Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Twelfth Rune - a new WIP

The big news is that I have started work on my second novel. It's called The Twelfth Rune.  Once again it follows the adventures of Charlie Simpson, his wife Annie and of course the Scottish ghost Nye.

This time they are in Cornwall. They live in a cottage just outside of Marazion overlooking St Michael's Mount.  Annie is a artist who makes jewellery from local amethysts to sell to the tourists in her shop in Penzance. Charlie has been trying his hand at writing and has his third novel currently with the publishers.

They find the amethysts by scavenging the mining tips that are scattered across Bodmin Moor.


We pick up the story with Snooky stuck down a hole.

I pulled the white cloying soil away from her and found that her muzzle was caught up in what looked like wire netting.  It was probably old mining waste.  Snooky whined a little as I gently started to pull the wire away from her. She wriggled wanting to get away.  The wire gave way and I passed Snooky out of the largish hole we were in to Annie.
It was then that I became aware of a high-pitched sound that was almost out of my hearing range.  I shook my head and tried to focus my hearing.  Was it tinnitus?  It certainly was a high frequency, was that what Snooky was following?  I started to feel a little lightheaded.
‘Hey Annie can you hear that?’ I poked at my ears.
‘What?’ She was busy trying to hold a wriggling dog that was attempting to lick her face.
‘That noise, I can hear a noise, sort of high pitched whirring noise, can you?’
She looked puzzled. ‘No, perhaps it’s that.’ She pointed to a mobile phone mast on top of a nearby Tor.
The noise seemed to make everything brighter. I looked to the back of the hole I was stood in and something didn’t seem quite right. Lodged in the soil was something a squareish, something that was out of place.
Square things with straight edges are not made by nature.  This was manmade and it was deep in a spoil heap that could be a couple of hundred years old.  I was intrigued, but a little irritated by the sounds in my head.   I pushed my shovel forward and started to clear around the object. 
It definitely wasn’t mining waste.
I reached down and pulled what looked like a well-tooled metal box out of its resting place. It was roughly the size of a Quality Street Christmas tin of chocolates but it wasn’t square.  It vibrated slightly as I held it.  I’d felt vibrations like that before.
I was in a dark corridor holding the hypersphere before me waiting for the redhats to tear me to pieces.
I climbed out of the hole and made my way down to the bottom of the pile where Annie and Snooky were waiting for me.  Snooky had her harness on now – she wasn’t getting away again.
When Snooky saw me place the box on the ground she whimpered and moved away and behind Annie. I could still hear a high frequency whine in my ears. 
Annie coupied down and rubbed the top of the box with her fingers. ‘What’s this?’ she asked.
I shrugged. ‘Dunno, it was at the bottom of the hole Snooky was in, strange isn’t it?’
‘It looks old’ she said. ‘Is there anything in it?’ 

I picked it up.  The shape reminded me of something but I wasn’t quite sure what. I counted the sides. There were twelve.  In my past life I had trained and worked as an engineer so I knew it was a dodecagon. Interesting.
I'm currently working on Chapter 3 where the Spriggan's make an appearance.(spriggan  is a legendary creature known from Cornish faery lore. Spriggans are particular to West Penwith in Cornwall.) There are going to be a lot of Cornish myths and legends interwoven with Celtic and Biblical mysticism in this story. 

Stay tuned. 

Re write - re visit - Peaked and Blocked - October 2004.

Rewrite - revisit


Peaked and Blocked


Oh no! Three blogs in and I think I’ve peaked; maybe I’ve even got Bloggers Block! Where has it all gone wrong? I mean it seems like this is the story of my life! I seem to have peaked too early in every aspect of my life.

Well, of course, not every aspect, I mean come on ladies stop sniggering, I am more than happy in that department thank you so much. I've never had any complaints there! I've never needed those little blue tabs if you get my drift! I've never had to count down from 100 or think about the English cricket team. I’ll stop now because in the words of the great African Playwright Will Shaka Spear (I misquote) methinks I dost protest too much!

Now, in the general area of women, I think I have also peaked too early and thus got blocked. I have been married three times and divorced twice. (2017 update - three for three). I think Oscar Wilde would say something like to lose one wife may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose all three looks like carelessness. I try hard really I do. Now the current wife was fine, a wonderful woman, but I can’t help feeling that perhaps if I’d held out just a little longer I might have got me a pop star like Beyonce, even Kylie, at the least a minor celeb that would be happy at home with me in Sunny Devon rather than having to go charging all over London just to get their photo taken showing their knickers. There is, after all, a photo machine in the Post Office in Okehampton! You see peaked too early and now blocked!

It’s the same with my job. I once had a great job in Brighton. Happening place, happening job. But it soon also became the wrong place at the wrong time, I’d peaked! I do believe that if I had stayed there I would now be the director of the place earning zillions of pounds, be married to Beyonce and living in a big house on the sea front and be friends with Fat Boy and whatever his wife is called. But no now I sit in my office diddling with the computer and sighing loud sighs, but unfortunately there’s no one to hear them. 

I did do the three peaks once but that’s an aside about mountains!

So have I peaked! I’ve been thinking about this all weekend. I had my 5 year old daughter home with me, thank goodness I didn’t get blocked where she was concerned (see second para above).(2017 -She is coming on 18 now) She is, I guess, the peak of all my performances and makes me quite glad that I don’t live in Brighton earning zillions of pounds dragging an ungrateful Beyonce or Kylie around waiting for those three minutes for the photos to be developed. I mean get a grip!

No. I much prefer it in Sunny Devon (a bit rainy Devon this weekend) with Matty doing a spot of sheep worrying by shouting ‘Mint Sauce’ at the sheep! Or showing her what jewels you can find when you open the prickly skin of a conker. Or just having a cuddle. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I Hate Americans

I posted this on Friday, October 01, 2004. I probably didn't have any idea who Donald Trump was or who he would become then.  I would have had no idea of the political schisms and the economic crash that would happen to smash the American Dream.  Then I would have no idea that thirteen years later I would be living and working in China where some of my best friends are - Americans. 

Let me apologise right now. Friends this is my attempt at humour or just so you understand - humor. 

Of course the Americans are hating themselves now - so there is no need for me in 2017 to hate them. Half the country are hating the people that voted Trump in and those that voted Trump in are hating the Hillary supporters. It’s like a cult of personality there. Where celebrities seem to think they are important enough to preach to the rest of the country about who does what and the notion that politicians should have policies to help the country and the people seem to have gone out of the window.

I Hate Americans. 

Now I don’t really understand why I wrote that. It sort of just slipped out. I don’t really think that I do hate Americans. I mean how can I as the population is 294,410,526 as of today the 1st October -2004? If I only hated each person for say 10 seconds each I would have to spend the next 9 YEARs hating Americans. But between you and me I have better things to do with my life (But at the moment in 2017 - I still haven’t come up with a definitive list!). 

So I need to analyse my feelings just a little bit more. I mean I quite like the idea of America and thus should quite like the idea of Americans.

Look the country was set up as a refuge against religious persecution in Europe and a way for many English people to escape our mad kings. So the idea of the great melting pot that welcomes the shivering masses to its shores strikes a chord with me. I like that. And going back to the 294,410,526 I quite like Americans as individual people. By that I mean all the Americans I have met (with the exception of the immigration officials at JFK) I have quite liked too. We even visited a family in Portland Maine once! 
So why don’t I like Americans as a collective then? Well first off they are just obvious targets aren’t they. They are just so insular. What is that statistic about the number of passports per head of population? Blimey the Brits can’t wait to get out of there country – most of them buying houses in France, Spain (with no idea about the economic crashes to come, the weak pound decimating their pensions and of course BREXIT) and all points East and South and not getting on with their new neighbours if the TV is to be believed!

Another example is, I sell stuff on ebay, and I am happy to post around the world, provided the buyer pays the shipping (as the Yanks call it). But so many of them buy my stuff and then balk at the cost of the postage, they seem to assume that the UK is a few miles off California or somewhere close where the postage will only cost a few dollars. Never mind that it has to be put on an aeroplane and flown there! Perhaps they still have a pony express I don’t know (although I do get a childish thrill when I get payments from Wells Fargo!) 

Okay I am starting to warm to the subject now. For a country that was set up on the notions of freedom from persecution and so on, I really do not get their idea that they can be the world’s police. I mean, apart from sort of helping to end WW2, and this is only a marginal truth. I know for a fact that the Russian people seem to believe that it was their huge sacrifices that saw the end of that conflict. So what else have they managed to do successfully? Korea? Nah! Grenada? Nah!, That place in Africa with the helicopters? Nah! Vietnam – ah Vietnam, not a loss but a ‘tactical withdrawal’. Tactical withdrawal my arse or ass for my American readers! They lost! It’s their bravado then? Perhaps it’s that that I dislike? 

Or their contribution to world cuisine perhaps? The ubiquitous McD? KFC? And now why o why do we have to call Treats MnM’s and Marathons, Snickers? And this inevitably leads to big fat trailer trash women with HUGE bottoms and big Fat guys too. And now this cultural deficit, the ubiquitousness of fast food is impacting on our women too! 
Okay,  I’ll give you the film industry and some good actors, some marginally good TV programmes and yes I’ll give them some good, if not great Rock n Roll, Blues and some terrific writers - step forward James Lee Burke. 
But what’s all this red neck stuff up in the Ozark Mountains or wherever, what’s all this white Aryan nation stuff? All this gun ownership, the paranoia that someone’s out to get them. So lets waste them first before they waste us. Baloney! (more bad food!).

And since writing this we have seen the increase of cops killing black folks, white folks killing school kids and religious congregations, hell even going to the local restaurant is a dangerous pastime now - if the news out of America is to be believed. And another schism he Black Lives Matter issue. against the All Lives Matter movement anon one but no one dares say White lives matter too - thank you very much. 
And I’m not even going to mention their (mis)use of the English language. Like you know- whatever! 
Hating Americans is sort of complicated, it’s not like hating the cat or the next door neighbours. It’s like a general sense of uneasiness that they are out there waiting to come and get us. Like a damp fog across Dartmoor in winter, if you get my drift. I don’t really have time to hate Americans, not all of them anyway. So maybe like most people George W will have to do, unless you readers can come up with any more likely candidates? Whatever! 

You know what - I'm going to retract my statement about hating Americans. I don't hate you guys. In the main I pity you. I hope you can sort it out without resorting to war and gun play - you tried that once remember?

Monday, January 09, 2017

Writing re-visited - Piercings - at the sharp end of life

In these posts I'm going to revisit old blog posts and see if I can make the writing betterer. And bring it more up to date. Change the tenses etc.


I worked at a large teaching institution in Sunny Devon. In late September and early October the place teemed with new students all going about their business finding out where the cheapest beer was. One of the perks of having a job in that sort of institution was the look but don’t touch rule. (I broke that one on one or two occasions when I was younger  but of course that’s another story!) It was very nice to be able to sit, whilst having one’s sandwiches, and enjoy the sprightly steps and varied body shapes of the young female students innocently wandering around the campus unknowingly being, I think the technical term is, 'letched.'

Anyone who has spent any amount of time doing this and I guess when I say anyone, I mean those of us guys in our advancing years who will glory at the sight of all those uncovered navels and softly swelling bellies. And blimey, if jeans and trouser waists drop any further south we’ll be seeing those things wot we are not meant to! I mean just what are the technical terms for the smooth creases at the top of the inner thighs. I mean those bits that sort of draw your eyes inwards and downwards from the belly to almost – yes almost to the pudenda!
Anyway I digress, see what a minefield this subject is! The whole point of this blog is summer is awaning and soon these very same girls will be covered up in their winter woollies and all we will get to see of them is their faces. So why is it that the uglier the girl is the more facial piercing she’ll have? I mean I just don’t get it. Why do people pierce their bodies? Okay I do have one earlobe pierced, it was done many years ago. And yes I do have a small but tasteful tattoo on my left shoulder (birthday present from ex-wife). And now tattoos up my arms. But facial piercing? Come on. I mean how they kiss; presuming that is someone does actually want to kiss them. 

There does seem to be some awful correlation that seems to suggest the uglier the girl is the more piercing she will have. What does that mean? Is she drawing attention to her features saying ‘I don’t care cos you don’t really know the real me’ or perhaps she hopes that the glare of all that steel will dazzle the eye of the beholder so that he or she won’t notice her looks?
Anyway I don’t want people to think I’m some sort of sexist or misogynist, I’m not, I love women, some of them are my best friends, but I just don’t get this piercing stuff and have simply noticed the ugliness/piercing correlation. I wanted to give it an airing and perhaps someone will illuminate me so that I get the point!
I am sure that as a student of the social I should be able to come up with some convincing theory. But at a base level I am just a man and I like women to look like women, and not like something out of a Steven King book.
And what about metal detectors at airports it must be hell. Beep! ‘O yes that’s my tummy stud’ Beep! O yes my clitoral ring (doesn’t bear thinking about does it) Beep! Ah my tongue stud.
Come on women get a grip! 

Edit edit edit and the horror of the Logline

Most of my free time these past few weeks have been taken up with editing. Not only have I been polishing the manuscript of Meditations on Murder for the hundredth time but also the drafts of the synopsis and the query letter. These are really difficult exercises in writing. One has to distill the 80,000 words down to one, two or three pages in the case of the synopsis and the query letter is an even shorter and more focused job.

Then of course there is the Logline.  What is a Logline? OK I had to google it too.

log line or logline is a brief (usually one-sentence) summary of a television programfilm, or book that states the central conflict of the story, often providing both a synopsis of the story's plot, and an emotional "hook" to stimulate interest. 

So now we have to squeeze out precious 80,000 words down into one line.  It gets better.
That one line has an optimum length of 27 - yes, TWENTY-SEVEN words.  Why 27 words you might ask, it seems such a random number.  Apparently the answer which is all over the internet is not 42 (google it) but - 'it just works' - there you have it the rational for driving writers crazy. 
My novel is 79,802 words at the moment. So a 27 word log line constitutes 0.0338% of the total words used. In 0.04% of all my words (I'm being generous to myself by rounding up) I have to use this sort of formula:

'When [flawed hero at start of story] is forced to [call to adventure], he has to [opportunity for emotional growth] or risk [what’s at stake]'.

I used a different approach I found online and workshopped it a little with some other writers online and came up with this:

When a city boy's girlfriend runs off with his best friend he plans to eliminate them but his tactics are hijacked by a ghost with ulterior motives. (27 words)

My query letter is looking good now and is I think pretty strong. Again I have workshopped this with other writers on Facebook and Scribophile 

Charlie wants to murder someone. Anybody will do. He wants to be a killer like the men with chiseled looks and sexy five o’clock shadows in the movies. But he’s just a pasty-faced, floppy-haired, rich office clone for the company his family owns.

His psychopathic rage flares to life when his ex-girlfriend, Linda, runs off with his ex-best friend, Ross. So Charlie creates a kill list on his iPhone. His first target is the puppy sleeping peacefully on his bed and he decides on a more challenging second victim to test his resolve and his lust for blood.

But then his iPhone bleeps – a ghost changes the list.

Now Linda and his ex-best friend are on it. The daemon, a 12th century Scottish woman also adds Linda’s parents and her solicitors.

Nye, the spirit, appears on his doorstep wearing his Bob Marley T-shirt – the cheek.  She crossed the barrier from the beyond to save a blood relative who is in grave danger.  Nye haunts Charlie, cooking him breakfast, influencing his decisions about how to kill, and shaping his murderous quest for the sake of her family bloodline.

While on his mission to take lives Charlie crosses paths with Roger le Ferrier a serial killer stalking Nye’s relative, Annie. In an attempt to protect the girl he’s falling for, Charlie has no choice but to forget his own kill list. But then it’s too late – Charlie, powerless to help, witnesses the Annie’s brutal death at the hands of le Ferrier.

The next morning, Charlie finds the murdered girl cooking breakfast in his home.
Another ghost?  Or has he lost his sanity this time?

MEDITATIONS ON MURDER is complete at 79,734 words and is an Adult urban

Dr. Rob Burton has published academic papers and chapters in books, and is the co-author of an IELTS speaking test crammer for Chinese students (with a Chinese Author – ISBN 97873002052989 )

Twitter: @trebornotrub
Instagram: trebornotrub.
Blog: Dr. Robs Day - http://docrob.blogspot.tw
Blog: News from Nanjing - http://life-changes2011.blogspot.tw

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I've been thinking about my characters and ideas for book covers so have been looking at images online. But I saw this picture in a shopping mall here in Nanjing, China. 

This girl seems to have some of the characteristics of Nye my 12C ghost.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

New Year - Synopsis Time

So the first post of the New Year  and after rigorous editing on my Novel Meditations on Murder which has seen the word count rise to nearly 80,000 I am starting to struggle with the writing of the synopsis.  This is important as this is often the first thing the agent or publisher reads. I am aiming to start to query this with agents soon. This is my first draft of the synopsis - the 1 pager. (I will have to do 2 pagers and 3 pagers also). Any comments welcome.


Meditations on Murder
Charlie Simpson wants to kill someone. Charlie’s life is turned upside down because Linda, his partner of 20 years, has left him for his best friend Ross. His plan is to murder them both.

He starts to plan the killings using his iPhone Notes function but he is surprised when extra names start appearing on the phone – the local paperboy,  Linda’s judgmental parents, the solicitors demanding millions off him on her behalf.  

Nye, a ghost from twelfth century Scotland has an ulterior motive for haunting the iPhone. Nye’s medieval influence and the fact that she does seem to have an in with God convinces Charlie that he should go along with the dastardly ideas she has for murdering Linda and Ross.

Malevolent fourteenth century dwarves from the Scottish borders the redcaps take advantage of the split in the mystical veil to come a hunting Charlie drawn to his murderous energy.  He comes across them in the warehouse he’s scoping out for his wet work but he gets sidetracked as he finds himself in the lair a serial killer.

Charlie has to face the Redcaps in order for him to fulfil Nye’s secret quest. Using a hypersphere  - a device first mentioned by Dante he sends the Redcaps into the screaming abyss of hyperspace. What Charlie is unaware of is that Nye has manifested herself in this world to save a present blood relative who is being stalked by the serial killer Roger Le Ferrier.

At Nye’s insistence Charlie tracks Le Ferrier to the George Inn in Southwark. Le Ferrier drugs a girl WITH A RED BOB and absconds with her. Charlie throws himself desperately at Le Ferrier to try to save the girl.

The next day in the secret murder room in the Wapping warehouse Charlie is forced to watch the girl with the red bob being tortured, abused, mutilated and murdered by the killer Le Ferrier. Charlie is helpless and unable to move and can do nothing but watch - held in the sway of Nye’s powers. As she lies there the dying and mutilated girl is blinking a secret message to him but its meaning evades him as his senses give in to the sensory overload of what he is being forced to observe.

Charlie wakes up in his apartment. The girl with the red bob, ANNIE, is stood in the kitchen cooking a full English breakfast.  Is she another ghost haunting him? Nye takes Charlie aside and explains that Annie is family and the only way she could be saved was for Nye to latch on to Charlie’s murderous rage to slip through the veil. She promises Charlie that all would be well now…for the moment.