Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shieldwall #9 Best Seller at Hatchards

Clearly a shop with a discerning clientele....

Dymocks Dinner: Shieldwall returns to HK

It's not often you pass your local bookshop and find a large picture of yourself.

The event was at Grappa's Cellar

All that Old English study finally comes of use when needing to quote the Battle of Maldon and Maxims II on stage.

Book Tour Part 7: Shieldwall in Charlbury

There were hopes that I'd be on Excess Baggage again saturday morning, meanwhile I spent two nights in Charlbury - one of the most charming English market towns you could hope for, nestled in fabulous Oxfordshire countryside.

First stop was a talk to the children of Charlbury Primary School: who were one of the most enthusiastic audiences I had: with ten hands going up each time I asked for a question, and the year 6 boys at the back who asked 'Is it gory?' and when I said there were gory bits gave out a large 'YES!'

Nest morning I took advantage of a quiet morning for an eight mile stroll through ancient woodland. More very tall trees, the delightful little church just outside Charlbury, and lots of deer.

A saxon door still in the stonework:

Vicky and Ed had organised a delightful evening at the Corner House, and Jon at Evenlode Books came along and was the jolly bookseller by a large pile of Shieldwall.

Fine weather, lots of old friends, and new, and a great way to end the tour.

Hay 'paid' it's authors with a case of Cava: and so this was my contribution to the festivities:

Then it was back to London for a quick signing at Goldsboro Books,

An Ethiopian lunch at Menelik's on Caledonian Road: which looked like this and hit all the spots:

Thanks to Soph, Charles and Lara, Tara, Ed and Vics, Buz the Broadsword, Martin and Shirley for coming along, Katie and Damien, William, Isabella, Harper, May, Felix, Bella for your bedroom, Jon, Daniel, Zoe and everyone else who helped me along the way.

Book Tour Part 6: Shieldwall in London

Back in London had a very busy time coffee/lunching/dinnering with a great selection of friends.

For you, dear reader, one of the highlights was the the inaugral meal of the Historical Writer's Association (HWA) where there was a great collection of the UK's best historical novelists. For a room full of literary types, it was a very jovial, friendly and fun evening. 'So what's your period?' was the general question, and then you found yourself listening to an expert in anything from Romans (Ben Kane, Manda Scott and Tony Riches); medieval (Robyn Young); pirates (Mark Keating); 18th Century (Imogen Robertson) - and that's just a taster of who was there - severely limited by my memory.

There were signings at Hatchard's and a very interesting lunch with John Man, one of the most interesting writers on Mongolian history.

Book Tour Part 5: Shieldwall storms York

I grew up in York, and know the alleys and snickleways like the back of my hand so it was a joy to be back and avoiding the inevitable crowds.

The beer and black pudding were as good as any I remember, and my hotel had a particularly good full Yorkshire breakfast.

There was a book signing at Waterstones: thanks to everyone who turned up, especially Michelle of Scarborough!

And then a day out and about, at Benningborough Hall, where I had forgotten how tall trees in England are.

And what an oak tree looks like after it's been hit by lightning.

Book Tour Part 4: Nottingham cont

Nottingham Castle was built across the valley from the Saxon town by the Normans, and was a critical part of the royal estate up to Richard III's time. And it was from Nottingham castle that Richard III marched to Bosworth.

It's on a sandstone ridge and the sandstone is full of tunnels. Could recommend this highly enough: and here are a few pics.

Book Tour Part 3: Shieldwall heads North to the Land of Snot

Yes, Snottingeham - The Village of the People of Snot - is the old name of Nottingham, the next stop on my tour. I was the guest of the university there, and was expecting a few night's stay in a 1960s pre-fab, and instead found myself greeted by the porter 'Are you my house guest sir?' and then taken along a tree-lined avenue to a delightful Georgian country house, and into the Newstead Suite, where the chancellor stays when in town.

I had a busy 40th birthday, doing a talk on 'Landscape and Space' with Thomas Legendre and Matthew Welton and then a public lecture in the evening on 'The Writer in China'.
A fine curry afterwards, and then I happened to be near Lenton Road, which to me, and many others, means Games Workshop. Couldn't resist going over and hanging out, and meeting the geeks, and visting the figure museum there, with some of the best of miniature painting and diaoramas.

GW is also the home of one of my favourite pulp publishers: Black Library, and I had a very enjoyable session with Nick Kyme, who has an amazing ability to riff on an idea.

I've a lot of respect for pulp fiction writers because a lot of 'literary' writers could learn a thing or two about story telling from them. So it was a delight to meet up for a curry with Graham McNeill, New York Times Bestselling author, the author of an astounding 22 novels, and winner of the David Gemmel Legend Award. We ended up in a late-night rock bar, and really enjoyed the night, Graham's a great guy!

Lunch that day was in the world's oldest pubs, with a great pint of pale ale, and the next day a fabulous tour through the tunnels under Nottingham Castle.

Book Tour Part 2: Shieldwall at Bosham

The reason I wanted to go to Bosham is here:

and here -

Yes, the church (well, the arch) featured in the Bayeux Tapestry is still here, and the saxon tower remains, with only one floor of Norman addition. A fine beacon, no doubt, for the sailors who plied the mud flats. The church, and the fact that the manor house here, almost definitely sits on the site of the hall where Godwin and Harold spent a lot of their time.

It was very odd being somewhere, which I had already imagined and written about, and then visited. It was much flatter than I had imagined, and the tide made much more of a difference here: as it sped in over the mud flats, and altered the feel of the place twice a day.

This is also the place where Knut's eight year old daughter is said to be buried, and where he was said to have tried to turn back the tide. But instead of a tale about his arrogance and stupidity, he actually went on to tell his courtiers that this was proof of the power of the Almighty.

It was clear why this would be a favourite haunt for Harold Godwinson, a dedicated falconer, as there was plenty of game birds for hunting.

Book Tour Part 1: Shieldwall and the Hay-on-Wye Festival

Arrived in London, and drove down to Hay with Charlie Viney, and his son, Tom, and had a great time: seeing England again, and talking all the way from London to the Welsh border.

When we were almost there, we passed through Ewyas Harold, which has one of the few pre-Conquest Motte and Bailie castles in England: built by Ralph the Timid during Edward the Confessor's reign, to protect against the Welsh.

Stayed here: The Swan Inn, and expected it to be full of writers and intellectuals, but was strangely quiet.

Walked along the river, which must have been the border between the Welsh and English, and found a post-Conquest Motte and Baile castle in the field across the road, and after dinner in the long summer twilight, conducted a little tour for the London literary types.

A fine castle:

Talking to a whiskey soaked audience, courtesy of Highland Park.

And then my big talk - going head to head against a double act of The Archbishop of Canterbury and Simon Russel-Beale - and delighted to have a fine turn out. First talk on Shieldwall went very well: and a quick signing, before heading back to London via Hereforth: where the Welsh burnt the cathedral down in 1056, after a vigorous resistance in which 7 canons were killed.

Remembered how Bishops of Hereford seem to have been the military type, with responsibility for leading the local resistance. Like Bishop Leofgar, once chaplain to Harold Godwinson, who died in battle in 1056.

Thoughts on Hay:
I was very impressed with Hay, not having been there before, and hearing that it was more corporate than literary. Peter Florence was delightful, the audience diverse and interested, and what impressed me most of all was the number of school kids. I've never seen so many at a festival, and thought this was an excellent feature.

As an author: the volunteers were excellent and helpful; the carrot cake and coffee generously distributed, and the tech support as smooth as it gets.