Follow the new Mystical Circles Blog Tour 1-9 September 2017

Mystical Circles will be released by Luminarie both as a paperback and as an ebook with a new cover design on 5 September. To celebrate, I’m doing a Blog Tour Blog tour ad as at 26 August 2017which will see me stop off at nine blogs, each with a unique guest post.

Do take a look at each blog post if you have time – there will be other opportunities to read them here on my blog later if you miss them on the tour!

Over the course of the 9 stops on this tour, I write on the following subjects:

Sacha Black

A guide for authors – how to survive the siren voices of the internet

Jenny in Neverland

Genre – what is it exactly?

Rosie Amber

On the art and inexact science of a good ending to a novel

Books From Dusk till Dawn

Psychology, spirituality and family relationships – a volatile mix

Sue Vincent

Inside a spiritual hothouse

Shelley Wilson

An author interview by Shelley Wilson

MJ Mallon

Inspiration, motivation and keeping to the path

Chat About Books

Intense relationships in closed communities, and the stress and tension of life

Linda’s Book Bag

An author interview by Linda

I do hope you can stop by the blogs to read more about the source of my ideas for the characters and story of Mystical Circles and also to find some personal inspiration and motivation along the way!

 

 

 

 

I’ll be at the UK Games Expo at the NEC Birmingham 2-6 June 2017

I’ll be at the UK Games Expo at the NEC Birmingham UKGElogotomorrow Fri 2 June and all weekend signing copies of Mystical Circles, A Passionate Spirit and Perilous Path on the Authors Stand (F11) alongside Gareth Baker, (thrillers & fantasy); Darren W Pearce (fantasy & sci fi); Richard Denning (horror, fantasy & historical fiction); Jonathan Green (Fighting Fantasy gamebooks & Doctor who novels) & Ian Livingstone (creator of Fighting Fantasy interactive gamebooks).

Hope to see some of you there over the weekend!

Thoughts for Manchester

Following the news this morning of the tragic events in Manchester, I have held back my intended post, and am reblogging one of my fellow-bloggers’ posts as it seems to sum up all we can say and feel at this time, as the news unfolds, and as our hearts go out to all the mothers and fathers, family and friends of those children and young people senselessly injured and murdered after enjoying a pop concert on the night of Monday 22nd May 2017.

Suzie Speaks

I was awake at 3.00am and was horrified at the events in Manchester, my home city, last night. At present, 22 people have died and 59 have been injured after what is thought to be a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in the foyer at the Manchester Evening News (MEN) arena after an Ariana Grande concert had ended. The arena has a capacity of 18,000 people, and most of the audience in attendance were children, teenagers, young adults and their families. It’s the biggest loss of life in a terrorist attack since 7/7, and there are already children confirmed among those who have been killed. Children. 

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Reflections on Crime, Wickedness, and Redemption from the Crime Museum Uncovered, Museum of London

On Thursday 31st March 2016 I read many stories at the Crime Museum Uncovered, an enthralling exhibition currently showing at the Museum of London, London Wall.  Crime cases from Victorian times to 1975, solved by the Metropolitan Police. Most of the criminals were hanged; some were miscarriages of justice; vulnerable people, who today would have received 10 years in jail and might then have turned their lives around and gone on to achieve great things.

Others were people we might think “deserved to die” because the crimes they had committed were so ruthless and wicked (for instance the woman who, under the guise of running a care service for children of the poor, murdered 15 babies).

In some cases, black and wicked hearts were exposed, hearts “as hard and merciless as rock”; and victims whose names we only know by the terrible manner of their deaths, and the disposal of their bodies by their murderers.  People, it seems, who we were to define by the way they died.  And yet, as a novelist, I am convinced that no-one is ever defined by the manner of their death.  We are all complex beings, mind, body and spirit, with our joys, sorrows, memories, dreams, passions and impulses. We don’t define the greatest by their deaths; neither Mozart, nor Shakespeare, nor any other. So why should we define the lives of anyone in that way, no matter how obscure, how ‘ordinary’ they were during their lives on this earth.  This exhibition set out to ‘give the victims a voice’ and yet I did feel it fell into the trap of defining the individual victims by the manner of their deaths.

I am fascinated by human wickedness and this will impact upon the theme and plot of my third novel, following on from “Mystical Circles” and “A Passionate Spirit”. I touched on an aspect of evil in “A Passionate Spirit” but will go much deeper in my next novel. I’m not sure yet whether the paranormal will be there, but psychological suspense certainly will, and so will crime, setting the characters a huge challenge.

The Christian faith teaches that no-one is beyond redemption.

This is just one Christian concept I, along with, I suspect, many others, struggle with.

Alexander Solzenitsyn in his great book The Gulag Archipelago , which I read in my teens, describes  what he calls “the threshold magnitude of evil”. Evildoing also has a threshold magnitude. Yes, a human being hesitates and bobs back and forth between good and evil all his life. He slips, falls back, clambers up, repents, things begin to darken again. But just so long as the threshold of evildoing is not crossed, the possibility of returning remains, and he himself is still within reach of our hope. But when, through the density of evil actions, the result either of their own extreme danger or of the absoluteness of his power, he suddenly crosses that threshold, he has left humanity behind, and without, perhaps, the possibility of return.”

Every so often, over the years since reading that book, I have been brought back to Solzenitsyn’s observations.  Whenever I read books about the Nazi Holocaust, his words come to mind.

Yet have we ever considered that, when Jesus took upon his shoulders the sins of the world, as Christian theology teaches, he at that moment was the worst person in the world.

It is a mind-blowing thought.  We read of wicked acts in our news every day, and (unless we are suffering from compassion fatigue) we shudder.

Yet Jesus was the most wicked person in the world, at that time of darkness, before his resurrection.

It shows once again the huge paradox that is the Christian faith. “The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.”

 

 

 

 

I’ll be at Kenilworth Books Signing Copies of A Passionate Spirit on Saturday 13th February 2016

Kenilworth Books is one of our lovely local independent bookshops and I’m happy to announce I’ll be there signing copies of my new novel on Saturday 13th February.

If you’re local to the Leamington Spa, Warwick, Coventry and Kenilworth area and you’re around on Saturday 13th, I’d love to see you in the shop. I’ll be there from 11am to 2pm

I launched my previous novel Mystical Circles in Kenilworth Books in 2010. The then owners Frances and Keith were very supportive to me, and I’m delighted that Judy, the new owner, is equally friendly and encouraging.

If you love independent bookshops, and you’d like to visit Talisman Square, Kenilworth on Saturday 13th, and you like the sound of A Passionate Spirit, do drop in and see me between 11am and 2pm.  I’d love to meet you and be able to chat to you there and hopefully sign a copy of A Passionate Spirit for you.

Film Review: “Philomena” starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench

I belong to a Film Club which meets every 2 months and a few days ago our film of choice was Philomena.

I’ve now watched it four times in as many days, and during that time I’ve been haunted by the characters, by the story, and by what it tell us about life and about what it means to be human.

I haven’t read the novel by Martin Sixsmith, but it does seem to me from the Amazon reviews of the novel, that Steve Coogan’s choice to make a film of the story, focussing on the relationship between Philomena and Martin Sixsmith in their search for Philomena’s long-lost son, was an inspired choice, and created something far more powerful, moving and effective than the novel which focused on the life of Philomena’s son Michael Hess (born Anthony Lee).

Our film club group had a lively discussion about the film after viewing it, and we examined different angles, with views expressed that see the events from both sides. I think what I like most of all about the film is that it avoids a black and white view of Philomena’s story, which could so easily be “cruelly wronged woman against evil Catholic nuns” (beautifully parodied by Steve Coogan early in the film when he says, “Evil is good. I mean – story-wise.”) The message of the film is far more subtle and complex than that, and brilliantly conveyed in the dynamics of the relationship between Philomena (portrayed by Judi Dench) and Martin Sixsmith (played by Steve Coogan).

And of course the film contains some incisive dialogue about the Catholic Church. As I consider the message I’m left with this thought; how dangerous the challenges and demands of an authoritarian religious faith can be; leading some along the path of harshness, cruelty and judgementalism, and others into the highest reaches of self-sacrifice, holiness and goodness. It’s almost as if, behind it all, lurks the complexity and unaccountability of human psychology, which we can never ignore.

This Guardian article is the best review of the film that I’ve come across which acknowledges this subtlety and the far deeper observations that are being made about the Catholic Church.

Find Me at the Autumn Fair at St Mark’s Leamington Spa on Saturday 25 October 2014

Watch out for me at the Autumn Fair at St Mark’s Leamington Spa on Saturday 25 October 2014 from 12.00-3.00pm.

Autumn Fair St Marks Leamington Spa 25 October 2014
Autumn Fair St Marks Leamington Spa 25 October 2014

This is an event in aid of Myton Hospice.

Mystical Circles 1st edition
Mystical Circles 1st edition

I’ll be showcasing my best blog posts, selling signed paperback copies of my psychological suspense novel Mystical Circles, both the first and the second edition with their different cover-designs, and also I’ll be publicising my upcoming novel A Passionate Spirit. Plus for anyone who doesn’t see these blogs or my Facebook Page there’ll be the opportunity to sign up on my mailing list  to be the first to know when A Passionate Spirit is released.

Mystical Circles 2nd edition
Mystical Circles 2nd edition

There will be lots of arts and crafts for you to look at, and buy either for yourself or as Christmas gifts. You can enjoy browsing, admire the creativity and imagination that you see around you, and chat to the creators.

Coventry Rock Choir will be performing throughout the afternoon  and all are invited to enjoy the tea, delicious cakes and snacks on sale in the café.

Entry will be £2 for adults, children under 18 free.

I hope to see you there at the Autumn Fair, 25 October 2014, at St Mark’s Church, Rugby Road, Leamington Spa, CV32 6DL.

A New Glimpse of a Dream Arising from the Ruins – Kenilworth Castle September 2014

Kenilworth Castle is my favourite English Heritage property and one I’ve visited many times as it’s so close to my home in Warwick.

View of Leicester's Building at Kenilworth Castle, with new staircase and viewing platforms completed Aug 2014 - photo credit SC Skillman
View of Leicester’s Building at Kenilworth Castle, with new staircase and viewing platforms completed Aug 2014 – photo credit SC Skillman

Now English Heritage have completed new staircases and viewing platforms allowing visitors to ascend to the different floors of Leicester’s Tower for the first time in 350 years. I’ve visited the Building and climbed those staircases twice recently.

A poignant story surrounds this tower. Built by Sir Robert Dudley especially to house Queen Elizabeth I and her courtiers, it represents a huge and extravagant investment, not only of his personal wealth (which was vast) but of his hopes and dreams. They were doomed not to be fulfilled. Queen Elizabeth stayed here 19 days in 1575, the longest of her 4 visits to Kenilworth to be entertained by Sir Robert, her favourite courtier. He hoped this time to win her hand in marriage. But it was not to be.

Many historians have speculated on Elizabeth’s reasons, for there is strong evidence she loved him. Her reasons would have been political, psychological, emotional – historian and novelist Alison Weir will soon be visiting Warwick Words, our local literary festival, to speak on The Marriage Game; and I will certainly be in the audience, for I share Alison Weir’s fascination with this subject.

The truth is, Sir Robert abandoned all hope of marrying the Queen after she left in 1575. The building was little used thereafter. 80 years later its owner stripped it and left it in ruins.

New staircase at Leicester's Building Kenilworth Castle completed Aug 2014 - photo credit SC Skillman
New staircase at Leicester’s Building Kenilworth Castle completed Aug 2014 – photo credit SC Skillman

ON all my previous visits over the past couple of decades, you could only look up inside the empty shell. But now you can ascend to each level, and read the story about each floor, and gaze through the windows at the views its former users would have admired, and imagine how it must have been during those 19 days in which Sir Robert’s greatest hopes and longings were invested.

All you need is a physical object, and a great story. And here now, on these viewing platforms, as I gaze at the walls where rich tapestries would have hung, I feel as if I am recapturing something of what Elizabeth and her courtiers experienced when they used these rooms.

The former empty shell has gained a new life. You can see the whole story again in a new light, feeling almost as if you are entering Sir Robert and Elizabeth’s psychic space.

Like Lyveden New Bield, which I blogged about recently, this was a grand scheme; the grandeur only had a short life, and the purpose for which it was created was not fulfilled.

views can be seen now through the windows for the 1st time in 350 years - Leicester's Building Kenilworth Castle - photo credit SC Skillman
views can be seen now through the windows for the 1st time in 350 years – Leicester’s Building Kenilworth Castle – photo credit SC Skillman

Our lives are full of stories like this – and this story lies locked in these stones.

Formerly Queen Elizabeth's bedchamber at Leicester's Building Kenilworth Castle - photo credit SC Skillman
Formerly Queen Elizabeth’s bedchamber at Leicester’s Building Kenilworth Castle – photo credit SC Skillman

In Commemoration of Anne Frank on the 85th Anniversary of Her Birth: the Power of the Pen, Mightier Than the Sword

Today (12 June 2014) is the 85th anniversary of Anne Frank’s birth.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl - Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler

Coincidentally – or maybe, by synchronicity, for I was unaware of the significance of this date at the time –  I only just finished reading The Diary of Anne Frank all over again, two days before writing this post.

I first read Anne Frank’s diary when I was a young teenager and such was the effect it had on me, I still have a strong visual memory of a walk I took in our local park, immediately after finishing the book. When I read the book recently, I relived that walk through the alleyway into Goddington Park, Orpington. I remembered being there, and as I walked, and looked at everything around me, I thought continually about Anne Frank and the relationship she was developing with Peter, one of the other fugitives in The Secret Annexe.

Anne Frank’s diary is particularly meaningful to me because I too kept a daily journal at approximately the same age as Anne. I too began my journal in a book I had received as a gift; but I started my journal when I was 15 years old (the age Anne was when she died in Bergen-Belsen) and I continued writing it for 10 years.

As I read Anne’s diary I identify with her so much. She writes just what she feels about things, she spares no details, she is honest about her own personal experience as an adolescent girl. People have commented on Anne’s sharp and critical remarks about others in the Annexe including her own mother. But I understand Anne perfectly.

 What is a secret journal for, if it isn’t to write down exactly what you think and feel about everything and everyone?

The most poignant parts of Anne’s diary for me come when she speculates about her future. Sometimes she is full of hope, and she writes about what she will do after the war, and is excited at the hope of the war ending in 1944; by October, she thinks, she will be so happy to be back at school! (In fact, by then she was in Auschwitz). A very moving part of the diary is when Anne records that Miep, one of their helpers, gave them a cake for Christmas 1943 and had written on it “Peace 1944”. Then you compare that with what the year 1944 actually held for them all.

Then Anne is filled with a sense that they are all doomed, and will themselves fall victim to the terrible  persecution of the Jews by the Nazis. She describes feeling that she and all the others in the annexe are a tiny piece of bright blue sky, surrounded by a ring, and all about that ring are black, threatening clouds, moving closer and closer to overwhelm them. She writes that she feels the ring is shrinking all the time.

The most heartrending part of reading Anne Frank’s diary is when you read the brief account at the very end about what happened to each of the fugitives in the Secret Annexe, after they were arrested on 4 August 1944.

Anne is in one sense so ordinary, it is so easy to identify with her, she comes over as intensely alive and vivid and real, you feel you know her intimately. Then you meditate upon what she and her fellow fugitives suffered as they were discovered and arrested; and you imagine what Anne would have continued to write, about every detail of her subsequent experiences.

Anne’s story tells us about the power of the pen – mightier than the sword. With one personal diary, she has come to symbolize the suffering of the Jews for millions, over all the intervening decades up to the present day, and her witness gathers strength for each passing generation.

Share what Anne Frank means to you on #anne frank2014 on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Hope That Eurovision Might Value Performers for Their Own Sake and Not for Their Country’s Politics

I was pleased to see Austria’s win in the Eurovision Song contest 2014. Not only was there the pleasure in seeing a country win that had not seen success at Eurovision for 49 years, but also I thought it a genuinely good song, performed beautifully by Conchita Wurst who has a wonderful voice.

The standard this year was very high and I enjoyed several of the songs and performers. I don’t judge by politics, but by the performance alone, and the performances submitted by Russia and Ukraine were amongst those I personally believed to be the best. The current political situation between those two countries, to me, was irrelevant to the criteria for choice.

Many people love the Eurovision Song Contest, for different reasons; but I hope we have seen signs this year that we may be moving in the direction of valuing talented performers and high quality songs for their own sake alone.