Buried Treasure

Not Roman, but the hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold unearthed in Staffordshire  is absolutely HUGE, and if you want to know more than has hit the headlines, here’s the link to the official website.

It’s been said by those who know that ‘This will redefine the Dark Ages.’ Marvellous news for most of us, although sympathies to anybody out there who’s working on a Dark Age novel and is now wondering whether their plot has just crumbled to dust.

Round the world with slippers on

One of the wonderful things about the Internet (and yes, I am so old I’m still amazed by it) is that you can travel without leaving the house.

I’ve just enjoyed a visit to  Sari’s World for a chat about the books (where avid readers will find the photo of her ‘to be read’ shelves very reassuring).

I’m also hoping to drop in on some of Poisoned Pen’s WebCon on 24 October. The Webcon is billed as ‘The world’s first virtual mystery convention’. Will it work? We’ll find out. It’ll certainly save on travel and hotel bills.

Many thanks to Jane Finnis, author of the Aurelia Marcella mysteries (set in Roman Yorkshire), who sent me the Webcon link. Jane’s appearing on one of the live audio panels. She’s not only an author but an experienced radio presenter, so it should be good.

Learning from the experts

I guess most aspiring writers have read ‘how to write’ books.  The burgeoning selection on the shelves at Downie Towers can be a source of wise counsel, a comfort when things aren’t going well and a hopeless distraction when the real way forward to is to sit at the desk and put words on paper.

What I’ve begun to realise, though, is that there’s very little advice around on, ‘How to write your next novel’ or indeed the ones after that.*  Maybe we’re supposed to know it all by then? (Maybe everyone else does?)

Anyway, on Friday afternoon it was a delight to spend time in the company of a large number of readers plus Anne Perry, Susanna Gregory and Peter Guttridge –  writers who have already faced these challenges and survived.  Considering the amount I’d learned by the end of the day, I should probably have paid to be there.

The only disappointment was that a scheduling mix-up meant Andrew Martin wasn’t on the panel. This was a shame because I’d really enjoyed reading one of his ‘Jim Stringer’ novels as homework and was looking forward to hearing from the man himself.

(Jim Stringer, for those who don’t know, is a Yorkshire railwayman in the years before the First World War. I met him and The Wife in ‘Death on a Branch Line’.  He’s the sort of character whose voice you can still hear after you’ve closed the book.)

So, that was the Reading Festival of Crime Writing. Now down to some real work before the next chance to pick other writers’ brains – a Mystery Women panel at Heffer’s in Cambridge. This has turned out to be more of a mystery than intended as I hadn’t checked exactly who was on the panel.   So it was nice surprise to see this as I strolled past the shop yesterday:

Photo of Heffers events board outside the shop

For those without bionic eyesight, it reads,

Monday 21 September at 6.30 pm – Mystery Women Event

An evening with Barbara Cleverly, Ruth Downie, Laurie R King and Manda Scott.

The event’s being moderated by Michelle Spring. This link to Heffers site gives details of how to get tickets – not only for us, but for Lindsey Davis’s talk on the  following Thursday. Looks like it’s going to be a good week in Cambridge.

*Anyone want to swap recommendations?

Reading Festival of Crime Writing

…is almost here!  Check out the website to see the excellent schedule of events planned for this weekend.

I’ll be there on Friday afternoon (11th), discussing ‘The Mystery in History’, with Andrew Martin, Susanna Gregory and Anne Perry. Peter Guttridge will be chairing the event. Afterwards I’m hoping to catch some of the other speakers who are appearing that day – especially Colin Dexter, reputedly a character created by Inspector Morse in his spare time.

Glorious Greenbelt

Just back from Cheltenham with a grubby tent, tired feet and overstimulated brain.  The Greenbelt festival was as fabulous as ever, and as usual packed with far too much to do.

Blue is definitely the colour for tents this year.

Highlights for me included an early-morning ‘free food’ forage – no, not stealing from other people’s tents but a guided tour of some of the 40 or so edible plants growing wild around Cheltenham race course. Footage of the previous day’s forage can be seen here.

Then there was the chance to see Simon Mayo interview Douglas Alexander, the minister for Overseas Development. The Minister was leaving for an overseas trip that night and when the audience asked questions of the, ‘Don’t you think something should be done about…?’ nature it was a delight to hear, instead of the usual theorising and rhetoric, a simple, ‘I’ll be raising that with the Indian Government the day after tomorrow.’

Interior of marqueeAn event in The Kitchen, a venue appropriately decorated with j-cloths, dusters, rubber gloves, tea-bags and hot water bottles.

Some baffling programming meant that the two novelists I really wanted to hear were both scheduled to be talking at three o’clock yesterday. They were in different venues, obviously, but that wasn’t much help to those of us who can only be in one place at one time.

The brief pre-event interview I managed to catch with Jasper Fforde confirmed that he really is as funny as his novels suggest.  It’s clear from his reasoning that there really was a Fourth Bear in the Goldilocks story – if you don’t believe me, read the book.

Jon McGregor’s forthcoming novel certainly won’t be funny. It’s about the discovery of a neglected body in a decrepit flat, how it got there in the first place and what happens to it afterwards. Much stronger stuff than his award-winning debut If nobody speaks of remarkable things,  but to judge by the excerpt I heard, equally well worth reading.  It’s called Even the Dogs, and will be published in February. No, I’m not getting commission for this.

Another highlight was the chance to meet up again with the excellent Stuart Smith of 3 Sheep.  It’s amazing how much even the technically incompetent can learn in an hour with the help of someone who knows what he’s talking about, and any improvements and tidying-up you may notice on the blog are thanks to Stuart’s advice.

One final gem – I missed much of Andrew Tate’s talk on Epic Narrative but did manage to catch the sentence, ‘Postmodern is a term that’s used an awful lot but nobody really knows what it means.’

Thank goodness. It’s not just me, then.

Now back to work and the pondering of those cultural insights I promised after the Far East trip…