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.
This 5 part limited Netflix documentary explores how a secretive Christian cult is set upon a world of Christian leaders. The members court politicians, bring them in, and they act as missionaries to other countries, where it’s quite clear that Jesus–and Christian beliefs–are all that matter. ‘Dictator with appalling human rights records? Hey, that’s ok, we both love Jesus, right? Let’s be friends’. Meanwhile someone I know mentions they voted Brexit and I want to cut them out of my life… A Christian world enmeshed in politics and the ruling class frighten me. We might think something like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ won’t happen, well, it could–maybe not as extreme–but social freedoms could so easily be dialled back with an increase in the religious right, appealing to the populist fears and prejudices. It showed the Romanian referendum on changing their marriage definition from spouses to being between a man and a woman, and the Family not promoting it but commending the government for promoting family values. As if gays are the world’s problem. It doesn’t feel so far fetched to think that here in the UK that same sex marriage could be rolled back, and suddenly my relationship won’t have the acceptance and protections of other committed relationships. Especially when parties like UKIP have their surges in popularity with their views on same-sex marriage, and our current prime minister is also quoted with his own questionable opinions.
After 10 months of a mix of no interest, false hope and disappointment we’ve finally got a buyer for our flat, and the end of selling is in sight. Our anxious cat, Dean, who hid from every viewer can finally go back to regular anxiety levels. Same for me too, I guess. It happened about a month after we’d found somewhere we liked, so the timing was good. It’s a bittersweet move, as I really like our flat and love the area, but we want different things from our home now and we’d need to take on more mortgage to stay in our current area in a different property, which I really don’t want to do. So, off we have to go. It’s a really nice house though, old but all done up as new, so hopefully it’ll be low maintenance. We’ll just need to make sure we come back to this area to enjoy all the food and the surroundings. It will hit my finances a little, so the writing budget will be zero for a while, which stalls my big motivational push of my self-publishing. Thankfully actual writing is free so I can keep plugging away until I have a self-publishing budget.
Game of Thrones
Just wow. I’m loving this series. I’ll admit I’m not loving how short it is in episodes, but it makes up for it in episode length and pace, and the action and imagery has been epic. I was surprised that the Battle for Winterfell ended the White Walker story so soon, but with so much to tie up I guess it had to end around that time to pick up the pieces and decide the world. There seems to be a lot of criticism, for the way the White Walkers were ended, sidelining Jon as the hero; and for Daenerys going full on mad Queen; and Jamie and Cersei’s end.
February was a good month for writing. I managed to reach the end of part 1–a third of the way through–my latest project. At 40 pages, “The Darkwood Mysteries (17): The Slaves of the Underworld”, is shaping up nicely as a novella, perhaps even a novel length by the time I have completed parts 2 and 3. My plan, which I talked about in my last post, has held up. Chapters are pretty short, which is what I wanted, and the story I have had in my head for a few years now is getting onto the page without too much effort. I’ve managed to get a few full days of writing in, starting at about 6:30 or 7 am and then working through until 5 or 6 pm (with lunch and plenty of tea in between of course!). This was always how I used to write, and I’m glad to be getting back into the swing of it. It feels much more satisfying than a morning or afternoon, and an hour or so in an evening here and there a couple of times a week.
I’m going to share chapter two with you now. And disclaimer time again–I don’t consider I have a first draft until I have finished the whole story, as I often revisit sections and chapters as I am writing to make tweaks or changes, or move things around, so these shares are very much the rough that comes from the writing desk before they’ve been studied and edited. Please forgive typos and any wonky writing that comes through. After the ‘hook’ of finding Jack Hobbs committing himself to the workhouse, chapter two reveals why he is in this situation, and sets up the inciting incident–entering the workhouse–which will propel the story forward, with Hobbs in a very different place to the usual Darkwood Mystery.
Jack Hobbs may be in service at Darkwood’s side, but he is her most trusted confidant, ally and companion. It is a position earned through his unwavering loyalty when faced with the shadowy, frightening and dangerous otherworld Darkwood skirts in her determined pursuit of justice and truth. Short, and slight, what he lacks in physicality he makes up for with scrappiness and a well swung cosh, and his extensive knowledge of London’s warren of lanes and alleys and their seamy life. Yet it is his openness, his acceptance of what others might dismiss or reject in Darkwood’s strange encounters, the way he speaks his mind, and his mischievous humour which Darkwood values the most in his company. These things prevent Hobbs from ever being ‘just’ a servant and maintains him always as a cherished companion.
Emily Darkwood is the embodiment of an age where the new world questions the old, and which idealises new philosophies, philanthropy and self-determination. Yet she is conscious of only being able to do so from the luxury of her privileged position in society—and also the caveats and limitations the same society places upon her. With strong aspirations and a fierce defence of equality and justice, she is often at odds with the circles she moves within. Her warm personality and wit softens most, and her bullishness and startlingly quick intellect bewilders the rest, but she can be troubled by the knowledge that her character and the way she determines to live her life can make her an outsider, and could well be a barrier to her personal happiness. It is in those times she is emboldened by the memory of parents.