Month: November 2013

‘The Black Hours’ free!

I’m very excited to be having a free promotion this weekend (the weekend does start on Friday after all!). ‘The Black Hours’ is free to download now until midnight on Sunday 1st December. You can find it here in the UK and here in the US.

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Enjoy!

Author Focus: Mia Hoddell

For my first Author Focus I’m delighted to introduce UK based YA/Romance/Paranormal/Fantasy author Mia Hoddell and the Elemental Killers series. Deadly to Promise, the follow up to Deadly to Love has just been released. And, for one week only, both Deadly to Love and Deadly to Promise are 99c / 77p! Find them here: Amazon | Amazon.co.uk

Mia is also giving away a copy of Deadly to Love on Goodreads – just click here

I’ll let Mia tell you more about her writing before treating you to an excerpt from Deadly to Promise.

deadly to promise final

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and still have poems from when I was 4 -years -old. My writing just progressed and grew with me. I had three poems published in separate anthologies between the ages of 12 and 16 and then I moved on to short stories in my high school English classes (it was the only homework I enjoyed). I started writing my first novel at the age of fourteen and since then I’ve just continued writing as it’s something I love and am passionate about. I love being able to create new worlds, creatures and stories and have always had an overactive imagination. Writing just came naturally to me and I found myself falling in love with it.

I’ve always been taught to follow something you love and it’ll bring happiness – so far that advice hasn’t been wrong!

How do you come up with your titles?

Titles are something I always struggle with as they are one of the most important aspects. It’s one of the first things a reader will see and for me, it has to feel right. I had pages and pages of ideas before I came up with Deadly to Love. I settled on this title though because the book is a YA romance and one of its themes is how far people are willing to go for the people they love, and the danger they can find themselves in because of it. After that, the next three book titles all fell into place by working around that theme, such as Deadly to Promise (book 2). The series title, Elemental Killers, came from the paranormal aspect in my book.

Who is your favourite/least favourite character?

I love all my characters as they each brought a new personality with them. I liked being able to change from Jack’s carefree manner to Kai’s protective and explosive temper as it gave a variation. The person I had most fun creating though is Tyler (Deadly to Promise). He also happens to be the character who caused me most trouble though as he wouldn’t stick to my plan. Every time he would come up in the novel he would change the story and make me rewrite my plan, it was like he had a mind of his own which was great as I could never predict what would happen.

What do you find the hardest part of writing?

For me, writing the book is the easiest thing in the world. I have so many ideas in my head that I’m just dying to get down. The hardest part I find is editing and then the promotion. I really have to push myself to do that (especially the editing) as I just find it so repetitive. I can re-draft a book twice but after that I have to outsource. Promotions aren’t as bad, it’s just coming up with ideas.

What are you working on now? 

I have nine books planned and ready to write at the moment but there are three main ones I am working on. I’m editing the third instalment in the Elemental Killers series. I finished the first draft last month so I’m trying to get through it as quickly as possible.

The second project I’m working on is writing the fourth and final book in the Elemental Killers series. However, I have been putting it off as I’m not ready to say goodbye to Kai and Serena just yet.

My third project (the one I’m spending most time writing) is a new stand-alone novel. It’s going to be different from anything I’ve written before as I’ve decided to limit the romance and focus on action. I haven’t revealed much about it yet but it has an urban setting, a paranormal twist and plenty of action. It also has a very strong female lead who is turning out to be a lot of fun to create. She has a temper and it’s fun to work with. J

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Surround yourself with the people who listen to you, are genuinely interested, always there and aren’t scared off by your crazy ramblings. They are the ones who will be there through the good and the bad times of publishing. Forget everyone else who is negative towards your career – you don’t need them as writing a book is hard enough without people telling you you’re going to fail.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that you love about their work? 

I love books by Julia Golding (aka Joss Stirling for older readers). I refused to read until I was fourteen and her book, The Diamond of Drury Lane, was the first book I actually wanted to purchase and read the whole way through. It was her writing that got me hooked on reading and I haven’t stopped since.

I think I fell in love with her books because most of them have a strong, sometime witty heroine and the plots take place in creative worlds. There is usually plenty of action as well. Dragonfly is my favourite book by her and something I’d recommend giving a go.

The desert island question – if you could only ever read/own five books, what would you choose? Why?

I hate this question! I read over 200 books a year so it impossible for me to narrow them down to just five. Although there are my favourites that I re-read, I would always like to try something new.

  1. Dragonfly by Julia Golding because I love it.
  2. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy because I think I would need a laugh if I was stuck on a desert island and his writing never fails to make me smile.
  3. The Edge of Never by J. A. Redmerski because it is one of the only books that has made me cry and feel so much. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and I love the message.
  4. Empty Quarter by Julia Golding because it’s a spy novel and has tips on surviving in a desert.
  5. I don’t know if it exists, but something on the subject of escaping desert islands so I can buy more books.

Tell us something unusual about yourself.

I have an overactive imagination. I can’t watch or read any forms of horror (even the very mild or stupid) because I won’t sleep for weeks. I end up lying in bed and staring at my door believing something’s going to come through it. Living in an old house with creaky floorboards doesn’t help either, every noise makes me jump!

Deadly to Promise excerpt

A broken promise is all it takes.

 Becoming an E.K isn’t a choice for Serena – it’s a necessity to survive. To destroy the Elementals she has to leave her old life behind. She has to train and follow a strict regime. But with time against her, she has only a few weeks to master the skills Kai spent his whole life perfecting. 

 The knowledge passed down from her ancestors is crucial to the Elementals demise and the success of their mission. However, the path they must follow is lined with riddles, each more confusing than the next. It doesn’t matter how close to succeeding they get, it’s never enough. The Elementals are one step ahead at every revelation and that can only mean one thing – the E.Ks have a traitor among them.

“Have you ever been swimming here?” I asked moving my head to watch his reaction as I brought my feet up out of the water and folded them beside me.

“Yeah, most summers when I came here. We all used to use it as a way to cool off or just have some fun in between training.”

“How about skinny dipping?” I asked my grin growing due to the thoughts running through my head.

“Why? You want to try it?” he challenged.

“Only if you go first,” I laughed but stopped instantly when he removed his shirt and tossed it behind us. My eyes widened in surprise and I started to regret my words. “You’re not being serious are you?” I stuttered as he pulled off his shoes, throwing them over to where his shirt was crumpled.

“You can’t chicken out now Rea. It was your idea,” he said smiling as he removed each sock, teasing me as they ended up with the rest of his discarded garments.

I just stared at him, my lips moving but not making a sound as I tried to find an excuse.

He laughed at me. “Relax Rea, I’m just teasing you. Well unless you’ve changed your mind. In that case I’m being deadly serious.” He had a cheeky grin on his face as he spoke and I pushed him hard, toppling him into the water below.

There was a lot of splashing but Kai surfaced finally, taking a deep breath as he flicked the hair out of his eyes. I was clutching my stomach in fits of laughter as I bent over. The shock on his face was priceless.

“Oh you are so dead Rea, so, so dead,” he said, his voice ragged as the cold water and shock affected his half naked body. I just continued to laugh as he floated in front of me, his head bobbing up and down in a comical way.

If that’s whet your appetite then find out more about Mia and her books:

Deadly to Love Final coverdeadly to promise final

Blog |Twitter @MiaHoddell | Facebook Page |Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

 

 

Britain’s Last Witch?

Today would have been the birthday of Helen Duncan, a woman widely known as the last person to be convicted of witchcraft in Britain – Google her name and that’s what you’ll see.  However, despite this modern myth, there are two things wrong with this assumption.

Helen was born in a small Scottish town in 1897. Once married, she supplemented her income from a part time job in a bleach factory by holding séances during which the dead allegedly appeared, walked and even spoke to their relatives. Helen apparently achieved this through producing copious amounts of ‘ectoplasm’ from her mouth from which the dead would emerge.

Helen Duncan with a roll of cheesecloth 'ectoplasm' coming from her mouth.

Helen Duncan with a roll of cheesecloth ‘ectoplasm’ coming from her mouth.

However, photographs of the séances show ‘spirits’ made of sheets, coat hangers and masks. A sample of ‘ectoplasm’ was analysed by Harry Price, director of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, and found to be made from cheesecloth. You may think that those who paid Helen for her ‘gifts’ should have been more sceptical and that her activities would be a cause for concern, but it was not for this that she found herself in trouble.

'Spirits' emerging from 'ectoplasm'.

‘Spirits’ emerging from ‘ectoplasm’.

During the Second World War, Helen held séances in Portsmouth. On one occasion, she claimed that the spirit of a young sailor appeared and told her that he had died when the HMS Barham sank. The details of the ship’s loss had not yet been made public and had only been revealed to the relatives of the injured and deceased. It is possible, though, that these relatives told others and that Helen could have heard about it. It was this incident that drew the attention of the authorities – understandably they were concerned that confidential information could find its way into the wrong hands.

Helen was initially arrested under the Vagrancy Act. However, her actions were thought to be more serious than the act allowed for. The authorities turned to Section 4 of the 1735 Witchcraft Act – which, rather than being used to convict witches, was actually used to prosecute fraudulent spiritual activity. So Helen was not actually convicted of being a witch, or practising witchcraft; in fact she was convicted of completely the opposite – the act makes it a crime for someone to claim that anyone (including oneself) has magical powers or practises witchcraft. So Helen served nine months in prison not for being a witch, but for pretending to have magical powers.

The second issue with the claim that Helen Duncan was the last person to be convicted of witchcraft is that she wasn’t, in fact, the last person to be tried under the Act. In September 1944, 72-year-old medium Jane Rebecca Yorke was found guilty of seven counts under the Witchcraft Act. Due to her age she was fined rather than imprisoned. Her trial was brought because it was feared that she was defrauding concerned friends and relatives of those fighting in the war by claiming to be able to contact their loved ones. The Witchcraft Act then, rather than being a tool for persecuting witches, was an act that was set up in order to supress the superstitions and ignorance that had led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. Neither Helen Duncan nor Jane Rebecca Yorke were accused of witchcraft and their stories have nothing to do with the terrible history of intolerance and superstition that cost many innocents their lives.

Photographs:

Harry Price. Leaves from a Psychist’s Case-Book (Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1933)

Harry Price (1931) Regurgitation and the Duncan Mediumship (Bulletin I of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, 120pp with 44 illustrations.)

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Duncan

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/jan/24/comment.comment3

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-18456106

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/modern/oddities_modern.shtml

http://writingwomenshistory.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/jane-rebecca-yorke-britains-last-witch.html

Review – Thores-Cross by Karen Perkins

Thores-Cross

 

Looking for a ghost story with a difference? Love historical fiction about everyday people? Or just want a gripping, well-told tale? Then try ‘Thores-Cross’ by Karen Perkins.

I must admit that I was drawn to this novel as it concerns a subject close to my heart, tackling as it does the issue of the persecution of a suspected witch.  To this premise Karen adds a twist – the 18th Century protagonist Jennet reaches through the centuries for justice, drawing Emma, a modern day writer, into her quest for revenge.

Thores-Cross is extremely well-written, with just enough description to set the scenes without becoming bogged-down. Karen uses her obvious local knowledge, together with thorough research, to paint an authentic picture. She uses the dialect of the area cleverly to add to the atmosphere, but it never becomes jarring or distracting. There is plenty of period detail too. The characters are well-drawn and believable, even though the tale itself is supernatural. The two narratives work really well together and are linked in a very clever way – the two strands gradually coming together as the tension builds.  You feel Emma’s frustration and fear as she is drawn further into Jennet’s tale and further away from her reality and the people she loves. The narrative flows well, keeping the reader gripped all the way through to the end. Thores-Cross is a real page-turner and adds something different to both the historical fiction and the supernatural genres.

I can definitely recommend Thores-Cross – find it here.

Rating:

5 stars

Calling all indie authors – want a review?

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As a newly published independent author, I have come to realise how important reviews are. Without the publicity department of a traditional publishing house, indie authors need to help each other to get the word out there about their work. For this reason I have decided to expand the purpose of my blog to include reviews and interviews with other indie authors. My first review of the wonderful ‘Thores-Cross’ by Karen Perkins will be here soon. Please see the Reviews page for more information. Thanks.

‘The Black Hours’ Giveaway

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I’m giving away two paperback copies of ‘The Black Hours’ on Goodreads. If you’re not a member of Goodreads I can highly recommend it.  It’s a great place to find book reviews, find out about new books, connect with other book lovers and, of course, enter giveaways!

You can find my giveaway here

Remember, remember, some facts about November (the fifth)!

Guy (or Guido) Fawkes - the most famous of the Gunpowder Plotters.

Guy (or Guido) Fawkes – the most famous of the Gunpowder Plotters.

‘Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.’

So the rhyme we remember from school (those of us of a certain age anyway) beseeches us to never forget the dreadful plot of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators. But has the story of the Gunpowder Plot been forgotten after all these hundreds of years? When we’re ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at the bangers and the Catherine wheels and writing names with our sparklers (I still love doing that) do we truly remember the religious persecution that drove the plotters to such drastic measures? Or the heinous plot that we would today see as terrorism and was indeed regarded as such at the time? My next novel ‘Remember, Remember’ retells the story of the 5th of November, and my research so far has thrown up some interesting facts. I’d thought I’d share some of them today as we prepare to throw poor old Guy onto the flames once more – an end he might have preferred to the one he actually got!

  • Although it is the effigy of Guy Fawkes that we burn each year on our bonfires, he wasn’t actually the leader of the plot. Blowing up parliament was only part of a much wider rebellion, led by Robert Catesby. Catesby’s family were prominent recusant Catholics– refusing to take part in Anglican religious activity, recusants were often punished by fines, property confiscation, and imprisonment. In Catesby’s plan, Fawkes would blow up Parliament, killing the Protestant king James I. This would then start a revolt, during which a Catholic monarch would take the throne.
  • Guy Fawkes had a successful military career before becoming involved in the plot. However, his allegiances would not have pleased King James. In 1591, Fawkes sold the estate he had inherited (his father died when Fawkes was eight) and used the funds raised to travel to the continent in order to fight in the Eighty Years War. This war was between Catholic Spain and the new Dutch Republic. Fawkes fought on the side of the Spanish. Although there were not any land battles at that time between England and Spain, technically the two countries were still at war. The Spanish Armada was a relatively recent event, happening in 1588, and Spain was still very much seen as an enemy of England.
  • Although we know a lot about Fawkes’ military life, his involvement in the plot and his horrible end, relatively little is known about his personal life. The documents that relate his imprisonment, torture and death do not mention any family. However, there is one reference (and, it seems, only one) to a marriage.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) has an extensive collection of genealogy records. They do this in order to establish the details of the ancestors of their members. Their International Genealogy Index (IGI) records a marriage between Guy Fawkes and Maria Pulleyn in 1590 in Scotton. There is also a record of the birth of a son, Thomas, on 6 February 1591, the year that Fawkes went to fight for the Spanish.  So why only one record? The general consensus is that this is another Fawkes. However, the two families did have links so a marriage is credible. It may be that Fawkes, as a Catholic, and his bride wanted to marry in the traditions of their church – there are stories of Catholics marrying in secret at the dead of night. Perhaps this is why there are no other records of their marriage.
  • Guy Fawkes managed to avoid the severe penalty that befell most of his co-conspirators, although he certainly did suffer at his death. He was, along with Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood, and Robert Keyes drawn through the streets of London to his death. They were dragged from the Tower of London where they had been imprisoned, to the Old Palace Yard at Wesmtinster. His fellow conspirators were hung and quartered. Fawkes was the last to meet his doom. Although broken by torture, Fawkes managed to jump from the scaffold, breaking his neck and avoiding the long, painful death suffered by the others.
  • Effigies of Guy Fawkes weren’t always burned on Bonfire Night. Although the tradition of lighting bonfires was begun on the first anniversary of the treason, it wasn’t until later in that century that effigies were burned – usually those of the Pope. Burning the ‘guy’ is a modern tradition, although nowadays we often burn the effigies of unpopular politicians or celebrities.

So tonight, when you are watching the bright lights of the fireworks and toasting your marshmallows while the figure of whoever your personal Guy is crackles in the flames, do ‘Remember, Remember’ and spare a thought for the horrors that poor old Guy and his friends underwent and remember too that he may have had a wife and son that mourned his horrible end.

fireworks

References:

http://www.britannia.com/history/g-fawkes.html

http://mormon.org/values/family-history