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: 

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Light and writing – part one – Inspiration

Let there be light. Why? Because without it nearly all life on this planet would cease to exist. It heats, illuminates, nourishes and gives life. It also inspires works of art. As a writer, I can use light in many forms, natural, supernatural and artificial to enhance my narrative. As a photographer, well, I wouldn’t be able to take photographs without it.

In this series about light, I will be dealing with the many forms it takes. From the glowing backsides of fireflies to the many ways human beings have found to illuminate the darkness.

Nature is amazing. We humans are, for the most part, in awe of it and have been ever since we crawled out of the primal ooze. Nothing stirs the soul quite so much as a beautiful sunset, a sunrise, a mass of twinkling stars, or the constant glow of the moon.

purple sunsetThe sun gives us light and warmth, stars make us wonder about far off worlds, the moon illuminates our darkness with its wide-eyed face looking down on us like a distant mother watching her children. No wonder creative minds have used light as inspiration.

super moon

Many writers have used light to express happiness, love, hope, expectation and joy. Just listen to some songs, the word ‘light’ comes up quite often. ‘Light my fire‘ The Doors. ‘You lIght up My Life’ Debbie Boone. ‘Ray of Light’ Madonna. ‘Shadows and Light‘ Joni Mitchel, to name but a few. The same is true of literature: ‘Northern Lights‘ PhillipPullman. ‘The Light that Failed’ Rudjard Kipling. ‘Where the Light Last and other stories‘ Agatha Christie.

In my short story Glimmer, the protagonist, a young man resisting the drugs he is given to keep him ‘sane’, retreats into his own world and listens  for the voices that come from the stars.

The world will not end because I close my eyes. The sun will still shine, so too the stars. Yet the darkness behind my drooped lids tells me otherwise. I see a macrocosm made up of swirling silhouettes and geometric shapes that aren’t strange to me at all. This is where I live now, in x-ray blackness. There is peace in this non-colour.”

glimmer front red 2

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

Watch out for Part two in the series: Religion and Light.

For more information about my work please visit my website: 

www.oddlybooks

Short Story Anthology Launch

Here is a blog post about short story writer Paul Toolan. I was drawn to his anthology because of the subject matter, ageing and dementia. We all grow old and with it subjected to illnesses and lapses in memory. Paul uses these themes to conjure up twelve tales to tackle this often sensitive subject.

Please read on and learn some great insight into how the author gets his inspiration.

The characters in this collection are looking back into the half-shaded landscapes of memory. (5)

‘Where do your stories come from?’

 If only I received royalties every time a reader asks me this!

Here, there and everywhere is the true but unhelpful answer. In ‘A View from Memory Hill’, there’s a story called Old Man, Young Pub that was triggered by seeing…an old man in a young pub!

I was at the Brighton Festival [Brighton, England – I used to live there] with old friends/fellow retirees. We dropped in to a wonderful, low-ceilinged pub called The Basketmakers, whose decor has barely been touched since it opened. I remember thinking we were the oldest people there, among many young and lively folk, some dressed in the trendiest fashion, some so far ahead they were next year.

It was a hot day, but as I looked around I spotted an old gentleman in a tweed jacket and tie, standing at the bar, quietly sipping his pint. All around him, bright young things were loud and full of energy. They squatted on bar stools, but no-one offered a seat to the old guy, and his legs could have used one. I wondered about his silent thoughts.

His anonymity, mine too, amongst this colourful crowd threw up a name: Smith. With the conscious germ of a story now in my head, I called him Frank Smith in hope he would eventually be frank enough to tell some sort of tale. I never spoke to this old man, but later when I sat at my keyboard, I spoke to Frank Smith, or he to me. I really don’t know which came first.

What I had was a character and a setting. No plot, no events, no history. Yet. But Frank Smith travelled with me, later in the Arts Festival, to a shabby-chic little theatre where, on hard seats, we watched a trio of skilled actors on a bare, dark stage. Magically, they brought to life some of Damon Runyan’s New York Prohibition stories.

Shortly after, inside that inexplicable swirl called a writer’s head, two separate experiences merged. Frank Smith went to his local pub; and he went to see a play. To keep the story structure tight, I made the theatre a blacked-out room at his pub, and had him go out of sheer boredom. Frank would have liked the Damon Runyan stories, but there’s insufficient conflict in what characters enjoy. I needed to change the play, to find one that Frank Smith liked less, that triggered something of his history, his demons or regrets.

On my bookshelves I have ‘Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works’. I browsed through it. ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ seemed ideal. It featured an old man’s memories, recalled with the aid of an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Krapp is a drinker too, which resonated with Frank. While flicking through, I revisited ‘Rockaby’, a short Beckett play featuring an old woman in a rocking chair, remembering her past. Within moments, Frank Smith had a wife.

A day or two later, I named her Lucy. Then killed her off. The story would have become a novel if I hadn’t, and I wanted to balance Frank’s ageing memories – of Lucy and others – with voices of youth. So along came the young woman who ushers the audience to their seats in ‘the long thin dark theatre’ where Krapp’s Last Tape is performed. Her surprise that Frank turned up at all, among so many young people, releases the demons that rumbled as Frank watched the play. Short stories need a moment of realisation or change, and the clash between her enthusiasm for the play’s use of the past and Frank’s disturbed memories provided this.

‘We’ve all been something,’ was all he managed to say. ‘Known someone.’

The story might have ended there, but because the theme of age and youth was well-established I felt more could be done. I went back to the keyboard and jiggled the plot, making Frank inadvertently upset the ‘woman in black’, so her young hopes and dreams could quietly confront his regrets.

“In the half-dark, she looked squarely at him, black T-shirt and jeans appraising jacket and tie. A slight twitch flickered her lips. He thought there might be tears.

‘We all have dreams,’ she said, in the quietest voice he’d ever heard. ‘I’d rather dream than drift, any day.’ She pressed her lips together to control the twitch, but it continued. ‘What’s wrong with having dreams?’ she asked.”

This exchange then allowed a more positive development in Frank, making for a more satisfying conclusion [in my view, anyway, but I’d love to hear yours too].

So, a chance observation in a pub, a visit to a play, a book on a shelf, some musings and experiments at the keyboard – and before too long there’s a character’s voice, a felt situation, and a set of realisations. If it was as easy as I’ve made it sound…

I drop in to a pub maybe once week. I’m wondering if I should go more often. Pubs are full of people, and where there are people, there are stories.

a view from memory hill

You can find A View from the Memory Hill here:  smarturl.it/avwm

 

Paul Toolan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Release!!

Merry Christmas!!!

Just in time for the festive season, I have managed to finish and publish The Chronicles of Mayer – parts one and two. They are prequel stories for The Song of Forgetfulness Dystopian/Sci-fi series and give insight into how the world of NotSoGreatBritAlbion came to exist as it does in the books.

There are more stories to follow so I will be releasing them as and when I complete the manuscripts. I takes time as I have to do a lot of research into global warming, diseases, ice cap melting etc in order to get the facts right. I tell you, writing Sci-fi isn’t as easy as you might think. Creating future worlds is so creative, but I do need to male sure it is credible, hence the research.

MayerBiGTYPE5.12.jpg

Here is the link and blurb for The Chronicles of Mayer:

 An Apocalyptic tale in The Song of Forgetfulness series.

A story of survival and courage in a devastated world.

When mother nature turns against mankind in the latter stages of the 21st century sending hurricanes, earthquakes, and deadly viruses to wipe out the human race, a small community of Buddhist monks and scientists are forced to evacuate Mahabharata House on the disused Lakenheath airbase, as rising waters engulf their home.

With many humans and animals drowned it is up to devotees Gopi Jnanamaya Kosha and Gopala Arjuna Bhutapanchaka, cow herds at Mahabharata, to protect the sacred bovines and take them to a safe haven in the highlands of Scotland.

During their arduous journey on foot and hoof, they meet other refugees of the catastrophic flood who join them on their mission to survive and build a sanctuary for themselves and the cows on the mountains of the Trossachs.

Tension mounts as dwindling food supplies cause friction and distrust amongst the disparate group. Their trek north becomes fraught with danger as hungry survivors clash and rogue soldiers try to butcher the holy herd.

As dangerous lightning storms, traitors and disease threaten to wreck their pilgrimage, Mayer and Arjuna must do battle not only with the elements but those who would kill to get their hands on the last remaining cattle in the ever diminishing island of Great Britain.

This is an accompaniment to The Song of Forgetfulness Sci-fi/Dystopian/Action Adventure series.

 

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful New Year!

Do you have a special place to write?

As I was typing away on my new project yesterday, it occurred to me that I need certain requirements to enable me to think, create and write. Not much to be honest, but I do have  my special place to help me channel my inspiration. I have a comfy chair with cushions, gentle lighting from the beautiful leaded light windows my husband, Martin made and my shelf of reference books ready to hand. When all that is in place I can happily delve into my fantasy world for hours.

Here is a photo of my ‘workstation’.

nikkis-workstation

Do any other authors out there have their special writing places? If so, I’d love to hear from you. If you have a picture, that would be even better.

I am currently working on a series of stories to complement my Sci-fi/Dystopian/Action Adventure books The Song of Forgetfulness.

sofbanner2_19-8-16

The idea came from several readers who contacted me after reading the books wanting to know more about the history of the world I have created. So, I thought, okay, why not?

Can of worms!

I needed to do a lot of research to make my history credible. So it has taken longer than I anticipated to write this prequel of sorts. In fact, I’m nowhere near done, but I have finished the first part, so that’s something.

mayer_v-2_crop18-10

Here is a snippet from part two of The Chronicles of Mayer – out soon!

One weatherless night when quietness surrounded us and I lay snuggled against Paul, a sound awoke me. I thought at first it was just more thunder. But the thumping, rumbling noise was not coming from the sky. It was not the air echoing off a lightning bolt, but the thudding of many feet in unison. I rolled away from Paul’s sleep-twitching body and sat up. Glancing at the wet earth I noticed a puddle ripple. The cows called out. Paul stirred and Arjuna knelt beside me.

‘I was foraging for mushrooms and saw tiny lights. I climbed the branches of a tree and as the dark sky brightened to herald a new day, I saw them. Soldiers.’

‘How many.’ Fully awake, Paul stood. ‘Do they carry weapons?’

‘Guns. Some drag carts. They are coming this way.’

I rubbed my sleep-encrusted eyes. ‘That does not make sense. To travel towards the flooding? Why?

A single gunshot ricocheted through the forest. All that were in slumber jumped to their feet. Cries of puzzlement were met with a loud honking as if a nest of geese had been disturbed. Then a voice, deep and full of authority boomed out. ‘Stay perfectly still and you will not be harmed.’

If you would like more information about my books please do visit my website – Oddly Books.

www.oddlybooks.com

oddlybookslogo2-sml

What? They Banned my Book?

At last, I thought, I’m ready to publish Crow Bones.

jpgcrowbones11crop

 

At times I didn’t think I would. Already this anthology is causing controversy and a number of outlets have banned it from sale. Why? Because an automated system has decided it has content that would offend. This automated system has not actually read any of the content, so I’m assuming it just made an assumption based on the description where I used the word, ‘incest’. I have taken great care to make sure that any sensitive issues I have tackled in these stories are treated with respect and dignity.

This is the email:

Concerning your book
Crow Bones
BOOK ID: 201746
Our sales channels have asked us not to send certain material to them. Draft2Digital’s automated content review has detected some of this declined material in your book, Crow Bones. As a result, we cannot send this book to the following sales channels:
 24 Symbols
 Kobo
 Apple
 Tolino
 Scribd
The types of material at issue include:
 Incest and Pseudo-Incest: The content portrays characters engaged in sexual
 activity with relatives, blood-related or otherwise. This includes situations
where characters refer to each other using familial terms.
Sales channels not listed above continue to receive this material at this time.
If you believe that your book has none of the content listed above and wish to contest the issue, please reply to this email and we will investigate further.

Now, I looked into this. I went onto these sites and discovered that all of them are selling The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan. If you are not familiar with this work, then I can verify that the book is about incest and has many graphic scenes of sexual activity between a brother and sister. So, why is my book being denied publication when there are no sex scenes? I have taken out the word ‘incest’ in my description, contacted the site explaining that my book has ‘none of the content listed above.’ As this goes to print I have received an email stating that they will publish my book after all. Result!

Strange though, that they objected to incestuous material and didn’t mind the other topics in my anthology, such as cannibalism and alien infanticide.

Crow Bones

Revenge, desire, elusive muses, cannibalism, alien infanticide and a very angry goat.

Inspired by artists such as Chagall, Munch, and Banksy, these curious, darkly humorous and sometimes surreal stories explore human nature in all its disparate colours. From finding love against the odds on Blackpool Beach to surviving abandonment on a dying planet, each tale takes you to another time and place where reality is blurred and dreams mingle with the paint from a spray can.

To celebrate the launch of my ‘banned’ collection of short stories,  I am pricing both my anthologies – Crow Bones and Glimmer –  at only 99c – or equivalent depending on the country you live in. Links below on Amazon.

crowbonesv-8_front_only

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M6CT8PZ

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M6CT8PZ

Glimmer and other stories


US: https://www.amazon.com/Glimmer-other-stories-Unusual-suspense-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M

UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Glimmer-other-stories-Unusual-suspense-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M

For  sites such as Kobo, itunes and Barnes and Noble. Just click on the link below:

Would you buy this book?

I have been working on my second short story collection for over a year now. I was going to publish it last Christmas, but like I said in my previous post, I got cold feet.

I have now finished it and will be publishing it on November 5th – Bonfire Night in the UK. May as well start with a bang!

Anyway, here is the blurb and cover. Would you buy this book?

Crow Bones:

Revenge, desire, elusive muses, incest, cannibalism, alien infanticide and a very angry goat.

Inspired by artists such as Chagall, Munch, and Banksy, these curious, darkly humorous and sometimes surreal stories explore human nature in all its disparate colours. From finding love against the odds on Blackpool Beach to surviving abandonment on a dying planet, each tale takes you to another time and place where reality is blurred and dreams mingle with the paint mist from a spray can.

 If you like authors such as Philip K Dick, Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, Annie Proulx and Franz Kafka, then Crow Bones is the anthology for you.

crowbonesv-6cfront

I will also be launching my new venture – Oddly Books  where I will be publishing my own weird novels and stories as well as getting together other like-minded authors to produce quality fiction that strays beyond the edge of reality.

So, if you are an author who writes quality, speculative, strange stories, please do get in touch.

Here is a short extract form one of the stories in the new anthology

 Soft Boiled.

“The hiss and babble of a pot brewing up bones and gristle gave the kitchen a sense of bustle despite the stillness of the sole occupant.

Alice, fixed to her seat, did not waft her flushed cheeks, scratch the itch that made her thigh twitch or wipe off the sticky fluid on her fingers. She just sat, stared at the pan and let the blood drip.”

My first short story anthology – Glimmer and other stories – the ebook is on offer at the moment for only $0.99 £0.99. You can purchase it on Amazon:

US: https://www.amazon.com/Glimmer-other-stories-Unusual-suspense-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M

Or from a variety of sites such as Kobo, itunes and Barnes and Noble. Just click on the link below:
Any author interested in the Oddly Book anthology, please do get in touch. My email is: nikki@nicolamcdonagh.com. Or leave a comment with a contact for me to get in touch with you.
Thanks for reading!!