Books · brain chat · weather

Rainy afternoon chatter

Hello hello,

Three posts in a week? It is definitely 2011. How’s everyone? I’m sitting in my newly acquired MCR dress* and having a coffee. Today’s a loooong day, because I’m doing an online writing class that starts at 11pm. I’m normally in bed or thinking about bed at eleven, so I feel like I’m doing a very nerdy marathon. I’ve got a small amount of academic reading and one seminar between now and the end of my first year as an undergraduate, so to celebrate I decided to go see MCR again this weekend. I asked about four people to talk me out of the idea and they nearly all talked me into it? Do they want me to come to them in a few months complaining that my savings have disappeared, replaced by, what, good memories? Is this a good time to remind you all that my commissions are open until the end of May… I kid, I kid, this is a no-regrets situation.

Anyway, yeah, this afternoon I am conserving energy and looking forward to my class later. Ironically, my copy of the book I need to reference in tonight’s class is with a friend, so I need to hunt it out on ye olde Kindle and buy it digitally. It doesn’t seem to be available as an ebook from any of the library apps I can think of, and although I requested it as a paperback from my local library, it’s not in yet. Although I’ll always prefer hard copies of books, I fully agree that e-readers have earned their place in the universe of reading tools. I use mine mostly for emergencies, like now, or when I’m travelling and can’t pack 80 paperbacks. I’m going to summer school in a few weeks and I’m already planning which hard copies of books will come with, and which I’ll get for my Kindle. Decisions decisions! Suggestions welcome, I’m always on the lookout for new reads.

I suppose I could go and get that academic reading over with. Maybe have a nap. The weather here is appalling today, although pretty. Britain does look wonderful and lush when it’s raining and misty, doesn’t it? I do resent that I own two separate rain jackets, though. I suppose I could cull my collection but if I’m going to get rained on, I want to do it in a mac that matches my outfit.

gif of a dachshund wearing a raincoat
WHO FILMED ME. (from Giphy)

What are you up to now summer is around the corner? Any plans for the Jubilee? I am going to Southend and drinking prosecco, probably but not necessarily in that order. Might eat a scone. I am assuming scones will manifest themselves in front of me at some point during the bank holiday weekend, it’s basically law.

RIGHT. Academic reading and a nap, here I come.

Look after yourselves,
Francesca

*officially it is a large t-shirt, but when you’re this short you can turn almost anything into a dress with the right attitude.


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · Read If You Like

Read, If You Like: Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Welcome back to Read, If You Like, my occasional book chatter series. I don’t love doing book reviews, so I usually style them as recommendations. I think I’ll add a few more thoughts to this one, though.

Read Red White and Royal Blue (Casey McQuiston, 2019) if you like:

  • American politics. I know, I know, trust me
  • A fictional world where Trump was never in the running for the presidency
  • He’s not mentioned once. It was like getting into a warm bath
  • A diverse cast of characters, but not in a ‘look I’m checking a box!’ way (I say this a lot about the books I recommend. But I never get bored of it)
  • Moderately explicit gay sex. Can something be moderately explicit? I’d put this book up the ‘adult’ end of the young adult shelf
  • The phrase ‘British accent’
  • the
  • singular
  • British
  • accent
  • Look, I didn’t say I liked that phrase
  • Polo (the sport, not the shirt)
  • Posh parts of London. Is Kensington Palace even in London?
  • The Internet has reminded me that Kensington Palace is in the, um, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I used to work just up the road. How did I make it into higher education

So, my other thoughts. Firstly, this novel reminded me that US politics is a shiny, shiny unicorn filled with toilet water, and even though everyone knows that the toilet water is dripping constantly from the unicorn’s nose, everyone upholds the sanctity of the unicorn. ‘That unicorn has integrity,’ people might say fondly as unicorn season rolls around. Not everyone respects the unicorn, but many feel that they should. ‘This unicorn season, we’re going to re-establish the integrity of the unicorn.’ I wanted to believe the unicorn had integrity too! I felt quite warm and fuzzy. This has never previously happened to me in a novel about anyone’s politics.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston graphic with flags and flowers
I had to get the cover graphic from Waterstones, because the light is so bad in my uni room that I can’t set up a proper photo. I don’t feel bad about sharing Waterstones, because they’re the last new-book bricks and mortar in Southend.

Secondly, it reminded me that in the UK our politics consists of: middle aged men dancing; middle aged men lying; middle aged men jeering at other middle aged men across the Commons. If there was ever a unicorn in Great Britain, it limped out to pasture somewhere between the English Civil War and the poll tax riots.

It’s probably worth mentioning that my library copy is an older edition – last year, the author pulled a line of dialogue about US-Israeli diplomacy because some on social media suggested it was pro-Israel and therefore implicitly anti-Palestine. (That link is a good summary of the controversy, as is this one.) I don’t think I’d have thought that if I’d read the book before knowing about the edits. Having read it knowing about them, my two cents is that the line should have stayed. Partly because I’m not convinced that mentioning Israel in a book ‘unnecessarily,’ as one Twitter user suggested, actually ‘normalises’ the occupation of Palestine. Palestine has been occupied since 1967. We’re past normalisation, surely? Instead of haranguing authors, could our energy be better spent pressuring non-fictional politicians to work harder to end the conflict, and questioning why they haven’t already? I’m not convinced McQuiston’s joke is the problem, is all.

The other reason I think the line should have stayed is that, as an author, I’m not sure how I feel about publishers bowing to readers’ demands that passages are cut from published work.

That’s a lie. All my instincts say that it’s almost definitely a terrible idea. Unless there’s a genuinely accidental fuck up (getting a fact wrong or misusing a word in good faith) why not leave the piece as a time capsule? Every creator looks at past work and sees a thousand opportunities for improvement – it’s part of the job to learn and move on, creating something that’s better because time and practise makes us a more skilful writer and a more nuanced person. Making edits post-publication feels like we’re pretending that the new edition was the only one, like we never went through a learning process. Why does the original work have to change? Why is it not enough for the author to say ‘shit, yeah that line/plot point/passage did not come off as I’d hoped, but I wouldn’t write it now,’ or ‘I didn’t know about X issue when I was writing! It would have informed my work if I had.’ While we’re here, why do some readers think they can demand that an author changes their work? Spending £4.99 on an ebook doesn’t mean you own the author, dude. Point out an issue with a manuscript if you like, but the author’s reaction is their call – they don’t have to listen to you, let alone change their finished work. You didn’t both sign a contract when you picked up the book you’ve taken issue with.

I dunno, it might be because I’m finally reading Nineteen Eighty-Four, but publishers bowing to a small group of shouty people feels like a dangerous precedent, for free speech, for creative industries and for, well, humanity. It could harm writers, who might avoid exploring difficult, important topics for fear of backlash. It could lead to a rigid, unadventurous publishing industry that’s unwilling to fund anything that could lead to controversy – even though every book ever published has infuriated somebody. And it could harm audiences, especially younger readers, because teaching someone that if they shout loudly enough that they’ll get what they want never leads to a humble, empathic human being. Sometimes, Complete Stranger from Anywhere, Northern Hemisphere, you’re going to encounter things you don’t like, that make you uncomfortable, that you disagree with vehemently. This does not mean the thing owes it to you to change.

As readers, I think we have a responsibility to use our little grey cells and figure out if a character making a joke or a shitty comment is the same as the author making a joke or shitty comment, or if the author’s trying to make a wider point. Maybe the author is hoping the reader notices the subtext they’ve woven in. Maybe they’re assuming the reader has enough critical thinking skills to make the distinction between a character’s beliefs and the author’s, or to reflect upon why that joke is there in the first place. In my last book, a man breaks a glass over his daughter’s head. As a writer and as a human, I have to assume that my readers will perceive that character as a bad guy without needing me to pre-empt the scene with ‘PERSON ABOUT TO DO A MORALLY REPREHENSIBLE ACTION I DO NOT SUGGEST YOU DO.’

I’ll probably still have to defend myself at some point. Or defend the bit where – wait, spoilers. Hehe.

Back to Red, White and Royal Blue, because I really enjoyed it once I got over the fact there’s a Prince Henry and a Prince Phillip. And a Princess Beatrice… (I was unreasonably tickled by this, and I have no business being so because I once named a princess Beatrice, too. I was going to change it when I thought of a better name and then forgot. I don’t even know which sister is the real Princess Beatrice. I am digressing. Insomnia! And also I was woken up at 4am by a game of Cards Against Humanity.)

I hope that, if there’s a sequel one day, we get to see actual Britain. It’s always fun seeing outsiders’ interpretations of the UK, because they usually involve pomp and ceremony. The touristy bits. But I’d quite like to read about a cheeky Nandos with the lads, a post-Wetherspoons trip to Maccies, a football fan sticking a firework up their arse. I want clandestine trips to Greggs and a scene set somewhere that isn’t London. Ooh, now I want a pasty. In real life, not in a book. Well, also in a book.

Remind me to set a short story in a Greggs. That got long-ish, huh. I think a lot about critical thinking and fictional work and the author-reader relationship. Probably too much? Part of me wants to write something about a hugely difficult topic, yeet the book onto the internet and log off forever, leaving generations of readers to debate my true intentions and to pick apart lines trying to figure out what they’re meant to learn from the work. I’d have to stop thinking about pasties to do that, though. Ooh, speaking of stories, I asked my patrons the other day about a potential Easter-inspired Bezzina’s story. Let me know if this is something you’d like to see!

Look after yourselves,

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · Read If You Like

Read, If You Like: Non Fiction Edition

Happy new year! I don’t usually gravitate towards non fiction, but there are a handful I’ve read over the last couple of years that I’ve really enjoyed, so I thought I’d share them here. As usual, you can find them on my Bookshop.org recommendations.

Read The Importance of Being Interested, by Robin Ince (2021), if you like:

  • A bit of science, but not so much you have to actually be a professional with a specialism in that specific, finickity little bit of scientific research to understand it
  • Anecdotes about physicists, the clergy and the occasional ghost hunter
  • A bit of philosophy, but not so much you need a philosophy degree to understand it
  • A contagious, oozing love and respect for being alive on this strange little planet in this tiny corner of the universe, right exactly now

Read Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes (2020), if you like:

Trick! I already included this in my Greek mythology post but it’s so good I wanted to mention it again!

Read Real Life Money, by Clare Seal (2020), if you like:

  • Non-condescending conversation about finances, with enough of the author’s personal background that you know her perspective has come from the heart and her experience, not a handful of business blogs and an online course
  • Genuinely interesting insights into spending habits, consumerism and financial wellbeing in this weird, advert-driven world
  • Advice about money that isn’t ‘take on a third job, stop drinking coffee and cancel your TV licence!!!’
  • (Is this the place to talk about how the TV licence is an investment in the entire UK arts scene? No? Okay but I want you to think about how it’s an investment in the entire UK arts scene)
hand holding Real Life Money, by Clare Seal

Read Be the Change: A Toolkit for the Activist in You by Gina Martin (2018), if you like:

  • Well, activism, but from the perspective of someone who fell into it by accident
  • It’s by the lady who made upskirting illegal in England and Wales after being upskirted, so like Real Life Money, you really feel the author’s passion for her subject
  • Practical advice for campaigning, writing to your elected officials and educating yourself on your subject of interest
  • It was really useful when I started the Do Something Directory, so if you’re into campaigning, fundraising, activism or think you might like to be, I can really recommend it

How is everyone doing as we edge closer to February? I try not to hate January – it’s not January’s fault that it’s almost always the coldest, Scroogiest month, with many deadlines – but I’m looking forward to St Brigid’s Day (or Imbolc, if you prefer, or, if we’re being boring: 1st February).

I haven’t finished it yet so will have to wait for another Read, If You Like to talk about it, but I’m partway through a book about the folklore of plants. I really like thinking about seasonal changes and how, in years gone by, societies seemed much happier to welcome in new months or seasons with a little bit of ritual. Probably because more people worked the land or grew their own medicines, and needed to pay closer attention to those miniscule changes to their landscape. I’m not going to be sewing carrots or dancing round a may pole any time soon, but I am thoroughly enjoying my afternoon walks, even though they are freezing. I saw snowdrops the other day! It’s still light at about half past five! I might cry when we put the clocks forward.

Let me know: have you read any of the books I’ve talked about? What did you think of them? What are you looking forward to as we make our way through winter?

Look after yourselves,
Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · brain chat

Things from 2021 that I liked and you might like

Happy nearly 2022! I don’t love those look-at-my-great-year posts, so I thought I’d do one talking about some of the lovely things I’ve come across this year:

  • Roman mosaics turned up in Rutland and they’re super duper old and super duper cool
  • The Magnus Archives wrapped up with a truly epic finale
  • Time Team is coming BACK and it’s going to be on the internet for all of us to enjoy
  • David Attenborough survives and, going on the assumption that he has a new show out, thrives
  • The guy who founded the We Rate Dogs Twitter account started a charity providing financial support for shelter dogs with complex medical needs, so they’d be more attractive to potential new owners. I can’t tell you how wonderful the 15/10 Foundation’s Twitter feed is, and how much better you’ll feel if you look at it
  • The Ever Given got stuck in the Suez and I know it was terrible for the economy et cetera et cetera but it was also ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS
  • Football didn’t come home but the idea that it might was quite nice (in the spirit of focussing on the good stuff, let’s not dwell on the racism or that bloke who stuck a firework in his arse)
  • While we’re on the subject of contests won by Italians… Eurovision came back! And Måneskin took their place as the world’s best rock band, Under 25s Category.

I’m staying in for new year’s eve, just to be on the safe side – although I’ve realised my favourite bit of NYE parties is getting to chat to my mates and cuddle with the hosts’ dog(s), so I’m not bothered about missing General Revelry. Last new year was difficult because there was no option but to stay indoors; this year I’m grateful to have the choice. And I choose to sit in my socks, eat panettone with my grandmother and think about all the books I want to read next year!

Seriously, though, I have a good handful of titles I cannot wait to dig into. I fell off the blogging wagon a little this year, but I hope to continue with book recommendation posts in 2022. A few titles I haven’t gotten around to enthusiastically recommending yet are Queenie, the Six of Crows duology, Robin Ince’s The Importance of Being Interested, Hitchhiker’s Guide (which I’d read once before but it’s like a good wine, it just improves with age), The Starless Sea – wait, I might have written about that. I can’t remember. 2021 had some really shit bits, but it excelled itself book wise. I was going to say it excelled itself film wise, but I’ve only been to the cinema once since Covid started and nearly all the films and TV shows I’ve seen were released ages ago. I liked, um, the animated Netflix one where Tim Minchin voiced a koala.

I just remembered that I almost went back into education to study film. Ha!

What were your highlights of 2021? What are you hoping for as we head into ’22? I’ve got a few modest goals – sort out my sock drawer, finish reading a copy of Frankenstein my friend T leant me on Halloween, get to the end of the academic year in one piece. I’m looking forward to some really mundane things, like Peaky Blinders coming back, new leaves on the trees on my uni campus, new Stiefvater novels, my fourth Covid jab. Ooh, I think there’s an extra bank holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee. I’m not sure if it’s a pandemic side effect or if everyone does it at some point during their twenties and the pandemic’s amplified it, but I’m far more interested in little things these days, things I used to consider insignificant. I saw a cool looking bird the other day. I’m not sure if pre-pandemic Francesca would have spent so much time trying to identify it on the RSPB website (consensus: male chaffinch, possibly). So, yeah, more books and more wildlife in 2022, I guess. Oh, and some of those shows that were originally scheduled for 2020! I’ll believe it when the lights go down, ha!

Happy new year!

Look after yourselves,
Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · Read If You Like

Read, If You Like: a Variety of Greek Mythology Books

I began this post when the Ever Given was still stuck in the Suez, but better late than never (which is the attitude you should take with your Christmas present deliveries, eh). I was hoping to read Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey this year to add it to the list, but then I went to university instead. Well, we know which would have been cheaper. Anyway, here is my (current, will be updated when I get my mitts on a few titles I’ve seen floating around the internet) list for anyone who is a mythology nerd, or knows a mythology nerd and wants to get them a Christmas present but their options are limited because I closed my shop this year…* There is fiction! There is non fiction! And all the authors are women because this is my website and I can ignore Robert Graves if I want to!

*Might reopen in January depending on if I can be bothered

Read A Thousand Ships (Natalie Haynes, 2019) if you like:

  • Multiple perspectives
  • Grumpy goddesses
  • Heart breaking scenes of [spoiler unless you know the story of the Trojan War already]
  • Banging one liners. So much of this book is eminently quotable.
  • Ancient Greece and its general geographic surroundings
  • Stabbings
  • It’s very stabby.

Read The Silence of the Girls (Pat Barker, 2018) if you like:

  • Stories about the Trojan War from the Trojan side
  • The realities of war. There are no euphemisms or mentions of women being ‘kidnapped.’ Barker calls a spade a spade, you know
  • It really is quite grim in places but I liked that about it; your mileage may vary.

Read Pandora’s Jar (Natalie Haynes, 2020) if you like:

  • Sarcastic non fiction that’s also really factual and educational
  • I find non fiction quite hard work most of the time, but Pandora’s Jar was very absorbing. I was predisposed to like it, because I love Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, feminism and Greek myth, but at the start I was a bit unsure if I’d struggle. I didn’t, because it’s well written (yes, I am doing a humanities degree, why do you ask)
  • Beyoncé references
  • Wonder Woman references
  • (who says that the classics have no impact on modern history)
  • Enough information that you can be interesting (or quite annoying) at dinner parties for the rest of forever. Would you like to hear about how Medusa is one of the earliest examples we have of victim blaming? Or about how Euripides’ Medea was quoted at first wave feminism events in the 19th century? Or how we’ve conflated the story of Pandora with the story of Eve? I can go on about this forever mate.
hardback copy of 'Pandora's Jar' by Natalie Haynes
Did you know they released a red version of the cover for Christmas? Because ancient Greece and the Christmas story both have… infanticide?

Read The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller, 2012) if you like:

  • Queer rep
  • Look it’s just very gay
  • (I’m assuming that if you’re here, that is a selling point and not a reason to write in)
  • A look at the Greek side of the Trojan War, particularly from off the battlefield
  • A look at Achilles, who was the most enormous sulky child this planet had seen until Trump took office
  • I mean, you sort of like him in this. Achilles isn’t a sympathetic character in most depictions, because he is very stabby and entitled in a way that rich kids of Instagram can only dream of
  • (You won’t like him in any of the other books I’ve suggested)
  • (I’ve included this book because no one else could have made Sulky McSulkface sympathetic. All the awards for Ms Miller, please, plus extra for irritating all those pearl-clutching purists who didn’t think Achilles and Patroclus could be lovers, possibly because they’ve never noticed any Greek vase decorations.)

I can’t wait to do an updated version of this once I’ve finally read The Odyssey. Did you know Emily Wilson is the first woman to translate it into English? I knew there was a reason I fall asleep every time I try to read Homer, ha.

If you are so inclined, I have a Bookshop.org list of these titles; if you buy one of them through the link I get half a penny or something. I’m going to have to revisit my classics and myth-y to read list; there’s a translation of Beowulf that looks epic, pun intended, and I’ve only read the first of Stephen Fry’s mythology series. I think I read a good Neil Gaiman non fiction book on Norse mythology a while back too? Ugh, I’m off to go and smile at a book.

Look after youselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · brain chat

Pre-Empting Burnout and Turning Off the Internet for a Bit (except not here, here is nice)

This time a month ago I wrote about feeling like we were all living in the Nine of Wands. I still do, but the end is in sight. Or if not sight then it’s around the corner and down the road a bit. My diploma is almost finished. This stage of lockdown is almost finished. I got my eyebrows waxed yesterday and I feel like I can finally do my sarcastic eyebrow raises with precision. My final hand in date is the same day the lockdown eases up, which I only realised last week. It’s all a bit… soon-but-also-not-soon? Time has moved so differently since the pandemic began. Except for my eyebrow hairs, which have continued their mission to become one single eyebrow. (No shade to the Frida Kahlos of the world; I wish I had your gumption but I was brought up in a time of tweezed brows and the societal damage has been done. Also I really love that slightly sharp look that comes with a well defined brow. All the better for expressing my distaste for idiots without saying a single word.)

Point is, I’ve got a few important things to do – finish my final project, reread the entirety of the Raven Cycle and the Dreamer Trilogy before Mister Impossible comes out, repot some of the more substantial courgettes – and I reckon it’s time to do the smart thing and go on an official holiday, so I can focus properly and not collapse into a heap when something minor sends me into a tailspin. If you’re a colleague and you’re expecting to hear from me next week then ignore this completely: I’m a) not going anywhere and b) really just turning off my social media. I can’t afford to stop working. I’m thinking of this as more of a break from other people’s voices, even if those voices are really funny on Twitter. I’ll pop in a few times a week to check my messages but otherwise I’ll only be posting on this blog, my Patreon or sending out my monthly-ish newsletter. This blog doesn’t feel like work (and I have lots of posts I want to write up!) and Patreon technically is work but is also mostly me doing tarot readings and telling short stories. Which I will have more head space to do once I’ve turned off all the Twitter voices, handed in this soul sucking, brain eating final project and remembered what it is to be a human being again. I might… go to the shops. WITH NO PURPOSE EXCEPT TO BROWSE.

The thought makes me dizzy.

If you need me urgently, hit me up at francescaswords [at] outlook.com. I’ll get back to you within three business days. I’m not sure when I’ll be back to posting regularly on social media: maybe June? July? I will set up some posts to feed the algorithm, but if you need me… check back here, I guess. Here is a picture of my life post-diploma:

spine photograph of Maggie Stiefvater's UK editions of 'The Raven Cycle' series plus 'Call Down the Hawk. Partial showing of Iris Murdoch's 'Existentialists and Mystics' and Brandon Sanderson's 'The Final Empire', also in paperback.

My darlings. I haven’t read The Raven Cycle since 2019, since before Call Down the Hawk came out. Soon, my precious, battered, non-Insta-friendly paperbacks, I will inflict more spine damage and probably use you as coasters. Can’t bloody wait.


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

(All Hail) Creation · Books · dragonnovel

Psst, Paperback Edition of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes Available Now!

Surprise! My baby is now available in corporeal form. A few weeks ago I asked on social media how people feel about audiobooks versus physical books (you guys were unanimous, physical it is). I’ve been wanting to test the waters for a print copy for a while, not least because my Ultimate Dream is to have a iridescent, map-on-the-front-pages, probably-linen-bound hardcover. With a little ribbon for keeping your place. You know the type of book I mean: the type that is a work of art.

Anyway, those are expensive and since I’m self published, I’d have to figure out some sort of pre-order system to gauge demand before committing to a print run. I don’t fancy being stuck with books I can’t sell, even if they are linen bound with a ribbon. So I thought, let’s do the smart thing and have a sort of soft opening using Amazon’s print on demand system.

I’m pretty sure I’ve bitched about Amazon on here before, but if I haven’t: it’s an unholy trinity of bad packaging, ethically questionable business processes and is at least partially responsible for the devaluation of the book industry.

Unfortunately for the high street but fortunately for my bank balance, Amazon does print on demand really well. It took me about half an hour to upload my files, less than 72 hours for Amazon to check the details and tah-dahhh. You can now order a paperback of the world’s best YA fairy tale. It cost me zero pounds, because I downloaded a Photoshop trial to design a back cover and spine. The book is priced exactly as the ebook at £7.99 (well, it is until Bezos discounts it to 89p). I will make about £2 on each copy, assuming they sell at full price, so I need to sell about a thousand copies to afford a posh hardback. Less if I’m willing to put all the money toward the hardback, but I’m quite invested in earning a wage. This is probably a good time to mention that after 11.5 years of blogging, I’ve joined the Amazon Affiliate programme with the strict goal of scraping every last penny from this paperback as I can… the links in this post are all affiliated. I think a lot of you would have to click and buy for me to hit the minimum payment threshold of £25, though, ha.

Anyway, I am already in profit, because a few members of the No. 1 Readers’ Club have bought some copies (this is why you should join the No. 1 Readers’ Club). I haven’t forgotten about doing a quarterly income round up, by the way! The last quarter ended a few weeks ago but I have diploma work to finish, so I’ll probably get the post done in a month or so. My ebook royalties aren’t in, so it’ll be a short post.

As with the ebook, I’ll be paying it forward with three copies: if you or someone you know wants a copy but cannot afford it, hit me up and I’ll order you a copy to to your mailing address. I’m also doing a giveaway right here on this very blog! To win a signed copy of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, comment on this post and tell me your favourite fairy tale or folk tale. Mine changes all the time, but Femlore Pod recently did an episode on Lieutenant Nun, who is fascinating. The contest ends on 30th April at 11:59pm BST, it’s open internationally, and I’ll pick a winner at random the next day.

Oh, one last thing:

If and when a hardcover run becomes a reality, I may pull this particular paperback. Ideally, one day I’d like this book to have a permanent home with a publishing house that can do hardcover, paperback, audiobook et al and handle all the logistics (and ensure that Amazon is not the only paperback retailer). That would mean a different ISBN, different blurb and spine and whatnot. So there’s a distinct possibility that in twenty years’ time, this particular Amazon offering will be like first printings of MCR’s first record: rare and sold on eBay for inflated prices. That’s actually already happening to an extent; the book’s been live for a week and someone’s already selling ‘used’ copies at a premium. What they’re actually doing is drop shipping: buying new copies and sending them straight to the customer, because they are [censored because it’s too rude even for this blog]. Anyway, if you’d like to be a part of history, just saying, the book is here.

'The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes' paperback on shelf
Much love to my cousin Ellen for taking The Princess and the Dragon‘s first ever shelfie!

Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · Read If You Like

Read, If You Like: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

Is it hugely shameful to have completely missed this children’s classic when I was an actual child? I don’t know how it passed me by, especially as there’s been a copy on my shelf for ages. I’d have loved this story 15 years ago… to be honest I quite loved it now. So let’s not beat about the bush:

Read Anne of Green Gables (LM Montgomery, 1908), if you like:

  • Chatterboxes
  • Nature
  • Really wonderful descriptions of nature, honestly, A***
  • Gently irritating characters who are well written enough that you they grow on you after a while
  • A look at early 20th century Canadian life
  • A warm feeling of cosiness
  • Slow living, which I suppose was just called ‘living’ a century ago
  • Honestly it is so cosy, it was a perfect January read.
photograph of 'Anne of Green Gables' by LM Montgomery, 1980s TV tie in Penguin Edition
I wanted to add some leaves or suchlike to the photo, but the background – a footstall my grandfather made that I use for propping up my laptop – seemed suitably rustic. Also I KNOW it’s a bit wonky ugh what are you, Instagram.

I’m probably going to give my copy of Anne away for bookshelf space reasons, but I very much hope to return to the world in future. I knew there was a series of Anne books and my instincts with series is to wonder if the author’s stretched things out for money or reputation, but I could live in Avonlea quite happily for years, and I got the impression LM Montgomery felt the same way. Maybe I’ll keep my copy after all…

The only thing part of me wanted more of is general background about Canada. We learn a lot about the world of the Avonlea and its inhabitants, but aside from Murdoch Mysteries (okay, including Murdoch Mysteries) I know almost nothing about Canadian history. The Home Children are mentioned in passing, as well as some political events, but I’m always after more. To be honest I think I’d prefer a list of good history books over a novel with more background: this really was one of those perfectly formed little gems (and it wouldn’t have made sense for Montgomery to spend paragraphs spelling out context, as her audience would have already known it). I also think it’s asking too much to expect a children’s book published in the 1900s to cover the intricacies of the Home Children, too, so I’ll shut my gob and look forward to reading the next instalment.

Other books I’ve devoured lately: Natalie Haynes’ Pandora’s Jar, The Scorpio Races, Brian Jacques’ The Taggerung (another children’s book that was on my shelf for so long that I’d stopped being a child when I read it AND NOW I learn Netflix is turning the whole series into a show. How did the entire universe of Redwall pass me by until the age of 25?). I’m partway through Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen and I think that might be my next Read, If You Like because it’s a really meaty story so far, with absolutely nothing in common with Anne of Green Gables except maybe the book name/character name element. Would you like to see any of the above as a Read, If You Like? I’m thinking of doing two or three books per post, if those books have similar themes. There are so many books to talk about and so few weeks in the year.

Did you read Anne of Green Gables as a child? Did you get the same ~ feelings ~ that I did as an adult?

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.