Friday, 13 December 2013

M.R. James - Master of the Ghostly Tale

On a stormy day last week, with the wind howling and the rain battering the windows, I settled myself down in the warmth and snug comfort of my living room, and picked up The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James.

I can't remember the last time I read one of his stories. They are short - sometimes only a couple of pages - but he packs more into those few pages than many authors manage in an entire novel. He has been the inspiration for many a writer of Gothic, ghostly and horror stories and it's easy to see why. Many were written with an eye to being read aloud, in small intimate gatherings, with the candlelight flickering and the fire crackling. His style is in keeping with that of an author writing in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century, yet is perfectly accessible to us now. His stories are original, lacking the cliched settings of some of his contemporaries. He puts ordinary people (man of them academics like himself) in extraordinary situations and sets the scene around them. 

Rather than presenting graphic descriptions of the 'monsters', he evokes terror with just a few words and lets us, his readers, give vent to our imaginations:


http://mickit.deviantart.com/
It stood for the moment in a band of dark shadow, and he had not seen what its face was like. Now it began to move, in a stooping posture, and all at once the spectator realized, with some horror and some relief, that it must be blind, for it seemed to feel about it with its muffled arms in a groping and random fashion. Turning half away from him, it became suddenly conscious of the bed he had just left, and darted towards it, and bent and felt over the pillows in a way which made Parkins shudder as he had never in his life thought it possible. In a very few moments it seemed to know that the bed was empty, and then, moving forward into the area of light and facing the window, it showed for the first time what manner of thing it was.

(from 'Oh Whistle And I'll Come To You, My Lad')


Montague Rhodes James was born on 1st August 1862. He was an academic - medieval scholar, provost of King's College Cambridge (1905-1918) and subsequently of Eton (1918-1936). He grew up in Suffolk, which he subsequently used as a location for many of his stories. To this day, he is widely respected for his academic work.This included his discovery of a fragment of manuscript which led to excavations of the ruins of the abbey at Bury St Edmunds, where the long lost graves of a number of twelfth century abbots were discovered. He also catalogued many of the manuscript libraries of the colleges of Cambridge University and translated the Apocrypha of the New Testament.

But the wider world remembers him for those wonderful short stories, which were originally published in four collections: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904), More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911), A Thin Ghost and Others (1919), and A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories (1925). In 1931, they were first collated into one volume: The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James from which the above extract was taken.


The stories cry out to be filmed and many adaptations have been made - both for screen and TV. One of my favourite films, Night of the Demon is adapted from Casting The Runes. But probably the most famous adaptations, certainly in the UK, were provided by the BBC between 1968-1978. These half hour episodes were broadcast late at night on Christmas Eve and became a 'must-watch'. While not exclusively M.R.James stories, the series could hardly have existed without him. They are now collated into a 5 DVD collection with some fascinating extra features: Ghost Stories for Christmas.

I am looking forward to February, when we have tickets to see Oh Whistle And I'll Come To You, My Lad in a stage production at Venue Cymru in Llandudno , where it is presented in tandem with The Signalman by Charles Dickens (also included as one of the Ghost Stories For Christmas - and very chilling it is too!)

M.R.James died 8th June 1936 in Eton and is buried in the town cemetery. His work lives on - perfect examples of the British ghost story at their most chillingly entertaining.

Now, click on the link below, sit back and enjoy A Warning to the Curious:
 



Friday, 6 December 2013

From Michigan to Tel Aviv - Yael Politis



 I recently reviewed  The Lonely Tree by Yael Politis, and described it as 'the most moving story I have read in a long time'. Now she is back with a stunning new series, and the first two books -  the award winning Olivia, Mourning and The Way The World Is - have just been published on Kindle. 

Yael's life has been something of an epic in itself. Today, she is my guest and I'm delighted to welcome her:

 
  
Toward the end of my freshman year in Ann Arbor my roommate dropped The Michigan Daily on my bed and pointed at an ad. For $400 the Israeli Students Association would arrange your flight to Tel Aviv and place you as a volunteer on a kibbutz for the summer. 


“You’re forever talking about Israel,” she said. “Why don’t you go?” 

So I did. Back then when an El Al flight landed in Tel Aviv its audio system blared the Theme from Exodus. I felt ridiculous when it brought tears to my eyes and even more so when I got off the plane feeling as if I had come home. 

I know the next question. Why? Reincarnation? I have no rational explanation and never spent much time searching for one. The feeling was simply too strong to ignore and I accepted that Israel was where I was meant to be. And the older I get, the more I believe that none of us are as rational as we would like to believe. The important decisions - who we marry, where we live, how we make a living - are often leaps of faith, based on feelings we can’t ignore.

I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, a city that enjoyed exceptionally good schools and city services -- and was infamous for having the most segregationist mayor in a northern state. One of his oft-repeated quotes: "I’m not a racist. I just hate those bastards". When I went back for my 12th high school reunion one of my former classmates confessed to being Jewish. While she was growing up in Dearborn her mother had strictly forbidden her to reveal that fact to anyone. 

So, yes, it was an eye-opening journey from Dearborn to Tel Aviv.

Since coming to Israel I have had many jobs, lived in a lot of different places (cities, kibbutzim, and moshavim), and been married to and divorced from two husbands. Life was seldom easy, but I have never regretted making my home here.

The place I lived the longest - and where I raised my children - was in the Katif Bloc in the Gaza Strip. It was there I started to write, on an old Smith-Corona typewriter. I knew the tragic story of what had happened decades earlier, on the eve of Israel’s independence, in a similar bloc of settlements - the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem. No one had ever written a fictional account of it, but I felt it was “too big” for me to attempt and turned to other stories. 

Then the first intifada broke out and we were - like the settlers of Kfar Etzion - attacked on the roads and under constant threat. But I felt fairly safe; the IDF was there. It made me think again about the people who had chosen to live in Kfar Etzion - and hundreds of other settlements like it - when a Jewish state had seemed like a wild dream. How could they have lived like this but without an army, protected by only a few men and youths with little training and not enough obsolete weapons to go around, and so soon after the Holocaust had made it all too clear that threats of intent to wipe a nation of the face of the earth are not empty? That’s when my first novel, The Lonely Tree, was born. I don’t agree with its heroine, Tonia Shulman, but I understand her perfectly.

I have always kept a strong connection with my family and in writing the Olivia Series am revisiting my roots in Michigan. My ancestors were savers and I finally sifted through the big red box of diaries, letters, deeds, marriage certificates, etc. that for decades had moved with me from apartment to apartment but sat neglected in the corner.

The next book in the series will take me back to Dearborn and I know I will have a great time writing it.

So that’s my schizophrenic life - from the Midwest to the Middle East and back again.

Thank you Yael. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the Olivia series and can't wait for the third. Here's the cover description for Olivia, Mourning :
  
Olivia wants the 80 acres in far off Michigan that her father left to whichever of his offspring wants to stake a claim. As Olivia says, "I'm sprung off him just as much as Avis or Tobey."

The problem: she's seventeen, female, and it's 1841.

Mourning Free knows how to run a farm and Olivia has complete trust in him.

The problem: he’s black, the orphaned son of runaway slaves, and reluctant to travel and work with a white girl. He especially fears the slave catchers who patrol the free states, hunting fugitive slaves.

Not without qualms, they set off together. All goes well, despite the drudgery of survival in an isolated log cabin. Incapable of acknowledging her feelings for Mourning, Olivia thinks her biggest problem is her unrequited romantic interest in their young, single neighbor.

Then her world falls apart.


Strong-willed, vulnerable, and compassionate, Olivia is a compelling protagonist on a journey to find a way to do the right thing in a world in which so much is wrong.


2013 Quarter-Finalist ABNA
2010 Book of the Year YWO

You can buy Olivia, Mourning here
 Amazon 
 Barnes and Noble

Now here's the cover description for The Way The World Is:

Detroit Michigan, 1842  -  After the devastating trauma she suffered in Olivia, Mourning and finally knowing the reality with which she must deal, Olivia strives to rebuild herself – emotionally, socially, and financially.

She starts a new life in Detroit, the young and exciting city on a river where she has come to feel at home. New friends help the healing process, while she continues her search for the two people she loves, who have disappeared from her life. She finds the greatest solace in helping fugitive slaves escape over the river to Canada. She believes, as one of her new friends says, “In this time and place it is the most worthy thing a person can do.”


Olivia remains a compelling protagonist on a journey to find a way to do the right thing in a world in which so much is wrong.

You can buy The Way The World Is here: Amazon

You can find out more about Yael HERE

Friday, 22 November 2013

A Slip In Time - a Ghost Story



 
Now the year has moved on to the time for blazing fires, toasting crumpets and dark nights, curled up with a creepy ghost story, here’s a strange tale I first presented as a guest on a blog in early 2012.

What follows is an episode from my misspent youth and I present it as it happened:

Sitting around a blazing fire one winter’s evening in 1976, six of us workmates, all young women, were persuaded—no doubt courtesy of a few glasses of Litre Vin—to share the strangest experiences each of us had ever had.

One by one, we trotted out tales of times we had correctly predicted what another person was going to say before they said it, and objects which had apparently zapped themselves into the Twilight Zone never to be seen again. I seem to recall, I told of  the time I was sure I had seen someone standing on the stairs, only to find there was no one there.

Then it was Sandra’s turn. She was a quiet girl. In her early twenties like the rest of us, but more studious and inclined to be shy. At first she was reluctant, but there was something in her eyes that made me certain something quite momentous had happened to her, if only we could persuade her to share.

Jill opened another bottle of wine and poured her a glass, filling it pretty much to the brim.

Sandra took a deep swig and shook her head vigorously. “You’ll all think I’m mad,” she said.

Now I was certain. This was going to be the best of the night. “Oh, please tell us, San,” I said with, I’m sure, my most imploring expression.

The minutes ticked by until, worn down by our constant insistence, Sandra set her empty glass down on the table, took a deep breath and began.

What follows is my best recollection of what she shared with us that night:

“I was eleven years old,” she said, “staying with my cousin in Liverpool during the school summer holidays. They lived in a big Georgian house near the Cathedral. All the streets around had these old streetlamps and it was really atmospheric. At night it was quiet and my bedroom overlooked the road.

“One night, it was stiflingly hot and I had my window open to let in some air. I lay there, tossing and turning but still couldn’t get off to sleep.

“Then I heard the sound of some horses trotting along the road. Thinking it was probably police—they  patrolled on horseback around there sometimes in those days—I thought nothing of it and turned over yet again.

“Then I heard more sounds of a horse’s hooves clip-clopping along the street, then another, and another.

“Curiosity got the better of me and I pushed the covers off, got up and went over to the window. What I saw then, I’ll never be able to explain and will never forget to my dying day. Furthermore, I swear it’s true and I wasn’t dreaming.”

You can imagine that, by now, five pairs of eyes were riveted to her and each one of us was sitting on the edge of our seats.

Sandra looked as if she was about to change her mind and stop right there, but no way would we let her, so she took another deep breath and carried on:

“I pulled the curtain aside and the first thing I noticed was the streetlamp. It was basically the same lamp, but it wasn’t electric as I’d thought. It was one of those old gas lamps, straight from the nineteenth century. I couldn’t think how I’d missed that before. My room was on the second floor so I had a good view of it.

“But the biggest shock came when I looked down. It was dark and the streetlamps only cast a dim glow, but instead of parked cars and brightly lit house windows, were a couple of hansom cabs, a couple dressed in Victorian clothes walking slowly up the street and, in some of the windows, flickering lights that I guessed came from candles.”

Gasps and incredulous looks greeted this. Surely, any minute now, she would tell us she was having a laugh at our expense. But no.

One of us—Jill, I think, asked if there had been any filming going on there for some historical drama. Liverpool’s Georgian streets have been used as an authentic backdrop on many occasions.

She insisted that there had been no filming. So what had happened next?

“I stood there, mesmerised, for ages. I don’t know how long but I do remember that it was starting to get light when I crawled back into bed. I fell asleep to the sound of horses’ hooves and woke up to a motorbike revving its engine. I leapt out of bed and rushed to the window. The first thing I checked was the streetlamp and it was, of course, electric. Down in the street were the usual parked cars and people in modern dress going about their business. I never dared tell my cousin because, at that moment, I was firmly convinced they would think I was mad. In fact, you’re the first people I’ve ever told.”

And, thanks to our sceptical reactions, we were probably the last she told too!

Poor Sandra. I’ve always felt guilty about how we treated her, insisting she must have been dreaming when she was so adamant she wasn’t. She never again came out with us, and got a new job soon after. From then on,  I never saw her again.

So, was she telling the truth?

You have to decide for yourself of course, but I will never forget the sincerity in her eyes as she told her strange story. Was there some kind of timeslip on that hot July night? And did she ever go back there and experience it again?

Thirty-six years on,  I’ll almost certainly never know.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Tentacle Tree


I have often said it. Plot ideas can come from absolutely anywhere. Here's another one, which has led to my latest story.

A most extraordinary looking willow tree grows alongside the river where I take my daily walk. Far from behaving like a traditional weeping willow, this example exudes character. Quite a sinister character if you happen to be blessed with a horror writer's mind.

It's as if, fed up with leaning over and draping fronds of trailing leaves all day, it suddenly woke up one morning, shook itself and said, "Sod this for a lark, I'm going to be different." And so this maverick was born. It is clearly ancient and has grown in a bizarre way, so that its thick branches curl and twist around each other - just like tentacles - reaching out to trap the unwary passerby. 
 
Tree fellers have been working nearby and I became alarmed that "my" tree ( yes, it's official. I'm claiming ownership) might be for the chop - or, at the least a serious and catastrophic pruning. I heard their chainsaws zizzing away a little further along the bank and wondered if, should the time come, I would be able to climb these intertwined branches and wield a banner proclaiming myself to be the Denbighshire One. "Save the Tentacle Tree!" would be my rallying cry, albeit only witnessed by a couple walking their dog.

But, squinting upwards, I decided against the climb. I'm really not built for that sort of activity and have no head for heights. Besides, I've never actually climbed a tree in my life.
Fortunately, the Men With Chainsaws do seem to have moved on now, so I can concentrate on the amazing undulations, configurations and general disregard for normal tree-like behaviour exhibited by this remarkable specimen.

Look at the picture at the top of this post. Can't you just imagine those branches writhing, twisting, bending and creaking as they stretch towards their terrified victim? They wind themselves around his body as his cries for help go unheeded. They squeeze. Tighter and tighter. Crushing the breath out of his body. Until the tree absorbs him into himself and he is never seen alive again. 

Works for me! Excuse me while I just go and write that scene...


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Dawn Colclasure's Dream People



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For YA and Adult Fantasy author, Dawn Colclasure, dreams are far more than just meaningless nocturnal ramblings of an subconscious brain. For some people, they can hold realities of their own.

I am delighted to welcome her as my guest today. Read on to find out more, and all about her exciting new novel, Shadow of Samhain.

I See Dream People

 By Dawn Colclasure
 
For the most part, the dreams we experience once we are in a deep sleep each night are of little consequence. For some people, they can’t even remember what they have dreamed about – or if they dreamed at all.

For others, it’s a different story. Some people will see someone in their dreams and something tells them this person is important. For example, this person in the dream may have an important message to relay to the dreamer, or they end up being someone they will later meet in real life. This has actually happened to some people. Also, when it comes to getting a message, the dreamer may not be able to understand what is said or the person in the dream may speak but their voice is not heard by the dreamer.

Other types of “dream people” we see are ghosts or spirits. This, too, has actually happened for some people. Many reports are on the Internet and in books of ghostly visitations in our dreams. Shortly after my grandmother passed away many years ago, she appeared in my dreams a few times. In one dream, she was younger, vibrant and in perfect health. A bright light shown all around her and she was smiling.

In some way, she may not have been considered a “ghost,” since the term “ghost” is reserved for someone who has yet to cross over into the Light. Perhaps she was an angel visiting my dream. This, too, is another type of dream person we can see in our dreams. Just as an angel can visit us or communicate with us in our real lives, they can do the same in our dreams.

While some dream people may not appear in our dreams very frequently, sometimes someone may dream of a person for a long period of time. This type of dream experience has also happened to me. I had several dreams of a man named “Jonathan” over the course of many years. I tried everything to figure out why I was having these dreams and if Jonathan represented a real person. At some point in time, my mother even told me she used to dream about Jonathan, too, but she never shared any details.

Why would we see the same person in our dreams for a long period of time? How is it possible to dream of the same person for several years?

One answer may be that perhaps this person in the dream is not merely a figment of our imagination. This person could be a ghost, a spirit or a guardian angel. Perhaps this person in our dreams feels compelled to stay with the dreamer as a means of protecting them or watching over them.

Another possibility could be that this person was an important part of the dreamer’s past life, and the dreamer is tapping in to this important part of that life on a subconscious level. This could open doors to helping the dreamer understand this past life and perhaps resolve unfinished business, if any.

A third possibility is that, perhaps, the person in the dream is trying to relay a message and the dreamer is unable to perceive this message right away. Perhaps so many things must be revealed to the dreamer through their dreams before they understand what the message is.

My experiences with my dreams fit into the second theory. I truly believe that Jonathan was an important part of my past life and my dreams had merely touched on this. As to why my dreams of him lasted for so long, which was over twelve years, my only guess could be that perhaps this represented how long I had known him.

Nevertheless, this experience inspired me to write a novel based on those dreams. That novel was titled November’s Child (the title was inspired by a dream), and it will be re-released under the new title Shadow of Samhain. So my dream experiences not only provided me with spiritual insight but they also acted as a source of inspiration for a novel about a girl who dreams about a man named Jonathan for several years.

People who read this novel may think that such a thing is not possible. How could someone dream about the same person for several years? Thy may believe that it is just not possible! I respond to this opinion that, yes, it IS possible to dream about the same person for many years. I know it is possible, because it happened to me. And it can happen to you, too. It can happen to anyone. 

Now read on, to find out about Dawn's brilliant new novel:

 
Just a dream...or an ancient curse?

Imagine being too terrified to sleep because of what awaits you in the dream world: A centuries-old battle between two powerful Druidic spirits. Murdered by the man who he once called “brother,” Jonathan is on a quest for revenge against all Druid descendants born of Samhain. Malissa Ratham was not one such descendant, and yet Jonathan tormented her dreams for years. Grappling for some kind of balance between what is real and what is only a dream, Malissa struggles to move on in life and salvage her sanity. But the past has a way of catching up to people, and Malissa realizes she must put an end to this ancient curse on her family once and for all, before she loses everyone and everything she loves.

Shadow of Samhain is a brand new dark fantasy novel published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing. It is New Adult as well as Dark Fantasy. The book is available as an ebook and will soon come out in print. E-copies of this new novel are now available for review and purchase.

Blurb:

She called him the “dark man.”

Who is Jonathan, a man haunting Malissa Ratham’s dreams? What sort of secrets from his past does he try to keep buried? Everybody says the dreams are only dreams and nothing more. But soon Malissa starts acting strangely, knowing about ancient Druidic rituals and a history too mysterious to unearth. With the help of Jovin, an ancient Druidic spirit on a mission to stop Jonathan from his path of death and destruction, and Tessie Malkin, a psychic with an advantage over Jonathan’s power, Malissa must owe up to her past and walk between worlds to destroy an ancient curse…

…before it is too late

Excerpt:

Prologue

He awoke from a deep sleep. The white wall above should have been familiar to the person whose body he inhabited, but it wasn’t familiar to him. In fact, the daylight stretching across the white wall was unfamiliar to what he’d known for all these centuries. Such darkness.

He rose up in the bed, staring around the room. This was Malissa’s room. There was her desk by the window. Her dresser stood by the closed closet. And there, on her floor, sat her shoes.

They were all things that belonged to Malissa Ratham. So this was how she lived outside of the dream world.
 
He climbed out of the bed. The comforter and sheets felt so soft and warm, a far cry from the dirty blanket he’d slept with on the cold floor of a thatched hut. He examined the girl’s hands, smiling over how clean and perfect they looked. Even the nails on her fingers were perfect; she obviously didn’t bite them. He hoped she took likewise good care of the rest of herself; the last thing he wanted to worry about was tooth pain.

He walked to the closet and swung open both doors. The clothes inside consisted of blouses, skirts, sweaters and pants, all in feminine colors. All clothes that were typical of a 17-year-old female. He removed a denim, long-sleeved dress and held it in front of him. He’d have to get used to dressing like a girl. After all, that was the gender of the body he was in now.
But gender was unimportant. All that mattered was that he’d finally overpowered the girl whose dreams he’d inhabited. Now he was free to have his revenge.

He quietly removed the pajamas, grateful that they were at least a pants and top ensemble, then put the dress on. He added a wide brown belt around the waist, then located a pair of white stockings in the dresser drawer. He put these on then slid into the brown leather moccasins on the floor.

He walked out of the room and crept through the hallway, examining the faces in the framed photos. None of the children looked familiar, yet when he saw Jane’s face, he stopped. He stared at the wedding picture, looking at the man hugging Jane then back at Jane’s face. The face was that of an older Jane, but he still knew that face very well.

“What are you doing?”

He turned, then smiled. The girl with long blond hair looked exactly as Jane once had, when Jane had been fifteen years old.

“Where is Jane?” he asked.

“Who?”

He thought a minute then remembered. Jane had changed her name long ago. He looked at the girl again. “Janay.”

The girl scrunched her face. “Don’t you mean Mom?”

“Where is she?”

“At work.” She studied his face. “Malissa, are you okay?”

He walked up to the girl, smiling at her. She still wore her pajamas. “Fine.” He put a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Everything is fine.” He leaned over to look the girl in her eyes. “Where does she work?”

The girl blinked in surprise. “At the fabric store. You’ve been there to buy stuff for clothes.”

He smiled, then turned to walk away. Finding the fabric store would not be a problem; the location was somewhere in Malissa’s memories.

As he entered the kitchen, he heard the girl say, “Can you take me to school? Malissa?”

He walked outside and down the steps. The October wind beat against him, blowing the long black hair in either direction. He moved a strand of hair from her eyes and looked around. This was the backyard; he saw a door to the garage, a tire swing hung from a tree, and bikes were parked along the wooden fence.

He walked to one of the larger bikes, then led it out of the yard through a gate. He examined the seat, the frame and tires. He recalled memories of how Malissa rode the bike in the past, pedaling the rectangular metal things on a rotating bar in the lower center. He climbed onto the bike and started to peddle it down the driveway, shaking as he adjusted his balance.

He searched the street signs as she pedaled, watching for cars and buses that passed by. He soon entered a busy town and steered the bike through the crowds of people walking along the street and sidewalks, the girl’s hair blowing in the wind. Everyone he saw wore a coat, sweater or jacket. Even though the denim was sufficient for warmth, he hoped being without an extra garment didn’t make the girl stand out.

The fabric store finally came into view. He parked the bike against the wall next to it, then walked inside. Only two other people were in the store today: Jane and a customer. Jane stood next to a swinging tray of assorted cloths, discussing one such fabric with an elderly woman.
 
He slowly approached Jane, eyes fixed on the woman’s face. The face Jane had now was calm and relaxed, speaking with this elderly woman in a soft tone of voice. Yet as he walked toward Jane, all he saw was the face of the frightened ten-year-old girl the woman had once been.
Jane finally caught sight of him. “Malissa? What are you doing here?”

He stopped in mid-step. He stared hard at Jane, the anger rushing through his veins.

“I have come back for you, Jane,” was all he said. The body may have been female, but the voice definitely sounded like it should have been male. It was his voice, after all.

The elderly woman stared at her. She took one look at the girl’s face, then gasped. She backed away, slinking back with one cautious step after another.

“Malissa?” Jane asked, her voice curious and her eyes never leaving the person she saw as her daughter as she put the piece of cloth back onto the tray.

“You thought you could escape me,” he said, still using his voice. “You were wrong.” He chuckled. “I have your daughter. And now I have you.”

The elderly woman stopped moving away. Her eyes fluttered and she fainted.

Jane looked to the woman, then back at him. She studied him for a few moments then took a step forward.

“Malissa—”

He threw his arms out at her and used his power to throw her back. She screamed as she toppled over the tray, then fell to the floor. Fabric sheets drifted down to her back as she groaned. She turned and looked up at him standing over her.

“Please,” she sobbed, her wide eyes trying to understand what was happening. “Please, Malissa. What are you doing?”

He turned and tore a metal bar off of a display rack. She heard Jane gasp, then whisper, “Oh, my God,” as he slowly turned back to face her. He gripped the metal bar with both hands and held it above him.

“No!” he heard Jane scream.

His gaze fixed ahead, Jonathan mechanically brought the metal bar down. He heard Jane scream, “No!” again, then all sound suddenly disappeared as he froze, holding the bar in mid-air.

Jonathan! a woman’s voice commanded in his mind.The image of an African-American woman wearing rainbow-colored clothes and assorted jewelry came to him through some kind of link. The woman pointed directly at him as she spoke. Jonathan! Harm her no more.

He held the metal bar inches over the sobbing figure of Jane Ratham. His vision of the store in front of him—with the counter, cash register, assorted fabric displays and homemade clothing—all suddenly disappeared. A bright light shone in his eyes as something, some form, pushed him away and out of the body he had stolen.
Malissa felt herself returning to life within her body again, consciousness sweeping through her.

The air left her lungs for only a moment as she realized she’d been out of her body all this time, then she collapsed to the floor, releasing the metal bar as darkness overtook her.

Read more about this debut novel here:


Reader comments:

"This is a very good, suspenseful story. I couldn't stop reading once I got started. I have had some dreams that I swear aren't dreams, and this reminded me of those. Always so spooky! Thanks for the roller coaster ride."

"Anyone who wants a good read wouldn't go wrong starting with this one!"
  
About the Author:
 
Dawn Colclasure is a writer who lives in Oregon. Her articles, essays, poems and short stories have appeared in several newspapers, anthologies, magazines and E-zines. She is the author of fourteen books, among them BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL: How We Survive as Writing Parents; 365 TIPS FOR WRITERS: Inspiration, Writing Prompts and Beat The Block Tips to Turbo Charge Your Creativity; Love is Like a Rainbow: Poems of Love and Devotion and the children’s book The Yellow Rose. She is co-author of the book Totally Scared: The Complete Book on Haunted Houses. Her novel, Shadow of Samhain, was published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing in October.

Author’s Website

Links:


Monday, 21 October 2013

Kalix Is Back - And She's Feeling a Little Anxious

A new book by Martin Millar is always a cause for celebration as far as I'm concerned and when that new book is the latest in the series featuring the most dysfunctional werewolf you're ever likely to meet, then it's champagne all round.

Now before you groan, "Oh no, not another sparkly werewolf novel!", I must enlighten you. Kalix isn't that sort of girl. In fact, she's not that sort of werewolf. She's a laudanum addicted, self harming, lost sort of girl with an eating disorder and a chronic case of low self esteem. Low? Her self esteem just never turned up. No wonder she's anxious! And Kalix being Kalix this means everyone around her is pretty anxious too.

The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf picks up the story where its predecessor, Curse of the Werewolf Girl, left off, but if you haven't read that or the first book in the series, Lonely Werewolf Girl, it isn't really a problem as each book stands up in its own right. It just means you've missed out on some great fun and adventures and really should go back to the beginning.


Martin Millar's version of the world is a planet where it is perfectly natural for werewolves to live among humans, accompanied by the odd Elemental - and, believe me, there are some very odd Elementals in this world. Take the Fire Queen, Malveria, for one. She has a fashion fetish that would put Victoria Beckham to shame and constantly berates her "dismal niece", Agrivex, for her shortcomings in not being able to control her flames (among many other misdemeanours). But if you ever want someone on your side in an epic battle, it's Queen Malveria, just as long as she can keep her skyscraper heels on.

In The Anxiety of Kalix The Werewolf, we see the Scottish Werewolf Clan - including Kalix's battling family, the MacRinnalchs - wage all out war against the werewolf hunters of the secretive Avenaris Guild. Kalix may be many things but she is a fearless - even reckless - warrior. Somehow, along the way, she also manages to bag herself a rather nice boyfriend. But needless to say, the course of true love hits a succession of potholes. Meanwhile her Self Improvement List just keeps getting longer.


Martin Millar's querky characters are never the sort you would take home to tea with your Great Aunt Maude. They are all seriously flawed, quite outrageous, and Kalix and her companions are no exception to this. They provide a constant source of consternation to the two humans in the story - flatmates Moonglow and her friend Daniel. But the author's skill in creating his characters, and weaving the plot around them, means you cannot help liking the basically unlikeable. And you can't help believing the incredible. Whatever her faults and shortcomings, however impossible she is, you develop a soft spot for Kalix. You want her to overcome her addictions, defeat her enemies and win out in the end. 
The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf is the longest of the three books (at 665 pages) but doesn't suffer the fate of so many books of its size. It never sags. It grips you and keeps you turning the pages. In achieving this, it proves a worthy successor, not only to the first two books in this series, but also to the great body of work the author has produced so far.

With titles such as The Good Fairies of New YorkRuby and The Stone Age Diet and Dreams of Sex and Stage Diving, to name but three, you know you're in for something a bit different when you pick up a Martin Millar. In fact, not just different - unique. In 2000, Millar won the World Fantasy Award and he just keeps going from strength to strength.
 The Guardian newspaper said he had created a new genre, "pulp fantasy noir", while Neil Gaiman said, "Martin Millar writes like Kurt Vonnegut might have written, if he'd been born fifty years later in a different country and hung around with entirely the wrong sort of people."

I couldn't have put it better myself. Go on, treat yourself. You won't regret it.

The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf is published by Piatkus and available from good bookshops or by ordering online. Amazon is just one such outlet.

For Martin Millar's website, just click HERE, where you will also find his ongoing online serial, Simulation Bleed




Monday, 7 October 2013

The Ghosts of Glamis - with Shehanne Moore


paranormalknowledge.com
One of my favourite fellow Etopia Press stablemates is Scottish Historical Fiction writer, Shehanne Moore, who shares my love of dark history, creepy castles and scary palaces. She's also partial to wild, untamed countryside, mountains and ... ghosts. 

She is my guest today, so join us as Shehanne explores a castle with major royal connections and enough dramatic history to stimulate even the most jaded palate.
 
This Castle Has a Pleasant Air
The Old Steeple
You know, with the exception of Berwick-On-Tweed, few Scottish cities fell to the English as often as my hometown, Dundee. General Monk razed it to the ground during the English Civil War, after the townspeople holed up against him for days, demanding his surrender, with typical Dundee chutzpah. You’d really think that given the terrible battle that was fought when man, woman and child, finally retreated to the Old Steeple, where they were massacred, a ghost or two would have the decency to waft itself about for the benefit of the tourists. Especially when any road or building works in the vicinity, still turns up skeletons. That I wouldn’t have to trail all the way up the road to Glamis to find a few spectres. But I suppose it’s worth the trek, since it boasts so many you can more or less take your pick.

Lady Mary Bowes

Glamis is the historic seat of the Bowes-Lyon family, ancestors of the Queen. The Unhappy Countess, Mary Bowes, whose fortune helped restore it, an 18th century heiress upon whom Thackeray based his book, Barry Lyndon, and who was rescued by her servants, in a sensational divorce and kidnap case that shook society, surprisingly isn’t one of them. 
Neither is King Duncan, nor Macbeth, although it is interesting Shakespeare chose that venue for Macbeth-a play of witchcraft and dark forces- to murder Duncan in.
Glamis is obviously very choosy. So, what ghosts can we expect, as we walk through its foreboding doors into its chilly halls?  (Making us sound a bit like ghosts there.)

Well, the beautiful Lady Douglas, the Grey Lady of Glamis haunts the chapel.
Lady Douglas
Lady or not, she was burnt at the stake as a witch in 1537. The charges were fabricated and her young son made to watch. There’s also a young woman with no tongue, who haunts the grounds. Then there’s the little black page boy who allegedly froze to death on the step. Best of all, there’s Earl Beardie.

Earl Beardie got in a bit of a tiff with Lord Glamis over a card game, on the Sabbath, a shocking thing. Then he got thrown down the stairs. This didn’t deter him, from coming back up them again shouting, that if no-one would play with him, he would play with the devil himself. Guess what? That’s what he’s been doing since. In Glamis. 

Oh, yes there are some rooms you do not venture into.

Talking of which one there’s that little business of the extra window on the outside of Glamis. The locked room. The monster of Glamis. The mystery of mysteries.  “—an enigma that involved a hidden room, a secret passage, solemn initiations, scandal, and shadowy figures glimpsed by night on castle battlements, and two generations of high society.”

No. I can’t tell you it. because I don’t know it, whether the ‘monster’ was the rightful heir or not.


What I can say it that when it comes to haunted Scotland, you won’t get better goosebumps than in Glamis Castle.
 
You can connect with Shehanne here:
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Shehanne Moore
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I loved Shehanne's latest novel, His Judas Bride. Here's some information to whet your appetite:

To love, honor, and betray…
To get back her son, she will stop at nothing…
For five years Kara McGurkie has preferred to forget she’s a woman. So it’s no problem for her to swear to love and honor, to help destroy a clan, when it means getting back the son she lost. But when dire circumstances force her to seduce her fiancĂ©’s brother on the eve of the wedding, will the dark secrets she holds and her greatest desire be enough to save her from his powerful allure?
To save his people, neither will he…
Callm McDunnagh, the Black Wolf of Lochalpin, ruthlessly guards heart and glen from dangerous intruders. But from the moment he first sees Kara he knows he must possess her, even though surrendering to his passion may prove the most dangerous risk of all.
She has nothing left to fear except love itself…
Now only Kara can decide what passion can save or destroy, and who will finally learn the truth of the words… Till death do us part.
Buy His Judas Bride here:

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