Bloodwood – sneak peek – Chapter 1

Here’s an extract from my new Australian vampire novella, Bloodwood. If you like what you read – Bloodwood is out on 5 October and available for pre-order now.

The First Funeral

Friday

Standing at the mouth of the shallow grave, Shelley pulled herself up to her full five foot two. She cleared the cobwebs from her throat, tucked a strand of her prematurely grey hair behind her ear and raised her arms in the air.

‘Friends and family of Jude, please gather round.’

The throng of people shuffled closer in the crisp morning air. A few latecomers trudged over the ridge past the nearby young eucalyptus and through the long grass. Jude Hillyer certainly knew how to attract a crowd, in life and in death. Ordinarily, there were more trees than mourners at one of Shelley’s funerals. That was, until today.

Shelley pressed her eyes shut, breathing in the scent of the damp gumleaves and freshly churned dirt. Today had to be perfect. This funeral could change everything for her.

The brightly coloured mourners – dressed in polar fleeces and knitted beanies – gathered closer to the grave and a few faces grimaced in horror when they caught a glimpse of Jude.

These days, death was tidily tucked away, inside a box or covered over with chemicals and thick make-up. But not at one of Shelley’s Green Farewells services. The dearly departed Jude lay beside the grave on a woven wicker tray, her body wrapped cocoon-like in a natural linen cotton shroud.

‘Thank you, everyone,’ Shelley said. ‘And welcome to the celebration of the wonderful and eventful life of our friend, sister and aunt, Jude Hillyer.’ Shelley was trying to strike the perfect balance of authority and compassion in her voice. According to Shelley’s mother, the role of a funeral director was all about respect and tradition. Although her mother’s idea of respect ignored the needs of the planet.

‘Jude was a woman who lived life without fear,’ Shelley said, ‘who fought for her beliefs and devoted her every waking moment to the land on which we stand, and to the air, the water, the sky. As a leader, she fought for us, our children and our children’s children.’

Shelley glanced around to gauge the crowd. The mourners, mostly on the other side of sixty, stood with their hands clasped, heads bowed and brows knitted. So far so good. But no matter how she felt, Shelley could never allow a real smile to cross her face. No-one wanted a smiling undertaker. She’d learned this on her very first day helping out in the family funeral parlour, reinforced by a sharp clip around the ear from her mother.

With an appropriately solemn nod, Shelley continued. ‘We are here to honour Jude’s life and her achievements. We have her to thank for saving the Barabung River against the government and big business, and her tireless anti-nuclear weapons campaigning. Single-handedly, she preserved the wilderness for generations to enjoy. She then found a new career later in life producing wonderfully scented candles. Despite her bravery and strength, our friend finally lost her battle with cancer, and today we are here to celebrate her return to the land. We lay her to rest in this beautiful setting, so her body may feed the trees, the soil, the grasses of the land she loved and respected so much.’

Many of the onlookers bobbed their heads and sniffled into clutched hankies. An older lady, in a red woollen coat and pearls, folded her arms tightly and glowered at Shelley. Suspicious looks were nothing new for her. People were always wary of those who chose to work with the dead.

‘Now I welcome Virginia, Jude’s niece, to read a poem she’s written especially for today.’

Despite the wintry morning, Virginia was barelegged, and Shelley noted, as waxed and tanned as a mahogany table.

‘A life filled with action and sacrifice,

Straight talking without artifice,

Our beloved aunt stood up for all,

Saving the planet was her call.’

Somehow, Shelley managed to keep a straight face and ignore the terrible poem, and she took a moment to savour the sight of a well-attended funeral on her property. It was bad form but Shelley had to admit she’d danced a little jig when Virginia called last week to inform her of Jude’s passing. Three months earlier, Jude – the Jude Hillyer – had called Shelley personally, expressing interest in her services and, after a brief stroll through the natural cemetery on Shelley’s property, Jude purchased a prepaid funeral plan with Green Farewells. Shelley would never wish someone an early death, but as soon as she heard Jude’s familiar voice on the phone, she knew this could be the funeral to kickstart her business. Finally.

Shelley patted her pocket, double-checking the wad of business cards, ready for the wake.

‘Let us remember her life and her smile,

Her defiance and strength at her Supreme Court trial.’

With a side-step, Shelley positioned herself by the safety ropes that went underneath the body. At the other end of the grave, Gareth, the burly seventeen-year-old from the farm next door, was already clutching his ropes.

A sunbeam peeked through the grey sky, piercing the gently waving gumleaves and, for a moment, Shelley’s shadow fell across the shroud.

‘Her candle now out, her tongue now still,

We say goodbye on this grassy hill.’

Strong wings flapped overhead and a glossy black crow swooped low over the crowd. The bird perched right on the edge of the wicker tray, claws clutching at the woven edges. Shelley choked on her breath as the bird cocked its head and eyed the ceremony curiously.

As discreetly as she could, Shelley lunged forwards, waving her arms and shooing the black bird away. Heads turned her way with frowns or bemused smiles, but everyone’s attention soon returned to Virginia and her poem.

Everyone, that was, except Liz Forrester – Gareth’s mother – clamped a chubby hand over her mouth. Liz’s eyes met Shelley’s and she pursed her lips tightly and made the sign of the cross as the crow flapped away into the bush.

Heart thumping, Shelley leaned over and checked that the bird hadn’t left a sloppy deposit behind, but the wicker body carrier was clean. Shelley straightened her posture and pretended nothing had happened.

As Virginia finished the last lines of her poem, a tear dripped from her nose and splashed onto the shroud. Shelley took up her position at the ropes and nodded at Gareth. Gareth would never win a Nobel prize but he was strong, cheap and available. This wasn’t Vieri Family Funerals, where her mother led a team of thirty. Green Farewells had a staff of one. Shelley. And some weeks, she seriously considered driving an Uber to help pay her mortgage and buy the odd loaf of bread. But she imagined she wouldn’t get many five-star ratings when she pulled up to pick up passengers in her hearse van.

‘Thank you, Virginia,’ Shelley said. ‘What a beautiful and insightful poem. And now we will return Jude’s body to the ground. To the place where we all began, and where we will all return. As one with nature, the Earth and the power of life and death.’

Shelley gave the safety straps a little slap, the signal to begin lowering the coffin, and Gareth gave a curt nod in reply. She held her breath and her knees wavered as she scrutinised the shroud closely, checking again for any possible sign of life. Death didn’t scare Shelley, but waking up to see the satin-lined interior of a coffin was a regular feature in her nightmares.

‘Let me through!’ someone shouted from the back of the crowd. People murmured and parted as a man in his twenties with thinning brown hair and an ankle-length black cassock pushed through.

Shelley blinked calmly though, inside, her chest tightened.

‘Whoa there, Mickey,’ said Ross Forrester as he stepped in to block the priest’s path.

‘Almighty God!’ Father Michael Bekker yelled.

Mickey dodged Ross and pushed his way to the graveside. Shelley couldn’t help but notice a leaf sticking out of Mickey’s wild tufty hair. ‘You created the Earth and shaped the vault of Heaven. You fixed the stars in their places.’

‘Piss off, priest,’ said a younger man with swinging dreadlocks. ‘Jude wouldn’t want you here.’

‘You should all be ashamed of yourselves.’ Mickey scoured the crowd with fire in his eyes. ‘All of you.’

Shelley rushed around the grave and grabbed Mickey’s arm. ‘Father Mickey. Please, you’re disturbing the service. If you can’t be respectful, you’re not welcome here. Please go.’

‘Service?’ Mickey scoffed. ‘Do you realise what you’re doing? The danger you’re putting us all in?’

Shelley stretched up tall. ‘I have all the necessary credentials and permits.’

‘And it is my Christian duty to stop you and your heathen practices.’

Shelley jammed her hands on her hips. ‘You’re interfering with a sacred moment. Upsetting the deceased’s family and friends. I’m giving you one last chance or I’m calling the police.’

‘Our Lord Jesus Christ broke the fetters of Hell and rose to life, bringing deliverance and resurrection…’

The dreadlocked man and Ross both grabbed Mickey by the shoulders.

‘When you conjure up the Devil himself,’ Mickey bellowed as they led him away from the grave. ‘Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’

‘I’m sorry, everyone,’ Shelley said, her cheeks blazing red. The niece and the rest of the Hillyer family, the only attendees in all funereal black, glowered at her and Shelley wrung her hands.

‘Jude always liked a bit of a ruckus,’ the dreadlocked man said with a chuckle as he returned to the graveside. ‘She probably arranged this herself.’

A few others laughed along with him and Shelley breathed easy. She tucked her grey hair behind her ear and nodded to Gareth. Together they shifted the body over the hole and lowered the ropes, laying Jude Hillyer to rest at the bottom of the grave.

As the dirt hit the shroud, Shelley took a final look over the body.

Satisfied the body was still lifeless, Shelley lifted her chin and tried to forget Father Mickey’s words.

***

If a soul is laid to rest

With a perched black crow as its guest

And then a shadow crosses the pall

And a mourner’s tear does fall

Dry your tears and beware

Cross yourself and prepare

Below the soil, new life brews

It’s the living it pursues

***

Bloodwood – new release alert

Bloodwood, my new Australian-set vampire novella, is coming out in October 2020.

How do you fight a vampire… in Australia?

Nothing interesting ever happens in sleepy, rural Ludwood. Not until undertaker Shelley sets up shop with her eco-friendly burials.

Her latest funeral, farewelling an environmental legend, was meant to help her struggling business – even the gatecrashing priest condemning her heathen ways didn’t damper her spirits. Much.

But when frightening screeches wake Shelley in the middle of the night days later, she finds an empty grave and things start to go wrong. Horribly wrong. Like vicious attacks in Ludwood wrong.

Were the priest’s protests of blasphemy right? Has Shelley unwittingly unleashed the undead and reduced the headcount in Ludwood instead of reducing their carbon footprint?

And where does Shelley even start? There’s no manual for hunting vampires in the bush.

Pre-order on Amazon now.

Feathers and Boarding School

Greetings from lockdown Melbourne.

Today I’m sharing a little poetry and a guest blog post I wrote for Debbie Young on my love for Enid Blyton boarding school stories.

I’m a recent poetry convert. In the last weeks and months, I’ve been drawn to reading and writing poetry (Kathleen Raine, Yeats, Robin Robertson, Marissa Davis). Poetry writing has been a welcome and liberating change from my usual novella/novel writing. I’m also pairing my words with images and here is my latest dabbling ‘Shelter Feather’, inspired by Robert Macfarlane‘s Word of the Day tweets.

On to school stories…I was a bookish child – yes I know, hard to believe – and I especially loved boarding school stories. Debbie Young asked me to review (as an adult) one of my favourite boarding school books and consider how these stories have influenced my writing. My Favourite School Stories.

Enjoy.

Paranormal Romance Trends in 2020 and Beyond – Guest Post

Today I’m featuring a guest post from Desiree Villena, filling us in on all the up-coming Paranormal Romance (PNR) trends. I know some of you love your saucy shapeshifter stories…so, over to Desiree…

Trends in Paranormal Romance – Desiree Villena

Vampires, werewolves, raunchy love triangles — is there anything more to paranormal romance than this? If you haven’t kept up with this intriguing genre, you might be justified in thinking there’s not. And to be fair, plenty of new releases continue to perpetuate the same old tropes and ideas. But that’s not to say that there aren’t new trends cropping up in paranormal romance all the time! Today, I’ll be taking you through some of these developments so you’ll know what to expect the next time you browse the shelves.

Image by Mystic Art Design from pixabay

Magical realms

This will surely come as good news to jaded readers of the genre: the lengthy reign of vampires and werewolves is finally being counterbalanced by the worlds of fae, mermaids, and mages. And while these certainly aren’t uncharted territory, there has never been so much enthusiasm for fantasy world-building in PNR as there is now.

Take Bella Forrest’s Harley Merlin series, for instance, which follows a 19-year-old orphan who discovers a community of people who share the same strange psychic abilities as her — among whom she might just find her true love. While the first volume was published in just 2018, its continual success (and the wonders of self-publishing platforms) have led to 20 more books detailing the adventures of Harley Merlin. It goes to show how much traction this sort of universe has!

For good measure, here’s another example of a uniquely mystical world: the Fireblood Dragon series by Ruby Dixon. Set in a post-apocalyptic realm where humans live in enclaves away from beastly dragons, these books follow different female protagonists as they are punished for their deviance by being made “dragon baits.” If you’re wondering where the romance comes in — well, these dragons are shapeshifters looking for lifelong partners (and fiery passion, no pun intended). Now on its eighth installment, it seems this enchanting universe is only becoming more popular, setting the trend in PNR for years to come.

Love in the academies

As PNR is largely targeted at young adults, this trend should come as no surprise. Academies are a very popular setting in fantasy and sci-fi books, from A Wizard of Earthsea to the aptly named Vampire Academy — and since these genres have significant overlaps with paranormal romance, it’s about time boarding schools and spell-binding institutions made their mark on the genre.

We don’t have to go any further than the Harley Merlin series to see this in action. Just from the Amazon book description, which compares Harley Merlin to Harry Potter, readers immediately know that Harley will find herself having many adventures in a magical school. Even though she goes out into the world to hunt monsters and face her dark past, her starting point, her home, and the place where she develops a bond with her significant other is the academy that welcomes her at the beginning of the series.

Some authors go even deeper into this trope, setting almost their entire series in an academy, as Serena Akeroyd did with her Caelum Academy trilogy. Eve, the protagonist, has been raised in an emotionless cult and cut off from outside the world — until she is mysteriously smuggled out of “the compound” and taken to Caelum Academy, a school for those with who aren’t really humans, but paranormal creatures. Here, she’ll not only learn about the world she’d been kept from in the past, but also meet people who truly love her.

Subverting PNR gender norms

In tandem with the rise in academy settings, which provide love interests galore, is the increasing popularity of the “reverse harem” in paranormal romance. This has its roots in recent developments in Japanese animation, and involves a female protagonist encountering many love interests throughout her journey, but being unable to decide on her “one true love.” Sounds dramatic, I know — but isn’t that the whole point of these supernatural love affairs?

Let’s return to Caelum Academy, where our female lead is initially bullied and made fun of at her new school because of her ignorance of the modern world. Soon enough, however, some of the guys who made fun of Eve take a liking to her (in a typical enemies-to-lovers turn of events) and start trying to help her out. As the trilogy progresses, Eve develops strong relationships with these guys, some of which excitingly escalate beyond the friendzone — but she never admits to loving any of them in more than a platonic way, at least not until the final installment.

Rather than making these books purely raunchy, Akeroyd shows readers that relationships are complicated, and finding “the one” isn’t so easy, or even necessarily imperative. It’s also a great way to throw a wrench into the common trope of a dominant male stringing along a female lead. If you’re interested in these types of gender role-subverting stories, consider checking out Meg Xuemei X’s War of the Gods series, and The Dark Side series by Kristy Cunning.

Crossing over to urban fantasy

Sure, it’s thrilling to be pulled into bizarre landscapes with fantastical heroes, but isn’t it even more enthralling to discover the world you thought you knew in a different light? This is the premise of urban fantasy: it takes a familiar setting (our own world) and points out the nooks and crannies in which you can find a whole other, supernatural universe.

This trend has been a long time coming, starting in the mid-2000s with some PNR classics such as the Dublin pub-hopping adventures of Karen Marie Moning’s Darkfever, and the bounty-hunting chases of Jeaniene Frost’s Halfway to the Grave. Since then, plenty of series have taken readers down dark alleyways in cities we thought we knew all too well, suspensefully revealing the underbellies and hidden gateways of concrete jungles… while spicing things up with some (often star-crossed) romance. Though many urban fantasy fans aren’t particularly fond of the growing romance segment of their niche, PNR fans continue to embrace this trend, which should make for a number of fascinating crossovers in the future.

PNR books do tend to be slower to change — authors often stick to the ideas and themes that they’ve seen work well, not wanting to mess with a successful formula. However, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been shifts in the paranormal romance landscape over recent years, and very interesting ones at that! Hopefully, these trends will kickstart a host of other innovations in this corner of the literary universe, and we’ll be looking at plenty of exciting new titles soon.

About Desiree

Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best publishing resources and professionals. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading paranormal romance, writing contemporary fiction, and analyzing tropes and trends.

Finding Creativity Through Folklore

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been taking a course run by the fabulous Sandra Ireland – Finding Creativity Through Folklore.

Ordinarily, Sandra’s courses are run face-to-face out of Dundee but due to the COVID-19 crisis, the course has moved online. Which is brilliant for me on the other side of the world, because now I can participate.

Each week, Sandra circulates materials on a folklore theme with prompts for creative projects. The themes to date have included water, trees and family stories.

Rather than writing novels or novellas (which is my usual comfy place), I’ve been playing with visuals and poetry.

In addition to the prompts, we have a weekly Zoom where the group discusses folklore and creativity. I’ve been blown away by the stories and creativity of my course-mates and look forward to the call each week.

Australian Shadow Awards nomination for The Flower and The Serpent

Today I received the most exciting news – The Flower and The Serpent has been nominated for a 2019 Australian Shadow Award by the Australasian Horror Writers Association!

The Flower and The Serpent is one of three novels shortlisted in the Novel category.

And needless to say, I’m absolutely stoked!

End of Write Through The Roof podcast

It’s with an element of sadness that I announce the end of Write Through The Roof podcast.

After almost three years and 76 episodes, it’s time to do something new. But I’m really going to miss great conversations with interesting writers and having the opportunity to selfishly ask my writing heroes the questions I want to be answered.

So what I have learned about writing over the 76 interviews?

  • There is no right way to write

From meticulous spreadsheets of Oscar de Muriel to the pantsing of Rebecca Tope and everything in between, there is no right way to plot your novel.

Some write every day but many more wish they could. However, others see the definite need for rests to replenish their creative well. But discipline is the key and to finish what you start.

Take all writing advice with a pinch of salt.

AMANDA BRIDGMAN

Trusting yourself. You don’t have to write like other people.

KAARON WARREN

Cherrypick techniques but develop your own style and process.

DEAN MAYES

Do you write every day? I wish!

ROSALIE MORALES KEARNS

Don’t bore the reader. Don’t annoy the reader. Don’t confuse the reader.

PATTY JANSEN
  • Writers are generous and lovely people
  • Coffee runs in our veins
  • Writers like to read ‘like a fat kid at the dessert table’

Thanks for the quote, Angela Slatter but all the writers I spoke to love to read. The most popular inspiring authors were Stephen King, Jane Austen, Neil Gaiman, Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood.

  • Most writers are life-long learners

Aside from the amazing Karen Rose Smith with 100 romance novels under her belt and a comfortable writing process, most of the writers I spoke with were trying something new with each book and continually trying to perfect their process.

So all things come to an end but I’d like to thank all the writers I spoke with!

Madeleine about town – interviews and guest blog posts

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to be featured on three blogs.

Check out the music, the influences and the struggle to fight the right genre in my writing life.

Happy Reading…

#76 – Tim Ewins – Write Through The Roof

Interview with writer and stand-up comic, Tim Ewins

“It’s a good thing to write every day, I just don’t do it.”

Episode 76 – Show Notes – Tim Ewins

  • Prefer to write and read novels
  • Writes during lunch breaks at work – with a monthly word target
  • Four years to write his first book
  • Coffee and Bon Iver
  • Themes of enduring and long-lasting love. How love changes over time.
  • Having a child changed ‘We Are Animals’ and added depth to the writing.
  • Influence of stand-up but not getting the pay-off
  • Editing chapters as he goes.
  • Embarrassing pick-ups by editors
  • Loose and lose
  • The luxury of writing at home with a glass of wine
  • Jonas Johannsen, Roald Dahl, Andrew Kaufman
  • ‘We Are Animals’ started as a travel blog

“I researched all kinds of thing but not how to spell loose and lose.”

“I do quite often think about the book Matilda”

Links

#75 – Alison Littlewood – Write Through The Roof

Interview with ‘dark and weird’ writer, Alison Littlewood

‘History, folklore, ghosts and spooky things.’

Episode 75 – Alison Littlewood – Show Notes

  • Plot beginnings and endings and pants it all the rest of the way
  • Word count spreadsheet – 1000 words per day
  • Obsessive about edits
  • Satisfies the canine overlords before she begins a writing session
  • Dark and weird genre – on the edges of horror
  • Themes – loss and death and love – various aspects of being human- twisted fairytales and folklore
  • Perceptions of horror writers
  • ‘Reading a lot. Writing a lot.’
  • The benefits of working with a good editor
  • Writing in the middle of the night – inspired by HP Lovecraft
  • Michelle Paver, Jason Arnop, Paul Tremblay, Joe Hill, Katrina Ward, Andrew Michael Hurley, Nathan Ballingrud, Priya Sharma, Angela Slatter, Graham Joyce
  • Mistletoe – ghost stories at Christmas – MR James, Victorian times – folklore and history of the plant and the season
  • Historical research
  • Cottingley faeries and changelings

‘Plot beginnings and endings and pants it all the rest of the way.’

‘People back away when I say I’m a horror writer.’

Links

Giveaway – The Antics of Evangeline – paperback

To celebrate the Australia Day long weekend (or commiserate Invasion Day), I’m giving away three (3) signed paperback copies of The Antics of Evangeline.

Mystery and mayhem.

Gadgets and ginger biscuits. High kicks and high tea.

Mesmerism and monsters in steampunk Melbourne.

Join Evangeline on her first four adventures with the Alchemist, the Bunyip, the Spiritualist and the Mysterious Lights.

Four fun and delightful novellas together in one collection.

All you need to do is comment below or RT on Twitter (@madeleine_deste).

The offer is worldwide.

#74 – Jon Black – Write Through The Roof

Interview with author and music journalist, Jon Black

“You can’t do a one-to-one transition of role-playing to fiction.”

Episode 74 – Jon Black

  • No preference for medium but a natural geography and cluster in terms of word counts
  • Mix of a plotter and pantser. Influenced by role-playing games
  • Environment is important – quirky 24-hour coffee house and writes throughout the night
  • A music journalist but does not actively listen to music while writing
  • Supernatural, historical fiction with a twist
  • Themes of power of human curiosity, music, exploring the interplay between folklore, mythology and history
  • Cultivating a sensate writing style: all five senses to bring the reader into the scene
  • Benefits of role playing in writing fiction and pitfalls
  • Experimenting with less exposition and background for characters
  • Caleb Carr, Harry Turtledove, Stephen King, Garrison Keilor, Daniel Pinkwater
  • Gabriel’s Trumpet – second wave of spiritualism and Jazz Age
  • Expanding short stories into novel-length
  • Currently editing an anthology about searches for lost books

“I’m not sure whether I have a genuine love for it or whether it’s a Stockholm syndrome thing.”

Links

#73 – Kristy Childs – Write Through The Roof podcast

Interview with debut steampunk author, Kristy Childs

“How to make Sleeping Beauty an active protagonist.”

Episode 73 – Kristy Childs – Show Notes

  • Writes seasonally – starts in November with Nanowrimo until April
  • Light plot outline but generally pantsing
  • Fuelled by green tea
  • Themes are usually concepts to be included in the work – e.g. airship heist
  • Start with character or concept first?
  • Steampunk or gas lamp – genre definition
  • Editing
  • Changing British English into American English and difference in grammar rules
  • Passive voice cut-out and strengthening word use
  • Microsoft Word extra grammar features
  • “I before e except after c” – exceptions
  • Favourite genres to read – urban fantasy and YA – N.K. Jemisin, Tamora Pierce, Ben Aaronovitch, Warlock Holmes
  • The Nightmare Detective inspired by The Maltese Falcon but set between the Wars and Sleeping Beauty retelling.
  • Sleep disorders
  • Current project is a Chinese fantasy for Nanowrimo. Inspired by ‘cultivation novels’ – Dragonball Z

“I want dinosaurs and I want explosions”

Links

The Flower and The Serpent – launch!!!

My latest novel The Flower and The Serpent is now available in ebook on Amazon or Kindle Unlimited/Prime.

Madeleine D’Este definitely does creepy well.

reviewer

The book has elements of Stranger Things with fine character development and kids that feel like real kids. 

reviewer

the novel is genuinely frightening at times, but the characters are never overshadowed by the horror.

reviewer

Mysterious disappearances, a battle for the spotlight and terrifying nightmares. It’s just another day at Beacon Hill High School. 



Auditions for Macbeth are over, and on the bus ride home, a mysterious driver gives sixteen-year-old Violet and her friends’ three strange predictions:

One of the girls will shine like a star.
One will invite darkness into her breast.
One will depart forever.



Please, how cliché. Besides, Violet clearly knows that she’s the star. 

But when she isn’t cast as Lady Macbeth and strange things begin to unfold, and the eerie predictions begin to come true, Violet can’t help to wonder which one will apply to her.
Determined to be the one that will shine like a star, Violet will do whatever it takes to get the leading role – no matter the horrifying consequence. 



Modern-day Shakespeare meets supernatural mystery with this nail-biting young adult horror by Madeleine D’Este.

#72 – Violeta M. Bagia – Write Through The Roof

Interview with paranormal author, Violeta M. Bagia

“Whatever you do, you’re only going to get better by repeating it.”

Episode 72 – Violeta M. Bagia – Show Notes

  • Writes every day without fail
  • Early morning writing time is the best
  • Nice pair of shoes are required to write
  • Poetic and “prose-y” style. PTSD, new identity, personal transformation
  • The problems with defining a genre – paranormal or urban fantasy or war fiction
  • Routine is all-important to build a writing habit
  • Learning to plot to meet the publisher’s expectations
  • Whiteboard wall
  • Stephen King, Jennifer L Armentrout
  • Jack of Hart – the book came after “finishing” the series. Quick to write but then expanded to double the size.
  • Taking back the rights of the Hart of Darkness series from the original publisher and republished

Links

The Flower and The Serpent – Chapter 1

The Flower and The Serpent will be released on 4th December 2019 and it’s currently available for pre-order.

Galley readers have described The Flower and The Serpent as…

“Creepy and wonderful”

L.A

“Elements of #StrangerThings

Pete

“Darkly seductive tale of revenge, regret & ultimately redemption”

Jon black

To whet your appetite, here is an extract of Chapter 1 of The Flower and The Serpent.

I hope you enjoy.

————————–

Chapter 1

Monday 18th June 1992

VIOLET

Violet’s whole body hummed with leftover audition nerves.

‘I’m a dead cert,’ she said.

She was the first to climb aboard the empty number 458 bus but Holly and Lila were close behind. They followed the muddy footprints past the chubby lady bus driver as the wipers shrieked across the windshield and the rain slapped the windows. Violet wrinkled her nose. The bus reeked of soggy wool.

‘I can’t wait until tomorrow,’ Violet said as she slid into her regular seat halfway up the aisle. ‘When my name is on top of the list.’

‘You’re a shoo-in.’ Lila flopped into the seat in front of her. She turned and draped her skinny arm over the metal bar. ‘He’d be stupid not to cast you.’

The doors wheezed shut and the bus pulled out of the school and onto Beacon Hill Road. The midwinter sun had already disappeared behind Mount Wellington.

‘Angelika was alright, too.’ Holly squashed in next to Lila and sat backwards. ‘And the one with the curls. Rowan?’

Violet snorted and tossed her mousy hair. ‘Out. Out. Damned spot,’ she groaned in a monotone and snatched the last chip from the packet in Holly’s hand.

Holly pressed her lips together.

Lila giggled. ‘Maybe we’ll be cast as the witches. There’s three of them and three of us.’ She bounced in her seat. ‘We could get some props from your aunty, hey, Holly? Real witch supplies?’

Holly crushed the empty chip packet in her fist and turned away. But the late Hobart afternoon was as black as night and Violet could see Holly’s square-jawed scowl reflected in the window. Holly seemed to sulk a lot these days.

‘Witches? No way,’ Violet scoffed. ‘It’s Lady Macbeth or nothing.’

‘Of course, I’m an idiot. You’ll get the part for sure.’ Lila chewed her cuticles and shrugged. ‘I just thought it’d be fun. Us three. Together.’

Violet said nothing and neither did Holly.

‘Sorry.’ Lila playfully nudged Holly’s arm. ‘I didn’t mean it. The witch thing.’

Holly turned back to them with a sigh. ‘It’s not you.’ She squeezed the bridge of her nose. ‘This headache—’

‘What were you girls doing at the school?’ the curly-headed bus driver hollered.

Violet and her friends flinched. A pair of murky green eyes looked back at them through the rear vision mirror.

‘Holiday program,’ Lila called back.

‘All alone in that place during holidays?’ The bus driver raised an eyebrow. ‘They should never have built a school on that land. Or anything for that matter. Should have left it be.’

Violet rolled her eyes. ‘Everyone knows they purified it first, lady.’

‘The surety of youth,’ the bus driver chuckled. ‘I was once like you.’ Her voice was strange and lilting, she spoke with a musical accent Violet couldn’t place. ‘Life is not as it seems.’

Violet rotated a finger next to her temple and Lila stifled a giggle. Holly dipped her head to hide her eyes under her fringe.

‘You three are best friends?’

‘Totally.’ Lila grinned. ‘Ever since Grade Seven.’

Violet stared at her black eight-hole Doc Martens and chewed her lip. She noticed Holly didn’t say anything, either.

‘Women need to band together. Especially you three. You must look out for each other.’

‘What do you mean?’ Lila said. ‘Especially us?’

‘You three have challenges up ahead,’ the driver said.

Lila glanced at Holly and then Violet. ‘What does she mean?’

‘She probably means life stuff.’ Holly twirled a strand of dark brown hair around her finger. ‘Exams. Finishing school. Getting off this stupid island. I can’t wait.’

The bus driver went quiet. The tyres squelched on the wet road as the bus veered around the infamous hairpin bend and damp grey-green eucalyptus slapped on either side.

The three girls slid across the seats around the bend.

A few years ago in the late 1980s, a bus exactly like this one misjudged the turn and six lives were wiped out in a single mistake. Violet’s stomach clenched twice a day, five times a week, every time she passed the stone memorial on the way to school. The black and white photo of the bent wreckage was still vivid in her mind.

‘What challenges?’ asked Lila. She clutched at the metal bar until her knuckles were white.

The bus driver said nothing.

Violet rubbed her duffle coat sleeve against the fogged-up window and peered outside as the bus passed the small strip of local shops. First was The Three Torches, a cafe-bookshop run by Holly’s aunt. Then Terri’s Bakehouse where Violet worked Saturdays selling congealed yellow vanilla slices and the whitest of white bread. Then the dry cleaners and the shaman hairdressers with his multi-coloured Tibetan prayer flags and incense fluttering in the breeze, and finally the milk bar takeaway. Even through the glass, Violet could smell the old chip oil, the spicy Nag Champa and the astringent dry-cleaning fumes.

A figure in a raincoat with the hood pulled up stood at the kerb in the rain. Beside them, a muscular pointy-eared black dog strained at his leash. The person lifted a finger and pointed directly at the bus, directly through the window, directly at Violet. The face was a black shadow, no real face at all but somehow the hidden eyes bored straight into her, the gaze like an apple-corer.

With a gasp, she tore her gaze away from the window, her heart thumping.

‘What?’ said Lila.

‘Nothing,’ Violet muttered but when she turned back, the person was still there on the kerb, and still pointing. She shuddered. ‘Another loony.’

They travelled a few more blocks in silence, then the Beacon Hill Road straightened out after the weatherboard Scout Hall, the place for senior aerobics and Morris dancing. Her heartbeat settled as the man in the raincoat disappeared from view.

‘Three challenges for three friends,’ the bus driver continued. ‘I can see it clearly.’

The girls leaned forward in their seats.

‘What are you? Some kind of fortune teller?’ Lila said. ‘A psychic?’

Violet shoved Holly. ‘You know about all that stuff. Witchy poo.’

Holly poked out her tongue.

‘One of you will shine like a star,’ the bus driver proclaimed.

Violet shimmied in her seat. It was obviously her.

The driver went on. ‘One of you will invite darkness into her breast.’

‘Breast? That’d be you.’ Holly raised a dark eyebrow and prodded Violet in the boob. Violet swiped away her finger with a glare.

‘Darkness?’ Lila grimaced. ‘What do you mean? What does she mean?’

‘One of you will depart forever,’ the driver concluded.

‘Depart forever?’ Lila clawed at the metal bar between the seats. ‘That’s not good. That can’t be good.’

‘Excuse me, Miss.’ Holly raised her hand. ‘I don’t think this is appropriate—’

‘Death? Is she saying one of us is going to die?’ Lila wheezed.

‘What are you saying, lady?’ Violet squinted, projecting her voice up the empty bus. She loved how the power rippled up from her diaphragm when she used her breath in the right way. ‘Are you trying to scare us? Cos it’s not working.’

‘Ignore me if you like, girls,’ the bus driver said. ’It is your choice to listen. But you have been warned.’

‘One of us is going to die?’ Lila said with a crack in her voice. ‘How? When?’

‘There are powers in this world we cannot comprehend. You must beware.’

‘Today? Do we need to be careful today?’

The bus driver shifted her focus back to the road. Her face closed like a shutter.

‘You have to give us more information than that. You can’t just —’

But the woman behind the wheel didn’t respond. She didn’t even look their way. It was as though she’d never said a word.

‘Excuse me,’ Lila said and waved her arm. ‘Tell us more. Please.’

The bus driver kept her eyes on the road.

‘Why won’t she tell us?’ Lila chewed her finger, her eyes glazed.

‘Forget it,’ Violet snorted. ‘She’s just another nutbag.’

Violet wondered why Lila was so fazed, she’d lived around Beacon Hill her whole life and knew all the weird stories off by heart. She should be used to strange people by now.

The bus moaned to a stop. The back doors hissed open and a sharp slap of cold wind blew inside.

‘You have to tell us more.’ Lila scrambled up the aisle towards the driver’s seat, her canvas school bag clutched to her chest. ‘Who? Which one of us?’

‘Last stop.’

‘Please,’ Lila whined.

Holly grabbed her by the elbow. ‘Leave it.’

‘She can’t just tell us someone is going to die and then say nothing else. She said beware. But what of?’ Lila raked her fingers through her home-dyed burgundy hair. ‘Do you think she cursed us?’

‘Come on. Let’s go.’ Violet headed towards the door.

Holly tugged at Lila’s sleeve. ‘Don’t get worked up about it. You know what you’re like. We’ll call the bus company tomorrow. Make a complaint.’

Lila sighed and followed Holly out into the wet air. Misty droplets dribbled down the graffiti-etched bus shelter.

‘Weirdo!’ Violet yelled out as the bus driver closed the concertina doors and the bus rumbled away. Violet pulled up her duffle coat hood as the red tail lights bled onto the wet road.

‘What if she’s right? One of us could die,’ Lila said. Raindrops brimmed on her eyelashes and she didn’t wipe them away.

‘Forget about it,’ Violet said. ‘Right, Holly?’

‘Well, I think we should tell someone,’ Holly said. ‘But maybe you’re right. Don’t think about it, Lila. It’s just some stupid joke. Nothing’s going to happen.’

‘It’s not very funny,’ Lila huffed. ‘And I have this strange —’

‘Well, I’m off. Lines to learn,’ Violet said with a smirk. ‘Lady Macbeth lines. See you tomorrow.’

‘With bells on,’ Lila said but her smile didn’t reach her eyes.

‘To witness the grand unveiling of my name up on the board tomorrow,’ Violet said. ‘Violet Black as Lady Macbeth.’

With a wave, the three friends went their separate ways into the gloom. Violet wrapped her arms around herself as she trudged down Melaleuca Avenue, through the shadows and puddles, past the rows of empty brown brick-and-tile houses with double garages. There wasn’t another soul around.

Violet couldn’t wait until Friday night when she stepped out onto her stage and shone like a star.

Maybe there was some truth to the crazy bus driver’s words.

#71 – Debbie Young – Write Through The Roof

Interview with cosy mystery writer Debbie Young

“Cosy mysteries are an antidote to the strains of modern life”

Episode 71 – Debbie Young – Show Notes

  • Short novels are her favourite form
  • Journalistic background but mainly a pantser
  • Writes a chapter a day in the writing phase
  • Doesn’t always write every day. Needs to recharge the batteries and think
  • Themes of celebrating community and nurturing understanding between people
  • The mystery provides the framework to flesh out with characters and comedy
  • Based on her real village life and her community
  • Closed communities in a mystery; village and classic English boarding school
  • Cosy mystery popularity – an antidote to modern life, resolution and happy ever after
  • Writing without stopping – experiment with the next novel with a little light editing to begin each writing session
  • Different technologies for writing – Word, using Scrivener for plotting, writing by hand with a fountain pen
  • Touch typing
  • Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers
  • Sophie Sayers mysteries are not always murder stories and veer more to romantic and situational comedy.
  • Experimenting with crossing over between the Sayers and St.Brides series and writing more novellas

I’m an organised pantser.”

“Sometimes I feel I’m writing situation comedy sketches.”

Links

The Flower and The Serpent – new release alert!

My latest novel The Flower and The Serpent will be released on 4th December 2019.

A supernatural young adult novel set during a school production of Macbeth, The Flower and The Serpent is my most autobiographical book yet.

The Flower and The Serpent is available now for pre-order.

—————-

Mysterious disappearances, a battle for the spotlight and nightmares. It’s just another day at Beacon Hill High School.

Auditions for Macbeth are over, and on the bus ride home, a mysterious driver gives sixteen-year-old Violet and her friends’ three strange predictions:

One of the girls will shine like a star.

One will invite darkness into her breast.

One will depart forever.

Please, how cliché. Besides, Violet clearly knows that she’s the star.
But when she isn’t cast as Lady Macbeth and strange things begin to unfold, and the predictions begin to come true, Violet can’t help to wonder which one will apply to her.

Determined to be the one that will shine like a star, Violet will do whatever it takes to get the leading role – no matter the consequence.

Modern-day Shakespeare meets supernatural mystery with this nail-biting young adult horror by Madeleine D’Este.

‘An Awfully Evangeline Christmas’ in a new Anthology

My story “An Awfully Evangeline Christmas” is part of a new Australian Christmas themed speculative fiction anthology – Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Anthology of Spine Jingling Tales.

An Antipodean Christmas feels awfully topsy-turvy to Evangeline and when she goes to buy gingerbread for her father, she finds that the weather is not the only odd thing about this festive season.

As well as Evangeline, Christmas Australis contains seven other tales – a novella, two novelettes and four short stories – something for everyone this Festive Season.

The release date is 11 November but you can pre-order now on Amazon.

#70 – R.R. Campbell – Write Through The Roof

Episode 70 – interview with sci-fi author, podcaster and writing coach, RR Campbell.

“There’s no Twitter, no email. The coffee is here. The time has come.”

Episode 70 – Show Notes

  • Meticulous planner rather than pantser – with scene by scene outlines. This means every morning he wakes up and knows exactly what he’s going to write
  • Analytical approach to writing – informed by linguistics background
  • Daily writing ritual – coffee pot on a timer and ready to go
  • Re-reading a favourite author as writing fuel
  • Empathy between characters. Epistolary novel form.
  • Five core components to any scene: setting, goal, conflict, resolution, cliffhanger/pivot/change
  • Margaret Atwood. David Mitchell
  • Empathy series – internet access brain implants inspired by smartphones
  • Taking time away from a manuscript to get perspective before retooling
  • Multiple points of view, dimensions and shout-outs

“Finding the best way to create empathy between the character and the reader.”

“There are five core components to any scene.”

Links

#69 – Alan Baxter – Write Through The Roof

Interview with Alan Baxter, writer of dark weird shit

‘Write caffeinated and edit drunk’

Episode 69 – Alan Baxter – Show Notes

  • Baxter believes plotting and pantsing is a sliding scale.
  • Vomit drafter but often edits a little before starting each day’s writing session
  • Has a target of 5000 words per week when writing first drafts but doesn’t try to write every day
  • Coffee in the day, whiskey in the evening
  • Genre is ‘dark weird shit’ – soup of urban fantasy, horror and the weird plus crime and noir
  • Themes of justice and consequences
  • Time is the most important thing
  • Martial arts mindset – time and commitment – developing a practice and striving for improvement
  • Stepping away from the manuscript to let the brain to work out the problems
  • Short stories can shake up the process, like cross-training
  • Clive Barker, Stephen King, Lovecraft, Poe, Kaaron Warren, Margo Lanegan and comics
  • Short story collection Served Cold leans more into horror and explores Australian identity

Links

#68 – Lee Kofman – Write Through The Roof

Interview with Lee Kofman – author and writing teacher

‘In each draft I try to get one or two things right rather than everything.’

Episode 68 – Lee Kofman – Show Notes

  • Creative non-fiction is her current favourite medium. Closer to poetry than non-fiction. It is a fresher and younger experimental genre.
  • Multi-tasking with children
  • Prepare for writing session by thinking about the current project before sitting down at the desk.
  • Gerald Murnane – three types of writers: curious, preachy and possessed/obsessed.
  • Themes – doomed loves.
  • Memoir-writing and Russian poets
  • All writing is rewriting.
  • Working on plotting skills but not plotting too much. Needs a sense of tension to keep the writing process interesting
  • Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, Helen Garner, Robert Dessaix, Zadie Smith, Geoff Dyer, Joan Didion, Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • Imperfect – scars and haunted by shame. Inspired by her child’s diagnosis of albinism

‘Writing is layering.’

‘What it’s like to have a body which deviates from the so-called norm.’

Links

#67 – Agnes Gomillion – Write Through The Roof

Interview with Afro-futurist writer Agnes Gomillion

“I wanted people to reflect on their relative state of freedom.”

Episode 67 – Agnes Gomillion – Show Notes

  • Writes something every day – maybe poetry or notes but not necessarily her ‘work-in-progress’
  • Poetry, songs and lyrical writing
  • Sleep is writing fuel of choice
  • Afrofuturism – lift the audience from reality for the purpose of looking back and better understanding African-American culture.
  • Humanity with an African-American lens.
  • Writing about the underlying person brings different people together.
  • Perseverance
  • ‘Story’ by Robert McKee – how to create a character and how to use structure to ‘show, don’t tell’.
  • Having to incorporate more structure in the writing day with children
  • Jesmyn Ward – Salvage the Bones, Stephen King
  • Frederick Douglass inspired The Record Keeper with his spirit of freedom. The story of how someone overcomes their fear set in a dystopia after World War 3.
  • Octavia Butler comparisons
  • Working on the sequel – The Seed of Cain.

“Humanity with an afro-futurist bent.”

“Slavery is more than physical chains.”

Links

#66 – Alison Morton – Write Through The Roof

Interview with alternative history novelist Alison Morton

‘Exercise your writing muscle in different ways on different days.’

Episode 66 – Alison Morton – Show Notes

  • 30% plotter and 70% pantser
  • Black moments: when it all falls apart for the main character
  • Writing versus marketing
  • Tea imported in from England – sergeant major’s tea
  • Wanted to explore female-led action stories with a Roman flavour. But needed to create an alternative history world to feature strong female leaders. Values, betrayal, rebellion, resilience
  • Alternative history research: taking history and twisting it but anchoring back to the facts.
  • Using historical logic – what would have happened if?
  • Collaborating with other writers, exchanging ideas, being accepting and giving
  • A team effort to produce a book
  • Robert Harris’ Fatherland, William Boyd’s Restless, Sebastian Faulks, Lindsay Davis, Georgette Heyer
  • Aurelia: going back to write the backstory of the grandmother of the main character of the Carina Mitela series
  • Writing short stories and novellas

‘30% plotter and 70% pantser.’

‘You do need other people to get a successful book out.’

Links

#65 – Clare Flynn – Write Through The Roof

Podcast interview with historical novelist, Clare Flynn

‘Read everything I could get my little hands on.’

Episode 65 – Clare Flynn – Show Notes

  • Instinctive pantser who occasionally tries to plot
  • The first book took 15 years to write but now tries to be more disciplined
  • Writes most days
  • Two solutions if the words are hard – walk away or force herself to write
  • ‘Edit as you go’ person
  • Once a week writing group to share work-in-progress
  • Nanowrimo – to kick start a book or finish a book off
  • Tea, coffee and water and wine o’clock
  • Displacement: theme comes from childhood experiences, relationship problems, PTSD and impact of war, self discovery, religious bigotry
  • Reading: taught to read by her father
  • Learnt from editor; tough but also positive
  • Read aloud
  • Writing two books at once; keeps the writing fresh
  • Classics: Hardy, Brontes, Anya Seton, Jean Plaidy, Agatha Christie, Mary Stewart, Tolstoy, Zola, Kate Atkinson, Amor Towles, historical research
  • Hybrid publishing
  • Storms Gather Between Us

‘A competitive person, even if the competition is myself.’

‘It’s got to have highs & lows and lights & darks.’

Links

Women of Wasps and War – Chapter One extract

Chapter One

‘Wasp Woman.’

A glob of spit thwacked her cheek. Her eyes flashed but she clamped her jaw shut as the guards dragged her into the Great Hall of the Eel, past the throng of townsmen.

‘Sinner.’

They hacked and snarled at her, their disgust striking her face like rain. She held her chin high but with her hands secured behind her back, she couldn’t wipe her face clean.

‘Murderess.’

Foul-smelling fishermen, goat-herders in hessian, callous-handed blacksmiths and even merchants dressed in silk shoved and jostled her as she struggled through the crowd.

‘Filth.’

Hands grabbed her hair. Strange fingers tore at her grubby clothes and groped her breasts. She gasped through clenched teeth, her heartbeat pounding in her ears.

But she said nothing.

Soon she would speak and they would be forced to listen.

‘Traitor.’

The guards shoved her into a chair in the centre of the room beside the others. She grunted as her elbow struck the hard wood. The Masters of the Shield and the Scion sat in front of her. Behind them was the low dais where the High Table sat and the forest green, gold and terracotta tapestry woven with the eel sigil of Ambrovna covered the wall.

The side door opened, hushing the mob and the Duke entered, his golden brooch glinting against his terracotta-red surcoat. The guards thumped their swords against their shields to announce his arrival, a deafening metallic din rising up to the vaulted ceiling. The pushing stopped and the townsmen bowed their heads.

Her belly clenched like a fist.

As he sat on the carved wooden throne, the blank-faced Duke nodded to the Master of the Shield. Lord Kalin lifted a dark eyebrow and began.

‘Men of Ambrovna. According to the laws of the Kingdom of the Four Rivers and the Duchy of Ambrovna, Gerthorn Nyvard, the thirty-fourth Duke of Ambrovna is present in this Great Hall to hear the accusations made against these women. In this realm, the Duke’s decision is final and justice will be served today.’

She rolled back her shoulders and lifted her chin. She was ready.

Women of Wasps and War – available now through Amazon or Kindle Unlimited.

#64 – Christopher Ruz – Write Through The Roof

Interview with horror and fantasy writer Christopher Ruz

‘Look for people who are one or two stages ahead of where you’re at.’

Episode 64 – Christopher Ruz – Show Notes

  • Doesn’t know how to write short stories any more.
  • Tries to write every day – most productive when writing every day
  • Rituals – encasing in a bubble, getting rid of visual distraction and white noise.
  • Pomodoro method – 100 words every 5 minutes.
  • Themes – horror-based but fantasy and sci-fi. But also spy fiction
  • A narrow focus on character – even with epic fantasy using a single narrator.
  • Using a single narrator to create tension with a timeline
  • Finding a group of writers who were better than him
  • Penny Arcade, Discord, Reddit, Twitter
  • Dictation in the car with a lapel mic
  • Cormac McCarthy, Emma Osborne, NK Jemesin, James SA Corey
  • China Mieville and Joe Hill – horror short stories
  • The Ragged Blade – epic fantasy – inspired by a vivid dream – started as a short story
  • All These Shiny Worlds
  • Working on The Ragged Blade 2 (yet unnamed)
  • Originally self-published the first two parts of The Ragged Blade
  • The journey from self-published to traditionally published

‘The novel is the lazy form’


‘Every change they recommended made it a better story’

Links

Women of Wasps and War

My new novel is available now as an ebook on Amazon

Women of Wasps and War

The Sting of Justice

Agata, the Duchess of Ambrovna, was never meant to take the throne. 

In a land where men rule, her sole purpose was to smile and curtsey.

However, when war left her land leaderless, the Fatherhood religion begrudgingly allowed a first; a woman to rule. 

Now the war is over the men have returned more arrogant and cruel than ever, and the Duchess is shoved back into a life of needlework and silence.

But with her new thirst for justice, Agata is reluctant to allow her country to return to its old ways.

Without her position of power, Agata and her circle of women look to the taboo wisdom of the Wasp Women for answers. But this ancient knowledge comes with consequences, and with death and treachery on the horizon, Agata must decide whether it is worth the risk. 

Women of Wasps and War is a grim, gripping tale of power and politics, and the heart-breaking struggle between love and honour.

#63 – Toby Neal – Write Through The Roof

Interview with best-selling romance & mystery writer Toby Neal

‘People are preoccupied by crime because we want to recognise the wolves in our midst’

Episode 63 – Toby Neal – Show Notes

  • Writing is like a muscle – needs regular workouts
  • 2000 words a day target
  • Both a plotter and a pantser. More pantser for romance and plotter for mysteries
  • Recording affirmations and listening prior to writing session
  • Themes of good versus evil and the shades of grey in everyone and how love can overcome a multitude of problems
  • Dark themes but with hope – fascinated with the duality between dark and light
  • Mastering your craft – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – the 10,000 hour rule
  • Take off your pants – Libbie Hawker – the hero needs to find a cure for their flaw
  • Unconventional childhood – Memoir – Freckles
  • Putting off writing goals for security – started with an anonymous blog – using real life experience as a school counsellor
  • Speeding up the writing process
  • Dictation, health and accessing creative brain by writing longhand
  • Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens, The Outlander series – Diana Gabaldon
  • Wired Truth: multi-cultural kick-ass female main character. Pushing the envelope for what’s acceptable with female behaviour. Experimenting with different kinds of love.

‘Nothing but writing is going to make you a better writer’

‘I tried to do literary fiction and I bored myself by page 40’

Links

Music for writing – atmospheric synths

Today’s music recommendations are all about the synths. Instrumental of course, because this is music for writing.

These artists aren’t necessarily soundtrack composers (although sometimes they are) but their electronic music creates a special dark atmospheric mood.

S U R V I V E

S U R V I V E is a dark synth group from Texas and two of the members are well known for creating the ‘Stranger Things’ TV series soundtrack. Their music reminds me of 80s horror films with a touch of early Depeche Mode.

Pentagram Home Video

I know very little about this band but their music and soundtracks create a sombre yet eerie backdrop for my writing.

Cryo Chamber

Now Cryo Chamber is not an artist but a record label focusing on dark ambient music. Their YouTube channel features a whole bunch of curated playlists, releases and mixes for atmospheric writing or sleep.

If you’d like to listen to all my recommendations in one place, head to the Spotify playlist.

Happy writing.

#62 – Suzanne J Willis – Write Through The Roof

Episode 62 with Suzanne J Willis – fantasy short story & flash-fiction writer

‘The best kind of fairies, you know, the nasty ones’

Episode 62 – Suzanne J Willis – Show Notes

  • A natural pantser but learning to plot and outline. A structure helps to hit the right beats
  • Making notes every day but not writing every day
  • Tea and chocolate – freckles
  • Connection between music and writing: lyrical and poetic.
  • Themes of lack of belonging, search for self or a home, life and music
  • Learning that the language is secondary to the story and the interaction between characters gives rise to the plot
  • Writing novellas: taking up an opportunity
  • Jeanette Winterson, Patricia McKillip, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Angela Slater
  • Importance of word of mouth for recommendations
  • Portals and evil fairies in ‘Silver String in between worlds’
  • Novella for Broken Cities shared world for Falstaff Books.
  • Upcoming stories in Syntax & Salt Magazine

‘The language is inseparable from the story itself’

‘It’s a good thing to learn your bad habits.

Links

Music for Writing – dark & spooky moods

Most of the time I need music for writing. And the right kind of music. Like books and stories, I’ve always had a passion for music.

This is a new series where I’ll be sharing what I’m listening to.

Today is dark and spooky music for dark and spooky moods.

Here are three artists to inspire your dark and spooky writing.

Lebanon Hanover

Lebanon Hanover is a German-British goth electric duo. Think New Order with Nico. Great music for taphophiles and recovering goths.

Bohren and der Club of Gore

Bohren and der Club of Gore are slow, languid, dark and jazzy. Known as ‘doom jazz’, this is reminiscent of smoky clubs, noir with a touch of Twin Peaks.

John Carpenter

‘Horror-synth’ is another musical genre I gravitate towards when writing horror or general dark stuff. And John Carpenter is the grand-daddy of them all. His synth soundtracks create the perfect sense of dread.

I hope you enjoy these atmosphere-creating tunes.

If you’re writing something dark and spooky, what music do you listen to?

Edit: I’ve created a Spotify playlist featuring the artists above.

Spotify – Music for Writing playlist

#61 – Pauline Wiles – Write Through The Roof

Episode 61 with Pauline Wiles – women’s fiction author & writing productivity coach

‘We need to figure out our own path and plod along steadily.’

Episode 61 – Pauline Wiles – Show Notes

  • Benefit from writing both fiction and non-fiction: entertainment v exploring own worries
  • Take a day off once a week
  • Tea – English breakfast with milk
  • Bacon controversy
  • Fiction – light-hearted escapist women’s fiction but dealing with finding yourself as a person before getting in a relationship.
  • Quirky cultural differences between the UK and the US.
  • Non-fiction – productivity for writers – purposeful productivity.
  • Comparisonitis. Humans learn by comparing.
  • Listening to her own advice.
  • Mindfulness – catch own thinking before it spirals out of control. Ten-minute daily meditation – listen to own breath.
  • Dividing week into blocks of time. Writing, business, promotion and marketing.
  • Creating a parking lot for ideas
  • Jane Austen, Marian Keyes, Emily Giffin, Laura Vanderkam, Gretchen Rubin
  • Indie With Ease
  • Ten Things my Husband Hated

‘Try to compare when you’re having a positive day.’

‘I’m definitely not sitting there on a fluffy cloud of zen.’

Links

#60 – David Baboulene – Write Through The Roof

Episode 60 – interview with David Baboulene – author, academic & story consultant

‘I find inspiration but analyse the inspiration to speed up the process’

Episode 60 – David Baboulene – Show Notes

  • Type of writing depending on mood and deadline
  • Both a plotter and a pantser – wearing two hats
  • Successful writers are very productive
  • Writers being hermits
  • Winning a competition but having an unsatisfying experience with a Hollywood guru
  • Explaining the story craft without telling the writer what to do
  • Storification – what jumps off the page and lives in the reader’s mind e.g a moral message in a fairy tale
  • The author doesn’t need to know the ending half as much as they need to know how the story storifies. Then you can work backwards.
  • Encoding knowledge gaps which are decoded by the receiver (the reader) as meaning
  • Leaving gaps makes the reader create meaning in their own mind – puzzles for the reader to do the work
  • PG Wodehouse – books released after his death
  • The Primary Colours of Story coming out in 2019

‘He’d been rubbish but he became a genius because he worked’

Links

#59 – Rebecca Tope – Write Through The Roof

Episode #59 – Interview with cosy-mystery writer Rebecca Tope.

‘I didn’t get published until I was 50.’

  • Written 35+ murder mystery novels as a pantser
  • Coffee or gin
  • Themes of natural burials & anti-technology.
  • British cosy mysteries featuring a village pub.
  • Mobile phones affecting crime stories & the inclusion of drones
  • Practice – millions & millions of words
  • Writing groups didn’t help
  • Mentoring others helps own writing – seeing the good & bad in aspiring writers
  • Brutal feedback
  • Long apprenticeships & writing competitions
  • Biography of Sabine Baring-Gould – writer of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’
  • Research – a lot of research done for the biography & historical fiction but little research for murder mysteries
  • Celia Fremlin (domestic suspense), Agatha Christie, Lee Child, Kate Atkinson, William de Morgan
  • Settings – real & fictitious
  • The Grasmere Grudge, Secrets in the Cotswolds, the Patterdale Plot
  • One draft

‘Readers don’t mind if they think their house is the scene of a murder.”

‘I only really do one draft.’

Links

Women of Wasps and War – cover reveal

I’m delighted to reveal the cover for my next novel – Women of Wasps and War – the Sting of Injustice.

Women of Wasps and War is a grim feminist historical fantasy inspired by a true story.

Women of Wasps and War will be released by mid-June 2019. If you’d like to keep up with the latest news, including pre-order links and a chance for a free Advance Reading Copy (ARC), make sure you join my mailing list.

Women of Wasps and War

Agata, the Duchess of Ambrovna, was never meant to take the throne. 

In a land where men rule, her sole purpose was to smile and curtsey.

However, when war left her land leaderless, the Fatherhood religion begrudgingly allowed a first; a woman to rule. 

Now the war is over and the men have returned more arrogant and cruel than ever, and the Duchess is shoved back into a life of needlework and silence.

But with her new thirst for justice, Agata is reluctant to allow her country to return to its old ways.

Without her position of power, Agata and her circle of women look to the taboo wisdom of the Wasp Women for answers. But this ancient knowledge comes with consequences, and with death and treachery on the horizon, Agata must decide whether it is worth the risk. 

Women of Wasps and War is a grim, gripping tale of power and politics, and the heart-breaking struggle between love and honour.

#58 – Patty Jansen – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 58 – Patty Jansen– award-winning science-fiction & fantasy writer

‘Don’t bore the reader. Don’t annoy the reader. Don’t confuse the reader.’

Episode 58 – Patty Jansen – Show Notes

  • Do something on the manuscript every day
  • Being a rebel and going with the flow
  • Writing after 4pm and into the evening
  • Themes – down to earth, gritty and difficult topics – sex, religion and politics. Duality in the problems the characters face.
  • Writing workshops – the value is not the critiques you receive but what you learn from reading other people’s work. The bigger the group the better
  • Handling critiques
  • Online Writing Workshop for Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Horror
  • The three rules for writing; don’t bore the reader, don’t annoy the reader & don’t confuse the reader.
  • Concentrate on telling a good story. Get a reader and an editor and don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Non-fiction reading – the psychology of marketing and political biographies. In fiction, writers who can write across genres – Harry Potter/Robert Galbraith
  • Ambassador series – different ecosystems, politics and conspiracies, action, Kiwis in space. Currently working on book 9.


‘It is up to you. It’s not up to them to write your book.’

‘It is a fantasy setting but it obviously has reverberations in the real world.’

Links

#57 – Lucy Snyder – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 57 – Lucy Snyder– five times Bram Stoker award-winning writer

‘Tell us what characters think about what they’re seeing.’

Episode 57 – Lucy Snyder – Show Notes

  • Writing the type of fiction she’d like to read
  • Defining ‘weird fiction’
  • Science facts writing and reading informs science-fiction
  • The benefits of writing a poem a week
  • Coffee with milk
  • Themes of real-life loss and trauma mixed with the supernatural
  • Epiphany during a Clarion Writing Workshop – learning about the five-point plot structure
  • Using description as an opportunity to reinforce characterisation – what matters most is what the character thinks about what they’re seeing.
  • Popular fiction and literary fiction
  • Writing a space opera web serial – Broken Eye book Patreon – Eyedelon Magazine
  • Launchpad workshop – astronomy for writers
  • Caitlin R Kiernan, Christa Faust
  • Garden of Eldritch Delights – a collection of fantasy, science fiction & horror stories. Batching up stories of similar themes
  • Next up is the fourth book in the Jessie Shimmer urban fantasy series

‘Poetry is great cross-training’

Links

#56 – Alex Harrow – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 56 – Alex Harrow – queer SFF author

As I edited it, it just got queerer and queerer.’

Episode 56 – Alex Harrow – Show Notes

  • A secret closet pantser who also loves index cards and Scrivener – ‘dots connector’
  • Daily writer but not all writing is at the keyboard
  • Agile method of writing in sprints
  • Trinity of drinks – coffee, tea and water
  • English as a second language influenced the approach to writing from a ‘voicey‘ perspective
  • Need to see more queer characters as protagonists.
  • Found families and enemies to lovers
  • Good critique partners are essential
  • Moderator of #queerspec Twitter chat
  • The ever-expanding ‘To Be Read’ pile
  • Classic fantasy, Seanan Mcguire, Xan West, RoAnna Sylver
  • Interrupting cats
  • Getting in touch with non-readers. Understanding what stories touch people
  • Empire of Light inspired by the need for more queer protagonists in sci-fi and fantasy
  • Queering up your bookshelves.
  • Upcoming projects include an alternate history set in post war Dresden – queer Agent Carter

‘Not all writing happens at the keyboard’

‘I wrote this book out of spite’

Links

#55 – Orna Ross – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 55 – Orna Ross – poet, novelist & non-fiction writer

“Formally practising with free writing gives you all sort of training as a writer but also as a human being.”

Episode 55 – Orna Ross – Show Notes
  • Wanting to write fiction when writing non-fiction and vice versa
  • Write for the first couple of hours each day
  • Writing full time led to procrastination
  • Coffee. Never tea.
  • Themes of conversations around difference.
  • Self-awareness – free writing – writing fast, raw, exact & easy with no end-game
  • Meditate for 15 minutes, then free writing for 15 minutes, review once a week
  • Closed Facebook group
  • Creatives need to stay open to change
  • There are no short cuts to becoming a good writer
  • Ezra Pound, Yeats, George Eliot – Middlemarch, modern poetry movement – rap, performance, slams, in the pub & in the street, Instagram poetry
  • Keepers – inspirational poetry collection. Self-published as a low-risk experiment but began to question assumptions
  • Non-fiction project – Go Creative nine book series for creative business people
  • Trying a different approach to launch – once target for pre-orders is reached, the book is launched
  • Agility in independent publishing

“Writing as a stolen pleasure.”

“Coffee is the fluid of the devil.”

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#54 – Sandra Ireland – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 54 – Sandra Ireland – writer of tartan gothic

“I like to be scared when I’m writing.”

Episode 54 – Sandra Ireland – Show Notes
  • Morning writing – not as creative in the afternoon
  • Goal of 500 words per day
  • Ritual of two cups of tea and one cup of coffee in favourite mug
  • Dark, creepy with a heavy dose of menace, toxic relationships
  • Landscape as a starting point for writing – sense of place to inform writing
  • Manipulating people’s fears and shadow sides.
  • Not just scaring the reader, not just horror but writing about what personally scares you. Vulnerability and readers not knowing what is imagination and what is true.
  • Currently writing non-fiction about the folklore surrounding the Mill (setting of Bone Deep). The words coming out faster with non-fiction.
  • Fiction as a therapy – creative release.
  • Giving herself the permission to be creative.
  • The tribe with the right vibe – people who understand to bounce ideas off.
    Be careful who you share your writing with.
  • Brontes, Benjamin Myers – The Gallows Pole, Julie Myerson – The Stopped Heart
  • A resurgence of gothic writing – perhaps as a reaction to current events
  • Bone Deep – inspired by work as a tour guide in a water mill. At times the mill felt unwelcoming. Modern story with a strand of an old folktale (Border Ballad).
  • The key struggle for writing students is a lack of confidence. One technique is forcing students to share their work.
  • Upcoming – The Mill (non-fiction) and The Unmaking of Ellie Rook
  • Residencies – productive but sometimes lonesome

“Write about what scares you.”

“It’s a basic human drive to be creative.”

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The Case of Charles Dexter Ward – retelling Lovecraft in a ‘Serial’ way

I’m a massive podcast fan – I’ve been listening since the iPod era – but I tend to stick to the interview style of podcasts (except for Strange Tales and the BBC Play of the Week audio drama). And despite all the acclaim and popularity, I haven’t ventured into the serialised investigative podcast genre.

But what I have been gobbling up this week is a mixture of the two – The Case of Charles Dexter Ward from BBC Radio 4.

This appeared in my podcast feed as an audio drama of an HP Lovecraft story.

Say no more, I’m in.

I press play.

Then I got confused.

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#53 – Vanessa Garcia – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 53 – Vanessa Garcia – novelist, playwright & journalist

“Write the scenes you want to write.”

Episode 53 – Vanessa Garcia – Show Notes
  • Sesame Street writers room
  • Intersperse long projects with shorter projects
  • Playwriting is collaborative with the director and scenes devised in the moment
  • Writing whenever you can.
  • Cuban coffee – cafecito
  • Obsessed with Cuba – overcoming economic and familial embargoes. Obsessed with erased stories for refugees. Motherhood.
  • Write the scenes you want to write. Don’t worry about bridges connecting the scenes.
  • Discipline. Time carved out for writing and sharing your writing
  • Hiding away from writing advice
  • Using spreadsheets for interactive theatre – audiences following different stories happening at the same time
  • Reinaldo Arenas, Leonardo Padura, TV shows ‘I’m Sorry’,’Broad City’ and kids TV.
  • Amparo – inspired by a call from a marketing company then turned into an experiential theatre work. The story of the family who created the real Havana Club Rum.

“Storytelling and then story selling.”

“There’s writing coming out of TV which is just as literary.”

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#52 – Kirsten Imani Kasai – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 52 with Kirsten Imani Kasai – writer, academic & editor

“I like grit and blood and meat in my work.”

Episode 52 – Kirsten Imani Kasai – Show Notes
  • Pantser at heart using an outline as a roadmap but allowing serendipity
  • Novels allow layering
  • Tea – Yorkshire Gold with vanilla cream or port and red wine
  • Writing described as dark and weird
  • Exploring love, romance, illness, death, spirituality and metaphysics
  • A different slant on romance – short story ‘Bleat’
  • Influence of growing up in a religious family – biblical imagery and spiritual cannibalism
  • Accepting valid criticism – lyrical writing and ‘purple prose’ – limiting adjectives
  • Allowing time to get a critical eye on own work
  • Challenges with current work ‘Girlstown’ mixing visual elements, fiction and non-fiction
  • Cindy Crabb ‘Things That Help’ 90s zines, Angela Carter, Octavia Butler, Helen Zahavi – Dark Weekend
  • House of Erzulie inspired by recurring dreams of a gothic house. Researching gothic literary elements. Triptych – three narrators across time. Epistolary structure and mirroring different POVs

“Too much structure hinders the creative process.”

“The first draft is work but also play.”

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#51 – Hester Fox – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 51 with Hester Fox – artist & writer of gothic historical fiction

“A love letter to New England set at this beautiful house.”

Episode 51 – Hester Fox – Show Notes
  • Not necessarily writing every day but doing things ‘writing-related’ every day
  • Tea, snack, cosy-up with the cat or coffee shop ambience
  • Conversion from pantser to plotter
  • Dark, gothic with a happy ending – strong female relationships and romantic love
  • Embracing the darkness as an exposure therapy
  • Making every word count
  • Critique partners – sharing chapter by chapter. Feedback and accountability.
  • Cadence and rhythm in a first draft – making notes to keep the momentum going
  • 19th-century authors – Jane Austen, Dickens, Hardy. More recent – Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, Susanna Kearsley, Simone St.James, Josh Malerman
  • Historic homes in New England and day job as inspiration for The Witch of Willow Hall. Interacting with objects and houses on a daily basis
  • Second novel – The Widow of Pale Harbour – 1840s Maine during Poe-mania and a gender-flipped retelling of Beauty and the Beast

“Juicy relationships set against a dark background.”

“Making every word pull its weight in a sentence.”

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#50 – Cathi Stoler – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 50 with Cathi Stoler – award-winning crime writer

“When I was younger I wanted to be a spy.”

Episode 50 – Cathi Stoler – Show Notes
  • Writing crime as a pantser
  • Not a plot spreadsheet but a character spreadsheet
  • Real dialogue and real-life crimes – identity theft, fraud, violent crime and how people are affected
  • Eavesdropping
  • Crime writing conferences in the USA – Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, International Thriller Writers Conference
  • Taking classes and getting your character’s details right
  • John LeCarre, Ian Fleming, Sue Grafton, Alison Gaylin, Meghan Abbott, Catriona McPherson
  • Technology, social change and crime writing
  • Bar None

“You’re not going to commit a crime but you like to read about it.”

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Help me with a new book title

Dear Reader

I need your help with the title for an upcoming book.

The novel is a second world historical fantasy with strong feminist themes and no dragons.

The Five Rivers Civil War is over and the men are back triumphant.

The naïve Duchess hopes for a new era of equality and the downtrodden slum wife hopes her husband doesn’t return at all. But both are shoved back in their place as the men return more oppressive and cruel than ever.

With no resources, the women must resort to the old ways, the Wasp women, to fight back and right the wrongs. But who should have the right to decide who lives and who dies?

Which title do you like best?

  • The Wasp Women of Ambrovna (50%, 2 Votes)
  • The Sting of Justice (25%, 1 Votes)
  • None (25%, 1 Votes)
  • Women of Wasps and War (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 4

Loading ... Loading ...

If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.

And for news about the ‘unnamed’ novel in 2019, make sure you’re on the mailing list.

#49 – Rosalie Morales Kearns – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 49 with Rosalie Morales Kearns – feminist fiction writer and publisher

“Do you write every day?” “I wish!”

Episode 49 – Rosalie Morales Kearns – Show Notes
  • Novels give a chance to explore characters and a long history
  • Life getting in the way of writing every day
  • Hot chocolate and milkshakes
  • Magic realism and fabulism
  • Connections – how they are formed and how they affect people
  • Being conscious of the choice of what to show ‘in scene’ or summarise
  • Example of The Frog Prince.
  • Tools to play with during revision
  • Trying to be more organised in plot outlines
  • Creating a synopsis of your novel to highlight potential plot issues
  • Charlotte Bronte, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter,
  • Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Kingdom Of Women – inspiration
  • Historical saga and dealing with the balance of research

“There’s no single right way to do it.”

“Don’t over think it in the first draft.”

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Persistence – the unsexy secret to success

Today’s post is for the NaNoWriMo people amongst us and part of #NaNoInspo blog tour.

Hello NaNoers

It’s Day 7.

By now you’re probably over the initial blush of excitement which spurs on your Nano project.

If you’re lucky, the words are still flowing and you’re riding high.

But the fairy dust has probably fallen from your eyes and you’re staring into a white abyss with a stupid blinking cursor wondering what the fuck you signed up for.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo a bunch of times and for the first seven times, I flailed at about 20,000 word mark.

I learned the secret over time.

It’s not sexy.

It’s not cool.

It’s boring and hard and takes lots of time and it’s unrelenting.

But it’s the secret to writing success and probably the tip you don’t want to hear.

It’s the one thing that all successful writers have in common. No matter which genre.

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#48 – Icy Sedgwick – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 48 with Icy Sedgwick – blogger and writer of dark fantasy, gothic horror & westerns

“I couldn’t write po-faced literature if I tried.”

Episode 48 – Icy Sedgwick – Show Notes
  • Flash fiction can be more challenging and more fun than novels
  • Writing something every day but not necessarily fiction
  • Fun, entertaining, whimsical pulpy adventure. Standing up against wrongs, taking on bullies or oppressive regimes
  • Westerns – rabid fan base
  • Improving dialogue
  • The balance between ‘write what you know’ and ‘making stuff up.”
  • Plotting while keeping it fresh
  • Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Oscar Wilde, JK Rowling
  • The Stolen Ghost inspired by a childhood trip to Glamis Castle. Took 11 years to finish.
  • Being a hoarder and recycling ideas
  • Finishing Book 3 of dark fantasy series

“Coffee as black as possible. As nature intended.”

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