Book, book, book …

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IKEA meatballs and chips. A rare meal out – just happens to have been on Valentine’s day. There is nothing good for me on this plate.

So, how’s the editing going? Well, funny you should ask. But, fine. Lots of writers don’t enjoy editing, but I do. There is no doubt in my mind that scribbling down 130,000 words in some sort of coherent order that sets out to entertain, trying to match the ambition of your latest novel with the previous five, ensuring consistency across the series and – above all – having a beginning, a middle and an end, is not without effort.

You may remember this year was different for me. For the first time I had competing priorities. We were going to stay at home (even the year before we took a week in Tunisia where I managed to find some peace and quiet) and I was working here and there. I set myself a target of 1,000 words a day and, as I remember it, I only failed once and exceeded many times. As a result, although I started later, I finished draft one just before Christmas. Since then, the tome has been resting. Paused. Until last week.

When I write I do edit. Many authors don’t. I always ‘trash edit’; that is I read the sub-chapter I’ve written so, when I come to do the first (and major) edit, it’s not complete nonsense. I write as well as I can, I’m as imaginative as I can be, both in terms of plot and language, but I will leave stuff that can wait that don’t come immediately to my head … small facts; names of minor characters who turned up in Chapter One but don’t appear again until Chapter Five. And I use a thesaurus – all the time.

And then, after a soak … this time just over a month … I start.

I try to keep a record of what’s happening. Names and dates etc, but that always falls by the wayside, mostly because I can juggle the details, or at least find what I’m looking for by Ctrl-F. I do a chapter at a time; they’re all separate GoogleDocs. Current plan is a chapter a day, but I am doing better than that. And I am ruthless. First chapter read is a major run through; second, straight after, is another look see. And then I cut and paste into the whole novel. Currently I’m on 15/19 chapters and the word count is 97,000. I think the final tally is over 130,000, another epic (that’s a technical term for any novel over 120,000 words).

[And, as there are over 17,000 words written from a US point of view, I’ve just paid one of Jen’s US friends a small amount to check on the Americanisation of what I have written. She’s done a good job.] 

I was really worried it would be rubbish. Badly written and disjointed because of my approach this time round. But, so far, I’m pleasantly surprised. Whilst different again, I think it’s a scream. Sam is brilliant – as always, and she now has a new sidekick along with Frank (and Jane). The plot comes from an idea hatched between me and my son-in-law, and it’s based in the Far East. I. Love. The. Ending. But, then again, I loved the ending of all my books and I know one or two or you have pushed back here and there. We’ll see.

Next steps? Once I’ve finished edit one, it’s a read aloud to C. Then transfer into Word for a quick and dirty proof read. And then I’m looking for four non-friend beta readers. There’s a call out on Twitter for that, but if there’s anyone reading this who doesn’t know me other than through the blog, let me know if you’re interested. Once that’s done, I’ll read it again before it heads to Rosemary for proofing. Then there’s a final read … blah, blah.

It’s not a process without effort, for sure.

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Jen’s big telly and The Walking Dead. Fab.

And the audiobook? Still waiting on one piece of equipment from the suppliers, but Sorrel tells me she has enough stuff to give some clips ago. I am v excited by that.

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oh, and the casing of my e-bike battery broke. So I fixed that.

As for the rest of the week. Well, I’ve been working on the garage leak in Doris, I spent a day with the MoD on Thursday, and, sadly, the trip to QEH Birmingham proved fruitless. Apparently Jen’s not quite ready to have the drain out. They’re going to have another look next week. But, all-in-all she’s ok.

Battening down the hatches here as Dennis does his stuff …

Deja Vu

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deja vu

I pen this sat in QEH Birmingham. Jen’s in – hopefully – to get her drain out. We shall find out in a bit. C’s sat with her at the moment, and I came up in my running kit and did 20 minutes up and down the quite lovely canal. Yes, it could do with being 15 degrees warmer, but if you have to run in winter in this country, you can’t beat a bit of canal.

Actually I’m feeling good. I had a full day with the MoD yesterday and I’m back in again next week and possibly the week after. I sense the boss may have wanted me in for longer, but I’ve got the week’s work at the school the first week in March and then C and I are hoping to pop across to Spain to say hello to Mrs Sun. It’s been an interesting time with the team, and I do feel I am making a bit of a difference. Certainly I appear to have full days … we’ll see. That begs the question as to whether or not I would take on more MoD work if it were offered? Possibly. I am absolutely on the bottom rung of ‘fees’ when it comes to consultancy. £1000 a day is not unheard of, and I charge a third of that. Does that bother me? No. Not at all. It means that I don’t feel bothered if I spend more time with individuals rather than push through a whole load. And that’s easier, in some ways, on me. Having said that my week (+) work at the school in early March is going to be tough. Twelve 360s in a week … and still at a very reasonable rate.

Having sailed through her MoT, I noticed that Doris has a damp patch in her garage. It’s

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mmm, not good, but probably worse than it looks

above where damp had started to rot the bottom panel behind the back wheels … which I thought I had sorted. I’ve done some prelims and I think it’s the same issue; that is water has tracked where I have the repair, but maybe not done it well enough. I’ve cleaned and sealed it and will leave it this weekend to check to see where the water may be coming from – it is, after all, going to rain this weekend. Apparently it might be fine Tuesday/Wednesday, so that should give me a window to sort this out finally. I’m not bothered as the garage is 6 inches lower than the main accommodation and there doesn’t appear to be any water ingress in the main shell. We’ll see.

For the record, we’ve stopped drinking. C’s idea. It’s not permanent, but it is continuous. C has a date in mind … and she seems pretty determined to stay off the red wine (ordinarily we can get through a bottle a night between us) until that date; a date I am not allowed to publish! Do we miss it?  Today is day 6. Not really. I have to have something else, like tonic water. But I can live without it. C? She’s doing fine. She gave up smoking without any plan. Just stopped. So she has the will power. We’ll see.

The books? Well, Sorrel looks set to start recording Unsuspecting Hero next week. And I’m half way through edit one of ‘a book with no name, although it will have the word “red” in it’. And, how about this email I received yesterday

Dear Roland,

It was very good to meet you at xxxx School when you came to lead the session before Christmas. I have just ordered your fifth book having thoroughly enjoyed the first four and my wife has got stuck into them too. Congratulations on a fantastic and thoroughly gripping achievement. I am so glad you told us about them and I much look forward to the next two and wonder what will happen after that! Will the world ever be safe without Sam Green? And Wolfgang?!

So I really ought to get on and do some marketing.

Hurrah!

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Cassie. Like a dog.

It’s windy over here

Jen’s home. Phew. She came back from the QEH with a hole in her stomach, a drain and a bag to collect the stuff that’s still seeping from her pancreas – of which she now only owns 70%. And no spleen. Other than two years of penicillin and other yearly jabs, the outcome should be a Jen without a dangerous cyst. And, hope beyond hope, its removal might see some progress with the issues of chronic fatigue and mental health. We’ll see. Anyhow, she’s at home and C will pop up most days until she’s completely recovered. We are all off to Birmingham on Thursday to, hopefully, have the drain tugged out. I’m loving that bit of the M5.

Whilst that storm passes and Ciara currently rattles our windows, things are still moving on with our world. Doris passed her MoT with flying colours on Friday. Sampson

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the fabulous Sampson Commercials

Commercials in Avonmouth were just fab. Whilst the yard looked like it was a back-of-beyond garage, there were more staff than vehicles, everyone was super polite and I have the confidence to take her back to them if and when issues arrive. And, at £45 for an MoT, it’s cheaper than the council place for an oversized vehicle.

I’m heads down on the first major edit of book 6. Currently a quarter of the way through, it’s taking longer than usual mostly because I’m taking longer than usual, So far, though, so good. I am not going to use my ‘friendly’ beta readers this time … that’s not because they weren’t great (and one or two of them will be reading this for the first time; I hope they understand), but I do want to try my hand at beta readers from afar. For those of you who don’t know how this works, they act like surrogate editors – but they do not proofread. That’s the final job which comes before the final edit. I’ve started to engage with potential readers via Twitter … so far, no response. But I don’t think I’ve been asking the right question. I’m confident I’ll get a few.

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editing – any position will do …

In that vein, books sales have picked up. I put our over 300 free copies of Unsuspecting Hero last weekend – without marketing, and the follow-on from that is currently positive. My (current) ambition is to use the free book vehicle as my only marketing approach, but beef it up via some decent websites. My plan is to ‘go free’ for five days at the beginning of every month with a single title. I can’t do that with Fuelling the Fire as I don’t own the e-rites, but I can with the other four. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime Sorrel (narrator) has set up our recording booth in her house (although it is missing a bit, which we’re waiting for from the company). The aim is still to have an Audible book out there by the end of March … which I think, now, is a tall order. But we’ll give it a go. And, concurrently, I’ll press on with book 6.

It’s not all been book related. I spent a day with the MoD on Thursday and I’m back again on Wednesday. I have a full week and a half at a school at the beginning of March. And then we should be in a position to think about heading off to Spain for a bit. Finger’s crossed.

And … and … I found 15 seconds on my run! Now at 19.55 – on Friday. And I felt good all the way round. Having said that I went out today along with Storm Ciara and I might as well have been running on the spot. But, the 20 minute barrier has been rebroken. Thank goodness for that.

That’s it from me. Hope you are all surviving the storm!

It’s all a blur

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Dominic Cummings, eat your heart out

It is. A blur. I drove home from QEH Birmingham (leaving Jen with C) to put Doris in for an MoT on Monday. I’d prepared her, fixed her horn – which always suffers with damp – and a front driving light. And she was ready. I got to the council MoT depot in Yate at 7.30, half an hour early … and it was the wrong day. My fault. It was booked in for the Tuesday. I was a day early. That was annoying.

In the end some good may have come from it. Doris is now booked in for her test at a new HGV centre, which has excellent reviews, in Avonmouth – which is both an easier place to get to and, unlike the council depot where one of the mechanics is, frankly, a pain, the guy I spoke to sounded lovely. On the bus, off the bus. Etc.

So I went for a run (still 20.10 – can’t yet find those extra ten seconds; you’ll be the first to know) and then drove back up to Birmingham.

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Jen is making progress. The pain is under control and the numbers all look good. They were hoping to take the pancreatic drain out this afternoon and she may be released tomorrow. That presents a bit of a logistical nightmare as I’m down this neck of the woods (work with the MoD tomorrow), but we’ll sort it. The next question is how long and how frequently does C spend time as nurse maid? We won’t know for a while, but at least Gloucester is considerably closer than Birmingham.

Whilst I’ve been twiddling my thumbs I’ve started editing Book 6, which was and is a real worry. Why? Well, because it’s different again and I don’t want it to be rubbish. So far (Chapter 2) I like what I’ve written and it’s all plausible, etc. But we’ll see. I know I like the ending, but it’s the bit in the middle which I’ve sort of forgotten about that is causing concern. Wish me luck.

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mmm, I hope it’s good

In the meantime the audio recording gear has arrived with Sorrel, so she’s going to have a practice. And I had a comment on Twitter from someone I don’t know asking when the

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all the gear, some idea

books will be out on Audible. The answer is, Unsuspecting Hero hopefully by the end of March. We’ll see.

That’s it from me. QEH continues to be a brilliant hospital … if you’re going to be ill, ask the ambulance driver to make a detour. Hopefully by Sunday Jen will be home and we’ll be in some sort of routine. Fingers crossed.

Good news

The good news is that Jen has had her op and it was a success. She’s out of recovery and even got out of bed today and sat in a chair. She’s still in a lot of pain but seems to be through the worst. Well done the NHS and well done QEH Birmingham. They have been remarkable. We are, all of us, v lucky to have a free at point of use medical service. Long may it continue. Jen’s likely to be in hospital for a few days and then recovery at home. Phew.

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It hasn’t been without admin. We were all up early on Friday to get her into hospital for 7 am. C and I stayed again in the Nuffield relatives’ accommodation, which is fab. That costs £40 a night for two of us, and £30 for a single bed. We’ve cooked in the community kitchen in the evening (there is a restaurant, but it’s a bit basic) and tried to fend for ourselves where we can. I’ve run a couple of times up and down the v local canal – C’s been out once, she’s on bed duty. And it’s mostly been stress free. I’m now back in Bristol because Doris goes in for an MoT tomorrow, but I shall then head back up to the Midlands. I’m with the MoD on Thursday for another day of one-to-ones, so I hope Jen’s looking to come out by then. We’ll see.

Whilst all this has been happening I’ve been working on the technical side of the audiobook of Unsuspecting Hero. The good news is James, my son-in-law – who is a coder – also (I  find out) has experience in audio recording. I didn’t know that! And he’s keen, for a small fee, to technically edit the recording once my narrator (Sorrel) has finished

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this isn’t what we bought, ours is slightly better than this. But it does give you an idea

with it. Whilst sitting around waiting for Jen to come round we found the right recording equipment and, for £265 – which seems a good buy, I’ve ordered the gear for Sorrel … and it’s being delivered to her house next week. After that we need a test recording for James to play with … and then we’re off.

It’s quite a thing. There aren’t many self-published authors who get to cut their own discs. For the record, and I won’t go into the details, the up-front cost looks likely to be about £600, just under half of which is equipment that we will own. And then Sorrel and I have decided to share the royalties. We will see how that goes. More detail to follow.

And, via Amazon, I put Unsuspecting Hero on free offer over this weekend. You can do that with Amazon (5 days out of every month). Currently it’s been downloaded over 200 times. The rule of thumb is that about half of those actually get read by the people who download. My interest, bearing in mind that sales are currently extremely sluggish, is how many readers (let’s say there are 100 of them) go on to buy one of the other books in the series. As things currently stand I should be able to pick that out, hopefully, by the end of the week.

[And Special thanks to my twitter friend, @TerryTyler4, for her support and advice. Check out her v well reviewed, future dystopian thrillers here: Terry Tyler.]

So … still going at the books. Must start the edit of book 6 (still no name) soon. Once things settle down and we can breathe easy.

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met up with old pals Robbie and Claire when I was relieved of ward duty!

No news …

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Jen … looking fab in the bed jacket C knitted for her.

I’d just like to say that the NHS is a brilliant, if overworked organisation. We take it for granted at our cost. It is free at the point of use and whilst, like any conglomerate, it is too big to work effectively, my exposure to it has always been first-class … if a little under pressure

And so it was with Jen. She was told to phone 3.00 pm on Sunday to make sure there was a bed for her overnight. At 6.00 pm we were told there wasn’t and she’d need to present at 7.00 am Monday. C and I had a room booked in the (quite fabulous) relatives’ accommodation, so we went up anyway. Jen and James were up for 6.30 am and we met them at Admissions. She was booked in and told to wait whilst they found a bed. The issue wasn’t before the op, but after. She might need to go onto intensive care for a night … and they needed to be sure there was room. At 2.00 pm, still waiting, we were told a bed was available. And then the surgeon turned up and said that by the time they prepped everything it would be too late to be ‘safe’. Sorry.

Shucks. The staff were fab – they gave us a £20 token for the restaurant (Jen had been nil-by-mouth since midnight and was chewing at her arm) and off we toddled. On the way back Jen got a call to say the op was back on for Friday. So … on the bus, off the bus.

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we’ve seen v little of Mrs Sun. But she came out today so I did some work on the gardens

Other than that it’s been an adminy couple of days. I’ve sorted some stuff out in Doris – she’s in for her MoT on Monday. Fingers’ crossed. I’ve finished some book stuff including putting out a call to anyone who would like to read any of the Sam Green e-books, I will offer them for free. All I ask is that you pen an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads when you’re done. Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

I have also undertaken my fist submission for a long while. I’ve sent On The Back Foot To Hell to the e-publishing company, Bookouture. I have a feel that they won’t want to take on a series, but I’ve given it a shot.

And running? Well yesterday I made it down to 20.10; it was hands on knees stuff at the end, but I’m getting there. Because I’m working for the next couple of days (full day with the MoD tomorrow and a couple on 1-to-1s on Friday in Salisbury), I went out this afternoon. I so was so knackered I made it as far as the local hill and did some reps instead. I’ll go back out again on Saturday when I’m up in Birmingham. I am feeling so much better for it.

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… talking of which I want this number plate

Other than that we’re fine. We are looking to get away to Spain in the Spring, maybe using the Bay of Biscay crossing. But so much of it depends on how Jen is. And I now have work until mid-March, so if we find 6 weeks it will be either side of April I feel. But it’s something to look forward to.

That’s all folks!

Housekeeping

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a motorbike, two e-bikes and a clean garage – hurrah!

If any of you are still with me from the beginning you may remember that when C and I headed off to Europe in a cloud of unburnt diesel we had a budget. It was £50 a day: £40 for living and £10 for fuel. What this didn’t include was van insurance, life insurance etc, which I guess we spent about another £2500 a year on. In short we were aiming to live off £20,000 a year – the two of us. All in.

And we did. In fact, when we were on the continent C was so frugal we were able to save and use that money to take us to the US to see friends, a trip to Istanbul and supported us whilst we skied. So the lesson for anyone trying this life, you need a van and income of £20k a year, you will need to think through how you spend your money, but it is absolutely possible to achieve. Indeed, we know of plenty of people who try it out with considerably less cash.

We did that for four and a half years and then moved into our (lovely) two-up, two-down in Brissol. Things changed then. For a start we lost rental income from the house; but I started to work a little more – not much, but enough to cover the loss of rental income. But we have kept the premise the same: C pays for our living and she gets £40 a day (out of that she pays for electricity, water, some charity stuff  and wifi; I pay for council tax). And she still manages. And we still holiday … and we still manage to save. My work has increased over the past 6 months (for the record, I earn almost nothing from book sales) but I’m not doing more than a couple of days work a month. But ends are being met (our other rental income is paying off the mortgages … it’s a zero-sum gain for day-to-day living).

So what? Inspired by all sorts of stuff I’m going for a ‘buy-nothing’ year. C has nodded consent, but I’m not asking her to join me.

We/I don’t need anything. I have all the clothes I need, there are no gadgets that we are missing. We have a lovely van, a v competent car, a motorbike and two e-bikes. We have coats and boots and skis and snow shoes and … well, you name it and we have it. Our garage is full (massive tidy up this morning, so looking better still) and our attic is bursting (but, again, v tidy and well organised). We have a decent TV, two laptops, we both have (old) phones that do everything we need. We have all we need.

Now, something may break. Indeed the car is one major fault away from having to be replaced, and we have saved enough money to buy a similar replacement. And we will deal with breakages when they come. But, where possible, we will source second hand. That’s my plan.

So, charity shops … you have always been our friend, but now you will become bosom buddies.

And, for the record. I was with the MoD on Wednesday and at a school on Thursday, where, as well as six one-to-ones, I also facilitated a meeting on staff well-being and finished a management course I’ve been running. The final session was ‘how to plan a task’. That’s done now.

I’m a week into exchanges with my audiobook narrator. She’s an ex-student from Wells and we’re four clips into coming to a conclusion as to how best to proceed. I think it will work well and we are both v excited by the prospect. Here’s a link: Sam on a Train – tester mp4Sam on a Train – tester mp4

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the face of a man who found 30 seconds

Friday and today have been admin days. I did run yesterday and found an extra 30 seconds (now at 20.35). I’m out tomorrow morning before we head up to Jen’s to take her to the hospital. I’m hoping to find a few more seconds then. I will get back to sub-20 minutes. I will.

Anyhow, that’s it. We’re still binge watching The Walking Dead. Think Lost but replace the black mist with some zombies. It’s keeping us amused.