Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Magic

Tucked away in the Devon countryside is Killerton House – a gem of the National Trust – and at this time of year it is one of my favourite places to visit.

Every year in December they deck out the house for Christmas, tinsel and Christmas trees, baubles and lights. It’s a chance to be transported back in time to Christmases a hundred years ago, and it’s lovely.

This year the house was decorated to the theme of the Nutcracker, we had the land of sweets and a Russian and a Chinese room to stroll through. In the Russian room the tree was festooned with spoons. In the Chinese Room there was a large red dragon on the ceiling, and when you went upstairs you walked between wintery branches and silver lights. It was like walking into Narnia – and there was even a wardrobe that you could go through to get there.

But by far the best part was the roaring fire that greeted you when you first went into the house, seats set out for the visitors to sit on and soak up the warmth and admire the decorations, and, in the corner, around the piano, was a choir singing Christmas songs. Their voices swelled and filled the room and everyone gathered around the fire to watch and listen.

And even when the music stopped and the other people wandered off to explore the house, we sat on, by the fire, watching the glowing embers and wondering what sort of a Christmas the people who once lived here must have enjoyed.

Outside the rain was lashing and it was windy and bleak, brown fields, grey skies. But here in the warmth was a little piece of Christmas magic.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Books for Christmas

The festive season is upon us and for many this is a time for giving – and of course – what better to give than a book! Books really do make wonderful presents! So in order to help you make up your mind I would like to make a number of recommendations.

I’ll start by introducing you to my fellow Dorset authors, the Littoralis. We write in a variety of genres.

If you like romance then I suggest you check out Laura James’s books. Follow Me Follow You is her most recent.

For a charming fantasy inspired by the Isle of Portland then look no further than Kathy Sharp’s Isle of Larus and the sequel, Sea of Clouds.

For children’s books you won’t go wrong with Carol Hunt’s Portland Chronicles. There are four books in this series, the first being The Portland Sea Dragon.

But I won’t stop there. There’s one more recommendation I have to make – Bone Jack by Sara Crowe is a superb book – aimed at the Young Adult Market – but adults will enjoy it just as much – I know I did.


I could go on – but maybe you have some recommendations you would like to add?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Yeovil Literary Festival II

I have just returned from a brilliant couple of days up in Yeovil, where I have been participating in the second Yeovil Literary Festival. The festival has been amazing and I had a really fantastic time, catching up with old friends and immersing myself in all things literary!

In all I was involved with three events. The first was the Past Winners of the Yeovil Prize panel event on the Friday morning. The list of success stories continues to grow and this year it was lovely to be joined by several of the poetry winners. Here we all are. As you can see several of our winning books have now been published.


Winners of the Yeovil Prize, past and present.

In the evening I was the host for an ‘In Conversation With” event, and the lovely gentleman I was asked to host was Jason Hewitt, debut author, whose novel, The Dynamite Room is simply superb.


In conversation with Jason Hewitt

And then, the next day it was off to the library, to run a writing workshop for a fabulous bunch of kids. Sadly my friend and fellow author Carol Hunt had flu and couldn’t be there, but they were such a great bunch of kids – so enthusiastic and imaginative, that even when the workshop had officially ended, they were all still sitting, scribbling away. I’m sure there were some budding authors in their midst!

Children's Writing Workshop at Yeovil Library
So congratulations to the organisers who made all this possible. Last year’s Yeovil Literary Festival was really good. This year’s was even better! I can’t wait until next year!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bridport Story Slam III

Judging a competition is never an easy task, and that was why I was so glad to be joined by fellow Dorset authors Penny Deacon and Laura James for the judging of the Bridport Story Slam which was held at the Beach and Barnicott on Tuesday night.
The Judges, Laura James, Kate Kelly and Penny Deacon

The annual Bridport Story Slam is an open mic event. Registered authors take turns to read a short story within a strictly enforced 5 minute time slot. This was something they all managed to keep to, although one author cut it very fine – the last word of her story right on the buzzer!

There were twelve brave authors in all and we were treated to a broad range of subject matter, themes and settings, losing ourselves in the worlds created, a cold chill of something sinister, shortly followed by a story that would make us laugh out loud. Stories performed at an open mic event should entertain and these certainly did that.

We then had the difficult task of selecting the winners, retiring to the cosy upstairs of the Beach and Barnicott to discuss. Fortunately the decision was a fairly unanimous one with last year’s winner Jill Smith taking third place with her chilling tale ‘Hide and Seek’.

In second place was Richard Green whose hilarious piece ‘Health and Safety I Presume’ had us all laughing out loud. This was so well performed that we found ourselves wondering if the character he portrayed was really him, but when me met him afterwards we soon realised it wasn’t.


Laura with Richard Green
 
The winner was another very entertaining piece – ‘A French Tale’ by Wendy Breckon which we loved because it packed so much into such a short time frame with great character voice, vivid sense of place and lovely touches of humour. So congratulations Wendy.


Presenting the prize to winner Wendy Breckon

Proceeds from the event went towards the Words for the Wounded charity, Words for the Wounded is a fabulous charity that raises money through writing competitions to help injured servicemen and women for which Penny Deacon was one of the founders.

So thank you to everyone involved in making the story slam such a successful event, to the Beach and Barnicott in Bridport for providing the perfect venue, to Frances Colville for organising everything so well, to our fabulous compare Declan Duffy and of course the authors without whom this simply wouldn’t have happened.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Monster Hunting

As mythical creatures go the monster said to frequent this loch has to be one of the most famous. Standing here on a stormy day as the wind whips up the surface of the loch into a noise of whitecaps it is easy to imagine strange creatures lurking within those icy depths.

Some of the sightings are well intended – people who genuinely thought they saw something, even if in time it turned out to be no beast but the wind carving strange patterns on the water, or the wake of a boat that had already passed on by.

What really fascinates me though are the hoaxes. Some people went to considerable trouble to create their fake monsters – from doctored images – perhaps the most common – to models made of floating hay bales. For decades they held the world convinced, until their deception was finally revealed.

But that doesn’t mean it was all one big hoax to boost tourism, or even a series of mis-identifications. Stories of strange creatures in lochs and waterways have been part of our mythology for thousands of years. Perhaps our ancestors knew more than we realise.

And what of the sightings we haven’t been able to explain away.

Is there a monster in this loch? I’ll leave it for you to decide.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Follow Me Follow You Book Launch

My good friend Laura E James celebrated the launch of her second Romance novel, Follow Me Follow You (published by ChocLit) at the weekend and she invited me and two other local authors, Carol Hunt and Kathy Sharp, to join in her celebrations.

The launch was held at the Chesil Beach Centre and we arrived to find the landscape shrouded in a fine sea mist – fittingly atmospheric for a gathering of authors who have called ourselves the Littotalis – ‘meaning from the seashore’.

By the time we had set up our stands the sun had burned through and the venue was bathed in sunshine, blue skies and sea with the golden pebbles of Chesil beach for our backdrop.

Laura gave a reading from Follow Me Follow You while her children fetched extra boxes of books to keep up with sales. In fact we all sold well and really appreciated Laura giving us the opportunity to be a part of her launch.





Follow Me Follow You is available as both an e-book and paperback. Here is the Amazon link. Do check it out.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Edinburgh International Book Festival

I have just returned from the Edinburgh International Book Festival and I am still buzzing – because I wasn’t there as part of the audience – I was there as an author.

Mine was a joint event with the lovely Sarah Crossan, author of dystopian duology Breathe and Resist as well as the Carnegie nominated The Weight of Water. Or event was called The End is Nigh and formed part of the Baillie Gifford Schools programme of events, hosted by Hannah Love of Faber, who was as lovely as her name suggests.


We read extracts and answered questions about our books, both about the writing process and our inspirations as well as the environmental issues our books address and the emerging genre of Cli-Fi (Climate Fiction).

Afterwards we had the opportunity to meet some of the kids and sign books for them in the festival bookshop. A couple of school groups had come across from Glasgow and they’ve given the event a lovely write up here.


 The Book Festival was held in the beautiful Charlotte Gardens, event venues and bookshops set up around the edge with lawns and seating in the middle where people gathered to drink coffee or eat their lunch. The authors had a separate area, the Author’s Yurt, where we could chat and relax both before and after our events


Of course no visit to Edinburgh during festival time would be complete without checking out The Fringe and we spent some time sampling all that the city has to offer at this time of year. Some of the street acts we saw were quite superb and the whole city was vibrant and alive.

Participating in The Edinburgh International Book Festival was a wonderful experience and has to be one of the highlights of my year so far.