Monthly Archives: December 2015

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog. Thanks to everybody who viewed it, especially top commenters Nikki Moore, Kay Pickard, Penny, Susan Mann and Teresa Morgan. 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,700 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Christmas Message to My Readers

To My Readers,

I’d like to wish each and every one of you a Peaceful (yet merry) Christmas and a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous New Year and say ‘Thank you!’ because:

HeartYou enable the career I love by buying and reading my books. I never get over the thrill of seeing my books on shelves or online. If you didn’t read them, this wouldn’t happen.

HeartYou send me messages on Facebook, Twitter and via my blog and website to tell me what you’ve enjoyed. There are few things that please me more than you enjoying one of my books.

HeartYou give me fabulous answers when I ask research questions on Facebook or Twitter. You share your expertise or experiences and then thank me if your name appears in the acknowledgements!

HeartYou send me congratulations when I’ve had a success.

You share my good news across your networks.

HeartYou tell your friends about my books.

You buy them for others as presents.

HeartYou get involved with the lives of my characters.

You occasionally send my characters messages!

HeartYou ask me when my next book will be out.

Or check with me that you haven’t missed one.

HeartWithout you, ‘writer’ would have little meaning. Publishers wouldn’t publish, agents wouldn’t sell manuscripts, and the world would be a sadder place. I’d be doing a ‘proper job’.

HeartYou’re lovely!

 

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Christmas survival guide for authors

  • photo(9)Attend as many Christmas parties, lunches, dinners, meet-ups, writers’ days and readers’ days as possible. They can be offset against your tax payment as ‘networking’ and/or ‘research’.
  • Do as little Christmas hosting as you can get away with (unless you can invite people who you can put in your books, of course). You need the Christmas period to refill your well of creativity and running round screaming ‘The turkey isn’t cooked!’ is detrimental to artistic output.
  • photo(53) copy 3Delegate Christmas shopping/wrapping. You have to write as much as possible before Christmas  to free your mind to enjoy the festivities.
  • When you hear anybody say, ‘I can’t think what to buy for so-and-so’ instantly suggest the title of one of your own books. Offer to sign it. And supply a bookmark.
  • photo(9)You know how a Christmas cake is ‘fed’ alcohol at regular intervals? And it makes it richer? Why not try regular alcoholic intake of your own and see if it makes you richer, too?
  • Email or message every writer or reader chum you fancy a gossip with. This definitely comes under the heading of ‘networking’ or ‘market research’ or even ‘PR’. And your editor and agent are probably on holiday by now.

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  • Plan your research trips for next year.
  • Do not make any New Year’s resolutions that may impede your writing career. We’re all going to have a fantastic 2016, right?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Research! Pretend-crash a helicopter!

When I posted on Facebook that I was beyond excited because a pilot was going to take me up in a helicopter and pretend to crash it, I received around 70 comments. The majority of them said ‘You’re mad!’

But I was truly thrilled.

In the book currently entitled Just for the Holidays, my hero Ronan Shea is a grounded helicopter pilot, recovering from a shoulder injury after a forced landing. I was lucky to 2015-12-04 11.51.43be introduced to Martin Lovell who owns a helicopter maintenance company, Skytech, and is his own test pilot. Martin’s devoted quite a few hours to shaping Ronan’s incident, and also introducing me to a Civil Aviation Authority doctor and an aviation insurance expert, both of whom have been invaluable in establishing what happens to Ronan next.

If the engine begins to fail in a single-engined helicopter, the pilot has to take action because he can’t park in mid-air. Therefore, every pilot learns  autorotation, the art of bringing the aircraft down at such an angle that the air passing over the rotor keeps it going.  When Martin offered to take me up and demonstrate how the pilot retains full control, I could not believe my luck.

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I arrived at the airfield on a beautiful day. The cloud increased in the next hour but not enough to stop us.

We walked through the hangar to a black Hughes 500 that needed a test flight. Martin performed the pre-flight checks and suddenly the door was opened and I was invited inside!

I wish I’d taken more photos but I was focusing on video as my publisher had asked me to film the experience. More on that later …

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Martin Lovell of Skytech

Martin strapped me into my seat and gave me a set of headphones, then began a running commentary on the instrumentation and which switches he was flicking and why. The engine started and the whump whump whump as the rotor began to turn, faster and faster until the blades were a blur above us. A little hover, then we were turning, tip-toeing across the grass to the runway where we would take off.

I’m finding it hard to remember that take off. We just cruised up and along and suddenly we were above a village, above a reservoir, above the fields. The Hughes has great visibility, including what’s just in front of your feet. Apart from this, and the fact that we were sliding through very high up air, the cockpit felt a bit like a car – comfortable leather seats, a heater and a sat nav – but with a lot more banking and swooping.

Once up at 2000 feet Martin told me he would begin the autorotation. He wouldn’t actually switch off the engine (prudent of him) but would act as if the RPM was dying. There was a sudden initial drop then we swooped down on a diagonal flightpath towards the ground. It came up to meet us pretty quickly. When we got close, Martin ‘flared’ the aircraft to halt momentum. In a real situation, from there the pilot would perform a run-on landing and, depending on the terrain, the helicopter might sit down nicely on its skids or, as with Ronan, it could tip over.

So up we went again to about 1700 feet. ‘Now we’ll do it a bit more realistically, as if the engine’s cut without warning and the pilot has to act fast.’ And wheeeeeee! We swooped down to Earth a lot more rapidly this time. Someone in the cockpit went ‘WHOOOOOOOOHOOOOOO!’ and I don’t think it was Martin.

He mocked up the run-on landing this time and his accuracy was amazing. When we turned and flew back I could see the parallel lines where the skids had parted the longish grass.

It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. I assumed that we’d pootle back to the hangar but, instead, we circled up high again and flew on (ground speed about 100 knots, so not so much of a pootle) over the town where I went to senior school and over a supermarket my mum had texted me from an hour before, picking out churches and a golf course, ticking off the villages as we flew over them to the town where I now live, and over my house.

I think it took about three minutes from there to get back to the airfield, a trip that had taken me twenty by car. We flew low-level along the runway so I could get an idea of what 125mph feels like in a helicopter (rushy), then came back around and landed tidily outside the hangar.

Everything went quiet.

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Coming back to Earth – reluctantly

What an amazing experience. The only downside was that I later discovered that only the on-ground segment of the video had worked. After that is just a white rectangle and an error message.

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Gutted. Gut-ted.

But – silver lining! Martin has said he’ll take me up again in the New Year. I’m just off to buy a helmet cam!

 

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