Beijing, Being Here

I Like China.  I like Beijing.  I like the people I meet here.  I love the food.

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I’m not too found of the bureaucracy.  However, whatever country you visit, there’s always some red tape that’s a pain in the backside.  You just have to live with it.

So, the journey here.  It was a pain.  It started off with the M1 closed down to 1 lane for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  Then my flight from Heathrow to Zürich was delayed by an hour, due to some ‘technical’ issue in Zürich – no idea what.  However, the Swiss Air A320 was comfy enough for the 1 hour 30 minutes flight time, even in economy. The on-board snack was fine (croissant).

There was supposed to be a 2 – 3 hour  stopover before the transfer at Zürich, but this disappeared so the transfer happened quite quickly.  Never travelled Swiss Air before but it was okay; although in Zürich after queuing to board, everyone in the queue (except those already in the know) was sent to a different queue to get our boarding cards stamped, then had to queue up again to complete the boarding.

Previously, my visits to Beijing were via large, 747-type long-haul aircraft.  In the newer planes there is a little more room in economy seating.  However, this time I was on an Airbus 330-300, and the economy seating was well below expectations, and only 3 toilets available.  For a journey of 9.5 hours covering around 8000 km, this was not a great place to be.  On the other hand, one of the stewardesses was very pretty.  :)

I got very little sleep, it was so cramped – not to mention smelly with everyone around me farting every 10 mins!  Main meal was okay – honey chicken with garlic, rice and brocoli, but the caesar salad was not good.  The sweet was apparently carrot cake, though I couldn’t taste any carrot; and it came with a sprinkling of almonds, which everyone knows I can’t stand, that had to be scraped off.

However, arriving while it was still dark provided the reward of beautiful Beijing-by-night views from the plane:

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Eventually we arrived at the airport around 5:30 AM to be greeted by Chinese immigration control:

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It took the best part of 90 minutes to clear through here, though I must say the young lady wielding the stamp was actually very efficient and officiously pleasant.

Next, of course, my luggage didn’t arrive on the carousel.  I spent an age trying to find it.  There was no official to even speak with until well past 8 AM.  Eventually I went to the Star Alliance baggage reclaim, joining a queue of irate Chinese-speaking complainers.  (If every you come to Beijing, the one thing you will notice is that western-style politeness isn’t a strong factor when there’s queuing to be done.)  By 9 AM I’d recovered my bag and been out-queued for several taxis before finally landing one.

You will love Beijing taxis.  You never see any accidents, I have to say, but the way they drive here is maniacal!  Any road-space is taken by whoever gets there first: car, bus, truck, bicycle, pedestrian, whatever.  Best thing is to focus on anything else but the traffic.  But Beijing at night is as exciting as any othr world city, with the added bonus that you don’t feel threatened, as can happen in some places.

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Arrived at my hotel, the Park Plaza, one of the best in town, only to find they had no reservation for me.

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I don’t know how that happened but, fortunately, I knew the name of a Chinese colleague who is (a) well-known to a lot of people in Beijing and (b) well-respected/liked by same.  As soon as I said his name a room was made available at company-negotiated rates and, finally, at 10AM I was flat-out on the bed, snoring my head off until mid-afternoon.  I was, to use the vernacular, knackered.

Saturday night was a very enjoyable alcoholic iced beveage in the hotel lobby lounge (above photo) and then more sleep.

Sunday (overslept so missed breakfast) I was still feeling quite exhausted, despite a decent bit of kip.  I’d had plans for a little more sight-seeing but I just didn’t have that much energy left, and my hips were killing me, so I resigned myself to a day of recuperation so I’d be ready for the week’s work ahead.

To round-up, let me say if you get the opportunity to come to Beijing, take it.  China is a super place to visit.  I’ve done several of the Beijing ‘sites’ and they are well-worth visiting (Olympic Park, Forbidden Palace, etc.).  The country’s history is great and the people (apart from men clearing their noses and throats whenever they feel like it, and everyone barging and shoving all the time) are generally warm and friendly.  Watch some of the TV.  It gives you a very good insight into the psychology of the people.  Take the time to learn a few words (ni how = hello; shi-shi = thanks) and people are usually happy to give you a little of their time.  But be warned – when I was here in February this year I was virtually asked to marry a young lady (I was saved by my colleague at the time) so you never know how things will pan out!

Best wishes to all.

Nigel.  :)

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The Shell Cracked – Sneak Preview

My current project is called The Shell Cracked (at least, that’s my working title) which sounds a bit Agatha Christie-ish but is far removed from cosy sleuthing in middle England!

This is (will be) the sequel to Shun House, and is (will be) just as dark and wicked.  Those of you who have read Shun House will know exactly what I mean by that.  For you loyal readers, and those who are not (yet) here is the opening chapter of The Shell Cracked, to give you a sample of what lied in wait:

 

1.      PATIENCE

Patience is stale, and I am weary of it.

King Richard II, King Richard II: V, v

 

Five thousand years.

To a mountain bearing the weight of the heavens, such a number is inconsequential. Say instead fifty thousand, or five hundred thousand and the mountain may notice the passage of time. But five thousand? That is next to nothing.

To a mouse scuttling and sniffing the air, hugging the skirting board in its quest for food, twitching ears for signals of death from cat or rat, five thousand is a number outside of reckoning, a count of fifteen hundred or more generations. Five minutes or five thousand years, neither is a measure to be comprehended.

To that which dwells beneath the Sierra Gilillo, five thousand years is time enough.

Time to remember.

To fester.

To grow.

 

From the glens and ravines of the Sierra de Cazorla, a sprig of streams emerge, fed by seasonal rains and secret, subterranean pools. They roam the surface world, seeking each other out, converging as a single waterway that strikes out northward through the Guadalquivir valley. The Rio Kertis holds this course for nine leagues before changing direction, diverting west and then southwest, gradually swelling with rills and runnels orphaned from the surrounding countryside. Spreading wide in a majestic meander, she brings fertility to fields and pastures until, at last, she reaches the sea. There she divests herself of her charge, completing the cycle, returning her waters to the Madre del Agua at the Golfo de Cádiz: el mar Mediterráneo.

Rivers, though, are not the only passages to lead away from the mountains. Beneath the sierras, diverse tunnels weave a Spartan mesh through the Iberian subterrain. Most lead nowhere, crushed by the weight of their world, their paths blocked by rock falls, or petering out to the point where only the smallest of organisms can delve. Others tumble blindly into deep pits, stygian sinkholes overflowing with poison. Some are unnavigable conduits for turbulent streams, or channels for the molten vomit spewed up by Mother Earth. Many never admit the kiss of fresh air, or allow the light of day to infiltrate their darkness.

But there are some that do have purpose, some that do follow a definite course, a handful that do broach the surface to secretly link distant parts by invisible threads.

And there are a very few that lead directly to a place known to the people of the region as el Estómago de la Mundo, lying deep within Gilillo, the highest peak of the Cazorlas, a cavern from which a delving of shafts and drifts extrude intestine-like, a piceous interweaving of catacombs.

No one has ever claimed to have seen this place. Not one of the few that sought to find it ever returned from their quest, but all know where it lies, and what dwells within. Such names they have for her: el Bebedor de las Almas, el Terror de la Noche, el Murmullo de la Muerte.

There she rests, brooding in her nest of husks, shrouded by the darkness, barely moving, ever watchful, nursing a hunger that never ends. Her countless children are all gone, sacrificed to that hunger or fled away from her terror. No other prey comes near and now she feeds off all she has left: her memories, black and hard and cold.

How did she come there? What drove her to such isolation, such loneliness?

Fear. And five thousand years of that fear has fixed her within her atramentous tomb, nevermore to see the light of day. Until now.

Half a millennia has passed and in all that time she has cursed and plotted and dreamed and planned. She is perhaps the last, the final incarnation of her race, the uttermost terror of her kind, the one who will mete out retribution to those who vanquished her kin from the world.

But now a time is come when she will return to the world that rejected her. Her web has reached out in all directions, filaments entangling bruit and report. Now she knows where they are. Whispers and rumours have reached her from the far north, soft-spoken tales of dragons, the Nemesis and bane of her race. So north she will go. Instinct will guide her, hate will feed her, venom will drive her.

It is time to prepare.

One last time her bloated abdomen heaves. One last time she evicts the eggs from deep within, her final brood. A hundred soft sacs spill out onto the silken bed she has created for them. She spins a blanket to keep them secure and now there is nothing more she can do. The next generation will survive or they will perish but she has no more thought for their welfare. One thought only remains.

Vengeance!

 

I’m aiming to see this published in 2017 so please be patient.  But do give me feedback on this opening, if you would like to.

 

Best Wishes and Happy Reading,

Nigel.

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Left or Full Justification?

I can’t make my mind up.  Do I prefer that fictional books I read are printed (ink or pixels) with paragraphs left justified or fully justified?  Since school days I’d always considered that full justification should be the preserve of factual books, newspapers and magazine.  Somehow it looked purpose-designed for learned treatises and similar worthy works, but now I’m not sure.  What do you think?

In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified. In case you are unsure, this paragraph is left justified.

Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified. Whereas this one is fully justified.

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Shun House – Free for Five Days!

Beginning 3rd July, Shun House is available for FREE on Amazon Kindle!

Shun House on Kindle

E-book and Paperback available from the usual channels.

Shun House is a romance, but it’s far from conventional.

Marquis Raphael, the last survivor of the family Vaskapu – descendants of legendary and unholy unions between human captives and dragons.

Raphael spends his days dreaming of the future. He yearns to find a bride, someone who can perpetuate his name, preserve his bloodline through generations to come. But human women are poor hosts, only rarely able to conceive, and he despairs of ever succeeding in his goal.

Then, when all hope seems lost, Raphael learns of another, a young Contessa from Iberia, a descendant like himself from the most ancient of days. He sends for her and they duly wed.

Accompanying Contessa Adelina is Constanza Cantabria, her chaperone and surrogate mother. She falls in love with Joseph Harrow, the Marquis’s most senior and trusted servant. But if the Vaskapu are monsters, so is Harrow with his own cruel lusts. He is a slave to them, and suffers extreme anguish born of his guilt and fear of what might wait for him in the afterlife; yet he is not strong enough to resist the lure of his perversion.

To his own astonishment, Harrow finds himself falling in love as well, discovering a semblance of peace and forgiveness in Constanza’s affections. Could she offer him an escape from his dread nightmares?

Try Shun House for free, and leave your feedback on Amazon.

Happy Reading,

Nigel Edwards.

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BREXIT – HOW DID IT COME TO THIS?

I am a pretty apolitical person, but today I make an exception.  Here’s my open letter to the leaders of the UK, the EU, and the rest of the world…

BREXIT

To the vast majority of politicians all around the world, but at this time most especially to the leaders of the UK and Europe, I say this:

YOU DIDN’T LISTEN

Here is what you did.  Left, right, centre, whatever.

You ignored us.

For years you have chosen to ignore the voices of dissatisfaction that have been clamouring for your attention for so long.  For years you assumed that you could disregard the people for whom you had a duty of care and pursued agendas more favourable to your personal dreams and aspirations.  Why?  I’ll tell you:

  • Because you are adept at shouting down every argument, i.e.: you could ignore us.
  • Because you are adept at skilfully answering questions of your own choosing rather than those asked, i.e.: you could ignore us.
  • Because you are adept at cleverly turning conversations to topics you feel more comfortable discussing, i.e.: you could ignore us.
  • But mostly because you believe you knew more and better than anyone else; and so you could ignore us.

Don’t get me wrong: I am sure that a large majority of you entered politics with every intention of changing the world for the better.  But to iterate: I am absolutely convinced that a large majority of you believe that you know best.

Why do I say that?  I’ll tell you:

  • Because you believe your ability to understand complexity exceeds that of the rest of us.
  • Because you bicker between yourselves and apparently don’t care how it sounds to others.
  • Because you are addicted to half-truths.
  • Because you prefer to call each other names, rather than talk sensibly.
  • Because you are convinced that you, disregarding all others, are right.
  • Because you make promises, fail to meet them, and then don’t respect us enough to say sorry.
  • Because, when confronted, you revert to bad-mouthing your opponent’s policy rather than answering the question about your own policy.
  • Because you hardly ever say, truthfully, “I don’t know”.
  • Because you so rarely admit to your mistakes, and even more rarely apologise for the hurt you cause.
  • But mostly, because you have no respect for us.

Do you actually know the reason why the vote favoured Brexit?  Do you care to know?  I’ll tell you anyway.

It was never really about straight bananas, excess bureaucracy, immigration or austerity.  Those were factors, certainly, but they weren’t the real reason.  The real reason is because: you never asked us.

It’s because way, way back in 1975 the people of the United Kingdom voted to join a Common Market.  That’s all.  A COMMON MARKET.  Not a United States of Europe.

But since that date there has been an ever-increasing, ever more urgent drive towards greater and greater unity in Europe.  Across the board.  Financial.  Political.  Social.  Legal.  Powerful men (and a few women) sat in their lofty castles and drew up plans to build a brave new world.  They set up mechanisms and rules and laws.  They set up a civil service to enable those mechanisms and rules and laws.  And British governments – all of them – went along for the ride.

But nobody asked us if that was what we wanted.  Until now, not one politician, once in power, ever asked us if that was what we wanted.  You all just assumed that you knew best.

Credit to Prime Minister Cameron for at least giving the people of Britain this opportunity.  But I’m pretty sure he did his sums before he decided to give us this chance, and it’s a personal shame for him that when he added up the numbers he came up with the wrong answer.

There’s an assumption and a question still on my lips, though – how will the rest of Europe will fall?

There’s one last thing to say, and this is also intended for all the leaders of the world, whether in democracies, dictatorships or whatever:

At least we in Britain have had our revolution relatively quietly and peacefully.

And I expect that the decision of (little more than half) the people will be observed without undue prevarication or fuss.

THAT’S BECAUSE WE’RE BRITISH.

 

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Shun House, Kindle Offer

 

It’s taken quite a while, as I’m sure you know, but I’ve now finished and published the full-length sequel to Waif, Shun House.  The original cast of Butler, Young Master and Cook are reprised but they are now more than just shallow titles.  Butler is now Joseph Harrow, most senior servant at Benediction House (Great House).  Cook is Mistress Hartley while Young Master has matured into the Marquis Raphael Álmos Vaskapu, still the last of his line, still seeking to preserve his lineage.

And in this tale, he may have found a salvation.  Condesa Adelina Lupita Serpa Cantabria has crossed the sea to meet with him.  What will she find when she arrives?  Can she play the part that Raphael would have the Fates carve out for her?  Or will she be one more patch of barren ground, one more unfulfilled promise to future’s hope?

Shun House on Kindle

Shun House on Kindle.

In many ways Shun House is very different to Waif, which was an experimental work. Shun House is far more conventional in structure and delivery.  The characters are more developed and the language used to describe them, their surroundings and the events that unfold speaks to us from a time when language was at least as important as the story itself.

The tale takes place some ten years on from Waif but is much colder and darker, and leads us down paths we may find uncomfortable and unpleasant.  I won’t pretend that all my beta readers liked it; some found it difficult to read while others found it disturbing.  Nevertheless, I present it here for you to consider.

Shun House will be available as a free Kindle download from March 30th through April 3rd (2016).  I hope you will be able to take advantage of this, and I hope further that you will offer your comments in a Kindle review, good or ill.

Best Wishes to you All,

Nigel Edwards.

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SHUN HOUSE Available!

FINALLY!

E-book and Paperback available from the usual channels.

E-book and Paperback available from the usual channels.

It seemed to take forever to get here but at last Shun House is published.  Available through CreateSpace immediately, Amazon within the next few days, and other sales channels within the next week or two (probably).

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Great Offer from NewCon Press

Thought I’d spread the word on behalf of my chum Ian Whates:

IanWhates

Just to alert everyone that during this month I’m crashing the price on a whole load of NewCon Press titles, as part of the 10th Anniversary celebrations (including ‘Shoes Ships and Cadavers’ featuring our own group’s work) and Andy’s novel ‘The Outcast and the Little One. Books are discounted by as much as 80%, meaning that some titles are as low as £2.00, and they include many signed limited editions. Prices return to normal at the end of the month.

The offer includes titles by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Stan Nicholls, Steve Rasnic Tem, Gary McMahon, Liz Williams, Chris Beckett, David Mercurio Rivera, Kim Lakin-Smith, Eric Brown, Dave Hutchinson, Nina Allan, Keith Brooke, our own Ian Watson, Andrew Hook, Andy West, me, and anthologies featuring all sorts of people…
http://www.newconpress.co.uk/info/books.asp?offers=yes

I recommend everyone to go take a look!  🙂

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MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

...And a Happy New Year to One and All!!!

…And a Happy New Year to One and All!!!

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Shun House – Beta Readers Wanted

Shun House

Cover for Shun House, for planned release in spring 2016

 

RIGHT, I’ve just completed my read-through of Shun House, tweaked and adjusted until it seems about right to me, but now I really need some independent comment from insightful readers.  Could that be you?  Here’s the blurb and a synopsis to help you decide.

Blurb 

Benediction House: set high on a promontory, dominating an estate that stretched from the highland border in the north, and south to where a languid river dribbled into the sea. An edifice in Gothic stone; an old, grim building with wings and towers, built with the rewards of a King’s service by a rich and devout nobleman.

Plague swept the land. The nobleman succumbed, his surviving family was displaced, and his demesne fell into disrepair, languishing for years until acquired by a secretive visitor from a distant land who restored the buildings and returned order to the estate. Others of his kin joined him from the Iron Gate region of the Carpathian Mountains. Vaskapu, they called themselves, a name that came to haunt the north lands down the centuries that followed.

Anxious tales found root in the fens and the rugged coast that touched the Vaskapu estates, dark stories whispered on cold nights by a frightened and superstitious population. Benediction House became Shun House, a home to secrets, a place of death, an abode of monsters. And from this domicile the family Vaskapu exercised lordship over the lives of all the little people who cowered in their hovels beneath the brooding gaze of Shun House…

~~~

 

Synopsis

Shun House is a romance of sorts. It is the tale of Marquis Raphael Vaskapu: last of an ancient and warped dynasty, searching for a way to ensure the future of his bloodline; and Joseph Harrow: butler, valet, factotum to the family, and a monster in his own right.

The Vaskapu dynasty is a half-breed race whose blood is said to be mixed with that of dragons from mythic prehistory.  The local populace fears the them, believing they hunt and prey on the people of the region.

The time period is a very loose amalgam of (mainly) 17th and 18th centuries.  Geographically, the setting is a fictionalised north of England. Shun House – bastardised from Benediction House, the property’s original name – is an edifice in stone, a mansion built on top of cliffs overlooking the fishing village of Hook.

Much of the story is told from Harrow’s perspective.  He is a complicated man, intensely loyal to the Vaskapu but plagued by a vengeful conscience – which manifests in the ‘haunt’. Harrow is a fatalist, believing himself destined – owing to his predilection for cruel and perverse gratification – for an eternity of torment.

Marquis Rafael receives a communiqué from an Iberian count introducing Rafael to Contessa Adelina Cantabria.  The marquis sends for her in the hope they might wed, and so secure the family line.  The contessa arrives by ship at the start of the year.  She is 18 years old, beautiful, haughty and petulant.  She is accompanied by her guardian, Señorita Constanza, who has cared for Adelina since birth.  Constanza is tall and aristocratic – although she has no blood relationship with Adelina – and classically beautiful.

In due course the Adelina and Rafael fall in love and marry.  Meantime, Constanza falls equally in love with Harrow.  He, however, is more reticent with his affections, but eventually he falls under her spell –  or is he, in truth, merely using her to escape the torment of his guilt?

Shun House lies within the duchy of Umberland.  The present duke, Percival, is in debt to the Vaskapu, a burden he wants desperately to be rid of.  The duke sends for aid from a clan living on the continent (think Romania) who have a reputation for confronting and defeating ‘monsters’ like the Vaskapu.

The clan, family name Kárpáti, arrive and assail the marquis’s home.  Harrow is charged with the safety of Adelina, and guides her, together with Constanza and others away from Shun House.  They journey to the castle of Duke Umberland where Adelina –  now pregnant – not only receives the attentions of the duke, who proposes marriage to her, but is also brought face-to-fact with the Kárpáti.  Adelina will have none of this, and determines to exact retribution from both the duke and the Kárpáti.  In the end… well, you must read that for yourself.

~~~

Shun House is a strong story that some will not find easy to read.  It deals with death  and cruelty, though I hope I’ve dealt with these topics sensitively.  The key characters are well rounded – but I can’t help wondering with which, if any, the reader will fully empathise.  All the protagonists have feet of clay.

The book is sprinkled with Spanish/Romanian/Hungarian words and phrases but these are languages I do not speak, and so would appreciate any expert views.

~~~

 

SO, Are you interested?  If you are then I will send you an electronic copy (Word or Word PDF) to review.  What I’d appreciate back is your honest, constructive opinion, which I will use to hone the story.  When the book is published (CreateSpace/Amazon) I will give you full credit in the book for your contribution (or you can remain anonymous if you wish), plus a copy of the finished book.

Let me know.

Best Wishes to All,
Nigel.

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