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A Taste of The Broughton Trilogy

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I’m currently finishing off a comedy/drama trilogy I wrote before You Don’t Know Me. I’m going to publish under a different pen name as it’s totally different to the erotic romance I write! This excerpt is from the first book in the trilogy, Dangerous Snacks. Anthony Fish, the Secretary of State for Education meets the Head of Ofsted, and vents his hatred of teachers!

Anthony Fish could smell weakness. And as soon as Nigel Forehead walked across the threshold, the entire office reeked of it. He was a short man, five feet two at a push. And if that wasn’t enough, he was puny with it. Not slim or lithe or wiry. Just plain puny. Even through his chainstore suit, the Secretary of State could tell there wasn’t an ounce of fat or muscle on this man’s skeleton. In fact, it was a fucking miracle this bag of skin and bones could stand up by itself at all. And to top it all off, he was grey. His hair was grey. His skin was grey. The chainstore suit was grey. Even the watery eyes were grey. And if that wasn’t bad enough, this puny, grey, insipid thing that stood in front of him had once been a teacher.
‘Good to meet you.’ He rose magnificently from his chair and thrust his right hand across the desk.
‘Secretary of State.’
He glanced at the straggly fingers that wrapped themselves around his hand. There was no strength in this man’s grip. It was like shaking hands with a woman, or a ghost.
‘Do sit down.’
He motioned toward the visitor’s chair, and watched as Nigel Forehead settled into it. The chair was slightly too low for the desk with the result that the Chief Inspector of Schools sank slowly, further and further, until at last only his head and shoulders were visible above the fake oak laminate. Pleased with the arrangement, the Secretary of State sat down and leaned back. As a last minute adjustment, he placed his hands together, making a steeple with his two forefingers, and touched them lightly against his lips.
‘How was your journey?’
‘Perfectly acceptable, Secretary of State.’
‘Did you have far to come?’
‘No.’
‘And it wasn’t difficult to find these new offices?’
The Chief Inspector of Schools glanced at the shit-coloured walls and grimaced.
‘Not at all.’
Anthony Fish felt a rumble in his bowels. Even if this spineless gimp did share his low opinion on the state of the decor, it certainly wasn’t his place to show it. Who the fuck did he think he was?
‘A strange name, Forehead,’ he said, deciding it was about time to get on with belittling the prat.
‘I’m sorry?’
‘I’ve never heard of it before.’
‘It’s common in some parts of the country. In fact, it’s probably as common as Fish.’ The Chief Inspector of Schools fixed the Secretary of State for Education with a cold, watery gaze. ‘Shall we get down to business?’
He lowered his hands and narrowed his eyes. Something deep inside his gut had begun to convulse in the face of impudence. The deluded fuckwit had obviously never dealt with a real life politician before. The Secretary of State took a deep breath and decided to show Nigel Forehead the true meaning of power. For a start he’d give the bastard a good old fashioned verbal mauling. And then, when he’d chewed him up and spat him out, he’d have him sacked.
‘Of course.’ He tapped a finger against the desk. Something was squirming about in his colon. ‘So, what are you here to talk about?’
The Chief Inspector of Schools raised an eyebrow. ‘As agreed, we’re here to talk about the focus for school inspections over the coming year.’
‘Ah, yes.’
‘I sent you a report. I have a copy here.’ He pulled a file out of his briefcase and slid it across the table.
Anthony Fish stared at the plastic cover and tapped the finger some more. The file looked familiar, just like the one that had been lolling about in his own briefcase all weekend.
‘I know. I read it,’ he lied. He had no problem with lying. He was a Cabinet Minister for God’s sake. He’d got away without reading important documents for years. That was what assistants were for. And anyway, what could this document possibly contain that he didn’t already know?
‘Then you’ll know what that focus should be,’ Nigel Forehead said curtly.
‘Indeed.’
The Secretary of State delved in his brain for an idea. Why hadn’t Bob briefed him on this fucking document? Had he really been expected to read it? At last, he remembered the list. On the way to the conference, overcome by inspiration, he’d scrawled it on the back of an envelope. On the way back from the conference, with inspiration hijacked by hatred, he’d pulled out the very same list and added a hangman’s noose. Leaning down to one side, he retrieved the envelope from his briefcase, glanced at the noose and thought about the tall bastard with the bald patch. It was only a matter of time before that piece of shit got what he deserved, but for now there was still a gimp on the other side of his desk … and it had to be dealt with. He read back through the scribbles, deciphering what he could of his own handwriting. ‘Hours too short. Holidays too long. Parents to observe teachers. Pupils to observe teachers. Drug tests for teachers. Breathalyser tests for teachers. CCTV in classrooms. A Union Jack in every classroom. The Queen’s portrait in every classroom. A Bible in every classroom …’
‘Hours,’ he said at last, going with the first item. ‘They turn up for work at eight thirty, and fuck off home at half three.’
Nigel Forehead coughed and glanced down at his knees. ‘Secretary of State,’ he said quietly, ‘We’re not in the business of talking hours.’
‘What are we in the business of then?’
‘Standards.’
‘As far as I’m concerned, hours are part and parcel of standards.’
‘That may well be but …’
‘It’s a fact.’
The scraggy lips had fallen open. Nigel Forehead was gawping at him. ‘Still …’ he faltered. ‘We’re not able to dictate the timings of the school day.’
‘I can though,’ Anthony Fish smiled. He sat back in his chair, triumphant in his powers.
‘Teachers must work a set number of hours every academic year, Secretary of State.’ The Chief Inspector of Schools was speaking slowly now, emphasising each word, each syllable with a scrawny little hand. ‘It’s up to each individual school how they dictate the hours.’
‘They love their jobs though, don’t they?’
‘Pardon?’ The scrawny little hand came to a halt.
The Secretary of State continued to smile, pleased with the way he’d blindsided the grey gimp.
‘Teachers, they love their jobs?’
‘Love? Erm … I expect many teachers do indeed love their jobs.’
‘Then they should want to work longer hours.’
Perplexed, the Chief Inspector of Schools stared at the Secretary of State for Education.
‘We must remember,’ he said at last, ‘further to time in the classroom, teachers do need time to prepare and mark.’
‘Whose side are you on?’
‘Side?’
‘Are you on their side?’
‘I don’t think it’s a case of sides.’
The man was an idiot. Of course it was a case of sides. In fact, as far as the Secretary of State for Education was concerned, in the entire history of the need to take a side, there’d never been a clearer case of it. He leaned forward slightly. It was time to go in for the kill.
‘Do you have sympathy with them?’ he demanded.
‘Sympathy?’
‘With teachers?’
‘I’m in the business of seeing to it that they do their jobs effectively, that we have excellent standards.’
‘There’s that word again. Standards.’ He waved a finger. ‘I’ll put it to you one more time, the longer the hours, the higher the standards.’
Nigel Forehead stared at a wall. The watery eyes seemed to glaze over.
‘I think most teachers work long enough hours.’
What the fuck was he going on about now? Everyone knew teachers barely worked at all. They were a lazy bunch of feckless, work-shy morons. But then, of course the grey gimp would take their side, because the grey gimp had once been a teacher himself. And once a teacher, always a teacher. Anthony Fish stared at Nigel Forehead, and Nigel Forehead continued to stare at the wall. With a name like that, it was no surprise he’d been forced to leave the classroom. Mr Foreskin. That must have been his nickname. And the children must have called him that, because all children were bastards, even his own … but teachers were worse.
‘Holidays.’ He glanced at the second item on his list. ‘Teachers have too many holidays. We should talk about that.’
Nigel Forehead arched his eyebrows. ‘That’s not within our remit, Secretary of State.’
‘It should be.’
‘Also, it was not alluded to in the report.’
‘I know that.’ He smiled knowingly. ‘Just testing.’
The Chief Inspector of Schools sighed.
‘As you already know, Ofsted is charged with monitoring standards in teaching and learning, not holidays.’
‘If they had fewer holidays, then they might work a damn sight harder.’
‘It’s not within our remit.’
‘Remits …’ He waved a hand dismissively.
‘If I may say so, we should perhaps begin with the number of outstanding schools.’
Anthony Fish didn’t reply. He’d heard the words, but barely registered them. His hatred of teachers was eating him up from the inside, like acid burning away at his stomach.
‘It’s simply impossible we have so many,’ Nigel Forehead went on.
‘Quite.’
‘We need to tighten up the measures by which we judge schools. We’ve worked on this over the summer …’
‘Six weeks.’
‘Pardon?’
‘What on earth does anyone do with six weeks in the summer? And how many fucking holidays do you need a year?’
‘As I’ve already said …’
‘I bet they’re all off fucking camping.’
‘Camping?’
‘That’s what they do, isn’t it? Teachers? They all fuck off in their tents for six weeks?’
‘I’m not sure that all of them …’
‘You were a teacher. Is that what you did? Did you go camping?’
Nigel Forehead frowned.
‘Once or twice.’
‘In your little tent?’
‘It was a six man tent.’
‘South of France?’
‘Cornwall.’
‘I knew it!’
With a flourish, Anthony Fish slammed his fist on the desk and glared at the Chief Inspector of Schools. The watery eyes filled with confusion. He had him now, thrown off guard and against the ropes. The mauling was going to plan. With a smile, the Secretary of State for Education got up from his chair and made for the window. He gazed at the street below, waiting for the next move. It wasn’t long in coming.
‘Sec … Secretary of State,’ Nigel Forehead stammered. ‘The report suggests we … we should … should focus on behaviour.’
‘Behaviour?’
‘We believe that standards of behaviour are … far too low in some schools. Pupils are distracted from their learning. Therefore, this should be the number one priority.’
‘Of course it should be. Behaviour, yes. Teachers are supposed to be pillars of the community. They should be paragons of virtue. Their behaviour should be constantly under scrutiny.’
Nigel Forehead coughed. ‘I meant pupils’ behaviour. Not teachers. It was in the report …’
‘I know that!’ the Secretary of State scowled. ‘Yes, pupils’ behaviour.’
He really should have been briefed on this fucking report. He was a busy man. Did they actually expect him to read everything that landed on his desk? Making a mental note to sack Bob, he found himself thinking about the behaviour of the evil bunch of shits he’d been forced to share his own school days with. And in a public school, to boot. A shiver ran down his spine. He could only imagine what sort of feral animals infested the state system.
‘I have read the report,’ he said quietly, hoping his voice sounded menacing. ‘Of course you should make behaviour the top priority. I’m meeting the Prime Minister this afternoon. I’ll inform him of this.’
‘And the number of outstanding schools, Secretary of State.’
‘Yes, yes. That as well.’
He turned away from the window and looked down on the Chief Inspector of Schools, realising with a surge of jealousy that Nigel Forehead was blessed with a full head of hair, albeit grey. A wave of hatred flowed through his veins. He hated the grey gimp, hated everything about him. And he hated children too, every last one of the heartless little bastards. And he hated teachers, with their short hours and their long holidays and their arrogant, smarmy attitudes. Those fuckers had tormented him at school, and they were still tormenting him now. He thought about the conference and the peanuts, and the sniggers and the mobile phones, all pointing at him, all recording every single second of his humiliation.
‘Mr Forehead,’ he said at last, reminding himself that for now the grey gimp might have some uses. ‘I’d like to discuss my powers as Secretary of State. I want to know how far they stretch, particularly in relation to the Office for Standards in Education.’
‘Your powers, Mr Fish?’
‘In particular, if I wanted you to, for example, target a particular school for inspection, could I do that?’
‘If there were valid reasons for your concerns, then we would certainly be willing to act. However, we have our schedules.’
‘Do you ever break from your schedules?’
‘Of course, Mr Fish. If there’s a particular issue with a particular school.’
‘And what if I see there’s a particular issue with a particular school? Can I insist on an inspection?’
‘Do you have a particular school in mind?’
‘Yes, I do.’
Nigel Forehead seemed to think.
‘I take it, Secretary of State, you’re referring to the events of Friday night?’
He felt a spasm in his stomach. The stupid grey fucker was smiling now. He was actually smiling. The wave of hatred finally reached breaking point, crashing across his brain and spilling out through his mouth.
‘Damn right I am!’ he yelled, watching the Chief Inspector of Schools flinch.
Nigel Forehead looked down at his knees.
‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know?’ he yelled some more. ‘There was a head teacher throwing peanuts at me in a packed conference hall!’
‘And pretzels, I understand.’
‘What the fuck difference does it make?’ His heart was racing now. And he was breathing hard and fast. ‘Why is everyone so fucking obsessed with what type of snack was being hurled at my head? The facts are these. It was a head teacher. He was clearly pissed out of his tiny fucking teacher brain. He was laughing at me – me – the Secretary of State for fucking Education. And he called me a wanker. Do you think that’s appropriate fucking behaviour?’
‘No. No, I do not.’ The Chief Inspector of Schools shook his head. ‘However, your powers, as you put it, do not stretch to using Ofsted to carry out your own personal vendettas.’
‘This is not a personal vendetta, Mr Forehead.’ Anthony Fish took a deep breath, calming his heartbeat and slowing his pulse. The time for yelling was over. He lowered his voice to a menacing growl. ‘This is about standards, and this is about behaviour, and this is right up your fucking alley. If this is what the son of a bitch gets up to at a national conference, then what the fuck’s going on in his school?’
There was a long silence. The Chief Inspector of Schools pulled a pen and notepad out of his briefcase. He stared at the notepad, stared at the shitty walls, and clicked the pen. At last he spoke.
‘Give me the name of the school, Mr Fish, and I’ll ensure it receives an immediate inspection.’

A beginner’s guide to self-publishing

Okay, so I did my first talk to a writer’s group last week. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I’d love to do more. The group asked me to share my experience of self-publishing, and to talk about how I’ve publicised my books. I’ve written up my notes here as a very basic guide, and thought I’d share it with you. I’m not an expert on these matters. This is simply an account of what I’ve done, and what I’ve learned along the way.

The Background

I used to write a lot when I was younger. I then had a 15 year gap when I didn’t write at all, due to relationships, bringing up my daughter, and my career as an English teacher. I started writing again in 2009. There’s nothing like a divorce to get you thinking about what you’re doing with your life!

I started with my own story. It was a form of therapy, and also a way of getting back to who I really was. I wrote about a middle-aged woman going through a divorce. This quickly morphed into a story set in a school, involving a romance between a Head Teacher and a Head of English. The final book was 200,000 words long! I didn’t know the genre, or the audience, but being naïve, I submitted widely. First mistake. Your average novel is 80,000 to 100,000 words long. However, in spite of its size, the full manuscript was eventually requested by an agent. Over the next few months, during which I was asked to shorten the novel, there was an awful lot of waiting and nail-biting. During that time, I wrote a sequel (couldn’t leave the characters alone). When the book was finally rejected, I decided to try something completely different. I’d been reading a lot of erotic romance, had an idea for a story, and thought I’d give it a go. And what started out as an experiment and a bit of fun, soon turned into something else!

This time, I knew the exact genre and the target audience. Being a fan of the genre, I also knew what readers liked and expected. I also did some further research. This time, I knew exactly where the book would begin and end. I put a lot of thought into the story arc and character development. My own preferred arc is the 8-point arc. Google it, and you’ll find it easily. I now apply this to every book I write, as it really helps me to structure the story.

When I started You Don’t Know Me, Authonomy was still in existence. This was a writers’ site run by Harper Collins. Book Country (run by Penguin) was also still around. These sites have now shut down, but there are still online writing communities out there. Authonomy was priceless for me. Other writers began to critique You Don’t Know Me, and I got plenty of really useful feedback. Be careful with critiques though. You don’t have to use every single suggestion you’re given. If you really know your genre, you can choose what to take on board, and what to leave.
I also made lots of wonderful contacts through both sites. I met my editor and a beta reader. I was put in touch with a great cover designer and a formatter (I’m not technologically savvy). More than anything, being in contact with a range of other writers (traditionally published, self-published and unpublished) has proved invaluable.

A quick note on formatting: I don’t understand it! So, it made sense for me to pay for formatting. My formatter has been brilliant, guiding me through the uploading process and answering my idiotic questions. They’ve also provided me with ARC copies (advance review copies). These come in two formats: mobi (for Kindle) and e-pub (for other devices). These have been incredibly useful when it comes to getting reviews.

Self-publishing

When it was ready, I submitted You Don’t Know Me to a handful of agents. At the time though, I was eager to publish, and self-publishing was the quickest way to do this. So, with You Don’t Know Me checked by beta readers, professionally edited and properly formatted, I self-published the e-book with Amazon KDP Select in 2015. I had book covers professionally designed, but I still had to come up with the basic design and the blurb. I was interested to discover that many traditionally published authors also write the blurbs, and have to make decisions over book covers. There are various sites where you can design your own book cover, or buy pre-made covers. But as I’ve said, I chose to have mine professionally designed. This meant I could brief the designer to create covers that would appeal to my particular audience.

So, You Don’t Know Me was self-published in 2015, True Colours in 2016 and Shut Your Eyes in 2017.

I chose to enrol with KDP Select. This means you can’t publish your e-book on any other platform. With KDP Select, you have access to free promotions, price countdowns and Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t for everyone. Kindle Unlimited pays the author per page read. It’s not a huge amount, but as I write longer books (c. 115,000 words), it makes sense for me. Also, readers of erotic romance tend to be voracious readers! They’re more likely to use Kindle Unlimited.

I also chose to publish paperback versions of the books through Create Space. This meant that I needed a spine and a back cover from my cover designer. Additional formatting needs to be done for this, and you need to know the exact page length of your book so the spine can be prepared. Books are printed on demand and sent out to buyers from Create Space. I chose to do this because I wanted my books to be available for people without e-readers. I’ve set the price at the lowest possible. I’m currently looking into cheaper ways to print multiple copies as I’ve got a couple of signing events coming up.

Publicity

When Shut Your Eyes was released this year, it reached #12 on Amazon UK for erotic romance, and was the #1 hot new release for a while. All 3 books got into top 100 in the month after release.

Over the last three years, I’ve experimented with various publicity ideas. I’ve also discovered that many traditionally published authors are expected to come up with their own marketing plans. So, this has been a useful exercise for me. The main thing I’ve learned is that there’s no single magic bullet. It’s a long, hard slog. Lots of different things build up a following, and that’s what got me to #12. It can be exhausting, and often deflating, but if you believe in your book, never give up!

For a start, you need a social media presence. The basics are:

• Get onto Goodreads.
• Have a Twitter presence, but beware of anything where it’s just writers tweeting to other writers!
• Have a Facebook author page.
• Set up a website, with a subscription list.
• Link your social media sites as much as possible. For example, you can put a Goodreads widget on your webpage. You can link your Facebook page to your Amazon site. You can set up Goodreads to display your blog posts. It all helps.
• Give links to your social media pages on: Your Amazon author page, your website and your Goodreads page.
• Update frequently, and interact with your readers.

Another good tip: include an author’s message in the back of your book, along with your social media links.

Advertising

There’s a 30-day window of opportunity on Amazon. Readers can click onto ‘published in the last 30 days’ so this is a golden period for any self-published author. There’s also a 60-day section, but I think readers are less likely to click on this. If you’re incredibly lucky, your book will take off during this 30-day period, but you really do have to be incredibly, incredibly lucky for this to happen. Most of us fall off what’s known as the ’30-day cliff’, into the vast unfathomable ocean of Amazon … and we become – quite literally – invisible.

So, along the way I’ve tried various ideas to help with the visibility. I’m now going to let you know what’s worked for me, and what’s not worked for me. Disclaimer: these things might have worked for others!

Twitter ads – didn’t work for me. I paid for an advertisement with a company, but I rather suspect it was a case of writers tweeting to other writers. It got me very few sales. I definitely need to do more research on this.

Facebook ads – I’ve never had one accepted, due to the content of my books.

Goodreads ads – Didn’t really work for me. For example, in April 2016, I paid for two ads. Following Goodreads advice, one was targeted at readers of similar authors, one was targeted by genre. Here are the results, which aren’t stunning.

$34 spent.
53,315 views
74 clicks.

Amazon ads – I’ve tried this a couple of times. There’s a bidding system. You need a minimum budge of $100, and you pay per click on your ad. Your minimum bid is currently 0.02$ per click. You’ll lose out to higher bidders in an auction. I can’t find the stats on this, but I wasn’t bowled over by the results.

Newsletters – This is what I’m trying now.

Book Bub is the holy grail of newsletters. If you can get onto it, you’ll see results. However, only 20% of submissions are accepted. They have a very tight vetting process. I’ve been rejected three times now, but I’m not giving up! In the meantime, I’ve tried similar sites, but again I haven’t been amazed by results.

I’m now researching genre-specific sites that send out newsletters to their subscribers (romance, erotic romance, erotica). At the minute, I’m tying in giveaways of You Don’t Know Me with a placement in those newsletters. This is working very well. The plan is to identify the sites that give the best results, and then do a price countdown of True Colours and Shut Your Eyes, publicised on these sites at the same time.

I’ve tried a blog tour. To be honest, this didn’t result in many sales, but it did provide me with some great contacts with bloggers.

You might like to contact your local newspaper (and radio stations). I contacted the Leicester Mercury very early on with You Don’t Know Me. They liked the slant of the secretive school teacher writing erotic romance! I was interviewed over the phone. Imagine my surprise when the interview was published as a full page spread in the women’s section. There was also a banner across the front page of the newspaper: ‘Leicester’s Answer to 50 Shades!’

I attended a self-publishing conference last year. To be honest, there wasn’t much of any help. But I did pick up the idea of having book marks and business cards made. I’m still to do this, as it can be really useful.

I’ve done many giveaways of You Don’t Know Me. Some writers hate giving their book away for free. Some swear by it. Some even have a book permanently free on Amazon to lure in the readers (there is a process to go through to make your book perma-free on Amazon which includes opting out of KDP Select). This is obviously better if you’ve got a few books published, or like me, a trilogy. To date, I think I’ve given away three or four thousand copies of You Don’t Know Me. This has definitely resulted in more sales of the other two books. I’ve heard that a Goodreads giveaway can be very effective, so I’m planning on setting one up.

My subscription list has been growing, and I think this made the big difference with Shut Your Eyes, and got it to #12. I emailed everyone, asking if they’d be kind enough to buy the book on the same day. With True Colours, I set up a pre-order, but this didn’t help at all. In my opinion, pre-orders are more helpful to established authors with a huge following, not to a self-published author struggling to remain visible.

Reviews

These definitely count. Here’s some guidance for what happens on Amazon.

20-25 – Amazon include you in the ‘customers also bought’ bit, and ‘you might like’ bit.
50-70 – Amazon gives you spotlight positions, and includes you in their newsletter.

The number of reviews you have is also useful for being accepted on Book Bub and some other sites. Some high-profile bloggers also won’t consider your book if there aren’t many reviews.

Where bloggers are concerned, be very careful when selecting the bloggers you submit your book to. And don’t blanket submit. It won’t do you any favours! Make sure the blogger enjoys your particular genre, and tailor your submission personally to the blogger. Goodreads is particularly useful in helping you to find bloggers, but don’t contact people directly on there. Find their website and follow their submission guidelines. There are also some groups on there who will review your book in return for a complimentary copy. I’ve done this with an erotic romance group, and they were wonderful. Everyone who reviewed You Don’t Know Me also reviewed True Colours. I sent them all a complimentary copy of Shut Your Eyes as a thank you. They do need to state in their review that they’ve provided an honest review in return for a complimentary copy.

A word of warning. Develop a thick skin. Never, ever reply to a bad review, even if you disagree strongly with what they say. You won’t benefit from it! Anyway, it’s good to have a mixture of reviews. Oh, and beware on Amazon. They’ll remove reviews that are obviously from people you know personally!

As you develop relationships with bloggers, you’ll find they help and support you … if they love your books. They really are worth their weight in gold! A wonderful blogger has encouraged me to sign up for two book signings, and to do an author takeover on her Facebook site.

What have I learned?

Well, self-publishing is a huge learning curve. As I’ve already said, I am, by no means, an expert on it. The Amazon author forums are really informative if you want to find out more.

Self-publishing had really helped me to focus my mind on getting a book ready for the reader, and ready for submission. What I thought was fit for submission three years ago has changed completely. I’m now preparing to submit the You Don’t Know Me trilogy to agents, and I’m really taking my time over the synopses and the covering letter.

I’m lucky to have made a contact with someone who knows what they’re doing with synopses. This person annotated and changed my first synopses for me, then helped to rewrite a second version, and pointed out a weak spot which I’m now tightening up.

I’ve also returned to that first book I wrote. I’ve turned it into a trilogy, and am now reworking it to make sure there’s a good story arc, that the characters truly develop, and that it’s thoroughly edited. You never stop learning!

If you want to ask any questions, feel free to contact me on the email address below. I’ll do my best to answer!

Mandylee2015@hotmail.com

#12 on Amazon UK for Erotic Romance!

It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog. A few things have happened!

Obviously, Shut Your Eyes, the final book in the You Don’t Know Me trilogy, was published. I was stunned when it rose to #12 in erotic romance on Amazon UK, and was the #1 hot new release for erotic romance for a while. It then hovered about in the top #100 for a time, and was joined by True Colours and You Don’t Know Me. It was exciting to be up there alongside EL James, Sylvia Day and Jodi Ellen Malpas. And thank you to everyone who bought it, or downloaded it on Kindle Unlimited. The books continue to sell, although I’m no longer in the top 100, but never mind! I’m continuing to look into ways of publicising the books, and I’m also preparing to submit the trilogy to agents. Word of mouth continues to be the most powerful tool I’ve got for publicity. And so, if you’ve enjoyed the books, please leave a quick review on Amazon, and Goodreads if you’re on there. It makes a huge difference.

Finally, after a little difficulty with formatting, the whole trilogy is now available in paperback. I’ve priced it as low as I can. You can buy it directly from Create Space at that lowest price.

So, after living with Dan and Maya since the summer of 2014, it feels very strange to have finished the You Don’t Know Me trilogy. I’ve had those characters in my head pretty much the whole time, thinking about them while walking the dog, cooking dinner, cleaning (no, that’s a joke – I rarely clean). But now they’re gone.

I thought I’d probably relax for a few weeks, but that hasn’t happened. I have a comedy/drama trilogy on the go. It was the first thing I wrote when I got back into writing in about 2010, and having spent so much time on it (about 3 years), I absolutely need to finish it. I’ve been editing the first two books and working hard on the third, with a view to publishing the entire trilogy at Christmas. Be careful though! Don’t buy it if it’s not for you. It’s completely different to the You Don’t Know Me trilogy. It’s certainly not erotic romance. For a start, although it’s centred round a romance, there’s no explicit sex. Can you believe it? No rumpy pumpy? That’s why I’m going to publish it under a different pen name.

When I’ve done that, I’ll crack on with the next erotic romance. Occasionally, I do a bit (10,000 words written to date). As I think I’ve mentioned before, it’s called Snowbound, and I’m planning on a standalone. Writing a trilogy is absolutely exhausting, so it would be nice to just write a one-off. I’ve also got a few ideas piling up for future erotic romances.

So, in the life outside of writing, I’m mostly busy with the part-time teaching and babysitting my grandson. He’s one now, and an utter joy. He started walking last weekend. Magical! In honour of his most recent achievement, here’s a little song:

Shut Your Eyes Goes Live!

Hi all,

This is just to let you know that Shut Your Eyes, the final book in the You Don’t Know Me trilogy, is going live very soon!

I uploaded it to Amazon today. It can take up to 72 hours for it to be reviewed, but Amazon’s now telling me it’s publishing. So, any time now.

To celebrate, You Don’t Know Me will be free on Saturday and Sunday.

Hope you enjoy!

A Taste of You Don’t Know Me!

Hi!

This is mainly for participants in tonight’s author takeover on Surrender to Books. A taste of You Don’t Know Me:

‘Maya!’ I hear him calling me.
Dumping the glass jug onto the counter, I scurry back through reception and almost trip through the doorway into his office. He doesn’t notice. He’s busy flicking his way through a file.
‘What is it?’ I snap.
‘Bring my diary in,’ he mutters. ‘I’ve got a date to add.’
‘Do it yourself. I’m making coffee.’
I watch as he licks his finger, turning another page or two, apparently unbothered by my rudeness. He spends the next few seconds examining a graph before he finally looks up at me.
‘Miss Scotton,’ he smiles slowly. ‘Let me remind you that I’m in charge around here. Now do as you’re told.’
I feel a twinge of something down below, right between my thighs. And somehow I just can’t help myself. I hurry back out to reception, retrieve the diary and a biro, and return to him immediately. Without a word, he waves me into a chair that’s been positioned right next to his desk, watching me closely as I sink down into the leather.
‘Now,’ he says. ‘Thursday the thirtieth. I’ve got an on-site meeting at the Rowley shopping centre.’ He watches me some more, and I watch him right back, my temperature rising at the sight of his bloody wonderful face and his ruddy gorgeous eyes and his stonkingly perfect lips. He taps a finger against the desk and sighs. ‘Well write it in, woman.’
‘Screw you,’ I breathe.
I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m being feisty, and it’s working too.
His lips twitch.
‘The thirtieth,’ he repeats himself. ‘Write it in.’
‘Write it in,’ I mimic him. Opening up the diary and turning to the correct page, I scrawl the word Rowley as messily as I can. ‘Is that it?’
‘No, it’s not. Have I got anything on tonight?’
I flip my way back to today. There’s a huge list of meetings during the day and his next one is due any minute, but the evening is empty.
‘Nothing.’
‘Good. So, write this in. It’s just a little reminder to myself.’
I poise my pen, ready for the next messy entry.
‘Fuck my secretary.’
Oh, good Lord. What’s happening now? It’s as if some demented sex fairy is on the loose, tweaking me over and over again down below. Willing it to stop, I clamp my lips together and stare at him.
‘Good and proper.’ He points at the diary. ‘Make sure you add that bit.’
‘And what will Carla think when she gets back?’ I scribble the words fuck my secretary large across the bottom of the page, noting that he leans forwards anxiously as I do it. ‘I mean, she is your secretary, isn’t she?’ I add good and proper in capital letters, underscoring them a few times for good measure.
‘Not this afternoon, she’s not,’ he frowns. ‘This afternoon, you’re my secretary. You need to rub that out.’
He waves a hand at the diary.
‘No can do,’ I smile and I’m pretty sure he’s repressing a smile in return. ‘It’s in biro, and besides, you told me to write it. And anyway, why don’t you just fuck your secretary right now? Over there.’ I nod towards the sofa. ‘Like you did yesterday? And then why don’t you just ignore her afterwards and make her feel like an insignificant piece of crap?’
‘I’d love to fuck her right now. Over there.’ He nods towards the sofa. ‘I’d like to fuck her so hard she can’t speak for a week.’
‘Of course you would. I mean you’re not interested in a word she’s got to say. In fact, why let her talk at all? Why not just gag her?’
He leans further forwards.
‘What a wonderful idea. I’ll bear that in mind for later.’
‘There is no later.’
‘We’ll see about that. Now go and find some correction fluid and sort that diary out.’
‘I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you go and find some correction fluid and shove it up your arse?’
‘That’s very childish of you, Miss Scotton.’
‘Sack me then.’
I glare across the desk at him, while he glares back at me, all mean and hot and moody. I watch as his lips twitch, his fists clench, and I’m silently satisfied that I’ve just given him the mother of all hard-ons. In fact, I’m almost certain that he’s about to leap out of his chair and shove me backwards over the sofa one more time when I’m disturbed by the sound of a phone.
‘That’s your phone,’ he glowers. ‘Go and answer it.’
I push back my chair, storm out to reception, and grab the receiver.
‘Mr Foster’s office,’ I announce at the top of my voice. ‘What do you want?’
‘Who’s that?’ a male voice demands and I recognise it instantly. It’s Clive, the evil friend.
‘Mr Foster’s secretary.’
‘You don’t sound like Carla.’
‘That’s because I’m not Carla.’
‘Who are you then?’
‘I’m Mr Foster’s piece of skirt.’
‘Maya!’ I hear him call through the doorway. ‘Behave yourself!’
‘Well, Mr Foster’s piece of skirt,’ Clive Watson grumbles. ‘Would you mind putting me through to him now?’
I buzz through the call.
‘It’s your twat of a friend,’ I explain. I’m so proud of myself.
There are a few seconds of silence before he speaks.
‘Put him through … and Maya?’
‘Yes?’
‘Shut my door for me, please.’

Finishing the Trilogy

Hi all,

Just a couple of bits of news.

1. Shut Your Eyes is being edited! Yes! So, I’m on track to publish in February. This time, I’m going to let everyone know the publication date and hope (fingers crossed) that plenty of people buy it on the same day, giving it a bit of visibility on Amazon. Last time, I tried a pre-order, but it didn’t help me at all.

2. I’m doing an author takeover on Surrender to Books at 6.30 pm on Sunday 29th January. Here’s a link to the Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/events/227425694350475/ It’s only for half an hour, but come along and say hello!

That’s it! I’m off to write a blurb.

True Colours is free at the minute!

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Hello!

Firstly, True Colours is free this week, until 22 December.

Secondly, Happy Christmas!  Hope you all have a lovely, restful holiday.  I’ve got the family descending on me this year.  I plan to manage the situation with a Marks and Spencer three-bird roast and several glasses of wine!  When the kids are in bed, me and my sister will indulge in our traditional Christmas game of ‘Dirty Scrabble’ in which double scores are awarded for filthy words (see the picture for last year’s efforts).  Looking forward to my grandson’s first Christmas.  He’s crawling now, and trying to walk.  It’s scary how quickly they grow up.

So, I’m now into the final stages of titivating Shut Your Eyes, and rather excited about finishing it off.  I’ll be sending it for editing and beta reading after Christmas, and then publishing as soon as possible after that.  Having spent so much time with Dan and Maya over the last couple of years, it’s going to be strange moving on.  I’m planning on finishing off and publishing a comedy/drama trilogy, and then getting back to erotic romance after that.  Got a few ideas for future books and I’m itching to write them!

Right, that’s it for now.  I’ll be back after the tinsel’s packed away and the eggnogg’s all been drunk!

The latest news …

Well, hello!

It’s been a while since my last blog.

I’ve been busy redrafting Shut Your Eyes.  Nearly there.  Three chapters to go.  I’m aiming to get that done before the Christmas holidays start.  Then, I’ll fiddle with it for a couple of weeks.  And then, I’ll release it to beta readers.  They let me know if the story works as it is.  I bloody hope so!  If not, it gets changed.  Also, at this stage, I send the manuscript to my editor (Jack Bates).  The editing notes are incredibly useful and give me serious food for thought on the writing.  After all of this, I reckon the book will be ready for release in February.  I need to get it formatted, and I also need to get the cover designer to provide a spine for the paper back version (once I know how many pages there are).

I did want to release the book in December, but it’s just not been possible.  I’ve mentioned family issues before, and they’ve carried on.  I’ve had to be there to support my daughter with her baby son.  It’s been a tough few months and although my daughter’s finally getting over the post-natal depression, it doesn’t look like things are going to be easy in the future.  She’s going back to work part-time, and the only way she can do that is if I do a bit of child-minding.  So, that obviously cuts into my writing time.

We’ve spent the morning going through finances and looking into the help she can get from the State.  The bottom line is: it looks like she’ll get none.  She works bloody hard and so does her partner.  They can’t afford their own place, and therefore live with me.  At the end of the month, they come out with nothing.  No money for little treats, or new clothes, or anything.  Why do hard-working kids end up like this?  It’s just not right.

Anyway, that’s my rant over.  Back to the redrafting …

Think I might have to cheer myself up with a nice picture.  Here’s Michael Fassbender taking his jeans off:

 

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World Teacher Day

As you may or may not know, I’m a part-time teacher by day.  To celebrate World Teacher Day, here’s a chapter from a trilogy I’ll be publishing next year (after a darn good edit).  It’s not erotic romance, so I’ll publish it under another name.  It’s a comedy drama, or dramatic comedy (or something like that), set in the world of education.  I’ve used plenty of my own experiences in the book, especially daft conversations with kids!  There is a romance at the heart of it, between the main characters, Sarah and Ed (or Ted, as he’s sometimes called).  Here’s a bit from early in the first book, Dangerous Snacks, where Sarah and Ed are only just realising their mutual attraction …

 

She‘d found the chocolate brownie on her desk.  While she’d been taking her time in the ladies’ toilet thinking about Ted’s buttocks, some kind stranger had crept into her classroom and left the brownie next to the computer monitor.  It was packaged in a sandwich bag and sealed with a plastic tie.  She couldn’t work out who’d left it there.  Occasionally, some of the younger pupils brought her a cup cake or a biscuit they’d made at home.  But they were never packaged in anything.  She’d sling this one in the bin later on (like she normally did), but for now it had to stay where it was.

‘So where was you then, miss?’

‘None of your business, Liam.’

She sat down and pushed the brownie to one side.  The bell had only just rung but Liam Smith had already found his way into the classroom, plonking himself into a chair directly in front of her desk.  He’d been lurking in the corridor, waiting excitedly for the opportunity to interrogate his teacher.  He’d always reminded her of a badly drawn cartoon character.  The head was nowhere near symmetrical, with a nose that was far too short for the face, placed just that little bit too close to the mouth.  The mouth was roughly twice as wide as it should be.  And then there were the eyes: they were way too big for his head, placed so far to the side that he looked like a frog.  Those eyes were blinking at her now from out of the sides of the asymmetrical face.

‘Was it cancer, miss?’ Liam asked, lowering his head to emphasise the seriousness of his tone.

‘Cancer?’

‘Well, that’s serious, isn’t it?  I mean you’d have a lot of time off with that.’

‘No,’ she shook her head.  ‘It wasn’t cancer.’

‘Was it lupus, then?  My auntie’s got that.’

‘Lupus?  No?’  She leaned forwards, slapped both of her hands on the desk and looked down at her register.  ‘I don’t even know what lupus is,’ she muttered.

‘Did you break a leg?’

‘No, I didn’t break a leg.’

‘So …’  Liam leaned forwards over the desk, resting his chin on his hand.  He wasn’t about to give up any time soon.  ‘Did you have a brain tumour?’

‘No …  What?’

‘Meningitis?’

‘No.’

‘Food poisoning?’

‘No.’

‘Was you pregnant?’

She gazed at him, open mouthed, knowing that she really ought to dismiss the question, but she just couldn’t help herself.  She had to know.

‘How long do you think you’re pregnant for?’ she whispered.

‘Dunno.’  Liam shrugged his shoulders.  ‘Four months?’

‘Jesus …’  She thought about banging her head on the desk but settled for rummaging through the pile of papers.  ‘Hand out the books,’ she ordered, nodding at a red plastic box that she’d left ready by the door.

‘But …’

‘Do it!’

With a sigh, Liam Smith pushed himself up from his chair and began to slope around the room, carefully placing a copy of Romeo and Juliet onto each desk while the rest of the year nine class began to file in around him.  She watched as the others spilled into the room.  Occasionally, somebody threw a surprised glance in her direction, or nudged a friend, or muttered something under their breath.  Bags were flung onto tables, coats dropped onto the floor.  A wave of noise seemed to flow through the doorway.  She watched and listened until the final few bodies had settled themselves down into chairs and the noise had begun to ebb away.  At last, apart from the occasional mutter, the class had fallen into silence.  She called out the register, put down her pen, picked up the copy of Romeo and Juliet and opened her mouth to speak …

‘Was you depressed, miss?’ Liam asked suddenly, lowering himself back down into his chair.

Sarah gave a start.  Depressed?  She fiddled with her own copy of Romeo and Juliet and thought about a possible response.  Yes, she wanted to explain, I was depressed.  You’ve guessed it.  Well done, frog face.  I’ve just lost a year of my life trying to claw my way out of a dark hole.  And I’m still popping pills and drinking too much.  And I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life.  And I don’t know where the hell I’m going.  I’ve tried archery and pottery and yoga, but none of those seemed to help.  My best friend thinks I should shag your head teacher and while I found him suddenly and inexplicably attractive in briefing this morning (and I’ve recently been thinking about his buttocks), I’m not so sure that it would be a good idea.

‘No, I wasn’t depressed,’ she muttered.

‘Only Sigourney saw you in town one Saturday.  She said you was with your daughter and you didn’t look too happy.’

‘Well, that’s my natural face.’

‘Sigourney said it must be depression ‘cause you was off work but in town.’

‘That’s interesting.  It wasn’t depression.’

Liam narrowed his badly drawn eyes.  She could see that he was sifting through his brain for other possible medical conditions.  She really ought to have thought about this before now.  She really ought to have put a story together.  It would have made everything so much easier.  But for now she just needed to put an end to Liam’s search through his memories of medical dramas and family afflictions.  Who knew what he’d come up with next?  Severe diarrhoea? Alzheimer’s?  A tape worm?

‘Romeo and Juliet,’ she said quickly.  ‘Let’s get reading.’

Before Liam Smith could say anything else, she’d given him the job of reading out the prologue.  By the time he’d finished blundering down the fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, she’d written the other parts onto the board.  ‘This is who’s reading,’ she snapped, tapping the board.  ‘No arguments.  Act one, Scene one.  Go!’  And so, the reading continued almost seamlessly.  Slowly, wading through a mire of four hundred year old language, the selection of hapless pupils stumbled over their lines.  Sarah listened, helped with a word here and there, wondered idly if she should stop to explain what was going on to the furrowed brows, and decided against it.  If an Ofsted inspector had been in the room, he (or she, because women could be evil bastards too) would have lost the will to live by now.  But while the kids were reading, there would be no questions.  They made their way through the streets of Verona, past the usual thumb biting and the insults, arriving inevitably at a fight.  Benvolio tried his best to keep the peace (in a very squeaky voice) before Tybalt arrived, apparently full of hate and fury (but sounding very bored).  And all the time, as if she’d only seen him for the first time that morning, Sarah Pickering thought about Edward King.  She thought about his buttocks.  How firm were they?  She’d like to give them a squeeze.  She thought about his blue eyes.  She could lose herself in those things, especially in between kisses while he ran his big hands up and down her body.  She even thought about his chest hairs.  And finally, with the sex gremlin whispering in her ear, she allowed herself to think about the bulge in his pants.

‘Miss, I don’t get it.’  Liam had started again.

Sarah sighed.  ‘What’s not to get?’

‘How they fall in love so quickly.’

‘Who?’

‘Romeo and Juliet.’

Sarah stared back down at the page.  They were still on the first scene.  Romeo hadn’t even turned up yet.

‘Let’s not talk about love.  We’ve not got to that bit.’

‘Yeah but …’

‘Yeah but nothing.  Let’s just read this scene.’  She gave him her best attempt at a withering stare.

‘But, miss …’ Liam sat back in his chair and picked his nose.  ‘I’ve seen the film, miss.  You know, the one with Leonardo da Vinci.  It’s proper good.  It’s got guns.’

She let out a long sigh and glanced at the chocolate brownie.  Suddenly, it looked quite appealing.

Liam had a pained expression on his face, as if he was constipated.  ‘I need to know now, miss.  How do they fall in love so quickly.  I mean, they’re at a party, right?  And he’s dropped a tab …’

‘Only in the film,’ Sarah explained.  ‘Not in the play.’

‘Not in the play?’

‘No, just in the film.  In the play, there are no drugs.’

‘Oh, I thought that might have been why.  I mean if he’s high, then he’s gonna go with anything, right?’

Sarah slammed her book down onto the desk.

‘I think they’re just attracted to each other.  That’s all.’

‘But why?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘My dad says it’s all chemicals.’

‘I’m sure he does, Liam.’

‘He says that’s why he ended up with my mum.  Because of the chemicals and everything.  And then by the time it all wore off and he was thinking straight again, it was too late and he was married.’

‘Well … your dad’s probably right … about the chemicals.’

‘So, it is drugs then?’

‘I think your dad means endorphins.’

‘In dolphins?’

‘Jesus, Liam.  Let’s just read.’

She wanted to tell him about Blackpool Tower, about how it was lying in a splodge of ketchup in her kitchen bin because, engulfed by endorphins, she’d fallen in love with the bastard ex far too quickly.  She wanted to tell him that she’d ended up in a down-market bed and breakfast having dirty rotten sex five filthy times, and then she’d gone home with cystitis.  Less than a year later, she’d found herself married in a cheap dress from British Home Stores, and now she was already nearly divorced.  A piece of paper was about to flop through the front door, announcing that she was no longer married, certifying that she was a complete failure in love.  She wanted to tell Liam that these days she hated the bastard ex, but that there was a thin line between love and hate, and that hate she could deal with, but love she could do without.

‘Read!’ she snapped again.

She listened as Benvolio recapped the situation (still squeaking) and the Prince of Verona dealt out his judgement (in a broad Leicester accent).  She was thinking about Ted again, about the way he’d looked her up and down in briefing, about the way he’d asked her if she was alright.  Did he really fancy her?  Could it really be possible?

‘Miss, why do the Capulets hate the Montagues?’ a voice was pleading.

‘We don’t know,’ Sarah explained, shaking her head and snapping herself out of her thoughts.  ‘The Capulets and the Montagues have hated each other for a long time.  Nobody can remember why.’

‘But that’s stupid,’ the voice whined.  Sarah didn’t even know where it was coming from.  She was just happy that it didn’t belong to Liam.

‘In a little while, Romeo says, ‘Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.’  That’s our only clue in the whole play.  What do you think that could mean?’

‘Oh, I’ve got it, miss!’  Liam was bouncing around in his seat.  ‘It’s like these two families on our street, miss.  They’re always putting dog shit through each other’s doors.’

‘Liam!’

‘Sorry, miss.  Dog turds.  Only they can remember why they hate each other.  ‘Cause the dad of one of the families shagged the mum of the other family.’

‘Liam!’

‘I’m just saying.’

‘Well don’t!’

She drummed her fingers on the desk.  Turning her eyes back to the class, she raised an eyebrow.  That was all it took.  Thirty pairs of eyes were lowered.  She congratulated herself on the fact that she still had it.

‘Read!’ she ordered sharply.

While the reading went on, she scanned the class, letting her eyes fall on the new boy, Ellis Burton, a small, squat bundle of pent up rage and frustration, ready to go off at any second, bubbling under with silent threat.  He wasn’t listening.  That much was obvious.  He hadn’t even opened the book.  Instead, he was busy staring at something.  Following the direction of his gaze, she found herself looking at a girl with bright blond hair and a bright red cheek.  Leanne Taylor.  A mean girl.  An it girl.  The sort of girl you really wouldn’t want to mess with.  She glanced back towards Ellis.  Was it love, she wondered.  Had Romeo and Juliet had brought out his romantic side?  Was he run through with the blind bow boy’s butt shaft?

‘Ellis!’ she called out abruptly.

Ellis Burton barely moved.

‘Ellis!’ Sarah repeated herself.  ‘Can you tell me where we are in the play?  What’s the next line?’

Ellis gazed back at her without saying a word, his face expressionless.

‘Where are we, Ellis?’

‘Dunno,’ he grunted.

‘Dunno, miss,’ she corrected him.

He tightened his lips, refusing to play her game.

‘He’s not concentrating, miss,’ Liam called out.  ‘His things are hurting.’

‘Things?  What things?’

‘You know, miss.  His man things.’

A quiet ripple of sniggering flounced its way around the class, a very quiet ripple.  It might only be his first day, Sarah realised, but it was clear that Ellis Burton had already made his mark.  He was not to be laughed at, not out loud, just like Hitler or Stalin.  Don’t laugh, or you’re gonna to get it.

‘Right, back to the play,’ she announced.

‘But don’t you want to know how it happened?’ Liam went on, apparently oblivious to the ‘Don’t piss off Ellis’ code.

‘No, Liam.  Now be quiet, or it’s a detention.’

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the figure of Ellis Burton move about in its seat, dark and menacing.

‘But miss, it’s well funny.’

‘And it’s not for here.’

‘Leanne did it.’

‘What?’

Forgetting all pretence of silencing the class, she glanced over at Leanne.

‘Yeah,’ Liam was starting to laugh now.  He forced out the rest of his explanation through a growing crescendo of guffaws.  ‘He kicked a ball at her this morning, and … she … she … she kneed him in the nuts.’

‘Right, that’s fucking it!’

At last, Ellis Burton had spoken.  There was a terrible scraping of plastic against vinyl.  As Ellis Burton shoved his chair back, it hit the wall, ricocheted off and landed on its side.  Sarah watched in horror as in a split second, Ellis launched himself across the room, lurching over a row of tables and pushing people out of his way before landing on top of Liam.  He was like some sort of prehistoric predator, full of primeval fury.  A thick, sinewy forearm locked itself around Liam’s neck from behind, while a wrecking ball of a fist swing itself against his face over and over.  Liam’s eyes bulged out of the side of his face in astonishment.  He gasped, scratched ineffectually at the arm that held him in place.  At last, Liam managed to get to his feet, with Ellis still attached to him from behind.  The pair of them staggered to and fro, knocking tables and chairs over in their wake.  The sound of thumping was soon drowned out by the screams and shouts of the rest of the class, half of them screeching for him to stop, the other half chanting ‘Fight, fight, fight …’

Feeling a lightening bolt of adrenaline surge through her body, Sarah decided that there was no time to weigh up the pros and cons of action, just time for action.

‘Go and fetch someone!’ she shouted to anyone who’d listen.  ‘Now!’

Before she’d had time to think, she found herself in the middle of the fight.  What the hell was she doing?  First day back and she was trying to break up a scuffle.  Liam had managed to squirm around to face his attacker and was now aiming pathetic fists into his steely stomach.  Sarah pushed her way between the two, forcing an arm in between their bodies.  For a split second, she wondered if it was legal.  What had been the latest guidelines issued by the Department for Education?  Could you touch kids these days?  Was the law on her side?  Could she get sued for this?  Would she lose her job?  Liam’s face flashed into view.  It was dripping with blood.  That made up her mind.  Guidelines on her side or not, she needed to stop this fight.

She was hit on the nose.  She had no idea who’d done it.  Out of the maelstrom of flailing limbs, she found it impossible to tell.  Aware of the gasp from the rest of the class, relieved that the flailing limbs seemed to retract towards their owners, she staggered backwards, fell against the wall and found herself sitting on the floor.  Suddenly, everything seemed to slip into silence, apart from the sound of her own breathing, quick and rasping, her own heart beat, thudding at a fast pace.  And then she heard a man’s voice.

‘What’s going on?’

‘Liam wound Ellis up, sir.  And then they had a fight, and miss just got hit.  She’s over there.’

‘Liam, get to reception.  Ellis, stand in the hall.’

She felt a hand touch her shoulder.

‘Are you OK?’

She opened her eyes to find Ted crouching in front of her.  In the midst of the pain and the chaos she couldn’t help but notice that his flies were undone, gaping wide, showing off his pink underpants.

 

And the winner is …

The winner of the competition is … Yvonne!  Well done for guessing a rose!  An Amazon gift voucher will be winging its way to you.

So, here’s the cover for the final book in the trilogy, Shut Your Eyes.  I love it.  Roses figure in the story.  Not sure why I couldn’t post the entire picture, but you get the idea …  It’s laid out in exactly the same way as the first two covers!

And redrafting is coming along really well.  Right, back to work.

Fishing for Hyenas and looking for sleeping Penguins: A story of