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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Crime and Punishment for Beginners - D.B. TAIT

This time last weekend I was enjoying the company of 400 of my closest friends (and I do mean that literally) at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference. Among them was today's guest D.B. Tait. 

In another life Tait is probably better known as erotic romance writer, Keziah HIll, but, like me, she is turning to a life of crime or at least, romantic suspense! Born and bred in Sydney Australia, DB Tait is a life long lover of books in all forms but crime fiction in particular. She worked for many years in the criminal justice system before deciding a tree change was need, so decamped to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Now she writes and works part time in the community sector. Her first full length novel, Cold Deception, was published by Momentum, the digital first line of Pan Macmillan in March 2015. Her next novel Desperate Deception will be published in October 2015. 

With her background in the criminal justice system, she is ideally placed to write crime fiction. Can't wait to read this one!

Crime and Punishment for Beginners

When writing a contemporary romantic suspense novel, world building is as important as it is for historical novels or science fiction. My second full length novel to be released in October 2015, Desperate Deception, is set in the Blue Mountains where I live and deals with themes relating to imprisonment and crime.

I worked for quite a number of years in the New South Wales prison system so I thought in writing this book, and the previous book in the series, Cold Deception, that I had already in my mind what I needed to bring the stories to life. I would just need to ransack my memories.

But memory is faulty. Parole details, sentencing details, what someone who has been arrested and denied bail might experience in the van on the way to jail, were all aspects of my story I had to re-remember and fact check. I’m lucky that I have contacts in the prison system still (no, not that kind of contact!) so some things were easier than others to get right.

I also have a couple of handy criminal lawyer friends who can ensure the legal details are correct.

But I needed to get the feel of a criminal court trial. I’m not sure if this falls into the category of a Fun Friday Fact, (since it’s a bit depressing) but an online resource that is useful for getting the flavour of a criminal court in NSW and how a Judge summarises a whole criminal case at the point of sentencing, is the Case Law site (previously Lawlink) Here you can find Judges’ sentencing comments on a range of legal matters. These sentencing comments are often bleak and terrifying in their ordinariness - dry accounts of often awful and pathetic crimes.

They are a gold mine for a crime writer, fascinating in their detail of both the law and the circumstances of the crime. But has I read them, I feel like a voyeur into the lives, not only of the perpetrators, but of the destroyed victims, both living and dead. Some Judges, amid the dry discourse of case law, express poignant sympathy and regret for those left living, providing a glimpse of humanity in what is frequently a monolithic and cruel legal system.

These small shards of light in sentencing comments are the moments when my crime writer mind expands with possibilities for stories. I wonder about the victims, the perpetrators and what happened that brought them so disastrously together. What was going on in their minds and in the minds of those tasked with bringing the perpetrators to justice? Showing that, bring it to life, is the essence of a good crime story.

Secrets, lies, deception. That’s what it takes to stay alive.

At 20, Julia Taylor went to prison for murdering a man who deserved it. Ten years later, she’s ready to put the past behind her and get on with her life. But someone won’t let her. Someone will do anything to drive Julia away, including murder.

As the body count rises, Julia is forced to accept the help of Dylan Andrews, a cop with dark secrets of his own. Unfortunately help has a cost. Dylan is digging into Julia’s past, uncovering secrets she is desperate to keep.

Julia must keep Dylan at a distance, or else risk her own safety, and the safety of everyone she loves …

Read an Excerpt from Cold Deception
Dylan Andrews led the struggling woman away from the Council building, across the square and to the wisteria covered picnic area. Grey and bare, the twisting vine hung down in a dense veil, providing minimal cover from prying eyes. Luckily few people were around on this freezing morning.
“What’re you doing? Let me go!”
Through her struggles Dylan could see she was still gasping for breath and shaking. The dark circles under her eyes stood out in stark relief against the complete whiteness of her skin.
“Sit down,” he ordered. “You’re having a panic attack. Just sit there and breathe.”
She collapsed on a bench and leaned against the stone picnic table.
“I’ll be alright in a minute,” she said in a small voice.
He stared down at her, irritated with himself and his reaction to her. Everything he knew about Julia Taylor indicated she wasn’t the run of the mill ex-crim, yet his hackles rose when he was around her. He knew he wouldn’t have to keep an eye on her like most crims first out of jail. She wasn’t a user and murderers had a low recidivism rate. Many people thought her crime was justified and there was certainly no doubt the pedophile priest was no loss to the world.
That was the problem. She didn’t have the right to make that decision. No one did except a court of law. Sure, she’d been young and foolish, but he’d seen first hand what out of control vigilantism did. Some nights the vision of Dale Rowe’s dismembered limbs still visited him ….
Her breathing returned to normal and some colour appeared in her face. No doubt about it, the Taylor women were stunners. Blossom was a carbon copy of her mother, but the woman in front of him was equally compelling. Instead of dark and petite like the other women in her family, Julia was taller with round curves, pale skin and chocolate-honeycomb hair. She pulled off her woollen beanie and strands of gold flashed in the filtered winter sun. Looking into her eyes he could get lost in all that riot of colour. What were they? Green, hazel, brown? Large eyes filled with pain and something else. Something he didn’t want to think too much about.
Yearning. That’s what it was.
Not surprising, he supposed. You don’t spend ten years in jail without yearning for freedom. But wanting was a double edged sword, as he knew only too well. What you wanted wasn’t always good for you.
He sat in on the bench opposite her, aware his size intimidated her. That was okay in some situations but not in the midst of a panic attack. He watched her scrub her hands over her face and push back her mane of hair. Pulling her scarf free from around her neck she took in a deep breath and let it out.
The skin of her neck was creamy and pale. He couldn’t help following that track of smoothness down toward her buttoned shirt. It was a little too tight and the first button pulled, stretching to open.
He gave himself a good mental slap. Of all the women in the world to lust after, this was not the one. Apart from the fact she was just out of jail; was suffering from a bad transition to the real world and he might have to arrest her sister at some stage, there was something about her he knew was dangerous. Not dangerous for others, just for him. Under that tough persona he could see she was too vulnerable, too lost.
“Do you want me to get you some water?” he said.
She shook her head.
“How often does it happen?”
She finally met his eyes and he saw wariness had replaced yearning. Good. She needed to be on guard.
“Just when I come across a crowd of people in an enclosed space. I thought I was over it. I guess I’m not.”
“You had one yesterday when I bought Blossom home. There wasn’t a crowd there.”
Hard bitterness leached into her eyes.
“I wasn’t expecting to see a cop on my doorstep so soon after getting out. You reminded me of someone.” She wounded the scarf back around her neck and stood up. “Thanks for saving me,” she said with a wry smile. “It’s a first for me.”
“Being saved?”
“Being saved by a cop.” She crammed her beanie back on her head as the wind pricked up. “I’m okay now. Time for another go. This time I’m prepared.” She turned toward the Council Chambers.
When she was half way across the square he called after her.
“Who do I remind you of?”
She stopped and turned back toward him.
“The cop who punched me in the gut then pushed me into a filthy police cell the night I was arrested. He didn’t rape me. He’d done that already to the woman in the cell next to me. I was lucky, wasn’t I?” She shrugged. “He went on to big and better things, though. Quite a business man in more ways than one.”
She lifted her hand and saluted him then went on her way. A chill, colder than the icy wind, settled into his bones as he watched her go.

Links to your favourite digital bookshop where you can buy Cold Deception are here
You can also pre order Desperate Deception here

Find her on  her website