Wednesday, 26 March 2014

77 Days

77 days until the World Cup starts and I'm worried about Caroline getting the tickets. That's a normal thing, isn't it, to worry about your partner? Especially when she does something she has previously nagged me relentlessly for. If your partner does something out of character it makes you think they are changing. Oh my God, what if Caroline changes into someone different? What if the new Caroline is someone I don't like? Or worse, what if she turns into someone who doesn't like me?

I was in the pub, after work on Tuesday waiting for the football to come on, with a friend called Danny. We spent the first drink talking about the problems at Manchester United, and the second drink discussing the merits of different football managers, having a huge laugh at the horrible idea of Arsene Wenger as the manager of United. This led to a list of other unsuitable managers for the greatest club on Earth, and we came to the conclusion that it might as well be David Moyes because everyone else is either too inexperienced for a big club, closely associated with an enemy, or already exposed as lacking sufficient vision.

Out of the blue, Danny asked me a personal question. "How is Caroline?"
Of course I was suspicious. "She's fine, thanks."
He persisted. "Does she like Italy?"
A couple of weeks ago I had mentioned, before a European game I think it was, that Caroline was going on one of her work trips, starting in Milan; and that she might be able to get tickets for the World Cup in Brazil because she was meeting up with Bertrand Cottoneau, that guy who used to play for France and is now a top bureaucrat in the European Football Federation. I know Danny was interested in the World Cup tickets, not in Caroline's welfare, but I actually responded to his personal question with a personal answer.

"Good question. I have only heard from her once. I think she might be hiding something from me."
"Yes," said Danny, "but did she say she has met Cottoneau? Can she still get free tickets for the final?"

I took a sip of my drink. "She says she can, but there's no free lunches, are there? I'm worried what she's having to do to get them. Bertrand has some dodgy friends. She met up with him at a lingerie fashion show, and now she says she is going to a casino in Trieste. Caroline in a casino! I mean, the grief I get from her when I bet on the football. She thinks gambling is a stupid waste of money."

He told me not to worry because in business you have to pretend you like people you can't stand. And in any case, if she got tickets for the final, whatever she did was worth it. Can you tell Danny isn't married?

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Caroline asks awkward questions

It's always interesting when Caroline reads one of my books for the first time. Official advice to writers is not to take notice of praise or criticism from someone close to you - it's impossible for them to be objective. How true, especially when the central character is that very person...

Caroline:  I want some straight answers, Robert. I notice that you gloss over your first visit to Castle Dunlaggin and in particular your relationship with the models Joni, Greta, and Georgina. Did something happen you’re not telling me about?

Robert:  When I’m writing a book I can’t include everything that happened, much as I might like to. I don’t deny that I found them very attractive, Georgina in particular. She was so symmetrical, perfect she said for bikini shoots. The flowing robes worn by the acolytes sat well on her tall frame. She said she only there to lose weight, but she looked good to me. Joni, on the other hand, took the programme very seriously. She really believed in the spirit guides.

Caroline:  Why on earth did you go there in the first place? Don’t you feel embarrassed that you were taken in by Regina Heart’s bogus cult?

Robert:  I wouldn’t say I was taken in by it. My legal training means I try to keep an open mind. I leave judging people down to the judge. I often take cases which seem far fetched, but the client deserves to be represented. It’s easy to judge these things with hindsight, but at the time the Orgatron training regime was gaining converts all over the world. Don’t pretend you weren’t tempted. If not, why did you audition for high priestess?

Caroline:  I’m the one asking the questions, Robert. And it wasn’t an audition. It was ordeal. He was the quite biggest, roughest man I have ever seen. Where was I? Oh yes; how did you persuade Angus to ferry you back to the island on the night of the solstice moon ceremony?

Robert:  Double malt whiskies were the key. Good man, Angus. He knew I’d drown if I tried to go across alone. We nearly did drown when the boat smashed into the slipway.

Caroline: Bogus philosophy aside, do you think anyone benefited from Regina’s orgatron training?

Robert: I’d have to say yes. Wouldn’t you? I mean, sex is fantastic since you did the practice. And Jocasta says she is a changed woman. I thought at the time that Regina was being much too harsh with Jocasta, but the sessions in the dungeon and on the rack seemed to cure her completely.

Caroline: I'm going for a bath and then to bed, and I want you to tell me again exactly what Regina did to Jocasta...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Dancing to Regina's Tune

We go through life imagining we are in control, making choices based on preferences and evidence. But when we look back, we can see how we were dancing to someone else's tune. I thought it was just coincidence when Forbes-Brown lobbed me a lucrative piece of work up in Scotland for a client I had met before, but that was to underestimate Regina Heart's ability to play a long game.

Robert stood alone on the wooden jetty wondering if the torn information notice pinned to a post was correct. He listened intently but there was no sound apart from the gentle lapping of six inch waves on the shingle beach. He had stayed the night in a decent hotel in Blackwaterside, once a hunting lodge for royalty and lairds. He was the only guest and had used the solitude to prepare for his meeting with Regina Heart. It was his favourite part of the job – taking instructions directly from the client – but he felt uneasy. The last time he had seen this particular client she had been locked in a cage in a torn latex dress.
Forbes-Brown had insisted he travel to see Regina. “When the case is worth thousands, the client comes to us. When it’s worth millions, we go to them. Most people would jump at the chance for a couple of days in Scotland sampling a few malts. What’s the matter with you, Robert?”
“No, I’m fine. I’ll go. I was trying to save your costs.”
“You’re not questioning my judgement? This young woman has been badly treated by a big company. I want to do something for her.”
“She’s not exactly young, Forbes-Brown.”
“She is from where I stand. Not that I’ve met her in the flesh. We spoke on the phone, but there was something in her manner. I don’t know, she had a lovely melodic voice… and she sent me a picture, to my phone. Damned clever, that.”
“I know what you mean. I mean I know the kind of person. Why don’t you take instructions yourself?”
“Look here Robert, I can’t spend all day listening to your twaddle. There’s no risk anyway. The company will settle out of court. They won’t want dirty linen washed in public. Even you couldn’t fuck this one up.”
“I just think if it comes out that my wife works for the company being sued the plaintiff might feel she’s not had a fair shot, especially if she loses.”
“She can’t possibly lose. It’s just a question of how much. Your connection to a junior executive in Monsaint won’t come out. Why would it? Sometimes your attitude… It’s a straightforward case with a big fee. What more do you want? There are plenty of other barristers I could give it to.”

“I’ll get in touch with Castle Dunlaggin right away.”

This is an extract from SHAMELESS EXPOSURE . This, and other books by Robert Fanshaw published by Steam eReads are available from Amazon.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Before the Moon Ceremony

The problem with book extracts is that even short pieces of writing need a beginning - middle - end structure, and an extract is usually part of just one of those. An extract gives you a sense of style, genre, and content (possibly) but leaves you wondering what the story is. Why are these people here? Why are they doing that? Who cares? So to make it more interesting, I will reveal that this extract, from the second adventure of my wife Caroline, entitled Shameless Exposure , is from the middle of the book. All you have to do is work out a beginning and an end which are satisfying to you. By all means let me know what you come up with...

The tables were filled with smiling, chattering women. Nobody missed dinner this time, and not just because of the bottles of wine on the tables. Everyone was looking forward to the moon ceremony. For the majority, it would be their first attempt to make contact with an animal spirit. It would also be, except for the wayward Jocasta, their first physical release for at least twenty seven days, a release they had been skirting around with increasing difficulty in their daily practice.
The upper reaches of the legal profession were one of the few remaining areas of modern work life, apart from rubbish collection, which was still a predominately male environment. Robert was not used to being outnumbered so comprehensively and sat down next to Angus for moral support once he had collected his bowl of yellow lentil stew with yellow rice from the kitchen.
“Ye decided to stay then?” said Angus, taking off his cap and placing it on the table.
“Regina more or less insisted, but I am curious to see the ceremony.”
“Well I hope ye are feeling energetic. Ye may be in demand later on.”
“Not me, I’m married.” Robert picked at his lentils, his appetite not stimulated by the smell or the texture.
“There’s no one married on Mura. That’s what Miss Heart says, anyway. Ye best be prepared. Eat yer stew.”
“What about you? Are you married?”
“Nay. I’m still looking for the right girl. There’s not many single lasses on Sporran.” From his grizzled looks, Robert guessed Angus had been looking for a long time. Angus drained his cup of wine.
“Is that where you’re from?”
“Aye, lived there all my life.”
“What about the women who come to Castle Dunlaggin? Lots of them seem to be single and looking for something or someone.”
Angus leaned towards Robert and spoke conspiratorially. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad of the work ferrying people here and there and doing odd jobs for Miss Heart. But most of these lasses are wrong in the head. I wouldn’t want a girl of mine to get up to what they get up to.”
“But surely there’s nothing wrong with masturbation?”
“In front of strangers?”
“But it’s not just mindless sex, is it? They’re trying to connect with some bigger power, develop themselves spiritually.”
“You’ve no been taken in by this nonsense have you?”
“Not taken in I hope. I’m just trying to keep an open mind. It’s part of my training.” Robert immediately wished he hadn’t reminded Angus that he was a lawyer. Angus gave him a look of contempt and refilled both their cups with wine.
“Well don’t say I didn’t warn ye.” That was Angus’s final word on the matter, so Robert struck up a conversation with a stocky woman sitting on the other side of him. Linda was older than most of the other acolytes, in her forties he would guess. Robert noticed she hadn’t touched the wine in the cup in front of her. She said she was divorced and this was part of her project to get her life back together. She had decided to expose herself to as many new experiences as possible.
“What about you?” Linda said. “I’ve only been here two weeks but I gather it’s unusual for men to participate in the programme.”
“I’m not here for the programme,” said Robert. “I came to help Regina with a legal matter and ended up staying longer that I expected.”
“But I’m sure I saw you come out of one of the practice rooms with Georgina?”
“Yes well, it’s hard not to get drawn in if you spend a few days here. It does raise some questions.”
“Yes, it does,” said Linda. “More questions than answers. I’m hoping I’ll understand it all better after the ceremony.”

“Me too,” said Robert. 

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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.