Betwixt – A gothic short story

woman-2375822_640 Credit: Enrique Meseguer

I love gothic novels. Everything from Edgar Allen Poe to Laura Purcell, Bram Stoker to Carlos Ruiz Zafon – I find the blend of dark romanticism, ominous characters, decaying grandeur, curses and the supernatural simply irresistible. My favourite novel as a teenager was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Set on the desolate and uninviting moors, with its harsh climate provided the perfect backdrop for a gothic romance and reminded me so much of Ireland, that I felt strangely connected to it. I was also really drawn to the anti-heroes Heathcliff and Cathy – their willful nature, their intensity. But it’s the structure of the story and the supernatural elements that infuse it with a sense of mystery and fear.

I was less enamoured by my penchant for the macabre when staying at a friend’s cottage in the middle of the Irish countryside, miles from anywhere. It was the longest night of my life (I was supposed to stay there for a week. Plans changed!). Nestled (or buried – depending on how you want to look at it!) at the base of a hill , it was a traditional thatched cottage with dinky windows and a half door. The smell of turf almost knocked me over as we walked inside, but I tried to be cool with the gloom and the damp. And the fact that, despite it being the height of summer, inside was a million degrees cooler than outside.

That night however, I stopped being cool with everything when the noises started. Every creak made me jump. It didn’t help that the room was full of religious icons, leering over me. The distinct sound of a chair being scraped across the floor left me rigid in the bed. I had to risk my arm being snatched by who knew what to switch on the lamp. I gave up on sleep and sat in an armchair by the smokey fire until it was light enough to pack up and go back to civilisation. But not before my companion told me the history of the house, and how we were not the first to leave the place in a hurry.

This, dear reader, was the inspiration for my gothic short story, Betwixt which is currently a number one bestseller on Amazon! I wrote it in 2015, before The Story Collector, as a little side project, so it’s a thrill to see it doing so well and garnering such positive reviews. Like all indie authors, I struggle to get my work promoted and break into new readerships. So I have made this short story permanently free on all platforms (Kobo ~ Apple) so readers can get an introduction to my writing before buying all of my books!

Betwixt is the perfect quick read for this time of year – it’s atmospheric and haunting and inspired by a true story (eek!) So download your FREE copy now and if you enjoy it, I would love if you could share the love by passing it on to a friend and/or leaving a short review. They make a HUGE difference to how books are ranked on Amazon, which in turn can really impact on an author’s career. True story! You can have all the PR in the world, but it is readers who have the greatest influence. So thank you to everyone who has made this book number one and to those of you about to read it, let me know what you think!

Spread The Words

Who needs chocolates and flowers when you can spend an arbitrary date in February curled up with a beautiful book?! So for all you sleepy-heads who missed reading The Story Collector the first time around, you have one week to download it for just 99p!

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‘Told with all the warmth and charm of a fairytale’

The Irish Times

‘This is the kind of book to lose yourself in’

Nudge Books Literary Magazine

But what’s it all about? Who is the story collector and why is this butterfly-adorned book breaking hearts? Well, I’ve always believed that word of mouth is the best way to spread the love for a book, so I’ve decided to use the words of my wonderful readers to make a story collector word cloud!
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If you can find a few words in there that speak to you, then click on the portal below for your chance to escape into a world of wild beauty, dark creatures and true love.

Special Offer

If you have managed to miss the exciting news that The Story Collector was reviewed in The Irish Times last weekend, then well done to you because I have been telling everyone I know and many people I don’t! To celebrate, The Story Collector is available to download for 99p all weekend on Amazon and if you fancy bagging yourself a signed copy, check out my Twitter page for a chance to win.

What’s that? You’d like to see the review? Well, I mean if you really think it’s necessary, I suppose I could see if I have a copy somewhere…

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Honestly, this is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. I remember years ago, my sister saying “oh you should be writing for the Irish Times”. She may as well have said, you should write your novels from space. It seemed so far-fetched. Even now it feels surreal. I keep wondering, how did this happen? I think a lot of writers tend to overlook the years of hard slog when something amazing suddenly happens, as if it has nothing to do with us. Also it feels a bit indulgent and most of us have been taught not to indulge in our own success. Irish people are renowned for being utterly crap at taking compliments and we are brought sharply back down to earth if we even show signs of having ‘notions’. But when your peers tell you that your achievements are ‘well deserved’, maybe it’s okay to take a moment and say, ‘I did it!’ So sod it, my book is in the Irish bleedin’ Times and I’m flippin’ delighted!!

Fancy a quick read…

Betwixt short

To all of my readers, past and present, I hope you enjoy this atmospheric short story (with a nod to the Gothic genre), which is now available to download for free here:

Barnes & Noble     Kobo     iTunes     Smashwords  Amazon

Please leave a review and let me know what you think!  And for just 99p, you can get a copy of my debut novel, The Cross Of Santiago.  If you like history, adventure, romance and strong characters, you’re sure to love it.

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99c Special Offer for #IrishFictionFortnight

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Happy Irish Fiction Fortnight everybody!  If you haven’t heard of it, get your monocles over to Bleach House Library and the lovely Margaret Bonass Madden, who came up with whole idea of celebrating Irish fiction writers for two wonderful weeks.  Just use the hashtag #IrishFictionFortnight to find out more about the writers featured (Carmel Harrington, Ella Griffin Hazel Gaynor & yours truly to name but a few) and for your chance to win copies of their books.  There’ll be lots of book chat, reviews and prizes, but most importantly, a fantastic platform to discover new Irish authors.

So to celebrate, ‘The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris‘ is available to download for 99cents!  Click on the following links to buy in your favourite format.

~Kindle ~ Nook ~ iTunes ~ Kobo

Also, you can enter Bleach House Library’s official giveaway for your chance to win a paperback copy of my novel here.

‘A wonderful magical novel set in France. The story brings to life France, Jazz, the world of characters and the mysterious bakery in an enthralling adventure that captures the reader from the start. As good as a holiday.’

5 Stars – iTunes Reviewer

Another day, another castle!

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We are completely spoilt for choice in Ireland when it comes to castles.  And even on a wet day (or a soft day I should say!) Aughnanure Castle still casts a magical spell.  Located just 30 minutes drive from Galway City, it made the ideal day trip for the long weekend.  Readers of The Cross Of Santiago will know that this castle features prominently in my story of medieval Ireland, sheltering survivors from the Spanish Armada shipwreck on the West Coast of Ireland.  Strictly speaking, this is a tower house and is situated just outside the village of Oughterard, on the Drimneed River.  Built in the 1500’s by the O’Flaherty clann, it was a fortress against all manner of invaders and even today, the Watchtower stands firmly on the lookout for unwanted visitors.

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It’s almost as if time has stood still in this place, and I can just imagine weary travellers making their way up this pathway to the entrance, past the yew trees and cattle grazing in the field nearby.  The outer walls have disintegrated somewhat, but it stills retains the atmosphere of a grand, stately tower house.  Unfortunately, the edifice was hit by lightening recently and is currently closed to visitors, but hopefully it will re-open soon.

Not to be deterred by the mist (i.e. RAIN), I also took a ramble along the shores of Lough (Lake) Corrib, getting a glimpse of the gateway to Connemara.  With its majestic mountains and lush valleys, it’s easy to see why this region has been so popular down through the centuries.  Quiet country lanes bordered with vibrant wild flowers, give way to dramatic mountain ranges, inhabited exclusively by some rather territorially-minded horned sheep!  Wild and unspoiled, it’s the perfect landscape in which to lose yourself and imagine what life might have been like all those years ago.

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I’m already planning my next outing, come rain or shine!

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, Ireland and good value books, The Cross Of Santiago is currently on sale for just 99p!

The Wait Is Over!

 

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Today is the day!  I’m celebrating the official release of my new novel, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris  I am so excited to launch my second book.  This is a very big day for me as an author, and so to celebrate with all of my loyal readers, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris is available on Amazon today at the very special promotional price of $0.99!  So pick up your copy now 🙂

This is the magical tale of Edith Lane, who sets off to find her fortune in the beautiful city of Paris.  Fortune, however, is a fickle thing and Edith ends up working in a vintage bakery in the positively antique town of Compiègne.  Escaping heartache and singledom in Ireland, Edith discovers that the bakery on Rue De Paris is not exactly what it seems and that some ghosts from the past are harder to escape than others.  A heart-warming story that is sure to appeal to all of the senses, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris is a mouth-watering journey of love, liberty and la vie en rose.

Hope you all enjoy reading this quirky little story about a woman who set out on a journey to Paris, but found so much more…

Book Trailer – The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris

So I decided to ramp up the cuteness factor to 11, when I got my two nieces to help me make a promo video for my upcoming book launch (9th June people – mark it in your diaries!).  Several jokes were harmed during the making of this video – what can I say?  I’ll never make it in stand up!!  If you like it, please share it 🙂

Irish 4 Star Review

As many self-published authors will tell you, it can be a bit cringe-worthy having to blow your own trumpet, so it’s always nice when somebody else does it for you!  Trish at Between My Lines recently wrote such a wonderful review of The Cross Of Santiago that I had to share it here.  It really is the kind of reaction you hope for when writing a book; that a reader will be engaged, entertained and ultimately absorbed by the story.  Seeing as the novel is set in Ireland and I am an Irish author, it’s great to get a fellow Irish woman’s opinion.  So here it is – hope you enjoy reading Trish’s review as much as I did!

When I started my Green Giants (Irish Author Spotlight) feature, my hope was that I would help other readers find Irish Authors to enjoy. I didn’t realise that it would also introduce me to great writers that I might never have come across. Such as Evie Gaughan, who approached me to read and review The Cross of Santiago. She only had to mention the magic words, Galway and Time Travel, and I was in!

First Line of The Cross of Santiago:

“Wake up Amanda, wake up!”

My Thoughts on The Cross of Santiago:

This book has two settings and I loved both. The first is contemporary Galway – a small, vibrant city in the West of Ireland; a city that is full of fun and art, one I always love to visit. I feel the book really captured the tone of modern Galway really well. The second setting is the failed voyage of The Spanish Armada fleet in 1588. This setting has won this book a place in my heart forever.

If you know nothing about the Spanish Armada and how so many of the ships were shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland and Scotland; then worry not, this book will fill you in. I had forgotten so much of this part of history that it was fantastic to revisit it and I ended up having great discussions about the battle and their mission with my husband who is a history fiend.

I kept imagining this part of the book as a film. The vision of the ships taking 2 days just to leave the port of Lisbon due to sheer numbers is such a spectacular image. I love books that engage your brain and make you want to research more which is exactly what this book did to me.

However this book is not just a book about history (as amazing as the historical setting was); it is also full of intriguing characters. The main characters are Amanda and Xavier. And I have to say both of them have made some very dubious decisions in their lives and I find it hard to say which of their wrong turns I despise more. Despite that I can see how lost both of them are and how both are willing to grow and learn with a little guidance and inspiration from the past.

Their ancestors from the sixteenth century are a different matter. A knight and a peasant girl; their morals and sacrifices shine through the centuries. Annora and Miguel seem to encompass everything that Amanda and Xavier should be but they also hint at the potential that they will blossom into.

Overall, this book has a little bit of everything; an epic romance, adventure, great locations, well researched historical fiction and some dream interpretation. The mixture of the two stories leads to a snappy, well paced story that kept me excited and invested in the plot. And when I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about the book and talking about book; always a good sign!

Who should read The Cross of Santiago?

I’d strongly recommend this book to all who enjoy historical fiction, especially those who love romantic historical fiction. Also to anyone interested in Irish history or contemporary Ireland; you will find lots of facts here but they are wrapped up neatly in a well told story so it never becomes over-whelming.

You can follow Trish at Between My Lines and read this review on Goodreads or Amazon.

Write about what you love

I’ve often heard the adage, “Write about what you know”, but I’m not sure if I agree.  My own novel, The Cross Of Santiago is based around the ideas of reincarnation and past life regression.  I have personal experience of neither, but a huge interest in the area and a quirky enough imagination to write an interesting story about it.  Like all writers, I do draw from my personal experience when it comes to characters, locations, feelings and emotions in order to ‘ground’ the story in reality, but when it comes to the plot, I like to let my imagination run free.  I can’t imagine a novel written by someone who is completely limited by their own personal experience.  The creative arts are the one area where we can take poetic license to dream, to create, and live out fictional fantasies that will hopefully engage the reader and take them on an interesting journey.

At the moment I’m reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (who, according to the jacket, is living in Ireland).  This is a masterpiece in creating a fictional world where anything can happen.  I’m about a quarter of the way through, and it’s becoming clear that one of the characters thinks she could be the reincarnation of a male composer.  I think a well written story can stray from the conventional without losing the reader, but that requires a serious amount of research.  Or RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH!! as I kept saying to myself when writing my novel.  Setting my novel partly in the 16th century required a tireless amount of research into medieval life – everything from what they ate to what they wore, the political environment, the contrast between the different classes, their religion and cultural beliefs.  There is also a large chunk of the book set on the sea, both in the present and in the past and I had to do a lot of research into yacht sailing and the kind of ships used by the Spanish Armada when they invaded England. 

Obviously, I wrote about something I was interested in, so the research was a pleasure rather than a chore.  I am a huge historical fiction fan and reader, so I knew I had to get my facts straight if I wanted to be taken seriously as a historical fiction author.  Now I find that a lot of my reviews include comments from readers who say they felt as though they were really stepping back in time, and that is the greatest compliment I could receive.

So my opinion is, you can write about whatever you want to write about – just do your research!