Dark Deceit - Up for Grabs!

To mark today, the second last day (ha!) of February 2012, I've decided it's time to share the love...
Well, not in that way, obviously. I just fancy giving away a free electronic copy of Dark Deceit


To win a copy, simply comment below, not forgetting your email addy! 


Dark Deceit, the first in The Anarchy Trilogy, is my latest release, a historical novel with mystery and romance elements. As is my habit, Dark Deceit doesn't fit into a specific box. Will I ever stick to the norm? Nope! ~sigh~


Murder, loyalty, betrayal and hope - all these are elements in Dark Deceit. Set during the English civil war of the late 1130s-50s, the story reveals the difficulties people faced in such times. An under-sheriff with uncertain loyalties; an heiress without a protector; a knight with his own agenda.


Blurb:
On his return from battle at Lincoln, Geoffrey de Mortagne, under-sheriff of Gloucester and spy for the Empress Matilda, assists a dying knight caught in an ambush. Promising to look after the welfare of the knight’s only daughter, Geoffrey stays at her manor while he investigates the murder. Keen to join the Empress on her progress through England, he is torn between his oath and his duty.

Left to defend her manor following her father’s death, Alleyne de Bellac at first accepts Geoffrey’s support. As she doesn’t trust the taciturn stranger, she asks Will d’Arques, an old friend, for help. But loyalties change. Her life in danger and her inheritance at stake, Alleyne must decide which man to trust.
Discover England and Normandy divided by a brutal civil war, where vows are broken as allegiances waver.


Excerpt:

  Geoffrey stifled a grunt and crossed the hall. He sat on the vacant chair opposite her and silently regarded her through the hissing flames between them. Her eyes shone, green pools in the flickering light. Pools he had dreamed of drowning in. Then he had drowned; a painful death.
  Will had aged well. Only a few lines around the grey eyes, his features handsome with the short, straight nose and wide mouth, his blond hair still as thick as in his youth, tumbling down over his shoulders. Yet his appearance belied the fact that underneath all that shine was the body and soul of a mercenary, hungry and ruthless. The coolness of his eyes proved his arrogance had also not diminished.
  “So, the lady Alleyne has enlightened you on the latest happenings here?” Geoffrey leaned back, slung one leg over the other and rested his elbows on the arms of the chair. He smiled, knowing well no warmth reached his eyes.
  “Yes, she has.” Will gave her hand a quick squeeze. “The poor girl. Of course I’ll be staying here to protect her.”
  Alleyne gazed at him, eyes wide with adoration and relief. Youthful stupidity, Geoffrey mused. “I’m sorely relieved to hear. Will you be searching for the killers?”
  “Well, old friend, I don’t want to take away your job,” Will hesitated, “but then it appears you haven’t been very successful so far.” He tilted his head to the side. “Apart from last night, so I’ve heard.”
  Alleyne leaned forward, her eyes clouded with worry. “That was dreadful. Ancel told me all. How are you feeling?”
  “Fine. Thank you for your concern.”
  “Oh, I’m so glad. I was worried sick last night.” She nodded vigorously.
  Will raised his eyebrows.
  Geoffrey should warn her about Will. But in all likelihood she refused to listen. Women never listened where Will was concerned. They learnt the hard way.
  “I’m certain the thought didn’t rob you of your sleep, my lady.” He kept the tone of his voice formal, with a sting attached he knew hit home when her face fell.
  He turned to the man who had made himself at home much too swiftly. “Though the Norman bastard who knocked me out did not do the best job.”
  “Indeed,” Will said, his face unreadable, a mask that hid all sorts of secrets. Was Lord Raymond’s murder one of them?
  “He could have killed me, but he didn’t.” Geoffrey held Will’s gaze. “I wonder why.”
  “Oh. You don’t think Will…?”
  The wounded tone of Alleyne’s voice, and the way she clenched Will’s hand, did not alleviate his suspicions. Had she done that to spite him? At this moment, he did not care. The only thing he wanted was to escape; the sooner the better.
  “No, my lady. That would be too coincidental, wouldn’t it?”
  Will’s mouth twitched but he remained silent.
  “And if Will is prepared to stay and protect you and Bellac, then my duty here has come to an end.”
  Her eyes widened. In the flash of an instant, he saw pain and sadness, confusion and relief in them. Poor lass. She needed a safe home with a reliable protector, not a notorious womaniser, to look after her. But if that was what she wanted, who was he to try and convince her otherwise?
  “I will continue to have my men search for the killers and will send word should there be any developments. In the meantime, I’ll pack my belongings and will be gone by sunrise on the morrow.” He rose. “I’ll leave you to catch up on the remainder of the gossip.” He bowed to Alleyne, then aimed a cool look at Will.
  “Won’t you join us tonight, Sir Geoffrey?” Was she pleading with him or did he imagine disappointment in her voice?
  He studied her. She stood, her fingers entwined until her knuckles showed, luminous eyes imploring him.
  It was too late. “I’m afraid not. I want to retire at a reasonable hour. As I said, I’ll have an early start.” Her face fell. “But I won’t forget my promise to your lord father. His killers will be brought to justice. Farewell, my lady.”

(c) Cathie Dunn / Crooked Cat Publishing 2012

Margaret Tanner at My Place

On this mild winter Sunday, I'm delighted to welcome award winning author Margaret Tanner to My Place.

Margaret Tanner is an award winning multi-published Australian author. She loves delving into the pages of history as she carries out research for her historical romance novels, and prides herself on being historically correct. No book is too old or tattered for her to trawl through, no museum too dusty. Many of her novels have been inspired by true events, with one being written around the hardships and triumphs of her pioneering ancestors in frontier Australia. She once spent a couple of hours in an old goal cell so she could feel the chilling cold and fear. She has also visited the 1st World War battlefields and cemeteries of France as she researched her novel, Wild Oats. 

My Place:
Grave of
Unknown Australian Soldier

Some of the scenes in Wild Oats are set on the Somme battlefields of France in 1916. 
In the town of Albert the troops saw a church called Notre Dame des Brebieres. It had been damaged by German shells in 1915, and a golden Madonna lay at an angle across it, ready to topple off at any moment.  Somehow she managed to cling on and this caused a lot of superstitious talk amongst the troops. The English soldiers said the war would end when she fell, while the Germans thought that whoever knocked her down would win the war. 
My husband and I actually visited this church when were in France a couple of years ago, and the golden Madonna has been restored to her former glory.


1st Australian Division Memorial
nr Albert, France
Blurb:
English aristocrat, Phillip Ashfield, comes to Australia to sow some “Wild Oats”.  After seducing Allison Waverley, he decides to marry an heiress to consolidate the family fortunes.  Phillip has made a fatal choice, that will not only ruin his own life, but the repercussions will be felt by the next generation.

Vimy Ridge trenches
Canadian Memorial

Excerpt:
  On the twenty-seventh of July, 1916, after three full days and nights of one of the bloodiest and most heroic advances in France, the remnants of the first Australian Division was relieved at Pozieres after losing over five thousand men.
  Captain Phillip Ashfield, being driven by his corporal to see the Commander of the Second Division, was appalled at the losses sustained. He had been in France since 1915 but was fortunately attached to British Headquarters because of the powerful friends his father had.
  Those poor devils looked as if they had been to hell and back he observed as he waited on the main Amiens Bapaume road for them to pass. The Australians were so casual in their treatment of Officers as to be almost insolent. Time and again he saw it on leave in London. They caused fights wherever they went, yet he still held a soft spot for them because of Allison. He would always regret the loss of his golden girl.
  Bitterness overwhelmed him as he thought of his own empty marriage. Isobel was cold and frigid. Not that he particularly worried about that, as he could relieve his pent-up feelings in the arms of pretty, willing mistresses, of whom there had been a score. But she couldn’t give him an heir. Because of this he was filled with such loathing he could barely look at her.
  The town of Pozieres lay in ruins. When a machine gun opened up on them from somewhere close by, he leapt from the truck and sought shelter behind the only wall left standing of a farm house. There had been recent vicious fighting here. Scores of bodies, both German and Australian, lay strewn about, most of them blackened with flies.
  The firing stopped as suddenly as it began. “See if the way is clear now, corporal.”
  “Yes, sir.  All clear.”
  Phillip stood up and adjusted his uniform jacket.
  “Would you mind if I collected a couple of German helmets, sir, to send home to my two boys?”
  As far as Phillip knew, the man wasn’t even married. “Just don’t let me see you taking them.” Strictly speaking, it could be construed as looting, but sunk in the misery of his marital dilemma, he didn’t care one way or the other.
  “Cor, blimey, someone’s alive.”
  “What! That’s impossible.” Phillip strode over to where his corporal had started pushing bodies aside.
  “One of ours, by the sounds of him, sir.”
  “Well, get him out. Put on a field dressing, and we can report it to the nearest casualty clearing station.”
  “Field dressings won’t do this bloke no good. He’s copped it in the chest and the guts.”
  “Water.” The voice sounded feeble. “Come on, mate, give me some water.”
  Phillip went over, and the blood froze in his veins as he recognised the white-blond hair of Tommy Calvert.
  “Here.” He shoved the corporal aside, took a silver flask from his own pocket and pressed it to the boy’s lips. Not a vestige of colour remained in his face—even his lips were white. Only the eyes stood out, vividly blue, and even now starting to glaze. 
  “Do you remember me, Calvert? Phillip Ashfield.”
  “Ashfield.” He muttered something and tried to get up.
  “Lie still. Are you in pain?”
  “No.” His voice though low, sounded quite coherent. “I was before, but not now. I’m going to die, aren’t I?”
  Phillip didn’t know whether to lie or tell the truth. “Well, if we could get you to a doctor, maybe not.”
  “I don’t want to go back to Allison crippled. I’d rather die.”
  “How is Allison?”
  “She married me.”
  The corporal came back. “We can go now, sir.”
  “No, we can’t leave the boy here.”
  “Ashfield, Jim’s dead. She’ll have no one now, and with the baby...”
  “Baby?” Allison had a baby. Phillip stared down at this boy, not even twenty years old, whose lifeblood flowed into the ground, and he envied him.
  “There’s a letter in my pocket. Get it out.” He moaned so loudly when Phillip went to get it, that he snatched his hand away. “Promise me you’ll look after things for Allison. Don’t let her think I suffered, will you?”
  He started to mutter and his eyes became even more glazed, because the end was near, but life still flowed through his body. “Tell Allison I’m sorry. He’s buried in the bush near my place.”
  “What’s he raving about, sir?”
  “I don’t know.”
  “He was going to hurt her, and I couldn’t let him.” The hand gripping Phillip’s wrist felt icy cold, even though the sun shone.
  “I’ll tell her, Calvert, but who are you talking about?”
  “Old Jack...her dad. I just wanted to scare him. I didn’t mean to kill him.”
  “Calvert! Calvert!”
  “He’s dead, sir. What was he raving about, killing someone?”
  “Forget about that for the moment. Get a shovel and bury him.”
  “But, sir...”
  “Get a shovel. That’s an order. I want him buried over there in what’s left of the rose garden. I want something with his name and number to mark the spot, and hurry, man. If we don’t get out of here soon, we’ll end up being killed ourselves.”
  Phillip searched Tommy’s pockets and found a few loose pieces of change, a pay book and the letter from Allison. He put these things in his own pocket.
  They said no prayers over this fallen warrior but buried him and marked the spot with a plank of wood before driving away.
  Later, back in his own quarters at H.Q., Phillip gathered the earthly possessions of Tommy Calvert together and started putting them in an envelope. The letter from Allison fluttered to the ground and he bent over to pick it up.
  It was crumpled and fingered from being read many times over.  He clenched his hand into a fist. She had married young Calvert, and they had what he craved above all else. A son. Something started to churn inside him as he scanned the neatly written lines. There it was. He felt as if he had been kicked in the guts.
  It’s uncanny, Tommy. He’s a little miniature Phillip Ashfield.
  He’s Mine. Sweet little Allison had born him a son.

Links:







Author Victoria Lamb talks Multiple Viewpoints

Today, I'm delighted to welcome a special guest, a wonderful writer and good friend of mine: Victoria Lamb, historical fiction author.

Victoria has recently published her debut novel, The Queen's Secret, set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Brimming with colourful characters and courtly intrigues, The Queen's Secret is a must have read for any fan of historical fiction.

Victoria tells us about writing in multiple viewpoints, often necessary to convey historical fiction in the most dramatic way. So without further ado, let's hear it from her...


Victoria Lamb on Writing Multiple Viewpoints

When writing my debut historical, The Queen's Secret, I decided early on that the plot was too complex to be carried by one narrative voice alone. First person narrative is excellent for increased intimacy, and I did consider it. But I didn't want to get into that dubious territory of having multiple first person narrators, identified by italics or their name at the head of each chapter or section. I've always found that highly confusing to read. So I chose to write instead in the third person - he or she, accordingly - and to put in a chapter break whenever voices changed, with readers able to tell who was narrating within the first few lines of a chapter. 

Blocking out the plot is a major issue when dealing with a complex novel told through multiple viewpoints. I find I can't just launch into that kind of book, but need to plot out each character's highs and lows on a board or graph. This helps me to plan out the book, but more importantly to check where each plot point or character arc intersects with the others. It's vital to make sure all threads pull together at some point, preferably just after the end of the second third. This increases the reading pace and heats up the story's temperature.

With straight historicals, where some if not all events are based on tight timings, this pulling together of plot threads can become a logistics nightmare. At a screenwriting conference last year, I asked Robert McKee, the well-known Hollywood story doctor, how to keep a plot tight when your story was based on true events - some of which might not conform to film structure requirements! He advised me to work a little writerly sleight-of-hand, that is to massage the true events so that they would fit the structure. Cheating, yes. But unfortunately necessary if you don't want a story that bores the reader and never reaches a classic denouement.

Writing multiple viewpoints can become tricky, especially if one or more of your characters does something unpleasant or downright nasty. As the writer, you have to identify with your narrative voice at all times. In The Queen's Secret, Lettice Knollys has an adulterous affair with the Queen's favourite, Robert Dudley, and often behaves in ways I found difficult to present sympathetically. But as a narrative voice within my story, her viewpoint and motivations had to be respected as much as Queen Elizabeth's or those of my heroine, Lucy Morgan. So I tried to think myself into Lettice's head, as an unhappily married woman looking for love at a court where she was constantly under her royal cousin's authority, and not become too judgemental about her morals.

One way I found of writing multiple viewpoints was to find each voice's 'rhythm' and slip back into it when required. My heroine Lucy Morgan is a young black entertainer in her first year at court, and her voice is light and sweet, though often anxious too, as she struggles to find a place for herself in a hostile world. Queen Elizabeth's voice was more staccato in its rhythms: by turns weary, cynical, passionate, angry, this is a woman who has seen it all and who wields immense power - though not over her favourite's heart, it seems. Lettice, as I have said, is a beautiful but manipulative woman, so her voice is quite a superficial one, looking mainly at surfaces and not what lies beneath. And my final narrative viewpoint, that of Master Goodluck, a theatrical spy and Lucy's guardian, is probably the richest of all voices in the novel. He is a natural observer, and so his voice becomes a moral axis around which these other stories revolve. His narrative rhythms are the most complex and considered, constantly weighing everything to find its worth and meaning. All together, these different viewpoints weave a complex multi-strand story which needs to be seen from many different angles.

Some of these narrative voices will continue in the sequel to The Queen's Secret, which is due out in early 2013. But that's another story!

Victoria Lamb's debut historical The Queen's Secret is published by Bantam Press, £12.99, and is set during Queen Elizabeth I's spectacular visit to Kenilworth Castle in July 1575.


Meet AK James - an exciting new suspense author

I'm delighted to introduce a new author - thriller writer AK James.

Today is a special day for AK, also known as Mandy, as she celebrates the release of her first full length novel, Righteous Exposure. Many congratulations, Mandy! What an exciting day! :-)

Righteous Exposure is a fast paced suspenseful novel about revenge, retribution and redemption. You'll find the blurb and a thrilling excerpt below. But first, let's hear it from Mandy.

- Mandy, tell us briefly about yourself, your writing.
I was born in Sheffield and lived there for about thirty years, but now live in Bristol with my husband Brian and two cats. I have grown up daughter and a wonderful grandson who will be soon be a year old!  

I have written since I was a child, but have taken it up seriously in the last five years. In 2010, I had five short stories published in various anthologies, and number six and seven came out in June 2011. One is part of the anthology Hipp-O-Dee-Doo-Dah for Children’s Hospices UK (Bridge House Publishing), and has a foreword by Michael Morpurgo. The other is part of 100 Stories for Queensland, an anthology to raise funds for the survivors of that awful disaster. I also have short stories published online and with Ether Books.

I also write novels and am very excited to say that my thriller/suspense Righteous Exposure will be published today, 21st of February 2012, by Crooked Cat Publishing.

- What inspired Righteous Exposure?
Three things really. I went to Dallas to visit relatives and travelled around to San Antonio and many other big cities. Firstly I was struck by the enormous wealth evidenced by the gleaming city skylines and huge ranches on the approach to the main towns. I then was stuck that many of the menial jobs were done by Mexican workers, just as they are done by African Americans and Native Americans in the other states. And lastly, driving through the state, every time we switched the radio on, it was obvious that we were slap in the middle of the Bible Belt.

I was sitting in a harbour side restaurant in Port Aransas with my husband, just chatting about the 'feel' of Texas and considering all the things I noticed. Soon the bones of a story just connected together, and I couldn't wait to flesh out the body. The body became Righteous Exposure.

- What's your next writing project?
I'm working on a YA novel, Without a Trace, and really enjoying it as I have never written one before.  I'm drawing on my experience of teaching teenagers for many years to get the main character, 17 year old Sam Creswell, right. It is about a first love with a difference. Sam is rescued from drowning while on holiday with her parents in Yosemite National Park. The guy who rescues her, Boston Rivers, has a very special talent. I won't say what he can do but think paranormal. He isn't a vampire or a werewolf, his special talent is manmade and the result of Boston being held captive for many years in a research institute.

I'm sharing the blurb and and excerpt below. I hope you'll enjoy.

Thank you, Cathie, for hosting me today. I'm so excited about the release of Righteous Exposure!

Blurb:
Revenge, retribution and redemption.
Doctor Alita Ramirez has achieved hard won goals, despite her humble beginnings from a poor Hispanic neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas. When she by chance discovers the truth about her past, she is driven to take drastic action. Alita is prepared to jeopardize everything, even her life, to expose the hypocrisy and cruelty of one man – Robson Cutter.
One of the richest men in San Antonio, Cutter is a pillar of his community. Alita’s quest is to reduce this pillar to dust. She knows a dark secret about Cutter that will bring him to his knees, but exposing the past of such a powerful man requires extreme measures. Will Alita have the strength and determination to succeed?
Righteous Exposure is available on Amazon USAmazon UK & Smashwords (later at Sony, iBooks, etc).

Excerpt:

  The San Antonio heat is overpowering as the July sun terrorizes the shade into thin strips around a courtyard boundary. The smell of olives hangs heavy in the air, and an ornate fountain bubbles over marble lions. 
  Submerged in the fountain pool, her hand is very brown against the white of the marble. She wriggles her fingers, imagining her hand is a sea creature, and then lifts it out and up to the sun. 
  Opening and closing her fingers against the glare, Alita marvels at the beauty of the water droplets running like mercury along her skin. 
  A muffled scream turns her blood to ice.
  Her eyes dart towards a partially shuttered window across the courtyard.
  Did the scream come from there? Mama said on no account must she go near the big house.  
  She runs to the window anyway, adrenaline fuelling her steps.
  The house dominates her tiny frame. It is white, cool and as huge as a snow-covered mountainside. Alita needs to see inside the shuttered room but the window is just too high. 
  “No, please, sir, not again!” 
  She is sure that the voice is her mother’s, though it has the same muffled quality as the scream. 
  Is Mama being hurt?
  A twisted olive tree near the window provides a prickly ladder and, balanced precariously, Alita peers through the shutters.
  When her eyes adjust to the dim light, she sees a large bedroom, and on the bed is a man sitting astride her mama, he is tearing at the buttons on her blouse and holding his other hand over her mouth. She is crying and trying to push him off, but he is too strong. Alita feels angry and hot. She cannot see his face as he has his back to her, but she can hear him.
  “Shut up, you little whore, just remember I pay you, and a good pay check it is too.”
   He has undone the blouse now and is pulling down her mama’s bra straps. He slaps her face when she bites his hand.
  “You just lie still if you know what’s good for you, bitch!” says the man, raising his fist.
  “Please, sir, why now, after all this time?” her mama is asking, lying still as he has ordered.
  “Because I can, Liliana, because I can!” the man shouts, pulling up her skirt.
  Alita is scared and confused but doesn’t care if she gets into trouble for being near the house. She pulls open the shutter and screams out.
   “Leave my Mama alone!” 

(c) AK James / Crooked Cat Publishing

My Place - Mary Campisi

On this sunny but chilly Sunday morning, I'm delighted to welcome another fantastic author to My Place - Mary Campisi, published with - amongst others - Carina Press and The Wild Rose Press. Mary writes romance and women's fiction. It's fabulous to have her on board.


Over to Mary...

I grew up in a very small town in northwest Pennsylvania with two older brothers and a younger sister. Small town people are very interesting and looking back, I’m fascinated by the speech, the nuances, the fact that when the owner of a small shoe store died, the sign on the door said ‘Closed due to Joe’s funeral.’ No one in town needed to ask who Joe was, just like I can still call the post office there and mention our family name and that starts a domino who’s who. My mother, at eighty-three still lives in the same house where we grew up and has the same phone number; quite telling, isn’t it?
When I was a child, there were no malls, no McDonalds, and one movie theater that closed in the summer to avoid competition with the drive-in. (One man owned both.) We drove twenty miles to the eye doctor and if we were very fortunate, we got to stop at the new Wendy’s on our way back home for a single burger and fries. We were sadly lacking in funds but so was just about everyone else in our town which made us feel pretty normal. 
What we did have was a wonderful library…about two miles away. I walked there at least once a week and fell in love with the characters and places I read about. It was then I began creating different endings to some of the stories I read, and if I didn’t want the story to end, I continued it on in my head—exactly the way I wanted it! Though I moved away and lived in different cities and states, family and the small town community have always stayed with me and are often central themes in my stories.


My Place:
Holly Springs, New York – setting for PULLING HOME
Holly Springs, New York is a small town filled with curious people who have formed their own opinions— right or wrong—based on hearsay, past histories, and events woven together. One such tale has to do with the heroine, Audra Valentine Wheyton. The town long ago passed judgment on her and her dead mother…the pulse and sentiment of the community is felt in the words of the coffee klatch, a group of older women who gather several times a week at the home of Audra’s mother-in-law, Alice, a woman who has known her own share of grief and heartache and despite being a kind and God-fearing woman, can’t forgive Audra for stealing her son away.

I chose a small town setting for the intimacy and also to show what can happen when unfounded rumors are taken to heart. Holly Springs has long been Audra’s biggest enemy but may end up being her savior….

Blurb:
Pulling Home
She’ll risk anything to save her child…even the truth
It’s taken nine years and a cross-country move, but Audra Valentine Wheyton has kept her secrets safe. She’s created the perfect life—a husband who loves her, a daughter she adores, and a position as head writer for an award-winning daytime soap. When her husband dies suddenly, Audra returns to her hometown for the funeral and faces a community that has not forgotten her meager beginnings and a man who has never forgiven her for marrying his brother.
Jack Wheyton is a successful pediatric neurosurgeon who is about to become engaged when Audra walks back into his life with her daughter. He forgave his brother long ago for taking something that had been his, something he hadn’t even realized he wanted until it was gone. But forgiving Audra is another story…and forgetting her? Near impossible.
When a shattering illness strikes Audra’s daughter, she turns to Jack to save her child and risks exposing a secret that will change their lives forever. 


Excerpt:
  Jack hugged his aunt, relieved for the few extra seconds before he had to confront his brother’s wife.  When the Heaven Scent threatened to send him into a sneeze attack, he eased from his aunt’s grasp and pecked her cheek. “I know, Aunt Ginny, I know.” Then he straightened and faced her.
  She wasn’t nineteen anymore, that was damn sure. Her breasts filled the pink sweater and he could guess at the tell-tale signs of ample cleavage rimming her bra, despite the absence of a neckline. His eyes were trained in female body parts which had nothing to do with his medical expertise. Jack knew women’s bodies, knew how to please them, knew how to drive them wild.
  He’d known how to do both to her. Seven weeks of pure lust. He’d never told a soul about it. Had she? He glanced down which proved another fatal mistake as he caught a glimpse of thigh. Were her legs still strong and toned—like they were when she used to wrap them around his back?
  “Jack,” Aunt Virginia interrupted his less than brotherly thoughts, “this is Audra Valentine.” She paused. “Christian’s wife.”
  There it was, thrown right back in her face. Audra Valentine, the girl from the wrong side of town. In his family’s eyes, she would always be a Valentine first, a Wheyton, second. Jack lifted his gaze and met hers. Huge mistake. Horrible. Disastrous. She still had the most entrancing eyes, like whiskey burning his throat all the way to the lining of his gut. Right now those eyes were staring at him and through him. “Audra.” Somehow he managed to slide her name through his lips without heaving. “I’m very sorry.” Sorry I had to see you again. Sorry I ever touched you in the first place. Sorry I compare every woman I’m with to you.
  “Thank you.”
  The huskiness of her voice sent a thousand jolts of electricity through him. Damn her. Damn him. This was his brother’s wife, for Chrissake. But she’d been Jack’s lover first. Or had she been sleeping with both of them at the same time? That was one torture that never left him. He’d find out before she flew back to California, even if he had to pull every beautiful strand of mahogany hair from her head to do it.


She brushed her gaze past him with a coolness that surprised him. The old Audra Valentine wouldn’t have been able to dismiss him so easily. But this one pushed him aside as though he were day-old coffee. Christ, it was going to be a long few days.
  “Audra.” Leslie sliced through his thoughts. “Leslie Richot. We never officially met but I’ve heard quite a bit about you.”
  Jack cleared his throat. And none of it good. You’re the one who stole the man she was going to marry. He knew that’s what Leslie was thinking, knew that’s what the whole room was thinking. 
  Audra’s lips pulled at the ends. “I’m sure you have.”
  “Leslie’s Jack’s fiancé.” Aunt Virginia clutched Jack’s hand and squeezed. 
  “Aunt Ginny, that’s not exactly correct.” He snatched a glance at Leslie who watched him with open curiosity.
  “Why not? You’ve been seeing this girl for two years, haven’t you? And you’re thirty-five, my boy. Time for wedding bells and babies. No more dilly dallying.” She plumped out her thin lips and nodded. “It’s your duty.”
  Heat crept up Jack’s neck, smothered his cheeks and chin. He was thirty-five years old but right now he felt sixteen. “This really isn’t a good time, Aunt Ginny.”
  “No,” she agreed, yanking out a crumpled tissue and swiping her nose. “It’s not.” She hiccoughed and the tears escaped, streaking her rouged cheeks.
  “Oh, Virginia,” Leslie patted her arm. “I know.” She lowered her voice to a sympathy pitch. “I know.” 
  Audra glanced at him one last time before he moved toward the casket. He didn’t want to look at his brother. He’d just faced Christian’s wife and he’d certainly not wanted to do that. But this? He swallowed and cleared his throat. This was his little brother, shrouded in cream silk and roses, his lips an unnatural pink, his skin drenched in pancake makeup. It wasn’t right, and it wasn’t fair and it didn’t matter that Jack was a doctor and knew life and death had nothing to do with right and fair.
  Two days ago he’d stood beside his mother as she stroked Christian’s cold cheek and told him about the cherry pie she’d baked for him and how she’d bought his favorite horseradish cheese at the deli. Jack’s father grew pastier with each recount and by the time his wife started on about the stuffed pork chops she’d planned for Christian’s welcome home dinner, the old man let out a groan and half limped, half ran from the room. 
  Jack stood before the casket now but refused to look at his brother’s face. His gaze fell to the hands, clasped together, graceful fingers laced over one another, the gold wedding band glinting love and commitment. Jack squeezed his eyes shut. I’m sorry, Christian. Sorry I ever touched her. Forgive me. God, forgive me.

Links:





My lovely blog award

Whoop!!! I have been awarded the popular Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award by my wonderful friend and critique partner, talented romance writer Rachel Brimble. Thank you!

I'm delighted my blog keeps readers entertained - I try to bring in a variety of authors through my My Place series, with a new author featured every Sunday. In between, I waffle on about writing, cats, and my books. Lovely to receive a sweet reward for sharing my likes...


Now, as part of this award, I have to reveal 7 random things about myself. Uh oh! ;-)

Here goes:

  • I was raised as a single child by my single Mum who encouraged me to read a lot. We spent whole evenings just reading.
  • When I was 12, I took riding lessons during school holidays, and the coach wanted me to continue training to pursue a professional path. Mum said 'no'. End of that career!
  • I was an archer in a re-enactment group when I lived in South Wales for two years. Archers rock!
  • My dream place to live is Vancouver, Canada, but I'd miss medieval castles, cathedrals & the lot.
  • I got married on my 40th birthday, trying to hide that small, niggling fact behind all the wedding shenanigans. 
  • I met my wonderful American half-sister Tracy for the first time in 2010 during an emotional get together in Boise, Idaho. We had a blast! It won't be the last time.
  • I've written historical stories since I was a teenager but the evidence got lost in various house moves. Recently, I discovered a typed (remember type writers?) half-completed manuscript of a Regency romance I wrote some time ago. Going to revisit that story later this year.


Now to the seven lovely blogs I nominate for the awards. These ladies are all amazing authors, and I hope you enjoy following them as much as I do...

Elizabeth Moss

S.G. Rogers

Scarlett Valentine

Beth Trissel

Jacquie Rogers - Romancing the West

Caroline Clemmons

Karen Michelle Nutt - KMN Books


Now I'm off to have a slice of cake... cuppa tea, anyone?

Writing Buddies - Our Boys

Skipping all that Valentine's Day mayhem (yet sticking to the 'cuddly' theme of the day), I thought I'd share my writing buddies with you. As I type, Tiger Cat is curled up on my lap. Yes, I'm kind of hovering forward to reach the keyboard. Luckily, a laptop is quickly shifted. ;-)

Bob the Cat
As I'm still at home (no news on day job in sight), I make the most of our spare bedroom / office. A small heater and cups of tea keep me cosy. And our boys, Bob the Cat and Tiger, join me at times. At other times, they're a pain in the proverbial! The mornings are usually calm, feeding time over they're snoozing. Bob's either on a window sill or his beloved cardboard box in the middle of the living room floor. Tiger loves to be near the little heater. Roast cat, anyone? ;-)

Tiger oblivious
We tend to wake up in the afternoon, however. You can guess what that means! Yes, push the door open & come in. I close the door. Cats want to leave room. I open and push door ajar again. Cats come in again, then running off towards living room & kitchen. Nope, we don't want out. Not yet anyway. 'Feed me'! I'm dishing out some foul smelling kittie food. Wet noses up in the air. Pah! Maybe I'll want out...

Opens door to garden. Cats standing in doorway. Should I? Should I not? Cold air seeping into house. Cats still pondering. Me pushing cats outside. Cats sulking!

I hunt!
But they're not the only furry buddies around. Our spare bedroom window overlooks a stable yard, and one horse in particular keeps an eye on us. The cats and Horsey have regular chats. Wish I could understand them. Probably cursing the Scottish weather... or ranting about me!

Hubby and I would love a dog, though. My mum's German shepherd brought much fun into the house a year ago. He still bears a scar on his nose where Bob the Cat caught him... maybe not such a good idea! ;-)

Cogito ergo sum!
A rare moment of harmony on a rare sunny day











Neeeiiighhhh

At My Place - Debra St John

Another Sunday, another lovely visitor! Today, I welcome popular Wild Rose Press romance author Debra St John.

Over to you, Debra:


Hi, Cathie! Thanks so much for having me here today. It’s always fun to discover new places through reading, and as an author, I’m lucky to have the chance to be the one doing the introducing for others. The setting is more than the background for a story, more often than not it becomes part of the plot, integral to the hero and heroine’s journey of discovery and love.

My Place:
For the past seven years, my husband and I have been vacationing  every summer in the Ozarks. Friends of ours have an aunt and uncle who own a spread of land down there. The first time I saw the place, my immediate thought was, ‘This would make a great setting for a book!’ I spent some time brainstorming ideas for stories to set there, but nothing really gelled. One day, out of the blue, it hit me. It would be the perfect place for Zach and Jessica to fall in love in This Can’t Be Love.
Zach first appeared in my debut release, This Time for Always, as a secondary character. I always knew he’d be getting a story of his own, but I didn’t know what form or shape it would take. Once I decided to set the story in the Ozarks, everything fell right into place. (I did take the liberty of ‘moving’ the setting to Big Sky Country to match the first book, which is a fun privilege authors have!)

Writing about a place I’ve actually visited helps me to be extremely accurate with descriptions and details. Many of the things Zach and Jessica do on their journey toward love are things we do when we visit there: ATVing, swimming in the creek, canoeing, and my favorite, brush hogging on the John Deere. There are two cabins: a main house and a smaller one, an old barn, a historic cemetery, acres and acres of field and forest, and even bluebird houses. Plus I had a plethora of pictures to use for reference and inspiration.

Even though we only go once a year in real life, I can visit any time, just by opening Zach and Jessica’s story. It’s also been a fun way to share this amazing place with readers as well. My friend’s aunt and uncle got a kick out of seeing their place in print, too!



Blurb:
After the disastrous end of another dead-end relationship, all Jessica Hart wants is solitude and time to heal at her grandfather's mountain retreat. Instead she finds Zach Rawlings.
Zach has made himself at home at the cabin. He's house-sitting while the owner is away, and the temporary nature of the job suits him perfectly. For Jessica, Zach is everything she wants to escape.
As she gets to know him better, she realizes there's more to him than meets the eye. His patience and tender concern begin to heal something deep inside of her. But can she trust her heart to a man like Zach?

Excerpt:
  They laughed together, then fell silent. Crickets chirped in the darkness. The scent of Zach’s aftershave drifted to her on the light breeze.
  After a while, he turned toward her. “Do you?”
  “Do I what? Like apple pie and ice cream?”
  “No,” he said softly. His gaze dropped to her lips. “Do you kiss and tell?”
  Jessica’s heart kicked into a fast rhythm and she caught her breath. “I…”
  “Shhhh.” He leaned closer. “I won’t tell if you won’t,” he whispered before his mouth claimed hers.
  His lips stroked over hers, not aggressively, but softly, tenderly. He didn’t touch her anywhere else, but brushed her mouth with gentle intent.
  Her first instinct was to pull back, but something stirred deep inside her. A feeling she’d nearly forgotten. Whispery shivers danced along her nerve endings and fluttered in her stomach. Without meaning to, the action was purely a reflex, she opened to him.
  The kiss deepened. Their breath mingled. Her palm slid up his chest, feeling the play of muscle beneath his shirt. She fisted the flannel of his open collar in her hand.
  His knuckles grazed the sides of her face.
  Her body tingled with awareness. Scattered thoughts flitted through her mind, but she couldn’t hold onto any of them. Not while Zach kissed her. Not when his mouth fitted so perfectly against hers. Not when the pulse racing at the base of his throat matched the cadence of her heartbeat. 
  She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt like this. Had felt anything.
  Should she be feeling this way about Zach?
  Almost as if sensing her conflicting emotions, he softened the kiss, tenderly brushing his mouth over hers one last time.
  She waged a silent war within, trying to calm her racing heart.
  She still clutched his shirt. She relaxed her fingers one at a time, releasing the twisted fabric from her grasp. Finally she drew in a deep breath, then slowly let it out.
  Her eyes found his. 
  Zach’s gaze searched hers. He smiled. A smile as soft and tender as his kiss. He touched his finger to her lips, then rose. “Good night, Jess.”

Links:
This Can’t Be Love is available from The Wild Rose Press.
The first book in the series, This Time for Always, is also available there.
Readers can visit me at my web-site: www.debrastjohnromance.com




Dark Deceit - Congratulations to one lucky lady!

I had a wonderful launch day! It ended with a lovely pasta meal and Prosecco. Happy day...

And, of course, one lucky commenter has won something. A free e-copy of Dark Deceit was up for grabs. So the winner is...

~drum roll~

Marianne!

I hope you'll enjoy! :-)

For information, Dark Deceit, the first in The Anarchy Trilogy, is now available at Amazon UKAmazon US & Smashwords! 


On his return from battle at Lincoln, Geoffrey de Mortagne, under-sheriff of Gloucester and spy for the Empress Matilda, assists a dying knight caught in an ambush. Promising to look after the welfare of the knight’s only daughter, Geoffrey stays at her manor while he investigates the murder. Keen to join the Empress on her progress through England, he is torn between his oath and his duty.

Left to defend her manor following her father’s death, Alleyne de Bellac at first accepts Geoffrey’s support. As she doesn’t trust the taciturn stranger, she asks Will d’Arques, an old friend, for help. But loyalties change. Her life in danger and her inheritance at stake, Alleyne must decide which man to trust.

Discover England and Normandy divided by a brutal civil war, where vows are broken as allegiances waver.

Dark Deceit - Release Day

Woohoo! ~happy dance~


Today, Dark Deceit, the first in The Anarchy Trilogy, is released through Crooked Cat Publishing


I began the story in late 2003, and finally it sees the light of day. It had numerous versions, with critiques partners in different places along the way. It survived my Novel Writing modules during my Creative Writing studies, endured 3 years in a drawer while I wrote & released Highland Arms, and finally was taken apart - and re-assembled - with the help of my wonderful critique partners. My big thanks goes to them! 

Win a Copy!

Comment below to win an electronic copy! 
Make sure to leave your email addy...


Dark Deceit is now available on Amazon UKAmazon US & Smashwords!


Blurb:
On his return from battle at Lincoln, Geoffrey de Mortagne, under-sheriff of Gloucester and spy for the Empress Matilda, assists a dying knight caught in an ambush. Promising to look after the welfare of the knight’s only daughter, Geoffrey stays at her manor while he investigates the murder. Keen to join the Empress on her progress through England, he is torn between his oath and his duty.

Left to defend her manor following her father’s death, Alleyne de Bellac at first accepts Geoffrey’s support. As she doesn’t trust the taciturn stranger, she asks Will d’Arques, an old friend, for help. But loyalties change. Her life in danger and her inheritance at stake, Alleyne must decide which man to trust.


Discover England and Normandy divided by a brutal civil war, where vows are broken as allegiances waver.



Sneak Preview - Dark Deceit

Two days until Dark Deceit is out!
 ~happy dance~


Dark Deceit is the first in The Anarchy Trilogy, set in 1140s Gloucestershire and Normandy. Murder, changing loyalties, betrayal - and hope.


A historical novel with suspense and romance elements, it tells the story of Alleyne, a young heiress forced to defend her family manor following her father's murder, and Geoffrey, investigating under-sheriff with issues of his own. After calling Will, an old friend, for help, Alleyne must decide which man to trust. The wrong decision could lead to danger and loss.





On his return from battle at Lincoln, Geoffrey de Mortagne, under-sheriff of Gloucester and spy for the Empress Matilda, assists a dying knight caught in an ambush. Promising to look after the welfare of the knight’s only daughter, Geoffrey stays at her manor, investigating the murder. Keen to join the Empress on her progress through England, he is torn between his oath and his duty.
Left to defend her manor following her father’s death, Alleyne de Bellac reluctantly accepts Geoffrey’s support. As she doesn’t trust the taciturn stranger, she asks Will d’Arques, an old friend, for help. But loyalties change. Her life in danger and her inheritance at stake, Alleyne must decide which man to trust.
Discover England and Normandy divided by a brutal civil war, where vows are broken as allegiances waver.


Here's an excerpt:
...

  De Mortagne stood talking to the guards, hands pointing to different directions. Eventually, the men walked towards the gate but he strode in the opposite direction, to the stables. He stopped in the doorway. An instant later Alfred appeared from within, arms crossed in front of his chest. During their brief conversation, the boy’s body relaxed, then he nodded in approval.
  What was that man doing now? She hoped he did not plan to use Alfred for his investigations. The boy was too young to be involved in any reckless actions.
  “I will speak with him,” she said aloud and drained her cup. Grabbing her cloak from the hook behind the door, Alleyne left her chamber.
  She rushed down the stairs, wrapping her cloak closer around her, and threaded her way through the crowd in the hall. With ale flowing freely, the noise had risen. All earlier restraints were forgotten. As she pulled the door to the bailey open, she bumped into the under-sheriff. For a moment they stood close, her hands on his chest, his on her arms. She stumbled as his eyes bore into hers.
  “Apologies, my lady.” De Mortagne stepped back. He released her as she regained her balance.
  “No, it was my fault. But thank you.” She lifted her head to meet his gaze. What fortunate timing. “I should like to go for a walk, Sir Geoffrey. Would you care to accompany me?”
  “Certainly, Lady Alleyne.” He held his arm out and she put her hand on his. Dusk had fallen, but it was still light enough for them to stroll across the deserted bailey without a lantern.
  She pointed to the allure. “Let’s head for the walkway. I’d like to discuss some matters in private.”
  “No problem at all. I see you’ve calmed.” Geoffrey fell into step alongside her.
  “I’ve had time to think and clear my head. So, yes. I’m calm now.”
  When they reached the steps she removed her hand and lifted the front of her skirt just enough to ensure she wouldn’t trip over. She sought the rough stone wall with her other hand to steady herself. De Mortagne followed her careful ascent. Once they reached the top, she ordered the sentry there to join his companions above the gate and turned the other way. She leaned against the parapet near the spot where the parapet met the back of the manor house, allowing the breeze to ruffle her hair. De Mortagne joined her as she gazed over the rolling hills melting into the encroaching darkness.
  “Tell me, how far would someone go to gain this?” she asked with a wide sweep of her hand. “Kill? Possibly kill again?”
  “Anything for property and power for some men.” He shook his head. “Those who don’t live by the rules.”
  “I suppose many don’t. By the way... I saw you earlier in the yard, talking to Alfred.” Feeling him straighten, she faced him. “What exactly are your plans to catch my father’s killers, my lord?”
  “Do not fret for the boy, Lady Alleyne. He’ll come to no harm.” He lowered his head and smiled at her. “I asked him to listen out for any rumours. Nothing sinister at all.”
  “I would like to believe you.” Her voice shook.
  He turned towards her, his expression solemn. “I’ll stay until I’m certain de Guines has no other tricks up his sleeve.” His voice was soft but strong at the same time, determined. Reassuring.
  “Thank you. You don’t know how grateful I am.” She sighed, a shiver of relief rushing through her. “But you must have other duties to attend to? Especially since Matilda isn’t crowned queen yet. Things could still go wrong.” She dropped her head so he could not see her confusion. How could she tell him about Will without insulting him?
  De Mortagne placed his forefinger under her chin and tilted her face up before he dropped his hand to his side again. When their eyes met, she saw encouragement. And something else she could not identify. Something deeper. Blushing, she smiled and opened her mouth to thank him again. His kiss came as a surprise, warm and soft. It lasted barely an instant and at first she thought she imagined it. Then a wave of guilt engulfed her.
  Alleyne took a step back and aimed at his cheek but he was quicker, catching her wrist just inches from her hand’s aim. Damn the reflexes of a trained knight! She steadied herself against the manor wall with her other hand.
  “Forgive me, Lady Alleyne. That was most inappropriate.” He turned away.
  “I could have you thrown out right now.”
  “That wouldn’t help you much in catching your killer.” He stated the obvious, her empty threat exposed for what it was. His voice gave her a chill. Gone was the warm, soothing tone. She had almost believed him. But he was an under-sheriff, a lowly knight with unknown loyalties. One not to be trusted. She straightened her back.
  Will must arrive soon. She trusted him.



(c) Cathie Dunn 2012


Want more? You'll find another excerpt, blurb and trailer on my website! Follow news about Dark Deceit on Facebook! :-)


Dark Deceit, released from Crooked Cat Publishing this Friday, will be available at Amazon and Smashwords (later also B&N, Sony & Apple).



Tour Marguerite, Argentan

My Place - Carola Dunn

Please help me welcome mystery writer Carola Dunn to My Place. I do love a good English mystery, and hope you'll like the sound of Gone West, her latest release.

Over to you, Carola!


Hello, everyone. I'm the author of the Daisy Dalrymple series and the Cornish Mystery series, as well as over thirty Regencies. Almost all my books are set in England. That's where I was born and grew up, though I've lived in the US for a long time, presently in Eugene, Oregon.

All my books are historical. The Daisy mysteries are set in the 1920s, Regencies in the Regency (surprise! That's strictly speaking 1811 to 1820, when George III was mad and his son was Prince Regent), and the Cornish mysteries about 1970, which some people don't count as historical. To me, the time is as important to the setting of a book as the place. 


My Place:
My latest book is GONE WEST, the twentieth in the Daisy Dalrymple series. I wanted to set it in an isolated farmhouse, and I decided to place my farmhouse in Derbyshire, a rugged county north of London but not too far north, so that Daisy could drive there in a day in her new car, a 1925 Gwynne Eight. Studying the map, I chose the Matlock district as being just what I needed. It's in the Derbyshire Dales, an area of steep, nearly treeless hills with narrow wooded valleys. 
Eyrie Farm is up in the hills several miles from the small town, hidden in a shallow vale with a stream running through it. It's a Victorian house, built of local stone by farmers who wanted to get far away from the coal and mineral mines of the lower valleys. No electricity, just oil lamps and candles, and a coal-fired range for cooking, but Daisy's very relieved to find they have indoor plumbing! 
I've been to Matlock and the Dales, but I'm not very familiar with  the area, so I started reading about Matlock and looking at pictures (thank you, Google!). As always when I study a place, whether in person or via the web, I found all sorts of fascinating information. Some of it fitted my planned story and some suggested new directions for the story.
The most interesting and useful discovery was Smedley's Hydropathic Hotel. The building dominates the town, so Daisy couldn't help noticing it. And lo and behold, there on the web was Smedley's visitors' handbook for the mid 1920s. I couldn't resist using some of the wonderful information, and the hydro ended up playing an important part in the story, though I hadn't ever heard of it when I began planning the book.

These are some of the treatments available: 

ELECTRIC TREATMENT.
    Galvanic or Faradaic          per application 1/6
    Both Galvanic and Faradaic                       2/-
    High Frequency                                         2/6
    Diathermy                                                  5/-
    Ultra Violet Rays                                       5/-
    Electric Ionization                                      5/-
    Bath                                                           2/-
I'm really sorry that I couldn't fit a death by Galvanic electric treatment into my story!

Blurb:
In September 1926, the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher visits Sybil Sutherby, a school friend now living in Derbyshire as the confidential secretary to a novelist. Suspecting that something is seriously amiss, Sybil has asked Daisy to discretely investigate. Upon arrival, Daisy finds a household of relatives and would-be suitors living off the hospitality of Humphrey Birtwhistle, who had been supporting them through his thrice-yearly, pseudonymous Westerns. When he took ill, though, Sybil took over writing them while he recovered, only to see the sales increase. Now, she fears that someone in the household is poisoning Birtwhistle to keep him ill and Sybil writing the better-paying versions. But before Daisy can even get decently underway, Humphrey Birtwhistle dies under suspicious circumstances and Daisy now faces a death to untangle, a house full of suspects and a Scotland Yard detective husband who is less than pleased at this turn of events. 

Excerpt:
  After a moment of slightly uncomfortable silence, Sybil said abruptly, "I've read some of your articles, Daisy. You write very well."
  Lucy gave Daisy a knowing look. "What about you, Sybil?" she asked with a hint of a sarcastic inflection. "Have you settled into a life of cosy domesticity?"

  Sybil flushed. "Far from it. My husband was killed in the War. I was lucky enough to find a job quite quickly, as...as secretary to an author. A live-in job, where I can have my little girl with me." Her hand went to her necklace. "I didn't even have to sell Mother's pearls. And I've been there ever since."
  Daisy decided it was a bit late to start expressing condolences which would inevitably lead to further, endless condolences. Everyone had lost someone in the War including her own brother and her fiancé, or in the influenza pandemic, which had killed her father, the late Viscount Dalrymple. She seized on a less emotionally fraught topic. "Is your author someone I might have read?"
  "I doubt it. A rather...specialised field. But I did hope to have a word with you, Daisy..." She glanced sideways at Lucy.
  "About your work? Go ahead. Lucy won't mind. Underneath the frivolous exterior, she's a working woman too."
  "I don't think..."
  "You haven't got yourself involved in the production of 'blue' books, have you?" Lucy's question was blunt, but for once her tone was discreetly lowered.
  "Certainly not!"
  "Sorry. It's just that the way you said 'a rather specialised field' tends to leave one to jump to conclusions."
  Daisy laughed. "I'm prepared to swear that's not the conclusion I jumped to. What's the matter, Sybil?"
  "I'd prefer to talk to you later."
  "No can do. Lucy and I have an appointment with our joint editor immediately after lunch. But Lucy knows all my secrets—well, almost all. She's not going to blurt out your troubles to all and sundry."
  "Silent as the grave," said Lucy. "Cross my heart and hope to die. My lips are sealed."
  "Be serious," Daisy admonished her severely, "or why should Sybil trust you?"
  "It's not so much—" Sybil began, but the waiter interrupted, arriving with their soup.
  By the time he went away again, she had made up her mind.
  "All right, if you say so, Daisy. I wasn't sure whether... I know you married a detective, and I heard that you've helped him to investigate several crimes."
  "Lucy, have you been telling tales, after I've been crying up your discretion?"
  "Darling, I'm not the only one aware of your criminous activities.  There have been at least a couple of other old school pals you've saved from the hangman. Word gets around."
  "It's nothing like that!" Sybil exclaimed. "Not murder, I mean. Just a mystery of sorts. There's probably nothing in it."
  "In what?" Daisy asked.
  "It's an uncomfortable, troubled atmosphere, really. I feel as if something's going on, but I can't pin it down. That's why I want your help."
  "If you can't be precise," said Lucy impatiently, "how do you expect her to advise you?"
  "I was hoping you'd come and stay for a few days, Daisy. I'm hoping you'll tell me it's all in my imagination."
  Lucy looked at her as if she was mad. Daisy was intrigued. She had indeed been caught up in the investigation of a number of unpleasant occurrences, but they had all been concrete acts of a violent nature. A mysterious atmosphere would make a change and might prove interesting. What was more, with no crime in the offing, Alec could hardly object to her going to stay with an old friend.
  In someone else's house, she remembered. "Won't your employer mind your inviting a guest?"
  "Oh no. I'm not just a stenotypist, you know, I'm Mr. Birtwhistle's confidential secretary and...and editorial assistant."
  "Birtwhistle? I've never heard of an author by such a noteworthy name. Does he use a pen-name?"
  "Yes," said Sybil, but did not elaborate, as the waiter returned to remove the soup dishes and present the entrées.
  Lucy, all too obviously disapproving, turned the conversation to her and Daisy's publisher and what he might expect in the way of another photo book. Not until they parted on the pavement outside Maxim's did Daisy have a chance to tell Sybil she was game and would write as soon as she knew when she could get away for a few days.
#
  As a result, one dreary Monday in late September Daisy found herself driving nervously up a narrow, winding lane—two stony ruts with grass growing up the middle, between dry-stone walls. Apart from the rumble of the motor of her sky-blue Gwynne Eight, the only sound was an occasional bleat from the black-faced sheep on the misty hillsides beyond the walls. Outcrops of limestone were more common than trees, and in these bleak uplands the few ashes she passed were already turning yellow.
  A fingerpost on her right directed her up a still steeper, narrower, twistier lane, not much more than a cart-track. One side was open to a grassy slope, blue with harebells, with a stream at the bottom and a rising hillside beyond. On the other side, a high bank cut off the view. Overgrown with nettles and thistles, it had an abandoned air.    
  Eyrie Farm—the name hadn't struck her before, but now she kept thinking of it as Eerie Farm. She was glad to see the line of telephone poles following the track, a reassuring connection to the world. Every fifth pole or so provided a perch to a hawk or falcon, so perhaps the name Eyrie was appropriate. What had birds used for perches before telephone poles and wires?
  More pertinent questions clamoured in Daisy's mind. Sybil's reply to her letter had not informed her of Birtwhistle's pen-name. Perhaps he wrote ghost stories, or wrote about and even dabbled in the occult. What had her insatiable curiosity landed her in this time?
  Lucy was right: She must be crazy to have accepted Sybil's invitation.

Author Links:
My blog and website:      http:www.CarolaDunn.weebly.com
My 1st & 3rd Wednesday blog: http://murderousmusings.blogspot.com 
Video Interview:              http://www.authorsroad.com/CarolaDunn.html