#guestpost – Jules Hornbook talking about Crocodile Love @JulesHornbrook #extract
I’m delighted to welcome Jules Hornbrook to Short Book and Scribes. He’s the author of a book called Crocodile Love which, if I didn’t have a huge review pile, I would love to read as it sounds fabulous. But I do have a lovely guest post from Jules to share with you today along with a short extract to whet your appetite.
(I keep humming Crocodile Shoes by Jimmy Nail!!)
I have been writing in some form or other for twenty five years. From football and music fanzines in the 1990s, to newspaper columns, sports reports, blogs, magazine features, press releases and content for business websites in recent years. There have been salaried “jobs” running alongside my creative work, but in 2016 I took the plunge and went 100% solo as a writer.
Now, in addition to monthly “content” work, there’s time to indulge in what I have always hoped to do – write stories. Several football and social history projects (all factual in nature) have been completed, and my “debut” novel went live as an eBook in September 2017.
So, what’s Crocodile Love about, why Jamaica and what’s with the crocodile?
The first major hurdle, aside from endless edits, self-doubt and a desire to keep changing and improving passages, was where to pitch the book. Was it a romance, an adventure, a mystery or mildly amusing yarn? Pigeon-holing books has always frustrated me, but you can understand why mainstream publishers stick to guidelines and encourage authors to keep within certain genres. Perhaps I’ll get there one day, but Crocodile Love shamelessly straddles several and refuses to be put in a clearly labelled box.
The back-page blurb, as many describe it, came out as follows:
Marty Harris is a twenty-something dreamer. Flat broke, back at his mother’s house, he is about to get divorced. That’s all self-inflicted, but what really frustrates him is Gerry McKinnon – the elusive father he has never known.
A mysterious silver crocodile skin boot kick-starts his mission to hunt the man down, but Marty is soon distracted. A chance online encounter with a beautiful Jamaican girl called Sunshine leads to romance and Caribbean adventure.
Ditching Manchester for Montego Bay, it’s the perfect chance to enjoy stunning scenery, meet colourful characters and forget his troubles. What could possibly go wrong as he seeks to get his life back on track?
Does that do the trick? Main characters revealed, a little intrigue, the love element and a taste of what’s to come… I still believe this is one of the toughest tasks, especially if you don’t have the luxury of a professional editor/publisher to assist with the final marketing touches.
Like many novels, Crocodile Love is a blend of fiction and real-life experiences rolled into one. Holidays unknowingly became exotic scene locations, characters were crafted from encounters with genuine acquaintances and people who have popped in and out of my life. The obvious question is whether there’s an autobiographical thread running through the plot; well, perhaps there’s a nod here and there to events that have peppered the last decade of my life. However, what evolved over the last few months is a snapshot of several lives to give a more fulsome picture of people searching for something.
Hopefully, the result is an engaging story that grabs the reader, makes you think and puts a smile on faces. Crocodile Love was possible because I have enjoyed a number of lengthy trips to Jamaica with family over the years, and YES I encountered a crocodile or two on the Black River safari. There is an ex-wife, but she’s nothing like the woman who threatens to knock Marty’s plans off course. What you will find is a Jamaican experience witnessed first-hand, the larger-than-life characters who dominate the streets, the dazzling array of delicious cuisine and outrageously beautiful countryside that make the modest island truly unique.
Anyway, the novel opens in Manchester with Marty trying to sort himself out. Originally, the introductory pages began with an amusing scene at the airport when he decides to head out to the Caribbean. That remains largely intact, but several friends who read early drafts wanted more. So I was encouraged to develop Marty’s character further, reveal more of his past and establish what events took him back to his childhood home, and why he was desperate to escape it all again.
Those early chapters ultimately proved very useful. Additional plot lines were added, with my favourite theme – the missing father – built in throughout and something to keep readers thinking until the final pages.
Crocodile Love is, however, about a developing relationship on the wonderful Caribbean island that is Jamaica. The pace quickens when Sunshine and her feisty flatmate join the action, before they and others encounter the first of many twists amid the most vibrant settings and staggeringly backdrops.
As a taster, and to give readers a feel for my writing style, I give you a passage from a chapter entitled Getaway, when suspicious minds, jealousy and drama encourage Marty and Sunshine to head for the hills on her trusty old Moped.
They were soon deep into Cockpit County, slowing to a crawl as Sunshine pointed out places of interest every few seconds, well-known landmarks and people she recognised from previous trips. The road didn’t help matters as the potholes became craters, buffeting them constantly and keeping their speed in check. But Marty was mesmerised, mountains all around them, soaring tree canopies giving blissful moments of shade and quiet. It was like nothing he had ever experienced. It was paradise.
Then, right on cue, as they enjoyed a few minutes out of the sun, the town of Catadupa appeared. Time had forgotten this quaint hideaway. It was worn around the edges, a bygone era when industry and city-bound travellers had kept its streets throbbing and businesses in work. Now it snoozed, largely abandoned but still loved by its dwindling population. The once-thriving railway stop was dormant, part-reclaimed by Mother Nature. It had been left in peace to see out its days.
Rambling vines and invasive shrubs fought for space up and along the walls. Flowers peppered the old tracks and a dignified breadfruit tree wrapped a protective arm around the otherwise neglected station building, shielding some of it from the relentless sun. Faded blue wooden slats, a tin roof and some ornate lettering above the main entrance hinted at a noble history. But scribbled initials, nicknames and random graffiti added by disenchanted local youths and passing tourists confirmed the years of neglect.
Sunshine stopped and parked under the branches of a lime tree. An elderly man raised his hand as if to welcome them to his home town. He was sat on the porch of what looked like a tailor’s shop, now empty, but another reminder of the past. She acknowledged him with a friendly wave and then turned to Marty.
‘Don’t worry, we’re nearly there. I wanted to stop here. My Nana used to come into Catadupa, collect sewing jobs and sell pieces of embroidery. She used his shop. There was a great trade here once, when I was a young girl, and for a few years after the railway line closed. Then it all slowly disappeared, one business at a time, more and more young folk leaving to live and work in Mo Bay or Kingston.’
‘Cool, but don’t worry about me. I could happily stop here and watch the world go by all day. It’s beautiful, a little too hot for me, but a fair trade to get away from Manchester. And if it’s somewhere that brings back good memories for you then that’s good enough for me.’
For fifteen minutes they walked, Marty pushing the bike along, Sunshine’s arm around his waist. They looked every inch the contented couple – carefree, travelling together, maybe on an adventure across the island. They forgot the heat and enjoyed the sights and sounds that still filled Catadupa. It was a town without purpose, largely redundant, and yet everyone they met had a beaming smile and a few kind words for them. Kids played in the streets, men and woman gathered by the central crossroads playing cards and chatting, and one elderly lady offered them lemonade.
‘And that’s it,’ Sunshine said as they passed the last of the humble wooden structures that housed residents on the edge of the town.
‘We’re not stopping here?’ asked Marty, ‘I quite like it.’
‘No, it was a quick tour, part of my past. Now it’s time for the last stretch of our journey… I promise!’
‘You could take me anywhere. I have no idea where we are.’
‘That, McFly, is the idea. Now buckle up…’
They hopped on the bike and took to the crumbling road again, now only room for one vehicle because of the overgrown edges that were rarely maintained. The route was largely tree-lined, or at least shielded by over-sized bushes that threatened to reach out and grab them. But it meant there was shade. There was occasional traffic that jostled for position on the narrow track, and it was easier for them to pull over to let cars and vans whizz past. There was no rush, and most of the other drivers made little effort to slow down or make space for the Moped. So they took it steady. Marty even enjoyed another opportunity to wrap his arms around Sunshine’s waist as they were thrown from side to side. He could have ridden all day.
If you take the plunge and download a copy of Crocodile Love I hope you enjoy it. And please DO post a review on Amazon. Many thanks…
Thank you, Jules, that was a fabulous post. I wish you all the best with Crocodile Love.
Jules is a freelance writer working in Cheshire and Lancashire. Life’s journey saw him embrace the Royal Navy, study marketing at university and travel extensively. He has worked in sales, recruitment, hospitality and the automotive industry. He provides freelance articles to regional newspapers, crafts content for business websites, writes blogs, press releases and newsletters. He finds time for football, music and the great outdoors…