Rain and Bullets

Forensics lab ‘manipulation’ could mean ‘hundreds were wrongly convicted’ – police chief

This has been sitting in an open tab for a while. It could make for a good plot point in a future Ran & Bullets storyline. I must investigate further.

People could have been wrongly convicted following allegations of “data manipulation” at a forensics lab in Manchester, a police chief constable has warned.The head of the Dorset force, Debbie Simpson, said 484 cases were being reviewed after a criminal probe was launched into the matter.Two men have been arrested by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) over allegations that hundreds of cases handled by Randox Testing Services were affected by what the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) called “data manipulation”.

Source: Forensics lab ‘manipulation’ could mean ‘hundreds were wrongly convicted’ – police chief | Granada – ITV News

Dropping a bunch of book prices (if you’re not in the US or Europe)

The lowest I can price my books on Amazon is 99 cents. In the UK and Eurozone, because of VAT, they price match to 0.99 (pounds or Euros). In other shops- India, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Canada- it matches the local currency. But, in all those places, I could price them lower. So, I just went through my catalogue and lowered the prices of my cheapest books. The following are now available at bargain prices, if you’re in the right place-

Sounds of Soldiers


GOD Hunt

So Much To Answer For

Chosen Ones/Source


Britain Looks To The Future

Britain Turns To Crime

Alternative Facts

What’s In The Bag?

kETTLED-CVR-150Throughout Kettled, Irwin has his trusty courier bag with him. He produces a few useful bits and pieces from it. Questioned about the bag’s inventory, he says that everything in it can be bought from Amazon or Ebay.

So, what is in the bag? I thought I’d do a little browsing and draw up a list. I’m restricting myself to products available on Amazon UK.

Please note, unless otherwise stated, I do not own any of these products, have not tested them and cannot vouch for their effectiveness. I may still use them in a story, though. Links should redirect to your local Amazon, and some items available in Britain may not be available where you are.

Bump Keys

Lock bumping is a way of opening locks by jarring the pins out of position, then turning the lock whilst they leave it open. A more detailed explanation is given in the wikipedia article linked. This 24 key set is made to fit the most common locks used in the UK. The seller will only send them to ‘legitimate’ purchasers, but I’m sure Irwin could get around that.

Fire brigade master keys Master keys for communal doors, padlocks etc., so firemen can get in when needed. There was a point in Tiger (free when you join the mailing list) when Kay and Irwin could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if he’d been carrying them.

He may back these keys up with a drop key. This one includes a lift door key, for when he wants to play at being John McClane.

Lock pick set Bump keys can be noisy, and sometimes you want to be more subtle. You’d think lock picking sets would be illegal, but there are loads of them- and training booklets and practice locks– on Amazon.

Padlock shims Though, with time and a Leatherman (see below), it should be possible to make a set of these from a drink can.

Handcuff keys Okay, this wouldn’t be much use in the courier bag. If you’ve got to the point where you’re handcuffed, they’ve taken the bag off you. So this is a plastic handcuff key, good for a few uses, that could be hidden somewhere convenient. If you want to put it in plain sight, you can get clippy buckles with the keys concealed inside them.

Cable ties Everybody needs cable ties. They’re almost as useful as baler twine and gaffer tape. Irwin uses them as impromptu cuffs during the story. Cable tie cuffs, similar to the type used by the Police, are available. Amazon has them listed as sex toys, but I can only think of how much they could pinch. Pain does nothing for me, so no thanks.

Evidence bags Okay, not evidence bags, but freezer bags. But you could keep evidence in them to reduce the risk of contamination.

Leatherman Another item that probably wouldn’t be in the bag. Leatherman tools usually come with a belt pouch. They’re more for when there’s time to fashion a solution rather than one needed right away. I used to take my Leatherman Mini everywhere with me. Nowadays, it lives on my desk beside the monitor.

This is just what I’ve thought of today (or wrote into Kettled). I’m sure I’ll add to it over time. I’m trying to think of an urban version of the survival tins outdoorsy types can get as well.

A wheeled wander past some Solstice locations

2015 isn’t likely to give us many more days as nice as today. So I got on the bike and went for a little ride- something I’ve consistently failed to do this year.

Weir on the Irwell

I followed a route I took several times last year- down to the Irwell, then upstream a way, freestyling the exact route on the many tracks available. If you’ve read Solstice, the weir above is the spot where the first body is found. In the story, it’s June, and the river is lower than this.

(If you haven’t read Solstice, you can get it from Amazon, Smashwords and several other online shops.)


This rather lovely location is just over two and a half miles from where I live. Two and a half miles in the other direction is Manchester city centre.

What path?

At one point, the track got a little crazy. Lacking Boudicca style scythes on the bike, I worked a little way back and crossed the river on an old canal bridge nerby.

Under the M60

Having taken a photo of the weir where the body was found, I had to make it far enough upstream to get a shot of the location of the first murder, and opening scene, of Solstice. This track runs under the M60. I turned around and headed back along trails I didn’t discover last year. The ride was just under ten miles long. I did much longer ones last year when I was in the habit of heading out for a random ride most weeks. I need to get on my bike more often.

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Kettled- Rain and Bullets 4

kETTLED-CVR-200Kettled is published on October 2nd. Pre-order your copy now.

The Tories are in Manchester, and thousands have turned out to protest their presence.

In the midst of the peaceful protest, a small group of hired troublemakers are planning to cause trouble. They want to start a riot, to distract from the demo’s message, and usher in new laws.

Irwin has been working with an MI5 agent to track them down before they can do any damage. But now, she has been stabbed, and he is trapped in a big crowd being held on a square by Police. Just the right place to start a fight.

With the reluctant help of Kay Wood, Irwin must track down the troublemakers before it’s too late, and find out who stabbed the MI5 agent.

I don’t think I aimed high enough

When I was plotting Solstice, I needed a secondary threat, something longer term than a killer on the loose, which could also go some way to explaining his actions. After doing some research, an organised paedophile ring run by influential people was my choice, for renewed relevance amongst other reasons.

I’m beginning to think that I should have aimed higher, and made a few of them MPs, or even Ministers. When I was doing my research, Leon Brittan’s name came up a couple of times, but I was wary of the claims against him, as they seemed just a bit too far fetched. Then he died not long after I’d published the story, and the allegations against him are out in the open again. Not only that, but the evidence that there was a high level cover up is more convincing too.

The Daily Beast has an article about it, and the Manchester Evening News has a report about how accusations about Cyril Smith were revealed to Thatcher when he was being considered for a knighthood. David Cameron wants to introduce a law to punish teachers, councillors and care workers who ignore evidence of child abuse. How would he feel about it being extended to cover more senior politicians and civil servants, I wonder?

ISIS as art and antiqities thieves

I started an Irwin tale a few years ago that was going to involve art thefts and smuggling, but couldn’t find quite the right hook to hang it on. Thanks to this article, and a few others, I think I now have the source of the stolen objects pinned down, and I’ll be back on the story soon.

ISIS Cashing in on Looted Antiquities to Fuel Iraq Insurgency.

And a few other articles, so I can come back here and refer to them when I start research proper-

How an arrest in Iraq revealed Isis’s $2bn jihadist network – The Guardian

Isis: the inside story – Guardian

UNESCO Confirms ISIS Funding Terrorism by Selling Artifacts – artnet

Solstice (Rain and Bullets 3)

Solstice-cvr-150 “You’re a tough one, Danny. I’ll give you that.”

The figure slumped against the concrete didn’t acknowledge the compliment beyond flinching away from the sound of his assailant’s voice.

Something heavy rumbled over the bridge above them at speed. Even as Saturday rolled over into Sunday, there were still vehicles on the motorway.

The bulky, black clad figure stood over his victim, blocking the view of anything but his dark shape. Danny registered, barely, the light rustling noise that accompanied his assailant’s movements, but he was even less able to understand it than he had been before the beating started.

“Of course, being so tough has just meant I had to hurt you more.”

It’s the Summer solstice.

Maria wants to find her cousin, who has been put into a children’s home run by a company called Vantage and disappeared.

Tomas wants to help Maria, and find out who Vantage are bribing to get all their contracts whilst he’s doing it.

Kay Wood has just landed her first ever murder case- a body pulled out of the Irwell with a strange symbol carved into his chest.

Irwin Baker has been called by his old boss at MI6, asking if he can help Manchester Police investigate a murder with links to killings in Iraq.

It’s going to be a very long day for all of them.

When Maria and Tomas find dark secrets in Vantage’s offices, they find themselves in great danger, hunted by a killer who leaves his signature in the bodies of his victims. Can Kay and Irwin get to them before the killer does?

Solstice is out now for the Kindle. It’s the second adventure featuring Irwin Baker, and finds him helping Greater Manchester Police investigate a murder with ties back to corruption in the early days of the occupation of Iraq. Taking place on the day of the Summer solstice, it’s a race against time to stop a killer with a grisly signature and uncover the horrors that go on behind the doors of a privatised children’s home.

Sounds of Soldiers Summer Sale! 99c/69p until August

I’ve dropped the ebook price of Sounds of Soldiers for the summer. If you’re looking for an interesting and different story to load onto your ebook reader (or phone, laptop etc.) to read over the holidays, then now’s the time to get it. For the Kindle it’s 99 cents at Amazon US, 0,99 euro at Amazon Germany or 69 pence at Amazon UK. For just about every other ebook reader it’s available from Smashwords as well.

I’m currently working on two new tales in the Irwin Baker series. If you’d like to catch up on the Irwin Baker series so far, just follow the link.

How’s The Plan going?

Hmmm, yes. The Plan boiled down to hitting an average word count and finding better ways to publicise my work. The Aim, separate from The Plan, was to make enough money to fund trips abroad and other mini adventures which could double as research for future stories.

So how am I doing?

Terribly, if I’m honest.

The target was to average at least 500 words a day, preferably 1000, over the year. As of today, before I do any writing, the average is half the lower target (253.9, to be precise). For a while towards the end of February, I broke through the lower boundary. That was whilst I was working on Slashed, when I had a fairly good idea what needed to be written.

Since finishing Slashed I’ve not really known what to write next, and have had a couple of false starts. It’s become a bit more obvious in the last couple of weeks where the two front-runners, both Irwin tales with similar themes, should go. You And Me Against The World started out as a rambling piece of naughtiness about a dirty weekend then became a tale about baggage from past relationships wrapped up in grifter shenanigans. Throw in some espionage and MI6 style witness protection and I had a reason for Irwin to get involved. Art For Art’s Sake (previously A Death In Didsbury, a title I’ve gazumped for a different story) features characters from So Much To Answer For a few years down the line, getting mixed up in art theft and smuggling, forgery and murder. Again, Irwin doesn’t instigate any of the shenanigans but comes in to lend a hand, strictly off the books of course.

I’m researching art theft and smuggling for Art For Art’s Sake at the moment, then I’ll have to find two scams big and complicated enough for You And Me Against The World. Then, hopefully, I can hit my writing stride again. Beyond that I’ve thrown a few scene notes and background into yWriter for the next Garth Owen project, working title Post, which will flip a few of the zombie/virus outbreak tropes on their heads. I’m also planning to do a few stories in the universe I created for the Mongrels mini comics I did a few years ago, starting with a novelisation of Who Let The GODs Out?

So, when I get writing again, I have plenty of projects to get on with. As I recognised a long time ago, it’s the promotion where I need to work out what I’m doing. I’ve looked into getting business cards, or maybe bookmarks printed up, though the latter don’t really work when most of my publications are electronic. Getting mentioned on Daily Cheap Reads last week didn’t have a huge effect upon sales, though I guess it is one more link to my books to help them get found. I’ll keep trying to get onto other people’s blogs to build up a presence, but I don’t hold out a lot of faith in the effects. Press releases to the local press and contacting the local libraries will carry on as well.

I have come a long way from when I first formulated The Plan. I’ve written two novellas and published them and a bit of my back catalogue. Sales are in double figures, which isn’t much but is far more than if I’d just sat back and waited for something to happen. All the books are out there for as long as I want them to stay available, so when people start searching for me there’s a far larger rack of books for them to find. And that rack is going to continue filling, though maybe not as fast as I’d like it to.


So Much To Answer For at Smashwords

So Much To Answer For is now available through Smashwords, in formats to suit just about every ebook reader out there.

Tommy Hill walked back into Manchester on the tail of a thunderstorm, promising easy money and atonement for his former sins. Joe Wilkinson doesn’t want anything to do with his former friend, but it’s not going to work out that way. Once again the Police think he’s involved, and some want revenge for Hill’s escape last time, and there are some dangerous characters who already think he’s Hill’s bag man. Can Joe stay out of jail and alive long enough to keep his name clean? And who is the mystery blonde who wants to buy his art?

The view from Oklahoma

For a brief moment earlier I thought today would be the day I broke the 500 words a day average for the last thirty days, but I was just misreading the numbers on my spreadsheet.

Anyway, I’m in Oklahoma cafe, probably the place where I get the most writing done, and I thought I’d take a little break to report on the status of my current projects and my plans for what comes next.

The main project at the moment is Slashed, I’ve been working on it since before Christmas and I’m getting close to finishing it. I’m about to enter the big final showdown and I’m at 25,400 words. I don’t write long books, though I reckon some of the continuity and detail adding I’ll have to do when the first draft is finished should push the word count into the mid-30,000s. It’s an action/horror hybrid with a bit of black comedy thrown in. It’s quite violent and a bit silly. If you liked my other books you may not like this one. In fact, it’s so different to my other stories that I may use a pseudonym for it. My disreputable brother Gareth could be blamed for all my more schlocky work. Depending upon how long it takes to edit and do the cover, Slashed could be released by the end of March.

After the first draft of Slashed is done I’ll probably finish off a short story I started a couple of week’s ago. The working title is Waking With The Dead. It’s currently at about a thousand words and I reckon it’ll run to three or four when finished.

The next big project will probably be a crime story which built to work best in ereaders or browsers. It’ll focus on a murder, with a series of short tales following the event’s effect upon all the different people who are involved. The reader will be able to jump from one narrative to another as tales intersect and build up their understanding of the events based upon the route they take. There’ll be multiple starting and ending points and a few Easter egg strands which can only be accessed from within the story. It sounds more complicated when I try to explain it like this than it will probably turn out to be when I get down to it. Trust me, I have a map for it and everything. It’s probably going to be called A Death In Didsbury, partly because the previous story by that name has floundered because of problems with the theme and character motivation.

After that, I’m not sure what’s next. I should get back to the Irwin Baker series (though some of the series’ characters will be appearing in A Death In Didsbury). Or some other grand story may come to me. We shall see.

If I keep up the good work I should hit the 500 a day mark soon. I shall report back when I do.

It may be time for a pseudonym 2

The great thing about being an independent author is that I’m not tied to anyone else’s scheduling. If I have an idea and the time the turnaround on a book can be two or three months, less if it’s a novelette or short story. Of course, this can also work against me. Deadlines for planned books are self imposed, and I’ve always been my own worst enemy. It’s all too easy to get distracted and go off to do something else if a story just isn’t gelling.

Which is what happened to me in the last few days. The next planned Irwin story is titled A Death in Didsbury. It brings back characters from So Much To Answer For. (Which is sort of -1 in the Irwin series in that it shares the same universe, but doesn’t feature him. He hadn’t even moved to Manchester when the story was happening.) There’s ghoing to be dilemmas for Kay Wood, and decisions which will change the nature of her relationship with Irwin, and I get to re-use some characters I enjoyed. The problem is, A Death in Didsbury is going together very messily and slowly and some of the plot threads I wanted to use are refusing to merge, no matter how hard I push them together.

Then, yesterday morning, I had a silly idea for a schlocky, over-the-top horror/comedy. It’s one of those ideas which is so obvious it’s probably been done before, but I’ve decided to kick it around until I’m certain. So yesterday I did some reading around the subject and started planning the tale. It’s the oppposite of Death in Didsbury in that sense. I’ve created a yWriter project and filled it with chapters, scenes, characters and locations. Each extra layer of detail suggests scenes and plot details. If I carry onlike this it may be the first story for which I’ve had a decent framework for years.

And if I do finish the story it will be different in many major ways from my other work. It’ll be silly, violent, dirty and trashy (in the best possible way). Readers who enjoy it may not like my other stuff and my regular audience might wonder what I bashed my head against. So, whilst it will still be published by Spinneyhead, maybe I need to give its author a different name.

Indie superstar Joe Konrath gives a similar explanation for having a horror alter-ego Jack Kilborn. When I read his post I was still planning to put my own name on everything I write (I say as much in the comments), but now I can understand why I should reconsider.

The question, then, is- if I need a pseudonym for certain genres, what should it be? I’m tempted to go with just Gareth Pattinson, as Gareth was one of the other options for my first name anyway. Or perhaps Gareth Owen, because in the early days- pre web- Spinneyhead’s full name was Owen Spinneyhead. (There is already a writer called Gareth Owen, however.)

Suggestions anyone?

Greater Manchester Police to lose a quarter of its personnel

This news makes me worry about crime in Manchester. But, as my priorities are skewed that way, I find myself devoting more time to pondering how it will affect future Irwin tales.

Greater Manchester Police will lose a quarter of its staff, including front-line officers, as it faces a £134m budget cut in the next four years.

Greater Manchester Police Authority (GMPA) said nearly 3,000 posts would have to be cut from its 12,000 staff.

The Christie method

Agatha Christie’s novel planning was chaotic, with notes in multiple books, ideas which took years to be used and many a dead end.

I’m sure I recently read a quote attributed to her which suggested that she wrote until she was two thirds of the way through a story, then went back, worked out who had done it and rewrote as much as was needed to lay down more clues. This sounds just like the process I’m using in my current project- I just killed a completely different person to the planned victim, in a far louder way than intended. I think I know who did it.