Thursday, 27 June 2013

Endure - Exciting New YA Dystopian from Laura Diamond

 Laura's written a new series of gripping stories and the first one is Endure, soon to be published by Etopia Press.

For now, here's the stunning cover and a synopsis to whet your appetite:


Seventeen-year-old Justin's anemic blood is a blessing. Or a curse. It all depends on who you ask.

To most of the immortal Vie, his blood is a scourge: untouchable and useless. To some Vie, his blood is a drug. To Justin, it’s something that gets him in a lot of trouble. Being poisoned by a Vie is just one example. His sister getting kidnapped is another. Whether it’s being coerced by a deluded cult leader, or negotiating with Alex—an Vie scientist addicted to Anemie blood—Justin struggles to keep every mutated drop of blood he’s got.

His fight for survival gets more complicated when he meets Alex’s slave, Cara. Despite coming from different worlds, they’re both prisoners, at risk of being drained by a hungry Vie any moment. When she risks her own neck to help Justin find his sister, he's left with a terrifying choice.

Saving what's left of humanity.
Saving his sister. Saving the girl he loves.
Or sticking a stake in Alex’s chest. 
Justin can't decide which option will get him killed first.

Please visit ENDURE on Goodreads

About Author Laura Diamond:

Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist and author of all things young adult paranormal, dystopian, and horror. Her Young Adult Paranormal Romance novelette, NEW PRIDE, and novel, SHIFTING PRIDE, debuted late 2012 from Etopia Press. A spin off short story based on the lions of Tsavo, TSAVO PRIDE, is now available on Amazon. Forthcoming novels include EVOKE, Book Two in the ENDURE series, from Etopia Press, and a Young Adult Paranormal Romance, ZODIAC COLLECTOR, from Spencer Hill Press. When she's not writing, she is working at the hospital, blogging at Author Laura Diamond--Lucid Dreamer and renovating her 225+ year old fixer-upper mansion.

Find Laura Diamond on the web:


Thursday, 20 June 2013

Solstice - A Time For Celebration!

Merry Meet,

Summer Solstice is with us, heralding the beginning of summer and, traditionally, a time to take stock of our lives.

In ancient sites all over the UK, people gather to watch the sunrise on June 21st. From the stone circles of Cornwall and Stonehenge in the south, to the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney, music, dance, singing and celebration will greet the dawn. Fire is a powerful symbol of the solstice and, in many locations, bonfires will be lit. In others, maypoles will be erected and age old rituals performed.It is a time of joy, hope, promise and fulfilment. A time for feasting and merriment. A magical time that has captured the imagination for millennia.
You can imagine our ancestors five thousand years ago. They have endured a long, harsh winter, when food grew scarce, nights were long and dark and days short. There was little time or energy left for pleasure. Life was a matter of survival and endurance. Now, the days are long and warm. Food is plentiful once again. The sap is rising in the new life springing up all around them. Life is good - a thing to be celebrated. Why wouldn't you pick the longest day of the year on which to do this?
In the UK, there are many traditions associated with the summer solstice. The largest public gathering takes place at Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, where the alignment of the stones is a magnet for thousands to gather, watch and celebrate the rising sun. A Druidic celebration takes place there and it has become a place of pligrimage for the serious minded as well as those drawn by curiosity.
Throughout Cornwall, the tradition of lighting bonfires has been revived in recent years. Stone circles and other prehistoric monuments abound throughout the county and provide focal points for pagan celebrations. But Cornwall is a county where the summer solstice is an opportunity for all kinds of festivals and fun, lasting for days. One of the most popular is the annual Maker Festival on the Rame Peninsula on the coast of south east Cornwall.

Of all the many venues for celebration of this magical time, my choice would have to be up in Orkney amid that special stone circle known as the Ring of Brodgar. There, people collect to celebrate the sunrise with music, poetry, readings and the telling of folk tales, which abound in the islands. In Orkney, the Goddess of the season is the 'Mither of the Sea'. She stays in Orkney throughout the summer, keeping the seas calm and warm, ensuring plentiful stocks of fish for all. You have to get up early though, the long summer days mean that dawn is around 3.20a.m. (but first light is around 1a.m.!).

Now, if you want to have your own solstice celebration, you might like to try your hand at Maypole Dancing. Here's a link to get you started

 And here you will find some traditional Summer Solstice rituals you can employ whether you are celebrating on your own, or with others.

And, finally, here is a really interesting site with information on all sorts of traditional events held throughout the year, as well as a fascinating insight into the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

Blessed Be to all!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Beastly Bodmin Jail - Sometimes They Don't Leave...

You don't expect such a small, attractive town to house such a massive prison, but that's the surprise that awaits you in the Cornish town of Bodmin.

It's been closed since 1927, but is by no means silent. Although much of it is derelict, its corridors still echo to the clanking of chains and the moans of long dead prisoners, seeking justice for their unjust incarceration...and execution.

Bodmin Jail's restoration is a work in progress and no visitor can envy the task. Built originally as a milestone in prison design, circa 1779, the jail started off its life as a prison for debtors, serious felons, and those guilty of less serious crimes. Males and females were strictly segregated and attempts were made to ensure a less harsh approach to incarceration. Running water was provided in courtyards and boilers were on hand for hot water. Ovens were installed to bake clothes (to kill vermin). There was also a chapel and an infirmary for the sick.

All of this led to its approval by the great 18th century penal reformer, John Howard, who visited in 1782 and proclaimed, 'By a spritied exertion, the gentlemen of this county have erected a monument of their humanity, and attention to health and morals of prisoners.'

From the mid nineteenth century, a heating and ventilation system ensured a constant temperature of 15 degrees centigrade was maintained throughout the year in all cells.

In addition, prisoners were put to productive work and paid out of the profits from the sales of the products they made. Sadly, this changed to the useless labour of the treadmill from 1824 onwards, until the Prison Act of 1898 saw a reversal of ideas. Useless labour was abolished and productive work was back in.

Between its opening and closure 148 years later, Bodmin underwent expansion and transformation. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, it took hundreds of prisoners,  when the population of the prison reached its peak. In 1887, part of it was converted into a Naval  prison.

But what of the prisoners themselves? 

Solitary confinement, hard labour, whipping and execution by hanging all took place within the walls of Bodmin Jail and there are some curious cases.

The great grandfather of writer, Nevil Shute, author of A Town Like Alice, the apocalyptic On The Beach and many others, was murdered by two brothers called William and James Lightfoot, whose public double hanging attracted a crowd of some 20,000 at noon on 13th April, 1840. They had battered Nevil Norway to death in order to rob him of the gold and silver coins he carried. Theirs was the only double hanging at Bodmin.

There are a number of stories of young women driven to desperate acts as a result of finding themselves on their own with an illegitimate child, the father having long run off. But one of the saddest, is the case of Selina Wadge, who had two children. She was at the lower end of the social scale, barely surviving in the workhouse, when she met and fell in love with a former soldier called James Westwood. According to her story, Westwood told her he would marry her but was not prepared to take on both children. The younger one, Harry, would have to be sacrificed. She drowned him by throwing him down a thirteen foot deep well, where he was found lying in three feet of water, with no signs of violence visible on his body.

She had been previously regarded as a good mother and many from the workhouse and elsewhere attested to her previous good character, but the jury found her guilty of child murder, with a recommendation for leniency. The judge wasn't prepared to grant it and she was sentenced to death by hanging.  By then, the measured drop had been introduced, which led to a swifter, more merciful death. Previously, the notorious 'short drop' had led to prisoners slowly strangling to death, taking up to twenty minutes or more.

Poor, desperate Selina was placed on suicide watch. By the day of her execution she was in a state of collapse. But she died 'without a struggle' on 15th August 1878. Her ghost is one of many said to haunt the place. She tries to reach out to small children and has been observed by them as a lady in a long dress who cries all the time.

An earlier and more primitive jail existed where Bodmin Jail stands today and it too saw its share of prisoners, some of whom were convicted for witchcraft. Most of these were, of course, women, who were guilty of nothing more than the ability to use herbs wisely to heal all manner of ailments. One such woman was Ann Jefferies, who was born in St Teath in 1626. She unfortunately came to the attention of the Justice of the Peace in Cornwall as a result of her claims that she had travelled to magical lands populated by little people, fairies and the like. She then claimed to have been given the power of clairvoyance and healing.
Incarcerated in Bodmin for witchcraft, she was sentenced to three months and was kept without food or water. This was then followed by a further three months incarceration without food and water, in the mayor's house. Amazingly, in both instances, she not only survived, she thrived, even gaining weight, and was released in astonishingly good health. She claimed it was because the fairies had kept her fed and watered. She went on to marry and move to Devon, but she kept very quiet about the fairies and the magical lands she had visited. After all, it wouldn't do to tempt fate twice, would it?

One day, I, or a friend of mine, will tell you the moving tale of Joan Wytte, the Fighting Fairy Woman of Bodmin who was also incarcerated here. You may have seen an image of her and a fleeting mention in my blog on Boscastle

But her story deserves a blog post on its own - and so it shall be. One day...

Find out more about Bodmin Jail  here

Bodmin Jail was the subject of a Most Haunted. I know I would be failing in my duty if I didn't leave you with an Yvette Fielding screamfest. Enjoy:

Monday, 10 June 2013

Boscastle - Where Witches Are Friendly and Broomsticks Optional!

On August 16th 2004, a terrifying flood threatened to wipe Boscastle off the map. It is to the inhabitants' great credit that they showed indomitable spirit in the loving restoration that has seen the reincarnation of the village into the picturesque place we see today.

So sudden and violent was the torrent that whole buildings were swept away. People lost homes and businesses,150 had to be airlifted to safety. Yet, miraculously, only eight casualties were reported and, of these, the worst injury was a broken thumb. An estimated 100mm of rain fell in one hour, making it one of the worst floods in modern UK history.

One of the casualties was the fascinating Museum of Witchcraft, right by the harbour. Over two metres of sewage and water knocked down walls and engulfed the ground floor. Maybe the many charms and good spells it housed watched over it that day because, amazingly, most of the artefacts survived. While renovation took place, books and paintings were sent to museums in Truro and Falmouth to protect them from further damp.

Today, it stands as a unique record of witchcraft through the ages, in all its many forms and manifestations. Aleister Crowley and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn rub shoulders with Baphomet, the Green Man (found in many churches) and Sea Witchcraft. Here is coral, worn to ward off curses and illness while Mermaids' purses, washed up by the sea, were treasured and preserved as symbols of good luck. (They are actually egg sacks possibly containing a baby ray or dogfish).

A copy of Daemonologie - King James I's savage treatise on the evils of witchcraft - is displayed here, along with accounts of the torture and persecution of mostly innocent women that took place over centuries.

Here too are charms, witch's tools, fortune telling and divination, mandrakes and protection magic, including two mummified cats found walled up as a protection against rats and mice and/or evil spirits. As a cat lover, I was relieved to discover that these animals weren't sacrificed or walled up alive!

Then there's Joan, the Wise Woman, reminding us of the true origins of witchcraft. The Museum has created a tableau showing a benevolent old lady, her cat familiar on her lap, waiting for someone to tap on her door in need of her help. Jars and packets of herbs and healing remedies line a nearby wall, the efficacy and use of which would all have been known to someone like her.

This little museum is an education in itself, although for the serious student, there is also an extensive library. Some of the exhibits are quite scary, others quite sexual, so it really isn't suitable for young children, but for everyone else, it's a great experience, to be topped off by a wander down the harbour past the shallow, peaceful river. Hard to imagine how violent it became just nine years ago...

Nearby is the magnificence of Tintagel, steeped in Arthurian legend but, for me, Boscastle with its simple, understated beauty and charm, captivated me and kept me in its warm embrace the whole day.

 For more information, please visit Museum of Witchcraft

To watch footage of the devastating flood:

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Jamaica Inn - Haunt Of Smugglers, Ghosts and Daphne du Maurier

 As you journey through the windswept and desolate Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, it takes little imagination to picture desperate smugglers, carting their illegal booty, ever watchful for any sign of the revenue men. How relieved they must have felt when they caught sight of the welcoming lights of Jamaica Inn. Here they would find sanctuary of a sort...
Jamaica Inn is most famous for inspiring Daphne du Maurier to write one of her most famous novels, about Cornish Wreckers and, if it's atmosphere you seek, you'll find it here aplenty. First built in 1750, the Inn was most probably named in honour of the local landowning Trelawny family, who provided Jamaica with two of its governors during the 18th century. Since then, ownership has changed hands many times, and many of the owners have never lived there. One of the most famous is the writer Alistair Maclean, who bought it for £27,500 in 1964, but only actually stayed there for three days! In 1973, disappointed at the lack of return on his investment, he sold it.

Daphne du Maurier first visited there in 1930. She fell in love both with the Inn and with Cornwall and there is a supposedly true story which may have triggered the story which would become her first bestseller. 

One afternoon, she and a close female friend set off on horseback to cross the Moor to visit an elderly lady. Suddenly, as happens in this area, bad weather closed in. Rain, mist and poor visibility left them hopelessly lost and they took temporary shelter in a derelict cottage. They then decided to try again - this time allowing the horses to go where they pleased, in the hope they would guide them back home. It worked and, tired, soaking wet and cold, they saw the Inn's tall chimneys and knew they were safe. By now, it was dark and the poor landlord was out, looking for them with lanterns. He, of course, knew just how treacherous the Moor can be, after dark, in poor weather.

So, did her frightening experience, coupled with relief at the welcome sight of the Inn provide the seed which eventually blossomed into Jamaic Inn? I would say, it certainly contributed.

But what of the ghosts of Jamaica Inn?

There are a number regularly reported. One of the most famous concerns a stranger, who was drinking his mug of ale at the bar when he was called outside. He left his beer on the counter and was never seen alive again. The next morning, his murdered corpse was found on the moor. No one was ever caught and the stranger's name, murder and identity of his murderer remain a mystery to this day. But in 1911, there were a number of reports in the local press of people seeing a strange man sitting on the wall outside the Inn. He neither spoke, nor moved - but his description was remarkably similar to that of the murder victim.

Over the ensuing years, landlords have reported hearing footsteps tramping back to the bar. Maybe the thirsty stranger returns to finish his drink... 

As for the others: Successive managers have reported hearing voices speaking in a strange tongue. Could they be speaking in Cornish? Some people believe so.

Then there is the sound of horses' hooves and the clunking of metal rimmed coach wheels on the rough cobbles of the courtyard; always heard at night, but when you pull back the curtains to investigate, there's nothing there.

Should you stay overnight and dare to venture outside your room, don't be surprised to see a man in a tricorn hat and cloak disappear through a solid door. 

In Room 5, you may be in for more than the good night's sleep you were expecting. When the lights go out, it can get a little noisy with knocks, bangings, orbs and a strong sense of the presence of someone you haven't invited. Beware when you look in the mirror, you may just find your face has changed!

There's a lot going on at Jamaica Inn and with a Smugglers' Museum containing all manner of ingenious methods of smuggling contraband, and the fascinating Daphne du Maurier Room, I recommend a visit.

You can find out more by visiting Jamaica Inn - website

And, lastly, I couldn't possibly finish without some classic screaming from Yvette Fielding. So here is Most Haunted's investigation of Jamaica Inn: