Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Library Miscellany


It's an absolute delight to welcome Claire Cock-Starkey to the salon today as she undertakes the promo rounds with her new book, A Library Miscellany.

As with all of Claire's marvellous books, this one is another treasure trove and absolutely beautiful to look at too! It may be small but it's packed with wonderful bits of trivia and fascinating stories about libraries across the world, from the earliest to today. What book lover doesn’t love a library? A whole place full of books that you can borrow as much as you like. I love libraries so it was a real pleasure to read Claire Cock-Starkey’s book full of facts and information all about libraries.

If you love books (who doesn't?) and the wonders of libraries, this is a must read!

You can follow Claire on Twitter and if you're anywhere near Oxford at noon on 20th March, she's speaking at the Oxford Literary Festival. Find out more here!

Without further ado, let's delve into the world of circulating libraries...




Tuesday, 13 February 2018

An Evening with Jane Austen at Wellington College

An Evening with Jane Austen is coming to the stunning surroundings of Wellington College!

An Evening with Jane Austen, Wellington College, 11th March 2018
Historian and author, Catherine Curzon, introduces a magical evening with Austen’s most memorable characters in the evocative surroundings of Godmersham Park. With Caroline Langrishe and Adrian Lukis, alongside period musical entertainment from Rosie Lomas and Camilla Pay. 



Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The Wentworth Woodhouse Gin Festival


Like gin? Like gorgeous houses? Of course you do, so I'll see you at the Wentworth Woodhouse Gin Festival!

Don't miss a fantastic fundraising Gin Festival held at the amazing Official Wentworth Woodhouse over three sessions.

Tickets are available on line only at http://www.ginfestival.org/about  for £15 per person, which includes a Copa Gin glass and access to dozens of local and nationally produced gins. These include  the launch of "The Spirit of Woodhouse", our very own gin in collaboration with Lincolnshire's Pin Gin.

Add artisan foods, live music and dancers, special masterclasses and the fabulous event sponsors Fever-Tree and it will be a "must go to" event for 2018!

Tickets are selling fast already, we hope to see you there. Enquiries can be directed through the Facebook page or via http://Ginfestival.org!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Peter the Wild Boy

I'll be in Oadby, Leicestershire, to chat all about Peter the Wild Boy on 15th February. Tickets are just £5, and refreshments are included!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

New Release: An Actor's Guide to Romance

An Actor's Guide to Romance is available world-wide now! This short story is just 99p, and you can read a short extract below.

An Actor's Guide to Romance
When long-time theatrical enemies are cast as lovers, their late-night rehearsal brings a whole new meaning to method acting.
For twenty years, rakish Adam Fisher and gentlemanly Thomas Fox have been the best of enemies and  their first on-stage kiss is causing  headaches for everyone. Over a bottle of wine on one rainy night in London, these two acting legends will do whatever it takes to banish their first-night nerves. After all, the show must go on!


Extract
Every hero needs his villain. The thorn in his side, the shadow on his sun, the fly on his teacake. Holmes had his Moriarty, Superman had Lex Luther, ET had the lack of intergalactic telephone lines and Thomas Fox had Adam Fisher. From that long-ago audition at drama school when each had chosen a monologue that had stopped the panel in its tracks to the first of innumerable shared curtain calls when a new Jeeves met his Wooster, he was always there, always up for the same roles, his name on the same lists that were proposed for your consideration, matching every single achievement until, still chasing one another’s shadow more than two decades after that very first meeting at RADA, together they had waited for Godot. They were like a mirror image, two careers on parallel lines, from youthful love interest to middle-aged gravitas, each as decorated, as popular, as perfect as the other.
Maybe they always would be until one died or they killed each other.
Who knows?
In any titanic struggle, the parties must know their places and right now, theirs was a dingy basement off Covent Garden, where Thomas and Adam were embracing.
“Thank god we found each other. What would I do without you, darling?”
Adam rolled his eyes. Not enough for it to be noticeable from the front row, but Thomas noticed, because he intended Thomas to notice. Because that was the sort of thing that Adam did, the sort of thing he had always done. He rolled his eyes, gave a little sigh and finally whispered, “Did you have onions at lunch?”
Then he raised his voice to an audible volume and replied, “I feel as though I’ve been searching all my life for something, and I didn’t realize until we found each other.”
Thomas gazed down at Adam’s full lips and, despite sudden stiffness in his neck, began to lower his face to kiss him. Adam blinked, his blue eyes shining when they met Thomas’ gaze, his embrace around Thomas’ waist tightening. He pursed his lips, blinked again and declared, “God, that is oniony!”
Thomas flung up his hands and backed out of their embrace. “I can’t bloody do this, Adam, if you keep titting about!”
From the side of the room there came a flurry of movement as their solo audience threw up her hands, dashing script pages across the floor. Gill Henley rose from her seat in a whirlwind of scarves and floral print and exclaimed, “For Christ’s sake, gents, this scene again! Can you not just plough through and pretend you might actually be in love? You’re supposed to be actors, so act!”
“It was a joke, darling!” Adam was all innocence now, of course, because he would be, wouldn’t he? He put his hands on his hips and addressed Thomas. “You dragged me out of character, Tom Fox. It’s a cheap way to steal a scene.”
I dragged you out of character?” Thomas felt his face flush as he tried to rein in his frustration. “You keep breaking out of character to comment on my breath! Which, I might add, does not smell of onions. And don’t bloody call me Tom Fox. I’m not a character in Wind in the bloody Willows.”
“Look,” Gill addressed them as though they were naughty schoolboys. “This isn’t a play about being gay. Stop making it the fulcrum of the drama. Your characters being gay is just part of the fabric of their lives, just like your lives. It’s not as though your whole lives are spent camping about and being as gay as gay can be, are they?”
She looked at Adam and narrowed her eyes.
“Yours is, I know that, but as a whole, gay is part of life, not life itself.” Gill held up her hand before Adam could protest. “You have one kiss in the text. It’s not the end of the world. Let’s call it a day and come back tomorrow, lips puckered, ready to kiss and move bloody on, yes?”
“Tell him.” Adam shrugged, already turning to retrieve his coat. “I’m a professional, he’s an onion-eater.”
Thomas clenched his fists. “It was a shallot, Fisher! It was not an onion!”
“Well, enjoy your evening of onions, Tom Fox.” Adam kissed Gill’s cheek and raised his hand to Thomas. “Because I am off home to study my lines. Bonsoir, my fine supporting player!”
He spun on his heel to give a deep bow then, with another wave, opened the door and disappeared into the hallway.
Even though Thomas knew that Adam could no longer hear him, he raised his chin imperiously and declared, “Equal billing, darling! I am no one’s support.”

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Saying Goodbye to John

Something a little different today as we time travel back to the Medieval era in the company of Chris Nickson, author of The Holywell Dead, which is available now. In this guest piece, Chris reflects on saying goodbye to series characters.

---oOo---

Even before I sat down to begin writing The Holywell Dead, I knew it would be the last book to feature John the Carpenter. Some series can run and run, going on well for many volumes, and sometimes growing better with each one. Others, though, have a limited span, and in my heart I knew these medieval Chesterfield mysteries fell into the second category.
I’ll miss John Katherine, Walter, Martha, the entire extended family. I love them, they’re real, fallible human beings, so it’s a bittersweet farewell. They came to me in a group one day with the first story in the series, The Crooked Spire. That one was a gift. Driving through Chesterfield, the entire book came to me in the span of about 10 seconds; all I had to do was write it. It was one of those rare gifts that writers don’t refuse. I knew the town well and liked it; for more than four years I lived just six miles away in Dronfield, and went there to shop, to spend time and explore. It’s kept its history well, and the church with its crooked spire is a thing of wonder.
But John is a carpenter. It’s more than his trade, it’s his passion, and he has a feel for wood that he doesn’t want to set aside. Having him solve the mysteries behind a few deaths comes within the realms of possibility. Too many, though, and I’d be straining belief. This, I think, is as far as I can go.
More than that, Chesterfield was a small town in the 1360s. When a big city like Norwich or Bristol might boast 4,000 and 6,000 people respectively (York had 7,000 and even London only 23,000), somewhere like Chesterfield, even though it was a market town serving a wide area, would be lucky to have more than a few hundred people living there. Realistically, the scope for stories was at an end.
Obviously, no spoilers here, but the book unfolded in a way that made for a good end to the series – at least I feel it did. John survived the Great Pestilence of 1348, he’s had his time of wandering and sorrow. Now he’s settled, and he’s done his duty as the Coroner’s often unwilling helper and conscience. It’s time to wish him – to wish them all – a long and happy life.


Chris Nickson

Thursday, 4 January 2018

An Actor's Guide to Romance

It's a rare foray out of the 18th century for me today to announce the forthcoming release of An Actor's Guide to Romance, a short story of actors, rivals and a rather undressed-dress rehearsal co-written by yours truly and the fabulous Eleanor Harkstead. The story will be released on 23rd January and is just 99p!  You can read a short extract below and meet Adam and Tom (or Thomas, as he'd prefer it)!

An Actor's Guide to Romance
When long-time theatrical enemies are cast as lovers, their late-night rehearsal brings a whole new meaning to method acting.
For twenty years, Adam Fisher and Thomas Fox have been the best of enemies. From their first meeting at drama school to shared stages, shared bills and a competition to amass the most illustrious awards, they have been the names on every theatregoers’ lips. Separately they can sell out an entire run in an hour, so when they’re cast as lovers in London’s hottest new play, the tickets are gone in minutes.
But for rakish Adam and gentlemanly Thomas, the small matter of their first on-stage kiss is causing a headache for everyone. Over a bottle of wine on one rainy night in the city, these two acting legends will do whatever it takes to banish their first-night nerves. After all, as everyone knows, the show must go on!


Extract
Every hero needs his villain. The thorn in his side, the shadow on his sun, the fly on his teacake. Holmes had his Moriarty, Superman had Lex Luther, ET had the lack of intergalactic telephone lines and Thomas Fox had Adam Fisher. From that long-ago audition at drama school when each had chosen a monologue that had stopped the panel in its tracks to the first of innumerable shared curtain calls when a new Jeeves met his Wooster, he was always there, always up for the same roles, his name on the same lists that were proposed for your consideration, matching every single achievement until, still chasing one another’s shadow more than two decades after that very first meeting at RADA, together they had waited for Godot. They were like a mirror image, two careers on parallel lines, from youthful love interest to middle-aged gravitas, each as decorated, as popular, as perfect as the other.
Maybe they always would be until one died or they killed each other.
Who knows?
In any titanic struggle, the parties must know their places and right now, theirs was a dingy basement off Covent Garden, where Thomas and Adam were embracing.
“Thank god we found each other. What would I do without you, darling?”
Adam rolled his eyes. Not enough for it to be noticeable from the front row, but Thomas noticed, because he intended Thomas to notice. Because that was the sort of thing that Adam did, the sort of thing he had always done. He rolled his eyes, gave a little sigh and finally whispered, “Did you have onions at lunch?”
Then he raised his voice to an audible volume and replied, “I feel as though I’ve been searching all my life for something, and I didn’t realize until we found each other.”
Thomas gazed down at Adam’s full lips and, despite sudden stiffness in his neck, began to lower his face to kiss him. Adam blinked, his blue eyes shining when they met Thomas’ gaze, his embrace around Thomas’ waist tightening. He pursed his lips, blinked again and declared, “God, that is oniony!”
Thomas flung up his hands and backed out of their embrace. “I can’t bloody do this, Adam, if you keep titting about!”
From the side of the room there came a flurry of movement as their solo audience threw up her hands, dashing script pages across the floor. Gill Henley rose from her seat in a whirlwind of scarves and floral print and exclaimed, “For Christ’s sake, gents, this scene again! Can you not just plough through and pretend you might actually be in love? You’re supposed to be actors, so act!”
“It was a joke, darling!” Adam was all innocence now, of course, because he would be, wouldn’t he? He put his hands on his hips and addressed Thomas. “You dragged me out of character, Tom Fox. It’s a cheap way to steal a scene.”
I dragged you out of character?” Thomas felt his face flush as he tried to rein in his frustration. “You keep breaking out of character to comment on my breath! Which, I might add, does not smell of onions. And don’t bloody call me Tom Fox. I’m not a character in Wind in the bloody Willows.”
“Look,” Gill addressed them as though they were naughty schoolboys. “This isn’t a play about being gay. Stop making it the fulcrum of the drama. Your characters being gay is just part of the fabric of their lives, just like your lives. It’s not as though your whole lives are spent camping about and being as gay as gay can be, are they?”
She looked at Adam and narrowed her eyes.
“Yours is, I know that, but as a whole, gay is part of life, not life itself.” Gill held up her hand before Adam could protest. “You have one kiss in the text. It’s not the end of the world. Let’s call it a day and come back tomorrow, lips puckered, ready to kiss and move bloody on, yes?”
“Tell him.” Adam shrugged, already turning to retrieve his coat. “I’m a professional, he’s an onion-eater.”
Thomas clenched his fists. “It was a shallot, Fisher! It was not an onion!”
“Well, enjoy your evening of onions, Tom Fox.” Adam kissed Gill’s cheek and raised his hand to Thomas. “Because I am off home to study my lines. Bonsoir, my fine supporting player!”
He spun on his heel to give a deep bow then, with another wave, opened the door and disappeared into the hallway.
Even though Thomas knew that Adam could no longer hear him, he raised his chin imperiously and declared, “Equal billing, darling! I am no one’s support.”