Friday, August 28, 2020

What We're Writing--Debs Does Geography

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Having been tortured all week by visions of glorious Cornwall, Venice, and Scotland, I thought I'd take you to...rainy London on a dark November evening. (What was I thinking when I chose this setting??) Instead of looking at gorgeous photos of Scottish moors, I've been pouring over Google Maps.


I have an ongoing "discussion" with my wonderful editor about including descriptions of how my characters get from one place to another in my scenes. She says "Cut it out with the sat-nav!" (Although a little less politely than that!) But I like to feel the location, to know how places relate to each other, to sense the transition between them. In this little snippet from Kincaid/James #19, Kincaid is going from Holborn Police Station in Bloomsbury, central London, to Westbourne Grove/Notting Hill.  And we get a glimpse of a new character, Detective Constable Lucy McGillivray (the hardest name to type, ever...)


“Where are you from, Constable?” Kincaid asked McGillivray as the car sped north and then west through the wet streets.
“Perthshire, sir.” She pronounced it “Pairth-shire,” with a roll of the first R.  But we moved here when I was fifteen, so I’ve considered myself a Londoner for a good while now. I did my training here as well.”
“Have you had much experience with death notifications?”
“I did my share in uniform, sir, accidents and sudden deaths, but this will be my first in a murder case.”
“Well, much the same, I’m afraid, except that we have to ask questions afterwards.” Kincaid had never become inured to it, and he lapsed into silence, the acrid coffee he’d drunk at the station churning in his gut now. There was, he thought, no worse task than breaking the news to a parent of the death of a child.
His mind wandered back over the details of the evening. Had Sasha Johnson, junior doctor, simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time? But his gut told him no. Random attacks were usually more frenzied, and this had seemed calculated in its ferocity. One blow. Who had the expertise for that? Or had the killer merely been lucky?
He shook himself back to the present. They were entering the Harrow Road now. Soon they would reach the eastern fringes of Notting Hill. The road was lined with a comfortable mix of shops and flats, most of the buildings only three stories high. When they turned left into Elgin Road, he pulled up a map on his mobile phone and asked the driver to slow. Leaning forwards, he said, “It looks like it’s across from the Union Tavern. See if you can pull into Woodfield Road, and we’ll cross back over.” There were double yellows either side of Elgin Road, so no place for the car to stop directly in front of the Johnsons’ building. He was glad the rain had let up a bit.
Although he knew the area relatively well, he was still surprised when he caught his first glimpse of the flats where Sasha Johnson’s parents lived. The three-story block fit snugly into the angle where the road met the Grand Union Canal. The arrow-shaped roof sat atop the building like an over-sized white cap, the triangle’s apex pointing at the pub across the road. The walls of the structure were curved to fit into the angle as well, and the rear of the building was an odd bulbous shape. 


“What a strange building,” said McGillivray. “The rooms will be awkward. Nice views of the canal, though.”
The Grand Union Canal curved gently through this part of London, passing Kensal Green Cemetery and the northern edge of Notting Hill, until it reached this part of Westbourne Grove, where it flirted with the Westway before becoming the Regent’s Canal. The fortunate inhabitants of the flats with canal views would look out at colorful narrowboats moored below.
When their driver had indeed found a place to stop the car in Woodfield Road, Kincaid asked him to wait as he and McGillivray got out. The pub was still open, so it had not yet gone eleven. Kincaid hoped that the Johnsons would be up. Light spilled from the pub, and a glimpse in the windows revealed a cheerful interior, the tables still packed with diners and drinkers. He and Gemma had brought the children here back in the summer, for a Sunday lunch on the pub’s long terrace overlooking the canal. 

No one but the most inveterate smokers would be sitting out there tonight, he thought as he turned up his collar against the persistent drizzle.
Followed by McGillivray, Kincaid crossed the road on a break in the traffic and opened the wrought-iron gate set into the wall surrounding the flats. The tiny courtyard was neat, with a few potted shrubs and a couple of chained bicycles. The building’s main door was well lit and, after searching for the flat number in the labeled buttons, he pressed the buzzer.

 
 The building is real, as is the pub, the very welcoming Union Tavern, which I discovered quite by accident on one of my rambles through London last November. I'd started walking east from Portobello Road as it grew dark, and I wandered happily for a couple of hours. But eventually I realized that I was damp and cold and hungry--and that I had no idea where I was. When I saw the pub in the distance I was so relieved. (London pubs are ports in the storm--with bathrooms.) Then I realized I had been walking adjacent to the canal, and when I saw this wonderful building I knew it had to go in the book somewhere.

Now, even though I can't travel, and am missing what I thought would be my last research/writing trip for this book, I'm loving being there in my my imagination. With maps.

So, REDS and readers, do you like following along with the locations in a book? And do you prefer real maps to GPS? (I LOVE maps, although I was certainly thankful for the GPS that led me to the Union Tavern!) 

 

91 comments:

  1. I love this excerpt! It makes me feel as if I am right there with Kincaid and McGillivray . . . I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the story.

    Yes, I do like following along with the locations in books . . . at least I don’t get lost when I'm just reading it in the story! Otherwise, map or GPS, it makes no difference . . . I still manage to get lost no matter where I’m going.

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    1. Joan, I'm just learning about McGillivray. Unfortunately, her description came a bit before the snippet I posted. But I think she will be interesting.

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    2. She sounds like a terrific new character...get that book published! And yes, love locations, adore maps. My family took one-month road trips every summer and I was the co-pilot from an early age...always using maps. The States, Canada, Mexico, great and fond memories. When I lived in France, I wore out my copy of Paris Plan, but can't part with it. The notes are a chronology. I wish I could post a photo of it. Completely tattered...and loved.

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  2. Debs, I love following along your locations in your books! I never tire of telling people what an excellent guide for London your books are. No, I've never been to London, but I feel like I have been through your books, and every time I read a new Gemma and Duncan book, I find new places to add to my list to visit. You bring the setting alive and accessible for all your readers, so please don't stop what you're doing. Of course, I do love the maps inside, too. I have been meaning to tell you that when I was searching for something on Etsy, I came across someone selling a Bacon's Ruby Mp of London & Suburbs, With Index and Stranger Guide. I think it is from 1949 and inside a small green hardcovered book. It unfolds to a good sized map and is quite fascinating. So, although I use GPS, which has saved me many times, I adore printed maps, especially old ones.

    The excerpt has me longing for the book it will be. And, now I have to add the Union Tavern to my London list.

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    1. Oh, your map sounds wonderful, Kathy! I've seen those maps that fold out from the little books. Some of the dealers in Portobello Road have vintage maps, so you'll have to look for them when you go! The Union Tavern was very nice. The night I discovered it, I know I ate something, but I can't remember what. I would love to visited in nice weather, when you could sit on the canalside terrace...

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  3. Love the snippet, Debs - thank you. I love the transitions between places, and as you so deftly did, it's a chance for Duncan and Lucy to get to know each other more. I also love her offhand observation, "The rooms will be awkward." That tells me something about her.

    I use maps all the time, and it's always handy to have one on a trip into the unknown in case the GPS cuts out (like in Vermont...). Can't wait for this book!

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    1. Yes, it does tell something about her! Great observation, Edith!

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  4. Love maps Debs, and loved your scene as well. Aren't we lucky to be traveling in England, Scotland, Cornwall, Paris this week!

    Does this book have a pub date Debs? (dodging rotten tomatoes...)

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    1. Lots of tomatoes, today, Lucy! The book is due in December, so some time later in 2021. I will shout from the rooftops when I have a pub date!

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  5. Love the description and photos. And loving the travel this week. Real maps, yes! Digital maps/GPS are great for some things, but just useless if you want a good sense of how places relate to each other, whether it is rural towns or city neighborhoods. My best story about navigating in London: years ago, sent for a work conference and,before the posh meeting hotel, I took a few vacation days and stayed in a modest b&b in Bloomsbury. I had a copy of Mrs. Dalloway,book club read that month. Didn't think till I was there that the book begins with Mrs. D precisely described walk in London.Could I plot it on my street map?I could! I did! And the very street where I was staying was mentioned in the first few pages! Bookish wonderfulness

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    1. Triss, OMG. "Dream Come True Walk!" How fun!

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    2. Triss! I'd forgotten that about Mrs. Dalloway! I just pulled out my copy (don't ever say my books aren't organized, lol) and I'm going to reread the beginning this morning. I had thought this book would have more focus on the Bloomsbury set, but, alas, it doesn't seem to be going in that direction...

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  6. I use GPS and Google Maps quite a bit, but always always always keep paper maps in my car just in case. As for the research trips that aren't happening right now, I love Google Earth, especially street-level view.

    Love this snippet, Deborah! I love feeling like I'm there!

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    1. I think I spend half my day now in Google Street view, Annette. It has really been a godsend with the "remote writing" challenge...

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  7. I love maps, Deb, but they must be paper ones! However, since I have never been to London or any part of England it is hard for me to visualize what you are talking about. The little map in the front of your books is not quite good enough for me so I've had to buy the London A to Z which is pretty hard on my eyes and a big road atlas of Britain. Now I can follow right along! Of course I can't wait to have this book in my hands!

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    1. Judi, the A to Zed are great for detail, but not so good for getting a general sense of the city. A big fold-out map is better, and zooming in and out in Google Maps actually works pretty well.

      I have a huge London street map framed on one wall in my office, and a map of England and Scotland over my desk. Unfortunately, there is so much junk on my desk these days that half the map is invisible...

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  8. Deb, I just love the snippet. Kincaid is absolutely one of the best characters in the world and I can't wait to learn what he and Gemma and their brood are up to these days. Like Lucy/Roberta, when will we have this book in our hands?

    The maps in your books are very helpful for me to understand "where?" in your stories. I am a good map reader and have a decent sense of direction. Mostly, I can look at a map before I go and know where places are relative to one another. Some cities are more difficult to navigate than others, however. Boston comes to mind. We use GPS, of course, but a paper map gives one an overview that helps with perspective which GPS, for the most part, lacks. Back to Boston, our GPS has cut out in that fair city more than once, leaving us with hilarity and frustration. Once it showed the car driving up the Charles River. LOL We had to reboot the whole car!

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    1. Judy, I accidentally found out that different GPS systems give different directions. We were traveling cross-country in my brother-in-law's car, which had an old version of GPS. It was cranky, but since we were traveling in mountains part of the time we enjoyed seeing the elevation changes, and it showed the speed limit. I was navigating, so I also turned on the mobile Garmin, which showed the nearest gas stations and restaurants, and for grins, I also turned on the Google Maps on my phone. That proved the most reliable for directions, because it is constantly updating with the satellites.

      This kept us amused the whole two week trip!

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    2. I much prefer Google Maps to Garmin, Karen.

      But my favorite sat-nav story is the time I picked up a car on arriving at Heathrow, en route to Henley-on-Thames. I paid extra for the sat-nav. I think it was a TomTom. Once I managed to get out of the airport, I spent TWO hours driving in circles, literally. The stupid thing lagged, so it wouldn't tell me which exit to take on the roundabouts until I was already in them and couldn't change lanes. It was horrible. If you've driven in England, you will know that there is never any place to pull over, and that big roundabouts are an absolute nightmare unless you know exactly what you're doing. I finally just took a road, and eventually came to a petrol station where I could pull in and buy a map. I turned off the sat-nav, and the map got me to Henley in twenty minutes. I never used the sat-nav again!

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    3. What a nightmare, Debs! I've used an old GPS system on a rental car, years ago, that did the same thing, with the too-lagging turn by turns. At least I wasn't trying to exit roundabouts, though!

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    4. That happened to us in DC when nav. systems were just beginning to be available in rentals. In the city, it wouldn't tell us to turn until we were past the turn and then, on the highway, it made us get off and on two times on the way back to the airport. Get off, get on.

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  9. What a curious building, I understand that you wanted it in your book. Love your excerpt and always happy to visit locations while reading your books especially when I can recognize places I have already visited or passed through.
    I like maps but I almost always have problems with GPS, can't count on them : incompatibility.

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    1. danielle, I tried my best to find photos of the interior of building, but no luck. So I am totally making that part up!

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  10. For what it is worth, I love all the sat-nav in your books. That and the maps in the front. It helps me to feel oriented and you invariably also have your characters discussing the case or ruminating on clues while they are enroute, so it's not *just* geography.

    I love the excerpt. Can't wait for your next book.

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    1. Thanks, Brenda! Yes, it's nice to give characters a chance to discuss things without them just being "talking heads!"

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  11. You know I love your books, Debs, and I wouldn't want you to change a single thing. One of my joys in life is traveling to places I've read about, so the more detail the better. Yesterday we watched a PBS Miss Marple, set in St. Mary Mead of course, and I remembered my first trip to England, when we discovered the village where that series was filmed, Nether Wallop!

    Although I haven't been to London since I started reading Gemma and Duncan, I am delighted to say I've been to Nantwich and Lower Slaughter on your recommendation! Not to mention finding the house where you lived in Chester. Your books are wonderful travelogues, and I'm waiting for the next adventure in that pub.

    There are so few things to look forward to in life at present. Books are my escape hatch.

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    1. Nether Wallop! You absolutely cannot beat those Cotswold names. Now I'm going to have to look it up on Google.

      I'm so glad you got to Chester, and especially Nantwich. I'd love to get back there myself one of these days. Or maybe just reread Water Like a Stone....

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    2. I’ve reread it a few times. I know the author ...

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  12. I've visited some of the places you write about, including Holland Park and the Portobello Road market, and always think of Duncan and Gemma. I like learning the landscape. While walking the Thames Path, I stumbled across Adam Dalgleish's riverfront flat. I roamed the Inns of Court with Rumpole. Have you ever written the Chelsea Physic Garden into one of your books? I don't remember.

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    1. Adam Dalgliesh's flat, what fun! I haven't done that, although I did know which house belonged to P.D. James, in Holland Park Road, and always thought of her when I walked past.

      I have not been to the Chelsea Physic Garden! It has been on my must-visit list for the last few trips to London and I just haven't made it. Maybe next time. And I'm sure there would be an idea for a book there....

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  13. I do like following along with characters. Makes me feel like I'm there.

    Paper maps are okay, but I've come to appreciate the way the GPS "talks" to you. That way I can focus on where I'm going and "the nice lady in the computer" tells me where to go. Well, until that lady makes me turn into a dump site instead of a mall parking lot, but we won't go there.

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    1. Yes, you can't always trust the "nice lady," lol.

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  14. I enjoy reading descriptions of the locations in books (especially in London and the British Isles) and like to follow along on a map, so I'm very appreciative when I find a map at the beginning of a book.

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    1. Yes, me, too, Celia. I think most novels should have maps!

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  15. Poor Carrie is going to feel absolutely outnumbered, because I love maps, too. I learned to read them when I was a kid, and used to dig out our big atlas to find faraway places to dream about. When you grow up in a tiny town in Missouri, even Parthenon, Arkansas, and Telephone, Texas, are exotic locales to dream about.

    Someday, if I ever make it to London, I plan to join the legion of your fans who use your books as our travel guides.

    AND NOW: Last week Deb asked me to post a Song of the Week. This one goes out to Hank Phillipi Ryan, in honor of the bumper crop she has harvested this week. It's Guy Clark, so you know it's good. https://youtu.be/9tj4wIKMqEE

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    1. Love that song, Gigi! A good friend is a blue guitarist, and often performs at farmers markets. This is one of his standbys!

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    2. Gigi, the song is perfect!!! An ode to Hank's tomatoes!!

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    3. Thank you, Ladies. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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    4. This is FANTASTIC! Oh, love this..and I had never heard it! SO great. Thank you!

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    5. You're welcome, Hank. I got such a kick out of Jonathan's BLT on Facebook the other day, and that luscious shot of the colander full of cherry tomatoes, I couldn't resist.

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    6. My first song listening with the sound processor. Listening brain had a very hard time with Texan English. I almost heard the fiddle.. Love the idea of a song for the week. Thx.

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    7. Coralee, how exciting that you could hear any of it! Tell me what works for you, sonicaly, and I'll try to keep that in mind for next week. Are instrumentals better? Are you game to try anything?

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  16. Oh yes, I love maps -- using them in my own (long-ago) travels, seeing them in your books -- and I definitely like being immersed in the story's location. If the location is real, then good descriptions do more than just contribute to the story; they contribute to my learning about that place. Bonus!

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  17. When Steve and I first started traveling together, back in January 1979, I started my career as chief navigator. I've loved maps ever since, and have helped steer us through most of the contiguous US states, Hawaii, Normandy, and New South Wales in Australia (which took all the concentration both of us had to stay on the correct side of the road, and to navigate the widdershins roundabouts).

    The map give to us by the rental car company in Sydney was the best. It was so brilliantly accurate, right down to the pay phone locations. I was fascinated by them.

    For the 20 years I traveled to consumer shows I used the gamut of map options: AAA Triptik, paper maps, then Mapquest (hilariously inaccurate sometimes), then Garmin. I didn't get a GPS in my car or a cell phone with map capabilities until I'd retired.

    The hardest to use, in my opinion, is a GPS on the phone when you're walking, especially if you get turned around at all. Maybe it's better than the last time I used it, but I think a paper map is so much better for that situation.

    And I love the maps in your books, Debs, but I mostly have electronic versions, and they aren't quite the same.

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  18. I have to admit that since I've been able to get Google Maps on my phone in London, I stopped carrying an A to Zed, because the big ones are too heavy and the purse-sized ones need a magnifying glass to read! But I will also admit that I've gotten totally lost and turned around. There have many times when I've had to walk and see which direction the little blue dot was moving before I could get oriented. I do try to always carry a bus map, however. It makes it so much easier to figure out how to get from one part of London to another.

    I love to ride the bus in London. The tube is convenient, certainly, but you get no sense at all of the city and how it's put together. There are lots of settings in my books that I've discovered just from getting on a bus and riding the route.

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    1. Yes, especially since the Metro maps are so stylized, and actually don't represent their actual shape. NYC's subway, too, and DC's. It's very disorienting trying to make them fit into actual geography.

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  19. Fabulous snippet, Deborah. Now I want to go to London and find that pub!

    Yes, I love to travel the roads with characters. It gives me a sense of place and I have been known to Google and go (pre-Covid) always grateful for the trailblazer writer who went before. In real life, I'm a map person although I always have my GPS queued.

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  20. I LOVE to know the streets. Especially if I am familiar with them! And especially if you're the one writing them, Debs, because you are truly good at it. It's not easy to pull off. And I have to say--when I teach writing classes, I often quote your editor!

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    1. Oh, Hank, that's too funny. Well, we'll see if the sat-nav in my little snippet makes it past Carrie in the final draft!

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  21. I passed my love of maps on to one of my older nephews. When he was a boy, I'd collect National Geographic and any other old maps I could find for him. I don't find the geography details in your books to be too much--for me, they add to the setting, the plot, the atmosphere of whatever is taking place at the moment in terms of actions or characters' state of mind. It makes me feel like I'm there--love this snippet, and another one of my favorites is the scene where Poppy and Andy first play together and Melody is approaching. I felt like I was traversing the streets/terrain with her.

    And, your writing along with those photos today--never mind the rain--it's like watching a movie! Someone is really missing an opportunity for a great TV series--viewership would be through the roof and loyal to boot!

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    1. I grew up on National Geographic, Flora. My grandmother had a subscription and we read every issue together.

      I love that scene in The Sound of Broken Glass, too. I LOVED discovering Crystal Palace, and actually did a photo shoot in the studio where Andy and Poppy play.

      As for the TV series, I keep hoping....

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  22. Debs, I love you and I love Duncan and Gemma. And if I were your editor I'd tell you to cut the directions. Does it serve to reveal character or plot? Does it create a setting and atmosphere? Descriptions of the changing view and the style of houses, yes - that tells us what sort of place the parents can afford and what style of community they choose to live in. But there are so many place and road names here, I feel as if I'm getting lost in the forest.

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    1. Ha, Julia, I expect you're right, and at least some of that will get the dreaded red pen. But I had so much fun writing it!

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  23. Odd note: I see most people refer to your characters as Duncan and Gemma. I always think of them in the reverse order, finding Gemma the protagonist and Duncan secondary.

    Is this just me?

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    1. Ann, I generally say "Duncan and Gemma." Somehow it just rolls off the tongue more easily. But I don't think of either of them as primary or secondary. Gemma has certainly never been a sidekick, lol!

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  24. I am a great fan of maps, starting with Treasure Island, I learned the map itself is the treasure.
    Like many have mentioned before, books take me where I cannot travel in real life. I thought fiction meant every thing had to be created including street names and locations. It was an eye opener when used google maps to follow Dana Stabenow's Anchorage settings. What fun. I have toggled between maps and the books ever since.

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    1. Funnily enough, Coralee, I think some of my love of maps comes from reading fantasy novels in my teens. It seems like they all had maps of the imaginary places. Tolkien's maps (which he drew himself) were wonderful. I still have my original editions of those books.

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  25. I love maps. Period. I can get the big picture which GPS doesn’t do well. If at all. I need to see how it all fits together.
    Are Duncan and associate in an Uber or cab? Why no official car?

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    1. Oh, sorry about that, Pat. They are being driven by a uniformed officer in a patrol car, but that bit of information comes before the snippet I posted.

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  26. I love being able to follow along with the characters. When X "turns onto Portobello Road from Pembridge Road" I feel like I am right there with them. I love London and love the feeling of being there (now that we're limited to armchair travel).

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    1. Thank you, Dee! It really helps me to immerse myself in the story--even if some of the direction bits have to come out later:-)

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  27. If I know the area, I enjoy following along with the location. Sometimes, however, I feel like talking geography can slow down the story. It's a fine balance.

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    1. Yes, it is, Mark. And I do read books that go over the line.

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  28. I adore the maps in your books and really enjoy your descriptions of the characters' travels. Now I use Google maps most of the time. But when I moved to Los Angeles the genius Thomas Guides were my key to exploring the city. For those who don't know, the guide broke the city into a numbered grid that had a page for each square with a larger scale map. I miss them! I think there's a gene for sense of direction, you have it or you don't 😊

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    1. I've never heard of the Thomas Guides, Charlotte. They sound wonderful. I worry that an entire generation will grow up not knowing how to read a map, and I think that's a great loss.

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    2. Back in the day, the medical helicopters flew low enough to use Thomas guides. No kidding. Find the freeway find the exit go three blocks East and seven west and X marks the spot

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    3. Texas used to have Mapsco books that sound similar to your Thomas Guides, Charlotte. I loved them, and used them all the time when I first moved to the area. I have NO sense of direction, so the first time I got a car with a built-in compass I was so excited!

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  29. Debs, I love the maps in your books and I love to know where I am when I’m reading. I’ll often get out my London A to Z and follow along And heaven help the writer( never you, Debs) who fudges or gets it wrong!

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    1. I do try, Rhys! Although I am sometimes corrected by my London friend who is kind enough to read the manuscripts. In A BITTER FEAST, I had Duncan take the motorway to the Cotswolds. My friend said "why on earth would he do that???" So in the finished book, Duncan travels via Oxford. (I suspect I was avoiding Oxford because I've driven there and the ring roads and double roundabouts terrify me!

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  30. Debs, I LOVE maps in your books! Thank you for the photos so I can refer to them when reading your new book whenever it is published. When I travelled to London years ago, I remember the maps in my map of London booklet. The map in your post looks like the map in my London maps booklet. A to Z ?

    And I would walk all over London. On my last visit, I decided Not to take the Underground Tube nor the double decker bus because of the recent terrorist attacks. Walking meant that I could eat whatever I wanted and keep my weight down :) I did walk all day. And return to my bed and breakfast when the sun started to set at 9p.m. in the evening.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, in spite of the 7/7 bombings, I always feel safer on the bus than the tube. I like the fact that you can get off the bus! And many, many times I have walked all day in London. It's not only a very walkable city, it's also a series of villages/neighborhoods strung together, so the character is always changing.

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  31. I'm more bothered when characters feel as if they're hanging in space. And I love maps! Whenever I'm going to stay somewhere I've never been, I pull up a map and see what else is around. Plan my walks and meals. And in a novel, to'ing and fro'ing is an ideal place to build up back story while you're creating a sense of place.

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  32. Thank you for posting those pictures. I often wonder how close the picture in my mind is to reality. I love real maps. I like to spread them out and get a much bigger picture of all the area around my destination. As a teenager my job on our family vacations was to read the maps and be the navigator. Keep on telling me how to get where we are going,

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  33. By the way, you can find the funny building and the Union Tavern on the segment of Google Maps I posted. Look where Elgin Road meets the canal!

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  34. It's one hundred thousand degrees in AZ and no rain. You had me at "persistent drizzle". LOL. Seriously, I love writing the logistics of movement in novels. Thank you for doing so well. Plus, I love maps!!!

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    1. Thanks, Jenn! I loved the directions in PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA. And Chelsea's drive in the rainstorm in Ireland--on my gosh!!! I was white-knuckled for her. I drove once in a hurricane in England (yes, really) from Devon to Bedford, and it was exactly as you described Chelsea's ordeal. Brilliant job!

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  35. Looking forward to this book. I use maps and Google Maps or Apple Maps. Last time we drove in England was 2017 between Stratford to York, with a day trip in Leicester to see Richard III’s tomb, and it was a nightmare. A rainy day and too many roundabouts with a lagging GPS. That same trip I used Google Maps while walking in Oxford to find The Eagle and the Child pub and it worked fine. Sometimes it doesn’t though. I will switch GPS Systems if I’m having trouble.
    I always look up locations from books that I’m reading. Love descriptions in books!

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    1. Teri, that sounds like a fabulous trip. But the lagging sat-nav is totally useless for roundabouts. So much better to study a map and plan it out beforehand!

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  36. I love the sense of place in your books and in other favorites; being set right down in a new environment, without even having to pack a suitcase. Directionally challenged, I've been helped often by GPS and more often and more memorably by kind humans. Once in London, another tourist, who at least had a map, realized he'd given me wrong directions. When he spotted a group at the place I'd said I was going, he asked them to convey his apologies whenever I got there. Such courtesy! <3 Names like McGillivray make me grateful for the "learn this word" option on spellcheck. ;-)

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  37. Well, I, for one, disagree with your editor! I love the descriptions of the areas Duncan & Gemma (and other characters) travel through, and the ability to follow along on a map is a great deal of fun!

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  38. I like maps but am glad I figured out how to get my phone to talk to me because I can't read directions while I'm driving anymore. Although I've been to London, New York, and other big cities, I had read so many books and seen movies and TV shows that a lot of streets were familiar. Even now listening to our local news, when I hear certain street names, I know whether they are talking about Harrisburg, York, or other Central PA cities. Place names lend to the atmosphere. Stay safe and well.

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  39. I appreciate your detailed descriptions and directions and often fantasize about a “Tour of Crombie’s London.” I would buy the first seat! Do you think we can convince a travel agency to develop it? How many would go?

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  40. Love the excerpt, Debs! My family calls me “map girl” so I give you two thumbs up. I keep a Michelin laminated London Street Map next to my reading chair and consult it if I can’t quite see where I am in a book set in London.

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  41. And YES! I do like maps, actually I love them. I should as I am a cartographer who has made maps for dozens of fiction and non-fiction works. Last week I finished a map for Dana Stabenow’s soon-to-be published “Liam 5”. Spending time under my grandmother’s coffee table with National Geographic magazines helped launch my fascination with maps. I taught cartography at UC Berkeley after finishing graduate degrees in geography and now my time is devoted to traveling literally or vicariously with maps. I also do use a GPS and my phone along with many other apps.

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  42. As an audiobook listener I love having access to a map that I can reference. And I love especially your hand-drawn maps in your books! I was able to print the maps for all your books from your website except for The Bitter Feast. I do hope you plan on continuing to provide the detail map in your books and on your website.

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  43. I love to have these kinds of descriptions in a book because it makes me feel like I'm traveling along with the character. I have used maps before but never thought of using GPS. I will now, though! I was on the outs with my book club one month for suggesting Follow the River as our selection. Most of them HATED it and were mad at me for making them read it. They said they were bored by all of the descriptions of the places she traveled through. I, on the other hand, appreciated them because I felt like I was experiencing the journey with her. I guess it's not that way for everyone.

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