Monday, June 24, 2019

Historical Novel Society Conference 2019

Annamaria on Monday

The biennial Historical Novel Society Conference was held this past weekend at National Harbor, Maryland, a complex of shorefront restaurants and stores.  It also includes the Gaylord  Resort and Convention Center, a building roughly the size of San Francisco International Airport.

That's the hotel and conference center in the distance.
It's so big that 1. It looks close in this picture, and
2. It is impossible to photograph the whole thing.

The evidence of its size: In every elevator bank there is
this sign, offering a navigation app to lost guests.
Unlike the mystery conventions that we MIErs are used to, authors cannot just sign up for this event and expect to be put on a panel.  With HNS, a few authors working together or a single individual must submit a detailed proposal on what they want to present.  A jury decides whether or not to accept.  I have teamed up with other mystery writers in the past and not made the cut, but this year four of us made it onto the crowded schedule.

Sujata, Michael Cooper (who has guest blogged here a few times), and I teamed up to talk about colonialism, with mystery/thriller writer Nancy Bilyeau was our moderator.  Here is what our proposal said:

   A panel of mystery/thriller authors with novels set in India, Africa, and the Middle East—where imperial powers dislocated indigenous life. Some of the most dramatic and compelling stories of history take place at the intersection of these forces. This panel will have wide appeal to historical novel readers interested in settings outside of Europe or the US, settings at the flashpoints of empire and intrigue, the crossroads of history. And novelists at all stages of their careers will be intrigued by the notion that their books can find an audience outside the crowded fields of Tudor and Victorian England and Renaissance Italy.

A happy crew who've just finished their presentation
It was a privilege to be part of the discussion, which was lively and elicited a bunch of good questions--always a sign of successful presentation.

Lunches and one dinner are included for conference attendees, and they are communal, giving us multiple opportunities to sit together at table and meet up with new people.

Our dining room during the final banquet.  There were about 400 in attendance.

Book signings were scheduled all at once on Saturday afternoon.  Fans were invited to come free for the signing.  There was music.  People dressed as historic figures of the local area.  It was a bit of a carnival, but in terms of sales - for me any way - was not that much different than signing at Malice or Left Coast Crime.  It was festive, which was nice.

HNS separates signing authors into what period they write
 about, because fans usually have a time in history that interests them.
This and Victorian are by far the largest categories.

Your reporter was at the end of this table.  I think it was where they put the
writers an ordinary person would call "miscellaneous," or "obscure."
The fans waiting to come in.  Most of them headed straight for the Tudor
and Victorian tables.
 As with the Left Coast Crime conference this past March in Vancouver, the location offered some benefits most conferences do not.  It was delightful to be able to walk out and, in five minutes, find sights worth seeing along the water and and good places to eat.

What a delightful design for a playground.
So cute!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Murder on the Jogasaki Coast

-- Susan, every other Sunday

Last week I visited the Jogasaki Coast, a volcanic coastline on the east side of the Izu Peninsula. (About three hours from Tokyo by a combination of Shinkansen and local trains.)

The chariot awaits.

About 4,000 years ago Omuroyama (Mt. Omuro) erupted, sending a massive lava flow down the eastern side of the Izu Peninsula.

You can see the route of the lava flow in the jagged coastline.

The lava cooled as it reached the sea, but the flow was so massive that fingers of lava continued to push out into the ocean, creating raised cliffs and tentacular projections known as Igaigane.

Igaigane, with surf crashing beneath.

Surf crashes and swirls in the caves between the igaigane, sending spray more than twenty meters into the air. (And creating rainbows, as you can see if you look closely at the picture below.)

The real treasure at the end of the rainbow. (The rainbow is lower center, across the gap.)

In places, rock-like chimneys of cooled magma rise along the edges of the coast.

The large "boulder" is a volcanic magma neck. (The island in the distance is Oshima.)

These chimneys were created when lava vents opened in the earth and magma flooded up to the surface and cooled inside the conical vent. Over time, the earthen column that surrounded the magma eroded away, leaving only the cooled column of magma that had hardened in the neck of the volcanic vent. They look like boulders, but in fact they're unique geological formations.

Another unique geological feature visible on the Jogasaki Coast is columnar jointing.

Columnar Joints visible at the base of the igaigane, center frame.

Columnar joints are created when closely-spaced parallel fractures occur in cooling igneous rock (i.e., volcano barf), resulting in "columns" of prismatically-shaped rock that run in the same direction.

Close-up of columnar joints. Look at the base of the rock.

The columnar joints on the Jogasaki Coast are particularly dramatic because the surf breaks over them, creating miniature waterfalls along the columns as each wave recedes.

In typical Japanese fashion, most of the Jogasaki Coast has been designated a Geopark. A beautiful trail runs along the shore, zig-zagging along the igaigane and passing a number of spectacular deserted coves and tide pools.

The inhabitant of a Jogasaki tide pool.

I had this view entirely to myself.

Two suspension bridges cross over particularly large inlets, and the inland portions of the trail (which still have views of the sea) run through a forest filled with wild ajisai (hydrangeas).

Jogasaki forest.

So, what does this lovely place have to do with murder?

Tell me this isn't a perfect (crime) scene.

The volcanic eruption that created the Jogasaki Coast killed everything in its path--including the ecosystem that existed at the time. It took centuries for the forests to reclaim the area, and even now only certain species of hardy plants can survive on the igaigane at the edges of the sea.

Wild but beautiful.

However, the volcano's vegicidal tendencies created a unique and beautiful ecosystem, which I'm glad to see the Japanese government and people are dedicated to preserving as a wild space for people to enjoy. Signs along the coast (in English and Japanese) explain the history and ecology of the area, and as you can see from the pictures you do not have to read anything to enjoy it.

Suspension bridge, Jogasaki Coast

Then again, if you've read this far, you already know what the signs will tell you anyway.

People often ask me whether I prefer the mountains or the sea. At Jogasaki, I didn't have to choose.

. . . what about you? Do you prefer the mountains or the sea?


Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Post You're Guaranteed to Hate.

I’m telling you right now you’re all just going to hate this post. I mean HATE it. 

It sort of reflects my day today (Friday) when I should have been writing this post, but instead went to the sea, and was so distracted I also forgot to take photos, a difficult situation for a photo essay. But thank the heavens I came across this post from five summers back perfectly capturing the essence of my Friday, albeit sans the gracious friend and seven other lovely ladies I'd joined back then for a swim and lunch aboard her seventy-three foot breathtaking yawl. 

I based my current decision on the same factors as I did five years ago:  In one corner we have the sapphire and emerald Aegean, and in the other me in my room facing a computer screen for eight hours all alone.

Sorry folks.  To paraphrase the famous t-shirt, “Jeffrey went to nirvana and all I got were these lousy photos.”

Yep, but if it’s any consolation I think I may be sunburned.

So here are the photos.

Heading away from Mykonos

 Neighboring and passing ships

Yes, that's a helicopter at the stern.

Approaching neighboring island of Rhenia

Our swimming hole

Lunch time
Heading home
Bye-Bye Beauty

Jeff—Sunburned Saturday

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Grand Day Oot

here's one of these to get your attention.

as it is Independent Book Shop week, we are celebrating with a journey across a country.

We have quite a wee country but it's a good one.
We have a terrible government but we are not alone there.
At the time of writing this, the vote for our new PM is going on.
The world has enough strange men with blonde unruly hair running things.
I fear for the worst.

But while I was in respose, coffee in hand, wearing a thick warm coat because it is summer.
I thought about doing an event with people who annoy me.

This lot came to mind, yes, the horse is still called Trump.
By the end of this blog he might be called Boris.

So we are going West to East and visiting the few, but fabulous  indy book shops in the central belt.

We called it this!
After the Beatle's Grand Day Out.
 We will be doing THAT pic of us walking across the zebra crossing.

But our special guest for the  blog readers, but not for the studio audience is....

A great Dane / German Shepard cross (ish)
called, for out purposes Scooby Don't.
Scooby Doo was busy.

Our starting  event is at Print Point in Rothesay on the Isle Of Bute.
It's run by a whirlwind of a person called Karen Latto and she has a mother. 
The mother makes GREAT cupcakes
 This is the reason why Bute Noir is such a success. All down to Karen and cupcakes.

Then into Glasgow to the dog friendly Hyndland book shop. This is in the part of Glasgow where I set my books.

Then through to Edinburgh.....
And try to drive past the chocolatiers to reach Far From The Madding Crowd in Linlithgow. 
We have been promised tea and cakes but we have to be careful that we miss the parade.

Then onto St Andrews- Toppings-  where we shall say hello, and go for a paddle.

My lovely publisher at Black Thorn sent me 5 books to use to raise money.
You need to guess how many times I use the word 'murder' or any of its derivatives in this book.
 How many do you think? It's 90 000 words.

Or what about this book, it has slightly more than the one below.

And has slightly  less than this one.

We are raffling a whole set of books off at each shop, all for guide dogs for the blind.


 Just in case the day does not go well, I will get my alibi in first.

Then I will rest in here.
while thinking about the sequel to this..

And here's a pic of some wee guys again...

Caro Ramsay