Would YOU miss me?

From DeviantArt. For if one link in nature's chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal.

From DeviantArt. For if one link in nature’s chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal.

Or rather would you miss my weekly blog posts? I was trying to think of something worthwhile to blog about, but kept rejecting the crass ideas.

Who wants to read about “A World without Shakespeare”?

Why pose the question “What sort of heroine rules your mind?” in any genre?

What is the point of musing about “Autumn Fruitfulness” if it’s not the “Colours of Fall”?

My inspirational “The Difference between Critique and Beta Readers” will be next Wednesday’s IWSG monthly post.

So I reached the conclusion that I wouldn’t write anything, and then see whether anyone noticed. Shtako! I’ve written something after all.

But what next?

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What lines set you alight?

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I was going to blog about ‘A world without William Shakespeare’ but the prospect was too horrendous – even if Christopher Marlowe hadn’t been killed so young.

Did that line grab you, or turn you livid with anger?

How important to you is the first line of a book? I admit there have been some great ones. My favourites, and I read these decades ago, are:

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. — C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. – George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

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But such lists are open to debate, and trying to pick favorites can be a challenge.

Getting that opening right, finding the right words, choosing the moment to start that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer – that’s wrong, although as writers we can suffer.

At the moment, my mind is on openings, partly as I have taken on some beta reading, but also as I am struggling with my own opening line:

“Their eyes stared at Twyla without emotion and followed every move that she made up or down the stairs.”

The real question is – what makes you read on? The opening line or paragraph? The cover and blurb? Reviews?

I can remember days past when I went into a bricks & mortar bookshop and flicked through real books. Aah that smell. I started with the cover and blurb, then sampled the opening, and even flicked further on. Harder of course with e-books, but sampling is an option so I read as far as I can. To me a novel is more than a memorable first line.

Do we stop at “Who’s there?” or tarry longer with the Groundlings?

So what hooks you? What is your favourite opening? Can you envisage no Shakespeare?

Midnight Hamlet at The Globe by TheFella on Flickr

Midnight Hamlet at The Globe by TheFella on Flickr

Passage to America

The USS Macon sails over lower Manhattan, on October 9, 1933. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

The USS Macon sails over lower Manhattan, on October 9, 1933. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

A short while ago we were attempting to get my US visa, buy a house, sell this one, and then fly ourselves and four pets to the US by Christmas.

That’s now a non-starter.

No prizes for guessing why we’ve had to postpone. Just accept that there was the lack of fraternal support over here, regardless of the excitement across the Atlantic.

So we have postponed my medical – the next stage in the visa process. We’ve also put a hold on the whole housing issue. Now we have to face months more of living in a difficult situation.

However, we have made a momentous decision, not least because flying the four fur babies was not only daunting, but also stressful for them – and expensive. It was going to cost us £4,000 to fly them, and then £16,000 to get us there, since it’s better to fly business with my disability problems.

Queen Mary 2 in New York Harbor

Queen Mary 2 in New York Harbor

So our passage to the United States will now be on September 20th 2016. And if you haven’t worked out the method, then you missed the visual clues.

Yes we are flying by airship.

Of course not. We are sailing for seven days on Cunard‘s Queen Mary 2, from Southampton, England to New York. Luxury yes, but cheaper than flying. Great accommodation, wonderful facilities and places to explore, delicious food,

Cunard, Queen Mary 2 - Stateroom

Cunard, Queen Mary 2 – Stateroom

The jaw dropping Grand Lobby on the Cunard Queen Mary 2

The jaw dropping Grand Lobby on the Cunard Queen Mary 2

Britannia restaurant by Carlo Mirante

Britannia restaurant by Carlo Mirante

AND most important of all: the liner has special kennels for dogs and cats.

They get to have their own area to move around and play in, with their own Kennel Master. It even has an outdoor ‘poop’ deck for the dogs. They may not want to leave the ship.

Queen Mary 2's Kennel program

Queen Mary 2’s Kennel program 

Gypsy by Catherine at Ancora Crafts

Scully by Catherine at Ancora Crafts

All very exciting, and it gives us something to aim for, even though it’s tinged with disappointment at not being with the family for Christmas. More time to learn Welsh, perhaps.

And leaving England behind this way means that one of my last views will be of the Isle of Wight, where I spent many happy summers as a child. Summers when we saw the great ocean liners arriving and leaving, like the Queen Mary.

The Cunard liner RMS Queen Mary at Southampton in 1960s - copyright Chris Howel at shipspotting.com.

The Cunard liner RMS Queen Mary at Southampton in 1960s – copyright Chris Howel at shipspotting.com.

Bring on the Revolution

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As there is no progress on the Idaho front, I am reverting to another aspect of my weekly Pick’N’Mix Theme – Books.

So we start with my review of the last book that I’ve read, T E Taylor’s Revolution Day.

Who can a revolutionary trust?

As an autocratic and repressive ruler hanging onto power after 37 years, Carlos Almanzor seems to have little choice as he tries to survive. The scenario that Tim Taylor paints so vividly echoes the real-life situations of so many abusers of power, and the downward spirals of many dictators. And the scheming of Carlos’ colleagues proves very Machiavellian – very appropriate since I won a copy of “The Prince” on the launch day of Tim’s engrossing novel.

In a way, I could relate being part-Chilean and having known both refugees from Pinochet and supporters of the Sandinista Revolution. The Latin flavour worked as well as the political elements, and through it all I had to root for Carlos’ estranged and imprisoned wife Juanita, as she reflected on the revolution and what could have been. In her character there were clever echoes of other imprisoned leaders that represent hope. Perhaps for liberty there is light at the end of the darkness.

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Peering into the Unknown

Since reading “Revolution Day”, I’ve scanned the bookshelves in my office and in my Kindle. Too many books to read, and I can’t stop buying more. For everyone that I finish, I buy three more.

The dilemma was resolved when I had an idea for a short story and began looking into the Viking foothold in Vinland. Having read an interview with author Heather Day Gilbert when God’s Daughter (Vikings of the New World Saga Book 1) was published, I’ve chosen that as my next foray.

There are other books that I’m reading or rather have on the go, like “The Welsh Gypsies” by A.O.H. Jarman and “Four Years on the Great Lakes, 1813-1816: The Journal of Lieutenant David Wingfield, Royal Navy” by Don Bamford, & Paul Carroll. But they are non-fiction research, so I dip in and out of them for my own writing. They will be on my desk for a few more months.

Have you read any of these books, even Machiavelli’s “The Prince”?

Why the Delays? Is it the weather?

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I should put this off given the title of this post. But as the date is September 2nd and the first Wednesday of the month, it’s officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.

August has been a month of delays, but I can’t blame snow on the tracks, or leaves. But the weather or at least the distractions of summer might have played a part.

I admit that I didn’t give my beta readers a deadline for when their comments on “Storms Compass” were needed. And I forgot that the summer is filled with distractions, from holidays, tasty BBQs, and back-to-back horse shows. So a week ago I gave my readers until September 17th, and even told those that I knew were tied up, the option of asking for longer. Now I just wait a few more weeks.

Not sure whether my brother has an excuse for moving the deadline over agreeing to help with my bridging loan to get to the USA. But that decision is being delayed as well, even though I now have the go-ahead for the next stage – the medical.

Any more delays?

Well I have to stick up my hand and admit the character profiles for “Fates Maelstrom” are delayed while I distract myself in some future world.

But isn’t that the fault of summer? Do you blame me?

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with other writers – aim for a dozen new people each time. 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

And be sure to check out our Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSG13/

We also have a t-shirt now! You can purchase it here – http://www.neatoshop.com/product/IWSG

The awesome co-hosts for the September 2 posting of the IWSG are Julie Flanders,Murees Dupé, Dolorah at Book Lover, Christine Rains, and Heather Gardner! 

End of an Era: Closing a Chapter in My Life

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With my mother Nidia Clarke at Borde Hill Horse Trials – by Tony Warr

As I prepare to embark on a life in the US, I realise that 2015 is witnessing the closing pages of some chapters in my life: my involvement with the sport of eventing.

On April 4th, I lost my close friend and organiser-mentor Bill Allen, and I attempted to say in my tribute what Bill meant to me and to the sport.  Not long afterwards, on April 29th, The Hon. Daphne Lakin, organiser of Iping Horse Trials, died and with her more memories of a special person. At the beginning of June, Bill’s co-organiser at Purston Manor Horse Trials, Dr Peter Lamont, and another guiding light, sadly passed on. Despite the courage of Bill and Peter’s widows, Ann and Jill, there were not enough entries to stop the final running of Purston being cancelled.

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Bill Allen at Borde Hill Horse Trials- by Tony Warr

I felt these sad departures heralded the end of an era, but they are underscored by another departure. On May 22nd the final issue of Eventing magazine was published, the June 2015 edition. I wrote on Facebook, “As others have said, Eventing got many of us started in journalism – or in my case re-started after a false start. Made so many friends this way from journalists like Jane Perry, Julie Harding, Ellie Crosbie, photographers like Nick Perry, Stephen Sparkes, David Miller, and riders, owners, organisers, grooms. So many memories and a sad end of an era.”

Although Kate Green was the editor that gave me my first reporting job for them in 1993, her assistant and successor, Julie Harding kept me writing. To my post Julie replied, “Agree Roland. So many wonderful people met along the way and friends made. Delighted to have helped some launch their careers too. Eventing was so many things to so many people – hence why there is much sadness surrounding its demise.”

In her own post she said, “Sadly the end of Eventing after 30 years… Janet and Brian Hill, its founders, could never have believed when they started it that it would go on to have such a long and illustrious history. A lot of people will miss you Eventing.”

That was reflected in both the comments about Eventing Magazine’s departure, and in the tragic loss of three great organisers.  They will all be missed, and the sport is poorer for them leaving us.

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The Seahorse Achievement Award

Although I didn’t start writing about the sport regularly until 1993, and didn’t co-found the South East Eventers League until 1995, my own involvement with eventing actually preceded the magazine’s launch by over twenty years.

In 1973, when I was twenty, my journalism career started as a sub-editor for The Field. Then one day the assistant editor, Derek Bingham, took me with him to Tidworth Three-Day-Event, which was the British Junior team trial. Once they saw my amateurish photos, those Juniors even persuaded me to take photos at their final trial. So began a sporadic flirtation that took me all over the UK taking photos, briefly to Toronto, and to events on the continent – Netherlands and Germany. Basically I was hooked.

I experienced some high-points, although the pinnacle came from carriage driving – as a passenger in the ‘suicide seat’ of a marathon carriage. But I remember cheering friends to victory at three-day-events, which is echoed in my novel “Spiral of Hooves”.

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Penny Sangster on Greenbank Harlequin by Roland Clarke

And there were terrible low points, mainly when riders were killed, or horses. I’ll never forget standing by the main arena at Badminton in 1976 when Lucinda Prior-Palmer (now Green) won on Miss V Phillips’ Wide Awake, but then he died of a heart attack on his victory lap.

I regret losing a photo I took of Mr C Cyzer’s Killaire in his stable, a photo that looked like a painting. It was taken a few years before Lucinda won Badminton on Killaire in 1979.

When it launched in 1985 The Guardian described Eventing as “a tough workhorse aimed at the serious trials riders and budding Lucinda Greens.” But that workhorse has now retired, and so has this one.

But we’re not going to retire gracefully, are we? NO WAY.

I’ll keep writing about horses, even if they are fictional. Okay, “Tortuous Terrain”, the sequel to “Spiral of Hooves”, is based in Idaho, and the sport is more western – endurance riding and barrel racing. But easier to research, I hope.

And then comes “Suicide Seat”.

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Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners – by Roland Clarke