I’ve created a new smaller website for information about Sir John Wolfe Barry, Tower Bridge and other structures.
The main route to it is via the ‘Building Passions‘ website which promotes my book of the same short title, derived from this website. I will eventually move across the domain name (sirjohnwolfebarry.com) for this WordPress website -not sure what will happen to these pages, but, assuming they stay alive, I will always have a link to them from the new website.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am expanding my writing to cover fiction so will develop an imprint to market this to the world. I have completed content and artwork for a historical fiction piece based on the life of my grandfather (‘The Other Red Baron’) and am drafting text for a trilogy of pure fiction novellas connected by a theme of dictatorship versus democracy. Separately, as part of a group of writers who live in or near Canterbury, we are trying to co-draft a murder mystery – not as easy as we might have expected!
I’m always on the look out for opportunities to engage with audiences whether through my writing or other means. I attended a really interesting online workshop on running, well, online workshops! I’d like to engage with groups of about 20 people and then use virtual break outs to hone in on key areas of interest. I will do this for my own topics in the history of the built environment, writing/self-publishing, history more generally, and in STEAM career support for schools.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a number of issues about how societies run themselves.
I have been exploring democracy as part of writing a trilogy of novellas. The basic premise is that a long-lived, family dictatorship is finally coming to an end, but the people need to be prepared for transition to democracy.
You can’t just throw it at them if they’re not ready for it!
There are plenty of dictator analogies in real life and fiction. States where the supreme leader has moved to a status of leader for life, or pretty much there. The most famous early historical example was Julius Ceasar taking out the Senate, for which retribution came back inevitably on the Ides of March. But his nephew Augustus went on to found a dynasty of emperors. Napoleon is another case in point, from general to leader to emperor – once again he met his downfall. Then of course Hitler more recently and Kim Jong-Un currently.
The transition to democracy is more fraught with troubles, witnessed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and failed attempts in Libya and Syria. As I write my second novella, I show how anti-democratic forces can be manipulated to defend the status quo, if needs must. A bit of bloodshed can help incite civil war, irrespective of whether either side has really thought through the logic …
I’m on the verge of starting the final book in the trilogy – I intend it to be full of hope, since that is the kind of message we all need currently amidst the lockdowns. But it will also look forward to a calmer future when society has hopefully picked up a few pragmatic lessons and, hopefully, reacted positively to a temporary but repeatable crisis.
In the meantime, chill out and read my book covering the history of architecture and engineering during the Victorian era: ‘Building Passions‘.
My first book was non-fiction and specialist (‘Building Passions‘). It was self-published in 2019 and then I moved on to fiction.
My second book is almost finished. The text just needs a final proofing and the cover is designed for the e-book. The printed version may be print-on-demand. It is historical fiction based on the true life story of my grandfather.
My third project is a trilogy of novellas within the same theme about dictatorship versus democracy. All pure fiction but related to politics and philosophy.
My fourth book is a collaboration with three other writers. It’s a murder mystery where we have created our own individual characters and are writing from their different points of view.
I may need to restart the cycle with some non-fiction. This depends how things develop with my historical research. If I get PhD funding then it will relate to that topic within architectural history. If not then I will go wider to consider other areas.
I enjoy writing and experimentation with different genres makes it even more worthwhile – they all have their challenges and surprises.
I thought now would be a good time to start reorganising my web content related to Sir John Wolfe Barry, Henry Brunel and their families.
I’ve started building a new website to replace this one which will disappear in June. It will have less content in it and do more pointing to other material on the internet, including my ‘Building Passions’ website. Sadly this will also mean doing less on WordPress, which really helped me get started many years ago with my own blogging and web content.
At the same time I am using this as an opportunity to position my other writing, which is focused on fiction, as well my pending PhD research assuming I get the funding for it.
It would be nice to brand everything under one title, but it may be tricky and there is no point stretching things artificially to fit. My USP is me, Nick von Behr and you can find out more about me on my LinkedIn profile.
Who am I for those who don’t already know me and don’t want to look at LinkedIn?
I’m a portfolio career professional with a bent for research, analysis and writing. I’m very interested in history, particularly related to technology, the built environment and politics. I’m also interested in education, having worked and volunteered within STEM, and more recently STEAM, career engagement and skills.
I blogged a while back about writing. It is what I do.
My current writing is in fiction, in fact a trilogy of novellas is in the works.
The theme is dictatorship versus democracy, which raises interesting issues about people, society and freedom. We are experiencing a stress on our current democratic systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have set the trilogy in a fictional nation somewhere in Europe. The context is about a family that has been in sole power for many generations. Something is beginning to stir and its name is democracy. But it’s the family itself which is doing the stirring!
I’m hoping to self-publish the whole trilogy by the end of the year in three stages, each separated by at least a month. That gives me an overall target of about 60,000 words split into three. I’ve already written the first book and have started the second one. Once you get into a rhythm then it makes drafting a lot easier, and I always review what I write immediately afterwards.
Which brings me to the title of the post.
In a truly democratic society we have the right to write what we like, even thought those in power may not like it. Many states are parodies of democracies for this very reason and may just take everyone through the motions as a public relations exercise. Let’s not even talk about voting!
Writing is about communication. But is it more than that?
I ask because I have always been a writer, since my earliest days learning the craft. Once I became reasonably confident, then I allowed myself to experiment with ideas and phrases.
Publishing my first e-book and print version ‘Building Passions‘ last year was another first step for me. It was built on the foundations of this website about John Wolfe Barry, Henry Brunel and Tower Bridge. I simply extended the concept to their wider families and structures.
A crossroads has appeared recently.
I finished my first novella, still connected to the world of historical biography. I am currently writing my next one, which is pure fiction, but inevitably features references to history. A leopard can’t hide its spots.
I will continue to blog here on topics of interest to me, but not always directly related to the Barrys and Brunels. The common theme will, however, be writing.
But at the same time I will develop other communication techniques through the amazing tools of the internet, as well as direct interaction with audiences at venues.
Of course you will always be able to buy printed versions of my books, but there won’t be many copies available as I refuse to sacrifice trees for this purpose.
I am scoping a new novella which will be pure fiction.
This is new for me as so far I’ve written non-fiction and historical fiction, which both seem safe ground for an historian/policy wonk by trade.
I decided to start with a blank document on my laptop and see what emerged. Curiously my approach seemed to reflect what probably happens when building a new structure – and I’ve written about many past ones in my book ‘Building Passions‘.
First off, I defined my parameters. What did I really want to write about and what environment would shape it? That was fairly easy with pure fiction, though even at this stage some feedback helped me make a decision.
Then I started to design my main characters. I’d not done this previously as they were already there based on (largely) historical facts. This was quite fun and allowed complete artistic licence. I could make them as mad or as sad as I wished!
My next step was to create an outline plot based on what I now had. This was considerably easier than I thought it would be. I had to pinch myself to believe it!
Last but not least I refined my characters and plot, tightening focus and removing superfluous material. The end product looked great, now I just need to write it …
Define, design, refine. No idea where this came from but a net search just got me to: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/define-design-refine-strategy-your-products-mayank-tiwari/ and https://medium.com/netbramha-studios/define-design-refine-a-strategy-for-your-products-2bbe55df8dcb . I would also highly recommend anything by Oliver Broadbent often on his eiffelover.com (get the pun?) website.
It seems I have surreptitiously found an existing product design mantra which can be extended to writing and structures!