Alchemy in my Handbag

As if by magic, I am presenting ‘Stone Circle’ by Kate Murdoch.  The novel is a rich historical fantasy about a young man’s coming of age, as he learns about magic rituals and alchemy. I have asked Kate to present and extract of her debut novel.  She has written to her readers about the book and her chosen extract.

Dear Readers,

I would like to present you with an extract from my debut novel, ‘Stone Circle’.  

It’s a story of magic rituals and rivalry in a 16th century Italian town.

The extract, selected from the middle of the book, is a scene where my protagonist, Antonius, is being initiated as a seer. It describes the ritual he must go through. 

It is a key scene in my book, because Antonius’s life is undergoing enormous change, and the ritual is a symbol of that. 

Romance, thrilling escapes and alchemy – what’s not to love?

Best Wishes,

Kate x

 

Extract

Antonius watched the blue and amber flames as they crackled upwards, repeating the same patterns into infinity. He felt his body move to the rhythms, and realised they all moved in tandem around the fire. The music, the flames, and the night were as much a part of them as the blood coursing through their veins. The pace quickened and they followed, twisting and turning with fluidity.

Antonius’s mind was clear and untroubled. At the same time, he watched Giulia’s russet hair swing across her back and the long line of her slender white arm as she moved with perfect grace. He felt the eyes of many upon him, but he was not afraid. It was a sense of being held in the embrace of the observation, as if he were returning to the home of a friend that was as familiar as it was strange. Glancing at Giulia, he saw she scattered herbs into the flames. His nose twitched as their combined scent wafted towards him—sage, elderflower, cloves, and others. Three crystals were then released into the fire—purple, white, and gold. Several loud cracks erupted into the air and multi-coloured sparks flew, with a hiss and a whine. In a low voice Savinus chanted. It was a mellifluous language he had heard during the rituals at the blue cave. He spread his arms in an outward motion, as if clearing away smoke.

More About the Novel

Stone Circle explores themes of class, rivalry and spiritual growth. It is a historical fantasy novel.

Is the ability to read minds a blessing or a curse?

Kate Murdoch

When Antonius’s father dies, he must work to support his family. He finds employment as a servant in the Palazzo Ducal, home of Conte Valperga. Sixteenth-century Pesaro is a society governed by status, and Antonius has limited opportunities. When a competition is announced, Antonius seizes his chance. The winner will be apprenticed to the town seer. Antonius shares first place with his employer’s son. The two men compete for their mentor’s approval. As their knowledge of magic and alchemy grows, so does the rivalry and animosity between them. When the love of a beautiful woman is at stake, Antonius must find a way to follow his heart and navigate his future.

Reviewers’ Opinions

‘Murdoch presents a delightful romance, feathered with light touches of fantasy. The development of her love triangle is gratifying, and even secondary characters offer stark dramatic moments…’ Kirkus Reviews ‘

‘Her characters’ interactions with each other and their individualities helped shape the book into something wonderful; at the same time she excels at pacing the story with her characters, all within a framework designed to help readers understand the world of seers and alchemy she has created.’ Readers’ Favorite

‘Kate Murdoch’s fabulous writing is full of vivid sounds, sights and scents that pull us into the scene, expressed in inspired word combinations that are a joy to read. A wonderful, entertaining book.’ Gail Cleare, USA Today bestselling author

Words about Kate:

Kate is a painter turned author who enjoys writing flash fiction and short stories when she’s not writing historical fiction. Her debut novel is a romance with an element of fantasy.  Kate became completely immersed in her Renaissance town and characters when writing the novel.  Kate found it difficult to depart from the world in her novel and this bodes well for a reader intent on escape. The best of luck to Kate with her debut novel.

 

Please see all my extracts at Book Extracts and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

A Feel Good Message from Diane’s Novel

I have invited Diane Need to present an extract from ‘Press Three for Goodbye’.  Her debut novel is a humorous exploration of second chances.  Beth, the central character, has been compared to Shirley Valentine, but she doesn’t travel to Greece in search of answers.

Without further ado, I will hand over to Diane who has a message for her readers.

Dear Readers,

I am delighted to present Press Three for Goodbye

Beth is a gentle and caring heroine, but a lot of fun, too, with the scrapes she gets into. The story deals with some serious issues, but there’s also plenty of humour.

I’ve chosen the extract as I believe it gives an insight into Beth’s character and one of the scrapes Beth finds herself in.

It’s an easy, feel good and uplifting read, ideal for the airport, on holiday or sitting by the fire with a cuppa (or a glass of wine!)

Happy Reading!

Diane Need

 

Presenting the Extract

Paul scrutinised the paw prints and cleared his throat before continuing. ‘I’m –’ he blustered, looking to Emily as if for support. ‘Well, the thing is – we’re here about Rodney; we think he should come and live with us. I paid for him, after all – and it’s obvious you can’t cope with him.’

‘I don’t care who paid for him; Rodney stays here!’ Beth cried.  ‘He loves being with me –’

‘Well, I think –’ Emily interrupted.

Beth’s head spun round like the girl possessed by the devil in the film The Exorcist. ‘What the hell’s it got to do with you? God knows why you’re even here!’

Right on cue, Rodney pawed at the door. Expecting him to demonstrate his love for her by jumping up, Beth pulled it open. He darted past her, something bright pink dangling from his mouth, and headed once more for the sheepskin rug.

Beth clapped a hand over her mouth. OMG – it was a pair of her old knickers – her “Bridget Jones’s”! To her total horror, Rodney held the material between his front paws and gleefully began tearing the gusset apart.

Paul and Emily stood aghast as she dived to retrieve her tatty pants.

Panting like a madwoman, she finally managed to wrestle them free from the dog’s jaws.

Paul shook his head and Emily gave a loud snort.

‘Why don’t the pair of you just piss off?’ Beth yelled. ‘And you’re not having the bloody dog – he stays with me. RIGHT?

They left without saying another word.

More about Press Three for Goodbye

When Beth, fast approaching forty and a stay-at-home wife, decides to put some romance back into her flagging marriage, her plans are thwarted when her husband announces he’s leaving her for his intellectual equal.  All he leaves Beth with is an order to vacate the family home and the wrath of her acid-tongued mother-in-law. Beth has no career, no money and no self-esteem.

Beth’s best friend Jackie manages to find her a job at a care home. The work is challenging, and, with a string of obstacles being dropped on her, one after another, her life descends into chaos.

There is a flicker of light on the horizon when handsome Ryan Morgan enters her life and offers to dog-sit her beloved dog, Rodney.  But are Beth and Ryan meant to be together? And will they be able to pursue a relationship when she discovers more secrets about those she thought she knew so well?

What do the reviews say?

“Great read which grabs your attention straight away and moves on at good pace.”

“This has everything: love and heartache, humour and friendship, courage and compassion.”

“Diane’s debut novel is a reminder that we have the power to rebuild ourselves even when we feel as though we’ve hit rock bottom.”

More about Diane

Diane Need

I’m a trained Counsellor with a background in education and social care, and I believe my work and personal life has given me insight and understanding into how life issues can impact upon people.

It felt a bit surreal when I’d written “The End.”  I couldn’t quite believe it!  I missed all of the characters, especially Beth, Jackie and Paul – and Rodney the dog, of course!

The novel explores the adage: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  I wanted Beth to work through the chaos and obstacles.  I adored the lolloping dog, and enjoyed booing at the annoying characters. Grab a large glass of wine, and read this book during a weekend, to find out it Beth survives.

You can read my review of this novel.

 

Please see all my extracts at Book Extracts and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Celebrating a slice of Italian history in my handbag

Angela Petch is an author of historical fiction, and she has written two wonderful novels set in Tuscany.  I completely lost myself in both novels. ‘Tuscan Roots’ and ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’ are based on her research into her husband’s family and his family’s region.  Angela and her husband live in Tuscany for six months of the year, thus her novels are written in the heart of the setting and culture. Angela’s intelligent and vivid style of writing is perfectly balanced with cultural and historical information. 

The ebooks of ‘Tuscan Roots’ and ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’ have been snapped up by Endeavour Press.  Angela has published short stories in People’s Friend and PRIMA magazine, and she won the Ip-Art short story award in 2008.

I simply adore Angela’s books and feel as if I have discovered a writer whose work will become classics.  I asked her to introduce the extract of ‘Tuscan Roots’ to prevent me from waxing lyrical for pages and pages. 

Cari lettori (Dear Readers),

It is 1944 and in a remote corner of German-occupied, war torn Italy. Ines, an eighteen year old Italian country girl is helping the partisans hide an escaped British POW. Meeting this young man will change her life forever.

There are two time threads weaving through “Tuscan Roots” and this extract from the story set in the past introduces Ines and Norman – two main protagonists. The diary extract is being read by her daughter, years later.

Saluti,

Angela

Presenting the extract:

“Rofelle, September 8th 1944

The inglese was still asleep on the planks above the cows. The nights were chilly and the animal warmth and dry hay made a comfortable bedroom – much better than mine. I have to share with nonna and she kicks and tosses at night. She snores like the pig we used to fatten for Christmas. There have been no pigs this year. The Germans have ‘requisitioned’ ours and everybody else’s in the area. ‘Pigs eating pigs,’ we muttered amongst ourselves.

Signore,’ I whispered.

There was no response. His face was long and pale, blond curls fell over his forehead which was bound with a dirty cloth. Blood had oozed and crusted onto the material. He was like a big baby.

Signore!’ I said it louder this time. There was still no response. I put the bowl of pasta down and gently shook him.

He opened his eyes, shouted and grabbed me round the neck. I pummelled him with my fists, I could hardly breathe. ‘Let me go, leave me alone!’ I shouted.

And then he recognised where he was and dropped his hands from round my neck. ‘Scusi, scusi. Sorry, signorina.

‘You nearly knocked over the food.’

I was shaking and rubbed my neck. His grip had hurt me. The cows below seemed to sense something was wrong and they mooed and stamped their hooves.

(Extracted from Ines’ diary. Chapter 10 “Tuscan Roots”)

More words about the book from Angela:

Tuscan Roots’ is a story of two women living in two different times. In 1943, in occupied Italy, Ines Santini’s sheltered existence is turned upside down when she meets Norman, an escaped British POW. In 1999, Anna Swill and, their daughter, starts to unravel accounts from assorted documents left to her after her mother’s death. She travels to the beautiful Tuscan Apennines, where the story unfolds. In researching her parents’ past, she will discover secrets about war, her parents and herself, which will change her life forever…

What do the reviewers say about ‘Tuscan Roots’?

It is indeed noteworthy that the ‘Tuscan Roots’ has received over fifty reviews!

“A wonderful read – it is a great combination of a true account and fiction that I truly couldn’t put down” (Elizabeth Pepper – Amazon) ;

Tuscan Roots is so much more than a literary take on ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ with its credibly fleshed-out characters, glimpses of life in war-weary occupied territory and dreary post-war London and a plot that keeps you on your toes but is never too convoluted – it’s a love letter to Tuscany.” – Ingenue Magazine. ;

“The way Angela has managed to capture in great detail the amazing natural beauty of this area and the culture of the Tuscan people is incredible.” Amazon Reviewer.

“If you love Italy, you will love this book. If you love history, this novel will show you an aspect of WW2 you may well not have encountered before. Angela Petch brings Tuscany to life; the customs, the people – you can taste the food, smell the wild flowers, see the scenery.” Amazon reviewer

Angela is a natural writer and describes herself as a ‘little bit nosey and always looking for stories’.  This piqued my interest and made me wonder how she had managed to weave such a beautiful story.

The inspiration behind ‘Tuscan Roots: A tangle of love and war in the Italian Apennines’

Tuscan Roots’ is my first novel and I wrote it for my lovely Italian mother-in-law who was ill at the time. She helped me with so many stories from her own life and allowed me to use them. I hasten to add that, although much of the book is factual and based on research, some of the story is fiction.  I missed the characters and so I wrote a sequel so I could mix with them again. Some of the main characters make a reappearance in “Now and Then in Tuscany” and …I am currently working on the third part of my Tuscan trilogy and the younger characters will tell their stories in this.

I cannot wait for the third novel in this series!

See my review of Tuscan Roots.

Angela’s contact detail:
Website: https://angelapetchsblogsite.wordpress.com
Twitter:@Angela_Petch
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AngelaJaneClarePetch/
Email:angela_maurice@hotmail.com

 

Please see all my extracts at Book Extracts and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.