The thrill of cutting book pages

Have you ever had to cut the pages of an old book in order to read it? It’s like venturing into virgin territory, a frontier. It never fails to thrill. 

I’m head-over-heels charmed by the “packaging” of Merilyn Simonds‘ limited edition letterpress collection of stories, The Paradise Project

The book is inside, and included is a paper-cutter to part the pages.

And have I mentioned? My copy is #1!

The book can still be reserved simply by e-mailing the publisher at 

For other posts I’ve written on this wonderful project, click here

For other news, I’m thrilled that almost all the Sandra Gulland Ink e-books are now on-line. I was shocked to discover that some have even sold. Imagine that.

I’ve created a Sandra Gulland Ink Facebook page which is picking up steam. Have a look here. The image of the covers is from the line-up on iTunes. Yes, I’m proud!  

I’m working on The Last Revise of The Next Novel, due at the end of September. I’m super pleased that in addition to HarperCollins Canada, it’s to be published by Doubleday in the U.S.

What do you think of this title? 

In the Service of the Shadow Queen

I’m also researching the life of Hortense, Josephine’s daughter, for the YAs I will write this winter (she said bravely). 

Yes, my head is spinning!

Gutenberg’s fingerprint: how much is a smudge worth?

Gutenberg’s fingerprint: how much is a smudge worth?


I’ve posted a few times of late about The Paradise Project, author Merilyn Simonds‘ limited-edition letterpress publication of short stories. In an age when publication is becoming more and more digital, I’m finding this hand-made centuries-old process fascinating.

Merilyn has been blogging about the process. Her latest post, Gutenberg’s fingerprint, is especially evocative.

The studio is crowded today: all the people who worked onThe Paradise Project have gathered to see the final pages printed and put the press to bed. …

Mico looks at the press as he will one day look at the person he loves. “He let me run this thing when I was 14, and ever since, I’ve wanted to come back. It was a big mistake. Now I never want to leave.

Me neither.

On the news front, I’m awaiting the delivery of my edited last draft. I’m told that there are only about 50 small suggestions. (That’s nothing!) I’m also told I was described by an editor as “Queen of Revision.” I love that!

I’m considering changing my main character’s name from Claude (her historical name) to Claudine or Claudette. A number of readers get confused by what they consider a male name. I like the androgynous name and it suits Claude’s androgynous character, but I don’t like confusing readers (at least unintentionally). Your thoughts? Preferences? I’m leading toward Claudine.

I put off sending out my newsletter until later in August so that I could give more concrete information about the publication date, a possible title, the Josephine documentary as well as Sandra Gulland Ink publications.

Yes, there is a lot coming to a head next month!

Illustration at top is from Bibleodyssey.

The Vieux & the Neuf: who lived where in 17th century Saint-Germain-en-Laye

It’s annoying to have to change a location of scenes in the 7th draft of a novel. I’ve housed Louis XIV’s two mistresses in the old château in Saint-Germain-en-Laye: it’s an ancient castle-like fortress with a moat, turrets and all the trimmings. 

I’ve visited it a number of times. There are two side-by-side chambers there that are said to have been those of Louise de la Vallière (the Sun King’s mistress #1) and Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan (the Sun King’s mistress #2). Voilá. And so it has been in both Mistress of the Sun and The Next Novel

Gary McCollim, my wonderful historical consultant (familiar to many readers of this blog), pointed out that the King and Court were housed in Le Château Neuf, however—the “new” chateau (of which only remnants exist today).

Had I set my scenes in the wrong château? Did I need to rewrite? (Groan.)

The New Château

The sprawling Château Neuf opened onto glorious view of the Seine river valley. It was enlarged and completed by Henry IV (who conveniently housed all his children—legitimate and illegitimate both—in the old castle). 

Louis XIII, the Sun King’s father, died in the newer residence, and his sons were born there. Clearly, it was the royal residence. 


A timeline recap:

1648: During the French civil war called the Fronde, members of the royal family took refuge in Saint-Germain several times. 

September 13, 1648, the Queen and her children stayed in the old chateau, possibly because it was more of a fortress, more secure. Neither residence was furnished, however, and the furnishings sent on from Paris were intercepted and looted. 

A few months later, the King’s cousin, the Duchess of Montpensier, also came to Saint-Germain seeking asylum, installing herself at Château Neuf where “she lay in a wonderfully beautiful chamber in a ruined tower, well-gilded and large but with no glass in the windows and a meager fire.” 


1660: One of the newer château’s retaining walls collapsed in 1660, and the King had the massive gardens renovated in 1662.

1668: the Court set off from the Château Neuf for the baptism of the Grand Dauphin in Sainte Chapelle of the Château Vieux.

1680: Mansart expanded and modernized the Château Vieux. 

1682: the Court left Saint-Germain for Versailles, which became the seat of government. 

1688: Louis XIV allowed the exiled James II of England to base himself at Saint-Germain. Some say James II took over the old castle, others that he and his court stayed in both. 

So where does this all leave me, other than down the proverbial Research Rabbit Hole?

Do I relocate my scenes?

NoBecause, with some rummaging around in my library, I discovered that two of the children Madame de Montespan had by the King were born in the old castle: Louis-August, Duc du Maine, in 1670, and Françoise-Marie, Mlle de Tours, in 1674.

All of which leads me to suspect that the mistresses—Louis de la Vallière and Madame de Montespan—were likely housed apart from the royal family in the old castle, at least some of the time. 

However, like all research, this matter will be on-going … until publication, that is. Weigh in! 



For an interesting paper on Le Château Neuf—including a floor plan (!) — see Le Château Neuf de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, une Villa Royale pour Henri IV by Emmanuel Lurin. 


On visiting the past (present and future)

I’m very busy right now: the move back to Canada, a final draft of The Next Novel due soon, my Ink e-publishing on the verge of a launch … so my notes here will be sporadic and scattered over the next little while. 

Not that I don’t have a great deal to share!

I was struck this morning by an essay written by writer-friend Stephanie Cowell, “The Mystical World of Historical Fiction.” A quote:

To sustain the journey of writing a historical novel requires passionate interest, research, many rewrites, great skill, and the patience of a saint. Lives often do not come with plots; we have to create a plot to take the reader down the path of the story. We have to say, “Come with us. We will show you something wonderful.”

Other articles of interest:

What Makes a Critic Tick? Connected Authors and the Determinants of Book Reviews.”

An interview with Stephen King: “I never think of stories as made things; I think of them as found things. As if you pull them out of the ground, and you just pick them up.”

The image above is from BibliOdyssey:  Wendel Dietterlin’s 1598 work on baroque engravings -‘Architectura von Ausstheilung, Symmetria und Proportion der Fünff Seulen’. It evokes, for me, the revision process: one walks through a “finished” manuscript into a wreckage. One must have faith! 

The last cut

As readers of this blog know, I’m preparing to e-book publish all my novels for the UK and beyond. What I hadn’t factored into my schedule projections was the need to proofread and re-proofread the files, nor my natural impulse to revise a novel long after it had been published. 

And so — due to a comment from one of my ever-so-excellent volunteer proofreaders, Wally Rabbani — I have just made a cut to Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe that … yes … just a little, took my breath away! (There’s a scary thrill to cutting.) 

I cut the Prologue. Out!  (You can read it here.)

It’s written from the point-of-view of a ghost, Marie Antoinette. Josephine did believe that Marie Antoinette’s ghost haunted the Palace, and I wanted this ghost to have a role in the novel, but … no, that was too tricky (but for one scene, with hints). Hence, the ghost’s prologue at the beginning.

I’ve been fond of this prologue, but, as Wally pointed out, the reader just doesn’t need it. And he’s right. I think it’s a stronger novel without it, and that’s what counts.