6 years!

Yesterday evening was very special to me, not just because of the fabulous ball I went to with my friends and boyfriend, but because last night (23rd March 2014) marks 6 years exactly since I started writing seriously. 6 years – you could say – since novel-writing took over my life. And looking back, I’m very glad it did!

I remember the event with alarming clarity. It was the day after our house-warming party, and we’d just finished a supper of leftover canapés. While my parents watched some film that I seem to recall involved aeroplanes, I went upstairs to the family computer and opened a Word document that I still have in some form today.

At the time, I’d been having some ‘trouble’, shall we call it, at school. For a few days, I’d been turning real people into exaggerated characters in my head, changing names and looks and sometimes whole personalities to create a dramatic, witty, wonderful version of my dull classroom. 

On 23rd March 2008, I sat down and wrote the first four pages of the book. It didn’t have a name or a plot. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. But it was fun, and it was a beautiful release from reality. I remember printing off the pages, shutting down the computer and trotting to the kitchen with them. I sat at the table and I was so proud of what I’d written!

Over half a decade on, that book still isn’t finished and I don’t think it ever will be. It’s changed plot and form so many times I’ve lost count, and more to the point, those ‘school problems’ are distant memories now. Occasionally I flick through the book and I genuinely can’t remember who the characters were meant to be – or if they were based on real people at all!

Now I’ve got about 6 books on the go and most of them are set to be finished. Here’s to the next 6 years of writing!!!

Meet Milly II

“‘Dulford Police Department has been chosen to participate in a trial run of a new justice system. The experimental programme will run in six boroughs of Greater Manchester for a period of at least nine months. The aims of the programme are to: one, cut down on the time taken between arrest and sentencing; two, reduce the length of trials and hearings; three, reduce the costs associated with sentencing criminals; and four, increase the dialogue and relationship between the police force and criminals, to gain respect from the community and remove the idea of police as ‘the enemy’.’ Tough stuff…” Paul sighed.

“What does that last aim mean? I thought the police were meant to be the enemy of the criminals. Surely that’s the whole damn point of us!”

“Not any more, clearly.” Paul continued, “‘In your role of Community Defence Worker’ – that’s you…”

“Flashy!” Milly replied sarcastically.

“‘You will be working on the side of the defence. Your role is to be involved with the defendant and support their appointed lawyers by taking on small parts of the caseload. Community Defence Workers are not expected to take an active role in the court. Instead, your task is to fully explain to the defendant the process before and after both the hearing and the trial, and to talk them through all other processes associated with their arrest and sentencing. A Community Defence Worker’s professional duty to their client will end officially at the point of their sentence beginning.’” Paul lowered the handbook and examined Milly’s facial expression. It looked a lot like his: confused, horrified and wary.

“Sounds like a load of bullshit,” Milly said, “I’m not sure I’m going to get out of this alive. And guess what?”

“What?” said Paul, chuckling to himself.

“My first case is a murder. Talk about throwing me in the deep end!”

Paul gasped. “A murder?! What’s a crime like that doing in the experimental programme, I wonder. Surely they ought to practise on smaller, less serious cases. You know, petty theft and punch-ups in alleyways. That sort of thing. But not murder!”

Milly shrugged. She turned to look towards the office entrance and her heart leapt into her throat “Ooh, watch out,” she gulped, “DJ Angie’s here. Come to check up on me, I should expect.”

Paul swivelled to inspect her. Angela Hillard was without a doubt the most formidable district judge on the circuit. She was strict, cruel and vicious with her punishments. She had been known to make seasoned criminals start sobbing in the docks with just one glare of her cold green eyes.

Although it was usual for a district judge to spend all of their time in the courthouse, presiding over cases and taking long coffee breaks, DJ Angie (as she hated to be called), often got bored dealing with the criminals over the road in the county courtrooms and made a trip over to the police station to converse with the people who had sent the good-for-nothings over to her in the first place. On this occasion, however, she appeared to have something more on her mind than casual conversation and free biscuits. Her close friend Superintendent Harman had let slip that today was Juliet Milligan’s first day in her new role as Community Defence Worker, and Angela was keen to check out the specially crafted punishment.

She couldn’t wait to see what the young policewoman was having to put up with as her penalty for sleeping with her husband whilst Milly herself was a witness in the case Angela was presiding over. The whole business had been rather a nasty affair, in more ways than one. As soon as the sordid truth tumbled out, the judgement Angela had made was overturned. Apparently, the fact that the witness had been involved with the judge’s husband meant that it was far too risky that the defendant’s penalty had reflected Angela’s anger. With the courts and Superintendent Harman on her side, DJ Angela managed to get off scot-free, with just her injured dignity and marriage as a reminder. Milly had not been so lucky. Rather than simply dismiss her, her superiors had seen fit to punish her in their own, creative way… so here she was.

And here DJ Angela was, come to check up on the woman she liked to refer to as ‘floozy little tart’.

“Juliet Milligan!” she said with a self-satisfied flourish as she brushed past the desk.

“Angie…” Milly muttered, lowering her gaze. No one ever called the DJ ‘Angie’ to her face, but then again no one ever called Milly by her full name.

“This is your new space then, eh? It looks… nice,” Angela purred. Justice may have been served, but she was still eager to make life a misery for Milly.

“I won’t be here for long.”

“How good to see you out of uniform! You look just like a little office worker.”

“Your husband preferred me as a nurse!” Milly snapped.

“Whoa!” Paul said, jumping out of his seat and placing himself between the two seething women. “She didn’t mean that!” he said to one of them, “You didn’t mean that,” he told the other.

“Yes I did!” they both replied. Actually, the more they all thought about it, it was a curious thing that Milly had been allowed out of uniform. Usually that was something that went hand-in-hand with moving up the ranks. Clearly the borough had so little faith in their experimental programme that they thought letting the band of Community Defence Workers wear any police force insignia would just increase their disgrace when the whole programme went tits up.

“Look, let’s not let this get out of hand,” reasoned Paul, “Angela, you shouldn’t be here. You don’t work here. I think it’s time for you to finish up your coffee break and go back across the road. Milly, don’t get yourself worked up. You’re in enough trouble as it is.”

“Ah, the voice of reason,” said Angela, “Fair enough. I’ll be off. Enjoy your new job, Juliet. I will be back in to see how you’re getting on.” She grinned then, as if she were really enjoying the performance, and promptly left the office. The people who worked at the desks along the wall could watch her strutting across the street and a few yards down the pavement, back into the courthouse.

Milly took a deep breath and wriggled uncomfortably in her chair. “I’m exhausted already!” she told Paul.

He looked at the large clock on the wall. “Better buck up Mills, your first client is arriving in about half an hour. I wonder who has the unenviable task of going downstairs to fetch him!”

Paul Sanderson was going to regret saying that.