Month: December 2013

Review – Odium by Claire C Riley

Odium

‘Odium’ is a novel about more than zombies. Yes, it is set in a world in which the dead roam the world outside the high walls of the cities, and yes, it does include lots of graphic, exciting instances of fights with zombies and near escapes. However, what I really loved about ‘Odium’ was Nina, the main character. Sassy, intelligent and strong-willed, Nina draws the reader in – you will find yourself willing her to succeed and really caring about her.  The first person narrative helps you to walk with Nina (and bludgeon Zombies with her along the way!) and her sarcastic humour means you enjoy the thrilling journey.  Claire Riley has a knack for creating a fast-paced, exciting rollercoaster of a tale that doesn’t scrimp on great characterisation, dialogue and description.  The graphic descriptions of the zombies in all their gruesomeness are beautifully contrasted by some touching moments when we learn about Nina’s past and follow her developing relationships. Her concern for 13 -year -old Emily and their growing reliance on each other and affection for each other is particularly well drawn, as are the dynamics between the very different members of the group of survivors that the two girls encounter. Although dystopian post-apocalyptic zombie novels are not really my usual choice of book, I can recommend ‘Odium’ – there is a lot more to this well-crafted story than zombies.

You can find Odium here.

My rating: 

5 stars

Christmas is Coming….

Christmas-gifts-2013

Christmas is fast approaching and, if you’re anything like me, you probably haven’t got all your Christmas pressies sorted out yet. Well, if you’re looking for a last minute gift and don’t want to brave the shops (and really, who does?) there’s still time to order The Black Hours and have it delivered in time for Christmas. Or you can download the eBook instantly. It has seven 5* reviews on amazon.co.uk so it’s got to be better than a lot of other last minute presents. And if you’re still not tempted here’s an extract to whet your appetite.

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The Black Hours

Chapter 1

Alice pulled her cloak tightly around her as she pushed her way through the crowds. The gruesome shadow of the gallows loomed ahead, five rope nooses creaking in the bitter wind that whipped through Halstead’s bustling square. She wanted only to escape these people who knocked against her, surrounding her with their noise and smells. It had been a hard two days walk from Coggeshall in the biting cold and she was looking forward to the warmth and refreshment she would no doubt receive in Hannah’s home.

Around her vendors called their wares, children laughed or cried in excitement; women giggled and gossiped with each other, their breath cloudy in the freezing air, pausing now and then to slap their unruly offspring. Men told raucous jokes and drank toasts of warm ale, their voices rising above the howl of the wind.

‘It’ll be a good one today.’

‘That it will. Wish I’d got here earlier. Might’ve got a seat inside.’

Alice swallowed, her heart beating faster. This was not an execution then; indeed the accused had not yet stood trial. The nooses swayed as she passed by the gallows. Alice shivered as she imagined the poor souls that would soon dangle from those cruel ropes. She quickened her step, filled with a need to get to the safety and quiet of Hannah’s cottage.

She had not been to Halstead since the previous summer. The months since had been full of worry. Her father, Samuel, had taken ill, gripped by a cough that left him gasping for breath, his eyes wide with a fear that turned Alice cold. The harsh, long winter had only made him worse, and Alice and her grandmother Maggie were becoming desperate. Although skilled in the use of herbs and plants, nothing Maggie had given to Samuel had made a difference. Eventually they had been left with no choice but to seek the help of Hannah Woodbury, an old friend of her grandmother’s. Maggie had known the wise woman nearly all her life, and had a high regard for her ability to cure ailments when all other remedies had failed. However, the two women had not been in contact for the past year. Alice had thought it was because of an argument, but as Maggie had packed her a basket of food to take on her journey, her eyes had been fearful.

‘Take care when you get to Halstead, Alice. Mind you speak to no-one. The fewer people that know you seek Hannah, the better.’

Alice had looked at her grandmother questioningly. Maggie had hesitated, then pursed her lips.

‘These are difficult times, Alice. There is so much suspicion.’

A series of wracking coughs from the bundle of blankets in the corner of the cottage had sent Maggie rushing to Samuel’s side. Despite her fear, Alice had smiled at her grandmother. She had to do something to help her father.

‘I will be fine, Grandmother. Do not worry. Besides, if Hannah knows how to help Father, then I have no choice.’

Now, as she finally made her way out of the crowds, Alice felt that fear again. She took a small, overgrown path that was sheltered from the icy wind by a row of scrabbling crab apple trees. The ground was slippery underfoot, the mud frozen around clusters of sharp stones that Alice could feel through the thin soles of her boots. The bare branches of dogwood and hawthorn snagged in her skirts, catching on her cloak as she left the noise of the square further behind. Hannah liked to keep a distance from others, choosing to live in a tiny cottage on the edge of some scrubland on the very outskirts of the town. Alice could understand why. More than once the old woman had been blamed for the bad luck, bad weather and disease that periodically caused death and destruction among the townsfolk. But Alice was sure that whenever those same people needed something, some curative for an affliction, a draught of herbs to see off an infection, or a potion to restore or relieve, they would turn to Hannah, conveniently forgetting the names they had whispered as she had passed them in the street, or the doors they had slammed in her face when times were hard and she was in need herself. And Alice was sure that Maggie had suffered the same way, though she tried to hide it, knew that it worried her as she watched Alice grow and learn about the powers of the plants that grew around them.

It was silent as she walked on, the cold having driven any creatures to ground. All Alice could hear was her own footsteps as her boots struck the solid earth and the relentless whistle of the wind. The path became more and more overgrown, and she was forced to push her way through the branches, the sleeve of her cloak wrapped over her hand to protect her from the thorns. It was as if no-one had passed this way for weeks. Through the silence came the distant sound of knocking. Alice paused for a moment, the cold catching at her throat, and listened carefully. There was definitely some sort of rhythmic thumping ahead of her. Puzzled, she pushed on, the noise becoming louder with each step. At last the branches grew thinner and she eventually stepped free; Hannah’s cottage standing alone in front of her.

It looked more run down than she remembered; the thatch was patchy in places, ivy straggled thin woody stems across the grimy walls and the door swung haphazardly on its hinges. This explained the knocking then, the door thumping back and forth in the wind. It was not like Hannah to leave her home open like this, vulnerable not only to the cold winds. No smoke billowed from the chimney either. Surely Hannah was at home? After all, she would not be in the town; she was not one to attend such horrible gatherings. Apprehension gripped Alice – no smoke meant no fire in the grate; perhaps Hannah was ill?

Cautiously she approached the cottage, her breathing heavy, fear combined with the cold clutching at her chest with each intake. The door continued to bang. As she drew nearer, Alice saw that only one hinge held the heavy door to the frame; the other was twisted, hanging from a single rusty nail. A boot-sized dent had caused the lower half of the door to buckle, the wood broken and splintering at the edges. Tentatively, Alice pushed against the upper half and the door flew inwards, into the darkness beyond. For a second Alice was taken aback by the stench. The air was musty despite the cold and was under laid by a fetidness that enveloped her, a closeness that made it even harder to breathe. It was as if a brimming pot had been left to stand for days. But Hannah was clean, scrupulous even, despite her poverty. Perhaps she was ill then, or worse.

‘Hannah, Hannah, are you there?’

Alice’s voice sounded too loud in the silence. There was no reply, only the howl of the wind in her ears.

‘Hannah, it’s Alice. Alice Pendle.’

Still silence. Grasping her cloak tighter, Alice stepped over the threshold. It was dark inside the cottage, no candle was lit, and the odour was stronger. Wrinkling her nose, Alice waited for her eyes to adjust. The door slammed behind her and then continued its banging, the hinge creaking in time. She turned and wedged her basket in the gap, relishing the quiet for a moment. Once used to the dimness, Alice could see that the room was in turmoil. Furniture was overturned and smashed. Jars lay broken on the floor. A few scraps of what looked like Hannah’s clothing were piled on the hearth, charred and singed. Someone had tried to start a fire with them – but who would do such a thing? Alice picked up a handful of the blackened remains, shaking her head in confusion, suddenly very afraid. Something dreadful had happened here.

Want to read more? Find The Black Hours here.

Friday the 13th

friday 13th

So it’s Friday the 13th again and many of the more superstitious among us will have greeted the day with trepidation. But why is the day considered to be unlucky, and is there any truth behind the fears placed on this date? Here are thirteen things you might not have known.

1) Friday has long been thought of as an unlucky day (despite that often gleeful refrain ‘thank God it’s Friday).  In pagan Rome it was traditionally the day on which executions were carried out – and of course Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. There are lots of stories behind the evil of poor old number thirteen – more of which later. So putting the two together gives us this most unlucky date.

2) Some people are so superstitious and so terrified of the day that they actually have a phobia. If you are affected you can proudly tell people that you are suffering from Paraskevidekatriaphobia – that’s if you can pronounce it of course.

3) Friday the 13th is not traditionally considered unlucky in Spanish speaking countries or in Greece. Rather, Tuesday the 13th is a bad day…

4) …and in Italy, you should be very afraid of Friday the 17th. In fact, when it was shown in Italy, the film Shriek if you know what I did last Friday the 13th was called Shriek – Do you have something to do on Friday the 17th (not a very catchy title, to be honest).

shriek

5) So why does thirteen have such a bad reputation? It seems this comes from an amalgamation of myths and legends. In the Christian faith, thirteen people sat down to the Last Supper, and one was a betrayer. This could have led to a belief in the number signifying bad luck.

6) Prior to this though, the ancient Vikings have their own version of the Last Supper. Twelve gods were apparently invited to a banquet at Valhalla. The evil god, Loki was not invited but he turned up anyway, bringing the number of guests to thirteen. Loki then persuaded the god of winter, Hod, to attack Balder the Good, who was well-liked by the other gods. Hod threw a rod of mistletoe at Balder and killed him – hence the idea that thirteen guests in bad luck.

7) Witches also come into the picture (obviously). The Norse goddess of marriage derives from a deity worshipped on the sixth day of the week (Friday). This goddess was known as either Frigg or Freya, hence Friday. Friday was considered a lucky day especially to get married– however, with the advent of Christianity, the goddess was recast as a witch and she and her day took on a darker and wholly unwarranted association (she even had a cat). One legend has Freya herself joining a gathering of twelve witches at their Sabbat – bringing the number to 13. Since then a proper coven traditionally should have 13 members.

freya

8) If you still persist in being scared of a date, then 2013 is not the best year for you. Today is the second Friday the 13th of this year and the last one was thirteen weeks ago! Creepy!

9) You’ll fare even worse in 2015 however. There will be three Friday the 13ths – in February, March and November.

10) Despite the fact that the connotations of the day are based on twisted tales, myths and superstition, a survey by the Daily Mirror found that three-quarters of people claimed to have experienced bad luck on this date…

11)… and 34% said that if they had the choice they would prefer to spend the day hiding under the duvet!

12) The makers of the hugely successful ‘Friday the Thirteenth’ film franchise probably have no superstitions about the day though. In fact I’m sure they adore it. According to ‘The Numbers’, the twelve movies have grossed more than $460,000,000 worldwide.

film

13) And if you make it through today unscathed – don’t get too complacent. If you’re still around in 2029, then hiding under the bed rather than the duvet might be the best place. Apparently that’s when the asteroid ‘99942 Apophis’ will come closer to the Earth than the orbits of communication satellites. When? On Friday the 13th, of course!

happy

References

http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/franchise/Friday-the-13th

http://www.ibtimes.com/friday-13th-13-freaky-trivia-facts-myths-about-unlucky-day-december-2013-1506880

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fear-friday-13th-friggatriskaidekaphobia-third-2918470

Author Focus – Karen Perkins

The subject of today’s Author Focus is Karen Perkins, author of the successful Valkyrie series and haunting ghost story Thores-Cross, a novel that received five stars in a review here on my blog. Karen lives in Yorkshire, where she spends her time writing as well as editing and formatting as proprietor of LionheART Publishing House. She has been a keen sailor since childhood, competing nationally and internationally until the day she had both National and European Ladies Championship titles – and a terminally bad back.

Karen Perkins

Tell us about your writing background. What inspired you to write?

In about 2005 I picked up a pen and just started writing. I had injured myself sailing ten years before, which had pretty much brought my life to a standstill. When I filled the first notebook I bought another, and when I’d filled that I realised I was writing a book – I had the bug and it was terminal, I cannot imagine not writing now. I’d always been a bookworm, apparently I was a very easy child as I spent all my time curled up with a book, yet it had never occurred to me that I would be able to write one until I actually did. That first book took a lot of rewrites and a lot of learning before it was fit to be published, in 2012, as Dead Reckoning and even then I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to publish without the encouragement and support of my friends and family. Dead Reckoning was quickly followed by a novella, Ill Wind, introducing the Valkyrie Series, and Thores-Cross – something a little different; a ghost story set in my native Yorkshire.

I also run LionheART Publishing House (www.lionheartgalleries.co.uk), to publish my own titles and to offer publishing services to other authors – copy-editing, proofreading, formatting and cover design, and our list of services is still growing. Writing and books have given me a new future, and I’m very excited about travelling this new road.

How do you come up with your titles?

With difficulty, to be honest. I settled on Ill Wind for the first book of the Valkyrie Series because it introduces some of the main characters at times of change in their lives – and not change for the better. I wanted a title connected with the sea and sailing as it’s the first of a series concentrating on pirates, and the phrase ‘it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’ seemed fitting, although I did shorten it somewhat!

Dead Reckoning came easier. When I wrote it, I was going through a very difficult time in my life and was desperately searching for a way forward – ‘dead reckoning’ is a phrase used to describe the method of navigating in the days before reliable clocks, and so longitude could not be calculated with any surety – and even latitude was difficult to pinpoint. On top of that, the theme of revenge runs throughout the book and on a number of occasions this is exacted through death.

Thores-Cross is set in a place very dear to my heart and now called Thruscross, and when I started my research I found out that when the Vikings originally settled the area, they named it Thores-Cross. The title pinpoints the setting, and also shows that although the past influences the present, things do change, albeit slightly. The reference to Thor, the Viking god of thunder, was also too good to pass up, especially as storms feature highly in the book.

Regarding your own characters – who is your favourite and least favourite?

That’s a hard one. Each book I write is in the first person, and most have different narrators. When I’m writing the narrator’s story, they are literally in my head talking through my pen. I feel what they feel, want what they want and even, in my dreams, see what they see. Whichever book I’m writing, the narrator is both my favourite and least favourite – for that time, I am them, for good and bad.

The most startling example of this for me is the character of Cheval. He appears in all the books of the Valkyrie Series, but really comes into his own in book five (working title: Shadowfall), which I’m expecting to publish late 2014/early 2015 (there are two more to come first, which I’ll talk about later). He is very much the ‘baddie’ of Shadowfall, and one of two narrators. I started off disliking him intensely, and really gave rip to a (very small!) side of myself normally kept very much under control, and once I started, I absolutely loved it! He is petty, vindictive and cowardly – those are his better qualities – and I started off hating him, yet he is the character I have enjoyed writing the most, and in a funny way he has become my favourite, although Jennet from Thores-Cross also has a great claim for this epithet.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Knowing when to stop rewriting, and recognising that I need to carry on editing. I love every stage of the writing process – including the editing and polishing – but I find it extremely difficult to judge my own work objectively. It is far, far easier to edit somebody else’s work, but when it comes to editing my own, I know what I meant when I wrote the words, and that’s what I read – whatever is actually written there. No matter my hardest efforts, I end up editing the intent rather than the sentences.

Then of course there’s the cover design. At first I did my own covers, but have recognised I am much better with words than images and am very lucky to have found a very talented designer in Cecelia Morgan who has really brought my books to life.

What are you currently working on?

I have a few projects and ideas on the go at the moment. The third book in the Valkyrie Series, Look Sharpe!, has been written and I am now preparing it for publication – it should be available early in the New Year, and will be followed by book four, Ready About! later in 2014.

I’m also in the planning stages of a similar book to Thores-Cross, again set in Yorkshire. It will be a completely independent novel, but will have a similar theme of the past affecting the present. I’m also planning an ‘Africa’ series of books. Cultural differences and attitudes, whether historical or national, intrigue me, particularly in the way they affect relationships. My own family is very international (in the main British, German and Danish, although I also have relatives in France, Italy and the USA – and probably more), and one of my most significant relationships has been with a Zimbabwean. The reasons for people leaving their homes and trying to build a life in a new land is very often denigrated with prejudice rather than understood and admired, and I want to explore and highlight the challenges people face in what is very often simply a quest for survival for themselves and their families.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Never give up. Never stop. Your stories need to be told – don’t be afraid of sharing them. Also, take your time to polish your book to as high a shine as you can before publishing – it’s far too easy to publish too soon in enthusiasm. If you need an editor – get an editor. If you need a cover designer – get a cover designer. Do your book proud. And most of all, enjoy – it’s a wonderful, inspiring, fulfilling and amazing thing to hold your own book in your hand.

Who would you choose as a writing mentor?

Stephen King (a bit of a theme as you read on!). I love the way he puts his characters into horrific situations to see what they do, then he goes further, then further still, showing no mercy. I’m fascinated by human psychology, and he always has such a broad – and brutally honest – mix of characters, emotions and motivations; his books fascinate me. His book On Writing is my bible.

What are you reading at the moment?

Yours! And enjoying it very much (The Black Hours by Alison Williams). Also on my ‘I-really-want-to-read-this-soon’ list is Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, Citadel by Kate Mosse and Black Roses by Jane Thynne.

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

Only 5 – aarrgh!! I want a shipful! Okay . . .

  1. Carrie by Stephen King – This was the first ‘grown-up’ book I read (and probably a bit too young!). It opened up a whole new world of possibilities and stories for me – which is still expanding. It has been my favourite for nearly thirty years, and I can’t see that changing.
  2. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome – I need a childhood favourite for when I’m feeling lonely or down.
  3. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier – one my favourite pirate books – got to have some pirates! (And if I took Treasure Island, I’d spend the rest of my life digging the island up in search of pirate treasure).
  4. The Complete Works of Charles Dickens – I love his work but still have so many to enjoy; I’d have the time on a desert island!
  5. The largest blank notebook I can carry – along with a kitbag full of pens. Even if there’s nobody to read, I’d still have to write.

Tell us something unusual about yourself

I once threw a brick over the Berlin Wall into the minefield in the East in a fit of temper as a child (but don’t tell my mum!). Luckily I missed everything explosive!

Excerpt from Thores-Cross

Thores-Cross

Prologue

26th April 1988

‘I dare you to go up to the haunted house.’

I glared at my sister in annoyance, then up at the house. I’d been there plenty of times with Alice and my friends, but never on my own. I did not want to go on my own now.

‘Double dare you.’

‘You little—!’ I lunged at her, but she danced out of my way. She might have been small, but she was quick.

She laughed. ‘Scaredy-cat, scaredy-cat, Emma’s a scaredy-cat!’

I eyed the house again, then frowned at Alice. But a double dare was a double dare. And I was not a scaredy-cat. At ten years old, I could do this. I took a deep breath, ignored the butterflies in my stomach and started walking up the hill. I didn’t rush.

I scrambled through the gap in the crumbling dry stone wall that separated the house from the field, using both hands to steady myself. Something caught my eye and I stopped to have a closer look. Curious, I reached into the jumble of stones, and pulled it from the dark recess in the wall.

A little pot. Made of stone, it was a rich brown in colour, roughly an inch high and two inches round with a small neck and lip. An old inkpot. I shook my head. How did I know that?

‘My story.’

I froze, then spun round to check behind me. Who had said that? I looked back at the house. There was nobody here. Although the stone walls still stood, there were no doors, windows, nor roof. Dark holes gaped in the walls and, I knew from earlier visits, it was knee deep in sheepshit inside. I must have imagined the voice. I glanced back at Alice, braced my shoulders and took a step towards the house.

‘Write my story.’

My breath caught in my throat, then I sucked in a great lungful of air, turned and ran. Dashing past Alice, I didn’t care that she was laughing at me, that I’d lost the dare. I was terrified, desperate to get away from that house, that voice. It was only when I stopped running that I realised I still clutched the inkpot.

 

Chapter 1 – Jennet

28th June 1776

Pa moaned and moved in his sleep. I groaned. I knew by now that meant he had shat himself again. I had only changed the heather and straw he lay on an hour ago – I would have to go through the whole thing again: wake him and force him to move so I could take the stinking bedding away and give him fresh. I cursed. Mam’s body were laid out downstairs in the hall. She would be buried tomorrow, and instead of sitting over her, I were cleaning Pa’s shite.

I sighed and got up to take care of the mess. I were being unfair. The bloody flux were because of his ducking in the sheep pit. But I had seen the bloody flux before, and it did not bring such a man to this so quickly, not in three days.

I were fifteen years old, had just lost my Mam, and Pa were leaving me too. It were his grief and guilt that had reduced him to this pitiful hulk. If he wanted to stay with me – take care of me – he would fight this. I heaved him over and recoiled from the stench of blood and shite, but gritted my teeth and gathered up the dirty bedding. Yet another stinking trip to the midden.

I picked up fresh from the dwindling pile downstairs – I would have to go out and pull more heather soon. I glanced over at Mam’s body, then carried the bedding up and dumped it on the bed Pa had so recently shared with her. He rolled back over – without even a flicker of his eyes to show he were aware of what I were doing for him.

Tears dripped down my face. How could this have happened? I went back downstairs, took the pot of steaming water off the fire and poured some into the bowl of herbs. I had struggled to remember what Mam had used on Robert Grange at the Gate Inn when he had been struck down with this, and eventually recalled a tea of agrimony, peppermint and blackberry leaf, then as much crab apple, bilberry and raspberry mash as she could force down his neck.

The herbs needed to steep for a few minutes, and if he would not drink any of it, I would wash his face with the tea. At least the smell were fresh. I held my head over the bowl and breathed deeply, then carried it upstairs to Pa for him to breathe in the healing steam. He were too far gone for the mash.

Mam had taught me the cunning ways since I were old enough to walk and talk. She had showed me how to recognise the restorative plants and herbs, which ones helped fevers, which helped wounds, which helped women and childbirth – even preventing a child. I knew their names, where they grew, whether flowers, leaves or roots were best, and the best times to plant and pick them. I knew what she knew. Had known. But I were struggling to remember. My thoughts were as muddy as the sheep pit she had died in. I had racked my brains to think what to brew for Pa, and had to take out Mam’s journal to check. Even so, my remedies did not seem to be doing much good.

I dipped a clean cloth into the tea and wiped his brow. I did not know of any plant that healed grief. I only wish I did.

How could this happen? How could they leave me?

‘Jennet?’

I started at the sound of my name being called and went downstairs to greet Mary Farmer.

‘Thee’s never alone here!’

I nodded, too worn out to respond with any enthusiasm.

‘Ee, I thought that Susan Gill would be here with thee.’

‘She were, she had to go help William with the sheep.’

‘Oh aye, likely story, she’s not a one for hard work, her. Happen the smell got to her.’

I glanced up at her, but she showed no embarrassment. I realised I had got used to all but the most pungent, and wondered how badly my home smelled.

‘Go on, get out of here. Go get some fresh air, this is no job for a lass. Thee’s done well, but let me stay with him for a bit. Go for a walk.’

I did not need telling twice. I grabbed my shawl and nodded my thanks. When I got to the door, Mary stopped me.

‘Has thee put bees in mourning yet, lass?’

I shook my head.

‘Well, do it now, if thee don’t, they’ll never do owt else for thee, thee knows that.’

I nodded and ran. I had never been so glad to get outside. The crisp June wind blew the fresh scent of heather into my face and hair, ridding me of the scent of sickness. Chickens scattering at my feet, I hurried to the beeboles in the wall bordering the garden to tell the bees of Mam’s death, ensuring plenty of honey and beeswax to come, then walked up the track on to the moor and kept going – not in the direction of the sheep-ford, but the other way, uphill where there were just space. No walls, nowt constraining me, just wind and heather. I breathed deeply, trying to forget, but very aware I were now alone in the world.

You can find out more about Karen, her books and her publishing services on her website, her blog and on Facebook – The Valkyrie Series and LionheART Publishing

Dead Reckoning Cover - titlesIll Wind Cover - titles

The Worst Witch?

wwwest

I can hardly believe that ‘The Wizard of Oz’ celebrates it’s 75th anniversary this year. It seems pretty amazing that this wonderful film that can still entertain and enthrall is that old! I loved watching it as a child and it always reminds me of sitting in the front room at Christmas, a pile of Quality Street wrappers next to me (we only ever had these at Christmas – now you can get them all year. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing), the multi-coloured lights of our silver tinsel Christmas tree twinkling away. And being absolutely terrified. The Wicked Witch of the West and her troupe of flying monkeys scared the proverbial out of me. It’s not a cliché to say that I spent most of the film hiding behind a cushion (a bright orange fluffy one if you must know – this was the seventies after all). But I have to admit I much preferred watching her to her sickly sweet counterpart Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. I wonder sometimes if watching that film sowed a seed for my later fascination with witches and those on the edges of society. She truly was the embodiment of a dangerous wicked woman after all. And in celebration of her 75 years as the most terrifying witch ever to grace the big and small screen here are the best of the rest:

The Grand High Witch – Roald Dahl’s The Witches

eva_ernst_the_grand_high_witch1

Scary in the book, terrifying on screen, The Grand High Witch is ‘the most evil woman in creation’. The book is awesome and deserves its longevity; Anjelica Houston, in the film, is amazing and terrifying and horrible, beautiful and alluring then dreadfully grotesque.

The Wicked Queen – Disney’s Snow White

Snow white wicked queen

I didn’t watch this film as a child. The only Disney film I saw then was Dumbo and that scarred me. I watched this with my daughter when she was four. I was terrified.  She wasn’t. The scene in which she plummets to her death is horrible – how is this a children’s film? Oh yeah – my daughter wasn’t scared.

The White Witch – Chronicles of Narnia

white witch

Loved ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ when I was a child. Loved the film as an adult too. Tilda Swinton played it perfectly, menacing, malevolent and definitely icy.

Endora – Bewitched

endora

I loved this show. But watching it now I can’t help getting irritated at the lovely Samantha, patronised as she is by the ridiculous Darren. So it’s Samantha’s mother, Endora, who makes it on to my list. Wish she could have made Darren vanish.

Minnie Castevet – Rosemary’s Baby

minnie

Horrible, horrible, horrible. I watched this film when I was twelve. Probably shouldn’t have.

Bellatrix Lestrange – Harry Potter

belletrix

I’ll hold my hand up and admit that I’m not really a huge fan of Harry Potter. But I do love Helena Bonham Carter. IMHO she outshines absolutely everyone else in whatever film it was she was in (I only remember her and a brief appearance by Robert Pattinson in one of them– sorry).

Who’s your favourite?

#jackspetition Day 2: 91,186 people have signed so far – please carry on sharing!

Can we get this petition to 100,000? It’s a vitally important issue. Thank you!

JACK MONROE

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At the end of day 2, #jackspetition has a staggering 91,186 signatures, and some great public figures coming out in support of the campaign. Let me know if there’s any that I’ve missed, but I noticed:

Jane Czyzelska (editor, Diva Magazine), John Prescott, and son David Prescott, Caroline Lucas, Natalie Bennett, The Robin Hood Tax team, Paul Heaton, Church Action On Poverty, The Trussell Trust, Oxfam, Unite, the i newspaper, and the Daily Mirror … And that’s just a few I can see at a glance on my Twitter feed!

So please keep signing and sharing, even if you’ve shared it already, please do so again – this is an absolutely phenomenal response and sends a very clear message to the Government that we want answers. Don’t let them wriggle out of it. The bigger this is, the harder it will be for them to ignore.

Thankyou all so much…

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New anthology: Fields of Words

Fields of Words

I met Alex Bruty back in 2011 when we were both students on the University of Glasgow’s MLitt Creative Writing course. Whenever we had a workshop I would look forward to reading Alex’s work – her short stories have made me laugh, cry and be totally consumed by jealousy at her wonderful way with words! Alex has a story The Box included in the forthcoming Ink Pantry publication Fields of Words. I can’t recommend her writing highly enough – you really should take a look!

Read all about Alex and her writing here

Fields of Words can be ordered here

Happy reading!

New Interview – Writing Historical Drama

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Kristen Pham, author of The Conjurors Series interviews me on her blog. The interview, as well as featuring some interesting info about me(!) also discusses the processes involved in writing and researching historical fiction.

http://kristenpham.com/2013/12/02/author-interview-alison-williams-on-writing-historical-drama/