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!

Final Chapter of Betwixt – Now available!

Betwixt shortHere it is folks – the final installment of BETWIXT.

I feel like I’ve come full circle with my writing in this atmospheric short story.  I actually began my writing career by writing short stories for Woman’s Way magazine, and it was seeing my words in print that spurred me on to write full-length novels.

I once heard someone say that writing short stories is like using a different muscle and it certainly does have a very different feel to writing a novel.  The scope that you can luxuriate in with a novel isn’t available in a short story.  Every scene, every word must be laced with a depth of intent that reveals so much more than your limited word-count can say.  I have to say, I really do enjoy it.  Not everything has to be explained so much in a short story.  It’s like a lightening strike – it just happens and all your left with is the afterglow, which should be bright and stunning.

I will be making this story available for download shortly, but until then, you can read it in full on Wattpad here.

One book does not a best-selling author make…

I’ve always been one of those ‘look before you leap’ types, but as soon as I typed ‘The End’ on the final page of my novel, I found my fingers itching to hit the publish button. “Come on lets print this bad boy” my inner voice urged.   After all, I’ve been keeping this story to myself for about two years, between researching, writing, editing and fine-tuning and I am just bursting to share it.  Nevertheless, my prudent nature has won out and as a result I’ve found some really helpful tips on how to self-publish and what to do before you hit that button by those who have been there, published that and made a living out of it.

Samantha Young is one such author whose books have topped the NY Times bestseller lists.  Her advice is to avoid publishing your first novel all on its ownio.  It would seem that spending years lavishing time, sweat and tears over your manuscript, then sending it out there like a knobbly-kneed child to take on the ebook world all on its lonesome could be a missed opportunity.  Why?

Understandably, readers don’t have a huge amount of confidence in an author with only one title to their name.  They might be thinking, “This writer could just be a fly-by-night, flibbertigibbet who’s just not worth investing in”.  So how can you entice them to invest in your book and convince them that this isn’t just a vanity project; that you have worked hard to craft a story worth reading?  That you are here for the long haul?  Short answer: put up more than one novel.

“What?  I have to write another one? NOW?”  *Shrieks*

I mean obviously there was always going to be a second novel – I have a rough draft prepared for my third in fact.  But that could take another year to complete and what do I do in the meantime?  Keep my novel in a dusty old .doc file? Keep assuring friends and family “I AM A REAL WRITER!” with nothing to show for it but pale skin and repetitive strain injury.

But then the answer came in the shape of a short story.  I came across an author I wasn’t familiar with (Eleanor Moran) who is actually published with a traditional publishing house, but has a free short story ebook available with Kindle.  This is a genius idea, because it gives readers a taste of your writing style, so they’ll know what to expect before they make a commitment to buy your novel, and it gives you the writer the opportunity to connect with potential readers, without having to give your novel away for free, or rush to write something that isn’t up to your exacting standards.  Everybody wins and if it’s good enough for the goose (big bum publishers) it’s good enough for the ganders.

Check out Samantha Young’s blog here for more great advice.