I thought the summer palace was beautiful. Not imposing in the style of Versailles, or Buckingham Palace, much simpler. I could imagine a royal family here living more down to earth lives with only a small retinue.
We are allowed inside, but no photographs permitted, except in this small structure on the water – how I would have loved to have that as a writing area.
A little about this age as Victoria’s reign was such a long one, and there were major changes in Britain. For example, another interesting thing to happen during her time was the invention of the spinning jenny, otherwise known as the low paid female factory worker.
Unfair laws in Britain at that time said it was forbidden to chain workers to their benches…
.. but with big profits in mind, the colonials of that time exported the idea and set up the Nike factories in the far east using child labour at slave rates.
Next week a little about the 9 children who survived Victoria – just.
We drove to Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand to visit the Bang Pa-In Summer Place which was stunning. Like most places it is a complex of buildings formerly used by the Thai kings. I think the pictures speak for themselves and it was one of the most beautiful places we went to with very few chattering tourists to disturb the peace.
While Queen Victoria was expanding so was the Empire and her reign of 63 years, 7 months is the longest of any other British monarch until Queen Elizabeth who became queen in 1952.
It was during this time that England went to war against all kinds of other, interesting people in interesting places, such as China, Afghanistan, the Seiks, the Burmese, Abyssinia and the Zulus. This kept Parliament very busy pouring for hours over maps to find out where these places were.
Two downloadable back stories for free in the newsletter – find out more about Amie’s early life and Ben’s coming of age.
As one or two of you might know I used to work in the media, and I’ll never forget the awful day when the editor turned to me and asked what the next shot was. Now very few programmes are shot in order, you might even capture the final shot first. I looked down at the script and told him it was the guys climbing the pylon.
“And the in and out points?” His fingers were poised over the controls. I checked the shot list, and then checked it again and again and again, panic rising, heart beat racing, I could even feel my blood pressure shooting skywards. But no, the shot wasn’t there. We had forgotten to film anyone even near the pylon, much less climbing it.
I still shudder when I remember that moment, and from that day I meticulously made sure that every scene we ever needed was safely in the can. Over the years I became more and more efficient and we were able to work faster and faster. – Patience, I’m coming to the point just now!
Then of course I retired (joke) and I began the book writing thing. My first book languished away on Amazon, picking up less than 2 dozen sales in the first year, until I discovered marketing, or rather the need to market. (Sad to remember I thought that people just ‘found’ books on Amazon and shot you to the heights of the best sellers). I ventured onto Facebook and a kind writer put up my web page and then I dipped my toe in the blog world.
So, blogs were a good way to chat to people. They give you more freedom than a short post on FB and trying to get much of a message out there about anything in less than 140 characters on Twitter was going to need a lot of practice.
So what could I write on my blog? I had no advice for anyone, I had used up most of my experiences in two more memoirs so I began to expand on my silly history of kings and queens of England based on a humorous lecture I’d given locally – entitled All the monarchs in 59 minutes and 3 seconds. It had taken me some time to write and it seemed daft not to use it as it would never see the light of day again.
Then came the Big Trip and I really wanted to share this with the world, I was just blown away by the sights and sounds of the Far East. But, there was a problem, I was still fumbling my way through history, I’d only got as far as the Tudors. OK, I thought, I’ll combine them and do half of each.
I was still thinking how clever I was until a couple of writer friends pointed out at lunch yesterday that my blog is totally confusing. “You’re jumping around all over the place” they told me kindly. Readers don’t know what to expect!
Now, I’m getting to the point. It’s all in the planning. If only I could have my time over again for the last few years. For example, I would have realized that I needed to co-ordinate the covers on my Amie series – yes all series have matching covers I know that now – and it’s taking time and money to replace them all.
Amie covers right now – see not matching!
Even the cover of my first book was really amateurism, even though I was so proud of it at the time – and that’s now been changed 3 times.
I’ve learned that you need to build a platform of friends months before you even write Chapter One on the screen, and if you are even thinking of writing a book, practice Twitter, a basic graphics programme, familiarize yourself with analytics and how to format for the sales channels. It’s also helpful to find out how to convert your documents from one format to another, pdf, epub, mobi etc and how to decide which blog host to choose and set up your page. You also need to suss out the promo sites and which ones give value for money and then there are the key words and the rankings and the … the list is endless. Dozens of people have written books about how to do all this, or whole books on only one topic of all the knowledge which will help you on your way to the top of the charts.
Of course I didn’t even know you had to plan, and let’s face it, often we are not sure what works if anything and to what extent.
The postscript to this is I’m afraid you will have to live with my lack of planning and suffer both the Big Trip and, currently, Queen Victoria a little longer. They will be back next week. We’re coming to the end of both topics and then I’ll be stuck!!
Now I’m sure you’ve noticed that I rarely push my books on here but I would like to mention my new monthly newsletter which will have news about my books and those of other people. Plus a downloadable back story to the Amie series, plus information about the pending court case (that is not serious). I hope I can find the sign up form here again, but if not, please leave a comment and I will happily add your name. Happy to cross promote with other authors, but to start with I am focusing on new releases and books with an African connection.
WARNING: for those of a nervous disposition, do not read this post, as it has a gruesome picture in it for lovers of little furry friends.
We bade a fond farewell to our guides with pleas from them to recommend holidays in Cambodia – and I do recommend it. The people were so friendly, the hotel was gorgeous and the ruins amazing.
It was time to move on, away from the wide majestic waterways and the inhabitants who eek out a living there, and take an afternoon flight across yet another border to Laos. Still a communist country and not as prosperous as Vietnam from what I could see. Luang Prabang is a lot further north and very much colder – though I must admit it was January.
I wrote in my diary it was a bit creepy, the bed was lumpy and the wedding party drums kept us awake for hours – yes, this is me who always reckons she could sleep through the 1812 played at the foot of the bed. But we were both so cold even cuddling didn’t keep the chills away. It was a nice hotel though but a little out of town.
Our first visit was to a market.
The little things with tails? Please don’t ask.
I was blown away by this little girl playing with a cell phone wearing Disneyland leggings. On one hand it shrinks the world, on the other emphasises the enormous gap.
Then it was off to another temple. I’ve been puzzled in the past about Buddhism, and was determined to sort out the principles on this trip. Instead of a greater understanding I became more confused. There appear to be dozens of slightly different sects with varying rules. I mention this as we were off to another temple complex called Wat Xieng Thong. Plus a trip around the Royal Palace museum.
Next time, dining on tree stumps.
Can I find anything more interesting to say about George IV? Well I scratched around a little and can share with you the following.
When he was born, an attending courtier announced he was a girl. He didn’t like living in the small houses (huge mansions to you and I) preferred by his father, as I’ve mentioned they did not get on.
So he went mad building enormous residences for himself once he got to sit on the throne.
Buckingham Palace from the back for a change.
He was mad about clothes and spending money and he was very selfish and self-centred. When he was old he slipped into a fantasy world assisted by laudanum and cherry brandy. He believed he had personally defeated Napoleon. He had his first serious love affair at 17 and tried to divorce his wife, except Parliament wouldn’t let him. He only married in the first place, a good, acceptable, Protestant princess so the government would pay all his debts. He was blind drunk at his wedding. Wow, don’t you wish he was your neighbour?
OK here comes the advertising bit (well I’m told I should include it). Can I persuade you to go on my mailing list? As soon as I’ve sent Amie 3 off to my editor, I will be writing some back stories only available to a special set of people. Also you can find out when you can get my books free or cheap and there’s the occasional competition to win free books just for signing up J
I’ve digressed a couple of times from The Big Trip as other things popped up in my humdrum life, but I hate to leave loose ends – so onwards with our Far East tour.
By now my takkies/gym shoes/pumps/trainers were falling apart and the hotel in Siem Reap sold me a very nice pair of fake Nikes. As the pretty receptionist told me, “you can’t tell the difference” – and I certainly couldn’t – apart from the price.
We dined in the hotel that night, sitting in solitary splendour with a waiter and a half each. Where all the other guests were, we had no idea. We even went out for a walk but we couldn’t find them. Later we learned they’d gone to a show. We booked for the following night.
More temples the next day, honestly I was beginning to get templed-out. I ducked out of the second one and went browsing around a local market instead.
The third temple was fascinating, not because it had been used in the Tomb Raider film, but for the tree growing out of the ruins.
The next day we were driving through the countryside to a local town where we saw this bride and groom. As I was slithering into the photographer’s covered tent he turned and looked. I was preparing to make a million apologies, grovelling an inch off the ground, when he ushered the happy couple outside so could get a proper photo – at least I think that’s what he said.
Another boat took us on Tonle Sap Lake which was truly enormous, I thought I was on the Mekong, but although this lake flows eventually into the delta, for six months of the year the river flows in the opposite direction, out of the lake and then into it again.
As the level goes up and down, some of the lake people relocate to the land. We were there in January and it was just mind blowing to see floating petrol stations, a church, basketball court, the usual houses and, believe it or not a crocodile farm.
I don’t think George IV was all that interesting really. He spent a lot of money – didn’t they all? Had lots of mistresses – didn’t they all? Fathered a lot of illegitimate children – didn’t they all? He also founded a couple of important institutions and things which probably aren’t very important.
He was on the throne for ten years and if you think you’ve got money problems, look at his – he owed £630,000 which in today’s terms comes to £58,700.000. His by-now-not-so-by-now friendly bank manager had confiscated all his Visa and Mastercards, but that didn’t stop him. I think he should have been admitted to retail rehab, but if you’re king, you only have to ask the parliament to bail you out I guess.
Oh, I ought to do a bit of promoting stuff I suppose. You must on pain of death Can I persuade you to go on my mailing list? As soon as I’ve sent Amie 3 off to my editor, I will be writing some back stories only available to a special set of people. Also you can find out when you can get my books free or cheap and there’s the occasional competition to win free books just for signing up J
Ankor Wat stretches for miles and miles and miles.
I know some people spend days there and it was possible to get passes for a day, three days and a week.
Much as I am in awe of the magnificent buildings, there is still a lot of debate as to what / when / and how the exact history evolved. Our guide, a delightful man named Solly, was super attentive, holding my arm every step along the way. DH was getting quite huffy about it, watching like a hawk to see what part of my anatomy the man was going to grab as we approached yet another step. I couldn’t decide if the friendly Cambodian, a perfect gentleman, thought I was just too delightful and wanted to help, or if he thought I looked so decrepit I needed help.
Within the complex we saw the Bayon Temple, the Elephant’s Terrace and the Bakheng Temple. I’m ashamed to admit I can’t remember now one from another, but then if I have problems remembering what I did yesterday, maybe that’s not surprising.
But the whole experience was a delight and one I would not have missed for the world.
Well poor old George III ruled for a lot of years, I’m sure it’s not important how long but several decades. Every now and again his son stood in for him which did not please Daddy at all. They had continued with the family tradition of not getting on with each other and George IV didn’t like his wife either.
He got into a big sulk and went off to build himself a discreet little hideaway in Brighton where no one would bother him.
A footnote. I am offering an e.copy of any of my books for free if you’d like to sign up to my mailing list. firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you miss me last week? No, I thought not. Well for the last seven days I decided to get my head down and go over Amie 3 once again thoroughly before sending her off to my editor. I’d sent a very early draft through to DH and he found a few things wrong (of course he would).
So, come the morning we sit down together and I steel myself to hear the worst.
ME: Well you can’t complain this time that she never goes off for a pee. She spends half her time in this book behind one bush or another. Her plumbing system is in full working order.
DH: OK I noticed that but there are still no sex scenes.
ME: I’m not sure my readers are looking for gratuitous sex, and I don’t use many swear words either.
DH: I’m not talking bondage and erotica here but you’ve just told me she’s a healthy young woman. She has needs. (Every man’s dream right?)
ME: You know I find sex scenes a little tricky. It must be the most undignified way to behave sober there is. And how can I possibly ever describe it better than millions before me? He whips his clothes off, she rips her clothes off and they wriggle around for a while praying she won’t get pregnant.
DH: I still think you’re cutting it too short you could go into a little more detail. Right, what about this boring bit in the middle?
ME: Boring? And what bit would that be? I can’t have her racing about on every page, it’s not natural surely. Fast paced is one thing, frenetic is another. Look we have her (spoiler) and then she takes refuge in (spoiler) and isn’t this bit (spoiler) exciting?
DH: She’s crying again.
ME: Well I’d cry if I saw (spoiler).
DH: You might, but then you’re not superwoman.
DH: She’s a strong heroine, and I think you’re basing her too much on yourself.
ME: What! Hardly!
DH: Well no, not the brave stuff, that’s not you, but she’s still snivelling an awful lot, toughen her up.
ME: But she’s survived so far, that makes her tough. She’s not an Olympic weight lifter or a body builder. I want my readers to like her and feel for her. If she’s too tough they won’t relate to her will they? If you had your way she’d be dressed in black leather with boots and a whip!
DH: Now that’s an idea.
DH: You want to sell to both men and women right?
DH: Then make her strong, not wet and drippy.
ME: Amie won’t appreciate you saying that.
STRANGE LOOK FROM DH, HE MOVES A LITTLE FURTHER AWAY ROUND THE TABLE.
ME: It’s a writer’s thing our characters live in our minds they are real people.
DH: There’s not enough detail, all these guns for example. What size calibre are they?
ME: Ah, now I did lots of research on the net and I did play with a gun once and those cartridge thingies…
DH: (RAISES EYEBROWS) Magazines?
ME: Yes those things it’s really hard to load the bullets into them and they hurt my fingers. I had a couple of dates with the policeman in Durban and he let me play with his.
DH: (EYEBROWS FURTHER UP) His what?
ME: His gun! I must have had a premonition I would need that experience one day so I asked him to show me where the bullets went and how to load them. It took me over an hour to get all six slotted in against that spring.
DH: Figures. Good thing you weren’t in a shoot out at the time. Now Amie has a car in Durban, what kind?
ME: Does it matter?
DH: Of course it does, people want to know that.
ME: (MUTTERING) If you insist, I’ll give her a Corolla, they make assemble those in Durban.
DH: And a 737 will never get from London to Johannesburg.
ME: Good point, I’ll up that to a 747. So is it as good as the other two? Did it hold your attention? Did you find it exciting?
DH: I read it all the way through didn’t I?
(DH GETS UP TO MAKE COFFEE.)
Well at least I had a nice email from my editor this morning and she says it’s the best thing I’ve written so far (she’s terribly good at the sugar coating stuff), but of course there is lots of work to be done, including my tautologies – I really must look that up, I wonder what they are?
On the brighter side, Amie 1 an African Adventure got a Bronze in the Global E Book awards in popular fiction, so that cheered me up.
Can Tho is on the banks of the Hau River in the Mekong delta area, but it felt as if we were by the sea – it is one big delta.
We spent the night in Can Tho and went walking along the promenade and came to this!
That must have cost a bit and slap bang in the south which was not in favour of the man on the platform.
Now from pictures on the internet it looks as if there are hundreds of tiny boats floating by the banks, but the following morning we were whisked up river to see the permanent floating villages. We were told they did relocate every six months due to the flooding, but I wasn’t sure how they managed this. How do you move a petrol station twice a year?
Then it was time for more eco village pursuits. Making rice noodles and a couple of extra pictures to prove I was there.
You can see how brave I was!
Back to Ho Chi Min city (Saigon) to fly to Seim Reap and I’m sure you can guess why they took us there.
Not only was George III interesting because he was mad, other exciting and interesting people lived at the same time – such as:
The peasants in France who revolted under Napoleon, who wanted France to become Top Dog. This could NOT be allowed of course, so Nelson with his very close friend Hardy [of “Kiss Me Fame.”] and an Irishman called John Wellesley, who became the Duke of Wellington, and thus English, defeated Napoleon once at Waterloo and then again on the playing fields of Eton, which only proves that geography is not taught in French schools.
I’ve used up all my pictures for this post, so can you please imagine them?
Would Do you want How about joining my mailing list? As soon as I’ve sent Amie 3 off to my editor, I will be writing some back stories only available to this special set of people. Also you can find out when you can get my books free or cheap and there’s the occasional competition to win free books just for signing up.
It’s Monday so it’s blog time and we are off back to Vietnam to continue the trip. If I thought that going around the tunnels was harrowing, the afternoon was even more of a shock. We were taken to the War Remnants Museum.
and neither of us took pictures here. The displays were quite gruesome and understandably there was a strong anti-American and anti-French flavour to the exhibits. Curious, I asked our guide how he handled taking visitors from the United States here. It’s a big tourist attraction he told us and everyone must come.
Saigon or Ho Chi Min City was cleaner and more modern that Hanoi, but if possible the traffic was even more chaotic – scooters everywhere.
The post office is a major tourist attraction. It was jammed full with stalls selling all manner of cheap tourist tack, and just a few people in there trying to use the mail service.
And then we were taken to the Cao Dai cathedral built in 1933 the highlight being the mid day mass. Of course every other tourist in Saigon was there too and when the service began we were herded up into the balcony.
From what I could gather the community encompasses Christian, Buddist, Taoist and Confusians. The major focus was the ‘third eye’ and I have to let the pictures speak for themselves.
Well I’m going to get rid of George II because he’s beginning to bore me. Apart from fighting with his dad I don’t think he was a very interesting king. Don’t just take my word for it as this next sentence comes straight off the internet and we know we always get the truth on there right? For two centuries after George II’s death, history tended to view him with disdain, concentrating on his mistresses, short temper and boorishness.
He spent a lot of time fighting with his son Frederick who was later to become George III – yes I know his name was Frederick, but please, just please don’t ask. But he was so much more interesting, to begin with he went mad.
I’ll tell you about that next time.
A footnote. I am offering an e.copy of any of my books for free if you’d like to sign up to my mailing list. email@example.com.
Anyone (and I believe there are one or two who read my rubbish!) may have noticed that I rarely comment on politics or religion or similar controversial topics in my blogs and posts. But for once I thought I would make an exception here as the early chapters of the first Amie covered my take on the way I saw Africa.
I have had some amazing reviews, including the following:
This world we live in is an often ugly and dangerous place. And those of us privileged to live in a first world country too easily forget that. The story then has redeeming qualities beyond being just a great read; it’s the kind of book you read and then go out and change the world. It’s why people become activists, coming up against this kind of pain and suffering, and this kind of injustice when they find it in the world. Sadly, nightly news numbs us by comparison at a time in history when we all need to be fighting for something and for someone. For this reason, this is the kind of book they need to teach in high school, college, and hand out at community centers.
In any less capable hands, I’m fairly convinced I would have put this book down. It’s dangerous writing, and that’s why few authors attempt it. If your subject matter terrifies people, you still have to hold on to them, make sure they resist the urge to put the book down. The author deserves five stars, thus, not just for writing a memorable tale, but for picking a story to write that few people can write, fewer can read, but that we’d all like to say we did.
And many people (though not all) acknowledged that having lived in Africa for over thirty years, I had a fair idea of how things tick on the Dark Continent – from the point of a white resident.
In the early nineties I was commissioned by The Sowetan editor Aggrey Klaaste who introduced the concept of “nation building” which was basically a self-help initiative to persuade Africans away from ‘the give me’ attitude to the ‘do things for themselves’ point of view. He was an amazing man and impressed me by his views and insight.
One of my main reasons for writing Amie was to share my beliefs that it is not the colour of a person’s skin that characterizes their behaviour but the mindset, culture, aspirations, expectations, lifestyle and beliefs that define them. I added more information in the Truth, Lies and Propaganda series.
I repeated this on The Authors Show interview. But it is only fair to include the view from another perspective and it’s certainly food for thought.
The article below was written from a black point of view. It was published in the English language newspaper The Sowetan and written by Prince Mashele, a South African national who holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Rhodes University, South Africa. Before becoming Executive Director of CPR, he was Head of Crime, Justice and Politics Programme at the Institute for Security Studies. He also worked as a speechwriter in The Presidency, and in the research unit of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa. Prince spends time analysing a range of areas on contemporary African politics and is a prolific writer on a multiplicity of issues.
By Prince Mashele | May 09, 2016 SOWETAN
In the midst of the political confusion that has gripped our country many people are wondering if we have come to the end of South Africa.
The answer is simple: the thing called an “end” does not exist, not in relation to a country. SA will be there long after Jacob Zuma is gone.
What Zuma has done is to make us come to the realisation that ours is just another African country, not some exceptional country on the southern tip of the African continent.
During the presidency of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, some among us used to believe that the black people of SA are better than those of other African countries.
We must all thank Zuma for revealing our true African character; that the idea of rule of law is not part of who we are, and that constitutionalism is a concept far ahead of us as a people.
How else are we to explain the thousands of people who flock to stadiums to clap hands for a president who has violated their country’s constitution? Such people have no idea of constitutionalism.
Now that we have reclaimed our place as another African country, we must reflect on and come to terms with our real character, and imagine what our future portends.
In a typical African country, ordinary people don’t expect much of politicians, because people get tired of repeated empty promises.
In a typical African country, people have no illusions about the unity of morality and governance. People know that those who have power have it for themselves and their friends and families.
The idea that the state is an instrument for people’s development is a Western concept, and has been copied by pockets of Asian countries.
Africans and their leaders don’t like to copy from the West. They are happy to remain African, and do things “the African way”.
The African way is rule by kings, chiefs and indunas in a setting of unwritten rules. Is there anyone who has seen a book of African customary laws?
The idea that a commoner can raise questions about public money spent on the residence of a king is not African. The ANC MPs who have been defending Zuma are true Africans.
Asking a ruler to be accountable is a foreign – Western – idea. In a situation where there is conflict between a ruler and laws, Africans simply change the laws to protect the ruler. This is why no single white person has called for King Dalindyebo to be released from jail.
The problem with clever blacks is that they think they live in Europe, where ideas of democracy have been refined over centuries.
What we need to do is to come back to reality, and accept that ours is a typical African country. Such a return to reality will give us a fairly good idea of what SA’s future might look like.
This country will not look like Denmark. It might look like Nigeria, where anti-corruption crusaders are an oddity.
Being an African country, ours will not look like Germany. SA might look like Kenya, where tribalism drives politics.
People must not entertain the illusion that a day is coming when SA will look like the US. Our future is more on the side of Zimbabwe, where one ruler is more powerful than the rest of the population. Even if Julius Malema were to become president, it would still be the same.
African leaders don’t like the idea of an educated populace, for clever people are difficult to govern. Mandela and Mbeki were themselves corrupted by Western education. (Admission: this columnist is also corrupted by such education.)
Zuma remains African. His mentality is in line with Boko Haram. He is suspicious of educated people; what he calls “clever blacks”. Remember that Boko Haram means “Against Western Education”. The people who think we have come to the end of SA don’t realise that we have actually come to the beginning of a real African country, away from the Western illusions of exceptionalism. Those who are unsettled by this true African character need help. The best we can do for them is to ask them to look north of the Limpopo River, to learn more about governance in Africa.
What makes most people restless about the future of SA is that they have Western models in mind, forgetting that ours is an Africa country.
The idea that a president can resign simply because a court of law has delivered an adverse judgment is Western. Only the Prime Minister of Iceland does that; African rulers will never do that.
Analysed carefully, the notion of SA coming to an “end” is an expression of a Western value system – of accountability, political morality, reason, and so on. All these are lofty ideas of Socrates, Kant, Hegel, and so on. They are not African.
All of us must thank Jacob Zuma for introducing us to the real African Republic of South Africa, not some outpost of European values.
As Diana tells Amie “Democracy is not the African way, one man, one vote, once.” I think Prince Mashele would agree.
Lastly thank you to all those who voted for Amie 2 in the ReadFree’ly competinion, she came in at #17 and got a lovely new sticker 🙂