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Scotland. What to say, apart from we only managed one out of three weeks because of mum and dad, but more of that later. My brother doesn’t give it time of day, and I can see why the weather and the midges might deter some. But for us the combination of fabulously old mountains – greens and brown dusted with snow – the dark blue lochs with hidden monsters, and sparkling clear seas floating above white sands always makes it special. Oh, and the rain. And the five degree drop in temperature. And the wind. Lots of wind.

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west coast – fab

But, do you know what? We walked and ran and cycled – every day. We found new places, better places … strange places. We wild camped for four nights, parked on a friend of C’s drive for another and stayed in two lovely Caravan Club sites (now the Caravan and Motorhome Club – can’t miss then: more signs than a nuclear power station) with fabulous showers and ever-so-slightly over-attendant attendants.

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lovely?

We left on Friday to travel to Bristol and then turn round to get to mum and dad’s yesterday. On the way we picked up the trailer for our Piaggio mp3 trike. Built buy Armitage (and sold, almost new by a chap in Doncaster) it is fab. I’ll elucidate more once I’ve managed to put the bike on top (via a winch), but Doris pulled the bikeless trailer behind without a by-your-leave. When we next go on our ‘big tour’, we’ll be the business: big van pulling a motorbike. You won’t miss us when we pull up. And, as you can see from the photo, the trailer lives on its end when not in use. What’s not to like?

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And dad. We didn’t expect him to be with us now and it is a bonus that he is. But not for long, I fear. He was v poorly today and pretty much unresponsive … and in a lot of pain. Mum and I will speak with the doctor tomorrow and see what the plan is. There seems little chance that he will come out of hospital and, certainly mum will not be able to cope if he does. I think we’ll have to have a frank discussion tomorrow.

Politics? Well, what can I say? His Orangeness thinks wind farms give you cancer, unlike the by-product(s) of fossil fuels, which clearly have not over-heated the planted and do not spew out particulates that infest young lungs. What hope do we have? What really pisses me off … sorry … is that this is not our planet. It belongs to the sperm whale with plastic in its stomach, dead on a beach somewhere, the disappearing insects and the hedgehogs who are still elusive. The arrogance of our race, and particularly our leaders, who opt for short termism over our children’s future. I do not get it.

And, as for Brexit, well what can you say? Jacob Rees Mogg says, should we have to go through the process of electing MEPs, those selected should do as much damage as possible to the institution in Brussels whilst they’re there.

What? Really? How hateful is that?

No wonder my heart is dancing to its own tune, although to be fair, after a rubbish Friday, Saturday was better and today you wouldn’t think there was a problem. I have scratched my head as to what environmental factors may have influenced how my ticker behaves, but other than a cup of caffeinated tea on Thursday evening, I can’t put my finger on anything. We’ll see.

We’re here in Great Bentley for at least a couple of weeks, assuming we – that is C and I and mum – remain harmonious. Mum, bless her, is old and frail … and cantankerous. And she can say hurtful things, especially after a glass of wine. But she’s in a difficult place; we will make it work.

A day at a time.

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.

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.