Wednesday, 13 July 2022

The Ancients are not forgotten in Corinth

Dear Reader, the outside world seems to continue on its alarming road to self-destruction but, I have to admit, I've had an exciting and at times wonderful few months.  I managed to get both Books 1 and 2 published as e-books on Kindle in early May. Then the rest of May and most of June were spent in Greece with a complex agenda included a family wedding and visits to locations that come into An Ancient Connection. The former was deep in the Mani countryside, the latter around Corinth and the Peloponnese, some of which I have visited before and posted about.

As you may know, the ancient city of Corinth (Korinthos) was a short distance inland on its plain, linked to its two ports of Lechaion to the north on the Gulf of Corinth, and Kenchreai to the south on the Saronic Gulf, by a network of roads. It was much changed by the Romans. Its acropolis, Akrokorinthos, on the high, rocky hill further back from the coast, was always a strong natural fortress. It dominates the skyline and, throughout its history, often contained a small town within its walls. At its highest point, a famous temple to Aphrodite was built in 5th century BCE, now much built over and almost invisible.                                                                                                            
View from the entrance gate to the fortress of Akrokorinthos.
Remains of the Temple to Aphrodite

Modern Corinth is on the sea a little to the east of ancient Lechaion. It has been badly damaged by earthquakes, particularly in the last couple of centuries and has been rebuilt many times. But the Ancients are not forgotten. Pegasus flies above the wide square between the pedestrian shopping area and the wharfs. Aphrodite patrols a broad street of cafes and eateries. Heracles rests after his labours in a seaside carpark. 

As for the actual book in which these places feature, I’m revising the text ready for readers to comment. 

I have also started to send out press releases and put posts on my social media platforms. I find I need to discipline myself to spending just one hour per working day on this. Longer, and the writing doesn't get done!

The paperbacks of Books 1 and 2 are now available for order from all good bookshops, while e-books and paperbacks are available from Amazon. However, at present, Amazon is selling-off very cheaply a previous print edition (The Boy in Two Heads as opposed to The Boy in Two Minds) with the old cover. Getting it withdrawn seems to be impossible, so a buyer who wants paperbacks that look like a set would do better to obtain them from elsewhere. There is no problem with Amazon’s e-books. 

But it's summer!! And with swathes of colourful flowers and wide clear views, friends to meet, and/or walks to take in the long evenings after a day at my desk, it's the very best time of year for me!


I hope it is for you, too, dear reader, however much we fear for the future in so many ways.

All photographs © Julia M Newsome unless otherwise credited.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Sunflowers and snowdrops

Further to my post just before Christmas, The Girl in Two Worlds - Time travel to Ancient Athens, came out on March 1st, 2022, 10 years to the day from the publication date of The Boy with Two Heads, as it was then titled, on February 29th, 2012. 

However, there was no fanfare, partly because the print version still seems to be unavailable from the usual outlets (it will probably take another week or two) and also because the e-book is not ready. But it was one step in my slow progress towards having both print and revised e-books on sale. I've made a start on the necessary text 'translations' of The Boy and The Girl into ePub files for the ebooks and yet another revision of Book 3 is in train.

The covers have been refined, though the Book 3 cover is still a draft. My thanks to Kate (design) and Fliss (art) for creating such gorgeous results!


My present blurb for the whole trilogy is this:
"The precarious connection between Themistokles, son of Kallistos of ancient Athens and Suzanne Short of Penrith in modern Cumbria UK, was the result of freak accidents. It seemed to begin and end in 432 BCE / 2010 CE when Suzanne experienced so much of Themistocles' visit to Olympia. But now, in 418 BCE / 2017 CE, the connection is back. Athens is threatened by Sparta from without and traitors from within. Suzanne, now a student and athlete at Lancaster University, is a fascinated by helpless witness as Themistokles tries to save his city and his family."

But now our own world of 2022 CE has convulsed again - far more violently in the last few weeks than it did with the first Covid-19 lockdown two years ago. Covid isolation was what brought me back to this project, but now I often find it impossible to concentrate on what seems to have become an inconsequential hobby. The horrors of Putin's invasion of non-aggressive Ukraine, and the uncertainty of where the resulting world-wide turmoil will lead, claim my (and most others', it seems) attention as often as I let them.

At present, of course, here in the UK, my life is not directly threatened. In 1944 my father's was, though. He was in southern China with his Red Cross unit, 'walking out' ahead of the Japanese invasion. He wrote in his journal of the need to keep to the usual routines and standards wherever possible, however chaotic things get. So that's what I'm trying to do, whether The Connection Trilogy turns out to be inconsequential or not. 

At least Spring has now arrived with energy and hope. The courage and determination of Ukraine's extraordinary president, Volodymyr Zalenskyy, and his kick-ass compatriots is infectious. They are our buffer against unthinkable destruction and casualties, and their resolve seems to be bringing together other previously, and possibly dangerously, divided nations. Thank you, Ukraine.

All photographs © Julia M Newsome unless otherwise credited

Friday, 24 December 2021

A Boy, a Girl, two hats and some ships

In July, I wrote about how The Boy With Two Heads (originally published in 2012) has become Book 1 of The Connection Trilogy. I stated titles and timings, all of which I have since had to change (though not the ISBNs) - a lesson from my professional days that I'd forgotten: 'schedules are guides, not laws'. So the evolution
 of the trilogy continues, and this is an update on its progress.

Although I now wear two hats, the author’s and the publisher’s, unfortunately I have only one head (unlike the original title of my book!). And my one head is that of a perfectionist.  

So the many enjoyable (to me, at least) processes involved in metamorphosing The Boy with Two Heads into The Boy in Two Minds, and preparing his sequels to be consistent as a trilogy, have been progressing rather slowly. Mind you, this year, The Boy has gone through two title changes, one text revision, one cover change, and still awaits a tweak to his styling. This is truly ‘learning through doing’. And the 'doing' is very different from when I was a professional editor and later publisher in an ‘in house’ department in the last century!

I have also been preparing the other two books in the trilogy. These are the three draft covers … My enduring thanks to Kate, my collaborator on these. We will eventually get there!


My thanks, too, to those who have bought The Boy in his present state as print and ebook, both of which will be marginally (literally!) updated in the new year. 

 During the autumn, my single head and mind were distracted from writing and publishing because at last I was able to travel to Greece. There I experienced the joy and excitement of the birth of a new family member, and I managed to visit a couple of locations that come into the story in Book 3, the Heraion of Perahora (lots of guessing as to what it was really like), and the Diolkos (an amazing remnant of an ancient 'railway'!).

The Diolkos is the drag-way used by ships along approximately the same line as the Corinth Canal from around 600 BCE. What a sight, to see a ship gliding on land up the gentle gradient (hauled by oxen perhaps?), and then 'floating' down the other side, back to the sea!


(Nowadays, nearby, a reproduction Poseidon stands guard by a modern basketball court, 'protecting' the area around the western mouth of the Canal. Surely, in its heyday, he had a temple at each end of the Diolkos?)

So my fictional Boy and Girl often wait in line for my attention. And although The Girl in Two Worlds's original July publishing date has been pushed into 2022, she is well on her way - on a trireme, no less!



 A different kind of ship has ushered in the celebrations for the winter solstice and Christmas in Greece for centuries. Traditionally, decorative ships appear in early December (this was in Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki some years ago) and similar boats have been decorated in homes and villages since ancient times, often now alongside the more modern Christmas tree.

This one is here to bring my readers my best wishes for your joy rather than frustration over the holidays in these bewildering times. 


I wish you a joyfully Merry Christmas, and thank you for reading!


Sunday, 25 July 2021

The Boy is Back - and he's not alone!

He’s now “in Two Heads”, and part of a trilogy. But Themistokles' story of involvement in the Olympics of 432 BCE and how he got there is the same. Back in 2012, I believed his and Suzanne's novel was a one-off, but they had other ideas! As time went on, Themistokles kept ‘telling’ me bits of his later life. At first, I just wrote them down as separate incidents. Then Suzanne began to do the same, and gradually I had another novel. Then a third. So I may not have been posting here for a while, but I have been ‘listening’ and writing, rewriting, researching and, until last March, travelling.

Then, around this time last year, by chance I saw a tweet from Caroline Lawrence (@CarolineLawrenc, millions-selling author of children’s books set in Ancient Rome, and Athens) about The Boy with Two Heads. It said, “Ooh! Another #timeslip to #Athens novel for kids! Written by @JuliaMNewsome in 2012, this one has lots about the Olympic Games. I’m loving it so far!” And there was a picture of my book. I was thrilled! (Although The Boy was not written for kids under 12, nor is only about Athens.)

from the Amazon web site
Caroline’s tweet gave me a boost. Even though her books are for a different age category, she is a world-wide best-selling writer ( So her interest and kind encouragement had me thinking seriously about naming the new stories, polishing them up and perhaps publishing them. 
Because, once upon a time, before the internet, I was a professional editor and publisher of textbooks. 
Surely, with the help of The Boy’s original publisher, Trifolium Books UK, I could learn how to do it myself with the new technology? It could be my COVID survival project! 

Birkby Books
design: Connie Jensen
Thus, The Boy in Two Heads, and his two accompanying volumes, The Girl in Two Minds anPrecarious Connections, are coming out, one by one, under my new imprint, Birkby Books. At present, with Kate of Trifolium, we are working on visually linked covers, but The Boy’s revised text was ready early, so I brought him out in his old jacket to coincide with this year’s anomalous Olympics. The three books will make up The Connection Trilogy.

The Two Heads by Fliss Watts
Themistokles and Suzanne have kept me company and been fascinating (though somewhat demanding) friends during this deeply disturbing time, for which I’m very grateful. Now they even have portraits ready to be incorporated into the new covers, thanks to Fliss Watts (instagram: @flisswatts,

If you are new to this blog and didn’t read the 2012 edition of The Boy, this is what some readers said:

"A very clever concept for time travel ... lots about the Olympic Games. I'm loving it ...!" Caroline Lawrence (see above).

"This book transported me effortlessly back to ancient Greece, vividly evoking its exotic sights, sounds and even smells. And it seems 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." Philippa Harrison, former Managing Director of Macmillan and Little, Brown UK.

"... extremely well written, highly believable and engaging ... the aspects of every day life in Ancient Greece are so cleverly and easily portrayed here." Fiona Robson on Goodreads.

"This was a very engaging read. Lovers of the grecian era will find it interesting and the blog is a good twist." Prudence on Amazon. (not this blog, the one in the book!)

" ... a story on different levels, from different points of view. It brings ancient Greece to life, ... excellent ... well-researched ... well-written story." Sally Katherine Bracher on Amazon.

" ... enthralling read, I did not want to put the book down." Bill on Amazon Kindle.

The Girl in Two Minds will be out later this summer, and next year, the third book, at present titled Precarious Connections (unless I change my mind again, which I have done every day for months!). 

If you are on Twitter or Instagram or any of the other wide-reaching platforms, please post a link to this blog, or better still, read the book and post a review! You will be mystified, amused, excited and enthralled. (At least, I was while I was writing it!) 

Thanks for reading! 
Please leave a comment or a review if you can.

The Boy in Two Heads ISBNs: 
paperback 9781838413606
ebook 9781838413613

@JuliaMNewsome on Twitter
'J M Newsome, author' on FaceBook

The appearance of this post is different on smart phones and tablets, but all the content seems to be there! 
All photographs © Julia M Newsome unless otherwise credited

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Walking with the gods ..?

Perhaps it's because the Greek Gods each represent facets of what makes people human that they are so easy to imagine. They influence the characters in the story I'm writing at present, so they naturally invade my own daily life!
   When I'm working on something, I try to take a walk each day. Sometimes this helps me plan the next day's writing, sometimes it's just for fun and exercise. Yesterday, Zeus was practising playfully with the spring weather. He bombarded me with thunder, lightening, hail, and rainbows, and kept me from doing much planning.

But the day before, he had been busy elsewhere and my walk was idyllic. 

I went inland, away from the sea for once ...

campion and blue bells

Was it possible I was in company with an Arcadian nymph or two (all those flowers and the chattering river), or Artemis (riding the moon behind the ash tree), or even her brother Apollo (checking out the flocks of sheep perhaps, and sparking my brain into creativity)?  
wood anemones


blousey dandelions

delicate vetch and star of Bethlehem

looking back towards the sea on my way home.
The perfect weather gave me time and peace to 'feel' them all, and to breathe the scents of spring and listen to the lambs and the birds. And while I walked, I worked out the complex relationship between two of my characters which had been confusing me.  

So I put this post together just to record, and give thanks for, that lovely, productive walk.

@JuliaMNewsome on Twitter
'J M Newsome, author' on Facebook

all photographs © Julia M Newsome unless otherwise credited.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Three years of Two Heads ...

My novel The Boy with Two Heads is three years old today. It was published on February 29th, 2012, the year of the London Olympics. To celebrate this, I have been putting 'shameless ads' on Twitter as listed below, quoting from Goodreads and Amazon reviews. I can't say sales have been huge, but the five star reviews from people I've never met are a wonderful psychological boost. 

from the official Ways With Words website
To change the subject, and as reported in previous years, March is the month for Ways With Words to bring their "Words by the Water" Literary Festival to Keswick. It starts on Friday, March 6th, and I volunteered to chair some events again this year. They gave me Eric Chaline's The Temple of Perfection (about the history of gymnasiums from Ancient Athens to the present day), and Levison Wood's Walking the Nile (about his 4,250 mile walk from the jungles of Burundi to the Mediterranean at Alexandria). 

Unfortunately, Levison Wood will not be able to be in Keswick after all. In preparing to chair his talk, I enjoyed the Channel 4 TV series, but learned more from his book. As I have spent some years of my life in Africa, I find his observations of the people and issues that he encountered thoughtful and enlightening, sometimes amusing, sometimes harrowing, and often riveting. So I am disappointed that I won't meet him at the festival to learn even more - and to share in his growing celebrity, of course!

Meanwhile, Eric Chaline's book has taught me a great deal about how the gymnasium has evolved in Europe and the US since its recognisable beginnings in 7th century BC Athens. As one blurb about The Temple of Perfection states, "Chaline surveys the gym's many incarnations and the ways the individual, the nation-state, the media, and the corporate world have intersected in its steamy confines". The agenda behind the setting up of a gym has not always been to help people pursue individual fulfilment or make millions, as we think of it now. There have been both more sinister, and more philanthropic, stimuli, it seems.

Apart from his many journalism articles, Eric has written about 30 books on a variety of subjects. I found I already had one of them on my shelves, although I hadn't realised who it was by! It's called Traveller's Guide to ... Greece in the Year 415 BCE. So I am really looking forward to meeting him at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick on March 8th and to finding out more about those 7th century BCE Greeks, those 20th century CE Californians on Muscle Beach, and all the entrepreneurs and idealists in between. 

I wonder if you'll be there too? We might enjoy tea and cake together in celebration of The Boy with Two Heads' third birthday!

These are my shameless ads on Twitter for The Boy with Two Heads

Shameless ad 1: #theboywithtwoheads time-slip novel "captures the atmosphere of Ancient Greece". "Enthralling".

Shameless ad 2:  #theboywithtwoheads time-slip novel "a gripping read" "brings Ancient Greece to vibrant life".

Shameless ad 3: from my time-slip novel: "when #theboywithtwoheads wins without a fight, Athena will pay her dues."

Shameless ad 4: #theboywithtwoheads: "extremely well written ... I would love to see this book used in schools." 5stars. Thank you, Fiona!

Shameless ad 5: from my time-slip novel #theboywithtwoheads: "You don't get to the Olympics unless you're the best."

Shameless ad 6: #theboywithtwoheads: " A very enthralling read, I did not want to put the book down.” 5 stars. Thank you, Bill!

Shameless ad 7: (last one - I promise) My time-slip novel #theboywithtwoheads is three yrs old today! Happy birthday, Themis and Suzanne.

@JuliaMNewsome on Twitter
'J M Newsome, author' on Facebook

all photographs © Julia M Newsome unless otherwise credited.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

No triremes on the Solway

These days I'm rather boring to other people. My daily routine is: write and research in the morning, walk in the afternoon, do domestic stuff in the evening. Even my research isn't exciting on its own, though lately I've been learning a lot about Ancient Greek warships called triremes, which could be of interest to some (see below). 

So as a sequel to my January posting about walking in London, this posting is mainly about my walk by the Solway Firth in Cumbria on Friday. It's been foggy since then, but on Friday it was almost Greek weather ...

On the way down to the beach and a milky-looking sea ...

... I found snowdrops right beside the road.

As I arrived on the beach I put up a flock of seagulls, but there was no one else there, just me and the birds.
The Romans had a lookout on that hill - Mile Fortlet 21. 
They may have beached their boats on this shore.
The Hellenes (Ancient Greeks) I'm writing about were 500 years earlier and never left the Mediterranean. They pulled their ships up on land every night by a tideless sea.
What would they have thought about a water-line that could move up to half a mile, twice a day? 
The triremes had around 170 rowers. They couldn't have hauled them out of reach of the tide here, even with that many men and these windless conditions.
But there goes the sun ...

... and there go the birds. Time to turn for home.

Even the factory can look nice on an evening like this. It's not often it makes a question mark with its steam.

Goodnight, Solway Firth. 

So back to my desk, and my research. This is a rather confusing photograph because the poster is very reflective. But you can see the overall shape of the war ship, with the sharp ram at the front and the stern like a scorpion's tail.  The caption is a quote from The Birds by Aristophanes in which one man asks 'Where are you from?' and another answers 'From where they make the beautiful triremes.' He means Athens.

The poster was on the railings beside the reconstruction of a trireme commissioned by the Greek Navy and built in 1987, called 'Olympias'.

She stands under her specially constructed ship shed by the sea in Faliron, near Athens. She is beautifully cared for and there is no entrance fee. There's a comprehensive blog post about her, written last year by Ellen Brundige, here, with facts, figures, photographs and impressive videos of her underway. 

from Hellenic Navy's website, linked from Ms Brundige's blog

Imagine seeing something like this being rowed up the Solway Firth and turning towards you as you stand alone on an empty beach ...

all photographs © Julia M Newsome unless otherwise credited.