#NaNoWriMo2016 Excerpt Update

Midwife Crisis

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Synopsis

Focusing around the newly appointed midwife of the small town of Strathgoyne, a pub quiz and a stranger in their midst, three women are due to give birth. One woman is looking to be premature; one is looking good for her pre-ordained time; and the third is already three weeks past her due date.

Elspeth McLeod will have to bear all the troubles of her new work while preparing for the pub quiz, all the time trying to work out the mystery of this strange figure in the night.

Excerpt

As the hail flooded the glens surrounding the small village of Strathgoyne, a man squelched through the biting wind and torrential rain, carrying a weighty brown-leather satchel which he had thrust over his aching shoulder. It was a cold night and he hurt from it all over but this was an important mission and there was nothing in the wet world that would stop him from carrying out his self-appointed task.

He had left the large city of Glasgow six hours previously and was exhausted from the arduous drive north. Barely able to keep his eyes open and aching with every step, he was close to collapsing in the muck and the mire. This was, however, something that needed to be done and it was he who had to do it; there were only two others in the world that knew that he held what was contained in his satchel and they were the ones from whom he had to keep it from. Things had gone too far and he couldn’t let these deranged men get their hands on the wares.

The sodden man struggled on, through the dreadful weather. He started to feel that God himself was punishing him for his sins and of course her had many. The man was nowhere near being a good man. He had done many wrongs in his life, some far back in the past and others not twelve hours ago. He had been lustful, greedy beyond compare, slothful in times of idle hands, angry to the point of explosion, envious of many and more prideful than anyone he knew. He had stolen, given out beatings and even killed in the name of ‘the job’ and even taken the honour of more than a few young ladies. The man knew that he was no saint and even considered himself lost to salvation but, as he trudged, stumbled and clambered through the marshy outlands, he was sorry for it all and meant to do this one small act to mark the end of his self orientated life. He had seen his life for what it was and, through the actions of the other two, he saw where the life of thieving and murder would lead. It had to stop some time and it was going to stop here.

As he reached the edge of a concealed grotto entrance, barely seen in the bad weather, he made a vow to turn his life around and leave the past behind forever. From now on, he would live the quiet life and keep away from all temptations of the mind and the flesh. Today was going to be the first day of the rest of his life.

On entering the grotto, the man worked his way to the back of the cave and lay the heavy satchel down on the muck strewn ground and dropped to his knees, worn-out and spent from his gruelling ramble across the saturated wetlands, and started to dig. Not having so much as a trowel to hand, the man used what he could, thrusting his fingers into the ground. He dug and he dug and he dug, till he could dig no more. When he stopped, a hole of around two feet wide and three feet deep lay before him. He roughly mopped the dirt off his hands, onto his shirt, and picked up the ominous satchel, opening it up to look one last time at the contents. His eyes gleamed at the sight but, knowing what he must do, he quickly shut it over once more and fastened it tight. He threw the satchel and its contents into the hole which he had just dug and pushed all the dirt back into its original space in the ground, patting it down for good measure.

The deed done, the man sat himself up against the wall of the grotto and closed his eyes as he waited for the storm to pass. He had completed what he came here to do and now he could rest. There was no way the other two were going to find it now. The contents of the satchel were safe and he could rest in peace.

“A happy heart does as much good as medicine,” Elspeth informed the sour looking expectant father, “but a broken soul dries your bones. Get a smle up on that face of yours and let’s see what can be done to move things along.”

When the previous midwife had left, she had completely emptied the place of all but medical files (of which there were many) and doctoral equipment (of which there was very little). Apparently, her predecessor had always use her own paraphernalia and as such all that was left for Elspeth were a few old and rusty height rods; a fetal stethoscope that should have been disposed of thirty years previously; an old Doppler that had seven missing buttons; a blood pressure cuff that looked like it had been used by Mary Evens back in the eighteenth century; a couple of broken new-born lancets; and one seriously manky bedpan. Elspeth reckoned the use of any one of these, even cleaned by one of those women from off the tele and sterilised with holy fire, would do more harm than good and so the very first thing she did, after finishing her tea, was to throw it all into a black garden binbag and place it out the back for disposal, not even knowing if medical refuse was even a thing this far north.

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Lessons Learned from Agatha Christie: Take Advantage of the Sweet Yet Unreliable Narrator.

Jean Lee's World

I admit that I still confuse “unlikeable” with “unreliable” every now and again. An “unlikeable” narrator is not so much a twit as an asshole. One we just can’t bring ourselves to care about. If the story swallows him up, good riddance. If he gets away with it, then we enjoy imagining how he’ll get his comeuppance in the unwritten pages thereafter.

Captain Hastings is NOT unlikeable. In fact, he’s one of the kindest, loveliest chaps you could ever hope to meet on the page. Affable, thoughtful, and never afraid when things get dicey, he’s the bloke we’d never mind having over for a long visit. Hugh Fraser was a brilliant casting choice for Hastings in the Mystery! presentations of Poirot that ran for decades, what with his bright eyes and sweet smile. In fact, he’s so sweet that we, the audience, can’t bear to smack him with a rolled-up newspaper until…

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