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Writing in the Sunshine. Writing in the Shadows.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Research - planned and unplanned.

I made a trip to York last week - to have some fun, at the RNA Afternoon Tea, which was worth the six hour trip in itself, but I also wanted to complete a little piece of research. When I was last in York - probably about twenty years ago, we stumbled on a gatehouse in the city walls that had a small museum to Richard III. In one of the books that is half written and will be leaping back to life - I hope - once the day job is put to bed, the heroine reads a copy if JosephineTey's Daughter of Time (If you haven't read it you must)  and takes herself on a Richard III tour of the country. (I'm keeping her away from the hero at that point, so it has a purpose.) I did Bosworth and the new tomb and the car park and everything some time ago, but I wanted to complete it with the museum from York - which I was able to do, so now that is all taken care of and I only have to write the thing. It will probably only have a few lines in the book, but I wanted to visit all the places, for fun, as much as anything. You know about writers and research.

Interior of the gatehouse
The gatehouse from the city walls

I had a fabulous time in York - it is a lovely city. I stayed in a quirky boutique hotel, which has fed some ideas into a similar hotel which will be in another book, in a new romantic suspense series. I found an original copy of a book by author Elizabeth Gouge in a shop in the Shambles and treated myself as a memento of the weekend. (One of the Romantic Novelists' Association competitions has a trophy in her honour.) The hotel had a large library/lounge with a wild and wonderful selection of books - including a copy of the Dictionary of National Biography for the period of World War Two, which I have been trying track down for details on the man who was the Regional Commissioner for Wales - so I was able to take notes on that.  On Saturday morning I watched a troupe of Border Morris
The beautiful minster - I gatecrashed evensong.
dancers, and chatted to one of them about the costume. Forget bells and hankies - the Border Morris involves tattered black coats, hats and feathers, cudgels and black faced make up - a traditional method of disguising identity - quite spine stirring. There is a Border Morrris in another book of that romantic suspense series - one of the heroes plays the fiddle for them. It was good to see a troupe in action. I was so busy watching I didn't take pics!

Then on Sunday I discovered Fairfax House, which is a glorious Georgian building fitted out with correct period furniture. It was amazing - and gave me two more bits of research - a spinet and a bureau with multiple secret drawers. That is for a Georgian romantic suspense series which I have partly started and want to return to. It is where the private security service that features in the contemporary series begins - a secret society of dangerous rakes and dandies. I really want to write that one too.

All in all York was tremendously inspiring. Now I just have to get to those books in waiting - the characters have started to line up, demanding to be written and I don't know how long I can hold them off.

Once I get WW2 fixed ...

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

There's always a story ...

Two men in casual clothes are standing in the street, in front of a house that is currently undergoing renovation. They are clearly there by appointment, have knocked, and got no answer. After knocking again, one of them gets out his phone and walks a little way down the street, with it pressed to his ear. His companion stays, looking thoughtfully at the house  ...

Okay, confession time, this was not the start of a story, it was me, looking out of the bedroom window the other morning. You know writers are horribly nosey. I was a good girl and didn't stay, partly because I had not yet had my first cup of tea. While drinking that tea I started to think about the scenarios that might come off that little scene. For a crime writer there would probably be a body in the house - or maybe it would be a missing person story. Actually, I like that one - I could run with that. For a romance writer the men would probably be handsome hero and best friend (who will probably get his own story in due course) who are there to look at the renovations. Gorgeous heroine - who has bought/inherited the money pit -  has got held up and will arrive delightfully flustered, and/or steaming mad at the driver who backed into her car. Or she is inside in some predicament involving a ladder, from which hero will, of course, rescue her ...  It can't really be an historical, because the clothes are wrong, but you might be able to do something with time slip. Or fantasy, if the house has a portal in it. And don't get me started on horror .... 

All that, from two gentlemen in the street. Writers can make something of anything. If you gave ten of them the same scenario, all the stories would be different. Making up stories is one of the innocent pleasure of my life - I assume other writers do it, but I'm not sure about the general public - you know, real people. I know my grandmother did it. She told my mother wonderful tales about neighbours she had never met, so it might be something in the genes. 

I don't put real people in my books, but I do use ideas. So - what can I do with an empty house ...

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Books on display

When I am struggling to summon the enthusiasm to roll out of bed in the morning - I don't do mornings, if I can help it - I usually make a blind stab at the radio, then doze thorough whatever is on, until the time checks tell me I really should be getting up and there is, after all, a potential cup of tea waiting downstairs in the kettle. Which is how I half heard an item about a politician who had apparently been pictured with some very heavy reading matter, which had prompted a slightly tongue in cheek discussion on what the choices on your bookshelf say about you.

I have to say that the proverbial visitor from Mars (who, I have just realised has replaced the wartime 'little man' - you can tell I am knee deep in the day job) would have a very confused idea about me from the books on my shelves. A certain retailer must have a lot of fun too when the little robots attempt to offer me some selections. The front room is mostly research - World War Two is all over the floor, as I am currently working. The shelves have my own books, some from other writers, mostly friends, as yet unread, and a glorious selection of writing research books - travel guides, history other than WW2, gardens and art, the witchy/magical end of folklore, exhibition catalogues ... The man who came to read the meter last week must have been a bit confused, but we had a nice chat about being a writer when he saw my books.

The dining room has my small collection of vintage crime, my old university text books - poetry and plays - and my cookery books. In the hall there are books on the way to or from the library. Upstairs are my keepers - Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, C S Lewis, Jane Aikin Hodge, Jayne Anne Krentz, Nora Roberts, Stephen Donaldson, Jilly Cooper, Tolkein ...

At the moment the bedside table has my Kindle and that has a similarly disorienting collection from all my interests.

That's my reading selection - and I have no idea what it says about me.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Brand New Website

First I'd like to introduce Reggie, my new writing companion.

Everyone needs a pink unicorn in their lives.

And the BIG news is that I have a brand new website. You can see it HERE  I'd love it if you'd take a look.

Many thanks to Dave for all the hard work putting it together. I'm really pleased with it. I hope you like it too.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The Owls of Bath

Bath is one of my favourite cities, which is why I decided that Cassie's concierge service would be located there in Summer in San Remo. I made a trip over last week - very nice lunch and a visit to the theatre - and the streets, and the occasional shop, were full of these handsome chaps. 

He was in the new shopping precinct

And he was outside the theatre

This rather startled gentleman was in Jolly's department store

This handsome fella was outside a restaurant

Not sure where this one was, but the building behind looks impressive

If you look to the right, you can see me, taking the picture

Isambard Kingdom Owl
was in the railway station

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

A book of words

High on my list of things a writer cannot do without - like an endless supply of pens and a bottomless teapot, is my thesaurus. Good old Roget -lots of vocabulary, not a lot of plot - boom boom. Oh well, please yourself.

My little darling is 50 years old and cost me 12 shillings and six pence and worth every penny. I'm making a lot of use of it at the moment, writing up the PhD and trying to make what I want to say sound more academic. Said PhD is currently a messy pile of knitted fog, but at least it is a pile - and growing - slowly -  and the sooner it is done, the sooner there will be more books - hurrah!

But back to the thesaurus - I have been know to get lost between the covers, just reading it. Words - the tools of the trade. It seems almost impossible to work out how all those wonderful connections are put together - it must have been another job like a pile of fog. And my copy has a very distinctive scent - essence of bookshop - probably the paper. I could pick it off the shelf in the dark just by the smell. Is it weird, to get a buzz before you open a book, just from the aroma? Don't answer that!

Of course, having an actual paper version is the old fashioned way - when I'm typing I use the one that comes with Word, but it's not quite as much fun. You don't go from romance to ingratiate by way of sugar daddy and the goddess of love very often - 885 page 355 in the Penguin edition - oh heck, now I'm footnoting the blog.

I do use the thesaurus a lot, as I have a thing about repetitions - if I catch myself using the same word more than once on a page, I have to change one - and I've learnt that it's not always the second one that needs to be altered. I get stuck in a rut with words sometimes too. I suspect the word of the moment for the PhD is 'significant'. I'll need to keep an eye open when I type it up. Figuring out how to make changes is one of the technical challenges that for me make writing interesting - small but important.

But when it comes down to it, I just love words.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Thought for the day - or the month?

I have one of those calenders that have inspirational messages for each month, along with a picture of a fireside, or a bluebell wood, or something else with a feel good factor. This month it is a sunset and the message is - 'Do something today that your future self will thank you for.' 

Okay - so where do I start on this - is it something new every day, which means thirty one somethings? Or something that you do every day that will have long term effects - or with the pay off in the future?

Hum. Big decisions here. I started on the thirty one somethings by buying a tin of oranges. Every morning, for breakfast I have an orange. That's been happening since I was in school. Sometimes if I am away from home, at an hotel, it's orange juice, but the principle is the same. Only on Friday the last orange in the bowl had gone bad on me, so no orange - I had strawberries instead, which was nice, but not the same. I'm clearly a creature of habit. So- when I went to the supermarket I bought a tin of mandarins, so that if that should happen again, I get my oranges - which my future orange-less self, will thank me for.

I've bought some books - which my future self will enjoy reading - well some of them, some of them are research - day job and writing - which are sort of enjoyable, but not so much as a Jayne Ann Krentz that I haven't been able to track down in the library. I've booked some theatre tickets, which will be enjoyable later in the month. I intend to order some bulbs, which will cheer me up no end next spring, provided that they flower before the slugs start moving. I'm intending to defrost the freezer too - about time - and will be re-filling it, so my future self will be very pleased when she has something in there to eat. (Food seems to be looming large in this post.) I've sent off a cheque for a workshop that will be happening later in the year and told a friend I'll come to her book launch and put some other friends on notice about trips and celebrations that have yet to be organised. And at some stage I will probably get around to doing some ironing. Hmmm. Doing better than I though on the every day things.

In the long term - the day job is something for the future. When I finally graduate. Which will probably be summer of 2020. At the moment it's pushing treacle up hill with a salt spoon. Have you ever seen the size of a salt spoon? Not much used these days, but  they are tiny. I have a silver one inherited from somewhere - probably my grandmother, which is how I know. I'm also learning to meditate, which is supposed to help with all that catastophising and other stuff that writers are prone to - comes with the 'What if ...' mentality that goes with writing the books. On the days when I'm not doing something that would be part of thirty one, then those are filling in the gaps as the long term future self things.

Looks like my future self will have a lot more things to look forward to, and be thankful for, than I expected. Actually that little message is deeper than it first seems - all about looking forward, planning for the future, remembering the importance of gratitude and above all - hope.