Tales from the Hidden Grove

Tales from the Hidden Grove
"Amongst the finest short story writers in the UK right now" ~ Black Pear Press

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

One Night in London



Last Friday (22nd July) I had the most amazing time at the National Gallery in London.  I was one of five winners of a competition run by the Gallery and Liars' League London for new short stories inspired by a painting in the National Gallery.  I chose The Family of Darius Before Alexander by Paolo Veronese, which you can see behind me in the photo.  I was so excited to find the real painting in the Gallery; I was practically dancing about in front of it!

Picture courtesy of Liars' League

Related Post: Ladies, Gentlemen and a League of Liars


The event was part of the National Gallery's Inspiration Late event.  There were loads of different activities going on in different rooms, and our storytelling event was in Room 61.  As you can see from the photos, each story was read by an actor, next to a print of the painting that inspired it.  It was fascinating to hear all the stories, and to discover the different ways in which the authors had taken inspiration from the paintings.  The actors were wonderful, and each brought the story to life in their own, unique way.  I was especially impressed by "my" actor, Nicholas Delvalle, who read my story with wonderful expression and understanding.  I hope he gets lots of work after this, and if I ever hit the big time, he will be my first choice for the audio book!

Picture courtesy of Liars' League

The National Gallery were really generous with their prizes, too.  We each got two tickets for free drinks on the night, two free tickets for their special exhibition Painters' Paintings (which I went to the next morning and really enjoyed) and the print of "our" painting used in the event.  I've managed to get it home; now I just have to find somewhere to hang it!  I have also had great publicity out of this win (including a spot in my local paper, with only two factual errors!)  I think it's one of the best things I've been involved in, and I would like to thank The National Gallery and Liars' League again for this wonderful opportunity.




Here is Nicholas Delvalle's masterful performance of my story "Desperately Seeking Hephaestion."  You can find the other stories on the Liars' League YouTube channel as well.





Saturday, 2 July 2016

Yes, There is Such Thing as a Free Lunch!


I would like to thank the wonderful people at Waterstones, Bradford Wool Exchange for a brilliant prize that I won a few weeks ago - free lunch and a copy of The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.  You can see the lunch here, right before I ate it!

I've now finished reading the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  It's one of those books that is a physical object of desire, before you even start reading the story.  It has maps!  (You've got to love a book with maps.)  Actually, the main protagonist, Isabella, is a cartographer's daughter - hence the ink and stars of the title - and maps play a big part in the story.  The book also has blue and yellow map-themed decoration on every page, and blue writing.  Perfect.

The story itself is a children's/teenage fantasy, set on an island called Joya.  According to myth, it used to be a floating island, but is now divided and ruled by a cruel governor.  However, when Isabella's friend goes missing in the Forbidden Territories, it becomes necessary to explore the forgotten, dangerous parts of the island, the parts steeped in ancient myth.

Something about this book reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones's Dalemark books.  (Why are those books out of print?  Why??)  Maybe the idea of ancient myths becoming reality, or the fact that the story doesn't shy away from politics and death.  But whereas Dalemark draws much of its inspiration from Wales, Joya seems to be influenced by the myths and history of the Canary Islands.  The Tibicenas - demon dogs that feature in the book - are real mythological creatures from Gran Canaria.  The very name Canary Islands means "isles of dogs," and it was said in Roman times that the islands once contained giant dogs, and that their inhabitants took part in dog-worship.  More importantly, the Canary Islands are volcanic, and it is the mythology of the volcano that really drives the plot of the book.

I don't think I've ever read a Canarian fantasy before.  (In fact, I didn't realise that's what I was reading, until I looked it up afterwards.  I guessed at the Caribbean and Hawaii while I was actually reading.)  To be honest, the real place behind the setting doesn't matter, but I did like the mixture of ethnic backgrounds implied in the story.  I also liked the friendships and the very understated, blossoming romance between the teenage characters.

I should also tell you: the book has a wistful but very magical ending.  But I won't tell you what it is!  You'll have to read it for yourself.