Guest post by S J Hardman Lea
My preferred place to write is in an old summerhouse in the garden at home. When we first moved here, it was a run-down wreck but a couple of years ago I had it tidied up and re-roofed and made weatherproof so that I could move my desk and all my reference and research books into it. (Which also cost me an entire kitchen refit, but that is a whole other story. Maybe in the future, I’ll blog about the perils of negotiating with your significant others to achieve your writing time and space).
Anyway, one of my several New Year Resolutions for 2017 was to look at fresh ways to promote my books. So, last week, I took some time away from working on the third novel in my Lost Intensities series to look at different sorts of promotional work. I was trying out a vlog format, playing around in my hut with a webcam and the bones of a script, so that any readers who might be interested could get an idea of what I actually look and sound like. I’d got everything set up – fiddled around with the lighting, the volume control, the background, sorted out the points I wanted to explain so that I didn’t forget anything.
Now for those of you who don’t know, I write emotional novels set in the turbulence of the First World War. So there I am, turned out serious and authorial, dressed in my favourite old-time tweed suit, sitting in front of my bookshelves that are packed with second-hand research volumes, looking the camera in the eye and talking about the spectrum of relations between men and women at the start of modern times. I’ve got the webcam clipped to the top of my laptop so I’m aware of what’s on screen while I’m concentrating on staying nice and steady, face full on, concentrating on looking serious but still interesting (I hope) while I talk.
But what’s that? Suddenly I’m aware that there is something moving in the image on the laptop screen and it’s not me. I try really hard to ignore it, but out of the corner of my vision, I can’t help but notice that behind my head, there is a yellow-eyed bundle of grey fluff climbing up my bookcases, one overhanging shelf at a time. While I try to keep going, I sense it swinging by one paw from the top shelf, before somehow scrabbling its way to the top, still just visible on camera. I barely manage to hold back a groan. It’s Basil the Mad.
Now Basil is one of my wife’s cats, who likes to share the warmth of my writing hut but is clearly no respecter of space or furniture or camera time. He also gives the lie to most of the myths about felines: not only is he one of stupidest animals I’ve ever known, but also one of the clumsiest. (Fortunately for him, he is also pretty cute, in a delinquent sort of way.) Inevitably, therefore, before I could even turn around, he’d tumbled off that top shelf, landed smack on the computer headfirst and yanked the lead out of the camera, which has never worked again.
I did at least still have my vlog footage or some of it. But was it any use? Did what I was saying on my video have any impact? Of course not. The cat had stolen the show completely and no big surprise. I mean, who is going to come out on top in the attention-grabbing stakes between a serious-sounding writer and a fluff-ball acrobat. You’ve guessed. No contest. Not even close: Basil 15 – Simon 0.
So that was that. The end of my very short-lived attempt at vlogging. Somehow, I just don’t feel motivated to give it another go, having been so upstaged by a mere cat. You know what they say: never appear on stage with children or animals – you’ll only live to regret it. I guess I’ll just stick to normal blogging in future.
by S.J. Hardman Lea
“All I needed to do was tick off the list of the old sins – lust, greed, anger, laziness, gluttony, and pride. At least three of those were going to cause trouble. And then, of course, there was the seventh, the most destructive of them all. Envy. We’d come to that one before the end.”
It is 1916 and the war in France is hot and about to get hotter. Embedded undercover in a British infantry regiment on the Western Front, Anson Scott, an American newspaperman, watches, waits and writes his articles in secret, sending them out uncensored for his readers in the USA. But life in the trenches is far from what he had first expected. While the soldiers are raring to fight, the commanding officer is antiquated and the officers themselves are divided into factions. Only Scott’s friend, the elegant, dandified David Alexander is impervious to the murderous rages of the Company Captain Tollman, a monstrous man who victimises anyone who dares oppose him. And when the battalion is on leave away from the front, there is Beatrice Tempest – the most beautiful woman Scott has ever laid eyes on, but who is engaged to Alexander.
As the regiment readies itself for battle, Scott is in ever greater danger. If his real occupation is discovered, he will be shot as a spy. If he antagonises Tollman, he risks his own life. If he allows himself to become close to Beatrice, he will lose his one great friend. But then there is also David Alexander himself, who is pursuing his own highly dangerous obsession. Soon the opposing forces of love and hate are every bit as dangerous as the enemy gunfire, and the great battle on the Somme grows ever closer. Finally, the intensities of hope and fear cannot be evaded…
The Sins of Soldiers is a captivating tale of love, loss and the First World War. It will particularly appeal to those interested in the period and the human impact that occurred as a result of war.