The Thing about Jill

Extract from Work in Progress novel – The Flying Boy

Audio here:

Transcript below:

You. You.You. It’s all about you isn’t it? Yes of course, you think. Who else is it going to be about? There is only you, in your life anyway. Is that sociopathic? Or some kind of pathic? You only know about yourself. You can’t know about anyone else – only what you are allowed to know by whatever this universe is. Ah – there it is, it’s about a u-niverse, so, yes, it is all about you.

But you still have to breathe air, share, and even you admit you don’t know everything. In fact you know hardly anything, possibly nothing. For example you tell people you are writing meta fiction but you don’t even know what meta fiction is until you look it up in the great big dictionary in the sky, just to check that you aren’t talking crap and could be called out by a first year literature student. But you are talking crap aren’t you? You are talking crap because for one thing the great dictionary told you that what you think is meta fiction probably isn’t – for one thing it seems to be spelled metafiction as one word, and the rest of it, well, there’s too many subtleties in the definitions of the word and not many come close to the sort of thing you’re writing. So yeah, you are writing something that is probably not metafiction, but you’re not sure – maybe it’s meta fiction or even meta-fiction.

So what. You’re not writing according to some spurious literary rule. You are writing the truth. You don’t know who Jill is. This is important. Because Jill is . . .  Jill is what? Hmm. You can’t deal with all this now. You have bigger fish to fry, or maybe you would if you fried fish. But you don’t fry fish; you don’t do anything with or to fish except look at them now and again in a friend’s pond or dead on the slabs of a fishmonger in the market.

There was that time, maybe thirty years ago, when you were involved with fish more than you wanted to be, more than you should have been. It was an actual fishing competition organised by your brother. He was a fisherman. Not a professional fisherman. He didn’t sell them or anything, though he no doubt traded the odd fish for some other advantage because that’s the sort of person he was, but he had a boat and loads of tackle, and he organised a sea fishing competition. You helped him by creating and managing a little computer database to record the details of the fish the competitors brought back to the weigh-in.

Stop! Pardon. Pause at least. OK.

When you’re writing like this it’s like applying the first daubs/splodges/lines of paint of an abstract painting on a canvas. You step back to look and at first it’s just random marks, random colours, random shapes and textures. Then you catch a hint of form. It starts to mean something and you start to realise that that meaning was there all along, it possessed your hands, your eyes, your brain. It used you to express itself. This is a divine thing – its form and its meaning will reveal themselves.

Restart.

(Martin Amis is your inspiration. Is he? Yes. Every time you read something about him or by him or see his name on a book cover you find yourself writing seconds later. Is that true? You’re doing it now. Ah! OK.)

Now really restart, resume maybe.

So helping your brother out at the fishing competition means sitting in a damp portakabin behind a makeshift desk, typing bits of information into a computer database. Things like contestant name and number, boat name, time of weigh, species of fish weighed, weight of fish.

Each species of fish has a specimen weight attached to it. So, a sardine say, has a specimen weight of a few grams, while a great white shark has a specimen weight of almost two tonnes or whatever. Not that you weigh any sardines or great white sharks, though there is a shark the size of a spaniel dog and some kind of flatfish with the circumference of a saucer.

At the end of the day there is a winner, the person whose fish is bigger than its species’ specimen weight by the largest factor. The spaniel-sized shark doesn’t win but the saucer sized flatfish might do. You can’t remember. You don’t want to remember.

All that must have been around the same time , late 80s, early 90s, that you read the book London Fields by Martin Amis, coincidentally, you’ve just read an interview with him in the Guardian (online) about the film that has just been released based on that book – London Fields (the film is rubbish apparently). Maybe that’s the reason you’re thinking about your brother’s fishing competition, some feint connection from three decades ago.

So yeah, maybe you have to admit that Martin Amis is your inspiration, your muse perhaps? I wonder what he would think about that? Being a muse for an also-ran novelist. You know what he is. He’s not a muse, he’s the sort of arrogant male artist who employs muses, uses them at least. He’s as much a muse as a jockey is a horse or a fish is bait.

But there you are, there he is, each in your respective universes, and there you will remain. Though Mr Amis does remind you of a dope-smoking friend you had for a while as a dope-smoking teenager. That friend was called Martin as well. He was not a tall person and used to walk around in a thick woollen coat that was too big for him.

Your Martin used to knock around with Jill. Hold on. You’d better stop there to think about it. Jill? Even that far back? Half a century? Is that possible? Are your memories real?

The thing about Jill is . . . .

What is the thing about Jill?

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Whodunnit?

Whodunnit? You just might find out over the next two days.

Tomorrow and Saturday, June 1st & 2nd, Cardiff Central Library is the location for the Crime and Coffee festival, a very special gathering to celebrate Crime Writing.

Meet some award winning crime writers and find out what makes them tick, how they approach their work and where they get their inspiration from.

Full details here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/cdfcrimefest

I am very pleased that I will be appearing at 1pm on Friday as part of a panel discussion with two other local authors Phil Rowlands and Evonne Wareham.

Details of the panel discussion here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/FHFHEJ

Come along and discover the gems that this unique collection of talent has to offer

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Crime and Coffee – Panel Discussion with local Cardiff authors

This should be interesting . . .

As part of the 2 day Crime and Coffee festival hosted by Cardiff Libraries I, along with two other local authors will be discussing our very differing approaches to Crime Writing.

My focus will be on my trilogy of stories featuring Detective Inspector Frank Lee, an ex punk New Age Traveller, who, to the dismay of his family and fellow travellers, became a copper to catch the ‘real bad guys’.

Bums, the first novel in the trilogy is already available. the second book, Beats, is due at the end of this year and the final in the trilogy, Bones, will be published in 2019.

Come along on Friday June 1st at 1pm to find out more about our unlikely police detective.

The other two authors on the panel are Evonne Wareham and Phil Rowlands, both are great writers with their own unique take on Crime Fiction

Here’s a link to more info about the panel discussion and the rest of the festival: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/FHFHEJ

Click here for more about Bums, Beats, Bones and DI Frank

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Crime and Coffee at Cardiff Central Library

Coming up:

Friday June 1st and Saturday June 2nd 2018, Cardiff Central Library has organised this unique and very special event.

I’m very pleased that I was invited to take part and will be appearing as a panellist for the Friday lunchtime event at 1pm.

The Festival itself is spread over two very full days and features many amazing crime writers including two great local authors Evonne Wareham and Phil Rowlands who will be on the panel with me. We will be discussing our motivations and differing approaches to crime writing.

More about Evonne at: http://evonneonwednesday.blogspot.co.uk/

More about Phil at: http://www.philrowlandswriter.com/

More about the festival at: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/cdfcrimefest

 

 

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An ordinary bloke writes about Dog Shit

Before we start let me say that I love dogs – well, maybe love is too strong a term, let’s just say I respect them in the same way I respect all other living things – who all have the same right to make use of the facilities our shared planet offers. Obviously you’re not going to let a person-eating tiger lodge in your kitchen, but as long as an animal doesn’t directly threaten your well-being you should just leave them alone to get on with things in their own way.

On the council estate where I grew up hardly a dog had a lead, let alone a poop scoop or a biodegradable poo-bag. Dogs used to shit anywhere they liked and nobody judged them or their humans. We had a dog ourselves and like its peers it didn’t usually wear a collar, but it did crap on the pavement. We generally side-stepped the decaying stools until they were washed away by rain, or dried into white powder and blown to the gutters by the wind. The powder was something to do with the massive amounts of calcium in tinned dog food then. I suppose the manufacturers, to save on costs, added the calcium-rich bones from the uncountable carcasses of animals whose flesh had been stripped and swallowed by omnivorous hominids.

Of course these days, every local authority is cracking down on dog fouling. Now, according to the BBC, South Ribble Council is taking it a step further by restricting the number of dogs allowed per person.

That’s probably a step too far but despite my respect for dogs as fellow living creatures of this universe I could never ‘have’ one now. What it boils down to is that I cannot bring myself to follow a canine around and pick its poo up. Is this where human evolution has brought us? God I hope not.

Cat people are just as bad. I mean, since when has it been the done thing to allow cats unfettered access to every corner of our dwellings. My granny’s cats lived in the alleys behind her house and sometimes sheltered in the coal-shed; they were fed scraps and if they got ill they crawled into a dark corner until they got better or died. When we first had cats ourselves it was a given that they were not allowed upstairs and were put outside before we went to bed.

Now pussies sleep on people’s faces for goodness sake, and their human companions bring them gourmet snacks on blue velvet cushions trimmed with gold braid; they are so pampered and spoilt they have begun to think we are their servants. And maybe they’re right, because cat-shit can infect rodents with a parasite (Toxoplasma gondii) that makes them in thrall to cats, and helpless victims to their murderous claws. A growing number of people are convinced that the parasite can infect humans in the same way, turning us into mindless slaves desperate to do the bidding of our feline overlords.

But then again, sharing your life with pets, or companion animals to give them a more respectful term, has been shown to have positive effects on your mental health. So maybe it’s a trade-off. You pick your dogs’ shit up and they will reward you with a sloppy tongue and a cuddle now and again, while in turn you can give the same love to your cats and get lost in their beautiful eyes . . . .

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Special offer just 99p/99c books for Kindle

On offer for just £0.99 or $0.99. Click on the book covers for more

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Squashies – Work in Progress

Three small canvases – Acrylic paint

Work in Progress

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Work in Progress – TV Scripts

I’m not sure what type of writing I prefer but if I can probably narrow it down to two – they are writing novels and writing film or TV scripts.

I think it’s because each of those forms allow you to write proper ‘stories’ with plots and characters. For example it’s exciting to throw a random plot twist at the characters and see how they react; then follow them to the end to see how everything gets resolved.

There’s time to get to know the characters a bit, time to chill with these new and interesting people. It’s also a bit like that with painting, especially painting portraits, where you don’t know where that first mark on the canvas is going to lead, who is going to emerge from that mess of form and colour.

I suppose that it’s a bit like that for all art-forms – the creation of something out of nothing but an idea. But then, isn’t it a bit like that for science and engineering too? Isn’t it a bit like that for every facet of human existence, from making a cup of tea to designing a spaceship?

There’s nothing special about writers and artists.

Anyway, my work-in-progress includes adapting two of my books into television scripts.

It’s going great so far, in fact both books seem to lend themselves to the visual style of a television script. The books are Bums and Boys from the Backfields and each story is being developed into a six part TV drama. Both books are set  in the industrial/post-industrial town of Elchurch on the South Wales coast but they are very different books in other respects.

Click for more about the books : BUMS or BOYS FROM THE BACKFIELDS

Here’s a sneak peek

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Cardiff Central Library – Open Space Event

Next Thursday December 15th

T O N I T E

open-space-english-leafletmore details on FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/1307412925977956/

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Reading and discussion at Cardiff Central Library Open Space Event

On December 15th 2016 from 5:45pm until 7:00pm I will be at Cardiff Central Library reading from and discussing two of my novels – Boys from the Backfields and Cheats and Liars. I might also discuss some of my other books and possibly talk a little bit about the publishing process.

Backfields-front 1 cover oct 8-2013Cheats-and-Liars-Front

The two novels

Boys from the Backfields  is a murder mystery set over half a century. The story begins in the 1960’s when Mick a young teenage boy and his little gang witness the murder of Betty Fish while out blackberry picking around the Backfields council estate in South Wales. Mick is haunted by this tragic event for the next 50 years until finally the truth is revealed and the mystery is solved.

Cheats and Liars is set in an affluent inner suburb of Cardiff and follows Brian Llewelyn, ‘The Greatest Living Artist in Wales’ as he comes to realise that his success depends on the sycophants, cheats and liars that share in it. The novel follows Brian as the foundations his life is based on crumble from under him and he has to redefine what is important.

There will also be plenty of time for any questions from the audience.

This is part of the Library’s Open Space Events series and it’s free but space is limited so it might be best to book through Eventbrite where if you search ‘Open Space Cardiff’ you should be able to find them, though, as I write this it may be too early for the December event’s listing.

More about Cheats and Liars

More about Boys from the Backfields

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Books For Sale

Signed copies of my novels now available from my website

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books

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Boys From the Backfields – the first chapter

The first chapter of my novel The Boys from the Backfields

Backfields-front 1 cover oct 8-2013 2013

 The door to my past opened easily, it was a surprise. I’d intended to confront Angel directly, but she was out when I arrived. Considering her profession, she should have changed the locks.

I was hiding in the attic when she came back in.

I’d climbed up there to see if I could find any clues among the bits we left behind when we’d gone to LA in the nineties. The questions raised by the anonymous emails needed answers. I found a heavy wooden box crammed with old photos, and two large manila envelopes, stuffed with my scribbles about the events that had come to define my life.

I was sitting in an old deckchair waiting for Angel to go to bed. The answer had to be there, in those damp, limp bundles, some detail I hadn’t realised was important when I’d written it down.

My cell phone vibrated as another text arrived. It was my PA, Helene, again. No. I couldn’t think about work, or too much about Helene. I had to focus. The past had to be resolved before I could think about the future again.

I wrote the first ‘book’ in the late seventies, when I felt I was able to give some time to myself, after half-a-dozen years of frantic success. Hell, I even considered retiring then, before my thirtieth birthday.

The paper was thin and stained, but the typewritten text was still crisp and bold.

I started to read.

BOOK ONE

1963 – 1973

CHAPTER 1

Have you watched those wildlife programmes on the television and seen the images of big cats dealing with porcupines? That was me and trouble. I sniffed at it in a circumspect way, and then, when it showed any sign of life, I ran like hell. That was me usually, but that day the taunting just got to me.

The smirking face begged to be squashed into the muddy grass of the field. It was a wet summer and I had recently come into that phase of life that marks your earliest memories, the few vivid incidents from early childhood that you remember when you eventually emerge into the heaviness of adulthood.

The boy’s name was David, an innocent sounding name for what was a vile specimen of childhood. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, he slithered and oozed his way around my consciousness, an evil, ugly, smelly, little boy. I knew him as Snobby, a name that invoked gross images of dirty dried-up snot and filthy fingernails. Continue reading

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First Review of Bums

bums-hardback-cover-3-front-209x300

I’m chuffed that my novel Bums has had its first review.

Click here to read it on Wales Arts Review.

Onward 🙂

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Work in Progress: Extract from ‘Beats’

From the early draft of Beats, the second book in the trilogy featuring DI Frank Lee. The first book Bums has already been published. (more details here)

Note: This might not even make the finished book, and it will certainly be edited.

needle-etc

Freda straightened her back and pushed open the door to her mother’s bedroom. She didn’t care if she found her in her knickers or whatever, the old bat had had enough time to respond to the knocking and the calling of her name – Ffion.

Freda couldn’t bring herself to call the woman Mam, or Mum, or whatever term of endearment daughters were supposed to use when addressing the person who had given birth to them. The truth was her mother was a disaster and didn’t deserve any kind of endearment, and if she wasn’t in her room then that would mean she’d have gone out without saying anything, so wouldn’t deserve the apology Freda had hypnotised herself to offer after their argument earlier.

Ffion was in her room, and she was crashed out on the bed. Strewn across the top of the duvet next to her unconscious form were several items that might explain the condition she was in.

Freda panicked and rushed over to her mother’s bed, brushing aside the paraphernalia and the spilled bottle of vodka to reach out and feel for a pulse or signs of breathing.

Ffion groaned and rolled over. She had a silly smug grin on her face and there was dried-up froth around her mouth. She opened her eyes and looked up at her daughter.

“Hiya beautiful,” she mumbled.

“Are you all right?” Freda asked. “Are you?”

“Of course lovely girl, of course I am,” Ffion said, pushing herself up on her elbows.

“What’s all this?” Freda pointed to the rubbish on the bed.

“Ah, that’s nothing – you don’t want to take notice of that. It’s just a bit of relief for your tired old mother.”

“You stupid bitch!” Freda snapped. “You stupid fucking bitch.”

Ffion lurched forwards and grabbed Freda’s arm. “Don’t be nasty love; I told you, it’s nothing.”

Freda pushed her away. Ffion fell back on the quilt but kept her bony grip on her daughter’s arm. Freda knew that if she stayed any longer she would do something stupid herself, like strangle the madwoman who was pretending to have given birth to her. She shook the crazy cow off and ran out of the door, hands clasped to her ears to silence the feeble whining excuses. She’d had enough.

more to come . . .

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Beats – the story

It’s not often that I write about the writing process but this morning I discovered the central story of Beats, the novel I am writing and wanted to record the moment when it clicked together to make sense.

Note: Beats is the second book in the trilogy of stories featuring DI Frank Lee. The first book Bums was published a few weeks ago, and the third book, Bones, will follow Beats next year sometime.

Yes, so, Beats begins with the discovery of a body – click here for the first 5,000 words of an earlier draft. Yesterday, the current draft reached over 11,000 words, almost 15% of the finished novel, and I thought it was time to work out what the actual plot was. Yes I know, I’d written 11,000 words of something and I didn’t know what it was about!!

The thing is, every writer is different and the same approach doesn’t work for everyone so I’m not trying to write a prescription for writing a novel, just explaining what works for me – and that seems to be that I need to write a substantial amount of the story before I know what’s going on.

It usually starts with an image, like this, from the first paragraphs of Beats:

“. . . Tucked beneath the Orb Stage, in the undergrowth of struts and scaffolding, lay another kind of detritus – the as yet undiscovered dead body of a man in his sixties . . . The body was lying face down in a tangle of wires, a pair of vintage denim jeans pulled down around its knees, exposing a bare white hairless backside . . .”

So, who is this man, what’s he doing dead under the Orb Stage?

And it’s begun.

I already knew that the story was set amongst musicians of one kind or another, and that it was the second book in a trilogy where each book has a story of its own plus a story that spans the three books, so, many of the characters and locations were already defined.

And I already knew that I wanted the book to be structured in the same way as Bums, i.e. the story is told from the point of view of 8 separate characters – that’s 7 plus our hero DI Frank Lee. And I’d already decided that the 7 additional POV characters would not be the same characters featured in Bums.

And, you can’t really introduce a Point-Of-View character without telling their story. So now I had the overarching story of the trilogy to develop, the story of the book Beats itself, plus the stories of the 8 POV characters, nestling neatly inside the arcs.

arcs

Bums, Beats and Bones, Story Structure

The challenge was to make it all hang together in a way that made sense, and to make it interesting enough to engage the reader. So I just started writing. 11,000 words later the list of characters in the story, both POV and non-POV had grown enough to fill almost 2 pages of an A4 notebook.

These are the POV characters:

  1. DI Frank Lee – Our hero – late 40’s
  2. Old Steve – a roadie – 65/66
  3. Billy ‘Heartthrob’ Harries – an old rock musician – 65/66
  4. Lucy – An acclaimed actor and Billy’s ex – 64
  5. Freda – Lucy and Billy’s grandaughter – 17 year old folk musician
  6. Tariq – A reasonably successful Indie musician in his late 30’s
  7. Young Steve – Old Steve’s nephew and a folksy-blues musician in his 40’s
  8. Lottie – 24 year old singer, songwriter, poet, artist – broke

Names of some of the other characters who have been mentioned or made an appearance so far: Beth, Anwen, Andy, Tony, Guto, Dick Plum, Ffion, Zac, Mack, Lottie’s mother, Lottie, Lottie’s father, Shaz, Flora, Revti, David Roberts, Samantha Taylor, Bob Harries, Rita Mathias, Ernie, Leo, Terry Taxi, Paula.

So when I was writing I had to introduce all those characters and introduce them in the context of the story, and to fit the structure I’d already committed myself to, but I still didn’t know anything about who the killer was, or why he or she did what they did. Then it clicked – I already knew who the killer was and I already knew the motive.

Now all I’ve got to do is to write another 70,000 odd words to tease out that central story, to develop the overarching story of the trilogy and to figure out satisfactory story arcs of the 8 POV characters.

So yes, now I know who done it and why. I’m not telling you though. You’ll have to wait for the book, which I’m hoping to publish next summer.

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Bums, Beats and Bones

BUMS - Hardback - bookBums is my latest novel. I’ve written bits about it on here. It turns out that it’s the first book in a trilogy of crime fiction stories featuring Detective Inspector Frank Lee. Frank is an ex-punk new age traveller – a hell of a background for a police officer, but that’s just the way he revealed himself to me – it’s not my fault – he is who he is.

As the story unfolded it became obvious that it was too big to fit into just one volume and it became the first of three. the other two novels are called Beats and Bones. Where Bums is set amongst the people who live on the edges of society – sometimes known as bums, Beats involves musicians of all types and ages. Both Bums and Beats are self-contained but also part of a longer arc that is eventually resolved in Bones the final book.

Both Bums and Beats are quite complex stories, albeit presented in a simple and readable format; each is told from the point of view of multiple characters with DI Frank Lee at the centre of the action.

Bums has already been published and I have started writing Beats, so have a fairly good idea of its plot and structure. Bones, on the other hand, hasn’t been started yet, and still exists as an abstract cloud of ideas in my head – it will probably involve a character called Fagend – a contemporary Fagin who runs a gang of young boys selling drugs and engaging in petty crime. It also features Jack, a tall giant of a man who runs a training centre for unemployed young people and is also a magistrate. There’s a lot more in that cloud but it’ll keep.

In the meantime I guess I’m only writing this post because I’ve been trying to get on with writing Beats today and have been unable to focus.

Back to it!

more info about Bums on Opening Chapter’s website

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BUMS – Limited Edition Hardback available now!!

I had an unexpected arrival this morning.

BUMS - Hardback - bookIt was a cardboard box containing the first dozen copies of my new Novel ‘Bums’. This is the first consignment of what is a limited hardback edition of 200 books. It’s the first time I’ve published a hard-cover book and it’s turned out brilliantly.

In the end it all came together much more quickly than expected, so this is just a quick note to say that signed copies of this limited edition are available to buy for just £20.

Click here to go to my publisher’s website and order a signed copy.

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