Letters from Elsewhere


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I’m delighted to host my old friend, Annette Waters, today. Yeah, I reckon I know Annette pretty damn well. So much so that even her language has rubbed off on me! You see, Annette comes from a novel I took great pleasure in editing: Redneck’s Revenge by Joan Livingston. And the launch date is just around the corner.

In Redneck’s Revenge, Annette Waters hires Isabel Long for Isabel’s second case. Annette doesn’t believe her father died in a fire after he was passed-out drunk. She believes he was murdered. In this letter, Annette, who Isabel and her mother nicknamed the Tough Cookie, expresses her appreciation:

Dear Isabel,

I wanted to say thanks for taking my case. My cousin, Marsha, told me all about how you figured out what happened to that woman who went missing so many years ago. My Pop hasn’t been dead that long so I hope it will be easier.

I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t like newcomers very much. Sometimes I actually hate them. A lot of them move into our little towns and treat us natives like we’re stupid rednecks. Yeah, I am a redneck and proud of it, but you didn’t make me feel stupid. You weren’t shocked I’m a mechanic and I run the junkyard my father owned.

You didn’t mind I’m going to pay you with free service to your cars.

And you believed what I told you about my Pop.

I know what kind of man my father was. If he didn’t like you, he was a real SOB. That was actually a lot of people.

But if Pop did like you, he’d take the shirt off his back for you. He’d sure like you and your mother.

By the way, your mother cracks me up. I can’t believe she’s 92.

Yeah, yeah, I heard Pop cheated at cards. I say don’t play if you can’t afford to lose. Stop being a crybaby. Wah, wah, wah.

Yeah Pop drank like a fish. And the hard stuff, too. But burn up in a fire? He’d never get that drunk.

Shit. Nobody deserves to die like Pop did. I just hope he didn’t suffer much. It makes me cry when I think about it because I loved him so much. He taught me everything I know about fixing vehicles.

I gave you a list of who I think might have done it. Please find the bastard who killed him.

Yours truly,

Annette

About Redneck’s Revenge

Redneck's RevengeISABEL LONG’S SECOND CRIME MYSTERY

Her next case. She’s in it for good.

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over, but no surprise there since his sister turned out to be the killer. Then cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.

Encouraged by her Watson — her 92-year-old mother  — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.

The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.

Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.

Click here for Redneck’s Revenge and here for the first in the series: Chasing the Case.

About Joan Livingston

Joan LivingstonJoan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Redneck’s Revenge, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the second in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first is Chasing the Case.

An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and most recently the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.

After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long series.

Joan Livingston is on her websiteFacebookTwitter,  Instagram and Goodreads.

Redneck’s Revenge is released in just five days and Joan invites everyone to her celebratory online launch party, where there will be contests, discussions and more. Prizes include having your name as a character in Book Four plus signed copies of Chasing the Case. Just click on the link, choose ‘Going’ and Facebook will remind you when it’s happening.

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Letters from ElsewhereI’m a bit worried about today’s visitor. I think she’s supposed to be in a lunatic asylum and I’m not sure how she got here. If you don’t hear from me again, expect the worst.

Dear Patrick,

It is worse than we ever imagined it would be. The first few days were the worst: the shock of my new surroundings, those abhorrent acts of brutality, the threat of which lingers in the shadows, leaps out at the merest look of defiance. But – and this has come as a shock to me – I have quickly grown used to the place and seem to be able to block out all but the most severe cruelties. I have lost track already of how many days I have been here – very few though, perhaps eight or nine. It feels like so much longer; I miss you and Fleur terribly. Maybe it is best not to dwell on it, after all, I must remember my purpose here. My motives are good; I just hope nobody will judge me too harshly for them.

There is no harm in any of the women. Indeed, there is one I believe I can even count on as a friend. She is a brave soul, Minette Dolan, only about eighteen or nineteen years old. She is very protective of the more vulnerable patients and has shown me the way to survive in this place. When I asked her how long she had been here, she said she didn’t know. She knows the date she came in here, she says, but does not know what date it is now, or even which day of the week, for we are not allowed a clock or calendar. When I asked what had brought her to Saint Anne’s, she looked me dead in the eye and said, “Moral insanity.”

She would not be drawn on it any further, and I have considered it for some time: moral insanity, what could that possibly mean? Dolan believes she can communicate with the spirit world; she gives comfort to some of the women here, women who have lost children or loved ones. I don’t believe there is any malice in her; she is misguided, that’s all. What harm could it do, to offer solace by bringing messages from the other side?

And yet women like Dolan are ten a penny in this Godforsaken city. We have met women like Dolan before, have we not? Since coming here I have thought about Soubrette often, the charlatan in her red room, with her ringed fingers and china figurines all rattling on her shelves.

In the end, I believe you nearly fell for her, but I think perhaps you wanted to. You had more at stake than me. One could be forgiven for being deceived.

It is time you let go, Patrick, let go of the past and start living again. Pictures of Magdalen are dotted all over the house; the portrait of her standing at the top of a horseshoe-shaped staircase with a flower garden behind her, another taken after she died. That one sits in a frame on your dresser in our bedroom. It is hard to live up to the memory of a ghost.

Ghosts – our house is full of them. There is Zeus, also, who you had prepared and stuffed, sitting always at our fireside, menacing me with his glassy stare. He never liked me; he was Magdalen’s dog, forever slobbering on me and pinning me against walls with his docile weight. Magdalen’s dog, Magdalen’s husband, Magdalen’s bed and her wardrobe full of clothes. There is only Fleur who is really mine.

I know you will never forget Magdalen – I wouldn’t want you to – but it’s time to let her rest in peace. We can talk about it more when I come home. It won’t be long now. I only say this because I love you. I love you and Fleur more than anything in this world, and can’t wait to see you both, just as soon as my work here is done.

Yours, always,
Cicely

Thanks for that, Cicely. And to the rest of you: you don’t really have to worry about me because Cicely comes from the pages of (soon to be released) Delirium by the very talented Emma Rose Millar.

DeliriumAbout Delirium

1881

Saint Anne’s Lunatic Asylum, London

One woman whose secret has brought her to the brink of insanity; another who claims she can tell fortunes and communicate with the dead. With seemingly no way out – and everything at stake – only one of them has the tenacity to survive.

Lies, murder, obsession… Delirium.

View the trailer here.

Find Delirium on Amazon.

About the Author

Emma Rose MillarEmma Rose Millar is a single mum from Birmingham who works part-time as a sign language interpreter. She writes historical fiction for adults and poetry for children. Her first novel, Five Guns Blazing, won the Chaucer Award, (Legend Category) in 2016. Her novella, The Women Friends: Selina, co-written with Miriam Drori, was shortlisted for the Goethe Award for Late Historical Fiction in 2016. Delirium is her third novel and was shortlisted for the Chanticleer Paranormal Book Awards in 2017. Some of Emma’s children’s poems will be published in 2019 by The Emma Press.

In her spare time, Emma enjoys swimming, yoga and ice-skating, and makes delicious chocolates.

 

Letters from Elsewhere

Please welcome Andrew Shepherd, today’s visitor. Unfortunately, Andrew’s life hasn’t turned out the way he hoped and expected. Fifteen years ago, he and Matthew Clancy were brilliant young genetic researchers on the Human Genome Project at Cambridge University. But a scandal caused them to lose their jobs, and nowadays Shepherd finds himself down on his luck, teaching biology part-time at a young offenders’ institute. Clancy, meanwhile, became a professor and now has a successful genetic testing company. You can read Shepherd’s letter to Clancy. It’s more than a little disturbing!

Andrew Shepherd has flown in from the pages of the soon-to-be-released thriller, Reprobation by Catherine Fearns, another Crooked Cat novel.

20th July, 2017

Dear Matthew,

I hope this finds you well. You made yourself very clear at our last meeting, but I feel I must make one final attempt to bring you in on the OS1 project.

The preliminary results are astounding, and I am convinced it will be a success. Both patients are doing very well. Patient 1 was initially unresponsive, but following a course of dexamethasone the virus began to take, and I can now confirm the soteriological marker is present throughout his body. The lad hasn’t quite grasped the necessity of periodic boosters throughout his lifetime, but I believe that further Bible study will convince him.

But Patient 2, Matthew, Patient 2! A viable pregnancy was achieved after only two months, and I must congratulate myself there on my amateur IVF abilities. The foetus is now at 20 weeks’ gestation, and both mother and baby are in full possession of the OS1 marker. She is a simple girl, and although it pains me to say it, her learning difficulties proved useful in getting her to accept the treatment. She is living with me, and I feel that I am justified in having rescued her from a life of violence and poverty to one of, well, what can we say? As for the birth, I am in two minds as to whether it should take place in hospital. There may be dark forces of which we are unaware, working against us, and this baby must be protected. The pregnancy is currently unregistered, and if you were to come in on this, Matthew, we both know someone who could help her deliver at home.

Think of it! A child born without sin; think of what it means! All we ever wanted as geneticists was to make a difference, and what greater difference could there be. Matthew, you cannot deny what we discovered. Together; yes, we discovered it together. What happened in Cambridge was not blasphemy, and it was not by chance. You say that you fear the consequences of deviating from God’s plan, but this, Matthew, this is God’s plan for us. We are prophets. More than prophets, we could be the veritable architects of the Second Coming.

I intend to submit the paper, with or without your blessing. You cannot prevent it. This secret is not ours to keep. The title shall be ‘Spontaneous versus artificial mutation of the OS1 gene: a soteriological approach’ by Andrew Shepherd, PhD. I had hoped that your name would be on it too; indeed  without the support of your good name and institution I have no credibility. Baptiste has been generous in supplying the necessary equipment for my lab; however he is not the person I need.

And so in vain hope, I leave you with the latest draft of my research paper. I hope it will become our research paper.

Yours,

Andrew

About Reprobation

Reprobation by Catherine FearnsAre You One Of The Elect?

Dr. Helen Hope is a lecturer in eschatology – the study of death, judgement, and the destiny of humankind. She is also a Calvinist nun, her life devoted to atoning for a secret crime. When a body is found crucified on on a Liverpool beach, she forms an unlikely alliance with suspect Mikko Kristensen, lead guitarist in death metal band Total Depravity. Together, they go on the trail of a rogue geneticist who they believe holds the key – not just to the murder, but to something much darker. Also on the trail is cynical Scouse detective Darren Swift. In his first murder case, he must confront his own lack of faith as a series of horrific crimes drag the city of two cathedrals to the gates of hell.

You can buy Reprobation on Amazon.

About Catherine Fearns

Catherine Fearns, author of ReprobationCatherine Fearns is a music journalist from Liverpool, UK. She writes about heavy metal for Pure Grain Audio, Broken Amp and Noisey, and her short fiction and non-fiction has appeared in Offshoots, Toasted Cheese, Succubus, Here Comes Everyone and Metal Music Studies. She is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association. Reprobation is her first novel and has a Kindle release date of 16th October 2018 (paperback edition available now). A sequel, Consuming Fire, has been signed for publication in early 2019.

You can find Catherine on her website and on Twitter.

 

Letters from Elsewhere

Please welcome today’s visitor, who is Rosa Fancourt. She has brought her letter to Mrs Ellicott, written ten years before the beginning of A Suggestion of Scandal, a new novel by Catherine Kullmann. Seventeen-year-old Rosa has just arrived at Loring Place to take up her first position as governess. She writes to her former Headmistress at her Bath Academy.

Loring Place,
Suffolk
1st April, 1804 

Mrs Ellicott
Mrs Ellicott’s Academy for Young Ladies
New King Street,
Bath

My dear Madam,

I take up my pen to apprise you as requested of my safe arrival at Loring Place. I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to you for arranging for me to travel as far as London in Mrs Fortescue’s company and also to Mrs Fortescue for her kind care of me. Indeed, I think I would have been utterly lost had I been compelled to make the journey alone, for I had no notion how to manage at the posting inns—where to find refreshments or, indeed, how to make myself comfortable before continuing on my journey. I saw for myself how girls travelling on their own were likely to be accosted not only by those claiming to be gentlemen but also by seemingly benevolent women who, Mrs Fortescue explained after she had intervened in one case, prey on innocent country girls seeking honest employment in the Capital, luring them to houses of ill-repute.

We broke our journey at Maidenhead, staying at the Fleece where Mrs Fortescue took a room but I fear I did not sleep well, for the mattress was lumpy, the bed seemed to rock and sway like a coach and the sounds of horses and carriages intermingled with the cries of the ostlers and postilions all through the night. At four in the morning we were jolted awake by the blare of the horn announcing the departure of the London mail and by five were on our way again, reaching London shortly after eight o’clock. We broke our fast quickly before taking a hackney to The Bull Inn in Bishopsgate where Mrs Fortescue waited until she could confide me to the care of a respectable mother and daughter, a Mrs and Miss Starling, who were also travelling to Bury. They were most impressed when they heard I was Miss Loring’s new governess and, on our arrival at The Angel in Bury, insisted on remaining with me until we had found the servant from Loring Place who had come to meet the coach.

I am sure I don’t know what sort of an impression I made on him, or indeed on my new employer, for it was after nine o’clock at night by the time we reached the Place and, as you know, I had been travelling since eight o’clock the previous morning.

I was shown into the drawing-room where Lady Loring sat alone and after I had made my curtsey, she ordered supper to be brought up for me, but I said that all I wanted was a cup of tea if that were possible—for the tea equipage still stood on a table near her and my mouth was parched. Fortunately there was still water in the urn and I received my tea, after which I was more than grateful to be permitted to retire.

Loring Place is a handsome residence built by Sir Edward Loring’s ancestor in the reign of Queen Anne. The night nursery and school room are on the second floor, to reach which one climbs two double flights of stairs—at least fifty steps. The school-room is bright and airy, and I am allowed to use it as a sitting-room when my charge is asleep or elsewhere with her mother. The night–nursery opens off it on one side and my small bedroom on the other. I am to leave both doors to the schoolroom open during the night in case Chloe should call out. Until now, her nurse also slept in the night-nursery but she is to be married tomorrow and so will no longer be at the Place.

Chloe is almost six. She is a sweet-tempered, merry child who has just begun to learn her letters. She has some difficulties pronouncing the letter J, preferring D which might not be so noticeable if her elder brother, Sir Edward’s son and heir from his first marriage, were not called Sir Julian. He does not live here, dividing his time between Swanmere Castle, the home of his maternal grandfather, in Huntingdonshire and Swanmere House in London, but visits regularly enough for his sister to speak frequently of him. I have resolved to teach her Peter Piper and, once she is used to the idea of such alliterative phrases, shall compose some using the letter J.

Chloe’s mother, Lady Loring, cannot be much more than thirty. I would not describe her as doting, but she tells me she will come to the schoolroom each midday and expects to see her daughter in the drawing room for half an hour before dinner. When the weather permits, Chloe and I are to take two walks every day and on wet days she is to be permitted exercise in the ballroom. Otherwise her ladyship had no instructions for me, except that she completely forbade any form of corporal chastisement, saying that she did not approve of it for girls. I am very glad of it, for the idea of taking a rod to that innocent child makes my blood run cold.

Sir Edward Loring is considerable older than his wife. I was not presented to him until yesterday, for he is frequently away from home. He is quite gruff but smiled and said ‘How d’ye do, Miss Fancourt?’ in a perfectly amiable fashion, continuing with, ‘And so you are to look after my little pet? Make sure she minds you, now’. As he followed this remark by presenting his daughter with a little box of sugar plums, I do not think it was meant too seriously. I managed to convince Miss Chloe that it would be better to wait to sample these sweets until we had removed her drawing-room finery.

Sir Edward’s mother, the dowager Lady Loring also lives at the Place but she is at present visiting one of her daughters. I dine with the family—the nursery-maid sits in the schoolroom doing some sewing until I return upstairs—and it was quite strange dining à deux with Lady Loring for the first couple of days, the two of us waited on by a butler and footman.

I must close now as it is time to go to church. Dear Mrs Ellicott, pray permit me to thank you again for your care of me, especially after the demise of my poor mother left me orphaned and without a home. I shall be eternally grateful to you for retaining me as a pupil-teacher and later securing me this position where I hope I may remain for many years to come. I shall endeavour to do you and the Academy credit, ma’am. Pray believe you will always be remembered in the prayers of

Your affectionate pupil and servant,

Rosa Fancourt.

Postscriptum. This afternoon, as Chloe and I returned from our walk, we were overtaken by a gentleman driving a fine equipage drawn by the most beautiful pair of matched bays. Chloe at once began to call, ‘Dulian, Dulian!’ Sir Julian Loring, for it was he, drew up and insisted on taking us up to the house in his curricle. He is most truly the gentleman, according me a polite bow and offering his hand to assist me to ascend into the carriage.

“Pray go first, Miss Fancourt,” he said, “and I shall hand this imp up to you. If we put her between us, she cannot get up to mischief.”

At the house, he handed me down as if I were a duke’s daughter. But enough about Sir Julian. I have not forgotten your wise advice and have no intention of filling my head with foolish notions. I must finish as Chloe is dancing with impatience to go down to the drawing-room. RF.

About A Suggestion of Scandal

A Suggestion of Scandal[The novel opens ten years after this letter.]

If only he could find a lady who was tall enough to meet his eyes, intelligent enough not to bore him and who had that certain something that meant he could imagine spending the rest of his life with her.

 As Sir Julian Loring returns to his father’s home, he never dreams that that lady could be Rosa Fancourt, his half-sister Chloe’s governess. Rosa is no longer the gawky girl fresh from a Bath academy whom he first met ten years ago. Today, she intrigues him. But just as they begin to draw closer, she disappears—in very dubious circumstances. Julian cannot bring himself to believe the worst of Rosa, but if she is blameless the truth could be even more shocking, with far-reaching repercussions for his own family, especially Chloe.

Later, driven by her concern for Chloe, Rosa accepts an invitation to spend some weeks at Castle Swanmere, home of Julian’s maternal grandfather. The widowed Meg Overton has also been invited and she is determined not to let the extremely eligible Julian slip through her fingers again.

When a ghost from Rosa’s past returns to haunt her, and Meg discredits Rosa publicly, Julian must decide where his loyalties lie.

A Suggestion of Scandal is available worldwide from Amazon as eBook and Paperback.

About Catherin Kullmann

Catherine KullmannCatherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-six years before returning to Ireland. She and her husband of over forty years have three adult sons and two grandchildren. Catherine has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.

After taking early retirement Catherine was finally able to fulfil her life-long ambition to write fiction. Her debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, published in 2016, is a warm and engaging story of a young woman’s struggle to survive and find love in an era of violence and uncertainty. It takes us from the ballrooms of the Regency to the battlefield of Waterloo. It received a Chill with a Book Readers Award and, in 2017, was short-listed for Best Novel in the CAP (Carousel Aware Prize) Awards.

In Perception & Illusion, published in March 2017, Lallie Grey, cast out by her father for refusing the suitor of his choice, accepts Hugo Tamrisk’s proposal, confident that he loves her as she loves him. But Hugo’s past throws long shadows as does his recent liaison with Sabina Albright. All too soon, Lallie must question Hugo’s reasons for marriage and wonder what he really wants of his bride. Perception & Illusion received a Chill with a Book Readers Award and a Discovered Diamonds Award.

You can find out more about Catherine and her books at her website and her Facebook author page or follow her on Twitter.

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.

Summer_Festival_Flyer_Template

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.

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.

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