Let us talk of Many things….

The Wonderful Helen Hollick has asked me to join her and a number of other History Authors in September for a Nautical based Blog hop, The theme will be anything connected to the sea – Fishing, Naval, Pirates, smugglers etc etc, Should be good.

Meantime, check out her Blog , writing, history, writing history etc. 

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Day from hell

Today has been the day from Hell at work (I blame the heatwave, seems to bring out the nutters). I have some great ideas, both for new short stories, and full length novels, but I have no mind left to organise those thoughts into any form of plan. so, instead, I am drinking red wine, and listening to this from Pakistan’s Lohikarma .

 

 

Persistent, Polite and Persuasive

writerlywitterings

This weekend I received a new book in the post. Actually I received three, but only one is relevant for this blog post.

 

I regularly get books posted to me. Sometimes it’s a pain, especially when I’m in the middle of a book myself. Why? Because when I’m sitting at my desk trying to write 5-7,000 words a day, I can’t afford the distraction of another book that will tempt me away from my own work.

 

Disraeli once said “when I want to read a book, I write one”. One thing is certain: when an author is writing, it is absolute death to his art to read another person’s work. I can’t. If I do, my writing takes on that writer’s style. There’s some sort of osmosis that seeps into the keyboard or something.

 

However, I have been persuaded to read The Ravens of Solemano by Eden…

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Book Review – Saddle Sore, Steve Briggs

saddle sore

This book is available as an ebook from Amazon . Part Travelogue, part wry look at America and American people, part historical and social comment, it is well worth picking up.

Steve Briggs left the Navy aged 39 and decided to spend a “Gap Year” cycling around the USA.  This documents his journey, starting from Florida, passing through 30 states on his way up the east coast and down the the Midwest, ending exhausted and damn near broken in New Orleans.  A picture of America as a land of contrasts socially is built up – from the affluent Floridians to Inner city Balitmore, from the thriving metropolis of Chicago to the industrial wasteland of Gary, Indiana. Bear in mind this was 1998, when the Clinton/Lewinski scandal broke, and the political background is never far from the book.

Also tackled is the problem with cycling in the country – from lack of tolerance of drivers, to astonishment that someone would actually undertake such a task, to the unreliable maps and meaningless road signs – and you wonder just how he completed this! What made his journey sufferable, and makes the book though is the people who he meets, who put him up for a day here and there, Characters all, from Bikers, to vegans to just Mr and Mrs Ordinary.

This is a book that will have you belly laughing one minute,  arguing politics the next, and might just increase your knowledge of American History and geography too. A brilliantly written book, that could only be improved with maps on each chapter to make charting where he is easier. That aside, buy it, read it and enjoy it.  Rating – 5 Beers

Taimur Tajik new album preview

So, following on from yesterdays post about my column in Metaltalk.net  I have reviewed and interviewed a Karachi based band called Taimur Tajik a month back . I first heard them 2 years ago with the release of their debut Album Vice versa (available for download here . A brilliant rock band (think Alice in Chains, guns and Roses et etc) . Well, their second Album is due out next month, so, here is the sampler preview teaser thing.

If that whets your appetite, then this below is the already released title track. Enjoy.

Metaltalk.net

I may have mentioned that I am a columnist/review for the metaltalk.net E-zine. I mainly deal with bands coming out of the middle east and my latest column is a review of Syrian thrashers Anarchadia‘s first full length Album “Let us All Unite” which features a guest appearance by Iced Earth’s Jon Schaeffer. Here is a snippet, check my review for more on this fantastic album, and indeed check the whole ezine out.

 

Writing and research.

Writing the short stories was born out of research for a novel – Staymaker which is currently in the editing stage. They are all based on information I found out, using various books, internet sources and the Old Bailey’s trial records which fell outside the dates Staymaker takes place but nonetheless provided material useable as short stories and giving the reader a prequel of sorts to the Novel.

With novels based on historical events and using actual historical characters, it can seem that most of the work is done for you to a large extent – the plots are determined by the actual events you are depicting, the historical characters names and back stories are fixed by their real counterparts, all you are doing is fleshing this into a narrative that presents itself as exciting and readable. Here then, is where the work starts. What was life like in the 18th Century for the common man? What did an 18th Century breakfast consist of? How long would it take to ride from Bristol to Beckenham on a horse? Those kinds of questions may only account for a minor part of the story, but get them wrong, and someone will take you to task. Fictional Characters involved in your plot have to fit the time and their motivations have to be bang on. Again, back stories need to be true to history, for example, an ex soldier needs a regiment, and that regiment will have taken part in actual battles which will affect his motivation etc.

So, the events and people in the short stories are all based on things that happened, and the people they happened to. Gabriel Tomkin really was a bent customs officer, rising high in the service before he was found out (researching more into this at the moment for my next project). Trip Stamford, Arthur Gray and other members of the Hawkhurst Gang really did ambush and kill Thomas Carsewell in 1741 as he fought through mud trying to get a captured cache of smuggled goods to Hastings. Two customs officers were tied up and left for the tide on a beach near Arundel in Sussex, two more were tied to their horses outside a Heathfield pub and those horses whipped on, taking the men who-knows-where. (Richard Mann’s story is pure fiction, but again, this was what they did to other informers.) The battle between the Hawkhurst gang and the Wingham men in the early morning did happen, and did destroy the Wingham smugglers. Equally, Polehil and the other two men mentioned in the final story did take two years to come forward with evidence about Arthur Kingsmill, the reason for them finally coming forward is my own.

To find this out, I have made use of letters between Sir John Collier and others, witness statements recorded during trials as well as later books written by historians with a keen interest in the Subject. I have had to become more than just a writer, but also a historian to interpret the evidence into believable motives for the characters I am portraying. So yes, the basic plots and characters may be in place and set in stone, but it isn’t an easy option, however, it is more interesting!