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Thursday 30 June 2016

Writing – research – psychic-02

More psychic tales gleaned from the book Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, some of which may prove useful when writing about Tana in Afghanistan (The Khyber Chronicle).

Nelya Mikhailova was fourteen when the Germans invaded Russia. She was then caught up in the siege of Leningrad from September 1941 until Jan 1944]. (p82)

She became a soldier, with her brother, father, and sister in the Red Army. The conditions were very severe in the city: the bread ration per day was about four ounces; hunger in Leningrad lasted almost 900 days; the winter temperature sometimes -40; and the water and electricity were cut off frequently. As time passed the city was razed by bombs and artillery fire.

Nelya served in Tank T-34 as a radio operator. Still in her early teens, she became a Red Army sergeant of the 226th tank regiment. Later Nelya and some of her family served in an armoured train which helped bring desperately needed provisions to the stricken city.

She was seriously injured by artillery fire, but survived to marry an engineer, have a son in the army and become a grandmother. She also discovered she had PK (psychokinesis) ability. [In the late 19th century Alexander Aksakov, a councillor to the Tsar became the first psychic researcher in Russia. He later became a spiritualist and studied mediums. He is believed to have coined the term ‘telekinesis’. He died 1903, aged 70.]

During her PK experiments, strain etched the dimples deep in Nelya’s cheeks, and her pulse beat up to 250 per minute. Apparently, her powers diminished in stormy weather, this being later attributed to the magnetic field around her body being affected (this attested by the Leningrad Institute of Metrology). Afterwards, she looked drained, and had lost over three lbs in weight. [To date, in the real world we inhabit, controlled experiments have found no proof of telekinesis.]

She died in 1990.

I’ve used Aksakov’s name for my Spetsnaz assassin, Lidiya, who first appears in The Tehran Text. She reappears in The Khyber Chronicle.

Tana Standish, my psychic spy, cannot move objects with her mental faculties. This, I felt, was a step too far. She can detect danger (bad vibes, if you will), being a sensitive, and when in close proximity can snatch the thoughts of others – if those people are in a heightened emotional state, for example. Again, it is not a parlour trick she can invoke at will every time. Some of her tests at headquarters have proved failures. But Dr James Fisk, the psychologist at Fenner House is encouraging, for he’s seen how she can exceed expectations at other times of high stress.

Tana Standish can be found in The Prague Papers and TheTehran Text.

'An added twist...'

Today, I found a fine birthday surprise - a review of my book Coffin for Cash, so thought I'd share it here:

"I know you aren't a 'Westerns' fan but give this one a try” said a friend with whom I occasionally exchange books. The Westerns genre has never been a favourite of mine; I find the storylines a little predictable but I suppose most genres are formulaic to some degree.

Well, here's a Western that I truly enjoyed. Apparently the book is from a series that features ongoing players, here it's Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles. Continuing readers will already 'know' their characters; I didn't but soon felt able to identify with them.

The title of the book and the contents of the blurb may lead you to think you can guess the plot. I think not. When did you last read a book involving such a gamut of characters as Chinese workers and miners plus a dodgy bank manager, even dodgier lawyer and a slot machine salesman. Oh, and of course the feminine side is also represented. You could rightly begin to think 'Ahh, this is a bit different'.

If that isn't enough, there is an added twist but not in the tale itself which I found pretty innovative. I guess that author Nik Morton may be an admirer of Edgar Allan Poe. The tale is sprinkled with nods and references to the famous writer's works and characters. However, whether or not you notice them won't affect your reading pleasure at all.

Maybe the good guys win in the end - who knows? Well I do, but I'm not telling! I will say that this is a well written tale that moves smoothly along at a good pace using colourful but believable characters and as a self-admitted Outlander to the genre, I vote this a very good Western.

Thank you, Mr Robson - particularly as you're not a fan of westerns. Your review, like all others, is greatly appreciated!

Coffin for Cash can be obtained from Amazon here
 It's also a reasonably priced paperback!

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Writing – research – Psychic-01

Research for my third Tana Standish novel (The Khyber Chronicle) has re-introduced me to one of my old books, Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain by Sheila Ostrander & Lynn Schroeder (1970) my copy 1976.

As a writer of fiction, one doesn’t have to believe everything, particularly where the so-called pseudo-sciences are concerned. A significant proportion of the population (US, UK, elsewhere) believe in the existence of some form of supernatural or psychic phenomena, though it does seem difficult to prove under strict laboratory conditions.  The writer’s mission is to suspend disbelief, and in this case that requires a certain amount of research in the literature on the psychic subject.

When creating my psychic spy, Tana Standish, I realised that she couldn’t attempt to utilise too many abilities, only a few, otherwise she'd be 'superwoman', and these 'talents' could not always be called upon at will. Emotions and environment play a part in receptiveness, as we know.

In the 1970s I had amassed a fairly large collection of books on the supernatural; this decade seemed to be the heyday of paranormal phenomena, and it was the ideal period to set my psychic spy series. 

One interesting example from the Ostrander-Schroeder book was Wolf Messing, a Jew. 

In a Warsaw theatre in 1937 in front of a thousand people he predicted, ‘Hitler will die if he turns toward the East’. 

At least one psychic had been murdered by the Nazis for ‘knowing too much about their plans’.

Hitler, apparently a believer of the occult, heard of the prophecy and put a price of 200,000 marks on Messing’s head.

The German Army invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 and Messing hid but he was captured and identified. He was beaten up, losing six teeth, and then taken to a police station. Here, he used all his powers of mind to compel all the police to go to one room where he locked them in, and he escaped to the Russian border. His father, brothers and his entire family were slaughtered in the Warsaw Ghetto.

At Brest Litovsk he was among many refugees fleeing the Nazis. His telepathy convinced the manager of the Ministry of Culture to give him a job.

People’s thoughts came to him as pictures, he explained, visual images of a specific action or place. If he touched the person, the thoughts were clearer, stronger, but touch wasn’t essential.

Later, Wolf Messing trained NKVD officers and had a number of encounters with Stalin.
He seemed able to telepathically project his thoughts into another person’s mind, to control or cloud them… In one test, he penetrated Stalin’s dacha, got past the many guards and servants by mentally suggesting to them he was Beria (Lavrenti Beria was the feared head of the Soviet secret police). He didn’t look like Beria, either!

Messing died in 1974, aged 75. 


Some aspects of Messing's ability would be employed by Tana. She was a child of five when she escaped the Warsaw Ghetto with her brother. Her psychic powers were slight at this time, but growing, despite the hunger and fear - or perhaps because of those life-threatening stimuli. She would have a psychic link with anyone she'd touched. As an adult and a spy, she would not balk at shaking hands with the devil; all the better to slay him...

Tana Standish can be found in The Prague Papers and TheTehran Text.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Dismantling comfort and shelter

In May 2010 we bought and erected a metal pergola with linen roof and curtains. It stood on the patio in front of the double glass doors of the day room, and supplied comfort and shelter from the Spanish sun, though sometimes the afternoon winds could be so strong that the curtains resembled full-blown galleon sails.

Today, I spent two hours dismantling the pergola.

There was serious rust erosion at the roof supports. Left untended, it was liable to cause an accident.

It’s possible if the metal structure had been made of British steel it might have lasted longer than six years. Still, the intense climate (heat, the cold winter nights and the rain in Spain) conspired to attack the structure over time, despite touching up the joints with anti-rust paint (merely first-aid measures, as it turned out).

I removed the protective plastic nuts from the fixing screws and nuts. A few screws were untainted, but others revealed rot – rust - so some protection worked, some didn’t. This rot was most severe at the top (we could see through some metal), but its very presence meant the whole edifice was unsound.

The top had to go.

This meant climbing a short set of steps. Unscrewing had to be done with care, to avoid any section toppling and causing collateral damage to tiles or nearby windows. These pieces were put to one side for eventual recycling.

Take sides next.

Then the metal sides that joined the six uprights were unscrewed, four in all, again with utmost care, and the pieces taken away for subsequent recycling.

Finally, the six posts were unscrewed, one by one, and also removed to the recycling heap.

The dismantling was complete.

Admittedly, there was a sense of having lost that comforting overarching shade.

Yet the view from the day room was much improved: an open aspect to the rest of the garden.

Other means of comforting shade can be obtained at a fraction of the original cost, if necessary. 

For now, I’m quite content to take in this new vista.


Any suggested allusions to the dismantling of the European Commission would be considered too fanciful…

Monday 27 June 2016

Financial disaster predicted?

Talking down the economy is the new ‘Remain’ game.  Not very patriotic of them, perhaps...

Yes, the banks and the financial wheeler and dealers are juggling other peoples’ money, as they do, and doubtless making lots of money as they do that, but let’s get some perspective. 

Rates through the floor? Really? 

The pound taking a pounding... (Couldn't resist that one, sorry) Really?

On June 8, I withdrew 250 euros from my UK bank and it cost me £212.72

On June 27, some days after the dreaded Brexit (which is apparently aligned with the devil), I withdrew 250 euros from my UK bank and it cost me £208.48.

That’s a reduction of £4.24 (£0.02%) – as a result of the financial collapse we’re hearing about?

I don’t think so.  The rate fluctuates all the time. Some you lose, some you win, depending on the position of Mars, the Moon and Venus, no doubt.

I agree, these are small sums and when shifting large volumes of money, the difference can be huge. But that's always been the case. A changed decimal point can make a big difference with big sums of money. If you're moving that amount of money, then maybe you can afford the difference.  For the normal real people, the difference isn't apocalyptic, as we've been hearing. Yes, it would be great if the difference was the other way - as it has been in months gone by - but it will get better. If...

Start talking up the economy and get real.

Sunday 26 June 2016


Perhaps the EU Commissioners could learn a little from this message from Ximo Puig, the President of the Valencian Community in Spain:

Europe cannot be understood without the United Kingdom. The Europe which the world admires, is that which has been the hotbed of the brightest ideas of human thought for centuries. The Europe of Shakespeare, Newton, Darwin, Stuart Mill, Jane Austen, Dickens, John Lennon, Keynes.

The Europe of parliamentary democracy and freedom. The Europe which displaces the boundaries of art and knowledge, radiating creativity to the rest of the world. It is the Europe of peace after the war. From that peace has evolved the material that allows the real progress of peoples. In short, Europe has largely learned to be what it is, thanks to the UK.

In Valencia we understand this. More than 82,000 British citizens live with us. 89% of these in the province of Alicante. In 2015 more than 2 million Britons visited us. And their preferred destination was Alicante, especially Benidorm.

We export in value almost 3,000 million euros, and the UK is one of the main investors in Valencia Province. To all those, who live among us and to our visitors, the investors, the Generalitat Valenciana wants to send a message of calm and reiterate our affection and gratitude.

This message of tranquillity extends to our businesses, and to the thousands of people from Valencia who for work or for study reasons are in the UK.

The Valencian Community has been, is, and will be a welcoming land, a land that wants to do business for the benefit of all. Whatever the next chapter in Europe will be, we want it to be written with friendship and cooperation with the United Kingdom.

No political project is without its risks and challenges. Europe has to change, adapt and combine all identities and sensibilities. All forms of feeling European. Europe needs to regain its sense of being.
We have to once again make a reality of the quote of Jean Monnet. "We are not bringing together states, we are uniting people." We need to regain our passion for Europe. 


Saturday 25 June 2016

'A necessity for any writer...'

An unexpected 5-star review popped up on Amazon COM today for my book Write a Western in 30 Days. It’s from an established author, George Snyder, who’s an award-winning writer of crime novels. He lives in California. Here’s his endorsement:

“As a writer about to move into the western genre, I found Nik Morton's book filled with valuable information. Easy to read and loaded with tips, including landscape description, weapons of the era, and types of horses. The book is a necessity for any writer thinking to turn out western stories, in 30 days or longer.”

Thank you, George Snyder! 

[A good number of reviewers have stated the book's useful to writers of any genre, not only westerns.]

I can recommend George Snyder's book Baja Bullets

A thriller in the first person, where the voice is authentic. Baylor Rumble is quite a character, tough, 47, accomplished seaman and fighter and can easily sustain a series.

It starts out with him taking two girls on a treasure hunt but turns sour when drugs are involved. There’s murder, castaway at sea for weeks, and revenge… Bay suffers at the hands of bad guys but always gets up for more – well, he would, wouldn’t he, since he’s narrating?  I found it reminiscent of the Travis McGee books by the late great John D MacDonald.

After the spilling of more blood, it ends, as promised, with Bay’s life changed forever. But with the promise of more adventures to come.

Snyder is another good writer, who knows his characters and has a good sense of pace and place and can visualize well for the reader.

You can find his books here:

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Writing - history doesn't stand still

One of my unpublished manuscripts (98,000 words) is a dark sci-fi novel set in the near future, Time With A Gift of Tears.

It's 2033 AD. Tim Farman (aged 39), a successful historical novelist, uses a secret time-traveling laptop (TTM -- Type Temporal Machine) to transport him to past ages for research purposes. At the opening of the book, he’s visiting Roman Vindolanda (360AD) to discover psychological warfare training, and then goes on to King Arthur's Dark Ages Cadbury (519AD) where he saves Guinevere's life. During these time-excursions, he barely escapes with his life, so he decides on one more time, the near past, to Britain in 2020, at the outbreak of the Race Revolt...

As can be guessed, when this was first written, 2020 was a lot further in the future than it is now! 

The danger of writing near-future sci-fi is that time will catch up. Here, for amusement, is the timeline, showing the novels that Tim has written, plus other events:
20,005             Day of the Mammoth Time-jump
2053                            Gilgamesh of Uruk’s Amulet Time-jump
510                               Night of the Druids Time-jump
327                  Murderous Macedonian Time-jump
33                                  Golgotha Witness Time-jump
360                               Vindolanda – The Border Spy Time-jump
519                  Cadbury  A Geordie in Guinevere’s Bed Time-jump
1495                Vengeance from Vilcabamba Time-jump
1561                            Elizabethan Charade Time-jump – first ‘horse riding’
1752                The Lost Eleven Days Time-jump
1888                            The Victorian Cad Time-jump
1994                            Timothy Farman born
2000                Tim’s first test Time-jump – no book resulted
2009                12th Terror Scare;
2011                UK nationwide riots
2014                Northwest Explosion (Sellafield terrorist attack)
2014                           African exodus; Iraqi exodus; racial uprisings in UK; all British police armed
2015                          Solent Islamic Fundamentalist nuclear blast; legalising heroin; Lawless August; Zimbabwe escapees
2016               Limited War; Britain expelled from Commonwealth
2017               Politically Correct Legislation; Typhoid epidemic; 13th Terror Scare; 
PC Legislation revoked; Zimbabwe settlement
2018                Sellafield Accident
2019                           Puritan ethics sweep through UK; Asian Flu computer virus; Sexual Rebound to Puritan ethics
2020                           Race Revolt
Diary of a Time-traveller in the Race Revolt Time-jump
2023                Common Sense return to norm after Sexual Rebound
2025                Compromise Peace; Race Revolt ended
2030                First test Time-jump to 2000
2033                           Time-jump to 2020 (Age 39).

I'd been planning to rewrite the book anyway, but I suspect now I may need to take account of the two referendum campaigns that have riven the British Isles recently!  Proof, if it were needed, that history doesn't stand still!