Neighbours, bears and pants

I have a neighbour.  We’ll call him Alastair, because that’s his name.  Actually, he’s the perfect neighbour because he’s never here.  He’s also a Brit and together we provide the international gossip for the neighbours and make them feel very cosmopolitan.  Alastair is never here because he travels on business or is in UK visiting his girlfriend or family or sorting out his propert(ies) or the business he runs with his brother or buying another house.  Anyway, I digress. When he is here he never checks his post.  Well, maybe once a month….he’s that sort of guy; if it’s important enough the court bailiff’s will be at the door.  I should say that our post boxes are next to each other; I am 32a, he is 32b.

I’ve said before how much I like Germany(with the exception of Deutsch Telekom, about which, more later). The postal service is great; regular and reliable, like everything in Germany.  Except when the postman is in a hurry or has had too much bier the night before when he might possibly have a slight tendency to put my mail in Alistair’s box.  Now this hardly ever happens.  In fact, it’s only likely to happen if the letter is the most important life-changing document in the northern hemisphere and if Alastair is away doing whatever.  I was waiting for the agent’s contract for over a week.  Guess where it was?

OK, it’s now signed and on its way, so it’s all up to Superman Peter.  In the meantime, I am starting to plan a sequel.  The main characters will be the same, but should it be centred on political intrigue or more conventional crime?   High crime would be a complete contrast to Flight Into Darkness but it’s a slightly different genre.  Actually, I find that the ‘blank sheet of paper’ stage in the creation of a new book is rather exciting because anything is possible but it’s also rather intimidating because it’s easy to head off in the wrong direction.  In the end, I need to be stimulated by the story.  Some complain of writer’s block but my problem is writer’s surge; it’s weeding out the bad ideas that’s the main problem.  Why is nothing ever easy?

Digressing again.  Tony Slater is another writer and I met him briefly at York last year.  Apart from being the best-looking man there, he is also a complete maniac and should be doing stand-up.  His book ‘That Bear Ate My Pants’ has its launch on Friday.  Pop over to  Looks like fun.  I think I’ll have to get a copy…..


9 Responses to Neighbours, bears and pants

  1. Tony Slater says:

    All I can say is, it’s a bloody good job people over there don’t lock their mail boxes, like some do over here! I’d love to see the look on laid-back Alistair’s face when he came home to find you’d severed his mailbox with a chainsaw! Even better the next time – he cruises up, looks down at the remains of his letterbox – “Had another important letter, did you Roger?”
    “And… why has my front door been attacked with a pick-axe?”
    “Well, there was supposed to be a parcel…”

    Cheers for the shout-out about my book! I’ll send links around on the launch day (1st July). I’m so excited!


  2. Alanboy says:

    It’s a funny thing with mail. There is a law that states (or should) the likelihood of receiving mail decreases in relation to its importance. Garbage is delivered promptly and accurately; life-changing mail might be delivered to the right place at roughly the right time if the mail service can be arsed.

  3. Alanboy says:

    And of course, best wishes with your contract and future deals.
    You know, I have reached the stage with my novel that I am considering a WW review. I know it’s pricey, and I’m not working now, but I need the guidance of someone wonderful like Debi or EmmaD.
    I know you had help. Is it a silly question to ask if it was worthwhile?

  4. rogerjhardy says:


    Many thanks and in answer to your question, it´s an unequivocal ´yes´. I tried to rely on beta readers but they tell you what you want to hear. With WW, yoú are dealing with professionals and their advice is absolutely objective; they will see your opus with a fresh pair of eyes and deal with it as any professional would. They´ll tell you what´s crap and what doesn´t work. They´ll spot holes in your plot that you thought you could get away with. They´ll even tell you what´s good, if you need to know! I am biassed because I started with no literary background at all; in fact, if I´m honest I didn´t even read that much but I had an arrogant notion that I could write, so I used WW as a degreee course in creative writing. In Debi´s case, her advice was always there, even between books and she acts rather like a tutor. It was she who noticed that I just needed to read a lot more. Simple really.

    You need to right editor; I went through two before finding Debi but with her recent successes I think she is in high demand. You´ll find Harry Bingham very easy and pleasant and his advice is always good. My experience is that my first (still very imperfect) creation needed 5 editing sessions (a record I believe), the next one took 3, number three we were down to 2, and the rest have needed one only, but that´s my learning curve. I would go for it. For me, it´s money well spent.

  5. Tony Slater says:

    I will second that opinion; Debi is a great person and her reputation as an editor is fast approaching legendary! I know a lot of folk who have been lucky enough to work with her and I’ve never heard a bad word said about it.
    Being a penniless backpacker by nature, I’ve never actually afforded to hire her, but I have saved up to go to the last two Festival of Writing conferences in York, where I met Debi and hung out with her quite a bit. All I can say is, I bloody well wish I could afford her!
    The whole team at the Writers Workshop are very professional, and helping us make good work is their bread and butter – they don’t bother doing an average job, as it helps them less than it helps us.
    Any share change rattling around, burning a hole in that shoe-box under your bed? Fork it out, forget about the expense (it’s an investment in your future career! Compare it to the cost of 3 years at uni!), then get to work with them and give it your best. And maybe I’ll see you all at the Festival of Writing in York next year! Course by then I’ll be famous… :0)

  6. rogerjhardy says:

    Alan, just to endorse Tony´s comments. Treat it as an investment in the future.

  7. Alanboy says:

    My worry is that I’ll end up with someone who isn’t ‘in tune’ with my style. Then it’s several hundreds wasted.
    Example: I sent my first chapter to WW for their quick appraisal. I had a comment that one particular phrase made the reviewer ‘cringe’. Now, I have had a few critical readers, but no one has commented like that. I wasn’t impressed. Cringing needs further explanation. Cringing is a personal reaction. It isn’t useful as a stand-alone comment.
    So, yes, if you get someone decent and able to make rational analysis, I agree it is an investment.
    Bu I do not want to invest 600 pounds and then feel I have to get over a brick wall of incompatibility.

  8. Alanboy says:

    Roger, were you able to request a particular reviewer?
    Tony, I appreciate your comments.

  9. Roger Hardy says:

    Yes, I always ask for Debi! However, I had two other editors before her and was happier with Debi. Actually, both offered good advice but one basically told me to delete the first 6 chapters and rewrite the rest and the other was clearly more at home with Jane Austen. In the end, with Debi, I deleted the first 6 chapters and rewrote the rest, of course! I was prepared to invest but it cost me quite a bit (my estimate is around £6000 to get there but it’s a lot cheaper than a university course in creative writing.

    I suggest discussing it with Harry Bingham because you want to feel you’ve had your money’s worth but you’ll need to feed him with the first few pages and tell him what you’re not looking for; ie, do you want a school-teacher’s assessment or some gritty home truths from a streetwise author? Go for someone who writes in your genre and ask for them by name.

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