Lavinia Goes Local

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16143300_10211702934358415_211032749235995893_n.jpgThis is a very exciting week for me. As someone who’s lived a life online and who, until now, has only had my books for sale online, this is a watershed moment for me. A small, independent bookshop in Topsham, a gorgeous seaside village in the south-west of England, is now stocking my books. (Don’t worry, they’re still available on Amazon!)

If you happen to be in the area, make sure you check it out. The Topsham Bookshop is an absolute treasure-trove of second hand and indy-published books with everything from old favourites in those adorable pre-loved volumes to, well, me!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved a bookshop. I could lose half a day in there, and often I’ve lost my weekly budget. My local station has a Foyles, which means that every time I miss my train (which, I confess, is relatively often – timekeeping is not my forté) I find myself in there, contactless card in hand, a victim of their three-for-two book offer.

I can’t quite fall in love with a place without a bookshop, and somehow bookshops are always wonky and rickety (apart from I suppose my temptation location, Foyles) and have that gorgeous dusty smell.

Bookshops are wonderful places. It’s something about seeing all of those titles lined up and thinking there’s a world inside each of these. I hope that someone browsing in The Topsham Bookshop will have the same feeling when they see – and pick up – one of mine.

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Author AWOL

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Regular readers of the blog might have noticed I’ve been very quiet recently. I used to post relatively regularly once a week or so, but it’s been quite the last couple of months.

I have a good reason, I promise! I’ve been finishing off my thesis, and last week I successfully defended it (hooray for me) so now that my life has returned to teaching and getting on with my corrections, I have space to return to normal.

become-a-writer.jpgBeing a writer is a surprisingly time-consuming thing, and most of us aren’t lucky enough to be able to rely on it as our main (or even supplementary) income. There’s always more I need (and want) to do. Not just updating the blog or running my twitter and facebook feeds, but also reading friends’ books (hi Karen!), keeping up with reading current releases, and (if there’s time left at the end of the day after the 9-5 and everything else) actually writing new material.

49d9da07acf06ad615ae099ac4177a66And that’s what’s been so sad about this last busy period of my life. No time to write. It’s a strange thing, I think, the life of someone who needs to write to feel like themselves. The more firmly rooted I am in reality (rather than spending all day in my own head in a fantasy land) the further away from it I feel. The further away from myself.

So, to the future! I have a huge ‘to read’ pile, but it’s all scrummy stuff I can’t wait to get my (metaphorical) teeth into. And aside from that – the WOP to think about. Wish me luck!

Don’t miss your chance to get #1 Arthurian Bestseller THE WITCHES OF AVALON for a bargain 99p!

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#1 Arthurian kindle bestseller The Witches of Avalon is available for just 99p for a short time only!

Click here to get your copy for 99p! 

Reviewers say:

“As always, Lavinia Collins doesn’t disappoint. This first book sees Morgan grow from an innocent child to a young woman who discovers betrayal, the cruelty of a men’s world, and sex.
[…]
Once again, Collins has created complex, intriguing characters, and a vivid world that makes you forget the Arthurian legends are just that, legends. They seem real. It’s also refreshing to see them told, for a change, by the female protagonists who are often relegated to one-dimensional characters in the background. Here, Morgan comes forward to tell her own story. And it’s a very compelling one.
If you like the Arthurian legends, or even just a good story, check it out.”
Read the review in full here.

Readers say:

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Find out for yourself!

Merry Christmas, Medieval Style

First I would like to say this is not my own work. This is the work of the Gawain-poet, and of course the greatest genius of our own time, Mallory Ortberg, one time editor of the greatest online magazine there has ever been, The Toast. 

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But Christmas can be a tough time, family-social-wise, and everyone needs a good tale to tell. My gift to you this year, is the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Mallory’s version pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of the general wackiness of the original, but if that’s not enough for you, why not treat yourself to the baffling film version, which features a half-shirtless, green glittery Sean Connery in the role of the Green Knight. None of it makes sense, but then again, none of the original does either!

sword-of-the-valiant-movie-poster-1984-1020363538Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has everything. Conflicting promises, dubious bets, a psychotically sexually aggressive woman who doesn’t even get her own name, and our hero’s assertion, in his final hour, that every mistake he has made is the fault of all women. What more could you want at Christmas? Gratuitous sex(ism), gratuitous violence and a pair of magic pants – the medieval world is weird, wacky and beautiful, and Gawain and the Green Knight makes every Christmas a merry one.

In Praise of the DIY Launch Do

I’m often grateful to be signed to a small press publisher. I like having a close relationship with my publisher and editor, I like the freedom that comes with being low-key. I like how fast the small-press kindle-publishing word moves, and I’ve found it suits me very much.

A week ago, I held a very jolly launch for the paperback of Morgawse: Queen of the North

The other advantage, is that I do my own launch do for the books, which for me means copious amounts of aldi prosecco and crisps, a room full of balloons and good friends, and a jolly old time getting tiddly enough not to be too shy to read my books out loud.

As a somewhat shy author (though I know I don’t seem shy on the blog – I’ve talked about this before), this works really well for me. Just me, my close pals and a good laugh. Everyone who already knows everything.

It’s also great sharing this kind of achievement with your closest friends. The people who have been with you all along. Who read your first draft, who promised you you could do this, who always tell you your stuff is worth reading when you start to doubt. I love that, I rely on that, and I’m so lucky to have that.

So here are the merry old pics of the day – enjoy!

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Having a read.

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Loving that new book smell!

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Essential to celebrations: wine and balloons.

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Reading a scandalous scene.

*NEWS* MORGAWSE Completely free for your kindle! *NEWS*

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Morgawse: A Medieval Fantasy romance is free for a short time only for your kindle! Grab this fantastic deal while you can.

A young noblewoman is caught in between warring factions in dying King Uther’s realm.

The life of the Queen of Lothian explored for the first time in fiction in depth since Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

MORGAWSE features all three books in the trilogy, previously published in single volumes on Kindle, as part of Lavinia Collins’ fantasy chronicles exploring the lives of Arthurian women. Look out for GUINEVERE and MORGAN.

The three books collated here have been described as “stunning”, “gripping”, “simply beautiful” and “enthralling”. Try this volume today and see what all the fuss is about!

Reviewers say: 

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Lavinia’s Book of the Month: October

Chapter and Verse Reviews

The Butcher’s Hook – Janet Ellis

butchers-hookI’ve actually recommended this book before, by accident. When I was in the bookshop (yes, a real bricks and mortar shop filled with books – can’t beat ’em) and I saw it, I said, “Oh look at this! It looks like a bodice ripper but with murders” and the sixty-something-year-old man beside me picked a copy up too, and said, “I’ll have one of those.”

And I am very happy to report that it was well worth it. Very entertaining, darkly comic and completely gripping. Just a wonderful tale, told with wit. After I had got over the fact that our romantic hero is called ‘Fub’, of course.

Anne, our heroine, is a young lady who knows what she wants, surrounded by people in her way. She’s a wonderfully engaging narrator, and you’re (or I was) completely on her side as she goes from wilful…

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Why you should make the Bad Sex Awards your favourite literary awards

Bad-Sex-1-600x450.jpgAs anyone who follows my twitter might notice, the book I recommended as my Book of the Month on Chapter and Verse reviews has been nominated for the bad sex in fiction awards! As someone who writes quite a lot of *ahem* sexual content, the Bad Sex Awards are something that I follow with great interest.

They really tap into the problem of writing about sex. Something that is at once universal and deeply personal and individual. When there is such a wealth of genre fiction romance, which sells itself on idealised and tittilating sex, to write a pleasant sex scene seems to be verboten in the world of literary fiction. How to make sex interesting and Capital L Literary? And I think, ultimately, this is why many of these fall foul of producing something that is just rather odd.

As it happens, I actually like the scene in the Butcher’s Hook. I mean, I don’t think it’s meant to be some dream of exciting sex, but the narrator is strange herself, and the metaphors used if oddly agricultural aren’t out of place in her general style of narration.

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This medieval nun knows good sex (and isn’t afraid to ask)

I think producing a ‘good sex’ award would be harder. Different readers like different things, and while we find it easier to agree on what is funny-ridiculous (like cracker jokes), agreeing on what is exciting might be a little more difficult.

The Brave New World of President Trump

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‘Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair’: the oft-misquoted cry of Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias, used by many who think they have achieved something great, but that – in its context in the poem – conveys the tragic irony that everything man builds up crumbles to dust.

Wednesday morning, 7:34 GMT (according to my radio) Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America, and the American presidency – what is perhaps the greatest political edifice in the world – began to crumble into dust. That’s democracy, you cry! The people wanted him! That, I’m afraid, is rather my point.

Trump’s supporters hail him as an innovator, a free-thinker, a man unmired by the mess of a career in politics. A businessman. A truth-teller. A man who can make America great again.

For those of us on the other side, we see something very different. A demagogue who has ruthlessly used hate and ignorance. A Machiavellian sociopath who makes Lady Macbeth look like an amateur when it comes to heartless ambition. We’re scared. I’m a middle-class white lady who lives in the UK and I’m scared – why? Because the repercussions of not just a Trump presidency but a Trump election are global. Here’s why:

Even if Trump fails to put a single one of his noxious campaign promises into action, the simple message that his election sends is that a man who boasts openly about sexually assaulting women deserves to hold the highest office in the world. A man who says all Muslims are worthy of our hate and should be deported, is fit to run the United States of America, and have access to a nuclear arsenal that could wipe out the entire world. The message has already been given loud and clear: this is an acceptable way to behave. This is an admirable way to behave. Women, the disabled, LGBT people, people of BAME are worthless. A rich white man with anger on his side can do whatever he pleases.

People wanted him. 40% of female voters voted for Donald Trump. The ‘teflon president’ who vowed to prosecute women for getting abortions (then swiftly backtracked) and laughed about how fame allowed him to grab women by the pussy was chosen by a large proportion of female voters. Because people don’t really care what he stands for, apart from rage and destruction. Apart from blindly feeling.

Women the world over might have woken on Wednesday morning to find that it was finally true in practice, not just in theory, that a woman could hold the highest elected office in the world. That girls really do run the world (as Beyoncé tells us). Instead, they woke to learn that a man who only cares how a woman scores out of ten has been chosen to lead the world’s most powerful nation.

Was Hillary Clinton the perfect candidate? No. Was she judged by standards a male candidate never would be? Yes. I urge anyone and everyone to watch her concession speech. Painful, but important.

America has a population of over 320 million. 320 million people, and Donald Trump was the single one from among those chosen to be president.

I want to be hopeful. I want to say, this is done, let us move forward in the hope that this is not the disaster many of us the world over fear it will be. But I’m afraid the damage is already done. In electing Trump, we as the global society have endorsed a world in which celebrity is more important than competence, hate and bombast more important that careful compromise and the long, slow fight towards real equality for all. I’m saddened, and I know many of you are, too. Let us all hope there is something we can save from the wreckage.

planet of the apes.JPGI met a traveller from an antique land, 
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 
And on the pedestal, these words appear: 
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare 
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

Why Bob Dylan is a Worthy Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

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I don’t know about you, but my social media timeline has been abuzz with people debating the relative deserving of Bob Dylan as a Nobel Laureate. I mean, the man writes songs for god’s sake, one party cry. That’s not literature. Or if it’s literature, it’s not Capital L Literature. Aha, cry the other party,but I can think of many canonical dead white men whose poems were set to music, and therefore music and LLLLLiterature are not mutually exclusive.

I think the debate raises an interesting point. I mean, everyone knows the old chestnut that ‘lyric’ comes from ‘lyre’ and the poetry of Sappho, Vergil and Homer were set to music. Beowulf was sung to accompaniment. Song and poem were interchangeable terms up into the later middle ages. Our modern division of song-lyric and poetic-lyric is newfangled. But just because something is new, doesn’t mean it is beneath our interest.

One objection I have read involved quoting from ‘Forever Young’ thus:
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung,
And may you stay (-ayyy-ayyyy)
Forever young
Apparently the necessity of drawing out the third line of this poem in order to make it scan was offensive to my interlocutor, and excluded it from the category of poetry. But Shakespeare often requires manipulation of rhythm, and the poems of Tony Harrison require reading in a northern accent in order to rhyme. So this seems like a specious argument to me.

Moreover, the awarding of the Nobel Prize is not on the basis that every single one of Dylan’s songs can be stripped of its music and presented as a flawless poem. The awarding of the prize reflects the fact that Dylan has made a substantial contribution to literature. Which I, for one, believe that he has.

big-gold-frame.jpgThere’s a particular strand of the Capital L Literature brigade who I find particularly difficult to deal with. It’s that “this is Literature this is not”. I suppose they might be the same people that have rigid ideas about what is and isn’t art and what is and isn’t music. Personally, I don’t find that intellectual snobbery helps us to see the world any more clearly. Certainly I’ve done better since I’ve put it away. I remember at 18 roundly declaring that HARRY POTTER IS NOT LITERATURE. Thankfully, I am now much much older, and hopefully at least moderately wiser.

So congratulations Bob. Although I am disappointed to see no female Nobel laureates this year, you are a worthy winner.

I would like to leave you with my favourite Dylan lyrics of them all, the incomparable Desolation Row which reminds me, oddly enough, of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:

They’re selling postcards of the hanging, they’re painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors, the circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner, they’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker, the other is in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless, they need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight, from Desolation Row
Cinderella, she seems so easy, “It takes one to know one, ” she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets Bette Davis style
And in comes Romeo, he’s moaning. “You Belong to Me I Believe”
And someone says, “You’re in the wrong place, my friend, you’d better leave”
And the only sound that’s left after the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up on Desolation Row
Now the moon is almost hidden, the stars are beginning to hide
The fortune telling lady has even taken all her things inside
All except for Cain and Abel and the hunchback of Notre Dame
Everybody is making love or else expecting rain
And the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing, he’s getting ready for the show
He’s going to the carnival tonight on Desolation Row
Ophelia, she’s ‘neath the window for her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday she already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic she wears an iron vest
Her profession’s her religion, her sin is her lifelessness
And though her eyes are fixed upon Noah’s great rainbow
She spends her time peeking into Desolation Row
Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood with his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago with his friend, a jealous monk
Now he looked so immaculately frightful as he bummed a cigarette
And he when off sniffing drainpipes and reciting the alphabet
You would not think to look at him, but he was famous long ago
For playing the electric violin on Desolation Row
Dr. Filth, he keeps his world inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients, they’re trying to blow it up
Now his nurse, some local loser, she’s in charge of the cyanide hole
And she also keeps the cards that read, “Have Mercy on His Soul”
They all play on the penny whistles, you can hear them blow
If you lean your head out far enough from Desolation Row
Across the street they’ve nailed the curtains, they’re getting ready for the feast
The Phantom of the Opera in a perfect image of a priest
They are spoon feeding Casanova to get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence after poisoning him with words
And the Phantom’s shouting to skinny girls, “Get outta here if you don’t know”
Casanova is just being punished for going to Desolation Row”
At midnight all the agents and the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone that knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders and then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles by insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping to Desolation Row
Praise be to Nero’s Neptune, the Titanic sails at dawn
Everybody’s shouting, “Which side are you on?!”
And Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them and fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much about Desolation Row
Yes, I received your letter yesterday, about the time the doorknob broke
When you asked me how I was doing, was that some kind of joke
All these people that you mention, yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces and give them all another name
Right now, I can’t read too good, don’t send me no more letters no
Not unless you mail them from Desolation Row