Self-publishing News: Indie Writers Are Doing It for Themselves!

My latest guest post for The Huffington Post on the latest trends in self-published writing.

http://tinyurl.com/qcgaazq

It comes just as my own  As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee    self-published book has become a top 20 Amazon chart hit

Just in time for all those setting off to Spain for the Easter Holidays !

EARLY ON A COLD ST VALENTINE’S DAY (A TRUE LOVE STORY)

I was asked last month by Samantha Verant to write a short story for Valentine’s Day. Samantha published her book, Seven Letters From Paris last year.

My story is a true one and you can find it here

http://www.samanthaverant.com/2015/02/early-on-cold-st-valentines-day-true.html

“The rose is a rose and was always a rose”

What Makes a Writer – Nature or Nurture?

My latest blog is a guest blog for ALLI- The Association of Independent Authors and describes my journey as an indie writer.

Thanks to Chris Tuff Photography for the stunning photo  http://ctphoto.moonfruit.com/

 http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/what-makes-a-writer-nature-or-nurture/

Happy Birthday Laurie Lee – 100 today

 

The End of the Road

Today is a landmark day for me, a day towards which I have been working for over two years. My book As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee is officially published today  and available on Amazon.co.uk as a kindle/paperback.9781781322079-PerfectCover.indd

 

Birthday Wishes

Laurie Lee would have been 100 today.

There has seen a plethora of articles and broadcasts in celebration of the writer, including an article by me on one of the Book Industry’s  leading trade websites Book Brunch. I tell the story behind the research and writing of my book and the journey that I made following in Laurie Lee’s footsteps down across Spain in the summer and autumn of 2012.

The Radio 4 “Today ” programme carried a headline piece on Laurie Lee, the podcast is now available, see links to other articles carried today.

Crowd Funding Site Still Live-10 days to go

My crowd-funding appeal at Pubslush.com is standing at 34% with just 10 days to go, if you would like a signed and dedicated copy or a selection of other extras, check out the site and support me in raising money for good causes.

 

 The Wheel Has Come Full Circle

 

In a strange and magical way my journey has now turned full circle. In my book I mention a lost love of mine that still haunted me as I made my journey down through Spain. We shared a life in Spain in the 1980’s. This is us then….

Kay&Paul_Sept1981 002 (1)

Just a few weeks ago, through the book, we were re-united and everything just fell back into place as if it was meant to be !

 

It looks like I have my Indian Summer, my little summer of the quince after all.

 

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A  New Dawning

To cap a lovely day I received a small gift from a friend of my mother’s who had just received a signed copy of my book. Pam had heard on the radio that Laurie Lee, who loved plants and nature, always had his favourite rose climbing up and around the front door of his cottage in Slad. It was called “New Dawn” and Pam just happened to have one growing in the garden. She sent my mum back with a cutting for me and here it is…photo (25)

A new dawn for me beckons…

 

 

 

Knitting socks, wet-eyed squirrels and drinking Cider with Rosie

It is the beginning of a magical sunny day as I drive across the Cotswold Way, high up overlooking the Gloucestershire countryside, lovely views once the early morning mist burns off under the gentle intensity of a warming-up autumnal day.

It is a real “Veranillo del Membrillo” day, as the Spanish in Andalusia say, “a little summer of the quince” – an Indian Summer day – and the English are out en masse to enjoy it.

It feels like a moment snatched away from the inexorable march towards the darker days of winter and I am looking to enjoy it to the full.

I am on my way to the inaugural “Walking with Words” event, inspired and led by Kevan Manwaring, a quiet, gentle Gloucestershire poet. The collection of guided walks and tours stretch from late summer, through the winter and into spring 2014. They celebrate  Gloucestershire’s links with classic English writers who took their inspiration from the  natural beauty of the county. The collection of writers range from WH Davies, Edward Thomas and Robert Frost, Ivor Gurney through to John Drinkwater. Today though It is all about Laurie Lee, who would have been 100 next year. He is a hero of mine and I am writing a book about his Spanish Civil Wars years, that shaped him as a writer and a man, and a walk that started, well it started from here in Slad, a tiny village in a sumptuous English green valley on the edge of the Cotswolds.

We assemble in front of Rose Bank cottage where Lee grew up, we gaze down the steep bank to the cottage and imagine the scene of little Laurie Lee, only three, being set down from the carrier’s cart. It is 1917 and the Great War is still raging on the once-green fields of France. Laurie recollects his arrival in the village in his first memoir “Cider with Rosie”: “The June grass, amongst which I stood was taller than I was and I wept.”

There are no tears from our slightly surreal group, but I think it is close. Chantelle, a trained archeologist – IT boffin in the public sector by day, a backing vocalist for a progressive band at night – is distracting herself by knitting socks as she watches on. She is not digging up dead bones today, just gently sifting the earth and the air for traces of the spirit of a dead poet. Sylvie, a retired classical violinist who toured the world and once played with the Grateful Dead and taught Joni Mitchell’s daughter, is imagining a stained-glass commemorative centenary piece of Lee flailing against the grass much like a young Don Quijote acting against the whirling blades of the windmills on La Mancha. Sylvia, as vivacious as the uplifting vowel at the end of her name implies, another singer and a poet to boot, whose muse was Joni Mitchell herself, would be in grave danger, I think, if an older Laurie were to appear, armed with his charm, silver tipped tongue and come-to-bed eyes. In the words of the great American singer, that could have been written for Lee, he was all about “Court and Spark.”

We are an eclectic group, many, like me, looking for something, a second chance in life perhaps, after bereavement, divorce, the ending of first careers. Some first lives move into a second phase seamlessly, others end abruptly. Perhaps we are all looking for some of Lee’s alchemy to inspire and transform our lives. Anything is possible, I think, on a day like today, with grasshoppers chirping and apples, both red and green, ripe for the picking.The opening words of Lee’s second memoir “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning” also have Lee standing where we are now. It is 1934, he is 19 years old and he is leaving home. He has no plans other than to walk to London, he doesn’t know that after a year in the capital, his feet would feel restless again and he would walk out again, this time down from the Atlantic coast of the north west of Spain to the Mediterranean…

“The stooping figure of my mother, waist-deep in the grass and caught there like a piece of sheep’s wool, was the last I saw of my country home as I left it to discover the world.”

We walk for about five miles and circle the valley, like the red kites above us, stopping from time to time to admire views, relive scenes from “Cider with Rosie” and to read extracts from the book. Sylvie reads a piece about Peace Day and the annual blessing from the squire, a man always close to tears on these occasions apparently. Somehow Sylvie creates a more evocative scene than intended when she speaks of the party being welcomed by a “wet-eyed squirrel” on the steps of the manor house. I feel this is in keeping with the spirit of our pilgrimage and that Laurie would have loved the slip of the tongue.

The highlight of the day is visiting the newly christened Laurie Lee Wood, acquired recently by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and now protected from the threat of redevelopment. I had heard recently a BBC Radio 4 programme on the wood and had been touched by the many lovers of nature and Lee’s words who had raised £36,000 in just six weeks to ensure that this particular bit of the Slad valley, immortalised in Lee’s writing, was now secure for generations to come to enjoy. Lee’s daughter Jessy had led the fight to save the wood, continuing the work that her father had started when purchasing the wood when it was threatened by those that know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We finish back at the church opposite Laurie’s favourite pub,The Woolpack, at his graveside, but not before Chantelle had taken centre stage and with knitting put away and with a glint in her eye had read a few lines from the climax of  “Cider With Rosie”, “The first bite of the apple,” Laurie’s first tryst with Rosie who was even prettier than Betty Gleed:

“Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time…never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again.”

Chantelle, for me, had now been rechristened as Rosie and she leads us on to our lunch that we had all earned in the enchanting grounds of the Hawkwood Centre. Our lunch, like our morning, is organic, biodynamic and utterly delicious. No cider though, just apple sauce on the side.

I linger at the end of the lunch and then go back down to The Woolpack and look over the valley again to Laurie Lee’s Wood. I fell in love with Laurie Lee and his writing many years ago when I was drifting on the cusp of manhood, recently he had helped me negotiate a crisis in my life. I am writing a book for Lee’s centenary year that starts on 26 June 2014 and I realize now that on that day too, when Lee would have been a 100 years old, the wood will be one. I am not sure how yet but I want my book, its due date of birth falling at around the same time, to play its own part in conserving the enchanted wood. I resolve to speak to the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust soon.