The Peterloo Affair: A Tale of the St. Peter’s Field Massacre Now Out on Amazon

thumbnailI am happy to say that my latest ‘The Peterloo Affair’,  is now out oon Amazon.com here

and Amazon.co.uk  here

I wrote this tale primarily as a love story – in fact, it can be categorised as a romance – largely because I thought that with the grim background story, some pleasant diversion and a bit of humour was really needed.

I hope readers like Joan Wright  and Seàn McGilroy as much as they – generally – liked Sophie de Courcy and Émile Dubois, Natalie NIcholson and Alex Sager, Isabella Murray and Reynaud Ravensdale and Clarinda Greendale and Harley Venn.

Their love story is set against a background of poverty and injustice, and some of the background research I had to do for this was pretty distressing. Sometimes, the injustice of the treatment of victims, the dishonesty of the cover up, made me outraged.  But, the working people of the UK won the right to vote and to protest in the end., and the story ends on a note of optimism. I also enjoyed putting touches of humour in it.

Here’s an extract:

There was a jeering laugh from behind them. Seán McGilroy, himself stood at the edge of the plot, glowering at Timothy. His blue eyes were flashing, and with his arrogant stance, and his black ringlets, Joan thought he looked like as fierce as a picture of a pirate she had seen in a chap book, minus the cutlass, of course.

“I heard that, Yorke. It seems to me, you and I need a little talk. Doesn’t do to dispute before t’lasses, and all that, so if you’d care to come along.” He nodded to the lane by the distant plots abutting the meadow. Then he turned a warm smile on Joan. “I hope you’ll wait on me, Miss Joan.”

Timothy looked ready to explode. “They say eavesdroppers never hear good of themselves, and least of all a ne’er do well. You’re for a mill[1], McGilroy, but I don’t hold with such loutish ways.”

“I’m only for a brawl if you’re up for it.” McGilroy’s looked so fierce Joan skipped in between them.

“Don’t go into it now. Do as folks say, and wait on it for a day. You’re both acting daft, and like to harm each other. That’s no good now, when we must all stand together.”

McGilroy said, “What I’ve got to say can’t be heard by any but Yorke himself, till I find out the truth of it.”

Timothy’s face was too highly coloured for his face to redden, but he scowled and breathed hard. “You’ve heard some mean gossip from those who hold it against our family that we’re not in rags and starving, and who make up wild stories out of envy. And I’ll say outright in front of Joan: I see you’ve an eye for her, among others. A girl like Joan is too good for a roving good-for-nothing who’s got a name as a light o’ love besides to come and trifle with. How your Ridley cousins behave is their parents’ affair.”

Now McGilroy’s dark face was flushed with anger and it showed as it didn’t on Timothy’s. “Some of the tattle you’ve been hearkening to is in the right of it. I have lived wild and reckless, and got myself into a deal of trouble and all, and never could settle since coming back from the wars. Maybe I could change if I found something to keep me rooted, but I’m not talking on that before you, or aught else that matters.”

An aloof bit of Joan’s mind noted his use of ‘rooted’ as wholly fitting, when they were standing in a vegetable patch, and she had earth on her hands and teasing grit under her nails.

“You’re an insolent ruffian.” On the other side of Joan, Timothy Yorke drew back from McGilroy, as from a filthy dog ready to spring on him.

Joan broke in. “I don’t like lads scrapping over who is to talk to me like dogs over a bone, just as if I’ve no ideas of my own.”

She put on a haughty air, and again this was like one of Nancy’s books, though those heroines did it in grand drawing rooms. “If either of you has owt to say to me, you can say it another time.”

McGilroy smiled at her, as if delighted. “You’re in the right of it, Miss Joan. Let me do the digging for you.” He took the wobbly spade from her grasp with a gentle twitch.

Timothy looked ready to burst with fury. “Yes, you’re in the right there, Joan, and if this fellow leaves quietly, so shall I.”

McGilroy didn’t take kindly to being called, ‘that fellow’. He clenched his fists, his eyes glinting. Joan saw no way of stopping a fight, and from what she’d heard of McGilroy going in for fighting at fairs and so, Timothy must certainly lose. She didn’t want him hurt, trying though he was.

Suddenly, Tmothy’s younger brother, Jem, was with them. A weedy youth of maybe sixteen, he seemed as ill at ease in the world as Timothy was sure of his rights in it. His nervous look scanned Timothy to Seán McGilroy, to Joan and back again. “You’re wanted at home.”

Something about his nervous look seemed to decide Timothy at once. “I’m coming.” Ignoring McGilroy, he turned to Joan. “If you’re done here, walk along of us.”

“I’ve found nothing yet,” Joan said indignantly. What does he think I wanted in the vegetable plot—him?

Timothy stood staring, but his young brother jerked out, more insistently, “Mam needs you.” Timothy had no choice but to go with the boy. Then, as they turned onto the footpath, he said loudly, “It’s fitting that Irish fellow is set to scrabble after potatoes as eager as a terrier after rats. That’s all they live on, after all, and they bed down with their pigs.”

McGilroy shouted after him, “Rats, eh? I could talk about rats, I’m thinking, such as your tale bearing friends.”

Timothy jerked, as if hit by a pebble, but he walked on with his brother. Joan heard them muttering to each other as they moved off, and now she thought she caught distant sounds of raised voices. Some dispute was going on nearby, with a number of people at it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Indie Authors: Don’t Give Up On Your Original Voice When Sales Are Bad

https://www.amazon.com/Longbourn-Jo-Baker-ebook/dp/B00CQ1D3BYFive years ago, when I started writing online, I was lucky enough to meet some outstanding writers on Goodreads (I’ve met others since, on Authonomy before it packed up and elsewhere, but here I’m talking about that original base of writer friends).

They were mostly women, varying in age. Some came from my native England, some from the US, and a couple from the Antipodes. Their genre varied, but they all had one thing in common….

They didn’t write formulaic, predictable stories. They broke rules; they used humour; they featured strong female leads (otherwise, I wouldn’t have enjoyed their stories). They were often a bit cross genre, and this was probably one of the reasons why they hadn’t got that elusive contract with an agent or publisher.

They wanted to achieve something original. Yes, they wanted success and sales – who doesn’t? – but above that, they wanted to write with an individual voice and to get readers for the novels that they had loved creating.

In those days, things were a lot easier from the sales point of view. My goodness, back then Amazon hadn’t introduced Amazon Select and Pages Read, both of which have led to a catastrophic fall in sales.

Why, in 2014 my spoof Regency (technically, late Georgian) Romance ‘Ravensdale’ sold thousands – enough for me to take my daughter on holiday to Paris.

It also attracted a good many resentful reviews from readers who disliked their favourite tropes being satirized, however gently, but that is the price of notoriety, and I think most writers, like me, would rather attract sales and public notice than have no controversy, obscurity, and dismal sales.

Incidentally, since the introduction of Amazon’s new sales policies, sales of ‘Ravensdale’ have plummeted. Because it is sinking into obscurity, I have made it free on Smashwords. I have tried to make it free on Amazon, but they ignore me. Here is the Smashwords link for that:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/721130

My own view is, that while it is nice to make money out of writing, that isn’t why I went into it; in fact, that is only the icing on the cake. The reason I went into it, is because I wanted people to read my stuff.

If I – as someone (I hope) at least partially sane – had gone into writing to make a profit out of it, then I’d be writing: ‘The Duke Gets His Breeches Down: Dastardly Duke Series 101’.

That is the way to make high sales and money out of writing.

Most of those writer friends haven’t sold as much as they deserve. But then, if they got their just deserts, they’d be best selling authors.

Sadly, the market doesn’t work like that; the market recognises the price of everything, and the value of nothing, as someone once said.  As often as not, it’s not the talented and original authors who are among the most successful.

Sadly, I think some of them have become discouraged about writing. Some are taking a long break from the whole business of writing and the weary slog of publicity, and finding it a relief. Of course, many of them are very busy; some of them still have children, and a job…The wonder is anyone in that situation produces good work at all.  But I suspect some have been discouraged by mediocre sales, and the lack of a breakthrough.

I personally, think it would be a great loss if they gave up altogether. Rather, I think that if an author is making a pittance from her writing and it has no visibility on the sales ranks on Amazon, she might as well make her books free.

Smashwords will do it happily enough. The problem is Amazon, who seem to turn a deaf ear when it suits them.

However, they have made my first book, ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’ free. For anyone interested, the new edition, complete with a faster start, is available here https://www.amazon.com/That-Scoundrel-Émile-Dubois-Light-ebook/dp/B00AOA4FN4

and here

By the way, I wouldn’t like to give the impression that all wonderfully original works are doomed to poor sales and lack of public recognition.  Many receive the recognition they deserve (though sometimes it happens after the author is dead).

There is Jo Baker’s ‘Longbourn’, for instance. What a brilliant work!

I found it such a refreshing change to read a book set in the UK of the Regency era which is about ordinary people – not the aristocracy (the families of approximately 700 men) or the gentry (approximately 1.5 per cent of the population).

But I will be writing a post about that soon. For now, I would like to say that I wish that all of my original writer friends were back to writing again. I miss them.

Review of ‘The Manchester Man’ an 1873 novel by Mrs G Linnaeus Banks

I heard of the 1873 novel, ‘The Manchester Man’  through its being  mentioned in the footnotes of Joyce Marlow’s book ‘The Peterloo Massacre’ as having an excellent account of the horrors of that day depicted within it.

‘Mrs G Linnaeus Banks’  novel (female Victorian writers were known by all of their husband’s names)  had an account from various eye witnesses from that day, and her paternal grandfather had written a satire on the outrages of the Manchester Yeoman Cavalry.

As I read, I became drawn into the story, which is intirguing, if highly melodramatic.  I particularly liked the fact that as in ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’, there is a story of a deubauched wild young man from a landed family who falls for an innocent young girl, who is determined to save him – and unlike in the hearts and flowers HEA’s envisaged by so many Regency Romances – fails.

This is not to say that the author doesn’t, unfortunately, go in for bursts of purple prose and Victorian sentimentality fairly often.

On this, as an aside: I wonder why were many Victorian writers so sentimental, Dickens being one of the most crass examples? Is it a question of taste changing, so what was acceptable to the reading public then is cloying and embarrassing to us? I suppose there are stylistic excesses which modern authors adopt – all of us – which will cause later generations to raise their eyebrows. We will appear naive to them – those of us who are still read – and we have a blind spot – we cannot predict in what way.

I’m willing to predict, that those individualistic Hearts and Flowers Happy Ever Afters in escapism for the main pair might well be part of it.

Anyway, to return to this story. Parts of it are based on fact; not only the depiction of the Manchester of that era – the buildings, customs, speech and the day to day life of the people – and parts invented.

Intriguingly, the most dramatic  episodes, not only the horrors of the massacre – which is widely known  –  but a baby rescued from a flood, swept along in a cradle and the details of the disastrous love match of the main female character and the villain of the piece are, according to the author’s appendices, matters of historical fact.

The story begins when the tanner Simon Clegg and his daughter Bess rescue and subsequently adopt the baby whose cradle has been carried away in the terrible flood of 1799.  Unable to trace his parents, they adopt him.

Named Jabez, he grows up to be a the ‘Manchester Man’ of the title and a blessing to his adopted family. He rises by dint of his character and application to be first an apprentice, then a master, and then a partner in his own business.

The hero is a bit too exemplary at times, but I still liked him, even when he felt obliged to turn informer on his workmates, who were cheating their master, who is also his benefactor.

Personally, I deplore giving names in such a situation, but Jabez’s orthodox religious convictions oblige him to.

However, this is the only occasion when he does speak against his colleagues, however roughly they treat him.  Earlier, he remains silent when he is persecuted by a group of bullies led by his later rival in love, Laurence Aspinall and he endures much unfair treatment from his fellow apprentices with good nature.

It is interesting that the author’s depiction of schoolboys and the fights between them is wholly realistic, and she points out that this robust attitude towards violence between young males was typical of the Regency era, as is the heavy drinking of some of the men in the story.

Meanwhile the main female character Augusta decides that the bold, rakish behaviour of  Laurence Aspinall resembles the heroes she has read of in the circulating library- also rakes in need of reform.

Intriguingly, Laurence Aspinall does resemble Arthur Huntingdon in Anne Bronte’s ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’, even down to his cheerful wildness, his prized chestnut curls, bright blue eyes and addiction to the bottle, besides being a Regency contemporary.

However, the author’s appendices state that these characters and the events of their relationship leading up to their marriage are based on real characters from an earlier date. This is even true of some of the quotes from Augusta, ‘I’ll please my eye even if I plague my heart’ and their two foiled elopements between Aspinall and Augusta.

Parts of Aspinall’s abuse are, in fact, so extreme that I guessed that it had to be based on fact – no author would try to convince readers of such excesses in fiction. For instance, he rides his horse up the stairs to the bedroom where his wife lies with their new baby (not so difficult a feat as it might seem, given the wide staircases and shallow stairs of Georgian mansions).

As I say, the author often falls into purple prose: ‘Poor Mr Ashton’s care was his stricken child, whose white shoulders, bathed in blood, were washed by a father’s tears’. Still, much of the writing is strong, ie, on the victims fleeing from St Peter’s Fields: ‘From their windows they had seen men, women and children flying along, hatless, bonnettless, shoeless, their clothes rent, their faces livid and ghastly, shrieking in pain and terror as they ran by or dropped in the path of pursing troopers…’

I would recommend this book to anyone who are interested in reading historical fiction set in the UK during the Regency and the late Georgian era.  The story provides not only drama and excitement, but a realistic account of the everyday lives of people from varied backgrounds in the Lancashire at the beginning of the industrial revolution.