Countdown: ready to meet the Liddell sisters?

Thursday is the big day. Like most authors I’m filled with excitement and trepidation. Will anyone notice it, read it? Like my new book? It’s a voyage into the unknown.

Writing a book is often similar to a journey. You have a bunch of characters whom you pick to take with you, a landscape you’re going to explore with them and a plot that keeps them engaged with each other. Along the way, your characters evolve, the scenery decides to alter and the plot deviates from the original structure. Fortunately, the end point of my book remained the same, I always knew the destination, and there’s nothing more satisfying then having everything reach that point safely.

How does The Last Thing She Said begin? With three sisters – Leia and Rebecca, who are twins, and Naomi, their younger sister. Each woman is on the verge of making a big decision in her life. But first a family tradition …

 

Every June the first, Naomi’s eldest sister visited their grandmother, insisting whoever was available on the day be towed along to watch Gran blow out a candle on her birthday cake and fall asleep with feigned exhaustion.

‘I’ve baked a cake,’ Rebecca announced over the telephone to Naomi. ‘You’re coming, and we’ll pick up Leia on the way to the house.’

Naomi behaved exactly as Rebecca would expect – like a grumpy teenager impatiently waiting to turn twenty. ‘Oh, God, do we have to take her? You know Leia hates all the mumbo jumbo that Gran spouts. She’d have her in one of those sheltered housing places.’

‘Gran’s not that old. If it wasn’t for Granddad passing away, she’d still be sprightly and full of beans.’

‘And in her right mind. Why do we put up with all this nonsense? Her clairvoyance? This “I can see the future” business?’

‘She doesn’t see it. She hears it,’ Rebecca corrected with infuriating precision. ‘It doesn’t do anyone any harm, so leave her to it.’

‘Harm? No, I suppose not.’ Naomi hung up and closed her bedroom door, blocking out the scrape of bow against string. She’d taken up residence with an ambitious violinist who preferred to practise in the hallway, sandwiched between the front door and the bottom of the stairs, where she claimed the acoustics were good. The budding Nicola Benedetti was in full flight of the bumble bee mode and unlikely to stop practising for a few days due to her impending recital. Naomi preferred the hallowed practice rooms of the university.

A trip to Gran’s cosy house wasn’t a bad idea.

 

The Last Thing She Said is available on pre-order at Amazon, and will be released on Kindle Unlimited and in print.

 

“Beware of a man named Frederick and his offer of marriage.”

Rose’s granddaughters, Rebecca, Leia and Naomi, have never taken her prophecies seriously. But now that Rose is dead, and Naomi has a new man in her life, should they take heed of this mysterious warning?

Naomi needs to master the art of performing. Rebecca rarely ventures out of her house. She’s afraid of what she might see. As for Rebecca’s twin, everyone admires Leia’s giant brain, but now the genius is on the verge of a breakdown.

Rebecca suspects Naomi’s new boyfriend is hiding something. She begs Leia, now living in the US, to investigate.

Leia’s search takes her to a remote farm in Ohio on the trail of the truth behind a tragic death.

Just who is Ethan? And what isn’t he telling Naomi?

In a story full of drama and mystery, the sisters discover there is more that connects them than they realise, and that only together can they discover exactly what’s behind Rose’s prophecy.

 

Do you like to read about free chapters and short stories, or find out more about your favourite author including their work in progress?

Interested? Then sign up for my reader’s club newsletter: Rachel’s Readers and you’ll receive a complementary short story.

Book club questions – what happened at Heachley Hall? #bookclubs

I’m more than delighted, and a little scared, when I find out my book, The Women of Heachley Hall, is featuring at a book club. What do people talk about? Readers are always reviewers, even if they never  post anything on a public forum, and as a writer, it is there at the back of my mind, all the time – what is that makes a book a good read?

If you are in a book club, then please consider my book, and if you do, I’d love to hear back from you.

I crafted a few questions I’d like to ask, if I was there. Just food for thought, things that intrigue me about the themes and characters.

Warning to those who haven’t read it – some spoilers!!!

 

  • Would you live in Heachley Hall on your own? What makes somebody tenacious?
  • Would you have left the house at any time, and if so, when?
  • Miriam sacrifices her love to free Charles from his curse. What convinces her to do this?
  • Do people punish themselves too harshly for guilty feelings – is Charles’s guilt justified?
  • Did you guess the ending?  Is Charles a ‘ghost’ or ‘time-traveller’?
  • How much do the other characters contribute to the book?
  • Did I make the right decision to tell Charles’s story in a journal or should I have done it differently – ie. In dialogue or interspersed between Miriam’s story?

Considering a pre-emptive strike – do I put readers questions in my next book?

Me and my flute

(I originally posted this on my Quietwriter blog four years ago).

I played in a concert last night. No, concert isn’t the right word. Far too grand. A small performance to an even smaller audience. Did it matter? Not really. I enjoyed the coming together with my fellow musicians and hearing all our hard work successfully performed.

Audience size doesn’t matter, one person, a thousand, the true joy is in the preparation and smiles when we make it to the end of the piece without glaring mistakes.

I’m a flautist. Since 8 years old my primary instrument has been the flute. I took the grades, joined concert bands, and other small ensembles though not orchestras. My latest one is a flute choir. With little opportunity to play regularly, the couple of times a month we meet is my musical fix.

I chose the flute because my best friend at the time played one. It was a fortuitous choice I would discover many years later, but at the time it made sense because I was a competent player of the recorder. The transition to flute made easier due to similar fingering patterns.

My enthusiasm increased as I was exposed to more classical music my parents, visiting the Royal Festival Hall for concerts. The flute is a social instrument, so I learnt to cope with nerves and play in school concerts and regional concerts put on by county music schools.

james galway Technically, I could call myself a grand-pupil of James Galway. My first teacher had been a pupil of his and always called him Jimmy. “I’d I seen Jimmy, yet?” she’d asked.  I did, when I was about 8 or 9, in Devon on holiday. He came to a Dartington Hall to perform a concert and I sat on the balcony, peering through the wooden railings and it enthralled me. His eyes darted about the room – if you play from memory then there is nowhere to look playing the flute, the instrument is to one side and out of eyesight. I fix on a point or shut my eyes, if I play from my heart.

Later, another teacher would suggest I only bought recordings of his earlier performance ‘before he got really famous’, because they were less flamboyant in nature. I’m not sure what my teacher meant – wasn’t that the point, show off your prowess?

Guo yoeOf course, I’ve learnt that unembellished music is often the best. My preferred flautist is now very different – Guo Yue. A Chinese born flautist, who lives in England. He’s expertise is the bamboo flute and there are no keys, just holes to cover. The music he plays is not western in style, the notes slide, drift into each other, swirling. He provided the musical accompaniment for a Channel 4 documentary on China called Beyond the Clouds. It is haunting, melancholic. Beautiful. He’s also trained to play western flutes and music, but I stick to his origins.

220px-Gu_Hongzhong's_Night_Revels,_Detail_4I could never play what he does, I have a Chinese flute, but it is so different, so basic in structure, so difficult to play.

At our concert, we played popular pieces, Irish folk, operatic arias. Our small audience sung along in places. I don’t think they’d have appreciated Chinese flute music. But that is the wonder of music, what I listened to, isn’t necessarily what I enjoy performing, and what inspires me to play is often what I don’t want to actually play myself.

 

My next book involves three talented sisters, one of whom plays the flute. Will she tackle performing?

It’s coming soon…

My next book is in its final stages of editing, and here is the cover!

Ebook cover

Three Sisters. Three Gifts. One Prophecy.

Do you like to read about free chapters and short stories, or find out more about your favourite author including their work in progress?

Interested? Then sign up for my reader’s club newsletter: Rachel’s Readers and you’ll receive a complementary short story.

Hidden stories that need unlocking.

There are plenty of things I could tell you, things about my book and what I want to write in the future. However, my novels have secrets that only they can tell. What I can share are short stories that I’ve written. If you would like to read one, and have the opportunity to take part in giveaways and prizes, then sign up for my newsletter. Recipients will receive a ‘key’ to unlock hidden stories on my website.

Newsletter signup –  Rachel’s Readers

The first hidden story on offer – Seeing is believing.

 

Maggie claimed there were the ghosts of squirrels in Harlton Woods. As we walked amongst the bluebells, I’d point at the squirrels on the branches and she’d tell me which were ghosts and which were alive. According to Maggie even the fox I spied in the hollow of an oak was a ghost. The woods weren’t exactly spooky. Just old trees with knotted branches and moss covered bark. I played along with her; it’s what friends do when they’re innocent and young.

 

To find out more, join Rachel’s Readers.

 

A trip down memory lane in Norfolk

For our holiday, my family and I crossed the expanse of the Midlands to visit the Norfolk coast. We drove through The Fens, where parents lived out their childhood, and saw the house where my mother was born, the market town where my father’s family had a store and by the side of a road, the cemetry where my grandparents are buried. It has been probably twenty years since I last visited these memory spots. Locating them wasn’t difficult, my memories are locked in, but they weren’t the same. A door had moved and why did I recall an upright gravestone, when in fact it is flat in the ground? The little alterations that I had made in my mind had stuck and I corrected them, chiding myself for not recalling the finer details.

Then on to the coast and the chance to see more places I visited as a small child and from which I took the inspiration for my book, The Women of Heachley Hall. Heachley doesn’t exist, but the woods around Heacham do. There is no Little Knottisham, my fictional hamlet, but Snettisham, Dersingham and Ringstead are real. The latter being the village where my grandfather was born. We drove through it, passed the flintstone cottages. I tried to capture those round stones in the walls of Heachley Hall because I knew they were significant for the region.

We came across a major fire – a haystack fully alight on the top of a hill. On the other side of the field, a small piece of hot black plastic had blown over and caught the dry grasses of a hedgerow. The smouldering fire quickly spread and we called the fire service, alarmed at the proximity of a row of houses. A few hours later, the field was black charcoal (according to the news reports) and the gardens of one house had suffered. How quickly devastation arrives, sweeping its way across the tinderbox of drought ridden fields. I never thought when I wrote my book and described how a house fire spread to a neighbouring wood that it would be played out miles from where I imagined my story to be set. Thankfully, the fire service saved the houses and the fire was contained.

Above Old Hunstanton cliffs, we ate ice-cream in the sweltering heat and down on the beach, paddled in the tidal pools. The cliff face in places had collapsed just below the prominent, inoperative lighthouse. I snapped photos, wanting to frame the images just as I described them in my book. The late afternoon sun loitered in the sky above the sea – an unusual feature of the east coast where the sun typically rises over the sea and sets over land. The curvature of the coastline allows the sun to track the beaches from East to West.

There, done. I felt satisfied. Mission accomplished. I might not live in Norfolk, but the connection to the county remains strong. I’m so glad I chose to set a book about memories where my memories live on.

As for my next work – I remain in East Anglia. Can’t seem to let go of the region.

The Women of Heachley Hall is now available on iBooks, Kobo, Nook and Indigo

The story is intriguing and at times had me on the edge of my seat. The book is beautifully written and the story tempts the reader with snippets of clues throughout the book. The house itself is almost a breathing entity with its own personality and I loved this about it. A cleverly written plot that drew me in and had me wandering the rooms of Heachley Hall along with Miriam. A story about love, regret and the secrets families keep. Highly recommended.  ~ Brook Cottage Books

 

Five books to take on a desert island

It’s hot outside and we haven’t had rain for a month. The grass is dying, the leaves think it’s autumn and the sky is a constant azure and only wisps of clouds float by in the distance.

Sitting outside, closing my eyes, shutting out the noise of traffic and voices, I could be on a tropical island basking in the sunshine. There is time to kill, plenty of it as nobody is planning to rescue me just yet and there is no rain to trouble me.

What would I read?

The classic what would you take on a desert island to read assumes you have nothing else available and that you could be marooned indefinitely. Consequently I would take fat books with thin pages. Assume I have room for five books in my rucksack – along with my reading glasses! What would I pick?

The Lord of the Rings. Not very original I know, but it’s longer than A Tale of Two Cities, which is too compact. I read LotR when I was twelve. I’m overdue a re-read.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I adored this book, a tale of one Indian woman’s quest to find a husband. The weaving stories were like a soap opera, although sometimes the narrative drifted into the obscure. I held out through those passages and fell in love with the characters. I’m rather partial to exotic locations.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Probably for the sonnets. I would try to learn a few by heart, or maybe act out a monologue on the sandy beaches of my island.

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. The beautifully recreated world of Renaissance Scotland when men wore duelling swords and supposedly spoke poetry as an everyday thing. Yep, I am romantic at heart.

The final selection is tough. Should I go for the practical self-help book that tells me how to survive adversity? Or an encyclopaedia to plug the gaps in my education? Maybe I should venture into learning a new language or skill. But, really, I’d want to relax and enjoy the waves crashing down as I read under the shade of a palm tree.

I’m not a fan of favourites. I don’t have favourite colours or food, I don’t list my top ten films or books. I’m quite fluid and depending on my mood, I might want to read a thriller or a romance, something historical that transports me back in time. There is so much to read that I should be adventurous and perhaps pick a book, especially an author, that I’ve never read. It’s a gamble, but that’s what reading is all about and sometimes a book doesn’t deliver what I expected and I put it one side, other times the story stretches me into new places and I gobble the pages in one sitting.

For my fifth book? I will ask somebody to slip something into my rucksack and surprise me. The recommendation might be a huge disappointment or it could be a joy to read. Stories are rather difficult to predict but isn’t that their enduring quality?

 

 

Heachley Hall is on tour with #bookbloggers

I’m delighted to announce that The Women of Heachley Hall has gone on tour!  You can read an extract, reviews, author interviews and participate in a draw to win a free copy of the book. All you need to his visit one or more of these blogs over the next few days!

Date: 11th June
Date: 12th June
Date: 13th June
Date: 14th June
Date: 15th June

 

Miriam has one year to uncover an unimaginable past and a secret that only women can discover.
BUY LINKS
AMAZON UK: https://goo.gl/Q4cSGC
AMAZON US: https://goo.gl/gU3FAF

 

Keeping track of the family #familysagas

I created a family. It began with a name, one that I discovered using census data. The website provides details of the popular surnames of English counties. I picked two – one for each of the families that feature in my book, The Women of Heachley Hall.

Dates became crucial to plotting the story. Who lived in the house and for how long?

Since the story spans over a hundred years, I needed a tool to help me.

Using My Heritage website I constructed a family tree for both families and ensured the relevant characters lived to suitable ages – nothing more embarrassing in having somebody give birth at the age of five or marry in their nineties. My Heritage think it’s a real family. They kept emailing me to ask if I wanted to trace more of my ancestors. Part of me wishes it was real because in writing this book my characters felt very real to me. It must be an author’s affliction to want to turn fantasy into reality.

Now there is only one way to find out who is who and that is to read the book. My Heritage have deleted my tree!

 

I touched each gravestone in turn and tried to make some connection to my family. Hubert had been buried in India, so I’d no grave to visit for him. John Marsters, my grandfather, rested in a London cemetery. Felicity, cremated in Norwich, my mother likewise in Colchester, and my father’s ashes had been scattered on a Greek island with his lover. Only one other Marsters – Mary, my mentally fractured grandmother – had been buried and she lay next to John, squeezed into his grave. Her only dying wish was to be with her husband. My attempt at sensing a connection, some kind of energy conduit between me and my deceased ancestors didn’t happen. I smirked. What did I expect? I’d known nothing about them, nor cared to until Felicity’s will brought me here.

Only women can discover Heachley’s secret.

5* “The story is beautifully constructed and precious, and it is very satisfying.” – Goodreads reviewer

5* “This beautifully written mystery weaves a spell around the house and the people connected to it.” – Goodreads reviewer

The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight year old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.

But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.

The fond memories of visiting the once grand Victorian mansion are all she has left of her parents and the million pound inheritance is enough of a temptation to encourage her to live there alone.

After all, a year’s not that long. So with the help of a local handyman, she begins to transform the house.

But the mystery remains. Why would loving Aunt Felicity do this to her?

Alone in the hall with her old life miles away, Miriam is desperate to discover the truth behind Felicity’s terms. Miriam believes the answer is hiding in her aunt’s last possession: a lost box. But delving into Felicity and Heachley’s long past is going to turn Miriam’s view of the world upside down.

Does she dare keep searching, and if she does, what if she finds something she wasn’t seeking?

Has something tragic happened at Heachley Hall?

Miriam has one year to uncover an unimaginable past.

Available for on Amazon – Print, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Would you like a free short ghost story to read – Seeing is Believing?

Then sign up for my newsletter – Rachel’s Readers!

Heachley Hall is open for business! #newrelease

Today my magical mystery book goes live on Amazon, which means the doors of Heachley Hall are fully open for you to come in and explore, alongside Miriam, who has to decide whether she can really live in a decaying house for year and a day.

I don’t possess the skills needed to renovate a Victorian hall, so I sympathise with her initial decision – sell and run away from the problem. But, I’m also drawn to old houses and the stories they have to tell. If you are intrigued by mysteries and gothic houses, then stay with Miriam for a while and see what happens as she uncovers the secret behind her great-aunt’s legacy, a mystery that only women can solve.

Chapter one – exploring Heachley Hall

The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight year old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.

But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.

The fond memories of visiting the once grand Victorian mansion are all she has left of her parents and the million pound inheritance is enough of a temptation to encourage her to live there alone.

After all, a year’s not that long. So with the help of a local handyman, she begins to transform the house.

But the mystery remains. Why would loving Aunt Felicity do this to her?

Alone in the hall with her old life miles away, Miriam is desperate to discover the truth behind Felicity’s terms. Miriam believes the answer is hiding in her aunt’s last possession: a lost box. But delving into Felicity and Heachley’s long past is going to turn Miriam’s view of the world upside down.

Does she dare keep searching, and if she does, what if she finds something she wasn’t seeking?

Has something tragic happened at Heachley Hall?

Miriam has one year to uncover an unimaginable past.

“The story is beautifully constructed and precious, and it is very satisfying.” – Rosie Amber Reviewers

“This beautifully written mystery weaves a spell around the house and the people connected to it.” – Goodreads reviewer

Available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and Print

Amazon

Sign up for my newsletter – Rachel’s Readers for a free ghost story – Seeing is Believing