Monday, 31 December 2012

My Writing Year in Review

I must say 2012 was a pretty good year for me as far as my writing is concerned. I finished the Eternal Hunger novella series and Hunger of the Wolf. I also wrote two other novellas and I started What Women Don't Want, which will hopefully be my first book for 2013.

This was also the year that I dived head-first into the world of self-publishing, and overall it's been a good experience. I still have a huge amount to learn about writing but I'm on my way and I'm thrilled to be starting a course in writing very soon which I hope will help me to develop further. You can only do so much on your own, and I'm at a point where I really need feedback from people whose professional judgement I trust.

My writing goals for 2013:

1. To read more. To be a good writer you need to read A LOT and I need to get stuck into my TBR list in a big way this year. I'm kicking the year off with A Tale of Two Cities to get myself in the frame of mind for quality writing. No offence to my fellow-indies but I downloaded a lot of sub-par books this year, most of which I didn't finish.

2. To expand my horizons beyond romance. Everything I've written so far has had romantic elements but I'd like to write something in a completely different genre. I have some ideas for a thriller and a fantasy, but at the moment they're just tiny seeds.

3. To forget all about sales and just focus on writing. I'd also like to engage more meaningfully with other writers and readers without having the goal of marketing my books always in the back of my mind. I figure if I write a good book it will eventually find its readership, and if it doesn't well at least I had fun writing it!

4. To write (or at least start) a full-length novel that I can submit to traditional publishers and have the patience to wait for responses.

5. To write more short stories. There's no better way to hone the craft in my opinion.

6. To spend less time cruising aimlessly around the net. This was a HUGE time waster for me in 2012 and I don't want to repeat the same mistake this year. On that note I'm getting off my computer right now.

What are your reading/writing goals for 2013?

My Reading Year in Review

I came across this end of year reading survey on someone's blog and decided to steal some of the questions for myself. 2012 has not been a good year for me as far as reading goes as I haven't done nearly as much as I'd normally do because I've been focused on writing instead. My hope for 2013 is that I can read a book (or more) a week, and finally start putting a dent in my TBR list.

1. Best Books You Read In 2012?

American Scoundrel by Thomas Keneally, Into the Forest by Jean Hegland, The Buccaneeers by Edith Wharton.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier was surprising because I loved it even more the second time around.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?

Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler. I can't understand why this book has such a low ranking on Goodreads.

5. Best series you discovered wrote in 2012?

Why Eternal Hunger of course!

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?

Monica McInerney - a fellow Aussie I only recently read for the first time.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Zazen by Vanessa Vselka. I'm still working my way through this one and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

8. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:

None. There are too many other books that I haven't read yet to double back.

9. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?

Sole Possession by Bryn Donavon. The big, creepy haunted house is right up my alley.

10. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland. This haunting story will stay with me for a long time.
  That's it for my blog for 2012. May the new year bring much happiness and good fortune to everyone, and heaps of great new books to read!

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep six feet under?
Scream but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

You don't have to feel like a wasted space
You're original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

Maybe you reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will glow
And when it's time you'll know

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It's always been inside of you, you, you
And now it's time to let it through-ough-ough

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Colton Manor: Chapter One


Ursula St Clare put her paint brush down with a sigh. It was raining again. She could hear it pattering on the roof, faintly at first but growing louder. When she had opened the curtains that morning it was grey and overcast outside, but dry for a change. She’d hoped the rain would hold off so she could go for a walk along the cliff top in the afternoon. Her plan had been to find a path down to the beach where she could do some sketches, but it seemed the bad weather was setting in for the day.

She’d been at Colton Manor for almost a week and she had barely set foot outside during that time. Although it was summer it had rained every single day, and she hadn’t even seen the beach properly yet, apart from the glimpses she caught of it from the window. It looked windswept and freezing, not at all what she imagined it would be like when she and her friends had decided on a whim to rent Colton Manor for the summer holidays several months earlier.

The four of them had been on their way back from a friend from art school’s wedding when they’d stopped in the small coastal town of Paradise on the far north coast of New South Wales, Australia. After a hearty pub lunch the group had gone for a stroll down the main street and Rachel had seen the advertisement in the real estate window for a holiday rental. The house was an historic mansion and none of them had been able to believe how cheap the rent was. Ursula had gone inside to find out if it was a misprint, but the lady behind the desk assured her it was the correct figure.

“Tourism was a bit slow last year and the owner didn’t want the house sitting empty again so he dropped the price,” she said.

“It’s very cheap. Is it true he’s willing to rent it for the whole summer break?”

“Yes, the family have gone overseas and they don’t know when they’ll be back. You might be able to get it for longer if you’re interested.”

“Oh, I’m not really serious,” she replied, stepping back towards the door, “My friends and I couldn’t believe how cheap it was, and we were just curious”

“I see,” said the lady, pursing her lips. She was wearing old fashioned horn-rimmed glasses and her black hair was pulled back severely in a bun. Ursula guessed she was in her fifties. Her sharp nose and features reminded her of a bird.

“Sorry to waste your time.” She was about to step out the door when the lady got up from her desk and walked to the counter.

“Wait a minute, if you’re not in a hurry you can go and have a look at it anyway. I’ll give you the keys. It’s quite impressive and well worth a tour, even if you don’t want to rent it.”

Ursula hesitated. The offer was unusual, but there was no reason why they shouldn’t take a peek. They weren’t in a hurry to get back to the city, and normally she loved looking through old houses. It wasn’t every day an opportunity like this came along, but for some reason she felt no enthusiasm at the prospect. The woman seemed to sense her misgivings.

“At the very least I’ll be able to tell my client that someone viewed it, because we haven’t had any interest yet. You just have to leave some ID with me,” she pressed. “He gets a bit cross when I tell him no one has been through it, as if I’m not doing my job properly.” She laughed shrilly and Ursula noticed it had a hint of desperation to it. She felt sorry for the woman, and reluctantly she went outside to see if her friends were interested.

She had been hoping they’d say no, but Rachel, Dale and Connor jumped at the chance to see inside Colton Manor, and that was how she found herself navigating the winding road around the cliffs towards the huge house a short time later. The weather had been a little overcast when they stopped at Paradise for lunch, but as they made their way to the house it began to rain, and it got heavier as she struggled on the unfamiliar bends.

They’d rented a car for the trip, and Ursula wasn’t familiar with the location of the windshield wipers. When she tried to turn them on she switched on the left blinker instead, and she swore under her breath as they drove into a patch of fog. For a few seconds she couldn’t see a thing, and she was forced to swerve suddenly when a black car flew out of the mist directly towards them. The driver beeped the horn and gestured angrily, and Ursula realized she’d been on the wrong side of the road.

As soon as she could find a safe place on the shoulder of the road she pulled over and took some deep breaths. When she looked around at her friends they were all pale with shock.

“That was a close call,” said Dale, breaking the silence. “Do you want me to drive?”

“Yes, thanks,” replied Ursula, getting out of the car with trembling legs and taking his place in the passenger seat. No one said much as they drew nearer to the mansion, but their close encounter on the road was almost forgotten when they caught sight of the impressive house through the trees. The others began chattering excitedly, but Ursula was overcome with the same unsettled feeling she’d experienced in the real estate office. She told herself it was nerves from the near miss they’d just had, and she tried to join in with the conversation.

“Wow, it’s absolutely beautiful,” exclaimed Rachel, as they drove through the grand iron gates which were open, as if waiting for them, and past the manicured gardens that seemed to stretch on forever. Colton Manor was made of white stone, and although it couldn’t have been more than one hundred and fifty years old, it looked like a castle. “It’s hard to believe we could actually afford to stay here.”

 “Can you imagine the parties we could have?” said Connor. “We could invite everyone from college up for weekends. It would be awesome.” When they stepped through the double front doors into the foyer they were even more impressed. The house was fully restored but most of the original features had been preserved. All of the rooms combined old world charm with modern comforts in an understated way that didn’t detract from the feeling they’d been transported back in time to the mid-nineteenth century.

The misty location of the house had seemed romantic and charming on a winter’s day, and as they’d looked through the rooms and explored the grounds they’d indulged in collective daydreams about how nice it would be here in summer when they could swim on their own private beach and sip cocktails in the gazebo as the sun set.

They all had to submit paintings for a major class exhibition when they returned from summer holidays, and they agreed this would be the perfect place to get some work done. The plans, which had started out as a lark, became more serious as they drove home, and by the time she dropped Rachel and Connor off in front of their student share house the four of them had agreed to rent Colton Manor together for six weeks over summer.

As she was the only one with any spare cash, Ursula had offered to book the house and pay for it on the understanding the other three would pay her back as soon as they could. That had turned out to be her undoing and the reason she now found herself alone in a huge, chilly mansion on a windswept cliff top while nearly everyone else she knew was lapping up the sun. She now knew why the town had struggled to attract summer visitors the previous year; it was because they didn’t seem to have a summer at all.

The room on the second floor that she’d chosen for her studio was especially cold that morning and she couldn’t get the heating to work.  She pulled on the coat she’d brought with her just in case the evenings were chilly, but she’d never seriously expected to wear it. At the thought of the bikini and suntan lotion in her suitcase she gave a grim laugh.  These things would probably never see the light of day while she was here.

She’d been so looking forward to a fun, carefree holiday with her friends that she’d dyed her hair for the occasion. The pink and yellow stripes went perfectly with the vintage sundresses she’d picked up from the charity store, and although her parents told her disapprovingly that she looked like a typical art student, she was proud of her appearance. It annoyed her that no one would get to see these dresses now because she’d probably spend the entire holiday alone dressed in the oversized man’s shirt she always wore when she painted.

Her college friends had assured her that the seclusion would be brilliant for her work and that she’d be so inspired she wouldn’t have time to feel lonely, but in fact, the opposite was true. She’d been unable to focus enough to get any painting done, and the isolation was beginning to play tricks on her mind.

Just that night she’d woken with a start, thinking she heard a man calling to her in the darkness. She knew she had to be dreaming because it had sounded like he was right there in the room with her. She’d still turned on the light to look under the bed and inside the closet, feeling very silly as she did it, but needing to be sure. She hadn’t been able to get back to sleep after that, and now she was tired and unmotivated as she stared at the blank canvass in front of her.

“Hello, is there anyone home?” The voice floated up the stairs, just barely audible above the rain and distant crashing of waves on the rocks. Ursula jumped in shock at the unexpected sound.  Although she’d only been at Colton Manor a short time she’d become accustomed to the silence, and the intrusion seemed harsh and out of place.

She didn’t know anyone in the area, and she felt slightly apprehensive as she made her way downstairs. Through the glass door at the back of the house leading into the kitchen she could see a woman with springy blonde curls standing on the veranda. She was dressed casually in jeans, and in her hand she held a plate with a cake on it. She appeared to be around thirty.

“Hi, I hope you don’t mind me intruding like this.  I live around the point with my family. We’re your closest neighbours. When Yvette from the real estate agency told me you were out here on your own I thought I’d better come and introduce myself. I’m Bonnie Forbes.”

“Oh, thanks, that’s really nice of you. Please come in and I’ll make a fresh pot of coffee. I’m Ursula.” Bonnie hesitated as Ursula held the door open for her.

“Do you mind if we sit outside? The veranda is completely sheltered from the rain.”

“It’s a bit cold don’t you think? I can put the heater on in the kitchen and it will be nice and warm.”

“I’d really prefer to sit outside if that’s okay. Here, this is a welcome gift for you.” She held out the chocolate cake towards her.

“Okay, thanks” said Ursula as she took it. “You go ahead and I’ll be right out.” As she boiled the kettle and cut a piece of cake each, she contemplated the woman’s strange behaviour. The rain was setting in, and it would be very uncomfortable outside, but it was almost as if Bonnie didn’t want to come into the house. She seemed nice enough though, and Ursula could use the company. Grabbing a scarf someone had left in the hall closet she retrieved the tray from the kitchen and went outside to brave the elements. 

Bonnie had made herself comfortable at the table on the veranda and as they chatted amiably Ursula discovered that her neighbour was a school teacher with three young children. She and her husband had moved to the area five years earlier to escape the city grind.

“Please tell me the weather gets better than this. I really don’t want to spend my summer wearing a coat and scarf. My friends will be very glad they couldn’t make it if it rains the whole time I’m here.”

“What happened to your friends, if you don’t mind me asking? Yvette at the real estate agency said a group of you rented the house but the others had backed out after you’d paid. That seems a bit unfair.”

“Oh, it wasn’t their fault. My best friend Rachel was in an accident and she broke her leg. Her boyfriend obviously couldn’t come without her. The other person, Dale, well, he and I had a bit of a thing going but we split up not long ago. It would have been fine if the others had come, but we both agreed that just the two of us would have been a bit awkward.”

“And you couldn’t you find anyone else?”

“No, by the time all this happened everyone had made plans, so I had no choice but to come on my own.”

“How have you found it so far?”

“To be honest it’s a bit lonely, I’m used to being around people all the time, so it’s hard being by myself. I think I’ve started imagining things. I actually thought I heard someone calling me in the middle of the night last night.” She expected Bonnie to laugh, but instead she looked serious, and she didn’t say anything for a moment.

She cleared her throat and looked uncomfortable before she finally spoke. “I really don’t know how to put this, and I don’t want to scare you, but there are rumours about this house that you should know about.”

“What sort of rumours?” Ursula said, drawing in her breath.

“People say it’s haunted.”

 “Aren’t there rumours like that about all old houses? You don’t believe them do you?”  She tried to laugh the comment off, but Bonnie didn’t even crack a smile as she set her coffee mug down on the table.

 “I’m going to be honest with you, Ursula. This isn’t just a social visit. I came here to warn you about the house. The reason the rent is so cheap for the summer is because no one has been able to stay here for more than a week or two. They all leave in a big hurry because they’re scared away. There’s something about it that isn’t right. I felt it the first time I came here, and that’s why I refuse to set foot inside.  

For a moment Ursula didn’t know how to respond, but she remembered the feeling of foreboding she’d had about the house when the woman at the real estate offered to let them view it, and again when she’d seen it for the first time. She’d always been attuned to her sixth sense, but since she’d arrived at Colton Manor she’d tried to ignore the bad vibes the house seemed to give off. She usually took her intuitions very seriously, but she couldn’t afford to let herself get carried away when she was here for over a month on her own.

“Please tell me this is a joke.”

“I wish it was, but you can ask anyone in town. Yvette should never have rented the house to you, but she was under a lot of pressure from the owner to find a summer tenant. When I found out you were here on your own I had to let you know. If you want my advice I think you should just cut your losses and get out of here, go back to the city. It’s not safe for anyone, but especially a young woman by herself.”

“I can’t,” replied Ursula, her panic beginning to rise. “I’m in between houses at the moment and all my stuff is in storage. On top of that I have no money. Every cent I had went into the rent for this place. I can’t leave because I have nowhere to go.”

 “What about family or friends? Surely there’s someone you can stay with? I’d offer you a bed at our place, but with three kids there’s not much room to spare.”

“My parents live overseas, and most of my friends have gone away for the summer break.  There’s no one else I could impose on for that long. I know you meant well, Bonnie, but I wish you hadn’t said anything. Now you’ve really got me spooked.” Ursula glanced up at the window of her studio, and for a second she was positive she saw someone standing there looking down at them. She put her hand to her mouth. “God, now I’m even seeing people, I just thought there was someone looking out from that window.”

Bonnie glanced towards the window nervously. “I’m sorry. My husband told me not to say anything to you, and maybe he was right, but I just thought you should know. I feel awful now.”

“No one has ever actually been hurt by this ghost, have they?”

“Not that I know of. From what I’ve heard people just get very spooked and leave, but nothing has ever physically harmed them.”

“I think I can handle things that go bump in the night as long as they don’t hurt me. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

Bonnie did not look very convinced as she stared at Ursula with a furrowed brow. Then her face brightened unexpectedly.

“Actually there is one possible solution. It won’t get you away from the house but it will mean you don’t have to be here on your own.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I have a friend who’s renovating his house and he’s been staying in a motel in town. He’s a science professor who doesn’t believe in ghosts. He’s always said he’d be glad to spend time in this house and prove all the gullible the people wrong. This is a chance for him to put his money where his mouth is. What do you think?”

Normally Ursula wouldn’t even have contemplated living alone with a total stranger, especially in such an isolated location, but she was desperate.

“Sounds great. When can he move in?”

Bonnie laughed. “Let’s not jump the gun. It might be a good idea if you meet him first. He’s very well-known in town and a perfect gentleman. You won’t have any trouble with him. Why don’t you come around to my place for afternoon tea and you can get to know him before you make up your mind.”

“Okay, I’ll be there. What time?”

“Oh, around three. Just turn right from the drive and follow the road right around the point. You can’t miss the house.’

“Thanks, Bonnie.” They talked for a little longer and after she’d waved her guest off fifteen minutes later Ursula tried hard to be brave as she turned back towards the house. Again, for just a split second she thought she saw someone at the upstairs window. The last thing in the world she wanted to do was go back inside after what Bonnie had told her, but the rain was coming down harder now and she had no choice.

Whatever this friend of Bonnie’s turned out to be like, she didn’t care. He could have two heads for all it mattered to her, just as long as he provided her with human company and helped to ward off the evil spirits that dwelled in Colton Manor. Bonnie had mentioned he was a science professor. In her mind she pictured a crusty old man who did not suffer fools gladly and would be quick to dismiss any fanciful notions she might have. That was exactly the kind of man she needed right now, and she couldn’t wait for the next few hours to pass so she could meet him, and hopefully convince him to move in with her.
Colton Manor is available for 0.99 on Amazon.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Instant Gratification of Self Publishing

No one can deny that e-books have ushered in major changes in the publishing industry. Readers now literally have millions of books at their fingertips and the anticipation of buying a new book is becoming a thing of the past when it can be downloaded instantly.

There are obviously many benefits to this. It follows that if readers have access to more books they'll read more books too. The convenience of being able to buy books from the comfort of your own bed cannot be overestimated. Previous generations could only dream about such a thing, but for us it's a reality that we are beginning to take for granted.

With the benefits of instant communication there also come negatives, and one of the major drawbacks is the quality of books readers are consuming. I am truly shocked at some of the self-published books that receive such an enthusiatic following on sites like Goodreads. It's not that I'm a snob (which would be a little hypocritical considering I am a self-pubber), but there are books out there with dozens of five-star reviews that don't follow the principles of basic grammar or punctuation. It's incredibly depressing to witness the degeneration of literary standards that is happening with the self-publishing revolution, and in some ways I yearn for the old days of the literary gate-keepers.

In my opinion another effect of instantly available books is that readers seem less willing to take time for a story to develop. If it doesn't grab them straight away they are more likely to discard it and move onto something else because there are so many other books out there for them to download. The result is less thoughtful, subtle writing and more cliched fiction that appeals to readers but doesn't challenge them or help them to see the world in a different way.

Readers aren't the only ones who are disadvantaged by the runaway success of self-publishing. It's just so easy to publish a book these days that many writers are guilty of rushing into it and not spending the time polishing their book to the high standard that would have been required in the past to get the attention of a publisher. Now a book can be uploaded to Amazon just minutes after the final word has been typed.

I know what I'm talking about as I have succumbed to the instant gratification of self-publishing more than once, most recently with my novella Colton Manor. I initially made the decision to send it out to publishers but after less than two weeks of waiting I couldn't take it any longer and put it up on Amazon. In my defence the book took a long time to write, so it's not the first draft, but now that it's out there I can't help but wonder what a publisher would have made of it. Now I'll never know and I'm suffering from an acute case of self-publisher's remorse.

I hope that next time I write something I can resist the temptation to self-publish immediately and find the patience to wait it out for publishers (or beta-readers if I decide to self-publish again) to respond. The instant gratification of self-publishing is very addictive but authors need to keep their eyes on the bigger picture and focus on producing the best possible work they can in order to safeguard the literary standards we all hold dear.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Colton Manor: Prologue


       Anna could hear him bellowing her name as he stormed through the upstairs rooms, throwing open doors and knocking over furniture in his haste find her. Silently she opened the front door and walked down the steps to the circular drive. It was raining heavily, but she barely noticed the sting of the cold water as it dripped through her clothes, soaking her to the bone. She turned and looked back at the imposing white mansion at the same moment as a dark figure moved past the window in the upstairs library, briefly blotting out the candlelight. Soon he would finish his search for her up there and he would come back downstairs to find her. The rain would not stop him seeking her outside and there was nowhere left to hide.

It had been raining on the night she arrived at Colton Manor six months earlier with only a battered travelling case to her name. Dusk was falling as the carriage rounded the bend and she caught sight of the manor for the very first time. It was perched on the edge of a cliff with the ocean as its backdrop, creating a dramatic first impression. The manor was more like a castle than a house, and even shrouded in misty rain it was quite spectacular. Anna should have been thrilled with her grand new home which was so different from the world she had left behind. Instead she was overcome with a strong desire to turn and flee.

Putting her nerves down to excitement she had smiled at her new husband and linked her arm through his. She remembered how Edward had turned to look at her, but in place of the familiar warmth in his eyes she had grown to love, there was only coldness. It was as if the house had cast some kind of spell over him, and from that moment onwards he began to change. Gone was the charming, handsome man who had swept into her life like a prince from a fairy tale, stealing her heart and rescuing her from a life of drudgery as a kitchen maid. This man was jealous, sadistic and paranoid. He took great delight in terrorising her, and his cruelty had become more pronounced each day.

It began with pinches and name calling when she did something to displease him and then progressed to open-handed slaps that left marks which lingered on her flesh for hours. When he started using his fists, Anna found a way to block out the pain by retreating to a place deep inside where he could not reach her. In addition to the beatings he also liked to twist her fingers until she begged him to stop, and just two nights earlier he had held her face so close to the fire that her hair caught alight. He had laughed at her terror and done nothing to help her put out the flames.

For months Anna had continued to hope and pray that he would change back into the man she knew, but on that terrible night she’d finally been forced to face the truth. Her life with him had become unbearable, and his violence towards her would only get worse. She could not tolerate the thought of bringing a child into such a loveless, brutal marriage.

“Anna, where are you? You know you can’t hide from me forever. I’ll make you pay for this.” He was downstairs now, and it was only a matter of time till he threw open the heavy front doors and found her standing there in the rain. For the first time since she had arrived at Colton Manor she was not afraid of him. “What have you done with my money? I’ll wring your neck till you tell me where it is, woman.”

He had grown convinced over the past few months that she and the servants were conspiring to steal his money, and he’d gone to great lengths to hide his fortune. He’d dismissed every single member of the staff and taken to locking Anna is her room while he transferred his money from one hiding place to another. Sometimes it seemed there were other people in the house with him because she heard different voices, and they chanted strange words that filled her with dread. When he was alone he muttered to himself and paced the floor until Anna began to fear he had completely lost his mind. She spent these hours huddled in the corner of her room, listening intently for the sound of his footsteps on the stairs.

“I swear to God I’m going to kill you if you don’t come out right now and tell me where my money is,” he yelled again. He was very close to the front door now, and she did not have much time left. Without another glance at the house that had brought her so much misery she made her way to the edge of the gardens and then down the path towards the cliff. Only a short time ago these gardens had been manicured and beautiful, but like everything else at Colton Manor they were neglected, and the grass and tangled weeds were now almost up to her knees. It was a moonless night and she couldn’t see far in front of her, but the endless, rhythmic sound of the ocean drew her forward and gave her comfort. Its song was soothing and familiar, almost as if it was calling her home.

When she reached the cliff there was just enough light for her to make out the waves crashing onto the rocks below. Only the rain wet her cheeks as she contemplated what she was about to do. She was far beyond tears now. There really was no other way out for her. If she tried to leave him he would simply hunt her down and drag her back again, and her life would become even worse than it was. She had no money and no family to protect her. She was all alone in the world, and no one would miss her when she was gone. She had been foolish to believe that things could ever be any different for a poor woman like her, and she was about to pay the ultimate price for her foolishness.

He was on the path now, walking towards her, a bulky shape moving heavily in the darkness.

“Anna, I see you, don’t think you can get away from me, wench. There’s nowhere to run.” Anna turned around, and with slumped shoulders she walked obediently up the incline towards him. “You are a fool if you believe there is any escape for you.”

When she was several feet from the cliff she turned back again, and then suddenly she ran, pushing out with her foot as far as she could when she reached the edge of the cliff. For a second she seemed to hang in the air, suspended in mid-flight, and then she began her descent to the sharp rocks below.

The scream that tore from her throat was not one of fear, but rather of release as she let go of all the anguish and suffering she’d endured at the hands of the man who had vowed to honour and protect her. She felt no sadness or regret as her body sliced through the cold night air. For a few moments she had known what it felt like to fly, and it was exhilaration, not fear, that filled her heart even as she plummeted towards her death. At last she was free.
Colton Manor is available for 99 cents on Amazon.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Colton Manor: A Sneak Preview

Art student Ursula St Clare is less than thrilled when she is forced to spend her summer break alone in a chilly, isolated mansion perched on the edge of a cliff. Things go from bad to worse when a neighbour warns her that the house is haunted. Ursula has already sensed that something is not right at Colton Manor, and she makes the decision to sublet a room in the hope that some human company will help keep the ghosts at bay.

Scientist Damien Knight is a self-proclaimed sceptic when it comes to all things supernatural. He needs somewhere to stay while his home is being renovated, and Ursula finds herself instantly attracted to the older man. She entertains thoughts of a summer fling with her sexy new housemate, but it isn’t long before Damien starts acting very strangely and Ursula begins to fear for her safety.

Has she let a dangerous, unstable man into the house, or is it Colton Manor and its evil legacy which is causing him to behave so bizarrely? 

*Colton Manor is available through Amazon for $1.99.