I am making slow progress on draft 1 of The Right Place, but unfortunately, it looks like I will need to push the pub date back further into early 2024... I need to get it right, and this will require time...
I am also thinking more and more about my fourth novel, Hell Lane: A Barton Stacey Mystery... I have been getting research material! More about this one later...
(WARNING: this is not a gig review!)
London! Our former home! We were back there for the first time in ages on Thursday for a very special gig.
It felt very, very strange indeed to walk around the West End - as if we had never left, as if those years in Dorset had never happened... It was slightly trippy!
But also, looking around at all the people surrounding us, we thought "this is their London now, not ours", although most of the people we saw on Thursday were tourists. And, as we spent quite a bit of time not far from Whitehall, we came across loads of civil servants... Funny how you can just spot them among the crowds...
It was all a bit bittersweet.
London has changed. It has morphed, as it's always done.
Only I'm not sure it's changing for the better, but who am I to say?
It's becoming more and more all glass and steel, sanitised. And then, when you step outside of the main roads, you catch glimpses of the old London, full of stories and character...
I keep hearing and reading about venues disappearing, people on good salaries not being able to afford to live there (it was already like that when I was there... Thinking about the living conditions I had to endure all these years make me shudder...) But we do not live there anymore and we don't know what's happening under the surface...
So London is not my home anymore but...
Yet, it did feel like home, strangely.
I don't think I could stand to be surrounded by so many people anymore. And I'd miss the open sea...
We tried to stick to the green (VERY yellow at the moment) spaces. We wandered around and observed people coming and going. My writer's imagination was stimulated every single minute - I'm used to observing people and making up stories about them in my head.
My fifth novel will be set in the capital and I couldn't help thinking about it as I sat there, surrounded by office workers and tourists from all around the world. So much material! I can't wait to get started... But I have two novels to write and publish before I get to this one!
We walked past the brilliant actor Bill Nighy on a pedestrian crossing - he was coming out of Green Park with a book in his hand... I love his work in movies and radio, so this was a extra special treat.
We took refuge for a few minutes in Duck Island Cottage in St James' Park- it was like being back in Dorset in the middle of London!
When we first moved to Dorset five and a half years ago, it was relatively easy to get into London for gigs (we had found a cheeky little free parking area in zone 1 for weekend gigs). But then things got a bit more complicated and it's no longer that convenient or cheap to drive into the capital (and no, not going to go by train, the line is incredibly unreliable).
Add to this the pandemic and the cost of living crisis... Sadly, going to London for a gig is not really something we can do very often... BUT this was such a special occasion that we bought the tickets and decided not to look too closely at the expenses.
And it was all worth it.
I've been in a bit of a creative lurch recently - struggling to find the motivation to complete the first draft of my third novel. And when I'm stuck, I look for inspiration in other writers' books and in music.
For some reason, I had never seen Miranda Sex Garden live before. They disbanded in 2000, which is the year I started writing for music magazines, but I was aware of various bands associated with them. I've seen Katharine Blake's Mediaeval Baebes many times on stage over the years and have been following her career quite closely - she is a true musical genius and force of nature. More recently, I have been very interested in the project she has started with her partner Michael J. York, The Witching Tale. My hope is for them to do a gig in Glastonbury where they are based - it wouldn't be too far for us to drive and would be the perfect environment for their unique songs to be played.
When I saw the announcement for the gig, I didn't hesitate and I pounced on the tickets. I was not going to miss this opportunity!
A big sense of anticipation built up online ahead of the event, and now I feel immensely privileged to have been at the venue to witness this reunion gig. It was very, very special.
It was a very intense performance: dramatic, filmic, loud, eerie, unsettling, seductive, lustful, joyful and obviously emotional for all involved.
The evening started with Timo C. Engel's Bleedingblackwood project: beautifully dark, intriguing and unique, the set was very short (about 20 minutes) and he left us wanting more! Goosebumps all around. Here are two half-decent pictures of Bleedingblackwood.
When I started writing reviews for magazines, I bought myself a good camera worthy of all the press passes I accumulated over the years. I've taken hundreds of pictures to go with my articles...
Now though, I have to make do with my (old) phone which cannot take low light or movement. I will probably have to change it at some point soon and will make it my mission to find the cheapest deal for a phone with a good camera - I'll need it when I open my online bookshop to take professional-looking stock photos!
Miranda Sex Garden's set was simply mesmerising. I didn't manage to take great pictures of the whole band but I've added my best photos of the evening, mostly of Katharine Blake.
You can see the fantastic band members - original members Trevor Sharpe on drums, Teresa Casella on bass and Mike Servent on keyboards, with the great addition of the superb Kavus Torabi and Bev Lee Harding (who was terrific on the violin) - in action in some brilliant videos which have now been posted online by other punters. Enjoy...
I finally managed to spend some time in Abbotsbury again yesterday to research my third novel The Right Place - the usually verdant landscape seen from the top of Chapel Hill is now scorched to yellow hay!
I have been struggling to write/find my writing mojo over the past few months but a visit to Abbotsbury always helps. As I walked around, I retraced the steps of my characters and I reminded myself that fighting to complete the novel would always be worth it!
I am happy with the scenes I have written so far in and around the chapel, and I am planning a big important scene at night on top of the hill!
Only 6 months left on my schedule to complete draft 1!
Back in 2015, we went to see the Eric Ravilious exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and it is one of my favourite exhibitions of all time (and I have been to many!). To think that his name and his art had been forgotten for several decades is outrageous. He definitely is one of the great English artists (painter, designer, engraver and war artist) and his work deserves to be rediscovered. I love his paintings but I also adore his Black and white wood engraving images. When I first heard about Margy Kinmonth's movie Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War, I know I had to go and see it, but I was doubtful that it would be shown close to where we live on the Dorset coast. Thankfully, The Rex Cinema in Wareham appeared on the list! Obviously, to have been able to go to one of the Q&As would have been even better (especially one with one of my favourite writers, Robert Mcfarlane, as one of the guest speakers).
The film, retracing his steps from Eastbourne to Finland, is incredibly poignant and thought-provoking; one cannot help thinking about what amazing art Eric Ravilious could have contributed if he hadn't died at 39...
We moved to Dorset a little over 5 years ago and hadn't gone to The Rex before - what a discovery! The Rex cinema Wareham is one of the oldest cinemas in the country and has been lovingly restored to its 1920s glory. So many classic films posters, ephemera, classic stars... And the best loos ever, with lifesize pictures of Hollywood stars Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe (apologies for the bad picture, I was hurrying up!).
My passion for classic Hollywood movies started in my early childhood (I knew all the stars' names by the age of 10!) and I have never stopped studying it (the studios, the stars, the early cinema industry and, of course, the movies, which I still watch regularly - there are so many I still haven't seen!). Classic cinema books take a big section of my stock of pre-loved, vintage and rare books!
Here are the gorgeous lobby card displays... Oh, to be able to take them home!!!
We finally made it to the wonderful Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum in Bournemouth yesterday five years after having moved to Dorset! No rush! It is an extraordinary place with fascinating pieces of art everywhere, and a Sir Henry Irving room which was a bonus (I based the character of Dimitri's dad in my second novel The Book of Thoth on Henry Irving, and in the book, the former actress Sophia Chronos is a hybrid of several people including Ellen Terry!) To think that a large part of the collection is in storage as there is not enough space to display everything is staggering. Another extra bonus was that the museum also hosts The Lost Words exhibition until September, an enthralling experience with words by Robert Macfarlane (he is one of my favourite writers and therefore I was thrilled to see his notebooks!) and the stupendously gorgeous paintings by Jackie Morris. I am a big admirer of both so was in heaven. What a place! I now need to find the time to read more about Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes, the incredible owners of the house.
An inspiring day!
There is a blog up on the Arcane Publishing website with pictures from our day yesterday in Exeter for Word Play!
Watch out for more event announcements soon!
This Saturday 2nd July, I will be in Exeter selling wonderful vintage and pre-loved children's books at Word Play, an event organised by Markets in Exeter and located at The Positive Lights Project.
For loads of pictures of what will be on the Arcane Publishing stall on the day, go HERE.
Things have been very busy work wise so far this year and it will pick up again in a couple of weeks. I am not sure how much time I will be able to dedicate to the manuscript, and I am sorry to say that The Right Place hasn't progressed that much since last August. Previously, the pandemic had had a negative impact on my writing, although I did manage to add a few thousand words to the first draft. "Loss of mojo" is what the writer Christopher Fowler calls it, or Real Life Gets In The Way, as I call it. Now, the cost of living crisis has made it increasingly difficult to justify spending weeks on end working on my third book, but I am keeping my schedule as it is at the moment (with a pub date of late 2023) as I might be able to fit writing better in my new working schedule - I will be working from home for the foreseeable future, which is bliss! But it is freelance, and of course, always precarious!
It is still my intention to open an Arcane Publishing online shop to sell my novels and the HUGE stock of pre-loved, vintage and rare books I have in my stock.
Let's see how it goes.
All I know is that I won't give up and will keep developing Arcane and writing my books - even if it means one book published every twenty years or so...
In the meantime, I hope to be able to post about more events for Arcane Publishing over the next few weeks! And I might post about a few music events I'll be going to as well... It's been too long...
Watch this space!
Last Friday, I delivered copies of my two novels, I Am a Muse and The Book of Thoth to the bookshop at Athelhampton House near Dorchester, in my adopted county of Dorset. This is such an honour and for me, a dream come true, in a way. Growing up in a small town in the middle of France, I was in love with (English) manor houses and castles, books and the English language. Now I am the author and publisher of two novels in English which are on sale in a Tudor manor house! Result!
The current owner of the house, Giles Keating, is himself an author and has written the first in a series of historical books for young readers inspired by the history of the house (read more about Anne of Athelhampton HERE). Of course, the building has links to local literary hero Thomas Hardy, born almost literally round the corner from the house. Hardy was a frequent visitor to the house and was there for dinner when WWI was declared. Hardy wrote his poem “The Dame of Athelhall” about Athelhampton House.
This beautiful historic house is in many ways the ideal home for my books. It has had a long and eventful history, enough to inspire many novels!
I Am a Muse is a book about art and artists, and the house has many links to creative, literary and artistic endeavour. Between 1949 and 1957, it was the home of the dancer and actress Marika Rivera who had married the publisher Rodney Phillips and had trained under the famous pioneer of modern dance Isadora Duncan. Marika was the (estranged) daughter of the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera, but it is her mother, the prolific Russian painter Marevna, whose presence brought a genuine artistic cachet to the estate. Before moving to Athelhampton with her daughter, Marevna had been part of the Parisian artistic community in the Montparnasse neighbourhood where she befriended and worked with many famous artists and writers in the 1910s and 1920s, including Braque, Chagall, Cocteau, Gorki, Max Jacob, Léger, Matisse, Modigliani and Picasso among others.
I was then thrilled to see several pictures of Marika taken at Athelhampton by one of my favourite photographers, Angus McBean! Below is one of the pictures in the series taken by Angus McBean at Athelhampton. Credit: ARTSY.NET
Before the Phillips owned the house, it was purchased in 1929 by newspaper magnate Lord Rothermere for this ex-daughter-in-law, the beautiful Mrs Harmsworth, who invited a string of glamorous and talented individuals to stay with her at her rural retreat, including Noël Coward, Douglas Fairbanks and many more… This most glamourous of owners brought art deco (and electricity!) to the house, and you can still see her bedroom kitted out in that style then you visit the house.
But I do believe that out of my two novels, The Book of Thoth is probably the one most at home there. Whitemoor Hall, the main location of the book, is a manor house with a murky past… Just like Athelhampton House, it has a Great Hall and monumental fireplaces, service stairs, dark corridors, wood panelling, a rose garden with sun dials and, crucially, GHOSTS!
On Friday, we were invited to visit the house and gardens and stayed for hours – there are too many beautiful and interesting details in every corner of the house to mention – but I have to mention The Library. I just fell in love with it, and we spent over 30mn looking at the spine of all the amazing vintage and antique volumes on the shelves.
It was difficult to resist picking up the books and leafing through them! I could easily have spent the whole day in there, and therefore, I’ve decided to use the library at Athelhampton as inspiration for that of Genius Loci, the manor house in my work-in-progress The Right Place (oh yes, I love a manor house, and therefore there’s also one in my third book!)
Unfortunately, my phone is old and capricious and I couldn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked as my storage filled up rather quickly… You will have to visit the house yourself to really appreciate the building and get your imagination fired up by the history of this most beautiful building… Mine certainly was!
After two and a half years of lockdowns and playing hide and seek with a virus, it is a strange feeling to feel like things are moving again in the right direction, albeit slowly and in challenging conditions (there's a war on a cost of living crisis, which is never good for people who trade in "non-essentials"... selling books is very, very challenging!)
In other news, I have picked up the manuscript of The Right Place again and intend on completing Draft 1 on schedule by the end of December 2022...
I have also been looking for events to trade at - promoting my books and Arcane Publishing and selling some of my pre-loved, vintage and rare books... Watch this space, I might be able to make some announcements soon!
I think therefore I write.
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