Monday, 5 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

My fellow Chocliteer, and fab writer, Liz Harris, kindly asked if she could pass The Next Big Thing baton on to me. I was delighted to accept and would like to talk about my ‘next big thing’, my novel A Stitch in Time which will be published by Choc Lit on the 7th of April next year. 

I can only hope that my novel will be as warmly received as The Road Back, Liz’s evocative tale of forbidden and lost love in Ladakh, a beautiful setting just north of the Himalayas.

So here goes:

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I have absolutely no idea. Well, that’s not strictly true. I have always been interested in time travel, and watched things like Dr who and Ashes to Ashes. But the idea just popped into my head as they often do, about 3 o'clock in the morning.

What genre does your book fall under?
Commercial Women’s Fiction – (romantic comedy/fantasy)

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
That’s a tricky one. Probably somebody like Kate Winslet for Sarah, as she’s no nonsense, witty, but quite vulnerable at the same time, and Adam Rayner (the guy who plays Aidan in Hunted) for John Needler, as he looks very much like him and is strong yet caring.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Sarah Yates yearns for more excitement in her life, but travelling to the ends of the earth through time and space while trying to keep a new love...well, that’s more than any woman can take...isn’t it?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Six weeks! Yes, I know that is stupidly fast, but it just wrote itself. I just switched on the laptop each day and left it. When I got back home it was done...That was a joke by the way.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I can’t think of a book, but I guess the old Quantum Leap series is the closest. Only people over thirty-five would probably remember it I think!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think it should appeal to a wide range of people as it has bits for everyone. It has humour, romance, suspense, and because of the time travel aspect, should be of interest to readers of historical fiction too. Sarah travels to the Sheffield Blitz, The Old American West, Edwardian London and London again in 1928.

There are two very exciting and interesting writers who have agreed to run with the baton in the next few weeks and tell us all about their next big thing. Liv Thomas will do hers on Monday the 12th of November and Trevor Belshaw will do his on  Monday the 19th of November.

My thriller, Righteous Exposure - Crooked Cat Publishing can be purchased from Amazon for £1.99

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

In a contemplative mood today and found this poem. Wrote it a few years ago...

For All to See

A belly ripe with life,
swollen, heavy as a century suspended in minutes.
Rampant red stretch-marks circumnavigate a globe of
earth fruit.
Skin yearning to burst.

She observes, delights in, a twisting fist pushing out - distorting the round,
though restricted tightly by our largest organ.
A foot follows, rippling the contour, then retreats
restores, silently announcing ‘I’m here’.

A mirror reflects years forward, no longer rampant red.
Pale silvery threads fold in amongst memories, hanging, drooping.
Dreams hanker for taught veldts, chase pancake flat plains.
Inside out, the baggage of ageing...

for all to see.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

A Stitch in Time...

OK so here it is for your delight and excitement, my new cover for A Stitch in Time to be released by Choc Lit in April 2013.  As you can imagine I am a little bit pleased to be signed with this award winning publisher as I mentioned in a previous post Cloud 9 . I just love the cover and the designer Berni has done a fantastic job as usual! Can't wait for April, but at least I can feast my eyes on this lovely cover until then and imagine it on the shelves!!!

Blurb: A stitch in time saves nine…or does it?
Sarah Yates is a thirty something history teacher, divorced, disillusioned and desperate to have more excitement in her life. Making all her dreams come true seems about as likely as climbing Everest in stilettos.
Then one evening the door bell rings and the handsome and mysterious John Needler brings more excitement than Sarah could ever have imagined. John wants Sarah to go back in time…
Sarah is whisked from the Sheffield Blitz to the suffragette movement in London to the Old American West, trying to make sure people find their happy endings. The only question is, will she ever be able to find hers?

Monday, 9 July 2012

An Interview with Cathie Dunn

Today I am delighted to have the wonderful Cathie Dunn, historical fiction and romantic suspense author over for a chat.

Welcome, Cathie, can you tell us what or who inspires your writing?

Thank you, Mandy, for hosting me today. I’m thrilled to be here.

From an early age onwards, I’ve devoured books. I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Adventure series and loved Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking (and her independence). Their books inspired my love of adventures.

Later, I discovered the romantic suspense novels of Victoria Holt and Barbara Erskine, the dramatic novels of Daphne du Maurier and the wonderfully exotic historical novels by M M Kaye. By that time, I knew I wanted to write, and historical and romantic suspense / adventure was to be ‘my’ genre.

Have you always written or is it a more recent development?

I started jotting down ‘ideas’ in my late teens, half-hearted attempts that ended up in a drawer. I nagged my mother into buying me a used typewriter and the stories developed. For many years, I didn’t do much more about them, until, in my late 20s, I started all over again. Since then, I’ve completed a Creative Writing course at Lancaster University, as well as short historical courses at other universities. I joined writing and critique groups and learned the value of peer feedback and support, and their brutal honesty. It helped hone my skills in terms of both writing and critical editing.

Which do you enjoy most and why, historical fiction or romantic suspense?

I love both, in different ways, both as a writer and reader. Historical fiction allows you to focus primarily on historical events - both real and fictional. I love writing about political issues, battles and campaigns; I find them fascinating to research. My favourite authors in that field are Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick.

In romantic suspense, you focus less on the secondary events, but instead on the characters and the intrigue. As a reader, you ‘feel’ the story more, you sense the tension, you experience what the characters go through. You find yourself reading faster and faster, keen to get through it to know what’s about to happen. In writing romantic suspense, you ‘show’ more than you do in generic historical fiction.

Your most recent work is the romantic suspense novella Silent Deception, can you tell us a little about that and where it's available?

Back in early May, I spotted a call for submissions for suspense novellas from a major romance publisher. The deadline was two weeks later. I took the challenge.

Trying my best, I managed a first draft in that time, but it wasn’t anywhere near the standard I’d wanted to submit. So I decided to self-publish the novella, re-wrote it, ran it past my critique partners who duly tore it to shreds, and eventually I ended up with a version I was happy with.

Silent Deception is a romantic suspense set in Victoria Cornwall, the first time I used a location I haven’t visited. Yet. The novella is currently available as an ebook on Amazon only.

What is the most useful piece of advice you have ever been given in life, regarding writing or anything else?

What an interesting question. I think it would be: ‘Be true to yourself.’ This can be taken both for life in general as well as for writing.

I’ve seen writers change their style to try fit into a specific publisher’s box, only to fail again and again. Sometimes, you can’t force it. If it doesn’t sound like your natural voice, it doesn’t ring true. Go back, start again, and listen to your intuition. Often, writers can find their inspiration again and discover a small change can make a difference.

What is the one piece of useful advice you would give to an aspiring writer?

Don’t give up! This business can break you, so you’ll need to develop a thick skin. (I know, easier said than done. I’ve been there.) Not finding the right publisher, low sales, poor reviews all put a damper on our feeling of proud achievement as our book is released.

Provided you novel is well-written, edited many times over, proofread, with a quality cover and interesting plot, you should not feel bad about it at all. It’s an incredible feat, so continue to feel proud about it.

Over the years, I’ve heard many writer friends ask: ‘What’s the point? I might just as well give up.’
My response to that is: ‘You love to write? People enjoy to read your books? Then that’s all that matters.’

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I’m currently working on two projects. One is a medieval Scottish romance novella, the other a full-length contemporary suspense set in Idaho, US. Switching from historical to contemporary has its challenges, but I’m ready to face them. And then, of course, I must get to the sequel to Dark Deceit.

Busy days and nights ahead.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Cathie!

 Thanks very much for having me here today. 

Friday, 8 June 2012

A Brilliant Read!

A few weeks ago I was kindly sent a pre-release copy of  Christina Courtenay's The Silent Touch of Shadows by my publisher Choc Lit  I had never read any of Christina's before, but I knew she won the 2012 Best Historical Romantic novel of the year award (RoNA) for her novel, Highland Storms.

It was when we had the lovely hot weather, (yes I know it's hard to remember what that was like) and I took the book up the garden with a glass of wine (yep, I know that's hard to imagine for me, I usually only drink fruit juice) and sat under the pergola. I had planned to just have half an hour's break before I carried on with my own writing, but once I opened the book I couldn't close it again. Well, I could physically of course, but I didn't want to leave the intriguing story and beautiful writing.

The Silent Touch of Shadows is a haunting love story set in the present and 15th century Kent. Melissa Grantham, a single parent and genealogist is troubled by vivid dreams after a visit to her aunt's ancient Manor House. The dreams are so real that she feels as if she is somehow actually back in the fifteenth century, and  sharing a connection to a young medieval woman. The connection is so real that Melissa can practically feel, touch and smell the past. The feelings the woman has for a forbidden lover troubles Melissa also in more ways than one. Unable to get the ghosts of the past out of her mind, she harnesses her professional skills to try to solve the mystery of the Manor and her dreams.

Having read this fab story I can see why Christina Courtenay won her award. Her story telling in general and description of the historical period in particular, makes the reader believe they are there alongside the main protagonist every step of the way. If you want an unusual and intriguing love story then look no further than this book. I loved it!

The publication date is the 7th of July - deffo a date for your diaries :) 

You can also get it on Kindle now - The Silent Touch of Shadows

Monday, 28 May 2012

Cloud 9

Well, I think I have at last calmed down enough to actually blog about my recent book deal with Choc Lit Publishing!

I have been on Cloud 9 for the past four weeks or so since I had the wonderful news about my novel A Stitch in Time. And to be truthful, I don't think it has sunk in properly yet. Everyone has been congratulating me and many fellow writers and friends have been so a lovely to me on Twitter and Facebook. At times I just couldn't believe that it was actually me they were congratulating! It seemed surreal really. The Choc Lit team are just wonderful too. They made me feel immediately welcome and I am over the moon to be joining such a fantastic group of talented people.

This year has certainly been good to me so far. In February my e-book Righteous Exposure was released by and now this! If I could bottle and sell this feeling, I'd make a mint.

It seems that it really is true that hard graft and determination pay off. My motto is - Never give up and never forget your dreams. At times that has been really hard to stick to, but I am so glad that I did. I can hardly believe that this time last year, I was still writing the novel which will be published early next year!

So I'd just like to say thanks to all my friends and family for your support along the way. I just wish I could get you all together for one enormous party!

Cheers! xxx

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Blog Lucky 7 Challenge

I have been tagged six times in this challenge and kept forgetting to do it!

This morning was the 7th tag so I thought I'd better get on with it!I was tagged by Debz Hobbs-Wyatt @BridgeHouseDebz who selected my short story for publication in 2010. That was the first time I was ever published and will always be grateful to her for giving me that chance! She is one half of Bridgehouse Publishing, a fantastic writer and also critiques manuscripts.

The instructions are:

Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
Go to line 7
Post on your blog the next 7 lines, or sentences, as they are – no cheating
Tag 7 other authors to do the same

Here is the seven line extract from page 7 of my WIP - Somewhere Beyond The Sea

Was I dreaming? I felt again the stubble of an unshaven face brush my cheek and then the pressure of a mouth over mine. My lungs expanded under the force of a breath from alien lungs. My stomach twisted, I rolled on my side and retched a spume of salt water onto the beach. I coughed and sucked at the chill night air. A hand rubbed my back, another grasped my forearm, tried to control my shaking body. A man’s rough voice in my ear.

“I knew you’d make it. That was the seventh breath I put in you. Seven’s a lucky number...thank god you’re alive.”

I had made it? I was alive? Then I remembered what had happened. Despair flooded through my heart like a rip-tide. A brace of rabbits lay on the sand a little way off, the moonlight glinting in their dead eyes. They were lucky.

Now over to the next seven! (pleased don't feel obliged, guys - just a bit of fun!)

Trevor Belshaw @tbelshaw

Joanna Cannon @JoannaCannon

Rachel Carter @RachCarter

Kirsty Stanley @kirstyes

Linn B Halton @LinnBHalton

Philip C James @PhilipCJames

Russ King @RussWrites

Monday, 9 April 2012

When The Wind is in the West

When the wind is in the west and the string is in me vest,
I sit on the sand by the sea.
When the sun beats down, on me head so brown,
everything stops for tea.

When the seagull has landed I smack it left handed,
from me picnic that it's stabbing with it's beak.
When the damn thing squawks and does funny walks,
I chuck it some pie with leek.

When the tide goes out with a whoop and a shout,
the kids fly kites so high.
When the ice-cream melts, over shirts and belts,
and a train goes whistling by.

When the waves hit me feet, it feels such a treat,
to be paddling there once more.
When too long in the sun leaves me nose well-done,
and me forehead red and sore.

When the sunset falls and the chip shop calls,
with a promise of vinegar and salt.
When I sip brown ale, it's blowing a gale,
time to get out me bottle of malt.

When the caravan groans and the west wind moans,
I snuggle with me missus in the awning.
When with bucket and spade and me picnic made,
we'll do all again in the mornin'.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Interview with author Rose McClelland

Rose has just had her fab début novel The Break-Up Test released by innovative new publishing company - Crooked Cat Publishing.

I am delighted that Rose has agreed to answer a few questions here today.

So, Rose, when did you first start writing and why?

It was actually on a rainy afternoon when I younger. My sister Rhoda said that we should write stories for each other to pass the time. Dear love us, there were seven children in our family, clearly we didn’t have enough toys to play with!

Whilst at University, I wrote theatre reviews and film reviews for the student newspaper. This was so I could get the free tickets! I was obviously the penniless student!

I attended a creative writing course whilst living in London. I started writing a novel but it was shoved into the bottom drawer and never resurrected.

Six years ago, I read “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron. It’s a 12-week course giving tips to unblock your creativity. By week 8, I had started my first novel and kept on going until it was finished. I am now writing book number 4.

How does writing make you feel?

I don’t really have to be ‘in the mood’ to write. I just have writing slots and I write whether I’m feeling good, bad or indifferent. I tend to just get into the zone and get on with it. After I’ve finished a writing session though, I feel pleased with myself. It’s a bit like that virtuous feeling after hitting the gym.

What is your writing day like?

“Writing morning” would be more accurate. I get up, get the coffee on and open the lap-top before I have any time to think twice about it. I’ll write for a few hours, stopping for the odd coffee/ glass of water. Setting small goals and giving yourself a pat on the back once you’ve reached them is important. It’s also good to write about something you really want to write about it, and enjoy it. If you’re enjoying it, chances are the reader will too.

Did anyone or anything inspire you along your journey?

‘The Artists Way’ by Julia Cameron. It’s about getting rid of all those blocks that stand in the way of putting pen to paper. Tiny lurking fears about what people think might be the real reason behind excuses like ‘I haven’t got time…’

Who is your favourite author?

Paige Toon. I love her writing style. I love her characters. I love her plots.

Tell me a little about your new novel.

‘The Break-up Test’ is about breaking up, bouncing back and moving on.
It’s about three women who are in tricky relationships.
A mutual male friend Jamie draws up a ten point test to offer them success.

Sounds intriguing,what’s your next project?

I’m writing my fourth book at the moment. It’s set in the theatre world and is all about the sizzling chemistry and drama that goes on behind the scenes!

What’s the most important tip you could give to a new writer?

Stop worrying about what other people think. Fear is the biggest block to writing. You’ll never please everyone, so start trying to please yourself.

Where do you want to be in three years time?

Good question! I love a bit of visualisation!
Three years time… right…. Can I dream up anything?
I’d want to be living in the same apartment. I love it here and should they have to drag me out kicking and screaming, I am staying put.
I’d like to have received an email from a reader, (someone who isn’t a friend/family member and isn’t forced to say nice things about me) saying that she loved ‘The Break-up Test’ and that it cheered her up and made her feel happy.
And finally, I’d love to have long hair. Like, really lovely, flicking locks, a bit like Jennifer Aniston’s. I know this is impossible because she has fine hair and I have frizzy hair, but a girl can dream, right?

What’s the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you?

Without a doubt it was the morning that I opened my email and I saw the subject header “Publishing Contract”. It was on Monday 13th February and the following day was my happiest Valentine’s Day ever!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Rose and I wish you every success with The Break-Up Test!

Thanks very much for having me!

Meet Amy, Beth and Sarah. All intelligent women with one thing in common – a bad taste in men!

Amy receives seductive texts from Gav and promptly skips round to his house for a mid-afternoon romp. She never planned it that way. Maybe one day he’ll actually fall in love with her?

Beth sits at her desk, her mobile phone propped up in front of her keyboard. Anytime soon it’ll light up like the Blackpool Illuminations, and Karl will finally get in touch about that drink. It’s been five days…

Sarah is seeing Stephen, trying to believe his claim that although he shares a bed with his ex, Kat, they aren’t sleeping together. She can’t believe it’s turned into one of THOSE stories you read about in women’s weeklies.

Then Jamie comes along with his Break-Up Test and turns their lives upside down.

Will Gav, Karl and Stephen suddenly sniff the competition and clean up their acts?

And what exactly is in it for Jamie?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Burglar Phil

Burglar Phil of Windmill Hill
had always hated the dark,
He'd spend his days pretending crime pays,
while walking his dog in the park.

When night fell,
Phil groaned “Oh hell, it's time for my burgling again”.
He dressed in his gear, finished his beer,
and headed out into the rain.

He nicked CDs and tellys,
and an old pair of wellies
which he could wear on his walks in the park.
Candlesticks, rings, all manner of things,
but still he hated the dark.

One evening at ten Phil said,
“Never again will I work as a thief in the night”.
He shouted with glee,
“I'll find a new me!”,
which gave his dog, 'Swag-Bag' a fright.

Next morning at dawn,
Burglar Phil gave a yawn,
and leapt out of bed with a bound.
“Swag - Bag, Swag-Bag!”,
he bellowed, “SWAG -BAG!”
now where was his long faithful hound?

The dog soon appeared,
thinking Phil weird, and carrying his lead in his mouth.
They then soon departed, companions, light hearted,
leaving Phil’s gate, heading south.

Phil's only desire, to stop playing with fire,
quickened his pace to a trot.
He needed to work at a desk like a clerk,
as he hated the dark such a lot.

Phil spied the Job Shop,
but he thought he should stop
at his friend’s for some tea and a chat.
He knocked on the door,
friend Molly said, “Cor! Where’d you get that
marvellous hat?”

Phil told her the tale of a hat pattern sale
which had started his long-standing hobby,
Molly looked pleased, “You look handsome.” she teased,
as she hung up his coat in her lobby.

Molly's kitchen was bright, done in yellow and white,
and her ginger cat sat on the sill.
Another woman was there, with long flaxen hair,
and Molly said, “Now Phil, meet Jill”.

Jill, pretty and tall worked on a stall
in the market each week-day nearby.
Phil took off his hat, then stroked Molly’s cat
and stuttered as he was SO shy.

Phil thought Jill was nice,
Swag-Bag broke the ice
as he barked at the cat on Phil's lap.
Molly picked up her pet,
Phil said with regret,
“I think it is time for Swag’s nap.”

“Nonsense.” said Molly who was always so jolly,
“You must stay and get to know Jill”.
Jill blushed red, poured the tea out and said,
“I could sell those hats you make Phil.”

Phil's heart gave a flutter as he passed the butter
to Molly to spread on Jill's bread.
He felt no misgiving, he could now make a living
from making nice things for the head!

Now two years have passed,
Phil's new love did last,
he and Jill have a house near the park.
Jill sells Phil’s hats,
Swag-Bag still hates cats,
and Phil NEVER goes out in the dark.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Phew!!! What a week!

Well Tuesday was launch day, the day when my novel Righteous Exposure tiptoed out on stage and came under the spotlight. I had been really nervous for a few weeks running up to it, and anxious on so many levels...

Questions like the following whirled around my tormented brain in the early hours of Tuesday morning:

What if nobody buys it? What if they buy it and hate it? What if nobody takes the slightest notice of launch day and just ignores my tweets on Twitter and comments on Facebook? What if somebody buys it and a few days later reviews it and gives it 0 out of 5? As you can see... I'm a bit of a worrier.

But then I got up on Tuesday and all my fears floated away on an ocean of huge support form all my friends on both Twitter and Facebook. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone. People I follow who I don't chat to that often bought copies, as well as those I always 'see' everyday.

By around 8 o'clock I was around the 25,000 mark and then rapidly went up and up until about 2'o'clock I had cracked the top 100 in Women's fiction and was placed at #74! By around five 'o'clock I had reached #39!!! I was absolutely over the moon as you can imagine.It was as if it was all happening to someone else. And I lost count of the number of congratulations and good wishes I got from everyone.

Yesterday I was once again on cloud nine when two people who had bought my book told me they were loving it and couldn't put it down! It was just thrilling to know that after working so hard on my story, at last people were reading the fruit of my labours.

Today the book is no longer in the charts and floating around in the ether again, but I knew launch day heights couldn't last. And to have achieved #39 was beyond my wildest dreams. So, I'd like to say thanks again to every person who gave a RT or commented or bought a copy of Righteous Exposure. It meant such a lot and I definitely couldn't have done it without you.

And of course a big thanks to my publisher, Crooked Cat Publishing for bringing my novel into the daylight!

Righteous Exposure

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Well it's launch day!!!!!!

Yesterday I told you that one lucky person could win a copy of Righteous Exposure!

How? How? I hear you cry!

OK - you have to answer one tiny it is.

What is the name of my main character. You will find the answer on my blog or at Crooked Cat publishing or on Amazon

Put your answer on here with a few lines about why you'd like a copy and I'll announce the winner about 2 'o'clock this afternoon!

Good luck!!

Monday, 20 February 2012

One day to go before the launch of Righteous Exposure!

Come back here tomorrow...

Launch Day the 21st of February - learn how you can win a free copy of Righteous Exposure!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Righteous Exposure - released by Crooked Cat Publishing 3 weeks today!

On the 21st of February my novel Righteous Exposure will be released as an e-book.It will be on sale at Amazon and Smashwords. You can read an excerpt from Chapter 1 below. Hope you enjoy it!


Somewhere in the depths of sleep, her mind begs:
No! Please… not this again…
The plea is ignored as the dream rolls in real-time.
Her pounding heartbeat provides the soundtrack to a special screening – old fears claiming the starring role.
Twenty-three years fall away – Alita is seven years old again.
The San Antonio heat is overpowering as the July sun terrorizes the shade into thin strips around a courtyard boundary. The smell of olives hangs heavy in the air, and an ornate fountain bubbles over marble lions.
Submerged in the fountain pool, her hand is very brown against the white of the marble. She wriggles her fingers, imagining her hand is a sea creature, and then lifts it out and up to the sun.
Opening and closing her fingers against the glare, Alita marvels at the beauty of the water droplets running like mercury along her skin.
A muffled scream turns her blood to ice.
Her eyes dart towards a partially shuttered window across the courtyard.
Did the scream come from there? Mama said on no account must she go near the big house.
She runs to the window anyway, adrenaline fuelling her steps.

The house dominates her tiny frame. It is white, cool and as huge as a snow-covered mountainside. Alita needs to see inside the shuttered room but the window is just too high.
“No, please, sir, not again!”
She is sure that the voice is her mother’s, though it has the same muffled quality as the scream.
Is Mama being hurt?
A twisted olive tree near the window provides a prickly ladder and, balanced precariously, Alita peers through the shutters.
When her eyes adjust to the dim light, she sees a large bedroom, and on the bed is a man sitting astride her mama, he is tearing at the buttons on her blouse and holding his other hand over her mouth. She is crying and trying to push him off, but he is too strong. Alita feels angry and hot. She cannot see his face as he has his back to her, but she can hear him.
“Shut up, you little whore, just remember I pay you, and a good pay check it is too.”
He has undone the blouse now and is pulling down her mama’s bra straps. He slaps her face when she bites his hand.
“You just lie still if you know what’s good for you, bitch!” says the man, raising his fist.
“Please, sir, why now, after all this time?” her mama is asking, lying still as he has ordered.
“Because I can, Liliana, because I can!” the man shouts, pulling up her skirt.
Alita is scared and confused but doesn’t care if she gets into trouble for being near the house. She pulls open the shutter and screams out.
“Leave my Mama alone!”

Twenty-three years into the future, Alita the woman echoes these words, crying out in her sleep.

The man leaps from the bed and pulls Alita the child into the room; he pinches her chin hard between his finger and thumb and turns her face upwards. It hurts so much but she won’t let him see that it does. She flails at him with small fists.

Alita the woman mirrors the action, punching air as the dawn light seeps through the curtains.
“What have we here then?” the man chuckles with cold humor.
She can’t see him clearly. He has pulled the shutter inwards, hiding himself behind it. Through the slats in the shutter, his face is alternately lined with shade and sunlight. The little she can see tells her that he is white. He smells of tobacco and liquor.
“Let her go, please! I know I shouldn’t have brought her to work but I had nobody to watch her today,” her mama cries, pulling her blouse together and hurrying over.
“My Mama usually has her but she’s ill today and...”
“Shut up, Liliana! You know I won’t allow children of workers here,” the man interrupts. “You people have too many little maggots crawling about the place, won’t be long before there’s no white folks left!”
“I’ll take her now, sir, you don’t have to pay me for today,” her mama says, grasping her hand.
The man continues to hold Alita’s chin, turning her face to the sunlight.
“Mind you, Liliana; this one’s a very pretty little maggot…blue eyes, quite unusual. In fact I’d quite like her to come and work for me in a few years, I’m sure she’d be very useful.”
“Let her go, you son of a bitch!” her mama cries slapping his hand away. She picks Alita up and runs down a wide marble staircase out into the glare of the afternoon.
The man runs after them but stops at the top of the steps. Alita can hear him shouting as she buries her tear-stained face in her mama’s neck.
“You’re fired, Liliana…do you hear me!”
“I quit already, do you hear me!” Her mama shouts back. She sets Alita down, and together they run down a long gravel drive away from the big house.

Another shift over, Dr. Ramirez snapped off her rubber gloves and shrugged out of her white coat. She needed a shower, food and rest. Sleep deprivation cast shadows underneath her dark lashes and weariness oozed from every pore.
Ramirez rubbed her eyes, yawned and loosed her raven hair from a tortoiseshell hairclip. From her locker she took black jeans, a red blouse and trainers. Pulling on the jeans she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Damn, I look more like fifty than thirty this evening! She wondered how the older staff coped with the workload if she felt like this. Never mind, another half hour and she’d be tucked up in bed.

The changing room door flew open as she tied up her trainers. Senior nurse Caldwell, forty, flustered, and pink stepped in.
“Oh, thank goodness I caught you, Dr. Ramirez, sorry, but we need you for a while longer. Dr. Gregory’s been called away to an emergency and we need you to assess an assault victim just come in.”
“What?” Ramirez said, feeling her stomach thump to basement level. “Is there no one else?”
Caldwell stuck out her chin. “I wouldn’t ask you if there was. The victim’s a fifteen year old girl; she’s in pretty bad shape.”

The girl looked more like ten than fifteen as she lay lifeless motionless on the gurney. She was Hispanic, short, slight of build, her dark hair hanging in a limp braid. Her breath rasped on the intake and rattled on the out. A tear, slipping from the corner of her eye, traced a bloody path through a livid wound swelling on the left side of her face.
The other eye was prizefighter blue and sealed shut, her top lip matched her face.
Dr. Ramirez took a deep breath and assessed her quickly. The girl moaned as the doctor's fingers probed, though she took the utmost care to be gentle. As well as obvious bruising and a sprained wrist she suspected a fractured rib.
“What’s the story?” Ramirez asked the officer who’d accompanied the paramedics that brought her in.
“Not sure, Doc. We got an anonymous call to say that someone just saw a girl collapse on the sidewalk. No ID, she understands English, but she won’t tell us her name.”

Ramirez leaned close to the girl. “What’s your name, honey?”
Another tear escaped but she said nothing.
Ramirez tried again ¿Cómo te llamas cielo?

The girl swallowed and looked into her eyes. “Marissa,” she whispered. Even this small action ripped open the split in her top lip, blood trickled into her mouth.
“Marissa? What a pretty name. Just lie still now.”

An hour later, Dr. Ramirez sank into her comfy office chair by the window. She was utterly exhausted now. She thought about the girl she’d just attended, and closed her eyes against the sadness welling behind them. Her eyes had seen too many Hispanic children and teenagers needing her attention over the years. All had carried with them silent tales of poverty, hopelessness and despair. This most recent one, Marissa, had been raped as well as beaten.
She walked over to the water cooler and filled a plastic cup. Through her tenth-floor window the purple shades of evening were creeping over the city. Houston could be really beautiful at this time of day. The retiring Texan sun painted subtle hues of orange, yellow and red along the tips and edges of stone and aluminum.
Sand coloured skyscrapers, reflected in the stark glass of the Wells Fargo building, stretched their fun house images to the sky.
Ramirez sipped her water and even though she was almost asleep, marvelled at the scene. This was the Houston skyline. Monoliths to the modern, sprinkled with the dust of the past swept in from the plains.
Something about the soft light playing over the white walls of a smaller building to her left suddenly triggered unwelcome images. The intoxicating smell of olives filled her senses, and images of a woman long ago in a big house, frightened, ashamed and dominated, blocked out the skyline.
The memories punched hard in the gut, and Ramirez stepped back under the impact. Images of a young child, small, terrified and powerless, her face cruelly pinched between the finger and thumb of a strong hand, forced their way into her mind. Then insidiously, the vile source of these terrifying images passed briefly in front of Ramirez’ eyes too – he went by the name of Robson Cutter.
She blinked rapidly, trying to force the unwelcome images from her head, and turned to the door; she needed to get out, she needed to go home.
As she took a step forward, the floor seemed to rise under her feet. Her face drained of color and she swayed from side to side. Quickly, she grabbed the desk to stop herself from falling.
Ramirez leaned on the desk, closed her eyes and tried to take slow calming breaths. Her whole body shook as waves of nausea crashed against her stomach walls. She reasoned the cause was the eighteen-hour stint, and the emotion involved with the poor girl she’d attended. Whatever it was, it wasn’t going away anytime soon.
In a cold sweat, her stomach churning painfully, she grabbed her bag and ran out into the corridor. Dashing for the locker room, she made it to the cubicle where she dropped to her knees and vomited. As she did, the face of Robson Cutter grinned in her head.
Shaking from head to toe, she flushed the toilet and then ran water into a basin. The water felt good as she splashed her face but it couldn’t wash away the memory of that name.
When she thought of Cutter she saw hatred and misery. In her mind her mother’s face merged with Marissa’s – just another poor vulnerable young woman.
She patted her face dry with a paper towel and regarded her haunted expression in the mirror. Dr. Alita Ramirez gritted her teeth and vowed that one day; somehow, she’d avenge her mother and wipe that grin permanently off Cutter’s face.