Monday, 27 April 2015


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!


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.