Monday, November 29, 2021

Author Interview - The Fata Morgana Series by Jo-Anne Blanco


- What is your “day” job if you are not a full time author?

For many years, I have been a teacher and tutor of English as a Foreign Language for business and academia, and I am also a book reviewer. As a teacher, I lived and worked all over the world besides the UK – in Thailand, Russia, and China, as well as the US and European countries such as Spain, Germany, and Italy. Over the last few years, though, since I started publishing my novels and particularly during these last couple of years of the COVID pandemic, I have been focusing on my writing. My dream is to become a full-time author.

- If you wrote a book about your life what would the title be?

Interesting question! I never really thought about it. I’m a very private person and am rarely even on social media, so I can’t imagine ever writing a book about myself! If, I did, I’d probably call it something like Girdle Round the Earth taken from A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a reference to my travels and experiences, or Earthbound: “bound” as in “going to” explore Earth.

- What is the hardest thing about being an author?

Although I have no problem with solitude and love my own company, I would have to say the hardest thing about being an author is being alone. Being a teacher, particularly an EFL teacher who travels a lot, is a very social job which not only requires sociability skills but also the gift of being able to connect with others. I’ve had the privilege in my life of meeting and befriending many wonderful people, and experiencing many different cultures first hand. But upon becoming an author, I’ve found the hardest thing is being alone in my place of work. It’s difficult because, among other things, you can lose perspective on your work. As a teacher, your immediate interaction with students enables you to ascertain whether your lesson and/or teaching style is good or not – if people like it or not, if it works or not. Writing is the polar opposite, While you’re actually writing, alone at your desk, there’s no way of knowing whether what you’re writing is going to be liked by others at the point at which they read it; there’s no way to gauge their immediate, visceral, spontaneous reaction. All you can do is wait for the reviews and that’s nowhere near the same thing.

- What is the best thing about being an author?

Creating my own world. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, something I’ve always had in my head, and now I have the chance to do it. J. R. R. Tolkien called it the Secondary World, the act of subcreation, and it is immensely satisfying. I love creating my world teeming with faerie realms and those of other supernatural creatures existing alongside the mortal world, with all of their characters and richness and complexities and internal logic. Because however magical, however extraordinary, however far removed from the human world they may be, they have to make sense unto themselves. Even the historical human world of the books has to be true to its own time and thus can seem to contemporary readers to be as strange as the magical worlds sometimes, because the past, the real past, is also a foreign land to us. That’s the challenge and that’s the joy.

- Have you ever been star struck by meeting one of your favorite authors? If so who was it?

Oddly, I haven’t met many other authors in my life. I once went to a book launch of the author Jill Paton Walsh at Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge, England, which involved wine and snacks and a reading from her. Afterwards, I went up to her with a copy of her new book and asked her to sign it for my mother – it was going to be my Mother’s Day present for my Mum. Jill was lovely and down-to-earth and approachable, and she wrote a beautiful message inside which absolutely delighted my mother when she received it. I’ll always remember that.

- What book changed your life?

That would have to be The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley – the feminist retelling of the Arthurian legend from Morgan le Fay’s point of view. It’s a phenomenal book, massively influential, and was described by Isaac Asimov as the best retelling of the Arthurian saga he had ever read. I first read it when I was 18 at university and it stimulated my interest in Morgan le Fay. And here I am, years later, writing very different books about Morgan, but acknowledging my debt to that first literary encounter with her.

- What were some of your favorite books growing up?

I was an avid reader as a child. I didn’t have a favourite book as such growing up because I loved so many! Books were more than books to me; they were my friends. I was a huge fan of all the following:

C. S. Lewis: all seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia

 E. Nesbit: The Railway Children, The Enchanted Castle, The Phoenix and the Carpet

Noel Streatfeild: Ballet Shoes, the Gemma series

Roald Dahl: James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, and my favourite, The Magic Finger

Enid Blyton: the Famous Five series, the Malory Towers series, the St Clare’s series, the Naughtiest Girl series

Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass

Louisa May Alcott: Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men

L. M. Montgomery: the Anne of Green Gables series

Laura Ingalls Wilder: the Little House series

Susan Coolidge: the What Katy Did books

Joyce Lankaster Brisley: the Milly-Molly-Mandy series

Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Secret Garden, A Little Princess

Lorna Hill: the Sadler’s Wells ballet series

Astrid Lindgren: the Pippi Longstocking series, the Bullerby Children series, the Lotta series

Eleanor H. Porter: Pollyanna

Helen Clare: the Five Dolls series.

I still have all these books from my childhood. They’ll never leave me, physically or otherwise!

- What books are currently in your to be read pile?

Although I write what is classed as fantasy, I don’t read a lot of fantasy – with the notable exceptions of Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Juliet Marillier, the latter being one of my favourite contemporary authors and a big influence on me. I also class my novels as historical fiction because I have done a lot of research on the time period so as to accurately describe the mortal world Morgan inhabits, and I do read a lot of that genre. At present, I have Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders and Anne O’Brien’s A Tapestry of Treason on my bedside table waiting to be read.

- Which do you prefer ebooks, print, or audio books?

Above all, I love print books. I get the appeal of ebooks but, as a reader and especially as a book reviewer, I like to flip back while I’m reading a book to re-read a particular page or excerpt or to check on something, and I find that not so easy to do with an ebook, Plus, I love the feel of a print book in my hands, especially one with a beautiful cover. So far, I’ve never listened to an audio book, but I think they are a valuable resource, particularly for the visually impaired.

- If you could live inside the world of a book or series which world would it be and why?

Good question! Apart from the world of my own books, of course, if I could live in any other fantasy world, it would probably be the Beleriand of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion – not the later Middle Earth of The Lord of the Rings but the earlier Middle Earth of the First Age of the Elves. If I had to choose a non-fantasy world to live in, it would be the Prince Edward Island of the Anne of Green Gablesbooks. There’s no literal magic there, but the wondrous beauty of P. E. I. so vividly evoked by L. M. Montgomery, with its unsurpassed “scope for the imagination”, would be more than enough.

Morgan Le Fay: Small Things and Great
The Fata Morgana Series
Book One
Jo-Anne Blanco

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Argante Press
Date of Publication: September 2021
ISBN:978-1838489304
ASIN:B09FQDLSSG
Number of pages:295
Word Count: 104,560
Cover Artist: Miriam Soriano

Book Description:

THE CHILD FATED TO SHAPE DESTINIES …

Morgan is a little girl who lives in Tintagel Castle by the sea, loved and sheltered by her noble parents, the Duke and Duchess of Belerion. An extraordinarily clever child, extremely sharp-eyed, exceptionally curious. A little girl unlike other children.

One stormy night a ship is wrecked off the coast, bringing with it new friends – Fleur the princess from a far-off land, Safir the stowaway with a secret, and the mysterious twins Merlin and Ganieda. Morgan’s visions of another world awaken her to the realisation that she can see things others cannot. That she has powers other people do not possess.

Not long afterwards, Morgan encounters Diana, the Moon Huntress, who charges her with a dangerous mission that only she can accomplish. With Merlin by her side and unsure if he is friend or foe, Morgan must venture far from home to enter the realms of the Piskies and the Muryans, warring tribes of faeries who vie for the souls of lost children. There she must summon her magic to fight the most ancient powers in the world, to rescue a young soul destined to be reborn …


Excerpt from Chapter I: The Deluge

Feeling very alone, Morgan hesitated. If she disobeyed Sebile again, she knew she would be in trouble. She looked up again, but there was still no sign of the Horned Man. Whatever was moving towards her in the sea was coming closer. She had to know what it was. Instinctively, she ran towards the shore and felt her way across the rocks that cut through the beach and the water. There she stood upon a rock as the movement came into focus. Her heart began to race once more and time returned to its normal pace as she looked, astounded, upon a sight she had already seen in her mind.

A little dark-haired boy of about her own age was swimming determinedly towards the rocks. On his back, clinging to him was a little girl, who looked almost exactly like him except for her slightly longer dark hair. The little girl’s eyes were pure white with no colour to their centre, wide-open and watery. She was blind.

Morgan watched the two children with fascinated horror, unable to believe what she was seeing. Were they real, this boy and girl from her dream? How could she have dreamed about them without ever knowing them or seeing them before? The boy’s wet hair was plastered to his head and his face was strained with the effort of swimming to shore while carrying the girl. Morgan remembered how he had refused to take her hand in her dream and how, after his refusal, the sky in her nightmare had rained down blood. She recoiled from the memory and for the first time in her life she hesitated whether to help or not. But then the girl raised her head and her sightless eyes seemed to look directly at Morgan. Still clinging to the boy, she pointed at her. The boy, still swimming, followed the girl’s silent signal and saw Morgan. At once he almost imperceptibly changed direction, swimming straight towards her.

As they came closer, the pain and exhaustion on their faces was too much for Morgan to bear.With the strange sense of having entered her dream and done this before, she stepped to the edge of the rock, went down on her knees and held out her hand. This time, however, the boy did not stop. He swam all the way towards the rock until he reached her.

“Help me with my sister,” was all he managed to gasp. Morgan leaned over, grabbed the little blind girl’s arms and pulled. The boy pushed the girl from the water until between the two of them they got her out. The girl lay on the rock, her sightless eyes staring up into the sky. Morgan then held out her hand to the boy. He didn’t hesitate, but took hold of her hand with one hand and the rock with the other. With Morgan pulling his arm the boy hauled himself up onto the rock and collapsed next to her.

“Are you alright?” Morgan asked them both.

The boy, out of breath, did not answer for a few seconds. “I think so,” he eventually replied.

“What about you?” Morgan asked the girl, who was lying immobile but breathing on the rock.

“She can’t answer you,” the boy said, not looking at his sister. “She doesn’t speak.”

Morgan felt a surge of sadness for the little girl. “I’m sorry.”

The boy looked at Morgan. Morgan felt a cold stab when she saw his dark eyes were exactly as she remembered in the dream. Before she could say anything, the boy said, “I know you.”

“What?” Morgan gasped.

The boy didn’t smile, just stated calmly, “I’ve seen you before.”

“Where? How?” Morgan demanded. The boy said nothing, but merely looked at her.

“Morgan!” came Sebile’s outraged voice.

Morgan started up and cried, “Sebile! I’ve found them! I’ve found the lady’s children!”
“You saw our mother?” the boy asked, frowning. He tried to stand up, but his legs gave way.

Morgan grabbed his arm to stop him from falling. The boy reacted with unexpected violence to her touch, almost as if she had wounded him. He pulled his arm away roughly and took a step back from her, almost cringing. Morgan was startled and hurt.

“She’s alive. They’ve taken her to the castle,” Morgan told him warily. The boy stood looking at Morgan, but this time, oddly, did not look into her eyes. “She asked me to find you,” Morgan went on.

“How did you know it was us?” the boy asked.

“I knew as soon as I saw you,” Morgan said. She couldn’t explain how; she had just known. The boy then looked back at her again, appraisingly and interestedly. This time it was Morgan who looked away.

As Sebile came running up from the beach, Morgan negotiated her way back across the rocks. “It’s them, Sebile!” she said breathlessly. “It’s her children!”

The fury on Sebile’s face subsided when she saw Morgan’s earnest, pleading expression. She looked at the boy standing shakily on the rock and Morgan heard her sharp intake of breath. Sebile then saw the girl lying without moving, made her way across the rocks and picked her up. “Follow me,” Sebile commanded Morgan and the boy, and they obeyed her. Together, Morgan and the boy walked the remaining length of the beach, which was now empty save for a few scattered remains of wreckage and clothing. The survivors and the dead alike were being carried up the cliff path towards Tintagel as the light grew brighter and the wind started to blow itself out.

At the foot of the cliff path, Morgan turned to look back once more at the sea. Like the wind, its anger and force were dissipating. The waves were still high, but not as ferocious as before and not as strong. Morgan thought with a shiver that it was as if the monster that was the sea had eaten until it was full and was now happy with the wreck and its passengers that it had taken that night.

“So you’re Morgan,” the boy said. He had stopped with her and was looking out at the sea as well.

“Yes. My father’s the Duke of Belerion,” Morgan told him.

“I know.”

Morgan could not work out if the words were said with hostility or not. Before she could think of a suitable retort, the boy indicated his sister, who was being carried ahead of them by Sebile.

“That’s Ganieda. She’s my twin.”

“And who are you?” Morgan asked coldly.

The boy looked directly at her and this time she held his gaze. At this, the boy smiled for the first time. “I’m Merlin.”




Morgan Le Fay: Children of this World
The Fata Morgana Series
Book Two
Jo-Anne Blanco

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Argante Press
Date of Publication: September 2021
ISBN:978-1838489328
ASIN:B09FR1Y8BK
Number of pages:543
Word Count: 193,406
Cover Artist: Miriam Soriano

Book Description:

A STORM IS BREWING …

Brothers Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon have landed in Belerion with an army raised to fight High King Vortigern. Supporters of the High King gather at Tintagel, seat of Morgan’s father the Duke of Belerion, as they prepare for battle. Ominous clouds of war hang over the castle, treachery lurks in the shadows, and rumours abound that Ambrosius is being aided by a powerful dark force from the past …

Since Morgan’s encounter with the Piskies and the Muryans, the faerie tribes have united against her, vowing revenge. Meanwhile, her powers are growing faster and stronger, her dreams and visions more potent. On Samhain night, when the veil between the worlds becomes thin, Morgan resolves to summon Diana the Moon Huntress to her once again, with terrifying and tragic consequences …


Excerpt from Chapter V: Lights in the Dark

The Jack o’Lantern suddenly went out, plunging them into total darkness. Morgan turned in alarm. A smoke smell trailed into the air. Taliesin had snuffed out the candle.

“What did you do that for?” Morgan hissed.

“Look!”

Down on the beach bobbed another light. It was coming in their direction. Towards Merlin, Morgan thought with a little shiver running down her back.

Adjusting their eyesight to the dark, they gradually saw that behind the light on the beach walked the shadow of a man.

“Myrddin,” Morgan heard Taliesin whisper.

“How did you know he’d be here?” Morgan whispered back.

“I told you. I followed him.”

“But he wasn’t on the path. We couldn’t see him.”

“It’s something Cadwellon’s been teaching me. It’s called sen-sor-y in-vo-ca-tion.” Taliesin enunciated the words carefully, still in a whisper, sounding proud of being able to say such big words. “You focus on someone or something with your mind and you can find it or follow it.

Track it down. That’s how I knew Myrddin had come along the path to this place. I could feel him all along the way.”

Morgan was fascinated and slightly envious, wishing again that she could study with the Druids too. But she didn’t have time to think about that right now.

Taliesin was staring down at the dark cove. “I know this place,” he said. “My father told me about it. He brought me here once. All the fishermen know about it. It’s dangerous.”

“Dangerous? Why?”

The boy pointed out to the black mass of sea. “There are lots of hidden rocks out there. It looks calm because you can’t see them – they’re just under the water. My father says boats get wrecked here in storms, or they’re caught by the currents and run aground. They smash into rocks they don’t know are there. Lots of people have drowned.”

The memory of the big storm and the wreck of the Sea Queen came rushing back into Morgan’s mind. The screaming, drowning people. The bodies strewn on the beach. The groaning, dying ship.

It was hard to imagine anything like that could happen in this quiet-looking bay, its waves softly swooshing under the cover of darkness. She shivered.

“We have to get closer,” she said, trying to brush off her unease.

Taliesin didn’t answer, but nodded in agreement. The two of them grasped each other’s hands and slowly began climbing down the slope, trying hard not to make any noise. It was by no means easy in the dark, with no lantern and almost no moonlight, but they persevered.

Keeping an eye on her footing as they went down, Morgan watched what was happening on the beach. In the dim, distant light of Myrddin’s lantern, Merlin and his Druid Master approached each other. They talked together briefly. Then Merlin lit a second lantern handed to him by Myrddin.

Now there were two lights on the shore. Merlin and Myrddin parted ways and began walking to opposite ends of the beach, each with their own lantern; Merlin walking back towards the slope he had come from.

Towards the very slope Morgan and Taliesin were climbing down.

“He’s coming back this way!” Morgan hissed urgently. “Quick! Lie down!”

She pulled Taliesin to the ground. The two of them lay there still holding hands, flat on their backs against the slope, trying not to breathe. Morgan felt her heart pounding fast. Don’t see us, she thought fiercely again, watching Merlin walking towards them with the lantern.

He didn’t see them. He seemed to be concentrating on the number of steps he took. Finally, he stopped at a certain point on the beach and turned away towards the ocean.

“Ssssssssss.” Something sounding like a whisper wafted through the air. Morgan heard it, but couldn’t understand it. She turned to Taliesin. “What did you say?”

She gasped.

Taliesin had disappeared. There was nothing and no one beside her. Only the stones and shingle on the slope.

But she could still feel his hand in hers.

“Taliesin!” she exclaimed softly. “Where are you?”

“What do you mean?” she heard Taliesin whisper back. “I’m here… what?”

“What do you mean, here? Where?”

“Morgan, where are you?” she heard Taliesin’s panicked voice over hers in a low tone. “I’ve got your hand … but I can’t see you!”

“I can’t see you, either!”

“What? No! What’s going on?”

Morgan wasn’t sure. She let go of Taliesin's hand. As soon as she did so, the boy reappeared next to her, out of the air, as if by magic. Just as he had said she had done back on the path.

“I can see you now!” Morgan exclaimed.

“Well, I can’t see you!” Taliesin sounded really scared. “Morgan, what are you doing?”

“I don’t know.” But she had an idea. Let Taliesin see me, she thought hard.

Taliesin gave a small cry and quickly covered his mouth. Morgan glanced hastily down at the beach. Merlin still had his back to them. He hadn’t heard.

“Can you see me now?” Morgan asked.

Taliesin nodded. Even through the darkness, Morgan could see the normally pallid fair-haired boy was even whiter than usual.

“You were invisible again. You just appeared out of the air.” Abruptly his voice took on an unfriendly note that didn’t sound like him. “How are you doing that?”

“I don’t know.” Morgan said again. She tried to put what she thought was happening into words.

“It’s like … if I think I don’t want someone to see me, they don’t. I can make myself invisible.” She wondered how long she had been invisible before she had met Taliesin on the path. “But I don’t know how. I don’t try to make it happen. It just does.”

Taliesin let out his breath. “It sounds like what Cadwellon says,” he said soberly. “The way he taught me sensory invocation. He says you can’t force it. He’s always telling me you have to focus on the result, not the act itself.” The friendliness crept back into his voice again. “That sounds like what you’re doing.”

“Ssssssshhhhhhhsssssss.”

It was the whisper again. Louder this time, but she still couldn’t understand it.

“Is that you?” Morgan said.

“Is what me?”

“That whisper. Didn’t you hear it?”

“No.” Taliesin sounded puzzled. And wary again. “I didn’t hear anything … Wait, look!”

Down on the beach something was happening. Merlin and Myrddin both held up their lanterns facing out to the ocean. Myrddin was further away from them, standing on a particular point on the other side of the beach.

Morgan watched Merlin with interest. He had taken off his cloak. He held up the lantern in one hand and with the other he used the cloak to cover and uncover the lantern several times.

“What’s he doing?” Taliesin whispered in bewilderment.

It was darker than ever. They could still just see the white-flecked waves rising and falling on the sand, roaring softly as they washed ashore. The sleepy-eye Moon was completely hidden. Only a few pinprick stars pierced the misty black veil of clouds across the sky.

Suddenly Morgan started. She clutched Taliesin’s arm, making him jump.

“Look! Look out there! Can you see it?”

A light appeared out on the night-darkened sea. It bobbed up and down, then disappeared. Then after a few moments it reappeared again. Then it blinked, going out, then flashed again, went out, then reappeared again.

“It’s getting nearer!” Morgan whispered.

“It’s a boat!” Taliesin whispered back. “It has to be. It’s coming in to land! I told you it was dangerous around here with the hidden rocks. They’re using the lanterns to guide it in!”



Morgan Le Fay: Giants in the Earth
The Fata Morgana Series
Book Three 
Jo-Anne Blanco

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Argante Press
Date of Publication: September 2021
ISBN:978-1838489342
ASIN:B09FT67S4Q
Number of pages:717
Word Count: 258,584
Cover Artist: Miriam Soriano

Book Description:

WHEN MONSTERS COME TO LIFE …

In the aftermath of Ambrosius’ attack on Tintagel Castle, young Morgan is sent away to the fortress of Dimilioc with her family, friends and tutor. But when bandits ambush their party, Morgan gets lost in the forest with nothing but her wits and her magic powers to rely on.

In her battle for survival, Morgan faces a cruel, hostile world that is suspicious, afraid and jealous of her magic. Silver-tongued faeries who are not what they seem. Vengeful Piskies and Muryans holding her friend Ganieda captive, Angry Giants and Spriggans who have awakened in the earth. And the ever-present threat of Ambrosius and his army, waiting to strike again …

To rescue her friends and outwit her enemies, Morgan must draw upon all her gifts, magic and mortal, in a perilous journey that will test her strength, faith and loyalty to the utmost …





Excerpt from Chapter XI: The Treasure of Trecobben

The Giant’s foot was moving again. Morgan hoisted herself more tightly into his bootlaces so she could ride on his boot without straining her limbs. Trecobben went back into the courtyard and swung the boulder shut behind him with a crash. He tramped back across the castle entrance and down the ramp, striding across his massive columned hall. Janniper and the other woman were scurrying back and forth like mice on the floor, up and down the ladders, throwing the fleeces into the clay pot. They were soaked and stinking with urine, their faces utterly miserable and desperate.

Trecobben ignored them, left the hall, and strode into an immense granite passageway lit with more bone-fire torches. Riding on Trecobben’s boot near the floor, Morgan saw they were going past a series of huge chambers from which she caught glimpses of more carved rock furniture and enormous, coloured tapestries hanging high.

She almost jumped out of her skin. Terrible, ear-splitting roaring was coming from inside one of the chambers. It was hard to tell if it was angry roaring or roars of pain. She heard Gargamotte’s voice, soothing and kind. Did the Giants have some kind of wild animal in the castle? Or animalia? It sounded like more than one.

But Trecobben went straight past without stopping. Soon he was descending another ramp, even narrower than the one at the entrance. He was going further beneath Trencrom Hill, deeper into the earth. After a while the ramp came to a dead end, blocked by a wide stone slab. Trecobben took one of the wall torches from its sconce and with his other hand grabbed the side of the slab, pulling it outwards. As the slab opened, a rush of freezing cold air escaped. Beyond, a dark, high-ceilinged chamber glittered in the torchlight. For a second, Morgan thought it was another crystal cavern, like the Spar-Stone Grave. But this was a different kind of glitter.

Trecobben lit several torches along the walls and the chamber came to life in an astonishing blaze of light.

Everything shone. Tall-as-trees steel swords with gilded hilts, glistening hill-sized silver cauldrons,radiant golden chalices, shimmering embellished scabbards, lustrous silk cloaks laden with sparkling jewels, gleaming bronze shields emblazoned with glittering gemstones – every single object in the chamber dazzled with opulence and light. Piles and piles of small round pieces of metal – gold, silver and bronze – glimmered invitingly, stacked as high as mountains. Resplendent ornate mirrors in all corners of the chamber multiplied the brilliance of all the treasures a hundredfold.Magnificent beams of light danced upon the high ceilinglike rays of sunshine, making the gloomy chamber as bright as day.

The glare was so blinding, the richness and beauty so overwhelming, it was hard for Morgan to take in. What was all this treasure? Where did it come from? Did it all belong to the Giants? Had they made it all themselves? Had they stolen it?

Trecobben was tramping across the chamber all the way to the other side. Morgan ensconced herself tighter into his bootlaces so she wouldn’t fall off. When the Giant stopped moving she looked upwards. Her mouth fell open.

A single, slender, Giant-sized pole was leaning against the far wall. Taller even than the Giant himself, it stood out from all the other treasures in the chamber. Unlike the others, the light that emanated from the pole wasn’t a reflection of the torches. It had its own light, radiating from within. Such a simple, ordinary object, yet breathtaking, beautiful, incandescent; forged from a lucent silver brighter than clear diamond and smoother than still water. A silver that was almost white, like moonlight captured and made solid form.
Morgan struggled to breathe.

She knew what it was. She’d seen it before. Not in life.In dreams.

It was the silver lance of her nightmare long ago. The silver lance that had pierced an ocean full of screaming angels and drowning people, wounding the very sea of life itself, turning water to blood.

It was the silver spear that had hovered in a stormy sky as lightning flashed and thunder crashed, as blood spilled out from the wounded land into the sea. The silver spear that had floated in the air before her, just out of reach. The silver spear that had driven her in her dream to leave the ground and fly after it, but hadn’t allowed her to catch it.

Artemis’ Spear. Diana’s Spear. The Sacred Spear.

The spearhead of which she carried in her satchel.

She heard Wodan’s voice, remembered what the Dark Huntsman had told her. “The spear was but a small thing when compared to what she stole from me. But now it has been stolen from me in return. I held on to the spearhead but the silver shaft was taken.”

And it was here. The silver shaft was here, in Trecobben Castle.And attached to it was a spearhead of a different, darker metal, not the original, the one that was meant to be.

She heard a strange soft humming, felt a buzzing in the satchel across her body. Looking down in alarm, she saw that she and everything on her were still invisible. Everything except the spearhead. It was shining from inside the satchel, breaking through her magic invisibility, seeming to appear from nowhere at the Giant’s foot. In response, the silver spear shaft itself grew even brighter, even more luminous, as if it were answering a call.

“Eh?” Trecobben muttered under his breath. He’d stretched out his hand to take hold of the spear shaft but pulled back as it grew brighter. In a panic, Morgan tried to hide the shining spearhead, but she couldn’t do it with her invisible hand.

“What’s this?” the Giant grunted to himself. Fortunately, he wasn’t looking down at his feet, so intent was he on the spear shaft. “Never liked this thing. Always something funny about it.”

Cautiously he reached out again and took hold of it. After a few seconds, satisfied that it was safe, he picked it up and went back across the chamber. With his other hand he took a torch and marched out of the doorway, slamming the stone slab shut with a whoosh.

In her mind’s eye, Morgan could see all the torches inside instantly blown out by the sudden draught. All of that fabulous treasure, save for the spear, lay underground in total darkness.




About the Author:

Jo-Anne Blanco was born in Brazil to an English mother and Spanish father. She graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MA in languages and from the University of Glasgow with an MPhil in media and culture. As a teacher, she has spent much of her life travelling around the world. Her travels, together with her lifelong passions for reading, writing and storytelling, inspired her to embark upon her epic Fata Morgana series, about the life and adventures of Morgan le Fay. Mythology, fairy tales, and Arthurian legends are all major influences on her work, and her ongoing journeys to countries of great landscapes and folklore are never-ending sources of inspiration.












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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

5 Things A Beginning Writer Should Know With Marlene M. Bell #Mystery #Suspense


5 Things A Beginning Writer Should Know

1.  Learn the craft before you begin. It doesn’t matter what genre you choose, writing a novel is like nothing else you’ve ever written. Read as many self-help books from the masters, like James Scott Bell and Donald Maass. Pick up tons of books on sentence structure and the basics. Buy all of the Emotion Thesaurus books that you can afford by Angela Ackerman. Once you’ve exhausted English basics, then shoot for fine tuning your writing and know what your readers want in your genre.

2.  Authors must write for the reader, not themselves. It’s okay to write a first draft the way you want, but in your edited drafts, your writing must reflect what your reader is expecting from your genre. As an example: Romantic Suspense requires that your protagonist’s love interest can’t be someone she immediately flocks to. If your main character is a woman, she and her love interest must have a wedge between them. Something that keeps them apart or drives them from each other at the beginning of your novel. The plot has to continue to slowly work them back together for afinish with a Happily Ever After ending. Romance genre endings should be HEA or happy for now. If you plan to kill off a main interest in the book, remember that you will upset some of your readers. Never, ever kill a family pet or an animal in your novels, if you can help it. Readers will forgive a person’s murder, but most won’t stomach the killing of animals, especially those that are beloved.

3. Invest in the best editors you can afford. It doesn’t pay to skimp on the editing. I went through eight (8) drafts before I published Stolen Obsession.I used beta readers, developmental editors, critique groups, copy editors and proofers before heading to a professional book formatter. Professionals will make your work shine. If you publish without perfecting your work, your book reviews will suffer as will your reputation. Try out several different editors before settling on your favorites. I’ve found that it’s easy to lose your writer’s voice if you pick a strong editor who prefers to rewrite the story for themselves. Readers are subjective and have different preferences. The same goes for an editor. Choose one who will enhance your work, not just remove every adjective because it bothers them. I’ve had an editor like that and had to move on! 

4. Writing, Reading and Editors are all subjective. So are reviewers. Your written work will affect every person differently. Expect it. The empathy we’re attracting to our characters will strike everyonedifferently. Some may not like the style or voice; others won’t like a character’s personality. Still others won’t be expecting romance even though your work is designed to include romantic interludes. This really happens! Grow a thick skin and shrug off your detractors. There will be some who won’t get your writing. It’s okay that some people criticize your work. The old saying, “You can’t please everybody,” holds true here. Please yourself with your reader in mind and you’ll be fine.

I also like to read my negative reviews, not just the positive ones. It’s amazing how much you can learn about your writing faults by hearing about what irks your readers. Not all criticisms are authentic or worth more than a few seconds of your time, but if several point to the same flaws in your writing, it’s time to address it! Try not to make the same mistakes in subsequent books.

5. Have fun writing and don’t kill yourself doing it!Typing for long hours in front of your laptop or PC takes perseverance. Everyone has a life beyond the keyboard. Take walks and read lots of books in and out of your genre. You’ll be amazed how reading helps with the writer’s block. Having a bad day writing means a better day reading. It’s where I go when the words won’t come smoothly.


Scattered Legacy
Annalisse Series  
Book Three
Marlene M. Bell

Genre: Mystery - Suspense
Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing
Date of Publication: 11-4-2021
ISBN ebook: 978-0-9995394-7-7 
ISBN Print: 978-0-9995394-6-0
ASIN: ‎ B09HRCTBXJ 
Number of pages: Print 352     
Word Count: 84,610
Cover Artist: Isabel Robalo

Tagline: The Truth Has Claws

Book Description: 

To outsiders, the relationship between Manhattan antiquities assessor Annalisse Drury and sports car magnate Alec Zavos must look carefree and glamorous. In reality, it’s a love affair regularly punctuated by treasure hunting, action-packed adventure, and the occasional dead body.

When Alec schedules an overseas trip to show Annalisse his mother's birthplace in Bari, Italy, he squeezes in the high-stakes business of divesting his family’s international corporation. But things go terribly wrong as murder makes its familiar reappearance in their lives – and this time it’s Alec’s disgraced former CFO who’s the main suspect.

Accompanied by friend and detective Bill Drake, Annalisse and Alec find themselves embroiled in a behind-closed-doors conspiracy that threatens the reputation and legacy of Alec’s late father – linking him to embezzlement, extortion, and the dirty business of the Sicilian Mafia. The search for the truth sends the trio straight into riddles, secrets, and an historic set of rosary beads. Annalisse leads Alec toward a discovery that is unthinkable, and events that will change their futures forever.

Scattered Legacy is the third in Marlene M. Bell’s thrilling Annalisse series, which weaves romance, crime, and historical mystery into addictive tales to instantly captivate fans of TV show Bones or Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. 


Excerpt From Chapter Four:

The reception area is completely empty, and there’s a smell like metal in damp dirt circulating overhead. Farther in, the ceiling fan is hovering on high speed, and the windows are open.

A dead body inside a warm office leaves an unmistakable odor behind, as did the body Ethan found inside the stall at Walker Farm. Decomp is one smell that sticks with you forever. Adding to the office creepiness, who chose the interior’s decor? We’re surrounded by limestone walls painted an ugly shade of ochre, slightly more yellow and definitely more unappealing than the building’s exterior. The rooms will need another coat of fresh paint to cover a harsh stench known to stick to the walls like cigarette tar does.

No one is nearby, not even the receptionist.

The office cubicles are silent but for a few flapping papers. Not a single desk phone is ringing.

It’s like the office decided to have a fire drill midday, and the employees left their computers on and didn’t bother to close folders—open to anyone passing by. Frames holding pictures of sweethearts and children stand by as guardians for the people who are absent from their high-back swivel chairs.

Officer Raffa returns and mutters in heavy Italian brogue, “Il signore is waiting for his… avvocato difensore.” He points to the room with a closed door. “Come, Mr. Zavos. Your friends stay here.”

“Josh is in there waiting for his defense attorney. Back soon.” Alec touches my arm and looks aBill, sending him a private message.

Alec’s led to a side office, and the solid door closes behind them.

“Is Alec signing autographs, or should I even worry about what’s going on in that room?

Has Josh been here the entire time messing with evidence?” I ask Bill.

“Alec’s prepared for all contingencies. I’m surprised they haven’t taken Jennings down to the station by now.”

A few minutes later, Alec emerges by himself. “They weren’t going to allow us to talk to Josh, but I persuaded him. It shouldn’t be much longer.”
For what feels like an eternity, we sit in ladderback pine chairs with brown cushions while Alec keeps adjusting his watch. I don’t know what Alec had to promise the officer. Autographs are fine with me, but if he had to pay him off, I’d rather not know.

“I hope Brad is parked in the shade somewhere.” Alec looks at his watch for the eighth time in twenty minutes and turns to me. “Now that we’re here, they seem to be in no hurry to get rid of us. I’m sorry, Anna. Hold on a little longer.” His smile is an honest one full of regret.

I’ve heard the sentiment from him so often it doesn’t even register with my brain anymore. We both have a lot of work to do in the I-promise-to-do-better department.

The closed door at the back wall opens, and a guy pokes his head out, surveying the room. He’s fiftyish and, with his reading glasses, reminds me of Gen’s studious accountant.

Alec pivots, and his earlier smile vanishes.

“That’s Jennings,” Bill says quietly.

“Yes.” Alec waves to draw the man’s attention.

A confused Josh looks at us and then the floor as if he’s embarrassed. Eventually he settles his eyes on Alec. “I wasn’t sure you’d come. My attorney should be here soon. Come back to the conference room.”

Bill asks Alec, “Is it okay to go on ahead?”

Alec must have compensated the officer well to allow us entry this close to the crime scene.

“Let’s get this over with.” Alec seems queasy.

The three of us move through the aisle between desks and toward the room with a door left open for us. Josh has already gone inside. For someone who wants Alec’s help, he sure doesn’t appear happy or grateful for his effort. A huge effort. This had better not be Josh’s way of buying himself out of the woman’s death. The disgrace of being fired from Signorile after Pearce’s tragedy has to hurt his pride.

There’s news of a deadly virus moving through Europe, and the typical handshake is no longer being used between business execs.

Bill lifts his arm and catches himself. “Mr. Jennings? My name is Bill Drake, an associate of Mr. Zavos. You’ve asked to see him, and we also have some questions for you on another matter.”

“Wonderful.” The man in a sweaty, slept-in polo isn’t thrilled with us staring him down. There’s frost in the room as testosterone flies between glances. No one wants to be the first to break the sheet of ice forming around the presumed blue-eyed killer. Alec hasn’t made any assumptions yet until we talk to him, but Josh’s cool facade feels calculated to me. A superior to Alec, or something like that. For an innocent, I don’t like his peculiar behavior in the presence of a man who’s here to keep his neck from a noose.

“I asked to see Alec. Who are the rest of you?”

He’s behind a chair, using it as a shield to save himself from a CEO who wants to take his livelihood from him again. Or is it because he’s guilty of ending a woman’s life?

Alec pulls out the chair for me, and we all sit at the long conference table with a fancy letter F embellished in the center.

Josh’s temples bead with sweat, and he’s wringing his hands next to a wool felt fedora hat with a band. They seem to be popular in Italy. The guy’s bloodshot eyes and dark circles are sure signs of insomnia and stressing to the max. Wet ovals hang beneath the armpits of his beige shirt.

Alec’s unshakable gaze lands on Jennings, who abruptly turns away.

This meeting isn’t opening well.

Bill addresses Josh. “We don’t have a lot of time. Authorities aren’t thrilled with us questioning you, but they were… let’s say, swayed. Tell us what happened here?”

“She was tied and tortured in my office after I left night before last. I opened the building in the morning at seven and found her lying on her side, strapped to a chair and wrapped in wire near my desk. Lots of blood.” Josh holds a paper towel over his mouth, then uses it to wipe away perspiration. “When I left the building, she was in the conference room. I have no idea how she ended up in the office. Maybe the cat went in there.” He slides the fedora into his lap.

“Who is she?” Alec asks.

“Benita Alvarez.”




About the Author: 

“Mystery at a killing pace”

Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer, artist, and sheep breeder who resides in beautiful East Texas. Her renown sheep photographs grace the covers of many livestock magazines.

The third book in the Annalisse Series releases in 2021. Scattered Legacy is an international mystery with light touches of romance. Stolen Obsession and Spent Identity, books one and two, received numerous awards including the Independent Press Award for Best Mystery in 2020. Her mysteries can be found at marlenembell.com.

Marlene also writes children's books. Her first children's picture book, Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! is based on true events with Natalie from the Bell’s ranch. It's a touching story of compassion and love between a little girl and her lamb. Mia and Nattie is honored to be a Mom's Choice Gold Award winner.

Marlene shares her life with her husband and a few dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep: a large Maremma guard dog named Tia, and cats, Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks. The cats believe they rule the household—and do.












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Monday, November 22, 2021

Author Interview- She Died on a Monday by Kevin McLeod #ParanormalLoveStory


- What is your “day” job if you are not a full-time author?

I don’t have a day job. I used to be a civil servant here in the UK but I began writing and was published in 2013. In 2016 I walked away from the 9-5 and took the chance to give my writing a go. I have an extremely successful series called The Viking’s Apprentice and now I’ve moved away to write for a more mature audience. 

- If you wrote a book about your life what would the title be?

Why didn’t I follow my dreams sooner?

- What is the hardest thing about being an author?

Not becoming discouraged. This is a job like no other really. Staying motivated to keep going and to believe in yourself and your writing can be tough at times. If you get the dreaded 1 star review you can find yourself fixating on that for hours and ignoring the vast number of positive reviews. 

You need to keep believing in what you are doing, keep writing the story you want to write, be true to yourself and the readers will find you.

- What is the best thing about being an author?

Having a job that is creative is an amazing feeling. I get to sit at my desk and create characters, worlds and scenarios and then share them with my readers all over the world. It’s the freedom to be doing something you love every single day.

- Have you ever been star struck by meeting one of your favorite authors? If so who was it?  

I met Michael Moore once in Glasgow at a book signing. I was a big fan of his. I had the chance to meet Stephen King this year here in Scotland and of all the days he chose to come he chose my mum’s 25th wedding anniversary. Family came first but I was still very disappointed to miss that chance.

- What book changed your life?

Two books come to mind. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King is the book that inspired me to become a writer. He wrote it for his kids and was a step away from his usual horror Genre. 

James Frey A million little pieces. I know there is a lot of controversy around that book, however the writing style is amazing. It’s like a flow of consciousness that is beautifully spilled onto every page. That book showed me that you do not have to follow the perceived rules of writing to be a brilliant author. 

- What were some of your favorite books growing up?

I loved the BFG, Roald Dahl was a great writer and that was my favourite as a kid. I also loved The Hobbit and the Sword of Shannaratriology. The first book I ever read was The War of the Computers by Granville Wilson. 

- What books are currently in your to be read pile? 

I have a lot in my TBR pile at the moment. The Final Testament of James Frey. I am holding off reading that as it’s the only one of his that I haven’t read and I’ll be sad to have finished his works. I also have Dark Places by Gillian Flynn and a selection of Ian Rankin books waiting to be read.

- Which do you prefer ebooks, print, or audiobooks?

I’m 46 and I still prefer print books. I do have a kindle and do use audible but there is something so great about an actual physical book.

- If you could live inside the world of a book or series which world would it be and why?

That’s a great question, some of the books I have read recently have some seriously dark undertones so although their worlds are beautifully woven I wouldn’t want to live there. However, I recently read Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club and those characters and that world were amazingly well written and I could see myself happy amongst those people. I’ve always liked older people and the wisdom they, and the stories they can share so I would like to live there and hear their stories yet to be told.


She Died on a Monday
Kevin McLeod

Genre: Love Story, paranormal
Date of Publication: 20/09/2021
ISBN: 979-8469680987
ASIN: B09DYZ1D4W
Number of pages: 50
Word Count: 8886
Cover Artist: Theresa Bills

Tagline: What do we do when everything changes in an instant?

Book Description: 

Picture the kind of enduring love that most of us would wish for; the kind of elderly, married couple we might see on the street, or in a cafĂ©, so in tune with each other that it’s hard to imagine one without the other.

John and Elizabeth have a love like that, but John’s world is suddenly shattered when Elizabeth is brutally taken from him. For some people it can feel as though it’s just too difficult to go on when one half of you is missing. How will John cope with his broken heart? Who, or what, can help him?

Kevin McLeod is a best-selling children’s author, but this is his first adult short story, inspired by the love his grandparents shared. Kevin writes beautifully, in heart-rending detail, about the numbness, shock, and crushing grief that John faces. He explores challenges that we will all face when someone we love dies, made all the more poignant by his tender evocation of a long and happy marriage.

‘She Died On A Monday’ is a story of love and loss that you’ll want to read time and again, to enjoy each perfect detail and the clever twists and turns. But, be warned, you might just cry every time that you do.


Excerpt:

She died on a Monday. No long lingering illness. No last words, just there, then gone. One minute they were sharing breakfast, the next his world collapsed. She was falling too fast and he was moving too slow. Later, the doctor would tell him that it didn't matter how fast he had moved. He couldn't have saved her. Like that makes it ok. As if that would make him feel better. It mattered to him. He should have caught her and helped her; instead he had moved in slow motion as the love of his life, his very reason for living, disappeared in front of his eyes.

There was no warning. She had been healthy and happy. Ten minutes before she died, they had been discussing what to do after breakfast. He remembered scoffing at her suggestion that they should visit his sister. He tried to remember the last words he had said to her. Finally, they came back to him. Is there any toast? Such a normal question, but now it seemed so stupid, so banal. If he had known they were going to be his last words to her he would have said something meaningful, something profound.

Later, the doctor would tell him that it had been an aneurysm in her brain and that she had felt no pain. Should this comfort him? If it was supposed to, it didn't. Somehow the suddenness made it worse. Neither of them had been prepared for this. The numbness he felt began cocooning him in his own sorrow.

At some point, he didn't remember when, his daughter arrived. She was talking to the medical crew. She turned and began to talk to him. He couldn't make out the words. The lines of her face were blurred by his tears and her words were unable to penetrate an overwhelming numbness.

They took his wife's body away, carted it off on a trolley like she was nothing. He wanted to yell at them, to make them do this terrible thing in some different way. Instead, he sat and watched while his daughter hugged him. He was vaguely aware he wasn't hugging her back, his arms unwilling to move.

He found himself on the couch, unaware of how he had come to be there. His daughter was on the phone and his son had arrived. His son was looking in drawers and speaking, but he couldn't make sense of it. He heard the word funeral and slowly his brain began to understand. His son was looking for the funeral plan papers. He managed to tell him where to find them. His voice was quiet, broken, as he mumbled through the words. His son put a hand on his shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. A simple act of love from a son to his father. He put his hand over his son’s. No words were said.

He couldn't accept it, wouldn't accept it. His wife couldn't be dead. They had so many plans. So much to do. How could she be gone? They were due to go on holiday next month. It was all paid for and arranged. She had been looking forward to it. They both had. Now, they would never get to see those views, or take that boat trip. The same one they had taken on their first holiday together.

After a few hours of helping and being there for him, his son and daughter left. His daughter had asked to stay with him tonight, or for him to come with her, but he wanted to be alone. He managed to thank them for helping, while ushering them towards the door. He shut the door, instantly becoming aware of the silence. It crashed into him like a wave. There were no sounds coming from the kitchen, or from the radio in the living room. She always liked to listen to the same channel, keeping it on for some background noise. He walked to the living room and switched on the radio, as if this would bring her back. Feeling foolish, he turned it off again.

He lay down on the couch and cried himself to sleep.

'John, wake up, it's time to get up.'

He heard her voice so clearly that he woke with a start and sat up straight. Confusion took over as he tried to work out whether it had been a dream or if he had actually heard her voice. He looked to the large window, the one with her favourite view over the city from their fourth-floor apartment. It was one of the reasons they had bought this place, she loved that view. It must be late, as darkness had replaced light while he was sleeping. He turned on a lamp and went to shut the curtains. He froze, as just for a second, he swore that he saw her behind him. He turned to the living room but found only emptiness.

He drew the curtains and went to the kitchen. The clock on the wall told him it was a quarter past ten at night. He hadn't eaten all day and knew that he should. He went to the fridge and found a sandwich that his daughter must have made for him. He sat at the table, the same table where she had died, and stared at her empty space. Slowly, he ate the sandwich, tasting nothing.

He walked through the hall to their bedroom. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he stared at her side. Suddenly he felt it, her touch. He couldn't explain it, but he felt her. She was here, she was with him. But, as quickly as the sensation came, it left. His mind was playing tricks on him. It surely was understandable; he was processing the enormity of what had happened. He didn't bother to undress. Lying down on the bed, on top of the covers, he curled into the foetal position and began to cry.

She died on a Monday.


About the Author:

Kevin McLeod is the international best selling author of The Viking’s Apprentice series. He has written 4 books in this series and now takes a step into a different genre with ‘She Died on a Monday’ 

Kevin is 46, lives in Hamilton in Scotland with his two daughters and his dog, Tiger. Kevin is a keen cook and loves the outdoors. He loves spending time with his friends and family. 

Kevin began writing professionally in 2013 with the release of his first book, The Viking’s Apprentice. After his huge success in middle grade fiction he has moved into a more adult genre and looks forward to writing many more stories in the years to come. 









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