A variety of subjects, but mostly about cows. With an excerpt from Dark Light

For those who kindly enquired, I have recovered from chocolate margarita overload. It was touch and go but I pulled through. I would say I’m never doing that again but we all know exactly the same thing will happen as soon as a box of chocolate margaritas and I find ourselves in close proximity. I’m not sure where I was on the day will-power and common sense were being doled out.

Anyway, exciting news – the French version of A Symphony of EchoesD’Eco en Echos – is available for pre-order on Amazon.fr. With a small fanfare, I proudly produce the link because I think I’m getting the hang of this now. Gone are the days when one of my links could take you anywhere. And often to places you didn’t want to go.

 

What else? Yes, the Afternoon Tea at Octavo’s is sold out. I’m really looking forward to that. And meeting everyone, of course. It’s not all about food, you know.

And I’m in Gloucester on 20th October at Waterstones. They’re doing a pre-pub signing of Dark Light there, for anyone who wants to pop along. I’ve forgotten what time, but someone will tell me and then I’ll tell you

If I live that long, that is. Brace yourselves, a dark tale follows.

Following the barrage of unkind comments from my family about my sedentary lifestyle, I went for a walk yesterday, yomping across country, just like someone who actually knew what they were doing.

Those of you who read these blogs – and what wonderful people you are – will be familiar with the other author in the family. The eminent author, as he insists on being called. Anyway, we go off occasionally, to research this, that and the other, argue violently, and generally frighten small children and dogs. I’m sure some of you will remember our legendary trip to Doward to visit the hill-fort there which was to make a starring appearance in Lies, Damned Lies and History. I thought that rather than just using my imagination, I’d actually check the place out.

Roping in the eminent author, we set off and everything went badly right from the start. God, it was steep. The hill was nearly vertical. We had to heave ourselves up by tree roots and branches and it took hours. We were dirty, sweaty and very unsanitary, but just as we were within fifty yards of the summit – I could actually see the hill-fort – the eminent author spotted a cow.

We’re not talking auroch here. The bloody thing was about the size of a dachshund. And so far away on the horizon it was practically in Monmouthshire. And it was one of those rather pretty Charolais cows, head down, grazing away and ignoring everyone and everything.

I turned around and the eminent author was off like a rocket, bounding downhill and accelerating away. I have to say I had no idea he could move like that. However, he was in charge of the transport so I had no choice other than to bound after him. The drive home was enlivened by unkind comments on his manhood and him quoting statistics about the two or three people killed by cows every century or so. Incidentally, the next time anyone reads LDLAH, the hill-fort scenes came out of my head. Practical site research had to be done while I was heading downhill at about thirty miles an hour and everything was pretty much a blur.

Anyway, the point of this pointless story – apart from embarrassing the eminent author because don’t think it doesn’t get mentioned at regular family get-togethers – is that yesterday, I, climbing over a stile, found myself in a field full of cows. And not the friendly French sort, happily grazing on the horizon miles away, either. These were big beasties. The black and white ones. There were about thirty of them. And, as I discovered when they lumbered to their feet – gentlemen cows. With horns.

Obviously my first impulse was to climb back over the style and run away, but with the echoes of all the wittily clever jokes I’d made at the eminent author’s expense over the years, I gritted my teeth, jutted my jaw like an American general, and strode forth.

Have you ever watched The Omen? That scene where all the animals run away from Damian? That was me! They couldn’t get away quickly enough. At first, I was relieved. Then there was the – ‘Ha, cows! Fear me and my cow powers,’ stage, closely followed by the ‘Oh my God, there is something the matter with me. Everyone always said there was,’ stage.

I reached the fence, climbed over the next style, looked back and they were all watching me. Silent and motionless. Like any number of cow bookends. Scary stuff. I’m living in The Twilight Zone.

So, speaking of scary, Dark Light is out in about three weeks, I think, and for those of you who asked, here’s a quick excerpt from the first chapter.

Enjoy.

DARK LIGHT by Jodi Taylor

Prologue

My name is Elizabeth Cage and I’ve never done anyone any harm in my life, at least, not intentionally. But I have what some might call a gift. I call it a curse. Let’s call it a talent. I can see things. No, not dead people – although I have seen dead people – I see something else. I see people’s colours.

Years ago, when I was a child, before I’d ever heard the word aura, I called it a colour. Everyone has one. A shimmering outline of colour that constantly changes shade and shape as they react to whatever’s going on around them. Everyone’s is unique. Some are a distinct shape, thick and clearly defined. Some colours are rich and strong and vibrant. Others are pale and insubstantial. Sometimes there’s a dirty, dark patch over their head or their heart and that’s never good.

Sometimes, friends or family, people who are close, have similar colours. Colours that are related in the spectrum. You may have noticed that there are people for whom you feel an affinity. That’s because your colours are similar. Some people repulse you. You feel an urge to keep your distance. You might not know why, but your colour certainly does.

Your colour tells me things about you. Things you might not even know yourself. Things you might not want others to know. Give me ten minutes and I can tell you whether you’re happy or sad. I know if you’re lying. I know if you’re afraid. I know if you’re bluffing.  You don’t have to say a word, but you’re telling me just the same.

I don’t know how Dr Sorensen found out about me but he did. He runs a clinic – ostensibly a rest home for those rich enough to be able to afford his very discreet services, but that’s just a front. He works for the government.

I’d never actually heard the phrase ‘psychological warfare’ until Michael Jones explained it to me, but apparently that’s what Sorensen does. He devises ways of misleading, deceiving and intimidating people. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking he confines these dubious activities to ‘enemies of the state’. According to Jones, he’s pretty indiscriminate in his targets. Sometimes our friends can be more dangerous than our enemies. He’ll have a go at anyone he’s told to. And, from my own experience, he’s not above using his resources for his own ends, either.

He’s an expert on people’s behaviour, which is what makes him so dangerous. He can predict how people will behave under certain conditions and how to manipulate them accordingly. He can tailor-make propaganda tools. He can advise on how to mislead, deceive or even intimidate anyone he’s instructed to. He seeks out other people’s vulnerabilities. And not for good reasons.

 I know he has plans for me … As Michael Jones once said, ‘My God, Cage, we could sit you down in a room full of world leaders and you could tell us everything we needed to know. Who’s lying. Who’s afraid. Who isn’t …’

Except I didn’t want to be sat down in a room full of world leaders. I just wanted to live a quiet life. I didn’t ask to see these things. It’s not a gift to know what people are thinking. And it’s definitely not a gift to see those shadowy figures, half in this world and half out of it … I just wanted to ignore it and move on from my husband’s sudden death and I thought I had. I thought I had found a friend. Someone I thought might, one day, become much more than a friend. Michael Jones was big and competent and damaged. His colour should be a rich mixture of reds and glowing golds, but by losing someone he’d lost his own way. He was vulnerable. And that bastard Sorensen had exploited that vulnerability and used him to get to me.

It was Jones himself who told me what he’d done. It was Jones who gave me the opportunity to get away. Jones who told me to run while I still could.

I had no choice. I had to escape this web of Sorensen’s making.

So I ran.

Chapter One

I stared out of the big black window. The darkening sky and the lights in the railway carriage meant that, for most of the time, all I could see was myself. I gazed at this other self and my other self gazed back again. My face was a pale blob surrounded by darkness. Actually, that’s not a bad metaphor. A small white face surrounded by big black nothingness.

I was in trouble. I was in so much trouble. I’d been running for three days now, although it seemed much longer. I could barely remember a time when I wasn’t hurtling through the night on a half-empty train or rattling down strange lanes on a rural bus boarded at random.

My strategy was simple. To keep moving. If I never stopped moving they’d never be able to find me. Whether that was true or not, I didn’t know, but I found the thought comforting. Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving. The words ran through my head in time with the clack of the train wheels.

I couldn’t afford to fall asleep. I had to stay awake and keep checking my fellow passengers. I had to watch for anyone leaping on at the last moment or look out for someone who might be discreetly paying me extra attention. At any moment, I expected to hear the shout, ‘That’s her,’ or feel a heavy hand on my shoulder.  Or hear the sudden screech of brakes as a car pulled up and I was bundled inside before I had a chance to call for help.

I’d begun well. I’d run from my house in Rushford, suitcase in hand, down the hill and across the bridge. In a blind panic I might have been, but the sensible part of my brain took me to the bank.

Inventing some family emergency – I don’t know why I did that. I kept telling myself I had no need to account for my withdrawals, but it seemed I couldn’t help it – I withdrew as much cash as I could without awkward questions being asked.

From there, I pushed my way along the crowded post-Christmas pavements, heart thumping with fear, always looking over my shoulder, desperate to reach the railway station.

Mindful of the ever-present CCTV cameras, I kept my face down and, to the bemusement of the ticket clerk, bought a one-way ticket to Edinburgh and then another to Penzance. I was hasty and frightened and I dropped things and my hands were shaking and I knew he would remember me. Just for good measure, I used my credit card to buy the tickets. I was certain they would be monitoring my bank account.

From there, I trundled my suitcase into the Ladies and turned my coat inside out. It looked odd but that was the least of my worries and now it was silver instead of black, which was the best I could do for the time being.

Leaving the Ladies, I left the station as well, heading for the bus depot next door. I counted three buses down the line and jumped on the fourth. I had no idea where it was going to but that wasn’t important. It was the going from that was so vital.

I jumped off the bus at the next town and did exactly the same thing again – three buses along, catch the fourth, jump off that one at a randomly selected stop – and do it all again.

I ate sandwiches of varying quality as I went. I slept in snatches, sometimes only for seconds, waking with a jerk at strange noises or sudden braking. Or I huddled, too cold to sleep, on hideously cold metal seats in bus stations. The ones specifically designed to prevent anyone ever being comfortable on them. I had no idea where I was most of the time. I kidded myself this was a good thing. That if I had no idea where I was then neither would anyone else.

And always, I kept moving. I never stopped. After three days, I was exhausted. I smelled. I looked dreadful and felt worse. Three days seemed a very long time and they hadn’t caught me yet. Was it possible I had escaped? Had I actually managed to get away? And for how long could I stay away?

It was when I was alighting from my umpteenth bus on its way to somewhere unknown that my legs gave way. I struggled to a nearby bench and sat down heavily. People were looking at me, probably thinking I was drunk or on drugs or both. This had to stop. I hadn’t been well when I’d run from Michael Jones and now I was making myself really ill. I’d done headlong panic – now I needed to slow down and think carefully. I’d run from the past. Now I needed to plan for the future.

I emerged from the bus station into a busy but anonymous town. Traffic roared past in several different directions. I stood for a while, getting my bearings, while people streamed around me on the pavement. Everyone seemed to have somewhere to go. Except me. There was a large department store opposite and I trundled shakily across the road to use their facilities. They had a very nice restroom and I washed as much of me as was possible and scrabbled in my suitcase for something else to wear.

I’d only packed for the Christmas holiday – and what a long time ago that seemed now. Almost another life – so I didn’t have a great deal of choice, and then I realised I was in a department store. They sold clothes. And toiletries. And I had money. I could hear Michael Jones’ exasperation. ‘Really Cage, you’re not bright, are you?’

I bought another pair of jeans and a couple of t-shirts and warm sweaters. And a beanie. All in greys and blacks. I had gone off colour forever. Colour had been the curse of my life. And I bought a new coat as well. I asked them to cut off all the labels and changed in the toilets.

Examining myself in the mirror, I looked completely different. The beanie covered my hair and a scarf covered my face. I was pleased with the result and this gave me enough confidence to sit in their café and gulp down a hasty bowl of soup and a sandwich. I was huddled in a corner, as out of the way as I could manage, but when someone dropped a plate it frightened me so much I nearly jumped out of my skin, and the urge to move started up again. I stuffed down the rest of the sandwich and headed back to the train station where I bought a ticket for the first town whose name I recognised. I wouldn’t go all the way. I’d jump off at a random station and do it all again.

Keep moving. I had to keep moving.

Anyway, here I was, staring at myself in a blank window, wondering what I was doing, where I was going, and what on earth I was going to do when I got there.

Pre-order now – publication date 25th October 2018

Amazon UK

Amazon USA

Also available on Audible

Yay!

Yay! Book 9, An Argumentation of Historians is finished and is now Accent Press bound. So I get to put my feet up for a day or so. Only for a day or so, of course, and then full steam ahead with the sequel to White Silence and yes, Book 10 of the Chronicles. I have a busy year ahead of me.

In other news, I’m off to Afternoon Tea at Octavo’s on Saturday. I’m really looking forward it. There will be tea and delicious cakes and, I hope, sandwiches with the crusts cut off. With luck, I’ll get to chat to loads of people and if you can’t be there but still have questions, ask them here and I’ll do my best.

And then – we have a bit of fun planned for Sunday morning. Does anyone remember the two tiny stories I knocked out last year when I should have been working? Desiccated Water and Markham and the Anal Probing. People really seemed to like them so I shall be recording them. Apparently, Hazel knows someone with a big mike. No idea what that’s about.

And isn’t Christmas Past doing well! Huge thanks to everyone who’s pre-ordered.

FREE extract from White Silence – the new paranormal thriller by Jodi Taylor out on September 21st

Here’s a sneak preview to the opening of White Silence that will be released on September 21st 2017. A limited edition signed paperback is now available – CLICK HERE to order.

White Silence

People say, ‘Silence is golden.’

They’re wrong.

Silence is white. White and deadly.

My name is Elizabeth Cage. I’m a widow. My husband, Ted, died suddenly.

They took me after the funeral. It was quick and it was quiet. No one knew where I was. There wasn’t a soul in the world who knew what was happening to me. There was no one I could call on for help.

I knew what they wanted but they haven’t got it yet and they never will. There’s more to me than meets the eye. I haven’t spent years cultivating the dowdy housewife look for nothing. To look at me – I’m a drab, insignificant, anxious, twenty-something housewife with unfashionable hair and no make-up. Unfortunately, my appearance is the only thing I can tell you about me. Because I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I am.

Continue reading

Situation Update

Actually, I have to say I felt rather like Max presenting a report to Dr Bairstow when I typed that. In my last job, the phrase ‘situation update’ was the polite way of saying, ‘You’ll never guess what’s all gone tits up now.’ Which I think would make quite a good title, but the cover would have to be enormous so as you were on that one.

I’ve been taking a few days off – yes, I know, but even I have to go outside occasionally, so I headed for Wessex, which is somewhere I’d only ever associated with Thomas Hardy and long dreary afternoons at school while our English teacher made us read someone else’s idea of a good book.

But Wessex is Old Sarum, Stonehenge, Avebury and Winchester, and it’s fabulous. No matter in which direction you look – History has happened all over the landscape. There’s barrows and tumuli (is that right?) and cursuses (is that right? Spell check is nearly as useless as I am.) and castles and cathedrals. I was quite blown away. I also remember thinking I really should have done this before writing about Stonehenge, King Alfred, hill forts, etc, but where’ s the fun if you do things the conventional way?

Continue reading

White Silence

WHITE SILENCE kindleHere’s a surprise for me as well as for you. Some of you may remember the first chapters of White Silence, posted here a few months ago. The good news is that it is NOW available for pre-order.

The ebook is being published on September 21st, with the paperback following next spring. It will be available on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com and Audible, all on the same day. Let’s keep life simple.

It’s the story of a young woman, Elizabeth Cage, who is more than she seems. Elizabeth has a gift – or a curse – and after her husband’s death she suddenly finders herself isolated and vulnerable. And as if that’s not bad enough – strange things happen wherever she goes.

The book’s a little bit thriller, a little bit romance and a little bit supernatural. Well, quite a lot supernatural, actually.

Hazel is to re-post an excerpt on this page – just to whet your appetites – here’s a sneak peek of the cover.

This story is a bit of new departure for me. It’s a very different story to both the St Mary’s and the Frogmorton Farm series. I had actually forgotten how nerve-wracking it is to launch a new series on an unsuspecting readership. Some of you might like to light a candle and indulge in a few minutes’ personal meditation to prepare yourselves. Or, alternatively, just rip the wrapper off another giant bar of chocolate and grab a bottle of wine. Whatever floats your boat.

I personally am in Dr Who watching mode – behind the sofa.

If you want to know more, head over to Amazon here.

A Mixed Bag: Musings over Reviews

jodi five stars

I love all my reviews – yes, even the ones that go, ‘Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish,’ (sic) or tell me that if I could just learn to spell then my books would be quite good. I think one of my favourites is ‘Downloaded this by mistake. Couldn’t be bothered to read it. One star.’

On the other hand, there are my other favourites. This one is for The Nothing Girl and from a gentleman who simply wrote, ‘If you ever tell anyone I read this book then I will freaking kill you.’ He goes on to describe it as awesome, so he’s obviously an extremely intelligent and perceptive person – as, indeed, are all my readers.

As I say, I love them all – although some more than others, obviously, but occasionally, I receive one that really hits the nail on the head. Thank you, Nicola, for this thoughtful review.

review

So thank you to everyone who takes the trouble to review my books – even those who consider the plots to be non-existent, the characters to be no more than cardboard cut outs, and the dialogue clichéd.I do try to vary the tone of my books. Some are fairly light-hearted and some are definitely a little darker. It’s interesting to see which readers prefer. Some begin their reviews with, ‘I loved this one – it’s a little darker than the others …’ Others say, ‘I loved this one – it’s not as dark as the others …’ One day I think we should run a competition for ‘Favourite Book of the Series. And Why?’ Note to self – speak to Accent Press.This was exactly what I was trying to do. Throughout the series I have tried to grow the characters. To make them seem like real people by having their lives move on. Relationships – some that work and some that don’t. And deaths – I didn’t want to have a core of characters that readers know will always survive no matter what happens. I want them to feel that anything could happen to any character at any moment. That yes, people might live happily, but not always forever after. Life never stands still and death is always waiting – I wrote cheerily in bed this morning, as I stowed my empty mug in my underwear drawer so the ants can’t get at it. Which was why I was so pleased with this review of ATTT. This is the book in which they all grew up a little – well, those of them that survived the battle of St Mary’s.

And especially thanks to my readers who continually forgive me as I stray towards The Dark Side … Again … As Ronan remarks to Max in Book 8, ‘You dance on the edge of darkness, Max, and I don’t think it would take much for you to dance my way.’

Now I just have to decide whether she will … or whether she won’t.

Lies, Damned Lies and History

Lies, Damned Lies, and History (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Series), the seventh book in the series will be out on the 5th of May 2016.

Here’s the blurb…

‘I’ve done some stupid things in my time. I’ve been reckless. I’ve broken a few rules. But never before have I ruined so many lives or left such a trail of destruction behind me.’ As Max would be the first to admit, she’s never been one for rules. They tend to happen to other people. But this time she’s gone too far and everyone is paying the price. Grounded until the end of time, how can she ever put things right?

 

Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings – A Chronicles of St Mary Short Story

Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings – A Chronicles of St Mary Short Story Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings – A Chronicles of St Mary Short Story

It’s Christmas again at St Mary’s and time for Max’s obligatory illegal jump. On this occasion, however, they’re right up against it.

A loaded gun has been left behind in Ancient Egypt and it’s up to them to retrieve it before anyone accidentally blows their own head off, thus affecting the timeline for centuries to come.

And as if that’s not enough, someone (Max) has inadvertently poisoned Mr Markham.

It’s hot, they’re running out of supplies, they can’t find the gun, and it’s all going horribly wrong. Again.

A Bachelor Establishment by Jodi Taylor writing as Isabella Barclay

A Bachelor Establishment

High adventure and dark mystery combine in a sparkling historical romance

Jodi Taylor writing as Isabella Barclay

Elinor Bascombe, widowed and tied to an impoverished estate, has learned to ask little of life. With no hope of leaving, the years have passed her by.

Lord Ryde, exiled abroad after a scandal, has returned to strip his estate and make a new start in America.

A chance encounter changes their plans, plunging Elinor and Lord Ryde into adventure and not a little peril until, finally, they are forced to confront the mystery of what happened on That Night, all those years ago.

Are they both so entangled in the riddles of the past that they are about to miss this one last opportunity for future happiness?

 

Little Donkey – a short story by Jodi Taylor

Little Donkey: – a short story Little Donkey: – a short story

It’s Christmas and Jenny Checkland is beset with problems.

The Vicar, who really should know better, has asked to borrow Marilyn the donkey for the Nativity Play thereby unleashing chaos on the already chaos-laden Frogmorton Farm.

Will Marilyn survive her bath? Will anyone survive Marilyn’s bath?

Robbed of her role as the Virgin Mary, what revenge is the Angel Gabriel plotting?

Why is that sheep so fat?

Will Charlie ever get to say his one line?

Can Marilyn be prevented from eating the Baby Jesus?

Where is Thomas, who promised he would be there?

And worst of all – will Russell, lost on the moor in a blizzard, make it back in time for the birth of his first child? Or even at all?

Another chance to meet the characters from the best-selling novel, The Nothing Girl, as they navigate the complexities of the local Nativity Play in their own, unique fashion.