A post about my new writing commissions at Living Quietly magazine
I’m pleased to announce that I’m now writing for a new online magazine called Living Quietly.
Even the title makes me feel calmer, and that’s even before I’ve looked at the elegant, cool interior layout and read the articles. It’s a new publication, with the second issue just out as a paid-for download, (how very 21st century!) Print copies are also available of the first issue.
I have to thank my author friend AA Abbott for pointing me in their direction, when she saw they were looking for short stories to be featured. As she writes action-packed thrillers, it’s not her usual stomping ground, but she’s always got an eye open for an opportunity, both for herself and, very generously, for her writing chums.
In the October issue, they’re carrying my sweet short story “The Butterfly Clip”, the closing piece in my collection Marry in Haste.
In the December issue they’ll be featuring a story from my festive Stocking Fillers. (I’m not sure yet which one.)
Then in January I’ll be writing a new piece for them to mark the Forestry Commission’s Centenary in 2019, inspired by my long-term love affair with the National Arboretum at Westonbirt, not far from where I live.
I was chuffed to find that on the contents page of the October issue, I share the billing with one of my writing heroes, Virginia Woolf! The first and probably the last time that’s likely to happen! They’ve included one of her stories also.
It turns out both the magazine’s editor, Margaret Bligton-Boyt and I were inspired by an early age by Woolf’s seminal essay, A Room of One’s Own – essential for anyone’s quiet writing life, I reckon.
Autumn: season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – and literature festivals!
1 LitFest Past: Ness Book Fest
Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking not once but twice at the delightful Ness Book Fest in Inverness. This event, now in its third year, is a wonderful celebration of local writing talent (I loved the three-minute slot showcasing a local author at the start of each session) and authors like me from further afield (although the fact that Inverness is mentioned in my first novel, and my eighth will be set in Inverness may have earned me honorary local status!)
secondly, talking about my novel writing, with specific reference to my current Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series, though also touching on future plans for other series, including Staffroom at St Bride’s, for which I’m currently writing the first book
The audience for both talks was highly receptive and engaged, and it was a joy to linger chatting to them afterwards, hearing about their own writing and reading activities, and signing books. One man even gave me a copy of a poem he’d written – what a lovely thing to do!
Another surprise came just before my first event, when I nipped to the public toilets next door to Waterstones – and found myself facing a picture of myself on the back of the toilet door! An ingenious bit of lateral thinking for advertising the Ness Book Fest, whose posters were dotted strategically all around the town!
Oh, and yes, I was wearing the same actual hat for both talks, but next day I did snap up a second hat in Harris Tweed, to which I am addicted, and whose warmth I appreciated next day on my constitutional around the National Arboretum at Westonbirt.
2 LitFest Present: Cheltenham Literature Festival
I then had just a day at home to draw breath and finish reading the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club‘s book of the month, this time the intriguing and unusual (and, millions claim, life-changing) fable The Alchemistby Paulo Coelho, before hot-footing it to Cheltenham for an outside broadcast with the station’s lunchtime presenter, Dominic Cotter, in the Festival’s VIP tent. I spent a very pleasant couple of hours there, talking books with the BBC team and with other guests, including my friends Heidi Perry, Vicky Pember and Wilf Merttens from the children’s reading charity, Read for Good. By coincidence, they were there to do an event with one of the charity’s storytellers to a packed audience of younger readers. We managed to squeeze them into the show too!
You can share some of the fun of the Festival by listening to the show here on iPlayer any time during the next 28 days. (The Book Club slot starts about 13 minutes into the show, and Read for Good’s about 20 minutes before the end.) And if you’re a regular Book Club listener, you can get ahead for next month’s show by reading Daljit Nagra’s poetry collection, British Museum, which fellow panellist Caroline Sanderson chose, in between chairing numerous Festival events!
Meanwhile the Cheltenham Literature Festival will be in full swing till the end of Sunday – visit their website to see what else is coming up in their programme.
3 LitFest Yet To Come: Bristol Literature Festival
And now the dust has settled on those two outings, I’m gearing up for my next event, which is a fun celebration of crime writing organised by thriller writer A A Abbott as part of the Bristol Literature Festival. Following the success of the launch of her last but one novel at the old police cells at Bridewell Street, Bristol, she dreamed up the idea of a multi-author crime book fair in the same atmospheric setting, to take place on Saturday 20th October from 2pm until 4.30pm. At “Crime, Thrillers & Horror in the Cells“, there will be talks and readings by the crime writers present, and also of course the authors will be happy to sign copies of any books you’d like to buy. You can find more details of the event here on the Bristol Lit Fest website. It’s also a great excuse to have a look round this historic site, completely free of charge.
Next on my Festival to-do list will be to get the planning under way for the next Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest (Saturday 27th April 2019) – more news on that soon!
It was my pleasure to be a guest on Paul Teague‘s Self-publishing Journeys podcast this summer – in spite of Skype’s best efforts to scupper our conversation!
Despite Paul’s renowned technical expertise, we eventually had to resort to finishing the conversation by phone. Paul told me afterwards that of the many podcasts in this series of over 120, (mine was #119), mine broke all records in technical challenges! Hats off to Paul for turning it into a seamless podcast.
I’ve known Paul on the self-publishing circuit for several years. He’s easy to spot, as he’s usually the one sitting at the front of a conference, engineering the recording, always with a infectious smile, which I’m sure must boost the confidence of the speakers he’s filming.
Paul’s earlier career was as a radio journalist and television broadcaster, including a stint on the BBC Breakfast News team. You can find out more about Paul on his website here and also by following him on Twitter at @secretbunkerfan.
To listen to my interview on his podcast, click this link to take you to his podcast website:
Due to the fortnight’s lead-time for publication, I filed my column for the September issue of the Tetbury Advertiser from the wilds of Glencoe while on holiday in Scotland last month. (Only last month? Seems a lot longer now!)
If, like me, you are restricted to taking family holidays outside of term time, here’s a handy tip: you can gain a psychological advantage by spending August in Scotland. The academic year is different north of the border, with the autumn term starting around the Glorious Twelfth. Local children returning to school add a frisson of guilty pleasure to our Scottish summer holiday. It feels as if we are bunking off.
This year, as ever, when we arrive in Scotland in early August, we make a pit-stop at a supermarket to provision our camper van. Here we find ourselves rubbing elbows in the aisles with brisk Scots mothers and stony-faced children bracing themselves for the imminent start of their new school year.
Gleefully my daughter calculates that even though we’re staying in Scotland for a fortnight, when she gets home, she will still have nearly three weeks of holiday left before the start of her new term. By then, these poor Scottish children will have been stuck into their studies for a month.
Suddenly our holiday feels much longer, as if we’ve stepped through a time-slip, albeit one from which we can return at will.
Travelling in Time
I can’t help wishing that real time travel was available as a holiday option.
My favourite tourist destinations are those that offer a sense of connection with the past. Some of these places are ancient, older than mankind itself, such as the Munro mountainsthat I can see from my window as I type this column. Others are much more recent. A highlight of this trip so far has been an afternoon at a traditional weaver’s cottage that pre-dates the Industrial Revolution. The cottage has been so sympathetically conserved to suggest that the occupant has just stepped away from his loom for a moment and will be back at any minute. By chance, one of his descendants was visiting that afternoon from Canada, adding to the feeling that this was indeed living history.
I’m sure I’m not the only tourist who hankers after time travel. A few days ago, my brother texted me from his family holiday in Rhodes to tell me about the tourist in front of him at the tourist information office. “Please can you give me directions to the Colossos?” the man asked. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Colossos – the same size as the Statue of Liberty and a similar symbol of freedom that once graced Rhodes harbour – was destroyed by earthquake over two thousand years ago. But if the tourist information officer had been able to provide effective directions – “Just step through this portal, sir, and stop when you get to 226BC” – I suspect my brother would have gone along for the ride.
Read the whole of the September issue of the Tetbury Advertiserhere (and you’ll also see the fab picture of the Colossus that the wonderful editor, Richard Smith, used to illustrate it)
Read some of my previous columns from the Tetbury Advertiser in paperback or ebook here
Deep into seasons of mellow fruitfulness now (and wind and rain!), our summer holiday seems like ancient history , but for sake of keeping a complete record on my blog, here’s my column for the September edition of the Hawkesbury Parish News, which I sent in from the Scottish Highlands on my summer holiday to meet its mid-August deadline.
Taking our summer break during the school holidays, we are used to leaving home when the Cotswold countryside is green and tidy and returning to find it golden brown and unkempt. It’s as predictable a transformation as from pre-holiday hairdo to post-holiday hair; only the colours are different.
But this year we were wrong-footed by the early burnishing of the fields. Thanks to the July heatwave, the local landscape was baked brown before we left. Even that hardy perennial, grass, instead of springing back beneath our bare feet, crunched underfoot like broken biscuits.
The further north we drove, the greener the landscape. Not least because there was rain. Lots of rain. The fields beyond Gretna were as bright and fresh as any you might find in the Emerald Isle.
And the days lengthened. At the time of writing this column, ensconced in Glencoe, we are far enough north for dusk to fall a full forty minutes later than in Hawkesbury. August in the Highlands feels like Hawkesbury’s July.
So when we get home, as we always do, in time for the Hawkesbury Horticultural Show, we’re going to be completely confused. We all know that the Village Show marks the last day of a Hawkesbury summer. But my body clock will still be waiting for August to begin.