Wildest Dreams Book Box: Unboxing and review of a Comic Lover’s Dream.

Wildest Dreams Book Box: Unboxing and review of a Comic Lover’s Dream.

For todays blog post I am super excited to unbox and review August’s Wildest Dreams book box.  I was privileged to become an official Wildest Dreams rep and this is the first box I have received as part of my rep period and I cannot tell you how excited I am!  This month’s theme is ‘Comic Legends.’  I love a good comic book film, so I am intrigued to find out what’s inside, and if you like it as much as me and fancy grabbing your very own box, you can use my discount code MARIE!% for 15% off!

WDbox 1First up, the featured book is ‘Catwoman: Soulstealer‘ by Sarah.J.Maas:

When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play. It’s time to see how many lives this cat really has. . . .

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.

Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing’s undoing.

I always love a book where the protagonist is an anti-hero or flat out villain, so I am excited to read this.  I have also never read a comic book character novel, but I always like to be pushed out of my comfort zone and so, I am interested to see what it’s like.

WDbox 2Along with this book, there are a few bookish goodies.  First up, is a set of four comic themed candles by Taken Moons.  Candles are one of my absolute favourite things to find inside a book box so to find FOUR makes me very happy, plus they smell like heaven!!  There are four distinct scents: ‘Warbringer’ a Wonderwoman inspired candle scented with desert breeze, ‘Nighwalker’ a Batman inspired candle scented with jasmine, ‘Soulstealer’ a Catwoman inspired candle scented with cherry chocolate (and good enough to eat) and finally ‘Dawnbreaker’ a Superman inspired candle scented with sandalwood.  I wish that it was possible to embed scent on a blog post, because they smell delicious.  I also love glitter and sparkle so I just love these!

Along with the candles, I have received a bag of Gotham City tea by the fabulous Rosie Lea Tea company.  I have collaborated with this wonderful company before on a giveaway, so I am super excited to taste this tea, especially when I find out the flavour: blackcurrant balanced with Sri Lankan black tea and hints of vanilla!  Can anyone else say yum?  You even get some tea bags to use with the loose teas should you not own a diffuser, which I really appreciate!

Finally, to match with the badass Catwoman book, I have received a badass Catwoman bookmark featuring that awesome tag line, “When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play.”  I look forward to using it to mark the pages when I read the book (because dog-earing is a sin!! lol).

So that’s the box and I really love it!  I plan on burning my candles and putting my feet up with a sumptuous cup of Blackcurrant tea and my Catwoman book (keep an eye out for the review down the line).  As I said before, if you like the box and fancy grabbing your own, you can use my discount code MARIE15 for 15% off.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with my latest posts and if you like my photos, head over to Instagram and follow me for more (my handle is @mariemcwilliamsauthor).  Thanks for reading guys and have a great week!!

 

My Chronicles Book Box: Unboxing & Review.

My Chronicles Book Box: Unboxing & Review.

chronicles 4Hello readers!  For this week’s blog post, I am super excited to bring you an unboxing of this month’s My Chronicles Book Box.  If you haven’t heard of this book box, it is a British based book box available as part of a subscription or as a one off purchase.  They come in various categories, including ‘Crime and Mystery’ and ‘Science Fiction and Fantasy’ as well as one off boxes themed to particular books or book series.  I of course, chose the Crime and Mystery box…I am a crime fiction writer after all.

First of all, can I just say how stunning the packaging and wrapping for this book box are.  Upon opening the box, I discovered a beautiful envelope addressed to myself at my favourite reading nook, sealed with a Chronicles book box wax seal.  Inside, was a letter explaining the contents, along with a ‘newspaper’ style article with an interview from each author featured.  Each book was beautifully wrapped in it’s own brightly coloured paper tied up with string, which meant that it was like a present within a present! The whole thing felt very luxurious and special.  I really appreciated the attention to detail, so I wanted to note that before getting into the box’s contents.

chronicles 1Ok, now for the all important contents and the best part about that?  This box contains not one, not two, but THREE books!  Two of which are hardbacks, and two of which are signed!  As a book worm and book hoarder, I cannot describe how happy I felt to unwrap three new books.  The three books inside the box are:

‘A Different Kind of Evil’ by Andrew Wilson: In January 1927 – and still recovering from the harrowing circumstances surrounding her disappearance a month earlier – Agatha Christie sets sail on an ocean liner bound for the Canary Islands.
She has been sent there by the British Secret Intelligence Service to investigate the death of one of its agents, whose partly mummified body has been found in a cave.
Early one morning, on the passage to Tenerife, Agatha witnesses a woman throw herself from the ship into the sea. At first, nobody connects the murder of the young man on Tenerife with the suicide of a mentally unstable heiress. Yet, soon after she checks into the glamorous Taoro Hotel situated in the lush Orotava Valley, Agatha uncovers a series of dark secrets.
 The famous writer has to use her novelist’s talent for plotting to outwit an enemy who possesses a very different kind of evil. 

I am particularly excited by this one as a massive Agatha Christie fan, so this will be promptly moving to the top of my to be read pile.  And can I just say, I love this cover.  This book came with a signed plate from the author, and as you know, us book worms love nothing more than a signed book.

‘A Shot in the Dark’ by Lynne Truss: After the notorious ‘Middle Street Massacre’ of 1951, when the majority of Brighton’s criminals wiped one another out in a vicious battle as the local police force enjoyed a brief stop en route for an ice cream, Inspector Steine rather enjoys life as a policeman. No criminals, no crime, no stress. He just wishes Sergeant Brunswick would stop insisting that perhaps not every criminal was wiped out that fateful day.
So it’s really rather annoying when an ambitious – not to mention irritating – new Constable shows up to work and starts investigating a series of burglaries. And it’s even more annoying when, after Constable Twitten is despatched to the theatre for the night, he sits next to a vicious theatre critic who is promptly shot dead part way through the opening night of a new play.
It seems Brighton may be in need of a police force after all…

This is the first in a new crime series and is a more light hearted take on a crime novel.  The reviews I have read say it has a great sense of humour, so looking forward to reading this one.

Finally, ‘The Dead Ex’ by Jane Corry: Vicki’s husband David once promised to love her in sickness and in health. But after a brutal attack left her suffering with epilepsy, he ran away with his mistress.  So when Vicki gets a call one day to say that he’s missing, her first thought is ‘good riddance’. But then the police find evidence suggesting that David is dead. And they think Vicki had something to do with it.

What really happened on the night of David’s disappearance?
And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself?

This wouldn’t normally be the kind of book I would reach for, but it sounds interesting and I like the premise a lot.  This book is signed as well, which makes my inner book worm very happy!

Along with these three books, I also received some bookish goodies.  First of, an amazing chronicles 2print inspired by the famous Hercule Poirot, designed by Teddy from TeddyandGoo.  I already mentioned how much I love Agatha Christie, so this print is 100% going up on the wall of my office.  Next, we have a set of story teller pencils by UStudio design.  They feature such well used literary phrases as ‘Once Upon a Time’ and ‘It was a day just like any other.’  I really like these, and plan on using them to write with.  Hopefully they bring me some inspiration.  Next, we have a gorgeous pin brooch inspired by the ultimate detective Sherlock Holmes, designed by Bonita at Nabu online.  The brook features a tiny silver scarf, violin, spy glass and of chronicles 3course his trade mark pipe, and will be adorning my jacket shortly.  Finally, there is a ‘Discovery of Witches’ print, designed by Beth from Eyes of a Fangirl exclusively for My Chronicles Book Box.  This print is a teaser for a book box themed around the ‘A Discovery of Witches’ series by Deb Harkness, available to order soon.

All in all, a really great box, packed to the gills with crime fiction goodies.  I have to recommend to highly and plan on ordering myself one in the future.

Bejeweled: A Short Story & Artist Collaboration.

Bejeweled: A Short Story & Artist Collaboration.

Hello my lovely readers!  For today’s blog post, I have collaborated with another amazing artist on a short story.  For those of you unfamiliar with this project, I have been teaming up wit artists and photographers from all over the world.  I write a story or poem inspired by their artistic style and body of work and they in turn create a piece inspired by that story.  The idea is to inspire and be inspired in return and so far it has had some wonderful results.  For this collaboration, I have teamed up with the lovely Tula Posy, a book illustrator and crafter from Poland.  Tula creates the most beautiful and unique images, which she sells as prints in her shop, along with badass book marks (all my fellow book worms will understand the importance of a pretty book mark).  If you love her quirky art as much as I do, you can check out her Instagram here and her Etsy store here.  I hope you enjoy it, happy reading…

Tula 3

Bejeweled

Magic is real.  There are many books and stories which declare this already in existence, but I am now adding my voice to theirs in order to emphasise the fact: Magic IS real.  On the most part, it is something you are born into, something you inherit like an old clock from that Great Aunt you hardly visited, or your Grandad’s rare coin collection.  But, on the occasion, magic can be something you stumble upon blindly and without any warning.  Magic can simply enter your life and cause chaos, before leaving just as abruptly and mysteriously.  But before we get into all of that, let me introduce myself.  My name is Eleanor.

Tula 1Before this little incident, I was just your average teenager.  I was anti-social, a little moody, or perhaps a lot moody, and I pretty much hated everything.  My school was simply a red bricked prison for the illiterate hockey jocks that filled its corridors with incessant noise and inane chatter.  My home was a veritable battle ground, with me versus my parents in a verbal smack down on an almost daily basis.  They couldn’t understand why I was so irritable all the time, or why I wouldn’t try out for the cheerleading team.  I couldn’t understand how spelling letters with your arms could be considered anything but a huge waste of time.  It was, in a word, exhausting.

The truth was, I hadn’t withdrawn from everyone because I woke up one day and decided I disliked every other human being on the planet intently, it was because I had all of a sudden and without explanation become painfully aware of myself and my own body, and I was constantly terrified of embarrassing myself.  I suddenly gave a crap what everyone else thought about me, and I hated that about myself.  I hated ME. I decided, it was better to withdraw and surrender, than to battle forth and risk humiliation.  So, I did just that.  I withdrew and became invisible.  I discovered that disappearing was a hidden talent of mine. I was an expert at blending into the background.

But on one stuffy, June day, that all changed forever.  It was a day like any other to begin with.  Wake up. Brush teeth.  Change clothes.  Catch bus to school.  Avoid eye contact with the popular kids with their tanned skin and overly white, bleached smiles as I make my way to the back, well you get the idea.  At lunch, there was to be a sale of sorts, to raise funds for new Basketball team uniforms, or for some extra footballs, or something along those lines, I really wasn’t paying attention.  There would be baked goods of all varieties, made lovingly by the cheerleading team, or more accurately their house keepers.  There was to be some kind of skit by said cheerleaders, to be avoided at all costs, the band were playing something and they were selling off everything from the vast and cobwebbed store room.

You know how every house has that one drawer filled with old batteries, foreign currency and Chinese takeout menus?  Well, this was the High School equivalent.  Everything and anything that was located within its walls, which had no designated place to go, was shoved in here to be forgotten.  There were old instruments, damaged text books, chairs with missing limbs, and the lost property cupboard, filled with every discarded school jersey or dropped hair tie.  I didn’t know what I expected to find, or if I expected to find anything at all, but I found myself excited by the prospect of this sale.  It would be, in my view, an opportunity to see the school from a different vantage point.  After all, what says more about the person than the garbage they throw away? It was a time capsule or fifty years’ worth of teenager’s junk, and I wanted to have a hoke and see what forgotten treasure I could find.

I regretted my decision to attend almost immediately.  Everyone in the school had crammed themselves into the sports hall.  It was too warm, claustrophobically crowded and smelled badly of BO.  But, I was there, so I might as well do what I went there for.  I passed the cake stand and paid one dollar for a cup cake with a large dollop of pink icing.  It was sickly sweet and made my teeth hurt whilst I ate it, but it gave me the necessary sugar buzz to carry on with my mission.  When the skit started (some God-awful footballer/cheerleader/basketball player love triangle which made me vomit a little bit of undigested cupcake back into my mouth), most of the school moved to the end of the hall with the makeshift stage, so I finally felt able to breathe.

When I made my way to the sad little lost property stand, marked by a banner reading Tula 2‘Crap for sale’, something immediately caught my eye.  Just there, underneath a very faded school PE t-shirt with yellow stained arm pits, and a tattered copy of a Biology text book, I saw something green catch the light for a moment.  A diamond in the rough, the very rough. It was a necklace, but one unlike anything I had ever seen before.  It was a black chain, with a single green stone hanging from it.  The stone was not polished or shaped but looked as it must have looked when it was dug from the earth, and a thin black snake coiled around the stone and became the loop at the top in which the chain threaded through. As it caught the light, it reflected a small green blur onto the table below.   It wasn’t beautiful exactly, just unusual and a little rough around the edges.  I immediately took a liking to it and paid the requested five dollars without argument.

Now, as you have guessed from my opening lines, this necklace was no ordinary trinket.  I don’t know how it came to be in the lost property box, or where it came from.  I don’t know how old it is, who it belonged to or why the owner never sought it out once it was lost.  So, if you are looking for the answers to these questions then you will be sorely disappointed.  What I can tell you, is what the necklace does.

The first time I wore it, I was home alone with my Dad, a man older in mind than in body, who shouted at sports on TV and insisted on wearing socks with his sandals no matter how many times he was told how unfashionable this was.

“Elly?”

My Dad calls me Elly. It bugs the Hell out of me and is the cause of many a fight.

“What?”

“Could you take the garbage out please?”

“But Dad…”

“No buts missy.  If you want your allowance, you’ll take out the garbage.  And don’t forget to sort the recyclables.”

“Eugh fine.”

This is a typical example of our exchanges.  Blunt, brief and usually involving me doing something I don’t want to do.  I walked, or should I say stomped, my way down the stairs and out into the garage to do the needful when he spoke again.

“I’ve gained at least twenty pounds.”

“What?”

“What?”

“Did you say something?”

“No, I didn’t.  Don’t try and wriggle out of garbage duty Missy.”

He called me Missy when he was in a bad mood.  This also irritated me greatly.  I was halfway across the kitchen now, closing in on the door to the garage when…

“Twenty pounds at least.  I can barely get my pants closed.  I’ve tried everything, weight lifting, dieting, even running but nothing, nada.  You’re old and fat Carl.  Old and fat.”

I had never heard my Dad talk like this before.  He mostly talked about work, or whatever team in whatever sport was playing at that time, but I had never heard him talk about himself or his appearance.  He sounded sad.  I decided he must be talking to himself, the way we all do when we feel a little low, so I snuck into the living room and hid behind the arm chair so I could listen.

“Keep going like this and Jen won’t look twice at you anymore. She’s so beautiful, she’s always been beautiful.  She could have had any man, but she chose me and my fat ass.”

Jen is my mum, and she is indeed beautiful in that older woman kind of way.  She has always eaten well, always drank plenty of water and worn sun screen, and so she aged gracefully.  But no matter how pretty your mum might be, you don’t want to hear your Dad gushing about it.  Parents fancying each other is gross.  I was about to sneak off again, when I my breath caught in my chest and my heart skipped at least three beats, because suddenly I realised as my Father continued on about his appearance and his concerns about my Mum not fancying him anymore (eugh), I realised his mouth wasn’t moving.  I checked and rechecked again and confirmed it.  He was NOT speaking.  No words were being shouted, spoken, whispered or otherwise uttered. But that’s impossible I hear you say, because I could hear him speaking as plainly as I speak to you now, but dear readers it was true.  For what I was hearing was not my Dad talking to himself, but the very thoughts inside his head.  In five minutes of hearing my Dad ‘s mind whirling, I learned more about him than I had done in sixteen years of living with the man.  I learned that he had been privately going to the gym with a personal trainer, how he had traded his old musky aftershave for a new one he had seen advertised by a twenty something hipster on TV in an effort to appear younger, and how he was considering dying his hair to hide the ever-growing number of greys.

My Dad had always seemed happy enough in himself, but apparently, he worried about his appearance just as much as his self-conscious teenage daughter.  This made me feel a connection with him for the first time since I had stopped wanting to play catch with him at six years old.

The truth was, my Dad looked great for his age, and much as I loathed to admit it, my mum was still pretty into him.  I wanted him to know this, to feel better about himself.  So after my garbage run, and mild freak out in my bedroom over my new found ability to read minds, I did just that.

“Have you lost weight Dad?”

“What? Have I?”

“Yeah, definitely.  I would say at least ten pounds.  You look good.”

“Ok, what do you want?”

“I don’t want anything, I just noticed that’s all.”

“Yes!  That PT finally paid off!” 

For the rest of the day, he walked with a distinct spring in his step, and I even saw him grab my Mum’s butt.  Yes, it made me vomit in my own mouth, and yes I will be telling a therapist about it for years to come, but it was nice to see him feeling more confident in himself.

After my little episode with my Father, I couldn’t wait to try the necklace out at school.  As someone on the outside, someone who was not privy to the thoughts and motivations of the inner echelon of High school popularity, it was an intriguing prospect to in a way know them, and perhaps understand them.  I felt like Jane Goodall, readying myself to study the apes.  But in truth, what met me was such a cacophony of noise, a mass of bodiless voices all yelling at once, it was basically white noise.  As I ripped the jewel from my throat, I could understand why someone never claimed the charm.  It seems the necklace has no filter.  There was no remote, no way to point at the person you wanted to read and press click, it was simply an antenna, picking up every signal within a 100 metre radius.  It was deafening.

Taking a different tact, I began to seek out opportunities to study my peers in isolation, or at least with as few of them around as possible.  As you can imagine, that was more difficult that initially thought. We humans tend to be a social bunch, and the cliques within my school have long been established.  It was as if even the most popular amongst us sought the security of a group or crowd.  Even the loners and oddballs like me had our own little groups for support, misery after all does love company.  But after a week of trying unsuccessfully, and weirding several students out, I finally managed it.

It was a warm and humid Wednesday, and whilst most of the school poured out into the yard and playing fields, I sought the quiet of the library.  There were few people there, and I took the opportunity to put the necklace on, and walk amongst the stacks, studying the occupants of the room like the books on the shelves.  Much of what I overheard was relatively unremarkable.  The librarian, Mrs Cooper, a friendly faced elderly woman who smelled of soap and wore her gold rimmed glasses on a chain around her neck, was making a mental shopping list of what to purchase from the store after school.  Apart from hearing she suffers from haemorrhoids, I learned nothing there.  There was a boy called Ben, whose last name escapes me, from a year or two below me.  He was working out the math problem before him with a level of intensity reserved for nuclear physicists on the brink of fission.  There was Sarah Caplin, the mousey band girl who constantly ate her own hair, thinking about whether Joshua Elliot, the violinist to her double bass, fancied her as much as she fancied him (I made a mental note to try and find out) and finally Thomas Rodgers, a stoner and constant class disrupter, who seemed to be singing Nirvana in between debating whether he should ‘get the band back together.’  All in all, rather slim pickings and not the insights I had been hoping to discover.

Then he appeared. Matt Johnston, the school quarterback, boyfriend of the head cheerleader, most popular boy in school and all-round heart throb.  He wasn’t really my type, all brawn and no brains, but I could see his appeal with his strong jaw and dark eyes.  He reminds me of the members of those boybands, singing inane songs about falling in love and breaking up.  I was surprised to find him in there, he didn’t strike me as the bookish type, and frankly the fact that he knew where the library actually was made him stand out from his thick-headed peers.  He chose the farthest corner of the library, placing his books on the table in front of him and immediately clasped his head in his hands while he read, as if the written word instantly gave him a headache.  I put the necklace on and shuffled over to the stack nearest to him.  He didn’t even notice me, nothing new there then.

Come on, concentrate.  You can do this.  It’s just Maths for God’s sake.  Focus and keep your eye on the prize.”

 Eugh, even his mind thought in motivational sports expressions.  But then something changed, a noticeable shift.  He became upset.  The voice inside his own head changed, almost breaking, increasing in volume until it must have been bouncing and echoing around inside his own skull. Even outwardly, his body language shifted, from nonchalant coolness to awkward and sad.

“Why are you so stupid?  Why can’t you do the simplest things?  You fail this and you’re off the team.  No football, no college, no escae from this crappy town.  You’re worthless, worthless.”

 I had always looked at that group with a sort of cool headed detachment.  They were nothing like me.  They had everything handed to them, no effort required.  They were beautiful and popular and everyone loved them.  I was awkward in my own body and no one noticed me.  They were getting a free pass through life while the rest of us struggled on.  It had never occurred to me, not even once, that they would worry about the same things I did, like failing a class or not getting to leave and explore the world.  Well, what could I do?  I went over to him (unthinkable I know) and asked if he needed a study buddy.  I gave him some BS about struggling with that particular part of the curriculum (I actually rock at maths) and before you knew it we were chatting and laughing and getting along fine.  Then he surprised me.

“Why are you helping me?”

“Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, help each other.”

“But I’ve never even spoken to you before, my friends and I, well we, we…”

“You run in different circles?”

“I was going to say we’re dicks.”

“Oh, well, yeah I suppose you can be.”  I laughed at his honesty.

“Well, I’m sorry.”

“That’s ok.”

“How have I never noticed this girl before?  She’s so funny and smart and beautiful.”

Beautiful?  I nearly died right in front of him.  I never thought of myself that way and to hear someone who looked like he belonged in a Sports Illustrated say that about me, well think it at least, well I’m not ashamed to say it put one hell of a spring in my step.  After that, we would meet twice a week for study in the library and when we passed in the halls he would say hello, stop and chat with me. I hate that it took someone else to make me feel a little more confident in myself, because truthfully nothing changed.  I wore the same clothes, I had the same hair style, but I just stopped beating myself up as much.  I was a little more at ease with myself, not just because someone said I was beautiful, but because I realised I wasn’t the only one putting myself down all the time and more importantly I realised how stupid this mental self-harm was.  No one is a harsher critic about you than yourself. You are inherently biased.  You only see the bad and ignore the good.  I know now that we all do it.  Even the most beautiful people I know hate something about themselves, despite me and everyone else thinking their perfect. Why do it?  Why beat yourself up so much over things that don’t matter anyway? I know it’s easier said than done and I still find myself doing it sometimes but try to remember that happiness doesn’t come from a bottle of hair dye or a cosmetic store, it comes from within. Cheesy, but true.

Every section of the school, every student, from every walk of life, had something they hated about themselves, something they worried about and stressed over until they felt sick. There was the cheerleader I found crying in the bathroom, who genuinely believed all she had going for her was her looks, so instead of trying to expand or improve other areas like her intellect or skills, she focused entirely on retaining an impossible standard of beauty resulting in an eating disorder.  She is now in our study group.  There was the smartest kid in school, the one everyone just expected to go to Harvard and become some big shot lawyer, but whose parents put so much pressure on him to perform, he was driving himself into the ground.  He had no fun, no life, no friends, just his books and his exams.  We met for coffee last week and side note, I kind of like him, as in like like, but that’s another story.

I heard people fretting over their appearance, the fact that they couldn’t afford the latest clothes designated as cool by magazines and bloggers, the zits on their face or the weight they put on over the summer.  I heard them panic about exams and job prospects, even though they were just sixteen.  I heard them get upset about teachers who pushed them too hard and I heard the teachers worry about their car payments or letting their students down.  I realised in just a few short months, that every one, no matter how old they were or where they came from, was dealing with their own crap, their own issues and I realised what a difference I could make in people’s lives with the smallest and simplest of gestures.

Tula 4So, now I come to the moral of the tale, my reason for telling you this longwinded story, the message to take home with you.  Be kind. That’s it, just two words, but what an impact those two words can have on a person.  Everyone you see is fighting their own internal battle so, be kind to them.  Everyone feels lonely sometimes, so befriend them, or just say hi and let them know they aren’t alone.  Everyone falls down sometimes, so help them up.  This isn’t rocket science, it isn’t some magic formula or spell to cast, or complicated process, it’s as simple as helping them carry their groceries or giving them an old coat or blanket.  And when you are kind to people, you find they are kind in return and not just to you, but to others.  They pay it forward because they want someone else to experience what they have.  And the best part?  It makes you feel better about yourself.  You hold your heard up higher, you smile a little brighter, because you know that in some small way, you have made a difference in someone’s life. Confidence shouldn’t be entrenched in how thin you are, or whether a boy thinks you’re pretty, it should come from knowing you give a damn about others as much as you do yourself, in knowing that you are kind.

The necklace disappeared one day.  I know I had set it on my dressing table in the exact same spot I always did, but when I went to retrieve it, it was gone.  I never saw it again or worked out where or how it disappeared, but I had this feeling that it had done what it needed to do with me and had moved on to someone else.  I’m ok with that because I know now that kindness is the most powerful magic of all.

Collaborative Short Story: Onions and Fairy Folk.

Happy Hump Day everyone!  For this blog post, I have had the honour of collaborating with the incredibly talented Mark David Tari, aka FortFrolicArt on Instagram.  I came across his page on Instagram quite by chance, and was immediately drawn to his otherworldly images.  David is  a nineteen year old graphic design student from Hungary.  He has been painting and creating art since his childhood, and began editing a few years ago.  He gets a lot of inspiration from Fantasy tales, particularly The Lord of the Rings and the Bio shock series.  For this piece, I created a short story inspired by his style and body of work, and he in turn created an image inspired by my short story.  If you like his work as much as I do, head over and follow him on Instagram, and if you are an artist who would like to collaborate with me, get in touch.  In the meantime, happy reading…

Onions and Fairy Folk image

Onions and Fairy Folk

The world is like an onion, well that’s how I like to think of it anyway.  It’s built up of layers you see, layer after layer of lives and creatures and worlds within worlds…plus it stinks and it makes you cry, but that’s for another day.  Today, we discuss the layers.  I can see them all you see and move between them.  I was little when I first realised it, maybe four or five, and my mum asked me who I was talking to.  “Them.” I pointed to the space occupied by a small grey creature with two heads having an argument with itself over one of my toys. I wasn’t aware at such a young age, that Dimions, for that’s what the creature was, are in fact spoken about in the singular not plural, but I was only little, so my ignorance can be excused. “There’s no one there sweetie.” I was perplexed.  Of course, there was, I could see it with my own two eyes, a tiny human with grey skin and silver wings and it’s two heads, with three black, oval shaped eyes on each, which blinked one after the other rather than in unison.  “Them, the fairies.”  I remember the look on her face, a mixture of bemusement and concern.

 I didn’t know then, that you shouldn’t tell people what you see.  If you reveal the true nature of the world to people, even if you simplify it, say with an onion analogy, they still look at you like you’re bat shit crazy.  At first, I talked to them, I played with them, I befriended them.  There is the Allgones, small and lilac with large lavender coloured wings speckled with gold.  They steal socks to sleep in, and for some reason, only ever steal one from each pair, leaving mankind scratching their heads over a pile of odd socks.  There is the Briglotts, bright pink in colour with rows and rows of tiny sharp teeth and little sharp claws.  They look like the grand prize at some terrifying fairground attraction, but in reality, they’re harmless.  They mostly eat fish and live inside hollow trees.  Then there are the Tragoys, my personal favourites.  They are dark, forest green with wings like magpie feathers. They live underground, eat earth worms and make marvellous pets.  I have one called Trillock.  That’s not her real name of course, I can’t speak her language, but that’s what it sounds like when she sneezes.  Trillock sleeps in my bed and gives me warm, earth scented cuddles in exchange for a healthy supply of worms from the local bait shop.

 Trillock also has another important function…she’s my guard Tragoy.  Not all of the beings which coexist with us do so peacefully.  Some feed on the misery of human kind, and so they manipulate the world from their layer, unseen but definitely sensed.  The worst are the Dragnauts, small, black shadow like creatures who move and snake together like a murmation of starlings. Whenever one is around, they cause whichever humans are nearby, to feel sad and lost.  They emanate sorrow like a gas, and feed of our tears.  We’ve all been there haven’t we?  Those moments when we feel down for no reason at all, blaming it on hormones or drink, but it’s them.  They have a cousin, whose name I have never found out, so I call them the Ragers for that’s what they do.  They cause sporadic anger in those nearby, bringing hate and bile to the surface before gorging themselves on the rage which follows.  They look like flames, they feel like steam.

I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m nuts, cuckoo, insane in the membrane.  There’s no such thing as fairies.  They were made up as a bed time story, or a cautionary tale for children.  They are myth and legend and fiction all rolled into one.  But they’re very much real.  Children can see them and dogs and cats can see them.  They try to tell us, by pointing at nothing or barking at thin air, but we never listen.  We have a habit, us humans, of ignoring the odd and unusual, of pretending it doesn’t exist until it goes away.  I suppose, people are like onions too, layers of complicated emotions and psychological issues, it’s a wonder we’ve survived as long as we have.

 Regardless of whether you believe me or not, the fairy folk exist.  They live in one of the many layers of our onion world, and they affect us and our onion lives, whether you believe they do or not.  So next time you can’t work out why you have so many odd socks or you feel sad or angry for no reason at all, you can tell them you don’t believe they’re there, and see how far that gets you.

My Novel ‘Broken Mirrors’ Official Release!

My Novel ‘Broken Mirrors’ Official Release!

my book IG picHey everyone!  This blog post is a very special one, because it is not a review of someone else’s book, but information about my own!  That’s right, I wrote a novel and it has officially been released today Friday the 13th.  I wanted to thank all of my lovely followers, because your support has been so wonderful.  Putting yourself and your writing out there is a very scary thing, and you guys have been nothing but lovely every step of the way.  In fact, it was the support and encouragement from my followers here and on Instagram, that gave me the courage to put my book into the world, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I would really appreciate your continued support now, as my book goes on sale worldwide…if you could buy it, that would be amazing!  If you read it, even better, and if you review it, well ten gold stars for you!!  You are the bloggers and reviewers and social influencers, and your opinion means the world to me.  It has got great reviews so far from some of the people who received ARCS, so grab a copy now and let me know what you think!!  Buy your copy on Amazon now by clicking here!

About ‘Broken Mirrors’:

When Marie moves from Belfast to London, she envisions a fresh start and an escape book IG picfrom a broken home. Once there, she meets Malcolm Carter, a charming, handsome man who sweeps her off her feet and gives her a life she could only have imagined. But Malcolm isn’t all he seems; he’s a criminal, a mobster and a murderer. Detective Fraser Duncan knows what he is, and he’s determined to take him down, but things get more complex when a rival and brutal gang leader appears on the scene, setting his sights on Malcolm’s empire. When Marie chooses to stay with Malcolm, regardless of what he is and what he has done, she starts down a path from which she can never return, and now she has been taken, Detective Duncan and Malcolm must set their differences aside and join forces in a race against time to save the woman they love.

Broken Mirrors explores the fragility of our own sense of self and the moral code by which we live our lives and hold ourselves to account.

The Mermaid’s Promise: A Short Story and Artist Collaboration.

Happy hump day folks!  I hope your week is going well so far.  For this blog post, I will be featuring the next instalment of my collaborative series I call, ‘Inspired.’  For those of my readers unfamiliar with the series, I collaborate with artists and crafty people from all over the world, writing a short story, which they bring to life by creating a piece of art inspired by that story.  For this piece, I am so excited to have collaborated with the incredibly talented Amaryah, the artist behind the Easy shop ‘The House of Worry Dolls.’  Amaryah takes all of our favourite characters from page and screen, and meticulously recreates them in worry doll form.  She can even personalise the dolls to look like you, your family and your pets to create the ultimate unique family portrait.  Her dolls are incredible, and you can see more of them on her Instagram.  For our collaboration, I wrote a short story inspired by her beautiful dolls, and she took my story and created two unique dolls just for me!  This one was a really fun one to work on, so I hope you like it!  As always, leave me a comment to let me know what you thought, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all my latest posts.  Happy reading…

The Mermaid’s promise

mermaid 2She is a stealer of hearts. That is how she controls the ocean, with unspoken promises never fulfilled. Her whispers are carried on the winds, and her songs on the beating of the waves against ships. All who listen falter, turning their vessels into shallow waters or crashing against jagged rocks; a watery grave, welcomed with a smile, the spell unwavering even in death. It is said, that she can take the form of desire itself, changing her hair colour or face to appeal to the souls she subdues. One thing always remains true however, her tail. The scales are the colour of the clearest skies, but change with the moving sun, becoming navy or perhaps silver depending on the weather. They reflect the light with every movement and lead men to their deaths, a lighthouse beacon born of flesh and skin, a diamond in the rough.

I saw her once, when I was a just a lad. I was just a deck hand then, given the menial and unlikeable tasks. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were on our way to the Americas. The men were singing and joking, laughing or brawling, the noise of their chatter mixing with the cry of seagulls and the ocean’s sleepy drawl. I was peeling potatoes, when suddenly I realised it had become deathly quiet. I made my way on deck to find all the men aboard standing stock still, the tasks which they had been doing, becoming an after thought to whatever now consumed their minds. They stared, all of them, into the horizon, with wide eyes and calm smiles, as the ship simply drifted, as lost and submissive as the sailors.

I followed their gaze, squinting in the early morning light, when I saw her tail rise and fall amongst the waves, sending flashes of light all around her. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, with deep red hair, and bright green eyes, the colour of the sea after a storm. I too was momentarily agape, watching her beckon us towards her, enticing us with a tender smile and parted lips. But my gaze soon fell upon the jagged rocks protruding from the ocean like a hand, grasping for the surface. It was then I knew her beauty to be only skin deep, a lure for her prey.mermaid 1

I began to shout and scream at the men, even resorting to slapping them or throwing water over their heads, but nothing stirred them from their blissful ignorance. The ship was slowly drifting towards its destruction, and these men were welcoming it with open arms. The ship’s wheel was also trying to get the attention of her passengers, swinging and turning wildly, causing our vessel to shift and jolt, but even her efforts went unheeded. I grabbed the wheel, using all of my strength to turn the ship away from the rocks, away from danger, before securing it with a yard of rope. And then I simply waited, for I knew that senses would not return to my crew until we had distanced ourselves from the siren’s call, her promises and seductions carried on the sea breeze.

I could hear her screaming as the vessel moved away, a terrible, guttural scream like a dying animal. It pierced my ears, and stabbed at my chest, and seemed to surround me, or perhaps it was inside my head. I must have lost consciousness, for when I woke, I was in the Captain’s room, the ship’s medic tending to me, my wrist in one hand, a pocket watch in the other. I felt cold, as if all heat had been drained from my body, and my head thumped to the beat of my heart.

“He’s awake.”

The Captain approached my bedside, and placed my hand in his.

“How do you feel boy?”
“Alright, cold, tired.”
“We’ll soon warm you up. Are you hungry? Thirsty?”
“Thirsty sir.”
“No sirs or Captains, not today.”

It was as if my senses had suddenly returned to me in a flash, my knowledge of the creature and the danger she posed. I jolted upright, as if awaking from a nightmare.

“The sea witch…”
“Shhh calm yourself boy. She’s gone, and danger has passed, thanks to you.”

I lay back down, the pillow clammy against my skin. The cook brought me water, and they even gave me a dram of whiskey, to help my senses return to me. I regaled them with the day’s events, leaving no detail out, lest I convince myself of my own insanity. They nodded and listened, and finally, after a pause, the Captain spoke.

“I could hear a voice, more beautiful and tender than any I have ever heard before. It was like liquid gold. She whispered promises and declarations of love to me, asking me to join her forever, offering her heart and her breast. I became enamoured, besotted, overwhelmed. Suddenly, she was the only thing of importance in my life, and I yearned to be with her with every fibre of my being. I am embarrassed to say, I would have gladly given my life, for one kiss.”

Now it was the cook’s turn.

“Aye, I heard the same thing. Her voice rang ’round me head and I could not think of anything but her. I could not, would not, go on without her hand.”

Finally, the Doctor confirmed he too had experienced the same song, and felt the same overwhelming desire to be with the creature, whatever the consequences.

“It was as if, in an instant, she had become my everything, my very reason for existence. I truly felt that, without her breast to rest my weary head, and without the kiss of her lips upon mine, my life would not be worth living. She enchanted me, she possessed my very soul.”

I mulled their words over in my mind. At such a young age, I had no understanding of such things. I had not yet felt the grip of love, nor felt the sting of heart break. I could not imagine losing my head in such a way over a woman, even one as beautiful and magical as the Mermaid. I suppose that’s why I was immune to her song. My youth and inexperience saved me from the Mermaid’s promise, yet to this day, I dream of her red hair spreading on the surface of a clear sea, and I hear her voice beckoning my return. Perhaps one day, I’ll answer.

The Sacrifice by Alec Caruso: A Book Review.

Hey everyone…I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward now to a great New Year!  I was spoiled rotten!  Santa brought me lots of wonderful bookish goodies, I got to spend time with loved ones, I ate far far too much and I even got some time to sit and read, one of my favourite things to do!  What did I read you ask?  The Sacrifice a debut novel by Alec Caruso, the pen name of the very talented writing team Rachel Mehal and Keith Bruton.  To find out more about them, and purchase your own copy, head to Amazon and their website.

So what is the book about?

sacrificeLondon, England. Dr Ted Conway has committed suicide. A case that should be easily closed.

After a forced break, Detective Inspector Reo Yoshima is thrust back into work, overseeing the the suicide of Dr Ted Conway, only to discover that things with this case is not what it seems to be. Trying to determine the unforeseeable truths from hidden lies, clues start finding their way together. As the case begins to unravel, it forces Yoshima into a whirlwind of discoveries, sending her to Cologne, Germany.

At first, I found the book slightly disjointed.  It cuts between the aforementioned Detective Rei Yoshima in London, to detectives in Germany, a couple with fertility troubles in London and news bulletins about the Syrian refugee crisis with no apparent connection or Segway.  There is also the fact that the reader’s perspective shifts between so many characters, in London and Cologne, that sometimes it can get confusing. However, slowly, the seemingly disconnected chapters link in to each other, and all of the pieces come together to form one big picture.

This is also when the book begins to pick up pace as well as increase in action and excitement.  It was definitely worth reading through to this stage, and the final chapters certainly tick all of the necessary boxes you want from a crime thriller…Guns?  Check.  Fight scenes?  Check.  Murder and kidnap?  Check and check.  It will certainly satisfy even the most fussy of thriller fans.

It also likes to keep you on your toes, and have you guessing at who is involved in the overarching conspiracy.  I don’t like to write a review with spoilers but I will say that, whilst I guessed who was good and who was bad early on, I was unaware of their motivations until the big finale and I always love a twist I didn’t see coming, so points for that.

The lead character is very real, strong but fragile, broken but trying to mend, she is likeable and believable, and more importantly she is badass.  I hate weak and wobbly female leads, and Rei Yoshima could never be accused of either of those flaws.   However, I was frustrated with a lack of revelations about her past.  Although certain small titbits were revealed, it’s very sketchy, and although I understand this is the first in a series and the reader is meant to wait until the proceeding books to find it out, I still would have liked more.

The one negative I have to raise, and I am very aware of my own issues in this area, is the grammatical errors throughout the book.  I am not the best speller, but even I spotted these glaring mistakes.  At one point an entire paragraph is repeated, accidentally printed twice.  A minor thing really, but it bugged me a bit. Saying that, if in a review, the only big criticism you have is with the spelling, then it must be a pretty good book!

Overall, I think it’s a very entertaining crime novel, which would be a great holiday read or something to pick up for a long journey or on the commute to work, perfect for any crime fiction fan.  So give it a read, and let me know what you think!