I am working hard on plotting, characterization and research for my third novel, The Right Place. There is still a lot to do before I start writing, but it is going rather well.
Next week, I will update The Right Place page, adding brand new pictures of Abbotsbury and St Catherine's chapel.
In the forthcoming weeks, I will also (finally!) brief the artist who will be doing the cover artwork: the fab Sam Cannon.
Sam is a truly talented painter who lives and works in West Dorset.
There might be some very exciting news regarding The Right Place in early 2015, not all confirmed yet; Arcane Publishing is working really hard behind the scenes to make this happen - budget, schedule, video, giveaways...
This Saturday, I will be back with Arcane Publishing and Matt ArtPix. We will be selling colourful designs, antiques, second-hand books and new fiction!
We will also have a guest artist on the stall for the first time: Sabine T.
My first novel, I Am a Muse, features a gorgeous illustration by Sabine T, who has now started a handmade/craft project and has a lovely shop on Etsy, Sabine T Handmade.
We will have a small selection of her work on our stall on Saturday!
I am a French artist originally from Paris, now based in a rural part of Aberdeenshire, near the Cairngorms National Park and an hour away from the North Sea.
More about the market and our stock HERE.
Waddon House is a Grade I listed building located near Portesham in West Dorset. It is an ancestral home now also run as a (luxury) B&B.
What is lovely about it is that the road to the village (which has a lovely name: Winter's Lane) goes right through it and therefore you can spend some time admiring the architecture at your leisure.
My Sieben CDs have arrived in the post, accompanied by a lovely handwritten note and Barley Top by Keith and Matt Howden.
I love the way everything has been done with craft, care, thought and love.
There is a very personal touch to the whole thing and that's exactly the type of feel I want to achieve with Arcane Publishing: DIY and hands-on yet professional, of high quality without being pretentious and with a personal, unique sense of self.
Thank you Mr Howden!
(Report and photos of Sieben live HERE)
Now I am not going out at all until I have listened to all three CDs at least twice!
Burcombe, located in a remote corner of West Dorset north of Bridport, is a very intriguing location. We are already planning to go back and explore.
You feel really far away from everything and you can genuinely enjoy the quietness and the solitude.
Burcombe is basically one building - it is a rented property, and yes, it would make a perfect writing refuge - although it is too far from the sea for me. I need to be nearer the coast.
According to my walking companion book, Louise Hodgson's "Secret Places of West Dorset", this area is rather special indeed:
This part of West Dorset is a landscape within a larger landscape, a self-contained parcel of land that has all the ingredients of a latter-day Arcadia. If the hunting pipes of Pan could be heard anywhere in this county it would be here, trilling from a hillside wood in the blue dusk of a late summer evening.
One local mysterious character is John Walsh, who lived in the mid-16th century. He was known as the "Cunning Man of Netherbury" and this place was his backyard. He declared the hills and barrows around Burcombe were "the abode of the fairies".
I like a good legend, and as we sat down in the grass to have a rest on the edge of a field overlooking Burcombe and the narrow vale you can see on the picture above, we couldn't help getting the strange feeling that indeed, this place exuded some kind of uncanny atmosphere that played with our senses and could make us believe in fairies...
"Under a full moon, careening in and out of the wilderness, careening in and out of the sensibility of the Cunning Man, the fairy hordes would manifest their wyrd wisdom and John Walsh would look and listen, translating the strangeness into the language of human undertanding."
Louise Hodgson, "Secret Places of West Dorset"
Here is a video of the Southend Book and Arts Fair that took place two weeks ago at The Forum in Southend.
There is a short interview with yours truly around 4mn10s.
I was caught unawares and I am very, very camera-shy. The result is not brilliant and I am really not selling my books or promoting Arcane Publishing well at all. If I had had time to prepare, then maybe... Anywayyyy...
Have a good look though, some interesting people are being interviewed and there are some great shots of the Matt ArtPix/Arcane Publishing stall at the beginning of the video!
There's also an MP...
Not long after our fantastic evening at the Hope and Anchor, we are back in the basement of a London venue for yet another fabulous night of music.
This time, we are at Surya on Pentonville Road, an eco-friendly live music and club venue only a short walk from King's Cross station.
The night is organised by Kaparte Promotions who deal with anything that's dark, intelligent, original and arty.
Just my kind of thing.
It is reassuring to see that there are still a lot of very, very interesting things happening in London's creative underground, a continuous flow of deliciously mysterious and inventive creativity (this is something that I touched on lightly in my first novel I Am a Muse and I intend to fully explore in my fourth one, Anti).
Now that I have moved out of London, I can no longer attend as many events as I'd like, but a gig like this makes up for all the missed opportunities.
I am not going to do a full music review of the night - my days as a music journalist are well and truly over and I am getting distracted by my writing and my publishing imprint which now require my full attention - but you will find a wonderfully written and very detailed report on Adrian's Specs blog which I urge you to read.
I have posted below the best pictures I have of the night. There is a pesky recurring advert for Budweiser in the background and it kind of spoils the atmosphere, but I'm sure we can all try and ignore it.
I am not a musician and have never been, although music plays a very important role in my life (and inspires my writing, of course).
As an ex-dancer, I possess an excellent sense of rhythm, but that's about it.
Whilst most musicians would completely understand the creative process behind writing (as in writing words, poems, novels, essays, etc.), for me as a writer of words only, the creative process behind making a music track/album really is a complete mystery.
As I stand in the audience, fascinated, I try and make sense of the magic and somewhat occult powers behind the music.
I look, I observe, I attempt to focus and I try to understand. But in the end, the music always gets the better of me and all logic and reason dissolve as I let myself go and be seduced by the music. Resistance is futile...
Lloyd James from Naevus opens tonight's event with a solo acoustic set. He immediately commands our attention and prevents us from breathing entirely freely with some intense tracks that weave James's deep voice, his poetic lyrics and focussed guitar-playing. I cannot help but feel some kind of brooding menace beyond the minimalist setting. A perfect start.
Fear of The Forest is an intriguing offering and provides us with glimpses of a magical and mythical world. Led by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kate Arnold on violin and hammered dulcimer, the band combines a variety of influences (folk, classical, medieval and Middle Eastern) and showcases an interesting range of instruments - in addition to Kate's, we have cello, percussions and hurdy-gurdy. This is music as storytelling and it is full of history, atmosphere and ordinary as well as extraordinary deeds, all beautifully executed.
From a crowded stage to a minimalist set-up: here is Matawan, a duo (Gareth Chapman and Barclay Brennan) who work with electric guitars and a assemblage of pedals which they use to create drone music. According to them, they "seek to portray an aural journey that often treads a fine line between brooding density and compelling ethereality."
I personally like a gig to have some kind of visual focus, and I think it would be great if Matawan added a screen and some projections that somehow illustrated their music and conveyed the concepts and ideas behind their creations.
And then I fell in love (again).
I've been looking forward to finally seeing Sieben live and tonight's been a revelation; I want to acquire Matt Howden's entire back catalogue NOW, because I feel like I've got quite a lot of catching up to do.
Genius is not too strong a word for Matt Howden's performance. It is truly, absolutely innovative and fascinating, and I think there's nothing like it out there.
The music and lyrics are staggeringly beautiful, original and inventive; it's intellectual, timeless and elegant with just the right balance of darkness and tension. Sieben's music is also undisputedly - if not obviously - sensual. Maybe this is inevitable if one considers the physicality of the performance and the relationship between the musician and his violin.
Because this is the unique set up of a Sieben performance: one flesh and blood human being, one violin and a loop station.
Matt Howden sometimes uses the bow, sings into the pickup or scratches his chin against it, uses the violin as a percussion instrument and everything is then processed live through the loop station... Layer upon layer of sounds and vocals are added, distorted, twisted, echoed; here it sounds like a guitar, there like tribal drums or electronic beats...
The performance is enthralling, compelling, and you just don't want it to stop. It is still with me as I type; I now know I am hooked.
Sieben will join a few of my favourite "writing companions" - music I play whilst researching my books and/or looking for inspiration: Jo Quail (with whom Matt Howden has worked on a project called RASP - writing, recording and performing an album in two days), PJ Harvey, The Eden House and Jordan Reyne.
As someone who "studies" the world of silent movies (Clara Bow has been my Facebook avatar since I signed up to the site and I have stolen Lillian Gish's name for my pen name!), how could I resist a gorgeous song called "Sleep, Clara Bow"?
The Book of Thoth should be going to the printers by the end of next week. I am waiting for their quote to finalise everything.
I hope to have the books delivered on time for the events I will attend in November, but what I really want is for everything to go smoothly.
I fret about this book much more than the first one. Did we get the cover dimensions right? What about the spine? Is the book good enough? Shall I change that word here on page 267? What about that one? Does this sound weird or a bit amateurish?
I love the cover design, which is the exact opposite of what the cover of traditionally published Gothic Novels look like, i.e a lot of black and swirly bits here and there, maybe the silhouette of a crumbling mansion and some Tim-Burtonesque trees with twisted branches. I've gone for mostly white with a nod to the era the story is mostly set in: the 20s. Everything Egyptian came back into fashion at that time, especially after the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in 1922. So it felt natural to add some Egyptian gods and rituals and also some hieroglyphics!
I started work on The Book of Thoth in January 2011, straight away after completing the first draft of my debut novel I Am a Muse.
I had set myself a challenge: to write a Gothic novel with a few twists to the genre. I have used all the conventions of the Gothic novel that were on my list - bar "magical" numbers. Not sure why. Then I have added quite a few more items that are not traditionally considered as being motifs of the Gothic genre: time travel, flappers, male anorexia, depression, Google maps... There is even a bit of Downton Abbey in there somewhere when the action moves to the kitchen and the servant quarters!
It was quite a challenge to write The Book of Thoth whilst editing I Am a Muse, submitting it to agents and publishers, working, trying to set up a small imprint, learning about how to be a publisher, living... I actually finished the manuscript only in January this year!
I have been editing it since then.
I think I have nailed it now.
I re-read it one last time last week and liked it (it stands at 384 pages though, so it's definitively not a novella!), which I take as a positive sign.
I do not write to try and win literary prizes, so you will not find any fancy prose in my books. I focus on the characters and the story, include small details I think would work nicely.
I just hope people will enjoy reading the book!
I cannot wait to hold a copy in my hands, but until I do, I will carry on worrying about things going wrong.
To take my mind off it, I will start working in earnest on my third book, The Right Place. I have a lot of plotting and research to do before I get started on the writing again...
A new page, a brand new chapter...
I think therefore I write.
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