New on my This post was originally published in the October issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News
The finishing touch required for our new extension was a little background music.
My tastes in music are eclectic, but when I’m reading or writing, I prefer to listen to something without words. I needed a machine to do justice to classical music.
Going to John Lewis to buy a modest CD player to fit the space, I quickly discovered it’s nigh impossible to buy a stand-alone CD player. All seem to come with a DAB radio attached.
How the Other Half Shops
While awaiting my turn for the assistant, as I browsed the machines in the lower price bracket, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the elderly couple the young man was serving. For them, money was clearly no object: they were inspecting the product range of a brand fancy enough to have its own display area. I assumed they must have a more discerning musical ear than mine.
Not so. “Please may we try it on BBC Radio 4?” asked the elderly lady.
Once they’d been despatched with their purchase, when the assistant came to help me. I said to him, “Only in John Lewis would a customer ask to test your best hifi on Radio 4.”
The couple must have been working their way round the department, because the two models I’d been looking at were also tuned to Radio 4. Stephen Fry was in full flow on them both.
“Perhaps you should have him playing on a continuous loop,” I suggested. “His velvet tones would sell any sound system more easily.”
The assistant smiled conspiratorially.
And almost before I knew it, he was ringing up my sale on the till.
Every month, I write a short column like this for our local community magazine, the Hawkesbury Parish News. I’ve collected the first six years worth of columns in a book, All Part of the Charm: A Modern Memoir of English Village Life, along with several essays I wrote about living in the village when I first moved here over 20 years ago. It’s available in paperback and ebook format via Amazon and elsewhere.
It’s perhaps an inevitable phenomenon of our digital TV-on-demand era, with voracious viewers binge-watching whole series of their favourite shows at a sitting, that the equivalent should happen in ebook publishing.
The digital book box set allows readers to stock up on a whole batch of books in a series by their favourite author, or in some cases a collection of books each by a different author in the same genre.
Box sets are usually priced significantly cheaper than it would cost to buy the books separately.
Catching the Box Set Omnibus
I confess I’m jumping on the box set bandwagon myself this week, with the launch of my first box set of the first three novels in my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series. If you buy the box set, you effectively get the books as a 3-for-2 bargain, as the price is the equivalent to what you’d pay for books two and three if bought alone.
As these are ebooks, the box is of course only notional. Although I have to say I do loved physical boxed sets too – and single books that come in their own little slipcase, the sort that the Folio Society is so good at, not so much a box set as simply a book in a box.
There’s something very comforting about physical box sets of books. My mother’s gift to me of a P G Wodehouse collection of Jeeves novels twelve years ago was as much a cure for my pneumonia as prescription drugs…
…and I only have to look at this box set of the complete Sherlock Holmes to feel better.
When I was little, I only had one box set of books, a beautiful Disney-themed collection for my ninth birthday and still treasured.
But I did have several omnibuses – a collection of single books in a single fat volume.
In fact, I was quite grown up before I realised that an omnibus was “long” for the word bus, despite the handly clue provided here by Teddy Robinson.
Climb Aboard Sophie Sayers’ Omnibus
If you’re an ebook reader, and have not yet climbed aboard my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, I hope you’ll enjoy her first box set. And if you’ve already read these, and the following book 4, Murder by the Book, I’ve got something for you too: the fifth in the series, Springtime for Murder, will be launched in November. More news on that book coming soon…
If you’d like to be among the first to know when I’m about to publish a new book, and to keep up with other news about my writing life, just sign up here to join my free Readers’ Club. You’ll also receive a free short story. (Of course, your details won’t be shared with anyone else or used for any other purpose.)
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: