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

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

Sixth review for the Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book

Katherine has read, I think, everything I have written and is always generous with her time, giving very useful feedback and writing reviews for me on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. I still use her early reviews for ‘Alfi Beasti, don’t eat that!’ and the ‘Going Out in the Midday Sun’ trilogy, and in fact for most of my books as she has a knack of, without waffle, creatively encapsulating the elements of the writing.

 

“If you found a book that contained your entire life from beginning to end, would you read it?”

Such is the dilemma, one of many often posed on the internet, which is faced by the protagonist in ”The Hundred and Fifty – Eighth Book”.
 
Hamish, a Bloomsbury bookseller, stumbles upon the red leather bound volume during a quiet morning at his shop. On opening the first chapter it seems that the narrative bears an uncanny resemblance to recent events in his life.  From this mysterious beginning, the reader is propelled into a fast paced and curious romp through 1980’s London, where it soon becomes clear that there may indeed be more than one version of this book.
 
Hamish’s adventures are deeply rooted in the era and place.  The sights, sounds and smells of 1980’s London are beautifully evoked by an author who clearly knows her patch and the setting is further enhanced by her own atmospheric drawings. Ms Hardy has a strong eye for detail, for the small everyday things that are easily overlooked but are very evocative of a time or place.
 
The characters are so affectionately depicted that one feels they must be at least partly based on real people of Ms Hardy’s acquaintance! I particularly liked Hamish’s mother and Evan, the Yorkshire chapters in which they feature forming a poignant contrast to the rest of the narrative.
 
This is a cleverly woven and most enjoyable tale. “To whoever picks this up” hang on to your hat!  You are in for a colourful and intriguing ride!
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Second review

For the Hundred and Eighty-Fifth Book.

I was delighted to receive this review from Andrew, avid reader, and book-obsessive – (biggest personal library I have seen yet, I think.) I asked him if he could name another book or author that the writing reminded him of and he said: ‘No, not really, but that was why it was so good.’ Encouraging for me in one way, but difficult when agent-hunting as they invariably wish to know where to place the book – fair enough but I don’t know either. I can see a tad of Iris Murdoch, perhaps . . . he mentions Laurence Durrell; my ‘other half’ suggested Calvino.

 

The Hundred and Fifty Eighth Book.  Kate A Hardy.

The Hundred and Fifty Eighth Book is actually a book called ‘Five’, which mysteriously appears on the shelves of second-hand bookseller Hamish, back in 1985. Hamish himself is working hard, most of the time, at being a writer, having started sixteen years previously with a collection of poems, much derided by his father,’a disgruntled gangly hornet with an ever ready sting’.Nevertheless it is his father’s library that forms the basic stock for Hamish’s shop.

The parallel literary world of second-hand book selling in 1980’s  Bloomsbury [almost]’, is a world where a struggling author could feel trapped. The small cafes, pre-cappucino yuppy world is well defined with plenty of tea and toast. A comfort zone frequently subverted by the chain of co-incidence relentlessly bowled along by Kate A Hardy’s seemingly innocuous prose. In reality a density of quotidian details which seep into the reader’s consciousness by stealth.

Hamish has no sense of smell, a serious condition for second-hand booksellers and bibliomaniacs.

‘Five’ is dedicated ‘To whoever picks this up’,and almost the first co-incidence, in a book of co-incidences, is the revelation that its’ protagonist has just been cured of his own lack of the sense of smell.From here on in Kate A Hardy structures her novel with generous helpings of chance, pre-destination and synchronicity. A layer cake of intrigue and complexity which compels the reader to continue to the very end, which, of course may not actually be the end.Along the way, an assortment of memorable friends and relations, and chance meetings reinforce the structure of Hamish’s journey.

With a Durrellian sense of different views of the same events, all, or none of which may have been precipitated by the appearance of ‘Five’ in Hamish’s world, our sense of reality is cannily manipulated by the author.The author being possibly any one of at least four candidates on offer.

Read this new novel from Kate A Hardy, guaranteed to intrigue, entertain, and install a nuance of unease which will keep you going to the end, and beyond. A follow up is surely necessary…

So what do we have here? Certainly a mystery story. A closely observed period piece. A well written

and imaginative take on the issues of self determination vs the blind watchmaker. A really good read from the outset.

Enjoy!

AWGilman

UPM

 

The tricky art of synopsis writing

It’s the worst bit. Book finished, many edits done, rough copies printed, agent research done, presentation chapters duly spaced correctly, checked for typos, letter written . . . synopsis.

How to distill down 90,000 words or so into a page? My latest technique is to write out exactly what happens in each chapter then keep whittling it down, jam it all together, hone it until it makes sense and then give it to long-suffering friends for their comments. Luckily I have quite a few who are willing to scan through and add their thoughts whether it be on structure, grammar or whether the thing is dull, interesting, could be better, etc. Maybe everyone does this, or maybe not. I certainly used to spend little time, wanting to get the job out of the way as quickly as possible. But what’s the point unless it’s done as well as can be? Putting myself in an agent’s chair, staring at yet another badly constructed synopsis, yes, I’d just slide it into the ‘thanks but no thanks’ bin.

For this current book, (The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book) I have gone through many, many sheets of paper, over several days gradually adding and subtracting words until the page felt ‘done’. Someone came back to me yesterday when I thought I’d nailed it only to say, ‘Hmm, but what about this’, and they were totally right. A few hours more work and the few paragraphs were so much more succinct, the plot so much more strongly outlined. You know it all in your head, and everyone out there, doesn’t.

One more check though, letter thoroughly investigated for stupid errors and I’ll strike out once again into the ocean of ‘well, you never know, this could be the one . . .”

 

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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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Stalking an idea

So . . . next book.

A few days have passed where my usual morning writing slot has been filled with going over ‘old stuff’, looking through filed projects and odd folders marked: “ideas.” It is a little disturbing not having the ‘rolling’ project, something solid to work on everyday; the comforting pattern of writing, editing, and re-writing crammed into the rest of the everyday-ness. The last book is being ‘looked at’ by someone at the moment, and waiting for a response is, as I’m sure any writer knows, a strange time-bubble of possibilities, trying not to get any hopes in any way, but it’s rather nice to go about the day-stuff thinking something could happen.

So . . . the stalking and the idea. The idea is the follow on to the last book, (The Hundred and Fifty Eighth Book) and – I think – will be set on Hampstead Heath in some unspecified very far away time. The stalking will be much walking/wandering and thinking on the Heath, possibly swimming in the ‘Ladies’ Pond, and recalling childhood/student/post-student times spent on this rather extraordinary bit of the Earth.

Before the Heath-derive I need to visit certain roads and places that featured in the last book, (mostly around Camden and King’s Cross) and sketch, preparatory to making full ink drawings to be included in the (finished . . .) novel. An interesting challenge as the book is set in 1985/1990 and 1995, so cars/buses/fashion/ street furniture, etc will have to be researched and segued into the artwork.

Apparently it’s not going to rain.

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Constable painting of The Heath and a pond – not sure which one

Blank page banishment

So, follow-up book to my latest – The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book. Where to go, what to do and which characters to involve.

I spent a couple of days performing usual tasks – turning a dollar, putting washing on, walking dogs, making lists, and, feeling ill at ease with myself. I like that grounding feeling of the on-going project even though there’s editing to be done, maybe chunky re-writes and agents to try and beguile. I need the early morning fix of the big idea; the lines and paragraphs that will gradually meld into another 90,000 odd words to be tweaked, sworn over, possibly abandoned or hopefully read and enjoyed by others.

So, in my writing studio this morning, (bed with many pillows, cushions, tea, etc) I just wrote stuff, quite a lot of stuff; my brain soon became engaged (mostly) and I was enjoying the process, whatever the outcome. That seems , for me anyway, the way to work when faced with the scary empty screen page with pulsing cursor at the top – a clock marking time, or the notebook and chewed pencil.

I like this quote by David Mitchell on the subject:

A blank page is also a door – it contains infinity, like a night sky with a supermoon really close to the Earth, with all the stars and galaxies, where you can see very, very clearly . . . You know how that can make your heart beat faster?

 

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Sevens into sevens

I sat back after pressing the ‘make yourself an edit copy’ on Lulu publishing yesterday and realised it was the seventh time I’ve done this – (well, not ordering copies – that would have to be well into the forties or so, counting all the edit copies in total I’ve requested) – the seventh time as in the seventh book. Seven novels in seven years . . . quite a lot of ink, paper, worn computer keys and brain-space in all . . .

Now along-side the agent-hunting, social-media and the rest of real life, I need the next rolling project – the thing that keeps me on track with writing. So far it’s a follow up to the book I’ve just finished (at least to edit trawl) – The Hundred and Eighty-Fifth book; a novel-version of an odd little short story called The Katbells Fishing Community; the third in the Londonia/Hoxton series, or perhaps something else that hasn’t occurred to me yet apart from odd tweaks of thoughts and ideas.

If it is the follow up to the 158th it’ll be futuristic, set in London – or what’s left of it – possibly a large domed commune atop Hampstead Heath where the inhabitants spend quite a lot of their lives playing vast jigsaws. Anyway, I’m off back to the city soon, so I’ll indulge in much walking, thinking and plotting and hopefully the idea will become entrenched enough to start off my new daily writing workout.

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