Monday, December 4, 2017

Lilac Blue now on sale

Hooray! Lilac Blue is now available in print to buy from Amazon in the US and the UK (and Ireland). You can also get it as an ebook for Kindle from Amazon and in all other formats from Smashwords.

If you read it and like it, as with any of my books, I'd very much appreciate a good review on Amazon or Smashwords or on Goodreads. As a self-published author I don't have a lot of opportunities for publicity, so I really rely on word of mouth and good reviews. If you have a book blog and would like to review it, I'd love to talk to you - drop me a line!

Here are the links to take you straight to where you need to be:

Print book on Amazon.com
Kindle book on Amazon.com

Print book on Amazon.co.uk
Kindle book on Amazon.co.uk

Smashwords for all ebook versions.


I hope you enjoy it! This is the final installment of Lilac's story, but I'm writing something new and I'll keep everyone updated.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Lilac Blue - sneak peek

I'm just working on the final edits to Lilac Blue. Everything else is ready to go and it should be available to buy in print or as an e-book by the end of the week. But just to whet your appetite, here's a preview - chapter one of the third book in the Lilac the Girl trilogy.


CHAPTER ONE

It was so windy at the top of the hill that Lilac went to sit in the shelter of the obelisk’s alcove while she admired the view. You had to spend at least three minutes admiring the view before you could go down again, but you could admire it in any direction, so you didn’t have to get blown over at the same time. That was Granny’s rule, and Lilac followed it faithfully.
She saw three big ships out at sea, making their way either into Dublin or back to England or Wales – it was impossible to tell which way they were going at that distance. ‘Three at once! I must tell Granny,’ Lilac thought before she even realised she was thinking it. Then, with  the feeling of punch to her tummy, she remembered again that she couldn’t tell Granny. Granny was gone and couldn’t ever be told things again, except in some vague and unsatisfactory praying kind of way that mostly just made Lilac angry, not happy.
Partly, Lilac was angry with herself for continuing to let this happen, even though she had no idea how to stop it. At least once every day she had a moment like this when she thought of Granny and then had to re-remember, and it hurt every single time. She was also angry with Granny for dying when she’d been perfectly healthy-seeming and happy, and with God for letting it happen, and with her parents for . . . well, because there they were, going on with things, being practical, arranging stuff, instead of crumpling up and wailing about the unfairness of it.
Thinking back to early summer, the initial shock of the phone call, the days before the funeral that all ran together in a blur in her mind, the funeral itself, and afterwards, she knew that wasn’t really true. Her mother, and her father too, had been pale and shaken. They had both cried and gone to bed early and behaved oddly sometimes, and they’d probably gone to a great effort to ‘be strong for Lilac’ – but in some ways she wished they hadn’t, because then she felt like she was the only one who was falling apart.
Guzzler came back to the shelter of the alcove and nuzzled her. He always knew the right thing to do. She bent over and kissed the top of his furry head, taking strength from his solid forehead hard against hers, holding his silky ears gently between fingers and thumbs. Then he licked her nose wetly and she pushed him away, not able to laugh but feeling at least a little more human.
One last tromp around the top to make sure she’d seen everything, that Dublin was still in its right place with the sea on one side and the land on the other, and the girl and the dog headed down the path again and out of the wind. At the top of the hill she could be in charge of the whole world: queen of all she surveyed, like Yertle the Turtle. But once she left the vista behind she was only in charge of herself and her dog. In a way it was a disappointment, but it was also a little comforting to just leave all that responsibility to the next hill-conqueror.
On the way home she called in to Margery’s house, as planned. Margery couldn’t come out because she had a bad cold – the Irish germs she was no longer used to had clobbered her as soon as she went back to school, she said. When Margery’s mum showed Lilac into the sitting room, Margery was curled up on the sofa under her duvet with a stack of books beside her and a notebook, as well as a box of tissues and a packet of throat lozenges. It would have been a cosy scene if not for all the used tissues dotted around the floor and the hacking cough that erupted every now and then.
‘Are you dying of galloping consumption?’ Lilac asked unsympathetically, plopping down in an armchair and kicking the nearest balled-up tissue a little further away with her toe.
‘Probably.’
‘Can I have your red jumper when you’re dead?’
‘No, I want to be buried in it,’ Margery said with a cheeky grin.
‘You’re so selfish.’
They stopped for a moment.
‘Sorry,’ Margery said.
‘No, I started it. It’s OK.’ It was strange how death was everywhere, suddenly, this autumn. Sometimes Lilac wanted to avoid it and sometimes she seemed to need to talk about it obsessively. Margery followed her lead as much as she could, because she remembered how it had been when her old cat had died. Even though a cat and a granny were not at all the same.
‘They buried her in a blue dress, Mum told me,’ Lilac said, following her train of thought into its tunnel. ‘With a cardigan in case she was cold. And a scarf, of course.’ Granny had loved scarves, always appearing swathed in one or sometimes several.
‘That’s not really nice to think about.’
‘No, I know. But I did ask at the time.’ She continued on a more practical note: ‘Mum’s going down to Cork to sort out more of Granny’s things next weekend. She asked if I wanted to go with her but I don’t know.’
‘You might find something nice to remember her by.’
‘Yes, that was Mum’s idea too. And to say goodbye to the house, because they’ll sell it soon. I never got to take the train on my own and stay on her sofa the way she said I would when I was old enough.’
‘That’s sad. It would have been fun. Except, what would you do on your own in Cork? You’ve no friends there.’
‘I’d have had Granny. We’d go for walks down the pier and she’d buy me ice cream and it would be a ninety-nine with a Flake in it like Mum always says she can’t afford.’
‘But by the time you were old enough to go on your own, you’d probably not want a ninety-nine any more. Or to hang out with your granny in public. Caroline won’t go anywhere with us any more. She says she wishes she was an orphan so she didn’t have parents to embarrass her.’
Caroline was Margery’s big sister. She led a dramatic life, especially considering she lived in exactly the same boring town and went to the same boring school as everyone else they knew.
Margery and her family had come back from their year in Canada at the end of the summer. They’d picked up Izzy the kitten from their cousins, and the renters had moved out of their house and they’d moved back in, opening all the windows wide and tutting over things that had been put away in the wrong places. Margery was in sixth class now with Lilac and everyone else, and it was almost as if the previous year had never happened. Margery didn’t even seem behind in Irish, though she’d missed a whole year. Lilac wasn’t sure how that was possible, since they learned Irish every day and Margery wasn’t particularly good at it, but her marks were just the same as they’d always been.
‘Did you do your maths homework yet?’ Lilac wanted to know.
‘Yes, but Mum said she’ll write me a note for my essay. That takes too long. And I don’t want to do it.’
‘Lucky you.’ Lilac moved over to the sofa after all, even though it meant sitting on some tissues. ‘Maybe I should catch your cold. I still have to write mine and I have no ideas.’
‘You’ll never catch it before tomorrow. And you’re probably immune to the germs because you’ve been here the whole time.’ Margery paused for a coughing fit and then scrabbled for a throat sweet. She politely offered one to Lilac, but Lilac shook her head.
‘No, thanks. I only like the blackcurrant ones, not honey and lemon. You’ll be back at school tomorrow, though? You don’t get to stay at home again?’
‘I’m much better than I was, so I think so. And it’s boring staying at home – I’d rather go to school if I’m not feeling awful.’
Lilac never found staying at home boring, but Margery didn’t like being on her own, or missing whatever might be happening where everyone else was. Even if it was a maths test.
‘Well, I suppose I have to go and start my essay, then,’ she said mopily, not moving at all. ‘Maybe it’s raining. I’d have to stay if it was raining, I can’t bring a wet dog home.’
They both looked out the window, where a breeze was chasing the leaves on Margery’s back lawn in the pale afternoon sunlight. Then Guzzler bounded into view, something large and white and squashy-looking in his mouth.
‘I think that’s one of Caroline’s new runners,’ Margery observed. ‘She just got them yesterday.’
Lilac flew off the sofa, into the kitchen and out the back door, shouting at Guzzler, ‘Drop it! Bad dog! Drop it now!’ Delighted that someone was coming to play with him, Guzzler stopped, facing her, dodging from one side to the other while Lilac stood still and considered how best to approach this. She saw a tennis ball in the grass, grabbed it, and threw. ‘Go fetch, boy!’ Guzzler ran for the ball and stood over it, wondering how to pick it up without letting go of his first, and best, prize. He nudged the green ball with his nose and pawed it for a moment, showing Lilac that he’d found it and she could throw it again.
‘Bring me the ball!’ Lilac said in her most excited voice, trying to convince him that the tennis ball was a much better deal than that other, non-round, article. ‘Squirrels! Sticks!’ Guzzler looked around, but didn’t see anything worth putting the runner down for. A rivulet of drool ran down its bright white sole as he stood there waiting for Lilac’s next move.
Lilac sighed and went back into the kitchen. ‘Can I have a biscuit or something, please, Mrs Dillon?’ she asked. ‘Not a chocolate one, just plain. Guzzler only responds to food.’ Margery’s mum opened the biscuit tin and proffered the selection.
‘Help yourself, lovie. I don’t know what Caroline’s going to say when she sees it, but maybe it won’t be too bad once we get it cleaned up. And she shouldn’t have left her new shoes lying around in the hall, I’m always after her to put her things away.’ Margery’s mum didn’t seem unduly worried, in spite of her words. She was pretty unflappable, Lilac thought, choosing a Marietta and running out the door again.
The biscuit did the trick and Lilac left Guzzler happily licking his chops and looking for the tennis ball while she brought the runner back inside and wiped it off at the kitchen sink. Just then, Caroline burst through the back door and flung herself into a chair at the kitchen table, a maelstrom of long dark hair and bad temper. Lilac looked desperately for somewhere to shove the incriminating article she was holding, but it was too late.
‘What are you doing with my runner boot?’ Caroline asked, but her tone was more curious than furious.
‘Um. Well, Guzzler got it, I’m really sorry . . .’ Lilac began.
‘It doesn’t matter. He can eat it, I don’t care.’
‘What?’ said Margery, shocked.
Her mother looked up in concern. ‘Are you feeling all right?’ She started across the room to put a hand on Caroline’s forehead, but Caroline waved her away.
‘Mom, don’t be ridiculous. I’m fine. I just don’t really like the runners after all. I thought I wanted them but I didn’t. I wish we were back in Canada.’
Lilac and Margery exchanged exasperated looks. Lilac placed the shoe gingerly in the draining rack.
‘You spent all year wanting to come home,’ Margery pointed out.
‘I know. But now I’m here I want to be there. I was special there, because I was different. I don’t like being the same any more. It’s boring.’
‘Ohhh-kay.’ Margery nodded slowly, as if agreeing with an irrational toddler.
‘Anyway, I have to go and do my homework essay,’ said Lilac, figuring now was a good moment for a graceful exit.

She called Guzzler as she let herself out the front door. He came racing around from the back of the house and they walked home with no further incidents, Lilac planning her essay in her head and Guzzler thinking happy thoughts of deliciously squashy white shoes.

(Sketch by me.)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Book three is coming soon - 'Lilac Blue'

Did you know that I've finished writing the third book? It's just at that point right now where I'm letting it rest, like pancake batter, before I take a final look at it. I've sent it to some advance readers already and the responses are very positive. My son thinks it's the best yet, in fact!

I don't have the cover art yet, though I know how it's going to look. And the title? Oh, it's called Lilac Blue. The back cover blurb isn't finalised yet, but I can let you know that it might be something like this...
Sometimes you want to solve the world’s really big problems. And then other times it’s hard enough to solve the problems you caused when you were trying to solve those other ones.
Lilac looks to her granny’s recently discovered war diary for guidance but what she finds there raises more questions than it answers. Was Granny really a spy? Who was the unnamed man with the fascinating eyebrows? And what’s the story with all the pineapples?
Would that make you want to read it? I had so much fun writing the diary entries.



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lilac in Scarlet on sale now

It's here! You can now buy Lilac in Scarlet from all the same great sources that already stock Lilac in Black and White. (At least, from Amazon. A few of the others might take a little longer.)

In the USA, it's $8.99 on Amazon.com.

In Ireland and the UK it's 8.37 euros or 7.02 sterling from Amazon.co.uk.

Anywhere else in the world it should be at your local Amazon too.

(Yes, that's a little more than the first book, but that's because it's longer. More words for your money!)

You can buy the Kindle edition for $1.99 from Amazon at the links above (and it comes free when you buy a print copy) or in all sorts of other ebook formats from Smashwords.

Two-thirds of a trilogy right here

And of course, if you love it, please leave a review, on Amazon or GoodReads or wherever you like best.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lilac in Scarlet - coming sooner than you can shake a stick at


Lilac book two is almost available! In fact, it is already, right now, as of about half an hour ago, available as an ebook from Smashwords, where you can buy it in all sorts of ebook formats. It's also now online as an ebook at Amazon, where you can buy it for Kindle.

And my very own real print copy to proof is winging its way to me this weekend - I'll do my best to proof it as quickly (but carefully) as I can, and then I'll press the button so that you can order it yourself, wherever you are in the world. It's a bit longer than the first book so it has to be a little more expensive, but I hope that won't stop you from finding out what happens next in Lilac's life.


I am in love with this very carefully considered shade of red, and I think this picture of Guzzler is just perfect - though of course my readers are free to disagree, because that's the beauty of reading. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Lilac in Scarlet - Blurb and Sneak Peek

Lilac in Scarlet really is coming soon. The text is done, the beta readers have told me what they think, I'm waiting for the cover art and putting together the ebook files. Next I'll fix up the files for the printed edition - a slightly bigger task, but much easier this time around - and order my proof copy, and then I'll be able to press the button and make it available to buy!

Here's the blurb for the back cover:

------

The bishop looked all cross and muttered ‘What? What?’ and he shouted ‘LILAC SHROVE?’ as if he had never heard of either of those names in his life. And not as if he felt they were both beautiful names that he’d just never thought of before, either. I nodded and he went really purple and said, very slowly, ‘Shrove is not the name of a saint.’ I was scarlet.

Sometimes Lilac feels as if she spends her life going from one mortifying event to the next, with barely a pause between. Even things that are meant to be fun, like her birthday party, end up turning her pink with embarrassment.

But there’s a mystery to solve and a burglar to catch, not to mention her teacher’s wedding to plan. Can Lilac and her friends (and ever-faithful Guzzler the dog) take control of the situation and save the day? Or will Lilac be scarlet once again?

-----------

Are you now filled with excitement and impatience? We can't have that ... here's a sneak preview. The first chapter of Lilac the Girl, Book Two - Lilac in Scarlet.

CHAPTER ONE

There was a girl on the beach, throwing pieces of driftwood into the sea for her dog to run after. The girl had blondish-brownish curls that blew into her face and the dog was a big bounding thing that was going to shake his wet fur all over her any minute now. He did, and she shrieked and laughed, and he gambolled over to her feet and instantly away again in excitement. The weather was mild, the sun shining and the breeze not cutting – but the seawater held a deep chill, because only the most optimistic would ever call the Irish Sea warm. And it was March, after all.

They looked bound together, a unit: the girl and the dog.

The dog scrabbled in the shingle, after a scent. He dug up a piece of rag and tossed it towards the girl, looking proud of his find. She was not impressed. He went back to the same spot and investigated further, snuffling down into the wet stony sand, worrying at something with a paw. The girl went over to him.

‘What have you found, Guzzler? What is it, boy?’ she asked. ‘It’s probably just a dirty old piece of rubbish, leave it alone. Here, get the stick.’ She waved her piece of driftwood and threw it for him, off into the water on the other side. He ran. She peered into the hole he had dug and saw a shiny corner of something. She poked it with her toe and wiggled it until it came loose. Then she bent down and reached into the sand to pull it out.

It was a box. A small, tarnished, metal box with hinges and a lid with a pattern. Lilac – that was her name, though she didn’t like it much – tried to flip the lid open, but it was stuck because one corner had been dented. It was definitely A Find, though, the sort you didn’t come across every day. She took a mostly clean hanky out of her jeans pocket and wiped the sand and damp off the metal. It felt very smooth, except for the dent. It looked almost black, but she could tell by the unevenness of the colour that it would polish up to something shinier with some of the polish she used to use on Granny’s candlesticks, if they had any of that at home.

Lilac wrapped the box carefully in her hanky and put it in her small rucksack, which held her wallet (containing one pound fifty), her pencil case (containing two pencils, a green crayon, and a ruler), and a pair of mittens she didn’t need. She liked the important feeling of carrying a bag of some sort, but she never knew what to put in it, because she didn’t really need to bring anything with her when she went down to the beach with Guzzler. But here was something to carry and she was glad she’d brought the bag.

She picked up a shiny black stone, warm from the sun, and closed her fingers over it, absorbing its smooth heat. A vein of white ran through its centre, and she thought if she had a chisel she could break it open and see the white layer all the way down, something nobody on earth had ever seen before. Instead, she brought her arm back and threw it as far into the sea as she could. There would always be another stone. The beach was full of them, coming and going, rolling over each other with the tide and the winter storms and the summer ripples.

She called Guzzler and set off for home, knowing he would be behind her in a minute, like a slippery shadow. The stones got bigger as you came to the top of the beach, so that first they rolled away under your feet and then they stayed still while you picked your way from one to another. The biggest ones at the top were enclosed in wire in huge blocks like giants’ bricks, to form a barrier that couldn’t be taken away by even the strongest storms, so that the coastline would stay where it was put and not move up to bring the road into the sea, and then the whole town. At least, that was what her father said. He remembered when the cliffs went out further, when there were houses on the sea side of the road further up the coast, where there are no houses now because they’re in the sea. The sea eats everything in the end, he said.

Well, Lilac thought, sometimes it pukes things up, too. It puked me up an interesting box and I’m going to polish it and see what’s inside it. Or keep things in it, if it’s empty. It hadn’t made a noise when she’d shaken it, so if there was something inside, it didn’t rattle. And it didn’t seem particularly heavy, so it probably didn’t hold gold coins or diamonds or rubies. But you never know, she thought.

****

‘Mum! What do you polish things with?’ Lilac shouted as she took her windcheater off and unclipped Guzzler’s lead from his collar. Lilac’s mother came out of the kitchen and leaned against the door frame, licking a wooden spoon thoughtfully. She was tall and somehow always elegant, even wearing an old skirt and a blouse with tomatoey splashes on it.

She held out the implement, a hand cupped underneath to catch any drips. ‘Taste this and tell me if it needs more salt. Or maybe more tomato. Polish what sort of things? We have Pledge, for polishing the dining-room table.’ Lilac looked doubtfully at the wooden spoon, which was coated with a dark brown sauce, and took a sniff.

‘Is that chocolate? For polishing metal, I mean. I found this at the beach, look.’ She rummaged in her rucksack and pulled out her find.

‘No, of course it’s not chocolate, Lilac. It’s spaghetti bolognese. At least, it’s the bolognese part. We don’t have any spaghetti so we’re having it with potatoes. That’s very nice,’ she added, looking at the box Lilac was waving under her nose. ‘Try some Silvo. I think there might be some under the stairs. I used to use it on the good photo frames. You could have a go at those too, while you’re at it.’

Lilac rooted through the various containers of ancient cleaning fluids and goos that lived in the crate in the under-the-stairs wonderland, her progress hampered by the semi-darkness because the light bulb had gone out again. Finally, she dragged the whole thing out into the hall and took out the mostly empty bottles and tubs one by one, until she came to a tin that looked more like shoe polish than anything else, but said ‘Silvo' in big, bold, circus-like lettering. Then she put everything else back in again and pushed the crate back to where it had been, more or less.

She found a rag in the bag that hung on the back of the door. The lid twisted stiffly open to reveal surprisingly pink gunk – she scooped out a blob and started to rub it onto the metal box. She sat down on the dark wooden hall floor, concentrating hard on her job. Within a few minutes, the box had started to come up beautifully silver, and Lilac’s hands and her jumper were blackish in patches. She worked away until all the dark tarnish was gone, even between the bumps of the swirls on the lid and the beading along the edges, and then she took it into the kitchen to show it off.

‘Oh, that’s lovely, Lilac. Give it a bit of a wipe with a damp cloth to get the stuff off. And wash your hands,’ her mother added, noticing that the tarnish was now all over Lilac instead.

It really was lovely. Almost white in its silverness, it looked brand new now, apart from the dent in the corner. The smooth underside, if she held it close enough, reflected Lilac’s face back at her: round cheeks, messy curls, freckles on the bridge of her nose, and dark blue eyes. When she moved it away everything went wibbly-wobbly, like a fun-house mirror or looking in the back of a spoon. The top, with the pattern, didn’t work so well as a mirror. There were some tiny marks stamped in the bottom: a lion, an anchor, the letter F. It was like a secret code. Lilac was delighted.

She still couldn’t open the lid, so she put the box away in her bedroom until she could ask her dad for help with it.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Fate and penguins

Because I'm just the sort of person who keeps those sort of things, I happen to still have my "Nature Studies" copybook from third class, in 1981, when I was eight. And leafing through it the other night, as you do, I came across this very appropriate gem:

Essay entitled "Pengieins"

I obviously put a lot of effort into spelling penguins, but was tragically lacking a dictionary. It came with an illustration too:

Pencil drawing of several "pengieins" in their natural habitat.

(Please note the ice burger. I'm pretty sure that was a joke even then.)

So, clearly, Lilac's first adventure has been fated for a very long time.