Podcast

Back in the summer, I was asked if I would like to be interviewed for a Podcast for Blondie and the Brit. Through Facebook I’d already become friends with ‘Blondie’ aka KJ Waters – you might remember the posts on her book, Stealing Time – and we were working on my book cover together (along with Jody Smyers), so I was looking forward to chatting with her again. Also, I’d done one before so it didn’t faze me. The time was set for the recording and after a couple of minor technical hitches, it went ahead.

'Blondie' aka KJ Waters

‘Blondie’ aka KJ Waters

I have to say I had a brilliant time. It was lovely to get to know Suzanne Kelman, ‘the Brit’, and between the three of us there were plenty of laughs. We obviously did some serious stuff as well though. I can’t believe how many subjects we covered in ninety minutes: editing; jewellery making; book reviews; Of Ice & Air; my publishing group, Myrddin; the writing group I lead, Writebulb; inspiration; and, of course, writing.

'the Brit' aka Suzanne Kelman

‘the Brit’ aka Suzanne Kelman

Anyway, the great thing is that the interview went live yesterday. The timing could not have been more perfect with the launch of my new book today!

Here’s the MP3 link so you can listen to it:  <a href=”http://blondieandbrit.podbean.com/mf/play/8z67fg/Carliecullenfinal1118.mp3“>Download this episode (right click and save)</a>

I hope you enjoy it and if podcasts are your thing, check out Blondie and the Brit. They have some great ones already on their backlist and plenty of talented people still lined up.

Click to go directly there

Click to go directly there

 

A Bit of Kick-Arse

We’re now on day 10 of the Heart Search: Betrayal blog tour and have I got a treat for you today.

A lovely lady and friend, Laura Thomas, who jumped into the Heart Search: Lost blog tour at the last minute to help out and has supported my books ever since, has got a real kick-arse excerpt for you. Click here to read it.

iskra

The other post is an interview with eleven-year-old Hannah Greenland. She was a runner up in the Writebulb Christmas story writing competition and has since joined the group. In case you’ve forgotten, Writebulb is the writing group I run. Anyway, please show her some love and click here to read the interview.

Don’t forget about the competition on yesterday’s post – you have two days left in which to get your entry in, and if you haven’t checked out the giveaway yet, now would be as good a time as any, especially with the fabulous items on offer!

I’m back!!

Hi Everyone!

It was a crazy 2014 for me and I got so caught up in my work, I just couldn’t find the time to write regularly on my blog as well – I’m really sorry for deserting you. I’m planning on changing that for 2015.

Last year, I became a principal editor with Eagle Eye Editors and the workload was heavy from day one. I also finished writing the final book in the Heart Search trilogy and I’m planning to launch it early this year. The book has been through a couple of rounds of editing and will shortly go to my beta reader for checking. Once that’s done, there will be one final edit and then the launch. A great deal of planning has already gone into the launch and there will be some spectacular giveaways. Keep checking in for details and if anyone is interested in hosting a spot on the blog tour, please let me know.

In January last year, I had this crazy idea for my writing group, Writebulb, to write and publish not one, but two anthologies. As I run the group and am one of only two professional editors in the group, it created even more work. However, we managed to do it. Magic, Mystery & Mayhem (for adults) was launched late summer and ‘Catching Santa and other festive tales’ (for children aged 7-11) came out in October. Both book signing events were a sell-out and we made quite a bit of money for our chosen charity – Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford.

Unfortunately, my health suffered a setback and I’m now officially disabled. Because of this and the fact I had a stalker, who amongst other things vandalised my car on at least two separate occasions, the second of which could have caused a serious accident, I had to move house. I’m now happily settled in my new home which is in the process of being adapted for some of my needs. I’m much more comfortable and at ease now. The good side to this is that I have even more time to write and edit, review books, and write blog posts.

I ‘won’ NaNoWriMo in November for the 4th year running, which is something I’m quite proud of. It really gave me a kick-start for my new novel, which is a standalone fantasy. I’ve written over 75,000 words on the first draft so I’m two-thirds of the way through. This is a really rough draft and I’ll have some serious work to do on it before it can go through editing, but as it’s so different from Heart Search, I’m quite excited about it. I’ll tell you more about it in the months that follow.

I guess that’s about it for now. It just leaves me to wish you all a happy, healthy, and successful 2015.

Free Fiction: The Curse of Splintermoon Manor

It’s been a while since I treated you to some free fiction, so I decided it was time I rectified this oversight. This came from a flash fiction prompt I set my writing group, Writebulb, which was the proverb, ‘Never judge a book by its cover’. I hope you enjoy my take on it.

The Curse of Splintermoon Manor

splintermoon

The long, wide hallway was resplendent with ornate mirrors, oil paintings of previous occupants and intricately carved wood and plaster. As Beth paused to gaze at a particularly severe-looking woman, she realised just how much she enjoyed the research aspect of writing.

Splintermoon Manor, a 16th century mansion, lay deep in the Essex countryside. It was reputedly one of the most haunted houses in Britain, and as such, was the perfect setting for the novel Beth was planning. She wasn’t one to just surf the internet for research, Beth preferred to visit places, take photographs to refer back to and soak up the ambiance; there was a strong atmosphere in the manor to absorb.

She continued slowly along the polished wood floor, taking a few shots as she meandered then halted as she came to a strangely carved wood panel. This was so different from the rest; taking a photo she then moved closer.

The panel’s carvings of runes started at the centre then worked in an ever-growing spiral towards the edges. Around the frame were strange symbols; some she had come across in earlier research, but others were entirely new and they fascinated her.

Beth placed her index finger on the centre rune and traced it along the spiral until she heard a soft click. She looked around, but was alone. As she turned her attention back to the panel, she noticed a thin bead of light from one edge that hadn’t been there before. She pushed gently at the edge and was surprised when the panel swung inwards on well-oiled hinges, revealing a brightly-lit passageway.

Beth’s eyes grew wide and her mouth gaped; most old mansions reputedly had secret passages, but she never thought she would find one. After a brief hesitation she stepped over the lintel and gazed around. There was a dead end behind the panel, but the long passage turned a corner ahead so she couldn’t see how far it went. Taking a deep breath she began to walk forwards.

Moments later, Beth heard a soft click behind her. She whirled around and saw the panel had closed. No-one was there. Trepidation coursed through her, but she continued on her path.

The passage seemed so long with its many twists and turns; although still lit, the passage gave Beth chills, especially as the eyes in the paintings seemed to follow her. These portraits had a sinister edge – all the frames had the strange symbols carved into them.

Beth turned another corner and was met by a huge door with the exact same carving as the hall panel. She paused, pondering whether to continue on, her curiosity warring with her practical side, when the door swung open. Curiosity won and Beth moved cautiously over the threshold.

Entering the large room, she heard a reedy voice, “Welcome, Beth.” Sitting in an armchair by an open fire was an old man. Dressed in clothes from the Victorian era, his papery skin resembled parchment yet his eyes sparkled with youth. It was strange seeing this ancient man with such eyes.

“How do you know my name? Who are you?” Beth blurted out.

The old man chuckled. “Allow me to introduce myself – I am Edwin Splintermoon and your great, great uncle. I’ve been expecting you, my dear.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Beth replied automatically. “Sorry, but what do you mean you’ve been expecting me?” An uneasy inquisitiveness scorched her eyes and voice.

Edwin skirted the question, “You look so much like her, you know,” his voice wistful.

“Who?”

“Amelia,” he replied pointing to a portrait on the far wall. Beth’s eyes followed his finger and gasped as she caught sight of the woman. Apart from the hairstyle and clothes, she could have been gazing at her own reflection.

“Will you tell me about her?”

Edwin nodded and gestured for her to sit opposite him. Beth complied and waited for his account.

“Amelia was my eldest sister, your great, great aunt, and mistress of this manor. Five years after she inherited the house she met a man and became smitten. I didn’t like or trust him – he had shifty eyes – and tried to persuade her to send him away. She wouldn’t hear of it and we had a terrible fight. Two nights later, there was an awful commotion coming from her room. Fearing for her safety I rushed in, but there was no sign of her. Her room was in disarray and on her bed I found a lock of her hair and a drip of blood. She has never been seen or heard from since that night,” Edwin’s voice became sadder in the telling.

“I’m so sorry,” Beth wasn’t sure what else to say. She looked down at her hands and failed to see a strange glint in the old man’s eyes.

“You are the last descendant of our family and will soon inherit this magnificent home. As such, will you do me the honour of signing our family book?” Beth raised her head and saw a pleading in Edwin’s sad eyes. She nodded and he rose, shuffling across the room to an old writing desk.

On the desk was a huge tome. The outer covering looked like animal skin and the pages inside like parchment. He flicked through until he found what he sought – part of a family tree. He pointed at the elaborate diagram, “See?”

Beth stared at the page; there was her name and above that those of her parents and grandparents. Edwin passed her an old-fashioned quill and pointed just below her name. “Sign it there, please.”

As Beth signed her name, she was surprised to observe red ink on the page. As she watched, it altered to black. Strange, she thought. She moved towards Edwin. “I really must go now. It’s been lovely to meet you – perhaps I can visit you again.” She extended her hand.

Edwin grabbed her hand in his papery ones; a sadistic grin marred his features and a sizzle of fear trickled down her spine. She pulled her hand away and moved towards the door, but it had vanished. Beth gasped and she heard a wicked chuckle behind her.

“Sorry, Beth, you’re not going anywhere. You see, in signing the book you have bound yourself to this house forever. You can never leave and you can’t destroy the book either, it’s protected by the curse.”

“Curse? What curse?”

“Legend has it that one of our ancestors was a witch hunter in the seventeenth century and he tricked a witch into falling in love with him just so he could destroy her. When she realised what he had done, she cursed him and his bloodline for all time. Within a couple of days of her death, this book appeared in the house. Every descendant of the witch hunter who writes in it has been bound to the house and isn’t released until the next relative does so. Now it’s your turn and I can leave . . . at last.” As she watched Edwin began to grow younger and at the same time, lose substance until he was little more than an outline.

“Will you help me, please?” she begged, tears forming.

“Sorry my dear, there’s nothing I can do. Perhaps you should be careful what you sign – after all, you can’t judge a book by its cover!”

Special Guest – Maria V A Johnson

Today I have a real treat for you! My special guest is none other than my wonderful editor, who is a published author and poet in her own right – Maria V A Johnson. Now I’m going to make her blush before I begin the interview – I happen to know Maria was nominated for International Young Poet of the Year in her second year of University! What an amazing achievement! Is that cool or what??

Anyway, I managed to twist Maria’s arm to take time off from editing Heart Search book two, to talk to us about her emotive poetry book, Hearts & Minds, writing and editing. And, as a special treat, Maria has agreed to me sharing one of the poems from Hearts & Minds here for your enjoyment.

Maria

C: Welcome, Maria. It’s great to have you here today.

M: Thanks so much for inviting me, Carlie, and for the wonderful cup of tea!

C: Congratulations on publishing Hearts & Minds, Maria. Tell us, how did you feel seeing it up on Amazon for the first time?

M: I guess I was numb. You know how you get when the unachievable startles you? That’s how I was! I’m rather a pessimist and just seeing it up on Amazon wasn’t enough to make me truly happy; and I didn’t start believing in my work until I got my first good review.

C: I can relate to that. So, how long have you been writing and what got you started?

M: I guess I was a bit of a late starter. I did the odd poem or story in school for assignments, but I didn’t really start writing per se until 2004 during my A Levels. It was at that time my grandmother passed away, and I wanted something personal to read at the funeral. Good student as I was, I researched heavily into funereal poetry before attempting to write my own; and I haven’t looked back since.

C: I don’t think that’s particularly late – some people don’t start writing until they retire! Anyway, I noticed on your bio you have a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing. What aspects of your Creative Writing degree did you love? What did you hate?

M: Well I loved most of it, but the fiction writing course was my favourite. I have the beginnings of about 10 stories – because each submission had to be a different story – and the hardest part is going back and picking which one to finish. I would have to say the screenwriting course was the hardest for me; I really struggled. Believe it or not though, poetry wasn’t one of my favourites. My teacher was constantly on my back saying it wasn’t modern enough, that it had too much story to it. I read some of his, and honestly I have no idea how he managed to get it published!

C: Where do you get the inspiration from for your beautiful poetry?

M: A lot of my inspiration comes from my experiences. When I first started it was a very emotional time for me, and there was something so cathartic about pouring my emotion onto paper that I’ve kept going in that vein. Some of my inspiration actually came about as assignments. I had to write about a certain subject, and something worthwhile came out.

C: Everyone needs an emotional outlet and I think it’s wonderful how you channel yours into your poetry. How much of yourself do you actually pour onto the pages?

M: A lot! I’m one of those people that tend to bottle up their emotions until they make themselves ill. Writing poetry has helped me release some of that tension. To be honest, I believe poetry is a way to share yourself and your views with the world. If you don’t pour yourself in, then what is your poetry?

C: Good point! Do you write stories as well? If so, what genre and age group?

M: Well, the genre is easy – Fantasy. I fell in love with it as a kid, and haven’t looked back since. My favourite age group to read is teenage/YA, and that’s the genre I aim to write for, but most of my ideas tend to be younger than that!

C: You are also a professional editor. What is it about editing you enjoy? Is there any part of it you hate?

M: The most rewarding part is getting to turn a raw manuscript into something people would buy and read. The part I love most however, is getting to read the stories first! I guess the only real downside is being unable to switch off the editor. Now, whenever I read, I constantly notice mistakes and it sort of spoils the enjoyment. Even big authors like Charlaine Harris (who wrote the True Blood books) aren’t free of mistakes.

C: Damn! You were supposed to say your favourite part of editing was working on my books!! [Laughs]. So, what’s next for Maria V A Johnson? Are you working on anything at the moment?

M: Right now my writing group, Writebulb, is just starting work on a second charity anthology. We released one towards the end of last year raising money for Farleigh Hospice, and we have decided to do another. We haven’t quite chosen a charity yet, but Little Havens Children’s Hospice is the logical choice since we are attempting to write for 6-10 year olds.

As far as my individual work goes, I’ve been playing about with a space story for young children. I haven’t quite figured out which age group it’s going to be for – I’ll wait and see once the story is written. The idea actually started as a writing challenge in my group; take a song title out of the hat, and write for 30 minutes. I got the title Supermassive Black Hole! I might even use that as the title for the book…hmmm.

C: Five fun ones to finish off:

Favourite food?

M: Now that’s an easy one! I’m quarter Italian, and I love pasta in any form.

C: Favourite book/series?

M: Another easy one! Are you planning to ask me anything that’ll make me think? It has to be the Otherworld Series by Yasmine Galenorn (over 16’s only readers!), but with The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien running a close second.

C: Uh-oh! Now she’s getting sassy! [Laughs] Ok, try this one! If you could be a supernatural being, what would you be and why?

M: Ok, now you’re upping your game! I love vampires, but I’m not sure I’d want to be one. A steady diet of blood would get really boring after a few hundred years. So in that case I think I would have to pick two: Fae (because they can live for ages – even half-fae can live to a thousand), and a Were. Even though Weres have to change form on the full moon, they can change whenever they want. I’m not sure which species of Were I would prefer, maybe seal because I love to swim, or maybe one of the big cats. Though I love wolves, the Weres have a bad rep as being too aggressive.

C: Hmmm. I can see the attraction of Fae, but not sure about Weres. Let’s see if I can really get you with this one. If you could pick one place in the world to go, where would it be and why?

M: Now this is a hard one. There are so many places I would love to go, how do you just pick one? I have already been to Paris and Rome, so I think I would have to go for either Milan or Venice. Milan, if I’m being reflective – my paternal grandmother came from a little village on the outskirts, but Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world, and I would love to experience it.

C: Yay! That one made you think. Finally, if you could have dinner with any one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?

M: Prince Charming! Oh, did you mean a REAL person? [Chuckles]

C: Thanks for taking time off from editing to let me interview you, Maria.

M: Thank you for asking me here. Now, how about another cuppa?

Cheeky, isn’t she?! Lol. Now I happen to know Maria’s book cover was designed by the wonderfully talented, Ceri Clark; I think it’s fabulous, what about you?

Hearts & Minds

Here is the blurb:

The most important human experiences of love and death are beautifully explored in this anthology. With carefully selected and themed sections: Loss; Love; Lyrical; and Life, the emotions invoked by the words as they flow over the page will touch your heart.

And now, as promised, here is one of the poems from the book:

The Chair

The chair sits stark and silent,

its occupant gone.

A mass of letters

stacked nearby, no one

there to open them.

A brown patch stains

the ceiling, a stale

smell clings to the fabric –

old smoke.

A spaniel casts its lonely eyes

approaches, sniffs

and slinks away.

Reading glasses discarded

on its arm, blank screen before it,

no haunting strains

of Emmerdale make us

yell for quiet; no better tune

than the one we lost.

Hearts & Minds is available from Amazon UK, and Amazon.com for Kindle or paperback.

Check out Maria’s website here: http://mariavajohnson.com

Reflections

First off – Happy New Year to you all. I wish you health, happiness and success in all your endeavours.

looking back

 

In the first few days of a new year, most people are making resolutions and setting goals, and whilst I do that, I also take some time to reflect on the year just passed and ask myself some questions:

 

What was my biggest trial during 2012?

This would have to be the major problem with my spine. The first signs appeared mid-February, but by the third week in April, it had deteriorated to the extent I could no longer work, drive my car, dance, sit for longer than half an hour, stand for more than fifteen minutes, bend, and needed a stick to help me walk. Suddenly I was taking medication by the handful (or that’s how it seemed); muscle relaxants, pain killers, anti-inflamatories and nerve blockers were thrown down my neck in the vain hope they would take the pain away. Yeah, they took the edge off, but that was about it. The doctor could have given me stronger tablets, but I really didn’t want to become a barely-functioning zombie.

There were two things which helped me through this nightmare (until I had surgery at the end of September) – my daughter and my writing. It was because of both I refused the more powerful drugs. My writing and editing work kept me sane; in my writing I was able to immerse myself in the world I was creating, and in between I had the honour of editing fantastic novels by Connie J Jasperson, Johanna Garth, Alison DeLuca and Nicole Antonia Carson; Johanna’s (Losing Hope), Alison’s (Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special) and Nicole’s (Yum) are already available, and Connie’s (Forbidden Road) is due to be published within the next couple of months. In the rare times I wasn’t writing or editing, my lovely daughter kept my spirits up.

What was my biggest achievement?

Without a doubt, the publication of Heart Search: Lost through Myrrdin Publishing Group. The joy I felt seeing it up on Amazon for the very first time was indescribable; I still get a buzz from it three months after the launch! When the paperback arrived, I turned it over and over in my hands, scarcely able to believe my dream of publishing a book had come true, especially after the difficult time I had trying to get it written in the first place.

What was my greatest challenge?

I think this would have to be organising and running the blog tour to celebrate the launch of Heart Search: Lost. I’d never done one before so was feeling my way with it a bit, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve. I also wanted to combine the tour with a giveaway, so had to choose and design the items too. I wanted each participating blog to have original guest posts and excerpts – if people were kind enough to support my launch, the very least I could do was ensure they had exclusive pieces to share with their followers.

I had some wonderful people supporting me on the tour, a number of which have become dear friends as a result. The fact that the tour began just ten days after the surgery on my spine, when I could only sit for 10-15 minutes at a time, increased the challenge. I had 17 guest posts to write, 14 interviews, and to pick out 20 suitable excerpts. Add this to the actual administration of the tour, the launch itself and all the requisite publicity, it would be fair to say it was a challenge I wondered if I could rise to. I managed it, somehow, mainly by ignoring doctor’s orders and sitting for longer than I should have done!

What was unexpected?

Finding myself holding the reins of a writers group! I had only been a member of Writebulb for about four months when the leader and last remaining founder had to bow out. It had taken me quite a while to find a group I was happy in and I didn’t want to see it close. I volunteered to take over and have been running Writebulb ever since.

I’m proud of the achievements of the group since I took over. Apart from myself, others have published their work for the first time and collectively we published a charity anthology, The Other Way Is Essex, to raise money for our local hospice.

What surprised me the most?

People! To be more specific, how wonderfully supportive my fellow authors, bloggers, followers and readers were. Every member of Myrrdin Publishing were incredible and I’ve found some wonderful new friends as well as very talented authors. The Heart Search Blog Tour crew were all fantastic, most going out of their way to help publicise all the activities/posts/reviews etc as well as their own and offering me loads of encouragement. My fellow writers at Writebulb have been responsive and supportive of my leadership and ideas. Last, but by no means least, my wonderful readers who have given me such fabulous feedback on my debut novel.

What have I learned?

Loads! I’ve learned to stare adversity in the face and find a coping mechanism to deal with pain (admitedly doing something I love and would have done anyway, but still . . .). I’ve been honing my craft, trying to improve my writing, so as to give my readers better quality stories to enjoy. I’ve learned how wonderfully supportive other authors and my blog and social media followers are. Finally, although I’ve been writing since I was a child, I’ve come to realise it’s a much bigger part of my life than I ever expected and I can never stop doing what I love so much!