Tracing the Threads

Small things can turn out to be momentously important, their role in shaping your life visible only with hindsight. Enormous changes evolve from moment to moment, and are so often built of little things.

‘Tara’s Honour’ (published by is the only murder mystery I’ve ever written. It’s also high fantasy, so doesn’t totally conform to mystery norms. I set it in a forest of my creating – also used in ‘The Girl Who Fell’, ‘Illyan Daughter’, and ‘Strange Fruit’ (same publisher) and ‘Servant of the Forest’ ( ‘Tara’s Honour’ holds a special place in my heart though. I was given a new artist for that one, I sent in the form and a rough sketch I’d done trying to convey what I wanted. He emailed me, and we talked about the setting.

“What kind of trees are they?” he asked. “Is there anything special about them?”

To most people, trees are just background. I fell in love with Tom just a bit, right then, because he asked that. There were photos taken of me draped off a bunk bed, to try and get the pose right. I had the first sketch, and it was perfect, and so lovely. I’m still not sure what went wrong – but I ended up with someone else, and something else entirely on my cover.

However, from the cover that never was, came a conversation. I invited him to my egroup, and at the time I was serialising an unpublished book of mine there – ‘Breathing in a Stone House’. It caught his imagination. He responded in kind, posting artwork, with which I was rapidly smitten. We fell in love with each other’s creativity first.

Six and a half years ago, I wrote a story that was to change my life. I’d written another important one before it, with no inkling that my first serious attempt at a novel would win my soul mate’s heart for me. There were some surprising coincidences along the way, moments of serendipity and good fortune that kept us in touch when we might have drifted apart. Someone has been watching over us, I think.

You never know which things will turn out to be all important. The people whose one action or comment will change your life. The small choices that turn out to inform everything. Left at this junction, or right? People live, die, fail and succeed often thanks to such small things. A second’s hesitation crossing the road. Ordering the fish rather than the chicken. You never know what is going to make all the difference.

I think the only response is to treat all those little choices and apparently ‘small’ moments as being as important as more apparently significant things. Things done casually and carelessly can come back to haunt you. If everything you do is a conscious expression of who you are, then where you go grows naturally from that. It might not be what you wanted from life, but at least you’ve shaped it, and will be to your advantage. Who we are is made up of all the little moments, the small choices. When amazing things, and people appear to fall into my lap, I can often trace the threads of connection back to things I have done, or said. Most of the good in my life has come as a consequence of things I have done. I’m proud of that, and very proud indeed of the two stories that, between them, won me the attention of Tom Brown.

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