Wednesday 25 December 2019

Season's Greetings

Wishing everyone a Happy and Peaceful Christmas, with lots of books and time to read. 

I will be writing, so with luck you might be reading the results next Christmas.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Writing for Christmas

I'm not a big fan of Christmas. I don't like the weather, for a start, although by the time the big day comes, we have passed the solstice, so I at least know that it will gradually be getting lighter. I'm fine with the core elements - the nativity story, carols, fairy lights, home made cakes and puddings, but I'm not one for Christmas jumpers or special pyjamas, or bed linen or table settings, or any of the other things the shops are attempting to persuade us are essential. I was very puzzled by an empty box marked Christmas Eve that was on sale at the supermarket, until it was pointed out that it was for things like the pyjamas, and films and so on, to be opened on Christmas Eve. It was a box too far for me!

Given my lukewarm feelings, it is rather a surprise to find that I quite enjoy writing Christmas stories. I have one in print - What Happens at Christmas - and two more in the pipeline. I've been amassing catalogues and magazines to get in the mood for them - a bit like story boarding - and it is fun. In What Happens at Christmas  I cut my characters off with a carefully engineered snow storm, without any electricity, so they had quite an old fashioned Christmas. The two that I'm incubating both involve entertaining on a lavish scale, so I am having fun with lots of posh food and very expensive decorations. One has a bit of crime in it, for which the lavish partying is a cover, the other centres around a hotel, so I am indulging my very first serious career choice, which was hotel management. That didn't work out, but the impulse is obviously still there. You really never know what your mind is going to latch onto in the search for a story.

Christmas by proxy is clearly more my thing that the actual event. When I was still working on a paying job the best present my family could give me was a few hours of uninterrupted time on Christmas Day to write. And that is what I am planning to do this Christmas Day too. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Inspired at the museum?

Those of you who are into dinosaurs will know that Dippy the Diplodocus currently on tour. He's at the museum in Cardiff at the moment, and I have a date with a friend to go and visit before Christmas. I will report back later on the results, but I have to say, I am looking forward to it. I know, like a big kid.

I don't expect he will be making it into a book anytime soon, but I expect we will look at other exhibits while we are there, so some of them might. Writers do like to use art, museums and famous houses as hooks to hang a story on. Lots of history, human interest, maybe some scandal, or something tragic, or creepy. If you read time slip, I bet you've encountered a painting, or maybe a photo that has acted as a entrance to a past or alternative reality. Sometimes it's an object that acts as a catalyst. Often those are the creepy ones, like the M R James story Whistle and I'll Come to You. Writers also like archaeology - digging up hidden things. With the added bonus of the overtone of buried treasure.

I have a weakness for art - as I have said before, usually thinking about ways to steal it. There is a reason the both versions of The Thomas Crown Affair are among my favourite films. I'm fascinated by lost paintings too. Those can be one that have been stolen and never recovered, or ones that have simply disappeared somewhere in history. Friends send me links and press cuttings, which may or may not get me into trouble one of these days. I've done some research on Caravaggio for a lost painting book, He has a few real ones, although in this case it will be an invented lost painting, as I have a specific subject in mind. His life was so eventful that there is plenty of room for him plausibly to have painted and lost an extra canvas along the way. The popularity of those telly programmes about lost art, or pictures proved to be genuine old masters, or fakes, suggest that other people are just as fascinated.

Books and libraries are another catnip. I have a weakness for those adventure stories that involve some sort of old manuscript, diary or book. A friend took me to see the chained library in Hereford Cathedral, and of course before the visit ended we were speculating on the possibilities. I have a couple of 'old book' books simmering, one of which goes all the way back to Shakespeare. I haven't discarded the possibility that  I might use one of his lost plays one day, but the idea that I really hope to be working on in the near future involves a very dangerous manuscript that he has a hand in keeping safe. I have a whole back story brewing for that. Not sure how much of it will make it into the finished book, but I still have to know. I'd love to set a book in some of the London museums and libraries, and I can remember wandering around the New York Public Library, trying to figure out what I might do with that.

History, art and money. It's an irresistible combination.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Collecting pictures?

Writers have a variety of techniques for sorting out the stories that run riot in their heads. I know one who allegedly wraps a roll of wall paper all round the room and plans the whole thing on that. Post-it notes, in various colours, are very popular. One of the more artistic ways is to make a story board. An author will collect pictures - hero, heroine, the dog, the perfect cottage, the car ... you get the idea - and put them together like a collage. It always looks like a lot of fun, although I'd worry about getting a bit obsessed with collecting, rather than writing. That comes under the heading procrastination, and we all know how authors love to do that!

I don't use pictures of people, my characters usually arrive in my head without that, but I'm wondering about doing a bit of story boarding of things and places for future books. I already do it in a small way, as I have a bag of odds and ends that are going to fit into a story sometime, but they tend to be written stuff, not visual. I like to create location tours for books, but those are usually done after the book is written, not before.

When I was in London last week, I took a few pictures of interesting things, including this one, of a garden area in a very up market block of apartments It looked even prettier lit up after dark. I made up  my mind then that someone was going to live in one of those apartments, and soon came up with Romily, who is a actress with a very rich daddy, who could certainly afford to buy her one - maybe it was a birthday present. She's not going to be appearing in a book for some time though, as she is heroine of book three of a romantic suspense trilogy.

Which gives me plenty of time to collect some more pictures to make a board.

Maybe I've started something here?