Friday, December 3, 2021

Guest Blog with BC Harris Author of Conspiracy of Cats


My name is Beverley, but my friends call me Bev. My maiden name is Cox and I married a Harris. With this in mind I choose to write under the name B C Harris.

Writing is something I’ve always wanted to do but never got around to. As a working mum and wife I never had time to think about myself. Throughout my twenties and thirties I thought I’d never get to travel anywhere exotic, never see the world beyond the UK and Western Europe, because there was never any money for those kinds of holidays.

This situation began to change back in 2010 when I left my then husband and moved back to Edinburgh. I rented a flat and, though I initially had a flatmate, I was living on my own for the very first time with all the financial responsibilities, but also all the personal freedoms. I was forty-six, and I was scared rigid. 

Two years later my life was very different.

I was living in the southwest of England by then. I’d met Ian Harris and, together, we ran a small business. I’d also learned to drive, and this was something I hadn’t ever considered doing. Our business was doing well and affording holidays wasn’t a problem. Luckily Ian had the same idea about those holidays; lazing around on beaches was fine, but we also wanted to collect a few experiences. 

There then followed a series of little adventures. We went paragliding, swam with wild dolphins and went kayaking as well as sailing. Ian could do the last two already, but it was all new to me. Visiting a plantation in Jamaica to trek on horses for a few hours before swimming in the sea with them was all my idea. Ian wasn’t keen but, in the end, we both loved it so much we did it twice. Horse riding was like driving; I’d never considered it as something I wanted to do, until my two-morning rides with Ziggy and our cool-down swims in the sea. Back home again and we signed up for proper riding lessons. 

Our next holiday took us to an estancia in the north of Argentina. We rode in the Sierras de Cordoba with the gouchos. We rounded up cattle and swam in pools under waterfalls. I even met a foal still steaming in the chill of the dawn, because she had just been born moments before. It was my very first morning on the estancia. I woke very early and went outside with my camera hoping to catch the rising sun, and there she was, standing on wobbly legs as her mother welcomed her into the world. The whole trip was an incredible experience, but I’ll never forget that I was the first human being that little horse encountered.
 


In South Africa we spent time a rehab centre for animals; an experience I drew upon to write some of the scenes for Jude and Peter in Conspiracy of Cats. We walked with lions. Nandi, Mufasa and Duma were only nine months old at the time, but they were big and sassy and quite the handful. Africa was every bit as life changing as Argentina. This was undoubtedly in part about the people we met in both countries, but it was mostly about the animals and the incredible landscapes we were privileged to be a part of for even a short time.



 
By 2017 we were living in France, renovating an old and neglected house that we originally bought as a retirement plan. Boy was that a steep learning curve. I couldn’t speak any French and Ian’s wasn’t great, so we took lessons. We had no woodworking experience between us, but we built our own pergola. We installed a kitchen from the floor up and turned an overgrown acre into a beautiful garden. We kept bees. We even got married there. It was a wonderful experience. Then covid happened,and everything changed again.

The French confinement was possibly the strictest in the world. We had to remain within one kilometer of our home, and even our dogs were stir crazy. We couldn’t see friends and no one could visit. The media made it all so much more frightening than perhaps it needed to be. I was depressed, scared, I couldn’t sleep. We’d finished the renovations by then, and there was nothing to do, nowhere to go. One day, when I was feeling particularly low, Ian suggested that I write down a story I’d told him years before during one of my periodic moans about wanting to write but never having the time.

Right then I had nothing but time.

In May of 2020 I set up a little desk in the back porch with a view out across the garden. I could see the dogs, the cat, the birds and the red squirrels that came every day to chase one another around the trunk of the huge mulberry tree that shaded my windows. I couldn’t type. I just hammered away on my keyboard… the same one I’m writing this on. I put in a lot of hours, escaping into a journey through time, between Scotland and Tanzania, a supernatural murder mystery that had been turning over and over inside my mind for years. My experiences in a different part of Africa helped to bring certain elements of the tale to life. I was happy. I had a purpose. I started to sleep soundly again. It was an amazing experience to bring my characters out into the real world and, by August, it was done.

In 2021 we relocated to Scotland. We hadn’t really considered returning to the UK, but covid had caused so much chaos as well as isolation, that our priorities had shifted. Ian is currently reinventing our business all over again, and I am still hammering away on my keyboard writing my stories and bringing characters out of my head and into the real world where they will, hopefully, find a home in books that people can enjoy.

Writing has been an incredibly cathartic experience for me. Just when I thought it was too late for life to be anything but nearly over, my world was turned upon its head. I am older and I am bolder. At fifty-seven, I now relish my future.


Conspiracy of Cats
B C Harris

Genre: Contemporary fiction, paranormal, murder mystery
Publisher: Olympia Publishers, London
Date of Publication: 26th August 2021
ISBN: 978-1-80074-032-7
ASIN: B09CGHZ7K7
Number of pages: 325
Word Count: 123,121
Cover Artist: Olympia Publishers, London

Tagline: A Beautiful House, A Horrible Death, A Brilliant Revenge

Book Description: 

CONSPIRACY OF CATS… a supernatural murder mystery.

An apprehensive Jos Ferguson travels from Edinburgh to Northern Tanzania to visit the house her Uncle Peter built before he died. But Peter isn’t as dead as he should be… he was murdered, and he wants his niece to help him exact revenge upon his killer. With a little Maasai magic and a conspiracy of cats, Jos sets out to do exactly that.

A beautiful house. A horrible death. A brilliant revenge.

Who knew death could be so lively?


Excerpt

Looking back, it was as if Peter had known that he was going to die.  

It was as if all of them had known, because the Maasai came prepared for their ritual even though their little brother died only a few hours before they arrived. It was the largest group of Maasai Beola had ever encountered at the white house. At least fifty men, most of them warriors, all carrying their weapons and their shields. Their chests and faces and arms painted as if they were going into battle. She watched them from the master bedroom window, just as she’d watched the police arrive, having gone back up to finish changing the bed so it would be clean and ready when Jude returned. They arrived on foot just before sunset, and it would have taken all day to walk from their village on the western side of Mount Kilimanjaro all the way to the white house.  

Some of the warriors carried armfuls of wood, and immediately began building a large fire in the middle of the lawn. The elders, including their bearded laibon, sat down on the porch steps to rest and, when Beola went out to meet them, they asked only for water. When she offered food they politely refused. When Beola moved to go back inside to fetch the water, a young warrior stopped her. ‘We must leave the white house in peace, little sister,’ he told her, and then he and several of his fellow warriors guided her towards the lodge where they fetched enough water for all. When that was done, the young warrior told her, ‘Word has been sent into the park so your husband and your son will come home soon. When they do, you must be ready to leave.’

‘But why?’  

‘The laibon wishes to cleanse the white house of sorrow.’

Beola knew better than to argue with the wishes of a laibon, and so she nodded, resigned.

‘How long must we stay away?’

‘Moon die and come back again, man die and stay away. Come back with the new moon, sister.’  

Back inside the lodge Beola began to pack, without any clear idea of where her family would go or who they would stay with. By then it was full dark, and the fire was burning so brightly she could see its orange glow above the garage blocking her direct view. Kissi and Ben arrived while she was still packing, in shock at both the death of their friend and the large gathering on the white house lawn. The evening breeze was becoming a wind by then, and the stars were obscured by gathering clouds. The warriors had begun to sing a sorrowful sounding song, their beautiful voices competing with the mounting voice of the wind.  

By the time the Nyerere’s were readying to leave, a storm was in full flow.  

The perimeter of trees bent and swayed in the wind that had initially made their leaves whisper. That wind was howling and shrilling by then, a tempest that thrashed and whipped the leaves and branches. Storm clouds had gathered so close, they were piled on top of one another, grumbling, rumbling, crashing with thunder directly overhead. Lightening split the night over and over. Up on the roof garden, a solitary figure braved the onslaught. The old laibon was yelling into the night, his spells snatched away by the wind that seemed, in turns, to want to blow him away and push him down. Rain pelted down upon him, it blinded his eyes, dripped from his beard, soaked his shuka and chilled his bones. He fought against it, at the same time as he embraced it, arms stretched wide and high. Calling out, over and over, to the spirit of his friend.

As the Nyerere’s were loading up their jeep, another vehicle arrived, lights sweeping across the scene as it circled the lawn. Beola thought that it must be Jude, but it was Henk de Vries, pulling up in his flatbed truck. She assumed he’d heard the news and had come to pay his respects. She ran towards him, but half a dozen warriors barred Beola’s way. They told her to go, to never speak of this night to anyone. Beola struggled against them, and called out to Henk in some distress, but either the wind stole her voice, or the Dutchman chose to ignore her. Kissi was next to her by then and had to impel his wife bodily into the back of his Land Rover as Ben sat quietly weeping in the front. He then got in himself and set off for his father’s home in Arusha, having called ahead to stay there were sanitation issues at their home, so they needed a place to say for a while. As they were moving around the lawn towards the drive, Beola watched Henk lower the tail gate of his truck and saw two warriors lift and carry something towards the fire. Meat for the funeral feast, he told her much later.  

When Kissi’s Land Rover reached the foot of the hill, he turned north towards the main road that would take them to Arusha. They left the storm behind almost immediately. When they reached the top of the escarpment, he stopped and got out. Ben and Beola joined him. Together they stood atop the ridge, watching a small storm rage over the white house.  



About the Author: 

B C Harris is a Scot who, at the time of writing, had just finished renovating a farmhouse in France. A labour of love that began from first sight back in 2016. No sooner had the final length of flooring been laid and the last paintbrush dried, than disaster struck in the form of pandemic. France went into a strict lockdown and, with time to do more than simply daydream about writing books, a new project began to take shape.

Writing began as an escape from the fear and isolation that was soon affecting us all, and quickly flourished to become ‘Conspiracy of Cats'. The global pandemic seems to be receding now, but the passion for writing has taken root. Find out more about B C Harris online.








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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Guest Blog- The Fata Morgana Series by Jo-Anne Blanco


Why Recycling Is Nothing New

Though it may seem like a modern phenomenon, the concept of recycling has been around for centuries. The ancient Romans recycled glass, ceramics, even marble sculptures. They also used bronze coins to make ornaments and jewellery, and animal, food and plant waste to fertilise their fields. Following on from the Romans, during the early medieval period in Europe, people continued the tradition of reusing goods and also began recycling parchment, reusing older manuscripts to create new ones.


As an author whose series of novels is set in post-Roman Dark Ages Britain, I have been struck by the fact that, although many aspects of medieval life may seem alien to us, others are somewhat similar. Recycling is one of those aspects. In the fifth century A.D., the Roman legions began to withdraw from Britain, taking with them their skills, industry, and governance, leaving an island bereft and its population forced to use anything they could find that their former conquerors had left behind. In post-Roman Britain, poverty and hardship abounded. Without the manufacturing sites or craft skills the Romans had first brought and then taken away with them, recycling was the one tool remaining that the people of Britain could still use and it often became necessary, a way of life. People would take and reuse whatever they could from the abandoned Roman towns, quarries, villas, temples, even cemeteries. Up until the 11th century, materials for castles and churches were taken from Roman ruins.


Three particular aspects of ancient and medieval recycling are still with us today. The first is glass recycling. It was the Romans who discovered that glass could be recycled repeatedly without degrading; it is thought that the practice took off in earnest in 70 A. D. and was brought to colonies throughout the Roman Empire, including Britain. When the Romans left, their glass traditions in Britain were brought almost to a halt. The few glass workers who remained had learned from or been trained by the Romans, and they became itinerant tradesmen, travelling with their equipment, creating cups, beads, vials, and other products by recycling Roman glass items that had been damaged or broken. Today, for us, glass recycling is one of the simplest and most effective forms of environmentally-friendly recycling, as glass bottles and jars are infinitely recyclable. It is so easy to do at home by separating all glass items into a special bin before taking them to your local recycling centre.



The second aspect still with us is the previously mentioned parchment or, in our case, paper recycling. Recycling of paper allegedly began in Japan in the year 1031 and was brought to Europe not long afterwards. However, the difference between medieval paper recycling and our modern version of today is stark. In the Middle Ages, before the invention of the printing press, books were created by hand on rare, expensive parchment and were considered priceless items. When a manuscript became no longer relevant or a better copy was made, rather than create a new book, scribes would scratch out the text and illustrations from the old parchment and write new text on top of the old; this was called a palimpsest and was a practice undertaken primarily for financial reasons. Nowadays, we are able to recycle our waste paper within a system which costs us very little and significantly reduces cardon dioxide emissions, the felling of trees, and the use of energy and water generated by the manufacture of new paper. Paper recycling is one of the most common forms of green activity in modern life, since it is simple to assign a separate bin at home and at the workplace for paper to be recycled.



The third aspect of recycling still with us is the oldest form of all: composting. No one knows precisely when it became common practice to fertilize land for crops with animal and plant waste.The first written account of compost making can be found on a set of clay tablets carved between 2320 B. C. and 2120 B. C. during the reign of King Sargon of the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia. Throughout the ancient world composting became common, with the Greeks, the Romans, and the Egyptians all adopting the practice of taking straw from animal stalls and spreading it on cultivated fields. Street sweepings and organic refuse such as plant and vegetable waste were also used, a form of composting that continued throughout medieval times for fields and gardens. Today, for those of us who don’t live on a farm or keep livestock, organic fruit and vegetable composting such as potato peelings and fruit cores is a natural, effective, and environmentally sound method of maintaining the richness of our garden’s soil.



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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Poetry Corner with Alec Reid Author of For Her Bones #Horror


This is a difficult one.  A long time ago, when I was in my twenties, I was briefly on the poetry circuit, reading my poems at universities and arts centres.  One or two appeared in anthologies.  Others were published in a national newspaper and a couple were broadcast on BBC Radio 3.  Then, quite suddenly, the drive to write poems left me.  I realise now that it was because so many of them were mini-dramas and I had started to feel the need to write full-length plays with dialogue and multiple characters.  That said, the first one I wrote and directed, a musical for BBC Radio 3 containedmore verse than prose.  Slightly to my surprise, ‘For Her Bones’ contains two sonnets in iambic pentameters.  One is included in a story for comic effect, the other is a dark epilogue which addresses climate concerns and the creation of ghosts.  I won’t include it here as it is better read in context.

My other poems, hundreds of them, were all written before the advent of home computers, so they exist only in a ring-binder.  I can, however offer you something more recent.  I have written book and lyrics for a few musicals.  One of them, ‘Muscles! The Musical’ was produced at a small theatre in London.  Along the way, the composer, John Telfer’ and I also wrote some stand-alone songs.  Some of the lyrics showed evidence of a poetic sensibility.  I thought I would offer you one of them.  In tone it is vastly different from that of ‘For Her Bones’:

A PARIS AFFAIR/TANYA

Music: John Telfer  Lyric: Alec Reid

 

It began as a Paris affair

And it should have ended right thereņ

For Tanya had always to be on a ‘plane,

But it had started so well

To the chime of the Notre Dame bell

That she said,

“One day we will marry in Spain.”

 

So later we continued in Rome,

As tourists in search of a home,

Which I yearned to discover for Tanya,

My lover who never was still.

Next year we will wed in Seville,

Very close to the Plaza de Espaņa.

 

But you’d never tasted Seville,

Never seen the pictures of Spain in the Plaza,

Never walked the paths by the Guadalquivir,

Admired the stonework in the Alcazar.

 

How many miles had we been this way,

Bad actors in a travelling play,

Rehearsing the words we intended to say?

I saw myself as worldly wise,

Should have seen through your lovely disguise,

Oh, my Tanya with the hideaway eyes.

 

You see the city is getting too dark

To take a walk in the Maria Luisa park.

I love it still, imagine I always will,

But you never made it to Seville.

 

You never made it to Seville.

 

©AoReA Music

 


For Her Bones
Alec Reid

Genre: Ghost/Comic Horror
Publisher: Lilymoore Publishing
Date of Publication: 31 October 2021
ISBN: 978 – 163972999 -9 
Number of pages: 340
Word Count: 86,975
Cover Artist: Jacqueline Abromeit

Book Description:

Alec Reid’s ghosts of the twenty-first century seldom lurk in old houses or waft across chilly moors.  His dark tales may breathe alongside the supernatural, but they take place in broad daylight, in our daily lives.  

Their themes include dead warriors resurrected via Bluetooth, Rumpelstiltskin in the suburbs, an algorithmic fear of ghosts and the shattered dreams of immortality. 

The world they describe is the same one you inhabit, but you would live in terror were you to recognise it for what it is.  Life would, literally, never be the same again.




Excerpt

“The thing is, Tom, I did call him a few months after I left.  It was a bit of a surprise.  I was supposedly embarking on some great adventure, and there I was struck down with what felt like terminal homesickness.  I needed a friend.”

“You could have called me.”

“I know, but it wasn’t you I wanted.  Sorry.  What I never expected was that I would be longing for Frank.  How strange was that?  Anyway, it was late and the foul weather made me feel even more lonely.  I virtually forced him to come to me that night.”

“Do I really need to hear this?”

“He never made it.  Ice on the motorway.  His mother called me a few days later.”

“Jesus, Sally.  No wonder you’re imagining things.  It’s guilt, that’s all.”

“So that’s it, Mr Freud?  I really am just imagining it?  Going mad”

“I wouldn’t say going mad exactly.  I mean it’s understandable.  You had a terrible shock.  You were missing Frank - can’t understand that bit, but there you are – and you called him to you.  And because of that he died.  It doesn’t make it your fault.  Not really.  I can’t imagine he was the greatest driver in the world.”

“He’s here, Tom.  In this restaurant.  I can feel it.  I can almost see him.”

“The flickering?”

“Yes!  Please tell me you’ve seen it too.”

Poor Tom.  I think he’s about to deny it.  A straight ahead, get the job done sort of guy can’t acknowledge the terrors that shimmer on the edge of his vision.  It has to be Sally who is mad, not he.  The truth is, neither of them is mad.  I would show myself if I could, join them at their table, discuss important matters of life and death.  But it doesn’t work that way.  That would be like believing in ghosts.  Foolish.  But the three of us will soon be able to have that discussion face to face.  I’m looking forward to it.  Come along now, Tom, the second bottle has arrived.  Pour her a drink.

“Jesus Christ!”

General consternation sounds like an incompetent military leader, but it is probably the best description for what was happening around Tom and Sally’s table.  Tom had lifted the bottle and begun to pour.  But he didn’t know his own strength.  Or rather he didn’t know mine.  His grip on the bottle tightened like a noose until the bottle shattered, showering the unhappy couple with Pinot Grigio and sending splinters of glass everywhere.  I’m not exactly a poltergeist, they don’t exist by the way, but I made sure some of the glass went where it needed to.  A freak accident is how it was later described by those who were there and therefore must know.  The first shard sliced through Tom’s shirt and severed the carotid artery.  There was more blood than Pinot.  In less than a minute he was what people call dead, although we know better, don’t we?

Sally’s demise was even swifter.  A shiver of glass pierced her eye and came to rest deep in her brain.


About the Author:

Alec has had a number of careers, some of them still ongoing. After a brief spell with the BBC 2 arts programme, "Late Night Line-Up", he moved on to Radios 1 and 2 where he produced "Night Ride", giving Genesis their first national broadcast.

Alec went on to become an award-winning radio drama director and creator of radio documentaries and features, one of which required him to spend a week with the French Foreign Legion!

During that time, he also wrote and directed two musicals for radio, "Misrule", starring Max Wall, and "Gilgamesh", with Ian Holm; the latter was the BBC's entry for the Prix Futura award in Berlin.

After leaving the BBC,Alec was commissioned to write and produce a double CD tribute to Princess Diana. Within days of its release in America it had sold over 100,000 copies. As a result, he won the prestigious international Audi award for best creative work.

Since then, Alec has produced hundreds of audiobooks, adapted TV and movie soundtracks for audio release, and was even commissioned to write two new 'Thomas the Tank Engine' stories! He also wrote book and lyrics for 'Muscles the Musical', which was premiered at The Landor theatre in London where the 'House Full' sign was up most nights. There are hopes for a revival in a larger theatre.

Alec's publications have included two anthologies based on Radio 4’s ‘With Great Pleasure’, poems in ‘The Sunday Times’ newspaper and numerous magazine articles, and poems. 'For Her Bones' is his first fiction book. He is thinking about his next one.

https://alecreidwriter.com/

https://www.facebook.com/alec.reid.73/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20849030.Alec_Reid