Today's Food and Frivolity comes from beautiful Belstone on Dartmoor. A village surrounded by Dartmoor's familiar wind-sculpted trees, Belstone has recently entered into my folklore research rather by accident. There was an intriguing anecdote in one of my books which I really wanted to follow up and, as I hadn't been to Belstone for some time, I thought I'd see what foody treats the village has to offer.
In the centre of the village, not far from the old stocks, you will find the Old School Tearoom, tucked away behind the Methodist chapel. Look out for the advertising board or you might miss it! Marion has been running the tea room for just over two years now - and it has a fascinating history.
The Old School was actually the local Sunday School - the only Sunday School in the village. Marion told me that when the new vicar arrived in Belstone, the Methodist minister made it clear that he wasn't keen on a new Sunday School being started, as all the children already attended his!
Over a warming pot of tea and a fantastic vegan/dairy free/gluten free flapjack, while sitting on a comfy sofa next to a woodburning stove, Marion told me that when she initially took on the premises, it was not in a good way and needed a full renovation. And it's a wonderful space - a high ceiling making it feel light and airy, yet incredibly cosy due to the stove's flue being internal and acting as a giant radiator. The Old School was built onto the back of the chapel in 1928 (the chapel itself dates from 1891) and the adjoining wall between them has been exposed after the crumbling plaster was removed in the renovation, making a great feature wall!
All of Marion's delicious-looking cakes are home-made, so if you have any allergies, you can be 100% confident that you're eating something that is safe for you. Marion finds that her customers like familiar favourites, with one or two new varieties to try.
The flapjack was every bit as moist, flavoursome and delicious as it looked and, even though it did not contain honey, there was a real honey taste to it - slightly floral, slightly spicy - which complemented the various seeds and the oats. It was light and went down beautifully with a cup of tea. In a china cup, too.
The Old School Tearoom has a lot more on offer, however. There is a range of handmade tea cosies for sale (with or without teapot! - the little guy below was my favourite), soap, books, periodicals, cards, local art, home-made chutney, jam and marmalade, knitted accessories - and if you have just come in from the moor with wet, muddy boots, you can leave them in the porch and pop on a pair of slippers while you warm up by the fire with your tea and cake. There's also treats and towels on hand for your muddy four-legged friends, too. Sounds like home from home, doesn't it? So what are you waiting for? The Bank Holiday weekend beckons, so get yourself over to Belstone and try the Old School Tearoom's delights for yourself!
Follow the Tearoom on Twitter here
(top photo is an open source image from pixabay, the rest are my copyright.)
A couple of weeks ago, I was delighted to be a guest on North Manchester Radio's show Hannah's Bookshelf, chatting with Hannah about all things book-related. We talked about my historical research, dragons, Dartmoor and human origins, amongst other things, before I fangirled shamelessly over the fantastic Shardlake novels by CJ Sansom and shared the three books I would save for the Library at the End of Days. Trying to choose only three was almost impossible and I actually made my final selection once we had started the recording, as I had, with great difficulty, just about managed to whittle it down to four. If you had to choose three books to save for a post-apocalyptic world, what would you save?
In the end, my choices comprised one of my all-times favourites, a timeless classic that I could re-read a hundred times and still not tire of, and a book which impacted greatly on me and influenced much of what I do today.
You can listen to the interview here.
If you haven't caught the show before, why not follow Hannah on Mixcloud here?
Curious to see what other guests have selected for the Library at the End of Days? Check out the full list on Hannah's website here.
It can be the bane of your life, can't it? I did a History degree via the OU, so I know what a nightmare it can be. Yet I love it and seek out any opportunity to learn something new and cool which I can use in my writing. If any of you have seen my play WITCH, you'll know just how much I love uncovering new information and finding fascinating snippets to share with people.
For a while now, I have been focussed almost entirely on Dhussena's little clan of survivors as they trek through the Great Forest of the North seeking sanctuary. Their story is about to hit a significant point - which I'm really looking forward to writing - and after that, I will need to turn my attention not only to Aamena's people, the wood elves who are the custodians of Dragonheart, but also to the wider Hheserakhian Empire.
Both Dhussena's and Aamena's clans have their roots in Norse mythology and use a lot of Old Norse terminology. However, the Empire itself has a very strong Japanese flavour, particularly around the Imperial Palace. Japan has always fascinated me, so you can imagine how excited I was to learn that there is an okiya - a geisha house - not far from where I live in England and that it is possible to go there for events.
So my research for May is essentially fieldwork and will involve being shown how to wear a kimono properly, talking to geisha about their training and (hopefully) finding out just how difficult it is to play a shamisen, the three-stringed, fretless Japanese instrument with its distinctive snappy twang. I have a couple of characters in my head and I need to know how they would move in kimono before I start writing them.
Hopefully, I will be able to take photos to share with you all - I'll keep you posted!
I've just been updating the Dates for your Diary page with details of my next author event (check it out - FREE event, Exeter Central Library's Rougemont Room 10am-4pm Saturday 31st March 2018) and it started me thinking about how much I am enjoying bringing Aamena's story to life and how many opportunities I'm going to have to meet some of you in person and chat to you about it. The Exeter Authors Association has a brilliant programme of FREE events lined up for 2018, which you can find out about here - there are far too many to list! So if you'd like to pick up one of Aamena's monogrammed notes, which are only available direct from me at events, make sure you get yourself and book-loving friends and family along to see me at one of these events. Keep checking back and follow me on Twitter, because other events will be added in the coming months. It's shaping up to be an incredibly busy - and fun - year!
Greetings to you all. My name is Aamena Hinnorwen and The Fire-Eyes Chronicles tell my story.
I want to share what has been happening in preparation for the Exeter Authors Association's FREE Fantasy Authors event in A CreaTiv Hub, Fore Street, Tiverton, Devon, tomorrow and Wednesday, 13/14 March 2018, 10am - 3pm.
In the last few days, since this site and the Twitter feed went live, it has been so wonderful to see people retweeting and liking the Fire-Eyes tweets. Thank you all for your support - it is very much appreciated!
In readiness for the event, I have created some little thank you notes for Fire-Eyes supporters who come along to talk books in Tiverton this week. Each is sealed with my monogram, as you'll see in the photograph below. These will only ever be available at events, so turn up early before they all run out!
May you always walk in the path of the Benevolent Dragon.
Ideas come to you at the most random moments, don't they? Today, for example, I was enjoying a latte and croissant when I suddenly had an idea. Welcome to Food and Frivolity, a random collection of musings about cake, games, books and fantasy-related stuff (because who doesn't like eating cake while gaming or reading??) I'm kicking off at The Independent Coffee Trader in Tiverton, Devon. Find out more about them here and follow them on Twitter here. Leigh has been running the Independent Coffee Trader for nearly three years.
Pretty much the first thing I saw when I walked in today was this amazing cake:
As well as garnering high praise from my 10 year-old for "the best sausage roll I have eaten in my life", Leigh, Mark and team also boast an impressive range of the most enticing cakes. Today's gem is Courgette and Avocado. Nestling under its dome, it is beautiful to look at, with a sprinkling of cornflower petals and pistachios in a bed of buttercream icing.
It was the flowers that sold it to me, plus the fact that the sponge looked incredibly moist. And when it arrived, it tasted every bit as good as it looked. Light sponge, very moist; filling, but not heavy on the stomach. It has a beautiful, rather mild flavour, neither courgette nor avocado - in fact, it reminded me very slightly of carrot cake, particularly in its consistency. The buttercream icing was perfection - again, not heavy and not too sweet; I find that some icings can be pretty sickly, but not this one! In addition, it's both gluten- and dairy-free. This cake is HIGHLY recommended and, like all the cakes they stock, it is made by hand.
So I asked Leigh and Mark how they choose what to stock and I have to say that their descriptions of catalogues and trade shows (plus a lot of samples) sounded like the dream job! The overall look of the cake is a big factor in the selections they make and they like anything a bit different. You won't find a plain Victoria sponge here, just a gorgeous selection of cakes that you may not have tried - or heard of - before. It's a chance to be adventurous and to venture out of your Cake Comfort Zone. A lot of their choices are customer-led, too. Plus, the coffee is as smooth and mellow as Stephen Fry's voice, the perfect complement to gorgeous cake.
So next time you're in Tiverton, why not head down Gold Street and see for yourself?
Many thanks to Leigh and Mark for taking the time to chat with me today!
(top image is an open-source image frompixabay.com and the other two are my own)
You know that moment when an idea grabs you and just won't go away? Well, that is how this series began. I'd created a character for a RPG and she wouldn't leave me alone right from the start. As the game progressed, her extensive back-story hovered at my shoulder like an impatient child waiting for sweets, occasionally giving me a nudge, until it had developed into something that I couldn't really ignore any longer.
Thus was born The Fire-Eyes Chronicles, the story of Aamena Hinnorwen, an ordinary elf who does extraordinary things. Yet, initially, it is not her story. When I started plotting the first book, The Battle for Dragonheart, I realised that, in order to tell Aamena's tale, I would need to go further back and tell her mother's. So I put Aamena to one side for a while and started thinking about Zilyana Yllayra.
To my surprise, Dragonheart isn't her story either, not entirely. It wasn't long before a new character made herself known - the troubled Dhussena Lorafiel. As I explored Dhussena's story, I realised why Zilyana behaves as she does and uncovered a tragic secret that could destroy reputations...and lives.
The Battle for Dragonheart follows Dhussena and Zilyana as they struggle to survive - socially, politically and literally. A natural disaster devastates lives and the environment, throwing the women's Clans together in the most violent of ways. The Imperial Forces are at their heels, a Treaty is violated and everything hinges on whether they can secure control of the perfect place to appease their goddess - the mighty temple of Dragonheart, deep in the Forest of the North.
The book will be coming out later this year, so I will be spending the next few months sharing lots of background information about Aamena, Zilyana and Dhussena and the world in which they live. Check out my Twitter feed @fireeyeschron for updates and make sure you bookmark this site!
Who is Blogging Today?
Sometimes it will be me. At other times, you may well be treated to one of Duseena Lorafiel's herbal remedies, or perhaps Zilyana Yllayra's etiquette tips. Aamena Hinnorwen may pop in to talk about a new skill she has learned. There is always a chance that we may be graced by the presence of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor, who likes nothing better than to discuss the many benefits of the land he rules. There will be maps, sketches, photos, news, character information, guest blogs from other authors... all sorts of different ways for you to delve into the world of the Chronicles.