Thursday, 25 June 2015

Suds in Skegness

It was all going so well until the soap bubbles started coming out of the wardrobe.
"There are bubbles coming out of the wardrobe!"
"No way."
"Yes way."
But more on that later.

We're staying (in our caravan) with the East Midlands Motor Caravan Section of the Camping and Caravanning Club, at their Temporary Holiday Site in Skegness. We fancied something new and realised we had never been to Lincolnshire before. Draw a line exactly east from our home on the Wirral, and you reach Skegness. It's strange that we've never done this before. I had my doubts, though. Skeggy does not sound like the most classy of places to visit. And maybe not, but the countryside round and about is full of interest. Driving over the rolling Lincolnshire Wolds I could feel rest and relaxation seeping into every muscle.
The site itself is excellent. There is even an electric hookup - very rare on a THS - so my fears of having to ration the battery life on my laptop are unfounded.
Linda and Bill, our friendly stewards, hosted a coffee morning on the first day, and this gave us the chance to meet all our fellow campers, most of whom hail from the Leicester area. As this is a Motor Caravan rally, we are one of only two towed 'vans, the rest are motor homes, so we had a chance to quizz the owners of the big units and see just what makes them tick. I've always had my doubts about the motor home option, but I soon discovered where the passion comes from, with tales of perpetual touring, fast set-ups and wild camping across Spain. I almost fancy giving it a go myself. Almost, but not quite. I love my caravan. I love having a fixed base that we can use to explore a region, and Lincolnshire appears to have a lot to offer. Places like Gunby Hall and Gardens, only five miles up the road.
A new National Trust visit is always high on our list, partly because we don't have to pay to get in, but also because they are invariably a delight to visit. This one is no exception. There's an artistic and musical heritage in Gunby Hall, and we had a special treat in the music room, where a pianist was adding layers of atmosphere by playing Mozart sonatas. She was very good, and it was hard to drag ourselves away to see the rest of the house.
The gardens at Gunby are lovely and Sarah was off with her camera. I was abandoned on a bench amongst the roses, to mind the bags. I could have explored, I suppose, but no way was I walking around on my own clutching a pink handbag! Anyway, she soon had her paint box out, so I got my chance to have a look around, then.

So, when we returned to the caravan we were suitably mellow. The holiday was working its magic. Sarah lost the toss and made our tea. I did the dishes, and soon after this, those words were first used: bubbles.
Yes, suds were coming out from under the wardrobe door. I looked inside and realised these bubbles were only the upper ten percent of the iceberg. There were bubbles appearing behind the toilet pipes, too. A knock at the caravan door. "Do you know you've got bubbles coming out from under your caravan?"
"Yeah, okay, thanks. I'm onto it. Cheers."
My search pattern narrowed down to the cupboard under the kitchen sink. We stash a lot of stuff under there. I started pulling it all out. All of it was wet, and soapy. Sarah got the torch.
"There you go," she said. She aimed the beam on the waste pipe, that was no longer attached to the bottom of the sink. yeah, maybe we'd stashed too much stuff under there. It answered another question, too. The sink, normally a slow emptier, leaving a residue of seetcorn kernals and bits of pasta behind to be mopped up with kitchen roll, had been emptying efficiently and fast ever since we arrived, sucking everything down, leaving the sink clean and sweetcorn free. Yeah, it had been emptying straight and unimpeded onto the caravan floor. We'd have noticed sooner but for all the stored items, items that soaked up water, or at least up until that super-saturated moment when it would soak no more.
So we started mopping out. We filled the bin with damp things. We carried out the suds in gentle handfulls. Remember that peace and tranquility that I talked about? Yeah, gone.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Taking a break from Sci-Fi

This month’s Camping and Caravanning Magazine has an interview with me on its Club People page. I’m really pleased with it. I met Sheila Kiggins at the CCC offices, in Coventry, a couple of months ago. We chatted about caravanning and science fiction and just about everything else in between (there’s quite a lot in between) and she has written a really nice article. I’m so pleased about it. I’m not much of a talker, but as I mentioned in a earlier post, get me onto one of my passions, caravanning or science fiction, and I open up a bit. Talk to me about both at the same time, and well, be prepared to tie me up and gag me.

So, in the interview, the cat is out of the bag. I talk about something I’m about to do that would give any traditional publisher a hissy fit. I’m a Science Fiction and Fantasy writer; I have stories published in some pretty cool magazines, and I have awards and stuff. Now I’m about to release my first book. But here’s the thing: It’s a Travel Book. It’s memoir. I don’t even get to travel anywhere all that exotic, at least not in the eyes of your modern, jet-setting, bucket-listing, far-flung travel guru of the twenty-first century. It certainly isn't Science Fiction. 

'Travelling in a Box' will not make me a millionaire. I'll be lucky to even earn back some of the editing and cover-design costs. And you know what? I really don’t care. I just wanted to write it. I loved writing it. This is the joy of indie publishing. I can do this mad thing. There’s nobody to go all red-faced and finger-pointy and say, ‘you can’t do that!

Don’t get me wrong, a traditional publishing deal would be nice. You get money and stuff. You get to sit on panels at conventions without feeling like some kind of gatecrasher. To be an indie, though, is kind of freeing. I am the one who calls the shots. I shortlisted and picked the cover design (and it's gorgeous). I got to pick my own editor (who has been brilliant). Later, when I’m ready, I get to switch genres back to Science Fiction, or Fantasy, or horror, or even Urban Bakelite Punk with pink unicorns if I want to. I’ve always written because I enjoy doing it, and if someone else gets to enjoy reading my stuff then that is a big plus. It’s good, now, to be able to bring that same sense of freedom to the publishing process, and so far I’m enjoying the ride.
Travelling in a Box will be launched in mid July as an e-book and a paperback. There will be a book launch party, and staying true to the indie spirit I will do the catering myself. Most of it. Well, some of it. Maybe I’ll get my wife (aka sounding board, beta-reader and co-protagonist) to make the cheese sandwiches. I’ll buy the bottle of pop.