The Inventor of Crime Scene Photography

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In my last post I talked about my Historical Crime Fiction novel and in particular, a pioneer in crime photography, Alphonse Bertillon. You can view it here:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/the-man-behind-the-mug-shot/

Today I continue the story on how this man influenced the advance in Forensic Science.

Not only did Alphonse Bertillon invent the Mug Shot, but a variety of ways to interpret how a crime happened. From simple burglaries, to murder, he came up with methods of measuring the amount of force used in break-ins, known as the Dynamometer. He was also responsible for using ballistics and materials to preserve footprints as clues to how a crime was committed.

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Bertillon was quite a celebrity and even appeared in a few Sherlock Holmes stories, most notably, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, when the following dialogue between Dr James Mortimer and Holmes.

“I came to you, Mr. Holmes, because I recognized that I am myself an unpractical man and because I am suddenly confronted with a most serious and extraordinary problem. Recognizing, as I do, that you are the second highest expert in Europe–”

“Indeed, sir! May I inquire who has the honour to be the first?” asked Holmes with some asperity.

“To the man of precisely scientific mind the work of Monsieur Bertillon must always appeal strongly.”

Yet it is his ground breaking use of photography at crime scenes that is his lasting legacy to present day methodology employed by detectives in solving crimes.

Bertillon School of Forensics

His use of taking a picture from above, was unique to crime procedures. Previously, an artist would draw the scene from their eye line, sketching the things that came in their limited range, but Bertillon gave the world a ‘god’s eye view’ showing the scene accurately and in more detail. Greatly improving the police’s chance of solving the case.

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He even used a special laboratory to take the Mug Shots, practice his precise methods and to process the ensuing prints.

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To view the actual photographs, Bertillon took of crime scenes, please go to my Pinterest page.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nikkimcdonagh56/arty-stuff-my-stories-including-glimmer-and-crow-b/

However, when Bertillon’s CSI photographs became known, they were thought of as unsavoury, even ghoulish since they showed the victim’s dead body. Yet these images gave detectives the necessary information to help them discover important clues such as body position, cause of death, wound entry, footprints, murder weapons, blood spattering and so on, that could easily be missed from an initial survey of the scene.

It is thanks to Alphonse Bertillon, that CSI has progressed from somewhat dubious facial measurements, to accurate fingerprinting, and his meticulous way of photographing a crime scene is still used today.

Berillon-Protocol

Here is another small snippet from the first draft, I shall call The Leo Katz Mysteries for want of a better title:

Chapter Three

I confess to being somewhat squeamish. As a child I could not even bear to squash a fly. Miriam had no such qualms and would race about my bedchamber with a rolled up newspaper swatting anything that buzzed. ‘Nasty things that eat dung. You must kill them before they lay eggs in your ears.’

I believed her and before falling asleep would probe my lugs for signs of infestation. I am not sure how I would have reacted if I had discovered an emerging bluebottle in my cochlea. Perhaps something akin to the way I retched on witnessing Klaus probe the severed nasal cavity of Ira Weiss.

‘Stay with us, Leopold. I need your expertise on imaging. Are you going to faint?’

I gulped hard and backed away from my tripod. ‘No, not at all. It’s the smell of the body mingled with the chemicals you use, it is overwhelming.’

‘Perhaps Herr, I mean, Leopold, would care for some fresh air? It is an acquired scent. Shall I escort you to the corridor?’ Lucy wiped her hands on a towel that hung from a nail in the wall next to the half glassed door of the mortuary.

‘Thank you, but I will continue. I must endeavour to overcome my reticence at observing the dead.’

‘Ha! There’s my fellow. Solid and dependable. Well, compose yourself, my little friend and come closer. I need a shot of the entry wounds.’

With shaking hands I lifted my tripod and placed it close to Ira’s pale body. Lucy wiped the last remaining spots of blood from his chest, and joined Klaus by the cart laden with sharp knives and a variety of different sized saws. She did not flinch from the sight of the poor man’s shredded face. Leaning close to observe the raggedness of his wounds, she said, ‘Was he disfigured before or after death?’

My next post will continue the findings I have unearthed during the research for my new book. Watch out for Madame d’Ora!

For more information about my books, please visit my website:

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http://www.oddlybooks.com/

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Is This Censorship?

Amazon has a put a warning on my book Whisper Gatherers. A Dystopian/sci-fi novel set some 350 years in the future.

They emailed me to say that they have received complaints that the book has an excessive amount of typos. Now, I use a slang-based language that often combines words to make one long one, much the same as George Orwell does in 1984 – Newspeak, crimestop, thoughtcrime, goodthink, oldspeak, pornosec, unperson, and so on.

I have emailed Amazon to tell them that the ‘Errors’ they showed me are in fact intentional, and add to the futuristic tone of the book. They tell me that I must make the changes they specify or they will keep the warning sign up. Now, that is censoring my writing, isn’t it? Also, since when did Amazon become editors? Because that is what they are effectively doing, editing my work.

This book, Whisper Gatherers has been for sale on Amazon since 2015 without any complaints. In fact, I have received many 4 and 5 star reviews that enjoyed and recognised the quirky use of language. Here is a snippet from one such review:

on December 6, 2016
Dystopian is one of my favorite genres and I try to stay up-to-date with the latest novels. How come I missed this one so late? I don’t know!

The author created a very complex and appealing world I traveled with Adara with great pleasure. I must say the experimental English was at first hard to understand (English is my second language) but as I got used to it, I found it stunning. It helped develop the feeling of being there with the main character who narrates the story.

You can see more here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YMSP1UA

 

Here is the email from Amazon:

Hello,
We’re writing to let you know that customers have reported some quality problems in your book. We confirmed the issues are present in your file and as a result we have temporarily posted a warning message on the book’s Amazon.com Kindle detail page until the issues are fixed.  Please make the following changes and resubmit your content to us as soon as you can:

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 281; Errored text: bordercheckpoint.; Context: We stopped just in sight of the bordercheckpoint. ; Comments: “We stopped just in sight of the bordercheckpoint.” should be “We stopped just in sight of the border checkpoint.”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 341; Errored text: clothesspace; Context: It worked a treat and I diverted my gloomy musings by searching my clothesspace for stuff to wear at the ceremony. ; Comments: ” searching my clothesspace” should be ” searching my clothes space”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 755; Errored text: dryingsheet,; Context: I would have ablushed more of my bod, except there was no dryingsheet, so I wiped my damp flesh upon my tunic before returning to the others. ; Comments: “dryingsheet, so” should be “drying sheet, so”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1362; Errored text: cleansingplace; Context: Go fetch the medikit from the cleansing area.” “Will do.” I went all quickly into the cleansingplace and opened the cupboard. ; Comments: “cleansingplace and” should be “cleansing place and”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1580; Errored text: nanorope,; Context: It was as light as a bub’s eyelash, as strong as nanorope, and as see-through as a raindrop when it came into contact with its owners heartbeat. ; Comments:  “strong as nanorope” should be  “strong as nano rope”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1581; Errored text: girlygigs; Context: The Synthbag was a thing all the girlygigs in Cityplace hankered after. ;

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1584; Errored text: cleansingroom.; Context: I grabbed some of the Medistuff that Santy used to heal my wound and went into the cleansingroom. ; Comments: “into the cleansingroom.” should be “into the cleansing room.”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1591; Errored text: cleansingarea,; Context: I sloped off into the cleansingarea, and packed my bloody bits with a reddysponge. ; Comments: “I sloped off into the cleansingarea” should be “I sloped off into the cleansing area”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1632; Errored text: comtext; Context: A whole load of comtext appeared. ; Comments: “A whole load of comtext appeared.” should be”A whole load of context appeared.”  This change does not even make sense in context to the narrative, as the character is talking about text on a computer screen, hence the word ‘comtext’.

I have received another email stating that Amazon have taken on board my intentional use of language, and that my book is now in the hands of a Quality team:

Hello,

Thanks for letting us know that your book’s reading experience was intentional.

We’ve forwarded this information to our Quality team for review and we’ll get back to you within three business days.

Now, if this Quality team is an automated programme, I’m stuffed. Putting a warning that states a book is full of typos will have a detrimental effect on the sale of that book, surely? I have added my own ‘warning’ to the book description so that any potential purchaser knows that the language is intentional.  I am very upset about the whole thing.

What do you think?

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What if your last day at school turned out to be your first day as a rebel warrior?

When Writing Is Hard

Over Christmas I broke my right wrist rather badly. Emergency surgery and a metal plate  later, I am unable to type with both hands. So, my writing has suffered a lot. I find it slow to type with my left hand and by the time I have written the word in my head, I’ve forgotten the rest of them. Yes, I tried dictation, but it’s not for me. I find my muse by staring at a blank page and letting the words fall from my fingertips.

Still, this glitch is giving me the time to do research for a new genre I wan to try out, psychological crime thriller. I’m rather enjoying discovering about how to manipulate people to get them to do your bidding for evil purposes. Also, I am editing and getting ideas together for more stories, so it’s not all doom and gloom. I just need to bide my time, let my wrist heal and get back to the job of writing when I’m better.

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Squid hand haiku

Dark hides broken bones

Of finger cephalopod

No ink to write with

In the mean time, here is a short video and Haiku in honour of my injury.

Link to video:

https://youtu.be/A6M6_aUWvqs

If you want to know more about my work, go to my website: 

https://www.oddlybooks.com

Or visit my Amazon Author page:

Author.to/BooksonAmazon

Author Spotlight – Bonnie Milani

Greetings everyone and a very Happy New Year!

I thought I’d start 2017 with some author interviews. I love getting to know new writers and hearing about their work, so to start off, please welcome Sci-fi author Bonnie Milani. 

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 Who are you and what do you do? 

I’m the walking definition of a masochist:  a benefits broker specializing in micro-businesses under ObamaCare who is trying to build a professional reputation as a sci fi author.

What is your book about?

Which book?  Sorry, couldn’t resist.  My latest is ‘Cherry Pickers’, a teen girl’s light-hearted coming-of-age story – with spiders.  Very large, hopelessly romantic spiders.

 Why did you choose to write your book?

Y’know, I don’t think we choose our stories; I think our stories choose us.  In the case of ‘Cherry Pickers’ I’ve had one of the main characters, Sam, nested in a corner of my mind for more years than I’m willing to count.  Finally decided to let the poor guy out.  So, of course, now I’ve got another whole set of stories growing out of this one.

Cherry Pickers is only $0.99! You can grab a copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Cherry-Pickers-Bonnie-Milani-ebook/dp/B01LZU1XK1

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You can read my review of Cherry Pickers at the end of this post.

What kind of research did you do?

I’ve sold other stories set on Sisyphus, the world-setting for ‘Cherry Pickers’, so I’d already done the research on the basics of the world itself: size, gravity, atmosphere, chemical composition, etc. I’d also researched arachnid characteristics & behaviors – which was a challenge, considering I’m a total arachnophobe. But the research led me to peacock spiders, & with that I had the ammunition I needed to work out how the Sissy culture would operate.  To give you an idea, here’s a link to the peacock spider’s mating dance: https://www.cnet.com/news/two-adorable-new-spiders-found-meet-sparklemuffin-and-skeletorus/  Just TRY not to think of John Travolta!

What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

Time is always my challenge.  I have at best 1 hour a day, so progress tends to be slow.  Drives me up the creative wall. But it’s proof that determination & plain ol’ stick-to-it-ness eventually wins the day.

What was the best part of writing your book?

FINALLY getting it to where I felt it was right.  I THOUGHT I had it right on maybe the 4th rewrite, so I sent it off to my editor.  Oy, was I wrong.  Oh, OUCH was I wrong!  She sent back four single-spaced pages of just where & how severely wrong I was, along with commentary in the MS itself.  Exceedingly painful experience – but very, very necessary.  The story just would not have fulfilled itself otherwise.  I realized that after I finished reworking it.

Thought I’d slip in Bonnie’s award. Wow!

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Do you have any advice to give authors who wish to self-publish?

Oy, do I!  Perhaps the most important advice I can offer at all is to realize that posting your doc to Amazon does NOT equate to genuine self-publication, not if you want anyone to take you seriously as a writer.  Agreed, simply getting a MS up on Amazon is quite enough of a chore on its own, but it’s far & away the least, last, & most malleable item in the production chain.

If you’re serious about becoming a professional writer then you simply must learn the craft and write to a professional standard.  And that’s HARD, believe me.  I can tell you from experience that fiction writing is a thousand times more difficult than non-fiction.  I was writing NON-fiction for publication back in high school.  Waaay back in my twenties I was writing feature pieces for Science Digest, Peninsula, Mankind, The Atlantic City Press, as well as  various other newspapers.  In college I wrote an early environmental fairy tale that was picked up and used by the NJ Dept. of Education for grammar school children.  All exciting, professional work – and none of it even a fraction as challenging or just plain HARD as one fiction story.

Long story short: if you’re an aspiring author, then invest the time and money in yourself and your talent to learn how to make your stories WORK.  Learn three-act structure.  Learn character development, world-building, throughlines, the works.  Have your work edited by a professional in your chosen field.  Then swallow your tears (maybe with a glass of scotch or two) when your best efforts come back bruised and beaten.  REWRITE.  Cry or swear some more.  Then send it back to be edited again.  It’s hard, and it’s not cheap, but you’ll feel it when your story is ready to stand on its own and face the world.  Mind, then you have all the mechanical posting & proofing & such to face – but by then you’ve got something you KNOW is good enough to justify the effort.

Wow, that answer kinda got away from me!  Hope your followers find it helps!

 I’m sure they will, Bonnie, thanks.

Do you have a favourite author? If so, what is it about their work that you like?

In sci fi, it’s C.J. Cherryh, hands down.  Her tightly-plotted, women-oriented sci fi is what drew me back into writing after I’d given up for far too many years to help my husband build his business as well as starting my own insurance agency.

Outside of sci-fi, my favorites are the classic women authors: Jane Austen (‘Pride & Prejudice’ RULES!), Charlotte Bronte (‘Jane Eyre’), and of course, Harper Lee (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)

What are your future writing plans?

I have another novella started.  After that, I plan on returning to the ‘Home World’ universe and completing the rest of the series.  Considering that universe has churned out about two generations worth of tales so far I figure that’s going to keep me busy for a lot of years to come!

Thank you Bonnie.

For more information about Bonnie and her books go to her Amazon Author page:

https://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Milani/e/B00IPYW4HK/

 

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My review of Cherry Pickers:

Starship Troopers meets Arachnophobia

 I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the idea of giant spiders being the main characters alongside their human counterparts. Bonnie Milani successfully makes you care about these large arachnids just as much as the human ones, as all her characters are utterly believable.

It was a fast paced read full of suspense, humour and wonderful descriptions of the alien world that made the narrative come alive.

The alien arachnids are both lovable and horrid. I hated the Sissies, but I adored Sam, the spider, he was funny and sensitive. I did feel sorry for Tsk, who’s fate was to become Kekh’s next mate. A thing he dreads, for obvious reasons.

The heroine Nikki is feisty and fun and she relates the story in a jaunty manner as she tries to sort out her role in the complex mating rituals and sinister schemes she has been drawn into. I shan’t spoil the plot, but I was hooked from the beginning to the unexpected end.

This is a great read for anyone who enjoys sci-fi with a difference.

 

What stops you from publishing your work?

There are many reasons an author doesn’t get around to publishing their work. I know from my own experience how scary it is to actually get your stories/novels into the real world. The dread of waiting for that first review, the agonising over the cover, blurb, and oh, the list goes on. I wonder sometimes how any of us manage to do it at all.

I have been wanting to publish my second anthology of short stories for nearly a year now. They have been sitting  in Scrivener for ten months. I have edited, re-edited, edited again, tweaked, cut, added and edited the stories until I hate the very sight of them. Then I wake up and realise there is a plot flaw, or a character’s reaction to something isn’t quite right, and I go back to the story and re-write it. Then when I’m satisfied – ish – I start looking at the contents order, change it around, change it back and when I’m sick of that,  I go onto another project.

Why?

Because I want my work to be perfect. Until I think it is, I know that I will never publish.

Then a friend told me to stop being so precious and ‘anal and just publish the thing!’ She was right, of course. My writing is never going to be perfect. Even if I think the stories are as near perfect as I can get them, I guarantee that I will want to change something at some point.

So I have decided to go ahead and finally publish my second anthology of short stories.

Crow Bones.

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Due for release 5th November 2016 via my new publishing company – Oddly Books.

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Now that it’s official, I will have to do the deed.

Are there any authors out there who share my dithering when it comes to publishing? If so, what are the reasons you don’t do it? I’d love to hear from you, just so I know that I’m not alone.

My first collection of short stories – Glimmer – is on offer at the moment. Only $0.99 £0.99 on a variety of sites. Just click on this link to take you to where you can purchase your copy:  https://books2read.com/u/4AgOLA

Or go to Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

 Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Glimmer-other-stories-Unusual-suspense-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M/
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How should I publish my middle-grade novel?

I finished writing my middle-grade action adventure novel set in London and Duat – the land of the dead in ancient Egyptian religion. The title so far is Cleo Dalby and the curse of the Chaos Mummies. It had several other titles, but this one seems to suit the tone and genre of the book.

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It has been beta tested, edited quite a bit. Beta read again, edited again and again and again… I think it is ready to be let out into the big, wide world.

So, what do I next?

Should I try traditional publishing, agent etc? Or, should I self-publish?

I know the pros and cons of both kinds of publishing having been published by a small publishing house and self-published. Both have their good points and bad. I have heard that it is very difficult to sell children’s or middle-grade books if you self-publish. I don’t know how true that is, but I have heard it said by quite a few authors.

Now that I am a self-published author, I like it. I have control over all aspects of marketing and editorial decisions. A thing I did not have when under contract. I am inclined towards self-publishing this book for those reasons.

However, I may just send it out to a few well-chosen agents that have enough authority and respect within the publishing world, to possibly get me signed to a major publishing house. Why? Because I am unsure of how my book will sell. Most books written for children under the age of fourteen are bought by parents for their children. After speaking to a lot of parents, they said they hardly ever, if ever, bought a book by a self-published author. This may not be true of every adult who buys books for young people.

Am I talking myself into traditional publishing here?

I’m somewhat confused.

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Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, and advice would be gratefully received.

I have posted an extract from the book.

No cover as yet. This will have to do.

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Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies

 If you were twelve-years-old and possessed by evil, what would you do?

Curses, chaos, mummies, gods and the fight to save mankind.

Chapter 1

We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked slow and tentative, deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh, long and weary-filled drifted towards her. It seemed to gather friends as it neared, and soon the sad laments of dozens of disembodied voices surrounded her. The moans continued, drifting in and out of her ears like tired moths trapped inside a lampshade. She tried to struggle on, but the wails tugged at her ankles, forcing her to stop and listen to the muffled chatter that swirled and scuttled inside her head.

“We, the dead, abide here. Quietly resting, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“A futile gesture. For this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, lie still, poised in readiness for our resurrection.”

“What a wait we’ve had. So many years spent lying in a state of half-remembered promises and expectations, grown dull with the passing of each century.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips and thought she heard a murmuring of souls.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-haired unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped and said into the blackness, “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Found out!”

“Not Yet.”

“No.”

The voices ceased.

She called again, but no answer came. There was a smell of rot so strong that Cleo nearly vomited. It disappeared and she felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood tall, shrugged, and said, “The dark is just an absence of light,” then shook the torch that was gripped in her hand. “Stupid, froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

You can read a longer extract on my website under the heading Cleo Dalby:

http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com

 

 

 

 

Editing – does it ever end?

I have been editing a short story for my next anthology. It is based on the painting ‘Autumn in the village’ by Marc Chagall.

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When I’d finished and felt pleased with the result, I thought I would post a few paragraphs on Facebook. Ah, I saw a repetition of words and a slightly clumsy sentence and…Yep, I took it down and spent another hour editing one paragraph. Was I happy with the result?

Yes and no.

So I tweaked it again.

And again.

And…well, you get the idea.

So, as a writer, do we ever think, ‘Okay, this is it. This is perfect.’

I suppose we just have to let go and allow the reader decide.

But, oh, how I twitch and itch to change it!

Anyway, here is the beginning of my story – The Shivering Oak:

Coward.

To conceal yourself up a tree like a rat.

I did not hide. I was there for all to see. Lounging larger than the low roof I reclined upon. At least that’s how it seemed to me as I raised my chin to the sky and let the sun kiss it. Yes, even the heavens were on my side.

So, I waited.

I did not grow tired or hungry. I was nourished by the warm May winds that gently stroked my bare arms and lips, which were red. I painted them the colour of blood. But, when I glanced at my reflection in the darkened window of the building opposite, I thought they resembled the hue of the roses on my dress. Or perhaps they were nearer the shade of the berries on the bush that grew below your dangling feet. I noticed how the soles of your shoes were worn. Was that a toe? That pink protuberance that stuck out from the emerging hole? The twitching thing that made Genghis yank at his leash.

I sat up to get a better look. You struggled to maintain position on the creaking branch. One hand wrapped around the frail wood, the other clutching onto your fiddle. The same violin you used to seduce me at the Christmas concert.

The village hall was crammed that night with the young, old, and those in between. Forced to stand at the back, I peered over the shoulders of the tall men. I didn’t mind, though. It was good to be in the world again after all those years cooped up with dad.

I squinted when the lights came up and saw you standing stage right next to the accordion player. The drummer had far too much facial hair for my liking and for some reason I took an instant dislike to the piano player. I think it was because he kept winking at a young woman two seats down from where I sat.

You moved away from the clarinettist, who contorted his face and body so much when he began to tune his instrument, that I was forced to lower my gaze to avoid witnessing his grimaces. I’m glad I did, for when I looked up again, my eyes rested upon you. You were staring at the ceiling, instrument tucked under your arm, paying attention to something other than the music. Standing still all statue-like, I gazed at you and wondered if you had indeed turned to stone. If so, I’d place you in my garden by the dried up pond.

When it was your turn to play, you sparked into life as though switched on by an invisible flick. I may have drooled when your fingers slid right to the top of the neck of the violin. The shrill and lilting notes you played made my backbone dance involuntarily. You made me yours that evening, by the stroke of a bow on horsehair.

Hope you enjoyed this extract. Please feel free to comment. Thank you!

If you are interested in my short stories, I have a collection on amazon called – Glimmer and other stories.

Here is the link: http://bookShow.me/B00H89AN1M

Also my author website link: http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com/

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