is the Orange Souffle ...

Grate the rind of one orange, & one lemon, put into saucepan with the juice of each, the yolks of three eggs & half a breakfast cup of sugar, stir this until it becomes the thickness of honey, beat up the whites of eggs to a stiff froth & add to mixture, not letting it boil furiously, just for a few minutes to become well mixed, then turn into dish with or without spoon cake at bottom sopped in sherry wine & raspberry jam, under these final conditions it would be called a party pudding!

Personally, if there was a sherry-soaked sponge at the bottom, I would call it a very fancy trifle.

What is interesting, too, is that it was obviously written down to dictation.  So I wonder about the friend who shared this recipe with her.  Who was she?  And what was the occasion?

Apparently, the recipe was tried out at the 2012 Katherine Mansfield conference, and everyone pronounced it delicious.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wiki Coffin makes the longlist....

From Craig Sisterson's CrimeWatch blog, devoted to Kiwi Crime Writing

On the evening of Saturday, 30 August, the fifth recipient of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel will be announced following the Great New Zealand Crime Debate event at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival 2014.

Eight excellent novels are in the running for this year's Award, with an international panel of crime fiction aficionados currently working on whittling down a terrific longlist to find the finalists and a winner. There have been some very close calls and tough decisions in the four years of the Award thus far, but this could be the most unpredictable year yet. It is without doubt the deepest and most diverse longlist in the Award's history.

So here is the official announcement of the eight longlisted titles for the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award:

  • THE LUMINARIES by Eleanor Catton
  • JOE VICTIM by Paul Cleave
  • THE BECKONING ICE by Joan Druett
  • FREDERICK'S COAT by Alan Duff
  • MY BROTHER'S KEEPER by Donna Malane
  • WHERE DEAD MEN GO by Liam McIlvanney
  • CROSS FINGERS by Paddy Richardson
  • ONLY THE DEAD by Ben Sanders

Monday, July 14, 2014

Luther by coincidence

In the weekend, having just blogged about the Luther TV series being nominated for an Emmy, I was jogging through the Wellington Central Library when a title jumped out at me.

Well, not literally.  But it stopped me in my tracks.  Good heavens, I thought, there is a book of the Luther series?

So I carried it home and read it.  It's un-put-down-able -- though there was one stage when I was calling desperately for a cup of tea, and then later on for something a little stronger, as you really do need something reassuring in your hand.  The villain is so plausible, and his crimes so disgusting, that there are moments of real terror.

It is not, as I had thought, "the book of the series."  Instead, it is the prequel of the TV crime series. And I guess, as after my last blog post I had a few comments from people who said they had never heard of Luther, that I had better explain a little.  The three-season (so far) series features a driven detective who hunts down the most unspeakable criminals in the darkest underworld of London. He never sleeps, his marriage is a wreck, his associates are partly fascinated by his brilliant mind, and partly dead-scared of his barely pent-up violence.  That violence, however, is only directed at the criminals -- which of course means that Luther is constantly in trouble for breaking the boundaries.

And did I mention that Luther is played brilliantly by Idris Elba?  And that the camera work is dramatic beyond belief?  And then there is Dr Alice Morgan, the mobile-faced serial murderess played superbly by Ruth Wilson -- a wonderful creation if there ever was one.  There is the same sexual electricity between Alice and Luther that made Billie Piper (Rose) and Dr Who such a compelling combination.

Watch it.  But don't watch it alone.

Anyway, the book. The first episode of the first series of the TV show begins with a serial killer by the name of Henry Madsen dangling from metalwork high in the roof of a disused factory that collapsed while was fleeing from Luther.  Luther, with a supreme effort, could save him.  Instead, he demands to know where Madsen has concealed his latest victim, a little girl. Madsen yells the answer, but Luther wants to know where the rest of the bodies are buried, and in the process Madsen drops ... but not to die.

The book tells you what happened before this little confrontation.  You learn exactly what a travesty of a human Madsen is, what crimes Madsen committed (in detail), and the details of the hunt that tracked him down.  Told in the present tense, in short, staccato sentences, it has the power of a runaway locomotive. The scenes are set in a few, startlingly effective words. You might not know exactly what the characters look like, but you most surely know exactly how they feel. Amazing writing.

Naturally, being a fan of the series, I found the book immensely satisfying.  How would someone who hasn't watched the show react? I'm not sure, but I suspect it is just as good a book for a reader who hasn't met Luther before.

According to Neil Cross's website, the plan is for this to be the first of three books -- once he has got the screenplays written for his latest pirate series, that is.  Personally, I can't wait.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

In the Running for an Emmy

NEIL CROSS, writer of our favorite crime series, is up for an Emmy award.

The England-born author and screenwriter, who now calls Wonderful Wellington his home, has been nominated for outstanding writing for a mini-series, movie or dramatic special for his writing of LUTHER, the BBC crime drama he created.

It is up against American Horror Story, Coven, Fargo, Sherlock, The Normal Heart, and Treme in the same category.

My opinion is that it will be a toss-up between Sherlock and Luther, both having brilliant and iconic lead actors.  But, on the basis of the second series of Sherlock, Luther should be far and away the winner.  Instead of sagging in interest in the sequels, Luther became even more compelling.

Neil Cross also writes excellent crime fiction, in short, increasingly addictive sentences.

The Emmy winners will be announced next month.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Designing a book cover

This morning, this arrived in my inbox, courtesy of Scott Baxter.

An interesting take on the Moby Dick classic, complete with koru whirls, though I am not sure of the provenance.

It led me to explore Moby Dick jackets through the years, which brought up a fascinating site,

Moby Dick: A History in Book Jackets, and Finding a New Design for a New Age:

"A research project highlighting the chronology of Moby Dick book covers, and the process of designing a modern, commercial look for the classic novel."  Three book designers -- Paul McCain, Douglas Clayton, and Linda Prior -- have a look at old covers, analyze font, color, and style, and then design their own versions.

Their thoughts and conclusions encapsulate a very useful guide to Indie authors for designing their own jackets.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Indie bestsellers

A new list. It was painstakingly collated by the folks at GalleyCat

And it is an interesting one, too.

First, the fashion for writers giving their first names as initials booms on.  Personally, I always suspect that the writers with initials who write man-type stuff like thrillers are women, and the writers with initials who write romance are men.

And romance rules.  In the Amazon list, anyways.  Smashwords, intriguingly, has gone the non-fiction route -- and not a bad idea, too.  Most non-fiction books stay on the backlist a lot longer than most novels.

Thirdly, note the lack of Nook and B&N listings.  In view of their poor sales, it's not surprising.

And here goes.

Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of July 9, 2014
1. Where I Belong (Alabama Summer Book 1) by J. Daniels: “When Mia Corelli returns to Alabama for a summer of fun with her childhood best friend, Tessa, there’s only one thing keeping her on edge. One person that she’d do anything to avoid. Benjamin Kelly. World’s biggest dickhead.”
2. Hudson by Laurelin Paige: “Hudson Pierce has led a life few others could even imagine. With money and power at his fingertips, he’s wanted for almost nothing. He’s never experienced love, however, and he’s seen few examples of it in his dysfunctional family. The ridiculous notion of romance has always intrigued him. He’s studied it, controlled it, manipulated it, and has yet to understand it.”
3. Rhett by J.S. Cooper: “I’m Rhett. I’m cocky because I can be. I’ve got it all: the looks, the money, the endurance. I’m the guy that every girl wants to be with, yet none of them have ever been able to tie me down. I don’t do love. I don’t do relationships. And I sure as hell will never do marriage.”
4. A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest: “On the evening of Sofia Claremont’s 17th birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake. A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood. She is kidnapped to an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine. An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains.”
5. Sweet Addiction by J. Daniels: “Wedding hookups never amount to anything. Those who partake in this wicked little activity know the rules. Get in. Get laid. Get out. There’s no expectation of a relationship. It is what it is. Dylan Sparks knows the rules. She’s familiar with the protocol. And she engages in the best sex of her life with a complete stranger at her ex-boyfriend’s wedding.”
6. Feyland: The Complete Trilogy by Anthea Sharp: “Award-winning YA Urban Fantasy Trilogy ~ All three books in one epic digital bundle.”
7. Pulse Part 4 by Deborah Bladon: “The conclusion to The Pulse Series… Jessica Roth thought she’d found the one man who could fulfill her in every way. He was gorgeous, controlling, amazing in bed and said everything that she desperately wanted to hear. That was, until she heard him say the one thing she never suspected was true.”
8. Take (Temptation Series Book 2) by Ella Frank: “Logan Mitchell is a man who’s always been more than happy to take what he wants. It’s a philosophy that’s proven lucrative in both his business and personal life, and never was it more apparent than the night he laid eyes on Tate Morrison. After pulling out all the stops and convincing the sexy bartender to give him a try—he’s hooked. Now, Logan finds himself in a predicament that demands more from him than a smart-ass answer and his innate ability to walk away when things get too deep.”
9. When Good Friends Go Bad by Ellie Campbell: “All through school, tomboy Jen, snobby Georgina, hippy Meg and gentle Rowan, were inseparable. Until, that is, the unfortunate consequences of a childish prank tore them apart. As adults an attempted reunion went disastrously wrong. Rowan failed to appear. Meg behaved outrageously and ¬¬- sharpest cut of all – Jen discovered just how deeply Georgina had betrayed her.”
10. Pulse Part 3 by Deborah Bladon: “Jessica wanted to believe Nathan was a changed man. The lust filled promises he made in bed are no match for the reality that she’s now holding in the palm of her hand. Sex drives men like Nathan Moore. She suspected it, then experienced it and now there’s absolutely no denying it.”
Smashwords Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of July 9, 2014
10. Fallen By Callie Hart

Bizarre twist in Amazon-Hachette dispute

From Digital Book World

The Amazon-Hachette dispute that has gripped the book publishing industry took another turn this week: Amazon floated an idea to authors and agents and then to Hachette to give authors 100% of the proceeds of ebook sales until they could come to terms; the company also offered to restore normal trading for print titles at the same time. 

At first, the offer was just to some authors and agents but the consumer press made it public on Tuesday and then Amazon delivered the offer formally to Hachette. The publisher roundly rejected it, calling it "suicidal" to give up all its ebook revenues and the whole move a public relations stunt. Amazon countered that it was a legitimate offer and that Hachette should take it to spare authors. 

What do you think?

A publisher once said to me that publishing a digital book costs the same as the print edition, involving the same editing and proofing, plus (often) a new design. 

Do you beg to differ? Hasn't almost 100% of the cost been covered with producing the print edition? As KDP authors know, Amazon covers web and distribution costs by taking just 30% of the money, much of the time.

By logic, eBooks should be much cheaper than print books -- as they often are. But should they be offered free?

As many Indie authors know, that can work well -- for a limited time, anyway.