October saw the release of a collection of all ‘The Darkwood Mysteries‘ currently available. Darkwood and Hobbs, the heroes of these Victorian tales of horror and adventure, can think themselves lucky. They only have to deal with criminals and the supernatural, and they have me to bail them out. I, on the other hand, have to write and then self-publish their exploits. I only have the staff of me to do this. And, as I have recently found… I can be f****** useless. Okay, that’s a little harsh, but within the three days of formatting and uploading this collection to Kindle I nurtured a red, hot, and smothering self-rage at the stupid mistakes I kept making.
Let me start my tale of torment at the very beginning. First, some context. I write. Frustrated with the traditional publishing approach of differing submission requirements and waiting forever to get nowhere, I decided to self-publish. Through a mixture of many people wanting my money to promote my books, and me not being one to shout about my work, they don’t get promoted. I guess I rely on the chance of readers stumbling across me. I’m no self-publishing guru. Of course, I am not actually relying on chance. I am relying on whatever algorithm on Kindle gets you seen. It’s akin to having every book in the whole history of the world in one place, and hoping the senile librarian leads a reader looking for ’50 Shades of Grey’ to the aisle with my book in it. Whilst I’m not on the bestseller list, I’ve enjoyed periods of (very) modest sales. And although they flat lined in the last year, ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, along with ‘Ivory’, have always had the least amount of sales. Bordering on being completely unseen.
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.
This Halloween something wicked this way comes… For the first time, all nine tales which begin The Darkwood Mysteries are collected in one volume.
The Darkwood Mysteries is a series of short-stories and novels which can be enjoyed as individual tales or as part of a deeper mystery.
Emily Darkwood, guided by a mysterious stone, investigates the supernatural and the criminal in the gaslight and shadows of Victorian England. Assisted by her faithful young servant-companion, Jack Hobbs, she risks all in her search for answers to the mystery of the stone and the fates of her parents who left it to her.
Tales 1 – 9 of The Darkwood Mysteries collected in one volume:
The Thief of Faces: Why is Darkwood keeping vigil at her friend’s tomb? Darkwood hunts a serial killer with a gruesome signature execution. What does a murderer want his victims’ faces for?
The Posthumous Child: Darkwood receives messages from the other side whilst a family experiences a ghostly tormentor. What does a spirit child want to be known? What secret haunts the country estate of Cecil House?
The Luminous Marks: Glowing marks are left at the sites of petty thefts. What are they for? Darkwood and Hobbs search out the meaning of the marks in London’s fog shrouded night.
The Wrath of the Dragon: Just who or what is causing terrible fires in the slums of London’s East End? Superstitious fears on the street claim the Chinese are to blame—but could there really be a dragon in London?
The Peacock Cabal: Just what drained a young man of his vitality and left him dead? Men who love men are dying, as something takes advantage of the secrecy surrounding their hidden love. Darkwood’s investigation reveals a conspiracy and a sinister threat…
The Cult of the Scarab: How does a mummified body, missing from the British Museum, connect to Darkwood’s nightmare of beetles in a foreign red land? The answer is found at the end of a trail of bodies…
The Hag on the Heath: Is an acquaintance of Darkwood the victim of supernatural attack? Darkwood, Hobbs, the victim and her gypsy kin—her father and his companions—embark on a hunt for a witch, but all is not as it seems…
The Spindly-Snatcher: Why is a writer burning down bookshops? Darkwood and Hobbs investigate a creeping madness, but in doing so the hunters become the hunted…
The Conspiracies of Shadow & Fire: Conspiracies in the past unfold in the present and pitch Darkwood and Hobbs into a desperate struggle where they are uncertain of who they can trust, and drawn to a confrontation with the ultimate evil…
Available for pre-order on Amazon now.
Darkwood and Hobbs will be returning in a new run of nine stories in 2018. Get ahead now. Don’t be left in the shadows–they aren’t what they appear to be…
I recently finished a first draft of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries (18): The Disaster Man’. In it, Darkwood encounters the Watchers, beings with God-like powers who seek to preserve the ‘natural order’ of the world–as they see it.
As I explained in my last post from behind the writing desk, I found myself with a race who should have an ‘in world’ persistent presence–more than they have and will have–and would have the power to break the world I have created and undo the actual ethos of my series revolving around mysteries investigated and undone by my very mortal characters, Darkwood and Hobbs. I thought I would do a follow-up post on how I got around this. Mild spoilers for the next run of Darkwood ahead…
Back at the laptop writing feels good! Jumping into a work in progress was a helpful way to get a feel for writing again, but it’s also been a testing experience. It’s been over a year since I last worked on ‘The Disaster Man’ for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ and what I want to do with this tale has changed since. It’s actually the second ever Darkwood mystery I wrote after ‘The Thief of Faces’, and was a complete and finished tale. I wrote it as a submission for the Horror Addicts podcast’s anthology book ‘Horrible Disasters’, which was rejected over my other story submission, ‘London Peculiar: The Secret of the Fog’, so it was very short and streamlined. I always felt it to be a little rushed, and having it for myself gives me the luxury of letting the events within it breathe and to expand on the story.
Being a tale about a man cursed with disaster which puts London–his latest destination–at risk, the scale of the danger is pretty epic for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, and deserves to be a longer story than it once was. It also lends itself nicely to being a finale for the next run of stories. I’ve planted some seeds in the next set of tales which will develop the characters of Darkwood and Hobbs and their world. I’m conscious that while I love having a couple of heroes to play with, I want a sense of realism thrown in there too.
Darkwood is clever, and Hobbs both tend to sweep in and solve the mystery and move on, with similar beats throughout–Darkwood is clever and usually one step ahead, Hobbs is loyal and a little submissive, Darkwood studying to be a doctor, having support and backup in her investigations through Scotland Yard, Darkwood is rich and has her station which gives her some sway, always with Darkwood leading and Hobbs following. I didn’t want this series to become predictable and stale, so while the tales will always be about fighting supernatural and criminal evils, and generally being victorious, I really wanted there to be consequences to this life. I introduced an element of that with ‘The Darkwood Mysteries (8): The Spindly-Snatcher’, with some details of the future of Darkwood and Hobbs very much a short cut to that end, but with my new stories I wanted a few tales where they get a wake-up call around what they are doing.