I adore the Bryant and May series by the always brilliant Christopher Fowler. This story was once again absolutely thrilling, in turns hilarious, poignant, informative, exciting... Towards the very end of the book, in addition to a massive twist which I hadn't seen coming at all (I am usually quite good at spotting this kind of thing), a paragraph really struck me in light of this year's events. Here it is:
"I believe some people are cursed. Not just by poverty, although that will be the easy answer affixed to my story by the nation's hand-wringers. We are cursed by its by-product, a debilitating lack of confidence. It is why we stay silent, why we are controlled, why we apologize, why we are afraid. We are overruled by the ones who expect to be heard, and as they destroy our lives we thank them for it."
Oranges and Lemons by Christopher Fowler, Bantam Books, 2020
Now that I have finished Oranges and Lemons, I have gone back to Robert Mcfarlane's stupendous Underland. I have loved all of Robert Mcfarlane's books, but this one really has a darker than usual underbelly (well, it is about what's happening beneath our feet, after all). His account of the very real scarring effects of human activity and destruction on our natural world and their often terrifying consequences is so utterly fascinating that it is very difficult indeed to put the book down. You can see the amount of stickers I have stuck along the way to mark the passages containing elements I wish to go back to later.
Yesterday, I started the section set in Greenland, and one paragraph in particular stopped me in my tracks. We are in the middle of a pandemic, one most probably created by the encroachment of human presence on natural spaces previously devoid of it. Think Coronovirus is bad? Read on...
"On the Yamal peninsula, between the Kara Sea and the Gulf of Ob, 4,500 miles of permafrost thawed. Cemeteries and animal burial grounds turned to slush. Reindeer corpses that had died of anthrax seventy years earlier were exposed to the air. Twenty-three people were infected, their skin blackened with lesions. One, a child, died.[...] Russian epidemiologists predicted other releases from Arctic burial sites and shallow graves: smallpox from victims who had perished in the late 1800s, giant viruses that had been long-dormant in the frozen bodies of mammoths."
Underland by Robert Mcfarlane, Penguin Books, 2020
Did you know that in 2019, Exeter was awarded the UNESCO City of Literature status?
This is brilliant news because, even though I am based in Dorset, Exeter is easily within my reach for events and days out (and I have family in Devon, so bonus points...).
Two of the characters in my first novel, I Am A Muse, bond during a day out in Exeter...
Anything involving books, writing and... yes, more books, is always going to catch my eye!
I just couldn't miss out on the Exeter City of Literature's first ever Book Market, held at The Old Riding School in the splendid grounds of Powderham Castle.
As someone who has been selling books at events for many years now (ok, not at specialised book markets...), I do know what a hard sell books can be! But I have always thought that if you find the right audience and event, you promote it properly and give it a modern twist, then yes, selling books could actually be a rewarding job!
I was expecting an ok turn out, but not that amount of people: this was a genuine success, with people of all ages happily milling around the stalls, browsing, BUYING BOOKS from independent booksellers (including one of my favourite bookshops, The Sanctuary Bookshop in Lyme Regis).
There was something for everyone, from nature writing to children's books to radical volumes, new and pre-loved...
The place was positively buzzing! The Old Riding School is such a fantastic space!
As we left, we noticed that there actually was a queue to get in!
And you know what?
I think Arcane Publishing (and our developing book-selling arm, Arcane Books) would fit right in... ;-)
The big bonus is that after having browsed all the stalls and bought some food for your mind (books) and food for your belly (of course, you can purchase yummy food and drinks within The Book Market space), you can wander around the grounds and spend some time admiring the building and the location - the grounds spread up to the River Exe. The Deer Park is populated by hundreds of deer, a graceful addition to the peaceful setting.
The castle itself really is delightful, full of lovely little details...
Something strange happened though: as I reached the top of the stone stairs leading to the Rose Garden, I was suddenly seized by an odd "déjà vu" sensation... The castle... The towers... The roses... The gravel... and yes, even the sundial! I had basically just stepped inside a scene of one of my novels, The Book of Thoth! I was standing in the Rose Garden at Whitemoor Hall, waiting for Lady Chronos to appear via the French windows! It felt rather thrilling...
I have a lot of catching up to do with one of my favourite authors, Christopher Fowler.
If you haven't read any of his Bryant & May series, do yourself a favour and go and read all of them!
Arthur Bryant is my favourite fiction character of all times...
As I prepare to ramp up our promotional activity, I have at last opened an Instagram account!
It might take a while for me to start posting content as I am not used to doing everything on a phone and would much prefer to be able to upload my content from my computer instead...
Please bear with me, hopefully we'll have some lovely photos of books on there very soon!
I might even have a go at posting live from my next event next week if it is all confirmed...
Matt ArtPix and Arcane had a brilliant time at the Giant Shepton Flea yesterday, Sunday 30th May!
We got up at 4am and arrived back home at 6pm, but it was so worth it!
This was our first event for over a year, and we were lucky indeed with the weather: sunny but not too hot, a slight breeze... Just right!
This was probably our most successful event so far and we sold many of the splendid items we had brought with us and are on the pictures above and below. We are currently exploring a few more opportunities in Somerset, so watch this space!
I am already planning my stock for the next Giant Shepton Flea on July 18th. We will definitely be there if the weather holds and the third wave of the virus stays away!
This week, we will be busy organising the delivery of a massive amount of stock, of which later... We're keeping it under wrap at the moment, just in case we can't pull it off!
This summer promises to be busy for ArtPix and Arcane, with our unit at The Customs House in West Bay getting really busy now and our plotting for the next few months and the future...
I am also trying to complete the first draft of my third novel, The Right Place, so I can publish it on Arcane before the end of 2022, which is my new target date...
Here are a few more pictures of the stall yesterday:
What is this, I hear you say? An event? REALLY?
Arcane Publishing will be sharing a stall with the always fabulous Matt ArtPix this Sunday 30th May at The Giant Shepton Flea Market.
We'll bring some old stock we'd like to get rid off (books and ephemera) at fantastic prices!
Matt will have some great vintage items...
Some go and get your cash out and see you on Sunday!
Fingers crossed for the rain to stop...
Unfortunately, things being as they are, we do not have any other event booked so far but this might change in the forthcoming weeks!
But in the meantime, you can go to our unit at The Customs House in West Bay where we have some great items for sale (Matt's designs and Retro Football range and some pre-loved books!)
We have loads of plans for the future so watch out for news!
I haven't been able to work on The Right Place, my third novel, for many weeks now. It has become nearly impossible for me to concentrate on my writing, and it is not a nice feeling. But at the moment, writing is a luxury I can barely afford!
So this Bank Holiday, as the weather has decided to be rubbish and unstable, I will dedicate my time to writing my next scene, in which the characters can enjoy this very view...
The next two to three weeks will be crucial for the future of the novel and that of Arcane Publishing...
I will post an update in a couple of weeks...
I have just started it and I am entranced. It is absolutely marvellous... And it's already really helped me with my inspiration for The Right Place, as some sections of the book will be set in smugglers' tunnels...
When we want a peaceful walk close to our ArtPix/Arcane HQ, we head to the village of Langton Herring and its surroundings. You get some nice views over the hills towards the Hardy monument and West Dorset.
Our favourite bit is the South West Coast Path which follows the banks of the Fleet Lagoon behind Chesil Beach. It is a refuge for many species of birds and there never are many humans around.
It is a place full of quiet beauty and a pervading sense of melancholy; it suits us just fine!
The sky was quite spectacular in places and we encountered a couple of sleet showers!
The landscape at this time of year still feels wintery compared to previous years, and the rapeseed, gorse and hawthorn flowers add some welcome touches of colour.
It’s not a secret that the past year has not been kind to my writing. Yes, successive lockdowns have kept us at home and you would have thought that writers would be having their most productive year so far. But things do not work like that. Not at all.
As a writer, I need a clear, uncluttered mind deprived of external worries and anxieties. I am an indie writer and publisher, which means that I do not get advances and I pay for everything (websites, printing of books, promotion, market stalls, etc.)
It comes as no surprise that the past year has brought many obstacles and upheavals into our lives, and this has brutally disrupted my creative process. Back in January, I had made an important decision about my professional life and just as lockdown came into effect, I had just found the perfect balance and was looking forward to an exciting and productive spring and summer season full of events, explorations and projects. Everything came crashing down.
Still, with a lot of will power, I managed to make some kind of progress on The Right Place here and there over the summer months. But oh, how excruciatingly slow it all was!
Being stuck in the house and restricted to our local area on Portland hasn’t been ideal either: I moved to Dorset four years ago in order to write books inspired by the landscape, atmosphere and history of the county. Not being able to actually explore the hills and paths of deepest Dorset and soak up the atmosphere of the county’s countryside has really made writing difficult. Many times, I have felt defeated and unable to carry on with the book. Was it something worth pursuing anyway? After all, did it really matter?
I am still fighting every day to convince myself that completing the book and getting it publish is worth it. I have plans for at least two other novels, hopefully more, and writing novels is indeed my favourite job in the whole world. But, if I am being honest, spending hours writing books doesn’t pay the bills…
So I have plans for later in the year, including starting a “proper” online shop for my published books and also for the pre-loved, vintage and rare books I have to sell, but the development of this project will depend on what’s happening with the day job. So everything is up in the air.
Still, shops deemed “non-essential” are reopening next week – and that includes our unit at The Customs House in West Bay, and there is a glimpse of hope for a few events to go ahead over the summer… More on that nearer the time!
The good news though is that we now can start exploring the Dorset countryside again, and it feels marvellous!
Yesterday, we headed to a place which I’ve been meaning to explore for a while, the area beyond Eggardon Hill around West Milton and Powerstock.
Now, if you read this blog regularly (?), you'd know that I love a good holloway (here's an excellent blog by The Dorset Rambler about holloways) as much as the writers Geoffrey Household (author of Rogue Male) and Robert Mcfarlane. The holloway which will feature in my fourth novel is Hell Lane in Symondsbury near Bridport.
Yesterday, we walked along another sunken path, the hollow lane which travels north from West Milton. According to Louise Hodgson's Secret Places of West Dorset, this particular holloway is haunted by a funeral cortege "said to wind its ghastly way along this age-old track, lighting the track with sepulchral glow, seen only by night creatures."
We didn't encounter any ghostly funeral cortege but did have to stand aside in the narrow lane to let a noisy group of scrambler bikes pass (completely spoiling the utter peacefulness of the area).
This really is the deep Dorset countryside: an ancient, atmospheric, unique place with lush greenery and unspoilt villages. The landscape does possess the edge of a pre-Christian world and the otherworldly beauty of some kind of fantastical kingdom. I was looking for an escape from the pandemic and this walk definitely did the trick.
I think therefore I write.
All Art Books Cinema Culture Events Idea Ideas Inspiration Inspirations Literature Music People Places Promo Publishing Reading Reviews Self Publishing Self Publishing Self-publishing Society Theatre Thoughts Working Work In Progress Work In Progress Writing Writings