Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The first line

I've had this first line rattling around my head for a few weeks now.

“Do you know what they do to people like me inside?”

It's the next book. Not the one I'm writing now, not the other one that I'm submitting now and also, not the one I'm editing ready for possible self-publication. It's another one. The fourth book. It's also set to be DI Britwell's first full length outing.

I had another start to the book in mind since about Christmas, but this just kind of fits him better. The story's still formulating and taking shape, but as a first line, I like it.

This morning, while driving to work, the whole chapter took shape. Here it is. It's a bit raw and unedited and liable to change a million times, but, here it is.

“Do you know what they do to people like me inside?” he said.

DI Britwell nodded. Yeah he knew alright. He also yawned to show just how much he cared. He was scared, real scared, but not scared enough to sing yet.

“You better start talking then,” said DS Walters, “reckon we’ve got enough to put you down for six months so far.”

The man shook his head. Britwell watched his long hair sweep from side to side with the nod. He was what Britwell had always called a pretty boy. Smooth complexion, dainty nose, small adam’s apple. Of course the blonde wig, make up and summer dress made him prettier than most boys.

“I can help you, Bill,” said Britwell. “I know magistrates. If you help us, I’ll put in a good word. Reckon I could get you off with a suspended.” He looked at Walters. She nodded in agreement.

He shook his head again. “They’d kill me.”

“Wasting police time. Withholding evidence. Charge sheet’s getting bigger. Could get a year, what do you reckon, sir?”

Britwell nodded. “She’s right. You gotta help us, Bill. Who stabbed the young lad? Who was it? You know who it was, it’s obvious. It’s written all over your face.” Britwell looked again at his face. Blue eye shadow rolled into his green eyes. Heavy red lipstick accentuated his mouth. He should have shaved his moustache though. It just ruined the effect.

“I told you. I don’t know who it was. I saw the two of them get out of that car and one of them stabbed the kid. I panicked. Got in my car and drove.”

“And that was when you crashed into that car. They had to take the other driver to hospital, you know. That could be seen as attempted murder. We can prove you weren;t concentrating,” said Walters.

He shook his head. “She just came from nowhere.”

Britwell hoped he'd have cracked by now. He was made of sterner stuff than he’d thought. The man had just lost everything in an hour. Successful small businessman, good house and doting wife, yet he obviously needed more. Much more. Dressing as a woman and frequenting the red light district, looking for trade, was not how most Newspaper shop owners spent their Friday nights. This world took all sorts, thirty years on the force had taught him that.

Why this though? Britwell couldn’t get it. What drove a man to it. Sure, Britwell himself had a few odd tendencies, a few skeletons in his own closet. But that? Tranny or cross dresser or whatever the PC word for it was now? He couldn’t see it.

“Those boys in E wing’ll pass you around like currency,” said Britwell. He noticed Walters’ disgusted look. She was the bad cop, he the good. He’d forgotten again. He regretted letting her be the baddie. It just felt natural to be bad. Helping was so hard. Especially if you didn’t understand who you were helping.

“I’m told a lot of accidents happen in the showers,” said Wighton. Britwell thought she was trying to outdo his badness. She was winning too.

He played his trump card. “Of course, it might be possible to get you protection. New identity. Surgery.” Britwell pointed at the paper-stuffed bra sitting awkwardly on his chest. “You must see a lot hanging round there. We think we know who it was. But, we need help. Given that help, we could make the streets clean so that g...” He’d no idea whether to say guys or girls. “People like you can do what you do. We need a name. You get a new life. Think about it.”

Bill dropped his eyes to the table, staring at the half full ashtray. He was definitely thinking about it. Britwell reckoned he’d played his card bang on time. It was almost too perfect. The start of a new life awaited. He could be whoever, and whatever, he wanted to. All he had to do was turn snitch. Just one name for freedom.

“I want it in writing,” he said.

“Good lad,” said Britwell. He stood and made for the door. “Need to speak to the Chief Constable. Just a formality, you know.”

Jill stood and followed him. “By the way, that eye shadow with red lipstick.” She shook her head.

“Really.” He turned and looked at the mirrored two way glass panel, a frown growing on his forehead.

“Go for a pastel or light colour,” she said leaving the room.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Are we nearly there yet?

The only better thing than flash fiction on a friday is the seaside. I wrote this one for a little comp that Do Some Damage has got running.

Are we nearly there yet?

The world just ain’t the same anymore.

I took the wife and kids down to Margate for the day. We got up early, packed up the car at seven in the morning. The nippers were well excited. Beaming little faces. Seaside for the day. A real treat. Don’t forget the bucket an spade, dad, they said.

The drive took two hours. Road’s were busy. Scorching day too, hottest of the year, the radio said. Kids got restless in the back, Are we nearly there yet, they kept saying.

We finally got there, parked in the multi-storey and spent the day on the beach. Kids built sandcastles, played in the sea, dug great big holes in the sand and ate ice creams. The works. The full works. The wife read a book, while I just sat there, in me deckchair, taking it all in. All those happy, smiling kids. They just love the sea, don’t they?

But the world ain’t the same anymore.

I nipped back to the car to check I’d put enough money in the meter. As I got near, I saw some young scally by the passenger door. He was looking through the window, coat hanger in his hand ready to pop the lock.

I sneaked round another car, he hadn’t seen or heard me. I could feel my muscles tensing. My blood was pumping fast. I knew what was coming next. Me eyes seemed to lose focus. Red mist was descending.

The mist slowly faded.

I opened the boot of my car and picked up the lifeless, bloody lump of scally on the ground and chucked him inside. I covered him up with that old travel blanket and used some of the wife’s wet wipes to clean the blood off my hands. My own knuckles were cut, busted open, his blood had mixed in with mine.

This country’s gone right downhill. Can’t even leave your car in a car park nowadays. No where’s safe, is it? Never used to be like this. I blame the teachers. A good clip round the ear never hurt no one. Nowadays, they get away with everything.

Kids loved that day at the seaside. We went on the roller coaster then had fish and chips. Best day ever, they’d said. They slept all the way home, too. Probably just as well. The smell from the boot was just starting to leak into the car as we got back.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A small rant on self publishing...

As I sit here chuntering away to myself, and typing things destined never to be read, a thought keeps returning, over and over again.

You see, the search for an agent isn't going spectacularly well. It didn't with the last book either. I can kid myself that the spelling mistakes in the query are to blame, or the time I spelt the agent's name wrong, yeah they obviously put me on some agent wide blacklist for that. Realistically though, if they don't want your book, they don't want it.

Do you leave it lying round on the hard drive? Or do you give it a new lease of life? I was put off self publishing about a year ago as, opinion then was, any agent looking at a future book wouldn't view self publishing a previous one kindly. When you're second book gets rejected the same as the first, what do you do? The world's changed a lot in the past year. Publishers are publishing less new authors. Agents are taking on less new authors. E-books are growing. The industry is changing, and fast too. Self publishing has lost a lot of stigmas in the past year

So what happens if you put it up for sale yourself? From what I can gather, selling it at 70p is the optimum way to go. It appears in more searches that way and, for the cost of a 1 song music download, an 80,000 word book is pretty good value for 70p. Assuming, of course, that it's readable.

Some people have had huge success. Jake Barton's Burn Baby Burn has sold thousands of copies. The other day I bought my first kindle book Julie Morrigan's Gone Bad that was 70p well sent. Some great short stories in there, Julie's a fabulous writer.

Each 70p sale apparently gives about 22p to the author, which you're not going to get rich on. But that's not the point, is it? I spent fifteen years on and off writing and rewriting Spies, Lies and Pies. If I sell 13 copies and make enough for a pint, I'll be happy.

For the past two weeks I've been re-editing it. It's weird but in the past year since I finished writing it, my writing style has changed. Some of the parts made me embarrassed, while others I'd forgotten about. If I say so myself, there are a couple of gems in there.

So, my third book is now nearly finished. Assuming that doesn't snag me an agent or publisher, I reckon I'll put them all up on amazon and see what happens. I'll probably change my mind again, but that's today's plan.