Shattered Lives – Readers’ Favorite Pre-Publication Hit!

5 stars from Susan Sewell

Filled with drama and foreboding, Shattered Lives: A DCI Gerald Croft Thriller by Sarah Stuart is a heart-stopping murder mystery. An intense story that takes the reader on a ride of horror and suspense. The apprehension and intensity continue building throughout the plot, snowballing into a climactic and shocking finish. I read it with bated breath and could not put the book down until I reached the final page. It is a sensational story with a clever plot and intriguing characters with realistic personalities, both good and bad. Containing gruesome murder scenes filled with blood and gore, Shattered Lives is a riveting novel for mature audiences that will engage any reader who loves spine-tingling thrillers.

 

5 stars from Anne-Marie Reynolds

Shattered Lives by Sarah Stuart is a fascinating thriller that delves deep into two storylines: the mind of a psychopath and that of a sexual abuse survivor who must save another from the same fate to heal herself. It isn’t a story for younger readers or the faint-hearted: child sexual abuse, necrophilia, and graphic violence are just part of the substantial subject matter. This story delves into how a psychopath functions and what makes them tick, leading you down some dark paths through a truly twisted mind. It also guides you on a journey of discovery through the eyes of a child sex abuse survivor, more dark paths that eventually lead to the light. Shattered Lives is a gripping tale that will hold your heart in a vice while you read it, and it will have you turning the pages deep into the night.

Shattered Lives is coming soon at the introductory price of 99p/99c

 

Coming Soon – Shattered Lives

Murder shatters more lives than those of victims. Ralph Thyme, psychopath, is hooked on rape and strangulation.

Warning – this book contains graphic violence, necrophilia, and sexual abuse of a child.

Ralph Thyme, rejected by his parents, escapes twelve years of hell at boarding school when they’re killed in an avalanche. The only acknowledged heir to his grandmother’s millions, he discovers he has an elder sister, Olivia, whom his grandfather sold for fifty thousand pounds. Might she discover who she really is and claim half? Ralph decides not to risk it and kills her… or does he? 

Whatever the truth, he realises the detective he employed to find Olivia might shop him to the police when he reads of her death. He too must die… and his pretty blonde daughter…

DCI Gerald Croft has a serial killer on his patch, but who is he?

“Three Against the World” is FREE today!

Beware! Richard, Maria, and Ben will hook you, BUT, all is not lost. Books 2 and 3 are on offer at 99 cents or same worldwide.

Book 1 Richard finds teenage Maria on his doorstep, as unwanted by her mother as he is by his fiancée, dumped, like the stray dog, Ben, he adopted. Richard didn’t expect to fall in love

Book 2 Richard and Maria’s marriage attracts enemies from the past prepared to risk killing innocent people to split them apart, but which one?

Book 3 Financial disaster threatens. When their daughter, Eleanor, tries to help, she renews ancient jealousies. Will the music they share keep them together, or must Eleanor remain one alone in the world?

Amazon Worldwide

Amazon UK

YES! The books are free or reduced everywhere, but UK readers are told “UNAVAILABLE” sometimes, so please use the correct link. 

 

 

Day 5 of What Are You Missing?

One of dozens of scenes set in the USA!

California Dreams or a Nightmare? 

Kenneth Walsh spent his twentieth birthday as he did every weekday, and Saturdays, since a few months after his parents died in a pile-up on Route 66, working in the sort of garden his parents had dreamed of when they left Ireland for a new life in America.

He and Orla had been in the rear seat of the family Toyota Camry, and they’d survived, miraculously unhurt. The threat to him, then just eighteen, and his younger sister, had come from a female do-gooder who’d stepped from another car and established their parents were dead. He was an adult. She didn’t give a damn he had nothing but the clothes he was wearing and the contents of a backpack, but she proposed to take Orla when she could move her drivable car. The social services, she’d said bossily, were obliged to provide foster care for underage orphans.

He leaned on his rake for a minute and took a swig from his water bottle. The crash was as vivid now as the day it happened. No way would he have parted with Orla; he was all she had left, and the chaos of mangled vehicles, with paramedics and fire crews struggling to help the victims, had played into his hands. Nobody had been interested in two teenagers obviously unhurt, even the police. They’d cleared the scene and begged a lift with a motorist turning his car illegally to head back to LA.

Schooling was out, even though Orla was still grade nine; they needed two wages. Jobs in bars where nobody asked questions had kept them fed and housed, but he’d wondered too often if Orla would have been safer if he’d let her go into foster care; she was a pretty girl who attracted male attention. Doubts had ended when Mrs Davis-Browne advertised for a gardener. He’d applied and spent most of his nights before the interview reading about plants and soil, so he could answer questions. He’d got the job, though he suspected it was because, as the youngest applicant, the lady could offer him less money, but when he’d attempted to persuade her to raise it by saying he cared for his sister, she’d jumped at the chance of a cheap maid. It turned out Mrs Davis-Browne was a divorcee living above her means and aiming to attract a second wealthy husband, but it was marvellous for them. No drunks in sleazy bars –

A scream from an upper-storey window bounced back from the greenhouse and was silenced abruptly, but not before he recognised Orla’s voice. He dropped everything and ran, crushing flowers underfoot and aiming directly for the front door. It was unlocked. He pounded up the stairs. ‘Orla, Orla, where are you?’

No answer. He flung open doors to the bedrooms. Behind the third, a man he’d seen call at the house several times lay on top of Orla, one hand over her mouth. The rise and fall of his naked butt showed him that he was too late. The fucking asshole was raping his sister. Even as he crossed the room, the man shuddered and came inside her.

He grabbed the bastard’s hair and yanked him off Orla, and then laid him out with one punch to his chin.

‘Ken, you’ve killed him!’

‘I wish.’

Mrs Davis-Browne spoke from the doorway. ‘You’re fired, both of you. Get out of my house.’

Orla pulled a torn dress over her head. ‘You can’t do that! Ken hit him because he raped me.’

‘Really? You’ve been making a play for him every time he calls, and he’s mine. You either leave or I’ll call the police and who do you think they’ll believe? A respectable resident of an upscale part of town or a pair of immigrants?’

The answer was obvious, and it would end with Orla alone; he’d be in jail for assault. ‘Orla, we’re going home.’

‘She’s lying. It’s not fair.’

Life hadn’t been fair to their parents, all their hopes and hard work crushed in seconds when somebody took a risk overtaking a car-transporter way ahead of them, and they could expect no better. Neither of them had qualifications, for these jobs or any other, and Orla was still only fifteen. He put his arm around her and led her out to their latest acquisition, an old Chevy Cavalier he’d paid for after he’d bullied the salesman into basic repairs.

Back at Caverly Court, a fancy name for a trailer park in Watts, LA, he squeezed it into his parking place beside their small home and wished he’d never parted with the cash. It was worth nothing, and if it broke down on the highway, he’d have to pay tow charges or be prosecuted. Forget it. Think about Orla; she’d cried so much her eyes were swollen. and she’d gone inside alone. He followed, and she looked at him, a desperate expression in her grey eyes.

‘Suppose I’m pregnant, Ken?’

‘It was only once.’ Only, when he’d thought she was safe.

Orla pointed a shaking hand at a small stack of thumbed magazines Mrs Davis-Browne had given her. ‘There are advice columns in those, and “Ask E Jean” has loads of questions about sex and pregnancy, and she says once can be all it takes.’

Articles in those same magazines confirmed what he already feared. Abortion was legal in California, but only free in cases of rape, incest, or when it was medically necessary. Pray Orla had been lucky; they couldn’t prove rape, and “medically necessary” meant admitting Orla was underage. Any doctor would look at computer records, and their parents’ practice would have her correct date of birth, which was why they’d left registering with another and been lucky. Neither of them had needed a doctor, until now – maybe.

http://viewbook.at/RoyalCommandFamilySaga

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Day 4 of What Are You Missing?

Does the celebrity lifestyle attract jealousy and revenge, or did he pay a hit man? You decide!

Powdery snow flew under his skis as Michael Marsh turned into a stop at the bottom of a beginners’ run. Not bad after a fortnight, especially as the first week had been spent on the nursery slopes. He looked back for Elspeth. Her bright ski suit was usually easy to spot, but there was no sign of her. Had they been right to dispense with the services of a private instructor?

A golden and copper flash swept around other skiers, and Elspeth arrived beside him laughing. ‘Michael, don’t you dare ask what happened.’

‘I don’t have to. You look like a tube of toothpaste that’s been squeezed too hard.’

‘Oh, charming!’

He removed his goggles and stopped her mock fury with a kiss before he brushed off the snow. ‘Once more, or are you ready for a hot chocolate?’

Elspeth took off her helmet and goggles. ‘In one of the bars, or are you offering to make it?’

He winked. ‘I’ll do it, later.’

It was good to see Elspeth happy; she’d been depressed by her mother’s death. Christmas and Hogmanay at Kinloch Wildlife Reserve had been quiet, with only a few guests other than the family; Margaret Cameron had been loved. She’d lived to see James and Isla’s son christened Iain after his great-grandfather, and then given in to crippling arthritis and the loneliness of years without the husband she’d adored.

Elspeth jerked him back from Scottish mountains to the glittering sunlit slopes skirting the jagged peak of the Matterhorn. ‘Come on then. I don’t walk in these boots, I shuffle.’

‘Keep your skis on.’

It was what the instructor had suggested, but she was already removing them. Perhaps if he carried them, her helmet, goggles, and the knapsack she used to tote sunscreen and goodness knows what else, she could walk without slipping on ice, if she’d remembered to bring her boot spikes.

A woman wearing a multi-coloured ski suit, pink helmet and goggles, tapped his arm and held out a leather-bound autograph book with a pen attached. He signed, conscious of a crowd gathering. Drat it! He hadn’t replaced his goggles with dark glasses: so much for hot chocolate or anything else in the immediate future. Sure enough, women were scuffling in pockets for paper, and their menfolk were grinning; they didn’t intend him to escape. ‘Elspeth, I don’t suppose you have a pen?’

She emptied her knapsack onto the snow and waved a felt-tip. ‘See! I carry all sorts of useful things. The loan charge is a kiss for every signature.’

He tossed his gloves on top of her scattered belongings and started writing MM for the unruly queue, struggling to smile at his fans without laughing. Elspeth would be counting, and crowds invariably attracted more people.

Screams cut the clear air. The girl holding a piste map for him to sign looked over his arm, swayed, and collapsed at his feet. He half-bent to help her and glanced back. A familiar figure lay still against the stark white, the silver handle of a weapon protruding from a blood-stained patch on her chest.

Elspeth.’ Levering off his skis, breaking straps in his haste, he slid his fingers inside her collar: no pulse, and not a hint of breath on his icy palm. He tugged at the zip on her suit and a hand grasped his.

‘Warten Sie lieber, mein Herr – make – badder.’

Another voice. ‘Help is coming – not long. They’re prepared for accidents.’

This was no accident, but a doctor would revive her. They could work miracles; he knew they could. He’d shown no signs of life after a heart attack, and he was fitter than he’d been on a concert tour of Europe eighteen months ago.

Uniformed bodies pushed him aside. A policeman addressed him in perfect English, and he too recognised him. ‘Mr Marsh, this lady is your wife?’

‘My – my Elspeth.’

He persisted. ‘Your wife’s full name?’

I, Michael, take you, Elspeth. ‘Elspeth Marsh.’

‘The correct spelling, please.’

The paramedics had finished. Elspeth lay where she’d fallen with a sheet over her that covered her face. No hope, no chance to hold her ever again, and no goodbye. To hell with police formalities and witnesses’ sensibilities. He folded back the sheet, made the sign of the cross on her forehead, and kissed eyelids closed by a stranger’s hand. ‘Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death –’

Those closest joined in, and the murmur of prayer gained strength. This was Europe, and the Catholic faith was strong: even the policeman remained silent until it was over.

‘Mr Marsh, I regret that she cannot be moved, and I must ask you to stay.’ The sympathetic voice spoke louder, commanding. ‘Ihr bleibt alle hier bis ihr die Erlaubnis habt zu gehen. All of you remain until you are given permission to leave.’

Official backup had arrived. He was forced to leave Elspeth, the area around her cordoned off, and more police surrounded the crowd, notebooks at the ready. He unzipped his ski suit and found his mobile. Fumbling, almost blinded by tears, he managed need u lis and dropped the phone.

A lady picked it up and read the message. ‘Lis is your daughter, Lisette Marsh, and you want her to come? Does she know where you are?’

He and Elspeth had decided to visit Zermatt and try skiing a couple of days into exploring Rome, where the winter sun had vanished making wearing dark glasses recognisable as a typical celebrity disguise. He shook his head; his fingers couldn’t find the tiny keys he needed. ‘Horn Anzeigen.’

‘I know it. Horn Anzeigen Aparthotel.’ She tapped busily. ‘The “Lisette” in your contacts, yes? Ah! No signal.’ She closed a hand over his. ‘When I am permitted to leave, I will find a good spot to send this, and leave your mobile with the concierge.’

A policeman prevented him from touching Elspeth’s belongings. Everything was bagged and labelled, even her felt tip. The loan charge is a kiss for every signature.

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Day 3 of What Are You Missing?

A piece of the jigsaw: A television interview where Michael attempts to manipulate the media, and it’s affect on the family in Scotland!

 

Kinloch House

James counted the horse riders taking advantage of the sunny autumn morning: only five, and the weather forecast for later was overcast with a strong possibility of rain. He went back into the house, grateful the journalists in the helicopter parked beside his own were reluctant to leave their breakfasts. He’d provided them to smooth feathers ruffled by Alasdair and Bruce who’d been asked to explain the coffin they were seen loading into the Kinloch helicopter. As usual, Alasdair had taken it for granted they could use it to deliver one of Bruce’s sculptures without asking or paying.

A guest emerged from the larger of the two lounges. ‘Mr Marsh, would you mind tuning the television.’ Mr Lester flapped the tabloid, Circadian Gossip, under his nose. ‘You can pick up programmes broadcast from Italy?’

‘Yes, I’ll do it for you now.’

All television channels available was a facility offered on the Kinloch Wildlife Reserve website. Just occasionally, the mast erected on a mountain top let them down: it hadn’t this morning, drat it. He located the channel, ostentatiously deaf to the complaints voiced by far too many guests waiting to watch the interview spot advertised as Luongo Inside Stories.

Mr Terry, a burly businessman from London, was in full flow. ‘It didn’t seem unreasonable to expect a wildlife reserve to be a peaceful haven for humans too. I suffer quite enough from the media attacking my company without finding the blasted nuisances haunting me when I do take a holiday.’

‘I agree, and that damned helicopter arriving woke my wife.’ Mr Partridge stopped to yawn, as if he’d been awake ever since. ‘She’s out riding, but goodness knows if she’ll get back without some idiot journalist waylaying her.’

Mr Donne’s Texan voice broke in. ‘The Kinloch helicopter is taking us to Aberdeen Airport. I’ve booked a flight to Belfast. We want to see something of the Old Country before we go home, and I shall expect a full refund. I said as much to Mrs Cameron.’

The American and his family occupied three suites, and he’d talk when he got home. They all would unless Michael could say something to stop the paparazzi raking over the embers of a forgotten scandal and igniting a flame that looked like becoming a conflagration that would consume them all.

‘Isn’t leaving today a little hasty, Mr Donne? After all, Mr Lester asked Mr Marsh specially to find the right channel, so we could find out the truth.’

He paused, occupying his hands with a flower arrangement. He knew nothing about arranging flowers, but the lady speaking was one of two sisters who’d been visiting Kinloch since he was a youngster.

Mrs Terry spoke. ‘I agree with you, Miss Carver. Michael Marsh is well-liked by the staff here, and they know him a great deal better than we do.’

Mr Donne snorted. ‘Kinloch Wildlife Reserve is the biggest employer in the area. They’re hardly likely to criticise the laird’s father.’

Drat the man. Over fifty percent of their guests were American, and the majority were a pleasure to entertain. Would they return if the media verdict was guilty whether the police took an interest or not?

Miss Carver, less shy than her sister, wasn’t to be silenced. ‘I’ve met Michael and his wife. They’re a charming couple, and generous enough to play and sing for guests sometimes. Where else would you have the privilege of asking a superstar for requests?’

‘It seems you aren’t the only woman Michael Marsh has charmed, Miss Carver. We’re leaving. My wife and daughters are with me, and I won’t have them exposed to scandal.’

Nothing he could offer would stop complaints this serious. He left the mixture of red and white roses drooping askew and joined Gran, who was watching the same channel on the television in the study.

She replaced a cup on the coffee table. ‘It’s raining in Rome. Not very pleasant for the people queuing for entrance to the Vatican. I had no idea it was open so early.’

Rain in Scotland wouldn’t have kept many more guests indoors. He sat beside Gran, praying for a miracle and fearing the collapse of the business and all their lives. Would she survive if that happened, or give in to the hip pain and arthritis that plagued her?

Advert followed advert before the programme began. It opened with a view of a massive circle of machines he couldn’t identify and homed in on chairs set around a table. One of them was occupied, and the gentleman spoke into the camera.

‘Buongiorno da Roma. Good morning from Rome. This is Alberto Luongo welcoming you to Luongo Inside Stories, and my guests this morning are Lisette and Michael Marsh.’

Lisette, shaking the man’s hand and taking a seat, said something he could barely hear, and couldn’t understand. Obviously, a greeting in Italian.

Gran fidgeted. ‘Michael looks tired.’

Would it make an incestuous affair seem more likely or less? For the first time Michael looked his age, and he wouldn’t be the first older man to attempt to recapture his youth with an attractive young woman.

Alberto Luongo put his first questions pleasantly to Lisette, but her replies were short. It was a relief when Michael interrupted their host.

‘You must forgive, Lisette. She strained her vocal cords during the concert in Istanbul. She has an appointment with an otolaryngologist here in Rome later this morning.’

The man shook his head with what looked like fake sympathy. ‘Turkish audiences will keep singers all night if they can, and I’m sure you two had more amusing ideas to occupy your time than endless encores.’ He pressed on when he got no response. ‘Lisette, will you be able to sing for us tomorrow?’

‘I don’t think so, but the concert will go ahead.’

Michael put a hand over hers. ‘Hush, Lisette. Talking won’t help. My wife, Elspeth, is on her way now. She’ll be taking Lisette’s place in the concerts until an ENT specialist gives Lisette the all clear.’

‘Your wife?’

He almost fell over Gran’s feet, leaping up to shake his fist with more fervour ‘He didn’t have to sound so bloody surprised!’

Alberto Luongo’s eyes had lit. Like the rest of the media, he was backing off accusing his guests of incest, but he’d seen his chance to make a more blatant hint. ‘She’ll be with you for the rest of the tour taking care of her daughter?’

Replacing his hand on the chair arm, Michael produced a worried frown. ‘If a week’s rest is enough for Lisette my wife will fly home after the concert in Athens. Our youngest daughter is only eleven. We have an au pair, and my middle daughter, Harriet, is there too, but Greta needs her mother. She’s not a strong child.’

‘You have three daughters?’

He thumped the back of the sofa. ‘Luongo may as well have accused Michael of having a fucking choice.’

Gran was intent on the screen, but he had a nasty feeling he hadn’t heard the last of that remark. If he wasn’t so worried, he wouldn’t use the foul language Alasdair habitually did. Michael was fighting, but it was imperative his argument was convincing.

‘Three daughters and two sons. It’s Kit’s music this tour was arranged to promote and the whole family are keen to see him succeed. He’s a very talented composer.’

The interrogator wasn’t giving in: he turned from Michael to Lisette. ‘You left a successful career in America to publicise your brother’s work?’

Lisette moved nearer the mic: she must have, though it was off-camera. Could she say anything to halt the disaster he was watching, as were most of the Kinloch House guests.

‘I haven’t seen any of my family since I flew to America to star in my first Broadway musical. At the end of the tour I plan to stay in the UK and catch up with them all. My brother, James, owns a wildlife reserve in Scotland, and my grandmother still lives there. I haven’t even met Greta, my youngest sister.’

‘You don’t intend to stay with – Michael?’

Gran, Luongo came close to saying your lover.’

‘Hush, James, and do sit down. Lisette’s still speaking.’

‘– my two sisters, and of course Kit, still live at home. I can’t wait to hear what Kit’s working on now.’

Michael intervened. ‘Lisette, don’t try to say anymore.’

‘Forgive me, Lisette. Michael, Italy is a country with many very beautiful young singers. You didn’t consider employing one of them in Lisette’s place?’

‘My theatrical agent suggested exactly that, but Elspeth wouldn’t hear of it.’

He groaned. It sounded as if Elspeth didn’t trust him, but Michael was still talking, and if he interrupted again – Gran did have a temper.

‘Elspeth sings for guests at the hotel attached to the wildlife reserve, and Clement Fynn coached her as he did Lisette.’

‘But she didn’t take up singing professionally?’

Michael chuckled, and the camera picked up a twinkle of genuine amusement in his eyes. ‘With five children spread over twenty-five years?’

‘You’re a Catholic. A large family is normal.’

‘Oh, for goodness sake, Gran. Luongo’s been well-briefed. Michael should have ignored the suggestion about an Italian singer, not repeated what his theatrical agent said.

Quiet, James.’

‘My wife and I are both Catholics.’ Michael smiled. ‘There are approved methods of contraception, but a big family was Elspeth’s choice. She’s an only child and rather envied me my brother and sister and all my nephews and nieces.’

He only had one male cousin: it took the emphasis off nieces, and Luongo hadn’t expected a lecture on contraception. It sounded as if he might get one unless he changed the subject. What would he think of next?

The presenter wasn’t given time to think. Lisette coughed. Michael reached for a glass of water the man had failed to offer, gave it to her, and attacked. ‘Lisette needed a rest after a long tour of South America. She offered to help me bring Kit’s music to Europe. Instead of welcoming her, you, Senor Luongo, have taken media stories as gospel truth, and they have come as close as they dare to accusing her of bearing my child. On what grounds?’

‘There was talk of a relationship between the two of you at the time.’

‘At what time, precisely?’

The man shuffled papers. ‘Nineteen years ago.’

‘Gossip based on nothing more than stage kisses when we played lovers in a musical.’

‘It was Miss Marsh’s first starring role, and she conveniently vanished.’

Michael’s blue eyes darkened. ‘Conveniently? Lisette was eighteen. How many girls of that age do you know who could have faced dozens of journalists night after night when they used every trick there is attempting to make her admit to something that wasn’t true?’

‘Did you advise her to drop her career to save your own? Your career and your liberty?’

Gran tensed beside him. It wasn’t her grandson annoying her now! ‘How long before the egotistical sensationalist uses the word incest?’

‘He may as well have done.’

Michael flushed. He leaned forward, and so did Gran; Luongo had made a mistake. Michael rarely lost his temper. He had now, but his answers were considered, and the actor in him was making his audience wait.

‘I backed Lisette’s decision to leave the West End production. She played the same part from its premiere on Broadway where the media could be trusted to refrain from attacking her.’

True or not that statement would help Kinloch if the wildlife reserve did survive. It mattered; he loved his life here – he’d forgotten how much he loved his elder sister until he saw her in the Paris concert. Bossy, protective, loving Lis.

Luongo turned on the softer target. ‘Lisette, during the months you spent in a retreat, reportedly recovering from the shock of a friend’s death, did you give birth to your father’s child?’ The presenter leaned across the table towards her. ‘You couldn’t have put it up for adoption, so where did you hide it? With your understanding mother?’

Michael looked at Luongo with anger laced with contempt. ‘The only children born in the family at that time were mine and Elspeth’s twins, Harriet and Kit. If it takes DNA tests to prove it, they will be done.’

Gran, it would show they weren’t twins.’

She poured more coffee, her hand steadier than usual. ‘After that offer, do you think anybody would think it worth pressing for DNA tests? James, the fuse was set to blow all the old scandal out into the open. Instead, Alberto Luongo has been forced to snuff it out.’

Gran had always loved Michael beyond the bounds of good sense, and she wasn’t the only one if the Carver sisters were an example.

Time ran out for Luongo. He closed the show with an introduction to the next edition and adverts filled the screen. Had Michael won and quashed the stories of incest?

An answer, of sorts, came from the journalists’ helicopter rising fast as if they had been tipped off the story was dead. Could Elspeth make a success of the televised concert? It was vital she did to confirm the family support for Kit. Michael had made it a strong argument: he hadn’t mentioned the coaching, which he remembered amounting to no more than instructions from Clement about how he wanted a song expressed, had come to an end long before his death twenty years ago.

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Day 2 of What Are You Missing?

The chance to peek behind the scenes of West End theatres, written by an author who has worked backstage and met the wannabees and the superstars.

Elspeth sat beside Clement in the Dress Circle of Le Grande Théâtre, his hand over one of hers where it rested on the arm between their seats.

She’d miss him, but their friendship was over. Under cover of her programme, she slid her free hand over the place where Michael’s baby lay. ‘Margaret, show me you understand.’

Clement visibly attempted to recapture the interest he’d shown during the first act. ‘What did you say, Elspeth?’

‘The audience enjoyed what they’ve seen so far.’ She bent closer to whisper. ‘The media haven’t a clue what’s to come.’

He didn’t answer, unless playing with a lock of her hair was an answer. Did Michael still love her, or had he meant it when he told her not to bother coming back? He’d loved her passionately when their baby was conceived. Their mistake had been to think chemistry could last forever, or was it just her mistake? She’d listened to so many love songs and believed he’d sung them for her. Tonight, he’d sung to Keket and convinced two and a half thousand people she was the only woman he could ever love. They were living the story, just as Clement said audiences did, and none of them knew Keket was married to David, a man she’d expected to meet and never would.

Before welling tears could overflow, a man with spiky hair bumped into the aisle seat and reached across Clement to offer her his hand. ‘Keith Johnson, and you must be Elspeth.’

‘Good evening, Mr Johnson. The first act went very well.’

‘It did. It’s a great pity Mr Fynn added the final scene.’ He tapped Clement’s arm. ‘Would you consider leaving the death sentence unspoken and ending with the dancers?’

It was a massive change to make in the fifteen minutes that remained of the interval, and Clement ignored his director. She wasn’t sure he’d heard the suggestion; his eyes were glazed as though he was watching something in his head.

Johnson’s next tap jerked Clement’s body. She was through with liking the man who’d spoken so pleasantly on the phone. ‘Is there a good reason why he should change the end?’

‘Several, Elspeth, but the most serious is the almost certain failure of the fog machine. Without the mist, the horse will be seen for the fake it is.’

Clement had refused to take calls. ‘You had no doubts when I spoke to you yesterday.’

‘It wasn’t used yesterday. The press saw the performance I described.’

No wonder media speculation had been wrong and predictions for Greensleeves a thumbs-down. Surely a director Clement employed didn’t have the right to make such sweeping changes, especially when they put the production at risk from poor reviews. ‘Let me pass.’ She trod on Johnson’s foot with a sharp heel, not entirely by accident, and made her way to the foyer. Known there since Clement stopped using the stage door, she enlisted the help of a doorman in summoning Harry.

He arrived wiping greasy hands. ‘Sorry, Elspeth, messy.’

‘Harry, why has Keith Johnson told Mr Fynn the mist effect will fail?’

‘He wants the safe romance he’s made his name producing, and he knows this isn’t one. I told him we needed more fog machines, Elspeth. He said they’d be here this morning, but they weren’t. If Mr Fynn intervenes, the earliest they can be installed is Monday.’

‘Is there anything you can do?’

‘I’ve done it. The air-conditioning is turned off. Lord knows what the temperature’s like in the Upper Circle, and if you’re not too hot yet you soon will be.’

‘That will help?’

‘Air-con lowers atmospheric pressure and stops the fog rising. Pray, if you can stop that megalomaniac persuading Mr Fynn to do as he wants.’

Why wouldn’t Johnson want Greensleeves to be produced internationally?’

‘A couple of weeks as director means nothing unless he can claim to have made changes that created the musical’s success. He won’t care if it doesn’t go beyond the West End.’

Michael’s future, and the stardom he’d worked so hard to achieve, and the survival of Rocket Theatrical Agency, depended on an international smash and it mattered to Clement. She scurried back to him and hissed in his ear. ‘Change seats with me.’

No response, and Keith Johnson was still talking. If he managed to get Clement to listen and believe the fog machine would fail, he’d be forced to agree to scrap the final scene. ‘Clement, the man next to me keeps putting his hand on my knee.’

Galvanised, he leapt to his feet. ‘Johnson, fetch security.’

‘No, Clement, please. Fuss now would ruin the beginning of the second act for everybody. Just sit between us.’

‘My dearest Elspeth, if you’re sure?’

‘Yes.’ She took the chance to contrive the switch without Johnson preventing it when a group of people returned from the bar.

The curtain rose on a hall peopled with courtiers. Praise for the new marquess over, the music changed, modern, joyful. Michael twirled Keket. Marriage, conducted in secret by a frightened priest, was confirmed by Thomas Cranmer and Anne crowned queen. Happiness didn’t last; Anne suffered miscarriages, and the final blow came when a child, lost after Henry was injured jousting, was known to have been male.

Programmes, used as fans, stilled. Anne, bereaved, tragic: Henry, disappointed, angry. Total darkness, but for exit signs: sudden sunshine, brilliant and cruel, on Anne as she approached the scaffold. She closed a hand over Clement’s.

Anne climbed into position followed by two ladies. They removed her cloak and necklaces. Anne waved the blindfold aside. The ladies descended and left the stage. White mist appeared, drifted higher and swirled to cover the trunks of trees, leaving only the scaffold in full view.

Henry appeared on horseback, trotting, and then he reined in with the horse’s head tossing.

Sweeting, could I give you more?’

Sweeting, you could not give me more.’

It was working – Anne’s dream of eternal love.

A marquess, Henry, my beloved.

You shall be my queen. I swear I will love you forever.’

Forever.’

Forever.’

Forever.’

Mist hid Henry, and the executioner’s sword swept towards Anne as the curtain dropped. She clasped protective hands around her own neck. I will love you forever.

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No is the Hardest Word to Say

‘Michael’s gone to work, so why do I have to miss my classes?’ Greta stamped her foot. ‘I’m getting unfit. My muscles feel flabby.’

Harriet used the same argument for the third day running. ‘Michael works in an office. If he doesn’t want to see anybody, he has his PA, Cheryl, to stop them bothering him. Nobody could prevent other students from asking you questions.’

Kit muttered in her ear. ‘Or telling her everything we’ve managed to keep away from her.’

She snatched at the lifeline. ‘Greta, the newspapers printed horrible lies about Elspeth. You’d have to listen to them.’

Greta’s face flushed redder than her curls. ‘Then school is where I should be, telling them the truth. Elspeth was a good person.’

Journalists hadn’t got around to saying she wasn’t, though they probably would if the story looked like fading into the background. Murder made a juicy change from the usual celebrity affairs and divorces.

Kit intervened. ‘Greta, Elspeth was one of the best people in the whole world, and that’s what our new musical is about. It hasn’t got a title yet, so tell us if you think of one that would look good in lights.’

Greta’s eyes sparkled. ‘Which theatre?’

‘We’ve only just started plotting the story!’‘

Well, get on with it. How can I tell people to book tickets and find out the truth otherwise?’

Harriet felt her first smile in weeks twitch her lips. ‘We’ll work very hard, promise, and the theatre will be one of the biggest in the West End. Tell people they have to wait a bit because Lisette is having a baby, and we want her to play Elspeth.’

‘Got you!’ Greta too found a smile, a triumphant smile. ‘Now you must let me go to the academy, or how can I tell anybody anything?

’She looked at Kit. It was their decision; Michael had left before any of them were awake.

He shrugged. ‘She has to go sometime, and she’s right about needing to stay fit if we want her to play herself.’

Greta’s eyes rounded. ‘Me on a West End stage?’

‘Why not? We’ll include a ballet scene especially for you. Get your stuff while I call Bob.’

Twenty minutes later, Greta disappeared into the lift with Bob’s partner, Jim; since she’d been kidnapped Michael had employed four bodyguards. She called after Kit, who was making for his keyboard. ‘You do realise we’re stuck with a ballet scene now? How will that show Elspeth as a good person, alive or as a ghost?’

‘I didn’t tell Greta the whole story, Harri. In Act One she’ll appear the way she used to be, a spoiled brat. Michael, the actor playing Michael that is, will suggest she starts ballet lessons. In Act Two, while Greta is dancing, Lisette, as Elspeth, will appear and sing, encouraging her.’ He opened his keyboard and stared at it. ‘Harri, I know nothing about ballet!’

Kit needed to listen to music by great ballet composers he could use as a guide. ‘Greta has dozens of CDs. She won’t mind if we borrow them. Kit, you wanted to write a musical for Elspeth, and this will make a great storyline.’ Worry, buried until Kit had made that unbreakable promise to Greta, resurfaced. Who had the looks, the voice, the talent, the sheer charisma to play Michael, except the Diamond Superstar himself? She smothered a sigh. Michael was proud of the work she did with Kit and the musical they already had running. Fynn Productions, on his instructions, had financed it, and he’d introduced them to Tara Ward, his own theatrical agent, who’d helped them to find the cast. She’d never dreamed of the tall, still-handsome man starring in one of their productions. Dare she even ask him to consider it? If she did, and this was down to her, not Kit the highly-strung creative genius, would Michael agree to return to the stage?

Another worry topped even that one. Five undisturbed nights had passed, and all Kit had done was sleep with his back to her after one unsuccessful attempt to make love. There must be a way she could help, but nothing she’d said had made a scrap of difference. Lady Harriet Allanach had written of that problem in the Book of Hours – She closed her eyes, straining to remember the entry. Gunnson had been teased – Gunnson willst await a son forever. I canst not stop the bed creaking. What the heck had the girl Lisette had named her for done about it? Tonight, a carriage arrived late and Gunnson must bed the horses. Elise sleeps soundly. Durst I leave her thus? It was no use calling Lisette and asking her to look through the papers she’d left between the vellum pages. It was one of the few entries she’d decoded and failed to write down; it hadn’t seemed important. It mattered now, and Lady Harriet had left Elise!

I crept into the hay barn, for hanging the nets wouldst be Gunnson’s last task, and there he found me, naked but for mine shift. His manhood aroused afore I couldst remove it and he ripped the precious garment. Twill be worth the stitching for he took me, and he who taunted him shalt find himself ducked in the water trough come the morn.

‘What’s funny, Harri?’

‘Oh, nothing.’ She couldn’t tell him; the Book of Hours was secret. ‘We’ve got the flat to ourselves.’

‘So?’

She bit her tongue. Telling him it was a chance to make love away from their suite where he’d failed wasn’t the way Lady Harriet Allanach had overcome temporary impotence. ‘I’ll start dinner.’

‘Now?’

‘Not to eat, idiot. Prepare a casserole and stick it in the oven. It won’t take more than ten minutes.’ Pray he got curious and searched when she didn’t appear, or she’d be facing a boring morning and failure. She stayed in the kitchen until he started picking out notes on his keyboard and then made for the door. Would he come looking for her when he saw she hadn’t been cooking? He’d hardly eaten anything for five days either. She removed her jumper, and she might have done that because she was hot. She dropped her tee-shirt and bra on top of it and crept into the hall. Dining room or lounge: anywhere but a bedroom – Michael had left the door to the master suite ajar. Perfect, if she didn’t lie on the bed. She stripped off her jeans and left them outside. Kit couldn’t fail to follow a trail that obvious.

The master suite was the biggest in the flat with two dressing rooms and bathrooms, not just a lounge area and ensuite bedroom. She wandered into the nearest bathroom, Elspeth’s. If Michael had been in since he got home, he’d touched nothing, and she wouldn’t either. She turned in front of the angled mirrors. Kit wasn’t Gunnson, used to the rough ways of men at an inn: briefs might make him stop. She took them off and twirled slowly. Hold-ups with lace tops were sexy. Now, where and in what position?

No blinding flash of inspiration arrived, and her briefs hung from her finger. Footsteps in the hall froze her rigid: Kit or Michael? Either way, there was no time to get out of the bedroom. She tossed the scrap of silk towards the door praying it was Kit and looked frantically for a place to hide in case it was Michael.

‘Harri, where are you? Why the heck are your clothes scattered – Harri.’

Kit clamped his hand on the back of her neck and pushed. The footboard jammed into her stomach and all she could see were carved squirrels, apparently running along branches upside-down. His other hand slid between her legs, playing her the way he did musical keys. Had she done enough to get him hard? She could feel the first orgasm heating her body. Kit thrust inside her, and she used her muscles in rhythm with his, wave after wave of orgasms sweeping through her until he climaxed too. Success! She wriggled free and attempted a celebratory pirouette.

‘Harri, love, you’re a wicked tease.’ He swatted her on the bottom.

Ouch!’ It wasn’t the first time Kit had slapped her, especially if she tickled his feet, but that had stung. She scooted past Elspeth’s bathroom and dressing-room, and into the lounge. Sofa! if she lay on her back, he could do what he liked. Kit stood in the doorway, laughing, and her nipples sprang erect. He was gorgeous. Slim and muscular – ‘What’s so darn funny, Kit Marsh?’

‘You, edging onto one cheek. Turn over, and I’ll slap the other for you.’

‘Huh! You are joking?’

‘Nope.’ Kit rolled her over and applied his hand. ‘You go a pretty shade of red, Harri.’

She spluttered into a cushion. ‘Let me up.’

‘When I’ve got you at my mercy?’

Kicking air, she realised she was helpless. Drat Lady Harriet and her instructions on how to tease an impotent man into action! Feet held too firmly to permit kicking, Kit kissed them, working his way slowly from the soles to her calves, her thighs, and on to her stinging slapped cheeks. Deep inside, an orgasm built and exploded, and another, and another. She moaned, and Kit moved on up her spine and sucked the pulse-point in her neck. Using all her strength, she heaved him onto the floor, and followed him onto the carpet. He was erect instantly. Licking her tongue around the tip, she teased before she swallowed him deep.

Kit cupped her buttocks. ‘I love it when you do that. I love you, Harri.’

After, he cradled her in his arms and they were almost asleep when she remembered where they were, and she spotted a pile of files lying on the coffee table. Suppose Michael came back to fetch them! She ran to find her briefs and jeans. ‘Get dressed, Kit.’

Chuckling, he chased her, so she sat on the carpet. Her hold-ups had given up under Kit’s onslaught – and the rest of her clothes were in the kitchen. Running again, she grabbed her jumper and pulled it over her head. When Kit arrived, dressed, she pushed her tee-shirt and bra at him. ‘Take these to our suite. I’ve still got a casserole to make.’

‘And lunch?’

He was hungry! ‘Thank you, Lady Harriet.’

‘What did you say, Harri?’

‘Ham or cheese omelette?’

‘The lot, with mushrooms and bacon.’

She whisked eggs and heated oil in a frying pan. Lady Harriet wasn’t to know her scheming to arouse Gunnson would get another heiress spanked four centuries later – well, a couple of slaps that had stung a bit for a few minutes. Turning down the heat whilst she sliced mushrooms, she jumped, almost chopping off a finger. Was a rock ballet possible? The music bouncing around the flat, and very likely the one above too, would have Greta performing grand jeté after grand jeté, a joyful scene the world would never forget. She paused – for all their sakes, especially Kit and the young, traumatised, half-sister they both loved, she must persuade Michael to return to the stage.

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Beyond the Comfort Zone

Tom works in more genres than any other author I know. Something for everyone, whatever their taste in reading.

***** Sylvia: Beyond the Apocalypse is now available *****

As many writers do, I push myself in my craft. There’s little point in creating characters who are compelled to operate outside of their comfort zone if the author is taking the soft option.

I profess to be a multi-genre, multi-discipline author. In other words, I write stories across a wide variety of topics and I work on novels, novellas, short stories, and poetry.

For this reason, I dipped my toe in the waters of the post-apocalyptic genre, uncertain if it would result in the completion of a story. As things turned out, Light at The End: Surviving the Apocalypse became the first tale in a trilogy. I’m pleased to report that the three books are among my most popular titles.

Sylvia: Beyond the Apocalypse, is a spin-off fromLight at The End – TheTrilogy. Like most spinoffs…

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Treasure of Indian Music – Meet the Author, Jaykishan Hariharbhai Kapdi – Yet Another Success to Celebrate!

What an Achievement!

Jaykishan, my friend from a country I’ve never visited, but nobody who follows my blog will be surprised; music flows through my writing, and this is a very special time.

 

An Editor’s Pick! Congratulations my friend. 

Jaykishan grew up in a family to which music is a blessing from God. Music is hereditary to him. He has learned music from his grandfather Shri Mohanlal Ramdasji Kapdi and father Shri Hariharbhai. He has an experience, how to teach music. He is “Upantya Visharad” in “Tabla” (rhythm).

His grandfather Shri Mohanlal Ramdasji Kapdi has established a non professional music class “Shree Saurashtra Sangeet Vidyalay” in 1935 in the Bhavnagar city-364001, Gujarat State, India, to spread & serve music.

 

This book is organized into three parts.
Part one addresses the musical terms generally used in vocal & instrumental Indian music. Topics covered include Understanding Indian and Western musical notation method, Signs of Notes used in Indian music, Classical & Non-Classical Indian musical forms, Construction of “Thaat”, Construction of “Raga”, and description of 155 Indian classical “Ragas”.
Part two addresses the musical terms generally used in the Indian rhythm. Topics covered include Understanding the Indian rhythm method, signs of rhythmic words and terms, tempo, “Gharana” (different schools of Indian rhythm), and descriptions of 60 Indian rhythms.
Part three covers a spiritual emancipation through music &“Nad-Shashtra” (Acoustic).
I hope this book will open a new window in the field of Indian music and will be useful for personal study and in the field of education
How to use this book :
You can use this book
1] As a reference :
This book is organized / designed as a reference that you can refer to most of the concepts of Indian Music. A complete index of the book can also help you look up features and topics.
2] As a tutorial :
I have designed this book to be comprehensive guide to Indian Music and to include most of significant features of Indian Music that enables you to use the book as a tutorial – from beginning to end.

  Amazon

I also found some Indian music     YouTube

Please feel free to leave comments. Sarah