Writers are like sponges - well this one is. While I would never conform to that old joke about "Be careful or I'll put you in my book" - I don't do the vampire thing on people - I do tend to absorb and use other things.
It's strange too how things co-incidentally turn up. Take the WIP. It features a wealthy family whose members are collectors. For one of the collections I chose the idea of clowns. I had in mind the Stephen King kind and the possibility of something a bit creepy. When I googled clown art though, a lot of what came up were figures from the Commedia della'arte - especially Harlequin and Pierrot. I was looking for examples of expensive art and was quite surprised to find that Picasso and Jean Cocteau were among the artists who painted and sketched these subjects repeatedly. Immediately things began to shift. Then I did one of the Wallace Collection's weekend lecture series ( I find them very good and very enjoyable) The subject was the painter Watteau. And his subjects? - often characters from the Commedia delle'arte. He also had the advantage that many of his paintings have been 'lost'. Which may mean that some have been in private hands for a long time and have dropped out of sight. Perfect. My clown collection, although keeping the name, has moved over to something much more romantic and picturesque, with a couple of unknown Watteau canvasses of my own devising. I've had a lot of fun creating my expensive clown collection which soaked up something that was totally unexpected.
I'm also attempting to clear out old paperwork - I've bought a new shredder and everything. Author's homes tend to accumulate papers and books in quantity. One drawer I've just sorted was 'ideas' - all kinds of bit and pieces - leaflets, clippings from newspapers, scribbled notes. Although I hadn't looked in the drawer for ages, I found that a lot of the topics had found their way into books anyway. There was an article on jewel thefts in the South of France which is an overarching background theme in the Riviera books, and another on parkour - which involves a lot of athletic and scary running about on roofs and buildings and which made an appearance in What Happens at Christmas.
I've got some interesting stuff still to explore - white-hat hacking, survival skills, lots about art, folklore and magic. Plenty to keep me busy - and I hope a lot of fun.