The Serpent and The Peacock – How it all began

I never intended to write a book.

I had tried to write stories previously at a suggestion from my PTSD counsellor who said that I should write a book from the point of view of a female British soldier at war in a country where women are despised and are second class citizens. (I served in the first Gulf War in 1991). I was a Staff Sergeant and therefore a senior rank as a non commissioned officer. My counsellor said “Write about your experiences as a female in the military and a female in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. You’ve left your children behind in order to serve your country, people will love it.”

As it happened, nobody seemed to love it. I wrote a small book and I sent it away to publishers and they told me, with great kindness, but very patronisingly, that I should write more action into it; turn it into a feminine Bravo Two Zero.

Apparently the day to day boring stuff that the support arms of the British Army weren’t exciting enough. They wanted me charging into enemy territory like a one woman ferocious Army, armed to the teeth, fighting off hundreds of Iraqi soldiers intent on capturing me and delivering a fate worse than death, hiding under bushes in the desert from Iraqi troops… maybe even me killing some nasty big enemy soldier with my bare hands.  You know the sort of thing… the things that all men dream they are capable of doing.

“Me strong, me big… me like to smash things…. me smash now?”

Because the trials and tribulations of a woman in the last male bastion of chauvenism obviously weren’t going to cut it, I almost gave up on the writing. I then tried a fantasy story in the children’s genre and it sucked, so I thought that maybe writing wasn’t for me and I stopped doing it.  A few years rolled by and I found myself travelling back from staying with a friend up in Telford in Shropshire for the weekend. As usual, the west side of the country, going north to south was very badly served with trains at that time in the late 1990s.  There was no direct train from Telford to Fleet in Hampshire which is where I live. You had to travel from Telford to Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton to Manchester in order to catch a direct train to Basingstoke and then change for a local train to Fleet. The first two portions of the journey were quite painless, but when I got to Manchester Piccadilly station, I realised that I now faced a four hour wait for the connection to the south.

And even worse… I didn’t have anything to read.

I traipsed along Manchester Piccadilly British Rail station, which is an horrifically designed place, where to get onto any of the platforms you had to go upstairs, stagger along with your suitcase or bag and then stagger downstairs to the relevant platform. If the announcer blared out the information that your train would now go from a different platform you then had to repeat the exercise. It was exhausting and irritating to say the least.

However, I decided that I couldn’t sit on the dreary platform for four hours without reading matter, I dragged myself and my bag up to W H Smith, on the main concourse where I found a book called From the Ashes of Angels by Andrew Collins. It was an academic book based on the myths surrounding the Watchers, or the Fallen Angels.

I spent the time waiting for the train completely buried in the book; it was fascinating and by the time I got home I was all fired up to find out more information. I read articles, more books, mostly academic, and ended up with a brain filled with facts and figures about the Grigori, Watchers, Annunaki, and angels.

So one morning I woke up and thought, what on earth am I supposed to do with all of this knowledge on this subject? I didn’t decide to do a book immediately; it wasn’t one of those “Let’s do the show right here!” moments. It was just a slow realisation that somehow I might be able to weave it all into a book.

My first book, or at least the premise, was born.

I could make the angels who fell from grace survive. They were immortal, if some survived their culling and banded together in order to live on through the millennia, they might be a very different group in modern times; an ancient group of beings calling themselves the Grigori and living alongside humankind.

Yet that wasn’t enough for a story. The whole thing had to have a plot, so why not have a rogue member of the Grigori trying to revive the soul of the leader of their group in ancient times… Semjaza… condemned for his crimes of giving knowledge to mankind to hang upside down in the belt of Orion, one eye open and the other shut, his mouth stitched up so that he couldn’t speak the forbidden secret name of God… a name that when he was living, he gave willingly to his human lover Ishtahar in return for her sexual favours.

I created two human characters, two British police officers who get caught up in the crimes of the rogue Grigori as he tortures and sacrifices young girls, leaving dead bodies littered across England and France in an effort to create the situation where one soul, that of Semjaza, could be exchanged with the pure soul of an innocent by the ancient ritual of Sila Ag Bar (Sumerian for Path of the Soul).  Thus Detective Sergeant Eve Hallam, flawed, damaged and sceptical, and Detective Chief Inspector Roger Hamilton, handsome, perfect life, perfect family and former colleague of Eve wandered into my story, squabbling as they came with the intimacy only old friends can achieve with each other.

The Serpent and the Peacock by Anne Selby was born. Finally published in March 2011, just before I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.

Front cover art

Elisha’s Bones – a Jack Hawthorne novel, by Don Hoesel

I have just spent two days trying to read this book, Elisha’s Bones, by Don Hoesel, which had a promising premise, but I’m halfway through it and all I’ve had so far are his intense feelings about his past, his girlfriend, his dead brother, his getting back with his girlfriend, what restaurant they are going to and what they ate and the feelings between them.

His female character’s name is Esperanza which means hope, blah blah diddy blah (can you see how much the reader would be caring at this point?) and the main character’s name is Jack Hawthorne. A very manly, capable sort of name don’t you think?

You can just tell that these two main characters are rekindling the romance, blah blah blah. Which would be fine if this was a romance, but it isn’t.. it’s actually a suspense, mystery novel involving the bones of the Prophet Elisha which apparently have reviving properties if you’re dead. The main character’s employer, who has the same name as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, needs the bones because and his granddaughter are both dying of cancer, the granddaughter has no name.

However Mr Reese who has paid the main man thousands of his moolah to find these bones begins to flounce as the two main characters get shot up on the road and are then held hostage for money. Mr ‘manly’ Hawthorne and Miss Hope then argue between them about owing people money, a side issue which the reader is supposed to find very amusing, but which is actually irrelevant to the storyline. Mr Hawthorne then calls Mr Reese and asks for the ransom money and Mr Reese says:

“No… because you haven’t found my bones”

… well d’uh.

So Hawthorne then calls Miss Hope’s brother for the money and they are rescued from a fate worse than death and somehow bond with their kidnapper because now he has the money and is all reasonable and ‘hey, here’s a lead for you.’ (Much rolling of the eyes at this point, and I am now half reading the book at the same time as watching an episode of Lewis on ITV3). Please don’t ask me why Miss Hope didn’t call her own brother and ask for money for their ransom, because I actually don’t know. In the book it implies that somehow Hawthorne knows her brother better than she does.

We are three quarters through the book at this stage and Mr Hawthorn has suddenly decided to go it alone… well, perhaps not so alone, Miss Hope is tagging along with him, all flirty one minute and all ‘You left me millions of years ago, I am furious with you’ the next. He feels duty bound to do this because his brother’s death is all wrapped up in the mystery, which apparently we are never going to solve this side of this century.

I would like to tell you the end, I would love to tell you that the bones of the prophet are found and miraculously restore all the sick people to life and as soon as I do I’ll let you know, if you’re all still alive and maybe if I still care.

My hint to the author, the premise was fabulous and the cover art instantly drew me in. I felt cheated once I started to read it, which just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its’ cover or the blurb on the back.

Cover of "Elisha's Bones"

Cover of Elisha’s Bones