A Passionate Spirit Full Cover

I was delighted to receive the full cover for my new novel this week:

A Passionate Spirit full Cover
A Passionate Spirit full Cover

I’ve just sent back my third set of corrected typeset proofs to Matador and await the new proofs. When I’ve approved them, the book can go to print.

Don’t forget you can pre-order the book now, either from Matador or from Amazon!

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.

New Novel ‘A Passionate Spirit’ by SC Skillman

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Matador to publish my new novel A Passionate Spirit.

I hope to have the cover art to show you here on my blog before too long!

Words From a Cave – Part 3

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La Ventana Cave, Puerto Rico

Here I am about to step out of the cave nearly 3 weeks after my hip replacement operation – without crutches!

Yesterday I took part in a beautiful performance of Mozart’s Requiem with the Coventry Spires Philharmonic Choir in Holy Trinity Church Coventry. I think that, together with a walk through the Coventry city streets, counts as a temporary exit from the cave!

I’ve also been doing plenty of reading and have just finished Phil Rickman’s A Crown of Lights, one of his excellent Merrily Watkins series of novels

I expect to be walking freely without use of crutches before the next blog post, so I’ll be back once again on topic for this blog –  which is, whatever has inspired me during the preceding week.

I’ve also received a very positive and encouraging report from a beta reader on my latest novel A Passionate Spirit; have made a few changes as a result of her feedback; and am now waiting to hear from a publisher who currently has the first few chapters and synopsis. So I feel as if this photo of the wonderful view from La Ventana Cave, Puerto Rico, is ideal for where I am right now. Thank you again for your encouragement, for your views and comments, and thanks also to new followers of this blog – I greatly appreciate you all!

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.

Mind Programming: What is the Central Desire of Your Life? And Who Put It There?

IN a recent episode of the BBC Drama Series “Merlin” we saw Guinevere being “brainwashed” by Morgana.

Now Arthur’s beautiful queen (who was previously all goodness) is in Morgana’s power,and doing her will.

Guinevere in the Dark Tower (media.tumblr.com)
Guinevere in the Dark Tower (media.tumblr.com)

Although of course she did use the full force of her magical powers as well, Morgana used long-established brainwashing techniques on Guinevere. She subjected her to a terrifying ordeal of sensory deprivation; she sewed in her mind doubt and distrust about all the people she loved and trusted; and then she introduced into Guinevere’s mind the notion that she, Morgana, was the one person who cared for Guinevere, and whom she could trust.

Morgana has planted her own “central idea” in Gwen’s mind.

In reality it is possible to do such things, though it usually takes much longer: many weeks, months or sometimes years.

The person who plants the central idea in our minds may be of no moral character themselves.

All they need do is be convincing or charismatic, and come along at a time when we’re open to them.

None of us can avoid being vulnerable, unless we get locked up in a high tower for our own protection.

How can we be sure a central idea is a true idea, and comes from one who never changes, one who can be utterly trusted with your life?

Certainly Christians would have an answer to that.

And it is a question I’ll leave open for you to comment on.

But of one thing I’m sure; this is a subject which interests me greatly; it appears in my novel “Mystical Circles“, in which I describe vulnerable people being drawn in by a charismatic leader; and it is an idea which resurfaces again in my new novel “A Passionate Spirit”.

We do act according to our central desire. And our unconscious desire always takes precedence over our conscious desire (as is the case for all main protagonists, according to Robert McKee in his book  Story).

I used to think that the central idea of my life was to write popular novels. And the person who put it there was Enid Blyton. Not a person of great moral character. Biographies of Enid Blyton tell us that she was callous and cruel towards her family. But I don’t believe she herself inspired me. The instigating factor lay much deeper than that, embedded in the stories she wrote: children flying under the radar of the adult world, vulnerable people going off to grab life in both hands, which meant excitement, adventure, and often calling to account those very adults or authority figures.

That dream embedded itself in my unconscious. Perhaps that was what I wanted to achieve. Therein lay my central desire, much deeper than a mere desire to succeed in the eyes of the world.

Please consider leaving a comment. I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts on this.

What is the central desire of your life? And who – or what – put it there?