Saturday, 31 January 2015


Shadow on the Highway

Author: Deborah Swift
Genre: Historical Romance
May 1651. 

England has been in the midst of a civil war for nearly ten years. 

The country has been torn in two, and the King is getting ready to make his last stand against Cromwell’s New Model Army. 

Abigail Chaplin, a young deaf girl, has lost her father to the parliamentarian cause. 

But with her family now in reduced circumstances, she is forced to work as a servant at a royalist household - the estate of Lady Katherine Fanshawe. 

Abi is soon caught up in a web of sinister secrets which surround the Fanshawe estate. 

The most curious of which is the disappearance of Lady Katherine late at night. 

Why are her husband’s clothes worn and muddy even though he hasn’t been home for weeks? 

How is she stealing out of the house late at night when her room is being guarded? 

And what is her involvement with the robberies being committed by the mysterious Silent Highwayman? 

‘Shadow On The Highway’ is based on the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, the highwaywoman, sometimes known as ‘The Wicked Lady’. It is the first book in ‘The Highway Trilogy’. 

Praise for Deborah Swift: 

‘There is no greater compliment than “Give me more!”’ - Susanna Gregory 

‘realistic dialogue, an author’s obvious love for history, and characters that leap off the pages’ - Romance Reviews Today 

‘genuinely engrossing… with characters you can get interested in’ - The Mum Website 

Deborah Swift lives in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District. She teaches classes and courses in writing, and is the author of three other historical novels: ‘The Lady’s Slipper’, ‘The Gilded Lily’ and ‘A Divided Inheritance’. You can find out more about her on her website, 

Endeavour Press is the UK's leading independent publisher of digital books.


Author Website:

Book Excerpts
Excerpt #1

May 1651

I knew why they sent me instead of Elizabeth to Markyate Manor, though they thought I hadn’t understood.
When Ralph asked Mother, I saw her lips say, ‘They can’t afford Elizabeth.’
If they whisper their mouths make the shapes even more clearly than when they just talk. And I’m deaf, not stupid. I listen with my eyes, that’s all.
On the day I was to go, Mother walked me the six miles over to the Manor, to make sure I got there. When she caught me dawdling she grabbed my hand in her dry calloused one to tow me along. Our feet left dark footprints in the dew as we went and my cloth bag thumped against my legs as Mother’s breath puffed out a rhythm of white in the chill, early-morning air.
We crossed the rutted highway to Wheathamstead, checking first for bands of soldiers. Cromwell’s unruly troops often used this route and they’d trodden it into mulch. On Nomansland Common a cow rubbed its bony backside on the empty stocks and the starlings flew up away from the hedge with a smatter of wings. As the sun rose higher Mother speeded her step, leaning into the journey as if she could not be there quick enough. I clutched the stitch in my stomach.
Markyate Manor slowly solidified out of the morning mist, growing grander with every step, until it swelled over us with its towering red-brick chimneys. My breath caught in my throat. It was enormous. I’d get lost in there. Mother gave my arm another tug and pulled me out of sight of the front door, her head bent, skirting the corner of the house. I tilted my neck back, trying to see the top of the domed turrets but Mother frowned at me, ‘Quick! We’ll be late.’
Past glazed windows which seemed to hold no reflections, past ivy hanging away from the walls. Where was everybody? There was not a soul to be seen. At the peeling back door Mother jerked on a green metal handle, I imagined a distant bell.
We waited. I wiped my face with my sleeve; I was hot from all the hurrying and it wouldn’t do to look unpresentable. The door opened and Mother pushed me on ahead. In the gloom my foot stubbed on a trunk and I had to reach out a hand to the wall to steady myself. The agitated young woman who had let us in had her gloves on already, the drawstring of her cloak was tied up tight around her neck, and all her bags stood in the hall.
 ‘I’m Mrs. Chaplin and this is Abigail,’ Mother said.
 ‘Henshaw, that was the maid,’ the woman said, and sniffed, as if I smelt bad. ‘The wagon will be here any moment, so I won’t wait.’ Her words were clipped, as if she was biting them off, so I had no trouble reading them.

Excerpt #2
I turned, and there, sat at the table, was a young woman, watching me through narrowed curious eyes. The bowl was already empty.
‘I suppose you’re Chaplin,’ she said, waving her spoon. Then, speaking very slowly and deliberately as if to a simpleton, ‘Curtsey, if you please.’
My face grew hot. I did as she asked, but did not dip my head. I kept my eyes fixed on her mouth.
‘Can you understand me?’
‘Yes miss.’
‘Yes, m’lady. And speak up.’
I repeated it. My heart thumped in my chest. This surely couldn’t be Lady Katherine, could it? I was expecting someone much older. This flame-haired girl was probably only sixteen or seventeen – a year or two older than I. But of course she had that manner they all have, of looking at you as if you are a long way off and not right under their noses.
When I got nearer I saw her lace cuffs needed a good wash. But I did not dare get a proper look. Just being near her made me nervous – the way she’d appeared from nowhere like a ghost.
I stood and turned to face her, ready for more instructions. Because if she was the daughter of the house, I was determined to show her I was the best maidservant they’d ever had.
‘Fetch more coal and wood, and then make a start on the laundry. The buck tub is outside somewhere…near the dairy. The linen basket’s on the landing near my upper chamber.’ She was still speaking very slowly, though she had no need, hers was the kind of expressive face that showed every mood. Like the sky, with clouds passing over.
I nodded to show I’d understood.
‘When it’s done, come back here and wait by the door in case I need you again.’
‘Yes m’lady.’
She put down her writing slope and stood up to study me. ‘Can you hear me? They told me you were deaf.’
‘Yes m’lady, I mean no m’lady.’
Her brows furrowed in irritation. ‘Well which is it? Are you deaf or not?’
‘I can read lips m’lady.’
 She raised her eyebrows and looked pleased. ‘Good. We’ll be able to talk. Mr Grice didn’t want me to have another servant whilst my husband’s away – he thinks it’s a waste of good money. But it’s so boring with no female company. And the house needs a good clean.’ I carried on watching in fascination, her rosy lips and little white teeth, unable to look away just in case she had more to say. ‘Well, what are you waiting for?’
That was me dismissed. She sat back down with her paper and quill and began to write.
I plucked up courage and asked, ‘Beg pardon m’lady, but are you the Lady Katherine?’
She looked up. ‘Of course I’m Lady Katherine.’ Her eyes flashed. ‘Who else would I be?’

Excerpt #3
Lady Katherine arrived after I had lit the fire and the rush-lights, and just as I was smoothing out the bed. I was proud of the way I had the jug of hot water already standing by.
‘Unlace me.’ She stood in front of me and turned, obviously expecting me to undress her, but my mouth was dry at such a prospect. I did not dare to touch her with my rough, chapped hands. Her hair fell in soft coppery tendrils over the eyelets of her bodice.
I unlaced her as she fidgeted. I helped her out of the bodice and the skirt, noticing how she shivered with the cold. She pointed at the basin and I fetched it over with the linen cloth, but I stood there, not knowing how to wash her. Which parts should I wash?
She turned and snatched the cloth from my hand. ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake.’ She rubbed vigorously at her neck and her face, then her arms. As she scrubbed, the back of her chemise gaped open and I saw faint criss-crosses of white scars. That was shocking enough, but down below there was a big purpleish bruise across her back. I gasped. I had done that. To Lady Katherine Fanshawe. I was horrified.
She swung round. ‘What’s the matter?’
‘Nothing m’lady.’
‘Then fetch me a towel and clean linen. If I stand here uncovered who knows what disease may find its way in?’
I wiped gently, and saw her wince. She turned and pulled the cloth from my hand. ‘Not like that. You’re too clumsy.’
‘There’s a bruise m’lady.’
‘It’s nothing. I’ve suffered worse.’
I lowered my eyes and she threw the cloth back in the basin. She confused me, this child-woman with the arrogant look. And she was never still, full of a strange restlessness. There was a trunk in an adjoining dressing room and I rummaged inside, glad to find a dry cloth and a clean nightdress.
I held out the cloth for her to dry herself but she shook her head. Her foot tapped on the floor and her eyes showed she was thinking of something else. ‘When my husband Thomas is home, you will sleep here,’ she announced.
She seemed very young to be married, but I curtseyed to this order and bunched up the nightdress for her to put her arms through the sleeves. ‘You can bring your bedding down,’ she said. ‘And you are to help me move that chest against the door.’ Her hands fluttered as she talked.
There was another door in the wall opposite the dressing room, and she saw me look to it.
‘Yes, that’s his room. My step-father has the key.’
Her face showed she did not like him. I tied the strings at the front of her gown in a bow.
‘Both doors,’ she said, looking into my eyes. ‘We’ll secure both doors.’


The Portal &The Panther
Title: The Portal & The Panther
Author: R.A. Marshall 
Genre: YA Fantasy / Science-Fiction
The only thing seventeen year-old Jon Parker wants is to escape his sleepy hometown of Mecksville, Arkansas. But everything changes when Jon stumbles into the boys’ bathroom and transforms into a black panther.

Without choice, Jon is thrust into a world where parallel universes are real, shapeshifters exist, and dangerous “intruders” can control the elements with a mere thought. Jon learns he’s inherited his shapeshifting ability from his long-dead mother, and now, like it or not, his mission is to protect our world from invaders from other worlds.

But is it a mission Jon will accept? His decision will determine the fate of the people he loves -- and our whole world.

Author Bio
My first attempt at novel writing was when I was ten years old.  At the time, I was writing fan fiction, without realizing what fan fiction actually was (I don’t think the term existed yet).  I had just finished reading Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein for the second time and, for the second time, couldn’t stand that the book was ending.  I needed some sort of sequel. I think I got about 12 handwritten pages into my Tunnel in the Sky sequel before my father pointed out that I’d never be able to publish it.
I tried writing novels again some time in college, but that was the period in my life when I took myself faaaaaar too seriously. If you’re over the age of 23, you’ll know what I mean by that.  I was only interested in writing something Important, something that Mattered, and consequently wrote no more than about 10,000 words before giving up.  In my heart, I didn’t want to write Les Mis or War and Peace, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
When Kindle came along and I stopped buying actual paper books, I realized that there was a revolution going on in the publishing world.  As I heard tales of self-published authors meeting with unprecedented success, I decided it was time to dust off my fiction writing skills and join their ranks.  I could finally just write for the hell of it and never have to worry about what a publisher would think or what anyone else would think.
I finished the first draft of The Portal and the Panther in April 2014; I plan to publish it in January 2015.  Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on the second book in the Guardians of the Portal series, The Girl Between Worlds.  I hope to also have it ready at the same time as The P and the P.


You can read the prologue here:
Email sign-up: If you sign up before March 15, you will get the third book for free.
Twitter: RAMarshall78

Book Excerpts
Excerpt #1
The big one back-handed me again, harder this time.  I tasted blood and the cut on my bottom lip grew longer.

In that strange, computerized accent, he repeated, "You will tell us everything."

"I will tell you nothing," I answered again.  Admittedly, I felt more nervous than I sounded, but I kept a smirk on my swollen face anyway.  Our stubborn back-and-forth had been going on like this for at least five or six minutes now.  He'd say, "Tell us everything," I'd say "No," he'd hit me, and then we'd start again.  Hoping he wouldn't notice, I gently pulled again at the duct tape that wound around my wrists and bound my hands behind the chair.  Nope.  It definitely wasn't something I could tear free, especially not in the weakened condition I was in.

I wouldn't be able to use brawn to get out of this, I realized.  But that was ok.  I had brains, too.

The Big Guy looked over at his three companions, who were lined up along the wall underneath the mantlepiece like the obedient little soldiers they were.  It was an odd contrast to see -- the Krull family's photos and trinkets behind their heads on the white mantle, while these three monsters looked on at me and the tied-up family impassively.  I'd named the one with the red hair and brilliant green eyes, the fire-user, Red.  The other two, the air-users who looked like they had to be twins, I thought of as Blond 1 and Blond 2.  I was pleased to see that Blond 1 was still bleeding from the long gash I'd put on his arm.  Hopefully that meant he wouldn't be using that arm for the rest of the night.

When Big Guy met Red's eyes, Red nodded curtly and, stepping away from the twins, he produced a ball of blue and orange flame, dancing in the palm of his hand.  He walked across the room and stopped next to Kristin's father, Joe Krull, who was still out cold.  Mr. Krull's head lolled behind him, and his mouth hung open like a passed-out drunkard.  Then Red lightly rested the hand that wasn't holding the flame on Mr. Krull's shoulder and stared at me.

"You will tell us everything," Big Guy said again.  "Or this family dies."

Uh-oh.  How much longer would I be able to stall them?

Excerpt #2

My back was itching and burning.  My arms and legs felt like I was being stretched out on a medieval torture rack.  And I had a weird, tingling, pins-and-needles pain at the base of my spine.  It traveled up and down my back like an electric current.

I opened my mouth to call out for help, but no sound came.  I was lying on my back like an upside-down cockroach that couldn't flip itself onto its legs again.

That was when I thought I started hallucinating.  Of course, I wasn't hallucinating, but I wouldn't figure that out until later.  Because right then, my right hand turned into a huge black cat's paw.  I would have screamed if I could.  It turned back into a hand in the very next moment, so fast I knew I had to be imagining it, but then my left hand turned into cat's paw.  At the same time, I felt a horrible pressure in my jeans, as if they'd suddenly shrunk by five sizes, and I heard the sound of fabric ripping apart.  The seams of my t-shirt popped, then the whole back of the shirt ripped up the middle.  The pounding in my head kept getting worse and worse, my vision got watery, then really sharp, and instead of sounds coming from down a long tunnel, I felt like I could hear everything happening in the whole damn school.

Usually you can barely hear the announcements from inside the bathrooms, but I could hear them as if the volume was turned up to full blast and I had my ears pressed against the speakers.


I could hear the voices coming from Mrs. Mullhooney's room and from the room next door where the girl in the hall had come from.  Despite distance and two doors between us, I heard them as if they were standing right next to me, shouting at me.





Somewhere in the girl's room next to me, a toilet flushed and a stall door opened, then bounced twice.  I tried to cover my ears with my hands, but my arms didn't want to work.  I kept trying to move them up towards my head, but they just wouldn't cooperate.  And my hands had turned into big cat's paws again.

If the noise was unbearable, the smell was worse.  The boy's bathroom had smelled awful when I walked in; now it was as if someone h

ad swabbed the floor and all the toilets with a q-tip and then stuck it under my nose.

That's when I finally passed out.

Excerpt #3

Kristin glanced in his direction and then back at me.  She took a step towards me, hesitant.  She unfolded her arms and shoved her hands in her jacket pockets.

"I'm sorry he's being such a jerk," she said.  "He's not always that way."

I shrugged but didn't answer her.  It wasn't the first apology she'd given me this year.  I still had the sticky note that said "I'm sorry" in the back of my American History book, but I wasn't entirely sure I was ready to forgive her yet.

"How've you been?" she asked.


"Only ok?" she asked, a strained smile on her face.

Well, I thought to myself, I'm hanging out at a party with a bunch of kids I'm not sure if I like that much, your boyfriend just reminded me that half the football team still calls me "faggot" behind my back, and yesterday morning, right between homeroom and first period, I turned into a panther in the bathroom.  Did you hear about that?  No?

"You know."  I shrugged again.  "I'm ok."