I will be back soon!
In the meantime, do check out the next ArtPix/Arcane Publishing events HERE.
I really need to find inspiration these days, and nothing beats going to my favourite places around Dorset (see previous blog).
Yesterday, I spent the day "researching" in Dorchester and therefore paid a visit to the venerable Maiden Castle, one of the most iconic Iron Age forts in the country.
The light of late afternoon was gorgeous and did add a bit of magic to an already unique and inspiring place.
As our world becomes less and less hospitable by the day, I find the peace of the Dorset countryside incredibly welcoming. I will be seeking refuge in its autumnal embrace over the next few weeks...
More photos will be forthcoming...
I do find it easier to face what life throws at me in Dorset than in London.
The ancient landscape inspires and soothes me.
Yesterday, we made a visit to Chideock and Symondsbury - we climbed the iconic Colmer's Hill again.
I feel really privileged to live in such a beautiful county.
As I try to escape the worry created at Arcane HQ by the crazy Brexit situation, climbing up Colmer's Hill and other heights in Dorset always reminds me of the wise words in New Model Army's beautiful song "High"...
The movers move, the shakers shake, the winners write their history
Over the past few days, I have been very lucky to find some wonderful treasures in vintage/antique centres and car boot sales.
Some of those finds will be on sale on the Arcane Publishing stall at the various events we will attend.
But some, like the subject of this blog, will find its place in my personal collection of vintage/antique illustrated books.
I have a passion for illustrated books and if I bought all the volumes that have caught my eye, I would probably need my very own warehouse. I have seen a lot of books which were out of my reach because of the price. One day...
But this wonderful little volume, found in the gorgeous little antiques shop in Abbotsbury, was very cheap and I just couldn't put it back...
This is a very short story written in Danish, published by V. Pios Boghandel and dated 1920. This seems to be quite a rare little volume (only one listing found online HERE) but as I do not understand Danish, I cannot really tell you anything about it, other than it is utterly charming.
I haven't posted many "progress blogs" about my third novel The Right Place since February 2016. I do mention it from time to time on here, especially as I moved to Dorset, the county where the novel is set, in early 2017.
The truth of it is, a lot of things have been happening in "Real Life", including the whole selling/buying process, moving to the new house located 3 minutes' walk from the sea, going back to (supply) teaching after over 17 years away from the profession I had trained for in London all those years ago (and yes, it is ridiculously challenging!)...
I also got distracted by the landscape, the development of the Arcane bookselling venture (more on this in another blog), the organisation of the Winter Tales events, the books I have been reading, etc., etc.
And yes, I have basically been making excuses to avoid sitting down and resuming writing.
This summer, with the long holidays upon us, I have found the time to reflect on it and have come to the conclusion that I have been suffering from a curiously inflexible strain of the dreaded Writer's Block.
Whilst working on my two novels I Am a Muse and The Book of Thoth between 2010 and 2015, my discipline was second to none. I got the two books written, edited and published on my own newly created imprint, altogether a steep learning curve and exhilarating time.
In November 2015 and January 2016, I spent two months at Norburton Hall in Burton Bradstock planning and researching The Right Place and did a tremendous amount of work. It all came to a halt in February 2016 and this will of mine, that tremendous compulsion to write and bring a story to life all but disappeared...
but not quite...
I have been thinking about it, I have been dreaming about it. I have been worrying about how I would bring some characters together, how I would describe crucial scenes; how I would make the book atmospheric enough and express the peculiar sense of ancient history you get whilst walking around the Dorset landscape.
I have to admit that I have been gripped by the fear of not being able to write anymore, ever.
Then yesterday, I went and spent a couple of hours walking around Abbotsbury, firmly intent on only looking at the place through my fiction writer's gaze. I absorbed the landscape, let it talk to me. I opened my heart and mind to the stories told by the stones used to build St Catherine's chapel, and as I entered this very special place, the residual smell of incense reminded me of that scene early in The Right Place - and the last one I have written before becoming incapable to write - in which Kat wonders about the prayers and offerings left in the niches.
Yesterday, they were both full.
You can read an extract from the scene set in the chapel HERE.
"[...]What did ‘they’ – whoever they were – do with the messages? Was there a special cupboard in some dusty parish office where all those pieces of people’s hearts were deposited and locked away forever? Kat had imagined row after row of shelves on which were piled up hundreds, maybe even thousands of sad little boxes containing all the wishes and tokens received by St Catherine: some kind of archive of the heartache people had confided in the saint in the hope that the stones would take their wishes all the way to her divine ears. [...]"
My writer's block is no more and work has resumed on The Right Place, at long last!
Provisional pub date: (very) late 2020.
A few pictures taken yesterday, on the last day of August 2018.
This Sunday 26th August, we were planning on having a stall at the fantastic Giant Shepton Flea, but with a very pessimistic forecast, we didn't attend (It rained the whole day; it would have ruined our stock).
Instead, we set up stall at the yearly Rotary Club of Wilton Mammoth Car Boot Sale at the beautiful Wilton House (a first for us). The day started really well as Matt ArtPix's items were snapped up by enthusiastic customers (I sold a few of my discounted books - yes, I am having a stock clear-out!). Unfortunately, rain stopped play and we had to try and cover our stock as best we could. When the shower stopped, we painstakingly started drying our stock, helped by a timid sun. When we thought we'd be able to relax and start selling again, THE RAIN RETURNED, and that's when everyone decided that enough was enough and everyone started the long process of packing up...
Thankfully, none of our stock was damaged, but it cut short what was a very successful event for us!
On the plus side, I have acquired two props which will be very handy in the organisation of future events and for Arcane Publishing displays... More soon!
Looking ahead, our next events will all be indoors, and we will be booking more over the forthcoming months... Check them out HERE and... Watch this space!
It's the summer holiday and I have been using that time to try and catch up on my reading among other things. I haven't read as much as I would have liked to this year, shame on me! A writer if first and foremost a reader.
I am pleased to say that I have been doing well so far: four Agatha Christie stories (I have a set of Christie's books which until two days ago I thought was complete, but it looks like I am missing a story or two... damn!) - very handy to find inspiration for my fourth novel Hell Lane; I have also read two Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novels (still trying to catch up, still two to go to be up to date!). If you do not know this fantastic series by Laurie R. King, I urge you to read them. You start and you just cannot stop reading. If you are a TV producer, turn them into a TV series, please!
At the moment, I am immensely enjoying a book I've been meaning to read for a long time: Love, Nina, by Nina Stibbe. I just cannot put it down.
This is the kind of book I shouldn't like, really: I am not interested in books about family/domestic life and I don't care for epistolary novels. But the short dialogues and Nina's observations are sharp and delicious, and whilst reading this book, I am reminded of several things: how snobbish I was as a kid and later on, as a teenager - extremely serious, bookish and arty. I was mostly on my own or with adults as I found people my own age incredibly boring and immature. Nobody had the same interests as me (books, English and American classic cinema, literature, art, theatre...).
I never read books for children/Young Adults after the age of 8 or 9 - I read "proper" books, you know, the ones for grown ups. And I dreamt of having a family like the one in this book: I wished my parents had been London-dwelling intellectuals with a mad old house full of eccentric creatives. I fancied having bonkers arty grand-parents who might have lived in a dilapidated mansion full of dusty books and cracked paintings somewhere deep in the English countryside.
Needless to say, this was far from being the case!
So reading about the goings-on in this North London house is simply immensely pleasurable!
In addition, in the book, Nina is studying English and American literature (which I did for five years). Here again, I am reminded of my own unfinished business: a few years ago, I started thinking about going back to university to do an MA then PhD in English literature to become a university lecturer/researcher - something I'd do in a flash if only I had the financial means! I miss the intellectual demands of this kind of environment...
Two years ago, Love, Nina was made into a wonderful TV drama (with a terrific performance by the always watchable Helena Bonham-Carter as MK) - do try and watch it if you can, it is a very faithful version of the book!
Reading so much this summer has slowly started to have an effect on what can only be called my writer's block.
I haven't worked on my third novel, The Right Place, for about two years, bar the occasional glance at the contents of a folder. I think about it everyday, though, as I drive past St Catherine's chapel and around the Dorset countryside, both important elements of the novel.
Ironically, in the meantime, I have moved to the area where the novel is set - but one has to pay the bills and I have been obliged to push the writing to one side. I keep re-doing my publishing schedule for this book, which is no mean feat as I never know when I am going to be able to work on the book - and this situation is not about to change any time soon... So at the moment, the pub date for The Right Place has been pushed back yet again to... November 2020 (unless I find gold somewhere in the Dorset countryside).
This is incredibly frustrating, especially as I keep getting ideas for my fourth novel, Hell Lane, and can't wait to get started properly on it!
Arcane Publishing had a stall at the Bridport Bookfest in West Bay on Saturday. Unfortunately, whilst West Bay is always packed on a sunny summer day, the weather had decided to turn once again and the very wet harbour was mostly deserted! Nevermind... at least we authors and publishers were all inside, dry and cosy.
I had decided to try out a more elaborate display than usual for my books, and had gathered a variety of items that would reflect the contents of the novels.
For I Am a Muse, a contemporary tale of lost love and artistic inspiration mostly set in Cornwall, I used stones and shells found on various beaches, a guide book of Cornwall and a vintage vinyl record with a sleeve showing a surfer in action to evoke the surfer's life of the group of friends featured in the book; as a tribute to the characters of Alda and Alastair, both painters, I brought with me the original painting purchased at Alexandra Palace's Antiques and Collectors Fair a few years ago (it lives in Miss Gish's office at home!), an easel and a real vintage painter's palette with brushes and old paint tubes. I even found a paint-stained sheet which added "authenticity" to the whole thing! Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring my lovely vintage mannequin head... Next time!
For The Book of Thoth, a Gothic novel mostly set in 1925 and full of ghosts, alchemists, Ancient Egyptian gods, time-travellers and other strange and marvellous things, I gathered quite a few items bought at antiques and collectors fairs, including two issues of The Play magazine which features towards the end of the book, and lovely postcards of the actress Pauline Chase to illustrate Lady Sophia Chronos's pre-WW1 stage career. Of course, Thoth and Princess Amunet were not forgotten - I do have in my possession a framed (fake) Ancient Egyptian papyrus showing the passage between Life and Death, perfect to express various themes in the book. And of course, Lord Vangelis Chronos's alchemical experiments were alluded to thanks to an assortment of old brass objects of dubious provenance purchased at the Giant Shepton Mallet flea! (Witchy candle and dusty chandelier, author's own).
I do hope I will have the opportunity to put this display together again at another event...
There will be some announcements soon about the next events the ArtPix / Arcane Publishing team will attend, and we also have a few very cool music-related events planned for the autumn...
Oil 54 and Arcane Publishing have also started working on the next LONDON: Winter Tales event (#3). We have sent a few emails and if everything goes to plan, you will be in for a real treat early next year! Read about forthcoming events as well as about our previous Winter Tales events, go HERE.
On Saturday 11th August, I will have a stall at the Bridport Bookfest which will take place at the Salt House and Fishermen's Green in West Bay, Bridport, Dorset.
For this event, I am going to have fun and experiment with my display. I will put together a stand which reflects the narrative and setting of each book. I have found quite a lot of fab items and will just make it up as I go along.
Obviously, I will post pictures once the event is over! Below are some pictures of a few items I will bring along, there will be many more!
People will then be able to go and have a look at the Matt ArtPix/Arcane Publishing unit round the corner at The Customs House!
Finally, this summer, we have started doing what we've really moved to Dorset for: exploring the Southwest region and finding potential opportunities for our respective ventures Matt ArtPix and Arcane Publishing. After a year sorting ourselves out after our move from the Southeast during which we haven't really traded outside of our unit at The Customs House in West Bay, we are trying to be as active as possible and we are now busy booking events for this autumn and winter. Some of them will see us go back to more straightforward vintage markets (but good ones!), but we are thinking about challenging ourselves and venturing into "happenings" such as The Frome Independent market - we will probably apply in the autumn to try and trade there next year - obviously, this is all conditional on us being accepted, which is by far not a done deal. It doesn't cost anything to try!
Last Sunday, we finally made it to Frome, a town which has been so written about (and which has won this year's The Sunday Times's Best Place To Live in the Southwest) that house prices have now shot up and apparently, there is a "Make Frome Shit Again" hashtag. From March to December included, every first Sunday of the month, the town hosts the brilliant Frome Independent, an event which takes over the whole city centre and attracts hundreds if not thousands of people each time.
There's music, a flea market, a designer-maker market, a street food market... Shops and art galleries are open...
Most of all, what I have found exciting about Frome, is that it seems to have found a great balance between its identity as a traditional (and charmingly lovely) Southwest market town and its growing reputation for art and culture, community enterprise, trendiness, thriving independent shops and can-do attitude. And the latter is I think what genuinely makes the difference. In Frome, people actually get off their backside and DO things - properly. And it shows. People are creative, yet they also understand the realities of life and the fact that your creativity can be turned into a business and can contribute to the economic and cultural regeneration of a town. People with ideas and talent are encouraged to at least TRY and the Frome Independent is a brilliant way of giving people the opportunity to just do that. When your town doesn't have a lot of job opportunities, well, you CREATE them!
I loved St Catherine's, Frome's Artisan Quarter; it has a timeless cobbled charm and is full of great independent shops. There, you will find designer-makers, vintage dealers, craft, art and lifestyle vendors and various cafes - just to think that not that far back, this was all boarded up! We loved OWL - a craft and art gallery - for its unique and original products which you feel you haven't already seen hundreds of times as is the case with such places nowadays... We will have to go back to Frome to visit two vintage shops that were unfortunately closed, Deadly Is The Female and Dandy Lion.
Cheap Street is another pretty street and has retained its historic medieval character (there, you will find a well-stocked record/DVD shop, Raves from the Grave.)
Black Swan Arts and The Cheese and Grain are two extremely busy cultural venues that host an array of events and exhibitions throughout the year.
We also saw a lot of lovely things for sale and spent ages in the Flea market (it's our thing!) - There, I drooled over the vintage typewriters at the Charlie Foxtrot stand (one day...)
Later on, I also bought a lovely card at Tom Charlesworth's stand (go and check out his website - if you like dark, folklore/mythology-inspired illustration, it's for you! It is rather wonderful...)
Of course, we just couldn't NOT go to a bookshop... So we had a good look around the Frome Bookshop and I managed to get out without buying anything...
I genuinely believe that the Frome experience can be replicated in other towns around the country - obviously, every town is different and each location would need to find its own specific identity.
This Sunday, The Frome Independent was renamed "Frome-on-Sea" and had a mini-beach complete with sand, deckchairs, seagulls and donkey rides. In Weymouth, we do have all of those (and the seagulls are real!) as well as the brilliant architecture - add to this a gorgeous scenery and a lot of artists and creatives who would jump at the chance of participating to the regeneration of the area and help turn it into a respected, all-year-round destination. But the local authorities NEED to be open to ideas and MUST show generosity, understanding and readiness to LISTEN to organisations and individuals (something which, unfortunately, is not happening in Weymouth).
We live in hope...
And we will be back!
I think therefore I write.
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