Dec 22, 2008

it's almost upon us ...

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright in the forest of the night.

I like to paint tigers. This one was my favourite.

Can I wish everyone one of you a brilliant Christmas and a bright New Year. Who knows what 2009 will bring - hopefully it'll be peace and understanding - and maybe a book deal.

Dec 19, 2008

Artist at large?

Really good to meet up with Sarah at the book signing at Waterstones last evening. I found out Sarah is an artist, too. Reminded me to put a photograph of one of my paintings on here. This one was auctioned by the Born Free Foundation in 2000 to raise money for endangered species. It became a #450 Limited edition print run. This painting The Waterhole is one of my yellow skies series. I wanted to get away from the general blue sky image to create a more prehistoric atmosphere for the subjects - lions, tigers and zebra. Strangely, it was my abstract work which sold the fastest at galleries. I'll post one of those sometime.
One last polish of The Messenger and then it's off to Camilla Bolton of Darley Anderson. New Year, I reckon. I'll post the first page on here soon guys - see what you think.

Dec 16, 2008

four told smart breakfast up a lemon tree

Excellent meeting with Jenny, Silja and Ed '' on Sunday. Lots of good ideas and motivation - bags of motivation - well done chaps. Each of us seems to be moving on with sequels and prequels. The advice Danny King passed on was incredibly useful to each of us in different ways. In my case linking my writing style to that of Simon Kernick and Gerald Seymour was a real bonus. Ed lent a copy of SK's 'Relentless' to me. I'm reading it currently - there's definitely a connection. I'll pick up a book by GS and check that out, too. It's good to have an established writer compare your work to other established authors - thanks Danny.

Meeting at SMART Southway (Portal writers et al) yesterday - it was nice to catch up with old friends. Robert is off to Germany in a couple of days to carry out some more research on his story. His son has arranged for him to interview a couple of survivors of the trek. It will be an emotional tale. Silvia has spent two years producing a 'simplified learning' version of the bible. An amazing piece of work which I am sure anyone would find intriguing. Presents for children? Are children allowed to study the bible in this Politically Correct world? Gloria's romance stories, Pete's civil war sequel, and everyone else's work is coming on in leaps and bounds. Everton's stories are fascinating - I believe he should be looking at radio scripting with his work.

Breakfast meeting with Rita tomorrow morning at the Tavern to discuss the seeds of The Messenger sequel and get a sounding board on the chapters to go to Camilla.

Will also try to drop in on Sarah Turton's book signing at Waterstones tomorrow evening. Good Luck Sarah hope it goes really well - here's the detail:

Dec 12, 2008

The times they are a changing ...

I received a very charming email from Hannah Ferguson, telling me that The Messenger 'despite its qualities' was not something she could deal with. Almost didn't feel like rejection. Onward and upward. I met Danny King the author and sit com writer (Thieves Like Us BBC3) here in cyberspace - great guy, really interesting background. He sent lots of really good personal advice. His site is here: I found his site whilst I was researching Camilla Bolton (Darely Anderson). I saw an interview she did with Byker Books, here: - I liked both her comments and style - I believe she is the person to whom I should have sent The Messenger. I like Darley Anderson's bio, too, here:

Dec 5, 2008

virgin on the apologetic

Contacted this morning by a young man from Viginmobile. He apologised for the problem, was 'unable to comment' on the call centre being in South Africa and said my complaint had been passed on for further investigation. Offered £10 top up on my phone as a goodwill gesture. I am still rather disgruntled - not at the good will gesture, but at the fact that Virgin sees it necessary to site its call centre out of Britain.

Family photograph tomorrow. Smile please ...

Dec 3, 2008

Virgin on the ridiculous?

This is a copy of an email I sent to Virginmobile which I hope is self explanatory. If anybody else has had this problem let me know.

I wished to top up my mobile phone this evening. When I rang to do this I couldn't use the normal automated service. Instead I was connected to a call centre in South Africa. A gentleman there told me that my visa card had expired two years ago. I was rather upset at this and told him my card was in date. He reiterated that it had expired and I would need to re-register it before I could top up. I asked him how I managed to use that same card for a top up in October of this year if it had expired and he told me I couldn't have. Whilst he was on the phone I checked my credit card statement and quoted the transaction to him and said I was more than a little upset that someone had changed the date on my records at Virgin. He said there had been and upgrade recently and all card users had to re-register their cards before the automated service would be available to them. He also told me that this upgrade was to benefit customers. There are several things about my experience with your South African call centre that concern me. The first is that it is in South Africa when this country needs all the support it can have in these difficult times. Secondly, I don't like being told that my credit card has expired when it hasn't. Thirdly the upgrade that your gentleman told me was for the benefit of customers is certainly not benefiting me when I have to spend time discussing the validity of my credit card. And, if this is the way that your company deals with financial matters, I am wondering how reliable my wife's investments are with your company. I would like you to tell me why I should continue to be a Virgin customer.

Watch this space readers!

Dec 2, 2008

Is brainwashing dead?

Well, it's almost a month since the last post. I have been completing a 'final' edit (is there ever a final edit?) on The Messenger and it, rather like Topsy, grew and grew. Final word count 144,600. It's no wonder it's taken so long, it's almost like writing two books. Anyway, I've submitted to Marsh Agency, Piers Russell-Cobb in particular. When I was researching, his agent profile told me he wanted 'quirky' fiction and that's what I write (amongst political / military / conspiratorial and psychological). So, watch this space.

The eyes are OK and the glasses useful. The white lights have disappeared and the black dots are now shadows of their former selves.

I'm looking forward to weekend of 13th / 14th December as Fourtoldfiction will be meeting up in Cornwall. It'll be excellent to see Silja, Jenny and Ed again. It'll be good, too, to see how much their current novels have progressed. Ed sent around a brilliant piece on writers and how they construct their craft. What was surprising, and somewhat gratifying, was that things I thought were peculiar to the way I operate as a writer actually others suffer from - drinking too much coffee, working odd hours, having down times, having up times etc. Thanks Ed, for restoring my faith in the way I write. Here's the link for those of you interested

Well, the dancing is having a watershed moment. We are trying to decide if we can learn (and remember) more steps to the Ballroom dances, and more of the Sequence dances (we have eleven under our belt - or should that be shoes?). It would be nice to continue both, but there is a fine line between learning more and becoming more proficient at what we have already learned. I think the new year will be the crunch time. Saturday night dances may help - so, we'll investigate those, too.

For those of you interested there's some intriguing background on Doomsday Vaults and the Tavistock Institute, out there. Maybe that's the next book! ha ha!

Nov 6, 2008

20 / 20 vision - and that's not just Obama.

We spent last week on the Isle of Wight with Grandchildren Leah and Rebekah. What is it about mobile phones and the need to have one permanently attached to the right ear? Or is that just me getting old? Excellent week and weather was super unlike the rest of Britain I gather.

Eyes to be checked on 19th. Glasses, reading and distance - never had the former before - I collected today. I was told it would take ten working days from order date - it has taken closer to 20. I managed to get 10% discount on total price for the inconvenience.

I spent yesterday morning with Rita - working breakfast at the Liskeard Tavern (staff were very helpful and pleasant - I guess that's part training and part a pride in one's role - I don't see that much nowadays). Valuable time spent on synopsis and tidying up loose ends on Messenger. Trying to get 14 pages of synopsis down to 2 is a task, but it'll get done. Set myself deadline to approach agent by end of November.

Obama is obviously the right man for the job and hopefully will withdraw the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan asap. He bears a similarity to JFK - an optimism for the future and a driving force for good. Let's hope those who destroyed JFK don't see BHO as a threat.

Oct 20, 2008

A rant - a reward - and the personal stuff - it's all here

Three things which got up my nose this last week.
1) I, amongst other citizens of this fair city of Plymouth, learned last week that Plymouth City Council had £13 million invested in the Icelandic banks. Now, I suspect this transfer to the Icelandic Banks was done by PCC in good faith and with due diligence, however I later learned in the media that Tory Party Treasurer Michael Spencer's City firm, Butlers, gave advice to local councils (it is to be seen if PCC was one of them) which led them to deposit around £200 million in these banks. Spencer's company apparently made a fortune providing information to town halls on where to invest their cash. At the same time his firm of brokers, ICAP, took hundreds of thousands of pounds in commission from the Icelandic banks for moving money into them. (Source - Page 9 - Sunday Mirror -Oct 19th). Would it be an idea to ask Billionaire Michael Spencer to hand the commissions to the ratepayers of the cities affected as it will probably be they who will end up footing the bill?
2) It appears that rogue foreign drivers with luxury supercars owe one council (not Plymouth - we rarely have supercars in the city) £4.5million in unpaid parking fines. A Hummer owner who's collected 35 tickets owes £4,000 in fines - A Rolls Royce Phantom owner with 23 tickets owes £3,000 - and, get this, the owner of a Kreidler motorbike worth £1900 owes £45,000 from 400 tickets. Apparently local authorities cannot enforce parking fines abroad - but what's to stop them towing the cars away until the debts are paid? The newspaper reporting it (Daily Mirror 18th Oct - Page 31) even gave the registration numbers of the cars and motorcycle concerned. Come on Westminster Council get your finger out and collect - if it was an old lady refusing to pay her council tax you'd soon sort her out wouldn't you?
3) Churchcastle Ltd (trading as Spencer and Mayfair 2007) have a full page advert in today's copy of the Daily Mirror (page 47) suggesting that people can solve a word puzzle and 'claim' a 'stunning emerald pendant' - however, what it places in print (around font size 6, I guess) at the bottom of the page is that the call to claim one's stunning emerald pendent lasts 3 minutes and 30 seconds (at £1.50 per minute on BT landline - god knows what it would be from a mobile) at the end of that call you will be asked if you wish to transfer to another phone line to receive a 'matching bracelet' - if one does that then the call will last 3minutes (again at £1.50 per minute). So, 6mins 30 secs at £1.50 per min = £9.75! Well at least Churchcastle have dropped the heading of 'Do you qualify for a genuine emerald pendant', which they used in two previous adverts for the same thing last year. Some interesting links - I'm assuming here that the Churchcastle Ltd mentioned is the Churchcastle Ltd of the above - fair assumption?
ASA Non-broadcast Adjudication: Churchcastle Ltd t/a UK Cash Rewards
The Office of Fair Trading: Prize promoter gives undertakings to High Court
This is a really interesting link - it was actually published in the Daily Mirror in 2002 They cash in on trash - Investigations Maybe the Daily Mirror doesn't look at its back copies.

On a rewarding point - Coroner Andrew Walker - keep up the good work. People in power need people like you biting at their heels -- Army bosses should "hang their heads in shame", says coroner - News Headlines, Celebs and Football -

On a more personal point the old eyes have been playing up - white lights and floaters. Have to go see a specialist soon - talk of retinas detaching has me rather concerned.
I am on with the final (for the moment anyway) edit - page 104 at present - some rewrite, but overall it's working.
Jo and Leigh are over from Oz - meeting up on Thursday. It'll be good to catch up.

Back to the world of dreams ...

Oct 1, 2008

Did he jump or was he pushed?

Julian Grail committed suicide by jumping off the Tamar Bridge in the early morning of April 17th of this year. These things happen you might say, but this man did it because, according to newspaper reports, he could, no longer bear to be involved in immoral Council decisions. He worked in the Chief Executive's office of Plymouth City Council as a Planning and Performance Officer. His wife told the inquest that her husband had a very strong sense of fair play and he began to think those principles didn't sit alongside the job he was asked to do. She added, he was party to things that he thought were immoral. Sometimes huge amounts of money were involved. A spokesperson refused to comment on any suggestions of 'immorality' at the Council.
Time to put the claimed transparency of local government to the test me thinks. A public enquiry? Or is that too transparent - for some? My sympathies and condolences go to Mrs Grail. Men like Julian (men with principles) are needed alive. (The newspaper report of Julian's death can be seen at )

We saw Jill's mother Molly off on the train this morning - she'd been with us for a week and was returning to Wells via Castle Cary. The train (Penzance to Paddington) was five minutes late. We quickly assisted Molly to her seat and pushed her small amount of baggage onto the rack as there was no room for it by her side or feet - and then the carriage doors locked automatically. I was trying to work out how to reopen the nearest one before the train left with us on it when a young lady said, ' You have to lean out and push on the handle' - I pulled the window down, leaned out, stretched down and grabbed at the handle. I managed to stop myself falling onto the platform as the door swung outward and wondered how someone who was infirm (or short) would manage in the mad rush of the train leaving to do the same thing (always assuming they had a young lady by their side to instruct them). Molly arrived safely.

Last stages of conservatory remodelling. I have to finish it today - I want to get on with final edit of Messenger.

Sep 29, 2008

How old?

Well, yesterday was the day - I made 62! Loadsapressies and, except for Sarah and Paul who are sampling the delights of Thailand and Bangkok for a couple of weeks, a great family dinner. I am doing the school run for Rebekah and Amelia while they are away.

Feel knackered today. Not sure why. Maybe the conservatory remodelling or reboarding of the loft floor is catching up with me. Sequence dancing this afternoon - so I need to get myself together.

Found a site called Longstockings - a group of eight writers in the US - although, one is based in London.

Right, dancing shoes on Ginger.

Sep 22, 2008

The strategy for peace must match that for war.

My friend, marine biologist and writer Silja Swaby, telephoned to suggest I listen to a replay of an interview (with former soldier David McGough) which had been on Saturday Live on Radio 4. Silja thought the content would be of interest because of the theme of my book and the similarity of my character's problems to that of David, (a young medic who was suffering both physically and mentally because of his experiences in war zones). I managed to pluck the story from the Radio 4 'Listen Again' menu.

David's recounting of the incidents he and others had to face - especially being a medic (although, as such he was expected to be a regular soldier too) was heartrending. He talked of young men and women in their late teens / early twenties who had joined the army, he suspected, without fully realising what horrors lie ahead and how many when those horrors erupted - often with devastating results - wished they were elsewhere - usually at home with their families.
He talked of a young Iraqi girl of nine who approached his small patrol and to whom they gave water and chocolate. A crowd of armed men appeared and dragged her off. As the crowd grew more agitated and began making noises about hanging her - he had a decision to make. Did he and his men stay and try to save her from the baying one hundred and fifty armed men or did they leave? He knew if they stayed and a firefight ensued there would be blood shed on both sides. He made the decision to leave - a decision, he says, he regrets to this day - a decision that will never let him go, because the girl was hanged. David is home, now, but the trauma of war has left its mark on him. You can listen to the interview (it's around 18 minutes into the programme) on this link: iPlayer Radio Console

I and thousands of others, are so grateful to these young men and women because their bravery in volunteering means that, in my case, my grandsons will hopefully never have to face this sort of trauma.

The more we can let people be aware of the horrors of war and the responsibility we have to these young people when they return damaged, both physically and mentally the better. Maintain an army - it may be needed, but demand war is the last resort, not the first and demand answers of those whose agendas kill our young people so that we are not led blindly into conflict.

Sep 19, 2008

Back in the land of the living ... ?

Well, the hard drive in my laptop decided to give up the ghost just over a week ago and I have been wandering around the house like a lost soul without it. But I managed to refloor the loft and reclad the conservatory - so, not a complete waste of time. Jason (PC medics Plymouth) did a brilliant job replacing the drive, but when I came to reload AOL I found my emails for the last three years had disappeared - which is a real sod. I have business and private correspondence which I need, but can't get access to. I complained to AOL and received an email in response which began: With reference to your email, I understand that after reinstalling AOL your PFC got disappeared. Somehow this didn't instill the confidence I was looking for. The instructions then assumed that I had a file on my desktop which I didn't and a file in my system which was not there - so, I still have my problems with email. Another problem is that my research for the book - it was under my 'favourites' list, has gone walkabout. AARGH!

Silja, Jenny and Ed have been coming up with superb ideas and contributions after reading the first draft of Messenger and I am going to incorporate them in the final edit. Then it's off to Piers Russell-Cobb to see if he thinks it's a goer.

Fourtoldfiction is on the launch pad! Watch this space!

The sketch print of the new Harley 1200 (signed by the designer Bill Davidson) has arrived. Pity the delivery service smashed the glass in the frame, but hey ho can't have everything I suppose. It was, after all, a great first prize for my motorcycling recollections. Competition winner

Talked with Robert Shove today. His Tales from a Kit Bag is doing well. Lots of sales in Services related links. He said he's 2/3 through the new story (WW2 trek ) and off to Germany soon to research the survivors. Sounds an amazing story - certainly film material. He was also keen to push on the formation of a steering group for South West writers (Groups) and asked if I would join him at the funding meeting. I reported sadly there was no further response from Marjons on the adaptation of the Creative Writing BA modules. Maybe I should have approached Plymouth Uni instead.

Sep 7, 2008

Trains and boats and ...

So much has happened since I last posted - not sure I'm going to be able to get it all down.
Met with Ex UN Weapons Inspector, Scott Ritter on QE2 in August. He gave four totally consuming lectures on the US in Iraq and anti-war strategies. Bought three of his books and found Waging Peace incredibly thought provoking - so much so that I have revised last chapter of Messenger manuscript to enhance an idea I had at one of the lectures. The trip was excellent too, Bay of Biscay rough on way out - mill pond on way back. Sardinia no go due to swell - tenders rocking all over the place. Cannes good - Lisbon beautiful - Barcelona was absolutely magic (must go back - it has changed so much since we were last there 35 years ago) Gib was Gib (Blackpool with wildlife). I have been really lucky with lectures on board both this year and last. On Queen Mary 2 last year I met with an FBI profiler who gave superb information on insurgent kidnaps. Rita's critique on story is and has been superb - I've suggested she start her own critique agency.

Granddaughter Millie (12) had an operation to assist hearing - hopefully it will do that although first impressions weren't that good, but it will take a while to settle I gather. Epilepsy tablets seem to be working thank goodness, but diabetes is still volatile at times.

Granddaughter Leah (17) had a superb month in New Zealand with grandparents. Helicopter rides and sheep and much much more! Officer, Fay, at Orewa Police did a splendid job - think I overreacted, but better to be safe than sorry!

House still alive with people which is lovely - and lots going on. Hopefully things will be resolved soon for those involved.

Slovakia January (after Wells) for Matthew and Lenka's continued wedding celebrations.

Excellent strategy meeting of our Fourtold fiction setup today. (Name is now domain Jenny Cole working on second detective mystery novel (prequel), Silja Swaby out to agents on The Deluge, Ed Evans in planning stage on third modern fantasy. I'm going to approach Piers Russell-Cobb, Marsh Agency, with Messenger. I spotted him on the Marsh site and he looks to be the man - also on Julia Hales blog and trekking last year. Small is beautiful and 'Fourtold' provides time and expertise to look in detail at all the projects each of us have going - not sure that would be possible with a larger group.

The more research I do for a sequel to The Messenger the more I realise that we owe the troops the best treatment when they come home. Whether people agree with Iraq / Afghanistan or not the soldiers don't get the choice - it's 'go there and fight'. They are risking their lives and we owe them good, private medical facilities and a chance to recover properly both physically and mentally. It's called authority with responsibility - you can't have one without the other.

Well, I haven't mentioned as much as I thought I would - oh well, there's always next time. Say goodnight to the folks, Gracie.

Jul 4, 2008

Secrets and Lies.

The world turned upside down on Friday - and family came first. The end of an era for some and the beginning for others. The house is now diffferent, but nicely so. The devil on one shoulder and an angel on another are having a field day. Who will win? Who can say? Life is what happens while we're waiting to die. Brave people take chances and others stay put. Sometimes corners are forced upon people and they come out fighting for a new future.

The story edit is two thirds through and I am two thirds tired. On the telephone to a flying school here last week I mentioned that my main character would find himself on a 747 packed with explosives. tree-topping the Hudson, on target for Indian Point and my phone line died. It clicked several times and eventually came back to normal. You know the feeling when someone is listening but doesn't talk? Well that was it. I guess I hit trigger words and Menwith Hill 'acquired' my computer history. It's been three years now and the research has been hard work. Did you know that an SA80 is a right shoulder weapon? That the Browning HP 9mm is best drawn from a chest holster? That low yield weaponry make one hell of a mess? That GX9 Gas simulates radiation poisoning? That FLAG is a covert military organisation established in 1959? And Major Frank Chandler was hung out to dry by the British Government during the Iraq/Iran war while on a black op in the Zagros Mountains? Which country has the largest reserves of oil? Which country is next on the US list? I ran a long way to get this information.
Time for bed said Zebedee.

Jun 1, 2008

Ghosts or dreams that is the question ...

Another week sailed by! Finished this one with a wonderful trip to Harrogate for a few days to see friends. Friends are so important - especially those from our youth - the time when we all thought we were fireproof. When we rode at the limit a 500cc twin would go - maybe a 105mph down hill with the wind behind us. What is it nowadays? 140mph in first? The bikes have become faster - we've become slower. No longer fireproof and there's the rub.

Interesting discussion recently on how far the tentacles of secret organisations can stretch and how they place locked gates on career paths. Do you have the key? If not you could be totally buggered. No gates (locked or unlocked) is the answer.

The book has me dangling at the moment. Learning curve is straight up. Will it plateau? I bloody hope so! Incidentals: Browning HP or Glock 9mm? Leg or chest holsters? Why are SA80s designed for right-hand firing - my guy has to use his left-hand and the ejector sends casings against the pillar then into his chest or his face.

May 16, 2008

The weekend is here ...

It's Friday - Working on edit.
Dilemma ... the ending needs total reversal. Hollywood ending may be best after all. Lots of discussion on validity of souls / FLAG/ Messenger. Why is it that being so close to the story sometimes doesn't let you see the wood for the trees?

May 13, 2008

What the hell happened to Monday?

A morning discussing the synopsis with Rita was time well spent. Now, if only I can find someone who writes the sort of storyline that I do then I'm in business trying to find a good agent and publisher. Trouble is I think I am the only one with my sense of 'other worldliness'. I seem to see the 'what if' factor in everything I do. Mind you, I don't do much nowadays other than write. Must get back to the gym.

Well, it's been a beautiful day- the sun has been kind and Millie is back in the land of the living, thank God (or whatever force makes the sun shine).

Tried to vote for the amazing young diver, Tom Daley, but the Sun (not that sun) site wanted me to take a free trial of something called High Beam before it would let me vote - what sort of sharp practise is that? I feel a letter coming on. Actually a letter has come - and gone. I sent a missive to the Herald advertising my displeasure at this shoddy sales pitch.

Now, this next bit is important as it will figure in the future of everything, believe me:
The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers, which are cited to justify it.
President John F. Kennedy
Address to Newspaper Publishers
April 27, 1961

May 11, 2008

What's that throbbing?

Well, it's a bright day - wish now I hadn't sold my yellow Harley last year. It'd be great to cruise around Dartmoor in the sunshine. Trees and shrubs appearing on the tors like huge cardboard cut-outs against a blue sky. Coming out of a dark tunnel of overhanging branches into sharp sunlight. Sheep skitishly running from the middle of narrow roads, others dithering, debating whether to go left or right and, at the last minute, standing still. Brown and white pot-bellied ponies lifting their heads as I pass saying, 'Blimey, I haven't seen a Harley that colour for a while. Let's put the shits up the rider,' as they stroll four abreast into the road and turn their tails to me. Crows the size of grave stones crashing into each other six inches above the tarmac as they tug at the innards of a dead cat. Actually, now I think about it ... maybe not.

Get editing lad ... get editing!

May 10, 2008

What a day!

Sarah's 40 and Millie's hospitalised. Frightening day for all concerned. It is to be hoped that Millie will now get the medical treatment she should have been granted before this happened.

Editing is slow, but it's happening. Trouble with the military - they are unable to assist with certain aspects of weaponry and vehicles due to security. Air Force One plans which US Air Force said were Classified - I found on childrens' Q&A site! Now, providing the US doesn't invade Iran before it's published I should still be writing fiction.

The local case has been submitted. The turning point was the exemption ref Article 8 of the HRA - it works both ways. Let's see them wriggle out of this one!

Right, back to the world of dreams.