The moon as inspiration

I was stuck editing the second book in the series ‘The Song of Forgetfulness’. I didn’t know how to start a particular chapter.

I wandered around the house- didn’t take long, small house- and looked out of the bedroom window. Clouds parted in the star free night sky, and there was the moon looking down at me as if to say, “Oh, get on with it.”

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Then I took a photo of it. Thanks moon.

 

You can take a look at an exclusive excerpt from the as yet unreleased second book in the series, ‘The song of Forgetfulness on my Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/thesongofforgetfulness

Creative use of language in novels.

Nadsat, Newspeak and Bubchat

 

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I have been reading mostly science fiction books lately, and I have begun to question why a lot of writers choose not to modify the language they use to create a sense of another time and place. It seems that in the future, vocabulary will remain the same and people will talk to each other exactly the way they do now. Which doesn’t really make sense, does it? The spoken and written word has changed over the years, and most authors have reflected this in their works: from Shakespeare to Bronte, Dickens to Faulkner, and James Joyce to Irvine Welsh.

I overheard a conversation between three teenage girls. I texted a snippet of what they were saying to my friend, who has a fifteen year old, and she said that they were talking about a boy that two of them found attractive, but one of them didn’t.

Girl 1:  Yo, see Jay? He gone all tank, well yoked.

Girl 2:  Yeah, he fully gassed narmean?

Girl 3:  Nah, you dutty fam. He’s well piff.

Girl 1: Nah, he FAF.

Girl 3:  Wa, you beefin’ me?

Girl 1:  Wa, you seriously say he butters?

So, if young people talk like this today, wouldn’t it make sense that hundreds of years in the future, people would be conversing with words that are different from the ones we use now?

In his novel, Nineteen eighty-four, George Orwell introduced words and phrases that were not familiar to readers of that era, to create a futuristic realm where language is used as a weapon to subjugate the masses: duckspeak, thoughtcrime, bellyfeel, doublethink, and speakwrite. Would it have been such a powerful read if the author had not employed the use of such evocative words? Who can forget ‘Newspeak’, or ‘Big Brother’?

In A Clockwork Orange, the use of slang is vital to the narrative to give credibility to this dystopian future. Alex speaks ‘nadsat’ a language that sets him and his friends

apart from the rest of society.

“These grahzny sodding veshches that come out of

my gulliver and my plott,” I said, “that’s what it is.”

“Quaint,” said Dr. Brodsky, like smiling, “the dialect of the tribe. “

So, bearing this in mind, when I came to write my Sci-Fi/Dystopian series The Song of Forgetfulness, I made sure that I used words that were appropriate for the world I was creating. Since it is written from the viewpoint of a seventeen- year -old, Adara, in the first person, it was imperative that her voice rang true in order for the characters to maintain credibility in this vision of the future. I created ‘Bubchat’.

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“I showed respect and bowed, then turned toward the not-right teen. He gave me a tiny smile, and for reasons I know not, I took his hand and said, “Show me where you splosh.” His face went redder than a bub about to plop and everyone, including me, let out a merry guffaw. I hadn’t meant to use such a nursery word, but when I looked at his soft brown eyes and slender arms I went all mumsly. Not like me at all. I began to wonder if the ‘dults had palmed a soother into my stew.”

You can view all of my books on my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nicola-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

I went to Lewis Carol for inspiration. I remembered I had a favourite poem from my childhood, The Jabberwoky, from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found. It is a delight in the creative use of vocabulary. The language is rich and full of evocative words that create a unique setting where his story unfolds.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Science fiction and fantasy are the ideal genres for authors to invent new languages and different ways of speaking. To shake off the confines of correct word usage and play around with narrative form. But not everyone warms to such experimentation, and critics often chastise authors for breaking the rules of grammar that ‘The Elements of Style’, by Strunk and White, have branded into the English language. There is a good anti Elements of Style essay by Geoffrey A Pullmen called, ‘50 Years of stupid Grammar’. It will make you think twice before reaching for the Spelling and grammar tool on your computer. http://chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/25497

So, all you authors out there don’t be put off experimenting with vocabulary. Let your imagination fly and write from your heart, not your head. (Then go back and edit it.)

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Want to know more about me and my books? Go to my website and have a look around.

http://www.oddlybooks.com

Sign up to my newsletter and get a free download of Changeling Fog – a short story from The Song of Forgetfulness series:

http://eepurl.com/buH8qH

 

Macro Photography without using a tripod

My garden is overgrown. I like it that way. It attracts insects and birds and other creatures. I enjoy wading through the tall grass, plucking seedpods and flies from my arms and legs as I search for an interesting creature to photograph.

This year, the bee population has increased.
Hooray!
Last year there were hardly any.

On Sunday I counted eight different kinds of bees and managed to photograph about four using a macro lens. Because the flora is so wild and sprawling, using a tripod for stability is out of the question. So I have to take all my pictures hand-held. Another reason I don’t use the regular kind of tripod is that I find them too awkward to use when attempting to follow the speedy wing changes of bees and other flying insects. By the time I’ve set the thing up, the flying beastie has flown. Okay most of the pictures are a little shaky, but I do get some pretty good results.

The trick to being a good human tripod is to centre yourself. By that I mean, spread your feet to hip distance and slightly bend your knees. You should be balanced and stable. Next, try not to lean forward too quickly as this aggravates camera shake.  Breathe slowly and don’t hunch your shoulders as this causes the wobbles and a stiff neck! And finally, move the camera forward to focus rather than twisting the focus ring as that definitely adds to camera shake and out of focus images. You may look a little weird, but the results you get will be worth it

For more images of macro and beyond, visit: http://www.tracerlight.co.uk

 

 

Inventing A New Language In Science Fiction

Thinkpol. Doubleplusgood. Chepooka. Govoreet. Skazat. IMG_2740

Some of you will recognise the words above the image. They come from two dystopian books. Nineteen-Eighty Four by George Orwell and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Both of these books use an invented language to accentuate the idea of a future world. When I decided to write a Sci-fi/dystopian novel, I too chose to use experimental language. I knew I was taking a chance and that I would probably be turning off a lot of readers because of my choice of language. However, I knew in my gut and heart that the distinctive narrative style worked perfectly for my imagined futuristic world.

In his novel, Nineteen eighty-four, George Orwell introduced words and phrases that were not familiar to readers of that era, to create a futuristic realm where language is used as a weapon to subjugate the masses: duckspeak, thoughtcrime, bellyfeel, doublethink, and speakwrite. Would it have been such a powerful read if the author had not employed the use of such evocative words? Who can forget ‘Newspeak’, or ‘Big Brother’?

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In A Clockwork Orange, the use of slang is vital to the narrative to give credibility to this dystopian future. Alex speaks ‘nadsat’ a language that sets him and his friends apart from the rest of society.

“These grahzny sodding veshches that come out of my gulliver and my plott,” I said, “that’s what it is.”

“Quaint,” said Dr. Brodsky, like smiling, “the dialect of the tribe. “

So, bearing this in mind, when I came to write my Sci-Fi/Dystopian series The Song of Forgetfulness, I made sure that I used words that were appropriate for the world I was creating. Since it is written from the viewpoint of a seventeen- year -old, Adara, in the first person, it was imperative that her voice rang true in order for the characters to maintain credibility in this vision of the future. I created ‘Bubchat’.

“I showed respect and bowed, then turned toward the not-right teen. He gave me a tiny smile, and for reasons I know not, I took his hand and said, “Show me where you splosh.” His face went redder than a bub about to plop and everyone, including me, let out a merry guffaw. I hadn’t meant to use such a nursery word, but when I looked at his soft brown eyes and slender arms I went all mumsly. Not like me at all. I began to wonder if the ‘dults had palmed a soother into my stew.”

First Three Books in SOF Series only 99c Each!! (1) copy

Science fiction and fantasy are the ideal genres for authors to invent new languages and different ways of speaking. To shake off the confines of correct word usage and play around with narrative form. But not everyone warms to such experimentation, and critics often chastise authors for breaking the rules of grammar that ‘The Elements of Style’, by Strunk and White, have branded into the English language. There is a good anti Elements of Style essay by Geoffrey A Pullmen called, ‘50 Years of stupid Grammar’. It will make you think twice before reaching for the Spelling and grammar tool on your computer.

My New Book – Historical Crime Thriller – Black Danube

I have finished a labour of love. It took me months of exhaustive research to be able to write my new novel, Black Danube. I am trying to get an agent/publisher interested in it, so I am prepared for a long slog of pitching and being rejected. I posted some articles about my research a while ago, you can view them here:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2019/03/08/forgotten-women-madam-dora-part-one/

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/the-man-behind-the-mug-shot/

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/the-inventor-of-crime-scene-photography/

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A bit of blurb 

To escape an abusive marriage Sophia Jäger becomes Leo Katz, a shy young man with a camera walking the streets of Vienna in 1899. Mingling amongst other immigrants, he successfully passes for a journalist and crime photographer until pathologist in training Lucy Strauss becomes the object of his affections.

When a series of macabre killings thrusts them into Vienna’s sordid underbelly of secret societies and corrupt officials, Leo risks revealing his true identity to save an innocent woman accused of the murders. Now, exposed and in mortal danger, Leo struggles with a choice. Should he confide in Lucy, telling her he is a she, hoping Lucy will love the person behind the disguise? Or, should he keep his dark secret, ending their passionate relationship forever?

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Anyway, I thought I’d post an extract from the first chapter. Hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to comment.

Black Danube

I stood on the platform of the Kaiser Franz Josef Railway station in bare feet. I had no luggage or hat. People ambled past taking side-long looks, shaking their heads as if to say, ‘Ah, another penniless immigrant. Vienna is going to the dogs.’

The top two buttons on my dark brown waistcoat popped open. I clutched at my chest, hunched my shoulders, and pulled my gaberdine tight to hide my defective attire. A high-pitched whistle blew and a cloud of light grey smoke surrounded me. Metal wheels scraping along the track screeched so loud I thought I would never hear again. Gradually, the noise faded. I wiped mist left by the steam train from my face and tried to focus. But my eyes were fuzzy as though I had indulged in an excess of alcohol.

I unfastened my stiff shirt collar to let in some air and scuttled to the exit. Once outside I halted in front of the grand pillared entrance. Not daring to move, in case I loosened more buttons on my constrictive garments, I observed the washed out faces of men and women walking along the street. They stared ahead not looking at anything or anyone. I blinked rapidly. They shimmered and faded becoming nothing more than ghost-like figures floating above the raised wooden pavements.

A swirling wind blew the phantoms away. It caught at my coat-tails, whipping them up and down so fast I almost took to the air. I held onto them until the gusts decreased and glanced down the steps. At the bottom lay my black shoes. Heels broken, soles ripped off halfway, they gaped open like the mouths of dying fish.

I stumbled down the stairs and crouched by my broken footwear. Rain pelted my neck and shoulders. I raised my head, and through the rippling water that slid down my lashes, saw gigantic eyes appear in every window of the massive grey station that loomed over me.

Standing quickly, I ran across the road, tripping over the newly installed tram lines. I stepped into a deep puddle, it splashed my trousers with blood-red water. I tore at the stained fabric with my elongated fingernails and ripped the garment from my legs, revealing white bloomers that flapped in the wind like an injured bird trying to take off. I attempted to cover the girlish underwear with my hands, but my fingers turned into dumplings and melted.

‘Kazab!’ Yelled an old flower seller dressed in a voluminous white high-necked blouse and billowing black skirt. Her face was so wrinkled it caught the water that fell in the deep crevices of her cheeks. She grasped a bunch of dead roses, held them before me and shouted louder than before, ‘Kazab!’ I put my hands over my ears but her cry of, ‘Kazab!’ was deafening. My knees buckled, and I fell to the ground. ‘Kazab!’  She screeched the word over and over. It pounded my head like rocks being thrown. ‘Kazab! Kazab!’

They say the truth hurts, and it does, for I am indeed a liar.

historic-photos-of-vienna-austria-hungary-in-the-late-19th-century-05

If you want to know more about my books you can visit my website where you can download a FREE copy of Changeling Fog. A short story from The Song of Forgetfulness Sci-fi/Dystopian series.  http://oddlybooks.moonfruit.com/

Or my amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nicola-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S/

 

New Book Covers Reveal

I have waited a couple of years to change my book covers for my Sci-fi/Dystopian/Cli-fi series The Song of Forgetfulness. I just couldn’t find he right images that suggested the complexity of the narrative. I’d gone through several designs over a few years and never really liked them. I stopped promoting the books and felt quite low about the whole thing.

Until, quite by chance, when I was taking some photographs using a lens ball.

tree ball 2tree ball

I accidentally took my own image reflected in the glass. It was distorted and eerie.

me lens ball

After tweaking it on Lightroom I realised the images would be perfect for my books and genre. Except for the prequel an apocalyptic survival story based around global warming and the effects it has on nature. The Chronicles of Mayer.

Luckily I have a lot of photographs of insects, animals and flowers. I chose a macro shot of a bumble bee to reflect the theme of the ecological dangers we are facing today. You know the saying, ‘If bees die out we are next.’

So, here are my new covers. I hope you like them.
Please feel free to comment.

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Silence v.2 04.05.19

You can purchase all of my books on amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Nicola-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S

(If you go to the Look Inside and open it you may find that the formatting is weird. I assure you it is fine, it just looks odd on Amazon’s Product Page. The E-book interior is correct.)

New book covers

Celebrate Earth Day

It is Earth Day and people everywhere are rejoicing in celebrating this wonderful planet we live in full of gorgeous flowers, birds and bees.

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Long-tailed Tit colour 2

buzzy bumble

Such a shame humans have ruined it. Earth is slowly dying, choked by fumes, plastic, concrete, massive fatbergs clogging sewage systems and pollutants poisoning our fresh water and oceans.

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Now is the time to stop killing our home.

Now is the time to stand up and fight for survival of the Earth and every creature that lives in it.

Now is the time to stop being selfish and live without all the stuff people think they need. 

Now is the time, because we are running out of it.

Please do what you can to make Governments and Companies realise that we can’t go on destroying our habitat for greed. Sign petitions, go on marches, use your car less, go on fewer trips abroad and help us have a future.

This world is beautiful and should stay that way.

bee garden

Some of the fiction I write has a clear message about the dangers of ignoring global warming and the damage pollution and deforestation is doing to our world. If you would like to have a look at my books please do so. The Chronicles of Mayer deals with a future where Mother Nature retaliates and mankind is in danger of extinction.

As a catastrophic flood wipes out most of the population of Great Britain, cow herds, Gopi Jnanamaya Kosha (Mayer) and Gopala Arjuna Bhutapanchaka, of Mahabharata House, a Buddhist community, are forced to flee, taking the cows with them.

With water levels rising at an alarming rate, and terrifying storms endangering their pilgrimage, Mayer and Arjuna must battle not only the elements but hungry survivors and rogue soldiers intent on butchering the holy cattle.

Can they build a sanctuary in the mountains of Scotland to secure the survival of mankind if disease, brutal attacks, and infertility threaten to wipe out all human and animal life?

Available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074P65LD9

Forgotten Women Madam d’Ora – Part One

DKselfportrait

To celebrate International Women’s Day, I thought I’d post this story about an amazing pioneering female photographer that history has forgot.

In my new book, an Historical Crime Thriller set in Vienna 1899, my protagonist, Leo Katz, is a photographer. Whilst researching photographers from that period, I was delighted to discover that women were emerging as professionals in this field.

One woman caught my attention, Dora Kallmus. She was extremely influential in changing the way people posed for their picture. Dora’s unique style helped to popularise the celebrity portrait, and her fashion photography broke all the rules. Yet, History has chosen to forget her.

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Born in 1881 to a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, Dora was clearly a headstrong young woman and knew what she wanted to do. She befriended the son of the painter Hans Makart, and whilst assisting him in his studio, she discovered the wonders of photography.

In 1905, she became the first woman allowed to study theory at the city’s Graphic Training Centre,  GraphischenLehr-und Versuchsanstalt, and in the same year was accepted as a member of the Association of Austrian Photographers. Two years later she finished an apprenticeship with Nicola Perscheid, where she learned her craft.

Although she was not allowed to do the technical training, because she was a woman, that did not stop her opening her own studio in Vienna in 1907. She brought a fellow student of Nicola Pesrcheid with her, Arthur Benda, who would remain her technical assistant throughout her early career.

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Her studio Atelier d’Ora, became a sensation, and along with Arthur Benda, Madame d’Ora’s shop was the place to go for the fashionable and cultural elite of Vienna. Her new approach to photographing a subject, natural, relaxed poses rather than the stiff, grim images people were used to, made her photographs sought after. The artist, Gustav Klimt and his muse Emilie Flöge, being some of her most famous clients.

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Dora’s Middle Class Jewish background aided her in attracting customers. Her father, Doctor Phillipp Kalmus, a respected lawyer, brought clients from the civil service, government, and the banking world. With such a notorious profile, Dora landed the job of photographing the coronation of Kaiser Karl, King of Hungary. Now she was in demand by royalty and members of the Imperial family who visited her studio to have their portrait taken.

But it was through her cousin, the acclaimed actress Rosa Bertens, that Dora broke into what was to become her trademark work. Photographing the rich and famous throughout the theatre, music, fashion and art worlds.

News of her avant-garde work spread, and customers flocked to her doors. Now everyone wanted to be photographed by Madame d’Ora, whose unorthodox compositions were the talk of the town. Attracting famous dancers such as Anna Pavlova, Josephine Baker, and, Mary Wigman. Writers such as Arthur Schnitzler, artists, Gustav Klimt, actors, Maurice Chevalier, musicians, Pablo Casals and the composer, Albern Berg.

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Her keen interest in fashion photography inspired her to change the way the industry presented their clothes. She created new ways to portray models, and her fresh ideas were soon snapped up by many lifestyle periodicals such as Die, Madame, and Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode.

Madame d’Ora became Coco Channels first choice to capture her new creations in all of their glory. All this when she was still under thirty years of age.

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In Part Two, I will focus on Dora’s later career and how she developed not only as a portrait photographer to the stars, but how the traumas of the second world war developed her career as a documentary photographer.
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If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my website: www.oddlybooks.com
To view some of my photography go to: 

My review of The Orthography of Madness and Misgivings

I haven’t written a blog post for quite a while. So I thought I’d start again with my recent review of a collection of unorthodox short stories from a writer with a dark and creative imagination. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading stories that are different and weird.

You can grab your copy here:

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Orthography-Madness-Misgivings-Micha%C3%ABl-Wertenberg-ebook/dp/B07N5XM1SN

Amazon.UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Orthography-Madness-Misgivings-Michaël-Wertenberg-ebook/dp/B07N5XM1SN

 

Refreshingly different

The Orthography of Madness and Misgivings by Michaël Wertenberg is a collection of short stories largely about the human condition when in a heightened state. Most of the tales are gruesome and troubling with some marvellous flashes of magic realism that keep you thinking about them long after you have read them. There are lovely vivid descriptions that make you shudder our laugh. I particularly enjoyed the stories in diary form of the author’s experiences living in different countries. Worth a read if you prefer literary fiction to pulp. There are a few inconsistencies in the narrative that need to be addressed, but nothing that detracts from the overall enjoyment of his work.

 

The Orthography of Madness and Misgivings by [Wertenberg, Michaël]

 

If you would like to see what I’m currently working on please go to my website and click on ‘Work in Progress‘. It’s an Historical Crime Thriller set in Vienna 1899, working title – Black Vienna.

http://www.oddlybooks.com/

The Joy of Hex – Part Two -Witchcraft

From prehistoric times some form of ‘witchcraft’ has existed, but then, unlike now, the casting of spells was more to do with the art of healing than any association with devilry. Most ‘witches’ were herbalists, wise women, or, ‘cunning folk’, who were adept at making potions to cure a range of illnesses. Often providing charms and offerings alongside incantations to protect livestock from predators by using these ‘blessings’ to keep them safe.

The belief in the power of magic has existed since mankind created social settlements where large numbers of people lived and worked. Fearing the forces of nature, inevitably, someone would try to make the unknown less scary by using rituals and spells to ward off evil spirits, whether natural or supernatural. Cave drawings often show people dancing wearing animal costumes alongside images of a ‘witch’ as seen in the photograph below.

Once, such ‘magical’ folk were revered, but as time went on people became wary of these magicians that could seemingly perform supernatural feats. From the 7th century, attitudes changed and terms such as ‘black magic’ spread fear into the hearts of god-fearing folk. With Christianity taking over from paganism as the main religion, it wasn’t long before the church found such powerful shaman a threat. Witch hunts in the name of God became a way to frighten people into turning against their own to preserve the status quo and get rid of annoying, possibly subversive women and men in the community. These poor people didn’t stand a chance against the prejudices and hatred from fanatics who turned communities against someone who was not quite like everyone else. So began the long centuries of demonising the innocent.

During medieval times being accused of witchcraft was a death sentence. Anyone who had a black cat, a mole, some kind of physical tick or blemish, and could conjure up an effective poultice for a wound or boil, would be suspected of being in league with the devil. The caricature of the old hag with a broomstick became the norm.  Wise women in a village were the subject of scorn and accused of evil deeds.

 In the UK, The Witch Finder General, Matthew Hopkins, made it his life’s work to seek out and destroy those accused of witchcraft. Through gruesome torture, he and his allies gained forced confessions from terrified men and women who would often be accused of the crime by friends or family. From the 15th to the 16h century over 100,000 people were hanged or burned at the stake for being witches.

This fear of sorcery lasted well into the eighteenth century when the cruel and unjust system of identifying a witch was abolished, courtesy of – The Enlightenment. A period in history which advocated the use of reason over superstition, and in 1736 the laws against witchcraft were repealed.

Witches and warlocks exist to this day but are no longer seen as dangerous. Often known as Wiccans, these people regard themselves as spiritual folk following pagan beliefs, incorporating mystical sorcery such as divination, herbalism and, Tarot reading. Casting spells not to summon demons or ghouls but to help find a true love, get promoted at work, or simply to engage more with nature and the universe.

You can read more about Wiccan magic in this article:

 https://wiccanspells.info/wiccan-pagan-articles/different-types-magick/

The idea of possessing supernatural powers is deep-rooted within our psyche. Whether it comes from a religious source or from the belief in our own need to connect with natural forces, magic and the casting of spells will never go away. Now, we accept it as part of our everyday world, whether it is reading our astrological predictions or buying Himalayan Salt Lamps, we need to believe that we are more than the sum of our parts, and can control the elements to do our bidding. Does it work? It might. The power is in the belief that it will.

Go to this blog to find out how to cast spells for good luck here:

Since it is Halloween, I thought I’d post an extract from one of my ghostly horror short stories – Daub – it’s in my anthology Glimmer, which just happens to be on offer for only 99c! You can purchase a copy here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

From Daub:

Isabelle fell back onto her ankles and covered her mouth with her hands. She heard a muffled sobbing come from the place where she had seen the child squatting the night before, and shuffled away. She looked at the wall. The yellowing plaster moved in and out like sickly lungs and Isabelle saw a small mouth appear. It opened and closed as if trying to suck in air and said, ‘When can I come out?’

‘What? Who’s speaking?’

‘It’s me mama, Roland. Can I come out now, it’s too hot and I can’t breathe. Mama? Mama, where are you? Mama!’ The child’s voice became hysterical and it shrieked the last, ‘Mama’ so loud that Isabelle thought her eardrums would bleed. She felt something tickle her wrist, looked down and saw the imprints of five small fingers on her skin.

glimmer front red 2 copy

 

If you want to know more about my work, visit my website: 

or my Amazon page: