Friday, April 27, 2007


Made it! Despite some very hairy roads. Romanians drive like Italians. This is not good.
A brief entry as I am already late for a date with Vlad at the History Museum. But I believe my first podcasts will be up soon. Watch... this space!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Greetings from Transylvania

How wonderful to be able to write that! Alas, I am not able to podcast it as promised. I have made several recordings. But - and I don't mean to disparage the Romanians who are wonderful, hospitable people - but in the land where the bullock cart is still a common form of transport, broadband was always going to be hard to find!
So I'll content myself with the written word... and keep that brief for now, as I am not sure how long this will take to upload.
Romania is wonderful, a series of highlights. My first nights were spent in a homestay in the village of Arefu at the Tomescus, where Maria fed me from her yard - all families here keep a few pigs, cows, chickens, ducks and grow vegetables for pickling. Meat heavy, delicious and heady when washed down with tuica, the home made plum brandy. Bizarrely, I spoke more Romanian than they spoke English, my few words gleaned from my Berlitz book on the flight down.
I then climbed the 1400 steps to the ruins of Vlad's castle at Poenari and had it to myself for five hours essentially. A magnificent position, surprisingly small, it could be held by fifty men - which I am sure is all he could trust.
And last night I drank a dark beer in the house in Sighisoara -Transylvania proper - where Dracula was born in 1431.
It's curious - what does an author hope to gain from these trips? A few facts, sure. Yet things are obviously different now than 500 hundred years ago - no internet cafe, for a start. But there is an atmosphere, in a house, a ruined tower, a stand of beech. I sit, make the odd note, then close my eyes for a while. The writing will come later. But images are lodging, many subliminal, to be conjured later at my desk in Vancouver.
Enough for now. I hope this works. And that I can add my podcasts from Bucharest. Though I may have to wait till Istanbul.
Glorious sentence to write! I pinch myself, and hit 'post'.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Yes, I have truly entered the 21st Century. And I will use the skills to take you with me to the 15th. Thanks to the technical wizardry of Gerald Vanderwoude, I am going to podcast from my travels to Romania and Istanbul as I go in search of the historical Dracula. He is the subject of my next novel.

So feel free to join me! Click the PODCASTS link down right there… go on, you know you want to!... and hear my introductory podcast.

And thank you so very much, Gerald, for the ipod, the very slowly explained instructions, and the friendship.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I used to say, when I was writing plays, (as I hope to do again), that a play is never finished, its abandoned. (I may well have stolen that quote!)

It’s the same with novels. There’s always something else to add, polish, change. A different word, metaphor. An excessive adverb cut out. A misprunt. Occasionally whole plot lines! (The proof nightmare!)

Having said all that, I finished the final draft of my third Runestone Saga novel today. My editor’s brilliant notes as usual inspired me to improve. I rewrote a fair bit – the whole last chapter for example. Oh, and I have bowed to wiser heads who think that the title ‘Ragnarok’ will make people think its about the Norse Gods (which it is but only peripherally) (By the way, have you noticed I am using brackets quite a lot?).

So, you heard it here first, a blog exclusive. The new book will be called…


Yes, I know there’s the AS Byatt book. But its years old and a very different genre. Plus, titles reoccur. (I notice my Canadian publisher has brought out a contemporary novel entitled ‘Blood Ties’ – my second novel.) (Damn! Another bracket!)

So, tweaks and polish aside, the novel is done. I will read it over the next few days then send it off. I have cleared my decks. Wednesday I leave for Bucharest via London – and a whole new literary mountain to climb – Vlad the Impaler!

(On what date will I abandon him?)

Sunday, April 08, 2007


I realise I didn’t comment on the Masterclass I delivered in Halifax (apart from registering a degree of surprise that I should be delivering said class.)

I enjoyed it. It mainly consisted of me speaking of passion – for subject, character, place, period. Passion for what you write will make you do one of the hardest things – sit down and write every day. I quoted what used to be above my desk (and is engraven on heart and posterior): ‘The Art of writing is the Art of putting the bottom in the chair.’ I also emphasised the necessity of the first draft being strictly for oneself. ‘Its only a first draft’ is another CC mantra. If its for yourself, you can write rubbish, fail miserably, misspell, be ungrammatical…anything, because no one is going to see it. It leaves you free then to concentrate on what you should be concentrating on in the first draft: finding your characters, letting them tell you their stories, playing with voice and form. No one sees my first draft. It gives me enormous freedom.

Heh! I’ve blogged twice in a week! I must be getting into it. And I am contemplating a big step forward. A tech wizard friend is trying to set me up with an ipod I can record on. He will then give me a site I can upload to which people can access from my blog. So I am thinking of podcasting from Romania.

Imagine… “So here I am, sitting in the ruins of Dracula’s castle at Poenari. I am alone. Entirely alone… except! No! No! Stay away from me. Stay….!”
Hmm! Could be fun!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Mea culpa, mea culpa...

Mea maxima culpa...

Yupp, guilty again. I seem to start each blog with an apology, vow to do better, then fail.
‘Fail again. Fail better,’ Samuel Beckett wrote. I’ll try.

So, progress report. I got the notes back for the third Fetch book. Once again my editor, Nancy Siscoe, has done a bang up job. She reassures me about how much she likes it – then makes me yearn to improve it with her sharp observations. Its often about clarification – something she, the ideal reader, doesn’t get. Or a failing of logic, sense, or both. Occasionally she’ll suggest some character stuff, usually pretty acute. Occasionally a plot switch. I balk at these, grumble… then find she’s right nine out of ten. But finally, if I disagree on that tenth, she lets me have my way.
The Dream editor indeed! Now comes my favourite bit – the red ink pen, the final polish. My last real chance to shape.

I am excited. The third book of the Runestone Saga is a worthy finale, an epic conclusion. Don’t want to give too much away – after all, the second one, the equally exciting ‘Vendetta’ is not out till the summer – but Sky’s journey takes him about as far as a boy can go…

Went to Eastern Canada last week – Ottawa to see my brother, Toronto to see my publishers (I love that plural!). Finally Halifax, Nova Scotia, to appear at their Writers Festival. I loved Halifax. Many stone buildings, sunshine, the harbour, history a-plenty. And they pull beer with hand pumps, something to gladden this Englishman’s heart and taste buds. Saw my niece who is at Dalhousie and I forced her to play tourist. We drove to the delightful Peggy’s Cove. The whole area reminded me of Southern Norway – fjords, fishing villages, rocky shores, painted houses. Gladdened this Norwegian’s eye.
I also thought the people were delightful, warm, welcoming and fun. And was it the fact of the sun and that its been raining in Vancouver for three months straight, or was everything just plain old sexier there?

And now, the countdown for the next adventure: Romania in under three weeks. In Search of Vlad. I’ll try to blog from there. A whiz is trying to set me up so I can even podcast. That’d be something. From the poorest of bloggers to the high tech king. Well see!