17 months=5 sales and no sales in over a year. All the sales came within the first month of releasing the book. Book 2 came out in June and despite a great review from Fran Lewis in New York and good remarks from my editor,Julia, b2 has done nothing.
The Parleby-on-the Sea book case
It was a late April afternoon and Mark and Annette were in their garden, despite the driving rain and high winds. Mark was looking out to sea when Annette walked across their garden to talk to him.
“Darling, do you remember that date we talked about on the way back from Parleby-on-Sea?”
“If memory serves me, wasn’t it June 12th, love?”
“That’s right, I was just wondering...?”
“.If I had booked it for the gathering you wanted to go to with your medium friends.”
“Yes, that’s right, love.”
Looking concerned Annette said. “Don’t tell me you forgot? Please, you know I had high hopes of going.”
“No, last week I booked us in for a week. We are there from the 10th to the 18th.”
“Ohh! Mark Johnson, you are such a torment. There are times I could happily choke you but right now, I just want to hug and kiss you.” Annette gave Mark a sly grin, and a wink of acknowledgment. Then asked, “What aroused your interest down there, as if I need to ask?”
“Yes, you are right. I want to have a look around the old manor house, I’m sure there is more to it than we were told.”
“In what way?”
Scratching his stubble, Mark replied, “I can’t put my finger on it yet, but things don’t add up.”
“Yes, I got that idea, too, when Mrs. Chalmers was on about her family history, and how the positioning of the painter had nothing to do with the house in the background other than just fond remembrances.” Annette replied.
“The whole idea of that position was so out of order. It seemed strange to me as well, at the time. Why use that angle, if he wanted the house in view? There were better viewpoints.”
Annette thought for a minute before replying. “Unless, as she said, it was to show the faces in the house.”
“And that odd story of the mist not touching the ground around the house. It didn’t fit with the way things were looking to me,” Mark commented.
“I have to admit, that was rather mysterious, almost as if something under the ground was pushing it away,” said Annette.
“We have plenty of time to find out for ourselves. We’re down for the whole week.”
The drive to Parleby-on-Sea was far less tense than their previous visit, after Mark’s near breakdown when he was rescued from almost-certain death by Phil Moore.
Parleby in June is delightful. It’s the month of the annual fair, with all the trimmings, local foods, fish and beers. Various stalls are set up selling things, from trinkets made of shells, to old books and antique drawings. Whilst Annette browsed the stalls for nice scarves and rings, Mark was avidly looking at the book stall, trying to find a history of the area. As with most coastal towns and villages, folk tales abound and some were obviously just stories. With his open mind, Mark could often sieve the truth from the tale, for the price of a pie and a pint.
Mark was in the beer tent, having his second pint of Hen’s Cackle, when he overheard two locals talking, “Here, Jim, I heard they are trying to sell the old Chalmers house again.”
“They won’t have much luck there. Been on the market for nigh on fifty years now and got no takers.”
“Reckon, them Chalmers are cursed like the legend said?”
“Nay, the house just looks creepy out there on the moor, with nowt nearby.”
“Except the old boathouse.”
“Yes, except that hasn’t been used these many years now.”
“Not since Jimmy saw that strange being in there!”
“Aye, and he ain’t touched the drink since that day.”
“He still says it was the drink that made him see it. He reckons it was the Lord’s way of getting him sober.”
“We’ll never know. Only he knew, and he hasn’t spoken of it since.”
Mark’s interest was aroused, so he decided to ask some questions. “Excuse me gentlemen. I'm a visitor to Parleby, and I couldn’t help overhearing your stories. Do you mind if I sit and have a chat, please?”
“Certainly not. I’m Ken Drayton and this is Peter Marham,” the taller of the two men said.
“My name is Mark Johnson and I am a psychic researcher, amongst other things.”
“Other things being an ex-celeb photographer who gave up the high life,” said Ken.
Mark giggled at the idea, that his former job and walk-out had reached this remote village and said “Yes, I have to own to that one!”
Ken continued, “What interests you about this area?”
“I’m interested in the history and, in particular, the Chalmers family home. Even more so, since you were saying they can’t sell it,” Mark said.
“Not only can they not sell it, they can’t even give it away. Only five years ago the estate agent, Hodgson, Barrat and Nicherton, tried to get people interested. They said, anyone could have it for only £50,000,” Ken replied.
“They were giving it away, at that price!” Mark said
“I know,” said Peter. “And there were no takers, even at that price.”
“Why do you think they couldn’t sell it?” Mark asked.
“Folks around here say it is cursed by evil spirits and demons,” Peter said.
“You mean the ghost of the old man and his son.” Mark added.
“No. This is far older than that; this is Olde Earth Magic.”
“Like Earth spirits and powers from the seas?” Mark asked the two men.
“Yes, sir,” said Peter.
“Folks around here have been trying to cleanse the area since early days,” Ken added. “Them spirits can’t be moved.”
“What do you think is causing it?” Mark asked.
“Some say there is a volcanic vent nearby, but I wouldn’t know about it; I’m only a fisherman,” said Ken.
“Others say a rift in the earth,” Peter added. “Nobody had a definite answer to the question and nobody has been near the place since they tried to burn it down.”
“You said, ‘burn it down’ not try to burn them in it. Do you think the trapped men were prisoners themselves?”
“No doubts about that, young Mark,” added a third local voice. “Lenny Marris is my name, I’m the town historian. Pop in to the museum and I’ll show you something to get your interest going wild.”
“I’ll do that tomorrow, thanks. As for now, I have to find my lady friend.”
“Last time, I saw her, she was chatting to a lady she had met over at the shawl stall,” Ken said.
“Typical of Annette. Thank you for your help, gents, and have a pint on me,” said Mark as he left a ten-pound note on the table top.
“Thank you, Mark,” they called back.
Walking out of the tent, Mark’s eye was caught by a lady heading to the jewellery tent. She was not too tall, with short brownish hair, scurrying along as though on a mission. As he watched her, Annette’s familiar voice said “Hello, love, I was just coming for you. I’ve been chatting to a lovely lady called Rachel Stockman. It turned out she is a psychic reader as well, and we’re meeting at the gathering.”
“There is a weird thing!”
“I was in Uni with a girl by that name. I don’t suppose she’s the same one though.”
“She could be. She did say she was a psychic reader from her Uni days as well. The name isn’t that common.”
“Perhaps we will get another chance to meet her. By the way, did you see that lady who just walked past?” Mark asked describing the woman.
“No, love, there’s been nobody like that past here.”
“I’m sure I saw her but why only me?” Mark asked.
“Maybe with all this psychic energy gathered here, you saw a spirit manifestation?” Annette replied.
“It wouldn’t surprise me.”
After taking in the fairs, the food and the sea air, Mark and Annette ended their first day, with a walk along the headland. Always a source of spiritual charges for Mark, the seas kept calling to him. Looking out to sea, he was lost in a gaze, when Annette asked “You are thinking of her, aren’t you, love.”
“Yes, and wondering what it all means? Why can I see her?”
“Maybe, after a good sleep and a breakfast at Mrs. Pamell’s, things will come clear tomorrow,” Annette said.
Thoughtfully Mark replied “It was sad to hear of Mrs. Chalmers’s death last month in the paper.”
“Yes, it was a sad loss to the history of the town as she was the last of her family in the area.” Annette replied.
“I hope so,” said Mark and taking Annette by the hand, he led her back up the headland, with the breeze blowing stiffly. It was a long walk back.
After breakfast, Mark told Annette about the invitation to the museum.
“I was going there,” Annette added. “Rachel said there is a tale of a lost soul caught in between the worlds, and she was wondering if I could see her in the pictures.”
The walk from the guest house to the centre of town where the library was only took a few minutes as the couple walked hand in hand. As they crossed the main street opposite the library, Mark stopped and like a rabbit caught in the headlights, whispered to Annette, “Over by the post office, love, can you see her now?”
Slowly, knowing any quick movement might scare her off, Annette turned. “No, I can’t, love, but the weird thing is I can see her reflection, as if her spirit is being bounced across the ether to us.”
As they entered the museum, assistant curator Karen Jacobs was there to greet them. With her usual jolly outlook she said, “Morning, Miss Palmer, Mr. Johnson. Mr. Marris will see you in his office right away.”
Seated at his desk, the thin figure of Lenny Marris did not look out of place but more like an educated researcher amongst all his books.
“Morning Annette, Mark,” he said as he looked over a pile of old photographs.
“Morning, Mr. Marris,” Annette said politely.
“Call me, Lenny, please. This is a great pleasure, not business. I heard from our late mutual friend, Mrs. Chalmers, that you are interested in the drawing of the house and the angle it was from, Mark.”
“That’s right, Lenny. It seemed odd that it was from that angle. He could have moved around and done any other angle and still had the smaller house in.”
“She told me that you had spotted the faces at the windows,” Lenny said.
“Yes, I did, once I knew what to look for.”
“Did you see the small shadowy figure, between the houses, running?”
“No, I must admit I missed it!” Annette remarked.
Lenny looked quizzically at the pair and said, “May I suggest, Annette looks first. Being a spirit painter, she can locate it for you.”
Annette took the drawing from Lenny and noticed that in between the houses, there was at first what looked like a tiny speck of dust, but as she looked, it was changing shape and forming into a head.
“Here it is,” she cried. “I can see it now.”
As Mark looked between the houses, he could see the image forming into a girl scurrying across the ground. “My Lord!” he yelled. “It’s her, the girl at the fair and at the post office about an hour ago. What do you think, it means?”
“I have no idea, Mark,” Lenny replied. “Did you know the full story of that night?”
“No. We had only a brief look last time; we were rushing home.” Annette said.
“Everyone got the wrong idea about the fire. It wasn’t to kill those inside. They were trapped there by a source of earth magic. The people thought burning the house down would rid them of the spirits that had been here for all time. The problem was, they had no idea what was happening. Instead of ridding themselves of it, the fire was feeding on the underground energies and getting stronger all the time. The girl in the drawing is Jane Chalmers.”
“Any relation?” Annette asked.
“Yes. She is the great-great-great-grandmother of the Mrs. Chalmers you met. She was running to tell the town people not to burn the house as her lover was in there. When she saw the entity crawl out of the windows and down the wall, she stopped in horror as the blaze ravaged the house and everybody inside.”
Annette could see that look come over Mark’s face again. “I know what you are thinking, love, but please don’t go in there.”
“I would listen to the lady, Mark. We have no idea what is in there, what state the wood is in or what damage the fire did. When it had burned out the people left it and nobody has been in or near since then.”
“I promise. I won’t go in. I just want a closer look, that’s all.” Mark replied.
“Ok, I will allow you that pleasure, love,” Annette said, thinking, “As if that will stop him!”
After a hearty meal of bread, cheese and pickle, washed down with a couple pints of Hen’s Cackle, the lovers walked back to the headland to watch the seas. They watched the boats bobbing at anchor with their bells jingling, as the tide came rolling in. Gulls tumbling down made Mark think of home and how he was wishing for the peace and calm it brought.
The couple were walking through the fairground attractions and stalls, stopping for a snack here and a drink there, when Annette stopped suddenly. “Mark, I would like you to meet Rachel. Rachel this is Mark.”
He had been too deep in thought as they walked to notice Rachel walking by their side.
“I take it this is the man you were on about yesterday, Annette, and you’re right, he is a catch!” Rachel giggled and winked at Mark, as she said, “Well, as I live and breathe, Mark Johnson in person! We haven’t had any contact since we left Uni.”
Mark acknowledged the wink with a slight nod. “My goodness, Rachel Stockman, the years have surely been kind to you.”
“Annette told me that the pair of you have had some scary times, Mark,” Rachel said.
“That is so true, Rachel. I owe her my life at least twice over. Without her spirit guiding me, I would have been dead by now.”
“We do have our uses,” Annette commented.
“I know, darling.”
“I am off to see about getting some charms for the session tomorrow, so I will bid you young lovers a fond farewell. I look forward to seeing you at the sessions tomorrow, Annette. Mark, next time don’t be so remote.” With a wave and a flurry of hair, Rachel was gone.
As the new day dawned, Mark and Annette agreed on their plan to meet for lunch about 1:30 p.m., in the gap between the sessions with Rachel.
With a kiss and cuddle, they went their separate ways. Annette back to the fair to meet her friends from the spirit church and Mark went out to the old house. Mark was walking around with his camera, taking the odd photo here and there, when he thought he caught sight of something moving inside. Despite saying he would not go in, he was drawn to it.
As he entered the house, he could feel the chills that had seeped through and were drawing his strength. Slowly crossing the hallway, he came to the stairs, and moving slowly up them, he could sense something watching his every move. As he crossed the main landing, he glanced down, to see a being circling the floor. It was like a gargoyle with hidden claws on its back and teeth down its spine, twice the size of a man and as tall as a horse with hair blacker than the night and eyes of a yellow, the likes of which he had never seen.
Slowly walking across the landing, trying not to make a sound that would arouse this monster, Mark moved one foot in front of the other. Then the monster caught his scent and looked up. At that moment, Mark slipped and felt the floorboards crack under his weight.
At the session, Rachel was having a séance. Annette, who was holding Rachel’s hand, flinched for a second and then heard a voice say, “This is Rachel, please let me guide.” Feeling the power within them growing quickly, Annette let herself be taken over.
As Mark fell, he grabbed the railing. Hearing it slowly giving way under the strain, he thought, “Here you are. If you hadn’t let your stupid curiosity rule you, you wouldn’t be thinking this is the end.”
Either his grip would give or the railing would break, but either way, it did not look good. The answer came as he lost his grip and fell into the arms of this monster. As he fell, he saw the thing change shape, no longer a gargoyle but a shapeless mass of yawning mouths and teeth like razors. “Well, at least it should be quick,” was his last thought, as he blacked out.
Just as the foul odours of the monster’s breath brought him semi-awake, Mark saw as eagle of gold appear. When he looked at the eagle’s eyes, a filament of gold shot between him and the nearest railing, holding him firm. Then, the eagle swooped and dived on the monster, claws of gold slashing at the faces on the floor. The more the creature fought back, the stronger the eagle got until finally it ended.
Mark’s grip finally gave way and he fell. As he did the eagle flew up and he landed on its back. Taking him gently to the ground, Mark stepped down to find what was left of the monster. The floor covered in a black oozing mess and was hard to walk on, but gradually he got to the back door and let himself out just in time to see the eagle flying back to the fairground.
As it did, Annette sensed Marks’ relief and released her grip slightly on Rachel.
Dazed and confused, Mark walked back to the tented area to try and find Annette. As he passed the beer tent, he saw the lady in the painting again. Making his way to the session, he passed Lenny and they stopped for a quick pint. Mark took this time to try and calm down and told him of the escape.
Lenny scratched his head, deep in thought. He finally said, “Well, let’s find your lady, as I have something to show her.”
As the men walked out of the tent, they met Annette on her way in. Annette threw her arms around her man, and cried “Thank the Lord, you are safe, love!”
“Yes, but how did you know I was in danger?”
“About an hour ago, I felt a pain as though I was losing someone close to me and flinched. Rachel felt my worries and helped me guide you back to safety.”
“That would explain a lot of what happened in there. I was close to being eaten by a monster this time, love.”
As the two hugged and kissed in relief, Annette said “I know. Now will you listen when I say, please do not go in, love?”
After getting his breath back, Mark said “‘Lenny said he wanted to show us something.”
“What is it, Lenny?” Annette asked.
“Have a look closely at the drawing.”
Mark took a look, and then handed it to Annette.
“They have all gone: the old man, his son, and the young girl!” Annette remarked.
Thinking of what had happened, Lenny said, “The only reason I can think of is, what you did today released the energies that were keeping them here.”
Mark commented “Funny you should say that, Lenny. Just before we had our pint, she passed me and this time, just before disappearing, gave me a smile.”
As the group were leaving the fair, Annette asked Mark, “Did you and Rachel have a thing at Uni?”
“No, we were just on the same wavelength psychically, nothing more. The last I heard she was staying down on the coast, a guest of our mentor, P A Canella.” Mark replied.
“Do you think we will see her again, love?”
“I have no idea. We’re connected, but only in the same way as I am with Pat Sammels, and I have no idea where he is or what he is up to.”