Monday, July 25, 2016

Finishing the First Draft

My posts to this blog have been few and far between recently as I've been finishing the first draft of my next novel. While it seems easy to cope with the numerous calls for action and attention everyday life makes when I first start a new story, there comes a point when the need to be with the characters takes over and I find myself paring down other aspects of my life to spend the maximum amount of time possible with them. It's a weird feeling, but one that I have to admit I quite enjoy. 

For me, the first few days after finishing a first draft are akin to those following the end of exams after a period of intense revision. Suddenly, there are hours to fill almost at whim, so that even the backlog of neglected tasks looks less daunting. I know it won't last long - it's a mini vacation from the writing life, a chance to gear up for the revision and formatting necessary to make the draft fit for publication and, perhaps more importantly, a chance to concentrate on real people rather than fictional ones! 

To celebrate my return to reality, I've put The Anniversary e-book on sale until 30th July. Only $0.99 in the US and 99p in the UK. 

click here to purchase

Detective Paul Rigby’s role in his girlfriend’s death has haunted him since that tragic event almost one year ago. With his dreams of marriage and a family already destroyed, Rigby’s guilt now threatens to sabotage the one thing left to him: his once promising career. 
That career would already be in ruins without the intervention of Chief of Police Jim Pearson. Reluctant to lose his best detective, Pearson is forced to resort to ever more devious methods of keeping his young protégé under control as the anniversary approaches. 
Sidelined following a spontaneous act of violence, Rigby finds himself at increasing odds with his mentor but is determined to prove that he is still worthy of Pearson’s trust. A manpower crisis within the department offers a chance of redemption during what should be a straightforward case, but when repercussions from his punch-up and his unorthodox handling of the investigation collide with devastating results, Rigby discovers he has a lot more to lose than he thought. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

An Independence Day Walk - Fort Lee Historic Park and the Shore Trail

I hadn't planned on walking on Independence Day, but when I discovered Shorewalkers and AMC were holding a joint walk across the George Washington Bridge to the Long Path via Fort Lee Historic Park it seemed like the perfect activity for the day - history and exercise combined. I obviously wasn't the only one to think that - over sixty people joined the walk, certainly one of the biggest group walks I've ever been on.

Starting from the Manhattan side of the river, we made our way across the bridge towards New Jersey. The walking path on the bridge is very narrow and shared with cyclists so for most of the length it was single file only and the volume of traffic on the road meant it was far from a quiet walk, but the views of the city skyline made it all worthwhile.

To the south of the bridge on the Jersey side is Fort Lee Historic Park. Lookout platforms provide stunning views of the river and the bridge. 

Fort Lee was established in July 1776 along with Fort Washington on the opposite side of the river in an attempt to stop the British gaining control of the Hudson River. The plan didn't work out quite as expected and after Fort Washington was taken, George Washington ordered the evacuation of troops from Fort Lee in November 1776.

The reconstructed Revolutionary War encampment gives an idea of what the area would have looked like at the time.

Unfortunately the cannons, while I'm sure historically accurate in design, looked as if they had just been made - with unblemished wood and gleaming barrels and cannonballs - I couldn't help wondering why they hadn't aged them a little to add authenticity. 

From the park we headed down to the Shore Trail which runs alongside the river.


The trail stretches for almost 12 miles, but we walked only a mile and a half of it to the Ross Dock Picnic Areaa popular spot for picnics and barbecues, for a welcome lunch break. It was a very hot day and, even though we hadn't walked that far, by that point I was already beginning to wonder how much further I wanted to go.

After lunch we headed for Carpenter's Trail, a 320 ft steep climb to the Long Path, mostly up uneven steps. 

This was the easy section!

Despite the surrounding  vegetation, the trail was not particularly shaded so by the time we reached the top I decided to forgo the rest of the walk on the trails - a circuit of another 3 - 4 miles including yet another climb up Carpenter's Trail - and, instead, make do with the almost 2 mile walk back to our starting point. It turned out I wasn't alone, almost half the group were of the same mind.

I wish I could have continued on, but with any kind of exercise you have to know your limits and while an 8+ mile walk wouldn't normally be a problem for me, the heat was the defeating factor. 

Even cut short, the walk was a fun day out with a great group of people. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Walking in the City - Sheepshead Bay and Rockaway Park Beach, NYC

After my recent trip to Coney Island, I was delighted to find another walk involving beaches in New York City, this time a 12 mile hike organized by the Appalachian Mountain Club, 
from Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn to Rockaway Beach in Queens. 

Sheepshead Bay with Ocean Avenue Pedestrian Bridge in the distance
As soon as we hit the water's edge, it was hard to believe we were still in the city. Sheepshead Bay used to connect to Coney Island Creek in the days when Coney Island was still an island, but the construction of the Shore Parkway to link the island to the mainland blocked the waterway so that the western side of the bay is now an inlet. A wide walking path allows for a pleasant stroll alongside the waterside. The inlet is also home to ducks and swans. Unfortunately someone seemed to have taken the idea of feeding them to the extreme. Full size baguettes and whole Kaiser rolls had been tossed into the water despite signs warning not to feed the birds.  


Beyond the blue Ocean Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, the bay widens and  a series of piers provide a home for fishing boats and charter/tour boats from the basic to the grand. A little further on and our view of the water was blocked by various boat clubs and housing blocks until we reached Plumb Beach, part of the Gateway National Recreational Area.
Plumb Beach looking out to the Eastern End of Coney Island

View from Plumb beach to the Marine Parkway Bridge

From Plumb Beach we followed the Jamaica Bay Greenway, a mixed use trail, which initially follows alongside the Beltway Parkway. Fortunately, for a good part of the way, trees shield the path from the road and hence the noise of traffic. Our next destination was Floyd Bennett Field, formerly a municipal airport before being converted into a naval air station in 1941. It was named after the first person to fly over the North Pole and its claims to fame include being the departure point for record-breaking flights by Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes, and being the busiest airport in the United States during World War II. 

Our entrance to Floyd Bennett Field was through the narrow chicane gateway shown below. The sign next to it provided much amusement given it stated that bicycles were allowed in the Field - the only apparent way of getting a bicycle in at that point would be to throw it over the fence! 

On hearing that the area was classed as a State Park and jokingly compared to Yellowstone, I asked what wildlife we might encounter. No sooner had the eye-rolling suggestions of buffalo and elk been made when we spotted this little fellow:

It was how big?
For those who have always wanted to sleep under the stars in New York City, Floyd Bennett Field offers an urban camping program. Other available activities include guided nature tours, kayaking and archery. 

Walking on the grassy trail made a welcome change after several miles of hard pavement, but it wasn't long before we were out on the old runway. Not surprisingly, it's a popular spot for model plane enthusiasts and there were several out there that day. I was surprised at how big and realistic the models were. My attempts to take a photo of them in action proved to be woefully inadequate. Or maybe the planes were just moving too fast.

One of the old hangars is home to the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project which, apart from restoring the airplanes, gives visitors a chance to take a close-up look and to even get inside them. The control tower has been turned into an aviation museum. We didn't have time to go into the museum itself, but the picnic tables outside were to be our lunch spot. A large stretch of grass separated us from where we were on the runway and the building, so someone suggested we cut across it rather than take the longer way around. It seemed like a good idea until the first few people stepped onto the grass only to see a large grey snake slither away rapidly in front of them. We quickly decided we weren't that tired after all and opted to stay on the runway! 

Naval Air Station

After lunch it was time to cross Jamaica Bay by the Marine Parkway/Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. 

From Plumb Beach it didn't look a particularly long bridge, but it turned out to be almost a mile long. It offered wonderful views, including one of a bridge in the distance, the south end of which was apparently where this particular walk would end. We still had a long way to go.

Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Park - our final destination still seems a long way away!

The Verazzano bridge

No matter where you are it seems you can see Manhattan
From the bridge it was a short walk to Jacob Riis Park and finally we were back on the beach. Once again, despite being a beautiful day, there were few people around. All the better, to enjoy the sound of the waves lapping onto the shore - is there a more beautiful sound in nature? Personally, I think not. 

The area is known for horseshoe crabs - unfortunately the only ones we saw were dead - though to be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to see a live one up close. 

There were other signs of dead sea creatures on the beach. I thought these were fish, but one of our group insisted they were baby sharks!

The whole area was hit badly by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and while some progress has been made in restoration there still looks a lot to do. The original boardwalk at Rockaway Beach  remains fenced off in parts and the damage is plainly visible. The row of strange-looking structures behind the boardwalk are the replacement public restrooms and life-guard station, both of which were destroyed in the storm. 

the old boardwalk at Rockaway Beach

Other projects include the creation of planted dunes between the beachfront buildings and the sea to help protect against future storms. 

We ended our walk at Rockaway Beach, but we had one more treat in store. The only way out of the area for most of us was to take the A subway train which runs across Jamaica Bay and through the Wildlife Refuge. The low tracks with water on both side make it feel as if you are almost in the bay and no matter which side of the train you sit on, there's a great view to be seen, including hundreds of white birds. A scenic subway ride in New York City - who knew?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Walking in the City - the Brooklyn Shore Line and Coney Island, New York

The last Saturday of February promised to be a spring-like day, offering the perfect opportunity to get out in the fresh air for some much needed exercise, so I jumped at the chance to join a Shorewalkers walk along the Brooklyn Shore Line to Coney Island. With the exception of a short visit to Coney Island fun fair many years ago, I'd never been to this part of the city before and, to be honest, if I hadn't seen the advertised walk, it's not an area that I would have ever thought of visiting.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday in New York City

Couldn't resist a trip into the city this weekend to see the annual display of Easter finery. Fifth Avenue between 45th and 60th Street is closed on Easter Sunday to allow locals and visitors alike to show off their creations. 

Of course, there are the hats: 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Walking in New York City - Jefferson Market Library

On a recent walk in Greenwich Village I spotted this beautiful building just below 10th Street on Avenue of Americas:

On closer inspection I discovered, to my delight, that it was the Jefferson Market Library.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Walking in the City - DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn

Up until now most of my walks in New York City have centered on Manhattan, but I'm well aware that there is plenty of interest to check out in the other city boroughs too. With that in mind, a walk organised by Shorewalkers last year, to take in the street art in DUMBO (Down under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Downtown and Brooklyn Bridge Park, seemed a good introduction to the area.