Tag Archives: #newfiction

A Little Sneaky Peek Into The After Life

depositphotos_11800051-stock-photo-spotlight-blue-on-smog-background

I read recently that if you’re struggling with a storyline as a writer then you should try interviewing your characters. An intriguing thought……

My current cast of characters are putting up a bit of a fight and progress on my first draft of Book Baby 4 has been a bit stop/start. I’ve found myself wandering off at a tangent and writing some short fiction pieces instead of focussing on my first draft. I’ve also made numerous notes of ideas for the next Silver Lake tale (currently pencilled in for 2019) Perhaps part of the issue is that Jake and Lori and the others won’t wait their turn!

Anyway, time to try to regain control over my current delinquent characters…… 

As agreed via email, I’d arrived at Glasgow’s O2 Academy at three o’clock to interview up and coming band, After Life. The five piece band who are based in London are currently on tour supporting Aussie rockers, Bodimead.

Instead of being shown into one of the art deco venue’s dressing rooms, Rocky, After Life’s father-figure manager, escorted me up to the venue’s balcony and suggested I take a seat while I waited for the two members of the band to arrive. Firmly and a little bluntly, Rocky said I’d have thirty minutes with them and not a minute more.

Down below on the stage, Bodimead’s crew were finishing setting up for the show and I wondered if I was going to be lucky enough to catch some of their sound check and a glimpse of their front man, Flynn.

A couple of minutes later, I was joined by Taylor Rowe and Luke Court, the lead guitarist and bass player from After Life. Both of them flopped down into seats in the row in front of where I was sitting and greeted me with a warm hello.

Before I could ask my first question, Taylor began waxing lyrical about the art deco beauty of the venue. I quickly established that this was their first trip to Glasgow and asked how they’d found the city so far.

“We arrived quite late last night so all we really saw in the dark was the hotel, the restaurant and a couple of bars,” confessed Taylor. “I went for a walk this morning. There’s some stunning architecture around here.”

“And a lot of hills,” muttered Luke. “Our hotel is at the top of a vertical street!”

This is After Life’s first tour with their new female vocalist, Ellen Lloyd, so I asked the guys how the band had changed since she’d joined them.

“We listened to hundreds of auditions a few months back. Well some of us did,” began Taylor with a wink to Luke. “Ellen’s was the one that really stood out as being different.  She has an incredible voice. Really impressed us at the first rehearsal. She’s brought a whole new dimension to our show. A theatrical element that we hadn’t explored before.”

“And a shit load of talent,” added Luke. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t hit it off with her at first but her voice really blew me away. She’s got so much talent. Wait till you hear her tonight. She can convey so much emotion with only a few notes.”

I commented that I’d hoped she would’ve been able to join us but Taylor apologised for her absence, explaining that she was resting her voice ahead of the show. Conscious of time, I asked both musicians about what  I could expect from their set later on.

“A visit to the After Life,” joked Luke with an infectious laugh. “No, seriously, we hope you enjoy the show. We’re playing mainly our own material with a couple of covers thrown into the mix. Usually we have time for eight, maybe nine, numbers before our Aussie hosts call time. It’s an eclectic mix.”

Taylor added that several of the songs had been written or co-written by Ellen and were due to be recorded next month for their debut album.

“We’re booked into a studio in London for five weeks. Just hope it’s enough time to get it all recorded. We’ve still a few songs to write too,” admitted Luke. “Exciting times in the After Life.”

Casually ,I probed if this was Luke’s first studio experience, enquiring if he’d not recorded anything before with his uncle. Luke is the nephew of reclusive guitarist, Garrett Court, of Royal Court fame.

“Despite the family history, I’ve never recorded in a proper studio before,” revealed the band’s bass player. “My uncle lives in New York these days. The last few times I’ve visited, he’s had me working in his music store. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of guitars. Total guitar geek heaven. Garrett likes to play this game with his customers where he tries to match them to an instrument rather than let them choose what they want.”

“Be fair,” interrupted Taylor. “From what you’ve said, he’s pretty sharp at it.”

“Yeah, he is,” agreed Luke.

I asked if Garrett had seen his nephew play with After Life.

“A few times. Not recently. Not since Ellen joined us. We were hoping he’d make it over for the London show but he had other commitments.”

“So, what commitments are in After Life’s immediate future?” I asked curiously.

“Well, we’ve seven shows left with Bodimead, including tonight’s. Then we’re playing a full set at Wales Open Air on 5th May. Rocky’s given us a week or so off then it’s into the studio on 13th May. Beyond that, we’re not sure. We hope to get the record out around the end of October or November time so we’ll get some shows booked for around then,” explained Taylor. “It’s all starting to pick up pace. Rocky’s already hinting at going over to Europe or even the States at the start of next year.”

“I’d love to tour America,” declared Luke with a grin. “Play some of those venues that you only read about in magazines. Would love to play some of the clubs on Sunset Strip or a show in Vegas.”

I joked that he’s the band’s true “rock star” in the making.

“Maybe,” he confessed suddenly seeming almost shy. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s the dream coming true.

To finish, I asked Taylor what his dreams for the future look like. He thought for a moment or two before answering my question. “I hope the record does well and that we can start to make some money from this game. I’d love to be able to buy my own house. My own bolt hole. I’d love to see the band grow and sell millions of records and play sell out headlining shows but, on the other hand, I’m not sure how I’ll feel if we end up playing arenas if I don’t have my own space to call home.”

“You’re just a beach bum at heart,” teased Luke.

“Yeah and I’m not denying it,” laughed Taylor. “I grew up on the beach surfing, playing guitar, beach bonfires and stuff. I miss that after a while in the city.”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see After Life’s manager approaching. I asked the guys if Rocky was as strict as he appeared to be. They exchanged glances and laughed.

“He tries to be,” said Taylor. “I live with him and his wife Lizzie when we’re in London. Ellen too. He keeps us all in line, especially Luke, our party animal here, but it’s really our drummer, Jack, who’s the strict one. He takes no nonsense. Rocky can usually be talked round, especially if its Ellen doing the asking. On the other hand, if Jack says no then it’s a no and not even Ellen can sweet talk him. Well not yet anyway. She’s working on it.”

 A few hours later, I was standing downstairs in the venue, beside the bar, watching After Life out on stage. This is a band worth watching. There’s a raw energy to their performance. A passion for the music and a rare synergy among them. Their mysterious front woman, Ellen, plays a witch/priestess persona on stage, using her flowing black cloak to dramatic effect during the songs. Her voice is one of the best and most versatile female rock voices I’ve heard over recent years but I can’t help but feel there’s an air of fragility to her too. There’s more to this songbird than meets the eye, I feel.

With a puff of smoke and some clever lighting, she vanishes from the stage. Vanishes to the After Life.

image sourced via Google – credits to the owner

 

 

Silently Watching At Lammas

dark angel

A tiny vole scuttled around in the damp leaf mould in the icy cold, dark mausoleum. Sniffing the air cautiously, it ventured out from the safety of the edge of the tomb and moved slowly across the stone floor. It’s tiny paws barely made a sound as they pattered across the room. Pausing momentarily, the vole sniffed the air again. Something sour tickled its twitching whiskers. More cautiously, it proceeded across the open space. Just before it reached the sanctuary of the far side and the tiny crack in the stone that would lead to freedom, it’s paws touched something coarse and ridged. Feathers! Realising what it was, the vole accelerated to safety, reaching the escape route just as the dark angel began to stir.

For forty long days and nights she had lain on the floor suffering an agony that she had never felt before. The excruciating pain had begun in her throat as she had flown back to the mausoleum on mid-summer’s night. It had burned like fire down through her chest as she had flown the few short miles. Her strength had also been waning as she had landed clumsily in front of the stone doorway. The last strands of her energy had been drained as she had pulled the door closed behind her. It was then that the full force of the pain consumed her. Agony exploded inside her, searing into her stomach. With a howl of pain, she had collapsed on the floor, dipping in and out of consciousness for the next forty days.

The vole scampering across the tips of her wings had roused her.

As she lay in the darkness, weakened and virtually lifeless, the dark angel deduced that she had been poisoned. Something she had consumed on mid-summer’s night had been tainted.

Slowly, she pushed herself up into a sitting position, the world around her spinning as she did so. A sharp pain shot through her mouth, causing her to gasp. Toothache? Disbelievingly, she ran her parched tongue over her teeth. The tip of one of her fangs was missing. With her energy reserves so depleted, the dark angel knew she would need to feed before she could regenerate the tip.

 

Glancing in the mirror, he put his left hand up to the wound at his neck. Almost six weeks had passed since he’d suffered the mystery puncture wound and still it refused to fully heal. A dark purplish circle about the size of a five pence piece marked the spot. The wound had never scabbed over but, instead, there was an almost blister-like covering to it. Occasionally, it throbbed deep inside his neck.

As his fingertips brushed the delicate blister, it burst and oozed fresh blood once more.

“Bugger,” he muttered to himself. “Not again.”

Despite both his wife and his running buddy’s nagging, he’d refused to see a doctor about the mystery wound. It was clean. There was no obvious infection and he wasn’t suffering any ill effects from it. In fact, if anything he had felt more invigorated and full of energy over the past few weeks. He had argued with both of them that it would heal in its own good time.

“I’ll be back in an hour,” he called out to his wife. “Maybe a bit more.”

Closing the door behind him, he settled his earphones into his ears, cranked up the volume on his iPod and loped off down the hill. A few short minutes later the hill evened out a little and he was faced with three choices- left took him up into the countryside and the trails, straight ahead took him through the housing estate and meant he’d have to run past the yappy dog’s house or right would take him down past the graveyard. He still avoided that road where possible after the strange encounter on it last Halloween. He didn’t feel keen to explore the trails without his buddy by his side. However, he had no desire to tempt that damn dog to take a bite out of calf. The graveyard road seemed the lesser of the three evils.

Midgies swarmed round him in clouds as he ran down the tree-lined road. The mild, damp weather had brought them out in droves. Much as he loved the warmth of late summer evenings, those tiny flying devils certainly took the edge off the enjoyment. Halfway down the narrow road, a sharp pain shot through his mouth. Toothache? With a groan, he kept running, silently cursing the thought of a visit to the dentist.

As he reached the village’s main street, the pain vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

With a sigh a relief, he headed for the coast road, looking forward to stretching his legs for a few miles. Ever since the incident with the two dead deer, he’d been training hard, finding a new turn of speed and extra stamina. On their twice weekly trail runs, his buddy had been struggling to keep pace with him, causing him to temper things when he was out with him. Now, on his own, he was free to set his own rhythm.

 

Almost an hour later, he was back at main street, still feeling fresh, despite having run around eight miles to the ferry terminal and back, and was faced with his usual dilemma – straight ahead up the hill past the yappy dog or left up past the graveyard? He didn’t fancy being a late evening snack for the dog so, again, he opted for the shorter, steeper graveyard road, praying silently that the light breeze had dispersed the midgies.

 

Wearily, the dark angel sat on the marble bench seat that ran round three sides of the tomb. She had scanned the immediate area for wildlife, hoping to track down an easy meal to rejuvenate her enough to fix her fang. The pain from it was an incessant throbbing. A mortal pain that she had long since forgotten. Trying to block it out, she trained her attention to the area outside the mausoleum, listening to the sounds of anything that could serve as a meal. Forty days without blood had taken its toll on her as well as the effects of the poison. Thinking back to mid-summer’s night, the dark angel fathomed that one of the deer must have been poisoned. She would need to be more careful in future. With a smile, she remembered meeting the runner again, albeit too briefly for her liking. With a sigh, she recalled how she’d almost been allowed to dine on his rich, exotic, ferrous blood. A divine meal yet to be savoured.

The rhythmic thud of feet approaching up the road caught her attention. Her mind was immediately filled with a vision of him powering his way up the hill towards her lair. In her vision, the dark angel could see the vein pulsing in his neck, the skin covered by a sheen of sweet sweat. Ever acute, her senses picked up on the puncture wound on his neck.

A sharp pain stabbed through her damaged fang as a cold realisation struck her.

 

Outside on the road, oblivious to the ancient mausoleum that was hidden by the trees, the runner felt the toothache return. Same canine tooth as before, only this time the pain stabbed right up into his cheek bone. He also became aware that the wound on his neck was throbbing. Casually, he rubbed his hand across his neck. His fingertips came away covered in fresh blood. Not for the first time, he wondered whether there was something in the wound. There was a definite pressing, pulsating feeling deep in his neck. Perhaps his wife and buddy were right. Perhaps he should get the wound looked at. He vowed to make an appointment with the doctor, after he’d seen the dentist about his toothache.

 

As his footsteps receded, the angel set staring down at her feet, not fully believing what she had just uncovered. Could it be true? How could it even be possible Carefully, she ran her tongue over her broken fang, certain now that it’s missing tip was lodged in the runner’s neck. With equal certainty, she now knew what had poisoned her. It had been those few delicious drops of his blood…but why?

 

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

For info –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lammas

 

Silently Watching On Midsummer’s Night

dark angel

An act of indiscretion had confined the dark angel to her lonely mausoleum for almost six months. Several impulsive acts of indiscretion; several acts of abomination that had stunned the close knit village community into deep, dark mourning.

After her missed opportunity on All Hallows Eve, desperation and hunger had got the better of her judgement less than a week later. As the family community had gathered round a huge bonfire for the annual fireworks display to commemorate Guy Fawkes, she had swooped down, snatched a young woman from the edge of the crowd and disappeared soundlessly into the night with her. One bite was all it had taken to silence her victim. In the sanctuary of her mausoleum, she had drunk deeply from young woman’s blood, realising too late that her victim had been pregnant.  With the bangs from the fireworks echoing through the night sky, the dark angel had let out a howl of anguish. Even for her, this had been one kill too far. A breeding female should never be drunk from. One of the golden rules of her lonely existence.

From a distance, she had watched the village mourn the death of the young mother-to-be; had stood silently in the shadows observing the girl’s funeral, noting that her grief stricken husband held two small boys, twins, by the hand as the coffin was lowered into the earth.

Her carelessness had angered her. Her frustration had driven her to seek more human blood to rid herself of the taste of the young woman’s hormone filled nectar.

On Christmas morning, she had feasted on an old man in the graveyard who had come to pay his festive respects to his late wife. His blood had been watery and tainted with the prescribed medication that had kept him alive.

Less than a month later, she had swooped down on a lone mountain biker, who had been roaming the trails above the village. There had been an exotic taste to his thick fresh blood, hinting at origins from warmer climes than this God-forsaken Scottish village. Yet again, she had feasted on one of the small community. How was she to have known that he was the son of a popular businessman, destined for sporting greatness? What did it matter to her? His young, virile blood had tasted divine and finally quenched her thirst for a while. The taste of the forbidden young mother-to-be finally banished by the taste of his exotic elixir.

 

Summer was always a lean time for the angel. There just weren’t enough hours of darkness to allow her to hunt. Her three kills in four months had drawn too much attention to the local area, meaning she would have to hunt further afield but it was too light to travel unseen. The local media were spreading tales that the village was cursed.

Patiently, she had bided her time in the cool darkness of the abandoned mausoleum until hunger pangs had gripped her. The evil in her soul was craving more and more human blood to sustain her. Writhing in agony on the floor of the tomb, she had resisted for as long as she could before having no choice but to risk an early evening foray for sustenance.

Under the cover of a cloudy midsummer dusk, she had spread her magnificent, black wings and soared over the village, heading towards the hills behind. Relishing being outside once more, she soared high over the narrow road for almost an hour before spotting three adult deer on the edge of the forest.

Lightning fast, she swooped to the ground and had her fangs deep in the neck of one of the deer before her slender, leather clad feet had touched down in the bed of pine needles on the ground. As she drank deeply, savouring the gamey taste of the doe’s blood, her nostrils picked up another familiar scent, a heady, ferrous musk mixed with sweat. Listening closely, she heard it – the gentle rhythmic thud, thud, thud of a runner approaching.

 

Ever since his encounter with the dark winged apparition at Halloween, he’d avoided running through the village, preferring instead to pound the forestry trails in the hills behind the house. The spate of sudden, unexplained deaths in the community over the winter months had unnerved him, as it had many of his friends and neighbours. He’d avoided venturing out in the dark but, now that summer was here, he was loving the long, light, warm nights.

Feeling a little guilty at upping the pace, he’d dropped his running buddy half a mile back, enjoying the freedom to run at his own naturally quicker pace. Since he’d sped up, the midgies didn’t seem to be biting so much.  He could feel them in his spiky hair and his eyebrows. As he ran, he pondered how fast a midgie could fly.

He rounded a bend in the trail and stopped in his tracks. The hairs on the back of his neck were on end; the birds had stopped singing in the surrounding trees. Everything was silent. A dead deer lay in the middle of the path, it’s throat recently ripped open.

Behind him, he could hear his friend approaching; hear his heavy breathing as he gave it his all to catch up. He glanced back to see if he was in sight yet but the path was deserted.

Turning back towards the deer, he let out a gasp.

A dark winged female, with waist length raven black hair, stood between him and the carcass. Her piercing green eyes were boring into his very soul.

He stood frozen to the spot as she stepped towards him.

The purple tipped feathers of her wings rustled softly as she moved gracefully to stand at his shoulder. Unable to take his eyes off her striking, alabaster features, the runner noted the fresh blood at the corner of her mouth.

She reached out a long, slim hand with long, pointed, purple nails and traced her finger tip around the outline of the tattoo on his upper arm.

His heart was pounding out of his chest.

Closing his eyes, he felt her breath on his neck.

 

Thud. Thud. Thud.

 

“There you are!” gasped his running buddy. “You trying to kill me with that pace, mate?”

He opened his eyes. The dark angel was gone. The deer carcass had vanished. Turning to face his friend, he muttered, “Sorry. Just needed to stretch my legs for a bit.”

“Hey! You’re bleeding!” exclaimed his breathless friend. “You ok?”

“Bleeding?”

“Yeah. It’s running down your neck.”

Reaching up with a trembling hand, he felt the sweaty skin at the side of his neck. Sure enough, his fingertips came away covered in fresh blood.

“Shit. Must have caught a branch back there.”

“Must have been a thorny one. That looks like a puncture wound,” stated his friend. “Come on. Let’s get you home and get that cleaned up. It looks nasty.”

Together they set off at a leisurely pace along the trail towards the housing estate.

 

High up in the trees, the angel looked down on the scene. Thwarted again but at least this time she’d been able to savour a taste of a meal yet to be enjoyed. Running her tongue over her fangs, she sighed as she lingered over the final drop of his divine blood.

 

 (image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

The Soul Searcher II

With her heart pounding in her chest, she stared at the long-haired stranger in disbelief; with her heart racing, she felt herself flush scarlet as she noted how hot he looked.

Feigning anger, she drew herself up to her full height of five foot three and demanded, “What in the hell are you doing in my garden?”

“Enjoying the view,” he replied casually, noting her petite figure and the curve of her breasts. “And waiting for you.”

“You’re trespassing!”

“Technically, you are correct,” he agreed without showing any signs of moving from his reclined position on the bench. “Stunning view by the way, Anna.”

“How do you know my name?” she asked sharply, instantly feeling stupid. Of course, he knew her name! He had read into her soul back at the coffee shop. This stranger knew more about her than she was comfortable with.

He raised one dark eyebrow at her and smiled. Despite herself, she felt her heart skip a beat.

“You really need to learn to shield those thoughts, Miss Maitland,” he chastised warmly.

Staring awkwardly down at her feet, Anna confessed, “I don’t know how to.”

Getting gracefully to his feet, her uninvited guest said, “I can teach you. It’s easy once you know how. Now, you inadvertently mentioned a chicken casserole. It would be a shame for the wine to go to waste.”

“I don’t see any wine,” countered Anna, looking round for signs of a bottle.

Suddenly, she picked up on a thought from her guest and her eyes flew towards the beach. Sure enough, nestled between two small rocks, just covered by water, lay two bottles of wine.

“Two bottles? Are you trying to get me drunk?” she asked, the icy edge to her tone melting somewhat.

“Not at all. They were on offer. I can’t resist a good deal,” he said as he took a step towards her. “I’m Jarrod, by the way. Jarrod De La Cruz to be exact.”

“Fancy name.”

“Spanish ancestry,” he explained with another heart melting smile. “Now, can we talk over dinner?”

Silently, Anna surveyed him, sub-consciously probing his mind in an effort to determine if she was in danger.

“I won’t harm you,” promised Jarrod. “On my grandmother’s life, I won’t touch you.”

“Fine,” she relented, as her heart sang with joy. “Fetch the wine and come in.”

 

The kitchen of the small cottage was surprisingly spacious. It was one of Anna’s favourite rooms in the house, largely because of its picture window views over the beach towards the river beyond. A tantalising aroma of chicken casserole filled the air, adding to the warm homely feel to the room. While she waited on Jarrod bringing the wine up from the beach, Anna fetched two wine glasses from the glass fronted cabinet then turned to put two plates in the oven to warm. She had just set two places at the large pine table when Jarrod walked into the room.

“Sorry. I had to make a quick phone call,” he apologised. “Had to let the others know where I was.”

“Others? Those hairy guys from the coffee shop?”

“The very ones,” he said with a smile. “I told them I’d catch up with them tomorrow in Glasgow.”

Before she could reply, Jarrod added, “No, they’re not lying in wait to turn up here to rape and pillage you. Relax, Anna. They’re in an Indian restaurant in Paisley. And as for me, I’ve no intention of touching you.”

Her sixth sense caught the hint of the lie in that last sentence.

“So, what are your intentions, Mr De La Cruz?”

“Patience, Miss Maitland,” said Jarrod, opening the first bottle of wine and pouring two half glasses. “You might want to put the other bottle in your fridge or do I need to go back and put it in the river to chill some more?”

Obediently, Anna stowed the unopened bottle in her bare refrigerator then busied herself serving their meal.

“Delicious,” complimented Jarrod after the first few mouthfuls. “Now, how long have you searched souls untamed?”

“Pardon?”

“Your mind was wide open back there in the coffee shop. Shows lack of training. Who taught you how to read minds and search souls, Anna?”

There was a serious note to his voice that caught her by surprise.

“No one,” she answered honestly. “I’ve always been able to do it. When I was little, I thought everyone could do it.”

“You were born able to do it?” exclaimed Jarrod unable to mask his astonishment. “I thought there was something different to you. Tell me about it.”

It wasn’t so much a suggestion as a command and before she realised what she was doing, Anna had told her uninvited guest about the challenges of growing up, the torture of travelling to college on public transport as she was haunted by a cacophony of conversations, the mental cruelty of lectures where her mind followed every day dream of every inattentive student while she consciously tried to focus on the lecturer. She explained the immense relief and inner peace she had found when she bought the cottage and secured a job that she could do from the solitude of her own home. Understanding entirely, Jarrod nodded periodically as Anna told her tale.

“I feel your pain,” he sympathised warmly. “First lesson. How to shut out the noise.”

Anna stared at him open mouthed, “How?”

“It’s easy,” promised Jarrod. “Do you always wear that turquoise ring?”

Anna nodded.

“Focus on it. Focus on everything about it. The texture. The shape. The colour. The silver band. The silver setting around the stone,” instructed Jarrod. “Now, keep that focus but try to pick up my thoughts.”

For a few seconds Anna enjoyed blissful silence as she focussed on her mother’s turquoise ring. After about thirty seconds, she allowed her concentration to lift a little. Immediately, she could hear Jarrod musing about the colour of her underwear. Before she could shut him out again, he began to laugh.

“White lace works for me, Miss Maitland,” he teased as she flushed scarlet in front of him.

“That was cruel!” she protested with a smile. “Is it really that simple to shut the voices out though?”

“Yes,” assured Jarrod. “It takes practice to hold that degree of focus but you’ll soon get the hang of it.”

“Thank you.”

“Lesson two is just as important,” began Jarrod as he refilled their glasses. “You must learn to shield your own thoughts. Learn to preserve your soul from prying eyes.”

“I never suspected anyone was looking before today,” revealed Anna softly. “I didn’t know there were other people like me.”

“You’ve had a long, lonely journey, haven’t you?”

Anna nodded slowly.

“OK. Lesson two,” he stated. “You kind of need to cloak your mind. It’s another visualisation technique. This is harder. Takes more practice. There are a few ways to do it too so you need to experiment a bit.”

He paused to sip his wine.

“Imagine a thick, dense, fog then bring it down around you. Disappear into it. Lose yourself in it. Trust that nothing can penetrate it. Nothing can see you. Focus on it. Believe in it.”

Tentatively, Anna tried to imagine a foggy cloud around her. Her first few attempts were patchy and Jarrod easily managed to find a way into her mind.

Before she became too frustrated, he suggested an alternative, “Try visualising a mirror instead. The mirror side is pointing away from you. The mirror is reflecting everything away from you.”

Again, Anna experimented with the technique described only this time with greater success. It took Jarrod over five minutes to find a chink in her protection.

“Well done,” he praised as she finally let her shield shatter around her. “For a first attempt that was none too shabby. It’ll get easier with practice. Promise.”

“Thank you. I’ll work on it,” vowed Anna as she took a sip of her wine. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, but I reserve the right not to answer.”

“What brought you here?”

“There’s an obvious answer in there, Miss Maitland, and its parked outside,” he teased, playing with her a bit. “Business and pleasure though is a more accurate answer.”

“And the business bit?” quizzed Anna, trying to learn more about her guest.

“Well, I can’t say too much. I’m looking for something.”

“And the pleasure?”

“Apart from having dinner with you?” he teased with a smile. “The pleasure’s getting to ride with the guys I was with earlier. We’re touring around but I need to leave them in a couple of days.”

Jarrod paused for a moment then decided to take a risk, “You could help me out here if I find what I’m looking for.”

“Me? How?”

“Look after it for a short while.”

Alarm bells rang in her overly cautious mind. What if this charismatic stranger was a drug dealer? What if this parcel she was being asked to look after was illegal?

“Calm down,” he said quietly. “And did you listen to anything I taught you earlier?”

“Sorry,” apologised Anna. “But, can you blame me, Jarrod? This has not been the most conventional meeting or evening.”

“I guess not,” he said with a sigh. “I’m working under cover. Hanging with the boys is my cover. They genuinely are my friends, before you ask. My investigations and probing around have been quite fruitful today. I’m pretty sure what I’m looking for will be on the last ferry tonight. I plan on being at the ferry terminal to collect it. However, I need somewhere to keep it safe for a couple of days.”

“Under cover for who?” quizzed Anna, sensing he was being honest with her.

“I can’t say,” apologised Jarrod. “It’s confidential. I need to be in Glasgow tomorrow to catch up with the boys. We’re heading to pick up the owner of the package. If you could guard it for two or three days till I get back it would save me a lot of trouble.”

“Is it too big to take on the bike with you?”

“Not exactly. More like too fragile.”

“And I definitely won’t get into trouble with the police? No thugs are going to turn up here trying to steal it?”

“I promise you it’s safe. No police. No thugs. No one.”

Against her better judgement, Anna felt herself nod.

“Miss Maitland, I think I love you!” declared Jarrod smiling at her.

At the sight of his smile and those dark brown eyes, the last of her reservations melted. Something, fate perhaps, had brought Jarrod into her life and Anna felt compelled to go along with his plans. Swiftly, he explained that he’d leave around eleven, meet the boat and be back by eleven thirty.

“Where will you stay tonight?” asked Anna, realising that locally his options at that time of night would be limited.

“I’ve a tent in my rucksack. I’ll camp outside, if that’s ok?”

“Nonsense,” she heard herself saying. “I’ve a comfortable couch. You are more than welcome to sleep on there.”

“Only if you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.”

 

Shortly before eleven, Jarrod rose to leave for the ferry terminal. While they had waited for the clock to tick round, he’d coached her on a few more basic ways to both use and shield their shared talent. When she had quizzed him on how he had developed the skill, Jarrod had explained that he’d developed the talent after a car crash when he was a teenager. The crash had killed his parents and left him in a coma for a week. When he’d come round, he discovered he could hear what everyone was thinking. With a catch in his voice, he’d confessed that’s how he had learned of his parents’ death. He’d read the mind of one of the nurses.

 

While he was gone, Anna cleared away the glasses and dinner dishes then ran upstairs to fetch a quilt and pillows from the airing cupboard. She left them neatly folded on the floor beside the couch, hoping that her guest would be warm enough overnight.

A short while later, Anna heard the distinctive roar of Jarrod’s motorbike, listened as it stopped outside then heard his footsteps on the path. He knocked at the back door before stepping into the warm welcoming kitchen.

In his arms, he was carrying a sleeping child.

Book Baby 3…birthing pains….

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Two sleeps to go and nerves are creeping in….

Creeping? Who am I kidding? They are flooding in at 100mph!! The “what ifs” have started!

I’ve checked off the pre-launch To Do list and appear to have all essential bases covered.

1-      Upload and set up pre-order on Kindle

2-      Plan online launch party for 15 April 4-6pm and send out invites

3-      Sort out promo goodies

4-      Good Reads Giveaway set up – open till 17 April

5-      Proof paperback edition and approve

All ticked off….apart from No.5.

I think I’ve jinxed myself.

In my author’s note at the start of the book, I pass  comment that Book Baby 3 has been a “golden child.”

WRONG!! Oh, so wrong!!

It’s developed into a juvenile delinquent with a propensity for wandering off!

Let me back track slightly here.

A few weeks ago, I ordered my first paperback proof copy of Book Baby 3. I paid for expediated shipping and, as if by magic, less than a week later, I held the first proof in my hands. A surreal moment.

Cue over a week’s worth of proofreading and final tweaking. (Good job too as I picked up on two continuity errors among many other minor corrections to be fixed.) I also spotted an issue with one line on the back cover. It was ever so slightly squint but it stuck out like a sore thumb.

Cue another visit to Hell..sorry the dark depths of Photoshop.. to correct the alignment.

So far so good.

I uploaded the amended files and waited for the submission to be approved. The text file passed scrutiny with flying colours first time..whew! The cover file failed….then failed again. At the third time of asking, after further trips into the dark realms of Photoshop, it was finally approved.

Woo Hoo!!!

A fresh proof copy was ordered, again with  expediated shipping selected. Expected date of delivery was noted as 3 April.

The 3 April arrived….no book.

The 4 April arrived….no book.

The 5 April arrived and I finally managed to track it. According to the tracking info it was scheduled for delivery the next day. Happy days….or so I thought.

The 6 April arrived….no book. The tracking info had been updated though and kindly informed me that the parcel had been successfully delivered to West Columbia, South Carolina, USA. Some 3000 miles off target!

Once my initial wave of anger passed, I emailed CreateSpace to explain my dilemma and to seek a solution. Within 24 hours, I’d had the postage refunded, a promise of a fresh proof to be delivered, free of any shipping charges,  by 12 April and an apology for the error.

We’re all human. Mistakes happen. There was still time to get the proof and check it over before “B-Day” on 15 April.

By the evening of 11 April my sixth sense was twitching (seldom a good thing) and I checked the tracking info just to be sure that my proof was at least on the right side of the Atlantic Ocean.

It wasn’t.

It was on its way back to Kentucky due to an administrative error with a shipping invoice.

Deep breaths….more deep breaths…ok they didn’t help and the air was soon blue while I had a bit of a meltdown.

At this late stage there was very little to be done to correct the issue.

I slept on it while I waited for a response from CreateSpace.

Then I slept on it again…

Tonight, it was time to take a leap of faith and, at this point, I’m really hoping that it’s not one I’ll live to regret.

I’ve approved the paperback proof based on the digital proof copy..GULP!

I really didn’t have any choice.

So here we are, two sleeps away from “B-Day”….

Time to add No 6 to that To Do list

6-      Put champagne on ice

 

Oh, and, if you were the lucky resident of West Columbia, SC, USA, who received the mystery package last week from the mailman, I hope you take the time to read Bonded Souls. I hope you enjoy it and I hope that you can find it in your heart to leave a review on Amazon. Every star helps!

 

Amazon links for Bonded Souls 

UK link : https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XSQHG71

USA link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XSQHG71

Let’s Get This Party Started….

BS card 3

Finally, the proofreading and the editing are complete!  Woo Hoo!!!

The evil commas have been beaten into submission..I hope!!

Next on the To Do list is to “launch” said Book Baby on the unsuspecting world.

Party planning has never really been one of my strong suits so I’m dithering a bit here over the invites. (“What if no one comes?” whisper the voices of paranoia in my head.)

Book Baby 3 aka Bonded Souls is set to be released on 15 April. But, how to celebrate the occasion?

My current thinking is an “online” party.  A  small gathering of Silver Lake fans hoping for an insight into Jake and Lori with perhaps the opportunity to win a few freebies.

And here the dilemma continues!

I’m no expert at launching anything! What do folk want from an online book launch?

Help me out here, please!!!!

My current thinking is to host the event over two or three hours, offer a few freebies for “likes” and “shares”, post a few teasers from the book’s content,  perhaps “interview” the central characters or even some “Silver Lake fans”.  I may even allow the “stars” themselves to do a character takeover for a while.

Have any of you ever “attended” an online party to launch a book before? If so, I’d welcome your thoughts here. What worked well?  What perhaps didn’t work so well?

In the meantime, I’ve a party to plan…has  anyone seen my copy of “Party Planning for Dummies”?

A New Year Means New Goals And A Fresh Challenge …….

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I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions but, over the past few years, I have set myself a creative challenge or goal for the coming year.

The only problem with the goals that I’ve set for the past three years is that they have been ongoing.  These creative goals have so far resulted in two blog pages, two (almost three) book babies and a new rock star Instagram/Twitter fan page. My “free” time is diminishing rapidly!

This year, for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to keep it simple.

Completing, editing and publishing Book Baby 3, aka Bonded Souls, is my primary goal but, if all goes to plan, it should be accomplished by Spring.

That leaves me eight or nine months to fill…..drums fingers as she thinks…..takes a deep breath.

My second goal is to write the first draft of a new novel by the end of the year. GULP!

 Now, before fans of a certain Jake Power get their hopes up, it won’t be a Silver Lake book. Also for the sake of my sanity, I need a break from all things Silver Lake however……I’m not ruling out an overlap between the new novel and some of the characters from the Silver Lake tales. I’ve a couple of ideas floating around so we’ll see where they lead to.

On the Book Baby 3 front, editing and proofreading is underway and I’ve started my battle of wills with Photoshop, as I work on the cover design. I’m not quite ready to reveal it to the world just yet but let’s just say my book baby is no longer totally naked.

Well, the clock’s ticking, so, if I’m to meet these goals, I’d better get cracking.

What are your goals or challenges or resolutions for 2017?

image sourced via Google

credits to the owner