Today we welcome Samantha Priestley to talk about her fifth novel, "A Bad Winter". She'll tell us a bit about it, and has awesomely given us a nice, juicy excerpt (which most definitely made ME want to buy the book!) So, with no further ado, here is Samantha! (Bow, flourish, dramatically exit stage left...)
A Bad Winter is my fifth book and my first ghost story, and it all started with a snippet of a local story from the Peak District, Derbyshire, England. When I read about the murder of a young woman in 1760 in Hill Head House in Bradwell, which is no longer standing, and the strange events that followed, the idea for the book began. The book runs between 1760 and modern day, telling the story of what happened to Sarah Vernon and the people of the village, and what happens to Lorraine when the events of 1760 meet with her own life today. It’s about love and what it drives us to do, the power of belief, and of course, ghosts!
Here’s the opening of the book, hope you like it, leave a comment or ask a question below and I’ll get back to you x
Sometime in the 1760s this happened in Derbyshire
The snow had fallen the day before and tonight, a slow wind curling in the valley, all about was frozen. Sarah approached the house, pulling at her skirts as a cold branch snagged her from behind. The branch held on for the briefest moment, brittle claws tugging, but lost its fight as Sarah pulled herself free. Only the light from a shaded moon helped her forward.
Her feet slid on humps of frozen snow. She could feel the places his feet had walked earlier in the day, the warmth from the roots of his body melting curves in the frozen ground, and hers, making ice bump like the clods of earth in the top field. Sarah tried to figure the path in front of her, but her feet lost their way a couple of times and the soles of her shoes failed and slipped on the blackness of the ice.
She saw the front door of the house open, yellow light behind his bulky form as he stepped out. She heard him speak to the dog and a whistle fly from his lips as the dog jumped and ran in the cold night.
Sarah stopped dead and waited, her arms slightly apart from her body to steady herself. The door closed and Joseph walked quickly away from the house.
It was the dog who found her first. Bess’s warm nose snorting breath forward in the dark, her brown eyes shining as she caught the scent of Sarah waiting down by the bush. The dog leapt at the girl, her hind legs skitting on the frozen ground, her front paws up and muddying Sarah’s clothes. Sarah put her fingers to the place behind Bess’s ears and rubbed them like lumps of butter in flour.
“Bess,” she whispered. “My girl, yer know me, alright, don’t yer?”
Joseph was only three strides behind the dog and he came upon them like he was the deceived and they were the lovers.
“Bess!” he said, and he yanked the dog away from Sarah. Then he stood himself tall and looked down on the girl. “Sarah,” he said. “Tis a cold night.”
“Aye, that it is,” she replied, a smile beginning, “But I’m the one to warm yer on this cold night, Joseph.”
She saw something enter his eyes then, like she often did. Sarah encouraged herself to mistake it for emotion, a shift under his skin, a heat in his body, which he could never turn away from. But it was more animal than anything Sarah had ever seen in Bess’s eyes.
Joseph turned Sarah away from him, the top of her head resting beneath his breastbone, and urged her into the wooded area behind his house. It meant them turning back towards the solid stone house, smoke like a wisp of hair from the chimney, the light from the fire inside golden on the windows. Then away to the right they moved, away to the trees. Sarah giggled. Joseph’s arm fitted around her waist, his other hand up under her skirts. He had her by a tree, neither the house below them nor the path above them visible from where they stood. Her skirts high around her waist, Joseph’s breath hot by her face. A quick fumbling with his clothes and she felt herself lifted a little more.
Bess began to bark, frosted leaves brittle beneath her set paws. Bits of bark from the tree fell to the ground around Sarah’s back.
When she felt Joseph’s body relax against her and his shoulders slump, Sarah opened her eyes. Through the pattern of the trees she could see, up on the top of the hill, the shape of cattle slow in the cold evening, black against the winter sky. They hardly moved at all, their bulky forms meandering like streams. She lifted her head slightly and above she saw the moon, shimmering beneath the clouds like its own reflection on water. The cattle shifted in the corner of her eye, the moon bright on her face, and she thought she saw a different form flit behind the animals up on the hill. But it was gone, if it was there at all. Joseph removed his body and Sarah fell to a standing position by the tree, her clothes ruffling against her legs as they dropped back into place.
Joseph stood back, fastening his clothes again. He bent, his face taut, and he grabbed at a lump of frozen snow on the ground, holding it in his fist, so cold it burned. He threw it with such force it made Sarah flinch, though it wasn’t aimed in her direction. She could feel all his frustration and aggression exiting his body with that one angry action. He threw it at a space between the trees to his right and watched for just a second as it scattered and hit the ground in lumps. Then he looked at her. “There’s trouble.” he said. “Standing right there and looking like Sarah Vernon. There’s trouble alright.”
“I’ll be no trouble to you Joseph.” she said.
“This shunt go on.” he said. “We ‘ave the devil in us when we do this.”
“And yet it does go on.” she said.
He looked to the side, away from her face, and watched the dog sniffing
amongst the icy leaves. He moved suddenly, like he always did, without a moment for Sarah to complain. “’Ere Bess!” he said, and he walked back down towards the house.
Last month I went to Costa Rica and Nicaragua with a dear friend of mine, and had the most amazing time. There’s so much to tell, so many amazing things happened, so many adventures and misadventures! There was the chocolate factory in Grenada, the monkeys on islands in Lake Nicaragua, the stalker-ish bellboy (that’s a tale for another day…actually, I’m pretty sure there’s a novel coming out of that one!) But the beginning of the story is probably the funniest part, so that’s what I’ll tell here.
Firstly, a month before we were due to go, my horse stepped on my foot and broke it. it was somewhat healed, but I still had the dreaded boot, Ace bandages, and a cane. Not the ideal situation for a trip that was going to involve a great deal of walking and hiking and yoga on the beach.
The good thing about lurching around an airport with a broken foot is that you get to pre-board (on Southwest Airlines that means you get the best seat). I got to the airport early, sailed through the lines, and plop myself down into the very front seat of the plane. The only problem is that I don’t see my friend anywhere.
So, here I am, with a broken foot, sitting on the plane, which is about to take off…and I’m by myself (well, excepting for all of the other people who are also on the plane, of course. But they are all going to Costa Rica with each other, not with me, which is an important distinction).
This was not the plan; not at all. I was not supposed to go to Costa Rica by myself. I was supposed to go with my friend, my travel buddy, my adventuresome kindred spirit who doesn’t care where in the world I suggest we go…she just says, “ok, when are we leaving?” She is awesome.
And she has missed the plane. The next plane isn’t for another two days. Which means that I am going to Costa Rica…alone.
Now, I am resourceful. Really, I’m pretty ballsy, if you ask me. I’ve traveled alone before (on purpose though, usually…it’s a different sort of trip when you’re by yourself versus with someone else). I tend to view the world as a place full of friends I haven’t met yet. So the plane pushes off, and we start to taxi towards the runway, and I’m a little nervous but mostly I’m just excited. I’ve got this. I can roll with it.
We land. I chose a cab at the airport that looks the least likely to contain a molestering cabbie, and I’m off on the hour-and-a-half drive to the hotel. This is where things start to break down. He insists, “No anglais! Solo espagnol!” Now, I’ve been learning Dutch (my fiancé is Dutch and I want to be able to speak Dutch with his family and it seems that all the new Dutch words have pushed whatever Spanish words I used to know right out of my head. The Dutch and the Spanish and the English got all jumbled up, and I ended up speaking a very bizarre combination of the three. Even I didn’t understand myself. Dommage. Which is French for “too bad”.)
Weirdly, the words I do remember all seem to have something to do with farm animals, so we spent the next 90 minutes marveling over the cows and horses and chickens that we saw. Scintillating stuff.
Eventually we get to the hotel, where I meet the truly intrusively “friendly” bellhop (really, there WILL BE a book involving this pester-some kid). Once I’m settled I also try to reschedule the excursion to the rainforest we had planned for the next day. No luck. It’s too late to cancel. Either go alone or lose the money.
Anyone who knows me will know my answer to that: Ima go to the rainforest.
And this is where everything started to bite me. Literally. Like, for real.
First there was a dog in a little town where we stopped for a snack. I pet the dog, the dog jumped up, and we had a nice moment. Then he bit me. (It wasn’t a nasty bite, it was a playful sort of thing, but still.)
Then we get to the rainforest itself, and start hiking (or, in my case, hobbling with my foot all wrapped up and two walking sticks to help me get along). I see a trail of very large red ants, doing something that seems, to them, Very Important. I get excited. I step right up to the trail and bend over to observe them more closely.
“These are fire ants,” says the guide. “They are carnivores.”
“Oh,” I say. “And what are they doing now? Are they moving their nest?” Really, there are thousands of them, and they’re all running along in the same direction. They’ve even formed a little groove in the dirt where they’re passing, like the ant version of a one-way road.
Except it’s not a one-way road. It’s a two-way, which I’m about to find out.
“They’re hunting,” replies the guide. “They’re bringing food back to the nest.”
“So they must come back, then?” I ask. “Ow.” Feeling a pinch, I brush at my toe, which is exposed because of the ace bandages on the broken foot.
“Yes, they go out and hunt things like spiders and caterpillars and bring it back…” says the guide.
“Ow,” I say. “Ow. Ow. Owwwww!”
You see, the whole time I’ve been standing right smack in the middle of the line of ants heading in the other direction. I’m blocking one whole lane of their road, really. And let me just say that fire ants don’t like it when you block their road. Indeed, they get rather nasty about it.
So now I’m hopping about, with fire ants all over my broken foot, biting me in a million places at once (those little suckers have some sharp whatever-they-use-to-bite-people-with!). The ants are in my bandages, and they’re mad about that, too, but I can’t get them out of there so it’s not really my fault.
What was my fault, though, was that I stood right on top of their little lane, which was terribly rude of me, so I’m trying to brush the little buggers off my foot, yelping all the while, and apologizing to the ants who are furiously trying to rebuild the road I so carelessly trampled.
“Lo siento, little ants,” I say. “Ow.” The guide is nearly falling over, he’s laughing so hard.
Luckily for me, that was the last day that anything (other than a few giant mosquitos, that is!) bit me in Costa Rica. It was enough biting for one vacation, I think. And it is enough for one gruelingly long blog post.
Next post: Nicaragua and the Miraculous Foot Scrub!
Soooo, it's finally here...."Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab"'s release date! In honor of the occasion, Barnabas (and I, of course!) have embarked on a whirlwind blog tour. I had a blast visiting each one! Here, though, I think I'll post the most, errrr, unusual ones, where the blogger interviews Apep, who is an Egyptian god of evil and chaos and who is portrayed in the book as a rather unsavory (and quite dangerous!) fellow. So let's give poor Apep a chance to speak, and perhaps clear up some misconceptions about his character (or reinforce them, as the case my be!)
So here, with no further ado, is the transcript of the interview:
Btw, "FB" refers to Fang-tastic Books, the intrepid blogger who bravely (foolishly?) undertook the job of interviewing a god of evil who also just happens to be a very large snake. Good luck to you, FB!
Today we’ll be talking to Apep, the Egyptian god of chaos and evil, about his role in the just-released “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” by Columbkill Noonan. Barnabas Tew himself was supposed to come by as well, but he claimed to come down with a mysterious and somewhat vague ailment the moment he heard Apep was coming, and could not be reached for further comment. Probably for the best, anyway, since Apep’s first words upon arrival were to inquire about the whereabouts of Barnabas whilst gnashing his teeth rather fearsomely.
FB: So, Apep, thank you very much for coming, we are very pleased….
Apep: (looking around, still gnashing those nasty-looking fangs) “Are you absolutely sure Barnabas isn’t here? I could do with a snack, you know.”
FB: Uh, sorry, no. He’s not here. But we do have a nice cheese platter.”
Apep: “Blech. How about some tasty mice?”
FB: “Hmmm. I think we’re all out of mice. Sorry.”
Intern: “I think we have some gummy worms….”
Apep: “Worms, you say? I suppose that will do.”
(Intern leaves to fetch the gummy worms.)
FB: “So, Apep, now that we’ve got the snack situation in hand…” (looking at Apep, realizing that he has no hands, as he’s a snake, and that comment might be seen as offensive) “….er, under control, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?”
Apep: “Well, I’m the Egyptian god of chaos and all that is evil, as you probably know.”
FB: “Very interesting. What, exactly, does it entail, being the god of chaos and evil and what-not?”
Apep: (looking into the distance and speaking with great seriousness) “The biggest thing is that I do my best to sow discord as much as I possibly can. Anytime anyone has a plan, I do what I can to wreck it. Just little things, you know, mean so much. Like if someone has just plowed a field, I’ll do my best to whip up a windstorm and blow all their seeds away, so they’ll have no crops and starve. It’s hilarious! And my minions and I love to eat up all those mouse-headed people that live around my mountain, Bakhu. Not all of them, mind you, because then there would be no one left to be terrified of me, but just enough to keep them on their toes.”
FB: “Hmmm. Lovely. Sounds like fun. Now, in ‘Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab’, we learn that you have a rather complicated relationship with the sun. Can you expand on that a bit?”
Apep: “Well, as you know, the sun is rolled across the sky every day, and then every night it sinks below the horizon and travels underground, which is where I live, of course. So every night I ambush the sun once it sets, and we have a wonderfully terrible battle.”
FB: “And you do this…why?”
Apep: “Why, to keep it from ever rising again! Wouldn’t that be the absolute best chaos anyone had ever seen?”
FB: “But so far the sun has continued to rise, pretty regularly…”
Apep: (grumpily)“Yes, well, I haven’t managed to stop it yet. But one must keep trying, right? I’d be a terrible god of evil if I just gave up.”
FB: “Of course. Your dedication is commendable.”
Apep: (nodding head graciously) “I’m not the god of evil and chaos for nothing, you know.”
FB: “I’d like to ask you about Barnabas Tew, and what happened in Bakhu with him.”
Apep: (hissing angrily) “Barnabas Tew! Ugh, I hate that guy! He’s the absolute worst. He doesn’t understand chaos at all, and he went way out of his way to thwart me. He had no real reason to come after me like that! Yes, yes, I tried to eat him, but what did he expect?”
FB: “I guess it was because he was hired to find the missing sun god. Seems that he may have had some reason to be, well, a bit wary of you....”
Apep: ‘Well, of course he did. But there was no need to do what he did. That business with Bastet, you know, was truly over the top.”
FB: “I hate to pry, since this is clearly a tender subject, but can you tell us how you feel about what happened with Bastet?”
Apep: “On the contrary, I’d be happy to tell you. People really should be warned, if there’s going to be a detective wandering about interfering with chaos the way Barnabas is doing. Everybody knows that there is a list of ways in which to defeat me. ‘Setting fire to Apep. Defiling Apep with your left foot. Taking a knife to Apep.’ Things like that. Now, I don’t like those things very much, obviously, but that’s how it’s done. For Barnabas to bring in Bastet…Bastet, a cat, for chaos’ sake! Well, that’s just disgusting. And it’s most definitely not on the list.”
FB: “I can see that you’re very upset….”
Apep: “Of course I am! If I ever get my fangs on that Barnabas, I’ll show him some real chaos, I can promise you that.” (looking around) “Where are those gummy worms? I’m really very hungry. What about you?”
FB: “Am I hungry, you mean?”
Apep: “No, I was wondering if I might have you as a snack. Are you tasty?”
FB: (backing away nervously, and speaking in a voice that is far too chipper) “Well then, I think we’re done here! I’m sure you have some evil to sow; some chaos to wreak?”
Apep: (slithering closer, flickering his tongue in and out whilst drool drips from his lower lip) “Yes, well, there’s always time for a snack. You’re not a mouse, precisely, but I think you’ll do.”
FB: (backing away, then running) “Intern! Intern! Ack!”
Disclaimer: No interviewers or interns were harmed in the making of this blog post, but the bag of gummy worms that the panicked intern tossed in Apep’s way was devoured most mercilessly.
“Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” is now available on Amazon! (https://www.amazon.com/Barnabas-Tew-Case-Missing-Scarab/dp/1546786074/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1499198796&sr=8-1&keywords=barnabas+tew)
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I thought I'd let you see one of my favourite scenes from my new novel, Merle, published on July 5th.
This is the second book in my Jacques Forêt series of mystery stories set in the Cévennes and featuring my lead character and investigator, Jacques Forêt. Although Jacques is now working in Mende, a major city about 30m kilometres south of my fictional village, Messandrierre, he still keeps in touch with the villagers and his close friend, Gaston, in the village restaurant. Beth Samuels, his love interest, is also back in her chalet in the village and Jacques calls in to see her when he can.
The local farmers are still giving Jacques a few headaches but he finds ways of dealing with them… as you will see in the extract below.
"I want an explanation and none of you are leaving here until I get one." Jacques, unshaven from having being woken so early and dressed in a pair of creased jeans and a jumper, paced back and forth in the bar as he waited for someone to respond. "This find has to be called in. There is no question of that. But you will have to explain what you were doing up in the north pastures at four in the morning. It's a very odd time to be mending fences, Rouselle." His tone hardened. "What were you doing?" He stopped and looked each one of the men in the eye in turn.
"Rouselle?" he prompted.
Rouselle shifted in his chair and looked away. Gaston and Pamier glanced at each other but said nothing.
"Right." Jacques pulled out his phone. "You leave me no option and the charges I will be suggesting to my old colleagues in Mende will be trespass, concealment of a body and obstruction of a police investigation. I'm sure I can think of a couple more, but those will suffice for now." He began to dial.
"Tell him, Rouselle." It was Gaston who broke the silence. "Damn well tell him, man."
Jacques pulled up a chair from a nearby table, pulled his notebook from the back pocket of his jeans and sat down. "Any chance of some coffee?"
"Of course," said Gaston as he got up and moved across the room.
"It's not trespass, Jacques." Rouselle blustered, "I was taking back what was mine." He sat upright, his hands placed on his thighs, defiance in his eyes. "I was taking back my land."
"And do you have documentary proof of where the boundary between your land and Delacroix's actually sits?"
"So, if I were to ask for those documents so that I could pass them on to a surveyor, he will be able to tell me that your new fence is in exactly the right place. Is that correct?" Jacques watched the farmer's face as a smidgen of colour suffused his cheeks.
"I'm just a simple farming man, Jacques," he said, his tone more moderate and respectful. "I understand cattle and the land. How do I know what a surveyor will find?" He shrugged off his evident lie.
Jacques tapped his notebook with his pen. "And why did this…reclaim of your land have to be undertaken now? It's 4.37am, it's still dark. Moving fences is not the sort of job that I would normally expect to be done at this time in the morning." He accepted the coffee that Gaston handed to him and sat back in his chair, left ankle resting on his right knee.
"I've a very busy day today and I wanted to get the job done and out of the way early." Rouselle placed the coffee he was handed on the table next to him.
"I see. You have such a busy day today that you can afford to keep lying to me, can you? No-one is leaving until I get to the truth, Fermier Rouselle. The whole truth."
"Delacroix owes me," he shouted. "And I'm not giving up on my land. I'm doing my bit for the community by taking care of his cattle, as requested by Monsieur le Maire, even though the compensation for those two beasts of mine that he injured and Clergue killed is still outstanding. I want my land back." He stared at Jacques.
"Then do it legally, Rouselle. What you've been doing here tonight is highly suspicious. I have no doubt that your new fence will be more or less in the right place, Fermier Rouselle. But, more or less is still not exact and still not legal."
Before the farmer could remonstrate more, he turned his attention to Gaston. "And your involvement is what?"
"I was just helping out a fellow villager, that's all, Jacques." He finished his coffee and took out his cigarettes and lighter.
"Fermier Pamier, your reason for being there?"
"The same as Gaston." The both exchanged a look.
Jacques drained his cup and placed it on the table behind him. "And what about the body. Do any of you know who it is?"
"No," the three of them chorused.
"Is that so?" Jacques stood and began to pace, his instincts sharpened by their response.
"So, none of you knew the body was there before you found it?"
"No." Another unified response.
"You don't seem very surprised that there is a body on what you claim to be your land, Fermier Rouselle?"
Rouselle opened his mouth to speak but paused and closed it again.
"Nothing to say, Fermier Rouselle?" Jacques waited. "That's not like you, is it? Always voluble. Always to be relied upon for an appropriate opinion. But today, when a body is found on your land, you say nothing."
Rouselle stood. "And you're not a gendarme any longer, this isn't Paris and you have no right to interrogate me."
Jacques turned to face him and shouted. "That may be so, but you sent for me, so sit down. You've involved me in this very suspicious escapade that you three are undertaking and I have to be absolutely certain that I am not implicated in any way. My reputation as a gendarme and investigator is at stake and you three seem to think that you can just brush that aside behind a wall of silence." Hands on his hips he towered over them. "I'm calling this in, I expect it will be Magistrate Pelletier who is assigned to this enquiry and I expect the three of you to be absolutely open and honest with him as you seem to be incapable of being truthful with me."
Leaving his notebook on the table he marched out of the bar, phone in his hand and dialled.
Merle, published on July 5th, is available here https://www.amazon.com/Merle-French-mystery-Jacques-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0728BMD96/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Without giving any spoilers, can you give us a hint of what the book is about?
The Watcher follows the journey of DI Jack Grayson, as he tries to track down an obsessive stalker and serial killer, who’s currently cutting a swathe through London, slaying young female victims in the most brutal manner. Grayson’s job is made especially difficult because the person he is tracking doesn’t leave much of a trace, and there are no discernable leads from which he can hone in on a suspect, at least not at first.
The novel also takes readers into the mind of a master predator, showing them the motivations of a monster and how he became that way. It is quite dark in places but then so are psychopaths, at least when they turn violent.
Describe the hero/heroine of your book in three words.
Stressed, chivalrous, well-meaning.
Describe the antagonist of your book in three words.
Manipulative, vengeful, brutal.
What inspired you to write this book?
Before I ever sat down to write The Watcher, I made a study of several infamous psychopathic killers, such as Ted Bundy, Zodiac and The Green River Killer to glean what their possible motivations might have been and to learn a bit more about what made them tick.
The antagonist in my novel The Watcher, definitely draws on traits from these kinds of psychopaths, but as readers will discover the antagonist in The Watcher also has his own very unique reasons for doing what he does. As well, I wrote the book to answer a question I had always wondered about, which is, just how much does environment shape a psychopath.
In other words, if someone is predisposed to a psychopathic personality, can an abusive or neglectful home environment, or an especially traumatic formative incident tip them over the edge, into violent madness?
Do you ever base your characters on real people?
No, all my characters are composites, complete mixes of traits and behaviours that I’ve observed in others. None of them are faithful studies on any one individual, that’s not how they come to me. So I suppose you could say I try to make each of my characters truly unique, a new and hybrid creation that’s part product of observation, part the result of my imagination. I suppose it’s up to my readers to let me know whether that works or not!
What's your favorite part of writing? Least favorite?
Once I get in the flow of it, my favourite part of writing is the writing itself, as the story comes together and the characters reveal themselves to me. I must confess, I abhor the editing part, although I am quite meticulous over it, which is probably one of the reasons I always try and put it off. Once I start editing something I’ve written, I cannot leave it until I’ve picked over everything and probably rewritten it once or twice, and that’s before I’ve even sent it off to the publisher.
Given current political activities, many of us in the US feel that it is our responsibility, as individuals, to take up the slack in terms of environmental protection and prevention of climate change. Do you have any tips from "across the pond" that might be fun for readers to try at home to be more environmentally conscious?
Well, what we put in our bodies naturally has an impact on the environment around us as well as a direct result on how healthy we are, so one of the most important things I would stress would be to select the food we eat with care. I know it’s more expensive but if you can afford it, I think it’s extremely important to try and buy local organic produce wherever you can, as not only does it support independent business rather than propping up global corporate franchise, but it also cuts down the amount of chemicals, toxins and pesticides both our bodies and the environment have to cope with.
You can make a start by checking out your local farmer’s market, or independent whole foods store and paying them a visit. It’s enormous fun to go round selecting tasty produce you’re later going to cook and eat actually, and particularly interesting to notice the dramatic difference between organic and non-organic produce.
As well, what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in them. Start reading the back of the toiletries and household cleaning products you select, and see if you can begin by making the switch to more eco-friendly alternatives, with less toxins and pollutants.
This doesn’t have to cost the earth, as you can also do a bit of research online and compile a list of basic ingredients that you can purchase, such as stocking up on a few multi-purpose essential oils, and common household products such as baking soda. Then you can start making your own eco-friendly toiletries, such as home-made mouth wash, washing up liquid, and natural disinfectant.
THE WATCHER is officially released on June 21st by Crooked Cat Books and is available for purchase now in paperback or for pre-order for e-copy at getbook.at/thewatcher
Readers can stay updated on release news, bonus content, and promotions regarding THE WATCHER at http://www.elicarros.com
It's launch day for The Silence by Katharine Johnson, a psychological, coming of age story set in Tuscany.
What's the book about?
Ok, here's the elevator pitch:
Doctor Abby Fenton has a rewarding career, a loving family, an enviable lifestyle - and a secret that could destroy everything. When human remains are discovered in the grounds of an idyllic Tuscan holiday home she is forced to confront the memories she has suppressed until now and relive the summer she spent at the villa in 1992. A summer that ended in tragedy. The nearer she gets to the truth the closer she comes to losing her sanity. In order to hold onto the people she loves most, she must make sure they never discover what she did. But the reappearance of someone else from that summer threatens to blow her secret wide open...
There is also a short video trailer you can watch which gives you a good idea of what the story is about.
How are you feeling about the launch?
Excited - and a bit terrified. It's like how I felt seeing my children go off to school on their first day. I'm thrilled to see the final published version - I love the cover and am especially pleased with the spine because it's so simple. But I know I've passed the point of no-return now. I can't suddenly grab it back and rewrite anything!
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I just wrote the book I wanted to read. I love stories about houses with secrets and I love coming of age stories where someone makes a choice that will change the course of their life.
Why did you choose Tuscany as the setting?
I wanted it to be set somewhere beautiful to contrast with the events which are quite dark. I know Tuscany well because I've lived in Florence and had a home in Lucca for several years so it was quite easy to describe. I also felt the remoteness of some of the Tuscan mountain villages would make it easier for an event like this to be covered up and forgotten for many years. But also, with so many old houses being bought up and restored, it was quite likely that the secret would be discovered at some stage. A skeleton was found in a house near us when it was being renovated which gave me the idea.
How are you celebrating the launch?
I'm having an online launch party on Facebook today and would love to invite your readers along. Here is the link to the page. There will be information about the book, visiting authors and giveaways. The main event is at 8pm UK time but the page will be up throughout the day and the following day so people from other countries or who are busy this evening can join in and enter the giveaways.
I will also be having a launch/book signing in my village on 22 June.
How can we buy the book?
It's available from Amazon on this link
There is more information on Amazon author page
and my website
A while ago a friend of mine started a Facebook group where everyone shares the little things they do (or don’t do!) to be more environmentally responsible. It’s a great idea, of course: in this new political climate, where politicians ignore or even (nonsensically!) make fun of the science behind climate change, where regulations meant to protect our rivers and forests are being thrown out in the name of ‘economic progress’, where incentives towards the development of renewable energy are being removed, and the Paris Climate Accord is in danger of being thrown out altogether, it’s more important now than ever that each one of us do our part to mitigate the damage done to our world. So I applaud my friend’s efforts to bring a bunch of like-minded people together, and to share ideas on how to make a difference.
Of course, I had the best of intentions when I first joined the group (I was going to try ALL of the ideas! And I was going to implement them all RIGHT NOW!) Then, I got busy, and as, like so many of us, I tend towards the lazy, I allowed myself to forget my delusions of environmentally responsible grandeur and do, well, nothing.
After all, I’m a vegan, and that’s very environmentally helpful, right? I drive a Toyota Yaris, which uses hardly any gas at all. I buy energy efficient light bulbs. I eat only organic produce, and I even grow my own every summer. Yes, I’ve been doing all of these things for years, and really haven’t made any improvements for quite a while, but I’m pretty much good, right? Right???
Then, not long after, my yoga teacher mentioned that she makes one small change each year to her household routine that will either reduce her environmental footprint or will help someone (or society in general) in some small (or significant!) way.
One small change a year to make the world a better place. Hmmm. How could I be too lazy to do that? So feeling guilty about my lack of action, I took a closer look at the postings in that Facebook group.
One woman in the group started composting her refuse (a great idea, of course. But it seemed like it might take a lot of upkeep, and there we are, back to that lazy thing again.) Another person rides his bike to work every day. My work is thirty miles from home, and the only way there involves a lot of highway travel, so that just isn’t feasible. If I don’t pass out from exhaustion by mile 10, then surely I’ll be run over by a semi.
Then I saw it…a woman saying that she no longer buys beans in cans. Instead, she brings her own containers to the bulk food aisle, fills them up with her beans, and that’s that. That doesn’t sound too hard, I thought. Surely I can do that!
Then I started to think about the logistics. How does one even begin to do this? They must have to weigh the containers, right? Otherwise you’d have to pay for the weight of the container each time. But who, exactly, does the weighing? Where do I find this person? What do I say to them?
Then, once I get the beans home, well, what do I do with them? Isn’t it all very complicated to make dry, uncooked beans into something edible?
So I became intimidated, and I procrastinated, and I felt guilty. And I think, this is ridiculous. I can flip around like a monkey in an aerial yoga hammock. I ride my horse bareback and bitless in the woods. But I am scared by the bulk food aisle, and that’s the absurd truth.
Then, one day, I was in the organic food store, and having a great day. I was happy, and relatively stress-free, and, above all, feeling brave. So I thought, today is the day! I am going to conquer the bulk food aisle! Or, at least, take a little peek at it.
So I sidle into the aisle, trying to look as though I know what I’m doing. I cast sidelong glances at the bins. A few more surreptitious looks around and I spy a roll of little plastic bags, which is good, because I don’t have a container just yet.
And I think, I can do this. I grab a plastic bag. I walk over to the raw soybean bin, which is where the first trouble hits. The bin is a little, well, confusing. There’s some sort of lever at the bottom, and I have a terrible feeling that if I pull it soybeans are going to come barreling out of that bin and spew all over the floor and everyone will be giving me stink-eye and I’ll be banned from the organic market for life.
So it is with extreme trepidation that I edge a bit closer to that innocuous-looking bin full of delicious soybeans that just might take me down entirely. I put my plastic bag under what might be the mouth of the thing (this is by no means certain; who knows exactly where the soybeans are going to erupt from?) and I give the lever a little twitch.
So I pull the lever a bit harder. A few soybeans come trickling out. It is not terrible. It is not a torrent of soybeans, burying me beneath an environmentally responsible avalanche of nutritional deliciousness. I pull the lever as far as it will go, and still the soybeans come out at very reasonable pace.
When the bag is full I let go of the lever, the soybeans stop coming out, and That Was It. I’m so encouraged I repeat the process with some wheatberries, just to be crazy. Then I finish my shopping, feeling way more proud of myself than I ought to, and take my hard-earned soybeans and wheatberries home. (The next time I go to buy them I am determined to master the whole “bring-your-own-container” thing. I carry a couple of pretty little bins to the store, march up to the customer service aisle with them, and ask the lady behind the counter what to do. This time I am not nearly so nervous, because I’ve already done the first half of this, quite successfully, and so I’m pretty sure I’ve got this. The lady weighs my bins, puts a little sticker on them with their weight so the cashier knows what to subtract, and that’s it. Three minutes, tops.)
Anyway, back to my first set of soybeans and wheatberries. I’ve got them home now, so what do I do with them? I look online and see that you have to soak them overnight. Then, the next day, you simmer them in water for 3-4 hours for the soybeans, and about one hour for the wheatberries.
OK, that’s doesn’t sound too bad. I pick a day that I can stay in the house for that long, and I soak my soybeans and wheatberries the night before. I wake up, put the soybeans in a pot, and start them cooking. I come back 3 hours later and put the wheatberries in.
Really, this couldn’t be any easier.
Or so I think until the 4 hours is up. I dump them all in a colander, rinse them off, and put them in a big bowl, ready to make them into the most amazing salad.
But wait! What are these yucky-looking clear things in there? I look online, and learn that these are the husks. They come off while you boil the beans. They don’t look yummy at all. You’re meant to pick them out while you’re rinsing the beans.
So I start half-heartedly trying to fish the things out of my poor denuded soybeans. There are too many of them; I know this from the start. Who has the time to pick all these things out of there? Nobody, is the answer. Ain’t nobody got time for that. The husks are going to defeat me.
So I pick just a few of the more egregious-looking husks off the top, and think, once I put all the other stuff in, I won’t even notice the husks at all. The husks won’t kill me, will they? Will they???
Turns out they don’t. And you don’t even notice they’re there, once you cover them up with some vegan mayonnaise and mustard. I also put in chopped up peppers and radishes and onions and bok choy, and I ate it over a bed of mixed lettuce. It was delicious! And the fiber…oh the fiber! Don’t even get me started. I’m a bit obsessed with the gut biome (Google it if you’d like to develop a similar obsession, and I’ll see you in the kombucha aisle!). Anyway, my taste buds are happy, my gut biome was delighted, and there’s protein and vitamins like crazy in there, too.
So my adventures in the bulk food aisle were well worth it. I conquered a weird fear (which always feels good), introduced a ridiculously healthy meal into my diet, and saved the world (ok, just a little bit, but still!) in the process.
Not bad for a day at the grocery, huh? J
What do you think when you look at this house? What do you see? Look in the windows at the top of the turret...wold you be surprised to see a ghostly face peeking out from behind the curtains?
I wouldn't. Any house that looks like this almost has to have a ghost or two lurking about, don't you think?
Which is why, of course, I had to write a story about it. Well, let's say I tried to write a story about it. Or am trying. Because I'm still working on it, here and there. I must say that when i sit down to write, I show heavy favoritism to Barnabas and Wilfred, the characters from my upcoming novel from Crooked Cat Books. Barnabas and Wilfred are currently in the middle of their sequel, which is coming along at a decent pace. Barnabas and Wilfred are fun to write; I'm always excited to see where they'll go, what they'll do, and what sort of shenanigans they'll get up to.
The story about this house, however, kinda scares me, which is why it gets left alone to languish, unfinished, in the depths of my laptop's circuits for months on end whilst Barnabas and Wilfred have adventures and misadventures and generally hog all of my attention. Because I am afraid of my own story.
The house, you see, is a real house. I was living in Hamilton, a mostly forgotten little corner of Baltimore City that was very splendid in the early 1900s but has fallen into a bit of disrepair in recent years. There were lots of big old Victorian houses (some well-kept, some in dire need of repair). Most of them had been chopped up into apartments (like the one I live in), but they still retained their charm and beauty even when they needed a bit of a refresher.
While I lived there I loved to walk around the neighborhoods. I'd look at the houses, and the gardens, and imagine myself in another time. True, I'd have to concentrate really hard to ignore the city noises (cars, sirens, people yelling for no apparent reason), but all in all it was a very pleasant walk and the neighbors were friendly and it was something I looked forward to doing whenever I got the chance.
But this house...well, this house was different. This house was creepy. No matter how sunny it was outside, it seemed like this house was always in shadows (ok, so there were lots of big trees around it, but still. There were big trees all over the neighborhood, but this house was stuck in permanent shade). It also seemed more quiet in front of that house, as though the house had somehow absorbed the city sounds. The only thing you can hear when you stand in front of that house, even though you're just a block away from the main road, is the discordant tinkling of a broken windchime.
And, of course, I haven't even mentioned the gangster yet.
In that house lived a former gangster-turned gardener, who had lived a rough life but who had reformed into the nicest (if somewhat strange) guy. He'd yell at me for not watering my kale plants enough, then shake his head and water them for me. That dude had seem some real stuff (imagine, being in a gang in Baltimore City...it certainly doesn't call to mind someone who is easily frightened, or who is scared of ghosts.)
But this gangster gardener was scared of that house. He thought it was haunted. He didn't want to go into that turret, either. Because, like I said, there is obviously a ghost living in that turret.
So, one day (not today) I'll tear myself away from my beloved Barnabas and Wilfred and get back to writing this ghost story that scares me. One day, when I feel brave.
Today I am honored to host the very talented Ailsa Abraham, author of "Alchemy" and "Shaman's Drum". She's here to tell us about her new book, "Attention to Death", a murder mystery that launches this Friday (only two days away!) Barnabas and Wilfred are, understandably, quite excited to hear what she has to say, and have donned their best morning suits for the occasion. Now if only we could get Barnabas to stop being shy and come out from behind the potted plant, we could begin. What's that? He's out and properly seated on the wing chair? Good. Pull up a seat, everyone, and let's take a listen to the remarkable Ailsa Abraham!
Hello Ailsa! Welcome!
Thank you for inviting me to talk about my latest release today.
This is a departure from my previous series in magical realism. Here I take off on murder mystery. Why? Erm... limited attention span? Love of variety?
Attention to Death is released on 10th March and here is the info on it.
“Find Attention to Death on pre-order on Amazon: http://mybook.to/AttentionDeath
"In Attention to Death, Ailsa Abraham pulls off something I wouldn't have thought possible - a steamy romance with a twist of murder and a splash of social conscience. A remarkable book that will have you turning pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next."
~ India Drummond, author of the Caledonia Fae series
Finding a murderer among a group of killers is not going to be easy for two Royal Army Military Police investigators, Captain Angus Simpson and Staff-Sergeant Rafael ‘Raff’ Landen, whose Christmas leave is cancelled for an investigation into a suspicious death on a base in Germany.
The case is further complicated by unhelpful senior officers who make pre-judgements on colour, creed, race and sexuality. Yet the insight of the investigators helps them uncover a sinister plot, although they too have something to hide: their own fledgling relationship.
Will Angus and Raff be able to solve the murder without giving away their secret?
The best and worst of human nature is represented in this story, which is why it is suggested for over 18s only.”
I delved into my past life as an officer in the Royal Air Force and my lifelong friendships with gay men to research this book. Coming right after LGBT History Month in February, it highlights the problems of men who have to be “in the closet” and the sort of bigotry that causes people to refuse to read a book just because there are gay characters in it, although this doesn't stop them leaving reviews. Me? I've never been too sure. I'm gender-neutral which is why the first thing I wonder on meeting new people isn't “What do they do in their bedrooms?”
Read it for yourself and decide. Is it an honest portrayal of two men doing their job who just happen to have started an affair?
Bio and links
Ailsa Abraham is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman's Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon. She also writes mystery romance.
She has lived in France since 1990 and is now naturalized French. She enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell's Angel in town . Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family. She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care (pirate gear is her favourite!)
Thank you very much Ailsa! We are very much looking forward to reading "Attention to Death", it sounds wonderful. If you'd like to learn more about Ailsa and her work, here are some helpful links:
Ailsa's website: https://ailsaabraham.com/