One of the joys of writing historical fiction with my Victorian horror and adventure series, ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, is being released from some of the limitations that modern technology can place on crime writing–it’s hard planning crimes when science and DNA can do so much of the detective work! Also, the limitations of modern communication for creating tension is no longer an issue–my characters can’t suddenly pass on information to each other, and can’t call for help so easily. It frees me up from convoluted ways of disconnecting my characters in the increasingly connected world of modern horror fiction.
It can have it’s issues though, one is being mindful of what doesn’t exist yet… And as I have found in my latest project–long distance communication. My story is an origin story of sorts, set in 1851–about 25 years earlier than normal for the series, and sees Darkwood’s parents separated through her father, Edward, being in India steering the family teasing business and her mother, Anne, left to run the Darkwood estates. Communication through letter would take weeks each way, creating a big disconnect between their back and forth–which has been a problem for me as both will experience shared events through Anne coming into possession of the guide stone which is so important to the series.
Thanks to my husband cooking up a super-virus and then giving it me just when I was boasting a year of good health, I haven’t been in the greatest frame of mind for writing this past few weeks. Thankfully that target of 3000 words minimum a week seems pretty easy to achieve within a lazy morning, so despite being ill I managed to hit my weekly targets. ‘The Darkwood Mysteries: The Rise of the Dragon’ has now reached 40,000 words and I’m a little over half way through, so this is already in novella territory.
Making a Villain
I’m enjoying writing the return of my my reocurring villain, the Mandarin–now in his third plot. I’m finding he is a shadowy threat. Being a master of disguise and mesmerism, he is present even if not apparent, as he can be other people or influencing other people from afar. It makes him quite a palpable and formidable threat, but a game player. He’s not one to sweep the board clear, but to play the board to keep himself safe, and his plans moving.
Work in Progress
Currently I’m working on ‘The Darkwood Mysteries: The Rise of the Dragon’, which sees the return of the Mandarin. A child has been abducted, and a Chinese man stands accused, threatening to ignite the London mob. But, as ever, things are not what they seem. The Mandarin has Darkwood and Captain Carstairs playing one game, while he is playing another–he can’t lose…
It’s been a different experience writing this entry into ‘The Darkwood Mystery’ series–Hobbs isn’t present for much of it, so it’s in the third person from all the information given to Hobbs after the fact and wow, I have always written in third person for my contemporary horror novels, but switching back after so long writing this series has been jarring. I would be in the flow, tapping away at the keyboard and then find I’d slipped back into first person… Cue swears.
I have a bit of an issue with the end, which revolves around parliament and Big Ben, as I need some technical information about the Great Clock. So far I’m drawing a blank through the Internet of things, and horologists and parliament aren’t getting back to me. I really don’t want to blag it. If there are any horologists who know about big clock mechanisms and it’s 2019 and I haven’t published yet, then hit me up!
After finishing the first draft of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries: The Rat King’ short, I decided not to start another project in 2018. I have ‘The Darkwood Mysteries: The Book of Lies’ short plotted and ready to go in 2019, so it’s there for me on my next proper writing day. I say ‘proper’ writing, because there was some other writing stuff I needed to do–the ‘not writing writing’. A tax return and rebuilding my homepage.
Thankfully, one ‘bonus’ of not being a successful writer is that as I earned less than a £1000 in the 2017/2018 financial year, under new UK tax laws I found I actually didn’t need to complete a tax return. ‘Yay for being unsucessful!(?)’. That was one less chore with my Xmas break coming up, so that was nice.
The first draft of ‘The Rat King’ is done. It needs some work, and will definitely need a polish, but I’m happy with the result. It has a real ‘X-Files’ monster of the week vibe to me, and writing the next run of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, it was nice to write something where I didn’t have to think too hard on its place in the Darkwood world–which has been an added trial in writing those next tales. The experience of writing this Victorian period story was sharpened by reading the fantastic book ‘Voices from Dickens’ London’ by Michael Paterson. I picked it up from a bargain book shop ages ago, and realised the other day I hadn’t read it. It’s not quite the setting for Darkwood and Hobbs as it’s largely early to mid Victorian, whereas my stories are late Victorian, but it uses writing from the time to paint a picture of Victorian London–and not the sanitised Christmas card Victorian London either, very much a warts and all Victorian London, which I love.
The blurb tease for ‘The Rat King’ is:
“Death by rat? Darkwood suspects foul play in the death of charity members. But can rats really be the cause? And if they are, who, or what, is driving them–and why?“
I have had a pop at doing the cover–and it looks awful, so I’m not sharing that here just yet. It needs work. It actually needs me to be an artist, or to have a budget for paying for a professional cover artist. Neither of those are likely to happen, so I will have to see what I come up with and hope people truly don’t judge a book by its cover.
As for the writing though, if you want a sneak peak of the beginning of the first draft, then read on…
The stand-alone serial nature of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ has given me the platform to get a lot of story ideas to the page, jumping around the Victorian era and the lives of Darkwood and Hobbs. However, as certain events have taken place I have had to put together a time-line to avoid having continuity issues. Deep into writing the second run I have come across another issue which I haven’t had to worry about before–balancing the elements which make up ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’.
The first run was essentially a ‘mystery of the week’ style format, and easily introduced Darkwood’s aunt and uncle, the long-suffering reluctant ally and eventual friend of Darkwood and Hobbs, Inspector Duggan. The series ending with the introduction of the first story arc element in ‘The Conspiracies of Shadow and Fire’, which served as a prequel and continuation of the series, and established the two main players vying for Darkwood’s guide stone–the Shadows and the Hellfire Club, and one of its villainous members, Lord Balmoral.
In my head, Darkwood and Hobbs have more friends and allies, and they need time to appear and become established as reoccurring characters. There are also returning villains, and not to forget the ‘deeper mystery’ of what happened to Darkwood’s parents, and the history of the guide stone. Plus there are certain character and relationship developing events for and between Darkwood and Hobbs. All of these has required some placement or element of story arcs within the stories I have planned. This has also started to dictate the stories I want and need to write.