A Blog Post about Hospitality, Books and Big Sticks

In the town of Omurtag, Hasan the geographer welcomed me with a story about the perils of refusing hospitality. Hasan is a vigorous man in his late forties, and he is locally famous for his fierce home-made rakia (although, being a Muslim, he doesn’t drink any of it himself). He has about him an air of restless intellectual curiosity. He is an Esperanto speaker, an expert on the history of local place names, a respected scholar, a translator, and a compiler of collections of folk tales. Read more

Photo Gallery from Sofia Launch

Photographs from the Sofia launch of The Descent of the Lyre in Bulgarian translation, Произходът на лирата on 8th April 2014.

Thanks to all the photographers, and to everybody involved! It was a great evening.

Back in Sofia, Seven Years On

It’s been a quiet morning here in Sofia. The coffee pot is bubbling away on the little electric stove-top, outside there are sparrows cheeping busily, and I’ve got the entire guest-house to myself. The last time I stayed here was in 2007. Back then, the guest-house was busy: there was an alarmingly fierce six-and-a-half foot actor who strode around in his underpants, and who was apparently playing the part of a mafia hoodlum in a TV drama; there was my Russian guitarist friend (and lover of P.G. Wodehouse) Dmitri — who I last spoke to online a few weeks ago, who has more recently taken up the harp, and who played me O’Carolan tunes via Skype all the way from Nizhny Novgrod; and there was a serious German sociologist who spoke excellent Bulgarian, and who was carrying out research on corruption amongst the political classes. It was a heady mix. But now it is low season here in Sofia and the guest house has only recently reopened after a few months closed for business over the winter — so at the moment I’m the only person here. Read more

The sound of the world running its course

A quick post this, as I’m fairly busy tying up loose ends and getting ready to head over to Bulgaria. But I thought that I should just pause to share a  beautiful image tweeted today by Enthusiast, my Bulgarian publisher, with the translation of the final sentence of The Descent of the Lyre.

I love those birds on the power-line.

Произходът на лирата


“Some say it is Saint Ivan of Gela, playing his music to all the angels of heaven; others that it is simply the sound of the world running its course.”

Bulgarian visitors can get hold of a copy of the book from Enthusiast’s website by following the link here.

Launching ‘The Descent of the Lyre’ in Bulgaria

It was almost seven years ago that I was last in Bulgaria for two months of research towards my novel, The Descent of the Lyre. Back then, I spent two months travelling around the mountains with my guitar, funded by a grant from Arts Council England, drinking brandy with pensioners, visiting small provincial museums and hillside churches, collecting stories. And now, seven years on, I’m heading back for the launch of the Bulgarian edition of the book.

Read more

Mini Book Tour In Bulgaria

Right. I’m dusting off my Teach Yourself Bulgarian book, ready for a trip back to Bulgaria for the first time in seven years, to tie in with the launch of the Bulgarian translation of my novel, [amazon_link id=”9380905076″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Descent of the Lyre[/amazon_link]. I’m hugely looking forward to the trip, and am delighted to be doing some events at the Lecti Centre in Varna between the 9th and the 13th of April. Have a look at the link here.

There will be more Bulgarian events forthcoming, so I’ll post to this blog when they are fixed up.

The Bulgarians and Me: a New Year’s Tale of Disappointment

Well, what a disappointing day the first of January 2014 was. After spending all December reading the tabloid press (and the Telegraph as well), I’d whipped myself up into a state of some excitable frenzy at the thought of 50,000 Bulgarians trooping past my door from the first of January. So in the spirit of Anglo-Bulgarian friendship, back in December I ordered in five thousand copies of my Bulgaria-based novel, [amazon_link id=”9380905076″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Descent of the Lyre[/amazon_link]. What a sales opportunity, I thought: fifty thousand homesick Bulgarians filing past my door, finding their feet in a new country. They would see my book, feel a pang of nostalgia, and snap up a copy. Read more

Historical Novel Society: Review of the Descent of the Lyre

I was delighted to see that [amazon_link id=”9380905076″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Descent of the Lyre[/amazon_link] has just received an excellent review from the Historical Novel Society. Here’s a brief extract:

Do not mistake this for a mere retelling. This is masterful storytelling, such that one cannot help but sense the ancient thrum, the pulse quickening, and deep down the feeling that the music really has been there all along.

You can read the complete review here.

Research, One Couch at a Time

After several years of research, writing and rewriting, my second novel, [amazon_link id=”9380905076″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Descent of the Lyre,[/amazon_link] is now finally published by the excellent Roman Books (in the UK at least—if you are in the USA, you will have to wait until December 11th), and it’s good to see that the novel seems to be already getting a few nice reviews here and there. But I thought I’d say a little bit here about the research that led to the book. I’ve written already about research and fiction here on The Myriad Things, and also written some research notes over on Necessary Fiction; but here I want to say more about the research trip that I made back in 2007. Read more


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