Monday, 20 April 2015

Don't cry for me, Argentina

Eva Peron


Don't cry for me, Argentina
 We all know the background story of the rise to fame of the late Eva Duarte Peron. The girl who went to Buenos Aries to try to be a film starlet, and ended up marrying the most powerful man in Argentina.

Cover versions
 Usually, I am not in favour of cover versions of songs; so many people try to do the song right, and fail, sadly in my mind this classic song falls into that category.

Julie Covington
 Ms. Covington did the original version, and although good it was open to improvement.

Elaine Page
Ms. Page's version is the most recognisable version, and as a stage production it cannot be faulted. However, it does has a big flaw as a song in a biopic it is too showy for me. There is none of the Girl lost in a world she doesn't belong in. That is the ethos of Evita for me. Like many of the other cover versions I heard last night; too much emphasis was laid on diction, and breathing. That is fine if you're doing Gilbert & Sullivan,  or operetta, but not here.

 For me, this is the best version of the song. Madonna never loses that I didn't want this, I am afraid element, which to me is the essence of her life as Argentina's first lady. Madonna also looks like Eva Peron,which adds to the ethos of the story. The quiver in her voice is so vital to the story; especially when she cries I kept my promise,keep your promise.

Karen Carpenter
 Strange as it may be, Ms. Carpenter did a very good cover version too, probably because she was in pain too.

In my opinion - that is all it is - too much emphasis has been laid in getting the diction, and breathing correct, and in doing that the song has been killed. There are some good stage versions of the song, but too many lack the feeling of a lady lost in a world beyond her dreams to be liked. In my opinion,one of the worst is the Olivia Newton-John version. As a country/pop singer ONJ is great, but as a dramatic singer, she lacks too much. You wouldn't ask a lady who made her name singing Handel, to sing the Brunnhilde's immolation scene at the end of Gotterdamerung by Wagner would you. Some sopranos do Wagner, Cheryl Studer better known for her Strauss roles is one, but they are the lighter, lyrical roles.

Greenland 2011

A land no longer

The day the air turned black

Volcanic explosions
 In the summer of 2011, the Northern hemisphere was rocked by a volcanic explosion in the Greenland ice fields; only 18 months earlier, I flew over the area on my way to Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada.
 Some of the pictures on this post can never be taken again. This is part of the area which exploded, and grounded the air traffic that day, and for weeks afterwards.
 Mathematical equations
There is an equation which you can work out with the data - I am not that clever - we were flying at 1,4000 above sea level, and it took us 3/4 of an hour to get across the ice fields from Greenland to the Canadian mainland.
Flying across the ice fields gave me a sensation of isolation; my thoughts went to, if we crashed - apart from my migraine, I would suffer from Snow blindness - a condition similar to drivers who get caught in a white-out. Very similar to heat stroke in a desert. You start to think you see things which aren't there, and doubt things which are. This was one of things which caused the deaths in Sir Robert Falcon Scott's expedition. My story was inspired by a piece of music I heard on Landscape TV. The music was the background to a video of a small plane flying over Manchester; I thought, "What if the plane vanished in front of all those witnesses? Without leaving any traces." As usual, my stories rarely end up where they were intended to, and Nerja became an Amazon 5 star rated Native American short story.

Glacier of Death
 Flying over the ice fields, and seeing the vast, desolate plains filled with nothing but ice, and the occasional scree trail. I got the idea of a rescue mission set against a very limited time line. Limited by the time a person could survive in the icy cold, the fuel of the rescue plane, and the window of visibility. The story which became a Kobo best seller based on the Yellowknife oil fields.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Why did I do it?

Was it a subliminal choice?

Lost souls not ghosts
 Although many people class me as a ghost story writer - I don't class my stories as ghost stories - why?

To me, the classification Ghost story usually tells the reader- be prepared to be scared - as yet I have written only two true ghost stories. One story appears in Sea Ghosts , and is a fictional story of the life of the Yorkshire pirate, John Andrew. This story came third in a Facebook writing contest in 2012. I did plan on writing a longer, scarier version of this story, but it got benched.

The other story is my adult version of the popular Old Church ghosts , the original version is available from me, in this collection of the three published editions,or from the children's charity books I write for If you buy from the charity version - none of the artists/editors, or writers see a dime - all the money goes to charity as this post shows There is also a copy of my original, and previously unpublished version available

My stories are more about lost souls trying to find a way across the veil between life and death - than to scare you. If I was to classify my stories, I would class them as stories involving Spirituality.

Concepts of thought
 My friend, and editor, Julia and I chat about a lot of things - not book related. Julia studied Neurosciences at Harvard, and Science fascinates me, so, we tend to have long discussions on why things happen, and why people think the way they do. I wonder what drew me to science, rather than art? I am no good with my hands. Music was out of the question too, I am tone deaf, and lack digital dexterity - even more so now. 
Was there something in my neural pathway which pushed me to the Sciences? My Science teacher at school said Physics was my strongest subject - I never realised that it was until a few years ago - when I read some old school reports.

 Do I believe in the afterlife? Most definitely. Without going into high science Vs Theology. My view is life is energy, energy cannot be destroyed, but changes form. As boiled what turns to steam, and back into water on contact with a colder surface. 
Do I believe in contact with the other side? Yes, definitely. I realise this will leave me open to ridicule by a lot of people, but consider this. Neuroscience is based on the brain wave patterns, like radio waves these can be tuned into - if you are open to it - I have had two out-of-body experiences, and over Christmas 2013 I had three near-death experiences .  I have had many experiences which have led me to believe I have a guardian angel watching me. I know this sounds crazy, but I believe it. I wrote about some of my experiences on one site, friends were so scared they asked me to write a book about the experiences. I told them, it is one thing to read about people having these experiences, and to know a person who had been there, adds a new scariness. After the events of 2013 - which came at the end of a series of health scares - I began to look at life differently.
I realise there are a lot of charlatans "claiming" to be able to contact the other world. At the same time, there are people with the genuine ability to tune in to the other side, as the lady in my story does . This is a fictional spiritual story based on researched facts. During the mid-1970's there were lots of such sightings of USAAF airmen walking around the sites of former air bases in the UK. A lot of people pour scorn on these ideas because they cannot understand them. Think of the other side as a wireless, if you're off station all you hear is "White Noise." Nothing more than crackles, and hisses, but as you tune in to the station. The crackles fade, and voices/music can be heard. If it works for a wireless, why not our minds? Like many stories, I had plans for an extended version, but canned the idea.

 Was I drawn to the Sciences? I cannot say for sure, but I do have an inquisitive mind. This could be a reason my work is highly respected, and starting to sell well. I cannot say why I chose to write spiritual stories, it may have come from some deep area of my subliminal mind. I do enjoy the science aspects of as much as the dry humour of the show, and to a certain degree, I understand it. 

 A usual source of inspiration comes from reading, and while I admit to reading - and being fascinated by - science books, most of my reading until recently was Military History. I have had work likened to Edgar Allan Poe, Sheridan Lefanu, and H.P.Lovecraft, and yet I haven't read their work. The closest I came was seeing the films based on Poe's work on TV, and last month I started to read Carmilla by Sheridan Lefanu. This vampire story pre-dates Bram Stoker's Dracula by 20 years, and Mr. Stoker gives credit to it in his preface.
 A constant amazement to me is the hit series Forgestriker, which even after 14 months on sale shows no signs of dying off at Barnes & Noble. One reason for my amazement is I have read very little Science Fiction. Another reason is I never thought I would sell on this market, most of the outlets are in higher education establishments.

Friday, 17 April 2015

The mojo has gone

I am lost in a wilderness

 The driving influence for artists, a part of your essence which gives your work meaning, and life. Mine has gone.
I knew this day would arrive, I thought if A Sailor's Love doesn't attract readers I am finished. Writing the story took so much out of me, the lack of response has killed my drive, as I knew it would. 

Spirituality and belief
Friends keep telling me to hang on in there, they keep saying Your time will come, for a while I believed too; especially when Forgestriker sold so well. 
When I wrote Chronicles of Mark Johnson, I was doing 3,000 to 4,000 words- three times a week; now, I haven't done that in a month, and what is worse, I am not bothered.
I was going to enter a writing contest - a paranormal story - the work was only 1,500 words, but I can't find the inspiration. I have lots of ideas for stories, but no drive. 

A Sailor's Love
 If I complete the edits I am going to undertake this month, this will be my final project. The original took over a year to write, by the time I finish the edits I'll be done for as a writer. 

3 strikes
I always said you get three strikes - like in baseball - and this is mine. 
1- Chronicles of Mark Johnson.
2-Wharfemere Finale (the sequel)
3-A Sailor's Love.

That isn't counting my first big selection - Pat Canella - The Dockland Murders

The latest releases on GooglePlay

Dragons, and scares

 Today, I released the first of my children's stories about the ship Drakanarc, and its search for the lovely creatures-on GooglePlay.

Wharfemere Finale
A story described as a harrowing account of a man going through a mental collapse- the harrowing sequel to my award winning Chronicles of Mark Johnson will haunt you. It did me, and I knew what was happening. How far will Mark go to rid himself of Annette's memories? Will he survive the ordeal? Does he care? Read the books and find out.

Bristol's award winning writer

Alan Place
 The awards at the top of the post were awarded to me by the non-profit making organisation to see the seal of excellence recommendation, you can download a PDF file. Overall the award made little difference to my life

Chronicles of Mark Johnson
 My award winning story of an ex-celebrity photographer who quits the high, shallow life for a life of a recluse won the award in October,2012. Only to find he can't stay away from investigating mysteries. As the stories expand, Mark discovers not only is he fighting demonic entities, but his own demons.

Fran Lewis
 New York reviewer Fran Lewis gave this, and its sequel Wharefemere Finale, rave reviews. The effect in sales, less than zero. 

Wharfemere Finale
 Wharfemere Finale came out of a very dark period in my life. At the time, my friends who were reading the stories on a regular basis were concerned, not only that I was going to kill their hero; but about my mental state. My close friend, and editor, Julia has said this book is a harrowing tale of a man going through a mental breakdown. 

Mark Johnson returns
 I didn't want to give too much away about book 3, but as nobody got 1 & 2, it doesn't matter. At the end of book 2 Mark decided to take on the witch - his former lover - Annette Palmer in her domain. This will entail crossing the line - something he did a lot of in book 2 - and going to places no man has been to try to rid his soul of the memories of her. I did start this book two years ago, but put it away as nobody was interested in either of the others. 

 I am pleased the series has sold well, after the failures of Chronicles of Mark Johnson and Wharfemere Finale I was worried I was unable to write stories people wanted to read. 

A Sailor's Love
 If you read my recent posts, you may have come across me saying I hope this doesn't become another Chronicles. What I mean by that is another story I loved to write, and took up a lot of time, only to fall by the side of the road, and die painfully slow. This paranormal romance - I prefer that term - to ghost story is about a young girl, who discovers her spirituality during a severe storm on the coast The story is a mix of Peter Grimes, Wuthering Heights, and The Flying Dutchman. When I stopped writing, I had done over 35,000 words, and spent 14 months on the story. I had lived the lives, and loves of my characters for so long, I forgot they didn't exist beyond the page. 

The effects of winning
 Did the award make any difference to my life? No- even though I won an award I am still disabled I found it hard to believe at the time, and harder to believe as the days go on. The major change that came from winning was I learned NOT to tell people of my success; many people I knew at the time shunned me afterwards.

Ballet Lessons

I tend to recycle in all I do.  This tendency I attribute to my grandmother’s tutelage on Waste not, want not.

A few conversations I include in recycle/repeat, most especially where the conversation jogs a remembrance. 

Carolann Keiser, the first place winner for the collection Sandcastles, where my story Sacrificial Lambs won the honor of being included in the compilation, wrote seemingly low-key narrative.  Until you realized her story, like an onion, had many layers that evoked a strong reaction. 

I had  finished reading one of her stories that followed my also watching a ballet short, and it pulled me back to my age between five and eight.  At that age, I loved five things, other than family.  They were drawing, reading, horses, singing, and toe dancing. 

We lived in a large, to me, apartment that took half the floor, running front to back, on the third floor
landing.  The other apartment was across the open stairwell hallway.

Within the apartment, a hallway ran from the living room on one side, bedroom on the other side back to the bath on the right, ending in the dining room with the kitchen to its right. There were
three more bedrooms on the right side of that long corridor. 

My grandfather would play classical records, and I would lace up my toe shoes, pirouetting from one end of the passage and back, over and over.  If I fell away for a week or so, my toes would bleed anew; even, knowing this was to happen did not stop my love of being on my toes as I leaped and twirled.

I had a girlfriend that took lessons and on occasion I would accompany her.  I would sit and intently watch her form and marvel at her endurance.  I do not remember envying her lessons, but rather was in awe of her thrice-weekly dedication.  I would draw pictures of her muscle tone and liken it to the muscle strength of another love, horses.  The beauty and range of motion in both became one in my mind.  It took determination to stay the course of lessons, and while I no longer had contact with her after age eleven, I am sure she fulfilled her dreams.

There are so many things I've done in my life, for a season and no more, but the memories are precious. And, sometimes need to be shared.

photo - Amarinda Jones

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Piracy and Amazon's policies


 Last night a friend at The Booktrap brought to our attention another site which was taking our work, and putting it free to read. After checking the site, I found among the titles on offer from my, were my award winning Chronicles of Mark Johnson, and a number of ghost stories. If you come across my work on a site called Books Online, ignore them. The ones I did leave, are not worth bothering about. 

Amazon's returns policy
 I was chatting to a lady author a few minutes ago, and like me, she is really annoyed that people are allowed to borrow our work for a week, and return it without giving a reason - Piracy is Theft - and so is this practise. If you knew how many hours a day we work - yes, work - and for what we get for our time, you'd understand our anger. Being honest, this practice is costing Amazon many thousands of dollars as more and more writers seek better conditions elsewhere. 

The Writer
 If I was to be brutally honest, Amazon's policies have made me think What the hell am I doing? I spend months writing, to earn less than the price of a coffee. Someone buys a book, reads it, and sends it back in a week. All I get is a slight high from the sudden rise in the ratings. Is it worth continuing writing?
I love writing my stories, but at the end of the line, is that all I am to you? A source of a FREE read; I knew I'd never make a lot of money writing, surely my time is worth something.


I should call myself an editor
My editor, Julia Petrkis, has said I should stake a claim to being an editor. I have baulked at the idea because to me this means I would have some extensive knowledge in editing. However, over the last few years - with Julia's help - my writing/ editing has improved by bounds. My editing has improved so much, I see errors other people miss. The latest was yesterday. I forget which book it was on, but it was a double statement. The statement read "The last ever book, he wrote." 
There is no need to say "Last ever," apart from the term being bad grammar, by stating it is the last book, you are telling people there are no books by this author, after this date.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Johnny Cooper

The Peacock Writers

Johnny Cooper's holiday
 Last year I started to write some stories about a schoolboy called Johnny Cooper for our charity books. The idea was to show you can enjoy life without all the modern gadgets. 

The Great War
 In the stories, Johnny goes for holidays with his grandfather. I had planned to write a special story for the centenary of WW1, but for several reasons I never did write the story. I cry even now, when I think of the losses of the war; my story of remembrance is From Elgar to Vaughan Williams.  This is a sad ghost story of the loss of a way of life, and of the people whose lives were changed forever after the four years of horror.