Endings, Beginnings – and waiting for my homework to be marked.

I have recently typed two of my favourite words.  The End.  I have finally finished the fourth book in my Much Winchmoor Mysteries.

Of course, it isn’t the end of the process but merely the end of the beginning as it is now with my publisher.  And ahead of me (always assuming they decide they want to publish it, of course!) are the edits, the blurb writing, acknowledgements and   all the social media and marketing involved in the run up to a book launch.

It is exciting and terrifying in equal measure.

It seems like this book has been hanging around on my laptop for ever.  And, indeed, it has certainly taken longer to write than the previous three.  I started it just as Covid hit and I had a long period when I couldn’t write a shopping list, least of all a murder mystery.  And even when the brain fog began to fade, it took ages to pick up the pieces and join all the bits of the jigsaw together.  (And, as I write this, I am still not one hundred per cent certain that there aren’t any missing pieces)..

But I think I managed to tie in all the loose ends (apologies for the switching of metaphors) even though there was one scene that I don’t remember writing at all.

Usually, I leave the final scene until I’ve written the second, sometimes even the third draft.  And I thought I’d done so in this case and as I was getting closer to the end, I was still dithering about how to end it.

But there, to my astonishment, was the final scene.  And I honestly don’t remember writing it or making the decision to finish it the way I did.  But when I read it through, I really liked it and didn’t change a single word. Having said that, of course, my editor might hate it!

This stage of the book’s journey is very much like being back at school and that anxious wait to get your homework back.

Until then, I thought I would put myself in the hot seat this time and ask myself the dreaded question:

Where did the idea for Murder on High come from?

In fact it came from two very different sources.  The first was a local fundraising event, the other a non-fiction book that I’ve had for ages.

For many years we had a time share in the Lake District and would make the great trek north (from Somerset) every November,  I love the area and have set many short stories, three serials and two of my large print novels there.

I’ve always been in awe of the amazing work done by the Mountain Rescue teams and wanted to write about it so I bought several books as research material.  One of them was Rescue: True Stories from Lake District Mountain Rescue written by John White who for many years was a member of a Mountain Rescue Team.

The book was published way back in 1997 and I probably bought it around that time. One particular phrase stuck in my mind all that time.  He is describing a rescue involving an abseil which almost went wrong and he makes the comment that abseiling is only the second fastest way down a mountain.  

And the other source of inspiration?  That was a fundraising event in my village which involved abseiling teddy bears down from the top of the church tower.  This involved lowering the precious bears extremely carefully down from the top of the tower to their anxious owners waiting below.

And I thought, as I stood there watching all the activity, that it would make a great location for a murder because, as we all know by now, abseiling is only the second fastest way down a church tower.

So my thanks to John White and to the members of my village hall committee for the inspiration behind Murder on High.

So what’s next?  Is there a fifth Much Winchmoor in the pipeline?

There certainly is.   I have a title (Death of a Dame) and a victim but I have yet to settle on a murderer or, even, a motive.  Although I have a few red herrings lurking in the shallows.

I also have a shiny new Scrivener file, just waiting to be filled.  And a pile of real (as opposed to digital) index cards. And, once again, this takes me back to my schooldays.

I used to love the start of a new school year when we’d be given brand new exercise books and a new ‘rough book’.  This was a notebook that was only to be written in in pencil as once the book was filled up, we were supposed to go back to the beginning, rub it out and use it again. By the time the end of term came around, my ‘rough’ book had certainly earned its name and was decidedly rough around the edges. I would like to say that this was all about saving the rain forests, but it was far more likely to be about saving money.

The exercise books, though, were written in ink, as were the teachers’ marks and comments.  So each new school year was a new beginning.  All those C minuses from the previous year wiped away.  A clean slate.  And every year I promised myself that I would work harder and that this year my books would not be marred by C minuses and comments about ‘could do better’.

(My English teacher once wrote “shrunk to this little measure?” on some spelling corrections I was supposed to have done but hadn’t.  She said she’d let me off doing them if I correctly identified the quotation!  I could – and she did!  Please let me know if the comments if you did and I promise not to make you write a page of spelling corrections.)

So now, here I am back at school waiting for my homework to be marked.  And when it does come back, I know it’s going to be littered with red marks, just like my schoolwork was.

But no C minuses, I hope.

Certainly the process of being a published author is very much like being back at school. But I’m not complaining.  I absolutely loved school, apart from the C minuses, of course. So I am in my happy place when I’m writing.

But the marketing?  Ah no.  That’s a bit like me and the dreaded physics lessons.  I never could quite work out what was going wrong and why everyone else just seemed to ‘get it’ and I didn’t.  

And it was physics that earned me all those C minuses.

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…..and finally, just because I can, here’s a random picture of Duke.