Archive for the ‘Thrillers’ Category

Thanks to everone who beta read on Wattpad. It is now on Amazon’s KINDLE SCOUT and open to nominations for a chance to win a free eBook if they decide to publish.


Check out a sample and nominate at the link below.

Girl at the Window © 2017: All rights reserved.

 Comments on the design idea welcome.

The Girl at the Window print cover (1)

Here’s the draft blurb.

All families have secrets. Only this family’s past is far darker than most.

A psychological thriller for those who enjoyed The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.

Clara is trapped in an abusive life by her Pa who is hiding a dark secret. Home schooled and with no outside social contact – constantly on the move – she wishes him dead.

When they arrive at a small Midwest town, he had promised her freedom. He lied, but the seed of freedom is sown. He forbids her to have contact with the townsfolk who he considers to be the disciples of the Devil. Clara defies him and meets Nat and Jordan who vie for her affection. She finds the courage to consider escaping his clutches, but her Pa and fate has other ideas to trap her in slavery.

When her Pa is found murdered by the town sheriff, the circumstances point firmly to Clara as the guilty party. Assigned to the case, a personal conflict causes Detective Alana Bossé to dig deeper. As her suspect list grows, it looks as though there is a slim chance that Clara could be innocent.

But is everything as it seems? Or should they lock Clara up and throw away the key?

Images of Clara and her PA

Here’s the first 2 chapters to see if it is to your taste.


Clara’s Dilemma

If I’d have died there and then in the bitter cold of my bedroom, no one would have shed tears for me. Only maybe Pa, but I wouldn’t have missed him, and that’s the God’s honest truth. He would likely have mourned that there’d be no one to cook and clean for him to his command, and little else. I wondered if death could be the freedom I needed. But then as I thought about it, freedom to live a life of my own choosing would have been preferable to anything death could ever have provided me with, unless it was his death.

A deep-felt craving to venture out ate away in my chest with every breath I took. That’s what hurt me the most. Maybe if the world outside wasn’t my enemy as Pa had taught me, I could have tested fate out there. He told me that it was a world full of sinners who would do their best to harm me now that I was a woman. I shivered at that thought and rolled my shoulders. It was as if a spirit had walked through me.

Even in the sunlight, I sensed darkness through my bedroom window. I fought with the not knowing what was out there every day. Pa said it was dangerous on the outside. I was only to go out with him by my side to protect me. I had my doubts about his preaching, and yearned for the independence to find out for myself before my mind would implode.

The glass misted with the steam from my coffee. I drew HELP with my finger on the windowpane. None was coming. It was a cry to myself. No one would be out there waiting to rescue me. There was no white knight ready to whisk me away, and that’s the truth. Maybe it’s because only I could read the word that faced me. Especially when there weren’t any neighbors as far as my eyes could see. With a flourish, I wiped my sleeve across the letters at the futility.

A fresh blanket of snow covered the landscape. It taunted me, for it would have left witness, lest I had dared to sneak out and leave tracks for him to find. The flakes were heavier now. I had an urge to dance in the snow. To scoop up a handful and throw it in the air. To make a snowman like I did when I was a child.

Pa was asleep, snoring. He sometimes slept light. A creak on the stairs would surely have wakened him. Strange how he ignored his own honking, yet he had a second sense when I attempted freedom to be alone, even if it was only to the porch out front. I yearned to overcome my internal fear. If only I had the courage to defy him. To be able to make my own way outside with no one watching my every move. To feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, or the cold of a winter breeze, bathing me without his shadow following my every move.

The few times I had dared to venture out alone, I had been torn inside out with guilt. Tightness in my chest would consume me as our house disappeared from view. Short breaths. Leaden legs. Then the tremors for if Pa caught sight of me.

He guessed all my excuses to venture out alone. Kept my shoes under his chair, or he took them to his bedroom. I thought it would be different in our new home. He promised. It was a lie. I didn’t know why we had to move around so much. Every move always seemed to be in such a hurry. I didn’t even know why he always had to choose isolated locations, except, he said it was better to live off the grid. All I did know is that I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do if he were not there.

Movement outside distracted my train of thought. A blackbird took flight from a pine tree. It swooped and landed on the ground. Ruffled its feathers. Dug its beak in the snow. Moved on, hopping, then stopping and digging some more. It took flight, landing back in the cover of the pine tree. Its claws had left arrow tracks in the snow, but only for a short while. They were soon covered by the flakes as if it had never been there.

Maybe, I thought, that’s what would happen to me if I defied him and tried to escape. I could have died in the freezing air. No one would have known if a fresh blanket had covered my tracks. Only the blackbird would have borne witness, but then who would he have told? Birds can’t speak. But then neither could I. Even if I had had the nerve and the strength to carry life’s breath beyond the confines of our house, I wouldn’t have dared to speak. Not that I knew anyone. I knew no one, only Pa.

I wished Pa dead. It’s not that he hadn’t treated me well as long as I had obeyed him. He provided sustenance and I wanted for nothing in the material sense. Except I did want. There were people out there my own age. Experiences I had never had. All I knew was from the books he had provided over the years for home schooling. Then there was his Bible, The Old Testament. He used passages to prove he had the rights over me that God gave him. I had a deep urge to taste a different life that I would never have while ever he lived. That was another truth I couldn’t deny. There was no doubt in my mind that the sooner he breathed his last breath, the better.

Chapter 2

The following morning Pa was outside, fixing the chains to his pickup tires. He glanced my way. I shuddered at the rattle of the links clinking as I washed the breakfast dishes. I reckoned that he gave them an extra rattle to remind me. My ankles itched at the memories.

It would be our first journey into town for provisions. He bent over to secure the last of the chains. Elbows on the worktop, I held a carving knife with both hands and closed my eyes. A vision of Pa instructing me to slice his hunting knife across a goat’s neck crossed my mind. “Empty your head,” he’d said. “It’s God’s will.” I couldn’t help but wonder if God was putting the images of me grasping Pa’s hair and slicing the knife across his neck when he stooped at the tire. He rose to his full height and held his back as if pained.

Pa hollered, “Clara, get out here now.”

As I reached the front door at the porch, he stamped his boots, then he shook his coat, powdery flakes cascading to the wooden flooring.

“I’ll get my coat and boots,” I said.

“No need.”

“But it’s cold and snowing.”

“The engine’s running. It’ll be warm in the pickup soon. Forget your boots. I don’t want you wandering off.”

There was no point protesting. He picked me up and carried me to the open pickup door. Launched me onto the seat. My teeth chattered as he opened his door and slid onto his seat. The tires spun, and with a lurch, together with a crunch on the crisp snow covering, we set off. My entire body trembled at the cold air blasting through the ducts. Even with the short distance to the pickup, the flakes that had settled on me now melted into my cotton dress and hair. Spider webs of cracked ice covered the side windows. Staring ahead, I flinched as clumps of snow dislodged from the hood and peppered the windshield, swiped away by the squeaking windshield wiper. At last, warm air began to circulate. The wind picked up, swirling and blowing drifts across our path.

“It’s a blizzard out there. Are you sure we’ll make it back?”

“It’s now or never. We have to eat, child.”

Child! I hated Pa calling me a child. It was his way of being condescending. His way of wishful thinking that I would have remained so. He’d stopped putting candles on the cakes this past seven years since I had my eleventh birthday. That was around the time he lost interest in me after my first bleed. His attitude changed. Pa gave up the right that he preached The Old Testament bestowed on him, but still demanded complete obedience.

It stopped snowing. The clouds gave way to sunlight. Ice on the side window turned to pearls of water droplets, streaming across the glass as we picked up speed on the main road into town. The streams of melted ice reminded me of the tears I’d shed the night before when I’d cried myself to sleep.

Pa turned off the wiper. The sign for the town flashed by. Hunter’s End, it had read. Under that it had, ‘Population 786’ but that was struck through with a line and changed to ‘491.’ That in turn was struck through with another line, and under that someone had scrawled ‘299.’

The town looked picturesque. Like a Christmas card image. A wooden church spire dominated the far end of Main Street. Wisps of smoke plumed into the sky from the chimneys. The smoke mocked me with images of families warm in front of their fires. I knew about families, and their begetting, but I had none, except for Pa. That’s not exactly true. I had cousins when I was younger. At least I knew that much. Quite a few really, but I hadn’t seen any of them for many years. They’d only come for the day and sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of them before being sent to my room. Pa said they weren’t cleansed enough for me to meet them. We pulled over and stopped outside the grocery store.

“Wait here.”

“Can’t I come with you?”

“No, I won’t be long.”

He reached over me and removed the handle for my side window. His breath reeked of chewing tobacco. I retched at the repulsive smell. He was wheezing. I’d noticed him being short of breath lately and talking with a rasp. Maybe it wouldn’t take a knife to see the back of him, I thought.

He labored up the wooden steps to the porch outside the store. There were three young men around my age, sitting on a bench to the left of the entrance that I’d noticed when Pa opened his door. They’d been laughing and passing a cigarette between them. I drew my knees up to my chest. Wrapped my arms around my legs. Rocked back and forth. Closed my eyes and dreamt of a better place. A rap on my side window and I near jumped out of my skin. My chest tightened. I opened my eyes. A dark patch danced outside the side window. Praying to God, I hoped it wasn’t one of the demons paying a visit that Pa talked of.

“Roll the window down.”

It wasn’t Pa’s voice. The windows were fogged up again. All I could see was a shadow.

“C’mon, don’t be shy. Only we don’t get many gals around these parts. We only want to jaw.”

“Go away,” I wrote with my finger on the misted window, then tugged at my ear. I pulled the sleeve of my dress over my hand and wiped the words away at realizing they’d need a mirror to read the message. It was one of the youths from outside the shop. A mop of black hair and white teeth loomed large as he bent over. It was the white teeth that held my gaze. I was used to seeing Pa’s toothless grin, surrounded by his long white facial hair. Well, not exactly toothless, just his top two teeth were missing. The rest were twisted and stained with the tobacco he chewed.

“I’m Jordan, what’s your name?” he said, and smiled. “You moved in around here, or just visiting?” he said, not waiting for a reply to his first question.

Pulses of shivers ran through my body. I noticed my hands shaking, unable to stop the tremors.

“I… I’m Clara. Listen, I can’t open the window, please go away.”

His features distorted as the moisture on the window fogged again. Maybe Pa’s preaching was right and it was the demon in him I could now see.

“Hey, watcha doing hanging around my pickup?” Pa called out.

“Just being neighborly.”

“Well, just skedaddle.”

“Screw you, old man. Just trying to be friendly.”

“Screw you! I’ll show you who’s gonna screw who.”

“Whoa there, put the gun away.”

Chapter 3

Pa grunted when he climbed into his pickup. He put the provisions behind his seat, then spat tobacco-stained saliva on the snow.

“What the hell ya think ya doing talking to those punks?”

“I wasn’t. They did the talking. I ignored them like you’d taught me.”

He broke wind as he fired up the engine. He didn’t even say excuse me, but then he hardly ever did. “Whether in church or chapel, let the damned thing rattle,” was his usual wisecrack, followed by a belly laugh. All that followed this time was the smell of rotten eggs.

“Can I have the handle to open the window?”

He turned the fan on full blast to clear the mist.

“It’ll pass. Don’t want you catching your death of cold.”

Pa’s nose was dripping. His cheeks flushed. He coughed, then wiped his coat sleeve across his nose. I wasn’t sure if a cold could kill. I’d survived all my sniffles. If colds could kill, he was starting with one. Maybe that could be my salvation. The mist cleared from the windows.

“Sheriff. Keep your hands where I can see them. Step out of the car.”

I turned to see a woman crouching and pointing a gun at Pa.

“Damn,” Pa said.

She pulled the door open. Pa shuffled off of his seat. She was middle aged, with a red bulbous nose, and a stout figure. A dour expression rolled over her face.

“Turn real slow to face away from me, and keep your hands where I can see them.”

Pa obliged. I saw her hands frisking him, then pulling his gun from its holster.

“I have a carry permit. Clara, pass it here. It’s behind the sun visor.”

“No, you stay where you are and put your hands on the dash,” she said.

She reached inside and retrieved the permit.

“What’s all this about?” said Pa.

“Jordan over there said you pulled a gun on him.”

“Oh, that. Sorry, I thought they were trying to break-in and I had my daughter in the pickup. The windows were fogged and I thought they might not have seen she was in there. Just wanted them to back off. No harm done as it turns out. Misunderstanding. If you don’t believe me, look at the footprints.”

The sheriff dropped the clip from Pa’s gun, then walked around the hood. I wiped the side window. Even I could see Jordan’s footsteps in the snow and them leading off across the road to where he was standing. She stroked her chin, then ambled back, took out her notebook and wrote down Pa’s details.

“Holster your pistol and put the clip in your pocket until you’re out of town. Just be careful not to be so jumpy next time. We don’t want no shooting accidents,” she said, then called across to Jordan and his friends, “Misunderstanding that’s all. It won’t happen again, but you need to stop hanging around the vehicles.” She turned and walked into the store shaking her head.

Pa climbed back onto his seat, then did a U-turn. He rolled down his window as he approached Jordan and his friends.

“There’ll be no misunderstanding next time if I catches you talking to my daughter again,” he called out, then rolled up his window. Just as well he did as they pounded his side window and the windshield with snowballs. Pa jammed on the brakes. They must have scooped up dog dirt in one of them and I watched it slide down the glass.

“Damned jerks,” he said. They ran down an alley at the side of a house. “See what I told you about the outsiders. No good sons of bitches. Good thing I was with you or they’d be up your skirt by now, taking turns.”

The Sheriff appeared at the front of the hood. Pa wound down his window again.

“Did you see that?” he said.

“Yeah, I saw them. They’re at that rebellious age. Don’t pay them no mind in future. I have enough problems with them dicking around town as it is without a feud developing.”

“Yeah, well just tell them to stay away from me and my daughter, or else.”

She walked from the hood to his window, then leaned over.

“Or else! What does that mean? Don’t go making threats. I think it’s you who needs to stay away from them. Listen, seeing as how you’ve just moved into the farmstead over at Hunter’s Lodge, I’ll drop by and we can chat about security. We’ve had a few break-ins lately at some of the outlying properties.”

“No need. We don’t need no visitors and I know how to keep things secure. Now step back. We need to get home before it starts to snow again.”

She looked directly at me.

“You okay, hon?”

“She’s fine,” he said, and rolled up his window, then stamped on the gas pedal.

“What the hell does she mean, ‘you okay, hon’? You’d better not have been giving off vibes.”

“I was shook-up. Worried she was going to lock you up that’s all,” I lied.

“That’s my, girl. We gots stick together. They’re all tainted with the Devil out here.”

As we drove on, Jordan appeared, peeking from behind a bush at my side of the road. He waved and smiled, baring those white teeth of his. I sensed a hot flush in my cheeks, not daring to look at Pa, but raised a smile back at Jordan. There was no doubting Jordan had the Devil in him. But then didn’t I with the thoughts that ran through my mind. If only Pa had his window down instead of the crap hitting it when closed. Emotion flooded through me. My eyes moistened. I couldn’t be sure why I felt tearful really. Perhaps the fact that Jordan and his friends were running around as free as a pack of feral dogs, while I was tethered. It could have been that I had a desire to run free with them. Maybe it was that he had the courage and defiance that I didn’t possess. I know that I’d felt admiration at Jordan’s sass when he had bad-mouthed Pa.

I sighed and pushed back in the seat. Closed my eyes and prayed to God that he would deliver me to freedom. Asked forgiveness for my bad thoughts. Especially for lying when I’d said that I didn’t want the sheriff to lock him up. He never answered me. I hoped that one day He would before I had to do something drastic without His help. A tear escaped and ran down to my cheek.


Importance of researching the facts before writing fiction.

How many times have you heard the old cliché? “Fact is stranger than fiction”? Until I started writing I had never really thought about it before, and I blame TV programs such as Myth Buster for stirring me into action on the research front. In truth, it is that and a one star review of one of my short stories, where I had the Vice President of America boarding Air Force One, under the misconception that they were actually named aircraft. The fact is, Air Force One and Two are one of the same, with the descriptions only applied as to who is onboard. Air Force One is the designated name for when the President is onboard and Air Force Two for the Vice President. Okay, so it was no great effort to change the eBook text, but the one star review remains forever and serves as a reminder of the importance of getting things right.

Another cliché that comes to mind and directed at authors’ is, “Write about what you know.” There is a lot of truth in this as research is not as big a deal if you are writing about what you know and love and your knowledge adds authenticity to the read. A good example of this would be the Bravo Two Zero, by Andy McNab, who wrote about his British Special Air Services operation exploits as a memoir. Since then he has gone on to writing fiction thrillers using his expertise in covert operations and weapons to produce a list of best-selling fiction.

“What’s the big deal?” you say “It’s fiction and in fiction we can write what we want.”

“True” I say, Not all readers are intolerant when it comes to stretching the plausible, but if you want to appeal to your market, you have to consider a good percentage of your readers who are well versed in all manner of subjects and even the slightest error of fact will have them toss the sample of the read aside, or they may respond with a bad review.

An example of this would be a gun enthusiast reading your work. Say you write a modern thriller and describe someone firing a Glock 9mil and invoke their sense of smell as experiencing the smell of “Cordite.” There are a number of problems using this description.

1) They stopped using small bore Cordite rounds around the end of the 20th century.

2) It is likely your character would be too young to have ever experienced the smell.

So how would you describe it? The answer is, that if you haven’t fired a gun, then research the subject.

Another example would be safety catches and safety-operational devices of guns and the way different models operate. I wish I had a penny for every time I have seen it described wrong. Research your guns folks. The link above “gun enthusiast” has some good descriptions of how different safety devices work.

“Okay but this is mostly boring stuff about guns.”

Well, yes it is, but let’s look at other examples. For instance, say you want to write about a wildfire in the Pine Mountains to the north of LA. It may be hot where you are for the time of year, but what is the season for likely wildfires in this area. A search of the internet will tell you. You will also be able to find the rescue services response to such events and the names of the equipment used. Who would have known that a bucket dropped into a lake from a helicopter to gather water would be called a Bambi bucket? Bambi bucket sounds just so much more authentic.

One example where I found research of vital importance was when I wrote a short story about Climate Change and the end of life on earth through CO2 poisoning. (The End, or a New Dawn). Here I wanted to have the character experience the death that breathing CO2 would cause and to evoke a sense of dread, or some response in the reader’s mind as to what could happen if the emotive term “Global Warming,” got out of hand and what it would mean physically and mentally before death. Rather that, than use my instinct to write simply that he coughed and spluttered and choked to death. I wanted the description to be medically correct in the depiction of the character’s death and what he would experience. Without research, on the internet I would not have achieved this.

One other thing to consider is that procedures change with technology advances. Ask yourself, does your city police still use a physical identity parade, or show you a number of photos, or do they pop in a computer disk have you watch a slide show. The same question could be asked of fingerprints. Do they still use ink and a roller, or do they digitize your prints from an electronic-pad device direct to a computer?

What can I do other than search the internet?

Well if you are famous, I suppose the FBI, or the local Police department may give you time of day. But for mere mortals there is always the local library, or if you know an expert on the subject in your neighborhood, you could always ask, or even pop into your local police station if you have a question on say procedure. Who knows, you may strike lucky as many people like to talk about their work. The internet is the least time consuming. One tool I have found useful is Google Maps and the street-level view. If you are writing about scenes in a town or city that you are not familiar with, then Google Street View is a useful tool, down to what type of business and other landmarks are around, and what type of trees etc to the type of road surface.

Writing about what you know?

There is no question about it, that if you don’t have the knowledge, that it should not be an impediment to writing about a subject, especially if you are an avid reader of your chosen genre, but if you have first-hand knowledge of the subject, then it places you at an advantage and in some instances it shows in the confident voice of the author that oozes authenticity.

One such author that is a great example of this is British author/ Crime writer, Debbie Bennett, who features on our Book Buzz page and expands on the subject of research in her article. Her latest release is due out soon. Debbie is the author of a number of books, one of which is Hamelin’s Child. Her background in Law enforcement and procedures in the UK, which extends over 25 years, together with knowledge of drugs suppliers/users and their habits, it shines through in one of the most gritty authentic reads I have had in a long time. No wonder it was on the list for consideration by the UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Mine is not to reason why, but at the current sales promotion of 99c (Usual price $2.99) on Amazon kindle, it really is a steal.

Debbie is from England. I first met Debbie on the Harper Collins writers’ site, Authonomy. It was a few years ago when the site first opened and authors’ uploaded their work for critique. I’ll never forget sampling her work and thinking, wow, or the constructive advice she gave me when sampling mine. Her work was at the time streets ahead of the rest.

Here’s an idea of what she has gleaned from those 25 years to help with her work, which I am sure doesn’t even scratch the surface, but at the same time still uses research to keep her up to date.

“It was working with heroin importation that got me thinking about street drugs which led to Hamelin’s Child and the sequel Paying the Piper (which will be out in the next 2 months). I have (literal) hands-on experience with heroin, though I have to be careful how much I say! But I know what it tastes like and smells like, how it gets in the hair and into your clothes. I also have (or had) a working knowledge of police procedure and how custody works – although I’m a bit of out date on that score now, I do still work in police headquarters and have lot of useful contacts. I even asked one of my police mates (who is also a writer) to tell me how modern radio procedure would work and he helped me with a mock conversation that I have used in Paying the Piper.”

So there you are, even those with extensive knowledge of a subject still need to research to keep abreast of procedures. Good luck with your writing and with your research.

Basic tips on writing and self-publishing a thriller book..