Month: October 2014

A Witchcraft Tour of England

Halloween is a great time to discover some of the places connected to England’s history of witch hunting and witchcraft and there are plenty of them 🙂

Alison Williams Writing

pendle witches

England has a long and varied history of witchcraft. As a tradition stretching back centuries, it is hardly surprising that there are a great variety of places that abound with legends, stories and histories about witchcraft, witches, persecution and execution. When researching the topic for my novel  ‘The Black Hours’, I came across lots of interesting stories and made a long list of places that I’d love to visit. Some of them I have been lucky enough to visit although I would like to visit again one day. In fact, what I’d really like to do is go on a witchcraft tour of England – spending time in all these places. All offer something interesting and informative; some are fun and have more to do with legend, myth and fairy tale than the brutal truth of the horror of the witch hunts; other places I have found to…

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The Hammer of the Witches

Dressing up as a witch this Halloween? Spare a thought for all those tried as witches over the years. This post is about the treatise that many of those witch hunts were based on – the infamous ‘Hammer of the Witches’.

Alison Williams Writing

When writing my novel ‘The Black Hours’ I researched in depth the methods used to interrogate and persecute suspected witches. This was, on the whole, a rather grim process that occasionally reduced me to tears when I thought about the real women (and sometimes men) behind these often lurid and horrific accounts.

The backbone of my research came from the infamous ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ or ‘Hammer of the Witches’. This is a 15th century treatise that is basically a handbook on the way to identify, interrogate and prosecute those suspected of witchcraft. It was written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer, a German Catholic clergyman, and had three main purposes – to refute allegations that witchcraft did not exist, to set out the forms of witchcraft and the ways in which the craft can be identified and resolved, and to aid and assist magistrates in the prosecution of those accused.

malleus

What I found…

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A visit to the Museum of Witchcraft

If you’re looking for somewhere different to visit this Halloween, and you’re lucky enough to be anywhere near beautiful Cornwall, then I recommend the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle. This blog post is all about my visit.

Alison Williams Writing

Museum of Witchcraft

Nestled in the lovely village of Boscastle on the Cornish coast in a pretty white cottage is the wonderful Museum of Witchcraft. Step inside this quaint little building and you will find the world’s largest collection of witchcraft related artefacts.

The museum was opened in 1960 by Cecil Williamson, after a rather troubled history. Williamson had first opened a museum on the Isle of Man in 1951, the year in which the Witchcraft Act was repelled. The museum had a resident witch – Gerald Gardner. The two men wanted different things for the museum, so Williamson sold the building to Gardner in 1954 and moved on to Windsor and then to Bourton-in-the-Water in the Cotswolds. Unfortunately, the museum was not welcomed – Williamson received death threats and the museum was fire-bombed several times. Eventually he moved the artefacts to their current home in Cornwall.

This was not the end of…

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The Portrayal of Witches

With Halloween fast approaching and all those hideous witch costumes on display in the shops, I thought it would be a good idea to reblog a few of my posts this week about witches, witchcraft and the real stories behind the warts and the pointy noses. Enjoy 🙂

Alison Williams Writing

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes. 

Macbeth witches

Most of us are familiar with these words from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and with the gruesome hags that stir the cauldron. They have become the blueprint for the portrayal of witches; ugly, toothless old women; scheming, mysterious and powerful. But is it fair? And why do we see witches in this way – it can’t all be Shakespeare’s fault, can it?

Before the advent of Christianity there were many diverse religions – Druids, Norse Odinists and the witches that had for centuries acted as healers, midwives and wise women and men. However, when the Inquisition was launched, it wasn’t just direct ‘threats’ to the Roman Catholic Church that came under suspicion. Anyone could potentially be accused of heresy, and many of those healers and wise woman came under attack.

Propaganda…

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Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT alison reviews His To Possess by Delores Fossen

My review of ‘His to Possess’ on Rosie Amber’s blog today.

Rosie Amber

Today’s book review is from team member Alison, she blogs at https://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

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Alison chose to read and review His To Posses by Delores Fossen from The HarlequinE Shivers Boxset volume 3

Harlequin E Shivers Box Set 3

His to Possess by Delores Fossen

When Olivia meets the enigmatic and handsome Lucian Wilde for the first time she feels that she knows him and also feels an overwhelming attraction for him. The feeling is mutual and the two realise they are being possessed by the souls of two lovers who have brought them together to help solve the mystery of their murder. Finding themselves in danger, they struggle to find answers, wondering if the attraction they have for each other is genuine or if it is simply a memory, an echo of the passion shared by Marissa and Damien.

This is a very clever idea for a modern gothic romance. The two main characters are likeable, particularly…

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Author Interview and Review – Jan Ruth

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I’m thrilled to have Jan Ruth on the blog today. I reviewed Jan’s ‘Wild Water’ for Rosie Amber’s blog earlier this month. I loved ‘Wild Water’ and can wholeheartedly recommend it. In case you missed it, my review follows Jan’s interview, as does an excerpt from another of her books, ‘Midnight Sky’.

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Tell me a little about your writing history/background. What inspired you to write?

Inspiration? Moving from Cheshire to Snowdonia, twenty years ago kick started my writing obsession.

This ancient, romantic landscape is a perfect setting for fiction, although I write contemporary stories. I’d have to describe them as mostly about people, with a good smattering of humour and drama, dogs and horses.

I’ve written all my life. Winning prizes at school is my earliest memory (I was the book nerd in the corner) and then about 30 years ago I wrote a novel called Summer in October. Amazingly, I was picked up fairly quickly by an agent who wanted to try something different, but she failed to get financial backing and it all came to nothing. The entire experience was a learning curve though – a lesson in patience, how to re-write and edit, and develop that essential thick skin. Some years later, my second attempt – Wild Water – was again picked up by an agent, which again… came to nothing! Various publishers did ask to see subsequent books but my work was ‘between genre’ and anything new and difficult to pigeon-hole was considered a risky investment, so that was that.

I continued to write; and then Kindle happened and changed everything. I’ve since self-published five novels and two sets of short stories with a third set of Christmas stories due out very soon. My books are in print too, in a local bookshop and across Welsh libraries. This sounds like an easy success story and in some ways yes, self-publishing can bring rewards but there are downsides. I think the industry is in a massive state of flux. The volume of books for sale is now overwhelming, a teetering slush pile. How to find the gems without resorting to the powerful gatekeepers of traditional publishing, is something of an obstacle for both authors and readers alike.

How did you come up with the title of ‘Wild Water’? 

‘Llyn Gwyllt’ is a lake which features in the book: meaning wild water. Once I had this title in place, Midnight Sky, White Horizon and Silver Rain followed quite easily; I think it’s important to build a theme or a branding across your work. The sequel to Wild Water, Dark Water is my latest title. Now I’m wondering about a third… Silent Water?

What was the hardest part of writing for you? Were there any particular issues or hiccups when writing ‘Wild Water’?

With my first novel I went through several entire re-writes. My strengths are character development, pacing, and dialogue. My weakness had always been over-explanation, something which has been rigorously worked on. Less is more. Subtle is actually more powerful, and it was understanding the confidence to write in this way and never to underestimate the reader. I’m not great with punctuation either!

What are you working on now?

A sequel to Midnight Sky, which is currently titled Palomino Sky. The cover image and some plot outlines are in place but it’s very early days, but it’s good to have something on the go. (MIDNIGHT SKY is currently on sale at 75p)

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Yes… I wrote a funny blog post about this called The Wisdom of Hindsight.

https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/6507992-the-wisdom-of-hindsight

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

At the moment I’m really enjoying Clare Chambers. I love her British sense of humour, those coming of age observations about adults and relationships. Her books tend to be set in the seventies and eighties, around the time I was a teenager too. Her style is wry, witty.

Wild Water – My Review

Wild Water MEDIUM

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read that, at times, I found hard to put down. Jack is forty-something, successfully running the Wilmslow branch of the family’s estate agency. He has it all, the big house, the Aston Martin, and is still good-looking and charming. But beneath it all, his life has reached a crisis – his wife is behaving strangely, his daughter is craving his attention, and his teenage son is struggling with school. Then his dad suffers a heart scare, and Jack travels to Wales to look after the office there, where he finds one of the clients is his childhood sweetheart, Anna.

Everything comes to a head at Christmas, and Jack has some tough decisions to make in this charming, funny, at times heart-breaking novel. You’ll find yourself willing Jack to make the right decisions, and really caring that he finds the happiness he deserves.

Jan Ruth manages to make you care for her characters, and skilfully contrast upmarket Wilmslow with the ruggedness of the wild Welsh countryside, bringing both to life. The relationships between Jack and his children are well-drawn, particularly between Jack and his youngest daughter Lottie – their conversations will make you laugh and cry.

Recommended – I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

‘Wild Water’ is available on Amazon in the UK here and in the US.

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‘Midnight Sky’ is available now and is definitely on my TBR list. Here’s an extract to whet your appetite:

Midnight Sky Cover EBOOK

Her biological clock had started it. Before it sounded its alarm, Laura had been perfectly content. Maybe she should have taken the battery out a bit sooner, but it was more likely it ran on hormones, and they could be tricky.

She drove much too fast along the M56, recklessly even.

The mobile phone on the passenger seat took message after message from Simon. She glanced at it from time to time, then finally switched it off and threw it on to the back seat, where it lay silenced, buried under sample swatches of wallpaper and fabric.

She was already running late because of their argument.

It hadn’t started as an argument; it had started as a discussion. Before she knew it, Laura was fighting her corner again. The discussion was all about family, to start with. It was different for Simon; he had loads of relatives, while Laura only had her sister. It was unfair of him to moan about her spending so much time with Maggie, when the demands of his ex-wife and kids were at times off the Richter Scale.

The forty-minute drive from Chester into North Wales led her off the dual carriageway and through the tiny village of Rowen. She sped past The Farmers’ Arms, its smoky dimly lit windows just visible in the January dusk. She turned left at the crooked chapel, where her mother lay beneath the dark stars and the shadow of Cefn Bach. Laura shivered but not with the chill of the evening. Although brought up a farmer’s daughter, Laura could never decide if it was habit or a desire to understand her dislike of it, which brought her back to her rural birthplace. It certainly wasn’t sentiment, and yet this time she felt an unexplained stirring of hope.

She was forced to slow down and concentrate; the turning for Hafod House was easily missed on the narrow twisting lane. Seconds later, she was pulling up outside the Victorian property, where her elder sister Maggie lived with Pete and their daughters. Before she announced her arrival, Laura opened the car window and lit a cigarette, but Maggie had heard the car and trotted across the forecourt, wearing a typical combination of tracksuit and a plastic apron with love spoons on the front.

‘Happy birthday!’ Laura said, but Maggie ignored this and peered sideways through the top of the window. ‘Where’s Simon? Is he coming on later?’

‘No. Sorry he’s got to work, bit of an emergency,’ Laura lied, grounding out the cigarette and avoiding her sister’s knowing eye.

‘Oh, that’s a shame,’ she said, pulling a face. ‘Eleven is an odd number. I wanted him to meet the Morgan-Jones’. Could be loads of work in it for you. The brother took a lot of persuading to come at all.’

‘Well, they’ll just have to meet me instead,’ Laura said and even managed to turn a bright smile in Maggie’s direction.

Once in her room, Laura scanned through the messages from Simon, then deleted them all and cried in the noisy privacy of the shower. Why was he so stubborn? He was the same in his business affairs, but that was different, attractive even. Sometimes he only saw it from his side of the fence, but that was why they made such a good team. Laura always put the client’s feelings forward, and Simon saw the black and white business plan. Somehow they all came together in the middle, and everyone got a deal.

Dragon Designs was their joint venture. Five years ago, they had purchased a rundown riverside apartment in Chester, and with the help of Simon’s father, had transformed it and sold it for twice as much as its original worth. Encouraged by the property boom, they went on to purchase two more apartments in the same block, with the same success. Simon, more or less gave up his job as a surveyor to work alongside his father’s building yard, buying run down houses in the right area and getting them up to scratch.

Laura was the creative head of the team. It was her job to dress the finished shell, to use all her skills as a designer to give the property a new identity. Dragon Designs was born, and financially, they’d never looked back.

Peering at her reflection in the gloomy mirror, Laura dried her shoulder- length hair. An almost natural dark blonde, helped along a little with subtle highlights every now and again, Laura was blessed with a classic face and a generally well-behaved complexion. Although it was slightly spoilt now with puffy brown eyes, she concealed the worst of it with carefully applied, mostly neutral make-up. Pleased with her appearance, but feeling unsettled and miserable inside, Laura knew she’d have to work hard to hide her angst from Maggie, and keep herself together enough to talk shop.

Simon was good at mixing business with pleasure, gently filtering in the right information, so subtle, the recipient didn’t feel pressured or monopolised. Laura had no such skill. She found her way into the impressive dining room, and the buzz of pride it gave her lifted her spirits. Designing and helping to furnish the dining room had been Laura’s gift for her sister’s thirty-ninth birthday last year. Laura had ripped out the sixties era attempt at modernisation, and restored it back to its original style, with cream walls, ornate cornicing and a rich mahogany floor. To complement all the dark furniture they’d found in local junk and antique shops, Laura had handmade the soft furnishings in a combination of powder blue, cream and white. The effect was quite dazzling, especially when there were logs roaring in the massive fireplace and the chandeliers lit up the silverware on the huge table.

Pete passed her a glass of wine. They exchanged the usual pleasantries, but Laura struggled to make conversation with Maggie’s husband. He had fairly set opinions about most things, and the only time he became animated was when the subject included football or council business. Dinner was late because Maggie was hopelessly disorganised with everything and Pete never offered to help. Well not properly, he always pretended he’d been thrown out of the kitchen and shambled in with a hangdog expression and another six-pack. Eventually though, Maggie materialised with the starters, and everyone took their place.

‘This is my sister everyone!’ Maggie said, loading Laura’s plate with prawn and olive salad. ‘I know she doesn’t look related to me because I’m fat and forty, and she is so obviously not.’

Everyone made polite laughter, and Laura made the usual token protest. Her sister was always running herself down, but Maggie wouldn’t be shushed, ‘She’s an interior designer so if you want one of those make-over jobs she’s your woman.’

After a few moments, the woman seated opposite Laura said, ‘I believe you did this room for Maggie; it’s just so beautiful. Really complements the house.’

‘Oh, thanks,’ Laura said, and pushed some food around her plate.

‘I’m Liz by the way, Morgan-Jones.’

‘Laura Brown. My sister said you had some cottages you wanted to renovate,’ Laura said, trying her best to be professional and not let the opportunity pass.

‘Well, I think so. Nothing this grand though,’ she said, glancing at the swag and tail curtains, then leant in more discreetly across the table. ‘I’m afraid my brother doesn’t agree with my plans, and he has the majority share in the business.’ She inclined her eyes to the left, and Laura looked across the table at the exact second Mr Morgan-Jones did. He looked to have been in conversation with Pete, but met Laura’s curiosity with a blank stare. Liz said something about her brother being unsociable, and the elderly male guest sat at Laura’s right butted in, ‘James is a genius, he’s allowed to be unsociable, if that’s how he feels.’

‘Yes, but not all the time, surely?’

Laura took in Liz’s outdoor complexion and the strong-looking hands, no nails and the no-nonsense outfit. From what she could ascertain, without staring, the unsociable majority shareholder was wearing a barely ironed shirt, with the sleeves pushed up; and favoured the same dark weathered look. Farming, or horses she thought. Great. Just about the most uninspiring combination she could possibly think of. She missed Simon’s clever banter. He would know what to say.

The downside of that skill was his ability to make her feel crushed; he could defeat her with his logic as if she were a business problem and it could all be subtracted away with a calculator. Well, this one wasn’t going to be solved with hard fact. Sometimes life happened without prior warning or planning, and that was when Simon struggled to cope.

Suddenly, aware of staring at her plate, Laura speared a prawn and looked back at Liz.

‘What is it you do?’

‘Horses. Private liveries and teaching is the main bread and butter, and that’s mostly what I do,’ she said, glaring at the old gent, and began to butter her bread roll briskly. ‘Anyway, I’m getting too old to be working outside. A menopausal woman shouldn’t be expected to stand shouting in driving rain.’

‘And, your brother, what does he do?’

‘James? Oh, a multitude of side-lines,’ she said with a tired smile. ‘No, to be fair he looks after about forty acres of land. His real time is taken up with training and specialist teaching. Only he prefers the more dangerous stuff,’ she went on, ‘you know, horses destined to be shot because they’re loopy, or half dead. He loves nothing better than resurrecting a lost cause. All very commendable, but have you any idea how long these projects take? And you can’t get rid of them because of their history.’

The man next to Laura vacated his seat and a woman with overpowering perfume slid into his place. ‘Excuse me, but are you talking about Indiana Morgan-Jones?’ she said smoothly, wine glass tilting.

‘Why do you call him that?’ Laura said, unsure whether to laugh.

‘Because he has a big leather whip for one.’

Laura did laugh then, but Liz said, ‘Oh, leave it out, Carla! Laura, this is Carla. She’s had about three hundred riding lessons with my brother, with the sole intention of seducing him.’

‘It’s true! He’s one of about, oh, let me see, two, eligible men of this parish. I’ve even bought a bloody horse off him,’ she said. ‘I’ve got thighs like steel and I can mount without stirrups.’

Liz rolled her eyes in Laura’s direction. ‘Carla is the queen of double entendre on the yard.’

The roast minted lamb arrived with jugs of red wine jus, and Laura was a bit disappointed when Carla went back to her seat and the old man returned.

‘Help yourself everyone,’ Maggie said, plonking down huge silver platters of roasted vegetables between the candelabra.

‘For goodness sake sit down and start enjoying yourself!’ Laura said, but Maggie just wiped her brow with her napkin and flapped it vaguely at Laura’s glass. ‘I am, I am! Why is your glass empty? And have you met Liz? I’m taking Ellie up there for a riding lesson tomorrow, why don’t you come?’ she said loudly.

‘Could you?’ Liz said, unfazed by Maggie’s total lack of discretion.

‘I could take a look,’ Laura said slowly. ‘To be honest all the initial estimating is my partner’s territory.’

‘Oh, I only want ideas at this stage,’ Liz said, ‘you know, something to entice James round to my way of thinking.’

‘Did someone say entice James?’ Carla said.

Buy 99c US

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Find Jan’s books on Amazon and check out her author page here.

You can also find Jan on Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.

This time I knew it was going to hurt

A thought-provoking post from Barb Taub’s blog – and one I wholeheartedly agree with.

Barb Taub

WARNING: This is not my usual humor or review post topic. The following contains graphic language and content. 

Give it to me.”

The first time I heard it was on a date. Still in high school, I was flattered and thrilled when the guy I met at the dance said he was already in college. We went out a few times, group things like football games and friends’ parties. He asked me to dinner, and after the pizza said he wanted to swing by his parents’ house. When we got there, he acted surprised that nobody was home, but invited me in anyway. The necking was almost immediately rough. I said I needed to go home, and the next thing I knew we were on the floor, my hands trapped, and his teeth biting hard, mashing into my mouth. I tried to shout, but my voice came out in a…

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Writing and Editing Tips – Part 7: Distractions

distraction

If, like me, you are a great one for writing lists and setting goals and targets, you will probably, like me, quite often feel deflated at the end of the day when half those things are still on the list. I can calculate exactly how long it will take me to edit a manuscript, write a blog post, write a new chapter of that new book. But the one thing that often stops me getting done what I need to do isn’t that I’m overstretched, have taken on too much or have other, more important things crop up. No, if I’m honest it’s mostly because I am far too easily distracted. Emails, Facebook, the phone, my sister asking me round for a cup of tea (which is a lovely distraction), the dog, the cat, the postman. All these things have the ability to knock me out of my periods of concentration and set me off looking at some new funny cat in a box video or getting cross over the comments left on an article in the Guardian, or just staring into space while the dog runs round the garden. I need to get focussed before another week slips by where I’ve achieved enough but not as much as I could. So, a fresh start, a new leaf – I’m going to start incorporating some of these things into my work routine.

Atmosphere

home office coffee

I can’t work well if I’m hungry, thirsty, too hot, too cold, uncomfortable etc. So, the first thing to do is to make sure you’re sitting comfortably. Make sure you have the right seat so that your hands are resting on the keyboard, you’re not leaning forward to see the screen and you’re nice and straight. Make sure the room is warm (but not warm enough to send you into a stupor) or cool enough if it’s the summer. Have a cup of tea or coffee ready and next to you. And make sure you eat breakfast and lunch – it can be hard to stick to this if you’re working from home, but I waste a lot of time wandering off to the kitchen because I’m a bit peckish, staring into the cupboard arguing with myself whether to have a biscuit or an apple.

I’m very, very distracted by noise, so need to work in silence. This is fine if I’m the only one in. When the kids are around however, I need to close the door on them. Do whatever you need to do. If you need music to help you concentrate, choose something that’s not going to take over; if you need silence, shut the door and even consider ear plugs if necessary.

Technology

distraction two

It goes without saying that if you want to work without distraction you need to switch off emails, Facebook, twitter etc. (ooh, I’ve just taken my own advice – although now I’m wondering what that last email notification that sprang up at the corner of the screen was all about) but I’m saying it again anyway. I do usually do this, and I have honestly found that I get twice as much done. If you can’t bear to be disconnected from the world then set a timer. I tell myself I’ll edit/write for an hour and then I’ll get up, stretch my legs, get another cup of tea or coffee, check my emails, let the dog out for a wee, and then I’ll close it all off again for another hour. It really works. If you can’t trust yourself, then there is a lot of technology out there that will do it for you; tools that will block emails, websites etc., and that will even restrict the amount of time that you can spend on certain websites. If you need to do that, then do it.

Other tips

As I said before, take breaks. Lots of them. We can only concentrate for short periods of time, so set yourself a timer, focus for that half hour, hour or whatever you can manage and then walk away for a minute or two. It will refresh you, invigorate you and prevent you from banging your head against the keyboard.

head keyboard

Don’t be too hard on yourself, especially if you work from home all the time. I am so guilty of this – feeling bad if I stop to look at the news, or send a few tweets. But if you were in an office, with other people, you wouldn’t be at your desk for the whole seven or eight hours, head down, talking to no one. Working at home can be very isolating – you need to give yourself that time to interact with other people, even if it’s only by email, and to get out in the fresh air at least once a day (get a dog – it’s a great excuse).

dog walk

Also remember that just because you’re working from home, you are actually working. As well as writing novels, I work as a freelance writer and an editor. When I’m working, I’m actually working. Just because I might be in my pyjamas, and I’m at home, and the dog’s lying across my feet, I am still working, still earning money. And yet I find, even though I’ve been doing this for quite a while now, that people think I can just leave whatever I’m doing and have great long conversations, or run errands for them. I’ve even been asked to go to someone’s house to wait for a parcel. You wouldn’t ask anyone else to take a day out of work to do that. I AM AT WORK!!! And, if you are writing, so are you. Be firm. You are not being selfish.

woman work

What do you do to overcome distractions? Do share your hints and advice here.

I am a UK-based writer, editor and independent novelist. I love reading and I love to write. These are the two great passions of my life. Find out more about my editing services here. I am currently offering discounts to new clients – do get in touch to discuss how I can help you to make your book the best it can be.
Find out about my historical novels ‘Blackwater’ and ‘The Black Hours’ here.

Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Alison reviews Wild Water by Jan Ruth

A really great read. Recommended – do check out Jan Ruth’s novels. I’ll have an interview with Jan on my blog next week too. Thanks Rosie 🙂

Rosie Amber

Today’s book review come from Alison, she blogs at https://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

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Alison chose to read and review Wild Water by Jan Ruth

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Wild Water by Jan Ruth

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read that, at times, I found hard to put down. Jack is forty-something, successfully running the Wilmslow branch of the family’s estate agency. He has it all, the big house, the Aston Martin, and is still good-looking and charming. But beneath it all, his life has reached a crisis – his wife is behaving strangely, his daughter is craving his attention, and his teenage son is struggling with school. Then his dad suffers a heart scare, and Jack travels to Wales to look after the office there, where he finds one of the clients is his childhood sweetheart, Anna.

Everything comes to a head at Christmas, and Jack has some tough decisions to make in this charming, funny, at…

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Autumn Superstitions

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Even the most sceptical among us might qualm when it comes to walking under a ladder, or find ourselves saluting when we see a single magpie (that’s me!); superstitions that have been around for hundreds of years still seem to have a hold in these more rational times.

Many superstitions arose in a past where life was governed by the weather and the seasons, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of customs and beliefs associated with autumn. People needed somehow to find security in the unknown, to feel that they had a handle on what might happen. And autumn was a scary time. The harvest was crucial – would there be enough to keep everyone going over the winter months? And what would those winter months be like? So it is hardly surprising that many of those superstitions were focused on what the winter would bring. And many have their roots in common sense (but certainly not all of them!)

For example, it was believed that if fruits were plentiful the coming winter would be mild. This makes sense; as the fruits would need warmth to ripen, meaning that the autumn was probably mild, so therefore the winter could possibly be mild too.

fruits

This is possibly the reasoning behind another belief – that if ducks leave it until late autumn to fly south, then winter will arrive late.

It’s worth knowing your onions too – a thin skin means a mild winter, but if the skin is thick winter will be cold.

onions

If you want to know when the worst of winter will be, then go and look for some caterpillars. If you find lots of caterpillars that are dark brown in the middle but yellow at each end, then the middle of winter will be cold. However, if there are lots of them, of any colour, then the whole winter will be cold.

Not sure what sort of winter this one signifies!

Not sure what sort of winter this one signifies!

You could always slaughter a hog. Apparently if you do this and can identify its spleen, then if the spleen lies towards its head, winter will be mild (as a vegetarian, I’ll think I’ll pass on that one.)

By now you could be completely confused. But you might also be wondering about next summer already. Will it be hot here at home or should you book somewhere in the sun? Wait a few weeks until the end of autumn, then dig up the garden. You’ll need to dig deep. If worms are found deep down in the earth, then next summer will be cold.

So what then if the winter is going to be bad? Ward off those colds and coughs beforehand. If you catch a falling leaf in autumn, then you’ll be free of colds all year. And there’s an added bonus; every leaf you catch means a lucky month the following year.

autumn leaf

Of course one thing our ancestors were scared of was death – they understood it even less than we do. So superstitions and predictions offered some comfort and some idea of control over the future, and many superstitions concerned death. A primrose growing in your yard in autumn was a signifier of death. And if a cherry tree bloomed in autumn, then that meant death not only for a person, but for the tree too. In the West of Scotland, a white rose blooming in autumn was another sign of an impending death; however, the blooming of a red rose meant an early marriage.

I, of course, believe in none of these. Though that won’t stop me trying to catch a leaf when I’m walking the dog later. I’ve felt like I’ve been coming down with a cold these last few days and you never know, a falling leaf might be just what I need.

I am a UK-based writer, editor and independent novelist. I love reading and I love to write. These are the two great passions of my life. Find out more about my editing services here. I am currently offering discounts to new clients – do get in touch to discuss how I can help you to make your book the best it can be.
Find out about my historical novels ‘Blackwater’ and ‘The Black Hours’ here.