Nellie Bly was a remarkable character. She was sixteen when she wrote her first article, passionately denying that marriage and motherhood were the only option for girls. The article impressed the editors at the Pittsburgh Dispatch, enough to earn her her fist job as a journalist. At 21 she spent six months in Mexico, writing correspondences, and getting in trouble with the regime of Porfirio Dìaz for championing press freedom. At 23 she spent ten days undercover in an asylum to expose the appalling conditions of the mentally ill. At 25 she journeyed around the world to beat Phileas Fogg’s 80 days record – and she did it! Continue reading
Very brief. Flash excursions, in fact…
Because yes: after more than a year, I’m still tinkering away with flash fiction. Or perhaps, more accurately, I’m still struggling with it. I want to write flash fiction. I want to do it well. I try again and again (although perhaps not quite as much as I should), and still find my work wanting. And so I tinker on, and read flashes, and read craft books, and take courses, and try again, and spring my attempts on innocent readers. Continue reading
For the first time in ages, I’ve listened to an audiobook. No, really – audiobooks and I… I absolutely love the idea in principle, only I find myself easily distracted by details. I begin to wonder about the exact lie of the land, the pigments that would have been used to dye a particular kind of silk, the sort of face this or that character would have… and by the time I come back from my wanderings, the narrator has gone ahead.
And this is why I usually regard audiobooks the way I would a tiger: fascinated but wary – from a safe distance.
Then I had this email exchange with Margaret Skea, who told me about having her Munro Saga turned into audiobooks, and described the fascinating process of choosing a reader and working with him rather in the way a stage director would… I was so taken with the whole that, when Margaret very kindly sent me a copy of Turn of the Tide’s audiobook, I was more than ready to face my tiger… Continue reading
A few months ago, as I was working on Road to Murder, I found trouble in the form of a French town called Montreuil sur Mer.* Well, for various reasons, my sleuth Tom Walsingham finds himself spending a night there, much against his inclination, and I needed to have a good idea of the place for that… Continue reading
Would you object very much to some more slight gloominess? Or perhaps it won’t be so terribly gloomy by the time we’re done – but let us talk of endings and beginnings, and Stevenson. I’ve always liked this thing that Stevenson wrote in a letter written from Samoa to J.M. Barrie:
If you are going tho make a book end badly, it must end badly from the beginning.
They stopped Walsingham and Paulo, my Italian, whom they seemed resolved to rob [… and] another Englishman in his company, called Skeggs, as I remember.
On the twelfth of November 1581 Elizabeth’s Ambassador in Paris, Sir Henry Cobham, wrote to the all-powerful Secretary of State – and spymaster – Sir Francis Walsingham . It was almost in passing that the ambassador slipped in this bit of information about the misadventure of Sir Francis’s much younger cousin, nineteen-year-old Thomas, riding as a diplomatic courier between London and Paris. Continue reading
He is fifteen and a half – that most dreadful of ages – and quite bright when he can be bothered with it. Alas, that’s not always the case, lost as he is in that teenage tumult of rebellion, Fortnight games, and hunger for peer-approval. I might add that the long, long months of lockdown and Covid-related restrictions are hardly helping… Continue reading
A new year begins, and everything – and I belong to the list-making sort, if only marginally. So, with a lovely new notebook to start, what was more natural than making a list of writing projects for the new year?
It is, of course, one of those hopeful lists, with way more items than I can reasonably expect to tackle – although you never can tell – and written down in full awareness of the nature of the best laid plans. Continue reading
There isn’t much that is merry about this Christmas – but still… One can wish light, and warmth, and hope…