This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts, and concerns about our profession. By the way, all writers are invited to join in!
1: Amazon KDP select is my best option at the moment.
I decided to go wide in summer 2021. I signed up with Draft2Digital, and although they are professional and helpful, I’m going back to working exclusively with Amazon. Going wide is not worth the extra work at this stage of my writing life and writing career. I have only sold six books, and it is probably my fault for not advertising with the other book sellers more actively, but I don’t have the time. I need to simplify my life and at the moment Amazon exclusive is my best and simplest bet.
2. A solid morning routine is beneficial for my life and my writing.
I used to get up at seven and go to work, but when I took early retirement in 2019, I had some difficulty adapting to a new writing routine. I had never written in the mornings, as I was working as a teacher. I used to write in the evenings and weekends. After reading The Miracle Morning for Writers in 2020, I decided to implement the routine in my new life. I’ve discovered that the first three hours of writing, from 7-10 are my golden hours. I’m more creative and productive.
3: I’m a plantser
I started out as a pantser. I had four clearly define characters and an idea and I started writing to see where the characters would take me. It was a wonderful experience. I had the time of my life writing my sequel to Jane Eyre and new characters and plot lines grew so much that one novel became and trilogy and then a series. However, I soon realised I needed a structure to tie all the strands, so I read plenty of books on plotting, which helped me structure and finish my novels. I recommend Save the Cat for Writersas one of the most useful and practical books on the topic. And I thought I had become a plotter, but it was just a phase!
Now I’d describe myself as a plantser. I start with a few characters and a conflict which I explore and when I have about 10,000 words and a good number of scenes, I write a loose outline, to help me stay focussed, and write. I allow the characters to drive the action and the outline gradually meanders, so I feel I’m exploring as I write.
4. The Eyre Hall Series will have many more installments.
I’ve written three new books and one novella in the series this year. I’ve also reedited three novels in the series, that means I’ve worked on seven books this year! So my morning routine is definitely working for me! I have lots of ideas to continue and expand the series even more. I’ve also planned other novels in the series and revised a contemporary thriller I had written a few years ago.
5: Writing is my lifesaver
Throughout these two difficult years of Covid plus numerous personal issues, writing has helped me wake up feeling optimistic and energetic enough to carry out a healthy morning routine, write, look after my family, make time for friends and hobbies. My novels have been my lighthouse in a dark, stormy sea.
6: I still love blogging
I’ve been doing more creative writing than blogging this year, but I’ve realised I don’t want to stop blogging. I enjoy having a little window to the world where I can be seen and heard, and interact with other bloggers. I hope to have more time to blog in 2022.
7: The more I read the better writer I become
I’ve been reading widely this year; fiction as well as non-fiction. I especially enjoy thrillers and historical novels, but I’ve also read science fiction, memoirs and non-fiction books this year. I’ve incorporated many books on personal growth which have helped me immensely. I’ve shared many of them in my #MondayMotivation posts. Everything I read helps me improve my craft.
What lessons have you learnt as a writer in 2022?
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Around Christmas I love cosy evenings reading Christmas themed books, watching Christmas themed films, listening to and singing Christmas songs, trying out new turkey recipes, and sharing cosy and fun times with family and friends.
My favourite activity is rereading or relistening to some of my favourite Christmas themed novels, like the three novels I’d like to share with you today.
I use Dickens’ marvellous story to remind myself and my grandchildren that it is a time to rejoice, share goodwill, reassess the year that has passed, plan for the year that is about to begin, and realise that we have the power to improve our lives and the lives of others, if we take action in the present moment. Scrooge’s journey into his past, present and future in A Christmas Carol show the reader how both our past and our future converge and are ultimately controlled by our present thoughts and actions.
The ghosts teach Scrooge a unique and mind-blowing lesson: our thoughts and actions in this present moment have the power to change our past as well as our future. I encourage you to read or reread A Christmas Carol around this time of year, on your own, or with your children or grandchildren, because it reminds us to be compassionate and understanding with ourselves and others who are less fortunate, to reassess our past, consider our future, and take action in the present. It also reminds us Christmas is a time to enjoy ourselves, decorate our homes, eat, drink and be merry, value the people in our lives and show them our appreciation and love by sending cards, messages or gifts, or spending time together if we can.
My next favourite Christmas novel is Mr Dickens and his Carol by Samantha Silva.
I loved every single minute of this novel. I read both the kindle and audio version, which was brilliantly read by Euan Morton. You can read this novel at any time of the year, but I’m really glad I read it around Christmas, which is when I always reread A Christmas Carol.
Mr Dickens and his Carol is a fictional account of the circumstances and events which led Charles Dickens to write the novella, A Christmas Carol. I’m not sure how much of the story line is real or fictional, but it doesn’t matter, because the story is so beautifully written, and the plot so brilliantly unfolded that as a reader I was convinced it certainly could have occurred in the ‘magical’ way the author narrates.
It is not a sentimental story, although there are, as with Dickens’ work, some sentimental aspects, which were naturally and elegantly woven into the story. I’ll be rereading, or relistening to it again next Christmas. It’s a real treat, especially for this time of year! And for readers who love historical fiction.
My Third favourite Christmas novel is a romantic novella by Mimi Matthews, A Holiday by Gaslight.
A Holiday by Gaslight is a Victorian Christmas Novella which masterfully transports readers to 19th century England.
It deals with the courtship of the Sophie Appersett who comes from an upper class, but financially ruined, family, and Edward Sharpe, A London merchant, who wishes to improve his social prospects by marrying up, or so it would seem initially. Sophie is not prepared to marry for purely financial reasons, in spite of her father’s insistence, and breaks off the engagement. Both families spend the Christmas Holidays together in a final attempt to seal the match, with surprising consequences.
I loved the way Victorian society and values were cleverly exposed. Women, who were legally and emotionally trapped between their father sand their husbands, were fighting for a small meausre of autonomy, in a strict and uncompromising patriarchal society. The atmosphere of London and the country mansion was also well captured and portrayed.
A sweet Victorian romance with a happy ending, because Christmas is also a time to remember that love can overcome (almost) all adversity.
Which are your favourite Christmas themed novels? Let me know in the comments!
I’m struggling (we authors are always struggling, whether or not we’re established and famous!) with my final edits of Snow Moon at Eyre Hall, to be published in February 2022, and I thought I’d give you a sneak peek of the first paragraphs, about 280 words, of chapter 29 called Return to Eyre Hall.
Chapter 29 – Return to Eyre Hall
Huge white snowflakes whirled before falling on the thick snow which covered the lawns of Eyre Hall. I craned my neck to glimpse at the silver clouds sliding across the waning gibbous moon and the fragments of jet-black sky peppered with tiny sparkling stars.
Helen pointed to the ground. “Why has the snow got a blue glow?”
“It must reflect the light of the moon. If there was a new moon, the snow would be black,” I replied.
“I forgot it was so pretty. Max says it never snows in Beachill.”
Annette rushed out to greet us when she heard our coach. “Come inside quickly, there’s a frightful gale.” A young girl Annette called Trish, took our coats and said she’d carry our luggage upstairs to the new wing.
We stepped into a drawing room ablaze with the furious burning of crackling wood. I gasped. It was just as we had left it.
“What’s wrong?” asked Annette.
I waved my hands in the air. “Nothing has changed.”
“Why would it? I love the way you decorated Eyre Hall, Jane. It’s perfect.”
I searched for the house I built and once lived in and imagined I would never leave. The furniture, the paintings, thecandleholders, and chandeliers were identical. “And yet nothing is the same.”
Michael’s hands rested on my shoulders. “Shall I kindle the fire, mistress?”
I turned to face him. “It seems such a long time ago, Michael.”
“Eight months since we last came and fifteen months since we lived here,” he replied, but it didn’t matter how many days or months had passed, we had returned to a different place in another lifetime.
Snow Moon at Eyre Hall is Book 5 of The Eyre Hall Series. I suggest reading them in the following order:
Resurgam, An Eyre Hall Series Novella
Blood Moon at Eyre Hall
All Hallows at Eyre Hall
Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall
Volume One of The Eyre Hall Series: a Box Set including these first four novels.
Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall
Snow Moon at Eyre Hall
Midsummer at Eyre Hall (to be re-edited and re-published in June, 2022)
There will be a box set for books 4-6 and possibly another novella this summer.
I travel across Spain from south to north about once a month. That’s over 800 kilometers, and I go by car. I could travel by plane or train, which is faster, but unfortunately it’s not practical and here’s why.
My husband and I stay at my mother’s cottage, in a tiny village which has 200 inhabitants. There is a tiny grocers, but there are no supermarkets, chemist, coffee shop, or any type of bar or shop.
It’s very cosy and peaceful. I come across cows, chickens, horses, or goats as I walk around the streets and nearby fields and country roads.
The problem is if I want to buy food, or anything else, sit at a coffee shop, or go out for lunch, I need the car as there’s no public transport between villages.
Also, my main reason for coming is to visit my mum who is at a care home in a nearby village. But again, I need the car to get there.
Of course having the car also means we can visit beautiful, secluded places literally in the middle of nowhere, as well as nearby large towns such as Santander.
Back to the delights of the eight hour car journey. I have my laptop, kindle, smartphone and tablet, plus tons of apps (audible, scribd, youtube, netflix, amazon prime videos, etc., notebooks and pens. So I’m never bored.
I have bottles of water and snacks, just in case, although we stop twice for a bathroom/coffee break.
I also enjoy looking through the windshield, watching the world go by, daydreaming, thinking, taking photos, and chatting to my husband.
Paradoxically, I find it liberating to sit in a confined space, free from mundane distractions and obligations. I’m with myself exclusively, while my husband is busy driving. I’m not a fan of driving myself. I prefer to do my own thing while he drives!
So, do you enjoy long car journeys? Tell me why or why not.
This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts, and concerns about our profession. By the way, all writers are invited to join in!
November 3 question – What’s harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
On Titles and Blurbs
First On Titles
I start my novels with a specific idea which includes at least two main characters and some supporting ones, a place, a time, and a conflict. Once that’s a vivid picture in my mind, I start writing freestyle or if you like pantsing, until I get the feel of the characters and the story, which at the beginning is a jumbled mess in my mind.
I don’t think of scenes or chapters or plot points, or even the ending, I just write. Usually when I’m at 10,000 words, which may take about a week, I know if it’s a story I want to write, or I put it away just in case! (I have a hard time killing my babies!) and work on another one.
Once I’ve reached the point I’m sure I have the potential for a novel, I write an outline for the whole story, divided into scenes. I take a simple approach which works for me for overall initial plotting.
Basic elements of each scene: Who wants what, why, and what is the obstacle? How does it move the plot forward and/or what does this scene lead on to (i.e. what happens next).
At this point, if not before, I’m ready to select my title and start looking for a cover. Both things are intimately tied up for me. I print the cover with the title and put it up on my wall in my study, where I usually write. It gives me focus, motivation and joy to see my cover and title every day.
This is one of my favourite covers. It’s just perfect for my Novella, Resurgam. It was a ready-made cover (almost; I asked for Eyre Hall to be added in the background) by BetiBup, one of my favourite designers.
There’s a universal link if you click on the image. By the way, it’s a free gift if you sign up for my newsletter, link at the end of the post.
Now for the blurb
I write the blurb at the end and it’s much more difficult and stressful than deciding on the title and cover.
I have a structure for writing my blurbs, which I have developed over the years, and I usually stick to it.
When I write a blurb I follow this basic structure:
Initial hook. A question to draw the reader in.
Introduce the main character and make the setting/situation clear to the reader.
One or two sentences about the conflict.
Final hook. A hint at the solution with a question to entice the reader.
Here’s my blurb for Resurgam
Relive the mystery and magic of Jane Eyre (Initial Hook)
Nine years after her marriage to Edward Rochester, Jane has everything she ever wished for. She is married to the man she loves, they have a son, and they live in a grand house, Eyre Hall, built on the grounds of Thornfield Hall.(MC and Genre/setting)
When Mary Anne Wilson, one of her best friends from Lowood Institution for Orphans, appears unexpectedly at Eyre Hall with distressing news about their deceased friend, Helen Burns, Jane realises she must return to the orphanage where she has crucial unfinished matters to attend. (Conflict/Problem)
Will Jane find a way to keep the promise she made to Helen over fifteen years ago when she was a penniless orphan? (Final Hook: a question about the solution)
I suggest you read as many blurbs as possible for your genre and others, to give you more ideas about how to approach writing your own. Here are two videos for more ideas: a great 8-minute video by Alessandra Torre which gives some good ideas, so does Joanna Penn here at The Creative Penn.
If you click on the image, you will be taken to my newsletter sign up page. Go ahead, make my day and sign up if you want to get a copy of my novella, Resurgam, news of special offers, new releases and updates on The Eyre Hall Series and all things related to Jane Eyre.
November is a hard month. It’s long and right in the middle of autumn. Summer is definitely a distant memory, and Christmas is still a long way ahead.
For those who work from home, like me, it’s easier to stay in and write. I’ve got a lot to do this month, as Snow Moon is well underway and is due for an edit on the 28th. So I’m writing and editing in my study, wearing my pjs and my hair in a messy bun. I don’t think I’ll be brave enough to share a picture of this writer at work in November!
Have a wonderful November, and if you’d like to read the sequel to Jane Eyre, a Victorian gothic romance, a box set with the first three books in the series plus a bonus novels: Resurgam, is on offer at 2.99 until 5th November, when it goes back to 5.99.International buy link here
All Hallows at Eyre Hall was the first novel I wrote and published, although it is now book Two in The Eyre Hall Series, so it is very special for me. It takes place, as the name suggests on or around All Hallows Eve (Halloween)
Relive the mystery and magic of Jane Eyre in this thrilling Victorian Gothic Romance
Twenty-two years after her marriage to Edward Rochester, Jane is coping with the imminent death of her bedridden husband – and the revelation of his unspeakable secrets.
Richard Mason has returned from Jamaica, instigating a sequence of events which will expose Rochester’s disloyalty to Jane, his murderous plots, and innumerable other transgressions.
Drawn into a complex conspiracy, everything Jane holds dear is threatened. Who was the man she loved? What is she prepared to do to safeguard her family and preserve her own stability?
All Hallows at Eyre Hall is Book Two of The Eyre Hall Series. Its multiple narrators explore the evolution of the original characters, and bring to life new and intriguing ones, spinning a unique and absorbing narrative.
This is a revised edition of All Hallows at Eyre Hall, which was first published in 2014.
Please, Lord, do not let me lose my mind in this dreadful place. Help me preserve my sanity. I must return to Michael and Helen at Eyre Hall. I have been removed to this terrifying house in a fraudulent manner, deprived of my freedom, and caged in an infernal cave like an animal.
I was dragged to this disturbing place and ensnared in a cage twelve nights ago by a group of armed men who barged into Eyre Hall while I was alone. I resisted, but they forced me into a carriage and brought me here in the dead of night. I do not know where I am, except that it is over four hours’ drive from home.
I have been maliciously confined, and even if I managed to escape, I do not know in which direction I should flee. There are thick woods to the north, east and west, and I have no idea what lies to the south, as I have not yet seen that part of the house or grounds. Although I have only been here for a short time, my captivity is already proving unbearable.
My first days were distressing. I was not allowed to wash or wear clean clothes. They said they were waiting for my trunk, but I told them I did not want a trunk, because I wanted to go home, and they brought me a grey flannel dress, which was so long that the skirt dragged along the floor and so coarse that it scraped my skin like sandpaper.
When I asked Mrs Mills, the person who seems to be in charge of us, if I could wash, she laughed and said the showers were only for those who caused trouble. I was given a basin and some cold water; no soap or ointments. My face was dry and my lips were parched, so I asked for the toiletries I was accustomed to using, and that was when I discovered where I was. Mrs Mills laughed again and told me it was not a guesthouse, but an asylum for the mentally insane.
I was shocked when I heard the sinister nature of my abode of horror. Why had I been removed to this mansion of despair? Could it be a nightmare conjured up by my wondering mind? How could I suddenly find myself in this sea of misery and madness?
My first visitor had been a tall, angular man with a sallow face and weary eyes who said his name was Dr Stevens.
“Where is Dr Carter? He is my doctor.”
He made some notes in a worn notebook and sighed. “I am a special doctor for people who have your particular type of malady, madam.”
“Thank you for your visit, Doctor, but I assure you I am not ill. However, I am missing my home and my family.”
He looked up with a brief smile which didn’t reach his eyes. “We can start there to ascertain your health. Who exactly are you missing?”
“Michael, my betrothed, and Helen, my daughter. I miss them terribly.” I used the damp handkerchief in my hands to wipe away fresh tears, but I breathed in deeply and made sure I kept my composure.
He pursed his lips and wrote more words in his notebook. “Fabrications, madam.”
“I don’t understand, Doctor.”
He left his pen on the table beside his notebook and looked at me as if I were a poor beggar who had asked for a morsel to eat.
“The man you mentioned, Michael Kirkpatrick, I believe is a servant who was once in your employ but is now a convict.”
“That is not possible. What has he been convicted of?”
“Theft and assault. Before his departure, he stole belongings from Eyre Hall and he assaulted you.”
“You must be mistaken. Michael and I will be married on Christmas Eve.”
“You are a widow, and you cannot remarry without your son’s consent, madam, and in your present condition, he cannot agree to such madness.”
I realised this doctor would not help me, so I did not argue. When I left this dreadful place, I would speak to John and clear Michael’s name.
“And where is Helen?”
He looked at his notes. “Yes, Helen. She is a servant at Eyre Hall, the same as Michael. They have both conspired to rob you of your reason, and it seems they have succeeded. You have only one son and his name is John Rochester.”
A throbbing at the back of my head spread to my temples and forehead as I tried to make sense of his words. It was a nightmare, and I had to wake up. I flew to the small window and grabbed the iron bars; they seemed real, but this could not be happening. I needed to get out of this terrifying place.
“Dr Stevens, I need to go home.”
“You cannot leave here until you admit that it has all been a fabrication of your feeble mind, Mrs Mason. Michael is a servant who seduced you, robbed and attacked you, and Helen is another servant’s daughter who you have imagined is the stillborn child you lost ten years ago. The sooner you admit it, the earlier you will leave.”
Someone must have given him this false information. I had to find out who was behind this conspiracy. “May I ask you who has informed you of this?”
“Archbishop Templar has always taken an interest in Grimsby Retreat, where you are now staying. Your son has asked him to take care of you and his late father’s estate in his absence until he returns from his visit to America.”
Was it possible that the archbishop had fabricated the lies and convinced these people that I was a madwoman? What was his purpose in confining me and imprisoning Michael? I could not yet fathom the answers to these questions. But it would seem the bishop had become our worst enemy.
“Where is John? When can I see him?”
“In due time, when you are recovered. We will take good care of you, Mrs Mason. Your confusion is understandable. You have lost two husbands in just over a year, your only son left home, your miscarriages and stillborn child have added to your sorrow.” He patted my hand and smiled. “But worry not; we will take good care of you.”
I raised my hands to my hair and felt for my hairpins. I knew Michael was as real as the little silver butterflies with crystal pendants I was wearing. They were his favourite. I stroked the long pin which, being firmly fixed and covered by my dishevelled hair, had not been removed. I imagined that as long as I could feel it, Michael would find me. I smiled demurely at the foolish doctor and thanked him kindly. What else could I do while I prayed Michael and Helen were safe?
The following days merged into endless hours of misery. The house grew colder and gloomier every minute. In the mornings we had breakfast in a large hall where there was a small fire covered by a huge grate, insufficient to heat the chill room. Porridge, gritty brown bread and tea were passed around the long table. I drank the tea but hardly touched the food. Dinner was tasteless and tough, stewed meat and soggy boiled vegetables which did little to encourage my waning appetite.
I was required to spend the mornings in the icy room with the other residents on my floor. There was nothing in the behaviour of these women to suggest that they were any more unstable than I was. They were all well-dressed and reasonably groomed, although they moved with heavy feet and cautious eyes, which I supposed was due to our bleak surroundings and Mrs Mills’ bad temper.
There were six other ladies on my floor. Mrs Pengilly was a quiet, elderly lady who told me she had been admitted by her husband to mend her nerves. She liked to sit by the fireplace with Miss Short, a stout, middle-aged spinster whose father was worried about her habit of reading and eating too much. Miss Fowler was a tall young lady with bulging eyes who spoke in a loud voice with a Scottish accent; she sat alone in a corner reading one of the tattered copies of the Bible from the sparse bookshelves. Mrs Black was a widow who was usually found knitting by the window. She told me her brother brought her here every year in December and January, because she refused to take part in the Christmas celebrations. Miss Craft, a fine-looking and smartly-dressed woman, rarely spoke. She occasionally played the out-of-tune piano in the corner. A young girl called Katy, who refused to eat or speak, drew pencil sketches of angels and demons. I had seen no one else, but I knew there were more prisoners on the other floors, because I heard their cries at night and fits of demoniac laughter echoing from below during the day.
As one monotonous day rolled into another, I began to sink into despair. I felt as if I had been buried alive, unable to eat or sleep, until I realised that these first days had been a holiday. Chaos was about to send Satan on his way to ruin me. I prayed Michael would find me soon, or I would die in this godforsaken inferno.
One morning when I heard Katy crying, I approached her and asked if she would like to talk to me about what ailed her, but she shook her head fiercely. “Be quiet. Don’t tell anyone,” she chanted.
That evening, I heard sobs coming from Katy’s room, which was across the hall from mine. I jumped out of bed and listened behind my door, which was locked on the outside. I heard her feet dragging along the floor. “Not to the shed, please,” she said, and a man’s voice answered, “Be quiet. You know the rules.” I listened to her muffled cries until they ceased. I peered out of my window and waited. Minutes later I heard more cries and saw two figures crossing the garden towards the shed, but it could have been the wind, or wild animals. The noises ceased, and I hoped I had imagined that Katy was in trouble, because there was nothing I could do to help her.
The following morning, when Katy was not sitting at the breakfast table, I asked Mrs Mills if she was unwell.
“Unwell? Not at all. She has been discharged. Her parents took her back home yesterday evening.”
Miss Craft raised her hands and moved her fingers in the air, playing an imaginary piano. “That’s good news,” she said and dropped her hands back to her lap.
“I’ll miss her,” said Miss Pengilly, and Miss Short nodded.
Miss Fowler’s terrified eyes glanced at Mrs Black, who shot up, knocking her chair to the floor. “She didn’t say goodbye. She should have said goodbye. I knitted her a scarf. She was my friend. Friends say goodbye when they leave!”
Mrs Mills made eye contact with each one of us before speaking. “Silence, or I shall call Dr Stewart. He will not be pleased.” She paused, stabbing me with her eyes. “I had not realised you were such a troublemaker, Mrs Mason. You will stay in your room until further notice.”
The following days were short and gloomy, merging into one long night. I watched the motion of the moon glide under the clouds, and I imagined I saw a shadow in the grounds. I whispered Michael’s name and cried bitterly; little did I know that the real inferno was about to begin.
It started with a knock on my door one stormy afternoon some days after Katy’s mysterious disappearance. I had found a worn copy of David Copperfield and took pleasure in stroking its weathered pages, for I had trouble focusing on the words. Bitter tears spilled from my eyes, smearing the ink, as I remembered my conversations with Mr Dickens at Eyre Hall.
“May I intrude, Jane Eyre?”
I jumped out of my chair and turned abruptly, surprised to hear my maiden name in a voice I did not recall. Neither did I recognise the large, overfed body or bulging blue eyes which stared back at me.
“Good afternoon, sir. Are we acquainted?”
“You do not remember me?”
I would not have forgotten his bulging reptilian eyes, which did not blink. “I’m afraid not, but please sit down. It is not often I have company, sir.”
I waved towards a rickety chair by the writing desk and sat down again myself. My visitor nodded and obliged. His corpulent presence and repulsive odour filled the tiny room. I coughed and held my handkerchief to my nose.
“I hope you are comfortable here, Jane Eyre, for that is your name, is it not?”
“I am Mrs Mason at present.” I wanted to tell him that soon I would be Mrs Kirkpatrick, but I remembered the doctor’s words. “My husband died over a year ago.”
“You were once called Mrs Rochester, I believe?”
“Yes, Mr Rochester died over two years ago. Did you know my husband, Mr—?”
“Yes, I met both your husbands, madam. Mr Rochester and Mr Mason both employed my mother’s services at Thornfield Hall. Do you not remember me? My name is Poole, Mr Daniel Poole.”
I looked at him more carefully. His veined cheeks, bushy grey eyebrows and fuzzy beard suggested he was Richard’s age. I tried to imagine what he might have looked like twenty years earlier, but no one came to mind.
“I’m afraid I cannot recall having seen you at Thornfield Hall, Mr Poole.”
“I visited my mother on one occasion. You were the governess at that time.”
“Poole?” Could Grace Poole, Bertha’s drunken keeper, be this man’s mother? I was reminded of a grim, unfriendly woman with a prim cap perched on her large head and a coarse, gloomy face, wearing a brown stuff dress and white apron. Mrs Poole had spent most of her time in a low-ceilinged, oaken chamber on the second storey of Thornfield Hall, where she sat and sewed, and drank port, gin, or whatever spirits were available.
I jumped out of my chair at once. “You are Grace Poole’s son?”
“The very same. I was already employed at Grimsby Retreat, but of course, you wouldn’t remember the likes of me. You were too busy enticing the master of the house, weren’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Funny isn’t it, how the wheels of fortune turn unexpectedly? You were a quaint little thing. An ethereal waif, tantalising all the men in sight.”
I trembled in the realisation that he had not come as a friend.
“You wouldn’t have noticed me then, would you? I wasn’t good enough for you, was I? Answer me.” His eyes bulged even more as he leaned towards me.
“I’m afraid I have no recollection of your visit to Thornfield Hall, Mr Poole.”
“Well, it so happens I’m the superintendent at Grimsby Retreat, where you are presently in residence. Your stay here is in my hands. I’ll have you know I’m not a rancorous man at all. I’ll forget how you ignored me and demeaned my mother with your haughty airs, and I am prepared to make your stay here much more pleasant.”
He held out his hand, but I recoiled. “Come, Mrs Mason, don’t be shy. I mean you no harm. Let us take a walk. I want to show you the rest of the retreat.”
I had no choice. I was trapped between a thick wall and a grated window behind me, and a massive man with a repulsive grin before me. He crushed my hand in his fat, sweaty palm.
“Your hand is cold, Jane. Come.” He pulled me towards the door. “You don’t mind if I call you Jane now, do you? I’ll show you to your new rooms. You’ll be much more comfortable there.”
I had to run to keep up with his long strides as he dragged me across the main hall and up a winding staircase to another floor.
“These are the best rooms, reserved for our special guests. I also live here with my wife. Fortunately, Mrs Poole is unwell.” He smiled, revealing uneven grey teeth. “She won’t bother us.”
Despite the blazing flames and well-furnished room, I shivered, as if ice water were trickling down my spine.
“You’re cold. Don’t stand in the doorway, Jane. Come inside. This will be your room from now on. I want you to write a list of the food you like to eat, and the clothes and other personal items you’d like to have.”
“Why?” I whispered.
“Isn’t it obvious? I’ll look after you while you’re here and, in return, you’ll be my mistress.”
I held my breath. “Why?” I repeated, trying to make sense of this bizarre situation.
“Because I want you, and I am in a position to have you.”
“I’d like to return to my room, please.” I tried to sound assertive, but my voice was unsteady.
“There is no going back, I’m afraid. You will stay here and oblige me. You’ll find I’m easy to please.” He took my limp hand and pressed it to his mouth. The room swirled like a tornado, sucking me into its twisting eye.
When I woke up, I was in my new bed and the doctor was taking my pulse. “You must eat, Mrs Mason, or you will make yourself ill. Do you want to be force-fed?”
He showed me a long tube and motioned it towards my mouth. I shook my head energetically.
“Then you must eat everything on the tray before Mr Poole returns. There is nothing else physically wrong with you.”
The food on the tray, cheese, cold meat, and fruit, would have looked appealing in any other place, but my lips felt as if they were glued together. I managed to pull them apart to speak to the doctor.
“Could I see my son or Archbishop Templar, please?”
“No visitors are allowed for the moment.”
“When can I have visitors?”
“Perhaps in the spring, when you’re feeling better.”
I asked for a Bible. I was anxious to re-read the Gospel according to St Matthew in the hope that it would give me the strength to endure Poole’s designs on me as our Lord had suffered on the cross. Why had I been forsaken?
The Bible gave me little comfort. I cried for the wretched treatment I was enduring and wished for a quick death instead of the slow poisoning awaiting me. I remembered Michael’s words. “No one will keep us apart,” he had promised. I closed my eyes and recalled the joyful moments we had experienced a few months earlier.
**** The End of Chapter One ****
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