Book stuff

I’m heading for a bit of a glorious conclusion with the book. I’ve literally just finished reading it to C, a process I really enjoyed … and which she seemed to persevere without too many moans. The good news is she liked it, and I managed to find a number of edits which I had previously missed. I know I may have said this before, but it’s a helluva thing, you know. Writing a book. More so, five of them. I follow a number of authors on Twitter and Instagram and so many of then are wrapped in self-doubt; many unable to finish their work. I see many five-star reviews posted by authors who are beside themselves with getting a decent review here and there. I know that the odd 5-star review does not translate into selling many books, so I have no idea how they manage to pay the bills if writing is the only thing they do. I suspect many hold down a second and a third job.

In that respect I am very lucky. We have set ourselves up so that I can just write – although, as you know, I do some work in schools. And I do get a lot of five-star reviews. I don’t mean to be boastful, but I have nearly 400 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads with an average rating of 4.2. I think that is good. But, like my fellow authors I don’t make anywhere near enough money selling books to live off. And whilst I’ve every intention of marketing hard in the autumn, I suspect I will never sell more than about 500 books a year. We shall see.

On The Back Foot To Hell

the latest incarnation of the front page of On The Back Foot To Hell

Anyhow, as well as reading the script out loud I have been working on the worst of all jobs: the synopsis. This is a three-page resume of what happens and is never meant to be a pitch. Ignoring that, I started the synopsis of On The Back Foot To Hell like this:


On The Back Foot To Hell – Synopsis

This is a book about greed. And fear. It’s a book about tenacity. And mental health. In the end it’s a book that sees Sam Green, the unwilling star of four previous encounters with global antagonists, taken to the point from where she might never recover. It is more than a spy-thriller. It’s a story of PTSD. Of OCD and autism. It’s the story of a woman who has nothing left to live for, who finds herself at the point where even that is taken from her.


Doubtless, should I send it to an agent or publisher they won’t make it past the first paragraph, but as I’ve had no luck so far with anything other than self-publishing (OK, Fuelling The Fire was published by Kindle), what have I got to lose?


Doris has been to the doctors to have new pads, a fuel filter and a new rear tyre. This is my attempt to change her oil and filter … but I couldn’t get the sump plug undone. Oh dear.

Moving on.

We’re a couple of days off from seeing Mum and Mary before we get on a plane to Korea. We should be excited … and we are. But since London it’s all been a bit of a blur. Doris has been in the doctors to get things sorted and we’ve been pottering about in ever decreasing circles seemingly achieving a lot, but on reflection, maybe not. Tomorrow is our last day at home and we’re not not completely sorted. I’m sure everything will be ok.

I’m sure it will …




If you ignore my usual anti-British rants about how a small portion of this great country, led currently by a bunch of self-serving, party-protecting, public-school educated incompetents, it’s not a bad place, is it? Sure, anyone who says ‘remember the Blitz spirit’ in relation to Brexit, and/or makes some racist comment about anyone who isn’t white-faced, beer-bellied and spittle-mouthed whilst pointing a finger in the chest of an immigrant, really colours my opinion of living on this overcrowded, green and not always pleasant land. But …

… having walked from Embankment along the Thames Path all the way to Canary Wharf today, you really have to admire our ability to get things done, and done right. The gentrification of London is a marvel. Last night we walked to Kings Cross, and had a poke about the regeneration of the area behind the station. It is fab. And today’s walk amplified that. When we do things we do do them well. We have class … and ambition. We have imagination and style. The detailing on so much of the architecture is second-to-none. There are no cut corners. It’s just pretty perfect, even if you venture away from the river.

Yes, we could really do with housing the people who are sleeping in the parks. And I really don’t know what to do about the countless flats and houses which are unoccupied – it’s madness that so much of this place has been bought up and left empty when we have such a housing crisis. But it is well done, for sure.

The new builds are really imaginative. I like The Shard and the cheese grater. And the mobile phone. And I love the skyscraper just across the river that looks like the blade of a wind turbine. All of the wharfs that have been renovated have managed to keep their heavy industrial style whilst changing their role. We are, and I say it again, really good at this. We did Paris at the end of last year, and yes the Seine is a beautiful river and the merchant houses that fill its banks to overflowing are a delight. But it ends up being quite samey. London is as eclectic as its inhabitants. Every style is catered for. Every nuance ticked.





built from old gas tanks


we also popped into the British Museum and the Edvard Munch exhibition. I could have slit my wrists.

We’re off to a concert tomorrow. One of C’s girls from school has her final recital in the Barbican. It will be lovely, although the music will be lost on me. It’s not that I’m anti-classical, it’s just that I need a melody to tune into. I can appreciate the depth and sophistication of classical music, it’s just that I can’t really like it. That makes me a heathen, I know. I blame the fact that my ears are in too tight. Or similar.

And then home and the big push to get ourselves sorted out for our SE Asia trip. Can’t wait.

Counting the pennies

Don’t worry (be happy). I’m not going to go on and on about the EU elections and how you should all be voting Green or, at worst, the Lib Dems. That the planet comes first and living in a stable Europe second. That the Tories and Labour are history … and that we need a fresh start. I know the Greens have some fairly unconventional manifesto promises, like getting rid of the nuclear deterrent but, do you know what, is that such a bad thing? At around £200 billion for a replacement that’s an awful lot of conventional defence we could buy … and I still think we’d keep our spot on the Security Council.

It’s a thought.


thinking of my grandchildren

Let’s talk about more mundane matters. Doris has a slow puncture and I need to get it fixed. It comes at a time when I do need to give her a thorough service. So, next Wednesday she’s going into the doctors for 4 new sets of brake pads, a tightening of her handbrake cable, a new diesel filter and a sorted tyre. All she needs then is a new air filter and an oil and filter change. So, I’ve decided to do that. The air filter is simples. The oil and filter I’ve done before on a car, but not 10 litres and 4-tonnes’ worth of monster truck. I have ordered everything I need (around £70 for all that including some top-quality oil) and I hope to have a go before next weekend. I reckon that around £500 later she’ll be as serviced as she can be. And I don’t think that’s a bad price.

The trike went in for her annual service today, including oil and filter = £100, which I didn’t think was a bad. Once the warranty runs out I’ll do that myself as well.


Bristol, OMG

I went for my own service on Tuesday (cardiac doctory). They have no idea what’s going on and they’re going to stick a 3-day ECG on me when we get back from SE Asia … and I’m also going to have an ultrasound. I’m still getting the odd skipping heartbeat, but nothing like it was a couple of months ago. Nothing to worry about, apparently.

OK then …

As a new edit innovation I’ve printed out On The Back Foot To Hell ready for proofreading and am reading it out loud to C. It really helps me spot repeat errors (2 ‘rights’ in 2 sentences etc) and C also has an ear for things. And, do you know what? I think she’s enjoying it. Personally I think it’s the best writing I’ve ever done (this blog clearly isn’t) … and, probably, among my best story lines. We’ll see.

I was reminded by the BBC today that Lee Child (Jack Reacher) didn’t start writing until he was in his 40s and, other than journalistic articles, hadn’t written anything of substance before then. Nice to be reminded, although such nudges provide both hope and despair for wannabes like me.

We had a lovely supper with Peter and Karen on Tuesday night … we caught up having not seen each other for a while. And this weekend we’re off to the big smoke to see C’s cousin. We’re taking the coach (not the ones with horses, although that would be fun, if a tadge slow). For both of us to get too and from London the cost is £48 … by train, the cheapest is around £120. I’ll let you know ho it goes.

And I’ve just reread this. It seems to be money-focused, for which I apologise. If I had a proper job I might not be so penny-pinching. (But … as my friends know only too well, that’s unlikely to be a favourable outcome.) To be clear, I’m not after a job. At all. So count the pennies I must!

Car boot … mmm

I got an advert on Instagram this morning. It was from the European Parliament. It showed a small boy sat at the back of the parliament holding an EU flag. The post was clearly marked; paid for by the European Parliament. The post had had a couple of thousand likes and there were 250 comments. I did some research.

Nearly all of the comments were pro-Brexit and, most of them, were sharp … nasty. I did some further research and clicked on the profiles of a few of the pro-Brexit commentators. Where their profiles were open, those I chose showed older men. Their timeline was at best ‘blokey’; at worst misogynist and borderline fascist. One had one of those cartoon written jokes: ‘I went into the pub with a gun looking for my wife who was having an affair. A friend at the back said I hadn’t brought enough ammunition.’ #hilarious.

Among others.

Now I know that most folk who voted for Brexit would be horrified by such people. But, for those of you Brexiteers that still read my drivel, you do have to admit that the pro-Brexit movement does attract that sort. And whilst I am a European, I can also see why some people would vote to leave the EU, although I firmly believe the benefits of staying far outweigh those of leaving. But I am prepared to have that discussion. Without resorting to violence.

Along the same lines. I know that I’ve told you before that we live in a multi-cultural cul-de-sac: I reckon 65/35 Brit to non-Brit inhabitants. And we love it here. This morning I walked the 400 metres to our local car boot sale. It was full of Eastern Europeans and a number of other non-Brits. They were all going about their business. No angst. No tension. Yesterday C and I were in Gloucester seeing Jen. As I backed out of a parking space a very English, Englishman swore and gesticulated at me from his car … apparently I hadn’t made room for him to manoeuvre.


nobody punched anybody

Anger v Peace.

Last night I watched a programme about Dover on C4 during the war. It wasn’t great telly, but it kept my interest. The programme spent a bit of time looking at Dunkirk … and we were shown lots of piccies of gritty Brit soldiers (and Poles and French who were fighting alongside us) with smiles amongst the grimaces. I know I can’t say, but I sense that in 1940 our boys were not the sort to get enraged over a frivolous incident in a carpark. Or dis their women. Or have a go at a fellow Pole who was fighting alongside them (or indeed the 87,000 Indians who died for our freedom).

What has changed? Dunno.

I should stop. All I will say is that I cannot see myself staying in the UK if a right-wing, anti-immigration, anti-European party gets into government (I’m ignoring the current Tories … although should Boris get into power). I’m having enough trouble coping with my fellow Brit on the roads …

Good news! I have finished the final edit of On The Back Foot To Hell, have started printing it out for proofreading and have had an initial stab at the front cover. It all looks like this:

On The Back Foot To Hell (1)

A new, undefined terror is spreading across the globe. Indiscriminate, low-level acts of violence have hit all five continents – and it’s getting worse. The world’s security services are at a loss. Who is behind the upsurge in violence? Where will the next attack take place? Will it ever stop?

Sam Green, now a supermarket till girl in a small town in England, is oblivious to world events. She has her own inner demons to fight and they’re consuming every spare moment. All too soon though, these demons will take on human form. And then she will be faced with two choices: run or fight.

In Naples, Italy, a young Welsh student is innocently researching a link between The Mafia and the history of art. And two thousand miles away in Moscow, Russian intelligence services are struggling to contain a new terror cell that threatens nuclear catastrophe.

Are all these things connected? If so, can someone force order from chaos? Sam has managed before. But now there are too many obstacles, the biggest of which are those plaguing her own mind.

This time the world might just have to rely on someone else.

In praise of the Sam Green series:

This really is an addictive series of stories; Sam Green a believable and somewhat vulnerable hero who finds herself drawn in to some enthralling adventures with each subsequent book linking cleverly to the previous, yet still being ‘stand alone’. Roland seems to have the ability to guide the reader around a spider’s web of plots culminating in an extraordinarily exciting finale. Can’t wait for book 5.


We’re at home this week, with some adminy things to sort. And then a weekend in London visiting a cousin of C’s. It’s all good here …

Betwixt and between

There’s no doubt that five days away in Doris has done wonders for our wellbeing. The last three were sat at John’s doing not a great deal other than walking and running (and editing … I’m 3 chapters short of finishing my final edit). C certainly feels better and I am getting there. Today, before we left for Mary’s I had a hard run. The time wasn’t particularly quick, but I did bust a gut. And, between times, we’ve resorted the house (we’ve only been in it for a day before we’ve headed off again) and bought a hoe. You know, the garden thing with the metal, triangular end that gets rid of old plants from concrete and the like. This morning I had a go at the area around the back of our place, a car park for a few houses on a cul-de-sac off from our cul-de-sac. If you see what I mean.


I could get used to this

And now we’re at Mary’s until Friday. I have work at the Farnham school tomorrow (a day’s clinic and a BBQ with the prefects where I’m down to talk to them about leadership. I’m really looking forward to that.). And then we’re just 2 weeks and a number of commitments away from getting on the plane and heading east until the land runs out. We were discussing our plans on the way here. Mostly we’re looking at having nothing more than a general plan, and only booking accommodation the day before. Travel will be by bus and the rest will be ‘make it up as we go along’. C was looking at city hotel prices and they’re a third of what they are in Europe. We have budgeted for £80 a day, less airfares which we’ve already paid for. I think that’s going to be more than enough … but we’ll see. C found a guest house in KL (with a window … a special note) for £14 a night for both of us. Another, with an infinity pool, for £45. I can’t imagine it costs too much to eat out there either.

What an adventure?


new hat and sunglasses for a new continent

In the meantime I’m working my way through On The Back Foot To Hell. And I’m almost done. I have my proof reader stood by for the end of the month. I know I said this last time, but I do like it. And, with sales v slow this month, I am going to have a real go at marketing once the book is out there.

What else is new? Mum seems fine. We’re going to pop and see her before we get on the plane. We talk a couple of times a day and she does sound well.

Having Mrs Sun showing off her calves is a pleasant diversion. When it is like this I can’t stop myself picturing the pair of us in Doris somewhere south and hot … by a beach. Long walks along the strand, a coffee here, a glass of wine there. Slow mornings and just as slow days. Running in the sand, and up the cliffs. Cycling into distant towns. Spending little, whilst living a lot. I know we’re both still relatively young and this will all come again, but having lived that life for a bit it it is difficult to get that sense out of your head. I remember whittling bamboo into walking sticks and making jewellery from stuff I’d found on the beach (do you remember me doing that?). That was four years ago and a fading, but not lost memory. I think of it and my shoulders relax and I breath out heavily. Ahh.

Pals of ours who we met whilst we were away (@baxterbus on Instagram) are currently in Scotland heading for the northern isles in their van. They have fab weather and look like they’re really having a ball. Well done them. We must catch up with them soon.

And other pals, Hilary and Steven, are back from New Zealand and on their narrowboat. We hope to see them before we fly, as they stopped off in Thailand en route to the Antipodes. They’re v good at finding the right places to go … for the right amount of money. Yes, we must mine that mine.

Anyhow, I must have a look over my notes for tomorrow.

Till Sunday!

Yeah, like that’s going to happen

This is more like it. We got home from mum’s on Wednesday and, driving into chilly wind and heavy rain, headed off to Herefordshire (where hurricanes hardly ever happen) in Doris. We stayed two nights at a wooded campsite – including a long, long walk up and down dale and along the Wye – and then, for want of any imagination, ended up at John’s site where we sort of lived for over a year. We chose John because we knew what we were getting, particularly a view. And here we are, having had Cassie for the day and walk along the Severn in glorious sunshine.


a walk down the Severn

It doesn’t take much to decompress, and whilst I am still feeling below par, we have both run and I am close to halfway through the final, post-beta reader edit of On The Back Foot To Hell. And Mrs Sun is with us, even if the wind still has a slight chill.

That’s the thing about motorhoming. You can take days off (in our case, years), stay at home and it never feels like a break. There is always something to do. Come away in Doris and all of a sudden the pressure is lifted. C said today that we must do this more often. And then, just now, she said that we shouldn’t look to buy a small place in Spain as we’d always be doing things with it. Let’s just park up in a campsite and do b-all. Yes, that gets my vote. And having Doris allows that to happen.

How’s the book going, Roland? Well I have fallen back in love with the process again. I’m really enjoying reading what I have written … an editing it. It’s funny, but the authors I follow on Twitter are always a bit embarrassed about their work, with questions like ‘do you really like what you’ve written?’ Well, my answer is clear: yes; very much. I love it. And so I should. The clear advice is write what you’d like to read, and that’s exactly what I do do. Tom Clancy is my beacon (actually, early Tom Clancy) and I still think I write a little like him … but clearly on a cheaper laptop.

As such I am re-energised. I am definitely (yeah, it won’t happen) going to spend some time and a bit of cash on marketing the series this autumn. At 5 books, it’s a proper series and I think something to shout about. We’ll see. I said the same thing last year and didn’t get round to it.

Anyhow. We’re here until Tuesday. Then off to Mary’s so that I spend a day at the school on Thursday. And then back to Bristol for the weekend. All the while the clock ticks down to Seoul. Hurrah!

Home now


flower left over from a wedding on Saturday

I think they might have been the longest five days of my life. Well, we’re home now. And, in the end, it was all worth while.

On Monday, the day before dad’s funeral, we had another skirmish with mum. C was beside herself and I wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d headed home. We went out for a drive, came back and whilst you could cut the atmosphere with a plastic spoon, we survived. The cavalry (aka my brother) arrived a little later and with a trip to local pub to meet up with a whole bunch of relatives (C stayed at home waiting for Jen and James who had got stuck on the M25) where mum was still a little prickly, we made it through to the big day without further incident.

And the day itself was perfect. The crem service, for family only, was short and light, and the thanksgiving service a lovely, warm 45 minutes, beautifully conducted by the local female vicar with Kevin, Grace (his younger) and an old friend of dad’s bringing dad to life three weeks after his death. The turnout was fab (over 120), with a good mixture of people including golfers, soldiers and senior officers – as well as local friends and family. Mum was stoic and fun and the food plentiful. It was lovely to see everyone, and dad would have loved it. And Mrs Sun shone throughout, albeit in a deceitfully chilly way. In the end it was spot on … the right balance of reverence and fun.

From then mum was perfect – her old self. Whilst I worried that she wouldn’t want to finish two jobs I’d started (signing powers of attorney and amending her will so Kevin and I were executors, not the solicitors), we sailed through these without incident and two of the biggest jobs I wanted to complete are done. C had lunch on the table today after mum and I had returned from Ipswich and we left for home seemingly stronger than when we arrived.


Of course, we should have known. We should have remembered who the adults in the room were. Mum was obviously really anxious about the day – mostly being outside of her comfort zone, with a bit of the finality of dad thrown in. And, sure, she was always going to be complicated. But it’s difficult to continually bite your tongue – even though we should. I think it didn’t help that we were all tired … I had almighty stomach cramps, so much so that C thought I might have appendicitis – which has all mysteriously disappeared today.

So, sorry mum. Sorry for not seeing it for what it was and seeing it through. But at least we made it. We heard stories over the last two days of families that have been torn apart by funerals. That was never going to happen here, but it could probably have been less problematic. Anyway, it’s over now. Dad has gone … and I don’t think we could have seen him off in a better way. I think we’ve completely sorted mum, with pensions, standing orders, house insurance, power, telephone, tax and water. If the telephone calls I’ve had with government all come good she should have enough to keep herself comfortably in the house with support of the carers. And we will continue to phone every day, visit once a month, and more often in a crisis.

And I’m not sure there’s much more we can do than that.


don’t care if it’s raining … we’re coming home


Let’s talk running

We’re at mum’s – dad’s funeral is on Tuesday. I am completely spent. I’m not sure what’s been chipping away at me over the past couple of days, but I think it would be too simplistic to say that it’s all about dad. It’s a combination of things … including some friction with mum about where she is and where she’s going. I think the arrival of the family tomorrow will be akin to a major weather event; and that’s not helping. We are a mixed bunch and have different ways of enjoying ourselves (some would say I don’t know how). It’s going to be exhausting. But that’s families for you.



Let’s talk running. I’ve been meaning to for a while.

C and I run every second day. I am pretty evangelical about it. If it looks like I’m not going to be able to make a day because of commitments then I’ll run the day before and start a new two-day regime. I have to say I don’t run far … normally capping at 20 minutes. I think this ‘short’ regime has kept me injury free in my later days, although having been running since I was 14 and with some pretty exhaustive programmes including some very long races, I think I am lucky with my genes. I don’t seem to injure easily.

I started running because my lungs were hopeless (asthma and bronchitis) and I was heading for the army … and they don’t take wheezy kids. I joined the army 6th Form college at 16 and, apart from one sixth-month period when all I did was what the army asked me to, I trained hard and often. I did some x-country racing, I was the army 800 metre champion (that sounds good, doesn’t it? until you add that that was the army in Cyprus), but I was as an orienteerer at heart. In my late 20s I was racing twice a week (Wednesday – army; Sunday – civvy) and was reasonably competent.

And I kept that going. And going. At my best I broke 60 minutes for ten miles and, over 5 miles, I timed myself at 5 minute 40 second miles. I was breaking 20 minutes for 5 kms in races in my mid-40s. And for the 8 years at the school I took the kids running club twice a week and I think I missed two session – I always trained with the students. My last timed race was a Park Run a couple of years ago – 21.25. And I reckon, as I time all my runs, I’m pretty close to that now at 57.

What’s my point? Well I cured my asthma – although I still have a patch on my lungs left over from a serious episode of bronchitis. Running + Ventolin soon moved onto just running. (Please, asthmatics, don’t take this as advice … do as your doctor orders.) Whenever I run I’m always aware of my lungs. And, for the non-runners among you, I hate the gym. I am as slim as a bean and press ups and the like hurt like for some of you, running does. Running is a natural thing for me. Pushing weights, not so much. Yes, I passed all of the military tests and carried the weight required that infanteers carried. And whilst none of my team ever knew, I hated it.

Until I got my running kit on and a 5-colour map in my hand. Then I was happy as Larry.

Onto my point. Run. Walk. Go to the gym. Take the stairs and not the lift. Get a skipping rope. Hide your car keys (but remember where you put them for later, otherwise you’ll be late for something). Get a bike. Get a dog. Get a bike and a dog (but please don’t walk your dog on a bike … I hate that). Do yoga. Dance in your kitchen. Go to the gym (I won’t see you there, mind you). Don’t go to the gym, but run past it. Gyms cost money. Running shoes, not so much. Do something.

Do something.

And wish me luck for Tuesday …




It will soon be time to start the post-beta reader edit. I have my proof reader stood by for the beginning of June (when we fly to Seoul). Between now and then I will have had to complete an edit with their comments and, because there will be no time when we get back, have designed the front and wrap-round cover. My ambition is to have book 5, On The Back Foot To Hell, out by the end of July. This is three weeks later than usual, but needs must.

The big decision for me is whether or not this is the last of the series. Five books is five books. Which is definitely a series. We’ll see. One of the things I will be doing in SE Asia is looking at locations for book 6 … indeed, I have a sub-plot (but no overall conspiracy) in my head, so I will be touring with an eye on something. The thing is I’m not sure I can write something else with a different voice. And I do love Sam. And she’s not done yet. I’m talking myself into this, aren’t I?


there were more people when I actually got up to speak…

It’s been a busy couple of days, the highlight, if you can call it that, was my presentation to 200+ civil servants at Newbury racecourse (which is incredibly posh). I was asked a month ago if I could be ‘the motivational speaker’ (don’t laugh) for a group of programme managers in the Ministry of Defence – which, as you know, is now leaderless; the government falling apart at the seams. Leaving politics to one side, my 40-min presentation was on ‘compassionate leadership’, something which I am evangelical about. It is what I mentor … and have run a few courses on. On Tuesday I was on just before lunch and, to be honest, the preceding presentations were so high level I thought I’d missed the market altogether.

Maybe not.

It is wrong, of course, to give you feedback on how well I might have gone down, but I think it was OK (I have been asked back). After lunch it went back to the high level stuff, much of which went over my head because I have been away from the MoD for almost 15 years – the terminology and acronyms have changed so much. But, what was clear, was that they are still doing the same things and are still beset by the same problems. Oh well.

Yesterday we were at Jen’s, picking up the orders of service for dad’s funeral next week, and collecting C who has been with Jen as James has been away. Today has been an admin day (checking everything for dad’s funeral, finishing Doris’s roof, painting the sitting room door, putting up a shelf, teak-oiling the garden furniture … etc) and tomorrow is purposefully  empty so we can take a breath before we head up to mum’s for a very long weekend.

The good news is that we should be off in Doris late next week, once mum is settled. We have just under a week planned and, as I type this, C is poring over a map to find somewhere to stay. The ambition is to do as little as possible, although I will be editing. And then back for some work at a school, a trip to the docs, some other bits and pieces and, just as His Orangeness lands, we’ll be heading skywards with our back packs. Phew … a close shave. I understand that crowds are going to line his route, but turn their backs and go silent as he drives past. I’m with them (well, technically and ironically, I’ll be 4,000 miles away, but you get my meaning). After the very recent and very late furore ref a climate emergency, it’s the least we can do to this climate change denier (and leader of the free world).