Sunday, 26 February 2017

Morgan Le Fay

Morgan Le Fay by Sandys Frederick
A couple of weeks ago I posted about the three main witches in the King Arthur tales: Vivian - the Lady of the Lake, Morgan Le Fay, and Nimue. I thought it would be interesting to explore all of them in more detail, starting with Morgan (also called Morgana or Morgaine).

She's generally identified as Arthur's half-sister. In the popular version of Arthur's conception, Merlin uses magic to make Uther Pendragon look like Igraine's husband. Uther gains entry to the castle, and believing Uther to be her husband, Gorlois, Igraine sleeps with him, conceiving Arthur. She already has two daughters, Morgause and Morgan Le Fay.

What I like about Morgan is her complexity. Morgan is portrayed as a skilled healer, a practitioner of magic, and then a witch, as her story becomes darker and darker through the years. It has been suggested that her abilities as a healer may stem from her origin in Celtic mythology as a Pagan Celtic Goddess, Modron. Modron's father, Afallach, was the God of the Celtic Otherworld, Avalon, and Modron had nine sisters who all lived on Avalon. Morgan has also been associated with the Morrigan, a triple-aspect divinity representing life and death, but the link is tenuous.

As well as healing, Morgan's powers include shape-shifting, flying, the ability to live beneath the water, and the ability to control animals, including dragons. Merlin's teachings increase her magical powers. And of course she is linked to the faeries and the Otherworld through her name Le Fay.

Her relationship with Arthur is complex and changeable. Jealous of his power, and resentful of his purity, she plots to kill him with her lover Sir Accolon, aiming to steal Excalibur and the throne. When Accolon loses, Morgan throws Excalibur's scabbard into the lake. This scabbard also has magical properties, stopping the loss of blood from injuries, or preventing death from loss of blood. The scabbard is lost forever. But later in life she and Arthur meet again and they reconcile, and when he is close to death, she and her sisters escort him to the Isle of Avalon where she uses her healing powers on Arthur. There he sleeps until he is needed. Other authors have her bear a son with Arthur, called Mordred, or sometimes Mordred is her nephew, and it is with Mordred that she attempts to steal the throne. Confusing!
The Last Sleep of Arthur by Edward Burne-Jones

But the layers and retelling of the stories and the characters are part of the beauty of the Arthur myths; they also tell us a lot about the times they were written in. Morgan first appears in the Vita Merlini by Geoffrey of Monmouth, she later appears in the stories of Sir Thomas Mallory, Chretien De Troyes, and The Vulgate Cycles.

When I was searching for a good villain for Tom's Inheritance, and a character that was strongly linked with Arthur, Morgan was the natural choice because of her links with the Otherworld and her fey blood. I almost wish I'd kept her around!

If you fancy reading a book with Morgan at the centre, I recommend The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

MTW Book Review - Gate 6... Murder at Black Oaks by ED Degenfelder

My last review for MTW 😡 and sadly no author interview, but nevertheless, a great book!

This book is actually the second in the series, the first one being Unkindness of Ravens which also has some great reviews. However when I read Gate 6 ... Murder at Black Oaks I didn't have any problems following the story.

This story follows the main character Madeline Abbot and the two police offers, Scott and Isabelle, from the first book. Madeline has inherited Black Oaks, a run down mansion, from her parents. However the ownership is contested and then her ex-husband is found murdered at the house. In addition there's the riddle of whether a hoard of gold is hidden somewhere in the house, and it seems there's quite a few people out to get it.

The story is told from multiple view points, and is a fast paced read that keeps you hooked from the start. There are a couple of sub stories running along too, as well as the simmering romance between Scott and Madeline.

It's well written and the characters engaging, so now I'll be checking out the first one.

If you enjoy mystery, action and romance this book is for you!

See more on Goodreads 




Sunday, 19 February 2017

MTW Book Review and Author Interview - Aftermath by George Weinstein

George Weinstein's Aftermath is another great mystery thriller.

Aftermath is the story of Janet Wright who finds she is the sole inheritor of her father’s estate, the father she hasn’t seen since she was five when her mother fled the house with her and her brother. Since then she has had no contact with her father, so knows nothing about him or the small town of Graylee where he lived, and she was born. She turns her back on life in New York and returns to her hometown, but to a very mixed reception.
Her father was shot, and the murderer also killed by the police, but things don’t add up. Nobody seemed to like her father, and she senses there are secrets in the town that the locals don’t want to talk about, secrets that concern her father. Despite the town wanting to keep its secrets close, Janet can’t resist trying to find out more. Unfortunately she then finds her life is in danger.

This is a great read. Janet is an intriguing character, battling many of her own personal demons, but it makes for an entertaining fast paced read. Janet discovers all sorts of undercurrents and connections in Graylee. The town's characters are interesting and believable, and the town’s secret is chilling.  The secret is also fascinating because of the moral dilemma it presents, which makes you consider what you would do in such a situation. If you enjoy a good mystery thriller, this is for you! Highly recommended.

Author Interview
I enjoyed your book, it was a fun read.

1. When you did you first start writing?
I’ve written since I was six years old, when I scripted and acted out plays with my stuffed animals, to entertain my brother and sister.

2. Are you indie or traditionally published?
I’m traditionally published.

3. You have written a few books, are they all mystery thrillers?
No, in fact Aftermath is my first mystery/thriller. My earlier novels were Southern gothic, historical, modern romance, and a children’s chapter book. I don’t recommend this as a strategy for writers trying to make a living through book sales! It’s much smarter to pick a genre, develop an expertise therein, and build a loyal fan base. My only defence is I have a broad range of interests and choose to write about the stories and characters that intrigue me, diverse as they are. Not a good “business” strategy, but at least I never lack for inspiration or enthusiasm.

4. What inspired you to write Aftermath?
When I read for pleasure, my choices often are mysteries and thrillers, so I thought it was about time I wrote one. The specific story and heroine inspired me because I enjoy writing novels about plucky, resourceful people in overwhelming situations far beyond their areas of expertise, where they must use imagination and tenacity to overcome obstacles.

5. You seem very active in writer’s groups and conferences. Are you a full time writer?
I am—and this is facilitated by my remarkable wife who, on my fiftieth birthday, encouraged me to quit my job and write every day. My other calling is to help writers fulfil their publishing dreams and learn more about the craft and business of writing through the Atlanta Writers Conference (www.AtlantaWritersConference.com), which I direct twice yearly for the 103-year-old Atlanta Writers Club, where I am a former president.

6. What are your plans for the next book? 
My next novel is a thriller about a web radio interviewer whose husband is abducted and will be murdered unless she agrees to interview the kidnapper on the air as often as he wants, a twist on the Arabian Nights tale. The fact that I am remaining somewhat within the same genre as Aftermath is a stunning departure for me. Hopefully this won’t invoke the wrath of the literary gods.

You can find out more about George Weinstein here.

Friday, 17 February 2017

MTW Book Review and Author Interview - Oil and Water by P J Lazos

My third book review is Oil and Water, which follows the stories of two main character groups, who eventually come together. This is a completely different thriller to the other two books.

The Tirabis are a family who have lost their parents. Their father, Marty, is an inventor and has invented a machine called the TDU that can create oil out of waste. When Marty and his wife are killed in a car accident, after being forced off the road, the children struggle to cope. They are targeted by someone who seems desperate to get the plans to the TDU. However the Tirabis are not a normal family. They are resourceful and clever, and the younger child Gil, has the skills to continue his father’s work.
Hart works for a big oil company, but he’s becoming disillusioned with it. His boss, Bicky, is also his father-in-law, and a control freak. After his wife dies, Hart re-evaluates his priorities.
Was Hart’s wife’s death the result of foul play? Who’s attacking the Tirabis?
There are also a few smaller stories woven in, all concerning the effect of waste, and oil, on the environment. One of the Tirabi children end up in the Middle East and the impact on the environment is explored there, as well as the effect of landfill beyond the Tirabi’s grounds.
This is a very ambitious book in the way it looks at the small and big picture of how we live and our reliance on fossil fuels. For most of the book, the story moves back and forth between the two groups of characters, following their lives, until eventually the two groups meet, and events start to spiral out of control.
This is thoughtful, well-written, and the characters are engaging, and its clear the author has done lots of research. My one quibble would be there’s too much story, and that the two main stories could have come together earlier in the book. However, it kept my attention and I wanted to know how things would resolve. I wasn’t disappointed and overall I found this a very satisfying read.

Author Interview
This was a really involved, detailed look at the impact of oil and big business on the environment. This is obviously something you are passionate about.

1. When you did you first start writing, and what prompted you to write this book?
I started writing about 20 years ago when I moved to Central, PA. We had a lovely writing studio in a Lititz, the next town over, call Rabbit Hill Writers Studio.  It was a great place to learn the craft.  I wrote “Oil and Water” because I’m passionate about the environment, because my husband used to be a commercial diver and had a lot of good information in his head, because I read an article about a machine that converts trash into oil and thought that it would be great if this were actually so, and all that became a mishmash of thoughts that ultimately became Oil and Water.

2. Are you indie or traditionally published?
Indie.

3. When not writing you are an environmental lawyer (according to your bio). How do you find the time to write? 
I write on the train into work; I write early in the morning, or at night when there’s a tiny bit of time. “Oil and Water” was basically written in 20 minutes increments. When I wrote the first draft my kids were little and that’s about all the time that was available to me.

4. The TDU is a fantastic invention. Is there anything like the TDU in production?
There was a real life company, Changing World Technologies, that was operating a version of the TDU using turkey offal.  They had a pilot project at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.  I know there was an issue with state permitting and a problem with the smell that emanated from the facility when they moved to the midwest.  I’m not sure why, but Changing World Technologies has since gone bankrupt, and a Canadian company bought them out. Whether they are still operating the technology the same way is anyone’s guess, but the company is still operating, so maybe the glitches are being worked out.  I sure hope so.

5. Have you written other books, and if so is it a mystery/thriller as well?
I wrote another book, “Six Sisters,” which is a collection of novellas about family dysfunction and the ties that bind us to each other even beyond death.  That book was great fun to write. Only one of those three stories in environmental and it’s really only a subplot.

6. What are your plans for the next book? If there is one!
My next book is about pharmaceuticals and a vaccine controversy.  I’m in the nascent stages and just getting through the “where’s the bathroom” stage as in when you start a new job and have to figure out where the bathroom is and where they keep the coffee. I started it in November when I did NaNoWriMo.  I had been putting the start off for some time so it was great to have the push to get it moving.  If you’re not careful, you can let marketing suck up all your free time and I certainly don’t want marketing to displace creativity. 

You can find out more about PJ Lazos here.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

MTW Book Review and Author Interview - Chilled to the Bones, by Linda Lee Kane

So the next book is by Linda Lee Kane, and it's an adventure for teens and young adults.

Chilled to the Bones is about Dealer, a girl who finds a trunk hidden away in the attic of her house. It contains a map, a locket, and letters relating to the American Revolutionary War. It seems one of her distant relations played a part in the war, and may be linked to the missing treasure. Some of the letters are in code, and a key is provided at the back of the book, so it's very interactive! Dealer also finds a locket which seems to carry the spirit of the woman whose belongings are in the trunk.

She and her friends investigate their families involvement in the war, and also investigate why two of the town members want to gain the land of all the founding members of their town. It all relates to the Culper Spy ring.

Added to this, Dealer has to contend with her alcoholic father who is not coping with the death of her mother.

This is a great adventure story, which as well as being a mystery also has supernatural elements, caves, hidden buildings, and treasure, as well as the code, so there's a lot to keep young readers occupied. It's based around the real life Culper Spy ring, so has its roots in history and there's lots of historical detail and real life figures mentioned.  It's a very engaging read, with a gutsy heroine.

Author Interview

1.This is a teen/YA mystery novel. Is this your main genre, or do you write for adults as well?
I've written in all genres, from now on it will be either YA or Speculative fiction.

2. Are you indie or traditionally published?
I'm traditionally published, however my publisher at Krullstone has gone the way of helping authors as a self publish publisher.

3.This book is about the American Revolutionary War. Is this something you’ve always been interested in?
I've always been interested in history in general. When I discovered that Agent 355 was a real woman, who was the one to take down Benedict Arnold, she was pregnant, than thrown in the HMS New Jersey to die (most American men and women died from being on the ships as opposed to on the battlefields). I just had to write about her. There were so many women as you can see from the back of the book that were hero's but never mentioned in your typical schools history books.

4. I understand the Culper Spy Ring is real. I presume the code you reference is also real? It’s very complex! How long did it take to research it?
Oh my gosh, the code was difficult to decipher. Yes, it's real and  both sides had complex codes with different ways to decipher, a couple I mention in the book.

5. Have you written other books based on the Revolutionary War, or other historical events?
Yes, as I mentioned history does repeat, if we're not vigilant as citizens we are destined to repeat the same mistakes. I did write a fast paced thriller, The Black Madonna. Two years worth of research went into it. It's about the all out war by Pope Innocent to kill all Cathars for their beliefs. According to some historical documents the Cathars were the keepers (maybe still are) of The Arc of the Covenant.

6. What are you working on now?
I just finished Bottoms Up, a book about a young woman who lives in the Central Valley. She becomes an enologist and goes to work for someone who has stolen valuable wine (Jefferson's) and counterfeits it, greed, loads of money, the wealthy play a part, and of course, murder. Bottoms Up was picked up by a publishing house.
I just started research on a historical novel that I believe pertains to the climate of today.

You can read more about Linda here -https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33776150-chilled-to-the-bones
Or here at her website
Or here in another interview


Monday, 13 February 2017

Mystery Thriller Week (MTW) Book Review and Author Interview - Expired Listings by D M Barclay

I'm kicking off MTW by posting a review of D M Barclays's Expired Listings, and I started with a goodie! Well they're all good to be honest.

This is a murder mystery with a difference. The protagonist Dana, has huge psychological issues from her childhood, and in order to cope she's buried herself in the BDSM community. She also has a dysfunctional relationship with her mother and sister, and an unusual partnership with Dare, her BDSM partner.

By day she's a Realtor, but unfortunately her rival Realtors are being killed and she seems to be being set up for the murders, and due to the blackouts she experiences she can't really provide an alibi. This leads to an interesting relationship with a detective who also dabbles in the BDSM community. So what's Dana's connection to the murderer, and why is she being set up?

This was a fun read, and very tongue in cheek. I liked Dana, and found her relationships and choices believable. At one point I did wonder what was going on with her mother, but then it all became clear. I won't say anymore! I also enjoyed the OTT portrayal of Realtors. The relationships Dana engages in are about power, not sex, but there are some explicit scenes in here which wouldn't be for everyone. However if you enjoy a snarky lead character, and an unusual story line, this is for you!

Author Interview

1. When you did you first start writing?
I've been writing (to be read) since I was about 10--poetry and parodies, mainly. I've been writing for publication since I was 20, starting with a review of a comedy improv group (I was dating one of the members) for a throwaway publication called "Downtown Manhattan." I've spent most of my life writing nonfiction.

2. Are you indie or traditionally published?
Both. I had five offers from small presses for "Expired Listings" but decided to go indie--mostly for control over the cover, pricing and marketing as well as retaining rights I wanted and making sure there'd be a paperback and audiobook out there. I have another novella published traditionally through Loose Id under a different pseudonym.

3. When not writing you really are a Realtor. How do you find the time to write?
The beauty of being a Realtor is that I make my own hours. I also specialize in listing property so my time is more my own (as opposed to working with buyers, which means you have to be available on their schedule.) But I have to admit, there were a lot of days where I was writing from 4am-7am, before the workday started.

4. And I have to ask, are Realtors as bad as you portray them in Expired Listings?
No, I wrote it way over the top to make it a satire. There are a few real incidents in the book that happened in real life but they are so tame, I'm sure the average reader overlooked them. I think that real estate agents who read the book will see where I took my digs. Every time a buyer, seller or fellow agent did something to annoy me, it went into the book but boosted about 1000%.

5. What made you write about the BDSM community and how did you do the research?
I have friends who are part of "the scene" and I was always struck by how most people would never suspect. They are from all walks of life and their sex lives are just part of who they are. The way other books/movies represent them--sex addicts, perverts, glamorous people, only about the sex--well, it's just not true and I wanted to make that point. I wanted to de-demonize BDSM. These friends were very generous about speaking openly with me about their preferences and also took me to some parties and clubs.

6. What are your plans for the next book? If there is one!
I'm currently writing a Contemporary Women's Fiction/mystery called "Slashing Mona Lisa." I bet I could actually finish it if I spent less time promoting "Expired Listings" but I'm one of those freaks who likes promotion as much as writing, so there you are.

You can find out more about D M Barclay here: 

And of course more info on MTW here: https://mysterythrillerweek.com/



Saturday, 11 February 2017

Mystery Thriller Week starts tomorrow!

I've had a great time reviewing books for MTW. I've got 5 reviews and author interviews coming up over the next 10 days.

I look forward to seeing you then!

Expired Listings by DM Barr on the 13th Feb













Chilled to the Bones by Linda Lee Kane on the 15th Feb













Oil and Water by PJ Lazos on the 17th Feb













Aftermath by George Weinstein on the 19th Feb













Gate 6... Murder at Black Oaks by ED Degenfelder on the 21st Feb







Twice Born released today! Free until 12th February.

Twice Born is now on Amazon!

Get your free copy here from Amazon US
Or Amazon UK

It’s been over a year since Tom returned from the ancient land of the Other after waking King Arthur, and he wishes he’d never left, so when Beansprout returns to see if he wants to go back, he leaps at the chance.

Finally reunited with his friends, he joins them in the search for Nimue, a priestess of Avalon who has disappeared. While they investigate Nimue’s disappearance they wonder whether she’s been taken by force, or is she deliberately hiding? And is her disappearance linked to something, or someone, in the past?

In this fast-paced race across the Other, Tom encounters strange beasts, ancient gods and dragons, and finds friends nor foes aren’t quite what they seem. Friendship with Arthur brings risks. As Tom’s life is threatened, will he have the courage and skill to survive?

Twice Born is the sequel to the Arthurian fantasy Tom’s Inheritance.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Witches in the King Arthur Tales

I read lots of Arthurian myths and legends for Tom's Inheritance and Twice Born. There are so many stories containing knights, witches and wizards, it all becomes quite confusing. I've always been fascinated by Vivian, Nimue and Morgan Le Fey. They are three strong magical women, who are cunning and skillful, and on Morgan's behalf, depending whose stories you read, a lot of malevolent intent.

In some tales Nimue and Vivian are the same person - a priestess of Avalon, and /or The Lady of the Lake. I decided to keep these characters separate.

In Tom's Inheritance, Vivian is the Lady of the Lake. She summons Tom to the Other, in order for him to travel to Avalon to wake King Arthur. Many of the old tales tell of Arthur being carried to Avalon after he is mortally wounded, escorted by the nine priestesses, one of whom is Morgan le Fey. There he is laid to rest in a deep sleep until he is woken again in a time of great need. In my story Vivian demands Arthur's final resting place will be on Avalon, in exchange for obtaining Excalibur for Merlin, but Merlin requests that Arthur must be woken by a descendant, and Vivian casts this great spell. However he is woken, not to return to Britain, but to remain in the Other to deal with an enemy. Vivian is powerful, and serves as the guardian of Avalon, the island that straddles the mortal world and the world of the Other.

In Twice Born I wanted to introduce some more Arthurian characters to the new world in which Tom and Arthur find themselves. Nimue seemed a natural place to start. She lived on Avalon with Vivian, a priestess and witch, human, not fey. She has ties to Arthur and his old court of Camelot, but she has secrets of her own. I also wanted to develop the world of the Other, and explore the different magical races who live there, some of whom have lots of magic, and others only a little. The Realm of Air and the sylphs who inhabit it also appear in the book, and they are quite different from the fey of the Realm of Earth.

There are lots more characters in Twice Born, as well as the old ones from book 1. I had lots of fun writing it, I hope you enjoy reading it!

Twice Born is out on February 10th 2017 - not long now!