The darking bogs

September 23, 2011

OK, it’s definitely Friday today.  We were sitting outside last night enjoying what should have been a tranquil clear evening and purple sunset.  Now, I don’t want to appear to be xenophobic but there are one or two differences between the Portuguese and we from the frozen wastelands of the north.  For us, pets are cherished, fed, pampered and kept under control.  You almost never heard a barking dog in Germany, and, if you did, it was shortly followed by a sharp rebuke and a silver silence. 

We live in quite a nice area, all palms  pools and villas, mostly owned by expats.  Opposite, however, is the residence of a Portuguese family.  I know they’re Portuguese, not because I’ve met them, but because they go out at night (don’t ask) and leave their dogs outside to bay at the moon or bark at nothing for hour after hour after excruciating hour.  You’d think they’d get sore throats.  They’re not even nice dogs; they’re mangy scruffs and the sound they make reflects their appearance.  They’re not like our barking dogs – they sound noble and well brought-up, they do the minimum barking necessary to show that they’re around, then curl up and sleep.  No, these are darking bogs, a little spoonerism concocted accidentally by Luis last night, and it suits them down to their fleabitten coats.  I suppose we should be grateful that they don’t do what most Portuguese do, and that is to leave the dogs out all night, like cats.  The cats stay indoors, of course.  But they don’t bark.

I have thought of poisoned steak but that might spark a vendetta and it’s cruelty to dumb animals (not wishing to be too specific with that reference) and we love animals, after all.   Humane drowning or a Korean curry are next on the list but neither really appeals.  Earplugs might work, or Wagner at full volume  but then the other Germans would set up their chairs ouside to listen and set up Wurst bars, etc.  No that’s not going to work.   And the dogs might like it.

Away from darking bogs and back to the book.  I’ve more or less decided that the hero is Rupert Penry-Jones and he has a nerdy side-kick who does all the IT research for their section; he’s based on James McAvoy and a bit like Penelope Garcia in the TV series Criminal Minds.  Katja is, of course the fab Uma Thurman.  We start in a scene where the paint is still wet on the new Agency and they are awaiting the arrival of Katja, a minor celebrity in Germany as she is an ex-Tornado pilot who served in Iraq with the RAF.  Take it from there. 

I think I’m ready to start writing.  Darking bogs permitting.


Come on, it’s Friday…

September 22, 2011

OK, it happened.  I woke Luis up and said ´Come on, it’s Friday…the garden boys will be here.´  Trouble is, it isn’t Friday, it’s Thursday.  God, I hope it  isn’t catching.  I’ll probably start to reminisce about my childhood and spend the entire duration of a film saying´, ‘Oh,’s…you know…the one from that series about the…oh, you know her…’  Sad really, what happens when you get older.

The trouble is that I’ve led my entire life according to a schedule created by someone else and now it’s vaporised.  It’s a little like a prisoner being let out of jail and finding that he doesn’t know what to do and starts banging on the door, demanding to be inside again.  Not that I want that, of course, but it’s a new experience to be faced with a life that has lost its structure and now I can do what I like.  Every day’s a weekend but it’ll take some getting used to.  Do you suppose God intended us to work or laze around like lions on the Serengetti? 

Before boring you with the book progress (or lack of it), a few more impressions of life here.  I have wardrobes full of northern European clothes, coats, jackets, ties, slacks, that I’ll probably never wear again.  Here it’s shorts and teeshirts every day until the winter (that’s a 15 deg C winter) and life is spent mostly outdoors.  The night time is special.  I can honestly say that I was never aware of the night sky in Germany but here I find myself, drink in hand, studying the stars and the phases of the moon.  No pollution means clear skies that are normally cloudless and a deep velvet blue.  Simply trying to work out exactly how the moon works keeps my small brain busy for hours.  It’s a bit like giving an Irishman a can of Guiness with ‘Open other end’ printed on both top and bottom.

Oh, yes.  I’m meant to be rewriting my book.  OK, I said that I wouldn’t start until I had a good visual impression of hero and heroine.  The heroine is Uma Thurman, so that’s easy, she’s perfect.  Hayward is more difficult and front runners are Ralph Fiennes (or one of the other 17 Fiennes clan except Sir Ranulph), Henry Cavill (Tudors and the next Superman) and Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks).  Personally, I could see RPJ as Hayward but what do you think?

The character builder

September 11, 2011

When I want to create a new character, I normally resort to a character builder that I´ve concocted from a number of different sources including Linda Edelstein´s ´Writer´s Guide to Character Traits.´  This is a useful reference but doesn’t guarantee to create an interesting character, only a realistic one.  So, how to create an interesting character?  One who can attract the reader’s interest and good enough to sustain a series?  Think Inspector Morse and you´ll understand what I mean. 

Now, I’ve decided to do something different; I’m going to base the existing characters (but remodelled) on famous film actors.  The heroine is an ex-Tornado pilot who has served in Iraq and she is basically Uma Thurman.  Perfect casting, I think.  Now, the villain is a real nasty and I always had in mind Jurgen Prochnow, a German actor from the 80s with beady eyes and a bad complexion (Das Boot).  He’s perfect as well, but then his character doesn’t need rewriting; he’s nasty enough. 

Now, we come to the main character, Hayward.  So far, I have drawn a blank.  He is mid-thirties, very smart, quick thinking with a very logical brain, a kind of chess-playing action man.  He’s fit and attractive to women but doesn’t have a regular girlfriend because of his job.  There will be some sexual tension between him and Ms Thurman.  He’s proactive and doesn’t take shit from anyone but is a good listener as well.  Listens first, takes action second.  Looks good in a suit and out of it.  Fits in as a Eurocrat with multiple languages.  Doesn’t like vodka Martinis, shaken or stirred.  Prefers a good red wine but is happy with plonk.  He must not be a stereotype; no clichés please.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that he is an aircraft accident investigator who’s afraid of flying. 

Now, who should he be modelled on?  Daniel Craig, maybe.  Not sure about him though; too James Bond and he has that pursed lips look that doesn’t fit.  Hugh Jackman is out as well; too rugged and, well, too Ozzie .  Ewan McGregor is too wimpy. 

Come on, someone out there must have some ideas!  A free signed copy of the book to the lucky person who suggests the best film star and an invitation to the Premiere in Hollywood. 

Or a bottle of plonk.

The shifting goalposts

September 9, 2011

Superagent Peter Buckman has now been through the rewrite….and unfortunately it’s still not perfect.  The issues of pace have been addressed but something new has emerged because he´s had feedback from a film director….I´ll repeat that:  A FILM DIRECTOR!  OK, that´s the good news; the bad news is that this noble FD says that the main character is a bit too wimpish and needs to become more of an action man and proactive.  Not James Bond, of course, but maybe Harry Palmer.  Second, his boss is regarded as an interesting underexploited character (female ex-jet fighter pilot) and needs a more prominent place in the narrative.  Number three, the hero´s girlfriend is dispensable and will be replaced by aforementioned lady fighter pilot, leaving aforementioned hero to be a love rat, maybe.  The plot remains the same as everyone seems to like that.

Well, it´s a bit of a pain but…and it´s an important but…the feedback I´m getting now is absolutely invaluable.  Whilst there´s still no guarantee of eventual success, giving the customer what he wants has got to be a good start.  The problem has been knowing what, exactly, the customer wants because in the early submission stages a writer rarely gets any creative feedback from agents.  However, I´m getting it now so have a better idea of what the customer wants; that is, what will work in the market place.  Of course, the customer´s view is entirely subjective and another may disagree completely, but it´s a good start.  So, I need to sharpen my typing finger and get started.  No, not just yet.  I’m going to recreate it in my head before starting.  I always find that gin and tonic helps in the process………..writing can drive a man to drink!

Cut, cut, cut….

September 3, 2011

I´ve just finished the rewrite of Flight Into Darkness and removed almost 10,000 words.  If you read all of the advice to would-be writers, you find that cuts are usually good.   I didn´t believe this originally but I am now a convert.  The pace has improved vastly.

As a writer, quite often you put stuff in that is necessary for you at the time but which becomes unnecessary by the time you reach the end.  Leaving these bits in is vanity; no one likes deleting words that they have sweated blood over.  More than that, it commits a cardinal sin; that of under-estimating the intelligence of the reader.  Apparently, he/she is quite adept at reading between the lines and prefers to be allowed to do a little guesswork regarding the story.   For the writer to keep one step ahead of the reader is a skill that I have only just started to learn but a clue is: cuts.  Cuts are good.  Cuts are pure.  Cuts are holy.  Just make sure you don´t cut through an artery.  The rest is slimming.

The rewrite was based on the second read by my fab editor Debi Alper ( and she had to agree with the criticisms regarding pace.  She´s an absolute gem; she even went through the last MS and did a copy-edit which made the rewrite much quicker and easier.  Anyway, it´s done now.  I guess it´ll never be perfect, but when do you stop revising?  Every time I read it, I change something.  The next time I change it back again.  I think that´s when it has to go out of the door.

Good luck to Peter Buckman and fingers crossed.