#BlogTour Illusion by @StephanieElmas @EndeavourPress #Extract Chapter four

Illusion blog tour promo
Illusion by Stephanie Elmas
Synopsis:

London, 1873.

Returning home from his travels with a stowaway named Kayan, Walter Balanchine is noted for the charms, potions and locket hanging from his neck.

Finding his friend Tom Winter’s mother unwell, he gives her a potion he learned to brew in the Far East. Lucid and free from pain, the old woman remembers something about Walter’s mother.

Walter is intrigued, for he has never known his family or even his own name – he christened himself upon leaving the workhouse.

Living in a cemetery with his pet panther Sinbad to keep the body snatchers away, word soon spreads of his healing and magical abilities and he becomes a sought after party performer.

During one of Walter’s parties, Tom is approached by Tamara Huntington, who reveals she is being forced to marry a man she does not love.

Will he and Walter come to her rescue?

Try as they might, sometimes all the best intentions in the world can’t put a stop to a bad thing, and she is soon married off to the cruel Cecil Hearst.

Drama and tragedy ensue, and Walter keeps his distance from Tamara.

That is until her stricken brother-in-law Daniel requires his magical healing, and he is forced back into her life.

With secrets beginning to emerge, Walter finds his mother may be a lot closer to home than he realised…

Filled with mystery, magic and larger than life characters, Illusion will keep you guessing until the very last page.

#Extract – Chpater Four:

Walter’s re-entry into [Tom’s] quiet life had given him an unexpected jolt. His friend’s grand plans, delicious and tempting as they were, sent rivulets of terror right through him. To risk all that he had carefully built for himself, for Ma, their small oasis of domesticity… It was terrifying, yes. But god knows it was exciting, too. Life with Walter was never anything but. And could his old friend, just possibly, be the one to make Ma better? It was almost too painful to hope.
He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead and moved his chair an inch away from the raging hearth nearby. As if in response, Rosalind halted to pull a wrap a little further up her throat. She then flexed her fingers and resumed her battle with ‘Around the Pear Tree’.
And yet, he owed Walter. He owed him everything that he had now. Because if that gawky, strange named beanpole of a boy hadn’t taken him under his wing all those years ago, then Tom Winter would be dead by now. He’d be one of those small, starved, sackful of bones they throw into pits for people who have nothing to show for in this world. He’d be deep under the frosty earth, not sizzling by the fire in Rosalind Gallop’s parlour.
‘D’ya want to see something funny?’
Those had been Walter’s first words to him. Tom had found himself unable to respond. He was too cold and too hungry: a lost and shivering little boy of eight.
But the skull-like face didn’t seem to need his question answered. ‘I’m gonna count back from five and then you’re gonna smile, like you still know how to do it.’
They were sitting in the refectory: a hundred miserable, snot faced, filthy children, and Mrs Chester was serving out the slop that passed for their food. She heaved a gigantic pan up onto the table, clutching its iron handle.
‘Pigeon broth!’ she bellowed. ‘It’s burnt, mind.’
Walter winked and began to count down quietly. ‘Five, four, three, two …,’
The lid came up from the giant pot. Mrs Chester danced back, shrieking as the room fell into disarray. Because instead of emitting the odour of burnt, liquid bird, the pot unleashed three very much alive pigeons. They spiralled up from their prison, wings flapping a series of sharp slaps in Mrs Chester’s face, feathers cascading in the air. Everyone in the room bounced up from their seats, eyes wet with laughter. Pigeons swooped and chairs got knocked over as children took cover. Mrs Chester waved an old rag around her head, cursing loudly at them all.
At last the three birds settled, perching on one of the great beams that traversed the rectory ceiling. Calm descended and Mrs Chester was about to speak again when an impressive shower of bird shit suddenly splattered down onto one of the tables.
New gasps and squawks of hilarity rippled through the room. But Mrs Chester remained silent, dangerously so, and the laughter petered out.
‘Walter!’ she cried at last, her cheeks now streaked with lurid veins. She marched towards their table, grabbing Walter by the ear.
‘I got you smiling though, didn’t I Tom Winter?’ he said as she dragged him away, his gangly legs skimming in all directions across the floor. Tom trembled at the thought of what punishment awaited this strange boy. His own skin began to tingle sympathetically as he imagined the swipe of some vile instrument striking that papery skin, bruising those knobbly bones of his. But Walter had been right. Because when those pigeons came flapping out of that pot, he had smiled. More than that. He’d laughed, for the first time since his world had fallen apart.

Stephanie Elmas 2
Stephanie Elmas
Authors links:
Website: www.stephanieelmas.com/
Twitter: @StephanieElmas

 

#BlogTour #GuestPost #Location #Yemen Trading Down by @stephennorman49 @EndeavourPress @midaspr #NewRelease

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Trading Down by Stephen Norman
Synopsis:

Chris Peters loves his work in a multi-national bank: the excitement of the trading floor, the impossible deadlines and the constant challenge of the superfast computers in his care. And he loves his beautiful wife, Olivia. But over time, the dream turns sour. His systems crash, the traders turn on him, and Olivia becomes angry and disillusioned. So much bad luck.

Or is it? A natural detective, Chris finds evidence of something sinister in the mysterious meltdown of a US datacentre. A new kind of terrorist. But can he get anyone to believe him? His obsessive search leads him to a jihadist website, filled with violent images; a man beaten to a pulp in a Dubai carpark; and a woman in a gold sari dancing in the flames of her own destruction. Slowly, a tragic story from decades ago in Yemen emerges.

Too late, Chris understands the nature of the treachery, so close to him. His adversary knows every move and is ready to strike. Even his boss agrees: if this program is run, it will destroy this bank as surely as a neutron bomb. And Chris Peters has 48 hours to figure it out…

#GuestPost:

Sana’a
Yemen is one of the most romantic and mysterious countries in the world, and Sana’a is the jewel at the centre. The city is set in the highlands of western Yemen, surrounded by mountains and about 200 miles north of the port of Aden. To the north and east of Sana’a is the “empty quarter” of Saudi Arabia, which is mostly desert. If you head west, you get to the Red Sea.
In days gone by, Yemen was an important producer of rare spices, especially frankincense and myrrh which are harvested from slow-growing trees. It exported them along the Red Sea to ancient Egypt, to India across the Indian Ocean, and by camel north, to Jerusalem and the Mediterranean. The ships that sailed to India came back to the port of Aden, laden with precious articles from the Far East. There they would unload their cargoes onto camel trains which headed up to Sana’a, through the Empty Quarter to Jerusalem and beyond. It took 40 days to get to Jerusalem across the desert.
If you visit Sana’a, you should try to stay in the Old City. We stayed in a wonderful guest house called Felix Arabia (Happy Arabia) which is several Yemen family homes put together. You can stay there and get some sense of what life in a Yemen house is like. Small boys will volunteer to take your suitcases up to your room, up the high, steep steps. It is best to let them!
Every morning you will be woken by the wonderful calling of the muezzins across the City singing the dawn prayer:
God is great,
There is no god except God
And Mohammed is his messenger
Hurry to prayer,
Hurry to success
Prayer is better than sleep
God is great…

You may or may not agree that “prayer is better than sleep” but it is an unforgettable experience.
The buildings of Sana’a
The Old City is a World Heritage site, and for good reason. The city is at least 2,500 years old. According to popular legend, it was founded by Shem, the son of Noah. It has 100 mosques, surrounded by the extraordinary Yemeni family buildings that look like miniature brown skyscrapers.
The early Christians were active here, and a large cathedral was built, but not much is known about it because – being close to Mecca and Medina – it became an important centre for Islam and the Great Mosque of Sana’a was built c. 700AD using the materials from the cathedral and a palace. You can see it still standing today with its huge minarets. You will be shown stones in the wall with crosses which are said to come from the cathedral. It’s amazing to think that this ancient building was itself built from the stones of a previous Christian building which was itself many centuries old when it was pulled down and re-used.
An even larger modern mosque was built in 2008, the Saleh Mosque, which is a beautiful building, especially at night.

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© Oleg Znamenskiy

The Saleh Mosque in the early morning

The most distinctive feature of the Yemen landscape, both in Sana’a and across the interior of the country are the tower houses. There are 6,500 of them in the Old City. These tall, thin buildings, built from mud bricks and beautifully decorated with white stones and glass, are typically the home of a single extended family, and they are laid out inside in a standard way. The top floor is the mafraj. This is an airy room with coloured windows on all sides. This room is reserved for the men of the family. Here they come in the heat of the day and chew qat. In the evening, the city glows with coloured lights like so many Chinese lanterns. These are the illuminated windows of the mafraj.

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© Oleg Znamenskiy

The Old City at night
Below the mafraj is the family room, and below that the dining room and below that the quarters for women and children. There are staircases which run up the side of these buildings. The steps are big and very steep, and must keep the family fit.

The markets
Visiting the souks of Old Sana’a is a must. There are 10 such markets including cloth, cattle, brassware, silver and Salt. The Salt market is a wonderful place; you can buy not only salt but spices of all kinds, piled in great heaps and smelling exotic. The Persian family in Trading Down have a stall at the Salt Market.

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© Oleg Znamenskiy

The people of Yemen
They are a proud people, strongly tribal and very tough.
Yemeni men dress in Arab dress, with a long, flowing thawb, or a simple tunic with trousers. It can be very cold, and most men will wear a woollen jacket and a headscarf. Many of them look quite threatening like these three with their large, curved dagger slung from a large leather belt.

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© Oleg Znamenskiy

As you walk the streets in the afternoon, you will see men and boys sitting on the side of the road, chewing leaves. This is qat. Qat is the ruin of Yemen. It is a bush which is grown all over the country and a lot of precious water is consumed in growing it. Everyday, thousands of qat trees are torn down and brought into the city and sold by roadside vendors. You can go and choose the tastiest shoots yourself. To consume it, you chew on the leaf, making it into a ball which you keep inside your cheek. A mildly intoxicating substance is released into your saliva by chewing, and gives you a mild lift. Qat is addictive and when we were there, about 90% of men and 40% of women are addicted to it.

Women of Yemen
Most of the women you will see in Sana’a will be wearing black, and some form of veil. The married women will tend to conceal their eyes behind the veil. There is a special form of burkah worn in Yemen, but it is not typically worn in Sana’a. Most women will wear the less restrictive niqab. As you walk behind them, look closely! You will often get a glimpse of sandals and blue jeans underneath.
My daughter, who stayed in Sana’a to learn Arabic, used to go to the hospital once a week to teach English. It was hard for the nurses and female doctors to learn English because the English teachers were mostly men and they were not allowed to mix with them.

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1© Oleg Znamenskiy

Romantic and mysterious though it is, Sana’a is not a place to visit today. It is at the heart of a brutal civil war. It has been bombed and the water and electricity supplies cut off. Cholera is raging through Yemen, and a large scale famine is threatened. I hope that one day it is once again a place for people to discover and enjoy.

SN
Stephen Norman
Author bio:
Stephen Norman spent 20 years at the forefront of investment banking IT, facing industry turbulence, from the rise and fall of the dotcoms, the destruction of 911 and the banking collapse of 2008. He has worked in financial centres across the world – from London and New York, to Hong Kong and Tokyo – and has fulfilled a range of high powered roles including Chief Technology Officer at Merrill Lynch and an unusually long 7 year stint as CIO of RBS Global Markets. In 2012, he left the world of finance to focus on his writing. His chilling debut novel, Trading Down is set between London and Yemen and is published by Endeavour Press.
Twitter: @stephennorman49