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Tuesday, 6 October 2009


Just sent a query off for my cyclical novel, THIS VILLAGE NEVER DREAMS, to a publisher I really admire...so fingers crossed!!!

I think I might have said before, but I find it frustrating that I can't use quotes from a professional editor from a decent publisher in my query. He (the editor) even offered to provide me with more quotes, as he genuinely hoped I'd find a home for the book. This happened as a result of my very first query, and as such proved a remarkable incentive to persevere.

The argument is "if you tell people someone refused your work it looks bad" but surely, other publishers won't expect themselves to be the very first person you've sent it to, would they...? Plus, why would an established editor happily allow me to quote him if he knew it wouldn't help? It doesn't make any sense. And as a final thought on this subject, English publishers typically expect a covering letter, as opposed to a query. In The Writer's And Artist's Yearbook, they say to mention if someone important has read your work and liked it, as this stands you in good stead...it's all rather confusing.

Anyway, since the whole point of this blog is to promote my work, I'll include the main quote here (since it apparently can't find a place in a query), as well as excerpts from the aforementoned novel...

(The excerpts are also available HERE for a short period)
"[This Village Never Dreams is] original, unusual and extremely well-written"
Anthony Nott, Bloody Books

Excerpt from the first 'case', Where The Wild Things Are:

Doctor Brown’s house stood in probably half an acre of land. A huge manicured hedge bordered the footpath, separating his two-storey detached mansion from the common folk. A large black iron gate, topped with gilt leaves, guarded his driveway and the new Mercedes on it. I buzzed the small intercom next to the gate and waited to see if I’d receive an answer. I waited patiently for a few minutes and was deciding whether or not to give it another try, when a short crackle buzzed out of the speaker and a throaty whisper called out “Yes?”

“Is that Deborah Brown?” I stooped slightly so as to speak into the intercom.

“Who are you? What do you want?” the voice sounded tired and impatient. I licked my lips and continued, “My name is Jack Green. I’m a private investigator, and I’m currently involved with the police’s investigation into –” I suddenly realised she’d have no idea about what had happened at the university this morning. “Miss Brown, I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’m investigating a link between your husband and a friend of his who was found dead this morning.”

This news was greeted with a sharp intake of breath. “Who-who…? What are you…”

“I don’t really want to stand out here in the rain and discuss police matters in public; may I come in?”

“I assume you’ll tell me you only want five minutes of my time.”

“No, Miss Brown. Chances are it’d take longer.”

“I’m not…” a heavy sigh and then, “Have you got a badge or something? Can you show your wallet to the small camera above the speaker please.”

I did as she asked and after a moment the gate squealed and began to open. “Come in Mr. Green.”

I walked up the immaculate driveway, to be greeted on the doorstep by a woman who looked as exhausted as her voice. Deborah Brown stood at just over five and a half feet tall, with lank brown hair that had a slight tinge of grey to the temples. She was dressed in a baggy grey tracksuit top and faded black jeans. I’d have guessed her to be in her mid-forties, but the strain of grief had clearly aged her by at least ten years. “Please, hang your coat on the stand behind the door and come through to the kitchen.” I did as she asked and followed her into a cosy farmhouse-style kitchen, with brick-paved walls, wooden worktops and cupboards. However, all the warmth had been sucked right out of the room by the dull rain-soaked light leaking through the blinds above the sink, and the shadowed glow from above the cooker. A bottle of gin sat on the wooden table, with an empty glass beside it.

“Take a seat,” she said, catching my eye as I looked up from the table. “I’ve not had any,” she stated, almost sullenly. Once I’d sat down I could see the bottle was indeed unopened. “Wouldn’t matter too much if you had,” I said, as she lit a cigarette opposite me. “Different people cope with grief in different ways.” She seemed to ignore this comment and took a long, slow drag on the cigarette. I stifled a cough as she exhaled, smoke vomiting out of her mouth in a great cloud. “Don’t smoke, Mr. Green?” she arched an eyebrow, as if to start an argument.

“No.” I replied flatly.

“What have you got to do with the case involving my husband’s death, Mr. Green?”

“Your husband’s: nothing. I am, however, helping investigate the death of Professor Simon Edwards, this morning at the university.”

“Simon’s dead?” she quizzed, dragging on her cigarette again. “How?”

“We’re investigating that at the moment, Miss Brown.”

“I’ll allow you to call me Deborah. I abhor being constantly addressed as ‘Miss’.”

“Oh, of course.” I gave myself a mental kick in the balls for constantly rubbing the woman’s newfound widowhood in her face.

“So if you’re not involved with my husband’s death, why are you here….?”


“Jack,” she finished, tapping ash into the glass next to the gin bottle.

“I’m investigating any possible links between your husband and Professor Edwards, as they seem to have both been the subject of vicious animal attacks.” This news did something to the woman, but I couldn’t tell what. Her eyes almost…panicked. “Animal attacks?”

“Yes. My colleague on the force is something of a cautious man, and isn’t entirely convinced that your husband and Edwards’ deaths are linked. For any particular reason, I mean.”

“I’m not quite sure what you mean…”

“I discovered this morning that Edwards went on an expedition two years ago, and uncovered some strange artefacts. He then gave them to your husband to study, who in turn gave them to the museum.”

“Yes, I remember those things. Hideous little statues. Arnold brought them back home, but I simply wouldn’t allow them in my house. They were vile, not at all artistic.”

“So he took them to the university again.”

“No, no. He brought them home for his collection, in his study, after he’d had them at the university.”

“So where did he take them next?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you sure, Deborah?” it felt weird calling her by her first name, as I didn’t feel at all like this woman was keen to be friendly with me. “Need I remind you, Jack, that this was over a year ago. I don’t – didn’t – keep tabs on Arnold every moment of every day.”

“Yes, I’m sorry.”

“I don’t mean to be curt with you, Jack. Mr. Green.” She rested the hand holding the cigarette on the tabletop and massaged her temples. “The last two days have been filled with people. Always here, more arriving. When some leave, more take their place. Like a…constant stampede of well-wishers and family members. This afternoon is the first time the house has been empty. My sister’s gone to pick up some spare clothes but will be back later.”

“I think you’ve told me pretty much anything you could have.” I offered, preparing to stand up. “Please stay seated Jack.” Still looking at the table, she motioned with the hand holding the cigarette. I eased myself back on the wooden chair and stared at her for a moment. “Why do you think these artefacts are important?”

“I’m not really sure,” I replied, realising I was telling the truth. “It’s just something else that forms a more solid link in the chain between your husband and Edwards.”

“I honestly don’t know where he took them. Or he never told me. In either case, I can’t remember.”

“No worries, Deborah. I have some other leads I can try. I really should leave you to some peace and quiet.”

“That’s the problem.” She crushed the half-smoked cigarette into the glass and looked up at me. “I can’t handle all this extra human contact, but I don’t want to be alone.” Her eyes shone with barely concealed tears as she coughed and stood up, moving quickly towards the sink. I watched as she then poured herself a small glass of tap water, sighing quietly then facing me again.

“Do you want to look in Arnold’s study, in case there might be something of use?”

“I don’t want to intrude, or disturb the place…”

“The police have already rummaged through his things with little care, I don’t think one more pair of searching hands is going to matter.”

“Then I’d appreciate it,” I offered a slight smile, standing up.

“Follow me.” She plinked the glass in the sink and walked past me, back into the hall. She led me up a flight of curving wooden stairs, past pictures of Doctor Brown and his wife, posing in their nice clothes, expensive smiles glowing on their faces. The Deborah in the portraits bore little relation to the disheveled woman leading me to her dead husband’s study. I also realised that there were no pictures of children. “In here.” Her voice had once again taken on the throaty whisper from the intercom as she opened the study door for me, standing back slightly as I strode past her into a spacious office.

“I’ll be back in the kitchen when you’re finished,” she added, moving away from the door.

“Thank you, I won’t be long,” I replied, turning my head but still looking at the room.

Excerpt from the start of the second 'case', Kilgren:

“You have to help me,” he said. “I’m a dead man.”

I was about to make some crack about how he certainly didn’t look well, but something told me he probably wouldn’t appreciate it; his sunken eyes were wide and blood-tinged, his short dark hair slicked back by the sweat that covered his pale face. His lips were so dark they were practically black. Equally dark veins stretched up from underneath his open shirt collar and branched along his neck. He used the hand that wasn’t propping him against the door frame to roll up a jacket sleeve, exposing a similarly-veined forearm. He then readjusted his already loose-fitting tie and walked unsteadily into the office. No, he did not look well at all.

He’d introduced himself, rather curtly, as Jonathan Myers, said he believed that I was the only person that could help him. I offered him the chair facing me across my desk, which he fell into, trembling, arms on thighs and head bowed. I began to ask him what he wanted help with, when he interrupted me with a throaty cough, swore under his breath, then fixed me with those sickly eyes.

“They’ve got to me. That’s the only explanation for what’s wrong with me.”

“Who are ‘they’ and what is wrong with you?”

“The company I work for and I don’t know, not exactly. Well, I do, but…” he groaned and shook his head, holding it briefly in a black-veined hand. “Mr. Green,” he began again. “Jack.” I prompted. Nodding drunkenly, he continued:

“I work for Hadley Pharmaceuticals. Or more precisely, I work for a man called Macallister Jones, who runs a subsidiary of Hadley.”

“Did you just say, 'Macallister Jones'?” Alarm bells started ringing in my head.

“Yes. I’m part of a team that’s been charged with developing drugs for a number of childhood ailments. At least, that’s what I thought.” He punctuated this sentence with another throaty cough, this time expelling a small trickle of blood the colour of his lips. He wiped it away, eyes staring at the stain on the back of his hand. “Oh God, it’s started…” he slowly returned his gaze to me. “It’s started,” he repeated, voice rising as he himself rose from his chair. “Mr. Myers?” I asked, starting to move around my desk to help him.

“Someone on the team had heard of you for whatever reason,” he explained shakily, taking deep breaths. “told us you would believe what was happening.”

“What is happening, Mr. Myers?”

He answered me with another cough, accompanied by a larger dribble of blood from his mouth and visible shakes along his right arm. “Noooo…” he moaned, looking at his hands. I blinked rapidly – it almost seemed as if the dark veins were spreading. “Jack, Hadley are con-” he blurted out quickly, before bending over and garbling the rest of the sentence. I reached over for the phone on my desk, ready to call an ambulance. He staggered over and knocked it from my hand, spitting out: “they can’t do anything for me now”, the ‘now’ elongating into a strangled cry of pain. Blood vomited from his mouth onto his shirt and jacket, and I was somewhat disturbed to notice it had the consistency of runny tar. Myers steadily gained an upright position, using the chair to balance himself.

Breathing deeply, eyes once again fixed on mine, he repeated “Hadley are-“ before his jaw suddenly cracked open, leaving a jagged tear down and across his left cheek as it hung loose, still working to speak. More dark blood streamed from his mouth as he bubbled words at me, his eyes pleading. Without realising, I had backed up behind
my desk. The tear in his cheek made a wet ripping sound as it stretched to meet his shirt collar, dark veins now covering the entire left-hand side of Myers’ face. He stumbled forwards and somehow managed to shout what sounded like “Kilgren” at me before his chest split open and his head and shoulders peeled back like a grotesque fruit, revealing a nest of blackish tentacles where his ribcage and internal organs should have been. Below these writhing horrors, the legs began to convulse forwards, Myers’ arms twitching hideously behind them. My throat dried up and my eyes began to water, but I still managed to grab my handgun from the desk drawer and unload several bullets into the twitching bastard as it spasmed towards me.

With a disgustingly squelchy crunch, the thing that had been Jonathan Myers jumped at me. Having no desire to grapple the thing, I dived to the left, allowing it to smash through my large office window and plummet through the dense fog outside, hitting the ground several storeys below with a definite ‘crack’. Wiping sweat from my forehead and glass from my shoulders, I swallowed noisily and leant out the broken window. As expected, the fog hid the ground from my sight so, reloading my pistol, I quickly jogged down the stairs and rushed outside. Shards of window were strewn across the empty car park, along with a few small pieces of wood, but the thing had completely disappeared; there wasn’t even a trace of blood on the glass. Jonathan Myers had been right. I was the sort of person to come to for this sort of thing.

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