Saturday, 25 May 2019

The writing of 'One Summer in France'

When it all started:
1979 (a very good year).

Where it all started:
Keele University: northern England, non-prestigious, apart from renowned Astronomy department –run by Sir Patrick Moore's best mate – name on tip of tongue/impressive English department - gargoyled hall, windows bit too high to gaze out of.

Reason for trip:
To learn French and to contextualise studies.

1. Train to South of France.
2. Put up tent.
3. Go to beach.

Reading/lounging about/flirting/moped mastery/selective sightseeing (pinnacle – Dali’s museum – bonkers).

Places visited:
Lots and lots.

Friendships formed, (in order of importance/in no particular order – bit of a mix, really):
Carol: best friend/totally brilliant/mad/blond/netball fiend, wing-attack/can be trifle politically incorrect/bit sweary/good punch.
Alison: uptight/control freak/all-round freak/not really friend but essential enemy/obsessive milk hoarder – (all property is theft, Alison).
James: hopelessly besotted with Bev – (brash totty)/betrothed to Jocasta – (posh totty)/doomed/dishy/dope/eventual accountant, argh!.
Andy: undergraduate in French/lord-of-manor type if not actual lord of manor/Shrewsbury estate/heart of gold/spotty/def. not shaggable.
Luc: entrepreneurial market trader/south of France poseur/admirer of Bev’s dream-goddess bikini (and contents)/eventual carnal interest of Carol.
Lawrence: (cor!)/French/married – (bummer!) – ambiguity not intended).
Charles: French/pancake chef/bit stinky/animal/non-runner – pity.
Antoine and Cedric:French/caravan-dwellers/benevolent/gallant/(lecherous old buggers).
Others too numerous to mention.

Best bits:
Beaches (normal x 2, naturist x 1)/port – gallon thereof/Jean-Paul Sartre – ‘Huis Clos’ – intellectual stimulant – Carol not enamoured/Spike Milligan – genius - worm verse – best poem ever written - Carol's opinion, not mine/being freeeeee!

Worst bits:
Mohammed’s couscous poison/paranoid, raw-meat-eating Anna (don’t ask).

Summing up:
Totally amazing time.  Love Carol forever.  Best friend in world.  Thanks to Ms. Adams (finance), my father (extra finance), and to Dave (emergency finance).  Have grown as person.  Have brilliant photos.  French improved (beaucoup). Tan – golden. Hair – ruined (in a good way).  Power over opposite sex – incalculable. N.B. government grant/tax payers' money - repaid a thousand times over since adventure, so don't even think about getting on your high horses!  

Wrote book: ‘One Summer in France’, humorous memoir of three-month study break in France (obligatory)

Additional information:
It might be cheaper for a couple of days sometime in July... Can’t wait?  Get it now and blow the expense!  (Best consumed with big smile and bigger glass of port).

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Download Hanson's Hunch - Free for a limited period. Click on the link at the end of the post.

Author's note:  So sorry, everyone.  The free promotion got interrupted somehow, but will be live again tomorrow and the following day (22nd/23rd May).

I love to write in all kinds of genre, but I must admit that detective fiction is one of the most interesting and challenging.  It may begin with a simple idea, a general plot line, a couple of well formed characters, but it soon leads me down paths that demand I follow, whilst keeping an eye on what has gone before and what will happen next.

I must create intrigue, I must bring my reader along with me, shining a light on certain details, hinting at a resolution, leaving them to fill in the gaps and carry a set of possible outcomes in their own imaginations.  Who could the killer be?  We rule characters in then rule them out.  It's a delicate balancing act, and one that kept me awake at night when I was writing the Alice Candy series, particularly Hit and Run, which took so many turns that it required five drafts and two professional edits before it could be published.

If I read a book, any kind of book, I notice inconsistencies.  These inconsistencies are even more pronounced in detective fiction.

Hanson's Hunch is a short story, so the pitfalls may not be as great, but the challenge is the same.  I strive to draw believable characters, some of whom we can empathise with, some suspect, some dislike, all brought together in a story that, hopefully, has integrity, and the all important quality of creating interest in the reader, sustaining their curiosity, and providing an ending that satisfies.

Classed by Amazon as a '45 minute short', I invite you to investigate, along with Inspector Hanson, the death of a local young woman - I wonder whether you will solve the crime before he does...

This is how the tale begins:

      “She looks almost peaceful,” said the officer.  “No blood.  No sign of a struggle.”
“That may be so, lad,” replied Inspector Hanson.  “That may be so.”
There was a moment of expectation in his young colleague’s face, a subtle straining to glean what wisdom, what hidden meaning lay beneath his superior’s words.  But the moment passed and both men resumed their contemplation of the young woman lying on her front, but with her head turned towards them, eyes open and lips slightly apart, as though she were about to speak. Her legs were bent at the knee in a position reminiscent of sideways running.  Almost comical, apart from the fact that she was as far removed as it was possible to be from such whimsical cartoon imagery, being made of flesh and blood, recently gone cold.
Hanson grunted and looked up at the spreading dawn sky with its split clouds lit by weak sunshine.  It would be a lovely June day, later. 

Download the rest of the story (free) here

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The Boxer and the Hoopoe

More adventures of Carol and Bev

The house is cool, and the light curtains move pleasingly in the breeze.

'Look at that!' says Bev, dreamily, from her comfortable bed.

'What's the matter!' Carol pulls the duvet quickly over her head.

'Blue sky!'

'Eh?' Carol relaxes for a moment and then adds, 'What about the incessant barking of the neighbours' brainless bloody boxer?'

A volley of barks sounds nearby.

'All morning, mark you! "Woof, woof, woof...and...woof".'

The dog confirms the pattern of Carol's complaint.

'I suppose-' Bev begins, still contemplating the view.

'Don't say anything nice! I know what you're going to say. "It's not his fault. He's just lonely. He's seen a cat! He just wants a walk."  I'm going round there to sort it out, and you can come, or not!  What's French for "dog" and "kill"?'

'Shall I make some coffee and get some croissants?  There's a boulangerie on the corner.'

Carol grunts heavily.

Outside, some children start a ball game against the wall of the house.

'What? Jesus! What's that?' Carol sits up in bed. She has mascara on her cheek and her hair is flat against her head on one side. She goes to the window.

'Oi! Clear off! Go away! Get lost!'

They stare up at her and smile.  One of them says: 'Bonjour Madame!'

'Bonjour les enfants!' Bev leans out of the window and Carol goes off to the bathroom in disgust.

Bev hears the front door open as she finishes the coffee and puts the croissants on a plate.

Outside, Carol chases away the children, who squeal in delight. Then she advances on the boxer.  There is a woman of indeterminate age and developing corpulence holding onto a child which has inherited its mother's pug nose and sullen expression.

'Good morning! Are you the owner of this dog?' Carol says, in an unmistakably belligerent tone.

The woman does not understand and scowls at the English girl with the flat hair and blackened face.

'Ah, bonjour Madame!' Bev arrives. 'Nous sommes en vacances juste à côté.'

The woman does not reply.

'Tell her I'm going to poison her dog if-'

'Je m'appelle Bev et mon amie s'appelle Carol.  Enchantée!' Bev puts her hand out.

The woman turns and goes back into the house. A moment later, a man comes out. He smokes a cigarette in an aggressive manner and stands in the doorway to the house, his chin jerking up, once.

The dog barks.

The child wails.

'It's like The Good, The Bad and The Bloody Hideous,' whispers Carol.

Bev is undaunted.  'Bonjour Monsieur!'

The man steps forward and puts a hand on the gate. He takes the collar of the boxer in the other and lifts the latch.

Still he does not speak.

There is a moment when the threat of violence is tangible..

'Je vous souhaite un bon matin!' says Bev, jauntily, taking Carol's arm and leading her away at a brisk pace.

'What did you say to the ugly bastard?'

'I wished him a nice morning!'

'You're such an optimist!'

They stagger back to the house hooting with laughter.

'Let's hope the latch on that gate holds!'  says Bev.

'I'm hungry,' says Carol.

Bev sets a tray of freshly baked delights on the garden table and tries to decide between strawberry and raspberry jam.  Carol fidgets for a while and then settles.

'They've stopped now,' she says, 'listen'.

Carol helps herself to butter and stares at a pair of hoopoe wandering around the lawn. 'Never seen one of those before...'

Bev grins.  'They make a noise like their name.'

And they did.

If you like this, you can read more about Bev and Carol in One Summer in France, Bunny on a Bike and Stranded in the Seychelles.  Links are to the right of this post. Thanks for looking:)