I’m over on the lovely Amanda Saint’s Retreat West blog today talking about the mother-daughter relationship. Pop over and take a look.
I’m over on the lovely Amanda Saint’s Retreat West blog today talking about the mother-daughter relationship. Pop over and take a look.
Scam alert! Please read.
Beware of Amazon scams, too! I just received this today, and it’s a new one. I logged into Amazon from my bookmark and found no such issue:
Dear Amazon Customer,
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Today I’m thrilled to say it’s my turn to host the blog tour of The Museum of You by the very talented Carys Bray. Carys’ first novel, A Song for Issy Bradley, was winner of the Authors’ Club Best First Novel award 2015, and shortlisted for the Costa First Novel award 2015 and the Desmond Elliott prize 2015. A hard act to follow some would say but, judging by recent reviews, The Museum of You looks equally amazing!
Here, Carys talks about her writing process for her new novel and, just to wet your appetite, is followed by an excerpt of The Museum of You.
Writing The Museum of You
As I stated to think about writing a second novel I remember listening to a couple of radio interviews with dads who, due to tragic circumstances, were raising their children alone. These men articulated their devastation with moving eloquence. As I listened to them, I wondered how a self-effacing parent might respond in such a situation. And I began to imagine Darren Quinn: bus driver, allotment tender and single Dad of twelve year old Clover.
My first novel A Song for Issy Bradley was set in my hometown of Southport. I wanted to write another local novel so I climbed aboard a bus to Liverpool, notebook in tow (the poor driver probably thought I was spying on him), and I wrote a long account of the journey. Then I interviewed two friends who are bus drivers.
As I made notes for Darren, I thought about how it would feel to make plans to leave a place, only to end up circling it every day of your working life. I made notes for his daughter Clover, thinking about what it would be like to grow up in the saddest chapter of your Dad’s story, and how it would feel to hear a carefully rehearsed recitation of the story of your birth, all the time suspecting that things had been omitted, smoothed over somehow. And then I started writing.
I opened the novel at Darren’s allotment which is (conveniently) situated at the same plot as my own allotment. I took my notebook with me and wrote about the place. It’s amazing how writing about a place can make you see it differently. I took photographs, not realising how beautiful it is there until I rediscovered this picture of the allotment behind ours, weeks later, as I played with my phone.
Clover Quinn also has a notebook. And she has an idea. Unbeknown to Darren, she intends to spend her summer curating a museum in the second bedroom; the room that is full of her absent mother’s belongings. Her exhibit, Becky Brookfield – the Untold Story, will tell the full story of her mother, her father, and who she is going to be.
The Museum of You – Excerpt
When she got home from the museum Dad was kneeling in the hall. He’d unscrewed the radiator and his thumb was pressed over an unfastened pipe as water gushed around it. The books and clothes and newspapers that used to line the hall had been arranged in small piles on the stairs. Beside him, on the damp carpet, was a metal scraper he’d been using to scuff the paper off the wall.
‘Just in time!’ he said. ‘Fetch a bowl. A small one, so it’ll fit.’
She fetched two and spent the next fifteen minutes running back and forth to the kitchen emptying one bowl as the other filled, Dad calling, ‘Faster! Faster! Keep it up, Speedy Gonzalez!’ His trousers were soaked and his knuckles grazed, but he wasn’t bothered. ‘Occupational hazard,’ he said, as if it wasn’t his day off and plumbing and stripping walls was his actual job.
Once the pipe had emptied he stood up and hopped about for a bit while the feeling came back into his feet. ‘I helped Colin out with something this morning,’ he said. ‘The people whose house we were at had this dado rail thing – it sounds posh, but it’s just a bit of wood, really – right about here.’ He brushed his hand against the wall beside his hip. ‘Underneath it they had stripy wallpaper, but above it they had a different, plain kind. It was dead nice and I thought, we could do that.’
Dad found a scraper for her. The paint came off in flakes, followed by tufts of the thick, textured wallpaper. Underneath, was a layer of soft, brown, backing-paper which Dad sprayed with water from a squirty bottle. When the water had soaked in, they made long scrapes down the wall, top to bottom, leaving the backing paper flopped over the skirting boards like ribbons of skin. It felt like they were undressing the house.
The bare walls weren’t smooth. They were gritty, crumbly in places. As they worked, a dusty smell wafted out of them. It took more than an hour to get from the front door to the wall beside the bottom stair. That’s where Dad uncovered the heart. It was about as big as Clover’s hand, etched on the wall in black, permanent marker, in Dad’s handwriting: Darren + Becky 4ever.
‘I’d forgotten,’ he murmured. And then he pulled his everything face. The face he pulls when Uncle Jim is drunk. The face he pulls when they go shopping in March and the person at the till tries to be helpful by reminding them about Mother’s Day. The face which reminds her that a lot of the time his expression is like a plate of leftovers.
She didn’t say anything, and although she wanted to, she didn’t trace the heart with her fingertips. Instead, she went up to the bathroom and sat on the boxed, pre-lit Christmas tree dad bought in the January sales. When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories. That’s not to say it’s always sad – there are happy things, too. When she was a baby Dad had a tattoo of her name drawn on his arm in curly, blue writing, and underneath he had a green, four-leaf clover. She has such a brilliant name, chosen by her mother because it has the word LOVE in the middle. That’s not the sort of thing you go around telling people, but it is something you can remember if you need a little boost; an instant access, happiness top-up card – it even works when Luke Barton calls her Margey-rine. Clover thought of her name and counted to 300.
When she went downstairs Dad had recovered his empty face and she couldn’t help asking a question, just a small one.
‘Is there any more writing under the paper?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘She didn’t do a heart as well?’
‘Help me with this, will you?’
They pulled the soggy ribbons of paper away from the skirting and put them in a bin bag. The house smelled different afterwards. As if some old sadness had leaked out of the walls.
The Museum of You is available from your local bookshop and online.
A moving and surprisingly funny novel – The Independent
It is my very great pleasure to introduce the wonderful Steven Hayward as guest author on my blog today. Steven is the author of the crime thriller Mickey Take:
In this complex criminal web, Mickey doesn’t know who to protect and who to fear. But with even those closest to him seemingly involved, who can he trust? A hapless pawn in a bigger game that’s playing out between local crime lords, all he knows is whatever happens, he’s not going back into that bloody chamber…
Mickey Take is Steven’s debut novel. His latest book Jammed Up: a Debt Goes Bad is a novella that is both a prequel and an introduction to Mickey Take and if you sign up to Steven’s newsletter (see below) you can actually obtain the ebook version for free! Now, read on for a fascinating insight into the research behind Steven’s writing.
Anatomy of a Rudeboy
A few years ago, not long after leaving the security of a structured job and a regular income in banking, I almost fell into the trap faced by many debut novelists when I started writing Mickey Take: When a debt goes bad… In the opening scenes of the first draft, Michael Field introduces himself as an ex-banker looking for a new direction. Several re-writes later he was to become the impetuous but slightly vulnerable Mickey, who, having kicked out his wife for cheating on him, stormed out of his job the very next day under dubious circumstances only to be lured back into the murky world of revenge and murder he’d barely escaped in his youth. So, thankfully, no other similarities there, then!
Having decided last year to develop the original novel into the Debt Goes Bad series, I wanted my latest book, Jammed Up: a Debt Goes Bad novella to act as both a prequel and an introduction to Mickey Take. Having set it a few years before, but against the same backdrop of feuding gangsters and police corruption, I needed a new central character who, much like Mickey, was likeable with a good heart, but was easily led and, through the circumstances of a misdirected youth, almost fatally flawed.
I only had to look a few miles west of where I live, to Croydon in South London, to discover a sub-culture emerging at the turn of the millennium that was (and likely still is) an underclass of youth, largely ignored by the media and, at best, misunderstood by most. Under-privileged teenagers, often from broken families and frequently of mixed race, perhaps in search of an identity, are drawn together by a common interest in a specific genre of music, and a love of American branded sportswear.
Enter the Croydon Rudeboy, with a cocky swagger, his back-to-front baseball cap doffed in homage to the gangster rap scene of the USA — but without the guns and the bling! Instead, a Rudeboy has to improvise to impress, wearing his flamboyant trainers (“creps”), with only the rungs of the laces visible beneath the oversized tongues thrust forwards like peacocks’ tails by the balled-up socks wedged behind them. And a Rudeboy is never without his hoodie in a brand to match his trainers: it has to be Nike.
He grew up in a deprived South London suburb — the self-styled “Jam” hails from the Thornton Heath (“Fornton Heaf”) area of Croydon. And he attended, sporadically, failing schools — Jam went to Ingram High, which years before had been a respected grammar school, but was later shut down for being one of the worst-performing state schools of the mid-1990s. For a Rudeboy, school was an unwelcome intrusion into the fun and meaning of daily life. It was “long” (boring) and “dry” (irrelevant) and engendered high levels of illiteracy and disaffection. However, don’t underestimate his intelligence. With a high IQ in street smarts, he is nobody’s fool. Likely to be the son of a white mother and an absent black father, he’s an outsider who, rather than rebel as a means of trying to fit in, effectively conspires to create an exclusive sub-culture with the primary purpose of keeping everyone else out.
The music scene is all about UK Garage (“garrij”), centring on MC rappers, like duo DJ Luck and MC Neat; DJ EZ (“easy”), N’n’G, The Artful Dodger and Craig David. On the radio, the Rudeboy listens to Kiss FM where DJs Tuff Enough Brown and Jam Lamont (aka. Tuff Jam) send out “big-ups” to the listeners’ crews: “Dis is goin’ out to ma man Jam in da Fornton Heaf Massif!” Between 1997 and 2001, the South London pirate underground radio station, Upfront FM pumps out UK garage, and when on the move, beneath his hoodie, the Rudeboy always has on his Walkman earphones.
“Grounded in the youth subculture of Lonjam, theirs was an intimidating mongrel of South London and Jamaican parentage; a patois rich with biting satire and linguistic inventiveness that continuously evolved.”
In addition to the music and the clothes, the Rudeboy is perhaps best characterised by his London Jamaican dialect. In the company of elders and non-hostile strangers, he tends to be polite and reticent, and unlikely to use excessive “LonJam”. When Jam first appears in the opening scene in Chapter 1 of Jammed Up, he’s with his new boss, a white man he would respectfully refer to as “cuz”. In contrast, he calls a fellow-Rudeboy “bruv”, or simply “rudeboy”. But even then, the older man is easily confused by some of his words and phrases as Jam describes a father-less upbringing of intimidation and violence, and the need to grow up fast and to quickly learn to defend himself. Later, when he speaks to his friend, a man-child he calls “Jabba”, the dialogue between them is unconstrained.
“Several years of living north of the river had dulled their edge and back home, they would now have been considered outsiders. But whenever the young men came together, they reverted to the Croydon Rudeboy personas of their teenage years.
‘It was mental, bruv,’ Jam said. ‘I’m meant to keep it on da d-low. Dat place is proper bait.’
‘Wh’appen, bruv?’ Although a couple of years older, Jabba spoke with the eager curiosity of a child, symptomatic of the mild cerebral palsy he’d suffered at birth. Their friendship was such that Jam no longer noticed.
‘Oh my days, blood,’ Jam said, ‘It’s a big-arse grimy house, all mash up wiv two room from breeze block.’”
Another characteristic is the casual use of drugs, particularly the smoking of marijuana. “Bunnin'” would be a regular activity. And so would “graffin” – as teenagers, Jam and Jabba would have been the scourge of the south London railway network as they left their tags emblazoned in graffiti across trains in the overnight sidings at Norwood Junction. Elsewhere, nightlife would include The Blue Orchid opposite The Fairfield Halls in central Croydon or, before the Tramlink was built in 2000, teenagers too young to make it past the bouncers there, along with the ones barred entry for wearing their creps, would frequent “the dive” that was Club Vision in Church Street.
One quality a Rudeboy nurtures on the street is the loyalty he retains towards one of his own. Unlike Mickey, when Jam is offered a questionable job by small-time gangster, Herbert Long, he jumps in with both feet. But for him, the challenge becomes almost too great when he can’t help involving his vulnerable friend…
“‘Okay… so I go dere, watch wh’appen, den what?’
‘Just do the job and I’ll be back in touch. And don’t bother saving any of the phone numbers – you won’t be able to ring or text me back. So, are you in or not?’
‘Good lad. One last thing.’
‘If you tell a living soul about this… or if you do anything stupid tomorrow, like being seen or worse still, getting caught… I’m not going to be able to guarantee your safety, understand?’
‘For real,’ Jam said slowly, his heart beginning to race. He’d chat it over with the punch bag first and look out for the text later. He pressed the red button on his Nokia 8210 and dropped it in his bag. Grabbing his Walkman on the way out of the room, he slipped quietly down the stairs and out the front door. He pulled up the hood on his new Nike top, and with N’n’G playing in his ears, jumped back on the tube to Bethnal Green, where he walked the rest of the way to the Boys’ Club on Cheshire Street.
On the phone, later that evening:
‘Jabba… ’s’Jam. Come to ma yard, now yeah.’”
My greatest fear as an author writing Jammed Up, was that the extensive use of dialect in the main character’s speech may alienate some readers. My hope is that there is enough context in which to follow the gist of Jam’s dialogue even when his words may not be familiar. I’m glad to say, since Jammed Up was published on 26th May, readers seem to be taking to him and enjoying his cheeky patois. But for those who may be struggling, here is a Rudeboy’s thesaurus* of common words and phrases:
Vocabulary of a Rudeboy
|bait||committing a misdemeanour, or danger/threat|
|balls it||to hide drugs down boxer shorts|
|bang up/bus’ up||beat up or beaten up|
|bare||lots of/excessive, or really|
|belly up||laugh uncontrollably|
|big up||embellish or applaud|
|skin up/billin’ up||roll/-ing a joint|
|bruck up||break or broken|
|bunnin’/bun||smoking/weed, hash, grass, skunk|
|crusty/dry/dusty/long||boring, irrelevant, of no meaning or appeal|
|cuz||a white friend or older person|
|deep (“dat’s deep, man”)||bad/serious|
|for real||yes exactly/that’s true|
|hood up||feeling uncomfortable on the street|
|keep it on da d-low||keep a secret|
|lau dat/lau it||leave it/let it go/don’t make a fuss|
|oh my days!/gosh!/life!||oh my God!|
|on ma jays||alone/on my own|
|our ends||our area/patch/manor|
|pull a whitey||get sick from too much weed|
|tag/taggin’||graffiti signature/spraying to mark territory|
|touch||a stroke of luck|
|trus’||believe me/trust me|
|uh-uh you know!||the cheek of it!|
|(ma) yard||(my) house/place|
|yoot||unknown/rival young male|
|yer get me||precisely/exactly/I agree|
|you know dat||tell me about it/I hear you|
* With my acknowledgement and thanks to Annabel, Roxanne and Jacqueline Andrews for providing many of the linguistic and cultural references that brought Jam and Jabba to life.
If you’d like to read more, Jammed Up: a Debt Goes Bad novella is available as an e-book from Amazon, Kobo and Nook, with a paperback edition due out later in the year. The Amazon link is here:
Subscribers to the Followers of Fiction newsletter can obtain the ebook for free here:
And you can find out more about Steven Hayward here:
Today I’m very pleased to introduce the wonderful Lisa Hall as guest author on my blog. Lisa is the author of the very successful psychological thriller Between Me and You. Lisa’s next novel Tell Me No Lies is due for release in October this year and currently available to pre-order on Amazon. Lisa loves words, reading and everything there is to love about books. She dreamed of being a writer since she was a little girl – either that or a librarian – and after years of talking about it, was finally brave enough to put pen to paper (and let people actually read it).
They say every marriage has its secrets.
But no one sees what happens behind closed doors.
And sometimes those doors should never be opened…
Sal and Charlie are married. They love each other. But they aren’t happy. Sal cannot leave, no matter what Charlie does – no matter how much it hurts.
Between Me and You
It was supposed to be a fresh start.
A chance to forget the past and embrace the future.
But can you ever really start again?
Or does the past follow you wherever you go…
Tell Me No Lies
THINGS I NEVER REALISED UNTIL AFTER I WAS PUBLISHED
So, you’ve finished your manuscript, edited, polished and honed it to perfection before submitting to your agent/publisher (depending on how you’re going to do this.) Then, hurrah! Somebody wants to publish it! This is excellent news – but this also signifies the beginning of the real hard work. When writing Between You and Me I never gave a thought to what would happen if someone did decide it was good enough to publish – what actually happened (after the celebratory champagne) was months and months of re-writing and editing, slashing out huge chunks of the original manuscript and replacing it with stuff that I’d never even thought of when writing the original draft. Add in to that the constant promotion, tweeting and events that need to be attended, along with the next book that needs to be written and you’ll soon find it is far less exhausting to be unpublished. I may sound like I’m moaning, but I absolutely am NOT – I’m exhausted, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Don’t get me wrong, the majority of people have been extremely happy for me – I don’t think you can get a prouder Dad than mine right now – but there will always be some that are less pleased. There will always be one person who will respond to your, “I got a book deal!” with, “That’s great. So yeah, my life is pretty shit right now…” There will always be someone who will congratulate you on your book hitting the Top 100, Top 10, Top whatever with gritted teeth. But you know what? Don’t let them rain on your parade – you got a BOOK DEAL, and that is pretty bloody amazing.
I love my agent. She is just utterly fantastic, and I really don’t know what I would do without her. She holds my hand when I’m freaking out, battles her way through the minefield that is a publishing contract while I cower in the corner, whimpering, “but I don’t understand!’ and generally fights my corner. In addition to this, she makes me laugh til my belly hurts and makes me read books that I would never normally have thought to pick up. She is a legend.
Equally, I love my editor. It’s always hard to get your manuscript back with bits telling you what works and what doesn’t, but remember, the chances are your editor knows best. And if, in your gut, you don’t agree with their changes you should always be able to tell them so. My editor is fantastic – she tells me when I’m rubbish, but equally tells me when I’ve been brilliant. Chances are you’ll want a long, working relationship with your editor and your agent, so it’s best to have the kind of relationship where the admiration is mutual. (I love you guys!)
So, my first one star review was like a dagger to the heart. How could they say these things about something I’d put my heart and soul into? Then I delved a little deeper into the reviewer’s profile (we all look, anyone who says they don’t is a liar!) – and it turned out that this reviewer had only reviewed books that they hated. All their reviews had one star. I figured that said a lot more about the reviewer, than it did about my work. I stopped reading ANY reviews, and I figure that if someone wants to let me know how much they loved/hated Between You and Me, then they’ll tag me in their review, or contact me directly. No more daggers to the heart, and I still get to feel the love.
Yes, I always loved writing. Yes, I always wanted to be a writer. But life got in the way. I got married, had a family, held down a full-time job, but until I decided to take the plunge I never realised that writing would become as important to me as the air I breathe. Those of you that have always known it – I envy you. I’ve only just discovered that a rough day can be made easier by writing, that ideas and plots that swirl around in my brain stopping me from sleeping will settle, if I just write them down. If you love to write, DO IT. Make the time. I’m still a novice, still on a steep learning curve, but I’ll tell you one thing – I’ll never look back.
You can contact Lisa or read more about her here: