Is it worth it?

First, let’s draw a line under Tunisia.  We had a fab time, we really did. And I take back my comment about it not being ‘culture central’. If you’re interested in Roman remains then you will be tripping over columns and mosaics. They are everywhere. We did a back of beyond trip on Wednesday and saw another Colosseum, a huge recently excavated town, a massive aqueduct (what have the Romans ever done for us?) and a water storage/spring set up in the mountains. It was fab. So, if you like Roman stuff, you won’t get much better.


dawn from our hotel across the swimming pool

And, blah, the hotel was great, the weather warmer than Telford and everywhere very inexpensive. There is no nightlife (certainly not at this time of year) and it’s a hike to the marina, but if you just want to recharge (on a budget) then come. Fab.


another Colosseum – fab



what have the Romans ever done for us?

Another highlight was the opportunity to concentrate of book 5, now with a draft title of To Hell In A Handcart. As you know I’ve been writing it on the hoof and that has been a strain and a little discombobulating. A week ago I was unsure if what I had written was going to be any good, and I was at a loss as to how it was all going to come together. Normally about now we’re in the south of France for six weeks and I write day-in, day-out … never losing track of where I am, or where we are all going. As I got on the plane to fly out I was at the end of Chapter 14, about 84k words in with a planned total of around 130k. I was all over the place and it all seemed to be taking forever.

A week later and by the time we flew into Birmingham I was three chapters to the better and feeling very pleased with myself. Hurrah!

But it does take for ever. Writing a book is like running a marathon. You start with enthusiasm, you quickly lose momentum, then it’s a slog, then it’s almost impossible (where I was when I got on the plane), and then the end comes into sight and you’re off – a sprint finish! 130,000 words is a lot of words. And this is my fifth book (OK, the first, Unsuspecting Hero, was only 86,000, but they got a lot longer after that). I work on 20 chapters of 6,000 words each. I end up with 21/22 chapters and an epilogue and prologue, both of which are slightly shorter than a chapter.

Each 1,500 words takes 2 hours. Then I crash edit that (about another 30 minutes). And then there are up to 6 full-book edits (plus a professional proof read) before she’s ready for publication. Therefore, the first draft is about 220 hours of work. After edits we’re looking at over 400 hours, possibly 450. That’s before we look at cover work, the blurb etc.

It’s not possible to work at a keyboard for 8 hours a day. If it were, the maths show it takes me 50 days to write a book. If you add in weekends that’s 10 weeks. In reality it takes twice that length. I start in September, finish the first draft in December. I then edit in the Spring.

My question is, is it worth it? I have sold 5,000 books in four years, with likely another 2,000 books out there via giveaways and Amazon’s prime lending library. Most of those books are Fuelling the Fire‘s (3,000), which Amazon/Kindle own. My last two books have sold just over 400 (The Innocence of Trust) and 150 (For Good Men To Do Nothing). I make somewhere between £1.50 and £2 a book – which, as you can see, is not very much. Other than one or two, the reviews are all great – some spectacular. My current rate on Goodreads against over 200 reviews is 4.2/5.0 which is as good as any I can find.

But … is it worth it? Really? It’s half a year’s work for, what looks like, a very slow take up. And just enough cash to pay my proofreader and replace my chromebook.

And five books (600,000 words) is quite a series. Isn’t it?

We’ll see. Let’s get this one out there first!

Pictures are all Tunisia.

Oh … Tunisia

Ok, Tunisia (sorry about yesterday).


Think southern Italy (same latitude), but poorer still, and without the piles of unharvested rubbish and no roadside prostitutes. It’s all two storey high, block built houses, but (mostly) with ornate doorways, painted white. Tiles are big here and they cover everything with them.


Outside of the tourist areas things are pretty run down and very north African. Sheep with attending shepherds graze the side of the roads, shops spill onto the streets and on vast tracks of land the only crop we could see was olives. It is said (probably by a Tunisian) that Tunisian olive oil is the best in the world. Most of the country is uninhabited, and most of it is steppe-like. The south tends to the Sahara desert.


The coastline is one long beach: lovely sand and, after a period of calm, crystal clear water. However, away from the hotel fronts the beach v quickly becomes plastic central. They are a mess. There are a number of things to see. The markets are typical souks (one Dinar, best price for you …), there are a lot of Roman remains (did a huge collusium today), mosques, forts and Berber villages. But it is not culture heavy.

The people (99% Muslim) are mostly lovely. The woman always engage and always smile. Half of the men are charming, the other half are stern and, if you’re of a nervous disposition (hardly surprising after 38 tourists were murdered in 2015), clearly terrorists; which they are not. We found the Turkish men the same, but I can tell you that I’ve felt much more at ease here than I did in Istanbul just a year ago.

All-inclusive? Well it’s a first for us. On chatting to our fellow guests, people come here because it’s cheap. We paid £750 all-in (we know of one couple who paid £600). Whatever, we thought that good value … until I checked our hotel on TripAdvisor and read the recent reviews. After that we came with v low expectations. The reviews were wrong. The hotel (4-star) has been built with grand intentions. And it almost meets them. Our rooms are huge, the two outdoor pools are massive and wonderfully clean, the indoor pool is good, there’s a gym, a spar and access straight onto the beach. It’s clean and only one or two of the staff are grumpy. The food is good (no hamburgers, it’s Tunisian and better for it) and plentiful. The beer (which is free) is perfectly quaffable and the red wine is on tap in the restaurant. Ok, so we’re not all-inclusive aficionados, but it ticks all our boxes (apparently you do get better, but you do pay more).


Our hotel has a number of local guests (it’s about 25% full) and they clearly love all-inclusive. Watching how they like to pile their plates … many plates …is a sight to behold. I guess the Brits make up for it at the bar. So, all-inclusive gets our vote. It is so good to not to have to think about how much things cost.

More on our itinerary later, but in a nutshell: day one was a 6-mile beach walk to Hammamet, and a bus back; day two was a taxi to the next but one coastal village, and a bus back; day three was an organised trip inland to a big mosque and a huge collusium, which is where they filmed Life of Brian (love it).

Oh, and I lost my glasses somewhere on day one’s 6-mile walk. I was wearing my prescription sunglasses at the time. Bugger. I fumbled about for a bit and then, yesterday, I found a street vendor selling glasses and he had a pair (short-sighted) half the strength I need … for £6. They’ll do! C reckons I look like Himmler or some other pervy chap. Oh well


More later!