People who live in large, sparsely populated countries have a different definition of ‘nearby’ from ours. I know someone who thinks nothing of driving two hours for their weekly shop, including a stint on a car ferry. Another friend drives twelve hours to their ‘local’ hospital. When we asked my visiting Canadian cousin where she’d like us to take her while she was in England, she said ‘France’. My aunt, her grandmother, chose Scotland.
How lucky we are here in the Cotswolds to have so much within easy reach – not only essential facilities, but places of historic and cultural interest to enrich our lives. My latest discovery on our doorstep is the tiny, historic church of St Andrew at Leighterton. (Other tiny, historic churches are available, as the BBC might say.)
For as long as I can remember, I have been on a quest to find the perfect handbag. Until a few weeks ago, I seemed as likely to discover the Holy Grail. But unlike the Holy Grail, the object of my mission has changed as I aged.
One of the many things I love about my writing life is the social side – attending lit fests and writers’ groups and meeting author friends for coffee and a catch-up. You don’t need me to tell you that, to quote Basil Fawlty, “that particular avenue of pleasure has been closed off”“.
However, despite my initial reaction that online events are no substitute for the real thing – as a very tactile person, I spend quite a lot of my own Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest (HULF) hugging people! – I’m being won round to the wonders of online litfests and other author events. They have several benefits compared to conventional events:
no travel required, so no fare/fuel/parking/travel time necessary
they’re generally free to attend (HULF is free, but that’s unusual)
they are open to a worldwide audience, so anyone can attend, wherever they are in the world
Your Invitation to Attend Crediton Literary Festival Online (Saturday 6th June)
So in today’s post, I’m extending an invitation to you to join me at the next one: Crediton Literary Festival, hosted by Crediton Library in Devon, on Saturday 6th June. As you can see from the programme below, I’ll be part of a crime and thriller panel at 11.30am, but you’re welcome to attend any or all of the events, wherever you are in the world.
You need to book in advance, as there is an attendance limit of 100 people per session for reasons of bandwidth, but booking is very easy: just send an email to Crediton Library at firstname.lastname@example.org, stating which event you’d like to attend and how many tickets you require. (NB If you’re sharing your screen with your lockdown housemates, only one ticket is needed.)
Catch Up with my Previous Lockdown Events
Crime & Thriller Panel at MYVLF.com
I’ve also done several other online events since lockdown began, and all are still available to view or listen to.
MYVLF.com (short for My Virtual Literature Festival) is a multiple-award-winning digital organisation staging great litfest sessions all year round via its smart Virtual Theatre interface. (If you’ll look closely, you’ll see two my photo and the cover of my latest novel, Murder Your Darlings!)
I was delighted to be part of the Crime & Thriller panel chaired by C L Taylor alongside Mel Sherratt and Trevor Wood. Our discussion is still available to view when you log in to MYVLF and navigate to the Theatre Hall, click on Past Interviews/Events when you get there, and scroll down to our event on Saturday 28th March.
Oakwood Literature Festival Facebook Live Interview
I was honoured to be asked to officially open the Oakwood Literature Festival three years ago, so jumped at the chance to be a guest of their new Facebook Live series of interviews with festival founder Dawn Brookes. Dawn and I both write mystery fiction and have been friends since before the launch of her debut novel, and it’s always good to catch up with her. As Dawn had the foresight to record the Facebook Live session, you can still watch it here:
The Writing & Marketing Show Podcast with Wendy H Jones
Today my latest guest spot has gone live, for which I was interviewed by Wendy H Jones, President Chair of the Scottish Association of Writers and author of fiction for all ages. Wendy lives in Dundee, where her books are set, but has also been to my home village of Hawkesbury Upton when she came to speak at HULF last year.
Wendy had asked me to speak primarily about self-publishing, in my capacity as the UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors (affiliate link), so much of the talk is a speedy lesson in how to become an indie author, but we spend the last ten minutes talking about my novels, of which Wendy is a big fan!
I do hope you’ll be able to join me on Saturday 6th June for Crediton Literature Festival – it would be great to see this public library in Devon virtually full!
Escape to a Writing Retreat through My Latest Novel
Meanwhile the jury is still out on whether I’ll be able to attend the two writers’ retreats that I’d booked into this autumn – one in North Wales as a guest speaker, and the other simply as a writer in Surrey. Mind you, most of the time these days, I do feel as if I’m on retreat from the world, so they could feel like a busman’s holiday!
In the meantime, if you fancy a taste of a writers’ retreat, you can do so not online, but via the pages of my latest novel,Murder Your Darlings, set on a remote Greek island. It’s full of fun and humour about writers, writing and reading, and I hope it’ll provide you with a welcome escape and a change of scene from wherever you are locked down right now.
Available in paperback from Amazon and in ebook on all the usual ebook sites.
A post about three recent public appearances – one on the radio and two at litfests
Well, who doesn’t like talking about themselves?
In the first of what I’m hoping will be a weekly round-up of what I’ve been up to in my writing life, here’s a quick summary of three highlights for me from last week (if you count the first day of the week as a Saturday, that is!)
1 The 5th Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival (Saturday 27th April)
I’m pleased to report that this year’s HULF (one of the many things people call it for short – HULit is popular too!) was a roaring success, the biggest and best yet with over 60 authors, poets, illustrators and artists taking part to stage a packed programme of events to suit all ages and interests. To get the full picture, hop over to the Festival’s website, where we’re already counting down to HULF2020 (!), but where we’re going to be keeping the magic going year-round by weekly posts from the guest speakers. We kick off with a post sharing keynote speaker Brad Borkan’s wonderful opening address about the power of books and reading. In the sidebar of that blog you’ll find a “follow” button if you’d like to receive each new post in your inbox, and an email list sign-up button if you’d like to be kept abreast of Festival news.
I purposely kept myself out of the programme this year to allow myself plenty of time to scurry about from venue to venue, checking everything was running smoothly, (which it was, thanks to my amazing team of speakers and volunteers). But I did enjoy welcoming everyone in the opening ceremony, sharing my dream for a free festival accessible to all, and celebrating the huge talent assembled in the village from far and wide for this special day. I also indulged myself by giving a reading from Best Murder in Show to round off the “Around the World in 8ish Books” session which provided a virtual world tour chaired by Caroline Sanderson, Associate Editor of The Bookseller. My book brought us firmly back to life in an English village!
2 Read My Lips Radio Show (Monday 29th April/Tuesday 30th April)
Yes, you read that right – it spanned two days! I had to log on just before midnight on the Monday and was on air till 1.30am!
Agreeing to be a guest on a live radio show which started in North Carolina at 7pm their time might not seem like the smartest decision, as by that time I was exhausted from the Festival and really needed to catch up on sleep, but I’m really glad I did, because it was great fun! Host Bonnie D Graham (aka Radio Red!) is a feisty host, a real pro, segueing easily between disparate topics and making fellow guest Sanjog Aul and me feel very comfortable. Sanjog’s self-help book, The Tricycle Way: How to Stop Racing Through Life and Start Enjoying the Ride, might not sound like the obvious bedfellow for my cosy mystery novels, but we found we had a surprising amount in common and many shared values.
I have Brad Borkan to thank for the introduction to Bonnie – he’s featured on her show several times.
Although the show went out live, it’s available to listen to on demand, so click this link if you’d like to tune in – I don’t chime in till about half way through but I found Sanjog’s interview very interesting too!
I rounded off my busy week with a trip to speak about my cosy mystery novels as part of the vibrant Wrexham Carnival of Words, which my author friend David Ebsworth helps organise. He had kindly come to HULF on the Saturday to give his fascinating illustrated talk, “Five Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the Spanish Civil War”, drawing on the research he did for his excellent historical mystery series that kicks off with The Assassin’s Mark, a Christiesque detective story. I highly recommend all three books in the series. by the way.
I was invited to speak in the Carnival’s new lunch-time strand of Meet the Author talks in the spacious, light and airy Wrexham Library, set in the midst of beautifully tended gardens. What a lovely asset for any town and litfest!
The audience may have come to Meet the Author, but I really enjoyed meeting the audience too! I talked about my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, why I chose to write cosy mystery, and the relationship between the concept and my real life in a small Cotswold community very similar to the fictional one featured in the stories. I gave several readings and shared some anecdotes about life in Hawkesbury Upton that if you put in a novel, one might not believe! I also told them a bit about HULF, and at least one member of the audience put it straight in her diary and has started planning her trip for HULF 2020! I was happy to sign quite a few books for sale afterwards, and I so enjoyed the experience that I donated the first three books in the series to Wrexham Library.
After such a busy week out and about, i was glad to look forward to a weekend at home to build up my strength for the following week, when it would be my turn to be in the audience, at a talk by the inspirational author Ali Smith as part of the new Tetbury Book Fest, and at the four-day CrimeFest conference in Bristol. More news of those events next week…
A report about a fascinating talk about the Oxford English Dictionary by Edmund Weiner
Anyone who loves words would have been as rapt as we were at the Oxford Authors’ Alliance last night, when Edmund Weiner, Deputy Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, came to talk to us about his work preparing version 2.0 of the OED. This mammoth task employs sixty people, and though it began in 1993, they’re still only 30% of the way through the task. They are effectively detectives, examining everything ever written in English to come up with comprehensive definitions of how every word has been used through the ages. Continue reading “Straight from the Lexicographer’s Mouth: An Enjoyable Talk about the OED (Oxford English Dictionary)”→