Sunday, 20 December 2015

Kai

Writers' Group exercise. 10 minutes: Fact or fiction. Describe your first encounter with a celebrity.

He's all leather and tattoos. Red and green snakes entwine each arm. He's got a bottle of something - beer? - in one hand and a cigarette in the other. One booted foot taps to the faint rhythm of the warm-up band.  He wears a red bandanna around his head, a skull ring on one finger and a bar through his eyebrow. 

And he's smiling at me.

I glance around, convinced it's somebody else he's looking at. But for once I'm alone. Climbing that wall was hard, but it was worth it, given me access to a backstage yard of some kind. There are rubbish dumpers to one side and a couple of tatty camping chairs next to an upturned crate. My ankle hurts and I want to sit down.

But he's still smiling at me, still counting the beat of the drums inside. What's he doing out here anyway? They'll be on soon  - shouldn't he be rehearsing or something? 

Kai, his name is. I've loved him since I was nine, when I first saw a poster on the wall of the old theatre in town. I sold my laptop to pay for the coach fare and this ticket, lied to my mates and missed an afternoon of school to get here on time. And he's waiting for me, just like he promised.

My mum's going to kill me.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Rat Run Released!

And Rat Run is finally out there. The end of Lenny's journey that began in Rat's Tale. Who'd have guessed my bad-boy would come so far? If you're curious to find out how it finishes, feel free to check it out....Amazon UK, Amazon US or other links here. Reviews always welcome!

Lenny’s been released early from prison. He’s got a normal and boring job, and he’s living a normal and boring life in a small flat in Liverpool. But Lenny’s never done normal. Or boring. Everything comes with a price and the local cops have already been in touch, expecting him to provide intelligence about his old life in London. 

Then an email sends him racing back down south. It’s not the best idea he’s ever had, but it’s Becky who’s contacted him and she’s always been his weak spot. Becky’s teenage brother is missing, and Lenny knows that heading to London to search for him means breaking the terms of his prison licence, risking his freedom and maybe even his life. 

The search for Becky’s brother takes Lenny into dangerous territory from his past, he’s got the cops on his back again, and he has to decide whether this new life is worth what it’s going to cost. 

This thriller is set six months after Ratline and contains adult material. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Mirror-prism

Writers' Group exercise. 10 minutes: The visitor. Who or what came to the house and what did they take, or leave? 

In the mirror. There. Quick. See it? No. Just shadows - reflections from the window-prisms, sunlight dancing in the early evening. The sun is low on the horizon, the sky is blood-orange and the reflections are strange in my mirror.

Put the light on. Bold halogen from the ceiling to crush prism-light with its harsh and unforgiving glare. In the mirror nothing changes. Still reflected rainbows pulse behind the glass.

Peer into the depths. What? What's there? Who's there? Shadows lengthen, indigo-blue-green sparkles out into the room.

Touch the glass. Cold; soft - yielding. Ripples from a pebble. Hand, arm, body. Life.

Step through.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

What Somebody Wants

Writers' Group exercise. 10 minutes: Write the opening of a story/poem where a character wants something....

He heard the door click shut, a fraction of a second before something poked him in the flesh just below his left ear.

He froze, hands poised on the handle of the filing cabinet. "Can I help you?"

"I don't know," a voice replied. Male - an overweight smoker by the sound of his breathing. "Can you?"

"The club is closed."

"Don't seem to bother you much," the stranger replied.

"I work here."

"Oh? You have a problem with the lights, then?"

The thing in his neck jabbed harder. A gun? Probably. He sighed. "What is it you want?"

"The same as you, I suspect," said the stranger. "I'm just better prepared. Now open the drawer."

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Rat Run

And the muse awakens. Scribbling (OK, typing) madly these past few days as my fingers can't keep up with my brain. This is what I just love about writing - when it all comes together and I feel like I have a foot in each of two different worlds, when I'm living and dreaming the book, when I'm literally scribbling with a pen on odd bits of paper at home, in the car, at work and trying to keep up with my imagination. When you get that little frisson of excitement on reading something back that you don't actually remember writing because it happened so fast ...

So I thought I'd better get me a cover, since I'm really not that far off finishing now. What do you reckon? Same model again as I have on all my Rat books - but since this one starts out in Liverpool, I've got a little Liver Bird in too! Should be out by Christmas, if not earlier, but depends on how long the editing takes!


Saturday, 4 July 2015

I'm stalling on my latest book. Rat Run is the third in the trilogy which is Lenny's story - Lenny Dixon being the bad-boy we were introduced to in the first trilogy. I was fascinated by him and wanted to explore him further to find out what makes him tick. It's been a bumpy ride with several surprises along the way, but the end of this story will be the right time to say goodbye. And I'm sad. This isn't fantasy, and I'm not leaving a world behind, but I'm leaving my world - my little fictional bubble I created over 20 years ago when I first heard Michael's story in my head.

Will I go back again? I don't know. Whilst I've written series books, they're not police procedurals and there's no cop with a different case to solve in each book. I enjoy reading them, but that's not how I write. And I refuse to churn out rehashed plots over and over again, so this really is likely to be the last visit I make to this world.

It's funny how we get to know characters as real people, isn't it? Both writing and reading - the people come alive in a good story and you start wondering where they go and what they do when they wander off the page. Or am I just weird?

So nearly 30,000 words into this latest book and I think I've got a plot now. I hope. I just have to talk myself into finishing it. Saying goodbye is hard and I wonder if that's why my subconscious is playing all sorts of games with me and refusing to co-operate.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

A Plot is not Just to Grow Potatoes

Am I too old for this social media lark? Being slightly the wrong side of 50, I’ve always been transparent and open in who I am. Maybe that’s na├»ve in the new online world, where things last forever and once said, can never be unsaid this side of the (zombie) apocalypse.

I’ve always been me online. My accounts are always as near to my name as I can get, and I don’t hide behind pen-names or aliases. I can understand why people do, but I’ve never felt the need until now.

Read more ...

Friday, 29 May 2015

A Good Face For Radio?

I'm involved in a community radio play project. Littlewich Ways Productions is an idea from a member of our village drama group. Many actors can't commit to line-learning and/or rehearsals; some older members are no longer comfortable on stage and newer members may lack the confidence.

So Littlewich Ways was born. Think The Archers and you'll be on the right track - only our characters are funnier. Life in small Cheshire village peppered with black comedy and exploring human relationships in a series of short radio plays. Actors come from the community itself. Some are members of the drama group; others are not, but we're all having fun being creative!

A small script-writing team (of which I am a member) meets each week in the local pub, where we come up with new and interesting ways to torture our characters. We also read and review each others' scripts and provide feedback and support.

I've not done much scriptwriting. I tried my hand at writing the screenplay for my novel Hamelin's Child. It's not easy. I'm not a 'visual' writer - I prefer to get into people's heads and find out what makes them tick. Up close and personal, I have a lot of thoughts on the page of a book, which doesn't translate to the medium of film. It was an interesting exercise and I learned a lot, but I think I'll wait and maybe one day the amazingly-talented Jimmy McGovern will write the screenplay of my books!

I also wrote an episode of White Witch - a Dr Who spin-off drama narrated by actress Damaris Hayman (and available to buy on DVD at Galaxy 4). So far that's my only professional credit, so I'm still learning!

But radio scripts are a whole different ballgame again. It took us several episodes to realise that radio scripts have to be just a little over-the-top, exaggerated, hammed-up even. You only have one of the five senses to engage. Start a scene and how do you know who is talking? Giving every character a different accent would get tiring to listen to after a while, so you have to name-drop in the first few lines so that the listener can get an immediate grasp on who is there. Similarly sound-effects become much more important - you can't 'hear' a sunny outdoor scene, so you have to convey it in birdsong, children playing, wind, the occasional car, the non-echo of a voice spoken outdoors.

We're in the local paper and appearing at Northwich Literary Festival next week on Tuesday 9th June where we'll be talking about Littlewich and its inhabitants and what we've got lined-up next for them.....

Monday, 27 April 2015

Nightwalkers

This evening's writing challenge - the green suitcase. 10 minutes. Go.

Nightwalkers. Always the nightwalkers.

I wait in the shadows for the right moment. When the cloud cover is absolute, when the Watch Guard are bored enough – cold enough – to light up cigarettes, their heads close together as they compare conquests, body-counts – whatever passes for kudos these days in the Guard.

But there are still the nightwalkers.

It’s impossible to hide from them completely. They see. They see everything. The spill-out from the ale-houses, the gamblers staking their world on the turn of a card. And me with my ratty bag, my battered green suitcase and the parrot on my shoulder; Charlie knows to keep quiet – I’ve trained him well.

It isn’t like they said it would be at all.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Book Sale!

For anyone who's not read my crime books, I'm currently offering the first in the series for 99c/99p for a limited period on Amazon. Hamelin's Child was long-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger Award and is a dark and gritty read that's not for the faint-hearted!

Enjoy!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Clean Reader? F**k off!

Clean Reader. Sounds like something you could wipe the screen of your kindle with, doesn't it? Some kind of wet rag to get of the dirt, the greasy fingermarks - the general grubbiness?

Well that's exactly what it is. Except it goes a level deeper and wipes out the actual words. Yes - that's right. Clean Reader changes the words of the ebook you are reading.

Apparently some readers don't like swear words. Or descriptions of sex, or certain body parts. Or even words like bitch. So Clean Reader replaces them with alternatives - what it considers to be a suitable replacement.

God help us all. Allegedly bitch becomes witch (sorry, pagans), damn becomes darn, all references to sexual body parts become bottom (making sex scenes ... erm ... interesting, if anatomically difficult) and so on.

Now this is a free app. It sits over the top of any ebooks downloaded and does not change the content of the actual book. Therefore it doesn't break any copyright and is legal. But that doesn't make it right! What kind of message does this send out to our children? That using the correct words to describe parts of our body is somehow dirty and wrong? That sex is dirty and wrong and should be covered up with nice clean words? Surely kids shouldn't be reading these books anyway, and adults are old enough to either read this book - or if it's not to their taste, then put it down and read another?

Author Joanne Harris sums it all up rather well here. And there are further posts on her blog containing emails sent to the company expressing her concerns - and the replies she received.

My books contain sex. And swearing. And violence. Because I wrote them that way. I chose my words carefully - I'm a writer and that's what I do. Sticking a filter over the top is going to make my writing at best comical, and at worst totally unintelligible. I don't want that. I don't want any app to do that without my permission, whether the actual ebook itself is unchanged or not. It's simple really - if you don't want to read what I write, the way I wrote it, then don't read my books. How hard is that?

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Presentations and Poetry

As I've posted elsewhere, I did a presentation at a networking event at work last week - theme Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone. Given that there was an audience of about 75 women (including senior management) and the other three speakers all spoke at length about work-related things, I was understandably terrified at talking about non-work-related things! So I gave them the journey of my life-in-crime (law enforcement, please), and how that maybe qualified me to write about it, or maybe just inspired me to make stuff up ...

As I also said, it's like stripping in public - not that'd I'd know, I hasten to add. Talking about work is exposing your intellect; talking about writing is about baring your soul. And talking about writing at work is blurring the lines uncomfortably.

Moving on, I wrote a poem yesterday! Yes, I did. I haven't written poetry since my angst-ridden teens, when I'd curl up in my bedroom with a notebook and biro, and rage in verse over the injustices of life. You know how it is. We've all done it.

So at last night's meeting of my local writers' group, the exercise was poetry. And here's the result. My first published poem! 8-10 lines on the theme A 2 am storm listened to from a bedroom slumber.

Tick, tick, tick - no tock?
I listen to the clock. No time
To wonder at the indoor sounds
As thunder echoes all around.
I slept too deep to hear the rain;
I hear it now - the pane vibrates
while lightning strikes. My body aches
For sleep again. Tick, tick, tick.

My God, I'm good, aren't I? :-)

Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Undercover Soundtrack

From Roz Morris Undercover Soundtrack blog
‘A sequence of notes can transport you to a time and place’
Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative environment – perhaps to connect with a character, populate a mysterious place, or hold  a moment still to explore its depths. This week’s post is by crime and psychological thriller writer Debbie Bennett @debjbennett 
Soundtrack by Alice Cooper, Soul Asylum, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, The Seekers
I always wanted to be musical. I’m sixties-born, but identify most with the 1980s – the era of the New Romantics and the beginnings of computer-generated music, but I always had the hidden desire to be a full-on rock chick with my AC-DC, Whitesnake and Rainbow albums!  Read more ...

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Not Getting Rich Quick!

I wrote a post about bookshops (or lack of them) not so long ago. I was re-reading it just now and thinking of today's events...

It's my birthday today. Very cold, freezing fog and a smattering of snow on the ground. So we went out for breakfast - as we often do on a weekend when Andy isn't working - to the Aqueduct Marina, about twenty minutes drive from here. It's a small upmarket marina with a lovely little cafe that does a great breakfast and we can sit and watch the boats. Yes, we're old.

In the reception part of the marina (where they do the boaty admin and sell/rent boats etc), there's a large bookcase stuffed full of paperbacks, with a collection box for a canal restoration charity. So I browsed and grabbed a couple and made a donation. And it struck me that the poor authors got nothing for this secondary sale. But then I suppose if the book had stayed on the original purchaser's shelf, they'd have got nothing more either, so at least more readers would be enjoying their books. And might go on to buy/read more? Small consolation.

So we stopped at Morrisons on the way back home, so I could buy the obligatory bag of cakes to take into work tomorrow, and I'm looking in the magazine and book aisle. And there are paperbacks - recently-published paperbacks, chart paperbacks - for £2. Two pounds? Given that traditional authors generally get a tiny percentage of the profit from a sale, what kind of money are they going to make on a gross sale price of two quid?

Add to that the fact that a great many indie authors I know (myself included) have seen their sales bomb since the advent of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program in the autumn (Eat-all-you-want books? Fabulous for the reader? Not so good for the author), plus the usual seasonal slump and those of us that have a day job are glad we've still got it ...

Honestly. It's a good job none of us went into this to get rich quick, isn't it?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Rat Run

Lenny dropped the widget-thingy-whatever-the-fuck-it-is for the third time, threw the plastic box on the warehouse floor in a fit of temper and kicked the shelving. “Fuck!” The metal shelves rattled and something fell off one end.

He took a deep breath. It was just a job, like normal people had. Real life.

“You OK?” One of his work colleagues came round the corner. “Drop something?”

What does it fucking look like? Lenny swore again – under his breath this time – and picked up the box. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not really feeling the love for this, are you?” The kid grinned.

Lenny wanted to smack him. “Is it that obvious?” Could they not have found him a job that didn’t involve the fiddly sorting of impossibly small objects? His right hand simply didn’t have the dexterity for this sort of thing – not since wannabe gangster Mick Carlotti had crushed it in the door of a shipping container a year ago.

The terms of his prison licence required him to work how, where and when his Offender Manager said. He’d tried arguing with her and got precisely nowhere, so he was stuck in this crappy dead-end job for at least the next year and quite possibly forever, until he could convince both her and Darwin that he was completely rehabilitated and reintegrated into the community. Like I was ever a part of the community in the first place? Jesus fucking Christ.