Like so many others, I kick off the New Year with a list of goals: the resolutions. I prefer “intentions.” (A bit more leeway there, don’t you think?) I opened up last year’s file and discovered that I had forgotten my 2022 intentions. A year later, I was way off the mark. I felt incredibly disappointed in myself. My intentions are usually accomplished each year or at least much closer to accomplishment. Somehow, I lost my way this past year along with those goals.
Feeling defeated and unable to think of any new intentions, I stared outside. To my amazement, a mature hawk stared back at me. The hefty predator was patrolling my backyard in search of a morning snack. It was shocking on two levels. First, I’ve never seen a hawk in the backyard. We’ve lots of small birds that are fed seed daily but not the big hunters. Second, he was walking on the ground. I’ve only see hawks soaring across the sky, perched on telephone poles, or silhouetted on a weather-beaten farm fence which can sometimes still be found in the countryside; not strutting across a clipped lawn. Distrusting my vision, I stepped outside and approached the bird. The hawk didn’t fly off – just stared back at me, certain of his strength. His deadpan stare, spooky. His size, formidable. I wisely retreated and spent the next hour watching him scour our backyard for breakfast. Fortunately, he didn't find the rabbit who often visits.
I hopped online, asking what such a sighting means. The psychics were all over that question: When you have a close hawk sighting, it's a sign from the spirit realm that you are ready to take on a larger, more powerful expansion and vision of your world. The hawk symbolizes a need to start looking forward, envisioning your path ahead, and perhaps preparing for a greater role in life. What an amazing portent, delivered to me just when I was grappling with this year’s intentions. I happen to be on the cusp of retirement from a lengthy career and here is this hawk telling me to look forward! Envision my future path! Prepare for a greater life role!
Oh, do stop rolling your eyes. Like my protagonist, Remy Lane, I don’t need the stars or psychics to tell me when to stop or when to go. I do very well living on my own, thank you very much. But I sure as hell am not going to ignore the universe when it slaps me in the face.
Envision my Future Path
Prepare for a Greater Role in Life
What are your New Year’s resolutions?
They sat in comfortable silence, watching the sky catch fire when the sun approached the sea. Clouds swirled in a mewling pink, then flamed in hot scarlet, before melting into creamsicle orange. The water mirrored the blaze in breathless closure of the night. When the sun slipped beneath the horizon, a gibbous moon and stars claimed the sky. Scant light pierced the darkness. The seaside seemed so placid, yet it was twisted with trauma.
Excerpt from The Tide Turns
Paul tossed aside the rusted hot plate. Useless. “Sir, it’s madness to think anyone who knew Evie would kill her.”
Excerpt from The Tide Turns
This is the madness of murder. When I first wrote this passage, I was channeling Agatha Christie’s marvelous Belgium detective, Hercule Poirot, as portrayed by David Suchet for twenty-five years on PBS television’s Masterpiece Mystery series.
I found tremendous pleasure during my travels to the U.K. but none as magnificent as when I visited the Greenway Estate and stood where David Suchet posed before the cameras for the series' episode entitled, "Dead Man's Folly." You’ll find bits of Poirot surfacing in DCI Tremaine’s kindness, humility, and integrity—all essential qualities which offset the darkness that both detectives face in their work.
The victim may be one of the good God’s saints or - on the contrary - a monster of infamy. It moves me not. The fact is the same. A life—taken! I say it always—I do not approve of murder.
Hercule Poirot, Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
Remy’s career as a historical movie set designer depended upon details. Minutia matters in period-piece film. An inaccurate costume, a misdated theatrical prop, or a misassigned vintage wallpaper ruined a day’s take at a prohibitive cost to a production company. That attention to detail now served her well. She imagined the island’s cave as a movie set.
Excerpt from The Tide Turns
Eww! Disgusting imagery that creates an emotional lasso cinching you to our victim. You can’t help but feel inconsolable grief for a person who has been nibbled upon by sea beasties.
Having a character killed at sea required me to immerse myself in research on water forensics. It is an unnerving and repulsive read, to say the least. I am not a CSI fan but the need to be accurate when describing my poor victim pushed me forward. I learned the biology of drowning, decomposition in freshwater v. seawater, the effects of cold ocean vs. tropical seas upon a corpse, and the nasty business of putrefaction and scavenging creatures.
I read enough on these topics to write the above passage and later observations made by the coroner before embracing this unbendable lesson: Never be buried at sea.
They shared grim looks. This was an island nation, surrounded by seas, cross-hatched by rivers, lakes, and estuaries. The inconstant water claimed lives. A handful of residents braved the foul weather when the coroner’s van arrived. They hovered on shore, watching men pull out a stretcher. Everyone was used to the sight of Royal National recovery crafts, yet fearful doubt flooded their hearts whenever a lifeboat appeared. Was it a spouse, a child, or a neighbor? Had they survived? Or had they slipped away beyond the caress of the endless surf?
Excerpt from The Tide Turns
Living smack-dab in the middle of a massive country, I was oblivious to the profound presence of water in an island nation. Driving across the UK, I found myself waterlogged by estuaries, trout-filled streams, calm canals, squidgy beaches, and the surrounding restless seas. Wherever there is water, there is the danger of drowning. My research took me to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, a volunteer network of forty thousand courageous souls who jump in lifeboats at a moment's notice, saving countless lives and educating generations about water safety. The RNLI rescues twenty-two people every day. As they say, "ordinary people doing extraordinary things." The cost of their brave service has been the loss of more than six hundred volunteer lives since the institution's inception in 1824. Its long-standing commitment to water safety is stunning and worthy of our applause. Grab your tissues and read some of the witty, wry, and wise personal accounts of Royal Nationals from their online magazine.
Barrington Bay has such lovely alliteration, doesn’t it? The name is a tribute to the fine composer Barrington Pheloung who crafted music for the tightly written and beautifully photographed Inspector Morse, Lewis, and Endeavor television series inspired by the works of Colin Dexter. You can listen to the haunting theme from Inspector Morse while viewing some of the noteworthy Oxford spires in this video.
I spent an entire day wandering about Oxford with my daughter. We fell madly in love with the city’s stunning architecture, the intoxicating air of education, and the Bodleian Libraries which house over eleven million printed texts. (No surprise there – I work in education and my daughter is a librarian.) We quickly realized that we could spend the rest of our lives exploring this one city. No wonder Dexter never left the site until his death in 2017 and, even then, he was just able to capture a better view of his beloved home from above. Speaking of leaving things behind…
It had taken him years to realize he had to let the failures of his history rest to build a new life.
Excerpt from The Stars Prevail
Who can’t relate to this statement made by DI Tremaine? The past too often chains us with bitterness, an old anger invariably leading to regret. Laughter helps, but it is ultimately about just letting go. It’s done. Over. Keep your eyes on the possibilities rising before you. Let tomorrow lead you to a happier life. If you freely drift out to sea, you’ll find Barrington Bay.
Soon enough, the Knockinton Observatory soared before them. Its massive rotunda dominated the campus. Gnarled vines and leering gargoyles lent an old-world aura to the structure. The fantastic beasts posed between arches girdling the tower. Modern observatories reflect a sterile, science-based atmosphere embellished with chrome and glass to enthrall visitors with a glimpse of the future. The Knockinton clung to its origins, giving visitors historical respect for the development of astronomy over time.
- Excerpt from The Stars Prevail
The 1897 Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin (US) served as my inspiration for this scene. I toured the site of this great refractor telescope repeatedly while writing The Stars Prevail. The interior of the structure with its ninety-foot diameter dome and movable wood floor is breathtaking. While there, I picked up a reproduction postcard featuring a 1921 photo of the Yerkes’ telescope fronted by a group of staff and—could it be?—theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. The site was also frequented by Edwin Hubble and Carl Sagan. If you’re an amateur astronomer, your jaw is dropping right about now.
It broke my heart when the observatory closed but it is now undergoing extensive restoration to benefit future generations. You can capture an old-school tour of the site in this dated yet delightful presentation.
This blog is where I post my inspirations for each book in the Barrington Bay series as well as behind-the-scenes tips, pics, and other tidbits. Feel free to click 'Read More' for in-depth posts.