William Edward Thomas 1925-2014

On 19th February 2014, my grandfather, William E. Thomas, author of the Cypress Branches trilogy, finally lost the greatest battle of his life and passed away. He went peacefully, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.

William had been battling the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease for well over a decade. A strong and dignified man, he kept his illness in place for as long as he could and managed to outlive all predictions. Although the family is devastated by his loss, we are also relieved that he is no longer suffering or in pain.

A private funeral for family and friends was held in William’s home town of Milton Keynes on 7th March. His ashes will be interred with his wife in their final resting place – a beautiful green burial ground overlooking the rolling Buckinghamshire countryside – later this month.

William led a full and active life. Soldier, sailor, airman, engineer, technician, scholar, comedian, union man, family man, writer…these are just a few of the roles he played. He has left behind an incredible legacy, which includes his literary work, which is now being enjoyed by an ever growing audience, his engineering successes, and his large and loving family who are all missing him dearly.

The family would like to thank all of William’s readers around the world for the interest and support they have shown in both the man himself and his writing over the last few years. It is gratifying to know that despite William no longer being with us, his voice will continue to be heard through his books for many years to come.

We would like to invite anyone who wishes to, to make a donation in William’s memory to the Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading support and research charity for people with dementia, their families and carers. Their work touches the lives of over 30,000 people every week, providing practical services and support for those affected. You can make a donation by visiting their website here.

William with his wife Sheila, who passed away in March last year,
 at the launch of Pegasus Falling in 2012. 

How do you beat the January blues? Easy. Forget the weather and escape into a good book…

The night before Christmas. In a few hours, all the decorations will be gone…

Last night was Twelfth night*, officially the end of the Christmas holidays, and traditionally today is the day that the decorations are brought down. It’s always a sad time, and I hate that job more than any other household chore. Christmas is such a happy, joyous occasion in our family that when the decs are finally boxed and returned to the attic, the house always feels bare and lifeless, and the festivities seem like such a long way away. 
As I write this post, yet another storm is about to hammer through London, adding to the gloom of the season. The pretty, wintry, fantastical scenes on the Christmas cards which will no longer deck the halls as of tonight are just that, it seems. Fantasy. 
Is it any wonder, then, that we all seem to fall into a bit of a funk at this time of year? With months to go until the first signs of spring (although I did spot Hot Cross Buns in the supermarket yesterday. Too soon, Sainsbury’s. Too, too soon), the prospect of going back to work after the long break and no sign yet of the days lengthening, there appears to be little to look forward to in January and February. 
But in a way, it is also one of my favourite times of the year. Why? Because I seem to do more reading in January and February than at any other time of year. I hadn’t realised this fact until recently, when I looked back on last year’s reading. I got through more books in the first couple of months of 2013 than I did in any other period, and with the beginning of this year promising plenty of opportunities to read, I’m looking forward to another bumper period of reading. 
And who can blame me, eh? What better way to forget about the absence of festivities, the appalling weather and the January blues than to escape it all within the pages of a good novel? 
It’s a magical thing that happens when you open a book and become consumed in the story and characters within. I love the escapism that it affords you. 
Last year, I got a bumper crop of new books for Christmas, but I began my reading year with a classic that I’d never read before – Oliver Twist.  Despite the fact that the weather and atmosphere in Twist is just as frightful as that outside (if not more so), it was wonderful to share in an adventure taking part in a world far removed from my own. It was thrilling, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to start every year by reading a classic. This year it’s Dickens again – I’m about to get stuck in to Great Expectations. A story I know very well from popular culture (and some excellent film and television adaptations), but remarkably, I’ve never read. It’s a book I know I’m going to love. 

When I’d finished with Oliver, I immediately got stuck into another great book, then another and another. As the bitterly cold weather clung on into March and April, I treasured the opportunities it gave me to do nothing other than check where my bookmark had left me.

A book at bedtime…my winter blues-busters.
Whatever the weather this year, I’ll be doing a lot of travelling over the coming weeks, and instead of fearing those long journeys to and from work, I’m looking forward to the perfect opportunity to enter another world. This may sound odd to many, but I’ve missed my morning and evening commute of late and I’m actually looking forward to getting that reading time back!
Books are an important part of this time of the year for me. By Spring, the opportunities to read will be diminishing. The garden will need tending, the social calendar will get busier, and the better weather always gets us out and about more; walking, cycling and days out all taking up time that in January and February seem to call me to reading. So I’m going to treasure this time, and make the most of it.
So if, this season, you find yourself feeling down and dreary, forlorn now the tinsel and bunting are about to disappear, why not do what I do, and make the most of it? Batten down the hatches, pull up the duvet and get stuck in to a good read…it will make the wait for Spring so much more pleasurable.  
Any excuse, eh?!
(*Or tonight is, depending on which tradition you follow. In my household, Christmas Eve night is every inch the start of Christmas time, so it counts in my book, even if it does mean taking the decorations down a day earlier.)

P.S. I can’t mention the weather in this post in such a light-hearted way without referring to the awful situation the weather is creating on both sides of the Atlantic at the moment. With the bitter cold and snow in the US and Canada, and the severe flooding here in the UK, I know many out there are suffering, or fearing the worst, and if anyone reading this is affected, please know that my thoughts are with you, and I hope that you remain safe, and you’re able to keep warm and dry. 

2013 and all that…

This post has been delayed a few days due to a busy work period. It wasn’t quite finished ready for new year’s eve, and being the fastidious sod that I am, I wasn’t prepared to post it without doing my usual final checks (proofreading is everything, you know!) Still, better late than never…

It’s that time of the year when tradition dictates that we look back over the past twelve months and sum up what the year has meant to us. Last year, I had fun revisiting 2012’s highlights (and there were many) but I have felt less inclined to do so this year.

There are many words I could use to describe 2013, and not all of them are positive. I think many people have found it a challenging year for many reasons, and it has been the same for me and my family.

The passing of William’s wife, Sheila in March knocked the wind from our sails and made it very difficult for me to find the energy to continue with the Cypress Branches project. The launch of It Never Was You went ahead, albeit on a much smaller and quieter scale than I had hoped. A launch party seemed inappropriate, and with the momentum gone, I decided to leave the books alone for a short while and wait for the bug to bite again.

That short while turned into several months, and not much has happened in the intervening period since the launch. Happily, both Pegasus Falling and It Never Was You are still selling, with a handful of print and ebooks being plucked from the shelves each month. Hardly best-seller figures, but it’s something. It’s heartening to know that the books are being discovered by more readers, even without any real effort from me, and it gives me encouragement to up my efforts next year.

2013 really has felt like a transition year, but the changes that have taken place have been hard-fought and the road difficult to navigate at times. On a personal level, I have not only been settling into a new home, but also looking to start a new career, with most of my spare time this year taken up by updating CVs, applying for jobs, attending interviews and assessments and worrying about said interviews and assessments. All this has left me with little time or energy to devote to working on part three of the trilogy.

But happily, I can say with some confidence that things are looking up. A new chapter in my own life begins on 6th January when I begin training for a new, permanent, full time job (oddly enough, my very first permanent job, having been a freelancer all my working life so far!) For the first time in many years, I’ll have a steady income, a set number of hours (with the choice of whether or not I work overtime, rather than it being expected of me – and I’ll get paid for it!), plenty of spare time and consequently, plenty of resources (financial, mental, temporal) to finish the trilogy and promote it. It’s one of those odd paradoxes in life. I’ve not worked full time for over two years now, and have struggled to keep momentum going with the books. Now I’m looking forward to going back into full time employment so that I can spend more time on the project.

Having taken a break from the trilogy, obviously there is a backlog of work still to be done. Work is yet to begin on Part Three (and it still doesn’t have a name!) But I plan on starting that work as soon as I’m settled into my new role…probably late February.

I’ve already set out my plans for the blog (read the post here). I fully intend to put that plan into action, with new blog content, the website spring clean (which has turned into more of a reboot!) and exploring new ways to build the audience. The list of jobs is growing, and I’m looking forward to tackling them.

I know there are a lot of you out there who are waiting very patiently for the third part of the trilogy, and I know I keep saying that you’ll just have to be patient a little longer. I’d love to get it out there by the end of 2014, but I must be realistic and won’t promise anything, sorry. What I will promise is that work will begin again very soon. I will most likely go quiet again now for another month while I complete my training (three weeks of what looks like very intense learning!) but don’t panic, I will be back, then it’ll be all hands to the pump to get part three published (and named!)

I’ll sign off with a huge thank you to all of you who have supported and encouraged me during the past year. It really does mean a lot to know that you guys are out there, spurring me on and above all, enjoying the fruits of the Cypress Branches project. To all my family, friends, the readers, reviewers, bloggers, authors, colleagues and more…I wish you all a very happy, prosperous and fulfilling 2014.

It promises to be an exciting year, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it is.

The Seven Ages of Gramps: Part 7

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Happy birthday, Nan

My nan would have been 85 today. Her passing earlier this year was a devastating blow to the family, and her absence is still felt very strongly.

William & Sheila with their favourite book

Today is also William and Sheila’s 65th wedding anniversary. Theirs was a very emotional and powerful bond. Like all marriages, there were ups and downs, good times and bad. But I like to remember the good times, and there were certainly plenty of those. One thing I fondly remember of my grandparents is the amount of laughter to be had when they were together.

I can’t think of a better way to mark Nan’s birthday, and their anniversary than to share a favourite passage from the book dedicated to her memory. It Never Was You tells the story of two people who, despite all their differences and the struggles they face in post-war Britain, manage to fall head over heals in love and revel in each other’s company. There is plenty of William and Sheila in Harry and Mary.

Nan loved reading William’s writing, and often dipped in and out of the printed books. There was always a smile on her face and a sigh of contentment when she did so. So here’s a passage I think she’d have particularly savoured.

Happy birthday, Nan. Love you xx

Harry departed Rosario for Cordoba punctually, thanks to Juan Peron who, like all good dictators, made the trains run on time. He secured a seat in the observation car at the rear of the train which gave panoramic views of the countryside through large picture windows. The two hundred and fifty mile journey was scheduled to take some six hours so Harry kicked off his shoes and settled himself comfortably to enjoy the scenery. The first leg of the journey, some one hundred and fifty miles west to the small railhead at Villa Maria, would be across the open pampas, the Argentinean sector of that vast treeless plain which lies south of the Mato Grosso and home to some five million steers, those vast herds which drove the country’s economy. From there, the train would travel North West into the easternmost foothills of the Andes. Harry was particularly fond of Cordoba, its quiet provincial atmosphere, its hospitable people but above all the scenery. The city had once been the seat of Spanish colonial government for the region and its architecture and culture was emulate of the city in southern Spain from which it took its name. He gazed contentedly through the window at this ocean of lazily undulating grass. He smiled. What was it Francisco Chavarre had said? ‘My country is only half made up.’ He looked out at the vast emptiness of this half-made land as the pampas rolled interminably past in great sweeping arcs. His eyes moved across the horizon. The summer sun had not yet attained its full power and the grass, still remarkably green from the late spring rains, was flecked with a myriad rash of the bright yellow wild flowers known as ‘pampas roses’. The huge beef herds  were still far to the north but would move slowly southwards as the season advanced to feed on this bounty before the January sun scorched the plain. Then the hills came into view.
     Unlike many of his peers, Harry did not frequent the bars and bordellos of the ports, but preferred to use any free time to explore places of interest and to see as much of the country as he could. He was to learn in time that recounting such experiences was to prove a most effective, if not wholly infallible method of subduing Mary’s runaway chatter. He did not succeed in actually closing her mouth, which hung agape in awe at his stories.
     He told her of trips to Manaus, the great former rubber ‘capital’, a thousand miles along the Amazon, deep in the vast Brazilian rainforest.
     ‘Did you ever see any of them Indians, Hen? You know, them ones with the piss pot ’air cuts and the poison darts?’
     ‘No, darling.’
     ‘Bloody good job though, eh? I mean you wouldn’t want to go play’n 501 up with those nasty buggers, would you?’
     Of taking the train from Mollendo Puña in Chile and then by funicular railway to Lake Titicaca, high among the majestic peaks of the Andes, those vast palaces of nature whose bright blue sunlit summits seemed to mingle with the sky.
     Of the spring carnival in Rio de Janeiro, a three day orgy of the flesh…
     ‘What’s it all in aid of then, Hen?’
     ‘The Rio carnival? It’s a religious festival marking the beginning of lent. The big blowout before the fast. Like Mardi Gras, you know, Shrove Tuesday and all that.’
     ‘Three days on the piss for lent?’
     ‘Look, I’m talking about Rio here, not Bishops Stortford. It’s the time for love.’
     ‘Don’t sound very religious to me, all that sing’n, danc’n and knee trembl’n. Tell you what though, it must beat the shit out of toss’n frigg’n pancakes.’
     Of the Rodeo La Plata, when gauchos, dressed in their finely embroidered boleros, their billowing troos tucked into delicately tooled calf-length leather boots, display their skills at cattle wrangling with the ‘bolo’, a type of lasso carrying a heavily weighted leather ball at its end which winds around the legs of the unfortunate steer, bringing it down…
     ‘Does it hurt them, Hen?’ She turned her head to look up into his face. ‘I mean it’s no joke being pulled arse over tip with a sodd’n lasso, is it?’
     Laughing, he shook his head. ‘Compared with what is to come, that’s the good part.’
     He described, without too much of the gory detail, the scenes in the abattoir. Her face screwed up in horror as she listened. ‘Oh Jesus, that’s awful, those poor things. Can’t they do it any other way? Christ, I don’t think I could face another bit of steak, even if you could get it on the rations.’
     ‘You can always eat fish, sweetheart.’
     ‘Yeah, ’course, they have a much better time, fish. Hooked up by the roof of their mouth or caught in a bloody great net and tipped out to suffocate on the deck of some poxy trawler. What did you have to tell me all that for, anyway? Now I shall probably starve meself to death.’ She snuggled into him. ‘Hen?’
     ‘Yes love?’
     ‘When all sweets come off the rations, will you buy me about a hundredweight of jelly babies?’
     ‘Absolutely! But why jelly babies?’
     ‘Well, people don’t ill-treat jelly babies, do they?’
     ‘Of course they do, they bite their heads off.’
     ‘Oh, you rotten bugger!’

Extract from It Never Was You by William E. Thomas, Chapter Seven
(c) All rights reserved

The Seven Ages of Gramps: Part 6

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. 

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. 

The Seven Ages of Gramps: Part 5

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. 

…And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. 

<– Part 4

(I began posting this series earlier in the year, and all were scheduled to go out throughout March and April. Unfortunately, events overtook us, and I didn’t think it appropriate to continue at the time. It now feels like time to carry on. You can see all the previous posts in the series by clicking back through the links on each post. To see all the posts in sequence, start here)

Wordy Wednesdays #1: Tallyman

To her surprise and delight, Mary received a letter from Harry the following day. Recognising the handwriting, she smiled to herself. ‘He’s got the pilot playing postman for him again, I bet.’ She sat on her bed reading slowly then gazed, rapt, the letter clutched in her hand. After a while she began to read it through again. Shaking her head she went to her bedside cupboard and took out a small dictionary.

It Never Was You by William E. Thomas, Ch. 10, p.234  

I’m sure many a reader chuckled when they read this passage in It Never Was You, as it sums up pretty well the character of Harry and Mary’s early romance. Mary’s loquacious but unsophisticated chatter is offset so brilliantly by Harry’s intermittent yet eloquent ripostes. He is a quiet man, but one with a well-honed vocabulary that he puts to good use, often for comic and sardonic effect.

Harry’s banter often reminds me of William himself, who loved to explore and experiment with words. He peppered The Cypress Branches with a plethora of wonderful, and sometimes weird, acronyms, slang and now long forgotten, obsolete words and phrases. The way people spoke in the 1940s and 50s when the books are set was very different to how we speak now, and once common and every-day phrases now seem baffling to the contemporary reader.

More than once, as I was editing and reviewing the books, I have found myself in a similar situation to Mary, reaching for a dictionary or going online to look up the meaning of a slang phrase. I love this aspect of the books. It roots them in the time they’re set, and makes the dialogue that much richer and more believable.

So, I thought I’d start a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure and interesting words which I have encountered in the books, and share with you what I have been able to discover about them.

Are there any words or phrases you’ve seen in the trilogy that you’d love to know more about – or just know what the heck they mean? If so, let me know and I’ll add them to the list to explore in future posts.

Wordy Wednesday #1: Tallyman

Where? It Never Was You, Chapter 6, page140

What’s the context? Harry and Mary are on their first outing together, and have stopped to take tea in a small patisserie. Mary is on one of her never-ending “ear-bashings”, telling Harry all about her family and her past.

“…don’t know how they managed, really, me mum and dad, him being away at sea, like, not that they were sex-mad, well not for each other, anyway, know what I mean, me mam put it about a bit, you know, the tallyman, the milkman always come out with a smile on their face, like…”

What does it mean? There are a number of possible definitions of a tallyman. As the name suggests, they are people employed to keep a tally – a running count – of people or items. In some countries, the tallyman is present at an election count, to keep a note of preferences when the ballot boxes are opened. In some towns and cities in the 19th and early 20th centuries, tallymen were often employed by landlords or councils to do head counts, to ensure the correct number of people were living in council owned properties.

More often, though, the tallyman was the collector of debts. Hire purchase was popular in the period between and after the war, when the desire for consumer goods outstripped the everyday purchasing power of families. The result was many households buying goods (from furniture to vacuum cleaners) on credit, and paying back in instalments. Credit unions also helped out families on low incomes, clawing back the debts by sending the tallyman round periodically to collect the payments. Alan Johnson writes about how he and his family would hide from the tallyman when he came knocking, in his memoir, This Boy: “We were well practised in ducking down away from the windows and remaining silent as soon as we heard four knocks, and lying low until the tallyman gave up. We also knew we had to walk straight past the house if we saw one of them on the doorstep. They were easy to spot with their uniform belted raincoats and the thick, black ledgers they all carried.

Liverpool and its tallymen: The word has a particular association with Liverpool, where It Never Was You is set. During the early Victorian period, Liverpool was renowned for its overcrowded, unsanitary slums where dock and factory workers crammed into tiny dwellings with their extended families. In an effort to clean up the slums, and improve the health of the ever-growing population, Dr William Henry Duncan was appointed as the city’s (and the country’s) first Medical Officer of Health in 1847. He had some radical ideas, and it was undoubtedly thanks to his influence that the living conditions of Liverpool’s population improved markedly, with the slums eventually making way for the now ubiquitous Victorian “two-up two-down” terraces.

But Duncan’s legacy has a more sinister side, with tales (whether apocryphal or not, it isn’t clear) of a version of the tallyman sent to check on the number of people living in each home. So the stories go, the tallyman would visit, often at night, and if the home was considered too overcrowded or unsanitary, the authorities would remove children from their families and re-home them outside the city. The tallyman thus became an object of fear, and many who grew up in the 40s and 50s tell tales of how they were encouraged to behave, “or the tallyman will come to get you”.

Whether this was officially sanctioned, or even if it happened at all, isn’t clear, but it does make for a great “bogieman” threat to keep kids in line!

Have you heard of any tales of the tallyman? Can you shed any more light on the tallymen of Liverpool? If so, please leave a comment.

2013…a reading challenge

My 2013 reads…so far…

I know it’s November, and it’s a funny time of year to be introducing a reading challenge, but this is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time now.

Back in January, I set myself a challenge designed to get me to read more. Having become thoroughly fed up with my lack of reading over the previous few years, I decided to do something about it and set myself a challenge – to read 12 new books by the end of the year.

Now, I know a lot of you fellow book lovers will scoff at this measly total. “12 books? I read that in a month!” I hear you cry. For some bloggers I know, that’s pretty much what you get through in a week, let alone a year.

Several aspects have conspired lately to stop me from reading. Firstly, I’ve never been a quick reader. Whereas some can plough through a novel in one sitting, it can take me days to read the same book. I can only read in certain environments, too. While I love to relax on the sofa with the TV off and a good book open, my favourite place to read is on a train. But truth be told, since putting my career on hold to work on the Cypress Branches trilogy, I have found my favourite reading time has vanished. I used to have a fairly decent commute in to work, of between 30 and 60 minutes on the bus or tube, there and back – plenty of time to get stuck in. (I’m a bit odd, in the way that I take pleasure from an announcement of a delay, because it means I don’t have to stop reading yet!)

But working from home for the last two years has meant that precious reading time is no longer available. I have a lot of other interests aside from reading, so without that commute, my reading rate plummeted to the extent that I finished just two books in 2012. An appalling record for a bibliophile, and something had to change.

Without the prospect of a daily commute starting again any time soon, I knew that I would have to make changes in my lifestyle somewhere, so inspired by the many reading challenges I read about in the blogosphere, I decided to set myself a simple, but hopefully achievable challenge.

Over the years, I have amassed a large number of unread books (my ability to buy books at a faster rate than I can read them is a trait I know I share with many others!) so I decided some ground rules had to be laid out:

The Challenge Rules

1. Read 12 novels by the end of December 2013
2. All books must not have been read before
3. All 12 books must be by different authors

I didn’t want to set a theme. I have an eclectic taste in books, and wanted to dip into as many genres and styles of writing as possible. I had no real plan, either, and simply pulled a book off the shelf that took my fancy each time I finished one. I wanted to read classics alongside contemporary, sci-fi and lit-fic, light-hearted and heavy. I only bought two new novels this year, too, which means I read more than I bought for once!

So, with some ground rules in place, and a burgeoning library offering up many wonders, I got stuck in to some brilliant reads, and I’m happy to report that with two months of the year to go, I finished my 12th novel a couple of days ago. It’s amazing how a few little changes to your routine can have a dramatic impact on your reading time. A couple of chapters before bed, an hour or two at the weekend, the odd journey here and there, a lazy, rainy day on holiday, all add up and I was amazed at just how quickly I got through my 12 books (yeah, yeah, I know, not that quickly…)

I was also helped by starting a new job which saw me travelling for nearly two hours to and from work once or twice a week, and with the prospect of a new full time job starting soon, I can look forward to even more reading/travelling time in 2014. I can’t wait!

2013 has introduced me to some brilliant (and not so brilliant) reads. I have rated them all on Goodreads, and may try my hand at writing a review or two. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting back into the reading habit and hope to read a few more before the year is out. I’ll probably give the new reads a break for now and re-discover some old favourites. I do love re-reading books occasionally, and there are a few on the shelves I’ve been tempted by, but it was against the rules…

As for next year, I have an idea in mind for a new target. But more of that in January. Right now, I want to get stuck into book number 13…

A new start

Greetings, Bloggerland!
How have you been? I know, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it. Sorry about that. Had some time off to think things over and work out what to do next…
You see, 2012 and 2013 have been quite eventful, emotional and trying at times. The excitement of publishing the Cypress Branches trilogy, and learning my way around the self-publishing world, has been tempered by some very sad and difficult events.
William’s wife, my grandmother, passed away earlier this year, just before we released It Never Was You. With the family’s blessing, I decided to go ahead with a low-key launch and the blog tour. But to be honest, it took it out of me, and I decided that I’d have to take a break.
And I’m glad I did. I’d been concentrating on publishing the books pretty much constantly for about 18 months, and the strain was beginning to show. I just wasn’t enjoying it any more, and when you stop enjoying something, that’s when you need to take a step back.

But the trilogy has rarely been far from my thoughts, and I’ve used the last few months to have a really good think about what direction I want to take the project from here on in. I think I have a plan nailed, and once again I’m pretty excited about it, which is great. There are going to be changes, but all for the good, I think.

So, where to begin?

Online spring clean

Well, for a start, the main website (acuteanglebooks.co.uk) is having a makeover to bring it right into the 21st century. With the new format, it will now work just as well on mobile and tablet devices as it did on PCs, rather than being re-formatted into a poor HTML version, which has always been a bugbear of mine. I’m also making it a bit more streamlined and user-friendly, both for the reader and for me making updates!

There will also be changes around this blog. I’m going to do a spring clean as soon as the website is up and running, then I’ll start to pen some posts I’ve been planning for a long time now, but have never managed to get round to…

New blog content

Earlier in the year, I pledged to blog more often. Alas, events overtook that resolution, and the extra content never materialised. But it’s never too late to make a start, and hopefully soon, there will be more opportunities to create some really interesting content.

One of the things I’ve realised since taking my sabbatical is that I’ve never done any really meaty research into Gramps’s past. This really is a rich seam to explore, what with his career as a paratrooper, merchant seaman, engineer and university lab technician. I’d love to get in touch with others who might know of a parent or grandparent who may have served with William during the war, or at sea. I want to find out more about what his life would have been like back then, and get a better understanding of where his ideas for the book came from.

And there’s all the posts around the books themselves that I’d like to do. They are set against the backdrop of some incredible moments in the history of the 20th century, and I’d love to explore them more. In Pegasus Falling alone, we take in the ill-fated Operation Market Garden at Arnhem, the concentration camps, the refugee crisis in Germany after the war, the Jewish settlers trying to reach Palestine, and the whole Middle East situation flaring up. All of these are fascinating aspects of history that I’d love to read more about. As I do, I’ll be documenting my research here.

I’m teeming with ideas, and can’t wait to get stuck in.

Building the audience

The key aim all along has been to get the books into the hands of the audience William’s work deserves, and for the first 18 months of this project I was searching out readers right across the globe. Drunk on the possibilities that ebook publishing offers, I cast the net wide hoping to build an audience wherever I could. That tactic had some success, but not enough to warrant continuing down that road. Because our readers are scattered across the continents, building momentum has been difficult, and I feel that now a bit of consolidation closer to home is what’s needed.

For the time being I’ll be concentrating on building an audience on this side of the Atlantic. Whilst the US market offers a huge number of readers, and I have managed to find a few out there (thanks guys!), I really should be doing more in the UK first. (Don’t worry, international readers, I’m not forsaking you totally, and the books will continue to be available around the world wherever possible, so if you’re in the States (or Australia, Spain, Portugal, or anywhere else the books have sold) and you know your friends will love the books as much as you have, go tell them to buy them – they’re still there in the Kindle Store.

Building a bigger fan base closer to home over the coming months makes a lot of sense for several reasons. For a start, although we now live in a global marketplace, and Facebook and Twitter have transformed how word of mouth is spread, I think it still makes sense to start small. I suspect that building excitement around the books will be easier to do in a small area to begin with. I can visit places in the UK, bringing that personal touch. Plus, with the second and third books being set primarily in the UK, there are places here that I can (and will!) target, and that’s my next step (watch out, Liverpool!)

…But what about the books themselves?!

And then, of course, there’s the small matter of publishing part three of the trilogy. Work hasn’t begun on it yet, which I know will dismay many readers eagerly awaiting its release. But I can assure you, work will begin soon. The first job is to re-read the manuscript – something I haven’t done since putting together the hardback. I can’t wait to get stuck in!

So, that’s the plan. What the next 18 months actually holds in store, who knows. But I’m looking forward to getting started.

Watch this space!