The Darkwood Mysteries: The Catalogue of Errors… Reflecting on October (2017)…

BEHIND THE WRITING DESK_optOctober 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.

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Darkwood & the 7 Point Plot Structure… Reflecting on September (2017)…

BEHIND THE WRITING DESK_optWhen it comes to writing, I’m a plotter. Actually, when it comes to most things I’m a plotter. I can’t understand how people write on the fly. How do you know where you’re going? I’ve always been a thinky person. Outside of writing I’m pretty sure I overthink, but behind the writing desk, there’s no such thing as overthinking. Thinking, for me, is the most time I spend on writing. I usually have a strong idea of what I want to happen in the story, and I build on it and build on it, while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, riding out a journey, half-watching something on the box, sometimes while talking to people (don’t tell people). Most of my writing happens in my head. All these ideas and beats are then gathered up and put in some order when I get some desk time.

When I sit down to put all these thoughts in order, my story structure is usually quite basic–establish the conflicts; work to a prologue, beginning, middle, end, epilogue; and ensuring characters progress or are in some way changed by the story. Then plot out each individual scene. I also write character bios and descriptions to refer to in the hope I won’t have sudden height changes, or changing eye colours! A while back though, at a convention, I heard some Star Trek writers talking about the 7 point story structure, and it struck me as being a much better framework to hang my plot on. It consists of a hook, 1st plot point, 1st pinch point, mid-point, 2nd plot point, 2nd pinch point, and conclusion. It doesn’t just apply to the whole overarching plot, but can apply to all the plot threads, and as many of the characters as you like that wind together to make the story whole.

 

1 Hook: the baited hook to keep the reader reading. Give incentive to read on. Make a thought-provoking statement. Pose an interesting question. Make a funny relatable comment.

See more, after the jump! (See what I did there?) 🙂 *hook*

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The Darkwood Mysteries Collection…

This Halloween something wicked this way comes… For the first time, all nine tales which begin The Darkwood Mysteries are collected in one volume.

FB Square Kindle Collection 1The 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…

Reflecting on July & August (2017)… Creating Gods and Monsters…

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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…

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Reflecting on June (2017)… The Tangled Web of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’…

BEHIND THE WRITING DESK_optBack 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.

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Reflecting on May (2017)… Writing The Darkwood Mysteries (18): The Disaster Man…

BEHIND THE WRITING DESK_optMay saw me return to writing after a very long break. I have started writing a series of blog posts to support my self-help book ‘Get Over It’, which I’m enjoying. On the fiction front, I decided to return to ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ as it’s  a comfortable place to be.

I have been reading ‘City of Sin’ by Catherine Arnold–a nice bit of history around London’s relationship with sex over the centuries, and ‘Sins of the City of the Plain’ by ‘Jack Saul’ (probably not actually by him), which is a contemporaneous account of the notorious rent boy, Jack Saul’s experiences. Essentially Victorian gay smut. So, some titillating reading.

No, Darkwood and Hobbs are not suddenly going to have a series of sexcapades (disappointingly for them), but sex is a big part of all our lives, and it’s often when we’re at our most honest, and reading about what the Victorians got up to behind closed doors is sometimes much more informative than the dry accounts reported in newspapers and diaries, especially socially and use of language. While some of the sexy talk seems a little juvenile by today’s sexy talk, a time-travelling sexplorer would be able to have just as much fun in 1800s London. A fun return to research! But, on the actual writing side of it all I decided against a blank page…

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