Book Launch in pre-dystopian (just?) times.

 

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Slight cheat as this is a mostly copied post from my other blog – writing and other stuff but I’ve been meaning to post on here for a couple of months and have failed due to house-selling and moving… The book launch of LONDONIA took place in The Shoreditch Treehouse, in Shoreditch (Sureditch 2072 spelling) on March the 13th 2020, JUST in time before everything we perceived as normal changed dramatically. Reading this now, it seems years, not a few months ago but I’m eternally glad that we did manage to applaud the book’s emergence with an unforgettable evening. Thanks, my dear Brother and partner, Sophie, and friend Terry for all the amazing catering, Mark for the incredible Londonia soundtrack, Sid, Ruth and Mark for the live music (The Gorecy potatoes as featured in the story) to Tartarus Press, and everyone who braved the streets and public transport to turn up and celebrate with us.

Back to just after the event…

Londonia is a dystopian tale, albeit a relatively cheery one, but I didn’t expect to be shoving it off from its moorings in quite such an extraordinary moment in time.

Having planned the event for many weeks the thought of the whole thing being called off was depressing to say the least – and I know thousands of other folks are in a similar and worse situation with far bigger events to worry about. Anyway, we did it – just in time, on Friday the 13th of March 2020.

Wednesday.

Arrived early evening in London and headed for our favourite home-from-home cheapy hotel, St Athans, in Bloomsbury. Visited the local Indian restaurant for a plate of veg curry, returned and slept soundly.

Thursday.

Mad day of trawling Oxfam shops for a selection of plates, mugs, glasses etc to ‘prop’ the food section of the venue. (As the book is largely concerned with the heroine’s profession of Finder and super scavenger, I felt an eclectic mix of old crockery would be appropriate). Also found a suitable recycled outfit for me, including a goodly hat from a clothes jumble emporium in Covent Garden, red stiletto boots from Goodge street Oxfam and a five quid Aquascutam jacket to which I added a large embroidered bird motif – added later at three o’clock in the morning when I couldn’t sleep…

Took it all back to the hotel, replied to about fifty emails all concerning whether the launch was going ahead – some people being nervous, most encouraging me to do it. The venue staff were fine, my brother doing the food was fine, nearly everyone was coming, so I stopped worrying and continued writing lists.

Supper in bizarre 70s time-warp Italian restaurant on Southampton Row, where there were many suited men with tattooed bald heads, and appalling music. The food was good – after I sent it back for being undercooked.

Friday.

I didn’t sleep apart from about two hours during which my dreams were more chaotic than usual, so was feeling somewhat dazed. Had breakfast in a caf round the corner and earwigged lots of conversations about The VIRUS, one including the phrase: ‘so does pasta and bog roll kill the virus then? Har-har-har-har…’

Went and queued up outside Waitrose along with many people peering through the glass doors to see if bog rolls had been re-stocked. Eight o’clock, the doors opened and their was a gentle, middle-class stampede for the afore-mentioned items. I was after unusual beers that I could soak the labels off and use for my own ‘Stripy Horse Drinking-House beers’ plus some wine box wine that could be bastardised and put into demijohns and a few cakes to alter. Paid scary bill and left it all to be collected later.

Went back to bed for a bit and stared at the ceiling. Got up and met our lovely relatives who were going to help with the event – Nick having agreed to be MC. Indian resto lunch, collected all the china, food etc and went to the venue. Gill and I went to buy a vast quantity of Indian sweets (barfi) and got lost; cab back and three hours of really mad prep. All exhausted as the venue is up three flights of stairs – but well worth it. Link below.

 

Londonia is a dystopian tale, albeit a relatively cheery one, but I didn’t expect to be shoving it off from its moorings in quite such an extraordinary moment in time.

Having planned the event for many weeks the thought of the whole thing being called off was depressing to say the least – and I know thousands of other folks are in a similar and worse situation with far bigger events to worry about. Anyway, we did it – just in time, on Friday the 13th of March 2020.

Wednesday.

Arrived early evening in London and headed for our favourite home-from-home cheapy hotel, St Athans, in Bloomsbury. Visited the local Indian restaurant for a plate of veg curry, returned and slept soundly.

Thursday.

Mad day of trawling Oxfam shops for a selection of plates, mugs, glasses etc to ‘prop’ the food section of the venue. (As the book is largely concerned with the heroine’s profession of Finder and super scavenger, I felt an eclectic mix of old crockery would be appropriate). Also found a suitable recycled outfit for me, including a goodly hat from a clothes jumble emporium in Covent Garden, red stiletto boots from Goodge street Oxfam and a five quid Aquascutam jacket to which I added a large embroidered bird motif – added later at three o’clock in the morning when I couldn’t sleep…

Took it all back to the hotel, replied to about fifty emails all concerning whether the launch was going ahead – some people being nervous, most encouraging me to do it. The venue staff were fine, my brother doing the food was fine, nearly everyone was coming, so I stopped worrying and continued writing lists.

Supper in bizarre 70s time-warp Italian restaurant on Southampton Row, where there were many suited men with tattooed bald heads, and appalling music. The food was good – after I sent it back for being undercooked.

Friday.

I didn’t sleep apart from about two hours during which my dreams were more chaotic than usual, so was feeling somewhat dazed. Had breakfast in a caf round the corner and earwigged lots of conversations about The VIRUS, one including the phrase: ‘so does pasta and bog roll kill the virus then? Har-har-har-har…’

Went and queued up outside Waitrose along with many people peering through the glass doors to see if bog rolls had been re-stocked. Eight o’clock, the doors opened and their was a gentle, middle-class stampede for the afore-mentioned items. I was after unusual beers that I could soak the labels off and use for my own ‘Stripy Horse Drinking-House beers’ plus some wine box wine that could be bastardised and put into demijohns and a few cakes to alter. Paid scary bill and left it all to be collected later.

Went back to bed for a bit and stared at the ceiling. Got up and met our lovely relatives who were going to help with the event – Nick having agreed to be MC. Indian resto lunch, collected all the china, food etc and went to the venue. Gill and I went to buy a vast quantity of Indian sweets (barfi) and got lost; cab back and three hours of really mad prep. All exhausted as the venue is up three flights of stairs – but well worth it. Link below.

So. The soiree.


                      

                                         The wonderful Shoreditch Treehouse

the Oxfam china


food table and Sid from ‘The Gorecy Potatoes’

Me making ‘gnole’ labels

Me and my bro – Adrian who did all the magnificent food, with the help of Sophie and Terry

   

                                           Rosalie, Ray (publishers) and me

Nick the MC – questions and answers

                                              Me, sister in law, Katherine, and Nick

                                                                   book signing

Mark playing his ‘Londonia Suite’ at the close of the evening

Wonderful in every way. Ray and Rosalie from Tartarus – my publishers, appeared with incredibly heavy boxes of books (it is a big tome); Nick was brilliant as MC; his and Gill’s son, Charlie wonderful as Bert-the Swagger in the introduction; my brother and team surpassed themselves with the food; intrepid and lovely friends, family, agent and new acquaintances all appeared, and Mark (husband) arrived hot-foot from the airport only a little late.

Music was provided brilliantly by Mark, Sid and Ruth – who appear in the book as the Gorecy (hot in Polish) potatoes.

I answered Nick’s questions, read three sections of the book, and, yes, even though I am British, totally enjoyed being the centre of attention for an evening; to mark this personally important moment in time when a long-standing project finally came to fruition.

After Mark had played his ‘Londonia suite’ on the venue’s magnificent Steinway, people gradually left and a mad clear up followed. Stood yawning waiting for a cab outside and back to the hotel where one of the lovely staff suggested in his slow, mesmerising Russian accent: ‘I get you nice cup of tea?’

Which he did and it was nice. Very.

Saturday.

Good sleep but not enough.

Breakfast at the Bloomsbury coffee-house downstairs, then a long walk around Regents Park, Camden, and Euston to meet friend Claire for the Diwana Bel Poori House (wonderful vegetarian buffet) experience.

Nap, and met more friends for tea in Museum Street after which I gazed at my book in the window of Atlantis Bookshop…. Wow. Author happiness indeed. Signed books and then carried on to my favourite street in London – Cecil Court, where sits the very dangerous Storey’s antique map shop. Had a browse, resisted buying a huge 1765 map of London, had a good chat with the owners then called in to Watkins and Goldsboro books to go on about my book – which they put up with charmingly.

  

Covent garden was scarily business as usual mass eating, drinking, self-admiration, shopping… Walked swiftly back to the hotel and out to very quiet favourite Italian restaurant called Montdello in Goodge Street which has all its 70s decoration and original owners firmly in place, praise be! Hotel. Bed.

Sunday.

Taxi to Liverpool St Station, Train to Stansted (we have given up flying but this was the only option for this occasion). Airport was similar to Covent Garden in its shopping frenzy-ness. We didn’t partake of shop, eat and relax as we were late. Boarded three quarter-empty plane and spent most of the time gazing down at all the thousands of tiny villages and towns, wondering about each household’s reaction to the eerie and rapidly changing virus advice unfolding via the various governments media teams.

Home. Dogs were fine, our lovely dog-sitter, Amy, fine; chickens, fine . . . all the madness and planning finished and end result very much enjoyed.

I’m writing this on Tuesday, back in my writing studio (bed with hot water bottles). It’s Mark’s birthday and we’ve just eaten a very fine roast lunch. Strange times, and I think I will stop at this point and make a new blog book. Feels like a fitting time. If the dystopian scenario in my novel were to come to pass . . . blog safe on paper and within cardboard . . . well, seems like a good idea.

Toodle-oo.

Book can be ordered on link below, or from most bookshops/Amazon, etc.

http://tartaruspress.com/hardy%2C-kate-a-londonia.html?LMCL=I773tb

                                               A quieter London – canal near Camden

Milestones and impulses

I’ve had a reasonable amount of them: Certificate for best swimmer in my junior school, first boyfriend (oaf) degree, first real job with scary responsibility, getting married, producing an infant, kids book publishing deal, moving to France, finding an agent for my novel, finding a publisher, and the final book arriving on a memorable day: first February 2020.

This milestone was a particularly vivid one, partly as it was marked by the mother-ship (UK) deciding (or some of its inhabitants deciding) to become a small leaky boat de-moored from the safety of the European landmass, and partly as the book was so extraordinary.  I knew it would be beautiful as I had seen the artwork, but . . . well, suffice to say I spent most of the day getting on with stuff but just sidling up to the stack of books just to check they were really there, and that my name was indeed printed on them.

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And impulses.

A friend asked me the other day about what inspires or drives me to write in a particular genre. An interesting question and one that I never considered when I started writing, or even now. I just write about things that seem important to me. I can’t imagine setting out to write a crime story, or a historical romance, and I feel that only when being true to yourself can the work be satisfying to push uphill, follow around winding paths or wherever it takes you.

A couple of times when faced with rejection I have thought: Okay. What would work . . . Hm, Vampire Western ? interplanetary detective agency? but in the end my genre seems to be human relationships within a dystopian/speculative/futurist setting; often London as it’s where I feel fictionally most comfortable. I suppose my concerns lie with where are we heading, and what can we do about it? I do listen to a great deal of collapsology podcasts, along with videos on food production, sustainable living, recycling, alternative architecture, possible future societies, etc, and have always been interested in such subjects. It’s a challenging time to be alive in, but one where we still have choices we might take now to avert whichever apocalyptic scenario is likely to occur first. Cheery stuff . . . So, my genre . . . Dyst-hopia. Yes, that sounds about right.image001.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landed safely with only a few bruises

So . . . the moment arrived, the one I had let wander about in my head a few hundred times: my novel, Londonia, listed on a real PUBLISHER’S site. The publisher being Tartarus, producer of ‘strange literary fiction’ with an impressive catalogue of titles all encased in their signature cream jacketed hardbacks . . . Oo, that’s a nice thing to read out loud: cream-jacketed hardbacks.

It’s been a long journey from initial idea to finished tome with valuable input from so many readers, and several re-writes, but I think that’s what it’s about – learning on the job, so to speak. I was listening to Will Self speaking about his work at Politics and Prose bookshop earlier and he said something along the lines of ‘creative writing’ courses being a load of bollocks and that all you need is to live and read a lot. I think he’s probably right (to a certain extent) in that you have to be in it for the long-haul and accept there is no magic injection of inspiration and skill. Storing up life experience, observing and listening seem to be the tools, the mistakes one’s chance to do better. My knowledge of grammar was zilch at the outset, and I’m still not sure about commas after but, and many other things. I suspect that grammar is like paint: you have to learn the basics about colour but then spend a Hell of a long time getting splashed, mixing bit all up and finding your own style.

There’s still uncertainty of course – will people buy the book? I hope so; will the sequel see the light outside of my USB key? that would be great (,) but I’m thrilled to have reached this point. Really thrilled.

Londonia can be pre-ordered from Tartarus – link below, and a sample chapter is available on their site.

Link to my book at Tartarus Press

dickensian_london_by_karlfitzgeraldart_d96bxjd-fullview.jpgThe book cover from a painting by Karl Fitzgerald

Moments in time

Yesterday I received my contract with Tartarus Press for my novel.

Some way to go yet: editing, etc, but I’m thrilled.

So . . . all those years of ideas, tentative attempts, previous try-out novels, and learning . . . well, how to write really – my North London Comp school education didn’t really furnish me with any actual skills in that department.

Over the years I’ve come to view grammar and words rather like paint. You can learn the theory of how to apply it to canvas or wood but it’s through experimenting for hundreds of hours that you begin to see how it works; how it can be smeared, scuffed, diluted, scratched, etc, to form your own style.

The other thing I have learned in long-distance scribing (novels) is the importance of writing everyday. Even if it’s just a couple of hundred words. Keeping the idea moving along, keeping the characters in your mind, and always leave a little thread of plot dangling for the next time you approach the A4/notebook or computer . . .

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Mapco/ David Hale image of the Borough of Southwark – 1775. St Leonard’s Church near the centre of the map. St Leonard’s is the pivotal building in the book (although the story is set in 2072) Mind, it could look rather like this map again . . .

 

Fourth review for 158th book

From Ruth, great friend, grammar expert and reader of my stuff from the first early drafts. If she winced at my terrible comprehensive school English she did it internally, and kindly steered me in the direction, along with other generous friends, of communicating what was in my head onto screen and paper.

A roller-coaster of a read with never a dull moment. Life mirrors fiction in this fantastical novel; at least it does if you start reading one of the five copies of the novel ‘Five’. Each has a different ending, so, as our hero discovers, best to avoid owning or reading a version with a not-so-good ending. The twists and turns chart his progress from when he first realises that what he reads in ‘Five’ will happen to him. The action is set against an atmospheric backdrop of 1980s’ London – Liberty’s, Muswell Hill, Chelsea, the East End – and Yorkshire too – pubs, beer and dramatic landscapes.

Descriptions of places and settings are keenly observed: colours, smells, décor and scenery flow from the text like a film.

The fantastic elements of the novel can be wonderfully crazy: our hero – broke, but given money by a dear elderly friend to spend on something frivolous – does just that: a Citroen DS (opal green). These are the details I particularly love.   Who buys an Armani suit in a Bond Street store when facing bankruptcy? Our hero does. To block out worries of losing his shop and his home, he reads more of ‘Five’. True to the text, he falls in love, immediately!  The story dips in and out of his relationships with friends, his mother (and her new man) and sister, his ex, and –  of course –  his new love.

It’s an entertaining read – great fun and wonderfully romantic!

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Shiiit.

Two rejections in a morning. I’ve just spent an hour wandering about the house, absent-mindedly doing chores, feeling a tad crushed and talking to dogs – “Why? Am I no good? Well obviously not . . . so, what now? What’s it all about?” What would it feel like to just say, ‘I don’t have to do this’. I could stop now, go shopping, worry about what my nails look like, hunt down a normal job . . .” Etc. But my soul would fall out of my person somehow and be left sulking, sitting on a bench in a dismal park with not even pigeons to talk to.

So, how do we deal with rejection? Me, personally, I usually have a few hours mentally kicking cans about and saying Shiiit a lot; then something generally occurs to make me feel me-normal again. In fact while writing this an email has plopped into the inbox saying ‘Hm, can’t find your chapters, please resend’.

Probably now’t but it’ll be enough to bale the water out of my own small, temporarily sinking boat of creativity today.

As other writers have done, no doubt, I just had a quick scan through the internet to see which now-famous authors had been rejected – or rather, how many times had they been rejected. Just about everyone, so it seems. Stephen King apparently received so many R.Letters that he speared them all on a spike in his bedroom.

Onward.

 

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I’m a writer, really I am.

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A well-established author acquaintance recently told me to say this in the morning when I look in the mirror – well, often half a day passes or more before I look in a mirror, but it was nice of him to say it as he meant it.

I have ‘been published’ – short stories and a children’s book but am seeking that real affirmation that what I do currently is as good as friends and contacts have told me – and that my work could be published and put on shelves in shops.

Hoxton got as far as submission and has been turned down after I had waited in that rather comfy little bubble of hope for a considerable time. Yesterday I moped a little but soon recovered knowing I just need to find the right person at the right point.

Here’s an extract from my other working novel, developed from a short story called The 158th Book, where the main character, Hamish (at this point in hospital after falling though a floor) asks himself the question: when is it OK to say you are a writer.

The ward is quiet this morning, just the sound of the squeaky-wheeled medicine trolley and my adjacent neighbour reading a crossword out loud. He stops, exasperated by a clue.

    “Hamish?”

    I turn, wincing a little at my shoulder’s protest.

    “Leroy?”

    “Dog crossing undefined wilderness sometimes in underwear’. First letter P.”

    I look at his old black face, grey eyebrows furrowed in friendly question and wish I could help. Crosswords always elude me.

    “. . . er. Something to do with the night sky?”

    He peruses the page again: “P . . . mm. Nope. What about, ‘oves snared within foliage’? Three words starting with S.”

    “Sheep-eating plant.”

    “ . . . . S. H. E.E.P. Yes . . . man, how’d d’you know that?”

    I’m stunned myself. “I just remember feeling horrified that there is actually a plant that reaches out and grabs large animals.”

    “Not in London?”

    “No. Peru, I think. Although, apparently brambles can do the same thing.”

    “Blackberry plants can eat sheep?”

    “Not as such. It’s the thorns . . . the sheep gets stuck as it tries to free its wool from the plants, gets more stuck and eventually dies, thus nourishing the bramble bush – for ever pretty much considering the size of the animal.”

    Leroy looks impressed. “What did you say you do?”

    “I’m a writer.”

    He nods, smiles and goes back to his crossword and I sit there thinking about that phrase. ‘I’m a writer’. Do you become a writer when someone with special powers says so – like a chief editor at a major publishing house? Or are you allowed to just say, ‘I’m a writer’ if you write?

Finished? Nah . . .

Well, possibly, or at least certainly moving in the right direction.

 

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Latest version of the manuscript being sent off with its own aged map of the East End and foreword by Jake the Prophet.

I found what I think was ‘draft six’ this morning while having a shelf clear-out – a slim-ish volume of about two hundred pages. I can just about remember thinking when I unwrapped it, fresh from ‘Aunty Lulu’, ‘Yup, reckon this is the one’ . . . then ten minutes later finding about fifteen faults and knowing the whole process will have to start again. It usually takes about a day to settle in, this realisation; a slight gloom drifting over me until the ‘sorting it out’ urge kicks in and I’m away again, happily typo-hunting and adding/subtracting needed and un-needed chunks of prose.

 

It’s an odd (and some would say lonely) thing, writing, not just the actual pen to paper, digit to keyboard but all the other stages: rounding up a rampaging idea, rough drafts, fairly solid-looking spiral bound manuscripts, a trial copy, re-writes, BIG edits, small edits, typo edits, adding chapters, etc. But in the later stages when people really start reading and commenting, adding useful thoughts and sometimes suggesting vast deforestation (a tad disturbing at the time but usually 99% invaluable)  it becomes less of a lonely occupation and more of a team effort. Recently I’ve had some excellent help; suggestions that made me wince a little at the thought of the amount of manuscript archaeology that would be involved, but it’s all good stuff, brain-flexing, writer-muscle building and laying down work practices for the next tome . . .

On the same dust-ridden shelf, I also found my first ever (or at least one that Mum kept) story book. Written in pencil (and coloured pencil!) in a khaki-green school exercise book, this particular tale describes a crocodile eating a small boy – with a correction by Mrs War (I still remember her, with fear) for not using the past tense of eat.

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Words brought to life

Following on from last post.

Two photos by Nick Lockett of Paddy and Debbie Turner performing extracts from my novel, featuring Mark Lockett on suitably ropey accordion.

A few props, excellent acting and some well-honed accents brought the Londonia 2070 streets to Wirksworth Town Hall.

Thanks all of you!

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