Author of Salting the Tears
Currently on my desk…
Work on my new book, Half Seen, is in full swing. Check the Books and News pages regularly for more information or add your details to my mailing list to get advance news of future titles, excerpts and much more.
The final draft of Salting the Tears is complete and has been submitted to a few select agents for consideration. The book is made up of three parts plus a gripping prologue and short epilogue. All in all, a little over 109,000 words. As a finishing touch, I’ve changed the temporary cover image to one that better reflects the feel of the story and added a family tree to the front matter. This shows the relationships between Maria, Semyon and other family members that appear in the book.
Looking forward to our holiday in Sicily next month. In the meantime, I must crack on with my current book!
(From Half Seen)
“She drops a pound coin into Tegan’s open hand and enters the police-box-come-shooting-gallery, which is, indeed, larger on the inside than it was on the outside. There are shelves stretching in all directions crammed full of tempting prizes: Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians and all manner of other monsters together with Tardises, the five Doctors and all their companions in various finishes and sizes. A slight movement causes her to look deeper into the gallery. Only now does she notice the shooting counter and, somewhere deep behind it, the faint figure of the Fifth Doctor approaching in his Edwardian cricket flannels. He’s holding a rifle over his shoulder somewhat like a batsman might hold a cricket bat as he walks onto the field. The girl arrives at her side of the counter just as the Doctor arrives at his. He hands her the rifle and, as he does so, a grin becomes visible beneath the brim of his white hat and the girl sees that he’s not the Doctor at all, he’s her brother, Roger. Roger flicks a switch to illuminate the targets and starts them running around their track. His sister wraps her hand around the rifle-butt, puts her eye to the sights, and places a finger on the trigger. She tracks the first target to the centre of the gallery but it doesn’t spin round as expected. She follows it, her finger primed for action. The thin profile of the target continues moving until it reaches the end of the track, where the clicks and whirrs stop and the entire train comes to an abrupt halt. She maintains her concentration in the spectral silence. Without warning, an unanticipated target to her left spins round. She pans back nimbly, steadies the target in the sights of the gun, and feels her skin go cold as she realises she’s looking straight into her own eyes. She is the target.”
31 December 1913, Yablonivka
(From Salting the Tears)
“Varfolomei walked over to the cabinet to retrieve the sugar bowl from where it was kept out of the children’s reach. He chose a large lump and dunked it into the chai before bringing it to his lips and taking a small bite. Placing the rest in the saucer, he started sipping the infusion. The way the chai glowed in the reflected lamplight caused him to remember the looks of fascination on his children’s faces when he brought home a pine tree, freshly cut from the family forest, on Christmas Eve, and how those inquisitive expressions turned to delight as their mother and aunt dressed it in the traditional way. The whole parlour had been transformed with holly and pine garlands laid along the mantelpiece and glass decorations throughout. This had been the first New Year with Galiya being old enough to understand what was going on, whereas, for Vasily, it was simply an enchanting diversion from his usual routine. As Varfolomei sipped his chai, he was feeling distinctly happy that the season’s festivities were in tune with his emotions as he awaited the arrival of his third child.
While he had been musing, Ludmila had been putting the children to bed and was now busy preparing a cold supper for Varfolomei. ‘What do you think, a boy or a girl?’ she asked.
‘We are already blessed with one of each,’ he replied, looking into the fire. ‘So a healthy mother and baby is all I ask of God, tonight.'”
Chapter 6 – Tuesday, 5th August
(From Captured in the Shadows)
“Celeste opened the door thinking Harold must have forgotten something.
‘Oh, it’s you! Ciao, Mamma.’
‘Ciao, Darling,’ replied Lucrezia, looking beyond Celeste to scan the house.
Celeste stepped aside to let her mother in, shutting the door behind her and following her into the kitchen.
‘So, what brings you all the way from Paris and how did you know I’d be here anyway?’
‘I didn’t, actually, Darling. Not until I saw your little car outside. Do you like it?’
Celeste’s car had been another one of her mother’s extravagant presents. Celeste had seen it as some kind of reconciliation gift, ‘You know I like it very much, Mamma, but you’re evading my question. So why were you on my doorstep when you weren’t expecting to find me in?’
Lucrezia ignored the question, asking instead, ‘When did you arrive?’
‘Friday evening. What’s this all about?’
‘Was there anybody in the house when you got here?’
‘Of course not! I’d have called the police if there had been.’
Lucrezia sat down and looked out of the window pensively, ‘Ok, I’d better explain why I’m here. Nine months ago, I signed a new model. A young man. He’s drop dead gorgeous and I told him so. He said his looks were an inheritance from his German father and his Romanian mother. Anyway, after his first assignment, I took him out for a celebratory drink.’
‘Mamma! You’re nearly seventy!’”
Views from the office chair…
In Captured in the Shadows, Harold, an English expat living in the fictitious Italian village of San Giorgio, has hooked up with Celeste, who grew up in the village, to solve a puzzle that Celeste’s grandmother left behind when she died.
A door from the hallway of Celeste’s house leads into a small private chapel. There are no windows and the room contains only a simple altar on the far wall, four four-seater pews – one behind the other facing the altar – and three 17th century tapestries. The lack of sunlight has kept the colours almost as bright as the day they were stitched and each is a copy of a famous painting:
Above the altar is the Madonna on a Crescent Moon in Hortus Conclusus, Unknown Master (1450s).
On the left-hand wall is St. Christopher Carrying the Christ Child, Hieronymus Bosch (1490s).
While, on the right-hand wall is the Liberation of St. Peter, Guercino (1622)
The tapestries are nearly as old as the house and long predate Mariza, Celeste’s grandmother but, like the four paintings in the entrance hall, could they also be clues to help solve Mariza’s puzzle?