Cover Story – Stalkbook Setting

“I don’t see why it was necessary to disguise what is obviously Manchester as “Mancaster” – quote from an otherwise glowing review of my new novel(la), ‘Stalkbook.’

Fair point.

My reason for doing that was to allow me some creative licence with the geography and the architecture. After all, I don’t want some indignant native pointing out that you absolutely can’t see or even hear the bars on Canal St. (another recognisable Manchester landmark) from Castlefield – renamed Castlegate in the story. Or a review on TripAdvisor posted by a weary fan from other parts (lovely thought though), complaining that they had wandered around for over an hour and still not located the tunnel where the body was found in the novel.

Images of Castlefield ManchesterManchester canal towpath


It also meant that when choosing a location for the photography shoot for the cover images  we were not restricted to Castlefield Canal Basin. Portland Basin in Ashton-under-Lyne shares many similar characteristics, was closer to travel to, and less busy than Castlefield in the centre of Manchester. Both were constructed in the late 1700’s at the time of the Industrial Revolution. I’ll write more about the features and how they relate to two of the main characters in the novel in my next post.

Image of canal junction, Portland Basin

portland basin

My 87 year Uncle Ed told me an amusing anecdote about Portland Basin, when I explained that my novel, Stalkbook  revolves around a body found in a canal, and the cover images were taken there. He said that in the old days, because the three joining canals, Ashton, Huddersfield and Peak Forest, came under the jurisdiction of three different police forces, if a body was found the first officers on the scene would attempt to push it in the direction of another of the canals!


Now For Something Completely Different

Da-da! Announcing the arrival of my new novel Stalkbook (novella actually.) Bit of a digression from my previous novels.

Stalkbook Kindle

After treading a tightrope between sinister and salacious with my previous novel Blue Is The Object I decided to write a Mystery/Romance for younger adults, although it will appeal to anyone who ‘gets’ the Facebook and Social Media themes too.

Read more about it and get your copy here


He (Or She) Who Flairs Wins?




Lately, although growing numbers of us seem to need no excuse, and psychologists are warning that too many can be bad for your (mental) health, we’ve been encouraged to take ‘Selfies’ as part of  ‘awareness’ campaigns. Although I attempted, but failed because of failing light, to contribute to NASA’s #GlobalSelfie Day last week, I felt very ambivalent about the #BreastCancerSelfie fundraiser a few weeks before that.


Apart from being the right gender, I am above the average age of  ‘Selfie-takers’ (23  according to a recent survey*), which may help to explain why I’m not one in general. This considered, three things I did like about the Breast Cancer Selfie Without Make-up Campaign, which spread like spilt water over Facebook, were:

  1. It was clearly a great marketing ploy.
  2. It could be viewed as a fun challenge.
  3. It was successful, bringing in millions of extra pounds to Cancer Charities.

Actually, I just thought of a fourth ‘like’ – I wasn’t ‘nominated’ which means I avoided these elements I disliked about it:

  1. It appealed to the narcissistic tendencies of self-photographing for social media.
  2. It sometimes ‘smacked’ of flippancy in the context of cancer.
  3. Nominees seemed to be being coerced into donating more than genuinely choosing.

I’m a big believer in celebrating positive outcomes, even if they would not have been reached in a way preferred by me, providing the means is harmless and so can probably be justified by the end. In that respect I offer congratulations to the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign whose clever marketing  paid off big-time, and which I hope will save many lives.

How generous we are as a society is apparently also an indicator of how happy we are. However, having a choice and a voice in deciding how and where we wish to contribute to improve the lives of others, even if we have extraordinary resources (e.g. JK Rowling, Bill Gates etc.) is important. For me, the main conditions would be considerations of empowerment rather than dependency, i.e. would my contribution assist individuals to solve the problems which caused them to need outside aid?

I like to feel that my decisions about giving to charities are mainly personal, based on priorities perceived by me; neither coercive or dictated by social media trends, nor having to feel obliged to disclose them, to justify, or to look good.


Whilst all charities rely on effective promotion to raise funds, my main reservations about campaigns like the ‘Breast Cancer Selfie’ is that charities will be forced to compete against each other to tap into the fads of Facebook and other social media networks, so that the goal of becoming ‘viral’ will take precedence over the source and nature of the need.

March 22nd was World Water Day, highlighting the global water and sanitation crisis; 768 million people around the world have no clean water to drink, fewer than 1 in 3 people have access to a toilet. It occurred shortly after the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign, giving me an idea which I wished I’d thought of  before. Water has lots of scope for lucrative Selfie-spreading, for example:

With a bottle in the gym, yoga, dance class etc. for  the body-conscious 

Running in the rain, for the fit and indomitable

On the toilet, for those who thrill to shock or shock to thrill

Shower scenes for the sultry or compulsively hygienically obsessed

Bathing baby/playful water scenes  for proud parents/grandparents

Watering seeds etc. for the gardeners

Mopping for the houseproud

Washing one’s new car


Does it matter, after all, if  the context of our donating seems ironic in the face of, and removed from the conditions of suffering of the cause being supported, as long as it’s a good one?

An alternative is just to give.




Breast Place To Feed Baby?




Breasts have been prominent in the media recently. Not just the usual Page 3 diet, although there is a  current campaign to  have them put away – see link below. The last week has also seen a very successful marketing effort on behalf of Breast Cancer Awareness with the ‘Breast Cancer Selfie’ trending on Social Media, encouraging a proliferation of make-up free photographs, nominations and screenshots of donations, about which I am reserving comment until my next post.

The daily Page 3 Breast Fest, to me,  reflects one side of what I see as a modern distortion of our sexuality, a theme which tends to crop up in some form in my fiction. The other side is the reaction of a Facebook user who took it up on himself to photograph (without permission) a young mother breastfeeding her baby in public, post it on Facebook and label her a ‘tramp’! (Using Facebook as a vehicle for this is another issue.) In a culture where glamour models seem to be viewed increasingly as celebrities and female role-models, it is at least heartening to see that the ‘Spotter of Rugely’ got his come-uppance with a huge public outcry of protest and media ridicule for his actions. My hope is that the exposure will have done for breast-feeding awareness what naked faces have done for breast cancer.


Emily Slough Breastfeeding Mum


Another example of eyebrow-raising skewed standards in the Breast is Best area is the experience of the Texas ‘Victoria’s Secret’ shopper earlier this year, who after spending $150 dollars on their fripperies, was refused the comfort of a fitting-room to feed her hungry child, being advised to do so in a nearby alley where she could do so unseen. Again, this may not have been in line with the company policy, but it is their responsibility to make it clear to their staff what that is, because this incident was not a beautiful one for womankind.

Public Indecency - Imgur


My sons are now in their teens; when they were babies I fed them in many places as the occasion demanded, equipped with a soft cotton lace shawl for discretion. Sadly, these places did include public toilets.  When my first-born was a few months old, we were fortunate to stay with friends in Buenos Aires and it is during that holiday I felt most comfortable breast-feeding, as it felt ‘smiled-upon’ and accepted as normal. I fed my baby whilst walking on a jungle path in Iguacu, Brazil and on a bus in Buenos Aires. Perhaps that is why the Argentinian Pope Francis has such a positive, paternal, encouraging approach to the mothers in his congregation, insisting that they are welcome to feed their babies in the Sistine Chapel. After all, Michaelangelo’s works included depictions of the ‘Madonna Lactans’ as a symbol of spiritual as well as physical nourishment.  Breast-feeding is natural, part of our whole sexuality and more than a feeding function, isn’t it?


Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia