Giveaway: Win a ‘My Chronicles Book Box.’

Giveaway: Win a ‘My Chronicles Book Box.’

I have just reached 9000 followers on my Bookstagram account and to celebrate and show my gratitude for each and every one of my wonderful followers, I have joined forces with the incredible ‘My Chronicles Book Box‘ to bring you an exclusive giveaway…head over to my Instagram to find out how to enter!  The prize is amazing and includes THREE books plus a whole bunch of bookish goodies!  The books included are:

diff kind evilA 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. 

riviera expressThe Riviera Express by T.P.Fielden: Gerald Hennessey – silver screen star and much-loved heart-throb – never quite makes it to Temple Regis, the quaint Devonshire seaside town on the English Riviera. Murdered on the 4.30 from Paddington, the loss of this great man throws Temple Regis’ community into disarray.  Not least Miss Judy Dimont –corkscrew-haired reporter for the local rag, The Riviera Express. Investigating Gerald’s death, she’s soon called to the scene of a second murder, and, setting off on her trusty moped, Herbert, finds Arthur Shrimsley in an apparent suicide on the clifftops above the town beach.  Miss Dimont must prevail – for why was a man like Gerald coming to Temple Regis anyway? What is the connection between him and Arthur? And just how will she get any answers whilst under the watchful and mocking eyes of her infamously cantankerous Editor, Rudyard Rhys?

broken mirrors coverBroken Mirrors by ME!! Marie McWilliams: When Marie moves from Belfast to London, she envisions a fresh start and an escape from 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.

Along with these three books (A Different kind of evil being a hard back), you will receive lots of surprise bookish goodies!  So head over to my Instagram now and enter!!

FREE book? Yes please! My crime thriller ‘Broken Mirrors is free on Kindle for this weekend!

IMG_20180511_102959_772.jpgHappy weekend everyone! I hope you’re having a good one…my Saturday night has involved chilling out with a glass of wine and a good book!

If you are looking for your weekend read, then look no further because my book, ‘Broken Mirrors’ is FREE on Kindle for this weekend only! So head to Amazon and down load your copy while you still can!

About Broken Mirrors:

When Marie moves from Belfast to London, she envisions a fresh start and an escape from 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.

And as if that wasn’t enough good news, I’m running a photo competition on Instagram. The best and most creative photo of my book between now and the end of June will win £15 worth of Amazon vouchers (or the equivalent in your currency). If you want to enter, download my book now for FREE and photograph it on your phone or tablet, tagging me (@mariemcwilliamsauthor) for your chance to win! There has been so many great entries so far!

 

Broken Wings and Wall Clocks: A Collaborative Short Story.

Merry Christmas everyone!  We are nearing the big day, counting down until we get some time off work, battling our way through crowded shops and snow laden streets and sickening ourselves of mince pies!  This is my favourite time of year, because everyone is just that little bit more generous and thoughtful, and generally kinder.  Whilst this is a season for joy and happiness, it can also be a struggle for some.  I try to be open and honest about my mental health issues, having suffered from depression and anxiety for several years, and I know how stressful, and sometimes lonely this time of year can be as a result.  There is an overwhelming pressure to be happy, and that forced merriment can sometimes have the opposite effect.  If you are struggling with your own issues, I would encourage you to speak out and talk to someone…it genuinely helps.  With that in mind,  for tonight’s blog post, a collaborative short story and the next in my ‘Inspired’ series, I have written a story about my own experiences, inspired by a painting by the very talented artist Lyle Schultz.

Lyle is an artist based in Canada, and a man of many talents.  As well as creating incredible mixed media works of art, which you can find here, he is also a writer, you can check out his writing here, and even a fashion designer, check out his clothing here!  How to describe his work?  I will use the artist’s own words, because he is infinitely more qualified than myself and also has a far more extensive vocabulary:

My paintings are a maelstrom of images and scratches, furious and open, the pictures a window into a mind that is furiously working, a plethora of cartoon madness and pop art motifs running rampant in vibrant colours and bold mark making.  This is a life laid bare, the expression of an artist living to a rhythm of his own making, a riff that sucks in everything contemporary culture throws its way; film, comics, advertising, graffiti, and reinventing it, re-appropriating it, creating a new pictorial language that echoes the work of De Kooning, Basquiat and Grosz, all artists who railed against the status quo, took the outsider in, never moved an inch, fought for their space and demanded to be heard.

My paintings reflect a modern world in which visual saturation is at breaking point, my work is a distillation of the tsunami of images that hurtle through our screens, from the pages of magazines. Everything is here, everything is for sale, our lives imprisoned in a gonzoland of farce and materiality, it is a place that I frenetically describe over and over again, each mark a wake up call, a realisation, an indictment, an attempt to strip away the artifice and indulge in a little bit of magic.

I couldn’t have put it better myself (I genuinely couldn’t).  I was immediately drawn to his vibrant and edgy pieces, and was honoured when he agreed to collaborate with me.  I chose one of his many paintings, which trust me was not easy, and created the story below based on it.  The image inspired me to look inwards at my own struggles and chaotic mind, and to write a story filled with issues and problems, but also hope.  And on that note, I sincerely hope you like it!

Broken wings and wall clocks.

lyleThere are two wall clocks in this office, one directly facing me, and one behind my head. Time is inescapable here, and the ticking away of every passing second, is in surround sound. Sometimes, when I’m not in the mood to discuss my feelings, I stare hard at the little black hand, making it’s way around the clock’s face, willing it to go faster. It never does. In fact, time slows down within these walls, every second dragging and limping by.

“Laura?”

Oh shit, she’s looking at me. Did she ask a question? I suddenly wish I could read minds.

“Yes?”

“How does that sound to you?”

“It sounds, fine, yes. Fine.”

I have no idea if this is the correct response, but I figure I’ve got a fifty fifty shot of getting it right, so it’s worth a punt.

“Excellent. I’ll get those printed off for you then.”

Result! Just another one of Doctor Ferguson’s little exercises, designed to make me change my ‘thought patterns’. I fucking hate the exercises. How can a person change the very way they think? Our thoughts, are as much a part of us as our limbs. I think therefore I am.

The Doctor gets up off the threadbare seat, and leaves the office to locate the printer. I relish these little moments alone, with no questions or analysis. There is a faded poster hanging above the filing cabinet, a ginger cat, hanging from a branch and the words ‘Hang on in there.’ written in bright yellow lettering. I don’t find this particularly motivating, in fact, it pisses me off. If you see a cat in distress, dangling from a tree branch, you go and help it, not take a picture. Dumb fucking poster. The door opens again, before slamming shut of it’s own accord. It is designed to do this, to prevent the spread of fire, but it always gave the impression of being sentient, or perhaps controlled by an invisible presence.

“Here we go.”

Dr Ferguson always falls into her chair, rather than sitting in it. It’s a low piece of furniture, and she is a fairly heavy woman. She always dresses the same, wearing some hideous pastel coloured

cardigan, despite the broken radiators in here producing sauna like temperatures. There’s the same cameo brooch and pearls, as if she is dressed up as a therapist for halloween. The worst part is her lipstick, always the same garish pink, and always smeared on her teeth. Doesn’t she own a mirror?Maybe it’s some kind of test, to see if I’ll notice, to see if I’ll say something. I won’t. After shuffling the papers, she hands them to me, pointing at the boxes marked with the days of the week.

“Just fill in what you do each day under the appropriate heading. Try to include everything, but no need to go into minute detail. I don’t need to know your toilet habits for example.”

She laughs at this. She often laughs at her own jokes. I don’t laugh, mainly because they’re never particularly funny. Sometimes, as in now, I smirk in return, out of pity rather than actual amusement.

“Wait until you see just how much you get up to each day. I am willing to bet you accomplish far more than you give yourself credit for.”

I don’t.

“Even getting dressed and washed is an accomplishment in your circumstances, so think of it like one.”

She always called it that, my ‘circumstances.’ I suppose it sounds better than calling me mental, crazy, broken.

“Will do.”

“Excellent, well that’s the end of the session today. Do you feel like you benefitted from it?”

“Yes, of course.”

I don’t.

“Excellent. Well, then I’ll see you same time next week.”

She walks me to the front doors and buzzes me out. You aren’t allowed to walk about this place unattended. I often wonder what happened to create the necessity for that rule. The building was beautiful once, all red brick and stone roses, but it has been painted and repainted so many times

over the years, that it gives the impression of having some kind of disease, the flakes of paint flaking off like scabs, exposing the red brick flesh beneath. It looks sicker than the patients within.

I start walking, pulling my jacket tighter in a feeble attempt to keep out the cold. The hospital was built long before the need for car parking spaces, and so I was forced to abandon my car a few streets away on a single yellow line. I’ve been over an hour now. I hope I don’t get a ticket. I wonder what the place looked like a century ago, and what those Doctors and nurses would think if they saw it now. I often let my mind wonder this way. It’s easier to think about pointless nonsense than think about the ever increasing anxiety at the thought of a parking ticket, or the many other possible scenarios which regularly clog up my mind. The Doctor says I focus so much on the ‘what ifs’ that I miss out on the here and now. No shit.

I pass two men wearing hard hats and high vis vests, sipping from steaming paper cups. They stop talking, watching me pass. Do they know? I can feel their eyes on the back of my head, boring holes deep and inescapable. I hate that feeling of judgment, the idea of people sizing you up and deciding you have come up short. Dr Ferguson told me, ‘No one is thinking that about you. They have their own battles to fight.’ I think that’s bullshit. Everyone judges everyone else, all the time. Hell, I’m guilty of it often enough. No, it’s easier to retreat and withdraw, than risk rejection.

It starts raining. The entire colour of the sky seems to change in an instant to a dark and foreboding grey, casting a dull filter over everything. Bloody Irish weather! There’s a large oak tree nearby, and I make a b-line for it, taking shelter under its thick canopy. I hate the feeling of water hitting my face; it makes me shudder. I won’t even let it land there in the shower, choosing instead to bend and twist at odd angles while washing in order to avoid it. I try to think of things like this as personality quirks or cute little foibles, but they aren’t. They are dumb and annoying, and they make everything harder. Sometimes I feel like my own mind is against me.

Huddled against the trunk, I hear a faint noise, a kind of chirping, nearby. I look around, and near the tree, under a bush, I find a small bird. It’s brown and mottled, with little flecks of green throughout. Is it a greenfinch? I’m no ornithologist. It’s looking right at me, still chirping, flapping just one wing in a panicked motion, causing it to bob and thrash but not actually go anywhere. It’s other wing stays against it’s little body, and it’s breathing heavily. It must have hurt it’s wing poor thing. I step towards it and it flinches, backing away.

“It’s ok sweety, I won’t hurt you. I just want to help.”

What am I doing? I’m talking to a bird, as if it can possibly understand what I say. All it knows is that it’s small, and I’m big, and I could kill it easily if I were so inclined. It’s a familiar feeling to me, that overwhelming helplessness. I’m not sure what to do. If I leave it here, it would inevitably be killed by a cat, but if I take it home what exactly can I do for it? I’m not a vet. I have no idea what to do with an injured bird. Shit…I’ll have to leave it.

“Sorry.”

Now I’m apologising to it. If Dr Ferguson could see me now, she would probably have me committed. The rain has become a slight drizzle now. I should make a dash for it before it picks up again. When I was little, I thought rain was God draining his bath water. Mental illness aside, I have always been a bit odd. I get three or four feet before I stop. I can just make out the little cheep cheep of the bird now, and the sound causes me physical pain; that familiar stabbing pang of guilt. I can’t leave it, I’m a vegetarian for God’s sake.

It’s further inside the bush now. I have to get down on my hands and knees to reach it. It takes me four attempts, but I manage to catch it with my leather jacket. I’m now mucky and dishevelled. I look like I’ve escaped from the hospital. This is quickly becoming one of those days.

I don’t know how to hold it. I need to hold it tight enough to keep it trapped within the fabric, but I’m afraid if I squeeze too hard, I’ll kill a bird and ruin my favourite jacket in one go. It’s getting colder. Without my jacket, goose pimples appear all over my outstretched arms, little droplets of rain clinging to the hairs like spider webs. I begin to do a half walk half run towards the car, but stop when I realise how ridiculous I must look.

When I finally reach my car, I realise my keys are inside my jacket pocket. Great! I just about fish them out, almost dropping the bird, and climb inside. I don’t have a bird cage or cardboard box handy, but I do have an extensive collection of rubbish lying about, including a brown paper bag from yesterdays sandwich. Better than nothing. I keep meaning to clean my car, but it inevitably gets put off; too much self pitying to do. There’s bird shit on my jacket and I know the little bugger did it deliberately. I’m beginning to think Hitchcock was right.

I start her up, and edge my way out of the space. Thank God it’s not too busy. Heavy traffic gives me anxiety. In fact, most things give me anxiety, that’s who I am now: Miss Anxiety. Some kind of

mental illness pageant winner. Heaters turned full blast, I flick through the radio channels until I find one playing music. I hate radio DJs; they talk so much shit and expect people to jump through hoops for the privilege of a mug and pen. No thanks. I like music, especially something I can sing along to. It offers temporary relief from my thoughts. Intrusive thoughts, that’s what Dr Ferguson calls them. Involuntary thoughts which are often unpleasant and are always difficult to eliminate. I call them Dick head thoughts, because thinking them makes me feel like a dick. If people could hear what was going on up there, what insignificant, meaningless thing I was panicking about today, they would try to avoid eye contact and walk very quickly in the opposite direction.

We are on the carriageway now. I keep looking over at the bag, I’m not sure why, it’s hardly going to fly off. But I need to know it’s still there, still safe. I do this with people sometimes too, reaching out to my boyfriend in the darkness, checking that he hasn’t left me. There is a small fear, ever present at the back of my mind, that everyone will some day realise what I already know about myself; that I’m worthless.

It takes longer to get home than usual. Despite Northern Ireland being perpetually damp, every driver seems terrified of a little rain water on the road, and slows down to the speed of molasses. I get road rage, yelling obscenities at people who can neither see nor hear me. It makes me feel better; regular, small releases of pressure are better than one sudden explosion. By the time I get home, it’s beginning to get dark.

I carry in the bag and carefully place it on the kitchen counter. What now? I didn’t think this far ahead. A quick google search brings up various unhelpful pages, plus the number for the USPCA. I don’t understand how people survived without google. I read once, that we are losing our ability to retain information, because it is so conveniently located at all times, in our pockets. I am guilty of this. I have a memory like a sieve and without my phone telling me where to go and when, how to get there and what groceries I need to get, I dread to think where I would be. Lost and hungry I assume.

“Hello USPCA, my name is Jack. How can I help you?”

“Um, hi, yes, I’ve found an injured bird and I was just wanting some advice on what to do.”

“What kind of bird?”

“What?”

“What kind of bird is it?”

“I dunno, a small one.”

“Well, what does it look like?”

“It’s small with a kind of browny, greyey greeny coloured body and a little fat beak.”

“Hmm that doesn’t really narrow it down does it?”

He sort of scoffs at this, as if he is being incredibly witty. I’m losing my patience.

“Does it matter? I just want to know what to do. Surely the advice is the same whether I have a blue tit or a bald eagle?”

“Well bald eagles are native to America.”

Seriously? Could this man be anymore of a pleb? I don’t suffer fools gladly. I’m not overly fussed on people in general, but I am particularly averse to condescending jerks. I don’t want to say something I might regret, and I still need the information.

“It’s hurt it’s wing. I’ve managed to catch it, but I’m not sure what I should do now.”

“Oh dear, well more often than not, being caught by a person or animal actually kills the bird. Shock you see. You should have left it, and just observed it.”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

“Well I didn’t provide remote observation, I caught it. What do I do now?”

“Place it somewhere outside, where it can leave if it wishes, but where it is also safe from cats. If it is fit, it will fly off of it’s own accord. If not, take it to your local vet. There isn’t much you can do with wild birds if their wing is damaged, so it would probably be euthanised.”

“Well that hardly seems fair, can’t they splint it or something?”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that for birds.”

He scoffs again and I immediately hang up. Smug bastard. I stand a moment, staring at the bag, still unsure what to do exactly. Could I have killed it with good intentions? I peer inside. It’s moving, but it looks scared. I feel like shit.

Without anything else to go on, I take the bag outside to the garden, along with a shoe box, in which I place a few pairs of socks in lieu of saw dust or straw, and a bottle top filled with water, and I place the bird inside it. I leave the lid off, so it can fly off if it wants to, if it can. Then, I sit down beside it, keeping guard. I can’t leave it. I’ve basically boxed up a packed lunch for one of the

neighbourhood cats. At least the rain has stopped.

We sit watching each other, sizing each other up. I wonder what it thinks I am? A predator? A friend? I don’t want it to be frightened. If it does die, I want it to die knowing some kind of kindness. I lean in and gently stroke it’s feathers, “Shhhh, it’s ok. You’re ok. It will be fine.” I speak softly, like a mother reassuring a crying child. I hear words coming out of my mouth that have been said to me so many times over the years; words I never believed. “It’s ok, you’ll be fine.” I suppose that’s just what you say to someone when they’re sick or upset, even if you don’t necessarily think it’s true. It’s kind.

It closes it’s eyes, and it’s breathing steadies. I watch it sleep. I know it’s just a bird, it’s not even my bird, but I genuinely feel upset at the thought of it dying. Sometimes, I imagine things which are unrelated, are signs or signals from the universe. Dr Ferguson calls it ‘magical thinking’, like those people who think if they don’t flick the light switch on and off fifteen times before they leave the house, their family will die. I think, everything is a sign that I’m a failure, that things will always be this way, and they’ll never get better. I want the bird to get better. I want to get better.

I hear my mobile phone ring inside the house. It will be fine for a minute. ‘Mum’ flashes on the screen. I take a deep breath.

“Hey mum.”

“Did you go to the Doctor today?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Are you feeling better?”

I wish it was that easy. I’m the only person in our extended family who has suffered from mental health issues. My mum is used to applying plasters and administering medicine. She doesn’t understand how long this process could take to work, if it works at all.

“I feel the same, but it was only my third session. You have to give these things time.”

“Are you taking your tablets? You know what your memory is like.”

“Yes mum.”

I’ve lived away from home for years, but she still treats me like a child, checking I have clean clothes and I’m eating right. I hate it and crave it at the same time; it’s comforting to know a safety net exists. As I listen to her unsolicited advice, I see movement from the box outside. A small flutter at first, before the bird manages to jump out of the box. I watch it try out it’s wings, moving them back and forth, hovering a foot into the air before coming back down, then two feet, then onto the glass table. I can’t hear my mum now. I hold my breathe, and stand as still as a statue, terrified I’ll spook it and ruin it’s recovery. After a minute or two, it simply flies away. I run outside, but it’s already gone, a black dot in the sky.

“…but you know that right?”

“What’s that mum?”

“You know you can get through this? You’re going to be alright.”

I smile, “Yeah, I’ll be alright.”

My Once Upon A Book Box Has Arrived!

book box

Hello readers!  It’s almost the weekend, which is awesome enough, but today I got the best book mail ever!  Not only is it the first book box I have ever received, it is the ‘Once Upon a Book Box’, which has the most amazing concept.  If you are unfamiliar with this amazing company, it works like this…not only do you get a fabulous new book, hand picked by the Once Upon team, but you get a selection of gifts, all individually and uniquely wrapped, with a page number on them.  When you reach the page number in question, you open your gift.  Each gift is tailored to the book, and to that specific point in the book, so it creates a completely immersive experience.  Great idea right?

Plus it gets better…the book is a spooky read, perfect for Halloween!  The book in question is, ‘The End of Temperance Dare’ by Wendy Webb.  What’s it about I hear you say?

When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists’ retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor’s dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a “waiting room for death.” After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them.
But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor’s grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there’s more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity. After the arrival of the new fellows–including the intriguing, handsome photographer Richard Banks–she begins to suspect that her predecessor chose the group with a dangerous purpose in mind. As the chilling mysteries of Cliffside Manor unravel and the eerie sins of the past are exposed, Eleanor must fight to save the fellows–and herself–from sinister forces.

I cannot wait to get stuck in!  If you fancy giving this amazing book box ago, you can get 10% off by using my exclusive discount code MARIE10.  To celebrate getting to rep for this awesome company, I have written a story inspired by the box itself, which will be released in two parts over the coming weeks!  It’s my take on a traditional fairy tale, in which a mysterious box transports our young heroine to a strange and dangerous land, where she must face challenges armed only with the gifts inside the box, and her own strength!  Follow me on Instagram, to see each gift being unveiled, and check back here in a few weeks to get a full review of the book, as well as the Once Upon a Book Club Box itself.

In the mean time, have a great weekend!

The Walking Dead: The Official Cookbook and Survival Guide review.

wd2

Happy almost Halloween readers!  I love this time of year…pumpkin carving, trick or treating and all things horror!!  And in the spirit of that, tonights blog post is a review of ‘The Walking Dead: the Official Cookbook and Survival Guide.’  That’s right…the people over at AMC and cooking writer extraordinaire Lauren Wilson, have collaborated to bring you the ultimate guide on how to survive a plague of Walkers, along with some recipes to prepare for your fellow survivors!  This book has it all, a how to guide on hunting, fishing and gathering, what essentials you need to keep handy in the event of a zombie apocalypse (or any apocalypse for that matter) and of course recipes inspired by the show and its characters.  But how do those recipes taste?  After all, if it’s the end of the modern world, you need to find home comforts when you can, right?  I decided to try one out for myself and give my official verdict.

wd3

To me, Halloween is synonymous with apple pie.  Every year since I can remember, my mum would make an apple pie, and place coins inside for us to find.  So, when I found the recipe for ‘Maggie’s formless apple pies’ I knew I needed to try them.  The recipe is inspired by season 7, episode ‘Hearts still beating’ when a pregnant Maggie was presented an apple pie by the people of Hilltop as a thank you.  To make it even more apocalypse friendly, this recipe is for ‘forkless’ apple pies, so you can eat them without a fork, say while running from a pack of hungry Walkers.

wd4I am not the most skilled baker in the world; that being said, I found the step by step instructions easy to follow.  In line with the theme of the book, the list of ingredients for this recipe doesn’t involve anything exotic or rare, just things you probably already have knocking about in your cupboards.  I also appreciated that the recipe was done in an almost ‘real time’ way, i.e. as opposed to simply telling you what you needed to mix and how long to cook it for, it told you when to begin each stage, and in what order, to help save on time.

wd5

Once cooked, I taste tested them myself, along with my hubby and our little girl, and it was yummy noises all round…a unanimous ten out of ten and a resounding success (even if I do say so myself).  I don’t normally add any spices to my apple pie (that may shock some people, but I am following my Grandmother’s recipe) but I loved the taste of these, and think the addition of the various spices really added to the moreishness of the flavours.  Overall, I can’t fault it!  It was an easy to read, easy to complete recipe with clear instructions and most importantly, it tasted delicious!  Having a flick through it, there are definitely a bunch more recipes I want to try, and having read the survival guide chapters, I am now tempted to start hoarding bottled water and create my own bug out bag…because you never know, right?  Especially the way the world is going these days!

If you are a fan of the show, then you simply need to own this.  It is the ultimate piece of wd6fan merchandise, and would make a fantastic Christmas present or stocking filler.  It is chock full of recipes, both sweet and savoury, like ‘Dixon’s deer stew,’ ‘Foraged berry cobbler’ and ‘Carl’s biscuits’ and even includes a moonshine and cocktail chapter at the back (because in the event of the dead rising up and trying to eat our flesh, I am pretty sure we would all need a drink).

The Bridge: A short story.

Hey everyone, I hope you had a lovely weekend!  For the latest edition of Inspired, my series of collaborative short stories, I have collaborated with the incredibly talented John Watson.  John is a print maker from Edinburgh, Scotland, who uses linocuts and wood engravings to make his stunning, one of a kind images.  If you love his work as much as me, you can check out more on his website or Instagram.

Because he is from just across the water in Scotland, I was inspired to create a story featuring the Giant’s Causeway.  For those of you unfamiliar with Northern Ireland, The Giant’s Causeway is a world heritage sight in Antrim, made up of a collection of hexagonal rocks created by a volcanic eruption 50 to 60 million years ago.  It’s a beautiful natural wonder, steeped in legend.  According to the legend, the causeway was a road built by a giant called Fionn Mac Cumhaill (pronounced Finn McCool), creating a bridge across the North Channel, between Northern Ireland and Scotland in order to allow him to fight a Scottish giant called Benandonner.  It is said, that when Fionn realised his foe was much larger than him, he hid from him, disguising himself as his own baby.  When Benandonner sees how large Fionn’s baby is, he flees back to Scotland and destroys the Causeway so Fionn can not follow.  I hope you enjoy my spin on such a well loved story…happy reading.

The Bridge

In Northern Ireland there is a legend; the legend of the Giant’s Causeway. It is said, that these geometric rocks used to cross the Sruth na Maoile all the way to Scotland, creating a bridge between the two Gaelic lands. The story goes, that the causeway was built by giants, but really, a volcano created them, millions of years ago, long before either shore was claimed by man. Beth sat on one of the rocks now, tracing the hexagonal edges with her finger. She wished the bridge did exist, and she could simply walk off the land’s edge, away from this place, away from her life. But her body betrayed her dreams, and she remained stuck, stranded, alone.

She was allergic to almost everything. Some things brought her out in rashes or made her sneeze, others hospitalised her, or almost killed her. Ordinary household items were like weapons against her, and she lived in constant fear. Growing up, to prevent her becoming sick, her Mother would clean obsessively, washing every surface with bleach until her hands were raw. She could smell it on her clothes even now. She felt caged, by her body, and by her mind.

It was beginning to rain, tiny droplets forming all over the surface of her coat. She stared out at the water. She wondered if there was another girl, sitting on the same rocks, on the other side. Perhaps she wished to come here, escape Scotland and her own troubles. Maybe they could swap places, this girl and her.

“Beth.”

It was her Mother calling from the pathway. She pretended not to hear, continuing to stare out at the water.

“Beth. Beth are you deaf?”

She sighed, before pushing herself off the cold rock. She stood a moment, a foot in a separate hexagon, and marvelled at how nature could create such perfect shapes, like the honeycomb in a bee hive or the smooth curve of a bird’s egg. She read once, that bees made their perfectly formed honeycombs in the shape of hexagons because that was the most compact and efficient shape, and used the least resources to build. She liked the idea of a bunch of bee scientists and mathematicians getting together and experimenting with different shapes, trying to work out which was best.

“Beth, for God’s sake, hurry up.”

Her Mother sounded shrill now. She began to walk towards her, watching her step as she went. It would be a long car journey home, and she didn’t feel like listening to her Mother ranting. They walked in silence up to the tourist centre, where her Mother would browse the pointless knick knacks in the gift shop and inevitably buy something pointless. She loved her very much, but sometimes she wished she could have a holiday from her and her good intentions. Her Mother was determined to take care of her, and often her version of ‘taking care’ was tantamount to suffocation.

Her mother browsed while she read the exhibits about how the causeway was formed. It seemed bizarre to her, that something could have been there for so long. Humans had such a finite amount of time on earth, and her time could well be shorter than most if she were to come into contact with the wrong thing. These perfectly formed shapes had been here for 60 million years. They had seen animals now long extinct, and would be around to watch humans meet that same fate.

“Shall we?”

Her Mother stood beside her, gift bag in hand.

“Got myself a lovely wooden spoon and tea towel set. It will be a nice reminder of our day.”

She wondered why her Mother wanted to think about rocks while she cooked, but thought better of asking. The car was stuffy, and the air conditioning smelled musty as it blew tepid air into her face. Generic pop music filled the car from the radio, disguising the sound of the engine. After a few miles, she felt her head bobbing, and her eyelids becoming heavy. She could hear her Mother singing along to the music as she drifted away.

the bridge 3There was fog, all around her, so thick she could see nothing beyond her own nose. It felt cold on her skin, her hairs rising up, it almost muffled sound. She felt like she was under water. Her coat and shoes were gone, and she was wearing a simple silver dress, knee length, with straps. Her bare feet rested on the cold hexagonal rock, worn almost smooth by the elements and it’s many visitors. She was afraid to step forward or backwards, unsure where on the causeway she now stood, nor which direction she now faced. One wrong step and she could fall, breaking her bones, opening her skin like a ripe orange, or perhaps she could fall into the cold waters and drown. So, she just stood there, entombed in the mist, praying it would clear.

Time passed, but the fog remained. She yelled out, but no answer came. She began to feel panic rising. It was then she realised she was not alone. A figure stood beside her, taller than any man she had ever seen, in fact he was so tall, she could not see his head through the thick fog. The feet beside her were so big, instead of shoes, they wore rowing boats secured with rope. She was surprised to find that she was not afraid. It sat down with a thump, the very rocks shaking under it’s weight. She could now see his face, staring down on her, smiling. He had pale green eyes, and long hair tied back into a pony tail. He was surprisingly handsome for someone so huge. When picturing giants, she had always imagined them as grotesque, something to fear, inhuman, but he simply looked like an ordinary man who had been enlarged.

“Hello there.”

His voice was booming, but friendly, and had an almost melodic quality to it.

“Hello.”

“What’s your name?”

“Beth, what’s yours?”

“I’m Fionn.”The bridge 1

“Are you the Fionn from the story?”

“That I am. That I am.”

“Is it true then? Did you really dress up as a baby to avoid a fight with another giant?”

“I did, outsmarted him. Sometimes you have to fight, stand your ground, but the rest of the time, you have to use your head; live to fight another day.”

“That’s good advice.”

“Thanks. Why are you here all by yourself?”

“I don’t know, I just sort of found myself here. I had been visiting, and I wanted to stay. Perhaps that’s why I came back.”

“Perhaps. Why would you want to stay here? It’s fearsome cold.”

“I don’t want to go home. I’m sick of it there. I hardly ever get to go out, because there are things which make me sick. I want to leave.”

“That’s not right. You can’t stay hiding all the time.”

“But I might get sick.”

“And you might get struck by lightening. No point dwelling on the what mights and what ifs.”

“But…”

“No buts neither. Like I said, sometimes you have to fight. No point living another day, if you never live at all is there?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“So…live.”

He reached down to her, something contained within his massive fist. She held both her hands together, forming a kind of bowl, fearing it would be something huge, but it was simply a thistle flower, the purple petals providing the only colour in their foggy blanket.

the bridge 2“It’s to remind you. Thistles, are fragile things really, just a plant which can be picked or chopped or eaten, but it protects itself, see? It doesn’t stop growing, afraid of these things, it just grows. It even finds ways to grow in the barren places, where other plants are too weak to survive. And if it does fail, and wither, it just grows somewhere else. You got to be like it.”

“Thank you. It’s lovely.”

“You’re welcome Beth. Better be getting back now, can’t be staying here too long, it’s no place for your kind. Swallows you after a while.”

“I don’t know how.”

“Yes you do, you just wake up.”

Beth awoke, slouched awkwardly in the car seat, her neck stiff from the position she had been in. She looked at the moving landscape around the car, and realised they were almost home, she had slept most of the way.

“Hey there sleepy head. Thought you’d never wake up. Been out cold for well over an hour. Are you feeling ok? Should we ring the GP maybe?”

“I’m fine Mum, just tired.”

“Well, let me know if you start to feel ill won’t you. You know we have to catch these things early.”

“I know Mum.”

They pulled into their driveway, her Mother continuing to tell her all the symptoms she needed to look out for, as if she was unaware of her own body. She went to get her phone from her pocket, and felt something stab her finger. She smiled, as she pulled out a thistle flower, purple and lovely.

“Oh God Beth, why would you pick that? It’s a weed and it’s probably covered in all sorts of germs and pesticides. Give it here, I’ll chuck it out.”

“No.”

She turned away from her, protecting the flower within her cupped hands.

“But Beth, it’s a weed.”

“No it’s not. It’s a fighter, like me.”

 

The Creatures of the in betweens: A Short story.

For the eleventh instalment of the Inspired series, I have collaborated with the supremely talented Ricky Romero.  Ricky lives in California, and has an amazing ability to combine the cute with the creepy!  He is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for the awesome ‘Awful Words’, a dictionary of sorts, containing the definitions of some aweful words, and lots of Ricky’s amazing illustrations.  I have already made a pledge, and if you would like to as well, head over to  Kickstarter. You can also check out more of his work, at his Instagram.  If you are an artist and you would like to collaborate, get in touch, and happy Reading!

in between image

The creatures of the in betweens

They live in the in betweens, the halves, the almosts, these creatures of tricks and pranks, these makers of mischief. They live in shadow, in between the light and the dark, and watch their victim’s, patiently waiting for the perfect opportunity. Perhaps, they will strike as you pass through a doorway, the divide between one room and the next, and make you stub your toe, or drop your cup of tea. Maybe, they will see your hand bag, sitting in the shadows, and remove your car keys so they can watch you huff and puff as you scramble around your house, tearing up furniture to find them, only to place them exactly where they had been, causing you to doubt your own sanity. On the most part, they are harmless. They move objects, trip and nip, spill and break, and drive your pets mad. But, every blood moon, they become suddenly thirsty for more than misbehaviour for their own amusement. They have a blood lust of sorts, a need to hunt and kill, to suppress a sudden urge for violence and evil. It’s as if they are possessed by the night sky, and it is then that children go missing.

They hunt at midnight, the moment between one day and the next, an entire minute of in between in which they can quench their thirst for blood. They will choose a small child, no older than four, and steal him away right from under their parent’s noses, quiet as a door mouse. Sometimes, the children go willingly, believing the creatures to be the fairies from their bed time stories. Either way, they are never seen of heard of again, only a gaping hole left behind in a parent’s heart and a room of toys without an owner.

The only reason I know this, is because they came for me once, long ago. I awoke to the sound of laughter, small and distant, but growing closer and more menacing. I did as all children do, and hid beneath my blankets, as I saw the shadows move and objects fall from shelves. I wanted to scream, to cry out, but something stopped me. Perhaps, I myself doubted my own senses, or perhaps they could do something, some magic to paralyse you with fear. So, I sat there shivering beneath my cover, weeping silently, as the midnight hour, and the creatures, grew ever closer. I was so young, perhaps only three years old, but even then I knew that these things wished me harm. I would have died that night if it hadn’t been for Bernie, our German Shepherd.

They were so close to me at that point, and I could make them out in the increasing shadows, their huge black, shiny eyes staring at me, reflecting the light like wet stone, and the rows and rows of tiny sharp teeth. They were no bigger than an action figure, but there was so so many of them. I could see them everywhere, and I knew I was surrounded. One reached it’s little clawed hand towards me as midnight approached, a forked tongue darting around, tasting my scent. It was at that moment Bernie began to bark and thump against my door, with such force and such violence, that my mother got up to scold him. When I heard her, my senses returned and I began to scream. It must have sounded like a wail of genuine pain and fear, for my mother practically broke the door in to comfort me. When the light was switched on, they were gone, all of them.

I told my mother, as best as I could in my childish way, about the tiny monsters and their evil intent, and she dismissed them as the manifestation of an active imagination, or the result of too much television. She comforted me, and let me sleep with them that evening and for several evenings subsequent. A night light was purchased as bribery, the only means to get me back into my own bed. After days passed without incident, even I began to wonder if it had in fact been a nightmare. But when I saw the tiny claw marks, scratched into my bed post, and heard of the disappearance of my neighbour’s Jack Russell, I knew it was real.

You may not believe me of course, you may dismiss it as childish fantasy or perhaps you think me the type to make merriment from causing fear in others, but I leave you with one last warning. Tonight is the blood moon my friend. Beware the in betweens. Beware the midnight hour.