CHARCOAL & PLAGIARISM
Sunday, 15 May 2022
Saturday, 16 April 2022
I've just returned from a Maker's Market in the nearby village. It was mainly crafts and brocante so my books stood out as being quite different. It was an early - 8.45am - start and very little happened for the first couple of hours. In fact there were far more stallholders that visitors and I started to think it was going to be a bit of a damp squib. Fortunately, more people arrived, it picked up and by the finish, at 2pm, I was pleased with the number of books I'd sold.
I'm really keen to get on with Blood on the Dunes, book six in the series, as it's taken a lot longer than the others. This is only partly due to the pandemic, more to do with the book itself. Like the writer Ann Cleeves - Vera and Shetland - I write as a reader, i.e. I start off with the germ of an idea but I've no real clue as to where the story is going and keep writing to find out how it's going to end. This time, I knew the ending before I'd even reached halfway. So It was either going to be a very short book or I'd have to start again. However, after several long walks on the beach with Aggie I started formulating an idea on how to extend it.
Wednesday, 16 February 2022
Time to bump someone else off.
I'm just over a third of the way through writing BLOOD ON THE DUNES, and I'm struggling. Normally, at this stage in a book I have several story threads going in different directions, not actually knowing when and where they will come together. But whether it's because of the pandemic or something else I seem to have reached a point where I know where the disparate stories are going to resolve, and I'm not even halfway through!
Without giving too much away, a skeleton has been revealed in the sand (hence the book title) and a man has been found dead after a big storm. Also, a boy is missing from a children's home. Unfortunately, I know just how these are connected, but it's far to early to reveal the connection. I've given this a huge amount of thought, on my walks on the beach with Aggie, without coming up with any sensible ideas. Then, yesterday, I had a brainwave. I'm going to have to produce another body!
This might sound drastic, and, on the face of it, not very realistic, but I think I can blend another death into the story, convincingly. I just hope it will provide enough fodder to help carry the story on for another 50,000 words. Fingers crossed.
Tuesday, 28 December 2021
As a writer I think it's really important to get all the details in a book right, even if it's a work of fiction. Subsequently I spend a lot of time researching all sorts of odd and esoteric things, many of which never get used. But, it's something I really enjoy doing. In the past I would have had to spend a lot of my time in the library doing this research but, now we're in the 21st century, most of it can be done online. As they say, 'Google is your friend.' Also, Wikipedia is a resource I turn to frequently.
In the book I'm currently writing the skeleton of a Canadian soldier is revealed in the dunes after a violent storm. Later a bottle is found nearby and Lewis, the forensics man, is tasked with identifying it. Turning to Wikipedia I was able to discover the distinctive shape of a Canadian Club bottle, which Lewis was able to establish as being the one found in the dunes.
Later in the book, Detective Inspector Sonny Russell and WPC Nettie Sharpe are travelling in a police Wolseley. They are trying to track down a boy missing from a children's home and are looking for a farm where a woman who had visited him at the home is said to live. I decided that this is located in a little hamlet near Benenden called Standen Street. Before we moved to the coast we lived there for 10 so I decided that's where the fictitious farm would be located. We been here, in Pett Level, for nearly 11 years, so in order to remind myself of the lie of the land I've been looking at the surrounding fields and woods on Google Earth. This will allow me to accurately describe the journey through the lanes to the farm and landscape they travel through.
It might sound like a chore but I see it as part of the privilege of being an author.
Thursday, 5 August 2021
SLOUGH OF DESPOND
or why can't I be arsed?
Maybe it's because of the never-ending pandemic. Maybe it's because of the fallout from the stupid Brexit. Maybe it's because of the crap, unsettled weather. Maybe the planets are misaligned. Maybe it's all or none of these. Whatever it is, I just can't raise enthusiasm for tasks that I normally find challenging and usually enjoy.
Generally, Aggie and I go for a trot to the beach and I find a suitable location and take a photo of her posing somewhere interesting, then post it on social media later. But even those photo shoots are now few and far between. I still try to walk a couple of miles a day and odd things still lift my spirits. Yesterday, it was the sight of a schooner in full sail in the bay which got me excited, but it hasn't lasted. Even railway modelling, where I can usually lose myself and lose track of time, holds no attraction.
I'm not suffering from writers block, either. In fact I've put down over a thousand words of the new book - number six in the Inspector Sonny Russell series - and I know where the plot is going - vaguely, so it's not that. Also, I've got a new laptop so writing is physically much easier. But, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to actually get down to it.
I've been trying to get the latest book, Blood in the Garden, formatted for kindle. Even that is proving to be a trial and I'm wondering if it's worth it.
Could it be my age? I know we're supposed to slow down as we get older but it ain't no fun. I guess I'll just have to weather it and hope my normal enthusiasm returns soon. Otherwise...
Thursday, 6 May 2021
A NEW BABY!
Well - new book anyway.
Friday, 9 April 2021
WHO’S ZOOMING WHO?
I generally give between 15 and 20 talks every year to a variety of groups: WI, U3A and gardening clubs. The most popular talk is called ‘BEHIND THE SCENES AT CHELSEA’. No, not the football club, or the London borough, but the annual, prestigious Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show where I designed and built three small show gardens. I talk my audience through the process of applying to exhibit, sourcing plants and materials and approaching sponsors. Then how, in ten long days, starting with a patch of bare turf, we create a little bit of landscape that looks like it has been lifted bodily from somewhere else in the country and plonked down on the Chelsea show site. The talk, that lasts about 45 minutes, is illustrated with more than 80 high quality photographs.
This used to mean that I had to jump in the car and drive to the venue. As my ‘fame’ spread further, the distances I had to travel had increased so the journey there could sometimes take more than an hour and just as long to return home - often quite late in the evening. On top of that, I had to make sure I could find the hall and that I’d remembered all the equipment I’d need: laptop, projector, relevant connecting cables and extension lead. And most importantly that I’d got the right day. But, like so much else, all that changed a year ago.
Now I’ve become used to giving my talks via Zoom. The upside is that I can do this from the comfort of my own home. No worrying about closed roads or inclement weather that I’ll have to drive through; no last minute panic that I’ve left something critical behind or that I haven’t left enough time to get there (yes, I am guilty of cutting it fine). The downside is slightly different.
People have become accustomed to, and comfortable with, using Zoom so it’s surprisingly easy to access nowadays. The groups are well versed in setting it up so all I have to do is fire up the laptop and click on the link to their group. Once the preliminaries are over I can start my talk and share the photos I normally project onto a screen and this is where it becomes strange. Almost without exception my audience is muted. This means that apart from just four people visible down the side of the screen, I’m basically talking to myself – which is a little weird. But, I’m very grateful that groups still want to hear my talks and long may it continue.