Winner of the SLUR Big Prize Quiz

It seems ages since the SLUR launch party when we held several competitions to celebrate the launch of my debut novel. The last of our competitions was scheduled to finish on 31st October at 5pm to give readers plenty of time to find the answers to questions based on the content of SLUR.

I am now pleased to announce that we have found our winner (drumroll please)…

The winner is the lovely Georgia Rose. I am thrilled for Georgia and think that she is a well deserved winner. Georgia entered every one of our competitions and helped to support the launch party throughout by shouting about it on social media etc. Our prize bundle is now on its way to Georgia including a signed print copy of SLUR http://viewbook.at/Slur, a signed print copy of Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK) http://viewbook.at/KidsParties, a signed print copy of Kids’ Clubs and Organizations http://viewbook.at/KidsClubs and a £50 John Lewis/Waitrose gift voucher. Here are the answers to the quiz questions:

  1. Lindsey Pilkington.
  2. The Flying Horse.Winner
  3. Saturdays.
  4. (See note below).
  5. DCI Marshall.
  6. Belmont Insurance Company.
  7. Greece.
  8. Ernie Cummings.
  9. Clare.
  10. Mike Marston.
  11. Bill Quinley.
  12. Betty Quinley.
  13. She works in a factory.
  14. Norma.
  15. 20.
  16. Debby.
  17. Jacqueline Bartlett.
  18. The words “Julie Quinley is a Murderer” are written on the back of the door.
  19. Leslie Stevens.
  20. Rita going into Vinny’s house.

With reference to question four, this actually relates to an earlier draft of SLUR. The quiz questions were prepared well in advance of the launch of SLUR and I inadvertently forgot to amend this question when I changed the final draft of SLUR. I apologise to any readers who spent time trying to find the answer to this question.

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Book Signing Event

On Saturday 11th October I held a book signing for my novel SLUR at Thackeray’s Books in Denton, Manchester. The event went well and I enjoyed meeting members of the press and public.

Signing some Books

Signing some Books

It was good to get the support of the lovely Margaret, proprietor of Thackeray’s Books, and her husband, as well as my brother Barry who helped with the lifting and shifting. Some of my good friends also turned up to give moral support and were good enough to stay and have a chat and a cuppa once everybody else had left.

Margaret, Barry and Myself

Margaret, Barry and Myself

The event was attended by The Tameside Reporter, About Tameside monthly magazine and a representative from the Denton town team who kindly announced the signing on the news page of their website. The Denton town team was set up to support the revitalisation of Denton town centre based on the Portas recommendations relating to British high streets. It was lovely to meet the town team representative who also bought three copies of SLUR for Christmas presents.

The book signing will be featured in the Tameside Reporter, which goes to print on Thursday 16th October. It will also be featured in the November edition of About Tameside magazine, which is circulated at the start of the month.

Margaret and Myself

Margaret and Myself

Whilst I was at the event one of my very good friends invited me to a school open day to set up stall selling my books next Saturday. She suggested that my non-fiction books, Kids’ Clubs and Organizations and Great Places for Kids’ Parties would make ideal purchases for parents. Plus, some parents may even want to treat themselves to a copy of SLUR at the same time. After the success of my book signing event, I’m looking forward to taking part in the open day this coming Saturday. Ironically it’s at the secondary school that I attended many years ago.

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What’s Next?

It’s been such a busy time since the book launch party for my debut novel SLUR so I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the position to date and look at what direction I will be heading in next. First, a little bit about the launch party:SLUR

I have to be honest and say that if I was to look at the launch party solely in terms of financial gain, then I haven’t recouped the rewards for the efforts that I put in. However, for me it was about more than that. The launch party was a way of celebrating the culmination of many years of effort. It was a really fun couple of days and I want to extend a big thank you to all the people that took part including those that entered the competitions. I’d also like to thank the people that featured the launch on their blogs and helped to get the word out through social media.

Although a novel is the end product in terms of the creative process, it is only the beginning when it comes to promotion. I am therefore viewing the launch party as not only a celebration but also the first step in my promotional efforts for SLUR. This isn’t the first book that I have published but the non-fiction books cater to a different readership so in a way it is like publishing a first book. So at the moment SLUR has to stand alone until I follow it up with more fiction books.

Having said all that, SLUR has made a good start. I had hoped to reach the top 20 in each of the categories I had chosen so that the browsing public could spot my book, but I didn’t quite achieve that. However, at its peak SLUR reached around 11,500 for all paid books on Amazon UK (out of over 2.5 million) and number 76 in one of my chosen categories. So, with a few more sales I would have reached the top 20. I am planning to follow up the launch party with further promotional activities as follows:

Book Signing Event

I will be signing copies of SLUR at my local book shop on Saturday 11th October. The local press have promised to feature the book signing so hopefully this will boost sales.

Goodreads Giveaway

SLUR is currently being featured as a Goodreads Giveaway where readers can win one of two signed print copies. Here is the link if you would like to enter: http://bit.ly/1vKnLvh. The closing date for entries is 22nd October 2014.

Reviews and Blogs

I haven’t submitted my novel to as many of these as I should but I find it a very time consuming process. I always check the blog or website first to see the type of thing they publish and then send them an email together with details of my book. This invariably takes up some time but unfortunately only about 50% of them reply. Of those that reply, many of them already have lengthy reading lists so they are unable to take on any more work. Therefore, when I am planning promotional activities I tend to find other things to do that are more productive in terms of the time expended. I wonder if anybody else has had this experience.

Free Promotion

Front book cover finalPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00023]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve decided to run a free promotion on both of my parenting books. Whether this will have any impact on sales of SLUR remains to be seen as the readership is different (as mentioned above). I hope there may be some chance that readers downloading the free parenting books might also spot the novel but, if not, there’s nothing to lose by trying. The promotion applies to Kindle copies and is set to run from 23rd till 25th October.

Libraries

I’ll be approaching libraries to stock my novel as I did with my parenting books. I don’t think that the appeal will be as nationwide for my novel as it was for the parenting books though. Libraries tend to go for anything regional and with the parenting books there is something for all regions. As my novel is based in Manchester I will concentrate on libraries based in the northwest. I think it is still worth doing because not only are there the initial sales to consider, but also public lending rights as well as getting my name out to a wider network of readers.

Promotion is very much an ongoing process but once I’ve completed the main thrust of activities I’m anxious to get back to some writing. Apart from writing articles and web copy for clients, I haven’t done any other writing for weeks. I’m hoping to publish a blog soon revealing my plans for my next book writing venture. Watch this space!

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The Story of Slur

The party’s started so grab yourself a cuppa and crack open the biscuits – we’ll save the wine and nibbles till later. I thought I’d start by letting you know what we’ve got lined up before telling you a little bit about the book. In fact, SLUR will be telling its own tale, and I have to warn you that with all this attention it’s become the diva of the book world.

Party

We’ll be running some fun quizzes throughout the day and are offering great prizes (more about that below). All quiz answers should be sent by email to dianewriting@gmail.com. We’ll also be publishing updates during the day so if you want to receive the updates by email, just follow this blog by clicking the box marked ‘follow’ to the right of the screen.

Where to Buy SLUR

SLUR is available from Amazon in both Kindle format priced at £1.99 and print format priced at £7.99 at: http://viewbook.at/Slur. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free app that enables you to read the Kindle version on your computer, tablet or smart phone. You can find the app here.

Great Prizes

You will have a chance of winning a signed copy of SLUR as well as my other publications, Kids’ Clubs and Organizations: viewBook.at/KidsClubs and Great Places for Kids’ Parties: viewBook.at/KidsParties, plus a £10 gift voucher, in our Meet the Author Quiz, which is coming up next. We’ll also be giving away a bundle of books by our Fab Five Indie authors in our Literary Quiz around lunchtime or shortly after.Prizes

If general knowledge is more your thing then you could have a chance of winning a £25 gift voucher by entering our General Knowledge Quiz later this afternoon/early evening. Lastly will be our SLUR Big Prize Quiz at the end of the day where we will be giving away a £50 gift voucher and a signed print copy of SLUR plus my two other publications. Questions will be based on SLUR, and the winner of this one will be announced in a few weeks’ time to give you a chance to find the answers. Please note that some of these quizzes will be re-run on Saturday 20th September but times will differ. You can find full details of approximate times for both days at: https://dianewriting.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/launch-party-agenda/.

N.B. We welcome overseas attendees. As all our prize vouchers are in GBP, we will give equivalent vouchers in a relevant currency if overseas entrants win our prizes.

The Story of SLUR

I first started writing my debut novel SLUR back in 1999 and finished the first draft around 2002. It took almost three years to write because I was studying for my writing diploma at the time as well as bringing up two toddlers. Sadly, it has since been on the backburner. In fact, my book has waited such a long time to be published that I thought it only fair for SLUR to tell its own tale. After all, it’s been around so long now that it’s as though it’s taken on a personality of its own. Over to you SLUR:

Thank God for that, I was beginning to think my time would never come. 15 years is one hell of a long time to wait for your moment of glory, you know!

Well lovely readers, it all started back in 1999. I can still recall the first stroke of the keyboard, her initial excitement, the way she couldn’t wait to start tapping away at the keys once the kids were in bed. I had high aspirations of course – first the bestseller lists, a film adaptation, then all the glitzy award ceremonies – you know how it goes. I figured I ain’t no flavour of the month celeb with a tale of instant stardom; I’ve got staying power!

So I was toted around the agents. I remember hearing their conversations like it was yesterday – ‘good writing style, nice opening – starts with a bang, great characterisation’. Then there were the naysayers – ‘the author’s unknown, we’re taking a risk, what niche would it fit into?’

Swines!

I swear, if I could have sprouted a pair of hands out of all those sheaves of paper I would have done some serious damage.

Anyway, at the end of the day I guess it was just one rejection letter too many so my printed manuscript got filed and locked away. Even now I can hear the sound of the key as it rasped painfully around the lock mechanism like scissors slicing through my aching pages – OK, maybe a bit dramatic, but you get the idea. Book Cover

Then she moved onto other things – the magazine articles, the writing services business, the parenting books – phut! But I knew my time would come. As the saying goes, “I’m Beyonce, I ain’t no Kelly Rowland.” And I ain’t no poxy parenting book either – I’m the real deal!

So here I am with my beautiful new jacket complete with image of attractive heroine, admittedly looking a bit distressed – well she would, wouldn’t she? Her whole world’s fell apart, the poor cow! She’s still got to prove her innocence before she breaks down altogether. That’s if she’s got enough feistiness left after she’s been through hell!

Well, that’s enough of me, I must dash before she changes my title to ‘Diva’. I’m going to show off my gorgeous, sexy new jacket now. And when it gets opened I’ll be glad to finally put my goods on display and show the world just what I’ve got to offer. It’s show time! (Slinks away singing)

“Cos tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999, da da, da da da.”

Dancing Book

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Launch Party Agenda

On Friday 19th September 2014 and Saturday 20th September I’ll be having my online book launch party for my debut novel SLUR here at my blog. The book is already available to purchase at: http://viewbook.at/Slur. It’s been 15 years since I first started writing SLUR, which I always said I would publish one day. That day has arrived and I plan to have one hell of a celebration. I’m having a full day of competitions and prizes on the Friday with a top prize of a £50 gift voucher and a signed print copy of the book plus my other two non-fiction books in the end of day competition. Then I’ll probably chill and open a bottle of the fizzy stuff.

For those that can’t make it on the Friday, I’ll be repeating three out of the four competitions on the Saturday. The closing date for two of the competitions is the following Tuesday 23rd September, and the closing date for the final (big prize) competition is Friday 31st October. Therefore, those attending the party on Saturday 20th September still have a chance of winning these three competitions.

Launch Party

I’d love it if as many friends, family, clients, fellow authors and acquaintances as possible could attend the event. In fact, everybody is welcome. If you can’t manage a full day, you might want to just pop along for part of it. I’m therefore detailing my agenda with approximate times so you know what to expect.

N.B. Please note that we welcome attendees from oversees. As the prize vouchers are in GBP, we will exchange them for equivalent vouchers if overseas entrants win any of the competitions.

Friday 19th September 2014

N.B. All times are GMT

1. The Story of SLUR (approx. 9.30am – 10am) – We start with an introduction of what we’ve got lined up for the day followed by The Story of SLUR. It’s been so long since the author first put pen to paper (or was it a feather quill?) that SLUR has taken on a life of its own. This witty passage takes a look at the story of SLUR from the book’s own viewpoint, and I have to warn you that now SLUR (http://viewbook.at/Slur) has finally stepped into the limelight, it’s become a bit of a diva.

2. Meet the Author Quiz (approx. 10.30am – 11am) – 10 fun questions about the author. The answers to a lot of these will be guesses but the emphasis is on having a bit of fun. Answers to be sent by email and the deadline is 1pm. The winner will be drawn from all those with 10 correct answers or, failing that, the winner will be drawn from those with the most correct answers. The winner will be announced on the blog later in the afternoon and the prize is a signed print copy of SLUR (http://viewbook.at/Slur), signed print copies of my two parenting books, which you can view here and a £10 gift voucher

3. Literary Quiz (approx. 1pm) – Introducing my Fab Five independent authors – each one is donating a signed print copy of one of their books as a prize. The winner gets a bundle of all five books. The quiz has 20 questions and the winner will be drawn from all those with 20 correct answers or, if nobody gets all the answers right, the winner will be drawn from all those with the most correct answers. Closing date is the following Tuesday 23rd September at 5pm. The winner will be contacted shortly afterwards, as soon as we have had time to go through the entries, and will be announced on the blog along with the answers. 

4. Announcing the winner of our Meet the Author Quiz (approx. 3pm depending on the number of entries). Along with this announcement we will publish the answers to the quiz. This blog post also lists ways in which you can stay in touch with the author or follow the author on social media.

5. General Knowledge Quiz (approx. 5pm) – This quiz has 20 questions and the winner will be drawn from all those with 20 correct answers or, if nobody gets all the answers right, the winner will be drawn from all those with the most correct answers. Closing date is the following Tuesday 23rd September at 5pm. The winner will be contacted shortly afterwards, as soon as we have had time to go through the entries, and will be announced on the blog along with the answers. The prize is a £25 John Lewis gift voucher.

6. The SLUR Big Prize Quiz (approx. 7pm) – there are 20 questions for this one, which are all based on the book. Entrants have six weeks to submit their entries as this gives them plenty of time to buy a copy, read it and find the answers. The prize will be a £50 John Lewis voucher and a signed print copy of SLUR (http://viewbook.at/Slur) as a keepsake (or to give to someone as a present), plus a signed print copy of each of my two parenting books, which you can view here. The winner’s name will be drawn from the names of all the correct entries. The winner will be announced on the blog after the closing date of Friday 31st October at 5pm, and will also be contacted by email.

slur_V2

 

Saturday 20th September 2014

N.B. All times are GMT

1. The Story of SLUR (approx. 10am) – We start with an introduction of what we’ve got lined up for the day followed by The Story of SLUR. It’s been so long since the author first put pen to paper (or was it a feather quill?) that SLUR has taken on a life of its own. This witty passage takes a look at the story of SLUR from the book’s own viewpoint, and I have to warn you that now SLUR (http://viewbook.at/Slur) has finally stepped into the limelight, it’s become a bit of a diva.

2. Literary Quiz (approx. 12noon) – Introducing my Fab Five independent authors – each one is donating a signed print copy of one of their books as a prize. The winner gets a bundle of all five books. The quiz has 20 questions and the winner will be drawn from all those with 20 correct answers or, if nobody gets all the answers right, the winner will be drawn from all those with the most correct answers. Closing date is the following Tuesday 23rd September at 5pm. The winner will be contacted shortly afterwards, as soon as we have had time to go through the entries, and will be announced on the blog along with the answers.

3. General Knowledge Quiz (approx. 2pm) – This quiz has 20 questions and the winner will be drawn from all those with 20 correct answers or, if nobody gets all the answers right, the winner will be drawn from all those with the most correct answers. Closing date is the following Tuesday 23rd September at 5pm. The winner will be contacted shortly afterwards, as soon as we have had time to go through the entries, and will be announced on the blog along with the answers. The prize is a £25 John Lewis gift voucher.

4. The SLUR Big Prize Quiz (approx. 4pm) – there are 20 questions for this one, which are all based on the book. Entrants have six weeks to submit their entries as this gives them plenty of time to buy a copy, read it and find the answers. The prize will be a £50 John Lewis voucher and a signed print copy of SLUR (http://viewbook.at/Slur) as a keepsake (or to give to someone as a present), plus a signed print copy of each of my two parenting books, which you can view here. The winner’s name will be drawn from the names of all the correct entries. The winner will be announced on the blog after the closing date of Friday 31st October at 5pm, and will also be contacted by email.

N.B. We also welcome overseas attendees and are willing to exchange the vouchers for the equivalent in the country of choice if the prizes are won by somebody from overseas.

I hope you can make it. Bye for now.

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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.

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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.

SLUR Chapter 1

The launch date for SLUR is drawing closer. While I’m not quite ready to announce the date yet, I’m hoping to do so soon so I thought I would share the first chapter of the book. Here it is:

SLUR – Chapter 1

Saturday 21st June 1986
It was Saturday morning and Julie lay in bed dreaming of last night; she could feel the throbbing beat of the disco music. As she came to the throbbing intensified and she realised that this was no longer a dream. It was a loud hammering on the front door. The after effects of too much alcohol meant that the noise multiplied tenfold inside her head.

She staggered out of bed and reached for her dressing gown, but somebody had beaten her to the door. The hammering was followed by the sound of raised voices that Julie didn’t recognise, and she dashed to the landing to see what the commotion was about.

As she peered down the stairs her father glanced towards her bearing a puzzled but grave expression. There were two strangers in the hallway; a plain, manly-looking woman of about 30, and a tall middle-aged man with rugged features. Julie’s mother stared up the stairs, her face a deathly pallor, her voice shaking, as she uttered, ‘They’re police. They want you love.’

Julie panicked and began to walk downstairs while asking, ‘What are you talking about mam? What would the police want with me?’

She saw the policeman nod in her direction as he addressed her father, ‘is this her?’

‘Yes,’ Bill muttered, and hung his head in shame.

The policeman then focused his full attention on Julie as he spoke the words that would remain etched on her brain for the rest of her life:

‘Julie Quinley, I am Detective Inspector Bowden, this is Detective Sergeant Drummond. I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Amanda Morris. You do not have to say anything unless you wish to do so, but what you say may be given in evidence.’

Julie stared at the police officer in disbelief and confusion as she tried to take it all in. She wanted to ask – What? Why? When? but the shock of this statement rendered her speechless and she couldn’t force the words from her mouth.

Inspector Bowden, heedless of Julie’s emotional state, was keen to get down to business straightaway. ‘Sergeant Drummond – accompany her to her bedroom while she gets dressed and watch her very closely.’

He then turned to Julie’s parents. ‘As soon as your daughter is dressed she will be taken to the station for questioning while we conduct a thorough search of the house.’

‘What do you mean, search? What are you searching for?’ asked Bill.

‘Drugs Mr Quinley,’ the inspector stated.

On hearing the word ‘drugs’ Bill was unable to contain himself any longer and Julie watched, helpless, as he metamorphosed into a frenzied maniac.

‘Drugs? What the bloody hell are you talking about, drugs? My family’s never had anything to do with drugs, never!’ he fumed.

He shocked Julie by grabbing her shoulder and shaking her violently as he vented his anger. ‘What the bloody hell’s been going on Julie? What’s all this about drugs and …and …people dying. Just what the hell have you been up to?’

Inspector Bowden took control of the situation. ‘Mr Quinley, can you please let go of your daughter and let Sergeant Drummond accompany her while she gets dressed?’

Bill mechanically released Julie and stared at the police officer in horror. This was a side of Bill that Julie, at twenty years of age, had never witnessed. Although he had often complained about her lifestyle, she usually shrugged it off, content in the knowledge that he was a kind and caring father who thought the world of her. Seeing him like this, though, she submitted to tears as she struggled to reply. ‘I’m sorry dad, but I really don’t know! I’ve never done drugs in my life!’

Then she began to sob in desperation, ‘Drugs? I don’t know anything about drugs …Amanda’s dead …Oh mam, tell him please?’

Julie’s mother, Betty, turned to address her husband, ‘Leave her alone Bill. Can’t you see she’s in a state? You’re only making matters worse!’

Inspector Bowden continued, officiously. ‘Now, if you will permit me to explain to all concerned – Amanda Morris died of severe intoxication and a possible drugs overdose in the early hours of this morning. As she was in the company of Julie Quinley and one other until approximately twelve thirty this morning, and returned home with them in an extremely drunken state, I have no alternative but to place Julie Quinley under arrest and take her down to the station for questioning. Now, if you will permit me to continue in my duties Mr Quinley, nothing further need be said at this point.’

Julie’s father retreated into the living room, mumbling to himself in despair. ‘I can’t take no more of this, I really can’t!’

Led by Sergeant Drummond, Julie mounted the stairs dejectedly. From the corner of her eye she could see her mother standing motionless in the hallway until Inspector Bowden disturbed her. ‘Mrs Quinley, could you help me to open the door please?’

When Julie’s mother had released the awkward door latch, he stepped forward, shouting, ‘in here men, start in that room there, then work your way through to the kitchen.’

Julie’s senses were on full alert, the adrenaline coursing around her body, as the police officers charged into the house with her father issuing a barrage of complaints at them. She was aware of her mother’s distress emanating from the dismal figure at the foot of the stairs. Apart from that, she could feel her own fear and helplessness, then shame and anger as, turning back, she noticed a group of nosy neighbours shouting and jeering at her mother. When one of them had the audacity to enquire, ‘Everything all right Betty love?’ her mother shut the front door in response.

Once inside the upstairs bedroom, Julie could sense Detective Sergeant Drummond scrutinising her as she put her clothes on. They didn’t speak but Julie tried to dress as covertly as possible while the police officer’s eyes roamed up and down her body. She could feel her hands shaking and her heart beating, and could hear people talking downstairs. One of the voices was her father’s and he sounded angry.

Julie headed towards the bathroom to wash her face, which still contained traces of make-up from the night before, but she was informed that there was no time to waste and they wanted her down at the station for questioning as soon as possible. ‘What about my hair?’ Julie asked.

‘If you’re so concerned about it, you can take a brush and do it in the car.’

Julie grabbed her hairbrush and placed it inside her handbag, which she threw over her shoulder.

‘I’ll take that if you don’t mind!’ said the sergeant, indicating Julie’s handbag. ‘It’ll have to be searched.’

Julie, aware of the sergeant’s hostile manner, replied, ‘That’s all right, I’ve got nothing to hide!’

She passed her handbag to Sergeant Drummond, then cringed with embarrassment as Sergeant Drummond rummaged through it and withdrew a packet of Durex and a small, empty bottle of vodka, which she proceeded to scrutinise. Once Sergeant Drummond had finished her thorough search, she tossed the bag back to Julie.

After several minutes Julie was ready to leave her bedroom without having showered, brushed her hair or even cleaned her teeth.

They began to descend the stairs.

Inspector Bowden materialized in the hallway and instructed Sergeant Drummond to lead Julie out to a waiting police car. He then ordered his men to check the upstairs of the house. As Sergeant Drummond was propelling Julie through the front door, Betty took hold of Julie’s arm and wept, ‘I hope you’ll be all right love.’

The look of anguish on Betty’s face brought renewed tears to Julie’s eyes, but she was too distressed to utter any words of reassurance to her mother. Her father, who had now calmed down a little, said, ‘don’t worry love, they can’t charge you with anything you haven’t done,’ and he put his arm around Betty’s shoulder in a comforting gesture. Julie knew that this was Bill’s way of apologising for his earlier accusations.

When Julie stepped outside the front door she was horrified at the sight that met her. The crowd that had gathered on the opposite side of the street had increased to such an extent that people were spilling over into the road. As Julie stepped onto the pavement with Sergeant Drummond gripping her arm, the excited mutterings of the crowd subsided and there was a series of nudges and whispers.

Julie was now the focus of everybody’s attention and she became painfully aware of her unkempt appearance, her untidy hair and unwashed face with mascara now streaked across her cheeks because of crying. The few steps from her house to the police car seemed to last longer than any other steps she had taken in her life. Although she knew she was innocent, she felt embarrassed in front of the crowd and ashamed that she had brought this on her parents.

She knew that they would be subjected to malicious gossip for weeks to come. For anybody who had ever held a grudge, or felt envious of the Quinleys, it was now payback time.

The sight of the over inquisitive mob soon refuelled Bill’s anger and Julie heard him, first arguing with the police officers, and then shouting abuse at the intrusive audience. ‘Have you nothing else better to do? Get back in your houses and mind your own bleedin’ business! Our Julie’s innocent and she’s better than the bleedin’ lot of you put together. Now go on, piss off!’

His shouts were interspersed by Betty’s uncontrolled sobbing.

Not one of the crowd flinched. Julie had no doubt that her father’s spectacle had added to their entertainment. It occurred to her that she had never before seen her father so out of control, never seen her mother so upset, and her neighbours had never before seen Julie looking anything less than immaculate. For her it marked the beginning of a prolonged descent.

Suddenly, Julie caught sight of her younger sister, Clare, heading towards her. She could hear her astonished voice repeating to her friends, ‘It’s our Julie!’ As she became nearer, she shouted, ‘Julie, what’s happened, where are they taking you?’

A policeman rushed in front of Clare, preventing her from making any contact with her sister, and Julie was bundled into the police car. As she repositioned herself on the rear seat, Julie could hear her younger sister’s frantic screams and, while the officers tried to restrain Clare, she shouted, ‘Get off me, leave me alone, that’s my sister, you can’t take my sister!’ It was all too much for an eight year old to take in.

The police car began to drive away. Julie heard her father shouting at the crowd again. ‘I hope you’ve enjoyed your morning’s entertainment. Now bugger off home the lot of you!’

She turned to see her mother trying to comfort Clare as the Quinley family stepped back inside their defiled home.

Inside the police car Julie tried to put aside her feelings of sorrow and despair in an attempt to pull herself together. She needed to remain calm in order to tackle this situation. But despite knowing she was innocent, she felt degraded and helpless.

She eased open her handbag, aware of Sergeant Drummond’s observation. Julie took out a mirror and held it in front of her face. Her reflection echoed the way she was feeling about herself. She removed a tissue and used her own saliva to dampen it so that she could wipe away the remains of stale make-up. Having achieved that, she set about brushing her hair.

Sergeant Drummond turned towards the officer driving the police car and quipped, ‘Look at that, her friend’s just snuffed it after a night out with her, and all she can think about is what she looks like!’

Julie tried to ignore the caustic comment. She needed to remain as composed as possible under the circumstances. For Julie, looking good meant feeling good, and she knew that it would help to give her the strength to get through this ordeal. In complete defiance of Sergeant Drummond’s remark, Julie continued to work on her appearance, adding a little blusher and lip-gloss.

She then attempted to think about her situation logically. “Yes, they had spiked Amanda’s drink with shorts. There was no point in denying that. Chances were the police would find out anyway and that would only make matters worse. But what about the drugs?”

She thought about whether there had been any time when somebody could have given drugs to Amanda, but decided that it was impossible to account for everybody’s whereabouts throughout the entire evening. She had been too drunk herself for one thing.

As thoughts of Amanda flashed through her mind, she could feel her eyes well up with tears again, but she fought to maintain control. “I mustn’t let them get the better of me,” she kept repeating to herself. Then she remembered the inspector’s words when he had said, ‘possible drugs overdose.’ “So, there’s a chance that no drugs were involved anyway,” she thought, on a positive note. Then her spirit was further dampened by the realisation that, if there were no drugs found there was no possibility that anybody else was involved. That could mean only one thing; that Amanda’s death was purely down to her and Rita having spiked Amanda’s drinks with various shorts throughout the evening.

Julie’s thoughts turned to Rita, and she wondered whether the police had taken her in for questioning too, as she must have been the ‘one other’ to whom the Inspector had referred. She thought about the surly inspector, convinced that he was going to give her one hell of a grilling once they got inside the station. “But I can’t have killed Amanda,” she reasoned to herself. “She was starting to come round a bit when we left her.”

As she pictured her friend’s face the last time she had seen her, Julie fought once again to contain her tears, as she went through the events of last night in her mind.

Police car

I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be posting more chapters and further details of the launch party as the date draws nearer. For now I’m making the final checks as I upload my Kindle and print files to Amazon. I’ll hopefully be sending for my print proof in the next few days.

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