Some of you will remember the story, set out in Shadow Dancing, about how, a few days after I bought this house, a near death British Blue, (or she might be a Chartreuse, identical except for a slight difference in eye colour) came staggering down the mountain, as thin as a rake and obviously dying of starvation, having eked out her fragile existence by catching the occasional mouse and finding a little rainwater to drink.
I doubt that she weighed more than three kilos, so I fed her and gave her clean water to drink, and I think that she decided to adopt me as her human slave.
I bought her an automatic cat food dispenser and a water tower, and she recovered remarkably quickly, and filled out until she now weighs something over ten kilos, around twenty three pounds, because these are big cats. Most adult cats top out at around five or six kilos.
I don't think you can talk about "love" between such different creatures as felines and humans, but there is certainly a degree of affection. She is never hungry or thirsty, because of her automatic systems, but frequently leaps silently up on me and tucks herself into my armpit. If this happens while I am still in bed with my eyes closed, I can tell you that the impact of twenty three pounds of solid bone and muscle on your chest is extremely significant.
She is extraordinarily silent, never making a sound, except that once she is settled into my armpit she purrs, extremely quietly, a sort of deep subterranean rumbling, so quiet that you have to crane your head to hear it. She still has the killer instinct which helped her to survive on the mountain, so I often find a small and very dead offering outside the back door. Never hungry, she just kills them, as if to prove that she can.
My neighbours in the next house down the hill have twenty or so scrawny ill fed cats, and whenever I have mentioned the possibility of neutering at least the tomcats, he has refused to even consider it. 'It would fly in the face of nature ' he said.
She is enormously powerful (for a cat), and I once saw her dealing with one of the scrawny toms from next door, who had decided to try his luck with Glamourpuss. She turned, as quick as a flash, and gave him what in boxing terms would be called a right hook, which sent him skittering across the path for at least a couple of metres, possibly seven feet or more. We never saw him again, that's for sure, and Glamourpuss looked up at her human slave as if to say "I taught him a lesson, didn't I? "
She may of course have her own cat name. She certainly doesn't answer to any name I give her, just treats our house as her home. She has not only superb night vision, seeing in the dark as well as we can see by day, but she has phenomenal hearing. We live set back from quite a busy road, and she ignores most cars passing by completely. However she can identify my little russian helper's car when she is al least a kilometre away, and turns her head to follow her through the gate, up our drive and into the parking space. At first Glamourpuss was quite hostile, glaring with her huge golden eyes as if to say "I am the female in this house. What are you doing here?" But now they are getting used to each other. The only thing she cannot bear is the sound of the vacuum cleaner, which sends her rushing to a quieter place."
So there we are. Living alone with only Glamourpuss and my superb MacBook Pro for company is not ideal, but we have to learn to adapt, don't we? Right, back to book 3, Shadows, Lynx and Shires, because as the say in all the books "It won't write itself".
So you wake up, your mind filled with ideas, if you are lucky, or empty of any thought but breakfast. Overall is the brooding presence of the computer on my desktop, and so eventually you sigh and go and sit down in front of the amazing Apple computer. Even the cheerful Apple "bong" does not lift your mood very much. However as soon as you look at last night's work - 9 o'clock - was this an early night? - your last night's characters seem to come alive. One speaks and another character responds, and away you go. This is a sort of magic as if the pesky characters have been waiting all night to carry the story on. it is as if they had been thinking about the story while the computer was switched off.
So, what has been going on apart from writing? We have looked as a new version of the Shadow Dancing cover. Here is a picture of it, and also of the original cover. We would very much like your opinion as to which you would prefer.
Book 2, provisionally entitled "Shadows and Lilies", is waiting anxiously in the wings for me to give my editor, Frankie Sutton, the go-ahead.
I am, at the moment, very much enjoying the writing of Book 3 which is provisionally titled "Shadows, Lynxes and Shires". It carries the Charles and Amanda story forward and brings in and elucidates the other characters, and while it is no more than 60% complete at the moment, when it is published we hope you will enjoy it as much as the other two books.
Original book cover
Provisional book cover
What I’ve only recently noticed that, when writing, I seem to be locked into an emotional linkage with the words.
I initially thought that this only happened when I was writing about something directly or indirectly connected with my own personal experiences as an inventor and design engineer, but recently, in book 3 in the Charles and Amanda series, provisionally titled “Shadows blue, silver and gold” I’ve been writing about things about which I have virtually no direct knowledge, such as coronary problems, and Shire horses, and Percherons, and I still, frequently, find myself in tears again.
I don’t think this lachrimosity affects the quality of the writing, such as it is, although it certainly slows things down.
Does anyone else have this problem?
The view over the Aegean from my house
Greece is a beautiful historic and fascinating country, at the moment largely misunderstood. We know that a lot of people are not planning to visit, or have cancelled their original plans, perhaps a reasonable reaction because one of the national characteristics of the Greeks is a tendency to ferociously reject anything which they believe challenges their way of life. A good example of this is the way that the tiny and not particularly well equipped forces led by General Metaxas took one look at the relatively mighty Panzer equipped Italian army in I think 1942, and he responded to their demands to surrender with a single word. "No". And every year 28 October is celebrated as "Ochi" day, commemorating the summary defeat of the Italians and giving rise to the old joke that Italian tanks have four gears in reverse and only one in ahead. Not true of course, they just turned around and ran for the border.
It took a massive force of Germans to restore the wounded pride of the Axis, but the Greek resistance still pinned down at least two Panzer divisions which were badly needed elsewhere.
The recent demonstrations against austerity measures which have predominantly affected the less well off, leaving wealthy industrialists to continue their comfortable and virtually tax free lifestyles, have all been concentrated around the Parliament Square, and have affected us not at all. Indeed the demonstrators have continued to treat any non Greeks with unfailing courtesy.
We live about an hour from Athens, with a wonderful and serene view over the Aegean islands. There has been one local demonstration, which we thoroughly supported, against a stupid and dangerous plan to locate a new landfill site on top of a beautiful local mountain and on top of an idyllic fresh water stream. The reaction was forceful but peaceful, and was ultimately successful. We shall soon have a modern recycling plant on an industrial estate!. So we live near wonderful beaches with crystal clear waters, and some marvellous ancient monuments, like the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. Superb sunsets, and free access every Sunday.
Our own mountain is famous for its ancient silver mines, which paid for the triremes which routed a huge force of Persians at the battle of Salamis some 2,500 years ago, built the wondrous Parthenon on the Acropolis. You can reach this by brand new clean and efficient Metro rail without going any where near the centre of Athens, and if you do then don't miss the magnificent new Acropolis museum. I could go on and on, but this post is probably too long already. All I can say is, don't miss out on making Greece part of your life experience.
Book 3 of my Charles and Amanda series is well under way, and it now has the working title of "Shadows: Blue, Silver and Gold".
Here is part of an extract, subject to change, to read the rest go to my website then to Forthcoming Books, and then to Shadows: Blue, Silver and Gold
It takes Charles and Amanda, Jamie, Thomas and Scarlett to the UK where Peter King is under heavy sedation after having had a cardiac event:
While his surgeons predict a successful outcome, they say that Peter will only be gradually reawakened from his heavy sedation, for his own safety. Jamie, his son, and Phoebe, his wife will remain at his bedside but the others are warned that it will be at least three days before he is fully awake.
The surgeon says "I recommend two important therapies for Mr King. One is that he must, give up eating so much fatty meat, and the second is that at least two, and possibly four, horses, be found for him. And that if he uses a tractor a lot on his farm, he should hire a tractor driver to get him out of that damned seat."
I've sent off Book 2, Targeted Extraction to THEBEITW and once the post partition blues had worn off (three minutes, approximately) Book 3 started to push into what passes for my mind.
It's called American Odyssey, and it already has four levels and a climax. The top level has Scarlett and Chris singing for the President and his family, the second level has Charles and Thomas teaching the people at Douglas Marine East how to build Shadows and showing the Mk2 in all its glory at the Annapolis Sail Boat Show. (This one is called the Silver Bird, and looks glorious).
"The Boat Show organisers warn Thomas and Chris that if the lines to go aboard got any longer the floating pontoons will sink, and Chris sweetly explains the problem, to the enthusiasts and the they happlly leave ten metre gaps in the line. 'So long as you don't shut up shop before we get to see her I'll be happy,' said a chunky matron. 'Dont you agree, Wilbur?'
Her husband grunted, and Thomas told the crowd stories of the Shadow development , while Chris pacified the impatient and urged on the people inside.
Eventually the show closed, and they all met up at the Ritz Carlton. 'There's an email from Chico , and one from the White House, giving directions and tickets to get in through which entrance' said Charles. 'We have to be there by eight, it says here.
The next level is a meeting with Buzz Wilcox at the FBI where their cross continent journey was approved and their theory agreed. Their proposed action on the drug problem was given cautious approval , but their thoughts about the proliferation of guns was met with a frown. 'It's in the constitution, ' said Buzz. 'How many guns are there in your house?'' asked Charles. ' Six,''said Buzz.'
And do you feel it's likely that you'll have to rise up and overthrow the Government any time soon?' "Well, no, actually,' said Buzz. 'Our case rests. ' said Charles.
And so it goes on, with the Terrifying Girls helping to demolish the drugs organisation, blowing up ammunition factories and with Wilfred carefully keeping them all safe. (You don't know about Wilfred? Read book 2!)
More soon, I have to get writing!
Thank you Anthea for your question about my dreaming. The last thing I do before sleeping is usually a more or less jumbled recap of the day's work, and thoughts (also jumbled) of the next stage or challenge. However that's quite different from this business of waking up with an oven ready piece of writing which has happened while I've been deeply asleep. But it's all helpful, and the last thing I'd want to do is to lose it.
Thank you too, Rosie, for your nice review of Shadow Dancing. I'd hate to think that the book, available from the Kindle Store, left people bored or disinterested.
Book 2, Targeted Extraction, is at the stage where I'm trying to hit on exactly the right final sentence before I (with great trepidation) send it off for Frankie Sutton (TBEITW) to cast her eagle eye over. It follows what I now think of as my extended family, who as usual have developed in entirely unexpected ways. Herding cats? Easy, when compared with this lot.
Feed back on SD, anything from a few words to a full review, is as always appreciated. John.http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-Dancing-ebook/dp/B005T3WJD4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1330096835&sr=1-1
5.0 out of 5 stars Shadow Dancing
, 23 Feb 2012
By Rosie Richards
- See all my reviewsThis review is from: Shadow Dancing (Kindle Edition)
I really enjoyed reading this book. The plot was exciting right to the end and kept me sweeping the epages. The main characters were very interesting, especially Charles the clever inventor, whose main inventions seemed able to solve the world fuel crisis if taken up! His romance with the damaged, but amazingly resourceful, Amanda was intriguing and sensitively told. The book was full of memorable things - the wonderful house on the precipice(with helicopter landing space on the roof!), the secret beach on the coast. There were also memorable characters - Jamie the gentle giant, Ambrose the robot, Charle's old Greek boat builder mates, and Amanda's clever and gifted daughter, Scarlett.
A bonus was the first chapter of the next book which had me in again, wanting to travel along with Charles and Amanda, who seemed like old friends, on their next exciting adventure.http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B005T3WJD4/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1
Another few days and I could have called this my Valentine's post, but its been so long since I wrote last that I thought I'd better get something done anyway.
First of all a heartfelt welcome to all new friends and contacts, and an apology for having had my head down, hunched over the keyboard and not writing to you. Most of this has been caused by my being dragged along by the nose by my second book,Targeted Extraction, while being whipped along from behind by Frankie Sutton (TBEITW) The Best Editor In the World.
TE is still being a challenge, something between sculpting in jelly and herding cats, constantly metamorphosing as the characters play their mysterious games. It's just occurred to me that it might have something to do with my living on the slopes of one of the holiday homes of the greek gods,which concept is still very much alive here in Greece.
For example on several days recently i've opened up the draft and found the point at which my pillow had summoned me the night before, looked for my last paragraph, and found nothing there! Now I know that I had saved, and heard my Lion tinkling (shouldn't it roar?) and I suddenly realised that I must have dreamed it, dots and commas and all. So I typed it, wondered what on earth was going on, and settled down to another day with my nose to the grindstone and my shoulder to the wheel.
A more usual bit of cosmic games playing was when a comparatively minor character suddenly pushed his way into the main story and demanded exploration and expansion. So a paragraph became a chapter, the chapter became a long chapter, which last night I split into three separate chapters!!
Another rather silly parallel might be an apprentice charioteer trying to ride standing up on two galloping and entirely out of control horses?
Shadow Dancing is making friends, and I hope you like it? TE is a sequel of sorts, following the main characters in SD, but it (It's those pranksters up the mountain again) has a very different feel, and I hope you like it at least as well? I should really appreciate some feedback about SD, and will post a description of TE as soon as Frankie lets me. I promise!
The Holiday Season is upon us and nothing much in the way of writing is going to happen, I think, until 2012. I have the beginning at least of Book 3 of the Charles and Amanda series mapped out. It will include moving some of the action to Moscow and there will be a certain amount more violence and retribution than we have had in the past.
Best wishes to you all,
The Lear Blackbird. Rocketship! (Featured in Book 2)