Friday, 14 July 2017

Mystery Blogger Award

Happy Friday! I've been nominated for a couple of blog awards recently and I thought it would make for a fun post to play along and acknowledge them. It's been a while since these awards were flying all over the blogosphere, but they seem to have made a bit of a comeback lately. I wouldn't ever disregard a nomination because it's a pretty special thing that you've made enough of an impression on someone for them to pick you. To avoid this post becoming overlong, I'll focus on the first award I received and come back for the other one.

This is the Mystery Blogger Award, which comes with a raft of rules.

Rule 1. Put the award/logo image on your blog. Done.

Rule 2. List the rules. I'm on it.

Rule 3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

This award was bestowed on me by self-proclaimed word nerd and incurable Anglophile Laurel Garver. Check her out!

Rule 4. Also mention the creator of the award and provide a link.

The award was created by Okoto Enigma. Enigma? Mystery? Get it?

Rule 5. Tell your readers three things about yourself.

1) When I was a kid our household pets included male and female Australian prickly stick insects, named Harold and Madge after the well loved couple from the classic soap Neighbours. Unfortunately Madge was rather keen on eating her life partner, a behaviour that we had to vociferously discourage.

2) When I was 18 I appeared on a French TV discussion show as part of an exchange programme at college. I managed to get away with saying little or nothing throughout.

3) I'm too polite to send food back in a restaurant. I don't like mushrooms but I once ordered mushroom soup in a cafe and ate it (by swallowing the mushrooms whole). It was my fault for not asking what the soup of the day was.

Rule 6. Nominate other bloggers.

John Davis Frain
Toni @ Wandering and Wondering
Cynthia @ Read is the New Black
Anna @ Deeply Shallow
Ritika @ Indian Screw Up

Rule 7. Nominate those people. I'll get right on it.

Rule 8. Ask your nominees any five questions of your choice, plus one weird or funny question.

1) What made you decide to start blogging?
2) Do you have any schedule for posting or is it spontaneous?
3) Have you ever been in a situation that seemed bad but ended up leading to something positive?
4) Ever given up on reading a book but then gone back to it later?
5) Name one main goal that you want to achieve in the next year.
Funny/weird question: What would be your current protagonist's go-to song in karaoke? If you're not working on a book at the moment, name a song for your favourite book character.

Here's the questions I was asked:

1) What are three things on your "bucket list"?

- Visit the pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt.
- Have a book traditionally published, perhaps via a small press. I don't think this is any better or worse than self-publishing. It's just an experience I want to have.
- Have a go at script writing - a movie or TV series.

2) Which authors have influenced you in terms of genre, style, or theme?

Well, for my current project I'm immersed in the world of dystopia. I didn't know I would write anything like that at the time, but at a young age I read George Orwell's 1984 and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and they made enough of an impression that they're still with me. I would say my new series is heavily influenced by both.

3) What book's milieu (place, time, culture) would you most like to live in?

Not 1984, for sure! I could see myself settling down and enjoying a very quiet life in Hobbiton (Lord of the Rings). As long as I wasn't dragged off on any dangerous quests.

4) What are your favourite writing resources?

Not anything too specific, unless the dictionary and thesaurus count! I would recommend Stephen King's On Writing to anyone just starting out, and it's always good to dip into for a bit of inspiration. Of course, the IWSG website features a whole host of great resources, including lists of publishers and agents, contests, and conferences (plug, plug!)

5) What's the best book you've read recently?

Mark Noce's Between Two Fires is an excellent and atmospheric read, set in 6th century Wales and featuring a strong and feisty female heroine. I don't read much historical fiction, but this makes me want to read more. And I got to read it in hard copy, which is always nice!

Rule 9. Share a link to my blog's best post.

Lessons from Journalism and the Joy of Non-Fiction

I think I shared some good advice here. I would advise everyone to have a go at some non-fiction at some point. Perhaps it will refresh you if you're struggling on the fiction side. It also contains advice that I still need to remember to follow myself!

Before I go, a couple of things to remind you of:

The first IWSG Twitter Pitch Party is in less than two weeks! Get your 140-character pitch sharpened and honed and don't miss your chance to snag an agent or publisher on July 27. Details here.

And you've got until the end of the month to submit to the next anthology which is all about the secrets of writing for profit. You can share what did or didn't work for you. Details here.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

IWSG July 2017

Time for our monthly installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, which allows us writers a place to vent our worries and doubts, with the addition of an optional question. Hosted as ever by Ninja Cap'n Alex J. Cavanaugh, today's co-hosts are Tamara NarayanPat HattPatricia LynneJuneta Key and Doreen McGettigan!

Today's optional question: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

Hmm, this kind of plays into what I've been thinking about over the last couple of days, especially after reading this awesome post yesterday by Sarah Allen. I've got the usual insecurities that come along with releasing a book or any piece of writing into the world, and with my launch coming in September and sending copies out to people in the hopes of getting some positive feedback, it's at that stage where it all feels much more "real".

I'm not naturally very forthcoming, so all of this takes a big effort for me. Asking people to take time to read something I've read - there are all sorts of other ways that time could have been used, surely? Why should people be interested in anything I do? I've always felt like I've just "got away with it" - anything that goes down well must have been a fluke. But I need to stop feeling like that. I need to listen to and trust those who are giving an honest opinion, while benefitting from the insightful advice they offer.

Because deep down, what I've learned since I started writing is that I can achieve things if I stick at them long enough, and I should be proud of that. I put off writing a book for long enough because I didn't think I had the discipline. Now that I've done it, I need to back it up by taking ownership. I want to be a lot of good things - good husband, good father, good writer. I work at them all the time. If I can make a difference to how someone else feels, that's a great achievement - something real.

What lessons have you learned from writing?

You can check out other IWSG posts here. Meanwhile, there's lots going on with the group as it goes from strength to strength. Check out the exciting news below and get involved!

Submissions are open for the anthology The IWSG Guide to Writing for Profit. This will be a non-fiction book like our Guide to Publishing and Beyond.
Word limit: 500-1000 words.
Submission eligibility: All members of the IWSG Blog Hop, IWSG Facebook group and/or members of our IWSG Goodreads Book Club. It’s free to join any of these groups and a great benefit to be a part of these communities.
Deadline: July 31, 2017

A reminder about the upcoming IWSG TWITTER PITCH PARTY IN 3 WEEKS' TIME!

Hashtag #IWSGPit
DATE: July 27, 2017, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern Time
All writers and authors are invited to participate in our very first Twitter Pitch. Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On July 27, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favourite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query. MORE INFO HERE.

And finally we received fantastic news recently that the IWSG website placed 19th in the Writer's Digest Annual 101 Best Websites for Writers! This is a clear recognition that the group is making a difference to the lives and careers of writers, which is all down to its many wonderful contributors. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Goals for July 2017

The start of another month, and time to look back at how I did on my goals from June and look ahead to what's on the agenda for July.

  •  Add 10000 words to WIP by the end of this month.
I was a bit hit-and-miss on this but I did add another 5000 words. On a good note, I hit my stride at the end of the month and I'm hoping to keep up that momentum by adding 20,000 words this month at least.
  • Continue working through CP notes for book 2.
Some. Need to continue this and start coming up with ideas to address significant plot points.
  • Start working on a promotion plan for book 1. This is taking shape, including putting ideas together for a cover, which for the first time I'll be designing myself. I'm hoping this'll be fun!
This went well; I organised a sign-up for my September blog tour and was very pleased by the response. Thanks! I've also contacted book bloggers re sending ARCs and have had some positive responses. This month, I need to start working on guest posts and will be sending ARCs in the next day or so to those who requested them when signing up for the tour. The cover is also nearly finalised and will be revealed on 31st July.

So, I'll be pretty busy. How about you? Any writing or holiday plans? To my American friends, hope you have a great 4th of July tomorrow!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Black & White blog tour signup

Happy Monday everyone! The sun is shining in Scotland and I'm hoping it's going to be a great week for everyone. I spent some of the weekend brainstorming marketing ideas for the release of Black & White, part 1 of my YA dystopian trilogy, and I'm pleased to announce that I've set a release date of 18th September 2017. This will be nearly five years since I started writing this book during NaNoWriMo 2012, so it's been a long haul, but it's finally ready to see the light of day!

As part of my launch celebrations I am planning a two-week blog tour, to end on 30th September, and I would love it if you could help by hosting a post from me (or one of my characters). I've embedded a Google form below to make it easy to respond. As I'm actively seeking readers for ARCs, there's an option to receive one as well as being a tour host, but don't worry if you can't do both. Alternatively, you can let me know in the comments if you can't do the tour but would like an ARC.

In related news, cover design is proceeding apace and I'll be ready to reveal this at some point next month. I'm surprisingly pleased with the results!

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Last God by Jean Davis

Happy Friday everyone! Today I'm helping out blogging friend Jean Davis with the launch of her new book, which releases on Monday. Here's all the details you need to know - it sounds like a really good one.

The General of the Unlata Kai has decreed that the time of her people is over. Jane’s race of god-like beings has caused enough chaos, leaving floundering hybrid races and war-ravaged planets throughout the universe. Kaldara, their home, is about to fulfill her wishes. When the planet goes, it will take her and the last of the Unlata Kai with it.

Logan Klevo sets out with the crew of the Maxim on a mission to warn the leaders of Kaldara of their imminent demise. Their announcement triggers a violent battle between gods. One of them holds knowledge that could restore the Maxim to its full strength. The possibility of a defense against the ruthless army of Matouk that destroyed Logan’s homeworld fills him with something he’s been missing, hope.

Abducting an angry and suicidal god might not be a wise choice, but if the god of war can learn to love they both might discover a future worth living for.


Logan watched in horror as the king left the side of the queen and erupted into a towering being of light.

And then that’s all there was, heat and light. He shielded his face with his arms. Huddling against the wall, he blinked rapidly and waited for the ringing in his ears to subside while he got his bearings.

Beside him, Colonel Rice swore. “What the hell was that?”

Logan had no answers. He could only attest to witnessing the woman he’d seen when they’d entered the massive chamber cover herself in the same golden suit of armor they’d spoken with. Then she grew taller, brighter, glorious. Though his mind reeled with what he’d seen and he was only half certain this wasn’t another one of his nightmares, he hazarded a glance to where the king and queen had been.

The two beings of light exchanged blows of massive proportions. Bombs of energy exploded against their bodies. He couldn’t fathom how either remained standing.

“I’m pretty sure the queen exploded,” he said, knowing how absurd that sounded but having no other explanation.

Everyone else in the room had gone to their knees when the king had stood. The uniformed men that they had followed back here, now had their arms outstretched and their faces plastered to the floor.

While beings of light danced in his vision and bombs exploded against his eardrums, he achieved a single glimpse of clarity. Everyone who had been near the throne was blackened. Dead. Bile rose in this throat.

A thunderous clamor claimed his attention. He tore his gaze from the bodies to see the being of white light, what had been the king, sprawled among the remains of the thrones. He dimmed and then was nothing more than a battered and bloody man. His crown lay at the bottom of the stairs.

A shimmering sheet flowed from the General to hover over him and Rice. The ground beneath them rocked and the walls shook. The ceiling above began to crumble.

The colonel didn’t move. He found he couldn’t move either. He wasn’t easily scared, but he had no idea what was going on here and safety anywhere on this planet was questionable.

Without taking his eyes off the General, he said, “We’ve overstayed. The planet is going to go with us on it.”

“Maybe.” The colonel also stared at the giant golden glowing figure.

Debris thundered down on the sheet above them. A shield of some sort.

Logan prayed their ship wasn’t being crushed where they’d left it with the rest of their team inside. Then he wondered if he should hope that they’d left. He and Rice might not make it back. The shield didn’t look able to stretch that far. In fact, it didn’t even go as far as the archway.

A giant explosion struck the General. For a moment he was blinded again. Another blast of scorching air blew past them, though it seemed the shield protected them somewhat as the heat wasn’t near as intense as the first time.

“Holy shit,” muttered Rice.

The King was gone. Only a large scorch mark on the floor where his body had been. The General lay sprawled on steps, her feet just below the thrones. Her armor missing the golden glow and blackened. Blood dripped down the steps from the seam at her neck where her head was suspended over the edge of one of the stairs. She lay on her back as if she’d been blown over, unable to catch herself.

She was still moving. Slowly, but twitching enough to indicate she wasn’t as bad off as the rest.

“We’ve got to get out of here.”

“Agreed.” Yet, Rice crept forward instead of back the way they’d come.

Following behind, they checked the bodies of the others as they went. All of them had burnt to death. Pain on his own arms registered. He glanced down to find them blistered. Rice’s face and neck was red. He guessed his was too by the tightness that hit him now that the shock had worn off. His clothes were singed.

“Good thing we weren’t any closer,” Rice said, working his way toward the armored woman.

Logan rushed up the stairs. He knelt beside the General, who seemed to have returned to her original size. She weakly pushed him away but said nothing beyond a faint moan.

“Let me help you.”

She pushed at him again. He tugged on the helmet, trying to free her head so he could better assess the damage.

The voice that came from the blackened metal face was a ghost of the powerful voice that she’d used earlier, barely a whisper. “Leave me.”

He pushed her hand aside and felt up the back of the armor, searching for a lever or latch of any sort. There was nothing there but blood. He wiped his hands on his pants. “How do you get this thing off?”

 “You don’t.” Her voice grew slightly stronger. “Now go, I can’t hold the shield much longer.”

Rice crouched down beside them. “You’re coming with us.”

Pre-order sales links:
Amazon / Nook / Kobo  Also now available in Paperback

Release e-book sale price is .99

Author Bio:
Jean Davis lives in West Michigan. When not ruining lives from the comfort of her writing chair, she can be found playing in her garden, enjoying a glass of wine, or lost a good book. Her novels include The Last GodSahmara, and A Broken Race. Hershort fiction has appeared in Theian JournalBards and Sages Quarterly, Acidic Fiction, Tales of The Talisman, The First Line, Allegory, Isotropic Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Brewed Awakenings II Anthology, and The 3288 Review.
Follow her writing adventures at
Special offer:
In celebration of the release of The Last God, Jean is also offering her fantasy novel, Sahmara for .99 for a limited time.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Goals for June 2017

Time to do a roundup of my goals from May and look at what's coming up for June. I'm trying to get back to posting these nearer the start of the month!

  • Add 5000 words to Book 3 of my series. Accomplished this and hit 50000 words; aiming to add 10000 more by the end of this month.
  • Start working through CP notes for book 2. Check. I'll be continuing this in June.
  • Start working on a promotion plan for book 1. This is taking shape, including putting ideas together for a cover, which for the first time I'll be designing myself. I'm hoping this'll be fun!
That's about it for now. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

IWSG June 2017

It's June already, and time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted as ever by Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh. The aim of the group is for writers to support and encourage each other over whatever woes they are experiencing, in a safe and supportive environment. Today's co-hosts are J H MoncrieffMadeline Mora-SummonteJen ChandlerMegan Morgan and Heather Gardner.

So, as with every month, we have an optional question to answer and this month it is "Did you ever say 'I quit'? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?"

OK, this might be a corny answer, but without this online community being here I probably wouldn't still be writing. I spent two and a half years writing my first book - something that I poured my heart and soul into but without really having any idea what I was doing. I hadn't yet realised the importance of showing my work to other people and gaining those insights and advice that would lift it into something much greater. A family member arranged for an editor in London to have a look at it and it took a year for the feedback to come back - when it did, it was less than favourable. At this stage, I'd never heard the terms "critique partner" or "beta reader", let alone understand their significance to the overall process. Although I did get a few short stories published in the year before starting my blog, I wasn't sure if I would ever try writing another book - after the monumental amount of time and effort that went into it, it seemed it wasn't up to standard in the eyes of the industry. Of course, with hindsight and the knowledge I've absorbed during my time spent blogging I know there were many problems with that book and I was also incredibly naive to believe I could break through with my first effort after getting no outside eyes to point out the issues with the structure, voice, characterisation, pacing...

So yeah. If this community and its wonderful and knowledgeable inhabitants weren't here, it's doubtful I would still have the same large-scale ambitions or be pursuing them at all. Here's to all of you!

As to insecurities this month - I'm not doing so bad. Due to a range of issues I haven't had as much time as I would have liked over the past few weeks, but things are coming under control and I should get much more done in the remainder of this month. I'll do a recap of my May goals and post those for June in a couple of days. Don't forget to check out the other IWSG participants here!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Snowman blog tour

It’s a pleasure to be participating in author Yolanda Renée’s THE SNOWMAN Blog Tour through MC Book Tours today.

This is a prequel to the author’s Detective Steven Quaid Mysteries. This story tells of Steven's first case as a rookie detective. It takes place 10 years before the events in MURDER, MADNESS & LOVE, the first book in the series.

The author is offering a tour-wide giveaway featuring both print and eBook copies from her series. More information on the giveaway is listed below.


◊ by Yolanda Renée
◊ Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
◊ Publisher: TRACE Enterprises
◊ Series: Detective Quaid Mystery
◊ Novella
◊ Print & eBooks
◊ Contains explicit sex & violence

It takes a true artist to pursue his victims in the art of seduction, and Stowy Jenkins is no exception, especially with blood as his medium.

          Stowy Jenkins, aka, Stone, and as Alaskans refer to him, the Snowman, is a true artist. His muse, Gigi, is the ultimate inspiration for his painting. Her rejection inspires him to use a very unusual medium…blood.
          While art may be his passion, the taste for blood is his obsession, and multiple murders, the result.
          Rookie, Detective Steven Quaid, is no fan of the Snowman’s murderous exhibitions. A twisted and deadly relationship bond the two men and neither knows who will come out of it alive.

I also got to ask Yolanda a couple of questions:
1.   Where did the idea come from for this book?
When writing the first book in the series, Murder, Madness & Love, I introduced Detective Steven Quaid to the readers, through a discussion of his first case, The Snowman, and how his reputation had been formed when he solved that mystery. In the second book, Memories of Murder I mentioned the case again and how Steven was bothered by the fact that it had been the case that made his reputation. He felt that it wasn’t deserved and that his native background and rookie status had been used as a public relations ploy.
Those factors all played into the story I told in the prequel, The Snowman. I felt I had to stay true to the initial and yet very short explanation of Detective Quaid’s first case that I’d made in those first two novels.

2.  How much research goes into a story like this?
    Quite a bit, I’ve researched such items as the names of clubs, restaurants and bars, (I was told by an editor the more real names you use the better). From bow hunting moose to the codes police use to communicate via radio. I research locations for accurate descriptive terms, even though I lived in Anchorage, it’s been a few years and I know things change. For The Snowman, I researched the trees Stowy used as body dump markers, the Hemlock tree. For instance, the Hemlock, three different varieties are native to Alaska, but only grow so far north. I had to make sure that tree would grow in the area Stowy used as his dumping ground.
        I researched major details, such as the real serial killer Hansen, but also minor details, so I use the correct wording in descriptions. And I always check for the right sunrise and sunset times especially in a city that boasts a midnight sun! I enjoy research, and try to make my stories are real as possible even though the story line is pure fiction. (Each hyperlinked word goes to a research site that I’ve used.)

At one time Alaska called to me, and I answered. I learned to sleep under the midnight sun, survive in below zero temperatures, and hike the Mountain Ranges. I've traveled from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, and the memories are some of my most valued. The wonders, mysteries and incredible beauty that is Alaska has never left me and thus now influence my writing.

Despite my adventurous spirit, I achieved my educational goals, married, and I have two handsome sons. Writing is now my focus, my newest adventure!

You can connect with me here:
Blog    *     Facebook     *     Twitter     *     Pinterest     *     Email

The other books in the Detective Quaid Series include:

          A killer plays cat and mouse with a young widow against the snowy backdrop of an Alaskan winter. Branded a black widow after the suspicious death of her millionaire husband, Sarah Palmer flees Seattle for Anchorage. However, the peace and quiet she hoped to enjoy in her hometown is soon shattered. A killer is murdering Sarah look-alikes on the 14th of each month, taunting Sarah with a valentine of evidence. After her experiences in Seattle, Sarah is slow to go to the police. When she finally does, she finds Detective Steven Quaid—Anchorage P D’s hotshot investigator—has not only heard the rumors, he believes them. Worse, her aloofness and composure only confirm his suspicions. Is Sarah a victim or a very skilled manipulator?

World damnation is a psychotic man’s goal, but two obstacles stand in his way, greed and a dedicated detective.
Catching Alaska’s most notorious serial killer as a rookie made Detective Steven Quaid a hero, but falling in love with the victim of his last case tarnishes that status. While attempting to repair both his personal and professional life, he stumbles upon an unusual case–and an even more extraordinary foe: a man who believes he is Lucifer. An insidious man who delivers Quaid the ultimate choice: save his fiancée from an assassin’s bullet or stop the sacrifice of a young girl.

Flames burn between a hardboiled cop and a gifted artist, but soon extinguish as another man’s obsession ignites into an inferno of desire, driving him to destroy the object of his madness.
Detective Steven Quaid is ready for new challenges as Anchorage's top detective, but not until he marries the woman of his dreams on New Year's Eve. Determined to give Sarah the wilderness honeymoon she desires, he turns his grandfather's cabin into the perfect honeymoon retreat. After the final details are complete, Steven treks into the mountains to hunt. On his return to the cottage, instead of Sarah, he is greeted by several police officers and a bloody crime scene. Accusations fly, and Stephen flees into the wilderness, his heart racing and thoughts etching into his soul. The wilderness is unforgiving, but Steven faces it head on: Caught between a massive grizzly and a black bear in a deadly tug of war, he is barely saved from death's door by the fortuitous appearance of his uncle. Despite surviving multiple injuries, Steven continues his investigation as he recovers, but answers don't come quick or easy. Having enlisted the aid of his number one suspect, Steven faces a struggle that has become more than personal. This one just may cost him his heart.

You can find out more about the books and the author by following the tour HERE. You can also include your chances of winning in the giveaway.

This tour-wide giveaway features both print and eBook copies of the four books in the Detective Quaid Series. The giveaway will end at 12 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday, June 6.

The prizes include:

* Grand prize - Winner receives a print copy of all four books in the Detective Quaid Series (U.S. and Canada only).
* First place - Winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate.
* Second place - Winner will receive eBook copies of all four books in the Detective Quaid Series.
* There will be 3 runner-up winners and each will win an eBook copy of THE SNOWMAN or one of the other books in the series (winner's choice).

To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. If the widget doesn’t show up, just click HERE and you’ll be directed to the widget.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to follow Yolanda on her month-long tour. You never know what you might find out.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 22 May 2017

Hero Lost blog tour - guest post by Sean McLachlan

Today, I'm delighted to take part in the blog tour for the IWSG's latest anthology with a guest post from contributing author Sean McLachlan. I'm especially intrigued by this story as it features some old folklore that I've never heard of before.

The Witch Bottle

Hello everyone! I’m Sean McLachlan. I write fiction and nonfiction full time and recently had the honor of being in the Hero Lost anthology put out by Dancing Lemur Press. My story is called “The Witch Bottle” and is based on an actual bit of folk magic from England.

If someone thought they were being bewitched, they summoned one of the cunning folk to create a witch bottle. This bottle was filled with the victim’s urine along with bent nails, pins, fingernail trimmings, belly button fluff, hair, thorns, and similar items. The body parts would attract the witch, the thorny items would injure the witch, and the bottle would trap the witch.

The bottle could then be heated over the fire to boil the witch, or buried in some spot such as beneath the threshold or in a hedge or graveyard to catch the evil spell caster.

Archaeologists were fortunate to discover an intact witch bottle dating from the 17th century during an excavation in Greenwich in 2004 and analyzed its contents. It had been placed upside down in a pit. Various forms of inversion were often used in warding spells, such as the old custom of turning your coat inside out when passing a fairy mound. The bottle contained urine, bent nails and pins, fingernail clippings, naval fluff, hair, and a nail piercing a piece of leather in the shape of a heart. Interestingly, when the urine was analyzed it showed that the person had been a smoker. Tobacco was still quite expensive in the 17th century. That and the fact that the fingernails were those of someone who didn’t do manual labor shows the elite also believed in this sort of magic.

Witch bottles are first recorded in the 17th century and lasted in rural areas of England and Scotland well into the 20th century. Witch bottles were even made in former colonies such as Canada, the U.S., and Australia. Now, like so much of rural folk culture, the practice of making witch bottles has been forgotten.

strange silvery witch bottle was collected from a Sussex village in 1915 by the
famous historian of witchcraft Margaret Murray. It is on display at the
Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford. The witch is apparently still inside and the woman
who gave it to Murray warned that it should never be unstoppered or “there’ll
be a peck o’ trouble.” Photo copyright Sean McLachlan.

The earliest and most common type of bottle used for witch bottles are the so-called Bellarmine jugs from Germany from the 17th century. They sported a distinctive “wild man” face that probably added to their mystic appeal. This one is broken. Perhaps it was used in a spell? Strangely, witch bottles have never been found in Germany, only in England, Scotland, and the British colonies. This bottle is on display at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Photo copyright Sean McLachlan.

Sean McLachlan writes fiction and nonfiction under his own name and also works as a professional ghostwriter. Learn more about him at his blog and Amazon page. His post-apocalyptic story The Scavenger is free on Amazon through May 22.

Hero Lost
Mysteries of Death and Life
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die?
Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering
become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever
the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured
hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and
thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay,
Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth
Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and
Sarah Foster.

Hand-picked by a panel of
agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes
who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Marked Beauty cover reveal

Title: Marked Beauty

Author: S.A. Larsen

Publisher: Ellysian Press

Release Date: October 2017

Uncovering hidden secrets can sometimes kill you . . . or worse, steal your soul.

Anastasia Tate has a secret. She can feel the emotions of others through their life energy auras. Not a welcome gift for a teenager. Especially when a sinister presence begins stalking her.

Viktor Castle also has a secret. He’s tasked with protecting humanity yet cursed by an ancient evil to destroy it.

After Viktor saves Ana’s life, her abilities grow stronger. Drawn together, she senses Viktor has answers to lifelong questions. Only he shuns her at every turn, knowing he has saved her only to put her in more danger.

As Ana struggles with her attraction to Viktor, he tries everything to bury his unexpected feelings for her. But they must find a middle ground. For only together can they combat the dark forces threatening both their lives . . . and their souls.


About the Author

S.A. LARSEN is the author of the award-winning novel Motley Education, the first book in a fantasy-adventure series for middle grade readers. Her work has appeared in numerous local publications and young adult anthologies Gears of Brass and Under A Brass Moon by Curiosity Quills Press. Marked Beauty is her debut young adult novel. Find her in the land of snowy winters and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty-five years, four children, a playful pooch, and three kittens. Visit her cyber home anytime at

Connect with her on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Blog | Goodreads


This is a #hashtag giveaway, where two lucky winners will receive a FREE eBook of Marked Beauty upon its release.

To participate:

  • Share one of the premade images via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Or write up a blog post using one of the images.
  • Include #MarkedBeauty in your description.
  • Optional for extra entry: include Add to Goodreads (with link) in your description.

***Posts MUST contain the hashtag #MarkedBeauty for entry into the giveaway or we won’t be able to find you.

Pre-made tweets (you add the image)

"A lust 4 life energy. An ancient curse. One soul's journey thru death 2 find the cure." #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal

"Uncovering some secrets can kill you, or worse ... steal your soul." #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal #YAlit

An ancient race. A timid girl. And a journey to the in-between. #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal #YAlit

The giveaway begins May 17th and will be open until May 23rd. Winners will be announced May 24th via social media.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Goals for May 2017

I know we're already halfway through the month, but better late than never when it comes to goals, eh? As well as taking a bit of down time after the A-Z Challenge, I've been dealing with a situation over the last two or three weeks. Hopefully it's under control now and I can turn my attention back to some writing and editing goals.

So, here we go...

  • Continue writing the ending for the final book in the Black & White trilogy.
It feels like this has been going on for the longest time, especially after not doing any writing during April, but I hope to get closer to the end this month. 5000 words at a minimum.

  • Go through CP notes for part two of the trilogy.
Yes, thanks to my lovely CPs I now have a full set of notes with aspects for improvement. One particularly large plot point needs to be reassessed, so I need to give this due consideration.

  • Start putting together a marketing plan for the release of part one.
Hoping for a release in late summer or autumn, so I need to start drawing up plans for a blog tour, advertising, and other aspects, as well as sourcing cover art.

In other news - I'm delighted (and somewhat flabbergasted) to have been invited to become the newest member of the IWSG admin team, so another goal is to familiarise myself with my duties! Can't wait to get stuck in!

Do you have any mid-month goals?

Monday, 8 May 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017: Reflections

Yes, it's time to think back on the merry month of April and reflect on another A-Z Challenge. This was my fourth year taking part, and this challenge felt different to me for a variety of reasons. I'll get more into those below, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The main thing that comes to mind when I think about this Challenge is "quality over quantity". Not that there weren't vast swathes of quality participants in previous years, but it seemed pretty definite that there were less signups this year - the old linky list was hitting over 2000 but there only seemed to be around 300 daily comments on each Challenge blog post. Now of course, we have to account for the fact that many of those 2000 would drop off throughout the month, and that more than 300 might have been participating but just not leaving their daily comment (in which case, it would be that much harder to find them). Even so, this year felt more cosy. Manageable. Petite, perhaps. I felt like I had time to really take in what each person was saying and leave a considered response, rather than skim reading in a frantic effort to get to as many posts as possible. And this isn't to say I was short of people to meet during the Challenge. On the contrary, I met some wonderful writers who broadened my mind with amazing facts, made me laugh with some whacked-out stories, moved me with stunning poetry or inspired me with some uplifting quotes. I hope to nurture these connections by getting to know these people even better over the coming months and years, and in the end that's worth much more than just hitting high numbers of posts with one-off comments. I'll give a shout out to some of my favourite themes below.

Other thoughts: While I am very happy with how the Challenge went, I'm not entirely sold on the daily linkup list yet. I think it made it harder to meet more people as I kept running up against the same ones every day. With the old list, you could just keep working your way down, and although there would be many that had stopped taking part, you just closed that blog and moved on to the next. I definitely didn't manage to meet five new people every day, but as outlined above, that didn't take too much away from the experience. At the moment, I'm not sure what the best way forward is, but I realise that maintaining the giant list places too great a burden on the Challenge hosts.

Another thing is that perhaps if you comment too late on the daily post, less people are likely to see your link. Each post seemed to go up the day before that for the letter concerned, and I noticed a lot of participants doing this too; was this to post their link as early as possible? I tried to stick to posting at 5am GMT on each day, but I was often later than this; that was entirely my fault though, as I didn't have all the posts prewritten ahead of time. In fact, for the final week they were done on the fly. Definitely an area of improvement for next year!

In terms of commenting issues, I didn't notice anything too bad. Captcha seems to pretty much have been stamped out. The only thing I noticed were some comment systems were linked to Facebook and required you to respond to an email for the address you sign in to Facebook with. Unfortunately for me, that's my old address, which I don't check any more. Again, that's a failing on my part for not updating things, but I still think having to go and check your emails before being able to leave a comment is unreasonable.

Okay, I think that's my main thoughts dealt with. I didn't mean for this to get so long! Now it's time to give some props to some of my favourite bloggers and themes. Some were new to me, others I'd met before. Inevitably I'm going to forget some people, for which I apologise in advance. Some I might not even have got to that many posts - I suffered some issues towards the end of the month that affected my participation slightly, but I'm getting back on track now - but I enjoyed what I read all the same.

Megan Morgan - 26 Things to Hate about Writing. A brilliantly funny theme, lambasting all the pitfalls of being a writer in a deliciously sarcastic manner.
Debbie D, the Doglady's Den - Musical Memories. Just what it says, some of the author's enduring memories and the musical moments that soundtracked those times. Funny and sometimes poignant.
Shalini, Kohl-Eyed Me - Travel experiences in Thailand. Stories and advice about visiting this wonderful country. I've only spent five days in Bangkok and now I want to experience much more.
Nilanjana Bose, Madly-in-Verse - Brilliantly informative posts about Arabic culture, soundtracked by some excellent music. I felt educated by every post I read.
Pamela and Ken's Days of Fun - A tour around the Highlands of Scotland from a couple who moved there last year. They've packed a lot in already and collated some great posts about the quirky sights and experiences to be found in this beautiful region.
Debbie, My Random Musings - Motivational quotes for each day of April.
John Davis Frain - One of the most brilliant themes out there, the author got killed by an outlandish method corresponding to each letter before being resurrected for another unfortunate demise the next day. Just sorry I didn't get to more posts.
A Tarkabarka Holgy, The Multicolored Diary - Weird Things in Folktales. Bizarre and often grisly tales from around the world.
Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles - Dragon Diaries. A dragon for each letter of the alphabet. Some great flash fiction and characters.
Carrie-Anne, Onomastics Outside the Box - A walk through some of the weird and wonderful characters from (mostly) Greek mythology.
Anna Tan, Deeply Shallow - Cute and whimsical stories about the misadventures of various princesses.
True North Bricks - Of course I was going to follow a theme about Lego. Pure fun.
Rae Squiggle, The Quiet Writer - Very educational theme about Britain's abbeys and cathedrals.
C.D. Gallant-King, Stories I Found in the Closet - The surprisingly weird history of Canada.
Anmol Rawat - Delightfully creepy flash fiction. Again, I'm sorry I didn't get to more of these.
Click's Clan - Touching and often funny letters to the author's frozen embryos.
Darla M. Sands - Excellent musical selections.
Patricia Lynne - Flash fiction based on unusual words.
Keith's Ramblings - An entertaining introduction to the eccentric residents of the village of Amble Bay.

All in all, I really enjoyed taking part this year, and I'm already getting ready for 2018. How about you? Did you take part and, if not, would you consider doing so next year?

More Reflections posts can be found here.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

IWSG May 2017

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and of course that means it's time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group! The group was started by Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh with the aim of offering a safe haven where writers can talk about their doubts and insecurities and offer encouragement to others. Today's co-hosts are Nancy GideonTamara NarayanLiesbet @ Roaming AboutMichelle Wallace and Feather Stone!

Today's optional IWSG question is "What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?"

This is a great question! All stories require research to a certain extent; even if speculative, it is often based on aspects of the real world. As writers, we can be led down by some pretty strange and intriguing avenues. Neurology was a key part of my novella A Change of Mind, in which an introverted man undergoes brain surgery to make him more confident. Of course, such procedures aren't actually available (and hopefully they won't be!), but I still had to research the parts of the brain that control our emotions, reactions and personalities. Really informative stuff.

I'm sure there's more, but that's the one that springs to mind (pardon the pun...)

In terms of insecurities, I'm doing pretty well. I thoroughly enjoyed the A-Z Challenge this year and was pleased to get a great response to the snippets from my forthcoming trilogy. Now I'm going to gear up for the release of the first book, looking at cover art, tour schedules, and everything that comes along with it. Nerve-racking, for sure, but hopefully in a good way. I'm going to try and enjoy it!

What are your insecurities this month? Have you joined the IWSG yet? Check out more posts here.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Z is for Zimpano

Welcome to Day 26 of the A-Z Challenge 2017. Can you believe it's over? Hope everyone had a blast! This month I've been sharing my "Black & White Snippets" - snapshots of some of the characters, places and concepts that populate my forthcoming YA dystopian trilogy, Black & White. There won't be a lot of details or spoilers - just short scenes and vignettes that give you a hint of the world I've created. Today, it's Z for Zimpano.

Zimpano was excited about the prospect of a whole new life in the other country. Although things had improved here no end, his eyes had been opened to the possibilities of what lay outside Loretania’s borders.

The problem would be in convincing his best friend, Pettifer, to come with him. Inseparable since they were little mites rolling in the dirt, they’d both been cured of the crippling disease that had plagued their land and had been given another shot at life. However, there was a complication. Pettifer had run an errand to his uncle’s house in the neighbouring village – there were a lot more comings and goings now the land was disease-free – and fallen head over heels with his cousin. A nice enough girl, but now he spent most of his time over there, and when he did come back she was all he talked about. And she wasn’t for leaving.

Zimpano had made up his mind: today was the day he was going to talk Pettifer into coming to Harmonia. If it meant the girl tagging along as well, so be it. He just hoped he could stomach it if she did.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Y is for Your Lordship

Welcome to Day 25 of the A-Z Challenge 2017. This month I'm sharing my "Black & White Snippets" - snapshots of some of the characters, places and concepts that populate my forthcoming YA dystopian trilogy, Black & White. There won't be a lot of details or spoilers - just short scenes and vignettes that give you a hint of the world I've created. Today, it's Y for Your Lordship.

“Just... gone?” said Lord Histender, the protruding veins on his forehead seeming to provide a physical map of his anger. “How is that possible? What about their tracking chips?”

“There’s no trace of them, Your Lordship,” said Dontible, legs apart and hands behind his back, focusing on his usual spot on the wall behind Histender’s head, his expression unreadable. “Gone completely offline.”

“That has never happened, Dontible.” Histender’s voice was so quiet as to be almost inaudible. “You must be aware that, realistically, there is only one thing this can mean. And it is disaster for this government.” He rested his fists on the desk, clenching them so tightly that the knuckles were the same colour as nearly everything else in the room – and in the country.

Dontible nodded. “Yes, Your Lordship.” There was no need for either of them to say it.

Friday, 28 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - X is for eXaminer Tharl

Welcome to Day 24 of the A-Z Challenge 2017. This month I'm sharing my "Black & White Snippets" - snapshots of some of the characters, places and concepts that populate my forthcoming YA dystopian trilogy, Black & White. There won't be a lot of details or spoilers - just short scenes and vignettes that give you a hint of the world I've created. Today, it's X for eXaminer Tharl. Okay, I stretched things a little.

Examiner Tharl’s services hadn’t been called upon for a long time. He was kept on as a retainer by the government, and his job was to re-educate people so that they saw things more clearly.

His last case had been a while ago. People tended to accept the status quo, especially after a select few had not returned from the Centre. But this boy… he was stubborn, Tharl had to give him that. He constantly countered Tharl’s officially sanctioned version of events with the things he claimed to have seen. What did he have to gain from it? To help someone out who should have meant nothing to him?

Tharl cracked his knuckles and checked the time on his pad. Almost time for Round 4.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - W is for Wellesbury

Welcome to Day 23 of the A-Z Challenge 2017. This month I'm sharing my "Black & White Snippets" - snapshots of some of the characters, places and concepts that populate my forthcoming YA dystopian trilogy, Black & White. There won't be a lot of details or spoilers - just short scenes and vignettes that give you a hint of the world I've created. Today, it's W for Wellesbury.

Wellesbury Noon. Ordinary name, ordinary kid. Well, maybe not that ordinary. He was captain of the school gravball team after all. But he’d be the last one to make a big deal about it. No, he just got on with it like everyone else – doing his studies (everyone was guaranteed a pass in the exams, but doing extra bits of work gave you bonus points that helped you later), sitting and eating his synthesised dinner with his parents while they discussed their day (which was invariably the same), going to practice and goofing off with the guys…

All very well, and he didn’t have any complaints about his life. So why did he have the feeling there was something more, something he was missing?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - V is for Vapourise

Welcome to Day 22 of the A-Z Challenge 2017. This month I'm sharing my "Black & White Snippets" - snapshots of some of the characters, places and concepts that populate my forthcoming YA dystopian trilogy, Black & White. There won't be a lot of details or spoilers - just short scenes and vignettes that give you a hint of the world I've created. Today, it's V for Vapourise.

In Harmonia, things were neat and tidy to a fault, which was helped by several key scientific breakthroughs. One of those of which the people were most proud was the vapourising technology that dealt with messy and extraneous bodily products. Tears vanished before they hit the ground. People could blow their noses with the same handkerchief an endless number of times, while it remained spotless. General health and sanitation was vastly improved by the toilet vapourisers, which did a great job at taking care of business. Finally – and best of all – once citizens reached the end of a long and happy life, their remains conveniently vapourised upon expiry, leaving nothing but pleasant memories in the minds of their loved ones. After all, a dead body was terribly unhygienic.