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Playstation Warning!

Well, I do like to keep myself busy …

It’s been quite a year, even by my reckoning: I’ve moved house, got engaged, changed jobs, fixed a fence, changed a roof, written a few thousand words, got a PS4, made L40 on Destiny and – to top it all – got married.

What I sadly haven’t done is blog, market, comment on friends sites (though I am still keeping an eye on you all!) or get quite as much of G’host written as I’d have liked.  Hopefully that will change in 2016 as my activities this year have actually simplified an otherwise very complex lifestyle.

G’host is coming along nicely, and the extra thinking time is helping to hone characters, develop plot lines and tune technical connections.  But writing full length novels is a mammoth task and, to stay true to my three main principles for writing, I need to make sure I’m enjoying what I do, when I’m doing it.  There’s no point otherwise.

As I love writing, there’s no doubt that G’host will creep closer to completion next year … the only risk is if the PS4 takes over!

Merry Christmas everyone …

Fifty, not out…

It’s been a summer of semi-solid writing for me.  A little bit selfish on my part but worthwhile all the same and very enjoyable to boot.  So I’d like to offer a quick apology to my on-line friends for not seeming to be around much over the last couple of months.

I’d also like to say a big thank-you to the continuing trickle of new readers and especially those who’ve taken extra time to post reviews for Firebird and Thunder.  I’m really grateful for your encouragement.

So, how’s G’host coming along then?  Well, I’m satisfied with what I’ve managed over these last few weeks.  I’ve written around 15,000 words of draft which takes the base text to circa 45,000 words.  Allowing for edit, that’s about 40% of my target length.  Importantly, these 45,000 words are the opening and, for me, this always takes the longest.  Once the scenes are set, the key characters are in place and the main threads are initiated, the writing tends to feel like it’s all downhill from there.  That’s not to say the rest of the story will be easy.  Or that I won’t get bogged down or blocked from time to time.  It’s just that the start, for me, is always the longest part of the process.  Perhaps that’s because I’m a future-thinker and in my head I can always see where I’m going more clearly than where I am right now?  Perhaps this is just normal for writing?  Who knows?

And, on the subject of downhill from here, I suppose I should also mention that I’ve just turned fifty … Long pause … I’m not quite sure how this milestone crept up on me, or how I feel about it, but my friends and family have done a fabulous job of making sure I didn’t just ignore it! I’d like to thank them all for not allowing me to follow my normal routines and let it pass by unnoticed.

So this is where I am.  Fifty, not out … and still chipping happily away.

 

 

‘Tis The Season…

To be … whatever you want to be!

Merry Christmas

❄❄❄ Merry Christmas! ❄❄❄

And on that basis, here’s a quick update on what’s been happening in my busy world over the last few weeks.

First off, I’ve managed to find a few fragments of time and done some more work on G’host.  Admittedly, not as much as I’d have liked, but some all the same.  I’m pleased about that, but also slightly disappointed that I’m not going to be able to post a scene from it, here, as a tribute for the holidays.

The scene I am working on suits the season very well and my idea to use it as a post is what inspired me to get back to the keyboard.  Unfortunately, inspiration can only get you so far, and tiredness from several months of long work days doesn’t facilitate good prose.  So the scene is coming along but is, sad to say, nowhere near ready enough for a public airing.

It is, however, nice to report that I’ve had some more, very nice, positive feedback from a number of readers over the last month.  This is always a real joy.  Thanks to anyone who’s ever offered encouragement to any writer: dark days haunt more than just winter months…

I could blather on about restarting my ski-fit regime in readiness for heading for the slopes next year, or about finally sorting my kitchen out after six years of putting up with randomly painted duck-egg blue walls but, as you can tell, it’s not exactly rock and roll news, and so I’m not going to waste any more of your precious seconds in the countdown to the big day…!

Rather, I’ll close by saying: to any stranger who happens past, and to all of my kind and wonderful friends, I wish you all a joyful Christmas and prosperous New Year.

See you in 2014…!

Tomato Time…

Yes, it’s almost time for my annual pilgrimage to Finland and I’m looking forward to meeting up with friends and family over there.

This year’s visit is timed to coincide with the local town’s Tomato Carnival which celebrates the community’s agricultural cornerstone of… you guessed it… tomatoes.  Blog regulars will be familiar with this concept and there are even a couple of photos in here somewhere.

It’s always fascinating for me to have chance to visit, what is for me, a completely different lifestyle: almost a different world.  Where noise consists mainly of the sounds of wildlife, where affluence is having fresh food and a good fire, where happiness blossoms from simple social interaction and rich conversation.  The Finns do always make me feel so very welcome.

Work has been, what can only be described as, “mental” for these last few weeks and, whilst this has been going on, I’ve only been able to find enough moments to continue to develop the story-lines, content, and characters for the next novel.  As a result, I’m also looking forward to getting some solid writing time whilst I’m away.  I’m really itching to start drafting; whole passages are queuing up in my head and bursting to get out!  And I might even have finally settled on the book’s title, but I’m not quite ready to share that, yet…

Firebird and Thunder continue to tick over gently, which is a real delight, and I’ve even received some nice encouragement from readers recently.  So, wish me luck: it’s time to get Book Three started…!

Valentine’s Action…

I entered  a short story contest, a few weeks back, which was Valentine’s Day themed.  It was something of an accidental entry, in that I wasn’t originally planning to join in but then I had a whacky story idea and decided to use the exercise for a bit of descriptive-practice.  My twist – because I seem to have an inherent need to swim against prevailing currents – was to try to write a Valentine’s piece from an Action and Adventure slant, and to do it in as few words as I could whilst successfully circumnavigating the competition’s mandatory word-hurdles…  Well, nothing-ventured, eh?

The main character had to be alone on Valentine’s, the word limit was 600 to 1200 words (I ended up at around 800 after edits) and the mandatory words were: heart, ice cream, toe nail clippers, black and flower (yes; Mistress Suzie can be just plain strange at times).

Anyway, here’s the story:

~~~~~

Forget Me Not

by Anthony Bellaleigh (830 words)

His heart beat furiously against the rough-spun fabric of his shirt as if it was trying to fling itself out of his chest.  Above the trench-line, the sky was a swathe of angry black-grey clouds tinged with a barely visible hint of amber that might be from the distant fires but was, more likely, from the pending dawn.  Another day was starting: February 14th.

With one trembling hand he reached inside his jacket – his fingerless woollen gloves had done little to hold back the frosty cold of another French winter’s dawn and his fingertips felt as if they had been planted in a tub of ice cream – but he was relieved to find her letter was still there: tucked into an inside pocket.  Despite his icy-digits, he could just make out the well-thumbed edges of the scented parchment and, for a second, he felt warm inside.

‘I wonder how Lucy will spend Valentine’s,’ he thought to himself as something whistled overhead, streaking away into the far distance, heading inexorably in a direction that he really didn’t want to travel but knew that he’d have to follow soon…

“Look sharp!” a deep booming voice barked out through the half-light from somewhere to his left, “Keep your eyes peeled!”.

Oh, how he longed for the chance to be at Lucy’s side today!  How he longed to be able to return to the so-called trials and tribulations of his earlier life.  To days when looming exams made you think that nothing could get more stressful.  To days when the worst you could expect for failure was a whipping from your father.  To days when…

“Hodgkins!  Look alert, I said!”  The booming voice demanded his attention.  “Jump to it you miserable Toenail!  Clippers, get the ladders up!”

Another of his fellows – he knows only too well that he has no real friends here; just those who shoot at him, or don’t shoot at him – moved in front of him as he quickly straightened up and readied himself: pulling shut his jacket to cocoon its precious paper contents close to his chest, and buttoning the fastenings tight as if in some crazy way this fabric could offer shielding from what was to come.

Clippers glanced back at him.  Nicknamed after his role as make-do barber for the squad, and generally a quiet and softly spoken soul, this other man’s wide eyes now betrayed only mortal fear and terror.  He guessed his own would look much the same.  Neither of them smiled.

“Ready?” Clippers asked.

He grimaced and nodded, but could not speak.

Oh, to be back in the schoolyards, to be stealing glimpses of her beauty across classrooms, to be running hand-in-hand across the muddy lanes, and into the meadows.  To be grabbing handfuls of wild flowers to present to her whilst hot blood rushes to warm cheeks.  To be feeling; not fear, but an animal flush of lust and desire.  To be kissing her soft lips…

The last remnants of night vanished in a sudden blaze of white light which turned the trench wall before him into a hard line of black-haven and the sky beyond into a fiery glimpse of Hell.  A rippling concussive boom ripped through the air, pounding at his stomach and blasting at his eardrums.  And now more blazing lights.  And more concussive booms.  Until it all becomes an endless, awful, roar of noise.  And the white light becomes swathed in red, and yellow, and even black as huge handfuls of earth are grabbed by monstrous invisible hands and thrown skyward…

“Get ready now!” yells the voice.

He places one, unexpectedly steady and supportive, hand on Clipper’s trembling shoulder, and leans forward so he can be heard as he whispers into his comrade’s ear, “We’ll be okay, mate.  This push’ll be the one.  Just you wait and see.  The barrage will clear the way this time…”

“It didn’t before,” Clippers whimpers.

He knows that Clippers is right.  It’s never worked before…

Not in 1914, nor 1915, nor yet in this year…

A piercing whistle strikes up from somewhere in the distance.  Then another.  And another.  The chorus builds and the alien sound moves ever closer…

This is it then.

“Now!” yells the booming voice and his own Captain’s penny-whistle joins the piping throng.

Clippers starts up the ladder in front of him, legs shuddering and bouncing the rickety wooden frame as he climbs fearfully toward the reaper who waits patiently for them all: bare inches inches above, bare seconds away…

And he pushes his own reluctant limbs forward and starts to follow as fizzing and whistling sounds and small plumes of dirt announce the arrival of machine gun rounds.

In the distance the barrage continues.

Screams begin to rip through the air.

Clippers disappears over the top.

Disappears into Hades.

And now he is following.

And he wonders as he climbs, how his Lucy will spend Valentine’s Day…

 ~~~~~

[p.s. Am going to be off-line for a couple of weeks: see you when I get back!] 

So That Was The Year, That Was…

… Almost permanently wet.

It feels like only yesterday that I sat and drafted last year’s resume and here I am again: doing my annual audit and checking off what’s happened.  It’s kind of scary how quickly this comes around – time flies past us at an alarming pace, doesn’t it?

So anyway, 2012 was a year of quite significant contrasts for me.  Almost a “game of two halves”, if you’ll allow me to disabuse a soccer analogy…

For much of the year I was, effectively, unemployed.  This is never a great place to be but I didn’t give up on finding gainful employment (of the type that pays well enough to cover the bills) and was lucky enough to land a new role this Autumn.  That, on its own, would probably be achievement enough for one year but I have a few more:

  • Garden fences painted (despite the perpetual rain)
  • Garage woodwork stripped and painted (despite the perpetual rain)
  • Loft boarded (because there’s only so much rain you can take…)
  • Bedroom decorated (will it ever stop raining?)
  • Olympic flame watched (in a brief gap in the deluge – lucky me!)
  • Olympics cheered (along with 55 million other damp Brits)…

And, probably most importantly:

  • Thunder written (12 hours a day until May, then left alone for three months, then edited alongside starting my new job – i.e. over a month of far too many hours a day)…

With Thunder, I’d set myself a personal goal to see if I could improve on some of Firebird’s flaws: I think I have.  I’d also set myself a goal to publish in Autumn: I only just made it.  So why push so hard?  Why not just kick back, or give up, or not bother to set stretching goals?

Well, regular visitors will know that my year also included the unexpected and sudden loss of a friend.  A friend from whom I’d drifted apart, but was on the verge of meeting up with.  A meeting that circumstance kept delaying until, one day, he just didn’t come home from his holidays…

It’s shocking when something like this happens.  Especially when death comes prematurely to someone only a handful of years older than me.  But it serves to remind us that life is a short and fleeting gift.  Time travels past us too quickly.  The rain may never stop…

We have a choice as to what we do with the life we’re given: use it, or lose it.  And I’m determined to try my best to grab every second I’m lucky enough to be gifted, and to wring the most I can out of every single one…

Here’s to 2013: another cycle, another raft of seconds, another chance to do crazy things, to laugh, to cry, to make merry, or hay, or just to have fun…

Happy New Year Everyone!

Thunder – The Playlist

Thunder Cover v4Decorating hostilities have ceased – for a while.  The bedroom is completed and, so far, nothing has blown up or fallen down.  I am therefore back to editing Thunder, and I’m really enjoying it.

Initially I found editing laborious and unpleasant, but on reflection – given how long it takes to craft a draft novel – it’s well worth spending the time and running a fine-toothed comb through anything you write.

For me, the hardest part of this process is leaving it to ‘settle’.  By this I mean, putting the work away for long enough that you can come back to it with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’.  For Thunder, the settling period has been just over four months.  For a shorter work, like this post, it might only be a day or so.

Anyway, to the subject of this post, I set up a playlist whilst I was writing Thunder.  Mood music, if you like.  I found it helpful.  Music is very important to me.  It seems to entertain my muse and open up my imagination.  I started with a few songs, then added items as the weeks went by and now, of course, I’ve got it playing in the background while I edit.

The final list has eighty-four songs on it, so I’m not going to post them all here!  Some are quite popular, some more obscure, and here are the YouTube links to five of my current favourites, in case you’re interested in sampling a musical flavour of what’s coming in the book (don’t forget to skip the ads!)…

No One by Maja Keuc (live performance from the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest Finals).

[AB: A Eurovision song…  I know…!  Nonetheless, it’s a brilliant tune which builds dramatic tension through to an awesome conclusion…]

The Only Hope For Me Is You by My Chemical Romance.

[AB: I especially like the gothic-opening followed by classic MCR, creative, thump-rock, heartbeat-lifting, guitar-pounding energy and – of course – an uplifting, glorious, lyric…]

The Running Free by Coheed & Cambria

[AB: I have to blame a couple of ‘youngsters’ for introducing me to the whacky world of Coheed and Cambria.  This is classic rock at its very best…  And, what a hook…!]

World’s On Fire by The Prodigy

[AB: Thunder is, at times, an angry book.  This track spent quite some time on repeat play…]

And finally, something completely different:

O Mio Babbino Caro by Giacomo Puccini (this version sung by Angela Gheorghiu)

[AB: This is one of my favourite operatic pieces.  Simply beautiful…  :'(  ]

A small but serious post-script:  I listen to legitimate copies of these tunes and am sharing these links only in the hope that it supports the promotional interests of the artists involved (Mr.Puccini excepted).  Please support fellow artists by avoiding file-shares and other forms of piracy… Thanks.  AB.

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Who’s that, hiding under all those blankets…?

That’ll be me…

Yes, I’m back from my holidays.  Two weeks of unbroken sunshine, twenty-eight degree heat (Celsius, of course), and a nice constant breeze.  Perfect for someone like me, who only has two skin colours: red and white.

I went back to the Canary Islands this year – a crazy collection of Atlantic-bound rocks, located just off the western shores of Africa, and dominated by volcanic landscapes and often whacky architecture.  We selected it as good weather is almost always guaranteed, all year round, and importantly because for Europeans it’s an affordable destination.  As holidays go, it wasn’t the cultural delight of last year, but nonetheless it was good to chill-ax for a while.

It was a bit of an odd couple of weeks from a creative perspective.  Compared to last year, not much drafting got done – I guess because I’m still working on the characters and storyboard for book three – but I did (unexpectedly) end up writing a possible first few pages for Thunder’s sequel (where did they come from!), come up with some nice plot-line components for the next novel, and even added some flesh to my outlines for a possible Firebird sequel.  So, overall, I’m quite pleased with what I achieved.

So what’s next?  Well, it’s time to see if I can get Firebird onto the Apple iBookstore and, after that, I will revisit Thunder and start preparing for publication.  Lots to do!  I just need to top up my hot-water bottle, and then I’ll get started…

On Yer Bike…

…Or the post also-known-as, Some Things Don’t Happen Every Day – Part Two.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but something unusual is happening in the UK at the moment. No, I’m not talking about the orange-yellow, hot, glowing orb that has been peeking out, from time to time, from behind our more normally gunmetal-grey cloudscape.  No, I’m not even talking about the sudden rash of Union Jacks currently fluttering from any available stick or length of string.

No.  What I’m referring to is the sudden – and somewhat disconcerting – propensity for smiling.  I’ve never seen so many happy, talkative and friendly Brits before.

I was out on Saturday and took this picture so you can see what I mean…

What’s going on here then?

A few weeks ago, it was random runners with flaming torches.  Now, it’s brightly coloured bicycles, completely jamming up the highways, and hurtling around like there’s some sort of race on…?

What next, I wonder?

Any minute now, someone’ll be telling me we’re playing host to the Olympics and I can’t see that there’s much hope of us doing that…

For that, we’d need some real support: support of monarchs, princes, lords and ladies; support of parliaments and prime ministers; support of infrastructure providers, police, emergency services and, of course, the public…

For that, we’d need to be prepared to stand in the world’s spotlight and to be examined for all of our strengths and weaknesses: good and bad.

For that, we’d need to be confident in our eclectic – and often eccentric – culture, history and legacies: good and bad.

For that, we’d need to remember how to smile and be friendly to one another…

Good Luck to all the Olympians.

Your achievements are truly breathtaking.

And, of course…,

“GO, TEAM GB!”

Some Things Don’t Happen Every Day…

Olympic Torch

Check out this picture…  Amazing, isn’t it…?  The sun is shining in Warwickshire!

I took this photo yesterday…  I’m not sure who the random strangers are in the foreground, and those brief minutes of glorious sunshine made carrying that flaming torch a bit of a redundant gesture. Nonetheless, it was nice of them to bring something along to brighten up the normal gloom.

So, there it was…  The UK Summer caught on camera… All fifteen minutes of it.

I’m bored of the British rain now.  So I’m going to go away for a few days, to see if I can find some Scandinavian rain instead.

I’m off on my annual pilgrimage to Finland.  Not for Midsummer this time.  No, this year the visit is carefully timed to coincide with the local Tomato Carnival…

Hmmm, it feels strange even just typing it…

Anyway, as a result, my next post is likely to be cram-packed full of the latest fruit news (or ‘vegetable news’ depending on your personal tomato-bias).  I’ll bet you can’t wait and I’ll have to make sure I post something when I get back – and as soon as I’ve eventually sobered up again.

What’s the betting that the weather turns lovely whilst I’m away?

[p.s. Note to self: try not to fall out of any boats this year.]

[p.p.s. Congratulations to all of the Olympic Torch Bearers and to the Relay organisers.  It was great to see everyone out on the streets and enjoying themselves. Here’s to a successful, though doubtless damp, Olympic Games!]

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