Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Sneak Preview

Today I achieved a milestone--which feels good when one is stuck in a chair and unable to do normal activities. I reached page 100 in my new book!

I hadn't intended to start the book until next month, but since I'm incapacitated and a virtual prisoner I decided I might as well start it early. It's the seventh Lady Georgie book, called Heirs and Graces and can be described as Crocodile Dundee meets Downton Abbey.

So I've decided to start a new feature on my blog and give readers a sneak preview of what I'm writing each Sunday. Here is page 100:

I was making my way down again when I heard a scream. I started to run. The descent seemed to take forever and by the time I reached the gardens around the house a group of people was gathered.
“It’s all right. They are quite safe,” I heard Edwina’s powerful voice. “Do stop making such a fuss, Irene.”
“But he was throwing a knife at Katherine,” she said. “He missed her by that much.”
I joined the group. Jack was standing sheepishly off to one side with the twins. I went over to them. “What’s going on?” I asked.
“Jack was demonstrating how he could throw a knife,” Nick said. “It was brilliant, actually. So Kat said could he hit an apple on her head, like William Tell. And he told her to stand still and then he threw the knife into the tree right above her head. Pretty impressive only mummy was looking out of her window and absolutely had a fit.”
“I might have done too,” I said. “It was rather silly, Jack. If you want to make a good impression you don’t try and kill your relatives.”
“They were perfectly safe. I didn’t even throw it that close to her.”
“And what’s more..,” Irene was still shrieking. “He was teaching them to sharpen sticks and spear fish in the Koi pond. He’s dangerous, mother. You know how impressionable the children are. For God’s sake send him away before he does anyone real harm.”
“Irene, do calm down. I remember your brother Johnnie doing rather the same sort of thing when you were young.”
“Yes, and look what happened to him—fathered a child with a common nobody in the back of beyond and then got himself killed by being too damned heroic.”
“He acted honorably in both instances, which is more than can be said for your husband.”
“That’s a cruel blow, Mama. I’m not staying here any longer. I want the children away from this place right now. We’re going up to London. Nicholas, Katherine, come with me.”
And she stalked off into the house.

e's a peek at page 100:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Power of the Fiction Writer.

Last Sunday I had a run-in with a really unpleasant woman. Well, not a run-in since I can't walk right now. It was at my health club and I had left my clothes in the handicapped changing room while I went to do my pool exercises. When I returned she was in there and responded to my tap on the door by saying "Go away, I'm in here showering five children." So I sat in my wheelchair dripping wet. She refused to respond so I could at least retrieve my stuff. She refused two different employees knocks. And when she came out TWENTY MINUTES LATER she said, "I have as much right to be in there as you." When I pointed out that my stuff was in the locker she said, "Then you'll know next time not to leave it there." Such compassion.

However, I have the trump card. I am going to kill her.
In my next book.
She will die a slow and painful death.

This is the power of the fiction writer. Anyone who has seriously pissed us off we can get our own back on the page. We can humiliate those who tried to humiliate us. We can even kill without worry about going to jail. Sue Grafton started her mystery series to kill off her ex husband.  And psychologically it's terrific. We feel so much better afterward and don't carry a hurt or a grudge.

That's why mystery writers are such nice, well-adjusted people. We carry no baggage. We bury it and enjoy every moment of it. So look out for yourself, lady. You'll be the corpse.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Down Time

I've got good news to report: My Agatha teapot arrived safely:

Something to cheer me up while I'm stuck most of the day in a chair, recuperating and trying to write.

I don’t know about other writers but I need plenty of down time to be able to write well. I think that writing a novel is like a pregnancy—the baby has to progress at it’s own rate and cannot be rushed. Wouldn’t it have been nice to say “I think I’ll have this baby in nine weeks instead of nine months “ and pushed the accelerator button. But would the baby have come out as perfectly formed, with all organs working?
Such is the way with novels. They have to develop at their own pace and I need plenty of down time to allow the next scenes to develop in my sub conscious. I always notice when we have guests or life intervenes with outside appointments that my writing suffers. It doesn’t leap ahead eagerly but crawls out, word by painful word.
And there are certain things I need most to let the creative juices flow: a nice long shower is one of them. The other is driving alone in the car. I’ve used trips to the library or grocery store to talk my way through complicated scenes. In the past people used to look at me warily as I shouted at myself in the car. But now, thanks to Bluetooth, I can shout away and be considered normal.
            At the moment I have more down-time than I want, stuck in my chair staring out of the window. I wish we lived on the sort of street where intrigue might happen in a rear window opposite, but alas it’s quiet and the neighbors are too far away to watch without binoculars. So what am I doing instead, to inspire creativity? Popping. Yes, popping. I’ve been given boxes of candy, and sent presents that come with bubble wrap. Do you know how soothing and fun it is to sit popping bubble wrap with nobody telling me to shut up? So popping is my new creativity exercise. You might want to try it sometime.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Making Limoncello

A  friend came to visit yesterday and brought me a bottle of Limoncello liquor and a card with it saying "When life hands you a lemon, drink Limoncello."
So I'm looking for the limoncello moments in my life right now, stuck here recuperating slowly from a fractured pelvis and I have to say there are many. Like all those lovely displays of flowers that arrived right after my accident, and then the constant procession of friends who stop by to cheer me up and offer to do things. One emailed and said "this is a list of my moveable feasts. Choose one and i'll bring it over." So she and husband are coming to dinner next week and bringing the dinner.

The other gift I am enjoying is the gift of time. I'm usually in full rush mode. Finish book to deadline, send out mailing, check Facebook page, plan for speaking engagement etc etc etc.
Now I actually have time to read, to watch a movie or just sit and think. My chair is in the front window where I can see the street and the hills above us. This week I watched a heron flying low past my house. I watch the new deer twins in my front yard.

And I watch flowers grow.

An amazing thing just happened. Two years ago someone left a flowerpot with a few leaves of some kind of bulb in it on my front porch of my condo in Arizona. Since it was up a flight of stairs I wondered who would take the trouble to bring a discarded pot up and dump it on my doorstep. But I kept the pot, stuck it outside on my balcony in California and have watered it from time to time. This year... two years suddenly shot out a shoot. A big fat shoot with a bud on the end. And then one day it blossomed into an amazing Amaryllis, getting better with every day.

One of the small miracles of life that I'm enjoying.

Then a friend brought me a really weird orchid. She said she looked for something mysterious for me and to start with I thought it was creepy. Now I find it fascinating. For one thing it seems to turn to look at me. The flowers are never facing the same direction twice in a row. I'm thinking of using it in a future mystery novel. I can almost hear it whispering, "How about if the victim is strangled with the tendril of a tropical vine? Or poisoned with the juice of a rare poisonous plant?

I keep meaning to ask John to bring up my watercolors so I can paint, but frankly I'm too busy!

Monday, May 14, 2012


I didn't expect to like the new Sherlock when I saw it last year. But I did. I loved the witty dialogue and the relationship between Holmes and John Watson. I loved the fact that they were YOUNG--which was how Conan Doyle wrote them in the first place. I love the way that technology is embraced and the way that we see Sherlock's thought processes taking place like a computer program.

And last nights Baskerville episode, while a little silly in the end as mind altering gases always are, was really suspenseful and entertaining. I normally don't watch scary things late at night (I have vivid dreams even without the stimulation) but I couldn't turn this one off.

But it's also interesting to me to see how plots are recycled. Years ago a good friend of mine called Hal Barwood wrote and directed a movie about a mind-altering substance designed to make troops fearless and aggressive. Of course something goes wrong and the lab workers, sealed in an underground facility, try to kill each other. So last night's Holmes was a real case of deja vue.

What I like about this series is the clever banter and interaction between the characters that relieves the tension. I've always liked that sort of quipping relationship. Remember in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? That script was full of witty interchange even when the characters are fighting for their lives.  I suppose I enjoy it so much because it is what I strive for in my own work, especially in the Royal Spyness books. It's always a question of how do you make murder funny and yet keep the gravity of killing another human being? In the latest Naughty in Nice Georgie finds the next door neighbor floating in his pool with his head bashed in. She drags down her mother and friends to see. Her mother, never the sensitive type, takes one look and says, "What a disgusting looking man. He looks like a hippopotamus."

It's fun when characters say the sort of things we'd all like to say but don't!
So what did you think of Sherlock?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Translating my pearls of wisdom.

I've always been fascinated to see where my blog readers come from. I have visitors from Russia and Pakistan, even from Iraq as well as many European countries. My first thought is always that their English must be bloody good.  My second is asking myself why and how they might be interested in what I'm saying.

Isn't it humbling to watch a newscast on TV and they are interviewing people on the street in Russia or Serbia and out comes fluent, perfect English. How many people in Kansas City could come out with ANY words of Russian? I know English is now the world language but shouldn't we at least speak some other languages?

Anyway, things have just got easier for people in far flung countries who want to follow the words of wisdom in my blog. I now have a translate gadget in the sidebar. All you have to do is click on it and you can read what I'm saying in Serbian or Outer Mongolian..

I suppose they must have improved translators these days. I remember an early one being asked to translate the English phrase "Out of sight, out of mind."
It came up with the French "invisible, imbecile."
And when I think of the odd words that appeared on my screen when I had to use speech recognition software, I wonder whether it will give anything like a true translation. So if you're reading this in Russia or Bolivia and you speak both English and your native tongue, please let me know if the translation is good or not.

In fact please chime in and let me know if you're reading this in another country

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Life as a Bush

No, not George W, Laura, Jeb or Jenna. I mean the type that grows in the ground. A shrub. A plant.
I have become a bush--low growing and inanimate.
Let me explain.
For those of you who have been following this, you'll know that I broke my pelvis ten days ago and can only get to doctor's visits and therapy in a wheelchair. And everything I've read about being confined to a wheelchair is true.
1. People don't look at you. I was wheeled past the hot tub with three friends sitting in it and not one of them noticed me.
2.People talk to your caregiver, not you, as if there is something wrong with your mental process, not your legs.
3.And the most recent one--people treat you like an inanimate object. I was parked outside my health club where I had been swimming, waiting for John to drive the car up to the front entrance, when a group of people came out. I was parked beside a shrub in a tub. They stood around me, within a distance I'd normally see as an infringement of personal space, and talked over me, across me, as if I too was growing in a tub.
I find all this fascinating and I'm going to read up on it. I'm also taking notes and have to use a wheelchair bound character in a future book. Think of what she could overhear and observe!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Getting it wrong.

Remember I just posted about how, based on my current experience of broken pelvis and sitting in a wheelchair, Matthew couldn't have suddenly stood up and gone to Lavinia in Downton Abbey last season? Well, I've thinking about books I've read where the author gets something wrong and the effect it has on me.

I normally adore Connie Willis but in her book Blackout the landlady during the Blitz tells her that it costs 5p to use the telephone. That ended the book as far as I was concerned. The decimal currency with 5 new pence didn't come into being until 25 years after the war. The telephone would have cost tuppence, or two old pennies. I hated this mistake because it ripped me out of the period. And if you know the author has got one thing wrong, then you distrust the rest of the story.

I remember reading an early Martha Grimes in which she made two unforgivable howlers. She had someone go to the shops on Boxing Day...and until recently not a single store in England would be open the day after Christmas. It was the commercial holiday when tradespeople and servants got their day off. Now, of course, everyone wants to make maximum profit and stores stay open all the time. Pity.
The other howler was that she had some countrywoman warn that someone might "nail a skunk to her front door."  Sorry, but there has never been a skunk in the British isles.

Mistakes like this make me stop reading a book and never trust the writer again. I always worry in my own books that I'll get something horrible wrong. The only awful thing I think I've done so far is to put Claridges on the wrong street. This is unforgivable as my parents used to live next door to the night manager at Claridges and I've been there many times. So that revealed to me that the danger is in what we think we know and thus don't bother to double check. These days I write the Royal Spyness books with the 1930s A to Z maps of London beside me!

And on the recovery front--I'm gradually progressing and the house is turning into a blooming wonder! Thanks for all your good wishes!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Update from the Invalid

It's been a week since I took my "tumble" as my husband called it. I called it a full out plunge and splat. Today I have to go for my first physical therapy session. Not looking forward to that as it still hurts to move. But I've been receiving a constant stream of deliveries of the most amazing flowers--from my publishers, my jungle red blogmates, friends and family. Also sweet little gifts have been arriving, like a necklace made from my book cover by fellow writer Penny 'Warner. I am so touched with all this outpouring of love.  This picture was taken before the afternoon deliveries!

As I lie here and recover I'm finding constant cases of adding insult to injury. On Facebook I'm getting ads for hip replacement (Painless and quick.) Have you noticed how Facebook monitors what you post about and tailors ads to you. Scary. But I also subscribe to social sites like Groupon etc and why is it that my deals are suddenly for climbing trips, canoe trips and other outdoor adventures. Even the instructions with my painkiller said "do not attempt to ride a bike." As if.

John is taking care of me the way husbands do. He sat down with me yesterday and wanted to plan menues for the next two weeks. What do you want for lunch on the 15th? he asked. As if i ever know what I want for lunch before I open the refrigerator. So flippantly I said "Smoked salmon and caviar."
Okay, he said, not batting an eyelid and wrote it down. So now I'm going to lie here, thinking of more and more exotic things "I'd like ox cheeks and Chinese cabbage, please." and wait to see when he cracks!  I need something to make me chuckle.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's a Miracle!

Yesterday on Jungle Red Writers my blog sister Rosemary Harris shared her experience visiting the real Downton Abbey in England. This was an interesting coincidence as I was thinking about Downton Abbey as I tried to get up from an arm chair.

We discussed Downton Abbey a lot earlier this year and I now have to report that they got one thing wrong. Very, very wrong. When Matthew gets back the use of his legs, stands up  to rescue Lavinia and learns to walk again. Sorry, but impossible the way he did it. As one who cannot use her left leg at the moment, I can tell you that there is no way he could have risen from a wheelchair, after not having used those legs for months and stood alone, and certainly not leaped across the room to hold his lady love. He would have needed lots of therapy, lots of exercises before those legs would have borne his weight.

I can only get up if I take my weight on both arms, then steady myself and take a deep breath, holding myself up on my walker. I'm trying to get around as much as possible so that my muscles don't become weak (like Matthew's would have been). So now I see any movie in which a character suddenly walks again and everyone sighs "It's a miracle" I'm going to shout out "Wrong! Rubbish!"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Gift of Time

So here I am unable to move for a month and already feeling cooped up and impatient. I'm essentially an outdoor girl and even when I'm writing I tend to get up, wander round the garden and come back refreshed. But I've decided to stay entirely positive and see the good in this experience.

How many times have I said that I'd love to have a reading orgy or finally master water color or finish that sweater I started knitting. Or even do the big jigsaw my daughter bought me last year. Well, now I can. It's just a question of finding a chair I can sit comfortably in for more than fifteen minutes. I read an old Agatha Christie yesterday--one of the few that I couldn't remember whodunit. And I didn't remember until the end so that was good.

Now I've decided that I'll work my way through all the old Mary Stewarts. I used to love those books. They took me to exotic places and the female in jeopardy part was so real and fun that I identified with it. I wonder if they have them on Kindle. About to look. I think Wildfire at Midnight or Madam Will You Talk were my favorites. How about you?

And any other comfort books to recommend? I've read the Alexander McCall Smiths. What I really want is some Rhys Bowen books that I haven't read! A new Lady Georgie please.