Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Last Duel

Without revealing too much detail, there is a duel in Degrees of Hope and I thought that you might like to see my inspiration for the outcome of that case, which loosely is based on events which are widely called England's Last Duel.

 It wasn't actually the last duel, that occurred in 1852 at Old Windsor, but both participants in that duel were French, not English, which is probably why the 1845 Gosport duel is considered to be the last (between English men, at least).

The 1845 duel occurred between Captain Alexander Seton and Lieutenant Henry Hawkey.

Although both men were married, Seton had something of a roving eye and found Mrs Hawkey to be rather charming. He showered her with gifts which, although Mrs Hakey refused them, caused a lot of gossip among their peers, until finally Lieutenant Hawkey forbid Seton and his wife from seeing each other.

All was well until one musical evening, when Mrs Hawkey agreed to dance a set of quadrilles with Seton.

Incensed, Lieutenant Hawkey confronted Seton and they had a heated argument. It took a great deal of insults, threats to horsewhip Seton and finally a kick from Hawkey, until finally Seton accepted the challenge of a duel.

Browndown, where the duel took place
On the 2th of May 1945 they met up at Browndown, a secluded common in Gosport, to duel with pistols.

Seton fired but missed and Hawkey's gun refused to fire. Hawkey demanded second shot. Seton again missed but Hawkey didn't and the bullet entered at right hip bone, and exited at the left groin.

Seton bled profusely and two surgeons were called to try and stop the bleeding but they weren't very successful.A third surgeon as called and finally it was decided that they would have to operate on Seton to tie off the Illiac Artery.

Mr. Liston, a respected London surgeon, was then sent for and he succeeded in stopping the bleeding, though Seton's stout form was said to have made the operation difficult.

All was well until Seton developed what was thought to be blood poisoning and died. An inquest was held and the Jury's verdict was...

"We find that the immediate cause of the death of the deceased James Alexander Seton was the result of a surgical operation, rendered imperatively necessary by the imminent danger in which he was placed, by the infliction of a gun shot wound which he received on the 20th of May last, in a duel with Lieut. Henry Charles Moorhead Hawkey, of the Royal Marines.

"We therefore find a verdict of wilful murder against the said Lieut. Henry Charles Moorhead Hawkey and Lieut. Pym, as well as all the parties concerned in the duel."
Arrest warrants were duly written out but Hawkey had fled to France following the duel, and didn't return until 1846.

At his trial the defence counsel, Mr. Cockburn, hit upon an ingenious defence. 
 
He argued that the wound produced by the pistol bullet was not the cause of death, that the efforts of the medical man who first attended the deceased, and who had stayed the bleeding with ice,
pressure, and compresses, would have saved the life of the deceased, had not the operation for tying the iliac been resorted to.

Consequently, Cockburn argued, death was the result rather the result of a meddlesome operation than of the wound inflicted by the pistol bullet in the first place.

The powerful appeal of the counsel, and the knowledge that Hawkey had received much provocation, evidently had its weight with the jury, who returned a verdict of: "Not guilty."
So that is the story of Britain's "Last Duel" and the inspiration for the defence used in Degrees of Hope.

I hasten to add that I did not use the same defence as Hawkey, but the trial did give me a framework to work with

 Quotes are taken from the Now Portsmouth website, where you can also find more detail on this duel.

Images come from A Matter of Honour website, book about this duel. 

Friday, 30 November 2012

How to Defeat a Dragon

Do you know Smaug the dragon's one weakness? Well, his other weakness then? It's reviews.

Smaug absolutely loathes reviews, hates them with a fiery passion (especially positive ones). So much so, they make him bang his head against walls and tear his armoured scales off!

What's the up shot of this? If you want to help Thorin, Bilbo and company defeat Smaug the dragon, please leave me a review!

Okay, so I may have a slight case of Hobbit fever. Sue me! ;)

If the rest of this post doesn't interest you, please skip to the gratuitous Hobbit pic spam below.

Seriously though, reviews are one of a writers best selling tools, but the biggest and best site for reviews (Amazon) appears to have put a rather overzealous commuter program to use, trying to weed out untrue reviews. A few examples are the ones authors (such as John Locke) pay to be written, those left by friends, family and (as hit the newspapers headlines his year) author sock-puppet accounts. Quite how this program works, no one knows because Amazon won't tell. I can't even begin to fathom how you can tell which reviews were paid for and which weren't. From what I can gather though, reviews from people who live in the same genera zipcode/postcode area as the author, seem to be classified as friends of the author and bahleted with prejudice.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Exclusive Preview! 3 chapters of Degrees of Hope

In preparation for it's release on Wednesday the28th of November, this #SampleSunday brings you an exclusive sneak peek at the first three chapters of my new novel, Degrees of Hope.
What's the book about?

At 23 years old, Lady Hope Beaumont's wild and independent ways, make her quite unladylike in the opinion of many people. However her beauty, the fact that she is the daughter of the Earl of Marchwood, not to mention her fortune, still makes her an appealing marriage prospect for some.
Newlyweds, Honoria and Malcolm Arundell, have just moved to Marchwood and quickly befriend the Beaumonts but it soon becomes clear to most that their marriage is a far from happy one and when the true extent of Malcolm's cruelty is revealed, Hope helps Honoria to escape. Her disappearance however, has unforeseen and far reaching consequences for everyone at Marchwood Hall.
When Honoria's brother discovers the truth about his sister's marriage, he goads Malcolm into an illegal duel. Before events are settled there will be a murder trial, unlikely friendships will be forged and amidst this chaotic backdrop, new love will blossom.
With a perfect mix of romance, suspense and sumptuous Victorian elegance, Degrees of Hope will keep you turning pages and leave you wanting more.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Fantastic Freebies!

In a very special event, all of my digital books are free on Amazon on the 13th, 14th and 15th of November! 

Happy Dog is very Happy about this
If you don't have a kindle, Amazon do free kindle apps for apple products, android devices and PC's, so you don't have to miss out.

All  my books are rated 4 stars or above on Amazon UK. The easiest way is to go to my author page on Amazon, which links to all my books.

Click here for my Amazon UK author page, or here for my Amazon US  author page. If you aren't in the US or UK, they should be free on all Amazon sites, just search for Catherine Winchester in Kindle Books. 

So what's on offer?

Historical Novels



Hope for Tomorrow  (Amazon rating 4.8/5)
When housemaid Martha began an affair with her Master's son, Lucien, the future Earl of Marchwood, it was always destined to end badly.
Single, pregnant and unemployed, Martha struggles to forge a new life for herself and her daughter, only for Lucien to inadvertently destroy it.
She and her daughter are homeless and starving when they come to the aid of a man who proves to be their salvation.
Lucien is still obsessed with his lost love, the only woman who has ever rejected him.
A chance meeting seven years later could spell disaster but can they put their pain and pride behind them and seize this opportunity, or will old ghosts ruin their last chance at happiness?


Northern Light (Amazon rating 4.3/5)
Sometimes described as the female Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell's classic novel, North and South, dealt with issues of class, feminism, social reform and the plight of the working classes, entwining those themes seamlessly with a timeless romance between Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Northern Light is a continuation of that novel which sees John and Margaret embarking on their lives together whilst working to improve the lives of their work force.
With the threat of another strike, a series of bad mill accidents, a lethal fire and failed speculation, life in Milton is not easy for anyone and it won't be long before the mill masters and their workers clash once more, with devastating consequences.
Getting married and starting a family is difficult enough at the best of times but for John and Margaret, married life will present unique challenges and despite the reforms they are making, even they will not escape Milton's troubles unscathed.
 (No knowledge of North and South is necessary to read this book)


What You Wish For (Amazon rating 4/5)
Carrie Preston is desperately trying to stand up to her pushy family and failing badly. When her favourite aunt dies she retreats into her favourite book, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, only to find herself suddenly stuck in that story and seriously messing with her favourite romance of all time!
When Carrie's kooky aunt bequeaths her a pair of amethyst earrings in her will and says that they will grant her her hearts desire, she has no idea that she will end up in the middle of the 19th century, slap bang in the middle of her favourite book. With nothing but the clothes on her back and her rucksack, she is taken in by the Hale family and soon finds herself living in the dirty, smoky industrial town of Milton.
The only bright spot on the horizon is that she gets to meet the romantic hero of the story, John Thornton but it's not long before he starts setting his sights on her rather than Margaret Hale! Far from living her dream, she is appalled to realise that she is about to destroy the greatest romance since Elizabeth Bennett met Mr Darcy!


A Merry Little Christmas (Amazon rating 4.3/5)
(Short Story - companion story to Northern Light)
The story of John Thornton and Margaret Hale's first Christmas together as a married couple.
Starved of time on their own, when Hannah Thornton announces that she is spending Christmas with John's sister, Fanny, John and Margaret decide to make the most of what little time they have together.

Urban Fantasy/Speculative Fiction


How to Train Your Zombie  (Amazon rating 4.5/5)
The zombie apocalypse, which has devastated the world, is in its final throes when Meg's husband is bitten. She has lost so much already that she simply can't face losing him too, so when it becomes apparent that he is about to join the ranks of the walking dead, she decides to employ her skills as a dog trainer and takes it upon herself to train him.
Not only must she face the dangers inherent in close contact with a zombie, she must also protect him from outside forces that mean him harm. Can she convince the handsome yet stern Colonel MacDonald that he deserves a chance? Can she stop him being used for vivisection? What about those who want to use him as bait for other zombies?
Join Meg during the final few months of the Zombie war, as she shares her, at times, gruesome, sad and darkly humorous story.


Bemused  (Amazon rating 4.5/5)
When self-made property developer, Niall, is attacked by vampires on his way home, his neat and ordered life soon begins to fall apart. His rescuer, the effervescent Mel, declares herself to be his Muse - better known in modern times as a Guardian Angel - and offers him a business proposition; she wants them to go into business as supernatural detectives.
Slightly sceptical to say the least, Niall eventually agrees to work one case with her - helped in no small part by his rather strong attraction to Mel.
Mrs Hart's house has been plagued by a series of deadly and inexplicable events, culminating in the death of a local boy. As they look into possible causes, Niall finds himself growing even more fond of Mel, although she seems determined to keep him at arm's length.
He discovers why she she is so reticent but that is soon overshadowed by the cause of Mrs Hart's problems; a foe so powerful that even the immortal Mel seems terrified!


The Past series

Past Due - Book One  (Amazon rating 5/5)
Francis 'Frankie' Wright thought she was an old hat at dealing with the supernatural, until she was reassigned to Edinburgh, the most haunted city in the world.
Her latest case soon takes a deadly turn. Young women are being slain in satanic rituals and it's up to Frankie to find the murderer before he kills again.
Frankie must juggle vampires, shapeshifters, witches and zombies, all the while trying to keep the truth from her sceptical ex-boyfriend, Will Campbell, who just happens to be heading up the police investigation.
The clock is ticking and she soon finds herself forced to team up with the vampires and shapeshifters in order to stop the killer before he can literally unleash hell on earth.


Half Past - Book Two  (Amazon rating 4.3/5)
Simon Hamm was a run of the mill con man, lying, cheating and stealing his way through life until met Marilyn, a vampire. Enthralled by her power, he courted her and made her fall in love with him, whereupon Hamm was reborn as a child of the night and Marilyn was dead by his hand.
Unwilling to play by the rules, Hamm turned rogue and cut a bloody trail across Britain in his quest to build himself a private army of vampires, courting the wrath of the vampire council in the process.
Employed by MI5 to police the supernatural community, Frankie Wright's life is far from normal but when Joshua asks for her help in tracking Hamm down, her life quickly begins to spiral out of control.
Forced to stay away from her boyfriend, Frankie begins to realise just how important Alex is to her but deceived and betrayed, she soon finds herself fighting not only to bring down Hamm but for the right to even exist.


Past Life - Book Three  (Amazon rating 5/5)
For once, Frankie Wright's life is relatively calm. She's settled into her new role, working for the Vampire Council, she's getting used to being single again and she's reaffirmed her friendship with Will Campbell.
She should have known that it was too good to last.
First Will learns about the existence of vampires, then her parents turn up unannounced, expecting to stay with her. Frankie must juggle her friend and her family, all the while hunting for the psycho who is murdering young women and killing family pets.
To top it all off, Dante is kidnapped and Frankie must race to find him before he becomes the next victim...


Please download, enjoy and if you like it/them, tell your friends. If you dont like them, lets never speak of this again, m'kay?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Freddie Mercury

Rolling Stone just released 15 new/rare pictures from Freddie's life which has put me in a slightly ruminative mood.

I love Queen, they have released so many classic songs and so many that really move me. Not just classics like Who Wants to Live Forever, but little known ones, like Love of My Life. I don't know why I had that running through my head a few weeks ago, but it's really sad and sweet and can make me cry just as much as who wants to live forever.

And Freddie wasn't just magic with Queen, some of his solos and duets are fabulous too. Barcelona must be one of the greatest songs ever written.

It was so strange to see him interviewed, because Freddie was always so shy and usually looked terribly uncomfortable. Put him on a stage though, and he turned into a different person, a pure entertainer, strutting himself.

At the Olympics closing ceremony, they played a little bit of the wembly 86 concert where he's getting the audience to riff and sing runs with him. 20 years after his death, he had the whole Olympic stadium singing alone again. How many people leave that kind of legacy?


Monday, 1 October 2012


The 31 Days of Halloween had begun, over at Lacey's blog. Today is my tribute to Dean Koontz.

Click here to check it out, and keep checking every day for a new horror blog.


Saturday, 29 September 2012

Painful memories

I'm going to share something very personal with you now, something I don't really like thinking about much, but sometimes when these feelings overcome you, you need to get them out.

I'm doing a guest blog for http://lacey-mybookblog.blogspot.co.uk/ as part of her event, 31 books of Halloween (stop by, it should be a fun month).

As my blog topic, I chose Dean Koontz, my all time favourite horror writer. In my mind, no author has ever equalled his brilliance. Anyway, I rounged some pictures up of his books for the blog and looking through them, I came across one called The Taking. My blood ran cold as I remembered this was the book I was reading on my last night of drinking, the night before my 28th birthday.


Saturday, 22 September 2012

Mans Best Friend

Captain

For those of you who enjoyed the true story of Greyfriars Bobby at the beginning of Past Life, meet Captain, a modern day dog who had refused to leave his masters grave for 6 years and counting.

“I’ve tried to bring Capitan home several times, but he always comes straight back to the cemetery,” said the son, 15-year-old Damian.  “I think he’s going to be there until he dies too. He’s looking after my dad.”

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Last year it was a new computer, this year... living expences!

Dear Saladin Ahmed,

I'm sorry that you have mental health issues. I'm sorry that you suffer from "anxiety…and depression…and chronic fatigue…and vicious insomnia".

I'm sorry that your songwriter/research psychologist wife is having trouble supporting your family, with seemingly very little no help from you, because of your mental health issues.

I'm sorry that your books are so popular that you have been invited to be on a convention panel, and that someone there will be cosplaying one of your characters; it sucks that you cant afford to go. I suppose we could say that you are a victim of your own success.

Or perhaps we should wise up and realise that, you simply have a victim mentality.

I'm not usually in the habit of playing "mine's bigger than yours" but the following is fact.

1) I have never suffered chronic fatigue, but I have suffered with, depression and continue to suffer with anxiety and insomnia. I have also tried to commit suicide in the past. Not my finest moment, I'll admit.

2) I was (and still am) an alcoholic, albeit a sober one for the past 7 years.

3) I'm dyslexic. Yeah, I know, a dyslexic writer.  Writing is so not a career I was ever encouraged to enter into in any way shape or form, so maybe there's a little bit of a masochist in me too.

4) I suffer from PTSD after being stalked, (which as you can imagine, does wonders for my anxiety).

5) I walked out of my life, left everything I owned behind except 2 suitcases and a car when  was 30. I had less then £100 in my pocket. Sometimes over the last 5 years I have literally had £20 a week to buy all groceries, feed myself and my dogs with. Credit cards and loans weren't an option, because I had no credit history, because I couldn't give my old address in case my ex found me.

I admit, sometimes I have borrowed money from my family, but only when I have had no alternative, and never more than a few hundred, because I know that anything more than that, I probably wouldn't be able to pay back. I finally got out of my sisters debt just a few weeks ago. (thanks Sis, you are the best!)
But if the help of a few supportive readers/friends can make a trip possible, it seems silly to let pride keep me from asking."
That's not pride, dear boy, that's your self respect, screaming at you to be a grown up and sort your life out! Taking charity doesn't help.
 
You have been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Awards and the Nebula Award. Your stories have been published in places such as Strange Horizons, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, Clockwork Phoenix 2, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Your novel trilogy is being published DAW Books. 

YOU have the life and the success that thousands of struggling authors dream of, and yet all you can do is sit there with your begging bowl out and proclaim "woe is me". You have no idea how lucky you are because you are so short sighted that you can't see everything that you have been blessed with. 

But, yes, woe is you... for being such a spineless sack of dog poo! 

There's nothing wrong with you that a little backbone wouldn't sort. Or hell, here's an original idea, GET A FRIGGING DAY JOB!!! Believe me, most authors don't live of their spouses, nor do they go begging to the public to make up the shortfall. Most actually have 2 jobs, the one that pays the bills, and the writing they do out of hours (which is more of a compulsion than a job)!

You might be surprised by the amount of self respect paying your own way gives you, not to mention the total exhaustion is either very helpful in overcoming the insomnia, or if not, you just have more of lovely time to write!

Those who did donate to you probably think that they were being kind, but the reality is that the loving thing to do is not always the nice or the kind thing to do. They are simply enabling you to remain a victim and refuse to take responsibility for your life and your choices. The first step on your road to recovery is to put the begging bowl away (this isn't the first time you have done this) and take some responsibility for yourself, your life and your problems. 

Yours Sincerely

Cat Winchester
Who despite the many problems she has, or has had in life, actually considers herself blessed and is proud of the life that she is still rebuilding. 

If after reading what a horrid life I have had and how I have suffered for my art, my choice in boyfriends, my addiction, and my generally being a bit of a sap for the first 28 years of my life, kindly send a donation to one of my preferred charities.

Canine Partners, who help people with disabilities to enjoy greater independence and a better quality of life, by providing specially trained assistance dogs.

Edinburgh Cat & Dog Home who rescue stray and abandoned animals. They are solely dependent on public donations to survive.



Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Feminist Tightrope

Natural large breasts
We feminists all walk a tightrope between our feminism and our desires.

Damn it, I want to be pretty, even while knowing that the image of beauty that we are presented with applies only to 5% of the population, and I shall NEVER achieve it! Beauty is something that we have been taught to want however, rather that comes naturally to everyone, and as I come to terms with this fact, there are times that I am willing to bite the bullet and go against the herd mentality.

I have big breasts and bra's hurt me, so on Sunday I finally made the decision that it didn't matter if my breasts weren't perky and perfect, I wasn't going to keep strapping a bra on and off just to walk the dogs, so that I can fool the world into believing that my bosoms are perfect and perky. They are my breasts, their look and appearance was decided by my DNA, and there is nothing wrong with them, damn it, except that they don't live up to this foolish 21st century ideal.

Real vs Photoshopped Maria.
And let's face it, many of the perfect breasts that we are supposed to live up to aren't even real, having been enhanced by either surgery or photoshop! These are the breasts I was born with, and damn it, big (natural) boobs tend to sag! 

Two days later I see a female friend (who shall remain nameless) tweeting about how, thanks to the warm weather, there were so many awful, bra-less women about with, well I'll let you read it

My god you see some sights in [redacted]! Bra-less boobs hanging round the waist! #notagoodlook
Needless to say my new found feeling of freedom disappeared, and I simply feel self-conscious and awkward again. Now I am back to hiding under a bulky coat (despite the temperature), rather that strapping the painful, perky-breast-maker back on again.

We are our own worse enemies, and that is an important realisation to come by. Just because we are women, doesn't mean that we haven't been indoctrinated by the patriarchal society that we live in. At least once we understand that, we can begin to start making informed decisions about what rules we want to follow, and why we want to follow them.

Which is more frightening, the ever increasing hair or bust?
In a few weeks I will probably manage to once again convince myself that there is nothing wrong with my perfectly natural breasts, but I cant help but wonder how long it will be until another "harmless" (and thoughtless) remark sends me running back for the bulky coat/camouflage.

While we're on this subject, Can I just ask why there are no posts about men and their exposed moobs, beer bellies and white chicken legs? Personally I don't find those things attractive but then again, I accept that men not only can be more than just a physical presence (attractive or otherwise) but that they should be more than that, as well rounded human beings. I expect them to have goals and aspirations that have nothing to do with looking good so that they might be appreciated by the opposite sex. As such, it doesn't really bother me if men are imperfect.

I apply that same standard to women. I wish more of us did.


Sunday, 20 May 2012

Northern Light, Chapter One

Another day, another Sample Sunday!

Book Blurb: Sometimes described as the female Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell's classic novel, North and South, dealt with issues of class, feminism, social reform and the plight of the working classes, entwining those themes seamlessly with a timeless romance between Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Northern Light is a continuation of that novel which sees John and Margaret embarking on their lives together whilst working to improve the lives of their work force.

With the threat of another strike, a series of bad mill accidents, a lethal fire and failed speculation, life in Milton is not easy for anyone and it won't be long before the mill masters and their workers clash once more, with devastating consequences.

Getting married and starting a family is difficult enough at the best of times but for John and Margaret, married life will present unique challenges and despite the reforms they are making, even they will not escape Milton's troubles unscathed.


Sunday, 13 May 2012

Half Past, Chapter One

It's time for another #SampleSunday. Today, book two in the Past Series.

Book Blurb: Simon Hamm was a run of the mill con man, lying, cheating and stealing his way through life until met Marilyn, a vampire. Enthralled by her power, he courted her and made her fall in love with him, whereupon Hamm was reborn as a child of the night and Marilyn was dead by his hand.

Unwilling to play by the rules, Hamm turned rogue and cut a bloody trail across Britain in his quest to build himself a private army of vampires, courting the wrath of the vampire council in the process.

Employed by MI5 to police the supernatural community, Frankie Wright's life is far from normal but when Joshua asks for her help in tracking Hamm down, her life quickly begins to spiral out of control.

Forced to stay away from her boyfriend, Frankie begins to realise just how important Alex is to her but deceived and betrayed, she soon finds herself fighting not only to bring down Hamm but for the right to even exist.
 
Chapter One
When the alarm on her phone went off Frankie groaned, switched it off and turned on to her front. The damn thing would go off again in a few minutes but at least she might get a few more moments of blissful slumber.
You’re leaving?” Alex asked, his fingers beginning to trace circles on her back.
Frankie moaned, partly in pleasure and partly by way of an answer.
You should be asleep,” she mumbled. “It’s daylight.”
How can I sleep with you beside me, tempting me?”
Frankie smiled and finally opened her eyes. “Charmer,” she accused.
Guilty.” He leaned over and began to kiss her shoulder, working slowly towards her neck.
Frankie clamped her hand over her neck. “Not today. I have a telephone conference with my boss and I need my faculties intact.”
While Alex never drank much blood from her, it was one of the more disturbing aspects of sleeping with a vampire. Not that she didn’t enjoy it; in fact it felt very pleasurable but it left her feeling like a meal rather than a lover. She didn’t feel she could refuse however, since one of her conditions when they began a relationship was that he stopped feeding off other people. That left bagged blood from the hospital (which he made no attempt to hide his distaste for) or her.
Upset by her own confusion on the matter, she slipped from the bed before the alarm had even buzzed again. 

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Past Due, Chapter One

Bertena Varney, sociology professor and author of Lure of the Vampire: A Pop Culture Reference Book, recently reviewed Past Due for The Examiner and awarded it 5 stars. Read her review here.

Right now, it's time for another #SampleSunday. I hope you enjoy this excerpt of Past Due.

Book Blurb: Francis 'Frankie' Wright thought she was an old hat at dealing with the supernatural, until she was reassigned to Edinburgh, the most haunted city in the world.

Her latest case soon takes a deadly turn. Young women are being slain in satanic rituals and it's up to Frankie to find the murderer before he kills again.

Frankie must juggle vampires, shapeshifters, witches and zombies, all the while trying to keep the truth from her sceptical ex-boyfriend, Will Campbell, who just happens to be heading up the police investigation.

The clock is ticking and she soon finds herself forced to team up with the vampires and shapeshifters in order to stop the killer before he can literally unleash hell on earth.

Chapter One
Francis Wright took one last look over her shoulder to be sure no one was watching, then deftly picked the door lock. Thirty seconds later she closed the door behind her, safe inside the apartment. It wasn’t that she was a master lock picker that gave her such speed, merely the right equipment.
Should she be caught carrying a locksmiths tools without a locksmiths licence there would be awkward questions, but Frankie was certain she’d never face any consequences.
She felt along the wall until she found the light switch, and then headed deeper into the apartment. The fact she’d had to come at night made stealth both harder, in that she needed to use lights at all, and easier in that there were fewer people around to see. She’d long ago learnt that using a home’s own lights drew a lot less attention than a flickering torchlight.
The body had been moved but it was easy to see where it had lain, just inside the doorway to the living room. There were no helpful chalk outlines but the large pool of blood suggested that whoever had fallen there, had not walked away under their own steam.
She sighed and pushed a gloved hand through her dark hair.
Sometimes I hate this job,” she muttered. She knelt down beside the largest blood stain and pulled one of her leather gloves off. She rested her palm gently against the carpet and closed her eyes. Images of the horrific death flashed through her mind and she gritted her teeth. The poor girl had died painfully, but at least it was quick. A small mercy.
She opened her eyes and removed her hand, swallowing down the residual pain and fear she was left with.
Sometimes I really hate this job.” She stood up, whirling around as someone coughed behind her.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Where does a writers responsibility begin and end?


Following my post on Fifty Shades of Grey, and the white hot rage it and it's message inspired within me, not to mention arguments such as racefail (which still has cause to rear it's ugly head from time to time) and this recent article in the Guardian, I've been thinking a lot recently about a writers responsibilities.

There isn't a lot of fiction out there that elevates any minority to positions of equality. Those that do exist are most often found within the realm of science fiction and fantasy, though there are equally as many fantastic universes created which still seek to oppress minorities, seeming to long for the good old days, when women were little more than princess in ivory towers and slavery was normal.

Any media can be a force for change, putting forward points of view that make us stop and questions ourselves and our preconceptions. Star Trek having a black woman on the bridge, for example, was unthinkable in the 60's. Of course the majority of telephone operators in a telephone exchange were women, so perhaps making her the communications officer was not that ground breaking after all. It made a bold leap, no doubt, but was that leap bold enough? Why couldn't Spock, the second in command, have been a woman, or heaven forbid, even the captain! Even just making a woman the navigation officer would have been better, and at least then the Enterprise would stop and ask for directions when needed!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Hope for Tomorrow, Chapter One

It's #SampleSunday again.

Book Blurb: When housemaid Martha began an affair with her Master's son, Lucien, the future Earl of Marchwood, it was always destined to end badly.

Single, pregnant and unemployed, Martha struggles to forge a new life for herself and her daughter, only for Lucien to inadvertently destroy it.

She and her daughter are homeless and starving when they come to the aid of a man who proves to be their salvation.

Lucien is still obsessed with his lost love, the only woman who has ever rejected him.

A chance meeting seven years later could spell disaster but can they put their pain and pride behind them and seize this opportunity, or will old ghosts ruin their last chance at happiness?

Chapter One
Lucian reeled backwards as though Martha had struck him.
No,” he told her, his usually robust colouring turning ashen. “You can't be, it's not possible!”
I can assure you it is!” Martha said, her previous dreams of everything working out for the best crumbling before her eyes. The pain his denial caused burned deep into her soul and her fiery temper began to assert itself, as it usually did when she was hurt. “It took two of us to make this baby and you were there!”
But... a baby! I can't have a baby with a housemaid!”
A housemaid? After everything you said, all those dreams you shared with me, is that really all I am to you?”
What?” Fear was now causing his own temper to rise. “You thought that I would marry you? Me, the son of the Earl of Marchwood marry you, a servant in my father's home?” He laughed but was it cold and brittle, far from the warm laugh that she loved.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Mason and Me - Life with a Teacup Dragon (7)


Dragon from Shrek

Oops!
There are some animals where it's hard to tell their sex when they're just born. Cats are one type of animal that suffers this. Turns out that dragons also suffer from this little problem and despite an expert assuring me that I had a male, Mason is in fact a girl dragon.We only realised because Mason had a play date with his, I mean, her brother today. The difference became obvious when we saw them side by side, for Wilfred (the brother) is much stouter in his build and his skin is rough, while Mason has a rather graceful build and though scaly, her skin is quite soft and smooth.
Well, we are a female heavy household to begin with, so what's one more? I do feel sorry for Andy-Dog sometimes though, being the only man.
Mason, guarding my North & South DVD
Am suddenly wondering if I can get Mason a little pink tutu or something. Don't worry, I wouldn't really be that cruel.
However, it does explain one interesting factoid, Mason's interest with North and South. You see, I thought that she fancied Margaret (though she wasn't that interested in her scenes) sympathised with the working classes, or perhaps empathised with John's struggle.
But nope, it turns out that I have fire breathing competition for Richard Armitage affections.
My only hope!
Let's face it, girls, when vying for his attention, who is he going to choose? The rare, believed to be extinct dragon, or the slightly mad author? It's a no brainer really.
*Sigh*
My only hope now, is to get a ridiculously cute puppy before meeting him.
Of course, given that neither Mason or me are likely to meet him, that might be a little drastic.
Still, it's nice to have company to watch the mini-series with, when I can wrestle the DVD box away from her, that is. She's weirdly possessive of it.
I haven't daren't show her the Vicar of Dibley yet, I'm afraid her ovaries might burst! 
Mason and her brother, Wilfred.

Previous Mason blogs : Intro | Feeding | Other Breeds | Oh Dear! | Tricks and more | First outing |

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Trouble With Twilight?

I've heard a lot of people groan and complain about the feminist aspects of the Twilight Saga but honestly, the first time I read them I was too caught up in the plot to pay much attention to the sexism. After the furore surrounding 50 Shades of Grey, a story inspired by Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, I decided to go back and read the Twilight Saga to see what exactly inspired a story about a sado-masochistic relationship. It didn't sound anything like the Twilight I remembered.

I'm only going to comment on this from a feminists perspective, I'll leave the quality of the writing and the Mary-Sue aspects to people more qualified to comment.

So, let me start by saying that as a feminist, on the whole, the books don't offend me or my feminist ideals, though there are a few gripes.

I'll start with the biggest, Bella going to pieces when Edward leaves her in New Moon. I'm not saying women don't go to pieces, I have a friend whose sister, a high-powered executive, was hospitalised for depression when her husband left her. So it does happen, some people do fall apart when they're left. In this book, even Edward is portrayed as being a broken man after leaving Bella, so I cant even argue that this is a sexist representation of women.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Mason and Me - Life with a Teacup Dragon (6)


First outing.
During the glorious good weather we had the other week, we thought we'd try our first trip outside. There are a few things to remember when acclimatising your teacup dragon to new things.
1) They are very shy creatures. Try to find a bag, pocket or similar, so that they can still peek out but also feel safe.
2) Don't go anywhere loud or crowded.
3) When scared, they tend to flame. Make sure you have some oven gloves and a handy pocket fire extinguisher, just in case.
4) Don't wear anything too flammable (steer clear of the hairspray on days like this).
Mason's first time outside
So, with all this in mind, I put him in my shirt pocket and we headed to the park with the dogs (I thought that having the dogs around would make him feel more relaxed). The material on my shirt is thin enough that he could just about see through it, or he could peak out of the top of the pocket when he felt confident.
We settled on the grass for a while and when the park emptied out after lunch time, I took him out and he wandered on the grass for a while. He seems to like nature, though when he saw another person enter the park (like, 100 meters away) he gave me a few scratches as he desperately tried to get back into my pocket.
Still, all's well that ends well.

Previous Mason blogs : Intro | Feeding | Other Breeds | Oh Dear! | Tricks and more |


Welcome to the Zombie Apocalypse!

How to Train Your Zombie


Welcome to my latest release, How to Train Your Zombie.

So what's it all about? Well, I'm glad you asked me that. You see...

The Zombie war is in its final throes, when Meg's husband is bitten. She's lost so much already that she just can't face losing him too, so employing her skills as a dog trainer, she takes it upon herself to try and train him.

Not only must she face the dangers inherent in close contact with a zombie, she must also protect him from outside forces that mean him harm. Can she convince the handsome yet stern Colonel MacDonald that he deserves a chance? Can she stop him being used for vivisection? What about those who want to use him as bait for other zombies?

Join Meg during the final few months of the Zombie war, as she shares her at times gruesome, sad and darkly humorous story with us.
Richard Armitage, my inspiration for Colonel MacDonald

In a slight departure from my usual work, this novel is written in the first person, from our heroine, Meg's point of view.

Buy your copy now:
From Amazon UK
Or Amazon US

Paperback coming soon.

Try before you buy; read chapter one here.

Yeah, I know I said no more books last month, but that was last month! *sheepish grin*

Truthfully, I have no TV, so all those hours a night you spend watching Coronation Street and Watchdog and the like, I spend writing (or editing) because honestly? I have nothing else to do.

While we're on a zombie theme, let me share this little gem with you (below), Zombie Love Song by Your Favourite Martian. It's well worth a watch, trust me.


How to Train Your Zombie, Prologue, Chapters 1 & 2

Another Sunday, another sample.

Book Blurb: The zombie apocalypse, which has devastated the world, is in its final throes when Meg's husband is bitten. She has lost so much already that she simply can't face losing him too, so when it becomes apparent that he is about to join the ranks of the walking dead, she decides to employ her skills as a dog trainer and takes it upon herself to train him.

Not only must she face the dangers inherent in close contact with a zombie, she must also protect him from outside forces that mean him harm. Can she convince the handsome yet stern Colonel MacDonald that he deserves a chance? Can she stop him being used for vivisection? What about those who want to use him as bait for other zombies?

Join Meg during the final few months of the Zombie war, as she shares her, at times, gruesome, sad and darkly humorous story.

Prologue
Let me make one thing clear; I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I don't know shit about Freud, cognitive behaviours or Neuro-linguine programming, or whatever the hell it is. When I began this fool's quest, I had no noble intentions of proving anything about life, intelligence, the soul or any other quasi-philosophical crap.
I am a dog trainer. Not only that, I am a kick-arse dog trainer.
It just seemed clear to me that the zombies retained a basic intelligence. They knew what they wanted (food) and they could perform simple tasks (such as opening door handles). I reasoned that if they were capable of even rudimentary intelligence, they could become productive members of society. Perhaps they might even progress and gain intelligence, just as children grow and learn. They may never become Prime Minister (though sometimes I don't think they could do a worse job) but one day, I thought, it might be possible that they would be your checkout person at the local Tesco Extra.
And if you believe that load of bollocks, you'll believe anything.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Bemused, Chapter One

It's sample Sunday on twitter, so please enjoy this sample of Bemused.

Book Blurb: When self-made property developer, Niall, is attacked by vampires on his way home, his neat and ordered life soon begins to fall apart. His rescuer, the effervescent Mel, declares herself to be his Muse - better known in modern times as a Guardian Angel - and offers him a business proposition; she wants them to go into business as supernatural detectives.

Slightly sceptical to say the least, Niall eventually agrees to work one case with her - helped in no small part by his rather strong attraction to Mel.

Mrs Hart's house has been plagued by a series of deadly and inexplicable events, culminating in the death of a local boy. As they look into possible causes, Niall finds himself growing even more fond of Mel, although she seems determined to keep him at arm's length.

He discovers why she she is so reticent but that is soon overshadowed by the cause of Mrs Hart's problems; a foe so powerful that even the immortal Mel seems terrified!


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Mason and Me - Life with a Teacup Dragon (5)


Tricks and more!
Mason's creation!
Well, Mason had mastered toast, cupcakes and Victoria sponge! Our next challenge is... Barbecue! Of course it's still a little early in the year for that.
He also makes a mean latte. In fact, Mason gets more use than my hob and my microwave now! Talk about energy efficient; we're saving the world, one teacup dragon at a time! Still, he seems to enjoy it and he gets a mini marshmallow when he does well.
He's now just mastering holding what he's cooking and though his hands are small, he can just about manage a slice of toast. I was quite surprised to get up earlier this week to find that he'd managed to open the bread, get a plate out and cook it to perfection, all in time for me to come through. He's such a sweetheart!
Mason lighting my friends cigarette
He's a two months old now and fully house trained. He has a teeny litter box that he uses. When it's raining, the poor old dogs look quite envious of him!
I've taught him to sit on command, to shake hands and wings and to wink. But the coolest thing I've taught him is to light a cigarette. Yes, I know it's bad for you, but I'm a writer, we live on our nerves (well some of us). You still won't find a cooler lighter, and he lights candles and other things too.
He still hasn't learned to fly but he's a little young for that.

Follow Mason's facebook page for regular updates.


Intro | Feeding | Other Breeds | Oh Dear! |

Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Fascination of Magic (and other things that go bump in the night)


Voldemort and Harry
I've been reading some blogs and articles recently, about why we enjoy magic.

I like stories about magic. And horror stories, urban fantasy, speculative fiction, paranormal romance, the occult, fantastika etc. et al, ad infinitum.

The big question is, why?

No one else in my family shared this fascination, nor my desire to spend my free time immersed in vampires, ghosts and magic. Nor did any of my childhood friends. I was reading Dean Koontz then, my peers had never heard of him. Nor my English teacher, who declared horror books to be "pap" and so I wasn't allowed to do a book report on Hideaway. My interest has never been encouraged in the slightest, yet it continued to grow and prosper within me.

Why? I think the main reason is because the stories are just that, stories.

An American Werewolf in London
When I was 6 or 7 saw my first horror film, American Werewolf in London, which i think is rated 15 (possibly 18). Without parental permission, I must add. My sister (who is 5 years older) had nightmares; I slept like a baby.

I believe that a part of me has always known that those kinds of stories aren't real, and so I can simply enjoy the story without worring about a spell being cast on me, or a gremlin climbing in through my window at night (though that would be very cool) or Freddie Kruger hiding under my bed. Indeed, my favourite insomnia company is a horror film, because they keep you entertained, usually without requiring much effort on the viewers part.

I was also exposed to a lot of true crime movies in my childhood as my mother was a fan (still is). Now some of those films, even the PG rates ones, they terrified me.

The daughter in Small Sacrifices
There are some scenes that are seared into my brain to this day. A murdered wife being wrapped in carpet and dumped by the side of a road. The scene in Fatal Vision, where Gary Cole's* movements around his house could be tracked, long before the days of DNA, because his family all had different blood types. The Deliberate Stranger looking for victims at a lake and at the end of the day, a group of friends, frantically calling the name of their missing friend. A woman being stabbed in broad daylight, and no one lifting a finger to help her. Farrah Fawcett's** little girl, finally admitting the truth to herself by writing down the name of her attacker. (She was mute. And the attacker was her Mom).

My sister still claims that she cannot throw a pair of curtains open thanks to American Werewolf; she has to pull back one curtain, then the other, whereas I can't even remember that scene.

Damon Slavatore trying to escape an animal trap
Just today I saw Damon Salvatore trying to rip his hand out of an animal trap and it didn't bother me in the slightest. 127 hours though? I'm afraid to watch it because I know that suffering was real, and that someone actually endured what I'm seeing.

I think that real life is hard enough. I don't want to spend my leisure time immersed in real suffering and unimaginable cruelty that will haunt me. I'll stick to pretend bogeymen, thank you, because deep down, they don't frighten me at all.

So are you a fan of the fantastic? If so, what draw does it hold for you.


* I would like to add that Gary Cole was the actor playing the murderer and did not actually kill his own family
** Same for Farrah Fawcett, she played the murderous mom.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Mason and Me - Life with a Teacup Dragon (4)


Oh Dear!  
Well, it seems that Mason has found his spark! Casualties so far seem to be my favourite pair of shoes, my friends mobile (cell) phone and the morning post.
Of course, we fireproofed the house when we got him, everything is flame and fire retardant, but there's some things you just don't think of. We have a letter cage because Andy chews the post; we never considered that Mason would enjoy burning it!
He looks very contrite each time we catch him, of course, so it's hard to stay mad at him. I think the dogs have been giving him lessons on how to give the best puppy-dog-eyes because he's a master at looking pitiful. So much so, my friend made me a sketch called “Mason Sorry”. You'll have to trust me when I say that the real thing is even harder to stay mad at!
Look Ma, it's almost edible!
Instead, we are trying to focus his flame towards more productive avenues, with varying degrees of success. The cupcakes are probably best not mentioned, as are the sausages.
My friends "Mason, Sorry" sketch
Now we are focusing on toast and we're making real improvements. This is our latest attempt.





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Intro | Feeding | Other Breeds |