Designer and typesetter Matt ArtPix has drawn a map of Whitemoor Hall, where the action of my second novel The Book of Thoth is set. He has used my own very badly done map of the estate (I used it to write the book as the characters move around the place quite a lot!).
Also, Dimitri, the 11-year-old boy who is one of the main characters of the book, is obsessively drawing a map of the house, so we thought it would be a nice touch to insert a map in the prelims.
I think it is rather cute and clearly shows the main elements featured in the story.
Matt ArtPix has been hard at work on Part I of The Book of Thoth, trying things out... It does look good... A few tweaks required but we're there, really! I am extremely pleased with the look of it!
I have just realised that I've never posted that blog about animals! So here it is: just a few pictures of animals Matt ArtPix took in France...
Here's a cute donkey who lives near the Faillitoux waterfall and who likes Vichy mints. Crunch, crunch!
Here's the waterfall!
Also on the way to the waterfall, we met a graceful foal...
The Salers area of Cantal is well-known for its cows called "the Salers". They are impressive beasts. Most of them still wear the heavy-looking bells that ring all around the valleys of the region.
These are lucky cows... Look at the landscape!
I love that shot... Typical of the region!
Beautiful wild horses and their playful young.
And these two cats were having a lazy afternoon on some stairs...
All pictures (c) Matt ArtPix
I know, I know...
I am still working on the editing of Book number two, I have written only one chapter of Book number three and I haven't really done any work at all on Book number four...
And then up pops the idea for Book number five!
After an animated conversation in the car with Matt ArtPix - those pesky creative couples, always bouncing ideas off each other all the time! - whilst on our way back from Devon, here's what I have come up with: a Hound of The Baskervilles-inspired vintage mystery set on moody Exmoor, with a rural detective named Barton Stacey - it is the name of a parish in Hampshire. When my partner saw it on the map, he decided here and there that it was the perfect name for a detective! I have no idea whatsoever whether I can pull it off or not. I want it to be a bit outrageous, a bit humorous (can I do humour?) and we'll have a cover inspired by vintage classic detective novels...
I have my work schedule sorted for the next ten years, I think!
Author Neil Gaiman gave a lecture at the Reading Agency on 14th October. An edited version of that lecture has been made available on The Guardian's website.
It is essential reading: a passionate, poignant, rousing, intelligent plea for books, fiction, literacy, libraries and imagination. Everything is in there. Our uncultured and boorish politicians should be MADE to read it. Below, I have reproduced my favourite bits - although the whole thing is my favourite bit really...
Some of these quotes remind me of the child and teenager I was - an avid reader with a wild imagination, desperate to live somewhere else, to experience something else, knowing there was more to life than what I could see around me. Books and the ambition of becoming a writer have pushed me, have made me study hard and stay focused, curious, inquisitive, interested. They saved me in my (numerous) hours of need... Here's to books and fiction...
Neil Gaiman on The Guardian
Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end … that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading.
When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed.
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn't you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with (and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.
I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.
Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.
According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, England is the "only country where the oldest age group has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest group, after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic backgrounds and type of occupations are taken into account".
We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.
Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all.
And so I am back from my fortnight in Dorset, more convinced than ever that it is the right place for me. My heart absolutely broke when I left, but made me all the more determined to work hard in order to finally be able to move there. If you want to know why, then go and have a look at Matt ArtPix's amazing PICTURE BLOG with some of the pictures he took during our fortnight in Dorset...
I have brought back with me some amazing treasures, not least a lot of energy and inspiration for the next few months, which will be all about developing Arcane Publishing and its publishing schedule, finishing the first draft of The Book of Thoth - and working on the follow-up drafts - preparing my appearance at the Shorelines Festival in November and planning ahead for 2014, the year in which Arcane Publishing and Matt ArtPix will be trading in London more often.
There will be a series of Dorset blogs in the next few days and weeks.
This one is a quick one showing some of the amazing things I have got my hands on during my time away... Some will be for sale, some I will keep...
1968 Fashion portfolio:
My wallet suffered a blow, but I just couldn't leave these behind.
This is the portfolio belonging to a fashion student who studied at the West Sussex College of Art in 1968 - there is a dated project brief included in the pile of sketches. I have googled the name of the student, but couldn't find anything, unfortunately... I would love to know whether she succeeded in her fashion career!
The portfolio covers evening wear, day wear, coats, pyjamas, suits... It is absolutely extraordinary in its detail: most pages feature a detailed description of the garments and some even have the sample material stapled to the paper.
If a fashion designer got it, they would be able to produce a whole - genuine! - 1968 collection... It is truly fascinating...
There are 120 pages of sketches! (Click on the pictures to enlarge).
Part of the pile was also a scrapbook - supposedly from the same fashion student - with fabulous fashion pictures taken from 60s/70s magazines.
And now onto books:
A fine first English edition (1977) of Rita Hayworth: The Time, The Place and The Woman by the legendary John Kobal. It is signed in the year of publication!
My personal favourite: a gorgeous 1920 sheet music... I didn't find a lot about it - just THIS.
A lovely 1979 illustrated biography of PG Wodehouse.
Some great film annuals (1958 and 1949 respectively!)
Edith Sitwell's autobiography (1965, I think I have a first edition!)
The promotional magazine for the ITV hit series Edward and Mrs Simpson (1978).
Last weekend, we spent a wonderful day in trendy and thriving Whitstable.
It was not our first time in the town (see my previous blog about it) nor was it our last! We are usually there in January for some reason, and it was great to see the town in the full swing of summer. It was transformed - although I do have a thing for seaside resorts in the winter; My favourite seasons for everything are autumn and winter!
They really seem to be doing the right things there, and I think Southend Council, who seems to have a total lack of imagination and creativity, should send a few spies to analyse what the small Kent town is doing right. Southend deserves so much better. There are a few clues as to how in the following paragraphs.
Their high street is full of a great variety of independent shops (i.e opportunities for local businesses). It is positively thriving.
The week-long Oyster festival had just come to an end, but it didn't feel like it: there was music, stalls, and the excellent Whitstable Harbour Village was open.
I really think Southend should consider doing its own seafront village: spaces available for small local businesses (most of them creative people: artisans, artists, small entrepreneurs... a flexible approach mixing fishermen's huts and cheaper stalls - we could have little colourful beach huts and stalls. The village is open every weekend and Bank Holidays from March to Christmas. With the amount of creatives in the area, this type of setting would be ideal on the seafront, which is full of cafes and places to eat but where there is nothing to see, really. I am sure visitors would love to have things to look at, browse and purchase, and us local creatives and small businesses who cannot afford to rent a shop would have a place to showcase and sell our work.
Who will take on the challenge?
The Tudor Tea Rooms are located in an absolutely gorgeous 17th Century building... It is lovely in there!
I think therefore I write.
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