Something Old, Something New

A series on Devon Authors and Devon Books

There are many wise people who choose to live and work in Devon. In this series, I am going to delve into the lives of some Devonian authors and bring you brief synopsises of books that have a Devonian background.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was first serialised in the Strand magazine between August 1901 and April 1902 before being printed as a novel in 1902. Each chapter ended in a cliff-hanger, making it perfect material for a magazine.

The book was set in Devon’s Dartmoor following a prolonged stay in Dartmoor including a visit to the famous prison. It involved an attempted murder inspired by the legend of the hound and was investigated by Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Phillip Weller – who wrote The Hound Of The Baskervilles – Hunting the Dartmoor Legend – suggests that Baskerville Hall, the home of the cursed Sir Hugo Baskerville was based on one of three Dartmoor houses, Fowelscombe near Ugborough, Hayford Hall and Brook Hall, both near Buckfastleigh.

Squire Richard Cabell of Fowelscombe was rumoured to have murdered his wife and on his death in 1677 was laid to rest in the Fowelscombe sepulchre. A phantom pack of hounds came across the moor to howl at his tomb and continued to do so on the anniversary of his death. Along with tales he had heard of the Yeth Hound, a Devonian supernatural dog and the Black Shuck, a ghostly black dog that roamed the coast and countryside of East Anglia, Conan Doyle had plenty of material with which he could work into the story.

The original manuscript of the book was divided up into individual pages and used for booksellers window displays as part of a promotional campaign put together by Doyles’ American publishers. Many of the 190 leaves were lost were lost but 36 remain. One of them sold in 2012 at auction for $158,500.

When King Edward VII knighted Conan Doyle in 1902 for services rendered to the Crown during the Boer War it was rumoured that the King was such an avid Sherlock Holmes fan, that he had put the author’s name on his Honours List to encourage him to write new stories.

These days you can visit a dog-friendly restaurant in Ashburton called the Hound of the Baskervilles where Baskerville Burgers and Sherlock tea is served. Better still, you can enjoy a one day guided tour of Baskerville country. Guests will come away stimulated, intrigued and wanting to read the famous book once again.



It’s published!

It’s taken a while longer than I hoped, but Cidered in Sidmouth is now a Kindle book and available from Amazon. Having sorted out all the spelling mistakes, the style of the rhythm of the writing and the occasional plot malfunction, it was very easy to publish the book with the Kindle platform.

The cover went through many changes before it served the book as it should. The very early covers used the barrel but on Sidmouth beach. Then I went all symbolic with the grass, the cliffs, and the sea! The next covers featured the cider barrel, but I felt it all looked too amateurish, so I searched for a better idea. Lots of cosy mystery books have photos of the location as their covers. I used a photo of the Sidmouth coastline near Jacob’s Ladder to create a spooky, mysterious scene. But that was too spooky and didn’t fit in with the cosy mystery genre. So I changed the photo to colour and made it look like a painting. I found some more appropriate grown-up fonts and using my basic graphic design skills moulded the final cover into shape.

I’m pleased with how it’s turned out. Of course, the proof will be – does it help to sell the book?

The next book in the series, The Dudleys of Budleigh, is well underway and should be slightly longer. I’m aiming for 40,000 words!

Now I’m trying to up my marketing skills using Pinterest and Facebook in particular. I’ll be sending details and digital copies of the book to the local paper, the South West Coast Path and our local church!!

Third and Final Draft

The first book in the East Devon Cosy Mysteries series is going through its third and final draft at the moment. I’m aiming to have it in the Kindle Store in early May.

I wanted to prove to myself that I could write a book without spending a fortune. I set myself a target to produce these books on a manageable budget but to do things as professionally as possible. Self-publishing is definitely the best way for me to achieve that target.

A self-published author has to do almost everything himself. It’s not just the writing of the book. It’s compiling the book, designing the book cover, setting up social media marketing on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, producing the website design using WordPress, uploading and promoting the book. Do I just publish it on Kindle as an ebook or get copies printed to sell as a paperback? What about audiobooks? It’s a busy life being a budding novelist.

I use the excellent Scrivener software to write the books, the Serif range of software to design the covers and promotional material and WordPress and GoDaddy to put the website together as well as a few iPad apps to enhance some of the graphics. I’ve taken all the photos and videos on the website. In future posts, I’ll go into greater detail about the resources I use.

As an incentive to sign up for my monthly newsletter, I’m putting together a series of walks in the Sidmouth area that Frank and Ella would enjoy. Indeed, they’ve already walked most of them.

Right, it’s back to the final draft!

Welcome to East Devon

The ancient Jurassic coastline, the Sidmouth Folk Festival, Exmouth’s sandy beaches, Devon cream teas, rolling red hills and rural yet close to the thriving city of Exeter. No wonder many families love to spend their days working and playing in East Devon.

Close to the sea and countryside yet less than an hour from the moorlands of Dartmoor and Exmoor, East Devon has connections by motorway, road, rail and plane to London and the rest of the known world.

Stretching from the Exe river in the west to the county borders of Dorset and Somerset, East Devon is home to such towns as Sidmouth, Exmouth, Honiton, Axminster and Budleigh Salterton.

Its coastline runs from Exmouth to Lyme Regis is part of World Heritage Site, the Jurassic Coast as well as hosting part of the 633 miles of the South West Coast Path.

In recent years, the area has become a retirement option with a third of the population aged over 60. However, that in itself has helped a growing army of self-employed gardeners, decorators and builders to provide a valued and valuable service industry!

There are two Areas of Outstanding  Natural Beauty – the Blackdown Hills and East Devon itself.

Rivers such as the Otter, Sid and Axe make their way to the sea through vales filled with productive fields, nature-filled woods and picturesque villages. Colyton, Branscombe, Tipton St John, East Budleigh, Musbury, Broadhembury and many other deceptively quiet villages await your exploration.

In such an English paradise, how could anyone want to break the law, let alone murder! If only life were that easy!