Monday, 23 November 2015

Monday Moments with Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story

Good Morning!

My Monday Moments are featuring Shani Struthers, one of my Crooked Cat author friends, who has a new story officially launching tomorrow - 24th November. I've read Shani's excellent Psychic Surveys Series already and loved it - it's an entertaining blend of amateur sleuth and paranormal and I'm sure I'll enjoy this new one, too. 

Shani's extremely generously sent along some information for me to share today, including an excerpt- a privileged early peek so make sure to read on for that...  

Welcome to my Monday Moments slot Shani! 

Thank you for hosting me on your blog today! My new book, Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story launches on the 24th November on Amazon and is the prequel to the popular Psychic Surveys series. Featuring two of the Psychic Surveys team – Theo Lawson and Vanessa Patterson – it’s set between 1899 and 1999 and is loosely inspired by a true event.

In my fictional re-telling, Theo and Ness are asked to investigate a town weighed down by the sorrow of what happened 100 years before…

What do you do when a whole town is haunted? 

In 1899, in the North Yorkshire market town of Thorpe Morton, a tragedy occurred; 59 people died at the market hall whilst celebrating Christmas Eve, many of them children. One hundred years on and the spirits of the deceased are restless still, ‘haunting’ the community, refusing to let them forget.

In 1999, psychic investigators Theo Lawson and Ness Patterson are called in to help, sensing immediately on arrival how weighed down the town is. Quickly they discover there’s no safe haven. The past taints everything.

Hurtling towards the anniversary as well as a new millennium, their aim is to move the spirits on, to cleanse the atmosphere so everyone – the living and the dead – can start again. But the spirits prove resistant and soon Theo and Ness are caught up in battle, fighting against something that knows their deepest fears and can twist them in the most dangerous of ways.

They’ll need all their courage to succeed and the help of a little girl too – a spirit who didn’t die at the hall, who shouldn’t even be there…

As Theo turned round to face the double doors, she had a feeling that someone - something - was rushing at her, as fleetingly as whatever had been in Adelaide's house. Refusing to let fear get a stranglehold, she turned back, her aim to confront it. A black wisp of a shape, like wood smoke, sideswiped her, before fading into nothing. Staring after it, wondering what it was, something else caught her attention. At the far end of the second room was something more substantial: a little girl, staring at her.

Theo's eyes widened. "Oh darling, darling," she whispered. She took a step forwards, tried to remember the names of the children on the list from earlier: Alice, Helen, Bessie, Adelaide's ancestor, Ellen Corsby perhaps. Which one was she?

She inched closer still. "Darling, your name, tell me what it is."

The little girl's arms moved upwards, she stretched them out, her manner beseeching although she remained mute. Theo tried again, told the child her own name.

"It's short for Theodora. I bet you're called something pretty."

The girl had a dress on; long, brownish, a course material - linen perhaps? Nothing special but if it was her party dress then maybe it was special to her. Her boots were brown too - lace ups, sturdy looking. She was around eight or nine but it was hard to tell. She could have been older just small for her age. Her hair was brown and tangled; she had a mane of it. Everything about her seemed to be brown or sepia, maybe sepia was the right word, as though she'd stepped out of an old photograph.

"I'm here now, sweetheart, I've come to help. You've been here for such a long time. Too long. You need to go to the light, go home, rest awhile."

Up closer, Theo could read her eyes. The longing in them stirred her pity.

"Let me help you," Theo persisted, her voice catching in her throat. As glorious as the other side might be, she still felt it unfair to be felled at such a young age. Often this was a good existence too and it deserved to be experienced fully.

She was close now, so close and still her arms were outstretched.

Harriet - the name presented itself whole in her mind.

"Your name's Harriet. Is that correct? It's lovely, it suits you."

Was that a smile on the child's lips, the beginnings of trust? Soon she'd be able to reach out and touch her. What would she feel like? Cold? Ethereal?

"Darling, I'm here," she repeated, no more than a foot between them. "I'm here."

Joy surged - one spirit had come forward - it was an encouraging start.

Just before their hands touched everything changed. Hope and joy were replaced with confusion as something sour - fetid almost - rose up, making her feel nauseous.

"Don't be afraid," Theo implored. Yet there was nothing but fear in her eyes now. No, not fear, that was too tame a word - terror.

"I'm not here to harm you," she continued. "I'm here to help."

As the words left her mouth, other hands appeared behind the child, a whole sea of them - disembodied hands that clawed at her, forcing her backwards.

"No!" Theo shouted. "Stop it. Leave her alone!"

But it was no use. Her words faded as the girl did. She'd been torn away, recaptured; the one who'd dared to step forward. Theo could feel sweat break out on her forehead, her hands were clammy. She clutched at her chest, her breathing difficult suddenly, laboured. Her heart had been problematic of late, a result of the pounds she'd piled on. She must go to the doctor to get some medication. Struggling to gain control, it took a few moments, perhaps a full minute, before her heart stopped hammering. And when it did, she remembered something else. The girl's eyes - her sweet, brown, trusting eyes - when the expression changed in them they hadn't been looking at her, they'd been looking beyond her. Was it at the thing that sideswiped her? Theo couldn't be certain. She wasn't certain either if that 'thing' was a spirit or much less than that - something with no soul, but with an appetite, an extreme appetite: a craving. Something, she feared, was insatiable.

That's definitely an appetite whetter, Shani! 

You can get your copy of EVE here: 

About Shani...
Brighton-based author of paranormal fiction, including UK Amazon Bestseller, Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall. Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me, is also available and due out in November 2015 is Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story - the prequel to the Psychic Surveys series. She is also the author of Jessamine, an atmospheric psychological romance set in the Highlands of Scotland and described as a 'Wuthering Heights for the 21st century.'

Psychic Surveys Book Three: 44 Gilmore Street is in progress.

All events in her books are inspired by true life and events.

Catch up with Shani via her website or on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Facebook Author Page:

Thank you for sharing with us today, Shani, and best wishes for a fantastic official launch tomorrow. I'll be popping in when I can - grand childminding duties meaning the timing of that will be a little unpredictable.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Book Week Scotland preparation!


I've been busy today getting organised for my Book Week Scotland events. To help celebrate this wonderful week of encouraging the art of reading, I've set up a couple of things.

1) I've reduced the price of THE TAEXALI GAME across the Amazon network to 99p/99c/ 0.99 Euros for the duration of Book Week Scotland 23rd- 29th November. that my friends and readers in Australia and New Zealand have the same time duration I asked Amazon to do this earlier today (22nd) and it's already live.

2) I have 2 signed copies of THE TAEXALI GAME ready to post out to winners of the draw of people 'liking' my Rubidium Time Travel page on Facebook. If you want to ENTER to WIN a signed copy then hop on over to HERE and click the 'liked' button. To be sure I don't miss your name, please add it to thread on the 'Pinned post' so that I know you want to be in the draw.

Thank you and good luck! 

Also, to start off the Book Week Scotland celebrations here's an excerpt from THE TAEXALI GAME for you to enjoy...

(p.s. I wish  I really was an artist  :-( )


“This Beltane must be different, people of Balbath. Let your animals be sacrificed again rather than yourselves.”
The crowd’s low moan was eerie. All around them Aran and the twins could feel the alarm of the people of Balbath…though they could also see determination in their faces. Were the animals going to be sacrificed on these fires? Aran felt Caitlinn burrow in closer to his leg.
“Are they going to burn these poor cows, Aran?” Fianna whispered in his ear.
Aran’s head shaking was her only reply as the druid returned to his prayers. In actual fact, he hadn’t a clue what was about to happen.
“Let these healthy animals aid us to fight our foe as they did last Lughnasadh.” After the druid warned another time, he walked to one end of the spears and gestured to the people ranged behind the fires on that side, his arms waving towards the sky in a wide circular movement.
His silent signal didn’t make any sense to Aran. It still made no sense when the druid walked to opposite end of the spears and made the same gestures.
Returning to his staff, his arms and stag’s head rose skywards in open supplication. His voice reached epic strength as he bawled a prayer to the heavens.
“Oh, mighty Taranis, from your realm above, give our animals your blessing!”
On the last word, the corral of warriors holding back the cows began to split open. The first of the animals was lashed into movement, forced to launch itself down the avenue of fire towards the druid. The thwacking of birch switches, and the cries of farmers alongside the terrified beast, kept it in motion as it howled and screeched through the fire corridor. The rest of the animals surged forwards into the walkway on the hooves of the first. Running alongside the lowing beasts, to keep them in order, the farmers kept up their hollers.
It was like a mini-earthquake as the cows thudded their way up the glowing orange and red channel. Aran watched the people of Balbath kneel down at their place behind the fires as the beasts proceeded through the fire corridor. The tribespeople touched both hands to the earth below them to feel the pounding of the beasts. Women pulled down some now screaming and howling infants as the great charging of hooves rocked the soil beneath them, the reverberations rippling below the whole arena. Aran felt Caitlinn pull him down, Fianna and Brian following suit mimicking the tribespeople, since the elders alongside him had knelt to the ground as well.
The terrified cattle reached Tuadh’s end of the fire corridor. One by one, they hurtled themselves right or left when they were confronted by the line of spears. Once they had turned, they loped away from the crowds to disappear out into the darkness, where other warriors waited ready to quieten them. Aran understood the significance of the druid’s arm gestures now. The druid had been ensuring the space was cleared for the beasts’ exit.
When rounded up, the terrified cattle would be taken back to their enclosures.
As the last few animals started their charge, a huge and totally deafening roar went up from the crowd, drowning out the thunder of the cows as the people heralded the end of their cleansing ceremony. The few cows that remained bucked and swerved, here and there, trying to run off but were completely distracted by the human clamour around them.
One bewildered animal escaped the handlers and swivelled between the last two fires instead of completing the journey along the whole fire corridor. Terrified shrieks rent the air as the beast trampled over two men in the front row, pounding them into the ground, smashing limbs to pulp as the creature blasted headlong for the darkness beyond the kneeling people. Panic set in as the throng scattered in all directions away from the snorting and crazy beast. Not knowing which way to go in its headlong flight, it constantly changed direction.
“Flee!” Orla cried as the beast whirled towards them.
Aran felt his cloak yanked back as he leapt to his feet, the warrior behind him dragging him away. Brian’s shout indicated much the same was happening to him as he, too, cried out.
“Run, Fianna!”
Caitlinn whimpered in front of Fianna, too transfixed to even get to her feet. Scooping her up by the shoulders Fianna whirled the little girl out of the animal’s path, throwing her aside like a Frisbee and straight into the arms of a warrior who rushed to help them. Her back now to the animal, Fianna began to run but she’d only taken a couple of steps when its head pounded into her, pitching her high into the air like a rag doll before it charged off into the now cleared space around her.
Fianna thumped to the ground.



Saturday, 21 November 2015

Book Week Scotland & The Taexali Game

If you go up to the woods today… might ask - What's that got to do with Book Week Scotland? What follows is some of my every second Saturday post at my Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog but this REBLOG also has added extras about the history of the Hill of Tuach. 

"The ‘up’ isn’t a mistake when I’m referring to the woods at the top of Tuach Hill (pronounced: too-ah) the hill that I can see from my kitchen window in the village of Kintore. It’s a low hill of approximately 75 metres above sea level, typical of the Garioch area of Aberdeenshire where the landscape is of rolling fertile countryside dotted with low hills and knolls—some natural and some man made. Neolithic long barrows (burial mounds) and ancient standing stone circles are also dotted around the area, many of which have been excavated and documented. To the far right of the photo above are the remnants of an ancient standing stone circle, though you can't see them since they're just tucked in behind the lower tree line.  

It’s important to me that these ancient monuments are still accessible by the public – and by my hunter-gatherer grandkids – but the downside of that freedom is that over the last centuries many of the monuments have been considerably eroded. That erosion isn’t necessarily from intended damage to the stones but constant foot traffic and soil wearing away has taken its toll. Tuach Hill is a well-liked place for dog walkers and it has been a popular spot for teenagers to hang- out in for many decades—probably even centuries. Lots of those users have been, and are still, blithely unaware of the antiquity within the area.

It’s a great place to go exploring when you’re only 4 and 1 and ½ years old—and it’s totally amazing just what grandma sets you to find along the way! Our collection of pine cones, twigs and forest floor debris increases each time we go for a wander, though we’ve yet to find anything seriously ancient.
In 1864, a local historian named Watt identified the Neolithic stone circle on Tuach Hill as having 6 remaining stones of a circle that was originally 24 feet in diameter. He states that there was, until recently (i.e. sometime shortly before 1864), a flat stone supported by smaller stones at the centre and the whole circle was surrounded by a wide trench and bank of 12 feet wide. Excavations made at the site (probably by him) revealed four cremation burials at the bases of the upright stones, three of which had inverted urns covering the remains.  Further cremation burials were suspected at the bases of other stones and more at the central stone. The stone circle on Tuach Hill had clearly been an important ceremonial site for a very long time

Sadly, 20 years later it was recorded that only 2 stones remained upright, though exactly why such deterioration had happened in a very short time is unclear.

Today only one stone is upright with a few other bits and pieces scattered around it. 

A recent small excavation of the site was done in 2011 and the results can be accessed here, the gist of it being that the remains on Tuach Hill are unusual in that they are thought to be of a mixture of those typical of a small henge monument yet they are also common to the settings found in the last types of stone circles to be laid down in the late Bronze Age.
You'll get details of that find here: 

I love visiting the remains of the stone circle at Tuach Hill because they are almost on my doorstep and because I've written about Tuach Hill in one of my novels (The Taexali Game), though I have to acknowledge that there are many other circles in Aberdeenshire which are much more impressive, details of which can remain for another blog post.

The Scottish Gaelic form of Kintore is Ceann-an-Torr . The Ceann part means the head or the end of …and ‘Torr’ means a round hill. This is thought to refer to Tuach Hill which is to the south of the town.

According to tradition, though any paper document as proof is long lost, Kintore was first inhabited in the 9th Century AD. It’s said that the locals helped King Kenneth MacAlpine to fight the invading Danes (Vikings) by covering themselves with oak branches and driving their cattle towards the enemy- allowing Kenneth to rout the Danish intruders. How true that is cannot be proven, and my mind boggles at the images I can create for such a scene, but I can easily envisage it all happening at Tuach Hill. The present heraldic Coat of Arms having been formally granted in 1959 incorporates the oak and the cows of the fabled battle. 

I’d love to find more time to investigate the Kenneth MacAlpin era because he is credited with having been the first proper ‘king’ of the whole of Scotland. Before the time of the above legend involving killing the Danes, Kenneth MacAlpin was King of Dalriada, a huge tract of land in the West of Scotland. Kintore, in pre- MacAlpin times was part of what is loosely named Pictland, the last king of the area thought to have been Drest mac Fethal (IX) who was most likely killed by Kenneth Mac Alpin around AD 848. Why the locals then assisted their new ruler very soon after, approximately AD 850, is intriguing though a good degree of coercion comes to my mind.

Tuach Hill has also been called the Gallows Hill though, to date, I can find no research data which explains why this should be so...though you can find out one theory I've ruled out by reading  The Taexali Game. 

In The Taexali Game, my time travel novel for Middle Grade/YA readers, set in Kintore in AD 210, my local Taexali chief is called Tuadh. In the earlier drafts of the novel he was named Tuach, and then Tuoch, but in my final version I settled on the spelling of Tuadh. The reason for this has to do with the local mystery that my time travellers have to solve, in addition to completing their interactive game task list whilst remaining alive- the threats to them coming from both the invading Ancient roman legions and some local Celtic tribesmen. To know the answer as to why I changed his name- again, you’ll need to read the novel.

A reviewer says:  “(I)… soon became drawn into this fast-paced quest with a strong sense of history, and can only admire the skill of grandmother Nancy Jardine in using a meld of fiction, research and fantasy to educate the young of today in the world of ancient Roman Britain.”

About Book Week Scotland? 

Next week, 23rd to 29th November, is Book Week Scotland. This annual event is a week long celebration of reading during which activities are held throughout Scotland intended to encourage and promote the pleasures gained from reading. In 2013, a local author friend and I held an afternoon Drop-In Quiz at a local cafe, and my 2014 contribution was an author talk at a local Public Library. 

During Book Week Scotland 2015 The Taexali Game will be reduced to 99p (dollar equivalent). There will also be a ‘giveaway’ of signed paperback copies of The Taexali Game via my Rubidium Time Travel Series author page on Facebook.  Look out for the details here on late Saturday 21st Nov :

It’s my way of celebrating this year but I did wonder what else I might have done. What would you have done?