Good Guys and Bad Guys

When I first started reading I had a very simple and concise view of the world, there were the good guys and there the bad guys and the story was inspired by their conflict. This was certainly true of the books aimed at the young in which heroes like the Lone Ranger, Tarzan, and Doc Savage would battle evil doers and good would always (eventually) win. All very simplistic stuff repeated in the television programmes of the day. The truth is, however, that such characters are actually very shallow and uninteresting.

I remember reading ‘Treasure Island’ for the first time and discovering that Long John Silver, technically a bad guy, was actually the most interesting character in the book. It was my first conscious experience of an author subverting expectations. Having a taste for adventure stories I inevitably read ‘The Three Musketeers’ and was pleasantly surprised to find that it lacked any real villains. Although Cardinal Richelieu is often cast in that role in film and television adaptations of the book the fact is that he is just a statesman following an agenda that he believes to be correct. The fact that it brings him into conflict with the book’s protagonist is a result of d’Artagnan’s loyalty to the king, not because Richelieu is evil. So, is being a good guy or a bad guy really just about a point of view?

In my ‘Sorrow Song Trilogy’ I introduced the villain Wulfhere. I always intended him to be a villain. He was there to upset Mildryth’s life and create tension and drama for her. It is difficult to write a strong character if all that person has to do is sit at home and wait for the hero to return. Mildryth, as a character, needed conflict in order to have the opportunity to demonstrate her strength. The curious thing is, I grew to like Wulfhere. Well, not so much like him as enjoy writing about him. I think that he is a real villain; a genuine bad guy. Very early on I established that he was a thief and a murderer. He was also weak in that he only targeted those he believed to be even weaker than himself. Wulfhere was very cynical and cared for no one but himself. Now that is a bad guy.

Duke Guillaume of Normandy might appear to be a bad guy also. Afterall, he did invade England and steal a crown. Very often, in such stories, the invader is cast in that mould. When I was researching ‘The War Wolf’ I came to a better understand his motivations, however. Normandy appears to have been in a constant state of war with its neighbours. Guillaume needed to establish his power on a more solid footing than a duchy if Normandy was to survive. He saw the invasion of England as an opportunity, a gamble really, but one worth the risk. From his supporters’ point of view, he was fully justified in what he did. The Saxons point of view was entirely the opposite of course. However, Guillaume did not want to destroy them or kill all of them, as a typical evil villain might. He wanted to make himself a king so as to become at least as strong as his enemies. Once the battle was won a return to normality, or at least a Norman understanding of such, was the priority.

So, what about the good guys; are they any different? Harold Godwinson was an eorl who also wanted to be a king. In political terms he was best placed to take the crown of King Edward when he died. Perhaps, most importantly, he had a popular backing to do so. Not everyone liked him or even supported him, but a majority of Saxons did, not least because there was no other suitable candidate in their opinion. Harold worked hard to safeguard the kingdom in the first nine months of his reign and, by extension, his people. That was what Saxons lords were supposed to do. Of course, there was an element of self-interest in what he did. We, as humans, are governed by our self-interest, but we also have the capacity to put others first. That is what the good guys do.

Coenred is most definitely a good guy. He has all the typical hero qualities being brave, loyal, dependable, and good in a fight, but I could not let him remain shallow, he had to develop. I think he does. When ‘The War Wolf’ opens Coenred is thinking of hanging up his sword after many years of service to the family of Edwin and Morcar. He has a sense of honour, however. It is his moral compass. He is the opposite of Wulfhere. Coenred is strong and dangerous but also disciplined. A good fighter understands the need for self-discipline. He has been selfless in his career as a Huscarl, giving most of his wealth to his mother and brother who run the family estate. When Mildryth asks for his protection he cannot refuse her. A Huscarl existed to defend his lord and his lord’s people. This has become Coenred’s nature and it is what brings him into a personal conflict when enemies appear. The warrior wants to take up the sword again, but the man who has begun to fall in love with Mildryth knows that that is the last thing that she wants, especially after having lost her first husband to violence. That is Coenred’s personal agenda, to protect the people he cares about. He is not in search of glory, nor even riches, but when forced to act he is formidable, relentless, and very dangerous.

Could Coenred ever be seen as a bad guy? I think only by someone who did not know him. On the battlefield he is as fierce as any other warrior. He kills without hesitation. He does not torture those he defeats, unlike Wulfhere, however. He dispatches them quickly and professionally, not least because he knows that there are more of the same to be fought. Away from the battlefield he might be seen as intimidating, dangerous, and someone to fear, but only in ignorance. Of course, if he had killed someone you knew and liked then that would certainly colour your opinion of him but put into a larger context then his actions acquire a reasoning that becomes understandable. To some his acts of violence might be reprehensible, and understandably so, but in 1066 that violence was a way of life, or death, depending on the outcome to the individual.

In writing characters for stories, it seems to be that the delineation between being either the good guy or the bad guy depends on other considerations. One has to be motivation. The more self-centred the motivation then the more of the bad guy they are. The other has to be their context within the greater story. To the Normans, Guillaume is a hero, to the Saxons he is the villain. Wulfhere never rises above being a villain because he has no understanding, and therefore no interest, in what it takes to do so. Even in the larger context of the events of 1066 his motivation is always one of self, first in everything. It is a fact, however, that the one thing that Wulfhere has in common with Coenred and Guillaume and Harold, is that they are human. They are complex people and none of them, not even Wulfhere, can really be reduced to the simplicity of being just a hero or just a villain. They all have their positive and negative aspects, although for some it might be difficult to complete a full audit of every such facet of character.

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Considering Putting Down the Pen

I was wondering lately if it was all worth it? The writing I mean. It takes up a lot of my time. When I am not writing I am thinking about writing. I meditate on plots, characters, themes, stories. What I do not seem to spend a lot of time on is the one thing that every other writer seems to: promotion.

It is rather disappointing that my sales figures have slumped and that my books have earned only a pitiful number of reviews. Okay, the majority of reviews are 4 to 5 stars and very positive. That does give me a lot of satisfaction. Also, the sales figure was never the reason why I decided to write a book in the first place. The story has always been my main motivation. I think that I write good stories. Almost everyone who has expressed an opinion has said as much. I know that there are grammatical and spelling errors in my manuscripts, and that really annoys me. During the years I have reviewed every written word, approximately half a million of them, in a vain attempt to produce the perfect manuscript. I say vain because I am a solo enterprise. There is just me. I do everything, including the proof reading and the editing. This is not best situation, I know, but it is a matter of cost. I do not make enough as a writer to employ other people to do these tasks and I do not have enough spare cash to invest in my writing as much as I would like.

Okay, this is beginning to sound like a moan, so let me change tack. I considered putting down my pen, word processor actually, I have not used a pen for creative writing in years but decided to continue instead. So, let us get to the positive part of this blog entry. The fact is that I love writing! I started when I was a child. I wrote stories for my own entertainment first and then for family and friends. I have always lived in my imagination. There have been many other subjects that have attracted my attention, art, literature, science, and travelling amongst them and I still make time to fit them in. Writing, in one form or another, has always been a part of my life since I learnt to read, however.

As I approach the completion of my latest novel, The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom, I find myself struggling to decide what to write next. It is not a question of finding something to write about, in fact that is the problem; I have too many ideas! There are three stories that I have already started work on. One is another Science Fiction book, then there is a detective story, and the last and most recent is a kind of urban thriller with a character who I am finding more and more interesting. I also maintain a jotter, a kind of scrapbook of ideas, in which there are several promising beginnings that just need a middle and an end. Oh, and I have started a review of my ‘Eugenica’ manuscript as I recently played it on a ‘text to speech’ app and discovered too many mistakes.

I do not know if other writers do this, but I also read my own books. Then I re-read them. I know, you would think that I had done enough of this when I was writing the things! Perhaps I am being a bit self-obsessed in my own writing? My only justification is that I still like the stories that I have written. Honestly! I enjoy those books over and over again, but then I can say the same for all my favourite novels that I regularly re-read in-between whatever I am reading at the moment. A genuinely good book never gets stale no matter how often you read it.

If I was driven by sales figures, self-promotion, success over everything, then my career so far has been an abject failure. My lack of interest in marketing is a critical flaw. As a modern-day author, I appear to be woefully lacking in the necessary skills to make it big. Only, I do not care. I do care about what I write. I also try to ensure that it is to the highest standard possible. I have my own method of writing, my own style, and my own ideas. I am not interested in following trends or identifying audiences or limiting myself in anyway, being genre specific for example. The process driven approach to being an author does not attract me, the art of being a writer does.

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The Magic of Magick

Magick

In my last blog post I suggested that I would consider the subject of magick in my up and coming fantasy book ‘The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’. For those who might not be aware of it Magick is ‘the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will’. Magic, on the other hand, is the kind of thing that entertainers do. Is there really a difference? Well, it depends on your view of authenticity I suppose. I believe that the best examples of speculative fiction, that is anything that goes beyond the norm of everyday life, is actually rooted in that same everyday life. Fantastical things may occur, fabulous creatures may exist, but there is also a logic to the fantasy world that they occupy that underpins their validity within the bounds of the story. It is my experience that some authors really do not work too hard on establishing that necessary logic.

‘The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’ is a fantasy book. It takes place in a world that does not exist but closely mirrors our own. Many of the characters are preoccupied with the kind of things that most ‘normal’ people in our world are; living their lives as well as they can. Of course, if I left it at that then it would make for a mundane story. There has to be something different about this tale doesn’t there? Of course there does. It has a kind of magick that disrupts the mundane and places the people in danger. Who needs heroes if the world is not in some kind of danger?

The book does not rely upon the threat of magick to increase the tension alone, but it is a significant part the story. Although I dismissed most common features of traditional fantasy as a genre, elves, trolls, wizards and such, the element of magick was there from day one. I wanted it to be a motivating force in the development of both the plot and certain characters. I also wanted it to be rooted in some semblance of rationality. Looking at the paraphernalia of typical magick users I decided to dispense with wands, books of spells, amulets, rings, potions, and any other symbolic representation of magic through use of an artefact. Influenced by Aleister Crowley’s quote above, I contemplated a system of magick that is based on energy. The universe is full of energy. Matter is energy vibrating at a certain frequency. Magick is the manipulation of energy by a knowledgeable person exercising their will.

The key word in that last sentence is knowledgeable. The Mountain Kingdom of Oroson is ancient. It was originally occupied by a people who called themselves Panteans. Within Mt. Oroson they discovered something that they call the Localis, a node through which passes the knowledge of the universe. The Panteans begin to acquire this knowledge and it allows them to do things that other peoples would call sorcery. The Panteans build gates to control access not only onto their mountain but also through or over its many ridges, or spurs as they are called in the book, that divide up the continent. This is done with the power of transmutation. With their understanding of the material world consisting of elementary particles and energy the Panteans can change matter into any shape or consistency that they can imagine. Three thousand years later the Panteans have become a race in decline. They have become obsessed with the studying of the Localis. They no longer need to eat or sleep, everything that their physical bodies require is provided for by their magick. Longevity becomes their norm. When a new people arrive on Mt. Oroson the Panteans, or Old People as they become known, cede their kingdom to them quite peacefully. All they ask for in return is dominion over the cave in which the Localis resides. They leave their city and move into the cave. The more knowledge that the Panteans acquire concerning the nature of the universe the more removed from the mundane human world they become.

Inevitably, members of the New People become interested in the knowledge of the Old People, but learning it is a daunting task. They do not have access to the Localis itself and the Old People never wrote their discoveries down. Human words cannot express the totality of the knowledge that they have accrued. The New People are aware of the magick of the Old People, but it is spoken about as if it were a mythology. Two hundred or so years later the book opens with the New People more concerned with the matter of succession as their king lies on his deathbed without a male heir to continue his dynasty. In a similar way the magick of the Panteans appears to be passing away as they, as a people, are consciously evolving to become a part of the universe as beings of energy only. For those New People who wish to learn the secrets of the Old People the task seems impossible. Without reference to a written lore they can only guess at how the Old People built the city of Cirrius on the side of a mountain or erected the invulnerable gates that protect the kingdom from invasion.

I really like the idea of a system of magick in which an understanding of the nature of the universe is key. It appeals to my Pantheistic beliefs. Also, the use of imagination to achieve results. This is not a source of power that can be used by anyone who picks up a wand and mutters a few arcane words. Knowledge and understanding are at the heart of it. Ignorance is a barrier that must be crossed. This magick is not for parlour tricks, it can transform the physical world. It can be used to reshape solid materials into anything imaginable. Its ability to unleash destructive energy gives the user a power that equates to a nuclear weapon. Exposure to this magick inevitably changes the individual. Access to the power also brings a greater knowledge of the reality of existence. What was once important recedes to be replaced by a desire to achieve a greater understanding of everything. At least for most people who experience it. For some their resistance to the corruption offered by power, any kind of power, is not so strong. A faction within the Old People cannot move on from the point that they have reached. Indeed, they do not want to. They have been corrupted by the power that they can wield.

The real test of these ideas is in the writing. Does this theory of magic add anything to the story? Do the characters who come into contact with it risk anything in its practice? Will tension and excitement be added to the story? Well, I suppose the proof will be in the pudding. I look forward to hearing what readers think when the book is published, hopefully this summer.

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Writing the Big Battle Scenes

One of the things that really annoys me as both a writer and a reader is poorly executed battle scenes. So often I find them to be disappointing. Many authors seem to adopt a vague approach to writing these scenes, as if vagueness on their part some how conveys the confusion of battle to the reader. It does not. A lack of clarity just suggests a lack of research or, even worse, a lack of understanding. Some writers take the approach of adopting an eye in the sky perspective. They describe the conflict as if they are looking down on the battlefield from a great height. Although that approach can be useful for describing troop movements it also leads to the reader being removed from the action. Putting distance between the reader and the characters that they are supposed to care about is never a good idea.

Sky_castle

Cirrius, the City in the Clouds. Home to the Queen of the Mountain Kingdom.

When I started writing the ‘Sorrow Song Trilogy’ I realised quite early on the importance of giving an accurate description of the three major battles that each book concentrates on. I go a long way to explaining why they occurred, where they happened, the influence of the local geography, and the decisions made by the commanders that ultimately led to the outcomes. I did not adopt an eye in the sky approach but instead have chief characters describe events as they happened from their point of view. I used the same method to explain to the reader the arms, armour, and tactics that the warriors would use. All of this was the product of countless hours of research. In one review a reader mentioned that my battle scenes took them into the heart of the conflict and proved very immersive. I think that is exactly what such scenes should be like. Every reader has an imagination; an author should exploit it to the full. Lazy writing just frustrates it.

‘The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’, still a working title by the way, concludes with a large-scale battle. As I have moved away from the usual medieval setting for this fantasy book I have had to do more research. The aim of the battle remains exactly the same as that pursued by the protagonists at Fulford Gate, Stamford Bridge, and Sentlache Ridge near Hastings of course; to overcome the enemy. The detail is in how they go about it. I have read up on the appropriate strategy and tactics, weapons, and unit formations. I have placed various characters in the action so that I can describe it up close and personal. Events develop from their point of view. I must admit that I have really enjoyed writing this part of the book. When I was a child I used to play wargames with model soldiers. I think that I just got lost in a world of my own imagination during those battles. It might also be that this childhood experience has given me an insight into writing these conflicts with both detail and energy. I certainly hope that prospective readers think so.

There is one aspect of the battle in ‘The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’ that is different to the three others fought by my Saxon heroes, however; two powerful sorcerers are involved as well. ‘The Sorrow Song’ is historical fiction, ‘The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’ is fantasy. You get to play a lot more with fantasy. That said, I have been at pains to keep realism in the conflict as much as possible. The battle is being fought on two levels. First, there is that on which the soldiers fight. It is very logical and full of the madness of war. Second, there is that on which two individuals bring enormous amounts of magical power to bear as they try to destroy each other and give their respective side an edge over their opponents. I have never written anything like this before, so it was a challenge. To begin with I wrote the conventional battle in what is for me an equally conventional manner. It is not complete yet, but all the major points are there; the battle begins, the key moment of decision is reached, the battle ends. A lot of polishing is required, and I need to flesh out the role of several characters, but it is a working model. Next, I wrote the magical battle that overlays the conventional engagement. This is a little more intense because it only really involves two characters, who are at different ends of the battlefield, at least to begin with.

Remember my comment about vague writing? Well, I often find that descriptions of magic in fantasy novels are guilty of being vague. Few authors seem to really think about how magic could possibly work. J. K. Rowling is guilty of this in her ‘Harry Potter’ books. In fact, her use of magic appears to be contradictory. Some spells have to be said with a particular inflection to work properly, others just require a flick of the wrist and the use of a wand. I decided to try something different. My magical characters do not use wands or spells. In fact, they do not use ‘magic’ but rather ‘magick’. What is the difference? I decided to employ the definition attributed to Aleister Crowley, which is, ‘the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will’. The word magick is also used by some to differentiate their practice from that of entertainers. The magick that appears in ‘The Queen of the Mountain’ is not used for trivial purposes. Okay, it is to begin with. That is, the character Heren has to learn about the magick that she discovers inside herself so, obviously, she indulges in a few parlour tricks. In her defence I will say that she is consumed by a desire for revenge, which is why she ends up fighting a magical battle trying to assist her countrymen as they fight the conventional battle. I think that I will save the subject of my theory of magick for my next blog post and just finish the writing of battle scenes for now.

Creating two layers of a story is nothing new. Writers have used this technique many times in many books. I find the trick to be, especially when reserving this approach to a particularly exciting and dramatic event, that the two layers must compliment each other and add to the storytelling. The flow from one area of combat to another has to be smooth to be believable. Any jarring must be for effect only and should be reserved for key moments if it is going to be used. I use a series of rewrites to iron out the wrinkles. A lot of rewrites in fact. Smooth transitions between the two layers adds to the flow of the action, rather than diverting from it. I can see a possible area of conflict, however; both must be equally believable. I have no doubt that I can make the conventional battle credible. My pen is loaded with all that research after all, but what about the magical struggle? Well, hopefully, I will have already convinced the reader of the logic inherent in my system of magick to the point where they can suspend their disbelief and just go with the flow long before they reach the battle.

At the conclusion of the battle the two layers should merge together so as to achieve a seamless end to the encounter. I do not mean that all the ends must be neatly tided away, that is a plot concern. I mean that in the writing of this powerful event the reader should be able to move onto the next part of the story believing that a logical and rational end to the engagement has been reached. Its impact on the characters present will already be apparent in most instances. Certainly, for those that survive. They will have passed through the maelstrom and come out the other side just a little bit different. If my writing is any good then, perhaps, so will the reader.

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So Close Now

Writing 01

I am not sure whether I like this stage of writing or not? When I have an idea that I think has some life in it I get excited and full of energy. I really want to get the first draft done. Perhaps because I do not restrict myself on that phase I enjoy the writing so much? Perhaps, but I enjoy the other work as well. The first draft is a very rough piece of work. It needs polishing, and this is done in the form of research, plot constructions, character development, and other necessary tasks that might not be actual creative writing in themselves, but certainly make the end product all the better for it.

Now I find that ‘Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’ is very close to being finished. All the real writing has been done. I am editing and polishing the text. In my mind I have a full grasp of the plot and the larger picture against which the story is going to be played. To be honest this is another test of the story’s credibility. If I am still enjoying reading the manuscript for the umpteenth time then there must be something good about it, right? The fact is that I am enjoying it very much. As well as picking up the many typographical errors that invariably seem to creep into each and every line, despite many reviews, there are ideas, original and new, developing organically. Most of these are not particularly great or influential or absolutely necessary to the tale, but they all add depth in my opinion.

I think that it is worth repeating it again; the best fantasy tales are told within a believable world. I have read a few books where the author seems to have decided that they need nothing more than a little set dressing against which to tell their tale. Such a lack of depth leads to a book that also lacks gravitas. That is fine if the author intended to offer something whimsical or humorous, but if they are trying to be serious then, as a reader, I find that it fails.

There is no doubt that creating a logical and believable fantasy world has added significantly to the amount of time that I have taken to write this book. As a novel it is approximately 150,000 words long, but that is not the most words that I have written. ‘Eugenica’ has that record. ‘Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’ does have a large amount of background work, however. In fact, some of it is still not finished. I have drawn a couple of maps, all in a very rough style. They work for me as the writer, allowing me to place events and locations properly, but I would not show them to prospective readers. They need to be redrawn in a far more artistic style. I would like to do that but at the moment I am totally dedicated to getting this book finished. It is so close to being realised but, that said, I cannot yet say for definite when I will actually be finished.

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Getting My Travelling Legs Back

I consider it a milestone in my recovery from foot surgery that I recently managed to take a short holiday. It was the reason for me posting late again. My wife planned a visit to both London and Paris spread over a week. I have to admit that I was not sure if I was ready for this physically, but mentally I certainly was.

The trip to London was inspired by our son’s 21st birthday. When he was younger we had gotten permission to take him out of school for his birthday and we went on a family holiday to London. The highlight was a trip to London Zoo. I do not think that we appreciated how much of an impact this made on him as he wanted to repeat the experience.

I was using my crutches to get about. Thanks to previous visits I knew that London Zoon was simply too large for me to get around comfortably or even at a reasonable speed, so I ordered a wheelchair. I do not like using wheelchairs. People treat you differently when you are sat in a wheelchair. However, in this instance I swallowed my pride and did the right thing.  I also do not like zoos, but I do see them as necessary considering the destruction that our civilisation causes to ecologies and habitats around the world.

We stayed at an Airbnb house in Somers Town. It was a relatively short distance from Kings Cross Station and surprisingly close to Regent’s Park. Public transport is excellent in London. We have Oyster cards and they can be used on both buses and the underground. This makes getting around, even for someone with impaired mobility like me, easy. I would not take a wheelchair on the underground, but there are many stations that have improved access for disabled people. The crowds can be a problem but to be honest I have found that most people tend to treat me with consideration.

Donna at the Ritz

At the Ritz

After three days we said goodbye to our son and daughter and moved from Somers Town to Saint Pancras, the district not the hotel. As it was our 25th Wedding Anniversary we had decided to celebrate with a dinner and dance at the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly. It was worth getting dressed up for. My wife loves ‘putting on the Ritz’. She had her hair done at a local hairdresser’s and I booked a rather swish black Mercedes-Benz to get us to Piccadilly. I have to admit that we were somewhat disappointed by our experience. A friend had told me that staff at the Ritz treat all their guests the same and he was using personal experience to inform his opinion. When we arrived on time we were told that our table was not ready. It was suggested that we go and sit down while we waited. There was nowhere to sit. The only vacant table had a ‘Reserved’ notice on it, not that there seemed to be many chairs to sit down at anyway. We were left to walk up and down the corridor, me limping and leaning on my walking stick.

When we did get inside the dining room the situation seemed to improve. The décor was excellent, as was the food. I indulged us in buying the most expensive bottle of wine to date. I asked the waiter if we could keep the cork, we have a collection of them in a large glass vase at home. He said we could but then failed to give it to us. I reminded him again a little later and he said that he would bring it to us; of course, he never did. Entertainment was provided by two young dancers who did amazingly well with a very small dancefloor. There was also a band who played a variety of swing numbers. After we had eaten our meal it proved a little difficult to get a waiter’s attention so that we could pay the bill. I have to admit that we have received better treatment at other hotels.

The following day we headed for Paris, a city that I have wanted to visit for a very long

Eifel Tower

Paris by night

time. We used Eurostar from St. Pancras. On arrival there seemed to be a lot of people milling around not knowing what to do. There were two Eurostar employees, but they seemed disinterested in helping anyone. Even when asked for guidance their attitude was far from positive. Passing through security and passport control was very similar to any airport. This has really taken the joy out of travelling for me. A necessary evil, I suppose, but it just increases the feeling that travellers are just being herded together. The passenger lounge was large, uninspiring, and not particularly comfortable. It was also quite noisy. There was no glamour. Even when we boarded the train the situation was not improved by discovering that the toilets in our carriage were not only out of commission but apparently leaking!

Metropolitan

Art Nouveau

The journey to Paris is nothing spectacular but it is a journey to Paris. Once we arrived in Gare du Nord it began to feel that this part of the holiday was beginning to get interested. Our hotel was in Porte de Clichy in north Paris. It was close to both a metro station and a main service bus stop, however, this was a coach holiday. My wife had decided that seeing as I was still on crutches it would be easier for both of us if we took advantage of the organised trips and saw Paris from the comfort of the coach. We did get off at every stop though.

Our second day was spent at Versailles. I was encouraged by a member of staff there to use one of their wheelchairs. I was trying to get about on my crutches, but the palace is huge, and the crowds were going to increase too. I surrendered my independence once again and I must admit that it was the right thing to do. My wife did not have to worry about me getting pushed about by eager photographers and I did not get over tired.

We have visited several famous cities now, but Paris is the first time that I have

Montmarte Railing

Montmarte

immediately felt an affinity for the place. There is just something about it. Paris does not fail to please. Also, I found the people to be surprisingly friendly. Considering all the absurdity of Brexit (I hate that term) we, as English tourists, were not subjected to anything but consideration, well, accept for staff at Eurostar that is. I am not going to blame Paris for that, however. Thanks to the tour guide we got to see a very good Parisian cabaret, saw Paris by night, including the Eiffel Tower light show at 11pm, drove around the Arc de Triumphe several times, always fun, and visited Montmarte. The latter is a very beautiful and yet quint part of the city. There was not enough time to visit the Louvre, but we did take a sail down the Seine and got to see Notre Dame, obviously scarred by the recent fire.

Nightjar

In a London Speakeasy

Our return to London seemed to come all too quickly. We had one more night there and spent the next day watching Kelsey Grammer, of ‘Cheers’ and ‘Frasier’ fame, in ‘The Man from La Mancha’, which was excellent. At the end of the holiday I my foot and leg were quite swollen and uncomfortable. There just never seemed to be time to rest, which normally is a good thing when visiting places like London and Paris. For me, however, this proved detrimental. I had to spend my first day at home laid up, trying to encourage the swelling to reduce. I do not regret anything though. I also plan to return to Paris when I am fully able to walk without crutches or have to use a wheelchair again. I have got my travelling legs back!

Parisian T-Rex

The Terminator T-Rex of Paris!

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A Little Goes a Long Way

Over the weekend I got some cheering news. First, a reader posted a 5 Star Review ofEugenica ‘Eugenica’, which is always uplifting. As I wrote recently, this is my most personal book and it means an awful lot to me. I have struggled to find a readership for it, however. Despite the lack of uptake everyone who has read the novel has had only positive things to say about it. This reader was no exception.

I do a lot of research when writing. Eugenica was no different. As it involved the subject of eugenics there was a lot of reading to be done to make sure that I got the facts right. I found the subject matter quite disturbing even in its more positive vein, when it descended into the dysgenics promoted by the Nazis (they were not exclusive in this either) then it became harrowing. I wanted to capture something of that in my book, I think that I succeeded as the reviewer refers to my ‘chilling research’. This kind of observation makes all the work worthwhile.

The full review can be read here: Review Link

My War WolfFrom a very different source came some more kind words, a reader contacted from my website. They were prompted after buying a copy of ‘The War Wolf’, the first part of my Sorrow Song Trilogy that recounts the events of 1066. Again, my depth of research was praised. In particular, this reader really liked the back-story that explains why the Norman invasion of England even happened. I have to admit that when I was researching the story I found many accounts not only treated the Norman Conquest as inevitable but also went into very little detail as to why Guillaume of Normandy even undertook this dangerous military expedition. The same applies to King Harald Hardrada of Norway, who was the first to invade, choosing the north of the country instead of the south. Indeed, Hardrada’s incursion is often just used to justify King Harold and his Saxons failure at Hastings, a long-held theory that is not supported by the facts.

As a reader I enjoy books that have some depth to them. Although I enjoy dipping intoMesozoic the adventure genre I get bored of books that are either too lightweight or poorly researched. I think that is why I am willing to do the work for my own stories. Even ‘Mesozoic’, very much an adventure book itself, has some grounding in science. I worked hard to present a plausible account of possible time-travel. I could have merely written that the characters got into a time-machine and went back to the time of the dinosaurs. It would have been very easy to do. It would also have lacked a degree of authenticity too. The accounts of the animals, that is mostly the dinosaurs, are based on scientific facts that were accurate at the time of the writing of the book. I like to think that that gives Mesozoic a degree of gravitas.

I think that everyone knows that feedback is valuable. As a writer the posting of a review or receiving an email from an appreciative reader is the only real evaluation of your work that you get. Even though Amazon and other vendors make it relatively easy to post a review very few people, in my experience, have gone to the bother of doing so. I wish that this was not the case. It is not as if a full book report is required, as you can see from the review linked above. It is very succinct and to the point. I appreciate it just as it is.

If you have read any of my books and intended to leave a review but never got around to doing so can I just say that it is never too late. Just a few kinds word really do go a long way.

https://www.petercwhitaker.co.uk/

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