Author: alisonewilliams

I trained as a journalist and currently work as a freelance editor, writer and researcher, with articles published both online and in a variety of print publications. I have edited books in a variety of genres including dystopian, memoir, erotica, fantasy and business - please see my blog for testimonials and information about services and rates. I work on a freelance basis for several academic writing companies where my work involves writing model essays, proofreading essays and dissertations and editing and improving academic work at all levels from foundation to Ph.D. standard. I copy write and edit for my husband’s communications consultancy. I have worked on a freelance basis for US clients and am happy to edit in either UK or US English. I have taught creative writing with a focus on grammar, punctuation, creativity, voice and expression. I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. I am fascinated by history – but not so much the kings and queens, the emperors, the military heroes or the great leaders. More the ordinary people whose lives were touched by the decisions, the beliefs and the whims of those who had power over them and who now fill our history books. It is their stories that I want to tell. As part of my Master’s degree I wrote my first historical novel ‘The Black Hours’ based on the notorious Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. I have also written a novella ‘Blackwater’. I am currently working on my next full length novel, ‘Remember, Remember’, set during the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Beltane Blessings! #beltane #may #paganism

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am really interested in Pagan and Wiccan traditions and folklore. It is something that has always fascinated me, and since moving to Cenarth in West Wales that interest has grown. There is something magical about nature here that has really found it’s way through to my very cynical soul!

I am currently exploring what it means to be a green witch – a path I feel more and more drawn to. Green witchcraft is linked very closely to nature, and green witches incorporate wood, plants, herbs and flowers into their practice. They work closely with the cycles of the moon and the seasons of the year.

So for a green witch, Beltane is hugely important.

Beltane is another of those traditions that have been incorporated into other things. It is the celebration of life, and nature coming into full bloom. Traditionally, people would gather to eat and drink and have fun. Fires would be lit on hilltops as a sign of protection, and to honour the Celtic sun god, Bel.

Beltane was the festival that Christians lawmakers and rulers found the hardest to ban. People who relied on nature for survival, who needed their crops to thrive, may have ‘converted’ but they didn’t want to anger the Sun God. So they carried on lighting their fires. This might also have something to do with the fact that there was a tradition of couples sloping off into the countryside together – this apparently also helped the fertility of the crops, and any resulting babies were considered an honour. Couples would also marry on Beltane, jumping over the Beltane fire as part of the ceremony.

Whatever your beliefs, Beltane feels like a good time to appreciate the world around us, and consider what our impact might be. I often feel very powerless in the face of the catastrophic environmental devastation humans are inflicting on the world. It is, after all, a gift to treasure. Perhaps a return to these older ways might put things into perspective – a green witch is careful to respect nature, and to sincerely acknowledge and be grateful for anything they take or use, appreciating the gift that is given. This seems to me the way we should be treating the Earth and the resources it shares with us.

So a time for celebration then, in anticipation of the (hopefully) long, warm summer days to come, and also a time of gratitude.

Wishing you a very merry Beltane!


‘Whisper Island’ by Carissa Ann Lynch

It was the perfect escape

Until one by one they vanished…

For friends Riley, Sam, Mia and Scarlett, their trip to Whisper Island, Alaska, was meant to be a once in a lifetime adventure – just four young women, with everything to live for…

But as soon as they arrive things start to go wrong.  First there is the unexpected arrival of Sammy’s drug addict brother and his girlfriend Opal – why are they here? 

And then the deaths begin. 

As the dream trip quickly turns into a nightmare, suspicion is high.  Are they really alone on the island?  Or is there a killer hiding in the shadows? 

And as each of the girls reveals a dark secret of their own, perhaps the truth is the killer is closer than they think…just a whisper away…

This has such a great premise and I had really high hopes. It sounded right up my street. I love horror films, particularly the old-fashioned ‘there’s a killer loose, but we don’t know who or where’ variety, and those ones where a group of people rent a cabin, or an old house, or, indeed, an island, and then start dying. So I was looking forward to this.

Unfortunately, while there was a really sound idea here, the execution ((excuse the pun) didn’t live up to the quality of the idea. The beginning dragged, and the first exciting thing didn’t happen until about half way through. The writing felt in need of a really good edit, and I easily guessed ‘whodunit’ very early on.

So not a hit for me, unfortunately.

‘Hush, Delilah’ by Angie Gallion #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

I read ‘Hush, Delilah’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

This is a very well-written book, gripping and intelligent, and, unfortunately, all too believable.

Delilah is portrayed very authentically, and, while it is quite frustrating to read the novel at times because of her reactions and inaction, it is very clear why she behaves as she does, and why she feels so trapped and powerless.

Chase is very accurate, the way he manipulates Delilah so terrifying to read, and the influence he has on the couple’s son one of the most disturbing aspects of the narrative. The way he has ‘chosen’ Delilah to be his wife is so telling, and the reasons she has for believing his lies, and becoming so cut off from everyone and so reliant are easy to believe. It is unsettling and upsetting to feel her fear and trepidation when she is simply doing things we take for granted and wouldn’t think about twice. That the author has done this in a way that makes you want to read on, wanting to know what happens to Delilah, rooting for her all the while, is a testament to the skill of the writing.


‘Madam’ by Phoebe Wynne #bookreview

For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’.

Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students. Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be.

But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose – and the fierce young women she has come to love – to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late.

I’m going to go against the general consensus on this one judging by the reviews – I loved this book.

Things do get off to a bit of a slow start, and at first I was a little frustrated, but once lovely protagonist Rose was at the school, things became really intriguing, and very, very strange.

Caldonbrae is a very odd place, and the girls are very odd too, overly-confident, arrogant, secretive. But Rose perseveres with them, growing to care so much about them, and increasingly worried about what exactly the school is preparing these intelligent, vibrant and promising girls for.

What made the book extra special for me was the intertwining of Greek and Roman myths, and the fearless, wonderful women (mortal and immortal) from those stories. I read these stories years ago, fascinated by Medea, who killed her own children, brave Antigone, terrifying Medusa, and poor old Daphne who couldn’t escape Apollo, especially when she was turned into a tree! Add to that the creeping sense of menace, palpable on almost every page, and this became a real page turner.

‘Where Madness Lies’ by Sylvia True #historicalfiction #WWII #BookReview

Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill. USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby. Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without. This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations. With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.

The treatment of those with mental health issues in Nazi Germany is something that isn’t written about as often as many of the other targeted groups, and it wasn’t something that I knew very much about, so I was intrigued by the premise of this book.

The dreadful treatment and murder of the mentally ill in Germany is told through the story of Rigmor, who is sent to Sorrenstein mental hospital by her family who hope to ease her struggles. What they don’t realise is that they are putting her in harm’s way.

We also meet Sabine, who, in the early 1980s, is suffering from depression after the birth of her baby, and who is helped by her grandmother, Inga, Rigmor’s sister.

The story begins quite slowly, and I wasn’t gripped at first, but then the pace picked up and what was happening became clearer, and from about a third of the way through, I couldn’t put the book down.

It is so well written, so heartfelt, and so brutally honest that at times you want to look away, but it is so important that these stories are remembered and told, and given the respect they deserve, even more so in this current climate when we seem to be blind to our past and slipping back into the prejudices and hatreds that were the root cause of the rise of fascism in the thirties. It is scary to think that we are following those same horrible paths, and books like these are so important in reminding us of exactly what we have to lose.

‘While Paris Slept’ by Ruth Druart #bookreview #WWII #HistoricalFiction

Paris 1944
A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.

Santa Cruz 1953
Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi Occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door.

On a darkened platform, two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined…

This started really well, with Jean-Luc’s intriguing arrest, and then with the events in Paris in 1944. The fear and desperation that Sarah and David feel is palpable, and Sarah’s selfless decision is heartbreaking. And Jean-Luc and Charlotte’s decision to save a stranger’s baby, despite the danger it will put them in, paves the way for what sound be an emotional, heart-in-the-mouth read.

But I didn’t quite feel the terror during Jean-Luc and Charlotte’s journey – everything felt a little too easy. And then the events after the war, from 1953 onwards, just felt very unrealistic. I hate to be negative, because I think there is a really heartfelt story here and one that has a huge amount of potential, but would Jean-Luc really have been arrested? Would he have been punished the way he is? Would he and Charlotte have kept their secret and not tried to get in touch with Sarah and David? Would Sarah and David be so resentful? It just didn’t add up – from all the characters being selfless and putting Sam first, they all seemed to become horribly selfish in the second part of the book.

This was definitely a missed opportunity, in my opinion.

‘The Mother Fault’ by Kate Mildenhall #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #thriller #dystopian

To keep her children safe, she must put their lives at risk …

In suburban Australia, Mim and her two children live as quietly as they can. Around them, a near-future world is descending into chaos: government officials have taken absolute control, but not everybody wants to obey the rules.

When Mim’s husband Ben mysteriously disappears, Mim realises that she and her children are in great danger. Together, they must set off on the journey of a lifetime to find Ben. The government are trying to track them down, but Mim will do anything to keep her family safe – even if it means risking all their lives.

Can the world ever return to normality, and their family to what it was?

This was a bit hit and miss. There are some aspects of the story that are brilliant, and scary, and very, very human. Mim is a great main character and her fear for her children and her need to keep them safe are really relatable.

The future world in which she lives feels, unfortunately, very real, and it isn’t hard to imagine things going the way they have in her life – with the government taking over everything, tracking every move, and those who don’t fit being sent off to ‘BestLife’ facilities. It’s all very eerily believable.

The novel moves at a pace to begin with and is very dramatic and exciting. but once Mim is at sea, it all slows down a great deal and the details about the technicalities of sailing drag the story down, unfortunately.

When Mim is back to tracking her husband, the pace picks up again, and the ending is really good, very exciting and fast-paced.

While there was, in my opinion, too much detail of the intricacies of sailing, there were other aspects of the story that I felt didn’t get the depth they needed. There were hints that Mim was frustrated and unhappy at home, that things in her marriage weren’t all they appeared, and I felt this could have been explored a little more, as could the relationship she had with her brothers. I do thin this would have helped me to care more about Mim, and what happened to her.

So definitely worth a read, but not quite as gripping as I’d hoped – but I’d certainly read more by this author.

‘Fallen Angel’ by Jenny O’Brien #bookreview #crimefiction #wales

She looked like she’d drifted off to sleep, curled up in her white dress, blonde hair floating in the breeze. They called it the Angel Murder.

Eighteen-year-old Angelica Brock is found dead at a local beauty spot, dressed in a pure white nightgown, her white-blonde hair arranged around her. For years her death is a mystery, her killer the one who got away for a whole generation of police.

For DS Gaby Darin, it’s not just any cold case – the victim is intimately linked to someone close to her, and emotions are high. But just as the team finds a breakthrough clue on Angelica’s nightdress, another case crashes into the station. Could they be linked? After all this time, can Gaby finally discover what really happened to Angelica?

There was a lot that I really enjoyed about this novel – the setting was great, the main character was believable and interesting, the plot was intriguing and well-constructed.

The idea of a cold case, where the victim is personally connected to the team working on the murder, works very well, and adds a depth to the narrative. The pace is good, too, after a bit of a slow start, and everything moves along at a steady rate, keeping the reader interested and engaged.

That said, there were some aspects of the story that I didn’t enjoy quite so much. The pace was slow to begin with (although things did get better). This is the third book in the series, and while it can be read as a standalone, I feel I would have got more out of it if I had read the first two and had been more familiar with the characters’ backgrounds. And I was quite irritated by Bates’ wife Kate’s attitude to the investigation and the hours he puts in – in the circumstances, it seemed quite out of order and that did spoil things for me a bit.

So, overall, this was okay and there were definitely aspects of the story I enjoyed. But it did just miss the mark a bit for me.

Mad as a March Hare #Superstitions #pagan #Spring

Spring is finally upon us – it’s even been unusually sunny here in West Wales, and not a spot of rain for days! Turning the calendar over to March always makes me feel a little more cheerful – the dark, drab days of winter are finally coming to an end and the days hold the promise of warmth and light and colour. And of course, in Wales, the 1st March is St David’s Day – or, to give the day its proper name, dydd Gŵyl Dewi.

Along with dogs, hares are my favourite animal. My house is full of prints and ornaments, and there are several lovely moon-gazing hares in the garden (not real, I’m afraid). I’m very interested in paganism, and the hare has very strong links to paganism and witchcraft. In Scotland, the bluebell is the harebell, and the legend is that witches would turn into hares and hide in the harebells.

Painting by Lisa O’Malley

One of my favourite books is ‘Starve Acre’ by Andrew Michael Hurley, in which a hare features. You can read my review here. The cover is fabulous, and I’m really thrilled to see there’s an upcoming film, starring Matt Smith.

I love this image of a beautiful hare – but where did the term ‘Mad March Hare’ come from?

Photograph by Simon Litten

The meaning is clear – someone as ‘mad as a March hare’ is behaving strangely, as hares do in the month of March, although they have an excuse as it’s the start of their mating season, something I’m sure they are very excited about. But when did we start to use the comparison to describe other people?

One of the first recorded instances of an early form of the term dates from around 1500 in the poem ‘Blowbol’s Test’:

Thanne þey begyn to swere and to stare, And be as braynles as a Marshe hare

(Then they begin to swerve and to stare, And be as brainless as a March hare)

John Skelton, writing in the 16th century has a penchant for variations on the phrase, in both’ Replycacion’ (1528):

Aiii, I saye, thou madde Marche Hare”

And ‘Magnyfycence’ (1529)

As mery as a marche hare”

Even Sir Thomas More was a fan, and in his ‘Supplycacyn of soulys’ (1529) gives the first record of the phrase as we now use it:

“As mad not as a March hare, but as a madde dogge.”

A derivative phrase – ‘hare-brained’ – appears in 1548, in Edward Hall’s Chronicle:

“My desire is that none of you be so unadvised or harebrained…”

Perhaps the most famous mad March hare is the creation of Lewis Carroll, in that  lovely classic ‘Alice in Wonderland’ who, along with the Mad Hatter, presides over a very confusing tea party:

‘Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. ‘I don’t see any wine,’ she remarked.

‘There isn’t any,’ said the March Hare.

The March Hare took the watch and looked at it gloomily: then he dipped it into his cup of tea, and looked at it again: but he could think of nothing better to say than his first remark, “It was the best butter, you know.”

mad march hare - carroll

In the original illustrations for the book by Sir John Tenniel, the poor March Hare is depicted with straw on his head. This was a symbol often used in Victorian illustration to depict madness. It has been suggested that this comes from no less a famous madwoman than Shakespeare’s ‘Ophelia’. Gertrude describes her, in death, as having ‘fantasticke Garlands’ of ‘Crow-flowers, Nettles, Daysies, and long Purples,’ and ‘Coronet weeds’.


As for the poor Mad Hatter, that’s a whole other post, with far more gruesome connotations, mad as he is from mercury poisoning!

mad hatter

Anyway, it’s good to celebrate the coming fine weather, and I for one certainly have a spring in my step (now, where did that one come from?!)

‘The Ends of the Earth’ by Abbie Greaves #bookreview #friday reads

Some love stories change us for ever.

For the last seven years, Mary O’Connor has waited for her first love. Every evening she arrives at Ealing Broadway station and stands with a sign which simply says: ‘Come Home Jim’.

Commuters might pass her by without a second thought, but Mary isn’t going anywhere. Until an unexpected call turns her world on its head.

It will take the help of a young journalist called Alice, and a journey across the country for Mary to face what happened all those years ago, and to finally answer the question: where on earth is Jim?

This is a very unusual novel, well-written and thoughtful, and it handles mental health issues with compassion and understanding, and without judgement.

I did find Mary a bit frustrating at times, but she has made her own choices and has her own reasons, and she is firm in that, which gives her agency in a life that often feels pointless. Her work at the helpline gives her another dimension, and her burgeoning friendships there give us hope that there is more for her.

Alice is lovely, and her back and forth with Kit is a highlight of the novel, providing some needed lightness and humour. I felt too that Jim was drawn with sensitivity and care, and that his character was an interesting portrayal of the difference between what people might want and what they need.

An intelligent book, the author’s love for her characters is clear. I really enjoyed it.