G. P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped cozy mystery series. You can find out more about her on her website www.gpgottlieb.com, or by clicking here, see her last post here, and buy her books here.
I didn’t always see evil lurking around the corner, but since I started writing mysteries, everyone where I go, including on vacations, I imagine an intricate plot, the arc of a story, and a satisfying ending in which world order is preserved.
Strolling down a sunny street in Milan, passing fashionable people and color-of-the-season shop windows, I’m a little uncomfortable. A thief could walk by and jab someone with a small knife, steal her purse, and melt into the crowd. I imagine that the young woman was being watched, and now two operatives speed after the mugger while a third operative, dressed as a nurse, finds a tiny thumb drive embedded under the barely surviving woman’s skin. It contains North Korea’s nuclear codes.
Later that evening, we enter La Scala, the world-famous opera house, and head to our box on the first tier. The performance is Lucia di Lammermoor, sung by one of the greatest sopranos of the century. What if the other four people in our box, though middle-aged and dressed fashionably, conspired to murder us after the first act? They could casually leave the box, mingle with the descending horde for a few moments and then slip out the doors into the heart of Milan. We won’t be discovered for over two hours, and the evildoers, who paid for their tickets with one-time-use credit cards issued under false names, have already melted into the night. But we emerge at the end of the opera joyful and satisfied with a magnificent performance, although we’ve just sat on stools for three hours, so we’re a bit sore.
We head south to stay in a chateau nestled against a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We’re in the French Riviera, and the view from our room is stunning, but we climb precarious steps up and down to reach everything. The first day, I’m winded by the time we get to the reception office and need to rest before heading down another flight of stairs to our glass-walled room. We sit on our balcony looking out at the dazzling sea, and I’m comforted that only a sharpshooter with high-powered binoculars can reach us from the magnificent villas situated nearly 3000 meters across the valley.
But a skilled assassin could check into our grand hotel and casually pass us going up or down the steps as we explore the gardens above and below. Busloads of anonymous tourists go up a different path, and we’re constantly passing strangers. We’d assume an accident if someone got pushed over the precarious railing. I’d scream to alert the crowd, but it’d be too late. What if only I saw the black-clad, either female or slight male figure running from the scene of the attack. What if nobody else thinks that a crime has been committed? Does the murderer know that I saw her/him? There’s only one way people like that take care of witnesses.
Happily, we’ve just returned home from a lovely vacation in Italy. The only drama we encountered was on the stage at La Scala.
All the scenes of chaos and murder took place in my mind as I prepared to make some headway with my fourth Whipped and Sipped mystery. Sadly, I never once looked at my W.I.P. (which is at about 10,000 words, or 1/7th of the way finished) during two weeks in Italy and the south of France.
But, since I continuously imagined murders, assassinations, and brilliant sleuths uncovering bold attempts to take over the world, I consider it a satisfying vacation.
Even though we’re told that THINKING about writing is different from WRITING, I know that I need a few weeks now and then to write about dining in Michelin-starred restaurants or walking holding hands on old, cobblestoned streets with my husband of thirty years. Although I thought about writing while speeding past lush vineyards or stopping at gorgeous bakeries on the Rue Montorgueil in Paris, I let it all slide.
Turns out though, that the only way to write a book is to sit down and write the book!