Today’s Featured Author: Abby Richards

Today I am excited to feature author Abby Richards on my blog.

Here is an excerpt from her novel, Blackened Cottage.


Dear Mama,

If it were not for little Eddie, I fear I would lose my mind.

Father has not spoken once since you left us. In truth, he barely glances in my direction and, if he comes near, which thankfully is a rare thing indeed, a frightful tension accompanies him and I have to fight the urge to flee the room.

I am confined to the new house for the foreseeable period and I do not know why. I just know that Father’s brief note carried a warning tone that could be dangerous to ignore.

We are hidden away in the countryside far from anyone, in a hideous place rather aptly called Blackened Cottage, for its outer walls are painted entirely black. Sadly, the cottage is about as welcoming as the Reaper’s smile. Inside, the walls are the colour of jaundiced skin. A cloying odour of rancid milk permeates the air, and dust muffles every surface as if the building has not been lived in for one hundred years.

For me, the floorboards are the cottage’s one redeeming feature. They are finest oak, beautiful when shaved of dust. You would admire them Mama.

Downstairs there is a study that I have never entered, a small, dank kitchen and a medium-sized living room with a bricked in fireplace. A narrow staircase leads upstairs to just two bedrooms so Father sleeps in the study. I gave the bigger bedroom to Eddie. He needs it more than me.

Father’s silence does not merely estrange me, it scares me. Though Eddie says nothing, I know it disturbs him too. Occasionally, I catch Father staring at his reflection with a strange intensity. His eyes seem darker these days, and my spine prickles when he enters the room. Mostly he keeps to his study, for which I am glad.

I spend my days tutoring Eddie in Mathematics and English. He is a good pupil. He works hard and asks a lot of questions. Fortunately, he has ceased asking about Father. It is almost as if Eddie has accepted our new reality far more readily than I.

Loneliness burns my chest, but I cannot leave – not while Eddie is so young. We celebrated his eighth birthday yesterday. Just he and I. I made him a puzzle. It was his only present. Either Father forgot or he no longer cares, but I dare not approach him to ask.

Oh Mama, I cannot believe you have been gone a year. Would that you could return and take us away from all of this.

Father’s footsteps are on the landing! I must hide this. ‘Til tomorrow Mama,



I hide my letter just as Father’s footsteps pause outside my door. My heart drums even though I am almost certain he will not enter my room. The floorboards creak once, twice, thrice. He is moving away. I let out a sigh and unclench my fists. He has never hurt me or Eddie, but I can feel his soul darkening. His mind slipping.

Eddie is in the garden but it is getting dark so I gently open my door and tiptoe down the staircase. Every board creaks and gives a little underfoot. I wonder how long it will be before a step gives way. A tiny part of me hopes that when that day comes, Father will be the one who crashes through the floor. Things would be so much easier if he were not around.

Immediately I feel guilty for the thought and bite my lip until it stings.

I creep past Father’s study. As usual, the door is firmly shut.

With bare feet and strumming heart, I hastily exit the living room. In this house, I cannot walk slowly.

Eddie is play-fighting with Jack. Jack is his imaginary friend.

Jack is also eight years old. He has carrot-orange hair and freckles. He wears an old-fashioned sailor uniform. Eddie says Jack wears the same thing every day.

“Time for supper, Eddie.”

“Can Jack come too? Please, please, please?”

I search his delicate, innocent face. His brown hair flops down over his right eye. He always reminds me of a puppy. Unconditionally loving. My heart twinges. I brave a smile.

“Jack can most certainly join you – as long as he minds his table manners.”

“Yes!” Eddie exclaims, “Come Jack, you can sit next to me.”

Not for the first time, I glimpse a form beside Eddie as he hurries into the cottage. I shake my head, certain I am imagining things.

Following quickly, I leave the garden with its dark cords of ivy and enter the kitchen.

I decide to explore the garden tomorrow in the daylight when Eddie takes his afternoon nap. Eddie tells me it is far bigger than it first appears.


My Dearest Lisbeth,

Times are hard. I miss you and Eddie dearly. I am sorry for leaving you with that soulless man, but you are strong, kind and good and I am hopeful that your loving spirit will ferry you through the loneliness that you speak of.

With regards to your Father, do you remember what I told you before I left? DO NOT TRUST HIM. If he is electing not to converse with you this is a good thing. Believe me. He is a dire man. His soul dissolves by the day; I could feel it then, and now, so can you. Be careful. Trust your instincts.

I will write again shortly. All my love,



Her only chance is to run…

Victorian England, 1875

When her mother leaves Blackened Cottage, Lisbeth grows increasingly terrified for herself and her little brother Eddie. Desperate, she befriends a disfigured girl, but when her father finds out he imprisons her in the cottage and invites his lecherous friend to court her.

Lisbeth discovers that her father has sent Eddie away and escapes to find him. Pursued by the two men, she embarks on a dangerous journey and captures the eye of a psychopath who seeks to possess her body, mind and soul.

As Lisbeth flees, she is shocked to discover how little she remembers about her life, and unprepared for the terrifying truths she must face. 


Abby Richards is an English Teacher and lives in Bedfordshire.  She started writing novels in 2002 and in October 2012 took a sabbatical to take a full-time course leading to an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University.

You can find out more about Abby on her blog.

You can purchase her book on Amazon US or Amazon UK or the paperback version here.

Using sight, sound, smells, taste and touch to enhance your writing

As writers we know we need to paint a picture for our readers. We need to surround them with details so that our make-believe world is real to them. And by describing the sights and sounds in the scene, we do a good job of this but too often writers ignore the other senses. Well, unless you are a romance or erotica author, and then you certainly don’t ignore the sense of touch. <grin>

But we enrich our writing when we use all the senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.  Using all of these details makes a scene come to life.


Remember, what your character sees is what your reader sees, and if you fail to describe very much, your reader won’t fully appreciate the scene. However, there is a such thing as too much description. There is no need to describe the cracks and peeling paint on a sign unless it has some relevance to your story.


The sense of smell can invoke powerful memories; a certain perfume may remind you of someone, or freshly cut grass may bring back memories of your childhood. By adding the sense of smell to your writing, you create a subtle sense of atmosphere and add another layer to your descriptive passages for your reader to enjoy. This is an often overlooked sense, but it can provide background color to your narrative.


This is perhaps the most neglected sense in writing. Eating can be a shared, sensual pastime. Arouse your reader’s taste buds. Was the apple pie warm and delicious and make the character remember the pies their grandmother made or was it barely edible and tasted of cardboard?


Whether it’s characters or background noise, remember to add a sense of sound to the narrative to help your reader feel the scene. This could be the chirping of birds in the morning or the fog horn of the ships at the harbor.


You can describe the feel of material of a character’s dress, the feel of a baby’s skin, the roughness of the ropes binding your character’s wrists and so much more to add to your description.


These senses may be just small details of your whole novel but remember it’s all in the details.

Here is an example of how using the senses can change a scene.

Basic scenario:

Taylor crawled through the tunnel, keeping his head low, so he wouldn’t bang it on the low ceiling. A dim light shone in the distance so he knew the end was near.

The above example gives the reader no clue where Taylor is or how he feels about the tunnel or what he sees other than the light at the end. The following two paragraphs allow the reader to experience the tunnel with Taylor.

Scenario #1

Taylor crawled through the tunnel ignoring the slime sliding through his fingers. The fecal smell of the sewer nearly made him gag, so he forced himself to breathe through his mouth. The stench was so bad he could almost taste it. He kept his head down to avoid scraping it on the low ceiling. A dim light shone in the distance so he knew the end was near. He couldn’t wait to breathe clean air once again.

Scenario #2

Taylor crawled through the tunnel, wincing as the sharp rocks sliced into his hands and knees. He had to keep head low, so he wouldn’t bang it on the rocks jutting out of the low ceiling. He took a deep breath. The pungent smell of flowers let him know his destination was near. A dim light shone in the distance. The rocks sparkled in the light causing them to resemble precious jewels. 

#FREE book alert – THE SEARCH is free 11/29 to 12/1

This Thursday, Friday & Saturday, you can download my short story, The Search, for FREE!

Available only at Amazon.

The Search: Book Description

For over a thousand years, telepathic cats known as STACs have faithfully searched for those with power over the elements looking for the one foretold to save the Land. None have questioned their duty to fulfill this ancient task.

But when Tosh’s latest charge is murdered because of his Elemental powers, Tosh considers abandoning The Search. Will a glimpse of the future destruction be enough to change his mind?

Announcing #NewRelease – DESTINY by Susan Leigh Noble

Today I usually write about publishing or marketing, but instead I want to take this time to announce the release of Destiny: Book 3 of The Elemental.

Destiny is the conclusion to my The Elemental trilogy. You can purchase it for $.2.99 at Amazon, Smashwords and wherever e-books are sold. For a limited time, get Summoned (Book 1) and Quietus (Book 2) for only 99 cents.

Destiny: Book Description

Destroying Quietus should have stopped the destruction to the Land. But it hadn’t. Slowly, the barren areas continue to grow destroying everything in their path. None of Lina’s Elemental powers can repair the damage while the Land remains contaminated by magic.

But there is an ancient scepter created by a Learner that they believe will lift this magical barrier. Before Lina can claim it, the scepter is stolen.  Now Lina and Val must race to find the scepter and end the destruction to the Land once and for all.

Destiny: Excerpt


He ran a soft cloth over the crystal-like blade. The sword was the finest he had ever crafted. He had infused it with magic he had never done before. Powerful magic that he hoped would be enough. But the future was so unclear; there were too many variables to plan for every contingency.

Ever since Elden had the vision of the Land in despair, the rest of the Order of the Guardians had done what they could to ensure what he saw would not happen. At first when Elias, Elden’s brother, had come to him, Barton hadn’t believed Elden had seen the future. However, he and the other members were able to use a spell to share Elden’s vision. In it, the Land became a barren, desolate wasteland. It had glittered with the traces of magic. Barton had been shocked. How could a Learner have allowed this to happen?

He shook his head as he thought about it. As impossible as it was to believe, he had seen it and knew it clearly would come to pass if they did nothing. The Order had spent many hours discussing it, and now they had their plan: a plan they hoped would save the Land from this destruction. There were so many things that could go wrong. If any part of the plan failed, then the Elden’s vision might become reality.

Barton ran through the checklist in his head: Thane had already sent a vision to Lars, the Last Elemental; Kiana had contacted the dragons; and Reed had worked on the spell that would be cast when all the preparations were in place. It was the spell that would be the end of the Learners; it would suppress their desire to Learn magic.

In case the spell failed to work, they had scattered hints in their journals of how to reverse the magic. Now with the sword crafted, and the spell that would allow Elias to pass on the message already infused into the blade, he had one more thing to do.

“Barton, it is late,” Rena said, her hands running across his shoulders.

He hadn’t heard her come in. “Not yet,” he said as he turned to look at her. His hands instantly went to caress her swollen abdomen. He could feel the baby moved inside her. His son, he thought, his son who would pass the sword on down through his line.

“Barton Lonce, it can wait until morning.”

He shook his head. “I have one more thing to do,” he said as he turned back to the table. He picked up the quill as Rena sighed. She kissed his cheek. He heard her soft footsteps as she crossed the room. She closed the door softly behind her.

He began to write: The barrier must be lifted. Any magic done on the Land can only be reversed with magic. Use the tool provided. The two that are separate must be together in order to work. Only after the magic is removed can The Elemental become one with the Land. For this is the only way to stop the destruction and return the Land to its former glory.

Barton took the paper and folded it in half and then in half again. He slipped it into a small pocket on the inside cover of his journal. Then with a whisper, he sealed it up. Now he only hoped it would reach his descendent when the peril the Land would face had come to pass.