In September, I will read an extract of my second novel, The Book of Thoth, at a gathering of local artists and writers.
This would be the third reading I've ever done.
I have an issue with public speaking. Hell, I am a writer, after all, happy being alone in my corner. I could spend days on end not talking to anyone and it wouldn't bother me.
But these days, if you are a writer, readings are an integral part of the job, so I cannot get out of it. I will get used to it, I guess.
I always tell myself that it cannot be worse than trying to teach a class of 35 brats as I did when I was a teacher. Still. It hasn't cured me from my loathing of public speaking!
I have now selected six extracts of the book, and I will ask Matt ArtPix to help me get down to THE ONE.
Dickens was famously excellent at giving readings. I could try and emulate him, I guess...
I had a great day at So Vintage London at Old Spitalfields market yesterday. The truth is that this is probably my favourite market!
The logistics are incredibly easy (get into car/A13/arrive), you get a buzz the whole day because you are in the middle of that fabulous city that is London.
The Arcane Publishing/Matt ArtPix pitch was fantastic, with a lot of space to get creative with our tables and create a colourful and attractive stall. We had changed the layout of the stalls and we had tweaked our stock - and we had a lot of interest, people really looked and browsed and even asked us when we'd be back, which is fantastic.
Unfortunately, I cannot post any pictures of the day as I HAD FORGOTTEN MY CAMERA! But trust me, the stalls looked fab.
I now need to stock up on more books about vintage fashion and classic icons - my "Marilyn Monroe in fashion" book lasted less than an hour on the stall!
We hope to be back at Old Spitalfields market on November 1st (we booked some holidays and a local event ages ago for September and October!).
But I have been discussing the possibility of getting a monthly slot at Old Spitalfields with Matt ArtPix in order to build up an audience/custom from 2015. Watch this space!
Last Saturday, I worked at Village Green, Southend's ever expanding music and arts festival in Southend. It was a rather fab and exhausting day. I admit to feeling something akin to my wristbands (below) on the Sunday: a bit crumpled and battered; but I am really pleased to have been part of it.
There are pros and cons about working at an event: you get sucked up in the intensity of it and are surrounded by talented people the whole day, BUT you do not get to see much...
I didn't mind one bit though, as I was exactly where I wanted to be anyway: the Dragnet tent, the 40s crime/mystery/literary tent curated by authors Syd Moore, Travis Elborough and Cathi Unsworth.
I feel very privileged indeed to have spent the whole day surrounded by so many inspiring, inspired and talented writers and musicians who were clearly passionate about what they were doing - and yes, my antisocial tendencies have been challenged big time, but one has to try!
Everything went smoothly and the atmosphere was really friendly and relaxed. During the breaks, we were entertained by great retro music spinned for us by Travis Elborough and Max Décharné.
As I was kept busy the whole day and could only catch one or two minutes of the talks and readings here and there - although thankfully, I managed to catch the whole of the Sohemian Society Players' play and of The Cesarians' set - this blog will be dominated by images rather than words.
Someone mentioned the inside of the beautiful tent as looking like a church with its stained-glass windows - and indeed it did! Someone else - I think it was our very efficient stage manager Jo Tyler - mentioned it as being "a little oasis of calm" in the middle of the frenzy of the big event!
An oasis of calm indeed on the surface - the Dragnet tent resonated the whole day with the tales of bygone mysteries, murderous deeds and shady characters...
Here are Cathi and Travis starting off the proceedings with a discussion about crime fiction and the seaside.
The poet Benedict Newbery went back in time in verse...
Anna Whitwham read the opening chapter of her gritty debut novel, Boxer Handsome, and talked to Ann Scanlon.
The very charismatic Max Décharné took the audience on a journey from the pages of classic pulp fiction books to Noir movies.
I purchased his book "Straight From the Fridge, Dad" from the bookshop next door and got it signed, nice!
Also from the bookshop stalls, my partner in crime Matt Artpix acquired some great pulp fiction books!
Back on stage, Lilian Puzzichini discussed outcasts and memoirs with Travis Elborough.
The Sohemian Society Players (Duncan Bolt, Emma Brown and Callum Coates) enchanted us with "A Drop of Tea with Acid", a murder mystery written by Marc-Henri Glendening and delivered with glee in perfect retro BBC accents. An extra layer of atmosphere was added by violinist Sophie Loyer.
A real delight!
At the end of the day, I rescued a worse for wear script of the play that had been abandoned in the Green Room...
I am keeping it in my archives (and I'm going to read it properly too of course!).
I love this picture! Syd Moore is sadly missing here, but she was busy doing all the press for Village Green!
Paul Willetts, in conversation with Marc Glendening, described how 1940s London was quite different to the one we imagine with our rose-tinted 21st century nostalgia - it was full of gangs!
Outside the tent, we came across Captain Blackadder - who was giving out flyers for the run of Blackadder Goes Forth at the Palace Theatre later this month!
Back inside, Mark Pilkington and Syd Moore took us to meet Essex witches and the perverse Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins.
Here are Iain Sinclair and Cathi Unsworth deep in conversation!
If you want your music to have a sense of drama, great lashings of panache, a seductive and self-destructive edge and you don't mind treading on the dark side of the human psyche, then you should see The Cesarians live.
They really gave everything they had on Saturday and absolutely rocked the Dragnet tent with their unique blend of demonic rock'n'roll cabaret - singer Charlie Finke did look possessed - creating the perfect collision between intellect, modernity, rawness and old-fashioned sophistication and decadence. I had seen them in London before, but this performance inside that Dragnet tent really was something.
This first Dragnet was a pilot for a potential weekender next year. This mixture of vintage crime, literature and music, mystery, noir references and shadowy goings-on is a winning formula; we therefore demand more!
(All pictures by Carya Gish)
I am off to carry on reading Christopher Fowler's "The Bleeding Heart", the latest in his terrific Bryant and May series. Will London's most unlikely pair of ageing detectives make an appearance at the next Dragnet? One can only speculate!
Read my interview with poet and indie publisher Steve Pottinger HERE. It's a great read, I promise!
I now have an author page on the Squid Publishing Inc website! I am thrilled to be in such good company: Ignite Books, Steve Pottinger and Joolz Denby are on there as well!
Draft 4 of The Book of Thoth has been a bit neglected today but I am now going back to it!
WARNING: VERY LONG BLOG!
Well, this was a hell of a week! After a relatively quiet winter, things have picked up on the culture front.
Last Tuesday, we were off to the lovely Theatre Royal Stratford East to see the new version of Oh! What a Lovely War. I do hate musicals with a passion and would have to be dragged to one kicking and screaming, but I knew that this one would be different.
Highly satirical and poignant, it highlights the absurdity of the "war game(s)" and that of the military - not forgetting how naive the civilian population can sometimes be. The play has been visually freshened up and you have to admire the cast's energy and hard work. Note to Michael Gove: maybe you should have shut up before you criticised the play as you now appear at the beginning of it paired up with a donkey... Just sayin'...
For a more comprehensive review of the show, go to my partner's Matt ArtPix's BLOG - he has been studying WW1 for years and is better placed than me to give his opinion about the show.
On Wednesday, we were off to a venue we had never been to, Village Underground in Shoreditch, to see the infamous Laibach - whom we have seen before on numerous occasions! The Slovakian "avant-garde" art collective - whose main body of work concentrates on the links and interaction between ideology and culture - keep reinventing themselves with each project; their latest one, Spectre, is a brilliant, addictive collection of multi-layered tracks sung in English - a bit less industrial, a little bit more electro, with "quasi-pop" moments...
Laibach have always been exceptional live and tonight's sold out gig didn't disappoint: the background visuals were striking; the live drums added impact to each and every track; Milan's presence was as impressive and authoritative as ever, his deep-seated, sonorous voice counter-balanced by the mysterious and charismatic Mina Spiler's clear, pitch-perfect vocals. Mina's place within the band has really grown; she now fully shares vocal duties with Milan (she is also given writing credits in Spectre) and exudes the confidence and attitude necessary for such a performance (she fronts her own band, Melodrom).
The first 45 minutes saw the band play the whole of Spectre, revealing the genius of the new songs to their attentive audience. Then after a 15 mn interval, we got something completely different: a few tracks from their Iron Sky soundtrack with the movie's stunning visuals playing on the screens behind; we were also treated to everyone's favourite, "Tanz Mit Laibach", and of course to a few deconstructed covers, including Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man" and Serge Gainsbourg's "Love On The Beat". As someone who absolutely loathe both individuals and their work, I was first taken aback by the choice of songs, but then I remembered that this is what Laibach do: they take the most absurd popular songs and give them the Laibach treatment: they redefine them entirely by reshaping and remodelling them through the industrial filter, injecting them with the harshness and the edge they never had and pumping a little bit of life into them. Fabulous.
Saturday, we were in London for the Classic car boot sale at Southbank, organised by Vintage By Hemingway. The weather was glorious and the place was packed with loads of cool and happy people, wonderful cars and jam-packed stalls; the atmosphere was lovely and the location iconic... What else is there to say?
Here are a few pictures!
We made a detour via The British Museum to get tickets for The Vikings exhibition... Yesss!
Then we ended up at The Barbican cinema to see Under The Skin...
I have been waiting to see this movie for MONTHS.
Michel Faber is my favourite author, and I really wondered how on earth his unforgettable novel could be turned into a movie.
I am still thinking about it; as my partner said when the lights went back up after the film: "I didn't want it to end".
And I felt the same: it is truly mesmerising and gripping. It's bleak and unforgiving. There is very little dialogue; the music is brooding, distorted, haunting, basically: perfect... (soundtrack by Mica Levi). Scarlett Johansson, whom I have always thought of as being interesting as well as stunning, is deeply touching; a naturally fatale femme... (I have always been interested in the Femme Fatale concept; they are always the most interesting ones, remember Louise Brooks's Lulu?).
Director Jonathan Glazer has removed a lot of the original story and changed quite a few things around; he has - dare I say it in the context of the novel? - removed the meat and kept only the skeleton of the story - but said skeleton is what keeps the body upright, isn't it? - Same here. Spared down to the minimum - namely, the alien and her reaction to the world around her, with a setting transported from the rural A9 road in the book to the decaying urban landscape of Glasgow.
I was fascinated by the sequences in which the alien observes the strange behaviour of the humans around her - how many times have I found myself in the streets, in a venue, or simply in the same room as other people and thought that I didn't belong to the same world or species? My strong misanthropic streak made me feel completely at ease watching Under The Skin. It looked like the landscape in my head...
I couldn't say whether Under The Skin is technically a good movie; I go for gut instinct, and I loved it.
Tonight, I'm off to see the bonkers The Grand Budapest Hotel. This should be a fun evening!
Pictures by Carya Gish and Matt ArtPix.
I sometimes become a stallholder and attend fairs and markets with my partner and Arcane Publishing designer Matt ArtPix .
Our first event of 2014 is taking place THIS SUNDAY on home turf in Southend!
I will have a few copies of I Am a Muse for sale at the event and will be promoting my next novel, The Book of Thoth.
For this fair, we will be concentrating on classic cinema and icons, as well as fashion, here's the stock of second-hand books I will have with me at the event!.
Then Sunday 9th March, we will be in Bexleyheath in London, more details soon!
2014 is the year we start trading in London more often!
Whilst editing, I am listening to the NO DEAD SEAS: NO RED SEAS VOL II compilation which you can purchase HERE.
Compiled and conceived by musicians Lesley Malone and Caroline Jago, the compilation features artists from eleven countries.
This compilation has been put together in support of the fight against over-fishing and it raises awareness of the urgent need to protect our oceans and their wildlife. This is an incredibly atmospheric, beautiful and inspiring compilation, and its mood is absolutely perfect as a background for the editing of my novel!
I have almost finished Draft 2 of The Book of Thoth. Draft 2 should be finished by the end of this week.
Next step for me is the re-read everything from the first to the last page without making any corrections, to check whether the narrative flows, whether the story is easy to follow and makes sense...
The Book of Thoth is a Gothic novel inspired by Wilkie Collins's work, and therefore it is not meant to be scary, but rather atmospheric and mysterious.
I loathe seeking permissions.
In my previous job as senior editor for an educational publishing company, I spent over six months chasing up people, invoices, copyright lines, even got threatened by some venal French hippies (!). So when I became a freelancer, I decided that I wouldn't do any permissions. My sister though was brave enough to take up the title of "permission editor" and has been working on quite a few things over the past few years.
When I decided to include the lyrics of the PJ Harvey song "The Wind" in my third book, The Right Place, I first thought that it was a terrific idea, as I got the inspiration for the book partly from the lyrics...
My sister has been given the job to seek permission to print the lyrics, and I am waiting with trepidation to hear about the results of her work. In the meantime though, I've found this EDIFYING ARTICLE ABOUT THE COST OF QUOTING LYRICS IN A NOVEL and it's made me slightly worried. Especially the bit below:
I still have the invoices. For one line of "Jumpin' Jack Flash": £500. For one line of Oasis's "Wonderwall": £535. For one line of "When I'm Sixty-four": £735. For two lines of "I Shot the Sheriff" (words and music by Bob Marley, though in my head it was the Eric Clapton version): £1,000. Plus several more, of which only George Michael's "Fastlove" came in under £200. Plus VAT. Total cost: £4,401.75. A typical advance for a literary novel by a first-time author would barely meet the cost.
I am an indie author who publishes her books on her own indie imprint in print runs of about 100 copies, and there is no way I can afford that kind of fee. For The Right Place, I am going to apply for an Arts Council grant, but the chances of my getting it are pretty slim...
I wanted the permission to print the whole song, and if too expensive, just a few lines, but even that might prove to be too prohibitive...
I think therefore I write.
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