Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Will she or won't she?

I'm not sleeping well. Caroline's in Singapore and says she is not sleeping well either, blaming the heat. Is she worried about what I'm worried about, or worried about something different?

Caroline has been behaving out of character, which psychologists say is either a) a sign of an undiagnosed physical condition or b) a pending relationship breakdown and divorce, aka a new squeeze.

"Of course you're worried," you say. "Any man would be, in your position."

Ah yes, but there's a complicating factor. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to go to the World Cup final. Unfortunately FIFA keep awarding the finals to far-away places like Brazil, Russia and Qatar and not somewhere convenient like England or Germany.

But Caroline bumped into a business acquaintance when she was in Italy recently, who re-introduced her to the European football supremo, Bertrand Cottoneau. And he has promised her two tickets to the final. I'm finding it hard not to put that in large type capitals, bold, and underlined. I'm sure there's a catch, and that's what I'm worried about. That, and pending relationship breakdown etc.

Will she or won't she? Will she get the tickets from Bertrand, and if she does, will it be me who gets the second ticket?

"What is strange about Caroline's behaviour?" you ask. "I reckon you're being paranoid; like men are when they have a dynamic, attractive, successful wife who earns more than they do."

Have I mentioned the gambling? Having nagged me constantly for four years for 'wasting money' on betting on football scores, Caroline has taken a keen interest in learning all the casino games and has been spending her nights with the high-rollers in Singapore. When she could choose a different night out, she went to the Kranji racetrack to back horses. But what is really out of character is that she is losing money. She always makes it. She's a finance director. She hates losing. That's why her rise to the top of Monsaint Medical Instruments has been so meteoric.

You can see why I'm worried now. Whose money is she losing? I know it isn't mine, because I live my life in a balanced cash flow. It comes in, it goes out, balance = zero.

And now she wants me to funnel about half a million euros, borrowed from a Chinese gentleman, to Cottoneau's account. She say's it's very urgent. My suspicions are well and truly aroused. That's an awful lot to pay for two tickets to a football game, even the World Cup final. Now do you understand why I'm not sleeping well?

I will be in a better position to give you the full story in three weeks time when  Shameless Corruption is published by Steam eReads , global publishers of quality ebooks.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


You can tell the same story a hundred different ways. And that is what happened when I sat down to write the cover blurb for Shameless Corruption. Or should I call it 'product description'? Either way, it's the bit that people might read first and think, "Wow, I want to read that," or, "I don't think so!"

Writing blurbs is teaching me more about writing novels than any other practice. It forces me to get to the essence, to cut through the waffle and say out loud, "This is about..."

It should be simple, and like most things that should be simple, it's a difficult process to mistress. I might start with a synopsis, something written to inform a potential publisher, or even myself, who the characters are and what happens in their story.

Then I write the novel, which does take a little time. Then I edit it a few times, which takes a while too. When I go back and look at the synopsis, I realise I have written a different book to the one outlined in the synopsis. I rewrite the synopsis to reflect the completed novel, and send it to the publisher, fingers crossed. I then enter the shadow of the valley of doubt while I await a response. The publisher won't like it. The whole project is misconceived. I have completely failed to tell the story I wanted to tell etc. etc.

I give up hope and start working on a new project. My energy starts to return. I don't care anymore about Shameless Corruption. 

Then an email arrives accepting the novel for epublication, and a date is agreed. Way-hay! I need a blurb now, and I need it fast. I read Shameless Corruption (yet) again. I ask myself, 'what is it about'? I consult the synopsis. Useless. I go through the book, picking out key events, change points for the main characters, emotional highs and lows, choices faced. I cut 65,000 words down to 400, then 300, then 200. Still none of the 20 versions completely satisfy but I have narrowed it down to three main angles. Is it:

   a) To help some business colleagues, Caroline infiltrates a plot to fix the result of the World Cup and ends up in the thrall of the syndicate leader;
   b) To her surprise, Caroline finds the casino exciting, and her reckless gambling takes her to a dark place;
   c) Caroline has until the final whistle of the World Cup to choose between two men, one a dangerously wealthy gambler, the other her husband.

I consult a friend who has worked in films and on games, and she reads my blurbs, confirming they don't cut the mustard. She helps me find the key point, the crux, the choice Caroline makes to go this way or that way. Another ten versions, and I'm still not sure which one will appeal to 'readers', whoever they may be. So I test the blurbs out with a group of writing friends, getting them to tell me which blurbs and phrases work for them. That was REALLY helpful.  And even more helpful, they told me which phrases were likely to make them give the book a miss. Of course, one 200 word piece is not going to impress everybody, but at last I was getting close to something I was happy with.

They told me that angle (c) is the way to go, especially since the choice is not as obvious as it seems. If she chooses to turn down the wealthy man, she risks a lifetime of servitude in a Macau brothel.

I sent the new blurb off to the publisher. Almost by return, I got an enthusiastic, "fantastic. That's great, Robert, but could you get that down to one sentence?"

Bangs head on desk.

The 200 word version is HERE on my author website. Does my blurb work for you? If you have blurb experiences to recount, or snappy blurbs to share, just hit the comment button.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Fashion show

You look back and you think, 'How did that happen?' How did Caroline get addicted to gambling? With a bit of perspective, I can see that she was bored at work. She normally puts every ounce of her energy into her career, and I guess that energy found a new outlet when she agreed to help some business colleagues that she met at a Milan fashion show. Here's a sneak preview from Shameless Corruption which will be published in June.

With the third wave of models, lights flashed on and off and dry ice swirled across the stage, giving the stunned audience glimpses of the fashion future. Nipples poked through holes in flimsy bras or were brazenly displayed on a balcony quarter cups. Thongs framed perfect bottoms and only half concealed the models’ shaven crotches. Assorted chokers, bracelets, anklets and chains hinted at dungeons and danger.
Caroline was on the edge of her seat, staring open mouthed at the parade of near naked women. She couldn’t relate to the women or the clothing. There was nothing real about it. Cosimo leaned over and spoke into her ear above the loud music, pointing at a pair of knickers constructed of loops of material which followed the contours of the model’s arse.
“I would like to see that piece on you. Your derriere would do it justice.”
“In your dreams, Cosimo. They only make this stuff in tiny sizes.” Caroline imagined the loops of silver material gracing her rear, but then saw herself getting caught on a door handle and pulling the whole thing off.
Cosimo poured more champagne into Caroline’s glass and harangued the ex-footballer turned fashionista. “Such a waste, Giovanni. Why can’t you make clothes for a normal, beautiful woman?”
Giovanni laughed. “Patience, my friend. We have a short break now, then you will see the exotic range. Those models have a real woman’s figure.”
...Before Bertrand could drag Caroline off for a private meeting, lights started flashing and a drum roll built to a crescendo. While the audience fixed their eyes expectantly on the stage, ten models appeared on the floor of the hall, one for each of the tables. Photographers crowded in to capture the moment the models climbed on the tables, firing a frenzy of rapid flashes. The stunt allowed the audience a close up view of Giovanni’s exotic range as the models turned, bent, and gyrated to the beat of the drums.
As Giovanni had promised, the models had breasts, thighs, and hips, of sufficient curvature to display the sculpted underwear. A scientist would have marvelled at the properties of modern fabrics, infused with exactly the correct percentage of Lycra to stay intimate with the skin. An economist would have been impressed at the use of such a small amount of material in an expensive item of clothing. An artist would have been proud to have painted such designs straight on to the models’ bodies.
Close to their audience, the models engaged the eyes of the watchers. They put on a burlesque show, hooking their fingers into the magic fabric and sliding the bottoms down a little way, and pushing out their breasts. The ten models in different outfits moved from table to table, giving each party an eyeful of the latest exotic fashions. Cosimo insisted on helping the models down from their table, chattering away to them in Italian; anxious, he explained to Giovanni, that they should not sprain an ankle.
One very attractive model had red hair like Caroline’s, only cut in a bob. She smiled at Caroline and gave her a wink. Her outfit was black, with high waisted bottoms and a full cupped bra, but with sheer triangular cut outs in random places, figure shaping but hinting at availability. It was Caroline’s turn to lean over to Cosimo.
“Now that’s more my thing. I could even wear it under a business suit.”
Cosimo pointed at Caroline and then at the model. “Giovanni, she likes this one. Can she have it?”
“Of course, but she must try it for size first.” Giovanni stood and spoke in the model Letizia’s ear. “Please take my guest Caroline to the changing area when you have circled every table.”

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Small Fortune

Some people have commented via social media that I can't be a real lawyer because I never blog about my work*. That supposition is what we lawyers call a non sequitur. Let me demonstrate. Some of my clients also accuse me, when a case is lost, that I'm not a real lawyer. I counter with the correction that incompetence is every bit as real as competence. What they mean is qualified. It is perfectly possible to be incompetent and qualified at the same time. I'm not saying I'm incompetent, not at all, but that quality is all around for us to see. I choose to write about other people's incompetence and not my own, not from a position of superiority, but because we can derive amusement, and even comfort, from the trials of others.

Of course, people will also ask, "Is Robert Fanshaw a real writer?" or, "Is his wife really the finance director of Monsaint Medical Instruments?" Or, as somebody remarked yesterday, "If Caroline didn't realise that gambling is dangerously addictive then she's pretty stupid."

I to leapt to her defence at this criticism. There's a lot you could say about Caroline, but she's no more stupid than you or I. She's very good with numbers and can calculate odds quicker than I can. So stupidity does not explain her sudden fascination with different forms of gambling. She started with a little light roulette, moved onto blackjack, learnt to play high-stakes poker, and then she texted me from the Kranji racecourse, the HQ of the Singapore Turf Club. She gave me a tip she had received from a Chinese acquaintance, a certain Mr Nim, for a guaranteed winner in the last race. Mr Nim was so certain that Caroline placed a small fortune on it.

The horse's name, in case you follow racing, is Oceans Flow. Look out for it. Really, it's a good horse. I hope it wins you some money. If you want to find out how it ran on that fateful evening in Singapore, you can look up the racing results, or wait until June for the full story, when Shameless Corruption storms up the straight of the Amazon ebook charts.

I've been drafting up some 'blurbs' for the publisher. Here's part of one...

Caroline’s marriage is already in trouble when she infiltrates a gambling syndicate that is planning to fix the result of the World Cup. Introduced to the suave Mr Nim, she learns to gamble with the high rollers, but when beginner's luck runs out, loses far more than just her money...

*The reason I don't write about commercial law is that if it bores me, it would bore you even more.

Who are these people?

The world is divided into voyeurs and exhibitionists... It takes one of each to make a good marriage.

Robert and Caroline Fanshaw are an ambitious young couple trying to make their way in a complex world.

What happens when their private affairs collide with world events and the big issues of our times? Drama, comedy and x-rated scenes.

email fanshawrobert@gmail.com