You’ve gotta come …

If you’ve never been to the mountains in winter then I strongly suggest you put it on your bucket list. C and I stood outside the apartments yesterday morning, all togged up to go skiing. Mrs Sun was out in her dungarees, the sky was that mid-blue you can only get from an elevated position (or looking out of a plane’s window at 32,000 feet), the air molecules had been slowed by the freezing temperatures and felt as unpolluted as if they had been bottled in the Himalayas and shipped in for the occasion, and every colour had been through the ‘enhance’ icon on you mobile phone.

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Mt Blanc in the distance

We have been so lucky. We have travelled a great deal and seen some fabulous sights: sunsets, valleys, beaches, cathedrals, rock formations, wine cheaper than petrol. But we are always beside ourselves when we ski … and when the accompanying weather is straight from a postcard. There is nothing like. Everything feels as clean and as crisp as an Andrex advert.

Of course, what you want to know is how did the waxing and edging of the skis go? Well, there’s a story.

Yesterday morning we got to out of the top of the La Linga bubble and dropped our skis on the snow, knelt down to sort out our boots and pull up our tights. I was ready first and put my skis on … and didn’t go anywhere. I pushed with my poles and promptly fell over. I wasn’t moving. At all. This, BTW, has never happened before.

Oh dear. C was all for taking off her skis, getting back in the bubble, down to the ski shop and getting them to rewax our planks. Hang-on, says I. I get up, put on the ski that has come off, and have another go. Mmm. Still quite a lot of friction. I try again, this time travelling about 25 metres (C is still standing by the bubble looking indignant). That was a bit better. Anyhow, the long and the short was that by the time we’d travelled 100 metres the skis were slipping along as those they’d been waxed by professionals. And now, two ski days later, they’re pretty perfect.  Job done, although I have no idea why they were buggers in the first place. Anyone?

The skiing has been fab. The conditions as good as they get. The weather unbeatable (did anyone know the January sun could be quite so warm?). It’s going to be overcast with some snow tomorrow, but clear on Friday and Saturday, when we will ski again. And that’s all fabulous.

Finally, two things. First … anyone got any idea what the shambles of our parliament is going to do about Brexit? Anyone who thinks we should dither about a people’s vote because it might enrage the extreme left has obviously forgotten that we, of all countries, do not negotiate with terrorists. Come on. Let’s get it done.

And Trump and his ‘hambergers’? Did you see that? Leaving aside the government partial shutdown which is his doing – HE SAID SO! – if any other president had served a mixture of burgers and pizzas to a football team because the White House staff are all waiting in line at food banks because they haven’t been paid, it might have been a touch endearing. But, no. Trump: makes a publicity event out of it; misspells hamburger in a tweet; and, and this is what gets my goat, boasts to the media that ‘he paid for the spread’. Why would you say that? Why? Yes, if it got leaked, then maybe you wouldn’t deny it. But his tweet made it clear … ‘which I paid for’. That’s v big of you Mr Billionaire.

Idiot.

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Looking for a second-hand car?

We made it. Although, not without incident. And all the thanks has got to go to our gritty car – a 2006 Ford Focus 1.4 litre. When I bought it from a guy three years ago (£2200 – and for exactly this purpose – to go skiing as we didn’t want to take Doris 1 down to E&A’s apartment in Chatel) he said … ‘Mmm, not sure the 1.4 is going to be much good on long motorway journeys’. Well, he was wrong. This is our third trip and over 40,000 miles later (now at 69,000), the old bird hasn’t let us down.

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our gritty Ford Focus has never let us down

Mind you … We got to R&C’s on Thursday night and, just as we turned into their drive, the right-hand indicator stopped working. Thanks to Rich and his arc light, we fixed that (and a headlamp which had also gone). Then, half way down France we heard a strange flapping noise. On inspection we’d lost the radiator grill. This is a cosmetic issue, and had come about because, if you remember, the bonnet lock had previously failed and the only way I could get under the bonnet was by taking off the grill and fiddling about. Anyhow, we’ve lost that to the French autoroute system. It’s only a piece of plastic and the Focus now looks much meatier without a grill. I will replace it when we get home.

And then, the damn French closed the main valley route to Chatel. We discovered this at the end of a 10-hour drive. The only way in was over the mountain, which we headed for. It’s now dark and snowing. We have Michelin 4-season tyres, which we’ve not tested before, and I’m wondering if they’re as good as the winter tyres we normally run. And then, snaking around a concrete island, I catch the rear offside tyre. And, yes, you’ve guessed it, we have a flat. The Focus has a ‘get you home’, but that’s under a mountain of beautifully packed gear that C has put in identical Christmas-Tesco carriers. Did I say it was still snowing. And dark? And then, horrors, the wheelnut spanner is spilt. It does one nut and then fails on me. (It’s still dark … and still snowing).

Thankfully there’s a local farm. I’m met by a Frenchman in his underwear (it’s 9pm) and he fishes out an appropriate spanner. Twenty minutes later we’re fixed, spanner returned to the near-naked Frenchman, and we’re off. And it’s still snowing. But, do you know what? The Michelin 4-season tyres (of which I now only have three … on my wagon) behaved beautifully. And 30 minutes later we’re here.

Phew.

So, well done the Focus. We use the autoroutes (an eye-watering 72 euros each way) but we push out over 40 mpg. Fuel over here is exorbitant (£1.35 a litre for both fuels). If I were a resident I’d be out in my yellow vest, for sure. But, notwithstanding the odd hiccup, the old girl did us proud again. And I took the wheel and tyre – the tyre, whilst bent, looks in good nick; it’s the steel wheel that’s got a big dent in it) – to the local garage yesterday, and I’m assured it will be back in a couple of days.

Skiing? Not yet. It has been snowing a lot and we’re fair-weather types. We may not get on our planks (I must let you know how the waxing and edging went) until Mrs Sun joins us on Tuesday, but we’re both OK with that. The conditions look perfect, so when we do ski it should be great. Chatel has never let us down.

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yesterday morning; it’s snowed a lot since then

Finally, over half way through the first edit of book 5. V excited by it all. And, other than that, we’re all good. I hope you are.

Oh, and if you’re looking out for a second-hand car, look no further than a Ford Focus.

 

Lactose free …

The good news is that both of us are felling better. I’m pretty certain mine’s all about milk. For those of you with v long memories, I’ve had low-level sinusitis for an eternity. With it comes fatigue. About three years ago, on recommendation from one of C’s girls (from when she was a housemistress) – who was a singer – I gave up milk. Apparently opera singers swear by a lactose-free diet as it reduces inflammation and fluid in their singing bits.

So I tried it and it seemed to work. More significant is that if I binged on milk, my chest seemed to get tighter when I ran and I seemed to feel tireder. Anyhow, since Tunisia (mid-Nov) I’ve been not that bothered by what I’ve eaten and over Christmas I just ate anything … lts of milk chocolate. And on Christmas day I didn’t want to get out of bed, nor Boxing Day. By the 27th I said ‘sod it’ and reverted to a strict lactose-free diet. My last blog was on the 3rd when I was just beginning to feel human … and by yesterday I was feeling right at rein (rain?). Could it be lactose? The doctors always come back to me and say ‘well, you know, if it works for you …’. There is no medical proof.

I’ll keep you in the picture, although for your own benefit there have been two articles on the BBC recently speaking out against milk. Humans are the only species who drink milk post-weaning, and we are the only species that drink someone else’s milk. What do I know? Or, indeed, them?

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mmm, wax those skis!

Good news is that I’ve waxed the skis. I thought it was going to be uber-tricky and that I would need Job’s help, but in the end I just rubbed the wax on and ironed it flat with an iron. Again, I’ll let you know how the whole edging and waxing has gone when we get to Chatel and our skis are stuck to the snow … or when we try to turn we end up in a drift.

Editing book five is keeping me up at night. Literally. I’m loving it. It’s funny, but until you’ve splurged down 130,000 words you don’t really understand how many words that is. It’s a lot. I’m reading stuff that I really don’t remember writing … and I’m loving it! I hope you do too. I now have five Beta readers who all want to read it prior to proofing. I should have that in their hands by the end of January. Let’s see how that goes.

And, for the record, we popped down to the south coast yesterday to see C’s (who is also, BTW, feeling better, but is not on a lactose-free diet) middle sister and returned via old friends of ours, John and Lou. I was at school with John and the four of us have known each other for as long as the four of us have known each other … if you get my drift. We’ve arranged to meet at a pub in a couple of weeks and plan a Doris trip to Brugge. Doesn’t that sound fun?

Anyhow … enough from me. I’m just going to spend an hour on Twitter trolling POTUS and hoping that the Democrats don’t cave in on his ridiculous notion of a wall between the US and Mexico.  Apparently ‘walls have always worked!’

Try telling that to a reunified Germany.

Idiot.

Wish we were feeling better …

The problem with holidays is that they come to an end. And, typically, rather than feeling refuelled and ready for 2019 we both feel below par. We took Bex and Steven to Heathrow yesterday early doors (they’re off to Poland for a couple of days before flying on to Korea) and as soon as we got back C went to bed. I managed the day but woke in the middle of the night feeling v fluey. But, hey presto, I felt better first thing and managed a full day at Jen’s where we sorted out a new bank account and looked at a couple of new items, one being a pleated collar. I made two, one of which looks like a starter. I’ll make another tomorrow which should be good enough to send to the market.

Still feeling a bit rubbish though, having popped out for a run when I got back from Gloucester. Oh well.

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work in progress

So it’s about the next 12 months. As I’ve said before I’ve committed to Cubbly’s until Christmas and we’ll see how that goes. C and I are skiing next weekend in Chatel for a week. Rather than pay someone to edge and wax our skis I put my hand in my pocket and bought some wax, a flat iron and a corner file. I had a go at the edges on Monday. I’ll wax at the weekend, keeping it away from any bodily hair.

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could do with new skis … in the meantime

I know I have some work at the school in Farnham, but I’m not sure how long that’s going to go on for. And as I don’t market that side of the business, I’m not expecting any more work. Books continue to sell (at about one a day!). I’ve started the main edit and that’s going to take me some time. C and I will aim to sit down and manage edit 2 and then I’ll put it out to a couple of Beta readers and see whether or not it’s hitting the mark. I hope so. I was thinking today that I should try doubly hard to get an agent this year, and I might do that once I’m happy with the finished product.

And, finally, we’ve got a helluva a summer planned. We aim to fly to Korea at the end of June, spend a few days with Bex and Steven, then go to China and work our way south for a couple of weeks. Bex and Steven, once school is finished, would then fly to Hanoi and we would spend 4 weeks doing ‘The Mekong’, which includes Vietnam, Laos and northern Thailand, flying back to the UK together. Hurrah!

Finally, if you have Netflix watch Orphan Black. We finished season 5 last night, which wraps it up. It’s a bit like Lost, but has an ending which is both manageable and understandable. We did Lost a couple of years ago. It took us forever and we loved it … until the end.

Anyhow, that’s all from me.

 

 

A book number addendum

Just a quick addendum to yesterday. I told you that I would let you know when a 10-book sale day came along. Well, yesterday was the second 10-book sale day in under three weeks; 3 x UH, 2 x FtF, 1 x TIOT and 3 x FGMTDN.

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I chose ‘10’ as a random number that, I think, would best suit what I think a proper author should sell. OK, not best-selling, but a sensible number. Noting that I make, on average, £1.50 a book, it’s hardly a living wage, but it will be a nice pension – actually it would be a nice pension.

Ignoring when Amazon were advertising FtF in the autumn of 2014 (that November I sold almost 1100 books), my lowest monthly sales total were 29 – that was four months ago. Last month, with four books out there, I sold 87 books. Ten books a day would take that to 300. Nice.

Why the spurt? I’ve always said 4 books is better than 3 books … etc. I do think there is something organic going on here. And it certainly helps that FtF is on Prime Lending (for which I have been paid). It does mean that I can’t tell you how many copies of FtF are out there, because I don’t get stats for Prime Lending – but it does mean that if someone reads FtF and likes it, the other books are there. And I guess, but I don’t know, that Prime Lending has its own marketing scheme. Dunno.

Anyhow. That’s it from me, save a big, big reminder. Please. If you’ve read any of the books and haven’t yet penned a review, then please do so. Just go onto the book page on Amazon and press ‘write a review’. You don’t actually have to say anything, you can just grade the book.

And – if you are a Sam Green fan, please keep telling everyone. A post on Facebook or Instagram would be good. Tell you friends! I know a lot of you do both of these things and I am eternally grateful. Together we shall get Sam Green to meet a whole load of new people!

Thank you.

Busy, busy …

Well that’s a scream. I told you (didn’t I?) that I was taking over Jen’s business whilst she and James go looking for bears. In Canada – before you ask. Well, I spent two days with her last week and by three in the afternoon of day two I really thought I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I could do all of the tasks: cut ribbon; cut webbing; sew ribbon onto webbing; waterproof; let dry; sew collar, which includes a buckle and a d-ring. I could do them in both sizes: thin and thick. And I could make lanyards. I could do all of those things. But I couldn’t do them one-after-the-other and get the quality right at every step. And the blooming machine kept messing me about …

(And it’s the same process for leads.)

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Dog lanyards – £7 a pop plus P&P. We’ll make lanyards with any design provided we can get the ribbon.

… but at five past three I was onto a collar every half an hour, and the quality was there. Confidence was high. And it still is. Tick.

And today I have started to get a grip of her FB page and the many, many conversations she’s having with people about current and future orders. I reckon I’ve got about 10 outstanding orders to complete this week … and then wait for any new ones to come in.

Will it be fun? Jen is the easiest person to work for/with. We have the same standards and she’s v relaxed. We have the music on full blast and, when we both end up working together side-by-side I think it will work. I’m currently happy with the grunt work – and she can manage the orders and talk to the punters. And I get to travel too and from Bristol to Gloucester on the trike … which is fun now as the weather is ok. Mmmm. Not sure what it will be like in December.

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sshhhh. early doors. And we have Cassie!

Book stuff? Well I’m trash-editing Chapter 5 today, and have promised myself that I will complete a chapter a week whilst Jen’s away. I should have more time when she’s back. Sam’s having fun in Georgia (Russia), and yesterday penned something that will make your eyes water. But, don’t worry, she got through it.

And sales are OK. I’ve sold three books today already (only 11.40), but only one yesterday. I’m still doing no marketing … and now with Jen’s business and book 5 I’m not sure that I’ll get round to much. But as long as someone (mostly in the UK and US) buys one of my books a day, I’m guessing I should be very happy with that.

This week? Jen’s tomorrow – I’m going to work from hers. C will come with me to help out. There is plenty of admin to do up there. I’m off to my school in Hampshire on Tuesday for some leadership consultancy. And the rest of the week will be Jen’s and writing. Busy, busy…

Have a great week. Unless, of course, your His Donaldness. I hope you get indicted, you self-centred son-of-a-…. Why you couldn’t just bury your head in a pillow whilst they put the Vietnam vet, John McCain, in the ground rather than tweeting about the ‘witchhunt’ and other nonsense, is a mystery to me. Whatever next.

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.