The Green Man Event at Mount Edgcumbe

I had a very enjoyable weekend at the Green Man event at Mount Edgcumbe in Torpoint, Cornwall selling and signing copies of The Solstice Blade. Green Man is a two day event with live music, performers and stalls, all presided over by the Green Man himself, created from scratch each year.

The early mizzle (a quintessentially Cornish misty drizzle) cleared to fantastic weather with only a small downpour on Saturday afternoon – well, this is Britain after all,  what did you expect? 😉

View along the shoreline at Mount Edgcumbe
View along the shoreline at Mount Edgcumbe

We were located close to the music stage and only about thirty seconds from the beach. Not a bad base for the weekend!

A yacht moored in Plymouth Sound just off the beach at Mount Edgcumbe with Drake's Island in the distance.
A yacht moored in Plymouth Sound just off the beach at Mount Edgcumbe with Drake’s Island in the distance.
Green Man construction. A large figure if a seated man made from plants.
The Green Man presiding over the festivities with Mount Edgcumbe house in the distance.

For me the highlight of Saturday was undoubtedly the Lodestone Border Morris side.  How cool are these morris dancers in their green ribbon regalia? Lodestone Border morris are based in Tavistock in Devon and were dancing at Mount Edgcumbe on the Saturday.  Morris is a form of English folk dance, and there are many teams known as sides throughout the country.

The author with two friendly dancers from the Lodestone Border Morris side.
The author with two friendly dancers from the Lodestone Border Morris side.
Lodestone Border Morris dancing at Mount Edgcumbe
Lodestone Border Morris dancing at Mount Edgcumbe

As at other events I was privileged to meet up with a number of people who had read The Solstice Blade and hear their thoughts on the book. Fortunately these were unanimously positive and there was a fair deal of interest in the next book in the series.

Incidentally, the next book,- Lyskerrys  – which may yet up being called The Soul of Lyskerrys, The Thief of Lyskerrys, or even something else entirely (The Soul Thief  has already been used, but does fit rather well, so possibly some variation on that) is progressing well and will hopefully be published in time for Christmas 2018. I will probably be making the first few chapters available to read on my website in the near future, so stay tuned!

Lodestone Border Morris dancing at Mount Edgcumbe
Lodestone Border Morris dancing at Mount Edgcumbe (again!)
Two yachts in Plymouth Sound with Drake's Island in the distance.
View across Plymouth Sound towards Drake’s Island on Sunday.

You can find out more about Mount Edgcumbe here

and more about Lodestone Border Morris here

Mount Edgcumbe Christmas Fayre

On the weekend of the 9th and 10th of December we were fortunate enough to be offered a pitch at the Mount Edgcumbe Christmas Fayre selling and signing copies of The Solstice Blade. Mount Edgcumbe is a beautiful stately home built in about 1520 located on the Rame peninsular, overlooking Plymouth Sound. The event was extremely well organised and well attended.

On day one we were positioned outside in a gazebo, close to the Sealed Knot English Civil War re-enactment group, where I was able to meet with a Polish mercenary, who despite having an expression fierce enough to qualify in a future installment of The Solstice Blade, was willing to pose for a photograph!

On the second day, the winds were very high, and the organisers kindly moved us into the main house – what a treat it was to have a prime location inside in the warm after a day spent getting up close and personal with a December Saturday in South East Cornwall!

We were installed next to a 16th century Flemish tapestry and a travelling chest of similar vintage. Apparently tapestries served the purpose of providing insulation and draught proofing as well as functioning as a status symbol.

Just through the door to the left in the photograph was a large hall where the Mount Edgcumbe Christmas tree was situated, with a staircase up to a gallery, and from lunchtime onward we were treated to  Christmas carols sung on the staircase by various local choirs.

I would definitely recommend Mount Edgcumbe for a visit if you are ever in South East Cornwall, you might even get to meet this guy if you look closely enough!

I certainly plan to return for a proper look around when I don’t have to man the stall!

You can read more about Mount Edgcumbe on their official website here:

As always, if you are reading this on GoodReads and are unable to see the images, please visit The Solstice Blade’s blog post here.

“Your South East Cornwall” Magazine Article 

An article about the The Solstice Blade has been published in the October-November edition of “Your South East Cornwall” magazine. The article is reproduced below:

Liskeard has been at the centre of rather more otherworldly activity than usual recently, at least in “The Solstice Blade”, the fantasy adventure novel set in the town by local author Robert Beck.
When Travis, Evan and Liam are tricked into invoking an ancient magic ritual, a chain of events is set in motion that allows an alternate reality called the Otherworld to begin to bleed through in to modern day Liskeard. If the brothers cannot reverse the effects of the spell before the winter solstice, their lives, and those of everyone else, will never be the same again.


Robert first began writing about the local area when his sons were very young, writing short stories which would mysteriously be delivered onto their doorstep and then lead them off on real world adventures around the Liskeard and Looe area. These early stories generally involved a crew of invisible pirates headed by Black Jake, a fashion and heavy-metal music obsessed captain, whose attempts to disrupt Christmas were constantly thwarted by an undercover elf named Bob.

As his family grew older the stories grew with them. The most elaborate adventure culminating in the launching of sky-rockets to re-seed the airwaves with the scents of Christmas so that Santa’s reindeer were able to navigate around the world again after Black Jake’s latest fiendish attempt to destroy Christmas. 

When Robert’s sons reached early adulthood the idea for The Solstice Blade was born. The novel developed, drawing in influences from ancient mythology, local folklore, and intertwining them with Robert’s own imagination. Soon it was realised that with a little more work the story could be developed into a full novel.

With the publication of The Solstice Blade in December 2016 the opportunity for some more creativity presented itself, and three copies of the novel were hidden in and around Liskeard. At the moment of the winter solstice, clues with differing levels of difficulty were published on The Solstice Blade’s Facebook page. Followers of the page were very creative, keeping us updated on their progress with photographs and even comments in the form of short stories which were added to as they made progress towards their prize. 

A sequel to The Solstice Blade, provisionally entitled Lyskerrys is now well underway. Keep an eye on the blog on The Solstice Blade’s website or the Facebook page for updates.

With summer coming to an end and the winter solstice once again approaching, the levels of background magic in the town will undoubtedly start to rise once more. Keep your eyes open, this is Liskeard – who knows what might happen!

The Solstice Blade at Great Trethew Vintage Rally

Headlight and front grille of an MG TF vintage sports car

The Solstice Blade has been abroad in darkest South East Cornwall, the location of the novel, over the bank holiday weekend with a stall at the Great Trethew Vintage Rally.

Great Trethew lies between Liskeard and the fishing town of Looe and the rally was held for the first time this year after the Morval rally ended in 2016 after many years. The organsiers of Great Trethew have certainly done a great job, it was a fantastic location and very well organised and executed.

The Solstice Blade stall was located in the craft marquee, close to the main event arena, and therefore in a perfect position to attract new readers in the intervals between events.

Robert standing at The Solstice Blade stall.
The Solstice Blade Stall featuring a local author!

It was an absolute pleasure to meet some of the people who had bought the The Solstice Blade at previous shows, and to hear what they thought of the book. It was also an opportunity to meet lots of new readers and other people with a wealth of local knowledge, some of which will no doubt find its way into the next book.

I have always had a soft spot for the lines of a vintage British sports car and we were spoiled for choice with MGs, Triumphs and Jaguars amongst others at the show.

Headlight and front grille of an MG TF vintage sports car
Arty shot of the front of an MG TF (I think!)
The front headlight and grille of a Triumph TR3A
The front headlight and grille of a Triumph TR3A (this one I do know!)

The standout event for me was definitely the tractor pulling which, for the uninitiated (count me in that number until this year), involves various tractors trying to drag a flat bottomed weighted sledge along a field. As the tractor progresses along the course the weight is shifted towards the front of the sled making it more and more difficult to pull (as far as I could tell!) resulting in some serious “tractor wheelies”.  By far the coolest tractor in my novice opinion was The Atlantic Storm, which looks like a dragster and apparently is powered by an ex Russian tank engine! I am almost certain that this tractor would perform a lot less well if it were not for the flame graphics on the mudguards! They certainly worked for me!

The Atlantic Storm generating clouds of dust
The Atlantic Storm –  a Tank Engine Powered Tractor!

If you find yourself in South East Cornwall during late August, The Great Trethew Vintage Rally is well worth a visit.

More information about the Great Trethew Rally can be found here.

Recent Reviews on Amazon

 

Very happy to have received another couple of four and five star reviews on Amazon.

I am extremely grateful to those of you who have taken the time to write a review, which as well as providing valuable feedback also helps to improve The Solstice Blade’s ranking in the Amazon charts.

Amazon Customer awarded four stars and said:
“I read this book twice, not because I didn’t quite understand the storyline first time but because it was in all honesty, an excellent read. Although aimed at the young adult readership, Solstice Blade has a quality and writing style which very easily crosses over to an adult market. I liked it very much and look forward to Roberts next outing as an author”

Mr G. M. Watson awarded five stars and said:
“I really enjoyed reading this book. Easy to read with great detail which made me feel immersed in fairy land. I personally felt it could of been longer but this is my only criticism as I really enjoyed the content.”

See all of the The Solstice Blade’s reviews at Amazon here

The Holyer an Gof Awards Evening in Truro

The Solstice Blade was nominated for the Holyer an Gof awards and we were invited to attend the awards ceremony at Waterstone’s bookshop in Truro, Cornwall on Tuesday 11th July 2017.

A very enjoyable evening began with a short drinks reception held upstairs at the bookshop before the announcements and presentation got underway. It was a curiously exciting  experience to be sitting around chatting and drinking wine in a bookshop after it had closed to the public!

All of the nominated books were on display on a dedicated bookshelf within the shop for purchase during the evening and will remain on sale there for a couple of weeks.

The Holyer an Gof award nominees on display at Waterstones bookshop in Truro.
The Holyer an Gof award nominees on display at Waterstones bookshop in Truro.
The Holyer an Gof award nominees on display at Waterstones bookshop in Truro.
The Holyer an Gof award nominees on display at Waterstones bookshop in Truro.

The special guest master of ceremonies for the awards was Edward Rowe, better known in Cornwall as the comedian “Kernow King”,  and it was a special treat to have the opportunity to have a few words with him briefly after the ceremony.

Robert Beck with "Kernow King" Edward Rowe.
Robert Beck with “Kernow King” Edward Rowe.

During the announcements themselves, on a category by category basis, the nominations were individually introduced, with a summary of each entry. The young adults category was combined with the children’s section, with all of the nominations in young adults being described as “outstanding”.

Then, the winners of each category were announced and presented with their certificates. Although The Solstice Blade did not win the combined Children and YA section, it was a very pleasant surprise to be called up and presented with a certificate from the Grand Bard (Bardh Meur) of the Cornish Gorsedh, Merv Davey.

Robert Beck is presented with his certificate for The Solstice Blade by the Grand Bard - Merv Davey.
Robert Beck is presented with his certificate for The Solstice Blade by the Grand Bard – Merv Davey.

Further information about Gorsedh Kernow can be found here.

Further information about Holyer an Gof can be found here.

Carnglaze Caverns

Statue of a fairy located in the woodlands at Carnglaze Caverns.

On the weekend of the 1st and 2nd of July 2017, The Solstice Blade was at Carnglaze Caverns near Liskeard in Cornwall for their Crystal and Crafts Show.

Carnglaze Caverns is a disused slate mine located in the Loveny Valley on the way to the village of St. Neot, and is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Once at Carnglaze, the entrance to the cavern itself is to be found along a short footpath, tucked away around a bend. It is always a delight to round the corner and encounter the lights and sounds of activity emanating from the entrance cut into the hillside.

The entrance to the slate cavern.
The entrance to the slate cavern.

Early on the Saturday morning, before the show opened to the public, there was time for a walk in the woodland surrounding the caverns, which is populated with many enchanting statues of mythological creatures.

A statue in the woodlands surrounding Carnglaze Caverns.
Statue in the woodlands surrounding Carnglaze Caverns.
Statue of a fairy located in the woodlands at Carnglaze Caverns.
Statue located in the woodlands at Carnglaze Caverns.

The Solstice Blade stall was set up underground in the upper part of the cavern system known as The Rum Store, which is often used as a concert venue. The temperature in the caves remains constant throughout the year, and whilst this was probably a comfortable temperature for the slate miners to perform their physical work in, it can feel rather chilly when one is sitting down manning a stall! I certainly felt rather overdressed as I wandered out squinting into the soaring temperatures of a July weekend wrapped up in a jumper, coat and scarf!

The solstice blade books and posters on the stall
The Solstice Blade stall in the Rum Store at Carnglaze Caverns.

It was very enjoyable to meet people who were interested in reading The Solstice Blade and even one or two who were reading it at the time. Several people were curious about  my experiences of self-publishing, and I hope I was able to offer them some useful information and hopefully inspire them to give it a go themselves. In addition to the public attending the event, many of the other stall holders and even the organiser of the event picked up a copy and I look forward to hearing their thoughts and comments about the story.

Close up of The Solstice Blade book with fairy lights and candle.
Close up of a copy of The Solstice Blade on the stall.
A view from the entrance of the Rum Store towards the stage, showing stalls set up for the show.
View from the entrance of the Rum Store towards the stage, showing stalls set up for the show.

The otherworldly ambience of Carnglaze Caverns perfectly complemented the atmosphere that I tried to create in The Solstice Blade, and I hope to return again in the winter for their “Alternative Christmas Present Show.” Which, in early December, is getting perilously close to the winter solstice!

If you are planning a visit to Carnglaze, you can find more information about site and directions on their website here.

The Solstice Blade will be on the road again on Saturday the 8th of July 2017 at the Liskeard Show. I’d love it if you were to pop over and say “hello”.

The Solstice Blade Nominated for Holyer an Gof Award

Very excited to report that The Solstice Blade has been nominated for an award in the Holyer an Gof competition in the combined “children and young adults” category!

Gorsedh Kernow (The Cornish Gorsedh) runs the annual Holyer an Gof awards which recognises publications about Cornwall or which are written in the Cornish language. 

The winners will be announced on Tuesday 11th July at Waterstones bookshop in Truro.

Follow this link for more information about this year’s nominees.

More information about Holyer an Gof can be found by following this link.

Writing YA Fantasy: Interview with Robert Beck

Printer T J Ink interviewed Robert Beck about The Solstice Blade as a case study. Read the transcript or see the original article here:

Fantasy novels are a hugely popular genre, but what does it take to actually write one? We interview Robert Beck about writing YA Fantasy and finally getting the book published. 

Writing YA Fantasy

Author, Robert Beck talks to us about writing YA Fantasy stories.

Tell us about The Solstice Blade, what is it about?

The Solstice Blade follows the adventures of three brothers: Travis, Evan and Liam. Forces from an alternate version of our world disrupt their lives by manipulating them into invoking an ancient ritual.

As a result, the town of Liskeard is subjected to a series of increasingly bizarre events as aspects of the Otherworld bleed through. If the brothers can’t reverse the effects of the ritual before the winter solstice, their lives will never be the same.

It’s often said that writing YA Fantasy is completely different from other types of fiction. Are you aware of writing for a specific audience and do you include any particular YA tropes?

I was very aware of the age group I was writing for. Initially I was cautious that the story shouldn’t be too frightening, although I did learn as I went on that teenagers do seem to like their subject matter a little darker than I had assumed. I didn’t deliberately include any particular tropes, but it is entirely possible that some genre specific themes crept in. Confession: I had to look up what a trope was!

Why did you decide to set the book in Liskeard, Cornwall, and what was it that you found were your main sources of inspiration?

The Solstice Blade was actually the last in a series of stories that I wrote for my children each Christmas as they were growing up in Liskeard. Each story would interact with the local environment in one way or another.

For example, one year a storm blew away the final three pages and we travelled to the south east of Cornwall to locate them in order to finish the story. We all know that a story must finish, otherwise who knows what might happen?

Another year, when my sons were much younger, pirates had sabotaged the North Pole’s “Sant-Nav” system, which releases Christmas scents in the upper atmosphere. They were polluting the air with Brussels sprout odour. We had to reseed the air currents over Cornwall with cinnamon and pine smells launched from fireworks to allow the reindeer to find their way.

So, my sons were my inspiration. As for Liskeard, well, the high levels of background magic here made it an obvious choice.

How long did it take you to write the novel and what did you do to stay motivated?

The original Christmas deadline meant that the basic story was ready in about four months. However, when I decided to convert it into a full novel, it probably took me another two years to embellish it and patch over the plot holes. Motivation was not really an issue as I enjoyed making up the story so much.

On your website you mention the juxtaposition of your day job as a software engineer and your passion for writing YA Fantasy. How do you find the balance between the two?

I have to travel to work on the train and I use the time to work on my stories. It’s the perfect antidote to a day of writing software code! Although, just occasionally, a piece of code can sometimes throw up an unexpected twist in a similar way to a novel.

Are you happy with the end book and how have you found the self-publishing process as a whole?

Writing YA Fantasy

The finished book

I am very happy with the end result. The entire process from conception to holding the printed paperback in my hands has been very enjoyable. I think I was fortunate to have chosen TJ INK for the printing. They could not have been more helpful, supportive, and professional. What could have been a daunting first foray into self-publishing was actually an absolute pleasure. I would definitely recommend this route for anyone who has a story to tell.

Many authors find the marketing and promotion of their book the biggest struggle. How do you tackle this and what advice can you give?

I’m still early to the process, but so far I have certainly found this to be the most difficult part. I don’t think that self-promotion comes easily to many people and there are so many aspects to it that professionals in the field probably train for a long time to master. These days, however, with tools like social media it’s easier than it ever has been to promote a book.

I do think that the inherently creative nature of a lot of writers will benefit them in approaching marketing from new and unexpected angles. My personal advice is to start early because it’s harder and more time consuming that you expect.

With so many forms of entertainment competing for readers’ attention, what, in your opinion, makes a good engaging story?

It’s hard to say what makes a good story, but I know one when I find it. If a formula for a great story could be identified then every book would be a bestseller! Personally, I love unexpected plot twists and a fantasy element that takes the reader away from their everyday life into somewhere wholly different. It’s even better when you write it, as you create those worlds yourself.

Writing YA Fantasy

Do you plan on writing any more books and what can we expect for the future?

I have a couple of ideas for new stories, a follow up to The Solstice Blade that’s also set in Liskeard, and another story for adults that I am quite excited about.

And finally… what would be your ‘desert island’ book?

Difficult to say because my tastes are quite eclectic and I try not to re-read books. So it would probably be something I hadn’t read before. I particularly like Ian McDonald’s novels. If he were to write something along the lines of his novels Brasyl or River of Gods that would be a good candidate.

 ***

Visit Robert’s website to find out more about The Solstice Blade.

Holyer An Gof Awards

On the recommendation of our printer, TJ International, The Solstice Blade has been entered into the Holyer An Gof writing competition. The Holyer An Gof awards are promoted by Cornish Gorsedh (Gorsedh Kernow)  are held each year and are open to any publications relating to Cornwall or which are written in the Cornish language. The Solstice Blade is set in the Cornish town of Liskeard, and features the local copper mining industry  in the Prologue. We have been entered into class 2 – Books for Young Adults. The closing date for entries is Tuesday 28th February 2017. The awards will be presented on Tuesday 11th July 2017 at Waterstones bookshop in Truro.

If we are fortunate enough to win, don’t worry, we’ll let you know!