Conversations with my cat – 16

Character development


This is Chester, he thinks he is an expert on people

He has meandered in checking out what I’m doing, or maybe he’s here because the room is cooler.

He gives me the ‘What are you doing’ look.

It doesn’t matter how many times I’m a writer, it’s like talking to a brick wall.

I say I’m working on developing a new character.


I’m thinking of John.

A shake of the head and the eyes roll.  Can you be a little more inventive, like, well, Chester?

Predictable.  How about Xavier?

Would you call your kid Xavier?  He’s going to have a very rough time of it at school.  Unless this character has a tortured soul.

Good point.  How about William?

Bill, that’s what you get in the mail.  Another shake of the head.  You’re not very good at this, are you?

Apparently not.  Haven’t you got some mice to catch?

He yawns, then curls up on the seat.  Wake me when you’ve got some better ideas.

Maybe not.  I’ve come up with a name, Daniel, and I don’t care what he thinks.

For now.

Travel is part of the story – Venice, a city you could get lost in

And in more ways than one.

This is a city that has inspiration everywhere, and if you like going off the beaten track, there are so many different sides to this city, it virtually makes it a writers paradise.

I’d like to spend three months here, just writing.

A morning walk to take in the atmosphere, and afternoon writing, an evening at a restaurant and sampling the endless supply of wine, and at night, well, I’ll let your imagination run wild there.


We have visited Venice twice, in 2006 and not so long ago.

Not much had changed from visit to visit, and probably the only change that will come is when buildings start sinking into the sea.  I read recently that was happening, but I failed to find any evidence of it.

Perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right places.

Instead of staying in a hotel selected by a travel agent, the Savoia and Jolanda on the waterfront of Riva Degli Schiavoni, because I’m a Hilton Honors member, more recently we stayed at the Hilton Molino Stucky.  It was located on an island, Giudecca, and had its own transport from the hotel to St Mark’s Square for a very reasonable one off charge for the stay.

The first time we visited Venice we took a taxi from the Railway Station.   We had taken the train from Florence to Venice.  A fellow passenger told us that it was a way to see some of the city by the canal system, but to be prepared to negotiate a price.

We were not very good negotiators, and it cost 60 Euros.

But, despite the cost, it was worth every Euro because the taxi driver took us by the scenic route, directly from the Station to the doorstep of our hotel.  For the first time in Venice, and you want to see it from the water, a water taxi is the best option.

The first time we stayed at the Savoia and Jolanda Hotel, which was at the time quite old, and the room we had, on the ground floor, was comfortable enough, but being November, they had just stopped using the air conditioning, it was still quite warm, and at times uncomfortable.  There were better rooms, but this was beyond the knowledge of the travel agent, and one of the reasons we stopped using agents to book hotels.

The most recent visit we had driven down from Salzburg to Venice airport where we had to return the hire car.  From there we were intending to take a private water taxi from the airport to the hotel, for an estimated 120 Euros.  We saved our money and took the ACTV public waterbus, from the airport to the hotel, with one stop.  It took a little over an hour and was equally as scenic.

Our room in the Hilton was on one of the upper levels, floor four, and had a view of the canal, the large passenger ships coming and going, as well as a remarkable view of Venice itself as far up the canal at St Marks Square in one direction, and the port for the passenger ships in the other.

We got to see three or four very large passenger ships come and go, along with a lot of other craft.  I hadn’t realized how busy the waterways, and the Grand Canal, were.

Each evening after a day’s exploring we would end up in the Executive Lounge, and then one of the many restaurants, usually Il Molino for breakfast, and the Rialto Lobby Bar and Lounge for dinner.  After that, it was a stroll down the waterfront taking in the night air, and perhaps to walk off the delicious dinner.

As you can see, there is a gold mine of information right there, ready to be incorporated into any story I might want to write.  It has, in fact, featured in The Devil You Don’t.


“Echoes From The Past”, buried, but not deep enough

What happens when your past finally catches up with you?

Christmas is just around the corner, a time to be with family. For Will Mason, an orphan since he was fourteen, it is a time for reflection on what his life could have been, and what it could be.

Until a chance encounter brings back to life the reasons for his twenty years of self-imposed exile from a life only normal people could have. From that moment Will’s life slowly starts to unravel and it’s obvious to him it’s time to move on.

This time, however, there is more at stake.

Will has broken his number one rule, don’t get involved.

With his nemesis, Eddie Jamieson, suddenly within reach, and a blossoming relationship with an office colleague, Maria, about to change everything, Will has to make a choice. Quietly leave, or finally, make a stand.

But as Will soon discovers, when other people are involved there is going to be terrible consequences no matter what choice he makes.



Is the grass greener …

I have often heard this expression used over the years, and from the number of times I’d overheard it being used, and the fact it was referring to someone my parents had known, I’d always believed it had something to do with one of the other leaving a marriage for something better.

I hadn’t realized that somewhere far deeper in that conversation was a more sinister underlying reason for the departure, later discovered to be the wife.

Back then, in the 1960s and 1970s, women were not so ready to leave a relationship that had domestic violence at its heart.  Where would they go, what would they do?  Going home, if they had parents, would be an admission of failure.  And, back then, there was something about an older woman who didn’t talk about her husband.

Very definitely, in those older days, it was a man’s world.

Thankfully we have managed to bring that dark ogre into the light and there’s no stigma attached to a woman who wants to seek freedom from an abusive marriage, and both accommodation and services to help in the transition.


Just out of curiosity, in a different context, and in these modern times, what’s your interpretation of.

Is the grass greener on the other side….


As to what side I’m referring to, I’ll let you make up your own mind …

What happens after an action-packed start – Part 10

It’s still a battle of wits, but our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.

The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because the enemy if it is the enemy, doesn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.

Nor does it help when his old mentor walks through the door.


I don’t like surprises.  This dislike had started with a surprise birthday party about 10 years ago and since then I’ve assiduously tried to avoid them.

Of course, there are also surprises you have no control over, and I liked them even less.

Bluff and bravado would only carry me so far.  These people whoever they were would not accept that I knew nothing about what had just happened.

Which I didn’t.

It was not the A interrogation team with a chest full of torture tools and dressed in hazmat suits, but when the harbinger of my fate walked into the room, it was something a lot scarier.

A man I knew well or thought I did until he walked in the door, I had the utmost respected for.

Colonel Bamfield.  My first Commanding Officer, the man who cut me some slack, and made me into a soldier.

Now, all I had was questions, but I was on the wrong side of the table.

The first, what the hell was going on here?

My first inclination was to stand and salute a superior officer, but he was not wearing the uniform, not the proper uniform I was used to seeing him in.  My second inclination was to ask him what he was doing in that room with me, but I didn’t.

Speak when spoken to, and don’t volunteer information.

He too tried the silent treatment, or maybe it was that he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him.

Then, still standing behind the table, looking down on me, he said, “That was some jump you made from a moving helicopter.”  Was there a touch of admiration in his tone?

“Life or death.  Anyone one else is that situation would do the same.”

“Less than you’d think.”

Establishing camaraderie.  Or trying to.  I waited for the next question.

It wasn’t a question but a statement, “We have a problem Alan, and it’s not just with you.”


© Charles Heath 2019

What happened to February, I seem to have missed it

I’m on my late night reading of blog posts by the bloggers I follow, and a lot are saying February has gone, and are weighing up their achievements for the month.

I don’t think I got anything constructive done, notwithstanding the intent of making a new years resolution list and stick to it.  The only sticking was sticking it to the wall in from of my desk.

Oh, I finally got down on paper and onto the writing blog most of the episodes of the four stories I started while I was away.  It was easy to write on the plane, especially when there are 12 to 13 hours to be spent in an uncomfortable chair.

Anything to ease the pain, and take the mind elsewhere.

And, no, I did not incorporate a plane crash, but I did have a helicopter crash.

I did not get to the two novels that need to have editing finished.  That’s now slated for March.

But, the grim thing about two months disappearing like it has, the first I’m getting older, and feel like I have one foot in the grave, and the other, one-sixth of the year is gone and Christmas is approaching.

Don’t you worry, the supermarkets and larger chain stores will have the Chrismas decorations out on display before you know it.

I hope we still are calling Christmas, Christmas, because in these days of political correctness, and the will not to upset anyone other than the Christians (no, I haven’t noticed a sizable build up of lions and the building of a huge arena, yet!).


I’m still working through the ramifications of my (probably stolen) idea of mutual purchase and honestly reviewing books (because we all know the value of an honest review) by fellow authors with ebooks on Amazon that sales are sluggish.  That’s because mine are.

More about the idea can be found here

It all goes back to the marketing strategy of getting reviews, and this is the hardest part.  So, why don’t we do each other a solid?

What’s the upside?  You get sales, which lift’s your book in the saleable scale that Amazon uses space rocket technology to work out.  The author gets a review and some income, perhaps so he or she can purchase the next book to review, (or another well-deserved cup of coffee) and it keeps the author’s presence on Amazon, who seems to be closing down those who are not ‘performing’  (I guess using the same space rocket technology to decided that as well).

Comments on the practicality of the scheme or the fact it might or might not work are always welcome at

Roll on March

Back to the treasure hunt – part 3

It has been cooler for the last week or so, and the ideas for the treasure story have not been flowing.

Now, it’s back and I’m back in the cinema of my dreams, figurative following the treasure ‘map’!


This was not the time to panic.

There could be any number of explanations for what I just saw.  Boggs had certainly got me wrapped up in his mysterious treasure hunt, and immediately my mind jumps to conclusions.

I took a deep breath.  There had to be a rational explanation.

Boggs lived with his aunt, his parents had gone away one day and never came back.  He had no brothers or sisters, so he assumed rightly or wrongly, they’d abandoned him.

For the last few years, Boggs and I had been looking for his parents.  That’s how he found the treasure map, in a box of stuff his father had left at his brother’s loft.

Now, his aunt was Spanish, or perhaps that was not totally correct, she was Mexican who spoke Spanish.  Her husband was Boggs’ father’s brother, and they had no children, so they had treated Boggs as their own.

Perhaps the men were known to his Aunt and they were taking him home before he got into trouble.

It didn’t explain why they were talking about the treasure map, whether it was the one being sold by the bar owner or the one Boggs found.  Boggs had it with him, so if they were after it, they probably had it by now.

We’d come to the beach by bus, and I took it back, then walked the mile or so to Boggs’s house.  It was about three streets away from where I lived.

When I turned into the street, there was the kidnapper’s car out the front of Boggs’s Aunt’s house.  A minute or so later I went in the gate and up to the front door.

It was open, so I loitered in the shadows and listened.

A man’s voice, and Boggs’s Aunt.

Again I was struggling with my Spanish, “You should be keeping control of your brat, he’s getting into trouble, in bars and such places.”

“Drinking?”  His Aunt sounded incredulous.

“Perhaps, I know not, but asking bad men questions about the treasure.  Where is the map?”

So they hadn’t taken it off Boggs.  What did he do with it?

“What map.  He has no map, none that he’s told me about.  Besides, that treasure’s a myth, made up by Dooley to get tourists in his bar, if that’s the var you said he was at.  Don’t tell me you’ve been sucked into that myth?  Isn’t it about time you got a real job?”

“Just make sure your brat stays away from the bar.”

I could hear footsteps heading towards the front door and ducked into the bushes just as he came out, slamming the door into the wall before stomping off to his car.

I waited till he drove off before coming out, and walking into Boggs, grinning.

“See, I told you it was real.”

The horrid uncle, the map, or the myth?


© Charles Heath 2019

In the world of ebooks, there is a magic number


I have spent the last few years studying the art of marketing books, and whilst it seems that in most of the accounts I’ve read, tips, hinds, and everything in between, it seems it works for the writer, but very few if any, others.

And this advice doesn’t come cheap.

But one unequivocal fact seems to be, once an author has five reviews a whole new world opens up.


Out of all this reading, and failing, and watching the slow, if any, sales of my books, one relevant fact remains undeniable.

Reviews sell books.  And five seems to be the number that starts the ball rolling.

And, I have no reviews.

Of course, there is a plethora of writer’s advisors out there that will tell you, for a price, where to look for people who will do reviews, free, if you’re willing to wait a few years (as I still am) or quickly if you are prepared to pay, sometimes upwards of $50 or more.

And it costs more to have these uploaded to Amazon as ‘authentic’ reviews.

So, the issue is, on Amazon you have to be a registered customer, buy a book, and then you can leave a review.  Once upon a time, you could have a review without this requirement, and people were using Fiverr to add reviews at $5 a pop.

I’m not sure how relevant these reviews were, but $5 seemed to equal 5 stars.

Amazon not only stopped that by aforementioned rules, but also took down all the reviews it seemed were written by Fiverr people, and it seems relatives or ghosts of the author (using the same IP address to post reviews of their own books under a different name) as well.

Glad I didn’t spend my money on that.

But there could be the answer to those authors out there with sluggish sales, imminent closure of their author page on Amazon, a means by which they can get authentic reviews and just a small boost to their sales.

REviews, as we all know, means sales.

None of us authors who have books on Amazon with sluggish sales are by any stretch of the imagination rich enough to buy reviews (some of which can be better depending on how much they’re willing to part with).


I’m willing to pay the price of your book, read it, and post an honest review.

An author who critiques a fellow author’s book carries a lot of weight, and like pushing a manual car with a dead battery, it only takes a small push to get things started.

To get those 5 or more reviews, it might only cost between $30 to $50, the price of one from a ‘professional’ reviewer.


There is a catch.  If I buy your book, you have to buy mine, and leave an honest review.

This has probably been suggested a hundred times before, but I haven’t seen it recently.  It doesn’t mean it hasn’t been around for a while, and by no means is it meant to cut across any other means you may have of getting reviews.

For me, though, this seems a simple and elegant solution to an age-old problem in the indie authors world of marketing.

Nor am I saying that I’m a really good writer, that’s for my contemporaries to decide.

You can, of course, make your book free for a period on Amazon and try to get reviews that way.  I’m not saying that doesn’t work, but it seems to me you’ve put in a lot of effort to write the book, don’t you deserve something out of it?

From what I’ve read by a lot of authors who have gone down this route, it hasn’t exactly provided an adequate response.

I don’t price my books expensively, just $2.99.  I’m one of those ‘you sell more if it’s $3 than you would if it was $24.


This won’t work without others jumping in, even if only to add some comments on how this perhaps unoriginal idea might work for all of us.

By the way…

I write thrillers and mysteries, and have a large library of books in the genre, and will be willing to read your book.  My to be read list is rather lean at the moment, and new books cost more than I can afford at the moment.

Your book, if reasonably priced like mine, would be ideal for both of us.

Does it sound like we are ‘buying’ book reviews?  No.  I believe it is a valuable part of the publishing industry that authors review their fellow author’s books.  After all, so many of those reviews on Goodreads, are from people who have bought books.

And the best part…

We get to meet new authors who have a similar interest in a genre.  This could build into something else, but, of course, that sometimes means a lot of work.  Perhaps that might come later.

As you can see I’m excited about the prospect.

If you’re interested, send me an email at



A story inspired by Castello di Brolio – Episode 5

Another story inspired from a visit to an old castle in Italy.  It was, of course, written while traveling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.

But, there’s more to come.  Those were long flights…


I knelt down to Jack’s level and whispered in his ear, “Time to go, mate.  Things are about to get a little sticky here, and one of us should get away.”

I’m not sure he understood what I was saying.

I pointed towards the trees that ran along the wall.  “Go, now.”

He walked slowing in the pointed direction, then turned to look at me.


Another hesitation, then he headed towards and then disappeared into, the trees.

Behind me, I could hear the sound of boots on the rock floor of the tunnel.  The men had broken through and cut off my escape.  I didn’t believe for a minute that Jackerby was there to help me.

Well, out of the frying pan, I thought.

I walked through the gap between the trees, getting a scrape on the side of my face from a prickly branch, then burst into the open.  Jackerby had taken about twenty steps down from where he had called to me, and hearing the trees, turned and took a few steps back towards me.

Seconds later the two men from the tunnel came through the same gap and took up positions so I couldn’t escape.  Guns not drawn but ready in case they were needed.

“Where’s the dog?” Jackerby asked.

“Rats desert a sinking ship, why should dogs be any different.  Guess he knew I was for the high jump.”

“Didn’t have to be that way.”

I don’t remember getting an offer to betray my country and decline.  Significantly, he had made no more mention of his offer to help.  But, I had to ask, “Which side are you on?”

“The right side, of course.”

It was hard to tell what version of the truth that was.  He had one of those faces I associated with a professional poker player.

A nod of his head and we headed back towards the castle.  Jackerby walked beside me, the two guards about three yards behind.  Running wasn’t an option, I’d get two bullets in the back before I got ten yards.   There was very little cover to hide in, so that was out as well.

I wondered what fate awaited me back at the castle.


© Charles Heath 2019

So, I’m sitting down and having a Scotch and Soda when…

There’s nothing more I like to do at the end of a day than sit down and have a drink, usually Scotch and Soda or Bacardi and Coke.

But that’s the problem.

What is your definition of the end of the day?

No doubt for most it is probably that time when they get home from work, and take some time between then and dinner.  From my memories of American sitcoms of the 1950s, it was over Sherry and included a summary from every one of their day.

It was a time when women, apparently, preferred to stay home than go to work.  Odd, for some reason, that Hollywood would ignore the hard-won rights of women to have jobs, though some might argue out of necessity because of the war.

There was no computer games, contrary children, and that period, for the children was between coming home from school (doing homework) and going outside to play.

Yes, none of this disappearing into dark rooms for secret conversations on mobile phones or playing games on computers, or, dare I say it, being stuck in front of a television, pigging out on snack foods.

Any man these days who thought the 1950s sitcom scenario might be a social norm would be vilified by all and sundry.  His children would be in a permanent battle to be left alone, his wife would divorce him if he even remotely suggested she stay home or have dinner on the table when he got home, and that peaceful hour or so before the expected dinner, well, that disappeared a long time ago.

If it ever existed in any era.

So much for American sitcom stereotypes.

Now, in similar sitcoms these days, the children are obnoxious to their parent, yes, every family it seems in the USA is broken, and the mother is the long-suffering one stuck with the children and having to work, whilst the ex is out having a great time with his new girlfriend/trophy wife.

Hollywood is still stereotyping, but it’s much more dark and gloomy.

This is added to the continual threat of online predators, online pornography further reducing women’s hard-won right to be seen as more than just a sex object, bullying, not only at school and online but in the workplace, and above all that it seems men still treat women as second class citizens, not the least of which are corporate entities, and government.

Oh, and the mention of having a drink before dinner in this day and age would be associated with alcoholism, or a drinking problem, caused by excessive stress, and almost always added to an apparent addiction to painkillers or antidepressants.

What might also be worse is the alarming statistics of the number of women now drinking wine by the gallon rather than a few drinks in that period between picking up the children from school and dinner, driven by, take your choice of, obnoxious children or absent-minded or chauvinistic husband.

Damn, have I stirred up a hornet’s nest?

Sorry, I think I’d better cancel the notion of having after work drinks, and since I do the cooking, so there’s no expectation for someone else getting dinner on the table.

At least we are still married, and the children never had to deal with a broken marriage and two warring parents, but if any of the reports on why children are the way they are, I guess mine missed out on playing one parent off against the other, or get to live in different houses, or tolerate parents other boy or girlfriends, and live on junk food, well not all of the time.

Are they normal?

Perhaps when someone defines normal I will probably tell you.

I ceased being so-called chauvinistic a long time ago, and I had to have an attitude readjustment along with it, because, I’m told, we live in a different world now.

Perhaps I will have that drink or three; it’s certainly a necessity in order to watch the increasingly bad news, the antics of our politicians, and to watch the world gradually go to hell in a handbasket.

Whilst being politely told that I drink too much!