Summer is a great time to go for a drive in the country. GPS can take some of the adventure out of it, but only if we let it. Here’s a country road in the English Cotswolds, where my fictional English art thief, Oliver York, has a farm. He plays a prominent role in KEEPER’S REACH, out in paperback in late July, and in LIAR’S KEY, my latest Sharpe & Donovan novel, available in late August.
Hello from Scotland! Joe and I picked a warm, sunny week to be here. Not a drop of rain has fallen on us since we arrived early on May 31. My raincoat hasn’t been out of my suitcase. No complaints.
Given our hectic April and May, we didn’t have time to arrange for tours or set up a tight itinerary. Not that we would have, anyway. We like to allow for serendipity when we travel, but we did crack open our Scotland guidebook at breakfast upon arrival in Edinburgh (pronounced Edinburra). A visit to the castle that looms over the city, popping into the iconic department store Harvey Nichols and wandering in the Royal Botanic Garden (above) were some of the great ways we dealt with jet lag and got a taste for this fascinating, historic city.
After Edinburgh, it was up to Pitlochry and visits to such places as Queen’s View (above), Soldier’s Leap, Blair Castle and Edradour distillery and several awe-inspiring walks through the Scottish countryside. I’ve been taking notes for research and letting my mind wander…mostly letting my mind wander. For me, a change of scenery every now and again is a great way to recharge creatively, mentally and physically. It doesn’t have to be a trip to Scotland or Ireland. I remember in the dead of a Vermont winter when I had small children and couldn’t pick up and go, I’d sometimes tune in to a Magnum, P.I., rerun, fire up the wood stove and pretend I was in Hawaii. Hey, it worked!
We head to Ireland next, for a writing retreat and a bit of a break. Our son, Zack, will be joining us. An Irish whiskey tasting is a must, don’t you think? 🙂
Have a great day,
Windows with views
Some writers prefer a blank wall when they’re writing, but I love to write by a window with a view. Maybe it’s because as a kid I’d write while up in a tree! Regardless, here are some real-life windows with tempting views.
Here’s a window looking gout on a Cotswolds stone wall.
Here’s a window looking out on an Irish horse farm.
Here’s a window looking out on the grounds of beautiful Ashford Castle in Ireland.
I’d write with these views. Really! 🙂
Have a great day,
After a couple of weeks away helping my daughter with her new baby, I’m back home in Vermont, writing and running almost every day. My route is greening up with new leaves on the trees and fresh grass, and the flowers of a northern New England May are coming into bloom. We’ll have lilacs before too long! The new layer of cow manure on the fields can be a bit hard to take for a gasping runner, but I’ve learned to cover my mouth.
Sometimes I think about a work in progress when I run. I don’t try to, it just happens. For the most part, though, I listen to a podcast during the first couple of miles of warm-up and then simply tune into my surroundings. The sounds of the river, the stream, the birds, the smells of grass, flowers, mud and, yes, cow manure.
I started running again last year after a long hiatus. In a burst of New Year’s energy and optimism, I’d signed up for the Covered Bridges Half Marathon here in Vermont. It’s held the first Sunday in June and it seemed like a good idea in December. But I couldn’t just show up on race day expecting to run 13.1 miles. So, in January, I started training by running for a minute.
That’s right. A minute.
As a writer, I’m tuned in to the power of incremental progress. A novel starts with Page 1, Chapter 1. Over the next eight weeks, I turned my one minute of running into 30 minutes. Not bad but it still wasn’t 13.1 miles. Next step was to dive into a 12-week novice half-marathon training program. There were setbacks with weather, injuries, illness, ice and heat, but I kept at it right up until race day.
I’d never run a race much less a half-marathon. I had no idea what I was doing but everyone else did! I got through it, finishing without collapsing, my modest goal for the day. In the process of those months, I discovered I love to run. When I hit hurdles with a work-in-progress, I remember how my one minute in mid-January turned into 13.1 miles on June 7. Sometimes we just have to keep going, one step at a time.
I know, technically it’s spring. It just doesn’t feel that way today on our hilltop in northern New England! We have a fire in the woodstove on this damp, chilly day. We love to travel this time of year and have enjoyed wandering through the English Cotswolds and along quiet Irish lanes. The photo with me in my orange Irish coat was taken a couple of years ago on a spring walk on the Iveragh Peninsula on the southwest Irish coast. What a stunning day that was! I swear I remember every step.
I love to let my mind wander as I wander, but best of all is to be fully present, aware of the breeze, the drops of rain on a blossom, the smell of wet grass…all of which nourish this writer’s soul. Below is a photo of the English Cotswolds on one of our spring visits. I can see Oliver York, a recurring eccentric character in my Sharpe & Donovan series, walking past this wall, but I swear I was only thinking about the stunning scenery when I was there.
Happy spring wherever you are!
I love spring in Ireland, and this walk on the southwest coast is so peaceful and beautiful. Walking is good for my creative soul!
Here’s a fun Q&A with Kylie Shaw and Russ Colton, the two main characters in my latest Swift River Valley novel. Enjoy! ~Carla
What brought you to Knights Bridge?
Kylie: A friend of mine got a job in Iowa and offered me the use of her country home in Knights Bridge. It was furnished, quiet and I didn’t know anyone and figured I wouldn’t have any distractions. I’m an illustrator, and my career has taken off with the success of a series of children’s books about badgers. I needed and wanted to focus on my work for a few months. Knights Bridge seemed like the perfect choice for an artistic retreat.
Russ: Work. When I got out of the navy, I became a licensed private investigator. I expected to stay in San Diego, but my brother had moved to Hollywood to pursue his dreams. I owe Marty. Long story. He works at a bar, making ends meet, and he introduced me to one of his regulars, a costume designer named Daphne Stewart. Not her real name. That’s Debbie Sanderson. She changed it
after she left Knights Bridge as a young woman. Now she’s going back to give a master class in costume design—another long story—and I’m indulging her sense of drama and checking out the place for security risks.
What’s your favorite book?
Kylie: Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. I’ve read it so many times!
Russ: I learned to enjoy reading while I was in the navy. I can’t say I have a favorite. I read a lot of nonfiction. I started The Three Musketeers on my flight east from LA. Can’t go wrong with a sword fight.
How would you describe a perfect first date?
Kylie: I’ve had some terrible first dates. Only dates, as it turned out. A Red Sox game, for instance. I left early! I enjoy baseball, but for a first date, I prefer a candlelit dinner, champagne and a quiet, romantic setting.
Russ: One that leads to a second date. I guess that’s not a great answer. I like to do something that suits the woman I’m seeing but doesn’t make me squirm. I probably wouldn’t do well at a harpsichord concert. A picnic and a walk on the beach would be good. No pressure, just a fun time.
Where were you on your 18th birthday?
Kylie: My younger sister, Lila, and I spent the day in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts. Lila already knew she would follow in our father’s footsteps and become a veterinarian, but she also knew I wanted to be an artist and indulged me. She loved any painting depicting animals. I think that visit helped inspire my badger family.
Russ: My father took me on a scenic helicopter ride over Sedona. He loved flying. Afterward Marty, my older brother, took me out for burritos at this dive he knew in Phoenix. He had all these plans even then. It was a good day.
For more details about The Spring at Moss Hill, please click here. Thanks!
Most of my stories start with one or more characters, and with The Spring at Moss Hill, I could see Kylie Shaw, as a relative newcomer to little Knights Bridge, deliberately keeping a low profile even as she falls in love with her adopted New England town. She expected her stay there to be temporary. She’s an illustrator of children’s books and rented a house for an “artistic retreat.” I’ve done that myself as a writer, although never for several months as Kylie does! I stayed in a cottage on the southwest Irish coast for three weeks—no car, even!—and while Kylie has her own reasons for her retreat, mine gave me insights into some of the benefits and the hazards. Unlike Kylie, of course, I was married with two grown children.
Enter Russ Colton, a private investigator from Southern California who is both an attraction and a threat to Kylie as she figures out what’s next in her life. She has a secret—she’s the illustrator and author of a series of popular children’s books about a family of badgers in a town not unlike Knights Bridge. Russ borrows a loft-style apartment at the renovated mill where Kylie has moved while she sorts out her life. Being from small-town New England myself, I am familiar with mills like the fictional one at Moss Hill, built in the mid-nineteenth century as a straw-hat factory. One of our favorite renovated mills is Simon Pearce, which produces hand-blown glass and has a restaurant on the Ottauquechee River near us in Vermont. It was great fun creating my own old mill with its own unique history.
Most of all, The Spring at Moss Hill belongs to the characters—Kylie, Russ and the people of little Knights Bridge.
Today is “pub day” for The Spring at Moss Hill, the latest in the Swift River Valley series. It’s now in stores — in print, e-book and audio. Many thanks to readers who preordered the book. I’ve released three short extras on my website that tell a bit about the story behind the story. Click here to read them. I hope you enjoy these short insights into Kylie Shaw and Russ Colton and little Knights Bridge, and I especially hope you enjoy The Spring at Moss Hill!