Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Lockdown & Freebie Quarantine Read


"Incisive and dark" - Northern Life Magazine
"A Literary success" - Style Magazine


Covid-16 Notice at Hare Hill Park
If told "you must stay home" then it is vital the days are not wasted and the best way to achieve this, for me, was to have structure. Each day began early with plenty of fresh air and exercise which set me up for the day ahead.
This notice at my local park was a stark reminder of what was going on in the world.

Barkers Wood, Littleborough
I'm lucky enough to live on the doorstep of beautiful scenery and delve into mini-adventures whenever I want to. There is a small patch of woodland nearby and once there it is very easy to forget what is going on in the outside world. Barkers Wood is an escape but it also takes on a magical aura at Halloween when locals string a large spider and web across trees.
Barkers Wood, tall trees
Once in the middle of Barker Wood you can stand and stare up at the tall trees around you and I'm convinced this feeds the feel perspective in the world.
Peddlars 152 steps & Woody
The walking then begins in earnest and takes you onto Peddlars from where you can walk in any direction to find stunning views and a real workout for the legs as well as cardio. Here is my dog Woody admiring the horses. We had to take a detour around them so that I could begin ascent of the 152 steps up to the top of the hill (the steps are steep and not equidistant so it really works the legs and lungs).
At first glance a tree
Once at the top you can decide which direction to take next. I prefer a meandering stroll across fields and along winding paths. This interesting false tree caught my attention. A clever way to disguise an otherwise ugly mast.
View from the top of Peddlars
Once you get to the top of Peddlars it is astonishing just how you feel out of and yet part of the world around you. The view is astounding and on a clear day it stretches for miles and miles.
Hare Hill Park, Littleborough
For a less challenging walk I took a stroll occasionally to my local park, Hare Hill. The blossom lit up the trees. It is a small park but provides a welcome respite from housing.
I spotted this little beauty on one of my walks. It was easy to miss the tribute to our NHS.
View from my garden
Returning home was equally pleasurable, having a vista like this.
View from my garden
Butterfly appreciating one of my garden ornaments

There's nothing like a good cup of tea once you return home. With the weather being so good I've been able to put my feet up with a cuppa and continue the good vibes before I then have to turn my thoughts to work, video conferencing and deskwork. Woody always finds a sunny spot to take a nap. "Walkies" has taken on a whole new perspective for him too.
Woody after our walks

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Off The Beaten Track

In order to get the creative writing juices flowing one has to have the right atmosphere. Although my ideas for my books can strike like lightning, most of the hard work of creating first drafts then the numerous stages to get from character and story development to a finished manuscript require steadfast discipline and determination. This takes time and focus but it should be an enjoyable experience and one to cherish. I do my fair share of writing in cafes and quiet bars, often in the locations that provided the original spark of an idea.

I also return to my home in Littleborough where I created a beautiful garden to complement the inspiring views I have on every side.

It always looks good throughout all the seasons and, when writing my more morbid chapters, it serves as a good grounding influence.

Sunsets are spectacular. The natural light is eventually replaced by moonlight, stars and the twinkling of society in the distance.

The correct mindset requires the correct location.

Even in the coldest months I find inspiration around me, off the beaten track. As this summer draws into Autumn I am working on a new novel but I'm also balancing the time writing with thoroughly enjoying what I have around me. There comes a point when one has to appreciate what years of hard work has accomplished. I intend to enjoy every minute.

Friday, 21 June 2019

My Rebellion

Many thanks to THIS IS WRITING who recently interviewed me. They have featured my interview and my latest novel Crushing Curiosity today.
I received messages this week from readers in Canada and the US who bought the Kindle formats. I look forward to reading their reviews.



Monday, 17 June 2019

Inspiration for Crushing Curiosity

My writing took a turn for the weird and wonderful after watching a TV fairy-tale and I became fascinated by an actor I don’t normally like. His character was Rumpelstiltskin. I recalled a childhood memory. I was running along a road to get home as fast as I could after watching my first school play. Rumpel had frightened me. I then wondered what could have happened to him to make him such a nasty being and for some unknown reason I also remembered a boy who used to live nearby. We were friends until he moved away. He was odd and sometimes scary. I wondered what he would have been like as a teenager and then an adult. Although the TV programme did eventually try to explain Rumpel’s tragic origins it wasn’t enough for me. What if it was much simpler? What if it took only one moment for a child to connect an intense emotion to an experience? It then sparks an unnatural inclination that grows as the child grows? I now had a main protagonist for a new novel. My serial killer was born - Barri George.

Littleborough Train Station
I remember it well. I took a train journey from my local station to Halifax thinking I would use the day to figure out my new character and I do my best thinking when out and about. I couldn't help but think of another character from Star Keeper, Caprice and the journey she took when escaping her antagonist. I instantly knew she had to be the Belle to my Rumpel but a fairy tale was the last thing on my mind. Two characters would meet then push boundaries. It would be a thin line between the macabre and holding on to sanity. This would be the stuff nightmares are made of.
Crushing Curiosity - everyday insanity
As I gazed out of a train window I was steeped in the beginnings of a new novel and decided I would be Caprice for the day and see things through her eyes.

Halfax Piece Hall Gate
Halifax was the ideal location for my novel but it was renamed. Imposing wrought-iron gates greeted me when I reached the town Piece Hall. I imagined Caprice fleeing up the central street and then being confronted by them. They would block her way of escape but, where would she then go to? I looked up at the sky as rain began to drizzle and then around. It came to me. Caprice would have to undergo a horrible experience only to be rescued by a greater evil.
When I returned home I began writing my opening chapters. It was immense fun but also disturbing. I had to dig deep and then my two characters began to reveal themselves.
Later, I would use a Character Profile which sounds very CSI and in a way it is similar. Profiles contain all the basic character details which I can then build on it so that like CSI profiling I can begin to think like them. I then put characters into the same space and they interact. It is at that point that the magic happens and I become a conductor with a baton but allow the characters to produce the music.
Aberystwyth Playground

During an afternoon exploring Aberystwyth Castle in Wales I saw this playground nearby and had another spark of inspiration. Playgrounds can be great fun but also scary places when you're a child. Where would a serial killer have played as a child? With other children or alone with his unnatural urges? A walk around Littleborough provided my next clue.
An ideal tree for a tree-house
Both a playground and tree-house feature strongly in Crushing Curiosity. I spent many a sunny afternoon climbing trees at my dad's allotment when I was a child. I had longed for a tree-house. Balancing on branches above the rest of the world was like being in a fairy tale of sorts. It was like being cut off from the rest of the world but.....back to Halifax.

When I visited the Piece Hall it hadn't yet been restored to its present glory but nevertheless it was a glorious and atmospheric place. I wandered in and out of the few quaint and unusual shops hidden away in crumbling buildings. In Crushing Curiosity Caprice and her new dangerous friend also visit the Piece Hall. Caprice's ignorance of her companion's true nature was bliss to write. It was also bliss to write from Barri's perspective and finely balance danger with longing.
Piece Hall, Halifax
Inner court at Halifax Piece Hall

“Some people have a disposition for the macabre. Some prefer fantasy to an unfulfilling existence. Some find that a single moment injects itself into their lives repeatedly until all they live for is that moment. Is that me?”
In this extraordinary thriller a man with an unnatural obsession is in pursuit of his perfect victim. A chance encounter with a young woman then challenges his patience, perspective and strict lifestyle. Misunderstandings transform the relationship between two unique characters while they both face danger neither suspect. This disconcerting story will provoke your emotions as the killer’s personality is revealed and his victim’s plight is uncovered.
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Thursday, 25 April 2019

Inspiration for Star Keeper

After I had finished writing Temptation it wasn't long until lightning struck twice and I was inspired to continue, taking some characters forward into a new life. It was obvious to me which characters I wanted to continue writing about but I also wanted to stretch them, give them new challenges and to do this I took a darker turn.

Littleborough Car Wash
Inspiration for Star Keeper's first death
I was travelling through the local car wash in Littleborough, watching the rollers come towards me, when I thought of how weird it was to be sat in one box, inside another larger box and feel so detached from the world so briefly. Anything could happen. I then saw vividly how a mysterious death was the way forward with my next novel.
Hare Hill Park, Littleborough

Hare Hill House, Littleborough 
The following day I took a shortcut through my local park on the way to the shops when I spotted an unusually small grave in the middle of a small patch of grass. I hadn't noticed it before despite the numerous times I had passed this way before. At first I was appalled, thinking it had to be a child's but then I read the inscription and was intrigued.

When I returned home, I looked online for info. Mephisto had been a pet monkey of the owners of Hare Hill House in the late 1800's. One night he escaped and climbed to the rooftops before falling to his death. Somehow, I knew I had to use this in my novel and it wasn't long before another outing provided further inspiration.
Skipton Castle Central Courtyard, South Yorkshire

The following week me and my family went to Skipton in South Yorkshire for the day where we spent a memorable afternoon in the castle there. I remember sitting beneath the tree in the courtyard and looking up at the huge tree overhead. The courtyard is beautiful but also strangely atmospheric. My thoughts were drawn immediately to how I could place my characters in a similar setting and then the scandalous events to bind them together. I couldn't wait to get started.

Chaucer & Cheese - Star Keeper

Of course my courtyard couldn't be in a castle so I knew that one of the characters I wanted to take forward from Temptation was Tommy the chef. My courtyard became part of an old vicarage and Tommy was following his dream of owning his own bistro-cum-bookshop...Chaucer & Cheese.

Star Keeper's Caprice 

I had the bones in place and now I needed the flesh. I also needed a temptress and so Caprice was born. The fiery red-head who thinks only of herself and how to get what she wants. Red devils are not always what they appear to be. Caprice had to have depths to explore and her connection to another new character, Mr. Phestoz (Mephisto for short) had to be a mystery for all my characters, new and old, to get to grips with. Each of their lives would be impacted by these two new characters and their strange game.
The photo opposite was one of my own concoction. I'm behind the mask. My temptress was created by the author, me.

I now had a setting, characters and a basic story direction. I spent quite some time exploring who my new characters are and I placed them in the same rooms to see what they would say to each other and how they would react before I began writing my novel. Using material I had prepared and was happy with I found that the real magic began once I had introduced a supporting cast. Their dialogues and reactions to the events unfolding around them almost wrote themselves. It was an absolute pleasure to be the fly on the wall.

Littleborough Canal - Winter
Littleborough Train Station
Star Keeper ended the only way it could and Littleborough train station had provided a key.

It was a cold winter morning when I took the journey that Caprice makes. After I had returned home and finished writing my final chapter I knew that it would be extremely difficult to let Caprice go. She was beyond complex and I knew she had a story that still hadn't been told. Little did I realise then how it would take me a few years to realise what that story would be. Crushing Curiosity is Caprice's tale but it is also the tale of an even greater evil to be encountered. I then evolved into a thriller writer.


Thursday, 28 March 2019

Inspiration for Temptation

Hall of Mirrors at Southport
The idea for Temptation, my first novel, came about unexpectedly. I was in Southport, a seaside town in Northern England, when I decided to walk into a small Hall of Mirrors. I hadn't been in one since I was a child and for the couple of minutes it took to walk around the tiny hall I was transported back to my childhood memories then, something odd happened. Although my physical image was altered grotesquely I had a distinct feeling that the person inside I was looking at was an alternative self, the self I may have been if my life had turned in a different direction. It was an unsettling yet exhilarating feeling and I wanted to explore it so I made some initial notes about it.

Littleborough, Lancashire
When I returned to my home at Littleborough I passed this sign and remembered the first few months after moving here and how it used to be, an old mill town situated at the western slopes of the UK South Pennines. It had a population of 3,400, most of whom had been born and raised within the sound of church bells. Now? add another 10k to the population and it will grow considerably over the coming few years. New housing estates are sprawled across land that was once lush and green. Roads are jammed with cars. The hills and moors still surround the town centre but for how much longer?

St. Barnabas church, Littleborough - as seen through the cyclists gate

The Littleborough I know became a rich source of inspiration and a walk to my local church, St. Barnabas provided the final push for the ideas that were consuming me. While listening to the vicar struggle with a concept he was trying out on his elderly congregation I was reminded of the priests I grew up with and their often contradictory behaviours. My first character was born, the Reverend Jacob Alecks. I began to assemble my experiences and knowledge of the people I grew up with and project how they would cope today. What if one of them was overwhelmed, too young to cope and about to explode?
The gravel path, St. Barnabas, a scene for Chapter 1 of Temptation
Before the birth of a new character I had to create the death of another and I used experience to help me. This is the gravel path where another of my characters, Cory Farris, a young boy, witnessed his father's death. He would become the thorn in the Reverend Aleck's side. I now had two strong characters I could form a story around and all the time I would have that Hall of Mirrors in mind.
Temptation - saint or sinner?

Far from being a horned beast, my devil is the ordinary man or woman. Will he/she be a saint or a sinner? I took the following photos myself. A few tricks of the eye can bring about a surprising result much like that Hall of Mirrors.

A public breakdown - Temptation
I had to push my Reverend Alecks and all the characters around him to their limits in order for them to experience their own Hall of Mirrors. I won't go into all their individual trials and tribulations here, you will have to read Temptation but my Reverend Alecks had the raw end of the deal. He had to experience a public breakdown in order to face his devil and do battle. My experience of comedy clubs in the eighties came into its own. I knew what it was like when the person on the stage loses it and how the audience reacts. There were greater themes on Reverend Alecks' mind than a knock-knock joke or topical witticism about sex or politics.
A choice to make or be made? - Temptation

He then had a choice to make or, was it made for him? That would become apparent in my next novel Star Keeper, which delved deeper and then entered a word of death, manipulation and sordid scandal.

Temptation is a book from the heart and soul. It is the first step to a much darker world and my characters walk a thin line. My experience in Littleborough provided me with enough material to create a further novel and then....another but by then I had decided to fully enter a world of evil, explore and see what came out. Crushing Curiosity, my third novel did. It isn't light reading although there is dark humour throughout.

What's next - wait and see!