Revisiting ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ as a I prepare for a relaunch, I have been considering the balance between historical terms and the comfort of readers. The format for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ is Jack Hobbs as narrator writing in the early 20th century of his adventures as servant-companion to Emily Darkwood in the last quarter of the Victorian era. I had always intended it to read as though it had been written of its time, but mindful that as Darkwood was not a woman of her time in outlook and attitude Hobbs would have been similarly influenced.
To get the historical feel for the world Darkwood and Hobbs are in, I mined old expressions, ways of talking, word structures, and terms of the time. Reading through my old works I have come to decide against this to try an improve the appeal. I have also found myself uncomfortable with my few uses of outdated labels for race, and the editor of a current project highlighted a character’s derogatory reference to race and its associated religion. In light of everything that’s going on in the world at the moment around gender, sex, sexuality and race with the associated prejudice, oppression and discrimination these labels feel even more discomfiting.
After lots of obsessive tweaking, wrestling with my perfectionism, and having to accept the limits of my budget, software and skills, I have finalised the new covers for my four horror novels. After trawling fonts for hours on end I ended up keeping the fonts I started with. But, I managed a kind of glow on the title which I quite like. It does make it look a little blurry looking as a thumbnail, but the white font consistent across all the covers now, should hopefully make the text stand out for each of them. I really like the new cover for ‘The Room’. A bit more engaging than just the picture of a door I had before. I wanted to have several dogs for ‘The Pack’, but also wanted the title in the jaws of a dog, so had to settle on one killer dog to maintain the in-your-face size I wanted for the title. ‘Ivory’ has the same image as before, and I have just redone the cover for ‘Harvest’ with a similar composition. The covers are all live over on Kindle now, and look good as thumbnails, so mission successful in my mind.
My love of classic ‘Doctor Who’–especially the 70s Gothic horror styled stories–were a big influence on my series ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’. I have been reminded of this recently through reading ‘The Doctor Who Handbook’ by David J Howe, Stephen James Walker and Mark Stammers, which delves deep into the background of the production of the classic series of ‘Doctor Who’ with a fascinating amount of detail–collected interviews, production notes and even quotes from memos I’m amazed are still about. Reading all the mixed messages and confusion and opposed departments it’s crazy how the series ever got made. For me, my interest in ‘Doctor Who’ has always been the stories and characters, but also the production and the history around it, and I had always intended to reflect this in ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ by the conceit of rooting it in the real world…
I have revisited seven first drafts of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ for a re-read and edit and having the distance between writing them and reading them has certainly helped spot silly errors and areas for improvement. I also found a whole section of dialogue with no framing text around it… so I have no idea what happened there *sassy double thumbs up*. I have also had some different ideas about one tale to broaden the threat within it, so I will be adding some content to it to up the stakes. I have four more to read through, and then I’ll be having others do a read through, and then I will be paying for an editor.
I shared a sneak peek of the new cover design for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ and I have now revisited it and made some improvements… they are only minor, but made a difference. I have added shadows the Darkwood to better match her with Hobbs, and given her added some definition to make her arm and hand stand out, and added some decoration to her hat. I think I have the cover design I like…
New Look for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’…
Finishing up on the last in my latest run of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, I have taken a break from writing to rethink the covers for the series. For anyone who has stuck around long enough, you will have seen the covers change four or five times. Starting from the ugly to the acceptable. I will admit, I was daunted at having to get another 11 covers done. While I can have my insecurities about writing, I know one thing with a certainty–I am not an artist. And, after doing 2 or 3 new ‘art’ elements for the covers I decided that my stories deserve better than what I can produce with pen and paper. So, for each individual story I have opted for photo elements, and I am dropping individual art elements for each story–only the number and title of the story will change. The collections will remain as the leather look with just a few tweaks as I do like that classic style.
I spent hours trawling shutterstock for images. People who tag these images have a very loose interpretation of Victorian. Regency isn’t Victorian. Images ranged from original period, to Gothic romance cover, to cyberpunk, to… well, ‘sexy’ Victorian… There has always been one image I have fancied as Darkwood, and ended up just going for that one in the end. What I have always liked about is that her hat hides much of her face, so the reader can keep her looking just how they think she looks. That set me the task of finding a male with a similar hat over face style. I ended up having to do a bit of cutting and pasting for Hobbs, and both had to be recoloured, but I was pleased with how they turned out. I wanted some kind of detailed background, and trawling images of Victorian London and fog, I ended up just lifting a smoky element I use in my banner. That was handy. So… here is what the standard cover will look like:
An Origin Story
With my current project, I’ve made it to the end of the next run of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’. And it’s a short story, so shouldn’t take too long. The only difference this time is the importance of the story. One of the central mysteries of The Darkwood Mysteries is what Darkwood’s mother and father did with the guide-stone they left her as inheritance, and this story will explore the beginning of the Darkwood relationship with the stone. Peeling back the curtain on a central mystery is daunting. An info dump is not satisfying, but with my trying to keep each story in the series as standalone as possible and through their not really being in chronological order it’s equally difficult to sprinkle in clues and red-herrings which build to a climactic reveal. So, I have set upon having one or two stories per run deconstructing the central mystery.