All Authors Should Read This Book – The Essie Summers Story

This is the autobiography of Essie Summers, a New Zealand writer of wholesome romances and the wife of a hard working minister who wrote over fifty novels that were published between 1957 and 1997. She also wrote poetry, short stories, articles and a newspaper column. The volume of her published work is immense. For that alone, Essie Summers deserves respect. It’s also important to remember that she was writing while at the same time bringing up a family, working as a minister’s wife (which is not an easy position) and often working in a shop or office as well. Those stories caught the imagination of readers so much that there are still die hard fans republishing her work on Kindle twenty five years after she died in 1998. From that point of view alone, any writer should be interested in her work and how she achieved such consistently excellent stories.

This autobiography isn’t a book about ‘how to write’. It is, on the surface, a straightforward, chatty account of the author’s life. Essie Summers writes about her childhood, the challenges that she faced and how she grew and lived. She talks about a trip from her home in New Zealand over to the UK and Europe, her family life and the wonderful people she met. I have never read an autobiography with such little ego in it. It is a joyous account of life, filled and brimming over with an appreciation of words, people and the world around her. There is so much about Essie Summers finding the good in people – and all in a natural, honest way. It is perhaps the most unaffected account of life I’ve come across. She had some tough times and difficult moments, but rather than wallowing, she looks outward and onward and carries on.

This book isn’t a structured, carefully curated account. You can settle down with this book and feel like you are listening to an informal conversation. The punctuation is idiosyncratic, the style is informally cosy and it is so easy to relax and watch Essie Summers’ life unfold, knowing that you are listening to a kind and generous woman. She is welcoming you into her memories with all of her highs and lows.

All authors and those who want to be authors should read this book and read it carefully. In between the stories about struggles with stoves and worries about her children are swathes of great writing advice. Next to, and part of, the stories of the minor triumphs and disasters of everyday life there are accounts of jotting things down in notebooks, recording details, scheduling time to write, approaching publishers, research, editing and writing even more. She wrote about the discipline and demands. Essie Summers didn’t put time aside to be a writer. She was a writer all the time and it is woven through all her life. She was always ready to make a note when inspiration struck or when she needed to remember a fact. She was always aware of the world. If you read any of her stories, you are struck by the detailed and glorious description and the crisp, natural dialogue. You can only get those by doing as Essie Summers did – pay attention to what is around you and look at things as a writer. And when you are looking – make the darned notes! This book shows the way Essie Summers lived as a writer and it is a wonderful example for us trying to follow that path.

Image from Unsplash, taken by Glenn Carstens-Peters

In this Kindle edition, Ken Pierce has gathered together a wonderful selection of extra material with the help and blessing of Essie Summers’ family and friends. It takes up almost half of the book and is well worth dipping into. There are some reminiscences, a short story from the start of Essie Summers’ career and a chapter entitled ‘A Few Practical Hints on Preparing a Novel’. Many of the hints apply to the days when books were either handwritten or typed on a manual typewriter, and they make me utterly grateful for the privilege of access to a word processor. I am old enough to have fought with carbon paper, and I always came second. It is only a small part of the work it can seem dated, especially the parts about presenting the typed manuscript.

Don’t skip these paragraphs! In them you have a wonderful example of professionalism and efficiency. Essie Summers, in the brief note written to her daughter, clearly explained that you gave your manuscript the best chance of reaching the publisher and laid out the work to make it as easy for the publisher as possible. An author may no longer use manila envelopes or take carbon copies of a piece of writing. It’s no longer expected to double tap after a period or full stop. However it’s still vital that you approach a publisher professionally and send your writing to the address stated, whether it’s to an email address, a submission form or even via the postal service. It is equally vital that you send your submission using the layout requested, whether using Shunn format, double spacing, single spacing, or whatever is requested in a call for submissions. Essie Summers understood that these details were important and while the tech may have changed from fountain pen to email, the need for a professional approach is still vital.

Above all, for a writer, this is the best, most perfect, most exact example of someone doing ‘show don’t tell’. Essie Summers shows what it means to be a successful, widely published, much loved author and all the work involved. I will be reading and re-reading this so many times to keep myself on the writing straight-and-narrow. It’s also a lovely, warming, wholesome read which I fully recommend.

Disclosure – I helped with the proof reading, although Ken Pierce had it pretty nailed down, as he is awesome and so are the other wonderful people who are involved with the Essie Summers Project. The reason I got involved was because of my love of Essie Summers’ books and my respect for her as an author. I wish that I was more like her.

Research and the Author – Location, Location, Location

In the last post, I talked about Gwendolyn, our soft and sweet heroine, and Kurt, our strong jawed hero, meeting at a very variable sunset. You can read about it here, as I discussed the effect time could have on their meetings. Now let’s talk about place.

I feel more comfortable describing places that I know or are close to what I know. For the purposes of this article, however, I’m going to push outside my comfort zone and show how I pursue research in unfamiliar places. But let’s keep to the sweet Gwendolyn and the manly Kurt.

Starting with the modern day romance, let’s head to the United States. I’ve never been and I don’t expect I’ll be lucky enough to travel there in the near future, so I’m almost going in blind. I’ve picked up bits from films, tv, social media and books, so I have a place to start and it could be worse. This is a great point to find all the bits that I’ve got wrong and point them out in a kindly way.

I thought I’d pick a place in Maine and randomly chose Machias as a reference point. Because I’m unfamiliar with the area and don’t want to get into trouble, I’m going to give a fake name but use the town as a starting point to look up climate, sunset times, seasons, languages and all that fun stuff. I’ll use Morley as the name of the town, picked at random after a quick check on the internet to make sure that there isn’t actually a place called Morley, Maine, USA. As in the last article, we’ll use 10th November as a starting point as Gwendolyn first meets Kurt at sunset. Sunset at East Machias (just down the road from Machias, and a point on the Time and Date website but with far fewer houses) on 10th November is 4.06pm so Gwendolyn has just popped out from her work at the local library as it starts to get dark.

The local library has been in existence since the early 1800s according to its website, with the first catalogue printed in 1843. As an author who breaks out in supernatural unless I’m very careful, having old and possibly haunted things around is useful. There doesn’t seem to be many staff according to the website but I’m writing fiction so Gwendolyn has left her good friend Becky in charge as she leaves to do something – but what? I’ve checked the map on Google (other internet maps are available) and there is a USPS post office right across the street. Gwendolyn is obviously picking up a parcel for the library. By checking the map I’ve given Gwendolyn a reason to be crossing the road around the time of sunset to bump into the manly Kurt, and the delay of their first encounter means that she misses the pick up time at the post office (closes at 4pm according to their website). This gives me conflict and interactions to play with straight away.

Kurt has just bought a local auto repair shop and has called into town. Checking on the map, there is a cemetery a little further down the road. Perhaps he was on his way there to visit the grave of an ancestor when he bumped into Gwendolyn for the first time and was dazzled by her loveliness. He may wonder if he could see her again and if so, where could he take her on a date? According to the local Chamber of Commerce, there are no festivals on in November (the Wine and Beer Tasting Festival in October looks fun, though) but there is a local Chinese restaurant that does Shrimp Lo Mein for $13 which may be good.

Just by picking a location, having a rummage around and playing with ideas I have found all sorts of possible starts to a story. What is more, I’ve found out all this information without leaving my very comfortable chair at my home in Leeds. You should never put the research and detail before the story. If you feel that Kurt would like to take Gwendolyn to an Italian restaurant but can’t find one on the map – invent it! You are telling a story, not swearing an oath in court. The story always comes first. However, if you take time to look around a location, it can be a wonderful boost to the start of a story and a great store of inspiration.

I’ll go into historical locations in the next article.

You can find the rest of the posts on this here – Research and the Author, Collected Posts

Sites that I used for research

Google Maps

Machais Post Office

Porter Memorial Library

Machias Chamber of Commerce

Time and Date

Hing Garden Restaurant

Invitation Accepted Chapter Eighteen

You can read the story from the beginning here

“So you haven’t heard from Rhys?” Carli asked, leaning over the reception desk. “It might not mean anything. I heard that he’s got a lot of family problems at the moment.”

Surjit managed a shrug that almost looked unconcerned. “I’ve texted him loads of times,” she said. “But he hasn’t even checked.”

“Gareth says that he’s really, really, busy,” Carli said. She hated seeing Surjit so despondent.

Surjit’s shoulders slumped. “I really like him,” she admitted. “And he can be such a gentleman, but it’s no good. I’m not getting involved with that sort of drama. If it’s so bad that he can’t text then I don’t want to get caught up in it.”

Carli thought about the mess that the werewolves were in. “Perhaps it’s just as well,” she said. “Anyway, maybe you should speak to Alan in the warehouse. He seems nice, and I noticed that he couldn’t take his eyes off you in the canteen yesterday.”

Surjit managed a smile. “I’ll think about it,” she said. “So what are you doing down here apart from fixing my love life?”

“I’m just getting a sweater from my car,” Carli said. “I’ve brought in an extra space heater, but I’m freezing. The cold just rattles through the office.”

“You wait until it gets really cold,” Surjit said. “The windows in the office ice up. Last year when we had the cold snap, the sales team ended up working in the dyer’s room and most of the post was handled in a corner of the finishing room.” She grinned. “But with all the new stuff, I don’t know how that will turn out. Perhaps Luke might actually force himself to pay out for new windows.”

Carli chuckled, then shivered as she headed for the door. “I’ll be back in a second.”

She scurried across the car park and over to her modest hatchback. Why did she have to park all the way over here? She clicked the car key fob and nothing happened. Instincts started to prickle and she slowed down. She felt for her phone in her pocket and glanced around. She couldn’t see anyone, but that meant nothing. She dialled a quick number. “Gareth, could you come to the car park. I’m sure something’s off,” she said. There was no reply as Gareth hung up straight away. Carli hoped that meant he was coming straight down from the office. She approached the car cautiously. The cold light didn’t show any shadows under the car. She clicked the key fob to unlock the car again. Nothing happened. She glanced back at the entrance. She could glimpse Gareth through the inset glass panes in the wide doors. Surjit had caught his arm, no doubt still complaining about Rhys, but he would soon be here. Carli opened the back door and reached in for the sweater, glancing over her shoulder to see if Gareth was closer, then crying out with shock as someone grabbed her hand and pulled her hard into the car.

“Hello, Carli,” Rick said.

“What are you doing?” Carli snapped, struggling away from him. “You were told that you couldn’t come near me.”

“That was just them being jealous,” the young werewolf said. “You are my mate, my soulmate, my twin flame. We’re meant to be together.”

“No we’re not,” Carli said. “Please, just leave me alone.” Her voice cracked as she tried to pull free. “Just leave me alone.”

“You don’t understand,” Rick said. “We were good together, you remember.”

“I never dated you,” Carli said. “You just got it into your head. And you frightened off my boyfriend and scared my mother.”

“He wasn’t meant for you,” Rick said. “And your mother was just interfering. Let me take you to the wolf side.”

“No!” Carli cried. “Listen, your pack leader, he was supposed to keep you from following me. He was supposed to stop you. And you were warned.”

“They didn’t mean it really,” Rick said with a wide grin, his teeth lengthening as he spoke. “Besides, Chris is busy with that shitshow of the Leeds pack. He reckons that they’re going to change leaders and he’s there for the entertainment. And we’re not in Chris’s territory now. It’s down to the Leeds pack leader to make the rules, and they are kind of busy. There’s not even a paladin here. So no-one can come between us. Just admit it, babe, you know that you are drawn to my wild side. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I’ve got a boyfriend,” Carli said. “And we’re not in Leeds territory. It’s the Otley pack in charge here.”

“No such thing,” Rick said. He reached over and pulled the keys from her unresisting hand. “Get in the car. We’re going to drive to your flat and you’re going to show me how much you’ve missed me and how much you’re sorry that you’ve played so hard to get.” His grin got wider. “Let’s have some fun. I’ve got wine in the back.”

“No!” Carli said, struggling harder. She pulled her arm free and backed away slowly. “I’m not going anywhere with you.” She looked over her shoulder and felt relief wash over her as she saw Gareth stalking across towards her. Behind him, Surjit was on the phone, pale faced and shocked and talking frantically. “That’s my boyfriend.”

“You prefer him me?” Rick asked incredulously. “Are you on glue? He’s just a skinny lad and nothing compared to me.” He pulled himself out of the car and slid out of his leather jacket. He flexed his muscles under the tight t-shirt. “I could break him in half without even going to fur. And does he know about the beast? I’m disappointed in you, Carli. I thought you had better taste.”

Carli looked back at Gareth. There was purpose in every step and his jacket had been wound around his left arm. He had a small knife in his right hand, held straight down and parallel with his thigh and he was gently rolling his shoulders and neck as he approached. Carli thought back to Gareth when she first met him and how he was now, with the extra layer of taut muscle and the experience of far too many brawls. He was still slim compared to the thickset brawn of Rick, though, and Carli’s heart sank as she could see no trace of Bron. “He’s kind, and gentle, and he is incredibly creative,” she said. “And he has a lot inside of him.”

“I’ll sure to have a good look when I rip him to pieces,” Rick said. He pushed Carli to one side. “Keep out of the way, now, bitch. The men are talking.”

Gareth stalked up. “Get your hands off her,” he said coldly.

“Or what, shrimp?” Rick laughed. “Do you know what I am?”

“You’re a pathetic puppy,” Gareth said, the ice in his voice unchanged. “Do you know what I am?”

Rick didn’t get a chance to answer as Gareth stepped forward, telegraphing a blow to the head before stamping hard on the werewolf’s knee. Rick howled as his knee buckled, bringing his ribs within easy range of Gareth’s fist as he swung hard into Rick, punching deep and with purpose. Rick staggered back, swinging a wild punch that Gareth ducked with ease. “Don’t make me go to fur,” Rick yelled. “Carli – tell him what happens if I go to fur.”

“He knows,” Carli said as her stalker glared at Gareth. “He really does.”

Rick grimaced and started to change. Gareth didn’t wait but instead stepped into Rick’s reach, grabbing an arm and twisting it hard against the joint before slamming Rick’s head hard into the car roof. The sound echoed around the car park along with Rick’s howl as he writhed in Gareth’s hold. Still struggling to change, Rick kicked wildly back, catching Gareth’s thigh with a glancing boot. It failed to break Gareth’s hold, and he slammed Rick’s head down hard again. Ignoring Carli’s faint scream in the background, Gareth plunged the knife into Rick’s shoulder.

“It’s silver, mutt,” Gareth said. “You won’t change yet.” He released his hold on the knife, leaving it sticking obscenely out of Rick’s shoulder and punched Rick hard again in the ribs. “You need to learn that when a woman says ‘no’, she means ‘no’ and that’s when you walk away.

Rick screamed. “It’s silver! It’s fucking silver! Get it out! Get it out!” He fell hard to his knees and whimpered.

Gareth kicked Rick hard in the head. “Carli told me about you,” he said. “But did she have a chance to tell you about me?” He kicked Rick in the ribs. “I’m the paladin.” He grabbed Rick’s hair and threw him hard against the car. “But I’m playing nice until the local pack leader gets here.” He rolled Rick onto his front, the knife still wedged into the shoulder.

“They’ll come for you,” Rick said, panting. “And they’ll rip you into shreds. There’s no Prince to protect you.” He gasped as Gareth kicked him again.

“There’s always a prince with a paladin,” Gareth said. “And I think that you need to understand me. You stay away from Carli. Don’t try and convince yourself that she’s into you, or being shy, or playing hard to get. She’s not yours.” Gareth pushed Rick’s face hard into the dirt of the car park. “And she’s not mine, either. She belongs to herself and she has chosen not to be with you. So don’t come sniffing around here again, or I won’t be so gentle.”

“I’ll be ready next time, paladin,” Rick said. “Carli needs to be with me.”

Gareth knelt on Rick’s damaged shoulder. “If there’s a next time,” he said. “Because the local pack leader is on their way and Tyler is out for blood.” He leant forward, shifting his weight across the damaged joint as Rick howled. “Tyler feels that he owes Carli,” Gareth said. “And I think he may want to send a message.”

A white van raced down the street, swaying wildly as it swung into the car park and screeched to a halt, blocking the view between the factory and Rick. Tyler jumped out and grimaced at the sight of Rick, bloody and battered on the floor. Sir Philip jumped out of the passenger side and came around.

“Thanks for coming,” Gareth said. “You made good time.”

“We were just up the road anyway,” Tyler said. He nodded go Gareth. “You can let him go now.”

Gareth pulled the knife from Rick’s shoulder and wiped it deliberately on Rick’s shirt before standing. “I thought I should be clear,” he said.

“Bron?” Sir Philip said uncertainly. “Thank you for calling in Tyler and not dealing with it yourself. It saves on the paperwork.”

“It’s nothing to do with me, lad,” Bron said, making Tyler jump. “I thought the lad should deal with it on his own as it’s his lass that was affected.” Bron looked approvingly as Tyler hauled Rick up and pushed him against the side of the van. “He did a good job, and used more restraint that I would.”

“I wondered about that,” Sir Philip said. He looked over to Carli. “Are you okay? I’m sorry I didn’t realise that Rick had come up with the delegation. Perhaps Gareth can take you back into the mill and you can have a cup of coffee and rest for a moment.”

“He won’t bother you again, miss,” Tyler said with an edged finality. “I’ll make sure of that.” He opened the back door of the van and threw the young werewolf in. “You’re not hurt, are you?”

Carli shook her head. “Gareth got here really quickly,” she said, her lips trembling as she fought back the reaction to the shock. “What’s going to happen?”

“Gareth is going to look after you,” Tyler said. “And this mutt isn’t going to bother you ever again. That’s a promise.” He looked over to Gareth. “You need to be at the memorial tonight over at the Leeds pack house. There’s a lot going on, and they could use an outside view.”

“I’ll be there,” Gareth promised. He reached over and pulled out the sweater from the back of Carli’s car. “Come on, I’ll get you a nice cup of coffee,” he said, putting a comforting arm around her shoulders. He looked ruefully at the dent in the car roof. “I’ll get the car sorted out as well,” he said.

“It’s okay,” Bron said. “I know a garage that owes me a favour.”

Carli managed a chuckle. “Of course you do,” she said, clinging onto Gareth.

Tyler nodded. “I’ll send Kidder and Mortimer to meet you from work and take you to the citadel,” he said to Carli. “I’ll tell them to make a fuss of you.” He looked at Gareth. “Thanks for dealing with this properly. We’ll talk later.” Then he shut Sir Philip in with the whimpering Rick, climbed into the cab and drove off.

Gareth and Carli turned back to the mill to see Surjit standing, horrified at them. “You’re good with words,” Carli said to Gareth. “Please think of something that we can tell her.”

Research and the Author – Timing is Everything

The reason for doing research is so that you don’t look like an idiot.

The reason that you stop doing research is to avoid boring your reader and losing your sanity.

You should only research when it makes life easier for you.

In my opinion, when you are starting a piece of fiction, when should be a question that is asked early in the process. If you nail down that time then you make life a lot easier for yourself.

Let’s consider a sweet and gentle heroine, Gwendolyn, and a strong jawed hero, Kurt. They first meet during a magical moment at sunset. In the soft glow of the fading light, they smile and perhaps their hands touch as they part and go their separate ways towards… towards what?

Image from Unsplash, taken by Josh Couch
It’s a picture of Kirkstall Abbey which is in Leeds but nowhere near the end of my street

I live in Leeds, UK. If they met today, 21st June, at the end of my street (possibly the least romantic place in the world), sunset would be 9.40pm. She could be wearing a floating dress and cute sandals while he would be wearing jeans and a tight t-shirt that of course showed off his manly muscles. They would part and go towards their separate beds. However if they met, say, on March 21st, then sunset would be 6.20pm and they would be going back to their evening pursuits, perhaps in snug sweaters and waterproof jackets. Gwendolyn will be embroidering a picture for a friend and Kurt will be rebuilding a motorbike. And if that first, tingling meeting was on 21st December then sunset would be at 3.46pm and they would be rushing home for their evening meal. They are wearing warm boots and scarves and Gwendolyn’s meal probably involves a cupcake while Kurt is definitely having steak.

Most readers will probably not go around marking in pencil the different times of day and keeping track. On the other hand, those who notice that Gwendolyn and Kurt are suffering from irregular sunsets will find it incredibly annoying. Having a sunset at 5pm one day and 8pm the next isn’t great continuity and could jar if it’s noticed. It may not only stop them reading the book, it could stop them recommending the book and, worse, stop them buying more of your work.

It doesn’t matter if you are on the exact second. To a normal mortal like me, I couldn’t tell you the exact minute that the sun sets as I’m going about my daily life. I just know that the sun sets later on some days than on others and hang out my washing accordingly. When I’m writing, however, I know that I can use a rough rule of thumb to know whether the exciting chase through the woods is in dappled sunshine (which makes it harder to spot the dropped clue in the light and shade) or in darkness (which makes it easier for the dastardly ambusher to creep up on them).

Setting the time based on the present is one thing, but how about having Gwendoline and Kurt battling Victorian Vampires. They are creeping around 19th century London, valiantly stalking the bloodsuckers. If the vampires struggle with daylight, knowing when the sun is likely to set is really important and, fortunately, sunrise and sunset times stay roughly the same for millennia. You can look up the times for this year and apply them whenever. In this scenario, the year is the important detail.

Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837. She died in 1901. That’s roughly 64 years, or the difference between 2023 and 1959. A lot of stuff happened in science, industry and politics and many people know enough about that time to quibble. If the characters are huddled together under a streetlight, is it powered by gas (from the 1820s) or electric (in general use from around 1878)? And as Lord Kurt has one manly arm around the fainting Miss Gwendolyne, does his other hand hold a Colt Walker (introduced 1847), a Colt Peacemaker (1873) or a Colt New Service (1898). While someone in 1898 could absolutely be using a well-maintained Colt Walker or even a blunderbuss, it’s slightly harder to have a Colt New Service in 1847, but that depends on the plot.

In general, on the whole and by and large, it doesn’t matter too much. If you are getting complaints, you can look the critic firmly in the eye and tell them, ‘It’s like that in my world.’ After all, vampires aren’t real, so what does it matter if a young Charles Dickens is using a commercial typewriter? If you want to give your story authentic bones (with room to fudge a year or two if the plot needs it – plot comes first) then if you pick a date at the start then you can always look up information as you feel you need it. Perhaps Bram Stoker writes Dracula after learning about vampires in a chance encounter with Gwendolyn and Kurt. Dracula was published in 1897, so let’s have the story set in 1875. That means that Kurt can have a shiny new Colt Peacemaker and Gwedonlyn will be wearing rigorous corsets and a bustle. And as you rattle through their amazing adventures, if you are in doubt, you can just have a quick look to see what was around in 1875, fiddle with stuff to make the plot work and carry on.

Fantasy writing is not too different when it comes to time. You may be creating a new world that is stuffed with elves and goblins and magic, but if you do a little bit of research at the start, you can make life a lot easier for yourself.

Kurt the Barbarian may be meeting the sweet Gwendolyn the Healer in the fabled city of Tarsh, but unless you feel like worrying about planetary physics, you can use the same rules for their daylight hours. Are they meeting as the sun sets and the gates of the city are closing? You can absolutely use the prosaic timings of Leeds. Perhaps it’s winter, and the sun dips below the Virnoth Mountains early and Kurt the Barbarian, resplendent in his furs, wraps a warm woollen cloak around Gwendolyn the Healer before leading her to a sustaining meal in a local inn. Or is it later in the year and the hot summer winds are swirling up from the plains of Redumar as the incense rises from the temples on the soft evening air.

By the way, did you know that sunrise and sunset are different depending on where in the world you are? Let’s take a sunset on 10th November. In Leeds, where the modern day romance between Kurt and Gwendolyn is progressing nicely, the sun sets at 4.16pm. If you are being extremely detailed, the Victorian Vampire Hunters in London have sunset at 4.18pm on November 10th  (and the chance of those two minutes being significant is extremely small). But perhaps Lord Kurt and Miss Gwendolyn have followed the vampires across Europe to the capital of Romania. Sunset at Bucharest on November 10th is at 4.54pm. But wait, the fanged fiend has fled to an unexpected lair in Hong Kong. As they scull across the bustling harbour on that fateful 10th November, the sun sets at 5.41pm. Alas, they miss their chance, and the bloodthirsty Count is now in Santiago, Chile. November 10th is late spring or early summer in the Southern Hemisphere and as Lord Kurt escorts Miss Gwendolyn into the International Exposition in the Quinta Normal grounds, they fear that the sunset at 8.18pm will awaken their nemesis.

This may all seem like a lot of research, but it’s just a few clicks on the internet and then you have some bones to hang your story on. If you choose 10th November in Leeds for the modern romance between Kurt and Gwendolyn then you can use the run up to Christmas with the city Christmas lights, the displays in Roundhay Park and all the Christmas shopping events as easy ways to frame their encounters as the story progresses. And if Lord Kurt and Miss Gwendolyn are searching Victorian London, it’s so much easier to know if a London Underground station would be open in a particular area if you can just check the history pages of a website for 1875 rather than worrying about making something up and then contradicting that two chapters later. And surely it’s easier to remember if Kurt the Barbarian and Gwendolyn the Healer are battling ice or heat waves if you have nailed down an equivalent real world date. After all, you don’t want the heat of the summer sun shining on the gilded domes of Tarsh if you’ve described the snow storm two paragraphs and three hours earlier.

My opinion is that a reader wants to know about the characters and the plot. The most important thing is absolutely the story. I believe that it’s easier for a reader to savour your wonderful writing if those minor, background details work together, support the story and help things flow. And if research gets in the way of the story – junk the research!

Happy Writing!

You can find the rest of the posts on this here – Research and the Author, Collected Posts

Sites that I have used when writing this article

Time and Datefor all those sunset times, and it’s also great for scheduling across time zones.

Military Factorybecause while I remembered about the Peacemaker, I knew that there was a lot that I didn’t know

Fashion History TimelineAnd if I had chosen 1876 instead, Miss Gwendolyn could have been wearing a sleek princess line dress instead of being encumbered by that bustle.

Invitation Accepted Chapter Seventeen

You can read the story from the beginning here

Rhys tried to remember when he had last slept. He’d crawled into bed around 2am this morning, but had tossed and turned, his mind racing, until he fell out of bed around 3am. He’d got into fur and gone for a run on the damp, cold pavements, loping for miles in the dark before trotting back to the pack house as the place started to stir.

Breakfast was tense. Rhys sat in Mark’s place at the head of the long table, next to the empty decorated chair set in memory of Claire. The place was already overflowing with visitors, and Rhys kept a diplomatic smile on his face as he forced down an excellent breakfast. Then he mingled as well as he could, accepting expressions of sympathy and excusing Mark’s absence as due to him guarding Claire. Stella and the ladies kept the food going, but the atmosphere was keeping everyone’s fur on end.

Rhys caught up with Stella’s husband. “Keith, I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am for all the work that Stella has been doing,” he said. “She’s been a wonder, and I don’t think that we could have managed without her.”

Keith looked at him thoughtfully. “We seem to be managing without Mark,” he said. He looked Rhys over. “Stella says that you’ve always been respectful.” He paused for another long look. “I know your reputation, but I’ve seen you with Stella. I know that nothing’s going on. Thank you.”

“I won’t tread on another man’s tail,” Rhys said. “Besides, I’ve seen how Stella adores you. I don’t think that she notices me.” He shifted a little and looked around the room. “These are tough times, and I wanted you to know that your wife has been amazing, feeding whoever turns up and leading the crew in the kitchens. There’s nothing more to it than that.”

Keith nodded and clapped Rhys on the shoulder. “You’re a good man,” he said. “And you’ve been out here, making sure that we’re all okay, talking to everyone, just like a…” Keith paused carefully. “Just like a good man should. I’m right behind you. He glanced over to Stella who had just come in with a tray of cups. “I’ll just go and give the wife a hand.”

Rhys watched him walk away, a chill in his heart. He didn’t need talk like that. Mark must be mad to abandon the pack at a time like this. A sudden pang shot through him. And he missed Claire. She would have been everywhere today. She would have been talking with all the women, charming the visitors and putting everyone at their ease. And she would have smiled and been a light as everyone came to her for comfort. His heart sank further as Lord Marius and Steve Adderson walked in, together with a contingent of a dozen hard faced elfen. That was all that he needed.

Lord Marius ushered Rhys inexorably into a smaller room and Steve shut the door firmly behind them. A flick of Steve’s wrist and Rhys could feel the enchantment hanging over the door.

“You should have asked,” Rhys said. “It’s not nice to use magic in someone else’s home.”

“We can’t be overheard,” Lord Marius said. “Besides, we should be asking permission from the leader of the pack, and Mark is strangely missing.”

“Where is Mark?” Steve asked, lounging casually in the corner. Rhys eyed him warily. The slim man may look ineffective, wearing a suit that cost more than most of the cars parked outside the pack house, but Rhys was under no illusions. He may currently be mortal, a normal if you liked, but he was half elfen and a ridiculously powerful sorcerer who had lords up and down the land owing him favours.

“Mark is guarding Claire,” Rhys said. “Does Phil know that you’re here?”

“I didn’t ask what he was doing,” Steve said coolly. “I asked where he was doing whatever it is. Where is he, Rhys?”

“This isn’t a joke,” Lord Marius said. “We need to know.”

“I don’t have time for this,” Rhys said. “I’ve got most of the local packs turning up tonight, together with ambassadors from half the country. And I’ve still got a business to run.”

“That’s telling,” Steve said. “You’re talking about you running the business, not Mark. But let’s be honest, you’ve been running it for at least the last year, haven’t you?”

“Your loyalty is admirable,” Lord Marius said. “But we need to know – where is he?”

Rhys looked coolly at the two men. “You have some nerve, walking in here while we’re grieving, snapping out orders and making demands. Now is not the time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and greet the guests as Mark’s deputy.”

“Mark has been failing as the pack leader for some time,” Lord Marius said coldly. “I’ve watched from a distance and refrained from interfering. Your loyalty has kept him going for months, and I respected your efforts. But it’s no longer enough.”

“This is pack business,” Rhys said. “You can’t interfere.”

“I’m the Prince of Leeds,” Lord Marius said. “And I will always interfere when my domain is at risk. The last thing I need is an attack on our werewolf pack because it’s perceived as weak. Do you think all of the visitors are here because it’s good manners? Do you honestly believe that they are here to pay their respects to Claire? They’re here to check out how strong you are, where your weaknesses lie and how easy it would be to take you down.”

“That’s a damned lie,” Rhys snapped.

“Is it?” Steve said from the corner. He straightened and moved over to stand next to his father. “The pack at Wetherby have had their eyes on Scarcroft for some time. You know that they have some business interests that they’d like to develop there.”

“And the new pack that has taken over in Otley and around the Yeadon and Guisely area has already nibbled away at your territory,” Lord Marius said. “Not that you were taking much notice over there. It’s been a neglected area for some time and I’m sure the new prince will do well.”

“You’ve lost territory to them,” Rhys said. “What are you doing about it?”

“I’m not arguing with a paladin,” Lord Marius said. “I do not challenge the Fates. But I do not wish to have that lout Coulson stepping into Scarcroft, any more than I wish to deal with Elliott or Craven or any of the others sniffing around.” He leaned forward, looking hard into Rhys’s eyes. “You are running this pack in every way that matters. You are making the deals, sorting out problems, and I know of at least four occasions where you’ve stepped in to prevent trouble. The only thing that you don’t have as pack leader is the title.”

Rhys flinched. “I’m loyal,” he said. “I’m not some stray sniffing around every lamppost. Mark is good to me…” He trailed off as the lack of conviction in his voice told its own story.

“Mark was good to you once,” Lord Marius said. “I remember when your parents died and he behaved as he should. But that was a long time ago, before he met Claire.”

“Claire did nothing wrong,” Rhys said softly. “She was a blessing on the pack.”

“She was,” Lord Marius said. “She kept Mark in check, encouraged him to work for his pack and brought everyone together.” He frowned. “I remember Mark when he was a pup – a violent, obsessive, unpredictable pup. I considered taking action against him when he took over the pack. Then he met Claire and everything changed.” Lord Marius looked away, thoughtful, as he remembered. “She was a star to him, to faithfully follow. And he did. He wanted to be the best mate and leader for her. He poured everything into her. I was worried about what would happen as she died, and, again, perhaps I should have acted.”

“You can’t just talk about this like it’s nothing,” Rhys said. “This is a man’s life at stake here, and the safety of our pack. It’s not like sorting out a dripping tap or creaking door.”

“It’s absolutely more than nothing,” Steve said. “Where is he, Rhys? Where has he gone?”

“You have no right to come in here and talk like this,” Rhys said as cold fear ran over him. “We are dealing with things in our pack.”

“Why do you think that I came here with my strongest guard?” Lord Marius asked. “Do you think I’m so fragile that I would need them for a little chat with the next leader of the pack? Mark has the Orache Stone.”

Rhys looked between Steve and Lord Marius. “That’s not possible,” he said. “He was there. Fang killed Violet and fled. Fang has the damned stone.”

“Bron found Fang,” Steve said. “And now he’s looking for Mark. And he is in the mood to send a message.” Steve started pacing. “I’ve heard too much about Bron to feel comfortable about that. We need to manage this. We need to get to Mark before he starts turning up in very damaged, very small pieces.”

“I remember Bron from the old days,” Lord Marius said. “He was incredibly effective. If it wasn’t for the potential trouble from the Orache Stone, I’d let him… play.”

Rhys shrugged. “Mark has always been able to take care of himself,” he said.

Lord Marius smiled maliciously. “Bron was almost effective enough to count as an elfen,” he said. “We feared his imagination. In these new times, he has been coaxing drug people to fight each other while he plunders their money without them noticing him. Now he has Gareth whose imagination is firing up the sales for that mill. The combination would be intriguing. Again, it is a strong temptation to wait to see artistry in revenge.”

Steve shot a quick look at Lord Marius. “But we need to track the Orache Stone,” he said. “It seems to be calling to werewolves, and if it got a hold in the middle of this gathering, it wouldn’t be pretty.”

Rhys felt sick. For all his brave words, Mark was out of condition and out of practice. He was older now, as well. And he had felt the steel will in Bron and Gareth. It was always unnerving. One minute he would be speaking with the shy youngster who was quietly working miracles with the advertising or the older, sardonic but kind older spirit, then there would be a problem like Kidder or Fang and both Bron and Gareth would be – something. Like a force of nature, or a mythical hero. Mark wouldn’t have the sense to run, would never back down no matter how stupid he was being and wouldn’t ever be able to talk his way out of a tough spot. “Are you sure about the Orache Stone?” he asked.

Steve nodded. “Fang was… interrogated. There wasn’t much of him left to ask questions. The stone had left him a shell. As it was, it’s clear that he didn’t have the Orache Stone. I managed to track it back to here, but there’s some sort of interference and I can’t get a clear fix. We need to deal with this in force. So we are asking you now, politely, where is Mark?

Rhys took a deep breath. The implications were tumbling through his mind and he had never felt more out of his depth. “I don’t know where he is,” he whispered. “He’s been gone a day without any news. His phone has been turned off and he took the tracker off his car. No-one has seen him.”

“How about the guards on Claire?” Lord Marius asked. “Has he been visiting them? I know that you don’t like to leave your dead alone, and Mark would never allow anything to happen to her. I thought this would be the best chance, as the cremation is tonight.”

Rhys swallowed as he pulled out his phone. “I got a call from Mark yesterday,” he said. “Claire isn’t being cremated tonight,” he said. “He’s taken her remains and…” Rhys moved slowly around to behind the desk and sat carefully in his chair. “What can this Orache Stone do?” he asked as he tapped on his phone, unlocking the messages. “I mean, it sounds powerful.”

“They never found the limits,” Lord Marius said. “But it has power, more than any can imagine.”

“I won’t take the Orache stone on in battle without a team at my back,” Steve said. “From what I saw, the power can be channelled almost by will alone. So far it’s been used for gaining leadership and as a weapon, but the glimpse I had seemed to make it an incredible power source.” His eyes narrowed. “Why do you ask?”

Rhys pulled up the picture that Mark had sent. “Mark has taken Claire’s body somewhere,” he said. “And he sent this guy to get Claire’s clothes and stuff.” He held out the phone to show the picture to Lord Marius and Steve. “When he got here, he was polite.” Rhys couldn’t stop the shudder running through him. “But there was a wrongness about him. I had all the kids hidden and the women as well as he gathered the things and left. We all felt it, especially the ones in fur. It was like a dirty kind of storm, all twisted and snarled up.” He bowed his head, weighed down by the worries. “And Mark was talking like a mad man. I always knew that he wanted to get hold of the damned stone to heal Claire. I knew that he was trying to do a deal with Violet. But now I think he may be thinking of other things.”

Steve checked the image on the phone. “I know him,” he said quietly. “He’s a sorcerer like me,” he half shrugged. “I hope not too much like me. He’s…” Steve exchanged a glance with Lord Marius. “He’s willing to do dark deals.”

“If Mark has the Orache Stone, he won’t give it up easily,” Rhys said. “You know how stubborn he can be.”

Lord Marius smiled in reluctant admiration. “But that’s the loophole, isn’t it?” he said. “I also recognise him. Last time we met, he used the name John Smith, but we all know him as Edragor. He was born a normal, but it was a long time ago. He’s cruel enough to be an elfen and coldblooded with it.” He pulled a chair out and sat gracefully. “It’s perfect. Mark owns and controls the stone – losing what little sanity he has left in the process. Edragor controls Mark. Thus Edragor controls the power of the Orache stone without any of the inconvenient side effects. And when Mark is destroyed, as he will be, by the stone, I’m sure that Edragor has some poor, weak-willed fool ready to take Mark’s place.”

There was a long, charged silence. “We need to find the Orache Stone,” Steve said finally.

“We need to remember Claire,” Rhys said quietly. “But tonight, after the memorial, the pack will start looking properly for Mark, and I’ll ask around the visitors as well.”

“I’ll call in a few favours of my own,” Lord Marius said. “We’ll start searching now.”

“And I’ll be in touch with the Knights Templar,” Steve said. “I can’t imagine anything good coming out of this.”

A Writer’s Life: Thinking About Murder

It’s well known that a writer’s search history isn’t fit to see. Mine includes gems like ‘saddles in 10th century Paris’ and ‘what sort of flowers are there in July in Italy’. It also may or may not include (and I admit to nothing) such gems as looking for arsenic on eBay or Amazon, descriptions of hemlock and what laudanum tastes like. It’s research and absolutely nothing to do with my very dull real life.

And that’s the thing – in my real life I’m looking for things like how to get rid of ink on school shirts, or when the council are collecting waste, or whether a shop will be open at a particular time. As a writer, I’m looking for ways to kill people. I worry that I’ll end up on a list somewhere.

I’m currently planning a murder – in a book, obviously, and it’s made me wonder. Murder is probably easy if you don’t mind being caught. You could just walk straight up to someone and be violent. And there’s a story, right there, about someone with a terminal diagnosis and a grudge. I’m not planning on writing that sort of story at the moment. But if you don’t want to be caught, you have to be tricky.

I thought about it some more as I was on the school run and I came to the conclusion that violence would be a difficult option. With all the forensics and CCTV and stuff, you would be bound to be caught. DNA gets everywhere and I wonder if old murderers will be caught because a relative posted their genetics on a family history site and there was a match with an old crime scene. And thinking about those sites, I wonder how many long lost cousins and unsuspected half-siblings have turned up and caused havoc in families. I’m sure that there are all sorts of scandals waiting to come out. But that’s a different book.

So if the murder wasn’t with violence, then wouldn’t it have to be by poison? I was thinking about this while I was knitting. Getting hold of poisons is quite hard, I suppose. You can’t call into the corner shop and pick up half a pound of arsenic for rat poison like you once could. I was told that apple pips contain cyanide, but I imagine that you would have to bake a vast amount into a pie. According to my brief and unscientific web search (which isn’t helping my search history), morello cherry pits have the most cyanide easily available in fruit. But what if you want to murder someone urgently and it’s not cherry season? You can buy sacks of cherry pits online (to make heating pads, apparently), but I don’t know if they need to be fresh if you want cyanide. I’m not searching for that. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Administering the poison could be tricky. Someone could notice that you had bought the supermarket’s entire stock of morello cherries and are now pressing some almond-tasting tea on rich Uncle Cedric. According to the murder mysteries I’ve read, cyanide smells of almonds, so someone collapsing after eating an almond macaroon will raise some suspicion. There will be questions about the source of that macaroon once a ton of cyanide is found at the autopsy and the murderer would be found in no time.

All the ideas I could think of about murder weren’t working out. If you stopped and thought logically about it, everything fell apart. I was facing the awful truth that I’m not very good at murder which is a drawback for a writer. Then I was looking for hand cream and found exactly what I was looking for.

And if everything goes well, I’ll be able to share the story with you by the end of July.

Invitation Accepted Chapter Sixteen

You can read the story from the beginning here.

Rhys had reluctantly moved into Mark’s office, at least until after the funeral and Mark could take over. The whole business was turning his fur grey. The mood in the pack was uncertain and Rhys didn’t think that any change to the leadership would help right now. Mark was as twitchy as a cat in a dog pound, and Rhys didn’t feel like tugging on his tail. It would be a lot easier, Rhys thought, if Mark would just have a snarl around and reminded everyone who was in charge.

Rhys slumped behind Mark’s desk. With Mark being absent so much, first looking after Claire and now guarding her body almost every hour of the day, it had put Rhys firmly in charge of sorting out the funeral and the memorial, while still keeping track of the planning permission for the new builds in Garforth and the renovations over in Middleton. On top of that, he felt a lingering duty to the mill over in Yeadon and he wondered about Surjit. They had had a good time at Bolton Abbey, but he hadn’t had much time to do more than text over the last few days.  

Stella bustled in. “I’ve started making the food,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t five hundred for the cremation, what with all the packs near here and people sending their condolences in person. I’ll need some men to take the chiller van to the farm.”

“Can’t Stacy and Leah drive it?” Rhys said. “They’ve both got licences.”

“You mean, apart from all the women getting caught up in the cooking?” Stella said. “I hate to say that we need a strong man to help us, but we’ll be picking up a lot of meat. A full bull’s carcass weighs a ton. I mean, almost literally. We won’t be just picking up beef either.”

“We could always pick up some frozen stuff from the wholesalers,” Rhys said.

“Mark would have a fit,” Stella said. “He likes to have feasts prepared the traditional way. And he had a point. It’s part of the way that the women come together and makes it more of a communal thing. It helps us feel useful.” She leaned over the desk and patted his arm. “Don’t worry too much. We’ve got plenty of stuff in the freezers and pantries.”

Rhys pulled his notebook towards him and made another note. “I’ll send Shaun and Dev with you,” he said. “They’re strong enough and won’t chase the sheep.”

“And they’ve got the sense to do what I say,” Stella said smugly.

Rhys continued jotting. “We’ll need to get the big marquees out of storage,” he said. “We can’t trust the weather at this time of year. I’ll get Alex and Tim to check out the heaters as well.” He looked down at the drift of papers scattered over the desk. “I’m going to have to get some of the lads pulling double duty. Between setting up and covering the work, we’re going to be stretched.”

“The women can cover most of the set up,” Stella said. “I know how you’ve been having trouble in Armley and have a lot on your plate with the job in Middleton. If you can deliver the marquees and the chairs and tables, we can cover the rest.”

Rhys managed a weary smile. “Thank you,” he said. “I appreciate that.” And that was another thing. Mark had kept the women very much in the kitchen, but time and again they had proved how capable they were. He should have a word when things calmed down. “I’ll get the extra space heaters out as well, just in case,” he said. “Half of them will be in fur anyway, but it’s better to be sure. And we’ll need to order in the drinks.”

“And we’ll need plenty of that,” Stella said. She hesitated. “Mark hasn’t said anything, has he?”

Rhys knew what the question meant. Mark should have been sorting this out. It should have been him deciding on what food to serve and who to send for the stuff in storage while keeping the business going. And Stella had been less than impressed when it had been Rhys talking to the minister and floundering around trying to work out what readings and hymns should be included. Rhys didn’t want to be entangled with those kind of questions, though. “Mark’s upset,” he said. “And he’s been guarding Claire.” His sharp ears caught footsteps approaching before the sharp rap on the door. “Come in,”

To Rhys’ relief, it was the undertaker rushing in and not Mark. “What’s this about Claire being moved?” he said. “The cremation is supposed to be tomorrow night but Mark has cancelled it.”

“What?” Rhys said, staring. “I don’t know anything about it.”

“He can’t just cancel,” Stella said. “We’ve got hundreds of guests coming.”

“He said to ring him if you have questions,” the undertaker said. “But he didn’t answer any of mine. He just told me that a private ambulance would be collecting Claire later this afternoon.”

Rhys pulled out his phone and called Mark. “Hi, the undertaker is here,” Rhys said. “And he’s not making sense.”

Mark’s voice was raspy over the phone. “I’ve found a better way of remembering Claire,” he said. “The cremation’s on hold.”

“Mark, are you okay?” Rhys said. “This isn’t normal, this isn’t right.”

“Just pay off the undertaker and wait,” Mark said. “And I’m sending someone for Claire’s things.”

“Mark, I know that you’re grieving, but you can’t just give away Claire’s stuff without catching a breath,” Rhys said. “You’re not thinking clearly. You should wait a little while before making big decisions.” He exchanged a worried glance with Stella. “And we have a few hundred guests coming. Some will already have set off. We can’t cancel it all.”

“Just sort it out,” Mark said. “I’ll be back in a week or two.”

“You can’t just vanish for a week!” Rhys said. “We’re going to be sinking as it is.”

“I’m sending you a picture of the man coming to collect Claire’s things,” Mark said. “Let him get what he wants from her room. And just sort it all out.”

Rhys stared at his phone. “He hung up. And he’s sending someone to collect Claire’s things.”

“What are we going to do?” Stella asked.

“And what’s happening with Claire?” the undertaker said. “You can’t keep the remains of a werewolf too long or people will be getting too interested, if you know what I mean.”

“I’m sorry that you’ve been put out like this,” Rhys said, trying to be diplomatic. “I’ll be in touch with you as soon as I find out more.”

“I understand,” the undertaker said. “Grief can affect people in strange ways. I’ve known Mark a long time, and he’s always been too intense for his own good. This was never going to be easy for him.”

Rhys glanced at the picture that Mark sent. The image of a tall, dark haired man gave him an uneasy feeling, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on why. Still, that wasn’t the only worry. “Stella, we’re going to have to go ahead with the gathering tomorrow,” he said. “Too many people will have already set out and it’s going to be chaos trying to change plans. Just do your best and we’ll call it a remembrance. Perhaps a couple of us can make speeches. It will be a bit like the memorial but it can’t be helped.”

“What do we tell people about Mark?” Stella asked.

“I’ll think of something,” Rhys said.

“You’ll have to,” she said. “Or the pack will look weak.”

“Stella is unfortunately correct,” the undertaker said. “There is already talk in the area.”

“We’re not weak, and we’re doing fine,” Rhys said. “I’ll think of something.”

Stella shook her head. “I think you need to make decisions about more than the cremation,” she said. “People are looking to you now.”

“This isn’t the time for that sort of talk,” Rhys said. “Mark’s been caught up with Claire and it’s taken a toll. But he’ll be back just as strong, taking charge and getting us all jumping.” He stopped and stared at the figure getting out of the black Mercedes that had just stopped in their car park. It was the man coming to collect Claire’s belongings and while he looked so completely ordinary, from his neat hair to his business style shoes, every instinct in Rhys was screaming that this was danger and death and all the wrongness. He fought to stay out of fur, his lips curling in a reflexive snarl, and he could see Stella fighting the same instincts. The undertaker glanced between them and backed slowly out of the room before turning and running.

“Get everyone out of the way,” Rhys growled to Stella through clenched teeth. “Get the kids into the back field. I’ll come when it’s gone.”


“It’s all quiet,” Bron said as they met Lady Mary in a shaded spot away from The Iron Sickle. “There doesn’t seem to be much activity at all.”

“There wouldn’t be much at this time,” Lady Mary said. “It’s 8pm on a Sunday night. It’s not the most popular time for drinking.” She looked at Tyler. “Are you okay?”

Tyler nodded. “Too much is changing,” he said softly.

Lady Mary looked over to Bron where he stood with Sir Dylan and Sir Philip. “I am bringing my authority here,” she said. “But Tyler is in charge. He will be dealing with the werewolves.” She looked around. “I notice that Kidder isn’t here.”

“He’s with Ewan back at the cottage,” Bron said. “He’s with us, now, and he isn’t going to cause trouble. And you can’t expect him to go after Fang, not after what happened last time.”

“And will you be in control of yourself, Bron the Ancient?” Lady Mary asked. “This is personal for you, isn’t it?”

“I just want the truth,” Bron said coldly. “And then I’ll want justice. I know the difference between justice and vengeance, and I’ll grieve in my own way.” He glanced around the group. “Shall we?” He turned and, without waiting for the others, marched straight up to the doors of The Iron Sickle and pushed his way inside.

The pub was silent as Bron stalked up to the bar, followed by the rest of the group. The lights were dim and the half dozen or so drinkers were spaced widely around the bar, hunched over their drinks. The clock behind the bar ticked loudly. “Where’s Fang?” Bron asked.

There was no reply. Tyler stalked up to the bar and slammed his hand down onto the counter. The drinkers flinched as he glared around. “Where is Fang?” he snapped. “I’m taking over and I’ve come to challenge him. Show me!”

An older werewolf pointed hesitantly and Tyler paced slowly towards the unlit corner. “Fang, show yourself!” he called. “”Meet the challenge.”

“If he still has the Orache Stone, this could go very badly,” Sir Dylan murmured to Sir Philip.

“And that’s why we’re here,” Sir Philip murmured back.

Bron shot them a look and followed Tyler as he slid out of his jacket. “And you’re to answer to me, boyo,” he called. He hooked his jacket over the back of a chair and stood at Tyler’s shoulder. “Who killed Violet, Fang?”

Tyler held up his hand and turned to the bartender. “Why are the lights out?” he asked.

The bartender swallowed. “The orders were to keep it dark,” he said.

Tyler smiled coldly. “And my orders are to switch on all the lights,” he said. “Let’s see what we’re dealing with.”

“These lot don’t look like they’re going to be trouble,” Sir Dylan murmured to Sir Philip as he glanced around the drinkers. “But we stick back to back and give them space to run if they want to.”

Sir Philip gave a slight nod. “They look like they’re more likely to run than fight, but who can tell,” he said, glancing swiftly around the room. “We can fall back to the slot machine. That looks stable enough to have at our backs.”

The bartender edged along the bar and started flicking switches. The drinkers squinted at the bright light and one fled the bar. “Let him go, for now,” Tyler said. “I want to see Fang.”

As the lights reached the corner, Tyler recoiled. The shape sitting there was barely recognisable. Fang was in cloth, his human form emaciated and his eyes blank. His tangled hair was wild and he pushed himself back into the bench as he flinched at the light. “Not me, not me,” he mumbled. “It’s my stone, my stone, I said it was and she wasn’t saying. I said it was mine.” Drool ran down his chin. “She said she knew how to use it, but didn’t say. It’s mine, mine and she should have told me. She took it. I fought but she took it, old lady bitch.” Fang’s thin hands clenched and unclenched. “She should have told me. She threw me away. Hurt me, hurt me with silver even though it was my stone.”

Bron pushed past Tyler and grabbed the creature’s shirt, hauling him to his feet and staring into what was left of him. “He lost the stone,” Bron said. “He lost it, but after it had taken his mind.” He tossed the werewolf onto the floor in front of the bar. “Ewan was right. Fang fought Violet and lost.” He looked up to Tyler. “He’s all yours.”

“You’re giving me the job of justice?” Tyler said. “Are you going soft?”

“Violet would still be here if she hadn’t been weakened,” Bron said. “And I’m not sure I’d know when to stop.” He looked at Fang who was drivelling at his feet. “It wouldn’t be a fair fight, and the werewolf pack needs justice.”

“We’re not a pack,” a skinny lad next to the bar said, then winced as he regretted speaking up.

“You are now,” Tyler said. “You acted enough like a pack under Fang, so now you can be a pack under me and I’ll sort you out.” He kicked out at Fang, who whimpered. “I’ll start here.”

“I’ll be off now,” Bron said. “But here’s something.” He picked up his jacket and pulled out a box which he placed on the bar. Opening it, he took out a purple orchid. “It’s the wrong type of year for violet flowers,” Bron said. “But Violet, the elfen who would be alive but for this, should be remembered, as a little bit of justice. I can rely on you all here to keep her memory and a memento behind the bar, can’t I?” There was steel in his tone.

Tyler nodded. “That sounds fair enough,” he said. “Now, all non werewolves should leave now. Things are going to get interesting.”

Bron, Lady Mary and the Knights Templar left and walked across the road and down to a small park. The distance helped to muffle the screaming now coming from the bar. Lady Mary looked Bron up and down. “That was a sensible decision,” she said. “It must have taken a great deal of effort.”

Bron shrugged. “I could be inventive, but I don’t have the time,” he said. “I have to speak to Mark Davies.”

Lady Mary tapped her elegant finger on her chin, ignoring the frantic howls coming from The Iron Sickle. “That could be problematic,” she said. “The cremation is tomorrow night, and several hundred are expected to attend the pack house afterwards. You are formidable, Bron, but even you would struggle with those odds. I believe some have already arrived.”

“He can’t be allowed access to several hundred wolves with the Orache Stone,” Bron said urgently. “Do you want that many werewolves ravaging through Leeds? The bloodshed could be horrific.”

“I hadn’t considered that,” Lady Mary said. “Regardless, you can’t challenge Mark Davies in front of several hundred werewolves at the cremation of his wife. If possible, you need to wait a day or two, until the last puppy has gone home.” She looked at Sir Dylan. “I believe that there will be a contingent of Knights Templars present,” she said. “And several high ranking elfen will also be paying their respects, including Lord Marius and Steve Adderson. It should be possible to deflect any trouble even if we can’t stop it completely.”

“I’ll put a general alert out,” Sir Dylan said. “The top brass at Lincoln were already waiting for a call. We’ll make sure that we have reinforcements ready.”

“I’ll bide my time and be ready,” Bron said. “I’m not an idiot.” He looked around the group as the snarls and growls behind them grew. “But I still get that son of a bitch, right? I still get Mark Davies.”

Book Review: Gobbelino London and a Scourge of Pleasantries by Kim M Watt

It’s been a while since I reviewed a book, so I thought I would share a book that I have just read and thoroughly enjoyed but that wasn’t recently published. I picked up Gobbelino London and a Scourge of Pleasantries on a whim, because I love cats and the book is set in Leeds, my home town.

I’m really glad that I did. It’s so much fun. The story is told by Gobbelino London, a cat based in Leeds, who is one of the best fictional cats that I have enjoyed. He’s argumentative, opinionated and has his own views on the world and his place in it. I especially love his quirky take on the human language. And, as a refreshing change, he is a much more vivid character than his side kick, Callum, the Private Investigator. Both are well written, and both are solidly grounded in a way that hints at a life before the story – I’m always a sucker for that.

I found myself sinking into the story as, no matter how surreal and magical things became, the writing kept you engaged and involved. I never found myself jarred out of the story. I loved the unexpected twists and turns. It kept me curious all the way through.

I found the action well paced, the characters were fun and I’m looking forward to dipping in to other stories to find out more about the background. I seriously recommend it.

Gobbelino London and a Scourge of Pleasantries