Whooop!!! It’s Sunday….I think…. the days are starting to merge, the only way I know it’s the weekend is I’m not logging in for work which means a home schooling day … Anyway, I’m delighted to be welcoming the blog tour for A Thoughtful Woman by K T Findlay and I’ve got a fabulous guest post for you about our feathered friends…well sort of!
Big thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on the blog tour and to the author for the guest post.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but where’s the fun in that?
Artist Sally Mellors has planned the perfect revenge, but with two secret agents on her tail, and her best friends running the police investigation, getting away with murder is going to be tricky…
Everybody loves Sally. She’s a funny, generous, warm hearted friend, without a nasty bone in her body.
Unknown to her friends, Sally’s discovered another side to herself, cool headed and relentless, as she hunts down the three men who killed her husband. But Sally’s not the only one with an interest in the trio. Unknown to her, two agents have arrived in town, urgently hunting a missing man and his diary, which could blow their organisation apart. Their best leads are the very men that Sally’s hunting, and she’s getting in the way…
The inspiration behind A Thoughtful Woman.
The justice system is an intriguing beast. We expect it to be fair, which is why we allow it to resolve our disputes instead of simply taking revenge ourselves, but watch an individual case play out in court and it can seem more like a high stakes game between lawyers than the pursuit of absolute truth. And if you think it’s a game, do you still accept the result if you lose? Is that still justice? At what point will a perfectly normal, perfectly decent person snap, and what happens when they do? Is it possible to plunge into the darkness of revenge and remain the normal, decent happy person you were before you started? Sally Mellors is about to find out.
The Guest Post – Birds
I’ve been thinking about birds.
Now there’s a riveting opening sentence!
But seriously, I have. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about their brains. The insult “Bird brain!” is used to mean the victim has a tiny and feeble mind, but in truth, there’s often a great deal more going on in there than we imagine. How do I know this? Just observation really. It’s a bit tricky to get birds to do IQ tests, but living in the country I’m surrounded by various birds, and if you take the time to really watch them, they’re a lot more complex than you’d think.
I believe the most stunning example was some years ago when I was visiting a salmon farm, set beside a small river in the middle of a large valley. The main ponds were two rectangular concrete things like long, narrow swimming pools, and the insect life above them was providing a fabulous buffet for a brace of swallows. Swallows are astonishing flyers, especially when they’re hunting, but these two had a pattern I’d never seen before. They were doing lengths, flying up the pond, around and back, and very quickly they’d stuffed themselves full and sat down on the gutter of the farm house to digest their meal.
Meanwhile, a tiny wee fantail had been watching all this from a nearby tree. Now a fantail is a flycatcher, which is about 90% feathers. If you hold one in your hand, it seems to weight about the same as a large moth, and of course it’s head is to scale. It must have an incredibly dinky brain, but this one’s must have been really working. A fantail usually hunts amongst the trees for insects, its light weight making it astonishingly agile, able to turn a hundred and eighty degrees in its own length. What it’s not built for, is speed.
This one however, had been watching the swallows, and once they’d retired to the roof, it thought it would give this new idea a go. It started at one end of the pond and flew straight down to the far end, grabbing insects as it went. Then it fluttered to the ground and caught its breath for a minute or so before attempting the return leg. There it had to stop and grab a breath again before having another go. Four lengths in it had clearly had enough, and after a short recovery spell, it took itself back into the tree branches and abandoned this high speed nonsense to the idiots on the roof!
I’ve never seen a fantail attempt anything like that before or since, and we have both fantails and swallows living around the house. It was a pure one off, but if that bird wasn’t trying to imitate the swallows, it was one heck of a coincidence.
Now chickens on the other hand, they’re really dumb. Right? I mean we have all those phrases like daft as a chook, dumb cluck and so on, so it’s got to be true. True? Well, it’s not as black and white as that. We’ve got about thirty, and they’re all very much individuals. They’re completely free range, go wherever they like, and sleep in the trees. Now it’s true they seem pretty stupid most of the time, but not all of the time.
We have one bird that knows where the cats’ feeding dishes are. They’re on the kitchen floor, which is in the middle of the top story. It first sneaked into the house through the bifold doors from the deck, left open on a hot summer day. It sauntered through the lounge, past the cats snoozing on their climbing frame, past me snoozing on the couch, and then discovered the kitchen. I awoke to the peck, peck, pecking of a beak hitting the bottom of the feeding bowls, wondering what on earth it was. A short time later, the hen was escorted gently back out the door onto the deck, leaving a small token of her gratitude as she went.
Now here’s the thing. You might expect that bird to try to make the same journey, coming in off the deck, and she does. What you might not expect is that she’s gone out of her way to find other ways in. She’s worked out the route from the workshop, up the front stairs and around the corridors to the kitchen. She can get through the front door and up the front stairs, or through the laundry door and up the back stairs. If she comes into the garage, she knows she can access both sets of stairs. And if she gets discovered, she knows that there might just be a window open in one of the bedrooms that would allow her to escape. And she’s worked it all out herself. It must be doing her good, because her feathers are marvellous! The cats on the other hand, aren’t quite so enthralled!
As an author, these kinds of things are great, because they stop you making assumptions and taking things for granted. It stops you falling into Doctor Watson’s trap when Sherlock Holmes tells him that “You see, but you do not observe.”
And the great thing is, the observer sees so much more. It’s just a matter of taking the time…
Who Is K.T. Findlay?
I’ve always been fascinated by the way a single new idea can alter the course of history, and how some ideas stick while others initially sink without trace, only to resurface perhaps hundreds of years later to change the world. The first Prince Wulfstan book, In Two Minds, explores this idea not just by introducing new ideas into a medieval society, but by showing just how difficult it would be to pull that off in practice.
Equally fascinating is the justice system. People expect it to be fair, which is why we allow it to resolve our disputes instead of simply taking revenge ourselves. But watch an individual case play out in court and it can seem more like a high stakes game between lawyers than the pursuit of absolute truth. And if you think it’s a game, do you still accept the result if you lose? Is that still justice? At what point will a perfectly normal, perfectly decent person snap, and what happens when they do? Is it possible to plunge into the darkness of revenge and remain the normal, decent, happy person you were before you started? That was the inspiration behind Sally Mellors, who’s going to give it an extremely good try in A Thoughtful Woman.
I love the moment when an idea jumps out at me. The trick then is to catch it, because I could be dreaming in bed, walking the hills, trying not to kill myself on the quad bike… anywhere in fact, except in front of the computer. Obviously. Slowly the whole thing coalesces and I begin to write it down, fleshing out the gaps, understanding why these people do what they do. I’m the first person in the world to “hear” their story, and I get to write it. That’s exciting! It’s what Terry Pratchett called “The Valley Filled With Clouds” technique and its huge fun.
A lot of research goes into making my fictional worlds as real as possible. It could be learning about the first mountain bikes, or exactly how medieval clothes were made and worn, or the limitations of police radios, or how to blow glass, draw wire, or a thousand other things. I learn new stuff every single day, and that’s fun too.
So if they’re that much fun to write, it seems only fair that the books should be enjoyable to read. Even in their darkest moments, I like my books to have an underlying vein of humour that will make you smile or laugh. There’s nothing wrong with dark, gritty tales, redolent with unrelenting misery. They’re just not what I want to write. I want you to finish my books and return to the world with a spring in your step.
I live on a small farm where I fit in my writing alongside fighting the blackberry, and trying to convince the quadbike that killing its rider isn’t a core part of its job description.
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