The Man Behind the Mug Shot

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Inspiration comes at strange times on occasions. It hit me quite by chance when I was cleaning the cat litter tray. Why not write a crime thriller set in Victorian times about a photographer who has to find out who has been committing a series of murders? Wow, I thought, no one has done that before, or at least, I’ve never heard of a book quite like that.

Next I needed to set it somewhere. Vienna. Why not? After all it was the place for art and music at that time. After a bit of research, I unearthed some very interesting information about the politics of the time and how it adversely affected the Jewish population of the city. A plot was forming. The protagonist is a photographer that gets caught up in a series of brutal murders of Jewish activists in 1899 and has to solve the case via the use of photographs.

Whilst researching the history of criminal photography for the book, as yet untitled, I came upon the name, Alphonse Bertillon.  A nineteenth century French forensic documentarian.

It is thanks to this man we have access to the recording and storing of the physical details of a criminal. Before his efforts, offenders were hard to keep track of. They could give false names and addresses, so finding those who recommitted a misdemeanour, was often impossible.

Enter Bertillon.

Bertillon,_Alphonse,_fiche_anthropométrique_recto-verso-1As a records clerk at the Prefecture of Police in Paris 1879, Bertillon became irked by the chaotic way they kept criminal data. He worked on a better system to store and classify offenders to make it easier for someone to find them if they re-offended. Using his interest in anthropometry, the scientific study of the proportions and measurements of the human body, he developed a recording system for detailing the size and shape of a criminal’s distinguishing facial features.

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These facial descriptions, classified the shapes, size and breadth of the nose, eyes, ears and other facial features, which he called, “Portrait Parle”. Although the coded lexicon he Invented to use alongside his method was too difficult to use and later abandoned.

However, his idea of “Portrait Parle” lead to his definitive method of identification and recording of a suspect/criminal in the shape of the Mug Shot.

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For the first time a criminal could be photographed alongside his or her name both front and side view. Therefore, their identity could be accurately logged ready for use if they re-offended.

Bertillon’s index card system along with the photograph of the lawbreaker, identified re-offenders better than any other system before his invention, and as we know, the Mug Shot, is still used today, alongside fingerprints, to keep detailed records of criminals ready for use if needed.

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Next time, I’ll be discussing Bertillon’s influence on what we know today as Crime Scene Photography.

Here is a little taster from my book. Please bear in mind that this is just a first draft you will be reading. 

‘Oy, oy, where do you think you’re going?’

An officer broke free of the policeman chain and put his hands on my shoulders. I brushed them away and stood firm. ‘I am expected. Katz.’ I held up my case, shouting above the raised voices, ‘I’m to take images of the crime.’

‘Ah, that stuff. What do you need to do that for? The case is solved. She murdered him in cold blood. Ghoulish is what I call that.’ He pointed at my camera. ‘Some say it takes the soul from the body and the dead can’t go to heaven.’ I shook my head and sighed. ‘Oh, I wouldn’t expect a Jewboy to believe. Your lot haven’t got any souls anyway.’

Aaron stiffened and blurted out, ‘Hey, that’s not true. Take it back.’

‘Or what? Bloodsucker?’

I grabbed Aaron before he lunged towards the policeman. He relaxed a little and hung his head. ‘Do not become aggrieved at this Gentleman’s outburst. They are just words. Nothing more.’ He gulped and raised his chin.

‘Ya. Gift of the gab your lot and no mistake. Go on, get going, join your Yiddish pals.’ He spat at our feet when we shuffled past him towards the murder victim.

It was indeed a gruesome sight. I turned to Aaron. ‘You must go now. This is not a fitting thing for a boy to witness. Go home and be with your mother.’

If you would like to know more about my books, please go to my website:4632622310_242x254

www.oddlybooks.com

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Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies

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Today I thought I would post a snippet from my middle grade Ancient Egyptian-themed book Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies. It’s full of good and evil gods and goddesses, nasty beasts and a battle of life and death to save the world – of course. I plan to send it to some publishers. I am still in the editing stage so any feedback would be noted, and very welcome.

A brief synopsis:

Feisty twelve-year-old Cleo Dalby and her archaeologist mother, find the remains of Imhotep and Hor in the Red pyramid, Dashur, only to discover that not only are the mummies cursed but Cleo is too – with the soul of Seth the god of chaos. When the mummies are stolen by the master criminal Erica Van Clutch, the curse is unleashed along with Seth, who wants to destroy the world. It is up to Cleo and her friends to journey to Duat, ancient Egypt’s afterlife, to find the Book of the Dead to summon Ma-at the goddess of order so that she can destroy Seth.

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 Excerpt from Chapter One – We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber of the pyramid. 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, deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh drifted towards her. It seemed to gather a friend as it neared, and soon the sad laments of two disembodied voices surrounded her. The whispering drifted in and out of her ears like tired moths trapped inside a lampshade.

“We, the dead, quietly rest, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“But this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“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.

“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. “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Is it she?”

“The chosen one?”

“Listen to our warning, child, or torments and madness will shadow your every move.”

“Leave, before evil takes your soul.”

The voices ceased.

There was a smell of rot so strong, she nearly vomited. “What the frog?” The stink disappeared. Cleo shook the torch gripped in her hand. “Stupid froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

“There you are. I thought I’d lost you.”

“Mum, don’t creep up on me like that.”

“I can’t very well do anything else, can I? It’s darker than a black hole in here.”

“I know. I can’t see a froggin’ thing.”

“What do you expect? We are half way down a pyramid. And don’t say, ‘froggin’ I know what it means.”

A sound like the noise from a beehive buzzed inside her head. She put her fingers into her ears and wiggled them until it ceased. “Are you sure we’re the only ones here?”

“Apart from the mummies? Yes.”

“I thought I heard someone say something.” Cleo reached behind her and grabbed her mother’s hand as a gasp swept across their faces. “What was that?”

“I don’t know, I can’t see anything.”

“Sorry, it’s my fault the torch won’t work. I didn’t change the batteries. Although, Mum, if you’d brought wind-up ones we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“Oh, so now it’s my fault?”

A throaty groan billowed past their open mouths.

“Ah! That horrible sound again.” Cleo swivelled round, buried her head into her mother’s chest and waited for the hideous moaning to go away. The gurgling, growling continued despite the comforting warmth from her mother’s body.

“Why won’t it stop?”

“It has.”

“No, it hasn’t. Can’t you hear it?”

“It’s my stomach.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I’m hungry, we missed breakfast because you slept in.”

“Sorry,” Cleo said and felt her eyes begin to sting.

“Don’t sniffle. Come on, we can’t let some stale air frighten us away. That’s what they want.”

“That’s what who want?” Cleo pulled away from her mother’s tight grip.

“The architects who built the pyramids were clever. They used all sorts of booby traps to scare looters away. All this noise and freezing wind is a just a ploy to put us off the scent. Come on, let’s carry on.” Mrs Dalby tugged at Cleo’s sleeve.

“Okay, but can you light a match at least? I really can’t see where I’m going.”

“There aren’t many left. In the rush to get here I didn’t pack everything.”

“Some holiday this is.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Cleo brushed her curly brown hair behind her ears and sighed. “It’s not really a proper holiday ‘cause you were already here as a specialist advisor on that American dig thing.”

“You mean the unearthing of King Senebkay in the ancient city of Abydos.  True, technically I am working, but we are, you know, spending time together.”

“Like a proper family.”

“Yes, except…”

“Dad’s not here.”

“No, he isn’t.” There was a wobble in Mrs Dalby’s voice and Cleo quickly changed the subject.

“Good job Curator Blench gave you that tip off about this pyramid. Now we can finish the job you and Dad started.”

There was a long pause.

“Right then, shall we carry on?”

“’Suppose so. Mum, this is our first expedition together.”

“Yes, it is. Are you okay with that?”

“Yeah, I think it’s awesome.”

“Good. Anyway, we should save the candles since we don’t have many. We’re going to need all the light we can when we find the hidden chamber. So, for now, you’ll just have to put your hands out and feel your way like me.”

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You can lean more about my work here: www.oddlybooks.com

Thanks for reading.

Light and writing – part one – Inspiration

Let there be light. Why? Because without it nearly all life on this planet would cease to exist. It heats, illuminates, nourishes and gives life. It also inspires works of art. As a writer, I can use light in many forms, natural, supernatural and artificial to enhance my narrative. As a photographer, well, I wouldn’t be able to take photographs without it.

In this series about light, I will be dealing with the many forms it takes. From the glowing backsides of fireflies to the many ways human beings have found to illuminate the darkness.

Nature is amazing. We humans are, for the most part, in awe of it and have been ever since we crawled out of the primal ooze. Nothing stirs the soul quite so much as a beautiful sunset, a sunrise, a mass of twinkling stars, or the constant glow of the moon.

purple sunsetThe sun gives us light and warmth, stars make us wonder about far off worlds, the moon illuminates our darkness with its wide-eyed face looking down on us like a distant mother watching her children. No wonder creative minds have used light as inspiration.

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Many writers have used light to express happiness, love, hope, expectation and joy. Just listen to some songs, the word ‘light’ comes up quite often. ‘Light my fire‘ The Doors. ‘You lIght up My Life’ Debbie Boone. ‘Ray of Light’ Madonna. ‘Shadows and Light‘ Joni Mitchel, to name but a few. The same is true of literature: ‘Northern Lights‘ PhillipPullman. ‘The Light that Failed’ Rudjard Kipling. ‘Where the Light Last and other stories‘ Agatha Christie.

In my short story Glimmer, the protagonist, a young man resisting the drugs he is given to keep him ‘sane’, retreats into his own world and listens  for the voices that come from the stars.

The world will not end because I close my eyes. The sun will still shine, so too the stars. Yet the darkness behind my drooped lids tells me otherwise. I see a macrocosm made up of swirling silhouettes and geometric shapes that aren’t strange to me at all. This is where I live now, in x-ray blackness. There is peace in this non-colour.”

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https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

Watch out for Part two in the series: Religion and Light.

For more information about my work please visit my website: 

www.oddlybooks

Biting the Bullet – Box Set Release

I decided, after much deliberation, to make my Sci-fi/dystopian series, The Song of Forgetfulness, into a box set. Some authors say not to do this unless you have more books going out in the series. Well, I do, I have. Some authors say that it is a great idea as readers love box sets, especially if they work out cheaper than buying all the books individually.

But when to release?

I am not great at marketing and never know when it is the best time to publish a book. I experimented with the box set and just published it one one site with minimum advertising. Sold four copies over a six-day period to limited territories, so I was pleased.

Now I intend to release the box set on the mighty Amazon!!!

Watch this space for the date as it will be on offer for a few days at a drastically reduced price.

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In the mean time, here are the first paragraphs from each of the books:

Whisper Gatherers

Chapter One Too High

Sweat trickled down my armpits and back as I shinnied upwards. The climb was harder than it looked. I stopped midway and clung onto the thick twine for a much needed breather. The air hovered still for a sec and in that quiet I swear I heard an owlet hoot. Or maybe it was the ghosties of our lost ones wipple-warbling through the dirt-free walkways of Cityplace. Nah, what rot. Anyhoo, best not pause my ascent to ponder such a notion. It was nearly dusk-to-dawn time and my outsideness was in jeopardy.

Echoes from the Lost Ones

Chapter One Kyboshed In The Underbrush

Something tiptoed down my back. I clenched my teeth so as not to screech “Yak” and continued to crawl. My hands touched squish and prickle, bugs swarmed around my fingers and neck. Huffin’ hell and back, I was being chomped by all things natural and I wasn’t even a gnat’s breath away from the perimeter fence. I knew nowt about the Wilderness, except it was full to brimming with beasties that craved my flesh.

A Silence Heard

Chapter One Towards The Place Of Danger

There are some that believe in telempathy. I did not, until now. Hearing my bro-bro’s panic-filled voice deep within my noggin, gave me more than pause for thought. Did he call to me? Or was it just a phantom of my guilt, haunting my lack of resolve to go to him. Like that ancient-ancient pretend male, Aamlet, who said he would revenge the death of his father, but did nowt but whine and think himself into a stupor.

 

To see all of my books on Amazon please go to this link

https://www.amazon.com/Nicola-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S

Writers of SciFi Interview with Author Bonnie Milani

Hello everyone. I thought I would share this author interview with a fellow Sci-fi writer Bonnie Milani. 

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This Writers of SciFi Interview is with Author Bonnie Milani. Follow her at:

 Amazon Central , Twitter,  Facebook or Website.

Email address:

bonnie.milani@yahoo.com

Question 1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a Sci-Fi writer?

About the time I figured out how to put words together.

Question 2) What authors and books inspire your writing?

Wow, that’s a tough one. Dickens (baaaaadddd style to copy but addictive reading), Austen, the Bronte sisters, up through Heinlein, Asimov, Pohl, Anderson, Norton, and the writer who quite literally got me to actually start writing Sci-Fi, C.J. Cherryh.

Question 3) Are you an extrovert or introvert? How well do you like book signings and other interaction with readers?

Total extrovert. LOVE meet’n greets! LOVE signings – it’s just that I’m here in LaLa land, so there’re neither many bookstores left nor people willing to show up for a signing unless that person’s a ‘face’.

Question 4) What is unique about writing in your genre?

Sci-Fi, to me, is a technological society’s answer to the ancient world’s mythology. We can’t believe in anthropomorphic gods anymore; even accepting miracles is a challenge these days. Yet to be human is to need to let your imagination roam, to create, to explore. Sci-Fi is the one medium that lets us do so by exploring the possibilities in the tech we’re beginning to create.

Question 5) Have you ever created a character with an actor or a person you know in mind?

Only before I actually started working with the Industry.

Question 6) What inspires you to write?

Life. News magazines. History. Politics. Religion. Crazy relatives…

Question 7) Are you Self-, Indie-, or Traditionally published? Why?

Both traditionally (small press) & indie. I’m glad I went small press to start; my publisher was able to get my debut Sci-Fi novel, ‘Home World’ onto the shelves at Barnes & Noble, as well as into Canada’s Indigo chain. I wouldn’t change the experience for anything. But working Indie requires me to learn to understand the business side of publishing, and I think that’s a necessary piece of knowledge for all writers. Besides, I LIKE working on cover art!

Question 8) Do all authors have to be grammar perfectionists; or do you use a Copy Editor?

With a Master’s in Communication from Stanford, I don’t typically find grammar to be my greatest challenge in writing. There’s such a wealth of alternatives…

Question 9) “Writing is a get-rich-quick scheme.” And, “All writers are independently wealthy.” How true?

Hah! To quote Stan Lee: “’nuff said!”

Question 10) Plotter or Pantser (free flowing)? Do you write from an outline, or just start writing and go with the flow?

I tried just going with the flow when I first started writing waaaaayyyyy back in the day. Never got a story finished that way; always landed myself in a corner with no place for the plot to go. It was terribly difficult to teach myself to outline, but I’ve found the discipline of making myself work out the whole story to be invaluable. Even if the final product winds up bearing no resemblance to the outline at all!

Question 11) What is the secret to becoming a best-selling author?

You tell me we’ll both know. In truth, I believe it’s a combination of producing professional caliber work with a systematic, consistent dedication to market identification and outreach.

Question 12) Do you write book reviews? How important are reviews for your work?

Definitely! I generally won’t review a book I couldn’t finish, but I believe reviews are essential to indie authors’ success. Me, I am ALWAYS hungry for more reviews! Not that I’d stoop to hinting or anything…

Question 13) Do you have a favorite book or series you have written? Which one?

Each story I write is my favorite until the next one comes along. But I have to admit to a special fondness for ‘Liquid Gambit’. It’s the Casablanca tie-in, y’know?

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Question 14) What are you working on next?

I’m trying to clear my decks to dive back into ‘Home World’ and get the series going. I have a generation of stories in my head for that universe!

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Happy New Year – Author Spotlight

I know I’m a little late to wish everyone a Happy New Year, but I broke my wrist Christmas night and have to type using my left hand.

Anyway, stitches are healing and I can now move my fingers, so I would like to start 2018 blog posts highlighting a talented author by the name of Y. Correa.

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Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Y.-Correa/e/B00B32WXFE/

Y. Correa is a literary seductress, luring one in with her talent of Romancing the Words, keeping one hypnotized with dynamic characters, and stimulating one with engaging narrative voices, strong plots, and epic conflicts. Her writes are as complex and as distinct as her person; a delightful combination of eclectic and antiquated. Therefore, the mere mention of fitting into one set genre is laughable. The multi-genre decadence is where she showcases her magnificence.

Y. Correa’s works include:

Solo Works such as
Historical Fiction “MarcoAntonio & Amaryllis”

Sci-Fi Mashup “Earth 8-8-2: The Genesis Project” and “Earth 8-8-2: Genesis’ Rebellion”

Sci-Fi Fiction series “A.L.O.M Episode 1” and “A.L.O.M Episode 2”

Paranormal Romantic Drama “Lilith’s Dominion”

“Ryan” a short story

“Loving … them!” a short story

“The G. Particle” a short story

“Camielle’s Lights” a short story
Anthology Contributions such as
“Alma’s Unsung Angel” featured in “Concordant Vibrancy: Unity

“A Puerto Rican Christmas in New York” featured in “Holiday Keepsakes”

“The Steam of Opposites” featured in “Crackles of the Heart: Divergent Ink Book 1”

“Genomegenics” featured in “Concordant Vibrancy: Vitality”

“Twin Planets” featured in “Concordant Vibrancy: Lustrate”

Would you like to enter into Y. Correa’s dimensions of literary seduction? Then simply connect with her on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ycorreaauthor

 Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AuthorYCorrea

or Twitter @YCorreaFB.

Short Story Anthology Launch

Here is a blog post about short story writer Paul Toolan. I was drawn to his anthology because of the subject matter, ageing and dementia. We all grow old and with it subjected to illnesses and lapses in memory. Paul uses these themes to conjure up twelve tales to tackle this often sensitive subject.

Please read on and learn some great insight into how the author gets his inspiration.

The characters in this collection are looking back into the half-shaded landscapes of memory. (5)

‘Where do your stories come from?’

 If only I received royalties every time a reader asks me this!

Here, there and everywhere is the true but unhelpful answer. In ‘A View from Memory Hill’, there’s a story called Old Man, Young Pub that was triggered by seeing…an old man in a young pub!

I was at the Brighton Festival [Brighton, England – I used to live there] with old friends/fellow retirees. We dropped in to a wonderful, low-ceilinged pub called The Basketmakers, whose decor has barely been touched since it opened. I remember thinking we were the oldest people there, among many young and lively folk, some dressed in the trendiest fashion, some so far ahead they were next year.

It was a hot day, but as I looked around I spotted an old gentleman in a tweed jacket and tie, standing at the bar, quietly sipping his pint. All around him, bright young things were loud and full of energy. They squatted on bar stools, but no-one offered a seat to the old guy, and his legs could have used one. I wondered about his silent thoughts.

His anonymity, mine too, amongst this colourful crowd threw up a name: Smith. With the conscious germ of a story now in my head, I called him Frank Smith in hope he would eventually be frank enough to tell some sort of tale. I never spoke to this old man, but later when I sat at my keyboard, I spoke to Frank Smith, or he to me. I really don’t know which came first.

What I had was a character and a setting. No plot, no events, no history. Yet. But Frank Smith travelled with me, later in the Arts Festival, to a shabby-chic little theatre where, on hard seats, we watched a trio of skilled actors on a bare, dark stage. Magically, they brought to life some of Damon Runyan’s New York Prohibition stories.

Shortly after, inside that inexplicable swirl called a writer’s head, two separate experiences merged. Frank Smith went to his local pub; and he went to see a play. To keep the story structure tight, I made the theatre a blacked-out room at his pub, and had him go out of sheer boredom. Frank would have liked the Damon Runyan stories, but there’s insufficient conflict in what characters enjoy. I needed to change the play, to find one that Frank Smith liked less, that triggered something of his history, his demons or regrets.

On my bookshelves I have ‘Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works’. I browsed through it. ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ seemed ideal. It featured an old man’s memories, recalled with the aid of an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Krapp is a drinker too, which resonated with Frank. While flicking through, I revisited ‘Rockaby’, a short Beckett play featuring an old woman in a rocking chair, remembering her past. Within moments, Frank Smith had a wife.

A day or two later, I named her Lucy. Then killed her off. The story would have become a novel if I hadn’t, and I wanted to balance Frank’s ageing memories – of Lucy and others – with voices of youth. So along came the young woman who ushers the audience to their seats in ‘the long thin dark theatre’ where Krapp’s Last Tape is performed. Her surprise that Frank turned up at all, among so many young people, releases the demons that rumbled as Frank watched the play. Short stories need a moment of realisation or change, and the clash between her enthusiasm for the play’s use of the past and Frank’s disturbed memories provided this.

‘We’ve all been something,’ was all he managed to say. ‘Known someone.’

The story might have ended there, but because the theme of age and youth was well-established I felt more could be done. I went back to the keyboard and jiggled the plot, making Frank inadvertently upset the ‘woman in black’, so her young hopes and dreams could quietly confront his regrets.

“In the half-dark, she looked squarely at him, black T-shirt and jeans appraising jacket and tie. A slight twitch flickered her lips. He thought there might be tears.

‘We all have dreams,’ she said, in the quietest voice he’d ever heard. ‘I’d rather dream than drift, any day.’ She pressed her lips together to control the twitch, but it continued. ‘What’s wrong with having dreams?’ she asked.”

This exchange then allowed a more positive development in Frank, making for a more satisfying conclusion [in my view, anyway, but I’d love to hear yours too].

So, a chance observation in a pub, a visit to a play, a book on a shelf, some musings and experiments at the keyboard – and before too long there’s a character’s voice, a felt situation, and a set of realisations. If it was as easy as I’ve made it sound…

I drop in to a pub maybe once week. I’m wondering if I should go more often. Pubs are full of people, and where there are people, there are stories.

a view from memory hill

You can find A View from the Memory Hill here:  smarturl.it/avwm

 

Paul Toolan