Today as a part of the blog blitz, I am sharing an extract from Mistletoe and the Mouse by Elsa Simonetti. If you love anything and everything abut Mickey Mouse, then this is the novel for you!
Can a magical Christmas melt a frozen heart?
Join Belle and James as they visit Mickey Mouse for a sparkling holiday season at Disneyland Paris.
Belle has been numb since her mother died, and she can’t face Christmas at home without her. Instead she books a surprise holiday to her “happy place” – the Magic Kingdom. But her boyfriend James has problems of his own. He doesn’t “do Disney” and what will his mother think of him missing their family Christmas to go to Disneyland with Belle?
A festive romance with a sprinkling of Pixie Dust.
Intro on the Extract:
Belle and James are on a Christmas holiday at Disneyland Paris, where Belle is struggling to overcome the grief she feels following the sudden and unexpected death of her mother earlier in the year. While she sits on the edge of a fountain, drinking mulled wine and waiting for James, Belle meets a young American, “a tall, slender woman of about her own age. The woman was wearing a knee-length deep red velvet dress over a pale golden skirt, with her long dark hair swept up with red roses. She was so elegant it took Belle’s breath away.” Belle falls naturally into conversation with her, and their meeting becomes something of a turning point for Belle, who is wondering if James’s obvious lack of enthusiasm for all things Disney might drive a wedge between them.
‘Shut up! Were you actually named after Beauty and the Beast?’ asked the woman.
‘Yes!’ Belle said. ‘Yes, my mum went into labour in the cinema watching the film. It was her favourite. She refused to leave until it was over; I very nearly popped out into the world in row H of the Cannon Cinema! That’s why she called me Belle.’
She had never told James that; she knew Beauty and the Beast didn’t mean anything to him. It would be pointless.
‘That is so awesome! Your mom must be a cool mother; I wish mine loved Disney as much as that.’
‘She is! She’s the best!’ Belle said eagerly, before remembering. ‘I mean, she was the best. She died earlier this year,’ she said, her face falling.
‘I’m so sorry for your loss,’ the woman said, looking concerned. ‘It’s so hard, isn’t it, first Christmas without your mom. I remember when my grandma died, I found Mom sitting and crying over the Thanksgiving Dinner, the first one she’d had to cook without grandma. Tears all over the turkey!’
‘Yes, that’s why we came here. I couldn’t face doing all the normal Christmas stuff without her. Mince pies and stockings and decorating the tree; it didn’t feel right.’
‘I can totally get that. Are you here with your Dad then?’
‘I haven’t seen my dad since I was four; he’s in America somewhere. No, I’m here with my boyfriend. James.’
‘The one who doesn’t do Disney?’
‘That’s the one.’
‘Then perhaps he is a keeper after all!’ the woman said. ‘Disney at Christmas is quite a thing for someone who doesn’t do Disney.’
‘I don’t know. He’s been so great this year, but it’s like he doesn’t understand me, sometimes. He doesn’t get it. I’m not sure if he’s The One – you know? He doesn’t seem to get Disney at all, and it’s always been such a big part of my life. Bringing him here, it makes me realise how different we are. He likes rugby, and I like Disney. There’s not much overlap there.’
It was the first time she had ever voiced her fears aloud. She had no-one she trusted enough to voice them to, without her mum. But somehow, this woman felt safe, like a friend.
‘Uh huh, I get that – but would he fight off vicious wolves for you, and carry you back safely to his castle? You don’t have to be exactly the same to be in love, you just have to be on the same side!’
She thought about James, and how he had lain awake with her all those nights, holding her in the darkness while she sobbed. She thought about how he had held her up at the funeral when she didn’t think she could stand on her own. She thought about how he had been prepared to abandon his own family at Christmas to come here with her, even though she could see quite clearly now he didn’t want to. He was on her side, firmly and steadfastly.
‘I think he would,’ she said softly. ‘Yes, I honestly think he would.’
‘Then, Belle, perhaps he is your Beast after all!’ she said, with a wave of her hand as if she was carrying a magic wand and sprinkling pixie dust. But her gesture turned into a wave as she saw her companion, dressed in ice-blue like Cinderella, coming out of the ladies’ toilets at the other side of the square. ‘Oh, there’s Gabrielle. Gotta go. Great to meet you, Belle.’
‘I didn’t get your name?’ Belle called after her. She stopped and turned back.
‘I’m Aliyah. But you can call me Fairy Godmother!’ she said with a laugh. ‘Happy holidays, Belle!’
‘Happy holidays, Fairy Godmother!’ she called after her.
Aliyah is only a minor character in the novel, but she’s an important one, as Belle otherwise has only James to talk to, and I realised that she needed someone to talk to ABOUT James at this point. Although Aliyah is very clearly a real person, the way in which she appears at this significant moment to help Belle and defines herself as Belle’s Fairy Godmother has a deliberate hint of magic about it. It’s one of my favourite scenes in the whole novel!
About the Author:
Elsa Simonetti was born in the same year as Walt Disney World, but many miles away in the north of England. Her earliest Disney memory is crying during Bambi at the Saturday morning cinema club! It wasn’t until her own children were small that her husband introduced her to the magic of Disneyland Paris, and since then she has become obsessed, proving Walt Disney’s own belief that “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever”. That was the seed of this story – that Disneyland is not just for children, but for anyone who is young at heart.
Elsa also writes romantic women’s fiction under the name of Liz Taylorson.
Today I am helping in the cover reveal for Rabette Run by Nick Rippington. This one will be released on February 21, 2020. As a bonus the author is also sharing the Prologue from the novel!
“Alice in Wonderland…With tanks and guns’- Nick Rippington
EMERSON RABETTE has a phobia about travelling on the underground, so when he is involved in a car accident his worst nightmare is about to come true.
A middle-aged graphic designer and father of one, Emerson’s entire future depends on him reaching an important business meeting. Without an alternative method of transport, he has to confront his biggest fear.
Things immediately go wrong when Emerson’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder kicks in and his fellow passengers become angry at the way he is acting. Thankfully a young woman called Winter comes to his rescue and agrees to help him reach his destination.
Once on the train, she thinks her job is done. What she isn’t prepared for is Emerson taking flight after reading a message scrawled on the train’s interior.
It simply reads: ‘Run Rabette Run’.
Rabette Run is Nick Rippington’s fourth book, a standalone psychological thriller. The author’s Boxer Boys trilogy is highly acclaimed and is now available in a digital boxset.
What does the cover look like?????? Keep scrolling to find out!!
Before I share the cover… See what the critics say about Nick Rippington:
‘Addictive, funny, touching, brilliant stories’
‘’Characters that truly come alive on the page’
‘’Evocative, original, unfailingly precise and often humorous’
Now, here is the cover:
Nick’s covers are designed by the hugely talented Jane Dixon-Smith of JD Smith designs. His second book Spark Out received the cover of the year award from the reviewer website Chill With A Book.
HE was sneaking a glance at his daughter in the rear-view mirror, listening to her talk about college and friends, when their blue family estate was broadsided by the Jeep.
Time suspended before a tsunami of shattered glass crashed in and he lost control of the steering wheel. The airbag deployed and the seat belt cut painfully into his shoulder as it absorbed the strain of his 15-stone bulk before boomeranging him back into place. What was left of the windscreen retreated as his body reacted like the lash of a whip and, in his confusion, he experienced that eureka moment… ‘Ahhh, whiplash!’
As the car skidded across the road he was dazzled by a kaleidoscope of bright lights – neon advertising boards, shop windows and street lamps. When his eyes adjusted it was as if he was watching everything in slow motion: A couple he had noticed walking hand in hand moments earlier ran in different directions, while a newspaper seller deserted his pitch, money pouch flapping against his pounding legs. Further along, a dapper-looking bloke in tweeds seemed in two minds which way to flee before settling on the safety of the Underground steps.
The visions tumbled from his mind as the car completed its 360-degree spin and he finally locked eyes on his assailant. Marooned in the stationary Jeep, the dark-haired woman stared through the windscreen vacantly, a thick stream of blood meandering down her face from a garish wound above her eyebrow. Devoid of expression, it seemed the shock had vacuumed all thought from her brain.
As soon as she appeared, she was gone, the car continuing to spin. Facing the pavement again, the driver’s attention was captured by what he thought was a bundle of blankets and rags in a shop doorway. With alarm he noticed startled eyes staring out from a face swamped in facial hair. ‘Get out of the fucking way!’ the driver mouthed as he realised one of London’s street dwellers was totally oblivious to the approaching danger.
The car made jarring contact with the kerb and suddenly it was the driver who was spinning, like a sock in a washing machine. His head bumped against the ceiling, his left arm smashed against the twisted metal of the door and his right leg sent jolts of electrifying pain through his nervous system.
Finally, the fairground ride from hell came to an abrupt halt, the car thudding against something hard. The heap of tangled metal that was once a solid and protective shell settled slowly back in an upright position, bouncing like one of those gangster rides with hydraulic suspension that featured in American movies. This wasn’t America, though, this was twenty-first century Britain and he wasn’t a teen gangster, just an ordinary Joe going about his boring, routine business.
New sounds invaded the void left by the disintegrated windows: horns blowing, tyres screeching, glass crunching, people screaming. His ears slowly acclimatising to the noise, he then detected an unfamiliar ticking and saw steam pouring from the bent and buckled bonnet. Performing calculations in his head, he tried to work out how much this entire calamity might cost him. What would the insurance company say? Was there any possibility the vehicle wasn’t a write-off and did his policy contain the use of a courtesy car? How the hell was he going to get to work? What the hell was he going to tell his wife?
Shit, his daughter!
‘You OK back there, honey?’
There was a pause during which his heart skipped a beat.
‘Yeah, I think so. I’ve a… pain in my tummy.’
Superficial damage. Nothing serious. Thank God. Relief flooded through him.
‘You?’ she asked.
‘My leg’s killing me but otherwise…’
His thoughts were interrupted by another sound. Looking to his left, he was surprised to see the passenger window still intact. Outside, a man in a navy-blue uniform and cap gesticulated wildly, but it was hard to make out what he was saying. The driver felt as if his head was submerged in that slime kids found all the rage.
Still, at least he was conscious enough to interpret the police officer’s manic, hand-waving gestures and detect the urgency in them. Shaking his head to free himself from the gloop, he felt needles of pain attack his nervous system as he shifted sideways, utilising every muscle necessary to reach out and press the button which released the window.
The car’s electrics made an uncomfortable, whirring sound as the glass slid down a few centimetres then stopped. Jammed. He continued pushing the button, but the internal workings were badly damaged. He watched as a gloved hand slipped through the gap at the top of the door and exerted pressure. There was another crunching noise and the window dropped to around halfway, the brute force almost certainly rendering the mechanism irreparable. Not thinking straight, his first reaction was one of anger and his mind made calculations about how much compensation he should claim once he was back on his feet.
The police constable battled gamely to get his point across amid a deafening ensemble of alarm bells and sirens. ‘We need to get you out of there, sir. No need to panic, but we have to make you safe before we can get the paramedics to check you over.’
‘Sounds serious, Dad,’ said his girl.
‘Thanks, Sherlock, always the optimist.’
‘What was that?’ The officer’s face seemed blurred as the driver tried to focus.
‘Sorry, it’s my ears…’ he shouted, the frenzied effort to make himself heard betraying his underlying fear. ‘I can’t… Is the car going to explode?’
‘Umm, I sincerely hope not, sir, but there is a lot of fuel around, the engine’s smoking… It’s best to err on the side of caution. We need to get you a safe distance away in the unlikely event that things escalate. The fire brigade will be here in two ticks and they’ll bring it under control in no time. Until then…’
‘Not sure I can move to be honest, son. I think my leg’s trapped.’
‘Ahhh.’ The policeman nodded. ‘Can you have a look around – see what the problem is? You might be able to free it. On second thoughts, hold on, I’ll come around to your side and see what I can do.’
Appearing at the driver’s window, he then brushed aside fragments of glass and leaned through, peering into the gloom of the footwell. ‘O… K,’ he said slowly. He wasn’t very good at disguising his feelings. It was serious. ‘We have a bit of a problem. A lump of metal appears to have wedged itself in your leg. I’m guessing it will take special tools to get you out of there.’
Shit! The Jaws of Life. Only the other day he had been watching a TV programme about the fire service and the equipment they used to cut people free from road traffic accident wrecks. The jaws had saved many lives, but the name alone was enough to send a shudder rippling through his damaged body. The sirens in the distance were getting louder as they announced their urgency to the world. Blue spinning lights roamed the darkness of the car’s interior, before a more permanent red glow encroached on the shadows. Was it getting hot?
‘Ahhh…’ said the officer.
There were snapping sounds followed by a crackle. Random memories of an old advert for cereal entered the driver’s head: snap, crackle, pop. Twisting as best he could, the driver realised the noise was being created by flames eating into the car’s paintwork. ‘No!’ he muttered through clenched teeth. Damn, he’d just forked out a small fortune on a touch-up job after some local punk had dug a thick groove right along the passenger’s side with a coin or a key.
‘Uh oh!’ said his daughter, looking over her shoulder. ‘They’re going to get us out of here, aren’t they, Dad? I’m scared.’
‘Stay calm,’ he replied, wishing he could practice what he was preaching. ‘I’m sure it will be fine. The fire brigade is on their way and will be here shortly.’
‘Ahh, they’re here,’ the policeman announced on cue, relief evident in his tone.
Moments later the driver heard a new voice, the accent pure Cockney. ‘Stay calm, sir, and we’ll have you out in no time.’
The driver twisted in the direction of the person speaking and another wave of pain rolled through him. On the periphery of his vision he could make out a tall man with a pointed jaw in a fire brigade uniform.
‘What seems to be the trouble, eh? Let the dog see the rabbit.’ The fireman leaned inside. ‘Rrrr…igh…t,’ he said before shouting some instructions to the rest of his crew.
Suddenly, the car was plunged into darkness. The driver guessed it was being buried in that foam the fire services used to bring a blaze under control. It felt strangely comforting to know they weren’t going to be burnt alive. Another sound, a screeching, grating noise soon invaded the car’s interior, setting his teeth on edge.
‘Cool!’ muttered his daughter as sparks sprayed through the roof. Moments later the metal was peeled back like the lid on a tin of tuna, bright lights invading the space, making them cry out and shield their eyes.
‘Sorry, mate, it’s got to be done,’ advised the fire officer. ‘Once we’re inside, we can hopefully remove the obstacle that’s holding you in place and get you out of there. Second thoughts, the best thing we can do, looking at it now, would be to remove the door, together with your good self. It should be easier to cut you free elsewhere, rather than in the midst of this, um, chaos. When we get somewhere a bit less volatile the medical people can assess the problem and hopefully free your leg from the door.’
As he said this, for the first time the driver realised that up until now the darkness of the footwell had prevented him taking a closer look at his injury. Shielding his eyes from the glare, he glanced downwards. A thick metal shard was protruding from his leg and a dark, sticky substance soaked his trousers. The limb looked like a theatrical prosthesis in a zombie apocalypse movie, the foot at a right angle to the rest of the limb.
He experienced an unfamiliar dizziness and passed out.
GLOVED hands grasped the limp body and gently carried it to the stretcher. The patient felt a needle entering the soft tissue in his arm and after that remembered little, sliding into unconsciousness as he murmured her name. The paramedic whispered to one of the fireman.
‘What did he say? Sounded like a name? Jane, was it? I think he said something about a daughter. Was there anyone with him?’
‘Nope,’ replied the fireman. ‘He was all on his lonesome.’
A colleague arrived at the paramedic’s shoulder. ‘Right, best get him to intensive care, lickety spit,’ said the new arrival. ‘I hate to be the prophet of doom, but it will be touch and go if he survives the night.’
About the Author:
NICK RIPPINGTON is the award-winning author of the Boxer Boys series of gangland crime thrillers.
Based in London, UK, Nick was the last-ever Welsh Sports Editor of the now defunct News of The World, writing his debut release Crossing The Whitewash after being made redundant with just two days notice after Rupert Murdoch closed down Europe’s biggest-selling tabloid in 2011.
On holiday at the time, Nick was never allowed back in the building, investigators sealing off the area with crime scene tape and seizing his computer as they investigated the phone-hacking scandal, something which took place a decade before Nick joined the paper. His greatest fear, however, was that cops would uncover the secrets to his Fantasy Football selections.
Handed the contents of his desk in a black bin bag in a murky car park, deep throat style, Nick was at a crossroads – married just two years earlier and with a wife and 9-month-old baby to support.
With self-publishing booming, he hit on an idea for a UK gangland thriller taking place against the backdrop of the Rugby World Cup and in 2015 produced Crossing The Whitewash, which received an honourable mention in the genre category of the Writers’ Digest self-published eBook awards. Judges described it as “evocative, unique, unfailingly precise and often humorous”.
Follow-up novel Spark Out, a prequel set at the time of Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War, received a Chill With A Book reader award and an IndieBRAG medallion from the prestigious website dedicated to Independent publishers and writers throughout the world. The novel was also awarded best cover of 2017 with Chill With A Book.
The third book in the Boxer Boys series Dying Seconds, a sequel to Crossing The Whitewash, was released in December 2018 and went to the top of the Amazon Contemporary Urban Fiction free charts during a giveaway period of five days. A digital box set, the Boxer Boys Collection, came out in September last year.
Now Nick, 60, is switching direction feeling that, for the moment, the Boxer Boys series has run its course. His latest novel, Rabette Run, will be released in the Spring and Nick says, ‘It is a gritty psychological thriller with twists and turns galore. Think Alice in Wonderland with tanks and guns.’
Married to Liz, When Nick isn’t writing he works as a back bench designer of sports pages on the Daily Star. He has two children – Jemma, 37, and Olivia, 9.
Today I will be sharing an extract for my spot on the blog tour for The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada by Neil Randall. And if you are in the UK you can be in the running for a giveaway!
The whole world against him
The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada is the story of an outsider, a lonely, misunderstood young artist who chronicles all the unpleasant things that happen to him in life. Abandoned by his parents, brought up be a tyrannical aunt, bullied at school, ostracized by the local community, nearly everyone Jacob comes into contact with takes an instant, (often) violent dislike towards him. Like Job from the bible, he is beaten and abused, manipulated and taken advantage of. Life, people, fate, circumstance force him deeper into his shell, deeper into the cocoon of his fledgling artistic work, where he records every significant event in sketches, paintings and short-form verse, documenting his own unique, eminently miserable human experience. At heart, he longs for companionship, intimacy, love, but is dealt so many blows he is too scared to reach out to anybody. On the fringes of society, he devotes himself solely to his art.
Purchase Link here.
Promise Me No Promises
Jacob Fallada leaned back on a park bench, closed his eyes, and listened to the familiar yet somehow disconcerting sounds of children at play: the shrieks, excited voices and high-pitched laughter. It took him back to his own childhood, to those dark, confusing days where all he sought was peace, quiet, and solitude, where this kind of raucous scene was pure torture, a rolling kind of purgatory he could never quite escape. It’s odd, he thought to himself, how something so synonymous with innocence, the happiest, most carefree times of life were associated with his own bleakest memories, the most sickening of emotions, as if his sensory apparatus had been reversed, as if black was white, as if he were subject to a completely different set of emotional criteria than ordinary, everyday people. And although he could easily identify the root causes for this, he still wasn’t sure why he had been destined to feel so isolated and conflicted all the time.
When he opened his eyes again, he was startled to see someone standing right in front of him, a slender, casually dressed yet decidedly smart, well-to-do woman in her late twenties.
“I’m sorry, but I really need to have a word with you.”
“That’s right. I’m a young mother. My two children are playing just over there in the sandpit.” She gestured towards the sun-drenched play area. “Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen you down here a hell of a lot. And I don’t like it one bit.”
Jacob blinked in confusion. He had no idea what this woman was trying to say. This was, after all, a public place, a place he had come to frequent in the summer months, to sketch, jot down notes, read, relax, gather his thoughts. He had as much right to be here as anybody else.
“I am, in fact, speaking on behalf of a dozen or so concerned mothers who don’t like the idea of such an unkempt loner staring at their children for hours on end, who don’t want to put them at risk of being accosted by someone who could very well be on the sex register.”
Only then did Jacob realise exactly why she had approached him.
“Now, we don’t want to have to call the police. But if you don’t leave here, this minute, I’ll be forced to—”
“Maureen, no,” said a petite, middle-aged woman in glasses, who had literally appeared out of nowhere. “Not to be clichéd, but you’re barking up the wrong tree. This young man is an artist. I’ve seen him down here with his sketchbook countless times before. I’ve sat next to him on this very bench, and he didn’t even know I was there, so absorbed was he in his drawing. He isn’t some deviant stalking local children. If anything, you’re the one harassing him, interrupting his work.”
Maureen’s cheeks reddened; she became incredibly flustered, incredibly quickly.
“Oh, my word. I…I’m terribly sorry.” She swallowed hard and shifted her weight. “It’s just…it’s just that you hear such awful things these days, and, not to be rude, but you look so, so down-at-the-heel, pretty much like every mother’s worst nightmare. I just assumed you were a…a, you know.”
So effusive were her apologetic words, so horrified did she look at her mistake, Jacob found himself apologising in return, just as effusively, saying that he understood perfectly well why she had reacted in the way she did, almost conceding the fact that he did indeed resemble the popular image of a career paedophile.
“Really, it’s nothing,” he assured her, “a misunderstanding, just one of those things.”
After graciously accepting his apology, Maureen scuttled away, joining a group of young mothers gathered by the climbing-frames, no doubt awaiting a full account of her exchange with the dubious stranger who had so enflamed their maternal anxiety.
Jacob turned to the woman in glasses.
“Thank you for that,” he said, ruefully shaking his head. “For interceding, I mean. I don’t know what it is, but that kind of thing happens to me quite often.”
“It’s because you’re different,” she said, carefully folding her pretty floral-print dress and sitting next to him. “It’s because you’re an artist, someone who lives an alternative lifestyle that everyday people just can’t understand. Normal Joes and Josephines fear those who want to create, express themselves, who are not driven by money and material possessions. Put simply, your mere existence makes them question theirs.”
Jacob took a moment to consider her words. Not one to overthink things too much, the reasons why he did what he did, he nonetheless thought she had summed up his situation, and that of anyone who seeks to be creative in the modern world, to dedicate themselves to an artform, particularly well indeed. For that reason, he felt an instant connection, a bond, a sense of solidarity. Rarely had anyone taken the time to try and understand him, his way of life and motivations.
“I, myself, am a bit of a weekend artist,” she told him. “Not that my work is easy to define, categorise, put into any kind of box. I tend to splice genres, mix things up—part painter, part writer, part candlestick maker.”
“Really?” said Jacob, laughing at her amusing play on words.
“Yes. In fact, I was thinking of taking my sketchbook down to the promenade tomorrow morning, near where the fishing boats are moored overnight. Not to be presumptuous, but would you like to perhaps meet up? We could carry on our discussion about art and artists, why we spend all our time in front of a canvas or hunched over a sheet of writing paper.”
“Erm, yes,” he replied, a little wrong-footed by her suggestion—strangers rarely spoke to him, let alone made arrangements for a second meeting. “Yes, I would.”
“Good.” She smiled and got to her feet. “I’ll see you then…then. Ha! Oh, and my name’s Rhea, by the way.”
Shyly, she offered him a slender hand with black painted nails to shake.
“And I’m Jacob, Jacob Fallada.”
That night, Jacob found it almost impossible to sleep. He was far too excited by what amounted to both a regulation date and an artistic assignation with an incredibly intriguing woman. Perhaps this whole thing was fated, he thought to himself.
Perhaps I was destined to be in the park at that precise hour of the morning. Perhaps, perversely, being accused of being a potential child rapist was part of the whole karmic process, to bring me closer to Rhea, a fellow artist, someone who understands the inner workings of my mind, someone I can talk to freely and openly, perhaps even show my own body of work. Perhaps all the pain and rejection of my early life was leading up to this one point.
In this irrepressible state, he tried to remember every aspect of Rhea’s appearance: the dark, tangled hair that rested at a shoulder’s length, the pale, almost porcelain skin, the curious greeny-blue eyes that lurked behind her stylish designer glasses, the quite disarming white-toothed smile, petite, almost painfully thin frame, which belied the dynamo-like energy generated by what clearly was a fierce intelligence, the simple floral dress, shoes with straps, the black nail polish. All in all, Jacob Fallada had never met anyone like Rhea before.
About the Author:
Neil Randall is the author of seven published novels and a collection of short stories. His work has been published in the UK, US, Australia and Canada.
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