Mysterious business


Locally, last night’s Midsomer Murders was the episode, “Echoes of the Dead.”  Our PBS station’s purchased programs recently exhausted the Tom Barnaby episodes and we’re (finally) onto cousin John’s adventures. Not surprisingly, Cousin John’s cases have a slightly different feel to them than Tom’s. Having read about the change for ages, it’s nice to be (sort of) caught up. I’m guessing that I could catch myself up on a streaming service, but I like supporting a local station.

Because I like traveling, I’ve added to my enjoyment of the series by taking a virtual vacation to the filming locations in the story. During my travels, I can imagine either the film crew on location, or I can relive the story while ‘driving’ through the area by clicking arrow buttons on my laptop screen.

On the Sunday after a Saturday evening of murder and mayhem, it’s fun to drive around the area using Google Maps. No passport. No jetlag. No traffic jams. No murderers. The best part is that after my journey I get to sleep in my own bed. After decades of musical beds, whether in motels, hotels, or temporary Army quarters, ‘my own bed’ is a definite perk.

One thing to keep in mind concerning gazing around the filming locations is that the Google Maps images aren’t tidied up. I doubt anyone knew Google’s car would be driving by and so we don’t have all the pretty flower boxes, a street free of clutter, or the setting perfectly maintained. Still, the price is right.

Naturally, today’s virtual Sunday drive is to England.

The Red Lion Pub in Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire was renamed “The Monks Retreat” for the story. “Bernards hardware store” (IRL, the Village shop) is just to the right of the Red Lion/Monks Retreat.

Unfortunately for our outing, the train station for Great Worthy (in actuality, the Watercress Line in Ropley, Hampshire) was the site of the large building project when the Google Car made its pass through the area. Leaving the station, though, if you click-drive down the country lane out to a T-intersection, you can head either toward Winchester or Guildford.

Great Worthy school was filmed at Albury in Surrey. The Google car couldn’t get close, so neither can we.

The film crews cobble together lovely imaginary towns by trekking all over the countryside. I imagine they have a special team whose job it is to travel around to scout locations. (kind of a ‘duh’ statement concerning the sophistication of the film industry)

For me, virtually traveling to the filming sites adds depth to the stories. With no dialogue or jump-cuts in the Google Maps images, I can take my time, concentrate, and browse. I do miss the smells and sounds of the areas, and I can’t go out to a tea room for a little light refreshment. Still, as I mentioned above, the price is right.

In another century, our family lived in Munich, Germany. One day, while I was riding the strassenbahn downtown, my mind wandered and this story presented itself. That’s the nice thing about riding the strassenbahn, you don’t have to pay attention to the driving. I don’t come up with as many stories now that I have to drive myself everywhere.

Just as a note, any whiff of contemporary politics is coincidental. I wrote this in Munich and we left there in 1992. I can’t remember what was going on in the German political scene at the time.

 

Karlheinz has suffered a series of unfortunate events in his life. He wants to recover, if only to exact revenge, and concocts a unique business plan. Will he succeed in reinventing himself as a successful entrepreneur? Or will the headlines get him again?

 

The PDF will remain linked for two weeks after the initial upload.

The link is now inactive.

A few weeks ago, a (seemingly) short-lived meme circulated on Facebook: book covers. The instructions were to share seven book covers without explanation, rating, or reviewing the contents — sort of Pinterest meme.

I played along, but then thought about the number of books I have. It seemed that I could get more mileage out of the meme — and dust behind many of the books — by using the book cover idea to jump-start the blogging (again) during this bleak season.

So, without further ado, the first in the blogged book cover series.  <insert happy face>

 

IMG_5243

 

(my goodness, but that came out large!)

Anyone looking at the blog will see a big gap this year in published blog posts. Things went off course for me when, in January, I volunteered to do the homeowners association newsletter. I’d written newsletters before, I knew how to tweak my antique Microsoft Publisher program and make pretty PDFs to upload rather than print, and I could set my own schedule. How hard could it be?

What I learned (again) is that me splitting my writing focus isn’t something I do very well. Although both projects involve writing (i.e., typing), real estate legal stuff for a newsletter is a different critter than mystery-writing legal stuff for a story. I was jumping back and forth between subjects, which wasn’t good for either of them.

Now add in the presidential campaign. I’m not actively involved in campaigning, but oh, my goodness, where did the time go?

Now that the election is winding down (one hopes), I’m slowly righting my fictional writing ship that had foundered and I’m getting back on course. The short story I was working on is nearing completion (just a short story?!?) so that’s one more brick in that story wall. Me not being a natural born killer made sorting out the story’s howdunnit challenging. I thought that all my years of reading mysteries and watching detective programs had given me a good grounding in fictional crime. Sadly, writing mysteries is more difficult than reading and watching them.

While I’ve been nudging my fictional ship back on course, I’ve also assembled a nice little play-acting company of amenable, uncomplaining plastic actresses and actors courtesy of the talented and persnickety engineers at Playmobil. The detail of the accessories that come with the little actresses and actors is a great aid to memory and imagination.

And now, having taken a step in getting up after I’ve fallen down, on to completing the story.

 

The general setup for the stories:

The apartment building is to the left, with an office area in front of it. The office and its garages (which doubles as offices when needed) are in the center. The Border is behind them. Above it all is the castle on the hill, which also looks down on the church across from the office. The church bell takes getting used to for the story characters.

The apartment building is to the left, with an office area in front of it. The office and its garages (which doubles as offices when needed) are in the center. The Border is behind them. Above it all is the castle on the hill, which also looks down on the church across from the office. The church bell takes getting used to for the story characters.

 

Where the characters live

Although my stories rarely involve the family members of the characters, having someplace for the characters to live when they aren't in a scene adds depth to my thinking.

Although my stories rarely involve the family members of the characters, having someplace for the characters to live when they aren’t in a scene adds depth to my thinking.

 

 

Cold War Germany

The red and white barriers are reminiscent of the barriers that were on the actual border before the German Reunification. Off to the left is the train station -- track numbers, schedules, and a map -- which usually wasn't so close to the border, but my table top has limited real estate.

The red and white barriers are reminiscent of the barriers that were on the actual border before the German Reunification.
Off to the left is the train station — track numbers, schedules, and a map — which usually wasn’t so close to the border, but my table top has limited real estate.

 

 

Items my actresses and actors could use for mischief

Possible weapons

Possible weapons

 

Story scenes:

The picnic scene

The office is having a picnic for the U.S. Bicentennial. Naturally, because conflict is what drives fiction, a fight breaks out at the picnic.

The office is having a picnic for the U.S. Bicentennial. Naturally, because conflict is what drives fiction, a fight breaks out at the picnic.

 

The office scene

A colleague of my brown-haired main character tells her how he overheard what the red-head said. The colleague has his name taped on his back as the other characters do. That way, they don't get mixed up with each other.

A colleague of my brown-haired main character tells her how he overheard what the red-head said.
The colleague has his name taped on his back as the other characters do. That way, they don’t get mixed up with each other.

 

Finding the body

My main character (the brown haired character at the back) and her colleagues are surprised to find the missing man outside their office, lying in a stairwell near the road (the white stripes are a pedestrian crossing). The back wall of the "office" is open (it's a child's play set), so I had to put in a paper wall to ever so slightly increase the realism.

My main character (the brown haired character at the back) and her colleagues are surprised to find the missing man outside their office, lying in a stairwell near the road (the white stripes are a pedestrian crossing).
The back wall of the “office” is open (it’s a child’s play set), so I had to put in a paper wall to ever so slightly increase the realism.

 

Interlude after the body was found

The main character had errands to run. The other office members were left to talk to the police after the military police gave her permission to leave.

The main character had errands to run. The other office members were left to talk to the police after the military police gave her permission to leave.

 

No, I’m not giving away the ending.

PBS is looking good for Saturdays although it’s very odd when an established program changes its main characters, especially if you’ve missed any transition.  So far, the story is still ticking along, but the only character from the previous programs is Dennis Waterman.

New Tricks, cast and characters

 

Up-side is, it’s still on.

Scott and Bailey‘s up next.

The latest Miss Marple in the PBS series Masterpiece Mystery is Endless Night, a bit of an oddity because Miss Marple isn’t a character in the book.<-  [highlight to see spoiler]   Continued spoilers, and a good review, are at the blog, The Agatha Christie Reader.

I’m happy that the stories continue to be made for new audiences as well as for those of us who apparently can’t get enough of Mrs. Christie’s books (the blue volumes in the near-top left and right shelves).

In addition to being happy to see the remake of the story, I liked seeing Tamzin Outhwaite’s name in websites about the episode. I last saw her in Redcap.

I was also tickled to see Janet Henfrey in the cast.  I so enjoyed her as Mrs. Bale in As Time Goes By with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer.  Her attention to the shipping forecasts reminded me of my dad talking about the persistence of “gale-force winds” in the Scottish isles, an apparent feature of the radio weather reports in England in the early 1950s.

It makes it hard for younger people in the acting profession to get work when so many of their older colleagues continue to work well in the craft, but I do enjoy seeing familiar faces in familiar stories.  Aspiring novelists may also have a tough time breaking into the ranks of well-known stories and characters because of the devotion of readers to their favorite writers.  I know that if I’m reading another one of the Christie books, I’m not reading the stories of newer authors.  I try to balance it by reading contemporary authors during the day when it’s easier to concentrate and saving Mrs. Christie for my soothing nighttime reads.

So, I’m sitting here, allegedly multitasking by checking a Sisters In Crime email list, emailing a thank-you, cribbing information on formatting ebooks, and watching the movie Scoop on Netflix.  I’ve read that multitasking doesn’t actually work, but it seems that I’m doing it anyhow.

While I’m multitasking, a little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me I’m missing something. It’s a nagging little feeling, nothing momentous (thank goodness), but just something.

Through my haze of reading, typing, muting the story when suspenseful things are happening (I’m fine with mysteries, but I don’t [gracefully] do suspense), I think, “Lovejoy.”  It finally dawns on me that one of the primary characters in the movie is Ian McShane, an actor I haven’t seen onscreen in years. That little voice isn’t in the back of my head, it’s coming from the television.

Now I’m going to have to waste time looking on Netflix for Lovejoy. I don’t have much hope, but you never know.  In the meantime, back to Scoop.

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