How this blog began: Boat, garden, party venue and writer's retreat.

Sunday, 13 May 2018


It's a really tough job being an aufor.

Especially when you can't quite work out how to bring all the strands of the plot together towards the end.

But when the publisher says "just drink some wine and write whatever comes to you, and you can tidy it up in the morning", now it all makes perfect sense to me.

So, here's to Florida Key.


Direction Unknown

The fun thing about writing a few woids for Florida Key is that I don't know the direction they take until I go down that specific path.

It's like watching a film unfold in front of my eyes.

I had no idea that Yushi Yakamoto was gonna get pulled over by the cop, until he was.


Sad to leave Montolieu and all that went with it. I got a lot of writing done. Florida Key is now well under way.

Who would have thought that a humble bicycle-handlebar radio could be such an effective moider weapon? Florida Key is coming, just as soon as I can get all the woids out, all in the right oider.

Hard Day at the Office

Hard at work in the office, I had discovered my character creativity was in correlation with the wine consumption.

Chief Moores and Sergeant Staples were no exception. Forensic scientist Katie Copeland was by this time in the bag, but I was waiting for the right opportunity for Mr. Dickinson and Miss O'Mahoney to come into the scene.

It was wine-o'clock time again. My routine was to be creative and let the thoughts flow freely. Then in the morning, the coffee would help me correct the errors. And there were many, to be sure.

End of Part One

To celebrate nearly completing Part One of Florida Key, I invited local good-guys Robbie and Jason to come round for a music night

My Set-Up

In February 2017, I took a month off 'normal' work, and set myself up in The Writer's Retreat in Montolieu.

Financed by my credit card, but crossing fingers that the crowd-funding by 'selling' characters in the book, would eventually pay off.

So, on warm winter days, I'd sit up on the terrace, and think of Florida.

My routine for 30 days: Crisps, check. Wine, check. Music, check.

Here we go . . . "Once Upon A Time"

Ooh la la, mais oui. It's a wonder I'll ever get past Chapter One at this rate. I'll just have one more to lubricate the mind.

Wine Time at Work

I was soon on a roll, helped by the incentive of wine-time to help oil the brain cogs.

The target was 5,000 words, and I managed it. "Just get the story down", I'd been advised. 

The following morning I could go back and make sense of it.

And sometimes I'd even resist the wine, and go for a Virgin Mary instead. Hail.

When Florida Key Began

It was back in November 2016 that I began writing Florida Key.

I had a rough idea in my mind as to some of the elements to the story. But it was one thing to have ideas in the head - a very different thing to begin actually working on it.

I was fortunate that I had a nice place to go and write - the place in Montolieu, France - known as The Village of Books.

If I couldn't get creative there, I wouldn't manage it anywhere.

Here, after 2,400 words down, I was invigorated, and felt I'd done a good day's work.

It certainly beat doing painting and decorating.


This writing mullarkey has been getting to me. Here, my publisher, David Roberts proudly (and rightly so) holds aloft his latest tome, the only biography ever written about Mr. Stills, of CSN&Y fame.

I'm very excited to have been given a dedication - my first ever - in a book. His words: "For my 'brother' in music Neil, who convinced me I must write this book..."

Ta David, I'm thrilled alright.

Friday, 9 March 2018

You Wouldn't Believe It

You wouldn't believe the amount of STUFF that has to be done just to write a blinking book.
When you think you've finished, there's MORE to be done.
MORE corrections.
MORE rewriting.
MORE editing.
But it's all a lot of fun.
Then there's the PLANNING for the launch, which is another blog for another day.
It's all worth it though, when you can see it up on Amazon for pre-order.

Quite exciting, I have to say.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

On The Cover

Wey hey!

I've always wanted to be on the cover of something.

Anything would do, as far as I'm concerned.

And to celebrate having just sent off the final manuscript to the proof-reader, I'm soon going down the Black Buoy to have a pint or three of Guinness (not too cold, mind) - just like one of the characters in the book does.

I can't help reflecting, however, on editor David Roberts and me having had to contend with a broken 'O' on his computer while we worked away tirelessly.

I'm sure that doesn't happen at HarperCollins.

Oh well.


In response, David pointed out that he hpes I have a lvely time at the Black Buy.

Helpful. Nt!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Bloody Hell!

I shouldn't blame my computer - it's all my fault for being such a twit.

There I was, slaving away on the edits to Florida Key, correcting a Word document, as authors do.

Then I realised that I've been correcting the wrong document, and had to go back over thousands of words to work out exactly where I began going wrong.

Some might say that I began going wrong at the very beginning, but I'm having none of that.

After HOURS AND HOURS, I finally figured out where I was, and what I was doing - and now I'm all up to date. Time for a celebratory cup of tea.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Take Cover!

"You'd be, like, really smart not to miss out and buy the book everybody's talkin' about. A lotta bad things happen in it. It's tremendous. Amazing. Terrific. Believe me, it's all fake. This is a work of fiction, and it's gonna be huge."

There's a lot of news right now concerning the country in which Florida Key is mainly set.

I may as well have a bit of fun while I'm getting on with the editing.

And here is the latest cover, featuring ME on the cover. I'm still looking a bit overweight, but apparently Designer David had to trim AN ENORMOUS amount of my stomach off. I hate to think what I looked like before.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Getting Serious

For Florida Key, the plot-line was inspired by a bike-radio

It's Sunday today.
I have almost a whole day to get on with some work on Florida Key.
Editing, editing, editing. The willpower required to get on with it is enormous.
It's very easy to get side-tracked into doing something else.
Like now.
So before I begin with that, I thought I'd do a blog post.
Today, no more jokes - this is now SERIOUS.

For anyone remotely interested in knowing what the key stages are in 'how to write a book', here they are (for this author, at least), divided into segments;

1. Get an idea (easy)
2. Think up a rough plot-line (easy)
3. Begin writing the first draft (still quite easy)
4. Work out how the story can develop (getting harder)
5. Keep writing to the end (hard)
6. Read over what you've written (easy)
7. Make sense of it all (impossible)
8. Go back and make some corrections (work)
9. Re-write the whole thing and repeat points 1-8 above until 2nd draft is complete (frustrating)
10. Re-write again until 3rd draft is finished (satisfying)

After THE STORY comes THE PROCESS, and I'll cover that in the next blog-post.
Because now I really must get on with EDITING, and not BLOGGING.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Don't Panic!

As Corporal Jones would have said, "Don't Panic, Mr. Mainwaring!"

But I can't help it - I've got myself in another fine mess by declaring the launch date of Florida Key to be April 22nd in Wivenhoe, and June 24th in Montolieu...


I can't even begin to think of the launch, the promo, the music, the invitations, the food, while I'm still working on the words, going through all the edits, corrections and cock-ups.

And I'm only about half way through, which means I've got another half a book-full to get through.

But never mind - thanks to Adrian at the favourite (and only) wineshop I know, I am at least able to get my head around the drinks provision, so no need to worry, I'm telling myself.

So, we're not all doomed!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017


Selling my soul to the Devil. Or is it to the Angel? Is it wrong to let real people pay their hundred squids or so to become all-important parts in the unfolding story of Florida Key, as I weave their way into the plot?

I don't know, but I think not. I hope not.

After all, it's been an incredible way of crowd-funding - enabling this 'ere writer to do da writing instead of da decoratin'.

And here's a couple of examples - Kerry and Chris, who are 'Kerry and Chris', firstly located
in Anna Maria Island, Florida - and then latterly in Plainfield, Indiana.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

What's It All About

There's more to writing a book than just writing the book, you know. Not only do you have to do countless edits and rewrites, there's also the matter of publicity press releases - and the all-important cover. Is it all worth it, I constantly ask myself. Some days the answer is no, but thankfully, more often than not, I say yes.

Below is my third try, and it still didn't make the grade. 

It's the cover where you have to try to get across, in a limited number of words, what it's all about. Not as easy as you may think, and I know from raw experience. I attempted several times, and then gave up, concluding that my publisher would be far better at the exercise than me.


A keen cyclist, 17 year-old Oliver Markland goes on holiday to Florida, and while there he buys an old key from a flea market. He discovers later that it was actually a prison cell key, and he becomes obsessed with learning about one of the inmates, Yushi Yakamoto, an American young man of Japanese parentage, who had always professed his innocence until his execution for the brutal 1981 killing of Sandy Beach while on his epic cycle ride across the United States during that year.

In his new job as investigative journalist for a local newspaper, Oliver hopes to clear Yakamoto’s name and returns to America, determined to uncover the truth about what really happened in 1981. But in doing so he stirs up a hornet’s nest and finds himself in present-day danger from the man who for years had thought he’d gotten away with Sandy’s murder.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Slogging Away

If anyone tells you that it's easy to write a book - don't believe them.

It's Christmas Day, and I should be sleeping like a log since Christmas eve, waking up late and taking it easy.

What do I do instead? Wake up at 3am and think: "I've got an hour or so to get on with some editing from the Editor's notes," and get cracking with another chapter.

At this rate, I'll be finished - properly finished - by mid January. But I have to be disciplined to achieve my goal.

Monday, 6 November 2017

French Book Launch Sorted

My mate Adrian - he of the wine shop in Montolieu, has agreed to host my French Florida Key book launch on the 24th June 2018. His terrace will no doubt need some work done to accommodate the throngs of folks clamouring for a space, but anything can be achieved with a bit of je ne sais quoi.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Lights, Camera, ACTION!

The things I have to go through as an author. Good fun though.

We needed a shot of a cyclist for the cover of Florida Key, so last night it was all lights, camera and action in our house, aided with a glass of wine or two. 

And now it's up to my top aide and graphics designer David Roberts to work his magic. 

I can't wait to see what he comes up with.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Take Cover

It's a tough job, but it has to be done. While David, my friend and publisher, is hard at work on the graphics for Florida Key, I've been wracking my brains to come up with a few choice words for the strap-line beneath the title.

Or perhaps I could have something above the title. Ooh, I'm in a quandary, and I simply don't know what's best.

I was up all night trying out various configurations of a number of words, including 'unlock', 'secret', 'murder'...and many more.

But at least the graphics are coming along nicely.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Do Judge A Book By The Cover

A book cover is very important, isn't it?

In one fleeting glance it has to convey what the book's about, what its genre is, when and where it's set, and who the author is.

How great it would be for an author to have such a following that they have a captive audience of readers eagerly awaiting their next publication, only needing to have the book's title and their name on the jacket, to be enough to sell zillions of copies.

I'm unfortunately not in that category, so the design of the cover is ultra important for little ol' me.

I'm hugely lucky to have had Muddy Water's cover designed by my friend, editor and publisher, David Roberts, and he did a damned fine job on it too.

Now, with publication of Florida Key looming on the horizon, it's that time again to begin work in ernest on its jacket.

I think this is my favourite part of the whole project. It's the time when I can finally believe that it really is actually happening.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Reaching For The Bottle

I always look forward to my 'Book Club' sessions with publisher supremo, David Roberts.

I have to come up with a sub-title before next Wednesday's meeting. Something that describes what the book's theme is, in around eight words. Hmm. It's not as easy as it sounds.

We inevitably have lots to discuss, and on this occasion it was all about the font.

We're only in the early stages, mind. Lots to do. Needing some refreshment before we carry on.

Monday, 9 October 2017

What's It All About?

What's it all about, you may well ask.

The Key was purchased from a flea market while on holiday in Florida.

It was the only one among a collection of a hundred that had any markings on it...


What could those words, numbers and letters mean?

The Folger Adam Company was the finest manufacturer of detention equipment and locks.

The now derelict Joliet Prison, near Chicago in Illinois, was once home to thousands of inmates, where one in particular was incarcerated in Cell 10 on the 4th floor of Block A.

One particular inmate always protested his innocence, right up to the day of his execution.

"FLORIDA KEY" tells his story.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

It's Official

There's so much to do between now and publication date of Florida Key.

My head's in a spin with all the preparation needed.

But before we can work out our CRITICAL PATH ANALYSIS, we need a date for when everything needs to be done by.

And that date has now been set, I'm relieved - and equally scared - to know.

APRIL 22nd, I'll be launching Florida Key at The Royal British Legion in Wivenhoe, and June 24th in Montolieu, France.

I'm looking forward to both of them. I'll need some wine to give out at the parties, and I know just where to get it.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

All Dressed Up

I even got out my posh shoes and shirt so that I could attend a function at the lovely Caxton Bookshop in Frinton, hopefully talking to anyone remotely interested in Muddy Water.

Coffee and cake was offered, and I had my special pen poised to sign any purchases.

It would have been a brilliant morning if anyone had come.

Oh well, the life of an author has its ups and downs.

At least it inspired me to begin writing my blog again.

And another positive outcome was that I bought some lovely calves' liver from the fab butcher next door and ate it for my lunch when I got home.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Drivel Nonsense Balderdash Tosh

It sure is a tough job being a writer.

All that concentration.

But I have found it's easier after midday, after a nice glass of Cabardes at lunchtime. The mind flows more freely.

Then in the morning, the coffee helps to correct the utter drivel you realise you've written.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Florida Key

I'm a very lucky chappie.

Without any grief from 'Erindoors, the luverly Janee gave me her full blessing to let me stay in The Writer's Retreat (there's a link to it on this site - just have a look around and you'll find it somewhere), so that I can really crack on with my next blockbusting tome, Florida Key.

Today marked a special occasion, when I finally got to End of Part One.

I celebrated by having a little tipple.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Moving On

We all move on, metaphorically, physically and mentally.

Here we see a glowing example of how the barge that was featured heavily in Muddy Water (and where some of the hot action took place - say no more, say no more, Rowtree's Breakaway, etc) has now, at obviously great expense, been moved on from its dilapidated state.

I too have moved on mentally to pastures new, with unbound enthusiasm for projects plentiful and so-far untold. More to come in the near future.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Radio Radio

Exciting times are around the corner with the beginning of Colne Radio, our very own local radio station, GOING FM.

Yes, sirree, and yours truly has been signed up for a multi-rupee deal to present a regular daytime show.

I've just got to come up with a title.

"The Neil Watson Show"? No - who the f*ck's Neil Watson?
"The Arts Show"? No, too pretentious, Darling.
"Trump That!" No - who the f*ck's Trump?
"Guitar Masterclass" Could be cool.
"The Book Club" - Hmmm, we're
getting somewhere.

Maybe I could mess them all up and make a combo.

"The 'That's Another Fine Mess' Show" will be coming to a radio near you early next year.

I hope I'll be able to pre-record some of the shows from my old boat. I always wanted to do that.

And maybe from inside Tallulah?

The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Remind Me To Smile

It's quite tough, I've discovered, being a novel writer.

Florida Key is a fictional story set in Florida and Illinois, and of course Wivenhoe.

This time I decided to plan out the story in detail before properly getting down and dirty and writing the words. The trouble with that plan is that when you try really hard to come up with the story's intricacies, they simply don't flow as well as this author hoped.

The only thing to do under these circumstances, I decided, was to forget Florida Key for a while and totally immerse myself in someone else's work, thus freeing up my own mind, and letting it be open to subconscious thoughts.

In my particular case, I began reading Martin Downham's wonderful Remind Me To Smile.

Thanks to Martin for his yesterday-story about his love for Gary Numan. He is totally transporting me away to a world so far removed from my story-writing of today.

It's like drinking a tonic.

Sunday, 2 October 2016


Phew! Depression was beckoning and knocking at the door. My door. "Surely this can't be happening - to me", I thought. "I must rise above this."

I touched the plastic crystal that is supposed to bring me luck, and I thought positive thoughts.

It worked!

My brain began to engage with my fingers, and thoughts turned into words, via my low-tech keyboard. When the words stopped, I wanted them to continue. That was the emotion I had been looking for...the desire to continue.

And then, when I awoke prematurely at 3am, instead of wanting to return to the Land of Slumber, my mind was buzzing to pick up from where I left off, and get at least a few more words out.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

At Last

At last, finally, thank goodness.

After days, weeks and months of deliberating, agonising and pontificating, I'm so very relieved to say that whatever was holding me back, has thankfully now gone.

You see, I had been trying to continue the theme of my previous book, Muddy Water, in which all of the chapters are written in the first person, from the characters' viewpoints.

A mistake.

I wasn't feeling inspired. I had been trying to replicate, but I was bored.

Nothing flowed.

I chatted with David, my publisher. He suggested I write the story in the third person.

It was like being given the kiss of life. It was as if I was being given permission to do something different.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Crowd Funding

Florida Key, the novel, is inspired by a true story of the discovery of a key, and will be published Autumn next year.

Yushi Yakamoto, as American as the next guy, was cycling across his own country 35 years ago when he is wrongly accused of killing the woman who seduced him on her water bed. Sounds improbable? 

The murder weapon was on his bike.

Writing in earnest begins soon. 

I think it's called crowd funding - people pay to become a character in the book. The funding enables me to take the time out from my 'normal' job in order to write.

It's a good plan - if it works.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Old '57 Chevy

Come with me on my journey to find the words that will go into Florida Key.

Where do the words come from?
What is the inspiration?

Well, here is one such inspiration - a beautiful '57 Chevy owned by Joe from Denver. I met him on a mountain pass in Colorado - not Florida, back when I was 21.

His car HAS TO find a place within the pages. I wonder if it's still going, 35 years later.

I bet it is.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Mojo's Return

It's always good to set goals. Deadlines.

They must be achievable though, otherwise they are self-defeating.

My goal is to write Florida Key in time for publication in October 2017.

My bigger goal is to create a situation that affords me the time.

'Crowd-Funding' is what it's called, I think.

And now that my writing Mojo has returned, I can't wait to get started.

Where will this journey take me, I wonder.

Yushi Yakamoto was an American citizen, born in the country to Japanese parents... 
He leant his bike up against the hardware store that doubled as a coffee shop.

We're OFF!!!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Florida Key

It's been a while since I felt inspired to get the old blog up and running again.

I've been waiting until I had something to write.

My Boat For My Potplants is no longer mine, so I can't really write about that.

My Muddy Water book was printed and published, so I can't really write about that either.

But I could write about how Florida Key develops.

It all began in 1981...

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Florida Key

It's been so long since I wrote a post on my blog, and it's about jolly time to get back to it.

Especially as people are queuing up to buy their characters in Florida Key, which starts production soon.

Back On Board

It's great to be back on board the old BoatNotForMyPotplantsAnymore. The sun's shining on it, as usual.

It was time to have another 'Book Club' meeting with David, my esteemed publisher and all-round good chap. We met to discuss my next book Florida Key, in between a few glasses of Merlot. 

And thanks to the real life Miss Baudet, she gave her permission to use her boat, now called MISS BAUDET. I must admit, it's looking a whole lot prettier than when I had her (the boat, that is), but SHOCK-HORROR - the HiFi and record player have been de-commissioned. What's Goin' On?

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Going International

After a whirlwind few tough days with mates in France (doing exhaustive research into the wine of the region while planning the International Launch of Muddy Water​), it's back to normal for me.

Except that I can't remember what 'normal' is anymore, what with being a busy author an' all.

This Sunday on BBC Radio Essex, BBC Suffolk and BBC Cambridgeshire I'll be on the Sue Marchant Show sometime around 9pm.

And before I'm on, you can hear Joanna Eden​, singing LIVE.

 Ooh, it's all so exciting, I need another cheeky glass of wine, and QUICK!