Sometimes even when I think the pieces I’m working on have no connection, I realise that they actually do. These three topics are a case in point. Vampires, history, swords – what could go together better?
I’m excited to be working on the next book by R. H. Hale. Her first title, Church Mouse: Memoir of a vampire’s servant, is one of the best contemporary vampire stories I’ve read. I like the way it follows in the gothic tradition and the author doesn’t run scared of long sentences and semicolons. Without giving too much away, the sequel is just as good!
I’m also working on an edited collection of essays about teaching Shakespeare, and it’s never too late to learn. After all those years covering Shakespeare plays in GCSE and A-level English, I still didn’t know about some of the subtleties of how cue-scripts work.
And finally I’ve recently proofread an article about historical bladed weapons. I suppose you could say I’m finding my niche.
My artwork has been following a similar kind of theme, as I’m working on skulls at the moment – update coming soon!
Happy New Year! I hope 2016 is a great year for you.
I’m really excited about 2016. There are going to be fantastic new developments at Help For Writers! In the next few days I’ll finally be in a position to reveal all. (Sorry for the vagueblogging in the meantime, but I couldn’t wait to greet the New Year anyway!)
If, as a writer, there are any services you’d like to see that you haven’t been able to locate anywhere, or some way that existing self-publishing services aren’t fully meeting your needs, please drop me a line because I’d love to hear about ways we might be able to help make your life easier.
On a personal note, I’ve been in India for the last three weeks. As per all good cybersecurity advice I decided not to broadcast my absence on my blog in case hordes of rampaging looters descended on my house to strip it bare. (I needn’t have worried.) I spent a few days in Mumbai, then five days touring the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur and back to Delhi again) and finally a week soaking up the sun in Kerala. This was my holiday of a lifetime and I feel extremely lucky to have seen some wonderful sights and met a bunch of super-friendly people. I didn’t take many photos but here’s a gratuitous Taj Mahal shot.
Every now and then I like to get out of my cave and meet people face-to-face – especially writers, naturally! Today I went to the Leicester Writes Writers Meet Up (see, I resisted the temptation to insert an apostrophe and/or a hyphen there!) and saw a few familiar faces from the festival back in June, as well as meeting some new people too. I always find it inspiring to hear writers reading their work; this evening was no exception.
I have to big up Farhana Shaikh from Dahlia Publishing for organising these events – she does a great job.
If you live in the Leicester area and are interested in attending writing-related events, I recommend you join the Leicester Writing Events Facebook group, which pulls together everything writerly that’s happening in the area.
I don’t have any photos from this evening, so here’s a completely unrelated doodle.
I already wrote a summary of my experiences at the Cheltenham Literature Festival; now I’ve gone into a bit more detail over at the Help For Writers blog.
I didn’t mention my coughing fit in the middle of the Simon Armitage event. The woman next to me looked very disapproving indeed and offered me a cough sweet (I’d already had three, but perhaps they were too rustly for her comfort).
During the Alexander McCall Smith event I was sitting on the left hand side of a lady with her left arm in a sling. I spent the whole hour trying to sit as still as possible for fear of knocking it.
I found the audiences very genteel. Hardly anyone seemed to take photos or use their phone during the events – which was nice in a way, but made me feel very conspicuous. I always keep my phone on silent in events and turn the flash off, but I’m surprised there weren’t more people live-tweeting – at the beginning and end of events, at the very least. (I try to be polite and considerate and restrict my phone-fiddling to the first and last couple of minutes. I’m not a total philistine.) There was much less activity than I expected on the #CheltLitFest hashtag. Maybe I should be thankful for small mercies, but I don’t think it has to be an either-or between highbrow literature and social media – I enjoy both!
In Cheltenham itself I recommend the Queens Hotel, which is right next to the literature festival and has a great bar with very friendly staff and loads of different gins, as well as amazing wallpaper designed by Pugin in the stairwell. At the time of booking it was the same price as the usual ordinary chain hotels!
Last week I went to the local Society for Editors & Proofreaders meet-up. It’s only the second time I’ve attended; everyone seems very friendly and keen to talk shop. There was a debate about whether eggs Benedict need a capital ‘B’ and, if not, whether eggs New York should therefore take lower case. I was surprised that people talk so much about work at these meet-ups, but having just read the last sentence back to myself, perhaps I’m not all that surprised. Every now and then you need people to talk to about capitalisation and apostrophes!
At the weekend I went to the thirtieth meeting of the W. E. Johns Appreciation Society. For those of you who don’t know Captain W. E. Johns, he was the author of well over a hundred ‘Biggles’ books. Many people don’t know that he also wrote other series – not only the ‘Worrals’, ‘Gimlet’ and ‘Steeley’ books for young people, but a science fiction series, romance novels for adults, and nonfiction books on aviation and gardening.
I’m too young to be part of the ‘Biggles generation’ – the biggest W. E. Johns fans tend to be around the age of my parents or older – but my parents enjoyed the books and read them to me, and I became a fan in turn. I also find the geekiness of the true Biggles fans fascinating, and on Saturday, among other topics I enjoyed talks about Tierra del Fuego (the scene for Biggles at World’s End) and the role played by an obscure Leicestershire aerodrome – now disused – in the war effort (it was an important ferrying base).
I spent the last two weekends at the Cheltenham Literature Festival – it was the first time I’d attended the festival or indeed been to Cheltenham, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
I’ve written a blog post for Help For Writers, based on one of the events I attended, in which I’ve focused on ‘top tips’ for writing for children. I’m planning more blog posts over at Help For Writers about my experiences at the festival, so watch this space!
Cheltenham has lots of horse chestnut trees, and at this time of the year the pavements are thick with conker mulch. Conkers are a great metaphor for my book ideas – seductively beautiful and shiny straight out of the shell, but a few hours later they look dry and wrinkled… That, my friends, is why I’ve never written a novel.
One of my favourite events was ‘Come to the Cabaret’, featuring singer Mary Carewe and pianist Philip Mayer. As well as performing for us, Mary imparted plenty of information about the Berlin cabaret scene during the interwar period, and I left feeling as though I’d learned something. Not to mention the gorgeous food!
On the literary scene, my biggest fangirl moment was meeting Simon Armitage and getting a copy of his book, Walking Away, signed by him. I loved his dry sense of humour as he talked about his journey along the South West Coast Path.
Barrington Stoke’s event, ‘Removing the Barriers to Reading’, was an eye-opener, particularly if you have a child in your life who doesn’t enjoy reading or who isn’t particularly good at it – whether that’s because of dyslexia, other medical issues or simply that it’s not their thing.
I also had the pleasure of seeing and listening to Martha Lane Fox, John Torode (of Masterchef fame), and Alexander McCall Smith. I also thoroughly enjoyed readings by debut novelists Claire Fuller and Sarah Leipciger.
More posts about the festival to come; there’s just too much to write about all at once! You can also read something of a blow-by-blow account over at the Help For Writers Twitter feed.
On a personal note, my journey down for the second weekend of the festival was quite eventful. On the train my reserved seat was next to a man who had fallen asleep over his can of lager; it turned out he’d missed his stop (sorry I didn’t wake you up!), and on the way to the hotel I narrowly missed witnessing a nasty-looking moped accident (I hope it was ‘only’ a broken arm and nothing worse). My life is normally pretty mundane so this was all quite a drama!