Across the books and in person.

Welcome! Since I write two English mystery series, I thought it would be fun to chat about that. And about England. Specifically, Derbyshire, since that is the county I know the best. If you have questions about my books, about mysteries or your own writing, or want to know something about England -- perhaps you're planning a visit -- I'd love to talk with you. Let's start chatting, shall we?

Derbyshire VIllage

Derbyshire VIllage

Monday, November 22, 2010

Confessions of a Holiday Fair Participant

I am dragging today.  Man, my feet hurt, my back hurts, my shoulder hurts, my head hurts.  Residual from the weekend's participation in a holiday bazaar.  My friend Mary Linderer and I shared a booth.  We called it Read and Write because my books are to read and Mary's note cards are to write a kindly note in and mail to someone.  She does pen-and-ink drawings -- quite nice.  Her website, in case you're interested in seeing her products, is    And that's her website even if you're not interested....  We set up her things and the tables around 5:30 pm Friday, then finished setting up Saturday around 7:30 am with my items.  The event ran 9-4 Saturday and 10-4 Sunday.  The website stated there are usually 20,000 participants to the weekend event -- this was the 29th year and is well known in this area.  I believe all 20,000 came Saturday.  Wow, what a crowd!  I honestly was feeling close to claustrophobic despite our booth position at the door.  It was mesmerizing to sit and watch the humanity stream by.  It was also interesting to see what items were big sellers.  The event was so large (450+ booths!!) that it was held in several buildings around the school's campus.  Good weather helped pull the attendees into our building, as did the start of deer season, I'm sure.  Wives, girl friends and mothers abandoned for the weekend, so they go to the holiday bazaar....  I must say, my McLaren cardboard stand-up was noticed and well received.  One woman came by and said she'd like to buy the stand-up!  Maybe I should just sell photos of McLaren....   Naugh.  Then the model would demand a cut of the profit.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Still We Persist

Who would have thought it possible a while ago?  Certainly not I...which may be why I'm writing this goofy thing.  Book three for McLaren is really, honestly, truly, amazingly on a roll.  This after several 'pauses' for book talks at various places, Esther's latest visit (don't get me wrong -- I love having company, but it does void one's writing time) and little interruptions like teaching the mystery writing class, cleaning house et al.  Of course, my first draft starts are always shaky.  Even though I have the basic plot outlined, the characters named and personified, the subplot more or less complete...still, I don't know my characters all that well and I don't know exactly how the tale will unfold.  It's slow going, agonizingly brain busting, and frustrating.  Though I always set goals for myself -- the first dozen pages written, the first twenty-five pages written, the first fifty -- it is sometimes quite a while before I reach those goals.  So, imagine my relief and excitement when today I surpassed page 100.  My hero, Golden-age mystery writer Ngaio Marsh, used to have a goal of finishing 1,000 words a day.  She wrote sitting in an upholstered chair (I got to sit in it when I visited her house in New Zealand), writing long hand with a fountain pen.  Now, 1,000 words may not seem all that much if you realize that an average typed page of manuscript, double-spaced (I write double-spaced so that I can hand write my corrections in between the lines when I print out the first draft) is about 250 words.  So, maybe a single-spaced page is 400 words, let's say.  So that's three pages.  Of course, I don't know the size of Ngaio's writing book -- I believe it was one of those large folders that held equally large pages.  So she may have written more than three pages a night.  Still, 1,000 words is nothing to sneeze at.  Especially when you know that she hardly ever went back to rewrite her work -- it was more or less perfect when she wrote it.  Anyway, some days I'm doing good to write one page.  Even with one page, you figure that's 365 pages in a year and that is a nice-sized book....  So, even though it's taken me three weeks to write one hundred pages, I feel good about it all.  The book is rolling, as I said; the characters are talking to me and to each other; McLaren is hot on the trail and I think I have all the firefighting info I need.  I had doubts at the beginning of this book if I'd really chosen a subject I could write about, it so foreign to me and to anything previously in Taylor & Graham or McLaren.  But I don't believe Torch Song will be mine or McLaren's Swan Song after all.  Good news for any fans of McLaren out there....  And for me, 'cause it's fun to write about McLaren.

Monday, November 1, 2010

More Information Than I'll Probably Ever Need

That's one cool thing about writing: you gather all sorts of info for your books.  It used to be the stock phrase that you could drop brilliant bits of knowledge at cocktail parties.  Well, not being a drinker or much of a party-goer, I have no idea if cocktail parties still exist.  I assume they don't.  So perhaps blogs and social networking pages make up for that.  Whatever, the dissemination of this info is pretty important.  I began accumulating this while researching and writing the current McLaren novel.  It's book three, if anyone is keeping count....or reading them....or reading this.  I've found out about accelerants, motives for arson, what injuries it's possible to find on a burnt corpse, the status of all of Derbyshire's fire stations (whole time staffing, retained staffing or day staffing), response times of fire crews, sunset times in September, and that an employee of the Matlock fire station lives next to where I've located my fictitious village (I'll send him a book when it's published).  All interesting stuff.  Well, at least to me.  But it's the stuff that the book will be made of, and I'm liking the plot very much.  Just written sixty pages, which may not seem like a lot since I began it on October 18, but it's slow goin' at the start.  I've got to get used to my characters, figure out how McLaren will solve this mess, decide what chapters he will tell and what chapters some other characters will tell....  Now that I'm ankle deep in it, it's coming easier.  And quicker.  And you've got to remember that I lost nearly an entire day trying to get my newly acquired Kindle to accept the downloaded ebooks I bought....

I changed my computer monitor's wallpaper last weekend.  I changed it to a photo of McLaren.  I thought a job aid might help me remember his personality.  Perhaps I'm under Taylor & Graham's influence....I nearly made a mistake in this McLaren book, having him go by the rules.  Nope.  One of the things that makes McLaren so endearing to the victims who hire him: principles and scruples are not words in his dictionary.  Ignore the rules and regulations.  So he is now staring at me, reminding me that he's his own man and has his own investigative methods.  I knew those photos would really come in handy....