Sunday, September 24, 2017

Write What You *Want* To Know: Sailing in the Greek Islands

Zoë Sharp

For me, doing the research is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing, although it can also be one of the most frustrating and time-consuming parts as well. Getting something authentic without going overboard on extraneous detail is a fine balance. I’m looking for realism rather than real.

After all, if we wrote truly authentic accounts of the lives of most private detectives, we’d be describing a lot of boredom combined with trying to get covert photos of cheating spouses and insurance claimants doing things they swear they’re now too injured to attempt. In real life, Detective Inspectors spend more time on paperwork than they do chasing murderers. Serial killers are still something of a rarity, thankfully, rather than popping up every other week, particularly in sleepy little English villages when elderly spinsters happen to be staying at the vicarage. Bodyguards, if they’re good at their job, will face few attacks they didn’t see coming and plan a way to avoid. Some soldiers have made it through entire conflicts without ever firing a shot, let alone seeing the whites of the enemy’s eyes.

I know some authors try to keep away from the lures of the internet while they’re writing, to avoid the distraction, but I find I have page after page of my browser open to check history, details, maps, and images.

And if those images are ones you’ve taken yourself, rather than relying on simply searching for pictures posted by others, they serve as a further aide de memoire.

So, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been putting together my own aide de memoire of sailing in the Greek Islands, for a book I’d like to make a start on over the winter. And here's the proof.
Dog on the water. Watching how well dogs adapt to life aboard a boat is always instructional.
The smart harbourside at Agios Efimia.

Not every harbourside is quite as smart as Agios Efimia, but they all have their charms.

Plucky little dinghy lolloping along behind the boat.
The joys of monohull sailing, cranked over on your ear ...
In Greece, cats are everywhere. This one had staked her territory as the roof of this Seat, just below the balcony of a restaurant ...
Being in a constant saltwater environment does have its downside.
The number of larger yachts has grown considerably over the last few years. 
Sivota harbour, with one of the many catamarans in the centre. There are far more cats around than there were even five years ago.
ZS at the helm. Who put the horizon at that angle?
I'll be back from this trip next week, at which point I will try to make sense of my notes, and tuck away various of my Greek Islands photographs for when I sit down to write. Nice memories as well as useful information!

What do you like to research, whether for a novel or simply out of a sense of curiosity?

This week's Word of the Week comes from the boat anchored next to us as I write this. It's called 'Sempre Decanter' because, according to the owner, the definition of a decanter is 'a vessel filled with spirit'. Coupled with 'sempre' meaning 'always', as in the Marine Corps motto, 'Sempre fi(delis)', meaning 'always faithful'.

Coming up

When I return next week, I'm straight back into the thick of it, with a Noir @ The Bar at The Winter Gardens in Morecambe on Friday, Sept 29th, from 6-7pm.

The following day, Saturday, Sept 30th I’m taking part in the inaugural Morecambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival, also being held at the Winter Gardens. I’m on the panel ‘Local Legends—I Did It My Way’ with other local authors AS Chambers and Beth Jones, and moderated by Kevin Wignall. The event starts at 9:45am, and the Local Legends panel is on at 10:15am.

And early next month, I have a blog tour starting for the publication of the UK edition of the new Charlie Fox book, FOX HUNTER. Many thanks to Ayo Onatade for organising me so brilliantly.

Zoë Sharp Blog Tour dates

2nd October
Victoria Watson

3rd October
Crime Book Junkie

4th October
Liz Loves Books

5th October
A Lover of Books

6th October
The Book Trail

7th October
Rachel’s Random Reads

8th October
Anne Bonny Book Reviews

9th October
Blue Book Balloon

11th October
Crime Watch

13th October
Shotsmag Confidential

14th October
Hair Past a Freckle

15th October
Damp Pebbles

16th October
Jen Meds Book Reviews

17th October
Random Things Through my Letterbox

Saturday, September 23, 2017

If You've Got It, Play It


My post last week—drum roll—on the meaning of life, received such a robust welcome that I’m a bit lost as to where to go this week. Many wrote to me asking that I do something “like it” again.  Trust me, if I knew how to do it again I would.  Frankly, I didn’t even know I did it, when I did it.  I just did it.

Which got me to thinking.  Why do so many of us think that what comes easily to us, must come easily to everyone else? The natural corollary to that sort of thinking is that what comes so effortlessly cannot possibly be as meaningful as what does not.  For example, some know precisely what colors and patterns work well together, while others can’t even match black shoes with black socks.  Some can whistle a complex tune with perfect pitch, while others can barely blow their noses. Two unique skills, each too often taken for granted by its possessor.

Then there are writers who breeze through complex narrative portrayals, all the while dreading the eventual paragraphs of dialog to come.  And the artist genius with pen and ink that shrinks at the thought of touching oil to canvas. They, as well as those tortured by the opposite dilemmas, all thinking that what comes so easily to them is not as valued by society as that which does not.

I’m not meaning to suggest that one should not work hard toward mastering the more difficult aspects of one one’s chosen craft, but in seeking to master a skill set you find difficult, do not do so to the neglect of enhancing your natural gifts.  In other words, play to your strengths. 

Yes, we all admire and respect those who persevere and succeed in mastering the most challenging aspects of their work, but what of the many who lose patience in the struggle, become frustrated, and simply give up, sacrificing the potential of their natural gifts in the process.

Each of us has gifts meant for us to develop, nurture, and exploit.  If we pursue what we think is more valued by society, to the neglect of what we’re blessed with, we’re playing into the strengths of those who possess the very gifts we lack.  Our energies should be directed toward successfully competing through our strengths.

It’s like a five-foot-tall natural born jockey who, instead of racing, chooses to compete against seven-foot giants in basketball.  The outcome will assuredly be as unsatisfying for the jockey, as it would be for a seven-footer who decides charging for the finish line astride thoroughbreds is a better choice than heading for the hoop in a pair of Air Jordans.

Bottom Line: “Play the cards you’re dealt.”  But play them well.

That’s all for this week’s sermon…except to say, L’Shanah Tovah, y’all.