Weaving through a Salon du Livre

On Sunday I had my first experience of selling my book ‘The Weave’ direct to the public who came to our village’s first Salon du Livre. Just to explain – this is an event where authors have a table, load it with books and potential readers/buyers come and browse. Such events are held all over France particularly during summer.

I had no expectations of mega sales or indeed of any sale. The book is published in English only (at the moment), the English-speaking community in our small village and environs is tiny and I am a totally unknown. However I thought the experience would be invaluable.

So, there I was. 8.15 on a wet morning armed with copies of the book and some props just to attract interest. I had thought that each author was to have an individual table so it was a surprise to find long rows of tables and chairs with each author’s space meticulously marked out.

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Setting up the Salon

Quick review of the ‘montage’ I had planned and most of my props, all of which play a part in the book, went back in the car.

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Planned montage – dress rehearsal in big bro’s kitchen

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Actual display

Learning point 1 – find out in advance just how much space there will be for the display.

Around 9.30 the public started to drift in. At first it was more like a social gathering as neighbour chatted to neighbour yet eventually people began to browse what was on offer. Many of the authors offered books about local and regional events, places and people. These were clearly very popular and little groups clustered around their tables.

By 11.30 my own display was looking a bit lonely. Fellow author Robert Rigby with a selection of his books  was the only other Brit novelist present and, bless him, he took pity on me and bought the first copy of ‘The Weave.’ I wish I could say that act of kindness opened the buying floodgates but no!

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The Paul Hanson book duo by Robert Rigby

There was more interest in the spider artistically draped over some of the books than the book itself.

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Never mind the book-tell me about the spider

However things picked up and I had people stop to chat and look at the book. What was interesting for me though was that Robert apart, all these visitors were the female of the species. Many picked up a copy, leafed through it and asked me to translate the blurb and then, with a regretful gallic shrug and a ‘je lis pas en Anglais’ put the book back.

Learning point 2 – more like a question – why were the ladies present attracted to my table? Was it the cover of the book? Because the author was female? They felt sorry for me?

To follow up these thoughts I began to ask the question – what attracted you to the table? The majority of replies was ‘the cover’ thus reflecting the advice always doled out – the cover is the first selling point.

I made a handful of sales in the period just before lunch – all to Brit buyers bar two. thank you, thank you.

The afternoon was dead for me saleswise so I spent my time cruising the other tables and networking. I received an invite to an authors’ group in a neighbouring village and signed up for another salon in Quillan in August where I’m told there is an enthusiastic English-speaking book-buying community. We shall see.

I picked up a few tips about presentation and…

Learning point 3 – I must get some sort of ‘business’ card printed.

Some authors had give-aways like bookmarks and pens; some placed a purchase in dinky little carrier bags with the book cover printed on them. All good stuff to think about for the future and at least I can go to the other two salons that I’ve signed up for with a bit more confidence and understanding of how they work – valuable experience.

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Armchair Research

I’m just getting to the end of the first draft of (working title) The Soul Catcher. Set in early medieval Yorkshire (7th century) I’m finding I need to do much more research than for my previous novel The Weave. It’s not so much the big picture stuff I’m searching for but the little details that bring a touch of reality. Details about dress, weaponry and what it could/couldn’t do, pagan and christian rites and rituals.

I read and I trawl the internet but recently I remembered an old favourite programme of mine Time Team. For those of you who may not know it – the programmes were hosted by Tony Robinson and he and a team of archeology experts undertook a 3-day dig on a whole variety of sites from different periods in history.

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Time Team logo

I’ve been spending an hour most evenings indulging in armchair research going through any of the programmes relating to the Saxons. Apart from the enduring appeal of Tony Robinson and of the experts, the programmes are a treasure trove for an historical writer.

In The Soul Catcher, one of the characters has a brooch which has a significant part to play and there on a Time Team dig they found just what I needed. What it was made of, where it was worn and so on. More importantly after it was cleaned up I could really see how beautiful it was and could tailor my own description. Living in France on a writer’s income (Ha!) it’s not very easy for me just to pop over to the British Museum and take a gander at the goodies there so the programmes have become a valued resource for me.

I’ve learned about eel traps or hives (again a feature in the story) and about details of funeral rites and the making of swords at that time.

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Types of Eel Traps

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Early 7th century sword from the Sutton Hoo boat burial

Of course I’m not writing a factual history book so it’s important to be careful to get the balance right and not swamp the story and the characters with historical minutiae but because there is always a fantasy or supernatural element in what I write I hope I’m avoiding that trap.

So in a couple of weeks time, after I’ve finished the first draft I’ll be able to start the editing process armed with a little notebook with all sorts of eclectic snippets that I may want to introduce to bring my hot-headed hero Wulfric and his life alive for the reader.

Now back to Time Team!

Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Sheila Williams

Did another author interview. Hope you’re not getting tired of them they are such fun to do. My thanks to Yecheilyah for giving me the space.

The PBS Blog

Today, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Sheila Williams. Sheila, welcome to the PBS blog!


What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Sheila Williams. I am English, born in Yorkshire in the North of England (known as God’s own county to those who were born there!) Until five years ago my feet were firmly planted in English soil. Then, I had one of those ‘where did that idea come from’ moments and moved across the channel to the south-west of France – a region known as Occitanie (previously the Languedoc). I now live in a small village near the Pyrenees mountains with my dog Zouzou, otherwise known as the Ayatollah for his insistence on regularity – regular walkies, regular mealtimes, regular cuddles and regular snoozes on the sofa.

Awwue lol. I bet he’s adorable. Any siblings?

I am the youngest of three. My…

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Sunday Interview – Getting to Know author Sheila Williams

Here’s the result of an interview I did with the very generous Sally Cronin who is a marvel at supporting indie authors. Thank you Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

My guest today is author Sheila Williams who lives in France, but in the past has enjoyed several careers, including that of sheep farmer (more about that later!). Sheila shares a mortifying experience in a restaurant, her fashion sense, the contents of her handbag and a tussle with a persistent romeo ram (of the sheep variety!)

First the official word from the author.

About Sheila Williams

Sheila Williams, author, slipped into this world on Guy Fawkes night, under cover of fireworks and bonfires. Outraged to find other nurslings in the nest, she attempted to return to her own world but found the portal closed.

Adopting a ‘make the best of it’ attitude she endured a period of indoctrination to equip her for her place in society. This included learning a language that no-one ever speaks and making complex calculations of no perceivable value.

Freeing herself as soon as possible from…

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The Dragon of Loschy Woods

Whilst fossicking around in Medieval history, myths and legend as part of research for my current work in progress I found this story of a brave knight and his dog to share with you.

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It happened long ago that a giant fire and brimstone belching dragon lived in a dark wood near Stonegrave, just outside York.  Said dragon had a nasty habit of dining on the local peasantry. Those who saw it and lived to tell the tale relate that its teeth were long and sharp ‘like the tines of a pitchfork’ and from it’s gaping jaws dripped a foul poison…hardly surprising with all that smoking.

 

Many knights, plumped up with derring-do, ventured forth to kill it but the monster chewed them up, bones and everything. Not yet satisfied it went onto to mash up their armour and gobble the poor horses ‘saddle and all’.

Enter a Brave Knight

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There came a knight, one Sir Peter Loschy, a warrior of renown who determined to battle with the beast and put an end to the fiery feasts the dragon made of innocent peasants and valiant knights alike. He vowed he would kill the dragon or die trying and given the dragon’s track record no-one was taking bets on the survival option.

However, Sir Peter seemed to have a bit more cunning than most. He had a suit of armour made that was covered with sharp blades. Donning the suit in preparation for the battle, his young squire asked him how he was feeling.

Sharp’ he quipped and winked at the young man.

He mounted his trusty steed weighed down by his armour, sword and shield and rode towards Loschy Wood where the dragon hung out. I expect comely maidens in pointy hats waved their handkerchiefs at him as he passed by but the bards only ever mention damsels in distress.

To the Dragon’s Den

Sir Peter rode into the wood; the further he penetrated the denser and darker it became. He had for a companion his trusty hound Leo. In the deepest part of the wood Sir Peter halted. There was a-crashing and a-bashing as trees fell and a hoarse smoky voice shouted to him.

don’t trouble yourself to come further, I’m coming to you’.

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And sure enough the dragon emerged through the flattened trees. Quick as a flash it coiled its long tail around the valiant knight and squeezed and crushed, crushed and squeezed intending to make mincemeat of Sir Peter.

However, the dragon reckoned not on the nasty spiky sharp blades that covered the knight’s armour. The blades cut into the dragon and the more it tightened its grip the more it was flayed by the blades and the greater its pain. The dragon gave a cry as only dragons can, a sort of ‘OOOOOOOOWWWAAAAAAAARGH’ as history records. 

The beast released our brave hero and really miffed, not to say enraged, it was determined to have steak haché, extra well-done for its supper.  

Yet brave Sir Peter, albeit a bit short of wind by now, swiftly drew his sword and landed a dozen fearsome cuts on his opponent. But our dragon had a secret weapon. He rolled on the earth and voila, by magic his wounds healed.

Fight to the Death

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For three hours knight and dragon fought and still the dragon survived the onslaught. However, one heavy cut lopped off the dragon’s tail and quick as a flash, his faithful hound Leo picked it up and running all the way to Nunnington Church dumped it there where it could not be joined to the dragon’s body again.

And that was the way of it. Our knight lopped of a limb and Leo ran off with it until finally only the dragon’s head was left and the dragon, unsurprisingly, was dead.

Sir Peter, patted and stroked his dog.

Well done, lad’ he said as Leo licked his face.

Oh No!

But wait! On Leo’s tongue was some of the poison from the dragon’s body. So venomous was it that Sir Peter dropped down, stone dead. Poor Leo was so sorry. He would not leave his master. He lay by the body and died of doggy grief.

Sir Peter was buried in Nunnington church and a stone effigy shows Leo at his feet. Whether Leo was buried with him is unclear.

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There are, as in all these Medieval tales a few snags that the analytical among you will no doubt spot but hey, let’s not spoil a good story.

P.S. the part of Leo was played by Zouzou

  

Paperback Writer

My first novel The Weave came out in paperback this week on Amazon and I’m eagerly waiting my copies of it. The Kindle version sold OK but I have this mental glitch that it’s not a ‘proper’ book unless it’s in paperback so I have used some of the Kindle sales to fund the paperback.

All that remains now is to boost publicity for it which I really don’t like doing but know it’s a ‘must’.

Where to begin? I’m using my social media as one prong of attack; have invested a very little in some paid-for promotion as a second prong and the third has been to take advantage of some very generous bloggers who will feature the book. A final thrust, when my copies arrive, is to have them on sale in our local cafe/bar (the village attracts a fair few English-speaking visitors) and the big supermarket Leclerc is also going to take copies on sale or return.

I keep being asked whether I will have it translated into French and have looked at the possibility but as yet I have not decided. Financially it would be an investment that I can’t quite rise to…as yet. I’ll see how English sales go.

So, if you are kindly inclined here are the links to:

https://amzn.to/2TKH4pu. – UK

https://amzn.to/2HZxk9F – US

where you can purchase the book. Happy reading.

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Tiw – The Anglo-Saxon God of War

Today is Tuesday and in the Anglo-Saxon world which I am mentally inhabiting at the moment it is Tiw’s day.

Tiw was an important god for the bellicose Anglo-Saxons. He was the god of war, the sky and niffty swordplay. They also called upon Woden and Thunor when off to battle just for extra insurance.

However Tiw was the main man and supposedly the most skilled when it came to a dust-up despite the slight handicap of having only one hand.

Inevitably the details of how this came about vary but the substance of the tale is the same.

There was a prophecy (of course there was) that Tiu’s father Woden would be killed by a ferocious monster wolf called Fenris. The dwarves of the kingdom fashioned an invisible chain to hold the creature. Some accounts say it was a magic ribbon made from hairs of a woman’s beard (honestly I haven’t made it up) and the roots of a mountain.

Whichever bondage was used, unsurprisingly, Fenris was having none of it…unless one of the gods put his hand in Fenris’ mouth. Step forward dutiful son Tiu. He thrust his hand into the beast’s mouth and the rest of the gods wrapped the creature in chains/hairy ribbon, He was condemned to stay in chains until Ragnorok – the end of the world.

In the process of binding the furious Fenris, Tiu got his hand bitten off…his right hand…his sword hand.

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Fortunately Tiu was ambidextrous and just as proficient in swordplay with his left hand. This brave and filial act endeared Tiu to the Anglo-Saxons ever after.

There is never a happy ending with these myths. Poor Tiw is fated to have yet another encounter of a canine kind when he kills and is killed by the giant hound Garm at Ragnarok.