Category Archives: Guest Post

RRBC Spotlight Author Angelia Vernon Menchan

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(Please join me in welcoming this week’s Rave Reviews Book Club SPOTLIGHT AUTHOR Angelia Vernon Menchan!)

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SOUL TIES: BE CAREFUL WHO YOU BED AND WED…

 by Angelia Vernon Menchan

Chapter One

Two Years Earlier…

Walking into the nightclub, Fletcher Mitchell could feel the pulsing music. He had decided to attend graduate school at USC and was enjoying the left coast. He was an east coast man in his blood but after breaking up with his longtime girlfriend he needed distance. Los Angeles was a long way from North Florida. After graduating from the University of North Florida he had worked for a few years at United Parcel Service because they had paid his tuition. The management training program was good but he wanted more. When USC accepted him and his company provided him with a transfer that paid more, he was all in. The company had found him a great roommate who was also a co-worker and fellow student, Rashad Ferguson.

He liked Rashad but Rashad was a ministerial student and a bit too preachy. He had heard enough about God and sin from his parents. His parents had become staunch Christians about ten years earlier when he turned fifteen and for all his high school years it had been God this and God that. Though he moved out at nineteen, they still always referenced God when he saw or spoke to them. He loved his parents dearly but he was tired of it, besides they seemed to have forgotten they weren’t always saved. Richard and Cynthia had once never set foot in a church. He found that hypocritical. Shaking those thoughts from his head, he started moving to the music. He had minored in music production and he knew he had some moves. He also knew that being six-two and muscular and slim the women were watching him. His smooth, dark brown skin and short fro didn’t hurt either.

Deneisha Young watched Fletcher from across the floor. She loved the sensual way he danced and wanted to know him. Other than the dark skin, he was her type. She had always been attracted to lighter skinned men like her dad, but there was something about Fletcher that held her attention. Starting her own dance she danced up close to him, with her eyes closed and hips swaying. Taking in her curvaceous body and pretty face, Fletcher touched her lightly, causing her eyes to open.

“Let’s show them how it’s done.”

Smiling, she followed him to the floor and they danced through four songs. Drenched with sweat, he took her hand leading her to the bar.

“What’s your poison?” He asked in a deep, sexy voice. He wanted to kiss the mole beneath her eye.

“Tall, dark, handsome men who can dance.” Grinning down at her, he winked.

“To drink in a glass.” Her tittering laughter pierced him.

“In that case I will take a margarita. Tequila makes me crazy.”

Loving the sound of that, he ordered a margarita for her and Heineken for himself. He stared at her while they sipped. There was something hypnotic about her stance and her eyes.

“So what’s your name lady and what do you do?”

“I’m Deneisha Young but my friends call me Neisha.”

“Then Deneisha it is. I’m a business student and work for UPS as an IT manager.”

“I work as a paraprofessional at USC. I was in the military for three years, that’s how I ended up out here. My folks live in Alabama. My dad is a music producer.” His ears perked at her words.

“Really? That’s cool. I write music in my spare time, I also play a few instruments. What else do you do?”

“I’m a dancer!”

She started dancing as if moving up and down an imaginary pole.

“A stripper?”

He started humming the strains to ‘I’m in love with a stripper’ by T-Pain. She giggled again at his words and in tune humming.

“No, but for the right man, I am willing.”

For the remainder of the night they danced and flirted. He knew he could take her home but he wasn’t ready yet. She wasn’t his usual type. Physically, she pretty much had it nailed but he really loved brainy women and she seemed pretty content to be a Para-pro.

Deniesha thought about Fletcher on the way home. Her friend Karen hadn’t been feeling him and was making her opinion known.

“I didn’t care for him. He had the arrogant, stuck up air about him. That boy from the middle class, slumming, with the hood chicks’thing.”

“Karen, how did you read all that into it. I spent three hours with the man and didn’t get all that.”

“I know the type. He’s at USC and has all the bougie signs. I am sure he left some girl back home who he is in love with who will have his babies.”

Deneisha’s eyes met her friends and immediately she felt enraged. She got tired of being told she wasn’t good enough. She came from a good family, her mom being a paranoid schizophrenic, notwithstanding. She furiously rolled her eyes and continued staring out the window. She really wanted to slap Karen or spit in her face.

Deneisha was from a long line of volatile women who dealt with everything by hitting. Her mom had been hitting and cussing at her since she was a young child. However, she would be the first one in the church, dancing and praising and damning folks to hell. Her father on the other hand was a passive man; many would call him weak; he was from a hardworking, lower-middle class family who had married her mom because she had gotten pregnant at sixteen. Rena Young was also abusive to her husband. She had been raised to believe that a woman got all of a man’s money and hit first before she could be hit and that was how they lived. Fortunately, Ron was a naturally passive man who allowed Rena full reign. He loved her and would do anything to keep her, including allowing her to poison the minds of their three daughters of which Deneisha was the youngest.

Fletcher was the only child of middle class parents who had worked towards their own version of the American Dream. They had been born of parents who wanted more for each generation and they were no different. They had been married eighteen years and Fletcher fifteen when they had bought their first home. Before that, they had lived in nice apartments in good neighborhoods. His dad worked as a postal carrier who earned a good salary and his mother was a high ranking civil servant and had a side job as a sought after cupcake artist. Several years earlier they moved into a newer home in the country and were living out their blessings as their mother called it. She had often told him God had taken care of them when they ignored him but now that they gave him praise and honor, their blessings overflowed. He had to agree with that because he had always thought they lived well, but it was nothing in comparison to how they were currently living. God or someone was blessing them.

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About the Author

Angelia Vernon Menchan is an author, publisher and public speaker with two publishing companies, MAMM Productions and Honorable Menchan Media. Mrs. Menchan is also a Budget Officer and former Job Corps Counselor. To date she has published twenty four books of her own work, both fiction and non-fiction and more than seventy Ebook novellas on amazon.com. You can access her bibliography on www.amazon.com search words: Angelia Vernon Menchan

 Menchan has also published the work of nine new authors to date including two volumes of poetry; memoirs by Deborah Dominque, Lena Jordan, Patricia Richards and Nadine Singleton: a recently released novel by Darnetta Frazier and an upcoming novel by Malik Vernon Menchan, she also has an upcoming collaboration with Elissa Gabrielle of Peace in the Storm Publishing.

 

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Rave Reviews Book Club Spotlight Author Bette A. Stevens

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(Please join me in welcoming Rave Reviews Book Club Spotlight Author – Bette A. Stevens!)

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As a save-everything-I’ve-ever-written-writer I put together a short story for you. During a brief three year jaunt along my journey as a writer (1995-1997), I kept a special journal to document what we still refer to as our California Vacation. I’m taking a small section from my journal to rewrite for this post. Our 2014 winter in Central Maine has been brutal. We still have over a foot of frozen snow in the back field. It’s been a long and bitter New England winter. A trip back in time to bask in the California sun sounds pretty soothing to this Mainer right now. So here we go.

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Solar Fever…

A short memoir by Bette A. Stevens © 2014

It was hard to believe we were leaving as we headed southwest in our 1988 Camaro on a 3,700 mile journey over interstate highways that would lead us to California’s High Desert. Dan had accepted a three year internship with the U.S. Air Force that he couldn’t turn down. We kept telling ourselves that the next three years were going to be one long vacation. And, we planned to enjoy every moment of it.

By the time we crossed the Mojave in late August of 1995, desert temperatures were in the triple digits. We found a one-bedroom apartment in Lancaster, a small-by-California-standards city, near the base. We spent our first week basking in the sun. The terrazzo-roofed adobe complex, immaculately landscaped and complete with pool, sauna and weight room was as luxurious as a fine Caribbean resort.

By the end of the first month, our vacation resort complex, well-secured with iron gates and alarms, began to take on the appearance of a stockade. I figured I just needed time for The Golden State to grow on me. After all, 20 years before, adapting to a country lifestyle in Southern Maine after leaving New York’s suburbia proved to be an unexpected pleasure. Maine—The Pine Tree State—a place where breathing fresh air and not getting stuck in traffic are the norm.

The desert, the mountains, the cities, the night life—Californians seem to have it all. The Golden State is pure bliss to the vacationer or to natives who relish the relentless sun and the fast-paced excitement of highway driving and milling through crowds as a steady diet. California has its perks.

Our first year in The Golden State took us over more than 3,000 miles of highways and byways. I had little doubt why vacationers return again and again. In a state that covers more than 164,000 square acres, there’s plenty to see and do.

Our first of many trips along The Pacific Coast Highway began at Morro Bay and took us north to Eureka. It was nothing less than spectacular. As we approached Eureka on the northern coast, protected groves of 3,000-year-old redwoods towered above us in majestic splendor.

From there we headed inland. We drove through the Sierra Nevada’s over The Gold Strike Highway that climbs, descends and winds like a gargantuan roller-coaster along precipices of mountain canyons, to explore Yosemite National Park where El Capitan—the world’s tallest terrestrial monolith—rises to a height of more than 3,600 feet above the valley floor.

Before we’d arrived in The Golden State, I was pretty sure I knew where California got its moniker. I’d suspected it grew from the fame of its Gold Rush Days. Later I learned that the nickname adopted in 1968 was derived not only from the 1849 Gold Rush, but also from the fields of golden poppies that can be seen each spring throughout the state.

By the end of our first year of vacation, I had determined that it’s not just the gold nuggets and poppies that claim the gold: it’s also the sun-bleached grasses. No matter where you travel—desert, coast or mountains—the grass has a golden tan hue. It rarely turns green on its own. Extensive systems of enclosed pipelines and aqueducts are as abundant as the state’s freeways. Arid lands metamorphose into productive agricultural vistas of fruits, flowers and vegetables as far as the eye can see. California is a gloriously golden state.

I’m sure that Californians would agree. After all, The Golden State is their home. Freeways run its length and breadth. Recreation runs the gamut, the sun is always shining and Californians are always on the go.

There’s just one problem in a land where changes to sky and land are nearly imperceptible because the sun shines most of the time. I call it solar fever.

Early one morning, a glance out the window threw me into a state of delirium. “Praise the Lord,” I shouted as droplets of H20 splashed about violently in a puddle and danced around on the concrete walkway. As I raised the blind my spirits sank. It turned out to be the sprinkler system watering the verdant floribunda.

This strange solar phenomenon affects California natives, too. That same week, a co-worker returned from a four-day trip to Washington State where it had rained every single day of her long awaited vacation. “I just loved the rain!” she smiled over at me and sighed.

It may sound odd to New Englanders who yearn for more sun, but I think that solar fever can affect anyone exposed to large doses of sun over extended periods of time. The effect is similar to the cabin fever experienced by those of us who have just plain had it with mountainous snow banks, unrelenting sub-zero temperatures and the scarcity of sun for months on end.

Imagine those poor Californians who have to suffer from solar fever all year long. Fortunately, remedies for solar fever abound. A jaunt along coastal highways to stand in awe of giant trees or simply to enjoy the cooling effect of a salt marsh along the Pacific Coast isa sure cure for these solar-induced doldrums.

After the long cold winter of 2014 on the Atlantic Coast, this writer is still awaiting an effectual remedy for her cabin fever—the powerful cure-all is called spring. It’s on its way. It just hasn’t arrived yet. When it does, the snow and ice will disappear and we’ll be walking the two-miles of wooded trails here at the Farmstead instead of breaking trails on snowshoe. Greens of every tint, tone, shade and hue will unveil themselves like magic. Maine is a place where nature is always in the process of change. It offers a way of life that Dan and I have grown to love—a respite where we have the luxury of time to get to know our neighbors, our family and ourselves.

It was a treat not to have to shovel snow from October to April and not to fight black flies and mosquitoes from May to September during our California vacation back in the 1990s. There are winters here in Maine when I long for another California vacation. Still, there’s no place like home. The changing seasons are invigorating. Solar fever and life in the fast lane remain fond vacation memories.

 

Sunshine image http://www.reallyfreeclipart.com

Find out more about Maine author Bette A. Stevens and her books at http://www.amazon.com/author/betteastevens

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Visit Bette’s Website/Blog http://www.4writersandreaders.com

You can follow author Bette A. Stevens on her RAVE REVIEWS SPOTLIGHT TOUR, catch up on any stops you’ve missed and check out other great SPOTLIGHT AUTHORS http://ravereviewsbynonniejules.wordpress.com/spotlight-authors/

 

 

 

Feature: Thores-Cross by Karen Perkins

 

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A haunting novel set in the North Yorkshire Moors about isolation, superstition and persecution. Thores-Cross follows the stories of Emma, a present day writer, and Jennet, an eighteenth century witch.

 Emma Moorcroft is still grieving after a late miscarriage and moves to her dream house at Thruscross Reservoir with her husband, Dave. Both Emma and Dave hope that moving into their new home signifies a fresh start, but life is not that simple. Emma has nightmares about the reservoir and the drowned village that lies beneath the water, and is further disturbed by the sound of church bells – from a church that no longer exists.

Jennet is fifteen and lives in the isolated community of Thores-Cross, where life revolves about the sheep on which they depend. Following the sudden loss of both her parents, she is seduced by the local wool merchant, Richard Ramsgill. She becomes pregnant and is shunned not only by Ramsgill, but by the entire village. Lonely and embittered, Jennet’s problems escalate, leading to tragic consequences which continue to have an effect through the centuries.

 Emma becomes fixated on Jennet, neglecting herself, her beloved dogs and her husband to the point where her marriage may not survive. As Jennet and Emma’s lives become further entwined, Emma’s obsession deepens and she realises that the curse Jennet inflicted on the Ramsgill family over two hundred years ago is still claiming lives. Emma is the only one who can stop Jennet killing again, but will her efforts be enough?

Thores-Cross is a number one bestseller in British Horror on Amazon

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Thores-Cross – Sneak Peak

Prologue

26th April 1988

‘I dare you to go up to the haunted house.’

I glared at my sister in annoyance, then up at the house. I’d been there plenty of times with Alice and my friends, but never on my own. I did not want to go on my own now.

‘Double dare you.’

‘You little—!’ I lunged at her, but she danced out of my way. She might have been small, but she was quick.

She laughed. ‘Scaredy-cat, scaredy-cat, Emma’s a scaredy-cat!’

I eyed the house again, then frowned at Alice. But a double dare was a double dare. And I was not a scaredy-cat. At ten years old, I could do this. I took a deep breath, ignored the butterflies in my stomach and started walking up the hill. I didn’t rush.

I scrambled through the gap in the crumbling dry stone wall that separated the house from the field, using both hands to steady myself. Something caught my eye and I stopped to have a closer look. Curious, I reached into the jumble of stones, and pulled it from the dark recess in the wall.

A little pot. Made of stone, it was rich brown in colour, roughly an inch high and two inches round with a small neck and lip. An old inkpot. I shook my head. How did I know that?

‘My story.’

I froze, then spun round to check behind me. Who said that? I looked back at the house. There was nobody here. Although the stone walls still stood, there were no doors, windows, nor roof. Dark holes gaped in the walls and, I knew from earlier visits, it was knee deep in sheepshit inside. I must have imagined the voice. I glanced back at Alice, braced my shoulders and took a step towards the house.

‘Write my story.’

My breath caught in my throat, then I sucked in a great lungful of air, turned and ran. Dashing past Alice, I didn’t care that she was laughing at me, that I’d lost the dare. I was terrified, desperate to get away from that house, that voice. It was only when I’d stopped running that I realised I still clutched the inkpot.

Chapter 1 – Jennet

28th June 1776

Pa moaned and moved in his sleep. I groaned. I knew by now that meant he had shat himself again. I had only changed the heather and straw he lay on an hour ago – I would have to go through the whole thing again: wake him and force him to move so I could take the stinking bedding away and give him fresh. I cursed. Mam’s body were laid out downstairs in the hall. She would be buried tomorrow, and instead of sitting over her, I were cleaning Pa’s shite.

I sighed and got up to take care of the mess. I were being unfair. The bloody flux were because of his ducking in the sheep pit. But I had seen the bloody flux before, and it did not bring such a man to this so quickly, not in three days.

I were fifteen years old, had just lost my Mam, and Pa were leaving me too. It were his grief and guilt that had reduced him to this pitiful hulk. If he wanted to stay with me – take care of me – he would fight this. I heaved him over and recoiled from the stench of blood and shite; but gritted my teeth and gathered up the dirty bedding. Yet another stinking trip to the midden.

I picked up fresh from the dwindling pile downstairs – I would have to go out and pull more heather soon. I glanced over at Mam’s body, then carried the bedding up and dumped it on the bed Pa had so recently shared with her. He rolled back over – without even a flicker of his eyes to show he were aware of what I were doing for him.

Tears dripped down my face. How could this have happened? I went back downstairs, took the pot of steaming water off the fire and poured some into the bowl of herbs. I had struggled to remember what Mam had used on Robert Grange at the Gate Inn when he had been struck down with this, and eventually recalled a tea of agrimony, peppermint and blackberry leaf, then as much crab apple, bilberry and raspberry mash as she could force down his neck.

The herbs needed to steep for a few minutes, and if he would not drink any of it, I would wash his face with the tea. At least the smell were fresh. I held my head over the bowl and breathed deeply, then carried it upstairs to Pa for him to breathe in the healing steam. He were too far gone for the mash.

Mam had taught me the cunning ways since I were old enough to walk and talk. She had showed me how to recognise the restorative plants and herbs, which ones helped fevers, which helped wounds, which helped women and childbirth – even preventing a child. I knew their names, where they grew, whether flowers, leaves or roots were best, and the best times to plant and pick them. I knew what she knew. Had known. But I were struggling to remember. My thoughts were as muddy as the sheep pit she had died in. I had racked my brains to think what to brew for Pa, and had had to take out Mam’s journal to check. Even so, my remedies did not seem to be doing much good.

I dipped a clean cloth into the tea and wiped his brow. I did not know of any plant that healed grief. I only wish I did.

How could this happen? How could they leave me?

‘Jennet?’

I started at the sound of my name being called and went downstairs to greet Mary Farmer.

‘Thee’s never alone here!’

I nodded, too worn out to respond with any enthusiasm.

‘Ee, I thought that Susan Gill would be here with thee.’

‘She were, she had to go help William with the sheep.’

‘Oh aye, likely story, she’s not a one for hard work, her. Happen the smell got to her.’

I glanced up at her, but she showed no embarrassment. I realised I had got used to all but the most pungent, and wondered how badly my home smelled.

‘Go on, get out of here. Go get some fresh air, this is no job for a lass. Thee’s done well, but let me stay with him for a bit. Go for a walk.’

I did not need telling twice. I grabbed my shawl and nodded my thanks. When I got to the door, Mary stopped me.

‘Has thee put bees in mourning yet, lass?’

I shook my head.

‘Well, do it now, if thee don’t, they’ll never do owt else for thee, thee knows that.’

I nodded and ran. I had never been so glad to get outside. The crisp June wind blew the fresh scent of heather into my face and hair, ridding me of the scent of sickness. Chickens scattering at my feet, I hurried to the beeboles in the wall bordering the garden to tell the bees of Mam’s death, ensuring plenty of honey and beeswax to come, then walked up the track on to the moor and kept going – not in the direction of the sheep-ford, but the other way, uphill where there were just space. No walls, nowt constraining me; just wind and heather. I breathed deeply, trying to forget, but very aware I were now alone in the world.

Chapter 2 – Emma

4th August 2012

‘Happy?’

I turned to my husband.

‘Ecstatic.’

He wrapped his arms around me. ‘It’s finally finished. No more problems, no more arguments with builders. The movers have gone, it’s just us and our dream home,’ he said.

‘Thank you.’

‘What for?’

‘The “our”. This is my dream home, really. I was the one who wanted to build here, despite the problems with the planning permission. You’d have been happy anywhere.’

‘It is my dream home, too, Emma. It’s beautiful up here, we’ve done the designs ourselves, made all the decisions together: it’s our home.’ He kissed me, and I held him close in my excitement. This was our fresh start. ‘Shall we go in?’

‘Don’t even think about carrying me over the threshold.’ I laughed.

‘I wouldn’t dream of it.’ He marched to the front door and left it open for me to follow him inside. I laughed again and followed him into our new home.

The downstairs was a huge open-plan living space with the front of the house mainly glass to make the most of the view. A large stone gothic fireplace on the north wall was the focal point for the three comfortable sofas.

Set out in a squat H, the kitchen-diner took up the south wing, while the centre and north wing were lounge, with a cosy reading corner in front of the most northwestern window. A wetroom/loo, utility and mudroom were hidden away in the eastern ends of the wings and a large entrance vestibule also served as the support for the staircase.

Upstairs, there was an office in the centre and four en suite bedrooms in the wings, ready for the family we didn’t yet have – would maybe never have.

I loved it and had designed it myself. Admittedly, Dave had taken my designs, changed what wasn’t possible or safe, then added some strange magic to make our dream home the showstopper it was. At times I had despaired that it would ever get built, and my encroaching on his expertise had led to the most serious fights we’d had yet, but it was worth it. Our marriage had survived and we both loved it. I hugged him and he squeezed me back. I hadn’t been this happy for a very long time.

Dave let go of me and bent to take the bottle of champagne out of the cool box. He opened it, poured, then held out a full plastic “glass” to me – the real ones were still in a box somewhere. We touched our drinks together in a toast, both of us beaming.

‘To us and our new life,’ Dave said, and we drank. He led the way further into the lounge to the large windows in the opposite wall.

‘Look at that view,’ he said. ‘We’ll have that every day for the rest of our lives, if we want it.’

I stared out of the window at the expanse of water. The reservoir was half full, lined by a rocky shore and grassy banks. Pines hugged the rise of the hill until they gave way to the purple-blooming heather of moorland. From this side of the house we could not see another building and it seemed we were alone. I watched in delight as a flock of Canada Geese landed on the water. ‘I know, we’re lucky.’

‘It’s very isolated though. I’m worried about leaving you on your own when I go up to Scotland. I need to spend a fair bit of time up there over the next few months – at this stage in the project I have to supervise things personally.’

‘I’ll be fine, you don’t need to worry. There’s so much to do to get the house straight, I’ll barely notice you’re gone.’ I waved my arm at the boxes behind us. ‘And anyway, I love the solitude; I’ll get loads of writing done, and it’s not like the old days – I have a phone and a car and everything.’ I laughed again.

‘I know all that, but still . . . This is a big house, which makes it a target, and the thought of you being on your own concerns me.’

‘I’m used to it, I lived alone for seven years before we met, and anyway, you went overboard on the security – no one will get through those windows or past all the locks.’

‘Yes, but still . . .’

‘Well then, don’t go away so much!’

‘You know I have to.’

‘Yes, you have to get away regularly because you can’t cope with me full time!’

He laughed at the old joke. ‘Now Ems, you know that’s not always true.’

‘As long as you keep coming home.’

‘You know I always will.’ He smiled tenderly and refilled my glass. I took it, sipped, then surveyed the view again. I’d travelled extensively, but this was my favourite place in the world. I belonged here.

‘The perfect place to raise a family,’ Dave whispered in my ear.

‘Please don’t,’ I said.

‘I’ve seen you with your nieces and you’d be a wonderful mother.’ He ignored my protest. ‘I know you’re scared after what’s happened, but if we don’t even try, we’ll never have a family.’

‘I’m not ready.’

‘Em, it’s been a year. You’re the one who insisted on so many bedrooms, I thought that meant you were ready to fill them.’

‘Not yet, and I know exactly how long it’s been, Dave. One year, three months and eleven days, to be exact.’ My breath hitched in my throat and I fought to keep control. ‘I can’t go through that again, I won’t! I can’t lose another baby!’ I was losing my battle against my sobs.

He hugged me. ‘Hush,’ he said, kissing my temple and brushing away my tears with his thumbs. ‘I know you’re still grieving, I am too, but look out there. This is a new start, a new beginning. The miscarriage was bad luck, that’s all, food poisoning – a bad piece of chicken. There’s no reason we can’t have a baby, we just need to keep trying. And this would be a wonderful place to grow up.’

‘I know Thruscross is a wonderful place to grow up, but I can’t risk it. I’d started to believe we would have a family, and then, then . . . It’s too much. We had her name picked out, the nursery was almost ready . . . and she died, before she even lived. I can’t lose another baby. I can’t risk it happening again – I just can’t.’ I took a deep breath to calm myself.

He nodded and stroked my hair, then cocked his head at the sound of a car. ‘That’ll be your sister with the beasts.’

‘And the nieces,’ I said with a small smile and wiped my face clear of tears. Alice and the girls had babysat our three dogs while we moved house.

‘Our family’s big enough for the moment,’ I said. ‘If we don’t try for a baby, we can’t lose another.’

Dave nodded. ‘Have you thought any more about adoption?’

‘No, I’ve been too busy with the build. Let me go and greet Alice.’

He brushed my cheek with his thumb before letting go of me. ‘Will you think about it now?’

I didn’t answer but went outside to my family.

Chapter 3 – Jennet

1st July 1776

Pa groaned, but did not open his eyes. I had told him we were burying Mam today, but he could not hear me. She were in her box now – a simple thing, but I had used every penny of Pa’s savings to buy it. I wiped the sweat from his face. It were chilly in the house, but the fever had a tight grip on him.

The front door banged and I went downstairs. Mary and John Farmer stood by Mam’s coffin.

‘Jennet.’ John nodded at me, cap in hand. He would stay with Pa while I buried Mam.

‘Here, lass, thee’s never going dressed like that!’ Mary said at the top of her voice as usual. I looked down at myself. Bodice stiffened with wood and reed, petticoats, collar of linen, apron and white forehead cloth and coif to cover long hair the colour of cooked mutton – all were the best I owned.

Mary led the way upstairs, showed John into Pa’s room then strode to the chest against the wall and rummaged inside it. ‘Here,’ she said. ‘Wear this.’ She held up a long black skirt and shawl. ‘Come on, lass, hurry up, they’ll be here soon.’

I recoiled. ‘They’re Mam’s,’ I said. I could not wear Mam’s clothes to Mam’s funeral.

‘Well, she don’t need them now, do she?’ Mary answered, impatient. ‘They’re thine now, Jennet. Quick, go and get changed.’ She pushed me out the door, and I stood for a moment, then went to my room. It were easier than arguing with Mary Farmer.

‘There, that’s more like it! Just in time too, they’re here.’

I could not look down at myself. I could not bear the sight of Mam’s clothes on me. Both skirt and shawl itched. I knew I would be aware of every thread of wool on my skin all day. More noise at the door, and I followed Mary downstairs. Digger and his son, Edward, had arrived with the cart to take Mam to the church. I let Mary Farmer organise them. It were Mary who urged their care. Mary who gave instructions to John over Pa. Mary who pushed me through the door and out into bright sunlight. It were Mam’s funeral, how could the sun shine? I looked back at the house and, for a moment, pity for Pa mixed with my despair. How long before Digger’s cart came for him?

‘Come on, lass, no dawdling!’

I turned back to the cart and started the long walk behind it down the hill, Mary Farmer at my side. After a few steps I stopped hearing her endless chatter. It became just another sound of the country, like the birdsong. Ever present but meaningless. We passed the smithy and William Smith joined us, then the Gate Inn and Robert and Martha Grange.

One by one, the village turned out, dressed in their best, and fell in behind us. Mary Farmer greeted them all. I hardly noticed. I felt as if my insides had frozen. My heart, my lungs, belly, everything. With each step, they splintered further. I wondered if I would make it as far as the church at the other side of Thores-Cross or whether I would be left on the side of the lane, a heap of cracked and broken ice.

‘Here.’ Mary Farmer nudged me and held out a handkerchief. ‘Thought this might come in useful. John won’t miss it. Not today.’

I took it. I had not realised I were crying, but when I wiped my face and eyed the scrap of cloth, it were sopping wet. My eyes and nose must have been streaming since we left the house.

I scratched my shoulder. Remembered I were wearing Mam’s clothes and lost myself in sobs. Mary Farmer tried to put an ample arm around me, but I shrugged her off. I wondered if I would ever stop crying. The cart reached the bridge and turned right. I followed, walking alongside the river, the same walk I used to make every other Sunday with Mam and Pa. We shared a curate with Fewston and would have to make that walk twice a month, unless Robert Grange were making the trip in his dray cart and we could ride the two miles over the moor. I realised with a start that I would not have to do that any more – not if I did not want to. Less than half the village made the trip to Fewston, claiming a variety of ills, and we only went because Mam insisted. I cried harder at the jolt of relief I felt.

‘Here we are, lass. Thee stick with me, I’ll get thee through this.’ Mary Farmer clung to my arm and I peered at the church. Digger and Edward lifted Mam down from the cart, ready for various men from the village to carry it inside. Robert Grange, William Smith, Thomas Fuller and George Weaver. Our closest neighbours. I took a deep breath and followed them into the plain single-storey stone building with the steps so worn they were more like a ramp. It were cold inside, despite the July sun. Or maybe that were me. Still ice, still cracking, but still in one piece.

I sat on the front pew, Mary Farmer beside me – mercifully quiet now – and sniffed. I used the sopping rag that had been a handkerchief, but it were not much use now. I could not bear to wipe my face on Mam’s shawl. Did everyone know I were wearing her clothes? And what did they think of me if they did? Mam were not even in her grave yet.

The curate – a young dark-haired lad who had grown up in Fewston – started the service. I tried to listen, but I could not tear my attention away from the box in front of me. Mam.

Then I heard what he were saying, and the cracks widened. ‘Merciful God? Merciful God? What kind of merciful God would drown Mam in the sheep pit?’

Mary Farmer tried to pull me back down on to the pew, shushing me. I had not realised I were stood, but I could not stop.

‘What kind of merciful God would inflict the bloody flux on her husband? What kind of God would take Mam and Pa away? What kind of God is that?’

My sobs pierced the shocked silence that followed, and Mary Farmer finally managed to sit me down.

‘She’s distraught, poor lass – don’t take no notice, she’s distraught,’ she told the congregation. ‘Carry on, Curate, carry on.’

We moved to the graveyard and Mam were sunk into a great hole. Then Mary Farmer led me away as she were covered up.

At home, the stench hit me as we walked through the door. Pa were the same. My sobs tore the cracks inside me further apart. John Farmer went home. Mary Farmer stayed.

*

The next morning I were alone. I do not know when Mary Farmer had left – she must have waited until I slept. I dragged myself out of bed and went to clean Pa. It were for the last time. The bloody flux were not always a killer, but to survive it you needed strength, and Pa’s strength had drowned in the sheep pit with Mam. There would be another funeral this week.

*****

 Thores-Cross is available from:

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About the Author

Karen Perkins

Karen Perkins lives in Yorkshire, where she spends her time writing as well as editing and formatting as proprietor of LionheART Publishing House. She has been a keen sailor since childhood, competing nationally and internationally until the day she had both National and European Ladies Champion titles – and a terminally bad back.

She has written one novella (Ill Wind) and one full-length novel (Dead Reckoning – long-listed in the Mslexia Novel Competition 2011, and both number one bestsellers in Sea Adventures on Amazon.co.uk) in the Valkyrie Series. A further Valkyrie novel, Look Sharpe! will be published in 2014, followed by Ready About! Both books follow the fortunes of Henry Sharpe, a character we have already met in Ill Wind and Dead Reckoning. Relationships are turned upside down and secrets revealed.

Thores-Cross, a dark, haunting tale set in the North Yorkshire Moors about isolation, superstition and persecution, follows the stories of Emma, a present day writer, and Jennet, an eighteenth century witch. Thores-Cross is a number one bestseller in British Horror on Amazon.com.

Karen Perkins has also written the self-publishing guides: The LionheART Guide to Editing Fiction (UK and US Editions) and The LionheART Guide to Formatting.

 

See more about Karen Perkins on her website:

www.lionheartgalleries.co.uk

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www.amazon.com/Karen-Perkins/e/B009BLBUTY/

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