Category Archives: Memories

A la temps perdu

Travel broadens the mind. Providing you aren’t doing anything else.

Back home again after three weeks on the road, ferry, Transatlantic flight, Float Plane. In fact most forms of transport short of a bicycle. Although I almost got run down by a few in Amsterdam. You hear the tinkle of a bell and get ready to dodge. Makes life very interesting and even gets my jaded adrenaline pumping.
Travel summer 2013 008
Still. I truly liked Amsterdam. Great place to chill and unwind. So was Southern Ireland, in its own way. Not much time to set fingers to keyboard though. In that sense our little transatlantic foray was a rest and complete change from the work-eat-sleep grind we’d got ourselves into. And by the same token have to get back into.

No more messages on the distribution front, so that’s another mercy. No more revisions, and let sales happen as they may. It’s no good waiting and watching for people to buy or like your stuff, they either will or they won’t, and that’s an end of it. If you’re lucky and a popular meme develops; wonderful, great, pass the Champagne. If not, carry on with the next project regardless. I look at it this way; if you don’t produce, how can you expect to sell?

To that end I’m rested, if a little jet lagged. My physical body may be in Nanaimo BC, but it’s also in several other time zones from Europe and all points West. Still haven’t penned so much as a paragraph in the last three weeks. There’s just been too much other stuff to deal with. Plenty of notes and photographs, but no output.

The problem with writing horror #WritersBlock

Literary horror is dramatic. It makes for good copy. I often watch the close ups on shows like CSI and think; “Oo, that’s good make-up, almost like the real thing.” or “No, eyes should be dilated at this point.” For extra material I watch programmes like the video below, attending lectures when and where possible, and read pathology texts, as well as relying on my own observations taken from real life. The section on ice weapons came as a surprise. I too thought that was simply an urban legend.

My only problem with writing such sequences is this; sometimes the nightmares pay me a return visit. Not that often, but commonly enough to occasionally rob me of sleep and good temper. I’ve been like this for the past week or so while writing the refugee camp sequence for ‘A falling of Angels’. My over active imagination has overflowed into night time unpleasantness with serious 3D realism and smellyvision. You’d think that the act of writing everything down would purge the anxieties, lay the ghosts. In practice this is not entirely true. It just triggers other responses. Almost as if my glib subconscious is cheerfully waving from the background of psyche, saying; “You missed a bit!” and helpfully pointing out the more unpleasant gaps I’d rather have avoided.

Angie’s vaguely annoyed at me because I’ve been waking up and performing my usual trick of going from sound asleep to fully alert in the early hours. As the dream hits crisis, I’m out of bed and on my feet, looking for trouble in half a second. It’s an old reflex, and one that hasn’t dulled with age. Not entirely sure where it comes from. That said I can sleep through most things. Storms, roadworks outside the house, marching bands, noisy teenagers. Yet if someone tries to be stealthy anywhere close to, I’m instantly up and alert. Whether I want to be or not. All on the back of a bad dream.

Ploughing on with the next volume

I’m pushing on with the next volume of the Cerberus series, specifically the fallout from a gangland killing from my opening of ‘A falling of Angels’. Getting a volume out in the public domain always leaves me with the need to do more. My attitude is, “Okay, that’s done. What’s next?”

As I was driving in to work, I was going through some of the ideas for ‘falling’, and have been taking a stroll down a rather shadowy memory lane. Well, not so much lane as dark alley. Drawing on my own brush with motorcycle gang culture, back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Those three or four years were crazy days, and some of the people I rubbed shoulders with back then still provide me with useful material. Not that I’ll ever name names, times, dates and places.

Loyalties, once given, should not be withdrawn without serious provocation or penalty. That was the core of the code I lived by. Betrayal was considered the worst of crimes against your chosen peer group. The rule is that you don’t grass. Ever. What happens doesn’t get discussed outside your group. Exile or death are the penalties. Omerta rules. That was the zeitgeist, and I got to see it up close and personal, enough to understand it well. Observed in the flesh, without any rose tinting of glasses.

At the time I recall reading Hunter S Thompson’s “Hells Angels”, but the reality was never quite as he made it sound. Not that I ever had much first hand contact with real, full patch chapter members, although I had a nodding acquaintance with a couple. Some days were fun. A hell of a lot of fun. The parties were almost legendary. We got stoned, smoked and drank a lot. We built and rebuilt motorcycles. I got the reputation for being ‘mad’, although no-one would ever explain why. I was a positive pussycat compared to most of my contemporaries. Some of whom would beat up on people for a word out of place. Sometimes for no reason at all, just for the hell of it.

In the end I simply walked away from it and kept on walking, but the fascination of ‘the life’ as we referred to it back then, remains with me. The casual, almost blasé attitude to sex, violence and illicit substances, which I never really shared. The heavy metal music which sometimes still touches an amused nerve. The sheer camaraderie and non-judgmental brotherhood of it all. The two minor gang wars witnessed from the sidelines. Eighteen friends and boon companions dead in five short years to drunk driving, accident, one murder, and two suicides. You might say it got a little rough for a while.

A couple of decades ago I toyed with the idea of writing down my experiences, and planned a memoir with the working title “Black leather, red blood”, but in the end decided not to. Time has degraded my memory of the events, and after thirty plus years I don’t trust memory alone except for the broadest of brushstrokes. Most of my notes got burned or lost, and we all have to move on. Perhaps it’s better this way.

What sparked my passion for space?

Got one of those occasional ‘question’ emails from the planetary society, and it rather brought me up short. In the Stars Trilogy I write about space technologies and how they might change the future of humanity, but where did I get started? What made me want to write about it? So I’ve decided to send the planetary society this as my answer.

What sparked my passion for Space and space travel? The first thing that springs to mind is timing. I was born in 1957 at the very beginning of the ‘Space Age’. The year the Soviet Union put Sputnik into orbit and lifted the eyes of the world up into the great nowhere, above mere terrestrial squabbles. Since then, man has taken his first faltering steps off the planet. Sent satellites into orbit, sent men and women outside the thin layers of our biosphere into the unforgiving near vacuum beyond. Created global communications relays. Landed craft on Mars (Mariner, Viking, Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity) and Venus (Venera, Pioneer). Dropped a probe into Jupiters maelstrom of an atmosphere. Skimmed the tails of comets. Men and women have gone into orbit (Soyuz, Mercury, Gemini, Shuttle) and even landed on the moon (Apollo). The Hubble and Kepler orbital observatories, to mention but two, have helped expand our knowledge of the Universe almost all the way back to its very genesis.

The second thing for me was Science Fiction. The worlds created by Anderson, Asimov, Bester, Harrison, Heinlein, Niven, Van Vogt, to name but a few. Their visions sparked off my own desire. If I was never going to be an Astronaut or pilot (Eyesight issues), I at least wanted to write about it.

Space exploration has formed a palpable background to my life, and continuously fired my curiosity about more than mere terrestrial matters. Its constant round of discovery formed the background noise of my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The dream of space travel has never ceased to fill me with wonder. I say this as a self confessed, dyed in the wool cynic of over fifty five years of age who has never worked in Aerospace.

The sheer scale of the awesome and continual endeavour that is space exploration, driven as it is by little more than mans indomitable curiosity, is nothing short of inspiring. In order to find our place in the universe we needs must reach out to find where we have not come from, in order to compare our origins with other places which failed to bring forth the miracle of life. Or may yet be discovered to harbour life.

We are fragile beings on a small, and possibly unremarkable world in the greater cosmic scheme of things. However, we need to find out if this is true by looking outwards, because unless we look, we will not know. That is what sparks my passion for space exploration. Whatever answers we find.

New discoveries about the universe around us flood in every single day. So much so, it is often very hard simply to keep up. While this might discourage some and overwhelm others, it simply makes me want to know more. To see more. To feel more. To read more. To comprehend more and not rely on the blind insistence of others. To be more alive. Space exploration is the triumph of inquisitiveness over ignorance, the bringer of light from outer darkness. To me, it is the very personification of hope.


I was checking my hard drive for archiving prior to a PC upgrade and came across this little collection of pictures which my Mother still keeps. I suppose just in case she forgets who I am.

The first is me aged four. The second (Bottom left) at twenty three in 1980 with my recently home built Honda motorcycle, and just to show some things never change; pictured leaving a friends house in Brussels in 2003 (Bottom right) with Angie, my wife, on my old Triumph 900 ST.

Three weeks and three thousand miles during a long hot European Summer tour down the Rhine Valley, across Switzerland into Italy and back up through France and Belgium. Magical.

I’ve got a whole heap of notes from that trip, but the one thing that brings it all flooding back is the smell of fresh Basil. Funny how memory cascades off a single trigger. The smell of hectares of Basil growing along the road from Florence to Genoa, Italy. It floods the mind and snatches me away to a happy vacation. Possibly the best of my life. Slumped in the paltry shade of Gas Stations signs on mercilessly baking days when it was too hot even to ride. Peeling out of sweat caked leathers in the wonderful cool of air conditioned hotel rooms to exhausted cries of “Aircon! Aircon!”. Must do another trip like it this side of the water.