Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writing on the walls

Last weekend we visited another new National Trust property in the area, Wray Castle.  Like Allan Bank, which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this has suffered over the years, although in this case it was from neglect and general knocking-about whilst run by a couple of management training companies over the last few decades.

As with Allan Bank, the Trust aren't yet furnishing the house, but have left it mostly bare to show off the structure, and leave the interpretation of the rooms open to the visitors.  As with Allan Bank, there are activities for the kids, displays on the local archives, a reading room.  And as with Allan Bank, you can write on some of the walls.

In the former library, the walls have been lined with paper covered in pictures of blank books, and visitors are encouraged to fill in the title of their favourite book, and sign with their own name.  It's a lovely idea, and judging by the fact that all four walls have been filled, and more book outlines are being drawn on above where the paper ends, it's proved amazingly popular.

And I'm afraid I couldn't resist.  Faced with opportunity like that, I clambered on a stool, drew in an outline of my own, and filled it in with the title and publisher of my forthcoming book.  Here's the rather blatant result:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ghosts with the Guinness

I've had some really exciting news this morning, courtesy of my publisher - my novel Gleams of a Remoter World is available right now for pre-order.

The book is best described as a paranormal mystery romance, featuring a couple of paranormal journalists who are sent to the wild west coast of Ireland to investigate tales of hauntings at a ruined church:

"Paranormal journalists Chris Mullins and Jo Perry are sent to Ireland's remote west coast to investigate tales of hauntings at a ruined church. Chris, who has an inbuilt sensor for ghosts, is drawn to the old priest’s house next door, where he faces an otherworldly encounter so strong it leaves him reeling. Their research leads to a tangled web of forbidden love, family rows, and even, possibly, murder.

Chris jumps at the chance not only to solve the mystery, but also to aim for the coveted Moondust Award, a prize for the first journalist who proves that ghosts exist. Jo, though, is less enthusiastic, both about the award and her on-off relationship with Chris. Things become even more confused when Chris finds himself falling for Paulie, one half of a gay couple on holiday in the same village.

Only the wild, haunted landscape of Ireland can give Chris the answers he so craves, but to find them, he may have to choose between the Moondust Award and the matters of his heart."

Once again Riptide's cover artist L.C. Chase has done a stellar job with the cover, as you can see above. I couldn't have got it more perfectly suited to the story, or the book's poignant, spooky atmosphere if I'd painted it myself! If you'd like to order a copy of the book (which means not only that you'll receive it a couple of days ahead of the official release, but also that you'll be entered in a prize draw to win free e-books for a whole year) then hurry along to the Riptide Publishing website right now!

And please excuse me if I rush around the house shrieking for a while...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First trees, now badgers

Those of you who know me have already spotted that I'm passionate about wildlife, the environment, and the countryside. That includes trees (see post about the Brockhole monkey puzzle below) and also wild animals - not least, badgers.

Recently the government have issued culling orders for badgers in two English counties where bovine TB is a problem. The idea is that badgers spread the disease to cattle, and although that has never been conclusively proved, the solution is to kill all the badgers in a particular area and hope that stops TB in cattle.

Former rock guitarist and environmental campaigner Brian May has started up an online petition to try to get the government to reconsider, and it's proving popular. So far, it has well in excess of 100,000 signatures (over the amount needed to debate the matter in Parliament) and that number is growing by the hour. If you'd like to support this cause, please hurry along to the petition website and add your name to the list. And once again, thanks for listening.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Riptide's first anniversay

It's official - Riptide Publishing, the mob who published Necessity's Door and will shortly (I hope!) be releasing Gleams of a Remoter World, are one year old. Or will be in a week or so's time, in October. To celebrate, they're holding a mass online party - not just for the day, but for the entire month!

There will be blog tours and contests and giveaways, and chances to 'meet' and find out more about all the authors, and possibly some of the staff as well. The full schedule is too long for me to reproduce here, but it's available on Riptide's website so do head over there to check out what's happening when.

And keep your eyes peeled, because at some stage I'll be 'appearing' on at least one of the blogs, and will of course post details here as soon as I know which one.

All this and virtual rainbow cake too!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Amazon Author Central

Following some great advice from other delegates at the UK Meet conference, I finally got round to creating my own author page on the Author Central service at Amazon UK. This now contains a picture of yours truly, a biography, and a list of all my current books with easy-peasy links to more detail such as blurbs and buying info. I'm still trying to set up the same thing on Amazon US, but in the meantime if you'd like to take a peek you can see the page here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Save a tree continued

Good to see that the campaign to save the Brockhole monkey-puzzle made the local BBC News broadcast the other night. Apparently the National Park authorities conducted a survey of over 1,000 visitors to Brockhole, and only one said it was okay to cut the tree down. Yet still they want to proceed, which makes no sense at all.

The petition is still gaining names, but slowly (I suspect because nobody knows where it is). If you'd like to add your name to the list, click the button in the sidebar to the right which will take you straight to the relevant page. Something has to get the message across to these officials that their policy is unpopular with locals and visitors alike.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And back again...

After a marathon journey I arrived home, still mostly in one piece, and glowing from the weekend. I enjoyed the chance to explore Brighton again - it's suffered, like most places, in the recession but areas like The Lanes and North Laine are still fascinating: full of cafes, restaurants, and intriguing shops. I enjoyed our stop-off on the way down at Waddesdon Manor, where we wandered round the gardens and ate a sandwich perched on a bench in blazing sunshine. And most of all, I enjoyed the conference.

For starters, it was lovely to meet everyone, and put faces to names that have previously only been at the bottom of emails, or on the flyleaf of a book. The event was staggeringly well-organised, with goody bags stuffed with swag, lunch laid on, free tea and coffee on tap (although the jelly babies are another story...) and everything running to near-perfect time. The panels were interesting (how to market your book without losing the will to live is always going to be a subject dear to my heart) but most of all it was good to just mingle with like-minded people. As Charlie Cochrane, organiser and fellow author, said, here nobody had to explain why they wrote what they wrote, or read what they read, or liked what they liked. One of the bracelets in my swag bag had a motto which read 'Our difference is our strength'. It pretty much sums up the attitude to reading, writing and life in general on display amongst the delegates.

And when I read out the first few lines of my novel at the Novel Openings panel, everybody cheered, which didn't exactly hurt!

Next year's event has already been pencilled in for July, in Manchester, and I'll be first in line for a ticket.

Thanks to everyone who helped to make the event such a resounding success.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Off to sunny (?) Brighton

I'm busy packing ready for my trip to Brighton at the weekend, to attend the UK Meet 2012 convention.

This is an annual event aimed at readers and writers of, and anyone the least bit interested in, gay fiction. This year, it's being held at the Hotel Mercure in Brighton, and the last I heard there were well over sixty people coming along to meet up, chat, swap notes, buy, sell and sign books, and generally have some fun. It's not all pleasure, though, because there are plenty of panels and talks, guest speakers and one-to-one sessions with authors arranged as well. I'll be reading out the first 150 words of my latest book at the Novel Openings panel, and hope to attend a session on marketing without losing the will to live.

I'm likely to be away from my desk, and possibly even a computer, for several days while we travel down and back. But as soon as I am back, I'll report on how it all went. There may even be photos. And if you're attending too, I'll see you there!

I just hope it stops raining long enough for me to wear my Necessity's Door t-shirt...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rising from the ashes

On Sunday we buzzed over to Grasmere to visit Allan Bank, a National Trust property with a difference. The Trust have owned the house since 1920, when it was left to them in the will of Canon Rawnsley, one of their original founders. Since then, though, it's been tenanted and not open to the public. But last year it suffered a devastating fire which came close to destroying part of the building, and in trying to raise money for repairs they've opened the place to the public.

But my goodness, what a difference from the usual stately home, stuffed with furniture and valuable paintings and quite often bristling with signs saying 'Do Not Touch'. Here at Allan Bank there's nothing. Virtually no furniture, bar a few sofas by the fire in the reading room. No soft-furnishings; no knick-knacks; no paintings. Even the wallpaper and carpets have gone. But what's left is the house. The basic, raw, architectural structure of the house, which is normally hidden away behind all that surface gloss, but which is revealed here in all its fascinating detail. Floorboards, plaster decoration on walls and ceilings, fireplaces, window frames - you can see the lot, in exactly the way the house's original architect would have intended.

Better still, you can interract with it. Because the house is in an unfinished state you can sit for hours on the window seats with a cup of tea, or touch the stone, scuff the floorboards, even (I mean it) write on the walls. The Trust are looking for ideas on what to do with the house once they've finished conserving it from the fire, and are actively encouraging visitors to write their ideas on any surface that comes to hand.

The results are interesting to say the least. A few suggest specific uses for the house - a base for wounded soldiers, an animal rescue centre. But the vast majority want it left as it is, so future visitors can also appreciate the house, and the unique atmosphere it holds, for themselves. You can add us to that list.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Passing showers...

Ever since we moved into our city crash pad, we've been having problems with a leaking shower. Take a bath and it's fine, but the minute anyone runs the shower you could practically sail boats across the bathroom floor.

We've been scratching our heads and trying one thing after another to stop the flood. Replacing all the mastic between the bath tub and the wall. Running an extra shower curtain across inside the existing shower screen. Mopping up and starting again when neither of those worked.

Then this morning I stuck my head round the bathroom door while Dave was in the shower, to see if I could spot the leak. I'd expected to have to grub about under the bath for ages, checking various pipes and tubes, but in the event it was much easier than that. The minute I opened the door I was met with a small but persistant cascade, from underneath the plastic strip that joins the shower screen to the wall. The mastic there had failed completely and it was quite literally running with water, which was then spreading out across the rest of the floor.

We didn't have time to fix it, but at least now we know what the problem is. Dave will take a mastic gun to both sides of the joint and blast the gap into extinction, and hopefully after that the water will stay inside the bath.

Every new property has its teething problems; let's hope this one was ours.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Currently reading

I've been promising myself I'd get hold of a copy of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller ever since I spotted it had won the Orange Prize for fiction. Finally, on Friday, I treated myself to the book and started reading it over the weekend.

At first I didn't think I was going to like it, in spite of the fact that it's a m/m historical in the vein of Mary Renault, who wrote some of my favourite books. The language was very simplistic and the style seemed to be very much 'show not tell' with the narrator, Patroclus, looking back to his childhood and reporting on events in a dispassionate, measured style that lacked any hint of emotional impact. Somehow a sentence like "I remember that my father was very angry" doesn't conjure up the same visual image as a brief scene with the same father, scarlet in the face, banging his fist on a table and yelling at his son.

However, as I read on the action picked up. The book's second main character, Achilles, was introduced and suddenly, intentionally or otherwise, the whole thing has come to life. Now I'm looking forward to bedtimes when I can put on the reading light, curl up under the duvet and read another wadge of pages about Patroclus and Achilles' friendship.

I'm only about a third of the way through (although that's not bad going for two days!) so will post again when I've finished it and have a better idea of the book as a whole. But so far, so good, I think.