Home again, and celebrating another voyage of discovery, complete with devil and postman. Don’t you just love it when you are driving along and suddenly discover something new?
That is what happened to me when I recently travelled back from my writers’ retreat with the Liberta Hivies (and a few others).
It was a dreich day…
Despite the weather, we were taking the scenic route home…
What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the old coaching road. Mailcoaches used this road in the 19th century to carry the mail between Dumfries and Edinburgh.
We have all seen pictures of the mailcoach dashing through the countryside, horn blaring, but did you know there is a monument? Well, you’ll have to read on to find out more about that. Continue reading →
I am a storyteller. Does that have to mean research overload?
Storytelling is an art as old as time. I make up stories, tell yarns.
I am not an academic, I didn’t go to university and I didn’t study the art of writing at any college. I remember telling stories in primary school (possibly it began even earlier, I can’t remember) and I learned my art as I went along. Still do, in fact.
So I am NOT telling you how to write (or how to read). I am talking about stuff that distracts me when I’m reading a novel. Things I try to avoid.
“Write what you know”
We have all heard that old maxim, but whatever genre you write in, you will come across something that needs you to do a little research. At least, that is my experience. Continue reading →
And there was more. Lush citrus groves as shown left. Plus lots of olive trees and vineyards.
I arrived just at the beginning of the hot season. There wasn’t a spot of rain during the 10 days I was there and it was hot. So I can understand how the dry and dusty backdrop to Montalbano comes about.
History of Sicily?
Too complicated to describe in detail here. Except that, since Sicily was strategically important in the Mediterranean, all sorts of peoples strove to control it. It was colonised by, among others, the Phoenicians (also known as Carthaginians) and the Greeks. The two groups were rivals there from the 8th century BC.
Creating a whole new world is one of the things I love about starting a new book.
The Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral
I love that moment when a story is forming in my head. The whole world is my oyster.
And yes, I admit food and wine are often involved in the initial creation process….
The past few weeks while I have been working on my new book have been particularly fascinating. It always involves lots of daydreaming as I think of plots and characters, but one of the most enjoyable parts of starting a new story is the setting.
When and where will my characters live in this new world?
Those who follow this blog will know that I often bang on about cover failings. I want my covers to be historically accurate. For me that means: no Regency heroes with beards or designer stubble; no twirling round the dance floor wearing knee-high boots; ladies in Regency costume that isn’t swathed in a tablecloth (see left); and hairstyles and accessories appropriate for the period.
It also helps if the cover models look vaguely like the characters in my story, but that’s a rant for another day 😉
Historically accurate backgrounds?
I’ve recently been mocking up a cover for a book I’m writing. It’s set in London in the period between Napoleon’s exile to Elba in 1814 and his return the following spring. My hero is a serving soldier who’s enjoying his first leave for 5 years.
I thought it could be good to show uniformed soldiers in the background on my cover. I found the image shown right.
It is a lovely feeling, a clean sheet with so many possibilities. New story, new characters, new settings. It’s the time I can let myself dream as I begin weaving the story.
That is the point I am at now.
I have an idea for the book and the settings will be Regency London and mainly (probably) at my hero’s country house. And it is summer.
I first began thinking about this idea in September, when my current work in progress was coming to an end. Now I wonder if I chose a summer setting because the seasons were changing? Maybe I was hoping to hang on to those hot days and balmy summer nights. But I shall be writing the story throughout the winter: bare landscapes, long nights, icy days.
It shouldn’t be a problem, I am a writer, aren’t I?
It’s winter. Dark and gloomy. Though, here in UK, it’s still quite warm. Or at least not as cold — yet! — as winter sometimes can be.
We have houses with central heating and double-glazing to keep out the cold and the draughts. Back in the Regency, they weren’t so lucky. Though, to be honest, I remember a house we bought in the 1970s that was incredibly draughty. I used left-over curtain material to sew a draught-excluder in the shape of a snake for the gap under the sitting-room door.
And I grew up in a non-centrally-heated house with a draught screen as part of the standard furnishings, about six feet high and with four brocade-covered panels. We had draughts and we definitely needed it. Continue reading →
This week I’m going to be unashamedly personal, thanks to music. Indeed, I want to say thank you – to friends and well-wishers, fellow writers, musicians of all kinds and the universe.
To put you in the picture – several weeks ago I booked tickets for a concert to take place this past week at the Wigmore Hall.
It appealed to me for all sorts of reasons. There was history, discovery (some of the programme was so obscure I thought I’d probably never hear it live again), drama, even youth studies. There was a band I love.
And then there was a sort of deep satisfaction in participating in a major enterprise that would last as long as Mozart’s life.
Those who know me from Social media will probably realise that I have moved. A big move. Massive. After 30 years in one house I have moved to the Scottish Highlands. To Wester Ross. It has been described as Britain’s last great wilderness, and with good reason. Moving here is not just another country, it is another life and a very different one. The language is almost the same. Almost, but not quite. One has to think more about it. No one asks where you live, it is where are you staying, as if you are just passing through.
Hospitality is generous, tea, cake or biscuits are often offered as a matter of course. Which means I need to brush up on my baking skills.
Okay, I doubt I will EVER bake anything this good!
The Scottish Highlands from a writer’s point of view
I travel through this land with my writer’s hat on. The landscape feels old. Continue reading →