Monday 27 October 2014

Book Review #30: Revenge of the Knights Templar by Adriana Girolami


 A tale of swords and superstitions, of passion and deception, of political machinations and posturing, Revenge of the Knights Templar is an exceptional debut novel by talented author Adriana Girolami.

This story has been on my to read list for most of 2014. Now, that I have finally completed reading it, I can say that the wait was worth it.

The ability of an author to transport the reader to a different time and place, and do it convincingly, is a task that perhaps only the most seasoned of authors would attempt. So it makes this story all the more remarkable that it sets itself up brilliantly, with the kind of prose I wish I could use in my writing.

After the initial few chapters, where most if not all of the main characters are introduced, the pace picks up and doesn't let go. In fact, I had to stop myself from finishing the novel too quickly.

It is a thoroughly entertaining and thrilling read, set in the 1480s where, as always, who ever wields power can do so with a silken rose or an iron fist.

Our heroine, Polyxena, is destined to become a duchess, but not in the way she envisaged. Her love, the Duke Arsenio is brutally cast aside in a battle of wills and swords, seeing the repugnant Duke of Saxe-Hanover seizing power, with Polyxena, seemingly hapless to play anything but the dutiful wife.

Things can't go on like this forever, and with the tyrant becoming ever more tyrannical (as they do!) the evil Duke begins to make mistakes...the biggest of which seem his superstitions. The fate of one cat in the story was a pivotal moment for me.

Polyxena, as befits a great heroine, is anything but a housemaid and often voices her displeasure at the Duke's actions - especially with his joy at the arrangement of so many executions of his enemies. Polyxena, understandably, is horrified. One of the condemned is her new love, Duccio.

The story has a great premise, but actually backs this up with superb execution. The characters are believeable, you feel hatred for the evil Duke, love and hope for the beautiful and intelligent Polyxena. I even found my distaste of Flavia coming around to better thoughts later on. Such is this beautifully woven tale.

The cover, though stunning, should not hide the fact that the sword fights are realistic in their description, and Miss Girolami places you as if you wielded the sword yourself! I was truly swept into the action of this story, which I will say is as well written as any part of the Lord of the Rings.

The author's wordcraft is exciting and perfectly describes each scene. The characters are superbly drawn, and the detail of her vision leaves nothing to chance. You, dear reader, are transported to 1480s Europe, and can do nothing about it!

This story is a historical epic, a romance, a thriller, a mystery and is full of great lines, written beautifully and without any hint of pretence.

It's not without humour, with great lines such as:

"The erotic spectacle stimulated the drunken crowd, who quickly joined the royal pair in a sexually driven bacchanal. An orgiastic took over the room while everybody rubbed and caressed anything that wasn't theirs."

And stark, great authoritarian lines such as:-

"A river of blood will cleanse you of audacity!"


"It's easy to learn cruelty when you live with evil."

Truly, I can't wait to read this book again. It's been by far one of my favourite reads of 2014, and one can only wait for Miss Girolami's next book. As for Revenge of the Knights Templar, I thoroughly recommend you read it. Now. 

Friday 17 October 2014

Book Review #29: Mine 2 by J. Kahele


You know the often quoted saying, especially in movies, where people say that a follow-up or sequel can never match the original?

That's true. But authors wouldn't write a follow up unless they could beat it. In Mine 2, I believe author J. Kahele has achieved this improbable feat.

Mine 1 was a brutal read, about a woman suffering severe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her Senator husband, Ben Kramer.

Jenna Kramer is a character I could feel great sympathy for. A common riposte from people about women who stay with the men who hit them is 'why doesn't she leave him?'

And whilst I agree with that, unless I was in the horrific situation Jenna finds herself in, how could I know what I would say, how I would react, what would I do?

It's clear Ben Kramer is a brutal man with few, if any, redeeming qualities. Does this make him sound one-dimensional? No, because if he was, you could predict his next move. You can't. This is masterful story telling.

That said, like Mine 1, this is not an easy read. It is not a book to make you smile. It is not for the faint of heart, because the violence is graphic, very hard-hitting, and relentless.

With so many horrors happening in the world, why read this book?

Well..if you want an utterly compelling story with a thrilling narrative and a woman who you really feel for and want her to come through Mine, then read Mine 2.

The antagonist, Ben Kramer, doesn't love Jenna. He controls her. As I reviewed in Mine 1, she cannot even wear blue jeans because it displeases Ben.

And when Ben is displeased, boy, does he show it.

Fortunately, Jenna is not alone, and she has a new love, Andrew Carington, who really does love Jenna, but when I was reading some of his actions, I found myself shocked.

Can I, as a male, tell you honestly that a woman I have been in love with has never annoyed me, to the point that her words and actions have enraged me?

Of course I cannot say that. But I can say that my discipline means there is a line I would not cross. But there are many men that do, and the women on the end of their cruelty stay with them.

I have taught women martial arts who have previously suffered from abuse from men in their lives. I have heard real horror stories from them, the details of which turned my stomach and made me ashamed that I was the same gender as these torturers.

There is no circumstance in which a man should hit a woman. I don't care what it is. There is nothing that can justify that.

With reference to the book, this is a book everyone should read and they will enjoy it. The author, J. Kahele, is a truly talented writer and I believe she is going to go far.

Here is a lady author who has not gone down the route of 'sex for sex' sake' in her writing. That may be the hot topic right now, but for my own part, I want to read intelligent writing. And it is here in abundance.

Does Jenna find happiness? Is Andrew the answer? Does Ben mend his ways and win Jenna back, or does he get his comeuppance?

The last line of Mine 2 is automatically one of my all-time favourites!

So many haunting lines that just hit you where it hurts, such as:-

"Abusers are not merely low-paid, uneducated alcoholics, like society would like us to believe. They are from all different positions in society; an abuser can be just about anyone, from a factory worker to a senator."

All true. Wearing a suit does not necessarily make me more civilised!

The answers to the questions above are within this fantastic book, arguably my favourite book of 2014. This is such a hard thing to say, amongst so many great titles, but I love this book. I felt all of Jenna's pain, all of Andrew's rage, and I understood his position too (for the most part!) - and I could not stop reading.

The last book I read this fast was the superlative Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. That's how good this is.

Take a bow, J. Kahele. You have won a new fan.

Monday 13 October 2014

Book Review #28: Mine by J. Kahele


Once in a while, a true edge-of-the-seat (or in this case, page) thriller entertains and enthralls us.

Mine tells us the tale of Jenna Kramer, who comes into contact with handsome attorney Andrew Carington. All well and good, you may say. But Jenna is married. Not only that, she is married to Ben, a Senator. Not only that, Ben is a possessive nutjob, I'm thinking his mother could be Annie Wilkes from Misery.

Mine is a brutal examination of how people can be controlled in relationships. Of course there are things we will do that our partner / spouse will not like. But in Jenna's case, she finds herself eating a wall because she chose to wear blue jeans. Something with Ben doesn't like. He doesn't like this at all.

In fact, when the first assault from Ben happens, it is truly shocking. And the way he follows it up with an 'I Love You' makes it all the more worse.

I have had Mine on my to read list for a while. It's such a pleasure to read a truly thrilling novel, where the author uses great prose to draw us into this world.

You root for Jenna, that's a given, but really, no-one should have to go through what she goes through in this book.

Even more pleasing is the knowledge that a second book in the series exists.

Make sure you read Mine, because I was reminded of Fatal Attraction, Jagged Edge, Stepfather...and similar thrillers of this ilk. Ben could be in any of these kind of films...he is a guy you love to hate. But is down to the author's talent as a writer that this Ben is so utterly chilling.

I find myself still thinking about the book, even though I have read it, and would re-read it!

So buy Mine, and enjoy. You may not look at your relationship in the same way again!

Sunday 12 October 2014

Book Review #27: Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley


Jennifer Ashley is best known for her romance novels, but she writes paranormal on occasion too. This book was recommended to me so I purchased it. This review is for the paperback edition.

I'll sometimes lend my books out. In my mum's case, I'm trying to broaden her reading beyond Catherine Cookson, Maeve Binchy and Danielle Steele. So I lend her the occasional book.

A good thing I read this first then - from the first few pages the rating could be considered as extremely hot, and not the kind of book to lend to Mum!

So this review is based on the second book in the series, and is my first JA read.

Isabella is a strong, independent young woman, and doesn't give in to the affections from men easily. However, in this book, it seems she will wilt in the end, although I won't spoil the ending! 

The book could be considered a Highland romance, as our 'hero' paints whilst wearing a kilt. Fair enough!

It also means he can get his clothes off more quickly, which, if Isabella is as hot as we are led to believe, I'd probably be going for her too!

I like the descriptions of England, which are extremely well done, you really feel like you are there. I suppose it must be hard for American authors to write with true authenticity if they haven't been to the country they write about. But her descriptions are so vivid that the author must have been here.

The ending was actually rather unpredictable. And it's that thought I'll leave you with. Jennifer Ashley has sold tonnes of books, so she must be doing something right. It's an enjoyable romance that has lots of intensity, which puts it above many of its peers, but lack just that bit extra to make it awesome.

A very good read, nonetheless!

Saturday 11 October 2014

Weekend Writing Workshop #2: My Tips for Writing and Getting That Book Written - Part Two

If you missed the first of my Weekend Writing Workshop tips, then check out this link:- Tips #1

This week, I continue my tips. Whichever ones work for you, build them into your routine, and you will achieve great success! This is what I am wishing for you, and for all of us.

6. Lack of self-belief is your biggest enemy.

There you are, with a great sounding idea in your head. You start writing. Maybe you've already done the synopsis, or you haven't. Maybe you have the story in your head, and just want to get going without fully thinking it through.

But you must start somewhere. There are countless websites and books that will say 'oh you should do this - I did and I sold xxx amount of books'  and others will say 'oh you should do this' completely contradicting the other website.

Ignore them, because whilst you view the pros and cons, you are not writing.

But I digress. Procrastination is a killer of most things, but you need to believe in yourself if you are to get the book written (even if it is a book about self-belief!!).

Family may or may not support you in this venture. Same goes for friends - on and off line.

Writing is a lonely process. But if you have something to say, and you think it could be better served outside of blogging, then get the book done. Believe in yourself. Let no-one say to you 'you can't' when you can. Let no-one affect your goal. Otherwise you, who believes you have a book in you, will never get it done.

It's the fear of the thing, not the actual thing, that is scary - am I right?

Yes. I fear that terrible review. I fear the sales hitting the floor. Or worse - I fear not being able to write something good - something that I can believe in.

You may be thinking - 'but who would really want to read my story?' Well, let me say this - Hollywood pumps billions into making, producing and distributing low brain - high octane action movies (yes, Jason Statham, I am talking about you!) and it's has an audience. Not every movie has to be The Piano or Schlinder's List. I enjoy action movies. I love the stupidity of some of them. But they make money - because the studio believes it will.

The point is, even the worst ones make money. You can make money from your writing enterprise but you know - or may not know, the full extent of the amount of work you are going to have to put in.

But you can perhaps only put out trash once. Reviewers can be very unforgiving, and friends may get bored of you if you have 'yet another book' coming out. Not always the case, but you must push on nonetheless.

Why? Because you are a writer. You have a story to tell. Believe in it and yourself, and there is nothing you cannot achieve.

7. Give yourself a structure.

I like structure. I like process. Affect me in any way, and it could upset what I need to achieve that hour / day / week / month.

For some, it is writing for one hour in the morning before you go to work. For others, it is writing late into the small hours. But do give yourself a structure. Commit to finishing that chapter, or that word milestone, or simply getting particular scene as best as you can.

Don't let it become a chore, though. Actually, even when I knew my writing was substandard, I would still type away. It's like a pianist (also a hobby of mine) trying to find the right note or chord. Keep going. Give yourself a structure. Never stop until you have achieved your goal for that day, and if you do under hit or under achieve, resolve to fix it the very next day.

8. Pick a genre you like, not the hottest thing around.

The beauty of books is that they can be picked up at any time, and can contain absolutely anything within its pages. Imagine this - you read The Hunger Games, loved it, and thought 'hey, I can write a dystopian novel and it will be a hit because it is all the rage now.'

What happens? Many authors try it - Keira Cass, Veronica Roth, and so on. And your interest wanes because it is getting rather samey.

So if you are really set on writing the hottest thing right now, I think you can still write it, but it may get swallowed up by the Suzanne Collins and Co machine!

Quality is quality though - if you can write a quality book, then it will be found.

9. Allow yourself down time and down days.

There are days you simply won't want to write, nor be able to write. So allow yourself these moments of down time. Don't punish yourself. It happens. You have so much going on in your life that you can't focus. But the next day, it's better. And you can focus. Then you write, and you actually write better than you would have if you had forced it.

I'm trying to give myself the weekend off from writing, so that my body can heal from the teaching I do, and my brain can heal from the writing I do. Whatever works for you, do it by NOT doing it!

Go to the cinema, grab an ice cream, go shopping, see the football game, hammer the playstation.

But live.

10. Write the synopsis.

This is a very hard thing to do unless you have a real handle on your story and characters. Who do you mention? Who do you leave out? What significant event can be mentioned without giving the story away? What hook can you include that will make people want to read?

For my first fiction book, Dark Winter: The Wicca Circle, I managed to include two things that I wanted.

i) The short story hook the reason why the book is engaging and should be read
ii) A diary style entry that would get you into the character's head.

The Short Story Hook:-

Romilly Winter is no ordinary heroine, just an ordinary one. 

She has a gift. She can see the future. But can she see far enough? The world in which she lives is under attack - the dead are rising, and evil follows her at every turn.

Will she be able to save herself - and the world?

The synopsis cannot make you care about Romilly at this point, but it does give you an idea of the difficulty in which she finds herself. The cover gives you some idea, but raises more questions than answers. Can she save the world, indeed. If the story is total fantasy, you will have trouble caring about that. But this paranormal tale is told with elements that you have to believe are real, and could happen. That's why the short story hook works.

Again, if you missed the first of my Weekend Writing Workshop tips, then check out this link:- Tips #1

Happy reading and writing!

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Book Review #26: The Modern Man by Cristiane Serruya


I do love a well written philosophical book, and one of those that affected me the most over many years is Bruce Lee's Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

I am an experienced martial arts teacher, but when that book was written, it was ahead of its time. Bruce Lee was ahead of his time. Arguably now, only some of his concepts are being truly understood. I continue to wrestle with them myself.

The next thing to say is that I am a fan of Cristiane Serruya's works, without necessarily being a fan of 'hot romances'.

But her TRUST trilogy was, and is, a revelation.

So where does The Modern Man stack up? Written by the author when aged just 18, it shows a great maturity and, in relation to Bruce Lee - someone else who was ahead of her time.

At times, the book seems dream-like, almost stuck between the haze of half-sleep whilst dealing with the brutality of life. Some may even view this as a pro-feminist text. It may well be, but that's not how I took it.

It is a complex narrative, but beautifully written, and every single line engages you. It is a book worthy of many, many re-reads. In The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, many sentences deserve multiple re-reads.

I have read other philosophy books, but few as good as the one I mentioned. Now we can add this one to the list.

One of the most striking parts of the book, for me, was this:-

'The man has forgotten what is hot or cold.

He forgot what is wind or rain.

The man forgot the elements of Nature.'

I believe this is one of the most damning judgements on our lives today. We are controlled by our electronic devices, that makes me actually shudder at former Sun Microsystems supremo, Scott McNealy, who said 'we want everyone to be connected, everywhere.'

I thought that was a fine ideal at the time. Since then, Sun has gone the way of the technological dodo, and Mark Zuckerburg wants us checking Facebook even when we are outdoors!

No. Let's reclaim our place in the universe - with Nature at our centre.

I'd like to think this is the message the author wishes to convey in those few sentences, but I expect it runs much deeper, much more meaningful than that.

I would like to think Miss Serruya is working on a new non-fiction text. One wonders what she would treat us with.

If you want a book that will make you THINK - get this book. It's wonderful, but not in the literal sense of the word. It is not an easy read, despite its brevity. But then, it doesn't need to be long.

The best authors know when they have arrived at the final page.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

25 Things I Know To Be True (since writing Dark Winter#1)

1. Hormones really are a b*tch.
2. There are some witches really can’t do *everything*.
3. Theory is so much more easier than practice.
4. If you’re attracted to someone, bl**dy tell them so!
5. Kung Fu doesn’t work that great on zombies.
6. Red heads are hot, even if they are flaky.
7. Know the difference between a friendly hug and when someone tries to squeeze the life out of you.
8. Mirrors are scary things (especially at 2am in the morning and you really need the bathroom)

9. Wearing blindfolds is always a bad idea.
10. Going to zombie-self-defence class should be compulsory.
11. Choose your friends carefully.
12. Anything that marks you out as different, makes you special. Not weird.
13. Shadows and shapes always look bigger in the dark.
14. Not every mirror can make you prettier.
15. Always carry your gloves.
16. Never ask a girl to give you her mirror.
17. Falling in love makes you blind to that person’s faults.
18. To avoid disappointment, get your prom date request in early.
19. Chocolate can pretty much defeat anything.
20. Information found on the internet can often be wrong.
21. There is never ANY reason to let a zombie girl into your house.
22. Dead people do keep grudges.
23. Scary things can happen in the daylight too.
24. Accept that you are stuck with the genes your parents gave you.
25. Hope will keep you going, and faith will see you through.

Book Review #25: The Trouble With Honor by Julia London


The Trouble With Honor is an extremely enjoyable work of fiction. The herione, Honor Cabot, could sit almost in any YA fantasy / paranormal novel. Whilst that may seem like a weird reference, bear with me a second.

It's been a while since I reviewed a book, even longer since reviewing a fiction book, so I had to make notes and go back to them. This review is for the paperback edition - this is where Kindle shines because it is so easy to make notes on the app!

Anyway, onto the story, which isn't remarkably original in itself, in that the family faces financial ruin and so it is to Honor we turn to restore some, er...honour to the Cabot family.

However, Honor is a feisty character and I was drawn to her boldness immediately. She's challenging, and daring - which to most men would make her annoying and difficult. I don't doubt it - but she is written so well for the most part by Julia London that you can't help but like Honor Cabot.

As her beau, George puts it, "It is a puzzle to me how one woman can be so clever and fearless, and yet naive, all at once."

I know where he's coming from. It's like Honor has a dual minute she is feisty and fearless, the next, she does  things that bamboozle me! Is this what the author intended?

I don't know. So my feelings are a bit strange about Honor. I'd like to think she is more the former than the latter.

Maybe it's all the Jane Austen I read as a kid, but I have some difficulty accepting that men talked in that period as George Easton does to Honor. He's very forward, brash, and yeah...rather vulgar. Perhaps some women like that in a man, but I didn't believe Honor would fall for that. And yet it seems she does.

Jane Austen's heroes were far more polite. I am not saying every HR should be like JA's works, but vulgarity drops the quality of the book down a notch or two.

That said, The Trouble With Honor ends on a satisfactory note, and I would be encouraged to read the second book in the series. 

Saturday 4 October 2014

Weekend Writing Workshop #1: My Tips for Writing and Getting That Book Written - Part One

I remember an interview on Michael Parkinson's long running chat show where he interviewed Sir Anthony Hopkins.

MP: So how did you get into acting?
AH: By accident, really.

What did he mean by that? Surely someone as good an actor as Anthony Hopkins, who I first saw in The Elephant Man, later, The Silence of the Lambs, and understated but beautiful films like The Remains of the Day, would not have fallen into acting by accident? Yet, that is what he said on the show.

It's true that I've always enjoyed reading and writing. But my start - the actual beginning of getting something down that would end up in a book, was slightly accidental.

As a martial arts teacher, I often scribble down notes outside of the syllabus I am actually teaching. The notes would run and run. It grew legs, you might say. And the first book was created some two years after I finished my scribbles.

So maybe I started by accident, but the basics were always there. I liked reading and exploring new worlds. That's what a book is - an unchartered world and especially so if it is a new author.

So here are some of my tips for writing and getting the book done. I cannot stress the latter part enough, because if it remains as a file on your computer, that's what it will remain. At some point, let it go.

1. Tell the story you want to tell, not the story others may expect of you.

You can write. You have a story, an idea, and you want to flesh it out, and get feedback. I would recommend that if you do have a story to tell, be it fiction or non-fiction, perhaps you should tell it to yourself first.

You will have your influences, but do not write in their voice, no matter how tempting it is. Find your own writing voice. You have to be the next big thing, not the new 'whoever it is.'

If you constantly seek out advice from others, authors or not, you will be stuck in an ever-depressing circle of 'if only I change this, it will be better.' Only you can know that for sure. Be the authority on writing that you want to be - not in an arrogant way, but as a writer confident of knowing their subject and doing it better than anyone else (hopefully) !

2. Fight for privacy in a very open world.

Writing is a private thing, but in today's fast moving and demanding social environment, you are expected to share, share and keep on sharing. No bad thing in itself, but in a bid to be heard we've sometimes given in to
Amazon free downloads and the campaigns they entail. Do they work? Only if they give you long lasting exposure and a real climb up the rankings. Otherwise you fall off the radar very quickly.

When you write, get your writing space as you want it. I have heard from family that 'a writer can write whenever and wherever'. Spoken like true non-writers. For me, I need peace and quiet. That means house empty or those in it keeping the noise down, and the cats....they must be fed.

Otherwise you will find these time-eaters destroying your project. It's not that you shouldn't care about these things, but those in your life must support you too.

Shut the door, unplug the phone, cut the internet connection. And start writing.

3. Goals - Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly

What are your writing goals? To 'write a book' is a fine, and yes, realistic goal. It won't be done without hard work, and without a plan.

People, life and other things will mess up the plan. Don't let your writing be the be all and end all (unlike the very funny scene in Blackadder with Dr Samuel Johnson!!!) -

you've got to be alive and living in those around you. So what should your goals be, when there are so many Time-Eaters around?

Every day, write something / plan something / note something / read something.

Because you may not be able to write every day, not even a hundred words. Am I joking? No - life gets in the way. The people in your life are a priority, but no matter what you do, life will play out the way it is going to play out. In the end, the book lives and dies with you. If you don't get it done, you will be in a continual spiral of hate and self loathing - at least I feel like that sometimes!

It's no-one's fault but your own, if that book doesn't happen.

So....Every day, write something / plan something / note something / read something.

You will reach your goal.

For some, it's writing 250 words of absolute clarity that somehow, they know will make it into the book. These words won't be deleted. 

For me, it's anything between 200 and 5000 words a day. And I will probably end up deleting a lot of it and re-writing it (more about drafts in a future post, but if you want some motivation about getting to that first draft and editorial critique, read my thoughts on it here).

Some make a plan at the start of the week to state that 'by the end of this week, I will have written 10,000 words / completed four chapters' and so on..

But - It is not just about a word count. Whatever you write, it must be quality. I don't speak as an expert, but I am probably my own worst critic, so any abuse I received in real life or on-line no longer hurts. Get something quality written, and how it looks to you - that is the most important thing.

Then, under your critical glare, if you believe you have written something of quality, find an agent, get a publisher, or go independent. But if you have done all you can, let the book go with your good wishes.

Then work on the next one.

In the end, your writing goals can be summarised into one goal - get the book done. Nothing else is relevant.

4. Handle your time better.

You cannot save time, but you can manage it better. Ask yourself truly what your on-line presence actually adds to your daily life. If it impacts your writing, take a break from it. Your true fans and on-line friends, as well as real life friends, will understand, wait, be supportive, and will be there for you when you return.

Don't simply dump or ignore them though. They've invested in the friendships and you do need to maintain them. If they remove themselves from your life, as people do sometimes, let them go. Their loss.

Do prioritise. Your writing is a personal project, that at some point, you can involve everyone in. Not to beta read, not to critique as you are learning your craft - there are professional editors who you can and should pay for proper, brutal critique. Others, who may handle you with kid gloves (but made from real kids) are perhaps not the best ones to assist you.

Maybe you are a morning person. If so, get up even half an hour earlier, and start typing. You'll be amazed that you can get 500 words down in half an hour or less!

Whatever works for you, handle your time better. Phones are a necessary evil, but that doesn't mean you have to answer every time it answers. Turn it on silent. I do!

5. Show interest in others, and LISTEN.

Whilst you are writing that first mega blockbuster, as much as it is exciting to talk about the project, it can't always be about you. Show interest in others, ask them about their day, don't just ping them on facebook - write an email, phone them, chat on-line or in real life. But take interest in others. One of the most valuable things I have learned is to listen to others. Not whilst playing with your phone or iPad. Put it down, and listen.

Why? Will it get you more sales? Who knows, who cares? But the people you interact with will recall you as someone who is interested in them.

This may seem to go against the whole 'get your book done and written' principles above, but once in a while, you have to take a break, look up, and see the world around you. Maybe your fantasy world is a great escape, and that's fine. But if you deal with the real world, and do it properly, you can spend more time in your writing world.

More tips next week on WWW - The Weekend Writing Workshop.

See also: Editorial critique and how it helped me

Happy reading and writing!

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Dark Winter: Crescent Moon - Special Preview

Hi friends! Well here is an excerpt from the book's opening prologue. Enjoy...I think...!

From the Diary of Romilly Winter, April 14th.

Aged 18, I’m probably too old to keep a diary now, still I write words nonetheless, hoping for something coherent, something real, something I can believe in to come out of it. Maybe I have written a lot this winter because it’s the kind of season that ceases to end. When will the snow stop? Even when I want to see blue skies, my eyes are tricked into seeing pitch-black night.

Dana Cullen told Beth one time that ‘Nothing ever just happens, there is always a design.’ But I have seen enough in my short life to know that things don’t just happen. Maybe my faith is to be tested at every turn, so I hope to God that there is some design amongst the chaos.

Another part of me believes that things don’t just happen for a reason, and all we’re doing is fighting to make sense of the chaos that surrounds us. The kind of chaos that would become us, if it went unchallenged. It is a battle I find myself losing, and yet those around me think I am so strong for keeping it together.

I hope to God with my every breath, but what is hope anyway? Does it fool us into forgetting what is real in our lives? What if it is all wrong, that we are all lost souls wandering around with no meaning to our existence? What can hope do for us then?

It could be that I think things over too much. It could be that the Mirror of Souls has affected me for far too long. It could be that I have convinced myself that everything will work out just fine. There’s a strong chance I’m just playing tricks on myself and those around me. 

There is a very strong chance things will not work out fine.
There’s a very strong chance that the Demon inside me will win.

I hope to God I am wrong.


I plant this tree with some aversion,
As nature controls her own reversion,
When reversion is completed,
All those lives will be deleted.
Whoever cuts or harms the tree,
Will likewise suffer some adversity.

- A local Midlands curse.


1 Corinthians 15:51

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.

Luke 22:3

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.

Revelation 12:4

His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.



49 years ago.

His eyes were black. Not his pupils. His eyes. Only five years old, and Donald Curie was making people scream. The boys had blindfolded the girl; an innocent game of kiss-chase. In this regard, Donald was a boy typical for his age. He didn’t really want to kiss the girl the group had caught for him.

He had a surprise for her in his small hand. Something that was doing all it could to emerge.

Hold her still, Joey, he’d say. Joey would guffaw and say yes, that he would hold her still. Not that blonde-curled, eyes-as-large-as milk-bottle tops Janey Reid was fighting it. She liked kiss-chase. She giggled as she could make out the shape of the boy in front of her. Her friends were pushing her forward gently towards Donald, unaware of the event unfolding in his head.

He took one smile at Joey, opened his hand, then shoved the hairy spider into Janey’s mouth and used his two fingers under her chin to push her jaw shut.

He laughed, but no-one else did. Not Joey. Not Janey’s girlfriends. Least of all, Janey, who vomited into the tall grass.

A teacher, Mr Daniels, grabbed Donald by the shoulders and ordered a supervisor to tend to Janey, who by now was an unattractive mix of vomit, tears and red-rimmed eyes. Not to mention the hairs of the spider’s legs which clung to her lips and chin. He uttered no words to the boy, because Mr Daniels wanted rid of him. Not to another school, not even to the police. He wanted rid of the boy with the black eyes and empty expression. Talking with the boy’s mother, Mrs Eloisa Curie, was certain to be a waste of time.

Mr Daniels knew, because this would not be the first time he had locked horns with the parents of wayward children.

Wayward would be easy to deal with. A fairground ride. This child, he was convinced, was as close to total and utter evil in a human being as you could possibly get. He had said as much to Eloisa Curie on the previous occurrence of Donald’s special brand of playground fun.

“His eyes are black, Mrs Curie. I don’t see any kindness, anything good. No sense of compassion for his classmates. It’s not school policy to pry-”

“Then pray, Mr Daniels. Do not pry,” interrupted Eloisa curtly.

“I must.” Mr Daniels, Bernard to Donald, who thought the portly teacher’s first name was hilarious, spoke hurriedly to avoid another interruption. Eloisa Curie was 5’1” tall, wore her hair in a bun, dressed in imitation Chanel suits from China, and spoke her words like a diamond cutting glass. She would not have her boy criticised, especially by some breast-groping middle-aged fatso who would go on strike at the drop of a hat if his union said so. Bloody socialists always wanting a free lunch, thought Eloisa scornfully.

“Any history of abuse at home, Mrs Curie? Where is Mr Curie? We cannot afford a repeat of this kind of incident.” The words came out, rapid-fire style, as if the speed would lessen the intensity of the statement. It didn’t.

Eloisa smoothed the crease in her skirt and crossed her legs. Her chest knitted closer together, and Bernard’s eyes glimmered with delight as her breasts pushed upwards by the slightest of notches.

Have a good gawp, you bald-headed bastard, thought Eloisa.

“No abuse. Mr Curie died whilst on a training exercise with the RAF. He was due to be discharged this year.” She took a breath. “There will not be a repeat of this kind of incident.”

Understanding the limitation of his powers, Mr Daniels let her statement conclude matters. That would be his official report to the Head, along with a letter of apology to Janey Reid’s parents, where he would allude to a typical schoolboy prank and hope you will accept the School’s apology and assurances that this event will not be repeated.

The reality of the meeting’s conclusion was the sight of Eloisa Curie standing up stiffly and leaving the Year Head’s room once the word incident had left her thin lips, which had a tint of rouge. Her stilettos hammered the school floor with purposeful intent. She wanted to show these upstarts at the school she was better than them. Donald was complex, yes. But a good boy. She had no doubt about that. He was just misunderstood. He would grow out of…whatever this was.

As she drove back home, she knew the routine would play out as it had done so before. Donald would do his wide-eyed, lost puppy routine, and she would wilt, and give in once again.

“I’m sorry, Mum. And I’ll say sorry to Janey tomorrow too.”

Eloisa pitied her son. She knew he was fighting some kind of demon. The kind of demons the school teachers couldn’t deal with. The unseen kinds of demon are the worst. They don’t look back at you in the mirror, but you know they’re there. Eloisa had spoken with the new priest at the church, a young man by the name of Fr Brannigan.

While they were talking, Donald’s face convulsed, and he uttered curses that would make the girls at the Meowsa Gentlemen’s Club, opposite the church; blush redder than a London bus, with their gasps falling into stunned silence when they realised it was a five-year-old boy shouting Tonight you’ll be raped by Satan, and bitch you better enjoy it.

“Your son’s behaviour isn’t normal, Eloisa. As your friend, I sometimes might have to say things that are uncomfortable for you to hear.” Cathy Tudor meant well, but it was the last thing Eloisa wanted to hear whilst the two women waited for the school day to end, so that they could collect their children.

Cathy was scared of Donald Curie. Eloisa spun around to challenge her, but as she came to a full stop, she chose her words carefully. “He is only five years of age, and what boy hasn’t played pranks? I’m not defending his actions, just…just see it for what it is, Cath. Don’t blow things out of proportion. He’s always been polite to you, hasn’t he?”

Cathy was scared of Donald Curie. “Polite he may be. Street angel, house devil, is what he is, though.”

Donald was only five years old, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous. He’d had a brother. Malcolm when he did good, Malky when he did really good. But the older boy was still Number-One-Son to Eloisa, even though parents aren’t supposed to have favourites. She’d spoiled Donald rotten too. But that was never enough. He wanted to be Number One.

Donald was lying in bed when it happened. There was a flutter behind the curtain, but the house was old and drafty, so he paid scant attention to it. It was a summer’s evening, but the temperature in the room was dropping fast.

The shapes that appeared above his bed could have been explained away as a child’s overactive imagination. He tried to ignore them, and turned his head to the side on the pillow. There were two of those, but they were thinning. Number-One-Son always had three.

Eyes looked back at him, so he pulled the duvet up above his head and breathed hard. In the blackness where the bottom of his legs would be, two luminous lights concentrated on him. Blue lights.

He could feel something on his bare feet. Strands of hair, perhaps. But they didn’t have the scent or feel of his mother when she would hug him. They felt clotted, uneven. Dead.

A hand, now. At least, it felt like one. It pressed a bony finger behind his knee, and Donald let out a scream. But Eloisa wouldn’t hear. His mother was a heavy sleeper. She was good at sleeping, since the settlement from the divorce came through. A little white lie that would be lost on the likes of Mr Daniels, and she hadn’t cared to enlighten him about that.

Any regular sleep pattern evaporated when she had fallen pregnant. Malcolm had been born seven pounds and one ounce, and right on time. Donald had been born four pounds and eight ounces, and nine weeks ahead of schedule.

The ultrasound showed Malcolm’s pattern, no problem there. Donald’s image continued to escape and confound the doctors, who in the end said Maybe it’s a phantom pregnancy, Mrs Curie.

Eloisa told them that a woman knows when she’s pregnant, and to not belittle my intelligence.

When he was born, Donald was a sickly child. The doctors were not sure if he would survive the first twenty-four hours. At one point, his temperature dropped so much that his lips turned blue. The doctors were about to give Eloisa Curie the bad news, when Donald rat-tat-tapped the incubator with his stubby little fingers, giving the doctors the same, cold, dead-eyed stare for which he would become infamous.

“Better, er….let her know he’s um, alright,” said the main doctor, who had seen a lot of babies over his time, but none that gave him the chills in the way that this boy did.


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