An Empty Coast

An Empty Coast
My latest novel

Monday, April 04, 2016

How I screwed up by breaking my three golden rules of research

Unfortunately, errors happen in books despite the time authors, publishers and editors spend checking.

It’s annoying and I know as a reader that one small mistake can undermine the authenticity of an entire book.

I had a couple of howlers in my latest book, An Empty Coast, relating to firearms.  What annoys me most is that if I’d followed my rules of research they wouldn’t have happened.

If you’re at all interested, I’ll give you my three rules of research, and you can see how I screwed up.

1.     1. Do not rely on the internet

This is my cardinal rule.  I’ve wasted too much time, especially in my earlier novels, looking for stuff on the internet.  I find different spellings for place names and foreign words, and (often vastly) different takes on the same subject matter.

I needed some information on the Russian-designed Dragunov sniper rifle, which features at a pivotal moment in An Empty Coast, and learned that it fires the 7.62x54mmR round.  Sonja (my heroine) has to pick up a discarded empty rifle (I won’t tell you why) and loads it with some ammunition that she has with her.  Therein lies the problem – I found a reference online that said the standard Russian 7.62x39mm round, as used in the AK 47 assault rife (have I lost you yet?) could also be used in a Dragunov.

As I read that, I thought, ‘how weird’, but I didn’t do any more checking.  Why not?  Because it suited the story and was an easy fix to a corner I had written myself into.  And I needed to get on with writing the story.

Fact:  no, you cannot interchange those rounds in a Dragunov rifle, as several people have taken the time to point out to me since the book was first released.

2.     2. If you need to know something, find an expert

The only thing the internet is useful for is finding people who actually do know what they’re talking about and then contacting them. 

If I need to know how to perform minor surgery in the field I’m far better off asking a friendly doctor than consulting an online medical forum.  Same thing goes for firearms. 

I have served in varying capacities in the Australian Army for more than 30 years so I know little bit about guns.  And there’s another pitfall for novelists – a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.  I’ve never fired a Dragunov sniper rifle, just as I never carried a Glock pistol in the army (I got something wrong about Glocks as well in the book), so instead of winging it, I should have asked someone.

3.     3. Research retrospectively

Finally the last rule I follow is to not waste time (and it is usually a waste) researching while I’m writing.  In 99.9 per cent of cases if I don’t know something while writing (and it happens a lot), I make a note to myself in the manuscript to go back and check it later.

This allows me to crack on with the story – the most important thing in my line of work.  Secondly, when I finish my manuscript and go back to the start and do my first edit I may very well find that I don’t need all that information that I reminded myself to check.

Thirdly, when I find I do need some specific piece of information this process means that when I find my expert in the required field I do not waste his or her time with a list of speculative research questions.  I will go to them seeking very specific answers.

If I’d followed my rules of research I would have just made a note to myself to see how Sonja could have found a suitable round for her rifle, or possibly changed the scene altogether.  I should have (but didn’t) then sent my manuscript to someone who knew about guns and ammunition and asked them to check my references to a subject I clearly did not know enough about.

The good news is that I’ve just finished correcting the manuscript of An Empty Coast so that the eBook and the next printed editions will be correct.

Next time I’ll stick to my own rules and hopefully I won’t shoot myself in the foot – not that I could have with a 7.62x39mm round.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Back in business

Hello, hello, hello is there anybody out there?

After a long spell in the virtual wilderness my blog is back, online and should be viewable shortly via my website.

I've been very busy lately, finishing my 13th novel, which is now in the process of being edited. It will be released around October 2016.

I've had a hankering to blog for a while, so watch this space.  I may be returning soon with my rantings, ravings and reminiscings.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Website Problems!

As you can probably see, I'm experiencing problems with my website at the moment, so don't worry if you can't see any pictures on the page.  I'm doing the worrying for you.

I'm currently trying to sort this out, so please be patient.  You can, however, stay up to date with my writing, travels and antics via my facebook page or my twitter account or, if you have a question, you can email me.

My next African novel, 'An Empty Coast' is due for release in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and South Africa later this year.  In the US, my novel 'Ivory' will be published in November 2015.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meet me, my old boss, and a mate, Mosman, March 6, 2015

I'm not much into politics these days, but a long time ago I worked for the New South Wales State Government as a press secretary - a media adviser.

One observation I will make about politics these days - whether it it be in Australia or Africa - is that I believe there should be more candidates who come to politics from a business or NGO background, something outside of the ranks of the parliament or government.

I consider myself lucky to have worked for a man by the name of Nick Greiner, who came to politics from a successful business background.  I was a junior press secretary in Premier Nick Greiner's office.  I was 24 when I started working for him, fresh from a few years working as journalist.

Now, 26 years later, Nick Greiner has agreed to speak at a mini local launch of my latest book, 'The Hunter' at The Barn, 3 Avenue Road, Mosman, NSW, from 6-8pm on March 6, 2015.

I'll be selling books on the night and we'll also be auctioning off the right for some lucky attendee to have their name used as a character in my next novel.

I must inform you that the function will be raising money for the election campaign of a friend of mine, Michael Sharpe, who is running for the seat of The Entrance, at the NSW State Election, to be held next month.

Michael is an excellent bloke.  He's only recently joined the Liberal Party and has no prior experience in politics - he's spent his life so far working with his brothers in a successful family business building and fixing roads throughout the State.  I think this alone makes him an excellent candidate for parliament, but in addition he's a family man, active in his local community, and just wants to make a difference.

If this sort of thing isn't to your political liking then thanks for your time reading this, but if you'd like to meet a man I believe was the smartest politician I ever met - Nick Greiner; a guy who will make a good, honest member of parliament - Michael Sharpe; and an author of airport novels - me - then please come along.

Date: Friday, March 6, 2015
Time: 6-8pm
Venue: The Barn, 3 Avenue Road, Mosman, NSW
What: Book launch, character name auction, cocktail party.  Beer, wine, soft drinks and nibbles included
Cost: $65 per head
Bookings: email or PH: 0402 118 059

Monday, April 14, 2014

A nice review from Cape Town

A good review is always a shot in the arm, and for me it's even nicer when it comes from a South African newspaper.

Here's a review of The Prey from Cape Town's Atlantic Sun newspaper, and I gather it appeared in other community newspapers throughout the Cape. (Click on the pic to enlarge).

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Great review of 'The Prey'

(Sydney) Daily Telegraph
Best Weekend
March 1, 2014

The Prey

When Australian author Tony Park penned his 10th African novel about illegal gold mining in South Africa, not even he could have imagined just how prescient his story would be.  Park's new book, The Prey, plots the activities of South Africa's zama zamas (chancers) - and their ruthless leader Wellington Shumba who illegally hunt for gold deep underground in the Eureka mine.  The pirate miners ruled by torture, fear and death threaten the legitimate operations and investments of Eureka's Australian owners on the border of the famed Kruger National Park.  Park, who spends six months of every year living in Africa writing his novels, visited gold mines while researching The Prey and found evidence of illegal mining.  Now news reports from Johannesburg revealing 200 illegal gold miners were trapped, freed and then refused to come to the surface could be straight from the pages of The Prey.  The criminal miners, often illegal immigrants from poor neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe, live underground in disused tunnels for months.  They are often armed, protecting their operations with military assault rifles and hand grenades.  Park says the mining companies resort to hiring ex-military security people to fight fire with fire and it's not unusual to hear of pitched gun battles - and casualties - underground.  His latest thriller is another ripping yarn based on realistic scenarios in the classic African adventure genre.

Bruce MacDougall.

Friday, February 07, 2014

A quick note on bureaucracy

African friends, I know you all have tales of woe of your dealings of bureaucracy in your home countries, but allow me to quickly share with you my struggles to be paid for my forthcoming US publishing deal.

The US internal revenue service (IRS) requires me to get a tax number as an individual, so that I might then register my little company for tax purposes.  I had no idea what a hassle this was going to be.

To apply for my tax number, using application form W7, I have to do so by mail (and this from the people who invented the internet and online shopping).  In order to do so I need to prove my identity.  So, I need a copy of my passport and, not unreasonably, this needs to be certified.

But will the American government be satisfied with me going to a justice of the peace (as we do in Australia), or the local police station (as we do in South Arica) to have my copy certified?  No.

No, no, no, no, no.  I need to post my passport, a photocopy of it, my completed form W7, a reply express post envelope, AND a cheque for AUD $55 (that's about R550, South Africans) to the US consulate in Sydney so that they can certify my passport photocopy.  In fact, it costs even more than that as they only accept bank cheques - and that cost me another $10.  So it's more like R650 to have a photocopy certified.

Do these people have no money?

Errr.... hang on.  I think that's it.  To be fair, the American government probably has about as much money as Zimbabwe at the moment, but not even Mr Mugabe would have the hide to charge such fees.

Once I get my certified copy of my passport, my passport and my form W7 back (the consulate actually does nothing with the W7, they just want to have a look at it, because they're bored, or curious, or whatever), in five days I can then attempt step 2.

Step two requires me to send the W7 and the photocopy (certified by y'all) to Austin, Texas, where at some point some person will look at it, decide I am who I am, stamp it, and give me a number.  Said number will then be posted (not emailed or processed online) back to me in Australia.  Or perhaps Austria.

And then, I will be able to start the process of registering my company to pay tax, by mailing more forms to the US & A.

Oh, Africa, how I miss you.  At least there all I have to do is go to the counter and ask 'how much'?