Echoes of “A Passionate Spirit” in Mystical Tales from British Folklore

Book Review:  “Faeries, Elves and Goblins: The Old Stories” by Rosalind Kerven, published by the National Trust

Faeries, Elves and Goblins by Rosalind Kerven

I bought this book recently in a National Trust gift shop, and found it captivating. Rosalind Kerven explores the raw material from which many of our great fantasy novelists have derived their archetypes. She includes “mystical tales of faery royalty, mischievous goblins, helpful house-elves, changelings and enchantments across the British isles”, with spotlight features on “faery folklore, faery morals, the various faery tribes, and spells and dealings between faeries and mortals”. As a paranormal thriller writer I loved this wonderful survey of centuries of folklore and faery mythology in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The book reminded me too of why I was so fascinated by the idea of supernatural malevolence hidden beneath mystical beauty (a common theme in faery lore and in Arthurian legends) which was part of my inspiration for “A Passionate Spirit.”COVER DESIGN A PASSIONATE SPIRIT pub Matador

Rosalind Kerven covers all the major themes in traditional tales of the faery realm, including  what she describes as “typical Faery perversity”, spells that are both mischievous and malevolent, and the toxic nature of any deals struck by a faery with a mortal. Reading these tales reminds us that any mortal who ultimately comes out well from dealing with a faery, is extremely lucky!

Shakespeare had it exactly right with his fairies in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, showing them having fun with and mocking the folly of the human beings, then putting things to rights once they have tired of their sport, wryfully signing off with the words, “If we shadows have offended…” In widespread stories down through the centuries, faeries are shown behaving towards mortals rather like a supernatural gang of brigands running a protection racket. These tales made me reflect upon how much they say of the life experience of their creators; an explanation for the changing fortunes we all encounter in this world.

There is so much here that we can identify with on the level of our own unconscious: “The transformation of a familiar path into an endlessly looping labyrinth” – for which a well-known antidote is to “remove one’s coat, turn it inside out and put it on again”; the experience of being “pixy-led”; the idea of obtaining “faery sight” which reveals a parallel world. I can see from this book how deeply influenced JK Rowling was by British folklore, in the Harry Potter novels: Dobby is set free when his master gives him an item of clothing; Harry is deposited as a baby on the Dursleys’ doorstep, by magical agency; and the idea of veritaserum, to name just three examples among countless others.

Highly recommended for adults interested in a survey of archetypal themes in folklore and mythology, though not suitable as a storybook for young children; they are best introduced to fairy tales and folklore through the many other books aimed specifically at their age-groups.

A Passionate Spirit Now on Net Galley

If you’re a member of Net Galley and enjoy paranormal thrillers A Passionate Spirit is now available there for you to request your free download.

 

If you do request it I hope you enjoy it; and I look forward to your review!

 

A Passionate Spirit and Mystical Circles: Give Books for Christmas

Waterstones’ current slogan is Give books for Christmas. Copies of A Passionate Spirit for sale at the Clapham Terrace School Fair, Leamington Spa on 4 Dec 2015And I must admit I could find no better message to give those passing by my stall at the Clapham Terrace School Christmas Fair on Friday – unless of course it be Roald Dahl’s observation in “Matilda”: If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.

Once again I had some interesting conversations with potential readers and discovered that they enjoy many different genres and have eclectic reading tastes. One of them noted that the central theme of both my novels is that of spirituality, and I was happy to have raised my profile slightly as an author, giving out free bookmarks and gaining new interest for my social media platforms and in particular my Facebook Page.The SC Skillman Author stall at Clapham Terrace School Christmas Fair, Leamington Spa, 4 Dec 2015

Along with “Mystical Circles, “A Passionate Spirit” is available now to buy online either as a paperback or as en ebook, although the main marketing and publicity will begin in January.  And do check out my page on the publisher’s website if you enjoy paranormal thrillers – or, indeed, if you are, like some of those at the Christmas Fair, eclectic readers who love to  read across the genres…

Out at the Christmas Fairs Meeting Prospective Readers

One of the joys of selling books at local Christmas Fairs is that you get a chance to introduce yourself to possible new readers and to chat to them about their reading tastes.

I had some interesting chats at the Princethorpe College Christmas Fair on Sunday afternoon whilst promoting and selling signed copies of my two novels Mystical Circles and A Passionate Spirit.

One lady, seeing that my new novel is a paranormal thriller, asked: “Is it based upon a real life story?”

At first her question surprised me, for of course I wouldn’t expect the target audience of a paranormal thriller to even ask that.

But I realised it was a very interesting question. “Yes,” I replied. “Not only do I get my inspiration from my own experience and from the many people I have met and known; but also this novel is based upon several true stories, from different people.”Sheila beside stall at Princethorpe college Christmas fair 2015 image 1.jpg

The true stories that I draw upon in my novel A Passionate Spirit, have been told by my sister Julia; by a retired clergyman called John Alderman; and by a selection of writers upon the paranormal, including Peter Ackroyd, Paul Adams, Eddie Brazil and Peter Underwood.

Whilst chatting to another lady about the fact that both my novels were set in the Cotswolds, I was asked another curious question:  “But do paranormal things happen in the Cotswolds?”

My reply to that was, yes, they certainly do – in my novel at least!

Then I realised it produced quite a good slogan: “Creepy things happen in the Cotswolds”. Though, in reality of course, they can happen anywhere and everywhere.

Decide for yourself by downloading the ebook here or by ordering the paperback direct from the publisher here.

 

 

 

 

Cotswolds Locations to Give Spice and Colour to the World of A Passionate Spirit

Recently I’ve been visiting a number of Cotswolds locations in which key scenes of my novel A Passionate Spirit are set, and locations which are referred to in the story.

The Fleece, Market Place, Cirencester
The Fleece, Market Place, Cirencester

A Passionate Spirit is a paranormal thriller, and some of the events of the story cross the borderline between the real world and the unexplained.

St John the Baptist Church, Market Place, Cirencester
St John the Baptist Church, Market Place, Cirencester

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I enjoy exploring fictional characters in their everyday world and how they respond when they meet the “impossible”.

Graze Bar and Brasserie in Gosditch St, Cirencester
Graze Bar and Brasserie in Gosditch St, Cirencester

Extra spice and colour has been added into my novel because the events take place in real locations.

I hope those residents of Cirencester who read my novel  will perhaps have a different view of some of these locations after they’ve finished the story!

The King's Head Hotel, Market Place, Cirencester
The King’s Head Hotel, Market Place, Cirencester

Progress on Marketing of A Passionate Spirit

I’ve just heard from Matador that my front cover for my new novel A Passionate Spirit is now approved, and I’ve just seen the final drafts of my marketing material for the novel.

A Passionate Spirit, the new paranormal thriller from SC Skillman, due to be published by Matador on 28 November 2015
A Passionate Spirit, the new paranormal thriller from SC Skillman, due to be published by Matador on 28 November 2015
My “Advance Information” sheet will shortly be mailed out to retailers, library suppliers and local bookshops.   My Press Release marketing will begin once copies of the printed book are available, when the marketing controller at Matador will contact me with the PR list that they’ll draw up for my book. All very exciting!
In addition I’ve just received back a report on my copy-edited ms from one of my 4 beta readers, with some useful insights and observations which will help me tweak the novel and sharpen it up, even now, at the last moment before it goes for typesetting!
I’ll soon have some promotional A Passionate Spirit Bookmarks ready too which I’m looking forward to being able to hand out to any of my target readers – those who love reading paranormal thrillers!

People of Inspiration: Russ Parker, Poet, Priest, Author, and Champion of Celtic Spirituality and Healing Dreams

My upcoming novel A Passionate Spirit tells the story of a young woman who defies a sinister spiritual healer.

A Passionate Spirit, the new paranormal thriller from SC Skillman, due to be published by Matador on 28 November 2015
A Passionate Spirit, the new paranormal thriller from SC Skillman, due to be published by Matador on 28 November 2015

The novel is about a conflict between good and evil, and I am fascinated by the idea of great beauty used to mask malevolent spiritual power. But the story also deals with the subject of healing, and what part psychic and spiritual power can play in this.

Among many who inspired me during the course of research for this novel I may number the Rev Russ Parker, whom one may describe as “an unconventional priest” (along with one of the principal characters in my novel).  He writes non-fiction books and poetry, he works in such areas as international listening and reconciliation, healing wounded histories, both of individuals and communities, and he explores the ways in which dreams and Celtic spirituality and a much freer attitude to spiritual matters may all open up our being and contribute to our healing.

I first heard Russ Parker speak at a local retreat centre several years ago, and he made a strong impact on me then. Since then I’ve heard him speak a number of times and have also attended a weekend retreat led by him about the Road to Emmaus. In addition I’ve read several of his books. Foremost among those which most impressed me are: Healing Dreams, Requiem Healing, Healing Death’s Wounds, and Wild Spirit of the Living God. So impressed was I by Russ, that I suggested a particular poem of his be read aloud at my father’s funeral, with a few personal biographical twists. This poem is called “The View From Here”. Afterwards some who were at the funeral service said, “That was the most uplifting funeral I have ever been to.” I believe this was in no small part due to the power of Russ’s poem.

Russ manages to be wise, vulnerable, poignant, down-to-earth, moving and funny during the sessions he leads. I don’t believe it’s possible to come out without having been entertained, inspired, uplifted, intellectually challenged or emotionally stirred – unless you’re in a coma at the time.

I listened to Russ speaking about Visions five years ago at a church in Derby. He spoke about how a vision takes an increasing grip on your life. Visions, he said, are something God brings that disturbs us. Sometimes they have their timetables. This is the way vision work, he said: it may be that God spoke to you two years ago, but has put you on pause. Maybe today – or at a time of His choosing in the future – he will press the unpause button.

We should learn to “hold our vision and wait with it until God fires the release gun.” I’ve held my vision for a long time, and I too am looking forward to the firing of that release gun!

A Passionate Spirit – My New Thriller / Suspense Novel

I’m excited to present the cover design for my new novel A Passionate Spirit, due to be published by Matador on  28 November 2015. Do let me know in your comments what you think of the design!

Here is the Advance Information provided by Matador:

A Passionate Spirit by SC Skillman cover design
A Passionate Spirit by SC Skillman cover design

Zoe ran through the wood in gathering dusk, her heart racing. She clutched the child’s hand, which kept slipping out of hers. Sweat drenched her blouse, sticking it to her jacket, despite the dank chill in the air. They pounded along a narrow bramble-choked path. Zoe winced and the child sobbed, as spiky stems tore at their clothes and flesh, drawing blood.

It’s a dream come true for 25 year old Zoe when she and her new husband, unconventional priest Theo, move to the Cotswold hills. But fearsome dreams about a young girl running for her life disturb Zoe and she can’t shake off the idea that a child’s life is in danger… and so is hers.

When two unexpected guests arrive, James and Natasha, Zoe’s friend Alice immediately senses something amiss with James – and particularly Natasha; but no-one except Zoe agrees with her. Natasha embarks on a series of mysterious healings which astonish other guests and convince them that Natasha is a miracle worker. But Zoe can’t abandon her feelings of unease around Natasha. Then a series of disturbing events hits the centre; Zoe fears that Theo has been unfaithful to her with Natasha, and Theo falls into severe depression for which Zoe believes Natasha to be responsible.

When Zoe confronts Natasha she is completely unprepared for the terror she is about to face. Zoe will need more than the loyalty and strength of Alice to survive the frightening paranormal forces that are unleashed against her…

A Passionate Spirit is a fast-paced and thrilling novel that will keep readers in suspense throughout. Inspired by Susan Howatch and Barbara Erskine, this book will appeal to readers who enjoy paranormal thrillers.