Well the time is nearly here for the release of my new novel 'The Smoke In The Photograph'. This supernatural thriller combines aspects of the haunted house genre with the detective/serial killer story.
The book is released on April 1st 2015 (it's no joke)
For those of you who are impatient like myself her is a little tease, a short extract from the book.
So for some context. This extract is from one of the early chapters of the book. Julia (an artist recovering from a breakdown) and her husband Steven (a surgeon) have just bought a house that used to belong to a famous photographer. The photographer was murdered, the first victim of a seemingly unstoppable killer dubbed ' The Lincoln Ripper'. This scene takes place on the day they move in. So without further ado, please enjoy this extract.
Julia was standing at the end of her new driveway staring towards the beautiful new home they were moving into. She smiled to herself. The last year had been very hard. There was a point where it felt as if things would never get any better, that she would never pull herself out of the blackness she had found herself in. In fact, she had even attempted to end her life, so sure was she that things would never improve
Now she was on the threshold of her new life. The perfect house was hers. One with the kind of studio she had dreamed of having since she first picked up a paint brush.
Then there was Steven. He was down there near the house, talking to the removal men. She loved him dearly. He had been so patient with her, and so strong when she needed him to be. She would never forgive herself for what she had put him through.
He saw her watching him and offered her a a wave. She returned it, with an added kiss blown on the wind.
She looked up at the house. It was large, but not monstrously grand. The red bricks and arched, lead-framed windows hinted at its Victorian origins, but it was not vastly gothic. Instead, the house looked cheerful, and inviting. To Julia, it looked like the kind of house found in the television dramas of her childhood, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or The Secret Garden.
There was a blinding flash from one of the attic windows. A split second explosion of white light, that left a coloured trace in Julia's vision.
She peered up at the window it had come from, looking to see if there was anyone up there. She could not see anybody. Steven saw she was looking puzzled and waved her over. She walked over to where he was talking to the gaffer of the removal men, Mr Jones.
'Did you see that?' she asked as she got to her husband.
'See what, sweetheart?' Steven said beaming.
She pointed up to the attic window.
'Up there, in the attic,' she said. 'I saw a flash at that window. A really bright light, like a torch or something.'
Steven's smile faded as he was looking at her. She attempted to read his expression. Her paranoia was telling her that he thought that she had imagined it.
'Are any of your blokes up there?' Steven said to Mr Jones.
The removal man shook his head.
'No, all my lads are on the ground floor till you tell them where you want stuff,' Mr Jones said.
Steven looked puzzled and then shrugged.
'It could have been light reflecting from somewhere.'
'Or the sun trying to poke through the clouds,' Mr Jones added, looking at the grey sky.
Julia wasn't convinced.
'Are you sure?' she said.
'Of course I am,' Jones replied. 'If you want though, me and some of the lads will have a look up there for you.'
'Would you mind, Mr Jones?' she asked.
He looked at her with kind eyes that seemed odd in his rather rugged and weathered face.
'Course I will,' he said. 'And please, call me Marty. Every other bugger does.'
The friendliness and jovial manner finally made her smile again.
'Thank you, Marty. Steven will be happy to go with you. Won't you, honey?'
She noticed a flash of annoyance on her husband’s face at being volunteered for this, but it soon faded and was replaced by a smile.
The two men wandered off towards the house, still chatting. Julia stayed where she was and looked back up to the attic window. She felt a few drops of rain on her face, then the soft shower began. As she looked at the attic window, she saw that same bright white flash, like a torch. No, that was not entirely right, it was more like the flash of a camera. Then there was a clap of thunder off in the distance.
Was that all it was? The reflections from some storm south of the city. She wanted to believe that, and yet part of her was convinced the light had come from within the room.
The rain began to grow heavier, drenching Julia who was dressed for an early summer’s day of work in jeans and a T-shirt. She was thinking about going inside the house, but would rather wait until Steven and Marty had finished checking the attic.
Instead, she ran for the shelter of her car. She unlocked the door and got in the driver's seat. She saw that the house appeared to blur and melt through the rain on the windscreen. She put the key in the ignition and started the engine. Wanting to clearly see the attic, she switched on the wipers.
Steven was confident they were on a wild goose chase as they entered the house. When he heard the clap of distant thunder he was convinced that all Julia had seen had been a reflection. However, he knew his wife. If it wasn't checked out she would never settle.
'Lovely woman, your missus,' Jones said as they began to climb the stairs. The staircase up to the first floor was big enough for them to walk side by side.
'Yes. She is,' Steven agreed.
'She seems a bit jumpy though,' Marty said.
This was true. Steven had of course noticed. He didn't understand it. The house was her idea. She had practically begged him to agree to it. Then the day they move in, she seems on edge before she even sets foot inside.
He hoped that it was not a sign of things to come here. He knew that she kept trying to convince everyone that she was better, completely recovered from her breakdown. However, Steven often wondered if this was true. Did someone ever really recover from something like that? Or was it always there in the back of your psyche? Like the monster in the closet, waiting until you were contented and unsuspecting before it would leap out and attack.
'Anxious about moving into such a big place, I guess,' he said, not wanting to show his own concerns to anyone, let alone a complete stranger, as nice as Mr Jones seemed.
They came to the first floor and walked over to the second stairway. This one was only wide enough to accommodate them in single file.
Steven went up first. The stairs went straight up, unlike the winding lower staircase. At the top there was a closed door. When he reached it, Steven put his hand on the door knob. He turned back to Mr Jones, who stood right behind him. The removal man nodded. Steven turned the knob and pushed the door open.
The attic was a substantial open space with wooden floor and magnolia walls. There were four windows on either side, plus two large skylights, meaning that even in the dimness of the storm the room seemed incredibly bright. Each window, including skylights, had blackout shutters that could be closed to make the room totally dark.
The sound of the rain battering on the windows appeared to be amplified by the emptiness of the room. Steven looked at the far end of the studio, to the dark room.
Steven stepped tentatively into the middle of the room. Jones followed behind him.
The removal man stopped and tapped Steven on the shoulder. Steven faced him.
'What is it?' Steven whispered
'Listen,' Jones said.
Standing still, Steven concentrated on the sound of the room. At first, he couldn't hear anything apart from the constant lashing of the rain. It reminded him of a time he had been caught in the middle of a squall when sailing in his youth. His ears then slowly tuned into the sound Jones was talking about.
'What is that?' Steven said.
The sound was a faint yet rapid fluttering sound. It would continue for a few seconds and then stop, only to start again moments later.
'I don't know,' Jones said. 'It sounds almost like a camera.'
Steven agreed. It did, like a shutter on a camera. The idea sent a shiver down his spine.
'It's coming from over there,' Jones said, pointing towards the dark room.
Steven nodded and the two of them tiptoed cautiously across the bare wooden floor towards the door. The sound grew louder the closer they got. Steven felt the little hairs on the back of his neck prickle up, as if there were a static charge nearby.
Steven felt his pulse quicken as all his senses came to life. His skin reacted to the subtle changes in temperature as they drew closer to the door. He heard the fluttering sound getting louder, and more rapid. The rain pelting against the skylight took on an ominous timbre, like dirt hitting a coffin lid. The sound of his and Jones's shuffling steps across the dusty wood of the floor. Jones's nervous breathing.
When they got to the door, both men put their ears to it. At first it remained silent, and then the fluttering noise came once more, close enough to the door to make Steven and Jones jump back. Steven nodded towards the door handle, and Jones shook his head.
'It's your house mate,' the removal man whispered. 'After you.'
Steven reached out for the door handle, time slowing as he did. It seemed to take an eternity for his fingers to wrap around the handle. Once it was in place on the cool metal, he looked to Jones. The removal man nodded and visibly braced himself. Steven took a deep breath and pushed down on the handle. The door creaked open as he pushed.
Inside the room was utter blackness. It was almost as if the light of the attic dared not enter the room. Steven and Jones peered in. All seemed quiet. The sound of fluttering had ceased.
Steven saw the light grey shape a split second before it would have collided with his face. As it flew out of the darkness, he had not time to turn or duck. All he could do was throw himself backwards and scream.
Jones caught him under the arms as it flew out of the darkroom and into the attic. A pigeon. A large pigeon. It flitted about above their heads. Steven stood up and looked at Jones.
As the shock wore off, both men laughed, the relief that the danger had passed, and the ridiculousness of their fear.
'We'd better catch that,' Jones said.
The rain had all but stopped when Julia stepped out of the shelter of the car. It had been at least fifteen minutes since her husband and the removal man had gone to investigate the flashing lights in the attic. She had expected them back sooner. Worry was beginning to creep into her mind.
Suddenly Jones appeared at the window where she had seen the flashes. He opened it and then stepped aside. Steven replaced him at the window. His hands cupped in front of him, holding something. He was making an effort to keep it as far away from himself as he could. Once his hands were outside the window he threw them up, and she saw the pigeon flying up to the sky where it was soon camouflaged against the grey of the day.
Steven looked down at her. He waved for her to come up. Everything must have been fine. Perhaps the flashes had been her imagination after all.
She walked through the house, passing the removal men who were still unloading their furniture from the lorry. She climbed the first set of stairs and then walked to the second. As she climbed the second narrow staircase, she could hear the sound of her husband and Jones laughing.
She stepped into the attic, and was again in awe of the size of the studio. If possible, it seemed even bigger now than when they had first viewed the house.
'What happened?' she asked.
The men looked at her smiling.
'Well, for one thing,' Jones said with a grin 'your husband shit himself.'
Steven laughed and patted the removal man on the back.
'I wasn't the only one though, was I?'
'That's true,' Jones confirmed.
'What happened?' Julia repeated.
Steven pointed over to the open door of the dark room.
'There was a bloody pigeon locked in there.'
Julia felt uneasy at the thought of it. It made no sense.
'How?' she asked. 'The house has been empty. No one has used that dark room in six years.'
Steven shook his head.
'I don't know, but it nearly took my eye out.'
'Perhaps it got in there last time the estate agent checked on the place?' Jones offered.
This was plausible, although Julia had got the strong feeling from the estate agent, Criar, that he had seldom checked on the house, and when he did his visits were as brief as possible.
'We could've done it ourselves,' Steven said, 'when we came to measure up.'
Again this was plausible, but Julia remembered that they had only taken the briefest of looks inside the darkroom. Surely they would have noticed a bird that large swooping into the room. However, there was no better explanation, so she decided it was best to accept one of these as the truth.
'Okay,' she said with a broad smile. 'Let's start getting this house sorted.'
Steven and Jones looked at each other and then saluted Julia, making her laugh out loud.
So I hope you enjoyed that little sample of the book, and that it has whetted your appetite for more.
You can preorder the ebook here from AMAZON
And feel free to come and join the fun at the online book launch party on FACEBOOK