Social Distancing in 'The Deleted'


I started ‘The Deleted’ last summer, put it down for a little while, then finished it in February. I say that straight off the bat, because a couple of people if I wrote it with COVID-19 in mind. Not at all. Hadn’t paid it any attention when I typed THE END, and it had yet to reach the UK at that point. And yet, there are some parallels to social distancing, which wasn’t a phrase I (we) knew at the time, so you won’t find it in there…

The main plot of the novel centres around the internet-based computer game of the title. The premise of the game is that you walk through villages and towns, streets and alleyways, and the whole point is to not touch anyone. To not rub shoulders with a passer by. If you knock them at all they become agitated, and if you touch them too much they delete. To do well in the game you keep your distance. Sounds oddly prophetic now.

I guess when I was looking at a fear to exploit in this book, I was thinking of the idea of personal space. When the characters in the game ‘Delete’ then they come for you in real life and invade your space, and possibly worse. Personal space is a big deal at the minute – all two metres of it – and there are some uncomfortable moments in the book where that is violated. More uncomfortable than intended, I guess, given the current climate. There’s not much scarier than the combination of other people and an invisible threat.

Coronavirus aside, there are other points I’d like to mention about ‘The Deleted’ in a ‘story behind the story’ way. The book is from the perspective of mum-of-two, Laura Chance. The behaviour of her estranged husband, Martin, is one of the things she has to deal with. However, for the first month of this story’s existence, and probably for the first five chapters, the gender roles were the other way around! Martin was going to be the character raising two teens. Laura was going to be the wayward parent with all the problems. Martin was going to find some solace at work with a character called Nel…

So why change it? I think it was because as it went on, Martin was basically a version of me, and I wanted to guard against that. Plus, I’d written a couple of female-led stories in ‘A Very Bad Year’ – MOG in particular – that got me thinking about a mother’s bond with her kids. I opted for the swap, the switcheroo. I probably didn’t do justice to being a mum, in the way I might have been able to from a dad perspective, but I still think the novel is richer for having a female protagonist. I think I made the right call.

Another thing. I mentioned a character called Nel a couple of paragraphs ago. She became Sean in the novel. However, at first it was a switch from Nel to Niall. Sean was called Niall all the way through writing, probably until the last two chapters! Then I remembered that one of my main characters in ‘Corner House’, Coop, had the first name of Niall, and I thought that it needed a change. It was then a big ‘Find and Replace’ job – Sean for Niall! All good in the end!

At the moment I can’t think of any other little insights for ‘The Deleted’, but if I do I’ll post them.

For now, stay safe, and stay out of the way of other people – in real life as well as fictitious and sinister computer games…

‘The Deleted’ – Out Now!

My new novel ‘The Deleted’ is now available on Amazon download. It tells the story of the Chance family and how they get caught up in a sinister computer game that bleeds into real life and won’t let go of them…

Here are some links.



Amazon haven’t quite got their shizz together at the time of writing, and have yet to include the ‘look inside’ feature or the page count. Not sure of an accurate page count after formatting, but I’m confident it’s around the 300+ mark. As for a look inside, here’s the prologue:

LUKE THRELFALL KNEW HE NEEDED TO LEAVE. There was a man outside the pub who was tailing him, had walked all the way from Luke’s house to the main door of the Darby Inn. Now all it took was some punter loitering in the entrance – fumbling over his smokes or propping the door open for a prolonged chat with someone on the street – for him to slip inside.

It. Probably best to think of him as an it.

They were in the alcove at the front of the pub that housed the pool table, and although the windows were frosted in part with the name and crest of the Darby Inn, Luke had seen it shuffle by, it’s fat bald head unmistakeable. Since then he’d not really been engaged in what Dermot and his two mates were doing, but only had eyes for the intermittent swing of the vestibule door by the entrance. He thought of that little entrance nook as being like a time locked chamber; it might get through the front door but then it would be delayed slightly in that cramped space. But not for long.

He had to tell Dermot he was leaving.

He waited for his friend to stand up from his shot. He held the cue like a staff and shook his head. ‘Can’t believe I missed that pot.’

‘Derm – I’ve got to go.’

‘What? We’ve been here for like, an hour.’ His t-shirt tightened across his chest as he turned square on to Luke. He was a head taller than him.

‘It’s just pubs, drinking; you know it’s not my thing.’

‘Yeah, I do know. Ollie’s sat on his own over there having to suffer texts from his girlfriend because you won’t play doubles.’

‘Derm, I don’t even know how to hold the cue properly.’ The vestibule door swung open. Luke fixed on it. He only breathed again when he saw it was a couple of girls. ‘Thanks for the invite, but I’m heading off.’

Dermot moved him away from the edge of the pool table so that Ollie and Matt didn’t overhear. ‘Look, I’m just trying to get you to be more sociable. Uni is over for the year, you’ve got the whole summer ahead of you. I can’t have you staying indoors twenty-four hours a day, playing computer games.’

‘I like computer games.’ It came out more defiantly than he intended.

Dermot raised an eyebrow, stared at him like a gauntlet had been dropped. ‘Alright, Luke the Lord. You’ve done nothing but play on your phone anyway since I picked you up. If you’re going, you’re going. Are you gonna call a cab?’

That would mean waiting. Tempting fate. The vestibule door swung open again. A middle-aged man came through, rubbing his hands. No confused-looking bald guy. Not yet.

‘No, I think I’m going to walk.’ Or run, he thought. Initially it will involve some running.

‘It’s about three miles back to your mum’s. Call a taxi. If it’s because you haven’t got a number-’

The vestibule door swung again, and this time Luke got a glimpse of him – it – now a step up and under the roof of the Darby Inn. It looked at him, eyes alert and anxious, fixed in the expression it had worn ever since Luke had pushed it over.

‘I’m going now. Bye.’ Luke turned and headed for the back door.

‘You haven’t finished your drink!’

Luke glanced back, intending to tell Dermot to finish it for him, but then he saw it had found its way in and was walking towards him, adjacent to the bar. Luke flapped a hand of acknowledgement at his friend and hurried through to the far side of the pub.

There was a slight bottle neck by the toilets, and he had to push past a girl to get through the gathering and out into the open air. All sorts of abuse was hurled at him. He didn’t mind; as long as no one grabbed him and held him up. He trotted through the car park and onto the pavement before turning around.

It was still to fully extricate itself from the building. It needed someone else to push open the back door. Somebody would eventually, but for now it meant Luke had a lead. Only a short one, and he would run part of the way home to extend it, but at least he now felt a little more at ease.

It would give him another entry to add to the forum. His first meaningful one had been yesterday when it had appeared in front of his house. Then when he had pushed it over in his driveway. Now he could build on that and say he’d been part of a pursuit.

Not right now though. First he had to get himself back, safe behind a locked door. He didn’t hang around to see if it made it onto the car park; he’d had enough excitement for one evening.

He turned left, in the direction of home, and started running.

The Wolfpack: intriguing documentary

No, not the pub in Emmerdale; that’s called ‘The Woolpack’. I’m taking about a great documentary from 2015 about a family who live in an apartment block in New York and hardly ever go outside. They’re home-schooled and live their lives vicariously through movies. Controlled by their father, they are completely cut off from the real world…

This might sound a little familiar to my readers. I make no secret of the fact that this intriguing film was part of the inspiration behind ‘Corner House’: a family secluded from the world becoming the subject of a documentary. Thankfully, that’s were the key similarities end, as my tale gets dark.

‘The Wolfpack’ is an engaging film and a tantalising window into how some people chose to raise their children, away from what we might perceive as ‘the norm’, and how that in turn might shape them.

The Angulo brothers turn out to be wonderfully creative – as do the Farley’s in ‘Corner House’ – although their talent is for making home-made versions of the movies they watch and admire, not home-made instruments and cover versions of the songs they enjoy. They are also incredibly empathetic and endearing, and you’ll root for them throughout, hoping they get a slice of that which we think of as ‘a normal life.’

I guess it all depends what normal means. Different strokes for different folks. Either way, if you haven’t seen ‘The Wolfpack’, you must. Essential viewing.

You Have Seven Days…

No, it isn’t ‘The Ring’, although that’s a movie I might re-watch soon, and I have the book kicking around somewhere too. It was pretty decent as I recall.

Seven days until I release my new standalone suspense, horror novel, THE DELETED, about a nasty – and deadly – computer game, and one mother’s mission to keep her family away from it.

Available for ebook download from March 6th. Give it a look!

Free Book Offer

Hi all. I’ve just added an item to the page menu, with a link to a free book, called TIME CAPSULE. I’ve written a little bit about the story on there… basically it’s a ‘should we or shouldn’t we dig up the box?’ type story. The answer is always NO! But of course they do!

Anyway, if that’s all the info you need, then you don’t have to visit the page on the menu – you can just get it here:

Portentous 2: Ghosts

Second book in the Dais family trilogy is now available!

I’ve really enjoyed taking this story further, beyond the ending of book one – Brothers. It’s going to be interesting to see where fate (and the clickety-clack of my keyboard) takes Wexlen and Paxlan Dais through this series! I envisage it being a trilogy, but there are also scope for other Portentous stories that they might play a part in. Who knows?

For now, we’ve got the first two instalments. Here are the Amazon links for the US, but they’re available everywhere.

Portentous 2: Ghosts

Portentous 1: Brothers

Portentous 2: The Name Game

‘Portentous 2: Ghosts’ is OUT NEXT WEEK! for Amazon download.

Now, I would love a couple of Amazon reviews on ‘Portentous 1: Brothers’ to help me promote it!

As a sweetener then, here’s a FUN OFFER! Any reviewer of Book 1 who posts on Amazon before Monday (Feb 10th 2020) can have either their first name or surname as part of a character name in Book 2!

Anyone interested in getting involved?

The series should suit fans of ‘GoT’ and ‘The Dark Tower’…