Publication day for The Dowry Blade approaches, and pre-publication copies are already available from Arachne Press’ web shop, where there is also a special offer of £25 (free postage in the UK) for combining TDB with Mosaic of Air (normal combined price £27.98) for the first 20 people to get there.
I have 4 launch events lined up (it is a BIG book, it needs several events).
If anyone has further suggestions or indeed offers as to other places to read, get in touch. Will consider anywhere within easy reach of London, plus near Sheffield, Bath, Durham and Newark where friends and family might be prevailed upon for a bed for the night.
Follow the links for full details, and I hope to see you for at least one!
Organising Longest Night kept me away from my own blog for a while, but it was completely worth it, not least because it gave me an opportunity to share my first ever musical composition with musicians who would do it justice. Here are Ian Kennedy and Sarah Lloyd singing The Cold Time.
This is a Trobairitz song from the late 12th Century, written by Azalaïs de Porcairagues, in what is now Languedoc. It is written in a form of Provençal known now as Occitan. The tune is lost, and I came across it in Meg Bogin’s book The Women Troubadours, while researching my historical novel about Cathars and Trobairitz, The Cold Time, which I may eventually finish.
I actually wrote the melody a very long time ago, but coming up with harmonies has been a slower process. Ian & Sarah were incredibly patient with me!
I learnt Provençal, and tweaked Bogin’s translation for poetic rhythm and sense. The original song is a much longer work, but only this first section stands alone without understanding the social mores of the time and the geography and architecture of the city of Aurenga (Orange) – it was only when I went there and visited the museum that I understood a reference later in the song to the ‘Arch with the Triumphs’. A Roman triumphal arch, which for several centuries was built into the castle, effectively forming the front door. This was certainly the case when Azalaïs knew the then count, Raimbaut d’Aurenga. These days the arch sits on a roundabout to the north of the city centre, and getting to it is a death defying race across, dodging massed lorries.
Raimbaut d’Aurenga’s Front Door
Notionally the section here is a typical Troubadour song of the seasons, although Spring was a more popular subject than Winter. However, the song is in fact an extended metaphor and a farewell to Raimbaut, Azalaïs’ ‘Nightingale’. She does not say so, but he had died.
The thing about running your own business is that holidays become almost entirely theoretical. It’s a holiday to leave the computer for long enough to hang out the washing on a sunny day, it’s a holiday to take the long way to the post office, it’s a holiday to read something that isn’t for work, or to listen to something that requires your full attention on the radio, or to take a day to learn new songs.
The thing about running your own business is that you can build a holiday in anywhere you want to, and around anything you want to, and justify it as ‘work’.
So a week in Cumbria because one of the poets in The Other Side of Sleep had organised a reading in Grange-over-Sands and it’s too far to go and not stay over, and if you have to stay over, well…
A few days with friends in Bath and a stop over with another on the way to Cheltenham.
So I briefly pretended I’m a poet last week. As I said whilst doing so, I am not a poet, I occasionally write poetry, it really isn’t the same thing. So here’s me pretending to be a poet, with one poem and two flash fictions that happen to kind of work as poems.
If you want to hear how real poets do it you can listen over on the Arachne Press website. I’ll be pretending again at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival on Saturday in the company of Angela France, Math Jones, Bernie Howley, Kate Foley and Jennifer A McGowan.
In the meantime I’ve been listening to Ursula le Guin on Radio4, first an epic 2 hour catch-up with The Left Hand of Darkness, and then a 30 minute documentary, with the woman herself, and various writers who admire and were influenced by her, including Neil Gaiman, Karen Joy Fowler and David Mitchell. I found myself falling in love with LHD all over again. I read it first in my teens, and again about 5 years ago, and I am in awe of le Guin’s talent and the subtlety of the adaptation for Radio by Judith Adams, everything I remember is there, and the bitter, bone deep cold swells through the recording so, so well. Listening to Gaiman and Mitchell say words to the effect of ‘this is why I became a writer’, I wonder: is this why I became a writer? (and unlike ‘poet’ I do identify as ‘writer’ because even when not writing I obsess about it – think about my characters, interrogate my bad habits, consider plot twists, discover great titles in over heard conversations…) and I think the answer is probably YES.
The Left Hand of Darkness has been one of my favourite books since I first read it, and unlike many others was even better on the second reading, and still made me cry (and I think another re-read is due). Discovering it so early, probably about the time I began to seriously think I might write ‘for real’, it must have had a huge impact. It is hard to tell, I read voraciously at that point, three books a day at weekends, back to back, swimming in words. I’m sure I amalgamate many of those books in my mind, not sure what comes from where, but LHD stands out from the morass, as do other of le Guin’s books: The Tombs of Atuan and The Lathe of Heaven in particular. They are doing an adaptation of A Wizard of Earthsea (My first ever le Guin read, when I was probably nine or ten) on Radio4 Extra next week – LISTEN!
Did you think you were going to get away without a reference to music? Ha! fooled you.
I spent Saturday immersed in songs about making choices and community and freedom, taught by the marvellous Lester Simpson in preparation for the next ‘big idea’, a celebration of Magna Carta in the week of the actual 800 year anniversary of the first draft being signed (if you ignore the change of calendar in the 18th Century). Nearly 50 people turned up and we sounded amazing. Here’s a sample…
You’ll get a chance to hear the songs we are working on in a more polished format at West Greenwich Library, 7:30 on Thursday 18th June. More on that nearer the time. There is a call out for STORIES for the event over at Arachne, you have til Mayday.
On February 23rd, my story The Wetland Way will be read at Liars’ League Hong Kong (without me, it’s too far to go!)
LGBT History Month
Thursday 12th I’m at North Kensington Library, 108 Ladbroke Grove, W11 1PZ
with VA Fearon where we will each be reading from our books, and interviewing each other about coming out as writers…
Shouting about Lesbian Literature – coming out as a lesbian writer.
Cherry Potts first collection of lesbian short stories, Mosaic of Air was published over 20 years ago, and she now owns her own independent publishing house, Arachne Press.
V. A. Fearon’s first self-published crime thriller, The Girl with the Treasure Chest came out last year.
What has changed for the Lesbian author in the interim? What has the recent surge of self and indie publishing done for lesbian literature (and what is it anyway)?
Two personal approaches, with readings.
Thursday 26th I’m at Richmond Lending Library, Little Green, Richmond, TW9 1QL at 7pm doing readings and talking about writing and publishing.
Join writer and publisher Cherry Potts for an evening of readings and informal discussion of Lesbian & Gay writing with a whirl through anything from myth, to science fiction. Cherry will read from her own work and others published by her award-winning publishing house, Arachne Press.
It’s been a manic few days, getting the review copies of The Other Side of Sleep out, sorting fliers for the exhibition, hounding people as nicely as I can to support the crowd funding for Solstice shorts. taking the cat the vet, rehearsing the songs Vocal Chords are singing at The Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich at the weekend…
So it’s been lovely to take a break now and then, to track the progress of the ships up from Falmouth on this nifty little map which is updated every hour. We’ve got quite hooked. Most of the ships should be moored up in the Thames at Woolwich and Greenwich by tomorrow, so the thinking is, as we won’t have time on Sunday on account of all the singing, we’ll whisk down to Greenwich in the morning for a quick look, before I head into town for a meeting and some leaflet distribution to likely venues in Highgate.
It’s also been great to read for an hour or two here and there, before sleep, first thing in the morning, or a quiet lunchtime in the garden. I’ve just back-to-backed on Kerry Hudson‘s two novels, Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, and Thirst.
Both excellent gripping books, but the tension racked up in Thirst was so great at times I had to stop reading and return to work to calm my nerves!