Monday, 28 December 2009

A New Book and the Old Year

In the last two weeks leading up to the Christmas period, my latest offering on place names hit the shelves - Gloucestershire Place Names. As in the past the so-called 'blurb' is reproduced here - (Blurb is the technical term for the introduction on the back of the book).

Ever wondered why our towns and villages are so named? Were they a deliberate creation
by our ancestors or did they evolve naturally over time? Which town is named for its early
production of soap? Why would a field be known as Four Days Math? How long have
Barcelona and Montserratt been found in Gloucestershire? And where is there a street
recalling a fat, boisterous and loose woman?
In these pages we examine the origins of the names with which we are otherwise so familiar.
Towns, villages, districts, hills, streams, woods, farms, fi elds, streets and even pubs are examined and explained. The definitions are supported by anecdotal evidence, bringing to life the individuals and events which have influenced the places and the way these names have developed.
This is not just a dictionary but a history and will prove invaluable, not only for those who
live and work in the county, but also visitors and tourists, historians and former inhabitants,
indeed anyone with an interest in Gloucestershire.

Should anyone like to get hold of a copy (signed if you desire), drop me a line and I will provide you with same - remember it's never too early to start buying Christmas presents!

On the subject of the 'season', as this will be my final planned post of 2009, allow me to wish you and yours a Happy 2010 - and let's hope the financial problems which were the major talking point of 2009 are well behind us all very soon.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

An Odd Word

An overheard conversation the other day got me thinking about old words which have fallen out of general use, even within my lifetime. Writing on the subject of place names, I do come across some old terms for creatures with which wa are so familiar.

Many will already be aware of the halcyon being an alternative name for the kingfisher, it is still used by poets and, of course, gave us the phrase of 'halcyon days'. Often seen alongside motorways hunting its prey, the kestrel certainly merits its earlier name of windhover. The badger is invariably named 'brock' and yet to the Saxons broc was the word for a badger. However the fox, invariably named Reynard today, was tradtionally known as Tod. The Old English for a toad also meant a frog, while the eft is still used in crosswords as the alternative name for a newt. Regional words are manyfold. Around the borders between Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire I came across several references to a 'nicker' in place names. Although no longer in general use, until quite recently this was the regional name for a woodpecker. I did consider including the names of fish and insects, but discovered these are more numerous than anything.

As this will be my last post before the festive season, may I take this opportunity to wish you and yours everything you would wish for yourselves.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

All Done and Dusted

With every word edited and checked and every image captioned, the final two manuscripts will arrive on the editor's desk this week. An oddly mixed feeling of satisfaction and disappointment at completion, however I hope to have more targets to aim for before my next post. These odd feelings do remind me that I always require a challenge, a deadline, a target. As a child I recall being given a stopwatch for Christmas. The new year saw the start of term and every day I attempted to beat my own best time walking to school. When that became an impossible barrier to break I counted my steps, less each day was the target (as my legs grew longer should have been easy, or that was the theory). Since then I've tried to beat my best score at all kinds of quiz shows and competitions. Hopefully I shall have some more targets to meet before next week.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

As Deadlines Approach

As the season of goodwill approaches, the weight of schedules and deadlines are starting to tip dangerously against me. In the UK the business year fundamentally ends on 23rd December this year, except for retail which will re-open the day after the event.

As far as books go the two final contracts for 2009 are almost complete, indeed will be by this time next week. Of course this will mean no more book contracts to fulfill, however it does not mean no more irons in the fire on the book front, indeed with three different publishers I have eleven proposals currently waiting a response. This may sound a lot but is not something I can't cope with, for I always make sure my deadlines are not something I can't meet - almost without exception my deadlines are not only met but beaten.

Of course not everyone can write as many, most just don't have the time or the desire, although I am sure there are just as many who could produce more. If it were not that I have already done much of the groundwork for most of these proposals I could not hope to submit eleven manuscripts next year.

Note I said three different publishers. I would always advise keeping as many feet in as many doors as is humanly possible. Whislt there is a lot to be said for loyalty, it does not offer as many guarantees or chances as versatility. While it also provides a wealth of experience and helps in the ongoing education of any writer.

Talking of having many strings and a wealth of experience, one man who has shared his knowledge lives not too many miles from away. Nick Dawes has many tips and offers guidance in the form of his blog which can be found at and for those with the desire there are links to a newsletter, Twitter, and Facebook. I would recommend all with an interest in writing to sign up to this most excellent blog.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

No Peaks in the Peak District?

Last week I spoke about the place name of Shrewsbury. Speaking to a fellow historian in the week I heard the same thing I hear from every Derbyshire man and woman when I speak in and around Derbyshire and the Peak District - hence I was told there are no peaks in the Peak District, that this comes from the tribe of this name.

It will come as no surprise to find I disagree, there are peaks in the Peak District and there are even peaks in the Norfolk Broads. The problem lies in our understanding of 'peak', which brings about images of the Matterhorn, when all it really describes is a summit. If we describe a 'peak' on a graph we don't expect to see high points, we are just talking about the high point on that line. Similarly the peaks of the Peaks District are merely the contour lines with the highest numerical values, not soaring summits but gentle rises - and even these can look rather different when viewed from alternative vantage points below. Thus the Peak District did give the name to the tribe.

The area of the National Forest not only is not national, but contains more acres without trees than with trees.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Shrew in Shrewsbury

Last week I mentioned being invited to speak at the 14th Annual Wellington Literary Festival, which has now been confirmed for 20th October 2010, the venue to be announced. Of course I have already given some thought to this look at my book Shropshire Place Names and, as I throw it open to a Q&A session at the end, will try to anticipate the sort of questions I will be faced with.

Having spoken in Shropshire on the subject before, and been interviewed for a number of publications, I know exactly what the first question about Shropshire will be and it concerns the pronunciation of the county town. Shrewsbury - is it 'shrew' or 'shrow'? I have found if I give the answer directly those who disgree will continue to do so, hence I now answer the question with a question - How is the county pronounced?

Of course the answer is never in doubt that Shrop- rhymes with 'shop'. However this county name is, like so many others, taken from that of the county town. Warwickshire is from Warwick, Gloucestershire from Gloucester, Oxfordshire from Oxford, Worcestershire from Worcester and - which is less obvious - Shropshire from Shrewsbury. Examinging the first element of both we find Old English or Saxon scrobb meaning 'scrubland'. Note this is pronounced as in 'shrub' so as to be 'shrobe'. The town name is scrobb burh or 'the fortified place in scrubland', however sometime in the past the first element has been mistaken for a personal name, hence the addition of a seemingly possessive 's' and the loss of the soft consonant sound 'bb' - not surprising as it is very difficult to say 'shrobesberry' and thus it has become 'sh-rows-berry'. Pronunciation as 'shrew' is only because the name is spelled as 'shrew' and is a comparatively modern occurrence.

Hence the county is therefore Shrewsbury-shire or, with the dropping of burh, from scrobb scir with the latter meaning 'the meeting place'. To find 'p' instead of 'b' is perfectly reasonable and thus the first part of the county name should not rhyme with 'shop' but be 'shrope-shire'.

Will this put an end to any idea of the 'shrew' pronunciation of Shrewsbury? Not a chance.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Right Place at the Right Time

This week has seen the final touches applied to both North Devon Place Names and South Devon Place Names, while Dorset Place Names will also be printed and packed up before the end of this week. As the end of the calendar year approaches so does the deadlines to finish the final two books for which I have contracts.

Next week I shall be delivering the three finished manuscripts and illustrations, while continuing on to Somerset to spend a couple of days seeking out 40 or 50 decent illustrations and those snippets and anecdotal gems which make a book out of what would otherwise be a dictionary of place names.

I have also been invited to speak at another three venues, a local history group in Staffordshire in March, a group of metal detectorists at the beginning of February, and I am to be on the list for the 14th Annual Literary Festival in Wellington, Shropshire in October of next year.

This week I also learned, albeit probably later than most authors, that Amazon have introduced Kindle Stores, a way for authors to list their work digitally. The eBook can then be uploaded on payment of an agreed amount - not all have to be books, of course, articles, poems, songs, music, jokes, even money-saving tips. Rest assured I shall be investigating the potential here and reporting back for like all authors I have a number of items which I consider worthy of publication but have yet to find the right niche.

Often that is the case, not that the piece is substandard but is being offered to the wrong place and/or at the wrong time. Some years ago I had had a book proposal accepted, contracts signed, written and page proofs had even been printed and edited. It was when we were clearing up the final queries that something interesting came to light. Among the paperwork for the book proposal I found a letter of mine offering the idea for that book to the same publisher. Pinned to the back was a polite rejection of the idea, dated nine months before the idea was accepted. Even more surprising the letter came from the same person working at the same company. Which proves if you are satisfied you cannot improve upon the piece and still keep receiving rejections no matter how well you tailor your writing to suit the publication or publisher, it still has to be looked at by the right person at the right time.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Hampshire Place Names

I must admit to be a little surprised to find another book arrive on the doorstep this week. While I was aware there were others due out at any time, I can't recall having two books released so closely. However Hampshire Place Names is now on the shelves and, if anyone should see a copy, please feel free to comment. Alternatively if you'd like one (would make a good Christmas present) feel free to get in touch.

As before I have included the 'blurb' (technical term for the bit that appears on the back of a book to give a brief idea of what is inside) for this book.

Ever wondered why our towns and villages are so named? Were they a deliberate creation by our ancestors or did they evolve naturally over time? Which town took its name fromone of the last surviving wolves in England? Where is there a name referring to an 18th century vegetarian delicacy? Who killed a king and had a pub named after him? And where was there a ford for games or sport?
In these pages we examine the origins of the names with which we are otherwise so familiar. Towns, villages, districts, hills, streams, woods, farms, fields, streets and even pubs are examined and explained. Some of the definitions give a glimpse of life in the earlier days of the settlement, and for the author there is nothing more satisfying than finding a name which gives such a snapshot. The definitions are supported by anecdotal evidence, bringing to life the individuals and events which have influenced the places and the way these names have developed.
This is not just a dictionary but a history and will prove invaluable not only for those who live and work in the county but also visitors and tourists, historians and former inhabitants, indeed anyone with an interest in Hampshire.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

A New Publication

My next book, South Staffordshire Street Names, hit the shelves recently. A work which I enjoyed producing as much as any for it gives an insight into parts of history which may otherwise be overlooked. For example, were it not for this book perhaps the only man in the long history of Tamworth who was legally able to carry explosives during peacetime will have been forgotten - now there's a man who merits a road named after him! Or the midwife who cycled into a village as holiday cover for just two short weeks, staying for over forty years and retired having earned the MBE for her services, that's as good a reason as any I know for a street name.
If you find see a copy feel free to comment (or if you want one shout!). To whet your appetite I have posted the cover image and there follows the so-called 'blurb' from the back cover:

Around the towns of Cannock Chase, Tamworth and Lichfield and the villages around South Staffordshire are over a thousand roads, streets, lanes, avenues, drives, crofts, boulevards, ways, courts and walks. But where do these names come from? How 'new' is New Street? What is the origin of Quonian's Lane? Who was Sister Dora? Which lane remembers the trainer of a Grand National winner? Where in landlocked Staffordshire is there a theme of North Sea oil and gas fields?
Within this book every street from the ancient trunk road of Watling Street to the most recent cul-de-sac are examined. Names with histories dating from before the Roman occupation, those marking the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, the conquest by the Normans and every royal house since, right up to the modern era and the countless themes for new estates - all the explanations are to be found here.
National figures, local personalities, trades, landowners, pastimes, the landscape, public houses, religion and folklore have all contributed to the names of the routes we travel every day. A must for every historian, an invaluable guide to every tourist and a lasting reminder of the county for any who live and work here, or who have their roots within South Staffordshire. Not just a dictionary but a guide with histories, anecdotal material, pointers to people and events of the past, and an interesting read sure to get us all taking more notice of the name on the sign at the end of every street.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Spooky Coincidence

A busy and mixed week which has been spent between the hard slog at the desk and out and about.

On Saturday last week I was pleased to be invited to the annual Cheslyn Hay Local History Exhibition. I was made most welcome by an efficient and friendly group of people who clearly love there chosen subject. The support from the locals was quite exceptional, visitors able to purchase copies of old photographs, find out how to trace the history of their house, or tips on genealogy, or purchase some memory or book pertinent to the region - even a cup of tea or coffee with a piece of cake for just 50 pence (yes PENCE). I managed to sell a few of my own books and extend my heartfelt gratitude to those who made me so welcome.

Wednesday and I was off to Worcester and the local BBC Radio station. In the morning I was in a studio linked to Joel Hammer at BBC Radio Oxford pre-recording a number of pieces from my Paranormal Cotswolds which will be running on air between 5am and 7am every day in the week leading up to Hallowe'en.
In the afternoon I joined Lucie Plant as we travelled to the Malverns and back to Worcester with an outside broadcast. Again we were taking advantage of the topical Hallowe'en to look at stories from another book Haunted Worcestershire, these will again be serialised in the week leading up to Hallowe'en, this time in the afternoon on Andrew Easton's show.
As we returned to the studios, I was chatting to Lucie about the one story which came from these very premises. A few years ago a ghostly image appeared on a photograph when taking a publicity shot of one of the presenters in one of the studios. A little research found there had been a suicide some years earlier when the site was used by a tannery. It was decided to perform an exorcism live on the air during the Dave Bradley show. During this broadcast strange sounds were heard on air, although nothing was heard or seen in the studio. The interviewer, Lucie Plant, had not heard this story as she had joined here after these events and asked around and found most people knew about the exorcism and we recorded a piece in the studio from where Dave Bradley had broadcast. Here we discovered the exorcism took place in the same studio as I had started the day that very morning where I had recorded the items with Joel.

The following links will take you to the BBC iplayer for those two presenters if of interest:

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Third Review

This is the third review I have received recently, this time featuring the same book as last week. Once more the name of the reveiwer and publication have been omitted.

Stories of Ghosts Set to Hook You
Missing cyclists, horseless carriages and the infamous suicides are all jam packed into Paranormal Cotswolds - True Ghost Stories, by Anthony Poulton-Smith, published by Amberley. This light-hearted collection of almost 100 spooky Cotswolds goings-on, with 20 equally spooky photographs is very entertaining for both ghost lovers and sceptics.
The Cotswolds have never been so mysterious and with simple, short stories this collection is easy to read and surprisingly interesting. For £12.99, this timeless reference book never ceases to intrigue or amaze even the dullest of people. Young or old, men or women, these ghostly narratives are sure to keep you turning the pages. As the author takes you on a wind-swept tour of Rodborough Manor, Stroud Hill Road, and Cotswold Hills, to name but a few, you cannot help but feel engulfed in these weird yet wonderful stories.
This subtle masterpiece is the perfect book for those intruiged by Gloucestershire's local heritage and history.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Second Review

As with last week a review but a different book and a very different style. Again I have left out the name of the reviewer and the name of the publication in which it appeared:

Spooky tales of paranormal goings on in the Cotswolds have been brought to life in a new book. Paranormal Cotswolds - True Ghost Stories by Anthony Poulton-Smith documents some of the best known as previously untold tales of pesky poltergeists and ghostly apparitions from across the district. Author Anthony Poulton-Smith said there was a history about the Cotswolds which made it different from other regions of the country. "I'm fascinated by paranormal activity," he said. "I'm yet to experience anything to convince me because I can't think of a rational explanation that fits all scenarios."
Mr Poulton-Smith added his favourite story was the tale of a man who sought shelter from the snow at a pub on the outskirts of Dursley. He was fed, given clean clothes and a warm bed but when he went to leave in the morning he could find no staff, so he left two golden guineas on a table as payment. When he was united with his friends, he brought them to the spot where the pub had been but there was nothing in the snow except for the two golden guineas.
Other spooky sightings in the north of the district including the tragic story of the White Lady of Dover's Hill who was torn from her lover, the hugging spirit at The Bell Inn in Moreton-in-Marsh, monks heard chanting in the dead of night at Hailes Abbey near Winchcombe.
Paranormal Cotswolds - True Ghost Stories by Anthony Poulton-Smith is published by Amberley Publishing and is available for £12.99 in all good book shops.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

First Review

Always nice to have a review and, whilst not all cannot be exactly what we'd like to see (see what is said about Black Country Ghosts on, any criticism should not be taken to heart. Firstly see it for exactly what it is, most of the time it is simply a statement of personal preference. Next check and see if you feel the criticism makes a valid point, if you don't agree forget it, if you do then you have someone who has helped you improve - and for free!

As I have a full week or three coming up, I shall reproduce some reviews I've had recently, a couple of which I would be delighted to see on a t-shirt!

Oxfordshire Place Names by Anthony Poulton-Smith
Amberley Publishing
£12.99, paperback (156 pages)
ISBN 978-1-84868-171-2

Anthony Poulton-Smith wears his learning lightly, making it very easy to read vast swathes of this book. But since it's organised as an alphabetical list of towns and villages it's easy to refer to as well.

Each entry includes previous versions of the place name, and what it means. This frequently leads into anecdotes, trivia and insights, linking the past and present. In many cases the spelling and indeed derivations seem to have reached their present form by a route as wiggly and convoluted as you'd take to reach the village in question.

I'm intrigued it's all Old or Middle English origins around here - no Roman or Viking words feature at all. Rich and powerful land owners from before the Norman invasion have changed but lingered on, and we frequently don't even know we're commemorating them. For larger places Poulton-Smith even goes into the more recent individuals who've donated their names to streets, and become fossilised into their old stomping grounds - William Morris, for example, and various mayors: although they're more recent, Allder, Eldridge, Kysbie and Spenlove are probably as unfamiliar now to most Abingdon residents as Aebba herself.

I would recommend this book as an ideal present for the curious, an invaluable aid for pub quiz and trivia-lovers and a stylish addition to any bookcase or glove compartment.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

A Study of Place Names

Not being a prolific or overly successful author of fictional offerings, I have always been keen to improve my skills in that respect. It pays to have many strings to a bow and, as one J K Rowling will agree, being in the right place at the right time with a good idea well written can earn a pretty penny (at the very least!) On the subject of Ms Rowling and her Harry Potter phenomenon, I discovered a couple of names which may (or may not) have inspired her writings whilst I was researching my forthcoming book on Devon Place Names. It seems there is a place in Devon by the name of Butterbeare - for those who have not read the books (can't recall hearing it mentioned in the films) butterbeer is the delicious drink the young wizards enjoy in the pubs of the local village of Hogsmead. As a place name it puts together Old English bearu meaning 'grove' with butter and thus suggests a 'place of sweetest pasture by the woodland grove'. Was the delicious grassland mentioned by the place name the inspiration for the exquisite delights of the drink butterbeer? Whilst butterbeer might not be so well known, the wizard game of quidditch most certainly will be (and is certainly featured in the films.) As with the other example this place name is not quite as that used in the Harry Potter stories, for this place name is Quoditch. Here the Old English or Saxon tongue spoke of cwead meaning 'dung, filth' and hiwisc which describes 'land to support a family'. Together they must describes 'the dirty (or well-manured) land'. There is no suggestion that either of these place names were the inspiration, yet it does show how quite unrelated subjects can give ideas to a writer. Indeed whilst writing more on the subject of place names for my next manuscript, a typographical error produced a better name for an alien race than I could ever have thought up! Not revealing what it is, I might just write that blockbuster myself!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

A Full Week

It was/will be a busy ten days in the shape of personal appearances. Three appearances during this period will mean promoting three different books.

On Thursday last I was in Abingdon at the monthly meeting of the local history and archaeological society. Here I spoke for almost an hour on the subject of Place Names, and on those in Oxfordshire in particular. As usual I offered 20/25 minutes of introduction and then opened it up to the floor for a Q&A session. I was pleased with the evening and there were some searching and quite different questions from the floor. Thanks to those who gave me the opportunity to speak and to those who asked some intriguing and quite original questions.

Monday sees me travelling west, almost to the border with Wales near Oswestry and a place called Llanymynech. Here I shall be speaking on the subject of place names once more, this time with the focus on Shropshire and my book Shropshire Place Names.

Finally Saturday at 11:00am will see me at Waterstones in The Shambles, Worcester and a 'Meet the Author' opportunity to promote Haunted Worcestershire and (hopefully) sign a few purchased copies of the book. May I offer my thanks to the management and staff at Waterstones for giving me this opportunity and I am looking forward to returning to one of my favourite English cities for the first time since the spring.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

An Unexpected Opportunity

As may be obvious from the published books, I have an interest in history and in particular the origins of place names. It had been my intention to write about some of the oddities I had found during my many years of research, yet a telephone call on Friday afternoon seemed more relevant considering my previous posts.

In January of this year Ley Lines Across the Midlands hit the shelves, a book I am particularly proud of for it was a different direction for me and the research in particualr was very rewarding. I was offered the chance to promote the book on a BBC local radio station, which involved myself and the interviewer having a chat at a couple of points on a route with the whole thing recorded and edited. I'm pleased to say it required little editing (indeed as were the BBC) for they made a note to the effect that I am easy to interview and (as anyone who knows me will agree) always have something to say (a plus in radio).

On Friday afternoon, together with my son I was enjoying a short break on the south coast with my daughter, my mobile rang. On the other end was the producer of the afternoon show on BBC Radio WM explaining that someone had offered the answer for chicken troubles (I never found out what those troubles were) could be explained by those chickens being cooped up (no pun intended) on a ley line and that a little research had shown I was the BBC's listed expert on ley lines. Hence would I be interested in going on air in ten minutes to explain just what ley lines are?

Of course the answer was 'Yes' and I found myself on the air ten minutes later having landed myself a eight or ten minutes slot publicising a book. Furthermore, I have made another contact or two at the BBC who will instantly think of me when they have a question of an historical nature. This will also make me more popular with publishers, who love authors with an established media reputation (it saves work for them).

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Talk some more

Last week I wrote about the potential pitfalls and plusses of being interviewed on radio (and the same rules apply to television). This week I shall turn to public speaking, something else I have had some experience with.

Over the years I estimate I have delivered about fifty addresses, almost all on the subject of the origins of place names for that has been the subject of the majority of my books and that is what interests the majority of my audiences as they are nearly all groups interested in history. It is my personal choice to split my delivery on this particular subject into two parts. Each talk invariably seems to last an hour, in which case the first 20 to 25 minutes gives me the chance to explain the basics: the languages the names come from, what elements these names are comprised of, where early forms of these names are found, how we go about defining the names, and some of the more unusual examples I have discovered during my research. When the group have already advised me of any names they would like to know the meaning and/or origins of in advance, is where these questions are answered.

For the second part of the talk I throw it open to a question and answer session. This has two benefits: firstly it means I'm talking about what the audience are interested in, and secondly it gives me the opportunity to bounce off the audience's questions. My talks are not read from a script, indeed a lot of it is ad libbed, which allows a versatility and also serves to remind me of snippets of information and anecdotes which I had probably forgotten. Indeed a number of items included in the first part have come about as a result of the questioning at earlier talks.

On the downside such Q&A sessions leave me open to errors, and I have made mistakes in the past and learned from those mistakes. Having written and researched a number of books on place names (currently working on numbers 12,13,14,15 and 16) it is impossible for me to remember more than just a few meanings and easy for me to get the right meaning for the wrong place! In fact it has also led to me forgetting which county a town is in!

I have enjoyed most of the talks I have given, although there was one particularly forgettable evening! My advice would be to allow questioning at the end of the talk, but to keep it short until you become more confident working without a script, as it were. If you've grabbed the attention of the audience and you keep the time for questions to a minimum they will soon find the time to extend it, which can only be of benefit to you.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

A quick scan of last week's offering and my mention of radio broadcasts made me think. I little recollection, and a few notes, and I can recall most (I think!) of my radio appearances. Most have been on BBC local radio stations and, with the exception of the pre-recorded outside broadcast for BBC Radio Stoke (and on the floor of a showroom for a toilet manufacturer in Alsager) and an interview and a series of 'snippets' for BBC Radio Oxford, all the others (16 to date) have been live and on the air.

Obviously most of these were to promote the books, although there were a couple of appeals for help and/or stories in there. However should anyone ever face the same daunting prospect, I would like to offer my own advice. My first interview was live on air, I'd never known anyone who had faced such a prospect before and so turned up expecting to be treated with kid gloves - not a hope! I was bundled into the studio halfway through a track, introduced to the presenter, who then proceeded to flick through the book (on the origins of Staffordshire place names) and ask the meaning of certain places. Great, if I had a perfect memory or had had some warning of what was coming - of course neither was the case and the interview was a complete disaster.

I didn't learn quickly until I realised that these interviews were more for the radio station's benefit than it was for either me or the publisher. As an author I don't HAVE to have air time. The presenter has two or three hours to fill on a number of days every week, the more I talk the better it is for the presenter for it means they have to say less. Hence ever since I have become more confident and have always made a point of asking for some idea of the questions beforehand - not that I ever get them, but it does mean I have made the point that I won't allow the pace and direction of the interview to be governed by someone who knows little about the book (they won't have read more than the odd page).

Today I know the first thing they will ask will be a lead-in question. As this will always be: What got you interested? How did you come to write this? Why did you write it? I already have an idea what my first lines will be. Immediately after that you should already know what YOU want to say and keep talking for as long as possible - while you're talking they won't interrupt until you're out of time!

Clearly there will be times when you dry up, or the interviewer manages to get another question in. Listen to interviews and you will often hear the response: "Interesting you should ask that, for it reminds me of .....", which is when the speaker is thinking of the response, and think you will. One other thing, if you can get a copy of the interview it will help you improve next time. Everyone will naturally be their own worst critic.

What was once a daunting prospect is now not so terrifying. Ostensibly I am talking to one person in a room, while many thousands are eavesdropping! Treat it like a one-on-one conversation, plan what you want to say beforehand, and enjoy it.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A Week on the Road

As promised I have managed to update the blog in a week! I can't promise a truly exciting update every week - however I shall try.

Been a decent week, have managed to complete the most of the writing for the next contracted book, looking at travelling the ancient salt routes. Have a number of photographs left to retake which I shall be doing in the next few days (light and weather permitting). Shan't give too much away here but it sort of follows a similar vein to an earlier book walking the Ley Lines Across the Midlands. On the subject of that book, I received a CD of my interview on BBC Local Radio this week. Broadcast around the end of July I had not heard it before and didn't realise it was on the BBC website until I listened to the CD! If interested here is the link...

.... it does lead into the salt route theme quite nicely.

This was not my first interview on radio - not been counting but I think this must be somewhere between 12 and 15, plus a few on the telephone. It was one of the first to be pre-recorded, most are live.

As soon as this book is finished - should be ready for the post office by the end of the week - it is on to my favourite county and the subject of place name origins, but more on that next time.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Been far too long since I posted anything, however I have made notes to update regularly. This will probably make each post carry less substance.

Since my last update (I was amazed to find it was so long ago) I have seen another 150 or so articles in print. However I was shocked to find I stated I had had five books on the shelves - I know I've been busy but didn't realise that with the publication of Nottinghamshire Place Names next week, that will make fourteen books published, three further manuscripts at the publishers/printers, and five more contracts to finish before the end of the year. Which probably gives me a plausible excuse for not posting, however I will try to make them weekly if at all possible.

I shall upload some of the book covers, if anyone ever gets around to reading anything of mine I would appreciate feedback. Difficult to know what one is doing right when naturally complaints will always outnumber praise.

I have enjoyed researching different areas away from the usual place names. Some of the characters I met in researching the ghost/paranormal books were a delight and it was an education to discover some of the events and beliefs of a subject I have no personal experience with, however I was and still am keen to learn more.

Tracing the ancient trackways provided me with an avenue to explore pre-history from a very different perspective. I climbed a few hills, walked many a mile and, owing to the obligatory 'instant energy rations' strapped to my back (courtesy of the Cadbury organisation) never managed to lose more than the odd pound or two - in fact I just got hungry!

Currently writing/researching/travelling the next book, another looking at old routes this time trade routes. I plan to keep posting updates on the research, rather than the work itself. So watch this space and, should you feel so inclined, please do comment.