Category Archives: Personal life

Q&A with Richard Dee

Andorra Pett

I am happy to say that I got to be part of the blog tour for Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe. Below I have a Q&A with the author Richard Dee, who was kind enough to answer my questions. Please keep an eye out for the upcoming review on Wednesday!

What is your favourite childhood book?

Once I learned to read, there was no stopping me. I devoured Enid Blyton, then I moved on to Narnia. I also read a lot of comics and graphic novels back in the day, it’s hard to pick a favourite, I think the Famous Five were the first to give me a love of adventure, particularly because the cast were ordinary people, thrust into unexpected things, having to use their wits to survive.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Lord of the Rings was a game changer for me, as was Dune. They showed that if you wanted to, you could create a whole world, or even a universe, complete in every detail. Everything worked and had a basis in logic; there was never a point when you couldn’t believe that it was all possible.

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel? Tell us about it.

That’s tricky; I have to be careful in what I say here. I’m a huge fan of self-published authors, especially the ones that few people have heard of. I champion them whenever I can, people like Helen Hollick, Alison Morton, K.Y. Eden and James Mortain. They put in as much work as any big name author and deserve as much credit. There is so much good writing just under the mainstream

Which book was the first to make you cry?

Fluke, by James Herbert. I was expecting a horror story, what I got was…, well you should read it. I would be very surprised if you were not as moved by it as I was.

What would you think are the most common traps for aspiring writers?

With the rise in self-publishing, it’s easy to think you’ve finished a masterpiece and press publish before it’s really ready. Editing is so important, and you can’t self-edit! So is a proper cover and a good layout with a sensible font.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Perhaps you could say that it is, after all, you’re creating a world and you have the power to give life to it and your characters. You can just as easily destroy them as well but that doesn’t mean that I think I’m omnipotent. It’s an ability, like cooking or driving a lorry, you have to remember its limitations and the responsibility that comes with it.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I wrote a short story in 1979, and made it into a novel in 2013, so you could hardly say that it was a thing I rushed into. Life got in the way. When I retired, I kept having ideas and in the end, they got to the stage where I just had to start writing them down. One led to another.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I changed my surname; I thought that Richard Dee looked better on a book cover. My real name isn’t a secret, it’s just that you can hide behind the other one, to a certain extent.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

It would be very easy to jump on a bandwagon. I’d rather try to be a bit different, even if it means that it takes longer to get noticed. At the end of the day, I’d rather set the trend after next than hang on the coat-tails of the last big thing.

BIG 8-3

I have noticed that you write both standalone books and series. Which do you enjoy writing more and why?

I never meant to write series. That came about from reader’s comments, asking for more adventures or explanations. As I started to expand my stories, they almost took on a life of their own. The characters develop and you can see what they could have done, or will do. It’s great to think that people enjoyed a book enough to want to know more, that the characters engaged with them in some way. I do enjoy starting new projects, separate from my ongoing ones. But with all the sequels, prequels and spin-offs, it’s getting harder to find the time for new stuff.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your go to advice to overcome it.

I have several projects on the go at any one time. If ideas dry up for one, I switch to another. Illness seems to empty my mind of ideas, if I get a cold I can’t write.

If you could give younger self advice about writing, what would it be?

Don’t delay, I wish I’d done more writing when I had the time. I would be so much better at it by now.

Did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I enjoyed the challenge of completing the first book so much and it opened a dam in my head. I started getting more ideas and I realised that I had to get organised to make the most of them. So it changed my habits, I carry a notebook around for plot suggestions, I listen to conversations in coffee shops and I pay more attention to the things I see.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

To be honest, I don’t plot my novels in detail before I begin writing and I don’t research until I have to! I get an idea for a plot and just start writing, creating the best setting to amplify the plot as I go. I try to make the setting another character, with its own emotions and relevance to whatever else is going on.

Research happens as I need to justify the things in the story. Everything I create is based on a known fact; I just expand or modify it to fit into the narrative.  In the case of my future universes, this means starting from a truth but blurring the point where reality and my imagination meet. In the case of my Steampunk novels; I tried to see how society could thrive without oil or electricity and where it all led.

In both cases, the results can be surprising. Once you get started on research, it’s a fascinating way to spend time. There is so much serendipity and unintended consequence in science; it’s amazing how we have got to this point. And who knows where we will end up?

Did you find it difficult to write from a female perspective in Andorra Prett and the Oort Cloud Cafe? Do you find it different from writing from a male’s perspective?

It seemed like a fun idea to try and write from a different point of view. It was a challenge and a way of stretching myself. To be honest, having a wife and three daughters helped me tremendously; parts of all of their personalities are in Andorra. They helped me see things from a female perspective.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I try and match the names up to the personalities, to give you clues as to what sort of people they might be. Having said that, you can also give good guys bad names, just to confuse matters. At the basic level, they have to be easy to remember.

Is there any part or scene you edited out of Andorra Prett and the Oort Cloud Cafe, that you wish you had included?

Andorra Pett was originally a short story, about a person who was running away from it all and went to the edge of civilisation. People suggested that I extend it into a novel. When I started expanding the short story, I had a whole load of ideas for things that Andorra could get up to. I soon realised that there were far too many adventures for one book, once again I seemed to have created a series. The sequel, Andorra Pett on Mars, is written and due to be published in April. The third book, Andorra Pett and her Sister is half written and will follow. I also have an idea for Andorra Pett takes a Break, goodness knows when I’ll get to it though.

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What was the most difficult scene for you to write?

Action scenes are tricky, you need to pare the writing down to make it all happen at speed. At the same time, you need to keep the tension and realism. You have to make sure that you keep only the important things and ditch the waffle. It’s no good if the description of a thirty-second fight lasts for twenty pages.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There are a lot of bits of information that allude to the second and subsequent books, they will make sense when you read them. I also scatter clues and red herrings in the background, in throwaway remarks or actions. Even though I think that I know where they all are, occasionally a reader will praise me for something that I didn’t realise I had said or got a character to do. Or they will ascribe a meaning to a section that I hadn’t considered.  It’s rather strange to be complimented for one of those.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I love my readers, they may only be a small group (so far), but they are loyal and very complimentary. It’s thanks to them that I have series and their reviews that keep me going. They demand sequels and more information. One reader even has a crush on a particular character. It first I wondered if I wasn’t giving them enough, now I can see that I wasn’t giving them too much.

At the end I would very much thank you for taking the time to answer the questions and for the opportunity to review your book.

My website is www.richarddeescifi.co.uk, there are lots of freebies, extracts from all my work and a new post about writing, either mine or someone else’s, every week.

I’m on Facebook: RichardDeeAuthor

And Twitter: Richard Dee Sci-fi

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe Full Banner

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café

Meet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she’s taken over a derelict café. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn!
She’s hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It’s a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past.

But the café holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn’t help. The more you try to pretend that you know what’s going on, the worse it gets.
Andorra’s plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands.
In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?

Purchase Link

Author Bio –

AP - Richard DeeA native of Brixham in Devon, Richard Dee’s family left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich. In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as H.M.S. Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority. Richard was offered part time working in 2010, which allowed him to return to live in Brixham, where he took up writing and blogging. He retired in 2015, when he set up and ran a successful Organic bakery, supplying local shops and cafés. The urge to write eventually overtook the urge to bake but Richard still makes bread for friends and family. Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.

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We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy

Not everyone I know happens to know that I suffer from a mental illness, it is something I try to be open about but it is increasingly hard has mental health is not a concept a lot of people have good grasp on. As much as I would love to educate everyone on the consequences of being mentally ill, it is tiring and it is often not met with a lot of understanding.

The approach to mental health issues is often turning overbackward, because people can accept you being ill in any part of your body but not the one part that is the most important to you: your brain. My brain is sick, it is sick constantly and it will not ever return to normal. And my brain is not sick by a tumor or a blood cloth, it is sick by a disease that is invisible to everyone else, a disease that no one can see apart for when I’m at my worst. And even then all they can see is that I look very tired.

I like to see my illness as a battle between good and evil. My illness is not a choice, but how I decide to act on it is a choice, and often the evil wins because that is the easy choice and I’m not hero. Most of the time the people I know the best are the ones who have to suffer from my illness the most. This make me keep most people at an arm’s length, because I know most can’t hold on in the long run, because one day I will be at my worst again. Bipolar is not rocket science, rocket science has definitive answers bipolar doesn’t. I can check my emotional math over and over, but I will still have bad days.

When I have a bad day and I have used all my energy not showing it and I finally get home, my sister is the one I snap at for not closing the door in time for the cats not to slip outside. And the truth is, I am sorry every-time that happens and I regret it, but sometimes I cannot help it. I like to think I am better now too, maybe because I’m older, maybe I finally found the right medical combination, but I like to think I manage my illness better now than before.

The true heroes in my life are those who are there, time after time, accepting my irrational mood swings again and again. The people who understand that even though I am on medication I will have good and bad days. The heroes in my life are remarkably few, but I am thankful they are there and put up with me.

Because people in my life has been very fleeting in my life, I have always used books as a sort of escape from the prison I find my mind in. Whether it is reading or writing, it is something that helps me get through the darkest of places. In many ways books has become more like friends who are always there to welcome me back, mostly because they are inanimate objects that can not go anywhere.

One book series in particular that has helped me get through though times are the magical world created by J.K. Rowling. It is a book series I cherish, which is taken out in the darkest of times just to find my way back to a place that is magical. I own numerous copies these books in several editions; hardcover, softcover, pocket books, English edition, Norwegian edition.

Recently I have been through another cross-country move to Belfast, after my years in London and San Francisco it is good to settle down in a smaller town with a slower pace. In these times with a new move, a new job and few well-known faces, I once again is pulled to the magic of Harry Potter in the darkest deep of my depression hoping that once again it will lift my spirit.

Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”

– Albus Dumbledore

Writing with depression and battling writer’s block

When you are a writer and you struggle with depression, writer’s block isn’t just writer’s block anymore. Writer’s block is something that can be easily swayed when you put your will to it; but when your writer’s block comes from depression it is significantly harder.
I have experienced this first hand. In the past I’ve had writer’s block, and I’ve dealt with it. The best way to battle a block is to just sit down and write. The last few years I have struggled with clinical depression, to a degree where I have been on medication. As I write, I do realize that this post should have been written in May, during mental health awareness month, but mental illness is here for all the other months too. For us all to help remove the stigma, we need to be talking about it, not only in May.

The problem with a Writer’s block when you are depressed, is that the will to something about it is far away. For me, writing has been a sort of therapy. My writing is where I write out my anger, my hatred. It is where I can be anything I am unable to be in my real life. Two years ago, I just stopped writing, and writing has been a constant struggle since, and my depression has turned worse. It is a downward spiral; I can’t write because I’m depressed, I’m depressed because I don’t write.
Because of my illness I was unable to finish my Creative Writing Degree, I had to defer my third year and will be doing it over this year. And I do claim to have all the answers to fix it (I’m still not writing the writing I need), because there is no magical cure and it might not get easier.
To battle the writer’s block, the first step is to realize what’s the problem. In my case depression is the reason or my writer’s block, and eventually the writer’s block became a contributing cause for my depression. It was already too late for me to turn things around when I realized this, a whole semester had passed and it was three months until my dissertation was due.
When you realize what the problem is, you can take steps to fix it. In the past my writing had always been linked to my reading. If I read a lot, I would write a lot. At my writing peak I wrote 5000 words a day and I read almost 100 books that year. It is my belief that all writers need to read. To quote one of my favorite Lannister: “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”

I think what I am trying to say here is that it is important to see things in context. As writers we create context in all our little pieces of work, but while we are doing this we forget to take a look at our own, very real, life. So my advice would be: read wide,  read often, and read to expand your mind. Also, remember it is no shame in putting down a book that just doesn’t rub your back.

Day 14: Book whose main character you want to marry

Frankly I don’t really know any literally characters I would like to marry. It would have been cliché but I could have said Mr. Darcy, but then again he is not really the main character of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

A character which really fascinate me is Dorian Gray, he is the title character of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Grey” which also happen to be one of my favorite books. The unbecoming of Dorian Gray is very fascinating, to see how he transforms from that innocent prefect creature, which Basil adores into, into a corrupted creature of Lord Henry’s making.
Of course, Dorian is not really marriage material.

Day 12: Book that is most like your life

I did not really find an answer to this one as I do not believe that any book is like my life. It  book was, it would mean my life was in any way interesting. In an effort to find an answer I took several tests online that claimed to find me the book that would describe my life.
One would think I picked my favorite answer of these, but instead I went with the one test that gave me a book I have actually read: What Classic Novel Describes Your Life?

So the novel that is most like my life is Bram Stoker’s Dracula the result of the test:

Pensive and brooding with a penchant for solitary confinement, your fantastic story unfolded within the pages of Bram Stoker’s gothic classic, DRACULA. Others mistake you for ‘unhappy’ on a regular basis, but simply do not understand that you are different – and that is completely okay. You tend to shun everything else around you as you immerse yourself with whatever captivates your mind – which leads to sacrifices but ultimately ends in incredible results. Your inner workings are as fascinating as your outer layers, a true rarity.

The Business of Freelancing, Blogging, and Books, According to Author Jennifer Armstrong

I came across this interview of Jennifer Armstrong, about Freelancing, blogging and Books. It is very much worth a read.

The WordPress.com Blog

First, I should note: I am not related to Jennifer Armstrong. But! I have followed her writing closely over the years — first during her years at Entertainment Weekly, and more recently as the author of books like Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted (Simon & Schuster), which offered a definitive history of the classic TV series. Her blog also happens to be a must-follow on WordPress.com: She gives glimpses into her current work (she’s doing a Seinfeld book next) and she’s refreshingly transparent about the business (and hard truths) of being a freelance writer in 2015. I spoke with her via email about the business of writing and tips for how she makes time for her own blog.

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Starting over

A few weeks ago I decided to hide most of the posts I’ve written on this blog since I started. It had been some years, and the recent years I have not been blogging very frequently or written much substantial.

When I hid all the post, I did this to start over. I wanted a blank blog but without making a new one. Because I have tried that, I have started several blogs only to watch me wither and them die. So I am trying again here, without making any promises to what the content will be or how often I will post.

If I had an interesting life I would blog about it. Sadly, I’m as mundane as everyone else. I will not put up posts about how I do laundry or how often I burn incense. Maybe I could put up a post about how messy my room is, how fat being a student makes me or how poorly I clean my room these days, just to get the gritty reality out in the bloggiverse.

Though I think it might be time for me to update the world on my whereabouts, if only to make myself have a realization about reality. Writing often make me think.
Currently I am still a student at Kingston University. I have changed my BA from a joint degree in Creative Writing and history to a Major in Creative Writing. In my newest history module I have found a new interest in human rights and war crimes (I study genocide and crimes against humanity).  I have lost my will to write, I don’t want to write anything anymore, but I struggle to finish my degree so I can apply for a MA in Publishing or a MA in human rights. For the time being I work at McDonald’s, and I find it rather enjoyable.
Also I have worked at a student ambassador, I’m a student rep, and I work on a bee documentary by KUSU. Who’s blog you can find here.

So for the hard parts, what have I been doing the last couple of years? I have lived in San Francisco for a year, it was a blast and very sad at the same time. I met great people, and I met not so great people. Life happened, I got out of my bubble for a while. But the higher you fly the harder the fall, the anniversary for my suicide attempt is  coming up and I  consider to take that date as my birthday, because I see surviving that kind of darkness as a much bigger accomplishment than being born.

I did not realize it back then, how depressed I was or how long I’ve been depressed. It was like a new start too, and I denied how much it affected me. It was not until the summer that the post-suicide exhaustion hit me and I wasn’t able to do anything. I still struggle to get up in the morning, even with antidepressants doing anything is always hard.
But I’m managing. I manage to get out for work, and that is a start. I manage to meet up for lectures and some seminars, that a step. And I figure that this is one of the things I will blog about from now on: living with depression. Ideally I would also like to write book reviews and maybe some articles, but right now that feels like a lot of work.

And I will stumble and fall

Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’ll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

And I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all

And I will stumble and fall
I’m still learning to love
Just starting to crawl

Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

And I will swallow my pride
You’re the one that I love
And I’m saying goodbye

Say something, I’m giving up on you
And I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
And anywhere I would’ve followed you 
Say something, I’m giving up on you

Say something, I’m giving up on you
Say something

4 big reasons you look fat in photographs.

The Haute Girl

4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs

Update: You know how you read buzz feed or something like that and there is this really shocking title, but when you go to read it its nothing about what you thought it was going to be? and it ticks you off? Well this article is not like that, but the title is like that for a reason. It’s what brought you to read this today. I had some unsavory comments about people not liking that I used the word fat, or upset that I would use this word in a negative context. Just to be honest – a man responded to this article saying ” or start working out and don’t be fat ” Ouch. I don’t think anyone wants to be called that, and nor have I been ever called fat as a compliment ( maybe P-H-A-T 😉 ) In any event, this article is about looking your most…

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Leaving things for last minute

I work well under pressure. But I do my best work when I have a full-ranged panic attack. At least that is how it seems to me. Whenever I have put large amount of work into something, worked on it for days or even weeks I seems to get less positive feedback. When I do something last-minute or when I improvise my presentations I do better than when I have spent a lot of time preparing it.

I think that is why I have developed this bad habit of always doing things last-minute. Like today I wrote my whole take home test in 4 hours (thank you Norway for routinely have five-hour exams I guess…), and I am quite confident I did far better on that, and I feel like that writing was far better than my half attempt to start last week.

The thing is in four hours I wrote 2500 words (four short essay) and did a read through and I feel like I did okay. Whenever I put a large amount of work into anything I get anxious and stressed out, feeling like I could have done better and keep obsessing over small details that probably wouldn’t matter anyway.

So on a general basis I feel like it is easier for me to just leave things to the last-minute. Today I did cut it a bit closer to the finish line than I would have preferred, I would have liked to got started yesterday but for various reasons I postponed it. Maybe I postponed it because I thought it was easy, critiquing fiction has always come easy to me and I write naturally in essay form.

Hopefully I did not do too bad on it, we will probably get it back graded in a few weeks. And hopefully I did okay or good. I’ll just have to wait and see.