A Familiar Scene?

Filled with a familiar sense of foreboding, I steal myself as I gingerly push the door open.  He doesn’t greet me and I don’t hear him so maybe, hopefully he’s still asleep.  My tensed-up bones relax as I step into the hallway.  If I’m very quiet, very lucky, he might not even notice I’ve come home at all.

It wasn’t always like this.  At the beginning we couldn't get enough of each other.  I remember imagining half the time that I must be dreaming.  There was no way I could be quite so loved and love so much in return.  George and me.  Me and George.  Always together.  And so happy together.

I don’t know what changed.  Maybe it was something I said; I can be a little snappy at times, a little hard to get on with but whatever we went through, however we’d been with each other,  we’d always be curled up on the sofa together at the end of the day.  And I always got to watch whatever I liked on the telly.  George was happy if I was happy it seemed.

Seemed.  Oh how things can change.  These days I’m lucky if I see him before I go to bed.  I hear him come home some nights but he just goes straight to bed without waking me.  Sometimes in another room. I don’t know where he goes, he never tells me and there’s no point in asking; I hate atmospheres.  It’s like he doesn’t think I deserve to know. Maybe I don’t.

Some days I’m afraid I’m losing him completely.  He stares at meals I lay before him as if I’ve put poison in them.  But I’d never do anything like that; I couldn’t bear to live with the guilt for one thing.  Often I’ve thrown his food away – making sure he’s watching - and given him something else just so he can see there’s nothing to worry about.  But it’s too late by then, his eyes narrow and he looks at me as if he’s made the biggest mistake of his life – choosing me to share his with.  It’s what he doesn’t say that hurts the most and lately it seems I just can’t satisfy him however hard I try.

My breath catches as suddenly there is a noise on the stairs.  He’s woken up.  My heart picks up speed.  I check myself in the mirror.  My eyes flick nervously to the door; maybe I have time to get out again before he sees me.  But it’s too late.  He’s here, standing in front of me now, his eyes demanding to know where I’ve been.

‘It was a bit rushed at work,’ I swallow, hoping that this will placate him.  His eyes darken and I wait for the familiar rebuff.

His head turns to the shopping bags still by the door where I dropped them.  Then his gaze returns to me and we lock eyes.  I can feel the heat rising under my arms.  Perhaps if I show him want I’ve got then maybe he’ll be nice to me and his demands might not be quite so severe.

Edging round the kitchen table, I slide myself along the wall to the shopping bags.  I bring one back with me, feeling his eyes on me all the way.  Nervously I reach into the bag and pull out something I hope will placate him.  Make him love me again the way he used to; unconditionally.

 ‘We all deserve to be treated sometimes don’t we?’ I say sweetly.

He lifts his eyes and follows my hand as I start to peel back the wrapper. 

When he’s finished eating it I wait for a sign of thanks, something to let me know that he still wants me; needs me in his life. But nothing comes.  Instead he wipes his mouth and then walks straight past me as if I’m not there.  He stares out through the French doors and I wonder what he’s thinking. Probably wondering when this incessant rain will stop so he can get back outside and chase the birds again.

You talkin' bout me?

Agent provocateur

Maybe things are looking up...
So far, in my writing journey, there's one experience that has eluded me (well, yes, apart from never having received a huge book deal). There have been editors, and contracts, but no agent. 

Perhaps it's time to review my approach, as I consider:

Things you must never say to an agent*

I've made you a key ring, enclosed, from my own hair.

I've discovered that your house is only a couple of bus rides from my office. I could bring my manuscript over, one evening after work, along with a pizza for us. I bet you like Hawaiian too.

I hope, even if you ultimately completely devastate me by rejecting my wonderful book, that we become friends.

I wouldn't say my book is a best seller, but you can!

Do you like horses? I bet you don't like them as much as I do. I LOVE horses. And alpacas. Anyway, please find enclosed my spy thriller - about a crime-solving horse and her alpaca sidekick.

Enclosed is a photograph of my tattoo, based on your website photo. 

How soon can I get an advance on future royalties? Only my landlord is chasing me for last month's rent.

Of course, there are much better margins in self-publishing, but I thought I'd give you a chance to prove yourself.

Several agents I sent my book to, who all rejected it first, suggested I try you as a last resort.

This is the first book I've ever written, so feel free to mark up any corrections for me. And if you have any ideas about how I can improve it, that would be great too. Sorry, but I can't afford stamps right now - I'll pay you back when the book starts earning.

There's no rush for a decision. I'm away in Marbella for a fortnight, so take your time.

I've put a surveillance device in the envelope so I can get honest feedback. Remember to speak clearly.

* And in case you're an agent reading this (you know who you are), I'll be good next time!

Guest Author Leigh Russell : Living the Dream from a Walk in the Park!

These days writing is such a necessary part of my life, it's hard to believe that five years ago I had no expectations of becoming an author. I've been quoted as saying that I "fell into writing like Alice down the rabbit hole” because there was never any grand plan to write. 

If anyone had told me five years ago that my books would all hit the bestseller charts on amazon, kindle, iTunes, WH Smith's and Waterstones, I would have laughed because I hadn't written anything. So when people ask me about my future plans, I can only say that the future is mysterious and full of exciting possibilities. There's no telling what might be around the corner.

The story of my writing begins with a walk in my local park. It was summer in England - so of course the sky was overcast and as I reached the middle of the park it began to rain. Just then, a man appeared round a bend in the path walking towards me. In that instant an idea for a story struck me, and when I returned home I started writing. The story took shape so quickly in my mind that after six weeks the first draft was finished. Having sent it off in a large brown envelope - as you did back in those days - I almost forgot about it. Imagine my excitement when a publisher telephoned me two weeks later to express interest in my writing!

You can read the story inspired by my walk in the park in Cut Short, published in 2009 as the first in a series of crime novels. The book introduces my detective, Geraldine Steel, a single woman dedicated to her job. Thanks mainly to word of mouth recommendations, Cut Short sold incredibly fast. Fortunately it was also very well reviewed, and went on to be shortlisted for a CWA Dagger Award for Best First Crime Novel.

Since the publication of Cut Short, I am frequently approached to give author talks. The first reading group I visited were interested to hear about Road Closed, the second book in the series I found myself writing. My audience were all disappointed to hear that I had given Geraldine Steel a different sergeant in Road Closed. "But we like Ian Peterson," they chorused. Always keen to please, I duly reinstated Ian Peterson as Geraldine Steel's detective sergeant; little dreaming that he would one day feature in his own series.  

I was initially offered a three book deal. In Cut Short, Road Closed and Dead End, Geraldine Steel works for the Kent constabulary. Following the success of all three titles, my publisher offered me a second three book deal. In Death Bed and Stop Dead, Geraldine has moved to London, leaving her sergeant behind. So when my publisher wanted to explore the possibility of my writing two books a year, a spin off series for Ian Peterson was the obvious answer. The new series launches this year with Cold Sacrifice.

Sometimes I stop and think: "This is me. I'm writing books, and people are reading them all around the world, in translation as well as in the original English". It seems unreal. I'm not sure it's really happening. But if it's a dream, I don't want to wake up yet. I'm only half way through writing the second Ian Peterson novel which has to be finished before I turn my attention to the edits for the sixth Geraldine Steel novel, and then there's my idea for the seventh Geraldine Steel investigation.... and the eighth.... and Ian Peterson's third story... No, I can't stop yet! Because however exciting it is to know my books are bestsellers, the real thrill is writing.

Links to all Leigh Russell's books can be found on her website: http://leighrussell.co.uk

Favourite Scenes

Writers shouldn't have favourite characters, right?  Well, maybe it's because Becca is a little bit awkward and a little bit bolshie the way I can be that makes me love her so much.

We're allowed to have favourite scenes though, so I thought I'd share one from the end of chapter 12, beginning of 13 in my teenage book 'Re: Becca'.
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Remember the school Games lessons on those horrible barren wastelands called playing fields?  Here Becca has just been (as usual) the last one picked for hockey teams and she's not having much fun. Until...

‘Okay… and… Bully-OFF!’ Miss Jordan shrieks and blows the whistle so shrilly that any dogs within a ten mile radius will be spinning on the spot before heading in our direction.  

       I sigh despondently,  though I take my stance and try to look like I mean it.  But before the game has a chance to get underway, I hear a loud CRA-ACK!   Pain shoots up from the base of my leg and I am immediately pole-axed and lying in a state of agony on the muddy grass, clutching my ankle for dear life.  I don’t even need to turn round to see what the hell has happened to me because it’s taken place so many times before that Miss Jordan probably thinks I’m a secret epileptic or something.  This is a foul carried out by one of the minions under Juliette’s control by a strike to the ankle with a hockey stick and if it didn’t hurt so much I’d be rolling my eyes with the whole boring monotony of it all.
‘PPPPEEEEEP!’ the whistle slices sharply through the air again and Miss Jordan springs over to me, her breath white in the chilled morning air.  She bends down and glares at me as if I’ve just dropped something messy on her nice clean carpet.  Deliberately.  She does my mum’s hands on hips stance and I swallow beneath her, waiting.
‘Becca Banks!’ she scowls accusingly – like I’m doing this to secure a curl-up-and-die part in this year’s school production.  ‘What do you think you’re doing down there?’
Seriously, so many words have to be bitten back where teachers are concerned.  WTF  d’you think I’m doing down here, Miss? Springs to mind but before I know it, I’m being hauled to my one good foot by Claire and Miss Jordan and virtually dragged over to the reserves bench.  The pain is spiking right up my leg and they lump me down and leave me. 
‘Sit it out,’ Miss Jordan huffs and then runs jauntily off back towards the field peeping her whistle like she’s peeping for bloody victory.  Stupid ignorant lesb…
‘This the injuries bench then?’ a voice splits the silence. 
I turn around to see a tall tracksuit looking a whole lot warmer than I feel, hobbling towards me, the hood pulled down close to its owner’s nose.  I can’t quite make out who it is but the voice sounds familiar.
 ‘Can I?’  the tracksuit points to the bench and as I nod, it sits down beside me.  ‘You look cold,’ he says, lifting his hooded face  to the sky.  I wonder why he isn't glued to the female forms as they bounce and bob their way after the stupid hockey ball on the field in front of us.  I open my mouth to tell him that, yeah, strangely enough, I am actually ber-luddy freezing as it happens but I’m hypnotized into silence as my eyes see long nimble fingers tear down the zip, pull both arms out of the sleeves and then the still-warm track-suit top is wrapped around my shivering torso in one seamless move.
 ‘Better?’ Judd Crawley smiles chivalrously into my astonished face.


When our grandchildren ask me to tell them the exact moment I realised I wanted to be with their grandfather for a lifetime - if not longer - I shall tell them that we were sitting together on a very damp, very cold wooden seat at the Hartley Road Upper playing fields.  We’d both been in our respective sports classes and, as luck would have it, had become contemporaneously injured and arrived here, on the reserves bench, at almost the same time.  
I sit and relish being in the warmth of Judd Crawley’s fleecy lined tracksuit top, my skin heating up nicely from the mere proximity of his body beside me.  On a deeper level, I also feel all the stuffing which had been so cruelly pulled from my insides not minutes before, return to my body a gazillionfold.  Only this time my innards are suffused with a radiance of proper happiness. I may actually be floating at least five centimetres off this bench for all the reality I’m feeling right now.   I’ve already screwed my eyes shut tight twice and opened them just to be on the safe side; to make sure I’m not concussed or anything – er - from the ankle?  Well, who knows. But he’s still here.  Sitting beside me.  And I have his fleecy top wrapped around my body.  HIS fleecy top.  Around MY body.

A trifle silly

by Mary J Dinan

I am relatively new to writing, and getting a book contract with an international publisher has changed my perspective in ways I never thought about. This has led me down avenues I never would have contemplated. My book is a travel book and it has consumed my thoughts for a considerable amount of time.

Since signing that contract, I have started to do strange things. I have discovered it's the ordinary everyday things that can get us into trouble. I realised this the other day. The day started normally enough or so I thought.

The car horn blasted and the man in an oncoming car made frantic finger gestures to me.
'What on earth is he playing at?' I asked myself, getting cross at the fuss he was making. I hadn't driven in his way, my car door wasn't open this time and a quick look in my rear view mirror told me that I hadn't left my boot open, so I chose to ignore him. I was so mad I felt like sticking out my tongue at him - or worse.

No sooner had he disappeared from view when another horn-friendly maniac beeped constantly behind me.
'Not him as well!' I was getting more and more cross. I reasoned that I was in the right lane; I didn't owe him any money, unless I had missed a signpost diverting me another way?

By now I was in the left lane, with the constant blasting behind me. Against my better judgment, I decided to turn right. I haven't done that since I was learning to drive. Here was this maniac forcing me to do manoeuvres I wouldn't normally consider; anything to get away from him.

I decided that as he was making such a fuss I should pull in , so I found myself in a comprising position. I was livid, now I was reduced to driving on the footpath. As I looked to the right there was a garage, incidentally with a police van. I was relieved they had failed to notice me driving on the footpath and I became distracted by a man looking over waving at me and pointing to my roof. What now!

Suddenly I remembered, earlier I had nipped into Tesco and bought a trifle. Past experience has taught me that when you got to Tesco you rarely come out with the one item you went in for but often end up with far more shopping than intended. I had no intentions of buying a trifle.

As I juggled the shopping and the car keys I'd put the trifle onto the roof of the car. Whoops! That would have been fine if I had remembered to take it off. It must have been a very funny sight; someone driving a bright red 21-year-old Nissan Micra with a trifle on board.

I thanked the man who came over to the car, as he removed the trifle from the roof of the car and handed it to me saying: "That's great manoeuvring; driving with that on the roof." He laughed. "Yes meals on wheels," I joked.

When I realised what I had done, I laughed out loud until I cried. Oncoming car drivers stared in at me as I laughed hysterically. Whoops, the man in the white van thought I was laughing at him and scowled at me. This amused me further and caused my hysterical laughter to escalate. Another driver; this time a woman in a turquoise car thought I was laughing at her and glared in at me. The more she glared the funnier it became. I don't think the passing priest was amused either as I laughed his way. I joked with myself inwardly thinking: "Don't trifle with me." My laughter continued all the way home.

As I thought about it, I was more and more amused at how a trifle could cause such a commotion. It had caused me to become angry and nearly stick out my tongue at someone. It caused me to cut across the road in the wrong lane, drive on the footpath and make me unpopular with other motorists and insult the clergy and made me look silly, not a bad achievement for an inanimate object, a trifle funny don't you think? It wasn't even a sherry trifle.

This morning I put my hat in the fridge……. Enough said!

Painting by Letters

I love me a good analogy and as I haven’t mentioned any recently, I thought it was about time I took  one out, shook it off and gave it a thorough airing. 

During half term, whilst my clever husband was laying a floor in the living room, I was a few feet away  (we’ve downsized) giving the bathroom a couple of coats of what I consider to be a ‘warm steel’  - a kind of silver-denim if you like but I shall soon run out of describing words for the colour I got the nice people in Homebase to mix up for me - and it was during the first coat of this paint-job that I began my analogical musings.

I seem to follow the same weird (head) process whilst painting as I do when writing. Viz:

I start at the corners because I consider these the trickiest bits.  (Have a beginning. Know your end).  Then the corners are joined up to build a ‘framework’ for the haphazard, roller-it-like-a-madwoman and don’t worry too much about the splashes and drips because that’s what kitchen roll and spray stuff is for.  i.e. if I get it done without too much thought, then nobody will have seen me making and mending all the mistakes I made along the way and think 'how clever that's she's done this without any apparent pulling out of hair'.

And if paint gets on anything it shouldn’t (ceilings/skirtings/ light fittings/cat) then  there’s always white spirit, scourers and scrapers.  See -  the editing process is never an attractive proposition.  

But even as I’m painting the corners and the straight bits all nicely and neatly, I am WAY ahead of myself in the whole ‘picture’ process in my head and I’m already beginning to fret like a fool that I’ve chosen the wrong colour.  It’s going to make the room too small/too dark/too heavy/too frivolous/whatever.  I cannot relax.  And I have to convince myself to forge ahead.

Because what’s the alternative – go and buy a completely different colour; come back and perform the same silly dance all over again? 

I stand back at times and survey the scene – I squint in places and wonder if anyone would notice if I just left it and ran away for a week and started on a different room; maybe if I did it really badly then  I wouldn’t be relied on to do it again? And there’s always the tin of trusty Magnolia (delete/undo).

Lack of self-belief during the painting of a bathroom is utter lunacy; I know this now I can see it written down.  But it’s this exact-same self-belief that defies me when I’m writing too.
I’ve spent an eternity working out if the colour is right (that’ll be the story).  Will it ‘go’.  Will it be ‘got’?  Will it enhance, enrich, delight, transform? Will it make a difference, will it enlighten and will it be so memorable that everyone will want it?

It’s a bleedin’ rigmarole, is what it is.

This... THIS, people is why there are a million different half-full/empty tins of different coloured paint buckets hidden away in my metaphorical shed.  And unless I stop looking at other people’s pretty walls and trust that I’m allowed to choose my own shade for my own space, then I’m never going to get anywhere.

After I'd finished I did the usual 'stand back and survey' thing; turning the light on and off - watching where the shadows fell and how the light bounced off different walls and parts of me were proud at what I'd achieved.
I also revisited - popping back occasionally during the evening (well, we've only got the one loo so, y'know...) and approached the newly coloured room as if I was a stranger visiting and wondered how they'd see it.

The trouble is, I am an anxious painter.  it would therefore follow that I'm an anxious writer.
But I refuse to go down the 'Twenty Shades of Magnolia' path.

Stories are written to be enjoyed, not dissected. Discuss.

As a child I used to proof-read the letters my father sent to his mother every week - initially to make sure I wasn’t duplicating events he’d already written about in my own letter to my gran, but he got so irritated by my verbal red-penning that he sacked me during my O-levels, citing his concern about it interfering with revision So it was no surprise to anybody that I chose to study English Literature at A-level.

However, images I had of floating about the corridors of the school with an Austen in my hand and the works of Tennyson peeking cheekily from my satchel were whipped from my foolish grasp the minute we sat down to translate Chaucer’s  the ‘Nun’s Priests’ Tale’ into Modern English.  And  *blush* the language!  I swear (see what I did there?) I learnt far naughtier words during my English Lit classes than I ever did in the playground.

But my love of Shakespeare – even before he looked like Joseph Fiennes (honest!) -  began to dilute from ruby red to pomegranate pink.  No sooner had the tutor group finished a scene than we were dragged right back to the beginning of the same scene in order to take it apart sentence by sentence; word for word; comma by comma it seemed.  All I wanted to do was read on and see what happened next; this wasn't what I signed up for.  It became wearing, repetitive and dull.

My relationship with Macbeth is therefore fractured; it’s segmented into terms of importance; the parts that my tutor spent w-a-a-y too long dissecting into metaphors, similes analogies and everything in between.  I personally don’t think that Shakespeare was intentionally trying to shoe-horn so many light/dark metaphors into his play that they became minefields for anybody to tread lightly through.  I mean, surely the fact that The Macbeths knifed Duncan in the dead of night was simply because it’s easier to stab someone at night than in broad daylight and not because for the remainder of the play every shadow/ dark/light reference will lead the reader to conclude that this part should be cross-referenced with even deeper suggestions of manic depression and other disorders that could have been present in the minds of the murderers at another section of the play.  Er… hello?  Do we enter into this depth of dissection with episodes of Eastenders?*
*Of course I’m not implying that ANY of Shakespeare’s plays are comparable with Eastenders scripts – but who knows, if he’d been around today it might be something he’d have had a stab at if money was as tight for him as we’re led to believe.

We also had a very *ahem* passionate tutor who used to go on at length about the imagery surrounding poplar trees in a poem (I forget which) and to this day I can’t look at one without imagining a row of erect … fill in the blanks.  But was this seriously the intention of the poet?  Did he really want his readers to have this image in their heads or was sit just that ‘poplar’ rhymed better with…. um…. alright  then, he put them in for the benefit of scan. Or maybe he was just blimmin’ well sitting by some when he wrote the poem. Simples. Actually,  I always had my suspicions about this particular tutor.  We used to take unwritten bets on how many sexual connotations she’d have us scribbling down in our notes every lesson we had with her. And up until A-level English Lit, I’d always presumed Fellatio was going to turn out to be one of Romeo’s mates. Shocked doesn’t go halfway.

So am I doing Shakespeare and English tutors a bit of a disservice?  Did the literary greats REALLY want us to go through their poetry and prose with fine-toothed-combs and make sure we found every subtle nuance of metaphorical trickery they’d intentionally planted within their (what would become) classics?  Or did they just write for the love of the story and the words?

I remember a while back after a friend had read a chapter of a book I was writing, she commented “I like what you did with the Frank Sinatra/My Way references – very clever” and I couldn’t work out what she meant until I read it back myself and realised that yes, there was a tenuous connection if you thought about it – but I hadn’t; thought about it I mean – when I’d written it.  So maybe if we’re writing ‘in the zone’ we’re in such a place that all manner of collective images are drawn on by our subconscious creative minds and somehow end up becoming translated onto the page/screen without our initial intention.

Do you want YOUR writing to bear the stretching, slicing, and probing of symbolic literary dissection?  Do you have an imaginary classroom of students in your mind who are scratching their heads at some of the metaphors you’ve used in your work, wondering how they will EVER get the ten marks for this section that they need to get their UCAS points?

Or do you write for the sheer love of telling a good story?

Jacqueline Christodoulou tells us how Crime Writing found Her...

When people ask me about my writing I usually tell them that I submitted my first novel five years ago. But that’s not entirely true. My journey began a long time before that.

Like most people, I started writing at school.  I didn't give up later on. Likewise, reading began at around five years old and I continued. So when I decided to write novels I thought I had a fairly good grounding. How difficult could it be?
Not so easy, it turned out.

I began to write short stories for publication around 1995 and had some success with women's magazines. So the natural next step was to write something longer. I'd been thinking about a story and I began to write that, with some autobiographical details thrown in. Bound to be a winner, wasn't it? I sent it to the Romantic Novelists Association as an entry to one of their competitions. The main thrust of the feedback was that I had spelt 'whether' as 'wether' wrongly the whole way through the manuscript conjuring up the image of a castrated male sheep for the reviewer. Not exactly what I was hoping for.  I sent it to a couple of agents (with corrected spelling), and it was rejected.

Around that time I had been working with a group of young people at a youth project and learnt that there was more to storytelling than meets the eye - rather than just being a source of entertainment, it's how people construct and understand their life experiences.

So I went to study it academically for many years and came out on a very different trajectory than I entered at - I became a narrative psychologist with a successful non-fiction book about identity construction!

I’d learnt about the nuts and bolts of storytelling, and how it affects people psychologically. I learned about Aristotle’s three acts and how everyday language is storytelling with a beginning, middle and an end. In many ways, studying the way people build their identities through stories brought me closer to understanding how readers understand novels, as a kind of conversation filtered through both the ideas of the author and the experience of the reader.

But I still wanted to write fiction. In fact, I couldn't stop writing fiction. I read a lot of women's fiction and decided I would write fiction for women. Seemed entirely reasonable. I didn't plan to write formula or commercial fiction, rather stories about lives, wherever that took me. The first two novels exorcised my own life out of the stories, leaving my set to write a third story free from my emotional shackles. My third novel was the first one I had been completely pleased with and excited about. However, when I sent it out, I soon realised that it was considered mixed genre.

In between writing the third novel and revising it, I wrote a speculative fiction story and briefly wondered if I was meant to veer off in this direction. Then I started another women's fiction book that, again, had dark undertones.

By this time I had detected a pattern - these women's fictions books were all set against a landscape of the peaks and troughs of lives and how people dealt with loss and various emotions. I'd learnt about Freytag's pyramid by this time, and about comedy, quest and tragedy stories. I'd learnt about seed words and thematic questions. Some time early last year I realised that I my thematic questions were about crime and mystery and I was trying to squash them into a women's fiction-shaped container.

I love my characters, so much that I dream about them. I was, and still am, committed to strong characters who, like real people, have their own nuances, flaws and ticks. So as well as the confusion over genre, I was trying to write a character-led novel with an equally strong plot. This led to a slow pace - I was trying to do everything at once.

It wasn't until my work attracted the attention of agents and I received their feedback that I realised I was a crime writer. I'd had some requests for full manuscripts from agents who represented crime and thriller authors, and I came to realise that this was what the darkness in my writing had been - underlying tones of dreadful things in women's lives. I had also been writing strong women characters and some of the critique from beta readers mentioned that they were perhaps a little too quirky for women's fiction. I told myself that they were quirky because of their horrendous life experiences, but never wrote about the horror. It was almost as if I had been resisting writing what I wanted to in an effort to get myself to a point where I wasn't writing about surface issues.

Writing about crime and mystery has allowed me develop my writing in a way that I had never been able to before. My interest in characterisation extends to the characters surrounding the crime and affected by it, as well as the antagonist and protagonist, and this has given me an opportunity to use my psychological knowledge to understand the dynamics.

Having described my journey so far it sounds like I have a master plan, all plotted out somewhere. Yet when I start writing all of the above is in there somewhere, driving the core of the story as the characters provide a canvas for it. It's still difficult, and a challenge. But the joy from the creative process makes it worthwhile. That, and imagining my novel published and on the shelves of a bookshop.

So crime writing is for me. It always was, right from the first novel when I took imaginary revenge on the man who left my great grandmother alone with a child. I just had to recognise it. Now it's difficult for me to imagine writing anything else. Although who knows where this writing journey will take me next?

Jacqueline has written for best! Magazine, Bea Magazine and The F-Word. She has contributed to the 100RPM anthology and has written a non-fiction book ‘Health, Identity and Women’. Jacqueline is currently working on her second crime novel.  Her first crime novel is currently "under discussion  with interested parties" - watch this space!
Her blog, Keeping it Real, looks at links between psychology, ideation and the writing process.

Gold Winning Story of the '500 Words' Annual Radio 2 Competition

I wanted to share with everybody (in case you don’t follow this annual event) the Gold winner of the 10-13 age group of the “500 Words” Radio 2 competition which is run in conjunction with the Hay Literary Festival.
It stopped me in my tracks when it was read out on the radio and it looks like the short story writers amongst are going  have some fierce competition in the future!

December 31st 2013
I sit up as the alarm rings through the dormitory. 6 am. Up and dressed by 6:15, along with all the other girls. My label says 1068G. That's my name, has been for three years now, ever since the flood. Our town was destroyed, they said, and the rest of the world just seemed to disappear, so we moved straight into the vaults.
Breakfast is at 6:30, as it's a 15 minute walk away. The place is vast. As I enter, I notice B, my only friend here, across the room. Most people here don't have friends. If they do, it's usually with the person above them in the dormitory, but I can't ever seem to get a word out of the girl above me. In the night I hear her whisper her parents' names into the darkness. None of us see our parents anymore; they have different time schedules. Sometimes I see my little sister standing in the queue for the canteen but I don't think she recognizes who I am anymore.
It was by chance that I met B, or 1069B, to give him his real name. We were queuing to get in here after the flood, and he was opposite me in the line. I smiled at him and he smiled back; we've been friends ever since.
I push my tray of food along the canteen, and sit by B, whose plate is full. I glance down at mine. Porridge. Eugh. We eat quickly in silence. We don't talk much, sometimes dream about escaping. Only ever dreams, though.
After breakfast, we head down to our jobs. As I exit, something catches my eye. A flashing, like a camera recording. I shrug this thought off and head to textiles. That's what I do, repair outfits and bed sheets and make new things. It's hard work, but at the end of the day we always come back to our evening meals, which are usually pretty good. And I get to see B. But today, something is different. A guard patrolling the corridor catches my arm, and warns me that we're all going to the main hall. This is odd; we only go there for ceremonies. I follow him inside and sit. The room is packed with people. The hall is silent, before a hollow, expressionless voice rings out.
"For three years now," the voice begins, "You have been of great scientific use to me. But that time is finished. You are worth nothing anymore." The lights blink out as the gas valves hiss open.
"And that, folks, is the last ever episode of Your Life, where we explored the effects of underground living. Next week, tune into our new reality series, Watching Us." A family snuggles close as the credits begin rolling. Thousands of metres below, two terrified children lock hands in one final desperate human motion.
With a careless flick the TV screen turns blank.

Written  by Olivia Hunt aged 12  http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/500words/2013/stories/