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This year has been one of the most difficult in a long while not just personally, but creatively. The fall out of restructure at work, where there were losses, changes in job roles and the pressures that go with it, there’s been a total shut down of most of my creative juices as I’ve struggled intensely with anxiety and depression. The feeling of total helplessness and lack of self-worth has been hard demon to fight against. However, I’ve always been a fighter and have the attitude that it’s a demon I will never let beat me into submission.
So how has this affected me in doing what I love? Well the downside of working to beat it, means that all my energy has been focussed on getting better and writing has been the victim that has taken the brunt.
I’ve always been vocal about how much writing has been a massive factor in keeping my mental health at bay. It was something that was encouraged as a teenager in order to stop some very destructive behaviour, because that’s what happens. When all is against me, I start to exhibt self destructive behaviours that are almost in danger of becoming self fulfilling prophacies. I am my worst enemy, but this time, my writing block has turned from one brick to a fortress that I’ve struggled to break down.
This year, I should have finished the last Mina Marley book and completed my next history fiction, but I’m nowhere near. I feel that I’ve dropped off any writing social media platforms and questioned why should I even bother to continue. The self-doubt almost crippling. Staring at the pc screen for ages, or even sometimes not even picking the laptop up. A far cry from being permanently attached to it. There’s a strange feeling when something that was once so natural becomes difficult to do. Do you accept that maybe you got it wrong and this isn’t what you are at all? A fake trying to make it look like you know what you are doing and have some talent? A break was needed and some healing, so I took it. It’s the first time, I’ve been grateful to be self-published with no agent or publisher pushing for deadlines, because this year I wouldn’t have made it.
So 2017 has been the year that I nearly stopped writing, but I’m determined to change that in 2018. There’s a lot to be grateful for and it’s easy to lose sight of that. I will be going into the new year with a much more positive attitude. The books will be finished and a fresh start.
We all have this idea as children that when we get to a certain age we will have everything that we need to be an adult. Well on the 1st of April 2017 I reached 40 and the six months running up to it, I had a panic meltdown about the whole reaching 40 thing. It wasn’t about the age as such, it was more about that I had was fast approaching an age where I should be more adult and more grown-up and all I was feeling was out of my depth and like I was wading in mud. It didn’t help that for the past two years my job in a public library was in major restructure and public consultation. The Local Government had to save money and Libraries was the easy victim. The uncertainty and reality had brought to light just how insecure my career choice was and the greater need to find out where to go next. That created anxiety.
When I was a child right up until I met my daughter’s father, I wanted to work in movies or TV. An actress for starters and then producing and directing. My choices after returning home from living in London meant that I was soon living a family life with a young child and a fiancé. My twenties were spent trying to juggle motherhood and full time work as well as being a partner. Admittedly not all these I did well, but then when I reached my 30’s my life changed beyond recognition. I was suddenly a single parent, but I was on my way to getting the life I wanted. Being part of a relationship from a young age had caused me to lose myself and so much of my 30’s was about self discovery. I went to university and discovered that I was actually not that stupid and I had the ability to do anything. Then I published my first book and continued to write.
The loss of both parents became one of my toughest battles to deal with. The year my father died in 2013, I had rather stupidly got myself involved in an online friendship that became too involved too quickly and of course, as so often happens, any online connection is not a true one and I got hurt. So this on top of grief caused a massive meltdown that was dangerously close to destroying me mentally and emotionally. I’m no stranger to depression and anxiety having suffered since my teens, however, 2013-2014 was nothing that I’d dealt with before. But luckily for me I had a lot of support and my own inner fighter was determined never to let it beat it and I did.
All great but then as the forties approached I began to look at my life in comparison to everyone else. On Facebook all my old school friends seemed to have got all their shit together and I was still playing around and deciding what I was doing. I know Facebook is a lie and we all put our Facebook Front on, but still I was doubting myself. I’d not got married, I had one child who was beautiful and talented, but not had the big family. All the things society says you should do.
Then the day arrived and it wasn’t too bad and I realised that this is my life journey no one elses and so what if I don’t have my shit together I can happily go to my deathbed and say I had a blast at getting to the point of getting my shit together.
So my message to all is it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. It’s your life and do what you live and laugh often.
An intriguing tale that takes place during the English Civil War about The Witch Finder General, Matthew Hopkins. The village of Hopton is shaken by a death and witchcraft is suspected as the cause. Matthew and his crew find themselves embroiled in a very confusing situation compounded by many factors that make this case very difficult for all involved. The author does a fine job in rendering the hysteria, the fear and the hatred that the villagers feel towards the accused. The characters are portrayed in a way that takes the reader into the mindset of this unfortunate time period of inquisition and religious fanaticism. The story starts out to be a straight forward example of a superstitious accusation but the author entwines other human frailties and emotions into the mix making for entertaining plot twists. This is certainly a page turning delight to read. 4.3 stars
I met Suzanne at an author event we were both attending and as what often happens we swapped books. I’ll be honest, the cover put me off a little. It seemed to shout out everything that I didn’t like. Like a Regency Mills and Boon, however, the first chapter Suzanne offered me had me gripped and once I returned home and downloaded it, I realised that it was exactly the book I loved.
The Beguiler is set in the Regency period and centres around two characters Rebecca, a witch and Nicholas, a failed trader. After Rangers raid Rebecca’s town hunting for witches, Rebecca is thrust into the path of Nicholas, whose family are famed for being one of the best in witch trading. They capture witches maximise their powers, before selling them to prospective buyers for profit. However, Rebecca soon gets under Nicolas’s skin and when her power is shown to be beguiling, then the price on her head is much greater. Now the two have to work together in order to save each other.
Suzanne’s writing reminded me a lot of Paula Brackston’s Winter Witch. The narrative and themes were very similar, making it a very easy and addictive read. I couldn’t put it down once I started and was in love with Rebecca from the very start. This is Suzanne’s debut and I would say it’s one hell of a debut and could be one that makes a big splash in the right market. She is an amazing story teller and The Beguiler is beautiful piece of story telling. I’ve no idea if this will be a continued series, but I know I would read more of Suzanne’s work and through I didn’t love the cover, what’s inside it is perfect for those who love Brackston or Harkness.
Interview with Suzanne
Suzanne Jackson lives in England, in a small village not far from York, and is married and has two grown up children. Until recently she also had a very old Burmilla cat. As a teenager, Suzanne wrote poetry and short stories purely for herself, cutting out pictures from magazines as inspiration. She loves reading Romance and Fantasy novels, and very much enjoys Romantic Fantasy, where both elements are combined.
The setting for The Beguiler is Regency. What made you write in that era?
Hello, Debby. Thank you for welcoming me onto your blog. It’s great to be able to talk a little bit about my book The Beguiler. Late Georgian, especially the Regency period, has fascinated me for years. I have always loved visiting historic houses, been amazed by the extravagance, opulence on a massive scale. But the people who lived in such luxury were a small part of the population. The servants who made the houses run like clockwork were paid very little and had a hard life. These two parts of society are never meant to touch, not completely. But what would happen if they did? The thought of different parts of society coming together opens up a lot of writing ideas for me.
England and Europe has a deep history with its witches. What research did you do on that history?I think I gathered a lot of information over several years, purely by visiting places, watching documentaries, and reading. Therefore I did very little actual research during writing the book. I will never forget the visit I made to the area around Pendle Hill, Lancashire, though. The day was dark, rainy and very eerie, bringing to mind the poor unfortunate souls who were found guilty of witchcraft and hanged on the moors above the village in the 17th century. It must have been a terrifying and painful way to die.
The witch traders and the rangers seem to have a lot of parallels with what happens in the modern world. Was that something that was in your mind when writing?
There are parallels, but I didn’t deliberately think of this at the time. For me, it’s more a case of these kinds of events have always happened, throughout history. Unfortunately, it still happens today.
Who inspires you?
I have always read books, for as long as I can remember, and I’m sure many of my childhood books inspired my love of reading and writing. I discovered Science Fiction, and particularly enjoyed John Wyndham’s novels. Gradually my reading changed and I began to enjoy Fantasy, and also some Romance. By chance I picked up a novel by Juliet Marillier, and I realised how much I loved reading Fantasy and Romance combined.
What is your writing process? Do you have a strict regime that you stick to?
I try to write in the morning. It doesn’t always happen, but this is definitely a good time for me to write. I often listen to music, especially when developing that first draft, as it helps me to shut off the world around me. Editing is different, and I need peace and quiet for that.
What advice would you give to other writers?
Don’t give up! And keep learning and improving. Getting a publisher can take a long time so don’t get disheartened. If you love writing and are determined you’ll most likely succeed eventually. The main thing is to enjoy the journey, the love of writing.
What’s next for you?
I have a couple of ideas brewing at the moment. I would like to revisit my Regency world, and a couple of the characters seem to think so too, and might appear in another book. I also have a different world entirely in mind. It is all early days yet, and my stories change a lot during the writing process, so I don’t want to say too much about it at this point.
As the first day of 2017 starts to end, it’s time to reflect on the books that I’ve been reading in 2016. Admittedly, reading has been a struggle this year with job redundancies taking mind space as well as trying to finish books that I’ve started. So here is my list of the books I’ve managed to read and enjoy. They are not listed in any order of preference.
The first one I’m going to talk about was one that had me gripped from the very first page and I couldn’t put it down. A wonderful gothic ghost story and I highly recommend any of Jeanette Taylor Ford’s work
2. The Witches Daughter by Paula Brackston. I’ve just finished the sequel to this and I love the characters and world weaved by Brackston. If you are a fan of history with an element of fantasy then you’ll love this just as much as I did.
3 I was very lucky to get to read this before release and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Clash of Empires by Paul Bennett is set during the French Indian War and at first I was unsure whether it was something I could get into, but I was wrong. I learned so much about a small part of American History and the characters created were believable and well written. Again another history fiction book that’s a must read.
4. Ben Kane is always a favourite of mine. There’s very little this author can do wrong and not only did he release a new book this year, but I had the privilege of meeting him once again. Always a gentleman and so clued up on his history. If you love Roman History then this man is a must read.
5. David Baker doesn’t write the genre that would usually appeal to me, but the Viper Series is always a very good read. The characters are ones that can be invested in and his writing is light and easy to work with. I enjoy reading David’s work and with this series always hitting the bestseller then I’m not the only fan.
Reading has always been a big part of my life and one of my favourite reads was my collection of The Brothers Grimm stories. My favourite being Faithful John. A story of how a faithful servant saved his prince and paid the price by being turned to stone. Only the blood of the prince’s children would bring him back to life.
What appealed was the darkness of the stories that involved some form of sacrifice in order to get the happy ending and I think anyone who reads my books can agree that I make my protagonist work really hard for their happy ending, showing how much those stories have influenced the way I write.
So, when I wrote Celestia, I wanted to write something that reflected my love of fairy tales and told in a similar way. The story is a typical prince and princess story betrothed to one another, but of course this is one of my creations and so the twists and turns in the story and characters have a darker side. I play with the stereotypical characteristics and have created my own fairy tale, which is both dark and funny.
Recently I was asked about the subject of my new novella and The Mina Marley Chronicles. They had no idea what a Succubus was and as I explained I realised he might not be alone.
Incubi and Succubi were considered sexual demons who would rape their victims in their sleep and their victims would deteriorate in health and some die. It is said that Merlin was fathered by an incubi and the reason for his power.
In the bible, Lilith, Adam’s first wife became the first succubus after having sex with the angel Samuel. (Aaah, your thinking. That’s where Mina Marley comes into it)
In the Malleus Maleficarum written by Henrick Kramer, the succubus would collect semen from her victims, then the incubi would impregnate their female victims. The children would be born deformed and become witches. There is no explanation of why using the semen of human men put into human women would be any different to normal conception. But the Maleficarum is not known for its consistencies
So why the succubus? Well because I suffer with a sleep disorder known as Hypagognia and Sleep Paralysis. It’s a condition where I hallucinate at the point of sleep and so see “Ghosts” and then have the feeling of being pinned down on the bed unable to move or breathe. These episodes were blamed in days of old on the Incubi/succubi and so doing research into the disorder sparked an interest in the mythology.
So that is when I wrote The Succubus. I wanted to play with the idea that the demon could bring with her a gift to mankind, not unlike Merlin, but whether it was good or bad would depend on the human and that’s what the story is about.
The Witch’s Daughter was recommended by a work colleague and her description of the story made me cringe. I remember saying to her ‘Will I get angry?’ But something made me pick up the book and start reading, and I’m glad I did.
The story starts in modern day with Elizabeth Hawksmith, a witch who has lived for 100’s of years. Having just moved to town, she is starting to live a normal life where she can settle and not be noticed. She then catches the attention of teenage girl Tegan and a friendship is formed, but this comes at a prices. Elizabeth has an enemy who has stalked her since the start of her immortality and it’s this Gideon that she must protect Tegan from. The story then jumps back to Batchcomb in 1622 and Elizabeth tells Tegan how she came to be a witch and how she had Gideon met.
Everything about this book historically and witch wise convinced me that I would be repelled by it. So many fiction writers take this era and topic and give in to cliches, but I didn’t feel that with Paula Brackston’s work. She had done her researched it well and her knowledge on Wicca was excellent. One reviewer complained that she’d cliched by using the plague as the start of the witch trial the the lead finds herself in. I would object to that. It didn’t take much for someone to be accused of witchcraft. It was one of the easiest ways to get rid of an enemy.
The pace and readability was easy and it took only a few days to read. I didn’t want to put it down and would read the next installment. My only complaint was the final showdown between Gideon and Elizabeth felt a little rush with an abrupt ending, but nevertheless and enjoyable read that I would recommend
The punishment for witchcraft in England was hanging, unlike popular theory that witches were burned at the stake, that punishment was only carried out in the Americas and Europe. It was the punishment that Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne served if a person was found guilty of witchcraft. However, when it came to Mary Lakeland, something made Hopkins change tact, which has led to my theory of the true crime of the woman. Hopkins tried her as a traitor and not a witch and if that’s true. Why?
In late 1645 a pamphlet was published titled Confessions of Mother Lakeland of Ipswich in Suffolk which described her as an admitted witch of nearly 20 years. However there was some evidence that suggested that Hopkins was purposely sent to accuse her of witchcraft when really she was believed to be a Royalist agent. At her trial, four other people were accused of witchcraft and they were acquitted and Mary burned.
One theory was that Mary was not only accused of murdering her husband but was also accused of taking revenge on a man who had broken a courtship with her granddaughter. However, the man had links with the shipping industry something that he had in common. There is a strong possibility that the two men in communication with each other used the guise of witchcraft in order get rid of a bothersome future family member. But she was also responsible for Royalist publications and with the area of East Anglia being predominately Parliamentarian this would have been seen as treason.
Hopkins used the walking method on Mary and this is when she confessed. The walking method was a favourite technique of Hopkins. By keeping the accused awake for hours by walking them around the room constantly and eventually exhaustion would extract a confession. However, Mary Lakeland was described as a strong willed woman who should have been able to stand her ground. So this causes me to wonder was the reason she chose not to save herself was due to political reasons. This may seem a little weak. After all why risk her life? But the English Civil War was a war that tore even families apart. The belief in their course was a strong one. Even today religion and politics are always a hot topic. So it’s not unreasonable to believe that Mary Lakeland died for her Royalist belief and Hopkins burned her for it.
As for Hopkins’ motives, my belief is that his popularity was starting to wane and he was desperate for some official endorsement. My theory is that desperation caused him to be swayed into the way of politics. If he impressed the right people or even Oliver Cromwell then Hopkins career as witch finder would be an official one. It would make sense to why he chose to burn her rather than hang her as was customary. I believe that the burning of Lakeland did nothing but backfire on Hopkins. Already the tide was turning and people in power either were losing interest or not interested at all. Cromwell, could very well have heard of what Hopkins was doing, but the General had more important things to worry about than an overzealous man who killed a female Royalist.
So was Mary Lakeland a witch or Royalist, my opinion is that she was indeed killed for political reasons, however, to prove it is hard. But you have to ask yourself why Hopkins steered away from methods he knew well and used on every other witch and risk everything.
Was she thy God,
lovely to attract
Thy love, not thy subjection
Milton’s Paradise Lost
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, talks about the creation of the perfect garden and the creation of Man has always been one of my favourite of all the biblical stories, although one character who is linked but not in the book has fascinated me more.
Lilith appears in Book of Isaiah 34:14, describing Edom, where the Hebrew word lilit (or lilith) appears in a list of eight unclean animals, some of which may have demonic associations. This built the mythology of Lilith being the Queen or Mother of demons.
Her nobles shall be no more, nor shall kings be proclaimed there; all her princes are gone. Her castles shall be overgrown with thorns, her fortresses with thistles and briers. She shall become an abode for jackals and a haunt for ostriches. Wildcats shall meet with desert beasts, satyrs shall call to one another; There shall the Lilith repose, and find for herself a place to rest.There the hoot owl shall nest and lay eggs, hatch them out and gather them in her shadow; There shall the kites assemble, none shall be missing its mate. Look in the book of the LORD and read: No one of these shall be lacking, For the mouth of the LORD has ordered it, and His spirit shall gather them there. It is He who casts the lot for them, and with His hands He marks off their shares of her; They shall possess her forever, and dwell there from generation to generation.
Then around 13th Century, in order to explain some inconsistancies within the Old Testement, the Midrashic Literature, explained that Lilith not Eve was Adam’s first wife.
At the same time Jehovah created Adam, he created a woman, Lilith, who like Adam was taken from the earth. She was given to Adam as his wife. But there was a dispute between them about a matter that when it came before the judges had to be discussed behind closed doors. She spoke the unspeakable name of Jehovah and vanished.
It is from this mythology that the seed grew from The Mina Marley Chronicles. I wanted to create a story where Lilith is born again as Mina Marley and as well as telling her story in a modern setting. I wanted to link Lilith’s creation with that of the Supernatural world and play with the idea of her being a Mother or Queen. My tag line is that both Heaven and Hell want her dead. The idea that Mina as Lilith has the power of both realms running through her veins makes her uncontrollable and unpredictable. The Powers that Be ultimately want the reunion between her and Adam (Sebastian Daniels) who upon finding out that the angels had tricked him with a new wife (Eve) flew in to incandescent rage. The deal was made that he would remain immortal until Lilith was reborn and he would have what was his. But of course, nothing ever goes to plan, because far too many people have meddled in Mina’s life that it all goes wrong.
So upon writing the back story of Adam and Lilith, I tweaked a lot of the original Adam and Eve story and melded it into Lilith’s. I wanted people to look at her as less of evil demon or disobedient wife, but one that was curious and wanted to know why Adam was preferred over her. I wanted to also create a back story of Lilith’s link between herself and Supernatural creatures giving a basis of why Supton was built and why Otherworldly creatures flock there to live.
For me, Mina Marley is as much human as she can be despite her supernatural heritage. Born from an angel father and a succubus mother, yet she embodies what I feel Lilith is to us women especially. Choosing not be submissive, but standing up for ourselves and being strong in a positive way. Mina has the power to destroy everything in her path and yet doesn’t. She loves and hates equally, but knows that actions have consequences. She makes mistakes and has poor judgement sometimes. However, that’s how God made her. She was made with flaws, because if she wasn’t then she’d be almost angelic in purity.
So if you choose to join Mina on her journey, then keep that in mind, because for me Lilith is more relatable than Eve.
This is my version of the Garden of Eden story told by Gabriel