Tag Archives: friendship

Crime, taxis, and writing YA novels

Across the world, taxi drivers provide a great service: ferrying people to and from airports and hospitals, driving people home after parties so that they can drink a glass ofTaxi wine or three without worrying about being over the limit, helping – as I have witnessed – old ladies back to their homes after a shopping expedition (and even ensuring the food gets put into the fridge and freezer before they leave). They put up with anti-social hours, reduction in sperm count (so I’m told – it’s all that sitting), and quite a lot of verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse from inebriated passengers.

But there have been a number of articles in the paper recently pointing out the sinister role some taxi drivers have played in serious crime including sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. I was not fully aware of this when I wrote my YA novel, GIRL FRIENDS. In the novel I wanted to convey something shady, sinister, and foreign, with links between nearby towns. Two seedy taxi firms seemed to fit the bill as illustrated by this excerpt about one of them:

Grace takes us away from the main shopping area and down a side road into a more run down part of the town. It’s not late but, with the darkness and a couple of shuttered shops, it looks deserted and I start to feel even more nervous. Grace’s step quickens.  “Hurry up,” she hisses at me, “nearly there.”  She points to a lit up building towards the end of the lane—it looks like a take away of some sort, but I can’t make out the writing above the shop. “But I’m not hungry…” I start to say. “Idiot,” she responds. “I know you’re not, this is where we’re meeting up.”

I see, as we get closer, that it isn’t a pizza take-away any more, but has been taken over by a taxi business. The name across the painted out window is foreign and I don’t have time to take it in. “Grace, I can’t, this isn’t my scene at all,” I almost whimper.  But by this time, she is already going through the door and I feel I can’t leave her now. Besides, I don’t know this part of town, and don’t want to go back on my own. Perhaps we can just have a brief chat with whoever this new boyfriend is, and then head back. The home must have given her a deadline for returning and it can’t be that late on a school day, surely?

Grace pushes the door open, and greets the woman behind the counter.  “Hi Bev.”  Bev looks as if she is in her forties—much older than my mum anyway. She is short, fat and greasy looking, with lank, dyed-blonde hair with dark and grey roots showing at the scalp, and huge eyelashes. Even with the short time I have to take her in I can see that these are false. I feel I should be pleased there is a woman on the premises, but the sight of Bev does not exactly re-assure me. She looks up as Grace strides in and smiles at her. But it’s not a friendly smile, more of a leer. No, I definitely don’t like the look of this Bev person.

“Hallo darling,” she greets Grace with a bored drawl. “Brought your little friend, I see.” She adds, looking me up and down with ill–concealed contempt.  Bev’s accent is thick and foreign. It’s not an accent I recognize—but I’m hopeless at accents, even British ones. She is sitting at a short counter with two phones in front of her. The rest of the small office is bare apart from a couple of tatty chairs and a battered sofa. She has a heater on full blast behind the counter and the air smells stale and stuffy. 

Despite this, I shiver. What on earth has this place got to do with Grace and any date she has set up? Perhaps we are going there by taxi? I turn to question Grace, but she has gone round the counter and is standing next to Bev. Bev looks up at her and smiles again. Again I feel her smile is false and unfriendly, rather than warm and genuine. This time she winks too, one large heavily made up upper eyelash bearing down, then rising again, with difficulty, from the caked lash below. I shiver again.

“They’re in the back,” she says after a short pause. “They’re waiting for you.” Grace nods to her, then turns and gestures for me to follow her. Nothing bad has happened so far, but all my instincts are telling me this is not where I want, or ought, to be. But I don’t want to be on my own either, or to leave Grace at this stage—even if it is her doing that I am here in the first place.

GIRL FRIENDS is narrated by 15 year old Courtney. If you want to find out whether her instincts are sound, and Grace is indeed heading for big trouble, you may like to purchase my book from Amazon.

Girl Friends - cover

 

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

myBook.to/GirlFriends

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

 

solstice logo (1)

 

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Download GIRL FRIENDS for free this weekend!

This weekend (Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th January) my YA novel for mid-teenagers isGirl Friends - cover on a special promotion on Amazon, and can be downloaded for free. As you can imagine from the title, it centres round two girls (Courtney and Grace) who are friends. There’s quite a lot of humour, a potential boyfriend, and a fast paced sub plot. The book also tackles some difficult and topical social issues – like child sexual exploitation. A number of people who have read it have described it as a ‘must read’ for all teenage girls. Admittedly this has mainly come from teachers and parents – but don’t let that put you off!

Excerpt from Girl Friends

If a look could kill, Grace gives me one then, so I shut up. I think briefly about her mother living now in a special hospital for the criminally insane and wonder if Grace misses her: whether it is better to have a mad mum like she has or a sad apology for a mum like mine. Who knows? Who cares anyway—it seems we’re more or less in the same boat.

The tense moment passes. I look across at Grace and she winks and gives a small smile. I smile back and feel my whole body relax. It’s great to have someone in your life who knows almost everything about you and understands. I hope in some way it is the same for her. We drink our coffee in reasonably companionable silence. It’s pretty dark outside by the time we’re down to the last dregs.

Grace looks at her watch—I notice for the first time that it is new. A new alertness comes over her. She digs into her bag and gets out her make-up—peering into the mirror to touch up an already flawless face. She looks across at me.

“Oh, Cor, you do look a mess. Here.”  She starts to lay about me with the powder.

“What the…? Heh, get off.”  I pull away but she has grabbed me firmly and continues to powder my nose. Then she releases me and sits back.

“Well that’s sorted the greasy shine. Now for the eyes.”

“No, Grace, lay off. I don’t really go for much make–up.”

“Time you did,” she retorts, advancing on me with eyeliner. “I’ve bought you your tea, remember, so you do as I say.” That’s true, so I sigh and let her get on with it, even allowing her to re-style my hair, pulling some bits across my face, and pushing other bits behind my ears. Across the restaurant, I see the lads behind the counter looking at us. Surely it must be against company rules to use the dining area as a beauty parlour and one of them will come across and throw us out. But it’s not busy and they are just laughing, enjoying the show. Eventually she is finished and stands up to look at me from all angles.

“Mm, not too bad.” She is obviously pleased with her work. “You should wear a tighter top.”  She pulls at mine from behind and then looks round at the front, before sighing and letting it hang loose again.  “But first, you will need to get yourself a proper bra—that one is doing nothing for you—it must be a least one size too big—and the cups are too small—so you’re just all saggy.”

“Yeh, well, it’s an old one of Mum’s that she’s got too fat for,” I reply.

“Why am I not surprised?” Grace rolls her eyes. “Time you thought about yourself a bit,” she adds reprovingly. “You’ve got to make the most of your assets— use them or lose them as they say.”

It is news to me I have any assets worth making anything off in that department and I pull away from her, embarrassed. “I’m off to the loo,” I say, heading that way as I speak.

When I wash my hands, I catch sight of myself in the mirror. At first I don’t realise it is me—just someone with the same baggy top. The face is quite different; harder, older, more sassy and, I peer more closely, definitely more sexy. Not the Courtney I have known and lived with for nearly sixteen years, but I’m not displeased. I’ll go along with this face this evening anyway, if only to please Grace. I can get back to the real me tomorrow. So, apart from a bit of poking around with my hair, and a small wipe at my eyes to get rid of some of the purple shadow Grace had selected for me, I leave it all intact and return to the dining area.

Grace is standing by the door when I return, reading a text on her phone—not her usual old Nokia, but a new one I haven’t seen before. She looks excited—agitated even.

“Come on,” she says as soon as I reach her. “We’re on a date.”

Links:

GIRL FRIENDS was released by Solstice publishing in 2016 and is available in print and as an e-book.

solstice logo (1)

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA.

Hello, and welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my first YA novel, And Alex Still Has Acne. But first I’m sharing an excerpt from a review written by a YA reader.

‘The book certainly shows the author’s understanding of the idiosyncratic problems which certain young people today (often described in the novels of Jacqueline Wilson) have to deal with.’

I love the reference to Jacqueline Wilson regarding my book, as I am a huge admirer of her work. And Alex …, like my other YA novel, Girl Friends, does indeed tackle some of the issues she writes about so brilliantly. I have learnt a lot from her, though I write for a slightly older age-group.

Excerpt:

And Alex -coverSam was dog tired. He looked at his watch. Still only 9.30pm, but it felt like the middle of the night. He got up and went into the front room to look again at his mother. She was sleeping just as he’d left her. Clearly she was not going to wake up this side of midnight, so there was no point staying up to talk to her. They would have to have a chat tomorrow. But what about exactly? He tried a few opening gambits: “Hi Mum, are you turning into an alcoholic?” “Mum, I’ve been doing a bit of shoplifting recently; on account of you never getting me any food.” “Mum, are you ill?” “Why have you and Dad split up?” “Don’t either of you care about me anymore?” None of these questions seemed right, though they were all ones he wanted answers to, especially the last, although he was a bit ashamed to admit this – even to himself. He was fourteen going on fifteen after all.

Blurb: Life for fourteen year old Alex is OK most of the time. He enjoys school, has a best friend Sam, and a pretty and only mildly irritating younger sister, Nicky. But then Sam starts acting strangely, and so does Nicky – and both insist on sharing secrets with him and making him promise not to tell anyone. Then Nicky goes missing and only Alex feels he knows where to find her. But is Sam anywhere around to help?

Links:

And Alex Still Has Acne

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Reading from And Alex Still Has Acne at a book launch.

http://www.bookgoodies.com/a/B00RU1Y0G

myBook.to/AndAlexStillHasAcne

Girl Friends

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

myBook.to/GirlFriends

 Amazon Author Pages

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

 

 

Meet Author David A Wilson

On my blog today is children’s author, and dragon dreamer, David A Wilson. Like me, David lives in Coventry, UK, and is a member of the Coventry Writers’ Group.David Wilson

What is the title of your recent book? (In a nutshell what is it about?)

 Aaron Gray and the Dragon War is a book about an extremely bratty kid called Aaron who says “Crud” a lot. He lives in a children’s care home and has the same dream every night about dragons fighting each other around a castle. One day he gets sucked into the dragons’ world and is sent on a quest with another kid called Julia to try and stop a dragon war.  Julia’s generally quite thrilled about the whole thing. Aaron isn’t.

 What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?

 It turns out that there are rules about when to use commas and exclamation marks. No matter how hard I try I never get it right and have to kill off all punctuation mistakes when editing. Sometimes I let a few stay in out of pity. The most rewarding part is that I have this whole world of characters and fantasy creatures that I get to explore. I’ve especially grown fond of Aaron and can’t wait to send him on more adventures in the future.

 Tell us a bit about everything you needed to do to get your book published – and launched. What worked? What you wouldn’t do again?

David Wilson 2Well Aaron Gray is self-published, rather than going through a publisher who already knows what they’re doing. The steps are all still the same, but it’s me doing them all rather than clever people in an office somewhere. I had to find my own editors to critique my book and find any errors, then find a printer and distributer, then find someone to design the cover because my art skills are shocking,  then format the book for printing and for e-books, then market the book myself and approach booksellers. Oh and before all that I had to write the book too.

My main piece of advice would be to give yourself plenty of time between your final book edit and publication. Getting books printed takes time, and every time you contact someone like Waterstones there’s a 30 working day (6 week) wait before you get a reply. You also need to take time to plan your book launch and contact your local media. I tried to do all of this in about 6 weeks, which as you can imagine posed some problems!

 What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

 Decide what you want to write and write it. Don’t stop because it’s rubbish. First drafts are supposed to be rubbish. Don’t even stop and edit what you’ve written before. Just write whatever you need to write until your story’s finished. Then give yourself a week or so, go back to your story and start to craft it into something special.

 What are you working on at the moment?

 Book two! Aaron Gray and the <cough cough cough> is all plotted out and I’m hoping to have the first draft finished by the end of May.

 What do you like to read?

 I have a ridiculously  strict reading regimen, making sure that I’ve read one book in each of the following four genres before returning to the top of the list.

  • A children’s/YA book (because that’s my genre)
  • A christian/spritual book (good for the soul)
  • A book that is considered a classic (because there are so many amazing books I haven’t read)
  • A book recommended by a book club (to see what’s currently popular)

Where can readers find you (Amazon links etc)?

 The easiest thing to do is check out my website at www.breveny.co.uk, which has links to all the various bookstores and new content three times each week. You can also find me on facebook at www.facebook.com/breveny .

 

 

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing a review of my 2016 YA novel, Girl Friends, that appeared on Goodreads and Amazon Books last week. Writers appreciate reviews, and when they are as good as this, we positively glow with pleasure, and feel inspired to write more, and write better!

Review;

Girl Friends - coverThis book is truly a wonderful read. It starts early with a bleak portrayal of a typical evening in the life of Courtney Jacks; there is domestic abuse, alcoholism, and saturated fear throughout that first introductory chapter. But then you also immediately see what a good hearted person the main character, Courtney, is.

I think that this book touches on a lot of adult themes, but it is 100% something that Young Adults can and should read. There is the struggle to improve yourself, the delicate balance needed to maintain friends, how to overcome self doubt, and most importantly of all is how to save a friend who needs saving.

By the end of the story, I cared deeply about all the characters, and in post-analysis of their development, found no critique but only praise for how well Margaret made every character into a brand new creation by the end of the book.

The book was very enjoyable from start to finish, and I heartily give it a 5 star review.

Links:

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare. On Wednesday I’m guesting the sci/fi and horror writer, David Court, on my blog. I haven’t tried writing in either genre myself – yet! I’ve dabbled a little bit with fantasy (Sleeping Beauty, The Ghost Queen) but the nearest I’ve got to horror is a slightly spooky house in And Alex Still has Acne. One day maybe I’ll have a proper go at horror. Meanwhile here is a, not very horrifying, excerpt from And Alex … 

Excerpt:

They were standing now on the opposite side of the road to a particularly dilapidated house. Several of the windows were boarded up, and one of the upstairs ones was smashed. The downstairs ones were still intact, but even in the half-light the boys could see that the curtains drawn across them were ripped and grimy. It looked deserted but, crucially, across the front gate were the remains of police tape that had obviously been cut through. The front door had wooden planks nailed across. The wood was strikingly clean against the rest of the building indicating that it had recently been added. This was the one. The boys crossed the road and peered about tentatively. “It looks pretty deserted, but do you think we should try the back?”

You’ll need to read the book to find out what they do next …

Blurb:

Life for fourteen year old Alex is OK most of the time. He And Alex -coverenjoys school, has a best friend Sam, and a pretty and only mildly irritating younger sister, Nicky. But then Sam starts acting strangely, and so does Nicky – and both insist on sharing secrets with him and making him promise not to tell anyone. Then Nicky goes missing and only Alex feels he knows where to find her. But is Sam anywhere around to help?

Links:

http://www.bookgoodies.com/a/B00RU1Y0G

myBook.to/AndAlexStillHasAcne

 http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Hello and welcome to this week’s ‘Happy Everybody reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

This week I’m sharing an extract from my short story, A Midsummer Day’s Dream, part of the Shakespeare’s women project.

Student Mia is rehearsing a scene in the woods from A Midsummer Night’s Dream with her boyfriend and two other friends. But she finds that sun, drink, and drama don’t mix!

Excerpt:

a midsummer day's dream       Everybody poured themselves a fresh drink, and Mia, knowing that it was far from wise (not with her head for drink, not in this heat, not on a nearly empty stomach— but what the hell, suddenly it didn’t seem the day could get any worse) drank most of her glass down in one gulp. Lenny then called them to order.

In the distance, but in reality only a few feet from her, Lenny was marshalling the others into action. Mia felt thick-headed and slightly sick. If I just sit down for a minute I might feel better, she thought, and lowered herself gingerly onto the ground. As Lenny passed near her, attempting once more to persuade Helen over something or other—Mia was fast getting beyond caring—a sheet of paper fell from his trouser pocket. Mia leant forward and picked it up.  She knew at once what it was.

Links for A Midsummer Day’s Dream

myBook.to/MidsummerDaysDream

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01I0CB1WU

Or, if you want to read other stories in the Shakespeare’s women project (suitable for YA, new adult, and adult readers), try my Amazon Author pages:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO