Monthly Archives: April 2013

Adventures in writing – a personal view by Stuart G Yates. My first novel.

I wrote my first novel at the age of thirteen. Before that, when I attended Gorsedale Middle School, I remember Mr Davis being impressed with a poem I had written. He included it in a school anthology, and I drew a picture to go with it. I felt so honoured and thrilled to have my name in print for the first time in my life. It is a feeling that has never waned, but it isn’t the driving force. Creating is.

Mr Davis was a great teacher. He taught English, with such a love of words, drama, that you could not help but become infected by his enthusiasm. He was a good man too, with always time to listen and help. On more than one occasion he would bring me to school when it rained, as I stood huddled up like a drowned rat waiting for the bus. My favourite teacher. I don’t where he is, or if he is still alive, but I’d like to thank him. He made Gorsedale bearable, which was difficult because it was one hell of a place!

The publication of that poem, I suppose you could say was the first recognition of myself as a writer. Not something I thought of seriously, you understand. A lot of us do such things, especially at school. For me, however, it lit a tiny flame that has burned away ever since.

I’m not sure why I wrote the novel I did. I had been a fan of ‘Callan’ for many years, and I still am. I remember last year buying the boxed-set of DVDs from the late 60s, the very first series, grainy black and white. Such a wonderful programme, Edward Woodward and Russell Hunter, such consummate actors. Well, that was a sort of catalyst, watching that show every Wednesday. I sat down and began to write a spy thriller. I wanted to capture that spirit of down-trodedness (is there such a word? Well, there should be!) which was so prevalent in ‘Callan’; that alternative spy, somewhat in the way ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’ imbued. As unlike James Bond as you can imagine.

In those days – we’re talking 1970 – novels were generally much shorter than they are now. Again, look at those James Bond books. Casino Royale is what, 50,000 words? Something like that. Agatha Christie’s are around the same. I was reading a lot of John Creasy and Leslie Charteris back then, and all of them pitched in at around the 40,000 mark. So, with that in mind, I plotted my thriller, with a guy called Smellows as the hero. What a name! My God, why did I choose that? Bond, Callan, Leamas…Smellows?

OK, enough of that. I laboured long and hard over that book. I remember going to ‘Bookland’ in my hometown of Wallasey, buying the paper. I typed it out on my brother’s Olivetti. Looking back, I was a total idiot, not having a clue how to format the page, not evening putting in a carbon paper to make a copy. I used masking fluid, then later those little papers you could get that you put under the typing keys to erase a mistake. It took weeks. And at the end of every day I would recalculate how many words I had got down. I would check and recheck novels from my bookcase, calculate the word length, saying to myself, ‘OK, maybe I could get down 35,000 instead of 40?’ I became obsessed I suppose.

Today, isn’t it so much easier? We all have microprocessors, we can edit as we go, use the spelling checker, etc. Then, it really was hard graft. But I did it. I wrote 45,000 words in the end, neatly packed single-spaced on 120 pages. That caused me some concern, as all of my novels on my shelf were around 180 pages long. But I kept reassuring myself that I had more words per line. It was going to be all right. I had actually completed a novel.

So, what did I do with it?

I put it away in a drawer, neatly inside a card folder. And there it stayed. Forever. I never submitted it, I don’t think I even re-read it. And not many people know it even exists. In fact, come to think about it, I don’t think anyone knows it exists.

Do I care? Not really. I read and read and read all about people putting out their books on Kindle, or wherever, spouting off about getting the book out there, getting it sold, making money…I’m sorry, but I simply don’t care. I write for the sheer love of creating. Once you start down the road of thinking you’re going to make money, I think you’ve lost it. Lost the reason. Genesis said it in ‘Duke’. ‘Too much thinking about the people, and what they might want’. Write what YOU want, not what others demand. Write not for profit, but to create. I’ve written 32 books. Are they all in print? No. And some of them never will be. Not because I don’t think they’re worthy, but because I’m always looking to my next book. Once one is written, re-drafted, polished, it is forgotten. I move on. Does that make me a fool? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I write and I love it.

 

Despite the above, I have published a fair few, and continue to write with publishing in mind. Why not visit my websites and have a look at what I do. www.glennstuart.co.uk for Young Adult paranormal mysteries, and www.stuartgyates.com for more adult orientated stories. I am working on a historical novel right now, with a publisher, and I think it is going to be pretty good, so please keep calling back to catch up with all the latest.

Thanks for dropping by, and keep reading.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Stories of Don Luis – Part One, by Stuart G Yates

The Stories of Don Luis

By

Stuart G Yates

Introduction

Not so very far from the coast of southern Spain, in a little inland village, I first heard the stories of Don Luis.

Riodelgado is a typical Andalucían village, like hundreds of others dotted amongst the soaring mountains. Whitewashed houses huddle together amongst the steep, silent streets, sweltering in the summer, freezing in the brief winter. The people are cheery and live uncomplicated lives. Here the tradition of storytelling still thrives; vivid, colourful tales full of daring-do, enchanted castles and maids to be rescued. Simple, old-fashioned and charming.

Except for the stories of Don Luis.

Here are tales with fire in their belly, grim and cautionary. How a young boy is transformed…but into what, you will have to wait and see.

I’ve met Don Luis, you see. So I know. In fact, we’ve all met him, at some stage in our lives. And what did we do when we laid eyes on him, even from afar? Did we ignore him, or give him just a moment’s thought? How many of us stopped to ask ourselves what we would do if we were like him? How many of us even cared?

Let us find out; and in the telling, perhaps we might just discover a little bit more about ourselves. We will certainly discover a lot more about Don Luis…

PART ONE

OGRE’S LAMENT

A village

The morning began much as any other, but many remembered this day as the last one of normality before death came to visit the silent streets. From afar, the old clock chimed out the hour as it always did, the peel of its bell cutting through the still air, shattering the quiet, but only briefly. Locals said the mechanism had come from Germany, or Italy. Nobody knew for certain and nobody really cared so long as it worked.

Luis Sanchez stepped out into the bright sunshine and took in a breath. Another beautiful day. For a moment, the sun shone within him and he hoped today might be a good day. His mood, however, soon changed. Thoughts turned to his mother lying in bed dying, his tiny sister Constanza sitting on the damp earthen floor, playing with the little wooden doll Luis had fashioned for her out of an old twig. The images brought a sad, resigned smile to his lips. If only he could do more for them. If only he were older, bigger, stronger, able to find a descent, full-time job and bring in more money. He sighed, shoulders dropping, and resigned himself to the fact that right now, the only thing he could ever do was go to Señor Garcia’s bakery to pick up the bread for the early-morning deliveries, and get through. What followed soon afterwards would be worse, and he knew that. The trek to school to face the baying of the children from the village. Home by two, sweeping out the house, making the meals, reading Constanza a story before bed. Always the constant round of monotony and despair.

The sunshine inside faded, despite the heat still burning his face. The day would be neither good nor indifferent, merely the same as every other.

Señor Garcia welcomed Luis with his usual growl. Already the bread lay on the table, bundled up for the various customers whose orders never changed. Luis knew them all by now, so no need for the list. Señor Garcia marvelled at this revelation when Luis first appeared at his doorstep not so many mornings ago, his eager face peering around the door entrance.

“I can help you with your deliveries, Señor Garcia,” Luis had said, flashing his best smile.

Garcia paused from kneading the bread and frowned. “Why would I want you to do that?”

Luis stepped inside, waved his hand over the flour, water, waiting masses of soft, sticky dough. “Because you’re a busy man and I’ve been watching you working hard, making your bread. After it’s baked, you have to rush out and get the deliveries done before your next batch of bread burns. I could help.”

“With the deliveries?” Garcia shook his head. “I’d have to pay you.”

Luis had shrugged. “Yes, but maybe the money you give me would not be as much as the money lost from all that wasted bread, burnt whilst you rush around. ”

Garcia thought about the reasonableness of this. He turned down the corners of his mouth, and appeared unconvinced. “You’d have to remember all the customers, where they lived. It would take months. I’ve been doing this for half a lifetime and I still manage to get some of them mixed up. I’d lose too much money. I’m sorry.” He picked up a large handful of dough and slapped it down on the worktop, kneading it with those thick, strong fingers of his.

“I’ll write them down,” said Luis, stepping closer, wafting his hand through the great cloud of flour pluming up around the baker’s hands. The baker had stopped, mouth open, stunned. Luis smiled when he saw the look of total incredulity on Garcia’s face. “Yes, I can read and write, Señor Garcia.”

Garcia put his hands on his hips and shook his head slowly. For the first and only time that Luis remembered, the man smiled. “Well, if the good Lord has seen fit to bless you with such a gift, then I don’t see how I can deny you! You can start tomorrow, at six.”

And so, every morning for the past three months, Luis had done just that. This morning was no different.

Without a word, he gathered up the bundles of bread as Garcia worked away at more dough. Luis stepped out into the street to begin his rounds.

Despite the early hour, the Sun beat down with relentless intensity. Summertime in the village was often unbearable. Riodelgado sat in a little valley, surrounded by the steep sides of the mountains, the heat funnelling downwards, hugging the streets, never managing to escape. The residents cooked in this natural oven and they grumbled and groaned constantly. No one liked the heat. They retreated into their dark, cramped homes, like so many tiny, nervous animals escaping from the danger of predators. They waited for the cool of the night to arrive before venturing outside again, to sit and talk. And talk. Constant talking.

Luis sauntered through the streets, placing a bundle of bread inside each customer’s open door. Not everyone ordered bread; some did not have the money, others made their own. Times, however, were hard, the lack of rain turning the ground iron-hard, crops unable to flourish. Coupled with this, news of the War filtered through every now and then, causing fear and concern amongst the villagers, numbing appetites. Recently things were not going well for the Spanish. Once, many years before Luis had been born, stories weretold of Spain defeating the heretics in the far north. But then the Swedes came, followed by the French who joined with these Protestant upstarts to oppose the Imperialist cause. The forces of Spain soon became hard-pressed. Luis, when he heard the news from a one-eyed itinerant tradesman called Pablo, didn’t believe the man’s words at first. “But France is of the true religion,” he’d blurted out.

Pablo had frowned, a gesture which made his single eye look quite terrifying. “How do you know anything about France?”

“I read it. “

“You read it…?” Pablo had shaken his head. “What is the world coming to when a mere child can read…”

“It’s true though, Señor Pablo. How can the Catholic French fight alongside the Swedes, who are Protestants?”

Pablo shook his head again, much more sadly this time. They sat by the dried riverbed, under the shade of the orange trees, not far from the tiny bridge. When he spoke again, Pablo’s voice sounded resigned, almost sad. “Like everything else in this mad world, it’s a mystery. Protestants fighting alongside Catholics, against other Catholics! Death is everywhere. I see so many horrors in my travels, and I hear tales of so many dreadful, inhuman things done to others. Things done in the name of religion, in the name of God.” He shook his head. “We are in the end-of-days young Master Luis, the end-of-days.”

Nevertheless, despite the War spreading, the tiny village of Riodelgado remained untouched by the scourges in the north. No soldiers ever came and the village carried on the way it always had, boiling in the summer, freezing in the brief winter.

A village like a hundred others in the mountains of Andalucía.

Until, one day, a soldier did come.

 

I hope you enjoyed this first instalment of ‘The Stories of Don Luis’ and will call again soon for the next part.

Visit my website for news and information about my work: http://www.stuartgyates.com

Thanks for reading.

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Adventures in Writing – a personal view by Stuart G Yates…the thrill of the blank page.

I still wake up at the weekends with that buzz rushing through me. I’m going to fill a blank piece of paper with something which has never existed before. I’ll never get used to the feeling.

During my second bout of unemployment, before I became a rent-collector for the local council, I’d lock myself away in my room, turn on the turntable and listen to Tangerine Dream – or even a spot of Beethoven – pull out the Olivetti and create new worlds. In those distant days, deeply immersed in Lord of the Rings as I was, fantasy took a hold of me, something I could not shake loose. I sketched out a story, worked out the characters (I even painted some of them!), scenes, etc. Writing it became a joy, a thrill. I disappeared into that world for the entire day, every day.

Trilogy of terror

The ‘Trilogy of Terror’ pitting Robbie and Max against Sumarian demons and their human acolytes.
I loved writing these.

I’ve always been this way. When I was first published, as Glenn Stuart, those fantasy tales were finally out there. Today, that thrill continues to hold me tight.

Now, I write at weekends and holidays. If I ever find myself in the fortunate position of having been accepted by a publisher, I’ll work on the re-writes in the evening as well. I’m doing that at the moment. I’m working on the re-writes of my next novel, ‘Varangian’ which pits the Viking Harald Hardrada against all and sundry. The editor is astute, sharp and totally supportive. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Given that, however, it is my free time that I look forward to most.

The problem with writing is, of course, time. It simply disappears, to the detriment of everything else. Living in Spain, the shops close at 2pm, and do not open again until around 6pm. I often forget, writing through until 2.30 sometimes. Then I remember I’ve got no milk, or something equally necessary. One of the reasons why I hanker after returning to the UK. A little touch of normality. I don’t care about the rain; I don’t notice it. I’m inside my book. The ‘real world’ can wait.

What I’m coming to is the idea of writing being simply JOY. I love it. I’m not sure what I would do if I didn’t write. Become very miserable, that’s for sure. But the creating of new worlds, that is what thrills me. All those made-up conversations, the ranting, the raving, the soft, sweet caresses, then other aspects – the  bark of gunfire, the slash of the blade, my world is whatever I want it to be. I’m very lucky to have a fertile imagination. I’m even luckier in having the ability to string words together in something akin to comprehensibility (try typing that on an Olivetti!). I only wish I could do it for longer; or that the time would go more slowly.

I’ve got so much to do, you see. That’s the problem. Four novels to rewrite, and two more to write. But, do you know what…I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My work can be found on my two websites – for young adult paranormal mysteries (3 of which are set on the Wirral) visit www.glennstuart.co.uk

For adult thrillers visit: www.stuartgyates.com

Thanks for dropping by and see you soon.

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Adventures in writing – a personal view by Stuart G Yates: setting the scene.

I’ve opened up a can of worms with my reflections on marketing, and comments that have followed via Facebook and Linked-in have certainly polarised opinion. At the end of the day, I’m not interested in busting my guts to promote my work. If people like what I do, then that is fantastic. Slowly, more people are reading my work, but it is VERY slowly. I write in two genres – Young Adult paranormal mysteries, and adult thrillers (some of which are historical) – so I have a broad ‘fan base’. However, it is no guarantee for success. Then again, what is?

OK, enough with all that. I’m not here to wax lyrical about the pros and cons of how to become a best-selling author.

What I am here for is to give some insight into the author’s life.

Or, at least mine.

I grew up on Merseyside , and I bring a lot of that into my books. Some of them are set on Merseyside, and this must be true of most writers surely? They have their memories, experiences, and they can draw on them to bring their stories to life. To infuse them with authenticity.

The weekends began on Thursday. Down we’d go, the whole lot of us, to a seedy little pub at the bottom of Victoria Street. We’d set up Pool in the upstairs bar, and spend the evening there, drinking, laughing, and generally letting the world pass us by for a few short, yet wonderful hours. When I wrote ‘Splintered Ice’, I set a scene in that bar, right next to the Pool tables. Indeed, the hero, Jed, went to my old school, Goresdale. It has long since disappeared. I’ll never forget the feeling that hit me when I learned the news. Total disbelief. I reeled, as if part of my inner being had been ripped out of me. So, Jed went there too, gets expelled after a fiery meeting with the Head teacher, Mr Phillips. Just the mention of his name sends the shivers running through me. That man was hard. I mean, granite. He had to be. Goresdale was one of the hardest schools on Merseyside, and I have vivid memories of the science teacher putting one of the older boys in a head-lock as he wrestled him down the corridor, of the woodwork teacher canning a boy so hard across the hand that the cane broke. Vicious, uncompromising. Happy days.cover

So, what I’m trying to get to is, the writer is honed by his past. By the experiences that made him. I’m a historian, studied the subject at university, and now teach it.  I research the background for my novels, and I’m especially interested in military engagements, which is why my books always have plenty of battles, skirmishes and the like. I wargamed for many, many years. Model soldiers arrayed on tables festooned with scenery, buildings, roads and rivers. I loved everything about it – collecting the figures, researching the uniforms, painting them, applying the tactics, the whole lot. When I write of battles, I bring all that to bear, because, of course, I’ve done a mountain of reading. I’ve never been in a battle, thank God, and no one alive has ever experienced the hell of medieval combat. But we can delve into our knowledge, read the many first-person accounts and, sometimes, our memories and rustle up something like reality.

Friday would see us at the Chelsea Reach, and afterwards a visit to ‘Rani’s’, the nearby Indian restaurant. A vivid memory of a barroom brawl, of some idiot causing trouble, spouting off the usual racist rubbish. Well, my best friend told them what he thought of these fascist prigs, and we ended up jabbing and hooking. Great days. I’ve used that, and a whole host of other altercations, to good effect in my books.

 
My thriller, ‘Splintered Ice’, a tense and dramatic story of deception, love and murder.

‘Splintered Ice’ finds the hero pulling out a stranger from the fishing lake at Central Park, Wallasey. Then, they both convalesce at Victoria Central Hospital. All of these local places bring alive the scenes, and when I wrote it, everything came back to me. All those years, those experiences. I loved it so much I decided right there to write other stories involving the same characters. That’s what I love about writing. The escape. There really is nothing else like it.

You can read more about my work, and where to buy my books, on my websites:

www.stuartgyates.com which is where you can find ‘Splintered Ice’, set on Merseyside.

www.glennstuart.co.uk where you can find ‘Cold Hell in Darley Dene’ and ‘The Pawnbroker’, both set on the Wirral.

I hope you find something of interest there. Thanks for dropping by, and keep reading!

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