COSTA DEL CHURROS
Muchas gracias for hosting me on your blog today to talk about my brand new novel with Crooked Cat Books! COSTA DEL CHURROS will launch on September 19th and is another romantic comedy which fuses all things foodie, travel and spirituality. I’m keeping my fingers (and paws!) crossed that it’ll have as good a reception as its predecessors…
Why write about Spain?
My first two books, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar centred much of their activity around the quirky and mystical town of Glastonbury, UK. But in actual fact I live in Spain nowadays and much as I relished the opportunity to write about the place where I spent my childhood through to late twenties, it was high time for a change of scene – as well as to prove to myself that I am not a One Trick Pony. Or should that be Cat?
Is Costa del Churros based on a fictional or real part of Spain?
Yes, Costa del Churros refers to the Costa del Sol, here in the gigantic province of Andalusia, where I live. I have traveled all over the country, but nowhere seems to make, eat or embrace churros (fried donut strips, often eaten dipped in a thick, velvety chocolate sauce and/or sprinkled liberally with sugar) with the aplomb of the people in this region. The churros play a central role throughout the book, used as a code word that brings four – very different – women together for flamenco lessons with their highly exuberant teacher, Carmen.
Here’s the blurb:
The rain in Spain doesn't mainly fall on the plain…
Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.
Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town's flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers?
One thing's for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again.
Are these four women based on people you know?
Not per se!
But Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina are definitely a beautiful fusion of some of the kaleidoscopically colourful characters I have met here over the past seven years. I wanted to paint a truthful picture of expat life in Spain (and quite possibly this will extend to other areas of The Mediterranean too). It’s all too easy to assume that a life in the sun is all soaking up its rays, sand, sea and sangria, but in actual fact, we take ourselves wherever we go! There’s absolutely no running away from your problems when you are home from home, be they romantic, financial, self-esteem based, or all of the above. Often, as soon as the novelty of the new lifestyle wears off, those issues are only exacerbated…
I thought it would make for an interesting (and comical) read to throw four women from four completely different backgrounds together, to add a little magic (a la Carmen) and to watch the fireworks – from a very safe distance.
Tell us a bit about Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera…
Well, she was a joy to write.
And I think all of us could do with a Carmen in our lives. Not only is she a talented flamenco teacher, but she has watched the way Franco’s repression of the female has gnawed away at her mother, and at the lives of countless women around her. So Carmen’s mission is one of empowerment. And she’s particularly passionate about encouraging women to have their cake and eat it. Truly, I’d love for nothing more than to click my fingers and magic her up every time I witness a female friend or family member declare in a café/restaurant/gelateria ‘Oh! I really shouldn’t indulge… I’ll start the diet again next week!’
For Carmen is the antidote to any and all of that prescribed female behaviour, an advocate for positive body image on beaches and sun-loungers the length of the coast. She’s a breath of fresh air injecting a much-needed confidence boost to all four of the main characters in the story.
If your tummy has started to rumble… here’s that all important Universal Amazon buying link: mybook.to/costadelchurros
You can find out about Isabella May’s other books, and follow her quirky cake and cocktail posts at these places:
Twitter - @IsabellaMayBks
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/
Instagram - @isabella_may_author
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic.
Cake, cocktail, and travel obsessed, she also loves nothing more than to (quietly) break life’s ‘rules’.
Costa del Churros is her third novel.
Buy Costa del Churros: https://www.amazon.com/Costa-del-Churros-Isabella-May-ebook/dp/B07DWQVLL1/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1533313930&sr=8-1&keywords=costa+del+churros
Let's welcome Alice Castle, who is here to discuss her latest in the fabulous Death in Dulwich series, "Calamity in Camberwell".
Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK national newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.
Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, is available to pre-order now and will be published on 13th August, with Homicide in Herne Hill following ion 3rd October2018. Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure, Revenge on the Rye. It will feature Beth Haldane, DI Harry York, a mysterious artist, an ageing Labrador, and an out-of-control cavapoo puppy.
Alice lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.
Blurb for Calamity in Camberwell
Beth Haldane, SE21's answer to Miss Marple, worries she is losing a kindred spirit when her friend Jen, the only other single mum in the playground, suddenly gets remarried and moves to nearby Camberwell.
Soon Beth has to face much more pressing fears. Has something gone horribly wrong with Jen's marriage? What is her new husband really up to? Why is her daughter leading Beth's son astray? And where on earth IS Jen anyway?
As Beth's friends push her to start dating again, Beth turns to Met Police DI Harry York for help. But will they solve the mystery in time, or will it turn out that in south east London, not everyone gets to live happily ever after?
Q and A
Q. Calamity in Camberwell is the third in the London Murder Mystery series – do you have to have read the others to enjoy it?
A. Not at all, you can read Calamity in Camberwell as a stand-alone cozy crime murder mystery – but I’m hoping you’ll get hooked and want to read the others, too.
Q. Does it get easier to write whodunits as you go along?
A. I wish! I seem to be making the plots more elaborate for each book as I write it. If only I could just have one suspect and a nice, blunt instrument – but Beth, my single mum amateur sleuth heroine, seems to like life to be a bit more complicated than that.
Q. Do you enjoy the writing process?
A. I’d say it’s a love-hate thing. I need to write, and if I don’t have an outlet, I find myself writing incredibly long shopping lists or endless emails to friends. I definitely need an outlet. Though, of course, as soon as I have a book on the go, and a looming deadline, I can find a million ways to prevaricate.
Q. Do you have any pre-writing rituals?
A. Yes, and they are getting more arcane book by book. I now have to play a hand of computer bridge and do a crossword before I can settle down to write.
Q. Are there any more adventures coming up for Beth?
A. Yes, the fourth Beth book, Homicide in Herne Hill, will be published on 3rd October and sees Beth moonlighting in a solicitor’s office, in pursuit of a suspect, and I’ve just started writing the fifth in the series, Revenge on the Rye, involving murderous dog walkers and dishonest artists.
Calamity in Camberwell buy links: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07DP3KG84?tag=geolinker-21
Launch date – the book is available to pre-order NOW but is published on 13th August 2018
Social media links:
Alice is also a parent blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com
Links to buy first two books in the London Murder Mystery series: http://www.MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery http://www.myBook.to/1DeathinDulwich. Previous novel: http://www.myBook.to/HotChocolate
In the Kindred Spirits series, we meet the ghosts of historical characters, in a range of contemporary settings. Have you ever wondered what Richard III and Anne Boleyn might have in common, what Mary, Queen of Scots is getting up to now, or what happens when the visitors leave some of the most popular attractions in the country? Well, here’s your chance!
In the third of the Kindred Spirits series, we visit Westminster Abbey, and I hope you enjoy meeting a new community of ghosts. Mind, with modern travel so easy these days, a few faces we’ve already encountered might just show up too…
About Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey
On hallowed ground…
With over three thousand burials and memorials, including seventeen monarchs, life for the ghostly community of Westminster Abbey was never going to be a quiet one. Add in some fiery Tudor tempers, and several centuries-old feuds, and things can only go one way: chaotic.
Against the backdrop of England’s most important church, though, it isn't all tempers and tantrums. Poets' Corner hosts poetry battles and writing workshops, and close friendships form across the ages.
With the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots, however, battle ensues. Will Queens Mary I and Elizabeth I ever find their common ground, and lasting peace?
The bestselling Kindred Spirits series continues within the ancient walls of Westminster Abbey.
Praise for the Kindred Spirits series
“A light hearted, humorous, and at times tender read which you'll enjoy whether you like history or not.”
“This light-hearted, imaginative read is a new take on historical fiction but make no mistake, this is not only a fun read but an educational tool.”
“A brilliantly unique idea from a distinctive new voice in fiction.”
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.
Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and available via Amazon, along with her self-published timeslip novella, The Last Plantagenet? She can be found online at her blog, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Annnnd.....here it is: the cover for "Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds"! (Psst: there's Vikings!)
Chitchat with the Author
1.Your first book, “Oh What a Pavlova”, had a good bit about traveling and food and the like woven into the main storyline. Your latest, “The Cocktail Bar” centers around a rock star, trying to make a success of his new cocktail bar, armed only with a very specific drink. Would you call yourself a foodie? What is your favorite food/drink?
I’m a definite foodie. That’s not to say that I love all food. Hand me an aubergine (eggplant) and I’ll run a mile, I’m not the world’s greatest fan of lemongrass or coriander either…
Aside from that though, yes, I do like to eat. I spent my late teens and early twenties calorie-policing every morsel that went into my mouth, labeling my food ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and I was miserable for it. Nowadays, I have a respect for everything I put in my mouth; from the cookie to the carrot. It makes for a happier me; I believe the good properties of every bite go on to do good things to the body that way (well, Quantum Physics proves it).
I suspect that in a past life I probably lived in Italy though! My favourite foods span well-made risotto and pasta dishes through to gelato and Mozarella. I’m also a sucker for an Aperol Spritz.
Ultimately, food (and drink) is life. It brings people together and is there to be enjoyed, rather than feared and slated. That’s the key to balance and moderation when we come at it from a more spiritual, loving angle.
2.Do you also like to travel? Where is the best place you’ve ever visited?
Travel should have been my middle name. I have visited 40 countries, and currently live in Spain. In the last decade, since having kids though, I’ve had to keep a lid on my wanderlust somewhat. No mean feat when you get itchy feet! There are so many incredible places I have traveled to, that it really is hard to choose my favourite. One of the most invigorating places I’ve been is definitely Seoul, in South Korea. It was mind-blowing and so very different to everywhere else.
3.What is your writing process like? Do you plot out your stories, or do you begin and see where the story takes you?
I have an inkling of the direction the story will go in, but my creativity flows best when I give myself permission to be a ‘pantser’. I really am a Post It note kind of girl and cannot bear the constraints of all things spread sheet and rules!
4.What’s your favorite part of being an author?
It’s clichéd, I know, but there’s no greater feeling than that blank canvas (page) waiting to be filled with your art (words).
5.What’s your least favorite part of being an author?
The perpetual self-promotion (sigh!)
6.If you had to choose only one, which of your characters would be your favorite?
River Jackson from ‘The Cocktail Bar’. He has fine-tuned the enviable quality of not giving a rip what others think. We could all learn a lot from him!
7.You’ve had two books come out recently. What’s your next project (ie when can we expect the next book from you?)
Costa del Churros is another spiritual, foodie, romcom and it will be out in the autumn. It’s based here, in Andalucia (as you might guess) and is packed full of weird and wonderful characters in desperate need of a diversion from their comfort zones… which definitely happens – both in the novel, and in real life. I particularly enjoyed writing this one as it gave me the perfect excuse to sit in various cafes, testing out their churros con chocolate!
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing.
As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls - http://secure-web.cisco.com/10HW_x_BB7T9NzoP5AFmHREbJ188dKf8BhFxPOlKBmXRrSag6GjlikkJfv-0hPVxO3HlM66Cf24FvVEdNzQTH7pfsvb4PFImk2XfFmaMl8aadI2Ydoa0xawWn_aUOUMnKDSxx3-y9fU2fXscbFUUpI0JW_Dt71v0Bzc71FtSMijZIX5SMNUCT6BRx5_NTCBCLvAEMdM0q0cnfYBOylS1LfF_QK3rxwXOqR-DUP0llQW7l8z1g9MKo-jQkMvk3f_C62WlvL9hS7hSaz0FUNM3TOiFfg6miGniqlr-W3ClFIk_8DvFNhK3dik8Agsa5jeXFVToC8JDVNa9g9S_Sg--6wYeEkosKEvlRerbWxRA20b4o_cer_a1qVlV6EhgUN_3M5AL5jrvK_749IS1_tJkRsA/http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theglasshousegirls.com - she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).
She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative 'drops'!
The Cocktail Bar is her second novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensation, Oh! What a Pavlova, published in 2017. Her third novel, Costa del Churros will be published in September 2018.
Twitter - @IsabellaMayBks
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/
Today Val Penny, author of the wonderful, much acclaimed new novel "Hunter's Chase", stops by to talk about her writing process. Read on and be sure to grab your copy of the book, available now on Amazon.
Author contact details
Friends of Hunter's Chase - www.facebook.com/groups/296295777444303
Article about Plotting in Novels
Plotting is central to writing a novel, but it is a highly individual process. No two authors plot in the same way. Some plot organically while others plot in a very orderly fashion. Many writers even plot differently from one book to another. Some write scenes: hundreds of scenes that interest and excite them and then they stitch the scenes together to from the novel. While others visualise the way the book will take shape using dozens of bits of paper laid out on their desk or even on the floor. It must be important to make sure the windows are closed if you plot this way!
Some authors use tree diagrams, spreadsheets or mind-maps to plot and there is software available to download on line for this.
However you plot your novel, the goal is the same, to allow the journey it is about take that will last several months on the road with a novel. It is important that you, as an author, choose between the 'organic' and 'orderly' methods of plotting so that you are comfortable that your choice works best for you and the book you are setting out to write. I plotted my first novel 'Hunter's Chase' organically but, after attending a course run by Sue Moorcroft at last years' Swanwick Writers' Summer School, I plotted the sequel 'Hunter's Revenge' using diagrams and spreadsheets. Neither is wrong. Both have strength and weaknesses and either can be successful for crafting a novel.
Writers who follow an organic way of plotting, approach the outline largely as a form of awareness of the story, rather than as an actual document to be followed strictly. Many view the the outline not so much as a planning device but more of an analytical tool that helps strengthen the final draft by indicating the flaws in the story-line.
Some authors begin with an idea and just jump in to tell the story. They write steadily and regularly until they have written tens of thousands of words. Then they go through the organic draft and delete large chunks and add other pieces until the final manuscript is complete.
Other authors, like Sue Moorcroft, plot meticulously and there is no doubt that plotting an outline is hard work. However, having undertaken an outline on 'Hunter's Revenge', I found myself into writing my novel with confidence. I was happy that one chapter followed another in a sensible sequence. My characters retained their identities. Of course at the end of the first draft, there were flaws, but I found I was able to repair those readily.
Whether you plot organically or in an orderly fashion, the important issue is that you can tell the story to your readers and that you, and they, are satisfied by your novel.
Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her first crime novel, 'Hunter's Chase' set in Edinburgh, Scotland will be published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. She is now writing the sequel, 'Hunter's Revenge'.
Today I’m speaking to Lin, who is the main character from Heidi Catherine’s novel, The Soulweaver. She’s had a few unusual experiences that I’d like to find out more about.
Hi Lin, I’ve heard that when you look out of your bedroom window, you see a forest. How is this possible for someone who lives in the middle of Hong Kong?
I suppose I must see what I want to see. It’s just a game I’ve been playing since I was a child. Where you might see buildings, I see trees. You might see people below on the pavement, but I see possums or wallabies. You might hear traffic horns, but I hear birds calling out to each other. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always dreamed of living in a forest. It’s almost a surprise to me each day to open my eyes and see that I live in Hong Kong. I hope to find out why this is happening one day.
You also dream of faces you don’t recognise. Who do you think these people are?
Again, I have no idea. They are western faces, with fair skin and hair. So different to the people I am surrounded by each day. It’s just another thing I don’t understand. One face I dream of quite often is a boy with blond hair and a scar running down his face. It almost feels like he’s trying to talk to me sometimes. I just wish I could hear what it is that he wants to say. Maybe then I could find out who he is.
How did you learn to speak English so well?
Well, of course we learn it in school, but my parents also own a convenience store not too far from home and tourists come in there all the time. I love talking to them and watching American sitcoms on the little television we keep behind the counter. I picked up the language very easily, which for some reason annoys my parents. They think that I want to be like one of these western tourists. I’ve tried to tell them it’s not because I don’t think my family is good enough – they are! It's just that somehow I don’t feel like I belong.
Tell me about your friends at school.
I don’t really have any friends. The other girls think I’m strange. I just don’t see the point in the conversations they have or the games they play. There’s so much happening in the world – forests are being cut down and people are starving – and they’re more interested in talking about what they’re going to wear on the weekend. I don’t get it, just like they don’t get me. So I keep to myself mainly.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to go to the woodlands and draw the faces from my dreams. I started doing it thinking it would help me to make sense of all of this, but so far it hasn’t. In some ways it’s made it worse. I look into the eyes of these people I’ve drawn and I know so well, yet I’m certain I’ve never met them. Especially the boy with the scar on his face. He’s so familiar. I just can’t place where I know him from. It’s like I recognise him with my heart rather than my eyes.
Thanks Lin. Good luck with the drawing and I hope you figure out who all these people are one day soon!
Heidi Catherine can be found on Facebook, Twitter or on her website. Her debut novel, The Soulweaver, is available for order now. She also has a free prequel novelette called The Moonchild, which introduces you to two of the main characters from The Soulweaver in the lifetime they lived before the book takes place.
To buy The Soulweaver: myBook.to/thesoulweaver
Today, Barnabas makes room on his dance card (which is busy busy busy as he's just wrapping up his latest caper) to talk to Anne-Marie Ormsby, author of the just released (as in, TODAY!) Purgatory Hotel. Now, the book is just a little bit spooky, not really anything to be afraid of at all, so I'm sure Barnabas will set aside his nerves and...um, Barnabas? Where have you gone...oh, you crazy fellow, will you come out from behind the sofa and properly welcome our guest? (Barnabas peeks up over the back of the sofa, so that just his eyes and the top of his head are showing.)
Sigh. I suppose that will have to do. Anyway, a big welcome to Anne-Marie! Please, do sit down and we'll have a chat about your book. Maybe not on the sofa though. (Anne-Marie gives the peeping Barnabas a questioning glance, makes herself comfy on the armchair, and we proceed with the interview).
So, your book, Purgatory Hotel, is coming out today! Very exciting! In three sentences, can you give us an idea of what it’s about?
A girl wakes up in Purgatory which is an old hotel, but can’t remember who she is or how she died.
The girl must have done something bad to end up in Purgatory.
The girl has to remember everything before she can get to Heaven.
It’s clear that you are fascinated by the darker side of things. Where did your love of the macabre come from?
My mum and dad always loved reading crime books and watching murder mysteries on TV. They loved Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie so I ended up loving those too. I recall Saturday nights with the whole family in front of the TV watching Miss Marple and Poirot aswell as Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes stories. My dad was interested in true crime too so as I got older I ended up reading more and more books around the subject. I have 2 brothers and 4 sisters and between us all we all ended up with an interest in the darker side of things, all of us sharing horror movies and scary books. It definitely shaped my movie and book preferences!
Have you ever seen (or experienced in any other way) a ghost?
Yes I have. Several times. But that’s my next book….
On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being a mild startle and 10 being “oh dear I can’t sleep because I’m sure there’s a murderous clown under my bed”) how scary is Purgatory Hotel?
Ah I don’t think it’s that scary at all, creepy maybe, no one likes the idea of being stuck in a dark and creepy old hotel! I haven’t written it to be a scary book but it features a lot of things that scare me – old hotels, long corridors, dark forests and ultimately dying in a very unpleasant way.
If none of those things bother you I’d say it’s a 2…..however if you aren’t a fan of the woods at night, probably an 8.
No clowns though. I’m too scared of them to write about them!
Did the idea for the hotel come from an actual hotel you’ve visited?
I didn’t think it did, it felt like an amalgam of a lot of different familiar images of old hotels. But my sister pointed out to me when she was reading descriptions of the hotel, that in places it was like a hotel that was around the corner from where I grew up called The Grand. I went there all the time in my teenage years as it was a great pub but the hotel part was damaged by fire and not used. I went up there once when a friend who worked there showed me around. It was really creepy. Perhaps that thought of all those empty rooms and lightless hallways stuck somewhere in my subconscious.
So that wraps up our conversation with Anne-Marie. Check out Purgatory Hotel on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Purgatory-Hotel-Anne-Marie-Ormsby/dp/1977649521
and visit Anne-Marie on her blog here: https://www.annemarieormsby.com/
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!