The Work and Social Impact of Coronavirus

Watching recent news and social media posts, it’s easy to get swallowed up by all the mass hysteria surrounding the Coronavirus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing down its effects but it’s sometimes best to stop, take a breather and try to take a more positive approach to what is happening.

I must admit that I succumbed to a bit of self-pity this morning. In recent weeks I lost my father and added to that is the fact that my children might not be able to make it home for Mother’s day because of the virus. As part of my coping mechanism when my father died I decided to get out and keep busy as much as I could knowing that I couldn’t afford to revisit the chronic depression I suffered when I lost my mother.

But, recent news announcements suggest that I would be irresponsible to go out any more than necessary and I don’t want to do anything that will place either me or other people at risk. I therefore thought that as a homeworker and asthmatic that lives predominantly alone I might be faced with weeks on end stuck at home feeling bored and depressed.

I think that when something catastrophic like this happens we all look at how it will affect us as individuals and how it will affect our loved ones. Most of us are innately self-interested but I think it pays to look outside of that sometimes. That is what I did this morning and I found that I can draw some positives out of my own situation, and I’m hoping that other people will be able to do so too. These are just my immediate thoughts about my own situation but I’m sure others will come to me:

  1. As a homeworker I don’t have to worry about not being able to work unlike a lot of bar, restaurant and other workers who will be faced with weeks of no pay or even redundancy. My heart goes out to them – it must be a really worrying time.
  2. With today’s technology it is easier than ever to keep in touch with people, not only by messaging but also by video link using the various apps available. I usually only do video calls with my children and partner but I’m considering extending this to other friends and family.
  3. I can do as many exercise classes as I want via You Tube on my TV – Step, Zumba, Tai Chi, the possibilities are endless. And exercise is a great way to lift mood because of those endorphins. I can even extend this to as many friends as I can fit in my lounge while keeping a safe distance and, because we’re all friends together, we could take whatever measures we wanted to protect ourselves without feeling self-conscious. (I’ve got a mental image of us wearing masks and latex gloves, carrying our own bottled water and disinfecting the door handles.) We might even have a laugh while we’re doing it.
  4. The weather is picking up so it’s a good time to get out in the garden – working or relaxing. There are so many things you can do including giving it a facelift by painting fences etc.
  5. It’s also good to go out for a walk or a bike ride if you have an outdoor area that isn’t too populated, for example, if you live near the countryside.
  6. I’m also looking at my diet, trying to eat healthily and take my vitamins to build up my immunity. As part of this I’m trying to cook more healthy meals that I can stock in my freezer.

These ideas have led me to think about other people and steps they could take to help themselves. If you’re facing reduced hours or redundancy then it might be an opportunity to focus on a skill that might prove lucrative in the future. I know the situation is grave at the moment but some good might come out of it in the long run. My own writing career started after I spent a period as a stay at home mum and decided on a complete career change. I can honestly say I’ve never looked back as I wasn’t very happy in my previous career.

There are also opportunities to make money online. You could sell hand-crafted items on Etsy on unwanted items on Ebay, Amazon or Facebook marketplace. You might even have a skill that could make you money online via sites like Upwork, Guru and PPH or even by shouting about it on social media.

I have also been inspired by a couple of news items such as the one regarding the family of a Coronavirus victim in Manchester who have asked for no flowers at his funeral, just acts of kindness. Then there are the two ladies in Altrincham who are making sure that elderly and vulnerable people in their area are not left isolated or in need of shopping etc. This kind of community spirit is needed at a time like this.

Most of us can also draw comfort from the fact that the vast majority of people survive Coronavirus. Currently the mortality rate in the UK is just over 2%. Although it will be difficult for those affected, many of us can look forwards to a time when the virus is behind us and we have survived it.

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Keeping a Schedule of Events for your Novel

Following on from my previous post in which I said I would write more posts that fellow authors and aspiring authors might find useful, I decided to share my tips for keeping a Schedule of Events. Below is a sample of my Schedule of Events for the first few chapters of The Mark. For me this document is just as important as the manuscript itself as it helps me to quickly pinpoint exactly where I am up to in a novel without having to wade through pages and pages of text.

The ability to do this is particularly valuable if you have to spend long periods away from your work in progress (WIP), for example, if you go away on holiday or if you have other commitments which mean that you can’t always spend as much time on your WIP as you would like. For me, I can be writing one novel when my publishers come back with edits for the one that is currently in production. That means I might have to put my WIP to one side for a few weeks while I action the developmental edits so it’s useful to have a Schedule of Events when I eventually pick it up again.

Week Day/Time Chap Event
1 Ref jacket 1

 

 

 

7 pgs

Maddy is interviewing prostitutes in the Rose and Crown who are Crystal and some others. When the prostitutes become nervous of someone standing at the bar, Maddy packs up her things and goes.

 

Gilly the pimp is standing at the bar and he comes over to talk to Crystal, his girlfriend who is on the game. He spots Maddy walking away and asks Crystal what is going on. He starts to become curious about Maddy.

1 8pm

Finished with Rob 2 months prev

2

 

5 pgs

Maddy makes it home just in time before her ex-husband Andy brings her daughter Rebecca back. Maddy’s friend, Clare, rings and invites her to a night out. We find out a little about Maddy including her most recent eight month relationship with Rob.
1 Lunchtime 3

4 pgs

Crystal meets Gilly in the Rose and Crown and gives him her earnings. We see how badly he treats her. He tells her to go ahead with the meeting with the journalist.
1

 

 

1

4

 

 

4 pgs

Crystal’s 2nd meeting with Maddy, told from Crystal’s pov.

 

Gilly’s POV as he watches the meeting between Crystal and Maddy through the mirror at the back of the bar. He is becoming increasingly intrigued by Maddy. When she leaves the pub he follows behind her.

1 Late evening 5

5 pgs

Gilly follows Maddy home and then goes back to his seedy bedsit. We see the contrast and see him chasing the dragon.
2

 

 

2

A week later

 

 

Night after prev scene

6

 

 

6 pgs

Maddy goes on her night out with Clare. She meets a man called Aaron who is good looking, tall, slim and blonde.

 

Maddy gets a message from Aaron the following night asking her out and she texts him back saying she’d like to see him.

My Schedule of Events isn’t just useful for keeping track of where the plot is heading; it also serves several other purposes. You will notice that there is a Week column and a Day/Time column, and these help me to figure out my timeline for the novel. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that timeline is something I often struggle with so these days I keep a note of anything time related as I’m writing the novel.

I also keep a note of anything that might affect the timescale and these are shown in red italics, for example, the fact that she was wearing a jacket rather than a coat in the first scene of chapter one, indicating that it is unlikely to be mid-winter.  By keeping a note of all these time-related details it has made it easier for me to work out the timeline for my novel although I must admit that I still find it the most challenging aspect of writing a novel. That’s probably also down to the fact that all of the books I have recently written form part of a trilogy or a series of books, which complicates matters more than if I was writing a standalone novel.

In the Event column I have detailed what happens in each chapter with a separate paragraph for each scene in the chapter. You will also notice under the Chapter column that I keep a note of how many pages constitute each chapter. This makes it easier when I’m producing a second draft or doing the edits as I might want to extend some scenes, shorten others and maybe switch some scenes around. By keeping a note of the page numbers I can make sure that the whole thing balances overall and that there isn’t too much different between chapter lengths unless this is deliberate, for example, if I want to add a particularly short but impactful chapter.

I hope these tips help you in organising your own WIP. You might think of a few items to add to the Schedule of Events. If so, I’d love to hear your ideas as they might help me too.

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Writing though the Chaos

Friday 3rd November is a date that will probably stay in my mind for a long time. It was the completion date for my house move. I wish I could say that I am now happily settling into my new home. But no…

The party at the bottom end of the chain pulled the plug on the whole thing three days before we were due to complete. It turns out that they were nowhere near ready to move, but that information didn’t filter through to me until three days before the proposed completion.

So here I am, two weeks on, living out of boxes, sleeping on a mattress on the bedroom floor and still waiting to hear whether I might be moving in the near future.

It’s so frustrating!

For almost three weeks I have been in a state of limbo. I left out just enough things to keep me going until the move and, as we have passed Friday 3rd November, I have had to buy things which I already have in storage somewhere. I’m also constantly tripping over things that have been left out for the move, and I have the bruises to show for it.

To complicate matters I have things stored at three different houses as well as a mountain of boxes at home. And to complicate matters more, even if I know where something is in my home, I still can’t get to it.

The problem is that the boxes are heavy and due to a health problem I am not allowed to lift heavy weights. I find myself staring longingly at a plastic box and wishing I could lift the boxes on top of it so that I can get to the contents. It’s so tempting and I confess that I have been naughty once or twice. I’m just not patient enough to wait until someone is around who can help me.

Against this chaotic background I am still trying to write. I had a whole week without writing when I thought I was moving and had to pack up quickly. This was also very frustrating. I take my writing seriously and hate anything getting in the way of it unless it’s a holiday, and I’ll definitely need one of them soon.

The other thing about writing is that it can provide an escape from stressful situations. So, a stressful situation that keeps me away from my writing is a double blow.

Currently I’m still waiting to hear whether contracts might be exchanged on Monday. I’ve found it difficult to concentrate on work today as I know that once I receive confirmation of exchange of contracts it will be all systems go.

If contracts are exchanged on Monday then hopefully we will make the new proposed completion date of Friday 24th November. It would have been nice to have known before the weekend but I’ve come to appreciate that things are never straightforward when it comes to moving house.

So, I won’t count on it until it actually happens. Here’s hoping…

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Playing with Words

As a writer I love playing with words and I love words themselves. I know – weird aren’t I? Some words I love more than others. With certain words it’s because they have a lovely sound to them. With others it’s because they suit their meaning so well that no other word would quite suffice. There are many words that are so powerful and descriptive that they can transform a whole paragraph. In fact, ‘transform’ is one of the words on my list. Here are some of my favourite words:

Words 1

–         Expertise – It’s like experience, knowledge and skills all rolled into one.

–         Transform – it’s more powerful than ‘change’, don’t you think?

–         Incongruous – I love this one, it’s says exactly what it means.

–         Onomatopoeia – This relates to the use of a word that sounds like its meaning. What I love about ‘onomatopoeia’ is the sound of the word, the use of four vowels together and the fact that very few people can spell it. I can’t think of any other word that uses four vowels together – no doubt someone will put me straight on that point. I believe it stems from either Latin or Greek so there could be other four-vowel words that have been adopted by the English language.

–         Detract – I feel that no one word captures the meaning of this word in the same way. Although you’ll find alternatives such as ‘lessen’, Words 2‘diminish’ etc. in a Thesaurus, ‘detract’ means more than that. For me ‘detract’ makes me think of moving away from something or taking away from something, especially when used as ‘detract from’.

–         Encapsulate – I just love the sound of it. Again, no other single word does it justice. ‘Summarise’ is used as a synonym, but ‘encapsulate’ is more than that; it’s the act of taking all the components and bringing them neatly together as though in a capsule.

–         Retrospect – To me this word means more than just ‘reflection’, it’s looking back but also learning from past mistakes. Again, no other word conjures up the precise meaning.

–         Basically – It’s an excellent opener for a sentence and leaves the reader full of expectation of what’s coming next. It can open up an explanation, a conclusion or a summary. ‘Basically’, it’s a really useful word, but unfortunately I realise that I do tend to overuse it.

–         Divisive – Another powerful word, which was overused on the death of Margaret Thatcher – it was definitely the media word of the week. Now, whenever I hear that word my brain automatically connects it with Margaret Thatcher.

–         Replicate – Sounds more sophisticated than duplicate or copy.

Words 3

–         Proclivities – Means tendencies or inclinations but it’s often used in a negative way so it’s usually the word of choice if someone has perverse sexual tendencies. This word always makes me smile because of my mucky mind. It reminds me of Les Dawson (one of my all time favourite comedians) who said that some words are just funny because of all the connotations associated with that particular word.

Do you have any favourite words? What are your favourites and why? I bet you can think of some that I love but I’ve forgotten about – alas, the middle-aged memory isn’t what it used to be!

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The Importance of Beta Readers

For independent authors, beta readers play a key role in getting a book ready for publication. If you become traditionally published, you will have an editor (or sometimes a team of editors) assigned whose job it is to help bring your book up to market standards. However, if you’re an independent author you won’t have this advantage. So it’s great to know that there is a willing bunch of volunteers out there who will act as beta readers.

Essentially this means that they will read through your book before it goes to market and give you valuable feedback. This enables you to make any necessary adjustments and bring your book up to as high a standard as possible before publication.Magnifying glass

What they do – Some of the tasks that beta readers will carry out are to check for inconsistencies (plot holes) and errors, and problems with character development, continuity or feasibility. They could also make suggestions on ways in which to improve the story, for example, if there are areas of the novel in which you need to show more of the action rather than just telling the tale.

When you’ve been working on a book for several months it’s sometimes difficult to be objective. It’s therefore invaluable to get the opinion of an unbiased third party who will notice things that you may have overlooked.

Sometimes beta readers will also highlight proofreading errors, but this depends on the beta reader. On most occasions, proofreading is undertaken as a separate task and it doesn’t generally fall under the remit of the beta reader.

Man readingHow to get them – There are various ways of getting the message out that you are looking for beta readers. You could try putting a request on your blog, or put a message up on social media to let people know. Goodreads is another good way to make people aware and there are Indie author threads in many of the Goodreads groups, which will allow you to put up messages about your books. If you have a mailing list, you could also try adding a request for beta readers to your newsletter.

Who they are – Sometimes fellow authors may offer to beta read for you, and it’s often useful to have a reciprocal arrangement whereby you help each other. You may also find enthusiastic readers, book reviewers, people who are interested in your work, or others who want to improve the quality of published books on the market.

It’s great to have a good balance of beta readers to offer different perspectives. My current beta reading team includes male and female, authors and readers, and people from both the UK and the US.

It’s probably not a good idea to ask family and friends to be beta readers. It’s difficult for somebody to be totally honest when they share a close relationship with you. They may hold back or, on the other hand, if they give you some unwelcome criticism it may cause ill feeling between the two of you.

How many? – As each beta reader will concentrate on the aspects of a book that are important to them, it’s useful to have Woman readingseveral beta readers. I would aim for at least four, but more if possible. I personally think that five or six is an ideal number but other authors may disagree.

Dealing with feedback – It can be difficult when you realise that your book isn’t at quite as high a standard as you thought it was. Bear in mind though that it’s best to have it brought to your attention at this stage rather than have reviewers point out any failings.

Each beta reader will have their own preferences and their own point of view, and because you will write your book in your own particular style, you won’t necessarily want to act on every single one of their comments. It’s up to you as the author to decide which changes you want to make to enhance your book. It’s also worth bearing in mind, though, that if more than one person brings something to your attention, then it’s probably something you need to address.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful team of beta readers for the excellent job they do. I value their input and appreciate all their helpful suggestions.

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A Change of Plan

Now that I’ve published my debut novel, ‘Slur’ and my short story book, ‘Crime, Conflict and Consequences’ I’m pressing ahead with my second novel. I originally intended the second novel to be a disturbing psychological thriller called ‘Bad Brother and I’. Having already written about 10,000 words of this book, mostly in outline form but with the opening and concluding chapters drafted, it seemed the logical next step. In fact, I had also published the blurb for ‘Bad Brother and I’ in the back of ‘Slur’.

Then something happened.

As I was writing ‘Slur’ I thought of a great idea for a sequel. I had grown attached to one of my main characters in ‘Slur’, called Rita, and through my debut novel I had alluded to the fact that she hadClipartsalbum_31410 Child a rather colourful home life with a father who was a petty criminal and a sister who hung about with some dubious characters. Rita is feisty, foul mouthed and brash but she’s also loyal and has a strong sense of right and wrong as a result of her grandparents’ influence when she was a child. Therefore I thought it would be interesting to explore her character further and place her in an extremely challenging situation.

I decided that I would push on with ‘Bad Brother and I’ once I had published my short story book, and then write the sequel to ‘Slur’. My reasoning behind this was that I was much further forward with ‘Bad Brother and I’ than with any of the other novels I had planned. However, whilst I was getting ‘Slur’ ready for publication, additional ideas for the sequel were forming in my mind. I already had the plot roughly sketched and I was adding notes to it daily.

I was so excited about the idea for the sequel that I also typed up the opening chapter in draft form. Then, one morning I woke up at 5 am after a dream and I had the whole of the ending in my head. I couldn’t wait to get it down on paper. Fortunately, I have a notepad at my bedside because of my overactive imagination (these ideas always seem to come to me in the middle of the night – sod’s law!)

Clipartsalbum_57330 Clock

The following day I typed up the ending in draft from my handwritten notes and I could see the novel starting to take shape. I knew then that I didn’t want to put it off until I had written ‘Bad Brother and I’. After all, I was still immersed in the world that I had created and the characters were fresh in my mind so I decided to go for it. I changed the blurb in the back of ‘Slur’ and started work on the sequel as soon as I had launched the short story book.

I am now four chapters and 10,000 words in and I’m so glad I made this decision. There is no way I could have focused on ‘Bad Brother and I’ when all my enthusiasm was for the sequel. I’m really enjoying working on this book although it may have to take a back seat for a couple of weeks as I’m currently organising a couple of client jobs.

Although I was further forward with ‘Bad Brother and I’ than with the sequel to ‘Slur’, I actually think that this book will flow more quickly because I’m full of enthusiasm for it. There’s another advantage in writing this book next, and that is the fact that it is similar in type to ‘Slur’. Therefore, I can target them to the same readership.

Clipartsalbum_16620 BooksMy husband actually came up with an idea for a third book in the series. At first I wasn’t sure if it could be developed into a full-length novel as it was just the bare bones of an idea. However, the more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me and I began fleshing out the plot and adding detail. It is now definitely workable as a novel and, as a result, ‘Slur’ has become the first part in a trilogy.

So I think my Bad Brother will have to wait a while longer before he gets his turn in the limelight. Sorry Bad Brother but my female characters are just too dominant. I will get back to it one day though and I think that once I’ve taken the characters from ‘Slur’ as far as I can, I’ll be ready to work with a new set of characters and give them my undivided attention.

Authors, have you ever had a writing dilemma that has caused you to make a complete change in your writing plans? Or, perhaps you’ve had a character who has taken on a life of his or her own. I’d love to hear your comments on this.

 

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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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