Tuesday, 23 August 2016

'Stayed up all night reading.' Book 1 of the Deadly Pursuit Series, the fast paced thriller by Barbara Spencer is on Kindle Countdown for a couple of days at 99c (99p in the UK) lrd.to/deadlypursuit.

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Saturday, 20 August 2016

Not for the faint-hearted

The Deadly Pursuit - Book 1 - Running


Simultaneously mobiles rang in every corner of the world, the trapped and dying reaching out for a lifeline, as if a miracle of modern technology could rescue them. Last words of love and desperation soared into the air, with radio masts quivering under a deluge of calls. Within seconds, the besieged towers were screaming no network coverage to the millions who, witnessing the disaster live on television, heedlessly keyed in the numbers of anyone that might be caught up in the quake, even now wiping out the Californian coastline.
A skyscraper, which five minutes before had been central to a vast hotel complex, nosedived into the ground. The resulting tremor catapulted the camera sideways so that, to the people staring at the screen, it was as if they were standing on their heads. Blackness followed then silence, the calm voice of the anchor man trying to reassure viewers they would be back at the scene momentarily.
In London, the cab driver, chatting amiably with his passenger and ignorant of the unfolding drama, had one eye on traffic, which appeared to be fast backing up, and one eye on his mirror, nodding in agreement to the various subjects offered up for discussion.
‘It’s a long time since I was in England,’ the man said, the faintest trace of an American accent marking his voice.
That was when the cab driver began to wonder if his fare could be a film star. Even features, excellent teeth, not an ounce of extra flesh, with a thatch of light brown hair tipped blond by the sun, and steel blue eyes of a shade that only ever belonged to Americans.
The mobile in the American’s jacket pocket rang. ‘Excuse me,’ he said. ‘Sweetheart, where are you calling from? Everything okay?’
Since mobiles were designed only to be heard by the person into whose ear they were pressed, the cab driver couldn’t hear the terrified syllables speeding across the saturated airwaves. He could only watch with astonishment as his passenger’s face turned into a mask of dangerous impotence.
‘They told us we had to work for them to stay alive,’ the whispered words flew across the Atlantic. ‘They tricked us. Can you hear it? The earthquake?’
‘What are you talking about? Who tricked you?’
‘The Styrus Project – they want it. We said no.’
‘Who, goddamn it! Who?’
There was a blur of static then the line cleared. ‘There’s no way out.’
‘Yes, there is,’ the man snapped. ‘There’s always a way out … Find it.’
‘I’m trying, that’s what you can hear – me – running. It’s hopeless. Charlie’s dead, so’s James. It’s impossible. We’re trapped.’
‘Try, goddamn it! If someone’s after you, they won’t let you be killed, you’re too valuable. And if they can get in, you can get out. Stay alive, do you hear!’ The pleasant quality of the man’s voice vanished, his tone vicious as if it could force a reaction thousands of miles away.
The mobile crackled, the words becoming staccato.
‘There’s no way. Can’t make it … Sky … keep him safe. The building … it’s toppling … Sky … safety.’
‘You’re not checking out on me. Crawl if you have to, but don’t you dare check out,’ the passenger yelled into the static.
The cab driver watched in a state of near panic. Whatever had happened? His passenger’s face was now chalk-white under its tan, his expression animal-like in its intensity, his eyes glittering as he swiftly keyed in a number, speaking briefly.
‘Get me back to Grosvenor House – fast,’ he snapped, his eyes fixed on the small screen in his mobile, where newsreaders crowded to report events.
The cabby stuck his arm straight out of the window. Heedless of the vehicle bearing down on them he swung the cab round, saluting the driver’s blast on the horn with two fingers.
Grosvenor House came into view. He headed along the apron in front of the hotel and stopped.
Wait!’ His passenger took the hotel steps in a single bound. ‘Get me on the next flight to New York,’ he snapped to the Bell Captain, scarcely hesitating in his path to the front desk.
Ten minutes later he reappeared, clutching a small valise.
The cabby, who had considered jettisoning his lucrative fare and fleeing the scene, convinced he was carrying a knife-wielding maniac, obligingly pulled back into the traffic.
There’d been no lack of volunteers in the cab rank eager to update him on the disaster taking place in California. He viewed his passenger with careful sympathy; someone belonging to the American was caught up in the earthquake, that much was evident. He fished around for something to say but found nothing. He didn’t know the bloke and sorry was an empty, meaningless word trotted out when you bumped into someone. Instead, he cursed the traffic and urged his cab forward, one eye on the crowd of onlookers who had spilled on to the roadway outside Debenhams. Ignorant of the danger, they had their gaze fixed on the television sets in the shop’s window display, where live footage of the disaster was being transmitted.
Son of a bitch!’ his passenger cursed. ‘The vacuous pleasures of the petty-minded, who derive their kicks from someone else’s misfortune.’
‘That’s not fair, guv,’ the cab driver rebuked. ‘The English don’t celebrate tragedy. Those people watching, they’ll be putting their hands in their pockets tomorrow to help.’
‘I know,’ his passenger said, his tone bleak. ‘Excuse me.’
‘Look, guv. I can’t help much but I can drop you by a tube station. You’ll reach the airport quicker that way. It’s not fair to take your money.’
He pulled in to the side of the road, opposite the entrance to the underground at Oxford Circus. ‘Good luck, sir. Who was it?’ he said, the traditional inner core of reserve, so great a part of being English, battling with his cabby’s nose for entertaining titbits to pass on to his next fare.
‘My wife!’ The man pressed a twenty-pound note into the cabby’s hand. He glanced up briefly, meeting the concern in the driver’s eyes. ‘Only my wife.’

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Friday, 19 August 2016

An unforgettable character

Authors on occasions fall in love with their characters ... and I am no exception. Only problem is, my character is a camel ... Bud from A Dangerous Game of Football. I have no doubt there's a great many teenagers out there who will agree with me, having read this book whilst at primary school. Published originally in 2009, and relaunched as A Dangerous Game, as the name suggests, our hero Jack Burnsides is a keen footballer. When his best mate disappears, with the aid of Bud, who just happens to be magical, he sets off to find him, embarking on a journey to a land ruled by sun, sorcerers and giant crows.

Bud, however, is not your super-hero, like Captain America or Batman. No, he's more like your anti-hero. Yes, of course he's magical, but he also spits and smells and is both bad-tempered and rude, hilariously funny and quite perfect.

Of course, there had to be a sequel and along came, The Bird Children. A little more scary this time with Jack trying to save Bud from Mendorun, the sorcerer whose plans include becoming the most powerful sorcerer on earth.

And that's where the adventures of Jack Burnside stayed, until fed up with my daughter and granddaughter nagging, I set about writing the third book ... The Lions of Trafalgar. And on its pages, another memorable character came to life ... Capstick, one of the lions that guard Nelson in Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately, they come alive and so does Nelson. And mayhem ensues.

Is Capstick now my favourite? Has he knocked Bud off his pedestal?
You need to read the series to find out:

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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Wednesday Blog Day

In 2010 I wrote my first YA novel 'Running', part of the Deadly Pursuit series. An instant success in paperback it took me to over a hundred book signing events at Waterstones and secondary schools.
The first person to review it was a 'granddad'. He objected to my spelling the word garage as 'garidge' but loved the story.
Looking back at it now, what surprises me is how much of the book is relevant to our politics today. I read somewhere that a computer virus was secretly used to discover the nuclear programme of Iran. Is the UK about to be reduced to island status? Or are we there already? Is Europe top dog? Yes! In Running laws are draconian, even travelling to mainland Europe is prohibited if you have a criminal record.And what about the US with an election coming up? All the balls are in the air.

The idea came to me as early as 2006 and I kicked it about for a few years before putting pen to paper. In those days the understanding of computers were still very much in its infancy. At work, we called in an expert when they went wrong. (Of course that still happens today. We can operate them but can't mend them).

The Deadly Pursuit series about Styrus, a powerful computer virus, has produced some memorable characters, in particular Sean Terry, a world-weary FBI agent determined to prove the US innocent of all charges. And, surprisingly a red Suzuki 1000cc motor bike. My cousin was given Book 1 - Running by his children for Christmas. Meeting up at a funeral, he asked how I knew about motorbikes? I confessed to riding pillion on a great monster of a bike when I was a kid. The bike is an appropriate metaphor as the story voyages from London to California, Cornwall to Scotland, finishing up in Lisse in Holland.

And Book 2 - In every hunt to the death there has to be a Turning Point. 

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Saturday, 23 April 2016

When life comes down to the wire!

Back in the wars between the cousins Red and White, Richard III purportedly cried, ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse,’ as in the middle of battle, his barons deserted him for Henry Tudor and his horse was cut down under him.
You will note in the last sentence the word, horse, is repeated four times. For that is how important the animal was to the past. Its eventual decline from a war horse, that charged the enemy as part of a cavalry regiment, was heralded by the First World War of 1914. Now the noble beast, shorn of accoutrements, either flies over hedges or dances round an arena to music. Nevertheless, will anything else be as wondrous as the horse? As the vehicle on which life revolved it lasted thousands of years.
So why this musing in praise of a horse! Am I now going to extol the virtues of a car or a plane?
No, I am about to focus the remaining words of this blog on the humble existence of a small piece of wire. Not any piece of wire … a long, thin piece with a plug on one end, without which civilization as we know today would fail and come crashing down … the humble charger.
On the train yesterday, a young woman before disposing of her luggage whipped out this mandatory ‘piece of wire’ searching for a socket, and changed her seat three times before she found a functioning unit. (She had mistakenly entered the quiet carriage).
Buses, trains, anything that moves, now feel obliged to offer both charging and YFi points … and I ask, does the success of business now depend on this?
Waiting for the train at wondrously rebuilt Birmingham New Street Station, about which I will blog another time, the platform is awash with stylish fingers skimming over keyboards and loud-voiced conversations in which the intimate details of Aunty Minnie’s sex life are shouted into a mobile to, presumably, some interested party at the other end. Business deals worth millions of dollars are touted on that same platform while I, spoilsport that I am stand in my little bubble of silence … and think longingly of … er … I guess, silence.
And all of this is down to a single piece of wire.
If Shakespeare were alive right now, he would adroitly alter a those words of Richard III to: A charger, a charger, my kingdom for a charger.

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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

An extraordinary week

Last week for me was quite extraordinary. The sun shone, 'The Amazing Brain of O C Longbotham' won Bronze at the Wishing Shelf Book Awards, ages 9 - 12, and I received an overwhelming review for 'Broken'.

Now I don't actively think 'reviews'. Predominantly a children's writer, I prefer to receive emails from fans saying how much they loved this character or that character, so to receive a review of this calibre ... well, to put it mildly, the week left me gob-smacked!

'Broken' is for me a very special book. Different from all my children's books which all have the feel-good factor, it is the only book set in the local area of Streets and Glastonbury, it is a very personal book. Not such much the content but in its emotion. It tugs at the heartstrings.  (I remember a critic described, 'Time Breaking' as leaving her bereft. It is a good word for 'Broken' too.)

While I was writing, it was entitled, Me and Mrs Jone' for the two main characters Jem Love and Katrina Jones. It was only when it reached the publication stage that it was changed ... Quite honestly, I am still in two minds as to whether this was a good move or bad.

Read 'Broken' yourself and decide which title you prefer. And do let me know.

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Sunday, 3 April 2016

Not since Twilight ...

Not since I picked up a copy of Twilight have I  been fastened to my chair for six hours without moving. That happened today. The book: A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker. Translated from the German, each word was chosen with such delicacy that I immediately wanted to destroy my new novel and start afresh. Set in New York and Burma, it is a journey of discovery but not in the usual way. It is a journey of the heart. It's characters - breathtaking, particular U Ba, the half-brother of the New York Lawyer, Julia, who tells the story. He is perfection and I only hope I can create magic on this scale one day www.facebook.com/BarbaraSpencerO

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