Love them or loathe them, Internet memes are everywhere; captions applied to unrelated pictures with intention to provoke amusement. I thought I'd give this a go in relation to the world of indie writing. (This idea is in no way a means of distraction from my own writing.) There's so much scope for humour in this field, mainly owing to the frustrations indie authors and their readers experience! To avoid issues with copyright, all photographs (bar one) are from my own photo albums. I hope this blog post tickles you and brightens your day.
I'm thrilled to announce that my new novella, Pride, is available to download now from Amazon for the special launch price of 99p. The book will be released shortly in paperback. I sincerely hope that all who read it, gay or straight, will take something from it. It's a story which I think will resonate with many in different ways and I really enjoyed writing it. Without further ado, here are the details.
Andrew Barrett has been away from the indie scene for a while and it's a delight to welcome him back with his latest book, The Lift, a short story featuring his well-known character Eddie Collins. I was wowed by the author's Third Rule trilogy and, subsequently, Black By Rose and I am hugely excited about more Eddie Collins. Mr Barrett, who works as a Scenes Of Crime Officer (and so knows the material for his books well) was kind enough to answer some questions here. Enjoy!
Firstly, Andrew or Andy?
Everyone who knows me calls me Andy; it’s informal – just the way I like it. 'Andrew' is reserved for paperwork, book covers, and being told off.
So, Andy, Eddie Collins is back! What can you tell us about his (and your!) new short story The Lift?
I wanted to do an interview with Eddie Collins so people could get to know him better, but somehow knew it wouldn’t work because he can be a bit evasive at times. So I decided to put him in a position he couldn’t smart talk his way out of, and then give him some company. Maybe then we’d find out a little more. But to make it more intense and more uncomfortable for Eddie, I decided on less than desirable company. And still, I thought, that wouldn’t really expose him enough, so I decided to write the story in first person.
And there’s another reason I wrote this short story. I was a third of the way through my next Eddie Collins novel, Sword of Damocles, when life took over and got in the way, stopped me writing for the best part of a year. It’s going to be much later this year before it’s finished and in the meantime I didn’t want people to forget all about him (Eddie told me to say that!). And writing an illuminating short story was probably the best thing to do.
I understand. It is a worry, with such a crowded market, that readers will 'forget' who you are. So, Sword of Damocles is the next full-length Eddie! Can you tell us more about the book?
Indeed! Sword of Damocles sees Eddie pit his wits against his boss – as usual, but it also sees him under threat of losing not only his job, but potentially undermining public confidence in the police service, and losing the conviction against one of Britain’s most notorious killers. It’s safe to say that Eddie is bricking it but he still comes back fighting harder than ever in typical Eddie fashion.
And without wishing to sound too vague, Sword of Damocles loses one well-liked and established character in favour of what I hope will be another, even stronger supporting character.
I should also point out that some aspects of Sword of Damocles are ripped from a script of the same title that a good friend and I wrote 7 years ago. That script, and its brethren, featured a CSI called Roger Conniston – remember him? It’s not an easy process to graft the parts of the original story into Eddie Collins’s life, but so far it’s going very well, and I’m extremely pleased with it.
Ah, Roger Conniston of your Dead trilogy, yes. The Third Rule books and Black By Rose are full of realistic and gritty scenes. How much does your own line of work influence your writing?
Hmm, interesting question. I’ve had to seek permission from the Professional Standards Unit within my force in order to write crime fiction, and in order to tell people that I’m a real life CSI. I’ve also had to declare that none of my characters come from real-life incidents or suspects. And they don’t. Honest. I certainly use a generic knowledge of crime scenes to aid my writing and try to emulate some of the seedier parts of my professional life on paper, but all the characters and all the story-lines in The Third Rule and Black by Rose are totally fictitious.
If it wasn’t for my job, I’d never be able to inject this amount of realism into the books. I think you could research all you liked to get things fairly close to real, but in order to fully appreciate life in the police, and all the forensic flavours that pour through each story, there’s really no substitute for living it.
That's interesting. I work in the world of pharmacy and am completely the opposite in that I deliberately don't write about my workplace. I see my books as a form of escape from work, I suppose. So, how much of you is in Eddie?
I’d like to say he’s a figment of my imagination. And he is – but not totally. I’m fairly quiet in real life, keep myself to myself as much as I can, but there are times when I wish I could say it how it is and not get fired for it. I would be Eddie Collins if I had the courage to be. I wouldn’t be as rude as he often is, but I wouldn’t shy away from idiots quite as much I have to in reality either. I think that’s probably true for a lot of people, and I wonder if that’s why he is liked as much as he is; he’s acting in a way we all wish we could.
Eddie is a fairly complex and fully-realised character and he and his world must take over your writing life somewhat. Do you have any plans to write anything else?
It’s taken me the best part of twenty years to grow Eddie Collins. Before him was Roger Conniston, and before Roger there was Jon Benedict. Both good men, but both a little… well, a little less Eddie, I suppose. I thoroughly enjoy writing about him and the scrapes he gets into, and I hope I write about him for a long time to come. But I’m a writer who enjoys stories, and not all those stories are crime based, not all of them suitable for Eddie. So yes, he does take over my writing life to a very large degree, but I’m not blinkered as to what else is out there. I recently began writing a horror novel that played about with time, but I got side-tracked (by Black by Rose) and haven’t yet revisited it. I hope I will one day.
I’ve just got to polish a short story I wrote in January, the title of which is, Any Old Iron. So I can and I do write other things, but I know where my heart lies.
You are, of course, a human being as well as an author. Do you find it hard to switch off your mind when in the middle of a book?
Extremely. While at work, I often blink myself awake with people staring at me, saying, “Well?” I miss more questions or discussions than enough when I drift off into a scene I’ve been working on. I can sit through a whole film and not know what it was about. I can drive to work and wonder how the hell I got there.
My biggest problem while writing is music. As I’m trying to lower myself into ‘the zone’ I’m constantly distracted by random tunes appearing in my head! Does this happen to anyone else? It might be a tune I heard yesterday or even last week, it might be words on a page that are part of a lyric, and some annoying part of my mind will begin to sing the song and I lose my train of thought and bob to the surface again like a rubber duck!
And what about reading? Do you read a lot? If so, do these books differ from the ones you write?
I read when I can. I admit to not reading enough. When I get spare time at home, my selfish side takes over, and I go write. I should read more and I often beat myself up with a guilty stick about it. And I buy far more books than I can possibly get around to reading.
A couple of years ago I immersed myself in Lee Child’s Reacher series, but after ten books I was pulling my hair out in frustration. The character was too perfect, nothing ever happened that he couldn’t control and so I quit the series. I’m now reading James Carol’s books. They’re crime books, not forensically based, but good solid thrillers. I also enjoy reading non-fiction too. Especially science books, Stephen Hawking, that kind of thing. That stuff really makes you think. Over the last few years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading some wonderful Indie authors’ work. Had I not been around the forums, I wouldn’t have even known about them. But there are some truly wonderful and gifted people writing extremely entertaining books. They know who they are.
I agree. The forums are an excellent place to discover great authors you wouldn't otherwise have encountered. What do you do to relax?
I used to be very keen on photography, and pencil drawing. I used to walk in the Dales, and I used to read often. I used to play the guitar (badly). I’ve given all that up because I write.
And if I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing.
Sad, isn’t it?
Well, that’s not the end of the story really, because I now have a lovely lady and we have a lovely baby. So there are plenty of things I do that don’t involve writing. We always try to have family days out whenever I’m not at work, and it makes me appreciate life more, somehow.
Ah, wonderful. Your life seems pretty varied and must be fulfilling in many ways. Time's almost up now so we better conclude. The Third Rule trilogy and The Lift are both currently free for a limited time. Tell us in one sentence why readers should download them.
Because they’re free!
Only joking. Readers should download them because I relish the chance to entertain people with really deep realistic stories played out by people we can all relate to.
Thanks, Andy. I'm off to download The Lift right now. I can heartily recommend The Third Rule to fellow readers; it is truly excellent.
The Third Rule on Amazon
The Lift on Amazon
I'm pleased to be at a stage close enough to the release of my next book, Pride, to unveil the cover and blurb. The novella follows on from my exploration of sexuality in FAG and, I suppose, can be viewed as a companion piece in this respect. Having said that, Pride is entirely stand-alone and very different, not least because it takes place in the nineties, some sixty years after FAG's boarding school setting.
While Pride could be described as a coming-of-age and coming-out story, I don't wish to label the book as such because I feel issues around sexuality can be extrapolated to all people, gay or straight. After all, how many of us, at one time or another, have felt unable to be our true selves? With this in mind, I have hope that the book's audience will not be restricted to those who have had to, or have yet to, 'come out'.
I would one day love to see fiction centring around a gay protagonist described as just 'fiction' and not 'gay fiction'. It affects us all.
So, without further ado, I am happy to share with you the following...
“Where are you going, Liam? You're always going somewhere. I feel as if I don’t know you any more.”
“I told you, Mum, I’m going for a pizza then seeing a film with a friend.”
But Liam is not having pizza or seeing a film; he’s going to his first Gay Pride march.
Liam has always felt different in a way he couldn’t quite pinpoint… up until now. He’s been a caterpillar all his life and his parents want him to stay that way. But Liam wants to be a butterfly.
A tender, funny and moving novella from critically-acclaimed author Jonathan Hill.
Last night I read a short story by a successful indie author who shall remain unnamed. The book is currently riding high in the charts and has a raft of favourable reviews. My problem with the book: the author cannot correctly use apostrophes. I’m not talking about the odd typo; the same error is repeated several times. What makes me even more depressed: not one review mentions this issue. Whether this is because readers think that correct grammar doesn’t matter or because they’re simply not noticing, I don’t know. I’m also not sure which is worse, but the latter concerns me greatly.
As an indie author, I feel responsibilities, chiefly to write a good story, to entertain, to move, to provoke thought. It occurred to me that I also have a duty to get it right. Get it right, as in write accurately and according to the rules of grammar. If I have two parents and they sleep together, I most certainly do not have a parent’s bedroom but a parents’ bedroom.
Independent publishing is a wonderful thing. It allows anyone to express themselves and tell stories. It allows me to tell stories. But it also allows writers to propagate errors introduced by poor schooling, poor parenting and text-speak.
Authors are not just telling a story for entertainment purposes. They are showing readers how things should be written. They are, inadvertently perhaps, teaching.
If you are an author, are you a good teacher?
Firstly, I'd like to thank the authors who contributed to this blog post. Without them, this article would be me rambling on and on and that is something I am confident nobody wants to read.
It only occurred to me just before publishing this that I should probably write some sort of introduction and that introduction should probably include a resolution or two of my own. I debated (for about three or four seconds) whether this opening segment should be serious or humorous. Then I debated (for another couple of seconds) whether to write in prose or bang some ideas down in a list format. I trust the results of both these debates - particularly the latter - will become clear round about... now.
Happy New Year!
(*delete as appropriate)
Happy New Year, everyone!
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Coco Pinchard, a fictional writer from Robert Bryndza's excellent series of humorous books. I recently read and enjoyed 'A Very Coco Christmas' - reviewed here - and am currently reading 'The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard'; the laughter count is impressively high and I am rapidly turning into a huge fan of the Coco books. To read my interview - where you can find out who I think should play Maureen if there were to be a movie and see me wearing a festive jumper - please click here. Thanks, Robert!
A new drabble of mine has been unveiled today on the Indie Book Bargains website.
“Mum, tell me again why you’ve got two Christmas trees up… and twice as many crackers as there are family!”
“I told you - if you buy it all during the sales after Christmas, you save a fortune! I bought half of this lot on Boxing Day last year and put it away for safe keeping. Then when this Christmas came round, I’d clean forgotten about it all. Now I have double!”
How we laughed!
Later the following year, Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I can still picture the two trees, the crackers swamping the tablecloth, but I no longer laugh.
Around this time last year, I released a festive Maureen short story - Maureen Gets Crafty. It was a quick read and I enjoyed writing it, so much so that I always intended to follow it up with another quickie this year. Here's that 'quickie', which has ended up considerably longer than last year's offering. The book becomes the second longest in the Maureen series and, while writing it, I found it's the ideal bridging book between Maureen and The Big One and the next. It's thus 'Book 4' in the series but can be read by Maureen newbies on its own to the same level of enjoyment.
The cover more than alludes to the fact that it's a loose take on Dickens' Christmas story. I emphasise 'loose' - parts are looser than Maureen's knicker elastic, but it was fun incorporating elements of A Christmas Carol in places.
And the best part of this book release? As a gift to my readers, the book is free immediately on release. Grab it while you can, spread the word and enjoy!
All that's left for me to say is...
It's been a while since I wrote my drabble books but I still write the occasional 100-word story. This week, two pieces have been featured over the Internet.
First up is The Stabbings on author Chris Bailey's blog, where I sit alongside drabbles by many other authors. The second drabble is The Pile-Up, which today featured on Indie Book Bargains.
He was ruthlessly efficient. In it went, out it came. Job done.
In most cases, the victims never even saw him coming. Stab, stab, stab. Cutting through skin as if it were butter left out of the fridge, forgotten.
He didn’t often see blood, but the speed with which he moved on to his next victim meant that his eyes didn’t linger for long on the point of penetration. When he did catch a glimpse of red, though, he looked at it without bother, unblinking.
And every victim heard the same final words called. “Next one for the flu jab!”
The first collision was at 08:43. Over the following two minutes, a further seven cars ploughed - smash! - onto the scene. Some vehicles spun a full 360 degrees, others were upturned. From the moment of first impact, the air filled with screams so awful that onlookers were forced to cover their ears. The gravity of the situation was highlighted, terribly, by the ongoing, never diminishing, sounds of distress.
A little boy was plucked from the wreckage by his father. “Jonny, those are your brother’s toy cars. Leave them alone. You're upsetting him and giving us all earache in the process!”
My writing and me.