Patron – The Setting

In thinking more about B&G, I inevitably turn to the world I created for them. I made it purposefully generic and North American.  There was absolutely nothing in that besides it being the setting of most procedural shows. Since I was moving to Canada, and with that move in full flow when I was writing Patron, I’ve modelled the city on a hybrid of Ottawa and Toronto.  Mostly Ottawa – small town feel in a city – with elements of Toronto’s seedier districts, docks, and people.  Besides, envisioning a city of 3 million people with a flavour similar to London is completely different to picturing a city of 1 million people with a flavour similar to Cardiff.

However, I didn’t want it to be either city in name or ethos.  I wanted it to be something vague.  Something different to the norm.  Plus, by handcuffing myself to an actual city, I’m then unable to break away from its geography.  I’m bound by streets and logic.  I’m bound by urban planning and one-way systems.  I’m bound by a scale and scope that I simply didn’t want to be.  It’s partly why I no longer play SimCity.

And yet, as you read Patron, you’ll discover that the city in which I’m creating actually exists alongside geographical, real-world locations.  And that choice was both deliberate and, hopefully, a little teaser of what’s to come in future stories.  The city has no name.  It’s police force has no moniker besides Metropolitan Police.  Streets are named purely to give a sense that the city has a soul, that the city has these constructs with which we are familiar, and I wanted to keep the reader at once comforted, and not.  Hence the lack of any true identity of the place.

Now, I’d be lying to you if I said that was the plan.  It was not.  I was simply too lazy to come up with all this stuff when All Heart was written – word count being everything, I felt words lost on place names was pointless.  But as I wrote Patron, that choice made more sense.  As did some of the character choices and decisions.  Errors in continuity became an opportunity to explore some rather fascinating concepts and pull in some of my favourite story telling tropes from other genres and other media.

The more I turn this stuff over in my brain, the more I like it, and the more I relish my opportunities to return to the B&G storyline.

I hope you’re jazzed for Patron, as I am to read the entire copy of You’ve Left Your Biscuit Behind – I’m honoured to be in such good company.  If you’re goodly enough to review it – or want to get your sticky mitts on a review copy – sign up to receive updates on my blog posts, post your review, and I’ll send you a free copy of the completed audio version of the story once it’s done.

Until next time,

EJ

P.S.  Feel free to fire questions at me, I’ll happily do a Q&A, video, podcast, interview or anything.  And if you know anyone looking for an interview, let me know 🙂

EJ

Patron – set for release into the wild

Good day, gentlefolk.

I always love getting an email from Fox Spirit.  Always.  Without question.  Auntie Fox is a lovely person to write for and her – and the editorial guys – are amazingly communicative and responsive.

Today’s email was the final proof for You Left Your Biscuit Behind – a throwaway phrase that prompted a call for submissions.  Having recently finished All Heart – which you can read about here, here, and here; and with …Biscuit sharing a similar genre, my two investigators – Señor’s Braithwaite and Guthrie – stepped forward into my consciousness again.

At the same time as writing this story, I was watching a lot of Aaron Sorkin shows.  I’d just finished listening to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on my iPod, was just starting my umpteenth listen through of The West Wing, and was watching the second season of The Newsroom.  I wish I could say I had Aaron’s talent with dialogue, language, and theatricality – I don’t.  I know that.  He’s been writing a lot longer than I have.  What heavily influenced my story, Patron, were the character beats Mr. Sorkin manages to get into every single episode.

The procedural format of the genre I’ve chosen gives a great opportunity to place two rather different characters into a strange world and see how they react.  With All Heart, I wanted to introduce the pair and how they interact, mostly focussing on Guthrie and how he functions in the world.  This time out I wanted to focus on Braithwaite, who he is, and what he’s going through.

I wanted Willem to have found a place of comfort, of easy functioning with the high-maintenance Guthrie, and then to knock him out of that equilibrium and see how he reacted while still trying to do his job.  It was an interesting exercise, to be sure, and how much of the Sorkin writing influenced those decisions.

This really being some of my first writing exercises, I was pantsing it – namely writing by the seat of my pants.  Sitting at my keyboard and seeing where the writing takes me with no clear plan or objective besides the procedure beats of the case.  I had the story rolling around my brain for about a week before I sat down to write it, and then just tapped it out one scene at a time.  No rewrites.  No huge edits.  Wrote it.  Submitted it.  Got it accepted.

That was a weird feeling as I tend to obsess over every tiny detail and every keystroke.  It’s the anxiety and lack of experience.  It’s also something I don’t recommend.

But then, how can I not?  Since it worked in this case.

This is the strange dichotomy of writing in my, albeit limited, experience.  First, one must learn the rules of writing before one can break them.  I’ve still yet to learn them.  In truth, I’ve still yet to learn which kind of preparation and planning works best.  I’ve still yet to learn the discipline to sit and write every day – but then with emigrating, day jobs, and a hugely fluctuating mental state it was never going to be easy.

The one lesson I can impart, though, is this one.  And it’s a good one.

Write what you want to read.

I wanted to read a procedural with a bit of a twist, and some meaningful character work – rather than some tacked on nonsense to fill in the bits between action scenes.  So that’s what I wrote.

I wanted to read about a police squad room with a bunch of alpha males and two detectives who buck that trend, and are OK doing so.  So that’s what I wrote.

I wanted to read about a guy coming to terms with his own shortcomings.  So that’s what I wrote.

That desire, I think, came through the writing process, and the love I have for both of my central characters.

I’m excited to see how people enjoy the book, and enjoy the stories.  I’m excited to pick up the threads from this story in part 3.  I’m excited that people are going to be able to read this one.

And, as with All Heart, I’ll be recording an audio version of the book – once the voice is back to prime performing power – for those who review.

Love you guys,

EJ

All Heart – The Investigators

Now that I’ve written about the inspiration behind the story, time to discuss the main characters.

As I mentioned in my last post, my main characters stemmed from the question:

What if, of the two lead characters, one of them was mentally ill, or had a severe exceptionality.

Now, my wife was watching a lot of Criminal Minds at the time – we bought a boxed set she was binge watching – and one of the characters, Spencer Reid, *spoiler alert* starts to develop symptoms of a mental illness.  Spencer Reid, filling the role of walking exposition and resident genius, was the inspiration behind Tybalt Guthrie.

Guthrie is something of an anomaly, even in the world I’ve created for them.  Although highly intelligent, Guthrie is also highly troubled.  We learn very little about his life before his assignment as a police detective from him, that information he keeps to himself.  He is always smartly dressed – an immaculate three-piece suit, no less – always has a pen, and has the easy good looks of a Tom Hiddleston: a man who looks good in anything.

But where I wanted Guthrie to deviate from the resident genius formula, was to make him socially awkward.  But not just awkward, not in a Sheldon Cooper way, but in a really hardcore, barely able to function kind of way.  In a way that his coping strategies make him a complete stand out in the squad room.  That he’s an island of logic, reason, and habits in the sea of masculine bravado that is the standard depiction of police squad rooms.  Once I explored that part of his nature, it became apparent that for him to be that intelligent, and display all those coping strategies, Tybalt Guthrie should be somewhere on the ASD (autism spectrum disorder) spectrum, though perhaps not as high up as Raymond Babbitt.

Tybalt Guthrie is intelligent, highly capable, and sees the world in a unique way.  Given the nature of the crimes that he investigates, this allows him greater insights than you would expect from your regular police detective.  But with his ASD, comes an extreme set of coping strategies – borderline OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), reciting numbers when locked into fear, and habitually drawing in a notebook, or reading things at a short distance from his face.  He’s also socially inept – almost never making eye contact – so despite his effortless good looks he lacks interest in anything romantic, sexual, and often misses sarcasm, and idioms – taking most of what is said literally.

Tybalt Guthrie, as a character, though, would be extremely difficult to write.  I have some experience, working my day job as an educator, with students on the spectrum, and those with some form of compulsion or obsession, and those with some fairly extreme coping mechanisms – I have my own coping strategies that others find odd, and exhibit some behaviours that my colleagues struggle to understand.  So, I needed someone for whom those readers without that experience could identify with, and through whom we could observe Guthrie.

Enter, Willem Braithwaite.

I started by thinking through all the buddy-cop clichés I could, and thanks to growing up in the late 80s/early 90s, I had a wealth of inspiration upon which to draw.  The best, and funniest, match ups have been where the two partners have been opposites.  Riggs and Murtagh.  Nick Lang and John Moss.  Harry Lockhart and Gay Perry.  (Unsurprising that Shane Black gets two pairs in this list.)  So to draw a diametrically opposite character to Guthrie, I needed someone who was as average as you could get.  An average husband, human, baseball player, and detective.

Willem Braithwaite fitted that bill.  A detective who, if not already at, is approaching middle age.  His family life has lapsed into a dull hum behind work, his work is his life, and he loves a great cup of coffee but, at a pinch, will drink anything.  He has his demons – don’t we all? – but he leaves them well enough alone to get on with the job of living his life.  A man who doesn’t really pride himself on anything at all, but knows that he can do just about as good a job as anyone without having to expend much effort in the process.

Braithwaite and Guthrie are early in their working relationship when we meet them in All Heart, I didn’t want to have to spend a long time on their origin, or how they came to work together – though I do plan to explore that in a future story.  I wanted them to already have some case time under their belt, and spent some time together so they fell into a rhythm and relationship that was credible, and believable.

Both of them are different expressions of my own personality, and though I spend most of my time in Braithwaite’s head – he’s the part of me that’s content just to skirt by on the minimum effort, the coffee lover, the person who absorbs himself into the task he’s working on, the person who has neglected relationships over the years – I do often stray into Guthrie’s rather scary headspace – he’s my anxious-depression, my logical-reasoning, my socially anxious, my literal, my intelligent, my coping strategies; all heightened.

I find myself constantly drawn back to these two, writing in a world that could be AnyCity, US or SomeCity, Canada.  Their relationship keeps me coming back as I find new cases and new character moments.  Over Christmas last year, I penned a flash short that I sent to Aunty Fox, without agenda, just because I wanted someone to read it; and that’s formed the core of a new story I’m working on between bouts of self-doubt, anxiety, stress, and self-care.

All Heart will be released as part of Fox Spirit‘s Fox Pockets anthology Reflections, which is due out soon.  If you’re a reviewer looking for a copy, email me at ej_davies (at) me (dot) com and I’ll provide.  And, as a bonus, if your review goes on Amazon shortly after release, you’ll receive a free copy of the audio book.  Yup, that’s right, free.

Amazon purchase link: is right here.

Take care,

EJ

All Heart – The Genesis

I’ve been surfing writing advice websites for years, and the same advice and phrases keep coming up. Stories start with the phrase “What if…”  All Heart, soon to be released as part of Fox Spirit‘s Fox Pocket anthology Reflections, started with two of those, and an “I wonder…”

My wife and I share much – a house, food, a bed, loathing of certain types of behaviour – but there are a few things in which we differ, and our taste in TV shows is one of those.  She refuses to sit and watch what few organised sports I’ll tolerate – rugby, curling, the occasional American Football game; and has tried shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Ice Road Truckers (don’t judge me) but just can’t get on with them.  I, on the other hand, struggle to like shows like Criminal Minds, Law and Order – and its various spin offs – and C.S.I. and its various locations.  Partly it’s down to the storylines, partly it’s down to the unrealistic reliance on non-existent technology, partly it’s down to actors I don’t find credible.

All Heart was a response to this difference, and the “I wonder…” statement was this:

I wonder if I could write a police procedural that I enjoyed, that my wife would also like to read.

The more I thought about it, and the more I analysed the police procedurals she watched, the more I noticed that as the investigation unfolded, the interplay between the two lead characters was the core of the engagement.  It was a particular episode of Criminal Minds that triggered the “What if…”:

What if, of the two lead characters, one of them was mentally ill, or had a severe exceptionality.

What if the procedural dealt with rather supernatural issues in a real world setting.

All Heart was given a skeleton, and my two investigators were born: Willem Braithwaite, and Tybalt Guthrie.  We meet them after their initial pairing and first investigation, but still very early on in their relationship.  I will be writing more about these two individually, and together, in the coming days.

Contrary to all popular advice, I wrote All Heart without an outline, a plan, or a word count.  I rolled the story around my brain for about a week before I started writing it so I already had a good sense of what I wanted to do with it, and where I wanted it to end.  It took me about a week to get the whole story down, edited, and organised into a whole story.

I also wanted my killer to be female.  Although female killers exist in the shows I experience, their motives are often those of passion, revenge, or protection.  I wanted to write a female killer whose motivation was something else, something otherworldly that tied it in to the Reflections theme – a killer whose own self-image is the motivation for her crimes.  I also wanted to build it so that, by dint of their character, one of my investigators was the only person who could catch the killer.

I watched a lot of serial killer movies and shows to get an understanding of the investigative process, the slow reveal of details and the trail the police would follow, the slow reveal of the characters and their choices; I wanted this to play out like a radio play, or a short TV show, but without the predictability I felt crept in to the police procedural shows, or the romantic/bromantic overtones that seemed to creep in.

You will have to be the judge as to how successful I’ve been in this undertaking.

All Heart will be out soon through Fox Spirit, and will be available for purchase – digitally or physically – through Amazon.

Amazon purchase link: is right here.

I am looking for reviewers and I have advanced copies of the text available.  So, if you’re interested, email me at ej_davies (at) me (dot) com and I’ll hook you up.  And, as a thank you for posting the review, once the book is released, I’ll email you the audiobook version for free.

Until next time,

EJ

All Heart – set for release into the wild

Around eighteen months ago, I penned a story.  It was called All Heart.  It was for an anthology called Reflections by Fox Spirit books, based near my home town – at the time.  It was a shot to nothing.  My first foray and attempt at writing and publishing for someone other than Black Library.

I was stunned when Aunty Fox wrote to me with the acceptance.  I even printed off the email and framed it.  My first ever acceptance.

In that time I’ve moved house – well, country – and patiently waited as the busy lifestyles of the Fox Spirit skulk unwound themselves to allow All Heart to come out into the public domain.

That time is almost upon us.  I’ve had the edits, the drafts, and the final drafts through my email.  Now all I’m waiting for is the release date.

So, over the coming week or so, I’m going to be penning a series of short blogs about the story and the characters, my inspiration, and my vision of where they’re going; as hot on the heels of All Heart comes its sequel: Patron.

In the mean time, please feel free to ask any questions here, on Twitter, and on Facebook; and I’ll answer as best I can.  The more I get, the more likely I’ll be to answer them on YouTube (more fuel to the fire of starting off the YouTube channel.)

And if you’re a reviewer, or know a reviewer, looking to get a copy of the book for review – then please let me, or Fox Spirit, know.  I’ll even throw in an audio copy the story to anyone who reviews and posts the review on Amazon.co.uk/Amazon.com.

Amazon purchase link: is right here.

All the best,

EJ