My year in Dot Com

Site summary

The annual report on my website from WordPress is kind of fun:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 36,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

“selkie” was my most active blog commentator: thank you so much, selkie! (The posts inspired by your astonishing lists of period films will be coming in the New Year.)

I do love WordPress.

Online amusements: Josephine—the sorrowful wife?—and Napoleon’s Tweets


I’ve recently started using the “Never miss a thing online” Mention app. Just what I don’t need—right?—but being a Social Media Nerd, and terminally curious, I thought I’d give it a try. For starters I searched my name (of course), as well as mentions of Hortense and Napoleon.

It has turned up some surprising links.

This Turkish site, for one, on the theme of “the sorrowful wife.” In the book section, they display four titles:

The Sorrowful Wife

Yep, there’s sorrowful Jo right beside a novel by Goethe. My smile for the day.

Do you belong to Book Movement? (If not, it’s free.) It’s great site for book clubs and readers generally. Last spring, M.J. Rose and I did a special for their newsletter on our books — her’s, The Collector of Dying Breaths, and mine, The Shadow Queen — which are remarkably similar in a number of ways. It’s online again: you can read it here.

Grumpy Nap

As for Hortense, her step-father Napoleon completely overshadows her. As he does. She has not a single mention, yet he has 5571! Clearly, he is the master of the Tweetable quote.

  • “The word impossible is not in my dictionary.”
  • “The best cure for the body is a quiet mind.” (Yet his mind was far from quiet.)
  •  “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
On counting blessings

On counting blessings

I suffered two losses yesterday: Touchstone (a part of Simon & Schuster), my long-time publisher in the U.S., has turned down The Next Novel. I have four novels with them — with extraordinary sales overall — so I’m sad about this.

Ironically, the editor loved the novel, but the numbers just didn’t add up — and it’s all about numbers these days. Mistress of the Sun didn’t sell as well as the Trilogy — Who could out-sell Josephine? — and when the sales of your last publication tilt down, that’s all that matters. [See a post I wrote on this for Writers Unboxed, “Tyranny of the Numbers.”]

Basically, from a career-perspective, I’d need to write a strong commercial title to tilt those numbers back up. I’d need to write about a known historical person — a “marquee” subject.

I don’t write for the market — and no writer should, in my opinion (for many reasons, but in part because “the market” is an illusive beast). I write because there is something in a story that irresistibly interests me, and trust that readers will likewise find it worthy.

My other loss saddens me almost as much. I had a blog on Tumblr — “Ink” — where I tucked all the writing wisdoms I came upon. I had very few followers, but I loved this blog. I kept it for myself. By accident, I deleted it — and now it’s simply gone. There is no getting it back.

The wonderful thing about being a writer is the work itself — that’s what matters — so in spite of these losses, I feel buoyant. Today is a day to count my blessings: and I have quite a few, in fact. Many!

{Photo: At the South Pole, December 1911, from Wikipedia.}

More blessings: The rejected novel was picked up by the wonderful editor Melissa Danaczko at Doubleday US, where it was published as The Shadow Queen in 2014.

Hats for men with long hair—or how to get noticed on Google

Hats for men with long hair—or how to get noticed on Google

Every now and then I check the “traffic” stats for my site. I’m especially interested to see what words people put into Google that bring them here.

The words “mistress will not let go” was evocative; there’s a story in that, for sure. Here are some other curious ones:

unusual enemas

pimples at age 50

17th century cleavage

But what always makes me smile is that invariably someone has put in a search looking for hats for men with long hair. (Marketers: note this! Clearly there’s a need.)

I think what brings these people to my site is this post on my 17th century research blog. Just typing the words “hats for men with long hair” guarantees a certain amount of traffic. (Try it!)

Here are a few of the searches: hats for long hair men; guys with long hair and hats; long hair men’s hats; hats for long hair guys …

And on and on, a different long-haired guy looking for a hat nearly every day.

To appease the desperate, here are some other looks they might consider: 1, 2, 3.

Several years ago, I wrote an essay for The Savvy Reader on this subject: “Exploring Goggle’s Underbelly.” Curiously, people have stopped coming to my site in search of poison. I can’t help but wonder why.

You might ask what any of this has to do with The Writing Life.

1) Summer melt-down. Yes!

2) My Next Novel is being edited.

3) That doesn’t mean I’m twiddling my thumbs, however. I’ve spent several days taking out the glitches in my website.

4) I’ve also begun cataloguing my books using Delicious Library, a program recommended to me by Merilyn Simonds, who was in Eganville with her husband Wayne Grady for a delightful reading from Breakfast at the Exit Cafe. We talked writing & publishing until the wee hours. More on all of that anon.