Wednesday, 25 September 2013


How does it happen that things suddenly become fashionable? There was a time last year when everyone in London was talking about Regina Heart's animist philosophy and her technique for increasing the power of the female orgasm. Regina used social media to spread the word, tweeting constantly about the magical powers of the Orgatron bracelet.  But word of mouth was the most effective conduit. I have already mentioned Caroline's failed attempt to visit the London Orgatron Training Centre. She had been told about it by her friend Xena. Now Caroline was telling her work friend, Antonia. They had met at a fashionable Argentinian restaurant in Trafalgar Square.

“They have a broad definition of work. Any kind of socialising with the wives or husbands of politicians is considered tax deductible,” said Caroline. “I suppose both at the same time is good value for money. Well, I’ve got a story which is every bit as good as yours. Robert’s been to see Melody Bigger, though she’s called something else.”
      “You’re joking. How did that happen?”
      “She’s making a claim against Monsaint for unfair dismissal and Robert got the case. He had to go up to Scotland to take instructions from her. He said it was pure chance he got the case but I’m worried something’s going on.”
      “Melody’s getting her claws into Robert? That’s a horrible thought.”
      “Yes, and wait till you hear this. She’s found religion. Not exactly found religion, more founded a religion. It’s really weird, based on pagan sexual rites.” Caroline leaned across the table. “It’s about releasing the cosmic power of the female orgasm.”
      “Did you say orgasm?” said Antonia. People on the surrounding tables turned their heads.
      “Yes I did. Robert says they work themselves up into a frenzy at the full moon. He only just got away unscathed.”
      “Fantastic, what’s it called?” Antonia pulled out her smart phone ready for some instant research.
      “I can’t remember what the religion’s called, but she’s called Regina Heart now and her centre is on the Isle of Mura.”
      Antonia tapped in a few letters and seconds later was waving her hand across the Castle Dunlaggin Experience website. She loaded the promo video and the tinny tones of Regina joined them at the table. Caroline tried to speak but Antonia wouldn’t let her. She watched the video all the way through.
      “Well that’s different,” said Antonia. “What’s your animal guide, Caroline? I know what mine is.”
      “I’ve no idea. Robert wanted to show me but I refused to watch the video. It’s obviously phoney. Melody’s up to something again, not to mention trying to screw millions out of Monsaint.”
      “I think you should give it a chance. As soon as I watched I knew I had an animal guide. I’ve known all along, I just haven’t been able to put my finger on it.”
      “You’re always putting your finger on it. Tell me you haven’t got a vibrator in your bag?”
      “I haven’t got a vibrator in my bag,” said Antonia, looking serious. Caroline reached across the table, snatched her shiny black bag, and emptied the contents on the tablecloth. Caroline rummaged through a pile of keys, cards, tickets, and a packet of fruit flavoured condoms. She pulled out a pair of green lace shorties with a bow at the front. She held them up.
      “Very nice. Hoping to get lucky?” said Caroline.
      “I was a girl guide. Be prepared. I never go out without a Swiss army knife, a spare pair of knickers and my travel toothbrush.”
      “I can’t see a Swiss army knife.” Caroline rummaged through the pile and picked out the folding toothbrush, and in doing so nudged a silver bullet-shaped thing which rolled across the tablecloth and landed on the floor. It continued over to the next table where four young Japanese tourists, three women and a man, all with multi-coloured hair, were practising their English. One of the women leant down and picked it up.
      “What this called in English, please?” she asked.       
      "It’s called a Magic Bullet,” said Antonia.
      “For use in restaurant?” Her female companions giggled and the young man fired an imaginary gun.
      “Depends on the company,” said Antonia.
      “Don’t confuse them,” said Caroline. She turned to the tourists. “It’s a small vibrator. A girl’s best friend.”
      “Press the button at the top,” said Antonia. The young woman did not understand.
      Antonia stood up and gestured to the young woman to pass the machine back to her. She sat back down, turned towards their table, pressed the button, hitched up her skirt, and gave a brief demonstration.
      “Ah, girl’s best flend,” said the Japanese woman, nodding and smiling comprehension. Her companions laughed uncontrollably and attracted the attention of a fresh faced, waist-coated waiter. He rushed over to their table.
      “Is there a problem? Do you need any help?”
      The Japanese women giggled helplessly. The waiter caught Antonia red handed, or at least red faced. She tried to look cool and sophisticated. Caroline reached across the table and snatched the shiny vibrator.
      “I’m confiscating that,” said Caroline. “Honestly Antonia, you can’t be trusted in public.”
Caroline was right to be sceptical, but still ended up getting swept along with the wave of enthusiasm for Orgatron training. Of course it ended in tears, but the story had to be told.

Extract from Shameless Exposure, coming soon from SteameReads.



Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Cutting Room Floor

Just need to tie up one or two loose ends arising from the past two weeks. I've been on a Blog Tour around the parallel universe which is the Internet.

Loose end (1). Following the last post's revelation of Caroline doing the ironing, a reader suggests that in the interests of balance and equality I provide a picture of myself doing the ironing. I would love to, but no such picture exists. I will see if I can find another one of C to make up.

Loose end (2). There is a lot of unused material on the cutting room floor, mostly interviews that didn't see the light of day or were cut to shreds. The questions weren't mine, so I'll just give you the answers, and you can work out what the question was.

I love whiskey and dark chocolate. The tastes are both strong, but go together perfectly after a meal. I just finished a bottle of Aberlour and bar of Ghanaian chocolate. Not all in one go, obviously. A love of chocolate is one thing I share with my wife, Caroline. She prefers red wine to whiskey.
I like to go to work occasionally. We still wear wigs in court in England and when I put the wig on I feel like a different person. Caroline says the same. My passion is Manchester United football club. MU fans are derided in the UK for travelling first class and eating prawn sandwiches, but you’ve got to eat something on the train up to Manchester, right?
Great question. I love criticism because it’s really helpful when a reader tells you honestly what they think, but it’s still tough when you read a review by a person who didn’t get the humour and thinks bad things about Caroline. The best compliment was a female reader who said “If I didn’t know otherwise, I would have said that Shameless Ambition was written by a woman.” I took that as a compliment because I work hard to understand the female perspective. Living with Caroline, I have to. 
I’m sure Caroline won’t see this so I can say definitely Scarlett Johannson. The reasons will be obvious to any male readers. Scarlett is such a good name. Seems like I may be too late because she is engaged to a Frenchman and they know all the best restaurants.
Veuve Cliquot champagne and a bottled beer from Belgium. There’s a wilted lettuce in the crisper drawer. Caroline does a good cupboard meal when she’s at home.
I would be very grateful if readers could email in or comment on the blog and tell me what genres I write in. Although the events have been novelised to avoid legal action (some of the names are changed, too) the books are based on life. The material comes from emails, incriminating photos, Caroline’s diary, phone records. The result is romance, humour, suspense, and a certain amount of sex. So it’s like life when things go wrong, but you survive somehow.
Eat as much chocolate as you like but go easy with the whiskey.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

More about Ironing

In preparation for the on-going blog tour, my eAgent (Ajay) conducted an interview over a Skype video link. This is the transcript.

Ajay:  Good evening, Robert. I understand Shameless Ambition was never meant to be published. What happened?

Robert:  I can’t go into the whole story now - it would make another book – but in essence a woman called Melody Bigger decided to sue Monsaint, the company she once managed, claiming unfair dismissal. Her evidence would have dragged my wife Caroline down. In the end, we had to publish so that Caroline’s side of the story came out.

Ajay:  So it was a joint decision between you and Caroline to publish? I ask because some of the details about Caroline’s involvement with senior people in the European Central Bank are quite shocking.

Robert:  No, it was my decision. Caroline defers to me on legal matters, I defer to her on financial matters. She is finance director at home as well as at work. I have to get her approval before every one-click purchase.

Ajay:  What are your feelings now seeing your wife on the cover of the book and knowing that people will read about her indiscretions?

Robert:  Mixed emotions. I am proud of Caroline that she came through the ordeal. She got involved with some peculiar people. And I do have a crumb of authorial satisfaction to see my work in a format others can read. A lot of work goes into a book being published. I would like to thank Steam eReads, the publishers; they have been fantastic. But then, absolute horror at the thought that people might read it.

Ajay:  What about Caroline? What does she feel about people knowing the intimate details of her affairs?

Robert:  Her business affairs? I don’t know. We don’t discuss it. You can ask her yourself if you like. She’s in the kitchen doing the ironing. Shall I call her through?

Ajay:  Yes please. I’d love to meet her.

Robert:  (Loudly) Caroline – Ajay’s on Skype and wants to ask you about the book. Do you mind talking to him?

Caroline:  (Muffled) Just a minute. (Sound of chair being moved and new person sitting down).

Ajay:  Thank you for joining us, Caroline. Um…

Caroline:  What? Oh, sorry for my appearance. I only do the ironing when I’ve got nothing left to wear.

Ajay:  No problem. I think I already understand something better. Caroline, I was just asking Robert what you feel about the publication of Shameless Ambition.

Caroline:  Pleased for Robert, obviously. He takes his writing seriously. But I haven’t read the book and don’t intend to. I stick to political biographies, military history, and books by business gurus.

Ajay:  In the book some people describe you as something of an exhibitionist. Do you think that’s a fair description?

Caroline:  I really don’t know what they’re talking about. That bit at the end when I’m standing naked at the window in our room in the Shangri-La hotel with the lights on and the curtains open – everyone does that after a couple of glasses of wine, don’t they?

Ajay:  So some of the book is familiar to you?

Caroline:  I checked a few pages here and there to make sure Robert hadn’t taken any liberties.

Robert:  If I could just come in there…

Caroline:  Just wait, Robert. It’s my turn.

Ajay:  When did you realise that Robert was writing a book about the Eurobonds affair?

Caroline:  I wouldn’t want Robert to take all the credit. Large parts of the book were written up from my own notes and emails. Robert put it all together for legal reasons. We discovered that Melody Bigger is not only a powerful woman, but also a dangerous one. I agree with it being published because I think it’s important that people know what goes on behind the scenes in the world of business and politics.

Ajay:  I have read every word of the book of course – several times. What would you say to readers who say it’s a bit far-fetched in places?

Caroline:  I think you must have led a very sheltered life, Ajay. If it wasn’t factual, why would Von Wolfswinkle have hired the most expensive publicist in Europe to frame his denial of the major events?

Robert:  I really must in come there… Von Wolfswinkle is entitled to his version of events. The truth is never straightforward. It looks different if you’re on top or underneath. The book is not intended to harm anyone’s reputation. I have changed some names to protect the innocent, except Antonia’s. But then she’s not innocent in the common meaning of the word. And Caroline is called Caroline, obviously. I can’t think of my wife by any other name.

Ajay:  Some men might be embarrassed if their wife behaved like Caroline. They might even seek divorce. Does it take a brave man to describe his wife’s love life in such detail?

Robert:  Bravery is standing up in court to argue for a plaintiff who has a five per cent chance of winning his case. You say you’ve read the book so you’ll know I’m not entirely blameless. Caroline and I like to think we have a modern marriage, and the truth is we are getting on better than ever.

Ajay:  What do you think that means – a modern marriage: Caroline?

Caroline:  I think it’s something every couple, married or unmarried, has to work out. There aren’t too many rules on how to live your life these days. I can only speak for myself. My job is very important to me. If someone tries to take that away, I get very angry indeed. If another woman tries to take Robert away, that’s not quite so serious. I would use conventional weapons, not nuclear.

Ajay:  Same question, Robert.

Robert:  A modern marriage? For me, it means a woman has an equal right to a great career, but still has to do the ironing. (Sounds of a brief scuffle and some camera wobble). No seriously, I am more than happy for Caroline to earn big money. Do you know how much a season ticket at Manchester United costs these days?

Ajay:  Robert, do you have any ambitions as a writer?

Robert:  One day I would like to move on from memoir and into fiction, but currently I’m working on the sequel to Shameless Ambition. Caroline is likely to be in the news soon because of nude painting she did for charity, and Melody is trying to exploit that as well.

Caroline:  Robert, you promised you wouldn’t…

Robert:  I’m trying to explain to Ajay why I write. Lawyers write things down all the time, make up a story from the available evidence that will convince the judge. In this case, I hope for a positive verdict from the jury of readers.

Ajay:  Thank you, Caroline and Robert Fanshaw. Perhaps we could all meet up for a drink one evening?

A version of this interview first appeared on Susanna’s Morning Room.


Monday, 9 September 2013

Blog Tour

Caroline has sent me on a Blog Tour. I wonder what she's planning while I'm away? Of course, it's a virtual world, so I will be virtually stuck to the Internet, the greatest time wasting invention since the invention of time. Here's how you can waste time easily too:

It's easy, just look on your calendar and click on the links. Normally I would recommend wasting time at work rather than at home, but one or two of these sites require you to confirm you are 18. Employers are funny people so you have been warned.

Sept 4: Rose & Beps Blog
Sept 6: Jesse Recommends
Sept 6: Liberty Ann's SnifferWalk Books (Guest Post)
Sept 7: BookwormBridgette's World
Sept 9: Musings of a Writing Reader (Guest Post)
Sept 10: Jody's Book Reviews, Giveaways & Tours
Sept 11: My Reading Obsession
Sept 13: deal sharing aunt
Sept 15: Musings And Ramblings (Author Interview)
Sept 16: Harlie's Books (Guest Post/Review)
Sept 17: AJ Best Writes (Guest Post)
Sept 17: Sapphyria's Steamy Book Reviews

All of the sites have their own appeal. You know how in science fiction there are parallel universes? Well it's here and now and called the WWW. All human and non-human life is there, and there is so much of it. If you are actually required to do some work and strapped for time, I can add an extra 'recommend' to Liberty Ann's Sniffer Walk Books (Sept 6th) and the upcoming Musings and Ramblings (Sept 15th) when you will get the chance to find out things about me you didn't know and I didn't know either until put on the spot by the clever interviewer, Judith Cauthan.

This technological brilliance is rounded off with the chance to win books from SteameReads. I think you get to choose a book of your choice. How fab is that?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Bath time with Xena

For the moment, I'll gloss over what happened to Caroline at 27 Brompton Row. What happens doesn't matter too much; it's the consequences that count. There were no immediate consequences for me because I didn't know about it. Caroline, on the other hand, was left with a lingering fascination with all things Chinese and an embarrassing encounter with her friend Xena who wanted to know how she had got on at the Orgatron Training Centre. She met Xena again in the crowded bathroom at a trendy musician's party in Notting Hill. The discussion went like this:

“Close the door, darling. There’s a terrible draught.” Xena turned her face towards Caroline. She looked completely different with wet hair, her cheekbones prominent, her lips even fuller wet with bathwater. The woman at the other end of the bath giggled, slid down into the soapy water, and tickled Xena’s breasts with her toes. “I’ve been telling Maude about the vagina spirit and the Orgatron Training Centre. Everybody’s going there. I’m going to sign up for a month in the Scottish centre as soon as I’ve cleared my overdraft.”
“I’m looking for the coats,” said Caroline.
“You’re not going already?” said Erik.
“Yes, I think I will,” said Caroline, feeling like a fish out of water. “I was just looking for my phone.”
“At least stay and have something to eat,” said Erik. “Craig said it would be ready by eleven.”
“Yes, you must,” said Xena. “I haven’t had chance to talk to you properly. Maude, you must be wrinkly by now. Get out and let Caroline get in. I want to know how she got on at the Orgatron Centre. I’ll run some more hot.”
“I’m not sure,” said Caroline. Caroline felt powerless to explain that for all the scrapes she had got into a couple of years ago, climbing into used bathwater with a relative stranger was a step too far. But the grass and the wine prevented her mind from coming up with an objection acceptable in bohemian circles. Maude stood up, a few rose petals sticking to her shiny body, and a gallant observer passed her a large towel. Caroline peeled off her LBD, tights and thong, and dived into the good end of the bath, away from the taps, Xena having generously swapped ends when Maude got out. Xena swished the stream of new hot water to that it circulated around Caroline, and she had to admit that the deep murky water felt lovely.
“Now I want to know more about you. Go away Erik, I want her to myself.” Erik did as he was told and left the bathroom. Xena began her interrogation of Caroline, who told her everything, even about the extremely bad things that happened in Croatia.  Xena laughed and said it sounded incredible.
“You must join us later in the top bedroom. You seem to have the right experience and attitude.”
“No, I don’t,” said Caroline. “None of that was really me. One thing led to another. I am enjoying this party, though. It reminds me of a different kind of life, a life of freedom and possibilities. Unless you’re right at the top, management is serfdom with responsibilities.”
“I wouldn’t know, darling. I’ve always done my own thing. It gets me into trouble sometimes but I couldn’t live any other way. Now, have you started the Orgatron training? What do you think of the vagina spirit?”
“I’m afraid I missed my appointment. I went to the wrong address. I went to Brompton Row instead of Old Brompton Road and something very strange happened. I looked it up afterwards on the Internet. It was a place called Gladstone’s, a Victorian themed bordello. Officially it’s just actresses acting the part in big pants and costume jewellery but the men are paying the girls to act out their sordid fantasies. The maid didn’t speak much English and I had a misunderstanding with a Chinese man.” Xena was amused by her story. Xena said she loved being taken by surprise.
Not me; I don't like surprises. But putting together the notes for Shameless Exposure  makes me realise that something that seems shocking at one time can appear mundane six months later. I was in for a number of shocks; before long I would be able to handle 240 volts without a twitch.

Who are these people?

The world is divided into voyeurs and exhibitionists... It takes one of each to make a good marriage.

Robert and Caroline Fanshaw are an ambitious young couple trying to make their way in a complex world.

What happens when their private affairs collide with world events and the big issues of our times? Drama, comedy and x-rated scenes.