Give us our 11 days

I’m writing a story where one of the major plot pivots is the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, an event that (possibly) caused riots in Britain in the 18th century.

Running an empire on Bula time

Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar, in 46 BC. It was a reform of the Roman calendar, which was so complicated it had a committee to keep it in tune with the actual solar year. They would decide when to add or remove days, which made it hard to plan anything with precision.  Caesar wanted a system that didn’t change from year to year, and he employed an astronomer to create a calendar based entirely on the length of time the earth takes to go around the sun.

What makes the calculation tricky is that this revolution isn’t an exact number of days.  It takes, on average, 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds for the earth to go around the sun. So Caesar’s astronomer hit on the idea of a 365 day year, with an extra day in February every four years.

A Feast day in Spring

As it turned out, a day every four years is too many, and by the sixteenth century, one of the most important feast days of the church — Easter — was in danger of losing its (Northern hemisphere) connection to Spring. Pope Gregory XIII hired an Italian scientist to fix the problem. Aloysus Lilius devised the variation we use today. In the Gregorian calculation, we add a leap day if the year can be divided by four, but not if it can also be divided by 100. However, if the year can also be divided by 400, in goes the leap day.

It isn’t perfect. In another 2,000 years, we’ll be a day out again. But it’s a lot closer.

No Papists messing with our calendar!

Pope Gregory’s reform took effect as soon as his proclamation went out, not only establishing the new system but making a one-off change — a jump of more than a week — to realign the dates with the seasons.

Italy, Spain, Portugal, and other Catholic countries all adopted the new calendar. European Protestants, however, saw the change as some kind of a plot, and refused to have anything to do with it. But one by one in the eighteenth century, common sense, trade, and political links prevailed.

No messing with our tax year!

Many of the German states switched early in the century. England changed in September 1752. The Calendar Act (an Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year and for Correcting the Calendar now in Use) was introduced in 1751, passed through Parliament, and was signed into law in May 1752. Not only did it provide for 2nd September 1752 to be followed by 14th September 1752, but it also moved New Year’s Day from 25th March to 1st January. The previous New Year’s Day was the Feast of the Annunciation, and so Lady’s Day, and traditionally the day for paying taxes and rents. Changing the date of the tax payment would have shorted that tax year, so while the calendar year now started on January 1st, the start of the financial year remained as 5th April, or 25th March under the Julian Calendar. It was changed to 6th April in 1800 (which would have been a leap year under the Julian, but wasn’t), and 6th April it remains in Britain to this day.

The rioting was probably a myth

People were upset about the change, fearing that the government was taking 11 days off their lives. But the story that there were riots is not borne out by newspapers and other contemporary accounts. Possibly it comes from the Hogarth painting of an election meeting, shown above. The calendar reform was an election campaign topic in 1754, and the painting shows a demonstration outside the window. You can just see a sign saying ‘Give us our 11 days’.

 

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Dear brother, on WIP Wednesday

A romance novel, by definition, is about the developing love between the two main protagonists. But the story is often given strength and substance through relationships with other characters: family members, friends, even enemies. In particular, we grow to know our main characters through their actions towards those they love but with whom they are in conflict: and that’s the theme of this week’s work-in-progress Wednesday: conflict between the main character and family members or friends.

Mine comes from Concealed in Shadow, which is in the very early stages of writing. At this point, I have a few paragraphs of beginning, a general idea of the overall shape of the plot, and random scenes, most of them still in my head. This one happens early on, after David comes eagerly to London to meet and marry Prue, and finds her missing. His half-brothers were the last to be seen with her, and only one of them is still in London.

(Concealed in Shadow is the sequel to Revealed in Mist, which is on presale and will be released next week. See the link for purchase information.)

The early morning sun was just filtering through the fog when David’s quarry let himself into his bed chamber. He had already discarded his hat and gloves somewhere between the outside door and this upper floor, but he was shrugging out of his overcoat as he entered the room.

The overcoat flew to drape over the arm of a couch, and the muffler beneath followed. David watched from the shadowed corner behind the draped head of the bed as the man stripped to his shirt and breeches, with swift economical movements. The coat, richly embroidered waistcoat and cravat followed the rest, and the man crossed to a fireside chair to pour himself a brandy from the decanter that stood ready and slip out of his dancing shoes.

He had clearly been somewhere that required formal evening dress, though David was certain a ballroom had not been his last stop of the night, or David would have found him four hours ago. The man sat relaxed in his own private domain, a little tired — though his energy was legendary — beyond a doubt sated, resting a blond head back against the chair and shutting his hazel eyes as he cupped the glass in his hands to warm the brandy.

When David spoke, it was not much above a whisper, but shockingly noisy in the silent room. “Where is she, Aldridge. What have you and Gren done with her.”

 

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Tea with Anne

monday-for-tea

Lady Anne Stocke and her governess present themselves on the terrace at precisely three in the afternoon to find Her Grace already waiting for them.

“Anne, my dear. And Miss Henwood. Do take a seat. Are the little girls happily amused?”

Anne seats herself next to the duchess. “Indeed, Aunt Eleanor. Kitty has gone down into the village with Miss Stirling, and Meg is helping cook make gingerbread.”

farewell-to-kindness-ebook“Would you be kind enough to pour the tea, Anne?” the duchess asked, and sat back to watch the pretty picture that the girl made as she concentrated on the ritual. She was almost seventeen, and would make her debut not this Season but the next, sponsored by the duchess as her godmother. She would ‘take’, beyond a doubt. She was pretty and lively, with a good wit and a kind heart. And she was the daughter and sister of an earl, with a healthy inheritance in trust, to be paid on marriage or when Anne turned twenty-five.

Her brother the young Earl of Selby was a foolish young man,, barely more than a boy, and far too much in the company of the dissolute Earl of Chirbury for the Duchess of Haverford’s liking. And what Anne’s father had been thinking making Chirbury guardian to his children, she could not imagine! But he would not have the disposition of the Stocke girls. The duchess might not be able to do much about Chirbury’s influence over Anne’s brother, but she was determined that neither bachelor would have a voice in who was permitted to court dear Anne. Or Kitty either, when the time came.

“Thank you, dear,” she said, accepting the tea, made just the way she liked it. Yes. Anne would take very well.

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Little does Her Grace know, but Anne’s life is about to take a dramatic turn. Read Farewell to Kindness to meet her again seven years in the future.

Farewell to Kindness won the Romance Writers of New Zealand Great Beginnings Award in 2015. Click on the link to see the blurb and read the first three chapters.

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The Repository of Oddities and Curiosities

My friend Mari Christie has just opened a new space on Facebook for historical fact and fiction. One by one, various people are creating ‘exhibits’ (year-long Facebook events) on which to post historical facts from their research and to play at interactive storytelling.

If you enjoy seeing stories created on the fly, or if you want to learn more about a specific period, come and join us.

I’m doing something different with mine; not the Regency, as you might expect, but the Antipodean gold rushes, which I research extensively a number of years back for a gold rush saga that never saw publication daylight. One day, maybe.

the-repository

You’ll find the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/RepositoryOfOddities/, and at the top, you’ll see the following

REPOSITORY EXHIBITS
Wherein one will see items of interest from their respective periods, interspersed with the dramatic stories of the exhibit curators and staff. Readers and writers are invited to add a character and join in the storytelling.

Currently, the exhibits are:

American Civil War Era 1850-1870
https://www.facebook.com/events/164630367342417/

Britain During The Reigns Of George III and IV, 1760-1830
https://www.facebook.com/events/210041672779433/

Antipodean Gold Rushes 1850 to 1900
https://www.facebook.com/events/1275650492455822/

Victorian England, 1837 – 1901
https://www.facebook.com/events/345007395872307/

1790s English Radicals & Malcontents
https://www.facebook.com/events/1768343330097536/

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Reprobates on WIP Wednesday

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:G-Cruikshank-Inconveniences-Crowded-Drawing-Room-1818.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:G-Cruikshank-Inconveniences-Crowded-Drawing-Room-1818.jpg

The world seems to love a scoundrel. Me, I tend to make villains out of them, but fiction is full of rogues as both protagonists and antagonists. Readers like those with wounded hearts waiting for circumstances or the right influences to make them whole. So this week, I’m inviting you to show me an excerpt with the retrobate from your work in progress. Mine is a right evil so and so, from A Raging Madness, caught in the act of compromising my heroine.

An instant before the drug in the drink hit her, she saw the flare of triumph in Mrs Fullerton’s eyes, and knew she had made a mistake. She opened her mouth to shout for Alex, but suddenly the footman had a hand over her mouth and another under her elbow, and was hustling, half carrying her through the door Mrs Fullerton held open.

“I will give you a few minutes to make it look good,” she said, and whipped out of the room, shutting the door behind her.

Ella was struggling against the footman and the fog trying to close in on her mind, the dizziness that wanted to consume her. She stamped at his foot, kicked back at his chin, but her soft indoor slippers made no impression. She squirmed, trying to jab her free arm as low as possible, and he twisted away with an oath, pushing her from him so that she fell face forward onto a sofa.

In an instant he was on her, tugging her head back by the hair, straddling her torso. “This will do well enough,” he commented, lifting himself enough that he could push up her skirt and petticoats.

Ella fought to retain consciousness, the pain of her pulled hair helping to keep her from sinking into the fog. “Scream,” she instructed herself, as her assailant’s free hand fumbled at her buttocks, and she shrieked as loud as she could.

Doors burst open: the one onto the hall and a double set into the drawing room next door, and the room filled with people.

It was her worst nightmare come again: the indrawn breaths of shock, the buzz of excited comments, the avid staring eyes. The last thing Ella heard before she sank into oblivion was the amused drawl of the man on her back. “Oh dear, Lady Melville. It seems we have been caught.”

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Tea with Becky

monday-for-tea

The Duchess of Haverford rose and crossed the room to greet her visitor with a kiss to the cheek.

“Becky, my dear, thank you for making the time to see me.”

Lady Overton returned the embrace, real affection in her eyes as she smiled at the older woman. “It is kind of you to invite me, Your Grace.”

“Call me Aunt Eleanor, please, as you did when I stayed with you after little Isabelle’s birth. Is she well, my dear? Have you brought her and her sisters to London?”

Becky confirmed that she had, while taking the seat that the duchess indicated. For several minutes, they discussed the children, as Her Grace busied herself at the tea service that stood ready on its own ornate cart beside her preferred seat. Once she had presented Becky with a cup and a plate with a selection of finely crafted pastries, she poured her own tea and chose a single pastry.

“And Lord Overton,” she asked. “Is he fully recovered?”

Becky was not surprised the duchess knew of Overton’s accident. She sometimes thought that Her Grace knew everything, and certainly she had more reason than most to interest herself in anything that affected Becky’s youngest daughter. “He has headaches from time to time, Aunt Eleanor, but fewer than before. The doctor says he will have no long-term ill effects.”

Her Grace beamed, putting her cup into its saucer and back on the table before her. “Excellent. I was concerned when Aldridge mentioned Overton’s concerns about guardianship of the little girls, but he is just taking sensible precautions.”

Becky set down her own cup, her face carefully blank. “The marquis mentioned it to you, Ma’am?”

“Yes. And he has an idea that might just answer your husband’s need. But I have told him that I must speak with you before I give it my support. Will you hear me out, Becky?”

Becky nodded, cautiously. Another outrageous scheme by Aldridge? Whatever might it be, when he knew perfectly well that neither she nor Hugh would consider… But no, Her Grace would not be involved in anything of that sort.

“If we are to be fair, my dear Becky, we must agree that his last plot on your behalf was highly successful,” the duchess pointed out, which was perfectly true.

“Beyond expectations,” she agreed.

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She was a fallen woman; could they help her land on her feet?

A Baron for BeckyBecky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde — the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man. Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

See more about A Baron for Becky, buy links, and links to the first chapters.

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The Duchess of Haverford has taken a hand in Rebecca Overton’s life a number of times, the most significant covered in A Baron for Becky. The following extract is about one of them:

While Aldridge visited his Mama to explain what they wanted, Hugh went cap, and purse, in hand to Doctor’s Commons to arrange a special licence.

It took longer than he’d hoped, and a lucky encounter with a friend from university, to be admitted to the Archbishop’s presence, but two days later, he had his licence. It was in his pocket, and Becky at his side, when they waited on Her Grace, summoned by a scented note delivered by the hand of a liveried footman.

Hugh had been in the heir’s wing many times, and at Haverford, the family seat, when he was a boy. He had never entered Haverford House by the main door. Designed to impress, the approach sat back from the road, admittance through a gatekeeper. They were paraded through the paved courtyard by another liveried servant to the stairs between pillars that stretched three stories to the pediment above.

Inside, the ducal glory continued; a marbled entrance chamber the height of the house that would make a ballroom in any lesser mansion, with majestic flights of stairs rising on either side and curving to meet, only to split again in a symphony of wood and stone. Grenford ancestors were everywhere, twice as large as life, painted on canvas and moulded from stone, cold eyes examining petitioners and finding them all unworthy.

Aldridge met them in the entrance chamber, and led them up the first flight of stairs and down a sumptuously carpeted hall that was elegantly papered above richly carved panels. Four men could have walked arm-in-arm down the middle, never touching the furniture and art lining both walls, between highly-polished doors.

Busts on marble pedestals alternated with delicate gilded tables and seats upholstered in the Haverford green, scarlet and gold, many embroidered with the unicorn and phoenix from the Haverford coat of arms. The art in gilded frames that hung both walls showed more Grenford ancestors, interspersed with favourite animals, scenes from the Bible, and retellings of Greek legends. The ornately painted ceiling boasted flowers, leaves, and decorative swirls, the many colours highlighted in gilding.

Here and there, an open door gave them a view into one large chamber after another, each room richer than the last. At intervals, curtained arches led to more halls, more stairs.

Hugh was openly gawping, and Becky drew closer to him, as if for protection.

“A bit over the top, don’t you think?” he whispered to her, and was rewarded with a quick, nervous, smile.

The duchess received them in a sitting room that, if rich and elegant, was at least more human in scale.

She offered a cheek to Aldridge for a kiss, and a hand to Hugh. Becky held back.

“Come, my dear,” she coaxed. “Mrs Winstanley, is it not? Soon to be Baroness Overton. You shall kiss me, my dear, and I shall be godmother to your child, since I cannot claim the closer title.”

Hugh relaxed, then. Her Grace would champion them for her grandchild’s sake. He took the offered chair, and Aldridge leant against the mantelpiece. The duchess ignored them both to focus on Becky.

She insisted on Becky sitting beside her.

“Are you keeping well, my dear? Are you eating?”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Becky’s voice was so quiet Hugh had to lean forward to hear.

“You must eat several times a day, dear. More as the baby takes up more room…” she trailed off as Becky blushed scarlet. “And when do you expect the little one to arrive?”

“At Yuletide, Ma’am. Or perhaps early January.”

“What of sleep, Mrs Winstanley? Are you able to rest in the afternoons?” She turned to Hugh. “An afternoon rest is most efficacious for women who are increasing, Lord Overton. I will expect you to keep her in bed in the afternoon.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Hugh replied, blushing in his turn.

The duchess silenced her sniggering son with a raised eyebrow.

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A domestic treasure

vicar-of-wakefield-mr-burches-first-visit-rowlandson1After I wrote a few weeks ago about the clash of cuisines for Caroline Warfields Highlighting Historical, one of my friends loaned me a treasure: the 1819 edition of A New System of Domestic Cookery, Formed Upon Principles of Economy and Adapted the Use of Private Families, by A Lady. The lady in question was Maria Eliza Rundell, who has been called the original domestic goddess, and the book bears that out.

I have it beside me now, using gloves to turn the precious pages and remembering that they’ve known many hands going back, undoubtedly, to the year of publication.

The book starts with some general observations: a not so little homily on habits of economy, the joys of managing a household, and the importance of properly supervising servants.

imageThe bulk of the book comprises recipes for everything a household might require: food of all kinds, preserves, drink, household remedies. The writer also gives instructions for everything from carving lamb to keeping chickens to making ink and household cleaners. Consider these, chosen at random from the table of contents:

To stew lampreys as at Worcester (and eels the same way)

To make a pickle that will keep for years, for hams, tongues, or beef, if boiled and skimmed between each parcel of them

To dress moor-fowl with red cabbage

A liquor to wash old deeds &c. on paper or parchment, when the writing is obliterated, or when sunk, to make it legible

To prevent the creaking of a door

General remarks on dinners

Everything, in fact, that a prudent woman might need to know in order to run a household. Not for our Regency lady the conveniences of squeegee bottles filled with precisely manufactured chemicals, or vacuum cleaning machines, or spray on foam for oven-cleaning. Or stainless steel, for that matter.

To dust Carpets and Floors.

Sprinkle tea-leaves on them, then sweep carefully.

The former should not be swept frequently with a whisk brush, as it wears them fast; only once a week, and the other times with the leaves and a hair-brush.

Fine carpets should be gently done with a hair hand-brush, such as for clothes, on the knees.

To prevent the Rot in Sheep.

Keep them in the pens till the dew is off the grass.

For Chapped Lips.

Put a quarter of an ounce of benjamin, storax, and spermaceti, two penny-worth of alkanet root, a large juicy apple chopped, a buch of black grapes bruised, a quarter of a pound of unsalted butter, and two ounces of bees-wax into a new tin saucepan. Simmer gently till the wax &c. are disolved, and then strain it through a linen. When cold melt it again, and pour it into small pots or boxes; or if to make cakes, use the bottoms of tea-cups.

And it goes on with recipes and advice for 347 pages. (The 1865 edition had grown to 644!)

First published in 1806, Mrs Rundell’s book stayed in print until the 1880s, with 67 successive editions. Now that is a domestic treasure. Thank you, Inez, for the privilege of seeing it.

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After the kiss on WIP Wednesday

canal-path-at-nightIn a romance, so various mentors have told me, the sexual tension builds and builds until at last the couple kiss. And if that moment is not at the end of the story, when all the conflicts and plot twists are resolved, than the writer has a problem.

We’ve got them together. Now how do we pull them apart? For the tension to continue, their relationship can’t stay in calm waters. Our readers need to feel their longing. After the kiss comes the slap, or the fight, or the pull between loyalties, or some other interruption to their courtship.

This week, I have another excerpt from A Raging Madness. It comes when my couple’s first kiss, began almost accidentally but continued with enthusiasm, has been interrupted by external noises.

She dropped her hands from his shoulders, tried to cover her breast and pull down her hem, blushed furiously in the dark. “I am so sorry, Alex,” she said. Though whether she was sorry to stop or sorry that they had ever started, she had no idea.

After a moment, he pulled away, swinging his legs around so that he sat beside her on the bed.

“I am not that kind of woman,” she said, trying to sound convincing to herself when her whole body was screaming to complete what they had begun.

“Right.” He sounded strained. She could hear him sucking a breath in, then letting it slowly out through his teeth.

“I cannot apologise enough…” Ella began, but Alex interrupted, his voice as courteous as ever, though she could hear the strain in it.

“The fault is mine, Ella. I meant only to salute you for the gift of my future, and I forgot myself. I..” He stopped, and took another deep breath. “I cannot bring myself to apologise. For any impression of disrespect, yes, indeed. I beg your pardon with all my heart if I have offended. But for offending you, not for kissing you.” He stood, and moved away from the bed. She could not make out what he was doing, but he had not returned to his own bed on the other side of the cabin.

“It was everything I have dreamed this age,” he said, almost under his breath. This age? He had been dreaming of kissing her this age?

But she had to correct his misconception. “Each other,” she said.

Whatever he was doing—it sounded as if he was putting on his boots—he stopped. “Each other?”

“We kissed each other,” she explained.

The amusement was back when he replied. “We did, and very nicely too.”

“And we cannot do it again,” Ella warned, hoping her regret was not obvious.

“No, I suppose not. I am going to take a short walk, Ella. I won’t go far, but the cold will be— beneficial.”

He had opened the hatch and was leaving before she spoke again, giving him a gift of words in return for his.

“It was better than I dreamed.”

His only response was a catch in his step before he continued, but a few minutes later she could hear him begin to whistle as he walked the canal path.

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Tea with Sophia

monday-for-tea

On this fine afternoon in September, the duchess had ordered tea served on the terrace overlooking the rose garden. “We should enjoy the sunshine while we can,” she told her goddaughter, Lady Sophia Belvoir.

Sophia had been surprised—and somewhat disconcerted—to find she was the only guest. What was Aunt Eleanor up to?

But Her Grace discussed only the weather and the roses as she poured the tea and passed the cucumber sandwiches; tiny triangles of finely sliced bread with the cool crisp vegetable melting on the tongue.

Sophia took a sip of her tea. Ah. The finest oolong with just a touch of lemon. Aunt Eleanor never forgot.

At that moment, the duchess pounced. “Tell me about Lord Elfingham, my dear.”

Sophia’s hand jerked as she returned her cup to its saucer, and it clicked loudly. She blushed. At her clumsiness, of course, not at the mention of the young viscount who had been everywhere she went for months

“You met him even before most of London, his aunt tells me,” the duchess prompted.

“Not met, exactly,” she demurred. “We were not introduced.”

Aunt Eleanor said nothing; just raised her brows in question, and after a moment Sophia added, “I was visiting the orphanage at Bentwick. A child ran out of the gate into the road, and was almost run down by racing curricles. Lord Elfingham rescued the child and returned him to the- the orphanage servants.”

Appearing from nowhere just as she emerged from the gate and saw disaster unfolding before her. Riding down on the cowering boy right under the noses of the teams that threatened to trample the child underfoot. Scooping up the runaway and leaping to safety on his magnificent stallion. Fixing her in place with a fervent gaze from his dark eyes. Haunting her in dreams ever since.

“He has been pursuing Felicity,” she told Her Grace. “Hythe will not consider it.”

The duchess’s brows rose again. “Your sister Felicity? Are you certain? It is you his eyes follow when you are at the same entertainments, Sophia.”

For a moment, Sophia’s heart leapt, but Aunt Eleanor was wrong. She was too old for the marriage mart, and had not been as beautiful as Felicity even when she was a fresh young debutante. Besides, her brother the Earl of Hythe would not countenance the connection, whichever sister was being courted.

She shook her head, not trusting her voice. “May we speak of something else?” Which was rude, but Aunt Eleanor graciously allowed it.

“Very well. Let us discuss next week’s meeting to set up the fund for the education of girls. You will take the chair, my dear?”

******

Sophia is the heroine of The Bluestocking and the Barbarian in the Belle’s box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts, now on sale.

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The Four Firsts

tbrI’ve been on a reading binge, catching up on some of the books in my TBR (to be read) pile. AND I’ve been doing a bit of judging for various contests. Which has set me thinking about first impressions.

Once upon a time, I would finish everything I started reading. Then I realised I was spending valuable reading time on stuff I was not enjoying or learning from, so the stuff with the worst writing or the most unlikeable characters dropped off my list. But I’d still often struggle on with stuff that had some promise, in the hope it would get better.

But I’m 66. I may still have 30 years ahead of me, but beyond a doubt I’m closer to the end of my life than the beginning. I’ve become more demanding.

At this point in my life, I need to have some kind of guarantee of satisfaction. I don’t demand perfection. I can forgive a name that is historically unlikely, or the occasional cliche in a description. If the plot grabs me and I care about the characters, the rest just needs to be good, not flawless.

But I have little time and a TBR pile that keeps growing, which lesson I need to apply to my own writing. I want people to keep reading my books, so I need to pay attention to the four firsts: first sentence, first paragraph, first page, and first chapter. If the four first aren’t right, there’s a real risk my books will never make it onto people’s read list, whether or not they’d really enjoy the rest.

First sentence

The first sentence should hook you into the story, intrigue you, and impel you to keep reading.

“In the great sprawl of London, where would he find her?” (The Marquis and the Midwife, Alina K Fields)

“The man who’d murdered her stepfather was finally in her sights.” (My Fair Princess, Vanessa Kelly)

First paragraph

The first paragraph should reveal a hint of the plot, while keeping you in the moment.

“If women were as easily managed as the affairs of state—or the recalcitrant Ottoman Empire–Richard Hayden, Marquess of Glenaire, would be a happier man. As it was, the creatures made hash of his well-laid plans and bedeviled him on all sides.” (Dangerous Weakness, Caroline Warfield)

First page

The first page is often as far as you’ll read when you’re trying to decide whether to make the purchase. And certainly you will use it to judge whether a book in your TBR pile suits your mood of the moment. It needs good writing, more than a hint about at least one of the characters, something to intrigue you, maybe action.

First chapter

The first chapter might be as far as you get. I need to make it count. Check out my excerpts page to read the first chapters of my published books.

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