Sunday, July 27, 2014

Barging about as all sorts of things, but not as an author

Life on the water is going through a slightly turbulent time at the moment. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm busy with renovations on the Vereeniging, but that's only half the story…or maybe even less.

In fact I'm doing quite a bit of juggling time wise. As many of you know, we have another much smaller barge called the Hennie H that Koos and I bought together some years ago and which we keep in Zeews Vlaanderen in the south of the country. Due to a rather disastrous lack of foresight, it's caused us a heap of work that we weren't anticipating, so recently, and even though we both love the little barge, we decided to sell it. Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? I mean the whole principle of constantly throwing good money into the water (almost literally) is not really a good one, is it?

Hennie H - on the way to a decent paint job

So the decision to sell it seemed like a positive move until we got it out of the water to paint the bottom and get it ready for sale.

But, as has been the case every step of the way with this gem of a boat (and it really is), it had a trick up its little rudder just to spite us. We discovered that the propellor shaft was rotten and that we were lucky the propellor itself had not fallen off. So, and this has now become the norm, we have to wait until the parts have arrived before it can be fixed. Meanwhile, we figure it's only a good idea to give it a decent paint job. After all, if we want to sell it, the better it looks, the better…

The better it looks, the better it will sell

The juggling bit comes because I'm also trying to do a lot of work on the Vereeniging at the same time (we won't even mention the studies here…no, not yet). Piece-meal is what I think you might call my activities at the moment, and so my week has looked something like this:

Monday: painting the hull on the Hennie H

Tuesday: painting again on the Hennie H and preparing lessons

Wednesday: I drive up to Rotterdam; give a lesson; observe and give feedback on a presentation; go to hardware and buy wood; go to Vereeniging and start repairing stairs which are about to collapse; continue painting the ceiling and the floor which I started last week.

Thursday: Teaching all morning. I go to a meeting in the afternoon and then  go back to Vereeniging. Ah, the sun's shining, so I start painting the engine room hatch outside. I continue painting the floor and ceiling in the evening when it's dark (not wise - see reasons on Friday). But I give up on repairing the stairs as I've destroyed several cheap screw bits already wrestling with old, rusty screws and have none left to help me fit the new treads in place. This will have to wait till next week.

Friday: I go to an early lesson then go back to the Vereeniging and paint the second engine room hatch. Oh goody, my daughter comes round and we go for a spuddle through the harbours - a lovely respite. When she's gone, I give a second coat to the section of floor I painted yesterday, picking off all the long grey hairs I managed to shed on the wet paint but didn't see because it was dark (hence the 'not wise' comment on Thursday).

4 o'clock arrives. I now see it's getting on time for me to pack up and go back to Zeeland again. I make a mad dash down to avoid the traffic and collapse into arms of dear Koos who's been holding the fort.

Saturday: We go back to Hennie H and continue paint job there….

What a life, hey?

Tomorrow, I really must spend the day studying (I know - I wasn't going to mention it, but needs must), so after a quick tidy up in my poor neglected garden which is covered in shredded leaves and weeds following last week's rainstorms, I'll have my nose in papers on subjects no one else in the world would be interested in…it makes me wonder why I am really.

My one gardening success this summer - my first
 hollyhocks, my absolute favourite plants

Life is quite full enough without academic pressures too… all of which makes me doubt if I'll ever get to writing more of my novel this summer. So, as the heading for this post says, I am barging about with all sorts of things…but not with writing.

I will get back to it though, I will!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Renovations, phase one

Some readers who know me from Facebook and Twitter might notice I've been a bit quiet there of late (says she, while listening to the collective sighs of relief).

There are three reasons for this, actually - two annoying and one very okay. For now, though, I'll pass on the first two and focus on the okay one as it's much more interesting. Well I think it is.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a lot of fixing up to do on my barge, but before I begin any reconstruction, there's the usual maintenance that needs to be done, plus a couple of other very necessary repairs. This is what I've started on, but as usual, everything is taking longer than it has done in my mind's eye.

Just an example: yesterday and today the weather has been fabulous, so I thought I'd do some painting outside and then do the interior work in the evenings. But what happens, see, is that I get interrupted in the nicest possible way when I'm painting on deck. People who haven't seen me around much now notice me being busy and want to stop for a chat.

So, my forward hatch took me the whole afternoon to sand down and paint - it should really have been a one hour job at the most.

Then there's what we call the potdeksel. I don't know what it's called in English, but it's the rim that runs round the edge of the foredeck. I had to scrape quite a bit of rust off from the underside and treat it with anti-rust oil. In theory, this shouldn't have taken all that long either, but my neighbours wanted to know what I was doing, so this lead to a discussion about good paint and how to prevent rust. And so another hour disappeared.

Still, I got it done, but I will still need to paint the whole foredeck again…and the panels….and the engine room…and, and…

But moving on to the interior, although I have nothing to show yet, I have accomplished quite a bit in the evenings this week. I've re-painted half the ceiling in the barge (the back half); re-painted the cupboards in the bathroom and the doors, replaced a couple of rotten floorboards, one of which was under the bath and fixed up a curtain over the not so pretty space at the end of my bed. The sad thing is if I took photos, most people would wonder what I'de done, so until I've got something new, I won't show you any of these details.

What I am showing you, however, is the shabby state of my decksail (I don't know what else to call it). I bought it two years ago and was delighted because I'd long wanted a real canvas one instead of the PVC one I'd had for years. Sadly, it's been a huge disappointment. The company that made it must have used cheap cotton off-cuts as it has faded terribly. It also shrank so much in the first month, they had to add new pieces all round, and altogether, it looks a mess. Since it was pretty expensive, I was not happy at all. 

I have now bitten the bullet and ordered another PVC one. It's a lot cheaper and will be far easier to clean and keep in shape, so I'm really looking forward to receiving that in the next week or so,

And now I'm tired.

I'll still be quiet on the social media front as apart from boat stuff, I'm also very busy reading for my research paper (one of the annoying distractions) and I'm having to take it easy on the computer (eye problems being the other annoyance). That said I'll still be here...but just not quite so much there. 

Enjoy the lovely summer weather everyone. I'd love to know what you are all busy with on these glorious days.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Bonding with my boat again

As many of you know, I have only had partial occupancy of my lovely barge for some time. My daughter needed a place to live two years ago, so I made space for her to move in. I spent more of my time in Zeeland where I have my little house on the dyke and only came back to Rotterdam when I needed to be there for teaching. As I do a lot of teaching online, I haven't needed to be in the city more than three days a week, and sometimes less.

Anyhow, my daughter fell in love (as daughters do) and has now moved out while she and her beloved look for their own barge. The Vereeniging was home to them both for a while, but even they realised that it is far too small for two people with such space consuming hobbies (both in rock bands with a number of guitars and other musical instruments to boot).

Even I had trouble with space now and then

One of its many phases

 I am now delighting and revelling in having my lovely home to myself again and I am busily exploring the possibilities of quite a re-furbishment. My book, Harbour Ways, describes how I converted the barge for living when I first bought it, but that was largely completed ten years ago. Time has made its usual mark on the interior and it is now well overdue for some serious renovation. To put it mildly, it's all a bit shabby and the photos here show it at its better past.

At a different phase and time

All the same, I am happier than I've been for a very long time. To be on board and feel its benign presence; to smell the faint, but distinctive scent of 'barge'; to lie in bed and listen to coots pecking at the weed on the waterline; or to listen to the plopping of fish rising and the air bubbles that break the surface, these are just the best ever smells and sounds and they do more to give me contentment than any possessions or luxuries ever could.

The Vereeniging's intereior in freshly painted state

In the past months, I've written a number of posts about the hardships of barge life - mostly tongue in cheek - but in truth, I wouldn't have it any other way. The fun side is always there and let's face it, I've managed to wring two books out of the experiences!

My barge is a bit empty now with nothing but a bed, a sofa and a rug, but that's a good thing. I can see everything for real, the good and the decrepit, and I can work out what needs to be done. I have big plans and I can't wait to begin.

I know I haven't really been away, but I do feel as if I've come home.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Weberview week - Rocking on board with the fabulous Terry Tyler!

The terrific Terry Tyler herself!

I'm very very pleased to be welcoming Terry Tyler to Watery Ways today. The fabulous TT is a writer I've come to know through Twitter and whose books are incredibly addictive, so be warned, read one and be prepared to read them all! I'm especially chuffed to have this special author here not only because I love her writing but also because I know she loves the water and the gentle pace of the boating life.

So TT, here you are at last, sitting on my foredeck in the sunshine. Let's crack open that bottle of chilled white and you can tell the readers of this blog more about you and who you are. Forgive me if a couple of the questions I ask might seem 'same old same old', but some of my blog readers are not on Twitter or Facebook, so they won't know you so well. Right then, cheers to you and here's my first question for you:

Terry, the fact I've become quite a devotee of your books is even a surprise to me as I don't often read contemporary fiction other than crime/suspense fiction. I started with Dream On and Full Circle because I'm an old hippie, love rock music and liked the idea of books that were about a rock band. Result - I just loved them. The thing is, I know you have this connection to Aerosmith in the titles (a very US band) and even in your name, but these books are one hundred percent English. How did these two books come about and is there any parallel between Dave and his buddies in the books and the real life Aerosmith? (sorry..long question, but I get there eventually!)

Aha!  I’ve told the story of ‘Dream On’ before, so I’ll just explain it very briefly.  My sister, Julia, and I were sitting in a pub in 1995, and started weaving this story around two tall, long-haired blond guys in leather jackets who were standing at the bar.  The next day I started to write a novel based on this story, called ‘Rock and Roll Dreams’.  When I started publishing on Amazon, I re-wrote it, and it became ‘Dream On’.  I then decided it needed a sequel.  As an aside, in 1998 one of those two blond guys sent me a Valentine card, and I married him a year later! 

The Aerosmith connection is just because they’re my favourite band.  My new surname when I got married again in 2011 didn’t go very well with Terry, so I chose Tyler as a tribute to the great Steven!  No, there is no connection between Thor and Aerosmith – in your DREAMS, Dave!

Just to prove it, here's Terry with the great Steve Tyler!
See! I knew there'd be something new there. I didn't know that about your surname! But could you also tell us why you've chosen to give nearly all your books titles the names of Aerosmith songs? And do they know this?

The title thing came about by accident.  ‘You Wish’ (the first book I published on Amazon), is not an Aerosmith song.  When I wrote the second, I decided on the title ‘Nobody’s Fault’.  I found that the Aero song of the same name kept popping into my head.  Then I decided on ‘The Other Side’ for the third book - and each time I write a new book, a lovely, apt title is always sitting there, in my list of their songs.  Well – ‘Dream On’, ‘Kings and Queens’?  Perfect!  Even ‘Nine Lives’ – I just happened to have nine short stories!  No, Steven Tyler & co don’t know….!

I do realise that if I keep writing at this rate I might run out of songs by the time I’m about 85 – or have to gear the book to the title; excuse me while I work out the plot for a story called ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady’ … that was a joke, by the way!

Haha, you should tell them, though! They might be really pleased and flattered. After all, your books are pretty successful, and you have a very special approach to writing that focuses more on relationships than on romance. Your stories always include some kind of unexpected twist. I think you have your own genre because it doesn't fit into any other category, but it's very much 'real life'. Have you needed to work at this or has your style developed naturally over time?

The latter.  I don’t try to write in any way, it’s just what comes out.  You’re not the first person to say I have my own genre – it’s a lovely thought, but difficult when it comes to marketing!  I got a review for ‘You Wish’ last week that said “Not sure what category you would put it in but, if you're after a story you can't put down, this one is for you!” – well, as long as I’m getting people saying things like that, it’s okay!

I say, this breeze is lovely, isn’t it?  Shall we crack open another bottle?

Ooh let's…hic…the barge is rocking a bit too, so watch your glass there! Where was I? Oh yes…your recent novel, Kings and Queens, is based on the life of Henry VIII and his six wives. I wondered whether you've always enjoyed history…I mean, is it what you read yourself in your free time?

Yes, I adore history, my genre of choice to read is always histfic.  I love non-fiction books about it too, as well as historical documentaries and visiting places of historical interest.  I can’t get enough!

Aah, you're a lot like me in that respect then. History was my other subject at uni. Anyway, I have to say you are unbelievably prolific, Terry. It takes me around a year and a half to write a novel, but you can produce new work in no time and the quality is always good. How do you manage to keep the momentum and do you ever get tired of writing?

Firstly, no, I never get tired of writing, and feel a bit out of sorts if I’m not currently working on a book – I only ever take a couple of weeks to catch up with stuff between them.  As far as being prolific is concerned, I don’t go out to work, have no children and a very undemanding husband, which are the ideal circumstances for a writer, so I’m lucky.  We have very little social life (by choice) and I only watch television after about 8pm, when I’m finished for the day.  Writing is just what I do.  I think that if you self-publish fiction you need to bring out new titles on a regular basis to maintain your readership. 

You're right. I just wish I was a bit faster myself. I would also say you are exceptionally good at marketing your work. You strike the right balance between promotion and network/relationship forming that creates a good 'fan' base. Is this something you've had to learn to do or are you a natural communicator?

Thank you!  I suppose one never really knows if one has got it right, so it’s good to hear that!  I think you have to be a natural communicator if you’re a writer, don’t you?  You have to be aware of what people want from you, but it’s not a conscious thing.  I do love Twitter, though, and find so many interesting things to read on there, which is why I am in touch with so many people, I suppose.  Aside from that, I think it’s only good manners to keep in touch with people who’ve been kind enough to review your books, or feature you on their blogs, etc. 

You're so right there! I think good manners on the net are very important. Talking of  social media, your blogs, Twitter and Facebook activities must take up quite a bit of time. Are you disciplined about how much time you spend on these 'forums' or is it something you find hard to manage?

Again, it’s about priorities and having plenty of time.  I’m lucky to have the latter.  I am quite disciplined about it, yes.  I’ll go and do 40 retweets and 50 follow backs when I’d rather do something else, for instance, because I know it’s necessary to keep everything rolling along!  Once I get deep into writing the next book, I’ll spend less time on all the social networking stuff; I like to be writing by 11 am each day. 

Sounds like a full working day to me! Before I forget, though, you've recently been nominated for the E-festival of Words short story collection award. The book, Nine Lives, is one I've read, loved and voted for. Do you think these kinds of awards help raise your profile and bring you new readers?

I suppose they must do – as I hope you will find out when you win an eFestival of Words award too!  We never know what it is that makes people buy our books, but I imagine awards can’t hurt!

Well, I will admit I'm hoping so too, but I'm not holding my breath…Lastly, Terry, before the sun, the wind and the wine take over and discretion goes swimming with the ducks, what's coming up in the TT race for new books this year?

Okaaaay!  This month, cross fingers, will see the publication of a 36,000 word novella, ‘Round and Round’ (Brilliant!).  A quick summary:  Sophie Heron’s fortieth birthday is approaching, and she is fed up with virtually every aspect of her life.  She looks back to 1998, when she received four Valentine cards from four different men, and wonders what would have happened if she’d chosen one of the others … it’s another story on the ‘Sliding Doors’ theme, but less complicated than ‘The Other Side’, which was my first foray into the area of parallel lives!  It’s also got an element of the paranormal to it, in the form of a guardian angel. (Wow! That's a departure for you!)

This week, I will start the reading for my next book, ‘Last Child’, which will be the sequel to ‘Kings and Queens’.  I’m very much looking forward to that!  After that’s done, I will be taking the plunge and moving into historical fiction – I’ve already written a vague plan and am GAGGING to get started; I think it might be called ‘Pandora’s Box’….!  I won’t even begin that for nine months or so, though.

Now that's really exciting news. I am really looking forward to seeing how you do that - no doubt with your usual flair and accomplishment. TT thank you so very much for joining me here. It's been a real grand pleasure!

I did enjoy sitting on your barge with you, Val – I spent two weeks on one in 1998 and absolutely loved it, always wanted to do it again.  I just adore the whole way of life, which is why I enjoyed your ‘Watery Ways’ and ‘Harbour Ways’ so much!   Thanks for inviting me – and here is me wending my own watery way, 16 years ago!  
Doesn't she look smashing?

And she still looks great when it's piddling down..haha
the lot of every boater with an open steering position
Well, it's been really lovely here on deck today, but if you readers would like to read some of Terry's books or short stories, here are the links to her Amazon pages and her blog:




You can also find her on Twitter here: