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:

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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?

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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.

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‘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.