Apologies that it has all gone quite for a while. If you want to track me down I’m at
Because the summer is not over yet, and if, like me, you still need some sun, visit the world of ‘Three Great Lies’ where it never rains.
While vacationing in Egypt. . . Jeannette Walker, a cynical scientist jaded by swarms of tour groups and knick-knack shacks, is lured by a teenage tour guide to visit a newly discovered tomb. No other tourists there! Inside the chamber, she tumbles down a shaft and 3000 years back in time. Now, in a world where deities walk the streets and prophecy stinks up the air, Jeannette is desperate for normal and the simple pleasures of sanitation and refrigeration. However, a slave master hawking a cat-headed girl derails her homebound mission, and Jeannette—penniless in this ancient world—steals the girl, bringing down the tireless fury of the slaver. Saddled with a newly awakened mummy and the cat-headed girl, Jeannette, through her unparalleled experience gained from watching spy movies, contrives a plan to free them from the slaver’s ire, but will she have to dive into the belly of the beast to succeed?
See the following link to bag your copy from 6th August.
Vanessa MacLellan was born and raised in the farmlands of eastern Washington, works as an environmental engineer, and is an avid birder, naturalist, gamer, and runner living in Portland, Oregon. Her website is vanmaclellan.com.
You can also connect with her at
I’m writing this post as compensation for not being able to see the latest series of The Walking Dead. Hopefully I’ll be able to download it soon, but in the meantime my boyfriend have become a bit obsessed with a zombie apocalypse. We aren’t stock piling food yet, but there have been discussions about what we would stockpile and the importance of making sure one of us has a can opener in their back pack.
And we have been visiting castles.
Let’s see them get a tank across that moat.
There’s loads of castles in the UK and all with moats, walls, parapets and murder holes. They also come with enough land to keep you own vegetable patch. There’s no zombies getting in if you don’t want them to. So while the kids were running round with their wooden swords playing at knights, the boyfriend and I were outlining complex defence strategies including the flooding of moats and building a trebuchet for flinging zombie heads.
It’s a refreshing flight from the day to day hamster wheel of life. Just think, a zombie apocalypse means no work, no mortgage and freedom from things like thinking about when you have time to get your hair cut (I’d take a knife to my own overly thick, frizzy locks in an instant), or do the weekly shop. Surviving a zombie apocalypse means you’d have nothing but time to do the weekly shop, what with being reduced to hunter/gatherer/scavenger status. And I will, of course, survive.
I’m concerned that I find the idea of a zombie apocalypse so liberating. Ignoring the constant threat of death my own zombie apocalypse is a fantasy of freedom and redefining myself.
When the Governor comes along though there may be more of a problem, what with castles under siege never faring well when the food and fresh water runs out. We didn’t go as far as drawing lots to see which one of us would resort to cannibalism first, but it did give me some food for thought.
I live in Kent and my family is north of the river so the only way I could get to them would be over the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. That stretch of the M25 looks like there has been a zombie apocalypse every afternoon at rush hour. Seriously, I’d never see them again.
Perhaps if I want the freedom to redefine myself I shouldn’t wait for a zombie apocalypse. Perhaps I should get my head out of dream world and start now. First thing I need to do is find time to get my hair cut.
What about you? How would you survive a zombie apocalypse? Would you rather take the one ring to Mordor than commute to work? Let me know below (no spoilers please.)
The other day I managed to burn sausages while simultaneously trying to hold a conversation with my boyfriend and sort out my work clothes for the next day. He wasn’t impressed. ‘Then why don’t you cook?’ I snapped.
I’m still waiting for the answer to that one.
My multi-tasking skills are failing more and more regularly as I try to squeeze the things that I want to do in between the things that I have to do. Add a pile of the things that everybody else expects me to do and I can be close to screaming by the end of the week.
Now held in the icy grip of National Novel Writing Month I’m living on my nerve endings while I bash out a first draft. I want to get it done as quickly as possible because I need to know if the story works. Actually, it’s more that I need to know if I work. Completing a first draft is self validation that all the post it notes and coloured ink I have poured into the outline stage isn’t wasted.
Each day I live is more or less the same. I get up and rush through everything, normally wishing that I was doing something else. I’m invariably tense and planning the next thing that I need to do before the first one is finished. It’s stressful and usually leaves me run down and gasping for more time.
In Nail Your Novel, Roz Morris describes a first draft as something to take your time over because it’s the space where you are writing just for you alone and letting your imagination run without restrictions. It’s something to savour while you get to know your characters and your setting.
This was a whole new idea to me. The thought that a first draft was a magical thing to be enjoyed rather than something to suffer through when faced with a deadline gave me something to experiment with. This and it being practically January (come on, it’s closer than you think) with posts about New Year’s resolutions on the breeze combined to make me realise that living my life like it was NaNo wasn’t the most productive thing to do long term.
We only get one draft at life after all and therefore it seems crazy to tuck down our heads and barge forward without taking time to see the wider scheme of things and just enjoy the tiny bits that sparkle. After all, in a first draft you aren’t supposed to go back and change things and in life you don’t even get the choice.
Taking time out to kick Autumn leaves
One thing that I’ve found really useful in slowing down is to get the train into work occasionally. It makes the commute take longer but it makes me less irate and gives me longer to think, read, plan my next outline…
If you feel like you need to slow down and enjoy the scenery more have a look at this post and this one for info on why we are all so busy, and how to stop it. Do you have any top tips for appreciating the moment? Or can you not stop yourself rushing ahead as well?
On 5th November 1605 a group of Catholics planned to blow up the House of Lords.
On 1st November 2014 I went to see the fireworks at my local park. This was mostly an excuse to wear my winter hat and eat fresh doughnuts. However, this time of year does always make me remember the Gunpowder Plot.
Bear models winter hat
When I was at Junior School we studied the Gunpowder Plot as part of a series called Landmarks. Does anyone else remember that? Does anyone else remember the episode were you actually heard Guy Fawke’s get tortured? I was practically considered a grown up at ten, but I was still the only one of my class who had to ask to leave the room. Worse, for some reason we ended up watching it again and I had to sit outside the TV room reading as I refused to go back in.
My mum says I have an over active imagination. She wouldn’t let me watch Ghost Busters at a friend’s house once in case it gave me nightmares. I think most people just called me a ‘fraidy cat which is why I remember the embarrassment that came after ‘The Landmarks Episode’ rather than whatever else it was I felt when I originally asked to leave the room.
So, apologies to James I. I do not necessarily remember Parliament being delivered by a righteous God, I remember that picture you have of Guy Fawke’s signature before and after the racking and how that second attempt sprawls loosely across the page, twice the size of it’s original.
It still makes me feel queasy, but it also fascinates me. From the safety of the present (and my now advanced years) I’ve read books on the conspirators and I’ve studied the wood cuts. I always glance covertly at that picture in Charing Cross Underground Station, and have spent a long time staring at the names carved into the stone of the Tower of London.
Crispijn van de Passe the Elder’s engraving of the plotters used at Charring Cross Station
I did all those things because I wanted to understand why the Plot happened, and feel it’s important to remember that. But, oh, there is always a but, although the thought of Guy Fawkes and his death still makes me shiver, it is a very Gothic kind of shivering cut through with a pinch of unhealthy fascination.
That was a somewhat disconcerting realisation for me, and not at all where this blog post was going to originally end up.
I think that how we remember changes as events fade further into the past, and that what we choose to remember says a lot about the sort of people we are.
Does anyone else feel a similar way about something? And how did you all remember November 5th ?
Bought to you by Sara C. Snider. For more spooky contents follow to the link and see who else is taking part.
For more scary Halloween ideas check out this website 🙂
The Circle Master
There is a scarecrow in the field by the barrow. It has been there as long as the oldest villager can remember, and it never seems to change. Always with the same squashed top hat and tattered tailcoat it guards the crops throughout the year. From when the seed is planted in the cold dark earth, through the spring, growing to the full yellow wheat and until there is nothing left but broken stalks. The crops grown in this field are always the best that they can be; a golden grain that can be ground down to the finest wheat. Wheat that will make soft warm bread with a dark brown crust that smells of home when it leaves the oven.
The children come, sometimes running, along the over grown footpath to stare at the distant figure in the field. They call him Jack and claim he is the servant of a witch who has been enchanted and hung on his frame as punishment. None of them ever go into the field. If it is summer the brave ones will reach a hand under the fence to break an ear from the field’s very edge where the scarlet poppies mingle with the wheat. They’ll chew it carefully, almost reverently, watching the scarecrow because they are sure that it is not always where it should be. Of course it’s feasible that the farmer moves it from one day to the next, to confuse noisy crows and curious children, but as they walk away they are sure the figure flickers in the corner of their eyes, and no matter how quickly they turn it is always still and dead hanging with its arms stuck out.
For the most part that is how the year passes: turning slowly from dark to light and back into dark again. Ramblers pass by, families with bags of cheese sandwiches, and occasionally the pagans creeping down in the twilight to the barrow and walking back in the dark. They point at Jack, but their attention wanders over the rest of the valley and Jack is happy to wait in the field. Happy for them to stay away because after all that is the job of a scarecrow; to protect the crop until it has reached its zenith.
Once a year when the nights are growing longer, darker, when the veil is thinning then someone will amble down to Jack’s empty field. Perhaps they want to take the fresh air, to visit the barrow in the quiet evening or perhaps they aren’t sure why they are there at all. They’ll stop to rest their arms on the fence and stare at the only other figure for miles around. Out in the night an owl will hoot, a fox will bark and when the visitor looks back to the field they’ll swear that the Scarecrow seems closer than it had. Even though they know that in the failing light it’s easy to confuse what you think you see with what is. They’ll climb over the stile that may or may not have been there before and their boots will crunch over the dead stalks of this year’s harvest. Up close you can see Jack’s smile: crooked big stitches that slide over his canvass face. His eyes are wonky, but they still stare straight at you. Almost as though he is trying to tell you something about the way time moves in spirals, the importance of blood or just maybe that he is sorry. He smells of old straw and must, which is out of place in the cool shifting of the air. The visitor will turn away to let their vision slide over to the distant hills, and that’s when Jack moves faster then a breath leaving a body. The next day the farmer will wake up and without really knowing why will decide that today is the day he needs to sew next years seeds in the field down by the barrow, and the cycle begins again.
I am writing this blog post on the toilet. Not as disgusting as it may sound, the lid is down and I’m fully clothed. It is however, currently the only place in the house with space, light and a sense of privacy. It also helps that I’m dying my hair and therefore have an excuse to hog the only room in the house with a lockable door for the best part of an hour.
Such dire straits!
The boy and I are decorating the bedroom. Have been for two months which is the price I have to pay for falling in love with a man who is both a perfectionist and a serial weekend lie inner. The knock on effect of this is that the bedroom is in the living room so the table cannot be used, and as he is still sleeping in the bed in the living room I can’t hang out there. We do have a study true, but we do not talk about the study.
Oh woe is me. A lack a day!
The good news is that we do have a pub that serves breakfast literally on the other side of the road. This coming weekend I am going to try and continue my year of doing scary things by taking a fully charged lap top over there at nine in the morning to write. Tune in then to see if I make it.
In the mean time I am still tapping creatively away at my keyboard so this month could have been so much worse.
How’s everyone else doing? I’ll be round to check on as many of you as I can before I need to rinse.
If you want to share your insecurities check in with Alex J. Cavanaugh at the Insecure Writer’s Support
One of the scarier parts of my day job involves doing presentations at a public meeting in front of elected ward members and the public.
Oh yes, serious stuff.
And I am always last on the agenda. Always. So while I sit and watch my colleagues share the pros and cons of new supermarkets my nerves twist in to painfully tight knots. My foot jumps. And bizarrely the inside of my wrists start to tingle. No idea how that works.
This month, and I strongly suspect this was as a result of adrenaline and light headedness, my inner heroine popped up with this idea,
when I am a famous author (!?) I’ll be expected to do talks/run workshops etc. so I should view this stomach twisting opportunity as a chance to overcome my fear.
Boom. Nerves gone to be replaced with a steely determination. It lasted about half an hour. By the time I got up to speak my mouth was so dry it took me a whole minute to pronounce the word ‘small’. (smargh, smarl, sma-hal…)
I hated it, every minute. But I did do it, which in itself was encouraging. If I can do that and survive while knowing that I have to do it again, who knows what else I can accomplish. So I’ve signed up for a short writing course and, randomly, a burlesque taster class. Both have given me palpitations, but that’s kind of a good thing. It doesn’t do to get too comfy in life does it?
Picture taken by Kristin Nador on Flickr. Some rights reserved
What gives you palpitations? And have you done anything scary yet this year?
Chasing Shadows, the second book in the Tala Prophecy, was released on Wednesday and if feels like I’ve been waiting far too long to find out what happened next. Fortunately it begins right were Chasing Memories finished. That means the book starts with a big fat rush of adrenaline and keeps right on going. It’s jam packed with werewolves, wiccans and devil spawn. There is some down time for romance to develop between Reagan and Rowan, but mostly the revelations keep coming and the stakes keep getting higher.
Reagan came into her own much more in this book. During Chasing Memories and the opening Chapters of Chasing Shadows she was very much a young woman lost in a world that she didn’t understand. There’s questions still to be answered at the end of Chasing Shadows but Reagan has grown in knowledge and confidence and by the last few chapters has the courage to make her own decisions.
I also liked getting to know Sam, Reagan’s brother, better. He develops from a secretive voice in her head to a young man with his own goals. I loved that these goals didn’t run in the same direction as Regan’s and consequently pushed her to make hard choices. It added another layer to the tensions already building within the story.
Rafe also grows in this book and we find out more about his past and why he is such an unpleasant character. Although we don’t get to see much of him, his presence is everywhere and when he does manage to turn up it’s always when the good guys least want him to.
There’s more of the supernatural world Reagan belongs to in this book too, although it is confined to the forest and there is not much shown about how the werewolves may have to interact with humans. It was good to see Reagan and her family come back together though and re-forge their bonds ready for the battle ahead. The ending of Chasing Shadows indicates that they will need all the strength they can get. Fortunately they know something about the Tala Prophecy that Rafe doesn’t…
Over all this was a brilliant, fast paced sequel that doesn’t suffer from the drag that sometimes accompanies the middle books in a series.
You can also connect with the author Tia Bach,
In an attempt to progress into world of grown up writer I’ve been writing a business plan. It’s surprisingly cathartic to set out some goals with the (current) intention of sticking to them. Of course. It has also made me realise exactly how much work is involved.
Well, I knew that already. Putting it down in black and white however makes it more real. More huge.
I’m also having a lot of trouble getting past the end of this year. At the beginning of 2015 I am (keeping my fingers crossed) going to have a manuscript. What I want to do with that manuscript is another thing. I’m scared, so very, very scared. What I’m actually scared of I’m not entirely certain. It could be rejection, failure, or just the sheer amount of additional stuff that will be involved whether I pursue traditional of self publishing. Best just stick a chapter a week up on Wattpad because at least then my manuscript may actually get read. And I know I can do that.
I’ve not even considered the finance section. What? Someone will pay me to write? Ha! No way?
At the moment I don’t actually believe I can do it. I’m not even sure if I want to anymore. Don’t get me wrong I will always write and I will finish my current WIP because if I don’t something inside me will curl up and die. Beyond that…
…Think I’m going to have a hot chocolate and Baileys now. Thank you to Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer’s Support Group for a chance to vent.
Did anyone else do a business plan before they were published? How ambitious were the goals you set for yourself and did you succeed?
On a positive note, today is the release date of the second book in the Tala Prophecy, Chasing Shadows. Congratulations to Tia Bach. I have my copy and will be posting a review on Friday. In the mean time check out the cover below, or the links for more information.