Category Archives: SCRIBBLES

Book Launch OR Crime Scene?

The launch of I NEVER LIE took a little imagination. When I asked my publisher whether they would do a book launch they replied, ‘We don’t usually do that as it’s not a physical book.’ It is the dilemma of a digital publishing deal. How to launch an e-book in the physical world. I definitely wanted my ‘oh hail the author moment’ just like my compadres who have print deals. So I put my thinking cap on and figured I’d create an experience. Something people would remember and take away with them, so I set about recreating the crime scene from the opening chapters on London Fields.

BL4

While glamorous onlookers stood by, a team of forensics got busy conducting their investigation. It was a truly unique launch that brought the book to life. My publisher Canelo and my agent Ivan came and supported the party. It really was so much fun. Canelo had the insight to bring promo codes to hand out to people who were curious enough to stop and ask what was gong on, so they could download the book. Genius.

BL12

I baked a cake and got the cover made by eatyourphoto.com which was amazing and turned up magically within twenty-four hours of ordering it. I had a slight mishap as the icing melted – it was no easy task coordinating chilled booze and cake, living in Hastings, while having the launch in London, on one of the hottest days of the year! My niece who led the forensics team got creative and bloodied it up with red icing, no one knew what had happened! It was a serious cake rescue mission! The drinks were kept cool in trugs filled with plenty of ice.

BL8

My niece and her band members took on the role of forensics bless them in the blistering heat. They worked tirelessly on their investigation but were spotted eating sandwiches while on the job which did confuse some passersby.

BL13

My agent delivered a lovely speech and so did I. It was great to thank everyone who had been there while I wrote this novel.

BL14

It was a wonderful way to spend a summer’s evening. In the park, in the shadow of a crime scene with warm-hearted people. Thank you to everyone who came and made it special. The moral of the story? Just because you have a digital book deal, doesn’t mean you can’t have a launch. You just need to think outside the box a little.

BL16

I love bookshops where launches are traditionally held, but this was a great way to celebrate the launch of I NEVER LIE and I think everyone had a truly unique experience. THANK YOU to all my readers too who are making this possible.

Here’s a few more images from that special night.

BL7

BL9

BL6

Advertisements

The Writer In Me

cat
BD aka Bob Dylan who knows exactly the moment when I want to start writing and is exceptionally good at causing yet another distraction… Yes BD it’s all about you, it’s all about you obvs.

This is my blog. It’s a work in progress. A place for rambles. Ideas. Fiction. Non-fiction. Music. Images. Anecdotes. Discussion. Poetry and anything that inspires the writer in me and hopefully the reader in you.  A friend/reader suggested I write a blog so here goes…

One of my fav quotes about writers is this: ‘A writer lives their life twice. Once through observations and again through reflection.’

This is how I feel most days. Reliving moments in my mind. Trying to work out the fundamentals of those experiences. Dragging the blood and guts out of them until I’ve beaten them up and massaged them into a new form, a figment of my imagination. Most people don’t give that much thought to what happens around them they just crack on with it. We writers contemplate, ruminate and steal everything we can like magpies. We collect and protect. We think we’ve figured it all out only later to realise that we haven’t and we are right back at the beginning again. It’s a endless source of joy and pain. A puzzle we must work out.

People always ask me, ‘So how do you write?’ The answer is simple, you just do. You just write. You just put the words down and that’s how it starts. You need something to work with as Emma Thompson once told a BAFTA screenwriting audience which is true. Basically you need anything you can get your hands on! It’s a fearless beginning. One in which you can’t worry about the outcome. I wish I could apply this philosophy to my daily life and just let go. Life would be so much easier!

One of the questions my agent asked during our first meeting was : ‘Why do you write?’

And my answer was simple, ‘Because I wouldn’t know how not to.’

After that he signed me. Of course, it’s not quite as easy as answering one question, finding an agent who you gel with, but that was how it progressed.

Meeting my agent was a real moment. It is in any writer’s career. I felt I had finally arrived at a destination that had been evading me for over a decade. Following years of rejections – likely upward of 50 – and the submission of two books both of which were not fully baked, I met my agent after swiping right on Tinder. Full disclosure here. He was not on Tinder and I was not single.

In a moment of absolute despair with my partner-at-the-time I downloaded Tinder just to see what my options might look like. I swiped right and so did a handsome barrister from Dublin. Lord knows how we matched he was in another country! But we did and we became friends. I told him the full story of my emotional crisis and being a true gent he became a friend.

After a few months of face timing he mentioned that he had a friend in London who was a literary agent and the rest is history. Of course winning the CWA Debut Dagger in 2014 got me noticed but it wasn’t everything. I had plenty more rejections after that. My agent took the prize seriously and although he didn’t like the book I had just finished he did have the vision to ask me what I was writing next. So I told him and he bought into my future potential and has been a solid source of motivation ever since.

So, what’s the lesson here? Who knows. The connectivity of the age we live in allows for all kinds of shit to happen? Or that throwing enough emotional momentum behind a moment will eventually pay off?

Having lived and worked in Istanbul for almost a decade I decided to return to the UK and retrain by doing an MA in Creative Writing at City University. That’s where the transformation began from journalist to creative writer. My external moderator marking that book which was my thesis went as far as saying, ‘If she could string a proper sentence together she might have half a chance.’ I took it as a challenge. I’d won the Debut Dagger. I couldn’t be that bad.

They say there is a book in everyone, but I’m not sure because sitting on your own in a room with only yourself to contend with for long periods of time is actually quite frightening. It can lead to procrastination of the worst kind, moments of serious self doubt, but it can also lead to amazing breakthroughs of self discovery through overcoming it.

There are a number of reasons I think I write. Firstly, I’m fascinated by people. They excite me, inspire me, bore me, screw me over. They make me feel all kinds of emotions from the best to the worst and it is in the reflection of these experiences through writing that I hope I gain a deeper insight into the human disposition. They say writing is therapeutic. It can be. Perhaps that’s why writers think they know it all. Because they are finely tuned to explore the depths of being human, of the imagination. It’s something that other animals can’t do. To seek out a truth because in that there is a moment of kindness and compassion we can hold on to in a world that can be so cruel.

Perhaps we’re just obsessed with being constantly connected to another world, our imagination. A world we have created and ultimately control. There’s a kind of peace in that. In being able to shape your own narrative. There’s also a sense of achievement in knowing you’ve climbed another mountain of words to survive another day.

We humans are painfully aware of our own end. A friend and social psychologists believes to be happy in life we all need a mortality project of some kind. Perhaps writing is mine, but perhaps it’s just something I don’t know how not to do.

NOTE: I flew to Dublin last year and bought dinner for the man who introduced me to my agent as a way of saying thanks. It was the least I could do after years of rejection. Life can be surprising when you let it. 

 

SCRIBBLES BLOG

INSTALMENT NO.3
02.10.14

Exercise in action.

NOTE: They’ve just hit something in the road, which sent the car off course onto the dirt in the desert. There is a dramatic scene of panic that proceeds this one as the car careens off road. They were traveling on a highway in Somalia. Ahmed is the driver. Jane is the local fixer/aid worker. Carla is out on an assignment to cover the famine where she is also digging into the GM monopoly on food aid. This passage is from a book I’d like to write.

SOMALIA DESERT

Punching in the numbers frantically, Jane’s fingers froze when she saw through the dust what was coming at them. A pack of young men wielding AK47s were running towards the vehicle. They wore balaclavas to protect their identity although the uniform of worn out camouflage jackets hinted at a militia and spelt danger.

‘Did you get through?’ Carla was looking at her bleeding forehead in the mirror of the damaged sun visor when she too caught a glimpse of the men approaching the vehicle. ‘Start the car Ahmed, quick. Start the God damn car.’

Ahmed turned the key. ‘I’m trying, I’m trying.’ But when the car didn’t respond, in defeat, he raised his hands helplessly in a non-threatening pose. ‘I’m sorry Miss Carla, it’s too late and this motor doesn’t want to go anywhere.’

Carla managed to get the paper cover off the sticky plaster and plug up her wound. The training she’d done prior to the trip had instilled in her the need to keep herself healthy, but it hadn’t prepared her for the terror pumping through her veins. At least eight scrawny young men on unsteady legs were now standing by the windscreen, ‘Out of the car. I said out of the fucking car. Now!’ The smallest of the group shouted boisterously.

The gun barrels pounded on the metal skin of the jeep, a fragile shell against such high-velocity weapons. Ahmed’s door was flung open and he was dragged from the vehicle first. The youths were laughing and dancing while firing rounds into the air; bang, bang, bang. The shots cracked overhead. In the commotion, Carla was having trouble opening her door. Her hands were shaking uncontrollably and she couldn’t grab the handle. ‘Get out before I shoot you out.’ The menacing tip of the gun was now tapping against her cracked window and pointing right at her. Tearing her eyes away from the scene and Ahmed, she looked at the door panel. It was locked. ‘Get this door open now, lady.’ Carla didn’t realise it but she was in shock from the bump to her head and her movements were not coordinated. She could hear Jane in the back crying. A second later, a larger guy arrived at her side of the car. He was holding a pistol and looked like the ringleader. ‘Open it, now.’ His gun scraped across the glass. Eventually, the door swung open and she was dragged out.

The small guy with an AK47 pushed her to the ground. He smelt of alcohol and sweat. The aggressive midday heat mixed with dread made her feel quite ill. In the seconds that followed, Carla was dragged by her arms at gunpoint across the scorching sand and deposited next to Ahmed. ‘On your knees.’ Her head hurt. Although she’d worn trousers to cover her skin, her knees were blistering from the surface heat as if resting on burning coals.

There’d been three of them in the car, but only two were kneeling in the dirt. Where was Jane? Were they bandits? A group of rogue child soldiers left over from the war? Then she heard Jane’s voice, but it wasn’t a good development. She was crying and begging them to leave her alone. Carla turned to look for her, but the Russian-made metal tip forced her to turn away. ‘Keep your fucking head down, lady, or you end up like her.’ The ground was arid and unforgiving here. Someone was smoking pot, another was swigging something that smelt like whiskey. ‘Move out of my way.’ One by one, grunting like wild animals, they took their turn to rape Jane. She screamed in agony, begging them to stop. Her cries for help echoed across the open desert but only Carla and Ahmed could hear her. Carla’s stomach was churning. It was the most sickening sound she’d ever heard; young men raping a defenceless woman. Her body began to have convulsions.

‘Don’t hurt her, please. Please, she has a daughter who needs her.’ Carla tried to shout, but nothing came out. Fear had stolen her voice. Ahmed had a gun to his head and could do nothing. He had his own family to worry about. Would she be next? Carla focused hard on the ant scurrying across the sand in front of her to block out Jane’s howls, but it was hopeless.

Within minutes Jane’s wailing became a tortured whimper, but they kept at it, swapping over and over until they’d each had enough. Overwhelmed by the terror of what was happening to Jane and what might happen to her, Carla’s senses slowed down as if she were the one smoking pot. After the men were done, each fired a single shot. The explosion of rounds being forced from a barrel sounded; bang, bang, bang, followed by a high-pitched ping in Carla’s right ear bringing her back to real time. A bullet She heard a thud and saw the sand in front of her jump. She’d counted seven rounds, but the last two shots sounded different. The bangs were followed by a thud that she didn’t see. Silence. Jane’s weeping had stopped. Then Carla lost control of her bladder. The warmth of her own urine trickled down her legs. She’d never felt so humiliated and horrified in her life. If this was it, life had played a vicious trick on all of them.

‘Put it on.’ A black hood was thrown on the ground. ‘Put it on now.’ The rifle jabbed her back as Carla pulled the hood over her head. This was more than a robbery. Her face smothered in the thick fabric, breathing became a struggle. The hood was suffocating. They were baking out there, likely about to be killed or raped and no one was coming. No one was coming. The eternal night of the black hood bore down. The gunmen were crazed, shouting at each other in their mother tongue. Carla’s wound stung under the coarse fabric. The plaster had come loose from the sweat.

‘Stand up.’ The solid metal of the gun shoved against her rib cage, Carla breathed hot air onto her clammy face. She stood up. The blood rushed to her head, she became dizzy before regaining her composure. Her hands were guided to someone’s shoulders by rough hands, one with a missing finger. ‘Hold him and walk. Walk now!’ Recognising the fabric of Ahmed’s clothes immediately, Carla felt a light relief. The material was the type used in sports outfits. It was smooth to touch. She squeezed Ahmed’s shoulders with affection. He replied with a tiny lift. Jane was dead they had each other now.