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Quirky Guest Post Blog Marathon

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I am delighted to be taking part in this Quirky Guest Post Blog Marathon today.  Virginia King has featured on my blog several times now and it is always a pleasure to host her.

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The Stalker’s Guide to French Wine

by Virginia King

Stalker's Guide to French WineIn The Second Path, Book Two in my psychological mystery series, my main character Selkie Moon is confronted by a number of bizarre and cryptic clues which lead her across the world to France. As the story evolved, some of my experiences from several recent three-month stays in France added depth to the story.

As my husband and I drove from Bordeaux airport, north through the Dordogne, to Tours in the Loire Valley we contracted the flu, la grippe catastrophe. About an hour after arriving in Tours we were stricken and didn’t get out of bed for eleven days. Almost. After nine days of dry toast we decided a bottle of French wine was what the doctor forgot to order.

There was only a supermarket within walking distance. French supermarkets have a dizzying array of wine but from past experience we knew price was no indication of quality. In a previous visit several bottles were so bad we’d poured them down the sink.

The weather was foul. I was in better shape than hubby so I zipped myself into my raincoat, walked to the supermarket and, as a shortcut to choosing something drinkable, I proceeded to stalk various shoppers in the wine aisle to see what they bought. In a draft of The Second Path this experience inspired a short scene. Selkie Moon is feeling all alone in Paris and she’s telling her friend Derek, laid up in Hawaii, about her wine shopping experiences.

***

As predicted, Derek’s got over his huff.  He skypes me every day from the sofa, his foot encased in a moon boot. I hide the depths of my loneliness by regaling him with adventures designed to make him feel involved. 

“I’m not sure what I’m missing most,” he says. “The food or the wine.”

“The wine’s a challenge,” I say, wanting to divert him from how few restaurants I’ve sampled. “In the supermarket there’s a huge range of wines you’ve never heard of but you can’t tell what’s good, even by price. Some of my choices have been so undrinkable I poured them down the sink.”

“A travesty.” He knows I’ll drink almost anything.

“So I stalked some customers. To see what they bought.”

“You didn’t.” He laughs. “See what mischief you get up to without me?”

“I can’t ask anyone for help, so I loitered in the wine section, looking for a shopper I could trust.” It’s been one of my lighter moments. I can’t be pouring wine down the sink on my budget. “Two teenage girls cruised by and picked up some bottles of bubbly. Pink.”

“I don’t think so,” Derek says, pursing his lips.

“An old gent in an overcoat grabbed something very cheap and put it in his pocket.”

“Not your demographic.”

“Then a business couple in their thirties turned up, shopping together after work, arguing about the wine.” 

“Promising.”

I couldn’t understand a word but their body language was universal. “She wanted one particular red, he wanted another. They went back and forth a few times, getting heated. In the end they took both. And so did I. Great drinking at six euros each.”

I don’t tell him I consumed both bottles the same night and woke on the terrace shivering under a layer of dew.

***

I love the scene as an interlude amongst the deeper issues, but my editor felt it was too light-hearted for the serious themes around it. I couldn’t find anywhere else to put it, so it was axed. Boo hoo. Readers of Sonya’s blog are the only ones who are going to see it.

In The Second Path, Selkie has other adventures based on my French experiences, spun into a mystery with a mythical twist. In her sleep she collects seven strange objects, including a French spoon. Then later in a market she buys a set of silver ducks – little French cutlery rests that turn out to hold a secret clue to the mystery. A French fairy tale inspired a chilling experience for Selkie, its symbolism creating more mythical layers in the mystery.

In spite of the axed scene I still recommend stalking as a great way to choose good cheap wine in a French supermarket.

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The Second Path - book cover

Book Blurb

A rock ripped from the soil, a message scrawled in lipstick on the floor, a torn photo, a silver spoon … What do they all mean?

Only her subconscious knows.

When we last left Selkie Moon, she was running towards the source of her deepest primal fear: the sea. Now she finds herself naked on the beach, stunned that she has no memory of the past two weeks.

Recovering at a friend’s house, Selkie wakes up to discover a bizarre collection of items scattered across the floor. Items she apparently gathered in her sleep. Finding the ho’ohihi – the interconnectedness – between them will carry her around the globe, from Honolulu to Sydney to Paris. A dark fairy tale journey filled with fear and despair, laughter and hope, The Second Path has Selkie searching for her place in the world, in her relationships, and in herself.

Searching for home.

 

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Download Your FREE Ghost Story

Laying Ghosts
If you like your psychological mysteries with a mythical twist, you can download Laying Ghosts – a 24-page stand-alone ghost story which is also a prequel to the Selkie Moon Mysteries. It explains the bizarre event that led Selkie Moon to escape her life in Sydney and start over in Hawaii, only to become embroiled in a mythical nightmare in the first book in the series, The First Lie. Download your free copy here http://www.selkiemoon.com/#popup

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Giveaway of The First Lie

The First Lie - book cover

You could be one of ten lucky winners who will choose either a signed paperback or an audio book of The First Lie plus a $15 Amazon gift code. One grand prize winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift code.

Enter here: http://www.selkiemoon.com/win-a-signed-copy/

 

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About Virginia King

Author Picture

When a voice wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you to write a mystery series what’s a writer to do? That’s how Virginia King came to create Selkie Moon, after a massage from a strange woman with gifted hands was followed by this nocturnal message. Virginia sat down at the keyboard until Selkie Moon turned up. All she had to do was jump, the first sentence said. Soon Virginia was hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.

Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia had been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.

 

Links

Website: http://www.selkiemoon.com/

Blog: http://www.selkiemoon.com/la-bloguette/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selkiemoonmysteries

Twitter: https://twitter.com/selkiemoonbooks

 

Retail Links

http://www.selkiemoon.com/buy-the-books/

 

Virginia King’s Mythical Clue Giveaway

The First Lie - Book Cover

Virginia King is running a Mythical Clue Giveaway.  Read on to find out more.

 

The First Lie

Selkie Moon is a woman on the run. In a mad dash for freedom she’s escaped her life in Sydney to start over in Hawaii. But her refuge begins to unravel and soon she’s running from something else entirely. A voice in a dream says: Someone is trying to kill you. Not that Selkie’s psychic, no way. But the threats escalate until she’s locked in a game of cat and mouse with a ghostly stalker. Entangled in Celtic and Hawaiian mythologies, the clues become so bizarre and terrifying that her instinct is to keep running.

But is she running from her past? Or her future?

 

Mythical Clue Giveaway!

Like to win an autographed paperback or one of five Kindle ebooks of The First Lie?

Just read to the end of the extract and answer the question that follows, by clicking on the link to Rafflecopter.

Winner drawn at the end of November. Good Luck!

 

Prologue

February 1979

It happens on a beach.

A little girl is splashing in the shallows. Falling over, getting up again. Squealing. A woman in a sundress watches from under a hat, while a woman in a swimsuit plays with the toddler.

Suddenly a big wave comes from nowhere and pulls the child away from the shore. It tumbles her over and over and she waves her little arms and legs at the sky.

The woman in the swimsuit laughs. “You’re a mermaid.”

But the other woman is screaming. “What are you doing? She’s drowning.”

“It’s just a wave. It’s saying hello.”

The woman in the sundress rushes into the water and pulls the child back from the grasp of the sea. “Look at her, she’s crying. She’s coughing up sand.”

“That’s what happens at the beach.”

“She could have drowned.”

“The gods called her Selkie because she’s a mermaid.”

“You and your stupid fairytales. She isn’t safe with you. She isn’t safe.”

 

Chapter 1

I’m falling off a cliff towards the rocks and the sea, when these words ring in my ears.

Someone is trying to kill you.

They reverberate like a call to prayer. Clear. Insistent. Almost musical.

The meaning rattles me to consciousness and I sit up with a start. But as I wait in the semi-dark for the words to repeat themselves, there’s only an aching silence. As if they never happened. Except their shape has left a shadow on the wall of my mind and my body has started to tremble.

I reach for my bathrobe and wrap myself against the sudden chill, wishing I wasn’t alone. It’s a familiar feeling. All by myself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Without a life raft.

Unless Wanda crept back after midnight, but across the room her bed lies untouched. No telltale lump under the covers. And no whirring of her blender from the kitchen. She’s stayed out all night again. It usually makes her the perfect flatmate.

Of course I’ve had bad dreams before. Often the same one. I’m trapped underwater, tangled in something so my arms don’t work, and wake up to find it’s only the sheets. But never anything like this.

Because it wasn’t just a dream. It was a message. Seeping into my brain. Someone. Is. Trying. To. Kill. You. As graphic as stumbling across a gravestone in a churchyard inscribed with my name and today’s date.

For the first time I notice the quality of the silence. Complete. The bedside clock isn’t ticking. The water pipes aren’t clunking. Even the whispering sea is absent. I pull the robe a little closer and focus on the steady movement of my chest. I’m not dead yet.

And the message makes no sense. Who would want to kill me? After only three months I’m still a stranger here, and there aren’t many murders in this part of the world. It’s why people come to Hawaii. To play it sunny and safe. And anyway, I’m not the kind of woman to inspire that kind of violence. Although my ex would disagree. Andrew still can’t believe I’ve swapped opposite corners of the ring for opposite sides of the globe.

Where did the message come from? The remnants of the dream? But it sounded like . . . a disembodied voice. With that thought an invisible presence seems to fill the space.

Something . . . spoke to me.

My eyes scan the walls and dozens of eyes stare back. Wanda’s artworks, fashioned from dead fish. In garish colours with painted lips. They might ooze an excess of character but they don’t speak. Although with Wanda’s gift for hocus-pocus it wouldn’t surprise me.

Any other possible culprits? A naked shop dummy sits on a chair at the end of Wanda’s bed, her plastic legs akimbo. Doris. For the first few weeks I kept jumping out of my skin every time I caught sight of her. Wanda has dressed her in a Hula skirt and peppered her torso with nails, like a woman in a Dali painting. She drapes her with anything from net bags to headbands to leis. Today Doris is wearing a straw hat even though she doesn’t have a head. No head, no voice, right?

The room is a tribute to Wanda’s eye for other people’s trash, and my few belongings barely make an impression on the menagerie. A large Buddha head with four faces forever contemplating his split personality. Two fairies shadow-dancing on an art-deco tray. A parrot made from nuts and bolts poised on his own perch. In childhood these creatures might have spoken to me, but my stepmother, Stella, banished imaginary friends long ago.

On the ledge above my bed my Shona sculpture is just a head and shoulders. I brought her with me when I took off from Sydney with two business suits and not much else. A chunk of black and silver rock from Zimbabwe, her profile is as enigmatic as ever. And as silent. But she’s no whisperer. If Shona had a warning for me she’d come right out with it.

The presence is still here. A kind of touchless stroking against my bare skin. Seductive but unnerving. It’s making me as rigid as Doris but my eyes keep darting back to the slash of early-morning light spilling through the bathroom doorway. Is it coming from there?

When I was a child I used to feel things like this, invisible things. Stella made me stand in the bathroom until they were gone. I’m still a bit afraid of bathrooms, their cold unwelcoming surfaces gleaming my wild-eyed stare back at me. So it’s all I can do to get off the bed and tiptoe towards the doorway.

There are no doors to hide an intruder. And no shower curtain over the bath. When I start hyperventilating about Janet Leigh in Psycho, I tell myself to get a grip. No-one would bother breaking in here. The address might be Waikiki, but that’s where the glamour ends.

The sun through the window bathes me in light and I scan the empty bathroom with relief. Only my imagination playing tricks. But that’s when I see it. In the mirror at the end of the bath.

A face.

It’s a woman, just her face, but I’m sure she’s naked and reclining in the tub. She’s looking straight at me as if she’s been waiting, her eyes so piercing they latch onto mine and won’t release me, even when I try to pull away. For a long breathless moment our gazes are locked together and I’m lost in the depths of an emotion I can’t name. Then she lets go and the recoil spins me towards a window full of light. Now I’m blinking at the bath. Empty. Still empty. And when I spin back to the mirror she’s gone.

It takes me a few seconds to come to my senses because it feels like I’ve been doused by some unbearable sorrow. Then I’m back in my body, splashing my face at the basin, stumbling back to the bedroom and flopping on the bed.

The bedside clock begins to tick, its rhythmic beat counting the seconds like a metronome. The hands are showing six. They haven’t moved since the message woke me – surely at least five minutes ago. And the sun doesn’t rise this early, not in February. Does that mean the last five minutes didn’t happen?

It doesn’t matter how early it is, I’m phoning Wanda. She’s the one who put that stupid mirror there. After a dream, she insisted that the bath needed to see the sky.

“How can it see?” I asked as she propped the mirror with great ceremony against the wall at the end of the bath. “Bathtubs . . . don’t have eyes.”

“We’re talking spiritual eyes. Put yourself in her place, staring at a blank wall all day. Soul-destroying. Like being paralysed. But if we put this mirror opposite the window, see? The sky’s reflected and she’s reconnecting.”

“Reconnecting with what?”

“Her wild nature.”

There’s a lot of that kind of talk around here. Wanda thinks everything’s got a spirit, every rock and insect, even our old ball-and-claw bath.

“Let’s ask her for hotter showers,” I said. Just one of the reasons this flat is cheap.

“Out of her control. She’s the vessel, that’s why she’s female. She receives. Contains. Transforms. The mirror’s special too. It reflects female energy.”

Its silver frame is curved like a woman. Narrow at the waist, wide at the bust and hips.

“But we’ll notice a difference in other ways,” Wanda said. “After a bath, we’ll be radiant.”

It all seemed like a bit of fun. I’ve been waiting for Wanda to give the bath a name and paint its toenails red. But now because of that mirror I’ve looked into the eyes of . . . a woman who wasn’t there.

Confusion drives me outside onto the walkway where dawn is breaking and the air is fresh. As my fingers fumble with the phone, it feels good to inhale. If Wanda’s in bed with her new man it can’t be helped.

No answer. I leave an agitated message and start pacing.

I’ve got to get dressed and go to the office but that means going back inside. I close my eyes and try to calm my breathing but the woman’s face appears. This time it’s just the memory, her gaze caught in freeze-frame, and one of Stella’s phrases gallops up the long tunnel from childhood: “It’ll cause you trouble, your imagination. Just like your mother. If you can’t touch it, it’s a figment, and figments can carry you away.” My stepmother has a way of creeping up on me, just like she did when I was a child. I might have left her on the other side of the world but she’s still living inside my head.

My phone rings. “Sorry I couldn’t pick up, Selkie. Up to my armpits in mullet.” Wanda’s at the docks judging by the hubbub. “Hang on.”

Now she’s talking to someone and a man is laughing. One of her fishermen, no doubt.

They give them to her – dead fish – because she’s an art student. (Her long legs and short shorts have nothing to do with it.) She presses the corpses into squares of soft resin, adding shells to make borders. When the moulds harden she paints them and sells them at the markets as Art.

“OK. They’re in the cooler getting acquainted. Something must be up if you’re calling this early.”

“It’s that mirror.” My voice is croaky. “The one at the end of the bath.”

“You didn’t break it, did you?” Pause. “Oh my God, you saw something.”

“A face. I saw a face. A woman . . . who wasn’t there.”

Spoken out loud it sounds delusional but Wanda is taking it seriously. “OK, keep breathing. Let’s eliminate the temporal. It wasn’t . . . your own face.”

“I do know what I look like, Wanda. Even in the mornings. And I wasn’t peering into the mirror. I was standing in the doorway, looking at it from the side.”

“So it could have been at the window. That’s the angle. Sometimes kids climb up trying to get a look at one of us under the shower.”

It’s the first I’ve heard of it, but it wasn’t a kid. “It was definitely a woman. And she wasn’t at the window, she was in the bath. Until she wasn’t.”

“OK.” She thinks for a moment. “What do you want me to do, call in an exorcist?”

“Hell, no. Just move the bloody thing.” Into a dumpster on the other side of the island.

“You can move it. Turn the mirror to the wall and it loses its power.”

“No way. And I’m stuck outside in my bathrobe. How am I going to get to work?”

“If she disappeared she’s gone for now. It’s safe to take a shower.”

“I’m not going near that bath.”

“OK. Go into the bedroom and throw on some clothes. You can do that. And meet me in an hour. At your office.”

Holding my breath, I open the front door and rush inside, but the air feels clear as if the presence is long gone. I toss off my bathrobe and pull on my red suit and heels. Hair and makeup would mean looking in another mirror so I throw a few things into my tote bag and slam the front door. Not quite my usual transformation to corporate warrior.

 

Question:

Why does Selkie leave her flat without doing her hair and makeup?

For a chance to win an autographed paperback or one of five Kindle ebooks of The First Lie, answer the above question and enter the raffle here.

 

Can’t wait for the prizes?

If you’re hooked and want to buy The First Lie now for the special price of US $2.99, then if you win a copy I’ll gift you the next book in the series The Second Path instead 🙂 (Read an extract)  Also follow Selkie Moon on Facebook for monthly giveaways & paranormal humour.

Buy the book:

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/First-Lie-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00K1VC20Y/

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/First-Lie-Selkie-Moon-Mystery/dp/0992487021/

 

Cover Reveal – ‘The Second Path’ by Virginia King

The Second Path cover

Last week I posted a joint guest post on my blog from Virginia King and Kendra Olson.  You can read it here:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/one-cover-poll-two-authors/

I am now pleased to be revealing the cover of Virginia King’s new book, ‘The Second Path’.

 

Book Blurb

The way home can get complicated. When Selkie Moon wakes on a Hawaiian beach, naked and confused, strange clues about what’s happened to her draw her inexorably to France. But little does she know the mysterious path she’s heading down, the people who will challenge her on the way – and where it will end.

In the same tradition as The First Lie, The Second Path follows a cast of quirky characters through a maze of mythical clues and psychological suspense.

http://www.selkiemoon.com/

 

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