Where Did 4 Years Go?

It’s 4 years today since my first book came out.

Cover Title 300Hard to understand where the time has gone.  Of course a lot has happened since then. More books written, some have even sold! The original An Agent’s Demise was followed by two sequels and a combined trilogy. Yet my writing went in other directions. The excitement of hitting lofty heights of number 1 in the charts for a day with Demise has not been repeated.

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I have had (and still have one) two different day jobs since then.

Four years ago my children were still students now they are both post degree and working.

If someone knows where the time went please let me know – I think it’s with the odd socks and pens in my home. Perhaps it’s just the extra wrinkles on my face. Not a good trade.

Now I need Book 10 to get finished. The nine current ones are listed below. You never know someone might want to read one!

The World of Fives
Intervention
The Demise Trilogy
An Agent’s Demise
An Agent’s Rise
An Agent’s Prize
To The Survivors
The Persuasive Man
Landscape
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Chilcot’s Inquiry – Stranger Than My Own Fiction

After waiting 7 years we finally have Sir John Chilcot’s report on the lead up and prosecution of the Iraq War based on the inquiry he lead. For the grieving and wounded I doubt it will bring much closure, whatever that means?

As those of you have been kind enough to read, I too have used the background to the Iraq war for my own scribblings in the Demise Trilogy (available at all good book stores – well Amazon and Lulu anyway)  The backdrop to the story is how a conspiracy manipulated data to make the dossiers used to justify the war more compelling. Little did I know that that was close to what the report has unearthed. Of course we already knew much of this. The farcical claim of a 45 minute of WMD attack on the UK was just that. Anyone who looked at weapons capability in Iraq knew this was a joke, in my view a criminal misrepresentation of the capability of weapons. To claim the UK was at risk was so far wide of the mark it beggar’s belief that anyone in Intelligence or Senior Military allowed such rubbish to be proposed in a Parliamentary document. In this respect I would not expect the political leadership to know. They are not experts they depend on advice yes the rubbish was allowed to stand unchallenged.

During a previous life I had the opportunity to be involved in some of the work used to monitor Iraq after the end of the first Iraq war. This was led by UN weapons inspectors and was part of the cease fire agreements put in place after that conflict.  Part of my role was to assess Iraq’s weapons capability and to then brief my colleagues on their remaining weapons systems.  When the claim came out in 2002/3 as a support for the war I was personally astounded. I was out of the military by then but nevertheless that assessment seemed amazing given the state of their weapons complexes which were bombed every time Saddam threw the Weapons Inspectors out of the country.

At the time of the war I used to state the right war for the wrong reasons. I meant that Saddam had to go because he was in constant breach of the ceasefire obligations and certainly intended to get WMD back, not that he had it right then. He continuously threatened his neighbours vowing revenge. Blair has defended himself by stating that Saddam had to go and he would do it again. That may be true but he did not have to go then nor in that manner and certainly not for that reason. We were already fighting a difficult war in Afghanistan and to redeploy troops to a different theatre was madness and again should have been challenged. Saddam was not going anywhere.

I say back about WMD because he had used chemical weapons against Iran and then against his own Kurdish minority. He had had not used them in the first war simply because he was threatened by the USA of the consequences if he did. Not that that stopped the deployed military being issued with NBC suits and medication in case they were used. During and after the first Iraq war, for the liberation of Kuwait, chemical weapon sites were attacked and stockpiles destroyed. Even after the second war some small residual caches were found left over from the Iran Iraq war which were mostly rusting artillery shells which were unsafe to fire. By the time the second war came around there was virtually nothing left to attack.

The fighting of that war leaves a sour taste due to the tactics employed. Many have concentrated on the failings in equipment and strategy of the British forces and the lack of planning for after the war.  It is not the military’s job to plan peace. Their job is to win a war as quickly and effectively as possible. There were major errors in this plan. In particular the destruction of main infrastructure which caused so many problems after the war. For example destroying whole power stations when sub-stations would have created the same effect. Useless destruction of main bridges. The Iraqi military was pitiful, especially after the first Gulf war. Their ability to fight as an Army was so degraded I’m surprised the war lasted as long as it did. The liberating armies became oppressive conquerors and subject to guerilla warfare because the hearts and minds cannot be won when there is no security, no water and no power.  From a military assault point of view overwhelming force is the key to win quickly but that is where civilian control comes in.

I have previously commented on the lack of military experience in Government on both sides of the Atlantic and in all political parties. Actually it is not just military experience but experience of anything other than politics.

There were 650 MPs in parliament who had a vote on going to war. The action was approved 412 to 149. As you can see not all MPs voted. Currently, approximately 50 have served in the Armed Forces. As decisions are normally taken primarily in Government and directly supposedly in Cabinet it is interesting to note the Chilcot findings on the lack of wider decision making outside the Prime Minister’s office and the failures of the senior military and Intelligence chiefs. MoD Procurement needs culling – perhaps a few days on the front-line with the equipment they procure would get their priorities right. As for the treasury Brown was far more interested in undermining Blair than he was in ensuring that the UK’s forces had the right equipment, size and funding to carry out government, Blair/Bush policy.

As I have written on previous blogs, Parliament is sovereign it really is time that our MPS not only served their party but their country. There is no bigger decision then going to war, or not. I would like to think that some of the MPs might actually know what they are arguing about. The evidence suggests they do not and cannot be bothered to find out. After all it is far more important to spend time briefing against your enemies in your own party than planning for real enemies and threats to the country. For evidence look at the Blair/Brown actions also going on at this time. The evidence before the war was out there. The distrust of the dossier was known yet we went to war on a false promise.

The pitiful state of our current armed forces is for another day’s writing except – We have Aircraft Carriers being built with no aircraft. Our contribution to Syria is barely a squadron of planes. Our Royal Navy, once the commander of the seas, has barely enough ships to patrol a harbour. Our response to Putin is to send 500 troops to Eastern Europe two years after the events. We’ve even stopped allowing the Red Arrows to display at our primary Air Show. Let’s hope we never face a real threat. If we did someone else could take seven years to write a report that will change nothing.

The Demise Trilogy

Out today on Kindle

Demise Trilogy Cover

The Complete Demise Trilogy
This is a complex thriller based on the lead up to and aftermath of the second Iraq war. A conspiracy to cover up the associated activities of parts of the intelligence services. Now available as a complete trilogy.

An Agent’s Demise
Intelligence analysts and agents have gone missing, some may have been killed. The press and the police suspect there is a serial killer on the loose. John Slater was near the latest victim, he is evasive, appears to have no history, and he might be the killer. The second Iraq war and the intelligence network may link the victims and so The Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch investigates, with the help or hindrance of the Intelligence Agencies. The mistakes made in creating the dossiers used to support going to war are supposed to stay buried on both sides of the Atlantic, but still a killer strikes and is everybody telling the truth?

An Agent’s Rise
The Demise operation was shut down the killer allowed to disappear. But the conspirators have not all been caught and the efforts of MI6 and the CIA to cover up the dirty deeds of the security services only results in more deaths and destruction. Slater returns to tidy up, but how can he reconcile his new life with what he is asked to do?

What happens to Jess and Michael? Will the newly promoted Detective Chief Inspector Hooper really allow the suspected killer to go free?

Can the authorities continue to cover up the plot to alter the Iraqi Dossiers on both sides of the Atlantic?

Can the killer stop killing?

An Agent’s Prize
The conspiracy is over, the mistakes and cover up are hidden and buried for good. Both sides of the Atlantic can concentrate on the threats from Islamic Terrorism. That is what they all hope. They want to enlist a hidden black asset in the chase, but there are risks to that approach.

Meanwhile the FBI is still investigating what really happened. Is the conspiracy really over?

Al Qaeda plan new atrocities and MI6 with Homeland Security will try to stop them.

The newlywed Michael Johnson can help but his wife is still recovering from her injuries and she is suspicious of her husband and the authorities. From the streets of San Francisco to the suburban towns of England the terrorists are plotting an outrage.

An Agent’s Prize

Available for Pre-Order – The sequel to An Agent’s Rise and the climax and conclusion of the Demise Series which started with An Agent’s Demise

The conspiracy is over, the mistakes and cover up are hidden and buried for good. Both sides of the Atlantic can concentrate on the threats from Islamic Terrorism. That is what they all hope. They want to enlist a hidden black asset in the chase, but there are risks to that approach.

Meanwhile, the FBI is still investigating what really happened. Is the conspiracy really over?

Al Qaeda plan new atrocities and MI6 with Homeland Security will try to stop them.

The newly-wed Michael Johnson can help but his wife is still recovering from her injuries and she is suspicious of her husband and the authorities. From the streets of San Francisco to the suburban towns of England the terrorists are plotting an outrage.

Cover Plain

The book is also available from Amazon,  UK, USA, Canada, Australia and in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and selected other Amazon sites.

London’s Sights

Had a great day on Wednesday doing a river dinner cruise on the Thames. This was all to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday – where did those year’s go?

This trip allowed a wonderful perspective on the cityscape. I’ve included some photos below, but it also allows me a link back to books. The covers on my Demise series of spy thrillers: An Agent’s Demise, An Agent’s Rise and, in production, An An Agent’s Prize, use one of the buildings. We had an excellent view of the HQ of the Secret Intelligence Service from the river.

Some wonderful sights to be seen on a lovely evening after the weather cleared

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The Writer’s Craft

I thought I would take a break from actual writing to show you some of the tools I use to put the story together. As an example I am using Intervention the second part of The Observer Series. Whether what I display makes it into the final cut we will have to see. I am over 50,000 words into the story.

The main tool I use is Scrivener, the chapter manuscript is in the centre of the screen with the list of proposed chapter headings, characters and places/scenes on the left. All my writing is done here and the formatting for eBooks and Paperbacks using Scrivener’s Compile feature.

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In the continuing absence of an iPad version for Scrivener, I use Index Card when I am away from my desktop Mac. It does link with Scrivener but it s not the same.

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The next tool I use is to keep my timeline straight. This is Aeon Timeline which integrates with Scrivener. This one shows a couple of Arcs (chapters or scenes) with events and then cross linked to characters, scenes etc. I do not need this for all my stories but when it gets complicated i.e. with travel, synchronous events, etc.  it keeps things organised

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Next comes the ever present Excel. Nothing very clever here, apart from all the ratios and calculations to convert Earth measurements and time into my alien settings. Of course I do not need this for every story but I find it essential in my SciFi. I like to think that my stories could work if you ignore the faster than light etc elements. Before I used Scrivener and Aeon, I also used it for character lists and timelines i.e. calculating how old people are and what day of the week it was/will be.

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Finally, there is, of course, research. In the screen shot below, from a Physics site, (http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/circles/Lesson-3/The-Value-of-g), I was checking up on how G is calculated, then using the formula in Excel to calculate for my other planets. Research varies considerably from Google Maps for other stories to University research papers that I read when writing To The Survivors about how viruses spread.

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I know that many writers use other tools from simple text editors to complex design systems for covers. I use PaintShop Pro for that. One of my last Windows only tools. Keep trying to learn others but have not found a layered system one (that can import my old ones), as easy to use – I just wish there was a Mac version – come on Corel anyone would think Macs were new!

I have also used  a CAD program for laying out physical buildings. I have also used mind- mapping software – that was in An Agent’s Rise and I actually created the mind map I had the characters do.

SQL for Sequels

Mixing my topics today and probably confusing everyone in the process including me.

SQL stands for Structured Query Language a method of querying databases to find results but often used to describe the database itself. It is normally pronounced sequel hence the connection.There are several databases that call themselves SQL including Microsoft’s larger server based system, right down to SQLite Personal Edition running on various operating systems. Why is a SQL database on my mind? Because my sequels are causing me problems.

Part Three of the Demise Conspiracy, An Agent’s Prize, Part Two of The Observer Series, Intervention and an as yet unnamed sequel to To The Survivors currently named TTS2 by file name. What has this to do with databases. Characters that is what. Characters and timelines and scenes. Of course it’s all my own fault for trying to write several books (not just these) at the same time, but now I have added to my problem. Which character appeared, when, in which book, and do I need to explain their role or half the story of the earlier parts.

As I have previously blogged, I use Scrivener to write and it is an excellent system to list characters and scenes within a manuscript. I have tried importing all the characters over from the earlier parts but that just makes the lists longer. What I need is a clever database that tells me when, where and in what context I wrote about the character or the scene. In other words i need to add all the meta-data and link all the appearances of the character in Scrivener. I also need to know how much I should cover of the earlier story in order to have the current actions make sense. Not sure any tool can help with that. Many might say it did not make sense in the first parts!

Currently, I end up re-reading long sections of the earlier books, using Scriveners’ tool set to find the relevant section, but then comes the real problem. I end up wanting to change the original for grammar, construction or even plot to fit in with the next part’s scene. Oh if only I had written it differently, called the character something else, not killed off xx. God knows how longer series writers manage. Did  J K Rowling have a database of Harry Potter characters? Now if I had a database of all my ideas, characters etc there would be one place to go. This would avoid one section I just had to change where I used the same character name in two different manuscripts.

So clever database designers get on it. Get me a SQL database with the right easy to use queries so that I can look it all up. My writing would increase in speed, I could effortlessly cross reference and the world would be a better place.

Of course I could just get better organised get the sequel written without SQL at all.

Progress Update

I have not been updating all the sub-pages of this site as frequently as I would like. Still I’ll have some time soon to devote to writing and the supporting effort.

On that theme I have joined Readers In The Know as another way of trying to reach more readers, especially when I have offers for books going like the ongoing Smashwords deals I have although in this case the primary links are to Amazon.

To the point of the blog – updates to current writing progress:

An Agent’s Prize – the third book in what I’m calling the Demise series – after a long stall this has finally got going again. I have had to sort out the plot’s timeline to make it work and drop a major scene idea which was forcing to many other scenes.

Intervention – Another stalled process that has got going again. This is the second part of The Observer Series. I was making it too complex, so some cutting and altering needed to be done before progress could be made. That revision has mostly been done and further chapters added

Collection One – Not far off finishing, but in the put away and think about it for a while. Not happy with the proposed cover nor the title. Actually, not totally convinced by a couple of the stories.

Revolt – No progress, this may be put away for a while

To The Survivors – The Sequel – Has been started but I have a conflict in where it starts with several alternate ideas and three opening chapters. The biggest problem has always remained, where does it go and from when, till when? The original spans twenty years or more.

Others

There are other snippets and starts but nothing definite. For those of you who have heard snippets from me – I can’t say when or how these will evolve.

Enough blogging – there is lots of writing to do as well as promoting existing works, setting pricing, and not checking sales