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Monday, October 10, 2016

Book signing of #WrongPlaceWrongTime!

Well what can I write about? What can't I write about? Before I start, I want to say a huge thank you to my publishers, AUSTIN MACAULEY, who provided the books and the posters, flyers and so much more, like making the dream from self-published to traditional! So thank you! Also very shortly, this book will be in book shops nationwide and fingers crossed around the globe!

There is so much to say about my first book signing event over the weekend. It was on Saturday, but I was still selling copies of WRONG PLACE WRONG TIME on Sunday, even today on a Monday and the kindle version has shot up the Amazon charts in the UK. 

Back to the book signing. It was a bit of a family affair because the event took place at Teatro Restaurant at The Radlett Centre, which is run by my younger brother Robert who makes sure the front house is running smoothly and my sister Sue who creates delicious meals in the kitchen. 

It was also attended by close friends, fellow authors from near and far, together with three ladies from the Mill Hill Cancer Research shop and other locals who had seen the event advertised. My editor Julie Tucker and I are Cancer Campaigns Ambassadors for Cancer Research UK and had decided that some of the proceeds of the event would go to the charity. We were delighted to raise over £80 on the day and the amount is still increasing plus with a further charity book signing event arranged at the next-door library at the end of this month, which will also be in aid of CRUK.

Many bought multiple copies of the book and were delighted to have them signed by little old me. The assembled crowd enjoyed refreshments provided by Teatro and apparently sat in rapt silence as I read out, rather nervously I may add, the chapter  ‘Cups and Oranges’. For those of you not in attendance, at the end of this post is that chapter that I would like to share with you. 

Some of the readers of the first edition of the book had questions for not only myself, but also for my mum Annette, who has always been so supportive of me and all my siblings.
So overall my first book signing event went beyond my expectations. It was that good, I'm going to book many more. I'm sure you'll read about them.
Okay, have a cup of tea, settle down and I hope you enjoy this chapter!


The sound of jangling keys stirred me from my sleep and I opened my eyes to see the eight plastic cups lined against the concrete wall. I stared at the orange peel, now shriveled and dehydrated, and couldn’t help but wonder if I looked the same. I certainly felt it. Don’t they ever clean this shithole? I thought, pulling myself from the floor.
A burly guard with a nasty, toothless grin unlocked my cell door and took the familiar metal tray from his trolley, his short sleeved shirt exposing his thick, tattooed arms. A dragon traced its way from wrist to elbow on his left arm whilst a snake did the same on his right. I watched the brown and black scales of the snake move and twitch as he placed our food and drink on the floor before locking the door. We were his last call, and as he strode past the other prisoners he gave them all the same toothless stare.
The walls echoed as he slammed the heavy door behind him and turned the key. It had been four or five days but I still couldn’t get used to that sound. I stood up and gingerly walked over to get my share, somewhat surprised that there was only one orange and one plastic cup. My first thought was that I’d have a fight on my hands and I looked around for my cellmate, preparing myself. But he was gone. Whether he’d been freed, moved or taken to court didn’t interest me in the slightest, I really didn’t give a shit and was glad to have the place to myself. I wondered when they’d taken him though, and tried to recall the previous few hours. Most of it was a blur; endless hours of nothingness interspersed with shouting and sleep.
I felt disorientated and weak as I made my way back to the corner of what was now my cell. My stomach was in a constant state of unrest, a combination of hunger and nervous anticipation about what the day would hold. Over and over, my head pounded with Carmela’s words: “manslaughter and arson.” Feeling sick I sat down, crossed my legs and peeled off the orange skin. Very slowly, one by one, I separated the segments. The longer I took eating the orange the further I was away from meeting the judge at the court house. “Manslaughter and arson.” The words circled around my head.
The orange was sour and I spat most of it out along with the pips, firing them into the cups. The water was a welcoming taste though - even warm, it drowned out the bitterness in my mouth. I finished it in three gulps and placed the cup alongside the others. Nine plastic cups. Apart from Carmella, I hadn’t spoken to anyone in days, so the only communication I’d had was with myself. At times I’d even spoken to the cups, and as stupid as it sounds now, I had a name for each one. Each day there were another two cups; each day two new members of a growing family.
My eyes were heavy and tired from another sleepless night of tossing and turning on the damp, concrete floor. I wiped some sticky sleep away from my eyes and rubbed it onto my jeans. I hadn’t changed them since I’d left the hostel which seemed like a lifetime ago and even though Rosa had washed them for me, they now smelt of smoke, piss and shit, as did my shirt. I was in desperate need of a shower.
I looked around at the other prisoners who were unusually quiet. Some stood with their arms hanging out between the cell bars, smoking and staring at each other, whilst others had their heads down, staring at the floor. I had no doubt that they were all wondering when they would ever be getting out of there, as was I. Looking around I tried to take it all in: vulnerable men, incarcerated for whatever reason, not having a clue about what the next day would bring. Just looking at them, I felt sorry for them. I thought of my family: my mum, dad, brothers and sister. What the hell would they think if they knew? Did they know? Had anyone told them? I felt my stomach fall and did all that I could to contain it.
Sometime later, the clanking of keys and the turning of the lock made me look up and I stared across the cell as the basement door opened. The same, toothless guard appeared. Passing the other cells, he marched towards me, occasionally lashing out at the arms of the prisoners with his baton, still smiling that ugly grin of his as he did so. What a bastard. The prisoners he hit yelled out in pain, but they still spat back at him, most times managing to connect with the side of his face and the back of his neck. It looked like a sick and twisted game; one I didn’t understand at first. But it was obvious they were asserting the last bit of freedom they had left, the one thing the guards couldn’t take away.
When he reached my cell door he fumbled for the key on his belt. I was surprised he could find any keys at all; he was grossly overweight with an enormous stomach that hung down over his blue uniformed trousers. When he located the right one and opened the door, he pointed at me with two fingers and he told me to get up.
“Jesus… here goes,” I muttered to myself. As I stood, he approached me, grinning as he did so and wiping salvia from his face. He tossed two white laces onto the floor and I knelt down and picked them up. Taking both ends of each lace, I carefully measured them and pushed them through each eyelet of my trainers one at a time - first my left and then my right. He shouted at me to hurry up and with fright I glanced up at him. With the baton in one hand, he was hitting the palm of his other, his grin diminished to an evil stare. I hurriedly finished tying them and stood up. We were nose to nose. His breath was rancid.
It occurred to me that the last time I’d cleaned my teeth was at Rosa’s apartment, days earlier. Cupping my hand over my mouth, I blew into it and inhaled. It was just as bad as that of my jailer, but at least I had an excuse. Thoughts of Rosa whirred around in my mind. Why didn’t I just go back to you? Why the hell did I go back into the hotel?
Suddenly, the guard took hold of both my arms, turned me around and shoved me into the wall. With all thoughts of Rosa lost, the side of my face rebounded off the concrete and I felt warm blood trickle from my lip as the plastic cups splayed across the floor. Grabbing hold of my wrists, he pulled them together around my back and handcuffed me.
“Why do you have to be so rough?” I questioned, but he just laughed, his heavy breath sliding down the back of my neck.
He marched me out of the cell, slamming the door behind us. We strode past the other prisoners who whistled and clapped, trying to reach out and grab me by my shirt. He opened the door and we made our way along the corridor, past the room where I’d met Carmela, up three flights of stairs and along the narrow hallway with the arched ceiling. I felt uncomfortable and claustrophobic again, even more so knowing where we were heading. The windows, now to my right, were letting in the early morning light. The sun was out and I hadn’t seen natural light for days. He gripped my arm as we walked to the end of the corridor, his tattooed snake staring at me as I looked down and counted the tiles out loud again - thirty six, exactly the same number of steps and tiles as before.
The guard fumbled for the key and I wondered again how he ever managed to see over his stomach, but in one attempt he found it and unlocked the door. When the bright morning sun hit my eyes, I instantly turned away and looked down, unable to cover my eyes because of the handcuffs. The sensation of the heat was incredible and for a moment I was transported, a beautiful vision of Rosa and I lying on the beach playing out in my mind. But it was short-lived.
A blue police van screeched to a halt in front of us and the driver jumped out and unlocked the two back doors. The guard yanked me onto the pavement and then onto the road.
There was a caged door between the door and the back of the van. He opened it and I felt the full force of his hands on my back as he pushed me inside. I managed to steady myself and slumped down onto an empty seat to my left. There were four other male prisoners in the back of the van, all staring at me, and when they started to shout at me I was relieved that they were handcuffed too.
I couldn’t understand why there was so much hatred towards me. Was it because I was English? Had they heard about my charges? Shifting my body, I turned my back to ignore them as the driver turned the key in the ignition, and as the engine came to life and we made our way to the court, I stared out of the window watching the world rush by, terrified of what lay ahead.

I hope you enjoyed the chapter and if you want to read more, click here! Wrong Place Wrong Time

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