You don’t need me to tell you it’s been a long year of lockdown and cloistered existence. We’ve all had to find ways to cope, and for me that has meant escaping into a comfort place of words (not just my own writing, I hasten to add.) I’ve built myself an escapist book-lined nest, mostly fiction with a weird slant or surprising twist that drags me off into a different world.
Turns out I spent quite lot of 2020 escaping to my nest to read: plenty of books I’ve loved, some I’ve had to push through, and a few abandoned before the end. In total too many to mention. Nevertheless, for my final book review of 2020, I decided to share five books that would definitely feature at the top of my list. Here they are, in no particular order, just because I loved them enough to read or listen to them twice. At least twice.
I thought this blogpost would be my usual ramble through my life locked away this week. But I was reminded of something much more important, which I want to share with you. And, of course, it’s a book.
If, like me, you’re already a fan of the wonderful Bristolian novelist Jodi Taylor, you’ll get my reference to one of her St Mary’s Chronicles series. St Mary’s is a research institution where historians research historical events in contemporary time. Yes, they time-travel. Although as Jodi cheerfully admits, she has no idea how the time travel pods actually work.
I’ve come a long way from the Malverns to conduct a bloodbath. My home for this week is the The Court in the tiny village of Sheepwash, Devon. Lovely hosts Debbie and Wendy run Retreats for You in this beautiful sixteenth century townhouse, mainly for writers, but anyone in need of utter peace can enjoy their splendid hospitality and the deep rural peace here.
This blog is usually about my writing, or other authors I love. In case you’re steeling yourself for the crushing disappointment of not hearing about my latest publication, relax. There will be links to my new anthology at the end.
We writers tend to live in a fantasy world of our own creation much of the time. But at times in any writer’s life, reality doesn’t just intrude: it bangs open the door, shouts loudly to attract attention, and continues to be demanding and exhausting for as long as it can get away with. A bit like a teenager.
I’m really quite an organised person; or as my beloved suggests, I’ll do any form of prevarication to avoid actual writing. So I keep a detailed record – using fab writers’ tool Duotrope – of all my stories and their current whereabouts.
Now please don’t be picturing the bereft little creatures, dispatched shoeless and alone, doomed to wander forever in the big bad world.
I’m not that cruel, and I truly love every story I write (even if a surprising majority of publishers and competition judges don’t agree.) So I track each submission carefully, anxiously monitoring the progress of my small creations and weeping a little whenever they are rejected and sent back to Mummy unpublished. Continue reading “Poor little lost souls”→
Doesn’t look like much, does it? Just a muddy field in a farm on the edge of the northern Somerset Levels. You’d never guess that under these grassy clods lie the remains of a large second century Roman courtyard villa.
In 1998 metal detectorists found a hoard of over 9000 silver denarii in this field. That is a serious amount of money, folks, something like £250,000 in modern money. The coins had been buried in the corner of a small room inside the villa. No-one knows by whom, or why. (The hoard is now on show in the Museum of Somerset, in Taunton). At around the same time as the hoard was hidden, c. AD 225, the villa was totally demolished, possibly after a major fire. Continue reading “Changes of scene”→