‘The Dragon Sleeps’ takes place in 1927 Queensland, Australia and follows 21-year-old aspiring antiques dealer, Alexandra Thornton. Alexandra plans to follow in her forefather’s footsteps and get into the ages-old family business of antiques. Only her father doesn’t know it yet. As Alexandra plans to head to a weekend party at Thornton Park, her ancestral […]
As I start a new phase of my writing career, I’d like to share my news with you.
This week I signed a contract with a publisher, and not only for one book but for four books. They will pick up The Dragon Sleeps and also publish the three books that follow it in The Thornton Mysteries series.
I’m writing Book 3 now.
It’s more than I could have imagined, even in my wildest dreams, and definitely worth celebrating.
Book 1 The Dragon Sleeps is set in 1927 at Thornton Park, near Melbourne, Australia.
There is a weekend house party and amongst the guests are Zhang Huo, the Chinese antiques dealer who, with his son, has brought a Ming dragon statue from China for Thomas Thornton.
Then a body is found in the orchard and, before the weekend is over, a priceless artefact is stolen.
What secret has remained hidden at Thornton Park for the last eighty years?
A Dragon statue. An ancient sword.
What treasure is worth killing for?
Book 2 is set at the Thornton’s holiday home in Daylesford, country Victoria. Alexandra and Benedict are no sooner there, than Alexandra’s pearls are stolen. Two murders follow. A girl’s body thrown into a lake. The second body is found at the bottom of a collapsed gold mine tunnel.
What do these have to do with the drowning of Thornton Antique’s acting manager in Melbourne?
Then, Alexandra discovers an old love letter written by her grandfather, along with a necklace that is missing a large diamond.
Are the rumours about a cursed necklace true? Can a curse cling to an object and unleash its power through the decades?
Alexandra must discover the truth before more people are killed.
Sleeper’s Castle by Barbara Erskine.
Two women, centuries apart. One endless nightmare tearing Wales apart – and only they can stop it.
Hay-On-Wye, 1400 – War is brewing in the Welsh borders, Catrin is on the brink of womanhood and falling in love for the first time. Her father is a soothsayer, playing a dangerous game playing on the mixed loyalties and furious rivalries between welsh princes and English lords. For two hundred years, the Welsh people have lain under the English yoke, dreaming of independence. And finally it looks as though the charismatic Owain Glyndwr may be the man legend talks of. In the walls of Sleeper’s Castle, Catrin finds herself caught in the middle of a doomed war as she is called upon to foretell Wales’s destiny… And what she sees, is blood and war coming closer…
Hay, 2015. Miranda has moved to Sleeper’s Castle to escape and grieve. Slowly she feels herself coming to life in the solitude of the mountains. But every time she closes her eyes her dreams become more vivid. And she makes a connection with a young girl, who’s screaming, who’s reaching out… who only Miranda can help. Is she losing herself to time?
Sleeper’s Castle enthralled and enchanted me from the very beginning. Barbara Erskine effortlessly weaves together the two eras of this time-slip story. I loved the references back to the ancient druids and their sacred dreaming.
There’s magic and mystery, a hint of romance, wild Welsh countryside, and mysterious characters, such as Meryn, who is mentioned in the beginning of the story. When he makes an appearance, he still carries an aura of the unknown about him. Not to mention, Pepper, the condescending cat that believes he really own Sleeper’s Castle.
I love the historical side of the story, which follows the life of Owain Glyndwr, Prince of Wales, who waged a campaign to free Wales from the English yoke.
Sleeper’s Castle is the pivotal link. The house is an extra character in the story, with its own past, tragic tales and hopes for the future. However, it’s the stories of Miranda (Andy) and Bryn, in the present day, and Catrin and Edmund in 1400 that held me all the way through, along with the suspense engendered by a crazy ex-wife out for blood.
This is a fantastic read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it.
When I first thought of writing The Dragon Sleeps and needed a grand house for the Thornton’s family home, Werribee Park and mansion in Victoria came to mind. I’d first visited it years earlier and always intended to include a house like it into a story.
I thought you might like to read something about the house behind my Thornton Park.
Werribee Park is approximately 10 hectares of manicured gardens and native woodland. There is Werribee Mansion, which is next to the Victorian State Rose Garden, and also Werribee Open Range Zoo.
Many people think that Australia’s history is not as rich as England’s or Europe‘s and that we don’t have grand houses and gardens. They haven’t seen Werribee Park.
Scottish brothers Thomas and Andrew Chirnside, built the Italianate styled mansion over three years, from 1874 to 1877. They had made their fortune in Australia’s developing agricultural industry, so had the wealth to construct such an elaborate residence.
It’s intriguing to note that there was a romantic triangle here. Some years earlier, Thomas had proposed marriage to Andrew’s wife Mary, who was also their first cousin. The mansion was built by the brothers for Mary, who held both their hearts.
It is sad that Thomas committed suicide in 1887 from depression. Andrew died in 1890. Werribee Park was left to Andrew and Mary’s children, with Mary residing in it for the remainder of her life.
In 1923 the property was sold to the Roman Catholic Bishops of Australia, where it became a seminary, a place of reflection and spiritual development, named Corpus Christi College.
Today, the mansion is open to the public. It also has an adjoining hotel and spa. Visitors can experience the grandeur of Werribee Mansion, discover Victoria’s unique pastoral history down at the farm and homestead, or have a picnic on the Great lawn surrounded by stunning formal gardens.
It’s located 30 minutes from Melbourne by car.
Disbelief by M.J.T. Meijer
From the back cover…
Multiple mass-poisonings have occurred at pilgrimage sites throughout Europe. Sophie Pearson, a successful artist, created paintings of the horrific events before they occurred. There are more sketches, implying other attacks are to take place.
What does Sophie know? Who does she know?
It is up to Chief of Europol Dave Johnson and police consultant and psychic medium Ben Smit to unravel the ties between past and present, or more lives will be lost.
One thing is four certain – they won’t all make it to the finish line…
This fast-paced, exciting thriller will grip you and keep you held in suspense, wondering what will happen, until the final twist in the story.
It is a fantastic debut novel for M.J.T. Meijer. Meijer has written it with multiple viewpoints that carry the story through unexpectedturns and chilling developments, which take the reader from Amsterdam to Dubai, London, Lourdes and The Hague.
The characters leap off the page. They’re well-rounded and believable, and at times very frightening.
Dan Brown and Jeffrey Archer come to mind when I think of Disbelief.
If you love a great thriller, I highly recommend you read this book.
It’s a 5 Star read.
Disbelief by M.J.T. Meijer
Daughters of the Oak
The blurb of this extended edition of The Manningtree Account.
“A supernatural thriller, weaving witches, and ghosts, together, in one spine-tingling tale.”
1646 – The English Civil War. The Royalists of King Charles I, and Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, battle, both eager to lay claim to a tattered country, where life has become cheap and death trivial.
Though, for the lowly commoner, a greater, far more devious, war rages. It threatens the souls of the weak, timid and needy. Seeking refuge in the Lord’s word, God fearing folk employ the skills of one man, the Witchfinder. His success speaks of his talent, to seek out, punish and rid the countryside of Witches, the Devil’s Whores.
2016 – A paranormal team are called to investigate, as poltergeist activity brings terror to one family. Under the cover of darkness, in silent suburbia, an endless night of battle against evil ensues, until finally, a new day dawns.
Lies, secrets, and treachery, it seems, are never forgotten.
Welcome to Manningtree…
After reading The Manningtree Account, I was interested to read this extended version. Becky Wright has combined history with chilling imagination to craft this dark, paranormal tale of witchcraft. Of course, Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General, isn’t a fictional character. Women who were branded witches had no hope of escaping his brand of terror.
Becky Wright seamlessly merges the story in the 1600s with the characters in 2016.
I found Daughters of the Oak dark and disturbing.
The ending has quite an unexpected twist that is quite chilling.
If you like a dark tale, then this is for you.
I am delighted to welcome Soulla Christodoulou to my blog today.
Soulla is an author from London.
Today we’re discussing her new book The Summer Will Come.
Congratulations on its publication.
ER The Summer Will Come is very close to your heart and your heritage. So to start, would you like to tell us something about yourself and what inspired you to write this book?
SC I’m British born, with Greek Cypriot parents and I’ve always lived in London. Growing up I remember embracing my family’s traditions and our culture in a way which made me feel safe. I liked having something that made me different to the children in my class at school. I also liked the way other Greek Cypriot children would somehow become part of not only my friendship circle but their parents would come to know my family too. So in a way, my family was always growing!
In my adult years, my mother became ill and after a long battle with cancer I was overwhelmed with the news she was in remission. This experience impacted on me deeply and I questioned my purpose and my life’s path. I began asking questions about my heritage, my grandparents and their decision to come to London. I knew part of the story but never really thought about it in the context of the political landscape of the country at the time. This is what planted the seed that lead me to write The Summer Will Come.
ER I suspect your parents would have had many anecdotal stories to help you. However, you must have had to a do a lot of research.
SC They certainly did Ellen but you’re right in that my research, both primary and secondary, opened me up to the reality of the harsh, violent and disturbing political backdrop which has, even to this day, shrouded the island of Cyprus. I always believed Turkey were wrong to invade Cyprus in 1974, but going back over the history since 1953, I can see why they did, even if I disagree with it. The research I did, in the main, was around the political landscape. It connected me with the family of a famous EOKA hero, Evagoras Pallikarides, whose poetry, incidentally, gave me the title of my book. I interviewed many people of my parents’ generation and older too and their personal stories are what makes my book so real. It’s not about facts and figures, or what I gleaned from history books of the time, but personal accounts; it’s the passion, the love, the fear, the uncertainty, the reality of leaving the home they had ever known, which I have explored and hopefully, bring out in the story.
ER The story revolves around two families, both Greek Cypriot living in different villages in Cyprus. You’ve set the story in 1953. That was a turbulent time in Cyprus’s history. I refer in particular to a quote from your book, ‘You want to be a part of this. I praise your conviction to the EOKA cause even if I disagree. But it’s more complicated than you know. You’re putting yourself, and us, in danger.’
Could you tell us something about the turmoil and political conflict during those years?
SC Yes of course, although it’s all far more complicated than I am able to tell you here and I am certainly no specialist on the subject; much of my research involved personal accounts of that time period. Many of the stories talk of complete and utter chaos and a reign of inter-racial conflict; the EOKA guerrilla group fought hard against the British in an effort to gain freedom from British occupation. Initially, the British administration didn’t realise how serious the situation was and when they did, it was too late; EOKA was highly organised, regimented and those who signed up were patriotic to the death in wanting to secure freedom. It caused a panic, form the accounts I have heard, and as such the tactics used by the British too were ferocious and inhumane. Many innocent people, including Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and British, were killed in bombings and unprovoked attacks. Many school children got involved too with demonstrations against the British who retaliated by imposing curfews on villages and their inhabitants and arresting anyone who behaved suspiciously. It was a terrifying and chaotic time. There are, of course, many accounts written from many different viewpoints, however my book has been written from the viewpoint of those who lived in Cyprus during this time and it is these personal struggles that are depicted through the characters in my book. It is certainly not a political or historic encyclopaedia.
ER EOKA was a Greek Cypriot nationalist guerrilla organisation that fought a campaign for the end of British rule in Cyprus.
How many years did it take before this was achieved?
SC All in all, Ellen, it took 5 years until a resolution as reached which gave Greece, Turkey and Britain the authority to intervene should they have to through the Treaty of Guarantee. But if you look at the bigger picture it goes further back than 1955, all the way back to 1931 in fact and, I suppose, the repercussions of the EOKA movement is what ultimately lead to Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in the summer of 1974.
The British flag came down at midnight on the 15th August 1960 which brought to an end the British occupation of the island. So officially Cyprus gained its first day of independence on 16th August 1960.
ER Both families in The Summer Will Come immigrate to London. This must have been a challenge for them.
Could you tell us how they coped?
SC Both families in the story had common hardships; language, culture, finding work, but they also had their own individual hardships to face.
Elena’s family missing family and friends and even foods and personal belongings. came to London in the hope of starting a new life with the Kostas, the wife of Evangelia, but their dramas were shattered when it evolves he was weak man with poor morals and little regard toward his family responsibilities. This in turn, brought additional hardship to the family whereby Evangelia becomes the sole income earner of the family and Elena, despite being a promising at student at school, has to leave and work to supplement her mother’s income. Christaki’s family struggle initially as Loizos, his father, does not come to England with them. Christaki therefore has to grow up and becomes head of the family. Pavlo and Melani both have their own demons; Pavlo is angry and cannot settle, Melani begins to fight the restricting demands of her culture and traditions which are exacerbated against the backdrop of 1950s London.
ER The novel is written as a multi-point of view story – a mother and daughter from one family and a father and son from the other family. Elena, the daughter, and Christaki, the son, are the key main characters in the story.
How did you find writing in both female and male voices?
SC Actually I feel like I cheated a bit here. I knew my grandparents, both maternal and paternal, and Christaki and Elena are based loosely on my own parents, and so I just imagined what they would say. The only difficulty was getting across the same passion in the English language as would be evident had the story been written in Greek. I tried to compensate for this by using little Greek sayings and anecdotes my family have used over the years and which are still used today in Cyprus.
ER Do you have a favourite character in this book? Why?
SC I would have to say, Elena who is one of the four main characters. She is the one who grows up the most in the story from being a child living in the village of Kato Lefkara to becoming a mature young woman in London and finding herself despite the setbacks along the way; both external and personal. She longs to meet her father and when she does, despite her initial excitement and intrigue, she is disappointed and let down and neglected but despite this she loves him to the very end of the story. She deals with poverty, a controlling mother after the family’s move to England and yet she stands by her family despite their failings, which are not always intentional or malicious but rather a thread woven into their lives through tradition, culture and beliefs. She’s my favourite because she faces her chance for a new life with a happy-go-lucky outlook and a can-do attitude, which sometimes gets her into trouble…she reminds me a little of me in a lot of ways!
ER Readers interested in Greek Cypriot life and culture, as well as 1950s Cypriot and British history will love this book. It’s also a story of hope and new dreams.
What do you hope readers take away with them when reading The Summer Will Come?
SC I really hope that above all else they will get a real sense of what Cyprus was like and how passionate the people of the country are and how they held onto their values and traditions despite being miles away from home in a foreign land. It is with belief in God and their faith that drove them to continue and work hard to make things work in a new country, with no support network, a new language and culture and way of life to get used to.
ER What are you working on now?
SC I’ve written the first 43,000 words of a novel called Trust is a Big Word about an illicit online relationship that develops between two people. It’s quite experimental as I’m including in the book passages of narration in the first person, witter message feeds between the two main characters and poetry which one of the characters writes for the other.
ER What do you do when you’re not writing?
SC I’m a busy bee doing lots of other things including private tutoring from home, working part-time for a private tuition school as well as working on commissions for proof-reading and editing and writing marketing content and blog posts for clients. I enjoy meeting up with my friends, especially if there’s dancing involved, and of course being Greek Cypriot I spend a lot of time with my immediate and extended family, which always involves food…a lot of food! I enjoy walking and holidays that take me to places that make me think and feel differently. (I can add a bit about India here if you like – going there in Feb)
ER I’d like to thank you so much for joining me today. I wish you every success with The Summer Will Come.
Thank you so much for having me Ellen and for putting together this really thoughtful interview. I’ve really enjoyed taking part…you’re a dear friend and I wish you well with your writing too.
Born in London to Greek Cypriot parents Soulla Christodoulou spent much of her childhood living carefree days full of family, school and friends. She was the first in her family to go to university and studied BA Hotel & Catering Management at Portsmouth University. Years later, after having a family of her own she studied again at Middlesex University and has a PGCE in Business Studies and an MA in Education.
Soulla is a Fiction author and wrote her first novel Broken Pieces of Tomorrow over a few months while working full time in secondary education and is a mother of three boys.
She is a compassionate and empathetic supporter of young people. Her passion for teaching continues through private tuition of English Language and Children’s Creative Writing Classes. She offers writing services too in support of businesses, authors and students.
Her writing has also connected her with a charity in California which she is very much involved in as a contributor of handwritten letters every month to support and give hope to women diagnosed with breast cancer. One of her letters is featured in a book ‘Dear Friend’, released on Amazon in September 2017.
When asked, she will tell you she has always, somewhere on a subconscious level, wanted to write and her life’s experiences both personal and professional have played a huge part in bringing her to where she was always meant to be; writing books and drinking lots of cinnamon and clove tea!
She also has a poetry collection inspired by old phrases and sayings, Sunshine after Rain, published on Amazon and is releasing her second novel, The Summer Will Come in March 2018.
She is currently working on a third novel, Trust is a Big Word, about an on-line friendship which evolves over time into an illicit cyber relationship.
A Word from Soulla.
I have recently come back from India and after spending 23 days there I can honestly say the country and its people have inspired a deeper happiness in me, which coupled with gratefulness, has allowed me to look at my life, for a second time, with different eyes.
Travelling always seems to impact on me in a big way; it refreshes, enlightens, empowers me in so many ways.
You can buy The Summer Will Come at the following:
Connect with Soulla:
REVIEW TIME: by Ellen Read
Young love, an Irish legend, a hidden lighthouse and Peter Pan – I was hooked before I started reading.
This is also a story of mental illness, an otherworldly encounter, loss and grief. Holly Ducarte handles these difficult themes with great sensitivity.
‘We’re all like paper dolls. Happiest when linked to another, often unaware of our flimsiness. So easily torn. What happens when we reach out to find there’s no one there to hold our hand?’
These are the opening lines of the story.
Becky is torn and is reaching out for a hand to hold. She finds it in Shawn, the boy-next-door, who believes magic does exist.
In the beginning, I had mixed feelings about Rebecca because she is rebellious and so difficult to get along with, but I sensed her vulnerability. She is a teenager, she’s lost her mother, doesn’t know her father well, and is then whisked away to a new house in a new coastal town in Nova Scotia. I soon felt empathy for her. This is really a testament to Ducarte’s writing that she portrayed Becky so well.
Becky’s relationship with her father, Andy, is an important thread in the story and I was pleased with how it developed. In the beginning, I wasn’t certain if I’d like Andy but my respect and liking for him grew.
I loved the references to Peter Pan and, in the magical dreamlike scenes, I felt myself fly away with them on their adventure. Shawn becomes Becky’s Peter Pan. This gives her a lifeline but forces beyond her control send Rebecca spiralling into dark places. When she emerges, she wonders what was real.
This book moved me so deeply.
I highly recommended this YA read. It’s excellent, something very different.
Well done, Holly Ducarte, on your debut novel.
Thank you to Michael Chrobak for inviting me to write a guest post for his blog.
Please visit his link below.
Sausages are also a much-loved breakfast fare, along with English muffins and toast, served with marmalade and strawberry jam. All served with tea or coffee.
At Thornton Park, morning tea is also served in the morning room or on the veranda. The Thorntons find Scones and Lemon Pound cake delicious. Served with tea – Earl Grey, Darjeeling or Ceylon teas. Black teas are preferred.
Luncheon, usually served on the wide veranda, weather permitting, often comprises dishes such as Asparagus Salad with Saffron Vinaigrette or Smoked Salmon. Often cold meats left from the night before are used. Mrs Preston always has her eye on the costs and her budget. A soufflé is a regular dessert. A light wine accompanies the meal, followed by tea and an assortment of cheeses.
A Banbury cake is a spiced, currant-filled, flat pastry cake, although the filling often includes mixed peel, brown sugar, rose water, rum, and nutmeg.
Dinner is a formal meal, even when the family is alone. A dinner party is a totally different and more elaborate menu. The family always dresses for dinner. They have sherry in the drawing room before they move into the dining room.
Hor d’oeuvres comprise Canapés à l’Amiral and Oysters a la Russe served with champagne.
The Main course is often Chicken Lyonnaise or Stuffed Pork Tenderloin. Served with white wine.
For Desserts, Mrs Preston excels at Charlotte Russe, a dessert invented in France by chef Marie Antoine Carême in the early 1800s. He named it in honour of his Russian employer Alexander I (russe is the French word for “Russian”). It’s a cold dessert of Bavarian cream set in a mould lined with sponge fingers. Lemon Soufflé is also favoured. A sweet dessert wine is served.
Coffee is served in the drawing room with a selection of cheeses. The men, in particular, enjoy brandy at this time. The ladies usually prefer port or liquor.
Mrs Preston is undoubtedly a remarkable cook, an equal of any chef in a five star restaurant of today. She has help in the persons of a kitchen maid and a scullery maid. The latter is the less desired job that entails going into the scullery and washing and drying all the dishes from the family dining room and the servants’ dining room. The family use crystal glasses, silver cutlery and fine bone china crockery, so the utmost care has to be taken.
Nevertheless, it is Mrs Preston who shines. Alexandra Thornton frequently takes the time to go to the kitchen and compliment this remarkable woman.
Find Ellen’s Books Here:
You may wonder why I have a wombat in my photo. This is Waddles. I bought him in Daylesford when I was researching my next book. So what does a wombat have to do with a cozy murder mystery?
My next book, the second in The Thornton Mysteries is set in Daylesford, Victoria, Australia, where the Thorntons have a holiday home. It isn’t as grand as Thornton Park but it’s a large house set into the side of Wombat Hill. There’s the clue. Daylesford, in its gold mining days, was called Wombat.
I first went to Daylesford about ten years ago. It’s set in the Macedon Ranges and is a favourite spa town. The area is known for its mineral springs. Mt Franklin, which most Australians know of, is about a twenty minute drive away.
The Thornton’s home is Wombat Hill Manor, and just as I did with Thornton Park, I based Wombat Hill Manor on a real building. It was initially built as a private residence and later sold to the Catholic Church as a Convent.
It’s now The Convent Gallery, beautifully restored as an art gallery and restaurant/cafe. If you go to Daylesford, I recommend going there. It’s about a one hour drive from Melbourne and worth the trip.
I’ve been to Daylesford twice this year, the first time to do research for my book. The second time was after I finished my first draft and I wanted to check on some details.
This year has been a busy one. The two trips to Daylesford. A trip to Adelaide and the Barossa Valley, which besides being a wonderful holiday, was also research for book three. For those who don’t know, the Barossa Valley in South Australia is famous for it’s wineries. I’ll be starting book 3 early in the new year. You’ll remember from reading The Dragon Sleeps that Benedict’s family own a vineyard in South Australia. There’s a hint about book three.
I’ve not long returned from a trip to Hawaii. It was another fabulous holiday with my family. I thought I can’t go to such a location and not write a book set there. I didn’t have any ideas for a story when I arrived but I had the start of Book 4 before I left. My dilemma was why would the Thorntons want to go to Hawaii. Book two is set in 1928. Book three in 1928 also. So why in 1929 would they want to travel so far? The reason came to me. I was so pleased! Originally, I intended writing three books but now book four is on the schedule.
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends and I wish you a Happy New Year.