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Tag: gothic

Opening Lines: The Vanished Bride of Northfield House

The first Opening Lines blog of 2019 belongs to Phyllis Newman. She is introducing us to the New Year in fine Gothic style. Over to you Phyills…

Thank you, Jenny, for the opportunity to participate in this series.

Have you ever re-read a favorite novel from your youth? As a teenager, I was entranced with the mystery, the romance, and the shocking climax of a certain gothic novel. It was a delicious read!

When a blogger I follow mentioned that it was her favorite book as well, I decided to re-read it. I went on Amazon and found a copy available at a Catholic church library in California for $1.67. What a deal! It cost more to mail it across the country.

I waited with great anticipation until it arrived.

That night, I propped myself up in bed with a cup of cocoa, a scented candle, and began reading. What a disappointment. It was over-written, pedestrian, and a little boring. I was startled by how much my tastes had changed.

But it also motivated me to hunt for an honest to goodness creepy, Gothic ghost story recreating the suspense and wonder that the book from my youth had originally elicited. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate one that really grabbed me (so to speak).

So, I decided to write one!

Enter The Vanished Bride of Northfield House. It is a creepy supernatural gothic tale with a spirited heroine, intriguing mystery, engaging romance, and an actual ghost (because there’s nothing like a good haunting!) The story is a mix of mystery and romance with touches of otherworldly spookiness. A gothic horror story that unfolds as all good gothic mysteries do … bit-by-bit … death-by-death …

Blurb:  

England, 1922. Times are hard. Anne Chatham is a clever, modest young woman with little money, no prospects for marriage, and a never-shared secret—she can see spirits.

Anne finds employment as a typist at Northfield House, the grand country manor of the Wellington family. Her employer, the wheelchair-bound Mr. Wellington, is kindly. His haughty wife is not. He has two handsome sons, the wry and dashing Thomas and the dark and somber Owen.

Anne feels sure her prayers have been heard. Until the terrifying night she stumbles upon a tortured spirit roaming the dark halls of Northfield, a spirit that only she can see. In a search for answers, she finds herself drawn to Owen as they unearth a tragic story from the Wellington family’s past—a beautiful young bride who vanished on her wedding day.

Then tragedy strikes again on the night of a glittering masquerade ball…

500 words:

CHAPTER 1

The ghost was my first memory of Northfield House.

After taking my coat, a servant ushered me into a small room overlooking the east lawn, where the hushed quiet and dim light narrowed the breach between the living and the dead.

In the far corner, a pale blue presence flickered like a flame.

I sat in a high-backed chair, planted my sturdy shoes on the floor, and repositioned my sensible hat. Accustomed to encountering spirits, I focused upon my surroundings—the broad polished desk, the high shelves of books, the clutter of papers, pens, and bottles of ink. The blue glow hovered in the periphery, as specters inhabit the edges of human vision. When looked at directly, they evaporate like mist in the morning sun.

Although such entities had made themselves known to me many times before, I was nonetheless unnerved. My heart thudded, and I felt the urge to flee. But it wasn’t fear that inspired this sting of anxiety, this damp, fevered spell of agitation.

Rather, I fought against the worry that I was something other than a young, modern British woman. I did not doubt my supernatural perception, but dreaded what it might reveal about me. Was I blessed or was I cursed? Would Father have said this was evidence of evil? Would Mother have called upon the angels to protect me?

After saying a little prayer, I swallowed with difficulty and wondered how long I’d been waiting. I consulted the watch pinned to my bodice. Thirteen minutes past three.

In my trembling hand, I grasped a Liverpool broadsheet, folded to reveal the advert regarding a professional position to which I’d responded weeks ago. It was the possibility of employment that brought me to this elegant estate in northwest England, many miles from home. On the same page was a report about next month’s 1922 Women’s Olympic Games in Paris and details about the German government’s failure to pay war reparations as required by the Treaty of Versailles. I began reading, which momentarily distracted me from the glimmering presence in the corner.

The door swung open without ceremony, making me jump, and admitted an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair.

The blue spirit curled like smoke and disappeared.

A chill danced down my spine despite the warmth of late July.

I stood.

“Good afternoon,” he said. “Forgive me for not rising.” His gruff voice did not convey apology. He wheeled himself behind the desk. “Please. Sit.”

He consulted a document on his desk, his gaze drifting over it. “You are Miss Chatham. Anne Chatham.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Might you be related to the Chathams of Birmingham? Railroads, I believe.”

“No, sir. I don’t think so.”

He didn’t introduce himself, but I gathered that I was in the company of the man I hoped would employ me—Henry Wellington. I tried to relax and accustom myself to his age and infirmity.

“How long have you been a typewriter, Miss Chatham?”

I moistened my dry mouth. “I’ve completed a full-year of…

***

Readers can find The Vanished Bride of Northfield House at Amazon.com/co.uk, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble

Buy links:

USA:   http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939403456

UK:  https://goo.gl/uU5QBC

Bio:

Phyllis M. Newman is a native southerner. Born in New Orleans, she spent formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and on a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a long career in finance and human resources at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. She published a noir mystery, “Kat’s Eye” in 2015, and “The Vanished Bride of Northfield House” in 2018. Today she lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghost watchers all.

You may contact/follow/like her at www.readphyllismnewman.com, or Facebook  https://facebook.com/ReadPhyllisMNewman/  or Twitter @phyllismnewman2

Readers can find The Vanished Bride of Northfield House at Amazon.com/co.uk, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble

Buy link:    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939403456

British buy link:  https://goo.gl/uU5QBC

***

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

Guest post from Phyllis Newman: The Vanishing Bride of Northfield House

I have a great blog for you today. Phyllis Newman is here explaining her motivation and how she satisfies her desire to kill…

Why not grab a slice of cake and a cuppa, and have a read?

 

What could be more natural than writing murder mysteries after a long career in finance and human resources? It satisfies in some small way my desire to kill someone!

I spent many decades at a large Midwestern university steeped in the various whims and vagaries of self-centered academics. As an administrator, I witnessed resentment, jealousy, fear, love, compassion, and hate (but no murders, fortunately! Not that promotion and tenure isn’t something to die for.) These emotions form the basis of all motives, the rationale for what we do in any walk of life.

Motivation is a theoretical construct used to explain behavior. It represents the reasons for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation can also be defined as one’s direction to behavior, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior. A motive is what leads to all acts of love and devotion as well as every crime.

At the heart of every story you find motivation. Understanding one’s fellow man is essential if you are to write about people believably, for to reveal the rationale behind their behavior is to make them live and breathe. Real world interactions with people—especially those who are dealing with difficult situations—can yield a plethora of revelations about humanity. Every writer must search within themselves to find truth about their characters, and to reflect what they know, to write what they have experienced themselves. Yes, that old chestnut, write what you know! (It only now occurs to me that given the subject matter of THE VANISHED BRIDE OF NORTHFIELD HOUSE, this makes me look like a pretty creepy person.)

Motivation—whether to keep secrets, fall in love, or murder someone—defines the action in any novel but is most particularly important in a mystery. As a writer I must create events and portray thought processes that jumpstart and maintain the action. Without understanding what motivates them, your characters remain flat and unknowable to the reader. A connection with the characters is essential for a reader to identify with and appreciate the story.

 In this newly published novel, my main character Anne Chatham ends up in the English countryside typing scholarly manuscripts of an agricultural nature. What gets her there and into the ensuing intrigues is determined by the sweep of history following The Great War, the social and political upheaval of the times, and a rich tapestry of family lore, dark secrets, and forbidden love.

In THE VANISHED BRIDE, I believe I have delivered a fun-to-read ghost story. It is a creepy supernatural gothic tale with a spirited heroine, intriguing mystery, engaging romance, and spirits who make the action lively. The story is a mix of mystery and romance with touches of supernatural spookiness and gothic horror.

All the characters in The Vanished Bride are haunted, either by disappointment, the unresolved past, unmet desire, or guilt. They are motivated by the same desires, love, hatred, jealousy, and a whole panoply of human emotion, making them like people everywhere. This is a psychological thriller where the details unfold one by one, death by death.

Extract:

My dance partner bowed with the élan befitting a king’s guardsman and, with a little smile, took his leave.

I turned to Martha. “Mrs. Langtry, how nice to see you.”

She gave me a blank stare. “Have we met?” She balanced a plate in her lap littered with the remnants of an artichoke-olive canapé.

The other women, who nibbled on smoked salmon on toast, watched us closely.

“Yes, but it’s been a while. I’m Anne. I work with Mr. Wellington.”

“How are you, dear?” She looked past me into the crowd. “Have a seat and talk to an old lady.” She made a shooing gesture to the tiny woman in black sitting next to her.

The little woman shot me a look of disdain before vacating her chair.

Martha opened an elaborate fan and fluttered it before her face.

Feeling warm, I wished for a fan of my own. But what I really wanted was a mask to hide behind. The scarlet dress made my desired invisibility impossible. I scanned the guests and spied Thomas again, but not his brother.

“Have you seen the bride?” said Martha.

“What?” I asked, assuming one of the revelers was dressed as a bride.

“Just lovely,” said Martha. “All those flowers.”

I searched among the tumult of guests, both the originals and their doubles reflected in the mirrored doors.

“Eleanor has never looked more beautiful,” Martha said, beaming.

I was engulfed by a wave of pure pity. Martha was at another party in another time.

She eyed me with disapproval. “That dress, dear. I hope you don’t think ill of me if I suggest it is most inappropriate.” She shook her head. “Quite improper.”

I felt a stab of humiliation. My confidence wavered. But I called upon Eleanor’s supporting presence and decided to humor my elderly companion. After all, her suffering trumped any discomfort I might feel.

“I must apologize, Mrs. Langtry.” I bowed my head with mock contrition. “I’m a simple country girl and didn’t know what I should wear.”

She laughed. “There, there, my dear. Don’t be disheartened. No one’s looking at you, anyway. They’ll all be looking at her.”

“Of course!” I agreed. “Do you need anything, Mrs. Langtry? May I get you a glass of water?” I touched her hand.

She jerked away from me and snarled, “Don’t do that. How dare you touch me!”

My face stung as I looked about at our companions. No one seemed to notice that Martha was unstable. I said as softly as possible, “Would you like to go to your room? Lie down for a while?”

“Why should I? I’ll miss all the fun.”

I was wondering how much fun she could possibly be having when she turned to me, leaning close, and whispered like a conspirator.

“You forget,” she said. “I know. I know everything. I saw what really happened.” She drew herself up with smug hauteur. “I’m telling.”

Telling what? She might have been thinking of Eleanor’s wedding—or another event tangled in her jumbled mind.

Martha closed her fan. We sat in silence, peering at the assembled throng as they paused with the music.

A hush fell.

For a moment, anticipation hung in the air.

Then an excited murmur ran through the room.

All heads turned towards the entrance. Charlotte stood at the top of the steps. She was dressed as an ethereal moth. A shimmering white gown rippled across her body, falling from the high collar at her throat to the floor. Her hair was hidden under a close-fitting, beaded skullcap. A pair of gossamer wings with fluttering ribbons completed the effect. The translucent fabric revealed every alluring curve of her body, unaltered by any foundation garments. She looked like a silken goddess, lit from within by moonlight.

The crowd broke into spontaneous applause at her appearance, and Charlotte beamed a glorious smile at her adoring admirers. Cries of appreciation bounced about the ballroom like reflected light.

It was only then I saw Owen. Dressed like Edgar Allen Poe, he wore a close-fitting black suit with a silk bow tied loosely around a high white collar. With his dark, tousled hair and solemn expression, he most assuredly recalled the famous poet.

He stood at the edge of the dancers, his eyes devouring Charlotte.

Something inside me withered and withdrew. With Charlotte’s arrival in her diaphanous costume, I felt sure I looked garish and overdone. Whoever or whatever infused me with confidence had fled.

Perhaps this was just what she’d planned. Her image was that of heavenly angel, otherworldly sylph, ethereal sprite. Mine was smoking demon with my tumble of black hair and crimson gown. I might as well have been holding a pitchfork.

As I watched Owen, who looked mesmerized by Charlotte’s silvery figure, a young man appeared before me, extending his hand. I rose without thinking, without seeing his face, and we spun awkwardly about the floor. A jazz number gripped the crowd, and another man stepped forwards and pulled me into the circle of revelers. I moved to unfamiliar music, rocking and bouncing, ungainly and clumsy, back and forth and around.

Drums pounded and horns blared in propulsive syncopation. I continued to dance and dance, unable to catch the tempo. The beat of the music pulsed throughout the room, the rhythmical throb vibrating the floor, and we swayed and dipped through the whirl of sparkling color and grinning faces. I feared I was making a spectacle of myself, but felt trapped in the crush of dancers.

Charlotte drifted through the mob like a cloud, bestowing kisses, dancing with one admirer, and laughing with another. I heard a babble of praise follow her whenever the music paused.

Everything tilted for a second when a waltz seized the room and rolled over the dancers. Another man took my hand and we eddied and swirled, round and round. Yet another man cut in. I hardly acknowledged my partners, barely felt their hand in mine, the other resting at my waist.

 *** 

Bio:

Phyllis M. Newman is a native southerner. Born in New Orleans, she spent formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and on a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a long career in finance and human resources at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. She published a noir mystery, “Kat’s Eye” in 2015, and “The Vanished Bride of Northfield House” in 2018. Today she lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghost watchers all.

You may contact/follow/like her at www.readphyllismnewman.com, or Facebook  https://facebook.com/ReadPhyllisMNewman/  ; or Twitter @phyllismnewman2

Readers can find The Vanished Bride of Northfield House at Amazon.com/co.uk, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble

Buy link:    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939403456

British buy link:  https://goo.gl/uU5QBC

***

Thanks for such a great blog Phyllis,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Guest Post from Kelly Hambly: The Best Advice I Ever Got

Today I’m pleased to welcome young adult author, Kelly Hambly, back to my site today, to share a little of her writing journey. 

Over to you Kelly…

The Best Advice I Ever Got

Unlike many authors, my journey to traditional publication was not quite as long but nevertheless, it doesn’t mean to say it was by any means easier.

When I took up writing fiction just over five years ago, after being inspired by a song I had heard, I had not written anything as such for years. In essence, I had to learn from scratch. By this, I mean, even the basics of storytelling and grammar, not to mention structure.

For a while I wondered if I had thrown myself in at the deep end, but the story I had formulated in my head kept gnawing away at me. So for the next 18 months I worked everyday teaching myself as I went along how to put this story down into words. I didn’t take any classes, I couldn’t. I suffered with anxiety so going out to meet people was a definite no. So I read, and read some more. I wrote, I wrote some more. And this passion continued, and by the end of the first 18 months I had produced my first novel. To say I was chuffed is an understatement.

My English at school wasn’t pretty good but I went on to do an English degree course, but that was 8 years previously, and did pretty much no writing after it. Well, I know a lot of authors can relate to the wonderful feeling of holding your first piece of work in your hands, but when I put it out there for feedback – the result wasn’t what I hoped for. To put it bluntly like this woman did, she told me to give up. I was crushed, but after moping for a day or two I took her advice. I made sure I improved, and set out to prove people like that wrong.

So I wrote another four novels and many short stories. And like I always say to those who ask me for advice, it only takes one story and one person to see its potential and you’re on your way, so you should never, ever give up.

hallows poster

I wrote The Town Halloween Forgot in June 2013. It was intended to be released as a short story for that Halloween, but something about it kept me wanting to write more, and the following year I toyed with the idea of self-publishing. It wasn’t a route wanted to go down again, and by chance I discovered Accent Press, and thought I had nothing to lose by trying. Three weeks later I got an email from them offering to publish it for me.

So, to any aspiring writer out there, right now, reading this, keep writing, and keep the dreams alive. Listen to criticism when it is given, but learn how to respond to it. It may not be what you want to hear, but it could help you reach where you want to go.

Buy link-
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Town-Halloween-Forgot-Willow-ebook/dp/B00OFU7DRE/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_1

Bio-
K A Hambly lives in Swansea, South Wales with her husband and two children. She studied English and Media, where she wrote a thesis on Dracula (From Novel to Cinema)

Vampires and Gothic Horror have always been an interest of hers so it is no surprise that she began writing her own vampire series in 2011. She states music and movies play a huge part in her inspiration.

She is currently working on her new YA series, The Town Halloween Forgot.

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Many thanks for coming to visit today Kelly.

Happy reading everyone,
Jenny xx

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