Monday, July 30, 2012

Fun and Fascinating Interview with Author Neal James

Although we live "across the pond" from one another, Author Neal James is one of the many people I have had the pleasure to meet over the past few months. I am honored to be able to share a peek into his world and his work with you today.
So pour yourself a cup of tea, and settle down to read what he had to say...oh, and there's a little surprise inside as well. All contact info can be found at the end.


Neal James began writing in 2007 when a series of short stories found favour on a number of international writing sites. Since then, he has released two novels and an anthology of short stories. 'Threads of Deceit', his fourth production in as many years, draws on the eighteen years he spent working within the textile industry. As an accountant for over three decades, he has drawn on his background to provide an insight into much of the substance required in the creation of his writing to date. He lives in the East Midlands with his wife and family.


Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

            I suppose it goes back to my schooldays. I always liked writing stories, and English was one of my favourite subjects. When a short story competition cropped up in 2007, I decided to give it a shot and one of my submissions ended up in the top ten. It didn’t win – that would have been expecting too much – but it gave me the confidence to push on, and I found a couple of writing sites. It just seemed to go from there.

            I’m 60 this year, have been married for 36 years and have two grown up children. I’ve lived in Derbyshire all of my life, and try to write as much of the locality as I can into my work. I’m the son of a collier who came through the state education system, became an accountant and this profession has given me the freedom to write whilst bringing in an income.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing? 

No – I wouldn’t be able to bring in enough income, and do not have an agent to push my work. The writing, at the moment, is strictly part-time, and for the sheer enjoyment of seeing my books in a library or book store.

Timing is tricky, as there’s no set day or time for writing. I just do it when the story tells me that there’s another chapter to write. Weekends, lunchtimes and evenings are best, but I never try to force myself to write – that’s the way that errors creep in.

Could you tell us a little about your novel? 

The last one, released in 2011, was ‘Threads of Deceit’. It’s a crime novel, set in the textile industry, and tells the tale of a young man’s ambitions derailed by something which he sees. There’s murder, fraud, embezzlement, drug trafficking, deception and betrayal weaving in and out of multiple plot lines, and the whole book is written around a single, five-minute event which occurred in a northern pub over twenty years ago.

Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?

‘Threads’ is set in the West Country, in and around the town of Taunton, although the storyline comes from my home town of Derby, and the events in the plot reflect the eighteen years I spent in the textile industry. There are no direct links to actual characters from the time of the book, but if you know your way around the city certain locations become apparent.

Where does the inspiration for your main character and story come from?

The main character, James Poynter, is the same age as I was when working at the company I call Brodsworth textiles, and much of his professional activity is drawn from the working of the mill where I worked. I’m not him, but some of the things he does reflect my opinions and attitudes to life. I certainly underwent a very similar clash with a senior member of staff.

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?

            The message is ‘What goes around comes around’. Things have a habit of rectifying themselves as long as you don’t give up, and stick to your beliefs. Poynter refused to lie down, and fought back to extract revenge on the man who had betrayed his trust. The story, from that point, was easy to write, as I had all of the material at my fingertips. The main characters came to life as they did in reality.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? 

I start by drafting out a schematic for the novel using a spreadsheet. It’s fairly rudimentary and lists Chapters 1-40 with 1,500 words in each. That way I know that I’m aiming for a 60,000+ words story.

Then I start the real work and prepare an outline for at least half of the chapters. That makes it easy to bring in the characters and scenarios. From that point on, the story pretty much tells itself, as long as it ends up at the finale which I have already planned.

If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

Very detailed. Characters and scenarios need to be researched carefully so that there are no continuity or historical/factual errors. I use bullet points, and try to limit the number to around half a dozen actions per chapter. That prevents me from straying from the main plot line.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years?

I can get a novel written and published in a year. The writing takes anywhere between six and nine months, and my publisher can finish the job in a further three. I have ‘Full Marks’ ready to go to them right now, a further three completed manuscripts, and two more actually being written.

How much research went into it?

‘Threads of Deceit’? The core plot was already a historical fact with which I was familiar, so resiting the story was the sole issue. The rest of the research related mainly to actual locations, and there is a wealth of information on the internet to help with that.

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work?

            I use websites where they are available. For example, with ‘Two Little Dicky Birds’, the New York Police Department website was hugely helpful, and their PR department were great. There are also forensic data websites which you can rifle through, and I tend to use Google Maps for geographical information.

            Cataloguing is a simple matter of creating a separate folder for each book and sub-folders for all of the research. That way, I can go back and raid it time after time.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?

Only to the extent that the story is different. ‘Threads of Deceit’ is still a crime novel – it’s just that the main focus has changed from murder to financial crime. ‘Two Little Dicky Birds’ is a gritty hunt for a serial killer, and ‘A Ticket to Tewkesbury’ delves into the world of espionage and politics.

How long have you been awaiting the release of your novel? How much time has elapsed between having typed the last word, through the editing phase and to print?

            It depends upon how busy Rob Eldridge is. He’s my editor and won’t be rushed. We tend to work on about a month for him to complete his side of the book, and then I’ll go through it again to make certain that I’m happy. At that point, I hand it out to a ‘Reader’ who will make sure that the whole thing hangs together properly. I’ll then read it again before sending it off to Pneuma Springs, my publisher.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

No, not really. I couldn’t, and still cannot, find an agent, and Pneuma Springs are ‘Print on Demand’, so that suits me perfectly. I have no pressure upon me, other than that I impose myself, to produce a manuscript at a certain time. I’m quite happy with the industry as it stands.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?

            I do it all myself. I have a system of databases built up over the past four years, and I use them to mailshot a range of retail and library contacts. Each time a book comes out, I set up a programme of targeting, and nothing gets missed. I’m in touch with all of the local branches of Waterstones and have personal contacts throughout the Midlands. The publisher provides, as part of my contract, a range of publicity material, and I’ve found that bookmarks go down very well at book signings.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Trust in your ability, but never, never, never try to edit your own work. It just isn’t a good idea. Get an independent editor who will tell you the truth and not what you want to hear. That said, don’t lose faith and try to avoid writing critique sites unless you have a very thick skin.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now? 

‘Full Marks’ is ready to go to the publisher. It’s a story about a DCI with the Metropolitan Police who falls foul of the internal disciplinary routines and comes under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. 100,000 words in 50 chapters tells the reader how he manages to clear his name.

I’m actually writing a sequel to this at the moment. ‘Three Little Maids’ is set in an exclusive school in London where the music teacher has been murdered. The question is, by whom, and why.

Other writing includes ‘Day of the Phoenix’, a political thriller and the sequel to ‘A Ticket to Tewkesbury’, ‘The Rings of Darelius’, a science fiction tale of the threat to an advanced civilisation located 80 light years from Earth, a second volume of short stories, and ‘Dreamer’, a paranormal thriller.

Debbie:  And now we’re joined by a surprise guest – Detective Chief Inspector Dennis Marks. Hello, Dennis; how are you?
Marks: Very well, thank you, Debbie. Good afternoon, Neal.

Neal:   Hello, Dennis.

Debbie: Dennis, can you tell us a little about how you and Neal came to get involved in the world of fictional crime?

Marks: Well, that goes back a year or so now doesn’t it, Neal? When would that be – 2008? 2009?

Neal:   You were in ‘Short Stories Volume One’, and that was published by Pneuma Springs in 2009. The short stories were written before that, so it must have been early 2008. ‘The Marks Trilogy’ was the first time you appeared in print.

Debbie: Was that the business of you looking for the truth about your grandfather, Dennis?

Marks: It was, and Neal dragged me kicking and screaming into the world of espionage. It was the first time that I heard of George Watkinson.

Debbie: Neal, he’s one of the main characters in ‘A Ticket to Tewkesbury, isn’t he?

Neal:   Yes, but that was written in the midst of the short stories being compiled. It was set in 1992 and before Dennis came into contact with him. What propelled Dennis and the metropolitan Police into full contact was this year’s novel ‘Full Marks’ which also sets the scene for ‘Day of the Phoenix’, which should be next year’s book. That one is the sequel to ‘A Ticket to Tewkesbury’, and Dennis takes centre stage in the story.

Debbie: Dennis, what do you make of all this? After all, you are a detective with the Metropolitan
Police – how are you handling the new-found fame?

Marks: I have no worries in that direction. My wife, Jean, keeps me firmly grounded and focused.

Neal:   I had to write her into the script to keep him in line; you know what these coppers are like.

Debbie: Alright. Let’s turn to ‘Full Marks’. What was the inspiration for the book, Neal?

Neal:   I’d written so many short stories about Dennis and his team, that I had the idea that they, together with a linking back story, would make a great book.

Marks: We got our heads together on that one, and I suggested that the issue with Solomon Golblum, the old Jew in ‘Stick’, would be a good way to get me on the  wrong end of a disciplinary investigation with the IPCC?

Debbie: The IPCC?

Marks: The Independent Police Complaints Commission – they police the police.

Neal:   Dennis suggested we sideline him for a while as a result of the psychological effect that the Golblum case had on him. Bringing him back into the line of fire set the scene for the remainder of the book.

Debbie:  And this continues into the next book?

Neal:   Yes. Dennis and his team become involved at an early stage in ‘Day of the Phoenix’. George Groves, the pathologist, and Peter Spencer, Dennis’ DI, are principal characters in the criminal investigations, and Dennis makes the final ‘collar’ which brings the entire story to its conclusion.

Marks: We shouldn’t tell her too much more, Neal. Have to keep some of the stuff quiet, you know.

Debbie: Quite right, Chief Inspector. Do you think there will be any more stories involving you?

Marks: Well, Neal has at least one more ‘Marks’ book in the pipeline.

Neal:   Yes, that will be ‘Three Little Maids’, the story of a murder in an exclusive London school, but I’m only about 5,000 words into it at the moment. We’re pushing ‘Full Marks’ as hard as we can right now.

Debbie: Just one final question, Chief Inspector – I know you’re a busy man. How is the notoriety going down at New Scotland Yard? I mean, you and your DI must get some ribbing about your names.

Marks: Sorry?

Debbie:  Marks & Spencer. The High Street retail chain.

Marks: Oh, I see. No, I don’t think we do. At least it’s never come to my attention.

Neal:   Maybe I’ve made you too scary, Dennis. No-one would dare bring the subject up.

Marks: That would be typical of you. Sorry, folks, have to go now. Nice meeting you, Debbie.

Debbie: You too. Thanks for coming in. Well, that concludes our chat with Neal James and the day’s surprise guest. It just leaves me to say thanks to Neal, and wish him all the best for the future.

Neal:   Thank you very much, Debbie.

Blurbs and Excerpts

A Ticket to Tewkesbury

When Julie Martin discovered a fifty year old love letter, little did she know that it would trigger a chain of events which had its roots in the death throes of Nazi Germany.

Revelations in the secret files to which it led, threatened the very foundations of democracy in Britain.

The love story of Roger Fretwell and Madeline Colson weaves its magical course through the story and draws together the forces of MI5 and ""The Organisation,"" in a struggle for the secret documents kept hidden for nearly fifty years.

George Watkinson, head of the secret service is locked in fierce conflict with Detective Alan Mason, ""The Organisation"" front man; he discovers a mole within MI5, but there could be others. Intrigue and murder follow in the wake of a race for supremacy from which only one winner can emerge."

Chapter 2

‘9, St Mary’s Lane

1st June 1946

My Darling Maddie,

I have been able to think of nothing but you since coming back to Gloucestershire, and curse every waking moment that we are apart. Father has asked me to join him at the garage where I had started working just before war broke out, but I have not yet told either him or mother of any of my plans for the future, and he is puzzled by the hesitancy.

I fell in love with you from the moment we first met when I returned from France, and the few weeks which we spent in each other’s company have convinced me that I can have no other future than with you. Please say that you will marry me and come to live here. I have taken the liberty of purchasing a rail ticket for you and it is enclosed with this letter.

Your parents were very kind to me on my visit last week, and I trust that I made a good impression. I had hoped that your father would make his decision then and there, but perhaps that was a little too much to expect in the circumstances.

Please come to me my darling and make me the happiest man in the world.

All my undying love,


Roger Fretwell was eighteen when Germany invaded Poland and triggered the Second World War. He had lived a calm and stable childhood in the Gloucestershire town of Tewkesbury, and had left school at fourteen to work with his father, Graham in the family business. Graham Fretwell was a highly regarded local car mechanic and had been running a thriving business for over ten years. It had always been his intention, in the fullness of time, to hand over the reins of that business to his only son Roger, and had been at the point of doing so when fate intervened. Roger received his call-up papers at the end of 1943, served during the German attempt to break through Allied lines in the Ardennes Offensive, and was injured in the final attack on Berlin. Finding himself back in Britain towards the end of hostilities he met up with a young nurse at a rehabilitation hospital in Kent late in 1945, and instantly fell head over heels in love with her.

Madeline Colson was two years his junior and a qualified nurse at one of the hospitals reserved for the treatment of returning servicemen. At five feet seven, with auburn hair and dark brown eyes she could have charmed the birds down from the trees, and Roger’s heart leapt each time his eyes fell on her. He had tried unsuccessfully on a number of occasions to put pen to paper in an attempt to reveal his feelings, but each effort had ended up as a ball of paper thrown disconsolately into the nearest waste bin. He was beginning to think that the opportunity was passing him by when fate stepped in and took a hand.

Lance Corporal Roger S. Fretwell had taken shrapnel hits when a grenade exploded to his right during a routine patrol, and although not too seriously hurt was deemed unfit to take any further part in the final onslaught on the German lines. Lying in a hospital bed in Kent, recuperating after an operation to remove the pieces of metal from his legs, he had plenty of time to contemplate his future, and Madeline had become a focus of that plan. A careless step by a fellow patient on crutches had taken the man into a collision with Roger’s bed, and the impact sent a searing pain through both of his lower limbs. Madeline had been close by at the bed of another soldier and came hurrying across. Seeing Roger in obvious agony, she had administered the usual pain relief and was sitting by his side with his left hand in hers when he reopened his eyes.

The effect had been electric. They stared at each other, both transfixed for what seemed an eternity. His lips dried and his throat felt parched as he struggled for something to say. All of her professional training should have prepared her for this kind of situation, and it was well known in medical circles that recovering servicemen often formed attachments to their nurses. The spell was broken by the sudden arrival outside of a further batch of casualties from one of the Channel ports. As she pulled away, his grip on her hand tightened almost imperceptibly and she turned back to him, her face flushed with uncertainty.

“I have to go, duty calls.”

“Please, say you’ll come back again soon. I must speak to you, and I don’t think I’ll be in here for very much longer by the look of the new arrivals outside.”

She smiled faintly as their fingers slowly parted, and his eyes followed her every move as she left his bedside for the doorway to the ward. Here she paused only very briefly and half turned to nod her head and then disappear. Roger Fretwell could feel the beat of his heart pounding in his ears and looked down at his shaking hands. The feelings he experienced on the front line in Belgium in 1945 were nothing in comparison to the emotions currently running through his entire being. Was this love? Was the emptiness which he now felt at her parting what his mother had told him about when she had made the knowing observation?

‘You’ll know our Roger. When the right girl comes along you’ll know. Don’t bother going looking love, fate will put you together and from then on it’s all up to you. You’ll only get one go at it though, so make sure that you get it right.’

Susan Fretwell had been a typical country wife and mother of the time, keeping house while her husband brought home the bacon, looking after home and children. She was a fount of all wisdom in the home, and there never seemed to be a cross word between her and Graham in all the years that Roger knew them. It had given him a loving and stable background, and now this nurse, this perfectly formed being who had invaded his consciousness had apparently arrived to fulfil the prophesy. He must not let her slip through his fingers, this could be his only chance at happiness  and he would have to strike while the iron was hot.

He didn’t see Madeline again that day, and lay awake for most of the night worrying in case that had been his only chance. When word arrived the next morning that she had been called away home unexpectedly on family business, he was almost in despair. The next few days were the worst he could ever remember in his life, and the medical staff were becoming quite worried that his current condition was somehow linked to the injuries which he had sustained. He had suffered a relapse, of that there was no doubt, and for a number of days was in a feverish state until an infection in one of his legs succumbed to treatment. It was on the Friday evening that his condition stabilised sufficiently for him to regain consciousness. The first thing he saw when his eyes opened was Madeline.

It was at that point that he got to know her name, and a relationship started to grow and blossom within the confines and strict rules of the hospital. She took him out into the grounds in a wheelchair when the weather was fine, but it was always in the company of other patients, and his only consolation was that she made sure that he was the last one to be returned to the ward. On one of these ‘private’ moments he seized the opportunity to tell her how he felt. It was now or never, and with his legs now getting strong enough for him to walk unaided, an imminent departure for home was on the cards.

“Stop the chair please.”

“Why, is there something wrong?”

“Yes nurse, there is. I can’t go on like this. It’s tearing me apart having you around and not telling you how I feel.”

“Oh dear, I think I know what you are going to say.”

“I am in love with you Madeline. Oh, may I call you Madeline? Please don’t think badly of me, I know this isn’t supposed to happen but I can’t help how I feel. I’ve been mad about you since the first day I saw you. Do you, could you, love me?”

She flushed and sat down on a nearby bench where she parked the chair. She clasped her hands on her lap and stared out into the distance. Pulling her cape around her shoulders for warmth as the temperature seemed to have dropped suddenly, she looked into his eyes and smiled a smile which he hoped he would remember until his dying day.

“I thought you would never ask, and when I had to go home suddenly I was worried that the moment might have passed, and that you may even be gone when I returned.”

“Does this mean that we’re engaged to be married? I mean, will you be my wife?”

“I’ll have to speak to my mother and father before I can give you an answer, and then you’ll probably have to formally ask daddy yourself. Write your address down for me before you leave and I’ll get in touch.”

By the end of the following week he was back in Tewkesbury and discussing his stay in Kent with Graham and Susan. They were understandably delighted that he had found someone and were looking forward to meeting Madeline.
Short Stories Volume One

"How would YOU write to God for clarification on matters of the utmost urgency? Find out how Moses might have done it.

Dry your eyes after the tragic story of Liz when she finds the father she never knew, and hold your breath as an almost perfect insurance scam comes disastrously unstuck in the most unexpected way.

Shake your head at Mike's naivete in dealing with a stranger in black, and share with Dave his hidden guilt when Tommy Watkinson returns to talk to his son Paul.

Fly into the realms of fantasy with James Taylor as he gets lost in a place that he knows only too well, and try to sympathise with Ray when the old couple ask him to save humanity.

Follow Dennis Marks in a trilogy which brings the book to its close as he searches for the truth about his grandfather.

This collection of unique little gems will expose every emotion on the rollercoaster which you are about to ride."

 At Your Command

31st July

Dear God

Further to our little chat on the mountain the other day and the instructions you gave to me for forwarding to the masses, there are a few things that have been puzzling me. I think it’s best, if it’s alright with you, that we sort this out before I release them for publication. I know you are our God almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent and all that, I appreciate that a lot of thought must have gone into them and I am sure you haven’t just dashed them off in a moment of blind thought, but as I am going to be the one facing all the questions I feel that I ought to have the answers ready – they can be a funny lot sometimes these children of Israel.

Anyway, here goes. The first and second commandments are a bit long-winded and it sounds as if you are laying down the law a bit too strong, bearing in mind what comes a little later. I think they will all understand how the land lies with you, and that you have been around since way before Adam’s day. We are all grateful, I am sure, for our deliverance from the Egyptians – they really were a load of slave drivers, and the food was a bit too spicy for some of us (you didn’t want to be around on a Saturday night). We don’t need any other Gods, one will be quite sufficient thank you but it might be helpful if you could supply some signed photographs so that your folks down here will know what you look like. This could kill the ‘idol’ thing stone dead and it would not conflict with item six on your list – you know, the ‘murder’ thingy.

Also, and excuse me for being a little forward, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the heads of future generations is unlikely to get you many votes in the public relations area, so if you could rethink that one it might be helpful in convincing your followers to love you for the thousand generations you mention. I don’t mean to be picky, but maybe you could use a little help in the subtlety department – I believe I have some time free next Wednesday afternoon.

Moving on, taking your name in vain is not a very nice thing to do and I appreciate why you would like this to be clearly understood. Could you let us have a list of acceptable expletives which can be used without fear of retribution of any kind? Please understand that hitting one’s pinky with a hammer is apt to invoke some form of verbal release and we would all appreciate some guidance on this matter.

Next – The Sabbath. Good plan, we all need a day reserved especially for talking to you and if you could devise some form of rota it would be appreciated. This would avoid the situation where we all try to talk to you at the same time, and I know from experience with all the kids around here that you can’t possibly make a decision with everyone wittering on together.

Also, I like the idea of one day each week when we can all chill out and rest – this is a big vote winner. If this is the day you would like to schedule for talking to you, all the better. However could you leave off the bit about you creating everything in just six days please? We know you work hard and it just comes off as bragging and I could do without the aggravation of facing a barrage of insults when I try to make your case. All mums and dads have a special place in our society as you must be aware, and even though the kids sometimes take us for granted we are always around when they are in need of a few shekels for the odd drink or night out now and then. I suppose you must know how that feels – or perhaps not as your only son hasn’t yet been born (must revise up on those Prophets pamphlets again). It would be helpful if we could clearly understand if this is restricted to mums and dads or extended to grandparents – there are one or two clever dicks down here who might take it as a free licence to take the mickey out of some of the older members of our little group.

The instruction not to murder is a bit of a ‘gimme’, but does it apply to your enemies or are you going to take care of that as you did with those plague thingies in Egypt and the Red Sea demo (I know that it wasn’t really me doing it)? I mean, if you are going to be watching over us and protecting the group from enemy attack that’s all well and good, but what happens if you’re not looking one day or are busy with something else. Do we defend ourselves or ask any belligerents to wait for a moment while we get a message to you? Perhaps you could have a think about that one and get back to us.

The adultery thing is a bit of a tricky one. I’m not too worried personally and I think the rest of us ‘wrinklies’ will be OK with it. It’s the youngsters I’m a bit concerned about. They’ve been born and brought up in Egypt and some of their customs were a bit dubious to say the least. Maybe a seminar on the dangers of unprotected sex would dampen their ardour a bit together with a list of forfeits and/or penalties for breaking the rules. Nothing too draconian you understand – no cutting bits off or anything and no putting things in their food and drink after that last time with the laxatives please.

Stealing – again does this apply to the world in general or is it limited to just amongst ourselves? We’ve not exactly had the best time of it of late, and I keep coming back to the Egyptians as an example of how we have suffered at the hands of a pretty unscrupulous oppressor. Taking from the likes of them surely cannot count as anything seriously wrong, after all a lot of us died while we were constructing their fancy buildings for them – fair’s fair you know.

‘Bear false witness’ – if you mean telling lies it would be best if you just come out with instead of beating about the bush (talking of bushes, I’ve still got the burn marks from that last one you appeared in so I’d appreciate it if you could tone the visions down a bit in the future). There are a few down here who won’t understand if you use flowery language and although I could probably interpret what you mean, there’s still the chance that I might get it wrong and then your laws could be up the spout for who knows how long. Also could you please be a little more precise as to who exactly you mean by ‘your neighbour’? Is this the family in the next tent on either side or is there some wider meaning to the statement? I’m sorry to labour the point, but you surely aren’t including the Egyptians in this, are you?

I’m glad we’ve got to the last one, because this is the item I found most confusing. If you go around using words like ‘covet’ it is always a good idea to define your terms first. I mean I have looked it up in my thesaurus and it lists a number of alternatives such as ‘desire’, ‘want’, ‘long for’, ‘yearn for’, ‘crave’ and ‘hanker after’ and whilst all of these could be easily applied to humans, I would be a little careful about their usage where animals are concerned. There are some oddballs amongst our number and if you give them as much as an inch they’ll take a mile. Any recognition of their ‘special needs’ is going to cause murmuring of discontent amongst the rest if you are seen to be giving special consideration – see where I’m coming from?

So, I hope that you won’t think I’ve been too forward but I reckon if I am going to be your spokesperson to the masses, it is really important that I understand clearly what it is you want from us. I mean it’s not as bad as it must be for the Greeks and Romans with a god for this and a god for that. At least you’re the only one we’ve got, so we know more or less where we are with that. Anyway, I’m going to put these tablets away (out of the reach of children – get it?) until you’ve had time to think about what I’ve said. If you need me at any time, just bellow my name and I’ll make myself available – don’t take any notice of the wife and any of her excuses. I sometimes wish I’d never brought her along.

Yours grovellingly

Joshua says to tell you that the parting of the Red Sea was the coolest thing he has ever seen, and could you make it an annual event for the kids? If that’s possible we could run day trips from the Promised Land each year.


Two Little Dicky Birds

On Saturday 5th April 1975, in a fit of rage, Paul Townley took the life of his father, Harold. The significance of that single event was to affect the rest of his life, as he resolved to make it his mission to rid society of the kind of person that the man had become.

The first killing took place six months later, and over the following fifteen years seventeen more were to follow, as the trail of devastation left by a serial killer covered the length and breadth of England.

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Barnes looked down at the letter which lay on the desk before him. An icy hand gripped his heart as he read once more the details of the eighteen murders. Murders which had come back to haunt him from his past as he realised that he would, once more, be faced with the serial killer who called himself ......Petey.

Chapter 24

Saturday 23rd April 1977

It was very risky, he had to admit, and Peter had made the conscious decision right at the start not to operate anywhere near his home turf, but a golden opportunity had arisen to really get to the heart of the police inability to track him down, and he was finding it extremely hard to resist. He had spotted her quite by chance one evening when he had been out for a few beers with some friends. There she was, walking along the darkened streets of Hounslow, apparently without a care in the world. He estimated her age at early twenties; she was petite and about half his weight. A few of them had whistled after her in the usual male macho way, and had received the customary hand gesture in response. A general outburst of laughter and ribald comments had followed from his group, and the incident passed without further action. Peter, however, remained on the spot and watched as she turned the corner off the High Street and into Lampton Road, heading north.
She had been carrying a hold-all type of bag, and he assumed that she had been at the local leisure centre – probably swimming. Peter had returned to the location on a number of occasions in order to plan out a possible interception route. She was a regular on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and any of those would do. The area where Lampton Road intersected with Bulstrode and Balfour was mainly industrial before the residential area further north, and he chose this as the place where he would accost her. The time of her departure from the evening session coincided with fading light, and left him with a perfect scenario for extending his album entries.

Having made his excuses for missing the weekly Saturday night out, a fact which did not go down too well with the others in the weekend fraternity, he made his way cautiously to the area surrounding Lampton Road. Even at this late stage, Peter was not entirely convinced of the advisability of taking a victim so close to his base in London. However, it had all been so easy up until now. The initial buzz had started to fade, and, like a drug, he felt the need to increase the dosage of excitement and danger. In the event, the decision was made for him as the girl appeared around the corner and began her approach from about a hundred yards away.

Stacey Richards was on cloud nine. She had been preparing for this evening for such a long time that it had begun to seem as if she would never get there. It didn’t matter in the end how good all those around her said she was; when it came down to it she was on her own, and pure ability was all that mattered. Winning had been her dream since early childhood, and both parents had supported all her efforts with the time and money needed at this level. All the family had been present at Finals Night, but she excused herself from celebrations to meet her boyfriend, Jake, who couldn’t make it to the centre. She would wait for him outside his place of work, and they could then go for a drink together.
Peter planned to let her pass and then adopt his usual tactic of an approach from the shadows behind the victim, relying on the element of surprise to provide him with his ultimate advantage. She was slower than usual but that didn’t seem to concern him; it would just delay the inevitable satisfaction of one more entry into the scrap book. She wasn’t walking, it was almost like a waltz, and she was using the bag as a partner. Peter frowned a puzzled frown; was she singing? She was singing, but he couldn’t make out the words – it didn’t sound like any song he had heard before. It was vaguely Oriental and he couldn’t understand it.

Stacey looked at her watch – there was plenty of time yet before Jake came out of work, and no need to hurry along the relatively short distance down Lampton Road. Slowing her progress to a mere stroll, she relived the excitement of getting through the heats and into the final of the London area competition. Her coach had been ecstatic, and pleaded with her to carry on training abroad where expert facilities were more readily available. At the age of twenty-one, that was a real temptation but she would have to clear it with Jake first. When the figure emerged from the shadows, she almost missed it in her heightened state of exhilaration.

Peter had got his timing slightly off, and hadn’t let her get fully past him until stepping out from his concealed position. In his overconfident condition this had not seemed to matter all that much, and in a way would increase the level of satisfaction at completing the task whilst varying the plan of attack. What happened next exceeded all of his expectations, and put him into a position which he could not have imagined in all his wildest dreams.

All she had needed was the merest hint of a threat within the extent of her peripheral vision. All of Stacey’s training now kicked in, and every sense in her body switched to high alert. Dropping the bag, she spun around to face her attacker with a speed borne out of years of training under the UK Taekwondo Association rules. She had been awarded her black belt at eighteen, and had progressed through the various levels in the Dan until she had reached the pinnacle of achievement tonight. Her opponent in the final had been eight years her senior, and was a national award holder. The contest had been over inside the first round of two minutes, when Stacey built up the necessary seven point lead for her to be declared the winner.

This could not be right. Peter frowned - it was not in the plan. The victim was not supposed to fight back, and yet that was just what seemed to be happening. She was half his size, and now stood facing him in what he could only describe as a ‘karate-like’ stance. The whole scene appeared frozen in time as they both remained motionless, each one waiting for the other to make the first move. He had options of course. He could run or walk away, but that went completely against the grain. Having lost the element of surprise, his advantage was now limited to size and strength. Looking at her, she didn’t seem to be that strong, but the longer this stand-off continued, the greater was the risk of his being discovered and possibly arrested.

She remained perfectly still, as all her training had taught her - look for the first hint of motion, and react to turn the situation against the opponent. Stacey stared at Peter, searching his face for some clue as to the next move, remaining balanced on the balls of her feet, with both fists clenched in the approved manner. She was ready. He looked fit, and was considerably bigger and taller than her, but then again she had seen off just such an opponent tonight. Admittedly, that had been in competition and governed by a strict code of rules. This was altogether different; this was a street fight and could get quite nasty. She felt the increased levels of adrenaline starting to pump through her system, and her eyes widened to take in more of the light. He was standing out like a beacon in the darkness.

Like many young men of his age, Peter Tremayne had an inflated opinion of his own ability in the field of physical combat. Police training had equipped him for the run-of-the-mill villains with whom he could expect to come into contact, but he had never been faced with a situation like this before. Just when he needed common sense to tap him on the shoulder and show him the way out, testosterone grabbed him by the throat and screamed ‘Banzai!’ into his brain. He moved, and it was the last thing he clearly remembered that evening.
Stacey picked up the shift in position of Peter’s feet almost before he even realised himself that he had made the movement. Her right foot was a blur as it arrowed upwards and caught him a sickening blow to the side of his jaw, breaking it in two places just below the ear. He didn’t have the time to scream in pain, before a clenched left hand buried itself into his solar plexus and brought him to his knees. At this point, she would normally have broken off the attack and walked away, but the flow of adrenaline, coupled with the absence of discipline imposed by the club, took over. Peter should have stayed down, and had he done so, Stacey’s heightened reflexes would probably have stabilised to allow him to remain relatively unharmed.

Attempting to rise to his feet, and stretching out a hand for balance, he must have appeared to be making a second attempt. Stacey spun on her left heel, and the centrifugal force of her right foot connecting sent three teeth spinning from his mouth amidst a crimson shower, but still he remained on his feet. Switching balance to her right foot, a rapier-like thrust of the left leg to his right knee dislocated it completely, and he collapsed on to his remaining good leg. She was now in complete fight mode, and three more punches - one to the ribs causing two cracks and a break, one to the kidneys and a final one which caused the left lung to collapse - had him on the ground and spluttering a shower of blood from his mouth. For good measure a final kick spread Peter’s nose across his face, and he passed out.
It was a few moments before Stacey’s head cleared and the full realisation of what had happened hit her. The man on the floor had certainly attempted to assault her, and she could only guess what would have happened to anyone else. Nevertheless, a feeling of guilt began to surface and she left the scene, stopping only to make one anonymous ‘999’ call from a public telephone box. Her evening with Jake had suddenly lost all of its sparkle. For Peter, it was the start of an uncomfortable few months - mentally, physically and professionally.


Threads of Deceit

James Poynter is a young man out for revenge. Set up for a crime which he did not commit, and by someone whom he felt he could trust implicitly, his sole focus becomes one of retribution against his former employers.

His future at Brodsworth Textiles disintegrated one Friday evening prior to his wedding, when conscientiousness overtook him and he returned to the factory after work to rectify an error in his paperwork.

What he discovered that night changed his life forever and set off a chain of events which sent him spiralling downwards, and out of a job which had promised so much.

Murder, deception, drug trafficking and embezzlement combine to derail the futures of everyone connected to the company, and set off a chase for the man at the centre of a plot so intricately woven, that the forces of law and order in several countries are thwarted at every turn.








Hard Copy – Amazon UK:

A Ticket to Tewkesbury          

Short Stories Volume One       

Two Little Dicky Birds

Threads of Deceit

 E-Book – Amazon UK:

A Ticket to Tewkesbury

Short Stories Volume One

Two Little Dicky Birds

Threads of Deceit

Hard Copy –

A Ticket to Tewkesbury

Short Stories Volume One

Two Little Dicky Birds

Threads of Deceit

 E-Book –

A Ticket to Tewkesbury

Short Stories Volume One

 Two Little Dicky Birds

Threads of Deceit

Hard Copy – Waterstones:

A Ticket to Tewkesbury

Short Stories Volume One

Two Little Dicky Birds

Threads of Deceit

Friday, July 20, 2012

Story Research

           When I began writing fiction I had no idea about the amount of research that awaited me. Some of the smallest details would send me away from my writing into the research jungle, providing pages and pages of reading. I love to learn, so I don’t think of this as painful. But because of this passion for knowledge, I often found myself with much more information than would ever show up in my story.

I have researched towns, looking for the perfect combination of small-town and mountain/forest. Clothing, food and activities had to be researched as well. Although I have had survival training, for one of my stories I more specifically researched wilderness survival, with things like types of shelters to poisonous plants and finally making a latrine or outhouse. I finally had my characters settle on a compost potty. Now, nowhere in my story, beyond the name, do I go into any details on what the compost potty is or how it works. So why do it? Because I needed it to be real. I didn’t want to just say whatever or make up some nonsense to explain away a detail.

When I wrote Amethyst Eyes (AE), although where Tommy lives on Earth is never even mentioned in the book, this piece of information took the most research. I needed to find a place where he could live with his mother in the Rocky Mountains, not only about an hour up from a town, but there also had to be Native Americans living nearby. I had not even decided whether he’d be American or Canadian, my research determined that in the end. He’s Canadian, by the way, living near Invermere, British Columbia. The Native Americans there are Ktunaxa or Kootenai (which led me to research their culture and language, found more in Emma, and the AE sequel).

I think situating your story is important, because it grounds it. You have to be careful if you name a place because the people who know it will be quick to catch any slights. I was proofing a MS for a friend who’s story took place in Ireland, a place I’d love to visit but have never been. On the same page, she’d spelled the name of the town two different ways. I went online to verify the correct spelling, only to find out that this town didn’t exist. She later explained that she wanted to avoid comments like “we don’t have that in our town” and such. Ahhh, so, I had been racking my brain and spending an unimaginable amount of time researching a location that ‘fit’ and she just made hers up. I will continue torturing myself for now, but it’s something to consider in the future.

Sometimes there are details that cannot be easily found online and you have to turn to real people to get your answers. Again, for AE, I decided Tommy would be home schooled. I personally know several families who have gone this path, and I have also had the pleasure of connecting with more families online. One thing that struck me was comments about how polite or well adjusted these children seemed to be, (and I have read studies that have backed up the well-adjusted claim). But of all the people I knew, it had been the parents who had initially made the decision to homeschool. So, when a reviewer made the comment “I don’t know any kid who’d be happy to be homeschooled,” I decided to take my research even further. Here is one answer from a homeschooling family about their son ‘wanting to be homeschooled’. (BTW, I have yet to come across any negative comments).

    • Ha! My son begged to be homeschooled during his 2 1/2 years in public school. He's 11 & going into 11th grade. I bring up private school or other non homeschooling options & he gets very upset & begs to continue to homeschool. We are very active & busy with many activities & friends. He prefers other homeschoolers as friends too. We're working towards a golf scholarship for college. I homeschool because I want a better education for him. As a matter of fact, he's in my bed reading his Summer fun book while I'm working. I have a problem with kids being in a mind controlling box for 7 hours a day where they aren't allowed to think creatively & grow their gifts & talents. Our traditional school structure is ok for some, but not for most. I also think many adults shouldn't homeschool as they struggle to train up their kids. Many parents like being part time parents & enjoy the time away. Some parents need to work. We have sacrificed a lot to homeschool our son because it's what's best for him.

This also covers the “creepy” comment when talking about Tommy being close to his mother. But then, my kids are very close to me, so I guess we’re creepy too.

When it comes to my characters, though I maintain that I let them come to life and act out on their own. I have to admit that I have met a lot of people in my life. I have 4 children, ranging from 4-24 years of age. I have had a summer camp, a martial arts school, taught gymnastics, coached figure skating and baseball, taught both elementary and high school, worked with cadets, taught in the military and worked as a nurse…all things that have put me in contact with people of all ages and stages, from varying walks of life. I am lucky to have such an amazing collection to feed my creativity.

Character interaction and attitude aren’t difficult for me to imagine, but if you find yourself struggling, then I suggest you try people watching. Go to a mall, a park, a sports event, a fair, a restaurant, or any place you can easily watch people (without being mistaken for a stalker). Study body language, the way people grimace, gesticulate, listen or ignore others. Watch the dynamics between two kids on a playground, between lovers or a mom with her kids…whatever you need. Oh, and take notes.

Technology in sci-fi is not something you can readily Google, unless you want to take other peoples ideas, and I didn’t really feel like borrowing someone else’s work.  I found a magazine that compared sci-fi technology to present day technology and based my technological items, as much as possible, on what was real. The rest I had to make up, try and describe it in a way that made it believable, and make sure I had an idea of how it would work. In Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry came up with the idea of the transporter because it was easier on his budget to just have the crew ‘show up’ on the planet. Today, a group of scientists have managed to ‘transport’ groups of billions of atoms over a distance of 18 inches from point A to point B. A far cry from the transporter, but hey…on some level, it’s no longer sci-fi.

The link in my story comes from pushing the limits of human awareness. In many cultures mystic people have been shown to have these gifts, but in reality we are all able to sense another’s presence or distress. At one point, we’ve all thought of someone a second before running into them, or getting a phone call from them. I also wanted my characters to be more sensitive and caring to those around them and this helped.

The legend I chose as the premise to explain the existence of Tommy’s father (the Sirians, from the planet Sirius) does exist amongst Native Americans, Egyptians and some African tribes. They all spoke of our forefathers coming to seed this planet, and stated that they came from a planet around the Dog Star, Sirius. When scientists discovered this common legend, they were intrigued. This discovery came long before the internet era, so these people had no way of communicating with one another…and yet they shared the same legend. I thought that was cool. Unfortunately researching this was long and I had to read through a lot of nonsense to get what I needed. In the end aside from a mere mention of the forefathers, none of the legend really shows up.

When all else fails in your research, try talking to friends, other authors or even asking for help on your blog or facebook. Make a note to come back to it and try again later. You might also want to try a different search engine. Hubby swears by Google, while I personally prefer Dogpile. I get better results too ;o).

What’s important in all this is to have fun with your research. The more information you collect, the deeper and more realistic your story will be. Don’t forget to keep notes with all of your information. You will probably have to fall back on it to clarify some point later on in the process, and trying to find that one site that held the tidbit of information can be a nightmare. I use charts with my information and I also have a listing of all the sites that provided useful information. You don’t want the whole process to become too daunting because it takes away the pleasure in building your story. Don’t hesitate to ask me for help, I’ll be more than glad to share what I can.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lucky 7 Meme

OK, so I'll admit it, I had been putting this off, so no goes.
While I was away at Camp Nano (which I have yet to catch up on all that piled up during my experience), Emaginette was kind enough (cough) to tag me with this.

I think I am gong to try something different with the tagging of this activity. IF this is something you'd like to participate in, then say so in the comment box, only 7 takers allowed, so come on, step up!

Lucky 7 Meme

Lucky 7 Meme Rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your current manuscript.
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy the next 7 lines (sentences or paragraphs) and post them as they’re written. No cheating!
4. Invite 7 blogers to TAG themselves, rather then the old "Tag 7 other writers to pass this meme on to''.

Since this is only the first draft, the final result may be very different...

Excerpt from Amethyst Eyes (the sequel)

His father a forced smile, but thankfully Tommy felt him draw on the offered energy. Reaching shakily for his cup, the commander downed its contents, set the cup back down on the solid wood table and dropped his head into his hands.
Clenching his jaw, Tommy observed his father. A series of images flashed through his mind and he gasped, feeling his blood turn to ice. “So it’s true,” he said, not needing confirmation. “They are back.”
His father looked up and furrowed his brows as he studied Tommy. “What did you see?” The question came from the commander in him, all business with no room for negotiation.
Tommy hesitated. “I saw the Binari, with another victim...” his voice trailed off. He suppressed a shudder. “How is that possible?” He still had the occasional nightmare about the Binari and his narrow escape from death, about his father’s slow recovery and the feelings of helplessness.
His father’s eyes were sharp as he watched his son. “How could you see those images? I had closed the link.” He pressed his lips together. “Perhaps not soon enough...”
“They just popped into my head, but there are already rumorscirculating throughout the ship,” Tommy said truthfully. The only time he had ever ‘seen’anything was through the link when his father had granted him access, so how come he had not only seen, but felt these horrible images? He wondered just how injured his father was for his control of the link to be compromised…
“I had not planned on sharing that information with you just yet,” his father cut into his thoughts, passing a hand across his chin. He drew in a long breath and Tommy watched the transformation that came over his father as the Farou tonic kicked in.

And while I'm at's an excerpt from a MS completes this past winter. Sci-fi adventure where 3 teens (with three little ones in tow) have to band together to survive in the mountains of Montana.15 yr old Aleksei has just found an injured Mitch, after he'd gone missing from their shelter.

“Not that,” Mitch said. “It’s too bright and you’ll wake the others.”
I passed a hand through my hair but nodded in agreement. Instead, I threw more wood onto the fire and let the flames light the room as I gently peeled his blood soaked shirt from his chest. My stomach lurched as I saw the extent of the damage. “What happened?” I felt my eyes widen, betraying my shock. My stomach turned as the smell of blood assaulted my nose.
“I fell on something in the woods, but I don’t know what.” He winced, biting back a yelp.
“Sorry.” I grimaced, feeling for him. I really wasn’t cut out for this stuff. Mom, help me if you can…
“How bad is it?” he asked through clenched teeth.
“You’ve got debris in the wound that has to be removed.” I glanced at him, to see if I was hurting him as I gently pulled the tattered shirt fragments from his abdomen. “Hold on.” I went to get the first aid kit and put on a pair of gloves. I used tweezers to remove pieces of wood or dirt from the wound below his rib cage. I wondered if there were any internal injuries.
Mitch began to shiver uncontrollably. He was probably going into shock, crap. “Hang in there.” I put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m going to get you a blanket.” I hurried back for a thick polar fleece blanket and draped it over him. His eyes rolled back and his head fell off to the side. My blood went cold. Reaching for his neck I felt for a pulse. Weak and thready, but he was still alive. I grabbed another cover and elevated his feet, then went to wake up Krisz.

OK, so , come on, step up and tag yourselves.
Let's see how it goes :o)