Crossing the line of decent human behaviour.

I am going to deviate from my subject of a writer’s life this week. Those of you that don’t like Jack Reacher, stop reading now. I may just about to offend!

My blog this week is going to be about, “Our Boys in Blue”.

The reason is of course is obvious. Black Lives Matter.

The events unfolding both here and across the USA have revealed something in our society that has made me extremely uncomfortable and I am going to explain why in way very personal and pertinent to me.

So let’s start by saying I am white.  I am a woman of a certain age who lives on her own with no children and I hasten to add no cats. I have for the most part of my boring existence on this planet escaped any interaction with the British Police Force, except whilst working as a football steward as venues such as Wembley.

But life is a funny thing. Just as you are planning a retirement to the South of France your world can change irrevocably. And so the last three or four years I have had more contact with the boys in blue then a woman of my age should be have had. Or really would want to have.

As a result of my own behaviour I have come in contact with the Police on at one stage a regular basis. Some of my friends know some of the story, many of my neighbours know part of the story. No one knows the full story.

I have lived in a village for almost seventeen years. The first fifteen years I slipped under the radar but then for two years I have had more visits from the police then I should even be admitting to.

You are probably thinking I would be one of those individuals up in London attacking the police and destroying other people’s property and throwing bricks at horses. You would be wrong totally.

I am struggling to get my head round the events over the past week. Really struggling. What happened to that man in the USA was totally out of order. Of course it was. And people protesting initially made sense.

But these people are not protesting they are rioting. If it was about racism, well that point has been lost beneath the orgy of looting, violence and anti-social behaviour that has prevailed.

After all of the incidents where the police have arrived at my door I still have the utmost respect for them. And ultimately they have helped me get my life back on track. Although I was not actually knocking of the gates of prison, I was getting pretty damn close.

My behaviour was unacceptable, it was stupid, dangerous and on occasions totally insane. Fortunately I was willing to see that for myself and not to blame events for my predicament on the invasion of the Vikings in 870 for my predicament here in the 21st Century.

We are living through some very strange times. And our lives over the past few months have been taxing in the extreme. Our future remains unsettled.

But has the lockdown obliterated all common decency in certain individuals? Watching scenes of angry riots and unnecessary violence towards our Police Force has left me a little bit ashamed to be English.

Scenes of throwing bricks at horses, left me sickened. OK. life is not going the way we wanted it to, or hoped it would. But what level of intelligence do people operate at to think violence is going to get them what they want?

The Police Force are not our punch bags to use when we are angry disappointed or disillusioned with things. Looting shops and attacking other people is just as bad as the incident that has sparked these riots.

I just don’t feel those marches are actually about Black Lives Matter really. They are about a society that has begun to implode. That has crossed the line between decency and anarchy.

For those of you still reading and waiting for mention of Jack Reacher there is nothing more. I just used him to grab some readers’ attention.  I am as I said a dull, boring, white woman of a certain age, with no cats. I needed something to draw you in.

But I still have respect or our Police Force. Guys stop crossing that thin line. They deserve better then what they are receiving at the moment.

The Dark Side of the Hill

From the journals of Layla Lotawn

(Read out in the trial of June 25th, 2021)

On first meeting, Troy had the appearance of a down on his luck eccentric. Sometimes his dress bordered on tramp. Throughout the summer and the early autumn, he was always in shorts and a T-shirt. Some days it was obvious that the same clothes had been worn too many days in a row. He was painfully skinny, not a part of his body had a layer of fat. Yet he was not physically fragile, there was a sinewy strength to his body that suggested something alive and strong. He had the look of someone who needed a woman to look after him, to care for him. Working out in all weathers as a builder he had a leathery wind harassed face. Sometimes bearded and sometimes clean shaved, as if suddenly remembering his appearance was important, if not to him, to someone else.

However, his speech suggested something entirely different. He was well educated, erudite and sharp witted. A sharpness that could cut you down in a few words. Dangerous, a dangerous kind of wit. It was something that I could not reconcile with his outward demeanour, the eccentric tramp and the cruel narrator. Two sides to his character, clothes that gave the impression of kindness and another, words that gave the impression of a cruel manipulator.

Chapter 1 – Troy Buckley

When Troy first set eyes on Layla at the bus stop that summer morning he was fascinated by her. She was almost ethereal – not of this world. Not really living in the real world that was for sure. She seemed untainted by all the trappings of society. But she was also the most unapproachable woman he had ever encountered.

And it was then, as he looked at her that something cruel and feral roused itself in him. He wanted to bring her down to the dirt, to smash her, to destroy her, to make her just like all the other women he had encountered.

“Faint heart never won fair maiden.”  Never truer a saying was that on that first morning he encountered her. She barely spoke to him just raising her head from the book she was sitting reading. Later he saw that book on her kitchen work surface and remembered the title and the front page – “The Terror”, with a depiction of a cold artic landscape with ice trapping a ship.

At the time, he didn’t give it a second thought. Of course, she would hide her head in books, because she certainly didn’t seem so good at making conversation. What surprised him at that first meeting was how she affected him.

Troy was down on his luck, he was desperately in need of a daft, single, woman, living on her own whom he could smarm his way in to her life and ensure that he was in a warm, comfortable place for winter. Someone he could manipulate, mess with their head and control.

He could see that Layla was not that woman. She had a coldness about her, but also a strength that he thought could and ultimately would defeat him. She was not the easy way out and yet he wanted her. Suddenly it was such a powerful need in him, greater than his need for alcohol. The demon that ruled his life changed to something of a more curvaceous and sensual form.

Another step in the journey to being published – moving on from rejection.

For the last few weeks some of you have been following my journey as a writer since I got myself a literary agent. And its been an exciting journey, one from which I am learning every day. What I realise now is writers need a hefty dollop of self-belief. Something that does not come easy for me.
I began last week with feelings of self-doubt and disappointment, but I am beginning this week with enthusiasm and a small amount of self-belief.
My agent Wendy has pitched my book to I think about 10 publishers over the last few weeks. Some of them are the biggest publishing houses in the world. It was a humbling experience even to think that my work was being read by people in these houses.
When Wendy informed me that I had been rejected by one last week. Of course, I had a dream that several publishers would be fighting over me. On my confident days I believe I am an absolute genius. So, to be rejected was well a disappointment.
Trawling through the number of rejections for some very successful writers is always a great way to remind yourself not to give up. People constantly mention J K Rowling to me. That’s is such a great example. But there are so many more that.

Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchell was rejected over 40 times. That went on to become the second most popular book in America after the bible.
I use that one as example because that actually says more about the determination of the writer then it does about the publishers who rejected her. One rejection is just a tiny drop in the ocean of disappointments. Margaret must have been one hell of a determined woman to keep going.
One publisher wrote about – The Diary of Anne Frank, “The girl doesn’t it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity level”.” What a great example of someone in the wrong job.
A few years ago, I went to a Writers and Artists event to learn about self-publishing. There was a man in his 60’s who had in his hand what looked like a manuscript for his book. But I was stunned when he said, “No these are all my rejections of my book. Over 200 of them”
200 rejections! I tried to imagine at what point I would have said well no obviously I am never going to get this thing published, 40, 50,60? The guy seemed to have prided himself on so many rejection slips.
I am still undecided if it was true self belief or incredible determination. Or maybe both.
This was in the days when I was writing Jewish Days Arab Nights. I am embarrassed to say after less than 10 rejections I self-published it. I thought life was too short (it is) to be waiting on someone to recognise my talent.
This weekend I spoke with my Agent Wendy on the phone and we had an encouraging talk. She still thinks I have something. With that in mind I spent another weekend in lockdown writing and was thrilled to post on Facebook on Sunday that I had finished the first draft. I cannot describe the sense of achievement and the feelings of satisfaction this has given me.
There are various factors which have contributed to this and one of them is the enforced lockdown for me at weekends. Usually I would be working as a football steward at Wembley. I job that I have learned to actually enjoy. In small doses, that is. Not as much as I enjoy writing or reading.
So, my weekends have been filled with time to write. And most of the time I have enjoyed writing this book. The idea for the book came from the fact I was being gossiped about in the village where I live. Each step of my road to success is the proverbial finger to those people.
And another huge contribution is having a literary agent. Her encouragement and belief in me has been inspirational. I had often read articles about whether an agent was necessary for a writer to become published. Well for me the answer is undoubtedly yes.
Not only in her encouragement but also in her help to work through aspects of the book and the fact she has pitched my work to publishers I just would never have considered because they are so big. But there I am being read by the big guys.
She also reminded that my body count was a bit confusing. I think my serial killer lost count somewhere along the line. Too many bodies, not enough bodies. A simple mistake but one that Wendy spotted quickly.
My confidence has come back in spades (often used to dig the holes to hide the bodies on the hill.) I now just think enjoy this moment, enjoy the opportunities, enjoy the creative process, enjoy, enjoy it all.
And finally encourage any fellow writers. If you don’t have self-belief why would anyone else believe in you. You are the one holding the pages, you are the one that is writing the words, and if you don’t believe you can do that then how ill any one be able to read the end result called a book?
Perhaps not go as far as the guy with over 200 rejections. Although I am renowned for being stubborn. I prefer to call it determined.
I am still on the road to success. The next stage is now to start the re-writes, explanations, embellishments improvements. Hopefully by the end of this 2nd draft my agent may have good news for me.
I am however going to use this first rejection as bench mark for any future rejections one thing they did say was, “She didn’t like my style.” I like my style and am sure my fans do as well.

Actually, to be honest I didn’t think I had style so that is a bonus to find out I have style. I got style baby oh yes I got style, so there.
So, it’s business as usual for this writer. Happy writing folks! Oh, and did I tell you I am genius?

Never be afraid of writing, it’s better then talking.

“I used to be afraid about what people might say or think after reading what I had written. I am not afraid anymore, because when I write, I am not trying to prove anything to anyone, I am just expressing myself and my opinions. It’s ok if my opinions are different from those of the reader, each of us can have his own opinions. So, writing is like talking, if you are afraid of writing, you may end up being afraid of talking”
― Bangambiki Habyarimana, Pearls of Eternity

It’s odd isn’t it how we worry about what people are going to think about our writing?Will they find it puerile, boring or perhaps down right offensive? And yet people express their opinions verbally on a regular basis.

We download what we are thinking on Facebook with total impunity, almost hoping our comments will create a stir, a buzz, that we will get 1000’s of like, and many more hits of our blog.

Yet as soon as a writer embarks on writing a novel, suddenly we have these moments of excruciating dread. What will people say? What will they think? Will they buy the book, will it get good reviews? The list is endless.

This happened to me this weekend, with my book Dark side of the Hill. Since being taken on by my Literary Agent. Nothing had stopped me in my resolve to write this book. And the enforced lockdown and self isolation that the corona pandemic had created was working in my favour.

I had spent the Easter Break totally immersed in writing. And at no point did I feel that I was not writing anything worthwhile. I was pleased with most of the work. And I had assumed that this weekend would be the same.

With the country, no the world being in lock down and self-isolation I had no excuses for not putting more words to the page. I had left my previous successful endeavours, halfway through a paragraph knowing exactly where I was heading.

So why suddenly did I flounder? Like a fish left by the tide on the beach. Flapping his tail and gasping for water. I can only say in retrospect I had a crisis of confidence.

I am renowned for speaking my mind. I do try not to, but the words have an annoying habit of coming out of my mouth in an order least expected. Its only when I look at the face of the person or persons I am speaking to that I suddenly realise – Whoops I did it again.
I am sure every writer has these moments. Or perhaps they don’t. Moments of self-doubt when you suddenly think. I am not up to the job. I am not good enough. But like Bangambiki says. Writing is like talking. And we all like to talk.

What ever started my writers block I cannot say, but what I can say is what ended it. A friend had messaged me on Linked- in saying she admired my self-belief in what I was doing. That I was being so positive about the fact I could write a novel, get my novel published and succeed as a writer. She was so looking forward to reading it when it comes out.

And that is what it takes ultimately, self-belief. And self-belief is not the same as arrogance. Arrogance is where you write believing that what you have written is beyond correction or any criticism. Where you don’t even think who will read this. Will they enjoy it? Where you write without even being interested in whether you touched some one’s soul with your words. That you made a difference in the way they viewed the world whilst reading your book.

Self-belief is the knowledge that despite a few trips over your own untied shoelaces you can achieve your end result. A book that people will want to read and that they will enjoy and want to encourage others to read. That your writing has given pleasure for someone to read. Or in my case that it has scared someone enough for them to think twice before switching the light out after reading it.

So, my temporary lapse of confidence has gone until the next time. I have a job to do. There are people out there waiting to read this book.

I am not afraid. I can talk and so there is absolutely no reason why I can’t write. So, with this in mind, I imagine the scene, the next victim for my serial killer. And when if ever will they get caught? Or will this book run into a sequel? Yes, I think it will. I have enough words in my head. Enough opinions, that fortunately I have not expressed verbally that I can put on a blank page and use.

For that is the fun part. I can create characters that will annoy with the words I have written. I have created characters that my readers will love, hate, or hopefully be on their side by the end, no matter what they have been doing.

My opinions (even more annoying for some) will be immortalised in print. Can you talk the talk? Yes, but more importantly I can walk the walk.

So back at the desk, metaphorical quill in hand I continue. With murder on my mind.

Are you scared yet?

A few of my favourite writers as a child were the Bronte sisters and Little Women writer Louisa May Alcott.

However, when they first started out on their writing careers they had something in common, they had to adopt nom de plumes. The main reason being they were women and back in their era they wrote, it was not seen as an acceptable occupation for a woman.

Charlotte said, “we did not like to declare ourselves women, because – without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called ‘feminine’ – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.”

So, the Bronte sisters became the Bell brothers and Louisa became A.M Barnard when writing her gothic horror stories.

Now as a female writer living in an era when a woman can just about be who she wants to be. You maybe surprised to hear I am considering an ambiguous alternative to my real name for my thriller books.

When I was first asked by colleagues and friends would I be using my real name Lena D Walton, I replied without any second thoughts yes of course. Why wouldn’t I?

But now as I delve into the world of publishers two things are becoming apparent. One, book deals are decided by accountants. I have known that all along. Its how much money are you going to bring into the house. They don’t ask are you a literary genius, they ask are you a profitable product?

And second there is still in some areas of the publishing world a group of people who still think a man is going to be more successful as a writer then a woman.

I am sure many readers enjoyed Mary Shelley’s (ne – Wollstonecraft) Frankenstein, one of the greatest horror book written. The way the book came about is as much of a legend as the book itself.

Mary won a bet with Lord Byron – Who could write the most frightening horror story. Mary was staying at Lake Geneva along with Percy Bysshe Shelley soon to be her husband, Lord Byron, Claire Clairemont and Dr Polidori.

Mary came up with Dr Frankenstein and his man-made monster. And our sympathy shifts between the Dr and his poor creature that he created from dead body parts.

The book was published in 1818 anonymously, yet immediately the speculation was that it had been written by a man and that man was Percy, who by then Mary had married.
Mary denied this and suggested it was too juvenile a work for her husband to demean himself writing. Yet, the speculation continued and continues to this day.

Why is it that there is always, even now in the 21st century a belief that a woman could not write a good horror novel? We can be scary, ask any man?

For anyone who watched The Haunting of Hill House, the original book was written by a woman – Shirley Jackson back in 1959. Every part of that book instils fear. The mere description of the house and those simple words, (…….what ever walked there, walked alone.)

And think about this one Daphne Du Maurier – The Birds, Hitchcock turned that into a classic film. “Nat gazed at the little corpses, shocked and horrified. they were all small birds, none of any size, there must have been fifty of them lying upon the floor.

Who would have imagined a small bird like a robin could create such menace?

More women read thrillers then men. So more female thriller writers?

I have been reading a raft of thriller writers just lately, both male and female. One thing I am deducing – if dark, manipulative and psychologically frightening is what you want. Women still have the edge. Men tend to go for the more physically and visually gruesome and for a higher body count of deaths and mutilations.

But women can still leave both their victims and their readers mentally scarred and a little bit uncomfortable about going to bed on their own at night.

As a reader, writer and film critic I don’t really do copious amounts of blood. Not because I am frightened at the site of blood, I am not, but because for me it is far more interesting to know what goes on a person’s head. Just how damaged can some one be? How long can they function in society completely damaged? How long they can walk among the masses un noticed and how long they can go on killing people?

It’s interesting because now publishers seem keen to have male thriller authors, writing from a woman’s perspective. Can they be as physiologically unnerving as us women, or are females still deadlier then the male?

It depends on the book you are reading and who your favourite writer is. I love Scandinavian writers and it seems fortunately they have plenty of dark writers both male and female.

Can a man get inside the head of a woman? I have just finished reading the Watcher by Ross Armstrong. And yes, the writer does effectively get inside a woman’s head.

But for me if I was asked to write with a male nom de plume, would I?

Hmm it would actually be ideal for me. I could slip back in to the allusive secretive woman writer I really want to be. I already have the name I would use as well. It’s a secret for now though.

At the end of the day authors of fiction must have an imagination that transcends social boundaries, misconceptions and stereotypes. I can imagine fear. I can imagine manipulation. I can imagine killing someone. (Yes, I know. Perhaps not something to brag about really.)

I can put these fantasies down on paper just as well as any man. We are equal in our imagining!

But think of the one most innocuous lines in horror writing? Stephen King – Misery, “I am your number one fan.” Once you have read the book it becomes something that if it was said to you as a writer would instantly send chills through your bones.

Or perhaps the lines from Frankenstein when the monster first moves, “Look its moving, look its alive.”

Who cares if they were written by a man or a woman. They are lines that get inside your head and stay there. No blood, no axe wielding maniac. So simple so innocuous but also so scary.

More Chinese pyjamas please !

I don’t think like most of society. That is what has become apparent from the response to this pandemic. I do know that a few people think the same as me. Ironically I know of one fellow writer who has reflected my opinions. Are writers all on a different wave length to everybody else. Please let me know.

As you may know I want to be a social recluse, but I am not allowed to if I want to be published!

Now that I am trying to build up a stronger social profile buy social networking I am spending more time on these sites. And what an experience it has become!

I am appalled at many things I am seeing posted. So much so I realised this morning that anxiety is contagious like the virus itself.

I was fairly OK about this pandemic. Despite its spread across the globe and the way it was felling the masses.  Felt I would cope, somehow muddle though. Accepting of it all in some strange way.  But then I had a complete melt down this morning over something that could and was resolved easily by fellow work colleagues.

I had in a few days become anxious, depressed emotional and angry. And it was social media that had caused it all.

The first thing that upsets me is this constant emphasis on the number that are dying. Yes of course this is distressing but why is no one concentrating on the number that are recovering? An estimated 114,000 so far. Why are we embracing the death rate, like a child’s comfort blanket? We need to grasp at the thought people can survive surely.

I have noticed also now we are getting the vigilantes that want to name and shame people who are not behaving as they should. Is this fake news posted to again rile any passive member of society in to toxic activity? I am now finding I am blocking so many posts, I may soon have to post pictures of my days travelling the world before social media to convince myself there was a time before naming and shaming was so prevalent. I am not one for photos of myself so this would be the last resort.

Emotional blackmail is another insidious aspect of the whole stay indoors thing. What gives anyone the right to make someone feel they are individually responsible for the fact that another person cannot sit by the side of their loved ones whilst they are dying? Its obscene. Society as whole is at fault not individuals.

Some people may be carriers of this virus and not even know it. Is scientific ignorance justification to cause guilt to some one when you don’t even know how your loved one caught the virus or from whom?

And another thing that upsets me is this panic buying. Greed and selfishness at a scale beyond what I thought a country like England could stoop to. We are not a third world country with starving masses. We are one of the strongest nations in the developed world. Already the rubbish collectors are reporting that there is an increase in the disposal of perishable foods thrown out before even being opened. This didn’t surprise me, not at all, I saw that coming. Only gluttonous people could want more then they need and throw food away with such disregard.

One of my friends reported to me how she had gone to Greggs for a few bread rolls and by the time she got home the rolls had been stolen. I hope that whoever stole them really was desperate for them, but I somehow doubt it. Like wise the person who stole toilet rolls from a woman at a checkout who had just paid for them.

The toilet roll fiasco was it for me. A virus that causes respiratory problems spreads around the world and what does this nation do? Fight over toilet rolls.

You see where I am going with all this. When I read all these things I find myself getting dragged down into the black abyss that I had dragged myself out of last year. Mental Health is one of the topics that has been until this pandemic the new “me too” subject.

How we were going to help each other, support people with mental health issues. Yet already that has slipped off the radar for a large group of society. Every man for himself. Kick that vulnerable person off the raft they will hold me up!

Self-isolation for many is going to result in depression, thoughts of suicide and self-harm. I fear the number of suicides could if we don’t do something  soon escalate to almost the same level as the number of deaths by the corona virus.

I then, because I am not naturally a negative person try the positive approach, relaying the number of reported recoveries from the virus. Hoping that others will pick up from this. But more people still seem interested in death rates.

Or reposting humorous post to cheer the lost and the lonely up. Again I fear no one is listening.

For me  I just feel, nature has had enough of the selfish human race and is now fighting back. In the same way people feel it’s acceptable to shoot elephants for trophies or kill orangutan’s because they live in cultivated field normally where the trees for palm oil is grown, mother nature is showing you what a virus can really do to people.

She is starting to show you who really is the most dangerous the most powerful and ultimately still the most destructive. Thumbs up to Mother Nature.
We are all running into our homes locking the doors and self-isolating. Part of me is thinking yes let’s hope that works. Part of me is thinking watch the suicide rate go up now. Divorces and murders the later for me is prime writing material.

But another bigger part of me is thinking we have only got ourselves to blame. The signs have been there for decades. But we ignored them. How long did we think we could treat the planet like we have?

Fortunately, my agent has got a support group going for us miserable emotional sods that are sliding into melodramatic misery. There is hope for all of us.

And today there have been some funny sides to it for me. Again, it was a fellow writer. He posted on Facebook that he had received in the post today his order of silk pyjamas from China.

Now if you met this man you would know how funny this is. The image in my head immediately lifted my spirits. He has been asked to wear them take a photo and post the pictures on Facebook just to raise a smile for us all. The gold ones’ sound especially delightful.

So please more Chinese Pyjamas. Corona virus free.

Authors – do they have the gift of prophesy?

The sword is outside, and the plague and the famine are within. He who is in the field will die by the sword; famine and the plague will also consume those in the city.”  Ezekiel 7.15

It has been a great year for Dean Koontz. His book, The Eyes of Darkness has bounced back up the bestseller list almost 40 years after it was first published.
Fan are saying that the book predicted the corona virus. The book does have seemed to eerily describe what we are now experiencing globally. “In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe…….”.
But is this the gift of foresight? Is prediction the right word? Or is it that writers do have an annoying habit of putting thoughts down on paper?
About two weeks before the outbreak of the Corona virus, I mentioned to a friend of mine that what the world needed was another outbreak of the Spanish flu. The world was far too over populated and nature needed to fight back.
By now most readers have been heard of this outbreak in 1918. It infected 500 million people globally and killed between an estimated 17 to 50 million people.
I really don’t know whether this means I am confirmation that writers have the gift of foresight or that just am a little bit more open to less popular ideas to where mankind is heading.
To be fair neither Dean Koontz or myself are the first to write in words the prophecy of plague and famine on society. The bible did that way before us.
And there is along list of writers after Ezekiel, Matthew, Revelations and others in the bible. (Depending on your philosophy writers interpreting the word of God.)
Albert Camus French Algerian writer and philosopher wrote The Plague. set in 1947 a book that relates the tale of a plague as the title clearly says in a French Algerian City of Oran. “Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
It does seem inevitable that even when this virus has run its natural course. That it will not be the last outbreak of a virus. It can’t be. History show these things to tend to mutate and reappear when least expected.
In my life time there have been many such strange virus Ebola, SARS, Avian flu to name just three. And the thing that seems glaringly obvious is that its nature fighting back every time.
It is total madness to think that a world population of 7.8 billion could happily sustain itself without an outbreak of some form of virus or disease. We can’t continue like this thinking man can prolong life and continue breeding without ultimately destroying itself.

A writer who also tries to address this issue is Inferno by Dan Brown. To cut a long story short it involves bio terrorism in the form of DNA modification to cause infertility in one out of three humans. The virus has no cure, and even with future technology, changing the human genome back would be hazardous.
Again, I must confess I thought this would not be such a bad thing to happen.

And in Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone (1994) a non-fiction book which was made into a series in 2019 with the collaboration of National geographic, the writer investigates fatal or near fatal incidents with deadly viruses such as AIDS and Ebola.
This was a series I watched avidly, again because I wasn’t surprised at how easily it could jump from animals to humans.  And I am not a scientist.
I am Legend, written in 1954 by Richard Matheson is a post-apocalyptic book that deals with the idea of a virus which is a mutation of what was developed to cure cancer. It goes on to virtually wipe mankind out.

So, although Dean Koontz fans seem to think he prophesised the Corona virus in his work. He has never been alone in putting the idea of mutating virus’s in to a book. I think the most pertinent part of his words are the lines. “Almost more baffling then the illness itself will be the fact that it will vanish as quickly as it arrived.”

It remains to be seen if this become true.

From my brief foray in to the world of plague stories I can only conclude that no, writers do not have the gift of prophecy merely the ability to write and to write about things that scare, enthral and reflect the world around us.

Some are so clever that they can apparently write about a disaster before it happens. But ultimately, we are dreamers and visionaries. And as Shakespeare so eloquently says in Hamlet – “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Silver linings for a writer and the joy of self isolation.

So, it was an exciting week for me last week. My first lunch with Wendy my Agent. And my fellow thriller writer Justine.
I guess the first thing that I noticed course was how quiet London was. Its usual hustle and bustle had been reduced to a trickle of activity. It was subdued but still many places had business as usual.
Our lunch was a fabulous brainstorming session which opened new doors to how I am going to have to get myself a decent social profile. I am way behind other writers. Justine seems to have a complete understanding of the whole social media and how influential it will be when published.
This is of course one of the benefits of having an Agent. She is advising me on all of this. I know when I published my first book Jewish Days Arab Nights, I had no idea what I was doing. And this was apparent immediately in my sales, and in my reviews.
It wasn’t that I thought I had to sit back and just let my book sell itself. I t was more I had no idea about the power of social media. And never more has the current corona crises shown me just how results are influenced by the media.
My opinion of the crises is that the media pointed the arrow to the word panic and low and behold panic we all have.
So, can I point the arrow to the words “literary success” and that will be the result? I am really hoping so.
Many ideas were bounced around at the lunch. Giving talks to various organisations. Approaching libraries. I even in a moment of madness suggested I visit a prison discuss with a killer what drove them to their actions.
I said this half in jest but the look on Wendy’s face suggested this was a fabulous idea. I am dropping HMPS a line later today, to ask do they have any serial killers who would be happy to sit (obviously behind the safety of a barrier) and explain the whole thought process that went on when they went on their killing spree.
I am sure this would add an even deeper and darker layer to my writing that could set me apart from many other thriller writers.
Justine came up with the idea of “book blogging tours”. And I have to say that seems to have been a method that has been used effectively in the past and present for many authors. I will definitely be giving this a go.
For a writer the corona virus really is a gift. The prospect of a month in self isolation would mean the first draft and possibly the second draft of my book could be completed. I would probably have started the idea for the second book.
But would self-isolation release the desired imagination? Well yes for it would. As previously mentioned I live in a remote area it would not be such a great leap to imagine dead bodies and the disposal of them.
I could probably in a complete fit of cabin fever conduct an experiment of my own. With very little chance of anyone noticing just what I was up to.
But so far this situation for me is not a viable option or to be perfectly honest necessary. Although suddenly many of my team members are complaining because we are still working from the office. I guess for them the prospect of a month at home would in truth not involve much work.
Various rather unimaginative reasons are being bandied about as to why they should be working from home.
I am now considering seriously just asking the CEO of my place of work, “Can I take the month off to write my very very scary thriller. Which will be published.” For that was something we established Friday. Both mine and Justine’s books are going to be published. Of that there is no doubt.
For now, however we have come up with a few ideas to catapult our ambitions to the words. “Literary success.”.
Ultimately, we are experiencing now a prolific and vicious serial killer in the form of the corona virus. I am not sure any human could be as successful or as relentless. Although in history various other viruses have reduced the human population with apparent ease. But this killer seems to have an equally relentless ally in the form of social media.
Franz Kafka said, ” Writing is utter solitude, the decent into the cold abyss of oneself.”
Both Kafka and Wendy are right, isolation first and social media second. Although to be fair isolation would be my choice every time.
For me to get to my desired destination with this book I need to use all the weapons at my disposal.
All I need is a dry cough and a well-stocked food cupboard with an equally healthy stocked wine rack and of course the ubiquitous stash of toilet rolls. Although I may have left that last one a bit late to acquire.

Writers Block – Does it really exist or is it just the fragility of our ego’s?

 

After a good start to my writing since being taken on by Wendy. Spurred on by that almost unattainable goal of a, “Four figure publishing deal.” I had no problem with ideas for the book. Even the usual what should my characters being doing now wasn’t a problem. Dialogue and sub plots were running at a good pace. Dark thoughts were in my mind 24 hours a day. Just wanted I need for writing a thriller.

 

And then suddenly I found myself this weekend with writers’ block. I was siting trying to move the plot forward to a major denouement. But I found my mind wandering to world events and how Great Britain seemed to have lost the plot about the Corona virus.

 

I have covered many subjects in my novel and I have no intention of including an outbreak of stockpiling toilet rolls as a method of moving the plot along. What did distract me briefly was the announcement that the London Book Fair for this week has been cancelled. The reason of course being the corona virus. I feel like Corona is the new Brexit. Blame everything on Corona.

 

My heart dropped when I heard the Book Fair was being cancelled. The organisers of one of the UK’s the largest book fairs Reed Exhibitions made the decision to cancel as a result of the travel restrictions from the fallout of the Corona Virus.

 

My disappointment was born out of a purely selfish reason. Feel free to berate me for this. I know many people across the world have died because of this strange new virus. But my Agent was going to the book fair and was going to pitch my book at a few publishers. I had got myself excited at the prospect of a possible publishing deal – however small. I suddenly visualised my hope of literary fame going down the proverbial with the diminishing piles of toilet rolls and hand wash in supermarkets.

 

Fortunately, Wendy is professional and was immediately on the case. Its business as usual for her. Shame the rest of the population isn’t taking the same attitude. Yet I am now wondering how self-isolation would work for me.

 

If I took 28 days behind my closed doors. No internet, no tv, no phone connection. No social media networking. I would have the first draft of this book in the bag.  I would also probably be suffering with cabin fever by the end of the month. And perhaps my first day back in society would have resulted in random acts of violence.

 

Why do we writers even have the temerity to claim, “Writers Block”. I know exactly what I want to write I know how to drive the plot forward. I have three endings for this book so why did I waste a weekend, pontificating on things out of my control instead of just sitting at my table in the kitchen and writing?

 

Blame it on the weather? Blame it on the virus? Blame it on the moonlight? (It was a full moon this weekend and it was shining brightly through my window.) Blame it on the boogie?

 

Blame it on a big dose of laziness more like.

 

Hilary Mantel said in a recent interview in the Guardian, “I’ve got quite amused at people saying I have writer’s block. I’ve been like a factory.”

 

This is why Hilary is such a prolific writer and such a literary giant. She works at it all the time.

 

Well maybe the rest of us have arrived at the factory that has been closed due to the corona virus. Or maybe we should be adopting the business as usual philosophy that Wendy has taken.

 

Maya Angelou, said, “Nothing will work unless you do.” She is of course right. 

 

With every job we do, the output is only as effective and prolific as the input. And writing is a job. For some it is their main job. For me I aspire for it to be my main job. I just need to work harder at it.

 

This week is going to be a good week. Well for a writer anyway. Back to working at it. Back to a huge dollop of enthusiasm. Back to hope of the publishing deal.  

 

I can’t really comment on the toilet roll situation that is developing in to a national crisis.

 

Although on a more positive note the word “Corona” can mean “the cup-shaped or trumpet-shaped outgrowth at the centre of a daffodil or narcissus flower” – a flower of spring. You know a time of hope, of the prospect of beautiful sunny days ahead.

But for me just, “Keep Calm and Carry on Writing.”  

Research, Research, Research

Continuing with my current theme into writing with a Literary Agent. I have been thinking this weekend about research.
It goes without saying the importance of research if you are writing about a subject that is not familiar to you or if its something you don’t really know much about.Or if you just need to add an extra layer to your novel.
My books on Israel involved frequent visits to Israel. (It’s a hard job but someone had to do it.)
It wasn’t all about lying on a beach in Eilat. In fact, none of the research involved lying on a beach anywhere. There was some necessary drinking of Mount Carmel wine made by the tipsy nuns of the local convent. All in the name of authenticity for the books.
There were trips to the Negev desert. There were numerous bus journeys. Train journeys just to see how the country changed from year to year. Hours of sitting in bars and café’s just chatting or people watching. And visits to stranger’s houses based on whimsical fancy.
Jerusalem became an obsession of mine. And although I did not suffer from the  “Messiah Syndrome”, I did find myself fixated by anything that happened in the city. From the opening of a new restaurant to the outbreaks of violence that erupt frequently in the city often called “Hysterical Jerusalem”.
But what I have found with this my first thriller, is that well perhaps I have no need to really do research for writing about a serial killer. I get the impression so far that perhaps that was my true vocation in life. Born to be a serial killer!
I have come up with many scenarios – as to why a person could go on a killing spree. And I am finding all of them totally understandable. And several of them acceptable behaviour. No wait – ALL of them acceptable behaviour.
And then the method of killing? Again, I have not been lost for ideas. Potential victims? There is a very long list of candidates for this.
Should I be worried? Should my friends be worried? Should my neighbours ensure they have the most up to date security installed on their properties? Probably not.
Because that is the beauty of writing. No physical harm is done. You can go on a veritable grisly killing rampage and rather like a modern video game no one is harmed in the writing of the book.
And another thing I have found just how therapeutic the whole process is. Instead of inwardly fuming about someone who has pissed me off and has caused my blood pressure to surge up into the danger zone. I can just kill them off in a suitable painful manner.
It’s a form of research really. I have deduced the most satisfying method to despatch my enemies. Now when one of my colleagues walks past who I have crossed swords with in the past I can visualise myself despatching them to hades in by various methods.
They are of course blissfully unware of what is going through my mind. And I am sure if they new would be given me even more of a wide berth.
So, what is the strangest topic of research for a writer. My google search would probably send alarm bells to many a psychiatrist, members MI5 may just give me second glance. And well yes there is that once occasion when I crashed my works computer at a previous place of employment when I managed to access a part of the Israeli Defence Forces site for information on their attack dogs. It was an honest mistake, I wasn’t planning on hacking the site. But well I think my company IT department got a bit worried.
Then of course initially I had to research what constitutes a serial killer. But that was short lived when I realised no research was necessary as I had all the prerequisites myself.
Dan brown said “Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research’.”
He was right there are better methods then google to research subjects. You can adopt the hands-on approach. This is one of my preferred methods. I am not going to divulge too many of the situations I have been in for the sake of my art. But suffice to say most of the time it was fun, but a few times it was just a bit too dark even for me.
One of the most productive ways to be a successful writer is by a very simple approach. Reading. If you don’t read books how can you write books?
I sometimes walk into my library, pick random books off the shelf and go home and read them objectively. I ask myself a simple question. Just what is in the book that caught the attention of a publisher? Sometimes I cannot believe a publisher would be interested. But often it is very obvious why.
I have read some amazing books this way. I have also read some absolute tosh. But it it’s a great learning curve.
We must love to read to love to write. I can’t think of one successful writer that would say, “Oh actually I have never read a book.in my life.”
And just living is great research. Daily life experiences lend themselves to great stories.
A few years ago, my friends will be shocked to discover I found myself in a squat. It was not planned research, I was in bad place mentally, found myself in a bad place physically. Fortunately, I managed to extricate myself from both places.
Its an experience that I still remember with a certain amount of confusion. I arrived in the place when the occupants were sleeping. Slowly as the evening encroached, bodies surfaced from under piles of cardboard, dirty blankets and places where I didn’t realise a body had been asleep.
Arguments began, emotions ran high. People were a bit miffed to find a strange woman in their midst with no apparent reason for her to be there.
It hadn’t helped that when I arrived I had for some reason a Waitrose bag on me. That was quickly taken away from me the contents distributed enthusiastically to other people. Yes, I know in retrospect it was not a normal course of events.
But then what is normal? A friend recently told me I am as normal as white dog floating up to heaven.
I rather like the idea of being a white dog floating up to heaven. Do I need to google it? No. Can I imagine it? Yes. Can it really happen? Who cares?