Wednesday 28 May 2014

Marvelous Party, Darling

I made a lightening trip to London last week. As well as spending time in the arms of the British Library and the National Archive - which currently has a pair of swans with six cygnets on the lake - I fitted in the Romantic Novelists' Summer Party - that's the one where the Joan Hessayon award is given out. Memories of two years ago were very sweet and this year the silverware went to Jo Thomas for her book The Oyster Catcher. Jo and I go back a long way ...

But enough reminiscences. Party photos usually consist of pix of people clutching wine glasses and possibly also trying to juggle canapes while smiling for the camera. After my excursion into shoes and carpets last week, I decided I'd do my party snaps a little differently. So here are my pictures of various feet - and the carpet of the Royal Overseas League, which was a very nice shade of blue. My feet are not among the pictures - I was wearing my faithful navy pumps, comfortable but boring. As my dress had zebras, parrots and tigers rampaging across it, I thought that was lively enough ...

Some lovely correspondents

Pretty in Pink

Four feet  - and a chair

Actually, my boring navy shoes are just visible here.

Fabulous colour
I think these got the prize in the 'Amazing' category.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Crimewave hits Bristol - the Crimefest Report

Crimefest is one of several crime fiction conferences/conventions that take place every year in the UK - a gathering of writers and readers who spend a weekend talking about their favourite form of fiction. The kind with a crime in it. All sorts of different crime, as even a glimpse at the titles of the many panels on offer will confirm. It's the event that is located closest to me, and I've been to almost every one since it started as a supposedly one-off  - a version of the US Left Coast Crime convention, but held in the UK. First I went as a reader, now as a reader and published author. This year I only managed to visit on Saturday - but it was a great day. Fabulous discussions, meeting friends, lunch in my favourite fish and chip shop ...

Glorious blue sky 
I got up at a horrendous hour to make sure I was there for the very first panel at 9 am - the early morning balloons were still flying over Bristol when I walked up from the station.

Queen Square had sprouted what appeared to be a small forest of tee pees - apparently it was a food/music festival. Once I got to the Marriott hotel it was all go. I had a fabulous day.
Tents - and giant tulips?

Edited highlights and high spots? Sitting with Chris Longmuir in the first session and discovering that the panel I did last year had introduced her to my genre of romantic suspense and inspired her to included it in the guide to crime genres she examines in her non-fiction book Crime Fiction and the Indie Contribution. I'm not sure I've ever been an inspiration before.

On a quick visit to the on-site bookshop - so many books, so little time (and unfortunately, money!) - I found my books on show, as an attending author, even though I wasn't participating in a panel this year. Much appreciated, Foyles.

Lunch - apart from the fish and chips, also included a visit to a frozen yogurt shop half way up the hill from College Green. I sat at the next table to one of the convention guests of honour, Mark Billingham. I have to admit that my pot of yogurt was twice the size of his. But I had a long train journey home at the end of the day - and didn't know when I'd next eat. (Well, that's my story.)

The after lunch sessions went in a flash. All the panels were fabulous but the one that really chimed with me was Secrets and Spies. I don't read much spy fiction as such, but I do love to write about secrets - and secret agents. And when one of the participants, Edward Wilson, declared his favourite spy writer to be William Shakespeare - or better still, Jacobean playwright John Webster - that was the icing on the cake. Or maybe the strawberries and chocolate drops on the frozen yogurt? I met friends, saw others only to wave across a crowded room, missed some completely. It was a spectacular day. Next year I hope to be able to make the whole weekend. I know already it will be fun.

NB The observant amongst you will notice there are no photos of any of the panel line ups. I did take them, but I have a genius for picking that exact moment when someone yawns, looks away, drops their pen and bends down to search for it ... I was determined to get a shot of Mark Billingham in his wonderful Country and Western inspired shirt, complete with skulls, and the matching ensemble also worn by his interviewer Martyn Waites. I had them lined up beautifully - and someone walked in front of the camera.
I did manage to take an excellent picture of the hotel carpet and one of my favourite pairs of shoes ...

The carpet is orange and the shoes are red, by the way ...

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Who can resist a list?

Apparently everyone loves them.

Best of.. Worst of .. Top Ten .. Least Known ... Must See ... Must Visit ... Biggest ... Smallest ...

Come on - we've all fallen for it - you start with one that looks kind of interesting and possibly a bit researchy - and before you know it you've clicked here and clicked there and spent an hour looking at stuff that is fascinating, but no real use to man or beast.

And then there is the 'To do' list. I'm a big fan of these. When I worked for someone who paid me, instead of for myself, I was occasionally guilty of having lists of lists.  I certainly had home and work lists and sometimes a 'Me' list. Unfortunately the poor old 'Me' list is the one that usually gets pushed right to the back of the queue.

Then there is the ultimate list - the most personal one, that you might carry about for years, maybe even your whole life. Yes, I'm talking about the Bucket List. I was thinking about mine the other day, and whether it needed an up date. Or even a complete revision. If I could find it. I know it's around somewhere. It can be a lot of fun, finding an old list. And perhaps a measure of how you've grown, or changed. Sometimes the entries don't even make sense any more. But they were important once.

I'm sure lists change with age. When you're young it's all about achievements and milestones - academic and career success, buying the first car, the first house, the first diamond? Making the first million!!!

But then you do all that - or your ideas of what is achievable and realistic change and the list changes too.

New York is certainly on the list.
As I said, I've been thinking about mine - and you know, the things I would put on it now seem mostly to be about places I want to visit, or re-visit. It's not that I've achieved all those 'Before I'm (insert next milestone birthday) things.' But somehow travelling, and the fun stuff, is looking more attractive.

Of course that could be because the weather is still pretty average and all these holiday brochures keep dropping onto the door mat. I'm sure I never asked for half of them, but I just love looking at the pictures.

Maybe I need to re-name it? It's not the Bucket List - it's the Research Visits List.

Now you're talking ...

Wednesday 7 May 2014

To Guernsey - with the Crime Writers.

I've just come back from my first conference with the Crime Writing Association. I had a great time - good food, good hotel, good company, good speakers - in fact good all round. And it was held on an island. And you know I have a thing about islands, as I live on one myself. I'd never been to Guernsey before, so that was good too. As a thank you to a lovely, flower filled island for an excellent weekend, I'm now plotting murder and mayhem, so that I can set a book there. To make everyone jealous in the meantime, I'm sharing my snaps.

The post boxes are blue

Candie Gardens
I was hoping to snap the crow, just seen disappearing round the pillar, but he snuck off as soon as he saw the camera.
 Something to hide?

We visited Victor Hugo's house, where he spent a long exile, and wrote Les Miserables, amongst other things. A fantastic place, all dark wooden panels, staircases and hidden doors and cupboards. Oh - and plates on the ceiling.

The house is preserved by the city of Paris.
The great man himself

And another view.
The statue is very impressive and the caption has recently been re-gilded. 

We got to handle historic weapons at the museum - very professional, in white cotton gloves - and I met the dagger of my dreams. Just what I want for a future plot.
Deadly weapons - and 'my' dagger.

 I also visited the Sausmarez Manor Gardens - damp and mysterious after some heavy rain, full of bamboo, twisty paths and surprising sculptures.

Two girls reading among the bluebells.

I can't wait to go back - even if it does involve a trip in an aeroplane!