The journey

The secrets we keep

First! Exciting news: The cover for Dear Isobel is done!! Following on from last week, everything came together so well, and with the combined efforts of people in four different countries across the globe, we have the most beautiful cover and I am truly delighted with it. The bad news is that I can’t share it yet. Sorry.

So, given that I can’t talk about that, let me tell you about another secret I found. This links to a new standalone novel I will be working on soon. I had an idea for this story about 5 years ago, and it was given to me by the trees in my garden. I wrote the first chapters back then too. I’ve talked about my trees before, but here’s a recap: We live on a couple of acres, with many large and mature trees. Large and mature trees come with a lot of beauty and majesty, but also with issues and considerations. I told you about the tree surgeons a few weeks ago, but another thing we have to do from time to time is remove ivy from the trees. There are mixed opinions on the necessity of this, but for our old beeches that border a public road, it is generally considered sensible to remove the ivy before it puts too much extra weight on the branches or extra strain on the health of the trees. (In other parts of our garden, we do leave plenty of ivy for the birds.)

Some years ago, when I was de-ivying these beeches, I noticed letters carved into the tree trunks. As I worked, I revealed more and more writing. This carved writing has stretched and grown with the trees, and the letters are now tall and wide. The first name I revealed is a surname common in this village and shared with several of my neighbours. I was able to find out some, but not much, about the carver of the name. He no longer lives near hers, but I believe is still alive. In my story, he will become a main character, possibly an antagonist, almost certainly a love interest, and he has arrived fully formed, fully named, and ready to march into my book with his pocket knife in his hand.

This, matched with my love of fairytales, will be the basis of the novel. I’m not saying too much more, as I don’t want to give away a plot – or be held to it if it takes a different path at I begin writing it.

Yesterday, I decided it was that time of year again, and armed with secateurs, thick gloves, and my camera, I climbed up the tangled, brambly bank to find the names once more. It’s been a few years since I last did this, and I was delighted to find new secrets, or possibly just things I had found before but either forgotten or never noticed properly the first time around. As well as the familiar name, I also uncovered a date: at least some of the writing is from 1971, so 50 years ago. Then, moving on to another of the trees, under new growth was a name I didn’t remember from before – another neighbour, and this one still living in the village. I have a friend ‘on the case’ to ask him if he remembers carving his name, and if so, when. There are also some other letters and marks, that are currently undecipherable. In places, moss has grown into the grooves of the carvings; in other places, the tools I’ve used to remove the ivy have added new marks. These new marks are temporary scrapes that will fade fast.

I plan to get back out to the trees over the weekend, when my husband can hold a ladder and I can access higher or further round the trunks. I long to find a girl’s name. I think I found a heart. I can’t see any name above the heart yet, but I hope there may be one hiding somewhere. The main character in my story is currently simply called Red (And there’s a huge hint as to which fairy story she’s stepped out from.) but I would love to give her a name that has been gouged into my tree as a half-century memory of youth, hope and a desire to leave a legacy. I will probably take the book a lot further back in time than 1971, but I’m not sure yet. I am sure, however, that I am just as excited about this new idea as I am about Dear Isobel.

Meanwhile, I’m not forgetting or neglecting my other characters – those from my cosy mystery series. Those characters are still busy stomping the streets of another small Irish village a little like the one I live in, some causing mayhem and murder, others solving mysteries and bringing justice to the community. I may need to call on main character Jess O’Malley to help me with my Great Tree Mystery, but for now, she is busy solving a murder in the sequel to my first cosy mystery. I’m beginning to see why many authors work on more than one book simultaneously – sometimes, a story just doesn’t want to wait in line.

I’ll let you know if I uncover any more exciting etchings over the weekend, meanwhile, back to work.

Enjoy the week ahead,

love, Jinny

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