The 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field in Leicstershire England is renowned for some very important decisions. This was the battle in which the War of the Roses came to end, in which Richard III lost his crown and his life to Welsh upstart Henry Tudor who was to become Henry VII, father of Henry VIII. It was the last time a monarch of England was at the head of a battle in the fray...and died there.
For centuries, historians thought they knew where the actual battlefield was, but archaeologists in England have made not one, but several surprising discoveries about Bosworth Field. One, it was in the wrong place, and two, they found bullets and cannon balls! (The picture below is of a silver coin and one of several quite small cannon balls found at the site.)
Now this is surprising, as it was not believed that movable artillery were often used this early. Yes, there were "handgonners" on occasion--unwieldly, lengthy "gonnes" with a long fuse and little accuracy--but this find puts a new spin on old news. When Richard lost his horse, making him vulnerable enough to lose his life, his horse might have been taken out by a cannon ball. This information creates a whole bevy of speculation about the nature of 15th century warfare and questions about a very famous and important battle that changed the face of England and its monarchy.
The story can be read here in The Guardian.
Okay, I couldn't resist taking some last pictures. Hubby, I was seriously contemplating skipping the airport and just staying here. Seriously. I am in love with Zionsville, with its quaint tree-lined streets, bright orange pumpkins on Victorian porches, small town feel but with that individual attitude and style (I was told that the fellow who invented voicemail lives in Zionsville).
Anyway, a few more pictures.
Here is the church and here is the steeple...
Even their McDonald's is classy.
Tonight I hit my last bookstore in Indiana, the famous Mystery Company. We had a nice crowd to listen to me prattle on about the Middle Ages and play with my weapons. A big thank you to proprietor Jim Huang who is still coming down from his high of putting together and running this year's Bouchercon. With boxes of books from the con still sitting in his store, Jim graciously welcomed me and his guests. It's just another cool spot in the charming city of Carmel (like the candy, not the California beach town). Don't miss it if you are in Indiana.
Tomorrow I head for home, back to California. And not a moment too soon as the Future Farmers of America have descended upon Indianapolis, 50,000 of them or so I've heard, including my little hotel. God knows if it will be quiet enough for me to get some sleep. Aren't farmers supposed to go to bed early?
It was my brilliant idea to hit some independent bookstores before and after Bouchercon so now I'm at the tail end of this trip.
The Next Page was in Decatur, and as I think I mentioned earlier, I was all gung-ho about scheduling myself at these places before I looked at a map of Indiana. How far could it be? Well, a two hour drive, that's what. But as I've also said before, the prettiest damned two hour drive ever. How I moon over fall leaves and pumpkins on porches. I'm a real sucker for this time of year and you couldn't pick a better spot. Really. These old houses and brick mainstreet storefronts. The small town in all our imaginings.
But before I was to make an appearance in the bookstore, I had agreed to talk to the entire 6th grade class at Bellmont Middle School about Life in the Middle Ages. And I have to say, these Indiana tykes were the most well-behaved I have seen in some time. California kids could take lessons. They asked good questions and were engaged. That's all you can ask for, really.
I spoke a bit about how I got started as a writer and then I talked at length about the Middle Ages, the difference in language, clothing, food, etc. I had my exhibits with me--helm, inflatable flail (zero tolerance; couldn't bring the real article), and something akin to medieval sweets: sesame candy. I signed a lot of bookmarks.
Then I had about three hours to kill before bookstore time, so I found a local restaurant and settled in with my lap top. (Note: St. Elmos Steakhouse in the heart of downtown Indianapolis charged $39 for a steak. The family restaurant in the heart of downtown Decatur charged $13.95. It was just as good. Plus they had great coconut cream pie.)
After dinner, I parked my car further into the heart of things and took a walking tour, snapping shots of the architecture. (The picture to the left is the county seat. Lots of amazing detail on it. Something right out of Disneyland... Isn't that a shame that Disneyland is my only reference?!) I even had an Amish sighting. Three Amish ladies walking down the street (we are nine miles from Ohio. I meant to drive to Ohio just to mark down yet another state I had visited but got sidetracked). I had to go into the library and leave some bookmarks for the librarian. Seems they knew I was going to be a the bookstore and they were mighty miffed that they had to work and miss it.
At around 5:30 I returned to the Next Page and met Liz and Dustan, the nicest and funniest folks. I think that Liz is my lost twin--albeit some thirty years apart, but I had a blast chatting with this would-be musician. (All the best, Liz!) I set up and then got a chance to look around. A great little shop with consignment knick knacks all around. They also have a coffee bar and do sandwiches and such. A cozy space before a fireplace, a small stage for musical entertainment. A perfect little bookstore, really. The kind of place I'd be hanging out. (right, that person moving quickly with her back to us is Liz and Dustin is in the background. They laid out a nice spread that hardly anyone was around to sample.)
Some kids from the Middle School dragged their parents in (possibly because they wanted to see the real weapons I couldn't bring to their school) but I did, in fact, sell a few books. It was an enjoyable time. Decatur, like much of Indiana, suffers from closed stores from the economy and the intrusion of the likes of Walmart. But it's also one of those places that merely needs someone or a lot of someone's with money to invest in the place. Their main street is crying out for gentrification. Young families take heed. It's a good spot for a starter home. Business people, give it a try. Some upscale shops and restaurants is what is needed. I think it will happen.
Tonight, I will be in Carmel at the famous Mystery Company. (And by the way, I learned that the name of the town is pronounced like the candy, not the seaside resort in California).
The building in this picture is called "The Modern", where, ironically, the Amish ladies disappeared into.
This morning I arrived to the Hyatt lobby and emerged into a bazaar sight. Well, actually, it was a bazaar. Cooked up by, I think, J.A. Konrath, authors were invited to bring a boatload of books and attendees got some tickets to pick up said books for free (this, in lieu of those heavy bookbags filled with books no one wants.) I didn't bother asking St. Martin's to cough up the minimum 50 books required to participate, mostly because I don't like being laughed at, even in an email. So instead I watched from above like a benevolent diety.
Checked out after the last panel--a liar's pop quiz, moderated by S.J. Rozan, with friend Eric Stone, Charlaine Harris, Eric Lin, and Dana Cameron. Very funny, with a standing-room only crowd.
And so another Bouchercon comes to a close. This was my fourth and I've learned a lot since that first one when I didn't even have a book contract. What I had was my agent who sort of ferried me around while I got the lay of the land. What I have learned after four Bouchercons and two Left Coast Crimes (also a mystery convention, not a confession), was that I attend less panels and do more schmoozing between them. I'm still not a person to go to bars at all hours of the night. If I arrive with friends to a bar, I tend to stick with them. I know that's how some folks work the convention, bar schmoozing. What I do, instead is hang out during the day meeting readers/librarians between panels and getting a little valuable one on one time with them. To that end, I think I made out okay at this year's B'con.
I'm back at the Best Western and ready for my stint tomorrow at a Middle School (talking about the writing life and Life in the Middle Ages) and then a bookstore signing that evening. So be looking for those pictures.
Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out how to transport 16 bottles of Indiana beer, two bottles of wine, a knight's helm, a sword and assorted medieval weaponry back to California without it costing me a fortune.
Slid into the enormous ballroom filled with people for the 100 Must Read Thriller panel with Moderator David Morrell, Laura Benedict, Lee Child, Gayle Linds, and sitting in for Barry Eisler, Chris Kusneski. They each discussed essays on thriller fiction. Morrell said that Wilke Collin's Woman in White was called in its day a "novel of sensation", but the panelists also talked about Kidnapped and Treasure Island as thrillers and I certainly characterize them that way. I tend to think of them as adventure tales. I think about my novels as a bit of that as well. Mystery, adventure, noir, history. But I guess it is all about perception.
Lee Child told us that as a student in England, he found that the story of Theseus and the Minotaur could be likened to Ian Fleming's Dr. No. In fact, he said they were the same story, and when he explained it, it seemed to be so. Which could have opened up an interesting discussion on mythological structures and the hero's journey in all books, but it didn't lean that way.
After that panel, I met with my editor and we touched base and chatted. I had time to look in on another panel before I did a stint at the Mystery News table. We are all saddened by the tidings that Mystery News is closing its doors. But I appreciated the opportunity to to be a part of their last Bouchercon experience.
And then, I had a stint with fellow Minotaur authors Louise Penny and Elizabeth Zelvin (both of whom I interviewed on this blog, here and here) in front of the dealer's room with our very own bar with free drink tickets to pass out. (that's us, from left: me, Louise Penny, and Elizabeth Zelvin). Liz brought her guitar and snagged the harmonica assistance of author J. Saunders Elmore and put on a show. I set up standees of our covers and wandered about handing out bribery...er...drink tickets to encourage folks to take a look at our books. Hey, it paid off in a few sales, and you always make friends when you offer them free booze.
And so it goes. I did not win last night at The Slippery Noodle (pictured here), but it was still quite an evening. I made my report to The Rap Sheet, so check it out there.
I arrived Thursday midday to my hotel in downtown Indianapolis (that's the view from my room). Checked in to the overflow hotel, hiked it through a park and across the street to the Hyatt where the convention lives, registered, and got the lay of the land (below).
I didn't involve myself in much because soon I was to attend the Sisters in Crime Librarian's tea. This was another brilliant idea from SinC (and they have many, including a Library Grant of $1000 to be given to the librarians who can come up with ways that SinC has helped/inspired them). The idea of the tea was to introduce writers to librarians, commado style. We brought copies of our signed books and left them on a table for the librarians to scoop up at the end of the event. In between, it was a bookmark fest (left). They were flying across the tables like shrapnel (where am I getting these combat metaphors?) Anyway, there were about 100 librarians there, if I heard them correctly, and almost as many writers. We each stood up and gave a very brief spiel, and then sat down to a high tea of sorts.
After that, I had just enough time to get back to the Hyatt for the Macavity, Barry, Crimespree, and Derringer Awards. I'm sure you can find all the results on other websites (as I should have posted them last night to be timely) but didn't. I didn't win for the Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery Award, (Rhys Bowen won it) but I guess we can say "next time!" The nomination was a thrill and it was certainly nice to be included with that august crowd.
Afterwards, I took my agent Joshua Bilmes on his continuing pilgrimage to visit Borders. Yes, folks, inexplicably, he has an ongoing love affair with these bookstores, and last night's foray was number 211. I got to watch him in action as he checked the stock and faced the books outward. Not mine, mind you. Borders isn't carrying my books. But Charlaine's and another of his sci fi clients who is doing quite well, were a presence at Borders as well as the Barnes & Noble we visited.
It was 10:30 by the time I got back to my room and thought I should get to bed since the Sisters in Crime breakfast came early at 7:30 the next morning (below). The "seal of office" was passed on to the incoming president and I visited again with sisters and guppies (the Great UnPublished online sisters--a great group that I find impossible to leave). After the breakfast was my panel, More Noir Than You Are with moderator Frankie Baily, and panelists Christa Faust, Victor Gischler, Charlie Newton, and me. A funny, informative, standing room only panel, where everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. People came up after and bought my books because they said how much they enjoyed it (and we each read a slice of our novels and others commented how interesting mine sounded and based their purchases on that. Something to think about, you moderators).
After signing--and though I didn't have a line of folks like some of the others, I had a steady stream--I sauntered over to the agent and editor panel, where my own wonderful editor at St. Martin's, Keith Kahla, was moderating. My agent Joshua was also on the panel, along with publisher Michael Pietsch, Kelley Ragland, and agent David Hale Smith. (Funny, every time I see agent panels, they always have people who rejected one of my manuscripts. Well, after fourteen years, what do you expect?)
Ragland said that she, as an editor, isn't necessarily looking for something that will be a bestseller right away. The "range of possiblity is more exciting," she said, as did most all the panelists. "Passion" was the by word; were they passionate about a book? Could they build readership with this author?
When Keith asked what is the most challenging aspect about publishing, Pietsch remarked that it was getting a book noticed in the "enormous noise of the industry." A case of incredible choices for consumers. The internet offers amazing possibilities for viral marketing, if this can be harnessed properly. But Joshua said he worried about the threat of file sharing, that which plagues the music industry and nearly brought it to its knees.
It was a good panel, one that was probably particularly good for those writers starting out.
Afterwards, it was time for the Guppies lunch at Buca di Beppo, which has swelled from twenty Guppies to...well, more than twenty. A quirky Italian place with too much good food. Didn't go to anything after that as I needed to get some business done and to get ready for the Shamus awards tonight. Nominee or winner? It's already been a done deal for months (I otta know. I judged the best hardcover Shamus category a while ago. And my lips are sealed!) We shall see tonight!