Thursday, 29 August 2013

Now We Are 18 - It's A Cat's Life!



On the Occasion of Her 18th Birthday, Mimi wishes it to be known that this is Her Blog Post

(as a mere human, who am I to argue with her? Over to you, Mimi):


As a feline, all I have to say is "About time too ". I've waited long enough. The Great Cat Goddess (Bastet, for the uninitiated) knows I've waited long enough. I have sat, for hours, at my human's side, patiently awaiting my turn. I have made suggestions - elegantly presented with a delicate vibrato - all of which have been ignored. I have tried to help by taking over the keyboard, only to be plonked on the floor with vague promises of food which took hours to materialise. I'm sorry, but half-hearted strokes, being smothered with (guilty) kisses and empty platitudes about how "gorgeous and irresistible" I am, just doesn't cut it. I know I'm irresistible. I'm a cat. It goes with the territory.

Anyway, finally commonsense has prevailed. Even if it has taken 18 years. And I am here to tell my story. Well, some of it anyway. Oh, all right then, just the first few days.

On 29th August 1995, in a barn belonging to a smallholding, where the owners bred pedigree Vietnamese potbellied pigs, tables and chairs were being laid out, ready for a wine tasting by the local amateur winemakers' association. My mother, Woody (short for Woodbine - one of the flower fairies), was feeling restless and had a pain in her tummy. Of course, she quickly realised this was my brothers, sisters and I telling her we were ready to come out and greet the world. To tell the truth, it was getting a bit cramped in there. Well, there were six of us.
Being a resourceful sort of cat, she picked a nice spot, partially concealed by a table cloth, and the first of us soon popped out - I forget who, but probably my sister, Lucy. She was always precocious. Naturally, when the humans realised what was happening, they became a little alarmed. Silly really, Mummy knew exactly what she was doing. Eventually, the humans took their cue from her, stepped over her and let her get her on with birthing her kittens. I was the last. It was all nice and comfy inside, and now the others had left, I had plenty of room to stretch out. But I could sense my mother calling me to come out so, reluctantly, I left my nice warm Mummy's tummy and ventured forth to join my siblings.

It was a mad scramble to latch onto a milk supply, and the others were a bit bigger than me, so they kept pushing me out of the way, But I showed the sort of spirit, tenacity and determination that have stood me in good stead ever since. I held my breath and dived in, wriggling my bottom to manoeuvre into position. I found my milk button and was soon suckling along with the rest of them.
My early days were spent in silent darkness until, one morning, my ears unfurled and all these strange noises bombarded me. It was a little scary at first, but I soon adjusted and. when my eyes opened, the world was revealed to me - along with a couple of dogs. 

Woody was a wonderful mother; she taught me all I know. I learned that the strange two legged creatures were there to serve us and I must feel sorry for them because they couldn't grow fur, didn't know how to pounce on their prey and couldn't reach to wash their bottoms. Poor things!

I was the only Tortoiseshell in the litter. I had two ginger brothers, 2 tabby sisters and a black and white, whose gender we were unsure of. Mummy told us our father was either an itinerant ginger tom who came to visit now and again and usually left his mark, or a tabby boy, who was more of the shy, retiring sort. She said she wasn't sure but, looking at me, it could have been both. Now, that's because I have an unusual characteristic. I have alternate paws. If you look at the top picture, you'll see I have two black paws and two champagne coloured (no, they're not beige!). I have correspondingly, two pink pads and two black pads. Naturally this makes me look even more strikingly beautiful than I otherwise would be.
My human adopted me (along with my tabby sister, Lucy) and we left our Mummy when we were seven weeks old. Lucy was a bossy girl. I used to get really fed up with her boxing my ears, and she led me into mischief. I wouldn't mind, but it was her idea to steal the Shropshire Blue cheese. It's not my fault I couldn't resist one last bite when we got caught. Naturally Miss Goody Two Shoes Butter Wouldn't Melt Lucy was off the counter and on the floor, protesting her innocence, when the human came into the kitchen. 

Still, it was sad when Lucy died, because she was so young - only two - but I was determined no other cat was sharing my human and I have stuck to that ever since. I'm the only cat in this household and that's the way it's going to stay!

Well, I hope you've enjoyed your visit. I shall be celebrating my birthday quietly, at home, but, for now, please excuse me. I've only had ten hours sleep today and I'm ready for my preprandial nap.Now, where's that stuffed spaniel. Ah, there he is...

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Truth and Deceit - Dani-Lyn Alexander




Released this week, my fellow Etopia Press author, Dani-Lyn Alexander's latest Paranormal Romance combines urban fantasy, suspense, conflict and intrigue. To whet your appetite, here's the blurb:

A suspicious past, a daunting secret, a forbidden romance... How much does it take to tip the scales from good to evil?

When Lexie Davis wakes to find herself surrounded by luxury with no memory of who she is or how she got there, the fear all but suffocates her. But learning the truth about her circumstances will scare her even more. Desperate for a way to regain her life, Lexie tries to piece together the past. But ghosts from her childhood make it hard for her to let go of her secret—a secret that could force her to spend eternity in Darkness.

Deceived by the woman he loves, abandoned by the brother he trusts, Matthew Hayes struggles against evil to win the battle for his life. But when he wakes to find Lexie sobbing softly at his side, he makes a heartbreaking discovery. Not only is their love forbidden by the most ancient laws, but she has been keeping an unbelievable secret from him—he has a child. The child could give him the strength he needs to defeat the Regulators…if it doesn’t destroy him first...

 Now, for an excerpt:

Prologue

She ran. Her breath came in short, shallow gasps, her heart pounding, her lungs burning as she clutched the infant to her chest and poured all of her energy into escape. An unnatural darkness flooded the night. There was no moon visible, no stars peeking through the dense fog. Thankfully, she knew these woods well, had grown up here, playing manhunt with the rest of the kids from the neighborhood. Only this was no game; this hunt was all too real, the consequences of being caught, severe.

Her eyes strained as she tried to watch for obstacles, fallen trees, puddles, patches of wet leaves. She had to keep her footing. A fall now could be deadly. Mud oozed between her toes as it filled the sneakers she had quickly shoved onto her bare feet.

Between the darkness and the fog, she could barely see where she was going. Yet, she didn’t dare slow down. Nor did she risk a glance back over her shoulder, afraid fear would paralyze her if she saw him coming.

She tried to listen for the telltale sounds of pursuit, but other than the sound of her own footfalls, the sucking of the mud each time she lifted a foot, and the pounding of her own heart, silence mocked her. Too much silence, the kind that warned of a predator on the hunt. But these woods had no large predators. Skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, even an occasional fox made their homes here. There were deer, beautiful, graceful, but not dangerous.

And then she heard it. A large branch snapping, the sound like a shotgun blast echoing in the silence. She knew that sound. When she and her friends were kids, they would hang around the woods, often bored, snapping the dead branches that littered the ground. She also knew that she was meant to hear it. He moved too stealthily for the noise to have been a mistake. It was part of the game, to ratchet up the fear, let her know just how close he was.

She looked around wildly, trying to get her bearings. Had she missed the trail that turned off and headed toward the canal? The shadows pressed too closely, she couldn’t tell. She had to find it before he reached her. Desperation had her risking one quick glance down at the baby. That was all it took to ground her—one peek at the helpless child depending on her.

She took a deep breath and looked around again. She had to find the trail and make it to the boathouse by the canal. Men often hung around down there late into the night, drinking beer, playing poker, enjoying the break from work and home. There would be help there, people to protect her and her baby.

When she recognized the fallen tree, where she had shared her first kiss with Jimmy Hessler, the first glimmer of hope since this chase had begun shivered through her. The path lay directly in front of her. She was almost there. A few more steps and she’d be on the trail where she could run full out. She could outrun him once she was out of the thick underbrush. She wouldn’t have the mud grabbing at her feet, the thorns tearing at her legs, or the undergrowth tripping her. She’d run track in high school, had run cross-country through these very trails, and she was fast. The fear prodded her to move even faster, adrenaline coursing through her bloodstream. Optimism soared as she covered the last few feet that would lead her to safety.

She felt a sting in her back, and she went down hard. She curled her body over the baby as best she could, trying to offer as much protection as possible. She landed hard on her right side, her hip slamming into a rock, sending pain shooting all the way up her side and down her leg. An explosion of light burst in front of her eyes as she struggled, fiercely, to hold on to consciousness. She fought against the eddy of blackness closing in on her from both sides, tunneling her vision.

As she dragged herself slowly forward, she spotted the old tree on the corner of the trail. She used her left foot to push herself forward, grabbing hold of anything she could reach to pull herself toward the tree. Thorns tore at her hands, her hair, her face; excruciating pain shot through her back. She clutched the baby to her breast. Sheer determination propelled her the last few inches to her goal. When she finally made it, she pushed the bushes aside and placed the swaddled infant into the hollow at the base of the tree, praying it wouldn’t start to cry until the man had gone. Praying it would cry loud enough to attract help once he had. She took one last look at her child. “I love you, my baby,” she whispered, and allowed the thick bushes to spring back into place, effectively camouflaging the tentative hiding place. Then, using the last of her energy, she pushed away from the tree and rolled over, coming to rest facedown with the lower half of her body still resting in the leaves and brush, and her upper body lying across the trail she had been so desperately trying to reach.

* * *

When he reached her, he didn’t even bother to bend down, just used his foot to roll her onto her back. A jolt of surprise shot through him when he realized the infant was not underneath her. It shattered his arrogance and drove him to his knees. He pawed frantically through the brush, searching for the child. He didn’t need a light, was used to the dark and could see as well as if the sun were illuminating the shadows and fog that covered the ground.

There was no baby.

Sweat sprung out on his forehead. Where was it? Had she left the child somewhere? A chill crawled down his spine. Had it even been with her when she’d fled the apartment?

The sudden realization that he had just gone from the hunter to the prey brought with it true, gut-wrenching fear.

You can read on by purchasing from any of these sellers:


Truth and Deceit is Book Two in the Realm of Light series. If you haven't read Book One - Trust and Betrayal -  here's the blurb:

 Trust is the ultimate weapon in the battle against evil.

Single mother Shay McKeon is no dummy—she’s intelligent as well as street-smart. But when she receives a phone call threatening her children, she rushes headlong into the hands of evil.

Saved from certain death by Mason Constanza, who calls himself a Guardian, Shay is taken to the Realm of Light, where she learns her husband never abandoned her as she’d thought, and that good and evil are nothing like she’d imagined. Learning to deal with her own existence as a Guardian, Shay’s attraction to Mason grows. But she has her own demons to battle, and when her daughter is abducted, she’ll have to trust Mason and his team. But Mason has his own ancient battles to fight…

You'll find Trust and Betrayal at the following online retailers:



You can find Dani-Lyn here:

Monday, 19 August 2013

Helen Duncan - The Last Convicted Witch?



To many, she was just another Scottish housewife, but Helen Duncan was regarded as a notorious charlatan by some and a martyr by others. So who was this unprepossessing lady who had Parliament in a spin right in the middle of World War II?

Helen Duncan was born in Callender, in Scotland on 25th November 1897 and, from an early age,was noted for her apparent ability to connect to the spirit world and, through the act of mediumship, convey their messages. She was also noted for her apparent ability to emit vast quantities of ectoplasm - an ability that later led to much ridicule and condemnation.


She married young - at the age of 20 - and her twelve pregnancies resulted in just six surviving children. Her husband, who was a cabinet maker, had been injured in World War I, so Helen was a much needed breadwinner. She worked at the local bleach factory during the day and conducted Spiritualist sittings by night, earning a small amount of cash in the process. It is reported that she would often use these funds to help her friends and neighbours, who were in similar dire financial circumstances to herself, by paying their medical bills. 

Helen gained a reputation for her accuracy and, by 1931, she was making her living conducting seances up and down the country and was a minister to a number of Spiritualist churches. But things began to go badly wrong. She was publicly denounced as a fraud by the Morning Post and the London Psychic Laboratory and, in 1934, was prosecuted by the Edinburgh Sheriff's Court as a 'fraudulent medium', received a £10 fine and a month's prison sentence.

Undeterred by this unpleasant experience, Helen continued to practice, but chose to transfer herself to Portsmouth during World War Two, where the Royal Navy was based, and this led directly to trial at the Old Bailey.


During a seance, through her spirit guide, Albert, she claimed to pick up the spirit of a sailor who announced that he had just gone down with HMS Barham.

The only problem here was that the sinking of that ship wasn't made public until many months later and certainly wasn't in the public domain at the time of her seance. Whether this was a product of genuine mediumship, or something more sinister (as some alleged), it was certainly enough to bring her to the attention of the authorities and, on 19th January 1944, one of her seances was raided by police. She and three members of her audience were arrested.


Eventually, she was prosecuted under section 4 of the archaic Witchcraft Act of 1735, which carried a maximum 12 month prison sentence. At that trial, her supporters rallied round and raised funds to bring witnesses from all over the country - many of them pillars of the community - all prepared to testify to the authenticity of her seances. As to whether she produced ectoplasm, (or cheesecloth,as had been alleged by the prosecution), one witness stated that the substance could not possibly be cloth as, if so, its colour would have changed under the red light of a seance room. Far from it, attested Hannen Swaffer, respected journalist and co-founder of the Psychic News. In Helen Duncan's case, the manifestations remained uniformly white.


The trial resulted in daily, sensational, newspaper headlines and, it was even proposed (by the defence) to put Helen into a trance and let the jury see for themselves what transpired. This caused a furore among the prosecution lawyers. Supposing, somehow, she managed to pull it off? Or worse, if she didn't, the whole British legal system would be held up to ridicule. They declined.


Helen was found guilty and, after some debate, her sentence was set to nine months incarceration under the Witchcraft Act, for pretending 'to exercise or use human conjuration that through the agency of Helen Duncan spirits of deceased persons should appear to be present'. She was also charged with offences under the Larceny Act for taking money 'by falsely pretending that she was in a position to bring about the appearances of the spirits of deceased persons'. She served her sentence in the notorious Holloway women's prison.

So, she became the last person to be jailed under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, but not the last to be convicted under it. That dubious privilege was left to the septuagenerian, Sara Rebecca Yorke, who was tried in late 1944, but was bound over and received a fine, in view of her advancing years.

 Although she is often called 'the last witch', Helen was never specifically tried as a witch. The Act of 1735 had done away with the barbaric practices of the past that had resulted in such travesties of justice as the Lancaster Witch Trials of 1612 (aped by those in Salem, Massachussetts eighty years later).


Helen's infamous trial did, however, provide a catalyst for much needed change. A political campaign was begun, supported by Winston Churchill, who had described the charges against Helen Duncan as, 'obsolete tomfoolery'. Churchill himself had long held a serious interest in spiritualism. Finally, the campaigners succeeded and the Act was repealed in 1951, to be replaced by the Fradulent Mediums Act, which is still in place today.

As for Helen, she was released from prison in September 1944, but she never managed to slip entirely under the police radar. In 1956, they raided a seance when she was in mid-trance. Generally regarded as a spectacularly dangerous thing to do, they manhandled her while in this trance-state and took her away. She was said to exhibit second degree burns and was bleeding from her mouth. As a diabetic, with a heart conditon, she was sent back home and later rushed to hospital.


Helen Duncan died thirty-six days later.

So was she - as some have alleged - a spy? Was she a genuine medium? Or was she a very clever fake? Opinions were, are and will always be, divided. Those who believe will believe and those who do not, will never be convinced.

The campaign for her official pardon continues...Helen Duncan Official Pardon Site





Friday, 16 August 2013

Purr-fect Love - Heather Sharpe's Cat is a Tomcat with a Difference!



 


 OK, so I'm a self-confessed cat fanatic. That's no news to anyone who knows me. I love their independence as well as their beauty and grace. As for intelligence, well, I never met a cat who didn't know exactly what he/she wanted - and how to get it. My cat holds actual conversations with me. Yes, she does, oh cynical non-cat people. She speaks, I reply, she responds... and so forth. See? Conversation. We both know exactly what we're saying to each other. Of course, she always has the last word.

Now fellow author, Heather Sharpe has written a book about a cat with a difference. And for all you paranormal romance fans, here's the blurb:

With time running out, there’s no pussyfooting around…

After her fiancĂ©’s last betrayal, Mahri Lassler decides she’d rather become a crazy cat lady than live with another man. Yet when her sister drags her to the animal shelter to make that dream a reality, Mahri just isn’t ready to commit. Not even to a litter of cuddly kittens. But when an odd black and white tomcat reaches through the bars, it’s almost as if he’s choosing her

Cursed by a scorned lover for all eternity, Scottish clansman Morgan Felix resigns himself to living eleven months each year as a cat. Now, nearly a millennium later, he’s trapped in a cage at the animal shelter with no hope in sight. He has to escape before the first day of spring, when he’ll change back into his human form and find himself in a very tight squeeze. So when the pixie-like woman stops just outside the cage, he takes the situation into his own paws and reaches out to touch her hand… 

Here are the buy links:
B&N
Kobo

You can connect with Heather here:

Website

Monday, 12 August 2013

If You Go Down To The Beach Today...




Well, maybe, unlike the witnesses to the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, you’re not certain to get a big surprise. But, if you should wander along Prestatyn’s promenade, you may just see more than you bargained for.

In May 1975, a local man was walking his dog along the promenade one summer’s evening. Suddenly, a woman appeared in front of him, scaring the dog so much it refused to move. The man picked it up but was disturbed to find the dog was shivering, apparently with fear, as it was also yelping.
copyright Eirian Evans http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/4582
The woman started to walk towards them and this proved too much for the dog, who struggled free of his master’s arms and charged off in the opposite direction.

By now, the man could make out that the woman was a nun, dressed in a traditional white gown and wimple, but he had the shock of his life when, she got closer and he could see no face under the wimple. He was frozen to the spot as the nun kept approaching. The warm summer evening chilled. The nun came up to him. She passed straight through him.
In shock, he turned around. The promenade was empty.

He found his poor dog, cowering under his car.

Other witnesses – and there are plenty - have reported their experiences on the BBC North East Wales Ghost site Here’s just one. Steven from Manchester says:

"Me and my mate Katie decided to take a random trip to Prestatyn on Sat night. We pulled into the car park at the Nova on the beach and had a walk in the dark. When walking we saw a bizarre blue light that was moving up and down and round and then did a huge jump and appeared to be in the sea. My mate was really scared so we turned around and walked towards the car. As we were walking we saw a white figure in the sea, we initially thought it was just a reflection but then it began to move. It was a tall white figure which startled us, again my friend being a scaredy cat made me climb over the sea wall and walk towards the car. I told her I already knew about the tale of the White Lady and this freaked her out even more! This figure was just floating there in the sea all the time we were there and then we got to the car and left both amazed at the two occurrences we had witnessed..."

Was this poor nun driven to take her own life? And who is she? No one seems to know, but those who have got up close to her have reported that she seems to be carrying - and reading - a Bible. Whoever she is, her restless spirit seems unable to pass over and rest in peace.

So, if you're visiting North Wales and decide to stroll down Prestatyn's promenade (between the Nova and the Festival Gardens) one warm summer's evening, don't say I didn't warn you...

 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Lonely Tree - Yael Politis



If ever there was a story crying out for someone to make a mini-series, it's The Lonely Tree - the most moving story I have read in a long time. 

 


1934, Josef Shulman, his wife and young family flee Poland for Tel Aviv in Palestine, ahead of the Nazi invasion of their homeland. They leave behind relatives, friends and their old lives, to be pioneers in building a Jewish homeland, under the Palestinian Mandate. Josef is fanatical. He would give up all the family’s possessions to achieve the true Israel of his dreams.

Allenby Square, Tel Aviv 1934-39 - photographium.com


 His youngest daughter, Tonia does not share his passion; she dreams of a better life in the USA and, as the years pass and war looms in Europe, she clings to a magazine picture of her dream house in Cape Cod - snipped out of a glossy magazine. She fantasises about owning it, furnishing it, luxuriating in endless hot baths, reading by electric light and feeling soft bed linen against her skin. Even having her own room would be heaven for the girl growing up with barely a minute alone. The picture goes with her, from her aunt’s cramped home in Tel Aviv, to the kibbutz she longs to escape from in Kfar Etzion, which her father helped to build.
Tel Aviv 1934



The inevitable war in Europe is declared. In the kibbutz, everyone crowds around the wireless, desperate for news of their loved ones, thousands of miles away. What sparse information they receive is dire. Rumours of death camps are verified and news of terrible tragedies filter through.



Yet they are not safe in their new home either, as Hitler’s troops edge closer and Italian bombs fall on Tel Aviv. The hated occupying British are now viewed as saviours but, when war ends, the struggle is on to create a new Jewish homeland. War of a different kind has come to Palestine, bringing with it yet more misery and heartache. Yet through it all, runs hope and a dominant spirit – a determination to survive.



The story is told from multiple viewpoints but, essentially, this is Tonia’s story. Fundamentally at odds with her father’s fanaticism, she falls in love with a Yemenite, Amos, but never loses her dream of a new life in America. I found myself willing her on, while, at the same time, wondering whether her dream was really the right way for her to go. This is one of the great strengths of this compulsive story. All the main characters have tough decisions to make. They don’t always get it right and they certainly don’t always triumph. The ending, though, was the right one, in my opinion - although I was sad to close my Kindle.

 
Damascus Gate, Jerusalem

I can attest to this story’s staying power because I was lucky enough to read early chapters of this when it was a work in progress and the author shared it on a writers’ website called ‘Youwriteon’. It hooked me then and, a few years later, when I learned it had achieved publication, fragments of the story flowed back into my mind. Now I have read the entire novel, and the author’s vivid, moving account of the bitter struggles of those tumultuous years has left an impression on me that will remain for a long time to come.

Whatever your usual preferred genre(s) - and whichever end of the political spectrum your views lie - I cannot recommend this book highly enough. 

 The Lonely Tree is available in ebook and paperback formats, from the publisher, Holland Park Press Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com


Yael Politis
You can learn more about author, Yael Politis, and why she is uniquely qualified to write this story, HERE

Footnote: This review, and the views I have expressed here, have not been authorised or approved by the author or publisher and are purely my own.