A Question Readers Often Ask: What’s next?

A Question Readers Often Ask: What’s next?

Readers often ask, “What’s next?” The answer to that question depends on when the question is asked, of course. What follows is an evolving diary, begun many, many years ago.

A reader wrote some time ago:

Are you going to write more stories about the court of the Sun King?


You did such a great job with the historical details and as I have studied Louis XIV and his court— there are plenty of interesting stories to tell (including the adventures of the Princess Palatine, even La Grande Mademoiselle and Lauzun, a couple that united even after a prison term and old age only to break up over greed).

Indeed! By the way, I love La Grande Mademoiselle, but have yet figured out how to tell her story.

You could even do a trilogy of Louis XIV’s Mistresses— you’ve done La Vallière, next could be Montespan, then Maintenon (the king’s mistress, then second wife).

I believe she’s onto me.

Or a novel on Princess Henrietta as she has a tragic back story with her father being killed, her brothers Charles and James, and she had several romances during her marriage to her cousin Monsieur that are interesting reading, including one lover who was her husband’s boyfriend who falls for Henrietta and became a master of disguise to see her at any cost (De Guiche–who visited her as a fortune teller, a litter bearer and in a domino so he could romance her in Philippe’s presence at a masked ball).

What wonderful suggestions these are. Henriette would indeed be a fantastic subject.

I especially love the De Guiche stories, and in fact wrote many scenes of him hiding in the fireplace and disguised as a fortune-teller, etc., but these scenes, like many, many others, now reside in my cut file.

What I wrote in answer to this letter above:

I am considering writing a novel about Athénaïs (Montespan), but it might focus on her first engagement more than her relationship to the king. I’m not sure. It could also be a story told from the point-of-view of Des Oeillets, her maid who was the go-between between Athénaïs and Voisin, the convicted poisoner.

As this reader points out, there are a wealth of wonderful stories to be told. The hard part is choosing. It took me eight years to write Mistress of the Sun because I kept changing perspectives. I even included the unforgettable Mademoiselle at one point.

I did, in fact, eventually choose to tell the story of The Shadow Queen from the point of view of Des Oeillets (Claudette).

Shadow Queen Cover copy 2

But to answer, “What’s next?”  I am writing a Young Adult novel based on the teen years of Josephine’s daughter Hortense. I am back in the Napoleonic world!

The Game of Hope by Sandra Gulland Canadian Cover

It’s Easter 2018, and Hortense’s story, The Game of Hope, will soon be published in Canada, two months later in the U.S.

As for what’s next? I’m writing — or, at least I think I’m writing — a novel about a teen, a girl falconer in Elizabethan England.

That story about Mademoiselle at the Court of the Sun King continues to haunt me, however. Might that be next next?

{Photo at top is by Evan Dennis on Unsplash.}SaveSave



No chuffing, please! On revising, again and again.

No chuffing, please! On revising, again and again.

{Cover of my e-book edition of Mistress of the Sun.}

In preparing to e-book publish my existing novels in the UK and beyond, I’ve had to revise, and then have them retyped and proofed. (Thank you so much, my FaceBook Fan Page readers!)

I, too, have had to carefully reread all of them, which has been quite an experience for me.

As well as timely.

In preparing to write a Young Adult novel about Josephine’s daughter Hortense, it has helped a great deal to re-read the Trilogy.

In writing This Bright Darkness (working title of The Next Novel) — a novel set in the Court of the Sun King — it’s been vital for me to reread Mistress of the Sun.

Firstly, I’ve recognized important changes I will need to make to This Bright Darkenss.

But secondly, I have had the opportunity to revise Mistress of the Sun. (The process never stops!)

At the Banff Book Discussion Weekend this last summer, a reader questioned the use of the word “shenanigan” in Mistress of the Sun.

Quite rightly! The first use of that word wasn’t until 1855.

I considered changing “No shenanigans—” to “No nonsense—”, but that didn’t quite convey the meaning I wanted. (Clorine is warning Petite not to have sex with old Gautier.)

Exploring possibilities in the on-line Oxford English Dictionary is one of the tasks I love best, so after some searching, I settled on another word. It’s quite old, quite rare and mysterious, but I think it gives more of a sense of Clorine’s meaning:

Clorine wagged a finger. “No chuffing—”

“Don’t worry!” Petite said, cutting her off before she said more.

Do you love it? It’s a word that goes back to 1200, and it means cheating, deceit, or falsehood. Plus, if you ask me, it sounds just a little bit rude.

Update: I admit I’m chuffed over how many have expressed interest in the word chuffing. (Thanks to Anita Davison for pointing out the modern English use of the word.)

Now, another change. Although “nickname” is a very old word, it feels modern to me — and, I suspect, to readers. Thus, I’m changing it to the dignified “sobriquet.”

On giving a workshop, becoming a publisher, revising …

On giving a workshop, becoming a publisher, revising …

A few weeks ago, as I’ve likely mentioned on this blog, I gave a workshop at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference: Net Book Promo for Luddites. I had given this workshop two years before at the Kingston WritersFest, but quite a bit had changed since then.

My intention is to someday offer the content of this course as a free e-book on this site.

The workshop went very well, but the experience, for me, was a bit fraught because:

1) of course the Wi-Fi didn’t connect,

2) we needed to track down a cord that would connect my newish Mac to the projector,

3) only to realize that I didn’t have the files I needed on my computer (because I was expecting a different type of projector).

And then Naomi Wolf slipped into the class: she of the kazillion Social Media followers! (If you haven’t read her book — or seen the resultant movie — The End of America: do. Extremely important.)

During the conference and after, writers Merilyn Simonds, Wayne Grady, Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson stayed with us. Do you think we talked about writing and publishing? You bet. It was a wonderful week.

With the help of novelist, designer and tech wiz Kris Waldherr, I’m getting closer to launching Sandra Gulland Ink, my e-book publishing venture.

The covers have been finished, accounts set up with Kobo and Amazon — iTunes yet to come. (Apple is so slow!)

I read a lot of e-books, and I want these to be special. Kris has done a beautiful job of designing the books inside and out. I’m imprint proud!

Also, of course, I’ve had to re-read all my books, to proof them. Also, of course, I’ve made changes.

I’ve been putting off re-reading Mistress of the Sun, however — but the time has come. It’s timely, because right now I’m working on the final draft of This Bright Darkness (working title of what will become The Shadow Queen), and the two novels are linked.

As I’m rewriting, I think often of Ariel Gore‘s summary of the revision process: lather and rinse, lather and rinse. Right now, I’m lathering, working up detail, adding scenes. Then I’ll edit (rinse) before I send the manuscript to my editor.

And then it will be time to dive into the next novel, my YA about Josephine’s daughter Hortense.

Busy: yes!

Putting Kindle readers to work as proofreaders

Putting Kindle readers to work as proofreaders

I’m told by Allegra, the editorial assistant at Turnstone, Simon & Schuster, in New York, that ebook errors happen because the text is shrunk. I’m simply to let her know and they will be corrected. (Thank you, Allegra.)

So I returned to AmazonKindle to check what’s been highlighted by reader/proofreaders. Here’s what I discovered:

From The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.:

–3 readers highlighted: In the light I see security, but in the shadows I see grief . . . in the shadows I see defeat.

–4 highlighted the typos “aman” (a man) and “aspisspotin” (as pisspot in)

–4 also highlighted: intelligent; she amuses; she is pleasing. She is grace and charm and heart. Unlike Rose: scared, haunted and needy. Unlike Rose with her sad life.

From Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe:

–3 readers highlighted, from the copyright page: Ogni talento matta. (Every talented man is a madman.)

–3 also highlighted: A woman’s truths, how secret they must be. Hidden, buried, only to emerge in the night.

From The Last Great Dance on Earth:

–6 readers highlighted the sentence: That we are born, we live and we die—in the midst of the marvelous. (A wonderful Napoleon quote, in truth. I worked hard to get it in.)

–3 highlighted: We are punished for our pleasures; if only we were rewarded for our pain.

From Mistress of the Sun:

–3 readers highlighted: Patience is the companion of wisdom, her father had often said, quoting Saint Augustine.

What does this tell me?

One, that there are not too many typos. And two, that readers like wise nuggets. And three: that the Amazon recording system may be suspect. It seems too coincidental. As a novelist, I’d never get readers to believe it.

You might be pleased to know that the second most highlighted text for all of Kindle is:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

From Pride and Prejudice, of course, by Jane Austen: highlighted by 3547 Kindle users.

As for the #1 favourite? It’s a quote from Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese that begins:

The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t.

What do you think? Are you a highlighter? (I am: shamelessly so.)



(Check here for more details.)

  • April 7 — Historical Tapestry: http://historicaltapestry.blogspot.com/ Guest post: “Why I love unhappy endings.”
  • April 10 — Reading Group Guides: http://www.readinggroupguides.com/content/index.asp Guest post: “How a bookclub changed me as a writer.”
  • April 14 — Scandalous Woman http://scandalouswoman.blogspot.com/ Review.
  • April 15 — Reading the Past: http://readingthepast.blogspot.com/ Guest post: “What to leave in . . . and what to leave out: crafting a story from history.
  • April 16 — Marta’s Meanderings: http://martasmeanderings.blogspot.com Review, giveaway, guest post: “The ups and downs of historical research.”
  • April 17 — Travels of the Bookworm: http://travelsofthebookworm.blogspot.com/ Giveaway, guest post: “Viewing history through a kaleidoscope.” Hosting the giveaway right now!
  • April 20 — Historical Novels: http://historicalnovels.info Q&A
  • April 21 — Devourer of Books: http://www.devourerofbooks.com/ Guest post.
  • April 23 and 24: Peeking Beteen the Pages: http://peekingbetweenthepages.blogspot.com Review and guest post.
  • April 24 — Epicrat: http://epicrat.blogspot.com Q&A
  • April 29 — Planet Books: http://planetbooks.wordpress.com/ Q&A
  • April 29 — Booking Mama: http://bookingmama.blogspot.com/ Review, giveaway and guest post.
  • May 1 — The Tome Traveller: http://thetometraveller.blogspot.com Review and giveaway.
  • May 1 — Racous Royals: http://blog.racousroyals.com Review and guest post.
  • May 4 — Shhh! I’m Reading: http://shhhimreading.blogspot.com/ Review and guest post.
  • May 5 — My Friend Amy: http://www.myfriendamysblog.com/ Review and guest post.
  • May 7 — Enchanted by Josephine: http://enchantedbyjosephine.blogspot.com Review, giveaway and guest post.
  • May 8 — Skrisha’s Books: http://www.skrishnasbooks.com Review.
  • May 14 — Linus’ Blanket: http://linussblanket.com Review and giveaway.
  • May 15 — Kris Waldherr http://kriswaldherr.com/blog Review, Q&A and giveaway
  • May 20 — Books Love Jessica Marie: http://bookslovejessicamarie.blogspot.com Review and giveaway
What next?

What next?

James Macgowan has published an article in the Ottawa Citizen, “After the End,” asking writers what they do after a novel is finished. I’m in that space now (and starting to feel a bit too much at home in it). I was somewhat pained by Alan Cumyn’s claim that the novel is never really over, reassured by Andrew Pyper‘s “cut adrift” feeling, and totally related to Scott Gardiner‘s getting onto all the chores that were ignored in that all-consuming last push to finish. Gail Anderson-Dargatz‘s answer was romantic and charming:

I have a confession to make: I have an “affair” with my next project before I finish the first, just so I avoid many of the feelings of separation that come when I “divorce” my main novel project and move on. And I do go through real separation at the end of a project, with many of the accompanying feelings of grief, anger, exhaustion and general stress, before finally coming to an acceptance that yes, the relationship is over and it’s time to move on. After all, I’ve spent the better part of five years with this novel. Moving on to that new project before the old “marriage” is over means I have something exciting to look forward to, a place to redirect my focus, so I don’t stay in the doldrums as long. So a little fling is a good thing. I think those feelings of separation as we move out of a project are necessary in giving us distance from it, so we can move into the editing process with a new perspective. It’s very much like that moment when you see your old love on the street (after the divorce is over) and you can see the guy for who he really is, and can judge him accordingly, without the fuzz of love to distort your perceptions.

It took me a moment to realize that this is exactly what had happened with Mistress of the Sun. I’d finished The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., and decided to have “an affair” with Louise de la Vallière‘s story before returning to the very long marriage of the Trilogy. After finishing the Trilogy and writing an early draft of Mistress, I took a detour into the life of La Grande Mademoiselle—whose story I may well write about now. It reminds me that writing is more of a meandering journey where nothing really is wasted.