Thursday, 16 October 2014

The last lap

I've not been blogging for a while as I've been heavily into writing (and trying to hit a stupid little white ball with a long stick, with little success as usual).  'Glasnost' should be out by the end of November.  However, one of the problems with researching recent political events to weave a story around, is drilling through the myths and conjecture to find the facts.  The climax to the book will be based around the three days in August 1991 when Soviet hardliners attempted to oust Gorbachev while he was on holiday in his villa at Foros on the Black Sea.  The more I've dug into the story, the more I've realised that probably no one really knows what happened and I include Gorbachev in that.  There are plenty of conspiracy theories and as many views as there are writers on the subject.  Of course this is all grist to the mill of the novel writer because I can pick and choose which set of 'truths' to use.
Rather like my book 'The Caspian Monster'  the more I researched the subject, the more I realised that the whole incident was far more critical to world peace than was reported in the western media.   However, in this case it was just the start of a process in that in Russia is still going on today.  When Gorbachev unleashed the floodgates of  Perestroika and Glasnost - Restructuring and Openness - I wonder if he realised just how far the avalanche of change would reach.............(apologies for the dreadful mix of metaphors!)

The villa on the Black Sea where Gorbachev was imprisoned for three days - or was he???


Saturday, 20 September 2014

The latest novel

Now firmly into writing again although I've had the dreaded writers block for a few weeks.  Luckily that seems to have gone and I'm cracking on.  Decided to have a go at the graphics:

A KA 50 Hokum in NATO parlance or a Black Shark if you're Russian.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The dog with extra cheeseory perception

So we spent a really fantastic week on the boat as a last trip of the summer.  For once the weather forecast was good and it actually was!  A quick trip down the Macclesfield and then the Peak Forest canals saw us in Bugsworth basin.  its an amazing place - used in the last century as a dock area for bringing limestone down from the Peak District and it used to handle up to 80 narrow boats a day.  The pub was good too.
Now as to the title of this post.  For some time now I've been amazed at the dog's ability to know when I go to the fridge to get some cheese.  If I go for any other comestible, he stays in his bed but the moment I feel esurient for matured fromage, he is sitting behind me as if by magic.  So while we were away I conducted a highly scientific experiment.  I went to the fridge and got out a bottle of tonic (good excuse for a gin) - no dog.  I went to the fridge for a beer - no dog.  Went to the fridge and touched the cheese wrapper - he was already sitting behind me giving me the 'do I get some' look.  So it just goes to show that animals have extra senses than us poor humans don't have.

Bugsworth - or least part of it there are two more dock areas like this and all as well preserved.

A dog sensing cheese.

 A dog asking for cheese

 Actually we reckon he just knows the sound of the wrapper  crackling when its touched.

Probably won't be boating now until the Spring.  As usual I have the dreaded 'list' of things to work through on the boat including rebuilding the shower.  But more importantly I have a book to finish.................

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


We're now back at home and apart from too much gardening, the new novel 'Glasnost' is taking shape.  Several months on the canals may not have been good for producing words but most of the ideas have firmed up which is the important bit.  Apart from being about the fall of the Soviet Union my books always have to have some good machinery in them and preferably helicopters.  So below is the latest.  Anyone know what it is?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Snug at last

So here we are in Lyme view marina and very nice it is too.  The owner is pretty relaxed about rules so we can leave shore power connected, put up our washing line and let the dog out without a lead  and not be immediately shouted at.  All things we have experienced elsewhere.  There is a massive field at the back for throwing the dog's ball in. Its quiet with no railways or major roads nearby.  The other locals all seem to gather every evening for a beer or three which is also rather nice.
We've already been co-opted into looking after grandkids although I made the excuse that I needed to take the back of the boat apart this afternoon.  We've had an annoying transmission rattle for ages now and it seemed like a good time to have a go at it.  I now have most of the transmission dismantled so we aren't going anywhere for the moment even if we wanted to.  Probably home at the weekend for lots of writing and maybe some golf.

Things you see on the canals - last chapter:

Is this an Alligator or a Crocodile??

This is a canal that the Canal and River Trust say is maintained to be navigable for two boats.  Think we'll take a hedge trimmer with us in the future.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

And now for something completely different.

Getting The Words Down – The Writing Path Blog Tour

 Russell Philips a writing colleague of mine invited  me to take part in IC Publishing‘s Writing path blog tour. I thought it might be interesting to join in and do something a bit different to writing about ditch crawling for a change.  The idea is to exchange ideas of how people write by answering a set of questions so here goes:
1.       Share how you start your writing project(s).

My inspiration originally came, like many others I suspect, in wanting to see if I could write successfully.  I choose my subject matter based on my own personal experience.  All too often one reads books where the writer clearly hasn’t a clue about what he is writing about, particularly with my genre of military fiction.  I always have an overall idea of where I want to start and where I want to end.  My current series of books about the modern Royal Navy are following recent historical events, so I can use that as a template for the overall plot lines.  Even so I will have generated a fairly good storyline in my head long before I start to type.   And here I must give my definition of ‘writing’ and it has nothing to do with sitting at a keyboard.    I do most of it in the bath, walking the dog, just before going to sleep, even watching television. This is why I leave notebooks and pens around the house so I can jot ideas down when inspiration strikes before I forget them. So by the time I sit in front of the computer the key elements are already in my mind. That said, I often start a chapter and find that I’ve written something very different to that which I had originally envisaged.  I find that the key is to allow enough flexibility to change plot lines and characters but to keep the overall aims of the story in mind.

As regards research, I try to use my own personal experience as much as possible but do most research up front while developing the story plot line and then refer to it as I progress and if necessary look for supplementary information as the need arises.

2.       How do you continue your writing project?
I never, ever, force myself to write.  If I sit down and the words don’t come then I go and do something else.  That said, some days I will find that hours have passed and thousands of words have appeared from almost nowhere.  My overall schedule is to produce two books per year at about 1000 words a day but in reality one day it could be none and on others much more.  Also, I often write myself into a plot dead end and then there are two ways out.  One is to delete and start again. I try to avoid this.  Not the least because I hate to destroy hard work (especially mine).  On nearly every occasion I’ve successfully used the tactic of leaving the book alone and occupying myself elsewhere.  Almost without exception within a few days, inspiration strikes.  I guess my subconscious is working even when I am attempting to hit a golf ball (badly).  And of course I enjoy what I do.  When I start doing some general proofing I often find that I forget that I wrote the words at all and start getting into the story all over again.  This is of course a problem when looking for typos etc but gives me some confidence that the story is working out well.  Luckily I am now retired from mainstream employment so I can devote as much or as little time as I want to writing.   

3.       How do you finish your project?

As I said above, I always have the end game in mind, so it’s fairly simple to know when a story has concluded.  I write adventure novels and my sole aim is to get the reader to want to see what’s on the next page until the (hopefully) exciting conclusion.    Once it’s done, I let it go.  There is plenty of other work to be done. As a self published author I do all my own graphics and although I get help with proofing etc I do a fair bit myself as well.  In the past I have used professional services, especially for editing and frankly I’ve been less than impressed with the value for money.  That said, I do have a number of friends and relatives who are more than happy to offer criticism some of which I even listen to.  However, in the end it’s the people who buy the books who are my best critic.  When I tried the mainstream world I gave up after one less rejection than J K Rowling had.  I may not have been quite as successful as her but my sales and reviews must count for something.

I always have the plots for several books in my head these days.  It’s become easier as time goes by, I just wish there was the time to write them all…………..
4.       Include one challenge or additional tip that our collective communities could help with or benefit from.  

I write novels.  They are stories about things that never happened.  I think some authors forget that.  Whether its making up a fun little storyline for a children’s book or a massive complicated competitor to War and Peace, it’s still just a story.  I am an avid reader and always will be but now that I also write I find I am becoming more critical.  I’ve read some beautifully written rubbish and some badly written gems. The gems win every time.   So as a reader I would urge writers to concentrate on a damned good story above all else.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

All change

Last weekend at Wheelock it was so hot we simply sat and sweated next our one and only electric fan.  This weekend we made it up the Macclesfield canal to our weekend stop at Macclesfield in full foul weather gear and were soaked and frozen by the time we arrived.  I just love English weather.  This is our last weekend on board as hopefully on Tuesday we park up in the marina.  I've got quite a bit of work to do on the boat and then  we'll go home.  The new book 'Glasnost' is shaping up well (in my mind) and I intend to blitz it when back in Somerset.  Once again the research I've done has amazed me.  I don't want to give anything away but it seems that the story of the coup against Gorbachev in 1991 was not what most people thought.  So instead of having to make up a wacky plot I can once again just use the real wacky facts.
Our last Sunday lunch was with some of the family who popped over for a visit.  Sutton Hall was reputedly the family seat of the Lucan family, they even have a beer named after a certain famous Lord - apparently it disappears quite fast.  However, only an 8.5.  Why can't anyone make a decent roast spud any more??

Now we've been using the tried and tested weather forecasting technique of seeing if the cows in the fields are standing up or lying down.  As everyone (except the met office) knows, if they are lying down then it is either about to rain or is raining.  And then we went past this guy - the obvious problem being that he is never ever going to stand up, bugger.

Actually that may not be a totally accurate forecasting method because within half an hour of us tying up the bloody sun came out.