halloween

Halloween is Nearly Upon Us

halloween

Yep, that’s right. Halloween is nearly upon us – and it is celebrated worldwide, making it just as important to some people as Christmas and Easter. The meaning and ways in which the day (or rather night) are celebrated have changed throughout the many years.

Children are impressionable – they have open minds that make them believe in the magic of, well, magic. They are naive – brilliantly so, which also means that they are open to the scariest time of the year too. It isn’t just a time for Trick or Treat (even though if you shouted ‘Trick’ to them when you opened your door they would probably look at you all confused) but Halloween is also a time for scary fun.

I must admit, I never went Trick or Treating. I never used to get dressed up – I’m not really sure why. The ethics of it have been questioned from time to time, often being compared to some sort of door to door begging. I’m not sure I think of it like that.

What I did used to do though was take my prized library card along to my local library (where I am also doing my own book signing!) and bearing in mind that you used to be allowed to take 12 books out at the same time, I raided the shelf for …

Goosebumps

stay out of the basementYep! RL Stine’s Goosebump series. I remember this is where my OCD probably started to take shape. I have to read things in order – even if they don’t have to be. I started with the first book – Welcome to the Dead House. And then carried on with Stay Out of the BasementMonster BloodSay Cheese and Die! …..

Did you know that the Goosebumps books have sold more than 400 million books worldwide! Before JK Rowling came along, they were bestselling series of all time. RL Stine has aptly been named ‘The Stephen King of children’s literature’ and I’m not surprised.

During October of every year, I used to haul my stack of Goosebumps books, safely wrapped in a Kwik Save bag, up to the attic and start reading. I was terrified! But happily so! I used to jump at every noise and creak. In my attic, there used to be a slanted sort of sky window, and when the rain came down, it almost sounded as if it would break the window any minute! Which of course only added to the halloween atmosphere.

Whether it was discovering ghosts, using a cursed camera that causes accidents of say cheese and dieits subjects, a dummy that comes alive or a terrible werwwolf of Fever Swamp – the goosebumps series preys on every cultural, sociological and phobia known to children. In essence they are pretty harmless – mild may even be too extreme a description of their horror-ness, but like I’ve said – children are impressionable.

I wonder what I would think if I took along my library card (the same one!) and took out one of them to read again? I remember them being very Americanised – even for a British audience. Didn’t they turn it into a TV series? I think I remember watching it.

My reading habits have changed significantly over my teenage and young adult periods, but I do have a guilty pleasure for anything dark. I often describe things as ‘deliciously dark’ because I know my friend thinks I’m ‘wrong in the head’ at how dark subjects can be entertaining to me.

Speaking of which, did anyone watch Penny Dreadful? I loved it.

Author Interview: Chrysler Szarlan

I was so excited when I was given permission to interview American author, Chrysler Szarlan. Her debut novel, The Hawley Book of the Dead was a book I absolutely loved. It has been released over seas already, but due for release in late October here in the UK. If you haven’t heard of this book, here is the info:

Hawley Book of the Dead Cover

In the tradition of The Night Circus and A Discovery of Witches, The Hawley Book of the Dead is the kind of novel that makes you believe that magic really exists.

An old house surrounded by acres of forest.

A place of secrets, mysteries and magic.

This is where Reve Dyer hopes to keep herself and her children safe.

But a mysterious figure has haunted Reve for over a decade. And now Reve knows that this person is on her trail again.

In Hawley, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, Reve must unlock the secrets of the Hawley Book of the Dead before it’s too late…

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Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Well, actually, I’ve read it, and loved it, here is my review if you are interested.

Q & A with Chrysler Szarlan

 

  • For people who haven’t heard of the book, tell us what it’s about?

That’s about the hardest question a writer has to answer! But here goes: The Hawley Book of the Dead is about a reluctant heroine, Revelation Dyer, a wife and mother who is also a Las Vegas stage magician with a real power. She has contained that power within the illusionist act she performs with her husband. One night, an intruder sneaks a real bullet into Reve’s trick pistol, and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband. Soon she discovers that her husband’s killer is stalking her and her daughters, so she flees with them to Hawley, Massachusetts, the home of her ancestors (she is descended from an entire family of women with special powers), where she hopes to keep them all safe. But Hawley is a fraught and haunted place, too, and Reve also discovers that she is next in line to be the Keeper of a very special magical book, The Hawley Book of the Dead. So she just keeps getting in deeper and deeper, trading stage magic for real magic.

  • It seems your past experiences with racehorses has influenced parts of the book. What is it about these animals that you love the most?

I’ve always had horses, since I was a kid. There is something mystical between women and horses, especially, a connection I tapped into while riding my own horse in the Hawley Forest, which is a real place. The horse energy always figured into the book, from day one. I can’t really explain it, it’s just a sense of power and a kind of flow of energy one gets with a horse. Or at least I do. Some of my best ideas come to me while I am riding.

  • Your previous work includes working as a magician’s assistant. That must have been exciting? What was one of your favourite magic tricks?

It was actually not such fun – it is a very demanding job, physically and timing-wise. I was quite bad at it, and always got something wrong. But I developed such respect for people who can perform illusions well. I think my favourite was the Three Part Girl, where I walked into a zig-zag cabinet, and the magician sliced me into three pieces with big blades, then put me back together again. It’s quite an exciting illusion!

  • The Hawley Book of the Dead has been likened to A Discovery of Witches. How does it feel to be compared to the brilliant Deborah Harkness? It must be such a heart-warming accolade?

I am a great admirer of Ms.Harkness, who brought fantasy to a mainstream adult audience, and opened so many doors to other writers like myself. It is certainly an honour to be compared to her at all! But that said, I think our books are only alike in that we are both writing in the tradition of contemporary fantasy, with adult women heroines. And we have both written about families of women with extraordinary powers. But I’ll take the comparison, for sure!

  • Reve is a strong woman, intent of doing anything to save her children. I believe her to be one of the most compelling characters I’ve read in a long time. Where did the idea of Reve come from? Were there any strong influences?

Wow, thanks Dan! High praise indeed! I actually have no idea where she came from, beyond the fact that the first image I had for the book was that of a woman bashing through a forest on her horse, desperately searching for her missing daughters. But my best friend says that of all my characters, I have the most in common with Reve (I think she means that we are both terribly stubborn!)

  • The idea of Caleigh’s string-based magic was incredibly creative. Tell us more about your creative processes. Do you ponder on things for days, or write more impulsively?

I try NOT to ponder things. I am an intuitive writer, for better or worse, and it sort of feels like the inspirations for characters, themes, scenes, etc, just come up from the ground through my body, and out my writing hand. Caleigh’s string games as well. I didn’t ever play them as a child, and knew nothing about them at all. When she made her ability known, I had to do some research on the history and patterns of string games!

  • The sense of smell is most prominent in the novel, especially the scent of lavenders signifying danger. Herbs and flowers are linked to witchcraft, which is also prominent in the book. Where does your interest in witchcraft come from?

I guess I don’t precisely think of the Dyer women as witches. I don’t know if I believe in witches per se, but throughout history, women especially who had knowledge of healing and herb-lore were persecuted. Or they were persecuted for holding and conveying ideas which were different. Reve’s ancestor, Mary Dyer, was a real woman who was hanged in Massachusetts in 1660 because she spread the Quaker faith. I think when one is living in Massachusetts, where the most infamous witch trials took place in Salem, it’s hard not to be influenced by that terrible history of intolerance for difference.

  • I’ve read that you work in a bookshop. Do you sneak a peek inside the books when you have no customers?

Of course! But a bookstore is quite a busy place, so I hardly have time read more than a sentence or two. I also have the great privilege of helping choose books for the Odyssey Bookshop’s First Edition Club. We get to read advance copies of amazing fiction (not at work, though!), and choose one new book a month to ship to our club members (we DO ship to England, as well). Our latest pick was David Mitchell’s amazing new book, The Bone Clocks. I got to meet him when he was touring in the US, and he is the nicest man in the world! Working in a bookstore is the best job imaginable, except being a writer.

  • Although mostly told from Reve’s narrative, there are also sections from Caleigh’s point of view. Why did you decide to have a different approach?

I’ve always been partial to the viewpoint switcheroo, having been heavily influenced by writers like Louise Erdrich, and the said David Mitchell. I just think it makes for a more interesting read.

  • Excluding Reve, who’s your favourite character in the book?

Oh, that’s a tough one. I really love Nan, and Caleigh of course. I love Falcon Eddy, and have the greatest respect for Mrs. Pike. But I have to say I’m a sucker for a villain, so I think I’d have to ultimately go with Rigel Voss.

 

  • Do we get to see more of Reve and her fabulous daughters?

Absolutely. I have a good start on the next book in the series, called Dreamland. It’s going to be a fun ride, I promise.

  • Who did you grow up reading?

At first, just about every horse book known to man – Enid Bagnold was my favourite, with her great National Velvet – the book is even better than the wonderful movie. Then the Victorians – Dickens and Bram Stoker and Wilkie Collins. Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre remains my favourite book EVER. Then H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King. I’ve always been interested in New England gothic. Annie Proulx, though, is my favourite contemporary writer, I’d have to say. Well, it’s a toss up between her and Stephen King. Oddly, they both have the same editor, who also bid on my book. But I decided I needed to learn how to write suspense, and ultimately went with a great editor of suspense novels.

  • Coffee or tea?

Oh, absolutely TEA! I am lucky to have great tea purveyors nearby, who are also friends, in Northampton MA – their shop is called Tea Trekker. They made a special blend just for the book, called Jolon’s Hawley Forest Blend. You can find a link to them, and the tea, a blend of black teas and Pu-erh, on my website.

  • Hand write or computer?

A little of both.

  • Favourite colour?

Pink and black together, like Velvet’s silks in National Velvet.

  • Whilst writing, do you have any particular superstitions? Perhaps you need a drink in your favourite cup? Maybe you have to always wear slippers?

I only use pens with blue ink. Never black. I’m a bit superstitious that way.

  • What single most experience has defined your life the most?

I think it was becoming terribly ill while I was practicing law, and having to give it up. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and suffer from it to this day, but to a lesser extent – lots of acupuncture! But that’s the reason I had the time to devote myself to learning the craft of writing. It was a long apprenticeship, too. I was on the writing path for twelve years, and wrote two other novels, before finding success with The Hawley Book of the Dead.

  • Do you have any tips for wannabe writers?

Never give up, always keep on, find a writing group, believe the pros (as in agents who blog or give tips about the process of finding an agent – they should know). Don’t have spelling errors on your first page or your query letter when sending out. And signing with an agent is only a step in the process, it just goes wonderfully on!

  • Before you go, tell us a little secret ;)

Cats are from another planet. But we love them anyway.

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David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is sat patiently on my bookcase! Fab interview, Chrysler. Very insightful. You know, you might be on to something there with the cats; the ancient Egyptians always revered cats – they knew!

UK Giveaway for a physical copy of The Hawley Book of the Dead

Thanks to the publisher, I have two copies to give away. Only open to to people in the UK though I’m afraid. Interested? Check out the rafflecopter link below.

rafflecopter-logo-300x162

 

October Update

Hi all. It’s been a while since I last updated everyone on my goings on of late. I will be taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, where I hope to get a good chunk of The Golden Lyre written. I am about five chapters in so far, and I feel like it has been going smoothly, but other projects have meant I’ve had to put it to one side for a few weeks. Having the concentrated effort to get back into writing it is something I’m looking forward to.

I recently took The Silver Petticoat Personality Test – where I talk about guilty pleasures, what movies make me cry and which animal I’d like to be. It was great fun – check it out here!

I also took part in two interviews about Here Lies Love. Over at Indie Authorland I talk about Abbey the main character. You can read my interview here. At The Book Carousel I spoke the brilliant Paige about dark book genres as well as my writing process. Check that out here!

I am also doing a Book Signing of Here Lies Love on November 11th 2014 10:00 – 12:00 at Gainsborough Library. If you are in the neighbourhood, or want to come and meet me, I’ll be there! It will be the first real book signing I’ve done. I’m super nervous that no one will turn up! Hopefully at least one person will! Wish me luck.

And also, thanks to aspiring writer Dan Conama, who wrote a wonderful review of The Caseworker’s Memoirs. It has been a long time since I’ve mentioned my book that was released early last year. The kindness and support touched me. Check out his review here.

Cover Reveal: The Prophecies by Holly Martin

It gives me great pleasure in taking part in the cover reveal for my friend Holly Martin’s second book in her series. If you have read Here Lies Love, then you’ll know there is a promo pic and blurb of The Sentinel the first book. Having amassed a whopping 36 5* star reviews over on Goodreads, it is obvious this urban-fantasy with a YA twist is not one to miss! And, it is only 77p over on the UK Amazon site.

But over to the gorgeous second book’s cover:

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The world is a big place, will Eve really be the one to save it?

Eve grows stronger and more powerful every day as she strives to ensure she is ready to face her destiny. But some of her gifts are unwelcome.  Eve’s visions of the future become darker and those she loves are in terrible danger. But when her actions result in tragedy, Eve is called before The Oraculum, the council that created her

When she is summoned to their castle she becomes aware of a rift between the council members that not only could endanger her life, but could put the whole planet at risk. Would The Oraculum really turn against her and risk everything?

But in the darkness, a light burns bright. Her love for Seth is stronger than any of her powers.

But as she battles against a new threat, can she really forsake those closest to her in order to save the world?  Will everyone Eve loves survive?

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The Prophecies is releasing on October 1st 2014

Why Two Books are Better than One

Before I begin today’s post, I am delighted to share some news with you all.

Firstly, A Readers Review have reviewed Here Lies Love and I’m absolutely thrilled they understood the premise of my dark story and ‘got it’. It has certainly made my day. Please go over and read the review if you are interested in buying the book.

Secondly, it has been confirmed that I will be doing a book signing of Here Lies Love at Gainsborough Library in November time. When I have arranged a specific date, I will let you know!

Also, I was honoured to be mentioned on twitter yesterday. This person’s words were heartfelt and made me smile. Thanks, Dan Conama!

Twitter pic 21.9.14

Why Two Books are Better than One

IMG_0717I’ve always been an avid reader, but I do have to admit that for a period in my late teens and early twenty’s, I hardly read at all. I guess it came down to trying to adjust leaving sixth-form, getting a full time night job and having my daughter. I could never get in the habit of reading properly – flitting between a few pages before eventually falling asleep.

It was time for drastic action. I needed kick myself up the backside and force myself to start reading again. Which I did – yay! And I’ve never looked back since.

I’m a member of a certain kind of reading category. I do not read one book at a time – I very specifically read two books at the same time. I may not pick up one of those books in a few days, instead content on reading the other, but I will swap and change, and sometimes even in one day!

People are often confused at my reading behaviour. But it works for me – and I’ll tell you why. (As you can see by the picture, I am currently reading Odysseus: The Return by Valerio Massimo Manfredi and Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A Thompson.)

The first book is always an adult novel – whether that be a literary novel, contemporary, the in book, it doesn’t really matter. The second book is therefore always a YA (Young adult) or children’s novel.

The great thing about being an adult in a reading sense is that you can in fact read adult novels and understand them, sympathise when them and be cognitive to its true meaning. Sometimes, I love getting lost in an adult novel – they can be much darker than children’s books (for obvious reasons) and they pull you in. As an adult, you are more mature to read sex, violence and other un-childlike themes.

But as a great contrast, I find that delving into a coming-of-age young adult novel at the same time brings a fresh air to things. Plots and storylines can be as explosive and meaningful, but they read in such a different way. It allows my brain to stay on its feet, as it were.

I often find that my brain craves for a certain book (out of the two I’m reading) on different days. I don’t have constraints on how much of my time is divided between the two books though, and that is a key point to note, because reading is something that should be enjoyed and not forced. Go with the flow.

And yet, as readers, I’m sure we’ve all been inside a book when it suddenly feels like a chore to carry on. You aren’t connecting with the characters, the pace is slow, the author is annoying you …. the perfect remedy is to put that down for a few days and carry on with the other book.

It’s an interesting concept to some people, but give it a try. It may take some getting used to, because, afterall, you are getting into the minds of more than one central character. I often get asked if I get confused on events, accidentally fusing the two storylines together. And do you know what? I actually don’t.

So, Do you read more than one book?

Dreams of The Black Petal Dashed

Receiving a contract offer from Ghostly Publishing for my YA fantasy novel (yes the one I have been banging on about for ages) was one of the happiest moments of my life. The Black Petal was the first full-length novel I ever wrote, and although I worked hard on the editing side, I was inundated with rejection letter after rejection letter. The book has been written and finished now for well over two years. Sadly, publishing is a slow industry.

So it was all guns blazing with the publication however. Sadly, recently, I received word that my dreams had been dashed, just short of the finishing line. Ghostly Publishing is no more. They have closed their doors and are shutting down, which means The Black Petal is not to be published by them.

I think it is safe to say that I was in shock for some time when I found out. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. Especially as I am writing the sequel at the moment. Being positive isn’t easy and I think it may take some time before I get over the dismay of it all.

So, where do we go from here? There are a few of you out there who have shown real interest in the story and I can tell you that it will be published. I’m just not sure when or by who just yet? I have sent the manuscript out to agents, clenching all fingers crossed that one of them may see the potential I feel is in the story.

But until then, stay with me folks, I’m sure there is that light at the tunnel somewhere. We just need to find it first.

Do I Have a Daily Word Count?

goal tracker

I was asked earlier today by fellow writer Kate Foster, if I had a daily word count to aim for when writing. We were talking about my epic fantasy series, which starts off with The Black Petal, published by Ghostly Publishing and available to preorder here. I’m currently writing the sequel, and I’m up to chapter three so far. I still have a lot more to write – more chapters than The Black Petal, but hopefully just as magical.

I had a think to myself – do I have a daily word count? The definite answer is no, no I don’t. But I do count how many words I have written during a writing session. You may notice that I update my FB page when I’ve just had a session.

FB Word count

My life isn’t simple; I’m guessing most writers’ lives aren’t. I work full-time night shifts as well as raising my daughter too. I have to fit my writing around everything else I do. Paying bills, doing the shopping, reading, working, cleaning …. With everything going on, I simply cannot write every day, but I certainly aim to write every week. My current goal/aim is write a chapter a week, but I’m not going to scold myself if I don’t quite make it.

I’ve learnt that adding deadlines and pressure into my writing only makes failure more likely. I get stressed quite easily, and I thought I would have my previous novel Here Lies Love ready before it actually was. I got down, felt stressed and ultimately had to go away for a while to clear my head.

I’m not setting myself any deadlines for The Golden Lyre. I’m going with the flow and taking things as they come. I feel already that my writing has come a long way since I first wrote The Black Petal. I can schedule myself better. I’m looking forward to writing again – there were times earlier in the year when I wasn’t looking forward to writing. I’m happy where my writing life is going at the moment.

If you are a writer, do you have a daily word goal?

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