I seem to have been ‘almost there’ with Quest IV (‘A Quest for Clemency’) for much too long, but I have more or less finished my final round of editing and all that’s left to do is to format the file in a couple of different ways, and publish. As so often happens, I have found a way of complicating things for myself, in this case by deciding now would be a good time to create an omnibus edition of the first three novels in the Quest series, which means wrestling with cover design again. I’ve found a few images lying around on my computer but they don’t seem quite right somehow….

quest collage

Personally I am very fond of the chairs and 1950s clock picture, but it doesn’t seem dramatic enough – on the other hand I’ve also had to reject (reluctantly) some illustrations I’ve found online showing a man with dark hair and a woman with red hair both holding guns. Apart from the guns they would be just right for the characters.

My latest thinking is to put a picture of Big Ben down one side of the cover and maybe a couple of figures somewhere but not the ones with guns. This is a self-imposed torment so I may eventually decide against the omnibus altogether. It’s something I’ve often considered doing for Pitkirtly but so far I’ve only got as far as producing a limited print edition (two copies – very limited indeed!).

Anyway, returning to ‘A Quest for Clemency’, I’m hoping it will be ready in a few days’ time. I’ve really enjoyed researching, writing and even editing this novel. I hope to write a bit more once it’s published about the research I’ve done for it, which has involved two of my pet topics: the history of computers, and secret codes. The novel also starts with a train journey, which gave me the excuse to look up old train routes in East Anglia. I’m not quite sure where my fascination with disused train routes originated. It might be partly because our house is built on the land where a station once stood, or a long time before that, when I grew up near the Tay Rail Bridge and watched all the famous steam trains going past.





I like to use this limbo between Christmas and New Year to get organised for the year ahead, although the time tends to be taken up instead by a mad rush to fill in my tax return, an excess of sleep and biscuits, and more often than not by some sort of family emergency. This year one of the cats took his turn at being ill, although so far we hope this was caused by toothache and not by anything worse. I think the worst Christmas I can remember for this kind of thing was one Christmas Eve years ago when, with my son already on antibiotics for a throat infection, I had to take the car to our local garage for urgent repairs, got distracted and left the house keys on the car key-ring and had to go back for them by taxi after arriving on the door-step with my son, who by this time needed to go back to bed, to find we couldn’t get into the house. Later that day I went back for the car, drove it into our drive and said to my son with a sigh of relief, ‘That’s it, we’re not going out again until after Christmas’. We went into the house and I found one of the cats had suddenly developed a swollen ear since that morning so we had to take him to the vet to get his own dose of antibiotics.

2015-12-29 12.39.41 (600x800)

Anyway, I’ve managed to write a draft plan for the new writing year. It has already acquired some squiggly bits and arrows indicating I’m not sure where things will fit in, but it hasn’t yet had the chance to become as messy as my 2015 plan, which didn’t justify even being called a plan by the time I had finished with it.

I have a vague memory of resolving at about this time last year not to write as much in 2015 as I had done in 2014, or maybe that was a previous year’s resolution. In any case I can’t say I’ve stuck to it. If nothing else, The Thing in the Notebook, which was unforeseen and unplanned, would have well and truly seen off that idea. There may be more Things in Notebooks but it might be that I have to find a new way to trick myself in the coming year.

I hope everyone reading this has a happy year in 2016. Thank you very much indeed to anyone who has read my books, and I hope you will continue to enjoy them for as long as I enjoy writing them.

The first of November only means one thing to me – apart from the fact that I need to arrange for my car to have its MOT test in the next couple of weeks, that is. It’s National Novel Writing Month! Last year at this time I was facing the month ahead with some trepidation as for some bizarre reason I had decided to write a grim post-apocalyptic novel in response to certain political events that have now disappeared into the mists of time, at least as far as I’m concerned – others may have different opinions about this, which is fine. This time I’m actually looking forward to it, and this morning I made a start on what I hope will turn into the fourth novel in my ‘Quest’ series – working title ‘A Quest for Clemency’. Even better, the first chapter takes place on a train, which evokes memories of some of my favourite mystery novels and old black and white films. There is even a draft cover design, shown here.

Draft cover design

Draft cover design

I’m not sure if this will be anything like the final cover. I am possibly going to re-design the covers for the whole series when I get a moment, which the way things are going will be some time in 2017.

Please see my ‘Drabbling’ page (link at top here) for a new 100 word creation ‘inspired’ by the start of NaNoWriMo.

Also, in case anyone likes short comedy films and hasn’t seen this yet, please follow the link for the chance to see an award-winning film (made in 48 hours from start to finish) involving a chip shop, a piggy bank and a group of interesting characters: https://youtu.be/1OSHJVUBmxM

This is quite unusual and I’ve surprised even myself. The day after publishing ‘Closer to Death in a Garden’ – which has bizarrely spent some time vying with ‘Tree and Shrub Expert’ and Ian Rankin’s ‘The Hanging Garden’ for top of the ‘Gardens in Britain’ chart on Amazon – I got out a new notebook and started writing something in it.

A writing notebook

A writing notebook

Before anybody gets over-excited, I don’t think this is going to turn into a full length novel, although I suppose I could be wrong about that! It started out as more of a short story idea, although as I have now begun chapter 3 I don’t know if it qualifies as ‘short’ exactly. I suppose I could call it ‘Project Ten and a Half’ if I wanted to be cryptic about it.

As often happens with writing, I couldn’t have started on something new at a worse time. The past few weeks have been so full of other stuff that I am really glad I took the plunge and published my last two books at the time I did, before everything kicked off. Not content with going to Thurso* on a work trip which took three nights because of the distance involved, the following week I went on an overnight trip to Pitlochry to go to a play about a writers group at the theatre and then on a lightning visit to Derby to meet – guess what! –  a group of writers. While I was still recovering from all this jaunting about, our central heating broke down and I have spent a few days arguing about it with the gas company, managing to fit in some work in the intervals of doing this.

Another reason why this is the worst time to start on something is that I was sort of  planning – to the extent that I ever plan anything – to write a great novel of the Great War for NaNoWriMo in November, which would require me to spend most of October researching.  However, as I have also been distracted by family history research, which I have a feeling may result in historical fiction at some point, but not for a while, it’s actually quite a relief not to have to spend October in the trenches, so to speak. Instead I will keep on with this thing in my notebook, and see what it turns into, and choose a less research-heavy project for November. The best-laid plans etc.I will not include a picture of my updated plan for 2015, which is more or less in ruins! Not to mention all the coffee stains.

*There is more about the Thurso trip on my ‘trains’ blog – link at right hand side.

Somehow the closer I get to finishing something, the more ways I find to procrastinate. You’d almost think I didn’t want to finish. It isn’t so much that – I love the feeling of having finished something. It’s all the work that’s needed to get to the end I object to! Laziness is a positive advantage in my ‘other’ career in database management – it forces you to find shortcuts and clever little tricks to make it all less tedious. It isn’t so useful when writing.

Nearly there

Nearly there (x2)

However… I have managed to tear myself away at intervals from the delights of carrying out random family history research and even more random spells of posting political comments on ‘The Guardian’ website, and in the above picture you will see that I currently have two printed copies of different books awaiting the final edit. I must say I didn’t quite intend to be working on them this close together. But the state of play today is that I’ve completed the final edits for ‘Two Adventures at the End of an Era’ and still have to start them for ‘Closer to Death in a Garden’. I feel as if I should apologise to anyone waiting for ‘Pitkirly X’ – but the other one has been waiting longer and I knew it would be quicker to edit as the two stories together are only about half the size of a novel.

structural edit notes

Structural edit notes

If you look closely at this second picture, you will see my notes on ‘Pitkirtly X’ for my so-called structural edit. That makes it sound like quite a difficult undertaking, but actually all I had to do on this occasion was to list the chapters in order with a short description, and then go through making sure the sequence made sense. It doesn’t always!

My summer’s work

Now that I’ve reached the end of the first draft of ‘Pitkirtly X’ I think it’s time to reveal the actual title, which I must confess I have had in mind since before I started writing it. I’ve thrown together a cover to go with it, and now all that remains is for me to knock the book into its final shape. [Just imagine the sound of heralds’ trumpets here before reading on – or maybe even a whole trumpet voluntary if you want. Stanley’s voluntary is my favourite – we once wrote a song to go with it for one of our shows… ‘Hail to the King / And long live Princess Starlight of Askedal’.]

Closer to Death in a Garden

Closer to Death in a Garden

You’ll notice this is the 10th novel in the series. I will be using that as the excuse for a celebration of some kind – definitely online, maybe even in real life too – when the book is finally ready for publication.

If anyone wants to quibble about the title, yes, it is a misquote, and the fact that it’s a misquote is mentioned in the book. Anything else? Well, I can also exclusively reveal that the last line has something to do with fairy cakes – the newfangled term cup-cakes hasn’t yet reached Pitkirtly, naturally.

Keep the clarinets and ice-cream in mind too – I will be returning to them soon.

Thanks to everyone who has so far downloaded a copy of ‘Death in a Cold Spring’ – I am pleased to say it has two very nice five star reviews already. Unfortunately our real spring here is still a bit on the cold side, and the cats and I were sitting in the conservatory on Friday with hailstones battering on the roof and thunder not far away. Saturday was much nicer so I ventured out to Gardening Scotland. Although I like gardens anyway, and could do with spending a bit more time in mine, there was also a hidden purpose in this trip which will be revealed in due course!

Cat and dogs at Gardening Scotland

Cat and dogs at Gardening Scotland

The dogs pictured here were part of a ‘war dogs’ garden which caught my eye – it was a tribute to dogs which have been involved in war over the years.

In June I plan to write the 4th in my Edwardian Adventure series of shorter things. I’ve now realised that the 3rd and 4th of these are not technically set in Edwardian times, but people do seem to regard the time from 1900 to 1914 as more or less Edwardian so maybe I will get away with this, although as a history graduate I keep wanting to correct myself. Originally the title for the 4th one was ‘Adventure at the Zoological Gardens’ but I’ve had to change ‘Gardens’ to ‘Park’ because I’ve been reading a book about the history of Edinburgh Zoo, which opened in 1913, and the man who was instrumental in founding it insisted on it being called a Zoological Park. I already have the 3rd in the series ready but it isn’t yet published as I wanted to put the two stories together for better value.

Assuming I can get the Zoo story finished in June, I plan to make a start on ‘Pitkirtly X’ in July. I already have a title for it but that’s a secret for the moment. I’m pleased to have something else to write in between the two Pitkirtlies, a bit like having a sorbet to cleanse your palate in between courses in a posh meal – although what I know about posh meals could be written on the back of a stamp and is completely gleaned from fictitious meals and not from real ones!

While I’ve been frittering my time away, I am very proud to say that my son Alex Perry and his film-making group of friends (which actually includes my other son and his fiancée as well) have just won a ‘best film’ award from the Edinburgh 48 hour film project along with other awards including ‘best writing’ and ‘audience award’. I think some people reading this blog would probably enjoy their short film with an unseasonal Christmas theme, available here: https://youtu.be/9QCn3GaeIuo


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