Sayings: Flogging a dead horse

This wouldn’t be so apt if it didn’t bring back a raft of bad memories, those days I used to go to the races, and back all of the wrong horses.

I had a knack, you see, of picking horses that fell over, or came dead last.

Perhaps that’s another of those sayings, dead last, with a very obvious meaning.  Dead!  Last!

But…

In the modern vernacular, flogging a dead horse is like spending further time on something in which the outcome is already classed as a complete waste of time.

However…

Back in the old days, the dead horse referred to the first month’s wages when working aboard a ship, usually paid for before you stepped on board the ship.  At the end of the first month, the theoretical dead horse was tossed overboard symbolically, and thereafter you were paid.

It still didn’t make sense to me that someone would tell me I was flogging a dead horse, until I realized, one day, the lesson to be learned was never to get paid in advance.

 

The story behind the story – Echoes from the Past

The novel ‘Echoes from the past’ started out as a short story I wrote about 30 years ago, titled ‘The birthday’.

My idea was to take a normal person out of their comfort zone and led on a short but very frightening journey to a place where a surprise birthday party had been arranged.

Thus the very large man with a scar and a red tie was created.

So was the friend with the limousine who worked as a pilot.

So were the two women, Wendy and Angelina, who were Flight Attendants that the pilot friend asked to join the conspiracy.

I was going to rework the short story, then about ten pages long, into something a little more.

And like all re-writes, especially those I have anything to do with, it turned into a novel.

There was motivation.  I had told some colleagues at the place where I worked at the time that I liked writing, and they wanted a sample.  I was going to give them the re-worked short story.  Instead, I gave them ‘Echoes from the past’

Originally it was not set anywhere in particular.

But when considering a location, I had, at the time, recently been to New York in December, and visited Brooklyn and Queens, as well as a lot of New York itself.  We were there for New Years, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

One evening we were out late, and finished up in Brooklyn Heights, near the waterfront, and there was rain and snow, it was cold and wet, and there were apartment buildings shimmering in the street light, and I thought, this is the place where my main character will live.

It had a very spooky atmosphere, the sort where ghosts would not be unexpected.  I felt more than one shiver go up and down my spine in the few minutes I was there.

I had taken notes, as I always do, of everywhere we went so I had a ready supply of locations I could use, changing the names in some cases.

Fifth Avenue near the Rockefeller center is amazing at first light, and late at night with the Seasonal decorations and lights.

The original main character was a shy and man of few friends, hence not expecting the surprise party.  I enhanced that shyness into purposely lonely because of an issue from his past that leaves him always looking over his shoulder and ready to move on at the slightest hint of trouble.  No friends, no relationships, just a very low profile.

Then I thought, what if he breaks the cardinal rule, and begins a relationship?

But it is also as much an exploration of a damaged soul, as it is the search for a normal life, without having any idea what normal was, and how the understanding of one person can sometimes make all the difference in what we may think or feel.

And, of course, I wanted a happy ending.

Except for the bad guys.

 

Get it here:  https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

newechocover5rs

 

Searching for locations: Niagara Falls, Canada

We visited the falls in winter, just after Christmas when it was all but frozen.

The weather was freezing, it was snowing, and very icy to walk anywhere near the falls

DSC00755

Getting photos is a matter of how much you want to risk your safety.

I know I slipped and fell a number of times on the ice just below the snowy surface in pursuit of the perfect photograph.  Alas, I don’t think I succeeded.

DSC00754

DSC00758

DSC00767

DSC00768

DSC00761

The mist was generated from both the waterfall and the low cloud.  It was impossible not to get wet just watching the falls.

DSC00771

Of course, unlike the braver people, you could not get me into one of the boats that headed towards the falls.  I suspect there might be icebergs and wasn’t going to tempt the fate of another Titanic, even on a lesser scale.  The water would be freezing.

“The Things We Do For Love” – Coming soon

Is love the metaphorical equivalent to ‘walking the plank’; a dive into uncharted waters?

For Henry the only romance he was interested in was a life at sea, and when away from it, he strived to find sanctuary from his family and perhaps life itself.  It takes him to a small village by the sea, s place he never expected to find another just like him, Michelle, whom he soon discovers is as mysterious as she is beautiful.

Henry had long since given up the notion of finding romance, and Michelle couldn’t get involved for reasons she could never explain, but in the end both acknowledge that something happened the moment they first met.  

Plans were made, plans were revised, and hopes were shattered.

A chance encounter causes Michelle’s past to catch up with her, and whatever hope she had of having a normal life with Henry, or anyone else, is gone.  To keep him alive she has to destroy her blossoming relationship, an act that breaks her heart and shatters his.

But can love conquer all?

It takes a few words of encouragement from an unlikely source to send Henry and his friend Radly on an odyssey into the darkest corners of the red light district in a race against time to find and rescue the woman he finally realizes is the love of his life.

The cover, at the moment, looks like this:

lovecoverfinal1

In a word: Flower

It’s what we expect to see when we walk past the front of some houses but instead sometimes see lawn, rocks, or a disaster.

They are what makes the difference between a delightful street and an ugly one, and by that I mean flowers.

By definition though, it means the state or period in which the plant’s flowers have developed and opened/

Just beware the man who turns up with a bunch of flowers that look vaguely familiar to those that grow in your neighbour’s gardens.

They are also in abundance in horticultural gardens, and in florist shops.

My favourites are roses.

And just a word of warning, look out for triffids.  If you read John Wyndham science fiction you’ll know what I mean.

Another mean for the word is to reach the optimum stage of development, though the word bloom could also be used to describe the same thing.

There is another similar-sounding word, flour, but this is the stuff used to make bread, scones, and puddings.

By definition, it is the result of grinding wheat or other grains to a powder.

If something is said to be floury, then it means it is bland.

 

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.

A shattered dream, perhaps, or just wishful thinking?

There was time, quite a few years back I had a dream, well, it was more wishful thinking than anything else.

I was going to run a bookshop.  You know, that quaint little storefront in a tucked away little town somewhere by the ocean, where the clientele would be both travelers and locals alike, people who liked to read.

It would have an area set aside, somewhere within the shelves where there would be a fire in winter, and opened windows and fresh air in summer, a place where you could drink coffee or tea, with scones or cake, and read prospective tomes, or start on that purchase you just made.

There would be not only new books but old, second, third or having been through many hands, books with the aroma of time seeping up from every page, hard covered books with crackly spines, pages that have the stains of age.

And perhaps the name of one of its owners scribble on the front page, along with the price, what it cost all those years back when it was new.

Of course, those places still exist, somewhere in the literary universe, but the idea of owning one such establishment now would mean that you had to be independently wealthy, with a pile of money in the bank, because you would not be relying on profits to keep it going.

If I was a successful author, yes, it would make sense, existing in a literary world where I could read, or write, or talk to other readers or writers, or just do nothing.

And, yes, there would have to be a cat.  There’s always a cat, somewhere, sitting in the window and looking out on the world passing by, or curled up by the fire, reliving those halcyon years of mice catching.

Hang on, where had my fairy godmother gone?

In a word: Freeze

Yes, if the temperature was 20 degrees below zero and the forecast for the net week was the same, then that would be the big freeze.

In a more understandable way of putting it, to freeze something is to preserve it at a temperature below zero.

Some things don’t freeze, like petrol.

And you want to hope that you put antifreeze in your radiator otherwise you are going to have big problems with your car in winter.

It also means to stand still.

You can also isolate someone by freezing them out.

And freeze in fear, unable to move, like a deer in headlights.

But the worst example of a freeze is when your computer stops, and you forgot to save that 200-page novel, thereby being lost forever.

No.  That would never happen, you had autosave on, didn’t you?

Didn’t you??????????

Freeze is not to be confused with a frieze which is a broad horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration, especially on a wall near the ceiling.

Or frees, which in some countries type of football described multiple free kicks, in one sense, and, in another, what you do when you let them go, e.g. he frees the dog.

The story behind the story: A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers

To write a private detective serial has always been one of the items at the top of my to-do list, though trying to write novels and a serial, as well as a blog, and maintain a social media presence, well, you get the idea.

But I made it happen, from a bunch of episodes I wrote a long, long time ago, used these to start it, and then continue on, then as now, never having much of an idea where it was going to end up, or how long it would take to tell the story.

That, I think is the joy of ad hoc writing, even you, as the author, have as much idea of where it’s going as the reader does.

It’s basically been in the mill since 1990, and although I finished it last year, it looks like the beginning to end will have taken exactly 30 years.  Had you asked me 30 years ago if I’d ever get it finished, the answer would be maybe?

My private detective, Harry Walthenson

I’d like to say he’s from that great literary mold of Sam Spade, or Mickey Spillane, or Phillip Marlow, but he’s not.

But, I’ve watched Humphrey Bogart play Sam Spade with much interest, and modeled Harry and his office on it.  Similarly, I’ve watched Robert Micham play Phillip Marlow with great panache, if not detachment, and added a bit of him to the mix.

Other characters come into play, and all of them, no matter what period they’re from, always seem larger than life.  I’m not above stealing a little of Mary Astor, Peter Lorre or Sidney Greenstreet, to breathe life into beguiling women and dangerous men alike.

Then there’s the title, like

The Case of the Unintentional Mummy – this has so many meanings in so many contexts, though I image back in Hollywood in the ’30s and ’40s, this would be excellent fodder for Abbott and Costello

The Case of the Three-Legged Dog – Yes, I suspect there may be a few real-life dogs with three legs, but this plot would involve something more sinister.  And if made out of plaster, yes, they’re always something else inside.

But for mine, to begin with, it was “The Case of the …”, because I had no idea what the case was going to be about, well, I did, but not specifically.

Then I liked the idea of calling it “The Case of the Brother’s Revenge” because I began to have a notion there was a brother no one knew about, but that’s stuff for other stories, not mine, so then went the way of the others.

Now it’s called ‘A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers’, finished the first three drafts, and at the editor for the last.

I have high hopes of publishing it in early 2021.  It even has a cover.

PIWalthJones1

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.