Category: mystery

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.

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

#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

#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

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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#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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#45 – Elizabeth Spann Craig – Write Through The Roof

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

Episode 45 with Elizabeth Spann Craig – cosy mystery writer & writing tip gatherer

“Don’t discount the elderly.”

Episode 45 – Elizabeth Spann Craig – Show Notes
  • Started off as a pantser
  • Understanding your genre’s patterns
  • Muscle memory after 26 books
  • Old fashioned puzzle mysteries – escape for the reader
  • Key theme – don’t discount the elderly
  • Set the bar the low
  • Twitterific Writing tips
  • Doubling down on production and reading more
  • Agatha Christie, MC Beaton, Anthony Horowitz
  • A reader’s suggestion inspired Cleaning is Murder
  • Traditional and independent publishing – getting rights back

“Set the bar low.”

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#33 – Kim Newman – Write Through The Roof

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

Episode 33 with Kim Newman – novelist & film critic

“My novels are my purest me.”

Episode 33 – Kim Newman – Show Notes
  • Novels as favourite medium, loose outlines and historical research
  • Takeout coffee and working in the dressing gown
  • As a critic putting people into boxes but as a writer refusing to be put in a box
  • Reading, time and never having had a real job
  • The way writing as a career has changed since 1980s
  • Buying first computer with money from writing for porn magazines with Neil Gaiman
  • Editors used to have more time to deal with and develop new writers
  • Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Patrick Hamilton, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe, Ramsay Campbell, Peter Straub, David Thomson, Greil Marcus
  • Criticism and deadlines
  • The need for a continuity person during novel writing
  • Big file full of random film quotes

“Some people don’t realise I’m the same person.”

“My critical range is not good or bad but interesting or dull.”

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#30 – Angela Savage – Write Through The Roof

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

Episode 30 with Angela Savage – award winning writer & Director of Writers Victoria

“Good strong writing comes from using simple words in a compelling way”

Episode 30 – Angela Savage – Show Notes
  • Writing on the train and “the work of the couch”
  • Inspired by songwriters like Springsteen, Waits and Earl
  • Wine for writing like drinking when playing pool
  • South East Asia, reproductive health, kinship, culture and human nature
  • “Just get the story down”
  • Reading, study the craft, learning, playing with verbs, mentoring
  • Critical reading – underlining and making notes in books
  • Why crime fiction is so pleasurable for some readers
  • Overdoing the research in historical fiction
  • Inspired by Emma Viskic, Julie Koh, Barbara Kingsolver, Christos Tsiolkas
  • Deadlier – 100 of the best crime stories written by women
  • Daughter as sensitivity reader

“My writing was inspired by the fact no one wanted to hear my travel stories.”

“You need to know how it ends to know how it begins.”

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#21 – Amanda Bridgeman – Write Through The Roof

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

Episode 21 with Amanda Bridgeman – space opera & sci-fi thriller writer

“Take all writing advice with a pinch of salt.”

Episode 21 – Amanda Bridgeman – Show Notes
  • Not necessarily writing every day, but working on the book business every day
  • Dead cold silence to write
  • Fueled by crumpets
  • Sci-fi thrillers but ongoing character driven sagas with a bit of romance
  • Writing military without a military background; research including Facebook groups and input from fans
  • Learning from other writers but with limits. Finding stories you like and analyse why
  • Ernest Cline, Andy Weir, Emily St.John Mandel, Stephen Moss, Lindsay Buroker
  • Time of The Stripes inspired by a walk to the shop to buy chocolate and current events
  • Setting stories in the US
  • Madeleine’s tip – Taking a Break

“Believe in yourself and your voice.”

“The key to a good book is mystery and intrigue.”

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#20 – Caroline Mitchell – Write Through The Roof

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

Episode 20 with Caroline Mitchell – best selling crime & thriller writer

“I say ‘how could you not have ideas?’ Look around you.”

Episode 20 – Caroline Mitchell – Show Notes
  • Writing a synopsis and the hook before starting to write
  • Coffee, music and social media before a day’s writing
  • Dark themes, exploring the darker side of human nature and the ripple effects from crime. Nothing is black and white in the police.
  • Silent Victim is a story of grooming and a body buried in the backyard
  • Keep learning all the time, always push yourself
  • Dictation; first draft without touching the keyboard
  • Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Mel Sherratt, Angela Marsons
  • Combination of her past experiences in the police along with fresh ideas
  • Pivoting to reach more readers
  • Madeleine’s tip – explorations in dictation

“If the gin comes out I’m not having a good day.”

“Dialogue is lot more natural when you dictate.”

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#19 – Karen Rose Smith – Write Through The Roof

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

Episode 19 with Karen Rose Smith – Romance & cosy mystery writer

“Writing, along with cats, is my therapy.”

Episode 19 – Karen Rose Smith – Show Notes
  • Writing after back surgery to deal with pain
  • Husband and cats
  • Dictation; more editing involved but writing goes faster
  • Relationships; family, romantic and in small towns
  • Writing every day hones your instincts
  • Writing 13 books before being published
  • Getting manuscripts in early and saying no
  • Daisy Tea Garden mysteries; tea shops, Amish country, family relationships
  • Emilie Loring, Glenna Finley, Kathleen E Woodiwiss, Harlan Corben, Jodi Piccoult, Dan Brown, Lisa Scottoline
  • Madeleine’s tip – dealing with comparisonitis

“When I’m alone in the dark with the tape recorder, I’m good”

“Reading a genre you don’t write sharpens your skills”

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#16 – George Mann – Write Through The Roof

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

Episode 16 with George Mann – Paranormal mystery & Dr Who comic writer

“You’re chasing ghosts if you’re chasing trends.”

Episode 16 – George Mann – Show Notes
  • Dreaded Chapter 7
  • Inspiration from music – songs associated with every book
  • Theme of Identity
  • Mystery and fantastical, the bizarre and the weird. More Peake than Tolkien.
  • Trying to be Peter F Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter, and failing.
  • Wychwood was a switch into a modern day setting.
  • Getting police procedures right
  • Initial premise for Wychwood – a BBC Sunday night crime drama with dark spooky elements
  • M. John Harrison, Steven Eriksen, Susan Cooper, Peter Robinson
  • Madeleine’s tip – Artist’s Date

“Write something for yourself.”
“It’s part of the writer’s job to read widely.”

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