The world according to Brompton

Is This The Country We Have Become?

In 2021, the Trussel Trust handed out over two and a half million food parcels to families in the United Kingdom. This number doesn't even include the hundreds of local food banks that have become so essential for parts of the country. Hard to believe that our Prime Minister was saying the other day that we had the fastest growing economy in the world. How can a country that has so many riches fail to feed millions of its citizens?

For a government that has been in power for 12 years, food bank use has gone from 83,000 parcels in 2010 to the huge figure it has now. It's heartbreaking to hear of such sad stories of families struggling in the UK now. Charities have been set up to help families get beds and sleepwear for children, to buy shoes and treats for those worse off. The sad fact though is that most of these families are working. The money they get from their low pay jobs isn't enough to stop poverty in the UK.

You could say that this conservative main success in the last twelve years is the stellar increase in food poverty. Now we have the energy crisis I hate to think what use of food banks will be in the next year. Already there's horror stories of older people riding warm buses all day and night to help keep themselves warm. What did our beloved PM say? He falsely claimed he was the one who'd introduced free travel for OAP's. A caring man indeed.

We're told every day that the government is doing all it can to help people, yet it's not nearly enough. We're told there is no money to help, yet there is money for new nuclear weapons. We're told that everyone is in the same boat, yet we have a government made up of millionaires. It's not that there isn't the money, it's a political decision to not help. They would rather keep wages low to help fat cat business owners make vast profits.

Link to Joseph Rowntree Report on Poverty in UK

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What if...

I've spent the last few days watching the first series of For All Mankind. Yeah, I know it's been out for ages, I was kind of slow jumping on it, as usual. I thought it was an excellent story, a different take on the reality that America was first on the moon. Well-acted and stunning filmography made it a compelling watch. Alternative history done really well.

I've always liked the 'What if' type of story. For someone who loves history, it makes you think what could have been if an event hadn't or had happened. What would the world look like now if we'd have persuaded Hitler to not attack Poland? What if JFK had only been wounded in Dallas? What if Hilary Clinton had won the 2016 election? Would the world be a better place?

I've read many alt-history novels. Voyage by Stephen Baxter, is another novel that deals with 'what if' and NASA. Well written and thoughtful, it paints a different world on top of the one we live in. Like For All Mankind, it's set in the era of the race for the moon. This time it postulates what would have happened if JFK were not killed, but continued the manned space program to Mars.

Writing alt-history can be frustrating, yet rewarding. It needs a lot of research to make it work successfully. It also needs a great vision. Little things might change, that impact on another event. Like the butterfly effect, it spreads so each action causes another. If we'd have stopped Hitler at the beginning, would Europe still be the same? Would the Nazi party still be in power, not just in Germany but across the world? It's an intriguing question.

My own attempts have been underwhelming. I won't stop thinking up 'what ifs' though, even though they may stay confined to my head.

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Waiting for Choppy Waters

After what seems like a lifetime of having huge swings between depression and ecstasy, my life seems to have settled down into something of a stable pattern. In fact, the last year been good. At times I think too good and as usual I worry about the trough which will eventually come.

I don't think that life can ever be smooth sailing. Anxiety is always there, lurking at the back of my mind. People may see that I'm mostly calm, yet I'm constantly worried that my life will once again fall apart. It's always a worry, at least to me, that I'll manage to destroy this life I've got.

Two years ago when I nearly died from a heart attack, I vowed I must change my life. I must start to live for the now and not worry about the future. Yet it's harder to do than I thought. As I say the last year has been the happiest I've been for some time. That's why I'm increasingly worried. You see I know from experience that following every high is a trough.

I know this time I'll probably survive it when its hit. My circle is incredibly supportive and I know will stand by me, yet it's always there lurking in the background, like an unwelcome guest at a wedding. Soon it'll make its presence known and all hell will break loose. In the past, this 'guest' has made my life a misery. That's why I worry. There's the cause of my anxiety. My own mind.

I don't think I'll every conquer the demons which live rent free in my head. Yet I have to live with them there. I guess it's like living with covid. We have to do it, but we take precautions to ensure it doesn't raise its ugly head. I think today I'm better equipped to do that.

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NaNoWriMo - Preparation

NaNoWriMo is a challenge. There's no way of getting away from that. 50,000 words in a month looks like the north face of the Eiger right now. If it were an athletics event, I'd have been in training for months now, busy writing so many words a minute. Yet here with a few days to go and the most I've written in the past month is this... I don't give myself much of a chance, yet I'm still up for the challenge.

They say that preparation is everything when it comes to writing. Some writers I know plan their stories to the nth degree, whilst others just write. Which way you do it is down to you. What makes you happy certainly works here. Whether your mind must be happy is a moot point. I find writing easier when I'm in a slump. The emotions let my writing hit a certain style that I kind of like.

Having a story or the idea of a story is something you need. You don't get very far without a bare bones idea. You can then flesh the bones out as much as you want. Some prefer to have a fully worked idea before starting. All the locations, characters, and plots finally tuned. I prefer to go halfway. I've the overall plot in my head, or even if I'm careful, written down. I know the characters I'm going to have, or at least the main ones. The locations are there. Some of the subplots are together but not all.

I quite like the spontaneity of writing though. To this end I like to be able to pull some ideas together whilst writing. Ideas come to me that I might try and include as they sound good at the time. Editing will solve that problem won't it ?

I'm going into NaNo with a promising idea. What it'll turn out like I've no idea. In my mind it'll be a best selling story. Reality, on past record, will prove otherwise. Still it'll be fun, won't it?

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NANOWRIMO 2021, Are YOU Ready?

Just over 2 weeks to go before NANOWRIMO 2021 starts. Are you getting excited ? Apprehensive? Nervous? or just like myself scared to death? It's that time of the year that we either love or hate. In the past I've 'won' NANO a few times but sometimes I've failed spectacularly.

I remember my first attempt, all of 12 years ago now, when half way through I realised that a plot hole the size of the Atlantic ocean appeared. It stopped me dead. I know I should have just carried on, but I was more critical back then. I could have sorted it out in the editing, yet back then it gnawed away at me until I caved in and quit. Not my finest hour... It was four years before I tried again. This time I hit the 50,000 with a couple of days to spare. Sadly it was only half finished and it's stayed that way ever since. Another 'failure'.

The next few years, I hit a streak of 'winning' stories. All hitting the magical 50,000. Still I never went on to finish them. It was like a block that hit me. The month had finished, and I fell out with the story. I pushed it aside promising to return. They still all sit there in my onedrive, all ready to be picked up. The stories planned out still in the mind, as fresh as a daisy but no longer a priority. To be fair though I've only every finished one work of any length. If you look at the rest of my works on these web pages you'll see more unfinished work. NANOWRIMO still makes me want to compete though. I promise myself I'll get better and finish one.

This year I'm having yet another attempt to do NANO and finish the story. Hopefully I'll have more sucess with this one. It's one I started a year ago and then abandoned. So I'm starting again with a better plan.

The beauty of NANOWRIMO is that you get to write constantly for a month. Lockdown wasn't good to me in that respect. Not much completed, never mind completed. Fingers crossed I'll get there this time.

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Remembrance Day 2020

It's eight years since I visited Belgium to go to the war graves. Looking back on this Remembrance Day I can still feel the emotions that I had that day walking among the graves and walls of Tyne Cott cemetery.

The first thing that struck me was the vastness to the place. It seems to go on forever. These were men who died in a single battle of the First World War, yet there are so many names. So many lost their lives and are laid to rest in this piece of Belgium. Then there are the ones who were lost, but their bodies were never found.

Tyne Cott

The Menin Gate in Ypres was built originally for the names of those who had fallen but never found. When they finished it, they found that there wasn't enough room for all the dead. The walls around Tyne Cott contain the rest of the names of those fallen whose bodies were never recovered.

To put it into some sort of context, Meni Gate was full at 54,000 names whilst the remaining 35,000 names are on Tyne Cott. When you see all those names row and row on marble it brings forward emotions that just flow.

Some might be uplifted by the sacrifice that these young men made for their country. To me it shows the tragic waste of a generation of youth who answered their countries call and were killed. You look at the towering edifice of the Menin Gate and see the true horror of war in each inscription.

Menin Gate

It made me glad I was born at a time when war didn't ravage throughout Europe and the World. It makes me angry that these young men's lives were used at the whims of generals who can't have thought about the tragic actions of their soldiers. If they had of thought, maybe so many lives would not have been lost in the war.

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Would you buy your own book to get it into the book charts?

Would you buy your own book to get it into the charts? I'm not sure it's something I ever thought about before, but Mark Dawson, author of The Cleaner, has done just that. The story in the Guardian (link) prompted me to think about whether I'd do just that. Could I put my own money up front to purchase enough copies to get my book on the book charts? It smacked of hearing stories of people rigging the music charts to get records up to the top.

Publishers have huge budgets to put into book promotion. They have enormous power to influence what we buy in the shops or online. Self publishing is becoming a big thing however. It can be a way of getting the products of your imagination out there onto the shelves. I can really see how self publishing is a legitimate route into releasing your books. In fact I think in the world where lots of ebook sales are done through Amazon (love them or hate them), it's a way to shake up the traditional routes. It might even lead to a book deal from an established publisher. So how do you get your work under your prospective readers noses? One way is to discount the book to draw in readers, another is to pay money for advertisements. 

According to Mark Dawson, he took orders from his self published book to send to buyers around the world. It's a brilliant way of actually getting your book into the hands of your readers. Before Mark made the move to buy 400 copies of his book, it was already at number 13. This week it entered the top ten, which is where it will get more exposure. These books bought by Mark, are not in his hands but in the hands of grateful readers. All Mark has done is act as middle man. No one is hurt by this, yet it's been announced that the book has lost it's spot in the top ten. 

I'm saddened by this news. It seemed a way that a self publisher could get sales. I'm not a big believer in being guided by the charts, especially in music, and pick books away from charts, judging them by merit and not what others think. Looking at the YA/Children's charts for example is disheartening with books from years ago mingling with celebrity 'written' ones. Don't get me started on David Walliams... However I know there are people who will take notice of the charts.

To me I see nothing wrong in what Mark Dawson has done. Ironically the publicity he's got from buying his own books and it being denied a top ten chart spot has probably bought him some wonderful publicity. I wish him well. 

If you'd like to buy a copy of his book then follow this link

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Townscaper - A useful tool?

To me a book isn't complete without a map. Narnia is tons better with the map, Middle Earth looks really inviting from the map at the beginning of the book. It used to be a trend in books to put a map to help the reader navigate themselves around a fantasy world. No self-respecting fantasy book would be without one.

As a child I would look at these maps imagining the places in my imagination. It helped to place events in the book as well as being a piece of art. It has even encouraged me to buy books. If there's a map in the beginning, I want to have it. Happily, authors and publishers understand the lure of cartography and more books now have the map in the front.

The most recent book I've finished, Gargantis by Thomas Taylor, even has two maps contained within its pages. At the same time as I was devouring (book review to come), the latest adventures in Eeire on Sea, that I came across a new 'game' on Steam. To call it a game is a bit of a stretch, it's more of a toy that you play with. Yet it's simple methodology reminded me instantly of the aforementioned Eerie.

Put simply Townscaper by Oscar Stalberg is a relaxing and yet fascinating way of building a town. No complex functions, no micromanagement, just an amazingly uncomplicated way to build a 'fishing village'.

St Olaf's on Sea

I was hooked with the first click of the mouse. It's so simple to put together a village or town and it looks so gorgeous. Left click build, right click remove. Within minutes I'm sat marvelling at the houses I'm creating. Certain clicks bring you arches, hidden gardens and much more. It's all procedurally generated, yet the results are wonderful.

St Olaf's on Sea

I started to see the applications this could be used for. The quirkiness of the graphics and the reading of Gargantis (by the way read it please), made me want to create my own town, along with a series of inhabitants, yet to be named. I though how it could be used to create a map and base a story, or even a series on the town I created.

St Olaf's on Sea

Tempus Fugit, time flies, when you're using this game. A couple of hours and I'd filled all the available area with a hotchpotch of brightly coloured cottages and homes. I'd added a couple of lighthouses, a church, and a dock area. It felt good. My soul has been lacking succour the last few weeks and this game was filling me with a warm glow. It sparked the stories inside my head or ideas that should be.

St Olaf's on Sea, Close up.

Townscaper is in early release, which means it's still in development. Hopefully, it will be expanded, larger areas, assorted colour schemes (a dull one would be good), a workshop to share buildings. As it stands it's well worth the £5 it costs. A wonderful experience, an imagination sparker or just an engaging way to spend a few hours of your time.

A proposed map for the beginning of a book.

Hopefully, I can go on and make a series of stories, short ones about the life in my initialled named St Olaf's on Sea. Townscaper and Thomas Taylor have inspired me to write something a little different this time.

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Books and Films

I guess this argument has been going on as long as filmmakers used books for their productions. Which is best, films or the medium that are based, books. In a way it's easy for us to say books. As writers and readers, that medium is the one we turn to first. Films can never be as good as books as someone else has made their imagination the source for the film.

The other day, I watched a film based, I say based loosely here, on one of my favourite children's series. The film of Artemis Fowl, I'd anticipated from the first time I'd picked up Eoin Colfer's brilliant book. After the first few chapters, I knew this could be a brilliant film. Yet how could Disney of all people get it so wrong? It's hard to think they could have produced the twaddle that was on the screen.

Ok, being charitable, it sort of followed the book, yet it failed to keep me amused like the book. There wasn't the depth to it. It was a triumph of CGI over story. Sometimes films can be a catalyst for getting children and adults to search out the book after seeing the film. I can't imagine this adaptation will have that effect. It will go down as the worst film adaptation since the Cirque de Freak film hit the cinemas. Another great children's author, Darren Shan, work being bastardised.

To be fair it's hard for a filmmaker to transfer the book to film. Books are written as books and films are screenplays. They are two completely different mediums. Authors put a lot into making the scenes come alive in your heads. Your imagination is pushed so we each have our own idea of the scenes in a book. Film makers use their imagination to bring the world to life. Sometimes it works, at others it doesn't.

I sat for ages after watching Artemis Fowl, my anger seething inside. That wonderful world that Eoin Colfer had created inside my head was laid in ruins. The memories of the book bruised and battered. Yet I knew I still had the books. No bad film can ever take away the hours of joy I had reading the series. They would always have a place in my heart and on my shelves. The film? Well one I will never watch again.

I know that book rights are sold without the author being involved. I always remember Darren Shan telling the tale of how the film version wasn't his vision. When they pass out of their creators hands, they are at the mercy of those who may not have the same imagination and enthusiasm for the project.

Are there any films that enhanced the book? I'm not talking the classics here. Romeo and Juliet, for example, was much more accessible on the screen than in its original form. The Harry Potter ones were OK, The Order of the Phoenix, even being possibly better than the travesty of the book. Field of Dreams and Moneyball were two that sprung to mind. Lord of the Rings series were both overblown as a book as they were on film.

I'll still carry on watching films based on books. I'm sure I'll come across one that will work in both mediums.

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Making a new site

I've been musing about developing a new website for writers for a few years now. The site I used to use, Movellas, is rapidly turning into a dustbowl. It's full of spam on the blogs and the site hasn't been updated for ages now. I did try and develop a new site about a year ago. Lovethisbook.club was a site aimed at promoting and helping new writers. It was a failure in some respects as it didn't contain enough to keep others occupied.

Writing is a solitary affair most of the time. It's usually you and a laptop or you're one of those old-school types that prefers paper and a pen. If you're lucky, you'll have a support network of fellow writers, friends or family that will read what you've written and give you decent feedback. Some have already got that in spades. Others, like myself find it hard to connect with people and haven't got an avenue to develop.

For the past couple of years, I feel I've been in the wastelands when it comes to writing. Despite my best intentions, I've written nearly zilch. There isn't the impetus to write without having someone to comment. I have three major stories in the midst of creation. Work in progress they might be called although not much progress is made.

So, I'm putting my energies into creating a new website. This is centred on creating a small community for people like me, who've struggled to have anyone to share with. It's also I hope a place where others will share and create the type of community that's supportive.

Over the next few days, I'll be posting more about the new community website before it launches on Friday 26th June 2020. I've already got some great people beta testing it, finding the faults and making suggestions as to features.

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Books you may be interested in.

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Brompton Sawdon - Author

Brompton loves books and is always willing to give a viewpoint on books that have been exciting or disappointing.

From the top of a tower, somewhere in the Pennine Hills, Brompton views the world though world weary eyes. Occasionally ranting or raving over something that may seem irrelevant to you but matters to Brompton.

Biography