This week, I have been editing Holiday Mystery. Going back through the story, to try to make sure I'm happy with everything. It can be hard work, but also exciting when things click. It takes me as much time editing books as writing them. Every writer is different.
Much of Holiday Mystery is set in Florence, and this week it has taken me back to times I have spent there.
I knew I wanted to send Professor Green abroad in one of The Cambridge Murder Mystery Series, and Italy felt like such a romantic, lively and vibrant place. A spoiler is the she might be getting there by car! I have been lucky enough to visit Tuscany a few times, but this last trip certainly was memorable and I was researching things in more detail.
As it turns out, I was able to include more of Siena and San Gimignano into the novel than I originally planned. Here is a snap I took from one of the towers in San Gimignano.
If you read my books, I hope the new story is worth the wait. Apologies that it has taken longer than most. It is the longest novel I have written.
Hello new and old friends,
It is strange to be pausing twitter, as I've enjoyed chatting with people on it for so long. I hope Musk starts to listen and I feel comfortable to return, but hearing he does not care about the chaos he will cause in American elections, and that he is cutting human rights staff makes me nervous.
So, here we are, in this much smaller echo chamber. But I promise to post my photographs here, and just my thoughts of the day. I have opened comments - with approval to stop the bots - so hope to chat here. And, will start my newsletter up again with photographs and musings from Cambridge.
If you join me on this journey, I can promise one thing. I will be here regularly no matter how few are here with me. It is nice to start the day and share happiness in the world. Cx
Sometimes people ask me what I'd be writing if I didn't write murder mysteries. Well, the answer is, I'd be writing about animals and fiction. Truth is, I already have two books out which are about animals. Or, how humans and animals interact. But I never promote them, and no one has read them, haha. Maybe one day, someone will read them.
The first, which is dear to my heart, is called WOOF. It is a dystopian tale, involving animals that speak and humans that can't.
The second is called PUP. It is about a man who rescues a transgenic dog, and what he will lengths he will go to keep the dog safe.
I have more ideas to continue the series, so when I get time, I will write the third. I enjoy making up the stories very much.
It's true. I find it even hard to believe myself. It's been the longest time, biggest gap between books. Am completely sure most will be tired of hearing the reason, my long covid. Well, stuff that! It's on the wane, and I'm back! Whether it has ravaged any brain cells I have left and this will be my worst book, who knows! Caution to the wind. Publish and be dammed. Actually, not really. I've been procrastinating longer than usual on the plot and trying to let myself be happy with it. Which is another reason for the delay on this one. I think pandemic-malaise has sat over my head like a grey cloud for far too long. Perhaps the heatwave blew it away or something, as I'm gearing up to move the pre-order date forward.
Enough of my ramblings. It's called Holiday Mystery! It is Bk6 of The Cambridge Murder Mysteries. Positively the last book I write on a computer. I'm done with it, having found newer tech to use instead. So a swan song to the old Mac.
I hope you enjoy it. I really do. Let me know. Professor Elizabeth Green has gone to Italy! For more details, follow the link.
Thank you so much to my readers. Please tell me what you think of my books. I'm always interested to hear.
p.s. I have had to turn comments off due to spam. But you can reach me on twitter most days.
I often get asked, where do the ideas come from for my books. I never know what to say. I'm sure I have said in the past that I sit down and plot things out, and I do. That I had a picture in my head for a lead character of The Cambridge Murder Mysteries and built the series around her. That's also true.
But that doesn't answer where the ideas come from.
For me, they seem to appear, while I'm not thinking. And this comes on to a fascinating topic of just how many ideas come from our subconscious.
I have heard more than once from musicians on how some of their best songs come in ten minutes, just while they were mucking about on the guitar, while the rest of the album (and perhaps the less popular songs) take longer. That sometimes, ideas feel like the are channeled to us.
Another comic I spoke to said he has to sit at his desk for hours on end staring into space before a joke will then land while he's out on a walk. But if he hadn't sat, it would not come.
I have no idea. I try not to over think it. I'm just grateful that I have a lot of ideas. I just want more time to get them all down!
When I was younger, I wanted a pet lion. I am of the age that grew up watching Daktari on the TV. I also read Born Free, and my parents bought me a big cat book for my birthday when I was six. I still have it. I thought the lion would be my best friend.
As I grew up, our relationship with animals became more clear to me. That humans were the most powerful of all. Even the lion needed us to survive, protect his habitat. Stop hunting him. It was a hard lesson to learn.
When I was about thirteen, my mother told us all she'd had enough of eating animals and that if we wanted to eat them, well, we'd have to cook them ourselves. So, I was thrown into vegetarianism. She explained why we were doing it, and I think I just looked at the facts and realised too that I could remain perfectly healthy without needing any animal to be killed for my plate.
I turned vegan when I was 16, and I lasted about a year or two then. I tried again in my twenties and thirties, but it was always something that I'd crave. Milk chocolate, mainly. But then I watched the Earthlings documentary. It is a bit like Cowspiracy, or Seaspiracy. A hard but truthful watch.
It was the line in the sand for me. So now, I've been vegan for the best part of eight or nine years. I try not to buy products that have caused animal suffering. It's easy to replace so many house cleaning products these days, or shampoos too. I'm not 100% perfect. Sure, I make mistakes and buy some things. I'm currently trying very hard to find some good vegan trainers. But, I will get there.
Why am I telling you all this? I suppose for those who read my books, it might help explain why Professor Elizabeth Green is who she is.
My mother was a great influence when writing the character. I am so proud of her. She was ahead of her time. She was kind to animals. Rescued wildlife, stray cats and dogs. Would support the local rescue centres. As an aside, she didn't just care about animals. She cared about people. She used to point out anything she thought was wrong, wherever she was. She'd go into toy shops and complain about why all the boys toys were blue and girls toys pink. It was embarrassing, but she was right.
Sometimes, pointing out the need for change makes a person unpopular. Professor Elizabeth Green does not care about being unpopular. She speaks truth to power. That with power comes responsibility. I learnt that lesson from my mother. I miss her so.
I hope you have an animal in your life. Maybe a cat or dog, who brings you joy. It really is one of the best feelings. Hug those animals close to you, and they will repay you ten fold.
My son told me the other day, that isn't it interesting that technology doesn't feature in our dreams. Can you remember the last time your dreamt about your iPhone or your laptop? I can't remember it ever happening.
We come from Nature and we depart into Nature. As I grow older, I feel so much closer to nature, on an almost urgent level. Like a fix for coffee or alcohol (though I gave up both years ago), I now need a hit of Nature regularly. Jittery feelings run up and down my vagus nerve without it.
I'm allergic to shopping malls, hate the tube, can't stand offices without loads of plants, and even then can't wait to leave. Strip lighting and aircon, no thanks.
It made me realise how much time I spend with my laptop. I'm always on it. My body sometimes feels like it is being punished by it. Perhaps because I am currently editing a draft novel.
I know I'm not alone, and there are many who have no choice but to spend many hours at a desk staring at a computer. I try to remember what we all did before home computers. I remember our landline, and no emails. It was kind of wonderful in many ways.
When we dream, we often dream of sitting at the top of a field, staring down into the valley. Or, walking along a beach, watching the sand blow into ridges in the winter. Or, going for a walk in the woods in the Autumn. We just don't dream of staring at a screen. It is important to remind ourselves just who is in charge.
I have decided to write the next novel using a pen and paper, and then transfer it onto the computer by a voice recognition programme. So still technology, but less time tapping away. I shall make sure I'm outside when I write, even if sitting in the summerhouse when it gets cooler.
I think we all feel like technology is taking over. Some of us love it, and some not so much. Of course, it has its uses. Kinetic energy storing pavements sound fabulous.
I, for one, am making a rule though to put it all down more often and enjoy nature. This isn't a rehearsal, after all. And for me, well, I'm approaching Autumnal years. I will leave you with a song which I love so much, by Lee Hazlewood, 'My Autumn's Done Come'. Let's get outside, open those windows and enjoy!
Is there anything more beautiful than wild?
This morning, I spotted these wild flowers and wanted to share the photograph. I'm sure we have all seen them. Common flowers, on an ordinary patch of dry grass. But so intricate. So beautiful on my walk this morning.
I love walking about in Cambridge. The word for someone like me might be flaneuse, but that sounds a little too fancy for who I am. I like to tread lightly on this land and stay under the radar, knowing I am not here for long. A speck of grain on a whirling planet around just one solar system in the universe. That's why I find such beauty in small things. I know I'm not alone. Increasingly, through this pandemic, we have all found beauty in what is right in front of our eyes.
Ecotherapy would suggest spending an hour studying just one metre of space, either on the ground, or perhaps on a branch of a tree, or on a wall or in a pond, and just observe. There is something very calming about really looking at the small. Right outside my house I have a corner of the garden I call 'honey-bee corner'. It is about ten foot by seven, perhaps, and crammed with flowers and lavender (and a couple of seats which are disappearing into the flowers). It is a small space, tucked away, before my city garden opens up to grass and trees and a wider landscape. Friends come over and are a little nervous of having three dozen bees or more a mere half a foot away from their face. But I like it, and they get used to it. I can sit and stare and watch the bees and butterflies from May right through to late September.
In this world which always encourages us to have more of this, bigger of that. More land, more material wealth, bigger spaces, it is good to remind ourselves of just what happens in a small space. The whole world is taking place, right in front of our nose.
Would love to see your photographs of your small space where you love to watch the world turn.
Recently, I have been mostly doodling.
I find doodling very relaxing. Below is a drawing I did of Darwin College, Cambridge (my old college). I also drew a wheelbarrow in the grounds of Jesus College.
There is something about nature that I love to draw. I don't tend to draw people. I leave those to the world of words in my head. They seem to be always talking, talking, talking at me. So would never sit still long enough to be able to draw.
Having said all that, my next project is to draw Professor Elizabeth Green, Godric and Inspector Abley. You will be the judge of my success when you see them.
In the meantime, hope everyone is enjoying the sunshine in the UK. And for those around the world, I wish you a happy weekend.
Recently, I have been finishing a script. I wanted to set the story in Cornwall and it was great to visit all the locations I included. I have been revisiting some of the photos from my last time there, just to check I represent the place accurately.
When you write scripts for TV, you never know if they will be made. You hope, but if you are like me and don't have a TV agent, the dream becomes even harder.
I have found that I don't need an agent to publish my novels, and they have done well, but TV is a different game.
There are many competitions, however, for budding TV and film writers, where you can find ways onto the ladder without one at the start. One of the best place to check out the opportunities if you are in the UK is the BBC Writersroom.
I was lucky enough to work there for six months, and they were lovely people. I am absolutely sure nothing has changed. The core reason it exists is to find new writers and encourage them on their journey.
So, if you are thinking about it, why not give it a try?