In 1970 an Earthquake killed my colleagues. I have since become something of an expert in all things seismic. The story of my last day of sourcing exports in a foreign country has stuck to the wall of my heart for 40 years now. It is time for me to unburden that story. Before I […]Rubble in Waiting (a short story)
Eulogy for Dad
My dad, Steve Chapman, passed away just before Christmas. This is the eulogy I read at the funeral. My sister and Mum both wanted to read it again and suggested I share it here. So here it is. I miss him like crazy.
It’s hard to talk about Dad without talking about Mum as well. They were two parts of each other with a shared outlook. Dad always said that he didn’t need anybody, all he needed was Mum. As long as they were together, he was happy. If he ever had to be left alone, he was like a lost toddler. Occasionally, Mum would have to go away for work and when the evening came around, he would show up at my sister’s front door. She would open it to his silly smile and he’d say, “What are we having for dinner, then?”
He loved cars, and thank God. If he didn’t, me and my brother and sister probably wouldn’t exist. Let me take you back to the 1970s. My parents are teenagers. The Cardinale nightclub in Bournemouth. Mum was dancing with her friends. Somebody she knew from school waved her over and introduced her to a man named Steve. And there he was. A gangly, thin man, wearing a tan jacket with tassels and winklepickers. He asked her if she wanted to dance, and she looked him up and down, and said, “No thanks,” and walked off to re-join her friends. But my dad was persistent. He strode over and joined them. I have never seen my dad dance. I don’t think my mum let him after the first time she saw it. She tried to demonstrate his moves to me a few days ago. It went something like this (feel free to visualise me doing a little stiff jig here, which drew some laughter). She told him to stop dancing and sit down. Which he did, and luckily, and God knows why, she joined him, and they started talking. He couldn’t dance, didn’t know how to dress. So how did he impress her? But what he did have, was a Triumph Spitfire.
The second time they met, as they left the pub, Mum was bundled onto the parcel shelf of the Spitfire—because she was the smallest—and Dad pulled out and honked at somebody, not knowing there was a police car behind him. They pulled him over, saw he’d had a few, and chucked him in the police station overnight. It was the perfect start to an enduring, and never boring, life together.
My parents and their friends had a pretty good time of it for about a decade, and then tragedy befall them all. They had kids. We three were born unto this world, and all hell broke loose. It was hectic. The house was alive with kids. Roger and Pauline had Barry and Mark at the same time, and we all grew up together. They were like bonus brothers. We were one big out of control herd.
Dad had a unique way of raising us. I don’t know if he was incredibly wise, or just as bad as we were. We would do something insane and dangerous and instead of grounding us, or telling us off, he would be entertained by our antics. Often, he would be right there alongside us doing the insane thing.
I remember once we had a big party at the house. We had a barbecue set up in the garden and a bar set up in the garage. The problem was, for people to go between the bar and the barbecue, they had to leave the garden by the back gate and go into the garage via the road. Which is inconvenient. After thinking about the problem for a good three or four seconds my brother said, “Why don’t we just smash a hole through the wall?”
Now, most Dads would say, “Don’t be daft, people can just go around.” But he looked at the garage wall and considered it for a moment, and then he went and fetched the sledgehammer.
We smashed a double door-size hole in the side of that garage and pissed ourselves laughing the hole time. The party was great.
He gave us so much.
He taught us that work came second to life. Even though he worked incredibly hard his whole life, growing successful businesses in two different trades, he rarely worked weekends and never worked around Christmas.
Family was too important. We did something every weekend. If we wanted to stay home and lounge about, watching TV or playing games, no chance. We’d be dragged out of the house on some adventure. We’d go out to Mudeford Quay and sail across to Hengistbury Head for a hot chocolate at The Hut. Or we’d go crab fishing. Or pitch up a tent. It felt like we were putting tents up and taking them down every five minutes. Or Mum and Dad were, while we went off exploring and causing trouble. He’d take us bike riding through the forest, swimming at the BIC. I think we went to every National Trust and Heritage site in a hundred-mile radius. Dad had itchy feet. He needed to be up and doing something. There was no such thing as rest. He wanted to see the world and he wanted us to see it too.
He showed us the world. We spent Christmas in Africa one year, travelled all around Europe, often on a whim. “Fancy popping over to France?” he would say, and we’d pile into the car and just go.
He was always planning the next holiday. Constantly searching for the best deal. He would hear about somebody’s planned holiday to Egypt, or somewhere, that cost them five grand and would spend an hour seeing if he could do better—just for fun—and he would find the same holiday for £200 and book it.
When he got ill, he had to cancel three holidays. Three!
He gave us music. A lot of the music we listen to and love today are the albums that he played in the car on our many road trips. And we spent a lot of time on road trips. If it was physically possible to drive somewhere instead of fly, he would do it. We once drove for twelve hours to L’Estartit in Spain and we listened to music the whole time. There is more to that story that I don’t have time for; accidentally driving up a mountain, on a spiral road all the way to the top, in the dark, during a storm, with no barrier on the edge of the road. It was terrifying, but the music was turned up loud and everything was fine. Queen, Simon and Garfunkel, Johnny Cash, Dire Straits, Billy Joel. As kids we would sing along at the top of our voices, and head bang to that bit in Bohemian Rapsody just like they did in Wayne’s World.
He would go along with any hairbrained scheme and be enthusiastic about it, no matter how absurd. Like running a market stall with me in January, trying to sell 10ft paddling pools in the snow. He loved Only Fools and Horses. We used to have a sign up on our shared office door that said, “This Time Next Year, Rodney.”
Him and David started a building business at one point and one of their first jobs was fitting a kitchen on the TV show, DIY SOS. They didn’t get paid, but the breakfast buffet was free. He joked that him and David put on at least two stone during that job. I know he cherished that memory. It was one of the last things he spoke about with me and Rachel a few weeks ago.
He hated the winter in England. Him and Mum would leave the country for sometimes four or five weeks just to get away from the cold. He loved Thailand. He loved the walking streets and the live bands. While we shivered in England, he was drinking a beer in a hot bar listing to a Thai girl in dreadlocks singing AC/DC.
Even though he hated the cold, one of his favourite things to do was to have winter BBQs. He loved an excuse to light the firepit and sit around it with friends and family, drink wine and cold beer, and listen to music. We’ll be doing exactly that later today.
I’m running out of time and there is so much I wanted to talk about, but don’t have time for. He loved taking us to my auntie Terry and Uncle Derek’s on bonfire night. My sister and Kate share the 5th of November as their birthday, and they used to put on a huge fire at their place. Dad even took us there on the night my sister was born, leaving my mum, with her permission, and the new baby at the hospital to taking us, along with the leggy blond Spanish student who had been staying with us at the time
This thing was originally twice as long as this, and I had to cut it down. I could have kept writing forever. He did so much. Lived so much.
I’ll leave you with my favourite story about Dad. In 1991, him and Mum went to a caravan convention at the NEC where they saw an American RV for the first time and fell in love. Since that day both my parents dreamt of one day traveling across America in one. The man there gave Dad a business card. 23 years later, he still had that card in his wallet. My parents made a decision in 2014 that was amazing to me then and I still find amazing today. They sold everything. The house, belongings, all of it. All that was left from forty years of marriage and family was two suitcases and a handbag. They went to America, bought an RV, and travelled for a year. We were all lucky enough to fly over and visit them during their adventure and it is the happiest we’d ever seen them. I’m so proud of them for doing it and I hope I am brave enough to put everything on the line in pursuit of a dream in my own life. They did the thing they’d been dreaming about for over two decades, and it was amazing.
They loved it so much they brought the RV back to England with them and decided to stay in it. Life in the RV has been rich and peaceful and fun.
America was one of his favourite places in the world. He would have lived there if he could. Traveling around, seeing the whole country. One of his favourite places in that country was Graceland. By chance, one of his favourite albums was Graceland by Paul Simon.
We’re going to play the title track from that album now.
One day to go!
One day until The Mask Collector is released! According to my own forward projections, it is going to sell roughly 2.8 billion copies and I’ll finally be able to quit my job and write full time.
Do you know the story of The Mask Collector? Let me tell you about it.
(The paperback snuck out the gates a day early so you can be one of the first people on Earth to have a copy if you get it right now. It’s only £3.99, but won’t be for long. Monday the price is going up).
A BANK HEIST GOES WRONG WHEN ONE OF THE HOSTAGES TURNS OUT TO BE A WANTED SERIAL KILLER.
Pat Caine—locally famous retired bank robber—has come out of retirement to do one last job with a gang of local rogues.
The plan is simple. No high-concept, Ocean’s Eleven, heist nonsense. Go in, wave a gun around, get the money, and leave. Quick and easy. In and out.
A cashier recognises Pat. She’s read his book. Knows he believes in a victimless crime. Calls his bluff and presses the alarm.
Pat and his gang are forced to take hostages. Unfortunately, one of the hostages is the wanted serial killer the papers have been calling The Mask Collector. He is loose in the bank and wearing the face of one of Pat Caine’s gang.
SURROUNDED BY POLICE, SAFE FULL OF MONEY, TRAPPED WITH A MANIAC.
Get it on Amazon now – mybook.to/TheMaskCollector
Why am I doing this to myself? 50k in a day?! A whole novel. In one sitting!
You can pre-order the as yet unwritten book here (this is for Kindle but it will be out in paperback at some point) – mybook.to/TheMaskCollector
I’m going to write a whole novel in a day.
I was listening to the Tim Sullivan episode of the Bestseller Experiment podcast (really good episode, very inspiring) and it got me thinking. The idea of writing a whole novel in a day came up… and I’ve decided to give it a bash.
It has been done before. When I published my first book back in 2011, there was another indie author skulking around the forums who did it. Nick Spalding wrote Life… With No Breaks in a single sitting. It was impressive and it did very well, launching an incredibly successful career.
I’ve been doing a bit of research and it’s proving difficult to find other examples. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne was written in two and a half days. That’s the shortest time period I’ve been able to find (in an admittedly brief Google search).
I’m going to aim for 50k. That means I’ll have to write just over 2k every hour for 24 hours. No sleep. Short breaks for food. A lot of coffee. And a pillow for my arse which will no doubt be aching by the 12th hour.
I have an advantage. In order to do it I’m going to be adapting a screenplay that I’ve already written: The Mask Collector.
There is a very good reason for not starting a story from scratch. The thing that slows me down most is trying to work out what happens next. All that thinking has already been done. If I were to start from scratch and force my way through a first draft of something new I would end up with a very bad incoherent first draft that would need a complete rewrite and so be pointless.
Prosatizing a screenplay (that’s a new word I just invented. I could have used “adapting” but prosatize is way more sexy) still requires creative juices and enough mental capacity to write something worth reading and not just a stale transferring of words with the tenses changed. Novels are a very different beast to a no-nonsense script so it will be a serious challenge.
I don’t know if I’ll succeed but I’ll be bashing out words to the final second of that 24th hour and hopefully I will start my 38th year on this planet with a new novel under my belt.
12th May 2022 (my birthday). 9am to 9am the following day (which is Friday the 13th 😳). The Mask Collector will be reborn as a novel.
I’ll be sharing my progress on Twitter and Instagram. I am @AndyChapWriter on both.
Listen up, anti-vaxxers.
To those of you who are still refusing the vaccine, saying things like, “Nah, mate, last I heard it was a free country. It’s my freedom of choice to get vaccinated and I’m free to choose not to!” You are taking away our freedoms by not getting vaccinated.
If all the anti-vaccine folk had got vaccinated when the rest of us did we would be in a much better position. For some reason you want to drag this thing out. If you keep staying un-vaccinated maybe you can drag it out for years!
I want my freedoms back. That means you have to sacrifice a small prick in the arm. I know it’s scary, and it weally weally hwurts, but you’re big boys and girls and I think you can be brave and get that jab.
I am bored of restrictions against all of our freedoms. If you mean what you say about wanting to be free, then you need to rethink your logic. Your poorly thought-out idea of freedom is leading to your freedom being taken away.
If I can put up with a little prick, so can you.
As a child you were vaccinated against
diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Hib disease, hepatitis B, and a few other things too. Maybe you’ve been abroad to an exotic country and happily got a jab to protect you while you were there. You’ve done it before, you can do it again.
I feel reasonably confident in saying, considering you are reading this, that none of those jabs killed you.
In the UK, 46.7 million people have been vaccinated. I am one of them. You will notice, if you glance out of the window, that the streets are not filled with the bodies of those 46.7 million. The vaccine is not going to kill you, the desease is.
146,000 people in the UK have died from Covid 19. You are free to add yourself to that number, but I’d really prefer it if you didn’t. I think you’re probably a very nice person and I would like you to keep being alive.
For those of you who believe there is a global conspiracy to get us to take a vaccine in order to cull our numbers, or whatever garbage you believe, I urge you to look at the politicians currently running the country. They are barely capable of getting dressed. They are far too incompetent to carry out a deception this grand. They couldn’t even keep a Christmas party secret.
Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Get free.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN! (… it’s officially launch day!)
In need of a good scare? Read something terrifying this Halloween!
Today is the official launch day of Jack’s Game! – mybook.to/JacksGame
IT meets READY PLAYER ONE
BLOOD WILL FLOW THROUGH THE STREETS OF SHELLEY TOWN
Billy Rain is a fourteen year old kid with two close friends with one thing in common. Their parents created the most successful computer game of the 90s.
Something dark happened in 1992. A secret their parents would rather keep buried.
Now, in 2002, Billy finds a games console on the grounds of the abandoned Matterson House. Playing the game, Billy and his friends realise it’s a map. They go out at night and dig. What they find, under the cold ground, is a decaying human hand.
An evil like no other is released from its grave. Jack Matterson. He’s back from the dead and out to take revenge on the kids of those who wronged him.
GET IT NOW on Amazon in ebook, paperback, and hardcover right here- mybook.to/JacksGame
Ignore me. I’m sick.
What is this art form? This theatre of words moving across a page? The trade of building images out of symbols? Carving literary statues with grammatical chisels? Writing is so much and so little. A bad sentence is almost indistinguishable from a good one. It takes a person with a degree to know what is good and what is not. They will tell you Dan Brown paints his words with turds and shake their fists at the pages of The Bookseller magazine which dares to print sales figures that contradict their assessment.
The average reader has no idea. Nor do they care.
You can have a novel, 120,000 words long, and find nothing of meaning within its pages. Heroes running the same course as many before them. A save-the-cat journey of write-by-numbers plots designed to move and thrill. The same story sold bought and read again and again and again.
Another book. Which follows no particular pattern. Does not follow the rules of grammar exactly. And does not dance around a story circle. Filled with depth and aphorisms and wit. Is never read.
If a genre book is considered literary is it no longer genre? If a literary book is blandly written is it still art? Is storytelling itself art, regardless of the prominence or not of adjectives in its prose?
I always wanted to write whatever the British equivalent of The Great American Novel is. In wanting to learn how to do this I have become more and more interested in turning a collection of words on a page into a continuous moving image in the reader’s mind. I write westerns now. The goal of the books is not to blow you away with a skilful display of my vocabulary and the wrangling of obscure and rarefied words, but to put the words out of your mind entirely. I want my stories to grab you by the hair and drag you through the dirt. I want you to read them in one sitting and turn that last page with your heart racing and your eyes raw with fatigue and belly hungry. But instead of eating, or sleeping, I want you to turn right back to the start and read it again. Is that art?
To do that, maybe I have not created art. I have created entertainment.
Will that do? Is that enough?
I still want to write The Great British Novel, but writing pulp is too much fun.
Right now I am sick. I’m sat on the couch amidst a snowstorm of crumpled tissue. My nose is red. I’m sniffling. I have a tickle at the back of my throat that I have been refusing to turn into a cough since I started writing this incoherent nonsense. I should be writing the next chapter in my book but instead I am rambling about, what? Whether or not writing is art? I have no idea. I have lost the thread of my original thought. The cold that has turned my brain into a red hot storm of snot has forced my imagination into some kind of fevered spasm of bollocks.
I have the urge to write but not the clarity to do so usefully. So now I have done this. I started writing with no plan and have ended up here, and you’re right here with me, wondering what the point of any of this is.
We are conjoined in an existential crises of blog gibberish. I will set you free so I can go and sneeze.
Let me leave you then. I am going to drink coffee, cough up some lung-butter (as Rachel so juicily calls it), take some Sudafed, and try again to write what I opened my laptop to write in the first place. Some good old fashioned gun-slinging pulp fiction.