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Keeping up the recent historical theme with a bit of Promises Made Under Fire. This was the first bit I ever drafted of the story and it remained exactly the same all the way to publication!

First light. A distant sound of something heavy being moved. A thin curtain of rain—the sort of misty, drizzly rain that soaked us through to the skin. Prospect of something for breakfast that might just pretend to be bacon and bread.
Good morning, France. An identical morning to yesterday and bound to be the same tomorrow. Tomorrow and tomorrow, world without end, amen.
I looked up and down the trench. The small world I’d become bound in was now starting to rouse, stretching and facing a grey dawn. The men were stirring, so I had to get out my best stiff upper lip. If I showed how forlorn I felt, then what chance had I of inspiring them?
“Morning, sir.” Bentham, nominally my officer’s servant but in reality a cross between a nursemaid and a housemaster, popped up, smiling. “Breakfast won’t be that long. You and Lieutenant Foden need something solid in your stomachs on a day like this.”
“Aye.” I nodded, not trusting myself to say anything else until I’d got my head on straight.
“Tea’s ready, though.” He thrust a steaming mug into my hands. Add telepathist to the list of his qualities. Maybe when I’d got some hot tea into me then the world might seem a slightly better place. “Quiet, last night.”
“It was.” I was going to have to enter into conversation whether I wanted to or not. “I don’t like it when they’re quiet. Always feel that Jerry’s plotting something.”

More excerpts at the Rainbow Snippet Group.
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If you're interested in "Comedy and Humor in the thriller genre: Is it difficult to write comedy or humor into thriller novels? Is it necessary, desired, or just a tool to release the tension in some needed spots?" I'll be one of those discussing it from September 25th at the ITW roundtable. See you Monday for initial thoughts and looking forward to answering your questions.

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"Shell Shocked" - a shifter story with a twist - is available to download free and gratis from my free stories page.

The lights, the recording equipment, the lairy looking rozzer.
I’ve never experienced anything like this before, never been in trouble with the police. Honest Billy, that’s me, always kept my nose clean; I even declare every one of my tips on my tax form. So, what’s Mrs. Zanderson’s best boy doing being formally interviewed under caution?
Doing his best to explain just how he’d got into this mess in the first place, only I can’t tell them the whole truth, for reasons that will become apparent.
“How and when did you meet Jonny Telfer?”
“A couple of months ago, in a bar. The Happy Return.”
“Had you gone there to pick up a fare?”
“No. It was pleasure, not business.”
And what a pleasure it had turned out to be, at least at first...

Read more
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Bold Strokes have got lots of books on offer this weekend, including Awfully Glad. Here's a bit from this post WWI story about a talented concert party performer returning to civilian life. Plenty more excerpts of great stuff at the Rainbow Snippets group.

Sam couldn’t resist unfolding the note; he’d had these sorts of things before and they were always good for a laugh. The invitations would range from the innocent to the knowingly experienced, although nobody ever suggested something entirely obscene—Miss Madeleine gave an air of always being above such things. This would probably be the usual Might I buy you a drink? I know this little estaminet…

It wasn’t.

“I’m awfully glad you’re not a girl. J.”

Sam read it again, not trusting the evidence of his eyes, but they’d been right the first time. J? Which of the officers had that been? Jimmy, Jeffrey, Jonathan…Sam had forgotten their names already, even if he’d been told them.

But when had the note been written? After he’d taken his wig off and burst the little lieutenant’s bubble, he supposed, although if he had no memory of the thing being lodged in its hiding place, he equally had no recollection of somebody scribbling the thing—there’d been very little time for it, anyway. And how much more courage would it have taken to do such a thing in plain sight?

Awfully Glad final cover small
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It was an exciting time hard on the heels of the last newsletter going out – our first ever double header at Twickenham. Now, before anyone with a smutty mind starts reading double meanings into that, it was simply two rugby matches in succession and wonderful they both were. Saracens won the first, London Irish the second, and a good time was had by all three Cochranes who attended.


“Shell Shocked”, my humorous – and whimsically peculiar – shifter story, is now available for everyone to read on my free stories page. I’ve re-organised that part of the site so it’s easier to find the stories by type. Free stories are always given as an exclusive to newsletter members first!

I’ll be taking part in the International Thriller Writers roundtable discussion that runs September 25th to October 1st: Comedy and Humor in the thriller genre: Is it difficult to write comedy or humor into thriller novels? Is it necessary, desired, or just a tool to release the tension in some needed spots? The roundtable discussions are usually very interesting and informative.

I’ve been busy doing my blog posts for the Count the Shells blog tour next month. I’ll be offering a bag of British themed goodies as the tour prize and am happy to post that to anywhere in the known universe. I’ve also been getting into gear with UK Meet stuff, preparatory to tickets going on sale in October (that’s going to be a busy month!) If you’re interested in attending UK Meet 2018, which is 8th-9th September in the lovely city of Bristol, make sure you sign up for the event newsletter at any page of our website.

And now for one of those really annoying “I have news although I can’t tell you much” type announcements. I’ve got a re-release date for Lessons in Love (the first book in the Cambridge Fellows series) and it’ll be this year, but I’m bound to keep things quiet for just a wee while longer. As they say, “Bear with, bear with!”

And finally, a reminder of summer and the lovely - very inspirational - island of Jersey. There are thousands of years of archaeology in that there picture.




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Am putting together blog posts for the Count the Shells tour next month and could do with a couple more ideas to base a post on. All contributions gratefully received!

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There was an excellent documentary on BBC 4 last week (thanks Jay Lewis Taylor for the heads up because I'd missed it). When the Whistle Blew, which was beautifully presented by world cup winner Josh Lewsey, explores rugby and football in WWI and the different reactions of the two codes to the outbreak of war. It's still available on the iplayer.

This was part of a series, World War I at home, which I need to work through!

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I happen to be doing some school governor stuff so decided to post a bit of Horns and Haloes, which shows what might just happen - if you're very lucky - when you go on a training course.

“So just work with the person next to you.”
The tutor’s words brought Jamie back to the present with a bump. Work with the person next to you to do what?
“I hope you know the answers because I’m stuck.” The bloke next to Jamie—Alex, according to the hand written sticker on his shirt—grinned and brandished a worksheet.
“I do, but only because I’ve done this bit before, on another course.” Jamie returned the smile.
“You write the answers in, and I’ll read them and try to look intelligent.” Alex’s eyes twinkled.
Why weren’t there any blokes like this on the Cattlebridge Primary Governing Body, with brown eyes lively enough to make the interminable meetings worth sitting through?
“Deal. They’ll give us an answer sheet later, anyway.” Jamie scribbled down some key words, just so it wasn’t obvious that his mind wasn’t on the questions.
“I don’t think they’ll let me have one, punishment for sneaking in late.” Alex smiled again.
Jamie filled in some more answers, trying hard not to write “Do not flirt” on the page.

Lots more excerpts at the Rainbow Snippets group.
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Charlie C got locked in the lavatory..."

Well, the old song came true today when the door handle mechanism on our downstairs loo decided that 110+ years of service was quite enough and disintegrated internally.
Me: Um, can anyone out there open the door?
Them:*jangle rattle etc* No.
Me: Try taking the door handle off.
Much screwdriving on both sides of door (luckily there is a gap under which an implement could be passed to me) later...
Me: Can you jiggle the parts?
Them: No, it's broken.
Me (hopefully): Shall I force the door?
Them: No, we'll chisel out the latch.
And they did.

We managed to laugh about it, because in the greater scheme of things it was no great shakes and thank God it didn't happen when I was all alone in the house, but it's not an experience I'd like to repeat.
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14-18 Now, the organisation I posted about earlier in the week today unveiled their map of where the Tower of London poppies have gone. I volunteered - as did others - to load up a picture and a few words in advance of the opening. You can find my contribution here. If the link is down, search on the map for Southampton and find the poppy that's just north of the city.
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14-18 Now are the people behind the 'living' Somme commemoration that made such a powerful statement last year. Their excellent website lists where you can see the 'waves' and 'weeping windows' of poppies. They are always dreaming up new ways of making the past relevant now so keep dropping in to see what's new.

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Seems an appropriate day for an excerpt from Don't Kiss the Vicar, a story concerning the perils of fancying one of your parishioners.

“Vicarage. Hallo?”
“Vicar.” Steve’s well-modulated, surprisingly calm tones came down the line. “Sorry to bother you.”
“That’s fine.” Dan waited, not inclined to make this easy in any way.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry. For being such a clown about my hand.”
“Oh. Right. Yes.” Tongue-getting-tied time again. He hadn’t expected quite such a gracious apology.
“You were right. The hand’s a bloody mess.”
“You should have it seen to. And tell them if your jabs aren’t up to date.” Tetanus. Dan had seen somebody die of it in his gap year.
“Will do, matron.”
“Less of your cheek.” Was he being flirted with? No, he couldn’t be that lucky. “Do you need somebody to run you down to casualty?”
“It’s not dropping off!

Plenty more excerpts at the Rainbow Snippets group.

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Afternoon all. And that’s possibly the last coherent remark you’ll get out of me for the next few days as we’re imminently off to Twickenham for a weekend of rugby. Stand up for the Saracens and all that.


I’ve had a few enquiries about formats of Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour other than the currently available kindle and print formats. At some point all my self published/self re-published repertoire will appear at sites other than Amazon, probably starting with Wild Bells and then In the Spotlight. If you need a non-kindle format for any of these books, please contact me direct.

In a mad moment, and inspired by Nicky’s Slade exhibition of art – including framed books – at the Harbour Lights cinema I have persuaded a few fellow authors to hold an exhibition there next May, with the working title Cover? Art! More news on that once I have it, but here’s an appetite wetter, with a certain author already starting to scheme.

nicky exhib 1

My next new release is Count the Shells. It’s out on October 16th, which suddenly is next month! Here’s an excerpt, with Michael (my leading man) and his sister discussing an old photograph.

Caroline smiled. “Anyway, that picture kept me going all those long days when the family waited for the next letter from you.”
Michael nodded. Many a photograph must have kept families, wives, and sweethearts comforted over the years. “Not just me, I suspect. You always had a soft spot for Thomas, didn’t you?”
“He was rather handsome. We all liked him.”
Did she know how far Michael’s liking had gone? It wasn’t something they could ever have freely discussed, but Caroline was far from stupid. She must have noticed exchanges of glances, overheard whispers or mysterious laughter, wondered why Michael wasn’t quite the same with Thomas as he was with other friends. Or had she simply assumed that was how men were when they had close friendships? Many people lived in blissful ignorance of what really went on between some couples of the same gender who shared a house or habitually holidayed together.
“Michael?” Caroline nudged him. “Are you feeling all right?”
“Yes. Just lost in memories. I can almost see him here, now. Running along this very lawn with that wretched kite.”
“The one he couldn’t get to fly?” Caroline snorted.
“That’s the one.” They’d have been fifteen, the family holidaying here and Michael introducing Thomas to them for the first time. He’d lived not far away, at a house called Broch, which was apparently some type of ancient Scottish dwelling and had been the brainchild of a previous, Celtic, owner of the property. Thomas had dropped in on the Grays on an almost daily basis, although nobody had complained at the intrusion. As Caroline had pointed out, he had been universally liked. It had been a glorious summer of warmth and light, the two boys teetering on the brink of understanding that their camaraderie was not like that of their schoolmates. “I was glad when that kite broke. I always felt he’d get so enthralled he wouldn’t realise where he was running and he’d go down the path and right over the cliff with it.”
Caroline, sly smile creeping over her face, patted his hand. “I have a terrible confession to make, although I won’t do it until you swear you won’t tell Richard.”
“I swear,” Michael promised, intrigued.
“I was the one who broke that kite. I had exactly the same concern as you did—he was so terribly reckless, so . . .” She shrugged. “I’ve lived with it on my conscience, but it had to be done.”

And finally, it has to be the dressing room at Twickenham. Unoccupied, alas, but I guess a girl can't have everything.



And finally finally, a bit of fun.
RJ Scott's Birthday Treasure Hunt


Clue One - One half of the guys who really like the barn.

Answers to be entered on RJ's blog on September 3.


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Jonty and Orlando remind me a little (sometimes a lot) of Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammet's The Thin Man, they possess similar passion for each other, for life, and definitely appreciate a good mystery.

High praise indeed! Read more at Padme's library.
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I decided to post an excerpt from my story, Hallowed Ground, in the charity anthology Pride of Poppies because the chaplain also features in Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour. In Hallowed Ground, there's a doctor, a chaplain, a foxhole...

Me, the padre and the Black Cats. Until I noticed my pack, which by some miracle had been thrown through the air and landed – pretty well intact – about twenty feet from where we were. I reckoned I could crawl over and get it, so long as I stayed quiet. There didn’t seem to be any of the enemy out on night patrol, but the padre wouldn’t have it.
“It’s not worth the risk,” he said, “whatever’s in there.”
“You might not think that come the middle of the night when you’d be grateful for a wee drop from my hip flask. Think of it as medicinal,” I added, because you never know with these clergy types. Some of them seem to think Jesus turned the water into wine so everybody could wash in it. “I’ve got some chocolate creams, too.”
That seemed to settle the matter, although halfway across those twenty feet – which felt like a hundred yards – hearing a nearby crump made me wonder if I shouldn’t have argued. Although I suppose if your number’s going to come up it can happen as easily in a hole as in the open. I kept going, grabbed the bag and headed back. The look of relief on the padre’s face, seen by a Very light’s timely illumination, was a picture. You’d have thought I was the Archangel Michael himself, come to bear him up to safety on a fiery chariot or something.

Read more excerpts at the Rainbow Snippets group.
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"I know it sounds incongruous for murder mystery, but it’s a funny story. The storyline is smooth and evenly paced. The mystery part is well plotted out and characters were surprisingly vivid for such a short appearance."

Read more at Gay Book Reviews.
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Today I've reached the last stop on my blog tour and it's only right to feature Jonty Stewart, blethering on about family and life and cars...

Pop into Joyfully Jay to see what he's up to. Comment to be in with a chance of winning an audio copy of Lessons in Love. In fact, the more you comment the more chances you have of winning -  all the tour stops are listed here. Winner is drawn on Friday 25th.

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