Books for Free?

Food for thought here.

Kathy Sharp

I’ve just read a cri de coeur on social media from yet another writer ready to throw in the towel. Not that she intends to give up writing, you understand – what she is giving up is the unequal struggle to make even a very modest living from it.

When I began writing novels I certainly never expected to earn a living from it – but even I was taken aback by the amount of effort (writing itself, promotion) that I needed to put in to receive even a tiny return. The increasing expectation for the written word to be provided for free, at least over the internet, certainly doesn’t help.

I have long since thrown in the towel myself. The struggle to sell reading material, even at a very low price, became more trouble than it was worth when it began to affect my health. I still have books…

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Paper Dolls


Paper dolls box of

A few years ago, when Mum was clearing out some of her cupboards, she found an old shoe box and opening it up found it was stuffed full of paper dolls. Since she never throws away any of our things without our permission, she asked if I wanted it.

Bringing it home, I put it on the list of things to do. One of these days I would get together with my sister and we would go through the contents and decide. Time passed. The box remained un-opened, but this is the year when I’m doing a life laundry and the box, taking up space in my office has to be dealt with.

What am I going to do with it, is the question. .

When  my sister, Anuk, and I were kids, we played endlessly with our paper dolls. Some were from magazines, large cardboard images of little girls, never boys, that could be cut out then dressed with the dresses that came with them. The dolls were always in their underwear, and their clothes were attached to their shoulders by fold up tabs.

Paper dollThese simpering children were never enough for our games. With some we added our own homemade and designed clothes, but as they took on lives and stories of their own we soon graduated to drawing our own dolls, complete with wardrobe of clothes for every season and period of history.Home made paper dolls 1

For these dolls were the embodiment of our imagination. Not having any tin soldiers were made our own paper ones, complete with princesses and castles. If we needed Indians for a story we drew them,Paper dolls Indian family but the story we told most often concerned neighbouring families. In what must have been a precursor to my novels, these families lived dramatic and romantic lives.

We set up their houses on our beds; each room divided by ribbons and furnished with whatever we could cut out of catalogues. What we couldn’t find there we cut out of women’s magazines, which was slightly tricky, especially with the men, who were few and far between in those days, but we managed, even if the picture was at an odd angle, or lacked feet. What mattered was what the character looked like and whether they fitted in to the narrative. Very much like the advice given to writers to find images and make story boards when they are building plot and character. Oddly enough this is something I never do.

Miss JulieThe matriarch of my family was the beautiful and mysterious Miss Julie. Haunted by a secret sorrow, her husband a shadowy, if not non-existent figure, she was the mother of many daughters, all of whom had very intense romantic relationships.

For my sister, who now makes her living as an artist and for me as a writer, those dolls were our training ground – to bin them seems wrong yet there is no point in keeping them shut up in a box and never looking at them. So what am I to do? Suggestions would be welcome.


It’s Been A Long While Between Entries

The sadness of life.

Ceci N'est Pas Une Blog

I saw my actual oncologist on 5 June. Dr. McCormack was all smiles again. She’s impressed with how terrifically well I’m doing (unquote). I’m stable and although the side effects from the hormones can be uncomfortable, they aren’t unbearable.

This is not how it usually goes for women my age with recurrent uterine cancer. I feel like I should start carrying around some kind of evidence that recurrent uterine cancer really is inoperable, incurable, and terminal.

And yet it’s been a sad couple of years.

I’m still trying to adjust to life in a world without—among others—Susan Casper, Gardner Dozois, and Earl Cooley III. And Harlan Ellison.

When I was diagnosed, I called Gardner and Susan to tell them about it before I posted the news publicly. Neither of them was critically ill when I got the Diagnosis of Doom. Nor was Earl or Geri or Georgina or most of…

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Mid Year Report Part 2

Maurice Greenham

In the first episode of this mid 2018 report, I mentioned just a few of the adventures and misadventures I have had since returning home from my trip to Australia New Zealand and the Far East. There have been countless other incidents…but a flavour is probably more that sufficient. My 77 birthday is only a couple of months away…it seems incredible how swiftly the years have gone by…and disturbing to feel that time is speeding up…we won’t even put a foot on the path of thinking that time might be running out.

Whilst I have always liked to be involved in social activities, choirs, drama groups, outings, etc. I don’t think that I have ever been so engaged with such a wide variety of undertakings and concerns. For years, HIV was top of my agenda…but it has gone from the desperate struggle of staying alive…to just another health issue to…

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#Friday favourites: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

Getting ready to go Malta, I downloaded half a dozen books onto my Kindle, because running out of things to read would have completely ruined my holiday. Among my selection was a thriller, a fantasy, a real life account from a locum doctor working in London, a literary novel and “Anne of Green Gables”.

The last time I’d read the Anne books was when I was in my early teens. I’d loved them then and Anne Shirley and Avonlea had stayed in my imagination ever since. The image of the orphan girl waiting at the station to be picked up by Matthew Cuthbert, only to be told that they had requested a boy and she was to be sent to back to the orphanage was haunting, as was the night and day she had to wait before Marilla and Matthew changed their minds and let her stay at Green Gables, the house she had fallen in love with at first sight.

From then on I had followed Anne’s story avidly. Journeying with her from childhood to adult and loving every minute.

Re-reading the books, I had an initial moment of doubt. At first Anne’s optimism and  her gushing over romantic view of the beauties of Nature was a little wearing, until it was punctured by the author’s sly humour.

When Anne and her friends go on a romantic picnic, the other girls drink lemonade, but Anne insisting on the beauty of her surroundings and the crystal stream that flows through them insists on drinking from the brook, which LM Montgomery hastens to tell us tasted of mud.

There is humour too in the scrapes Anne gets into, like dying her hated red hair green, or getting her best friend drunk on homemade wine, which she has mistaken for cordial.

Time and time again Anne is brought down to earth, but never in any destructive way. The dour Marilla and acerbic Mrs Lynde soften towards her, she gathers a group of girl friends who will stay with her for life and of course there is her relationship with Gilbert Blythe.

The language may be a little old fashioned in places, but the exploration of developing relationships and the emotional lives of the characters ring true. Nor does the writer avoid the realities of life in the early part of the twentieth century. There are deaths, some easy, others harrowing.

What also appeals is that the books are full of strong women who are not dependent on men for their sense of identity. Anne and her friends go to college and graduate with BAs just as the men in their lives do. Some of them also work for their living, teaching school, and while marriage will put an end to this career, there are widows who own boarding houses, women of independent means who go travelling late in life as well as the wives and mothers.

I also love the sense of place and the vivid descriptions of the seasons, from the chill of winter to the beauty of spring when the landscape is awash with blossom, lushness of summer and the rich colours of autumn.

“A September day on Prince Edward Island Hills; a crisp wind blowing up over the sand dunes from the sea; a long red road winding through fields and woods, now looping itself about a corner of thick-set spruces, now threading a plantation of young maples with great feathery sheets of ferns beneath them, now dipping into a hollow where a brook flashed out of the woods and into them again, now basking in open sunshine between ribbons of goldenrod and smoke-blue asters.”

All in all, re-visiting Avonlea has been a delight.


Media Detox



Balconies in Valetta

We’ve just come back from a week in Malta- something none of my followers on Twitter, or friends on Facebook will have known about. Apart from not wanting to let all and sundry know that we were away and the house was empty, I had no intention of posting pictures or giving a blow by blow of what we were eating or where we were.

It’s not that I don’t like social media. I love FB in particular – it’s like having a chat with a friend and, somewhat hypocritically, I love it when people post about their holidays. Especially family and I follow their progress and know that all is going well and no one has been eaten by bears, or fallen out of an airplane.

So why haven’t I followed suit?

For me part of going on holiday is getting away from all the everyday things of life and posting and tweeting and liking, however enjoyable, is part of that. Not having to do it is comparable to not having to make the bed, or clean the house, or do the washing.

It’s also a distraction from writing and occasionally, when I feel I’m not doing enough marketing it becomes a stress rather than a pleasure.

A week away and I’m more than happy to get back to blogging, tweeting and Facebook.

Malta, incidentally, was magic.

Malta Unicorn 2