Book Trailer Fun for Mystical Circles

I’ve been out and about in Warwick and the Cotswold hills with my film-maker daughter Abigail, having great fun as Abigail puts together a book trailer for my romantic suspense  novel Mystical Circles.

Mystical Circles cover image
Mystical Circles cover image

As I’ve watched our actors follow Abigail’s directions and play my characters, my story has come alive in a new way. I’ve been reminded of the reason why I wrote the novel in the first place; the events in my own life  that provided  inspiration.

We’ve been filming in a setting that could be Craig’s sixteenth century farmhouse in that Cotswolds valley – HQ of the New Age spiritual group Wheel of Love.  So much so, that when you see it, you’ll believe you are there.

As I watch our actress, I feel what it’s like to be 22-year-old Zoe, who’s not long out of university, and believes she’s found paradise. What more could she want in this life than a vocation, a loving partner, a spiritual philosophy,  and on top of that, a beautiful place to live in?

Zoe determines to stay there for ever; and sends an excited email to her sensible older sister Juliet. No sooner has freelance journalist Juliet received the email than she drops everything, jumps into her car in London, and drives up to Gloucestershire to investigate, thus setting the whole story in motion.

This is the perfect time of year to be shooting the book trailer. The story takes place in the month of June.

Cotswolds landscape 6 June 2013 (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)
Cotswolds landscape 6 June 2013 (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)

We’ve just filmed Craig and Zoe together, and we still need to film Juliet and Zoe arguing with each other.

The actors are having fun with this, and so are we!

And I’m delighted with the positive response from so many people involved in our project, some have made locations available to us, others have volunteered their acting skills, and one has even provided a high resolution video camera. It is their good will which is making this book trailer possible.

Here are a couple of shots  to whet your appetite for the book trailer.

I hope it will appears on my You Tube channel in the next couple of weeks.

actors playing Zoe & Craig  (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)
actors playing Zoe & Craig (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)

Watch out for  the link to it on this blog!

Mystical Circles Romance and Psychological Suspense Free Promotion Bonanza!

ad banner for Mystical Circles romantic suspense fiction
ad banner for Mystical Circles romantic suspense fiction

Mystical Circles is on free giveaway to Goodreads members for the next month!

Mystical Circles cover image - romance & psychological suspense in the heart of the English countryside - intense & compelling
Mystical Circles cover image – romance & psychological suspense in the heart of the English countryside – intense & compelling

Five copies of the paperback second edition are on offer.

Goodreads Members, get on over there and sign up for the giveaway!

Mystical Circles is also FREE ON KINDLE FOR 5 DAYS STARTING NOW!

ROMANCE AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE IN THE HEART OF THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE – INTENSE  & COMPELLING.

Add to your Goodreads shelf, download free on Kindle, or buy the paperback from the author!

International Women’s Day 2013 in Leamington Spa – Women and Girls, Come and Support the Cause!

I shall be selling signed copies of “Mystical Circles” at the International Women’s Day event at The Sydni Centre, Leamington Spa, this afternoon (Friday 8 March 2013).

You can find The Sydni Centre here.

Mystical Circles by SC Skillman
Mystical Circles by SC Skillman

This is a Women and girls only event, held at the SYDNI centre – ALL WELCOME 0-90 – bring your daughters mothers sisters – range of activities and events – live music, singing, dance, self defence, arts workshops, CommunityPhilosophy, discussions, films, food – please come and celebrate the day with us! Free!

Supported by local women, various agencies voluntary & statutory.

The event is from 4-8pm. Do drop in if you’re in the area at that time!

Take a Look at My Author Interview on Rebeccah Giltrow’s Blog

Hi everyone!

Mystical Circles cover image
Mystical Circles cover image

Another kind blogger has just published an Author Interview with me. You may like to take a look at the interview here.

Many thanks to Rebeccah Giltrow for giving me this opportunity!

Why Les Miserables Is So Popular

How is it that the story of Les Miserables has tapped into the emotions of so many?

Les Miserables movie 2012
Les Miserables movie 2012

I first read Victor Hugo’s novel in my late teens/early twenties, and a central idea stayed with me over the years (though not necessarily in the exact words Victor Hugo used):

You have been taken away from evil, and been given back to God.

When questioned, often even the actors and actresses in the movie cannot necessarily explain why Les Miserables has such power.  This may of course be because they’re so close to the story. Ann Hathaway was a recent example. When asked this question, all she could reply was, “I don’t know. It’s just a great story.”

But I’m fascinated by what lies behind this: for Les Miserables is an intensely religous story. And this is a society in which the majority of people would not describe themselves as ‘religious’ (if collectors of statistics are to be believed). And so this begs another question: Why is the opinion I quote below such an uncommon one?

The authors have pared down Victor Hugo’s great wallow of a novel to its dumb, pious moral (Christian forgiveness always wins, though you might not live to break out the champagne).

(David Edlestein)

I would dare to believe that the majority of the 60+ million people who’ve seen Les Miserables as a musical over the past 3 decades do not agree with him.

I believe that part of the success of Les Miserables is due to the fact that it has many hot story moments.

And these are bound up with the archetypal themes of the story, redemption, forgiveness and unconditional love.

As a romantic suspense author, I know only too well how vital these hot story moments are.

For me, the most emotional moment in the movie was when Cosette (played by Amanda Seyfried) sings, “Papa, you are going to live.”

Superficially, this is just a young girl who refuses to believe she is about to lose the dying man in front of her. And for Valjean, this must be his supreme moment when he is given a sense of belonging.

But the power of these words, for me, works on another level; as does most of the movie. Cosette is re-stating the theme; the theme of eternal life through spiritual redemption.

In creative writing, we cannot afford to ignore the different levels on which a story moment may work. For me, our ability to do this is a matter of both mystery and imagination.

Although the characters of Les Miserables are in extreme, unjust circumstances, their emotions are, I believe,  emotions many of us share on the spiritual journey.

Though you might not dare to believe your own deprivations compare with those of Valjean, Fantine and Cosette, being minor by comparison,  we do feel the same.

Over the course of this life, at different times, we too may feel the same wretchedness as Fantine, the same self-doubt and guilt as Valjean, the same obsessiveness as Javert, the same grasping small-mindedness as the Innkeeper and his wife.

I believe that we’d feel the same if we were also visited with a great act of grace; and especially if we were in Jean Valjean’s position, and heard these words: “My brother you no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I have bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred, and now I give you back to God.” (words the Bishop speaks to Valjean after he has given him the  silver Valjean tried to steal). When I read the Bishop’s words to Valjean in Victor Hugo’s novel, for me they had the power of a blessing, one which would stand by you throughout your life – as of course they did for Valjean in the story.

Over the past 3 decades Les Miserables has been seen by more than 60 million people in more than 40 countries and in more than 20 different languages.

I believe that Les Miserables shows that many more people respond to themes of spiritual redemption and forgiveness and unconditional love, than would ever call themselves ‘religious’.

These are archetypal themes, and they are written on our hearts.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Men Into Monsters – Spidermen, Octopuses, Lizards and Aliens – Why Do We Love Them in Books, TV Dramas and Movies?

Who’s the most compelling character in a Spiderman movie?

Rhys Ifans as Dr Curt Connors
Rhys Ifans as Dr Curt Connors

For me, it’s Dr Otto Octavius (Doc Ock) and Dr Curt Connors.

As I watched “The Amazing Spiderman” DVD again the other day, it was Rhys Ifans in the role of Dr Curt Connors, that my eyes were on. Rhys Ifans is an actor I love from his numerous movie roles, including that of Hugh Grant’s Welsh flatmate in Notting Hill, and Luna Lovegood’s father in the Harry Potter movies.

This was such a different role – with a pleasant, understated manner, he was just a low-key, decent man… until he was driven to extremes by the pressure of circumstances and by the threatened destruction of his dreams.

Ordinary we may be, but I believe we can relate to that!

We’re engaged by the transformation of ordinary, nice, reasonable human beings, into rapacious killers.

Alfred Molina as Doc Ock in “Spiderman 2” was not only horrific, but moving and poignant. Even more so, because, in his monstrous octopus form, he  still had his own, recognisable face: the same face he wore when he gave up his time to chat kindly to Peter Parker, giving him a sense of belonging. A similar idea was used in the Doctor Who episode about The Lazarus Experiment, when we saw Mark Gatiss’s face recognisable in the alien monster.

Dr Curt Connors in the process of changing into a giant lizard

What is it that makes people change, in this life?

I look at this here, in a blog post about people being elemental.

Books, TV drama and movies, and of course, creative writing,  are all safe places for us to explore our dark side.

I explore this trope in my novel Mystical Circles. Although I’m a romantic suspense author, my own Other Side – exploring strange spiritual and psychological alleys in characters – is always there.

And if, after a lifetime of struggle, our dreams were to be utterly destroyed, I believe that many of us may fantasize about going on a rampage, expressing all our darkest emotions. This may come out through images in our dreams. Of course, the checks and balances present in the psyches of most of us, prevent this happening in reality. And so it stays in the world of mystery and imagination.

Would you dare to believe that, on the spiritual journey, alongside our capacity to evolve and improve and be redeemed, there might run another, dark strain: that our nice and reasonable selves might be changed into monsters?

Do you identify with this in any way?

Please share, if you dare!

The Next Big Thing: A Passionate Spirit

I was invited to take part in “The Next Big Thing” – a blog hop for authors –  by Fay Sampson who has written many wonderful books for children and adults arising from Celtic history, and also includes mystery, suspense and crime fiction in her output.

In her capacity as a manuscript editor for The Writer’s Workshop, Fay also read my novel “Mystical Circles” in draft form, appraised it and gave me guidelines for revision.  I reworked it according to her suggestions, and she then read the novel again. It was Fay’s encouragement that led me forward to publication, and she kindly allowed me to print her testimonial on the cover. So thank you Fay!

And now for ten questions on my Next Big Thing:
 
1.  What is the working title of your book?

A PASSIONATE SPIRIT

2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?

As this novel is set in an English retreat centre I’ve drawn upon my knowledge of these centres (several of which I’ve visited and stayed in over the years), & also any environment in which disparate people are drawn together for a period of time in an enclosed setting. I’ve drawn too upon my  insights into human motivation and behaviour; chief among which is that “nothing should be taken at face value: people are often not what they seem”.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?

Romantic Suspense

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Zoe Blake, main protagonist, age 23:   Amanda Seyfried

Theo, Zoe’s husband of 15 months, and Warden of the Centre:   Bradley James

James Willoughby, unexpected guest:   *Hugh Grant

Natasha, his sinister girlfriend:   Talulah Riley

Llewellyn, Poet-in-Residence:   Matt Baynton

Bernie, the House Manager:   Mark Williams

Alice, Retreat Centre Secretary:   Georgia Moffett

Jessica Leroy, Chair of Trustees:   Sarah Lancashire

* As a postscript to this particular casting, may I say I’d love to see Hugh Grant play my character James Willoughby, because this is a role that would require Hugh to be sexy, villainous, very handsome, manipulative, double-dealing, charming and treacherous. Also, I ‘d love to see Working Title Productions do this film.

A Passionate Spirit has the potential to be a great British movie.
5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Inexperienced young woman finds herself running an English retreat centre in the teeth of intense opposition from two malevolent guests.

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll be seeking representation from a literary agent to win a contract of publication with a traditional publishing house.

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

One month – I wrote it during November 2011’s National Novel Writing Month.

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

My story has elements you may find in books by Susan Howatch, Barbara Erskine and Phil Rickman.
9.  Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Various people I’ve met over the years have inspired me for the characters of Zoe, Theo and James. I’ve also been inspired by characters and themes in my favourite films and TV dramas. Additionally, I interviewed a retired Anglican parish priest who told me several stories from his own experience around the subject of the deliverance ministry; one of his stories in particular not only forms the basis of a scene in my novel, but also inspired my character Natasha.

 10.  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The exploration of the psyche of a dysfunctional person holds a fascination for today’s novel reader, and therefore a strong place in the fiction market. Alongside this runs a deep interest in mental health issues and in spirituality, the supernatural and paranormal. These are in high demand, and extremely popular subcategories within today’s market. A Passionate Spirit contains elements of all these.

This is my vision:

to offer readers everywhere stories that delight and entertain, capturing their imaginations and touching their hearts with powerful universal themes that affect us all.

The themes that most engage me are these: love, loyalty and bravery; intrigue, longing and desire; redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness.


I am tagging Meg Harper

Lindsay Rumbold

Wendy Jones

Their posts about their new projects will be live on or around 19 December.

Seeking Personal Growth; and Sitting at the Feet of a Charismatic Guru

We find ourselves in a culture where many seek answers to the deep issues of life in spirituality, beyond the boundaries of organized religion.

dreams and mystical visions
dreams and mystical visions

Different needs within people draw them to seek spiritual relief – and for some, esoteric New Age spiritual groups hold a strong appeal.

You’ll meet some of those who are attracted to such groups, in the pages of my romantic suspense novel Mystical Circles.

"Mystical Circles" new print edition published August 2012
“Mystical Circles” new print edition published August 2012

Another example of such a group – which was pointed out to me by one of my early readers – is the Fellowship of Friends. Also known as the School Group it was founded in 1970 in California by Robert Burton aka The Teacher. There are certain fundamental aspects of this Fellowship which find their counterpart in many other esoteric groups:

  • The group is led by “a conscious teacher”. His only true credentials are his own presence and his effect upon his students.
  • The group’s location is a place for students to “work on themselves” in an atmosphere of beauty, effort and friendship.
  • The group is trained in “self-remembering” which involves “being present” within a moment – this is the universal message of esoteric schools.
  • The members of the group gather daily to “work on themselves” at meetings, study groups and dinners.

I have in the past been impressed by the teachings of George Gurdjieff (upon which Robert Burton based the Fellowship of Friends) and have participated in a number of such groups myself. Gurdjieff, a mystic and spiritual teacher, called his discipline “The Work”. At one point he described his teachings as “esoteric Christianity”.

In theory, the “work on oneself” which Gurdjieff recommends should indeed bear fruit in greater self-knowledge. But does it in practice?

My own experience has shown me how powerful a charismatic figure can be and how the most intelligent of people might fall prey to such a person, and therefore create situations in which many people become victims of “mind control” or “brainwashing”. I must also say this applies to a wide range of situations in life, not just esoteric groups.

Christians may like to reflect upon how easily a charismatic leader can draw people into a place where the main focus of attention is his or her own magnetic personality. This can be as much of a danger for Christians with a public speaking ministry as it can be for inspirational leaders and gurus in the world of the esoteric.

St Paul spoke of the danger of “false apostles” attributing miracles to themselves rather than God. He expressed his fear lest those he taught had their minds “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) And as Jesus himself said, “Beware of false prophets – by their fruits will you know them.”

I’ve certainly tasted a few of those fruits myself in the past, and have learned from personal experience whether their juicy flavour lasts, or, indeed, whether you bite through the fruit to find a maggot at the centre!

What about you? Have you ever tasted any of these fruits? I’d love to hear from you! Perhaps you, like me, have sat at the feet of various gurus? Please share your own experiences by leaving a comment!