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My inspiration for Meadowbrook Manor- Faith Bleasdale

Faith BleasdaleOn the book tour for her new book called ‘Secrets At Meadowbrook Manor’, author of the book Faith Bleasdale talks about her inspiration behind the book.

I have loved being able to write about Meadowbrook Manor and the Singer siblings’ as a series and with book two – ‘Secrets At Meadowbrook Manor’ coming out, I know that when I eventually finish the series I’ll miss them. I wonder if I can keep writing about them forever?

When I was thinking about the first Meadowbrook book, my starting point was the house – Meadowbrook Manor. I wanted it to be a character in its own right and I hope I’ve achieved this. I was aiming for it to be a house that had a soul, and a heart, and from that point I then came up with the story of the Singer Siblings, and the animal sanctuary.

I didn’t want to write about a house that was crumbling or needing saving, I wanted the people, and animals to need saving and for the house to be pivotal in achieving this.

As an adult with only one sibling, I still found the idea of having to live with said sibling as an adult interesting – or horrifying actually. I’m not sure if I had to live with my brother for a year now we would both survive but I loved the idea that sibling relationships change so much over the years and wanted to explore the concept of how those who had lived together as children would cope living together as adults.

I also wanted the animal sanctuary to be a huge feature and I think I can safely say it plays a central role in all the stories set at Meadowbrook. I am a huge fan of animals and I wanted a positive environment where animals are loved, cared for, wanted and also they also play a central role in helping people. Which, I fully believe animals do. Even if you’re not an animal person surely you can’t help but be moved by Hilda the English Sheepdog who, like many people, is looking for love. Or Elton and David the gay bulls who clearly love each other… Crazy, maybe but I think that it’s important to give them centre stage at times, as we can learn a lot from animals.

Secrets At Meadowbrook Manor

Another thing I am passionate about is community. I grew up in the country, in a village, and yes there were morris dancers. Now though it feels different and I love how Meadowbrook Manor brings the community together, helps people, fends off loneliness and teaches kindness. Is is unrealistic in this day and age? Maybe but it shouldn’t be.

I don’t believe Meadowbrook Manor is a perfect world because that doesn’t exist but I hope I have created a place where my lovely readers and future readers want to visit, want to stay, and want to live in. Because I know that’s exactly how I feel about it. I’d even be happy to muck out the pigs… Maybe!

You can buy Secrets at Meadowbrook Manor from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 20th September 2018.

Locations in 11 Missed Calls By Elisabeth Carpenter

11 Missed CallsOn the book tour for her second book called ’11 Missed Calls’, Elisabeth Carpenter talks about the different locations in her book.

My second novel, ’11 Missed Calls’, is predominantly set in Lancashire: Preston, Lytham and St Annes (they are two separate places, with two others in between).

Both families, past and present, live in Preston. I haven’t specified an area in which they live, but have described their terraced houses. These tend to be nearer the city itself, as opposed to the surrounding towns with larger houses. I live in Preston myself, and used to live close to the city in a two-up two-down, like the characters in the novel. The walls were pretty thin (which could be rather awkward at times …) but I used this to add to the claustrophobia and paranoia of one of my characters, Debbie. As her mental health declines, she feels she’s constantly being watched. Being able to hear her neighbours either side added to this.

Debbie’s chapters are mainly based in the home, where the familiar starts to feel strange. Her daughter, Anna, in the present day, however, works in a charity bookshop in St Annes. I used to work in St Annes managing a charity shop, so I didn’t have to look far for inspiration. The volunteers came from variety of backgrounds, which you probably wouldn’t find in traditional workplaces – and were of different ages. One of the volunteers in the book is based on a woman I worked with, but I won’t say who (though, if you know me – you’ll probably know who it is!).

Towards the end of the book, the family in 1986 holiday in Tenerife. I haven’t been to Tenerife since I was seventeen when I went with my friend. We weren’t very streetwise, so God knows how we managed to persuade our parents to let us go alone. Like Debbie in 11 Missed Calls, we were nearly choking with the cigarette smoke on the plane, even though we smoked ourselves (sorry, Mum).

We lived on bread and Heinz macaroni cheese (opened with a ‘stabby’ tin opener) during the day, and cheese and tomato pizza at night at the same restaurant (until we found a McDonalds). We enjoyed the fact we didn’t need (fake) ID to drink too vodka, as the legal drinking age was 16 then. We spent the first day two hours ahead of everyone else, not knowing it’s the same time in Tenerife as it is in England. How we survived, I don’t know.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go back to Tenerife to research the novel, so spent many hours on Google maps. It’s quite gruesome, but I had to find a cliff accessible enough and high enough for someone to be able to contemplate their life (yes, that’s a euphemism). Originally it was going to be a bridge, but there wasn’t one high enough, so I had to invent somewhere, which I felt more comfortable with, if that’s the right word.

It’s always tricky describing places I’ve never been, as there’s a tendency to overshare new knowledge. But I hope that in writing about places I’m familiar with, or have visited, has added to the atmosphere and authenticity of the book.

You can buy 11 Missed Calls from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Kiss Of Death Book Tour – Extract

Kiss Of DeathOn the book tour for Paul Finch’s thrilling new book called ‘Kiss Of Death’, which is the seventh book in his Detective Mark Heckenburg series, read an extract from the tale.

A third or fourth heavy blow sounded from the other side of the church.

Initially, the vicar wondered if the warm summer air was carrying an echo from some distant workplace. On the church’s south side, you could see the roof of Farmer Holbrook’s barn on the far southern edge of the wheat field next door. But that was the only building in sight, and there wasn’t likely to be much work under way on a tranquil Monday evening.

When he heard what sounded like a fifth blow, it was a sharper, flatter sound, and louder, as if there was anger in it. The vicar opened the gate, stepped onto the path and walked towards the church’s northwest corner. As he reached it, he heard another blow. And another, and another.

This time there was a smashing sound too, like wood splintering.

He hurried on to the church’s southwest corner. Yet another blow followed, and with it a grunt, as of someone making a strenuous effort.

On the building’s immediate south side lay an untended part of the grounds, the weathered slabs of eighteenth-century gravestones poking up through the long summer grass. Beyond those stood the rusty metal fence cordoning off the wheat field. It might be a sobering thought that, once you were on this side of the church, you were completely screened from the road and any passing traffic, but the vicar didn’t have time to think about that. He rounded the final corner and strode several yards along the south-side path, before stopping dead.

A man with longish red hair, wearing patchwork green/brown khaki, was striking with a wood-axe at the vestry door. He grunted with each stroke, splinters flying, going at it with such gusto that he’d already chopped a hole in the middle of the door, and very likely would soon have the whole thing down.

The soles of the vicar’s black leather shoes had made barely a sound on the worn paving stones, but the man in khaki had heard him; he lowered his axe and turned.

The mask he wore had been chiselled from wood and depicted a goat’s face – but it was a demonic kind of goat, with a humanoid grin and horns that curled fantastically. The worst thing about it, though, was real: the eyes peering out through the holes notched for them were entirely human, and yet they burned with living hatred.

You can buy Kiss of Death (Detective Mark Heckenburg, Book 7) from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Come Away With Me Book Tour – Extract

Come Away With Me On the book tour for Maddie Please’s new book called ‘Come Away With Me’, enjoy an extract from the fun tale.

India nodded and we went to get rid of our bags. Heathrow was always busy at this time of year, everyone jetting off for last-minute sunshine, so we had to weave around a lot of luggage racks and pushchairs parked in awkward spots, not to mention massive suitcases wrapped in clingfilm. Then India spotted two very elegant representatives from the Voyage Premiere cruise line waiting behind a help desk and we dragged our cases gratefully over.

They were glamour personified with those slight French accents that always make people sound sexy and interesting, even if they are discussing the Guatemalan economy or washing-up liquid. In short, tight red suits and dinky little hats like saucers, all set off with silk scarves with nautical flags sprinkled all over them and tied in that careless, impossibly chic, way French women probably learn at primary school.

‘Welcome, Miss Fisher and Miss Fisher. Hmm, India and Alexandria; beautiful names. We are delighted to welcome you on the first stage of your exciting journey.’

I watched her fabulously manicured nails typing our details into her computer and waited, as I always did, for her to frown and say I couldn’t go because my passport photograph wasn’t attractive enough or something. However, all that happened was that she produced some glorious red stickers for our cases marked Voyage Premiere. And then she directed us to our private lounge where, as we had hoped, there was free champagne and comfortable chairs where India could nurse her hangover, flick through Vogue and text Jerry, and I could watch planes taking off and not crashing at all.

I don’t know about you, but I think this book sounds fabulous!

You can buy Come Away With Me from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 4th October 2018.

Pieces Of Her Book Tour

Pieces Of HerOn the book tour for Karin Slaughter’s chilling new book called ‘Pieces Of Her’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the tale.

PROLOGUE

For years, even while she’d loved him, part of her had hated him in that childish way that you hate something you can’t control. He was headstrong, and stupid, and handsome, which gave him cover for a hell of a lot of the mistakes he continually made—the same mistakes, over and over again, because why try new ones when the old ones worked so well in his favor?

He was charming, too. That was the problem. He would charm her. He would make her furious. Then he would charm her back again so that she did not know if he was the snake or she was the snake and he was the handler.

So he sailed along on his charm, and his fury, and he hurt people, and he found new things that interested him more, and the old things were left broken in his wake.

Then, quite suddenly, his charm had stopped working. A trolley car off the tracks. A train without a conductor. The mistakes could not be forgiven, and eventually, the second same mistake would not be overlooked, and the third same mistake had dire consequences that had ended with a life being taken, a death sentence being passed, then—almost—resulted in the loss of another life, her life.

How could she still love someone who had tried to destroy her?

When she had been with him—and she was decidedly with him during his long fall from grace—they had raged against the system: The group homes. The emergency departments. The loony bin. The mental hospital. The squalor. The staff who neglected their patients. The orderlies who ratcheted tight the straightjackets. The nurses who looked the other way. The doctors who doled out the pills. The urine on the floor. The faeces on the walls. The inmates, the fellow prisoners, taunting, wanting, beating, biting.

The spark of rage, not the injustice, was what had excited him the most. The novelty of a new cause. The chance to annihilate. The dangerous game. The threat of violence. The promise of fame. Their names in lights. Their righteous deeds on the tongues of schoolchildren who were taught the lessons of change.
A penny, a nickel, a dime, a quarter, a dollar bill . . .

What she had kept hidden, the one sin that she could never confess to, was that she had ignited that first spark.

She had always believed—vehemently, with great conviction— that the only way to change the world was to destroy it.

CHAPTER 1

“Andrea,” her mother said. Then, in concession to a request made roughly one thousand times before, “Andy.”

“Mom—”

“Let me speak, darling.” Laura paused.

“Please.”

Andy nodded, preparing for a long-awaited lecture. She was officially thirty-one years old today. Her life was stagnating.

She had to start making decisions rather than having life make decisions for her.

Laura said, “This is my fault.”

Andy felt her chapped lips peel apart in surprise. “What’s your fault?”

“Your being here. Trapped here.”

Andy held out her arms, indicating the restaurant. “At the Rise-n-Dine?”

Her mother’s eyes traveled the distance from the top of Andy’s head to her hands, which fluttered nervously back to the table. Dirty brown hair thrown into a careless ponytail. Dark circles under her tired eyes. Nails bitten down to the quick.

The bones of her wrists like the promontory of a ship. Her skin, normally pale, had taken on the pallor of hot dog water.

The catalog of flaws didn’t even include her work outfit. The navy-blue uniform hung off Andy like a paper sack. The stitched silver badge on her breast pocket was stiff, the Belle Isle palm tree logo surrounded by the words police dispatch division.

Like a police officer, but not actually. Like an adult, but not really. Five nights a week, Andy sat in a dark, dank room with four other women answering 911 calls, running license plate and driver’s license checks, and assigning case numbers.

Then, around six in the morning, she slinked back to her mother’s house and spent the majority of what should’ve been her waking hours asleep.

Laura said, “I never should have let you come back here.”

Andy pressed together her lips. She stared down at the last bits of yellow eggs on her plate.

“My sweet girl.” Laura reached across the table for her hand, waited for her to look up. “I pulled you away from your life. I was scared, and I was selfish.” Tears rimmed her mother’s eyes. “I shouldn’t have needed you so much. I shouldn’t have asked for so much.”

Andy shook her head. She looked back down at her plate. “Darling.”

Andy kept shaking her head because the alternative was to speak, and if she spoke, she would have to tell the truth.
Her mother had not asked her to do anything.

Three years ago, Andy had been walking to her shitty Lower East Side fourth-floor walk-up, dreading the thought of another night in the one-bedroom hovel she shared with three other girls, none of whom she particularly liked, all of whom were younger, prettier and more accomplished, when Laura had called. “Breast cancer,” Laura had said, not whispering or hedging but coming straight out with it in her usual calm way. “Stage three. The surgeon will remove the tumor, then while I’m under,
he’ll biopsy the lymph nodes to evaluate—”

Laura had said more, detailing what was to come with a degree of detached, scientific specificity that was lost on Andy, whose language-processing skills had momentarily evaporated. She had heard the word “breast” more than “cancer,” and thought instantly of her mother’s generous bosom. Tucked beneath her modest one-piece swimsuit at the beach. Peeking over the neckline of her Regency dress for Andy’s Netherfield- themed sixteenth birthday party. Strapped under the padded cups and gouging underwires of her LadyComfort Bras as she sat on the couch in her office and worked with her speech therapy patients.

Laura Oliver was not a bombshell, but she had always been what men called very well put together. Or maybe it was women who called it that, probably back in the last century. Laura wasn’t the type for heavy make-up and pearls, but she never left the house without her short gray hair neatly styled, her linen pants crisply starched, her underwear clean and still elasticized.

Andy barely made it out of the apartment most days. She was constantly having to double back for something she had forgotten like her phone or her ID badge for work or, one time, her sneakers because she’d walked out of the building wearing her bedroom slippers.

Whenever people in New York asked Andy what her mother was like, she always thought of something Laura had said about her own mother: She always knew where all the tops were to her Tupperware.

Andy couldn’t be bothered to close a Ziploc bag.

On the phone, eight hundred miles away, Laura’s stuttered intake of breath was the only sign that this was difficult for her. “Andrea?”

Andy’s ears, buzzing with New York sounds, had zeroed back in on her mother’s voice.

Cancer.

Andy tried to grunt. She could not make the noise. This was shock. This was fear.

This was unfettered terror because the world had suddenly stopped spinning and everything—the failures, the disappointments, the horror of Andy’s New York existence for the last six years—receded like the drawback wave of a tsunami. Things that should’ve never been uncovered were suddenly out in the open.

Her mother had cancer. She could be dying.

She could die.

Laura had said, “So, there’s chemo, which will by all accounts be very difficult.”

She was used to filling Andy’s protracted silences, had learned long ago that confronting her on them was more likely to end up in a fight than a resumption of civil conversation. “Then I’ll take a pill every day, and that’s that. The five-year survival rate is over seventy percent, so there’s not a lot to worry about except for getting through it.” A pause for breath, or maybe in hopes that Andy was ready to speak. “It’s very treatable, darling. I don’t want you to worry. Just stay where you are. There’s nothing you can do.”

A car horn had blared. Andy had looked up. She was standing statue-like in the middle of a crosswalk. She struggled to move. The phone was hot against her ear.

It was past midnight. Sweat rolled down her back and leached from her armpits like melted butter. She could hear the canned laughter of a sitcom, bottles clinking, and an anonymous piercing scream for help, the likes of which she had learned to tune out her first month living in the city.

Too much silence on her end of the phone.

Finally, her mother had prompted, “Andrea?”

Andy had opened her mouth without considering what words should come out.

“Darling?” her mother had said, still patient, still generously nice in the way that her mother was to everyone she met.

“I can hear the street noises, otherwise I’d think we’d lost the connection.” She paused again. “Andrea, I really need you to acknowledge what I’m telling you. It’s important.”

Her mouth was still hanging open. The sewer smell that was endemic to her neighborhood had stuck to the back of her nasal passages like a piece of overcooked spaghetti slapped onto a kitchen cabinet.

Another car horn blared. Another woman screamed for help. Another ball of sweat rolled down Andy’s back and pooled in the waistband of her underwear. The elastic was torn where her thumb went when she pulled them down.

Andy still could not recall how she’d managed to force herself out of her stupor, but she remembered the words she had finally said to her mother: “I’m coming home.”

You can buy Pieces of Her from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.