Confessions of a Writer: part 1

I shouted at the radio in my car yesterday. Depeche Mode were playing and I was singing along as I drove to the nearest supermarket, forced into a shopping trip because of severely depleted supplies.

‘Words are very unnecessary. They can only do harm …’

I hadn’t paid much attention to the lyrics of this particular song before and I was cross at the insinuation. ‘What crap,’ I said to the windscreen. Then I took the time to listen to the full chorus and, all at once, felt a sense of deep shame at having misunderstood. Taken out of context, the words I had focussed on sent a negative message, but listen to the full lyrics of Enjoy the Silence and it is a beautiful song about the power of touch.

When I reached the supermarket the song was firmly stuck in my head as I wheeled the trolley through to the checkout. I was humming away as I packed the bags, only stopping to laugh aloud as I read another set of words which I immediately took out of context because of the way they were written.

A piece of cardboard had been attached to the security posts at the exit. It had been handwritten in bold, black, marker-pen with the words-

BASKETS ARE NOT ALLOWED OUTSIDE

My strange writing brain engaged gear and,  as I finished reading, was already wondering at the inequality between being a basket and being a trolley. Trolleys had it good. They could go outside. Obviously a couple of baskets had decided to make a run for it and the basket police had taken remedial action without waiting for head office approval.

I sang as I walked back to my car, ‘Words are very unnecessary. They can only do harm.’ Especially if you happen to be a basket in a supermarket.

What lesson did I learn?     For writers and readers alike, context is important.

Experiment time: A little audio snippet, does it tempt you?

Here is my confession. I have only recently become acquainted with the work of Philip Pullman and I downloaded The Ruby in the Smoke as an audiobook. The narration by Anton Lesser was sublime and, without doubt, contributed to my decision to read more books by Mr Pullman.

I do enjoy a good audiobook, but nothing irritates more than a bad one. Rather sadly I’ve come across too many examples of badly read stories – some beautifully written –  and I do wonder how much negative influence a poor audio experience can have on future book sales.

In a risky experiment I have created a short audio sample, a reading from part of a chapter of Stench, (written and narrated by me).

My question is this: Would a short audio sample tempt you to buy the book? Or would you be more influenced by a written sample?

 

When you are a writer, thinking is working.

 I dragged my poor unsuspecting mother along to her first literary festival on Saturday, and she loved it! BeaconLit Festival  has been running since 2013 and this year attracted such authors as Carole Matthews, Louise Jensen, Tony Klinger and the highly entertaining double act of Mark Billingham in conversation with Martyn Waites – both of whom also have a background in stand up comedy and goodness me did it show. My sense of humour too …

The author panels were lively, informative and positive, giving voice to newer authors as well as seasoned bestsellers. What made it all the more enjoyable was being able to chat to other authors, writers and avid readers in a relaxed atmosphere and to join in a creative writing workshop run by Morgen Bailey, editor, author, literary judge and a woman with more energy than the Duracell bunny.

What golden nugget of wisdom did I glean from the day?

That I am not as mad as I thought. “Hurrah!”

Lousie Jensen admitted to having no idea where her plots would take her – me too. Mark Billingham asserted that, like me, he is constantly thinking of ideas for the next book and will vacuum up interesting anecdotes pocketing them for later use. His sidekick Martyn Waites confirmed that it’s perfectly reasonable to consider musings and imaginings as working, as long as the ideas make it to the page in one way or another.  So going to the pub is research.

As well as accepting that we all seem to be kings and queens of procrastination at times, I  also learnt that those of us who write crime thrillers are untrustworthy and devious people watchers always on the lookout for a story, a juicy tale, an unusual titbit or a twisted perspective on a simple situation. Perfectly normal.

I’m just polishing the manuscript for book number five and the good news is that today I have also been working on the next idea for a story. I did this while cleaning the bathroom. I was talking to myself a lot, pretending to be in conversation with the dog, of course. Yes … I am working.

 

Can fiction really help raise awareness of mental health issues?

A true story:

I met a young man out with a group of his friends on Saturday. He was leading from the front as they walked on a public footpath enjoying the sunshine. Like many herds of young teenagers, who had ventured recently into adolescence, they were chatty and loud. I heard them before I saw them. Swear words rang out. “F***’, ‘F***ing ni****s*. It was a bit shocking to hear such appalling racism but as I turned in anticipation of giving the culprit a slice of condemnation,  I witnessed the anguish on the face of the youngster who had uttered those words. His head shot back, his whole body stiffened and more expletives burst from his lips as he tensed.’F***, give us a blow job!’ he bellowed at me and crumpled in exhaustion.

He immediately apologised as did his friends.

What excellent friends they were. What a tortured lad, bravely trying to be as normal as he could.

I looked him in the eye and reassured him. ‘No problem young man. I completely understand.’ He thanked me, relief evident in his eyes and his friends all smiled. As they walked away I heard one say, ‘I wish everyone understood like that.’

I haven’t stopped thinking about him since. What will his future hold? Who is helping him?

It’s #Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. How many of us understand Tourettes? How many of us recognise it when we see it? How many times has that young person been misunderstood?

Maybe we have become desensitised to the facts and figures? Or simply do not really comprehend what the fuss is all about?

Where does fiction fit in?:

Having worked at the front line of mental health services in this country for several decades, I now write crime thrillers. Within the pages of those books are observations, evidence and thought provoking storylines relating to a variety of aspects of mental health. I don’t evangelise. I try to provoke consideration and understanding.

#Stench, as an integral part of the story, takes the reader on a journey of relapse into psychosis. If you like a psychological thriller to read …

‘It is a side to the Mental Health Service that we are aware of, the under-funding, the out of hours service and general inadequacies. Now I do mention this as it plays a part in the story, but the author has got the balance spot on for me, incorporating a problem into a story without going over the top and coming across as preaching.’ Me and My Books – book review.

 

Amazon link.

‘Stench is a brilliant read. It left me feeling shaken and unnerved. Within the thriller genre it fits into a niche of its own, not just because of the authority behind the writing but the brutal honesty in which mental health is dealt with. Actions have consequences and those consequences can have a lasting effect. AB Morgan weaves this into her story with great skill. The twist and turns are balanced perfectly and I never saw them coming!’ Books Are My Cwtches – book review

The Chalk Man : by C J Tudor – audiobook review

The Chalk Man: 'If you like my stuff, you'll like this' STEPHEN KING I’ve taken to listening to books these days, because, to be honest, I have little opportunity to sit, guilt free, and read a book. Although I write crime novels, I live with a non-reader  – which in Harry Potter terms is like saying I live with a muggle.

However …

Plugging into my bluetooth headphones I can multitask by doing the gardening, the ironing, the boring housework and be entertained while walking the dog. I can tune in and drop out.

I’d like to share my personal thoughts on this audiobook: The Chalk Man

  1. The story. A terrible accident, an unsolved murdermysterious chalk drawings, decisions, lies and betrayalsHow cleverly thought through this storyline was and it flowed so well. We are treated to two timelines of events from the perspective of a young  Eddie in the 1980’s and from the adult Ed who is the product of events in his childhood. With him on his journey are a group of lively friends; Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky through whom the book comes alive because of the author’s ability use the language of the young, to enter their mindset and remind us readers (listeners) how confusing the world can appear to be from the perspective of a child. The mystery weaves from the past to the present adult world that Ed inhabits as he attempts to find elusive answers to the puzzles and events that unfold.
  2. The narration. The two male narrators are both easy to listen to, there are no jarring tones or peculiarly unnecessary extremes of accent, and, most importantly, the young Eddie is distinguishable from the adult Ed. I wondered at first why the adult Ed had a soft Irish brogue, but it’s an irrelevancy because both narrators make the story come alive and enable the listener to quickly tune in to the timelines. There is admirable use of the pause and of dramatic inflection that help to paint visual imagery, enhancing the words on the page.
  3. Overall: Great Entertainment. My mind didn’t wander off anywhere other than into the story and I was fully absorbed in the lives of Eddie and his friends. Bravo to all involved.

Coming soon

A dead body, a hidden past, whispers and accusations, motorbikes, unsavoury neighbours and a decent into mental illness. All that for only 99p on Amazon. Available for preorder.

 

A busy few weeks …

  Performance event at Waterstones Tottenham Court rd.

 Radio Interview with the fabulous Nana Akua for The Health Show.

Signing a new contract!

Meeting old friend and world record holder for rowing the Pacific ….yes, read his book: Rowing the Pacific -7,000 miles from Japan to San Francisco. Mick Dawson.

 Author Panel in Harpenden with three other Bloodhound authors.

Staying local with a reading or two in the pub!

Sometimes other people’s words are better …

The Camera Lies by A B Morgan
TOP 1000 Amazon REVIEWER on 5 February 2018

Well, let me tell you, this is not for the faint hearted! Or the squeamish. Or the prudish!

This is a gritty read; full of action, energy and unpleasant characters. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting but I was quickly caught up in the plot which moved at a great pace, full of tension, complications and shocking revelations.

Morgan writes vividly and the action bounces off the pages. The reader is caught up in a complex tale with some graphic and erotic scenes which, although completely necessary to the plot and the characters, are still quite shocking at times! Morgan’s writing is fluent, full of pace and with a plot line that intricately links the two characters in a way that has the reader constantly guessing as the events unravel in front of their eyes.

I really liked the concept of a TV presenter interviewing someone convicted of a crime as it is a bit of a change from finding yourself in a police interview room listening to a suspect confess, or not, to a crime. It also gives Morgan an opportunity to play around with the interaction between the characters as the dialogue, and behaviour, between them is not restricted by the conventions of a police interrogation – and this is a novel that doesn’t like to be restricted by convention or expectation! I liked the dynamic between the two men and the question of motivation and trust which is more blurred than when the protagonist is a detective. I liked that I thought I knew what kind of story I was going to be reading, but within a few chapters my suspicions and expectations were challenged and the story took a rather more dark and sinister route.

I think what really impressed me was Morgan’s ability to write from a male point of view and to have created these characters who are so authentic and believable. They are both flawed and not always gaining much empathy from the reader but they are always fascinating. I was impressed how well Morgan portrayed Konrad. He’s an ambitious creation but Morgan has crafted him well and he’s a memorable protagonist.

There is quite a wide range of characters who appear throughout the story but they all feel three dimensional and most importantly, they all feel appropriately threatening and unreliable.

Ultimately though, I think the best thing about this novel was it’s fierce energy, pace, drama and complexity. It’s the kind of book you realise you’re reading with your mouth half open because you are constantly in a state of tension, suspense, shock and disbelief. Morgan’s skill is in her execution of a surprisingly intricate plot that winds in and out of itself in a way that the reader could never second guess.

I was totally impressed with this stand alone thriller. It was very different from any other crime book I’ve read recently and knowing what I do now about the behaviour and personalities of the main characters, I might have been a little wary but actually, it’s a total page turner. It will leave you quite breathless.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Morgan might write next!

The Road to Publication is Filled with Serendipity by A.B. Morgan | Writing.ie

Please click on the link to access an article published in Writing.ie ‘s  online magazine.

Source: The Road to Publication is Filled with Serendipity by A.B. Morgan | Writing.ie