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.

EXCERPT

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,

Lisbeth

*

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,

Mama

BOOK BLURB

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. 

AUTHOR BIO

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.

Today’s Featured Author: Jane Isaac

Today I am excited to feature author Jane Isaac on my blog.

Below is an excerpt from her novel, An Unfamiliar Murder. 

EXCERPT 

How would you react to coming home to find a dead body in your flat, spending the night in a cell, labelled as main suspect in a murder enquiry?

In ‘An Unfamiliar Murder’, Anna, a secondary school teacher, faces exactly this dilemma. This excerpt from chapter two details what goes through her mind:

People show an amazing array of different reactions to a dead body. Some are frightened, afraid that the dead corpse will return to life and try to get revenge on their attacker, like in a film; some are horrified at the scene, the circumstances in which a person lost their life; some are sad, they grieve for the victim, think of their friends, their family, the lost years of life and opportunity; others are matter of fact, like the emergency services who are more accustomed to such sights and whose senses have numbed over the years as a result. Anna hadn’t felt any of these emotions. In fact she hadn’t thought about the body at all; until now.

As she finished talking to her solicitor and watched the cell door bang closed, she realised that so far her mind had focused on her incarceration, consuming her with anger, tainted by the fear of being imprisoned. It had blocked out all earlier events which felt like a blur, a whirlwind; an extraordinary out of body experience.

She closed her eyes and recalled the blood splattered all over her lounge. It was like a scene from a horror film. Who would have thought that one person’s body could contain so much blood? She thought for a moment – a person. This blood had belonged to somebody. An overwhelming feeling of shame engulfed her. She had been consumed with the incomprehensible inconvenience to her life. He had lost his….. Her stomach churned, but this time her bladder did not call out to her – it seemed to have frozen.

Anna forced her mind to push further into its depths. A lacerated body had sat facing her on the floor. The eyes…. She shuddered, physically shaking as she recalled the eyes open wide, staring at her, eyes that had belonged to someone. Panic pulsed through her veins as realisation set in; the victim of this atrocity belonged to someone. The brutal truth of this fact made the pain in her head seer until her brain felt as if it were splitting in two. This was somebody’s father, brother, husband, son…

Somewhere, some family would be disturbed this evening. Possibly watching a film, or putting the kids to bed, or maybe sitting down to dinner – a normal routine family evening, ruined by a knock at the door.

As they answered the door and saw the police officers wearing their hats, speaking in a solemn tone, – “May we come in?” – their minds would race, overwhelmed with questions. Who was it? What has happened? They would brace themselves for bad news. Maybe they would think that their car had been stolen? But the police officers’ tone would be too serious, their manner too empathetic and, once invited into the sitting room, they would ask them to sit down. Then, they knew it was serious – an accident, maybe even a death. Anna shuddered…

She imagined then that the questions would start. “Was your husband wearing a certain colour jacket when he left home today? Did he leave the house wearing casual, grey trousers?”  And this may instil an element of hope in the victim’s family. Anyone could match that description, it was nothing significant. But then the mention of something personal like a white gold, engraved wedding ring would crush all ambiguity – and they would know, there would be no doubt.

The breathing would stop, they would clutch their head and in one moment their world would be shattered to pieces – all because of that knock at the door. And they would gaze up at the clock, reading the time when their life had changed irrevocably.

Tears streamed down Anna’s face, her eyes fixed in space. Would they think that it was her? That she could even be capable of causing such pain, such devastation? The thoughts made her head go hot and dizzy; sweat coursed down the back of her neck as she jumped off the bed and rushed to the cold toilet in the corner, pushing strands of hair out of her face as she retched.

BOOK BLURB

Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder enquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim…

Leading her first murder enquiry, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?

AUTHOR BIO

Jane Isaac studied creative writing with the London School of Journalism. Her non-fiction articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online. Several of her short stories will appear in crime anthologies throughout 2012. She blogs about her writing experience, ‘Diary of a Newbie Novelist’ at http://www.newbiewriters.com/

Jane lives in rural Northants, UK with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo. When she is not writing she loves to travel, is an avid reader, Mum, dog lover and enjoys spending time with her family. She believes life should be an adventure!

Jane loves to hear from readers and writers. Visit her website where you can read an excerpt of the novel, peruse her blog, ‘Caffeine’s Not a Crime’, and email her through the contacts page.

An Unfamiliar Murder is available from Amazon for the Kindle in the US and the UK as well as in paperback.

You can contact or follow Jane on Twitter, Facebook or on her blog.