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.

Choosing to be a stay-at-home mom

My husband and I finally decided to have kids in our 30’s. We had been married almost eight years before the child discussion ever came up. Before that we were both fine with our decision not to have kids. But then as I neared thirty, my biological clock began ticking.

Once we decided to take the plunge, we talked about what would happen after we had the baby. Would I want to work and place the baby into daycare or would I want to stay at home? It really proved to be a short discussion.

It was clear from the beginning that we both would rather I stay at home with the baby rather than return to work. And fortunately, we had the resources to allow me to do that.

Now, just so no one jumps up and starts complaining, I do believe there is nothing wrong with both parents working and using daycare (or grandma or a nanny) to help them raise their child. I know some people can’t afford to have one parent stay home and also that some mothers aren’t cut out to be stay-at-home moms. There is nothing wrong, right, better, or worse for ANYONE’S decision on whether they work outside the house AND at home or if they just work at home.

And believe me, raising kids is definitely work. It is not just sitting at home while the kids nap or play. It is teaching them to eat, walk and explore. When the kids were younger, each day was a new adventure – a trip to the zoo, story time at the library or even just a trip to the grocery store.  Now they have the challenges and adventures of going to school. (Lexie is half-day preschool and Jase is in the first grade.)

When my husband and I made the decision that I should stay at home, we had no clue if I would be one of the women who loved staying home or if I would miss the challenges of working or even just miss the adult interaction with my coworkers.  Well I can say after seven and a half years of doing this, I have never regretted my decision. I have never been bored. Every day is something new.

With Lexi starting kindergarten next year, we have already begun discussing whether I would want to rejoin the work force or continue to stay home. Choosing to remain a stay-at-home mom would give me plenty of time to devote to my writing and would allow me to still be heavily involved with the kids by volunteering at their schools. So again, I think that will be a short discussion. The answer is obvious to me – stay at home.

Today’s Featured Author: Tahir Shah

Today I am excited to interview author Tahir Shah on my blog.


What or who inspired you to start writing?

I have been inspired by various things and various people. If I think back to our family home as a child, the one sound that stays with me is the sound of a manual typewriter clattering away. Clack, clack, clack. I can hear it now. It was my father down in his study. He was driven like almost no one else I have ever known, driven to produce original work. And that inspiration – to create, to produce – was the most important thing I have ever learned. I don’t know why, but I am driven to create material… and I have a yellow Post-It note on my wall here at my desk with PRODUCE MATERIAL! written on it.

I was exposed to all sorts of people in my childhood. Most of them were very normal, but each one had something of value to pass on. Although, a child doesn’t necessarily understand what they have received until much later.

Some of these people came to our home, while others were encountered on journeys. A full spectrum of humanity was presented to us in a random order.

I was always fascinated by the idea that an author could take a blank sheet of paper, and fill it with something that came from their imagination. And, I suppose, it was the writers who sought out my father, who inspired me most. Writers with a vivid imagination. They included Doris Lessing, Robert Graves, and J. D. Salinger.

Later, I was inspired by other writers, most notably my great friend Wilfred Thesiger, and Paul Theroux, whom I met this summer for the first time.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

There’s nothing that gets me more worked up (well, almost nothing), than writers congratulating themselves on being a special breed. There’s absolutely nothing special about writers. To me, they’re just like basket weavers, making wares to take to market. (If you hang about with basket weavers long enough, you learn that they, too, think of themselves as special).

And, I say this, because I have always dreaded thinking of myself as a writer. It gives me goose-bumps because I regard it almost pitiful to talk about the craft of putting words onto a page. Writing is something that should be done, rather than discussed endlessly.

And, in my opinion, the moment an author stops writing, even for a single afternoon, he ceases to be a writer.

So, to answer the question… I don’t think I have ever considered myself to be a writer. I am just a humble of observer of Men. Someone who would be unemployable in any other field.

Do you outline a book or just start writing?

I am very careful in preparing. I write loads and loads of notes, and tend to plan a project out in great detail. But, then, when it comes down to it, I often don’t use the plan much at all. It’s important to have there though, on the desk, just in case you go off the rails. And, that’s what’s so important – to remember the rails.

Newcomers to writing forget the rails and they go off the edge. Rather like a mason carving lettering into stone, only a great master can begin without sketching the letters in pencil first.

What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?

The best advice was to write for myself. It was given to me by Doris Lessing when I was twelve. She later cautioned me to forget the publishers and even the audience, and to write for myself, and from my heart.

The worst advice on writing I have ever received was from an editor at a big publishing house. It was to cut the length of my book down by a third because the cost of paper was so high.

Editors are without exception some of the most foolish people walking the planet. They like to believe they are important, and most of them have overinflated egos – egos the size of the Eiffel Tower. And, I can’t tell you the joy it gives me to witness the rearranging of the publishing industry, watching many prominent editors being flung out on their ears.

What fuels you as a writer to continue to write?

Several things. The first is because my base character is lazy and, by writing, I get a sense that I am not being lazy. The second is to channel my fascination for observation. I love holding something in my mind and turning it into the light, as I observe it minutely. And, the third thing that fuels me, is the idea that one day perhaps, a single person will be inspired to change their life because of something I have experienced or explained.

Please tell us about your current release.

My latest book is a novel, entitled TIMBUCTOO. It’s the first novel I have written, and is based towards the start of the nineteenth century. It tells the true-life tale of the first white Christian to visit the city of Timbuctoo, which is in West Africa. At the time, that city was regarded as an African El Dorado. All the European powers worth their salt wanted to get there and to sack the city. But they were beaten by an illiterate American sailor, Robert Adams, who was quite uninterested at his achievement.

What inspired you to write this book? 

Twenty years ago, I was in the depths of the London Library in St. James’ Square, when I saw a book propping up a water pipe. Without thinking, I pulled it down and began to read it. Entitled, the The Narrative of Robert Adams, it was the story of this illiterate American sailor who was the first Christian to reach Timbuctoo. From the first page, I was hooked by the story.

Did you base any of the characters on real people?

As I said, the book is based on a true-life story, but I had a lot of gaps to fill in. And, what fun I had filling in those gaps – with a mixture of real historical people, and others drawn from my vivid imagination.

My favourite of all is the Prince Regent, who later became King George IV. He’s totally overweight and decadent, but seems to have been a good friend to those he loved. I wish I could travel back in time and be a fly on the wall of his home, the palace Carlton House.

What’s your next book?

For a long time I have wanted to write a very very short book inspired by my love of The Arabian Nights. Of course, I already wrote a book called In Arabian Nights, which considers the way Morocco is affected and shaped by stories and story-telling. But in this new book – called SCORPION SOUP – I am using multiple frame stories to tell a group of tales. I am having so much fun with it. Hoping to have it published at the start of the new year. Watch this space!

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Ok. I’m going to go one classic and one modern. I’d pick Oscar Wilde, not just because I’m a fan, which I am, but because he was also such an interesting and polarizing character. Then I’d also choose Michael Slade, who is a Canadian author I love.

If you could jump into any book and live in that world, which would it be?

On nights when I cannot fall asleep, I pretend I’m walking the streets of London in the nineteenth century through the landscape portrayed in one of Charles Dickens’ books. I picture myself going into Hatchard’s Bookshop on Piccadilly, and browsing the stacks of books – books that these days are so collectable and rare. I find myself soaking up the sounds and the smells, sensations that only Dickens managed to get through to his readers in words.

Book Description

For centuries, the greatest explorers of their age were dispatched from the power-houses of Europe London, Paris and Berlin on a quest unlike any other: To be the first white Christian to visit, and then to sack, the fabled metropolis of Timbuctoo.

Most of them never returned alive.

At the height of the Timbuctoo mania, two hundred years ago, it was widely believed that the elusive Saharan city was fashioned in entirety from the purest gold everything from the buildings to the cobble-stones, from the buckets to the bedsteads was said to be made from it.

One winter night in 1815, a young illiterate American seaman named Robert Adams was discovered half-naked and starving on the snow-bound streets of London. His skin seared from years in the African desert, he claimed to have been a guest of the King of Timbuctoo.

Thought of an American claiming anything let alone the greatest prize in exploration was abhorrent in the extreme. Closing ranks against their unwelcome American guest, the British Establishment lampooned his tale, and began a campaign of discrediting him, one that continues even today.

An astonishing tale based on true-life endurance, Tahir Shah s epic novel Timbuctoo brilliantly recreates the obsessions of the time, as a backdrop for one of the greatest love stories ever told. Timbuctoo will be released on June 28, 2012. This is a limited edition hardback, very very high spec, and designed along the lines of the travel books of two centuries ago. It weighs 2 kilos (almost 4.5 lbs), has fabulous marbled endpapers, a silk bookmark, a pouch at the rear with inserts, and six huge fold-out maps. The paper is wood-free, and the cover embossed with raised gold type. In addition, each copy contains the clues needed to begin a treasure hunt that could result in locating one of four golden treasures of Timbuctoo. The book is a thing of extraordinary beauty, and the kind of book that will last two hundred years or more.


You can purchase Timbuctoo on Amazon US, Amazon UK and Barnes and Noble.

Find out more about Tahir on his website.