Conversations with my cat – 68


This is Chester.  We’re both a little tired this morning.

I spent a little too much time on the next few chapters of my NaNoWriMo project and lost track of time.  It was going so well, I thought it best not to interrupt the flow of words.


This morning, after getting to bed about 2:30 am, I found it hard to get out of bed.

Fortunately, as usual, I had the cat alarm clock wake me out of deep sleep to be informed that it was breakfast.

I looked at the clock and saw it was 6:30 am.

I mean to say, Chester was with me at 2:30 when I was writing, and he didn’t tell me that it was time to go to bed, much earlier than I did.

I think he enjoys torturing me like this.


I get up, get him breakfast, some smelly fish food that even he turns his nose up at, and go out to the writing room with the intention of getting on with the story.

Next thing I know, there’s a gentle tapping on my forehead,

I wake up and it’s Chester.

What? I ask.  You can’t possibly want more food.

No.  I thought you were dead.

That’s amusing, he sees me asleep in bed and doesn’t think I’m dead.

How could you think that?

There are only two reasons why people become inanimate in their chair, they have suffered a heart attack or stroke, or they’re dead.

What about simply falling asleep because they’re too tired, and their faithful assistant didn’t tell them to go to bed earlier?

Look, let’s not make a beak deal out of this.  I was concerned.  Perhaps I won’t be next time.  A final glare and he jumps down off the keyboard, which left a page of endless d’s on the page I had been working on.

Perhaps he’s getting old and forgetful, or, suddenly he realises I mean more to him than just giving him food and cleaning the litter.  No, stop deluding yourself.  You’re his friend, he’s not your friend.

Oh, well, for a moment there…

Curious children find a curiosity

I am constantly reminded of how curious grandchildren can be when they are not asking you what it was like to live with dinosaurs!

The second eldest who is a rather clever 13-year-old considers it interesting that I’m a writer, and having just met a ‘real’ author who came to visit them at school, asked me a few questions, some of which sounded like those that had been asked of my ‘real’ counterpart.

Like, “how old were you when you first wrote a story, and what was that story about?”

I didn’t think it was when I was at school, but sometime after that, and after a lot of reading.  Perhaps it had been one of those moments when a light bulb goes on in your head, and I said to myself, I can write these stories too.

Of course, that wasn’t an answer, so she asked again, when did I start writing?

That required a little thought, and there were several triggers that gave me a date, where I lived at the time, the fact I used my mother’s old portable typewriter, and the fact I had not been long out of school.  I was, in fact, about 17.  It was 45 years ago; I’ll let you do the math!

What was it about; that I couldn’t tell her, but I said I had rescued a lot of old scribbling of mine and put them in a box to look at later when I had the time.

I guess that time had arrived.

And, yes, there was the book, the individually typed pages, some with corrections, unfinished.

The pages were brown with age.

The story, well, I read the first few pages, and it seems I’d started down the thriller path then, the story so far, an agent comes ashore from a trawler to a bleak and isolated village, perhaps on the Scottish coast.

Then there was the inevitable next question; “What was the first story you read that put you on the path to wanting to become a writer”.

That was easy, Alistair Maclean’s HMS Ulysses.  I showed her a copy of the book.

That led to, “but this is about the British Royal Navy in World War 2…”

Perhaps I didn’t answer that correctly, it was after reading about a dozen of his novels, most of which were precursors to the modern-day thriller, perhaps more along the lines of action adventures.

The next question, understandably; “What was the first book you ever finished?”

That was The Starburst Conspiracy, the manuscript of which was in the box along with another completed novel, and quite a few short stories.

Back in those days, I remembered that I had sent some of my stories off to various publishers, and had entered a number of short story competitions, all to no avail.  And for a number of years, until I because to old, used to write and enter a novel in the Vogel novel competition but never made it to the shortlist.

It’s probably why I gave up writing for a number of years, until I worked for an interesting company who had a rich history of phosphate mining in the Pacific and being given permission to look into the archives, began writing what could only be described a saga, and by the time I’d left, it was over 1200 closely typed pages long.

I showed the bulky manuscript to her, but by this time her interest had moved to something else.

For me, however, it seemed there was a lot of unfinished business.

“The Devil You Don’t”, be careful what you wish for

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John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums.  Looking for new opportunities, prevaricating about getting married, the only joy on the horizon was an upcoming visit to his grandmother in Sorrento, Italy.

Suddenly he is left at the check-in counter with a message on his phone telling him the marriage is off, and the relationship is over.

If only he hadn’t promised a friend he would do a favour for him in Rome.

At the first stop, Geneva, he has a chance encounter with Zoe, an intriguing woman who captures his imagination from the moment she boards the Savoire, and his life ventures into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

That ‘favour’ for his friend suddenly becomes a life-changing event, and when Zoe, the woman who he knows is too good to be true, reappears, danger and death follows.

Shot at, lied to, seduced, and drawn into a world where nothing is what it seems, John is dragged into an adrenaline-charged undertaking, where he may have been wiser to stay with the ‘devil you know’ rather than opt for the ‘devil you don’t’.


NaNoWriMo Day Twenty Five

Having reached the milestone of writing 50,000 words plus, it’s not the time to hang up the pen and think the job’s done.

It isn’t.

I still have a few more chapters to write, to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.

That I’m still not quite sure about, but I have one conclusion I’ll write and then later if I think of something better I’ll substitute it.

That isn’t to say the end won’t change when it’s time to make a second pass at the manuscript.

Other than that things are going according to plan. This means, I guess, that writing to a plan can work even for someone who doesn’t usually use that method

I will be considering this to plan the sequels for the two series I’m writing at the moment.

But, not to get ahead of myself, I have this project to finish.

Do you do any armchair travelling?

Once upon a time…

It was impossible to travel to any destination you would like to go to in the world.

Except perhaps if you had a travel guide, a book about a particular place, or watch a geographical documentary, which was limited to one person’s point of view.

Now, with the internet it’s possible to go anywhere, read up on any place, and even see what it looks like.

I have been along many a street in several towns or cities, over 12,000 miles away, as if I was actually there.

I can construct a path from one part of a city to another, and know exactly what there will be along the way.

The thing is, I can be thoroughly at home in a place I’ve never been to, and this is invaluable for writers.

And travellers.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve researched my way around a city long before I got there, and then know exactly where to go and what to do, even how much it costs.

It’s why I’ve never been lost in New York, London, Paris, or any of the cities, and it was particularly invaluable in Philadelphia when we only had an afternoon to see the sights.

Now, whenever I have a part of a story to write, I hit the internet.

In a story im currently writing, I’m flying from Djoubuti to an airstrip in Northern Uganda, where I’ll be leading a team along a river that is the defacto border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to a possible plantation that was once an airfield.

Or that might change, but in this particular case I know exactly what the terrain is like where the river is navigable, and where I need to go and how long it will take.

Certain you would have to agree that’s better than having to go there in person and run the risk of being killed or worse.

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

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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.



How fascinating it would be to go back in time, and meet writers from a different era

I’ve often thought that I should have been born in the early 1900’s and lived through what might be called the halcyon days of the 20’s and 30’s.

Of course, it is only a matter of opinion if those days were good or bad, depending on who you were.

If I’d been the heir apparent to becoming Lord of the manor, or from any part of upper classes with a University education, I have no doubt that I would not have been spared the horrors of war along with rest of the young men who went to serve and never returned.

The only saving grace might be as Officer it might have been easier than being un the ranks, but at that age, I doubt if I’d be as cautious as I should be, as of all youth I’d throw caution to the wind.

But in all likelihood, I would not have been part of the aristocracy but more than likely a clerk or farm worker who might by wit and guile have survived the war, if not a little traumatized by what I had seen and done in the name of defending the Empire.

It had prompted Hemingway to use the phrase ‘the lost generation’ at the end of one of his books, but perhaps it was first used by Gertrude Stein who had said in not many words that those who survived the war were more content to drink themselves to death.

I guess if the war hadn’t taken you, and you survived the great flu epidemic that followed it, then you would probably believe you were in some way invincible.

So, in those post-war days where writers and others congregated in Paris in those mid-twenties, what some regard as the halcyon years before the great depression and later the next world war.  I suspect a lot of the American writers left because of prohibition and wanted the more liberal lifestyle in Paris during these years.

Certainly, there was a group of writers and artists who lived that bohemian lifestyle, perhaps a result of the horrors of war, using alcohol and promiscuity to drown the bad memories.

I doubt if anyone could return from a war like that and not be damaged in some way.  Perhaps the only way to escape the horror was to immerse oneself in a different world, and if I had been back in those days, I know I would be putting pencil to paper, making endless notes for later use.

And I prefer to believe if I survived it was because my desire to become a writer would eventually be fulfilled.  Perhaps, in the end, it might be more likely because I had had a lifetime love affair with words, and to me, it would be more than enough to make a reasonable living from it.

Certainly, I would have sought out others like me as mentors and compatriots.

It was a time when the likes of F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton, and James Joyce, all of whom I have no doubt would be happy to be the role models one needed.

And if you could afford to take a trip to Paris, well, enough said.

It would probably take a lot of luck to be included in their group and no doubt hanging out at the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, owned by Silvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, might have been a step in the right direction.

But, having not been there at the time, who knows what might have happened.

Perhaps one day when someone invents the time machine, I might be able to go back and find out.

Waiting rooms, a great source of material to write about

Watching the doors that lead to the consulting rooms is about as exciting as watching pigeons standing on a window ledge.


When you have little else to do while waiting to see the doctor, it can take on new meaning, especially if you don’t want to be like 95% of the others waiting and be on their mobile phones.

What you basically have is a cross-section of people right in front of you, a virtual cornucopia of characters just waiting to stay in your next novel, of course with some minor adjustments.  It’s the actions and traits I’m looking for, and since it is a hospital, there’s bound to be some good ones.

It’s a steady drip of patients getting called, and it seems like more are arriving than being seen, and those that are being called have arrived and barely got to sit down, whilst a steady core has been waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

Everyone reacts differently to waiting.

A lady arrives, walking tentatively into the waiting area.  It’s reasonably full so the first thing she does is look for a spot where she doesn’t have to sit next to anyone else.  I’m the same, nothing worse if you sit next to a talker, and getting their life history.

Or they are reading a broadsheet newspaper.  It’s not the aroma of the ink that is annoying you.

Another sits, looking like they’re going to read; they brought a book with them but it sits on her lap.  Is she far too worried to be able to concentrate?  Or is there something else in the room that compels her attention?

The phone comes out, a quick scan, then it remains in hand.  Is she expecting a call or text wishing her luck?  It’s not the oncology clinic so she doesn’t have cancer.  Hopefully.  The fact she brought a book tells me she’s been here before and knows a 9:00 appointment is rarely on time.

As we are discovering.

A couple arrives, maybe a mother and daughter, maybe a patient and her support person.  Both of them don’t look very well do it’s a toss-up who is there to see the doctor.

Next is a man who could easily pass as living on the street.  It’s probably an injustice to say so, but his appearance is compelling, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

He sits and the person next to him gets up, apparently looking for something, then moves subtly to another seat.  Someone else nearby wrinkles her nose.  Two others look in his direction and then whisper to each other.  No guesses what the subject is.

More arrive, fewer seats, some are called, but everyone notices, and avoids, the man.

The sign of the door where the stream of patients are going, says no entry staff only, and periodically a staff member comes striding out either purposely or sedately, clutching a piece of all-important paper, the sign of someone who knows where they’re going, on an important mission.  Names are being called from this door and various other sections of the room, requiring you to keep one ear open in all directions.

And, to be sure, if you have to go to the restroom, that’s when your name will be called.

It seems all hospitals are branches of the United Nations, medical staff, and particularly doctors, are recruited from all over the world, and it seems to be able to speak understandable English is not one of the mandatory requirements, and sometimes the person calling out the name has a little difficulty with the pronunciation.

Perhaps like the UN, we need interpreters.  No, most of the names are recognizable until there is a foreign name that’s unpronounceable, or a person with English as a second language calls an English name.  It makes what could be an interminable wait into something more interesting.

And then there are the people who have names that are completely at odds with their nationality.  They are lucky enough to have the best of a number of cultures, and perhaps a deeper level of understanding where others do not.  I’m reminded never to judge a book by it’s cover.

I start trying to figure out those indecipherable names and then move on to trying to match a name with its owner.  I’m zero out fo four so far.

When there is a lull in arrivals and call-ups, there’s the doctor in consult room 2.  He’s apparently the doctor with no patients and periodically he comes out to look in his pigeonhole, or just look over the patients waiting, and more importantly checking the door handle when not delivering printouts to the consulting room next door.

He’s a doctor with no patients, get my drift.  Well, that joke fell very flat, so, fortunately, he comes out, a piece of paper in hand, and calls a name.  His quiet period is over.  Someone else will have to look at the door handle.

But we’re still waiting, waiting.

It’s been an hour and four minutes, and a little frustrating.  Surely when you check-in they should give you an estimated waiting time, or better still how many patients there are before you.

I guess its time to join the rest and pick up the mobile phone.

The good news, I only got to type one word before my name was called.  By a person who could pronounce it correctly.

The doctor, well that’s another story.

NANOWRIMO – The target is reached

That’s right, 50,000 words, well, 50,496 to be precise.

And the novel isn’t finished yet, so I’ll continuing, and updating the word count until the end of the month.


And, that, of course then shows the certificate which I will have to downland and fill out.