My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister #PublicationDay #IARTG

Happy Tuesday!

Today is publication day for my new novel, My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Here’s what you need to know.

1 My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is available to buy from Amazon HERE (E-Book, paperback and hardcover).

2 The audiobook is in production with the multi-talented actor Lindsay McKinnon (seen below).

3 This is the best book I have ever written.

4. It is a first-person account from an unreliable narrator.

5. The title could refer to two people or the same person.

Photo credit https://www.facebook.com/jdmoses.uk Lindsay McKinnon and Samantha Henthorn

It started with a memory.

When I was a child (about four or five), I remember visiting two ‘aunties’ who lived in a marvellous house with a big bay window on a road that my dad had called ‘Millionaire’s Row’. These two women were extremely glamourous, with mauve and grey-toned clothes and knee-high boots. I don’t remember their names. ANYWAY, years later I asked my mum who these two women were; she had no idea. Maybe I dreamt them, or maybe they were Jacquetta and Heather – two of the main characters in My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

     ‘Epiphany! Epiphany!’ Mummy shouts from downstairs. I hear her key turn halfway, and she’s muttering to herself, inviting all kinds to unlock the door to my flat. 

     ‘Epiphany, what’s wrong with your front door?’ Mummy shouts.

     Yes. Epiphany is my name – Pippa for short, strictly Pippa for short. I don’t mind Pip but definitely not Epiphany. When Mummy was pregnant with my older sister, she intended to name her Hazel. Right up to the last minute, Hazel. Then a midwife told her that Hazel is a witch’s name, and this put her off. So, Mummy chose the name Heather. It suits her because my sister’s eyes shine hazel when she’s excited.

In the above words, you have met Epiphany (Pippa for short) and her mother, Jacquetta. I hope you have picked up that Jacquetta is a demonstrative busy body, letting herself in at her daughter’s front door. ‘Inviting all kinds to unlock the door’ and changing her mind about the name ‘Hazel’ because of something the midwife said.

Read Jacquetta, and think Geraldine McEwan in Mapp and Lucia circa 1985 – but include paranormal persecutions.

Au Reservoir, Lucia | Christopher Fowler

Has Jacquetta changed her mind about witchcraft? – I do love a conflicted character.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Pippa’s sister Heather is a confident and content green goddess. Think Courtney Love in the biographical drama Beat (insert an English accent).

BeatPoster.png

No doubt Heather would have been filled in about my holiday at home. And if John can stop watching the news for once, the cat will be out of the bag about Ben and me separating.

     Today was meant to be a good day, but now I can see Heather walking across my imagined moat.

     I miss Sadie.

     ‘Sweetie, are you alright?’ Heather has let herself in via the door (the same one that Mummy has trouble opening).

     ‘In here,’ I answer Heather without answering her.

     ‘I’d love a cup of tea if you’re making one.’

     I wasn’t, but I am in the kitchen, mainly to look out of the window onto the road below. I usually have to stay here a while until I have spotted a second magpie.

     ‘So, how are you?’ I ask Heather. I never quite know what to talk about with my sister.

     ‘No! How are you? I never did like that freeloader, and I’m glad he’s dumped you.’

     ‘Thanks?’ I answer Heather with a question.

     ‘I’m not glad for you, obviously. Breaking up is hard to do, Pippa. It happens to the best of us, even me.’ Heather helps herself to two mugs from my cupboard and gazes longingly at the kettle. It seems Mummy’s bitter coffee has not quenched her thirst.

I hope that the above exchange illustrates Pippa’s strained relationship with her sister Heather.

Pippa has not seen Sadie since school swim class. Sadie visits unexpectedly and turns Pippa’s life upside-down.

You must be tempted to meet Sadie. I spent a year waiting to write her story, and when I did, she took over my life as much as she did my protagonist, Pippa’s.

We learn very little about Sadie’s existence. She doesn’t seem to have a job, relationship or home. What she does have is Pippa’s attention and she takes her round the mulberry bush many times, on many mornings throughout the novel. Sadie takes no prisoners, yet she is fun and supportive.

Sadie is everything Pippa wants to be.

Pippa’s boyfriend telephones her at work, letting her know that her sister has called round. Pippa finds this strange because Heather is always visiting – why would Ben contact her at work to tell her something that happens regularly? When Pippa arrives home, Ben is on his way out and Pippa sees someone sitting in her front room that is not her sister.

‘Were you expecting the Pocahontas of Pendle?’ Sadie grins.

     ‘What! You can’t say that!’ she meant Heather, who lives in Pendle and does look a bit like she’s descended from America’s past.

     ‘Why not? Look.’ Sadie performs a centre parting in her lengthy black hair and two plaits appear (in record time). ‘Heather and I have our dad’s genes. You know as well as I do that Oswald’s great-great, however-many-grandads was one of the Salford Sioux, so if I was teased at school about it, then it’s fine for me to say it about Heather.’

I had to make Sadie the opposite of Pippa, this is why her father (not the same person as Pippa’s father) is descended from the Salford Sioux (I’ve added a handy link for you to check out). I worked in Salford for twenty years as a nurse. I learnt that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show visited Britain at the request of Queen Victoria and they arrived via The Manchester Ship Canal. This was in the winter of 1888 and some of the Salford Sioux stayed in the area (making their home on the banks of the River Irwell). Imagine yourself a Salford woman in Victorian times – descendants of this fabulous story live in the area today, and as my community boss once said to me ‘they say that if you think you’re descended from the Salford Sioux – you probably are.’ I think it was then that I decided I would weave this thread into something I wrote.

Pippa’s family tree.

Sadie is not all good…

I’m not telling you any more than that. You’ll have to read it.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, Samantha.

PS I also wrote The Curmudgeon Avenue Series;

On How I Wrote My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister

Inspiration attacked Samantha Henthorn from several different angles when she wrote her new novel, ‘My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Inspiration attacked me from several different angles when I wrote my new novel, ‘My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister’.

A while ago, everywhere I looked there was a book title that included the word ‘sister’. The Stepsister by Jenny O’Brien, My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Dead Sis by Jane Holland, and The Herb Sisters by Marina Johnson to name just four; sisters were everywhere in literature (I blame the Brontes).

Even though I knew that by the time I had written my ‘sister book’ publishing trends would have progressed, but I couldn’t get ‘sister’ out of my head.

Siblings never go out of fashion.

One of my favourite books (and my own sister’s teasing stick) was My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards (illustrated by Shirley Hughes).

(Image from Amazon)

‘Sisters’ are not the only trope that has been swirling around my writing for years. I’ve been obsessed with witches since I was little. If you’ve read my blog before you will have seen how I was named after the protagonist from 1960s sitcom Bewitched, you will have seen how I read books such as Witchdust by Mary Welfare and The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy and met and was baptised a witch at age 6 on a family day out to Pendle.

(Or was I?)

Photo by A Koolshooter on Pexels.com

Pippa, the protagonist of My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is not a witch, she is a forty-year-old woman trying to make sense of her life. When Sadie visits (her sister’s half-sister), Pippa starts to think that her mother and sister Heather are witches. All the evidence is there; Heather is a green goddess and Jacquetta (Pippa’s mother) is obsessed with the patron saint of keys. You would have to read on to find out the details – I want readers to either believe in Pippa’s breakdown or that her family are actually a nest of vipers.

If you’ve ever read or seen Fight Club or read Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih you’ll be well versed with books that leave you not knowing what to believe. Plus, we have all lived through some uncertain times recently, so I think mind-bending is on its way in literature.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

There is a debate going on (I’ve heard it in pubs, I’ve read it in reviews and I’ve tormented my own thoughts) about lockdown in literature. If you saw the Channel 4 drama Help earlier this year then you’ll know that this kind of pandemic narrative must be highlighted in any genre it can be. I am of the opinion that literature has a job; if stories are about people then people should be about stories. We are all wondering if the pandemic has taught us anything, and we should be reading books to help process the volume of information, emotions, bereavement, culture shocks and psychic storm-trooping we’ve all been through.

I’m not saying My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is the answer to any and all pandemic woes; what I am saying is it HAD to be set at the end of the lockdown… it just had to be. Pippa needed to have an epiphany.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

When writing My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, I had to come up with an occupation for Pippa. I had also been reading and rereading Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys (for my creative writing degree). I really wanted to include an intertextual reference, and before I knew it, Rhys’s Mr Blank became Pippa’s Mr Bland; and Pippa became an accountant ‘doing sums’ (Sadie’s words).

Actually, my darling daughter is an accountant. We text each other every day and have our own little ‘text speak’ language. A while ago, I started asking her if she had ‘done any really hard sums’ at work… obviously I was teasing (that’s just our sense of humour) but it stuck. I asked my daughter, and she didn’t mind if that Pippa also ‘does sums’ at work (creative licence applied – I know that accountancy is a complicated occupation).

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I used to be a psychiatric nurse until it was made impossible for me to continue working (my RMN career ended after I was diagnosed with MS). Reading and writing saved my mental health when faced with the vast culture shock of retiring at 39. That was almost eight years ago, and I’ve come a long way since. The older I get, the easier it becomes to face up to the serious side of life (especially when you write). It all fitted into place, and the protagonist of My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister started to shape into a character who could inspire hope (or at least seek help).

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

Because Pippa loves reading, I had to make literature part of the narrative. I achieved this with plenty of intertextual references, starting with the nursery rhyme ‘Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush’ (said to be written by female inmates of HMP Wakefield in the 19th century), and fitting because Pippa is stuck going round in circles with her female relatives.

Pippa compares herself to two of Hardy’s protagonists, the forsaken Tess Durbeyfield and the confident heroine Bathsheba Everdene. In the story, this reflected Pippa’s journey.

During writing, I was concerned about overdoing the references to other texts, then I remembered reading and loving the modern classic ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ by Jeanette Winterson. There is almost an intertextual reference on every page, and Jeanette Winterson is a genius.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (Paperback)

By this stage of writing My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, Pippa had taken over and told me what to write (see my other posts about my writing being powered by witchcraft).

If I really dig deep, this book started with a memory. When I was a child (about four or five), I remember going to visit two ‘aunties’ who lived in a marvellous house with a big bay window on a road that my dad had called ‘Millionaire’s Row’. These two women were extremely glamourous, with mauve and grey-toned clothes and knee-high boots. I don’t remember their names. ANYWAY, years later I asked my mum who these two women were; she had no idea. Maybe I dreamt them, or maybe they were Jacquetta and Heather – two of the main characters in My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Pippa has a secret, will you believe what she has to say?

I do have an older sister, and no the book is DEFINATELY NOT about her. However, this is why I chose the hyphenated way of writing half-sister for the title – there are actually five ways to write the title My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister:

My half-sister’s half-sister My Half Sister’s Half Sister
My Half-sister’s Half-sister My half sister’s half sister
My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister

(thank you https://www.alisonproofreader.com/)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I recently had a conversation with my sister-in-law about enjoying books with a quirky and different plot (like mine) so I dedicated the book to her.

Deeper inspirations flow through My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister that I can’t reveal because that would be a spoiler!

Thank you for reading my blog today, My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is available to pre-order from Amazon now (release date 30/11/21). See my Facebook Author page for #BlackFridayDeals. Audiobook in production.

Happy reading, Samantha 🙂

PS I also wrote these:

Local Poetry Nights are Awesome and the Horror Genre is not just for Halloween

If you see a poetry night advertised locally to you then you must attend (it’s the law).

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

Henthorn law…

Last Sunday, on Halloween I had a wonderful time at a live poetry reading – Keri Moriarty is brilliantly talented; this is what I wrote the day after:

This weekend was all about Halloween (the horror genre is not just for October in my world). My TV box and reading list are full to the brim with all things horrific – but on Halloween, I left the house and attended a local poetry night starring poet/author/multitalentedperson Keri Moriarty.
Originally from Wales, I am lucky enough to live in the same town as this awesome writer. 
Lindsay McKinnon (Curmudgeon Avenue narrator) and I arrived by broomstick at our local, Broad Street Social and we were scared to death by Keri’s grizzly poetry, such as Hickory, Dental Records or Never Leave Me, and Better the Devil You Know. Available to read in Keri’s book Bone Cathedral: A Collection of Poetry (Creative Portfolio Series) Or, if you happen to live near the Bury area (North Manchester, UK) do look Keri up, and attend one of her readings – Keri claims to be ‘unfriendly’ but that’s not true, she’s awesome and is also an artist – look her up on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/keri…  Failing that, support your local authors/poets I had a blast on Sunday night #poetryshouldbeperformed ! 
Bone Cathedral: A Collection of Poetry (Creative Portfolio Series) by [Keri Moriarty]

Bone Cathedral is Keri Moriarty’s first poetry collection, which explores a series life based snapshots with some using truth as a backbone and others taking a distinctly surreal turn. The pieces included are a mixture of tributes, introspections and reflections commenting on a wide range of subjects from contemplative smoking to grief, from love to identity.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today’s post is short and sweet… I have a confession to make – I’ve been overdoing it recently (life, not blogging). Sundays are a day for chilling and eating at our house.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday,

Samantha 🙂

PS

My latest book ‘My Half-Sister’s Half Sister‘ is due for release at the end of November.

Harold and Edith’s Halloween Party #IARTG #Halloween #CurmudgeonAvenue2

The Harold and Edith Adventures is available on Audible Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

In chapter nine, we find out why Halloween was once banned at Curmudgeon Avenue, and how Harold and Edith brought it back with their comedy-drama style.

Chapter 9: The Halloween Party

On this particular week in Whitefield, the streets were filled with the colours of Halloween. Orange pumpkins both produce and plastic, the ghostly whites of costumes, and skies of purple and grey before (bonfire night delivers a modern-day fog). Say what you like about the people of Manchester, they know how to enjoy themselves, (particularly in Whitefield, where as you know, it is any excuse to get wasted).

     ‘I should have let Patchouli have this party. I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for when I said yes to our Ricky,’ said Edith, from under a pile of fake cobwebs. (Erm, yes, you should have Edith, and yes, you did know). ‘Edna would not have allowed this. No way. She would not have allowed a party at Curmudgeon Avenue.’

(I miss Edna).

     ‘Edna?’ said Harold while pretending to carve a pumpkin. ‘It’s a shame your sister isn’t here, Edith, she could have answered the door to the trick-or-treaters. She wouldn’t have had to get dressed up! In fact, Edna could have gone trick or treating herself!’ Harold laughed at his own joke while spraying the kitchen with stringy pumpkin flesh and sticky seeds. Edith did not like Harold’s teasing about Edna, but was unable to make it stop.

     ‘Be careful, Harold, I’m going to make pumpkin soup with those insides… Put them in the bowl, will you?’

     ‘Yes, boss,’ said Harold. (Oh dear, that is another annoyance).

     After another trip to the off licence, (with Edith’s purse), Harold insisted on making his signature dish – Radcliffe Hors d’oeuvres (mini cheddars with a blob of Primula cheese spread on the top). Number One Curmudgeon Avenue was ready for its very first Halloween party. But first, Harold and Edith had to eat their tea – Manchester speak for the evening meal. Edith had made the pumpkin soup she had been talking about. Edith was quite capable of preparing food, as you know, her previous husband Reg was very well fed. But pumpkin soup was something she had never tried before. You see, Halloween was not popular in Edith’s family up until today.

Photo by Lovefood Art on Pexels.com

     Now, I have a kitchen, but I’m no cook (why would I be? I’m a house). However, I do know that folk should be careful with fibrous starchy squash fruits (especially if the person eating them has a delicate digestive system and shares a bedroom with you, such as Harold).

     ‘It was my mother’s birthday on Halloween,’ Edith said in between orange slurps.

     ‘Oh, really? I expect you had lots of fun growing up then?’

     ‘No Harold, I mean don’t forget, Halloween wasn’t as popular back then as it is now.’

     ‘I blame the Americans,’ said Harold.

     ‘When Ricky was little, it got popular, but it was still Mother’s birthday.’

     ‘Oh, I’m sure you had a grand old time bringing him round to see his grandmother.’

     Edith felt a bit guilty thinking about her own mother in this way. The truth was her mother had been a real narcissist and Halloween was banned. She would manipulate the entire situation months in advance so that her birthday was all about her, and nothing about Halloween. Fair enough you might be thinking to yourself, it is probably the same for the folk whose birthday is on Christmas Day or any other such festival. But Edith’s mother never returned the favour. Even her own daughters had their birthdays purposely forgotten by their vain mother.

     And you thought Edna did not do birthdays anymore for age preservation reasons? No, it was because Mrs Payne had been a bit of a cow about them. But Mother was dead, and Edith was having a Halloween party in her house.

     ‘Edith, are you alright?’ Harold said. ‘You haven’t said anything for ages, it’s not like you!’

     ‘Oh yes, I was just thinking about Mum… and Dad…’ Edith put her spoon down, and looked into Harold’s googly eyes, wanting to confide in him about her parents’ tragic end. She had never discussed the shock before. ‘Harold did I ever tell you …?’ But her voice trailed off, drowned by the sound of singing in Manchester voices, ready to party, and ready to get their Halloween on.

     ‘Halloween’s coming. Halloween’s coming… concrete chips! Concrete chips!’ then Wantha turned to Toonan, slapping her on the arm.

      ‘What’ve concrete chips got to do with it? You’ve got it mixed up with the school dinner song!’

      ‘OW! Well, what are the words then? Know it all!’ Toonan’s words were lost amongst the sound of Harold prizing the back door open. He had done too much of a good job sticking the fake cobwebs up.

      ‘Oh! Come in!’

     ‘What’s up with youse?’ Wantha said, from behind Toonan (part of the costume). ‘It doesn’t look like a party in here, c’ mon get some tunes on!’

     ‘Oh, come in, come in, I haven’t had the chance to put my costume on!’ Edith said, and then she took in the Halloween vision before her. ‘Oh! Patchouli! What have you come as? You look very…’

     ‘Goth. I’ve come as a Goth Ediff,’ said Patchouli from behind a fishnet veil and lashings of black eye makeup. ‘They do my head in, well they used to before the Banshee got bulldozed uptown. Ever go in there Ediff?’

     ‘Can’t say I did, no.’

     ‘Thinking they were better than everyone, dressing ‘alternative’ but looking like their best mate! Horrific! That’s why it makes a good Halloween costume.’ Patchouli, the ultimate old rock chick, obviously had a grudge to bear.

Photo by Nicolas Postiglioni on Pexels.com

Edith noticed something else, Wantha and Toonan wearing a combination outfit.

     ‘Sorry Ediff, we asked for a horse, but they only had this left,’ Toonan’s eyes studied the kitchen floor in shame. Edith took in the image of Wantha and Toonan in their elephant costume. It was like a pantomime horse, but it was an elephant.

     ‘Sorry Ediff,’ said Wantha. Ricky Ricketts pushed past the two straight to the fridge.

     ‘Did Harold get the beers in Mum?’

     ‘No, I did,’ said Edith. ‘Aren’t you getting dressed up?’

     ‘No. I don’t get dressed up, out of respect for Granny.’

     ‘Good man,’ said Harold (it had nothing to do with him) then let out one of his first pumpkin fuelled farts. Edith reappeared downstairs wearing a sheet with two eyeholes cut into it, she was the token Halloween ghost. ‘Little Ghost’ Wantha and Toonan kept calling her.

     Then it was Harold’s turn to reveal his costume; a second hand Beetlejuice with matching grey wig. Harold’s spectacles threw his audience. ‘Harold, why have you come as Doc from Back to the Future?’ said Toonan.  

     ‘I thought you were doing the food for tonight, Toonan?’ Harold diverted while letting another fart out.

     ‘I did!’ Toonan narrowly missed the offensive smell. ‘Look!’ Toonan ripped open a bag of jelly worms. ‘See, Halloween food!’

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

     Harold let out another fart, this one reached Toonan’s nostrils. ‘Ew Harold, have you just farted?’

     Harold, of course, denied it.

     Well, the night proceeded with as much Manchester merriment and Halloween high jinks that you can imagine. They ran out of beer, and Toonan and Wantha went together to the nearest off licence in their elephant costume. Amongst the tomfoolery and fun, Edith sought Prosecco fuelled confidence in Patchouli, who remained dressed as a Goth and was unlikely to remember what Edith had said. She flopped down on the leatherette settee next to Patchouli, who was minding her own business and having a disco nap.

     ‘The thing is,’ Edith hiccupped. ‘My mother wouldn’t have liked this. A party on Halloween…’ Edith hiccupped again in Patchouli’s face, disguising the silent but deadly wind released from Edith’s bottom.

      ‘Why ever not, love?’ Patchouli asked with concern.

      ‘Oh, because she didn’t like this sort of thing, not on her birthday, anyway… Did you know… Did you know how she died? How she and my father died?’ Edith’s eyes were wide, and Patchouli was doing her best to listen. ‘She got squashed by an elephant. They both did, in their static caravan.’

     Of course, Patchouli already knew, but she had to entertain Edith, in her ghost costume, partially discarded in favour of her standard floral head to foot ensemble.

     ‘If Halloween was her birthday, why didn’t she like it? Patchouli asked.

     ‘Well, she wanted it to be just a birthday, it had to be all about her,’ Edith revealed the pattern of behaviour she had fallen into. Patchouli touched her forearm.

     ‘Your mum would have wanted you to be happy like all mums do.’ As Patchouli spoke, Edith shut up and listened for once. ‘Now your sister isn’t here at the moment, so you have to embrace the people around you, right here, right now. You’re happy with Harold, aren’t you?’ this mention of Harold to Edith sent her right back to her ruminations.

     ‘Yes, but he doesn’t know about the elephant incident, or at least I didn’t think he did… And in any case, I’m not altogether sure if Mum would have liked me being with Harold.’

     ‘Now Edith, come on, time is precious, just enjoy the here and now. And Edith, everyone knew about the elephant incident, it was on Granada Reports.’ (What a lovely woman Patchouli is; though it was probably the here and now that caused the hob incident).

     Edith started a lengthy, gushing speech about how Patchouli had been right and their new friendship. As you can imagine, there was a lot of ‘so anyways’, she didn’t stop for breath. Edith nearly exhausted the room of oxygen she was talking so much. Patchouli patiently listened, but eventually returned to her disco nap in the living room. Edith carried on talking for longer than was reasonably necessary.

     ‘Oh, there you are!’ Harold said, rather too loudly as he barged into the living room.

     ‘WHAT! Where’s the fire?!’ Patchouli woke and jumped out of her skin with a face more Alice Cooper than Siouxsie and the Banshees.

     ‘I didn’t know where you were Edith, Toonan and Wantha want to get the apple bobbing going,’ Harold looked more like a mad scientist than a rambunctious spirit.

     ‘Harold!’ Edith said in uncharacteristic assertive tones. ‘I want to speak to you about a huge shock I had when my parents died.’

     Harold expelled the remaining pumpkin gas from his gastrointestinal tract. His head wobbled, and his eyes bulged out so far that they touched the inside of his spectacles. Harold and Edith stared at each other for longer than was reasonably necessary. He was saved by the person least likely to save anyone.

     ‘Harold, get your arse to the shop, will you? We’re running out of sweets for the trick-or-treaters,’ Ricky shouted from inside a plume of cigarette smoke and stolen aftershave.

     ‘I thought Toonan brought all those jelly worms?’ said Harold, but Ricky ignored him.  Harold did as he was told, but only because he needed to get away from Edith and further mentions of elephants, parents and massive shocks. There would be another huge shock for Edith if she found out the truth. Harold had lived this lie for too long. He had already resigned himself that it would do more harm than good if Edith knew the truth. It was the elephant’s fault, not his. The front door slammed behind him.

     ‘See,’ said Edith. ‘He’s not interested in talking to me,’ Edith sighed in Patchouli’s general direction.  (Typical Harold, it could have been the carpet’s fault, as long as it wasn’t his).

     ‘Oh, Edith, lighten up love, will you? And help me get this corpse bride hat off before people start accusing me of being into The Chameleons,’ Patchouli was back in the land of the living.

     ‘Oh, it’s stuck to your head!’ Edith said. ‘What’s it stuck on with?’

     ‘Superglue I think,’ said Patchouli. Well, Edith (still wearing her white sheet) started tugging, fussing and pulling Patchouli’s hat. Then, more trick-or-treaters knocked on the door.

     ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get it!’ Toonan and Wantha said.

     ‘Quick put your head on! Ow, watch me trunk!’ they opened the door, not to a trick-or-treater but to a very tall, very handsome, smartly dressed man.

     ‘Oh Haha, what’ve you come as?’ Toonan said, from behind an elasticated elephant’s trunk.

     ‘Pardon?’ the man said, with very slight tinges of a faintly French accent. Wantha could not resist stepping away from Toonan to have a proper look at this fine specimen who had rattled the door knocker of Number One Curmudgeon Avenue. She was wearing the back half of the elephant. Braces held up the baggy grey trousers, (skin-tight around Wantha’s voluptuous hips), Wantha smoothed down her hair.

     ‘Hello, would you like a gummy worm?’ Toonan asked as the smart-looking handsome and tall man took in the scene before him. Two parts of an elephant, one with hair like a lion’s mane and a backside like a rhinoceros. The other still wearing the elephant’s head and holding what appeared to be confiscated Halloween treats. Then he heard it, well, they all heard it…

     ‘Push, no pull,’ said Edith. ‘No, stay still Patchouli. You try and sit in the chair, and I’ll pull.’

     ‘PUUUULLLL,’ shouted Patchouli, which was followed by a nauseating ripping sound. ‘Ow! Ow, you got my scalp, Edith!’

     The tall, handsome man took a step back to look at the door number. ‘Sorry, I think I have the wrong house.’ And with that, he got back into his expensive-looking car and drove away down Curmudgeon Avenue into the Manchester night.

      ‘Who was that?’ said Harold on his way back from Mrs Ali’s with sweets and gossip that he had already forgotten.

      ‘Yeah, Wantha, who was that?’ said Ricky Ricketts with sudden interest.

      ‘We thought it was a trick-or-treater, but it was just some posh bloke who got the wrong address,’ Toonan spoke with jelly worms hanging from her mouth underneath her elephant trunk.

     ‘What’s going on?’ Patchouli and Edith appeared out of the living room, and everyone burst into laughter. Edith was still wearing her ghost costume, but Patchouli, not only had black eye make-up running down her face but a nice round bald patch where Edith had ripped off her Halloween hat.

     ‘Oh, Mum I’m sorry, you look like a cross between Uncle Fester and Friar Tuck!’

The Harold and Edith Adventures is available on Audible Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Happy Halloween everyone!

PS last few days for some free trick or treat Halloween reads including The Ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue click HERE

I Read Horror in October (it’s the law)

Hello Everyone, happy October,

First of all, where has the time gone? It has been fourteen days since my last blog post (and I might not even finish writing this one today). Reason? I’ve been writing and, more importantly READING!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

A fascination with all things horrific leads us mortals to read/watch/listen to anything that creeps us out. This month, my horror choices so far have been Bound: A Paranormal Shifter Romance by Kat Kinney and The Thicket which is free until the 1st of November with this link: https://books.bookfunnel.com/halloweenshorts/4r7jar8ylo

Bound: A Paranormal Shifter Romance (Blood Moon, Texas Shifters Book 3) by [Kat Kinney]

Teacher by day, fantasy writer by night, West Caldwell was forced to live in secret long before werewolves and vampires accidentally outed themselves on social media, causing a worldwide freak out. One slip of his rare Omega magic bound Topher Greer to him against his will. Now that magic threatens to fracture even further—just as shapeshifters are being abducted off the streets of Austin, Texas.

Topher Greer, EMT and former prisoner of the most dangerous vampire coven in Texas, is one of the few who can sense the presence of undead blood. He’s been marked for death by the Vampire Nation—who hold his brother hostage. Things with West Caldwell are… complicated. Pack law doesn’t forbid relationships between newly changed werewolves and their sires. But West has more walls around his heart than a high-security vampire prison.

To avoid the coming war and save his brother, Topher will have to turn to the most unlikely of allies—and untangle the feelings between him and West Caldwell for once and for all.

BOUND is part of the Blood Moon, Texas Shifters series. Sizzling hot romance. Guaranteed HEA.

My review

Fabulous. I knew I was bound to love this one, and it arrived just in time for October’s spooky season. West and Topher are bound together (initially, without Topher’s consent). This magic moment saved Topher from the vampires, but will West ever know if their love is for real? Meanwhile, vampires and werewolves toil against their natural instincts and there is talk of an alliance – because the humans are after them.
A great plot and I enjoy Kat Kinney’s writing too. I was immersed in a world where vampires and werewolves are crossed to make varewolves, I learnt how to spell ‘whuffed’ and was treated to a thread of ‘You’re the biggest fantasy nerd’ – two characters teasing one another really normalised the supernatural for me (and made me smile).
What starts as a story about rule-breaking shapeshifters becomes a narrative of family values and loyalty.

WOULD YOU RECOGNIZE A REAL SCREAM AT HALLOWEEN?

Norah Lewis ignored her brother’s screams in the haunted house that night. Because none of it was supposed to be real. Not the blood. Not the butcher knives. And not the bodies.

Tormented by survivor’s guilt and seeking answers, Norah secretly plans to retrace her brother’s final steps.

But the killer hasn’t chosen his hunting ground at random. And his sights are set on the hordes of thrill seekers still lining up to visit the notorious haunted house.

This time, Norah will run toward the screams—no matter the cost.

CLICK HERE FOR A FREE COPY (part of a promotion)

My review:

A great cover, a great plot and a chilling end. The Thicket is a serial killer thriller about one of the most haunted (fictional?) places in the US. The story starts with brothers and sisters Brandon and Norah visiting The Thicket (which is run like a ghost train without the train); the siblings are separated and the plot opens up. The book has Halloween and horror themes throughout and the crushing of pre-pandemic contemporary life – (Facebook pages with amateur sleuths and other threads which tore at the survivor’s mental state). An exploration of sibling guilt, teenage friendships and loyalty. Why have I knocked one star off? I think this book made me feel a bit old as I got ‘lost’ a few times. Get lost in The Thicket this Halloween!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Stay spooky, and happy reading, Samantha 🙂

My Writing is Powered by Witchcraft and my Garden Speaks to Me

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

During the summer, I spent a lot of time researching witchcraft for my latest novel My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Without giving too much away, readers will (I hope) be left wondering what is magic realism and what is the unreliable narrator’s thoughts.

During this time, I have learnt a lot about witchcraft. I also found out (slash am convinced) that when I write a novel, I am powered by an unworldly force (such as witchcraft).

I wrote My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister in less than four months (from the end of June to the end of September).

This kind of writing speed earned a gasp in the audience at Todmorden Book Festival when Joanne Harris revealed she wrote Chocolat in four months.

(I don’t have a young child or a full time job though).

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

I have spoken before about my weird reversed writer’s block (I’ve just freaked myself out Googling this). I do have lesions on my brain because of MS maybe this is the cause of my mild case of hypergraphia.

Or it could be witchcraft.

Whenever I am coming to the end of writing a novel, I start to think about the next one. Not on purpose… it is REALLY annoying; picture the scene… Yay! I’m about to finish writing this brilliant book… this is going to be the one! Brain says, I’d like to introduce you to some fictional characters. Get to know them now because you’ll be writing about them soon (and you’ve only got four months to do it).

This is what happened with the characters from My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister. One of my best friends, Claire gifted me the name Epiphany (Pippa for short). Soon, I had imagined a world for this new character. Pippa works as an accountant, has a younger boyfriend and she lives in the flat upstairs in her mother’s pub. Then the world changed and my ideas really started to take shape. Pippa soon became a forty year old woman trying to rebuild her life after lockdown. She discovers that her mother (Jacquetta) and sister (Heather) are witches, but only after she is visited by her half-sister’s half-sister (Sadie).

Photo by Julia Zaporozhchenko on Pexels.com

The above is concise for me; I hate writing blurb… the book came together so quickly after months and months of writing on bits of paper, backs of envelopes, sending myself text messages, writing on the insides of empty medication boxes. Anything I could get my hands on when Pippa, Sadie, Jacquetta or Heather popped into my head. You could say I was compelled to write it; almost as though I had been bewitched (and also like the description of hypergraphia on the internet).

And it wasn’t because I was bored writing the last two in series of Curmudgeon Avenue when this happened; when I came to the end of writing My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, I accidentally started writing my next book.

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

I’m not giving the title away just in case I don’t write it (probably will, though if the above is anything to go off).

The more I researched witchcraft, the more it was in my head. This is not a new fascination, I loved witch themed books and TV when I was younger (maybe because I am named Samantha). I wrote a post about this when I first started imagining that I would write My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, click HERE to see that post.

I found out some really interesting things when researching paranormal/supernatural/psychological fiction (so many names)

Some of it I was scared to know. We’re all aware of Queen Victoria making black a mourning colour after her husband, Prince Albert died. I read in a dark book that ‘the Victorians’ were not only emulating their queen, black was considered to be the colour to wear to avoid seeing ghosts. I’m not sure about this, because Victorian culture is said to have welcomed clairvoyance, and where better than to see a spirit? (I’ve also read that wearing black at funerals pre-dates Victorian times).

However, my friends have not lied to me during my witchcraft quest. So excited was I about my next novel, I started boring my friends by telling them about it on nights out. My friends Janaki and Neil told me that they had watched an episode of QI, and learnt that plants associated with spells such as eye of newt are actually plants (now called Hemerocallis Calico Jack in the UK). The words eye of newt and toe of frog are from Shakespeare’s Scottish play, (check me out for superstition). Toe of frog is actually buttercups… I kid you not, during the summer my lawn was covered in buttercups (when it isn’t usually).

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Gardening is magic. This year a few plants I haven’t seen for a while reappeared in my garden. I’m not a gardener, but thinking things through logically, these mystery plants appeared because of my compost bin.

Or witchcraft…

This gave me an idea for a short story ‘Bit of Me’ about a couple who live on a pig farm. Unpublished as yet (I’m still hoping to collaborate on a short story collection). The compost bin features heavily in the plot; see what I mean? My garden is speaking to me.

I’m sure that there are other writers whose worlds have become very small since the pandemic, more than ever it feels as though something good can finally happen. Let me know if your garden has inspired you.

I’ll stop here, because recent mini-dramas have both inspired my writing and frightened me (plus I don’t want to go on too much about the time I thought someone had put a spell on me but it turned out I am becoming absent minded).

Last thoughts for today

May be an image of 1 person, standing, tree and outdoors

Either this sunflower is really tall, or I’m really small (I am leaning on a stick).

Or witchcraft…

Happy October everyone, Samantha 🙂

When Curmudgeon Avenue Appeared at Glaston-Bury (one day event for charity in Lancashire).

I am so proud of my home town, Bury in North West England. Especially on August bank holiday when the town is taken over for a charity event called Glaston-Bury.

Taking their name from the bigger festival in the south, Glaston-Bury fills the streets of Bury with heavy metal, cover bands, poets, and this year a book reading of Curmudgeon Avenue (I wrote that) by my talented voice over friend and colleague Lindsay McKinnon.

No description available.

Those who know me know that I have MS and can’t stand up for long. And to be honest, I’ve been unwell ever since the event and that’s why it has taken me seventeen days to write this blog post. #MSsucks and fatigue is doing my head right in!

Anyway, back to the event. The reason we were welcomed to appear at this mostly music festival is because part of book four of the Curmudgeon Avenue Series is set at the Glaston-Bury festival!

Above is a sneak peak of a new cover – I’m always messing about. I just need to make the final decision about if Harold’s spectacles should be wonky.

Gil Von Black nearly broke Facebook when it was realised he would not be appearing on stage with his magic fingers this year. Gil Tweeted a photograph of Patchouli and himself with the caption #AugustBankHolidaychillin’. As soon as this was noticed on Facebook, there were many comments on the Glaston-Bury page. ‘Please can someone tell me which stage and what time is Gil Von Black on?’ several people asked. All with the same answer from the festival organisers: ‘He’s not performing this year’.

     Ahh, the life of the actual real-life session musician rock star; he will attend the festival along with the crowd (including Wantha, Toonan and their respective men). After Wantha had attended to her Instagram duties (doling out advice about what to wear at a local charity festival), she found her lip liner and was ready to go. Zandra and Gordon Bennett prepared themselves for their first Bury day out since arriving at Curmudgeon Avenue.

Our stage (actually the poet’s stage) was upstairs in a very cool record and coffee shop called Wax and Beans

It was actually tricky to prepare for the event. I am NOT a performer, fortunately, Lindsay is. Lindsay McKinnon has loads of acting experience and is the most talented person I have in my phone (or have met in real life). If you are reading this, and are looking for a narrator for your audiobook I would recommend Lindsay. Click HERE for her website.

It was difficult to choose passages from a book I started writing seven years ago. Especially as my head is full of my current work in progress. I suppose all authors go through this (laughing face emoji). I am yet to attend a (traditionally published) author talk since lockdown ended in the UK. I’ve been to loads in my time and they are usually full of an eager audience wanted to know the question that no one can answer; how can I get published?

Fortunately, Todmorden Book Festival has come to my rescue. I have tickets to see one of my favourite authors, Joanne Harris. I have so many questions for her but I know I will be too shy to ask any of them.

JoanneHarris Chocolat.jpg

Sorry, I went off on a bit of a tangent there. I was just trying to explain that I intend to attend more author talks and do more of my own.

I just need to get better first (I usually have a good management of my illness but I’m just weary at the moment – or as my window cleaner puts it ‘you look fr****d today’)

Speaking of tangents, one way that I look after myself is physiotherapy. When I was first diagnosed with MS I started doing yoga. Here’s the tangent, one of my oldest and dearest friends Carla (we met during nurse training, that’s how long we’ve known one another) gave me the tip off about the Todmorden Book Festival. Carla is now an excellent yoga teacher; she has just the right voice for it. If you are in or around Todmorden, you should definitely attend her yoga class click HERE for her link.

WELL I have gone round in circles today haven’t I? You could say I’ve gone round the mulberry bush – which would segue into a hint about my work in progress. I’ve decided not to reveal the title until the manuscript has been polished(I cannot wait to start sharing this book I am really enjoying writing it).

Have a great weekend, Samantha 🙂

PS I wrote these:

Book Review Lie of the Tiger by John Martin (it is part of a promotion, and it’s about cats)

Lie of the Tiger by John Martin

More about Lie of the Tiger by John Martin

Paddy – if that is indeed his real name – has taken the reins of the Windy Mountain Tasmanian Tiger Museum, only to discover the previous manager left the building in a coffin.

Then he finds out that the devious owners don’t actually want him to succeed anyway.

The old men’s dogged determination isn’t good news for a third octogenarian who has the only legal dog in town, but stuff him.

Oodles and Wish-Wash have good reason not to like The Mayor anyway and if he won’t help, they are prepared to break the law.

This is a funny, sometimes touching story with a quirky character around almost every corner.

Lie of the Tiger is book 1 of the Windy Mountain series. Each book has its own story.

But if you enjoy this one, Blokes on a Plane (book 2), Whitey and the Six Dwarfs (book 3), Blokes in Donegal (book 4), and Blokes in the House (book 5, inspired by the events of 2020), await with many of the same endearing characters.

Lie of the Tiger is free as part of this PROMOTION until 31 August

I read Lie of the Tiger last week and it really made me smile. And! I had never heard of a Tasmanian tiger.

Here’s my review:

Lie of the Tiger is a quirky satire about a Tasmanian tiger museum. The book is educational (I had never heard of this extinct cat) and funny. Yes, it is because John Martin has a funny way with words. Character names are playfully chosen Wish-Wash and Oodles, and later Sergeant Stretch (especially when someone stretches out their arms to catch him). The plot is engaging. To keep his job, Paddy must succeed in reopening the museum, but this means proving that these stripy wildcats are still alive and well near Windy Mountain. Recommended for cat lovers, big cat conspiracy enthusiasts and readers with a sense of humour.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/freeandfun/3295975751

Apologies, I did promise to write a blog post about an interesting conversation I had with my sister-in-law. This will be about books, reading and why we choose to read certain books. I haven’t written the post yet because I’ve been really suffering with fatigue. I’ve got MS, it’s just something I have to put up with.

At least I can still read. And write! Another reason I am worn out at the moment is I am writing my next book. This is about a woman trying to find her way in life after lockdown. Although I am enjoying writing it, I am drained!

Have some free books on me, have a great weekend, Samantha 🙂

A Curmudgeonly Christmas

Every summer, I notice writers talking about their Christmas books on social media. A bit upside down, I thought. But last December, I brought Curmudgeon Avenue to a close with the final book in the series ‘A Curmudgeonly Christmas’. 

Curmudgeon Avenue has been going on for quite some time, some would say for longer than reasonably necessary… In this Curmudgeonly final, the nincompoops of Curmudgeon Avenue would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Gordon Bennett is obsessed with the pothole growth on the street as we get proper emosh at Wantha and Ricky’s wedding. But! Did Wantha ever get to find out who her daddy is?
Christmas is coming, and Francesca is getting fat meanwhile Zandra may have overdone it with the scented candles. And the ghosts are immune to any and all lockdown restrictions.

Put down the selection box and the sausage rolls, A Curmudgeonly Christmas is a perfect end to the Curmudgeon Avenue series and the year!


Don’t just take my word for it, I noticed a fabulous review has popped up for Curmudgeon Avenue #1 – my cheeks are hurting I’m smiling so much! 

If you are enjoying the most wonderful time of the year, maybe you would like to have a look at this Christmas book promotion : https://books.bookfunnel.com/christmasjuly21/p2re6562xn

Just a quick post from me this week because I’m doing my packing for our Christmas holiday... I mean summer holiday (in the UK).

Happy reading, Samantha.

Twenty Years Ago, I Had a Dream About John Lennon, and He Told Me Off

Photo by Golnar sabzpoush rashidi on Pexels.com

Actually, this happened slightly longer than twenty years ago because I remember the job I was in and who I spoke to about this vivid dream I had about John Lennon. He told me off and I was gutted.

I was born in the mid seventies, I missed the Beatles boat age wise. However they were still EVERYWHERE when I was growing up in the north of England (Manchester, not Liverpool). Mum always had Radio 2 tuned in before we set off for school, and I do remember John Lennon’s death in the news. I would have been five and a half years old. Old enough for a significant news event to stick in my head I suppose.

John Lennon 1969 (cropped).jpg

Here’s the dream, all I remember is that John Lennon told me off. He really shouted at me and I remember being gutted because John Lennon’s showbiz persona always seemed so friendly. I knew he had his causes but there was no need to give me a telling off.

YOU SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS (he meant my job), YOU SHOULD BE MAKING PEOPLE LAUGH.

I knew that John Lennon meant my job, because the dream was ‘set’ at my place of work at the time (I won’t lie, it was a stressful place to work in the care sector). I thought I was good at my job, and leaving my nursing career was not my choice. I eventually retired due to ill health (I have MS). At the time I had this dream, I was completely healthy. Yet here was the most famous and talented Liverpudlian ever to grace earth with his presence telling me I was in the wrong job.

The dream was so powerful that my mind was still blown when I turned up for work later that day (I was most probably on a nightshift, knowing my luck).

I told one of my colleagues that John Lennon told me off in a dream and she was very interested. ‘There’s a book about that,‘ she told me. Now, this was well before smartphones, so I couldn’t ‘Google it’ and the work colleague could not remember the name of the book, but she was convinced of its existence. She had read about it somewhere, or someone had told her about it. I know there is the magic of Facebook, but even if I was in touch with this person I wouldn’t ask ‘Do you remember a conversation we had over twenty years ago?’ I already sound potty.

The dream has stayed in my mind and I have been reminded of it every now and then (the Beatles are still everywhere). I haven’t managed to find a book about what it means to dream of John Lennon.

I did find a book on Amazon about John Lennon’s actual dreams – I think this means John Lennon’s ambition. It is an inspirational book for children, rather than what I am talking about.

John Lennon (Little People, BIG DREAMS Book 52) by [Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Octavia Bromell]
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08LR2DNHX/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

And if you search for ‘Dreams about John Lennon’ then loads of results come up about Paul McCartney. Apparently he regularly dreams about John Lennon (but does not get told off). That’s understandable, they were best song writing mates (and had actually met, not like me – some random fool).

Paul McCartney smiling

Photo from Wikipedia, Here is a link to one of the articles about Paul McCartney dreaming about John Lennon. https://www.nme.com/news/music/paul-mccartney-john-lennon-dreams-the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert-interview-the-beatles-2550940

This could potentially be a great idea for a book – if someone hasn’t already written it (so many books out there it is really hard to search).

What about John Lennon’s message, ‘I should be making people laugh?’

This could have been a weird psychic, intuitive glimpse into the future. At the time I had the dream, yes I loved reading but I had no idea that I would one day become writer (that’s not strictly true, I do remember telling my parents that I wanted to be an author, and wrote the word on a box then put a doll in the box. Who knows if I had just found the word ‘author’, but I like to think I meant it). I also said that I wanted to be a nurse. How accurate young Samantha was!

Twenty years later I have made a few readers smile with my Curmudgeon Avenue series. And some have actually laughed – they said so in a review!

I’m dying to know if anyone else has had a celebrity dream – especially one with a message. And especially a dream including a message from John Lennon!

Some time after the dream, but before this post I did see this John Lennon quote; I think this is his real message:

Happiness Is The Key To Life | John lennon quotes, Happy quotes, Words

(Actually, I saw this quote originally as ‘the teacher told me I didn’t understand the question’ – they don’t say ‘assignment’ in Liverpool 😉 ) Just be happy, innit?

Have a great weekend, Samantha 🙂

PS two of my books are listed in promotions at the moment. The final of Curmudgeon Avenue can be found in the Christmas Fun in the Summertime promo until the 31st of July 21. And ‘1962 (an uplifting tale of 1960s Lancashire) is part of the Soulful Reads promo, which runs until the 19th of July.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B01M4LPH9U