Wednesday 29 April 2015

Early morning musings

I've been walking part of the Welsh Coastal path early (well, fairly early) every morning since Easter. One of the industrial bits, through the docks, but still near the sea. It's interesting how a walk can have various moods - one morning there was heavy mist and voices echoing in a building next to the path sounded quite spooky. Other mornings it has been bright sunshine and I was able to take pictures of the view and the Island, where I live. I have plans for a romantic suspense series set on a fictionalised version, and maybe an historical one too with smugglers. Both on that one day wish list.

The painter Turner might have liked the sky.
This is the Island. Now connected to the mainland by road and rail though.

Walking is a good opportunity for thought. Mostly at the moment that revolves around meal planning and juggling appointments, but occasionally something else gets a look-in. One of the thoughts I've been playing with is the possibility of being in a place at a time when there are people about, but not many, and the idea of seeing something, or someone, out of place. Maybe a face in an unexpected location? Or a lost or abandoned item that could link elements of a story - maybe draw a hero or heroine into events that they would not otherwise have encountered. The classic wrong place, wrong time? Maybe there is a novella in there? It will surface if it's meant to.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Gardener's Delight?

As regular readers know, I like gardens. Other people's particularly. No worries about weeds and watering. And don't get me going on the subject of slugs and snails. I'm still mourning the loss of a cherished lily - chewed just enough to fall over and die, but not actually eaten.

So the chance to grab a couple of hours at the Royal Horticultural Society Cardiff Flower Show last week was bliss. And of course I took pictures. Which I am sharing in a spirit of total generosity.

Funnily enough, although visiting buildings usually gets me plotting about bodies and so on, I've never had an attack of plotting at a flower show. Maybe it's all that healthy fresh air - or that flowers don't seem to lend themselves so well to the black arts? Maybe they are a better fit for cosy crime rather than suspense? One day I'd love to write one of those stories about restoring an old garden, something left over from one of the wars, probably. That is another on the wish list, which grows longer and more unruly with every passing week.
One day?

Planted wellies on the way to the show!
It wasn't just about the plants.

One of the show gardens - a space for working from home.
Not sure how much work would be done. 

This was a gold medal winner - food, hens and a space for alfresco cooking and dining.

And here are the hens :)
I liked this garden. Writer's shed, anyone?

Brought home some shopping.
Now, how to keep the clematis away from the slugs ...

Wednesday 15 April 2015

The Bucket List

I decided it was about time I had a new one. Something to aim at. And always fun to compile. I'm sure it will be a work in progress, but everything has to start somewhere. I'm not going to included stuff like finishing my PhD, because that's WORK. This list is for enjoyment. And - apart from a summerhouse, which I don't have room for, and a pair of Charlotte Olympia shoes, which I can't justify (Have you seen the price of those babies?) so far it all seems to be about experiences. So - in no particular order

  • A journey on a sleeper train. Staying within the UK, that would mean Scotland or Cornwall. Both or either of them would be fine. I seem to be the only female of my acquaintance who does not have Poldark fever, so Aiden Turner is quite safe from me. I'll take the scenery thanks.
  • A night or two in an interesting location - like a lighthouse or a stately home. 
  • A trip up the Shard. Not sure about my reliability in relation to heights though. 
  • A visit to Portmeiron. That's been on lists ever since The TV series The Prisoner, and I still haven't made it. A little bit of Italy in Wales. I'll get there. Eventually.
  • A visit to all the castles in Wales. Well, maybe not all of them. I dragged my parents around most of the ones in Pembrokeshire on holidays when I was a kid, so this would be a kind of pilgrimage. And I'm sure there'd be a book in it.
    Tenby Castle. It's a start. 
  • On a similar note - visit more old buildings, stately homes and such. And gardens. I love gardens. As I don't drive, visits are more difficult than they should be, which is why they get on the bucket list. 
  • Museums  and art galleries - visiting them. Another of my favourite occupations. This list is beginning to sound very self improving. Of course, as I have said before, often, there is always that thought in the back of the mind. 'Where would I hide the body?'
  • Classical concerts. I know nothing about music, but I enjoy hearing it played live. A chance to let the mind wander and figure out future plots. I tried to bury a hero alive during a concert in St Martin's in the Field once.  He was very indignant about it, particularly as the heroine had to rescue him. The book in question is way down the line - actually I'm not sure there is a whole book - but it will come around one day. 

I think that's about it for the moment. Oh - and of course that visit to Leicester, to see Richard III's tomb.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Following the King

I'm an historian, so I found all the recent ceremony around the re-burial of Richard III fascinating, even though he is not in the period I specialise in. From the reports of the crowds in Leicester, I'm not alone.

I've always been interested in the myth and reality of the story, ever since reading Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time when I was still in school. Tey uses the device of a police style investigation to look at the events of Richard's life and the crimes he was accused of. Of course the most famous portrayal of the King is Shakespeare's. He paints a monster, but there are all sorts of reasons not to take his picture as completely accurate, not least the attraction for a writer of creating a seriously good (i.e. bad) villain. And we all know about that. Catnip. 

If you visit York there are many places associated with the King. And now Leicester. A visit there will be going on the bucket list. 

What has this got to do with writing romantic suspense? Well, my current heroine in the WMVSP Work Making Very Slow Progress (This last week, none at all, for various domestic reasons) is back in the UK, where she was born, after living abroad for fifteen years. She's re-acquainting herself with the country she grew up in, but avoiding places she knows well. She has her reasons, as you'll understand if I ever finish the thing. I decided she would visit York, as it is a beautiful city and the kind of place that would attract someone playing tourist in their own country. And then the re-burial of the King hit the news and I had a light-bulb moment.  How about if she visits other sites associated with Richard? Which is perfect as it keeps her out of the way of the hero, Ethan, while he does Something Very Important For The Plot. 

So - Tess is making a pilgrimage to the Ricardian sites. And I get the fun of choosing where she will go and researching it. And meanwhile, in another part of the country, Ethan is finding out something very disturbing ...

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Dark History

I recently came across a Latin phrase I hadn't encountered before  - homo homini lupus est. Apparently it's a quote from Plautus and means something on the lines of man is a wolf to other men. I think it may be a bit unfair to wolves, but writers love new phrases.

Now, where can I use it?

It was in an article on the History Today website about dark tourism and our fascination with the violent past. As I'd been blogging last week about the attraction of writing and reading villains and crime, it was rather apt. We are fascinated. Practically every city has an array of ghost walks and trails that visit sites of murder and mayhem, most notably London and Jack the Ripper. And old buildings frequently have a macabre or spooky tale or two attached. We like to be scared and horrified.

The article raises some interesting issues about our preoccupations and mentions the commemoration of the Pendle witches. I was at Lancaster University and the story of the witches was local history/folklore. There again - the pull of the the dark side.

The full article by Suzannah Lipscomb is HERE