Waterstones Book-Signing Events with Essi Tolling, Autumn 2012

With the Reynolds family at Camberley Waterstones

This autumn I am doing tour of Waterstones bookstores, signing copies of Watchers. It’s been a busy programme, with signings every weekend since the middle of August! I love doing these events: such a great way to meet readers, chat about their favourite books – and, of course, to have a browse around the shelves myself too!

Bookshops are just such fantastic places. I know the market for kindle and e-book sales is rocketing and more and more people are buying online, but nothing can replace the excitement of heading into a real store. It’s a whole different experience to shopping on the Internet. Something unexpected often catches the eye in a way that simply can’t happen unless you’re surrounded by the books themselves. If you’re seeking inspiration you can ask for help from the staff, who often suggest titles you’ve never even heard of. And then there is the simple pleasure of reaching out, opening a book, feeling the paper as you thumb the pages, smelling its unique smell, as you let the words take you off to another place…

That first page is always the one that does it for me!

Don’t get me wrong: I welcome the surge in e-book sales. More people reading more books has to be good news, and I have a hunch that many people who read the electronic versions will go on to buy physical books too. But there will always be a special place in my heart for bookstores, much as I prefer reading from the page rather than the screen.

Maybe it is because it’s a social thing? Although we hunt for titles in our own little “bubble”, when we are in bookstores we share the space with others who love reading – whereas shopping online is a solo experience.

If you enjoy visiting bookstores as much as I do – and if you’d like to meet me sometime soon – you can find me in the following Waterstones stores over the coming weeks:

Saturday November 3rd: Waterstones Trowbridge

Saturday November 10th: Waterstones Bristol Galleries

Saturday November 17th: Waterstones Hereford

Sunday November 25th: Waterstones Southampton West Quay

Saturday December 15th: Waterstones Swindon

All signings are between approximately noon and 3pm. Do come along and say hello. I’d love the chance to meet you!

With Sue Brooks at Cardiff Waterstones

Sacred Sites in Ireland – Kealkil

One of my favourite sites in south-west Ireland is the Kealkil Stone complex. It’s not big, but it IS spectacular.

Looking out across the Ouvane Valley to the north and Bantry Bay to the south, the site is the largest of a line of stone circles and standing stones that runs along the spine of a mountain-ridge from East to West until it meets the bay. Most of the hilltops in this area are dotted with such sites.

The Kealkil Stones

The first thing that catches your eye when you approach the Kealkil Stones is the two stones in the centre of the complex. One is tall and thin, the other short and broad. They remind me very much of  The Cove stones at Avebury. Here are pictures of both so you can see what I mean:

The tall stones at Kealkil

The two remaining stones of “The Cove” at Avebury

Apparently the tallest stone at Kealkil was once six feet higher than it is now, but it broke and had to be shortened when it was re-positioned.

As well as the two large stones, there are two circles at Kealkil – one of five stones about chest-high and an even older stone circle that is largely hidden in bushes and is made up of stones that are no more than a foot high.

Stone Circle at Kealkil

Even though some 50% of sites like this have been destroyed since the second world war, the south-west of Ireland still has plenty (more than anywhere else in Europe). I love to visit them, to sit quietly, to listen, feel, breathe. Each has its own unique qualities, it’s own tales to tell. But I have a soft spot for the Kealkil Stones.

There is something about the site that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. On one visit the mist came tumbling down from the tops and we were suddenly enveloped in a silent white shroud. Time stopped and if someone from 5,000 years ago had emerged, I wouldn’t have been surprised!

You can see the stone circle and the tall stones here. The smallest stone circle is hidden in the bushes on the right

Looking south from the Kealkil Stones, you can just see the sea in the distance.

Once in a Blue Moon is Tonight!

Tonight sees that rare occurrence, a second Full Moon within one month – a Blue Moon! Being August, it should also be a HUGE moon when it rises above the horizon…

The last Blue Moon that I saw was December 31st 2009. As one year shifted to another, that Blue Moon weaved its way across cold winter skies.

I was in Ireland at the time. I watched it before going to bed. Then I watched it when I woke up. It was still in the sky at 9.00am, heading for the range of hills that I can see from my kitchen.

I watched it dip lower..

And lower…

And lower…

Until eventually it disappeared…

..from sight.

But the Magic wasn’t over.

A few hours later the sun broke through, revealing a dusting of snow on the distant mountains (snow in Southern Ireland is as rare as a Blue Moon – some people might say sunshine is too!)

It was New Year’s Day 2010 and a Blue Moon had given way to Sunshine and Snowfall. Pure Magic. The year that followed proved to be just as special. It was the year I finished writing Tilly’s first adventure!

Best wishes – Essi

Watchers in Waterstones!

Book-signing in Waterstones bookstores is always fun!

This autumn I’m doing a tour of Waterstones Bookstores, signing copies of Watchers. I started off as soon as I got back from Ireland with a visit to Wells Waterstones on Saturday 18th August.

It was the hottest day of the year, which normally means fewer folks are out buying books, but we had a really excellent day with a steady stream of people coming to the desk. Thanks to Sarah and all her staff for helping to organise everything. I really enjoyed my visit with you.

Wells is a beautiful city, full of higgledy-piggledy side streets and wonderful medieaval nooks and crannies. The Cathedral is one of the most spectacular in the country (amazing to have such a vast building in such a small place) and is definitely worth a visit if you haven’t been already (or perhaps another visit, if you have!).

Wells Cathedral – front view

One of the pleasures of being back in England is the variety of architecture, spanning so many centuries. Just look at this fabulous arch-work inside Wells Cathedral!

Wonderful interior – Wells Cathedral

It was market-day in Wells and the streets were packed with people hunting for goodies. It was so hot it felt more like being in southern France than England. Reminded me of when I was 17. A friend and I spent the best part of a year in Provence, picking whatever fruits were in season and doing any jobs we could find. Sometimes we would get up at the crack of dawn to take cherries to the local business-market and afterwards we’d wander back through the village, sampling the wonderful olives, cheeses and fruit. Mmmhmm!

There was no market in Camberley yesterday, where I was signing books at the Camberley Waterstones, but as it was a wet day lots of people were out and about (rain is good for book-selling I’m told) and we had a record-equalling day of sales, which was great!

One of the things I enjoy about doing book-signings is the chance to meet and chat with people of all ages and from all walks of life. Each meeting is quite brief, but it’s amazing what comes up within those few, short minutes. It seems book-buyers love to tell their own stories as well as buying those written by others! And of course, as I writer, I’m not averse to telling my own…!

My thanks to Tracy, Louise and rest of the Camberley Waterstones staff for all your help.

At Camberley Waterstones Saturday 24th August

Next Saturday, I’ll be in the Haywards Heath Waterstones from noon until 2pm. Do come along for a chinwag if you are in the area. I’d love to swap stories with you!

For now, I’d better get back to writing the last chapters of The Hidden Hand – my deadline is approaching fast!

Summering in Ireland

A month without blogging: what’s going on? The answer is that I’ve been in Ireland for the last couple of months, beavering away at Book 2 of the Tilly Greenway series, The Hidden Hand, which is going really well.

Ireland is such a beautiful place. I especially love the south-west (Cork and Kerry) with its misty mornings, its craggy shores and the magical mountains rising above the sea. Not that I’m a big fan of the weather. In eight weeks we must have had seven of almost solid rain – but that’s an Irish summer for you!

Sunset over the Beara Peninsula

There are plenty of compensations. Take yourself up onto almost any hilltop and you’re almost certain to find a stone circle, standing stone, burial mound or fairy fort. There are more stone circles in this part of Ireland than anywhere in the world.

Drombeg Stone Circle

I’ve found that the Irish remember their myths and legends – and pay heed to them too – in a way that is increasingly unusual (in the west) these days. No one, for instance, would EVER build a house on the site of a fairy fort. They have too much respect. I like that. I like the sound of laughter too, which I seem to hear far more frequently there.

Then of course there are the innumerable rainbows, the green green fields, the windy headlands and the curlews calling like sirens from the shore.

A favourite spot

Ireland is like that for me. Too much of it and I get itchy feet (the grey clouds can get to you after a while!). Yet, as soon you are gone, its lilting song drifts back over the seas, calling out: “Come back! Come back! Come back!”

Which, being (at least half) a Celt, I’m sure I will!

Best wishes, Essi.

Taken from ” the hill at the back”…

Olympic Ceremony Features Scene from Watchers!

The iconic image of Glastonbury Tor in
Meraylah Allwood’s illustration from “Watchers”

As regular readers will have gathered, I’m not blogging as much at the moment. This is because I’ve headed back to Ireland in order to put the finishing touches to Book 2 of the Tilly Greenway series, The Hidden Hand. But, when a reader contacted me on Facebook to let me know that the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics is going to feature a scene from Book 1, Watchers…well, I just HAD to say something!

The full account of Danny Boyle’s lavish ceremony, scheduled to be staged on Friday fortnight, was published in The Daily Mail last week.

According to this report in the Daily Mail:

The set will include a recreation of the Glastonbury Thor [sic] and an enormous fake tree, which will appear in the first scene, entitled ‘green and pleasant land’

Have a look at this link and you’ll see that the centrepiece of the set for Boyle’s “Rural England” is none other than Glastonbury Tor, the famous landmark in the West Country that has drawn pilgrims to it for hundreds if not thousands of years.

And yet, it is not the Tor as you would know it, because the iconic image of the conical hill with the striking outline of St Michael’s Tower on its peak has been replaced by a Tor that now has a tree at its top. Nothing remarkable in that, you might say: except for the fact that this exact thing happens in a key scene from Watchers, the first book of the Tilly Greenway series.

Without giving too much away for those of you who have not yet read the book, here is the paragraph that describes the event:

“Up thrust the tree in a mass of flickering silver and grey. At first its slender trunk grew inside the walls of the tower, but as it got taller its branches pushed outwards, cracking the tower to pieces. The top stones fell first, cascading away down the Tor. Then the rest gave way until even the foundation stones, deep-set and strong, fractured and crumbled to dust.

“In an instant the tower had gone and there in its place stood a majestic tree.”

The arrival of the tree on top of the Tor is pivotal to the Tilly Greenway story in many ways. It is an Ash Tree with good reason.

To the druids, the Ash symbolised the gateway from the subconscious (which was represented by the “nemeton” or “oak-grove”) to the conscious mind. With the appearance of the tree at the top of the Tor, a portal for the awakening of sacred knowledge is created. This forms a pathway along which this sacred knowledge can travel, from our subconscious into our conscious minds, where we can act on it more deliberately.

From what I can see of the Olympic version, Boyle appears to have used an Oak, or perhaps it is a Thorn. Time shall tell on that and I’ll let you know the significance of his choice.

What fascinates me about this is that, having researched the imagery and symbolism used in public ceremonies, I know that nothing is chosen without specific reasons. These are occasions when millions of people tune-in and they are used to broadcast specific messages – messages that speak directly to our subconscious minds. (Bearing in mind that the subconscious part of our minds sees images on television as real, understands all archetypes and forgets NOTHING.)

So, my question is this: did Danny Boyle read Watchers before he planned the Olympic Opening Ceremony? If he did, I can understand why he might have replaced the tower with a tree. If he didn’t, perhaps one of his friends had read the book? The only other explanation I have been given is that the tower has religious connotations and that Boyle did not wish to “offend” anyone by including it. In which case, why bother with the Tor at all? Why not just a regular hill, surrounded by England’s green and pleasant fields?

As so often with coordinated public events, there is more to this than meets the eye at first glance. I’ll almost certainly revisit it once I know more. For now, all I can say is that whilst much of Tilly is prophetic (written through visions that I have in my dreams) I had not foreseen this episode!

Paperback amazon.co.uk      Paperback amazon.com

Kindle: amazon.co.uk         Kindle: amazon.com

If you’d like to listen to me reading the prologue to Watchers, you’ll find it amongst several Youtube pieces here.

Until next time – my best wishes!

Essi.