Acer Sansom#4: Deep State


On the 26th October I posted the above image with this text:

Can’t progress with R&M#6 in my editing process until I have a hard copy to work with. Still trying to find someone to help me out with a printer for that. (I don’t want to buy one!)

In the mean time I might as well use my time productively by getting Acer#4 started. And the distraction of writing seems to take my mind off the urge to scratch. (See previous post.)

I’ve relocated for writing this one – I’m out of the writing room and on the balcony. Acer is an outdoorsy type and I need to get in the mood for that. It’s a sunny day here in Ankara. Blue skies and a good autumnal chill in the air.

Here goes.

Today, 25th November,  I’m chuffed to be able to post the image below.

acer 4 the end

It’s just a first draft. But it’s the whole story and I like it. Especially the ending. Yeah, I really like the ending.

Quick coffee and back to work. I’ve got a Booker & Cash to get on with and I have a title in mind for that already: Find Shirley Moor.

Child’s Play.

Unhappy Families (Large)

Just a reminder that the next book out will be the above title. I will be doing the pre-release order scheme through Amazon for this one. However, I can’t set that up until I know for certain when I can have the book out for. Details will follow here when I’ve got them.


This writing week has been all about Acer #4 Deep State. I’m quite happy with the way the story is unfolding. I’m up to 70, 000 words and nearing the climax. I reckon another ten to twenty thousand words will have it finished.

While I’ve been writing this one I’ve been reading one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. This was a deliberate decision. Acer is not Jack Reacher and I don’t want him to be, but Reacher and Acer share a genre and Lee Child writes very successfully in that genre. Has done for years. No doubt I can learn things from him. For the record I didn’t think much of the first Killing Floor but since then I’ve read four or five and he definitely got better. Tripwire is the one I’ve just finished and it was pretty good. I enjoyed it.

Reading in the genre while writing in it works for me. I’ve done it before. I find it helps keep me with maintaining a genre frame of mind. I don’t want the writing to influence mine too directly – I don’t want to copy him or his particular writing style (I’m not saying I could even if I wanted to.)

I’ve noticed Child likes to write in some detail over some things. It certainly gets the word count up but I don’t have the patience for it. I want to get on with the story. (That’s not a criticism of Child, by the way. Merely an observation. I’m not accusing him of padding. Part of his writing skill is that everything ends up feeling like it counts.)

There was a very menacing and convincing villain in Tripwire. Part of why I, the reader, found him menacing and convincing was because of the detail the author went to with the guy’s back-story, his behaviour, even down to the way he got undressed. I’d like to write a really menacing and convincing villain but until I start going into great detail about things like back-story, behaviour and how my villain gets undressed I fear it’s not going to happen. Maybe it’s a bit of a Catch 22: I can’t seem to write a book over a hundred thousand words so am I limiting my opportunities to be able to effectively draw, not just good villains but any character? Does size matter on that one?

I’ll answer my own question: all that navel-gazing aside I’ve just noticed a few books on my shelves here that are quite thin and I remember them being bloody good yarns with characters I remember. Once again, I suppose it all comes down to the quality of the writing. Quality not necessarily quantity.

Quality and quantity and you’ve cracked it. For the record that’s where I’d place Lee Child’s writing now that I’m more familiar with it.

Now I’m asking myself: why can’t I write a book over a hundred thousand words? A hundred thousand words is about three hundred pages of a paperback novel. As well as it just not happening for me so far, I don’t have the burning desire to write a weighty tome, so I’m not looking for opportunities within my books to spin stuff out. It’s been said before about my writing and I’ll say it again (so no one else has to): I write simple, light, unchallenging, easy to read stories. (That makes them sound like Ladybird books.)

Another reason is time. These days I’m quite mindful regarding how long I’m spending writing a book. This is the second consecutive book I’ve written that’ll take me about a month. (I reckon I’ll have this one finished by the end of November all things being equal because I’m writing about twenty thousand words a week.) I’m not trying to rush them out. It’s just the way things have gone. On a good day I can hammer out five thousand words. One day last week I wrote six thousand.

I’ve got so many projects I want to write, to get on with. More books in each of my three current series and a couple of standalone novels I’d like to write. In my current work regime I can’t honestly imagine taking three, six, nine months or a year to write a book. (I’d go insane spending seven or eight hours a day for a year writing the same story. I like a short and intense relationship with my books not something long and drawn out… epiphany time: maybe it’s not just my books. Ahem.) And I know there are a good number of authors who take longer than that to get a book finished. (Anyone heard of Harper Lee?) Maybe they’re writing in great detail about their characters getting undressed. Every day. A couple of times. Oh the joys of having a fat advance in the bank. (Meeeooow!)

Another reason I can’t spend so long writing a book is because I really need to increase the number of books I have available for purchase. My hopes of repeating this year off to try writing for a crust are reliant on my downloads from Amazon. Just lately figures have really started to tail off for the books I have out there. (Bloody typical!) If I don’t get some more out and then readers interested in downloading them I’m going to be applying for teaching jobs sooner than I’d feared. Or killing myself. It’ll depend if it falls heads or tails.

None of this means I would EVER rush a book out if I felt it wasn’t the best I could make it. I suppose in a way I’m fortunate that I write books at the shorter end of the novel spectrum. That way I am naturally giving myself the opportunity to write more and get more out there. (Is that the inverse of Catch 22? Maybe I need a term of reference for my great good fortune.)

There are lots of things I could go on to say about all this but for this week that’s enough for my writer’s diary – I need to crack on with my proper writing: my livelihood.

Addendum: Something else to do with writing that I’ll share here because it’s just happened. So often leaving something and then returning to it after a short break can trigger a thought for inclusion that hadn’t been there before. Two examples: I haven’t posted this blog-post yet, obviously. I like to read them through a couple of times before I press send. I often find something to change, improve or add to in a re-read. So I left this and popped back to Acer#4 and re-read the last two paragraphs I wrote before dinner. I added a couple of words and a couple of sentiments that hadn’t occurred to me before and the additions have improved what I’d written. Just like that. I came back to the blog-post, re-read it and realised I could put that epiphany comment in, which made me laugh. If I’d rushed the blog-post out I’d have missed that one.

PB: 10k – 39.20. (I cracked my forty minute goal this week and then I went home and cracked a beer.)

The Emperor’s New 007 Movie.


It is half-past-midnight local time. I got in the front door ten minutes ago after a forty minute walk home in the dark and cold from the cinema. At least it wasn’t raining. I made myself a cup of tea and I’ve fired up the computer because I have a blog-post I feel compelled to write while things are still fresh in my mind. I need to get this off my chest or I might not sleep.

A famous poet once said something like poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity. This blog-post is emotion recollected while I’m still passionate about it. If I leave it until the morning, when I’m tranquil, I probably won’t bother. I’ll find something better to spend my time on and then one day I’ll regret it.

I purposely avoided looking at any film critic’s opinion of this latest James Bond offering. I shall go and look now and probably see that not one of them agrees with me – in print. I did notice online that Pierce Brosnan made a negative comment or two about it.

Well here’s me stripping naked and standing in full sun atop the battlements.

So, I went to the cinema tonight to watch the latest James Bond movie, Spectre. I have been looking forward to this one for months. I have long been a James Bond movie fan. With the introduction of Daniel Craig to the Bond franchise they just got better. Casino Royale with Craig was the dog’s bollocks of Bond movies. That means I loved it.

Spectre, by comparison and staying with the bollocks scale to give it some relative context was, for my money, a bag of bollocks. That means I didn’t like it. In fact it wasn’t just a bag of bollocks it was a sack of the surgically removed bollocks of a prison wing full of convicted paedophiles all suffering from the advanced stages of aggressive testicular cancer. That means I more than didn’t like it.

Quite fittingly this movie’s Bond song is called Writing’s on the Wall. It’s not a great Bond song as Bond songs go. With the necessary hindsight that having watched Spectre provides, the writing was on the wall regarding the quality of the Daniel Craig Bond films with Skyfall. Too much of that was just stupid and too much of a stretch of the imagination even for a Bond film. But let us stick with Spectre.

I’ve come away from this cinema experience feeling insulted by the people responsible for making this movie. I feel like the people who were  involved in making this movie are guilty of lazy ‘thinking’ and simply trading on the franchise name.


Daniel Craig’s wardrobe stole the show. (I’m talking about his clothes, not an item of bedroom furniture, even though the actual wardrobes in the bedroom scenes were less wooden than some of the acting.) I mean it. I’m not exactly a fashion victim, myself, but I was pretty taken with some of his outfits.

The opening setting got me a bit excited and the helicopter fight scene was about the best in the whole film.

I cannot think of another positive and I saw this film less than an hour ago.


For a start the film’s basic premise was quite simply dumb. How could an organisation like that go undetected for ever? Come on. It just wasn’t credible. It wasn’t even incredible. It was just… dumb and insulting. I know that with Bond films one has to be prepared to suspend disbelief and I must be capable of that because I’m a Bond film fan. But Spectre just left me fuming that I’d been taken for a mug.

The film was a mess of disjointed, randomly packaged ‘ideas’ of scenes with absolutely no apparent coherent framework linking them all together. This film was a mish-mash, an incoherant shambles. A jumble. A complete dog’s dinner of fantastical thoughts. It seemed that the idea was just to throw in as many geographically varied locations as they could and forget about tying them neatly together. Forget about maintaining a lucid narrative arc. And so many of these scenes were just poorly imagined. Half of them didn’t make sense. And for a Bond film saying something didn’t make sense must mean it really was ill-conceived.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that there were conversations that went like this:

Mendes: Let’s send him up a snowy mountain to find the beautiful girl and then we’ll stick them in the middle of Tangiers (?) and then they can go to the middle of a desert and wait for a car to give them a lift to a secret hideaway where they can blow it all up and get away.

(Yeah I know that last bit’s par for the course with Bond movies but I seem to remember some coherence with the linkage of scenes where it’s been done before.)

Someone: Yeah, great Sam, but er… how do we link it? You know?

Mendes: Let’s worry about that later. It’s not important now. I don’t think they’ll notice anyway, do you? That’s boring shit anyway. Have we got room for another helicopter scene?


Half-way through the film I started smelling cheese. And I had a whole row to myself and no one sitting in front of me all the way to the big screen. I realised it was the scenes and the dialogue and the script that stank. And then I realised it wasn’t cheese I was smelling – that would be to insult cheese. What I was smelling was that triangular shaped, foil packaged, processed whey that masquerades as an affront to and in violation of the Trades Description Act as cheese. I was smelling portions of that slimy yellow muck that had been left out in the hot sun for a couple of days. Spectre became cheesier and cheesier as Alice might have been moved to say.

I’m in shock at just how bad it was.

I’m angry about it in case you can’t tell. This is a great movie franchise, a cinematic stalwart that has just been done untold damage by people who should know better. It was indolent, lazy film-making. It was fucking awful is what it was.

The acting of the leading ladies was poor. Wooden. I’d go so far as to say they were poorly cast. Unconvincing. Lacking depth. Especially, Lea Seydoux. I’m sure can act. But in this she was woeful.

The villain, Christoph Waltz is a great actor. But in Spectre I felt that his hands were tied with the puerile script he had to work with. He could turn out to be the worst Bond villain ever. There was no menace about him. He barely had a chance to warm up.

If the Bond estate want to save this golden goose of a franchise that keeps them sitting on their fat arses all day counting their royalties they need to do something radical with it. Get Tarantino to direct the next one. Retire Daniel Craig because looking good as a tailor’s dummy isn’t enough for a Bond movie. Breathe some new life into it. Get in some intelligent writers. The Bond films need to move on. Oh and please enough with all the little nods to the past. They didn’t impress me. Most of them fell flat. They just made me think that the film-makers were rather conceited and lacking ideas. Actually, when I think about it now, that’s just about right.

I shall be interested to see where they’re going to go from here. One thing’s for sure it can’t get any worse… can it?

(It’s now 2.15 am. I have to get up in five hours to get The Halfling ready for school. But that’s how much this meant to me. I feel better already.)

The girl on the in the with the who the where the why the what the f**k the…

Unhappy Families (Large)

Just opening with a reminder that the above book is the next one out and it’s on its way. It moved a step further down the production line this week.

I’m not sure whether to do the same as I did with Particular Stupidities (R&M#5) ie the pre-release purchase thing. I think it helped sales, but I don’t really know. What do you think?


Has anyone else noticed the proliferation of titles available at the moment, and doing well, that start with ‘The Girl…’?

The Girl on the Train

The Girl with No Past

The Girl in the Red Coat

The Girl With All the Gifts

The Girl in a Box

The Girl in a Swing (an oldie that I remembered).

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

The Girl Who Wasn’t There

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The Girl Who Walked on Air

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die

The Girl Who Broke the Rules

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl Who Played With Fire

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

I’m sure there are more but I suddenly felt I had better things to do than find out.

(I wonder if the later titles were all just making use of Stieg Larsson’s highly successful millennium trilogy. And if he stole it from Richard Adams.)

And you should see the number of titles available with the word ‘girl’ in them. Pages and pages and pages.

I’m thinking about getting in touch with my cover designer to see if we can change the title of R&M#6 to The girl on the in the with the who the where the why the what the fuck the unhappy families. Kinda catchy, no?


Something I did last week has given me a great idea for some promotional work. Some of you may have seen this image that I put up last Sunday:

nice work

Well it got me thinking about other things that an author can do and call it work. Here is a small list that I came up with fairly quickly. (Perhaps because they are all quite familiar to me.)

  1. Staring thoughtfully out of the window.
  2. Drinking coffee in Starbucks and people watching.
  3. Lying in a hot bath with a cold beer reading great books .
  4. Mooching about town sampling the weather and looking at builidngs.
  5. Surfing the Internet for book titles with the word ‘girl’ in them. :-/
  6. Standing on the pavement in the pouring rain outside my local Waterstones display window, house-brick in one hand, half-empty (not half-full) bottle of vodka in the other, tears streaming down my face.

So what? I hear you cry.

I thought I could hire a professional photographer to take pictures of me doing twelve ‘authorish’ activities and then I could use the images to have calendars printed. On each month’s page there could be one of the photos, a cover of one of my books and maybe a good review of the book. (What else made me think this would be a good idea is that when the next two R&M’s are out I’ll have twelve books available for downloading. And there are twelve months in the year.)

I thought I could give the calendars away for free as a promotional tool.

Maybe it would help if I took it one stage further and jumped on the Calendar Girls bandwagon. I’m in fairly good shape these days, even if I do say so myself. (Although sitting naked in my local Starbucks could create problems.)

If anyone has any suggestions of ‘authorish’ activities that would make good images for my racy calendar, please don’t be shy.


Acer#4 continues to develop. The word count is now up to 40,000. (I’m realise I’m a bit obsessed with word count. I think it’s because I never write anything longer than 100,000 words and when I get past 50,000 it feels sort of like I’ve broken the back of the current project.) Oh and I might have a title for it: Deep State.

When I’m writing a book and I get an idea for something to be either a recurring theme or just something of a one off that it occurs to me needs to go in somewhere I’ll type a note at the beginning of the document for myself. That way I get to see it and be reminded of it often. I have one sentence that’s been hitting hitting me over the head from early on in Acer#4. It’s based on some reader feedback of the others: Acer needs to be more savvy in this one. The way things are going he’s going to need to be if he’s to survive it.


And finally a ‘funny’ story.

PB: 10k – 40.05

PB: 5k – 19.22

As time goes by (in the life of Riley).

Unhappy Families (Large)

I found a great way to sort out my Acer#4 concern this week. It was simple, quick and painless, and I didn’t feel the need to butcher any of what I’d already written. My yardstick for my writing is whether I’m ‘happy’ with it – generally that’s proved quite a reliable measure regarding how readers will feel about the books – and now I am.

If you don’t want to know what I did don’t read the rest of this paragraph… What I did was move chapter fifteen to the beginning of the story and called it chapter one. It works. I’m ‘happy’ with the result. And I haven’t given anything away there that wouldn’t become obvious immediately on starting the book.

I’ve added to the word count this week but not at the rate that I was with R&M#7. Extenuating circumstances on the child-minding front, for one thing. For another, I always seem to end up having to do some online research for my Acer books and that takes time. But what I’m learning is really interesting. I just feel a little guilty that the time I’m spending on the project isn’t all going into writing the thing. Well it is, obviously, but you know what I mean. Probably.

Another thing that got in the way of progress with Acer this week is that I had a run through Unhappy Families (R&M#6). I read it over two days. I like it. I like to think it will be able to hold its head up in the R&M canon. There’s only one thing that has given me a nagging doubt over the first go at it with the highlighters: I hardly marked the manuscript at all. And most of my marks are to do with punctuation or words repeated too closely together for my liking. I’ve changed nothing of the structure. I haven’t shifted any paragraphs about. (I did delete one redundant paragraph.) Usually the first run through adds a lot of pink or blue or green or yellow or orange to the black and white. At the moment I’m thinking that either A: I’m getting better and more accurate at writing a first draft. (Didn’t Malcolm Gladwell say something about ten thousand hours of practice making one an expert in something?); B: I’m getting less observant (going a bit blind) or C: these days I’m just highly conceited about the quality of my writing. Let’s see what happens after the next go.

(I wonder if I’ve still got the receipt for those high-lighters.)


Did anyone else see that Amazon is opening bookshops now?


I’m currently reading a hugely enjoyable book called March Violets. It’s the first in the highly successful and critically acclaimed Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr. Gunther is a wise-cracking PI in Nazi Germany.

As well as being an enjoyable read it’s reinforcing something for me as both a reader and a writer. I like to be made to laugh with the written word, especially in a crime novel. Kerr has given me a few chuckles. One priceless witticism is where Gunther refers to the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute as fingernail inspection. Lots more in there that are new to me. I like it a lot. I think I’ll be reading more of Bernie Gunther.

(Since starting this post on Friday I’ve read more of the Gunther novel. About fifty percent in a woman comes into his life – to labour a point, someone he’s never met before or heard anything about aka a total stranger! – who he proceeds to start using immediately as a confidant and partner investigator. He sends her out on an intelligence finding mission and then takes her to a breaking and entering he needs to do. WTF? I’m not finished with the book yet. I sincerely hope that she gets shot in the head soon or something. Shame because Bernie Gunther was shaping up as a decent loner gum-shoe type.)

PB: 5km 19.54

Cover reveal: Unhappy Families (The Sixth Romney and Marsh File)

Unhappy Families (Large)

I always like to go large on the cover reveals.

Three years on (nearly) and I’m still very happy with the style and themes of the R&M Files covers.


I’ve always said, it’s who you know that counts. In this case I know a man, who knows a man who runs a place that prints stuff and binds it with one of those spiral spine thingies. Now I just need to decide which order to go at it with the pens.