On your marks…


Can’t progress with R&M#6 in my editing process until I have a hard copy to work with. Still trying to find someone to help me out with a printer for that. (I don’t want to buy one!)

In the mean time I might as well use my time productively by getting Acer#4 started. And the distraction of writing seems to take my mind off the urge to scratch. (See previous post.)

I’ve relocated for writing this one – I’m out of the writing room and on the balcony. Acer is an outdoorsy type and I need to get in the mood for that. It’s a sunny day here in Ankara. Blue skies and a good autumnal chill in the air.

Here goes.

The price is high.

Some say that truth can be stranger than fiction. I say there is nothing stranger than when truth meets fiction. My current read is Misery by Stephen King. I’m fifty-two years old. I’ve been an avid reader all my adult life. This is my first Stephen King. I really can’t say why I have been putting him off for so long. I’ll be reading more and soon. I’m loving Misery. Actually, what I’m loving is King’s way with words. He does make you feel: horror, humour, despair, anger, fear… it’s all in there and I’m only halfway through it. I am truly frightened of the female lead in this book.

One of the two central characters is an author who has been horribly injured in a car crash in the middle of nowhere in heavy snow. He is rescued by a retired psychotic nurse who takes him home with her and proceeds to make his life a Misery. The man’s name is Paul Sheldon.

Sheldon is confined to a room for months as he is forced by the woman, Annie Wilkes, to write another novel in a series she adored but that he had abandoned. Naturally, he starts going mad.

On Wednesday of this week, October, 21st, I finished the first draft of the seventh in my Romney and Marsh Files series. It shall be called A White-Knuckle Christmas. I started this book on the 29th of September. That means I wrote the first draft in twenty-three days. It’s eighty thousand words. Pretty good going for me. A personal best. (If I’d delayed a bit and written it next month I could have entered NaNoWriMo and maybe won a prize.) But like Paul Sheldon I think that the price for my achievement might be high.

Like Paul Sheldon I think I might be suffering with a bit of cabin fever – I might have pushed my limits too far on this one. And living with my version of ‘Annie’ isn’t helping. The similarities are uncanny. It might not be wise for me to delve into specific examples too deeply on a public forum for fear of repercussions in the form of unwanted and medically unnecessary amputations of bits of me while I’m asleep. I truly wouldn’t put it past my ‘Annie’ these days. It’s almost like my state of stir crazy is having a symbiotic and inverse knock-on effect on her complete with violent mood swings, unreasonable expectations (why should I wash the dishes, make the bed, tidy up a bit just because I’m home all day?) and other myriad examples of disturbing behaviour that suggest I’m shacked up, like Paul Sheldon, with a nutcase teetering on the cusp of a sociopathic episode.

One incident I feel it’s OK to mention is that in the book Paul Sheldon breaks out of his room and while exploring the house in his wheelchair he picks up an ornament… and doesn’t put it back in the exact same place. Annie notices and there is hell to pay (and a body part). The other day while the Halfling and I were putting our shoes on to go to school there was a yelling from the front room, something about who’s been playing with my organisations? (A silver goblet had been moved out of alignment with its twin.) There followed the thundering of heavy slippers approaching rapidly. When our ‘Annie’ showed her murderous mush round the door frame the Halfling and I pointed at each other. Those manic eyes danced between us, like tadpoles on acid, for the truth and with a snarl and threats for what would happen to anyone caught playing with things that don’t belong to them our ‘Annie’ was gone. Life imitating art.

Like Paul Sheldon I worry about waking in the middle of the night in the middle of a thunder storm to find my ‘Annie’ glowering at me from the foot of the bed with a hatchet in her hand and evil on her unhinged mind shouting something about putting dirty plates in the dishwasher.


As well as paying a high price mentally for my art I am also suffering physically. I cannot be certain yet that my problem is a side effect of spending hours a day on my backside in my new writer’s chair or something else. I am monitoring the situation and the factors I believe worthy of consideration regarding it.

To give the best idea of my physical problem this picture will paint at least a couple of hundred painful words.


Whenever I’ve seen the angry looking hind quarters of a red-arsed baboon my first thought has always been, is that as sore as it looks? And now I know. From experience. It is.

I think I am suffering from a nasty case of ‘writer’s arse’. Followers of this blog may remember my recent brush with ‘jogger’s nipple’ and of course there is ‘athlete’s foot’. Why not ‘writer’s arse’?

It is the skin of my buttocks and rear of my upper thighs that is affected. I’m afflicted with a constant chronic itching sensation. Our washing powder brand has not changed so it’s not that. (And in any case it’s only my backside that is causing problems). It can’t be the covering material of my new writer’s chair. (I have tried cushions and T-shirts as barriers between the fabric and me. And I don’t type in the nude anyway.) It could be those new skin-tight lycra running shorts I bought at the gym. (I want to ask my fitness instructor if anyone else is having similar issues with their cut price clothing but after the incident with my nipples I’m not keen to start on about my bum. That really could mean trouble for me.) But it could also be the fact that I’m spending so long sitting down at a desk each day.

The irritation is something excruciating. I’m scratching all day and night. Thank heavens my route for walking the Halfling to school is relatively unpopulated – I’m going down the road like the missing link.  Or I was until I found the one thing that soothes it – the liberal application of Sudocream to the affected area. I discovered this desperate measure on Tuesday. It had worked for my son’s nappy rash and we had some over. I would have tried anything by then. Clearly. The relief was something divine. After only a couple of minutes the urge to sandpaper my backside back to the bone had gone. I lay down on my front on the floor of my son’s bedroom with my boxers round my knees just letting the Sudocream do its thing. The next thing I knew ‘Annie’ (home from work unexpectedly early) was kicking me in the side wanting to know what the hell I was doing unconscious on the floor of the boy’s bedroom with my pants round my knees, the greased arse of a cross channel swimmer and a half empty pot of Sudocream rolling around the floor. Thank God I hadn’t been munching my way through a bag of carrots when I passed out.


A couple of articles I came across this week that I found interesting.


Joanne Harris and I have at least one thing in common: I’m always banging the ‘writers are nothing without readers’ drum. She says something very similar. Maybe a bit too similar. Maybe I should have a word with my legal team. Plagiarism is not nice Ms Harris.

And something I learned from Mark Dawson’s success:


I should have created an email contacts list. He claims to have thousands on his. Can you go wrong with a new book release with that sort of ready made and waiting market of readers?


I’ve been talking about looking at my online presence with a view to making it more professional looking. I was wondering about employing a web designer to make me a website. I can’t afford it. So I looked at my WordPress site (the one you’re looking at now) and thought to take on board some advice I’ve seen around the Internet regarding presentation and bring it to bear here. I’ve simplified it and focussed more on the content. I’ve decluttered the home page and standardised the other pages with book links and spiel. I also have a really good idea for a banner heading, which I’m speaking to my cover designer about soon. (The temporary one is fine for now.) I’m actually quite happy with the changes.

Back soon. Her indoors is calling me. Hang on! Did she shout: Paul!? Aaaaarrrgggghhhhh

PB: 10k – 42.01

No, no, no, no and no! Oh, go on then.

I said I wouldn’t but it looks like I am. Part of me is cross with myself. Part of me is relishing the challenge. It’s going so well that I just have to give it a try. For the hell of it. But I am NOT going to make a habit of it. I am going to try and finish the first draft of R&M#7 in a calendar month. (There that should jinx it. Cue writer’s block)

Only last week I said I wouldn’t put myself under that sort of pressure. Well, actually it doesn’t feel like pressure. What the intervening week has felt like is just writing and enjoying it. The word count continues to grow (it’s currently at sixty-two thousand words and in all the R&M Files I haven’t written one over a hundred thousand words. This one doesn’t look like being any different. But I don’t know because being a ‘pantster’ [how I despise that term] I have no idea when, how, or where it’s going to finish.) And I’m not chained to the desk every waking hour. I have a good work/life balance. If I manage to do it I’ll probably blog, for fun and posterity, on my typical daily timetable. I first saved something of this project on the 29th of October. That makes me think that’s when I started it. (You can see why I write detective novels.) So including tomorrow I have eleven days left.


I’ve had a couple more comments on Particular Stupidities where readers have highlighted their lack of enthusiasm regarding Grimes’ speech for part of the book. I’m not going to argue with anyone about it – their feelings for it are their feelings for it. Fair enough. And there’s a lesson in it all for me the writer who doesn’t want to alienate his readers. Recently I came across this on the Internet, which I found interesting and relevant to the topic. Interesting enough to share it here. The process of reading holds some interest for me.


Grimes’ speech in the book doesn’t fit this model exactly. The first and the last letter of each word are correct but I did add some extra letters to many words for his impediment.


The next book I write will be Acer Sansom #4. There. Said it. Happy to be committed to it. I’ve been thinking often about Acer and what could happen for him next. I keep having ideas. Last Sunday I sat down with a cup of coffee on the balcony (it’s still warm enough for that here) and jotted some things down. On paper it looks like I’m planning, which is most unlike me the writer. Anyway, I’ve got enough for the first few chapters and I’m quite excited about it.


One thing I’d be interested to hear from anyone about is any writer’s website they’ve come across and been impressed with and maybe why. I said last week that I’m looking at doing something about my online presence. I’ve been looking at other author’s websites for ideas to include in my own and I’ve been surprised by how few of them I’ve been wowed by – even the ones that come up on the Google search as ‘the best author websites ever!!’.


(In case you didn’t recognise him, that’s Fyodor Dostoyevsky up top. I learned from a reader’s comment last week that he wrote a book in a month. It’s called The Gambler. There’s an interesting story behind it.


PB: 10k – 42.24

There’s comedy gold in them there stills!

I’ve never been much of a Charlie Chaplin fan. Searching Google images for something to go with this post I came across the above still from The Gold Rush. It made me laugh. Maybe it’s time to give Chaplin another crack of the whip. Maybe his sense of humour is something for a more mature audience.

One of the most enjoyable things for me as a writer of crime novels is when a plot line idea occurs that makes me laugh out loud with its potential. (Yes, I did juxtapose ‘writer of crime novels’ and ‘laugh out loud’. I don’t see why a crime novel shouldn’t have its lighter moments.) I had that welcome and motivating experience this week while working on R&M#7. I think I even shouted ‘Comedy Gold!’. It’s OK; the house was empty. I just hope I can fully mine it and maximise its potential. I want to talk about it here. I want to share the idea with someone who would understand and appreciate it. But I can’t/won’t because I don’t like spoiling my own books. Sometimes being a writer can be quite frustrating. 😦

R&M#7 is progressing nicely. Almost forty thousand words now. I started this book thirteen days ago today. With every day that passes the thought grows that I should challenge myself to see how quickly I can finish the first draft. Could I write a book in a month? In my more sensible moments I realise that’s not such a great idea for me as a writer or a person. I’m not going to generate that sort of pressure for myself. I never much enjoyed having targets and deadlines in my professional life. I’ll be damned if I’m going to bring them into my private life. Besides, I think I’m going to have to take a break from this one to go back to R&M#6.

As I have done with the last couple of books, I recently pinged off the rough first draft of R&M#6 to my daughter’s Kindle as a word document. As well as there being something special for me in her being the first to read it, she is an objective and critical reader who knows what she likes and isn’t afraid to highlight what she doesn’t. She finished it yesterday. She says she likes it better than R&M#6 Particular Stupidities. Now I must get back to the next editing stage in order that it can move along the production conveyor belt to my gentleman friend and proofreading.

I’ve been giving some thought to the way I present myself online. And my conclusion is that it’s a bit amateurish. This blog and my FB page are about it and neither of the banners on those mentions anything about my books or that I’m a crime writer. WTF? I’m thinking that it’s about time I had a proper website with a proper domain name. Something to give the impression that I’m taking what I do seriously. I bought olivertidy.com a couple of years ago for just such an event. In truth it’s probably well overdue, but better late than never. It would be a good first step on the road to a more professional online presence. All the best authors have them. And as my dear old mum always says: if you can’t beat them, cheat. And my daughter tells me: fake it till you make it.

Proclaiming a naming, an inflaming and an acclaiming.

Named: The Sixth Romney and Marsh File.

Inflamed: a fitness instructor.

Acclaimed: that’s him up top.

Read on to find out more.

It’s been a good week for me: me the writer, me the born again fitness freak, me the solitary person.

The Halfling started school on Monday so I’ve been responsibility free throughout the days. That’s been good for all three of me (the writer, the born again fitness freak and the solitary person).

I finally gave the sixth Romney and Marsh File a name – Unhappy Families. It works and it fits. But I don’t know how the cover designer is going to get the R&M Files signature effect into the typography. Not my problem.

Then I gave it a couple of read-throughs. A bit of tweaking here and there. Next job is to get it printed off somewhere. (How I miss school sometimes.) Then I’ll give it some read-throughs with the highlighter pens. I like that bit.

Then when I’m as happy as I can be I’ll send it off to my gentleman friend for some proofreading and editing suggestions. And forget about it for a while.

Last Wednesday I started my next book. Surprise, surprise – R&M #7. It’s started well. I’m twenty-thousand words in with lots of places to go in my head and lots to write. And I have a title. It’s a good one. I just have to make the book fit it. If I can’t I’ll change the title, not the book.

I’m reflecting on how it’s been this week, the first week of living the writing life. OK, actually. Sitting on my backside all day, drinking tea and making stuff up seems to suit me. But I am mindful that I’ve got to get out and about from time to time. The school run (walk) morning and afternoon helps. And, as mentioned before, I’ve joined a gym. I’m getting into that. I just hope I haven’t spoiled things for myself there.

There are two types of men who visit the gym: those who can’t get enough of looking at themselves in the walls of mirrors and those who, like me, spend all our session trying to avoid our reflections.

I found a real running top in the back of the wardrobe last week. I’ve been wearing it at the gym in the hope that I can get a faster time on the treadmill for my warm up run. (A bit like racing stripes on a boy-racer’s car and about as effective.)Trouble is the top is a bit tight and the material has started chaffing. I’ve run off and on for the last thirty years but this is the first time in my life I’ve suffered with jogger’s nipple. It is excruciatingly painful and quite distracting when one is engaged in the act of running, even on the spot on a treadmill. (Why does that seem like such a waste of time?)

When I got off the treadmill today at the end of my regular 100 metres jog my right nipple really was sore. I needed to check it out so I slipped into one of the empty side rooms. As luck would have it just as I was preparing to investigate, one of the fitness coaches entered in search of something. (All the fitness instructors down there are big, beefy and hirsute, especially the men.) He saw me in obvious discomfort and using signs and body language asked if I was OK. I shook my head. But not knowing how to communicate my problem I lifted up my shirt and pointed to my nipple. In a bid to make him understand I used a finger to gently caress it. Because it was sore I was unable to stop myself from making noises associated with the sharp intaking of breath. I might also have moaned.

His expression changed from professional concern to something a lot darker and more personal. He stormed out muttering and slammed the door making the glass in the windows rattle. It didn’t occur to me until he’d left that my performance could be misinterpreted. Pleasure and pain, like other extremes such as love and hate are often confused. (If I see him in the communal showers I’ll turn my back on him. [Maybe that’s not such a good idea.])

I kept my head down when I left. I just hope he’s forgotten all about it by Monday. Ah, Monday when everyone’s back at work and school. I can’t wait.


I think it never hurts to get a reminder, some reinforcement, of the basics of a trade in which one is working. It’s a well known maxim in the writing trade that writers need to read. I had my reminder of that this week.

I got my hands on two books recently that I’ve been looking forward to reading: The Martian by Andy Weir – Hollywood blockbuster movie out now – and The Moving Target the first in the Lew Archer series of detective novels by Ross MacDonald.

I started with The Martian. I packed that in after about 10%. I’m not saying it isn’t a great book (I can’t after only 10%) but the writing didn’t grab me. I will try it again sometime.

I went straight onto The Moving Target and immediately understood what The Martian  had been missing for me. Cracking dialogue, superbly and economically drawn characters (The operator was a frozen virgin who dreamed about men at night and hated them in the daytime.), descriptive language that, like Chandler, is so concise and perfect, and fast moving plot. Every line was a joy to read. A pleasure.

I’m not comparing the books. They are so different in concept that they can’t be compared. I understand the limitations of having one man on Mars. I just didn’t enjoy reading about it.

The reinforcement I got from reading MacDonald was the need in my line of writing country to aim to write more like him.

I have a lot of time for that era of American fiction: Raymond Chandler, John D MacDonald and now my new discovery. I hope all the Lew Archer novels are as good because there are quite a few of them. I’m interested to find more authors of that time and place.

(PB: 10k – 42.30.)