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Author Self Promotion > Sarah Barnard

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Barnard (sarahbarnard) | 34 comments The Portal Between (The Portal Series, #1) by Sarah Barnard
This is my debut novel and after several amicable rejections I decided to publish myself.

The Portal Between is an Urban Fantasy switching between our, normal, world and a parallel world where Naiads live and magic is alive.

Sam, Kate and Lily take a journey both literal and personal as they discover who abducted Sam and where he came from in order to find and confront him.

I'll pop up a sample chapter later on.

message 2: by Lauren (new)

Lauren | 931 comments Thank you so much Sarah! :) I look forward to hearing more about your novel.

message 3: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Barnard (sarahbarnard) | 34 comments There are more books - another in the direct story line (The Portal Sundered), another in progress (working title Child of the Portal)and a side project within the same world and featuring some of the same characters in cameo roles (The Map and The Stone) which was written with younger readers in mind. I'd be happy for my 10 year old to read that last one but not the others.

I'll try to keep any extracts/samples clean though. Do let me know if I miss a bit and it's inappropriate or anything.

A short word of warning though - the thing that seems to gain me more negative reactions is the unexpected girl/girl scenes, so if that's not your thing then you might want to give the main Portal books a miss. It's not gratuitous or detailed, more implied, but it's there.

I'm starting this thread off with The Portal Between as the first book I wrote as well as the first in the series, then I'll follow up with The Portal Sundered, and after that - because that's where it fits in the time line - The Map and The Stone.

I hope that's OK and I'm happy to answer questions as I go and chat about the books if that's what people want.

message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Barnard (sarahbarnard) | 34 comments OK, here's Chapter 2, titled "Light My Way" on the ebook edition, untitled on the paperback edition. Chapter 1 "Two years Ago" is more of a prologue so i thought I'd start here instead...

part 1
Hayley peered through the crack between the door and the frame. A shaft of light from the landing cut across the dark to reveal the sleeping face of her mother.
“Mummy?” The little girl asked quietly as she slipped into the room. “Can I get in your bed?” Hayley clutched a battered, much loved blue bear under one arm. Her nightdress hung crooked and her hair was wild.
Kate didn’t stir. Hayley pulled back a corner of the crumpled duvet and snuggled into the warm comfort of her mother. She squirmed until she got comfortable and was soon asleep.
Kate turned over, almost waking to find a soft warm shape curled in the bed beside her. She mumbled and snuggled back down to sleep. Moments later the soft pad of more footsteps disturbed them both.
“I’m so glad I kept the big bed.” Three more children joined her. The youngest had been crying again. Her brother had a protective arm around her shoulders. She gently eased them all into the big bed, tucked the duvet round them all. She glanced at the glowing red numbers on the alarm clock, not that much too early then but another hour would have been nice.
“It’s today again isn’t it?” She asked Tom, the second eldest of the four. He nodded, tears springing from his blue eyes too easily. He choked back a sob and flung his arms round her.
“Oh Kate, I still miss her. Will she ever come back?” The look of aching hope on his face was almost too much to bear.
“I don’t know honey. We just don’t know.” It was the truth and something she’d stuck to for these two long years. She gently rubbed his back and held him until the sobbing subsided.
“Shall we go shopping today kids? Don’t some of you need new shoes? Do we get a pumpkin?” Trying to make the day better. Anything to try and help two of these children cope with the continued disappearance of their mother.
Tom sniffed, wiped his nose on his sleeve, Kate caught herself before telling him off. The poor kid had had so much to deal with and pyjamas could be washed. She made motions towards the door and the four children wandered out in search of clothes. She rifled through her own drawers to find something to wear.
A few moments later, tops turned the right way round, socks found, not matching but who cares, they all sat round the large oak table in the kitchen. Kate poked up the fire to a warm orange glow and added more wood. Tom and Cameron dug out bowls, cereal and milk, while Kate sorted out drinks. They all ate in companionable silence and watched the fire build. As she ate, Kate took a long look around her home. The massive kitchen, spanning the entire back wall, was probably her favourite room. There was an outside store and loo within about four steps of the back door, which was the only door they ever used. Past that was the garden. The door faced the old fireplace that would have held a proper black range once upon a time, but now simply held a platform for the solid fuel stove that had a back boiler for hot water. The modern Aga sat solidly under the window, next to the sink. A stained and grubby wooden door led to the staircase, a small hallway, unused front door and the two other downstairs rooms. Kate’s sanctuary was the smaller room. The living room, buried under a mountain of toys and kids stuff was the larger room. The four junk cluttered bedrooms and bathroom were all upstairs. All the children preferred company while they slept. The girls shared a room and so did the boys.
“Kate?” asked Tom, “Can we go for a walk today?” His voice was hesitant, “To the woods?” Kate sighed. The woods where their mother’s car had been found. The woods where Tom was convinced his mother would turn up one day and take him home. No matter that their house had been repossessed and sold and that even the police had said that Sam, still listed as officially missing, could be presumed dead now.
“Ok honey, if you want to.” She always gave in but never knew if it was for the best. She found herself looking for Sam too. “We’ll go on the way home after shopping ok?” She looked to Tom for agreement and he nodded, still with the aching hope clear on his face. “Everyone done?” She checked. Four heads nodded. One dark head, Cameron, one vibrant red, Hayley, two mousey blonde, Tom and his sister Susan. Her own children and Sam’s two.
She peeped through the curtains to check the weather and barely stifled a gasp. Could it be? She pulled back, shook her head, opened the curtains and looked again. There, lying in the middle of the grass was a familiar figure. Even two years on Kate was gut achingly sure. Struggling to keep her voice calm she turned to the children sitting at the table.
“Cam and Tom, would you please go upstairs and make sure you’re all washed, brushed, shoes on?” He nodded and chased them all out of the kitchen. This was part of normal routine, no-one would be phased by it. No-one would open any curtains, they never did, no-one would look. But as soon as the door to the stairs had swung shut Kate was racing down the garden with a hastily grabbed blanket. She skidded to a halt on her knees in the mud, as Sam managed to get to her hands and knees and raise her head. Her face was filthy and one eye almost swollen shut, old crusted blood stained the corner of her mouth. Arms and shoulders too thin and covered in bruises, she struggled to sit up. She was shivering and cold, wearing a thin tunic style top with short sleeves, belted at the waist. It hung over woollen leggings and her feet were bare.
Kate flung the blanket round Sam’s shoulders and hugged her tight. Tears flowed freely down both sets of cheeks. Sam took Kate carefully by the shoulders and gently pushed her away.
“I don’t have long.” She said, nervously glancing round, “It’s following me, it’ll be here in a moment. Can you help me?” Kate nodded, speechless but her mind racing, “Meet me by the old oak, at midnight...” She drew a startled breath, eyes widening, “It’s here!” Stared over Kate’s shoulder. Kate turned to see a blinding white light whirl into being and a monstrous grey green scaled arm reach out to take firm hold of Sam. She shoved Kate roughly away, yelled “Midnight, light my way! Don’t forget! Please!” her voice pleading as she was dragged away, leaving Kate kneeling on the grass, clutching only a muddy blanket.
Kate was distracted all morning. When they bumped into her friend Lily she happily accepted an invitation to let the children run about in the local park with Lily’s son, Andrew. Kate was sitting on a park bench staring towards the children racing on the grass, but not really seeing them. Laughter filled the air with the innocence of childhood. All five children’s faces were flushed with cold, cheeks and noses pink and eyes shining.
Tom shot past, flinging leaves over her head. The shower of golden brown, yellow and red cascaded down her face and neck.
“TOM!” She yelled indignantly as Cameron raced past.
“Don’t worry Mum, I’ll get him!” They streaked away across the grass with Andrew racing behind. Tom was quickly showered in leaves and pelted with conkers.
Hayley and Susan were huddled together under a tree, poking about in a pile of leaves. The smell of decaying leaves filled the chill air. Kate could feel the cold seeping into her joints, making her feet ache and the inside of her nose burn. Autumn was almost over now and winter was certainly on its way. She rubbed her bare hands together, wishing she’d bought the gloves she’d seen in the market.
A warm hand reached out to brush against her own and she jerked, gasped and almost screamed, but stopped herself, startled from her rambling thoughts. Steaming hot chocolate spilled from the Styrofoam cup and cascaded down her jeans. She stared about, terrified, until she saw Lily, clearly concerned but also covered in hot chocolate. Steam rose in slow curls from her coat and steaming milky chocolate dripped from the hem onto her boots. Lily was a bit shorter than Kate, but not by much. Her eyes were icy blue but laced with a compassionate humour. Her dark hair touched with red, hung in soft waves to just below her shoulders. Today she wore a soft knitted hat and the curls had tightened in the cold damp air so they spilled out in a soft unruly haze. Her long brown coat had taken the brunt of the chocolate spill.
“Oh Gods! I’m sorry Lily, you made me jump. I was miles away.” Kate fumbled in her bag for something to mop up the worst of the chocolate, bursting into unexpected tears. Lily silently handed her a fresh tissue and waited until the tears slowed.
Lily wiped the worst of the chocolate from her coat and ignored the splatters on her boots, concerned for Kate. She brushed off the bench and sat next to Kate.
“What’s up?” She asked her voice soft but laced with worry. Kate shook her head, unable to articulate anything. Lily’s hands twisted together, aware that the slightest thing could send Kate into hysterical tears again but wanting to simply reach out to offer some comfort.
“My place is closer?” she suggested gently, “We can talk if you like while the kids play in the orchard?” Kate nodded, wiping the last few tears away, mumbling an apology for over reacting. Kate was glad Lily hadn’t done her usual shoulder hug right then because she wasn’t sure whether the tears could be stopped in the face of that unconditional support and friendship. Lily jammed her hands deep into her coat pockets and waited for Kate to collect her self. They yelled at the children and walked down the path towards Lily’s house.
Lily lived in the old farmhouse that was at the back of the park. She had inherited it from a distant relative a couple of years before Sam had disappeared. When Andrew, Cameron and Tom had been thrown together at school the boys had become firm friends. Kate and Sam had been friends since their teens. Lily fitted right in and soon they were an inseparable threesome.
Most of the farm lands had been sold off long before Lily inherited. Her garden was still almost half an acre, ending in a small orchard. The grass beneath the trees was littered with windfall apples and more hung heavily on the branches of the trees. Lily’s menagerie grazed happily beneath the trees. The two hand reared sheep bleated in greeting but only looked up from grazing for a second. The half a dozen or so assorted chickens and ducks wandered through the garden and orchard eating whatever they found. The black faced sheep raced off as the orchard was invaded by noisy children. The white faced one was more placid and accepting.
As the kids caught up Lily sent them to play in the garden behind the farmhouse and promised hot chocolate for later. The five of them ran giggling towards the orchard where they all knew they might find eggs under the far hedge and chunks of dirty sheep fleece caught on the fence.
Lily watched them run for a moment, smiling fondly and then went to find Kate, who’d retreated into a ball on the sofa with her back to the door.
Lily watched the set of Kate’s shoulders from the doorway for a moment. Her face creased with worry. She walked softly into the room, stepping over the dog who sprawled on the rug in front of the fire. Lily dropped to her heels on the carpet in front of Kate. She reached out a hand and gently ran her fingertips along the other woman’s jaw from ear to chin. Using the most delicate of contact she tilted Kate’s face so their eyes met.
(and next post due to character limit)

message 5: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Barnard (sarahbarnard) | 34 comments part 2
“Hey you?” she asked, concern clear in her eyes. “Kate? Talk to me?” she suggested. Kate’s long brown hair flowed freely as she shook her head.
“It’s nothing” the reply came after what seemed like a lifetime, an age of hesitation. “It doesn’t matter.” The denial in her voice was flat and unconvincing.
“Yes it does. Of course it matters. But you tell me when you’re ready.” Lily used her other hand to brush the long hair out of those green eyes that had more depth than the sea. Her garden scarred palms and long elegant fingers cradled Kate’s face for a moment. Her thumbs wiped the last tears from warm cheeks. She took both hands away, reluctantly and slowly uncurled Kate’s arms from her knees.
“I’m going to put the kettle on, we need tea. Well, I do and you never say no.” Their arms wrapped round each other in a strong supportive hug. After a long moment Lily carefully broke free and walked to the kitchen.
“Sorry” the voice behind Lily was soft and trembling as she reached the door. Lily closed her eyes briefly, and then turned.
“No.” she replied firmly, looking Kate straight in the eye, “No sorry allowed. Neither of us need ever apologise just for being ourselves. Whatever it is, it’s shaken you. I’ll be right back.” She turned away again and went to the kitchen.
“Lily!” the voice from the living room stronger now, more under control, “Have you got any cookies?” Lily grinned, the half finished pack of chocolate chip cookies was already in her hand. She tucked it into a loose trouser pocket so she could carry the two mugs of tea.
“There you go.” She handed a mug over and dug out the cookies, carefully avoiding the dog, doing his best to pretend he was invisible. “Get lost Jasper. Go to bed!” she ordered, accompanying it with a gentle foot to his rear end. The black dog with the white spot on his nose gave a mournful stare, only to slink back in and hide behind the sofa. Kate slipped him a bit of biscuit. Lily noticed but said nothing.
They sat there in companionable silence while they drank tea and ate cookies. Thoughts bubbled through both heads, too fast to grasp.
“I saw Sam this morning.” Kate started to explain. Lily startled, but covered it well. Kate went on, “She was just lying there. She was freezing cold, in the garden, on my lawn, on the grass, in the wet, in the mud. I saw her when I got up this morning. Gods, was it only this morning?” The words tumbled over themselves as she tried to explain the hope and terror of the morning and increasing feelings of insanity. She rambled on and Lily let her, refilling tea mugs at least once and supplying children with hot chocolate, in return for eggs they had collected. The remains of the pack of cookies stayed on the arm of the sofa, untouched after Kate had started talking.
“I’m starting to think I dreamed it all.” Kate finished lamely, “It can’t have been real surely? She can’t have been there. The light and that arm can’t have been real. It can’t have happened. It’s just not possible.” She tailed off and sat in silence for a while. Lily wisely said nothing, knowing Kate would start again. Which she did after taking a few steadying gulps of tea.
“But I held her. The blanket I grabbed is still covered in mud. My trousers are in the wash but I can see the mud on them. She asked me to meet her by the oak at midnight.” Kate’s head lifted to look Lily straight in the eye. “I held her. It happened, I know it did. But I feel like I’m going mad.” She reached out for Lily’s hand. “You do believe me don’t you? You’re the only person I think might.”
Lily gripped Kate’s hand tight, took a breath and carefully began to speak. “There are some strange things going on round here you know.” Lily’s reply was carefully oblique, “Shall we head back to yours for lunch and I’ll take a look at your lawn?” The suggestion was so simple and practical but exactly right. Kate nodded. Lily needed to see if there was anything to back up Kate’s story. Wild as it seemed, Lily had just accepted the whole tale as if Kate had told her one of the kids had chicken pox.
Back at Kate’s place, via the chip shop as a treat for them all, Lily wandered into the garden while Kate shared out food. Kids helped themselves to and then the traditional arguments started.
Lily walked slowly down Kate’s garden, uncannily drawn to the spot where Sam had been that morning. She bent to look closely at the grass near the greenhouse, held her hand palm down just over the space where the light had been, drew it back swiftly as if she’d been burned. The grass was starting to darken; there were the beginnings of mushrooms peeking through the soil. Just ahead there was a patch of crushed grass and lying in that patch was a chain. Hanging on the chain was a pendant. One Lily knew Kate would recognise. They had chosen it together to give to Sam for her birthday. She scooped it up and cradled it in one hand. Feeling the weight of it, she rubbed her thumb over the face of the pendant and thoughtfully transferred it to the other hand. For a long moment she knelt there in the grass, just feeling the flow of energy around her. The grass was wet and she used one hand to trace a shape in the wet grass that covered the dark patch.
Frowning to herself, Lily walked slowly back to the house and opened the back door to find chaos in the kitchen. Kate looked up apologetically over the heads of squabbling children who were arguing noisily.
“It’s been hard since Jack left.” Kate shrugged. Lily smiled reassuringly. It had been hard for Kate. Jack hadn’t been able to cope with Kate’s obsession that Sam would one day come back. There had been rows, but never physical violence. He’d retreated to the village pub and drowned his feelings there. He’d met a girl from a nearby village and decided he’d rather take his chances with her. Kate was left with the four children. Lily took in the room with a glance, and yelled at all the children to sit and eat, stop nicking each others food and generally just behave for a change. They did. They always did for Lily.
“What do you think?” Kate asked softly. She needed to know if she was imagining things, hoping that she wasn’t but at the same time struggling to even begin to comprehend the implications.
“I think I’m having all these kids for a sleepover and you’re going to the oak at midnight.” Lily replied, keeping her voice low as she placed the chain and pendant in Kate’s hand, closing her fingers over it and wrapping her own hand round Kate’s trembling one. “Take a candle to light the way and you’ll need something for protection. I’ll dig out a crystal from my stash for that I think. Better take the chain too. Don’t forget to wrap up warm.”
Kate’s response was drowned in excited squealing as the children caught the words “Sleepover.” The din was deafening, with requests for pumpkin lanterns, a bonfire, scary stories and candles, dressing up. Lily glanced sideways at her friend. Kate’s face said it all. Incredulous that someone else actually believed her, terrified it might be true, desperate hope that Sam might actually make it home and might even stay. Lily sent the children to fetch whatever they might need, and then turned back to Kate; worried the slightest thing could tip her over that edge into paralysed terror. She waited until the children had all raced up the stairs and she could clearly hear bedrooms being trashed to find the sleepover gear.
“Kate. Something happened on your lawn today. That pendant is definitely Sam’s and tonight is Samhain, the one night where …….” She trailed off, uncertain of how this would be taken and took a deep breath before she plunged on. “If she’s where I think she is then tonight is one of the few chances we will have to get her back. It’s the deepest night of the year when the boundaries between worlds are blurred and easier to cross and it’s a new moon, which helps us too. You have to try, and it is you she needs. I’ll keep a candle burning for you both til dawn.” Lily looked Kate straight in the eye, hugged her fiercely. “Why don’t you try to get some sleep before then? I’ll take the hordes pumpkin shopping.” Lily was trying to keep her explanations as simple as possible. “You are definitely not mad.”
Kate was confused but reluctantly agreed to at least try to rest. After Lily had coaxed the children out of the house, Kate made her way upstairs still clutching Sam’s pendant. She sat for a long while on the edge of the bed gazing at it. She eventually lay down with it held tightly against her cheek. She refused to believe sleep could come but it did, deep and dreamless and when she woke, with cramp in her arm from gripping the pendant so tightly, it was fully dark. She groggily dragged herself up and found warm clothes. She chose carefully, with Sam in mind. The dark grey cabled sweater that Sam had knitted for her, the loose trousers that Sam had liked. Thick, woollen boot socks inside trainers. She thought a moment and then threw an extra set in a bag for Sam, who’d been so cold on the grass that morning. Unless she’d managed to change she’d need something warm. Sam had felt too thin, her shoulder blades had been sharp to hug. Kate headed downstairs, packed bread rolls, chocolate, fruit, cheese into a bag, boiled the kettle and made a flask of Sam’s old favourite for a cold night, hot sweet tea with a good slug of Irish whiskey, sealed the flask up tight. She thought for a moment, added a torch, candle and a couple of blankets to the pile and then stood frowning slightly, something was missing. Realisation dawned and she ran to the living room to grab the last photos of herself and Sam. A couple of days before she disappeared they had been out on the town together, got just a tiny bit drunk and fallen into a photo booth. The photos were silly but fun and the last proper time they had spent together. Then she spotted the envelope on the table. She tore it open and caught the crystal that tumbled out into her palm. A small but beautiful circle of carved jet hung on a leather cord. A note was in the envelope too, in Lily’s distinctive handwriting.

“Wear this when you leave the house, don’t take it off until you get safely to mine. Bring Sam here first in case you both need help. Good luck, Lily. xxx”

Kate slipped the thong over her head and tucked the jet inside her shirt, feeling that it should somehow be in contact with the skin, but not understanding why. Lily often did or said things that didn’t make much sense and over the years Kate had learned to simply accept that.
As she went to throw everything in the car Kate grabbed some matches from the kitchen. Hiding in practicalities, she made herself a fresh mug of tea, added milk and sugar, and sat to drink it. Warming her hands round the mug she found herself hungry and helped herself to a slab of bread, slathered it liberally with butter and topped it with a layer of bramble jelly. Simple but good. Her mind wandered as she ate. Playing the “What if?” game, never a good idea.
What if the monster came?
What if Sam didn’t make it?
What if she got taken too and the kids lost another family?
What if Sam wasn’t alone?
What if it had been all imagination and Sam wasn’t there?

(it's a long chapter, let me know if you'd like another bit)

message 6: by Lauren (new)

Lauren | 931 comments Hi Sarah :)
I really liked this bit... I'll have to check out your book(s) sometime. It was very well written and captivating
Talk to you soon,

message 7: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Barnard (sarahbarnard) | 34 comments Thanks Lauren!

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