The Neal James Website


Guest Author

Submission Guidelines


As an opportunity for fellow writers to have greater exposure, this section of my website is reserved for those wishing to make a written contribution to its pages.

Each month, a fresh third party will be given the chance to list here a submission of their choice, together with a suitable image for the piece of work. If you are interested send a message via the mailing address below, and we'll go from there.

Content will be scrutinised to ensure that it fits in with the rest of the site's tone and appearance, but every effort will be made to accommodate those wanting to take part.

I need the following documents, please:

1   Your book cover or any suitable short story image.

2   The back cover 'blurb' if you are submitting a book for promotion.

3   A picture of you - a headshot should suffice.

4   Your biography in no more than 250 words.

5   An excerpt from your book - the first chapter should be enough, but no more than 5,000 anyway. If you are submitting a short story please           limit it to this word count.

Mailing address is: [email protected]


March 2023 -   Mark J. Edmondson


Mark J. Edmondson is an author, originally born in Bolton, but now living in Atherton, Manchester.


Writing has been a big part of his life for a long time and more books are to be released very soon.


All Alone is a suspense novel, the first in The Whitford Story books.


All Alone

Oliver, aged ten, is not only trapped in his own mind, but also his home, when his mum leaves him alone and doesn’t return. He starts to fear the worst as he wonders how she could just disappear.

Oliver has to find the strength to look after himself, while also trying to find the reason for his mum’s disappearance.

Will he be able to face his darkest fears of the outside world to find the truth? Or will he have to survive on his own from now on?

All Alone takes the reader into places they may not wish to go, as Oliver desperately tries to be reunited with his mum.

ISBN  9798427887922


Find Mark Here


Saturday 1st May



Whitford had everything every other town had; a church, a primary school, a secondary school, a bus and train station, a library, and a retail park that had suddenly appeared as if by magic several years earlier. There was an industrial park on the outskirts with several factories where most of the town worked; those who didn’t commute to Manchester to make a living. But the industrial park was hidden away, only accessed by a long road leading off the carriageway where if you blinked you missed it. So the town still appeared scenic to anyone passing through, with all the huge industrial buildings out of view. Apart from the council estate on the east side which was mainly flats and bungalows, most of the town had semi-detached houses with front gardens and low bricked walls. The more expensive houses were situated on the main road that led through the town. These houses were only affordable to the likes of doctors, politicians and professional footballers. Because of this ‘millionaires’ row’, as people referred to it, Whitford had a reputation of being a more sought-after area. Even though there were only twelve houses that fit that description, the rest all being more affordable family homes, and just one or two in between.


The population was around eight thousand, which didn’t quite mean that everyone knew everyone, but it seemed as though most of the people who lived there were all connected one way or another. Whether it was by their kids going to the same school, or by working in the factories or the stores at the retail park. There was some truth in the fact that it was a close-knit community. The church was still a regular meeting place for many, although numbers in the congregation had dwindled over the years. And the local football and cricket teams were another way of everyone coming together, gathering for the weekly games, standing on the side-lines and catching up on the local gossip. And the players from the older teams would of course go for a drink in one of the two pubs in the town, or the bar at the cricket ground, or even the small public house at the bowling club. There was always something going on. If not a sports event, there would be a spring fair, or a bring and buy sale at the community hall. Whitford was too big to be referred to as a village, but there was certainly a village feel to the place.


Oliver Derwent, aged ten, lived in Whitford with his mum. He was drawing a picture at the desk in his bedroom with the charcoal pencils his mum had bought him the previous week. The picture was of the tractor he could see in the distance through the window. It was parked in the field behind the farmhouse further along the lane. It was quite a way from where he was, but he could just about see it well enough to draw a reasonably accurate picture.


The sun shone through the window creating a diagonal shadow across the page. This didn’t bother him, or distract him. He was enjoying the warmth on his right forearm as he gently moved the pencil over the paper. His left arm felt a little cooler as it rested in the shade. He could hear his mum pacing around the house, getting ready to go out shopping, but despite that, and the chirping noises from the birds speaking to each other in their own language as they did every morning outside his window, Oliver was fully focused on his drawing. He always preferred to draw in pencil or charcoal. His teacher, Mrs Wheaton, was always telling him to add some colour to his work, saying things like, ‘That would look nice if it was a little brighter,’ or ‘Why don’t you at least colour the sky in blue?’. But he had no intentions of doing so. He liked his drawings just the way they were. All the shades of black and grey would allow him to tell the story just fine. He didn’t need colour. And he couldn’t imagine ever changing the way he created his works of art. He didn’t draw for other people’s approval. He drew for himself and himself alone. Although it did make him a little happier when his mum said she liked them. But even if she didn’t say anything about his pictures, he would still continue to draw. This was how he liked to spend most of his time; in fact, almost all of his time. He would stop to eat, or drink, or watch the occasional cartoon on television, but other than that, drawing was what he loved to do.


  Over the last couple of years, his mum had been asked to go into school because of the drawings he’d created. She’d had to go in at least five or six times. Oliver didn’t understand what the problem was. People sometimes die, so why couldn’t he draw a picture of a dead person? And the drawing of the graveyard was his best work yet. He’d spent hours getting the shading just right on that one, just for Mrs Wheaton to phone his mum again, asking her to go into school for another meeting. He really didn’t understand. And he really didn’t know what there was to discuss. He just enjoyed drawing, and he drew whatever he wanted. He didn’t care if the drawings weren’t to other people’s taste, he just had to do it. Once he’d seen something he wanted to draw, whether it was something real in front of him, or something that had jumped into his mind’s eye, he couldn’t not draw it. It was like an itch he had to scratch and it wouldn’t go away until he’d seen it on paper. It didn’t bother him too much if it didn’t turn out how he’d wanted, or how he’d imagined it to be. He just had to see the finished product in front of him before he could relax and move on to the next project. If a thought or an idea popped into his head while he was at school, he would think about it all day and run home as fast as he could once the school day had ended. Unless he was lucky enough to have had one of these images climb into his brain on a day when there was an art lesson. If that was the case, he would work on the drawing at school until it was finished. Even if it meant him missing his breaktime. And he’d much rather stay inside and draw than run around outside with the other kids. He preferred the gentle sound of the pencil sliding across the paper to the annoying noise of the other kids all running around, screaming and shouting.


Oliver lived in a bungalow next to Hunter’s Farm. His home felt more like living in the countryside to him and his mum. It was surrounded by fields, and there was a small forest at the back that led through to the town centre via a nature trail that passed the pond everyone called the bucket. Oliver didn’t know why it was called that, and he didn’t know if it was its real name or just a nickname the locals gave it. And it was certainly bigger than a bucket. It was a little bigger than the large swimming pool he went to in the town with school.


He used to like going to the bucket, feeding the ducks while he sat on one of the benches next to the water, or maybe having a picnic on the grass. But this was something he hadn’t done for a long time. Not since his dad had left.


Oliver briefly glanced up from his picture as his mum walked into the room. She was dressed in her red skirt and white blouse, her hair and make-up as perfect as ever. She would always spend a lot of time getting ready, and she always looked nice by the time she left the house. But Oliver didn’t like it when she wore skirt like that one. Whenever she dressed in her more colourful clothes, people would stare; usually men, but he’d sometimes see other women looking her up and down with a disapproving expression on their faces. Occasionally men would shout things or whistle. His mum didn’t seem to like it. She would always tut or shake her head while walking away. But she still dressed that way. Her clothes were always bright and colourful. He felt as though this always gave her unwanted attention of some sort. Oliver really didn’t like it when people would do this to her. He’d thought on many occasions about telling them off. But he didn’t think they would listen to him. Maybe when he was older, he could tell them to cut it out, and maybe they would listen then. After all, they had no right treating his mum that way.


  ‘OK, sweetheart, I’m off to the supermarket. Are you sure you don’t want to come?’ she said, standing at the side of him with her hand on his shoulder.


  ‘I’ll stay,’ he said, still drawing.


  His mum leaned over and kissed him on the top of his head before looking at the picture. ‘That’s nice, Ollie. You like the charcoal pencils then?’


  He nodded as he carried on shading.


  The smell of her perfume was overpowering. He wanted to cough, but he fought it, not wanting to offend her like he did a few weeks earlier. The smell was nice, but whenever she’d only just sprayed it, it would always smell much stronger, and it would tickle the back of his throat. He could still smell it on her when she’d arrive back from her shopping trip, but by then it wouldn’t be as strong.


  ‘You’re not going to...’


Oliver interrupted by sticking the pencil into the noisy electric pencil sharpener that was fastened to his desk.


His mum started again. ‘You’re not going to draw a dead body under the tractor, are you?’


  Oliver shook his head before pointing to the tractor outside.


  His mum leaned over him to look into the distance. ‘Excellent. It’s very good,’ she said, looking back at the half-finished picture.




  ‘You’re getting better and better. One day you’ll be a famous artist.’


After a brief silence as she watched him draw, she said, ‘See, if you had a games console, that would distract you and you wouldn’t be as good.’


  Oliver had asked for a games console for the last two Christmases and birthdays. He knew they were expensive, and he knew this was something his mum couldn’t afford. But everyone else had one, so he thought he should have one too. He did have one a few years ago that stopped working, but he’d heard they’d changed a bit since then. Deep down, he wondered if he did actually want something like that. Just because it was all everyone ever talked about at school didn’t mean it would be something he would enjoy.


Drawing was his passion, and he didn’t really want anything to get in the way of that. And the games console he had when his dad still lived with them – as great as it was to play with another person like his mum or dad – he found that he became bored of it when playing on his own. He knew the new consoles would’ve been much better by now, even though it was only a few years ago. But he still wasn’t sure it was what he wanted. Asking for one just felt like the right thing to do. He wondered if he should tell his mum he wasn’t that bothered, just in case she was putting money aside, trying to save up. That money would be better used on other things, like decent food instead of the cheap stuff she would normally buy. And she’d talked about needing new windows for the bungalow before now. He didn’t know what was wrong with the ones they had. Although he had noticed the wood crumbling a little on the outside frame of his bedroom.


  From the corner of his eye, he watched his mum pick up the unopened pack of coloured pencils from his desk. ‘I see these were a waste of money,’ she said.


  He smiled and carried on with his shading.


  ‘Right, I’m going. Is there anything you want?’ she said as she walked away.


  ‘Chocolate,’ he said.


  ‘I know that,’ she answered, then turned back to him. ‘You be good.’




  ‘I’ll be back in twenty minutes,’ she said as she left the room.


  ‘Mum!’ Oliver shouted.


  She poked her head around the door.


  ‘I heard voices this morning.’


  She suddenly looked a little flustered, as though he’d asked her something he shouldn’t. ‘Voices?’


  ‘Yes. It was really early. The sun was up, but I think it was only about six o’clock. It sounded like a man talking.’


  ‘Oh... err... that was just the television. I fell at sleep on the sofa last night so the TV was still on when I woke up.’


  ‘OK,’ Oliver said.


  After a moment’s silence, she said, ‘Twenty minutes, OK?’, smiling once more.


  Shortly after, he heard his mum go through the door in the kitchen that led to outside, and then she locked it. Oliver then heard the car making its usual grinding sounds before it finally started. It then fell quieter and quieter as his mum drove the car down the lane until he could no longer hear it.


  The bungalow was on the outskirts of Whitford. It was a long way from anywhere else in the town as it was built on the land of Hunter’s Farm. It stood at the bottom of the long and dusty gravel road that led from the carriageway. The farmhouse was about fifty metres away. Oliver occasionally had to walk past the farm to go to school, usually when his mum’s car wasn’t working.


He didn’t like the farm. Mostly because of the huge German Shepherd who went by the name of Kaiser; Oliver was terrified of him. Kaiser was mostly black with the odd patch of brown on his chest. He always had a trail of spit hanging from the corners of his mouth, and he had one white eye. Oliver didn’t know if he’d been injured at some point in his life or if he was born that way. But he looked all the more menacing for it; a menacing image Oliver had seen in many of his nightmares. He was a vicious dog, and he would run at Oliver barking and snarling whenever he walked by. He hadn’t bitten him as of yet because the farmer would always shout him back before he did. But Oliver always wondered what would happen if the farmer wasn’t there one day. Was Kaiser’s bark worse than his bite? Or would he sink his teeth into the back of his neck as he tried to run away?


Oliver didn’t like the farmer much either. His name was Len Hunter, and he was horrible. He was a bit younger than his mum, and he was thin and pale with messy hair. Oliver especially didn’t like his eyes. He didn’t know what it was about them, but they looked evil to him. He also looked at Oliver’s mum in the way he didn’t like, just like all the other men did; only worse. Mr Hunter would put his hands on his hips and make a groaning sound as he looked her up and down. Oliver didn’t like people doing that. He understood that his mum was pretty. She had long dark, wavy hair, and he’d heard people say she had curves to die for, whatever that meant. Usually, it was a woman who would say that to her, which his mum didn’t seem to mind. But it was when men stared at her that she wasn’t happy, and neither was Oliver. Which is why he didn’t want to go to the supermarket. He’d rather stay at home and draw.


  He looked at the clock on his bedroom wall. This was something he did often, especially when his mum had gone out. He didn’t mind being left alone, but he was always a little anxious. He was much happier when she was home. The clock read thirteen minutes past eleven, so if his mum was back within twenty minutes, then she should be home by eleven thirty-three, he thought. But he knew she wouldn’t be. It was going to be at least an hour. It always was.