Early autumn has been a bit of a challenge at ArtPix and Arcane towers, and in the midst of it all, we seem to have forgotten to pause and look around us: we moved to Dorset to explore the countryside and find inspiration, but the pull of "real life" has been stronger than anything else lately and we have not spent as much time as we'd wished walking around the stunning countryside of our newly adopted county.
Yesterday marked our return to "nature proper" and we have promised ourselves that we would allow more time to discover the landscape and history of Dorset this autumn and winter. There is still so much to see!
Dorset is a county like no other, and its landscape bears the marks (or scars?) of its history. Everywhere you go, and provided you possess a modicum of imagination and curiosity, you will stumble across something that will take you back hundreds (if not thousands) of years, will stimulate your imagination and creativity - sometimes, these will be man-made - at other times, it will be Nature itself, with all its beauty, danger and mystery...
So yesterday, we made our way to Black Down - a treeless, moody view point dominated by the austere Hardy Monument, a local landmark erected in 1844 in memory of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy (he participated in the Battle of Trafalgar, and Nelson died in his arms...). Up there, the views are stunning - although yesterday, unfortunately, the sky was dreadfully overcast... A warning for today's rain...
A lot of work had been happening on Black Down and it was really good to see how the landscape is being managed in order to maintain a healthy wildlife.
One way to manage the heathland on the Down has been the introduction of a stunning herd of Belted Galloway cattle. I call them the "Art Deco" cows: look at them! Aren't they amazing? The "Beltie" really is a gorgeous breed: their coat is thick and fluffy with extremely distinctive markings. They are growing in popularity and have their very own website HERE!
A new feature on Black Down is a new visitor car park and picnic area, complete with a fantastic work of art inspired by the ancient history of the place (more of which later).
For me, anything that celebrates ancient rituals and beliefs, strange natural phenomenons and "the eeriness of the English countryside" can only be a welcome asset to an area literally covered in reminders of dark and ancient times... Indeed, the South Dorset Ridgeway is called "The Land of Bone and Stone" (a fantastic title for a novel or an album, it hasn't escaped me, believe me!), due to the sheer number of Bronze age burial mounds, Iron age hill forts and other remnants of ancient history. It is very easy there to feel removed form the modern world and find oneself walking an ancestral landscape seemingly untouched by the ravages of so-called civilisation. What a place to be a writer...
Dorset seems to have acquired a new stone circle... A contemporary work of art by artist and architect Amanda Moore, the Black Down Stone Circle: five "totems" made of local Forest Marble stone with a Portland stone in the middle. One of the totems is aligned with the north and the other four with the midwinter/midsummer solstice sunrises and sunsets.
There is a multitude of paths to explore, taking in the stunning views of stretching to the sea... I will probably need to go back on a sunny, clear day to take pictures of the 360 degree views as yesterday was not a clear day!
The video below shows you the breathtaking beauty of the area.
Personally, I would have chosen a much darker, haunting and epic soundtrack...
Enjoy those very Halloween-ey videos by two of my favourite bands!
We often go to Lulworth Cove out of season as it is so close to our house; we have quite a few favourite places around there - including the range walks which are only opened at weekends, and yesterday, we discovered yet another one: Britwell Drive. We had often wondered about the big houses half-hidden behind their thick hedges on the bit of land jutting out into the sea (Dungy Head)... One of them, "Weston", is the only house in Dorset designed by Sir Edward Lutyens. And if, like me, you are into classic cinema, you will love the fact that apparently, Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh spent the first night of their honeymoon there in 1940...
As I am currently looking for inspiration for my third and fourth novels, I absorb small details like a sponge, and Britwell Drive provided me with a few ideas...
We will most certainly go back there over the autumn/winter as Dungy Head is the ideal vantage point from which to admire an angry sea...
"Stair House" (or the little bits I could see of it) has really caught my eye and will most certainly end up in my fourth novel, the Rural Noir novel Hell Lane. I am already using the OId Vicarage in Chaldon Herring as one of the main locations of the book, but it's always good to have a few extra options...
As fans of art deco, we couldn't help but drool over this fantastic property (called "Oswald", I guess after St Oswald's Bay which it overlooks...)
Imagine writing your novels in this conservatory, whatever the weather... There's nothing else but the sea in front of you... And no risk of any dreadful estate being built and spoiling your view!
I'll certainly be reporting from Britwell Drive again soon!
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!
I think therefore I write.
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