Hallowe’en story


Ten-minute story from our Hallowe’en writing class:

Josie pulled up outside the cottage, switched off the headlights and sat for a moment, engine idling, looking around. She’d found herself at the end of long winding lane, lined with trees and with no sign of any other properties close by. The owners hadn’t mentioned how remote it was when she’d signed up to house sit for two weeks while they went off to Caribbean.

She made a mental note to update the house-sitting agency then, with dusk falling, she switched the headlights back on to give herself enough light to find her way into the cottage. She’d have packed her torch in her handbag if she’d known it was going to be like this.

From what she could see the cottage looked picture-postcard perfect; roses still tumbled over the front of it and the honeysuckle climbing up and over the porch had kept its fragrant flowers despite autumn fast approaching. It would be cosy inside with the fire lit to take off the slight chill of the approaching evening, Josie thought, using the key that the agent had sent to open the door.

With the car unloaded and locked she set about settling in, unpacking her few belongings, putting food in the fridge and switching on the lamps throughout the ground floor. The owners had thoughtfully left the log burner laid, matches at the side, so she lit it and sat back. The cats must have gone into hiding from the stranger in the house. Three of them, the information sheet said. They’d no doubt appear as the evening progressed.

Two hours later she was settled on the sofa, glass of wine in hand and one cat on her knee, the other two snuggled in beside her. The fire was glowing and Josie smiled to herself. Doing this and getting paid for it was the best job in her life so far.

The lights flickered once, twice and then died. Josie sat on for a minute or two, hoping they might come back to life, the room dimly lit by the glow of the fire. Just as she was wondering whether to go in search of a torch and hunt out the fuse box the cat on her lap sat up and looked around the room, ears pricked. It made a low, growling sound, a sound echoed by the two cats at her side. They were all on their feet now, backs arched and fur on end, staring at the curtained window.

‘Sssh,’ Josie soothed, trying to stroke them back into settling down. But they were having none of it. There must be a dog outside, or maybe a fox, she thought. Were cats frightened of foxes? She stood up and went over to the window, drawing back the curtain. The wind had got up and the rambling rose around the window was tapping at the glass, as if trying to get in. Perhaps it was this that had startled the cats?

Then she saw something. Two eyes, glowing red like the embers of the fire, staring right at her. For a moment she thought she was seeing the reflection of the fire but the eyes moved. They were getting closer, coming towards the window. The cats yowled and fled as one into the dark hallway. Josie heard their paws scrabbling on the stairs as they fought each other to be first to escape.

She flung the curtain back across the window and stepped back. She stood rigid then, as realisation dawned that it was somehow worse not knowing what was out there, she stretched out her trembling fingers to take hold of the fabric. As she did so, she heard the shriek of a terrified animal from upstairs, punctuated by a low growl somewhere out in the dark of the night.

To be continued…


October ramblings

The first week of the month brought the much-anticipated launch of ‘Ella’s Journey’. It was a steep learning curve – mainly because I wasn’t sure quite what to expect! After a lovely review – thank you gingerbookgeek – and a couple of online Q & A features, I realized that I needed to set up author pages, work on my author Facebook page and – biggest challenge – try to get to grips with Twitter. (I’m still working on that one…) Then it was over to me to attempt to drum up reviews and publicity. The newspaper in the town where I went to school did a big feature, the Kent Mercury included me in their book pages and the village magazine featured me too. Otherwise, a lot of time has been spent checking the Amazon and Kobo charts at least twice a day, particularly the position in the saga charts. There was elation when it got into the low twenties and mid-thirties, anxiety as it slipped back towards the seventies.


I did have a few people over for drinks on launch night, though, and that was a lot of fun! And I made my first-ever batch of quince jelly, and a second batch of quince cheese – much more successful than the first, which one bemused recipient described as resembling pigs liver…

The garden has been much neglected, although I began to get to grips with it towards the end of the month. It’s hard to put it to bed for the winter just yet, with so much still in flower – or am I just making excuses?


The neighbours’ cat has decided she wants to adopt me and, as soon as I open the back door, has become skilled at shooting straight into the house, up the stairs and onto her favourite duvet in the spare bedroom. She knows I’m a soft touch…

Book publicity and related matters all rather took over the month, but I did manage to send book three in the Mill Valley Girls series, ‘Sarah’s Story’ to my agent for a first read and, at the end of the month, following a research trip to Margate on a glorious day, I got stuck into a new story I have been wanting to get on with. Over 6,000 words after less than a week – not too bad!


The morning of Hallowe’en found a beautifully carved pumpkin sitting on my doormat! Some interesting things find their way to me in the countryside… It was put to good use that night at writing group, where we wrote ghost stories and read them out by pumpkin lantern light (with the aid of a torch).