Riddled …

As an author I am riddled with self-doubt. I think I like what I write. And a good number of you have gone out of your way to tell me that you like what I write. And the reviews are mostly good.

When I’m writing the Sam Green books, I work tirelessly at getting the sense of what I’m trying to convey into the right words. I rework sentences – change words. Reread what I have written. Rewrite some of it. And then, leave it for an hour or two, and reread it again – I call that a ‘trash edit’, to make what was just a series of words into something recognisable. I wake up in the middle of the night and rewrite stuff in my head; and, at this point, I get some real flashes of inspiration about the future plot. And when this is all done, hopefully towards the end of the year, there are a still huge number of further edits, three beta readers for a gross check, and then two professional proofreads to come. But the trash editing is something I do as I go along.

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heading home – sad!

What am I saying? I give it everything.

On the way back to Bristol today, with C’s help, I pulled together what I think is a fab plot for book 5. I had much of it, but I was still struggling with the middle and the end – and how it comes together. But I’m there now. And I am sooooo excited, I just want to write. It’s different … oooh. Where’s my laptop?

And, you know what, still I’m not sure. Still doubting.

Here’s one reason why.

All of a sudden and compound the misery, something like The Bodyguard comes along (BBC1 – a must watch thriller). It’s v Sam Greenesque, the lead character (Richard Madden, the bodyguard, protecting the brilliant and ever-so sexy Keely Hawes, playing the Home Secretary), is ex-Army, post Afghanistan with PTSD. Does this sound familiar? OK, so it’s a bloke, but come on. OK, so it’s UK-based and revolves around MI5, not MI6, but it’s quite similar. And the action scenes are terrific and the tension is fab. OK, so the plot takes some believing – last night he ended up in a face-off with a pal of his who had been trying to shoot the lovely – but it’s all great stuff.

So, here I am. Writing my heart out on a series of books that is currently selling at around 2/3 a day, and someone has put together an excellent 6-part TV show, something I will never get round to doing, using what I consider to be my small part of the thriller genre.

But, you now what? I woke up to 2 five-star reviews this morning on Amazon, and I can’t tell you how excited I am writing book 5. It’s different again, but v Sam Green.

So, as they say, write the book you want to read. That’s what I’m going to do.

Come on Roland … get to it!

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that’s C’s wine stash….

For the record, I started writing this on the ferry home. We’ve had a slow couple of days. Stopping off at R&C’s in Dover to pick up some of Bex and Steven’s stuff we left there (thanks R&C), and yesterday we bought enough wine to drown my writing sorrows. Good – must get on with that. That is, writing and wine.

Are we the luckiest people alive?

We come to the end of our three and a bit weeks away; we catch the ferry on Tuesday. As is always the case it does feel as though we’ve been away forever – which is good. Both of us feel relaxed and fir, but we’ve both had that feeling that we wish we were now heading south to find Mrs Sun, and maybe chase her around the Mediterranean rim until the Spring. Doris does that to you. She has been fab. Other than the ‘will, she, won’t she’ start, which is now fixed, she hasn’t missed a beat in every department. When we get the trike fitted, she will be the complete long-term package for us. Don’t worry friends and family, we will be keeping the 2-up, 2-down in Bristol, so you will be able to differentiate between us and ‘other travellers’ – I’m not so sure what I’m allowed to call Gypsies nowadays.

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One of our recent evening spots. Fabulius

Doris’s intermittent electrical fault tells a story for everyone. They’re v difficult to fix. I was up for replacing the alternator (£250) and the earthing strap (£100), and would have been no better off if I hadn’t stumbled upon one of the main Fiat live leads coming off the battery to Doris’s heart somewhere – which was loose. Just goes to show. And of course, if I’d have sent it blind to a Fiat garage, who knows what they would have replaced – especially as the fault only appeared when you were least expecting it. A new CPU would have been my bet (£800).

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Our latest spot

Actually, we’re really looking forward to going home. Other than being ‘at home’ with the additional comforts that affords, we have a lot to look forward to. Let me elucidate.

First, Doris will become my writing studio, including all mod cons. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying book 5 – 23,000 words in and motoring. Much quicker and much earlier than hitherto. If I carry on like this I’ll be done by the end of October, which is when I normally start. I’m loving the plot: Sam, Frank; Jane and Gareth – especially Gareth. He’s going to raise a few eyebrows I think. But he’s got a good role. I’m about to introduce a new bloke, name not yet known, who will tell a side story that will add depth and colour to a tricky time in the world. Can’t wait!

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The local Brit war graves. Found a Lincoln and Leicester lad in here. Added some perspective to everything.

Of course I have Jen’s business to help with, and she and I have been talking a lot about that. She and James are off to Canada for their belated honeymoon in 10 days time. V excited. When she gets back we shall start in earnest. I’d hope to spend about 2 days a week (across the week) helping out. Then I’ve got some leadership work with the school I’m helping out in. I reckon only 3.5 days between now and Christmas, but it’ll be fun and I’ll get paid.

We have a list of jobs as long as an orangutan’s arm with regard to the house, Doris etc. And all of those will be fun. And, of course, we have people to see – and some to look after. With no full-time work on the agenda, we can do all of that without stress. Fab.

And we intend to get away. We have Cassie (Jen’s dog) for the next three weeks and hope to pop away in the van for a couple of days. We’re taking Mary to Paris towards the end of next month. We are looking at a last minute deal to the Med, possibly at the end of October, for a week. And we are hoping to go skiing in January for our usual 12 days.

Are we the luckiest people alive? We think so.

 

 

It shouldn’t be this difficult?

Ok, let’s get his Trumpkiness out of the way after the news that his ex-lawyer, who has admitted countless fraud offences and others, has told a New York court that Trump instructed him to pay off two former mistresses using campaign funds – with the sole purpose of influencing an election, an election he won by just 77k electoral college votes. Let’s translate that over here and see what you think. A three-times married prime minister, via his lawyer, during the run up to an election uses money you’ve donated to silence two women, one of whom is a porn-star. He did this in case they bragged about his affair which might upset a number people, who then didn’t vote for him. Election lost. One of those may have been you, especially if you found out that one of the affairs happened just after his latest wife had given birth to a son. He then lied consistently that he knew nothing about it. How would you feel about that? Should that man run our country (leaving aside pulling out of the Iran deal, the Paris agreement, belittling friends and allies, smooching up to Russia, holding two meeting with two dictators – in private – where the discussions in those rooms have not been shared with his intelligence community (that we know of). And countless other nonsense.)?

I rest my case. The problem for the Republican Party, apart from the fact that a number of them have been indicted on their own cases and may well have business links to Russia, is that should Trump go they’re left with the smiling assassin – the man Pence who absolutely believes that God has a plan for us all. Only the righteous will survive. Abortion is murder; capital punishment is God’s way of getting his own back? And if you don’t believe that, you are (seriously, he means you) going to hell (in a handbasket).

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I’ll leave Brexit well alone other than quote a new poll which has numbers now just in ‘Remain’s’ favour. That’s not my point though. If you drill down into the detail, those polled are even more entrenched: older people vote to leave; young ‘uns to stay. Sorry, but I may only have a generation left in me before I join the worms. My daughters and their children I hope will kick around for a lot longer. Why are we allowed to influence their future so massively, when they’re going to have to live with our consequences. I’m sorry, but that’s not right.

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Doris, ahhhh.

To hell in a handbasket? Actually that’s a good title for book 5. Which shouldn’t be this difficult. I’m 14,000 words in, half way through chapter three. I had no intention of starting writing on this break (I have started as late as mid-October), but I was so excited by the emerging plot I couldn’t stop myself. The problem is I’ve only just finished the final edit of For Good Men To Do Nothing, which was just six weeks ago. As a result the quality of that book, after 8 edits and two proofreads, is at the front of my mind. Not only am I currently trying to make the new one more exciting, but I’m also hoping the writing is as good. Which it shouldn’t be as it’s got another 8 edits and two proofreads to go through. It’s tough and frustrating. But exciting and entrancing. I love it! And you’re going to too – I’m sure!

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Medieval village – fab…

We’re in a lovely little village called Saint Ceneri-le-Gerei. It’s a medieval, caught in a bend in a river. We found the spot, right by the river and looked down on by the villagers (they must love us – but we are not alone), on Park4Night, the only wild-camping App you need. The weather is lovely, and the walks/runs beautiful – we’ve both been out this morning. Since Sunday we’ve meandered east, stayed in a few places with a few castles – cycled, walked and run. C has re-taken up her favourite pastime – reading. Which is great because it means I can write without feeling guilty (mostly late afternoon and after supper; I’ve given up on TV). All-in-all it’s a fab life.

And Doris may be fixed. She had another ‘sorry, but I’m not even going to attempt to start’ when we got here yesterday. I’d attached a multimeter to the vehicle battery so could monitor its voltage as we were pottering, and it (and hence the alternator) are both fine. At that point I was plumping for the main earthing strap was knackered, which is a common fault and probably within my abilities to fix – preferably at home, providing Doris would continue to start when we really needed her to. As I was in the battery compartment, for the first time I tried the positive wires – hitherto I’d been disconnecting the battery using the negative terminal as it’s much easier to get off.

Hey presto! One of the main red leads, presumably a Fiat, was loose. Like, really loose. I tightened her up and Doris turned over first time. Job done? I won’t know until we’ve driven/stopped her over a period, but I think so. And the electric wing mirrors are working as well. What’s not to like?

Who gets to decide?

We’re sat for our second night in a small layby on a road that carries a car once every half a day, right beside the Brest/Nantes canal. The French don’t do canals as you and I know them. They do big canals. Even their small ones, like the one we’re on, are three times as big as ours. This doesn’t mean that you can take a supertanker down one, as a French family found out last night. They got their old (but lovely) Dutch barge stuck in a lock just up from where Doris is parked. The canal emergency services were called (one man, a Peugot Boxer and a circular saw), and an hour later with the upstream sluices open – forcing the stuck mega-barge through the lock like a cork out of a bottle, all was well.

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That’ll be stuck then

Between the last blog and now we’ve pottered. I suppose the best thing (other than doing v little) we’ve done is visit Chateau de Kerguehennec, a modest chateau in the woods. We stayed there for the night, and before we watched one of the DVDs we’d brought with us, we popped in and had a look. First, a plus, it’s all free. Second, it’s a pretty place with plenty of park for walkers. Third, and at first, not so good, the chateau is renown for its sculpture park. This is true. It does have a sculpture park – all modern bits of metal and wood stuck together at jaunty, incomprehensible angles – but hardly inspiring. Inside (which is also free!), is more modern art including a special trip upstairs to see the special gallery … mmmm.

Now, I know not a great deal about art, save that I have painted and drawn, to the point where we do have some of my stuff on the walls at home. But, I am no expert. What gets me about modern art, isn’t that it’s – cliché – trash. I say that because I think I understand the curves and the colours. The indecipherability and simplicity. I get why some people might find that attractive. What I don’t get, is who decides? Why is Tracy Emin’s bed any more of a work of art than our daughter, Rebecca’s? There both as untidy. What makes, I kid you not, a piece of wood leant against the wall in the chateau (titled, mysteriously, as ‘Leaning’), any better than one that I could put together from B&Q. Who gets to decide? It’s a mystery to me.

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But … and it’s a big but. We opted for the special ‘upstairs tour’. A woman gave us ticket with a specific time, which was 90 seconds later then the person before you, and 90 seconds earlier than the person after you. You had to put all of your stuff in a locker, get a special briefing from another woman by a lift. Then get in the lift on your own (one, which the manufacturer happily stated, would take 8 big Americans), get out in the dark and be briefed (quietly) by a third person, sat in the dark on a chair. And then feel your way around the exhibit.

It was all dark. No, sorry, black. There was the odd bit of light. And even though there was only 90 seconds between visitors, you were on your own. Spooky. It was like when I did an outward bound course as a 16 year old and ten of us were sent down a mine, roped together with no torches and no watches – but with dried food enough for a day. You couldn’t see a thing. Your pupils could have been the size of dinner plates and you would have still been blind. All of us lost track of time. When we got out I thought we’d been in there for 12 hours. Actually we’d been underground for 24 hours. Weird. Anyhow, back to the exhibits, which were room-sized and subtly lit: they were just fabulous. It was like a coal mine, with hundreds of repeated black objects, massive swirls, a sunken desk and chair – and a room which looked liked one of those from The Da Vinci Code, with black skull shapes on black shelves. Fabulous. Worth every penny …

Anyhow, we found the canal, parked up, cycled to a local town, watched TV, ran this morning and then did not a great deal. Except that I have written …

I’ve forgotten how difficult and all-consuming this is. Each book is at least 120,000 words, that’s one-and-a-half times the maximum length of PhD thesis. And I write one of them a year – this is my fifth. When you finish, it’s like getting to the end of a marathon. ‘I’m never doing that again.’ Twenty minutes later, that’s a distant memory and you’re up for the next challenge. The problem with a new book is that you have to start with a lot of description. New characters require introduction. Even old characters need to be set into their new environment. And it’s tough. I read today on Twitter that an unimaginative person can write 500 words (that’s about a page) in 10 minutes. An imaginative person takes 10 times as long. You’re telling me. However, I’m now well into Chapter 2 (out of 22), and 8,500/140,000 words down. And I’m exhausted.

Never mind. At least I’m getting paid well.

 

Don’t follow us (please)

Just to let you know that we’ve headed south. That’s after we’d headed west to Finisterre, the most westerly point in France, where the Channel meets the Atlantic. It’s lovely there. Think west coast of Scotland meets Cornwall. All craggy, sandy coves, a bit empty and white-washed houses with grey tiled roofs. We walked down the promontory at le Conquet – to a couple of Napoleonic castles and a lighthouse (the kids would love it, trust me). Ran down the coastal path. And then cycled to Menhir de Keloas, a huge, single standing stone shaped like a rocket. We continued with our bikes (still fab – C’s has a new battery as the original one conked out after 4 years. It was a mouth-watering £270; we could have afforded many taxi-rides for that amount of money) up and around the coast, and got back having cycled 24 miles.

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Loving the far west

But, alas, Mrs Sun had deserted us and gone off to brown someone else’s knees. So, after a quick weather check, this morning we headed south to Carnac, where instead of one big standing stone, the ancient Gauls decided to build a terracotta army’s worth of smaller stones, all in a line. Here the weather would be better (which it is), but, unfortunately everyone else has followed us. So having seen the stones from Doris’s window, we headed inland a bit and got away from the crowds. Phew.

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Doris, bless her, has continued to be hesitant in the starting department. It’s odd. Like she’s fine and then on a random stop she fails to start. Just dead – like the immobiliser has kicked it. I though earlier today that I was going to have to call ADAC, but then she started having disconnected the battery. I’ve checked all of the earths that I can find, and given them all a good squirt of WD40. And the battery is in top condition. The only thing is that the remote wing mirrors stopped working again (and then started) and the alarm GPS tracker system only wants to talk to me on its own terms. Mmmm. Confusion. But, we made it here. And last time I checked she wanted to turn over. The only connection may be the weather – both times she has failed to start have been when it’s wet? Not sure. Ideas welcome.

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Books? Well, you’ll be delighted to hear that yesterday was my first 10 book sale day – of all colours. Yes, at the launch of both The Innocence of Trust and For Good Men To Do Nothing I did have a spike of sales, but we’re one month in now and yesterday was a bit of an aberration, albeit a pleasant one. As at 5.15 pm today I have sold one book (TIOT), which is better than no books. It seems to come and go.

And, as you can see, I have notched up 100 reviews for Fuelling the Fire on Goodreads, which I am v pleased about. So, things are pottering along.

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Oh. I have started book 5. Two and a half thousand words in. Sam is already being very Sam-like. Love it.

Till Sunday…

How did we miss that?

You know that you wouldn’t think twice about going on holiday to the south coast? Sussex by the sea. Bournemouth and Portsmouth – all those ships. Portland Bill, the Jurassic coast. Lyme Regis and the strange woman in a black cape about to be swept out to sea. The inlets of Devon and the raggedy coastline of Cornwall. Take your pick. It’s all fabulous, if a little kiss-me-quick and uber busy in the summer. You know, the tailbacks into Dorchester. The A303 merging into a single lane by Stonehenge and then end-to-end bumpers until you murder the children and drive off the end at The Lizard, leaving everything to the cats’ home. That’ll teach them.

You know what it’s like. And you love it.

And yet, the thought of going to the north coast of France on holiday … think again, buddy. If it’s anything like Calais and the hinterland with all that industry and one, main street villages with those awful red-brick houses, discoloured further by huge trucks trundling along Le Route Nationales to avoid paying the autoroute tolls. No way. Nope. Not us. Anyway, the sea would be cold, and greasy in a ferry-fart like way. All those ships polluting the waves. And the weather. It’s always gloomy. Always.

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Castles and everything

But let’s get our facts right. First, it’s the same busy sea. In fact, the further south you go, even just into Normandy, the coastline steers south and the container ships are a distance memory. It is warmer. It must be, because the moment you cross The Channel, your geographically further south. And very soon you’re parallel with The Channel Islands, where rich British people with pointy boats, oily blue jumpers, gardens full of tropical flowers and not a care for people like you and I live. It is warmer. And the coastline is fabulous. High, sandstone cliffs falling dramatically to beautiful coves – and some long crescent beaches. Small holiday villages with no Butlins. Beautiful Cotswold stone-built houses, rolling hills, long Norfolk-like beaches, estuaries, lighthouses, mussel beds, and, when you touch Brittany, scenery straight from the south of France with the same sand, the same pines and the same white-so-it-hurts-your-eyes sailing boats, although not quite the same footage as the richer-than-yow from Monte Carlo. It’s quiet, clean and French. What’s not to like?

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As good as it gets?

And, seriously, you get that all from Wissant which is just 15 kms west of Calais. Why bother trying to find somewhere to park in a grubby, grassy carpark to look at Corfe Castle – along with 15,000 other people – when you can take your pick of 15,000 castles (ok, so I exaggerate) just across La Manche? We have been converted. It’s lovely.

I almost forgot! You also have the whole D-Day invasion thing going on. With tanks, and display boards and extraordinary cemeteries (the US one at Omaha Beach is not to be missed). The kids will love it.

I write this just short of Cap Frehel. It’s one of Brittany’s many pointy bits. We’ve parked up in a free aire, walked 10 miles along coastline that’s as good as anything we’ve done in the southwest, with just a few people for company. We’ve seen a huge lighthouse, stacks of stacks, an estuary, an 11th century fort on a peninsular, had lunch on the beach, envied people in yachts enjoying the coves and made it back in time for tea and medals. What’s not to like?

Moving on.

We spent the first half of the walk reminiscing. I’ve just been invited to the 25th anniversary of an army course I completed, well, 25 years ago. It was a defining time for me, the course a venturi for all of us ambitious officers wanting to make our mark. The event is next summer (the military are always prepared) and I will attend. But it sparked a reflective couple of hours. Our life moved away from the Army 15 years ago when I left. It was a fabulous time and we had fun reminding ourselves what it was like. But, with 8 years as teacher and a houseparent next, and then 4 years of vagrancy, we still have no regrets. But it was fun to reminisce.

Books? Well, I’ve still done nothing about anything. I’m v clear (and v excited) about the plot for book 5 and do need to start writing. And sales continue to potter. The last three days have been 6, 4 and 2 books sold in that order. I’m still waiting for a couple of marketing opportunities to come my way, and I really should get on with being more systematic about the marketing – but, do you know what? I’m struggling to sell myself. I really am. So let me share this review with you (if you don’t mind – and I have no idea who the reviewer, CAC is; does anyone?):

5.0 out of 5 starsSo good I’ve read it twice.

10 August 2018

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

A thumping plot with many a twist and turn that draws the reader at a breathtaking pace down all manner of unlit trails to even less expected destinations.

Would the principle character, Sam Green be easy company? I doubt it. Does she tantalise and beguile – absolutely – which way will she turn next? A contradictory and Gordian character; on the one hand resolute and professionally skilled, on the other hand grappling the demons that threaten to overwhelm her. She’s crying out for help which so richly deserves, something I sense Mr Ladley won’t countenance in the near future.

I’ve read all of Ladley’s books, they get better and better. In terms of narrative quality his style has moved from that of an amateur athlete to one who is fighting hard for a place in the Olympic team, the style is tight and deeply readable

For those delight in good thrillers ‘For Good Men to do Nothing’ is great read which I strongly recommend

If you feel anywhere close to the same way, please tell your friends. All of them. Go on. Or stick something on Facebook, or Instagram. Or, at least, please pen a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Something will happen. It will. I’m sure of it. It may just happen a bit quicker if you lot spread the word …

Have a good Sunday.

 

A bit odd…

It’s been a funny couple of days for me. For a start I haven’t found the energy to think much about the books, other than to follow the sales. I started thinking about a Facebook Ad, but gave up. And I had a blank page with the work Plot on the top of it, but couldn’t manage much. It’s been hot, we’ve kept up our running every two days (on Monday I ended up running with a French guy on the beach at quite a lick – his choice, not mine. He was 59! Great fun.) and we have done some walking. But in terms of actually getting on with anything, it’s a null pointer.

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Seine – big River, big boats

After Wissant we stayed at the mouth of the Somme, on a small spit of land overlooking the estuary. Last night we had a lovely, albeit thundery, night down the Seine some. It’s a big river and navigable with huge, ocean-going boats, which kept me entertained for a while. We’ve watched the European Championships (well done Dina Asher-Smith – brill), and generally pottered about. And tonight we are high on a bluff at the Gold Beach memorial, with super views over the Mulberry Harbours. It’s all good.

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Mulberry harbour

But it’s still been odd. I’ve struggle to find energy, except when I’m running, and that’s unlike me.

That may have changed. I shall tell you something spooky. First, this morning, I found out that I’d sold a couple of books in the US overnight where that market has been quiet (I’m still selling 2/3 books a day in the UK). Then Doris gave up on us. She started first thing, then second thing after we filled up with water at the service point, and then did that multiple-click thing where the battery fails to turn over the starter motor. Then nothing. Then the analogue dials on the dash started jumping, as if they had been taken over by a poltergeist. I disconnected the battery – and still the analogue dials had a fit.

Mmmmm. I reconnected the battery and all was well. And all has been well, all day.

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at the mouth of the Somme

Except. The long-arm hang-down electric wing mirrors have been broken since we started the hols. They’re there. You know, all look at me – and don’t forget that things are closer than they appear. But the electric motors don’t work for some reason. I’ve had things apart, looked on forums, changed fuses and downloaded the v complex wiring diagram. Nothing. Oh well.

Then, today, as we drove over Pegasus bridge, I tried the switch again as the mirror was in the wrong place by a smudge. Hey presto! They’re working again. And they still are. How does that work?

Well, I’m not sure. I’m putting the ‘Doris not starting’ down to a huge deluge of water that fell out of the sky and down the front windscreen last night. Moving her about probably dislodged some wet stuff onto the coil and/or starter motor and shorted her until the leccy had burnt off the water. The wing mirrors?

Do you believe in ghosts?