logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: all-time-favourites
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-24 14:31
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker's Dracula

 

I was holidaying in Whitby when I first realised that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a surprisingly modern novel. I’d watched the Hammer film versions of the book in my misspent youth and they left with the opinion that the book was a bit of late Victorian gothic horror, no where near good enough for me to need to wade through all that gore. But every Whitby bookshop had a copy of Dracula in its window, and naturally, I soon succumbed, reading it on the top of blowy cliffs and in the shelter of the beaches below. I took it on every walk, along with my butterfly identification book.
 
 
We did a lot of walking that holiday, passing the whaling arch on West Cliff, which Stoker would have passed too, with his family, when he holidayed here in June 1990. He stayed at Royal Crescent and it was there I discovered just how inspiring his time in Whitby must have been. Bram Stoker had found his inspiration. Standing in the crescent, you have a view of the North Sea, past sloping green cliff and grey sands. Across the river estuary are the imposing ruins of the Abbey, which must have been at least as gothic then as it is now.  The churchyard of St Mary lies below, the location of a vampiric attack in the second half of the story. As twilight falls, bats begin to swoop into view.
 
Mina, one of the two young female characters in Dracula, voices Stoker’s thoughts on the town: Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of "Marmion," where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits; there is a legend that a white lady is seen in one of the windows…
 
Bram Stoker also spent time at Whitby library – he made notes from 'An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia’, in which he must have seen the name ‘Dracula’ for the first time. The fifteenth-century Vlad Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) was as bloodthirsty as his fictional counterpart, impaling his enemies on long spikes and nailing turbans to the scalps of foreign ambassadors. Stoker gives his reader the historical allusion that Count Dracula is the descendant of Vlad – in his Author’s Note he explains that the documents assembled in the novel are real. Even as I read this, before starting the novel, I was reminded of the hype around The Blair Witch Project, and saw how astute Stoker was as a writer. 
 
He’d called this story The Un-dead for all the time he was writing it. Just before publication, he changed his title to  the wonderfully charged-up name of the antagonis. This  may have changed its destiny, although ‘un-dead’ remains a popular trope today, especially in Young Adult literature.
 
I began my holiday read, and soon found that it was not at all like the Hammer Horror version…or for that matter like Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) which I found almost unwatchably hammed up. Dracula contains elements of the conventions of gothic fiction…dark-shadowed, cobwebby castles juxtaposed with vast remote landscapes and vulnerable, virginal girls threatened by black-coated evil-doers… but Stoker contrasts his Transylvanian castle with parochial Whitby and the bustle of London in the 1990s.
 
Starting with that holiday in Whitby, Stoker used a wide range of research methods and a clear understanding of modern character development to write the story, but a stuck with the traditional gothic novel structure; diary entries, letters and newspaper cuttings etc. It opens with the most famous section of the book, Jonathan Harker's Journal, which recounts his visit to Transylvania as a lawyer helping the count through his London property transaction. Harker falls under the spell of the Brides of Dracula and succumbs to the vampire’s influence. This opening feels like it has an impossible resolution and I turned the pages as fast as any modern thriller, needing to know how he could possibly escape with his life. At that point, I had no idea how many other characters would not escape with theirs. The novel keeps twisting and surprising us, as Dracula, on his way to London aboard a ship (hidden in a coffin) is washed up in Whitby and escapes in the shape of a black dog, and we’re introduced to Renfield, who is incarcerated in  a mental asylum where he lives on a diet of flies and spiders.
 
Stoker's masterpiece was part of a fin-de-siècle literary culture obsessed with crime – this was the time that Jack the Ripper stalked Whitechapel – and sensationalism – these were the original ‘naughties’. The book strips away the layers of late Victorian anxiety such as loss of religious traditions,  colonialism, scientific advancement, plus a growing awareness of female sexuality and a continued fear of homosexuality.  The book is a mirror in which generations of readers have explored their own fantasies. 
 
Maurice Richardson described it as; a kind of incestuous, necrophilious, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match, and no one could argue with that (or prevent themselves from rushing to read such a book).
 
 
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
url 2017-03-21 15:14
The Soundtrack of a Novel

 

“All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music” 


Walter Pater’s said that. It’s a famous quote of his, more famous than he is. When I first heard it, I checked him out, to find he was a nineteenth-century art critic and literary theorist who was born in the East End of London.

 

Some think that this quote is bunkum, and that art doesn’t move towards being music, but the idea resonates with me. Why else would Leonard Cohen have moved his writing sideways from prose and poetry to lyrics (oh! the money, maybe…).  Music often enhances reading; I played Bob Marley all the time when I was consumed by A Brief History of Seven Killings 

 

When I write, I’m always aware that certain scenes make a sort of music in my head. My characters, right from before I had anything published, always listened to music, often (this is possibly why these stories weren't published!) for long, closely-described scenes.

 

Then I read the critically acclaimed Teddy Wayne, and heard about how he created a ‘soundtrack’ to his most recent novel Loneran unsettling story of obsessive desire. In his article, Wayne says…A great deal of pop songs are also about romantic obsession and loneliness (often in the same breath), and many ostensible love songs, when you examine the lyrics, are really avowals of stalker-like pursuit or thoughts of the object of desire; the British seem to have a particular fondness for this kind of ballad

 

Wayne chose ten tracks that informed his portrayal of his protagonist. I’m writing book four of the Shaman Mysteries, Flood Gate, and I'm doing the same thing. My chosen tracks each represent a character, and I’m finding wonderful inspiration from listening to these songs. Follow the links to hear the music.

 

In order of appearance:

 

Larry Waish is a small-time poultry farmer who recently lost all his hens in one of the many floods that plague the Somerset Levels. What he’s discovered, is that his neighbour is to blame for his loss, and he’s hopping mad. Larry really loves Country and Western and plays The Eagles Heartache Tonight  a lot, while he’s trying to cope with what happened between him and Jack Spicer at Harper’s Coombe 

 

Jack Spicer, who’s real name is John, farms 200 acres of Somerset land, as his family has for generations. He's recently lost his daughter, and is helping bring up her daughter, baby Olivia. He knows he's been driven to do wrong, and t’s tormenting him. He's a bit of a classical buff, and listening to the slightly sinister tones of Shostakovich’s first piano concerto helped me build his character. By the end of chapter one, Jack is dead.

 

Sabbie Dare is a young shamanic practitioner and therapist who knows it is her destiny to be of service to people on the very edge of life. The victims of evil…the perpetrators of it.  Sabbie’s mad about Pet Shop Boys and pagan music which can vary from folksy to rocking, and includes groups like IncubuSucubus, Dahm the Bard and The Dolmen 

 

Kelly King was 28 when she threw herself off the Clifton Suspension Bridge. She’d never really recovered from her life in The Willows, a local authority children’s home where Kelly, Sabbie and Debs Hitchings all lived when they were children. Kelly was depressed, directionless, and addicted to chocolate cookies. In her last days, she plugged into the music of her childhood, such as Pink’s There you go.

 

Debs Hitchings is a beautician who wanders from boyfriend to boyfriend and job to job. Debs turned up at the very end of In the Moors, (Book One) where she cuts Sabbie’s tortured hair, and has a small part in Unraveled Visions. In this book Debs, and the story of her past, takes centre stage. She’s known for cracking out Beyoncés Crazy in Love 

at the top of her voice as her heels skittered across nighttime pavements.

 

https://www.milesdavis.com

 

Quentin Lachapelle is a thirty-five year old photographer with a nice studio, a pretty wife, and a flourishing career. He meets Sabbie and Debs at Kelly King's funeral, where he offers to take some glamour shots of Debs, although he finds Sabbie’s dark skin tones and angled face interesting. There is more to Quentin that meets the eye…or the lens of his cameras. Quentin is a Miles Davis fan, of course. 

 

DI Reynard Buckely. Fans of the Shaman Mysteries will be delighted to hear that and Rey and Sabbie are still an item. In fact, things hot up between them considerably! Rey made his musical preferences clear in In the Moors, so there’s only one group I could play, and that’s the Stones

 

Fenella Waish is Larry’s sister. Now in her forties, but still living in their childhood home, Fen seeks help from Sabbie for longterm Ornithophobia, her paralysing fear of birds which prevents her going anywhere near Larry’s poultry shed. Fenella loves her laptop, which is her window on the world. Scared to be Lonely might bring tears to her eyes, but she plays it again and again.

 

Tara Yorkman. Before she died, Kelly was fruitlessly searching for her friend Tara, who lived at The Willows from when she was little. Kelly, in need of someone to care for, always looked out for Tara, until she was a teenager. Then she disappeared. When Kelly’s spirit comes to Sabbie in a dream, she feels indebted to continue the quest for the missing girl. I listen to Taylor Swift and other noughties music to get in touch with Tara.

 

Victor Doyle is a successful Bristol business man, a builder of local housing. Now 55, he's loaded, charming and still handsome in a chiselled way, although he’s put on a bit of weight. In the community, he’s a well-loved philanthropist, but underneath, the man is pure, unadulterated evil. I think he’d be rivitted by Pretty Women from Sweeny Todd.

 

If you're writing a novel, or a series of short stories, try finding and playing the soundtrack that perfectly accompanies the story and the characters. It can make a tremendous difference to the outcome. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-03-21 08:21
Books Are the Things That Make Us

Books are the Thing that Makes Us

 
Until I was four, we lived near a big red brick library which was in the centre of a park; St George's Park in Bristol. My father was the one that would take me into the library, rather than just to the swings and duck pond, and I can recall  the way the high bookcases loomed over my head, and the smell of the place, which I believed was the scent of bookworm. Dad would let me chose my own books from the children's section because he’d be busy picking his selection from the grown-up fiction. He loved authors like  Howard Spring, Neville Shute, George Orwell and John Steinbeck. I liked Milly Molly Mandy, the tales of Little Grey Rabbit and anything by Beatrice Potter. When we got home, he’d read the books to me. 
 
When I look back, the strangest, most obscure stories have left the biggest impression. One of the most loved books I actually owned was called Unicorn Island. My father read to me when I was little, but very soon I’d learned to read on my own and then I reread it a million times afterward. A coastal village of disparate animals are in fear of the offshore island, where white flashes of the dangerous unicorn can be seen circumnavigating the mountain.When the hero’s little brother falls dangerously ill, he and his friends take it upon themselves to brave the island and come back with a healing herb. They discover all manner of wonderful things there, and the unicorn turns out to be the most marvellous of all. There is a slightly sinister atmosphere to the story and a gravity you don’t often find in picture books now…a precursor (but with a far longer story) of Where the Wild things Are.
 
Not long after I’d started to read on my own, I realized I wanted to be a writer.
 
My first infant school teacher, Mrs Marsden, read a story to the class. It might have been the fable 'The Mouse and the Lion', but I can't really remember.
 
Mrs Marsden finished reading aloud and then asked the class to write a story themselves. It was then that I had my early epiphany. I was dumbfounded. For the first time, I realized that the books I loved had actually been written by real human beings. Before that, I thought they must have fallen from some sort of story heaven. It was a revelation. I haven't looked back.
It was Mrs Marsden that turned me onto full-length fiction. I was going to borrow yet another Milly Molly Mandy from the class bookshelf when she accosted me, grabbed a thick volume from the shelf above and said, “You’re past all these baby books. Try this that one, Nina.” She handed me Mary Poppins, which I can remember taking to bed because I could not put it down. Maybe I read it too young, though, for when I read it aloud to my children thirty years later, the only things that rang a bell was the marvellously flavoured medicine and a strange man on a ceiling.

I was often in bed with asthma, when I was small, and liked a stack of books beside my bed. There were books I’d return to time and again as a small child. The Adventures of Manly Mouse was one – Manly lived in a world where mice who went about their human-like endeavours in a little mousy town. Manly was a deliciously flawed character, often losing his job or breaking with good friends. He drove a dilapidated car and was easily duped by more suave mice. A phrase our family uses to this day came from the lips of one of Manly’s posh employers who had put Manly to work cleaning his posh car (he turned out to be a poor mouse in scam disguise)…and when I say shine, I don’t mean shine, I mean gleam. And when I say gleam, I don’t mean gleam, I mean glitter
 
I can’t pretend I didn’t grow up on Enid Blyton, but the works that made the most impression were the magical Narnia stories, the weird adventures of Alice and the tiny world of The Borrowers. By the time I was twelve, I’d read all of the Anne of Green Gables series. I loved the way Anne hurtled through life. Her ‘modular’ way of learning (by making every mistake in the book – literally) suits me to this day. But, as the books watched her grow into a woman, I also (creep!) loved her commitment to duty and her attitude to life, which reminds me of that quote from Man for all Seasons, when Richard Rich asks… 'If I was, (a teacher) who would know it?' And Thomas Moore replies…'You, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad public, that…’
I wrote my first novel at the age of fifteen. Well, okay I started to write a novel which I never finished. I wrote it by longhand and asked my friend to type it out. She was doing exams in typing at the time, so she was quite pleased. Every evening, I wrote in one corner of the room, while she typed at the table. Blissful silence until Maggie looked up and said, 'it is a bit old-fashioned, but it's really nice.'
 
'Thanks,' I simpered. I'm hoping people will enjoy it.'
 
'Nina,' she said, 'I was talking about my new dress. I've been talking about my new dress for the last five minutes.'
I do believe I've got better since then, both at writing and listening to criticism! I can remember bursting with pride when I received the first copies of the first book I had published; a children's novel with HarperCollins (still available from Amazon).
 
As a children’s writer, I am bound to be influenced by the books I read as a child.I’ve even tried to rewrite some of their ideas into my own work, although that has rarely worked, and most of those early stories were never published. They were my apprenticeship, I guess, and although almost all of them are gone from my hands, I will never forget their stories and characters.

In some ways, the books I read made me the person I am. They were probably more influential than my textbooks or my teachers…or even my parents.
 
I think that’s true of a lot of people. Books are the things that make us, when we are young. Finding ourselves inside those marvellous adventures gives us hope, fires our dreams and helps us cope with the things life throws at us. 

 

 
 
Source: kitchentablewriters.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/sarah-hilary-shadow-side-of-writing.html
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-09-19 12:38
Seamlessly Blends the Mystical…A review of Beneath the Tor by Nina Milton

Seamlessly Blends the Mystical…

 
 
An extremely original and engrossing novel - highly recommended…seamlessly blends the mystical with the realities of every-day life

Thank you, Indie Shaman for you marvellous review of the third in the Shaman Mystery Series.

Beneath the Tor is a compelling and well-paced mystery which contains recognisable and authentic diverse characters…an absorbing and intriguing murder mystery.

 

I was so delighted when June Kent, editor of the Indie Shaman Magazine review my latest novel, because I love that magazine! Every issue is packed with articles on spirituality and shamanism, laid out in a colourful and well-balanced way, with regulars, such as Plant lore, a poem, Community News and always contributions from the elders of the shaman world. Book reviews are a regular in the mag, and I was proud – honoured – to be among them.

Almost as important, I can buy Indie Shaman as a hold-in-the-hand magazine. I spend enough time on that computer – I like to flop down in comfort to read…especially when the mag says lovely things about my writing…

Set in the West Country, Beneath the Tor is the 3rd of author Nina Milton's  Shaman Mystery series in which therapeutic shaman Sabbie Dare uses her shamanic skills to solve murder mysteries. 

I write my crime thrillers for all readers, but as Sabbie Dare, my central character in the series, is a  shamanic practitioner by trade, the opinion of those who live a shamanic way of life is crucial to me. I aim to make my books, and my heroine, authentic, and so I was quite relieved when the review reinforced this, saying how the book…features many of the issues that affect contemporary shamanism including the serious as well as the amusing (one of my favourite phrases is from a potential workshop participant stating, "I'm already a shaman. I've done all the courses.")  The book also contains excellent descriptions of Sabbie's shamanic journeys and of her work with her guide, an otter called Trendle.

By the way, if you're reading this, and wondering what a shamanic journey is, and how a person's
guide can be an otter with a name, then dip over to my explanatory Page in this Blog; British Shamanism

Writing a review for good fiction…the editor's review continues…is difficult due to the tendency to get absorbed in the story, carrying the book with you everywhere, staying up late 'just finish this bit'…and totally forgetting about the review…And this was certainly the case with Beneath the Tor!

I'm full of gratitude for this endorsement from Indie Shaman, but also dead chuffed that June Kent couldn't put my book down!

If you'd like to read a bit of Beneath the Tor, you can do so. By clicking here, you will find yourself on my Amazon "Look Inside" Page where you can click on the cover of the book.

Meanwhile, have a look at Indie Shaman. It's not just for people with rattles and eye fringes, but for anyone interested in living ethically according to shamanic principles. The 48-page full-colour magazine can be ordered via snail mail or, for a mere £10 (UK) per year, downloaded as a PDF.

Thanks again, Indie Shaman!
Source: kitchentablewriters.blogspot.com.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/the-seven-novels-that-entirely-changed.html?spref=fb
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2016-09-19 12:34
Motive for Murder–Change or Status Quo? The Shaman Mystery Series

Motive for Murder–Change or Status Quo?

 



 
 
 
In Unraveled Visions, the 2nd of my Shaman Mystery Series, a character says…“Ninety-nine percent of murders only have one of two true motives. Change, or status quo.” 
 
Is that so? Rey Buckley,  detective and love interest in the Shaman Mysteries Series believes so; I’m still unsure; I never pretend to hold the same views as my characters. 
 
Detective Reynard Buckley meets Sabbie Dare – the 30 year old heroine of the series – at the start of Book One, In the Moors. D.S Buckley is investigating a child abduction and murder when he knocks on her door. Rey is the archetypal humourless, maverick policeman who quickly brands shamanic therapist Sabbie as a crank. He considers her profession ‘mumbo jumbo’, finding its lack of objective evidence perplexing. Sabbie is equally hesitant…As a bloke, a copper and someone who wore their hair as if they were about to pull on flying goggles, I hadn’t put ‘listening to women’ anywhere on his priorities list.  Even so, she can’t help finding him…interesting – there’s a wriggle of lust in her belly. This makes for a relationship a bit like an upmarket cocktail – bitter, and full of ice, but with a sparkler fizzing at the edge that gets deeper as the books continue.

Sabbie walks in the spirit world to find answers to people’s problems and comes back with images and symbols which manifest each client’s underlying issues. Meanwhile, Rey Buckley clears up crime through old-fashioned police work and hard facts. But they understand they have something in common. They both solve things using what Sabbie would describe as her link to the spirit world – Rey would more likely call it ‘a hunch’.
 
When Rey tells Sabbie that he thinks all murders are due to one of two motives, ‘change’, or ‘status quo’, she challenges this immediately. What about money? Crimes of passion? Suicide bombers? What about madness? But Rey’s answer is unequivocal. He believes all killers crave one of two things. Either they want change – the big win, a new political situation. Or they are desperate that things should not change – they kill their lover’s spouse, or kill to stop a crime being discovered. Sane or mad, Rey concludes that the motivations which drive people to kill is not complicated at all.
 
Well, he would, wouldn’t he. Reynard Buckley worked his way up through the ranks and by book three he's having trouble fitting into the ethos of the modern UK police force. Sabbie survived an extreme childhood; she never knew her father, and after she lost her mother at six years old, she was brought up in children’s homes. She believes she’s the stronger for this background. She gained that strength with the love of two elderly couples; her foster parents Gloria and Philip, and Rhiannon and Bren, two cunning folk she lodged with while taking her degree. 
 
In the Moors focuses on a vile, debased couple, sadistic paedophiles who have murdered and buried their child victims in the vast and boggy Somerset Moors. As the book progresses, we learn that they are long dead, but their spirits are still wandering around the site of the killings; a ruined cottage out on the moors where Sabbie detects their presence…“You can call me Kissie, darling,” said the woman. She had to search in her memory for her name, as if she’d not thought of it for a long time. “We’re Kissie and Pinchie.” she looked at me in such an openly inviting way that I felt my spine contract. 

Kissie and Pinchie killed for ‘change’ – repeating the awful pleasure it afforded them. But at the heart of the novel is another killer, who is kidnapping young children. Is this a desire for change, or a need for status quo? Not until the very end of the book, when Sabbie is in the clutches of the killer, does she find out.
 
Book two – Unraveled Visions – is set in the underworld around migrant workers from other countries. Sabbe meets Kizzy and Mirela, Bulgarian Romas who are working in slave conditions. Kizzy is missing and her sister is worried… “Kizzy say we move on. Go find better thing to do. More money. She say, save and go back head high. She say, Mirela. take little risk. I don’t like. She say, ‘Mirela, you so uncool’.”
“Uncool?”
“Like I will never dip my toe.”
“In case the water’s too cold?”
“In case the water poison.”
What Sabbie uncovers is a sickening trade in which life is considered so cheap, bodies are simply discarded. This, too, is “change”…and these despicable people are making a lot of money. 
 
As the Trilogy of the Shaman Mysteries progress, Sabbie begins to realize that it is not entirely coincidence that she constantly encounters these shadow sides. By walking into the otherworld – the spirit realm that shaman enter in a trance state – she has encountered profound philosophies of life. It has made her understand how we carry two sides to our nature. There is always a shadow side to our psyches; inside us is the possibility of hate, greed, envy – the things that lead to wrong-doing, hurting others…murder. It’s her business, as someone who walks on both planes of existence, to help where she can, even when her own safety is threatened.

In Beneath the Tor – book three of the series – a sudden death becomes a catalyst…Alys was dancing as the stars reeled, dancing on Glastonbury Tor on Midsummer Eve. She danced as if the drumbeats were bursting out of her. As if her feet were charmed to never rest.
        I saw her dance.
I saw her drop.
She fell to the ground without a stumble or a cry.
What or who as killed Alys? As Sabbie begins to investigate, she discovers that someone is killing and maiming in Alys’s name. Is this revenge or sudden madness? Is it change or status quo? 
 
I love puzzling out the mystery aspect of my crime fiction, to baffle and amaze the reader, and love to spring surprises on them to keep them on the edge of their seat. My readers say they stay up all night, turning the pages of the Shaman Mysteries; I’m awake at night sorting out the permutations of each murder. How did they do it? Where did they do it? What happened after they did it? And most importantly why did they do it – what brought them to that moment they kill another human being? Was it change, I ask myself? Or status quo?

Right now, I'm writing book four, and this time we definitely have status quo causing the murder we witness see right at the start. At the same time Sabbie is helping her old friend Debs through a terrible time, which will involve finding a missing girl…and the men who are holding her prisoner…

Even I get terrified when I read my books
Nina Milton’s  Shaman Mystery novels, published by Midnight Ink, are available online from Waterstones   the Welsh Book Council and Amazon

“Sabbie Dare is the most compelling protagonist I’ve met this year . . . Milton’s tale is riveting.”…Library Journal starred review 
“Nina Milton has created a unique fictional world in her Shaman Mystery Series, featuring Sabbie Dare as a young shaman. With Beneath the Tor  she passed the ultimate test of a writer, that of causing me to put off useful jobs which I really should have been doing, in order to see what happens next. She has become a mistress of plot-weaving, and above all, she pulls off the trick of setting the totally fantastic amid the totally everyday and making the two fit together with pace and excitement”.…Ronald Hutton, author of Pagan Britain and The Triumph of the Moon.
 
More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?