Author: Jane Markland
Who do you trust when you can’t trust yourself?
Following his release from Prison, Nathan arrives at Cielo determined to change his life for the better.
After prison, and beating addiction, he has a vision, and he’s discovered a talent, a gift with plants.
Max Harrison wants him to create a special garden, The White Terrace, full of scent and white petals, Max wants to die there, his addiction to vodka and grief consuming everything.
Slowly Nathan begins to falls under his spell, Max is full of insight, kindness. His affinity to music,and playing Rachmaninov on the piano reduce Nathan to tears of joy.
Only underneath the surface, and the seductive surroundings of Cielo, Nathan discovers the other gardeners disappeared.
Never to be heard of again.
As he begins to uncover disturbing clues, Nathan must ask himself, just who is Max Harrison?
Can he trust him?
Can he love him?
The first two weeks at Cielo went fast, they were hot days when Tom would want me to start off with the veg. It didn’t excite me. My plans did. My plans for life. Growing carrots, salad, even fruit was done to a formula, there were rules. My terrace garden would be more. I remembered that night, dancing in the rain and catching it, drinking it up. How it had made Max Harrison laugh. I saw him a few times over the next week, not outside though. He never left the house. Stacey told me he worked long hours, the opposite to us, as I was getting up for the day, while I was pulling on my jeans and top, he was winding down.
I saw him some mornings standing at the kitchen window, he’d look out, see me, and raise a hand. By the time I was inside for Stacey’s bacon and eggs he was gone. I sat there one morning watching the rain on the window. Hard rain, the type you could do nothing in. No planting or grass cutting. The first day when I couldn’t do much. Stacey shook her head as she gently moved me from standing in front of the sink.
‘Don’t worry, you work way more than he wants anyway. Why don’t you sit here and draw out your plan? The table will be free all day, the food delivery is coming later, you can have first picks of the biscuits.’
‘Yeah okay, but first, I’d like to go upstairs – look at the terrace from above, draw from there.’
‘I’m not sure – Max is a private person and he’s asleep – I don’t think you can.’
I bit my lip. Where was she going to be all day with her hoovering and dusting? That would wake him. How was I, silent and drawing a garden out to plan going to disturb him?
‘I promise I won’t make any noise. I need to see the garden from above. I need to see it how he does. He never goes out there, but he’s going to look at it from upstairs, and if he likes it enough, then he’ll come out.’
‘You have thought about this.’
I watched her rinsing the plates before loading the dishwasher. ‘Is he afraid of something Stacey? What’s it called when you can’t go out. Agoraphobia – is that right?’
‘No love, he’s not got that, he’s had a sad life actually, lost people close to him and he’s ill.’
‘He’s got cancer?’
‘I can’t tell you anymore Nathan, that’s up to him. He needs looking after.’
‘I’ll be half an hour, that’s all, I need to get it right, the size of planters, that sort of thing, from down there I may do it all too small.’
She smiled. ‘You are quiet normally, okay there’s a spare room right over the terrace, but you must be quiet.’
I went back to the flat to collect my drawing pads and pencils. Stacey took me to the room. Along the corridor at the top of the stairs were doors, lots of them. Oak, with huge brass doorknobs. They all had the same pattern; waves, the swirling lines running all the way through the metal looked like waves. Stacey opened a door. I smiled and she left me. I went to the window and looked out, carefully opening it, I could lean there, looking at the garden.
His room was two windows along, the other way. The bathroom, and another room, then his. I could open the window and door and he’d not hear me. I don’t know what Stacey told Tom, but I didn’t see him all morning. I stood at the window; my pad balanced on the wide windowsill. The walls would be covered in clematis, perhaps a passionflower or two. In the autumn we’d have cotoneaster, perhaps some japonica. An evergreen clematis or honeysuckle and the roses of course. On the far wall stood two dormant ramblers, untouched I guessed for years. After today’s rain I wondered, could I cut them back and encourage them to bloom? I was shading in the front part of the terrace when I felt someone walking up to me.
I started writing Cielo in August 2014, it goes like this, I used to live on the North Norfolk coast, and one day cycled past this old mansion, it’s still lived in, it had pony paddocks and turrets and was all old flint (the stone of Norfolk) but with lots of newer additions. The sort of house you saw in earlier Midsomer Murders episodes in fact.
I thought what could I do with that house, who would live there? So, Cielo was born. I knew I wanted to do a story about someone with addictions (it’s where I worked in the past and the whole homeless issue is so misunderstood). What if? What if an ex addict goes there for a new start to work in the gardens. Who would own a house like that, half decaying, yet round the next corner – pure luxury.
Nathan was a dream to write, he’s half me, half every hopeless, yet hopeful person I’ve ever met. I knew I had to give him a focus; and gardening seemed perfect. I made him choose gardening as something fresh and new and full of new growth. The roses thing is real, I have Alberic Barbier in my small terrace garden deep in the city of Norwich.
Max is someone I used to know, how he talks, how he is, the two together took a bit of time, I didn’t want Max to overwhelm Nathan, and first person made that easier for me, rather than both narrating, which they did in the very first draft. Someone I was very close to once was that DJ, but it was making that piano come alive which made the book flow for me. I am not musical, but somehow that while piano and the white garden made everything flow from there.
The first draft grew through taking part in my first writing course with Dr Stephen Carver, at the Unthank School of Writing. From there Stephen (a reader with TLC) did two manuscript assessments with me and I sent it out on submission, and didn’t get anywhere. I then met Hayley Webster while trying to re-draft Cielo during NaNoWriMo, we met in a café between Cromer and Norwich during a write-in, and she’s been my mentor and saviour ever since.
Hayley read what was by now my fourth draft and loved it, but suggested subtle changes. I turned that book around in about a month and sent it back and she said it was wonderful, had made her cry and she loved all the food and the flowers and somewhere I knew it was almost right. I sent it out again and ten agents later, nothing.
It sat on my computer until a few weeks ago, when Hayley suggested I sent it to SpellBound Books. So that’s what I did.
Since Cielo I’ve written another novel, The Hunt for Delphi, which is currently having yet another edit! I am now outlining my third novel.
When I am not writing, I am a busy medical secretary at the local hospital working with consultants who look after patients with liver conditions. I have two grown up children, and two grandchildren. My loves in life (since the age of 11 when I read Jane Eyre all the way through), are reading, making up stories about other people, nature, gardening and the joy and pain following my local football team (current state extreme pain).
Follow her at:
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1256024161
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/janemarkland/
Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cielo-beautifully-evocative-thriller-nothing-ebook/dp/B09Z31HTW7
Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Cielo-beautifully-evocative-thriller-nothing-ebook/dp/B09Z31HTW7
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!
Thank you so much for taking part in the tour and sharing this extract x
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You’re more than welcome 😊