I am so looking forward to sharing this story with all of you!
A few years back, I had finished a re-read of North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell, and was pondering on what an unusual protagonist Margaret Hale was. Someone who was quiet and reserved, yet passionate for justice and a fiercely loyal friend. It was her quietness that stood out the most to me. How often do we see a protagonist who is deeply reserved, quiet, and yet never a pushover and rarely passive?
I had already, at that point, been mulling over the possibility of writing a straight-up detective story, no fantastic elements involved at all, and one set in my home town, or at least the region around where I grew up.
My ever-present love for Dorothy L Sayers’ scholarly-minded and ruthlessly honest Harriet Vane combined with my appreciation for Margaret Hale, and behold, I had the start of a new character for a new series: Pauline Gray.
Set in my hometown of Canton, NY, in the 1930s, the series begins with Candles in the Dark. In it, we meet Pauline Gray, a young woman and scholar who graduated from St. Lawrence University with honors and has struggled to find work she considers meaningful ever since. She writes a regular column for a local newspaper and secretly supplements her income by writing cheap adventure novels, something which she is ashamed of, as she considers it an affront to her dreams of writing something that matters.
Into this imperfect but well-ordered life comes a mystery which she feels compelled to solve, because no one else cares or has the ability to pursue it. Even though her instinct is to stay as far away from anything so sordid as murder and anonymous letters as possible, her sense of justice won’t let her indulge such fastidiousness.
In Diamonds to Dust, the second novella, Pauline is a little more ready to jump into a mystery when asked to help, though she still struggles with the ugliness of it all. She has found she takes both intellectual satisfaction as well as moral satisfaction from solving troubles no one else can or will. She would still prefer not to have to write her adventure stories, but so far no better work has turned up. (It might take her a while to get her priorities straight and figure out the true nature of meaningful work.)
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Pauline, as well as her friends and neighbors, through these first two novellas. This series combines two wonderful things for me as a writer: a character I find challenging and satisfying to draw, and a setting that reflects an area I know and love well.
I am already working on the next novella in the series, and I have tentative outlines for three more after that. After that, who knows?
If this description of Pauline Gray has intrigued you, Candles in the Dark is available to purchase through all the usual channels, and Diamonds to Dust will be out August 14. One small request: if you read and enjoy Candles in the Dark, would you be so kind to leave a review at whatever retailer you purchased it from, and/or at Goodreads? The more reviews a story has, the easier it is for other readers to discover it. Thank you so much, and happy reading!
It’s time! My editor A.M. Offenwanger has sent back the MS from its final proofread, and that means we are awfully close to publishing. Which means it’s time to celebrate by sharing the cover and back copy!
First, though, you all remember Pauline Gray, yes?
Journalist by day, secretly writing adventure novels by night, she dreams of the day she can turn her attention to “serious” academic work rather than these frivolous stories she has to churn out to pay the rent. In the meantime, her attention keeps getting distracted by mysteries no else cares enough to solve. Pauline would prefer a quiet life, but she can’t deny aid to people suffering from injustice, not if it’s within her power to help. Her first adventure was in Candles in the Dark, but it’s by no means her last …
Pauline’s second adventure begins with a plea for help from a local woman bemused by a strange inheritance. It takes her outside of Canton, NY, into the Thousand Islands region, about 60 miles away.
This is the area my dad’s family comes from originally–when my sixth great-grandfather (Samuel Bates) came to the US from England, he eventually settled in Cape Vincent, buying a farm on the mainland as well as one of the smaller of the “thousand” islands on the river. My dad’s mother’s parents had a dairy farm in Clayton for years until they moved to Canton, and my dad was born in Clayton.
It was great fun for me to be able to explore beyond my own hometown and “visit” another area that has ties to my family roots in this story. One of the best parts of writing these novellas is getting to know all these places a bit better than I did before thanks to all the research I do! (And is there any better form of research than calling your dad and saying, “So, Dad, about that island our family used to own …”?)
But enough about the background, I know what you’re interested in is the story itself.
(Are you excited yet?)
(Is the anticipation building?)
Diamonds to Dust, the second Pauline Gray novella, coming August 14, 2020.
It will be available all the usual places–Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Amazon, in the usual ebook and paperback formats. I can’t wait to share it with you all! My one regret in taking 2019 off from non-Patreon writing was putting this story on hold. It was worth it, though–the finished product you’ll be reading is much, much better than it would have been if I’d tried to push the book to be ready sooner.
Mark your calendars! August 14 is the day!
I sat down the other day and wrote out a list of the stories I am working on, and the ones I would like to be working on within the next few years.
It’s quite the list.
First, there’s the next Whitney & Davies book, and the two I have loosely plotted to follow that one. (Both Yorkshire and Cornwall inspired a new W&D story, and I’m really looking forward to getting those written and revisiting both places in my imagination.)
Then there’s the unexpected sequel to From the Shadows, which might??? lead to a third book? I’m still not sure. Quite frankly, there wasn’t even supposed to be a sequel, so clearly I am not the one in charge of these stories, I just go where they direct.
I have plot outlines sketched in for a total of six novellas in the Pauline Gray series, and I would hope to be able to carry that series out even longer so long as the characters and stories don’t get stale–for readers as well as for myself.
You would think that would be enough, wouldn’t you? But no–I have ideas for a middle grade fantasy book, a young adult fantasy book, and a cozy mystery series. And this doesn’t even take into account the stories that pop into every author’s imagination and demand to be written!
I’m not complaining, not at all. It’s wonderful to have such a wealth of stories to play with, so many different worlds and characters to explore and share with readers. I am in no danger of getting bored for the next several years, that’s for certain.
So tell me: what sort of projects do you have teeming in your brain these days? What are some of your short-term and long-term creative goals? Whether it be gardening or knitting or sewing (oh, don’t get me started on my knitting and sewing projects!) or pottery or painting or baking or anything else creative at all! I’d love to get inspired by what’s inspiring you.
Summer is winding down, despite the still-soaring temperatures. School is back in session, for those following a traditional schedule. Trees are starting to show glimpses of color. One or two nights lately have been startlingly cold. Pumpkin spice is back on the shelves of stores and coffee shops. Apples have replaced berries as the most common fruit seen at the farmers market. Glamours and Gunshots has been published.
And, one of the most personally significant signs of autumn for our family this year, our visas have been approved for the next three years in the UK.
First we were counting down months until the move. Now it is weeks. Before too long it will be days. “Just think,” I told Carl this morning as we poured our tea, “less than four weeks before we will be drinking tea in our flat in Cambridge.”
It’s becoming an ever-more vivid reality, but honestly, it’s still hard to fully believe. I suspect it will remain so even for a little bit after we arrive, until our new routine has fallen into place and we’ve started to make friends.
Publication weekend has come and gone for Glamours and Gunshots, and I want to thank all of you who purchased the book, shared posts about it on social media, and otherwise joined in my joy over it. This is my third novel, my fifth book, and it can be easy to get blasé about the process, or to feel that people must be sick of me always talking about my books. Other people’s delight in the story is helpful to remind me that yes, this is a fantastic accomplishment and it’s ok to get excited and be proud of it! I always feel such joy in the writing of the story, and a sense of wonder whenever I complete a book, and I don’t want to lose that joy and wonder in the work of publishing it. So thank you, my friends, for helping to keep me excited and joyful.
(And also, as always, reviews are a lovely way to keep the momentum going on a book and bring other readers into our family of fans–it is sad but true that books with few reviews don’t show up as much in searches, and many readers won’t touch a book with little or no reviews. So if we want others to become part of the fun of the world of Whitney & Davies, reviews are needed!)
As I have wrapped up Glamours and Gunshots, I have been turning my writing attention back to the world of Pauline Gray, the heroine of my historical mystery novella series set in my hometown of Canton, NY. Her second adventure takes place in Clayton, NY as well as Canton, and it’s been great fun researching life in the Thousand Islands during the 1930s for this story. I don’t have a publication date for this one yet, but it is coming along well and I am looking forward to sharing it with all of you. I also have basic plots for four more novellas after this one sketched out, so if you are a fan of Pauline, have no fear! There will be plenty more stories featuring her coming out in the next few years.
The clock is telling me it is time to wrap up this jumble of a post and get to school with the kids. We aren’t in full-blown school mode yet, and won’t be until the move is complete and we are settled in our new home, but we do like to do a little bit each day to keep our brains fresh.
Have a wonderful Wednesday, friends!
Today is the last day to get Candles in the Dark for free! It’s had a fantastic opening weekend, THANK YOU to everyone who has bought a copy and/or spread the word. It means so much to me.
The seed for this story was planted last September–I had finished a reread of Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North & South” and was thinking how rare characters like Margaret Hale are in fiction: quiet, strong-willed, filled with integrity, passionate about justice, willing to acknowledge when she’s made a mistake, fiercely loyal, yet still, and I repeat myself here because this is the rarest bit, quiet.
That mixed in with thinking about how fun it would be to read a mystery set in the Adirondacks with a scholarly protagonist along the lines of Harriet Vane. I grew up “in the foothills of the Adirondacks,” as we always described ourselves in Canton and Potsdam, two towns about ten miles apart with four colleges between them. So many mysteries–or indeed, stories in general–set in small towns focus only on the quirkiness of them, a la Gilmore Girls; or else portray the people in them as small as the towns themselves, narrow-minded and blindly prejudiced.
I wanted my story to show my small town as I knew it–warm, welcoming, open, accepting, full of hard-working, real people. I wanted my protagonist to have that same integrity and passion for justice that Margaret Hale had, with the scholarly mind and desire for honesty Harriet Vane shows. I wanted my story to show the real struggles of a rural, northern farming community during the Depression, which were very different from rural farming communities in the south and midwest. Above all, I wanted it to be a story where justice and truth prevailed and light shone in the darkness.
As to how well I succeeded in all those goals, only you, the reader, can tell. Pick up your copy of Candles in the Dark today, for free, and let me know what you think in a review!
The old Grist Mill I based Wharton’s Mill on, situated on the beautiful Grasse River.
This photo essay shows a little bit more of the Canton I know and love as it is today. It is indeed a beautiful little village!
It’s here! And it’s FREE today, tomorrow, and Monday, so snag it during this opening weekend!
Candles in the Dark, a mystery novella by Louise Bates
Pauline Gray, journalist by day and novelist by night, discovers anonymous letters are being sent to a young widow, insinuating that her husband did not die by accident. Pauline’s compassion and journalistic instincts combine to help her to seek an answer to who is sending these letters, and why. Was Bob Ferris really murdered, and if so, by whom? Before long, Pauline is uncovering evidence of a local smuggling ring and stirring up secrets some people would rather remain buried along with the dead. Despite the danger, Pauline won’t stop until she has shone a light into the hidden places of the past and seen justice done for the grieving widow and her son. No matter what the cost …
Candles in the Dark is set in my hometown of Canton, NY, during the 1930s. It does not feature any of my family members, or friends-and-acquaintances, not even borrowing any last names. Nevertheless, it is as true a representation of that town as I could write. For the first time in any of my stories, I understood how the setting could become another character. Even the parts of the town that have changed since then—the Town Hall burned down long before I was born; the Hotel Harrington has been replaced by a Dollar General; the train station is now a bar—came alive in my imagination as I wrote the story. My dad was always available for all my “Canton in the old days” questions, and I pored over the old photos and memories shared on the Historian Town and Village Canton NY page.
Yet this story was not just a tribute to my home and roots. As it developed, a fine sense of justice for the oppressed, and light shining in the darkness came through. Which is why, as I said in my last post, it is so fitting that this story comes out during the Advent season, the season of coming hope, of promised justice, of peace triumphant, the season of knowing light is returning to the world even if it is not here yet.
So here, as a gift from me to you this Advent, is my mystery novella. I hope it brings as much light to your hearts as it did to mine in the writing of it.