Friday, 26 June 2015

In need of tranquility

Thomas Hardy's cottage (shame about the scaffolding)
Hardy's garden










Thomas Hardy (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism. His best-known novels are Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure. (Wikipedia)
Recently, I spent a few days in Dorset, the county that influenced much of Hardy’s work, and visited the cottage where he was born and from where he wrote Far from the Madding Crowd. A walk of about half a mile, through undulating woodland, leads to his house. Once close to it, the wood open’s up to reveal a small thatched cottage and a beautiful English country garden: Hardy’s birthplace and home for thirty-three years. Thanks to the National Trust, it has been kept much as it was–small rooms, flagstone floors (set down by Hardy’s father, a stone mason), tiny windows, oak beams, and hand made wooden furniture: an oasis of peace and tranquility.     
Writers write in different ways. Some can write anywhere, and are not distracted by anything. JK Rowling, for example, said she wrote parts of the first book in the Harry Potter series on a bus, going to work. Others writers, like Hardy, need tranquility, and an absence of any distraction. Ali Smith, who wrote How to Be Both–which won of the Costa Prize and the Bailey Prize, writes in her loft.
For me, tranquility is an absolute necessity, and this autumn, once the renovations are finished, I’m moving into a Gothic style shed at the bottom of our garden. I’ll have complete peace, no distractions–apart from the sound of running water from the nearby pond–and total tranquility.   
~~~






Night Running
Kate Fisher wants to move on from grief. Her five-year-old daughter died from bone cancer and she split with her uncaring husband. When she meets with Mark Roberts, suffering his own emotional turmoil after parting with his lover and the death of her son in a house fire, she believes she’s found the perfect person to help her forget her past, and him forget his. They fall in love, and she becomes pregnant. Her baby comes early-but so too does a grievous shock that tears to the roots of her raw emotions and threatens the safety of her one surviving daughter.
Available later this year.
~~~
 Harry Fingle stories
Playing Harry.
The first story.
Giant international corporations hire hitmen. The CIA and MI6 sanction immoral and illegal skulduggery. People die. Harry Fingle–an investigative journalist, searching for his brother’s killer–is appalled, and tries to publish his findings. He’s gagged, an assassin is briefed, and his ex-lover is stabbed.
Harry’s a pawn in a real-life game of chess played out by the security services.
~~~
Assassination Continuum.
The second story.
The wrong man is murdered in a café in Istanbul. A feared Russian assassin is mortified and vows to right his mistake. Harry Fingle’s lover becomes over-inquisitive, and his spy-friend tells him to watch out. 
Tension mounts. The Russians hire a Serbian hitman as a back-up executioner and Harry begins to question his trusted spy-friend’s loyalties.
~~~
Zero One
The final story
Murderers walk free from court, juries are nobbled, spooks leak secrets, police fix investigations, prisoners escape, and the media stay silent. Zero One is dominant. One man controls it.
A lingering love affair, Harry Fingle’s discovery of the name of Zero One’s chief, and the breakout from jail of Harry’s nemesis–the feared Russian assassin Grigoriy Nabutov–make for a tense and emotional conclusion to the trilogy.
~~~
Harry Fingle box set
Playing Harry, Assasination Continuum, Zero One in one three-book box set.
~~~
Wattpad.
Selected chapters from the three books in The Harry Fingle Collection–Playing Harry, Assassination Continuum, and Zero One–plus the The Harry Fingle Collection-trailer in full.
Three complete books in the Originals series.





Friday, 5 June 2015

The end

Like the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, moving house or location after a long time in one place, or just the end of a great holiday when you’ve had fun and felt exhilarated by the location, the person or people you’ve been with, and the food and wine, the day I finish writing a book feels much the same. A feeling of loss, and a sense of the end and not sure what’s coming next. And that’s where I am right now.

For me, there has to be an emotional and cerebral attachment to a book I write, call it passion. The characters have to become real and more lifelike as I proceed. Each has to be fleshed out, molded; show traits and behaviour that differs them from the others, and grow three-dimensional. And then there is the plot–it’s twists, turns, sub-plots, and the directions it wants to take are never as I first planned.

I don’t write fast. I write slowly, aching over every word, changing sentences until I think they read right, reading and rereading every chapter, deleting and rewriting much. Thinking all the time about the characters, the plot, the dialogue, the detail. When I’m finished, and the book’s done and over, it’s as if the engine that’s powered my life for the last year has been switched off, or running on idle and not fully powered.

When I was writing the book, I planted notebooks all around the house–in the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom, the garden shed, even the loo, and, of course, next to our bed. As a thought, a line of dialogue, a plot twist, a detail I’d missed, and more stuff about the book came into my head, I’d rush to the nearest of those notebooks and write it done. Often I’d creep to the bathroom in the night to make a note, hoping I wouldn’t wake my wife. I wasn’t always successful. In the morning she’d ask, ‘How did the book sleep?’ I’d answer, ‘It didn’t,’ and she’d reply, ‘Thought so. When do you think you’ll finish it?’

When I did finish it and told me daughter, she’d asked, ‘How do you feel?’ and expected me to say ‘great,’ but I shrugged, and said, ‘Not sure, at a bit of a loss, really.’ Then later my wife said, ‘What you going to do, now?’  I shrugged again, and replied, ‘Don’t know. Bit of gardening, then start on a new one.’

I guess I’m obsessive about writing, but I’m not unique. I went to a talk recently by Ali Smith–the author of How to be both, which won The Goldsmith Prize in 2014, the Costa Novel of the Year award, the 2014 Saltire Society Literary Book of the year award, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for 2015 and The Folio Prize for 2015. Her talk was brilliant. She speaks like she writes, also brilliant; although I haven’t read her book yet. I’m in a queue and my daughter is first. When it came to all the ‘how do you write, how long did it take you’ questions, she replied that she didn’t really know, apart from she tore up the first eighty pages and started again. Another well-known writer I listened to once, said after she’d written the first draft of a novel, she’d lock it away for three months without looking at it. When the three months were up, and she’d open it, she was nearly always horrified in what she’d written, and immeditely set about writing the next draft. On average, she wrote seven drafts of her books before she felt happy to send it off to her publisher. The much acclaimed British writer and Man Booker prizewinner, Ian McEwan, said on radio once, that on some days he’d only managed to write a few sentences.

Each of these writers has one thing in common–only the best will do. I’m not anywhere near their league, but I can learn from them, and after writing ten books and several short stories, I figure I’m just nearing the end of my apprenticeship.

Night Running, the book I’ve just finished will be available later this year.  A short description appears below.
  
~~~
Night Running
Kate Fisher wants to move on from grief. Her five-year-old daughter died from bone cancer and she split with her uncaring husband. When she meets with Mark Roberts, suffering his own emotional turmoil after parting with his lover and the death of her son in a house fire, she believes she’s found the perfect person to help her forget her past, and him forget his. They fall in love, and she becomes pregnant. Her baby comes early-but so too does a grievous shock that tears to the roots of her raw emotions and threatens the safety of her one surviving daughter.
Available later this year.
~~~
 Harry Fingle stories
Playing Harry.
The first story.
Giant international corporations hire hitmen. The CIA and MI6 sanction immoral and illegal skulduggery. People die. Harry Fingle–an investigative journalist, searching for his brother’s killer–is appalled, and tries to publish his findings. He’s gagged, an assassin is briefed, and his ex-lover is stabbed.
Harry’s a pawn in a real-life game of chess played out by the security services.
~~~
Assassination Continuum.
The second story.
The wrong man is murdered in a café in Istanbul. A feared Russian assassin is mortified and vows to right his mistake. Harry Fingle’s lover becomes over-inquisitive, and his spy-friend tells him to watch out. 
Tension mounts. The Russians hire a Serbian hitman as a back-up executioner and Harry begins to question his trusted spy-friend’s loyalties.
~~~
Zero One
The final story
Murderers walk free from court, juries are nobbled, spooks leak secrets, police fix investigations, prisoners escape, and the media stay silent. Zero One is dominant. One man controls it.
A lingering love affair, Harry Fingle’s discovery of the name of Zero One’s chief, and the breakout from jail of Harry’s nemesis–the feared Russian assassin Grigoriy Nabutov–make for a tense and emotional conclusion to the trilogy.
~~~
Harry Fingle box set
Playing Harry, Assasination Continuum, Zero One in one three-book box set.
~~~
Wattpad.
Selected chapters from the three books in The Harry Fingle Collection–Playing Harry, Assassination Continuum, and Zero One–plus the The Harry Fingle Collection-trailer in full.
Three complete books in the Originals series.





Friday, 24 April 2015

After the storm

Writing my latest book, Night Running, was like living through a storm. This short–which I wrote and published a little while ago–seems appropriate. 
The wind howled like a wolf. Most of the sparsely scattered trees had been uprooted and blown over the cliff. The far-off homestead–the only other building for as far as I could see–had its roof torn off, the remnants scattered over the craggy ground. Sheep hunkered down by the rock outcrops, trying to shield themselves from the storm’s worst. A farm truck had been blown over onto its side and lay, abandoned, in the middle of the wild headland. Great gusts smacked against the rickety door, threatening to tear it from its fixings and blow inside, leaving me exposed and at the mercy of nature’s frightening force.
I was marooned in a small, abandoned, wooden shack on a deserted hilltop. Anna and I had been walking along the cliff when the storm began. We should have checked before we left the hotel; but I’d just asked her to marry me, and–high on emotion and euphoria–we’d drained our glasses, flung on our coats and scarves, and dashed from the warm, tiny cottage we’d rented to the wild, wintery outdoors. We’d wanted to walk on cliffs and glimpse the dark foreboding sea. Neither of us had a fear in the world.
We’d rushed toward the shack when the torrential rain started. After two paces, I’d collapsed in agony. A muscle or something had pulled in my leg, and I couldn’t walk. Anna helped me to my feet, and with an arm around her shoulder; we managed to reach the shack. She was a nurse, and helped me to a stone ledge where she bound up my leg with her scarf and told me to stay still, with my leg up, while she went for some help. I tried to stop her, but she was gone in a few seconds.    
Some minutes after she’d left, the wind turned to a gale, rain poured through all the cracks in the old stones and the roof. The ledge that Anna had left me on became drenched. I dragged myself, in pain, to a dry spot. Two hours later the light started to fade. The shack and the surrounding moorland became dark and foreboding. All around was black–a deep, dense black that I’d never experienced before. I started to shiver. Some sort of vermin scuttled around in the far corner, and then I heard a loud clatter. Heavy rain fell on my head and shoulders. The shack lightened a little, and I looked up. Part of the corrugated roof had been ripped away, above where I’d been sitting. Water poured down my face and onto my clothing. Somehow I had to move, but my leg throbbed, and I knew if I tried to put any weight on it I’d fall over and lie on the wet floor, writhing in agony. I slid onto my hands and knees and started to crawl across the uneven, stony floor. I managed to reach a drier spot, flopped into a corner, and started to shake. I moaned and cried out.
The pain hit me in sudden, unannounced bouts, so powerful they almost brought me to tears. When they gave me a brief respite, I thought of Anna. Where is she? Has she reached safety? Oh, I hope so. And then the anguish started up again.
At 6:00 p.m. I figured that no rescue party would reach me that night, and I had to do all I could to survive. I fumbled in my pocket and found the two squares of chocolate left from the bar Anna and I had shared.  In my other pocket I had a half bottle of water. I took a sip from the water and ate a square of chocolate. By six-thirty my limbs started to feel dead from the cold, the pain so awful I yelled a lot. I was tired, hungry, and wet.
Even if I can’t sleep, somehow I have to stay positive, I thought, and decided to plan our wedding.
~~~
Weak light started to fill the hut. I heard birdsong. It must be morning, I thought, and struggled to pull back the cuff of my shirt to check the time. It was 7:30 a.m. I hadn’t slept, and I hadn’t planned the wedding. The throbbing pain in my leg had worsened through the long night, making me often cry out for relief. Like tentacles, the anguish and numbing cold had crept into all parts of my body. My bones hurt. I couldn’t move. I was drained of will and energy, and lay prostrate on the frozen stone.
I can’t take this much more...
~~~
I heard a throbbing, whirling noise. I was lying down on a wet, cold stone floor. My body was wracked with pain. The noise increased, and I remembered where I was. I must have drifted off, I thought, and been woken by the noise.
It’s a helicopter. They’ve come to rescue me.
I tried to move. I couldn’t. Pain and inability stopped me. Am I paralysed? Oh God no. The whirring noise slowed down. I figured the helicopter had landed and soon they’d come for me. Best lie still until they arrive, I told myself. Soon it’ll be over.
They’ve gone without me,’ I sobbed half-an-hour later when I heard the helicopter take off and fly away. Why? Why? Why have they left me? I’ll die...
~~~
The ceiling was white. I dragged my hands up my chest. Bedclothes. I’m in a bed, I thought and turned my head. The walls of the room were also white. A clinical, clean smell filled my nostrils. I felt warm and cosy, and a little bit woozy in my head. I saw someone walk towards me. ‘Where am I?’ I asked as a friendly-looking man dressed in a blue nurses’ uniform leant over me and picked up my wrist. He smiled at me.
‘You’re in hospital. You’ve been sedated.’
‘How did I get here? What happened?’
He smiled again and wrapped a cuff around my upper left arm. ‘You were picked up from the moor. You were found unconscious in a deserted farm building. I’m just going to take your blood pressure.’ I felt a squeezing sensation where he’d wrapped the cuff. ‘Do you remember anything?’
‘No, not really, what happened?’
‘You were out walking on the moor. You’ve ruptured your Achilles tendon...’
‘Yes,’ I shouted. ‘Anna. How’s Anna? Where is she? What’s happened to her?’
Like a great tidal wave, memories of the last twenty-four hours or so flooded my wind.
Oh my God. Something awful has happened to Anna. That’s why they’ve sedated me. Oh no. Our dreams are shattered. This is a nightmare.
‘Please. Tell me. I must know. Is she alive?
The nurse reached down and took my hand. ‘She’s fine. She’s in the next room to you. You’re both suffering from hyperthermia and need rest. You’ll have to have an operation to fix your tendon, but not for a day or two until you’re stronger. You’ll both be okay. Anna can come and see you soon.’
‘You sure? You’re not just saying that? You’re not keeping something from me?’
He shook his head and smiled again. ‘It’s all true. Just relax. I’m going to give you another injection. It’ll make you a little light-headed and you’ll probably doze off...
~~~
Harry Fingle stories
Playing Harry.
The first story.
Giant international corporations hire hitmen. The CIA and MI6 sanction immoral and illegal skulduggery. People die. Harry Fingle–an investigative journalist, searching for his brother’s killer–is appalled, and tries to publish his findings. He’s gagged, an assassin is briefed, and his ex-lover is stabbed.
Harry’s a pawn in a real-life game of chess played out by the security services.
~~~
Assassination Continuum.
The second story.
The wrong man is murdered in a café in Istanbul. A feared Russian assassin is mortified and vows to right his mistake. Harry Fingle’s lover becomes over-inquisitive, and his spy-friend tells him to watch out. 
Tension mounts. The Russians hire a Serbian hitman as a back-up executioner and Harry begins to question his trusted spy-friend’s loyalties.
~~~
Zero One
The final story
Murderers walk free from court, juries are nobbled, spooks leak secrets, police fix investigations, prisoners escape, and the media stay silent. Zero One is dominant. One man controls it.
A lingering love affair, Harry Fingle’s discovery of the name of Zero One’s chief, and the breakout from jail of Harry’s nemesis–the feared Russian assassin Grigoriy Nabutov–make for a tense and emotional conclusion to the trilogy.
~~~
Harry Fingle box set
Playing Harry, Assasination Continuum, Zero One in one three-book box set.
~~~
Night Running
Work in progress, and will be published later this year
~~~
Wattpad. Read for free:
Selected chapters from the three books in The Harry Fingle Collection–Playing Harry, Assassination Continuum, and Zero One–plus the The Harry Fingle Collection-trailer in full.

Plus three complete books in the Originals series.