Friday, November 14, 2014

First Novel, First Draft Finished...

Wow, it's taken a while to get here, 2 and a half years to be precise. But today I finished the first draft of my first novel. I hope to have something out just after Christmas so watch out world.

I've revised the first chapter since my previous post as well as the elevator pitch so here goes:

Elevator Pitch:

The UK engulfed by years of anti-social behaviour. Violence on the streets keeps good people trapped in their homes.

A new Government struggling to find a solution, turns to science to respond to the challenge.

A brilliant scientist with ghosts from the past finds an innovative way forward using medical technology. A new technology to measure how we behave. Unconventional, unpalatable, but a solution that will question the way we think about human behaviour and how tolerant we are to change.

A blogger tracks the events, a victim and a hero embroiled in the twists and turns of a story that forces the reader to believe the unthinkable.


Chapter 1:

Early July, Addlestone, Surrey.

The evening sun was still providing enough warmth to call the temperature balmy. The old woman left the grocery store clutching her bag full of essentials; milk and bread for breakfast tomorrow along with a treat for this evening, her one real vice, a Toffee Crisp.

She passed the pub on the corner where the Sunday locals were still trying to cram as much ‘weekend’ into their weekend. The working week was around the corner but they were doing their best to make that particular bend a long one.

The chatter was incessant and created a tapestry of words that morphed into a kind of song broken only by the occasional blasts of hearty laughter.

At this time of year, even though it was only just over half through, the old woman’s mind always transported her forward a few months to Christmas.

She was excited about this year, her kids were coming home to make it a good old fashioned family occasion. Her son had already arranged his tickets from Canada and her daughter was coming down from Leeds.

It was going to be a special one because it would be the first time she would get to see her grandson. The thought made her smile and before she knew it she was halfway home.

There was still the park to go through and that always worried her.

It’s not that the park was particularly scary it’s just that the kids that were hanging around by the children’s playground these days always seemed very rowdy and, more often than not, had been drinking.

She’d been reading in the paper about all the trouble on Britain’s streets over the past few years and how the youth of the country were, what fancy word did they use… that’s it ‘disenfranchised’. She remembered looking in her dictionary to find out what it meant. Disenfranchised, to be deprived of power, to be marginalised.

She always had her dictionary handy for when she struggled with the crossword. She was ok with the celebrity names and also the cooking terms but wasn’t so assured with clues about history or politics.

Her attention had been drawn more frequently to articles about anti-social behaviour but she’d been around too long to know when the media reports were for their own convenience.

She’d always tried to see the good in people and this mentality led her to believe that the press were blowing all the problems out of proportion and scaring the public to try to sell more papers.

As she turned the corner to walk through the gates of the park, she could already hear the angry voices of youth.

“Oi, fuck off Nick, you know she’s a slapper anyway.”

“Whatever…. If she’s that easy how come you ain’t had her?”

The banter was between the two bigger boys out of the group of six standing by the swings. They looked up briefly to see the old woman walking past and then got back to their disagreement.

“All I’m saying is you ain’t the first and you won’t be the last. Anyway, that Amy bird’s been giving me the right come on.”

The old woman could feel her face contort with disgust at the vulgarity of the language. She had lived in this borough practically all her life and felt a sense of ownership, along with a sense of shame as each decade that went by brought with it a filthier undertone.

She was too old and too familiar with the place now to harbour any thought of leaving.

She knew, however, it was best to hide her disapproval to avoid inviting any problems. The park was relatively small and she was about 400 feet from the exit. The sun was still beating down and she thought about what was on TV tonight.

Suddenly, she heard footsteps behind her. She didn’t remember seeing anyone else in the park apart from the boys and that made her feel uneasy. Her brain was telling her to look behind but her heart lacked the courage to do so.

The footsteps were heavy and were traveling at a pace far superior to hers. They pounded the pavement with a real purpose and she felt her body stiffen with fear.

Closer now, her assailant sounded just a few feet behind her. Should she run? She looked ahead and was about 100 feet from the street. The footsteps were upon her in an instant. Through a sharp intake of breath she turned around, eyes wide and startled…..

“Sorry luv, didn’t mean to scare you,” said the man carrying his 2 year old. “You can’t be too safe with idiots like that around can you?” he said gesturing to the gang by the swings with a nod of his head.

“Oh… errr… yes….you’re right. I err… I wasn’t sure who it was.. Who you were… behind me,” she said.

“Look, I’m heading right at the end there if you’d like me to walk you home?” The man spoke with genuine concern.

“No, you’re ok and thanks very much for the offer. I’m in the other direction. I don’t want to put you out.”

“Well, if you’re sure?” He said. “I really don’t mind. These evening walks help to get little Thomas here ready for nap time.”

“A beautiful boy,” she said. “He looks like he’s ready about now for a sleep so I won’t hold you up. I’m just a few minutes down the road. Thanks again and have a lovely evening.”

“You too. Take care now,” and with that, the man went off in the other direction.

Recovering from the fright, her heart was still beating fast and she cursed her mind for playing tricks on her. She cursed the newspapers too for making her feel exactly how she believed they wanted her to feel, afraid.

She allowed a smile to return to her face as her faith in humanity was restored by the nice young man with his little toddler. If only there were more good people around like that, she thought to herself.

She crossed the main road at the end and turned left into her quiet street comforted by being close to home.

She reached for the keys, and they snuggly found their way into the lock.

As the door opened she felt herself suddenly knocked off her feet by a brute force she’d never felt before.

Three youths forced their way into her home and proceeded to rain down kicks and punches on the poor, defenceless old woman who was now cowering on the ground.

By the time her eyes closed and she visited unconsciousness she’d experience just enough brutality to scar her for life, painting bitter, dark memories in her mind that would never leave her.

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As the old woman opened her eyes she could hear a beep like something you’d hear in a hospital. It was similar to when she used to watch Casualty on a weekend.

She remembered it well but couldn’t understand why was she hearing it now and why her face hurt so much?

“You ok luv? You’ve been through a terrible ordeal,” came the voice of what sounded like a kind young lady.

The woman tried to focus and turn her head but it felt compelled to stay where it was. Upon seeing this, the kind lady spoke again: “No, don’t try and move now, we’ve put your neck in a brace for protection.”

“I’m afraid you were quite a mess when you came in to accident and emergency downstairs. God knows what happened but you’ve got a few broken bones and lacerations around your upper chest, neck and head area. Do you remember anything at all?”

“No, I…. I …. Wait, there was the park and ….. yes….. I remember that nice young man, so gentle….. but….. I was err… I was home when…. they…. they hit me…..,” tears rolled down her face as she started to vaguely recall her experience.

“Ok, ok, let’s maybe wait before you try to remember any more. I’ll get you some water and something to eat. Would you like a sandwich?”

“Yes, thank you.. for.. for everything nurse,” the shock made her voice continue to stammer as she spoke.

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Leon had just switched the kettle on when a familiar beep sounded on his laptop. An incoming message greeted him with a subject line inviting further exploration:

‘…and the old lady went down like a sack of shit, she only lasted a few minutes before she was out cold…’

He opened the message and read on….

‘...her Toffee Crisp was tasty and the old bitch had been all nice and bought us some milk for a cup of tea. Shame she couldn’t join us. Have a watch and take a look at the mess we made of her. Remember this, we own these fuckin’ streets!’

Uncertain if he wanted to delve any further, curiosity won the battle of wills and Leon found himself clicking the mpeg4 attachment.

A video popped up, jumpy at first but then he could make out three or maybe four hooded youths punching and kicking something on the floor. The video came in and out of focus and then he could see, it was a woman, an old woman.

The beating continued for a couple of minutes and like a car crash, Leon wanted to look away but couldn’t. Eventually the violence subsided and the video went closer to the motionless woman.

“Ain’t she pretty,” came the voice as an image of a bloodied old woman came sharply into focus. Red fluid was streaming down her face and her left eye jutted out like an orange was stuck to the side of her head. Her eyes were closed and she looked lifeless. He honestly thought he was watching someone being murdered.

Leon found himself starting to gag and switched off with ten seconds of the video to go. Shaken and saddened, he made his way to the kitchen, turned on the tap, filled a glass and emptied it with three long loud gulps.

He stayed there propped against the sink for a few more seconds trying to gather himself.

Why did they send it to me? He thought. What did they want me to do with it? He already knew the answer to those questions but it didn’t stop his mind enquiring.

He went back to his laptop and clicked open his blog. ‘The Day Today’ had been Leon’s life for around three years since his early-twenties. It was named after a show on TV from the mid-1990s, a parody of a current affairs program.

He thought it would be ironic as the blog he started was all about current affairs and primarily the circus of Parliament but also issues affecting the streets of the UK.

He was a cynic with a thirst for knowledge. He hated being told what to do so was insubordinate to anyone managing him. This secured the quick fate of numerous journalism and temporary roles but bills needed to be paid and he had no silver spoon.

He mused over what to do until the blog kind of just happened. Since then, it had become one of the most read blogs in Britain and was gaining traction overseas because of his often opinionated rants but also inherently factual reportage.

He left few stones unturned and saw a story through to the end where most modern news sources moved on to other news after a matter of seconds. Never wrapping up a story or situation to quench the public’s thirst. Leon was different. He told the story all the way through.

If a scandal rocked a minister, he followed the story up to trial, judgement and then weeks later to check in on how the victims were doing, whether justice had been served for them.

He clicked back to the message and read on. The words were followed by a name, address, time and date which he assumed were the victim’s details. There was also a phone number. He called and found himself talking to a receptionist. It was a hospital…

A couple of minutes into the awkward conversation gave him the information he was praying for. She was still alive. He wasn’t family and couldn’t get any further details about the old woman but at least he could confirm she was still alive.

He started typing. Words filled the page and a story began unravelling:

Defenceless Old Lady Latest Victim of Thug Attacks - watch the horrific video

The latest innocent victim of the violence plaguing Britain’s streets was a defenceless old woman in Surrey who was mercilessly beaten up in her own home last night.

Fortunately, the woman survived the attack and is currently recovering in hospital. At this stage it is uncertain whether this was the result of a burglary or if it was yet another motive-less crime.

The Day Today received an email tip off from the cowardly gang who attacked her along with a video clip.

Click the link below to watch the video but be warned, it contains the most graphic images.

This incident is all too common and the long suffering public deserve a response from the Government.

As far as the Day Today is concerned, we fear they will be left disappointed by a Prime Minister and Cabinet who have failed to do anything other than increase the levels of anti-social behaviour besieging our streets.

The General Election this year cannot come soon enough for most people who are sick of too many years of fear.

If you have any information on this latest incident or have a comment to share, please do so by emailing us at thedaytoday@blognews.co.uk

When he finished his piece and attached the video, his finger hovered over the ‘publish’ button for longer than the usual second.

He felt downward pressure as if by muscle memory and his story was unleashed on the world.

People needed to know, he thought to himself trying to justify sharing the story. They need to see what is happening on our streets, in our homes. It’s the only way to get the bloody politicians to take action.

He then clicked send on an email to the local constabulary as well as the office of the Home Secretary, attachment and all….

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chapter 2 - the story continues

Thanks for the comments and feedback following the posting of chapter 1 of my book. Chapter 2 is below and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Hope you enjoy it.

Mid-August – Chester
It had been a month since the attack on the old lady that shocked most of Britain. The fact it was leaked by a blog embarrassed most of the hacks still left on Fleet Street and even more so the nouveau-scribes in Canary Wharf.

The Home Secretary condemned ‘The Day Today’ for putting the story out there amid pressure on the Government for standing seemingly idly by while Britain was gripped by all too regular violent interludes.

People were scared. They were scared and angry that nothing was being done. Public visits by any Cabinet Minister were met with derision and speeches received with a chorus of boos. The election could not come soon enough as the majority of the public had lost faith in the current Government.

David Lawson had been campaigning on the back of a promise to rid the streets of these feral youths. The gangs had been occupying the town centres at night up and down the country making it a no-go zone for good, honest and hard-working members of society.

He was sick of it and had been particularly vocal throughout his meteoric rise in the Party.

He was the epitome of an upper middle class upbringing and spent his younger life enjoying the bounties of the family’s rural spread in Buckinghamshire. He trusted his instincts and was prone to making quick decisions. Sometimes these worked in his favour and other times he created himself a difficult challenge.

His father was a local businessman made good through some colourful deals with overseas suppliers. As the business grew, the older Mr Lawson pursued a career in politics but could never shake off the uncertainty of his business dealings to carry favour in the party.

David was determined to go one better and firmly plant the family name in the annals of political history.

His disgust at anti-social behaviour had endeared him to the voting public and it was a natural progression for him to represent the Party against the much-maligned Government. He hadn’t missed a chance to criticise the Prime Minister for his misgivings and tonight, he was launching the Party’s platform upon which they would aim to secure victory in the upcoming election.

“I want to say this to the people of Britain….” a purposeful pause extended beyond the sentence to let the words sink in for effect and the gathered crowd soaked it up… “No more do we have to sit in our houses protected by our doors and gates.”

“No more do we have to live under this self-imposed curfew!” 

Cheers and audible approval emanated as the puppet master started to control his willing audience. “No more do we pray our children return safely from their social escapades because today is the first day on the road to reclaiming these streets and taking back our towns!” rapturous applause erupted.

“…and I promise you this, I will not stop until this wonderful country of ours is restored to the green and pleasant land we all know it to be.”

“So join me in this upcoming election to remove these statues of uncertainty… statues of mediocrity that pointlessly flap around Whitehall and have done nothing but drive your country into the ground ever since they were elected and know this…” dramatic pause utilised to maximum effect…

“Know this… that we can make that change… FORWARD TOGETHER.”

The campaign slogan hung in the air and wrapped itself around the watching masses. They were completely lost in the moment and before long were repeating the words back in an almost chant-like fashion, fists punching the sky, smiles on faces that hadn’t witnessed such a feeling of hope for far too long…

“Forward together”
“Forward together”
“Forward together”

As if he’d just scored the winning goal in a World Cup Final, David Lawson raised his hands in celebration. He’d just won the first of many towns on his campaign trail.

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A few streets away from the political event, a young girl was riding her bike in the concreted area between the garages belonging to the apartment block she lived in. She smiled to herself as her mind was lost in the happiness she felt at that very moment. The world was a wonderful place.

She’d lost track of time and was sure her mum would be shouting down for her any minute to come up for her tea. She wanted to use the last few minutes of playtime to continue feeling the majesty of motion.

She’d got the bike for her birthday from her mum’s friend Uncle Brian and had pretty much ridden it every spare moment she had since then. Dad was gone and Uncle Brian made mum happy so, as long as he keeps buying such amazing gifts, she didn’t mind.

The girl turned 180 degrees at the far end of the garages by the fence and started to make her way through another lap of her own private playground. As she neared the entrance to the road she notice her lace was untied.

She stopped, put the stand down on her bike and moved on to rectify her open lace. Under, over, under, over, she repeated in her head what her mum had taught her… Then suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a third shoe appear. It was bigger than hers and she looked up…

A group of six older girls were standing there, two were holding her bike and one was towering over her camera phone ready to capture the scene.

The little girl rose to her feet only to receive a punch to her face. She fell instantly and the group starting kicking their victim with a hatred and fury she’d never experienced before.

The kicks continued on and on. It felt like they were never going to stop. Why…. was all the girl could think… why are they doing this?

Huddled on the ground in a sort of ball shape for protection the girl’s body became limp as the ferocious attack started to subside……  

The gang of girls dispersed taking the little girls bike as a sort of vile trophy laughing as they vacated the scene.

“Did you get it?” asked one of the girls to the other as they strode away…

“Yep, caught all the action. Reckon we’ll get a whole lot of shares when I upload this later…”

A few minutes later, a woman appeared on the balcony overlooking the garage area.

“Jessica. Jessica,” she called, scouring the vista before her as she said the little girl’s name. Her eyes moved to the left and focused on a huddle on the ground… at that moment her calls became shrieks…

“JESSSICA, NO, PLEASE NO,” as she stared at the lifeless form. She ran down the stairs phone in hand already dialing for help.

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Samir made his way back from the political gathering that saw David Lawson victorious in Chester. It had been some performance and even he, as the ultimate cynic, couldn't help but be impressed.

He walked about three blocks when he heard screaming sirens and saw an ambulance pursued by three police cars speed around the corner. He followed the noise until he came to an apartment complex.

A gathered crowd guided him as his curiosity took over. He jostled for position to get a view of what must have been a girl of only five or six being carried into an ambulance by concerned paramedics. A police woman was trying to calm a twenty something lady who Samir assumed was the mother of the child.

“What happened?” he asked an older man to his right.

“Don’t know, one minute the kid was playing by the garages on her bike, next minute she’s barely breathing after taking a battering. The bike has gone so could have been a robbery,” he responded.

“No, a lady over there said something about a gang of girls, about fourteen years old or so beating the girl up for no reason,” said a woman in front.

“Terrible business,” she concluded.

“Absolutely,” nodded Samir in agreement.

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Finsbury Park, North London

On the train on the way back to London, Samir got his laptop out and started recording the day’s events. He crafted a blog that perfectly encapsulated the headline he’d chosen.

‘Lawson wins Chester as 6 year old taken to hospital, another victim of street violence’

He proof read his blog post and attached a couple of images from the David Lawson rally. He then opened the website ‘State of Hate’ which had become popular for videos and photos of gang related violence over the last year or so.

The Government had been trying to ban the website but no owner could be tracked. It used the Tor network to cloak the site administrators in secrecy and proved almost impossible to find whoever was responsible. So, it remained out there spreading the vile imagery of the violence infecting the streets of Britain.

On a daily basis, new images and videos were uploaded. Each could be liked, shared or commented on just like Facebook. It was kind of like a social network for the scum of society and was growing in popularity all the time.

Samir clicked through the sickening posts and found the one he knew would be there, the one showing the video of the girl getting beaten up. He linked his blog post to the video and published it to ‘The Day Today’.

Within a few minutes he was already receiving comments complaining about the violence as well as those thanking him for uncovering what was really happening on the streets.

Before he knew it, the train pulled into Euston Station. Twenty minutes later and he would be walking through his front door.

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Houses of Parliament, London

The door clicked open with a minimum of fuss. He was dressed all in black to avoid detection and like a shadow he made his way across the forecourt to the diplomatic car. His keys fitted perfectly into the lock. He didn't want to use the button for fear of making too much noise. Sometimes, the good old keyhole is just what you need, he thought to himself.

He started the car and drove it to the main entrance. He punched in the code and the main door opened allowing him to head off into the night.

Just as the main door closed shut, the security guard burst through the internal door. He looked at the now vacant space and checked the log on his laptop. Nothing had been booked out but someone had taken a car.

He pulled out his mobile and made a call….

“Bill, something’s happened. One of the SO1 cars has gone and there’s nothing logged,” he said with a growing sense of concern.

“John, take a breath, it’s probably one of the ministers on a late night rendezvous to the other lady. You know what it’s like,” said the reassuring voice on the other end of the line.

“I know but they usually at least whisper in your ear that they’re going to take one off the books but no one’s mentioned it to me.”

“Just give it an hour, if it’s not back, call me again OK?”
“Sure, thanks Bill. I’ll do that.”

The car made its way out of central London en route to the northern suburbs of the city. The driver was focused, he had a special mission and he knew it was important to get it just right.

He drove for about 15 minutes and it was noticeable how the built up city suddenly softened to more residential surrounds. The GPS on his phone directed him left, then left again until he came to a small boutique block of apartments.

He made sure no one saw him as he got out of the car and made his was around to an alleyway at the side of the block. The window was just above him as he hurled the rock through it before making a hasty exit.

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Finsbury Park, North London

Samir walked out of the kitchen with a cup of tea in his hand. It had been a long day and his blog post had received a huge response. Some people were sickened by the video link and others were grateful he had the guts to share the real story.

Several Ministers had criticised ‘The Day Today’ blog as being biased to David Lawson and ‘simply a tool of propaganda’, but it was nothing he hadn't heard before. His readers knew he had no political alignments and that was all he cared about.

He sipped his tea and flicked through the channels on his TV when… SMASH…. the window caved inwards with some force. He spilled his tea all over his shirt and jumped up like he’d received an electric shock.

In the split second between imagination and reality he thought he was going to get shot for some reason. It was then when clarity revisited him that he noticed the rock on the floor. He picked it up and found a note taped to the side.

He opened it and read the words “Stop spreading your filthy lies or next time it will be more than a rock and your window smashed in.”

He rushed to the window and could just make out a private number plate on a black car. With his knowledge of political affairs, he knew instantly it was an SO1 or Special Protection Command car.

Special Protection Command were the security detail commissioned to protect diplomats and members of Parliament including the Prime Minister.

As he punched the number in to emergency services he couldn't help thinking that it felt a little odd that someone with the training received by the highly skilled members of SO1 would make the simple mistake of enabling the car to be visible from his window. There’s plenty of obscured places to conceal the car in his street.

He reported the incident but didn't reveal the whole story. He needed a report filed for insurance purposes but he wasn’t about to tell the police that one of their own was the perpetrator.

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Houses of Parliament, London

John checked his watch almost every five minutes until the hour passed. He went down to the garage and, to his relief, the car was back where it belonged.

Just as Bill predicted he thought to himself, just a minister out with his security detail visiting a special friend. He didn’t bother reporting the incident. He knew better than to draw attention to an early morning’s misgivings.