Monday 22 May 2017

Hero Lost blog tour - guest post by Sean McLachlan

Today, I'm delighted to take part in the blog tour for the IWSG's latest anthology with a guest post from contributing author Sean McLachlan. I'm especially intrigued by this story as it features some old folklore that I've never heard of before.

The Witch Bottle

Hello everyone! I’m Sean McLachlan. I write fiction and nonfiction full time and recently had the honor of being in the Hero Lost anthology put out by Dancing Lemur Press. My story is called “The Witch Bottle” and is based on an actual bit of folk magic from England.

If someone thought they were being bewitched, they summoned one of the cunning folk to create a witch bottle. This bottle was filled with the victim’s urine along with bent nails, pins, fingernail trimmings, belly button fluff, hair, thorns, and similar items. The body parts would attract the witch, the thorny items would injure the witch, and the bottle would trap the witch.

The bottle could then be heated over the fire to boil the witch, or buried in some spot such as beneath the threshold or in a hedge or graveyard to catch the evil spell caster.

Archaeologists were fortunate to discover an intact witch bottle dating from the 17th century during an excavation in Greenwich in 2004 and analyzed its contents. It had been placed upside down in a pit. Various forms of inversion were often used in warding spells, such as the old custom of turning your coat inside out when passing a fairy mound. The bottle contained urine, bent nails and pins, fingernail clippings, naval fluff, hair, and a nail piercing a piece of leather in the shape of a heart. Interestingly, when the urine was analyzed it showed that the person had been a smoker. Tobacco was still quite expensive in the 17th century. That and the fact that the fingernails were those of someone who didn’t do manual labor shows the elite also believed in this sort of magic.

Witch bottles are first recorded in the 17th century and lasted in rural areas of England and Scotland well into the 20th century. Witch bottles were even made in former colonies such as Canada, the U.S., and Australia. Now, like so much of rural folk culture, the practice of making witch bottles has been forgotten.

strange silvery witch bottle was collected from a Sussex village in 1915 by the
famous historian of witchcraft Margaret Murray. It is on display at the
Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford. The witch is apparently still inside and the woman
who gave it to Murray warned that it should never be unstoppered or “there’ll
be a peck o’ trouble.” Photo copyright Sean McLachlan.

The earliest and most common type of bottle used for witch bottles are the so-called Bellarmine jugs from Germany from the 17th century. They sported a distinctive “wild man” face that probably added to their mystic appeal. This one is broken. Perhaps it was used in a spell? Strangely, witch bottles have never been found in Germany, only in England, Scotland, and the British colonies. This bottle is on display at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Photo copyright Sean McLachlan.

Sean McLachlan writes fiction and nonfiction under his own name and also works as a professional ghostwriter. Learn more about him at his blog and Amazon page. His post-apocalyptic story The Scavenger is free on Amazon through May 22.

Hero Lost
Mysteries of Death and Life
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die?
Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering
become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever
the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured
hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and
thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay,
Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth
Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and
Sarah Foster.

Hand-picked by a panel of
agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes
who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Marked Beauty cover reveal

Title: Marked Beauty

Author: S.A. Larsen

Publisher: Ellysian Press

Release Date: October 2017

Uncovering hidden secrets can sometimes kill you . . . or worse, steal your soul.

Anastasia Tate has a secret. She can feel the emotions of others through their life energy auras. Not a welcome gift for a teenager. Especially when a sinister presence begins stalking her.

Viktor Castle also has a secret. He’s tasked with protecting humanity yet cursed by an ancient evil to destroy it.

After Viktor saves Ana’s life, her abilities grow stronger. Drawn together, she senses Viktor has answers to lifelong questions. Only he shuns her at every turn, knowing he has saved her only to put her in more danger.

As Ana struggles with her attraction to Viktor, he tries everything to bury his unexpected feelings for her. But they must find a middle ground. For only together can they combat the dark forces threatening both their lives . . . and their souls.


About the Author

S.A. LARSEN is the author of the award-winning novel Motley Education, the first book in a fantasy-adventure series for middle grade readers. Her work has appeared in numerous local publications and young adult anthologies Gears of Brass and Under A Brass Moon by Curiosity Quills Press. Marked Beauty is her debut young adult novel. Find her in the land of snowy winters and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty-five years, four children, a playful pooch, and three kittens. Visit her cyber home anytime at

Connect with her on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Blog | Goodreads


This is a #hashtag giveaway, where two lucky winners will receive a FREE eBook of Marked Beauty upon its release.

To participate:

  • Share one of the premade images via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Or write up a blog post using one of the images.
  • Include #MarkedBeauty in your description.
  • Optional for extra entry: include Add to Goodreads (with link) in your description.

***Posts MUST contain the hashtag #MarkedBeauty for entry into the giveaway or we won’t be able to find you.

Pre-made tweets (you add the image)

"A lust 4 life energy. An ancient curse. One soul's journey thru death 2 find the cure." #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal

"Uncovering some secrets can kill you, or worse ... steal your soul." #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal #YAlit

An ancient race. A timid girl. And a journey to the in-between. #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal #YAlit

The giveaway begins May 17th and will be open until May 23rd. Winners will be announced May 24th via social media.

Monday 15 May 2017

Goals for May 2017

I know we're already halfway through the month, but better late than never when it comes to goals, eh? As well as taking a bit of down time after the A-Z Challenge, I've been dealing with a situation over the last two or three weeks. Hopefully it's under control now and I can turn my attention back to some writing and editing goals.

So, here we go...

  • Continue writing the ending for the final book in the Black & White trilogy.
It feels like this has been going on for the longest time, especially after not doing any writing during April, but I hope to get closer to the end this month. 5000 words at a minimum.

  • Go through CP notes for part two of the trilogy.
Yes, thanks to my lovely CPs I now have a full set of notes with aspects for improvement. One particularly large plot point needs to be reassessed, so I need to give this due consideration.

  • Start putting together a marketing plan for the release of part one.
Hoping for a release in late summer or autumn, so I need to start drawing up plans for a blog tour, advertising, and other aspects, as well as sourcing cover art.

In other news - I'm delighted (and somewhat flabbergasted) to have been invited to become the newest member of the IWSG admin team, so another goal is to familiarise myself with my duties! Can't wait to get stuck in!

Do you have any mid-month goals?

Monday 8 May 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017: Reflections

Yes, it's time to think back on the merry month of April and reflect on another A-Z Challenge. This was my fourth year taking part, and this challenge felt different to me for a variety of reasons. I'll get more into those below, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The main thing that comes to mind when I think about this Challenge is "quality over quantity". Not that there weren't vast swathes of quality participants in previous years, but it seemed pretty definite that there were less signups this year - the old linky list was hitting over 2000 but there only seemed to be around 300 daily comments on each Challenge blog post. Now of course, we have to account for the fact that many of those 2000 would drop off throughout the month, and that more than 300 might have been participating but just not leaving their daily comment (in which case, it would be that much harder to find them). Even so, this year felt more cosy. Manageable. Petite, perhaps. I felt like I had time to really take in what each person was saying and leave a considered response, rather than skim reading in a frantic effort to get to as many posts as possible. And this isn't to say I was short of people to meet during the Challenge. On the contrary, I met some wonderful writers who broadened my mind with amazing facts, made me laugh with some whacked-out stories, moved me with stunning poetry or inspired me with some uplifting quotes. I hope to nurture these connections by getting to know these people even better over the coming months and years, and in the end that's worth much more than just hitting high numbers of posts with one-off comments. I'll give a shout out to some of my favourite themes below.

Other thoughts: While I am very happy with how the Challenge went, I'm not entirely sold on the daily linkup list yet. I think it made it harder to meet more people as I kept running up against the same ones every day. With the old list, you could just keep working your way down, and although there would be many that had stopped taking part, you just closed that blog and moved on to the next. I definitely didn't manage to meet five new people every day, but as outlined above, that didn't take too much away from the experience. At the moment, I'm not sure what the best way forward is, but I realise that maintaining the giant list places too great a burden on the Challenge hosts.

Another thing is that perhaps if you comment too late on the daily post, less people are likely to see your link. Each post seemed to go up the day before that for the letter concerned, and I noticed a lot of participants doing this too; was this to post their link as early as possible? I tried to stick to posting at 5am GMT on each day, but I was often later than this; that was entirely my fault though, as I didn't have all the posts prewritten ahead of time. In fact, for the final week they were done on the fly. Definitely an area of improvement for next year!

In terms of commenting issues, I didn't notice anything too bad. Captcha seems to pretty much have been stamped out. The only thing I noticed were some comment systems were linked to Facebook and required you to respond to an email for the address you sign in to Facebook with. Unfortunately for me, that's my old address, which I don't check any more. Again, that's a failing on my part for not updating things, but I still think having to go and check your emails before being able to leave a comment is unreasonable.

Okay, I think that's my main thoughts dealt with. I didn't mean for this to get so long! Now it's time to give some props to some of my favourite bloggers and themes. Some were new to me, others I'd met before. Inevitably I'm going to forget some people, for which I apologise in advance. Some I might not even have got to that many posts - I suffered some issues towards the end of the month that affected my participation slightly, but I'm getting back on track now - but I enjoyed what I read all the same.

Megan Morgan - 26 Things to Hate about Writing. A brilliantly funny theme, lambasting all the pitfalls of being a writer in a deliciously sarcastic manner.
Debbie D, the Doglady's Den - Musical Memories. Just what it says, some of the author's enduring memories and the musical moments that soundtracked those times. Funny and sometimes poignant.
Shalini, Kohl-Eyed Me - Travel experiences in Thailand. Stories and advice about visiting this wonderful country. I've only spent five days in Bangkok and now I want to experience much more.
Nilanjana Bose, Madly-in-Verse - Brilliantly informative posts about Arabic culture, soundtracked by some excellent music. I felt educated by every post I read.
Pamela and Ken's Days of Fun - A tour around the Highlands of Scotland from a couple who moved there last year. They've packed a lot in already and collated some great posts about the quirky sights and experiences to be found in this beautiful region.
Debbie, My Random Musings - Motivational quotes for each day of April.
John Davis Frain - One of the most brilliant themes out there, the author got killed by an outlandish method corresponding to each letter before being resurrected for another unfortunate demise the next day. Just sorry I didn't get to more posts.
A Tarkabarka Holgy, The Multicolored Diary - Weird Things in Folktales. Bizarre and often grisly tales from around the world.
Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles - Dragon Diaries. A dragon for each letter of the alphabet. Some great flash fiction and characters.
Carrie-Anne, Onomastics Outside the Box - A walk through some of the weird and wonderful characters from (mostly) Greek mythology.
Anna Tan, Deeply Shallow - Cute and whimsical stories about the misadventures of various princesses.
True North Bricks - Of course I was going to follow a theme about Lego. Pure fun.
Rae Squiggle, The Quiet Writer - Very educational theme about Britain's abbeys and cathedrals.
C.D. Gallant-King, Stories I Found in the Closet - The surprisingly weird history of Canada.
Anmol Rawat - Delightfully creepy flash fiction. Again, I'm sorry I didn't get to more of these.
Click's Clan - Touching and often funny letters to the author's frozen embryos.
Darla M. Sands - Excellent musical selections.
Patricia Lynne - Flash fiction based on unusual words.
Keith's Ramblings - An entertaining introduction to the eccentric residents of the village of Amble Bay.

All in all, I really enjoyed taking part this year, and I'm already getting ready for 2018. How about you? Did you take part and, if not, would you consider doing so next year?

More Reflections posts can be found here.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

IWSG May 2017

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and of course that means it's time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group! The group was started by Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh with the aim of offering a safe haven where writers can talk about their doubts and insecurities and offer encouragement to others. Today's co-hosts are Nancy GideonTamara NarayanLiesbet @ Roaming AboutMichelle Wallace and Feather Stone!

Today's optional IWSG question is "What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?"

This is a great question! All stories require research to a certain extent; even if speculative, it is often based on aspects of the real world. As writers, we can be led down by some pretty strange and intriguing avenues. Neurology was a key part of my novella A Change of Mind, in which an introverted man undergoes brain surgery to make him more confident. Of course, such procedures aren't actually available (and hopefully they won't be!), but I still had to research the parts of the brain that control our emotions, reactions and personalities. Really informative stuff.

I'm sure there's more, but that's the one that springs to mind (pardon the pun...)

In terms of insecurities, I'm doing pretty well. I thoroughly enjoyed the A-Z Challenge this year and was pleased to get a great response to the snippets from my forthcoming trilogy. Now I'm going to gear up for the release of the first book, looking at cover art, tour schedules, and everything that comes along with it. Nerve-racking, for sure, but hopefully in a good way. I'm going to try and enjoy it!

What are your insecurities this month? Have you joined the IWSG yet? Check out more posts here.