Meet my New Characters

After writing two trilogies it has been so exciting to work on a new series of novels and develop a whole new set of characters. The Mark was recently published and, although this book is the first in my new Working Girls series, it can also be read as a standalone. The same applies to all of the books in the series as each novel tells a separate story which, with the exception of The Mark, concentrates on a particular working girl. However, each book in my Working Girls series will have links to the other books in the series and some character overlap.

It is now a few weeks since The Mark was published and books two and three, Ruby and Crystal are already available for pre-order on Amazon. As I am progressing well with books two and three I thought it would be a good time to introduce you to some of the main characters in The Working Girls series.

Maddy

On the surface Maddy has it all – a good job, nice home and lovely daughter. She’s also intelligent, classy and attractive, and has a way with people. But Maddy has a weakness for the opposite sex, and has several failed relationships behind her. In the aftermath of her divorce she still feels vulnerable and tries to bolster her ego by dating men much younger than her. Unfortunately this leads to problems in her life that ultimately threaten to destroy her.

Aaron

Young, good looking and a successful businessman, Aaron seems too good to be true. He uses his charms to woo Maddy and soon starts to dominate her life. But Aaron isn’t all he seems and, as The Mark progresses he reveals more of his sinister side.

Gilly

The ruthless pimp that develops an obsession with Maddy, Gilly is bad through and through. He is skinny and scruffy looking, and is a drug addict who uses his income from prostitution to squander on drugs and alcohol. Gilly is abusive to his partner, Crystal, and refuses to acknowledge the child they have together. People are wary of Gilly because of his nasty streak. As his obsession with Maddy develops we are left wondering what the outcome will be.

Ruby

She is my favourite character since Rita in The Riverhill Trilogy. Standing at almost six foot and with a slim but muscular physique, Ruby is a formidable woman. She is feisty and fierce and won’t stand any nonsense from anybody. She also has a profound mistrust of men due to childhood experiences. But, despite her feisty side, Ruby has a good heart. She is a loyal and caring friend and is always willing to help out when needed.

Crystal

Crystal is a complex character. Although she is basically good at heart, she is driven to desperate acts because of her compulsion for drugs, her love of Gilly and her need to take care of her daughter, Candice. Despite some of the things she does, Crystal has a conscience and tries to only hurt the people who she feels deserve it. She has been through a lot in her life, which has toughened her up even though by nature she is actually quite a sensitive person. When she goes on a revenge mission she targets the men who have treated her badly during her time as a prostitute, and we see her change from submissive to vengeful.

And there’s more:

This post features the main characters in the books that are now available through Amazon. However, although I am currently only contracted for these three books, I have a further two books in mind. I’m not revealing the characters in those books yet because I’m not sure whether I’ll be writing those next or something different. Also, the idea for the fifth book is a bit sketchy at the moment and needs more research in order for me to flesh out the outline a bit more. I’ll keep you up to date as things develop.  

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Starting Work on a New Novel

Having completed most of the initial promotion for my second novel A Gangster’s Grip I’ve finally made a start on my third novel. I use the words, ‘initial promotion’ because I realise that promotion is ongoing. However, it is more concentrated at the launch of a novel. Because of this, together with client work, it has been several weeks since I have done any actual book writing.

After such a prolonged break I found it difficult to get started with the third book. I already had a plot outlined so I thought it was just a matter of doing some research and then the ideas would start flowing as they usually do. Unfortunately, after carrying out some initial research I found that my plot was totally unworkable. So there I was a few days ago with no plot whatsoever for my third book.Trilogy

It was an ironic situation because there are plenty of other books I would like to write and I have even penned some ideas for several of them. The problem was, I had to write this book because it’s a trilogy. It’s promoted as a trilogy, the book cover designs show that the first two books are part of a trilogy and I’ve written the first two books with a third book in mind.

Panic!!!

Ok, I was tempted to panic but instead I tried to stay calm and think of a different angle. It wasn’t coming to me immediately so I broke for lunch. Then, when I had switched off, the ideas started forming. By about three in the afternoon I had the bare bones of a plot. I know that my subconscious brain kicks in when I am relaxed so I took another break and had a walk to the bank. By the time I returned I had the whole thing worked out and couldn’t wait to type it up.

It’s still quite daunting though because what I have is a basic plot outline. I would still like to throw in a few more and twists and turns here and there. I’m also feeling a bit dissatisfied because I had psyched myself up to write the book I had originally planned. However, I have only just touched on the research for this book and I know that more ideas will start to flow once I get engrossed in the writing. (They usually do as long as I keep focused and stay positive but, like most authors, I’m prone to periods of self-doubt.)

Author at Work

I think starting a new novel is always going to be a bit scary if you let yourself get carried away. Basically what you have initially is the germ of an idea, which may be between a few hundred to a few thousand words. You then have to decide whether that idea can run to a full-length novel. Even when you’ve made that decision you can still have feelings of trepidation that you might not quite make it, even if you’ve succeeded with previous novels.

You might even have the characters in mind but how do you flesh out the plot? How do you take a novel from a sketchy outline and develop it into a full-length novel. I personally go through a process. Beginning with the outline I gradually build it up into a chapter by chapter synopsis. I start to write the actual narrative when I think I’ve got enough ideas to work with. These ideas can come at different stages and are helped along by various processes: research, exploring any initial ideas, adding sub-plots to the main plot, building on the early outline, planning the sequence of events and the highlights of the novel etc.

What ifThe more engrossed I become, the more the ideas flow. I also often find that I write out of sequence if, for example, I think of an idea for a scene later in the novel. I prefer to write it out in full straightaway while it’s fresh in my mind then I can slot it into the overall framework.

I love the feeling when the ideas are flowing. I’ve not quite reached that stage yet and I think this is because I hadn’t done any (novel) writing for several weeks. It’s starting to come though, but I need to carry out more detailed research before I can push forward. I’m off to the library tomorrow to comb through the archives. I need to read eye-witness accounts of a particular event so that I can get a real sense of what it felt like. I’m hoping to come home fired up and raring to go.

The third book in the trilogy will be another work of fiction but, as with ‘A Gangster’s Grip’, it will be based on real events. It looks like I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. 🙂

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“A Gangster’s Grip” – Launch Date Announcement and Chapter One Preview

I am pleased to announce that I have now fixed a launch date of 7th October for my forthcoming crime thriller, “A Gangster’s Grip”.
To give you a taster, I have included the first chapter below:
Gangster's Grip V4

Chapter 1

Saturday 9th March 1991 – early afternoon

Rita couldn’t wait to get to her parents’ house, and had been discussing it with her husband, Yansis, during the taxi ride from the airport. It had been so long since she’d been back from Greece, and she had missed everyone, despite their shortcomings. She got out of the cab, and waited for the driver to take their cases out of the boot.
Once the cases were on the pavement, Yansis carried them to the front door while Rita settled the cab fare. She had no sooner taken her purse out of her handbag than she spotted something in her peripheral vision, causing her to look up.
Too late!
Before she knew what was happening, a youth swung by on a bike. Maintaining his speed while riding one-handed, he snatched her purse and zoomed past.
She gave chase, yelling and screaming. Yansis joined her when he realised she had been robbed. But it was no use. They couldn’t keep up with a bike, especially Rita in her high heels, and the youth was soon out of sight.
“Fine bloody start that is!” she cursed. Walking back to the taxi driver, she continued her rant, “And a lot of help you were.”
“Don’t blame me, love. If you think I’m leaving my cab round here, you’ve got another think coming.”
“Oh, come off it! Just because my purse has been snatched, doesn’t mean your cab’s gonna be robbed.”
“Doesn’t it? You don’t know what it’s like! How long is it since you’ve been back, love?”
“A few years. Why?”
“I think you’ll find it’s changed, and not for the better either.”
Rita shrugged off his comments, anxious to get inside the house, while Yansis paid the cab fare.
Her mother, Joan, answered the door. “Hiya love, how are you? Where’s that lovely husband of yours?” she asked, hugging Rita.
“I’ve just been robbed, Mam. Some bugger’s just whipped my purse out of my hands while I was trying to pay for the taxi.”
“You’re joking! The bloody swines! What happened? Where are they?” her mother replied and, within seconds, her parents were both outside, searching up and down the street.
“You’re too late; he’ll be long gone. There was only one of them; some kid on a bike. He was off like lighting.”
“Well, what did he look like?” asked Joan. “We might be able to find out who he is.”
“I don’t know. I only saw the back of him. Young, a teenager, I think. He had a dark hoody on, navy or black, and jeans. That’s about all I saw. It all happened so fast.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Reet. That’s all you need when you’ve only just got here!”
“I know,” Rita replied, her voice shaking. “It’s gonna be loads of hassle … I’ll have to cancel all my cards … I’ll need to find out the bank’s phone number …”
“Can’t trust no-one these days,” interrupted her father, Ged, who was hovering behind her mother looking shifty. That wasn’t unusual for him, but he looked even more shifty than usual. Rita released her mother and gave him a tentative hug while her mother greeted Yansis.
When they had spent a few minutes in the hallway discussing the theft, Joan said to Rita and Yansis, “Come on you two, I’ll make you a cuppa; I bet you could do with one after that. Let’s get in and have a sit down.”
Although tiny at 5ft 1, Rita had a big presence. Her towering heels increased her height, and her liberal application of make-up enhanced her moderately attractive features. She had dark brown hair, which she wore in a fashionable textured bob, and was dressed casual but smart.
Leaving their cases in the hallway, they headed towards the living room. Rita was the first to step into the room and stopped short at the sight of a large, mean-looking black man sprawled across the sofa. Spliff in one hand, can of lager in the other, he was resting against some cushions with his legs stretched out across the coffee table. As Rita entered the room, he took a long hard drag on the spliff as though challenging her. Then he slowly exhaled the smoke, his face forming a sneer, as he examined her in minute detail.
Rita noted the scar that cut across his forehead, the primed muscles and the abundance of tattoos. She saw the letters H-A-T-E tattooed across the fingers of his right hand. ‘Why did these self-professed hard men always have to make a statement with this LOVE and HATE tattoo thing? It was so corny and pathetic,’ she thought.
When he lifted his can of lager, she glimpsed the tattoo spread across the fingers of his other hand, expecting to see the letters L-O-V-E. However, disconcertingly, that also bore the letters H-A-T-E.
There was a break in the tension as Rita’s father dashed to her side, “This is Leroy, Jenny’s boyfriend,” he gushed.
Rita already knew that her sister, Jenny, had a boyfriend, but she didn’t know much about him. Despite her automatic reservations, she tried to appear friendly as she said, “Hello, Leroy, pleased to meet you.”
Leroy briefly nodded his head in response then continued to take drags of his spliff while Rita’s mother, Joan, and Yansis entered the room. When Joan introduced Yansis, he received the same cool appraisal. During this time Leroy remained seated and didn’t attempt to converse with them.
Rita suspected that her parents were equally aware of the uncomfortable atmosphere created by Leroy. This was borne out by her mother’s waffling, “Rita and Yansis have got a restaurant in Greece but they’ve come back to stay for a while, haven’t you love? It’s alright though; Yansis has got a big family so there’s plenty of people to look after the place for them while they’re over here. You’re looking well our Rita. You’ve got a lovely tan and I love that leather jacket. Was the flight alright? You two must be shattered. Let me make you that cup of tea …”
“Where’s Jenny?” asked Rita.
“She’s just nipped to the loo. She’ll be down in a minute,” said Joan. “Oh, here she is now.”
Rita turned round and rushed towards her sister, but stopped when she noticed Jenny’s swollen stomach, “Jesus, when did that happen? You might have bloody well told me!”
“How about congratulations?” said Jenny.
“Sorry, it’s just … it’s a lot to take in. There’s been a lot of changes since I was home. Yeah, congratulations. I’m pleased for you; you look well.”
Rita gave Jenny’s arm a gentle squeeze, attempting to hide her mounting levels of unease, and surreptitiously flashing Yansis a concerned look. Apart from the pregnancy, Jenny had changed in other ways in the few years since Rita had last seen her.
Like Rita, she was tiny, although taller than Rita at 5ft 2, but there was now a maturity about her. She was an attractive girl and pregnancy suited her, bringing with it a radiant glow.
“I’m sorry, Reet,” said Joan. “We were going to tell you, but it didn’t sound right in a letter and I never seemed to find time on the phone. You know how it is phoning there. It costs a bloody fortune, and I’ve no sooner said hiya than the pips are going. Anyway, I knew you’d be coming home soon so I thought I’d tell you face to face.”
“Soon! She’s about five bloody months gone.”
“Twenty two weeks actually,” verified Jenny.
“What’s the big deal?” asked Leroy.
Rita turned to see a look of undisguised aggression cross Leroy’s face, and decided not to pursue the matter.
“Anyway, are we having that cuppa, Mam, or what?” she asked.
While Joan went to make the drinks, everybody else sat down on the three piece suite. Her father, Ged, took an armchair and Jenny settled herself next to Leroy. Rita felt uncomfortable sitting next to them, so she sat on the remaining armchair and invited Yansis to sit on the arm. They told Jenny about the theft of Rita’s purse, and she seemed concerned, but Leroy showed no emotion.
Apart from the discomfort of sharing her parents’ living room with the hostile Leroy, Rita was bothered about the sleeping arrangements. Her parents’ house was a three bedroom modern terraced on a council housing estate. It had two decent sized bedrooms and a further bedroom that was only big enough for a single bed. She had hoped that she and Yansis could share one of the large bedrooms, and that Jenny wouldn’t mind staying in the single room temporarily. In fact, as her parents had been aware of her imminent arrival, she hoped they had already arranged this. Rita therefore broached the subject when her mother returned carrying a tray of drinks.
“You have a seat here, Mam. Me and Yansis will take our cases up and, if you want, we can fetch a couple of chairs from the kitchen. Are we in the front bedroom?”
“The front bedroom’s already taken by me and Jenny,” growled Leroy, with an air of menace, which took Rita by surprise.
She turned to her mother, “Are we in the small bedroom then?”
Rita was trying to visualise how she and Yansis would manage with a single bed in a room that measured no more than 10 foot by 6 foot, but she figured it would have to do. After all, her sister was pregnant so it was only fair that she and Leroy had more space.
As she was mulling over the possibilities, Joan replied, “Ooh, that’s something I need to have a word with you about, Rita. There isn’t a bed in that room anymore. We didn’t see a need for one after you’d left. It’s been such a long time since you’ve been home so we use it for storage now. You’re welcome to the settee, though, and I can fix you up with a sleeping bag, if you like, so Yansis can kip down next to you.”
“You’re joking! We could be here for months. How can we manage for months on the settee and the floor? And where will we put our stuff?”
“You ought to be bloody grateful we’re putting you up. We’ve not seen hide nor hair of you for donkey’s years,” Ged chipped in.
Rita was about to retaliate; she and her father hadn’t always seen eye to eye, but Yansis changed the subject in order to defuse the situation.
“It’s no problem. We can find somewhere to stay, Rita. Manchester is a big city. There must be lots of hotels.”
“That’ll cost us a bloody fortune,” Rita replied before a thought occurred to her. “Oh don’t worry, we’ll find somewhere.”
A few minutes of uncomfortable silence followed before the phone rang in the dining room and Joan went to answer it.
“Leroy’s expecting an important business call,” boasted Ged.
“Oh, what is your business?” asked Yansis.
“A bit of everything, this and that,” came the guarded reply.
“Leroy, it’s for you,” announced Joan, on returning to the living room.
At last, Leroy prised himself from the sofa to take the call.
“So what exactly is ‘this and that’?” asked Rita, once Leroy had left the room.
“Leroy’s a business man, and a well-respected one too. He deals a lot in imports and, before you go sounding your mouth off, he’s been very good to us,” said Ged.
“I haven’t said anything,” Rita snapped back.
It was obvious she wouldn’t gain anything by continuing to probe, so Rita cleared the finished cups from the living room instead. Although it gave her an excuse to get away from her father’s goading, she was also curious about Leroy’s ‘important business call’.
The kitchen of her parents’ home was next to the dining room, and while she carried the cups through to the kitchen and placed them in the sink, Rita strained to hear Leroy’s conversation. He seemed angry about something, and his voice was becoming louder. She was glad she wasn’t the person on the other end of the phone. As Leroy became increasingly agitated, she stopped what she was doing, realising that it might be best if he didn’t realise she was there. She crept towards the dining room where she could overhear what he was saying more clearly.
“I want the fuckin’ goods. They should have been here yesterday. I’ve got customers waiting, and if I stop supplying, they’ll get them from someone else. I can’t afford to have them taking over my turf.”
There was then a brief pause while Leroy listened to the person on the other end of the line, before adding, “No, the usual, H.”
The call ended abruptly and Rita panicked. If Leroy saw her in the kitchen, he would surmise that she had overheard his conversation. Then she heard him make another call. He had calmed down a little by now so she couldn’t hear everything he was saying, just brief snippets … “It’s sorted … promised tomorrow … It’s sweet … should be a few days … be sorted then … somewhere to store them.”
Rita could sense that the call was ending, so she ran quietly from the kitchen to the living room, on the pretext of checking for more cups. She made sure she was still there when Leroy returned to the living room. Once she was satisfied that he had noted her presence in the living room, she made her way back to the kitchen to finish what she had been doing.
When Rita walked in the living room again, the atmosphere hadn’t improved much. While her mother was asking Yansis about life in Greece, her father was discussing some sort of business deal with Leroy. Rita couldn’t hear everything because of her mother’s chatter, but she got the impression that Leroy was providing goods for her father to sell somewhere. From the tone of the conversation, she could tell that her father held Leroy in high regard. Meanwhile, Jenny stayed silent, snuggled up to Leroy while passively observing.
There was something about the whole scene that didn’t feel right to Rita and, after a short while, she made her excuses and prepared to leave. While she and Yansis were in the hallway saying their goodbyes, her mother announced, “I hope you get fixed up love.”
“We’ll sort something out,” said Rita.
“Well let me know if you don’t. Our Jenny will be getting her council house next week, and Leroy will be moving in with her, so we should have some room then.”
“Now you tell me.”
“Ooh, sorry love. I forgot with all the excitement.”
“Good luck with it, Jenny. I hope it all goes well.”
“Thanks,” Jenny replied.
Rita hugged her mother and sister, said goodbye to her father and shouted goodbye through to the living room for the benefit of Leroy, who remained seated. Although she assured her mother that they would be back if they didn’t find somewhere to stay, she noticed the look that flashed across her father’s face. She knew that as long as Leroy was around, she and Yansis would be about as welcome as a dose of flu.
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“A Gangster’s Grip” is the second book in The Riverhill Trilogy. The first book, “Slur” is available from Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. I will be publishing further details of how to obtain a copy of “A Gangster’s Grip” once it becomes available.
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A Gangster’s Grip – Cover Reveal

My second novel, “A Gangster’s Grip” is now only a few weeks away from publication, so I’m excited to reveal the book cover and book blurb. The cover has once again been designed by the talented Chris Howard who can be contacted at: blondesign@gmail.com.

Gangster's Grip V4

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When Rita returns to Manchester after a few years away, she doesn’t expect to find a spliff smoking, beer swilling thug called Leroy firmly ensconced on her parents’ sofa. Rita is horrified to discover he is her sister Jenny’s new boyfriend, and she senses trouble.

The more Rita finds out about Leroy, the more she mistrusts him. As she uncovers the truth about his shady dealings, she becomes anxious about Jenny’s safety and is desperate to lure her away from him. Rita’s mettle is tested as she tries to protect her sister while battling with personal health concerns.

But it’s worse than Rita could ever have suspected. Through her association with Leroy, Jenny is about to become embroiled in the most dangerous phase in Manchester’s recent history.

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“A Gangster’s Grip” is the second part of The Riverhill Trilogy, and is the sequel to my first novel, “Slur”, which is available from Amazon. The new cover for “Slur”, showing the Riverhill subtitle, has been uploaded to Amazon and will be displayed shortly.  I intend to publish the third and final part of The Riverhill Trilogy in early summer 2016.

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Anticipating my Arrest

I’ve just finished the first draft of my second novel and happily sent it off to my lovely beta readers, so I’m feeling a bit frivolous and in the mood for some light-heartedness.

A recent occurrence led me to think about my Internet browsing history during the course of writing the novel. It makes for some pretty disturbing reading:

  • Drug abuse
  • Machetes
  • Guns
  • Bullet wounds
  • Gang culture
  • Drug skimming
  • Law enforcement
  • Dog attacks

And that’s just in the last few weeks.

The occurrence that led me to think about my Internet browsing history was something as innocuous as searching online wool shops. (Yes, despite the graphic nature of my novels I’m actually quite Knittingboring and mainstream in real life). Within a few hours of searching the wool shops, I was seeing advertisements for wool on Facebook and other social media sites. I was flabbergasted at how they had managed to get hold of this information. If advertisers can cash in on your browsing history so easily then the possibilities for the police are endless.

At this point I want to add that as well as carrying out online research I also have “brainstorming sessions”. Most of these occur while I’m at my computer and usually entail me sitting at my desk talking to myself. Then, to capture certain scenarios I sometimes mime my character’s actions just to check whether it would work in practice, and to make sure it would be realistic. Sometimes it’s necessary to use a mirror so that I can study the positioning of limbs, facial expressions etc. It’s all in the name of my art, you understand, and has nothing whatsoever to do with being slightly eccentric.

Simple-Teddy-Bear-1-5496-largeSo, I’m picturing the scene. The police have had a tip-off from their technical team about a dodgy browsing history so they start monitoring the house. One of the officers spots someone carrying out what appears to be a frenzied knife attack but when he zooms in the perpetrator is attacking a teddy bear with a biro pen. He calls for support. When the two officers arrive they approach the house with caution and creep up to the window. There they spot a middle aged woman sitting at her desk having an in-depth conversation. After a few seconds the conversation becomes heated and she seems to be taking on the roles of two different characters.

Ooh dear, how would I explain that one? Maybe this home working isn’t such a good idea. While writing the plot, I’m also losing the plot!

Is it just me or do other authors find themselves acting out scenes and talking to themselves while they work? I’d love to hear your views on this one. Talk to me please; my sanity depends on it! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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In the News

I’ve finally got round to adding the news features relating to my recent book signing at my local book store. I would like to point out that there is an error in one of the articles. Contrary to what is written in the article, Diane Mannion Writing Services is still trading.

Reporter Oct 23rd

Reporter Oct 16th

SLUR will be available on Kindle Countdown for the reduced price of 99p or 99 cents from 20th to 22nd November only at: http://viewbook.at/Slur.

Slur Chapter 2

Here is chapter 2 of Slur. If you missed the blog post showing chapter one, you can find it here or read the pdf, which you can find on the books page of my website at: http://www.dianemannion.co.uk/books.html. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the box that reads, ‘Read a sample chapter’.

I have now fixed my official launch date as Friday 19th September and I’ll be throwing a big online launch party with competitions and great prizes. For those that can’t make the Friday, I’ll be re-running some of the competitions on Saturday 20th September, because most of the competition answers don’t have to be in straightaway.

If you’re tempted by the first two chapters of Slur and don’t want to wait till launch date, the book is already available to purchase online at: http://viewbook.at/Slur.

SLUR – Chapter 2

Friday 20th June 1986Make-up

It was Friday night, the big night out of the week. Julie was sitting at her dressing table putting the finishing touches to her hair and make-up. When she was satisfied that she had achieved the desired result, she pouted her lips and kissed her reflection in the mirror, saying, ‘you’re gonna knock ’em dead tonight – you sexy beast.’ She was disturbed by the sound of a, ‘tut tut’ coming from the doorway of her room. It was her mother, Betty.

‘Julie Quinley, I don’t know. You get dafter by the minute. When you’ve finished dolling yourself up, Rita’s downstairs waiting for you.’

Julie took no offence at Betty’s comments as she was accustomed to their friendly banter. She turned in her chair, gave her mother a beaming smile, then dashed across the room and planted a kiss on her cheek, saying, ‘Here I go, don’t wait up!’

She headed downstairs to find Rita in the hallway. As they greeted each other, Betty passed them on her way to the living room. Julie stepped away from Rita, allowing her mother to pass. As she did so, she noticed what Rita was wearing. “My God, she’s really gone to town this time!” she thought, observing Rita’s white lycra mini skirt, low cut red top and towering, white stiletto heels.

‘You look nice Rita,’ she commented politely.

‘Oh thanks,’ Rita replied, preening herself.

Julie then heard the sound of voices coming from the living room. She put her fingers to her lips, motioning Rita to keep quiet as she led her towards the living room door while they listened in on Bill and Betty’s conversation.

‘She’s at it again, is she?’ Bill asked.

‘Aye, she’s only kissing the bleedin’ mirror now. I swear she gets more puddled by the minute that girl,’ replied Betty, in an amused tone.

Julie looked at Rita and managed to stifle a giggle as she heard her father grumble, ‘I can’t understand it me, young women out till all hours of the night up to God knows what, and with all these dubious characters hanging about.’

‘Yes, I know your feelings Bill, you have mentioned it once or twice.’

‘Well, she’s twenty years of age for God’s sake! She should be married with a family now, not stuck in some nightclub getting drunk, with a load of riffraff!’

Julie held up her hand for Rita to see as she formed the shape of a mouth opening and shutting, in imitation of her father’s familiar complaining.

‘She’ll have plenty of time for settling down when she’s had a bit of fun and built up a career for herself,’ Betty replied. ‘A lot of women don’t even think about having children until they are in their thirties these days. Anyway, she’s got her head screwed on the right way. She won’t do anything daft.’

‘Huh,’ was Bill’s response, followed by silence.

Julie and Rita backed away. Julie then opened the front door and they stepped out into the street, shutting the door as quietly as possible so that Julie’s parents would be unaware of their eavesdropping. As soon as they were outside, they gave in to uncontrolled laughter.

‘I bet your mam was a right one in her day!’ giggled Rita.

‘She might have been, given half a chance.’

Julie thought about her mother and the tale she had told her many times about her married life. Times had been hard for Betty when she got wed and their finances were fully stretched after Julie’s birth. Therefore, they decided to postpone extending their family until they could afford it.

When Julie was in school, Betty found herself a job in a store in order to bring in some extra income. After a few years of being stuck at home, Betty was a bit apprehensive at first, but she soon settled in and made lots of new friends. This in turn improved her social life and she began to relish her newfound freedom. After that, there never seemed to be an appropriate time to have more children.

However, as Betty reached her thirties and sensed her biological clock ticking away, the desire grew to extend her family before her time ran out. This resulted in the birth of Clare, twelve years Julie’s junior, and now a likeable, sweet girl of eight.

Although Betty was immensely proud of both her daughters, at times she regretted not doing more with her life, and every time Julie thought about her mother’s lack of achievements, she was determined not to make the same mistakes.

As Julie and Rita made their way up the street, on the way to their friend Debby’s house, the familiar clickety clack of high heels reverberated on the pavements.

Julie’s home was in a street full of three bedroom semis in a Manchester suburb. Many of the houses looked dreary and run down, a result of the poverty in the area. The home of Bill and Betty Quinley, however, was one of the more presentable houses in the street. The front garden was well tended and baskets of bright blooms hung at either side of the front door.

Julie’s sister, Clare, and her friends, who were playing further up the street, paused in their play as Julie and Rita approached. For a group of eight year olds, the image of Julie and Rita dressed to go out was a sight to behold, and they gazed in awe as the two older girls walked by.

‘Bye our Julie,’ shouted Clare.

‘Bye sweetheart. I’ll see you in the morning and don’t forget to be a good girl for mam and be in at eight o’clock.’

‘I won’t,’ said Clare, full of respect for Julie who she saw as a role model.

Julie couldn’t help but swell with pride as she sensed the idolatry glances of the young girls, and caught snippets of their conversation on passing.

‘Wow Clare, I wish I could go out all dressed up like your Julie, wearing make-up and everything!’

‘Our Julie lets me wear her make-up sometimes.’

Julie turned to Rita and they smiled at each other on hearing these childish comments. They looked an oddly matched pair: Julie, tall and elegant, and Rita, who was just a year older than Julie, smaller, brasher and louder in every sense of the word. Julie, although slim, was also curvaceous and well proportioned. Her features were sharp but nonetheless attractive.

She usually opted for the sexy but sophisticated look, and tonight she was wearing a shortish pale blue skirt with a matching fitted jacket, which bore the popular shoulder pads of the eighties. She wore the customary white stiletto heels and had a white leather handbag to match. Her make-up was subtle and served to define her striking features, and her blond hair was naturally wavy.

As they rounded the corner at the top of the street, Rita opened up the conversation, by talking about her day at work, which was at a food factory.

‘Me and Debby were talking to Charlie at work today. He’s a card! He told us this joke…What’s white and slides across the dance-floor?’ Then, pausing for effect, she added, ‘Come dancing,’ the double entendre being a reference to a popular TV dancing show around that time. ‘Well, that was it! We couldn’t stop laughing after that. The slightest thing set us off.’

They both laughed at this and Julie replied, unwittingly. ‘Oh I wish I worked somewhere like that Rita. It sounds as though you have a great time.’

‘Why not?’ Rita replied enthusiastically. ‘I can let you know when there’s any vacancies. You should get a good reference from your place and you’ll soon learn the ropes. There’s not much to it really and I can put in a good word for you so it won’t matter if you haven’t got any experience.’

Julie was a bit taken aback by this as deep down she saw herself as being a bit above factory work, but she didn’t quite know how to put her thoughts into words without offending her longstanding friend. So she replied with caution.

‘I’d love to, but I don’t want to waste my qualifications.’

‘Come off it Julie, what’s a couple of ‘O’ levels? Besides, if you decide you don’t like it at the factory, you can always go back to office work. Anyway, you’re a bloody receptionist for Christ’s sake. You’re hardly gonna qualify for the High Achievers Award, are you? I mean to say, I earn more than you do.’

Julie resented Rita’s views concerning her choice of career, but tried not to show it. Despite her resentment, she appreciated Rita’s open and frank manner, which she had been grateful for in the past, so she maintained a cautious approach.

‘It’s what it can lead to that matters. I could do a course in computers or something.’

‘Like as if. You’re too busy enjoying yourself to stick a college course. Besides, I could do a course in computers, come to that.’

Julie didn’t wish this to escalate into a full-blown argument but felt that she must assert herself, so she replied, ‘You haven’t got the ‘O’ levels or the office experience.’ Then, realising that she was now becoming a bit confrontational, she tried to lighten the conversation by joking, ‘Anyway, the talents always a bonus.’

Rita, however, was not so easy to pacify. ‘Come off it. All men who work in offices are bloody wimps! You can’t beat a bloke with a good trade. That’s what my dad says and it’s true.’

‘What’s the use of a good trade if there’s no work around for them?’

‘Oh that’s just temporary. They’ll be all right now we’re getting over the recession. It’s all down to that bleedin’ Maggie Thatcher anyway.’

‘Well while all your blokes with a trade are still busy looking for work, there’s blokes being promoted at our place.’

‘Yes blokes, exactly! Anyway, Vinny’s a builder isn’t he and there’s nowt wrong with him?’

Knowing the mood that Rita was in, Julie guessed at what was to follow, and she was reluctant to discuss the subject of her boyfriend Vinny.

‘Yes, he’s all right, I suppose.’

‘But?’ prompted Rita.

‘Well, I just wish he had a bit more ambition, that’s all.’

‘You know your trouble Julie? You don’t know when you’re lucky. Vinny’s gorgeous. Loads of girls fancy him. I wouldn’t kick him out of bed myself! He’s got his own place, and he’s good between the sheets, from what you’ve told me.’

Julie smiled, amused at her friend’s audacity. ‘Well he does know which buttons to press and when to press them, but there’s more to life than sex you know Rita.’

‘Oh yeah? Well when you find it let me know, and I’ll have a double helping,’ Rita quipped.

As Julie laughed, she turned to Rita and said. ‘Let’s stop being so bleedin’ serious! It’s Friday night for Christ’s sake! We’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves, not putting the world to rights.’

Rita decided that she had made her point anyway, so there was nothing to be gained in pursuing the matter. ‘Yeah, you’re right Jules. Come on, let’s go for it.’

They carried on walking for a few moments before Julie asked Rita, ‘What time are we supposed to be at Debby’s house?’

‘Dizzy Debby?  Oh I said it would be about seven by the time we got there.’

‘Don’t be rotten. She can’t help being a bit slow at times.’

‘It’s all right, she’s used to being called Dizzy Debby. It’s her nickname at work. Anyway, there’s an offy on the way so we can grab some booze and have a few before we go and meet your friends. Eh, I tell you what Julie, we’d better make sure we give your friend Amanda a good time, seeing as how it’s her birthday night out.’

‘Don’t worry, we will,’ replied Julie with a smile.

When they reached Debby’s house, it was Debby who answered the door and led them straight up to her bedroom. Her home was in complete contrast to the one that Julie had just left, and the décor was shabby and dated. Julie recoiled as they passed the bathroom and smelt the pungent aroma that emanated from it. She looked at Rita for her reaction, but Rita didn’t respond. Julie wondered why; could it be that Rita was used to it so it didn’t bother her. “No,” she chided herself. “Rita’s home might be a bit untidy, but it was certainly a lot cleaner than this one.

Julie could see that Debby was excited about the forthcoming night out and was anxious to get started. When they entered her bedroom she noticed Debby already had three half pint glasses ready and the sound of Luther Vandross was blasting out of the stereo.

‘Don’t your parents mind you having your music that loud?’ asked Julie.

‘No, they have the bloody tele so loud, they can’t hear it anyway.’

‘Mine are as bad,’ said Rita. ‘Ever since my dad came home from the pub with that dodgy VCR he’s been like a bleedin’ kid with a new toy.’

LagerThe girls seated themselves and began to pour the cans of lager. Julie pretended not to notice the greasy marks that covered the glasses. She inwardly cringed on observing Debby’s choice of clothing, accessories and make-up, but was too considerate to comment. Everything about Debby was overstated, from her fluffy bright blond hair to her fashion sense. All of her clothes were in vivid colours, uncoordinated and clung perilously to her large breasts and rotund hips.

The girls settled down with their drinks and began to discuss music, fashions and other topics of mutual interest. At eight o’clock, in a more animated state than when Julie and Rita had arrived, they set out, giggling, towards the nearby bus stop in order to make the trip to the city centre which was just a few stops away. When they got off the bus they had a short walk to the pub where they had agreed to meet two of Julie’s workmates, Amanda and Jacqueline, at eight thirty. While they were walking along, they spotted two policemen just ahead of them.

‘I think it’s time we had a bit of fun!’ said Rita.

 ———————–

I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be publishing the agenda for the online launch party a couple of weeks beforehand. We’ve got lots of fun lined up so if you can’t make the full day you might want to choose which events you want to take part in.