The Miss Charlotte Quartet is Complete

With the publication of THE MEMORY THIEF, the MISS CHARLOTTE QUARTET is now complete. A series of four short stories featuring the witch Charlotte Southill from my Witches of Woodville novels. Sign up to the Woodville Village Library newsletter and grab your FREE copies here… https://witchesofwoodville.com/#library

The stories were edited by Julian Barr: https://jbarrauthor.com/editorial-services/

Cover designer Andrew Bowden: https://www.ididthat.uk

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello folks, the Miss Charlotte Quartet is now complete. Okay, I know some of you will be going, “What’s a Miss Charlotte Quartet?” Well, Miss Charlotte is one of the witches in the Witches of Woodville novels. And she’s very mysterious, and there are all kinds of hints that she has a murky past, and she might just be a wee bit older than she’s  actually letting on. The four stories in the Miss Charlotte Quartet  explore her history. Not all of it. Don’t worry, she’s still as deliciously ambiguous as ever.

But the stories go from 1593 to 1910. See, told you she was old. Weirdly, I also seem to have written a love story as it’s about Charlotte falling in love with a young woman called Lizzie. And, well, to say any more would be a spoiler. These stories began life as a project to get me out of my funk during the first covid lockdown. They started with just a few hundred words a day and have become something wonderful.

Thanks to the editorial skill of Julian Barr, and the splendid artwork of Andrew Bowden, both are available for hire, I would not hesitate to recommend both of them wholeheartedly. Julian saved my bacon on a number of occasions with his sharp eye, and Andy went out of his comfort zone to produce what I think you’ll agree are a fantastic set of cover designs. Thank you, gents, for helping Miss Charlotte and me on our way. Thanks also to Claire Burgess for her help on the audio books and of course, to Woodville Village’s head librarian, Miss Araminta Cranberry for, well, not throwing me out of the library, especially when it was raining, which was… usually. And most of all a huge thanks to everyone who has read all of these stories and said nice things about them. That’s all an author ever wants, really. So what’s next? Well, I’m currently writing the first draft of SKYCLAD, the third Witches of Woodville novel. That should be done in a few weeks.

Just a first draft, very rough. Then it’s copyedits for book two, BABES IN THE WOOD. Once they’re done, I’ll be sharing the first few chapters with everyone who subscribes to the Woodville Village Library newsletter. So that’s where you can also get all these free stories, not just the Miss Charlotte Quartet, but all of these too. Hey, hey, hey. I’ll pop a link in the description below. This is the part of the video where in the past I’ve put a clip of the audiobook.

Oh, did I mention these are also available as MP3 audiobooks to download narrated by me. Never mind. But I don’t want to do this for this because it would reveal something a bit spoilery. So just grab your copy now. Free, it’s free! Thanks for watching and happy reading.

The Druid at Thieves Holm – Free to download now

The Druid at Thieves Holm is part three of The Miss Charlotte Quartet and is FREE to all subscribers of the Woodville Village Library Newsletter. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

Parts one and two — I’ll See You In My Dreams and The Last Night of the Witchfinder — are also available completely free to all subscribers to the Woodville Village Newsletter, and all the stories are also available as MP3 audiobook downloads…

London, Autumn, 1744 Charlotte Southill slinks into Newgate Gaol to interrogate a thief before he is hanged. Only Wilmot Moor knows who has the scrap of paper with the ritual that will allow Charlotte to summon Time and discover the truth behind the mysterious girl in her dreams. Charlotte will travel from London to a tiny islet off the coast of John O’Groats where she will encounter the Druid at Thieves Holm. I waffle about it here, and there’s a brief clip of the audio edition, too…

Big thanks to Julian Barr for his editing skills, Claire Burgess for helping Araminta, Dominic Currie for the music, and Andy Bowden for the cover art.

Here’s One Way To Write A First Draft

I’ve been working on a new way of writing the first draft of my novel. And it’s been working really well… so far…

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello, folks. Apologies for the hair. Still in lockdown and two weeks till I get a haircut, so this is going to get worse before it gets better. Anyway, I’m working on the first draft of Skyclad, the third Witches of Woodville book.

Regulars will know that I used to be a big outliner when it came to writing, but I’m becoming more and more of a pantser or discovery writer, whatever you want to call it.

That is, I’m making it up as I go along. Well, sort of. I do have a rough idea of where I’m going and I know how I want the story to end. And I have a few key notes on a few key moments, but I thought you might be interested to know how I’m working with this one. Again, regulars might know that I have a different notebook dedicated to each project. Here’s the one for Book Three of the witches of Woodville, Skyclad.

This was bought at the National Trust Gift Shop at the White Cliffs of Dover, which is a little clue as to where some of the book will take place. What I’ve taken to doing with this story is switching from day to day between paper — the notebook — and the screen — the laptop — and it’s really working for me. So to give you some idea… On, say, Monday, I will start noodling ideas for what happens next in the story in The Notebook.

So here I’ve written in big letters, “How can the Poltergeist exorcism go wrong?” Slight spoiler, but it’s the opening scene. I’ve made notes on what can happen in that scene and they are imperfect notes. I’ve given myself permission to wander off, and noodle and try different scenarios, and scribble stuff out, and put other things in boxes and underline them, and highlight them. And what I find is that by the end of the writing session, I have a really good idea of how that chapter pans out.

The level of detail varies from session to session. But the next day, Tuesday, when I open up the laptop, I’m not victim to the tyranny of the blinking cursor. You know that feeling when you look at a blank page of Word or Scrivener that bastard cursor is flashing at you, “Go on, write something. What are you waiting for? Call yourself a writer?” Well, now I just go to my notes and start typing, and before I know it I’m up and running. I used the less formalised version of this with The Crow Folk and the second book, Babes in the Wood, available to pre-order now.

And it worked really well. So this is an evolution of that. A few caveats. I’m only 10,000 words into this novel and, in my experience, openings are pretty easy when compared to the rest of the book… not least the middle section, which can lead to much wailing and gnashing of teeth. So I’ll check in with this in about a month’s time and see if I’m feeling quite so smug still. Also, I’m writing the third book in a series.

I know the characters and situations really well. I have a very good idea of how people will react when presented with challenges. And that makes a writer’s life much, much easier and makes me wonder why it’s taken me so long to write a series. This is so much fun. Anyway, I hope you found that helpful. How is your writing going? Does this sort of method work for you? Pop a comment below or drop me a line. In the meantime, happy writing.

Another FREE short story for you…

Part two of The Miss Charlotte Quartet — The Last Night of the Witchfinder General — is now available completely free to anyone who subscribes to the Woodville Village Newsletter. Sign up and grab your copy here… https://witchesofwoodville.com/#library

Manningtree, Summer, 1647

Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General, has come out of retirement for one last trial. And now Charlotte Southill is here to show him what a real witch can do…

Charlotte Southill vows revenge when one of her friends falls victim to the notorious Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. But someone doesn’t want him dead and Charlotte must confront some raw and painful memories.

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello folks. I’m delighted to announce that the second story in the Miss Charlotte Quartet — The Last Night of the Witchfinder General — is available to download… completely and utterly FREE for all the lucky people who have signed up to the Woodville Village library newsletter.

If you’ve read The Crow Folk you will know that Miss Charlotte has something of a secret history and these stories will go some way to letting you into her dark past.

Yes, these stories are a little darker than the Witches of Woodville novels and this one in particular contains hanging, torture, vomiting, farting, drowning, poisoning, shooting, stabbing and al fresco urination.

What more could you ask for in a 5000 word short story? It’s available as an eBook and audiobook. Let’s have a quick listen…

ESSEX WAS no place to be a witch.
Charlotte stood in the shadow of the gallows, watching
her friend Dorothy Marsh sway in the summer breeze. Flies buzzed around Dorothy’s gaping mouth. Her bloodshot eyes bulged as if in fright, her last terrified words left unsaid. Dorothy’s pepper hair was matted with blood and the mob had taken all but her stained smock and a single shoe.

A dark rage grew inside Charlotte, rising like bile. She had seen too many women like Dorothy hanging from a noose these past three years. Dorothy wasn’t even a witch, but a midwife. A woman of compassion and kindness who offered Charlotte shelter and food when she was last here.

Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General, had come out of retirement for one last trial.

And now Charlotte Southill was here to show him what a real witch could do.

I had great fun writing this one, but even a short story is not written is isolation. My thanks to Julian Barr for editorial wisdom, Andrew Bowden for another cracking cover design and the lovely new logo for Woodville Village (points)…

Thanks also to Dominic Currie for the music. Head Librarian Araminta Cranberry for her introduction and afterword, and Claire Burgess for the usual.

Part Three of The Miss Charlotte Quartet will be available on 4th May and will again be FREE to all newsletter subscribers, so if you haven’t already please click on the link below and sign up. You can also get a free recipe for Jam Roly Poly as featured in The Crow Folk and much more besides. It will also be the first place where you will soon be able to read an extract from book two of The Witches of Woodville BABES IN THE WOOD (which is available to pre-order). Thanks again to everyone who’s read The Crow Folk, and especially those delightful people who have left reviews online and such.

Until next time, happy reading!

The First Round of Edits Are Away!

Why do I love editors? Because they help me create a better book. I’ve spent the last week or so in the first round of edits for my next book Babes in the Wood, and here’s what I learned…

Apologies in advance for… the wind…

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello, folks, Mark Stay here. Last time we talked, I’d just started the edits on book two of the
Witches of Woodville: Babes in the Wood. Well, after a week and a bit
of intense editorialising they’re done.
They’re off to my… Well, I say “done”. This is probably the first round, but they’re off to my editor, Simon & Schuster, Bethan, for her to have a look at. Lessons learned? Well, um, this took longer than the first book. Now, the first book was Alpha-read and Beta-read up the wazzoo. Lots of eyes on that before it went off to any publisher. So it was in very, very good shape.
This one was in good shape, too. But, uh, there is a murder mystery element to it.
Which… Writing any kind of mystery like that is, is storytelling with the hood off, you know, everyone can see the working parts because you put them there on display for people to… To notice things. And if everything doesn’t quite make sense, then it really stands out in a way that other stories, you know, you can probably get away with the odd teeny weeny plot hole. So this one, most of Bethan’s notes were just little clarifications. Can you make this a bit clearer? Can you hang a lantern on this? You know, can you emphasise this a bit more? Uh, of course, during, uh, during my edit, I realised one massive plot hole was that I have a murder and never once explain how the murder was done. Only I could do that. Um, this is why you have editors, folks. So, uh, that was handy. I was able to… The thing is I’d written it down. I put it in my notebook. This is one good reason why you should have a notebook, folks, for each project that you’re doing, because I had actually written it down. I just hadn’t put it in the actual novel. Small point. But, you know, we always catch it in the end, which is good.
So, yeah, really happy with it.
And it gave me the opportunity to add a few extra layers, a few extra flourishes that… Particularly towards the end I wanted to ramp up the tension a little bit more. So I’m really happy with it. Really happy with it. So that’s gone off to Bethan. She’s in the middle of editing another book. So it might be a few weeks before I see it again.
But until then, I’ve got a short story to edit. I’ve got a short story to finish. These are the Miss Charlotte Quartet stories. So, I’m gonna spend this weekend… Beautiful… I’m gonna spend this weekend rereading that and giving that a final polish, and getting that ready. So if you subscribe to my newsletter, you can get these stories for free. Free! Number one’s out already.
I know.
Good, innit?
Number two is coming on the fourth of April in ebook and audio… Got to record that too. And then
three and four are on their way. So that’ll keep me busy. That’ll keep me out of trouble. So yeah. If I hear any more on the edit…
I’ll let you know. I’ll get back to you. In the meantime, I’m just going to pop into my local library.
Happy reading.
Happy writing. See you again soon.

Who wants a free short story? Or four?

Subscribers to my newsletter can get a free short story I’ll See You In My Dreams – the first part of The Miss Charlotte Quartet. Sign up to the Woodville Village Newsletter here to make sure you don’t miss out.

I explain what it’s all about here on one of my walks…

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello folks, how are you? Hey, who wants a free short story? You do! Definitely well, you can have one right now. Just sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already. And it’s called I’ll See You in My Dreams. And it features Miss Charlotte, Southhill, who, if you’ve read The Crow Folk you’ll know, she’s one of the witches in the Witches of Woodville, and she has something of a mysterious past, maybe a bit older than she at first looks, which is why the story starts in 1593. And it asks the question, “Would you stop time to save someone you love?” Let’s have a listen to a quick bit right now…

Charlotte Southill first met Time when the plague came to London. Many thought the bitter winter would kill the summer’s pestilence, but it endured and the deaths only increased. The theatres and taverns closed. The streets were lousy with rats and handbells clanged as bodies were taken away on carts. Charlotte had never so much as caught a cold in her 38 years, but that was a reason for that. Lizzie was not so fortunate. She complained of aches and a fever two days ago. On the first day she kept vomiting. Then the swelling came. Charlotte had tried every apothecary trick she knew, but nothing would work. Lizzie’s breath rattled. Her body was riddled with buboes, and it was now only a matter of time.

OoOOOoooh! I have no idea what clip I was going to use, but I assume it’s going to be an “Oooh!”
bit, you know, for the sake of marketing. Well, I hope you enjoyed that, because there’s going to be four of them. Four short stories in the Miss Charlotte quartet. Four. Quartet. See what I did? And they’ll tell a much bigger story over the course of the four stories, one a month every month for the next four months. So, yeah, just sign up to the newsletter and hopefully enjoy them. There’ll be e-books and there’ll be audio versions as well every month. So yeah, sign up now, put a link below and do that sort of thing. But yeah, it was, it was, it was fun to write. Short stories are hard, they’re really hard. There’s no room for my usual waffle. I have to be very concise. I have to thank my editor, Julian Barr, for really cracking the whip on this one. He’s a tough taskmaster. And to Andy Bowden for the cover art, which is just splendid. And thank you to everyone who’s bought a copy of The Crow Folk, who’s put a review up. It’s always massively, massively appreciated. Four weeks in the Hive chart in the UK, that’s the chart for a lot of the independent bookshops in the UK. I thought I was going to be out after three weeks. I was at number 19. I got back up again to thirteen. So thank you. Thank you all. You’re all bloomin’ marvellous. Um, Book 2, uh, Babes in the Wood coming in October, October twenty seventh. I see preorder links for that pop up online because that’s what happens. Publishers put it on their database, push a button and (blows raspberry) it feeds out to the Internet. That’s the actual noise that it makes when they push the button. And so yeah, I’ll put a link on the website so you can find it on there: witchesofwoodvile.com and any pre-orders would be appreciated. Check out The Hive, check out Bookshop.org – that helps indie bookshops. And of course, as you know, Amazon, Waterstones and all those lovely people as well. Whatever way you want to do it, any pre-orders much appreciated. So, yeah, free short story. Get in, enjoy and happy reading.

You Can Pre-Order Book Two of The Witches of Woodville Now

If you’ve enjoyed reading The Crow Folk, then do please consider pre-ordering the next book in the series BABES IN THE WOOD. Here’s a quick blurb…

July, 1940

Fleeing the Nazi blitzkrieg, a trio of Kindertransport children come to stay with Lady Aston at Hayward Lodge in Woodville. Their arrival triggers a murder mystery involving a magic apple tree, modern art, a U-boat, and a demonic hound. Faye Bright must play nanny to the terrified children while gathering clues to uncover the dark magic that threatens to change the course of the war.

I had so much fun writing this one. There’s all kinds of gleeful and exciting stuff to be revealed, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you’re the kind of person who likes to pre-order nice and early and then enjoy the surprise when a book arrives in the post (I know I do!), then you can find links to most retailers at the Woodville Village Bookshop here.

I say “most”… some retailers can be slower than others when updating their catalogues, so I’ll be updating as and when.

Also, if you were one of the lovely people who ordered from Coles Books to get a signed book and art print

Ooh, pretty!

… and you would like to do so again for Babes in the Wood… why not drop them a polite line and ask if they will? A little bit of positive customer feedback goes a long way these days. Oh, and I’ve had a sneak peek of Harry Goldhawk‘s “rough” of the cover art for Babes in the Wood. If you though the cover of The Crow Folk was gorgeous, then you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. More news as I get it!

How To Market Your Book With Youtube – Part 9

I join forces with video creator & video marketer Jeremy Mason to implement digital marketing techniques to drives sales and pre-orders of my new book The Crow Folk! Join us in our adventures in video marketing and book publishing …

In Episode 9 you’ll learn: – WHY persistence is key in book marketing and book publishing – YouTube’s algorithm changes WHAT it means & WHAT you should do as a video creator – HOW to keep motivated and keep consistently creating video marketing content – HOW to deal with rejection in business and as an author – The evolution of ‘The Witches of Woodville’ book series – HOW to use YouTube Live for book marketing – What NOT to do on Facebook and YouTube Live – Brainstorming virtual book launch ideas – ACTIONABLE ideas of how to promote your book with video – HOW to use content calendars to create PR-able ideas…

Get a FREE excerpt from The Crow Folk

Today I am launching The Woodville Parish Council website…

Welcome to Woodville Village

What the blinking flip is the Woodville Parish Council you might ask (not unreasonably)? Woodville Village is the setting for my new Witches of Woodville books, and not a completely made up place, no siree. It is here that you will find everything you need to know (or at least everything we’re allowed to tell you) about the strange goings on in the village of Woodville.

On the Notice Board you’ll find all the latest blogs from me.

Sign-up and join the Village Library for free eBooks.

Pop into the Village Bookshop to buy any of my books.

And drop me a line via Writers’ Notes.

The website was created by the wonderful Simon Appleby at Bookswarm and it was a joy to see it come to life.

I have a little exclusive treat for you. Sign up to the Woodville Parish Council Newsletter for all the latest news and a to get a sneak peek at the first three chapters of The Crow Folk (along with a special introduction from village librarian Araminta Cranberry). This is only available to subscribers to the Woodville newsletter, and comes in Kindle, ePub and PDF formats, so sign up now

Artwork by Harry Goldhawk

And that’s not all! In the coming months there will be more short stories (and a recipe for jam roly poly as featured in the novel) including one story that will give a unique perspective on the events chronicled in The Crow Folk, and a quartet of stories that will reveal the truth about Miss Charlotte’s murky past. Sign up to the newsletter and get your free eBook here.

A Spooky reading from The Crow Folk

Here’s me reading the opening of The Crow Folk, just in time for Halloween… 2021… just 364 days to go!

See how many times you can spot Pumpkinhead…