Category Archives: Feature Articles

Guest Article: The Ghost With The Bandage and Other Apparitions by Catherine Cavendish

Today I welcome back a very special writer friend, Catherine Cavendish. If you follow my site, you probably have read some very interesting guest articles from her here in the past, and without fail, she’s written one again that’s sure to spook you! Of course, she is talking about ghosts, in celebration of her newest release, THE HAUNTING OF HENDERSON CLOSE, from Flame Tree press. I am so very happy for Catherine about this release and I can’t wait to dig in. It’s one my most highly anticipated novels of the year as well my favorite cover so far. I’ll also have an interview with Catherine in the near future so stay tuned!

Enjoy…and be spooked…

The Ghost With The Bandage and Other Apparitions

by Catherine Cavendish, author of The Haunting of Henderson Close

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Famed as Scotland’s spookiest castle, Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire was the home of the Leith-Hay family for nearly 300 years since it was built in 1650 and is now a favourite location for ghosthunters. The Most Haunted TV crew filmed an episode here, with medium Derek Acorah. He proclaimed that a tree in the grounds had been used for hangings, and rope marks are indeed visible in the branches.

But who are the ghosts? Probably the most commonly seen is the ghost of former owner John Leith III who came to a most ignominious end when he was shot in a drunken brawl in Aberdeen in 1763. In critical condition, he was brought home to Leith Hall where he succumbed to his injuries three days later. He seems unable to move on though and appears wearing dark green trousers and a shirt. A filthy once-white bandage is wrapped around his head, covering his eyes and he wanders around, seemingly in great pain and distress at his injuries. Novelist Elizabeth Byrd reported seeing him on July 16th 1968 in the bedroom in which she was staying. She said he appeared as solid as a living man but when she shouted at him to go away, he simply vanished in the direction of a window behind a dressing table. After that experience, she refused to spend another night in that room. I can understand why!

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John Leith III

A ghost of a woman wearing Victorian dress has also been reported, although her identity remains a mystery. There have been sounds of a lady laughing, sudden changes in temperature, heavy footsteps and the feeling of being touched by invisible hands.

Leith Hall is positively crowded with apparitions and others include a governess and a young child as well as a young soldier. There are strange smells, including camphor and food, the sound of children playing – some have even been seen. The ghosts come from different eras in the Hall’s long and colourful history.

In 1746, Jacobite Andrew Hay of Rannes hid there, fleeing from the massacre of the Battle of Culloden. He eventually made his escape to France and was pardoned by King George in 1746 – documentation to this effect is still in existence in the Hall. Fast forward to World War I and the Hall became a temporary military hospital where soldiers who had been dreadfully injured were housed and cared for.

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Henrietta Leith-Hay gifted Leith Hall to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945, remaining there until her death in 1963. It is open to the public from the beginning of April until the end of September. If you go there, expect the unexpected. In the dining room, the atmosphere has been reported as being so heavy, it is almost suffocating. You may not want to remain in there for too long. Likewise, the bedroom where Elizabeth Byrd had her frightening encounter has been known to exude a claustrophobic and heavy atmosphere that visitors have found off-putting. Some visitors who have stayed there have felt as if they were being smothered in their bed or, in some cases, have experienced nightmares where they felt hands squeezing their throat. They have also felt someone was in the room, even though there was no one but them there.

A painting in the drawing room – The Flight into Egypt – appears to give visitors a start too. Poor Elizabeth Byrd had a sighting here as well. She saw a large man with a beard in the picture. She pointed it out to her fellow guests – but only she could see it.

So, not for the faint-hearted perhaps, but well worth a visit. The house is different. It’s quirky and full of fascinating objects, along with its host of ghosts.

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For ghosts of a different kind, here’s what to expect from The Haunting of Henderson Close:

Ghosts have always walked there. Now they’re not alone…

In the depths of Edinburgh, an evil presence is released. Hannah and her colleagues are tour guides who lead their visitors along the spooky, derelict Henderson Close, thrilling them with tales of spectres and murder. For Hannah it is her dream job, but not for long. Who is the mysterious figure that disappears around a corner? What is happening in the old print shop? And who is the little girl with no face? The legends of Henderson Close are becoming all too real.

The Auld De’il is out – and even the spirits are afraid.

The Haunting of Henderson Close is available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Flame Tree Press

Catherine Cavendish, Biography –

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Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. In addition to The Haunting of Henderson Close, Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.

Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife

She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with Cat here –

Catherine Cavendish

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Happy New Year 2019! (Also, free haunting holiday story to read.) #HappyNewYear

I hope you have had a wonderful holiday season full of happiness, food, family, and relaxation, but most of all love! As for us, we had a wonderful Christmas. We were able to drive the eight hours to Washington D.C. and see the sites for a day or two with my son, who attends college there (except for the National Christmas tree I so wanted to see up close – but a gentleman climbed to the top of it and security shut down the lights and were in droves everywhere just at the time we headed down to see it!), and then, bring him home with us in time for Christmas Eve and Day. It’s been a house full of love and laughter since he’s been here with us. I am enjoying my time with my son again. And I am loving having my daughters on break from high school and middle school as well. We’ve spent so much quality time together. On a sad note, I also lost someone very dear to me a few days after Christmas and I’m still processing that.

I will possibly message more on some of the sights and sounds and life here from the end of 2018, and as we begin 2019, talk about my entire insights from 2018 and my goals for 2019 as well. Plus, I’ll have some great book reviews and interviews too, but for now…

…I just want to wish everyone a very HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope for ALL there is success, health, happiness, joy, love, inspiration, and friendship. I hope there are more quiet times, more writing time, more discovery of art and nature, more one on one with people you know or meet.

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Cheers to the beginning of a much better year. I am anxiously awaiting 2019 to be better than this year I am soooooooo happy to put behind me! If you’re still in my life, or want to be, and are coming along for the ride, I welcome you with open arms.

Also, FREE STORY!!

I have a 1,000 word Christmas story, a haunting Christmas story in fact, in the vein of the old Victorian fireplace ghost stories, to share with you too if you haven’t yet seen elsewhere for yourself on the Ladies of Horror flash project site. I’ll share that below, and though the initial photo prompt was the impetus, I’ll share in another post soon some photos of the place (Kingwood Gardens and Mansion in Ohio) that inspired even more of the story. I hope you like it!

Read my story here: “The Insistent Reporter”

Best New Wishes for a Happy New Year!

Erin

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Guest Article: Four Activities to Teach Your Kids About Other Cultures by Anna Levine

Today I welcome Anna Levine to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Last week, my daughter’s and I reviewed her picture book All Eyes on Alexander. We loved it and you can see that review HERE! Now, she offers us some educational ideas to be done with children after reading the book. Thanks, Anna!

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Where in the World…?
A few fun activities to learn about different cultures!

All Eyes on Alexandra is a picture book about a crane that flies from Europe to Africa. Let Alexandra introduce your child to the world.

1. Play the migration game. The Smithsonian has a wonderful on-line migration game. Fun questions teach about the habits of a Wood Thrush that migrates from Costa Rica to Maryland. https://nationalzoo.si.edu/migratory-birds/play-migration-game

2. Follow the Leader. Alexandra leads her family in their Vee. Here’s an opportunity to talk about good leaders, people who take responsibility and have the courage to trust themselves and develop their potential.

3. Choose a continent and take a closer look. How many countries are there? How many languages? What’s the climate like? What foods are eaten there and what do they grow? Try cooking up something you’ve never tried before. Experiment with the taste of a culture while listening to the music popular in the country you’ve chosen.

4. Every day’s a holiday! Find out what holidays are celebrated on which days of the year in different countries around the world. Celebrate with the colors, food, and music of that country.

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About All Eyes on Alexandra –

 In All Eyes on Alexandra, young Alexandra Crane is terrible at following her family in their flying Vee. She can’t help it that the world is so full of interesting distracting sights! When it’s time for the Cranes to migrate to Israel’s Hula Valley for the winter, Alexandra is excited but her family is worried. Will Alexandra stay with the group, and what happens if a dangerous situation should arise? Might Alexandra—and the rest of the flock—discover that a bad follower can sometimes make a great leader?

Based on the true story of Israel’s annual crane migration.

Print Length: 32 Pages

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Publisher: Kar-Ben Pub

ISBN-10: 1512444391

ISBN-13: 978-1512444391

All Eyes on Alexandra is available to purchase on AmazonBarnes and NobleTarget and Thrift Books.

Author Anna Levine, Biography –

Author photoAnna Levine is an award-winning children’s book author. Like Alexandra Crane, the character in her latest picture book, she loves to explore new worlds.

Born in Canada, Anna has lived in the US and Europe.  She now lives in Israel, where she writes and teaches.

You can find Anna Levine online at –

Author website

Twitter: @LevineAnna 

Instagram: @booksfromanna 

About the Illustrator, Chiara Pasqualotto,

artistChiara Pasqualotto was born in Padua, in northern Italy, currently teaches illustration and drawing classes to children and adults, in particular in Padua during the summer at the Scuola Internazionale di Comics and in Rome.

Since 2008 she’s been living in Rome and working with illustration professionally: her first picture book, Mine, All Mine! was published in 2009 by Boxer Books (UK), since then she published with Oxford University Press, Giunti, Terranuova and some American publishers (Paraclete Press, Tyndale, LearningAZ, Kar-Ben Publisher).

You can find Chiara Pasqualotto online at –

Artist website

Blog

Facebook

Enjoy reading with your kids and have a good week!

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Books (and Movies) I’m Watching for Christmas Reading Challenge/Myself

Christmas Reading and Viewing List is Here! PROGRESS UPDATE 01/17/19 

How is it December 16th already? Wasn’t I just saying how November flew? I planned to cut down on my work load and try to relax and rejuvenate for December. I was sure I was headed toward that goal. For once, I was determined to do the Christmas Reading Challenge that my friend Michelle, at The True Book Addict, hosts every year! Alas, some work came in, we needed the money, and so that, coupled with a busy early December of long after school and weekend choir practices and concerts  and activities for my two girls, and some other life issues, has made the first half of December move like a flash. No reading on my Christmas books yet, but we have watched a few Hallmark movies (my girls love them). However, I am still determined, I will just make the most of the second two weeks of December instead, which is perfectly made for some self-care time. Also, if you’d like to sign-up, please join us anytime, just go to the link above.

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That said, I had already pulled out some of my personal Christmas books from my shelves to peruse and also I put on hold a slew for myself, and me and the girls, from one of our local libraries and they’ve all come in – the last one yesterday. So I guess it’s better late than never right? I’m going to share my list of “proposed reads” for me and the girls. Though I am sure the girls will get theirs done, I’ll have to let you know how many I actually make it through.

The good news for me is that these last two weeks will hopefully truly be some down time for reading and watching movies with my family as we celebrate the holidays. Other good news for me, but maybe not for reading, is that after over two months of not seeing my son (he’s eight hours away in college in D.C.) I finally get to road trip to pick him up on Dec.. 21! That could mean passenger time reading, unless I fall asleep which I am known to do, but it also will mean a lot of my free time will be spent with him too.

(*Note: To those who I am reading and reviewing for, my Christmas reading has nothing to do with your books. This is for pleasure and I often read more than one book at a time. I will certainly get to yours as soon as I can if not over the holidays, then in the first of January. Though I appreciate and am excited to read your books, and have a lot of catching up to do from a busy work year, I earned this down time to rejuvenate my mind, soul, and spend with my kiddos.*)

I’ll just provide my proposed list of book here and I’ll update later any completed (Christmas only) reads. I may only get to one of them (I hope more) – but I know the girls will have theirs read! I’ll also update what movies we watched! Stay tuned!

Merry Bookish Christmas!

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Christmas Read List

Progress Update 01/17/19 – We didn’t get to all of these on our lists, but the ones we did will have asterisks (*) and comments beside them!

The books are pictured above, minus those the girls are reading. Some I checked out from the library and some I own (and some I own because I bought at one of the library book sales haha!). Note I have an obsession with Charles Dickens and The Christmas Carol (which isn’t pictured here but will be read!).

*Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva – This is one of my most anticipated reads of the season and if I finish any I want it to be this one!* (Update: This was a great fun historical fiction read for the holidays or anytime really I suppose.)

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak – Probably doesn’t seem like normal Christmas reading fare, but it takes place in winter during Christmastime in Russia. I’ve always wanted to read it.

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson – I read one of these stories in here and loved it and I can’t wait to read the rest. Maybe one for each of the twelve days!

The Spy Who Came for Christmas by David Morrell – I love David’s writing. It’s so much fun that he turned a spy classic into a fun holiday novel.

Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham – Heather always brings either a bit of romance to the holidays or a bit to thrill or scare you, either way she’s one of the best!

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie – What more can I say, I love her books! There is nothing better than reading her by candlelight especially if Poirot is on the case!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak – This was a new book I found sounded light and interesting about a family over the holidays.

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol Rescued his Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford – Enough said? I love Dickens and The Christmas Carol. Will probably read the original story too. I bet Nassem will read this one when he gets home.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Once Upon a Dickens Christmas Book One by Michelle Griep – I love the cover on this one. Looks pretty good – 1850s Manor Home! Also a short read.

Inventing Scrooge: The Incredible True Story Behind Dickens’ Legendary
‘A Christmas Carol’
by Carlo Devito

A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer – I like some of her books and thought this looked like a good Christmas escape with its mystery and humor.

St. Nicholas Anthology, edited by Henry Steele Commager – I own this and it’s one of my important Christmas book keepsakes! It contains the best of St. Nicholas, a magazine for boys and girls published at the turn of the century. Included stories, poems, and original illustrations. (This is pictured as the last book in the stack)

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols – As celebrated on Christmas Eve in the Chapel of King’s College Cambridge in text form (90 year old service adapted after WWI and broadcast on BBC) with beautiful illustrations and photographs. I love this – it’s very interesting but I haven’t gotten through all of it yet. It has a companion CD of the carols, hymns, and lessons. (Of note, I got this at our used book store, Ashland Books.)

*Yes, Virginia! – It’s tradition that the kids and I read this every year as we trim our tree with our Yes, Virginia ornaments we’ve collected at Macy’s over the years. We love this bit of nostalgia and even as the girls are 15 and 11 now, they still ask to watch the movie and read the picture book. I love this. I hope that one day they continue on her tradition with their children! (Update: The kids and I read this and watched the movie together as always. A delight for us!)

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Simply my favorite book of the season. A classic! As well as the movies – George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, and Muppet Versions as my favorites.

Emma’s Reads (Age 15) –

*Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz – Emma completed this in one night after she got it from the library! I’ll have her write up a little review. (Update: Emma very much enjoyed this one and read it in one night!)

*My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, Stephanie Perkins Editor – She was excited for this one. She read the summer version earlier this year. (Update: Emma finished this one too and really enjoyed the stories – highly recommended!)

*What Light by Jay Asher (Update: Emma has read this one twice. She loves it and he’s one author that’s a must-read for her)

Addie’s Reads (Age 11) –

When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke

Movies!

A movie and show list to come later of what we’ll watch or have watched, with traditional favorites included:

*The Great British Baking Show Holiday Edition (Update: We so enjoyed!!)
George Balantine’s The Nutcracker
*The Man Who Invented Christmas
(Update: I watched with Nassem while he was home and we adored this movie. We love anything Dickens and this one didn’t disappoint!)
Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas

*Peanuts Christmas (Update: Love love this tradition so of course we watched!)
Rise of the Guardians
*Muppet Christmas Carol (Update: So busy at Christmas we watched afterwards. We had to rent it and so we did so a few days before taking my son back to college as a family movie. We left always as we do with a tear and singing the songs!)
A Christmas Carol
*How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Update: Another annual must watch we love – never gets old, does it? This was the cartoon version – the original)
*Rudolph, Frosty,
etc. (Update: We watched Rudolph and as a tradition, Jack Frost. I don’t know why all of us love that one best, but we do. No matter our age. The songs are still stuck in our head. Beautiful story.)

And maybe without the kids, Krampus!

Already Watched:

The Princess Switch on Netflix. The girls and I loved it!
Lots of The Great Christmas Light Fight. We love lights!

I’ll keep updating here on this page, and might have some other Christmas posts, so check back in! DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS BOOKS OR FILMS? NEW ONES TO TRY? OR ANY BOOKS YOU WILL READ ON A RELAXING DAY TO WIND DOWN THE YEAR? Let me know in the comments!

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In the meantime, check out these review from past years of holiday titles!

Don’t Call Me Christina Kringle by Chris Grabenstein 

Christmas Wrap-up from 2016 Reviewing Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chaiverini, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, and a SLEW of children’s picture books as my kids and I read one a day!

Expanded Review of Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge

 

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Stanzas from My Life: A Weekend Full of Art, Books, and Pizza

In the effort to keep adding content here among my sporadic reviews, interviews, and writerly book news, and to add substance to who I am besides my mostly work and writing related social media updates, I thought I’d add something I used to do more here when the kids were smaller – actual updates from my/our life journey! I thought it would give a better glimpse into my dailly or weekend life. Maybe I can call the series Stanzas from My Life, so welcome to the first of what I hope is many I remember to make time to do.

Though I answered and coordinated work publicity items sporadically this weekend and wrote a few things, and it’s the dreaded Monday and back to work for us, school for the  kids, and weekday madness, I did make some time to enjoy life this weekend off the grid so I thought I’d share a glimpse into my life.

Friday night we took our daughters to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland for the opening night of a very special exhibit of acclaimed New York-based painter and environmental activist Alexis Rockman called Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle. This exhibit has been making it rounds among MOCA’s around the Great Lakes, to showcase not only the beauty and life in our wonderful fresh water lakes, but also how climate, environment, and industry affect them.

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Photo from MOCA Cleveland Website

As the Lake Erie, and the Great Lakes, hold a special place with me, I was excited to go. Though we all enjoyed it, we were thrilled for our 15 year old daughter to see where her artistic talents (and a love of painting) could mix with her scientific interests in being a marine scientist or biologist as well and I must say she was absorbed in the moment. I relish the times she herself is inspired to paint and draw scenes from Lake Erie, and now, I think she’ll see even more with her curious eye. As for me, oh of course, there are always art and writing “a – ha” moments too. I may write more on this in another post, but if you’re interested in the exhibit it’s there until January (first Saturdays of the month are free) and you can also read more in this article from the New York Times about the exhibit (you can also see photos of some of his paintings).

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Portion of one of the Large Mural Alexis Rockman Paintings shown at MOCA Cleveland / Photo used from NYT Article linked above

We had planned to hopefully do our annual apple picking and autumn fun activities the other weekend days, but by the time we were ready to head out it looked like rain was coming (and so it did) and the chill moving in fast so we made some adjustments.

Saturday afternoon and evening we took the girls back to downtown Cleveland to the beautiful Cleveland Public Library for their book sale and we each nabbed a few book treasures from several different genres. We always have to do SOMETHING bookish don’t we?? It was worth braving the heavy winds and pelting rain coming in off Lake Erie while running a block to the front door (on street parking) yet not as graceful as Mary Poppins there and back and if I’d had an umbrella it would have turned inside out. The Cleveland Public Library is one of the most historically decadent libraries inside and I’ve liked to stay longer again –  next time – and a longer post introducing you to it.

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Cleveland Public Library at Night / Photo from Trip Savvy Website

Heading across the bridge out of downtown Cleveland toward Lakewood, the fog and rain was really taking over, and looking out my passenger side window I could see Lake Erie crashing waves upon rocks, industry vessels, docked boats, and turning on her inner witch from the storm. For some reason, though I’d have preferred a crisp, sunny autumn day and clear evening, I love seeing her power at times like this.

We warmed up with pizza at the fairly famous Cleveland-area stop Angelo’s Lakewood, which has stellar Mediterranean pizza, full of fresh buffalo mozzarella, roma tomatoes, spinach, red peppers, black olives and all on a deep dish crust.

Medt pizza Angelos

Known for being a beloved stopping spot for Tom Hanks (who once interned at the Great Lakes Theater Company) and Drew Carey (who grew up in Cleveland), it’s hopping and does have a wait but it’s totally worth it if you’re traveling near the city. The breadsticks are some of the best I’ve tasted and we had pizza so yummy we didn’t want to quit eating and wonderful smiles and conversations with our daughters. We hope to go back for dessert such as buckeye pie or banana pudding, with a Kahlua coffee, or one of their decadent Fall martinis or drinks (sans my children on the last order)!

Angelos

If you are near Cleveland, there are so many things to see and do. To me, it’s one of the best cities out there with arts and culture and I revel in its history and energy.

Sunday I relaxed a little and after first starting to watch a week ago Friday we were able to find time to move past episode two of The Haunting Of Hill House on Netflix based on the novel of the same name by one of my most loved authors, Shirley Jackson. It’s so so so good and I had been dying to watch more. Are you watching? Not only is Shirley Jackson one of my female writer role models and inspirations with  my own writing, and I love her work, I also think this TV series is EXCELLENT for so many reasons. While we were watching (and crying and getting goosebumps – episode five wrecked me!!!), we could smell wafts of pumpkin or spice or both coming from the kitchen. We found my 15 year old had made delicious pumpkin bread for all of us! NOM! She’s earned even more points with me.

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As Sunday night came to a close for the family, I sat alone in the dark, house quiet, feeling really grateful and content for my family and finally some family time this weekend!! We’ve been working so hard between work and activities (our 15 year old has been so committed to cross country and working on her running not to mention her studies and symphonic choir and our 11 year old with her interests and dedication to school as well). I often work day and night during the week, but many times on weekends too when editing projects are due.

The perfect end was my notoriously independent cat just jumping up on me purring, tucking his face under my neck and snuggling. I reflected and rejuvenated a little with his help of keeping me still before heading back to answer a few work e-mails and make my to-do list for the work week. I think it’s a plan to find a better balance between work and rest for me now…

…and I love this time of year! Isn’t there just something about it?

I’ll be back soon with some late reviews, some interviews, and some articles by some wonderful authors, and more. Stay tuned!

#weekendcomplete #StanzasFromMyLife

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World Poetry Day: 5 Poetry Collections of Women’s Empowerment and How They Tie to Mine

Yesterday, I found out it was #WorldPoetryDay. I wish I had known about it sooner to better have better prepared a post; however, I didn’t want it to go by without acknowledging it. On Twitter, I posted about my own collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., and how it features not only emotional reflections on life and its struggles, also dabbling in the mysterious, but also features narrative poetry and stories stemming from folklore of countries like Japan, Thailand, and Egypt. I mention the Egyptian short story, as within the story is a poem in song form.

I thought I’d focus first by sharing where World Poetry stems from and what it entails. So I pulled this excerpt of explanation from the United Nations website. Following, I’ll suggest a few books of poetry from around the world or with authors/poets from other cultures and countries.

As I looked at my list of those I wanted to feature, I realized too, that they were all women. Sorry men, maybe next time. This fits right in with my Women in History/Women Making History series I’m hosting here on the site. But besides those commonalities, even though these female authors are from different backgrounds, the pain and grief and struggles of life as a woman all seemed to ring the same, much like in my own writing as well. I commend these ladies for their witness and strength of purpose for themselves and all women all over the world.

World Poetry Day, March 21 –

Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

The observance of World Poetry Day is also meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity.

 

Women Empowerment: 5 Recommended Poetry Reads

Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo

This cover is GORGEOUS and it accompanies the powerful, meaningful, beautiful, and strong poetry within this debut collection. I love it. I can’t wait to read more from Ijeoma.

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The artistry of QUESTIONS FOR ADA defies words, embodying the pain, the passion, and the power of love rising from the depths of our souls.  Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s poetry is a flower that will blossom in the spirit of every reader as she shares her heart with raw candor.  From lyrical lushness to smoky sensuality to raw truths, this tome of transforming verse is the book every woman wants to write but can’t until the broken mirrors of their lives have healed.  In this gifted author’s own words—“I am too full of life to be half-loved.”  A bold celebration of womanhood.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Biography –

Ijeoma Umebinyuo was born and raised Nigeria. Her writings have been translated to Portuguese, Turkish, Russian and French. She shares her heart with raw candor. There is an intimacy about her writings, an unapologetic presentation of truths and her unconventional ways of telling a full story even in her shortest of poems.

the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur

An Amazon Best Book of October 2017, this second poetry collection by Kaur came out mere days before my own debut collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., and though I stayed riding at #2 Amazon Top Paid New Releases in Women’s Poetry behind her highly sought after work for weeks, I was still honored even if there was no way for me to make the top spot! I mean, the book not only debuted as a #1 New York Times Best-seller, but it had the biggest editorial reviews from all the right places (The Boston Globe called her “the most popular poet in America”) and was published and backed by one of the premiere publishers.

She is a beautiful artist and illustrator, which is showcased in the book, as well as a lovely poetic lyricist. Even the poem within the introductory cover copy sells me. It’s exactly how writing poetry makes me feel.

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Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms.

this is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too
must wilt
fall
root
rise
in order to bloom

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Rupi Kaur, Biograpy – 

Rupi kaur is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of two collections of poetry. She started drawing at the age of five when her mother handed her a paintbrush and said—draw your heart out. Rupi views her life as an exploration of that artistic journey. After completing her degree in rhetoric studies she published her first collection of poems ‘milk and honey’ in 2014. The internationally acclaimed collection sold well over two million copies gracing the New York times bestseller list every week for over a year. It has since been translated into over thirty languages.

Her long-awaited second collection ‘the sun and her flowers’ was published in 2017 and debuted as a #1 New York Times bestseller. Through this collection she continues to explore a variety of themes ranging from love, loss, trauma, healing, femininity, migration, and revolution. Rupi has performed her poetry across the world. Her illustrations, along with her design and art direction are warmly embraced and she hopes to continue this expression for years to come.

Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire, and Beauty, by Nikita Gill

This collection is full of thought-provoking reflections with dramatic imagery and visions. If you doubt your place in the universe and you need to draw strength, this one is for you. Another compelling cover, but the words inside are what will latch ahold of mind and soul, reminding you of your inner power.

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A stunning collection of poetry on feminism, trauma, survival, and empowerment.

You cannot burn away
What has always been aflame

Wild Embers explores the fire that lies within every soul, weaving words around ideas of feeling at home in your own skin, allowing yourself to heal, and learning to embrace your uniqueness with love from the universe.

Featuring rewritten fairytale heroines, goddess wisdom, and poetry that burns with revolution, this collection is an explosion of femininity, empowerment, and personal growth.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Nikita Gill, Biograpy – 

Nikita Gill is a British-Indian writer and poet living in the south of England. With a huge online following, her words have entranced hearts and minds all over the world.

Sea of Strangers, by Lang Leav

This collection is a mixture of poems, thoughts, essays, reflections on love and life. Her perspective is honest yet unique and also contemplating. I love collections that make you think and apply the questions to your own life. Don’t let the simple cover fool you, this is an international best-selling author for a reason.

sea of strangers

This completely original collection of poetry and prose will not only delight her avid fans but is sure to capture the imagination of a whole new audience. With the turn of every page, Sea of Strangers invites you to go beyond love and loss to explore themes of self-discovery and empowerment as you navigate your way around the human heart.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Lang Leav, Biography – 

Lang Leav is an international best-selling author and social media sensation. She is the winner of a Qantas Spirit of Youth Award and coveted Churchill Fellowship. Her books continue to top bestseller charts in bookstores worldwide and Lullabies, was the 2014 winner of the Goodreads Choice award for poetry.

Lang has been featured in various publications including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Straits Times, The Guardian and The New York Times. She currently resides in New Zealand with her partner and fellow author Michael Faudet.

Blue Rose by Carol Muske-Dukes

I’m afraid I can only say I’m looking forward to this one, as it doesn’t publish until April 2, 2018, but I am highly interested in reading it and thought some of you might be as well. Carol’s reviews indicate she has a knack for the complexities of life and womanhood and her writings couldn’t be more poignant for today. I’ll be checking it out.

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A new collection of emotionally rich, issue-oriented poems from an award-winning poet whose work “has long been essential reading” (Jorie Graham)

Carol Muske-Dukes has won acclaim for poetry that marries sophisticated intelligence, emotional resonance, and lyrical intensity.  The poems in her new collection, Blue Rose, navigate around the idea of the unattainable – the elusive nature of poetry, of knowledge, of the fact that we know so little of the lives of others, of the world in which we live.  Some poems respond to matters of women, birth, and the struggle for reproductive rights, or to issues like gun control and climate change, while others draw inspiration from the lives of women who persisted outside of convention, in poetry, art, science:  the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, the scientist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, and the Californian poet and writer Ina Coolbrith, the first poet laureate ever appointed in America.

Amazon

Carol Muske-Dukes, Biography

Carol Muske-Dukes is the author of eight books of poems, including Sparrow, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; four novels; two collections of essays; and Crossing State Lines:  An American Renga, co-edited with Bob Holman.  She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California, and was California Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2011.

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by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is the author of the dark poetry and short story collection, Breathe. Breathe. from Unnerving (Oct. 2017), which features emotional poetry and prose dealing with domestic violence, assault, illness, and grief, as well as the magical, mysterious, and dark.

She’s also been published in the anthology Hardened Hearts, My Favorite Story, and Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. She is currently the guest editor at Unnerving for an anthology of poetry and short stories with a Gothic theme called Haunted Are These Houses. She’s currently working on many other pieces in process.

Working a journalist, editor, publicist, and marketing and public relations professional for the last twenty years, she has bachelor of arts degrees in Journalism, English, and History from the private college, Ashland University.

Born in England, she now lives in the woods in rural Ohio and serves as chair of the board of the local mental health center and rape crisis domestic violence safe haven.

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International Women’s Day: A Poem, A Word, A Pledge

A Step Forward

You hear our voices,
you say you stand with us,
but you should break down those walls,
and SEE us, in all our magnificence,
because we glow, yes we glow.

We are the passion of the universe,
contained within our hearts.

We are women.

– Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, 2018

 

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Found on the Internet for WallpaperSeries.com

 

It’s #InternationalWomensDay, or #IWD2018, and people around the world are rallying and protesting against gender inequality and sexual discrimination. I’ve been promoting this day for a decade, and this is the first one I’ve seen as much movement as I have in utilizing it as a catalyst for change not just awareness. I’m glad to see it happen. Women are amazing individuals with so much to offer the world. In theory, if things were fine, I wouldn’t even have to make that claim!

In essence, International Women’s Day is the marker to honor the Women’s Rights Movement and all those who came before us who were spit on, jailed, starved, ridiculed, and more as they fought for women to have the rights to vote, own land, have a bank account, and not be locked away in asylums. I’m glad to see women are taking ownership and heading back toward making progress again. In fact, the theme this year is #PressforProgress.

On my site here, you’ll find many great articles on women in history and making history, both on the page dedicated to that series, as March is also Women in History Month, but in interviews and book reviews as well. I’m currently taking articles about these women, so please contact me to send them in. I often interview and review books by women on this site and you’ll easily see that if you take a quick perusal through the archives.

Outside of publishing, I’ve spent decades fighting for women’s causes, from when I was news editor at my college paper and I fought against campus rape and it being reported, to when I was in healthcare and became the Young Careerist representative for Ohio at the national Business and Professional Women’s organization’s annual conference where I spoke about making strides for heart health in women. I’ve sat on a sub-committee for women’s health education, primarily in regards to those underprivileged, of the board of the Ohio Governor’s Office for Women’s Initiatives (a department and program that Republican Governor Kasich did away with when he took office) and assisted with statewide events to empower women. I’ve raised funds through events I’ve put on for women’s health, women’s shelters, and those battling cancer. Currently, I am the chair of the board at a local mental health center which also oversees our local rape crisis and domestic violence shelter.

In publishing, I advocate for women in certain genres, like horror, to have their voices heard and offer platforms for them to do so. In my writing, I fight against domestic violence, rape, assault, and confinement. My collection Breathe. Breathe., of poetry and short stories, in my story within the anthology Hardened Hearts, and even my poem in Enchanted Conversation magazine have all tackled these themes. On the site, on social media, and in articles, I share the life and times of historical writers, in several genres, because often they’ve also been involved in women’s liberation.

I still feel I don’t do enough. There is always more to do. I’ll keep doing it. I promise now I’ll get back to writing more essays so my own voice is heard. I’ll keep those women in history alive, those marginalized, those without a platform. I’ll keep serving those crying out in need and the disadvantaged. I’ll keep helping women out of domestic abuse situations.

And it’s not only women need to fight and showcase women, it’s men too. It’s going to take unity of both genders to make this work.

What will you do?

 

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Found at Picsymag

 

 

 

 

 

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Kleenex for Your Valentine: February Reminds Me of My Writing (and Tainted Love)

I meant to feature a post for Valentine’s Day on the site, but last week ended up intense and busy in the indie horror world and other work priorities took up my time, as well I had been pretty ill the days before and was still recovering. Certainly, February (as a whole) is available for talking about love, is it not? Even love gone awry? I suppose we can talk, read, and write about it any time, I know I do, so it’s always a good time in my book (well, IN my writings, if you read them, love is not always a good time). Whether you spent Valentine’s Day happy in love, alone and happy, or crying, I’ve got something myself to say about love. It takes on many forms and is often fodder for writers like me to explore.

First, I’d draw attention to my poem “Chained by Love,” which was featured in the February 2018 issue of Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. My poem showcased the love between moral Raymond and sea serpent/mermaid Melusine in medieval France folklore. You’ll see their happiness takes a different turn. You can read it for free in the magazine HERE. I’d like to again say thanks to them for choosing my piece to publish and for putting out such a gorgeous edition.

“A beautiful, tragic fairy tale.” – Author R.J. Crowder

“Very powerful, Erin. I loved it.” – Bram Stoker Nominated Author Jeremy Hepler

“Well done. Enjoyed it!” – Illustrator and Writer Michael Mitchell

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On a different note, I failed to announce on my site here at the end of the year, but I have a story called “The Heart of the Orchard” featured in the anthology HARDENED HEARTS, which released from Unnerving in December 2017. It’s been widely reviewed, shared on social media to high regard, and I’m pleased that my story has been doing quite well. My story is like a crime/serial killer/revenge story wrapped up with a fairy tale vibe. It’s a little bit of something I’ll always do to have a bit of the feel of grim fairy tales in my work. I grew up with Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and other folklore inspiring me and it’s not unusual it transferred into my work. The darker the better, but for me, it’s a way of dealing with trauma and fears.

In this anthology there are all types of stories from love that hurts, to love gone wrong, to weird love, to the love of something unusual, to the loss of a loved one, but always each will get you feeling. Here is the synopsis and list of authors:

“40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover” by Gwendolyn Kiste
“It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot” by Somer Canon
“What is Love?” by Calvin Demmer
“Heirloom” by Theresa Braun
“The Recluse” by John Boden
“Dog Tired” by Eddie Generous
“The Pink Balloon” by Tom Deady
“It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” by J.L. Knight
“Consumed” by Madhvi Ramani
“Burning Samantha” by Scott Paul Hallam
“Class of 2000” by Robert Dean
“Learning to Love” by Jennifer Williams
“Brothers” by Leo X. Robertson
“Porcelain Skin” by Laura Blackwell
“The Heart of the Orchard” by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
“Meeting the Parents” by Sarah L. Johnson
“Matchmaker” by Meg Elison

17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row (and Bram Stoker Nominated Author) and more. Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.

Praise for my story in Hardened Hearts, “The Heart of the Orchard” –

“The Heart of the Orchard by: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – Loved, loved, loved this one—the setting, the tone, the writing—all of it was great!” – Literary Dust

‘The Heart of the Orchard’ by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is another of the strongest works in the anthology. A dark fairy tale focussing on a young woman with a scarred past who is offered help in her quest to succeed with her fruit orchard by a character known only as The Orchard Man. She gratefully accepts his assistance in the form of herbs for her sleeplessness and fertiliser for her peach trees.” – This is Horror

“THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. This read almost like a warped fairy tale, and as we all know, fairy tales can often be quite grim.” – Char’s Horror Corner (in listing the tales that stood out for her)

“THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – This one deserved its own book also! A+” – Book Dragon Girl (in listing her favorite stories)

Praise for Hardened Hearts anthology overall –

“…consistently strong gathering of tales which will elicit a number of different emotions. Highly recommended.” – The Grim Reader

“I believe the fact that the authors decided to mix love and horror into the mix was a brilliant idea. The literature was varied but strong, and each to its own was enjoyable to read.” -Happy Booker

HARDENED HEARTS is a collection of love at its best and worst from a group of authors who make an art out of storytelling. There is a story for everyone from fantasy to dark horror and they prove that love makes the world go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round. From the fascinating foreword to the very last word, prepare to be entertained through a myriad of your own emotions and reactions to each tale, all in the name of love.” – The Tome Tender Book Blog

“Love and horror are the very best of bedfellows if done well. “Hardened Hearts” by Various Authors goes far beyond that. These are not your everyday kind of love stories (or maybe for you they are). They are dark, twisted and disturbing. Love will be redefined from one story to the next. 17 brilliantly written short stories by some very talented word artists.” – Books in My Library Blog

“Nearly every single story by this group of majorly talented authors, is unique, horrific, and thought-provoking. There were a couple that were just kind of meh for me, but they do have great merit and deserve a read too. With this eclectic bunch, there really is something for everyone.” – Reeds and Reels

“A brave anthology which does away with binary concepts of gender, love and sex, instead presenting the reader with love that is realistic, heartfelt, though at times, naturally, stepping into the fantastical.” – This is Horror

I was also thrilled that for some, my story resonated, or they found it worthy of special mention. I know that my story, besides having some fantastical components, can also be unsettling because it’s based on some trauma I experienced in my own life. I channeled this into my character, and though she was not privy to it herself (and you’ll see why if you read the story), it had wreaked havoc on her soul and she sought out revenge. I think it is the ultimate in hardening a heart and it was what propelled me to write it when Eddie, the editor/publisher, told me the theme.

 

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In my dark poetry and fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., being in relationships is explored because I wrote my emotions about living in a domestic violence situation for many years into some of my poems. I know they are quite heart-wrenching, but keep in mind, I did live this too. It’s been a process, but nothing has worked quite as good for me in healing over these last 14 years than in finishing this collection and sharing it. If you like love gone wrong, stories about domestic relationships, whether to connect or get a bird’s eye view or for suspense, and you like books like Gone Girl, Dolores Claiborne, Rose Madder, Big Little Lies, and other such, you may want to give some of the poems and stories in my collection a try. For the stories, I’d especially recommend my “Vahalla Lane” mini-series of fiction.

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And I just want to say after all this darkness, I did have a very nice Valentine’s Week, spoiled by time with my kids and making unicorn Valentines, lots of hugs, kisses, and love from both Tim and the kids, and some chocolate and a beautiful flowering rose cactus. I am happy to have a family understand love gone wrong, but also love done right.

As much as I love dark fiction, I also love good suspense thrillers, historical fiction (including some with romance, especially if they are biographical about women in history), and mysteries. I’ll have some posts about those coming up soon.

If you have some good book suggestions in this realm, or comments on any of the above, please feel free to comment. I love them!

Love to you all,

Erin

 

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Filed under Book Announcements, Breathe Breathe, Feature Articles, My Writing

Welcome to 2018: Book Lovers and Writers Unite!

emoticon hiWelcome to the SEVENTH year here at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! That’s right, SEVEN years! We are celebrating our seventh year of bringing you news about books, reviews, interviews, guest articles, and our professional editing and publicity services. We’ve seen a lot happen over these last seven years and I want to personally thank everyone, in all the genres we dabble in, for their support. You have my eternal gratitude for your respect, inspiration, and love.

UPDATE ON THIS BLOG

At times, I get so busy working in publishing, polishing books by others and sharing them with the world, and in what little free time I have, and depending on the season, I have the needs of my growing three kids, so this blog doesn’t see as many reviews or interviews as in the days I tried to do five to six posts a week that were strictly reviews and interviews. In fact, when I started it seven years ago, it was to talk about the books I was writing! It was my outlet for that from my busy job(s) as a marketing and PR professional out there in the world.

Now, I’m running Hook of a Book Media and working with many top indie authors and writers, even bloggers and publishers, on editing, writing mentorship, and marketing and public relations/publicity. Currently, I work with not only authors, but directly for Sinister Grin Press as an editor and doing marketing and publicity as well as Raw Dog Screaming Press. Working in publishing is very busy. I often work 7 days a week and some days 15-18 hours a day, seasonally. Out of the book industry, I still occasionally do marketing, advertising, copy writing, and PR work for business and non-profits. As well, I am chair of the board of directors of a our local mental health center and rape crisis domestic violence shelter. This also keeps me busy!

But since I’ve stopped doing as many posts, I’m happy to say though that my traffic, due to all my well-written content, stays very high each month and posts are read and re-read even from many years ago. I learned to write for SEO many moons ago, and so much of my views come from google searches. I’m very proud of that. As much as I can, I hope to continue to do reviews, interviews, news, and hosting guest articles on my blog, interspersed with news of my own publications and writing pursuits. This is NOT a review mill, but a site run by an educated journalist, a PR professional, editor, and author.

WHAT NOT TO DO AS AN AUTHOR

I’ve not got off to a great start of posting here in 2018 yet, at least in the realm of posting reviews and interviews at least. My first major post at the beginning of the month was to be an interview with a historical fiction author. It was one that I was to post months prior, but that I hadn’t gotten posted due to our overwhelming personal struggles last year (including moving to a rural area, no internet service – then it taking over two months of a wait for installation, family problems, my son having a very long extended illness, my kids needing me, etc), and the blog becoming a last priority.

As the air cleared a little, and our internet finally was hooked up, and life had a bit more of a routine, even on crazy days, I began to catch up, and I posted the interview. I noted at the beginning of the interview about the delay, the season, and that I wanted to get 2018 off to a better start. Unfortunately, the author asked me, after I had spent about two hours formatting it, to take it down and re-post in the coming summer, also indicating to me that in the introduction I had written, since I noted one thing of accomplishment she had achieved since my previous review posted,  I had left off two awards she won (I hadn’t heard).

As this blog is volunteer-run, posts and hours to do them are always free, and I’m already spread very thin, often times only sleeping two hours a night (and sometimes struggling with my own health issues), so I didn’t really take too kindly to this at all from a personal stand-point. Being cordial back, and as always a professional, I removed the post and only asked her to remind me when she wanted posted, but did indicate to her that I wished she had respected my judgement. I hold no ill will. But as a future note to authors, both from the stance of running this site and personal desires, plus as a note from me as a professional, don’t do this. Don’t harass, embarrass, or take bloggers, reviewers, or media and their time for granted. Most of them, if not all of them, in the book world, do it as a labor of love. When you do these things, it makes it more like free labor and less like love.

My interviews, since I am a trained journalist, consist of originality every time. I write each interview catered toward the author. I sometimes ask the hard questions. I could get paid for my interviews, and I have, but on my own site they are free to you. Please understand the time involved in writing and posting them. It’s your job as an author to respect my time as well as your own, provide me with good answers, photos to accompany them (often times I spend time searching them out and verifying for use), and to share it along with me. This is the same advice I give my author clients, or any clients in entertainment or even business, when working with other sites or the media.

MY WRITING

And all of this talk of time does even mention the fact that I’ve made goals for myself of actually carving out more time for my own writing. Last year saw my own first collection published, a dark poetry and fiction mix called BREATHE. BREATHE. by Unnerving, as well as work in two more anthologies, HARDENED HEARTS from Unnerving and MY FAVORITE STORY from Project Entertainment Network, in which authors and podcasts hosts featured their favorite story. Proud to say I am in this with authors like Brian Keene, Christopher Golden, Jonathan Maberry, Mary SanGiovanni, and more. This year, I already have two secret projects going and I’m writing and submitting more this year as well. I need to be creative too, just like you do.

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So, now that I’ve cleared the air, I hope that my site continues to offer the best it can, as well as our business Hook of a Book Media, in which we offer editing, writing mentorship, publicity services, and more. Tim is now also offering editing services. I’m often booked, so please consider him if you’re looking for editing services as well. You can find information on that under our services tab. We offer respect and professionalism and support those who bring their best selves as well.

WANT TO BE FEATURED?

I am always open for guest article submissions, either articles you’ve written or interviews you’d like to do with others as a feature on my site. As well, I’m always available to try to fit in writing a guest article for your site too or to be interviewed. For book reviews, we are always open to receiving e-mails about new titles you’d like us to consider. I do not do formal reviews of clients book or book from publishers I directly work with on my blog or other online sites, for ethical reasons.

YOU CAN BE INVOLVED HERE

Upcoming projects of note for the site: we will doing volunteer campaigns for Women in Horror Month, Women in History, and National Poetry Month! You can check each individual page on this site for the calls and more information ongoing.

Thanks for a great seven years so far, and really looking forward to a wonderful 2018 in the book world. My best advice to everyone: JUST BREATHE. HAVE PATIENCE. IT WILL BE OKAY! 🙂

If you follow me here, THANK YOU!!

-Erin

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Filed under Book Reviews, Book Services, Breathe Breathe, Editing, Feature Articles, Guest Posts, My Writing, Q and A with Authors, women in history

Evangeline: Guest Article by Catherine Cavendish – Did You Have an Invisible Friend? Spooky!

This evening I have a spooky guest article from one of my favorite gothic, scary writers who has also become a good friend, Cat Cavendish. She writes some of the favorite articles I feature here on this site. I always appreciate her dropping by. Yesterday was the release of her latest work, The Devil’s Serenade. Stay around after the post and spend a few bucks to enjoy the book yourself. You won’t be sorry!

Evangeline

by Catherine Cavendish, Author of The Devil’s Serenade

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When you were growing up, did you have an imaginary friend? Did they seem real to you? Maybe sort-of-real. You could talk to them, imagine their responses, play with them but you probably kept the ‘relationship’ within certain boundaries – however young you were. In my case, I invented an entire family of siblings – three sisters (two older, one a few years younger) and an older brother who looked out for us girls. Being an only child, I found them comforting, and fun, but I never imagined them to be real. They, in turn, kept themselves firmly lodged in my own mind and never attempted to cross any boundary into the real world.

In my new novel, The Devil’s Serenade, my central character also had an imaginary family when she was a child. Scarily for her, they now start to appear in her real adult world.

Of course, my story is fiction, but there have been a number of accounts of small children making ‘friends’ with most unsuitable imaginary friends – who then cross the line. They can do this, of course, because they are not really imaginary at all – just invisible, at least to all except the child itself.

Take the case of a couple called Mark and Sarah. They had a young pre-school age daughter – Sophia – and, in order to give her a better life, moved from London to a sizeable country house dating back a couple of hundred years. At first, they were delighted with their new home and the peace and tranquility of an English village really appealed to them. But that was before things started to go badly wrong.

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It all started one day in summer when Sophia went missing. She had been playing in her room but, when her mother went up to check on her, she wasn’t there. Mark had gone out, taking the family dog – Daisy –  for a walk. Suddenly there was a mighty crash from the floor above and Sarah raced up the stairs. She threw open the door of a room that had formerly been a nursery and still contained Victorian and Edwardian children’s toys. There was no sign either of the cause of the crash or of Sophia and, puzzled, Sarah turned to leave the room. She jumped when she saw Sophia in the doorway.

The two went downstairs to the kitchen and Sarah poured her daughter a glass of milk. Sophia looked thoughtful for a few moments and then spoke. “Mummy, I want to play with the dolls’ house upstairs but Evangeline told me it was her sister’s and I can’t.”

“Who’s Evangeline?” her mother asked.

“My new friend.”

Sarah remembered that she too had had an imaginary friend when she was around Sophia’s age and thought no more of it. Then Mark returned with Daisy. Sophia had gone back to her room to play with her new ‘friend’. As soon as Mark opened the front door, Daisy bounded up the stairs, barking her head off. She raced into Sophia’s room and the little girl screamed.

“Evangeline’s scared of dogs! Get Daisy away!”

The little girl’s eyes were wide, her face blanched. Sarah felt a chill of fear race through her body. Something wasn’t right. This imaginary friend seemed far more real to her than her own had been. Mark pulled Daisy out of the room and Sarah comforted her sobbing child.

“I’m sorry, Mummy, but dogs really scare Evangeline.”

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The next few days were fairly uneventful. Sophia constantly chattered about her new friend. “Evangeline let me play with the dolls’ house. She’s very nice.”

“Good,” her mother replied, going along with what she believed to be her child’s fantasy, but still unable to reconcile the trepidation she felt.

Then, over the next few days, Evangeline seemed to misbehave. Sophia complained that she wouldn’t share her toys anymore.

One evening, when Mark was away on business, Sarah’s fears became a terrifying encounter.

Sophia had fallen asleep on the sofa in the living room and her mother hadn’t the heart to wake her. The grandfather clock began to chime midnight when the lights flickered and then went out. Sarah stumbled out of the kitchen with a flashlight in her hand and opened the living room door. A scream caught in her throat at the sight that greeted her in the beam from her torch.

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 A young girl, no more than thirteen or fourteen, wearing a long, frilly white dress in late Victorian style, was kneeling on the floor next to Sophia, stroking the child’s hair and softly singing a lullaby. Evangeline. It had to be. But why was she here?

“Get away from her!” Sarah yelled. Suddenly Daisy bounded past her and started barking. Clearly the dog was seeing what she was. Sophia woke and burst into tears.

The apparition was on her feet and backing away from Daisy, a look of frozen terror on her face.

“Who are you? What do you want from my daughter?” Sarah cried.

But Evangeline ignored her. It seemed her only concern was to get away from the dog. She dashed across the room, turned, screamed and disappeared. The lights instantly came back on.

Sarah called Mark who came home straightaway. The couple called in the local priest, who knew something of the history of the house. He listened to their story, his expression increasingly amazed at what they told him. It transpired that a family with a young daughter had lived in the house a hundred or more years earlier and there had been a terrible tragedy. The family dog, normally placid and good with children, inexplicably turned on the girl and savaged her. She died from her injuries.

The girl’s name was Evangeline.

The priest blessed the house and the family never saw or heard the ghost girl again. They have never been able to find a rational explanation for their experience and it seems Sophia has forgotten she ever had a friend who couldn’t be there.

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Now, to give you a taste of The Devil’s Serenade, here’s the blurb:

Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…

“Madeleine Chambers of Hargest House” has a certain grandeur to it. But as Maddie enters the Gothic mansion she inherited from her aunt, she wonders if its walls remember what she’s blocked out of the summer she turned sixteen.

She’s barely settled in before a series of bizarre events drive her to question her sanity. Aunt Charlotte’s favorite song shouldn’t echo down the halls. The roots of a faraway willow shouldn’t reach into the cellar. And there definitely shouldn’t be a child skipping from room to room.

As the barriers in her mind begin to crumble, Maddie recalls the long-ago summer she looked into the face of evil. Now, she faces something worse. The mansion’s long-dead builder, who has unfinished business—and a demon that hungers for her very soul.

Here’s an extract:

A large flashlight rested on the bottom stair and I switched it on, shining it into the dark corners. There wasn’t a lot to see. A few broken bits of furniture, old fashioned kitchen chairs, some of which looked vaguely familiar, jam jars, crates that may once have held bottles of beer.

The beam caught the clump of gnarled and twisted roots that intertwined with each other, like Medusa’s snakes. I edged closer to it, my heart thumping more than it should. It was only a tree, for heaven’s sake! The nearest one was probably the willow. Surely, that was too far away? I knew little about trees, but I was pretty certain their roots couldn’t extend that far.

I examined the growth from every angle in that silent cellar. The roots were definitely spreading along the floor and, judging by the thickness and appearance of them, had been there for many years. Gray, like thick woody tendrils, they reached around six feet along and possibly four feet across at their widest point. I bent down. Close up, the smell that arose from them was cloyingly sweet. Sickeningly so. I put one hand over my nose, rested the flashlight on the steps and reached out with the fingers of my free hand to touch the nearest root. It wriggled against my palm.

I cried out, staggered backward and fell against the stairs. The flashlight clattered to the floor and went out. Only the overhead bulb provided any light, and it didn’t reach this darkest corner. Something rustled. I struggled to my feet, grabbed the torch and ran up the stairs. I slammed the door shut and locked it, leaned against it and tried to slow down my breathing. A marathon runner couldn’t have panted more.

I tapped the flashlight and it flickered into life, seemingly none the worse for its accident. I switched it off and set it on the floor by the cellar door. Whoever came to fix those roots was going to need it.

You can find The Devil’s Serenade here:

 Samhain Publishing

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

And other online retailers

About the author:

Catherine Cavendish

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Cat is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories.

She was the 2013 joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology Competition, with Linden Manor, which features in the anthology What Waits in the Shadows.

Other titles include: The Pendle Curse, Saving Grace Devine, Dark Avenging Angel, The Second Wife, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, The Devil Inside Her, Cold Revenge and In My Lady’s Chamber.

You can connect with Cat here:

Catherine Cavendish

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