What is Your Word for 2023?

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I’m not usually one for coming up with a word that describes my plans for the year ahead, but before Christmas last year, I encountered one that I felt was very appropriate.

I’m a big lover of music, and as I was searching through Youtube, I encountered Adieu, the latest release from Rammstein. The video is amazing, and after a couple of listens, it quickly became an earworm. I read the English translation of the lyrics, and the song is really quite sad. I interpret the video to be about new beginnings; that in order to move forward, we must let go of the past. It has gone on to become one of my favourites of theirs (and yes, I’m finding myself going down a rabbit hole).

In 2023, I’m bidding adieu to my Marsden Hall series of novellas, (the final book, House of Echoes, will be released on 22 February). I will also be bidding adieu to a couple of writing projects I have been sitting on for a while, but this will also be a new beginning of sorts, too (so it works both ways). I’ll be saying adieu to a few personal issues as well, that have been holding me back for years, as I feel now is the time to move on.

I believe that some things happen in our lives at exactly the right time, and I feel the timing of this song is one of them. It’s given me momentum to keep moving forward. After the events of the past twelve months, I’m feeling more hopeful of the future. I’m looking forward to new beginnings.

Do you have a word you use to describe your plans for 2023? Is listening to music a motivator for your writing? Are you letting go of something that’s holding you back?

New Covers for the Marsden Hall Series

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Recently, I revealed The Witch’s Curse, a short story prequel to my Marsden Hall series. It was the first in the series to receive a spiffy new cover.

So, with a new year, comes a whole new look!

As House of Echoes is the final chapter in the series, it’s a bit of a ‘last hurrah.’ It’s due to be released on 22 February, and I will reveal more details closer to the day.

Meanwhile, the first two books in the series, The Curse of Marsden Hall and The Stranger Within, are both available with their gorgeous new covers.

I’ve spent the past couple of months working with a cover designer to get exactly what I envisioned for all four books in the series, and I’m pleased with the results. I hope you like them, too! 🙂

You can find out more about the series, as well as my other books, by visiting my books page.

 

‘The Witch’s Curse’ Now Available to Subscribers.

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I’m pleased to announce The Witch’s Curse is here!

Influenced by a true story, The Witch’s Curse, is a short story prequel to my Marsden Hall novella series. It’s available now when you subscribe to my newsletter.

Their crimes are her revenge…

After the death of her husband, Abigail Muller yearns for a peaceful life. The community, led by the lecherous Pastor Thomas, believe she is in the thrall of the devil.

Will her protestations save her life, or will the community be cursed forever?

When you subscribe, you’ll also learn about the inspiration behind my books, receive exclusive content, and be the first to hear about my upcoming releases.

Subscribe now and receive your exclusive copy of The Witch’s Curse.

To find out more about my Marsden Hall series, please visit my books page.

Celebrating Three Years as an Indie Author.

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Happy new year! I hope you’re well rested and making plans for 2023.

I admit 2022 was not one of my best years. I had ongoing health issues which hampered my writing efforts. Despite that, though, it gave me time to reflect on what I considered important in my life; writing being one of them.

Before I self-published three years ago, I read that once I hit that “publish” button, my life would change. In some respects, it did. I had more work to do, and like blogging, I had readers to satisfy. The trouble was, I managed to get caught in the belief that to be successful, I needed to write fast. Add on the “fear of missing out,” and worrying about things out of my control, what once gave me pleasure, I soon began to dread. I even considered chucking it all in.

Thankfully, I managed to persevere, believing that my health issues were an opportunity for me to slow down (the slow and steady route has always been my preferred  option, anyway). I continued to take a step back from all the noise of social media and have come to realise the three most important things when it comes to indie publishing: –

  1. Focus on your product
  2. Do what is comfortable for you, and
  3. Enjoy the process.

Indie publishing is a lot of work, and we can get so caught up in all the rush we forget why we’re doing this in the first place. Sometimes we need to reassess and take the time to appreciate how far we’ve come.

My husband recently told me to think about my personal satisfaction. Knowing I have created something I am proud of, and that readers enjoy, makes it all worth-while.

If you’re an indie author, have you been overwhelmed, or do you prefer to do it your own way? If you’re not published, which option are you considering – traditional, indie, or both?

December Quarterly Book Reviews 2022.

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The Christmas holidays have arrived, and here in Australia, the lazy days of summer are back!

These past few months, I’ve been busy working on edits for my upcoming release, so some short reads have been a welcome distraction. This selection mainly consists of authors new to me, so I’m only too happy to help spread the word. 😊

Happy reading and best wishes for 2023!

The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

In 1897, after the death of her father, Vaughan Springthorpe is hired as a legal assistant to prepare papers for the sale of Morton Abbey. It is a remote mansion located on the Yorkshire moors, containing locked rooms, and hidden passageways. Shortly after her arrival, strange things begin to happen, including the sound of a child crying at night. Her work is disrupted, convincing Vaughan that someone wants to be rid of her. The local town also has its mysteries, for the children who live there are only boys.

This novel is ‘The Secret Garden’ for adults and is a Gothic romance involving a love triangle between Vaughan, the gardener, and the ill, brooding, Nicholas Spencer. The plot and characters are well developed, and I especially liked Vaughan’s determination to prove herself in a male dominated profession. If you enjoy Gothic romances with a good mystery, I highly recommend The Curse of Morton Abbey.

No Such Luck by Staci Troilo

Piper is fired from her job as a journalist and returns to her hometown for Christmas. Here, she meets up with her best friend, Jack, and her high school crush, Tommy. She eventually becomes torn between childhood fantasies and reality, questioning which one is her perfect match.

The characters are well developed, and the writing is flawless. The first novella in the Keystone Couples series, this is a short, sweet romance, and the perfect holiday read. This is the first time I have read a book from this author, and it won’t be my last.

Dog Meat by Priscilla Bettis

The Colony is a place where one’s profession is determined by an exam. The lower the score, the less desirable the occupation. Ward’s job is to slaughter dogs for a restaurant, and despite his best efforts, he cannot leave.

Bettis has created a dystopian novella, a harsh place, where residents are devoid of empathy. Ward hates his job and has suicidal thoughts. The reader sympathises with him and the situation he is in, which is skilfully done.

I admit, being a dog lover, it took me a while to read this book. I applaud Bettis in tackling such a difficult subject matter. Some scenes are confronting, and one in particular gave me pause, but the author reveals the realities of the trade, leaving an imprint on the reader long after they’ve finished.

Well written, this novella is a powerful statement of man’s cruelty to animals, as well as ourselves.

Ghosted by Melanie Pickering

It’s Christmas Eve, and Holly is not in a festive mood. She has recently broken up with her boyfriend, her best friend is away for the holidays, and her mother is working on Christmas Day. In a last-minute attempt to buy her mother a present, she goes to the town’s Christmas Carnival, where she encounters the new boy in town, her secret crush.

This young adult novella is a fresh take on A Christmas Carol, where Holly must decide what she really wants in a relationship. A sweet romance, the characters are relatable (my favourites being Jody and Marley), and I would be interested to see more of some secondary characters. I enjoyed the setting, which brought to life the carnival atmosphere. This fun, quick read, is perfect for the holidays.

What books are you reading these Christmas holidays? Have you been reading books from new authors lately? Do you have a favourite summer read?

Do You Fall Behind Or Catch Up on Your Writing Goals Over Christmas?

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We’ve made it to December, and it’s the final post for the IWSG for the year.

The question for this month is quite poignant. Usually, over Christmas, I fall behind, but I’ve been behind in my writing goals all year. I have been suffering from chronic pain and fatigue since late 2021, which threw my writing goals into disarray. Then, in the middle of NaNoWriMo, I had to abandon the challenge, as my town was hit by the recent floods, and my father-in-law’s house was affected (thankfully, he’s okay and is back home). Basically, it has been almost impossible to make plans for anything, let alone, writing.

So, this Christmas, I’ll be playing catch up with my writing goals. It’s a good thing I already adhere to the ‘slow and steady’ approach!

I have a few seasons of ‘Supernatural’ to catch up on as well. 😉

The final novella in my Marsden Hall series, House of Echoes, is with my editor, which means I can now start work on something new – only I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that will be (yep, squirrel). 😉

Christmas is also a time to reassess my writing goals and figure out what I’m comfortable with when it comes to both writing and marketing. If these past twelve months have taught me anything, it’s to go at my own pace; I’m in this for the long haul.

Happy Christmas everyone and best wishes for the new year. Wishing you lots of writing successes in 2023!

Do you fall behind or catch up on your writing goals over Christmas? Are you happy to go at your own pace when it comes to writing?

Writers: Have You Ever Participated in NaNoWriMo?

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Recently, I had been working on the edits for a couple of projects and planning what to write next when this month’s question for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group appeared. It was certainly good timing, and I thank the group for the question, because I had forgotten all about NaNoWriMo. In fact, when I visited the site, I was shocked to discover I hadn’t participated in six years!

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo about three times in the past, making it over the finish line of 50k twice. I can honestly say that both times, those ‘successes’ were both steaming excrements, and I have not revisited either of them. Having said that though, they were both learning experiences. I learned that for me, at least, when it comes to writing novels (or even novellas for that matter), I need to have an outline.

So, why has it been so long since I participated?

I’m not sure if it is just me, but each time I participated in NaNoWriMo, I would get bad headaches. Maybe it was the stress of pushing myself to reach a certain word count every day, or other factors, like the computer screen, or needing to get my eyes tested. This time, though, I’m prepared: I have a new computer with a bigger screen, and I’ve been wearing reading glasses for some years now (the joys of getting older). I’m devoting the entire month of November towards this project, as well as trying to meet a deadline for my editor. At least now, I have an excuse to binge on Netflix! 😉

In the past, I always worked on something new, but this time I’ll be doing something different by writing a new draft of an existing project. Don’t worry, I won’t be cheating, as this project is in dire need of a re-write (it hasn’t been touched for some years). But by doing this, my outline is already there after a few tweaks, and my world and characters are a bit more fleshed out. I usually work linear as well, but in NaNoWriMo you don’t have to, which is a great help in getting those words down. Because this project has been bubbling away for some time, I’m keen to get started.

If you’re participating this year, let me know, the more the merrier. I wish you the best of luck! Let’s cheer each other on!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this month? Have you worked on your novel after NaNoWriMo? Are you a plotter or a panster, or somewhere in-between?

The Lure of The Devil’s Pool.

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In far north Queensland, surrounded by lush rainforests, sits The Devil’s Pool, part of Babinda Creek. Large granite boulders fill the creek bed, making it a popular swimming and picnic area. Beneath its natural beauty lies deep channels, and a popular myth that is both haunting and terrifying.

According to legend, a young Aboriginal woman, named Oolana, was selected to marry a respected elder of her tribe. However, she had fallen in love with a young man from a rival tribe. Knowing they could not possibly remain together, they ran away, but were eventually found. He was banished, but as Oolana was escorted back to her tribe, she managed to wrestle free. Oolana threw herself into the waters of Babinda Creek, crying out for her lost love, and there she drowned.

Since then, it is believed she haunts the waters, luring young single men to their deaths in the hope that one of them is her lost love.

There is startling evidence to suggest there might be some truth behind this local myth. Police records, dating back to 1959, reveal that twenty people have drowned at Babinda, although the figures could be much higher. Each of the victims, except for one German tourist, have been single men, and the majority have all been tourists or ‘outsiders.’

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One such victim was 24-year-old Patrick McGann. A couple of hours before the tragedy, a photo was taken of him with a cigarette in his mouth. Police photographed the area after Patrick drowned, only to find that when the photos were developed, his face could clearly be seen in the water, complete with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

Today, a plaque lies at the site to his memory, and as a warning to others.

‘Pray for the soul of Patrick McGann. He came for a visit on 22.6.79 and stayed forever.’

Whether the events to this story are mere coincidences or there are actual supernatural forces at play, you can’t deny The Devil’s Pool certainly makes for one compelling, spooky story.

What Do You Like Best About Gothic Fiction?

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It’s time for another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), and as October is Halloween month, it seems appropriate that I’ll be talking about my favourite genre.

Haunted houses, eerie landscapes and forbidden secrets: ever since the publication of The Castle of Otranto in 1764, Gothic Fiction may have received its fair share of detractors, but it has gone on to become a very versatile genre.

For many years, I could never work out exactly which genre I wrote in. As I read in multiple genres, my writing would gravitate towards a variety of genres as well. Horror, romance, historical, mysteries: I tried them all. It’s only in more recent years that I’ve come full circle, returning to the genre that I was drawn to from a very early age (although I do still write in other genres).

I think I’ve managed to avoid my characters doing this. I might have to try it sometime!

One of the reasons why I enjoy Gothic Fiction so much is because it incorporates other genres, and therefore gives it more scope to tap into various themes. Two recurring themes for me are mental illness and gender issues, such as the status of women in society (which works well in a historical setting).

I grew up watching horror films and have always been fascinated by the paranormal (ghosts being my favourite), so I am naturally drawn to stories that contain these elements. I enjoy the suspense built within them, eager to keep turning the pages or watching to see what lurks within the shadows. As the setting is an important characteristic of the Gothic genre, this helps heighten the feelings of dread.

Gothic fiction is also highly emotional, which is why it works extremely well with romantic elements. Throw in a flawed, brooding hero and I’m sold. 😉

The BBC production of Jane Eyre is my favourite.

Death is a constant companion within the genre. I’ve had a morbid fascination about the subject from a young age (regular family visits to the local cemetery may have something to do with it). It is one of life’s great mysteries, and being naturally curious, I really enjoy a good mystery too!

Gothic Fiction has many characteristics, and as you can probably tell, I’m fond of all of them! Recently, I’ve heard that the Gothic novel is ‘coming back.’ For me, it never left.

For those who celebrate – Happy Halloween! 🙂

What do you consider the best characteristics of your favourite genre? Have you struggled to find your genre when it comes to writing? Do you have a favourite production of Jane Eyre?

September Quarterly Book Reviews, 2022.

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My favourite time of the year is back. Spring has finally arrived! It’s a good opportunity to get outside and enjoy the sun before sneezin’ season well and truly kicks in. With all this rain we’ve been getting lately, it’s perfect conditions for weeds and hay fever.

These past few months I’ve been reading and listening to a mix of horror and Gothic fiction – two of my favourites. I’ve also found some new authors. 😊

Immortelle by Catherine McCarthy

I really enjoyed this ghost story, set in a coastal town of Wales, with its combination of superstition and the art of ceramics. I enjoyed how the plot and Elinor’s grief combined to create each unique immortelle to decorate the graves of the dead.

This book starts off with two different viewpoints, but it is ultimately Elinor’s story, which is of a mother’s love for her child. There are hints of Elinor’s past, which I would have liked to have read more about, tragic deaths, ghosts, a mysterious character, and the occult.

This story is beautifully written, and some phrases you need to stop reading just to admire them. The ending is both surprising and touching. This is a deeply moving story, and one I highly recommend.

Many thanks to fellow author and blogger, Priscilla Bettis, for the recommendation! 😊

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

I’ve read this book half a dozen times now, and it has become one of my favourites, placing it alongside The Turn of the Screw.

Eel Marsh House is an unusual, but eerie location, isolated and surrounded by marshland, creeping fog, and has its own graveyard. Strange noises frequent the marshes and the nursery, and while the woman in black appears on occasion, her presence is constant. As Arthur Kipps works alone at the house, it is refreshing to read of the dog, Spider, keeping him company. Spider is a lovely addition, and the reader also becomes concerned for her welfare.

I think listening to the audio version helps draw the reader in. It is told in the style of an old-fashioned ghost story, where Arthur tells his experiences as one would a friend in front of a warm fire on a cold winter’s night. It feels intimate with a slow build and the narrator does a great job of reading the book, which culminates in the shocking final scene, making it both chilling and heart-wrenching.

Well written, suspenseful, and atmospheric, it is highly recommended for readers of Gothic horror.

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

For me, this book started slow, but it wasn’t until the main character, Beatriz, began walking the house alone in the dark, did it really draw me in. The author creates an eerie atmosphere with some beautiful phrases, so that the house itself becomes a character, and the ghost is more than a shadowy figure.

I listened to the audio version, which alternated between Beatriz and Andres. The narrators did a wonderful job. They helped make the characters come alive, so that in the end I could have been mistaken for believing they were Beatriz and Andres. The only downside to the audio version was not knowing the meaning of some of the Spanish words. After hearing some of them being repeated, though, I got to understand their meaning, while at other times I was so drawn in by the story, I let them go.

I can understand the comparisons to Rebecca, but I think the setting and some of the characters helps make this unique within the Gothic genre. This is a wonderful debut, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

The BEK Curse by Jonathan Pongratz

Early retirees, Richard and Maria Wilcox, have settled into life on a farm, but talk of strange children lurking the neighbourhood shatter their privacy. The author does a good job of building the suspense as these children visit Richard and Maria at night, their intentions escalating. The children are creepy, especially the young boy, who I found capable of anything.

The ending surprised me. I wanted more and left me with questions. I am unfamiliar with the legend of black-eyed children, and I’m curious to find out more. The ending felt rushed, but that may be because I needed to keep turning the pages. By this stage, I was suspecting everyone!

A quick read that sure packs a punch, it is the first time I have read a book from this author, and it won’t be the last.

What have you been reading these past few months? Have you found any new authors lately? Do you have any book/author recommendations to share?