eBook price reduction. Marketing experiment.

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Marketing is a cutthroat business, and as an author, I don’t profess to know much about it apart from what I’ve gleaned on forums.

Once the cover, blurb and price are set, there’s not much more the author can do – or is there?

Writing blogs, creating a Facebook author page, Twitter account, and website are all advised marketing strategies, but unless you can reach the target audience by these methods, what good are they, really?

It’s all well and good putting all these marketing aids in place, but if the likes, tweets and followers are not actually interested in the books the author writes, what is the point? A Facebook page can have hundreds of likes from fellow authors and a twitter account can have as many followers, but if they don’t lead to actual sales, what is the author actually achieving?

I have all those strategies viable and I update them and keep them active on a regular basis, but the only way my books gain popularity is by lowering the price for a limited time.

As an experiment in marketing, I’m lowering all my eBook prices on Amazon to $0.99 or £0.99 or equivalent in your country. Promotional prices on all titles will be effective from 23rd March, but for The Scent of Bluebells, which will be effective from 31st March.

The price promotion will last until the first week in May, but may be prolonged if the experiment is successful.

I will be blogging the results as a percentage increase or decrease per title at the end of the experiment.

It will be very interesting to see what happens.

See all my titles on Amazon.com here Pearl a Gardner

See all my titles on Amazon.co.uk here Pearl A Gardner

Excerpt No 8, ‘They Take our Children, Book One, the Truth Revealed.’

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This excerpt is from a science fiction novel about alien abduction. If you would like to read the novel from the beginning, please see the previous excerpts in, ‘They Take our Children.’

The complete eBook series is available on Amazon stores worldwide.

Please go to an Amazon online store to purchase this novel if you can’t wait to read the rest.

Chapter Eight: (In the past, George)

George knew Mary was watching him suspiciously as he listened at the telephone. They’d had so many calls from strangers these last few weeks and this one began to sound like another crank. George had even considered changing the telephone number, just to get some peace. They’d enough to worry about with Helen being the way she was, without all these strangers pestering them. This caller was insisting that he could help Helen.
George was nodding, though he kept his expression grave. He knew Mary was closely following the conversation. He now believed the call was not from a crank. From what the man was saying, he seemed to know a lot about Helen’s condition and George was now listening intently. Mary came to his side as soon as he replaced the receiver.
‘Who was that?’ she asked, obviously worried by George’s expression.
‘An investigator, he wants to come and talk to us.’ George said vaguely, his mind still full of the telephone conversation.
‘What’s he investigating? Is it to do with our Helen?’ Mary sounded hopeful. They had both reached the stage where they would grasp at straws. George knew that Mary was ready to consider almost anything that could help Helen to get back to her normal self, but his wife was a practical minded woman. He knew she would have no time for anything other-worldly.
‘It could be helpful to see him,’ he said, not giving anything away. He knew, as desperate as Mary was, she would have no time for an investigator of the paranormal.
‘When is he coming?’ she asked.
‘Tomorrow afternoon.’ George went to his daughter who lay on the sofa staring blankly at the TV screen.
Sitting by her side, he took her hand and began to stroke it gently. Unlike his wife, George was ready to try anything, listen to anyone, if it meant restoring sanity to this child of his; no matter how weird or far fetched it sounded.
Janine’s nightmares had stopped the night previous to finding Helen in her vacant state. Their youngest child suffered a few ill effects. She jumped at shadows and became upset at the most trivial annoyance. She was nervy and twitchy and found it difficult to sleep. The doctors had prescribed tranquilisers at first. George wasn’t too happy about the drugs, but she only took them for a couple of weeks and seemed to settle down. When the doctor took her off the pills, he offered some counselling for their youngest child and explained that she seemed to be suffering from some kind of post-traumatic syndrome.
As Helen’s illness went on, Janine began having temper tantrums. She used to be such a placid child. Now she was moody and depressed, but Mary pointed out that it could be the normal teenage phase asserting itself. On the whole, Janine seemed to be coping well, considering they didn’t have the time to devote to her now that Helen took so much of their attention. George worried about Janine, but not half as much as he worried about his eldest child.
Helen had started taking notice of them in the last couple of days, which was a great comfort. Her eyes focused occasionally and she lifted her limbs to assist her mother when she was dressing her.
In the two months since the Christmas Holidays George and Mary hadn’t enjoyed one full night’s sleep. First there were the nightmares. Then Helen’s illness meant she had to be looked after constantly. Mary insisted she didn’t want Helen sent to a hospital, George agreed, but it meant a lot of hard work for them both. Even when Helen was finally safe in bed for the night, their work did not stop. The alarm clock had to be set every four hours and they took turns to go and turn her in bed to prevent her from getting bedsores.
Mary took responsibility of Helen’s intimate needs and George helped where he could after work. Helen’s grandparents were too infirm to help, Mary’s sister lived too far away and George was an only child. They only had each other to lean on. Their friends and neighbours were no longer so friendly since the party. Some ridiculed them for not speaking to the media and others just kept out of their way since Helen became ill, suspicious of anything to do with mental illness.
Alone, they bore the burden, turning to the team of doctors and nurses who came to help and seeking advice from anyone who could give it. The TV programme with Mr Barlow talking about Sophie offered them some comfort, but no real help. He promised to pass on any useful information he might receive. He also passed on their telephone number to any crank that rang him, and the telephone never stopped ringing. They were tempted to unplug it as they had in the beginning, but George didn’t want to miss any calls from the families he’d made contact with. He didn’t want to risk missing any vital information that could help with his research, there was always the possibility that a call would come offering some genuine help. This last call promised to be just that, if George could let himself believe what the man told him.

Mr Robertshaw was a small, thin, ordinary looking man. He wore a grey suit that had seen better days and black-rimmed spectacles. His hair was thinning and his shirt collar was frayed. He carried a scuffed leather briefcase and fumbled with the handle as he changed hands to shake George’s outstretched one.
‘Come in, Mr Robertshaw, glad you found us.’ George’s voice sounded unnaturally jovial, even to himself.
‘Your directions were very good, Mr Andrews, I had no trouble.’ He took small shuffling steps as he followed George into the dining room.
‘Please sit down and I’ll get Mary to make us some tea.’ George was about to call his wife when Mr Robertshaw interrupted.
‘Not for me, thank you.’ He placed his briefcase carefully on the polished dining table and took out a tiny tape recorder. ‘I’d sooner get straight down to it.’
George was taken aback at the small man’s abruptness, but went along with him, seating himself opposite, as Mr Robertshaw perched nervously on a dining chair.
‘Firstly, I’d like you to tell me about the lights. In your own time.’ He switched on the tape recorder, leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes.
George cleared his throat and made a self-conscious cough, insufficient to convey his true feelings. This man’s attitude was bordering on rudeness and George simply did not know how to deal with him.
‘Well, I don’t know,’ George began.
‘Just describe what you saw,’ Mr Robertshaw prompted.
So George described exactly what had happened on New Year’s Eve, with no frills and no embellishments. He stopped speaking when he finished describing how the lights dissolved.
‘Thank you, Mr Andrews, that was refreshingly concise and to the point.’ He reached over and switched off the machine. ‘Now, about your two girls.’ His eyes stared intensively into George’s as he leaned forward and George became wary for an instant that he might, after all, be dealing with another crank.
‘What about them, Mr Robertshaw?’ George asked, leaning back heavily making his chair creak loudly.
‘Tell me about the nightmares.’ Again, he was short and to the point, but George decided that this was a man who didn’t waste words or time. His attitude was a little strange, but George began to trust him.
‘There’s not a lot I can tell you and the girls remember nothing.’ George warned.
‘Are you sure they told you the truth when they said they could not remember?’ The small man leaned closer, whispering, ‘they might not have wanted to tell you.’
‘I’m sure our Janine couldn’t remember, but I did get the impression that our Helen knew more than she would say.’ George remembered the look in her eyes when he went into her room on one of the nights, he was sure she knew something.
‘I knew it!’ Mr Robertshaw sat up, clenching both fists in front of him. ‘I have to speak to her.’
‘You can try, but I’m afraid you won’t get far.’ George still wasn’t sure if he should let this strange man anywhere near Helen.
‘She’s the one whose mind has gone elsewhere?’ His voice held a note of sympathy and George nodded. ‘Well, could I see her, ask her some questions? I’ll not upset her and if she shows any sign of distress, I’ll stop.’
‘You can try.’ George decided that if this man could get any reaction from Helen he would be pleased, even if she did get upset. Anything was better than the vacant stare she gave them.
‘She’s through here.’ George led him into the living room, where Helen sat in the fireside chair, staring vacantly at the flickering gas flames.
‘Helen?’ George sat on the arm of the chair. ‘This is Mr Robertshaw. He’d like to talk to you.’ George watched as the man placed his tape recorder on the small coffee table and switched it on.
‘Hello, Helen.’ His voice was softer as he spoke to Helen and he leaned forward to touch her arm. George wandered how he knew to touch her when he spoke. The doctors told them to do that, to give her extra stimulation.
‘I know this is hard for you, but I really can help you come home, if you’ll let me,’ he spoke continuously, using a soft hypnotic tone and he held her arm, stroking his fingers up and down in time to the rhythm of his words. ‘I know where you’ve been, Helen and I think I know where you are now,’ he paused.
Helen seemed to stop breathing for a second or two then her eyes flickered slightly. George held his breath and watched.
‘You don’t have to stay there, you have a choice.’ Mr Robertshaw watched her face closely. ‘They have finished what they had to do. They don’t need you anymore. You are free to come home.’
George looked at the small man stroking his daughter’s arm and talking rubbish to her and wondered what he was getting himself into. This was a ridiculous situation and he was about to tell Mr Robertshaw to pack up and leave, when Helen moved her head. Only by a small amount, but it was more than she had moved without been asked since they found her like that. George held his breath.
The small man continued talking, slowly and rhythmically, all the while stroking her arm. The words he was saying were meaningless to George. He talked of something keeping her against her will. That she couldn’t help it. That it wasn’t her fault and she was all right now. She could come home. As far as George could see, she was home. She’d never left, but though he didn’t understand the words the man was saying, he could see the effect they were having on his daughter.
Helen seemed to focus on Mr Robertshaw. She really looked at him and her breathing became faster. They were small changes, but to George they were leaps of improvement. He left the room and went to get Mary. He thought his wife should see this.
When Mary entered the room, Helen was leaning forward in the chair. Mary stood very still, as if not daring to move in case she shattered the illusion. Helen looked normal and alert, her eyes were fixed on the strange man kneeling before her.
‘Helen! That’s it!’ Mr Robertshaw was grinning, his voice still soft, but more urgent. ‘Come on, girl, you can do it. Come back home.’
‘Oh, George,’ Mary whispered, her eyes filling with tears.
Helen gripped the small man’s arms and pulled herself upright. She glanced to her parents, opened her mouth as if to speak then closed it. She let go of Mr Robertshaw and fell back into the chair and let out a long shivering sigh. Mary and George were instantly at her side. Mr Robertshaw sat back on his heels and watched them.
Mary fussed, kissing Helen, touching her, pulling her close and hugging her. George touched her head and turned his attention to the man who had performed, in George’s eyes, a miracle.
Mr Robertshaw gathered his tape recorder and left the room. He collected his briefcase from the dining room and glanced back at the three figures huddled by the fireside. George moved away from his daughter to thank the man who had managed to bring her back to them.
The small man raised his hands in front of him, as if to push George away. ‘Don’t thank me yet, there’s a long way to go.’ He looked over George’s shoulder. ‘She has a long way to go.’
‘Will you come again?’ George asked, knowing this was only the beginning.
‘At the weekend, if that’s all right.’ Mr Robertshaw smiled up at George.
‘I have to work, but Mary will be here.’ George explained, happy to leave his women with this man now. Mr Robertshaw had proved he could do what he said he could do on the phone. Helen was out of the vacant mental state she had endured for more than two months and this strange man had promised he would bring her back to complete health in a few weeks.
During the next few days, Helen gradually began to do things for herself. She was shaky on her feet and reluctant to talk about how she felt, but she could talk. She could walk and stand and do everything she could do before. The doctors were impressed with her overnight recovery, but stressed she should not be over excited and should take a few more weeks off school, to allow her to regain her strength.
George insisted that nobody should mention to the doctors or psychologists about Mr Robertshaw’s intervention. There’d been enough ridicule, without having it from the professionals too. Mr Robertshaw continued to visit, insisting on privacy for his talks with Helen, all of which he meticulously recorded. The tapes remained secret, only Helen and Mr Robertshaw knew what they discussed. This was a condition he placed on his visits. George and Mary were only too happy to comply, especially as Helen seemed to improve with each of his visits.

To be continued……………………

Please visit Amazon to purchase this novel if you can’t wait to read the rest.

I will be taking a break from blogging until May 2014. Thank you for your patience.

Excerpt No 7, ‘They Take our Children, Book One, the Truth Revealed.’

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This excerpt is from a science fiction novel about alien abduction. If you would like to read the novel from the beginning, please see the previous excerpts in, ‘They Take our Children.’  The complete eBook series is available on Amazon stores worldwide.

Please go to Amazon if you can’t wait to read the rest.

Chapter Seven: Gavin

Gavin sat at the large old dining table surrounded by papers, photographs, newspaper cuttings and notebooks. He was amazed at the number of files that spilled from the old suitcase. George had taken him upstairs on reaching the house and asked Gavin to get down an old, battered brown suitcase from the top of a wardrobe in the spare room. He was surprised by the weight of it, but not when he saw the contents on opening it downstairs in the dining room. George took out various papers that dated back to Helen’s illness when she was fourteen-years-old. He didn’t understand any of it, but George explained that the suitcase held all his research.
‘Research into what?’ Gavin asked. George only looked grim and began to sort the papers and files into loose piles.
George had been methodical with his research. Everything was in card folders, labelled with names and dates. George opened a file and spread the contents before them on the table. Gavin scanned the various scraps of paper lying in front of him, unsure what to say. The words his parents-in-law had spoken to Helen only a short time ago whirled round in his head as he looked at the headlines of yellowed newspapers. ‘Christmas Lights Surprise New Year Party.’ ‘UFO’s over Wakefield.’ ‘Local Party Gate-Crashed by Aliens.’
Gavin reached for a photograph album and began flicking through it as George poured them an amber drink from a decanter standing on the sideboard. The first page showed photographs of a party, with a Christmas tree and lights in the background. There were photographs of people holding drinks and food. Some were of people dancing, kissing and generally having a good time. The people Gavin recognised, were younger versions of the family he knew and others were strangers. Then there were photographs taken outside, dark, fuzzy, blurred prints. These were of people wrapped in coats and scarves, with drinks in their hands and smiles on their faces. He continued turning the pages slowly and came across some dark prints with bright, out of focus splodges and Gavin squinted at them, unsure what he was seeing.
‘Fireworks.’ George explained, handing Gavin the whisky. ‘I know it’s early, but you might need this.’
Gavin absently took the drink in his hand and turned another page to find more, similar dark prints, but these were filled with bright balls of colour forming a pattern. He turned questioning eyes to the old man.
‘That’s them,’ he said simply, taking a seat opposite Gavin.
‘So why aren’t these photographs in the papers?’ Gavin reached for the yellowed editions of the local press.
‘No, you won’t find them in there. Nobody knew these photographs existed. I could’ve gotten a fortune for them at the time and I was tempted.’ He took a sip of his drink. ‘But then things began to happen with our Janine and Helen and well…’
‘What things?’ Gavin’s heart gave a leap as the butterflies took off inside him, he knew he was at the beginning of what had led to Courtney running away and he was impatient to get to the end.
‘It’s a long story, Gavin, one I couldn’t tell you in one morning. You wouldn’t be able to take it all in if I did.’
‘Try me!’ Gavin insisted.
‘Humour me.’ George fixed his steady eyes on his son-in-law. ‘I’ve waited a long time to tell someone about this.’
‘We don’t have the time, George! Courtney is out there somewhere, frightened, upset, maybe worse!’ Gavin slammed his glass down, splashing the contents onto the table.
‘Steady with that, it’s not cheap plonk you know!’ George mopped the spill of whisky with a handkerchief then reached behind him for the decanter, topping up both their glasses.
‘Courtney’s a resourceful girl, she’ll be fine and she’ll come home before today is over, you mark my words.’ George reached and patted Gavin’s shoulder across the table.
‘I wish I shared your confidence.’ Gavin took a large swallow of his drink and sighed heavily. He resigned himself to go along with his father-in-law. ‘So where do you want to start with all this?’ He waved his hand over the pile of papers and files on the table.
‘Well you’ve seen the photographs, how about watching the film then you can read the book.’ George smiled mischievously.
‘You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?’ Gavin shook his head and looked sideways at the old man, watching him get a disc out of its box.
The two men moved to the front room and George handed the disc to Gavin.
‘Put it in and watch.’ George settled himself in an old comfortable armchair and reached to turn on the gas fire. ‘I had the original home movie converted to disc a few years back when video went out of fashion. It’s so much easier to watch them like this.’
Gavin did as he was told, sitting on the floor by the old man’s feet, warming himself at the fire. It had turned chilly and outside, the drizzle had turned to a downpour.
The television screen flickered, the quality of the picture was poor and black-and-white lines wavered across the screen, to be replaced by a shaky picture of the balls of light they’d seen on the photographs. The camera angle moved wildly and changed from a view of the sky, to a view of some faces looking upward.
‘What are they?’ Gavin asked.
‘They’re not fireworks!’ George raised his eyebrows.
The camera swung sickeningly and focused on the lights again. Gavin watched as they danced in the sky, coming together then moving apart, swirling around making patterns in the sky. After a few minutes, George pressed the fast-forward button on his remote control and the lights moved faster in a speeded up version of their dance. He pressed the play button in time for Gavin to see the way they dissolved into the darkness and disappeared, then stopped the film.
‘What was that?’ Gavin asked, his eyes wide with disbelief, though he’d seen it for himself; he didn’t understand what he had witnessed.
‘They were the Christmas lights that came to our New Year’s Eve party when Helen was fourteen and our Janine was twelve. They were seen all over West Yorkshire, it’s all there in the newspapers, the Yorkshire Post, the Wakefield Express, the Bradford Courier and others I collected. Here, look at the news, I got recordings of all the local news programmes after that night, though it wasn’t easy to get hold of them, and I had them put onto a disc by a computer savvy mate of mine a few years ago.’
George pressed play and fast-forwarded the disc to the relevant part. A well-known, though younger looking television presenter, was interviewing a family in a chintzy looking living room.
The moustached father was describing the lights in the sky, while the mother and daughter preened and a boy pulled faces to the camera.
‘That one there, is Lindsey Thomas, one of our Helen’s friends.’ George pointed to the teenage girl on the screen. ‘They were neighbours. Moved about twenty years ago. Just look at them,’ he chuckled. ‘You’d think the Martians had landed in their backyard.’
‘Was there any evidence suggesting the lights were aliens?’ Gavin was intrigued, but losing patience, as he couldn’t see what all this nonsense had to do with Courtney, or Helen.
‘There was no hard evidence, no proof.’ George sipped from his glass.
‘Then why are we watching this?’ Gavin stood and walked to the window, no longer interested in the screen.
‘I thought it might help you understand why the nightmares began.’
‘Nightmares?’ Gavin turned from the window. Nightmares were a reality he could understand, unlike aliens and UFO’s.
‘Like I said to Mary at the time, I believed it was all this media hype about the strange lights that led to our girls having nightmares. Night terrors, the doctor called them when we took the girls to see him.’ George stood. ‘Come back in here.’ He led Gavin back to the table where he shuffled through more files and picked out a pale-blue one. Handing the file to Gavin, he sat.
‘Take out those papers. Some of them are heavy going, full of medical jargon but being a university technician you should understand most of it.’
Gavin took out a medical report and began reading. He quickly realised that it held details about Janine, and he felt uncomfortable reading about his sister-in-law. He skipped whole passages in an attempt to get it finished quickly and read only enough to understand that Janine had suffered some kind of post-traumatic shock syndrome. The report suggested this could have been triggered by the media attention to the lights seen in the sky above their house. Looking up, Gavin was encouraged to read on as George nodded and waved at the papers he still held in his hand.
The following pages were about Helen. He was surprised to learn she had been in a catatonic state of shock for a few weeks. He glanced up once or twice to meet George’s intense stare, each time the old man nodded encouragement to him, and he read on.
Helen had been found one morning in a catatonic state. He read of no evidence about injury, and there was nothing to suggest she had been hurt in any way. She was totally unresponsive. Her eyes didn’t focus, her limbs were rigid, her hands and feet curled spastically inward. She didn’t respond to sound and even sudden loud noise had no effect.
Gavin was hooked. He knew that whatever had caused Helen to go into this state, it had to be severe. He read on.
Doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists and family counsellors tried to bring Helen back into the real world. The doctors tried drugs; the physiotherapists exercised limbs, keeping the body fit while the mind took time out. The psychologists and the family counsellors worked together, talking to Helen, coaxing her to respond. When that failed, they tried to stimulate her brain by playing music and putting her in front of the TV. Some weeks later, Helen began to take interest in the visitors, nodding acknowledgment but turning away from questions.
Gavin read every word of Helen’s medical report, not looking up again until he’d read the last one, when she was cured and she returned to normal.
‘Why?’ he asked, holding up the papers. ‘It doesn’t say why.’
‘No one ever found out for sure.’ George shrugged. ‘Helen wouldn’t talk about it.’
‘You know though, don’t you?’ Gavin read the old man’s wry smile.
‘I thought I did,’ George admitted. ‘I used to lay awake at night trying to work it all out.’
‘Tell me,’ Gavin insisted.
‘Well it’s not so simple,’ George evaded giving a direct answer. ‘There were a number of possibilities.’
‘Never mind the possibilities, what happened to Helen?’ Gavin would not be put off.
‘What do you think?’ George turned the tables on him. ‘What explanation would you have come up with? You’ve read the report. You know about the nightmares and the external influences. What do you think happened?’
Gavin sighed; this was getting them nowhere. Courtney was still missing and Helen was…
‘Helen!’ Gavin remembered his wife; the look in her eye’s as they left her, the vacant stare. ‘You think she’s returned to that state now, don’t you?’
‘I think she has.’ George nodded.
‘Oh, my God!’ Gavin jumped up. ‘I have to go to her, what should we do.’
‘Mary will have called the doctor.’ George stayed seated, keeping calm. ‘Don’t forget, we’ve seen this before, so we know what to do for our Helen.’
‘Will they take her to hospital?’ Gavin closed his eyes, shutting out the vision of Helen slumped in the chair in her bedroom.
‘No, I don’t think so. Mary knows how to cope. Try not to worry, if her mind has switched off, it may only be for a few hours.’
‘I hope you’re right, but I should still be with her.’ Gavin turned from his father-in-law.
‘She won’t even know that you’re there, not when she’s like this.’ George reached for another file from the suitcase. ‘Here, read this.’ He passed over a large brown envelope.
‘What’s in here?’ Gavin sat down, opening it.
He pulled out a letter and some photographs of a smiling teenage girl.
‘That’s Sophie Barlow, she’s a couple of years older than our Helen. She lived in Halifax.’ George explained. ‘Read the letter, it’s a reply to a telephone message I left for her father. Sophie was found in the same state as our Helen. There were seven girls in Yorkshire who were like that about the same time.’
‘What!’ Gavin’s voice was full of disbelief. ‘How can that be? What…?’
‘Read the letter.’ George nodded at the sheets of paper in Gavin’s hand.
The girl’s father wrote briefly about his daughter, how bright and intelligent she was, not given to flights of fancy. She was a sensible girl. A normal girl, who had boyfriends, went to youth clubs, loved fashion and pop music.
Then he wrote about the lights that had been seen over the moors around Halifax in the weeks leading up to Christmas, how the television cameras had waited on the moor all night for three or four nights in the hope of filming the sight. Then he’d captured the lights himself on a home cine-camera and contacted Yorkshire Television. His film had been seen nationwide; all the channels had paid to use it. Then two days before Christmas, Sophie had the first nightmare. She screamed out in the early hours of the morning, hysterical and shouting about floating.
There followed a few paragraphs about the sleepless nights, Sophie getting more upset with each nightmare but unable to remember any details of the dream. Then on Boxing Day, they went to her bedroom to wake her, thinking she had slept late, to find her in the same unresponsive state as Helen.
Gavin looked up from the letter.
George held out another envelope file. ‘This is Janet Rhodes, same story.’ He pushed the slim file towards Gavin and picked up another. ‘This is Sarah Wilson.’
‘How many did you say?’ Gavin picked up the envelope. Taking out a photograph, he looked into the smiling face of another teenage girl.
‘Seven that I found out about, including our Helen. I only received letters from these three.’ George raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
‘What made you write to them?’ Gavin was beginning to see that it wasn’t going to be simple to get a straight explanation from George.
‘Like you, I wanted answers.’ The old man shrugged again. ‘The doctors didn’t have any, so I looked for people who might know more.’
‘How did you find out about the others, I thought there was such a thing as patient confidentiality?’ Gavin was drawn in now, in the same way that he could see George had been all those years before.
‘Sophie’s father was on the Television; in one of those, Can You Help? type programmes they showed after the early-evening news. It was the night after we found Helen in the coma and he described just the same state in his child. He was asking if there were any experts listening who could help him with Sophie.
I took down the number the programme gave out and rang it. Eventually, after giving my number and some details about Helen, I got through to his home telephone number. There was an answer phone, I left him a message about Helen and gave my name and number and added my address. He must have got lots of calls from that one show and it was a few days before I received that letter from him, it didn’t offer any help. It was just a reassurance that we weren’t alone, I suppose. It think it made Mary feel better, knowing that.
Then the other letters arrived. Mr Barlow sent them on to me. He must have got a sack full. Then I got a telephone call from a Mr Robertshaw.’ George rubbed his chin thoughtfully and stared at the carpet, as if wondering how to continue.
‘Who is Mr Robertshaw?’ Gavin prompted him.
‘He was an investigator.’ George avoided Gavin’s eyes.
‘A policeman, a detective, you mean?’ Gavin sat up, interested.
‘Not exactly,’ George gulped and took a long breath. ‘He was an investigator of the paranormal.’

To be continued………..

If you can’t wait to read the rest, Book one and book two are available as kindle eBooks on all Amazon stores.

Thank you for taking an interest in my work.

True account of surviving a massive brain injury

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“It’s Penguin Shooting Day, a true account of the first weeks living with brain injury”, will soon be available in paperback.

The eBook version is currently available in Amazon stores worldwide. If you don’t see the link to your local Amazon below, please search for ‘Penguin Shooting Day’ in the store.

Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com  Amazon.com.au  Amazon.com.ca

I dedicated this book to my brave daughter. During the initial days after her husband’s accident and throughout his long recovery she was, and still is, an inspiration to us all.

You kept us strong my darling, even when your heart was breaking; you found the courage to uplift us with your tireless positive attitude.

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I kept this diary for a number of reasons. Firstly, my nature is to put everything down on paper, from shopping lists to seating plans. Secondly, I needed to channel my emotions. Setting it down in black and white helped contain the threatening avalanche of emotion, and made it easier to focus on what might lie ahead. Thirdly, it was going to be a bloody long flight, and if I didn’t do something, I would be out of my mind before my jumbo got off the ground.

I was about to set out on a familiar 30 hour trip, but this time, I didn’t have the anticipation and flurry of pretty butterflies in my tummy to shorten every minute of that journey. Instead, the lonely, panic filled, hours stretched endlessly before me, and I felt as if a dozen fruit-bats with scratchy claws were doing aerobatics in my insides. I had no one to share my distress with, and couldn’t face idle chit-chat with fellow travelers who were innocently going away on holiday.

Over the following weeks, my diary became my confessor and confidant, my dumping ground for sorrow and a place to share the joys and laughter when there was no one else around. It became the saver of my sanity, and I hope it will now give hope and maybe a little inspiration to others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

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The phone call that parents dread came on the 29th June 2008 at 11am. Natalie’s voice shook when she told us, ‘Mum, Simon’s had a car crash, he’s in a coma.’

Compounding this awful news was the fact that my family lived at the other side of the world in Australia. Within hours I boarded my flight to be with them and began the diary that would describe Simon’s journey back to us.

I started the diary for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’m a writer and my nature is to put everything down on paper. Secondly, I needed to channel my overwhelming emotions. Thirdly, it was going to be a bloody long flight and if I didn’t do something, I would be out of my mind before my jumbo got off the ground.

I was about to set out on a familiar 30 hour trip but this time, I did not have the anticipation and flurry of pretty butterflies in my tummy to shorten every minute. Instead, the panic filled hours stretched before me and I felt as if a dozen fruit-bats with scratchy claws were doing aerobatics in my insides. I had no one to share my distress with and couldn’t face idle chat with fellow travellers who were simply going on holiday.

Over the following weeks, my diary became my confessor and confidant, my dumping ground for sorrow and a place to share the joys and laughter when there was no one else around. It became the saver of my sanity and I hope it will now give hope and maybe a little inspiration for others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

From Simon’s point of view, he wakes in a bizarre place full of strangers and does not know why he is there. His yesterday is ten years ago and the only memories he has between then and now are hazy fragments.

Amazingly, his emotions are still intact, even though his memories don’t support them. He has no recollection of his wedding day, or of his daughter’s birth, but the love he feels for his wife and child are overwhelming in their intensity.

So we use Simon’s emotional strength and Natalie’s inspirational positive attitude to help him through the first traumatic weeks and try to set the foundations of a future we can only begin to imagine how to build.

The bizarre title came from Simon’s fuddled brain. When asked if he knew what day it was, a few days after emerging from coma, he replied, ‘It’s Penguin Shooting Day.’

This diary is now available in Amazon as a Kindle eBook, and will shortly be released in paperback.

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY ENDED, BUT PROMO CONTINUES

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 Thank you to all who entered my free ‘book giveaway’ on Goodreads. This has now ended, and two books are on the way to the lucky winners, Emily in Idaho and Diane in North Carolina. Happy reading girls. I hope you enjoy the story.

I was amazed at the response to my giveaway draw, with more than 1100 requests and a further 500 or so adding it to their ‘to read’ shelf.

As a gesture of thanks to all you lovely people, I am putting this book on Kindle countdown promotion from 8am, 8th March to 12 noon, 15th March. PST and GMT times apply. Buy early for the best price!

To buy on Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy on Amazon.com click here

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Pearl

Excerpt No 6, ‘They Take our Children, Book One, the Truth Revealed.’

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This excerpt is from a science fiction novel about alien abduction. If you would like to read the novel from the beginning, please see the previous excerpts in, ‘They Take our Children.’  The complete eBook series is available on Amazon if you can’t wait to read the rest.

Chapter Six: (In the past, Helen)

Helen could see a large body of water below her. She glimpsed trees, large hills, ribbons of roads sparkling with frost, then another shimmering surface of water. She was travelling fast over the dark landscape but felt no sensation of movement. She was suspended inside a large translucent violet globe, completely surrounded by the misty glowing orb of light.
The ground seemed to move closer as the orb slowed. Her heart began to beat even faster in her chest as she realised she was about to land in some kind of lake. She closed her eyes and tensed in readiness for an impact and when she next opened them, seemingly only a few minutes later, she peered out into a multi-coloured fog. She was flat on her back on a cold hard surface. She could see nothing beyond her own nose. She knew there were others around her, from the odd snuffling and moaning sounds she could hear.
She noticed a slight odour, like sour breath, or rotting vegetation, that hung in the rainbow hued mist surrounding her. She could feel pain in her shoulders and neck, between her legs and up into her stomach. It felt like a hundred hot needles had stabbed her. Instinctively she tried to cross her arms over her chest, to protect her cold body but found she could not move. She strained to lift her head but even that was impossible.
The muscles in her calves began to cramp, but she was powerless to even stretch her legs or wriggle her toes to relieve the pain. Silent tears escaped her eyes and rolled gently down her temples into the hair above her ears. She thought she might be dead. Is this what it feels like to die? Did she crash into the lake?
The fear crept coldly up her back, through her neck, and then her ears filled with the pressure of it. Cringing, she tried to close her eyes to shut out the pain and the strange multicoloured fog that surrounded her. Pure terror raced through her veins when she realised that her even her eyelids were paralysed. She was forced to watch as the coloured fog swirled menacingly around her, changing from patches of light pink to dark blue, and then to green and red. She could see amorphous shapes moving within its ebb and flow. As it cleared, her vision was filled with a broad expanse of the smooth white plaster ceiling of her bedroom.
Helen felt the popping in her ears and tingling in her limbs that told her the paralysis was over. She reached up slowly with leaden arms and touched the smoothness of her bedroom ceiling. She was home. She was awake, and she was floating as before, only inches away from the light fitting. She felt her heart hammering in her chest, heard the loud boom of it in her ears and swallowed back her fear. Keeping her eyes open, she slowly turned her head, first left, then right, hearing the crackle of static in her hair as she moved. As her eyes became accustomed to the dim room, she saw, reflected in the mirror on her dressing table, a dull violet glow beneath her body. She could tell that it was not a solid object, she could see right through it to the door beyond. She couldn’t see where the glow stopped and her bedroom started.
Her nightdress hung down into the diffuse violet light and she could see the reflection of her body resting on top of it. The glow slightly illuminated the room and made her nightdress transparent. Helen became transfixed, staring at the outline of her body, cushioned by the violet glow. Her hair streamed out stiffly in all directions. She shuddered and again, the static crackled around her head.
Carefully, she let her arm drop slowly, watching the reflection of herself in the mirror as she did so. She felt an icy coldness as her fingers dipped into the coloured ball and swiftly drew her hand back up. Beads of sweat gathered on her brow and she worried how long it would be before she could get down.
The scream jolted her and the violet glow dissolved beneath her, sending her crashing down onto the bed. She knew it was Janine who screamed, and wondered if her sister’s courage had run out, just as hers was about to. She was shaking all over as her father came into the room. He came quickly to her side, enfolding her in his strong, warm embrace.
‘You’re freezing!’ he told her. ‘Here, get under the quilt, you’ll catch your death, child.’
She let him fuss over her, allowing him to tuck her up tightly, enduring him stroking her hair as she shuddered, half in fear, half with cold.
‘Was it the same again?’ he asked and she nodded, not knowing what else to do.
There were no words to describe what happened, in reality, hardly anything had happened, not anything she could remember anyway. What she could remember was so weird that she didn’t think she could describe it, even if she wanted to.
‘I didn’t hear you call out this time.’ George frowned, looking closely at his daughter. ‘It was Janine who woke us, you didn’t, did you?’ Helen shook her head. The concern in his eyes made her feel guilty somehow, as if she were responsible for his fear.
‘What is it, Helen? You know, don’t you?’ he probed. ‘You can remember the dream this time, can’t you?’
Helen recognised the signs, he was fishing for the bait, for the tiniest fraction of what had frightened her, so he could delve into her fear, dig it out and force her to look at it. Shaking her head and closing her eyes against his questioning, she let out a long trembling sigh. She was no longer the little girl looking into a box of spiders. This time she was almost a woman and this particular box held more than she wanted to see. The small glimpse she had been shown was enough for her to know she didn’t want to look any further.
‘No, Dad, I just woke up shaking, I think Janine woke me this time,’ she lied, hoping he would be satisfied with her explanation.
‘Would you like a hot-water bottle?’ He felt her cold, clammy forehead.
‘I’ll be okay, Dad, it’s only a bad dream, I’ll soon get back to sleep,’ she assured him, trying to sound more confident than she felt. ‘You go back to bed. You have to work in the morning.’
‘Are you sure you’re all right, love?’ He smiled down at her, the concern leaving his face.
‘G’night, Dad.’ She forced a smile to her lips as he leaned to kiss her cheek.
‘Shall I leave the door open?’ he asked as he reached it and smiled as she nodded. She knew he could see she was trying to be brave for his sake.
Her mum stayed longer with Janine than before. Helen lay awake for hours, listening as her mother tried to comfort her sister.
The following day Helen and Janine decided that going back to school might help them forget about the nightmares. They set out together in the early-morning frost, ducking past the few waiting reporters still hopeful of a story. The girls decided to walk up the hill and through the park. It was a bright crisp morning and neither girl wanted to queue for the bus, besides, they had much to discuss and didn’t want anyone to overhear the secrets they had to share.
The frosty grass crunched under their feet as they entered the park. A lone jogger ran past them, a woman walked her dog along a path parallel to theirs, some twenty yards away. Apart from these solitary figures, the park was empty.
When they were out of earshot of anyone, Helen began her questions. ‘What made you scream?’ she asked, keeping her voice low, knowing how sound carried in the crisp clear air.
‘I don’t know.’ Janine stared at the ground as they walked.
‘Did you see the glow?’ Helen leaned closer and whispered. ‘Did you look, like we said?’
‘No!’ Janine gulped. ‘I couldn’t.’
‘Oh, Janine!’ Helen let out an exasperated sigh. ‘We agreed. You said you’d look!’
‘Well I didn’t, okay!’ Janine stopped and faced her sister. ‘It’s all right for you, you’re older and brave and not afraid of anything.’ She tossed her auburn curls and put one hand defiantly on her plump hip. ‘It’s no big deal for you is it? The whole school calls you, Miss Inquisitive. Miss, I want to know how the world works! Well it’s not that easy for me!’ She sniffed hard, her grey eyes wildly searching for something to focus on, other than Helen’s face. ‘I was bloody petrified and I don’t want to know, do you hear me? I don’t want to see anything!’
Helen watched as Janine struggle with herself, seeing her turn one way, then the other in an effort to escape her inner turmoil. ‘Janine,’ Helen reached out and grasped her hand. ‘It’s okay, I understand. I’m not angry with you,’ she quickly reassured her sister. ‘Come on, we’d better get going.’ She turned towards the gates at the other side of the park. ‘I didn’t realise how scared you were.’
‘And I suppose you’re not frightened at all!’ Janine was still defensive and clearly felt the need to attack Helen.
‘I’m as scared as you are, believe me.’ Helen shook her head slowly, remembering what she had seen. ‘Maybe even more now that I know it’s really not a dream.’
‘You saw something?’ Janine’s voice trembled as she asked the question.
‘I saw something, yes,’ Helen nodded. ‘I saw a lot of things but don’t ask me what they were, because I couldn’t tell you.’
‘Is it really horrible?’ Janine whispered, obviously afraid of hearing but curiosity, in the safe light of day, getting the better of her.
‘No, it’s not really bad to look at.’ Helen tried to find the right words to explain to Janine a little of what she had seen without frightening her. She wanted to encourage her to stay awake and look too.
‘What is it?’ Janine grew impatient as her sister continued to walk in silence.
‘It was just a light!’ Helen shrugged, smiling. ‘A big round violet glow!’
‘That’s it?’ Janine asked, incredulous. ‘That’s what we’re so afraid of?’ She laughed. ‘This is unbelievable. Who’s going to believe a light could be so scary?’
‘The light is what takes us and what holds us up near the ceiling when it brings us back.’ Helen frowned. ‘But there’s more to this thing than just a light, it’s what happens after the light comes and before it brings us back’
‘What does happen?’ Janine stared intently at the ground and Helen wasn’t sure her sister really did want to hear more.
‘That’s just it, I can’t remember.’ Helen too stared at the ground as they walked. ‘It’s just a fog, like before.’
‘What happens now?’ Janine asked. ‘What do we do tonight if… ?’ She swallowed, not able to finish the sentence. ‘I’m frightened, Helen, I mean really frightened.’
‘I don’t know if we have any choice.’ Helen looked with sympathy at her sister’s face reflecting the fear they both felt. ‘I don’t know how to stop it happening. I don’t know if it will stop.’
‘It has to!’ Janine began to panic. ‘Helen, it has to stop, you have to make it stop.’
‘I wish I could, Janine. But I think something’s happening to us. I don’t know what and I don’t know why.’ She looked up as they reached the main road, walking over to press the button on the pelican crossing.
‘What could be happening to us? It’s a dream, a scary dream, that’s all.’ Janine’s voice held a note of desperation. ‘Helen, it’s a dream, a nightmare, don’t try to make more of it, I can live with the nightmares, don’t tell me anything else.’
The pelican showed the green man and the high-pitched beeping told them it was safe to cross.
‘You’re probably right, Janine, it’s just a weird nightmare and for some strange reason we’re both having it.’ Helen decided to keep the rest of her thoughts to herself. Janine had made it clear she didn’t want to know anything more about the sinister light. She knew her sister wanted to hide behind the idea of the nightmare, she only wished it were that simple.
As they entered the school gates they were surrounded by friends, each girl was carried away in different directions, by their friends.
Most of Helen’s friends had been basking in their own glory and short-lived fame, over the last couple of weeks. Helen had watched them on the television with their families, when they were questioned about the lights they had seen on New Year’s Eve. They’d been only too willing to answer the questions the way the interviewers wanted them to. They preened in front of the cameras, embroidering the truth, as they’d been asked and had achieved fame and recognition for a few days. Helen was cross with the ones who openly exaggerated. She’d seen the interviews and some of them made her family look stupid for refusing to comment.
The other girls still couldn’t understand why Helen’s father wouldn’t go on the TV programmes. Especially as the families who did speak had made a few bob out of it.
Helen kept her thoughts to herself, even when pushed. She refused to talk about the lights in the sky. She gave a sigh of relief as the bell rang for the start of the first lesson. At last she would be able to think of something else, something other than the strangeness that had surrounded her life since New Year’s Eve.

The complete eBook series of, ‘They Take our Children,’ is available on Amazon if you can’t wait to read the rest.