Thursday, 26 September 2013

To e-, or not to e-?

Not so long ago I felt like I was waging my own ebook revolution. Having published my first novel as a Kindle book on Amazon last year, I faced a dual challenge: I had to sell my novel, but I also had to make the case for reading books in a digital format. Amongst my own group of friends, I was often required to help would-be readers download a Kindle app before they could go on and purchase my book. It was a hybrid sales/computer-support role that I never envisaged for myself when I set out to write a family saga set in the second-world war.

Next week I am participating in a session at the Henley Literary Festival on ebooks and self-publishing - the prospect of which has sparked some navel-gazing. Coincidentally, I also happened upon a feature by Jonathan Franzen in The Guardian which takes a swipe at Amazon and self-publishing, in the midst of a complex argument about the perils of modernity. Here is an extract:

Book cover for Kindle novel, 'A Sister for Margot' by Emma Clark Lam
Only available as an ebook on Amazon
"Amazon wants a world in which books are either  self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of course people with the money to pay someone to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world."

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Celestial insurance

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

Middle child has been doing some deep thinking about God recently. He is at a point in his life where he needs God, like a security blanket. The world is becoming a scary place. People die and don't come back. Whereas Quiet One takes a more flippant approach ("You die, so what?"), he is looking for an insurance policy. At bedtime, he asked if I could send him a message - when I died - to reassure him that heaven did exist. I promised, if I had the good fortune to end up in heaven, I would do my best to get in touch.

Lundy Island, North Devon
'Is there a heaven, Mummy?'
Earlier this week the novelist Margaret Atwood, in an interview on Radio 4, alluded to our spiritual need to understand where we come from. While discussing the "Crakers", a race of genetically engineered humans in her MaddAddam trilogy, she observed:
"They are also doing what children do once the discover the past tense and the future tense - so they have to have, 'Where did we come from' and that results in a theology."

Thursday, 12 September 2013

This is the house that we built

There was an intriguing article in our local newspaper in May last year, which opened with the line: "A man has won an appeal to extend his home." Unbeknown to us, our humble kitchen extension had become breaking news in Henley-on-Thames. The article continued:
"William Lam... can now demolish his conservatory and outbuildings and build a single-story extension incorporating a kitchen and dining room."
Scintillating stuff, although I was a bit miffed that Henley's newshounds had overlooked Mrs Lam's role in the project. Now, after two years of planning, design and various setbacks, this same man (and his wife) have finally finished their extension.

Modern kitchen extension on Edwardian house
Hot news in Henley!
The controversy centred around our plan to stick a modern, glass wedge onto an old Edwardian house in a conservation area. When we applied for planning permission, the Henley Town Council recommended refusal on the grounds that the design would be "out of character". Fortunately for us, the inspector who handled our appeal recognised that a modern solution would be "potentially acceptable" (even if he didn't sound entirely convinced at the time). 

After the project was completed this summer, we wondered with some trepidation how people would receive it. So far, our friends have done a decent impression of liking it. The best reaction was from the man who came to do a quote for some bathroom shutters. He ambled through the old hallway and then into the new kitchen, where he stopped dead in his tracks. For a moment he was speechless. Then he said: "Wow! I wasn't expecting that. It is absolutely stunning!"


Here it is, under construction... 


House with old conservatory
Before: the old conservatory 

Building site for kitchen extension: demolition
Demolition and laying the foundations (February 2013)

Building site for kitchen extension: steel beams put in place
Putting in the steel framework (March 2013)
Building site for kitchen extension: wall building
Up go the walls (March 2013)

Building site for kitchen extension: putting in the roof
On goes the roof (April 2013)

Building site for kitchen extension: glass doors
The glass doors and glazing are installed (May 2013)

Kitchen extension on Edwardian house
Finished - click on the picture for a close-up! (June 2013)

The extension was designed by David Greenhill of Vivid Architects and built by First Construct. None of it would have been possible without Louise Morton of Quadrant Town Planning, who helped to win the appeal.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Puppy love


So I finally have my third child. A lovely, little boy with a full head of hair, beautiful, almond-shaped eyes... oh, and a tail. Am I mad? Barking. Both my (real) children are at school, life is getting easier, weekend lie-ins are no longer just an aspiration... and what do I do? I take on an eight-week old puppy. A black Labrador with big, floppy feet and a bladder that can barely make it through the night. And, who needs an alarm clock when your new baby greets the dawn with a high-pitched howl? Hello sleep deprivation, my old friend, it has been too long. 


Pickle, the black Labrador puppy
Look what the stork brought!
It was actually my daughter who campaigned tirelessly to get the dog, but I would be lying if I said I was opposed to the idea. I have played a quiet hand, knowing that she was best placed to wear down my reluctant husband. So is the puppy my desperate attempt to reclaim motherhood? As my kids become less dependent, am I plugging the gap with a dog? Can I only exist if I am needed? 

All the rituals of preparing for the puppy's arrival were spookily familiar. Since June we have been writing to-do lists and going on spending sprees at the doggy equivalent of Mothercare: Pets at Home. Dutifully my husband built him a cot, sorry crate, to sleep in and we agonised over a name, until we finally settled on 'Pickle'.  

Puppy toddlerhood is now upon us. We spend our days toilet training, shaking toys, removing foreign objects from Pickle's mouth and heading off canine stunts on the patio steps. Earlier this week we even took him to a 'post-natal' puppy class so that he could play with other dogs! However, for all the challenges, looking after a dog is parenting lite. When we need a break, we shut him in his crate and escape the house for a couple of hours - with no associated visits from social services. 

Yesterday the kids went back to school and, thanks to Pickle, I didn't feel quite so bereft. His wiggly, waggy-tail welcome made the house feel less empty when I got home from the school run. And thankfully he can't yet utter those words I have heard all summer: "Mummy, what shall I do now? I'm bored!!" He just digs up the lawn instead. 


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"I absolutely loved this book and will miss the family that I became so involved with over the past few days. I hope Emma has another book in the pipeline!" 
-- Annabel at CountryWives 


I welcome reviews of my book on Amazon!