Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Sea Inside (book 1 in the Cerulean Songs series) by Vickie Johnstone

I am so excited to share this lovely English author’s new book called THE SEA INSIDE, book 1 in the Cerulean Songs series.
Her name is Vickie Johnstone and she is the “it” girl of the moment. I mean, this Brit sure knows how to tell a great story!!! 

“Time is all we have; it flows – it cannot stop.”

The Sea Inside is a fantasy adventure that revolves around the heroine, Jayne, who is sixteen. Following an accident, she wakes up from a coma to find herself in hospital with life-changing injuries. Visited by a mysterious woman, the girl receives a gift that opens a portal to a mystical realm. There follows many trials and tribulations on the way to Jayne finding herself and her true destiny. 

I started writing this book in 2009, and kept getting stuck. I always write without an outline and I couldn't think where to take the plot, so the story got abandoned for a while. I added bits over the years, eventually finishing it this year. Horrah! For the first time I had three beta readers, because I was not confident about the book. Their reviews are below. 

The beautiful cover photo is by Maja Dražić. I found her work on Deviant Art. I was blown away by the image immediately because of its expressiveness and the longing in the girl’s eyes. There is also a dreamlike quality and I like the texture. As soon as I saw this image I just thought that’s Jayne!

Reviews from beta readers:

Nickie Storey, author of Grimsley Hollow: “A delicious brew of invention, enchantment and refreshing characters, Vickie Johnstone has a firm grasp on the fantasy genre. I can’t wait to read more of her work!”

Greta Burroughs, author of Gerald and the Wee People: “Strange worlds, interesting characters, suspense and a surprise ending – what more can you ask for? This book has it all and more.”

Jennifer Thomas: “A gripping and fascinating mythical adventure that is beautifully described. There is suspense, fear and emotion throughout the entire novel that makes you want to keep turning the page.”

Chapter One
The girl awoke in a cold sweat, her T-shirt plastered to her chest and stomach. A hazy impression of the dream lingered in her mind; water and something blue sparkling in sunlight. She remembered shooting pains in the soles of her feet as if daggers pierced the skin from myriad directions. Jayne blinked and used her arms to raise herself up into a sitting position. The room was beginning to brighten as light struggled to flow through the heavy, dark curtains. 
It must be morning already, she thought, rubbing her eyes, but the ward was silent. The two patients at the other end of the room were asleep, as was her friend, Charlotte, who lay in the bed opposite. It was strangely quiet. Careful not to wake anyone, the girl reached across the blanket for her book, which lay downturned in the very spot where she had left it before dozing off. She quickly located the last line she had read. 
Upon turning the page, something shifted along the edges of her line of vision and a shadow cut across the floor. Jayne jumped, feeling an ice-cold trickle across the surface of her skin. The ward was eerily silent and no footsteps sounded, yet the shadow swept closer. The book dropped from her hands.
“I didn’t scare you, did I?” asked a face, which seemed to appear suddenly at the end of the bed. It wore a thin smile.
“Well, yes, actually you did,’ said Jayne, reaching for her book. She drew it protectively against her chest. “Who are you?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you,” said the woman, who looked to be about fifty-five years of age. She was dressed in a long, dark blue coat and wearing a matching hat. “I wanted to speak to you before anyone else woke up. I visited before, but you were not awake then.”
Jayne glanced around the ward. None of the patients had stirred, but then the lady had walked all the way to her bed without appearing to make any sound at all. The air was so silent and still that the girl felt nervous. The older woman continued to smile, the grin etched deep in the folds of skin around her mouth. Lines creased her eyes, which glinted an odd colour and seemed to be years younger than the rest of her face. She continued to stare, to the girl’s unease.
“Perhaps I should call someone?” asked Jayne, glancing around.
“There is no need. I only want to speak to you. Please don’t be afraid of me. My name is Sophia Ambry. I read about your accident in the newspaper. It was such a sad story. The reporter said you were a gifted runner before…”
“Yes,” the girl replied with a sharp grimace. “I was, but I can’t talk about it.” She felt odd for saying anything at all, but there was something about the stranger that made her want to speak, despite her edginess.
“I understand,” stated the woman, opening the dark, woolly bag that she carried. It was quite beautiful and had blue shapes of various sizes embroidered all over it.
Jayne leant backwards against the headboard, wondering whether to press the alarm button by her bed. She shivered for no reason, and then told herself there was really nothing to worry about; the woman was obviously harmless, but clearly eccentric, and perhaps lonely.
“I want you to have this,” said Sophia, smiling awkwardly. She pressed a small, black velvet bag on to the bed next to Jayne’s hand. “It is a dear thing. Another one rescued me when I was also alone, and brought me back from where I had been sleepwalking. Use it wisely. Once gone, it is gone forever.”
Raising her eyebrows, Jayne stared down at the bag in surprise. 
“Don’t be frightened. I bring you a gift. Please take care of it. I am too old to need these things anymore. Remember that time is all we have and it never stops,” breathed Sophia. 
To Jayne’s horror, the old woman then stroked the back of her right hand, which lay limp on the top of the bed cover. Her wrinkled fingers were icy cold. The young girl’s eyes raced up to the old lady’s face, but she was gone. She had simply vanished into the air, as if she had never been there at all.
Jayne glanced around the room, but a hush covered everything. No one moved in the ward, no shadows played, and the stranger was nowhere to be seen. The girl rubbed her eyes, wondering if she had blacked out again for a while. It often happened nowadays if she became anxious. Shuffling under her blanket, Jayne leaned carefully over the side, but there was nothing on the floor or beneath the bed. She frowned. Light was beginning to stream through the curtains and she expected everyone to wake up soon. Where was the nurse?
In that moment, Jayne spied the small, velvet-looking black bag, sitting in the folds of the blanket. A black cord secured the top. She stared at it for a long time before deciding to pick it up. It held secure in a knot. Taking a deep breath, the girl tugged it open and was greeted by a familiar smell, which reminded her of holidays spent at the beach when she was a child and her parents were still alive. “Wet sand and the sea,” she muttered to herself. 
Whatever was inside was weightless, for the bag did not weigh a thing. Jayne swallowed. “Don’t be silly,” she whispered to herself. “She was just a crazy old woman.” 
As she tipped it, an odd-shaped piece of glass tumbled out and glinted in the sunlight peeking through a crack in the curtain. On closer inspection, the girl found it to be a fine, small crystal of a shimmering blue and quite beautiful.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” Charlotte called out from across the room. She had just woken up and was offering her usual friendly smile.
Jayne pushed the crystal back into the soft bag and shoved it under her pillow. “Hey, sleepyhead yourself,” the girl replied, but her own smile felt shaky. She still carried the woman’s enigmatic smile and perplexing words in her mind.

About the author

Vickie lives in London, UK, and works as a freelance layout sub editor. Her first book, Kiwi in Cat City, was written in 2002, and she has scribbled stories and poetry all her life. Since the beginning of 2011, Vickie has written eleven books and is currently working on some new ideas. Her loves include cats, reading, films, travelling, rock music, Castle, The Walking Dead, tea, the sea, sleeping and Milky Bar. 

Other books:

The Kiwi Series (6 books)
The adventures of a magical cat and her friends, set in animal-inhabited worlds (written for readers aged 9-14). The books contain illustrations by Nikki McBroom. Kiwi and the Serpent of the Isle was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards 2013.

Smarts & Dewdrop Mysteries: Day of the Living Pizza / Day of the Pesky Shadow
Comedy series set in Crazy Name Town, starring Detective Smarts and Officer Dewdrop (written for readers aged 10 up). Book 1 is free everywhere but Amazon UK.

3 Heads & a Tail 
A comic fantasy starring two guys, a girl and a streetwise Labrador who swears too much (for readers aged 16 up). Written for NaNoWriMo 2011.

Kaleidoscope (119 poems).
 Life’s Rhythms (316 haiku).
Travelling Light (poetry - free everywhere but Amazon UK).


Twitter: @vickiejohnstone
Kiwi Series website:

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