Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sebastian’s London: Camlet Moat

I’ve been thinking about starting something new: every once and a while, I'd like to write a profile of one of the London sites that appear in the Sebastian series. The obvious place to start is with Camlet Moat, which figures so prominently in When Maidens Mourn. Now just a shady, half-forgotten moat surrounding an abandoned island, it was once something much grander.

Much of the history of Camlet Moat is lost in time. What we do know is that “Camlet” is an abbreviation of its original name, “Camelot,” that its origins date back to before the time when King Arthur may or may not have lived, and that there is something undeniably special about the site.
For such a seemingly insignificant place, Camlet Moat has an intriguing number of weird associations. Yes, there really is an old well on the island, said to be associated with the grail maidens of yore. Sir Geoffrey de Mandeville really did own the castle or fortified house that once stood there, and the tales of his hidden treasure and the moat’s link to the mysteries of the Knights Templar persist to this day. It was once part of a royal forest hunted by Queen Elizabeth and, later, the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin did hang out here when not barking out his famous cry, “Stand and deliver!” Why the place isn’t better known is beyond me.

At any rate, Camlet Moat still exists. If you travel to the northwest of London, you can even walk its quiet, sun-dappled banks because the old eighteen-century estate (much altered in the Victorian period, when Trent Place because Trent Park) is now open to the public. During World War II, captured Nazi generals were imprisoned here. You can’t make this stuff up…

Image courtesy of  Wikimedia


A recent confluence of events set me to thinking about social media lately, including an incident in which an agent, active on Twitter and Facebook, was attacked by someone who was able to use the media to follow her every move. Few industries have embraced the trend with the enthusiasm of publishing. Once, authors were encouraged to establish websites. These days, I can't imagine an author without one (although there are a few). Then came blogs, but they've largely been made obsolete by Facebook and Twitter, and it's reaching the point that many publishers don't even consider those two optional anymore.

Now, I actually like blogging. I started this blog nearly seven years ago, when we were still reeling from Hurricane Katrina and I had a lot to say. I don't post as often these days, but I still enjoy it. I am officially on Facebook, but I almost never post on it because I can never think of anything to say. Someone told me recently that Facebook is like cocktail party chat, and I thought, Ah, that explains it; I've always been lousy at parties. And if you can't think of something to say on Facebook, then you really can't think of anything to say on Twitter!

But here's a dirty little secret almost no one talks about: many of the bestselling authors so visible on Twitter and Facebook don't actually write their own posts; they hire someone to basically impersonate them on line. I understand why they do it; the publishers are so insistent. But keeping up with social media takes time. The more followers you have, the more time it takes to respond to all of them, and that's time a writer should be spending writing. So in desperation, they turn to assistants. Yet there's a level of dishonesty at work here that troubles me. I keep thinking of all the millions of readers out there, trustingly following their favorite authors on Facebook and Twitter, convinced they're getting to know those authors, and it's all just a hoax. Pay no attention to the assistant behind the curtain...

Yes, there are some bestselling authors on Facebook who really are on Facebook: Catherine Coulter is one who comes to mind. But I could name dozens of authors whose on line presence is really a paid assistant. I've no doubt the same thing is even more true of actors and musicians.

So what do you think? Is this just a giant hoax that everyone is in on and therefore it's okay? Is it all symptomatic of something disturbing? Or am I just being crabby?

Photos courtesy of my daughter Danielle.

Friday, September 14, 2012


The page proofs for the next Sebastian book, What Darkness Brings, arrived on my doorstep this week. Galleys are, for the author, the last stage in a novel's long path from manuscript to printed book. At this point, I've addressed my editor's suggestions, reviewed the copy edited pages, given my (limited) input into the cover, and helped write the "cover copy" that tells prospective readers what the book is about. This is the last time I'll see a book before it is published (and yes, sometimes changes are made by someone after I see the galleys, sigh).

"Galley proofs" get their name from the days of hand-set type, when print was manually set up, page by page, in metal trays known as "galleys." "First pass pages" would be run off, which were sent to the editor and author to check for errors. Any necessary corrections would then be made by the printer before the final copies were produced. Of course, these days, most of this is done electronically, but thank heavens I still get actual paper pages to look at, because I have a hard enough time spotting errors as it is, without the added difficulty of trying to read a manuscript on a screen. Most authors will tell you that the brain has a terrible tendency to see what it expects to be there, not what actually is there.

Galleys can be frustrating, since when they arrive I have to stop work on the book I am currently writing and turn away for a few days to do something else (particularly frustrating this time since I just lost over a week to Isaac). But since I know my readers are looking ahead to this book, and not even thinking about Why Kings Confess, which is my own focus at the moment, I thought you might enjoy seeing that things are progressing!

On a side note, one of my readers sent me a link to some more of my covers. These are some Russian editions of one of my romances--another red Midnight Confessions. Thank you, Irin!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

A Lost Week

Hi all! It's been a miserable week, but we were amongst the fortunate. Far too many of the surrounding parishes are still battling floodwaters. (Remember the plantation where Steve and I spent that wonderful retreat weekend? It was in Plaquemines Parish. I haven't heard if it survived.) Our losses are simply a fence, part of the garage roof, a lemon tree (loaded with lemons), and my beautiful 25-foot orchid tree (which luckily fell AWAY from the house). With 18 inches of rain in 24 hours (plus lots more rain the day before and the day after), there was one point where the drains were overwhelmed and the water started creeping from the street toward the house. One advantage to not evacuating is that because you are home, you can clean the debris from the storm drains in front of your house. One of the disadvantages to not evacuating is that you find yourself out in the middle of a hurricane with water swirling around your knees as you try to clean clean debris from the storm drains in front of your house.

We are amongst the lucky few who now have power. At about ten o'clock last night, just as we were contemplating trying to go to sleep without air conditioning on a hot, sticky, airless night, our electricity blinked back on. A rousing cheer--reminiscent of the night the Saints won the Superbowl--echoed around our little neighborhood. Something like 80% of the city is still without power. One takes his life in his hands venturing out to find ice and food (can I just say that I'm getting really sick of PB&J sandwiches?), since most streetlights are still out and major intersections--think eight lanes--have simply turned into four-way stops.

I have written almost nothing in the past week. Sunday and Monday went to storm preparation. I think I managed to scribble 4 pages on Tuesday before the winds got so high that I couldn't focus. Then it was too dark (no electricity+storm shutters on the windows=dark house), and I spent most of my time simply listening to our little hand-cranked radio (note to self: buy new batteries before the next storm). We've spent the last couple of days trying to clean up, and it will probably take at least another week. Now that we have power, we can get to work cutting up the downed trees and trying to do something about the downed fence. Everything is still such a mess; hurricanes strip the leaves (and lots of branches) off the trees and plaster them everywhere. You can barely see the walk to my front gate buried beneath the leaves and trash:

In the past, here in south Louisiana, we tended to sneer at Category One hurricanes, with people saying, "It's just a Cat One." I don't think we'll do that again.