Tag Archives: magic

Publication Day!

Today is a very exciting day. My second novel, Three Words is officially published and it’s a thrilling feeling. For an avid reader who as a child ate books for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and decided aged 9 that she wanted to write them, to have one novel published was a dream come true. To have another one out seems nothing short of miraculous. I’ve written on here about the magic of books before but I think it’s worth revisiting.

open book with mermaid

From the reader’s perspective, each book we open is an adventure, a journey into another world full of new people and situations. As we read, that world becomes real in our minds; we see and feel it, become part of it, if only for a few hours or days. When we finish the book and put it back on the shelf, the real world is just that little bit altered by the experience that we have had.

From the writer’s perspective, a story just needs to escape from the head onto the page. All writers work differently so I can only speak for myself, but my characters are very insistent that their stories are told. Their world becomes as real to me as my own; I can see them, hear them, I know what they’re thinking and feeling. Somehow I have to get that down on paper or screen. It doesn’t always go to plan, it’s not always easy, but I owe it to them to complete the tale, to give them their freedom.

And when those thoughts and ideas then become an actual physical entity, a real book, that’s extraordinary. That’s magic.

I’ll leave you with this wonderful quote from the scientist and author Carl Sagan:

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

Something’s Afoot In Faeryland

Trees and river

Faery window
Photo by Clare Bain

Something’s afoot in faeryland. Something’s coming this way. Perhaps it’s because Halloween is approaching and the veils between worlds are beginning to thin that it’s so much easier to sense it now.

Can you feel it? Will you let yourself?

In the quiet small hours of the night or the tiny moments between the hustle and the bustle of the day; when you catch a movement out of the corner of your eye or look through branches to the sky beyond; when you see a rainbow shimmering on a soap bubble or a diamond caught in a raindrop; that’s when you’ll feel it. Always unexpected yet always there – the magic in and beyond what is. Let yourself go. Look through faery windows, wonder about half hidden doors, follow a new path. Because you never know what you may find…

And if you should happen to wander this way on Halloween, there may just be a story from faeryland waiting for you…

The Magic Of Books

pile of books

Photo by Heather Godfrey

Dreaming The Moon was officially released on 14th February and I’m still dancing on air! Even now I can’t quite believe that there’s an actual official real paperback with my name on it. Much as e-books have transformed the way we can access and read stories, there’s something about a proper book with pages and a cover. Maybe I’m old fashioned but that’s a piece of magic right there.

Because that’s what books are, aren’t they? Little bits of magic that transport us away from our lives for a while and into someone else’s landscape, some other person’s quest or dilemma, an alternate existence with a new point of view. Whether it’s a light, quick read or something deep and challenging, every story will teach us something. And the best ones will resonate with us long after we’ve finished them, the characters staying in our heads, making us think. A change occurs when we read a book, often so subtle we may not really even notice it. But it’s there. We may learn something. Realise something. Understand or empathise more than we did before. Find something that piques our interest or leads us down a new road. Or simply gives us a good laugh and leaves us feeling uplifted.

Every book is an adventure. Each new author is a risk, but also a guide along an untrodden path. Still, the same can be said for life in general, so, if you fancy your next adventure with a new guide, click on the ‘buy my books’ icon at the top of the page and see the wonderful range waiting for you at Magic Oxygen.

Editor’s Perks

Somewhere in an alternate universe far, far away…

As you know, I hate writing! And I also loathe reading! So don’t you feel sorry for me, having to read amazing new books and make editorial suggestions to earn a few pennies? Oh, the trauma…

Meanwhile, back in the real world (whatever that is)…

I have been privileged to have been given the opportunity to edit three absolutely cracking new books over the last few months, and they are all due out on very soon. So here’s a little summary of each to tempt you.

‘The Dreamer’ by Sue Hampton

The Dreamer Front coverThis children’s book, set long ago and far away, is a green allegory encompassing adventure and fairy tale. Moro, a rich, heartless landowner holds a village in his power, but it isn’t enough. Lark, the mute peasant girl, can never please her father however hard she works. She finds solace in carving animals from clay and wood, her art frequently destroyed by her bullying brother. Her friend Fedor, the lame goatherd, never understood why his father left and still hopes he will return. The pair befriend The Dreamer, an old blind man who lives alone on the mountain. He introduces them to the magical world in his crystal story bowl and the myth of the Flower Bird. Their world falls apart when Moro obtains the bowl and – coveting the crystal which lies behind the waterfall – wreaks havoc on the mountain. As greed threatens to destroy the life of the village, can two children and a blind man find the courage and resources within themselves to stand up and lead the way to a better future?

The Empire of Evil by Gordon Strong

The Empire of Evil Front coverMagic is a paradox, one that can never be fully resolved. Within other worlds are mysteries beyond the imagination. It is these extraordinary realms that our psychic investigator willingly explores. Standley-Strange, arch magus, scholar and man-of-the-world is saved from becoming an eternal recluse by a surprise visitor.

Vivacious Cyndi flees to England from a dangerous darkness in America, her intuition guiding her unerringly to the very door of Standley-Strange! He offers her shelter and they speedily become magical allies when Standley-Strange is called to the aid of Debroneth, a Medieval province, inexplicably manifested in another dimension. The magus vows to protect its people from the ravages of the Evil Empire, but must also face his own challenges when he confronts the Emperor Tortius and Bredon Shaft, his vicious Chief Inquisitor.

Treachery, tyranny and a ruthless desire for power are the hallmarks of the Empire. Add in a lost lady, a magical minstrel, kidnapping, rebellion and multiple dimensions and the ride is set to be anything but smooth.

Blind Cupid by Max Brandt

Blind Cupid Front coverNick Sloane has a moral compass that no one understands but him. The last thing he needs is a touchstone that hurls it into confusion.

Simon Nicholson’s job at Freeways children’s home is tough, fighting on the front line of child abuse cases and coping with the fallout from neglect. The last thing he needs is one of his youngsters disappearing.

DCI Montgomery Flute has dark memories that are interfering with his work. It’s almost a year to the day that his life-partner, Tom, committed suicide and the last thing he needs .is a complex murder enquiry throwing fuel onto a fire that’s already burning him up.

The discovery of a tortured body in an isolated spot turns out to be an ex-resident of Freeways. Dark secrets from all their pasts are being skilfully woven together by a calculating killer. It’s the very last thing anyone needs; especially the children.

These titles will launch, with others, at a wonderful event in Lyme Regis on 14th February. Find out more here. http://www.magicoxygen.co.uk/

Dreaming the Moon release date

So… it’s 2015! Happy New Year! It’s already shaping up to be an exciting one and we’re still only in January! One of the most exciting things for me is the publication of my first novel, coming out in paperback on 14th February.

picture of moon over seaCalled ‘Dreaming The Moon’, it’s a fantasy story set in Cornwall (a land of mystery and magic itself) where Robyn, an ordinary girl haunted by strange dreams, discovers that not only is there another hidden, magical world linked to our own, but that the barrier between the two is failing fast and she is the key to restoring it and preventing the forces of darkness from overrunning both realms. With everyone in danger and everything she loves at risk, can she and her friends outwit the malevolent creatures sent to stop them and fix the shield before all is lost?

Here’s a taste:

By the time Robyn fell into bed that night it was past midnight, and she was exhausted. She curled up under the duvet and dropped into a deep sleep.

It was dark – intensely, terrifyingly dark. The barest sliver of a new moon illuminated a silver thread of sea in the distance, but where she stood the blackness was total and heavily oppressive. Just moving through it was like walking through treacle. She stumbled forward, desperately trying to see something, anything. A branch caught her arm, making her jump, and she stumbled again, feeling her way but not seeming to move anywhere. Eventually she stopped and looked around again, straining her eyes to pick out something familiar, some outline or shape. But she could see nothing except for the narrow ribbon of sea far ahead of her, hear nothing except her own ragged breath. Everything around her was perfectly and absolutely still. She tried again to move, slowly easing her way toward the silvered water, concentrating hard so as not to lose her footing in the inky darkness. And despite the silence, the stillness, the sense of isolation, she was acutely aware that someone or something was watching her.

Truth Won’t Die – New Song For Halloween

Halloween GraveyardIt’s Halloween!! Also called Samhain and my favourite festival of the year, the night when the veil between realms is thinnest and magic feels close enough to touch. The night when anything is possible…

And to celebrate that and also the fact that it’s a year since my first title ‘When Joe Met Alice’ was published (now that was a magical day!) I am honoured and very proud to be party to the release of Truth Won’t Die, the song from the story.

I may have written the lyrics but the song as a whole was written and performed, mixed and Jedmastered by my son Jed. He took my words and a couple of suggestions that I made as to the direction that Joe would have taken them in, and has come up with a song that is just perfectly in tune with the story. (Yes, pun intended, sorry Jed!).

It has taken him hours of painstaking work. I don’t think most of us realise, when we listen to a song, just how much time, care and attention to detail goes into the creation of it. From the development of the melody and the guitar riffs, the keyboards and additional effects, the vocal line and accompanying harmonies, and of course the bass line and the drums that are the glue which holds it all together; each is created separately but written to fit into a perfect whole.

Then the recording; Jed put the drum track down using a keyboard and some specialist sequencing software then recorded keyboards, bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, lead vocals and lastly backing vocals, each in separate tracks layering on top of the drums. He played and sang all the tracks himself, a pretty impressive achievement, and mixed and mastered it afterwards. I’d like to say a huge thank you to him for all his work, and also thank his friend George Hunt for acting as studio engineer when Jed was doing the vocals.

So below is the link to Soundcloud; enjoy Truth Won’t Die. And as you light your candle this Samhain let it feed your inner flame and open up the magic inside.

Just One Of Those Days

washing machine symbol

 

Ever had one of those days when it seems that all machinery is out to get you, all electronics are conspiring against you and the world in general is having a laugh at your expense? A bit like this:

 

The washing machine ate my jumper

The computer just wouldn’t play

The shower packed up

And the car broke down

What the heck’s going on today?

 

And then other days you wake up to sunshine (real and metaphorical) and the world gives you a big hug and shows you something like this:lavender

 

There are jewels in the lavender.

A flock of greenfinches are

Having breakfast.

Intent on their fluttery purpose, they are

Stripping the heads with glee

Soft jade among the amethyst.

We watch without breathing

Entranced

And then suddenly

They are gone.

 

Everyday magic both, but one definitely preferable to the other. I try and take mental snapshots of moments of wonder like these on sunshiny days; then when everything is going pear shaped they help to remind me that things will get better. Along with a little cathartic swearing and a nice cup of tea, they’re a good way of restoring balance.

The Sock Goblin

Odd socksMost of us are familiar with this vindictive little creature. Part of the gremlin / goblin family and relatively benign in comparison to some other members, this small, rarely sighted being likes to wreak havoc in the quietest yet most irritating of ways. In common with its gremlin relatives it targets modern electrical equipment, in this case specifically washing machines. It makes its nest in the outer casing and accesses the drum to steal odd socks from random loads. Sometimes it will take a particular fancy to one and use it as a sleeping bag but usually it stores them in a pile and may reintroduce them one at a time to another load at some future point.

Thefts and returns will be random but frequent in order to lull the target human into a false sense of security before upping the ante to make them feel that they are going mad. Many socks it likes to nibble on before they are returned. This is not to satisfy hunger but merely to further hinder its target. What sustains it are the cries of frustration and the palpable annoyance of said human each time they are sorting the socks into pairs and always find one or two orphans, or a pair that look as if they have lost the battle with a giant moth. Then its wicked grin grows wider and its little teeth grow sharper and it eagerly awaits its next opportunity to cause havoc. On occasion and to cause maximum distress it may also stick a sock down the out pipe to block the drain and possibly flood the kitchen.

Sock goblins are frighteningly common and sadly very difficult to get rid of. The only way is to starve them out. So if you frequently find odd socks at the bottom of your basket, don’t curse and swear. Smile, be glad and use them as dusters instead. The environment may thank you but the goblin most certainly won’t!

Dreaming the Moon

crescent moon over seaI am delighted and very excited to say that my first novel, Dreaming the Moon, will be coming out in paperback on 25th August 2014. The fantastic cover photograph was taken by the very talented Alex Smith (thank you so much) and formatted by the amazing web wizard, Simon West (again, thank you).

It’s a modern fantasy that follows Robyn, heartbroken and haunted by strange dreams, who discovers that this world is not the only one, but is separated from another magical realm by a protective shield that is failing. Thrown into a desperate situation, she and her friends are pitted against time and dark forces in a seemingly impossible task, the search for a lost fragment that will restore the shield and save both worlds.

If you like to look at life a little sideways, if you ask yourself sometimes ‘Was that only a bird rustling in the hedge or was it something else?’, or ‘Did I misplace my keys or is something otherworldly teasing me?’; If you’ve ever thought that the woods seem darker than they should when you’re walking alone at dusk, or wondered if it was just coincidence that you called your best friend at exactly the same time as he/she called you, then I hope that this will appeal to you. And if you’re not familiar with my work, may I (very cheekily) say that I have two ‘snack-size’ stories out as e-books: When Joe Met Alice and Catching Up With The Past, available from Magic Oxygen and Amazon, just in case you fancy an appetiser.

Izzy

Music and magic

Fairy glen

Christine Westerback

Gar tuht river, ger te rheged.

Having been listening to the most extraordinary and magical album Imaginaerum by the Finnish band Nightwish, courtesy of my son Jed, I was wondering what this phrase meant and where it came from. Jed kindly investigated and found some debate online; the closest he could get (and by far the loveliest) was that if it is Old Cumbric it means go to the river, you’ll come to a fairyland.

How beautiful.

There are places along any river where we passersby are called for some reason to stop and look. For no apparent reason honey flows through our veins, or hearts flutter, or perhaps goose bumps rise. There is nothing overt, nothing obvious, yet we are caught unexpectedly by a glimmer, a promise of something beyond what we see, the feeling that actually all is not just as it appears and that the real truth is hiding just out of sight.

I’ve said before that to me, magic is not complicated or theatrical. It’s the occurrence of the unexpected, the acceptance that just because we can’t rationalise and explain things it doesn’t mean that they’re not real. If we stay open to it, with a little luck magic will reach out and touch us.