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January Sales and Red Letter Days

In France the days for the Sales are set by the state, so that no one department can gain an advantage over another. A highly regulated system of just two sales periods a year – one in summer and one after Christmas. And red letter days, those important and significant days in the calendar, like a book launch for example, are often known as une pierre blanche in France.


January is a time for looking back and looking forwards. The very month is named after Janus. He is the god of beginnings, gates, time, duality, doorways and endings. He is often shown as having two faces, for he looks to the future and to the past. He looked to war and he looked to peace.

I look back to 2015 and the publishing of Isabella of Angoulême: The Tangled Queen, Part 1. I had been ably supported by Silverwood my publishers up until this point but as I live in France there was not much they could offer in the way of publicity and promotion. However, it was all very exciting launching the book and I made sure that I had at least made posters and bookmarks. I also made a short PowerPoint slide show to be run on a loop as potential readers and customers waited. I put some information on the local internet news information site and went down in the morning to the salle de fête or village hall to set up for the afternoon launch.


Horrors! Even though the hall had been booked no one had told the caretaker/cantonnier and he had decided to strip the parquet floor, leaving a fine wood and varnish dust everywhere. He had gone to lunch and wasn’t coming back until the next morning to finish.

Grim faces and desperate determination as two people swept and swept and cleaned and swept. Just time for a quick shower and change into decent clothes. Working on the principle that I would be sitting behind a table, a bright top and a statement necklace seemed a good idea. And a bright welcoming smile. I couldn’t relax at home so arrived early for the 2.30 advertised start. And there outside the door a man with a list and a call out of ‘I want six copies!’ There was a steady stream of people; November was a good month to sell before Christmas.

Part 2 of Isabella of Angoulême: The Tangled Queen had a slower and quieter launch, but between Parts 1 and 2 I had learnt more about getting books in to bookshops, on the depôt vente scheme, which seems to work for everyone. And there were reviews on Amazon and GoodReads to cheer me up. I had learnt the hard way that you have to cope with a critical review and it was a good lesson. If you put your work out there you must take whatever comes back from readers. It’s a very democratic process the relationship between the writer and the reader.


Part 3 was launched in Le Calice in Verteillac, a lovely happy occasion with a great Q and A session. It led to several talks and interviews given around and about, on the radio, on blogs and to groups. It was good to share my thoughts on writing a trilogy.


Looking forward to June of this year and to a festival in Brantôme I am hoping to talk about why the Aquitaine was ever part of the Angevin English possessions. Not directly about Isabella of Angoulême, that tangled queen of mine, but she will be part of story. As will Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, King John and much much more.

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