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In every day life, John Jackson, a former Ship's Captain now retired. He still retains an avid interest in the Hash House Harriers, Rugby, Food, Romantic Fiction, Philately, etc etc etc.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Novel Points of View: When Twisting the Truth is OK

Novel Points of View: When Twisting the Truth is OK: This week I am talking about when it's okay to twist the truth. Is it ever okay to twist the truth... or lie? Well, in the creative indu...

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Forward!!

It's a while since I wrote a blog update. 6 weeks or so. Lots of "bits of news" but the big "Bit" is that "A Heart of Stone" will be published by Crooked Cat Books in October / November. As I write this, I am waiting for the first batch of edits to come through.

This is a "Dummy Cover", but is certainly atmospheric enough.

While that happens, I am pressing on with Book 2. Also historical, and one generation in the future. The setting this time is London and the continent. This WiP brings its own problems. I've got good, strong characters, good locations, and a host of sub-plots. What I am missing is the main story arc! If people remember Lark Rise to Candleford, and/or A Year In Provence, you might recall that both of these excellent books had almost no plot. They were a series of episodes packed with atmosphere, but with nothing happening. However, I need the main story arc. I'm nothing like as good a writer as Peter Mayle or Flora Thompson to make it work without.

Anyway, Liz Fenwick suggested I get hold of Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc: by Dara Marks. This is currently proving very helpful.
 In other news, I'm going to be changing my blog platform to Wordpress and publishing it more as an author site. It'll be at Just a placeholder for now, but it will be filled over the coming weeks. Recently, I've been up in Hartlepool for the first time in 45 years, and over to Belgium for a weekend with friends, and to top up the beer cupboard. The latter is, unfortunately, a lot more expensive than it was, thanks to the swallow-dive in the value of the Pound. Still worth it though, purely on quality grounds.

Hartlepool was fun (and I never thought I'd write THAT!) It's all been cleaned up from the old steel town it used to be. An amazing amount of dogs, though. All either Bedlington Terriers or Mastiffs. The weather held fine for us, as it did in Belgium.
The small town of Kortrijk set the scene for an excellent weekend carousing with 110 close friends (!) and a continuing supply of excellent Belgian beers, including several new to me. #knowledgeispower 

Now it's back to work on Book 2 (Working title: Strange Bedfellows)


Oh, and the Hedgehogs are back in force!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Getting Legless! (No, not like that)

Long, long ago in a galaxy far far away, I had, like most of us, 4 fully functioning limbs, two of which were legs. They did sterling service, right up to the moment I broke my left leg playing rugby, almost 40 years ago.

While that put a crimp in my ambitions to play rugby to a high level or for a modeling career, (yeah, right!) I eventually went back to rugby, only this time with a whistle. I also ran and walked with the Hash House Harriers (the drinking club with a running problem) for many years. Basically, think rugby without the bruises.

Unfortunately, time (and my left knee) ran out, and I was waking up in agony in the night.

So I went and had a knee replacement. They do thousands of them every day, and they work 97% of the time. 
Everything went perfectly, and I went home and was being really good with the exercises, going around the block on my crutches.


Three weeks later I got an infection in the bone. 6 major, and 9 minor ops later we are where we are. I have a thing called a "SMILES Knee Joint" In this case SMILES is an acronym, and definitely not a sign of amusement. Feel free to Google it.

The last op was 8 years ago, and I've been having some slight "issues" with the knee recently. I know it won't last indefinitely, but I should get a few more years out of it. Unfortunately, they can't replace it – which means that when it DOES fail (eventually), the leg comes off.

This morning's session with an orthopedic surgeon was my first for several years, at P's behest, following those "slight issues".  The upshot is that he repeated the advice I have had from other quarters. Hang on to the leg until it's too painful to bear my weight.

That sounds quite reasonable. I've grown quite attached to it!

It probably also explains why I tend to pack the diary with as much as I can. So no doubt I'll see you at the next RNA function, or on a hash weekend, or somewhere connected with writing, or – indeed – just for fun.

Someday I won't be able to do it all, but "Today is not that day!"

John :)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A New Year - and a New Post on Twitter and the #FF Follow Friday Tweets!

The #ff Follow Friday Tweets

For those who receive the #ff tweets and know how they work, please feel free to skip the first bit of this. However, if it is all new to you, then read on.

Every Friday I send out a series of Tweets, all with the hashtag "#ff" in them, followed by a short random group of names.

They all go out OK, but Twitter does funny things relating to how it indexes tweets, so an appearance in your timeline is not guaranteed. A good way to look for it is to search for your twitter name in the search box on your twitter page. This also works with Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. If you are using a laptop or PC I recommend you use either Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.

a.       Click on Search
b.      Put your twitter name without the @ the searchbox,   so I would put jjackson42
c.       Click to search.

This way you should see ALL tweets where your Twitter name has appeared, although I can't guarantee it will work.

When you receive a Tweet with the hashtag #ff, then feel free to "Like" it, and to Retweet it, and, most importantly, to Follow the other names in the Tweet. Due to the strange way Twitter works (i.e. badly) re-tweeting it will help others in the message to see it.

The names you see will ALWAYS be names of writers, bloggers, agents, publishers, etc. In other words, people or organizations who are actively engaged in this mad and lonely world of writing. Each week you should see a different group of names.

I have spent some considerable time going through all MY followers to identify RNA members, followed by other UK based writers I know. If you know any RNA members who are NOT on the list and you think they should be, then do let me know.

Most of the writers work in the romantic genre, but there are also many members who write crime, historical, sci-fi, young adult, etc.  The list is mostly of writers, etc. based in the UK and Ireland, but with some from Europe, etc. There are some US based writers, but very few, and these tend to be writers I know.

Click on the names and "Follow" the person. This is a good and meaningful way of expanding your twitter pool of followers. You also expand your group of followers slowly and gently, so you get the chance to see what these new followers are tweeting about.

If YOU think someone should be "on the list" then feel free to let me know.

Remember, Twitter is a "LIVE" medium, so do post regularly. Not just your own book-related news, but retweet news of your friend's announcements and successes. People, i.e. your followers, LIKE to know stuff about you. They also relish pictures of your cats, grandkids, friends, etc.
The more you use it, the more you get out of it – just like many things in life.

The one thing NOT to do is to send endless Tweets saying "Buy My Book!" 2 or 3 times in a day is fine. 36 times a day is SPAM!. Remember, the Tweet goes to the SAME people every time. 2 or 3 times in a day is enough to catch the main timezones.

Re the book(s) The manuscript for A Heart of Stone has been finished, including all the suggested edits, and structural changes. I have also edited it down to under 90,000 words, which is the canonical length for a first historical novel.

I am still farming it around, trying to get an agent or publisher. Meanwhile I am working on Book 2, with a working title of The Greener Grass. It concerns the next generation of Rochforts, specifically Jane Rochfort who seems to have been a real rackety sort and went all over Europe leaving debts behind her. I'm up to 25,000 words and a bit bogged down. It WILL come, though.

If I can't get A Heart of Stone away by midsummer, I will self-publish, probably on Amazon Create Space. I have had some good recommendations for them from my friends in the Harrogate chapter of the RNA.

I am busy researching Book 2, and have been greatly helped by Kate William's England's Mistress, which is crammed with detail on all areas of life at around exactly the right period. Very helpful. Emma Hamilton mentions Jane Rochfort in her letters, just after she (Jane) and her husband, John King, had fled Naples leaving a mountain of debts!!
In the meantime – its back to the struggle, or, as some would have it, the opportunity :).


Monday, December 19, 2016

A Year Ends – and a New Year Begins.

It's definitely time for a new blog entry. For many of us, 2016 has not been a year of unalloyed joy, and too many friends have left us. This includes a rush at the end of the year, so here's hoping for a better 2017!

I got my MS back from my New Writer Scheme reader with several pages of comments, all of which have been acted on, and I am STILL hawking it around looking for an agent. I have also submitted to a couple of the publishers who take direct submissions and entered a couple of competitions. All part of the process we must go through.

On a lighter and brighter note, it is Christmas, and we have both our daughters with us for the big day, and DD1s partner, Richard. Good bloke! The tree is up, and we are off to pick up a large piece of organic rare-breed leg-of-pork this morning. We never have turkey – because, if you go out in December or January, you ALWAYS have it elsewhere.

No sooner did I post the last blog entry in October than we got surprise tragic news when we lost Les Moriaty. Only 4 weeks before we had dined together with Glynis and Esther in Reading. We knew Les wasn't well, but we didn't see this news coming at all.

Les's Birthday in Reading, in October.
In a horrifying period of 16 days I also said farewell to Frank, an old friend in Holland and to the force-of-nature that was Carole Blake. So sad, and all of them much missed by their friends and family, and by me.

Frank, Anton and I in Chiang Main, 2006.

Carole at the HNS Conference, Oxford, Sept. 2016

Fortunately, life goes on and it is our job to enjoy it as much as we can, and I'm certainly trying to do that.

Sue Moorcroft's launch of the excellent "A Christmas Promise" was another cracking evening in Nottingham, and I got to take my long suffering OH along to meet several friends. There was also a goodly contingent of RNA Members there to support Sue.
Sue Moorcroft's Launch for A Christmas Promise

Seeing and chatting to Jo Baker and Tracy Chevalier again in Harrogate was great, especially showing Tracy the profile pic of another friend, Abbie Vandiver, who is spending the next 3 years working on the Girl with a Pearl Earring in the Mauritzhuis. (they now chat on FaceBook)

Abbie Vandivere

And so, the calendar moves on – to first, the RNA Winter Party, 

Some nifty planning took me to the RNA London Chapter Xmas Lunch and the Combined London Hash Xmas Party all on the same day.


The London Hash Xmas Party featured some EXCELLENT costumes!

This was closely followed by the BMPH3 Xmas Party over in Brussels. Another chance to top up on chocolate and beer.

I am not going to let the chance go by of giving a special nod-of-thanks to Jenni and Anthony Keer, for their hospitality, and for Anthony's expert skill in repairing and reconditioning our dining table. The table is about 300 years old, solid oak and made from old ship's timbers. Time had taken its toll and one of the hinges had wasted away. This is not something to be repaired via a quick trip to B&Q!

When we got the table unpacked at home Pam burst into tears in a totally good way. My sister is in the antique business so I know a little of what to look for, and this was an impressive job. Well done indeed Keer Antiques

Now I need some time to relax, plot the next bit of the book and enjoy Christmas, as I sincerely hope you all enjoy yours.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Season of Mists, Mellow Fruitfulness – and Holidays.

Time for another blog update.

On the writing front, I am waiting for the return of my MS from the RNA New Writers Scheme; (it's coming at the end of this week!)
I've already had some addition comments that I want to act on, but I need to get my reader's report back first. Once I have it, I will work through it systematically and address any issued my "reader" brings up. (there will be loads, but that's how you make it better!)

I got some help and crit on the book, and on historical writing at the Historical Novel Conference in Oxford at the start of September. Many friends from the RNA both organising, speaking and just attending (like me), so it was really good to meet old friends and make new ones. There are pics in my last blog entry.

No sooner was I back from Oxford than we shot off to France for a holiday. A week in a gite in the Aveyron, in South West France, followed by a week in Brittany, in a gite where we have stayed before.

While the gite in the Aveyron was lovely, and our farmer-owner charming, and came with two sheep and four donkeys, we suddenly realised how remote the farmhouse was. What would happen if, God forbid, we had a serious accident or event? While I speak French, P does not (apart from shopping-French), and she can no longer drive. The nearest house was about 3k and 2 valleys away! No mobile signal, and only intermittent Wifi. It's definitely time to acknowledge the passing of the years and stay somewhere with decent communications. *sigh*.

Still, a good week, with visits to our favourite cities, Cahors and Albi, plus a new one – Villefranche-de-Rouergue. We also topped up on wine, big time. We even got the bubbly for our daughter's wedding! (Labastide Brut) The cave even opened in their lunch hour for us and gave us a complimentary case.

The drive to Brittany took 11 hours, but we made it, and as Madam knew us, she was happy to stay on site until we arrived, about 8 pm. We did spend the next couple of days relaxing though – and did very little except bimble around the wonderful coast, and eat seafood – AND meet up with some old friends who were on their way back to the UK.

Since our return, life hasn't stopped, though we have caught our breath. I went down to Reading to meet with Glynis Smy and a few others, in a repeat of the weekend we had in Canary Wharf last year. Good food, wine and talk – and most of all, good company.

Next week it is off to Nottingham to meet Sue Moorcroft for the launch of "A Christmas Promise". I'm taking Pam too'

, then it's the Harrogate History Festival, and we have tickets for Jo Baker, Phillipa Gregory and Tracy Chevalier!! 

The end of the month sees me at another Blogger / AuthorShenanigans in Birmingham. The last was really good, and this one will be too. If you want to go, contact Kim Nash on Facebook. May be see you there?

On a domestic note, the Hedgehogs are eating like mad – and I think they will all make their target weight before they fall into hibernation. They really like sunflower seed hearts and mealworms.

All comments most welcome!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Keeping Busy!!

Time for another Blog update, just before we head off to France on Holiday.

As usual, the calendar just gets fuller and fuller. One advantage of being retired is that we have the time to do a lot more.

No sooner was I back from the RNA Conference in Lancaster, than we were off to Harrogate to the Great Yorkshire Show. This is now the largest show of its kind in the UK, on a purpose-built showground, and is always a fun day out. 

We came back with some plants and bits of food, etc. The horses and other beasts were magnificent, and the "big kit" on display from the manufacturers of Farm Machinery was truly astounding. We always make a point of going early, so the traffic isn't too bad. Even the weather smiled. 

The following weekend saw me back down to Balsall Heath, to join friends from Warwick Hash House Harriers on their 200th Run. Several of us had been there on Run 1. Again, the Weather-Gods smiled, and friends assembled – some from Spain and points even farther away, for an afternoon of social running, walking and an occasional sociable beer. 
The Mean Lean Running Machines of Warwich H3, and their Friends

They come in all sizes,

They come in all ages.

and assume all positions.

But they are all old friends and practically housetrained.

Note: I have a note from my Mother, and am excused the Running and Walking bit, on account of me being deficient in the working-leg department to the tune of One! 

Warwick Hash on Facebook

My fellow author friend, Lynda Stacey has her first book out, and a bunch of us met up for a celebratory dinner to mark the launch.

Lynda herself, with her OH Hayden.

 (good bloke!)

House of Secrets is an excellent tale, and the subsequent sales have been really good. Roll on her next book.

House of Secrets on Amazon

This wasn’t the only launch I went to. Every year, I head off to Silverstone for the classic racing car meeting. This year, it coincided with the book launch of "Falling" by Julie Cohen.

Falling - Julie-Cohen

 Julie is not just a really good writer, she is a really good teacher of writing. That has been VERY helpful for someone like me. Even today, I keep two of her maxims at the front of my brain when writing.
1.      Repetition is DEATH!!
2.      Resist the Urge to Explain.

We all had a cracking evening in Waterstones in Reading. Lots of wine, lots of chat, lots of pics, lots of friends.

This year at Silverstone, I was joined by an old friend, Alan Brooks ("Sperm Whale") He makes me look slim, hence the nickname.

Love the Passenger Instructions!

 The event gets bigger and bigger, but there is still room to wander around, and an awful lot going on. Some great racing too, with cars going back to the 1940s. 

I confess to a great love for the Formula Junior cars, and for the awesome Lister "Knobbly" Jaguars. This is the sort of racing I knew when I was growing up.

Two weeks later, I was off to a Ball! The London Hash House Harriers 40th Anniversary Ball, held at the London Welsh Clubhouse at the Old Deer Park in Richmond. 

Everyone dressed to kill, and – once again – a host of old friends came out of the woodwork for it. Well done to "Last Tango" and her team for pulling it off. A cracking night.

And so we came to the Historical Novel Society Conference. This was held at the Mathematical Institute (The House of Sums) in Oxford, and we were, for the most part, billeted at St. Anne's College, almost directly across the Woodstock Road.

The Historical Novel Society

Fay Weldon was warm and witty, as was Jo Baker. Carol McGrath was an excellent compere. There were no "pregnant pauses"

I took over 500 pics, and have posted in excess of 300. Hopefully, I got a shot of most people. A good proportion of gentlemen there, and an equally good proportion of foreign visitors, mostly from the USA, who host next years conference in Portland Oregon.

This was my first HNS conference, and it was packed with an unbelievable list of speakers, including Fay Weldon, Tracy Chevalier, Jo Baker and Kate Williams, who all great to listen to, plus a host of other luminaries who were entertaining and informative.  

Kate Williams

Richard Lee. Founder of the HNS and its Chairman

Tracy Chevalier

For some reason, the area where we were assembling for lunch and coffee, etc. didn't have a PA system, so I got called on to shout loudly to get people moving towards the main lecture theater at the appropriate moment.

Melvyn Bragg was also there.

And so to the Gala Dinner.

All the nice girls love a Sailor!!

There is a tremendous cross-fertilization between the Romantic Novelist Association and the Historical Novel Society, so there were many existing friends there. It was also another weekend of people tapping me on the shoulder and saying "Hi! Your my friend / follower……" I love it when that happens.

My OH asked me what was the difference between the 2 conferences, and which I enjoyed more.
Well, I enjoyed them both equally. They were both a great way of spending a weekend amongst friends and making common cause in a highly sociable milieu.

The difference – for me – is that I learn more of the "Craft of Writing" at RNA Conferences and more about different ways of looking and writing about history at the HNS conference. So both SERIOUSLY good.

Finally, the Hedgehogs. They are still coming regularly and are all putting on weight. We now have 4 (we think). Mr and Mrs Snuffles and 2 smaller ones who could be their offspring. They all need to make a minimum weight of about 600gms., and I reckon ours are all doing just fine. 

They will probably disappear off to sleep in early November. 

We have actually bought a "hedgehogery" which we will be putting out in a corner of the garden shortly. We shall see if one of them uses it.

Enjoy the rest of your summer;