I was not imagining it

I moan a lot about the weather. Guilty!

I suspect that many of you think I exaggerate it, and that’s understandable.

Fortunately, the BBC have just confirmed exactly what I already knew.

During the last 25 days, it has rained here EVERY day.

Forecast for tomorrow?

You guessed it. ‘Heavy showers’.

I think I might actually go insane.

WHEN WILL IT EVER STOP?

Fictional rule-breaking

Most of you are aware that I write a lot of fiction on this blog. Just lately, I have been posting a daily serial that is currently twenty-three episodes in, and I have written close to four hundred stories and serialisation episodes over the last seven years. A few of my stories have been published elsewhere too, in magazines and on websites.

None of these fictional pieces have ever been subject to the attentions of a professional editor or proof reader, though David Miller very kindly emails me with errors he has spotted, or the incorrect use of the wrong character’s name on occasion.

I started writing stories at junior school, and most were well-received. On three occasions, I won a prize for them, in my English class. But back in the early 1960s, teachers were strict, and their adherence to grammar and English even stricter. That carried on into my secondary school, right up until the time I left to start work. Lots of rules. Rules about sentence construction, when to use a new paragraph, how much punctuation was acceptable, and how to show events through the eyes of characters or observers. I kept to those rules.

When I decided to start writing fiction again, I made a conscious decision to ignore a few of those rules. A lot of them, in fact. I would write the stories as I saw them in my head, more or less as if transcribing a film I was watching. If that didn’t work for some readers, then so be it.

One golden rule is that a dead character cannot tell a story. If they are dead, then how did we know what they did, or what they were thinking? Films deal with this dilemma by using flashbacks, or camera angles that show the viewer a reaction. The eyes of a strangling victim will show terror to the viewer, but in literature, we cannot say ‘She stared at her killer in terror’, because she cannot have told us that. We have to say something like ‘He noticed the look of terror in her eyes’. In one of my serials, a young girl notices the unusually white smile of her murderer. But how could I know what she noticed, as he had killed her?

I resolved to ignore such rules, and write the fiction in a style that I enjoyed.

I also use a lot of commas. My English teacher used to write on my essays in a red pen, ‘Too many commas!’ She would put a small ‘X’ next to every one of them she felt was unnecessary. The same with paragraphs. A red line with the capital letters ‘NP!’ I can still see all her corrections in my mind even now. But I am no longer in her class, so I don’t have to follow her rules anymore. I write sentences, paragraphs, and character conversations as if I am speaking them. So I use commas for natural pauses, like taking breaths. Not ‘proper grammar’, I know.

But I don’t care.

So if you have ever noticed any glaring errors in my construction, writing, or interactions between characters, that’s why.

I intentionally break those rules.

Decision Time For Jenny: Part Twenty-Three

This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 1,000 words.

The afternoon of the same day

Ten minutes before their allotted time ran out, two police officers unlocked the cells in the corridor, and told Leonora and Tarr to follow them to the front desk. They were to be allowed to leave, after checking their possessions, and signing for them. There was a flap on around the area, and most of the officers on response were heading to a shooting incident. Leo and Tarr said very little as their stuff was handed over to them, then scribbled something illegible on the forms they were given to sign. Outside in the front car park of the police station, Leo lit a cigarette as Tarr used his mobile to call Bulldog to come and pick them up. He pulled a face as he hung up. “The boy’s across town, it’s gonna take him at least ten, twelve minutes to get here”. Leonora shrugged.

Along the street, Jenny sat in the big Mercedes. She was illegally parked, and had the engine running in case she got moved on. She watched as Leo and her boyfriend walked to the edge of the street, and looked up and down casually. Jenny had watched the police cars rushing in the other direction, no doubt heading for the car park of Agata’s agent. Her respectable two-month old luxury car had not attracted the attention of any of them, but she had crouched low in the seat as they drove past at speed, just in case. In the middle of all that had happened, she couldn’t get over just how much petrol this car used, as it was now showing just a quarter of a tank remaining. She hoped that leaving it running didn’t cause it to run out of fuel before she did what she had to do.

Jenny didn’t know that much about cars, and had no idea how big and powerful the car she was driving really was. She also had no idea that it weighed two tons. But she did know that it went very fast, very quickly, and that was all she needed to know.

So many officers had turned up, Commander McDonald started to give them all things to do, before their presence corrupted the crime scene.
A supposedly traumatised Mark Goldman tried to play down his lack of heroism as they took his statement, claiming he had to rush back inside the building to get something he had forgotten. He said that he ran out when he heard the shot, and saw a short man dressed in black, wearing denim jeans. “He was walking away, in the direction of the back street. Not running, just walking fast. But what could I have done?”. He went on to add that the man was wearing a wooly hat, and no, he hadn’t seen nor heard a car.
The Commander was shouting at everyone to touch nothing until scene of crime officers arrived to take photos. She had already convinced herself that it was a contract killing, set up by Leonora, who had the perfect alibi. Locked up in a police cell miles away, at the time of the shooting.

But the cashmere overcoat was confusing her.

As Bulldog turned into the road leading to the police station, he slowed the speed of the Range Rover. No point getting stopped before he picked up his boss, Leonora. He had already made sure to leave his gun with Otto, before coming to pick them up. He wouldn’t put it past the police to pull them over as soon as they drove away. There was nowhere to stop outside the police station, so he looked for a spot opposite, choosing a bus bay next to a busy bus stop. Leo and Tarr would just have to cross the street to jump into the car. Tarr spotted the car as Bulldog slowed down, and raised a hand to wave to him. With no traffic coming, they started to walk across the road as he pulled across the bus stop.

The huge engine of Jenny’s hired Mercedes 450 went from zero to sixty miles an hour in just under four seconds. Neither Tarr nor Leonora heard it coming, and Tarr was already reaching for the door handle of the Range Rover as the huge black car swept over his girlfriend, dragging her along the street without hardly losing any speed. The impact had not even set off the airbag, but Jenny struggled with the steering as the car continued down the street, failing to notice that a bus further ahead was indicating to pull out. She collided with the bus sideways on, ramming what was left of Leo into the engine compartment at the back of the number 301.

That time the airbag did inflate. Many airbags in fact, all around her.

People rushed to see what had happened. Passengers got off the bus to look, and the bus driver climbed out of his seat too. The commotion in the street attracted the attention of the police officer on reception duty in the police station opposite, and he rushed out, calling up on his radio for assistance, and an ambulance. Tarr looked round at Bulldog, his face grim. “Just drive, man. Get us out of here”.

The young policeman pulled open the door of the Mercedes and looked to see if the driver was hurt. It was a woman, with cropped hair, and she looked terrible, though had no visible injuries. As the airbags drooped, he caught her gaze, and noticed she seemed to be smiling. There was an alarm signal going off on the mobile phone on the seat next to her. “Help’s on the way, stay where you are. Are you in pain? Does it hurt anywhere?” Her mouth was moving, but he couldn’t hear what she was saying. He leaned into the car, pressing his ear against her mouth. “Is she dead? Did I get her?”

With that, Jenny vomited over his neck, then passed out.

Books, and Amazon

Regular readers will have noticed that I am reviewing a lot more books lately.
Since buying a Kindle Fire tablet for myself last Christmas, I have got back into reading.

As well as reviewing most books that I buy outside of blogging, I have also reviewed those of some fellow bloggers.
At the end of the review, I always add a buying link.
And that is usually an Amazon link, as they are the only suppliers of Kindle versions, which are generally the cheapest option.

But in case anyone was wondering…

*I am not affiliated to Amazon in any way, and receive no commission from any books bought via those links.

*I have paid for every book I have ever reviewed, even turning down the offer of free copies from blogging friends.

*I rarely pay more than £1.99 for a book, usually just 99 p.

*I still buy some paperback and hardback books second-hand, mostly through Amazon Marketplace sellers.

*I wouldn’t like any of you to think that I use those book reviews as a source of income, however small that would be.

*They are all 100% genuine reviews, so you can rest assured that I meant what I said, even if I gave a book the equivalent of five stars.

I just wanted everyone to know. 🙂

Another Blogging Milestone

I noticed this morning that my total of followers had tipped over the 5,000 mark.

The figures from WordPress add up to 5,007.

Blog followers. 4718
Email only followers. 38
Twitter and Linkedin folowers. 251

It doesn’t seem that long ago that to get 100 followers seemed unattainable. When I got to 1,000, I thought that would surely be it.

We all know that follower numbers don’t make a blog. Most of them fail to actively follow anyway, and having 90 followers who comment and engage is as good as having 2,000 who never bother to do that.

But 5,000 looks good on the page, and is worth recording, I think. 🙂

My thanks to all of you, as always. Pete.

Decision Time For Jenny: Part Twenty-Two

This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 1400 words.

Jenny has a busy morning

After a restless night, Jenny decided on a bath instead of a shower. As the water was running, she carelessly chopped off most of her hair with a pair of kitchen scissors. The end result made her smile at how masculine she looked, especially with no make up on. The sight of her hairy legs in the bath also made her grin. She certainly wasn’t going to bother to shave them, or under her arms. All that twisting and stretching would hurt, and when today was over, she wasn’t going to care about what she looked like.

Something ugly and sinister was now protruding from her left breast. It made her feel sick to look at the strange internal flesh that had broken through the skin during the night, but it was no longer bleeding, and her high temperature seemed to have subsided too. In fact, it was the best she had felt in a long while.

After drying off, she covered her breast with two dressings, wincing at the pulling sensation from under her right arm as she fiddled with the tape. The pains across her shoulder blades hadn’t been helped by the hot water, so she took four tablets to deal with that for now. From the wardrobe, she took out an old black hoody, one she hadn’t worn in years. She slipped that on over a baggy T-shirt, then pulled on a pair of denim jeans that felt a little loose around the waist. Using her mobile phone to check the time, she set a countdown on it. By the time the alarm went off, it would all be over.

One way, or another.

Her outfit was finished off with a pair of black leather gloves, and a black woolly hat. On her feet she had some old Adidas tennis shoes that would be comfortable, and make them look a little bigger too. Looking at the reflection in the bedroom mirror, she reckoned she could pass for a man. If nobody looked too closely at her chest of course. Last but not least, she took a long overcoat from its hanger in the wardrobe, and draped it over her arm. Jenny put the flat keys back through her letterbox after closing the door, and walked down to the car park. Tucked into the back of her jeans was the envelope containing the note to Gemma, along with the memory stick. She would stop and post that on the way.

Agata Schulz was already waiting outside the hotel for the taxi, checking her designer wristwatch. The cab would take her to the office of her new publicity agent, and he would drive her to the small television company that was in negotiation to make a documentary about her. Across the hotel car park, the two surveillance officers checked some paperwork. They had Agata’s itinerary, and two of their colleagues would take over at the TV station. After a long night, they could both go home to bed, once she was in the taxi.

There had been no time to practice firing the shotgun before leaving the cottage. Jenny had been worrying about being overheard anyway, and decided to trust to luck, and You Tube. But she had loaded the gun before leaving, rather than chance being seen loading it in a public place. Checking that there was nobody around in the car park, Jenny took the shotgun from the boot, and wrapped it in the long overcoat. Then she picked two more shells out of the box, and put them in a pocket of the hoody. It seemed like belt and braces, as she probably wouldn’t get time to reload. But better to be prepared.

The second surveillance team was parked outside the front of the agent’s office. They had watched Agata go in after the taxi dropped her off, and they knew what car to look for, once the agent drove out of the car park behind the small office building. The driver had already entered the postcode of the television company into the satnav, just in case they were separated in traffic, and he turned as his colleague passed him a paper cup containing the coffee she had just bought for them both. “Thanks. Did you remember two sugars?” She nodded.

The painkillers had worked, and Jenny felt pretty good as she parked the big car carefully in a meter bay at the rear of the office building. No point attracting the attention of any passing traffic warden, but she didn’t bother ringing the number on the signpost, to pay the fee. A parking fine was going to be the least of her worries, by the time today was over. Walking round to the passenger side, she removed the shotgun from where it was propped up against the seat, wrapped in the long cashmere overcoat. It was a shame to lose that cherished coat, but it wasn’t as if she was ever going to need to wear it again.

Gritting her teeth as she hung up the phone, Commander McDonald turned to the Inspector who was waiting expectantly at the end of her desk. “Nope. They won’t wear it. Insufficient evidence, and the case corrupted by the leaking of the names and details. No charges, as no hope of a fair and unbiased trial. The Inspector’s face fell. “Really? Nothing? Not even the gun charges?” She shook her head. “Nothing. They are free to go. Leave them until our time expires, then give them their personal stuff and kick them out. We will have to find another way to make a case against them. I tell you, when I find out who the bastard was that leaked all that information, heads will roll!”

Agata was checking her lipstick in a small mirror, as the agent tapped the face of his wristwatch. She gave him her whitest smile. “Alright, Mark. I’m ready”. They walked down the back stairs to where his now unfashionable convertible was parked behind the building. At the other end of the car park, Jenny was walking through the arch leading to the street behind, holding the shotgun pressed firmly against her hip, her index finger already on one of the triggers. Mark Goldman opened the door for his new client, and as he walked around to the driver’s side, he saw a squat, stocky looking person walking toward the car, carrying what looked like an overcoat. As he opened the door, that person suddenly started to walk faster, and the coat they were carrying dropped away to reveal the barrels of what was unmistakably a shotgun. Without hesitation, he turned and ran back into the door they had just used to exit the building.

Mrs Goldman hadn’t raised a hero.

Agata watched him run past and raised her eyebrows. He must have forgotten something. She hadn’t noticed the person with the gun, not until someone appeared at the passenger window, pointing it directly at her face.

Jenny had hoped to confront the woman, make some speech like “Remember me? It’s Jenny Pettifer, you bitch”. But there was no time for theatricals. She pulled the trigger, feeling the end of the gun smack hard against her hip as the barrels lifted on discharge. And the noise, It was so noisy. Acting on instinct, she dropped the shotgun, and turned to walk quickly back to her parked car. The second barrel would not be needed.

At close range, the blast had smashed the window, and taken off a good third of the top of Agata’s head, spraying skull, hair, and brains all over the inside of the convertible’s roof. But Agata still had that dazzling white smile, even in death. At least the shot had missed her teeth.
Trembling with excitement and adrenaline, Jenny was back in the car with the engine running long before both the cops on surveillance had even got out of their car, sure they had heard a gunshot. She selected ‘drive’, and spun the wheel of the car as she accelerated out of the meter bay.

By the time the cops were standing by Mark’s car, shaking their heads at the sight that greeted them, Jenny was approaching a roundabout over one mile away. Caught in traffic, she pulled off the hat, and checked the timer on her phone.

There was still plenty of time to drive to the police station.

Book Review: Turncoat’s Drum

This title was ‘suggested’ to me by Amazon. It is set in a period I am interested in, and on offer at just 99 p for 377 pages, I thought it was good value too. This is book one in series of six, by the same author. It forms part of the ‘Shadow On The Crown’ set of novels, all set during the turbulent years of The English Civil War, from 1642-1651.

Like many similar books in the genre, it takes a series of real events, then peoples them with characters who actually existed, mixed in with fictional ones who mainly drive the plot. In this case, we see the effects of the Civil War in the Western sector of the conflict through the eyes of the opposing generals of the Royalist army, and the Parliamentary rebels seeking to overthrow the monarchy. Also individual soldiers and cavalrymen on both sides, as well as the officers and noblemen drawn to conflicting causes.

Civilian life is dealt with in detail too. The ravaged countryside, looting, stealing of food and livestock, and destruction of property during bitter sieges and larger battles. Women on both sides hoping for love or marriage in the midst of war, strumpet camp-followers trailing both armies selling their bodies for financial gain, and unscrupulous businessmen seeking to profit from selling goods to both sides at inflated prices.

And the ‘Turncoat’ of the title is reflected too, with some soldiers willing to change sides after losing in a battle, or for the chance of better pay, or more loot.

This book has an old-fashioned style, but that is a good thing. It reflects life in 17th century England well, a time when landowners demanded obedience from their workers, mothers sought good matches for their sons and daughters to retain their wealth and inheritance, and bitter differences in religious practices often lent a ruthless fanaticism to the battles. There is a softer side too. Relatives and old friends discovering each other on the opposite side during a skirmish, families divided by adherence to one cause or the other lamenting the events that brought them to this.

Historical accuracy is first rate, as all the engagements between the two sides actually happened. Then there is the description of camp life, or the hardships of defending a town under siege. The weapons used, the uniforms worn, and the tactics employed by the opposing armies, all are related in authentic detail. And when it comes to the full-on battles, the author has done his homework, with completely believable blow-by-blow accounts of 17th century warfare, from cavalry formations, to the ghastly wounds inflicted by the weapons of the time.

This is my kind of book, and I lapped it up. I have also just bought the second book in the series, which follows on from the last page of this one.

If you like your history bloody, bawdy, and completely true to life, then this is a book for you.

Here is an Amazon link. (It is still just 99 p on Kindle.)