I’m delighted to announce that Rose Petals and White Lace: Dottie Manderson mysteries book 7 is being released on 9th December on Amazon (eBook, paperback and large print paperback), and 11th/12th December on other platforms (regular print paperback only).
Here’s a little bit to tell you about the book:
Dottie Manderson’s relationship with Inspector William Hardy has recently taken on a whole new dimension, and that means getting to know his family. Whilst William is away clearing up the paperwork and red-tape following his recent case against the Assistant Chief Constable of Derbyshire, Dottie attempts to help William’s younger sister and her fiancé put a stop to the malicious occurrences that threaten both their livelihood and their relationship.
Meanwhile, Inspector Hardy has two problems to tackle:
Firstly, the unexpected, rather hostile official enquiry into the recent events in Ripley and, secondly – though from William’s point of view, far more importantly – will he ever find the perfect romantic moment to take the next big step in his love life?
I recently signed up to shepherd.com – it’s a platform that aims to bring together readers and authors. One of the great ways they do this is to feature posts by authors on a topic that readers might find interesting. This also gives authors a chance to showcase their own work to readers who may not have come across them before.
In my case, I love classic mysteries, so I wanted to give a brief introduction to five books that are absolutely up there in the Must Read section but whose work may be new to readers, or readers may have only read some of that authors more popular titles, as in the case of Agatha Christie, for example.
Without further ado, let me get you started on my rundown of my top picks:
Death Comes As The End by Agatha Christie
Why this book?
Death Comes as the End is an unusual Christie murder mystery. The story is set in the ancient past, so no familiar mustache-twirling detective or knitting old lady here! It’s set in the time of the Pharoahs, and the era is beautifully brought to life by the author, who was knowledgeable about the ancient world. It’s deeply absorbing, and so perfectly described, you feel you are there.
There is a sense of menacing unease, and along with Renisenb, the young female protagonist, you have to ask, ‘Is it you? Or you? Or you?’ Give it a try and like me, you’ll be biting your nails, with everything crossed that things will turn out all right for Renisenb and that she will get her happy ever after.
The Listening Eye by Patricia Wentworth
Why this book?
The strengths of Wentworth’s books lie in the portrayal of the era, and in the characters who are forced to find their way through unfamiliar and difficult circumstances. They are not all wealthy, they are not all high-born, and we watch them as they try to adapt to wartime conditions and deprivations.
Wentworth’s mysteries are fascinating, clever, with the protagonist Miss Silver, a spinster who is a professional ‘private enquiry agent’. The Listening Eye, I feel, contains some of the most acute observations of human nature, and this makes the characters just seem so relatable. Wentworth books are ‘clean’ mysteries with a strong thread of romance, little gore, no bad language, or sexy shenanigans.
Catt Out Of The Bag by Clifford Witting
Why this book?
This is a great one to curl up on a cold night with. A group of carolers go out to sing at Christmas. One disappears. That’s it. The stage is set in such a simple way, it’s masterful. Bring on the ‘sleuth’, John Rutherford, who manages to be the Watson to the official police investigators, along with his wife Molly. The story is witty, intriguing, and beautifully put together.
Witting really deserves to be better known as his writing is definitely on a par with the Golden Age detective writer greats. Now being republished by Galileo Publishing.
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers
Why this book?
This is a Lord Peter Wimsey novel, and it’s my favourite. Along with his faithful manservant, Bunter, Wimsey is stranded by a car accident and quickly finds himself in the midst of a dastardly deed. I have to admit, I often find the ‘What Ho’ type of upper-class gentleman of that era irritating, but this book is not quite so bad as others. What I like most about this one is the technical side of the crime, so often missing in books of that era, which makes for an absorbing read.
Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh
Why this book?
I always like to get in at the beginning of an ongoing romance/relationship and this is the one where Alleyn meets Troy, the artist and his future wife. Actually, no I take that back, it’s a spoiler, don’t pay any attention. What if she’s the killer? Then where would the rest of these books be?
You might think Marsh’s characters seem no different than Sayers’, Christie’s, etc well-to-do detectives and their privileged suspects, but there is a difference here. There is tension between Alleyn, his traditional outlook, his job, and Troy’s more liberal leanings. But like any great couple, together they make a great, if not very romantic, combination.
So that’s it. I just want to add, there was a space-constraint here, so that’s why I had to be a bit more succinct than is usual for me.!
If you enjoyed this, why not head over to shepherd.com and see what else is on offer. You might find a new author to read, or you might find an old author you’d forgotten about!
For a few reasons, I have been working on the same two books for about three years. As you may know if you’ve followed my ramblings on this blog before, I recently published my new murder mystery A Meeting With Murder: Miss Gascoigne mysteries book 1.
And at the moment I am still putting the finishing touches to Rose Petals and White Lace: Dottie Manderson mysteries book 7, which is due out on 9th December this year – only just over a month to go.
(Eek!!!!! What am I doing writing this?)
But… and you’ll think I’m mad. Okay, if you know me you probably already think that.
…I’ve started writing another book this week.
I won’t tell you what it is yet, I think that’s best kept quiet for now. It’s all far too early to start penciling in publication deadlines. It’s so new I haven’t even got a cover for it yet.
Not long now!
What I wanted to share with you is the sheer joy of working on a new NEW project after having a dodgy couple of years working with the same books and feeling like they were never going to happen.
It’s so invigorating, refreshing, inspiring. I feel like singing. Or dancing. Or just telling the world. It’s weird, I feel an urge to go up to actual strangers and–okay not hug them, I’m not a monster–but at least smile pleasantly. It’s just sooooo good to be creating not editing, feeling my way forward, laughing at my own jokes, mulling over all the myriad possibilities of a brand new story.
It feels as though anything is possible, anything can happen, and most probably will. I feel in control, I feel fulfilled. I even got up early to write!!!! New fresh ideas are buzzing, and I am writing feverishly, it’s like being in love.
My natural pessimism/caution requires me to just briefly add that by next week it could all be over, and I might be drowning my sorrows in a vat of hot chocolate, or I’ll be deeply mired in the slush that forms the slough of despond known as the soggy middle.
But right now, I’m just so ecstatically happy to be writing something new that I just had to tell someone!
Me, about a hundred years ago, but already books had the power to take over my life.
Saw this recently at a Mill near us that is now a wedding venue. I’d love one of these!
I’ve got a guilty secret. Are you ready? Don’t tell anyone…
I love to collect old stuff. Whether it’s clothing, or jewellery, old books or magazines, accessories or postcards or new stuff recreated using old images or styles, I just love to sit and stare/gloat over it.
Birthday postcard, with 1920 postmark.
Part of the reason I write mysteries set in the 1930s and 1960s is because I love history and especially social and cultural history. As one of my characters inA Meeting With Murder says, my interest and pleasure is to be found in… ‘…Not the kings-and-queens type of history, no. What I liked was how ordinary people lived. What everyday life was like for normal people hundreds of years ago. I loved seeing the old kitchens, the bathrooms and even the servants’ quarters…’ And because of that, I’ve gradually accumulated a few vintage items.
1920s cloche hat made of navy felt with a beige cloth ribbon.
Happy shoppers in Jeannie’s store, getting ready for the 1940s weekend in Sheringham, Norfolk, Sept 2022
When we were on holiday in Norfolk last month, I found a shop called Colour Me Vintage in Sheringham, quite by chance, and I spent ages browsing and chatting with the owner, a lovely lady named Jeannie Read. I reluctantly resisted the urge to go really crazy and buy myself a WRENs uniform or a ballgown, but I did manage to nab this cute little 1920s cloche hat when my other half was looking the other way.
For me the most fascinating thing was that Jeannie sells ‘new’ vintage clothes. She is in touch with a fashion design student, a lady named Holly, who makes clothes from vintage patterns and sells them in the shop. I am thrilled that ‘vintage’ is so popular that people are buying these items to wear at parties or even for everyday wear. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything in my size, but still, my imagination was captured. It’s amazing to think that so many people are in love with styles that were old long before they were born.
Coty compact with powder puff design by Rene Lalique. (Yes, THAT Lalique, the glass bloke…)
You can get vintage bags, shoes, hats, other accessories such as jewellery and of course, make-up. Vintage-style new make-up is also quite the thing these days. I think designers and packagers realise that if we are going to spend our hard-earned cash, then we want something that is more than just functional, we want something that looks beautiful too, ‘eye-appeal’ so very important these days. We see something, we love it, we want it, it’s that simple. Bland and functional is OUT.
It’s not only older people who enjoy vintage styles!
As William Morris, designer, social activist and founder of the British Arts and Crafts Movement so famously said:
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
It’s not enough for ‘things’ to be efficient, fit for purpose or utilitarian. We want glamour, we want gorgeous colours and lovely styles. We want to surround ourselves with items that please the eye and make the soul glad.
A Meeting With Murder: Miss Gascoigne mysteries book 1 came out 10 days ago, and so I thought I’d share a deleted scene from the book. It ended up being quite a long story, and I waffled horribly as I tend to do, which meant there were a number of scenes that didn’t really offer much to the overall plot apart from a pleasant read for a few minutes over a cuppa. So they had to go.
Dee Gascoigne, the title character, is on a train heading for the coast. She’s left her husband, and as a result, she’s lost her job (It’s the 1960s, divorce and marital separation were a big no-no, especially for the woman). She’s also been ill, and has been sent somewhere on the coast to recover. Recently she ahs been wondering about work and what to do with her life. Here’s the train scene, I hope you like it.
The train was very full, and Dee was forced to squeeze into a half-seat next to a very large gentleman sporting the largest moustache she had ever seen. She quelled a childish desire to point and laugh, merely smiling politely as she sat down. She quelled a further childish desire to ask him if his name was Monsieur Poirot or if he was simply a walrus. Instead she sat neatly with her feet together and her hands folded in her lap, keeping her eyes down so as not to allow them to accidentally stray to the right to gawp at the glorious growth on her neighbour’s upper lip.
An elderly lady sat opposite. She was engaged in looking through her handbag in a distracted manner. She was growing increasingly upset. Next to the elderly lady sat a young man in a very smart suit whose face was hidden behind the business pages of a broadsheet newspaper. Dee mentally characterised him as pompous and snobbish as he did not deign to notice the distress of the lady next to him. Dee leaned forward.
‘Have you lost something?’ she asked, thinking she might know what it was.
When the old lady looked up, Dee saw her eyes were brimming with tears, and her heart felt for her. Impulsively she reached out her hand.
‘Don’t upset yourself, perhaps I can help?’
‘It’s my ticket. The man will be coming along in a minute and if I can’t find my ticket, he might make me get off, because I shan’t be able to pay for another. I’m old, you see, and my income is sadly restricted. I’m afraid I’m rather forgetful. And I mustn’t be late getting to my sister’s for she is sending her son to meet me and he’s terribly busy.’
Her choice of phrases reminded Dee forcefully of her old nanny, Miss Minter, not that Miss Minter would ever have lost her rail ticket. But this was exactly how Miss Minter used to speak. Even the antique outfit this old lady wore made her a sister in taste to Miss Minter.
‘Where have you looked?’ asked Dee and immediately felt stupid. She had seen the lady looking through her bag. And on a train, there weren’t so very many places to look. However the old lady held out her bag.
‘I’ve checked in here, but if you wouldn’t mind, could you just check again for me?’
How trusting she was, Dee thought with dismay. Anyone could just help themselves to the meagre possessions if they were so inclined. As discreetly as possible in the cramped conditions, Dee peered into the battered handbag. With great embarrassment she opened the tattered coin purse then looked into the bag’s little zipped side-pocket, but no ticket lurked in these recesses. There was so little in the bag it would have been impossible to miss the small rectangle of pink card.
Next she helped the old lady pat her coat pockets. They looked at each other in consternation as the door at the end of the carriage opened and the guard proceeded to call ‘Tickets, please,’ as he made his way slowly towards them, clipping and nodding to left and right as he went.
If necessary, Dee thought, I can pay her fare for her although she will no doubt insist on paying me back once she gets home. Just as the train jolted over some points, Dee helped the lady to get to her feet and together they checked the ticket hadn’t caught in the folds of her coat, or fallen onto the floor or down the side of the seat. The young man tsked loudly behind his newspaper and shook the pages loudly. The man with the walrus moustache watched with interest but offered no help.
‘Oh dear me, oh dear me,’ murmured the old lady, and her tears threatened to spill over and run down her cheeks. Dee patted the lady’s hand and was concerned to find it icy cold. And then inspiration struck.
‘Have you got your gloves?’ she asked. Miss Minter had never travelled without gloves, even in the height of summer. In her day it was something a lady simply did not do. They would be black or navy wool in the winter, and white or tan cotton in the summer. The old lady cast about her in confusion.
‘Well they were here a moment ago.’
The guard was almost upon them. Dee checked the floor, but no gloves were there.
The large man next to Dee elbowed her sharply. His moustache jiggled satisfyingly as he said, ‘I believe he is sitting upon the lady’s gloves.’ And he nodded in the direction of the smart young man behind his paper.
All three of them turned their eyes upon the smart young man. Finally he felt the force of their gaze, and dropped his paper.
‘What?’ he demanded in the rudest manner possible.
Dee recollected Miss Minter saying very frequently that money could buy a lot of things but it couldn’t buy good manners. She treated him to a frown of distaste then asked whether he was sitting on the lady’s gloves.
‘Tickets, please!’ the guard said at Dee’s side, making her almost jump out of her skin. The suited man, with an air of great annoyance, stood to his feet, and on the seat beneath him, there were the missing gloves. Dee snatched them up and immediately felt something hard inside one of the pair. She took it out and with an air of triumph, handed it to the guard then quickly found her own ticket.
The guard looked, clipped and moved on. The suited man, without apology, retreated once more behind his newspaper. The large man squeezed past Dee to get off at the next station, and the elderly lady moved across to sit beside Dee, thanking her profusely for her help:
‘You ought to be a detective, my dear. It was so very clever of you to think of my gloves and then find them like that. I can’t tell you how relieved… Oh dear!’
Dee smiled and said she was glad to have been of help. Then the elderly lady was telling her all about the planned family party she was travelling to, until Dee felt rather sad that she would never meet any of them, she had them so well fixed in her mind.
In the small gap between one ending of one book and the beginning of another is the writer’s down-time. And there are so many things to cram into that small window of opportunity, I don’t know where to start. In a way, it’s easier to just start another book.
I feel a bit lack-lustre this week. A Meeting With Murder came out on the 7th, and now, what on earth do I do until I start revising Rose Petals and White Lace?
Sigh. Okay so I’ve done some laundry. I haven’t put it way yet. You can’t rush these things. And I’m not ashamed to say I vacuumed. I flicked a duster round in the sitting-room. I put out the rubbish. And the recycling! I swept the utility room. It doesn’t look any better, but I know I did it. I cleared out my cupboards. The fridge is full. As is the freezer. I bought more bird food. I threw away that old half-bag of flour that was best before something beginning with a 1 and a 9. I bought more tomato paste, only to discover I already had a new tube… I thought about wiping the skirting boards down, but I decided to save that job for when I need more excitement in my life. Next week, probably.
I am just lost this week. I’ve started reading a couple of books. neither of them ‘grabbed’ me. Not the books’ fault, I’m feeling like that about everything at the moment. Now that my WIP is no longer IP, I feel as though I’ve misplaced my glasses or left the tap running., you know? Like half of my attention is elsewhere. My brain is a bit frazzled.
I’ll let you into a secret. I’ve already made a start on revising Rose Petals. I didn’t know what else to do with myself. I’ve done chapter one. It’s okay. I took out a bit, and put in a new bit. The word count stayed pretty much the same. I’m puzzling over some of the logistics the crime(s) require, but that’s something I need to really think over.
Even the back looks quite good!
I’ve made loads of notes for new story ideas. I worry that I’ll die before I’ve written them all, because there are LOADS of them. I might have to double or even triple up, using more than one audacious scheme for each book, just so I can get through them. I’d hate for any to go to waste. And I’m wondering if I can get away with writing a contemporary Dottie spin-off – maybe her great grandson could also be a copper or a detective? Would that be a spin-off too far, do you think? And where would I find the time? Maybe I’ll just write a small sneaky one for my own amusement.
Tune in next week for a blog post I started writing two weeks ago and still haven’t finished. It’s about vintage collectables and the love people have now for the stuff their parents or grandparents thought of as ordinary. It turns out, value is in the eye of the beholder.
Yes, it’s that time again – we’re off to the seaside for a week’s lounging about and eating whatever we fancy so long as it’s chips or ice cream. My hubby loves fish, I detest it–I hate the smell, I hate the taste, I hate the feel, I just hate it…the thought of eating fish makes me feel really poorly.
Which is odd, because my stepfather had a fish and chip shop. Or maybe that’s the reason. On the other hand, before my mum met my stepdad, we lived near Hastings on the East Sussex coast of Britain. (Yes, the same Hastings as the Battle. Though the Battle of Hastings took place not at Hastings itself, but just inland from there. Now there is an abbey to commemorate the battle and the town has grown up around it, famed for–what else–gunpowder production… and the town is called, not very surprisingly, Battle… Ahem, what was I saying?)
Oh yes, and at Hastings I spent time on the beach and often saw the fishermen bringing in their catch, huge fish in massive buckets, flipping up and down as they gasped for air–this made a huge impression on me and I so much wanted to grab them all and release them back into the sea. So maybe that’s why a) I love the sea, and b) I hate eating fish.
But we are not going South, we are travelling East, and going to Cromer for the first time. I have been told it’s great, so I’m very excited. As an asthma sufferer, I also enjoy going to the coast for my health, so I’m hoping to be able to breathe freely in the good sea air.
I’m taking books to read. I’m hoping to have a lazy time, just sitting about and reading. I have Agatha Christie’s Destination Unknown, for some reason she didn’t write a mystery novel called Destination Cromer. I’m also taking Jeanne M Dams’ Smile And Be A Villain (love a Shakespeare quote…), and Merryn Allingham’s The Bookshop Murder. I really don’t think I’ll have time to read all three–there is a country house to visit, and a preserved railway, (sadly not in steam at the moment) and of course I am taking work with me.
What, you cry!!! Yes, it’s true, I am taking with me the manuscript of A Meeting With Murder: Miss Gascoigne mysteries book 1 to do last minute checks and faffing. It’s due out in a little over four weeks, (taking slow, calming breaths…) and I just want to have one last look through to make sure all the characters have the right names, and that there aren’t any missing chapters, or you know, stuff like that, the sort of thing that can get easily overlooked in the excitement of the moment.
And while I’m away, the wonderful Stef is making a start on the translation into German of book 5 of the Dottie books. The English title is The Thief of St Martins, and in German it will likely be called Der Diebstahl von St Martins. We are hoping/planning for a December release of that book.
He halted the car at the side of the road. Ahead of them were two huge wrought iron gates, the only opening in the high stone wall that ran parallel to the road.
‘Where are we?’ Dottie looked at William, but he just smiled and got out of the car. As always, he came around the front of the car to open her door for her, putting out his hand to help her.
‘Watch your step as you get out, the bank is a little muddy here.’
He slammed the car door shut. She took his arm and he led her towards the gates. She was consumed with curiosity but determined to make him speak first. At the gates, there was no plaque or other sign, no family name carved in the stone, nothing to say where they were. Beyond the gates was a long, winding drive through overgrown fields of grass. At one side of the gates, part of the wall had crumbled away and it was possible to clamber over it and into the grounds.
Stopping to brush the dust from her skirt conferred by the stones, Dottie grumbled, ‘Just remember you’re a policeman, and can get into trouble just as easily as anyone else by breaking and entering.’
His only response was another enigmatic – and irritating – smile. He took her hand again and tucked it into the crook of his arm. They set off along the drive. After a couple of minutes’ walking, Dottie noticed the drive was sloping downwards, and around the next bend, there was suddenly The View: it was as if the whole valley lay spread out at their feet. Trees, farms, fields dotted with cows, sheep and horses. And to their left, halfway down to the valley, a large old house of greyish stone was sprawled beneath trees, as if taking an afternoon rest.
And now she knew where they were. It had to be…
‘Oh, William, it’s so beautiful!’ she told him in a hushed voice. ‘Great Meads. Your old family home.’
He smiled at her now, and she could see he was feeling emotional. His eyes glistened suddenly and he had to clear his throat a couple of times, in that way that men have. He indicated about them with his hand.
‘Of course, we would never have let the grass get so overgrown as this, and the wall would have been mended immediately.’
She squeezed his arm. ‘Of course.’ She spared a thought to wonder if it had been him who broke the wall down to gain access. She could absolutely picture him doing exactly that late one evening when no one was around.
‘Is anyone living here at the moment?’
He shook his head. ‘It’s been closed up for almost a year.’ He looked about him as if feeling rather lost. ‘Look, darling, I hope you don’t mind coming here like this. I—I just wanted you to see it, just once, don’t know why. It just seemed—important. I like to come and take a look at the place anytime I’m up here. I think there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to forget it.’
‘Of course,’ she said again. ‘Your father was born here, your grandfather, probably several generations before that were all born here. You were born here. You love this place. It’s part of you. And it always will be. Next time we come, we shall bring a camera and take some photos. They would look wonderful on the walls of your new house.’
He nodded vaguely, only half-listening. They walked on. After a moment he said softly, ‘Our new house.’
Flowers. They are always mentioned in books, right? Whether they are a metaphor for the transient nature of life, or for resilience, or else portrayed in a more traditional way as indicating someone’s feelings or emotions, they are the writer’s favourite motif.
In one of my books, they represent something sinister–a kind of veiled threat, when Cressida received dead flowers from an unknown source. But flowers have been written about for centuries by some of the world’s greatest authors.
Do you recognise all of these quotations? There’s no prize, but you can feel very proud of yourself if you do! Hopefully after reading a few of these, you’ll feel as though you’ve had tea in the garden on a sunny afternoon.
“If a kiss could be seen I think it would look like a violet.”
L. M. Montgomery: Anne Of Avonlea
″‘Really, there’s nothing to see.’ Nothing… only this: a great lawn where flowerbeds bloomed…”
Philippa Pearce: Tom’s Midnight Garden
“How extraordinary flowers are… People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”
Iris Murdoch: A Fairly Honourable Defeat
“A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.”
Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass
“In joy or sadness, flowers are our constant friends.”
Okakura Kakuzo: The Book of Tea
“Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.”
William Wordsworth: Lines Written in Early Spring
“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”
“All day in grey rain
hollyhocks follow the sun’s
Basho (translated by Harry Behn)
“Have you blossoms and books, those solaces of sorrow?”
Emily Dickinson: Letters
“All the men send you orchids because they’re expensive and they know that you know they are. But I always kind of think they’re cheap, don’t you, just because they’re expensive. Like telling someone how much you paid for something to show off.”
Winifred Watson: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
“You can see the goldenrod, that most tenacious and pernicious and beauteous of all New England flora, bowing away from the wind like a great and silent congregation.”
Stephen King: Salem’s Lot
“And over walls and earth and trees and swinging sprays and tendrils the fair green veil of tender little leaves had crept, and in the grass under the trees and the gray urns in the alcoves and here and there everywhere were touches or splashes of gold and purple and white and the trees were showing pink and snow above his head and there were fluttering of wings and faint sweet pipes and humming and scents and scents.”
Okay so I know I’ve kept promising and promising, but really soon, I promise, cross my heart and so on, there will be an actual newDottie book this year and of course, the Miss Gascoigne mysteries new series will also be starting, which is a spin-off from the Dottie Manderson series.
(Sorry if I’m repeating myself, I know you know this stuff really, this is just for the occasional accidental tourist to this site!)
So without further ado here it is:
A Meeting With Murder: Miss Gascoigne mysteries book 1 :
A 1960s-era traditional mystery series set in Britain and featuring Dee Gascoigne, a newly separated woman who has just lost her job and is wondering what to do with her life. Dee has a family who love her, and a rather massive crush on her not-quite cousin, Inspector Bill Hardy, who struggles to keep the women of his family out of police investigations.
The eBook will be out on 7th October 2022, with the paperback and large print paperback coming out probably a day or two earlier.
And here’s a teeny snippet from the book just to whet your appetite: It’s May 1965, and something bad has happened to Dee’s neighbour…
The stairs were right ahead of her as she entered the house. The interior was dim; only the first three or four stairs were illuminated by light coming in at the open front door. With a pause to allow her eyes to adjust, as well as to try to get her nerves under control, Dee placed her hand on the panelled wood of the enclosed staircase and began to ascend. The steps were steep and shallow, and with no rail on either side, it was a precarious climb in the near darkness. How on earth did Mrs Hunter manage, she wondered. Perhaps the old lady had a bedroom downstairs? At the top, she paused and took a calming breath. She turned to the left and as instructed walked along the gloomy corridor to the end, where a door stood open, spilling a little pool of yellowish light into the hallway.
She felt a deep reluctance to enter the room. Already she knew this was no ordinary moment. There was a musty stale smell, and something else besides. The metallic scent of blood on the air. She was still puzzling over the idea of there being blood as she went into the room. After all, no one had said anything about…
She stopped dead. Staring at the scene, her brain scrambled to make sense of the picture in front of her. A person—Sheila, yet not Sheila anymore—was seated in an armchair beside a small circular table. On the table was a wine bottle and a single glass with a small amount of wine left in it.
Unwillingly, yet knowing it could not be avoided, Dee turned to look at Sheila Fenniston. She had fallen slightly to the side, leaning against the edge of the table, and her head lolled back, her eyes half-open, her gaze fixed upon something Dee couldn’t see. Sheila was wearing a nightdress of a surprisingly demure variety, and all over the front of the white cotton was a dark reddish-brown stain. Sheila held her hands in her lap, and all down the forearms and on the lap of her nightdress was the brown sticky mess of blood. It had run down on either side of her and formed two puddles on the thin aged carpet. And there by her right foot, glistening softly in the half-light was the razor, dirty with blood.
Dee put her fingers to Sheila’s neck, knowing it was pointless. The skin was cold. There was no pulse. Dee backed out of the room, groping her way down the stairs. She closed the front door behind her and said, her voice faint, ‘No one can go in. Sheila’s dead. We must get the police immediately.’
Meanwhile, back in 1935, Dottie is ready for another outing as Rose Petals and White Lace: Dottie Manderson mysteries book 7 is now available to pre-order prior to release on 9th December 2022.
Once again, the eBook version of Rose Petals and White Lace will be out on 9th December 2022, with the paperback and large print paperback coming out probably a day or two earlier.
Here’s a sneak preview from Rose Petals and White Lace to get you in the mood:
It’s 1935, and Dottie Manderson is helping out Inspector William Hardy’s sister, Ellie, who has a problem in her tearoom:
Lunch was, if anything, busier. Every table was occupied both inside and out, and the spare chairs at Dottie’s table had been borrowed to be set around the other tables where there were more than four people in the party.
Everything was going beautifully when two tables away, suddenly a man exclaimed loudly and in a disgusted tone, ‘Good God! What on earth is this doing here?’
There was no time to see what ‘this’ was, for he immediately dropped it onto the floor and stepped on it. Very rudely, he shouted, ‘Girl!’ to Ellie or Ruth who were already both making their way over. Ellie looked as though she felt ill, whilst Ruth looking angry. Dottie got up for a better look at what was going on, thinking Ellie might need her help.
Looking down at his plate, now the man said, ‘What? I can’t believe it! There’s another one!’ His annoyance rose and he looked about him angrily. ‘Where’s the manager?’
Ellie reached his side, clasping her hands and saying, ‘Excuse me, sir, may I help?’
He rounded on her in his fury, and she took a nervous step back. Red-faced, and with his voice reaching everyone in the building, he shouted, ‘Get the manager, you stupid girl. This is an utter disgrace! In all good faith I came in here with my family and ordered some food, only to find not one but two maggots on my plate!’ He was on his feet, towering over her, and Ellie was patently alarmed. Dottie glanced back towards the bakery counter and noticed that Andrew was ignoring the situation, calming greasing loaf tins, his back to the tearoom. For a brief moment Dottie wondered if he was actually deaf.
‘Darling, I’ve found another one!’ the woman with the angry man declared, leaping to her feet in revulsion and taking two steps back. She had a napkin to her mouth as if for protection, or to prevent herself from being sick. Around the tearoom, there was a deathly hush; everyone had turned to watch and listen.
‘Don’t gawk, you idiot, get me the manager! Now!’ the man yelled in Ellie’s face, a tiny spray of spittle flying from his mouth to her cheek.
Ellie began to stammer an apology, adding, ‘I am the m-manager.’
The man directed a scornful look up and down her frame. ‘I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life.’
I hope that has got you in the mood. This book will be chock full of creepy-crawlies and bugs of all kinds, so if they make you itchy and uncomfortable, make sure you have some nice soothing tea and biscuits on hand when you start reading. I always do!
I wrote my first draft of the new book A Meeting With Murder: Miss Gascoigne mysteries book 1 in the first half of the year. In fact I started it towards the end of last year, but well, life, I guess, got in the way, and so here we are, eight weeks to release date and I’m still rewriting.
I’m not too worried at the moment, I know I have plenty of time. But it’s a weird experience reading your own work and shaking your head, alternately in despair or pride, thinking, ‘Did I really write that?’ Sometimes my word surprise me – I didn’t know I knew that word – other times I think ‘Ugh, this is awful, it makes no sense at all.’
One of the useful things ot pick up is the consistency, or otherwise, of language. I want the characters to sound as natural as possible and not too stiff and cardboardy. I’ve also realised I need to create a bit more tension and a sense of mystery. And I’ve spotted a biggish plot hole – it’s a relief to have spotted that now and not six weeks after the book is published!
I’ve got notes all over the place reminding myself about a range of things from character names to remarks along the lines of ‘need to bring him into it a bit more’. I love a sticky note. Unfortunately they don’t always stay in place and tend to gravitate towards one another. So now I have a jumble of sticky notes pertaining to several different books. I tell myself I will remember which is which, but I think I’m probably just kidding myself on that score.
I’m wrestling with what to leave in and what to take out. As this is the first book of a new series, there’s a certain amount of telling not showing (the opposite of what is usually recommended), of scene-setting and introduction. I will need to revisit the opening chapters a few times to see if I really need all that background info.
Then there are my old bugbears: repetition and too many qualifiers. I repeat so many words and phrases. Sometimes it’s a really good one:
Mrs H had been virtually drooling over the news, her gummy mouth open in a wide grin, her large loose lips wet with bubbles of saliva in the corners of her mouth.
I really like this phrase, but unfortunately I’ve used it about six times in this book and it’s lost its power. So I need to decide which is the best place to use this, and the most ‘eww-inspiring’. So five of those have got to go!
I also realised (from the read-through) that I use some words much too often. I found that I’d described everything as little – the little village, the little house, the little street, the little sitting-room. it was all too little. So the red pen had to deal with those.
Other words I use far too often:
He felt that/She felt that
He thought that/She thought that
The next morning…
And it’s not just words – I use far too many ellipses, dashes and emdashes. The writer in me loves to qualify, over-explain and enhance everything, the editor in me says ‘Ok, I’ll let you keep three of each…’ Out comes the red pen again.
I’m still only halfway through. Here’s hoping I can keep to my deadline and somehow bring this book to completion in time for releasing on an unsuspecting world.