My house is rather empty during the holidays with an ever-dwindling family network. Time marches on. Children marry, and siblings shove off to distant retirement communities. Perhaps you share the same dilemma. My solution is to invite friends in…
This Christmas, Josie Peckinshaw will step away from the Peckish Prawn to apply her café skills in my kitchen. If you haven’t met Josie yet—in The Sheltering Stones—then you’re in for an eye-popping experience. (Someone once compared her to a pineapple!)
I’m praying that Addie Jesper will whip up some dessert while here. Right now, she’s dropping crackers around the table for popping after the meal. Given her non-stop chatter, I suspect she’s been sampling the brandy used in her traditional Christmas Pudding.
Toby Remeck is in the lounge, spinning albums. He’s informed everyone that vinyl’s comeback is here to stay, so we best make our picks while we can still afford the collectibles. Professor Rosemont is haggling over some swing recordings for his war memorabilia shop. Farley Peckinshaw, Josie's husband, is thumbing through album jackets for set designs; some people never stop working.
Mac Delaney is definitely off the clock. He’s planted himself on my sofa, a bit too cozy beside Laura Lawry. Her sons, Ben and Logan, are stationed in the pantry, sampling sweets. Old Tom is draining my only bottle of good whiskey and sharing a biscuit bounty with Vionna’s dog who waddles room-to-room for handouts. I fear the poor beastie will soon burst.
Paul Albright is escorting Elena to the table, all moony-eyed and lovey-dovey. Romance hasn’t doused Paul’s appetite one bit, though. He is the first to sit down and will be the last to leave my table. We’ll begin our meal as soon as Remy Lane passes out gaudy stockings to everyone. (Do all Americans wear such bizarre footwear?) I’m thrilled to toss out my bland, black socks and don a pair of penguin-peppered tights. William Tremaine, always a servant to the public, has turned on the telly to capture the royal Christmas Message, broadcast since 1932. While the Queen wraps up her heartwarming speech, William offers me a hostess gift: a handcrafted box with a luxury pen.
How lovely—I can finally start writing my fourth novel.
When the time comes, I invite you to pick up one of my books if you find yourself facing an empty dining room, or worse, surrounded by grouchy relatives during the holidays. I promise that my characters will warm your heart and my plots will quicken your pulse. So, plop down on your sofa, snuggle up with your pet, wiggle your warm toes, and fall in love with Barrington Bay.
Happy holidays, readers!
Dance revivalists? Oh, yes. Our Victory Service Club hosts marvelous wartime gatherings for both dancers and promenaders—those in darling vintage clothing who stroll along the sidelines. They are quite different from the lads who engage in actual reenactments. They don’t mind getting their gear dirty. Indeed, the rougher the bunker conditions the better! There has been an astounding growth in interest in World War I and II. People want to recall a time when Britons did something important; it's a sort of collective pride. Of course, the war period is heavily romanticized these days. Everyone focuses on the music which was filled with lyrics of longing. Then there are the televised shows with antique cars and retro dresses which gloss over the horror of war and the lives lost. Still, it keeps our history alive, if somewhat warped.
-- Excerpt from The Tide Turns
Setting my stories along the northwestern coast of England has been a tremendous learning experience. I am a landlubber whose knowledge of open water is limited to my neighborhood’s Lake Michigan (see previous post Lost in the Surf). It is one of America’s Great Lakes but tiny compared to the oceans. So, I am constantly reading to expand my knowledge of the sea and how it impacts characters who are bound to the British Isles. Visit my other posts, Out to Sea, What Lurks Beneath, or Buoy, Oh Buoy for examples of some watery research.
My erstwhile travel partner/back-road navigator who joined me abroad led me down another path that ended with a sublime discovery: the Met Office Shipping Forecast. The UK’s continuous sea weather forecast has been offered as a public service since 1867. Countless generations have relied upon this vital radio broadcast to safely navigate across the water. Nowadays, even landlocked listeners tune in to the melodic nightly readings to lull them to sleep while tucked in their cozy beds. The areas touched upon by the Shipping Forecast have delicious names like Dogger, Bailey, Forties, and German Bight—mystical-sounding locales you might come across in a dreamland.
The best part about being a cozy writer is the creativity that flows across the keyboard: painting scenes in the readers’ minds, bringing imaginary characters to life, plotting out the mystery, and weaving together the threads leading to a big reveal.
The worst part about being a writer is not getting published…or is it? A friend once asked if I cry when I receive a publisher’s rejection. Ah...no. Facing that is never a good feeling, but instead of crying I reflect upon my work and then begin rewriting.
I was shocked by how much better my book became during the first rewrite. Face it—writing a full-length novel takes time. During those many, many months, we (hopefully) continue to grow by reading articles, delving into how-to manuals, listening to stern lectures, and following online suggestions to hone our skills. Year to year, I have learned an amazing amount which in turn has dramatically improved that first novel, The Stars Prevail. Trundling it out to another publisher, I’ve taken my big pink eraser to the second novel in the Barrington Bay series, The Tide Turns. Once again, the story improves with each edit. The characters are more colorful, the pacing tighter, the dialogue snappier.
Instead of losing faith in my abilities as a writer, publisher rejection has fanned my passion to become better and made me even more determined to succeed. It’s weird. It’s wonderful.
In June I fell in love with both banoffee pie and sticky toffee pudding when driving across the Highlands of Scotland. Well, the banoffee was devoured near the Anglo-Scottish border, but good desserts have no boundaries. Indeed, check out “Tartan Tastes in Texas” to see just how universally loved these desserts have become.
Since I’ve returned stateside, my erstwhile travel partner/back-road navigator has joined me in the kitchen with Bundt pan in hand to whip up that divine sticky toffee pudding. We’ve bumped into a slight problem ending up with either too much drizzle and not enough date-infused cake or visa versa. As a result, we continuously whip up another batch of either the topping or base depending on what is in shortest supply. Round and round we go, engorging ourselves along the way. Three weeks later, my husband suggested that we simply toss out the leftovers and call it a day.
That’s when I realized I just might have to file for a divorce.
At times, the best part of travel is returning to your B&B, exhausted from exploring ruins, thrilled with the day’s unexpected discoveries, wearing squishy socks from waterside treks, and needing a sweet something to carry you off to dreamland. I heartily recommend banoffee pie (which has both bananas and toffee) or some other distinctly British pudding. After all, anything that involves toffee has got to be good for the soul.
Returning from Scotland, I decided to investigate buoys—you know, those little beach ball things. I spotted an endless array of them on prior trips to Wales and England while traveling along the rugged coastline and now in Scotland as I drove past mountain-shrouded lochs. Not being nautical in the least, I found myself fascinated by those mysterious, round, orbs so I plunged into the internet (face it: all fiction writers are closet researchers) where I learned…
I’ve just wrapped up the third novel in this series! The first draft is currently undergoing an initial round of edits. Feeling a bit worn as a writer, I am off to Hadrian’s Wall, the Highlands, and the Isle of Skye for a bit of fun and inspiration. With any luck, I’ll bring back plenty of snapshots for the website along with some clever notions that might spawn a few more mysteries. Keep visiting to find out what lies ahead in Barrington Bay!
This blog is where I post my inspirations for each book as well as behind-the-scenes tips, pics, and other tidbits. Feel free to click 'Read More', leave a comment, and share!