Tuesday, 27 March 2012

What I've been up to lately

Lately I’ve been beavering away on my debut novel “The Ironmonger’s Error”. Because I’m trying to get it finished I’ve been fairly quiet on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. I have even been so dedicated to getting the first draft finished I have only undertaken one other piece of writing.
The other piece of writing was a short story which I have submitted to Matt Hilton for his forthcoming anthology Action – Pulse Pounding Tales (Volume 1). More info can be found via the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ActionPulsePoundingTales but let me just say that the whole idea is to recreate the action heroes of the seventies and eighties with their bristling moustaches and absolute invincibility. I had a great time writing my entry which pushed the boundaries for the suspension of disbelief to almost but not quite breaking point. Before writing this post I sent off my effort and I’m waiting for word back with the usual nerves associated with such processes.
To my mind this is akin to submitting to an agent despite Matt being a friend, as I have to earn my place to join him and the other authors involved in the project. Submissions don’t end until the 31st of April so there’s plenty of time for those with a story to submit. 

I know that some of you are remembering that I’ve recently had Star Struck Shooter up at ThrillsKills’N’Chills and The Golden Shot over at the Flash Fiction Offensive. However these stories were written a few months ago and left to hibernate before editing and submission. 

With regards to the novel I have added many a thousand word and have reached the top of the rollercoaster. Now I’m beginning the descent into the final denouement although it seems to be getting ever further away. Every time I write a scene another idea grabs my brain and the book becomes that little bit longer. Fortunately though I have the plot worked out in my head apart from one side issue which I have yet to find a way to work into proceedings.

After the first draft of the novel is done then I’ll be back noisier than ever with a whole range of short stories which have been asking me to write them.

Monday, 19 March 2012

My transition from being a Reviewer to being Reviewed

For two and a half years now I have been a book reviewer for the very well respected www.crimesquad.com during this time I have made friends with a lot of authors both face to face and via the world of Facebook. I have also been very fortunate to meet and interview some of the biggest names in crime fiction.

There has been a constant stream of excellent books appearing in my mailbox and whenever I get talking with aspiring authors and they find out I’m a reviewer, it’s only a short time before their precious book is being pressed into my hands along with an impassioned request for a review.

As a reviewer the instructions from my editor are simple. If you like the book – write a review. If you don’t like the book – then don’t write a review. If you have nothing nice to say- then say nothing.

Crimesquad.com is a place where crime fiction in all of its sub genres is championed. All the reviewers are fans of the genre and understand what makes for excellent crime fiction.

Suddenly I was on the other side of the fence. My own precious book – Eleven the Hardest Way – was up for review.  Not only was it being reviewed by Crimesquad.com but also a friend who reviews for our counterparts over at Shotsmag had also requested a copy.

Shine a light, this was serious now. The two biggest review websites for my chosen genre were reviewing my work. I had only been writing for three months and here was my first effort receiving the most intense scrutiny.

Was I nervous? You better believe I was. I know I said earlier that Crimesquad.com are not the kind of reviewers who put the boot in. but what if the reviewer didn’t enjoy it and said nothing. Oh the ignominy. And what about Shotsmag? I didn’t (and still don’t) know their editorial policy although the reviews I have read are all fair and balanced.

Is this what authors go through every time a book is submitted for review?

I was nervous, irritable and on more than one occasion an enquiring E-mail was written and then deleted when a rare strength of character appeared.

Then I got to thinking about the many E-mails and conversations I’d had with authors who knew I would soon be reviewing their work. Most of them would always say something along the lines of “please can you let me now how you get on with my book”. There have been one or two occasions when I’ve been lucky enough to be one of the first to read a book outside of the publishing houses and agents circle. I actually E-mailed the author of one of these and he was delighted to hear I’d enjoyed his book and admitted relief to hearing that it was as good as previous efforts.

Until my book was reviewed by these two very influential sites I never truly appreciated the power of reviews. Now I am fully aware of the influence and as a case in point I watched my own Ebook jump 42,000 places overnight when the two reviews came out.

I have learnt just how nerve wracking it is to have your book under review and I will always try to contact authors wherever possible, to say a couple of nice things about their book and chase away the butterflies I know they have. Of course I won’t share the review with them. I’ll just give them a taster of how I found the book.

Monday, 12 March 2012

A man walks into a bar

This is an excerpt from A Head Made of Stone featuring Harry Charters.
I hope you take some small amount of pleasure from reading it.

Dismissing it as someone else’s problem, I made my way into the Kirkstone Tavern. This was the place where I’d had my first legal drink and several illegal ones before. Back then I had understood the curse of alcohol and had fervently stopped after my second. Now the curse of alcohol understood me and I usually drank doubles. I looked round my former local and was shocked to see what a dive it had become. The once salubrious tavern was now a dump of epic proportions.
I sidled up to the bar and selected a stool where I planned on spending an hour alone with memories of Mom. She hadn’t been a good mother to me but then again I hadn’t been the best behaved child, until Aunt Maisie had taken us in and dispensed discipline with an even hand. An even hand which usually held a rolling pin or if I was lucky, a wooden spoon.
‘Hey Bub.’ I looked up to see who was speaking to me and saw the barkeep approaching me.
‘I’ll have a beer and a Jack Daniels please.’
‘You can’t sit there. That’s Donny’s seat.’
I moved to another seat only for him to shake his head and say ‘Andy’s.’
I sat at the next one and re-ordered my drinks.
‘That’s Pete’s stool.’
‘Serve me the drinks and I’ll move when Pete comes in.’ I kept my voice quiet and even but made sure there was enough steel for him to register the fact that I was gonna have my drink in here regardless of the games he wanted to play. What I wasn’t expecting was the worried look which crossed his pudgy face. I had forced his hand and he was now scared of me. I dismissed any fanciful ideas as I supped the drinks he grudgingly served me until I saw his sly gesture to one of the three other patrons. The bozo had necked his drink and then slipped out the back way which would take him onto Drover Way if my memory was correct. I guess he had been dispatched to find whichever stool owner was nearest.
I finished my drinks and asked for a refill. The bozo barkeep actually had the temerity to try and refuse me service until I pointed out that his bar was nearly empty and if any of the stool’s proprietor’s came in then I would gladly move aside.
Hi thinly veiled threat of ‘it’s your funeral’ washed over me like I wasn’t there.
I didn’t want any trouble in Kirkstone and I wasn’t gonna pick a fight over a bar stool but at the same time I wasn’t gonna be bullied for the sake of it.
The drunks who lived on my shoulders and whispered their agendas into my ears began their day when drink number three was consumed. I figured it would be best for all concerned if I left before Nasty Drunk showed up on his left shoulder perch. The only way I could handle the Nasty Drunk with any success was to keep him too inebriated to affect me.
Things however don’t always go to plan. I was just finishing my beer and eyeing up the solitary finger of bourbon I had left, when the door burst open and three huge men dressed as lumberjacks came in. Ignoring them I reached for the bourbon glass as I eased myself off the stool.
The biggest of the three lunks came right up and stood toe to toe with me. ‘I’m Pete and I hear you’ve been sitting on my stool.’
I was about to apologise and leave when the Nasty Drunk put in an early appearance and all thoughts of conciliatory behaviour went astray. ‘Perhaps your fat ass explains why it was so damned uncomfortable.’
He was enraged at my insult, and didn’t stop to think that someone who wasn’t afraid to insult him when he was with two of his friends might just be more than he could manage. His right hand drew back somewhere behind his knee as he went for a glory shot of a haymaker. I had enough time to put down my glass before crunching my forehead into the bridge of his nose, splintering cartilage and leaving him wobbling as his legs fought to support him. Next I threw a right cross at the man on my left and swept my elbow round to finish Pete off with a blow to the temple. The third man grabbed my lapels and swung me round with the intention of slamming my back into the bar. I held him back and dropped my feet from below me so his forehead met the bar instead of my back.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Dialogue. No tags. No fluff. Just dialogue.

This is a little exercise I gave myself to practice writing dialogue which I feel is a weak area of my writing skill. I put four characters into a room and tried to give each one an individual voice and speech pattern to see if they were recognisable throughout the piece. Please let me know if I’ve achieved my goal or scored an own one.

‘Interview commenced thirteen thirty two on Friday the twelfth October two thousand and twelve. Those present Detective Constable Amy Blake, Detective Inspector James Threlkeld, Peter “Mad Dog” Souness and his solicitor Fiona Glenn.’
‘I hardly think it is fair to use my clients’ nickname in this context Detective Inspector.’
‘Why not? He answers to it. Don’t you Mad Dog?’
‘Fuck you Threlkeld.’
‘Mr Souness, can you account for your whereabouts on Monday the 8th of October between the hours of seven pm and eleven thirty.’
‘Course I can darlin’. I was round your sisters’ house. She gives the best blow job in all Manchester.’
‘Just answer the fucking question and don’t be a bastard. You know fine well her sister died last month.’
‘Do you always speak with such profanity when conducting interviews Inspector? I can already see members of the jury wrinkling their noses in distaste at your squaddies language.’
‘Hey Mad Dog. Wipe that smirk of your face and answer her question properly.’
‘No. Comment.’
‘In that case Mr Souness can you explain why our Scene of Crime Officers found fourteen thousand pounds in your safe along with jewellery belonging to the deceased.’
‘My client is a rich man who operates several pawn shops. The fact that the he has a lot of money in his safe and beautiful jewellery is testament only to his success as a businessman.’
‘Porn shops is bloody right.’
‘I beg your pardon Inspector?’
‘Oh come on. You’ve been his brief for nearly twenty years now. If you weren’t a lezzer then I’d bet that you’d be his mistress. You know fine well that the pawn shops are nothing more than a front for all the brothels he runs.’
‘And what bearing does this have on Mr Souness’ whereabouts on Monday night.’
‘That is when Mrs Evers was killed.’
‘Who the fuck’s she?’
‘She’s the wife of one the regulars at your Hope Street Sauna. We think she followed her husband there on Monday night. Don’t we Inspector?’
‘Aye we do. So Mad Dog. Where were you on Monday?’
I was at the Castle Ginnell shop having a meeting with the staff. All eight of them will tell you that.’
‘Now that Mr Souness has answered your questions I think you can release him. Obviously he is very sorry to hear about the premature death of Mrs Evers but he bears no responsibility.’
‘Sit down Fifi. We’re not quite finished. On Monday night at nine twenty two, Mad Dog used his mobile to call his head of security Michael Hannigan. They spoke for two minutes. From triangulation of mobile signals, we’ve ascertained Mad Dog was at Hope Street Sauna all night and that Hannigan joined Souness within ten minutes of his call.’
‘Sorry. That meeting must have been on Tuesday. I was having a bit of trouble with my back on Monday and went to get a massage. I called Michael to come over because that girl really straightened my spine and I know he sometimes has a bad back. You gotta take employee welfare serious in this day and age.’
‘That’s very considerate of you Mr Souness. Can you explain why Mrs Evers made six calls to her husband’s mobile from outside Hope Street Sauna when our data shows that he was inside with his phone switched on?’
‘Beats me. Perhaps she was mistaken about the type of massages they give there.’
‘We know exactly what kind of massages they give. We sent in an undercover officer from Bolton. As we speak a team from vice squad are paying a visit. Inspector Threlkeld wanted to be there but preferred to stay and hear what you have to say.’
‘That has no bearing on this case or my client.’
‘Oh contraire. A team of forensic accountants have been investigating Mad Dog since I arrested him this morning. Just before we started this interview they told me that he is the sole owner of Hope Street Sauna.’
‘So fucking what! I own it. That’s got fuck all to do with this Evers bird.’
‘We interviewed Mr Hannigan first and he told us an awful lot didn’t he Guv?’
‘He told us everything.’
‘That bastard. Wait ‘til I get my hands on him.’
‘Wait ‘til I get my hands on him. What do you think a jury would make of that Amy?’
‘I’d say they’d take it as a sign that Mr Souness is guilty. The only question left to ask is whether or not he’s going to confess to the murder of Francine Evers.’
‘Alright. I’ll tell you what happened.’
‘I strongly advise you to say nothing Mr Souness.’
‘C’mon Mad Dog. Spill it.’
‘I didn’t kill her. The husband did. She came in like a mad woman barging through doors and into the private rooms. When she found her man with a Czech bird bouncing on him she freaked and went for him. He pushed her away and she fell and hit her head on the worktop. She was dead by the time I was called through. Me and Hannigan cleaned up and dumped the body. For a fee of course.’