As said in yesterday’s post, I’m giving away the Kindle editions of all my books for free this week (Mon 28 May – Fri 1 Jun) and am writing a few words about each to accompany it.
Today: ‘Dead in Autumn, Buried in Winter’.
This is the first novel I ever wrote. Sure, I’ve started plenty over the years, and what writer hasn’t, but this is the first I actually completed. I was amazed at myself, and quite proud, I admit. It’s on the short side at around 54k words, sure, but it’s a finished, working novel.
There’s one person in particular I credit with helping me achieve this: my dog Bella. (A long-haired black-and-cream miniature dachshund. She’s adorable, I have about a million pictures if you want to see!) She was a pup then, in Autumn 2015. Every morning at six a.m. she would get me out of bed, make me feed her, take her out to do her business, then would go back to sleep for another hour. I would use this hour to write. I fixed my rate at 1,000 words a day and chipped away at it each morning before the sun was up.
I’ve since written two more novels, both of which are finished drafts but not yet at publishing stage. Once you know you can do it, you can do it again and again.
‘Dead in Autumn’ started as a short story and grew legs. The Hallowe’en costumes robbing a house became characters with proper names and (hopefully) personalities. Robbery gave way to murder and I brought in the cops.
The star of the show, for me, is teenager Cameron, on the run with his young sister and hiding something awful. He’s got teen angst dialled up to eleven, and his constant mishaps in his attempts to flee were surprisingly fun to write, no matter how dark. I particularly enjoyed writing the scenes where they get lost in the forest. (Forests always creep in to my stories, though I’m not the outdoors-type.)
There’s stuff in there about family relationships, religion, and mental health – themes I often come back to – but first and foremost I wanted to write a story that would draw people in and keep them there for a full novel-length. Did I manage that? Have a read, you tell me. I’m always keen for people to leave reviews on amazon.
‘Dead in Autumn’ has its flaws – there are some far-fetched plot twists and characters I might have treated differently if I wrote that story now – but, hey, it’s my first novel, gimme a break!
Sound good? Download here.
P.S. The rabbit on the book cover lives atop Mt Kachi Kachi in Japan, near Lake Kawaguchi, one of the Fuji Five-Lakes. A friendly family of tourists offered to take a picture of me and my wife, Lisa, next to it. Then they wanted a picture of it for themselves, featuring me, Lisa, and their teenage son in the middle between us. I hope that strange, awkward picture is sitting on someone’s mantlepiece somewhere.
Dead in Autumn, Buried in Winter
Madonna, Sinatra, Chewbacca and Frankenstein’s Monster walked two by two. They passed hedgerows and glowing pumpkins, from one frosted and neatly trimmed garden to the next. The creatures ran across the grass while the popstars took the long route up the empty driveway. Number twenty-six: a three-storey granite mini-mansion like all the others on the street.
Chewbacca and Frankenstein’s Monster waited at the foot of the porch. Each had a plastic bag weighed down with sweets, toffees, chews, monkey nuts, fifty pence pieces and a couple of sad tangerines. The little Monster’s haul dragged along the ground behind him.
‘Hurry up!’ Chewbacca played at keepy-up with her bag of treats.
‘Don’t be impatient,’ said Sinatra.
‘Behave or you won’t get any sweets tonight,’ said Madonna.
Sinatra pressed the buzzer and Madonna tried to usher the children up front. Frankenstein’s Monster clung to her leg, his green head pressing into her thigh with one wide eye peering out. A bottle-cap neck bolt dug into her.
‘Will they have eyeballs?’ Chewbacca asked. ‘I haven’t got any eyeballs yet.’
‘I don’t know honey,’ Sinatra said. ‘You’ll get whatever you’re given.’
Sinatra rang the buzzer again. There were no lights on inside. Usually a darkened hallway meant they would not open their door to trick-or-treaters but there was a jack-o-lantern on the porch – the Cheshire Cat’s smile leered up at them – and a witch’s broomstick propped up against the wall. Chewbacca pulled her mask up and squished her nose against the door’s frosted glass window, hands cupped around her eyes.
‘There’s nobody in,’ she declared.
Sinatra rang the buzzer a third time.
‘Daddy, there’s nobody in.’