The Journey Continues…

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bull-by-horns

It’s Christmas (almost) – that time of year we all get a bit warm and fuzzy around the edges. A great time for a recap. Mid-July I took the writing-bull by the horns and finally decide to do something with my passion to write. Starting this blog gave me the kick up the butt I needed to keep moving forward and five months later I’ve published a short story and have two novels in the works. Not bad going.

I can tell you, I’ve progressed from a writer who’s feeling terrified and hopelessly out of her depth to a writer who – quite-frankly – is having a whale of a time.

Initially all the ‘rules’ of writing threatened to sink me. I experienced some deserved but harsh critical feedback and began to realise my twenty years of writing didn’t necessarily result in amazing works of fiction. But during the last few months I’ve been learning, soaking up the advice, the feedback, the comments and something peculiar has happened. The journey is no longer terrifying; it’s a privilege.

My first great fear was editing. How on earth does a writer get swept along in the excitement and adventure of a first draft and then essentially rip it to shreds? However, I’ve come to recognise editing as the saviour of writing. Editing is akin to an artist’s brushstrokes on canvas; with each new layer of editing the masterpiece begins to take shape – its potential shining through. Editing shouldn’t be frightening. Don’t get me wrong – it’s tough (virtually impossible to do correctly without an outside perspective) but it’s a bitter pill worth swallowing.

Books look like simple things; front and back cover, bunch of words in the middle and a blurb on the back. How hard can that be, right? Ha-ha! They’re deceptive in their simplicity. Every single book requires a downpayment of blood, sweat and tears (and $$$). They look easy and that’s the trick.

Websites, book covers, eBook formatting, printed proofs, distribution, marketing, the people behind the scenes – editors, cover designers, bloggers, and of course the readers!, the thrill of having a hard copy of your work in your hands – a real book! It’s astonishing and I’ve loved every damn second of it. So if this is the world of writing, I’m ready for more. Bring it on. I’m home.

 

(Image source: freedigitalphotos.net)

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On the Horns of a Dilemma.

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I was considering the alternative title; When the Hero Wants to Be Bad, because right now I have a problem with one of my characters in the new book in progress; Beyond the Veil. Ordinarily, I’d let the character have their way – they know best  – but him being bad causes me a problem.

The problem is the genre. Urban Fantasy, or Paranormal Romance to be precise. It’s that word – romance. This single word brings with it a whole array of expectations, a happy ending being one of them. If I let my character go to the dark side, there won’t be a happy ending – at least not in the way readers will be expecting.

So my dilemma is this.

Choice 1: The hero is not the squeaky clean guy we thought he was. In fact, he’s mischievous, cunning and a liar. Ouch.

Choice 2: He is the good guy – phew – for a minute there we were worried.

I know what I’d choose, but I like my stories dark. It’s the other 99.9% of my audience I’m concerned about.

I’m inclined to go with my gut feeling and let the story tell itself. To hell with the genre rules. But I’m wary of alienating half the readership…

Decisions… decisions…

Save & Publish

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book-in-handNow the promotional blog post is out of the way I can be honest with you all. Publishing is terrifying. So terrifying in fact that I kept putting it off.

The book ‘Hunted’ went through various rounds of edits, my own and professionals. I had beta readers devour it and then went over it again and again until I became word-blind. Then… it was ready and the doubts crept in. Was it any good? Was it worth doing? Had I edited the soul out of it? Should I hold it back? Would I forever regret it? It’s got vampires in it, will everyone hate it?

So, as my finger hovered over ‘Save & Publish’ I’m not ashamed to say I got a little bit jittery. After twenty years (give or take a few years) I was finally ready to unleash my imagination onto the unsuspecting public. The doubts gave me hesitation, but then I realised – if I don’t take this one important step, it will all be for nothing. Like running a marathon and then stopping before the finish line. So what if it doesn’t sell, what did it matter if people don’t like it. I didn’t do it for the praise and certainly money didn’t fall from the sky and limos didn’t pull up outside after I’d hit the ‘Save & Publish’ button – I forced myself to remember WHY I was doing this.

For the love of writing.

And once I realised that, hitting ‘Save & Publish’ didn’t seem so terrifying. In fact, it felt liberating. Oh, the doubts are still there and the little jittery nerves (I may have developed a nervous tick in my right eye) but the journey continues and I’m loving every step* along the way.

Thank you all for walking beside me.

*challenge.

Hunted ~ Now available on Amazon

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HuntedIt’s a big day for a little book.

‘Hunted’ the introduction to the Devon Hurst Series is now available on Amazon. If you have a Kindle or use the Kindle app, you can download a free sample.

Devon is an intriguing character. In ‘Hunted’ we’re introduced to a man with a less than upstanding past, but he’s trying to make it right.

Unfortunately, his past won’t let him.

If you love survival/post-apocalyptic fantasy this should be your thing (oh, and vampires, did I mention those?).

Enjoy.

Click here to take a look. 

When Heroes Fail Us

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ImageHeroes don’t exist.

The disney hero with his long blonde hair, crimson cape and trusty white steed – That guy, he’s faking it. Inside, he’s a myriad of emotion, self-doubt and vulnerabilities and you know what, he might not be as squeaky clean as he’d like us all to believe. And that’s the way it should be.

Complex characters are fascinating. I was watching a kids movie at the weekend (don’t knock it, the kids get all the best stories) and the protagonist spends much of the first half of the film idolising his hero. He wants to be him. He hangs on every word. Lives by his hero’s rules. Damnit, that hero is the best thing since sliced bread. So you can imagine the horror the protagonist feels when his hero plummets into villainy. As for me, I squealed with delight.

There comes a point in our lives when our heroes fail us and we realise they’re not super-human, they’re people and people screw up. But you know what, that’s okay and in fact its downright interesting. Nobody is perfect; it’s our foibles that make us who we are.

If there’s a hero in each of us you can bet there’s a villain too.

Curiosity vs Escapism – Motives Behind Writing

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I am usually able to put aside a couple of hours to write each day, but this week a family emergency put everything on hold, including writing. 

Some people write to escape whatever demons are chasing them, but apparently I don’t. I just couldn’t sit down and concentrate on the story while my real life drama unfolded around me. I need a clear head before I fill it full of imaginary life-and-death situations, any distractions render me useless. 

I could read and in fact I devoured two books (a paranormal romance and a supernatural thriller). The escapism was welcome which made me wonder about my motives for writing. I thought I wrote to escape, and believe me, I do sometimes need to bury myself in the zone (usually when the kids have been driving me bonkers all day) but that doesn’t always seem to be the case. It’s more complex than that. 

I need to concentrate on the story and its characters. It’s not just a ride which I can hop on and off as I please, there’s a lot more to it than that. The setting, the people, the conflict, the drama, it all takes time and effort to craft. It’s not a simple case of just ‘writing a book’ (as many who ask me ‘have you written it yet?’ seem to think). It’s about applying layer after layer of complexity to a point where the reader doesn’t actively notice the little details any more (if I’ve done it correctly!). This subtlety takes concentration and many hours of deliberation.

That’s why I couldn’t write. I couldn’t face the hard work, despite the lure of the escapism, because my mind was elsewhere. Reading, yes. I could sit back and let the book take me to another place, but writing when my real life was filled with enough drama, I just couldn’t face it. 

Needless to say, all is well and life has returned to normal. I’m back in the saddle as though nothing ever happened.

So I was wrong. I don’t write to escape. I write because I can’t say no to an adventure. Being a mum of two pre-schoolers it can be tricky finding the time to save the world from a vampire apocalypse, but writing gives me the opportunity to explore other lives, to ‘walk in another persons shoes’ .

It’s not escapism, it’s curiosity.

Maintain Control or Go the ‘Traditional’ Route to Publishing

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decisionWhen I began this journey all I wanted to do was publish a book. Not for the money, not for the attention or the tick on my CV. I wanted to do it for the love of writing. But as the dream takes shape, two rather fundamental questions loom. To self-publish or to try the traditional route (i.e. agent = publisher).

There is a bewildering amount of advice out there on both fronts, but nothing can detract from the fact the industry is in a state of flux. As a new author, it’s incredibly difficult to know which route to focus on, not helped by conflicting advice from both sides of the fence.

However, one quote really stands out for me:

“The self-publishing community is focused on the reader. It’s not my agent, publisher or bookstore who is my customer – it’s the reader.” – Hugh Howey at this week’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

For me, this cuts to the core of why I write. I’m under no illusions; I’m not going to get rich from writing no matter which route I choose but depending on who you listen to, the chances of getting noticed are greater if you go the traditional route. Securing an agent is tantamount to a stamp of approval and without an agent the publishers are reluctant to take any new author seriously.

But on the flip side of the traditional publishing coin is the lack of control. Let’s say for the sake of this argument, I secure an agent (an achievement in itself!) from what I’ve read, once I’ve signed a contract, my work is no longer my own. The book I’ve spent years perfecting becomes someone else’s property. I lose control of it and the percentage of royalties I get from each sale is miniscule.

‘But publishers get books into bookstores,’ I hear you cry. Sometimes they do, but in all honesty I can’t remember the last time I bought a book from a bookstore (and I adore books). Why would I pay a premium when I can download it on the Kindle for less? Book stores are in trouble and so are publishers.

Why not cut out the middle men? Why can’t an author write for the reader and sell direct to the reader? What’s so wrong in that?

There’s no doubt that self-publishing still has a stigma attached to it. ‘Oh, you self-published it…’ As though that somehow diminishes the hundreds sometimes thousands of hours spent on a book.

Agents say you should always try traditional publishing, but of course they would, it’s their livelihood we’re talking about. That’s like asking an Estate Agent if you should sell your house.

I feel, and this is just my opinion, that traditional publishing opens doors but it sacrifices control. So what do I do? What would you do?

We live in exciting times. It has never been easier to publish a book. Eighteen years ago the only option was the agent/publisher route and it was so daunting, so alien, that I didn’t look twice back then, deeming it impossible (I was sixteen at the time). Today, the goalposts have changed, publishing has never been so accessible. That doesn’t mean writing a book worth reading has got any easier; that hasn’t changed, but the way the book is presented to the reader has.

I can spend months/years trying to find an agent. Is that time and energy better spent marketing the book?

I believe, in a few years, publishers will need to make changes to survive. Change how they go about finding talented writers, change how they look after those writers and change their marketing methods.

The quote above galvanises how I feel about publishing. Yes, the self-publishing sea is spilling over with author’s and books, competition is fierce, but I never was one to forgo a challenge.

~~~

Quote Source: https://www.facebook.com/KindleDirectPublishing?hc_location=stream

Note: These are my opinions only and I am by no means an expert, just a writer trying to find her way.

Image above courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

When Writing is Uncomfortable… Where Angels Fear to Tread.

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Image sourced freedigitalphotos.net

Image sourced freedigitalphotos.net

As a writer it’s my job to explore the furthest corners of the human experience and it’s usually a wonderful adventure, fraught with challenges and excitement, but occasionally it can be painful.

I recently had to write a scene that made me incredibly uncomfortable. In my first draft, I skimmed over it, writing what I thought was adequate and moving on. But a kind friend called me out on the lack of reverence in the scene and I was forced to revisit it.

Initially, I had no idea I’d avoided dealing with the ‘bad’ and it wasn’t until going over it that I realised I’d wimped out. I’m not going to go into too much depth about the scene itself; you’ll read that in the book, but needless to say something horrific takes place and my first draft hadn’t done it justice.

So, knowing I needed to get to grip with the emotional fallout, I mentally prepared myself for what was to come by shoring up my defences and looking at the scene again with a critical eye. Having prepared myself for the tough task ahead, I was able to see where I’d misstepped – where I’d skirted around the raw necessity of exploring the pain my character was going through. In avoiding the horror, I hadn’t done him justice. A mortal sin for any writer.

This got me thinking about how, as writers, if we are to be true to our characters we sometimes visit things we would rather avoid. I read a quote recently, to paraphrase, ‘Don’t blame the author for the actions of their characters’. A similar thing can be said for the experiences of the characters. I might write my characters into horrific circumstances, but to fully explore the potential of a story, we must go where angels fear to tread. On a personal level I don’t want to witness the tragedy (hence my first draft skim-over); it’s like watching a horror moving through your fingers, but we must put ourselves directly in their shoes and channel the deep, heart-wrenching emotions if we are to treat our stories with the reverence they deserve.

It can be painful; it should be painful. It’s only when it hurts we know we’re doing it right.

A Few Stumbles Along the Way ~ Dealing with Criticism

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signI want to start this post by saying thank you to all those published authors out there. You did it. You’re nothing short of amazing because it’s not easy.

I’ve spent the week dealing with several major hurdles along my journey to publish. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, with more down’s than up’s but I’ve emerged from it with some excellent weapons in my arsenal.

A writer’s journey is a lonely one and we only have ourselves to blame if we screw up. Last week I learnt all about those screw ups and how to deal with them (or not to deal with them, as the case my be).

By far, the most difficult part of my journey so far has been dealing with criticism. Everything was fine and dandy when I wrote stories for myself and then tossed them in the drawer never to be seen by outside eyes. But as soon as I decided to publish, I opened the door to criticism and now there’s no going back.

I’ve never been very good at dealing with criticism. I’m a 5″1′ red-head with a heady concoction of Irish, Gypsy and Jewish blood in my veins. When faced with criticism I tend to dig my heels in and get my claws out. This is a fault of mine, and one that I’ve never really been bothered to master. However, criticism, when it’s valid, is gold dust and to ignore it would be a foolish thing to do.

I’ve realised, when facing criticism there are three choices:

  • Ignore it
  • Buckle under it
  • Learn from it

At the beginning of last week I was lucky enough to receive some praise. Yay, I thought, I can do this. Not long after, the criticism came and boy did it hurt. But I’ve been writing for years, that means I know what I’m doing, right? Nope. It means I’ve been putting words on a piece of paper for years. Anyone can do that. Publishing something worth reading is a whole different ball game.

I was naive if I thought this journey wouldn’t be painful in places, but all was not lost, criticism can be kind. Initially, my claws came out, I reacted out of instinct to protect my work. It was only after slinking off to lick my wounds that the harsh words began to ring true. I could have ignored it. I could have buckled under it and let it beat me (it crossed my mind) but I did the only sensible thing and learnt from it. I took a step back, tried to look at the overall picture objectively and you know what, the criticism was bang on the money. I was wrong.

So, when it comes to criticism I’ve come to realise the following:

Criticism is subjective (Unless it’s a professional opinion).

Not all criticism is valid (You know your work better than anyone else).

It’s unlikely to be personal (Don’t let it beat you down).

Ignore it & nobody wins.

I want my work to be the best it can be. If that means swallowing my pride, so be it. I may have stumbled at the first hurdle, but I got back up again.

As writers we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and continue on our path. Maybe a little bruised, but with renewed determination in our eyes. Any journey worth doing isn’t going to be easy.

Ivy (Short Story)

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freedigitalphotos.netDetective Inspector Ray Jones checked his watch and winced at the late hour, he picked up his pace. He should have been home ten minutes ago. A uniformed officer brushed by him, the brief contact sloshing the cup of coffee in Ray’s left hand, splashing its hot contents over his fingers. He muttered a curse, ignoring the officer’s hurried apology.

Training DI Marsh was already seated in the interview when he arrived, tapping her fingernails on the table. Her steely gaze flicked to Ray before darting to the analogue clock on the wall.

Ray ignored the temptation to explain to her why he was late. Juliette Marsh was younger than him, less experienced and technically his subordinate, but that didn’t stop her from expressing her general dissatisfaction with Ray’s work ethic. Pulling out a plastic chair beside Marsh, its legs scuffing the vinyl floor, he placed his coffee on the table and sat, trying to establish a facade of composure whilst straitening his shirt cuffs.

Mind focused firmly on the task at hand, he lifted his gaze to watch the accused woman pace back and forth, the click of her heels punctuating each step. He took a sip of his coffee, stealing a few moments to get a feel for the ambience around the accused before diving right in with the questions. A minor headache was beginning to tighten the back of his neck, he rubbed at the pain and watched the accused snap her attention to him.

Ray momentarily hesitated, unaccustomed to receiving such a penetrative stare. He’d experienced his fair share of disgruntled criminals, received a few punches, been spat at, kicked at, attacked with various weapons but there was something in this woman’s gaze that roused a sense of trepidation within him. She wasn’t someone he would peg as dangerous, her slim fitting clothes, dainty top and snug jeans, revealed a lithe but hardly muscular physique. The sweeping lattice work of tribal tattoos climbing both her bare arms appeared to be the most aggressive thing about her and yet he couldn’t deny the creeping sense if unease.

“Shall we proceed?” Marsh asked, still tapping her fingernails on tabletop.

Ray cleared his throat, leaning back while drawing in a deep breath. “Ivy May,’ he said, letting the accused’s name hang in the air. “Is that your real name?”

Ivy released the DI from her stare and continued her pacing, crossing the room back and forth, strides swift.

Ray rested an arm on the table, rubbing his fingertips together as he watched her march. She was making no attempt at hiding her anxiety, as though it wasn’t the Detectives she feared. Everything about her was in motion, from the darting gaze to the restless tapping of her fingers on her thigh. It had a slightly dizzying effect, forcing Ray to look away and refocus before continuing his questioning.

“Well, Ivy May, we don’t seem to be able to find you registered anywhere, so why don’t you tell us your real name so we can move this process along.”

Ivy wasn’t listening, not really. She heard the DI’s voice, knew the meaning of his words, but nothing in this room was relevant. The upright and professional T/DI Marsh had tried to reach Ivy with smalltalk, but the woman’s words were little more than flies trapped in the room with them. These two people were oblivious to the danger. While they tried to determined who she was, Ivy was struggling to find a way out of this without revealing her true self, and that wasn’t something she could do lightly. The punishment for that would be severe, more severe than if she just accepted the fate the two Detectives were determined to deal her.

She wouldn’t survive prison. She had barely survived the cells they had locked her in overnight. The cold concrete had leeched the warmth from her flesh, the steel door bleeding the light from within her. She couldn’t stay here another night and if they didn’t let her go soon then she would have no choice but to fight for her own survival.

“Ivy,” Ray drew her wayward attention back to him, feeling the full weight of her gaze once more. He shifted in the chair, inexplicably uncomfortable. “Why don’t you tell us who the man was, the one we found you with.”

Ivy stopped pacing. She rubbed her bare arms, fingers lightly brushing across the intricate tribal tattoos as though she could draw strength from the markings. She lifted her head, looking into the pale glare of the artificial fluorescent lights.

“He…” her voice failed her, forcing her to swallow and moisten her lips, “He was nobody.”

Ray couldn’t place her curiously sing-song accent, she certainly wasn’t local. He pushed the mental query aside and continued. “Well, clearly he was someone. Would you like to explain how you came to be found kneeling over his dead body?”

Ivy slid her green eyes back to the male Detective. She hadn’t bothered to really notice him until now. His hazel eyes betrayed an age approaching forty, short brown hair speckled with splinters of grey, whilst his plain dark green shirt and black trousers did little to reveal much of his personality. She did however notice a few top buttons were undone, as were those at his cuffs. His shirt was etched with as many creases as his weary expression. She noticed he wore a gold wedding ring, his fingers often touching the band. Detective Jones had a heavy soul.

He shifted in his seat and Ivy recognised his restlessness as a sign of his instincts warning him off. He would do well to listen.

Marsh’s chair scraped across the floor as she abruptly stood, breaking the heavy silence that had enveloped the interview room. “This is where you stand, Miss May. You were found beside the body of an unidentified man. You have made no attempt to declare whether you’re innocent or guilty, until you tell us otherwise we’re going to treat you as a suspect. Do you understand?”

Ivy pinched her lips together, eyes narrowing on the younger Detective. “Of course I understand.”

“So why don’t you explain what happened?”

It was such a simple question, but there was no hope of the Detectives’ understanding her. She had killed Damien. She was guilty. Partly because it was her job to kill those that defied the laws, but mostly because she had wanted to. Damien had hurt her so deeply, both physically and mentally, she wouldn’t even know where to begin. How do you explain to two mortals the depths at which an eternal being can be tortured. If she tried to explain, they’d lock her up. If she didn’t explain, they’d lock her up.

Ivy’s shoulders dropped, despair pressing down on her. She didn’t want to hurt these people, even the ambitious Detective Marsh. They didn’t belong in her fight, and yet it was her fault they were now a part of it.

Ray frowned, sensing a change in the dynamics between them. The lights above flickered. He leant forward, lifting his chin and meeting Ivy’s gaze full on.

“You can tell us.” He said.

Ivy smiled. She slowed her breathing, accepting the inevitable. The only way out of this room and away from this building was to drop the act and reveal what she was. If the Authority discovered what she had done she’d find herself on the run from both sides, but what choice did she have.

“I like you, Detective Jones.” She said. He misread her tone as an attempt at flattery and let the comment roll off him, Ivy wasn’t concerned. “You should spend more time with your wife.”

Ray closed his hand, wedding ring glinting in the pale light. This woman was right and had the advice come from anyone else he would have ignored them, but there was something woven through Ivy’s words, a thread of truth, as though she knew him. He tried to recall if they had met before, ignoring Marsh’s skewed glances.

Ivy dropped her hands to her sides, the delicate tingling of magic tickling her fingertips. It would be a relief to shake off this mortal guise, like a snake shedding its dried and brittle skin. She called the power within forth, whispering to it, embracing it like a long lost friend and as she did she felt the strength of it swell beneath her skin, swirling around the tattoo ink across her arms, up and over her shoulders. She rolled her shoulders, easing the suffocating layers of illusion from her skin.

Ray’s chair toppled as he jerked to his feet. Had he seen correctly? A purple light seemed to writhe beneath Ivy’s exposed skin, rippling the tattoos like things alive. Marsh backed up, disbelieving what she was seeing unfurl before her.

Ivy’s very appearance shimmered like that of a reflection sinking in a lake. The air around them crackled with energy, the touch of it sending shivers darting through Ray. He found it difficult to look directly at her, shielding his eyes with the crook of his arm. The tattoos had become writhing, living things, dark tendrils reaching outward, tasting the air, whilst others wrapped around Ivy’s arms like armour. Behind her, translucent wings unfurled, fanning outwards, their ragged tips touching the ceiling. Marbled light swirled across their gossamer surface.

Marsh ran for the door, trying to handle only to find it locked against her. She hammered, hollering for help.

Ray couldn’t look away. He had never witnessed anything so beautiful and yet been so afraid. For she appeared like a angel, but there was a darkness about her. Clothing gone, wrapped tightly in the tattoos, he could see how her skin appeared to breathe both light and dark. The wings shivered, dark soot-like dust falling from their edges. Whatever she was, it wasn’t godly.

Ivy reached out a hand to him, palm up, sharp nails glinting like claws. Ray stepped back, trembling limbs flushed with icy fear. He knew he should run, his heart raced, body prepared to flee and yet he couldn’t move.

Marsh had seen enough, she kicked at the door with renewed vigour.

Ivy threw an arm out, the movement casting some invisible force into Ray’s partner, slamming her against the door. She crumpled in a heap, dead, unconscious, Ray wasn’t sure. He forced himself to meet Ivy’s emerald eyes.

“I have a little boy. Please…” he said.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” Ivy lowered her offered hand. “I just wanted you to see that there are more things in this world than you know, some which do not have explanations.”

She opened her arms, summoning the energy swirling around her, breathing it back into her. Her dark wings fluttered and began to fade, dissolving like dreams upon waking. The dark tendrils of armour began to unravel, loose threads spilling free, lashing around Ivy before retreating into the markings running up her arms. Within moments, she was normal again, just a woman. Just a young woman standing relaxed before Ray.

Ray’s breath came in short panting gasps. The normality surrounding them felt cold and alien, nothing would be normal again. As Ivy approached him he made no attempt to move, fear and a curious desire conspiring to delay his instincts to run.

“Detective Ray Jones,” she said, briefly skipping a light touch across the roughness of his jawline, “I cannot be here, with you. It’s time I left. I’m going to walk out that door and you aren’t going to stop me. Trust me when I say the man I killed deserved to die. You continue doing your job and I’ll do mine.”

She turned to leave but Ray snatched her wrist. Ivy looked at his grip as though it had stung her, then met Ray’s gaze once more. He was scared of her, and he didn’t know the half of it, and yet he was prepared to stand up to her. Ivy respected that.

“I can’t let you go.” He said, voice surprisingly calm.

A brightness danced in Ivy’s eyes, a hint of mischief. “You don’t have a choice.”

He didn’t want to physically let go. Their touch felt weighted, a gesture laden with emotion. “What do I tell them?” There would be so many questions. You don’t let a suspect in a murder enquiry walk out the door, not without ramifications.

Ivy flicked her hair back, taking a breath. Ray’s warm touch sparked a surprising reaction deep at her core, in a place of weakness and vulnerability, a place she thought Damien had long ago destroyed. “By tomorrow morning there won’t be a body. No body. No murder. It’s none of your concern. Lose it in paperwork.” She simply couldn’t stay another night surrounded by the manmade barriers of concrete and steel, it would kill her.

Ray bowed his head, unconvinced. He could lose his job over this, his career.

Ivy tipped his chin up, searching his eyes for the source of his sudden sorrow. “Perhaps it’s for the best.”

He reluctantly let her wrist slip from his grip and with it any hope of an explanation. He watched her crouch down by Marsh and touch her arm, instantly his partner began to stir. Ivy left the interview room, the door clicking quietly closed behind her. Ray listened to the retreating click of her heels until all he could hear was the buzzing of the lights above and the sound of his own ragged breathing.

He checked his watch. The second hand continued to tick the passing of time and yet he still should have been home ten minutes ago. He let that thought stew in the back of his mind as he helped Marsh to her feet. She searched the room behind him but there was no indication of the nightmare she had witnessed.

Marsh leant against Ray, her body feeling a little disconnected. “What the hell just happened?”

“You passed out.”

“I did? But I thought…”

He arched an eyebrow, wondering whether the lie would hold. It would have to do for now. He could delete the interview recording later once he’d listened to it. He needed to know it had been real, that she had been real, because with every passing second he began to doubt himself. A glance at his watch, Marsh’s acceptance. He could believe his own lie and life would return to normal.

“I have to get home.”

Marsh nodded, pressing the back of her hand to her clammy forehead. “Sure, I think I’ll do the same. What happened to our interviewee?”

“She didn’t show.”

“Shouldn’t we find out where she is?”

Ray left his partner behind, ignoring the question, searching the faces of those he passed for any sign of suspicion. How had anyone not heard or seen anything. How was that possible? He needed to get outside, to get out of the building and away from its stifling normality.

He refused to believe his own lies. It had been real. Ivy had been real and he wasn’t entirely sure what he intended to do with that information. Had Ivy taken a disliking to him, she could have quite easily killed him, of that he was certain. She spoke of having a job to do, like him. What did it all mean? For now, he would be content to just see his Son again, to make amends with his wife. Tomorrow he would check with the coroner for the status of the body; tomorrow would determine how he lived the rest of his life, but tomorrow could wait.