Today I am taking part in the Blog Blitz for No Place Like Home by Rebecca Muddiman. Today she will be sharing with us about her writing process. Bloodhound Books is the publisher.
What would you do if you came home to find someone in your house?
This is the predicament Polly Cooke faces when she returns to her new home.The first weeks in the house had been idyllic, but soon Jacob, a local man, is watching her.
What does he want and why is he so obsessed with Polly?
In a situation where nothing is what it seems, you might end up regretting letting some people in.
The Writing Process:
With my four previous books (and the unpublished books before that), I always planned in advance. I don’t like to plan in too much detail, preferring room to breathe and change things as necessary. But I still like to have some plan. Something to guide me along.
I usually start with the idea, developing it until I know who the characters are and the basic outline of the plot. I like to know the beginning and end and the main points in between. Once I have this, I write each plot point onto a card and spread them across the floor. This helps me see structure, pacing, where there are gaps (how to I get from here to there), and I can adjust things accordingly. When I’m happy, I write a chapter by chapter outline. Some chapters basically get one line – Gardner goes to visit so and so – but others get a bit more detail if I know specific things have to be said or done in that chapter, or maybe I’ve already come up with bits of dialogue.
Either way, once I’m finished I should have a guide for when I sit down every morning. Sometimes I end up going off book and add things I hadn’t planned for, or sometimes realise that something in the outline is actually unnecessary and skip it. I could never be one of those writers who plans every last detail in advance and sticks to it. Things come out while I’m writing that I hadn’t thought of while planning. I see links and opportunities. The characters develop as I write them and that offers new directions to go in, twists I hadn’t seen coming. So I like to have some directions to follow but also the freedom to ignore them if I want to.
So that’s how I usually write. But with No Place Like Home, all that went out the window. I don’t know if it was because I was writing something totally different. I’d spent the last few years working on four novels in a series and wanted to try something new. So I decided I was going to try and write in a new way too.
I had a vague idea for the plot and a main character, but I didn’t really know who this person was or why they were doing what they were doing. I knew how it would begin but not how it would end. I was just going to sit down and write.
So I did.
And I got about ten thousand words before I had a meltdown. The words were coming, but I had no idea where they were going. There were some parts I liked, but not knowing where I was heading was scary. What if I got to the end and it just fizzled out? Or what if it was all just nonsense? What if there was no cohesion whatsoever?
So I stopped. I didn’t write at all for a couple of weeks. I felt paralyzed by it. It was suggested to me that I take a step back and do what I’d normally do and come up with a plan. I’d tried something new and it wasn’t working. People write in different ways and clearly this way wasn’t working for me.
But I’m stubborn. I wanted to see it through. I decided even if it was a mess at the end, at least there’d be something to work with. It’s the same with any first draft. So I went back to it and kept on writing. I’d sit down every day and start, not knowing what I was going to say. And eventually I started to enjoy it. I was surprising myself. Shocking myself sometimes. Some days I’d come away from the desk feeling a bit sick, a bit uncomfortable with what was coming out of my mind. There were things in the first draft which subsequently came out because it was a bit … too far. Other days this feeling pleased me. It felt like the writing was more brutal, but also more honest.
Without giving anything away, I think I was about two thirds of the way through when I realised what would happen in the last few chapters. I knew it was inevitable, I just didn’t know for which characters. But I think I always knew the ending. Maybe not how it would happen, just that it had to somehow. Of that, if nothing else, I was certain.
Would I use the same method again? Maybe. The book I started after No Place Like Home was a historical novel, based on a true story, so had to be planned carefully. But writing without a plan can be the best way to surprise yourself. And if you’re writing a crime novel, surprising yourself is probably the best way to surprise your readers too.
About the Author:
Rebecca Muddiman was born and raised in the North East and worked in the NHS for many years. She has published four crime novels – Stolen, Gone, Tell Me Lies, and Murder in Slow Motion. Stolen won a Northern Writers Award in 2010 and the Northern Crime Competition in 2012. She is also a screenwriter and was selected for the London Screenwriters Festival Talent Campus in 2016.
Most of her spare time is spent re-watching Game of Thrones, trying to learn Danish, and dealing with two unruly dogs. Sometimes all at the same time.
Today I am one of the blog spots on the blog tour for The Abandoned by Sharon Thompson. The publisher is Bloodhound Books. The publication date for The Abandoned was January 25th. I will be sharing an excerpt from the novel.
Peggy Bowden has not had an easy life. As a teenager her mother was committed to an asylum and then a local priest forced her into an abusive marriage. But when her husband dies in an accident Peggy sees an opportunity to start again and trains as a midwife.
In 1950s Dublin it is not easy for a woman to make a living and Peggy sees a chance to start a business and soon a lucrative maternity home is up and running. But when Peggy realizes that the lack of birth control is an issue for women, she uses their plight as a way to make more money. Very soon Peggy is on the wrong side of the law.
What makes a woman decide to walk down a dark path? Can Peggy ever get back on the straight and narrow? Or will she have to pay for her crimes?
Set against the backdrop of Ireland in the 1950’s The Abandoned tells the story of one woman’s fight for survival and her journey into the underbelly of a dangerous criminal world.
I knew the stranger at my door would cry. All that curled blonde hair and her clinging to a navy handbag. I was surprised her type still found me.
‘Peggy?’ she asked.
A gloved hand steadied her on the door frame, and I moved to let her inside. Thanks be to God she didn’t embarrass us both on the doorstep. A busy Dublin street is not the place for a woman to weep and wail about her lot.
‘I was sent by –’
I lifted my hungover hand to stop her. ‘No names. You’re lucky. My medicines room is free at the minute.’
Perfect curls danced under her fancy hat when she nodded. Then, sweet Christ, it started. Like I knew it would. Big tears, plopping down onto those pale cheeks, blue eyes begging me for sympathy. I know I’m hardened to a great deal, but tears are tough to ignore.
‘How far along are you?’
‘This way,’ I said. There was no sound from upstairs. My two girls must have been sleeping rather than humping.
This blonde one had a slim behind with no bulge out in front. A navy skirt snipped in at the waist and a grey jacket that I’d have liked myself over her cream blouse all ironed and silky looking. She knew how to look after herself, and someone had raised the money quick-smart; by the looks of her, she seemed much the age of myself. Hitting thirty, she was, and she should’ve had more sense than to need me.
She watched me intently, despite the tears; my bleached hair not to her standards and me with a tattered apron on to hide my tight knitted jumper and straight skirt.
‘You sure you’re in bother?’ I asked, turning the key and creaking open the door to my medicines room.
That nodding started again and more snivelling. Slim shoulders rising and falling as she trembled to her very knees.
‘Don’t be crying.’ I thought of the money. ‘Please.’ I became as gentle as you like and used the midwife’s face that I’ve practiced over the years.
An odd time, I wonder why and how they have come to this. I know though that most of them are married and visit me more than once. Burdened with too many. Used to spreading their legs and having life or death removed from their groins. But these girls are different. They’re damaged either by themselves or somebody else. I probably hurt them again, but, sure, that’s business. I can’t think of every one of them.
‘It’ll be grand. We’ll sort things. Stop the crying.’
I pointed at the high bed in the middle of the room. Light for my work comes in the tall window, with the flash of an odd pigeon behind the net curtain. It’s not a palace, but it will do for now.
The Angelus rang out, and we blessed ourselves. Looking down, I prayed to Our Lady and St Brigid for blessings and guidance. I’ve given up on forgiveness.
There before me when my eyes opened were expensive navy shoes with elegant straps. They were just the perfect height for dancing.
‘Where did you get them?’
‘Sligo town…’ A handkerchief muffled the name of the shop. But sure, I wasn’t going all the way back to Sligo for a pair of dainty shoes. She’d come as far as myself, but she’d most likely go back.
‘Got money for this?’
The tiny gold clasp clicked open. She took out an envelope that bulged like my eyes. I tried not to snatch it. Country girls always have the right amount. Honest as the day is long. I left the twenty pounds on the dresser, under the mirror out of harm’s way, and pointed again to the bed. The greyish sheet was changed – this morning had left its mark.
The modest way this one removed her skirt and panties made me chuckle. As if I’d never seen my own bits and pieces. Gently, she placed her hat on the chair where I usually plonk my basin. But I said nothing and went about getting my business ready. With my back to her, she sobbed, and I thought of the last time she might have had something inside her.
I never ask questions, but sometimes, they tell me it all, hoping to make it all better. But we all know it’s never that simple.
There was a nice smell from her – calm as lavender, and smooth and fresh like face cream. You could tell the way she looked about the room that she was well raised. She knew her manners. That perfect nose wrinkled in displeasure but not disgust.
Her slim hands still trembled as I told her to come to edge of the bed. I lifted her knees and encouraged them to flop out to the sides. My syringe was full of the concoction that would either solve her ills or make them worse. Who knew?
Sometimes, it takes no time at all to prod the wire and the rubber tubing in. Many don’t say a word or bless themselves and pray throughout. Others cry. Mostly, I don’t notice anymore. But with this pretty, young one, something didn’t feel right. She barely spoke. Even the rich one’s ramble, making excuses for their decision. This one seemed sure in her quest. Her eyes held tears, but as she curled her fingers into a fist, I felt no remorse off her, and it dawned on me she needed this badly. Pity flooded me, and there’s nothing I hate more than pity. I felt it wouldn’t be the last I’d see of her, and this worried me. Something deep in my gut told me she was a bad omen.
‘I’ll have to get myself some shoes like those,’ I said.
She sniffed and murmured her agreement.
‘Do you dance?’
‘I love the dances in the Gresham. Haven’t gone much since…I came here.’
‘I don’t feel like dancing,’
Her blonde curls splayed on the pillow, and she faced right towards the window. ‘I hate everything these days.’ She shuddered either with fear or cold.
‘Those shoes, now, sure you couldn’t hate them?’
She didn’t answer me. I did what I could for her. It all went grand until she was readying herself to leave. I couldn’t help staring and saw no ring on her finger.
Suddenly, she touched my arm. She came closer and said, ‘Thank you. You saved me. You must save so many.’
Something cracked. All I knew about myself shifted. It was the way she did it. I couldn’t look at her.
‘You go now. Wait for the bleeding and the pains to start. Don’t come back here.’
With a zip and a swoosh, she was dressed. Sheathed in the jacket, she reached for her hat; the loud wobble of the chair breaking the silence when the hat was moved.
I was worried for her more than most. ‘My work is over, but sometimes, women need tablets for infections. You’re a clever girl – you should know if things are right down below.’
Her voice shook as she sat to fidget with buckles. ‘Yes. Thank you.’
I couldn’t wait to get rid of her. A lingering sense of all that I knew shattered before me. She’d shaken me to the core of myself. I trembled and opened the latch on the front door. I couldn’t speak. She got to the footpath and walked away.
Closing the door, I felt like a woman who steals souls for money. I normally don’t think on it much at all. I just know I am a criminal bitch who lives in the gutter.
It was never about saving anyone; I just needed the cash, they needed the service. Now, my heart is split with the torture of them all. All of them who’ve needed me and them in a bad way. Those who I thought nothing of at all. I can’t cast my mind to it. I simply can’t. That bitch made me a saviour and made it all too big a deal.
‘God takes and gives life,’ the priest says.
I was always told it was wrong, but this one muddied my waters, unstilled what has been right for so long.
‘Women always do the best with what they are given,’ Mammy would say.
I did my best, but now, I feel like I’m going fucking mad.
About the Author:
Sharon Thompson lives in Donegal, Ireland. She is a member of Imagine, Write, Inspire. This is a writing group, under the mentorship of HarperCollins author Carmel Harrington. Sharon’s short stories have been published in various literary magazines and websites. #WritersWise is her collaboration with writer, Dr Liam Farrell. This is a trending, fortnightly, promotional tweet-chat with corresponding Facebook page and website. Its mission is to encourage and support writers to reach as wide an audience as possible. Although she mostly writes crime fiction, Sharon does have a fun-side and she writes the quirky Woman’s Words column for the Donegal Woman website.
Today I am one of the stops on the Blog Tour with Bloodhound Books for Red is the Colour by Mark L. Fowler. It was released yesterday, July 25th. Today I am sharing the first chapter with you.
Bullying. Corruption. Murder.
It is the summer of 2002. The corpse of a 15 year old boy, missing for thirty years, is discovered in Stoke-on-Trent. The city is on the cusp of change and Chief Superintendent Berkins wants the case solved quickly.
DCI Jim Tyler has arrived from London under a cloud, moving to Staffordshire to escape his past. He is teamed up with DS Danny Mills to investigate the case, but there is tension between the detectives.
When the dead boy’s sister comes forward, describing a bright, solitary child, she points a finger at the school bullies. Important careers may be at stake.
Then one of the bullies is found brutally murdered.
As Tyler and Mills dig deeper they start to suspect a cover-up. What is the connection between the death of a schoolboy in 1972 and this latest killing?
With the pressure building, and the past catching up with DCI Tyler, will he and DS Mills be able to put aside their differences in order to catch a cold-blooded killer?
Nobody had noticed the bone sticking out of the ground. The yellow diggers remained silent and the workers had left the site for the weekend, absolved of all guilt for what they had done; exposing a thirty-year-old evil to the fading summer light.
Josh Smith was walking his black retriever, Stan, along the canal towpath on a warm Sunday evening in June. With an air of resignation, the boy snapped the clip of the lead onto the dog’s collar, and headed through the gate from the towpath down towards the subway entrance. The weekend was all but over. It was time to go home and get that homework done.
The two friends scurried through the empty subway that ran like a labyrinth beneath the giant roundabout. They emerged at the Wall of Death, the notorious accident black-spot, a monolithic curving structure segregating the main traffic artery from the adjacent foot path. From there they began the short climb up towards the ancient village where they lived.
At the top of the first climb was a plateau, a no-man’s land that the villagers refused to lay claim to; a place of shadow that to outsiders marked the outer limits of the village itself. On the site where the old factory had stood, the process of demolition was almost complete. In a few months’ time a splendid new visitors’ centre would herald another exciting chapter in the regeneration of the city.
That’s what the local politicians were promising, according to Josh Smith’s dad. But for now, the place was one more graveyard housing the spirits of a great industrial past.
The usual shortcut, the un-named track leading from the plateau towards a rough and weary tarmac path known locally as The Stumps, had been temporarily fenced off. Undeterred, Josh and Stan slipped beneath the barricade.
Moving carefully between the giant mounds of freshly dug earth, the two adventurers made good progress, crossing the forbidden site towards The Stumps, where the second barricade had been erected. As they edged around the base of the larger mound, Stan yanked fiercely on the lead, the sudden movement taking Josh by surprise and tearing the lead out of his hand.
The dog was sniffing around the base of the mound, and as Josh got closer he could see that his friend was licking at an object poking out of the excavated earth.
Nothing more than a rotten old stick, thought the boy. But the retriever was pulling on the ‘stick’, tugging at it for all he was worth and issuing a low growl as he did so. Didn’t he realise there was maths and history to be done and parents already checking watches?
Stan seemed determined to have the treat and he was growling now with uncharacteristic menace as he wrestled with the dark thing that the ground refused to yield up.
Josh felt the first sickly tug of panic. They should not be in this place, stranded between the barriers festooned with warning signs proclaiming unspecified danger.
Darkness was closing in around them.
Josh picked up the lead and snatched hard enough to feel the leather cut into his hands. In an urgent, shouted whisper, he urged Stan to, ‘Come on!’
Still the retriever’s fangs clenched tenaciously around the new find, while his master stopped to ease the pressure on his burning fingers.
The earth started moving.
The mysterious object was still clinging to some hidden thing inside the mound, something as yet invisible to the eye. Stan was swinging his head from side to side, determined to prise the find loose. His growl becoming savage.
Josh could see that the thing in the ground was not a stick, rather a bone, blackened no doubt by age and burial. More of the earth was sliding. Josh wanted to cry. At any moment, the hill might collapse and bury the pair of them forever.
Renewing his efforts, he hauled on the lead, his hands ready to burst into flames. But Stan was still not giving up the struggle. More of the bone was emerging, bringing with it whatever was holding it back and keeping it partially submerged beneath the dirt and rubble of a bygone age.
Josh let go of the lead and placed his hands under his armpits, squeezing away at the pain. ‘Stan, damn you,’ he shouted, his eyes stinging with tears.
As more of the bone began to come loose, the boy could see that it was connected to something larger, something hideous. He wanted to look away, but found himself unable to do so. Instead, he stood transfixed, awaiting the extent of the revelation.
The scream was forming in the pit of his stomach. He could feel it rising into his throat with the realisation that Stan was holding triumphantly between his teeth the blackened skeleton of a human arm.
The dog was momentarily frozen by his master’s guttural scream, though he still wouldn’t let go of the arm.
In the awful silence that followed, as the scream died in echoes across the darkening city, Josh Smith watched the lower part of the mound collapse, allowing enough of the skull to break free of the earth to leave him in no doubt that the world was full of dark intentions and evil deeds.
All time went to the moon until sirens and flashing lights filled the summer night, the cavalry arriving on the scene thirty years late.
In fact, as Detective Sergeant Danny Mills was to observe, almost thirty years to the day too late.
About the Author:
Mark L. Fowler is the author of the novels Coffin Maker, The Man Upstairs, Silver, and Red Is The Colour, and more than a hundred short stories. His particular interests are in crime and mystery, psychological thrillers and gothic/horror fiction.
His first published novel, Coffin Maker, is a gothic tale set between our world and the Kingdom of Death. In the Kingdom the Coffin Maker lives a solitary existence, and every coffin he completes signals the end of a life in our world. One day he discovers that he is to be sent two apprentices, amid rumours that the devil is arriving on Earth.
Mark’s second novel, The Man Upstairs, features the hard-boiled detective, Frank Miller, who works the weird streets of Chapeltown. Having discovered that he is in fact the hero of twenty successful mystery novels, authored by The Man Upstairs, Frank has reasons to fear that this latest case might be his last.
In 2016, Silver, a dark and disturbing psychological thriller was published by Bloodhound Books. When a famous romance novelist dies in mysterious circumstances, she leaves behind an unfinished manuscript, Silver. This dark and uncharacteristic work has become the Holy Grail of the publishing world, but the dead writer’s family have their reasons for refusing to allow publication.
Red Is The Colour is Mark’s latest book, a crime mystery featuring two police detectives based in Staffordshire. The case involves the grim discovery of the corpse of a schoolboy who went missing thirty years earlier. Red Is The Colour is the first in a series featuring DCI Tyler and DS Mills, and will be published in July 2017 by Bloodhound Books.
The author contributed a short story, Out of Retirement, to the best-selling crime and horror collection, Dark Minds. Featuring many well known writers, all proceeds from the sales of Dark Minds will go to charity.
A graduate in philosophy from Leicester University, Mark lives in Staffordshire, and is currently writing a follow up to Red Is The Colour. When he isn’t writing he enjoys time with family and friends, watching TV and films, playing guitar/piano and going for long walks.[Top]