July 2018


Letters from Elsewhere

I’m delighted to be joined today by John Burgess, who comes straight from the pages of Heathcliff by my good friend and fellow Crooked Cat author, Sue Barnard. Yes, that Heathcliff – the one and only. John has brought the letter he wrote to his wife.

My dearest Anne,

I trust that this letter will find you in good health.  We have only been at sea for less than eight and forty hours, but already I am missing you beyond measure.

How is our dear little Emily?  Mr McDougal promised me that he would ensure that the two of you would be well cared for whilst I am away.   I know he is a man of his word, and as you well know he has already been my saviour on more than one occasion. 

I was very nervous about going to sea again, my love – not just because of the prospect of having to leave you (especially in view of your condition), but also because it is so long since I was last on a ship. But it has proved to be not so bad as I had feared.  I was seasick at first, but thankfully that has now passed.  Our voyage is going well so far.  Captain Trelawney is, as one would expect, kept extremely busy with the day-to-day running of the ship, but young Heathcliff has been keeping me company.  He is a very competent sailor, despite having had no previous experience before he came to Liverpool.

All the same, I am rather worried about him.  For his age (I believe he is around seventeen or so), he is surprisingly uneducated.  When I told him that you were four months gone with child, he looked bewildered and asked me what I meant.  I never imagined that I should be the one who would have to educate anyone about the facts of life.

Heathcliff seemed surprised – even a little shocked – by what I explained, but afterwards he thanked me, then told me why he had first come to Liverpool.  It transpires that he was running away from a girl who broke his heart by saying it would degrade her to marry him.  I have often thought that he seems to be a troubled soul, and now I am beginning to understand why. 

I will post this letter when we next arrive in port, and will write to you again later during the trip.  In the meantime, please take good care of yourself and of little Emily.  I am counting the hours until I see you both again.

HeathcliffYour loving husband,

John

About Heathcliff

What happened to Heathcliff during the three years when he disappeared from Wuthering Heights?  And who were his parents?  Possible answers to these questions are offered in Sue Barnard’s latest work, Heathcliff, due for publication on 30th July, 2018.

About Sue Barnard

Sue BarnardSue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet. She was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After graduating from Durham University, where she studied French and Italian, Sue got married then had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent. If she had her way, the phrase “non-working mother” would be banned from the English language.

Sue has a mind which is sufficiently warped as to be capable of compiling questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult “Round Britain Quiz”. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

In addition to working as an editor for Crooked Cat Books, Sue is the author of four novels apart from Heathcliff: The Ghostly Father, Nice Girls Don’t, The Unkindest Cut of All and Never on Saturday.

She is also very interested in Family History. Her own background is far stranger than any work of fiction; she’d write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

Sue lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

I was lucky enough to read an earlier version of Heathcliff and have begun reading the final version. It’s an excellent read, whether or not you’ve read Wuthering Heights.

***

If you hurry over to Amazon, you might still catch the tail end of Crooked Cat’s Summer Sale. Sue’s books (apart from Heathcliff), my books and many others are in the sale.

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Yes, Crooked Cat’s summer sale starts today, and to celebrate, here are all the books currently on sale that have appeared in my popular series, Letters from Elsewhere:

Letters from Elsewhere

My books are also in the sale:

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE is a contemporary romance set mostly in Jerusalem. It tells the story of Esty, who has just left the closed, haredi community in which she grew up, and Mark, a new immigrant from Britain.
Neither Here Nor There appeared on Letters from Elsewhere on 2 October, 2015 and 29 January, 2016.
THE WOMEN FRIENDS: SELINA was written together with the lovely Emma Rose Millar. It’s based on Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece, The Women Friends and covers the whole inter-war period. Selina arrives in Vienna, young, vulnerable and fresh from the country, and ends up staying for many years.
SOCIAL ANXIETY REVEALED is non-fiction and reveals all about social anxiety. Suitable for sufferers and non-sufferers alike, it shows our similarities and differences through quotes from many others who are much more familiar with social anxiety than they would like to be.

My Books

Lots more Crooked Cat books are in the sale. Don’t miss out.

I read a book that hasn’t been released yet. Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds.

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine WorldsIt’s not rare for that to happen. Authors or publishers often give away a few review copies. But more about that later.

I enjoyed the book and wrote a review, which I put first on Goodreads. This is it:

“I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. This makes no difference to my rating/review of it.

What if…? That’s a question all fiction authors ask many times in the course of writing a story. It can lead to: What if character A met character B? Or: What if X happened to Character A? The premise of this novel is much more unusual: What if two bumbling Victorian detectives found themselves having to solve a mystery in the world (or worlds) of Norse mythology?

Of course, if I’d read the first book in this series, Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab, I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the notion. But I’m sure I’d have found the story just as fascinating and the humour just as appealing. The writing is excellent; descriptions, dialogue and plot are, too. And I was happy to learn something of a world I’ve never examined.

Occasionally, the language seemed unfitting for a Victorian English gentleman, and that would tend to make me award the novel 4.5 stars. For example, Barnabas calls women Ms rather than Miss or Mrs; temperatures are in Centigrade rather than Farenheit; and he uses that annoying (to me) US expression, “off of.” But mostly, I was happy with the choice of words; I don’t expect the dialogue in a modern book to sound exactly as it would in times gone by, and there are enough hints in the novel of the period the detectives came from.

What next? I do hope Barnabas and his assistant, Wilfred, get to India at some stage of their journey.”

And then, as I have often done in the past, I copied my review to Amazon US and Amazon UK… or at least I tried to.

Amazon US informed me that I can’t leave a review for a book that hasn’t been released yet.

Amazon UK informed me that I haven’t bought enough on the site to be able to leave a review. On further investigation, I discovered that I’m supposed to have spent at least £40 in the last twelve months.

Both of these rulings are new and they don’t make sense to me.

If Amazon continue to have a pre-order feature, then they should allow pre-release reviews. Otherwise, how can potential readers determine whether they want to pre-order?

And I wanted to make my review visible to UK customers, who would pay to buy the book, if they could see read reviews. In other words, I don’t think Amazon should only allow reviews from those who buy on the site, because those reviews could influence others to buy.

But the mighty Amazon has decreed and we dwarves must bow to them. END OF RANT.

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds is released by Crooked Cat Publishing on 4 September, 2018.

There will be two more blog posts this week – on Tuesday and Friday. What a busy week this is! Happily so. I wish you a happily busy week, too!

Running up stairs

 

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Letters from Elsewhere will not appear today, but it will be back next Friday, and before that, on Tuesday, there will be a special post. So, keep tuning in and have a great weekend!

And remember:

WeNeedToTalkAboutSocialAnxiety

Letters from Elsewhere

Well, this is a first for Letters from Elsewhere. There have been letters to the dead before, but never one that crosses millennia – seventy-four of them! Here’s the letter from today’s visitor, Dr Eloise Kluft, who has joined me from the pages of Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton.

Dear Sarah

I believe it’s high time to give poor old Charles Darwin a break and address one of my heartfelt epistles to you instead. But how does one begin to compose a prehistoric ‘thank you’ note? Perhaps in your time this would have taken the form of a gesture, or maybe a chant or a song? But as one of our own contemporary songs goes, I’m afraid that all I have are words. While it’s difficult to know how to thank you, I am nevertheless compelled to do so, and this feels not only appropriate but natural… instinctive. I cannot know what form of communication, verbal or otherwise, you may have used, but I feel that even 74,000 years ago the concept of thankfulness, and the ability to express it, would have been an inherent quality – a vital aspect of what made us human. Gratitude is a universal language, after all?

I will never forget the day I heard the rumours, the whispers that something very special, something that might add another crucial piece to the human puzzle, had been found in the ice on Mt Kenya. I still count my blessings every day that you came my way. Into my laboratory, into my care, under my gaze. Oh but you made us work so hard to unravel your secrets, my girl! And as much as you were celebrated and cherished, you were feared by those who could never accept such a challenge to their own cherished beliefs.

But for everything you carried with you on this last stage of your journey, all the revelations, all challenges and, yes, even the dangers, I thank you, Sarah. (I hope you do not mind the name we’ve given you in our time?) Who knows how, or why, you fell into that glacier, but I thank you for falling into my life, in your rare, fractured, mysterious and ancient form. By allowing me to flesh out your life using both science and imagination, you have brought me back so thrillingly into mine. To all its wonders and to a new appreciation of everything I have to be grateful for.

Whatever your struggles, whatever your joys, I sense that you met them with courage and curiosity. You may have gone hungry too often in your lifetime, but I wonder, did you also stay hungry for life itself? Did you love, did you lose, did your heart break? And, if so, how did you pick yourself up again? What did you learn in your walk upon this planet – and perhaps more importantly, what did you teach, what did you pass on?

You have taught me so much. Much that I hope to share with the wider world – and with any of your surviving ‘children’ –  if they walk among us yet today. But above all, I have read your message from the past as a reminder that I should live my own life as fully as I can, right here and in the consciousness of the present moment. With a mind open to every possibility but also with a heart that’s brave enough to open up once more … to whatever may come.

Thank you, thank you, my dearest Sarah.

Yours

Dr Eloise Kluft

About Bone Lines

StephanieBrethertonBoneLines

A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life.  A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Bone Lines is the debut novel from Stephanie Bretherton, out from Unbound in September. A genre-fluid dual narrative, it spans the space between literary, speculative-fiction, ‘present day’ sci-fi, historical fantasy and ‘women’s interest’ with its pair of fascinating female heroines.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

You can find more information or pre-order special editions here.

About Stephanie Bretherton

Stephanie BrethertonWho do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast.

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

You can find Stephanie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Letters from Elsewhere

I’m visited today by an anxious character, who longs to be like the rest but needs to hold back. No, this isn’t social anxiety. Skye has a troubled past and is trained to leave nothing behind. Writing a letter isn’t something she would be able to do very often and she’d have to be under a lot of stress to write one.

Skye is the main character in Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree. Here’s her letter:

Reece, my love.

You left me. You made me stay behind. Your actions saved our son, but we’ve had to hide ever since you died. Why can’t you have found a way out?

I move around a lot. I don’t make friends and they probably don’t even notice when I’m gone. Each new town brings a new name, a new career, but Leo is tiring of the game. He wants to settle in one place, for us to stop running. It’s been years, but I’m scared that if they found you, they could find us. I’m lonely. I miss you.

I’m trying to be a good mum but it’s hard on my own. You’ll remember that my cooking is really bad, but our son never complains. He’s a good boy. You’d love him… if only you were here.

I’m going to try and stop scowling at the parents at Leo’s new school, for his sake not mine. He wants us to stay here in the cottage I’ve found. Maybe I can become the mum you always said I could be, before this, before you were gone. The fire in the hearth is warm tonight and I’ll send this letter up to you in the flames, as I can’t leave it here. Something has got to change. I need to change. I’m tired of being alone. I’m sorry. I love you.

Skye.

I hope Skye succeeds in changing, for her sake as well as for her son.

About Ninja School Mum

Ninja School Mum by Lizzie ChantreeObsessive-compulsive school mum, Skye, is a lonely elite spy, who is running from her past whilst trying to protect the future of her child. She tries hard to fit in with the other parents at her son’s new school, but the only person who accepts her unconventional way of life is new mother, Thea.

Thea is feeling harassed by her sister and bored with her life, but she suspects that there is something strange about the new school mum, Skye. Thea has secrets of her own and, although the two become unlikely friends, she hesitates to tell Skye about the father of her own child.

Zack’s new business is growing faster than he could have dreamed but, suddenly, he finds himself the owner of a crumbling estate on the edge of a pretty village, and a single parent to a very demanding child. Could he make a go of things and give his daughter the life she deserved?

When three lives collide, it appears that only one of them is who they seem to be, and you never know who the person next to you in the school playground really is.

About Lizzie Chantree

Lizzie ChantreeLizzie is an award winning author, inventor and businesswoman. She founded her first company at the age of 17 and has been creating products and driving her family mad ever since!

Lizzie appeared on Sky News, ITV Lunchtime News, This Morning, The Big Breakfast, BBC’s Worldwide Radio Service, amongst others for becoming one of Fair Play London’s Female Innovators and inventing a ‘ladder’ stop spray for hosiery.

Lizzie lives with her gorgeous family and a very unusual dog in the English countryside. In between the school run and baking cakes (or burning them!), she sits in her rooftop studio writing contemporary romance novels and daydreaming about new product designs. Lizzie’s books often feature unusual businesses and entice you in to the romantic life of the slightly eccentric entrepreneurs that run them!