I love this editor…

Work gave me a prorata’d bonus this year – the amount wasn’t enough to do any of the big projects I’d like to do. Also tipping the balance was the fact that yet another agent had inhaled the query and first few pages of Wimer, and then faded into a black hole once they’d had the full manuscript. So, I blew my bonus this year an a editor.

The next issue, of course, was which one? And having chosen one, what’s the name for the kind of editing I needed? I liked the look of one recommended by, I think, Writers Village – although don’t quote me on that – and sent her an email. The response was quick, friendly, professional; she asked enough questions for us to decide that I didn’t need a copy editor, nor anyone to check the historical facts, and that she could help me.

So, I sent my baby off into the void, and contemplated my fingernails. On time, the report came back; 11 pages of carefully reasoned advice, interspersed with humour and compassion. The verdict; I can write – but the story is lacking conflict and is often from the wrong POV. These things I can fix – and I’ve never had the experience of laughing out loud whilst being clipped around the ear before!

This lady will get more of my custom:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Hilary-Johnson-Authors-Advisory-Service/135740463266239


Thanks, Hilary!

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What lies beneath: new discoveries about the Jericho skull


How fascinating, that the skull was plastered at all – and that we have found several of them, implying many more have been lost in the intervening 9,000 years! Even more interesting, that the lower jaw was removed. You can see problems in plastering with this great flappy row of teeth – and if you bound it, the binding would show above the plaster. The people who did this clearly knew what they were doing, with different densities of clay inside and outside the skull; ergo, had done it before – perhaps many times. Even the fact that most of the plastered skulls we have are male could merely be an artefact of the thousands of years of danger; more gracile skulls would be more easily damaged.
So, as a writer, I’m free to speculate as to why, and what they looked like. I imagine a loved one’s body being laid to rest on a sky-platform, exposed to the elements and chance predators for the year it would take the family to return to that spot; then the cranium carefully rescued and treated to its plaster coat, complete with lips and ears. Equipped with those, you can speak and listen… Were they painted, too? Would you add, say, a distinctive scar or mole to the plaster, or once dead, was everyone the same?
I think that, given a nomadic lifestyle, these people would have been left as markers of territory, able to curse any stranger who wandered by without permission. Can you imagine climbing a hillside, rounding a corner, and coming face-to-face with rows of skull-people, their blank eyes seeing both you and the other world simultaneously? Enough to send you screaming!

Originally posted on British Museum blog:

Alexandra Fletcher, curator, British Museum

It’s always a problem for museum curators to find ways of learning more about the objects in their care without damaging them. For human remains, it’s even more complicated because there are additional questions of care and respect for the dead that have to be carefully considered before any research can be done. However, by studying their remains we can find out an enormous amount about the people of the past; about their health, their diet and about the religious practices they carried out.

The Jericho skull shown with face forwards. The eyes are made from shell.

The Jericho skull shown with face forwards. The eyes are made from shell.

The so-called Jericho skull is among the oldest human remains in the British Museum collection. Thought to be between 8,500 and 9,300 years old, it is one of seven Neolithic plastered human skulls found together by Kathleen Kenyon during excavations at Jericho in 1953. The site is…

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Description—How to Make Readers Fall In & Never Escape


If you’re a writer and don’t read Kristen, you should; this post is a classic example of why.

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Sidewalk chalk art near Regent’s Canal in London.

Sidewalk chalk art near Regent’s Canal in London.

Today we’re going to address a topic that—GASP—I don’t believe we’ve ever covered in almost 800 blogs. Namely because it is a tricky one to address. We’re going to talk about description. For those who never use description or very sparse description? Don’t fret. That’s just your voice. Readers like me who looooove description will probably gravitate to other books and that is OKAY.

Personally, I’m not a fan of austere modern houses with stainless steel everything and weird chairs no human could sit in and most cats would avoid, but? There are plenty of people who dig it. I also don’t like a lot of knick-knacks and clutter. Makes me want to start cleaning.

Same with books. Not too little or too much. Yeah, I’m Literary Goldilocks.

Plain fact? We can’t please everyone. Description (or lack thereof) is a component of…

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Things I’m looking forward to over the summer!

As well as more mundane things, like the Cosmos in my garden blooming, and having the house to myself so I can cook on my braii Every Single Day if I feel like it – I’ve got some really fun things planned over the summer!

I’m starting July off gently, with a karate training session-cum-get together on the beach, plus a couple of days’ leave just to chill in. I may get organised enough to weed the garden or start a couple of the paint projects I have in mind; or the harvest may be in, giving me access to some super countryside. I have to spend a week in Milton Keynes towards the end of the month, but that’s good – I’ll accrue enough time off in lieu to take a whole week off (note comment re harvest :) )

August is headlining with the World Science Fiction Convention in London over the Bank Holiday weekend – apart from all the fun of the con, I’m attending a writer’s workshop, which should be cool too! Plus my eldest and her boyfriend are going, so I may meet them in corridors or at the bar occcasionally!

September is the Historical Novel Society’s convention, again in London this year. I hope to have Wimer polished to my current level of the art by then, and to wave him at some agents there – plus just generally have a good time.

Then October is bronze casting workshop month. I am SO looking forward to this – I can claim it as writing research, making the self-indulgence acceptable to my inner critic, and I have the BEST idea for a bracelet design to make. Assuming I can become competent enough in wax carving between now and then to actually accomplish it… but my darling artist daughter has been drawing the shapes for me, simplifying them so that even Mum can make them :D

And throughout this, of course, is weaving my newfound pleasure in the pub, and my longstanding love of the particular bit of countryside I’m studying. A lot of joy in my life!

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This week at the pub…

The pub is contiuing to be an absolute drain on my time – although I’m sure it’s giving me energy. This weekend, there’s the quiz on Thursday; on Friday I’m cuddling a couple of people who aren’t fully confident in running a shift on their own yet; and Saturday there’s a World Wide Geocaching Flash Mob to compere, plus a Boules team whose thirst will need slaking. I’m looking forward to sloping off to a mediaeval fair in Colchester on Sunday!

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June 4, 2014 · 5:31 pm

Decoding Anglo-Saxon art


A fascinating article from Rosie Weetch, curator of one of my favourite collections at the British Museum. I was admiring these very pieces just last week – I wish I’d read this article first, I would’ve appreciated them more deeply!

Originally posted on British Museum blog:

silver-gilt brooch detailRosie Weetch, curator and Craig Williams, illustrator, British Museum

One of the most enjoyable things about working with the British Museum’s Anglo-Saxon collection is having the opportunity to study the intricate designs of the many brooches, buckles, and other pieces of decorative metalwork. This is because in Anglo-Saxon art there is always more than meets the eye.

The objects invite careful contemplation, and you can find yourself spending hours puzzling over their designs, finding new beasts and images. The dense animal patterns that cover many Anglo-Saxon objects are not just pretty decoration; they have multi-layered symbolic meanings and tell stories. Anglo-Saxons, who had a love of riddles and puzzles of all kinds, would have been able to ‘read’ the stories embedded in the decoration. But for us it is trickier as we are not fluent in the language of Anglo-Saxon art.

Anglo-Saxon art went through many changes between the 5th…

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May 29, 2014 · 7:47 am

What I’ve been doing!

I do apologise for the lack of blogging recently. I have been absorbed in getting the village pub up and running (http://www.thecasepubbentley.co.uk/), and have also been indulging in serial MOOCs… one of the best I’ve done so far is the OU Start Writing Fiction course on the FutureLearn platform. I’m getting a lot out of this course – and in recompense for my lack of blogging activity, here’s my latest assignment; a 300-word character sketch.


She brought the small square of fine linen to her mouth, and moistened it with the tip of her tongue, careful not to let it touch her crimson lipstick. She used it to clean an almost invisible blemish from her white leather clutch bag, then replaced the handkerchief in the bag, and the bag at a precise angle on the table in front of her.

The sea breeze ruffled the brim of her matching straw hat, and she glanced disapprovingly out over the balcony at the steel-bright water, glare made bearable only by her oversized sunglasses. She wished again that he would come, before her studied pale elegance melted in the mid-day sun. But then, these were the last moments of her freedom – she should be savouring them! She took an immoderately large gulp of wine, careless of the dew clouding the glass and dampening her gloves, then composed herself again.

“Mademoiselle Amelie?” The waiter held a silver salver out to her, an envelope resting on the velvet.

She took it, and inclined her head in thanks, waiting until he had left before breaking the seal.

The envelope contained a single sheet of folded paper, and a credit card. She tucked the card carefully into her bag, and read the note. It was typed, and unsigned.

“Apologies; I cannot come. Be in the same place and at the same time tomorrow. Here is recompense for your time today.”

In one smooth movement, she crumpled the note into a ball, and sent it soaring towards the sea. Then she stripped off her gloves and hat, and shook out her bronzed curls. She downed the remainder of her wine, and contemplated summoning the waiter for a refill. But no – with a glorious 24 hours to herself, there was no time to waste. As a courtesan, she was a connoisseur of many things – but for pleasure, nothing beat a doner kebab and a trashy novel. And the knowledge that her college fund was growing.

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The Staffordshire Hoard: Unveiling the story so far…


A really interesting film on the first stages of conservation for the Staffordshire Hoard.

Originally posted on The Heritage Trust:

The Staffordshire Hoard: Unveiling the story so far…
Video History West Midlands

The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found. In this film we find out about the first stage of conservation work on the artefacts …and what secrets have been revealed.

From History West Midlands. See also theStaffordshire Hoardwebsite.

Though not connected directly to the Staffordshire Hoard this may also be of interest -

An example of Anglo-Saxon folded (woven) sword steel in the Sutton Hoo Exhibition Hall at Sutton Hoo, Woodbridge (see LS’ comment above).
The Heritage Trust

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I had an excellent surprise this morning – driving back from a karate lesson, there were signs out for the East Anglian Bloodhounds – http://eabh.co.uk/. I grabbed a very quick shower, packed a lunch and a book, and set off on foot to see if I could catch them. As luck would have it, I guessed right on where the first run might go, and met the quarry – the landowner’s daughter and a companion – running across the meadow, so I trotted off myself to get in a good position to catch the show.

I ended up looking at one of Imagemy favourite views in England… as the first riders came into shot. There is a jump in the center of the picture, and an open gate at the top left for those who don’t wish to jump, in very wet conditions – the Master has taken the conservative route, and has to hustle to catch up!

There was a little scrum by the jump, as people sorted themselves out – then a steady stream of people galloping by. The riders wear stocks and black jackets, and look fabulous – it really counts as historical research, rather than leaning on a fence enjoying some glorious Spring sunshine and admiring horse flesh : )

ImageJoking aside, that’s truly so – it’s not often that one can feel in one’s bones what a group of horsemen galloping past feels like, nor hear the horns or the dogs’ belling. My beloved Wimer obtained a hunting licence from the King for this very land, although I’m not sure what method he would have used. Certainly he would be expecting to kill something for the table, rather than just have a fun outing!

I was only going to stop for one hunt, but had another stroke of luck and met the next quarry; so got myself into position for the following run too. They generally do three or four runs, with breaks in between. I had time for a coffee… before the hounds went one way and the riders, the other! I got a lot of photos of rear ends…



Everyone relaxing at the end of this pass. The man in shorts in the foreground is the quarry.

A very pleasant sight on a lovely day!

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Churchy carvings

I have been collecting a lot of photos of carvings, grotesques, and graffiti in assorted churches recently, which I ought to share!

Firstly, a super little church; the Round Church in Little Maplestead, Essex – built for the Knights Hospitaller in the mid 14thC, and a lovely place to visit.


First, some finely-detailed tracery over the door – with the Knights’ cross just visible, by happy accident!


Then a pair of very pleasantly welcoming faces at the door :)


Now, for something completely different – a sweet little dragon, on a font…


In a church that seems to have a lion theme! This from round the door. It’s St Mary le Tower in Ipswich, which also has a Maryan shrine that’s worth a visit.


Then the grafitti, as advertised; from Framlingham church. Messy lot, those mediaeval peasants!


Finally, just because I can – my all-time favourite church, the one that Wimer built – an arch from the remains of the 12thC Orford church, still standing behind the current one.


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