Wednesday 26 August 2015

Travelling light

Afternoon tea at the Randolph, anyone?
I think I may have mentioned once or twice how much I like travelling by train. Airports not so much, as airplanes are involved, naturally, and I'm not a fan. But I do like airport shopping malls full of ritzy stuff that you can't afford but is nice to look at. And I love staying in hotels. All sorts of hotels, from the glamorous modern sort, full of plate glass and fancy metal sculptures to the chintz and roaring fire types. My in-box will testify to this, as every other mail seems to be about train holidays and special offers on hotels. One day I'm going to do the Orient Express. One day.

Most of my journeys involve Cardiff station 
At the moment all my travel is the armchair kind, but I have a very nice collection of brochures to remind me of what is out there, just waiting round the corner. And at this time of the year it's not just the travel brochures. The bookshops have plenty of 'holiday reading' with pretty covers and travel type promises in the title, so it appears that I'm not the only one. It doesn't have to be just romance either. Think of how many Agatha Christie titles involve travel and exotic places. I think she must have had a fondness for trains too.

Of course the possibilities offered by any sort of travel are a gift to a writer. It's classic advice that you should begin a book at a point where your protagonist is at a point of change, and what better than a journey? It can be towards something, or away from something, Or a holiday or business trip to an unknown place. Or even a regular commute. There are a couple of places on the route between the commuter stations in Cardiff that always make me wonder ... But then again, crime writers are always looking at the most innocent places and wondering, so that's nothing new. Being out of their regular orbit can make a protagonist particularly vulnerable - always useful. Especially when they don't speak the language. And anywhere that throws a small group of people together - like a train, or a hotel or a country house is a fabulous setting. See Dame Agatha again. Of course you have to have snow, or a storm, or maybe a high tide, to keep them there. With my weakness for islands, the high tide has a particular appeal.

Apparently books with locations in the title are very popular, so I'm not the only one.  And if you can't actually make a journey, or stay in the posh hotel, reading about it has to be the next best thing.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Daisy chains

But not that sort of daisy.
Not ones with flowers, but the connections that lead from one thing to another when you are doing research.

In my 'day job' I work with a lot of material from archives. Which means places like the National Archive at Kew in London send me e-mail newsletters. Which sometimes include details of the offering from the on-site bookshop. I think that was where I saw Roy Berkeley's A Spy's London. It might have been something from the British Library bookshop. You can see where this is going, can't you? Temptation, right there in the in-box.

I resisted the physical book. (Sorry, whichever bookshop sent me the e-mail. I'm sure I'll make it up to you next time I visit.) But eventually I succumbed to downloading to the Kindle. Research, It's called research. But the book writing  kind not for the academic work.

I didn't realise until I dipped into it that the book is actually a series of walks around London, looking at places made famous (or infamous) by connections with espionage. I probably didn't read the blurb properly.

I'm now very much enjoying intermittent armchair walks around areas of London that I know quite well, and I'm learning a lot. And also finding out that there is a lot more to learn. Which in due course will probably mean more books. See what I mean, about daisy chains? One thing leading to another. I was delighted to find that the book has information that will be useful  for a number of the ideas that I have in my head - a time slip set partially in World War Two and the contemporaries that now have their own log book.

But If I hadn't been on the mailing list for the Archive/Library bookshop I probably would never have found it.

Daisy chains. Or possibly serendipity?

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Making lemonade

You know the old adage ... 'When life gives you lemons ...'

Turning this ...
As major personal stuff is seriously affecting everything else on the agenda at the moment, I'm on the lemonade trail, looking for things to stop the writing from fizzling out altogether and maintaining the idea that yes, I am a writer, and will one day be one again. This blog is one - and thanks for sticking with me and continuing to read it. I do appreciate it. The other thing that I've been knocking around in my mind for a while is creating a log book for a series that I one day want to write.  At the moment ideas are all scattered on scraps of paper around the house. One of the books has a dog in it and the dog has a name - but at the moment I can't remember it. I just hope that's on one of those scraps.

The books - I'm hoping there will be a series and maybe even a few historicals as well - if you are going to dream, dream big - involve a fictional section of Welsh coastline and an island and a London HQ for my clandestine crime fighting organisation. As well as those scraps I've been collecting articles and pictures and stuffing them in a drawer. And drawing the occasional map, and deciding on the occupations for the residents and researching folklore and archaeology. I even have a piece of flash fiction which may or may not involve a ghost.

... into this.
I'm a writer. (Keep repeating that.) Having decided that all these bit and pieces should be organised, there was of course an immediate need for stationery. So I now have a eye popping file and notebook to collect stuff in and I'm looking forward to moving things into it. Once I've finished cleaning up the cubed glass from the disaster in the china cabinet.

But that is entirely another story.

One day there will be some books to go with the file. I'm promising myself. Then I'll be glad I collected all that research in one place.

Wish me luck.  

Wednesday 5 August 2015

That certain phrase ...

Evocative words.

Those shorthand phrases and expressions that conjure a feeling, an image, an idea.

I've been collecting some of my favourites in my head, on long traffic strewn bus rides. (Can't read, makes me travel sick). Some of them are cliches, some have been used as song/book/film titles. They all bring something with them that goes beyond the words - or they do for me.

Midnight train
Summer afternoon
Summer in the city
Stormy night
Cocktails for two
Dinner at eight
Deserted road
Footprints in the sand
Walking in the rain
Secret garden
Springtime in Paris
Roaring fire
Cucumber sandwiches
Scent of roses

See what I mean? I hope it's not just me. The phrases have an atmosphere. An instant snapshot. The fact that the reality of a midnight train probably means a cold wet platform and a selection of over refreshed travelling companions doesn't dispel the mental glimpse of velvet cloaks, clouds of steam, cabin trunks with exotic labels, runaway lovers, sinister strangers ...

Yes I'm an old romantic with an over active imagination. Of course. And I love words. And the images they can make in my mind.

And it livens up those boring bus journeys.