Shaking hands with Lethbridge-Stewart

Hi, everyone! I thought this week was a good time to post an update I planned to entitle Update September 2016. That changed when my most exciting news arrived in my inbox this morning. I can’t exactly call this Dark Fiction, but it’s more that side of my writing than anything else, though the tone of the story is fast and light. My short story The Wishing Bazaar is now part of the third series of Lethbridge-Stewart ‘The Brigadier’ of Doctor Who fame. I’ve been keeping this secret for quite some unbearable time. With the press release it’s official:

Series Three Announced! Times Squared for Pre-order!

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My next truly Dark Fiction title Blood Moon will appear in Night to Dawn magazine early next year under my pseudonym of Sharon Kernow. It is one of several from an on-going project of shorts under a theme, of which I’ve already published some stories. I have it in mind to place a few with magazines and then form a collection either through a publisher, should I be able to find one, or dip into self-publishing.

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On the romance side, Snow Angel has been contracted by JMS Books. The new, and one hopes, improved version should be out before the end of the year both in ebook and print. Hard to believe how much my writing has changed. I’m working on drafts of book 2 (which is now extended), and book 3 (completely new/roughly drafted). The re-write came about because when I considered adding a third and much-asked for title, I realised the writing was vastly different. I asked a couple of the fans and they voted for a re-write. The re-release is with JMS mostly because that’s the only way I could obtain print, but because of the good work ethic I’ve seen from the company so far. Others are screaming for work from me, I know. I’m sorry. Life pitches us curves and no one can be more frustrated than I.

I have a schedule I’m diving into. Thanks to everyone who has asked for work and those who have shown incredible patience.

Plot vs Pants

First, an explanation.

A writer who is a ‘plotter’ plans out the course of the story, spends time thinking about the plot, theme, subtext, characterisation, and many other elements ‘before writing’.

A ‘pantser’ sits down at the keyboard with an idea or a model (these are two different things I won’t explain here except to say one is more fully-fledged than the other) and begins to write. ‘Pantsing’ is to ‘fly by the seat of’ (one’s pants), though I prefer to call it organic writing.

I’m (mostly) a pantser, which I’ve come to realise doesn’t mean I don’t plot but having read a reference to Stephen King recently, a proverbial lightbulb went off in my head illuminating the fact that, like King, I’m an intuitive plotter. I am NOT for the record stating at this point in time I do it as well as he does, but here’s hoping one day, preferably soon. Really, that’s the definition of (successful) pantsers — they are intuitive plotters.

Yes, I am able to face the blank page and craft a story with nothing more than a vague idea in mind. I tend to write from beginning to end. I seldom jump around. The story comes to me as if I am reading, and in that respect it appears I’m lucky the way King is fortuitous. We are able to ‘pants’ it. The same cannot be said of every writer, though it doesn’t diminish the effort required, and a simple but painful truth remains: sometimes planning isn’t a bad idea even for pantsers. A story may not work for many reasons. Vital elements may be missing. Or be in the wrong order. Even a good book may benefit from being looked over to check all the important formations of story-telling are present and/or in the right place.

I imagine most writers start out as pantsers, unless they have some form of professional writing background. The majority of writers are readers who range from someone ‘wanting to have a go’ to those who have always dreamed of it being a vocation. Some (the lucky few) will discover they are intuitive, their writing tends to be organic, and they write something good enough to capture a publisher’s interest. Those who aren’t intuitive likely never publish anything, or nothing well-received.

Stories have patterns. Don’t worry if you didn’t realise this. If you’re a reader, you shouldn’t. I was ‘just’ a reader once, though there’s no such thing as ‘just a reader’ to those who love books, who buy them or produce them. A reader should enjoy a book without seeing its framework. The reader isn’t supposed to know the design is there.

Pantsers start writing and either give up or get nowhere (I throw my hands up and confess there are always the often-dreaded exceptions) because they don’t realise this, or they are intuitive and form the shape without realising. Once pantsers become published authors, they may or may not perceive the hidden construction of stories. Some will continue to be intuitive without thinking about it, while some (of which I am one) will begin to spot these layouts.

A note of warning: IMHO recognition of these designs ‘may’ spoil the simple enjoyment of reading somewhat (at least for me). As an author I now read a book more aware of the narrative. I’m able to spot the ‘inciting incident’ (for example). Don’t worry if as a reader you don’t know what that is, but writers should understand. For me, books were more enjoyable when these plot points were ‘invisible’ because as a reader my mind wasn’t tuned in to spot them.

Plotters know stories require an arrangement and they set out to make the task easier for themselves by laying the groundwork beforehand.

To a pantser plotting feels like studying for an exam. A plotter to a pantser can seem like one of those irritating kids in school who enjoyed the study process. Ironically, I was one of those who didn’t overly mind studying — good thing because as a writer there are times when I need to do research.

The trouble is, depending on what level of intuitive grasp the writer has of the subject, the pantser can be the one looking wistfully back, wishing they had spent the hours pouring over the text books in order to obtain a better result, but I’m not advocating either option.

Which is better? This is a simple question with an easy answer: use the one that works for you. Some writers plot, some pants, and some do a mixture of the two, and what’s required can differ from work to work, genre to genre, project to project. The choice often comes down to which the writer finds easier, more natural, or even which he or she can withstand. For some pantsers, plotting can seem torturous. For some plotters, pantsing must seem bewildering and disastrous.

A Pictorial Narrative

I confess I missed last week’s blog. I had my laptop, I had interview access, but I was away on holiday, which also involved some semi-research and it all got a little too much. Started to feel more like work than a break so something had to get overlooked. So this week while I get catch up with everything I thought I’d take you along with me to some of the fun things.

Hard to spot but on the way down spotted all these people floating in the sky. Not bad shots considering we were in a moving car and this wasn’t my best camera.

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    The perfect sunset greeted us as we arrived. Love this sky.

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A lovely stretch of Cornish coastline.

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Minster Church, not easy to get to.

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If in the area it’s a must to visit Davidstow Airfield & Cornwall at War Museum, whether interested in the subject or not. All put together by the exhausting work of volunteers who deserve recognition for their efforts. They’ve taken my box brownie camera to put on display.

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Launceston Castle.

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IMHO English Heritage charge a little too much to get into the castle but it’s worth doing once for the views.

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Love the zoom on my camera.

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A Writing Process Blog Tour

Around this time two years ago, I was nominated for a blog tour without my knowing. I can trust my co-writer and editor, Andy Frankham Allen to not tell me. I guess he counted on me reading his blog…and it appears he was right. This was my entry, which I reproduce here with updated footnotes. Two years. This was TWO YEARS ago. How the time has flown.

Q1 What are you currently working on?

Not as easy to answer as it should be. I’ve recently finished one lot of edits for a steampunk work and had decided to write a third in a published series of romance titles only to realise a need to edit books one and two as I reread them. That turned into a whole exercise of shock mixed with the delight of seeing how well I’ve improved in five or six short years. And while I was doing that edits for another book arrived. I’ve just returned the first round but don’t expect it will be long before the second arrives (there’s usually two before line edits etc), so I’m sort of jumping about at present. Interruptions and having to hop between works is one thing I never accounted for.

UPDATE: The romances I mention I’m only now finishing up. Personal problems and a necessary move cause a good deal of interruption. Book one has this week been contracted and the trilogy will be on the way.

Q2 How does my work differ from others in my genre?

A genre is a bit of a painful topic for me. I’ve been calling myself a multi-genre writer, but I’ve come to realise that’s not an easy achievement. Readers will seldom follow a writer through multiple genres — a fact that had never occurred to me. Yes, I know, naive, but then I’m a reader who will stick with writers I love no matter what they do. I’ll at least give all their works a try and I read so widely it seems strange to think there are people who read a single genre. I cannot imagine life without reading at least two or three different types of stories. I always say I write as I read meaning anything and everything. While this is true, branding is everything these days so lately I’ve been giving serious consideration to what I do.

I hit on the romance/erotic romance market mostly by accident rather than intent and I tend to call this side of my writing ‘non-traditional’ romance in that I’ve written a large portion of gay or ‘m/m’ titles, also menage, and those in themselves have ranged from contemporary, comedy, horror, science fiction, and fantasy. I want to have a serious try at writing a hetero romance, but I’m sure it will have a paranormal setting so I say ‘non-traditional’ to explain that I write a range of pairings and sub-genres.

Of my non-romance work…again, it varies, but I’ve come to realise that many of my stories seem to contain a dark thread. I’ve a short story Bitter and Intoxicating in the anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe (edited by Mitzi Szereto, foreword by Kelley Armstrong) that is a perfect example of this. It’s erotic gothic romance with more than a touch of horror. My one and only short story available at Untreed Reads called The Texture of Winter is impossible to describe. It’s about loss and pain and the end of life, and yet I feel the tale has a bittersweet quality. Both stories are unusual and yet both contain a dark thread. I kind of pride myself in being able to write almost any genre, but I’m currently trying to pin down what I mostly want to focus on, so I recently re-branded my site and myself as a ‘writer of dark and light fiction’, which at least seems to cover all possibilities. When I get a little ‘breathing space’ I plan to try to write a novel with that dark side in mind, just think ‘outside the box’ to see where it takes me.

UPDATE: I subsequently divided my romance and darker work and have a pen-name for what I now call Dark Fiction.

Q3 Why do I write what I do?

An innate love of books, of stories, of story-telling. Books have been companions throughout my life. They seldom let me down. They’re a way to explore life, to live and experience other lives, to be someone you are not. They’re time machines both into the past and the future. Stories are for enjoyment and exploration. They can teach or simply hold the reader’s hand through good as well as bad times. I’d love to make a living at writing, but realistically so few writers do. Many writers write because they simply don’t know how not to. It’s a driving force. I’ve referred to it akin to breathing.

Q4 How does my writing process work?

I’m not sure. Every project feels different and the process isn’t always the same. I call myself a pantser — a term in writing circles to mean fly by the seat of. Andy is mostly a plotter. When we co-authored a book together I found it a little exhausting and it wasn’t just because we were stepping in at short notice and had limited time. Andy is fast and he tends to know exactly where he wants to go. I can be fast, but not always, and not when plotting. Writing with someone else requires a certain amount of plotting to be inevitable, but I seldom know where I’m going so following any kind of pattern felt alien to me. I may start a work based on an opening scene that’s come to me. I may have an idea where I want my characters to end up, but not have a clue how they’re going to get there. On rare occasions I’ll know the end, but nothing or not much leading up to it. I have written things based on nothing more than a title or a handful of words given to me. Characters may come to me without a story, or I’ll connect two random events and realise there’s a plot hiding there. I really cannot explain how my ideas form because it can happen in numerous ways.

The writing process itself can also differ. I usually write from beginning to end, as if I were reading a story. Very occasionally I’ll write random scenes or jump a few scenes ahead and then connect them, sort of in the way a film is produced. The writing can come easily or take forever. It’s a wonderful feeling when it’s flowing; other times…I can only say there’s a good reason why writers refer to it as proverbially pulling teeth. When the writing drags it drags big time, yet I can’t base how good the writing is on how easy the work flows. Sometimes it feels as if a story wrote itself and poured out of me; other times I’ve had to wrench out every word, but in neither case does that tell me a thing about the quality of what I’ve produced until I shelve it for a while and come to the edit. That’s the one thing about my process — I like to shelve work before I do an edit. I may edit a little as I go, I may read over the previous day’s work to get me back into the story and tweak it, but before I do a first major edit, I prefer to let work sit a minimum of two weeks, preferably two to three months or even longer.

Q5 What’s new from you?

I’ve a short story called The Night Train in a magazine, Night to Dawn, and I’ve recently finished The Draco Eye a steampunk work for Space 1889 so that’s likely to be the next available longer work from me. The intrepid crew of Sovereign are heading for Jupiter and find the most fantastical creature yet…which the amazing cover reveals.

Coming next…current edits are on a book tentatively entitled Going Nowhere — a title that will likely end up changed owing to publisher’s list of titles already in use. This is a gay erotic romance paranormal detective type thing that will be available from Loose id though I don’t have a release date yet. Who said a writer can’t mix things up?

UPDATE: Going Nowhere ended up releasing as Wildest Dreams.

Love of the Written Word

I’m here to discuss a friend’s point of view — one that hadn’t occurred to me. I’m going to wander a bit because I’m also talking books, but it all translates to love for the written word.

Some people appreciate e-books, some don’t. Some hate the term ‘e-book’ and I take the argument on board. A ‘book’ is a bound set of pages. We might more accurately call the electronic file of a book an e-novel or e-story because I don’t believe the presentation affects the content.

The narrative ‘exists’ the moment the author penned, typed, or dictated the words. When one used typewriters or even quills and ink, the method didn’t make the yarn exist any less. Although by no definition could hand written or typed pages be called ‘books’, I would take them over the existence of nothing. A story exists regardless of presentation.

I’m not against electronic files, but I still love paper. Always will. I admit there’s nothing like a physical book one can hold. It’s nostalgic. If a gift, we may recollect when we opened a brightly wrapped package, the second we first saw what was inside, felt a fission of pleasure and spare a moment’s thought for the person who gifted it.

An electronic file, for the most part, lacks the personal touch. An old book even deteriorated… Well, those creases in the spine and cover could have developed over many years of handling and love. I don’t see a scruffy volume as one necessarily discarded or ill-used.

Also, for someone like me who spends a great deal of time in front of computer screens, then the printed page is a departure from our world that thrives so heavily on electronics. Even so, I find room for both formats simply owing to practicality. For one thing, I write e-books and would be a total hypocrite to then say I loathe them. I don’t, far from it. Sure, I would adore the kind of library the Beast gave to Beauty in the Disney film. Push my bed and a chair and desk into the middle, I’ll be fine — but I’ve yet to stumble across any enchanted castles even if I’ve found my Prince Charming.

I love many types of books from the classics to children’s stories, fantasy and horror, some romances. I can be fussy about my romantic tales more than any genre, but they stand alongside all the other genres I cherish. To call my collection eclectic is an understatement. Unfortunately, I simply don’t have room for all the books I want to own — I will never live long enough to get to them all even if I had said library.

My main problem is I’m one of those readers, who struggles to part with titles, especially if I enjoyed them. I’ve relatives and friends who don’t understand this. They feel a book once read or a film once seen is finished with. The story told the reader/viewer knows what will happen, so why read/watch repeatedly.

I comprehend the point but disagree. A much-loved experience can be enjoyed more than once and often one can miss things on a first pass the same way an author can during the creation process. Among my many ‘wants’ is a desire to own an entire library of classics. I’ve an abiding affection for them. I’m amazed when I hear someone say they’ve never read any of the literary greats. Black Beauty, Heidi, Pride and Prejudice, Gulliver’s Travels, Oliver Twist…all these and more were my childhood reads. I cannot even remember when they first earned the term ‘classics’ — they were simply books and they were my first adventures. They took me to different worlds and gave me experiences I would never have otherwise. I experienced these alongside stories like The Water Babies, What Katy Did, Ballet Shoes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and never differentiated.

Now they are looked upon as stuffy, and dry, the language outdated. I cannot help feeling that people were better educated, more eloquent and literate when such volumes were picked up at a younger age. I was born at a time when almost all parents read to their kids, where I was given titles intended for older children; if unable to enjoy them right away, I wanted to. That longing made me strive to learn. If I didn’t know a word I was handed a dictionary and told to look it up, and yes, I took the time to do so.

So these stories remained with me, ingrained, and the electronic format allowed me to revisit some of these classics lost through moves, through lack of space. They are adventures and memories revisited, and I can keep them in virtual reality. Although I still often buy my favourite authors in print, I branched out and discovered others owing to electronic formats. I am grateful, and I would prefer the world where there wasn’t an argument for or against, but where all can live side by side. In an advanced society, life is about individual choice.

My thinking was personified when speaking with a friend. This person is in his seventies and he recently bought an e-reader…and adores it. His reason is simple — he has struggled to read a book for some time. His eyes aren’t quite as they used to be and there may be other factors in his health, but whatever the cause, he can ‘see’ the words better on his reader as opposed to looking at a printed page. He can also increase the font size if need be, or zoom in. This small device made his whole experience come alive again, and where he had as good as given up on books, or took a long time to struggle through a single novel, he’s reading again…devouring titles, and what I saw in his eyes as he told me all this was joy.

So I’m putting this thought out there for those very much against. Maybe e-books and e-readers aren’t for everyone, and for some, they never will be, but I think this proves that it’s pointless to criticise the needs of another person and that none of us can know what we may one day need ourselves. Should there be anyone saying they’d rather give up than commit sacrilege and read electronic books, then I can only think ‘nose, spite, and face’. I could never cease reading.

Strangely, I’ve never heard such venomous disagreements over audio titles, which many people enjoy who aren’t blind and don’t have seeing difficulties. The arguments come from fear — a dread that the production of printed books will one day die out altogether. I understand that emotion well. Without print, this would be a poorer world, but one cannot ignore the increase of electronic formats (although sales have dropped back they’re holding their own) — something I knew would take off long before the first e-reader was even conceived. I foresaw a time before such devices existed, where e-readers and titles intended for them sold alongside things like audio, were considered as commonplace, and where– for some — they’re a lifeline. Just as someone brought books into my life to enrich it — in my ‘book’ that makes their existence tolerable and even worthwhile.

Lisbon and Obidos

Whenever there are claims that a place may be the most beautiful capital city, I’m skeptical. I admit this is largely because I’m not much of a city person. Whenever we visit a capital I tend to like to pass through as quickly as possible, and often it’s amazing I visit any at all. While Lisbon is still too much ‘city’ for me, it is a place I won’t hesitate to return to if the opportunity allows.

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We weren’t there for more than a few hours, and I was more taken with the tiled buildings, and the view of the river than anything else, so am unable to report what the city has to offer. I would recommend a trip on the water to fully appreciate the expanse of the bridges.

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P1060776The most famous of these is the one modelled on San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge. 230 above the water, it is possible to view the cars passing overheard and it’s a good opportunity to make use of a camera with a good zoom function.

P1060777The bridge was originally called Salazar. These days its official name is the 25th April Bridge after the 1974 revolution, but some also refer to it as the Tagus Bridge (the waterfront lying along the River Tagus), or more simply, ‘The Bridge’.
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On one side stands the towering statue of Christ, resembling the one in Rio de Janeiro, this one paid for by the women of Portugal to give thanks their men were not involved in the Second World War. The plinth is 270 feet high served by a lift and steps and a promise of a good view. The statue is 90 feet high. I struggled to get this shot of the statue, bridge and boat, taking several and hoping for the best. I got the shot I wanted.

Thought to have been found by Ulysses, during its history Lisbon has been occupied by both the Romans, and the Moors, taken by English Crusaders who assisted the King of Portugal. This history is far more complex than I’m stating in a couple of sentences but is useful to bare in mind when viewing much of the architecture.
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There’s much to see and do beyond Lisbon and I can think of several places we heard about that tempt us to return. We had the chance to visit only one outlying area and so chose Obidos.

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Though busy with tourists if you’re looking for a picture postcard it’s a good choice. With it’s towering 12th century castle ramparts around a walled city of bright colours and cobbled streets, it’s a romantic spot.
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One word of warning we were given — there’s no one ‘policing’ people going on the wall and many like to walk around the city from the top. However, we were told that they’d already had several accidents this year as they do every year. Tourists taking photos forget there’s a drop to one side, step back to take a photograph, and…you don’t need me to explain the rest. If unsteady don’t make the attempt and don’t become distracted!

P1060713We went in a few of the seemingly tiny shops and discovered they extend far back room upon room in some cases. There’s plenty to find for the browser or shopper. Having cleared much from my house in recent months and having a couple of pieces of Portugal pottery all I bought home was the photographs.

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Seems two passengers can get in the back of these and the driver gives a little guided tour. Didn’t get a chance but wouldn’t mind one of these to use in some of the country villages we often visit in the UK.

P1060726And so as not to leave you with this as the final image, here’s another beautiful example of Portuguese tiling, and the wonderful countryside around Obidos.

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A quick stop at Fuerteventura

This week’s hop takes us to what was our least favourite stop on our five island tour: Fuerteventura. This is just personal taste. It’s a beautiful place in many ways and, having considered a holiday there many years ago, we were delighted to finally see the sand dunes. However, we’re not beach people and find the typical tourist spots unappealing.

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Fuerteventura is closest to the African continent, second in size to the largest, Tenerife, with Lanzarote being the nearest of the other islands. Fuerteventura is part of Las Palmas province, a self-governing collective of Spain. The original inhabitants likely came from North Africa.

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Few attempted to settle permanently moving on to more hospitable areas. The island has seen its share of conflict, conquered, disregarded, considered to be of little interest, the populace sold into slavery, and the island raided by pirates during a turbulent history. The island’s fortunes didn’t change eminently until the 1960s with the introduction of mass tourism.
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We decided to head to Corralejo, the largest area of dunes. The full stretch runs 10 kilometres along the coast, reaching as far as 203 kilometres inland, the area–know as Parque Natural de las Dunas de Corralejo–being a protected region.

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The harbour is pleasant and there’s plenty of available shopping. Touts attempting to drag tourists into restaurants or to attend presentations were easily ignored (I suspect more easily and less aggressive than on some islands), but this was still too much of a typical tourist trap for us.

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The dunes are impressive and beautiful, but for people who don’t like to sunbathe, a walk and a few hours were good enough.

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Hola La Palma

I continue our hop around the canaries this week with a stop at La Palma. We were told La Palma is the world’s steepest island. Whether true we were also informed it’s lush and green, and that’s definite. We’ve never seen so many banana plants.

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Drive from one side to the other and emerge from a tunnel between contrasting landscapes; this is because the climate varies on the two sides. The north is divided by deep ravines and surrounding mountains. The south has small volcanoes with smatterings of volcanic scenery that in pockets of land reminded me of Iceland, while the whole isle enjoys high temperatures all year and plenty of rain.

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Though the island has a turbulent history, more recently it’s a peaceful, prosperous place. Locals have no wish to see huge holiday resorts or high-rise hotels so though welcoming it’s more unspoilt than some islands.

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I want to finish with one highlight. We heard good feedback on Plaza La Glorieta in La Las Machas. It’s much smaller than we imagined and one comes upon it quite suddenly in a landscape where it’s unexpected and even seems a little out of place. We anticipated a more typical tourist location, not this small quiet, tranquil area. The mosaic park is open with no admission charge. Designed by Luis Morera, a local artist, the detail on the mosaics made this a delightful place to stop and is artistically inspirational.

P1060601P1060593Adios, La Palma

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La Gomera

When people talk of the Canary Islands one instantly thinks of noise, lager louts, and the party scene reputation of tourism, none of which are to our taste. One of the main reasons we travel is to view stunning scenery, of which the islands have plenty.

Our second stop on our recent wanderings was the little-known island of La Gomera, which lies fifteen miles west of Tenerife, and thirty miles south-east of La Palma. In fact, it’s easy to see Tenerife on a clear day and one of my favourite photographs I took on the whole trip had to be of the highest peak seeming to grow out of the clouds.

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The roughly circular island is just thirteen by fifteen miles and is full of contrast. No one is certain from where the original inhabitants came to this small island where there is little to do, though North Africa is a possibility, and the Greek and Romans definitely knew of the area. Mediterranean civilisation knew of the islands as the Elysian Fields. Its population of 24,000 (10,000 of which live in the capital of San Sebastian) largely subsist on fishing or agriculture, with a small but growing tourist industry. Note: Columbus came this way, and though we didn’t have time to see it, the house in which he stayed and drew water from the well for his voyages has been fully restored.

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Though essentially arid, La Gomera is varied in its landscape. With cliffs and deep valleys at first glance one might expect to spot a film crew shooting a wild west movie in a place like this:

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I could picture this as a movie set.

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The average temperature ranges between 65 to 75, though to us it felt far hotter for the time we were there. This was definitely the hottest island we visited in the area that is known for year round ‘springlike’ weather. In fact, we wanted to get out of the heat for a bit so decided to head for Garajonay National Park, which, we had been told, was liable to be cool and misty. Not so the day we went. Take your rain jackets they said. People were giving us funny looks.

P1060506Reminded us of Puzzlewood in the UK.

P1060521No, I didn’t take the tree shot at an angle–that’s how it is.

The forest looks primeval in places and we had heard many good things and read some wonderful reviews calling the place magical. Our own take… Yes, we loved it, and it was good to get a chance to really ‘walk’, get away from crowds, take in the trees and flowers, but maybe one needs a misty day to find the place magical. Indeed, the online photos I’ve found look far more mystical than the views we saw on a dry, sun-baked day.

P1060514Maybe we weren’t the only ones who wanted to rest in the heat.

We’ve also been rather spoilt by our visit to Puzzlewood near the Forest of Dean in the UK, which rivals the national park in scenery if not size. Anyone who has been to and loved the forest on La Gomera might be amazed what is on our own doorstep.

Bom dia, Madeira

Over the next few weeks, I thought to share some holiday snaps with you as I sort through them. It takes time. I do tend to get carried away with the camera and it’s difficult to choose a ‘few’ shots. We went somewhere new for us in the world.

When visiting the Canary Islands it’s too easy to forget where you are. We’ll start where we began: Madeira. The archipelago lies in the Atlantic Ocean, north of the Canaries, and west of Morocco. I’ve been to Portugal a few years ago yet never spared a thought for the Portuguese islands lying 600 miles south-west of Lisbon.

Bom dia (Good day), Madeira.

MISTY MORNING AT FUNCHAL (Madeira’s Capital)

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Though a comparatively short stop, I knew right away I’ll happily revisit (and hope to). I opted not to ride the cable car this time, though I would if we ever return. If interested, footage can be found on someone’s trip aboard on youtube. There’s much else to see and do in Funchal, not least of all to try Madeira cake which puts our supermarket variety to shame. I was also rather taken with Poncha — the traditional alcoholic drink made from the island’s sugar cane, containing honey, and aguardiente de cana (a distilled spirit) and different fruit juices, though we were told usually orange, and the best way to describe ours is as ‘alcoholic orange juice’. Locals imbibe to ‘ward off colds and flu’; I guess the orange juice makes it healthy, right?

My second highlight has to be the good reason it’s referred to as an island of flowers. I was naturally going to be instantly fond of Madeira because it’s green. Mountainous with deep valleys, it’s scenic qualities is one of those I love best.

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I decided to visit the caves at Sao Vicente for personal grounds I had heard these caves were like visiting no other and it’s true. It’s cool and wet so I needed my rain jacket, not outside once on this holiday, but underground exploring Madeira’s geological past. The display at the end of the cave walk is a little dated but the film shown enlightens the visitor on how the islands formed and change. A volcanic eruption 890 years ago created the caves, and after creating the inner world for my Space 1889 story ‘A Fistful of Dust’ set on Phobos, I wanted to explore. These are lava tubes. The idea of walking where lava once flowed was too good for me to ignore.

(What do you think, Andy? A good setting?)

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Adeus (Goodbye)

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