I’ve been spending my dreary winter days punching up the characters who live in Barrington Bay. Bringing fiction to life is a fascinating, lengthy process. Although I love dwelling in the actual mystery, it turns out that readers are typically more vested in the characters than the plot. All this character analysis on my part has led to rewrites with some surprising changes, new scenes, and added depth to my stories as I strive to improve the read.
I must admit that I struggle with character development. I can map out a convoluted plot or swiftly pen a passage describing a setting but then flounder when I drop a character into that scene. After much research, online lectures, and personal reflection, I simply tasked myself to consider some of my favorite characters from literature and popular culture. What attributes make them steal my heart and reverberate in my mind? I thought of all the suave, brilliant, stunning, eloquent, athletic, or cultured characters that jump off the screen or glide across the pages of a book. Oddly enough, I couldn’t recall a single one. I was surprised to realize that—at least for me—it is character weakness that makes them memorable. For example, the ever-depressed Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh), Barney Fife shivering in fear (The Andy Griffith Show), the oh-so-fastidious Hercule Poirot (The Mysterious Affair at Styles), the tightly-wound Beverly Hofstadter (The Big Bang Theory) and, of course, our drug-addicted Sherlock (A Study in Scarlet). It is these characters’ limiting wounds that makes them dear-to-heart and unforgettable.
Armed with this insight, I returned to Barrington Bay with a big eraser and bent pen, intent to do damage to my characters. The result has been encouraging. I could more readily embrace these fractured friends who now struggle within their own limitations and join the rest of us imperfect humans. I hope you enjoy their faults, as well.
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, Joey Peckinshaw will step away from the Peckish Prawn to apply her café skills in my kitchen. If you haven’t met Joey 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. I'm opting for any albums with Bing Crosby crooning about love.
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
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.
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.
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 recently 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 has undergone edits and several rewrites as I wove in a personal journey taken by our sleuth, Remy Lane, with the help of her ardent admirer, William Tremaine. Feeling a bit worn as a writer, I'd love to return to Hadrian’s Wall, the Highlands, and the Isle of Skye for a bit of fun and inspiration. Unfortunately, the pandemic is keeping us all at home, so I'll drool over snapshots taken there two years ago. Ideas for the next novel are already percolating in my brain. Time to take a long walk and think it through. Keep visiting to find out what lies ahead in Barrington Bay!
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.