Thursday 22 July 2021

Middleway Words: Announcing New Book Festival in the Midlands

A new online Midlands Book Festival is to be established to celebrate the large number of writers in the region – and to inspire a new generation to express their creativity.

Organised by members of the Society of Authors, Middleway Words will feature five days of free online events between September 5-11, bringing together readers and writers to discuss and discover many great books, covering a broad range of genres, from the Midlands.

"We have a long and proud tradition of great writing in the Midlands," says Ignaty Dyakov-Richmond, a co-chair of Society of Authors Warwickshire, and co-founder of the Festival, "and there are so many excellent writers in the region who readers would love if only they were introduced to their work. With Middleway Words, we aim to bring them together. We are formulating an exciting programme of events which will have something for everyone who loves books. Not only will Middleway Words promote those who are already creating great work, we want it to provide helpful advice to inspire others to write.”

The Festival will feature five days of events, interviews and videos which will be available to view live for free on the Festival’s YouTube channel. 

It will begin on Sunday, September 5, with author-led panel discussion on how a book is born. Sessions aimed at adults and children on how to write fiction and poetry to appeal to readers of all ages will follow. The closing panel, on Saturday, September 11, aims to introduce different types of writing, including script, translation, education and theatre narrative. 

In between, there will be two or three sessions a day, in which regional authors will talk and answer questions about their books and the writing process. There may also be talks from others in the book business, including a literary agent, a publisher, a book-seller and a librarian.

Short videos from other authors speaking about their books will be aired prior to and during the Festival, giving readers plenty of chance to add new names to their reading list.

For more details about Middleway Festival, you can email, and see:


Wednesday 21 July 2021

Will Buckingham, "Hello, Stranger: How We Find Connection in a Disconnected World"

Will Buckingham is a writer originally from the UK, but now often found elsewhere in the world. He has written novels (The Descent of the Lyre, Sixty-Four Chance Pieces: A Book of Changes), children’s books (Lucy and the Rocket Dog, The Snorgh and the Sailor) and nonfiction (Stealing With the Eyes: Imaginings and Incantations in Indonesia and Hello, Stranger: How We Find Connection in a Disconnected World). He was formerly Associate Professor of Writing and Creativity at De Montfort University, and a visiting professor at the Parami Institute, Yangon, Myanmar. He is currently based in Bulgaria, where he co-directs Wind&Bones, a social enterprise exploring the meeting-places of writing, creativity and social change. His website is here.

About Hello, Stranger

When philosopher and traveller Will Buckingham’s partner died, he sought solace in throwing open the door to new people. Now, as we reflect on our experiences of the pandemic and its enforced separations, and as global migration figures ever more prominently in our collective future, Buckingham brings together insights from philosophy, anthropology, history and literature to explore how our traditions of meeting the other can mitigate the issues of our time. Taking in stories of loneliness, exile and friendship from classical times to the modern day, and alighting in adapting communities from Birmingham to Myanmar, Hello, Stranger asks: how do we set aside our instinctive xenophobia – fear of outsiders – and embrace our equally natural philoxenia – love of strangers and newness?

From Hello, Stranger, by Will Buckingham

Today, in hotpot restaurants across the Chinese-speaking world, noisy groups of diners sit around shared, steaming pots of broth, and they drop vegetables, meat and seafood in bubbling liquid. As they do so, they cook up togetherness, that renao (literally: hot and noisy) warmth that is the stuff of life. The hotpot bubbles. The broth thickens. It takes up the flavours of the things the diners drop into it. It becomes thicker, richer, spicier. Fuchsia Dunlop writes, ‘There is something about the heat, the communal atmosphere and the diehard recklessness of eating so many chillies on a sweltering evening that is both hilarious and exhilarating.’ As one of her Chinese friends says to her, in the seethe and swirl of the bubbling liquid, hotpot ‘makes a person forget about their worries and grief.’

Hotpot is not a dish to eat alone: the whole point is that it is shared. With my new colleagues in Chengdu, I got hot and noisy. Clustered round, we fished with our chopsticks in the steaming pot of strange things – congealed blood, lotus roots, young bamboo shoots, unidentifiable animal parts, things plucked from the bottom of the sea. 

Occasionally, I pulled something mysterious and rubbery from the steaming broth and asked, ‘What is this?’ One of my new colleagues – a Kant scholar who carried an image of the Prussian philosopher in her purse, and who occasionally took it out to gaze at him in admiration – reprimanded me for my squeamishness, saying, ‘It is better not to ask. Better just to eat and to see if it is delicious.’ So I did. And it was. 

And at the end of the meal, when I reached into my pocket to pay, my new friends said no. ‘Women qing ke,’ they said. We invite you as a guest. 

I removed my hand from my pocket and thanked them. ‘Bie keqi,’ they said. Don’t take on the airs of a guest.

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Kristina Adams, "The Ghost's Call"


Kristina Adams is the author of fifteen books and too many blog posts to count. She helps writers overcome their creative obstacles on her blog, podcast, and courses, over at The Writer’s Cookbook. When she’s not writing, she’s inflicting cooking experiments on her boyfriend or playing with her dog, Millie.



About The Ghost's Call, by K. C. Adams

One mother. One daughter. One haunted town.

Single parent Niamh desperately doesn’t want her daughter Edie to go into the ghost hunting business like she did. But when Edie receives an important message from a ghost, she may not have a choice.

Their hometown is haunted. With the town’s rich history, it could be anyone. And they could be anywhere.

When a ghost arrives on the doorstep of family friends, Niamh and Edie must race against time to protect the people they love.

Meet ghost hunter Niamh and her teenage daughter Edie in The Ghost’s Call, book one in Afterlife Calls, a new paranormal women's fiction series by Kristina Adams. It's perfect for fans of Charmed, Lost Girl, and Supernatural. If you’re looking for a story about family, romance, and ghosts, this is the series for you.

Below, you can read an extract from the novel. 

From The Ghost's Call


The lightbulb flickered in my hand. I jerked my hand away. I wasn’t risking electrocution or burning for anyone. The last thing I needed was to be electrocuted while changing a lightbulb in a client’s house. Especially when they weren’t even there because the place wasn’t finished yet. That’d go down great. Not.

‘Edie, I thought I told you to turn the electrics off!’

‘I did!’ she called back from somewhere in the old house.

‘Are you sure?’

She didn’t reply immediately, but I heard footsteps running through the house to the fuse box in the hallway. A second pair of scurrying footsteps followed her.

‘It’s all off, Mum!’ she shouted from the other side of the house.

Fiddlesticks. That wasn’t good. There was only one thing that would cause a disconnected lightbulb to misbehave. And I didn’t like the direction that pointed in. Not one bit ...

The ladder wobbled underneath me.

‘Edie!’ I called. Without anything else to hold on to, I grabbed the stubborn lightbulb to steady me. Plummeting onto a wooden floor wouldn’t do my creaky joints any favours.

‘Mum!’ she called back, reaching the living room door. Thank god she had enough stamina for both of us. 

Our dog, Tilly, stood behind her, a startled look on her fluffy white face. 

The ladder steadied, so I tried again to unscrew the lightbulb in the living room. The previous owner must’ve been the World’s Strongest Man, because the way that thing was attached wasn’t normal. And I should know: odd jobs like that were my job.

The ladder juddered again.

No, not the ladder. 

The ground.

What the hell? An earthquake? We didn’t get earthquakes like that in England. It was bloody Hucknall, not San Francisco. We weren’t near a fault line. We were in the Midlands. We weren’t even near the sea!

‘Mum!’ cried Edie, her voice vibrating with worry as she ran over to me. Had she ever experienced an earthquake before? When was the last proper one in England? The nineties?
She grabbed the ladder to steady it as the earthquake slowed. I clung to the light fitting for dear life, suddenly glad it was fastened on so well.

Tilly ignored us both, running over to the window and barking. It didn’t take much to make her bark – she was a typical westie in that regard – so that wasn’t unusual. But what she could see – what all three of us could see – wasn’t just unusual. It was unnerving.

My eyes were glued to one of the most haunting sights I’d ever seen. I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping I was hallucinating, but I definitely wasn’t.

‘Mum, is that—?’ Edie began, but she couldn’t finish her sentence. She knew what it was. We all did. But she was in shock. She’d never seen anything like it. Heck, neither had I, and I’d been around for more than twenty years longer.

I descended the ladder and followed Tilly to the window.

There was an eerie fogginess about the drizzly day, but that wasn’t what had our attention. We were used to the soggy, grey, autumnal weather. There was no other kind unless it decided to lie to us and pretend it was still summer for a couple of days.

What we weren’t used to was seeing dozens of ghosts floating above the houses. If we hadn’t been in a house at the top of a hill, we may never have noticed them. But oh, we had.

We craned our necks to get a better view. There were so many ghosts they almost covered the clouds. Where could that many have come from? Was it related to the earthquake? Had the souls been trapped and been freed by … something?

While there were a lot of them, I couldn’t make out what they looked like or what they were wearing. They were a sea of blurry white figures, made worse by the crappy weather.

Nearby, dogs howled and cats meowed, trying to alert their owners to threats they couldn’t see and would never understand. Poor things. They thought they were helping. Their owners thought they were barking at thin air. Echoes of their owners shouting at them in unison travelled through the air.

‘That’s not normal, is it?’ said Edie, looking at me. She bent down to pick up Tilly, who was still barking like she was trying to warn us. She was our little Westie Warning System, but in this case, we couldn’t do anything to change what she was warning us about. It wasn’t like there was a ghost floating towards us, or someone at the front door with a parcel. This was a sea of ghosts as far as we could see.

I suppressed a shudder and put my arm around my daughter. ‘No, it definitely isn’t.’

Monday 19 July 2021

Alan Bilton, "The End of the Yellow House"

Alan Bilton is the author of two dream-like novels, The Sleepwalkers’ Ball (described by one critic as "Kafka meets Mary Poppins") and The Known and Unknown Sea, as well as a collection of surreal short stories, Anywhere Out of the World. His new novel is The End of the Yellow House. He has also written books on silent film, contemporary fiction, and the 1920s. He teaches Creative Writing, Literature and Film at Swansea University.  For more information go to or or follow on Twitter @ABiltonAuthor

About The End of the Yellow House, by Alan Bilton

The End of The Yellow House is set in Central Russia, 1919, in a sanatorium cut off by the chaos of the Russian civil war. There, the murder of the chief doctor sets in motion a nightmarish series of events involving mysterious experiments, the secret police, the Tsar’s double, an enigmatic ‘visitor,’ giant corpses, possessed cats, sorcery, and the overwhelming madness of war. Both a dreamlike history of Russian psychiatry and a page-turning whodunnit, the novel subverts the conventions of the historical novel to provide a wildly exuberant historical phantasmagoria.

You can read more details about The End of the Yellow House on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an extract from the novel. 

From The End of the Yellow House

Of course, in many ways the news of Chief Superintendent Lepinov’s demise was no great surprise. Lepinov was an incorrigible melancholic, a chronic hypochondriac, and, despite his advanced medical training, a devoted spiritualist. He spoke of himself as “a mere visitor to this pale world” (he’d been twice arrested for tax evasion) and described Death as “his one true wife.” Typically, his sentences began as a whisper and ended as a shout – almost as if he were picking up messages from the other side. The guests in the Yellow House both feared and despised him. Lepinov would inspect their tired bodies, sigh deeply, and conclude his diagnoses with the doleful conclusion that “from dust we came and to dust we shall return.” “We are all but temporary guests here,” he averred, “awaiting that invitation that we cannot refuse.” As a scientist, he had his eccentricities. The Superintendent refused to wear a pocket watch, because there was no such thing as time. He wouldn’t allow his apartment to be cleaned because the souls of the departed lived on as dust. He clapped his hands twice upon entering a room. “I’m not long for this world,” Lepinov would say at meal times – “why not add a little sugar to the kasha?”

He was also (and this despite the chronic food shortages plaguing the yellow house) enormously fat. Whilst other doctors and guests wasted away, Lepinov ballooned like a pregnant sow. No one knew from whence he received such calories. It was well known that he did secret deals with Shemiakin the Bagman, exchanging morphine for goods from the city, or (malicious tongues whispered) stealing the guests’ possessions and selling them on for drugs. Despite the presence of bandits, deserters and anarchists, Lepinov was in the habit of taking long walks in the woods, returning without mushrooms or berries or roots of any kind. At night, he received unknown visitors, admitted by Nikolai, but unseen by anybody else. Yes, everything about him was odd. Urodlivy, the peasant, had cursed him. He had enormous green bags under his eyes. One of his fingernails was so long it had started to curl. 

And besides – why not Lepinov? Since the war had started, Death was as likely to snatch the Chief Superintendent as any other.

Friday 16 July 2021

Nicholas Royle, "White Spines"


Nicholas Royle is the author of four short story collections – Mortality, Ornithology, The Dummy and Other Uncanny Stories and London Gothic – and seven novels, including Counterparts, Antwerp and First Novel. He has edited more than twenty anthologies and is series editor of Best British Short Stories. He runs Nightjar Press, which publishes original short stories as signed, numbered chapbooks, and is head judge of the Manchester Fiction Prize. His English translation of Vincent de Swarte’s 1998 novel Pharricide is published by Confingo Publishing. He lives between London and Manchester and teaches creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.  For more information visit: @NicholasRoyle   

About White Spines

A mix of memoir and narrative non-fiction, White Spines is a book about Nicholas Royle’s passion for Picador’s fiction and non-fiction publishing from the 1970s to the end of the 1990s, when the publisher stopped its commitment to the distinctive white spine with black lettering.   

White Spines explores the bookshops and charity shops, the books themselves, and the way a unique collection grew and became a literary obsession. Above all, it is a love song to books, writers and writing.

You can find out more about White Spines on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the book. 

From White Spines, by Nicholas Royle

I have a sense that Clarendon Books, around the corner on Clarendon Park Road, could be the highlight of my afternoon and, indeed, when I get there the signs are good. In one of the boxes outside is a copy, albeit in poor condition, of Christopher Kenworthy’s short story collection Will You Hold Me? I’ve known Chris as long as I knew Graham Joyce, since the late 1980s. He has lived in Australia for many years now. His collection contains some of my favourite short stories. They are as affecting as they are odd. ‘Odd,’ in my opinion, or in this context anyway, is an entirely positive descriptor.

As I push open the door of Clarendon Books, the carpet beneath it rucks up. I poke my head around a pile of books and apologise to the proprietor. ‘It’s been happening all day,’ he tells me. Clarendon Books is similar to Tin Drum Books, although with more books crammed into less space. I find a Picador by John Cowper Powys that I don’t have – Weymouth Sands. When I get it home it will join five others of his books and the six of them will account for an impressive nine inches of shelf space. Cowper Powys, a writer of unusually long books, died the year I was born, our lives overlapping for only three months. It says on the back of Weymouth Sands, ‘… the stones of Chesil Beach are as much characters as the human beings.’ Some might have said something similar of a more recent novel by another author.

I reach, breathlessly, for what looks like an early Picador. It’s Peter Wahloo’s The Lorry, one of the first eight, which I don’t have and have never even seen. I look at the cover, which, when I get it home, will be one of only two Picador covers in my collection to feature the work of Salvador DalĂ­, the other being the artist’s own and only novel, Hidden Faces. Gingerly I open The Lorry to the flyleaf, expecting its scarcity to be reflected in the price, but it’s actually cheaper than the other books I’ve selected. I take four books to the till and remove a £10 note from my wallet that I hope will cover the cost (I should really be able to add four prices together in the time it takes to reach the till from any position in Clarendon Books). ‘Let’s call it £8,’ says the man. ‘Thank you very much,’ I say as a feeling of warmth similar to the one I had in Tin Drum Books starts to suffuse my entire being. I leave the shop and, as I walk back to Queen’s Road, I tot up what the books should have come to – £8.05 ...

Monday 12 July 2021

Gregory Woods, "Records of an Incitement to Silence"


Gregory Woods was born in Egypt in 1953, and brought up in Ghana. He is the author of Articulate Flesh: Male Homo-eroticism and Modern Poetry (1987), A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition (1998) and Homintern: How Gay Culture Liberated the Modern World (2016), all from Yale University Press. His six main poetry collections, all with Carcanet Press, are We Have the Melon (1992), May I Say Nothing (1998), The District Commissioner’s Dreams (2002), Quidnunc (2007), An Ordinary Dog (2011) and, now, Records of an Incitement to Silence (2021). Woods has two doctorates from the University of East Anglia (1983, 2006). He began his teaching career at the University of Salerno in 1980. In 1998 he became the first Professor of Gay & Lesbian Studies in the UK, at Nottingham Trent University, where he is now Professor Emeritus.

About Records of an Incitement to Silence
These are dispatches from a world united in strife and riven by desire. A sequence of stripped-down, unrhymed sonnets, and the longer poems that accentuate it, suggest a missing narrative: the growth of the individual in a world of upheaval, the search for and loss of love, the formation of memories, the limits of what can truthfully be said, the traces we leave and the chance of their survival. ‘One of my creative habits,’ Woods writes, ‘is the wringing-out of a single form until it’s bone dry: the unrhymed sonnets; the monosyllabic syllabics of the long poem “Hat Reef Loud”; the incompatible yoking-together of iambic pentameter and dactylic trimeter in the long poem “No Title Yet.”’ His formal stringency intensifies the poems’ emotional and erotic charge, their celebration and their plaint.

You can find more details about Records of an Incitement to Silence on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two poems from the book. 

From Records of an Incitement to Silence, by Gregory Woods

The Enigma of Survival

The fittest, who survives, seeks no reward
but rest from mortal combat’s melodrama.
By plighting his devotion to a sword
and delegating feeling to his armour,
anaesthetised by neat adrenaline,
he barely feels the piercing of his skin.
He need not even be the pluckiest
so long as he remains the luckiest.

The fittest, who survives, tries to conceal
his wounds, as if they suppurated thought.
Detached from the beliefs for which he fought,
a guilty conscience his Achilles heel,
he sways above the body of his rival,
upbraiding his own heart for its survival.

The Empty House 

A book is open on
the table at the window.
The light is filtered through
lace curtains and the leaves
of the old mango tree.
A breath of scented air
(wood smoke and frangipani)
discreetly turns a page.

It is as if the house
had taught itself to read
but only did so when
the family was out
and there was ample time
for Aristophanes.

Wednesday 7 July 2021

Heidi James, "The Sound Mirror"


Heidi James is the author of critically acclaimed novels Wounding, So the Doves (a Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month) and The Sound Mirror. She won The Saboteur Award for her novella, The Mesmerist’s Daughter, and was a finalist in The Cinnamon Poetry Collection Prize. Her short stories, poetry and essays have been published various anthologies and magazines including, among others, We’ll Never Have Paris, Somesuch, Dazed and Confused and Galley Beggar Press. She hosts a podcast, First Graft, where she discusses the writing process with other writers. Her website is here.

About The Sound Mirror

Tamara is going to kill her mother, but she isn’t a monster. She just has to finish what began at birth and put an end to the damage encoded in her blood.

Quitting her job in Communications, Tamara dresses carefully and hires a car to visit her mother for the last time. Accompanied by a chorus of ancestors, she is harried by voices from the past and the future that reveal the secrets of these women’s lives that continue to echo through her own.

Is Tamara fated to make the same mistakes as her ancestors or can she break the cycle and lead her own life, and on her terms too?

The Sound Mirror is a haunting novel that avoids classification. Spanning three generations from British Occupied India to Southern England, Heidi James has crafted a moving examination of class, war, violence and shame from the rich details of ordinary lives.

From The Sound Mirror, by Heidi James


She is going to kill her mother today. But she’s no monster. She’s not the villain. It’s a beautiful day for it, winter sharp, the sky an unfussy blue. She’s taken two days holiday from work and hired a fancy car, a Mercedes, essential for this journey, where appearances and a quick getaway are everything. The man gave her a discount when she told him where she was going. The two-hundred-mile round trip will be a breeze. She’s dressed carefully too; just jeans and a shirt, but they are expensive, well-cut. Understated, but a signal to those in the know. So here we are, driving down to be face to face with her for the last time. Of course, we’re along for the ride, how could we not?

It’s been a long time coming, and our fault, we should say. Funny that, speaking with one voice now, agreeing with each other. But yes, our fault, and all the others, tangled up with poisons and infections and rottenness. Our mothers and mother’s mothers containing us, we, in their bellies, seeds of each in the cells and the breath. Before the splitting in two, the doubling like an atomic bomb and now she holds us all, a rabble of ancestors, pressing up from inside against her skin, and too, she contains the next generation, if she wanted. If she can bear to, bear it, bear a child. Who could blame her if not? But for now, she’s the sum of all us women, the total. She is what’s left.  

You imagine history trails you like clanging tin cans on a wedding car, but you’re wrong. History is a halter that leads, we’re beasts of burden with a ring through our nose. You go where we lead. We are not whole, we are fragments, ununified, unstable entities colliding under the swirling universe. Overflowing with memories and feelings not our own; archives of those who came before. It’s almost romantic, imagining we’re individuals, cut off from the rest, making ourselves feel special. What we are is the story she is made of. Then of course, there’s free will, if you believe in that, which she does. It’s a nice idea anyway. That we are free to choose our actions, and the consequences. 

Passive, she drifts where she’s pushed, lifted and dropped. Caught in tides she can’t fathom, impulses and currents she can’t navigate.