Betwixt – A gothic short story

woman-2375822_640 Credit: Enrique Meseguer

I love gothic novels. Everything from Edgar Allen Poe to Laura Purcell, Bram Stoker to Carlos Ruiz Zafon – I find the blend of dark romanticism, ominous characters, decaying grandeur, curses and the supernatural simply irresistible. My favourite novel as a teenager was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Set on the desolate and uninviting moors, with its harsh climate provided the perfect backdrop for a gothic romance and reminded me so much of Ireland, that I felt strangely connected to it. I was also really drawn to the anti-heroes Heathcliff and Cathy – their willful nature, their intensity. But it’s the structure of the story and the supernatural elements that infuse it with a sense of mystery and fear.

I was less enamoured by my penchant for the macabre when staying at a friend’s cottage in the middle of the Irish countryside, miles from anywhere. It was the longest night of my life (I was supposed to stay there for a week. Plans changed!). Nestled (or buried – depending on how you want to look at it!) at the base of a hill , it was a traditional thatched cottage with dinky windows and a half door. The smell of turf almost knocked me over as we walked inside, but I tried to be cool with the gloom and the damp. And the fact that, despite it being the height of summer, inside was a million degrees cooler than outside.

That night however, I stopped being cool with everything when the noises started. Every creak made me jump. It didn’t help that the room was full of religious icons, leering over me. The distinct sound of a chair being scraped across the floor left me rigid in the bed. I had to risk my arm being snatched by who knew what to switch on the lamp. I gave up on sleep and sat in an armchair by the smokey fire until it was light enough to pack up and go back to civilisation. But not before my companion told me the history of the house, and how we were not the first to leave the place in a hurry.

This, dear reader, was the inspiration for my gothic short story, Betwixt which is currently a number one bestseller on Amazon! I wrote it in 2015, before The Story Collector, as a little side project, so it’s a thrill to see it doing so well and garnering such positive reviews. Like all indie authors, I struggle to get my work promoted and break into new readerships. So I have made this short story permanently free on all platforms (Kobo ~ Apple) so readers can get an introduction to my writing before buying all of my books!

Betwixt is the perfect quick read for this time of year – it’s atmospheric and haunting and inspired by a true story (eek!) So download your FREE copy now and if you enjoy it, I would love if you could share the love by passing it on to a friend and/or leaving a short review. They make a HUGE difference to how books are ranked on Amazon, which in turn can really impact on an author’s career. True story! You can have all the PR in the world, but it is readers who have the greatest influence. So thank you to everyone who has made this book number one and to those of you about to read it, let me know what you think!

What a Novella Idea!

Is the novella seeing a resurgence in popularity thanks to E-books?  I’m going to ease myself off the fence and yes!  While novella’s are nothing new in the literary world, it is a form that has eluded a lot of contemporary first-time authors because lets face it, what publishing house is going to accept a novella?  Classics such as Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Kafa’s Metamorphosis and Joyce’s The Dead have been revered and enjoyed by critics and readers alike and I can’t imagine anyone having said, “Do you not think it’s a bit, ooh I dunno, short?”  

These days however, in commercial fiction, authors are always aiming for that sweet spot between 80 – 100,000 words, regardless of whether or not the story warrants that sort of length.  I have read many books that have been teased out beyond their measure and as a result, the impact of the story is watered down and as a reader, you feel like you’ve been led up the garden path.  But you can probably bet your book that the publishers have insisted on making the book that length for commercial purposes, leaving the author with little choice in the matter.

Cue self-publishing!  The real advantage of self-publishing for authors is that they can decide the length of their work and a myriad of other things to boot, so the story is told to the reader in the format that was intended.  Some stories just belong in that 20,000 – 50,000 word category.  One example is Kate Mosse’s Winter Ghosts.  I really enjoyed that novella, but it definitely wouldn’t have had the legs to become a full length novel.

It is also interesting to see a lot of established authors writing Kindle Singles (5,000 – 30,000 words).  It’s an interesting way to keep your fan base interested and try out different writing ideas and storylines in a shorter format.  You can read Irish writer Julian Gough’s article “The Big Short” here: