Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hidden London 2 - Captain Bligh's House

I was actually on the way to meet a friend at the Imperial War Museum caff in SE London.

She wanted to take me around the amazing full-size replica of a 1940s house. On the way I came across this stellar blue plaque house, immediately conjuring up the ship's captain stepping out of that front door to go to sea and returning here goodness knows how many years later. A quick Google reveals that William Bligh not only commandeered The Bounty but sailed with Captain Cook on his 2nd voyage 1772-4. How often must he have dreamed of this place with its twirly balconies when he was in that little rowing boat drifting for 400 miles?

Started in 1866, the blue plaques are one of the great joys of random wanders around London. You never know who from history you're going to suddenly bump into next.

Captain Bligh's house is just opposite the museum park in Kennington Road. You can go inside that 1940s house in The Children's War exhibition, on until 3rd Jan 2012. Free.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hidden London 1 - Two Temple Place


Having just published Susie Kelly's wonderful book Best Foot Forward about her solo 500 mile hike through hidden France I thought I'd write here every so often about my own jaunts through hidden London.

As a full-time carer and writer/epublisher I tend to work non-stop. Weekdays, evenings and weekends don't have much differentation. I balance this by by darting out every so often to meet up with friends or by taking a random solo wander. I live in the W8 district, a very pretty part of west central. Though we're surrounded by gardens, parks and shops and are within striking distance of all the major galleries and museums I still haven't discovered the half of it.

Yesterday I met a friend at the Degas exhibition at the Royal Academy and afterwards we nipped across the road to London's most sumptuous store Fortnum & Mason, for a wander through confectionery and cakes.

Last week, thanks to a friend buying tickets many, many moons ago, I was lucky enough to go to the Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery, take a virtual tour of the gallery here. Everybody's talking about the two The Virgin of the Rocks coming together and they were one of the many highlights. One of them is in the permanent collection and it's worth knowing that when the exhibition finishes it will take its place back in the free area of the museum. Lots of London's museums and galleries are free. Which is as well as it's such an expensive city to live in.

This morning I took a walk/run to The Round Pond in Kensington Gardens and used that little plinth to do my T'ai Chi and yoga.

The Round Pond is Bird City. Many famous writers have perambulated its circumference including J M Barrie (Peter Pan lives here too) and Virginia Woolf.  The modern building is the Royal Garden Hotel, with Universal Music HQ just down the road it's the base for many visiting rock stars. It's one of the only hotels I know that uses healthy E-cloth microfibre technology to clean its rooms, so if fresh air is important to you, or you're asthmatic or suffer from allergies, that's the place to stay. The building to the far right is Kensington Palace, currently going through a revamp. It was Prince Charles and Princess Diana's home and will soon be home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William & Kate. Kate was spotted in our local Top Shop on Kensington High Street recently. I once spotted Princess Diana at one of our favourite local restaurants Kensington Place.

Kensington has many alleyways and tiny, pretty streets full of interesting little shops:

But now for a truly hidden bit. A free gallery I discovered recently is Two Temple Place. It's a really eccentric building, inside and out - see the Mary Poppins-like ship on the roof. The house was built by Lord Astor, the interiors are extravagant but it has a very warm and friendly feel to it.

There's a fantastically off the wall caff. A brilliant place to go for tea and cake or an Ottolenghi-like salad lunch. This is my friend X in the caff, she'd literally KILL me if I put her picture up on the internet hence the um subtle disguise: 

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fiction ebook in the charts - Conf 682

Ten Good Reasons is No. 26 today in Books On Board fiction popularity ranking. Couldn't resist a screenshot of the company it's keeping!

If you want to get your writing up on Books On Board, go to ProseQuest their new independent author publishing arm...

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Good Ebook Cover Design Gets Me Noticed - Conf 681

America's largest independent ebook store Books On Board has a new Indie Author Feature this week and look who's there all shiny and standy-outy in black and pink:

Books on Board have teamed up with ProseQuest to produce indie author ebooks under their imprint Travis Press. The set-up is a bit like Smashwords and Amazon Kindle, the author keeps all rights and (like Kindle sales above $2.99) 70% of sales revenue.

The ebook cover of Ten Good Reasons To Lie About Your Age caught their eye and led to the novel's selection as one of the featured ebook titles for their big unveil this week. There's also a very pretty author promo page

And some nifty direct sales buttons (eyes to the left)...

So, big thanks to Books on Board and to cover designer Fena Lee, currently doing a rush job designing the cover for my next novel, all being well going up later this week.

Author Susie Kelly found Fena, who lives in Singapore, when she was looking for for a designer for her first blackbirdebooks cover The Valley of Heaven and Hell:

Fena is just 17 years old. See more of her book cover designs here.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Facebook Book Launch

We held our first blackbirdebooks book launch last week. This was to launch our latest Book of the Month, Susie Kelly's Best Foot Forward - From La Rochelle to Lake Geneva, the true story of her amazing 500 mile solo walk from one side of France to the other. In true digital style this was a virtual affair conducted via Facebook but none the less for it. In many ways definitely more!

Here are a few, as they say, of the best bits.

As the host I had quite a bit of chaperoning to do as everybody started gathering under one thread. At one point it was in danger of getting swamped by lost guests wandering around looking confused. But eventually everybody got there, the drinks flowed, music played and, at times, even the book was discussed.

It was scheduled to last an hour, but, like all good parties, it went on for quite a while longer, with one guest even breaking out into poetry:

"I went to a marvellous party
With Stephanie, Richard and Susie
It was all on Facebook
In a nice little nook
(though that Susie’s a bit of a floozy)
Dear Richard arrived wearing high heels
Which shocked us all somewhat, I’ll say
But Deborah and Frances did some crazy dances
Then suddenly Susie cried ‘watch me, ooo la la!’
And ripped off her dress and dance round in her bra
Oh! We couldn’t have liked it more….
Johanna Wynne Symm

And the most beautiful part of hidden France?:

The best thing is, it's a party that'll never go away. It's all here for ever more. There may even be a few party bags left for the taking. The main 192 comment thread can be found just above the purple chocolate and Jacqueline's cat-molested cake.

Best Foot Forward - From La Rochelle to Lake Geneva by Susie Kelly
Out now in all ebook formats and paperback, UK and USA, a fantastic read!