The Little Country in music

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Charles de Lint is one of my all-time favourite authors. A master of urban fantasy, he is responsible for such masterpieces as Greenmantle, Moonheart and the much beloved The Little Country.

The Little Country is a magical novel set in the fishing village of Mousehole, Cornwall, about folk musician Janey Little’s discovery of a strange book in her grandfather’s trunk.

It’s one of my favourite novels, not least because it features its own original music scores in the back of the book which, until now, had gone largely unheard. I loved it so much I set off for Mousehole many years ago and tracked down the row of cottages that inspired the setting.

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Enter Zahatar, an acoustic string band from the US that is busy fundraising on Kickstarter so it can put out an album of distinctive arrangements of Celtic tunes from Charles de Lint’s The Little Country.

We want to have the opportunity to record an album version of The Little Country song cycle, which began as single melody lines in the appendix of one of Charles de Lint’s urban fantasy novels from the early 90’s. These tunes had never before been arranged for string band in their entirety, until now.

Zahatar recently held a sold-out performance of the song cycle, and recording an album is our next endeavor. Every step of the way, our project has been endorsed by Charles de Lint, and we are forever thankful to him for allowing us the rights to bring these tunes to life from the pages of his wondrous book.

We love playing Celtic music, and The Little Country is a project that’s very near and dear to us. We want to share this experience with the world!

If you have some pocket money, I can’t think of a better present for your Christmas stocking than this album, and maybe the t-shirt as well!

I hope the many fans of Charles de Lint’s The Little Country are drawn to support this wonderful undertaking. I know I will be.

Writing at Talliston

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Mucking about on Facebook one day, I chanced upon the exquisite loveliness that is Talliston House & Gardens.

Talliston is owner John Trevillian’s personal passion project – a former council house transformed into myriad chambers of loveliness, each of the 13 rooms inspired by various grand houses, castles, and exotic destinations.

Recently, the Talliston dream has been threatened by the most mundane of circumstances – money, or the lack thereof, which has fueled this project from day one (cripes, am I starting to sound like Kevin McLeod or what?).

John’s goal was to create something extraordinary from the means of an average living wage, and he has done just that. With the loss of his job recently, the future of Talliston is now uncertain. In fact, it has just been listed on the market.

Enter the Saving Talliston Indiegogo campaign that could be the gamechanger for this artistic enclave, which in addition to being a private home, is also host to writing and poetry groups, and serves as a performance space for various artists and musicians.

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Allow me to quote briefly from the Indiegogo appeal:

Talliston House & Gardens is a project that has taken the most ordinary of English dwellings – a three-bedroomed, semi-detached, ex-council house in Essex – and over two and a half decades has painstakingly transformed it into a magical labyrinth of locations, each set in a different time and place.

After years of design, research, sourcing and construction, each room or garden is infused with a rich story, incorporating over 1,650 antiques and authentic objects sourced from 27 countries across the globe. With a name that means ‘the hidden place’, Talliston is not just an interior design project. Instead, it is a growing community venue that serves as an inspirational wonderland for writers, artists, craftspeople, and anyone seeking the extraordinary within the ordinary.
And all this has been accomplished by an ordinary team of people – all inspired by the project’s unique vision.

Impressed by the writerly credentials of the owner, and his commitment to such a wonderfully unusual and creative project, I recently joined the Talliston Writers’ Circle and attended my first meeting in May.

Everyone was incredibly friendly, even though I was the Max Headroom character in the corner on a laptop screen, a bleary-eyed Australian doing a 5am live Skype cross with my British counterparts on the other side of the planet (isn’t technology wonderful?).

It was a great meeting, and we were treated to a talk by crime novelist Linda Stratmann who walked us through her Frances Doughty Victorian crime series, and also talked about the various true crime books she had written. Book #1 The Poisonous Seed is now at the top of my reading pile 🙂

I sincerely hope John and his friends can save Talliston. It’s a special place, one imbued with magic and mystery. Talliston means ‘the hidden place‘, and I can’t think of a more fitting name for the labyrinth of painstakingly created rooms that lie behind the unassuming door of this ex-council house.

Like a series of movie sets, it’s the perfect house for creative types, and one worth saving. If you can spare it, fund the dream in whatever small way you can.

We need more magic and beauty in this world.

 

Library Saturdays

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In November 2012 I organised a series of meet-ups at my local library after being inspired to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO).

Despite living in the area for more than 10 years, I’d never actually been to my local library before. In checking its suitability for a group of writers I was pleasantly surprised to discover it had a nice quiet space for our group, free WIFI, and happily turned a blind eye to the presence of drinks and food (within reason).

The meet-ups were a great success, although I have to be frank – we chatted, snacked, tweeted and Facebooked more than we actually wrote. And no, I didn’t make my NANOWRIMO deadline for 2012 either!

Fast-forward to 2014 (I missed last year’s NANOWRIMO as I was travelling) and I have rediscovered my love for the library thanks to a heatwave of 40C+ days.

Living in a house without air-conditioning is no fun over summer and, try as I might, I just can’t settle down and write when I’m physically uncomfortable.

As I thought long and hard about where I might hole up for several hours – somewhere cool and quiet where I wouldn’t be interrupted – I remembered the library, which among its many positive points also boasted air conditioning.

I can tell you there really isn’t anywhere better to write in the world than in a room surrounded by books. Especially a temperature-controlled one. I’ve found my visits to the library focus me in the same way my weekday job does.

In sitting down at a desk I find my brain clicking over into ‘work’ mode. I ignore the WIFI – the devil’s instrument! – and get straight down to writing.

Forget hiring space or saving up to build a writing shed. While there are still libraries, writers will always have an affordable quiet haven at hand.

Make the most of yours, because if you don’t use it you may one day lose it.

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Entering competitions

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As if I won’t be busy enough this year with my personal short story writing challenge, I have also set myself a personal challenge to enter four short story writing competitions in 2014.

Crazy! But there’s a method to the madness.

For many years I have jotted down the details of various writing competitions and, in well-meaning fashion, committed them to my diary so that I won’t forget to enter.

The only problem with this approach is forgetting to write the actual story!

So while this year I have, once again, committed various dates to my diary, the difference is I am now actively working towards these deadlines.

And it’s a mixed bag of literary, fantasy and crime – there’s nothing like genre hopping to keep you on your toes.

I have already finished my first entry, a fantasy tale – For Fear of Little Men – but I’m unable to share it for now due to the entry guidelines, at least until I find out how I fare. But I can tell you it’s full of very bad faeries. The good news is my volunteer readers love it, so I am submitting it this week.

Bon voyage little story! I hope you make a great first impression. And if you don’t, well, you might just end up as part of my short story anthology.

I’ll let you know how I go.

Short Story Challenge 2014

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Hello 2014!

I’ve decided to welcome in the new year by starting a blog, and setting myself a particular writing challenge – writing a short story a month.

But not only writing a story a month, but having it edited and publishing it via Amazon’s Kindle program. That’s 12 stories in 12 months, ranging in wordage from 2500-7000 a piece – potentially 80,000-odd words or roughly a book’s worth of stories. The other part of this equation involves publishing an anthology of these stories at the end of the year.

It’s a tall order, and perhaps that’s why I’m nailing my colours to the mast now – I need a public platform to keep me honest!

Along the way I’ll be sharing my writing approach, tips and general advice (no tricks – this will be 100% blood, sweat and tears).

I have quite a few other writing projects on the boil this year, but writing short stories on a regular basis (and blogging about it) is all about reforming my writing practises – and setting up some good long-term habits.

As a self-described ‘binge writer’, I’m looking to replace weekly streams of consciousness with structured daily writing.

Working 9-5, my free time is finite, so I will be using mornings commuting and ‘Library Saturdays’ to pen and polish my stories in preparation for publication. Hmmm, that’s a lot of Ps!

Kicking off January is Army Dreamers, my short horror story about a group of soldiers who encounter an ancient and deadly enemy in the Australian outback.

Oh, and did I mention the anthology will be a mixture of horror and fantasy? Well now I have.

Let me know what you think.