Lovely Atmosphere at King Edward VI School Christmas Fair Book Signing

at I enjoyed selling and promoting signed copies of my two thriller suspense novels Mystical Circles and A Passionate Spirit and meeting readers at King Edward VI School Christmas Fair, Stratford-upon-Avon last Saturday.author-sc-skillman-at-booksigning-at-king-edward-vi-school-christmas-fair-sua-3-dec-2016

A pianist and choir entertained us with carols, the prefects carried our bags from the car and brought us tea and coffee during the fair, and there was also a fabulous raffle with wonderful prizes like an overnight stay and dinner and wine for two at the Lygon Arms, Broadway… very appropriate for the fact that the final scene of A Passionate Spirit is set in in the Lygon Arms, Broadway. Sadly though I didn’t win the prize!

I chatted with readers and one of them said “This looks just the sort of thing for me for January reading…” also I found once again that men seem to be the first to take initiative in browsing and then buying my books, even persuading their wives to buy them! What is this saying about my target audience?..MC & APS on display at King Edward VI School SUA 3 Dec 2016.jpg

We’ve heard it said before but it always stays true – books make an ideal Christmas present… if, of course, you know the reading taste of your gift recipient!

Happy reading over Christmas and into the New Year.

“Dream” Book Buyers at Festival of Crafts, Coombe Abbey

Thank you to the “dream buyers” who bought my books on Saturday at the Coombe Abbey Festival of Crafts. 20160910_094309-1 They needed no promotional chat of any kind from me, (which I’ve discovered is counter-productive), studied my banner, reviews and blurbs closely, and recognised that the stories were just their type of thing.20160910_094239-1

Abigail, Jamie and I enjoyed our time at the local author stall in the Craft Marquee at the festival despite the rain and damp – though I feared my books might be starting to curl!

 

Thank you too to another stallholder, Holly Webster, who came over to me to look at my books and to chat about her own urban dark fantasy novels. I’ve looked her up on Amazon and  though the horror element in her novel Blood Borne is much  darker than my usual taste, curiosity may lead me to download on my Kindle!

Thank you also to the lady who came over and bought a copy of “Mystical Circles” and said, “I shall read this today and review it tomorrow.”

Now all I need is for buyers like this to be increased a hundredfold!20160910_09395420160910_094001-120160910_094112-1-120160910_094239-1

A Passionate Spirit 99p on Kindle from 1 April for 1 week only

My publisher Matador have just dropped the price of my kindle ebook for one week.

Take the chance to snap up my new paranormal thriller “A Passionate Spirit” on Kindle at the special price of 99p.

COVER DESIGN A PASSIONATE SPIRIT pub Matador

The deal ends on Friday 8th April when the price will revert to its usual level of £3.99. So this is a great opportunity.

And if you read and enjoy, do consider leaving a review on Amazon. Reviews are critical to an author’s success!

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.

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.

The Joy of Honest,Thoughtful Book Reviews

One of the joys of this New Year for me has been reading the reviews of A Passionate Spirit that are starting to come in via Net Galley.

"A Passionate Spirit" by SC Skillman
“A Passionate Spirit” by SC Skillman

It has reaffirmed for me that although a review may not carry a 5 star rating, nevertheless an honest review from a reader who seriously engaged with the novel is of great value.

Charlie G says this:  “I was pulled in, hook, line and sinker, picking up my kindle at every opportunity to find out what happened next and the end was not disappointing.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in cults, the supernatural and thrillers in general.

What I especially loved were the author’s notes at the end, talking about her inspirations for the novel, including the Australian cult, The Family, which sent me scurrying off to the google for an hour after I’d finished the book. A great read.”

Maxine (Booklover Catlady) says this on Amazon: “The book tackles the dark side of cults and cult-thinking as well as introducing some spiritual elements, not all that are in the light so to speak either. Who are these people and what is the hold they seem to have on the house? Why are weird paranormal events happening all around? Zoe and her husband and loyal friend Alice are tested, and it’s not easy.

I enjoyed the book very much towards the end as the reveals began and things began to slot into place….  The ending is really good and I liked the fact the pace really picked up and I could feel some thrills at last….. If you like books with some paranormal twists and focus in it you may well enjoy A Passionate Spirit.”

Thank you both to Charlie G and to Maxine.

 

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 Hot Off the Press

I was excited today to receive a delivery of 50 copies of my new novel “A Passionate Spirit”.

"A Passionate Spirit" by SC Skillman
“A Passionate Spirit” by SC Skillman

Although I’ve seen and approved the cover design and read through the typeset proofs several times, nevertheless, to hold the freshly-printed book is a thrilling moment, worthy of celebration. At last it’s a reality!

Now I can offer signed copies for sale via my website. Publication date is 28th November, when the novel will be available to buy through all online retailers, and in bricks-and-mortar bookshops. It can be pre-ordered now from the Troubador website. In addition it will be available as an ebook.

I hope that the bookshops I have visited and many more will stock copies for you to buy.

Maybe one of these bookshops is local to you. Here is  a list of the shops where you should be able to find “A Passionate Spirit” in stock after 28th November:

"A Passionate Spirit" (paranormal thriller) by SC Skillman
“A Passionate Spirit” (paranormal thriller) by SC Skillman

Blackwell’s, Oxford; The Borzoi Bookshop, Stow-on-the-Wold; Jaffe and Neale, Chipping Norton; The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Tetbury; Warwick Books, Warwick; Kenilworth Books, Kenilworth;  Mostly Books, Abingdon; The Woodstock Bookshop Woodstock; Madhatters Bookshop, Burford; and Waterstone’s in Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Banbury and Gloucester.

The Power of Personal Stories, for Remembrance, for Empathy and to Ignite a Passionate Spirit for Change

The love of story telling which I learned as a young child, through reading adventure stories, grew into a passion to write stories myself.

Stories Are Powerful
Stories Are Powerful

Writing and reading stories is all about our ability to enter other hearts and minds and worlds, and to exercise and develop our powers of empathy. I hope that is what my story of A Passionate Spirit will do. How vital it is that we tell stories – not only fiction, but the stories of our own experience. We’ve seen that clearly over the last few days of remembrance.

On the day before Remembrance Sunday I sang with the Spires Philharmonic Choir in a concert called Sing Us Your Dreams at Earlsdon Methodist Church, Coventry. The Earlsdon Research Group had gathered together many personal stories from people who remember their grandfathers, their fathers and their uncles who fought in World War I and returned. We’ll repeat the concert with more World War I-related memories, on Saturday 14th November at Lancaster Priory.

During the concert we sang some very moving pieces: newly-written poetry by Avril Newey set to lovely and poignant music by one of our own choir members, Michael Torbe, including The Unknown Warrior and Reveille Rise Now, and These Thankful Fields, plus some famous wartime songs. In between our musical pieces, a narrator recounted to a packed church some of the stories that had been gathered from local people in Coventry, as part of the Sing Us Your Dreams project.  These were the stories of those who had returned – “the lucky ones”. Many were very powerful and moving. And those with stories to tell can still contribute at the Sing Us Your Dreams website.

We heard of returned soldiers haunted by images of having to shoot sick horses and throw them overboard off transport vessels; men so traumatised they never spoke of what they’d experienced – one whose granddaughter remembers being mystified and slightly frightened of him as he sat silent in the corner at Christmas parties.

We heard of a serviceman who was shot in the hand, refused to have his arm amputated, and came home with a black hand, which he showed to a woman who was about to give him a white feather on a bus.  We learned of a mother whose 15 year old son joined up in the raw excitement of recruitment posters proclaiming Your Country Needs You. He was killed and every Remembrance Day for the rest of her long life (she lived to 95) she laid a wreath on his grave and wept for the loss of her young son.  We heard of a boy who memorised the sight chart so he could convince recruiting sergeants he had good eye sight. We heard of a woman for whom, though her husband returned to her, it was never possible to recover their former life together, because, as she later reported, “in his heart he never really left the army.”

I thought of my own teenage son.  If we had been there, in 1915, I as a mother may have seen him, perhaps, as young as 14, so excited by the propaganda that he was prepared to falsify his birth certificate to join up and go to the front line.

We heard of those who were “lucky” – yet the devastation of war not only kills people, it destroys countless other lives for decades through the damaged minds and bodies and spirits of those who return.

All personal stories which transported me back to the reality of life, at that time, then opened it up with vivid freshness.

I feel I can understand those who were silenced by their terrible experiences. And yet thank God for those who have been able to tell their stories, so they might be passed down, for our compassion and empathy, which may strengthen in us another passionate spirit… a powerful resolve to do what it takes to change the future.

Signs and Omens at Gloucester for A Passionate Spirit

Many have through the centuries seen signs or omens from the natural world.

A view of Gloucester Cathedral
A view of Gloucester Cathedral

In my article on Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes “How Can Carl Jung’s Theory of Archetypes Help You In Your Creative Writing?” which I wrote for ezine articles in January 2012, I mention the archetype of the animal spirit guide/messenger. This runs as a theme through all mythology, appearing everywhere from aboriginal legend to ancient Greek thought to the Bible to classic literature.

Here’s what I wrote then on the theme of the animal spirit messenger:

“…the Bible of course makes use of this theme too by giving the Dove a key role as a guide; and as a symbol of peace, love, the Holy Spirit. Another example is the Raven. “To have a raven’s knowledge” is an Irish proverb meaning “to have a seer’s supernatural powers”. The Raven was banished from the Ark by Noah – but it returned later on in the Old Testament to feed Elijah in the wilderness.”

The Raven Centre in Gloucester
The Raven Centre in Gloucester

I make use of the theme of the Raven in my new novel A Passionate Spirit.

Yesterday I was in Gloucester where I visited the local branch of Waterstone’s on my Cotswolds bookstore tour.

Gloucester has many historical locations, and so I was tempted to take several photos. When I viewed my photo of Gloucester Cathedral I noticed that my camera had caught a large bird on the wing, flying past the Cathedral.

Bird flies past Gloucester Cathedral
Bird flies past Gloucester Cathedral

Then I turned round and discovered that the  lovely timbered building behind me was called The Raven Centre.

A fanciful coincidence? Or maybe a beautiful sign or good omen?  I choose to hope so!