Uncharted Territory

I’ve never made any secret of my love of comedy and I’m more of a writer than a stand-up, but I’ve always had this desire to perform comedy. The closest I ever came was singing Mack The Knife on karaoke… while I was dressed as Darth Vader. No one could hear the words for the bloody mask.

vader

I write humour. Sometimes I record humour while posing as my alter-ego Flatcap. You can find a host of short vignettes from the lad on my Audioboom channel at:

https://audioboom.com/users/2199083/boos

It’s a finicky job putting them together, but I enjoy doing so when I have the time. And considering the last one was put up just before Christmas, it shows just how much time I don’t have.

But producing audio is nothing when compared to video,

I’ve had a hankering to do comedy videos for some time, but my tech is low low-tech, and try as I might, I can’t get video and audio to sync properly with any of my five cameras (one digital camcorder, one compact camera, one smartphone and two webcams).

Then, a few days back, I received a regular newsletter from The Comedy Crowd and it was flagging up a link to a fantastically funny video which had no dialogue and that’s when it hit me.

Silent comedy.

Well, not quite silent, as you’ll see if you watch the video, but there is no dialogue so no problem syncing sound and video.

It’s taken up most of my spare time for the last few days, dragging me away from my current WIP for hours at a time, but eventually, I got it finished, then with some help and a few pointers from my good friend and fellow humourist, Iain Pattison, I revamped it a little and the finished product is here for your edification.

Comments are open, so please enjoy, and if you want to share or embed it, you pick up the links/code from my YouTube channel, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4ZEe3u7OXI

In the meantime, here is Flatcap Getting Fit

And if you find that funny, there are three volumes of Flatcap’s sledgehammer wit available for download.

FCSEX FCUKH FCGOB

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Uncharted Territory

On Site Preview? Clever Stuff

Check the right hand sidebar and you’ll see the cover of my Spookies novel, The Man in Black. But this isn’t just another book cover. Click on it and you can read the first 10% of the book on your screen right now.

Amazon come in for a lot of criticism on many fronts, but you have to hand it to them: they know how to make life easy for readers.

The Man in Black, the second Spookies title, is about 240 pages long according to Amazon’s estimates. At 90,000+ words, I reckon it would be closer to 300 pages, but let’s not quibble. Imagine you went into your local bookstore, picked a book off the shelf, and in an effort to decide whether or not you’re going to buy, stood around reading the first 24 pages. I think the staff might want a word with you. I remember one such shop on a motorway service station where they pinned up a notice saying, “This is not a library.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five… Oops. Sorry. That’s Clint from Dirty Harry.

You’re thinking I’m just trying to sell you the book.

Not so. Books are not sold, they’re bought. The difference is subtle, but important. This is not a new car or the latest in mobile phone technology. When I’m out and about, people pull me up trying to sell me cable or satellite TV, and they’re wasting their time. I don’t watch TV. I don’t care if it’s free for life, it’s no use to me.

It’s the same with books. If you don’t read the particular genre, if you don’t read at all (why don’t you?) then all the salesmanship in the world will not persuade you to buy. You have to be a reader and a lover of the particular type of tale before you will be even interested.

What I’m doing, courtesy Amazon, is presenting you with a sample. Whether you read it or not is up to you, but if you do, having checked the first 10%, you will be in a better position to decide on buying or ignoring.

And you can do so from the comfort of your workstation, armchair, hospital bed, or your seat on the train/bus if you’re working on a smartphone.

So go on. Indulge yourself

MIBsm

The Man in Black the 2nd Spookies Mystery, is written by David Robinson and published by Crooked Cat.

It is available for download for the Kindle from Amazon UK and Amazon Worldwide, and in all formats, including PDF, epub and iBook from Smashwords and all good e-tailers

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on On Site Preview? Clever Stuff

A New Arrival, a Coming of Age and a Relaunch

It’s been a busy week in the Robinson household.

It was my 66th birthday last Wednesday. I gave up counting them years ago, but there are those people on the web who find it hard to keep their traps shut, so I tend to announce it myself these days. Thank you everyone for your kind wishes. You made a happy man very old.

Twenty four hours after I celebrated clickety-click, a young chap made his debut. Elliot, the second child of my eldest son, David and his partner, Sarah, came into the world about half past four-ish, and as you can see he already has a Robinson appetite.

elliot2

Mother and baby are both fine, but because he’s four weeks early, Elliot is in neonatal care for a week or two. Congratulations to David and Sarah.

While Elliot is just starting out in life, my eldest granddaughter, Victoria turns 21 on Wednesday, and will graduate from Cambridge later this year. Well done, Victoria.

vicky

As you can see, January is an expensive month for the Robinsons. Than the lord for Hannah and Ava Rose, both of whom had the good sense to be born in May and ease the strain on granddad’s wallet.

hannah

avarose

As if all these all these family events are not enough to drive an ageing idiot even dafter, we’ve also relaunched the Spookies Mystery series with a promotion on The Haunting of Melmerby Manor. But Melmerby is not the only Spookies title. There is a second (and a third to come this year).

MIBsm

The Man in Black is much darker and more nerve-jangling than Melmerby. Set in an exclusive boys’ school where pop sensations the Wicked Witches are making a new video, the spirits are strong, restless and violent.

The Wicked Witches are not the only one making a new video. In an effort to promote The Man in Black, I did too.  Judge the result for yourself. You’ll need your speakers or cans on to get the full effect.

 

Chilling? Want to know what happens?

Well, you’ll have to read the book. Right now, I’m off for a much-needed nap.

The Man in Black is available for the Kindle from Amazon UK and Amazon Worldwide, and in all formats, including iBooks, epub and PDF, from Smashwords or any good e-tailer.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A New Arrival, a Coming of Age and a Relaunch

An Alternative Point of View

A dear friend who lives the other side of the channel, put up a blog post this morning, which prompted this response.

I’ve known  for a good few years now, and her huge sense of humour perfectly complements my own cynical chuckle muscles. But there was a part of this post which made me want to reply, and I didn’t want to do so in a long, rambling comment. I’ll put up a long, rambling post instead.

There are many arguments for and against self-publishing, and Ailsa spells many of them out in her post. I don’t disagree with any of them. It is hard work, you do have to do everything, you do have to source proofreading, editing, covers etc. and you do have to let people know you’re there. The only counterargument to that is, if you opened a shop, you would have to source stock, point of sale material, and you would have to let people know you were there.

Self-publishing is not about writing books. It’s about running a small business, and like any other business, it needs investment and hard work.

Ailsa rightly points out the when you sign a contract with publisher, all of that is taken from you. You’re free to write you’re next book.

Only, of course, you’re not… or at least, not to the exclusion of everything else.

Let’s take, as an example, Crooked Cat Publishing, the company which puts out my titles and Ailsa’s. I’m not sure how many author they have on their books, but let’s assume it’s fifty (it’s probably more). When it comes to publicity, Crooked Cat cannot narrow the focus to a single author. Readers don’t usually worry about who publishes a book. It’s the story they’re looking for, not the people who did all the graft behind the scenes. So to concentrate publicity on a single author, aside from being unfair on other writers, would bias the publisher’s returns and leave many titles not selling as well as they might.

It follows, then, that even working with publisher, the writer will have to take on the lion’s share of the publicity work, just as (s)he would as a self-publisher.

Ailsa misses what I consider to be a major downside to self-publishing. It’s a pain the backside. When I prepare a book, I have to ready two versions. One for Amazon, the other for Smashwords. They have different copyright pages, they have different links they have different layout requirements. But it doesn’t end there. Once I’ve published it, I have to go back and republish all the titles before it to put in the link to the new book. It’s tedious and time-consuming and to publish one book takes, on average, a full day.

For me, that is a major point for handing everything over to a publisher.

There is an upside, which Ailsa did not cover, and it’s one which is usually missed in the clamour of ‘you make more money as a self-publisher’.

Control.

Although the majority of my work is published by Crooked Cat, and series like the STAC Mysteries and Spookies have been quite successful, I chose to self-publish my latest series, Midthorpe Mysteries.

mtms

This is not about income. Frankly, if I had to live on my earnings as a writer, self-published or otherwise, I’d probably starve. Yes, I take a bigger cut from the Midthorpe Mysteries than I do from the STAC Mysteries, but that is irrelevant.

I’ve said numerous times, self-publishing was not a reflection Crooked Cat. The Midthorpe titles are experimental in that the actual mystery is played down in favour of humour. They are a satire on the traditional cosy crime. They are irreverent, funny and have stronger content than, say, a Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery or even a Spookies novel.

Because they are self-published, I have complete control over them, and that means I can make changes quickly when something is not working. Fiagara Nights, the first title in the series, underperformed when categorised in British Detectives, but a move into satire saw sales leap. Overpriced at £3.00, dropping it to £1.99 again saw a leap in sales. Could I give it away? Yes if I wished (but any silly bugger can work for nothing). Could I charge £20 for it? Yes, if I wished (but I’m not suicidal).

Publishers are busy people. Laurence and Steph at Crooked Cat have more to worry about than this particular scribe, and with the best will in the world, they cannot react to situations as quickly as me.

This control permits me to experiment, not only with titles, covers and content, but with marketing methods, the perennial challenge of letting the reading public know you are there. Total control teaches me what works and lets me make rapid changes to those ideas which do not work.

So this is not about control for the sake of control. It’s a learning curve, and the ideas which work on my self-published titles, will (so theory tells us) work on the published titles, too.

Ailsa makes some telling points, but there’s more than one side to a threepenny bit.

You can read Ailsa’s original post at: http://ailsaabraham.com/2016/01/18/keeping-on-keeping-on/

***

The Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries are written by David W Robinson and published by Crooked Cat. Learn more HERE

The Spookies paranormal mysteries are written by David Robinson published by Crooked Cat and you can learn more HERE.

The Midthorpe Mysteries are written and published by David Robinson. Learn more HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on An Alternative Point of View

A Number One Hit

Yesterday I was talking about a one­-day offer on The Haunting of Melmerby Manor, the first Spookies title. As I checked the title just a little while ago, it’s still priced at 99p, and yesterday’s offer has had its effect.

mlm chart

At seven this morning, it had risen from nowhere to NUMBER ONE!!! in the Amazon UK British Horror chart. It was also highly placed in two other charts, the Horror/thriller list and British Detectives.

As ever, this is nothing to do with me. I only write the thing, and along with publisher Crooked Cat, let people know it’s there. It is all to do with you wonderful readers, and my thanks go out to everyone now following the adventures of Sceptre, Pete, Kevin and Fishwick.

In the same way that my current series, the Midthorpe Mysteries, are experimental, so were Spookies. They were designed as a mix of crime thriller and horror, with a little humour thrown in for good measure. And like any experiment, they have their detractors, but overall the reception was good.

Melmerby was not the end of Spookies. A second title was released about a year later. The Man in Black is very much darker than Melmerby. The spirits angrier, the threat to the team that much greater, and the ending is designed to have you hanging on the edge of your seat.

MIBsm

I gave you a snippet from Melmerby yesterday, now here’s a little scene from The Man in Black.

The team are in the dining hall at the Ashdalean School. After an argument, Sceptre wanders away from Pete and Kevin to look at the Christmas tree.

***

Sceptre was not surprised to find that it was a real tree and not the plastic, store-bought variety. To schools like the Ashdalean, appearance mattered as much as substance, and they would never even consider an imitation tree.

Coming close to a branch, she sniffed. The scent was faint but still there: the tang of fresh forest on a crispy, winter’s morning.

A bauble nearby jiggled. Sceptre looked into its red and silver surface, its globular design reflecting a caricature of her face, drawn out until her chin ended in a sharp point, like the cartoon representation of a gnome or goblin; like the depiction of Loki she had shown Pete.

The scent, the decorations, the whole Christmas thing triggered memories of her childhood at Rand-Epping Hall, the excitement of coming down on Christmas morning to open the presents, the pure joy of being together with her parents, the pleasure of helping present the household staff with their gifts, and the delight of a game of hide and seek with Fishwick while the family watched the Queen on TV.

The bauble swayed again, tinkling lightly, bringing her back to the reality of a dark and chilly, school dining hall in the middle of a December night. Sceptre concentrated more closely on the image. Was that something behind her? She strained her eyes, staring into the near-mirror surface of the bauble. Her gaze fixed on the area behind her dwarf-like reflection where something appeared to be rising. It looked like a cloud. A cloud? In here? Impossible.

It grew until it threatened to engulf her. Sceptre spun and her heart leapt.

A mass of dark … something/nothing grew in front of her, its wispy vapour trails leading back into the stone floor. She tried to imagine what lay below but all she could think of was the crypt. The shape grew and grew until it reached the ceiling, swelling outwards, shifting tumbling, billowing. Amorphous protrusions grew from either side, like feathery arms, coming towards her, encircling her, closing about her drawing her into the dark heart of its mass.

She wanted to cry out, to alert her friends, but when she opened her mouth, no sound would come. All she could manage was a hoarse rasp.

Now the cloud surrounded her, suffocating her, its icy chill seeping into her blood, the stench of something decayed filling her nostrils, its poison invading her lungs. She gasped for air, choked on the stifling mass, and blackness slowly overtook her.

***

Ooh.Weird goings-on, but if you want to know what’s happening to Sceptre you’ll have to read the book

The Haunting of Melmerby Manor and The Man in Black are published by Crooked Cat and available for download for the Kindle from Amazon UK and Amazon Worldwide, and in all formats from Smashwords or any good etailers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Number One Hit

The Haunting of Melmerby Manor

 

Melmerby was the first title in a series of paranormal whodunits coming under the umbrella of Spookies, a four-handed team of ghosthunters.

mlmno1

Not quite comedy, not quite serious, they’re hybrid titles combining elements of the whodunit with spooky horror, and to make life (or death) more interesting one of the team, Sceptre’s butler Fishwick, is a ghost. Yes he’s been dead for night on 100 years.

On its original release, The Haunting of Melmerby Manor was very popular in the USA and actually topped the British horror chart over there for a short time.

Like many of my titles, its aimed at a general audience aged 13 upwards. There is no graphic sex, most of the violence is of the Tom & Jerry kind and although there are scenes which may give the reader the shivers, the horror is not as bad as many modern movies rated PG.

This first Spookies title is on off at just 99p (UK only). But you’d better look sharp. It technically ends at midnight tonight depending on how quickly Amazon change the pricing.

To tease you, here is a short extract from the tale. Pete has left his partners to search the upper floor of Melmerby Manor. Meanwhile, Sceptre and Kevin have gone into the long gallery.

***

Given the choice, Kevin would much rather have spent the night in the bar of the Rose & Crown than this spooky old house. As he shuffled slowly down the Long Gallery towards the rear door, his heart beat loudly, and his teeth would have chattered if his jaw hadn’t been set so tight. He and Sceptre squatted on the floor of the great hall under a Stubbs original of a horse called Mombassa, their torches switched off, and all he could see were dim paintings on the walls, display cases between them and the entrance hall, and the outline of the rear doors several metres away, the stables beyond them backlit by a thin winter moon.

Sceptre began to speak in a soft, sibilant voice. “Show yourself.”

Assuming her words were directed at him, Kevin said, “What? Here?” He shrugged, and a silly grin came to his face. “Well, if you’re sure…” Kevin began to unbutton his shirt.

“I’m talking to the spirits,” she whispered urgently.

He smiled sheepishly. “I knew that, really.”

Sceptre suppressed a smile and rolled her eyes upward. “If you’re frightened, why don’t you get on with thinking of a business name for our efforts?” Once more she raised her voice, speaking to the room. “Show us who you are, tell us what you want. We’re not here to harm you, only to understand.”

“Shh,” Kevin whispered. “Don’t encourage them.”

She frowned him into silence and continued talking to the room. “Give us a sign.”

She fell quiet, and suddenly silence was the only thing around them. Outside, even the wind and rain had ceased.

“Give us a sign,” she repeated, her voice not much above a stage whisper.

Nothing happened. Kevin picked up the CB, saying, “I wonder how Pete’s getting…”

“No, don’t,” Sceptre interrupted, snatching the handset from him. “The spirits can be shy, you know. Some will turn out only when they’re confident no one will hurt them. If we’re quiet, they may appear.”

“Great,” Kevin grunted. “One spook who doesn’t like whales and another hiding behind the curtains.”

Sceptre ignored him again. “We mean you no harm. Just give us a sign that you’re here. Give us just a tiny sign.”

SLAM! From somewhere beyond the gallery came the boom of a door whamming shut.

***

Who slammed the door? Pete? Fishwick? Or perhaps one of the many ghosts reputed to haunt Melmerby Manor.

If you want to find out, you’ll have to read the book, but remember the special price of 99p I only for today.

The Haunting of Melmerby Manor is published by Crooked Cat and available for download for the Kindle from Amazon UK and Amazon Worldwide, and in all formats from Smashwords or any good etailers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Haunting of Melmerby Manor

And My Heart Belongs to Filey

Filey Beach

Now and again, people ask me which is my personal favourite Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery. I don’t really have one, but there are those titles which I enjoy more than others.

A Murder for Christmas is one, because it’s quite detailed, and it relies (to an extent) on a real event from an area where I grew up. Trial by Fire, the last in the series (so far) is another, I had a lot of fun with Joe and the police putting that book together, and it marks a slight shift in the emphasis of these tales which I hope to carry on with the subsequent titles.

But if I had to make a choice, it would be The Filey Connection. It was the first, but that has nothing to do with my preference. Neither has any complexity in the mystery. It’s fair to say that Joe and his friends would face tougher challenges in the books that followed.

It’s all down to the location.

I first visited Filey on a school trip when I was about eight years old. You can read about that horrifying experience on Oapschat.

I learned the lessons of that day well, but curiously enough, it did not put me off Filey. In the intervening 58 years I’ve been back there more times than I can remember, and when my first marriage ended in the late seventies, I lived and worked there for several months to get me away from the stress,. During that time, I met my second wife, and we’ve been together ever since.

It’s not always possible, but we try to get to Filey at least once a year, and this year is no exception. We shall be there from April 18th-22nd.

Pilgrimage? Not really. I don’t fret or burst into tears if we skip a year or two. It’s much simpler than that. We love Filey.

We’re a little too old, and not sure-footed enough to negotiate the rock pools and slippery surfaces of the Brigg, but whether it’s a walk along the pristine, modernised promenade, watching the fishing boats come in and go out on Coble Landing, lounging around in deckchair on the miles of safe sand in the bay, or meandering through the narrow shopping streets, we just enjoy Filey.

And as a base, it’s in easy reach of Yorkshire’s larger resorts, Scarborough, Whitby and Bridlington.

Those same narrow streets, the mix of hotels and guest houses, the views across the bay, and especially Filey Brigg provided the perfect setting to introduce Joe Murray, Sheila Riley, Brenda Jump and the other regulars of the Sanford 3rd Age Club. A small resort where they can exercise their native Yorkshire wit, boogie the nights away and pass the days sticking their noses into not one but two suspicious deaths.

***

You can learn more about Filey on the town’s website at http://www.filey.co.uk/

The Filey Connection, the very first Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery, is available for download from:

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007E2JTC2

Amazon worldwide: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007E2JTC2

Smashwords (all formats): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/132867

And in paperback from online bookstores including Amazon

***

Enjoy a good mystery? Enjoy it all the more when it’s free?

Right now Trial by Fire, the 14th Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery, is available absolutely FREE. Get more details HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on And My Heart Belongs to Filey

A Special Treat

Christmas and New Year are behind us, Easter is three months away and the summer holidays are so distant, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Or does it?

Here’s a little treat for you. The entire first chapter of the next Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery, working title A Healthier Murder.

This thing is so new, even my editor hasn’t seen it yet so it comes complete with typos. And to dispel the murk and gloom of a wet Sunday in January, it’s set on the sunny island of Tenerife, in a Spa Hotel. I’m not going to tell you any more than that, so read on.

“Your neck muscles feel tight, señorita. Perhaps you need help to ease the tension.”

On hearing Pep Pischke’s mellifluous, persuasive voice Brenda Jump opened her eyes, raised her Ray Bans and turning her head slightly to the right, looked along the line of occupied sun loungers to where Pep, his tight-fitting, white T-shirt hugging the fine contours of his upper body, and his bared arms glistening in the sub-tropical sunlight, was already testing the muscles of the woman’s shoulders.

Brenda could not see who the woman was, but there were only three targets for Pep’s proactive attentions. According to the rules of the Aphrodite Spa Hotel, guests were supposed to approach staff for their various services, amongst which was Pep’s massage. But when it came to his three favourites, he was happy to break those rules and initiate proceedings.

“What time, Pep?”

Readily identifying the voice as that of Davina Trimble, Brenda nudged Sheila Riley, on the lounger to her left, and kept her voice to a low whisper. “Looks like Davina’s up for it… again

Raising her own Ray Bans, Sheila leaned her head forward to look past Brenda. Bringing her gaze back to her friend, she asked, “Jealous?”

“That’ll be the day when I need young bucks like him hitting on me.” Brenda turned her attention back to the Pep/Davina conversation.

“For you, señorita, it is any time. Now if you wish.”

Brenda watched Davina’s legs swing off the lounger, and the woman herself, a dumpy forty-something with a mop of untidy red hair, sat up, drawing a white, towelling robe around her pale blue swimsuit.

Brenda dipped into her bag, dug out her wristwatch and read 10:25. “Too early in the day for horizontal exercise.”

Sheila chuckled. “Really, Brenda, for all you know, it could be entirely innocent and in keeping with the hotel’s health and fitness services.”

“Yes, and I could find out I’ve won the lottery jackpot when I get home.”

They had arrived at the Aphrodite less than forty-eight hours ago, and with her usual skill at getting on with and getting to know people, Brenda had already learned a lot about their fellow guests. Although his English was perfect, Pep had an accent which was not Spanish, but which Sheila had insisted was more Russian. Davina, it turned out, was a novelist.

“I write erotica,” she had told them over drinks in the cocktail bar that first evening.

“Erotica? She must be working from memory,” Brenda had commented when Davina wandered off.

Situated on a rocky headland on the southernmost coast of Tenerife, on the boundary between Playa de Las Américas and Los Christianos, the Aphrodite Spa Hotel was one of the most exclusive on the island. As a consequence, it was also one of the most expensive as their friend and employer, Joe Murray, had pointed out when he first booked and paid for it.

A large, low-rise complex of apartments, with its own private beach, it offered peace and quiet, an air of seclusion from the boisterous streets of Las Américas. Guests were as pampered as they wanted, or left alone to enjoy the balmy, subtropical Canary Islands climate, as much as they demanded. Healthy eating and physical fitness were high on the hotel’s priorities, but never pressed upon the affluent guests. At the prices the Aphrodite charged, guest could be as active or indolent as they wished.

The place was a favourite with minor celebrities, and before she learned what Davina did for a living, Brenda had already notched up two TV actresses, a retired footballer, a lifestyle guru and a young woman who claimed to be a minor aristocrat and a millionaire drone.

“And that millionaire could drone to me for hours on end and I wouldn’t get bored,” Brenda had said to Sheila, who responded with her usual, good-hearted and humorous disapproval.

The idea of a week at the Aphrodite had come from Denise Latham, and insurance investigator and Joe’s current lady friend. Having been jailed on suspicion of murder, then having his flat burned down by the real culprit, Joe had been under severe strain throughout the summer, and Denise suggested the Aphrodite as a stressbuster. Joe eventually agreed, but insisted that Brenda and Sheila come along.

“They’re my oldest and most trusted friends. They’ve been through the mill just as much as I have, and they need a break, too.”

From Brenda’s point of view, it was an incredibly generous gesture, but Joe had taken time out to explain the full situation.

“When the cops walled me up, there was a bit of a downturn in business, but when they let me go, it really boosted The Lazy Luncheonette and we’ve been making good profits ever since. You two and Denise stood by me, so you deserve it.”

Two months later, the third week in September saw them fly out from Leeds Bradford airport in heavy rain, to land four and half hours later in glorious, afternoon sunshine. And two days later, Joe was doing as he had been advised. Even now, barely half past ten in the morning, after a hearty, unhealthy full English breakfast at a nearby café, he lay spark out on his sun lounger, the other side of Sheila and Denise, his Oakley sunglasses covering his eyes, sound asleep.

Watching the tall and muscular Pep amble away from the pool with the much shorter and chubbier Davina alongside him, Brenda noticed that the brief interlude caused Mags Godwin to raise her sunglasses, too, and watch the pair walk towards the hotel.

Mags, Brenda had learned, was a minor actress who had made brief appearances in a number of popular TV shows and soaps without making a serious dent on the national consciousness. In her late forties, with a head of blonde hair set perfectly and expensively into place, she ensured everyone knew she was due to audition for a major role in a new soap, and had come to the Aphrodite in order to ‘tone herself up’ in preparation for both the audition and the lengthy filming schedules when she landed the part. Brenda guessed that her confidence, bordering on arrogance, was a front prompted by her fiercest rival, Felicity Strum, who also happened to be staying at the Aphrodite.

A little older than Mags, Felicity was also blonde, also arrogant, but a little curvier and more alluring than her competitor, and while the two women greeted each other with civility and courtesy, they were out of earshot of each other, they made no bones about their intense and mutual dislike.

The two actresses formed the other corners of Pep’s favoured triangle, and it was interesting to Brenda to see the look of naked envy on Mags’ face when Pep led Davina from the poolside. Felicity was nowhere to be seen, but Brenda had no doubts that the same jealousy would burn through her if she noticed the couple.

“Stretching my legs,” Brenda said, and stood up.

With a glance at Joe and Denise, both sleeping, Sheila also rolled from the lounger. “I’ll come with you.”

They ambled around the smallest of three swimming pools, crossed a palm-shaded terrace and leaned on the low wall overlooking the beach and ocean beyond.

“Perfect peace,” Sheila murmured, and Brenda silently agreed.

Either side of the Aphrodite’s private beach, the sands were crowded with holidaymakers taking in the ultraviolet or playing in the gentle shallows, but there were few people in the fenced off area immediately below them, and those few were sleeping or sunbathing. A couple of hundred yards to their right, the ocean could be seen frothing against rocks, but here on this private stretch of sand, the waters of the Atlantic, glittering and sparkling in the morning sun, lapped softly against the shore. A soft, warm breeze whispered to them, the sunlight warmed their skin, and out on the ocean, they could see a cruise liner, and closer to them, the hydrofoil ferry, making its way to the island of La Gomera, twenty miles to the west. It was an idyll.

“A far cry from Sanford,” Brenda said, agreeing with her friend.

“Good morning, ladies. And a beautiful morning, what?”

The parody of Bertie Wooster caused them to turn and look upon the owner of the voice.

Between them, Sheila and Brenda had already decided there was much that was false about John St John. The plummy, upper class accent did not sound quite true, the potted history of his time at Eton was too vague to pin down with any accuracy when he attended one of the most famous school in Great Britain.

Over six feet tall, a head of dark, neatly combed hair over a boyish, permanently smiling and enthusiastic face, he was probably in his md-forties, and a self-confessed idler. “I toil not and neither do I spin. I simply travel the world having a deuced good time.”

And again, his clothing did not quite fit the claim to be the multi-millionaire son of a merchant banker. Brenda’s acute eye for fashion told her that his attires such as she had seen him wearing, came from High Street department stores. She was certain she had seen the same lavishly coloured beach shorts he wore in several mass-appeal shops in Sanford, and common sense told her that wealthy drones were unlikely to be found shopping in a Yorkshire mining town. Right down to his sand-covered flip-flops, everything about him looked, not exactly cheap, but certainly economical.

Everything except his camera. A bulky Canon DSLR for which he also owned a multiplicity of lenses, it looked a thoroughly expensive and professional model, but as Sheila had pointed out, Joe owed a Sony with the same accoutrements. The possession of such a camera was no evidence of great wealth.

For all his affected airs, graces and accents, she found him charming and engaging, and her earlier comment on his tendency to bore, was designed to underscore her attraction to him. In her opinion, his simple deceit, posing as something he clearly was not, masked a man who was basically shy with women.

“And we all know how good I am at overcoming shyness,” she had said to Sheila.

Sheila greeted him with a courteous but uninterested nod. Brenda was more sociable. “Good morning, Mr St John.”

“Please. Let’s not be so formal, Mrs Jump. Call me Jonno.”

“Jonno?” Sheila asked. The question came out a little too sharply, too bluntly.

“It’s what the chaps called me at school, and in the officer’s mess.” He chuckled. “On my insistence. Didn’t like them calling me Johnny. Too much of the barber’s shop and something for the weekend, what?” He tittered foppishly. Then, as if he were embarrassed by either his comment, or the silence which greeted it, he gazed up at the sky through the overheads palms. “Glorious weather, what?”

“Beautiful,” Brenda agreed. “But you’ll be used to it, I daresay.”

He frowned. “Used to it?”

“A well-travelled man such as you must be used to tropical heat and clear skies.”

“Oh. Yes. See what you mean. Well, I have to confess I did consider the Windies and the Bahamas when I was planning the hollier, but eventually I thought, why not go back to the Canary Islands? One can get here in four hours, and it’s just as beautiful and as hot and sunny as Nassau.” He leaned casually on the wall. “One used to come here years ago. Before the working classes got a hold of the place.”

His reference to ‘working classes’ niggled at Brenda, but it was nothing compared to the anger on Sheila’s face.

“Back then,” he wittered, apparently oblivious to the annoyance he was causing, “Los Christianos was barely a village, and I used to stay in the north of the island.”

“Puerto de la Cruz?” Sheila asked.

“Just one port of call, Mrs Riley. Santa Cruz, Oratavio, Corralejo, and… oh what was that other place. Los Gigantes.”

Brenda made an effort to rescue him. “You mean Puerto de Santiago.”

“Ah. Yes. Of course I do. Gigantes are the cliffs.” St John returned to his lecture. “Once the mass-market holiday operators got a hold of the islands, I decided to go elsewhere. Rhodes, Corfu, and the quieter areas of the Balearics.”

“Such as San Antonio,” Brenda  suggested.

“Absolutely.” St John gazed around again. “Still, nice to come back to dear of Tenerife. And this place is absolutely spot on, what?”

“Absolutely,” Sheila said.

“Well, mustn’t keep you, things to do, you know. Perhaps I’ll see you in the bar later.”

“Highly likely,” Brenda agreed with a smile.

“Are you taking in the tour of Mount Teide later in the week?”

Brenda nodded. “It’s on the agenda, but we haven’t decided when.”

“Do let one know, won’t you. I know the area alike the back of my hand, and I can show you sights the guides never bother with.”

“I’ll look forward to it.”

He doffed his sun hat to them and ambled off towards the Eastern end of the terrace, his camera coming up to his eye.

They watched him take a series of shots, turning through ninety degrees so that his early shots were of the town across the bay, and his final ones were of the hotel and its swimming pools.

“What an appalling man,” Sheila said. “And a terrible liar.”

“You noticed,” Brenda replied.

“San Antonio is in Ibiza and can hardly be described as quiet. And Corralejo is on the northernmost tip of Fuerteventura, not Tenerife.”

“Trying very hard to be something he’s not,” Brenda said with a chuckle. “I think he’s a very lonely man and he’s not too sure of himself. Why else would he put on a front?”

As St John disappeared into the hotel, Brenda brought her gaze closer, and the other side of the pool where Joe and Denise still slept. “I wonder where they went last night.”

“Some British pub, so Joe told me before they left. The Mother’s Ruin, I think it’s called. It’s out of Las Américas towards Adeje.”

“Must be one of Denise’s haunts. I know they were late back last night. I was on our balcony having a cup of tea at half past one this morning when I heard them cone in.”

Sheila hastened to disagree. “No, no. It was Joe who wanted to go there.”

“How would Joe know about a pub out of town? It’s years since he was last here. He always objected to Tenerife because Alison lives here…” Brenda trailed off, the light dawning in her eyes. “Alison. Of course.” She laughed aloud. “The crafty old bugger. He’s been in touch with Alison, hasn’t he?”

Sheila shuffled uncomfortably, turning to face the sea again, resting her elbows on the wall. “I don’t think so, Brenda. They’ve been divorced ten years and it was pretty awful for both of them. A lot of fighting and arguing. And Joe never speaks of her other than in the most negative way. Besides, he’s with Denise, now. Why would he be interested in Alison?”

Also turning to lean on the wall once again, Brenda wagged a disapproving finger in the air. “I never said he was interested in her. I just said he’d been in touch. He probably wanted to show Denise off to Alison. Show her he was capable of getting into other relationships. Show her that she didn’t matter anymore. Alison, I mean, not Denise.”

Again Sheila disagreed. “I shouldn’t think so, Brenda. We know Joe’s a grumpy old sod, but he’s not like that. He really wouldn’t care what Alison thought of him or his new lady friend.”

They stared down at the beach where one of the hotel’s attendants was helping a woman out of the placid waters.

“Must have hurt herself,” Brenda muttered. “I wonder if they’ll tie the knot.”

Puzzled, Sheila asked, “Who? The beach attendant and the woman he’s helping?”

Brenda guffawed. “No. Joe and Denise.”

“It’s a bit early for wedding bells, dear. They’re only been together two months, and it’s only because Joe’s flat was burned down that they actually got together.” Sheila sighed. “She’s been good for him, Brenda. He’s a different man since they began, er, cohabiting.”

“I like Denise,” Brenda declared, watching the beach attendant drag the dormant woman from the sea. “But I have to say she’s very pushy.”

“Jealous?” Sheila asked for the second time in less than fifteen minutes.

“Naw. Crikey, how long have we all been friends? Half a century? All right, I know I had a bit of a fling with Joe when we were teenagers, and again a couple of years back, but it was never anything really serious. Well, not for me, anyway, and Joe didn’t look too broken-hearted when we let it fizzle out.” Brenda half turned to face her best friend. “If Joe and Denise are getting it together and it’s long-term, good luck to them. But she hard-faced when she likes, is Denise, and we all know what Joe can be like when he gets one of his moods on him.”

Sheila had stopped listening. She was concentrating on event on the beach. There were only a few people to be seen, but they had all crowded round the woman pulled from the sea, and the young attendant, who wore the red shirt of a socorrista, a lifeguard, appeared to be giving her mouth to mouth and CPR.

“What on earth is going on?” Sheila asked.

Brenda too turned her attention to the incident.

As she watched the lifeguard gave up, stood up, and turned his face up to them. “Socorro. Está muerta. ¡Ayúdame!”

The words chilled Brenda to the bone. She had heard them before. As the lifeguard spoke, she suffered a horrible sense of déjà vu as she was cast back to a hotel balcony in Torremolinos and Joe hurrying down to help with a drowned woman in the swimming pool.

The lifeguard translated his words into English. “Get help. She’s dead.”

***

Have I whetted your appetite? Do you want to know what happens next?

So do I, but it’s a month or three away yet, so keep your eyes open for the launch of A Healthier Murder, the 15th Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery.

You could get ahead of the game by signing up for DW’s Newsletter. Not only will you get advance notification of the publication and launch, but right now I’m giving away four, yes FOUR free e-books in whatever format you choose.

You can learn more HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Special Treat

2015 and All That

hny

We’ve come that time of year when we reflect on the past twelve months and look forward to the next.

From a personal point of view, it’s been a marginally disappointing year. My health never seems to improve despite my best intentions and efforts. I gave up smoking in January… and started again in April. Diabetes took a stronger grip, but medication helped balance that… when I remembered to take it. In an effort to combat arthritic knees, I was advised to take more exercise, so I walk the dog further than ever… as a result of which my wrists hurt from bearing weight on the walking stick and Joe dragging me all over the town.

How’s all that for consistency and determination?

Continuing our travels through Southern Europe, we found a new and favoured holiday destination in Lanzarote. It’s a lot calmer and quieter than Tenerife, but to make sure we got our share of hedonism, we went back to Benidorm in September, and as a consequence had two of the worst flights we’ve ever had. It’s back to Tenerife next year

And Filey. We’re going there for a few days in the spring. It’s where I met Her Indoors, and I see no reason why the town shouldn’t suffer us for four days considering we’ve had to suffer each other for four decades.

We’ve spent the last 36 years together, and during the summer, we had our first few days apart when Her Ladyship flew off to Spain for a hen weekend. The consequences of that particular soiree were two new smartphones, and a mobile bill that was down by about £120 a year. Her Indoors didn’t know how to put texts together on her steam-driven Samsung, so I had to do something to ensure she could nag me from 1,200 miles.

I began the year reading a marvellously funny book entitled Lifting the Lid by Rob Johnson, and I’m ending it with an even funnier book (sorry Rob) entitled Puckoon by that master of manic absurdity, Spike Milligan.

Talking of books, I slowed down productivity this year. The Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries were getting a little tired and repetitive, but I sought to address that with Trial by Fire, and as we moved into the autumn, I set up a new series, the Midthorpe Mysteries. A little stronger than your bog-standard cosy crime, with an accent on humour as much as mystery, they’re performing quite well. Come 2016, I’m seeking to put out more of these and add to the 14 STAC Mysteries already available.

I’ve made new friends online during the year, and reinforced older friendships, and some of my closest internet friends have suffered personal sadness. To them I say, I am sorry for your troubles. I hope 2016 will bring you’re the peace and prosperity you deserve.

Family are likely to loom large in 2016. Another grandchild  due in February. Fingers crossed  for David & Sarah that everything goes okay. Later in the year I’m hoping to be in Cambridge for my eldest granddaughter’s graduation, and my daughter is getting married again… odd that. I fell for it twice, too.

Beyond that, I imagine it will be more of the same ups and downs it’s always been, but remember, you need the downs to let you enjoy the ups.

As the clock turns midnight and we move into the New Year, may all your dreams be grand and come to pass, and may all your troubles be little ones.

Happy New Year.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 2015 and All That

Caught Snapping

I read an interesting piece on the BBC yesterday concerning photography and how we’re all potential David Baileys while we have our smartphones with built-in, high-resolution cameras.

The photographer, Grant Scott, has some sound advice, amongst which is as you wander around, forget about composition. Instead, have your camera at the ready and take pictures of those things which catch your eye. As it happens, Grant, I’ve been doing that for years, and here are half a dozen results, which as well as demonstrating my crap photographic skills, might tell you something about my state of mind/being.

argument

This is an actual yard in Whitby North Yorkshire. But it pales into insignificance at the mind-boggling possibilities behind…

cocking

Which again is a real location, this time in St Ives, cornwall.

Next we have a genuine sign outside a shop in Perranporth, also in Cornwall. With my obsessions I just had to have a picture of this.

shag

A spelling error now, in Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire. A poor photograph, taken surreptitiously, and considering the amount of work which goes into making these things, I didn’t have the heart to tell the guy that the word “shimmering” has two Ms.

Another couple of spelling errors (both circled) caught my wandering eye. This time they were in Paphos, Cyprus, so given that English was probably the printer’s second language, I suppose they had some excuse.

tunel2

And finally, a tree in Icod, Tenerife but not the famous, 800-year-old Dragon Tree. Frankly, this reminded me of something from Quatermass.

You can read Grant Scott’s original article on the BBC website HERE

***

While I’m here, let me remind you that I am giving away a bundle of e-books for Christmas and the New Year. Check out the details HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Caught Snapping