Tuesday, 25 December 2012


This post is for and about Kathleen- because she is with us, and not with us.

Remembering Kathleen as she was

Kathleen Herbert: 

Teacher, Writer, Friend

A teaching career of close on 40 years

When I mentioned Kathleen Herbert at my last Old Students' Reunion in June 2012, I was amazed and delighted by the warmth that I received on behalf of my friend- that unique and astonishing person Miss Kathleen May Herbert. She had touched so many lives, and changed them for the better, according to the many people who came to me and wanted to talk about how she had had a profound influence on them. She was a charismatic and caring teacher, a warm and witty friend and a subtle and moving writer. All that has gone, but what remains is a gentle, charming but slightly bewildered lady.

Some years before I got to know Kathleen really well, she nursed her mother through terminal cancer. Several years later, she did the same for her father. At this time I had returned to my school in East London to teach English and she was my Head of Department, but her father needed her and so she gave up the job in the school she loved, and went to work in a Catholic High School near her home. She is fondly remembered by pupils and staff from that institution too.

The writer emerges

Meanwhile, in 1982, she published her first novel, The Lady of the Fountain. In 1983, her second novel, Queen of the Lightning  won the Historical Novel Prize awarded annually in memory of Georgette Heyer. Bodley Head also published  the sequel, Ghost in the Sunlight in 1986. At around the same time, The Lady of the Fountain was republished as  Bride of the Spear. All three novels are set in Cumbria, Northumbria and the Borders of Scotland, during the period of upheaval and immigration following the withdrawal of Roman troops in the fifth century. This period is often referred to as The Dark Ages. Kathleen prefers the term Heroic Age.

The three books sold well and were translated into German and French. They were published in paperback by Corgi in 1989.

Following the success of the Cumbrian Trilogy, she concentrated on her scholarly research and produced several volumes on Anglo Saxon history and legend, which are still read and respected by a small but enthusiastic audience. Melvyn Bragg acknowledged one of them, Spellcraft, as a most helpful source in his Afterword to Credo, his historical novel about St Bega, set in Cumbria in the Heroic Age. (Spellcraft is still in print, now called English Heroic Legends, and available on Amazon and from the publisher Anglo Saxon Books, as are Peace-Weavers and Shield-Maidens and Looking for the Lost Gods of England)

She retired in 1984 at age 60 and was in her prime,  while her books were selling well. She devoted herself to studying, lecturing and writing. She learnt Welsh in order to read The Mabinogion and other early British epic tales, and she also studied Hungarian. I have the impression that the main reason she did this was because Hungarian is such a notoriously difficult language, and she relished the challenge!

She spent a great deal of time tramping the hills of her beloved North Country, particularly Cumbria, researching on foot the backgrounds for her novels.

Then in April 1994 she had a massive stroke. Her tenacity, strength and humour enabled her to rebuild her life and carry on for a while, but I didn't fully realise how much damage had been done until some years later.

My friendship with Kathleen has lasted for well over forty years. Like all friendships, it has changed, as I married and had children (to whom she became a much loved and affectionate "Auntie") and she became a well respected author. There were gaps, high points and low points. During the last few years there have been low points indeed, as the stroke started to take its toll, and she became prey to depression and delusion. During those dark years, we met rarely, and she allowed no-one into her house. She was often despairing and felt she was being watched. She bemoaned her own incapability- on good days with a joke, on bad days with tears. 

We had many long phone calls (I moved to Cumbria in 1980 while she stayed in London) and she frequently referred to her "Furness novel" and asked me if I could help her "sort it out". This was a fourth novel, completed in the late eighties or early nineties, which her publisher, Bodley Head, thought was her best, but in the economic climate of the time, they declined to publish it, as it was long, and not set in the South East! She said that a well meaning friend had offered to type it and that he or she had done a disastrous job of it. It sounded as if they had not just typed it badly, but lost some of it as well!
I often reiterated my offer to work on the book for her, and try to reconstruct it if I could, but although we tried to arrange meetings, something always happened to prevent it, and it wasn't until much later that I realized just how poorly she had become. She became more and more despairing and felt she was being watched. I reassured her as best I could, but she was reluctant to meet and I felt powerless. In 2009 she wrote to me, asking me if I could get the book published, and saying that it had got messed up when she was ill. At that point, I suggested she put it all into a box and send it to me, registered post. It took another year to persuade her to meet me and hand it over.

The lost book is found

Finally, in June 2010, gathering all her strength and all her pages, she managed to bundle the manuscript into two large carrier bags- "bags for life" - a lovely irony. And she gathered enough courage and energy to meet me outside Burnt Oak station with the bags. 

I hadn't seen her for several years and I hardly recognised her. A striking and lovely woman in her prime, with pale red-gold hair and a sense of the dramatic, Kathleen loved beautiful and exotic fabrics, rich colours and textures, and was always immaculately groomed.  Now she was thin and unkempt, with slightly grubby fingernails, and a stain or two down her coat. I said hello and touched her on the shoulder and we embraced briefly, but she didn't want me to see her: "I want you all to remember me as I was," she said. 

She had a week or two of great energy and optimism, when she rode on the wave that had buoyed her up to gather her book together but it was a very brief upturn in what proved to be a rapid decline in her health and spirits. She had been neglecting the physical world of eating, drinking and sleeping until she was found wandering, far from home with a dislocated shoulder, and taken to the nearest hospital. Although she is now physically comfortable, a second stroke, and the ravages of self- neglect and age mean that her mental capacity is declining. Her once powerful mind is now dark and clouded. It almost seems that every time I see her, a few more lights have gone out, and yet occasionally someone pulls the curtains open a crack and a beam of brightness strikes the back wall and I see her and hear her as she was. Sadly, these intervals are becoming more and more infrequent.

There seems to have been serious deterioration since that school reunion in June 2012. Immediately after the meeting I was able to tell her of how many people had said she changed their lives and how much she meant to them. That certainly got through and tears ran down her cheeks. I wept too for the loss of beauty, of intelligence, the sadness of humanity- sunt lacrimae rerum.

As a family, we find Kathleen's present state very hard to cope with, but we know that she is more comfortable now than she has been for several years; she is warm, well fed and free from pain. More than this, she is free from the despair and delusion which she suffered from for so many years. When my daughter Kate visited her last Kathleen said she was happy where she is now. After a life of such great creativity, energy and intensity, perhaps we should wish no more for her, than the peace she now has.

Trifolium Books 2011

I formed Trifolium Books UK in January 2011, and published Moon in Leo on 14th February 2011. The sorting of the manuscript and its eventual publication is another story, which you can read elswehere.

Moon in Leo is set in Northern England in Furness, on the southern edge of the Lake District, but encompasses the whole of Britain and Europe. The book has received excellent reviews, and is selling steadily. It is available from Amazon and The Book Depository worldwide, as an e-book from Amazon, and from any good bookshop.

I now have all Kathleen's notes and literary papers and am gradually working through them. I will be publishing some of her essays and lecture notes, to allow a wider public to benefit from her scholarship and wisdom. Her retelling of Guinevere's story is already available as an e-book: The Once and Future Queen.

In 2013, I intend to reissue the early novels as The Northern Kingdoms Trilogy, and Mike and I are hoping to publish an entirely new novel, Ghosts of Camelot, which we found, half written, and completely planned, amongst the many notebooks and boxes of papers which we rescued when Kathleen's house was sold. Although she was delighted at the publication of Moon in Leo, and still has a copy beside her bed,  Kathleen is now beyond understanding what needs to be done to bring this fifth novel to publication. I can do nothing for her now but make sure her work reaches the public as I believe she would have wished. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


My first post for several weeks!

The really great news I want to share is that  Cumbria Libraries have added Moon in Leo to their Book Groups' Reading List, so I am planning a series of questions for reading groups.

After a summer (I use the term loosely) of other things, I have come back to blogging and writing. We are planning visits to schools and libraries to promote The Boy with Two Heads. Author Julia is offering readings and workshops free for the remainder of this year, and as her publisher, I am offering a prize for excellent pieces of creative writing by students following a visit and reading. I look forward to posting students' writing on this blog.

Mike and I visited our grandson's school in Swindon, and read passages from Julia's book. We had a wonderful welcome and enjoyed the lively debate and interest.

We received an amazing thank you in the form of a beautiful hand made card with messages from all the pupils in Tracy's class. I want to share this with you, and say a big thank you to Tracy and her class of fab kids.


I love the way so many elements of the book are represented here- the bolt of lightning and the boy's pain, and the time that separates boy and girl. I also like the fact that they have researched how to say "Thank you" in Greek

Friday, 10 August 2012


Julia and I are excited and delighted that so many readers have downloaded the free ebook of The Boy with Two Heads, and I am looking forward to gaining more readers on Sunday, when four e-books will be free to download from midnight to midnight PST (8.00 am on Sunday to 8.00 am on Monday here in the UK)

Can we ask you to do something in return for your free books? Please let us have some feedback. A comment/review on Amazon or Goodreads would be very welcome- and please be honest!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


The London 2012 Olympics end next weekend. The Free Download for THE BOY WITH TWO HEADS was so popular that author Julia Newsome wants to give her young fans another chance to read it free. So next Sunday 12th August we will celebrate the end of a splendid Olympics by offering not just one free book, but four:

Editor's Choice Historical Novels Review

August 2009

PATHS OF EXILE is a wonderful story, one that conjures up this long-gone age in extraordinary detail and reveals a profound understanding of its politics, cultures, and religions based on extensive research. It may be true, as Nayland admits, that “solid facts are rare indeed in 7th-century Britain”, but these characters—some real, others pure fiction—are so solid and credible that they will stay with you long after you turn the last page....
Full review on the Historical Novel Society website

 4.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous journey through the 1670's  24 July 2011
Shazjera (Bournemouth) - (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

At the beginning of our journey through life in the 1670's, we meet our heroine Rosamund. Having sent out a `spiritual call' for her twin Stephen, she is waiting for him to return from his Grand Tour of Europe. Her father is an alchemist and we know she is eagerly awaiting her brothers' return to complete the Sacred Marriage. As she sees him crossing the dangerous sands in Morecombe Bay, something happens to unsettle her and Stephen's homecoming is not as joyous as she imagined. ...

I really enjoyed this story - the way we get to experience how life was lived in the 17th century (the author has painstakingly researched); how the politics of the day are portrayed and the underlying rebellion; the celebrations of the Sabbats (Sabbats are the yearly cycle of the earth's seasons and would have been important during the time the story is set); the magic; the characters and the setting!

If you like historical fiction, then you will enjoy MOON IN LEO

And finally, after three really big, meaty reads- a little gem: a previously unknown and unpublished tale, by respected scholar and novelist Kathleen Herbert, who retells Guinevere's story from her point of view.
THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN gives us a a view of Guinevere which speaks to our age.

Saturday, 4 August 2012


Now, while I am offering one of my e-books as a free download, seems an appropriate time for me to add my few penn'orths to this contentious debate. This article and its comments in today's Telegraph got me thinking.

Let me start with my experience as a publisher, so that what I say can be put into context. I run a new and very small- OK micro- family publishing business. Trifolium Books UK has been in business now for just over 18 months.

I started the business initially because I was not prepared to spend hours, days and weeks of my life trying to find an agent and/or publisher for my friend Kathleen Herbert who had been a highly successful, mainstream published, author in the 1980s. Some of the story is here, thanks to Deborah Swift, and my full reasons for setting up the company are here.

I use new technology- Print on Demand- for my books, which has many great advantages- no wasted copies, no remaindered books, excellent quality printing, world-wide distribution, just as many copies as anyone wants- but one disadvantage: each individual copy costs more than your average trade paperback, and a lot more than mass market 3 for the price of 2, books. In all other ways, I am exactly the same as a traditional publisher: I offer editing, design and promotional services to my authors and don't expect any money from them!

Pricing of the books on Amazon and the world wide market is related to the cost of production, so longer books cost more- and actually this seems very fair to me. I price the paperbacks so that Amazon and the big distributors get what they need and demand; so that I can pay the authors a fair royalty; and so that I can have a tiny chance of making a small profit in the very long run. At the moment, I am happy not to lose money- but then, I don't count my time, nor does any other member of my family team, so it's a bit of an artificial picture. I have no problems with local bookshops- I can supply them on a sale or return basis so that they can sell them at a slightly lower price than Amazon etc.

Now comes the contentious bit- pricing the Kindle versions. Apart from our time, there are up-front costs of the print version- upload, proof copies, revision fees, ISBNs, physical copies for author, designer, British Library etc and enough copies to cover promotion, reviews and local suppliers. When I've done all that, the digital conversion and upload for Kindle (again, apart from time) is free, so I can sell the e copy cheaper. In the case of Moon in Leo, Kathleen and I feel very strongly that we want the book to be read, as it has such a powerful message for us all today.

This is an opportunity for me to offer these books at a lower price- especially as some of them are rather long. For example Moon in Leo has to retail at £11.99 on Amazon, or I would be paying to publish it, so I can offer the digital version at an affordable price, sell more copies and pay the authors a straight 50% of the takings, which will probably go higher if and when I sell more.

I know that I am lucky enough to have a pension that means I don't have to earn money from the business I am passionate about- at least in the short term. So- I am a traditional publisher in some ways- though not a mainstream one, and like the big publishers, I act as a gatekeeper.

The price of this very short ebook is related to its length
Is that the main difference between traditional publishers and self-publishers? Is it this gatekeeping (or lack of it) that worries everyone about self publishing? Well let me tell you- I have read some truly awful books- badly written, badly edited, or seemingly not edited at all, full of plot holes, cliches, dull and unbelievable characters, too many trite adjectives and inappropriate similes- and many were self published; but a shocking number were main stream published. I would buy the argument that we need these big publishing companies if they didn't publish vapid and trivial rubbish like books about non existent meerkats and ghost written biographies of teenage nonentities who are the darlings of readers of Hello Magazine. Most TV, many many films, and much recorded music is utter rubbish- but we are grown ups aren't we? Can't we be our own gatekeepers? We can switch off the telly or the radio, and walk out of the cinema. Why, in the case of books, do we need Nanny Publisher to tell us what we can and can't read? OK so we will have to kiss a lot of frogs before we find our book princes without her to guide us, but with books, I think most of us experienced readers need do no more than peck it on the cheek before we commit. There's no need to go for an all out snog with a bad book!

I think though, that the main point is  that the self publishers who sell cheap are damaging sales of mainstream ebooks. I have a feeling that the big publishers are over pricing their ebooks in an ostrich like move to try and make us buy only paper books. It's often possible on Amazon, to buy the real book cheaper. Whatever the true explanation for this it is counter-intuitive  to buy a virtual book which is dearer than a real one.

I buy ebooks for lots of reasons- one is that I don't risk much money to try a new author, and like many of the commentators in the Telegraph I have read authors I might not have come across because of this. Another reason is that, for good reads that I enjoy at the time, but probably won't read again, I am not cluttering up already bulging bookshelves. However, if I read a Kindle book I think is A Keeper- I go straight out and buy a real version- preferably from my local indie bookshop! I did this for Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance and happily payed full price for both versions- but this is a five star  + + + book!

So- how do we small indie publishers know how to price our ebooks? We neither want to under-value the work of our authors, nor put off potential readers. When Julia and I discussed the digital price of The Boy with Two Heads we decided to price it at less than the price of the adult historical fiction so that young people could afford to buy it with their pocket money. In this discussion between author and publisher, who was being favoured? Author, publisher or reader? Or are we all part of the same community? Take a look at my books on Amazon, and tell me what you think.



The Boy with Two Heads is free to download on Amazon until Sunday!  They are going fast, but they are only limited by time, so get it while it's hot!

Look out for more Trifolium Books promotions in the next few weeks:

Thursday, 2 August 2012


THE BOY WITH TWO HEADS is free to download this weekend, starting at about 8.00 pm Friday, 3rd August in UK (12.00am Pacific Time)

Author Julia Newsome will be at the London 2012 Olympics this weekend- see if you can catch her wearing her distinctive t-shirt.

Thursday, 21 June 2012


Today's drizzle and gloom contrasts strongly with yesterday's brightness. In Penrith, all was peace and sunshine as we sat in the wonderful Wordsworth Bookshop beside the church.

We had to leave Penrith long before the torch was due to arrive; when we got to Carlisle we found crowds and capers, and a bookshop with most of its window taken over by The Boy.
Fantastic display in a super independent bookshop- Bookends

An air of excitement built up until the torch came through with its many vehicles and razzmataz, but the human joy still shone through.

Julia with Gwenda Matthews, owner of Bookends in Carlisle

Monday, 18 June 2012


 New Olympic Book: Meet the Author
"You don't get to the Olympics unless you're the best"
On the days the Olympic torch comes to Penrith, Carlisle, Wigton and Cockermouth, local author Julia Newsome will be meeting the public and signing copies of her recently released novel, The Boy with Two Heads.

The timetable now looks like this, with a possible further signing in Bookends Keswick if the weather is fine:

Wednesday June 20th:
12.00 Wordsworth Bookshop, St Andrew's Churchyard, Penrith
4.30  Bookends, Castle Street, Carlisle

Thursday June 21st
10.00 Fountain Gallery, High Street, Wigton
2.00 Beatford's Tearoom, Lowther Went, Cockermouth
(?4.00 Bookends, Keswick?)

Saturday, 16 June 2012


In this year of the London Olympics, young and old alike are excited by the romance and the endeavour, the sweat and the tears of the greatest sporting event ever devised. With its themes of striving for excellence, self knowledge, and the conflict between family duty and self realisation it will appeal not just to young adults but to everyone who remembers what it is to be young and ambitious.

Perfectly timed for this summer's Games, Julia Newsome takes us back 2,400 years to the early Olympics. We follow young Themis in his struggle to get to the Olympics and triumph there. What is remarkable is the way in which ancient Greece and the Games themselves are brought to life in riveting detail. Themis's story is cleverly intertwined with that of modern-day Suzanne in her parallel efforts to reach the 2012 Olympics. I learnt more about Greece and the Greeks from this book than I did in two years of living there. This is a great tribute to the author's research and makes the book a gripping read. The cover proclaims 'You Don't Get to the Olympics unless You're the Best.'. You don't write a book like this unless you also are!

From a recent Amazon review by Philip Prowse

Cumbrian Author Julia Newsome will be signing copies of The Boy with Two Heads in Penrith, Carlisle and Wigton next week as part of the Olympic Torch celebrations.

Wednesday 20th June
  • The Wordsworth Bookshop, Penrith 12.00 noon
  • Bookends, Carlisle 4.30 pm

Thursday 21st June
  • The Fountain Gallery, Wigton 10.am

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


This is a little morsel- but a tasty one. A single, richly complex, chocolate; a perfectly formed truffle dish; a minute crystal glass of a rare ice-wine-
We are privileged to be the custodians of all Kathleen's literary papers, and are gradually trawling through to see what there is of general interest. This retelling of Guinevere's story is a little gem. Written at the end of the last century, you could say it embodies Kathleen's ideas about feminism, and the almost completely male perspectives handed down to us in legend and history.

 The Once and Future Queen is just a foretaste of riches yet to come.

Ironic cover image
The background image for the cover is based on this lovely pre-Raphaelite painting by John Collier: Queen Guinevere's maying.  Of course, what you will find inside is an altogether tougher Guinevere than this traditional image would suggest.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


I woke up this morning to another great book review, this time for Paths of Exile: it's on Smashwords here, but I print an extract below:

The author very cleverly paints a crisp, clear glimpse of an opaque period of Britain’s history. This is where historical fiction - the active, conjecturing mind of an author who is familiar with all the available facts of a certain period - does what no amount of history lessons can ever achieve: it brings an era to life.

This tale of loyalty, treachery, murder, revenge, escape and pursuit, in 7th century post-Roman, pre-Norman Britain (sometimes known as the early ‘Dark Ages’) also has just a smidgen of romance thrown in for good measure. The story is woven around some authentic historical characters (filled out to full living colour), including the main protagonist, along with some vivid entities from the author’s fertile imagination. With great attention to detail (the author is certainly au fait with this period); this is a beautifully crafted story.

T D McKinnon

I feel very proud to be associated with authors of such quality, and although our small family business cannot publish more than a handful of titles a year, these two recent reviews have convinced me that I am right to stick with historical novels of the very highest quality.

T D McKinnon is an Australian writer: his website is here Cheers TD- how about taking a look at other Trifolium Books titles? The Boy with Two Heads will be available on Kindle very soon, and for those of you who live a little nearer to Trifolium Books' heartland, Julia Newsome will be signing copies in Wigton, Penrith and Carlisle on 20th and 21st June- when the Olympic torch comes through those towns. Details of times and venues later.

Sunday, 29 April 2012


"... the intrigue within today's politics, the suspicion and distrust between indigenous and immigrant communities ..."
Recently I have been thinking more about sending out review copies of The Boy with Two Heads, and wrestling with the Kindle edition to think about the other books. However, I occasionally check them out on Amazon, and was delighted to find a new review of Moon in Leo. I print it here in its entirety as it's the first to highlight the book's relevance to today's audience, and it uncannily echoes some of Kathleen's thoughts in her letters to me.

I don't really read historical novels, but "Moon in Leo" came to my attention for two reasons. First, my wife was reading it and I was attracted by the cover and secondly it is set, albeit three hundred and fifty years ago, in the county where I live. Aldingham shown on the cover map is somewhere I used regularly to visit.
Right! So what did I make of the book? Well, it is well researched redolent of the period. One word "guffawing" (page243) jarred a little, I thought it a more modern word, but discovered it had been around for about hundred years at the time this book is set, so one-nil to Kathleen Herbert!
Here, I have no intention of providing a précis of the plot, but make a suggestion! Forget, as you read, when it is set, instead reflect on the intrigue within today's politics, the suspicion and distrust between indigenous and immigrant communities and as you read, you will come to the conclusion that not much changes – we just call things by different names.
This book had a number of problems with me; I've put it that way around deliberately. First, for my taste it is too long at 400 pages, and the font is quite small, I'm getting old and my attention span is not what it once was. Secondly, there are (again for me) too many characters. However, the publisher provides a handy list of characters at the front, to which I repeatedly had to refer. It would though, have been better if this list had been alphabetical.
The holidays are coming up, so go off to Spain, but take with you a small slice of Cumberland in the shape of this novel. It is excellent value, beautifully written and will provide you with an entertaining and educational insight of times gone by. Click on the "Buy" button and be hugely entertained.

This is what Kathleen wrote to me:

I have looked over my novel about Furness during the Popish Plot- which is firmly based on truth… during these last weeks, the story has suddenly become incredibly topical- … for the background  we have:
  • a King called Charles, with a complicated marital and family life
  • a society of the rich and famous who produce a new scandal with every edition of the newspapers
  •   a government that is not only stale but starting to smell     
  • an established religion that has run out of steam, and numbers of cults that are boiling with enthusiasm- some for good, some for evil, both inside and outside Christianity     
  • and a large number of “alternative” Englands that are barely suspected to exist by “official” England     
  • It’s 1678, but change the clothes and it could be today.
And later:

I wrote a novel about the different folk who have come to our islands (for good, bad, fear, food, etc) and how they are still coming. I put the story into the past, so no folk could be insulted or unhappy or frightened.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


I have never been good with numbers- I am more of a word person- but I am by no means proud of my "number blindness", and have never been able to understand why some people think it's OK to be innumerate, as long as you aren't illiterate. Because of my inability to "see" numbers, I usually cut and paste them, which is what I did- or at least it's what I think I did- with the ISBN for The Boy with Two Heads when I designed the fliers. However, I got one digit wrong, leading to at least one problem when somebody tried to order it in a bookshop, using the ISBN, only to be told the book didn't exist!

So- if you have got a flier for The Boy with Two Heads:- destroy it!

The correct ISBN is:

My very humble apologies!!

Monday, 2 April 2012


Last Thursday Julia and I visited Solway School in Silloth to read extracts from The Boy with Two Heads, and to tell the students about the origins of The Olympic Games. We had a mixed group of years 7 and 8. There was much hilarity at pictures such as the following, and lots of interest. 

"He's got a laptop", they said in amazement. Actually, what he has got is a tablet, made from wood and coated in wax, and he is writing on it with a stylus. The children were intrigued to learn that these words originated in ancient Greece. 

Children can be quite prudish: when they learnt that Greek athletes ran, jumped and wrestled naked, they giggled and blushed, but when Julia showed them this picture of a boy with his penis tied up, I thought we were going to have a medical emergency- some of them went purple from laughing! 

Nobody knows exactly why Greek men did this, but it might have been something to do with the fact that they oiled their bodies, then rolled around in the sand wrestling!

Solway Community College is a pleasant, calm and friendly school: we thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and are very grateful to Head Teacher Mrs Lois Baird,  English Teacher Mr Bernie Green, and the lively and polite pupils themselves.

Thursday, 22 March 2012


Wow- I checked out Amazon just now and found these figures, for The Boy with Two Heads. It is number 21 in the top hundred best-selling books about the Olympic Games! (and 65 in the Greek top hundred!) Well done Julia!

Sunday, 11 March 2012


I talk to Amazon a lot- by email, by live chat, and even by phone. They are always charming and polite and promise to do something. However, getting something changed on the mighty Amazon is like swimming through treacle, or as an acquaintance whose word-hoard I envy, once said, "It's like pinning jelly-fish to clouds."

I have had two problems with them recently. One concerns the fact that they list The Boy with Two Heads as out of stock, when we know that people have ordered it from local bookshops, and we ourselves have a (rapidly diminishing) pile of copies. They also say they don't know who the publisher is. Well, durr- they've been talking to me! Me- the publisher!

However, it does say that The Boy with Two Heads is #31 in Books > Sports, Hobbies & Games > Other Sports > Sporting Events > Olympic Games
Yay!- it's in the top 100 already (or in a top 100) and this is in spite of the fact they say it's "out of stock."

The message is- don't be put off, order it anyway, and we hope and believe you will enjoy this lively and gripping new read.

The other problem is potentially more serious. When you search for Carla Nayland's Paths of Exile on Amazon.co.uk, you will not at first see this striking cover,
but the one that went out of print some time ago. You can still find the Trifolium Books 2011 edition, but t you have to expand the information in the formats box by clicking on the + sign. Obviously, I would prefer that you buy Trifolium Books' edition, but not just because it's got a handsomer cover, and a better layout, but because I will be able to pay royalties to the author. As the publisher of the earlier edition, Quaestor 2000, has ceased to trade, I have no idea who now receives the profits from any sales, but I guess it won't be the publisher, and I know it isn't the author!

So the message here is simple too- if you want a copy of this gritty and gripping book, buy either the edition on the right, or the Kindle version of the same edition.

Amazon I hope will eventually get the message that they should not be selling out of print POD books!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


The Boy with Two Heads by J M Newsome

A time-slip novel about the Ancient Olympics

ISBN: 978-0-8568104-4-1

According to Amazon, The Boy with two Heads is out of stock, but I've got a stack of them and sold a couple within half an hour of unpacking the boxes! Also according to Amazon, the publisher is unknown. Here in my small corner I am jumping up and down shouting "It's me! It's me" but evidently they haven't heard me. I shall put them right, just as soon as I have finished writing this post, but in the meantime you can order from Amazon, or any bookshop for that matter. What their listing means is that they have had the information from Nielson that the book is published. However, what really tickles me is the assertion that you there is a "used" copy available- the mind really and truly boggles!

As Amazon hasn't managed to come up with a cover image yet, here is what they look like:

The bright blues of Greece make an interesting contrast to Cumbria's greens

A stack of copies with Trifolium Books' Head Office in the background

 Just in case you can't see the fells clearly, this is what they looked like in the sparkling early morning light: 

About the book

It all starts in Athens.
In 432 BC, they think Themis is dead. Suzanne, who is on a school trip in 2010, is drawn through thousands of years to keep him alive. Will Themis’ destiny be death or glory in the Games of the 87th Olympiad? Will Suzanne regain control of her life, or will her mind be occupied forever by the past, while her body lies in hospital in present-day Cumbria?

“This book transported me effortlessly back to ancient Greece, vividly evoking its sights, sounds and even smells. And I found that young people’s issues have hardly changed in 2,400 years!”
Marion Clarke, fiction editor

“A wonderful story which brings the ancient Olympics to vibrant life and links them to contemporary young people. You can almost smell Greece, and there is a lovely equivalence of teenage feelings and humour, then and now. I couldn’t put it down and didn’t realize how much I had learnt until after the enthralling climax.”
Philippa Harrison, former Managing Director of Macmillan and Little Brown UK

Read more about this novel on the author's blog: