Sunday, 23 September 2012

Kitchens and baking and comfort

Nobody seems to expect thrilling things to happen in kitchens, and yet, when you think of it, they are the places where turkeys are roasted, and apple jelly made, and birthday cakes iced and decorated with pink scrolls and silver balls; and that’s all exciting, especially if it’s Christmas time, or you are the one with the birthday.  (The Two Linties, p 1).

On a day when most of England is covered by a heavy and endless raincloud, I thought I’d think of nicer things than the cold and damp that have brought summer to a sudden end. Baking and a well-equipped kitchen are two very good reasons to stay indoors and keep warm. Cake sliced and eaten warm from the oven tastes just as good as the scrapings from the mixing bowl. Lintie Oliver might not have been a natural cook, but she knew that you can find the start of your adventure in the kitchen and she develops as a writer because she discovers the existence of a childrens’ page in the local newspaper.

Better cooks are to be found at the sugar-scented Cake and Bake Show this weekend and I can safely say that I’m not one of them. It’s enough to make you feel quite insecure as you admire confections that are every Elinor M. Brent-Dyer adjective of luscious and delectable. Some are simply breathtakingly, technically incredible. Plenty of people passed me, slightly sticky from the rosewater and raspberry or passion fruit marshmallows. Others were nibbling from the huge slabs of brownies. There was far too much choice and the massed crowds inside Earls Court made it overwhelming. However, it was a day trip far outside my comfort zone and I’m very pleased that I went. 

Back inside my comfort zone is a gentle vintage novel called The Sugar and Spice. It’s by Mollie Chappell and she’s moved to England instead of her usual Rhodesia. It’s a novel about a family looking after a teashop for the summer and making all sorts of improvements to the shop and a small country town keen to attract appreciative tourists. From tales of strawberry shortcake, to gingersnaps to catering for society parties, this novel shows that you make friends when you arrive bearing cakes. Do read this one if you like vintage novels or cooking as it’s not hard to get a copy and they’re usually around £10.00. Even better, you usually find a pretty dustwrapper like the one pictured.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Leaflet - for Kindle novels

I've just seen a flyer from a local author who's doing his own marketing for a new novel. The A5 grey and black leaflet is something of a contrast between the high-tech Kindle platform (where he's selling the novel) and the low-tech marketing wheeze of shoving leaflets through the letter-box in the area. Personally, I wish him well and hope that it leads to a spike in sales. It's also a polite way of advertising as the e-book format means that he can't advertise in local bookshops. Well, I doubt any will advertise a rival platform for him and it doesn't seem to be available in traditional page-turning format, only in touch screen format. I suspect we're in that interesting 'in between' stage where technology and tradition are finding ways to work together, even if it does seem a bit odd.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

A Traveller in Time


Looking away from a spreadsheet for a moment, no, I don't spend all my time reading possible new books. I also spend rather a lot of time looking at new ways to afford new projects based on sales figures of X, Y and Z. Possible scenarios now saved, I'll have another look at that stack of books that's almost too large to be called my 'to be read' pile. I'm also happy to admit that the shelves are looking better since I removed the not-quite-wanted thirds from 'three-for-two' offers that Waterstone's has thankfully withdrawn. Shall we say double-shelved instead of 'double-shelved with horizontal stacking wherever I could make room'?

I'd been saving this little find inside a secondhand book for a blog post, but today's discover of a perfectly-pressed small spider in the margins of a new-to-me book brought the subject to the forefront of my mind. I suppose it's lucky that I'm not scared of spiders and just brushed it out into the bin with a tissue. I'll add that there was no damage to the book or staining which will be a relief to the book collectors.

More interesting was this little inset from a book fair. The writing is very hard to read and I only really recognise that someone has written down A Traveller in Time. This was a childhood favourite that I read to pieces. My copy survived (in three sections) as I couldn't bear to part with it. Though I did just as soon as I could find a hardback and more sturdy replacement. Puffin paperbacks are wonderful, though the glue just wears out over time. I think it was the first historical novel that I read and it certainly inspired a life-long interest in history, especially Tudor and Stuart history as well as visiting country houses. It was also one of the first and best examples of timeslip stories that I'd come across. Penelope goes to stay with relatives who live on a farm once lived in by the Babington family and becomes involved in the plot to free Mary Queen of Scots. It's a perfect introduction to more grown-up novels with plenty of chapters, information about herbs, country fairs, sugar and cooking that have stayed with me. I don't know how else I would have learned about moulding marchpane or what to look for in a herb garden.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The rights of the reader and other vague thoughts

I feel as though I’m coming up for air between complicated contract negotiations for future titles and an awful lot of fiddly administration today with the added temptation of ordering new books. I’ve also been investigating new authors that have been requested and recommended. I'd be happy to hear of more if you're kind enough to tell me about a favourite forgotten author. More news about future titles as I can send it on. Preferably when the ink is dry on the contracts.

As for reading, I don't seem to have managed to finish much. I've relied on old favourites like Jane of Lantern Hill and Ruth Elwin Harris, though I intend to buy Cora Harrison's latest teenage country house story Debutantes as a reward for finishing the paperwork as the sample chapter drew me in, even with the 'You'll like this if you like Downton' sticker that's getting a bit ubiquitous. Now that I don't need to write essays on books I follow Daniel Pennac's The Rights of the Reader:

1. The right not to read
2. The right to skip
3. The right not to finish a book
4. The right to read it again
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to mistake a book for real life
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to dip in
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to be quiet.

I suspect that most readers would agree with the above - my own pet hate is being interrupted with either 'What are you reading?' or 'Are you enjoying that?' I might not always enjoy a book, exactly, but I may appreciate the subject, the structure or the author. I also feel that there's nothing wrong with putting a book aside and taking it up again after you've had a change of mood.

Finally, the last box of The Two Linties was opened today and I’ll be posting her to a new set of homes later this afternoon.