What Is the Sound of One Hawthorn Stinging…

Newsletter 011 – March 25th, 2022


About the image above: The Hawthorn’s Sting is a mystery-thriller, and the first scene takes place in Ilfracombe, a town on the Southwest Coast of England. The novel’s current status is what most writers refer to as a work in progress. It’s partially written, an incomplete first draft at this point, and it may or may not be the next book I work on after Jagged Man is published. I’m torn between it and a murder-mystery called Murder Between Friends, which will be the subject of the next newsletter. One of the things that struck me about Ilfracombe was how hilly it was inside the town. Here’s a picture of Minay standing outside the B&B we stayed at. You can see how steep the grade is.

Minay Outside the Montpelier B&B, Ilfracombe, UK
Minay Outside the Montpelier B&B, Ilfracombe, UK

So, knowing how some of the roads there seem to be on a near vertical slant, I decided to punish my protagonist by making the first scene in the book about him struggling to run in Ilfracombe, passing out, and waking up in France weeks later. Things go downhill from there (I’m referring to the safety of his situation, not the steepness of the streets).

The book is set in England, France, and Judea; and involves induced amnesia, the Norman Conquest, the lost years of Jesus, Roman England, the Bayeux Tapestry, the Thorn of Glastonbury, and the Glastonbury Festival. It will be told in two timelines, one of them taking place during the present day, and the other one beginning during the Roman occupations of Britain and Judea, but progressing steadily toward modern times during the course of the novel, sometimes skipping a century or two.

This book and Murder Between Friends both have issues I need to solve. So, after Jagged Man is published I will probably choose to work on the one with fewer problems first (giving me extra time to solve the problems in the more difficult one). I started writing The Hawthorn’s Sting while the UK was still part of the European Union, and border crossing was a simpler matter. I have to rethink a few important plot elements if I’m going to set the modern scenes in it during a generic “current” time period instead of a specific pre-Brexit year. I also have an issue with the non-transferable nature of tickets to the Glastonbury Festival that I need to work around (no, I’m not trying to get them for myself, my characters need to do that), but I’ll figure it out eventually. Developing plots that make sense in the context of the book’s time and place are usually an issue for me most of the time, but I have confidence that I’ll solve these. I first need to decide, though, which of the two books will be the easiest to finish. I’ll cover Murder Between Friends next time. See you then.


[“O conscience, upright and stainless, how bitter a sting to thee is a little fault!” Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Puratorio, canto III, 1. 8]

Here’s another look at how Ilfracombe is built on tall hills.

Ilfracombe, UK, Up Hill and Down Hill
Ilfracombe, UK, Up Hill and Down Hill

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