Saturday, 15 June 2019

Goodbye to the Country Life

Only a few more days and I'll be back to being a townie again. I will miss hearing the pheasants call to each other. I occasionally get a glimpse of them. What beautiful birds they are! In the hedge outside the living room window, a song thrush has a nest as does a blackbird. On the other side of the garden, robins have found a safe haven. The starlings have all fledged. There is one solitary swallow who visits in the late afternoon, sweeping down into the garden before dashing off again. I could watch them all for hours. This morning, after several rainy days, the white clouds look near enough to touch. The mountains are a hazy blue. Now and again a patch of blue appears and the sun shines.
Ah, I'm going to miss it all.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Do Authors Base Characters on People They Know?

Where do we get new ideas for our stories? Some writers know exactly how the idea for a plot came to mind. There are crime novel writers who read cases in the newspapers or attend court cases which inspire them. I heard a story about a famous author of women's fiction falling out of her chair in a restaurant while trying to catch what the diners at the next table were saying.
Where do I get my ideas? I don't have any set method for doing it. Sometimes it is a phrase I've heard while sitting on the bus, sometimes the idea just comes out of the blue.
I've been house-sitting in the country these past few weeks. I have much more time to read and browse social media than when I am at home, although I can't really explain why that is so. Perhaps it is the quietness that does it. 
Be that as it may, I have done a lot of reading and I came across the term "imposter syndrome" several times. Oddly enough, this helped me with one of my characters in my Christmas novel which I am currently working on. I hasten to add that I do not know anyone suffering from it - the syndrome not the novel - but I do know a lot of people who have to work very hard at their jobs.
I think, on reflection, that all writers put bits of character from people they know into their stories. There are bossy people, stroppy people, really nice people who make you feel inadequate, go-getters, losers. In other words, there is a whole world of people out there, people you know and like and people who make you pick up your coat and make a run for it. They all make up that fascinating patchwork quilt known as humankind. And that is grist to a writer's mill.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

A Short Stay in the Country

So here I am, house-sitting. Outside, the rain is coming down like Noah forgot to turn off the taps. Across the valley, the mountains are shrouded in clouds.The birds have gone to ground or to bush would be a  more exact phrase. All I can hear is the sound of the washing machine in the utility room. I wore my white pants yesterday and managed to get them dirty when I checked the flowers to see what needed dead-heading. So it's a white wash today.
Being in the country has many attractions.  For one thing, there are far fewer distractions. Peace and quiet broken only by the chirping of the starlings as they feed their chicks in nests on the roof or simply watching the song thrush toddle about with its mother are all uplifting. Who can get into a tizz over something trivial when you've got Nature on your doorstep?
And I've read three books since I arrived here a fortnight ago. Most enjoyable book? Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty definitely. I had seen it in the bookshops but somehow thought it was one of those weepy novels which are not my cup of tea. Instead, I stayed up late reading it and was sorry when it finished. And yes, I know it is a series on HBO and they are doing a second series, although the novel is so complete in itself that I think trying to do a follow on is not a good idea. I don't intend to watch the first series, either. I much prefer to stick to reading novels and forming my own ideas of how people look and anyway, you can't get that atmosphere on to the screen. One of my favourite novels is To Kill a Mocking Bird. I recently watched the film with Gregory Peck and, quite frankly, it missed so much of the style of Harper Lee's story and of the atmosphere of the times which she so expertly depicted. But there, I'm getting on my hobby horse!
I should be writing. I did quite a bit yesterday but made the classic mistake of finishing one chapter and leaving a blank for this morning. The golden rule is, as many authors know, to stop in full flow so that you have something to continue next day. Hey-ho! I'd better stop here and try to get my mojo back on track.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Job Done or is it?

Finishing a novel when you've been working on it for so long, is always a bit of an anti-climax. Nearly every day, I do a bit of editing on what I have written the previous day. This is useful, as it keeps me from straying a bit - I have been known to start a novel in November and to have jumped by some strange miracle to the flowering month of May within a few pages. This is a warning sign to me that I still have to do a bit, well let's say a lot more work on the the setting - including the time of year!
There are writers who are so disciplined that they write out a synopsis of each chapter before they start the actual work of writing the story. I can only salute them. I start off with an idea and a character in my head. After a few weeks, the character will have been joined by other characters and the original idea will have been changed, fleshed out a bit, or completely readjusted. I can never get into the business of writing a plan for the whole novel. I know where and how it is going to end before I start. The journey, however, can twist and turn as characters take on a life of their own and pull me in different ways. That's the fun of writing!
Now that I have finished my final edit of A MAN CALLED GREGOR which I plan to self publish next month, I have just started thinking about a Christmas novel and looked over the beginning of the first chapter which I wrote last month. I'll probably change the plot a bit and possibly one of the characters might have to go as well. I know one thing for sure, it's not going to be the original story I had in my head! I'll have a short break from writing and then it's back to see what my characters are up to. Next week I'll be doing my annual house-sitting in the country, so I'll have loads of peace and quiet and country air to help me concentrate. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 18 April 2019


I am ashamed to admit that I have not got around to writing a blog for such a long time. Not that I think you are all hanging on my every word! What can I say?
I came down with a bug following my visit to London and then when I had just got back on my feet wham! I picked up another one.
Today, the sun is shining and it is warm. The birds are getting quite giddy, singing at the top of their voices and working on their nests and on hatching eggs. It is amazing how Nature comes to life so quickly after the long cold winter.
The Easter Festival is almost here. I still remember that happy feeling on Easter Sunday when I went to early Mass. It felt like starting over again. Children actually enjoy going to church, seeing the candles being lit and hearing the hymns. We should give them the opportunity of attending a church service over the next few days.
Which brings me to the big debate in Ireland about how many chocolate Easter eggs children should eat, bearing in mind the amount of calories and the increase in obesity.
I don't have a magic answer. All I can say is that I think it is far better to do something together as a family and have this as a family Easter tradition than to start counting just how many Easter eggs a child should be given. Children really love doing things with their parents. I remember that when I worked full time, my children were delighted when we took time out to go on a trip and explore new places on a Sunday. It is the time you give your children, and indeed your parents and friends, which is the most precious gift you can bestow.
In our advertising-glutted world, we would all do well to remember that.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

World Book Day

It's World Book Day as all book lovers will know. Today is the day I feel a teeny bit sorry for people who don't read. Even the best film adaptation in the world can't compare with a really good book. And the nice thing is that you can read them over and over again.
Whenever I feel in the need for something entertaining but gentle, I pick out a Jane Austen novel. Following a nasty bout of bronchitis, I needed a pick-me-up and I am currently reading Emma, even though I practically know it by heart. Highbury and its inhabitants still makes me smile. As a writer, I appreciate Jane Austen's grasp of human nature. Her stories are peopled with characters who are so true to life. The polite, kind-hearted Mr.Woodhouse with his "habits of gentle selfishness" is as believable as Miss Bates, who sees only the best in everybody. The character of Emma is often said to be the most rounded of the Jane Austen heroines: you can't help but like her despite all her blunders.
Be all that as it may, I enjoy the story for what it is and the fact that it is going to end happily for everybody.
I am currently editing a novel I wrote several years ago. The cover is now ready which is a spur for me to get a move on and finish it.
I am using my own name for this book. I write crime as P.B. Barry and romance as Peggy O'Mahony. My crime novels and my romance novels are all set in Ireland. A MAN CALLED GREGOR shifts between Dublin, London, Germany and Croatia. When her parents are killed in a traffic accident, Lauren's Uncle Gregor rescues her from a round of foster homes. He provides stability in her life.When he goes missing, she sets out to find him and in the process her life turns upside down.

I'm hoping to publish around Easter this year but I still have a lot of edits to do. I am revising the ending to the story - this is the tricky bit, I find, how to sort and tie up the strands of the story in a satisfactory way.

Incidentally, I have written one novel set in Germany under the name Peggie Biessmann:
SPATE OF VIOLENCE, which is the story of a family who move home and are caught up in the social problems of a town.

Time to get down to doing some of that editing. Happy World Book Day to readers everywhere.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

London Trip

I spent two days in London last month on my way home from a family visit. I lived in London for a number of years until finally moving to Germany. I still call it my home town, though. I'm not sure of what the fascination is. It is a big city and yet there is something so endearingly parochial about it.
Paris or Berlin, on the other hand, are beautiful cities but they have a completely different atmosphere.
I love the little places in London where the tourists are not so thick on the ground. Where you can feel just how old this city is and how much history and human stories have taken place here.

One of my favourite places is the area around Temple. This little gem, almost unknown to the tourists, is well worth a visit. When you step into the complex, you are entering another world. It is the home of English law. There are signs at the entrance to most of the buildings giving a list of practicing barristers and solicitors. I almost expect to meet Charles Dickens strolling the streets.

The Temple Church built by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters is a step way back into history. It is worth reading about it in the excellent BBC article:

I also visited St. Clement Danes church, completed by Sir Christopher Wren, Brompton Oratory and Westminster Cathedral (not as old as the other churches but still impressive). By then I had seen  enough churches. For me, they represent the spirit of old London, of places where Samuel Pepys and Samuel Johnson, two of my favourite writers, went to worship. 

For old time's sake, I visited Harrods in Knightsbridge but here I found that luxury and wealth didn't do it for me, so I did not stay very long.  Next I went to South Bank in the hopes of finding the open air book market (much more like it, from my point of view). It was school half-term and there was a lot of hurdy-gurdy and no sign of the book market. Instead I paid a visit to Foyles and bought a book -  Volume I of Somerset-Maugham's short stories, if you want to know. Of course I could have got this for a third of the price somewhere else but, well, I fell in love with the new cover and anyway, you have to buy a book at Foyles, don't you?

The great thing about London is that you are never far from a park. I went to pay my respects to Hyde Park, near Harrods, and watch people feeding the birds.
When crossing the road on my way back, I was delighted to see the Horse Guards riding down the street. Beautiful horses with glossy black coats and riders with those scarlet uniforms! I remember when I worked somewhere near Chelsea that they used to ride out in the morning in the middle of the rush hour. I still remember the gleam on sunlight on brass buttons and bridle buckles.
What I had forgotten is that you do so much walking in London. By the end of each day I was exhausted and very ready to retire to my tourist hotel in Earls Court. I lived here for a few months many years ago. Earls Court itself has not lost its cosmopolitan atmosphere and yes, there is a little shop where you can buy all the essentials on your way home. Nice to see things have not changed that much.
Before I knew it, I was on the airplane home and I felt like I'd been away a month!  See you soon again, London.