Author Archives: deborahcfoulkes
As you may have seen in the news, York has been underwater and we, where we live have had a white knuckle few days and while it’s calm and dry for now, Storm Frank may just tip the river over the edge. But at our end of the river Ouse, everything has held steady and we’ve to count our blessings every day that the flood defenses have done what they were supposed to. But that’s right now and I want to look at my 2015.
After a hard 2013 and an even tougher 2014, this year for me has brought many blessings and I’m grateful for all of it. Those who were close know that during the end of 2013 I was struggling and by 2014 I’d descended into a near breakdown situation. Some events were caused by my own naive decisions and some by things that were out of my control. I walked into January this year with a new positive and feisty attitude and was ready to recover and get better and once I get it into my head to do something nothing stops me. With the help of family and friends, the recovery for me was a smooth one and part of the healing process was to focus on the writing.
I was working on the fourth Mina Book and playing around with a story on Matthew Hopkins at the start of the year. The new positive energy was driving both projects forward, but admittedly, my own self-confidence in my work took a little longer to catch up. Then by the middle of the year, I found someone who boosted it.
While doing a formatting project for David Baker the author, he told me about the editor he used. I’d been mulling around the idea for a while. Funds being the biggest issue, but then I took the plunge. Surely this guy would tell me if I was wasting my time.
John Hudspith has been one of the greatest investments I’ve ever made. He has near on finished editing The Mina Marley Chronicles: Micka and Me and has given constructive and positive feedback. This has given me the extra confidence knowing that I’m good enough and my next challenge in the coming year is self-promotion, which I admittedly am rubbish at.
I also started a fantasy epic which I’m writing with a new author and good friend Daniel Hinsley and I can honestly say I’m excited at the work we’ve already done and what there is left to do.
So 2016, I will be promoting a lot more, investing in signings and book fairs and getting the word out there that I’m around. I also will be sending Hopkins to John for editing once he’s done with Mina, which I’m sure he will love. Fingers crossed anyway.
My 2016 projects and releases will be Hopkins’ Last Witch, a fictional tale centred around the historical figures of Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne who in the 1640’s, during the Civil War, sent around 200 people in East Anglia to their deaths as witches. The story focuses on both Matthew and a fictional character Sinead Crowley accused of murdering her lover with witchcraft. I’m hoping that it will make people look at the events and character Hopkins a little differently.
Also I will be continuing to write the fantasy with Dan, which is based on the world where our seasons come from. It’s a coming of age tale of how one young man is thrust into power while he struggles with his own demons, while the once queen of Winter tries to find her own place in a world that no longer wants her.
Then there’s the final Mina Marley book, which promises to be an explosive and surprising ending to a series that I’ve loved. It’s a bittersweet goodbye, but I’ve loved every moment with them all in Supton.
So that’s my goal for next year and I must say I’m looking forward to some serious writing and meeting some amazing people. So once again thank you all for your support and I will see you on the other side.
Apart from writing, I’ve managed to squeeze in some reading and some from writers that I’d not read before. So my seasonal blog focus’ on my favourite reads of 2015.
The first one is Kate Quinn’s Mistress of Rome, because it’s one of the last that I’ve read. This was one of those books that I couldn’t put down from the first page.
Another I thoroughly enjoyed was by MJ Logue The Smoke of her Burning. My initial interest was peaked when I found out that the story was based around the battle at Selby during the English Civil War. Then I got to know the author and was asked to read it pre-release. It had all the elements of a good story. Humour, tension and bloody good characters.
Conn Iggulden’s War of the Rose series was one that I started this year. Already starting book two, Iggulden’s writing just brings history and characters alive.
Praetorian is another good read by SJ Turney. I love his Marius Mules series, but I think I loved this a little more. The characters were great and believable, with a lot of action. It’s definitely a book to get your teeth into.
Ben Kane is one of my favourite authors and I enjoyed his 2015 release Eagles at War. Reading this, Kane had created characters that left me torn between which character’s side I stood on. I love them both equally and both being on opposing ends left me conflicted. I can’t wait to read the next installment and find out where it takes me.
And finally there’s Stephen Lloyd Jones’ The String Diaries and Written in the Blood. I was recommended both and very much like Kate Quinn’s, I couldn’t stop reading this. The story centred around a family and their curse of being chased by an ancient shapeshifting race. From the very first page it’s fast paced and breathtaking. I loved both books and can’t wait to see if he writes a third.
This year I’ve been so privilaged to read so many new books and meet some great authors. These are just snippets of my 2015 reading.
With the winter season finally taking hold, the effects of Storm Desmond has thankfully not affected where I live. The River Ouse holding steady for the time being anyway. With so many losing so much, it makes you feel grateful for every blessing you can. Something that is becoming abundantly obvious is that every one of us should be grateful every day for waking up warm, alive and safe, because so many don’t or can’t.
Religion has played high on the media’s topic and at this time of year there are many religious festivals. From Christmas to the Winter Solstice. Our household is a dual faith one, my daughter being a catholic and myself a pagan. We celebrate both festivities and acknowledge the message that all the festivals bring, which is unity, family and love.
For me as a pagan, it’s a time where all my harvest has been gathered and now I rest and wait for the return of the Sun God who is borne from the Goddess. I decorate my house with tinsel and lights to encourage the Sun’s return and have a Christmas tree. I don’t care that it’s called a Christmas tree, because it is what it is. When it’s time for the tree topper, my daughter and I hold it in our hands together and say a prayer, asking the old and new Gods to bless the house and to welcome the Christmas Spirit in with its joyous energy.
When it comes to the tree, many people are OCD about colours, themes and what’s modern etc. I’m not, I like to use my tree as a place to hang memories. I hang decorations that were once my gran’s and my mum’s. Ones that my daughter made and my ex mother in law made. As well as those that I’ve just liked. My tree is a mis mash of colours and sizes with both coloured and white lights. It’s far from perfect, but it has meaning.
I also dress my altar with gold and red candles, a bowl of orange cloves, rosemary, holly and cinnamon. This is my acknowledgement to the pagan Gods.
So when people ask me what I do at Christmas as Pagan, it’s easy, I do pretty much what everyone else does. There’s a lot traditions that have pagan foundations, but one of the key messages we must take forward into the next year is about respect. No matter what we believe or don’t we must respect one another.
Someone once told me that in days of old the truth was held in a large mirror. When it was smashed the pieces spread far and wide and each one of us has only a piece of that mirror, but if we all put our pieces together then the truth would be revealed and I think that’s a strong story to think about. No one has the right answers, but we all have a little piece. Work together and show respect and the world may just be a better place.
At the weekend I embarked on a weekend adventure into East Anglia where Matthew Hopkins reigned terror over his home county. Staying in Norwich as a base, I spent the Saturday in Manningtree, where Hopkins lived and owned property. A good 40 minutes on the train from Norwich, the station was situated around 20 mins from the town. One of the things that dawned on me was our almost desolate the place was. In the middle of the countryside, it’s surrounded my beautiful scenery.
Twenty minutes later, I’d walked into the quaint little town. There was little there that pointed towards Matthew Hopkins there. No historical reference as though he’s not to be remembered. The Mistley Thorn Inn which stands now is a replacement building of the Inn of the same name that Hopkins had a share in and seems to the only reminder of their famous son. However, the visit allowed me to understand how easily it would have been for Hopkins and Stearne to do what they did. The town would have been somewhat smaller than it is not and the size would have been a great advantage. Paranoia was like dry kindling and one spark could consume and destroy one person’s life.
The mentality of town folk and those of the city are different as they are today. Anything unexplained was exemplified by the tightknit community. God forbid if you were different both physically or mentally because it was a fast-track way of getting to the gallows. So though I found very little of Hopkins in Manningtree, I did get a sense of the land and county that he travelled around.
The Norfolk and Essex countryside, is beautiful and vast and it’s not hard to imagine how that land would have been impacted with the Civil War. Soldiers from both camps marching and riding across the land trying to survive. I was definitely inspired by just being there and now feel able to give the scenes in the book much more depth and feeling.
So my journey with Hopkins continues and so does the book.
I remember the first time I decided to pick up a pen and write a book. I’d been on a family holiday to Tintagal and there, I had my first connection with Morgan Le Fay as a character. It was a daunting task. Not only was I going to attempt a full-length novel, but I was going to tackle one of the biggest stories around. (I don’t do things by halves)
That was the start of my writing journey and it was a tough one. Crippled with so many confidence issues and others that were personal such as breakdowns in family life, it’s a wonder I managed to keep going. Morgan, sat on the back shelf for a long while and then I had the idea for Immortal. It was as though, I’d planted the seed of a new life and it was starting to grow into something I could work with. Immortal became known as my cursed piece. The damn thing kept getting lost, then corrupted and in the end I just gave up with it. Maybe someone upstairs wasn’t wanting this written. Ironic given the themes. The story is inspired by the Book of Revelations, one of the few parts of the bible that fascinates me. I wanted to explore the idea of what we as a society would do if faced with the Second Coming and Immortal centres around a Preist who must find out whether a brother or a sister are that. But while it lost itself, I was already plotting The Higher Trilogy. But years later, while tidying up my computer, I found the file for Immortal and it opened with no issues, so with triple backing and mulitple saves, I managed to get it out and published.
As corny as it sounds, The Higher came from a dream I had, and I still have the envelope that I scribbled notes on upon waking. I dreamt that I was watching the moment when God became God and he was appointing his angels. So I started work on the story based on that scene. At that time, my daughter was in the choir and while attending Good Friday, I remember sat listening to the Gospel of Jesus’ crucifixtion and thinking ‘What was God doing while this was happening’ and that was book two.
Mina Marley came as something small that grew into a monster. I needed to gain more traffic to my website to promote my books and so created a fictional online blog series based on a woman who lived in Supton. It was very much going to be like a seralised blog that was updated every Wednesday for people to follow. But it grew in popularity and the books were born. Telling the story in the style used by Bram Stoker in Dracula. The narrative told through Blogs, Emails, Texts and Phonecalls.
When I started on this journey, I never expected it to take me on the path it did. I may not be rolling in royalties, which would be nice, but I’ve met some amazing people, who I’ve learned a hell of a lot from. Now writing is like breathing, I can’t imagine my life without doing it. It also helped in other circumstances. I’ve made it no secret that I battle bouts of depression and anxiety, and it’s in those moments where I’ve felt like giving up that I’ve always found comfort and solace in writing whatever comes into my head. Venting those emotions into a more constructive way.
And this is why I do what I do. The love and passion of creating something from nothing that gives others pleasure as well as being part of a world where you always have constant support from those just starting out to bestsellers.
For my first Author Spotlight, I introduce the author of Stolen, Sheila Dalton. Stolen is set during the 17th Century and focuses around the character Lizbet, a young girl who loses her parents at the start of the story due to a pirate raid on her village, and is forced on a journey. It’s one of self discovery and bravery where Lizbet comes face to face with many perils which adds to the building of her as a character and turning into a woman.
Dalton’s writing for me, really brought that world to life, with beautifully descriptive language that drags you in and commits you to her world. The bond as a reader towards Lizbet grew each page turned and I was on her side quickly wanting her survive and make it through each obstacle met.
Stolen is only a short peice of work, but the impact that Dalton creates is enough for it to be a strong piece and I can see that many in the YA market will enjoy and invest in Lizbet as a character and Dalton as an author.
So with that in mind, I’m giving Stolen 4**** REVIEW and recommending her to you all.
Interview with Shelia Dalton
What made you start writing?
We used to put on little plays as kids in England, and I started to think I would like to write one of my own. We played dress-up all the time, and there was something magical about it. I never did write a play until my first year of university, but I did start making up stories.
What is the inspiration behind Lizbet’s story?
Her particular story – losing her parents and all her kith and kin in a pirate raid – came to me because of places I’d visited in Morocco and Devon, England.
Tell me about the historical period her story is set in and why you chose it?
I chose the 17th century because I saw the underground dungeons in Morocco where I was told the Christian slaves were kept, and I visited the places along the coast of Devon where both British and Moroccan pirates operated. I was intrigued, and when I began to read up on these events, I discovered that raids along the British coast by Barbary corsairs had taken place in the 17th century. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. The 17th century was both the Age of Exploration and The Golden Age of Piracy. It was a time when the old world was discovering the new, when different races met each other for the first time. It was an exciting, brutal, fascinating era, and one that had not been written about all that much.
They say that there are two types of writer. A gardener, who plants the seed and allows the freedom of the story to take over. Or the Architect who carefully plans and plots every detail. Which one describes you best?
I’m actually both! I can never pin down exactly where a story comes from – I think many seeds are planted by what I read, see, hear, discover, and invent – but then I’m pretty careful about plotting, and usually have an ending in mind before I begin to write. But things do change in the process of writing – the story and characters take over, and it sometimes becomes clear that things I had planned to write are not going to work, so I change them.
Who were you literary heroes?
I have quite a few literary heroes, and, on the surface, they don’t seem to have a lot in common! Early on I read and was inspired by Anais Nin, Doris Lessing and Irish Murdoch. Later, I fell in love with Sarah Waters and Lisa See. I love a book with a good plot, thought-provoking themes, great character development, and a strong female lead.
Are they are more projects in the pipeline and are you able to tell me a little about them?
I’ve already finished a novella featuring my Siamese-mix, Pinky, but I have no immediate plans to publish it. It’s about a cat who becomes able to think, rather like a human, after a trauma – in this case, the death of his favourite person, the husband of the widow in the story (based on me and my husband). He doesn’t like this, but is stuck with it. His story is about the changes in his and the widow’s life, and how he comes to terms with them. There’s a bit of a love story involved, too.
I’m also thinking about a sequel to Stolen, and have begun two other novels – one about an entomologist who discovers a rare dragonfly in Guatemala; the other about an apparent murder/suicide of two young gay men in an Andy-Warhol type group in sixties London. But I’m also in a bit of a writing slump, and wonder if I will ever finish any of them!
You can buy Stolen from Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Itunes
How many of us have been a victim of gossip and rumour. In the world of social media that can, in many cases, lead to the ruination of a person’s life. All it takes is one word, or picture and in a few clicks, it’s shared not just locally, but nationally and globally. The society we live in makes this a way of life. The reason certain magazines sell is because as members of the public we enjoy seeing celebrities being stripped bare with the use of gossip.
In the 1600’s, the Pendle witches were victims of gossip and inevitably led to many deaths. Whether they were practising witches was by the by. They were a family who lived on the outside of society and their village, which mean they were easy targets. Elizabeth Southerner ( Demdike) and Anne Whittle (Chattox) the most famous. On March 16th 1612, Demdike’s daughter Alizon met a pedlar by the name of John Law and asked to sell her some pins, which he refused. In the moment of rashness, she cursed him for being mean and in unfortunate circumstances he later went on to have a fit. This was the start of the persecution not helped by the fact Alizon begged for forgiveness. But the family was already not seen as conforming to the norm and that admission confirmed all’s suspicions. Rumour and speculation further built on that case. By the end, blood was on the town’s hands.
By the 1640’s in the midst of the English Civil War, paranoia was it it’s height. Brother and turned on brother. Families at war. Against the King. Against the Parliment. No-one knew where they really stood and if it was wrong then death would follow. For Matthew Hopkins, the power of a gossip was utilised to the fullest. One pointed finger. One unusual set of circumstances and those that were not liked or behaved strangely would find themselves in irons facing the Witchfinder General. I, for one, know that if I lived in those times I would be tried as a witch. The reasons are simple. I’m a single unmarried mother. Strike one. Next I have an unusual blue mole on my forearm. My witches mark. Strike two. Off to the noose I go.
So, even though we live in a world where gossip can be damaging, we have to be grateful that we have some protection when it comes to privacy. The ignorance and tolerance is a little better and so such deaths don’t occur within our society. It is also food for thought, the next time you speak something about someone ask yourself. Is it right? Is it true? and is it fair?
With the imminent publication of the fifth Mina Marley book: Emergence, I am discussing my characters. Last week if was Mina, now it’s Micka’s turn.
When creating Mina, Micka was there at her side. One couldn’t be created without the other. Perfect balance and partnership.
When writing Micka, I researched angelic lore and worked on what I wanted from Micka and his role in Mina’s life. So, I created a band of angels called the Militants. Pure soldiers of heaven who’s only purpose is to serve and protect and Micka is the leader.
When he first enters Mina’s life, he’s cold, aloof and secretive, but the bond created between he and Mina, changes everything. Finding out that he is Mina’s Godfather complicates matters as does the mere fact Mina belongs to Sebastian Daniels by the order of Micka’s masters.
Mina describes him as nothing like the other angels. The angels wear human suits to communicate with those not themselves. Many chose suits that exude power and strength, but Micka doesn’t. He’s smaller in height with a lean body, but he’s greatest physical characteristic is the mop of unruly dark hair that Mina asserts is untameable. Instead of the normal dark suits that is uniform for angels in human form, Micka opts for the casual red plaid shirts, with a t-shirt underneath and blue jeans.
I’ve had a lot of fun developing Micka as a character and with no voice, readers only note those changes through his actions. He will do anything for Mina, but continually fights with what he is trained to do. That’s one of the reasons I have not and will never give him an internal voice. He needs to remain a mystery even to me sometimes, because I like never really knowing what he’s going to do next. It keeps me interested in him and I hope that’s the same for the readers.
So many of my writer friends are classified in their genre, mainly historical fiction, and are known for what they write, which is bloody good stuff. When people ask what they write, I imagine they quite confidently will say: “I write historical fiction” where as when people as me, it takes a moment for me to answer. That’s because I don’t feel I write for a particular genre. Hence my term Genre Whore.
This has plagued me continuously and no doubt eats away at the ever fragile writer confidence unnecessarily. Should I pick a genre to stick to or should I keep going freely as I have been doing? Yet, I don’t have the luxury of a well known brand to ride off, but all I know is deep in my soul, the story comes to me, I write it and then the genre is considered later. This was particularly true of Immortal. I wrote it and then couldn’t pigeon hole it. This is all fair and well, but when you are trying to sell it as a product then it helps if you know where to put it. :). All my books have similar themes rather than a genre. They are all based on some form of twist of a biblical story or prophecy, both old and new testament, but would hardly categorize them as Christian Fiction, because I very much doubt any devout Christian would appreciate my take on their good book.
Now I’m about to delve into a world that both intimidates and excites me. It’s a genre that I love to read and I’m passionate about. History Fiction. Why does it intimidate me? Well because there are so many great writers out there and a lot I greatly admire that I feel a little out of my depth and also that I may be exposed as a fraud.
Again the over sensitive writers ego.
But I know my subjects and I know them well at that is my boost. I’m not stupid enough to dip my toe into a subjects like Rome or the Vikings. That’s a far too big a pond for me to make even a ripple in. That’s not in anyway demeaning my own skill, but I know the writers of such and they are beautifully talented in their word weaving and the readers have bloody high expectations. I know I am one of those readers.
Now as I start on toe dipping in the History Fiction pond, it now becomes even more evident that I’m changing genres for the sake of the story and I wonder if anyone else feels the same. Do you think sticking to a genre and a market is the way to go? Or should you just worry about that once the story has been told?
Being a pagan/witch, I’ve always taken an interest in witches of the past and of course heard many tales of the torture and execution of men, women and children. Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General was the witches bad guy. The man who tortured and killed over 200 innocents in a two year period, but I didn’t really give him much thought. Then it came to me choosing a dissertation subject.
If you’d have asked at the start of my academic study who I’d have studied I’d have told you that it would have been something based on the Tudors. But by my second year, I realised that when it came to the Tudors, it was so saturated what could I possibly add to it? What was left to say? So then I decided I would look at a local legend that was Guy Fawkes. I wanted to find out what it was about this man who was essentially a terrorist that had captured our hearts. But it just wouldn’t stick and then it came to me. Matthew Hopkins. I would do my study on him and his persecution of witches.
At the time, I was currently studying the English Civil War and was struggling to understand the politics and who was who, so how would I be able to understand the environment that Hopkins was working with? But in the end I knew this was what I wanted to commit to, so I pushed myself to understand.
One of the most surprising things was the more I read and studied the more I began to change my views. The man began to work his way under my skin and I saw him less of a monster but more of an opportunist desperate to make an impact within an unsteady world. Yes, I know that many are going to jump on this and question it, but it’s the truth of how I felt. My tutor even said you have a knack for sympathizing with the bad guy considering my passion for Henry VIII.
He’s right of course. In my writing, I will take the bad guy and turn him into something else. The anti hero. I did it with Morgan le Fay. I just want you to look at a character in a different way and think about it three dimensionally. But before you jump on this and say but he murdered innocents. I agree, Hopkins did but did he kill witches? This I’m not sure is 100% true. The last witch her tried gives me doubts which I’ll share in time. But right now Hopkins is the new centre character in my new book and already in forums the snippets have had a good response. Excellent, I hear you say. Well, this makes me nervous. I’ve no idea who I’m going to write him just yet. Will I give him a traditional battering as the Witches bad guy or will I take the risk and make you see another side to the man? A man who was so desperate by the end of his career that he did something different with one of his last recorded witches.
Well I suppose I will find out and allow him to take me by the hand and possibly to noose. He will either stand with me or against me. It will work or it will flop but I’ve no choice but to write it and love every minute.