That moment all authors relish when I finally have a copy of my book in hand. The finished product.
The result of many months of work. Months in which whenever the dreaded writers’ block descended, I wondered if I’d ever get to the end. Now the book’s been delivered. I’m holding it.
Rather like the new-born baby. My creation.
Thoughts now turn to how readers are going to react to it. Will they chuckle and love it or will they throw my baby out with the bathwater? If they’re like Dora in the above cartoon, totally absorbed by it, then it will truly have been worthwhile.
Penzance Literary Festival
16th-20th July 2014
A mystic moment on the Cornish coast when I was down giving a talk at the Penzance Literary Festival.
I was staying at a retreat near St Just on Cape Cornwall, four minutes walk from the coastal path.
The first evening of my stay, I decided to take a two hour round hike up to the nearby Kenidjack Iron Age Cliff Castle. Here, there are 800 BC ramparts, the bases of round cairns and the ruins of a chapel which you can see on the top right of my pic. To get to the castle I had to dip down into the valley where there are the extensive remains of tin mining granite buildings and a tower. Up on that promontory you can see for miles along the coast and out to the Scilly Isles.
Whilst there, the threatening inky black sky you can see in the background of the pic rumbled with thunder and lightning flickered in circles round me across the moorland. If ever there was a time to reflect on life it was that moment, looking out over a sullen grey sea, gulls wheeling below, the sky alive and crackling above me, evidence of three thousand years of man's involvement with Nature from the hewn granite stones of the Iron Age ramparts on which I was perched down to the 19th century tin mining ruins in the valley to my left. Surreal. Mind blowing.
As I reach the final chapter of my life, it was a reminder of just how small a part we all play in the grand design and ever-evolving history that is Planet Earth.
Cover of Pets Aplenty
An artist friend of mine, David Brackston, www.brax.org.uk has put together some cartoons I drew and coloured them in to create the above design for my forthcoming novel, Pets Aplenty.
This reflects the content of the book, with the rabbit suffering tooth ache and the pony bent on biting the young vet, Paul, whenever the opportunity arose. Hopefully it will encourage browsers to dip into the book.
They say that the opening lines also need to grab a reader’s attention. I thought long and hard on this and rewrote the opening page many times until I felt it had sufficient pull to encourage a reader to continue.
And here it is:
JUST WHERE DOES THE BUCK STOP?
I’d just hopped across the shopping precinct, perspiration trickling down my spine, and was crouched outside Westcott’s Pet Emporium, when two men staggered out from the Crown and Anchor, a local watering hole adjacent to the Pound Shop, and swayed to a halt. One grasped the sleeve of the other.
'Christ, Sean, do you see what I see?’ slurred the sleeve holder, pointing at me while bringing his free hand up to rub first his right eye and then his left, shaking his head once he’d done so.
'It’s a rabbit, Mick,' declared his mate, attempting to focus his bleary eyes on me, but failing miserably.
‘Jesus, I know it’s a rabbit, but just look at the bloody size of it.’
‘Tis big to be sure.’
‘To think they sell rabbits that big,’ said the sleeve holder, looking up at the pet shop sign.
‘Tis enough to scare the shit out yer,’ said Mick’s mate, still in his clutches, both rocking from side to side.
‘Hi guys,’ I called out from where I was crouched in front of the shop, my voice muffled by the rabbit costume I was wearing.
‘Bloody hell, Sean,’ spluttered the sleeve holder. ‘It can talk too.’
‘What did it say, Mick?’
‘Don’t care what it bloody well said, Sean, I can’t be having with a rabbit that talks. Especially one that size.’
‘I need another drink,’ exclaimed Mick’s mate.
Both men reeled back inside the pub from which they’d just emerged.
Does it work? Well, let’s hope so.
Pets Aplenty is due to be published summer of 2014.
During mid-April a carpet of bluebells slowly unfurled through the woods that grace the slopes down from our house – a carpet complimented by the tracery of pale green beech leaves above it.
I was requiring a new photo of Dora to possibly use for her May diary on www.sixtyplusurfers.co.uk/links so what better than have her haloed in blue? Mind you, her steadfast refusal to look at the camera made the air turn blue with the mutterings from me. But in the end it was worth persevering.
Finding a Home for Pets Aplenty
The first couple of months of 2014 found me looking at the options for publishing my third pet novel, Pets Aplenty. My agent at Sheil Land Associates proposed using their in-house publisher to produce a print-on-demand(POD) and Kindle version.
Robert Hale Publishers offered a contract to publish the book next year. I considered the possibility of using companies such as ebook Versions and PublishNation to do the donkey work for me and produce an ebook and POD.
The self-publishing POD/ebook route was tempting as it would have meant having full control over the production and the subsequent revenue generated. The advice given me by the Society of Authors was very thorough and invaluable during my weeks of deliberations.
In the end I plumped for a traditional publisher, Austin Macauley, who showed their keenness to offer a traditional publishing contract within weeks of contacting them and with the added allure of a summer publishing date.
My Route to Rio
12th-28th January 2014
Another request – this time from Cunard – any possibility of joining the Queen Victoria on a sector of her world cruise? I had four days’ notice. Was flown over to Miami to join the ship in Port Everglades. It was then over to Barbados where I got the chance to swim with some turtles; and do the very Caribbean thing of strolling along a coral-sand beach, the warm sea lapping round my ankles, sipping a glass of rum punch (courtesy of the crew of the catamaran we were on).
But that particular bay was devoid of people as it was part of a hotel complex that had gone bust. So pure bliss. The ship headed for South America, cruising down to Rio de Janeiro – the stop here undoubtedly being the highlight for me.
Next, Montevideo, Uruguay before sailing on to Buenos Aires where I was able to take a guided tour round the city – to include a stop at the cemetery with its amazing collection of mausoleums including that of Eva Peron’s family – before flying back to the UK that evening.
Rio and Copacabana Beach from the Queen Victoria
The ship sailed into Rio early on Friday 24th January just as the sun was rising. I had expected something dramatic but the sight exceeded all expectations. A magnificent harbour backed by mountains.
We slid past the base of Sugar Loaf Mountain coloured pink by the early rays of the sun; while behind it, in the distance we could see the stretch of coast that was Copacabana beach and that sector of the city it fronted, the backcloth of mountains behind it. Stunning.
Sugar Loaf Mountain
This slab of granite rises to 1293 ft and was first climbed by an Englishwoman in 1817.
My climb was rather easier in two stages by cable-car. Fair number of people milling about but worth the jostle for the spectacular views.
View across to Corcovado Mountain
This 2310 ft mountain with its 125 ft high statue of Christ the Redeemer was visited later in the afternoon via a funicular railway.
Another ‘must-take’ pic of Copacabana Beach
We had forty-five minutes to spare before going up Corcovado Mountain, so our guide decided to drop us off in the middle of the Ipamena district for a spot of shopping. Er … No thanks. I discovered we were only a block away from the beach front. So I scuttled down there to find myself padding along the edge of the sea, surrounded by a throng (or should that have been thong?) of lithesome tanned bodies – exhibiting the best of beach chic ie wearing barely anything – with me sticking out like a sore thumb in chinos and short sleeved shirt. Way out of my comfort zone and baking.
This two-mile stretch of beach is marked by posts which demarcate where certain groups of people congregate. I walked past Posto 9 which I later learnt is known as Cemeterio dos Elefantes due to the handful of old has-been hippies and artists who gather there. So I didn’t feel too out-of-place even if my beads were only ones of perspiration.