Monday, October 29, 2012

About the Book

It was in the summer of 2007 that Rachel Davenport (the real one) handed me her business card and I got the idea for the novel. A mere 5 years later, a book is born (and Rachel is still at the travel agency, though she has received a promotion in the interim).

This post will be short and to the point: the book is good; buy it!

Opis, an imprint of Prospera Publishing, opted for the manuscript and turned it into an eBook. They helped me tremendously with editing and made the final product one I am very pleased with (um, the typos that slipped through, they were my fault). And they made a smashing cover, too.

You can buy the eBook from or or—if you don’t own a Kindle or hate feeding the corporate juggernaut—at Smashwords.

There is a paperback edition available, but this had to be independently produced, which explains the minimalist cover:

You can buy the paperback at or

Here’s the official blurb.

Rachel Davenport—former child prodigy, world-class gymnast and Miss Teen England—has retired from public life and lives anonymously in a small town, working as a clerk for a travel agency.  By night, however, Rachel is a self-styled crime-fighter, seeking to right the wrongs inflicted on people who cannot help themselves.  But when her first mission goes horribly awry she finds herself pursued, not merely by the media, but by the police and an assortment of criminals who want her silenced.  To preserve her anonymity, as well as her life, Rachel must prove to the police that she is one of the good guys and keep one step ahead of the bad guys, all while avoiding nosey neighbours, holding onto her job and juggling two would-be suitors.

Finding Rachel Davenport is a fun read, with a quirky plot and an explosive ending.

That’s it; you know what to do.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Herfing in the Rain

I had occasion, recently, to revisit a valuable life-lesson, but in order to enlighten you about that, I first need to tell you about our windows, my post-prandial cigar ritual and camping with my boys. Bear with me.

The windows in our flat are “single glazed.” I’m not sure of the American translation of this because I haven’t seen a single-glazed window in the US since I was 16, but single-glazed means a window with a single sheet of glass in it. If you were lucky enough to have this type of window, you got to see beautiful frost patterns—on the inside of the glass—on many a winter morning. In the warmer months they simply steamed up and were, therefore, facilitators of mildew. They were the basic window; the kind everyone had since windows had been invented.

Then some clever clogs discovered that, if you put two sheets of glass together, with a small gap between them, the resulting window would be much more energy efficient. It also never got the pretty swirls of frost like the old windows did, but somehow this disadvantage didn’t stop them from making single-pane windows obsolete. We called them “double-pane” windows when they first appeared; shortly after that, we started calling them “windows.”

In Britain, double-paned, or doubled-glazed windows are the norm, as well, but if you live in a block of flats that was built during the Kennedy administration (or the Macmillan Prime Ministership, or whatever the Brits call it) and you have a landlord who is too cheap to upgrade, then you have single-glazed windows. Given that it doesn’t get cold enough over here to form frost patterns on the windows, there is no advantage in having them and we have been looking forward to getting double-glazed windows since we moved in. And now we are.

Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC, FRS
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 1957 - 1963

Step one of this process was to clad our buildings in scaffolding.

Although there is a sign hanging on the scaffold discouraging children from playing on it, I reasoned that I am not a child, nor did I wish to play on it; I simply intended to enjoy a beverage, my cigar and an enhanced view. So I did.

Shhh! Don't tell anyone; I'm not sure I'm supposed to be up there.

And life went on pretty much as it had before except with less parking and a lot more noise. Then one day, it rained. Very hard.

The umbrella rattled like a snare drum while beneath it, in my circular sanctuary, I remained snug and dry as summer sand, and this brought to mind memories of pleasant days spent camping with my sons. We would make camp, then stretch our tarpaulins tight over the site, carefully angling them so any rain would run to the edges and not collect in the center. And then we would dig trenches to divert the water away from the camp. (I wasn’t a Boy Scout for nothing, you know.) On many trips, the tarps served merely as sun shades, but other times it would rain, and then—because of our preparations—we could sit at the picnic table, enjoy a cup of coffee (or a can of Coke for the boys) and watch the deluge, comfortable and confident and, more to the point, dry.

I embraced this memory, and luxuriated in my little oasis of calm, my microcosm of campsites past. It was a moment of unexpected serenity and surprising contentment. Then my neighbor opened a window to say something to me.

Now, under the umbrella, it sounded like I was sitting inside a waterfall. It told him I couldn’t hear him, so he shouted louder, and still all I could hear was the roar of the water. Eventually, so as not to appear bad-mannered as well as insane, I unfurled the umbrella and sat in the rain in order to hear what he had to say, which was that he could not believe I was sitting out there in the rain, something I sort of already knew.

Satisfied, he withdrew and I put the umbrella back over me, but I was no longer serene, or dry. I persevered, but The Moment was gone.

We could, from this incident, learn that it is sometimes best to ignore people, but that would be rude, so I instead drew the lesson that cherished moments are ephemeral and unpredictable and it is, therefore, important to embrace them whenever we are able, for we know not when, or if, they will come again.

Herfin' in the Rain

And once they’re gone you’ll find that you’re just sitting in the rain smoking a damp cigar.

(NOTE: for more on Herfing and Herf-Lore, I refer you to my book, Postcards From Ireland,there's a chapter in there about it.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Back to Normal

My wife is returning this evening after being away for several days. I know I have been joking about running with scissors while she was gone (I didn’t) and willfully leaving interior doors open when I left the flat, despite the danger of the television exploding or the wardrobe spontaneously combusting and the resulting fire running rampant through our block of flats because I didn’t secure the doors; I did do this—after all, what do I care if the place burns to the ground 3 seconds sooner because I didn’t close the doors; I won’t be there—I did not, however, do it often, which reminds me of why I like having a wife around: when left on my own, I tend to vegetate.

I have been on my own for five days, and have left the flat only three times—once to go to the pub, once to buy pizza and just now, because I realized I have not been outside for two days and I was beginning to mould.

Add to this the fact that, since I took my wife to the train station at 9 o’clock on Monday morning, I have not turned on a radio or the telly and have been sitting in complete silence, reading or writing, for the past 102 hours, and you will understand that I am beginning to go just a little bit stir crazy and will be happy to welcome her home, even if the first thing she does is turn on Strictly Come Dancing.

This is how other people probably see me when I am in "writing mode."

I’m not really this antisocial, or boring – not always, anyway – but I took the opportunity to be boring and antisocial this week so I could tie up all the loose ends on my current book and give the next novel a good kick start. And the best way to force myself to do that is to give myself enough time to finish all the obsessive-compulsive tasks I can think up to avoid writing (such as sorting out my sock drawer, making sure all the books in the bookcases are lined up by author and that each book in each author group is in the correct chronological sequence, or counting the number of note pads I have and, just to be sure, counting them again); then, and only then, will I finally sit myself down and—having exhausted all other possibilities—begin to write.

This is how I see myself when I am in "writing Mode."

It seems to have worked: over the past few days I have finished the paperback edition of Finding Rachel Davenport and am now just waiting for the official release date of the eVersion so I can make them both available at the same time. (That would be 30 October for those of you who are interested.) And the plot for my next novel, instead of being just the germ of an idea, is now a huge tangled mass of recalcitrant plot points and loose ends, which should be as easy to sort out as encouraging a basket full of ferrets* to line up in an orderly fashion.

And, as a bonus, the bookcases are now as neat and tidy as my sock drawer.

* The proper term for a collection of ferrets is a “business” of ferrets, a term which—if I saw it in someone else’s blog post—would lead me to assume they had made it up on the spot because they didn’t have the imagination to use “a basket full of ferrets.”

Saturday, October 13, 2012

When the Wooden Planks Rabbit and Pork

It has recently come to my attention that the Americans are imitating British speech. If you happen to be one of them, I have this to say to you:

Stop it. Stop it right now. You sound like a twit. I’ve been living in Britain for 10 years and even I don’t say “Cheers,” and do you know why? Because I sound like a twit when I do. When a Brit says “Cheers,” it sounds natural; when an Americans says it, they say it as if they imagine themselves wearing a tweed outfit and a flat cap. Like it or not, British speech just does not sound right being said by Americans.

How this usurping of the British language began is not important (although I blame Downton Abbey, The X-Factor UK and residual fallout from the Harry Potter franchise) it is only important that you stop. I can only hope this is a verbal fad—like “groovy” (I cannot believe I used to say that with no sense of irony) or “Awesome” or saying “NOT!” after a patently absurd statement—and as such will fade away as did your penchant for counting carbs and your unfortunate flirtation with disco dancing.

Please understand I am only trying to help. I’m sure, despite your sincere desire to sound like David Beckham or Pipa Middleton, you really don’t understand how to use the words Twitten, Boot, Loo, Invigilate, Jolly and Queue properly in a sentence. When you try, you might think you sound sophisticated, but if there are any real Brits in the vicinity, they will secretly be thinking that you’re making a tit out of yourself.

As proof, have a look at the title: do you know what that means? No? Britspeak FAIL! Start speaking American, okay? American speech is brash and brassy and colourful enough that you don’t need to steal someone else’s words. “Going to the Loo?” How pedestrian! I can’t think of anything more depressing than hanging out in an American pub—I mean, bar—and hearing blokes—I mean, guys—saying they are” going to the loo.” What happened to your imagination? “Going to mark my territory,” “going to drain the snake,” “I’m going to the shitter, my back teeth are floating,” – now that’s more like it; crass, bold and in your face; that’s the American way. (Just don’t, in that situation, say, “I’m takin’ the piss” because that is so very wrong on many levels and you just end up looking like an arse.)

And if you don’t care about yourselves, then spare a moment to consider how I feel about it (because, as if you need to be reminded, it is all about me). I turned my life upside down, I found myself in a strange land among strange people with a strange language, and I spent a long time learning its meanings and nuances. It was an accomplishment, something I was proud of, something that marked me out both here and when I returned to the States for a visit. But now, if the rest of you are speaking the same way I am, well, what fun is that. For me, I mean.

If you want the right to use British words then you should do what I did: sell everything you own, move to Britain, marry a British person (you won’t have any problem finding a Brit to marry; they just swoon over an American accent. NOT!) and live here among the British. After a while, you can start using their vocabulary (but not their accent, please dear god, not the accent) and correctly adopt words like Loo, Twitten, Twee, Boot, Trainers and the like.

Only then will you understand how wrong it is for Americans to adopt British speech, and you will join with me in begging them to stop.

But if you remain intent on adopting British ways, you can start by writing your dates correctly, that’s just driving me crazy.

*Title translation: When the Americans Talk

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cover Story

Finally making some progress. Well, not in the “finding time to update the blog” arena, obviously. I had great plans, really I did. While I was on my America Tour I and America Tour II, a whole raft of blog ideas came to me. I even wrote them down. When I got home, of course, I couldn’t read my notes.

Buck heads, buck shot and baseball -- now that's a bar
One of the many untold stories from my first US trip

A book store without a huge display of 50 Shades of Grey
One of the many untold stories from my second US trip

Being away for a fortnight, and then away for another fortnight is grand (if you get the chance to do it, grab it with both hands). The problem is, there is that much more work waiting for you when you return, so the inevitable "back home again" let down isn’t followed by a mere seven day pile of overdue issues, but a 28-day teetering mountain of neglect demanding immediate action followed, a few days later, by a somewhat smaller mountain consisting of all the stuff that piled up while you were dealing with the stuff you didn’t deal with during the 28 days you were busy enjoying yourself.

Accordingly, I need another holiday, and fortunately, I’m going to get one. My wife is going to Bath on a girls night out extended over 5 days (just some sight-seeing and medium to industrial-grade shopping with her mates, at least that’s what she told me; I’m keeping bail money handy, just in case) so I thought I’d take the week off myself in order to spend some quality time with my novel (at least that’s what I told my wife, I’m sure there will be some running with scissors, staying up past my bedtime and sitting too close to the telly involved; she’s keeping bail money handy, just in case).

The big news is, the cover for Finding Rachel Davenport (that’s what we’re calling it, in case I forgot to mention that earlier) has arrived:

Cool, eh?

I like it. It’s not too girlie and chick-lit looking, like the first attempts, or evocative of a Peter James or Jo Nesbo thriller, like the second attempts; this one hit the Goldilocks Spot—it’s just right. I see my publisher has also convinced someone to read it so they could put a nice blurb on the cover and attribute it to a real person. Nice touch.

So now everyone is waiting for me. I have the corrected manuscript and am supposed to be working diligently on it instead of wasting my time earning a living. Good thing I have that vacation coming up; I’ll be able to put that time to good use, at least.

Now where did I put those scissors?