Celebrating The Second Book

Yesterday saw the launch of my second novel, Your Secret’s Safe With Me. Without a doubt, my character novelist Pearl would have been cracking open the pink champagne to celebrate. Did I? Not exactly. Traditionally Monday night is pub quiz night and if/when you read Your Secret’s Safe With Me you will realise that participation in a pub quiz plays a pivotal role in the story!

My regular Monday night outings provided just a little of the inspiration for the plot twist that brings my heroine and hero together, so instead of celebrating with champagne on ice it seemed fitting to spend the evening with my team mates enjoying scampi and chips playing rock’n’roll bingo as usual (we know how to live it up!)

So, what is Your Secret’s Safe With Me all about?

Well, it isn’t about a pub quiz team! All families have taboos – don’t they? The ‘things’ no-one wants to talk about, the ‘closed subjects.’ Pearl and Becca Gates are no exception, they have plenty of skeletons lurking in their closet, but then, so it seems does everyone else they encounter when they arrive at their new home in the sleepy south coast village of Kerridge.

Pearl, a successful romantic novelist, throws daughter Becca’s organised life into chaos when she makes a series of surprise announcements.  Apart from a wedding to arrange, there’s also a career change, and a relocation from London to a rural waterside community on the south coast. As Pearl embraces a new life amongst the local sailing fraternity, Becca encounters an unwelcome face from her past and receives a grim warning that all is not as calm as it first appears in her picturesque new surroundings.

Your Secret’s Safe With Me is a story about the intricacies of family relationships and the consequences of keeping secrets. It evolved from a competition entry for the opening 300 words of a novel focussing on the relationship between mother and daughter. I liked the dynamic I’d created between Pearl and Becca, who works as her mother’s PA, and wanted to take their story further.

Many of us dream of a new life in the country but for Pearl and Becca the move signals not just a complete shift in their relationship, but it also spells danger.   There’s romance, of course, plot twists and intrigue, and it’s all told with a good dose of humour. Once again my native local south coast landscape provides the setting.

I hope you enjoy meeting Pearl and Becca, younger brother Freddy, and Nick, of course, that unwelcome  (or is he?!) face from Becca’s past. And when you do read their story, pay attention. I may be asking questions later!

Your Secret’s Safe With Me is available in paperback and on Kindle https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Secrets-Safe-Rosie-Travers-ebook/dp/B07L9K978J/

Comfort Reads – Guest Paula Williams

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘comfort’ as a state of physical well-being; in pluralthings that make life easy or pleasant. To me that term is synonymous with reading, and I think today’s special guest, cosy crime writer Paula Williams would heartily agree!

Thank you, Rosie, for inviting me to talk about my comfort reads.  It was incredibly difficult to pick just five to talk about because, to me, reading is the ultimate comfort activity.  Curled up, reading on a cold, rainy day when the wind is howling outside and I’m snug and warm – that’s my idea of bliss!

So, as I can’t include the entire contents of my bookcases/Kindle I’ve checked them out and found the following precious (to me)  books.

1. The Discontented Pony.   Noel Barr

This tops the list because this book was the reason I was such an early reader.  It belonged to my older sister and I loved it so much and used to beg people to read it to me.  But my mum didn’t have time (I have 5 siblings!) and my sister didn’t have the inclination.  So I learnt to read.  I don’t remember how, I only know I would spend hours bent over this book, trying to make sense of the words. The copy in the picture is not my sister’s. That disappeared years ago. (She doesn’t share my need to hoard books)  I found it in a charity shop many years ago and leapt on it with cries of joy. It has pride of place on my Treasured Books shelf ever since.

2. When We Were Very Young.  By A A Milne. 

Having just said that nobody in my family would read to me, my maternal grandmother used to read this to me when she was visiting or we went to stay with her.  I loved it and knew many of the poems off by heart. (Still do, in fact!)

It is the reason my eldest son is called Christopher.  There was never any doubt in my mind what my first son was going to be called, even before I became pregnant!  And, I’m happy to say, that he loves the book as much as I do – although I can’t help wondering if part of the appeal came from the fact that if I started reading the poems as a bedtime story, I would find it very hard to stop at just one. It was a brilliant way of extending bedtime.

Years later, I read the poems to my grandchildren, although they didn’t like them quite so much, with the possible exception of The King’s Breakfast, which I do with all the different voices.  How come I forget where I put the car keys yet remember in perfect detail every single line of that silly poem?

3. The Footsteps of Angels.  H.W. Longfellow

Hope it’s all right to include a single poem as my comfort read.  Now this really was a comfort read – at least it was when I was nine years old. 

 I’ve already mentioned my maternal grandmother and how she died when I was young.  I was devastated by her death as she was a gentle, bookish lady and we really enjoyed each other’s company.  She lived with us for the last year of her life and I missed her so much when she died.  Our household was a noisy, very boy dominated one, (I have four brothers and my sister was away at school for a lot of the time) and I treasured the precious quiet time my grandmother and I spent together.

After she died, I inherited many of her books, one of which was a book of poems by H.W. Longfellow which she’d been awarded back in 1907/08 for ‘Regularity, Progress and Conduct.”  It amuses me to see that Longfellow is described in the Preface as one of the ‘modern’ poets!

This book, like the other two, lives on the shelf allocated very precious books.  The pages are all brown and crumbling and the whole thing is falling apart but I still treasure it.

I learnt The Footsteps of Angels just after her death.  All ten verses of it!  I had the idea that I was learning it for her.  Reading it through now, I can see it’s very sentimental but at the time, it was a real comfort to grieving little nine year old me and brought me a little closer to my sorely missed ‘Nan’.

4. The Big Four.  Agatha Christie.

My mother introduced me to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers when I was about 12 and I have loved crime fiction ever since, both as a reader and a writer.

I hadn’t read any Agatha Christie for years although I really enjoyed most of the television productions, especially the ones with David Suchet as Poirot and Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.  But a couple of years ago, we were staying near Dartmouth in Devon and were waiting to take the steam train up the Dart Valley.  Of course, being as we were in the heart of ‘Agatha Christie’ country, there was a whole selection of her books on sale in the station shop.  I chose The Big Four as I didn’t remember the story – and I was totally drawn in.  I’d completely forgotten what a great story teller she was and couldn’t put it down.

That particular book brings back many memories, of my mother and, more recently, of a lovely holiday in a beautiful part of the world.

5. On Writing.  Stephen King.

I bought this book ages ago and resisted reading it for year, mostly because I’ve never read any of Stephen King’s fiction (nor seen any of the films), as I don’t enjoy horror stories.

But I’m so glad I put my prejudice aside. Because here is a man in love with writing and every time I get a bit down and think I’m not cut out to be a writer and that maybe I should give it up and take up crochet or something, I dip in to this and my world is restored.

And isn’t that the point of a comfort read?

Author Bio

Paula Williams is living her dream. She’s written all her life – her earliest efforts involved blackmailing her unfortunate younger brothers into appearing in her plays and pageants. But it’s only in recent years that she discovered to her surprise that people with better judgement than her brothers actually liked what she wrote and were prepared to pay her for it.

Now, she writes every day in a lovely, book-lined study in her home in Somerset, where she lives with her husband and a handsome but not always obedient rescue Dalmatian called Duke.

She began her writing career writing fiction for women’s magazines (and still does) but has recently branched out into longer fiction. She also writes a monthly column, Ideas Store, for the writers’ magazine, Writers’ Forum.

But, as with the best of dreams, she worries that one day she’s going to wake up and find she still has to bully her brothers into reading ‘the play what she wrote’.

Her debut crime novel, Murder Served Cold, is a murder mystery set in a small Somerset village which bears a striking resemblance to the one she lives in. (Although, as far as she knows, none of her neighbours are cold-blooded murderers!)  It was published by Crooked Cat Books in October 2018, and is the first in the Much Winchmoor Mysteries series, the second of which, Rough and Deadly, will be published soon!

Murder Served Cold can be bought at:  https://mybook.to/murderservedcold

Social Media Links

Blog. at paulawilliamswriter.wordpress.com

Her facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/paula.williams.author.

Twitter.  @paulawilliams44.

Website  paulawilliamswriter.co.uk

Many thanks to Paula for taking part.

Story Time Part 2

Further to my post a couple of weeks’ back, here, as promised is my shortlisted sci-fi story from Writing Magazine. I have to admit sci-fi would never be my chosen genre to read, or to write, but that’s the wonder of writing competition prompts, they can take you off into another world!

Voyage into the Unknown

There were reports of riots in the emigration lines. Brad said it wasn’t worth taking the risk. We’d left it too late anyway. A family who’d been waiting two weeks were turned back when they reached the departure gate because one of the children was sick. The next day the family reappeared minus one. Rumour had it the father had sacrificed the poorly child to ensure the others’ safe passage. That’s how desperate people were.

We’d been on emergency rations for the last six months. There was no hope of replenishing supplies. Even the black market had dried up. We’d been forewarned this would happen. Back in my parents’ day prophets had predicted a catastrophe on a global scale. The politicians had taken no notice. The wheels of industry would not be stopped. When one resource became depleted, another was harnessed. Technological advances sucked the goodness from the soil, the sea and from the atmosphere.

The oceans had dried up; the earth was parched and barren, vegetation and livestock dead. Only the very elderly could remember the days of fresh food. As a child I’d been repulsed by my grandfather’s salivating lips as he described the taste and texture of cooked meat. I couldn’t imagine consuming anything that hadn’t been cultivated in a petri-dish, but even laboratory manufactured foodstuffs needed water.  We’d been too greedy. Our planet could no longer sustain life.

There had been a cull to reduce the population. I’m surprised the family with the sick child made it through the rigorous screening process.  The majority of diseases had been eradicated. Medicine was one area in which scientists excelled. Cures existed for all but the rarest of cancers, and for those incurable conditions, euthanasia was encouraged.  As a race we were supposedly the fittest and strongest we’d ever been. We just hadn’t developed a way of adjusting our lungs to cope with the polluted air that smothered our planet. A few more years of research and we might have conquered it.

Brad had worked on some of the initial investigations into the sustainability of the satellite colonies. In theory, we should have been first in line for one of the emigration ships but it seemed such a drastic step. If we could survive a few months, I was convinced the rains would come. There had been droughts before – the longest on record was five years.  We were currently in our seventh.

Old fashioned words such as frugality, restraint and recycling were being bandied about by the told-you-so brigade; those smug academics who took great delight in witnessing the planet’s demise. They would stay to the bitter end, whatever. They stood chanting on street corners in ethereal white gowns, although we all wore white by then, to reflect the brutal heat of the sun.

Brad said there was talk of a new exploratory space expedition. ‘We know there are other solar systems out there,’ he said. ‘We know there is another planet just like ours.’

Sometimes I took the snippets of information Brad brought home from work with a pinch of salt. He liked to tease me with sound-bites picked up eavesdropping on his superior’s conversations. However, there was something about his manner that made me think this time he genuinely knew more than he was letting on.

I made discreet enquiries amongst our friends, or at least the small group of acquaintances we had left. You couldn’t blame those who had already chosen to evacuate.

‘What do you want to leave for?’ Our neighbour Meritt asked. ‘We were expecting you guys to host our end of the world party.’ Our apartment was double the size of Meritt’s, one of the advantages of working for the Space Agency.  Merrit had stockpiled alcohol and now lived on a diet of home-brewed Vapour Juice. Vapour Juice had been outlawed long ago. It had become too precious a commodity to be left in the public domain. Battery packs could run on Vapour Juice.

‘As far as I see it, you have two clear choices,’ my cousin, Rico, said. Rico was a chemist who had devised a best-selling over the counter euthanasia pill. ‘You stay until the bitter end and swallow one of my little smarties, or you take the risk and head off into the unknown. Either way you’re going to die. Do it now, or do it later.’

He offered me a couple of his pills at a knock-down price and I told Brad to find out more about the expedition. It turned out I was right. Brad knew an awful lot more than he’d first divulged.

‘I didn’t want you to get too excited,’ he said, ‘in case I failed the vetting procedure. I’ve applied to be the onboard technician. We’d get co-habitee status. This could be our chance to escape.’

Escape to where? The more Brad talked about light years of space travel, of algorithms of probability and worse case scenarios, the less I listened. It could well be this talk of a planet, so similar in make-up to ours, was nothing but a myth. Why would anyone sign up for a once in a lifetime jaunt to nowhere?

As the days went on, the idea became more of a reality. News began to filter back from the satellite stations. There were food shortages and fighting amongst the immigrants.  Security personnel were losing control.

Brad confirmed the rumours. ‘They’ll last six months at the most,’ he said, his face grim. Everyone was grim these days, apart from those like Merrit who were comatose. ‘The satellites will never sustain permanent settlement. We knew that all along.’

I thought of the father who had abandoned his sick child only to lead the others to death on a remote space station.  No wonder the immigrants were up in arms.

Brad said there had already been a reconnaissance mission to seek out the new planet. It had all been kept under-wraps because communication with the exploratory ships had been lost. However, the task-force crew had been fitted with embedded transmitters which sent signals processed from their thoughts. I didn’t know such technology existed, but Brad assured me it did, although it was still very much in its infancy. Experts were working around the clock to decipher the readings which were still being received.

‘We’ll have to be induced into an advanced state of stasis,’ Brad explained. ‘It’s the only way to travel for so far and for so long. An electrical surcharge will be programmed to wake us when we reach our designated orbit.’

‘And you are convinced this planet really exists?’ I asked.

‘I’m convinced it’s worth taking the risk,’ he replied.

So we set off, a crew of ten adventurers; a mixed bag of technicians and scientists, including Brad’s colleague, Jarvis, a communications expert. We each shared the conviction that doing something was better than doing nothing, although being in stasis was hardly a pro-active state.

We woke as we broke through atmospheric layers charged with meteor debris and radioactive gases. I stared in amazement out of the narrow cockpit window. There beneath us was the mythical planet, as blue as ours had once been.

‘Recognise those white swirls?’ Brad said, his green eyes ablaze with excitement. ‘Remember them? Clouds.  Not full of toxic waste and chemicals, but water. There’s a whole eco-system down there. We can start from the beginning, and this time, we can do it right.’

‘What if life here already exists?’ I asked. ‘Do you think we’ll be made welcome?’

Brad smiled. ‘We’re a party of ten refugees, hardly an invasion force. In any case, this planet is new compared to ours. Whatever life-form exists, it won’t be very advanced.’

We landed in a desert, so similar in appearance to the dying landscape we’d left behind I momentarily wondered if the vivid blue ocean we’d witnessed from above was nothing but an optical illusion. But then the life-forms approached, sitting astride mechanical vehicles.

‘What do they look like?’ Jarvis asked, joining us in the cockpit. He craned his stubby neck to peer over my shoulder.

It was impossible to tell whether we shared any characteristics apart from the obvious four limbs and upright stature. ‘Tall,’ I replied, watching the aliens dismount. ‘Bubble heads.  I think they’re wearing some sort of protective breathing suits. Maybe the air isn’t as fresh as we think. Perhaps this planet isn’t habitable after all.’

Brad frowned. ‘I’m sure these co-ordinates correlate with the landing site of the exploratory vessels. Jarvis, are the transmitters up and running? Can you check the external probes?’

The communication network had been spewing out light years’ of technical information since we broke orbit.

‘Oh it’s habitable all right,’ Jarvis replied, studying his network screen and scratching his bald head. ‘At least for now, but there appears to have been some sort of terrible mistake.’

A message from the Space Agency had come through just hours after we slipped into stasis. The code-breakers had at last unscrambled the garbled thought processes from the task-force crew. The order had been very specific.

‘Mission to be aborted. Change course immediately and head to nearest satellite colony. Do not proceed to planet known as Earth. Dominant species hostile and aggressive. Repeat. Abort mission.’

We discovered too late what had happened to that earlier delegation. As the aliens marched us to their headquarters we saw the task-force vessels moored in a vast warehouse, and we found the crew, or at least parts of them, dissected on the aliens’ operating slabs. We tried to tell them, those tall, small-headed creatures (the breathing bubbles were apparently just to avoid contamination – as if we would contaminate anybody) about the climatic disaster that had obliterated our own planet, but they either didn’t understand, despite Jarvis’ attempts at translation, or they simply didn’t want to know.

I knew I should have stayed at home and drunk myself stupid on Vapour Juice. It would have been a far more pleasant way to end it all.

You can check out my flash fiction web page here