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Train Ride for the Dead

Most of us think of trains as a thing to take the living to work or for pleasure.  But that wasn’t always the case.

When cholera epidemic in 1848-49 struck, the cemeteries of London were full, and the dead had to be taken elsewhere.  So they built a railway for the dead, complete with a luxury lounge for the first class mourners.

I stumbled over this while looking for funeral arrangements in the 1800s, and the more I read the more interesting I though it.  The articles I read were more interesting than any I can lay before you, so the links are below.

NecropolisAlso worth a look for the photographs of the mourners lounge, it’s an exterior view but the image just shows the great care and workmanship that went into the building.  Now admittedly I’ve always had a soft pot for glazed bricks, I think they finish a building beautifully, and I mourn the lost of such things in the modern era.  Still, taste and time moves on, but it’s always worth keeping an eye on history and this might interest some of you.


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Keeping Up with the Changes

Image result for ipcc to iopc

When writing crime, there’s a distinct need to do your research.  So when I heard that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was being replaced, I wanted to know more.

The IPCC has gained itself some mistrust after investigations into how several men died in custody (separate incidents). Relatives of the suspects killed and injured in police custody have expressed doubts about the actual independence of the IPCC.

The replacement is the Independent Office for Police Conduct, the IOPC.  The Home Office say that the new structure will “ensure greater accountability to the public”.

On-going investigations will be transferred, by the question to my mind is, aside from the name, what will the difference be?  Well, one of the big difference will be that the IOPC will be able to launch its own investigations without referrals from police and making its probes completely separate from those carried out internally by forces.

That sounds like a good change to me, here’s one that I’m less certain about.  The IOPC will also be able to bring disciplinary cases against police officers even if their home force disagrees with its findings and takes no action.  I can see how this could overcome some in-house cover-ups, but I also believe that local knowledge plays a big part in policing and the force itself will have that, the IOPC won’t.

Still, the first real improvement doubtless outweighs the second secondary concern.

As a writer, this now means that I have to give real thought to which organisation I refer to in any future work, and in you have a work in progress that includes the IPCC, maybe you should consider the move now not to date your work before it goes out there.

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I Am Not Depressed

I have posted several blogs about depression but that’s not actually why I’m writing this, I’m simply using it as a tool to explain how I know I’m not depressed.

Depression feels like I want to explode, fragment into a million pieces that will be scattered by the wind. It’s an internal pressure building up inside that needs to burst out. Part of what I do to move through depression is to remember that the day job has a large element of things that only I can do and that the team needs me to go to work and do those things. That external pull helps me pull myself together.

What I’m feeling now is so much weight on me that I think I might just end up imploding into so many fragments that I’d just be dust. This is an external pressure building from the outside and being pressing down on me. And now thinking that I’m the only one in the team that can do certain things and they need me to go to work and do those these actually leaves me feeling sick. Hell, just typing the thought has knotted my innards.

You see I’m not depressed, I’m stressed. So stressed that I actually broke into tears in the office on Friday. I really don’t know how I am going to cope on Monday.

The point of writing this is really to admit to myself that I have a mental health issue, just not the one I usually have to admit to. The real difference, unfortunately, is that I know what works for me when dealing with depression, but this isn’t depression and I am at a loss to know what to do for the best.

Any advice would be welcome, feel free to comment. Ta.


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MacGuffin or Rube Goldberg

Steampunk has a wonderful tradition of making stuff up.  It’s one of the things I love about the genre and the makes that seem to go along with it, not that I’m personally any good at those.

My making is done with words, it’s all description, but I still have to understand and envisage it right. Which means that I also have to know my MacGuffins from my Rube Goldberg machines.

So what is the difference?

According to Google, a MacGuffin is “an object or device in a film or a book which serves merely as a trigger for the plot.”  So in my books, the big MacGuffin is the Aether, but also CAMM in Shades and DMAC, in Echoes.  In films MacGuffins you’ll see include The Case in Pulp Fiction, The Holy Grail in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, the Tesseract in the Avengers movies, the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  These things exist all over.

A Rube Goldberg machine, on the other hand, is “a deliberately complex contraption in which a series of devices that perform simple tasks are linked together to produce a domino effect in which activating one device triggers the next device in the sequence. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor of such contraptions, Rube Goldberg.” (Wikipedia)

Rube Goldberg machines are used in a car ad that was so impactful I remember the ad, but not the car.  In films, my favourite Rube Goldberg machine is the breakfast maker in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

So MacGuffins and Rube Goldbergs, fun and fascinating objects, look out for them.

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Sense of Smell

While thinking about my writing, I’ve noticed something odd.  I give my lead female characters a scent.  Don’t do it so much with the men, but the women have it whether they be published or not.

I do know that our sense of smell is one of the strongest for memory recall.  So putting smell into a scene can’t hurt.

Ariadne Teddington, the heroine of Locked Up, Locked In and Locked Down, carries the scent of fresh apples.  It’s mostly her shampoo and it smells a lot better than the claustrophobic, testosterone-packed corridors of the prison where she works.

Amethyst Forrester from my Of Aether steampunk series, bears the aroma of lavender.  In her defence, we are talking about a Victorian lady so she uses what she can.  Yes, I know that there were plenty of perfumeries around in the Victorian era, but she grew up without a lot of money, and a number of lavender bushes in the back garden.  Oh, must remember to have her plant more in the new house.

Jessica MacDonald appears in a few short stories I’ve written, she’s a pathologist who smells of warm vanilla.  I’m guessing that no one wants to smell of dead bodies.

Then I thought about the heroine of my next set of books.  I know her, but won’t reveal to much of her yet.  But when thinking of her, I spent ages trying to remember what she smells of.  Couldn’t do it.  So I went to my files and had a quick check.  She doesn’t smell of anything particularly and after checking I know why.  It’s not because she’s stinky and doesn’t wash, and it’s not mentioned anywhere either, but I know her and I know why.  She doesn’t have a signature scent because she mostly uses unscented products but even breaks that rule occasionally because the products she does buy are whatever is on offer at the time.

Off the top of my head, the only published character who I know has a distinctive smell is Janet Evanovich’s Ranger.  Love Ranger in the books.  He uses Bvlgari, can’t recall exactly what one, other than it was in dark green packaging.

So what about you?  Do your characters have a scent that distinguishes them?


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The Journey To Publication

When I was asked to write some blogs to promote Locked Up, I couldn’t think what to say, so I sent a couple of ideas to the publicist and asked if there was anything else she thought I could cover.  One of the ideas that came back was The Journey To Publication.

Now I have deliberately capitalised that, because that’s what it sounds like to me.  It’s like an epic line, like “I Am Spartacus!”  Like it should be said by that deep throated bloke who does all the film trailers; read the next bit in his voice to see what I mean.

It was a time of worry.  It was a time of nerves.  Would there be acceptance or rejection?  A book or an empty shelf?  It was – The Journey To Publication.

Do you hear it now?

Yeah, okay, I am being taking it to extremis, and should dial down the sarcasm seeing as the idea has turned into this blog. Yet the fact remains that it’s one of those things that we’ve all already read about, and probably written about. It felt a little old hat and not something I can bring anything new too. And even as I sit typing this up, I’m still not sure I’m saying anything that hasn’t been said a thousand times before.  Except maybe that speech above – am oddly proud of exercising my humour on that – you know what they say about little things pleasing little minds.

What you won’t have heard before is the actual story in Locked Up, that’s far more original, you really should go read that, that’s very engaging.

So here it is, my Journey To Publication.  I’ve always written, been receiving rejections since I was a teenager.  Largely gave up on myself as a writer because there were more immediate struggles – university, marriage, kids, life – but I never stopped writing.

Finally, the time came when I was ready to properly put myself and my writing out there again.  I’d been doing so kind of half-heartedly the whole time, and have the requisite drawer full of rejection slips to prove it, but at last I was ready to really go for it.

Guess what happened…


Just more rejection.

I finished Locked Up and thought, you know, this is really good, this should sell.  So I went to Winchester Writers Festival, meet with some agents.  Four of them.  Had all four ask to see the full manuscript.

Woo-hoo!  Right?

Right.  Yes – I got my agent.

He told me I’d have to be patient because getting published takes a long time.  And I was patient. For two years.  Not a dickie bird.  Not a hint, nor a whisper, not a whiff of interest.  Got some rather nice rejections, but they were still rejections and that’s never nice.  At the time the industry was going through some major changes, culling commissioning editors left right and centre, it’s still changing and that is likely to last a while.  The agent said that I probably wouldn’t get any luck until those commissioning agents were replaced.  The issue for me was that there was no guarantee that they would be replaced and I didn’t want to wait until I was in my fifties to get published.

It was time to take back control.

So I did.

I wrote to my agent, thanked him for his hard work and we politely parted company.  I sent my manuscript to Bloodhound Books and got a yes please in a few days.  Thank God I was sitting down when I read that email!  And I had to re-read a couple of times it to make sure it was saying what it was saying rather than just what I wanted it to say.  The point was, within a week of being told that nothing was likely to happen for ages – I had a publishing deal.


(And for once that isn’t sarcasm)

Rejection got replaced with acceptance.  The shelf will stop being empty.

The worry and the nerves however, they are very much still here.  Yes, I’m getting published, Locked Up came out on September 7th. But now I have to find readers, I have to find all you lovely people out there, strangers I have never met, and persuade you too read my book.  I have to hope you’re like it – actually I hope you’ll love it, rave about it to a load of other readers who’ll also love it – and that makes me nervous.  If it helps, I do have some great recommendations from other crime writers:


Caro Ramsay, author of the Anderson and Costello series, says:

“Tense and claustrophobic, with a spine chilling denouement!”


Katherine John, author of “By Any Name”, recently made into a stunning Amazon Prime video, says this:

“A brilliant new and authentic voice in crime fiction – GB Williams knows how to tell a story and tell it well.”

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Steampunk Firsts

Some say Steampunk started with KW Jeter in 1979 with Morlock Nights.  But did it?

Now I’ve read Jeter, Morlock Nights and Infernal Devices.  They are readable, but as often with books that are considered the first in their genres, not the very best.  I’d give them 3 out 5, which isn’t the recommendation it should be.

When I was at a convention in October, I was introduced to Pavane by Keith Roberts. This was first published in 1966, it was a teenager before Morlock Nights hit the scene.  And it is definitely steampunk.

But is that even the first?

I think there’s an argument that it’s not.

Back on 1st January 1818, Frankenstein was published.  Mary Shelley wrote about a man who used technology to control life.  This is often quoted as the first science fiction book, but was it also the first steampunk book? Okay, this isn’t Victoriana, but Steampunk is a broad church.  Frankenstein could be classed as Powderpunk, if only because of the setting.

So what of the elements of steampunk?

  1. A story set within a world using a real or imagined version of the technology of the 19th century

Well Frankenstein is set in a real world, and the technology used to bring the ‘monster’ to life is not a hundred percent different from a mix of modern technology, think limb transplant, defibrillator, iron lung.  You’d need all these to sustain a body, bring it back to life.

  1. Victorian-era class and economic structures

Well, it’s Georgian class and economic structures, but what else would the Victorian-era class and economic structures be built on.

  1. Implicit or explicit social critique

Oh definitely.  The way Shelley portrays the role of women in society is actually quite shocking to this modern reader.  Then there is the way that society condemns the monster on nothing more than his looks

  1. An adventure-oriented plotline

Well, what more adventure do you want than an outcast running from the society that shuns him through no fault of his own.  There’s running and hiding and travel to inhospitable regions. That sounds like an adventure to me.

  1. An emphasis on the empowerment of individuals in the face of industrial standardization and the advance of modern bureaucratic government

If the monster is anything, he’s an individual and he does find his way to empowerment in the end.  Though even I have to admit that this is possibly the one Frankenstein doesn’t fit.

This is a definitive statement, just a personal opinion, feel free to disagree.  If you’ve never read the books I’ve mentioned, they are all worthy of a try.  But so is Shades of Aether, and that’s a good introduction to the genre too.


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