Well, I spent a really nice couple of hours at Guisborough Bookshop yesterday (Saturday). They’d put up a display of the two books and a disturbingly large copy of the “gazing moodily out to sea” picture and I set up my stall, more books, pen and a heap of bookmarks.
People were very friendly – only one man refused a bookmark – and I had some interesting talks, met new readers and generally enjoyed the whole experience. It is so heartening to see an Independent bookshop flourishing. There was a constant stream of people, all ages from pensioners to babies in chairs. A good number of children who were as happy and excited as if they were in a toy shop. I remember my parents taking us to the “big” bookshop in Chelmsford when I was a child. Every birthday and Christmas we had book tokens and the Saturday after was book day. I thought that had passed away along with 80s hair styles and space hoppers but it is alive and well in Cleveland. So, so encouraging!
A special thanks to all the staff who were helpful, welcoming and willing to have me back. yes please. Hello and thank you to some of the people who took the time to stop, chat and even buy a book – John, Suzan, Ron, Charlie, Jill, Jenny, Jasmine (and her sister who would rather be a vet than a writer), Gareth, Janet, Wendy, Pamela and Lynda. Lovely to meet you all and I hope you enjoy the books – please let me know.
The Somerset Levels, and Shapwick in particular, are probably most famous for the extraordinary displays of birds. During the winter, and into spring, huge flocks of starlings gather at dusk and dawn and seem to perform astonishing aerial displays. This wonderful sight has been captured by photographers and film makers for those of us who find winter evenings a bit too cold and bleak to actually stand and marvel in person. You tube has a wide range of short films, my favourite of which is:
Well, the Levels in winter – what could possibly disturb the desolate tranquillity of such a place?
Out on the Avalon marsh new groups are forming, new plots are being hatched and rumours of an ancient evil begin to circulate.
“The Drowners”, an Alex Hastings novel, coming soon.
Listening to the budget yesterday, I was struck by how familiar much of it seemed. After a depressing hour or so I returned to “The Drowners“, and realized why this might be. The world around us is much closer to the decade of greed in the 80s than many would admit. The characters from “Death of the Elver Man” are all fictional but they are also based on types I met and knew during my years in Somerset. There are Kevins out there, and Laurens and even Adas. The 80s were a very unforgiving time – I’m worried for them in this new age of inequality and self-interest.
Yes, last week was remarkably good on the writing front. I discovered I had sold my first copies of “Death of the Elver Man” in the USA, on the Kindle platform. Then I was asked to speak at the Middlesbrough Literary Festival in June. Watch this space for details of date and time closer to the event. Finally my existing publisher, Impress, who have an option on the sequel, asked to see a sample. They decided they would be interested in publishing it later in the year. So what ever happens, the sequel will be with you soon.
Now back to finishing the draft and upping the body count…..
I’m getting to the end of my latest student group and it is time to peer with bleary eyes over the mounds of papers, course books and forms and wonder where my writing space has gone. I am horribly untidy unless I keep a very tight grip on things – possibly something to do with the dyspraxia. When I put something down or even stop paying attention to it, it simply disappears. As a consequence my work space gets smaller and smaller until I am balancing my keyboard on a pile of stuff – and stuff is the enemy of a clear mind and a happy imagination.
So today I am declaring war on all this stuff, hoping an hour spend tidying will be worth a week’s writing tomorrow. At least, that is the theory… I may be some time.
My Achilles heel strikes again – issues with the time line. So many threads running through this new book and I’ve gone back to lay them out properly in a plan. This, of course, I should have done (and meant to do) right at the very start. Well, it’s fairly well sorted now and suddenly I can see my way through to – the ending I always had in mind.
Onwards, through the Levels and hoping to arrive safely on the other side.
It’s the middle of February, unseasonally warm up here and I find myself back at my computer after I’ve already finished my words for the day, after all my research is done and printed, waiting for tomorrow – here I am. Suddenly the story grabs me and I can’t leave it. Not tonight, not just here – I have to say these things, get the exact words echoing around my skull out before they drift off, fade into the distance. Thank goodness for the dogs. The first time this happened I was rushing, frantic to complete a submission for the MA at Teesside and I got up from my desk at 10.30pm, walked the dogs and then kept typing until 3am. They lay on the couch, muttering a bit but finally fell asleep. It was only the next morning I realised I’d forgotten to feed them. Still feel guilty….
SOTD for obsessives – Einaudi, “Nightbook”
The Carnival (always with a capital letter in Somerset) and squibbing are both major events in the town of Bridgwater and really do have to be seen to be believed. Anyone curious about squibbing might like to watch this video:
for a taste of what it is like. The noise of the crowd and the heat and smoke add to the atmosphere. I have been in the crowd many years ago and it is a terrifying and exhilarating experience.
Poor old Alex is having a bit of a hard time…. Strange goings-on out on the Levels are unsettling her friends and clients and seem connected to new problems amongst the young men “with their hard eyes and crude letters tattooed on their knuckles, their suspicions and the scorn with which they treated this, their last chance”. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, her family are pestering her to do something about their mother who is suddenly acting very oddly indeed.
The sequel to “Death of the Elver Man” is progressing nicely. Provisionally titled “The Drowners“, it takes up the story six weeks after the ending of “Death of the Elver Man”. Once more set in the unique landscape of the Somerset Levels and surrounding area, it features many familiar characters and a few new ones as Alex Hastings tries to unravel a new mystery whilst struggling to keep her head above water at work.