Monty and the getaway

A short piece of fiction for your entertainment featuring Monty, gentleman thief, and his long-suffering PA, Molly.

~~~

The wind whistled over the damp cobbles, adding to the icy chill in the air. Molly picked her way between the frost-rimmed puddles reflecting the dingy sodium light of the street lamps. She shivered and pulled her long black coat tighter around herself. What was a nice girl like her doing out on a night like this, she mused to herself, checking her watch. Wrong side of midnight too. Closer to dawn really. A girl really needed her beauty sleep rather than being out in the cold.

Her cellphone buzzed in her coat pocket, breaking her reverie. She pulled out a bluetooth earbud, popped it in place and answered the call she’d been expecting.

“Ah, boss. I’ve got a little problem.” She turned at the street corner, scanning left and right. “It’s about the car.”

“It got towed.”

She pulled the earbud out as Monty unleashed a tirade of invective, gave her employer a moment to finish then replaced the tiny transmitter. “I know, I know. Looking for a replacement now.” She’d spotted a car a hundred yards down the street, parked in a dark spot between two lamp posts. She hurried towards it. Not ideal, and she could imagine what Monty would think of it, but needs must.

“Wait, got one. What’s your ETA?” A staccato burst of gunfire from above answered her question. She killed the connection and delved into her handbag, fishing out the lockpick set that Monty had made for her. He’d been giving her lessons on how to deal with the basics. She hoped that she remembered what he’d taught her. The freezing night air didn’t help and she had to stop to blow on her hands to warm them up as she fumbled with the slim metal tools. That one went in *there* and this one like *that*. She twiddled them experimentally.

The cellphone buzzed again. Monty announced that he’d need a car by the front entrance in, oh, about twenty seconds or so, preferably moving, preferably very fast. Ideally something in the bulletproof line, but he realised that beggars couldn’t be choosers but could she please hurry up, thankyouverymuch. Molly hung up and returned her attention to the lock. Another fumble and she’d dropped the tension pick. In the manner of all things dropped near parked cars, it helpfully bounced underneath the vehicle, just out of reach.

Molly swore loudly, kicked the car and examined her options. Monty needed a car, now. She’d lost her means of getting into this car. Any car, for that matter. Another burst of gunfire focussed her mind and a solution popped up.

The brick made a satisfying crunch as it went through the passenger window, spraying the interior with tiny shards of glass. Brilliant. One car. Hotwiring, she was good at, taught at a very early age by her elder brother, Charlie. Three seconds later and the car was laying down streaks of rubber. It hurtled towards the junction and she threw it into a handbrake turn, tyres protesting loudly. She grinned. This was fun.

Monty exited the building via the large glass front doors. She was not surprised to notice that he hadn’t bothered to open them first. Stylish. He was being pursued by two security guards bearing semi-automatics, firing wildly at their quarry. He bounded down the steps five at a time and dived through the newly removed passenger window. Molly, at his request, floored it.

It took him a second or two to recover his composure and dust himself off before he took in his method of escape.

“What on…”

Molly cut him off. “I know, I know. I was kind of stuck for choice.”

“It’s a…”

She gave him one of her trademark Looks. “Would you rather walk?”

He returned the Look. “Quite frankly, yes. I mean, there are cars and there are cars, and then there’s… this?”

She screeched the custom-built, neon-paint jobbed, darkened windowed, rear-spoilered boy racer to a halt. Two large fluffy dice bumped on the windshield.

“Out you get then.”

A bullet took out the rear window, destroying the elaborate flaming skull decoration. He sighed and waved her on. Molly smiled sweetly and put her foot down again.

“You’re actually sulking, aren’t you?” she said, glancing over at him, sat there with his arms folded and the beginnings of a pout on his lips.

“I don’t like these cars. Remember what happened to the last one? It was rubbish. It very nearly blew us up.”

Molly thought for a second. “No, the rocket-propelled grenade nearly blew us up. It was hardly the car’s fault. And it was either this or one of those tiny French cars. This one at least looked like it might get us out of here in a hurry.” She looked in the rear-view mirror. “Hold on…”

The car slid around the corner sideways, engine screaming in protest. Unfortunately for her, the guards seemed to have a very nice, very fast looking black SUV which took the corner almost as well as she did.

She looked down at the speedometer as it crept up past sixty, seventy, seventy five. There was no way they’d get away from these goons, not in this, not now they’d reached the main road. “Running out of ideas, boss.”

Monty delved into his backpack for a moment, and came out with a small package. “Lucky for us I didn’t need this to get into the safe. Those old Dortmunder & Fforde 900 models are too much fun to crack…”

He flicked a switch, grinned then leaned out of the window before lobbing the explosive charge in a carefully timed arc.

The resulting explosion was small, but enough. Especially as he’d thrown it at the lorry they’d been passing. A lorry containing a load of scaffolding poles, which rather helpfully strew themselves in the path of the SUV.

Monty leaned back in his seat. “Brilliant. Despite your appalling taste in cars, a job well done.” He delved into his backpack again. “Want to see it?”

Molly nodded, and whistled softly as he unwrapped the black velvet from his newly acquired prize. “That’s possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

Monty grinned. “Isn’t it just? Zenn is going to be *so* mad. I wish I could see his face when he finds out it’s gone” He scratched his ear, thoughtfully. “Do you have…”

“In my bag.”

He retrieved the small laptop and powered it up. “Where..?”

“Third one down. It’s the one which says ‘monitor'”

Monty clicked the icon and a window opened onscreen. It was dark. “Come on, Zenn. You must be there by now. Don’t you want to even check… ahhh. There we go.”

A man’s face appeared in the window, a slim face framed by silver hair and a neat goatee beard. It looked annoyed. Very annoyed. Monty grinned and waved as his nemesis picked up the tiny remote camera he’d left in the safe.

“Gotcha…”

Meet the Author – Meg Cowley

Something a little different for the blog today. I’m doing a Q&A with Meg Cowley, one of the lovely bunch of people in my writers’ group.
Meg Cowley

Meg is an indie author and illustrator. She’s written two YA fantasy novels in her Tales of Caledan series – The Tainted Crown and The Brooding Crown, and has recently published two colouring books (The Wild Colouring Book and The Calm Colouring Book) *and* a children’s book, The Diary of a Secret Witch. Phew. Busy!

Meg lives in Yorkshire with her partner and their two cats (aka overlords). Her favourite genre is fantasy and her illustrations are mainly inspired by nature. She’s a lover of margherita pizza, earl grey tea, sleep, and pro-dragons. Find out more at her website: www.megcowley.com

So, without further ado, onto the questions!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a daydreamer through and through and fairly unsuited to the ‘real world’! I joke that if everyone was like me, the world would be screwed because we’d have no useful people like doctors or firefighters (etc).
I haven’t found a day job I like yet (I trained as an accountant and then a teacher). Writing and drawing – or creating in general – is really the only thing I’ve ever loved. It’s taken a while for me to realise and accept that… and decide to pursue it. Thanks to modern technology and the opportunities now available, I’m giving it my best shot to do that as my full time job.
My mantra for life is that you only have one shot, so you have to make it count: follow your dreams and have no regrets.

When did you start writing, what sort of things do you like writing?
I’ve written since I learnt to write. I wrote all sorts of terrible things back then, mainly poor rip offs of whatever I enjoyed at the time, from Beatrix Potter, to Tolkien, to Rowling, but I suppose that’s how we learn, by studying the masters of the craft.
These days I enjoy writing fantasy fiction after growing up reading the genre avidly. I’m working on a children’s fantasy series currently, but I personally enjoy YA fantasy fiction (think magic and dragons!) most of all.

What prompted the decision to move into colouring books?
Partly curiosity, partly the opportunity at the time! I saw the success others were having and thought to myself “I could do that”. So the first colouring book was a gamble – luckily, one that paid off.
I’ve also been quite ill in 2015, too ill to write much (I need a clear head to write, but illustration comes much more easily to me without needing clarity of thought). Therefore, illustrating colouring books was perfect to keep me occupied, and luckily it also pays the bills!

What else are you working on at the moment?
Currently I’m working on my third colouring book, The Exotic Colouring Book. That will feature many endangered species from around the world and a significant amount of profits from the book will be donated to a conservation charity. Conservation of biodiversity is important to me because I believe that we have a moral responsibility to look after our planet, so this is one big way I can support that. It’ll be out in February 2016.
I’m also working on my children’s fiction series “Diary of a Secret Witch” for children aged 8 – 12. The second book should be out at the end of December! That’s quite fun to write – it’s a lot lighter in tone than my YA fiction!

What are you reading now?
I’m currently reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown – enjoying it so far! It’s outside of my typical genre but I enjoyed the Da Vinci Code so I thought I’d try the third book.
Next up on my reading list is Clariel by Garth Nix.

Can you recommend a good book you’ve read recently?
Asking a bookworm to recommend just one book is impossible!!
I can particularly recommend:
Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn, a fantasy series set in a Japanese feudal style society
The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix, a magical fantasy (great magic system here!)
The Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis, a hilarious Roman mystery series,
and pretty much anything by Rachel Aaron who writes fantasy (The Eli Monpress Series), sci fi (the Paradox series under pen name Rachel Bach) and also urban fantasy (Heartstriker series).

Thanks Meg!

Interested in Meg’s work? Good news, as she has lots of free books and samples on her website. You can try her young adult fantasy novel The Tainted Crown for free, download her children’s fantasy fiction Diary of a Secret Witch: Wackiest Week (also for free), and try samples from her bestselling colouring books too. By downloading these freebies, you’ll be signing up to her newsletters where you’ll also have the chance to win new books and receive more free samples.

Plotting – Guest Post by Neil White (author of The Domino Killer)

Today I’m delighted to welcome Neil White to the blog. My first ever guest post! Neil’s new book, The Domino Killer is out in July in hardback (thanks to NetGalley for the advance review copy!). He’s here to talk about plotting, but let’s talk books first.

The Domino Killer | Neil White

When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open and shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier.

Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents.

Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever…”

It’s a gripping tale, neatly plotted and oozing authenticity. Two brothers, one a lawyer, one a policeman, both drawn into the investigation of their sister’s murder many years earlier. Secrets and lies, twists and turns abound as the case unfolds. It’s the third book in his Parker Brothers trilogy.

And now, thout further ado, over to Neil. Let’s talk plotting…

Plotting – a tangled weaving road, laced with potholes.

Plotting is one of the hardest parts of writing a book, because whatever is written in those early days can determine whether the book will be a success or not. A bad idea, or a good idea? It is hard to say then, it’s too early, but the idea takes shape there, jotted down with a pen and paper.

For me, learning to plot was part of the very long and steady learning curve. A necessary curve, but long nonetheless.
I started writing in 1994, the product of a few years of talking about it and then an idle moment when on holiday in Fuerteventura. ‘I’ll be a lawyer until I can be a writer’ was just some daft thing I’d say. I decided to test out my theory. How hard could it be? It’s only writing words, after all.

At first there were four pages of A4 in scruffy handwriting, and then there was a small typewriter with a tiny screen that only showed six lines at a time. Floppy disks saved the slow development of my opus, my creation, worked at in my bedroom where I lodged with my boss. I printed it off occasionally, so that I could marvel at how much I’d written.

Then came the crash. I sat down and read it.

Let’s just say that it wasn’t very good. Worse than that, I didn’t really know what it was about and what was going to happen. Looking back, I can’t remember the plot or even the characters, which perhaps says a lot about something I worked on for around three years.

I knew what the problem was: there was no direction, no coherence. I needed to plot.

I sat down and tried to come up with ideas, until I came up with a story about a serial killer in Boston, Massachussetts who was killing people who shared the name of Salem witches. His obsession with the Salem witches was because his wife killed herself out of a belief that she was a descendant of a Salem witch due to the coincidence of name, and that it had somehow caused her to be possessed by evil.

It didn’t matter whether the plot was any good. The point was there was a plot, and that was all that mattered.

So I started to sketch it out. A paragraph became a one-page summary, which turned into more pages, and I spent a few months fleshing it out, adding to it, putting in phrases I liked. The beginning, middle and end became more pronounced and chapters started to appear, the plot thinning out into strands, and then broken down into scenes. Eventually, it was a 10,000-word monster, a blow-by-blow summary of the book.

What helped was a documentary I saw about Steven Spielberg, who has a very meticulous way of setting out his storyboard, where he allocates a certain amount of time to each scene and will not deviate from it, regardless of how well the filming is going. In his view, his storyboard is balanced, and any deviation upsets the balance.

I looked at the summary again and tried to follow Spielberg’s method. After all, he’d done okay with it.

I looked at each scene and thought of its importance or complexity, and then allocated a certain number of words to each one, intending to reach a total of around 120,000 words. That helped enormously with the plotting and then the writing. If a scene was pivotal, it would have to be a long one, but that is too long for a fast-moving crime novel. So I found a way of splicing it with smaller scenes, which kept the focus shifting. Once I set out on actually writing it, working to a word count gave me discipline. If a less important scene ended up with too many words in it, I cut some out. If a major scene needed more words, I had to find some more.

I didn’t follow the plot outline religiously, I’m not as disciplined as Spielberg, but the outline gave me a route map, and if I deviated from it, with a new idea or angle, I knew where the plot had to return to, as if it allowed me to take the occasional scenic route.

That finished plot ended up as a self-published book, Salem, which got me an agent, who eventually got me a publishing deal. It resurfaced, in a much re-worked format (and a different location, with Lancashire replacing Boston) in my third book, Last Rites. My only regret with Salem is that I didn’t pay for an editor; there are some grammatical howlers in there.

Now, I plot less. Not because I don’t need to, but just because I don’t have time. I set out the basics of an idea, try and get a notion of how it ends, and a few major points along the way, before I sit down with a pad and pen and sketch out the first fifteen scenes or so. I know I need to plot the next part when I get stuck, so I sit down with a bottle of wine and try to work out the next stage.

Some writers spend months planning and then blitz it. I can’t do that. I panic about not leaving myself enough time. So I start and plot as I go.

The hardest part is the middle, because I’ve arrived at a certain point but need to work out how to get to the end, and hopefully provide excitement along the way. Sometimes joining the end to the middle can seem impossible, but in the end it happens.

NaNoWriMo – an update

Ah, NaNoWriMo. That time of year when thoughts turn to the crazy challenge of cranking out fifty thousand words in thirty days.

Didn’t make it this year.

I got to just over 3,000 words. I was falling behind on the average daily wordcount needed by day 3, but figured I could still recover. After all, there was plenty of time. My characters weren’t really talking to me though, and I struggled a little with where the plot was going.

Then I saw this.

It stopped me in my writing tracks. My NaNo story involved a mysterious library where strange things happened. There was even a dragon involved. It was spooky. Characters running around doing Exciting Things and Saving The Day. In a library. With a dragon.

Don’t get me wrong, the tv series looks like a huge amount of fun. But the story? Someone had done it. Turns out they’d done it many years ago and turned it into a series of made-for-tv movies.

Confidence dented, I pretty much gave up. Kept poking and prodding at the fledgling story, wondering what I could do with it.

Then the double whammy. I read a story excerpt from Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library (coming out in January 2015).

“THINK DOCTOR WHO WITH LIBRARIAN SPIES”

Well, that did it. The opening chapter of The Invisible Library was utterly brilliant, and what’s more, *exactly* what I wanted my story to be like. Soon afterwards I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Invisible Library – it’s just as good as the opening chapter promised to be.

So my NaNo Library story languishes in the cloud. I’ve still got a few ideas, and have continued to poke and prod at it. Maybe I’ll write it yet – after all it’s not *quite* like the others.

After all, Neil Gaiman once said:

“Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.”

NaNoWriMo may be over, but that doesn’t mean the writing stops.

The writing never stops. Long may the story continue.

Just write

Just write.

Always carry a notebook. Everywhere. Write what you know. Write what you don’t know.

Just write.

Have a pen with you at all times. Or a pencil. First drafts are supposed to suck.

Just write.

If you want to write, you’ll find the time. If you’re not enjoying it, write something else.

Just write.

Keep writing. Finish something. Plot it. Outline it. Write by the seat of your pants. Write *in* your pants.

Just write.

 

Simple thing to say. Not always so easy to do. Do you write? How do you find the time? Do you make the time? Do you carry a notebook and pen everywhere, write what you know, plot it, outline it, seat-of-the-pants it?