To the Left of Your North Star is available for pre-order now and is released on the 1st of November 2016.
On Manifold Press website. Here.
We need a few balloons I reckon!
And a cake…
To the Left of Your North Star is available for pre-order now and is released on the 1st of November 2016.
On Manifold Press website. Here.
We need a few balloons I reckon!
And a cake…
During a recent ramble across the North Yorkshire Moors we rounded a corner to be greeted by a copper river with an old wooden raft! My husband and I stared at it for a long moment before he said, ‘Well, would you believe that?’
In my book To the Left of Your North Star Edward and Burn travel on a copper river aboard a homemade raft that Burn calls The Copper Queen. She has an unfortunate ending and the few logs adrift near the rocks reminded me of that.
The book is due to be published in November by Manifold Press and around the same time as finding out that delightful news we came across the river.
I’m rather delayed in writing this post when it’s the one I always wanted to write. The strap line across the top of this blog reads, The pursuit of my Holy Grail in which I occasionally veer off into geekdom’. Well… two things have happened, one, I haven’t occasionally veered off into geekdom, I have frequently veered off! Two, I have pursued and I have found!
After a toppling pile of rejections and fourteen months of trying, my book, To the Left of Your North Star has found a home! I’m delighted to say the Manifold Press have taken it and it will be published in November! Woo hoo!
I have learnt a lot in the last year but mainly I have learnt to never give up and make new friends. Friends with the same interests as you, friends whose passions are also yours, and friends who will support you as you support them in return.
Recently I’ve produced some new book covers for Manifold Press. I’ve been a graphic designer for more years than I can count and working for the Press has been, and continues to be, a joy.
After an in-depth month or so, I came up with various designs and through a process of elimination and tweaking, the Press chose the final design. Variations were created there upon to identify the book title’s genre – contemporary has a photographic background and historical has an illustrative background. The colour band indicates blue for Fiction or red for Romance. To date we have produced four covers plus a fifth for their new imprint Espresso Shots.
I’ve also produced a cover for Julie Bozza’s re-released The Fine Point of His Soul.
Across Your Dreams by Jay Lewis Taylor. This is in the historical genre so has an illustration as the front cover image. The painting is called Gas Chamber at Seaford by Frederick Varley. The colours the artist has chosen are muted, tonal, and haunting. It has a blue band for Fiction. See it here.
Caravaggio’s Angel by Chris Quinton. This is in the paranormal genre so has a photograph as the front cover image. This is a shot of gardens in Malta. The ghostly figure amongst the arches and his shadow with wings is photoshopped, unless of course he was really there…? It has a red band for Romance. See it here.
Under Leaden Skies by Sandra Lindsey. This is in the historical genre so has an illustration as the front cover image. The original painting was very blue but because of the title, the author requested the sky to be darkened. It has a blue band for Fiction. See it here.
Eleventh Hour by Elin Gregory. This is in the historical genre so has an illustration as the front cover image. This is a poster from a collection from the London Transport Museum. I love this atmospheric painting with the splash of red that is the underground sign. It has a red band for Romance. See it here.
Like People by R.A. Padmos. This is the first book in the new Espresso Shots imprint. The cover will remain the same for following titles creating a suite of books. See it here.
The Fine Point of His Soul by Julie Bozza. This book cover was produced for my good friend Julie Bozza. I love the colours in this illustration and the look in his eye. See it here.
On Tuesday 15th of June, almost a year since after Humans preview, I indulged in another mad dash to London to see the episode one preview of The Living and the Dead at the BFI. The reason I spent a combined eight hours on six trains in a twenty-four hour period – Colin Morgan of course.
Directed by Alice Troughton who I believe has a fantastic eye for the artistic aspect of film and written by Ashley Pharoah who wrote the incredible Life on Mars plus the amazing Colin Morgan (Nathan Appleby) and Charlotte Spencer (Charlotte Appleby), The Living and The Dead certainly had the oomph and it showed.
The cinematography is sumptuous, beautifully coloured, and rich. It reminded me of sunshine, long summer days and carefree times, but… there’s a darkness lurking at the edges, crows cawing, and a single black cloud which makes one uneasy. The opening scene was simple but beautifully shot and set up the depth of the relationship between Nathan and his young wife.
After the strange death of Nathan’s mother, the highflying socialites inherit her run-down farm. Their sense of duty is powerful enough to make them take on the responsibility of the land and their workers livelihoods with no prior knowledge of farming. There’s a lot to learn but they’re both intelligent and energetic and all seems idyllic. That is until Harriet, the young daughter of the local vicar, starts to hear voices and the young couples nirvana quickly becomes filled with fear and confusion.
The Living and the Dead is creepy, disturbing, and weird. There’s creaking floorboards, shadows moving, flickering lights with no source, movement in the corner of your eye, darkness, blood, and two, possibly three, occurrences, which I cannot spoil but just didn’t fit with Victorian England. I am terrible with anything deemed as horror and fully expected to have my eyes shut most of the time, but even though there is some ‘horror’, it is more implied and in the imagination of the viewer. I’m pleased to say that my eyes remained open. However, after saying that Ashley insisted that the drama is more fantasy than horror and after seeing episode one there is definitely fantasy elements.
A Q&A with Charlotte, Colin, Ashley, Alice, and Katie McAleese (Exec Producer) followed the preview. Members of the audience asked a few questions about the acting skills involved and how the actors prepared for their roles – Charlotte said that she listened to music that she thought summed up her character. They ended up with a The Living and the Dead playlist. I, for one, would like to get hold of that.
Colin was asked about his character choices citing that Leo in Humans was far removed from Nathan. He said that he was drawn to disturbed and complicated characters and that drew him to Nathan. Think Jake in The Laughing King, Leo in Humans, Calum in Island and Cathal in Parked.
Colin and Charlotte rehearsed together for two weeks before production to fine tune their chemistry. Charlotte said you can’t just turn up on set and say, Hi, I’m your wife and then get on with the kissing and bedroom scenes, they needed time to get to know each other. Alice Troughton replied that Colin and Charlotte got on very well in ‘real life’ and when they did a chemistry test at the casting stage, she said there was an immediate chemistry between them. I’m sure at this point I heard a few sighs from the audience.
Talking about a sighs, there was a definite low rumble of voices when Nathan walked the corridors of his creepy house topless. It seems our Mr Morgan has been working out. Very pleasing.
Alice Troughton said that the title sequence for The Living and the Dead is taken from some old footage of a moth’s irresistible attraction to a flame. She akined Nathan and Charlotte’s lives to this analogy.
I am mindful of spoilers, as I personally dislike them so I will conclude by saying that this is probably not one to watch with your Nan, or children, or anyone of a nervous disposition!
In the second row, sat next to Alice, was Katie McGrath – Morgana in Merlin. She was spotted and mobbed, or should I say, shown a lot of love. Apparently, she had a cold and that morning was feeling under the weather, the autograph and selfie requests brightened her day. I was, and am, far too English to move from my seat and request such things.
It was a pleasure to see Colin Morgan ‘in the flesh’ once more; his live appearances are few and far between. To me he always looks as if he wants to be anywhere else apart from in front of so many roaming and probing eyes.
My photos, taken on my three-year-old mobile, are terrible at best. The one below is the better of a bad bunch. I love the looming still of Nathan hanging above them.
Another satisfying mad trip to London was topped off by the sheer amount of familiar faces in the audience. All members of the splendid and loyal Merlin family and it was great to chat to many including Sabrina (Cuddle) who I sat next to. I had dinner with the very lovely Julie Bozza and drinks afterwards with some of the Merlin Meet Up gang.
One of my favourite films is Parked by Darragh Byrne and starring Colm Meaney and Colin Morgan.
Fred Daly returns to Ireland with nowhere to live but his car. Then dope-smoking 21-year-old Cathal parks beside him, and brightens up his lonely world. Encouraged by Cathal, Fred meets attractive music teacher Jules. Growing closer, these three outsiders are set on a course that will change their lives forever.
On a recent trip to Ireland, I grabbed the opportunity to visit the various Dublin filming locations. Armed with directions printed out from the wonderful Merlin Locations we drove off the ferry and towards the main filming location, which is the car park off Pigeon House road and next to the dominating chimneys of the Poolbeg Generation Station.
Car park location from Google Maps and courtesy of Merlin Locations.
Poolbeg Generation Station taken from the ferry as we arrived in Dublin port.
We negated the toll bridge and headed into the industrial area looking rather conspicuous in our large white motorhome. We found Pigeon House road but also found the first of our many adversaries throughout the holiday—the height barrier! We were still a mile away from the location but couldn’t proceed any further and with nowhere to leave the motorhome we reluctantly gave up and vowed to return sometime in the car!
This is the car park (with another height barrier!) courtesy of Merlin Locations and Aggy.
These photos are courtesy of Merlin Locations and Aggy.
NORTH BULL ISLAND
We headed towards North Bull Island where the bridge and bathing shelters locations are situated.
Google map of Bull Bridge and the bathing shelters courtesy of Merlin Locations.
As we drove down Clontarf road and past the palm trees that the main characters walked past in the film, I heard my husband mutter under his breath. Wooden planked Bull Bridge which Fred and Cathal walked down and which I, with many, presumed was a pier had a height barrier! Cursing overzealous local councillors, we shoved the motorhome in a side street and walked towards North Bull Island.
Shot from Parked.
It’s a fair walk from the bridge to the bathing shelter but the views of the Irish sea and the striking silhouette of the power station make it worthwhile. If you’re in a car you can park on the beach right next to the bathing shelter.
Poolbeg Generation Station.
The third bathing shelter along is the one they used in the film.
Official shot from Parked.
Shot from Parked.
The bathing shelter.
The next location was the lookout point on Kilakee road in the hills above Dublin.
The Captivating Colin Morgan.
‘Have you ever seen a leaf fall off a tree? I mean, have you ever seen the actual moment when a leaf breaks from its branch? … It’s a beautiful thing.’
Using Julie Bozza’s excellent directions we found the car park opposite the lookout (with a height barrier) so parked the motorhome rather precariously on loose scree.
Shot from Parked.
Lookout location is the between the middle two trees and the parking area in front of them.
This is Julie’s shot of the car park on Kilakee road with the lookout behind her.
After an exciting afternoon we went on to have a wonderful two week holiday in beautiful Ireland.
Sat in my favourite café with my friend who’s a successful writer of erotic romance, a conversation sparked up about the pros and cons of using a pen name, a nom de plume, a pseudonym. Here is the conversation, which you may find useful.
What was the reason you decided to use a pen name?
I use a pseud because I have two teenagers under eighteen so felt the need to separate the erotic fiction and them. Also my novels would not sit well with certain older members of my family.
I know an author who was fired from his job when it was discovered that he wrote erotica, so I also decided to keep my family life separate from my erotic romance writing life.
My mainstream books are under my real name but I have an unpronounceable surname so I wished I’d used a pseud for them as well.
How do you avoid tricky situations like people asking you what you do for a living?
I judge the situation, time, and place. If I deem it acceptable, I tell them I write erotica, if not I tell them about my mainstream books. However, I am very careful not to mix the two worlds and that can be tricky. Normally the conversation halts after the word erotic.
Does it ever become confusing between your writing name and your real name?
No, I keep it all separate. The only issue is social media—I have two Twitter accounts, two Facebook pages, two blogs plus Pinterest and Instagram. It’s hard work and a fine balancing act—sometimes I drop the ball!
So it’s not easy maintaining multiple social platforms. Any advice?
Building a following is done by frequent postings under whichever name you’re using at the time. However do not constantly promote, nothing puts people off more than that. It takes work to build a convincing alter-ego and I use tricks like using a different computer (laptop and desktop) to keep me in the ‘right zone’.
Your pen name hasn’t changed gender, why is that?
If you’re found to be a different sex, fans of your work can feel misled at the deception.
My surname is also a shocker to pronounce. Do you think that alone is a good enough reason to use a pen name?
Absolutely. I know how annoyed you get when not one single person can pronounce your surname properly. Eliminate the trauma! Also if your name is similar to another author or a famous actor, I suggest changing it.
How did you choose your pen name name?
You need a name you can live with but also one that’s memorable. I chose my great Aunt’s maiden name and my middle name shortened. And choose something that’s easily pronounceable!
So to conclude.
Using a pseud is working for me now. It may change in the future and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
For the last six months, I have endured an agonising shoulder injury, which is as yet undiagnosed. I’ve decided to use the experience to list the sensations and emotions. If you have a character in physical pain, maybe it will help you to define their movements and thought patterns.
My amateur dramatics group, Adel Players, are performing Journey’s End by R.C.Sheriff this week. The play is set over four days in 1918 in the claustrophobia of a dugout, there we follow the lives, and deaths, of a small section of brave men.
Sheriff served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the First World War, his service lasted ten months, and he wrote Journey’s End as homage to his comrades. He said of the play that writing the dialogue was easy as he just wrote down what people said and the characters came in uninvited. I’m writing a short story at the moment of which I’m following the characters around with a pen and paper writing down what they say and do. It’s satisfying.
With a front row seat, I waited with my family for the play to start well aware of the nerves backstage, the checking, and rechecking of props, the tightening of belts and dusting down of trousers, the reading, and re-reading of scripts, followed by the pacing and silent mouthing of words, and the many keen eyes watching for potential hiccups. The play started with Captain Hardy (Chris Andrews) trying to dry his sock over a candle. Sat there while the audience eventually took their seats and the hubbub died, Chris remained in character the whole time, a feat I have to applaud.
Last year I saw Testament of Youth in London. I admit the main reason for the trip was my favourite actor, Colin Morgan, but soon loved the film in its own right. Also set in the trenches, Testament of Youth saw young men who were well bred and eager to join the much talked about war. They set off, clean uniformed, chatty, laughing, waving, and with no idea of the horror that awaited them. That’s what I saw in 2nd Lieutenant Raleigh (Will Andrews) he was keen as mustard, excited, and gung-ho. The war didn’t take long to break him. Will played the young man who was all chipper on the outside but petrified on the inside beautifully. Talking about broken men, Captain Stanhope (James Willstrop) was as damaged as they come. Three years in the trenches had messed with his mind, he no longer knew who he was anymore, and found solace in a whiskey bottle. Today we call it PTSD, in 1918 one pulled ones socks up and set off into certain death with a tally-ho. James played the tortured soul with perfection, to the extent that sometimes I just couldn’t look at him, his distress was tangible and I certainly didn’t want it.
Interjecting the scenes and offering some light relief was Private Mason (David Pritchard) the company cook. His deadpan delivery of the fact that there were onions in the tea and tea leaves in the soup was priceless. Mason’s concern that he’d failed to obtain pepper for supper was genuine and David played Mason with judged understatement. I wanted to cry at the end when he came out of his kitchen dressed for battle with recognition of his situation on his face.
Matthew Newby played 2nd Lieutenant Hibbert, a frightened man whose desperation to leave the trenches was so palpable, it was weaved into the very fabric of his uniform. When the tensions between Stanhope and Hibbert came to a head and Hibbert breaks down, I stopped breathing. Matthews’s performance of Hibbert’s distress was powerful and commanding. I wanted to watch him but had to wrench my eyes away from the suffering. I’ve seen Matthew in many plays but have never seen him as raw and open as he was in that moment.
The man who appeared to be the calmest amongst the chaos was Lieutenant Osborne (Robert Colbeck) an older and more experienced solider who followed the rules. Rob played Osbourne with an acceptance and stillness of a man who knows his inevitable destiny.
Set in the round with only a table and two beds for furniture Journey’s End is obviously very character driven. One such character is the Colonel played with a brilliant effervescence by Mike Andrews. The Colonel was a larger than life character, loud, boisterous, and backslapping. Mike, born to play the Colonel, chewed him up and spat him out.
Gavin Jones’ study of 2nd Lieutenant Trotter was well observed. Trotter, food obsessed and more than likely not a full basket, added another light note to the proceedings. With his uniform stuffed with a cushion and a fork permanently in his hand Gavin took Trotter and firmly made him his own. Trotter was my favourite character.
Both Chris Andrews and David Lancaster played more than one character, with Chris playing three different people including a captured German solider. David played the Sergeant Major who carries an injured Raleigh down into the dugout. Will looked like a child cast over David’s shoulder and I think that only drove home the fact that the vast majority in World War One were just kids, barely away from their mother’s arms.
The light and sound were the icing on the cake for this production. Without the simulation of flares and the sound of war outside the dugout the play would’ve have been in danger of being lifeless. At the end when the booms, bangs, and flashes escalate and Stanhope walks out towards his certain doom were skilfully done. I have to shout out Robin Peart (Light) and David Newby (Sound).
Throughout the play, I observed the audience; many mouths were agape, many a tear was wiped away, and everybody sat stock-still. They were absorbed, captivated, and transported.
I contributed in a small way to this play, helping with the scenery and publicity, but I’m well aware of the hard work that goes into a performance like this. I take my purple beanie hat off to the cast and crew.
In the car on the way home, my daughter asked a hundred questions: Why did the war start? Was Hitler there? Who was the man who shouted loudly? What happened to the German solider? Why didn’t the men just say no and not go to war? The play had fired her imagination and we tried our best to answer her. Children should learn history through sight, touch, sound, and smell, not words on a whiteboard and a droning teacher.
I may be biased; hell, I am biased, but if you’re ever in the north of England go see an Adel Players play. They really are the cream of the crop.
Three Days in the Country at the National Theatre in London.
Patrick Marber distilled Three Days in the Country from A Month in the Country written by Ivan Turgenev who also wrote Fortune’s Fool, which I had the pleasure of seeing at the Old Vic last year.
Accompanied by my fellow writer, Merlin fan, and theatre goer friend, Julie, our seats were in the Gods but afforded a really decent view. The set was minimalistic so no real distraction (see Hamlet). However, an annoying red door hung at eye level through the first half and then during the second half, sat on the floor serving no purpose. People just walked around it as if it were the remaining door in a game of Musical Doors. Where were the imaginary walls? At this point, I blame Adel Players for my obsessive examination of sets.
The story, set over three days in the Russian countryside, is of love and misunderstanding. The object of everybody’s affections is a young man, Belyaev, played by Royce Pierreson, who is the tutor to the son of Natalya, the lady of the house played by Amanda Drew. It seems everyone fancies him—the wife, the daughter, the maid, and he fancies them in return! Except the doctor, Shpigelsky, played by Mark Gatiss, who produced a wonderfully crafted character who in reality wasn’t a very good doctor and would prefer to send his friends elsewhere for medical assistance. My favourite scene is when Shpigelsky drops on one knee to propose and puts his back out. The comic fallout of a man in pain stuck on all fours is priceless. His crab impression skittering across the stage was worth the ticket price in itself.
John Simm played Rakitin, best friends with the man of the house and a person who has loved and lost but is still in love. It took a while to recognise him, as his hair and beard were as grey as sooty chimney. He was magnetic to watch and even though he was grey-haired and dressed in country house attire I still saw Sam from Life on Mars with echoes of the Master from Doctor Who.
I felt the running time of two hours fifteen minutes was just right, any longer and I would have drifted off as the story wasn’t strong enough to keep my attention. A few times I had to refocus and it didn’t help that seated across the back of the set were actors in waiting, literally, actors waiting their turn to perform. I found myself studying them instead of watching the… I was going to say action but it wasn’t really action just gentle goings-on.
Apart from the snotty woman to my right, it was an enjoyable way to spend a Tuesday afternoon and a real pleasure to witness the acting capabilities of Messer’s Simm and Gatiss.
Today, I have mostly been catching three trains and four tube trains, walking over two bridges, eating in two restaurants, and sitting in one theatre.