Surprise Merry Meet: Stephanie Hansen

We know it’s not Monday for our usual Merry Meet, but we’re excited to welcome author, Stephanie Hansen, for a swift chat as part of the blog tour for her novella, Altered Helix arranged by Rachel’s Random Resources. Unfortunately Amber is at college, so can’t be here today but she is sorry she has missed this Merry Meet. Altered Helix is a book she can’t wait to read.

Pumpkins and pumpkin mugs

Surprise Merry Meet: Stephanie Hansen

Willow: Take a seat. First question has to be what would you like to drink? We have a selection of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate? Or I’m brewing some mulled cider in the workroom.

A coffee would be splendid. The characters in Altered Helix (my debut novella) often frequent Broadway Café. Though, your mulled cider sounds especially wonderful as a fall drink. You made this decision difficult. We hit our first frost advisory of the season last night and it is bone chillingly cold, so any warm drink will do.

Willow: Your book, Altered Helix, features a haunted house. As we have many paranormal activities in the emporium, we’re intrigued about what inspired your setting?

I worked at a haunted house when I was 20 and fell in love with it. The best is waiting for the right moment to scare people and seeing everyone enjoy it. People scream and hold on to each other. Their smiles after going through the haunted house are spectacular.

Willow: That sounds fun. Your book is also set in a dystopian America where the government has collapsed and homelessness is rife, placing your protagonist, Austria, in danger. What came first, the plot or the characters?

Mostly the characters developed first, but it was also a mixture of plot too. My characters often reveal their emotions through the smallest of gestures. Even though the characters first came to me before my hearing loss, the story was not completed until after I became unilaterally deaf. When you struggle to hear people, you often rely on subtle cues, and I’ve incorporated it into a lot of my fiction. I also create a working outline for books before writing, but inevitably the characters make different decisions than I’d planned, hence the “working” outline.

Willow: It must have been hard dealing with hearing loss but your visual observations add an extra layer to the book. We’ve just had Halloween, do you normally celebrate it? And if so, how?

I love reading scary books around Halloween. I just started White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson and I think it will be a perfect spooky thriller for the season. Complete with what appears to be a haunted house set in a town that reminds the protagonist of The Walking Dead, it’s bound to give me goosebumps of fright. I also enjoy watching scary movies but it’s hard to pick a favourite.

Willow: I’ll have to recommend it to Amber, she loves horror reads. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

If I may, as a literary agent, I’d like to discuss multiple publication journey options. I believe many paths (self-publishing, small press, mid-size house, major house publishing, etc.) can be taken for a successful experience. The important thing is to research each and find the one that works best for you as a writer. Some genres thrive in self-publishing, so it may be the best option. As many self-published authors know, it’s like opening a business and you’re the business owner. You need to either handle all responsibilities or delegate them to qualified individuals. It’s an investment. My agency handles subsidiary rights for self-published authors. We’re familiar with what foreign publishers, audio producers, gaming apps, and film producers are looking for, plus we can organize the process. For instance, I’m currently closing four foreign translation publishing deals for one author and will announce them all together in order to gain attention from film producers. Please follow the Metamorphosis Literary Agency social media for more information.

Willow: We have authors from all types of publication paths popping in and would be writers so will let them know. It must be a fascinating job. We follow our set rituals in the shop when preparing stock. What is your writing routine like?

Many of my story ideas begin as a dream. I wake up and rapidly jot down every detail that I remember. Then I begin handwriting the story into notebooks. I know that adds time as I’ll have to type later, but something about the process allows words to flow freely. With Altered Helix, I made a detective board of sorts to connect inciting incidents, character development and more (see an example below except the one I used while writing was physical and up on a wall). I was quite a novice at that point but had a lot of fun and have integrated it into a lot of what I continue to do. 😊 Once I have some bones and skin in place for the story, I now but didn’t in the beginning, share it with a critique partner. We work on the opening, try to see if there are plot holes, etc. and then I correct what I have and continue with the rest of the story. I couldn’t have done this in the beginning of my writing journey as it may have halted the story creation process. Once complete, I have another partner look at it for errors, problematic wording, things that would trip up a reader, etc. After that, I revise. Then, I have yet someone else review for grammar, typos, etc. What is a witch without a powerful coven?

A plotting board for a writer showing photos of building, creepy night time scene, bed with straps on and a garden wedding

Willow: Working with others does have its benefits and it is lovely to have those you can trust to work with. Many readers and our customers harbour the dream of writing a novel. Before we get round to blending a spell to help with the process, do you have any advice for new writers?

Some of that was covered in the last question, but I’ll add more here. I fear many authors fall so in love with their first manuscript that they can’t shelve it, therefore, restricting future creations from existence (or at least delaying them by quite a bit). By that I mean, they refuse to accept that it shouldn’t be published. Often these first manuscripts are the best writing lessons for an author and for that purpose very useful, but it doesn’t mean it should be published. A very talented agent shared some information about successful authors and what number novel it was that broke them out. I think by seeing this, it might help aspiring authors understand that everyone’s journey is different. https://twitter.com/EmilyKaitlinnn/ So, I guess my advice is to not only create one land of enchantment but many.  

Willow: That is helpful. Thank you. The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range, which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

This one, which helps the user focus while the candle burns. I can be handling paperwork for the business when I see a new publishing deal announcement and it inspires a different direction for an author’s manuscript that I’m currently shopping. Or I can be writing one story when another story idea pops into my head. I have a notebook to keep all of these ideas organised BUT the idea’s there in my mind. It wants to build on it right then. I also have a couple teenagers, so the candle which “makes those around you help without asking” was very tempting. You made another decision difficult for me. Well done. Your magic brewing is extraordinary.

Willow: We have one candle that invokes memories of your favourite season when lit. Where would it take you and what would you be doing?

That’s hard. I’m currently in the Midwest and what I love is the changing of seasons. I probably prefer summer for being outside and seeing green everywhere. My body struggles with temperature changes at first. So, the current 50ish degree temps during the day are freezing me but give it a month and 50 will feel warm. I do really enjoy the activities during fall and spring. Fall is my favourite reading and writing season, which I think is shared by many as I believe the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) month is November. In the winter, when things are covered in snow, it is also very pretty.

Willow: Every season has its beauty and the Midwest sounds a good place to experience them. If we could blend a potion to give you a special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

The ability to cure someone of a physical illness or disease. There are a couple of people dear to me who currently suffer from physical ailments, and I’d like to be able to rid them of the burden. Of course, one must be careful. After I lost two of my grandpas, I begged to whatever power that be to have me be the next one to get sick because I know my body could handle it and I didn’t want to lose another grandparent. Within months I came down with a very serious illness which caused my severe, unilateral deafness and 90 dB 24/7/365 tinnitus, but I didn’t lose another grandparent for years. So, I should probably ask before accepting, what is the cost of this ability?

Willow: The cost of some spells can be high, so it is always wise to consider the consequences. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

I love so many books by Seanan McGuire! I absolutely devoured The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab as quickly as possible! Plus, the strength in sisterhood in the Girls with Sharp Sticks series by Suzanne Young is awesome! If you want page turning, heart pounding series, try Crave by Tracy Wolff or The Bone Witch by Ivy Asher. My end all, be all go to is Relentless by Karen Lynch. And now you can see why my family believes I’m turning our house into a library! 😊

Willow: Every house should have a library and with those books my own bookshelf will be overflowing. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?

If you have not read One Last Stop by Casey McQuistion, please do. It’s simply divine. This book was so pleasant to read; National Treasure meets Ghost in the most splendid way. Years ago, I was an avid Nora Roberts fan. Have you read any of her books? I think one of my favourites had been The Garden Trilogy. Have you read The Dragon Heart Legacy? I haven’t yet but want to. If you do, please let me know so we can read it together. Also, another one that tugs at the heartstrings is If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.

Willow:  I adore Nora Roberts books and enjoyed The Garden trilogy too but for obvious reasons love the Three Sisters series. Finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

I’m currently working on the gaming app adaptation of Altered Helix. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait for it to fully release in 2023! I’m also working on a story that began for me as a short story, then evolved to a screenplay, and now I’m adapting it to a novel (almost backward to my journey with Altered Helix). It’s fun dissecting a story to different platforms but keeping the heart intact. It’s challenging and, hopefully, will help me grow as an author.

Willow: Those sound thrilling projects and look forward to hear about their progress. Thank you for coming in for a chat all the way from America.

Thank you so much for having me. I thoroughly enjoyed your questions and bid you adieu.

Book cover for Altered Helix. Bright blue cover with the silhouette of boy and girl holding each other looking down.
Altered Helix by Stephanie Hansen

Title: Altered Helix

Author: Stephanie Hansen

Publisher: Hypothesis Books

Release date: 19th May 2020

Purchase Link – https://books2read.com/u/mdzJjX

Author Biography

Photo of Stephanie Hansen. White woman smiling with very blue eyes.
Stephanie Hansen

Stephanie Hansen is a PenCraft and Global Book Award Winning Author. Her debut novella series, Altered Helix, released in 2020. It hit the #1 New Release, #1 Best Seller, and other top 100 lists on Amazon. It is now being adapted to an animated story for Tales. Her debut novel, Replaced Parts, released in 2021 through Fire & Ice YA and Tantor Audio. It has been in a Forbes article, hit Amazon bestseller lists, and made the Apple young adult coming soon bestsellers list. The second book in the Transformed Nexus series, Omitted Pieces, released in 2022. Her next novella, Ghostly Howls, releases 2/7/23. She is a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community so she tries to incorporate that into her fiction. 

Social Media Links –

https://www.authorstephaniehansen.com/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/stephanie-hansen ,

https://www.facebook.com/writer.stephaniehansen ,

https://www.instagram.com/stephaniehansenauthor/ ,

https://www.tiktok.com/@stephaniehansenauthor

https://twitter.com/hansenwriter

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Book Review: The Gifts by Liz Hyder

Another beautiful book has landed on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf courtesy of Rachel’s Random Resources. With a captivating blurb, the witches are looking forward to reading, The Gifts by Liz Hyder, and give their honest and unbiased opinion.

Scroll down to see if The Gifts succeeds in reaching the dazzling heights the cover suggests.

Book Review: The Gifts by Liz Hyder

Book cover for The Gifts by Liz Hyder
Beautiful cover with a map of London in deep blue in the background and a gold silhouette of a lady in Edwardian dress catching a feather.  There is also a gold frame.
The Gifts by Liz Hyder

Title: The Gifts

Author: Liz Hyder

Publisher: Zaffre

Genre: Historical fantasy fiction

Release Date: 10th February 2022

Purchase Linkhttps://loom.ly/HMM25ks

Blurb

A young woman staggers through the woods. Something is happening deep inside and as she’s thrown to her knees in agony, the world around her stops. When she comes to, she is astonished at the sight of her shadow – it has wings.


Meanwhile when rumours of ‘fallen angels’ cause a frenzy across London, a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune will find himself in the grip of a dangerous obsession, and the women he seeks in the most terrible danger . . .


THE GIFTS is the astonishing debut adult novel from the lauded author of BEARMOUTH. A gripping and ambitious book told through several female voices and set against the luminous backdrop of nineteenth century London, it explores science, nature and religion, enlightenment, the knife-edge roles of women in society and the dark danger of ambition.

Thoughts from the Emporium

Wow! What a beautifully written, evocative and original novel. It had both Willow and Amber on tenterhooks throughout as the women stumbled into danger and the tension increased. It was a book hangover in the making.

The detailed description of the locations provided the ideal backdrop for this deliciously dark tale and it enhanced the women’s predicament in a time when the unusual were seen as a commodity and something to be exploited, and women were expendable. The women came from different backgrounds but they all shared an admirable strength and depth making them relatable.

Neither witch could put this book down, resulting in no sleep. Despite bleary eyes on their shift, the novel triggered much discussion in the store, ranging from their views on the characters, to the role of society and power. This makes it an ideal read for book clubs.

Each witch required a copy of their own for their forever shelves, knowing they will both revisit it again and again.

Author Biography

Photo of Liz Hyder. White woman in a blue top, glasses and short curly hair. She's smiling
Liz Hyder

Liz Hyder has been making up stories for as long she can remember. She has a BA
in drama from the University of Bristol and, in early 2018, won the Bridge Award/Moniack Mhor Emerging Writer Award. Bearmouth, her debut young adult novel, won a Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Branford Boase Award and was chosen as the Children’s Book of the Year by The
Times
. Originally from London, she now lives in South Shropshire. The Gifts is her debut adult novel.

Social Media Links  

Twitter: @LondonBessie (https://twitter.com/LondonBessie )

Website: https://www.lizhyder.co.uk/

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Monday Merry Meet: Alys West

Today we’re excited to chat to Alys West, author of the witchy series the Spellworker Chronicles. We hope you enjoy hearing about Samhain, her books and spells.

Monday Merry Meet: Alys West

Willow: Hi Alys, come in it’s blustery out there. It’s as if you brought your Storm witch with you. We’ve heard the waves hit the harbour walls all day. Usually we’re too far away.

Amber: On the plus side the courtyard has gathered so many autumnal leaves, I can make a wreath.  Can I get you a drink? We have our own blends of tea, Yorkshire tea, as no one can beat that for a proper cuppa, coffee or something different?  

Alys: I’ll have a cup of green tea with jasmine if you’ve got it.  Thanks for inviting me to visit your wonderful shop. I love Whitby. It’s one of my favourite places. I always feel history really strongly here and there’s so many stories to tell about Whitby. I set my steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter here and I’m sure I’ll come back to it in future books.

Willow: We’d love to read those. You write novels surrounding witchcraft and the occult. What drew you to that genre? 

Alys: Ooh, thanks for the tea. That looks lovely.  I’ve always read a lot of fantasy and I’m a big fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Merlin.  I’m also deeply fascinated my folklore. When I started writing Beltane I wanted the magic to be organic, to come from the earth and the folklore of Glastonbury.  I think all of the witches in my books are essentially hedge witches. Their power is mainly instinctive and comes from hedgerows and gardens rather than reading magical books.

Willow: We know all about instinctive magic and it often gets Amber into trouble.

Amber: Willow prefers tried and tested magic from books.

Willow: Not always. I love your atmospheric settings. Beltane was set in Glastonbury and Storm Witch is located in West Orkney. How important are locations for you and what comes first, the location, character or plot?

Alys: Location is hugely important to me. I’m very influenced by the spirit of a place.  With my writing, I start with the place and the story grows from it. Beltane grew out of the landscape around Glastonbury.  Storm Witch was inspired by a folk tale about a girl called Janet Sinclair who lived on the island of Westray in Orkney in the seventeenth century who was believed to be able to call up storms.   

Amber: I found the Storm Witch highly relatable and their emotions cause havoc with their powers. How easy was it to write those scenes?

Alys: I’m pleased to hear you related to the Storm Witch. It was pretty cathartic to write those scenes. It was a bit of a release to allow those emotions out. As a person I feel things deeply but do my best to hide it so I was probably working through some of my own anger by allowing the Storm Witch to let rip!

Willow: As you can see with our pumpkins and window display, we are looking forward to Halloween. Is Samhain something you usually celebrate?

Alys: Yes, Samhain is a really important time of the year for me.  I love autumn. In the Celtic tradition, Samhain is the start of the new year. It’s the time when our energies turn inwards as the days grow shorter.  I’ve got much more comfortable with the idea of retreating and recharging in the winter and Samhain is the start of that period. 

There’s a Samhain tradition which I like to follow; you eat an apple and each seed symbolises something you’d like to grow or develop during the winter months. Traditionally you would then eat the seeds but I like to see that as optional!  

So I won’t be out Trick or Treating but I’ll be celebrating the turn of the seasons at home with candles and the leaves and seeds I’ve gathered on my walks. 

Willow: It’s a beautiful way to celebrate it and we must give you one of our Samhain candles before you go. Every writer seems to tread different paths to publication. What has your journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Alys: My journey has been a bit twisty-turny but I feel I’ve ended up in the right place. Initially I tried to get a traditional publishing deal and had an agent for a while. However that didn’t work out so I indie published Beltane. It’s been hard work but I wouldn’t have changed it. It’s allowed me the freedom and time to write the stories I wanted to tell.  I’ve also met some absolutely brilliant people along the way who have supported my writing and helped me keep going.  If I was to change anything, I think I’d have gone indie straightaway. Indie publishing is right for me and my books. I could have saved myself a lot of rejection letters if I’d embraced it sooner!

Willow: Spells and magic can be very ritualistic. Do you have writing rituals are strict writing regime?

Alys: I always sit in the same green Ikea chair. We moved house a few months ago and the writing chair was not available for a few weeks and it really threw me. Other chairs are available in our house but none of them felt right.  I also need tea when I sit down to start writing.  That’s usually a pot of green tea but I move onto peppermint later in the day. I like to write first thing in the morning but don’t think that means I’m up at six every morning. I like my sleep so for me first thing in the morning is about 9.30am!

Amber: I secretly write. Do you have any advice for new writers?

Alys: There’s masses of advice out there for new writers and it can be overwhelming. When I was younger I absorbed the maxim that you must write every day. I have a long-term health condition which means that’s simply not practical for me and I spent a lot of years feeling that because of that I would never be a writer. I’m older and wiser now and have learnt what works for me. 

In my opinion, many writing books are about what works for that writer. Some of that may work for you but other bits won’t. The most important thing you can do is keep writing and as you do that, you’ll find out what approach works for you. 

Having said all of that, I do recommend reading books on story structure. These are generally written for script writers but apply equally to fiction writers. My favourite is ‘Into the Woods’ by John Yorke. It’s definitely worth picking up a copy of that, Amber.

Amber: I’ll seek it out. Thank you. If we used magic to bring one of your characters to life so you could share a coffee with them, who would you choose?

Alys: Gosh, that’s a tough one because I love them all.  I’m going to go with Winston because he’s got that bad boy charm going on but underneath he’s a bit of a softy.  In the next book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’ we’re going to find out a bit more about Winston’s past.  Over coffee I could ask him a few searching questions but I know him too well to think he’d open up and give me a straight answer. Most likely I’ll get a lot of jokey deflection. Seeing behind that as one of the challenges of writing his character.

Willow: Talking of magic, we sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Alys:  I’m a bit of a people pleaser so the ability to say no would be useful. If you can make that the ability to say no without guilt then that would be even better.

Amber: Releasing the guilt is important and already accounted for in the spell. The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity all year round. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Alys: I’m originally from York which is absolutely packed with ghosts. There are stories of ghosts in most of the pubs, the theatre and various historic buildings. I’ve never experienced anything paranormal even though I’ve worked in a few buildings which are known to have ghosts. The most I’ve experienced is a strong sense of negative emotions in certain places. I do believe buildings can absorb the feelings of the people who inhabit them and I think I pick up on that sometimes. 

Willow: If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours what would it be and what would you do with it?

Alys: Right now, I could do with a superpower that allowed me to travel instantly to where I need to be. My Mum is currently in hospital. It’s an hour’s drive each way to visit her. I’d like to be able to teleport straight to the ward to see her rather than spending ages stuck in traffic and then pop to my parent’s house to have a cuppa with my Dad.

Amber: We hope she feels better soon and teleporting would be ideal. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Alys: ‘Spirited’ by Julie Cohen. I’ve only just finished it and I absolutely loved it. Julie’s a fabulous writer and she packs such a lot into a book. ‘Spirited’ is about Victorian spiritualism but it’s also about sexuality, female power and colonialism.  The characters became so real to me that I’ve kept thinking about them and wanting to know what happened to them after the novel ended.

Willow: We loved that book. Great choice. Our assistant Rosa couldn’t be here today because of childcare issues but she has a box full of romances for people to borrow.  What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?

Alys: Oh gosh, it’s so hard to choose! I’m going to go with ‘Thornyhold’ by Mary Stewart. I loved Mary Stewart’s books when I was younger and read them all again when I decided to start writing myself. This is my favourite. It’s a wonderful story of romance and magic which a big dollop of mysticism.

Amber: I’ve heard good things about her. And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Alys:  I’m working on ‘Stone Magic’ which is the third book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’. It’s taken a while for this one to reveal itself (turns out living through a Pandemic is not good for my creative process) but I’m really excited about it now.  It’s going to pick up the story from the end of Storm Witch and follow the investigation into the deaths of The Order. After ‘Stone Magic’, there’ll be a fourth and final book in the series which has the working title of ‘The Winter Tree’.  I’m not making any promises as to when they’ll be ready as I don’t write very fast and life has a habit of getting in the way but I will get there. 

Thank you so much for inviting me to visit The Enchanted Emporium. It’s been lovely to sit in your wonderful shop and chat to you both. Thanks as well for the tea, very much appreciated!

Beltane by Alys West

Title: Beltane

Author: Alys West

Publisher: Fabrian Books

Release Date: 8th June 2016

Genre: Fiction, supernatural

Purchase: Amazon

BLURB

Struggling artist, Zoe arrives in Glastonbury seeking inspiration. The small Somerset town is steeped in myth and legend and Zoe’s sure it’ll be the perfect place to work on a book about King Arthur. But behind the shops selling witchcraft supplies and crystals real magic is being practised.
When Zoe meets Finn her life changes forever. Not only is he a druid connected to the ancient energies of the earth but she dreamed about him long before they met. Finn’s life is in terrible danger and Zoe’s dreams start to reveal more of the plot against him.
After dreaming of a deadly battle at a stone circle on Dartmoor, Zoe starts to wonder if the dark magic around her is playing tricks of its own or if she really can see the future. Will she learn to trust Finn, and herself, in time to stand any hope of surviving the powerful magic that will be unleashed at Beltane? Or is it already too late?
This gripping story of magic, romance and the supernatural will entrance fans of Deborah Harkness and Phil Rickman and keep you spellbound until the very last page.

Author Biography

Alys West

Alys West writes contemporary fantasy and steampunk. Her first novel, Beltane was inspired by the folklore of Glastonbury. Her second novel, The Dirigible King’s Daughter is a steampunk romance set in Whitby. Storm Witch is her third novel and is set in the beautiful Orkney islands which she fell in love with back in 2010 and has used every excuse to return to since (including setting a novel there!) She is fascinated by folklore and folk tales which are a big influence on the stories she tells.

Alys has a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teaches creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. She’s also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.

When she’s not writing you can find her at folk gigs, doing yoga and attempting to crochet. She occasionally blogs at www.alyswest.com, intermittently tweets at @alyswestyork and spends rather too much time on Facebook where you can find her at Alys West Writer. She is also on Instagram at @alyswestwriter. To keep up with Alys’s news you can join her Facebook readers’ group ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles’.

Book Highlight: Silverweed Road by Simon Crook

A new book has arrived on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf, courtesy of Random Things Tours and it promises to provide its readers nightmares before Halloween. Silverweed Road by Simon Crook has an unusual premise and Amber can’t wait to read and give her honest opinion soon. Watch this space.

Want to know more? Scroll down for its horrifying blurb

Book cover of Silverweed Road by Simon Crook
Silverweed Road by Simon Crook

Title: Silverweed Road

Author: Simon Crook

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Horror, anthology

Release Date: 29th September 2022

Blurb

Welcome to Silverweed Road – a once quiet suburban street where nothing is quite as it seems. In this macabre collection of twisted tales, were-foxes prowl, a swimming pool turns predatory, a haunted urn plots revenge and a darts player makes a deal with the devil himself. As the residents vanish one by one, a sinister mystery slowly unpeels, lurking in the Woods at the road’s dead-end. Creepy, chilling, and witty by turn, Silverweed Road deals in love, loss, isolation, loneliness, obsession, greed,and revenge. Come take a walk through suburban hell. The neighbours will be dying to meet you …

Author Biography

Photo of Simon Crook. White male looking straight at the camera with a purple filter across to look spooky
Simon Crook

Simon Crook has been a film journalist for over 20 years, travelling the world visiting film sets and interviewing talent for Empire Magazine. A new and exciting voice in domestic horror, he is perfectly placed to translate the recent successes of the genre from the silver screen to the written word – while adding something new and wholly his own.

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Book Review: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais

It’s Wednesday! The ideal day to share our review for a witchy book which landed on the bookshelf thanks to Random Things Tours. The blurb and cover captivated the witches and then they demanded Rosa to read. Find out why they were so adamant she tried it below.

Book Review: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais

Book cover for The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais
Blue cover with witchy paraphernalia dotted around a gold cauldron
The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais

Title: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor

Author: Bianca Marais

Publisher: Harper 360

Genre: witchlit, fiction

Release Date: 23rd August 2022

Blurb

The House in the Cerulean Sea meets The Golden Girls in this funny, tender, and uplifting feminist tale of sisterhood featuring a coven of aging witches who must unite their powers to fight the men determined to drive them out of their home and town.

A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.

Summoned by an alarm, five octogenarian witches gather around Ursula when danger is revealed to her in a vision. An angry mob of townsmen is advancing with a wrecking ball, determined to demolish Moonshyne Manor and Distillery. All eyes turn to Queenie—as the witch in charge, it’s her job to reassure them—but she confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments and property taxes. Queenie has been counting on Ruby’s return in two days to fix everything. Ruby is the only one who knows where the treasure is hidden, those valuable artifacts stolen 33 years ago on the night when everything went horribly wrong. Why didn’t clairvoyant Ursula see this coming sooner? Wasn’t Ivy supposed to be working her botanical magic to keep the townsmen in a state of perpetual drugged calm, all while Jezebel quelled revolts through seductive bewitchment?

 The mob is only the start of the witches’ troubles. Brad Gedney, a distant cousin of Ivy, is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy that was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. And things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

 In a race against time, the women have nine days to save their home and business. The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but fear their aging powers are no match against increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of extra help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

 Funny, tender, and uplifting, THE WITCHES OF MOONSHYNE MANOR explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family, and unlikely friendships. Marais’ true power is her clever prose that offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity, and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Both heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you wonder: why were we taught to fear the witches, and not the men who burned them? Above all, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.

Thoughts from the Emporium

If last year’s The Ex Hex brought witchy fiction out of the shadows into the wider commercial fiction, The Witches of Moonshyne Manor will cement the sub-genre into its rightful place in commercial fiction. Full of humour, this novel has a cast of six octogenarian witches who have heaps of wisdom, quirks and depth which make them unforgettable. While in most books, there is a clear favourite character, here it is impossible to choose. With Jezebel showing you’re never too old for a healthy sex life, Ivy with her plants and Queenie dedicated to her lab, it’s inspired. Full of magic and uplifting chuckles, its witchlit at its finest.

Everyone found this novel captivating when the tension built as the witches fought against a mob to protect the manor but it is more than a story about survival. It covered the longevity of friendship, betrayal and scandal and captured many observations of life in concise but quirky ways.

The recipes and spells from the Moonshyne grimoire sprinkled between the chapters were a clever addition and brought the readers into the story.

Despite wanting to know the ending, no one wanted the spellbinding book to end and is one of the reasons, those at the emporium think this is a book to read, recommend and treasure. Just like watching Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic is a Halloween tradition, rereading this will be part of the spooky season routine.

Author Biography

Photo of Bianca Marais. GDark haired white woman with grey/blue eyes and pink lipstick
Bianca Marais

Bianca Marais is the author of the beloved Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh (Putnam, 2017 and 2019). She teaches at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies where she was awarded an Excellence in Teaching Award for Creative Writing in 2021. A believer in the power of storytelling in advancing social justice, Marais runs the Eunice Ngogodo Own Voices Initiative to empower young Black women in Africa to write and publish their own stories, and is constantly fundraising to assist grandmothers in Soweto with caring for children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. In 2020, Marais started the popular podcast, The Shit No One Tells You About Writing, which is aimed at helping emerging writers become published.

Other blogs on the tour

19th Sep
IG: Iamessgarcia bookshineandreadbows @bookshineblog
bookishdreamer3 IG: bookishedreamer58

20th Sept

Secretworldofabook @secretwofabook
Readerofrivendell @readerofrivende
apartofyourbookworld @apartofyourbook
21st Sept
Book Before U leap @bookleap
IG: ashleighheartsbooks
IG: katebubsbooks

22nd Sept
IG: stratospherekawaiigirl crooksbooks @beckyc_89
bethanys bookshelf @_thisisbethany

23rd Sept
IG: karenandherbooks cookiebiscuit @cookiebiscuit
Read Write Inspire @fluttermouse

26th Sept
draliceviolett.com @alicetheunique book-for-thought @bookforthought
bakers not so secret @bakersNNSblog

27th Sept

IG: boozy_bookaholics IG: penfoldlayla IG: whatjaneyreads

28th Sept
theenchantedemporiumbookshelf @witchesofwhitby bookshortie @bookshortie1 
IG: staceywh_17

29th Sept
thepufflehuffkittehreads @pufflekitteh calturnerreviews @calturner
ramblingmads @ramblinfmads

30 Sept

IG: books.brownies.etc booksteaandme @booksteaandme1
budgettalesblog @emilypankhurs12

Monday Merry Meet: Kate Johnson

Welcome to the last Monday of September. With celebrations of Mabon over, the staff at the Emporium are gearing up for the busiest times of the year, Halloween. Where as Willow used to have a subtle approach to the season, under Amber’s influence and Rosa’s romantic view of the Halloween decorations have exploded this year. Amidst the chaos, they are delighted to catch up with author Kate Johnson. Her latest novel, The Hex Appeal was loved by everyone and provided chuckles and endless imagination on every page.

Amber sees it as a blueprint of how a witch should live without the constraints of normality while Willow thinks she has enough to contend with with the clashes between Vincent and the resident ghost feline, never mind flying glass parrots.

Monday Merry Meet: Kate Johnson

Cobwebs at old window
Image by Myri Roet from Pixabay

Willow: Hi Kate. It’s so lovely to see you. Mind your head when you come through to the back, Amber attempted to talk to the spiders to make extra cobwebs for Halloween decorations and they’ve taken it to the extreme. It’s like walking into Shelob’s lair. She has convinced them to depart the Emporium while we chat, just in case you are arachnophobic.

Kate: That’s fine. You should see my house. The spiders are both entertainment and food for the kittens.

Willow: That sounds mayhem. Rosa’s putting the kettle on. What would you like to drink? We have a range of teas, including Yorkshire, coffee, hot chocolate or something stronger? We had a good harvest of damsons last year so have some damson gin.

Kate: Damson gin will do nicely, thanks.

Amber: We’ve all read your new novel, Hex Appeal and were blown away by your world building in Beldam House. It was full of small details that made the house feel alive. Did you have as much fun writing this book as it appears on the page?

Kate: So much fun! I sat back and thought about the things you get in witch stories, and the things that had been weird or amusing to me recently, and then just… amplified them. I started growing carnivorous plants in the first lockdown, and they can be quite spectacular. So they had to go in the book. And I really liked the idea of a house that changed to suit your needs, like the house in Encanto (and how’s this for a sign: my new kittens were nicknamed the Encanto kittens by the RSPCA: it was meant to be!). The village of Good Winter is a mixture of the village where I live and others around it—even the names aren’t entirely out of the realms of possibility: we have a Good Easter and a Cold Christmas, and there’s a Beldam’s Lane and Gall End (that being short for gallows) around here too.

Willow: They’re fantastic names. Essie and her family are a fantastic group of witches, each with their unique abilities. What came first in the writing process, characters or plot?

Characters, always. I spent a while thinking about Essie and her backstory, and Josh and his, and how the two would come together, clash, push and pull each other. I kind of thought of the household a bit like What We Do In The Shadows: a disparate group of people who only have one thing in common, but it’s a really big thing, so it’s what binds them. As for plot… I never usually plot. I just went, “Blah blah, Witchfinder General, great evil threatens the earth, somehow they’ll fix it, now on with the witty banter!”

Amber: He brings us to the next question. The threat in Hex Appeal is based on the Essex witch trials and the general witchfinder. What made you choose this part of history as the novel’s foundation?

Kate: Well, he’s the most famous person associated with witches hereabouts. Essex has a strong association with witches, and in fact more people were executed as witches in Essex than any other English county. This is almost entirely down to Matthew Hopkins, who was less a witchfinder than a con artist who profited from the persecution of helpless people, mostly women, and didn’t care much that they could—and often did—end up being hanged. It honestly amazed me that he isn’t considered a serial killer. The number of deaths he’s responsible for is in the hundreds.

An etching of Matthew Hopkins the General Witchfinder. Man wearing tall hat, breeches and moustache and short pointy beard.
Mathew Hopkins The General Witchfinder

Willow: We agree.  Evil man. I’ve also read Little Haunting by the Sea about the relationship between Jen and a Victorian child only she can see. Have you had any paranormal experiences and has that influenced you work?

You’d expect so, but no! But then again I have fierce protection. A while ago one of my cats sat on the sofa beside me, and really took umbridge at a patch of empty air a foot or so in front of her. Hissing and growling like mad. Then she suddenly stopped and began to purr. Now, was she fighting off an invisible demon for me? She’ll never tell.

black kitten hissing
Image by ktphotography from Pixabay

Amber: She sounds a good protector. We’re gearing up to celebrate Halloween, is it something you celebrate or avoid?

Kate: Unsurprisingly, I absolutely love Halloween! I always have. I take my costuming quite seriously and have an impromptu lecture prepared for when people tell me “It’s all very American,” because my friend, it’s more British than queuing in the rain to see the Queen. In fact it’s the origins of Halloween that form an important plot point in Hex Appeal: the festival of Samhain, which wasn’t always a fixed date but fell at the midpoint between the autumn equinox and winter solstice. It’s very much the nightfall of the year, when there is more dark than light and the cold settles in for the winter.

Rosa: We love being nosy. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Oh… long. Recently at a writing event the chair of the panel referred to me as the “longest-serving” and none of us could work out how many books I’d written (including me). I started writing for small presses, then slightly larger ones, then larger still. There have been a few small disasters, but nothing I really regret doing.

 I think the only change I’d make to that journey was holding my horses a bit when I first began submitting, because none of those books were remotely ready! I’m very glad self-publishing wasn’t around back then, because I’d probably have thrown up some very green books and set myself back.

Amber: I like to dabble in writing. What advice would you give new writers?

Kate: It’s like any craft: you’ve got to put the hours in. Read everything in your chosen genre (and outside it too!) and write lots. Be prepared to discard a lot, and I mean a lot. Be sensitive to the world around you but develop a thick skin for criticism.

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Kate: Ooh. A good night’s sleep. Or confidence. (Do you have one that helps with indecision?)

Amber: Now that would be a bestseller. We have a candle that invokes memories of your perfect season? Where would it take you?

Kate: Autumn. A proper crisp autumn, where it’s cold enough to wear a pretty coat and a cute hat. Crunchy leaves underfoot, the scent of woodsmoke in the air, a cosy blanket in the evenings. Bliss!

Autumnal coloured maple leaves
Image by Shirley Hirst from Pixabay

Willow: I agree with you there. If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

You know what, I’d like a potion that helps me learn things really quickly. So I could play the piano, speak fluent French, understand the causes of WWI, that kind of thing. So long as I don’t lose the memories after 24 hours!

Willow: Losing all that knowledge would be cruel. The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is always on the lookout for new books. What book would you add to it?

Kate: Jessica Thorne’s The Water Witch. It weaves in wonderful Breton folklore with a modern romance. I love Jessica’s books (also check out her Ruth Frances Long YA titles, which are brilliant and include English and Irish folklore).

Rosa: I’ve seen The Water Witch on the Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf and She’s rumoured to be popping in soon. I adore romance novels and have a box full of them to share with customers. What would you add to it?

Kate: My absolute favourite romance author is Jennifer ruise. I pick her up whenever I need to remember how to be funny. I also want to recommend Jeevani Charika, who writes lovely warm romcoms with British Asian characters.

Willow: Finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Kate: Hex Appeal has been such a whirlwind I haven’t started work on a new book yet—but I have a couple of projects on the back burner. I’m hoping to do more paranormal romance, but exactly what flavour…? We’ll see.

Willow: Thanks for visiting and if Essie, Blessing, Avery, Maude, or even Lilith are in the area, please tell them to pop in. We will have lots to talk about.

Kate: If Lilith pops in, I apologise in advance.

Willow: Ha ha we’ll have to make provisions for that outcome. She’s a force to be reckoned with.

Author Biography

Photo of Kate Johnson. Smiling white woman with pink wavy hair
Kate Johnson

Kate Johnson is a Romantic Novel of the Year Award-winning author of romantic, mystery, and science fiction and not a stack of cats inside a raincoat, as many people believe. Kate lives in Essex with a small pride of cats, and writes books because actually being a space pirate, witch or murderer sounds like hard work.

Social media

Twitter, instagram & TikTok: @K8johnsonauthor

Facebook: @catmarsters

Book cover for The Hex Appeal by Kate Johnson. Dark purple backgound, white font entwined with green foliage. A cottage is at the bottom and a dungaree wearing woman is on the upper right side while a man is on the left looking at her
The Hex Appeal by Kate Johnosn

Blurb

Encanto meets Hocus Pocus in this perfect witchy romcom. An absolute must-read if you love Erin Sterling’s The Ex Hex and Lana Harper’s Payback’s a Witch!

It’s just a bunch of hocus pocus…

Essie Winterscale lives in a huge and ever-changing house in the village of Good Winter, in deepest, darkest Essex. She lives with various witches of various ages, one of whom is still a bit salty about having been burned at the stake in 1635, one who keeps accidentally casting fertility spells, and one who knits things that create the future.

All Essie ever wanted was to have a normal life but in the end she found herself drawn back to Beldam House because she just can’t stop her witchiness (although the ability to instantly chill wine is pretty awesome, even she has to admit).

Into this coven of chaos stumbles gorgeous, clueless Josh, their new landlord – and he’s just discovered his tenants haven’t paid rent since the 1700s! As Josh is drawn further into the lives of the inhabitants of Beldam House, Essie is determined to keep him at broomstick’s length. That is, until a family secret, lying hidden for centuries, puts Josh firmly under her spell…

‘Funny, smart and sassy…No one creates such brilliant worlds quite like Kate does’ Julie Caplin

The Dead Romantics Teaser – first chapter preview

We’re thrilled to be on the blog tour for Ashley Poston’s The Dead Romantics later on this week where we will be reviewing this haunting romcom which promises to be an ideal read for Halloween season.

Book cover for The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston. Dusky pink background with teal and yellow flowers at the bottom. A teal silhouette of a man reading a book is lying across the word romantics. A crow perches on his foot. A woman is doing the same across the word The Dead/
Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

But beforehand we’d love to share the novel’s first chapter to whet your appetite. So what is The Dead Romantic about? Here’s the blurb.

Florence Day is a ghost-writer with one big problem. She’s supposed to be penning swoon-worthy novels for a famous romance author but, after a bad break-up, Florence no longer believes in love. And when her strict (but undeniably hot) new editor, Benji Andor, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye.

Although when tragedy strikes and Florence has to head home, the last thing she expects to see is a ghost at her front door. Not just any ghost, however, but the stern form of her still very hot – yet now unquestionably dead – new editor.

As sparks start to fly between them, Florence tells herself she can’t be falling for a ghost – even an infuriatingly sexy one.

 But can Benji help Florence to realise love isn’t dead, after all?

Are you ready to read more?

Let’s go.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Chapter 1

The Ghostwriter

EVERY GOOD STORY has a few secrets.

At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Sometimes they’re secrets about love, secrets about family, secrets about murder—some so inconse­quential they barely feel like secrets at all, but monumental to the per­ son keeping them. Every person has a secret. Every secret has a story.

And in my head, every story has a happy ending.

If I were the heroine in a story, I would tell you that I had three secrets.

One, I hadn’t washed my hair in four days. Two, my family owned a funeral home.

And three, I was the ghostwriter of mega bestselling, critically acclaimed romance novelist Ann Nichols.

And I was sorely late for a meeting.

“Hold the door!” I shouted, bypassing the security personnel at the front desk, and sprinting toward the elevators.

“Miss!” the befuddled security guard shouted after me. “You have to check in! You can’t just—”

“Florence Day! Falcon House Publishers! Call up to Erin and she’ll approve me!” I tossed over my shoulder, and slid into one of the elevators, cactus in tow.

As the doors closed, a graying man in a sharp business suit eyed the plant in question.

“A gift to butter up my new editor,” I told him, because I wasn’t someone who just carried around small succulents wherever she went. “God knows it’s not for me. I kill everything I touch, includ­ing three cactuses—cacti?—already.”

The man coughed into his hand and angled himself away from me. The woman on the other side said, as if to console me, “That’s lovely, dear.”

Which meant that this was a terrible gift. I mean, I figured it was, but I had been stranded for too long on the platform waiting for the B train, having a small panic attack with my brother on the phone, when a little old lady with rollers in her hair tottered by selling cacti for like a dollar a pop and I bought things when I was nervous. Mainly books but—I guess now I bought houseplants, too. The guy in the business suit got off on the twentieth floor, and the woman who held the elevator left on the twenty seventh. I took a peek into their worlds before the doors closed again, immaculate white carpet or buffed wooden floors and glass cases where old books sat idly. There were quite a few publishers in the building, both online and in print, and there was even a newspaper on one of the floors. I could’ve been in the elevator with the editor

for Nora Roberts for all I knew.

Whenever I came to visit the offices, I was always hyperaware of how people took one look at me—in my squeaky flats and darned hose and too ­big plaid overcoat—and came to the conclusion that I was not tall enough to ride this ride.

Which . . . fair. I stood at around five foot two, and everything I wore was bought for comfort and not style. Rose, my roommate, always joked that I was an eighty ­year ­old in a twenty eight­ year ­old body.

Sometimes I felt it.

Nothing said Netflix and chill quite like an orthopedic pillow and a wineglass of Ensure.

When the elevator doors opened onto the thirty ­seventh floor, I was alone, grasping my cactus like a life vest at sea. The offices of Falcon House Publishers were pristine and white, with two fluorescent bookshelves on either side of the entryway, touting all of the bestsellers and literary masterpieces they’d published over their seventy­ five ­year history.

At least half of the left wall was covered in books by Ann Nichols—The Sea‑Dweller’s Daughter, The Forest of Dreams, The For‑ ever House, ones my mom sighed over when I was a teenager writ­ing my smutty Lestat fanfic. Next to them were Ann’s newer books, The Probability of Love, A Rake’s Guide to Getting the Girl (I was most proud of that title), and The Kiss at the Midnight Matinee. The glass reflected my face in the book covers, a pale white and sleep deprived young woman with dirty blond hair pulled up in a messy bun and dark circles under tired brown eyes, in a colorful scarf and an oversized beige sweater that made me look like I was the guest speaker at the Yarn of the Month Club and not one of the most distinguished publishing houses in the world.

Technically, I wasn’t the guest here. Ann Nichols was, and I was what everyone guessed was her lowly assistant.

And I had a meeting to get to.

I stood in the lobby awkwardly, the cactus pressed to my chest, as the dark­haired receptionist, Erin, held up a finger and finished her call. Something about salad for lunch. When she finally hung

up, she looked up from her screen and recognized me. “Florence!” she greeted with a bright smile. “Nice to see you up and about! How’s Rose? That party last night was brutal.”

I tried not to wince, thinking about Rose and I stumbling in at 3:00 a.m. “It sure was something.”

“Is she still alive?”

“Rose has survived worse.”

Erin laughed. Then she glanced around the lobby, as if looking for someone else. “Is Mrs. Nichols not going to make it today?”

“Oh no, she’s still up in Maine, doing her . . . Maine thing.” Erin shook her head. “Gotta wonder what it’s like, you know?

Being the Ann Nicholses and Stephen Kings of the world.” “Must be nice,” I agreed. Ann Nichols hadn’t left her small

little island in Maine in . . . five years? As long as I’d been ghost­ writing for her, anyway.

I tugged down the multicolored scarf wrapped around my mouth and neck. While it wasn’t winter anymore, New York al­ ways had one last kick of cold before spring, and that had to be today, and I was beginning to nervously sweat under my coat.

“Someday,” Erin added, “you’re going to tell me how you be­ came the assistant for the Ann Nichols.”

I laughed. “I’ve told you before—a Craigslist ad.” “I don’t believe that.”

I shrugged. “C’est la vie.”

Erin was a few years younger than me, her Columbia Univer­sity publishing certificate proudly displayed on her desk. Rose had met her a while back on a dating app, and they’d hooked up a few times, though now from what I heard they were strictly friends.

The phone began to ring on her desk. Erin said quickly, “Any­ way, you can go ahead—still remember the way, yeah?”

“Absolutely.”

“Perf. Good luck!” she added, and answered the call in her best customer service voice. “Good morning! You’ve reached Falcon House Publishers, this is Erin speaking . . .”

And I was left to my own devices.

I knew where to go, because I’d visited the old editor enough times to be able to walk the halls blindfolded. Tabitha Margraves had retired recently, at the absolute worst time, and with every step closer to the office, I held tighter on to the poor cactus.

Tabitha knew I ghostwrote for Ann. She and Ann’s agent were the only ones who did—well, besides Rose, but Rose didn’t count. Had Tabitha passed that nugget of secrecy to my new editor? God, I hoped so. Otherwise this was going to be an awkward first meeting. The hallway was lined with frosted glass walls that were sup­ posed to be used for privacy, but they provided extraordinarily little of that. I heard editors and marketing and PR shadows talking in hushed tones about acquisitions, marketing plans, contractual ob­ligations, tours . . . reallocating money from one book’s budget to another. The things in publishing that no one ever really talked about. Publishing was all very romantic until you found yourself in publishing. Then it was just another kind of corporate hell.

I passed a few assistant editors sitting in their square cubicles, manuscripts piled almost to the top of their half walls, looking frazzled as they ate carrots and hummus for lunch. The salads Erin ordered must not have included them, not that editorial assistants made enough to afford eating out every day. The offices were set up in a hierarchy of sorts, and the farther you went, the higher the salary. At the end of the hall, I almost didn’t recognize the office. Gone were the floral wreath hanging on the door for good luck and the stickers plastered to the frosted glass privacy wall that read Try Not, Do! and Romance Isn’t Dead!

For a second, I thought I’d made a wrong turn, until I recog­nized the intern in her small cubicle, stuffing ARCs—Advance Reader Copies, basically rough drafts of a book in paperback form—into envelopes with a harried sort of frenzy that bordered on tears.

My new editor didn’t waste any time peeling off those decals and tossing the good luck wreath in the trash. I didn’t know if that was a good sign—or bad.

Toward the end of her tenure at Falcon House, Tabitha Mar­ graves and I butted heads more often than not. “Romance believes in happy endings. Tell Ann that,” she would say, tongue in cheek, because, for all intents and purposes, I was Ann.

“Well Ann doesn’t anymore,” I would quip back, and by the time she turned in her resignation and retired down to Florida, I’m sure we were both plotting each other’s demise. She still believed in love—somehow, impossibly.

And I could see right through the lie.

Love was putting up with someone for fifty years so you’d have someone to bury you when you died. I would know; my family was in the business of death.

Tabitha called me crass when I told her that. I said I was realistic.

There was a difference.

I sat down in one of the two chairs outside of the office, the cactus in my lap, to wait and scroll through my Instagram feed. My younger sister had posted a photo of her and my hometown mayor—a golden retriever—and I felt a pang of homesickness. For the weather, the funeral parlor, my mom’s amazing fried chicken. I wondered what she was cooking tonight for dinner.

Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t hear the office door open until a distinctly male voice said, “Sorry for the wait, please come in.”

I bolted to my feet in surprise. Did I have the wrong office? I checked the cubicles—the brown­haired workaholic intern cram­ming ARCs into envelopes to the left, the HR director sobbing into his salad on the right—no, this was definitely the right office.

The man cleared his throat, impatiently waiting.

I hugged the cactus so tight to my chest, I could feel the pot beginning to creak with the pressure, and stepped into his office.

And froze.

The man in question sat in the leather chair that for thirty­ five years (longer than he’d been alive, I figured) Tabitha Margraves had inhabited. The desk, once cluttered with porcelain knickknacks and pictures of her dog, was clean and tidy, everything stacked in its proper place. The desk reflected the man behind it almost perfectly: too polished, in a crisp white button ­down shirt that strained at his broad shoulders, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows to reveal rather intimidatingly sexy forearms. His black hair was swept back out of his long face and somehow accentuated his equally long nose, black square glasses perched on it, and there were very faint freckles speck­ led across his face: one by his right nostril, two on his cheek, one just above his thick right eyebrow. A constellation of them. For a second, I wanted to take a Sharpie and connect them to see what myth they held. The next second, I quickly came to the realization that—

Oh.

He was hot. And I’d seen him before. At publishing functions with Rose or my ex­boyfriend. I couldn’t place the name, but I’d definitely run into him more than once. I held my breath, wonder­ ing if he recognized me—did he?

For a second, I thought so, because his eyes widened—just a fraction, just enough for me to suspect he knew something—before it vanished.

He cleared his throat.

“You must be Ann Nichols’s assistant,” he greeted without missing a beat. He stood and came around the desk to offer his hand. He was . . . enormous. So tall I felt like I’d suddenly been transported into a retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk” where he was a very hunky beanstalk that I really, really wanted to climb—

No. No, Florence. Bad girl, I scolded myself. You do not want to climb him like a tree, because he’s your new editor and therefore very, incredibly, stupendously unclimbable.

“Florence Day,” I said as I accepted his hand. His almost com­pletely enveloped mine in a strong handshake.

“Benji Andor, but you can call me Ben,” he introduced.

“Florence,” I repeated, shocked that I could mutter anything above a squeak.

The edges of his mouth quirked up. “So you said.”

I quickly pulled my hand away, mortified. “Oh god. Right— sorry.” I sat down a little too hard in the uncomfortable IKEA chair, cactus planted firmly on my knees. My cheeks were on fire, and if I could feel them, I knew that he could see I was blushing.

He sat down again and adjusted a pen on his desk. “It’s a plea­ sure to meet you. Sorry for the wait, the subways were hell this morning. Erin keeps telling me not to take the B train and yet I am a fool who does every single time.”

“Or a masochist,” I added before I could stop myself. He barked a laugh. “Maybe both.”

I bit the inside of my cheek to hide a smile. He had a great laugh—the kind that was deep and throaty, like a rumble.

Oh no, this was not going as planned at all.

He liked me, and he wasn’t going to like me in about five min­utes. I didn’t even like myself for what I was here to do—why did I think a cactus as a gift would make this easier?

He scooted his chair in and straightened a pen to be horizontal with his keyboard. Everything was neat like that in this office, and I got the very distinct feeling that he was the kind of person who, if he found a book misplaced at a bookstore, would return it to the shelf where it belonged.

Everything had its place.

He was a bullet journal guy, and I was a sticky note kind of girl. That might’ve been a good thing, actually. He seemed very no­ nonsense, and no ­nonsense people were rarely romantic, and so I wouldn’t get a pitying look when I, eventually, tell him that I no longer believed in romance novels and he would nod solemnly, know­ing exactly what I meant. And I would rather have that than Tabitha Margraves looking at me with those sad, dark eyes and asking,

“Why don’t you believe in love anymore, Florence?”

Because when you put your hand in the fire too many times, you learn that you only get burned.

My new editor shifted in his seat. “I’m sorry to hear that Mrs. Nichols couldn’t make it today. I would’ve loved to meet her,” he began, wrenching me from my thoughts.

I shifted in my seat. “Oh, Tabitha didn’t tell you? She never leaves Maine. I think she lives on an island or something. It sounds nice—I wouldn’t ever want to leave, either. I hear Maine’s pretty.” “It is! I grew up there,” he replied. “Saw many a moose. They’re huge.”

Are you sure you aren’t half moose yourself? my traitorous brain said, and I winced because that was very wrong and very bad. “I guess they prepared you for the rats in New York.”

He laughed again, this time surprising himself, and he had a glorious white smile, too. It reached is eyes, turning brown to a melting ocher. “Nothing could prepare me for those. Have you seen the ones down in Union Square? I swear one had a jockey on him.”

“Oh, you didn’t know? There’s some great rat races down at the Eighteenth Street Station.”

“Do you go often?”

“Absolutely, there’s even a squeak­easy.” “Wow, you’re a real mice­stro of puns.”

I snorted a laugh and looked away—anywhere other than at him. Because I liked his charm, and I definitely didn’t want to, and I hated disappointing people, and—

He cleared his throat and said, “Well, Miss Day, I think we need to talk about Ann’s upcoming novel . . .”

I gripped the cactus in my lap tighter. My eyes jumped from barren wall to barren wall. There was nothing in the office to look at. It used to be full of things—fake flowers and photos and book covers on the walls—but now the only thing on the walls was a framed master’s degree in fiction—

“Does it have to be a romance?” I blurted.

Surprised, he cocked his head. “This . . . is a romance imprint.” “I—I know, but like—you know how Nicholas Sparks writes depressing books and John Green writes melodramatic sick­lit, do you think I—I mean Mrs. Nichols—could do something in that vein instead?”

He was quiet for a moment. “You mean a tragedy.”

“Oh, no. It’d still be a love story! Obviously. But a love story where things don’t end up—‘happily ever after’—perfect.”

“We’re in the business of happily ever afters,” he said slowly, picking his words.

“And it’s a lie, isn’t it?” He pursed his lips.

“Romance is dead, and this—all of this—feels like a con.” I found myself saying it before my brain approved, and as soon as I realized I’d voiced it aloud, I winced. “I didn’t mean—that isn’t Ann’s stance, that’s just what I think—”

“Are you her assistant or her editor?”

The words were like a slap in the face. I quickly snapped my gaze back to him, and went very still. His eyes had lost their warm ocher, the laugh lines having sunk back into a smooth, emotionless mask. I gripped the cactus tighter. It had suddenly become my buddy in war. So he didn’t know that I was Ann’s ghostwriter. Tabitha didn’t tell him, or she forgot to—slipped her mind, whoops! And I needed to tell him.

He was my editor, after all.

But a bitter, embarrassed part of me didn’t want to. I didn’t want him to see how much of my life I didn’t have together be­ cause, as Ann’s ghostwriter, shouldn’t I? Have it together?

Shouldn’t I be better than this?

When I was growing up, my mother read Ann Nichols’s books, and because of that, I did, too. When I was twelve, I would sneak into the romance section in the library and quietly read The Forest of Dreams between the stacks. I knew her catalog back and forth like a well­played discography of my favorite band.

And then I became her pen.

While Ann’s name was on the cover, I wrote The Probability of Love and A Rakes Guide to Getting the Girl and The Kiss at the Mid‑ night Matinee. For the last five years, Ann Nichols had sent me a check to write the book in question, and then I did, and the words in those books—my words—had been praised from the New York Times Book Review to Vogue. Those books sat on shelves beside Nora Roberts and Nicholas Sparks and Julia Quinn, and they were mine.

I wrote for one of romance’s greats—a job anyone would die to have—and I . . . I was failing.

Perhaps I’d already failed. I’d just asked for my last trump card—to write a book that was anything, everything, but a happily ever after—and he said no.

“Mr. Andor,” I began, my voice cracking, “the truth is—” “Ann needs to deliver the manuscript by the deadline,” he inter­rupted in a cold, no ­nonsense voice. The warmth it held a few min­ utes before was gone. I felt myself getting smaller by the moment, shrinking into the hard IKEA chair.

“That’s tomorrow,” I said softly. “Yes, tomorrow.”

“And if—if she can’t?”

He pressed his lips into a thin line. He had a sort of wide mouth that dipped in the middle, expressing things that the rest of his face was too guarded to. “How much time does she need?”

A year. Ten years. An eternity.

“Um—a—a month?” I asked hopefully. His dark brows shot up. “Absolutely not.” “These things take time!”

“I understand that,” he replied, and I flinched. He took off his black­rimmed glasses to look at me. “May I be frank with you?”

No, absolutely not. “Yes . . . ?” I ventured.

“Because Ann’s already asked for three deadline extensions, even if we get it tomorrow, we’d have to push it quickly through copyedits and pass pages—and that’s only if we get it tomorrow— to keep to our schedule. This is Ann’s big fall book. A romance, mind you, with a happily ever after. That’s her brand. That’s what we signed for. We already have promotions lined up. We might even have a full­page spread in the New York Times. We’re doing a lot for this book, so when I prodded Ann’s agent to speak with her, she connected me with you, her assistant.”

I knew that part. Molly Stein, Ann’s agent, wasn’t very happy to get a call about the book in question. She thought everything had been going smoothly. I hadn’t the heart to tell her otherwise. Molly had been pretty hands­off with my ghostwriting gig, mostly because the books were part of a four­book deal, this being the last one, and she trusted that I wouldn’t mess up.

Yet here I was.

I didn’t want to even think about how Molly would break the news to Ann. I didn’t want to think about how disappointed Ann would be. I’d met the woman once and I was deathly afraid of fail­ ing her. I didn’t want to do that.

I looked up to her. And the feeling of failing someone you looked up to . . . it sucked as a kid, and it sucked as an adult.

Benji went on. “Whatever is keeping Mrs. Nichols from finish­ ing her manuscript has become a problem not only for me, but for marketing and production, and if we want to stay on schedule, we need that manuscript.”

“I—I know, but . . .”

“And if she can’t deliver,” he added, “then we’ll have to get the legal department involved, I’m afraid.”

The legal department. That meant a breach of contract. That meant I would have messed up so big that there would be no com­ ing back from it. I would’ve failed not just Ann, but her publisher and her readers—everyone.

I’d already failed like that once.

The office began to get smaller, or I was having a panic attack, and I really hoped it was the former. My breath came in short bursts. It was hard to breathe.

“Miss Florence? Are you okay? You seem a little pale,” he ob­served, but his voice sounded a football field away. “Do you need some water?”

I shoved my panic into a small box in the back of my head, where everything else went. All of the bad things. The things I didn’t want to deal with. The things I couldn’t deal with. The box was useful. I shut everything in. Locked it tight. I pressed on a smile. “Oh, no. I’m fine. It’s a lot to take in. And—and you’re right. Of course you’re right.”

He seemed doubtful. “Tomorrow, then?” “Yeah,” I croaked.

“Good. Please tell Mrs. Nichols that I send my regards, and I’m very happy to be working with her. And I’m sorry—is that a cactus? I just noticed.”

I looked down at the succulent, all but forgotten in my lap as my panic banged on the box in my head, lock rattling, to get free. I—I thought I hated this man, and if I stayed in this office any longer, I was going to either throw this cactus at him or cry.

Maybe both.

I jerked to my feet and put the succulent on the edge of the desk. “It’s a gift.”

Then I gathered my satchel and turned on my heels and left Falcon House Publishers without another word. I held myself to­ gether until I stumbled out of the revolving door of the building and into the brisk April day, and let myself crumble.

I took a deep breath—and screamed an obscenity into the per­ fectly blue afternoon sky, startling a flock of pigeons from the side of the building.

I needed a drink.

No, I needed a book. A murder­thriller. Hannibal. Lizzie Borden—anything would do.

Maybe I needed both. No, definitely both.

illustration of a cactus in a pot
Image by Edward Willyamzah from Pixabay

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Monday Merry Meet on a Tuesday: Elisabeth Hobbes

Yesterday the Emporium, like many places was shut so everyone could pay our respects to our Queen Elizabeth II. This means our Monday Merry Meet met on Tuesday instead and we’re delighted to catch to Elisabeth Hobbes, author of historical romances and thrillers.

Monday Merry Meet: Elisabeth Hobbes

Willow: Hi Elisabeth, come in. The sea breeze is more than a bluster today with the waves crashing against the harbour wall. Make yourself at home and warm up. Amber is at college, so it’s me and Rosa today. What can we get you to drink? Yorkshire tea, many other teas or herbal tisanes, coffee, or maybe something stronger.

Elisabeth: I’m always partial to a good mug of Yorkshire Tea, please. Since moving away from York where I grew up, it doesn’t taste the same, but I buy it anyway to remind me of home. I like an occasional herbal tea in the afternoon, either lemon and ginger or fennel.

Rosa: Mr Harper brought in some posh red wine as a thanks for a throat elixir, which meant he could do the speeches at his daughter’s wedding without coughing. I can open that.

The red wine or the throat elixir? I teach 5-year-olds for 3 days a week so I could definitely do with something to save my voice!

Rosa: Looking at the wine, both would work for that. Your book Daughter of Sea looks beautiful, and we were drawn to it with the mention of Barbara Erskine and Christina Courtenay, who are some of our favourite time slip authors. Christina visited us recently. Have you always written this genre?

I’ve always written stories set in the past, but Daughter of the Sea is my first with a fantastical/folklore element. I love to read them though. I’m a huge fan of stories where the uncanny overlaps or spills into our world. I began it as an entry to the Romantic Novelists Association Elizabeth Goudge contest called ‘The Foster Child’ and I won, so I knew I had to expand and complete it. At the moment I’m alternating books set in France during the second World War with fantasy/folklore historical romances.

Willow: Daughter of the Sea is based on the selkie legends. What was it about them that inspired you to write this story? Did you do much research?

There’s something fascinating about the idea of people who can move between worlds, but I knew I wanted to steer clear of merpeople. Because the prompt for the story was ‘the child from the sea’ I knew it had to start with Effie finding the baby floating in a basket. Discovering her wrapped in fur pushed me in the direction of selkies. The idea of a dark haired, handsome stranger appearing wrapped in furs was an image that stuck with me too, especially when I decided Lachlan, the baby’s father, looked like Richard Armitage in my head with a lovely Scottish accent.

I found quite a few selkie legends, most of which follow the pattern of a selkie either having their sealskin taken or giving it up willingly, and living in human form. As part of Daughter of the Sea I wrote a couple of my own ‘old tales’ which Lachlan tells to Effie and the children. I hope readers will think they sound convincingly authentic.

Underwater scene of a female selkie talking to seals
Image by Dorothe from Pixabay

Rosa: What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

I started off writing medieval romances for Mills & Boon and was very happy doing that, expanding after a few books into the 15th century and Victorian era. When Charlotte from One More Chapter expressed interest in Daughter of The Sea she asked me to write a Second World War story first. It was a leap into the unknown but I’m so glad I took it. I don’t think I would change anything because I’ve been lucky to work with fantastic editorial teams at both Mills & Boon and One More Chapter and I’ve made some firm friends. The only thing I’d do is fit more hours in the day or become faster at typing. I don’t suppose you have any potions to help, do you?

Willow: We keep trying to make those potions but they’re temperamental and have unfortunate side effects. I’d probably be sued if I sold them. I know when I’m working, I have set rituals I need to do to be productive, do you have a particular writing routine?

I start my writing days with a cup of tea (in bed rather than rushing round getting dressed to leave for school) then take my two dogs out for a walk. It’s a good way to clear my head and try get into a writing frame of mind. Then it’s a case of a shower, a second cup of tea and trying to get my head down to work. I dictate into a voice to text app as I drive to school so I always have notes to try untangle.

Willow: Several customers want to write after reading some books from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. Do you Advice for new writers?

I am dreadful for getting tangled up in research. I can lose hours online trying to find the particular name for a type of dagger, or the right sort of cloth, or the length of a journey. One trick I find helps to not get bogged down is to write something like ‘crzclothname’ and move on. If I forget to go back then the spellcheck picks it up and reminds me.

Rosa: That’s a great tip. The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Financial security would make all the difference in the world. I’m extremely fortunate to be able to write on two days a week and teach on three. I adore being in the classroom with the children, but I’d love to be able to cut down another day and write for three (or tidy the house, my husband might say).

Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit? Where would it take you?

It would take me to Serre Chevalier in the French Alps for a week of skiing with sunshine but lots of snow. There’s nothing better for my wellbeing than a blue sky over snow covered mountains (and the promise of a hot chocolate at the bottom of the slope).

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

I never have, which is very disappointing considering I come from supposedly the most haunted city in the world! I’m autistic and atheist, so am more likely to look for a logical explanation even if a ghost sat next to me. It helped me write Effie, who is also very practically minded (and slightly scathing of her grandmother’s remedies) until she’s confronted with absolute proof of the supernatural/uncanny in the form of Lachlan and Morna.

Rosa: In your biography, you mention you lived in Yorkshire but moved to Cheshire after your car broke down. How did that happen?

My husband and I had moved back from Greece, where we had been teaching English. We were both working at summer schools in different part of the country and only had one weekend where we could get together to house hunt. We based ourselves at his aunt’s house in a small mill town and planned to drive into Manchester to find somewhere, but ended up having to look round the town on foot when the car wouldn’t start.

Rosa: If the witches could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Super speed so I could really blitz my house. With 2 teenagers, a husband and 2 dogs, the house it always messy and hasn’t had a proper top-to-bottom clean for far too long.

Willow: We could all do with that spell.  What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

 I absolutely love Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s a children’s book, but I think you’re never too old for a good one. I read it as a teenager and I love the Studio Ghibli animated version too. It’s about Sophie who gets put under a curse to turn her into an old woman. She takes a job as housekeeper for the wizard Howl in his castle which moves round the countryside on legs. The story is about how together they break the curses on them both.

Rosa:  What would you add to my box of Romance?

Without hesitation, Persuasion by Jane Austen (don’t ask me about the recent adaptation). It’s such a beautiful story of second chances and finding inner confidence to go after what you believe in. The letter from Captain Wentworth sends shivers down my spine. Lyme Regis isn’t as nice as Whitby of course!

Willow: Whitby is a special place. What are you working on currently? If you can say or is it top secret?

I’m working on a book set in the French Alps during World War Two, but I’m waiting for my editor to get back to me about the one I’ve recently set her. That’s another with fantasy elements about a young boy who meets a dryad in a sycamore tree, forgets her, then meets her again as a young man. I hope she likes it because I loved writing it.

Rosa: Fingers crossed she will so we can read it. Thanks for dropping by it was lovely to meet you

Willow: And here’s some throat elixir for your teaching days.

Author biography

Eilsabeth Hobbes white woman with short blonde hair and dark square glasses.
Elisabeth Hobbes

Elisabeth began writing in secret, but when she came third in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013, she was offered a two-book contract, and consequently had to admit why the house was such a tip.  Elisabeth has published historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon and One More Chapter, spanning the Middle Ages to the Second World War.

Elisabeth teaches Reception but she’d rather be writing full time because unlike four-year-olds, her characters generally do what she tells them.  When she isn’t writing, she spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book.

She was born and raised in York but now lives in Cheshire because her car broke down there in 1999 and she never left.

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/ElisabethHobbes/

Twitter https://twitter.com/ElisabethHobbes

Blog  https://elisabethhobbes.co.uk

Bookbub https://www.bookbub.com/profile/elisabeth-hobbes?follow=true

Amazon viewauthor.at/ElisabethHobbes

Daughter of the Sea by Elisabeth Hobbes

Blurb

On a windswept British coastline, the tide deposits an unexpected gift…

It was the cry that she first noticed, the plaintive wail that called to her over the crash of winter waves. Wrapped only in a sealskin, the baby girl looks up at Effie and instantly captures her heart. She meant only to temporarily foster the young orphan, but when news reaches Effie that her husband has been lost at sea, and months pass without anyone claiming the infant, she embraces her new family—her son, Jack, and her adopted daughter, Morna.

Effie has always been an outcast in her village, the only granddaughter of a woman people whisper is a witch, so she’s used to a solitary existence. But when Midsummer arrives, so, too, does a man claiming to be Morna’s father. There’s no denying Lachlan is the girl’s kin, and so, Effie is surprised when he asks her to continue looking after his daughter, mysteriously refusing to explain why. She agrees, but when he returns six months hence, she pushes him for answers. And Lachlan tells a story she never anticipated… one of selkies, legend, and the power of the sea…

Book Review: Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge

With a wet start to the day at Whitby, it’s time to share another review from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. With a vibrant book cover, Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge caught Amber’s attention when it arrived courtesy of Bonnier. Scroll down for her unbiased opinion.

Book Review: Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge

Cover for Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge,
Red and white lighthouse emitting red rays of light. A large black cormorant with wings spread in the fore ground is guarding a person in the foetal position. They are surrounded by a circle of runes.
Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge

Title: Waking the Witch

Author: Rachel Burge

Publisher: Bonnier

Genre: YA fantasy, witchlit

Release Date: 18th September 2022

Blurb

A darkly spellbinding story of witches, sisterhood and coming of age, steeped in Welsh mythology and Arthurian legend.

Ivy has spent years looking for her birth mother, but when she finally finds her on Bardsey Island, she is shocked by what greets her. According to folklore, the cormorants that fly over the remote Welsh isle are the terrifying witches of Arthurian legend – and they are searching for Ivy.

Her mum warned her not to come and to stay away from the lighthouse, but now it’s too late. As the shadows draw closer, Ivy must look deep within herself if she wants to survive. For not every story in folklore is true, and some evils aren’t what they seem…

An unputdownable new stand-alone novel from the bestselling author of THE TWISTED TREE and THE CROOKED MASK.

Thoughts from the Emporium

Waking the Witch resulted in Amber having no sleep and arriving late and bleary eyed for her weekend shift at The Enchanted Emporium. Thank the Goddess for the glamour spell she’d been practising. From the first page she was hooked. Having discovered her own powers as an adolescence, she related to Ivy’s bewilderment and fear as magic entered her life with horrifying results. Amber found it impossible to put the book down as Ivy made the road trip to the remote island and the awaiting dangers. The haunting imagery of the cormorants and witches are powerful and added to the tension as Ivy’s past was revealed.

Amber’s patchy knowledge of the Arthurian legends didn’t put her at a disadvantage as the folklore was explained in the prose but it has made her want to read more. There is so much more to them than the few episodes of Merlin she’s watched. Spellbound the ending arrived too quickly and longed fro more. She didn’t want to let the characters go. She hopes the standalone statement in the blurb is a lie and there will be a sequel. Until then, she’ll recommend it to other witches visiting the store and put it on her reread pile.

Its perfect for the upcoming spooky season and beyond.

Author Biography

photo of author Rachel Burge. White woman with beaming smile and brown straight long hair
Rachel Burge

Website: https://rachelburge.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelABurge

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachelburgewriter/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rachelburgeauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/burge0709/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/rachelburge99

Merry Meet Monday: Emma Bradley

Today we’re thrilled to have YA fantasy author, Emma Bradley visit. She has just released the third book in the Arcanium series, The Issue with Fairies which follows Demi, the only fairy in her family as she trains at the Arcanium, a prestigious of fairy organisations and battles those who are intent on overthrowing the Queen of Faerie. Amber’s review for the first book The Trouble with Fairies is here.

Merry Meet Monday: Emma Bradley

Willow: Hi, Emma. Come through to the back and Amber will pop the kettle on. What do you fancy to drink? We have tea of all descriptions, coffee or something stronger? Just be careful where you step. Inspired by your books, Amber tried a spell to communicate with fae and we now have an explosion of toadstools and fairy rings inside the shop.

Emma: This sounds so much fun! And yes, the toadstools will likely vanish during Faerie hour, but the fairy rings are immovable once they set up roots, so just leave little offerings of Jelly Babies and they’ll do you no harm! I will take a coke zero and also a job application form…

Amber: If Willow let me read the old grimoires she has under lock and key, I wouldn’t have to resort to experimenting and getting it wrong.

Willow: They’re locked away for a reason. I don’t want to imagine what chaos would happen if you read them. Emma doesn’t want to hear all this.

Emma: (I really do!)

Amber: Your books are popular with visitors to the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. I fell in love with the Arcanium and the dilapidated amusement arcade façade. Can you tell us about how the series came about?

Emma: Absolutely! I tend to do my worldbuilding before all else until the world is almost a character in its own right, and I imagined the Atrium first, just the mayhem and chaos and noise. I think the golden lifts were there as well, but the ivy walls came later (and also have some small relevance to the series now). Then I wondered what it would be like to have a completely random entry-point from the human world, like Diagon Alley or the Empire State Building. I live by the coast and there’s an arcade I walk past which is always empty yet always open, so this made total sense – how do they earn a living if there’s nothing ‘other’ going on? So Arcanium existed first, but for a long while Demi was actually the side-kick. Luckily she shouted the loudest and managed to take the top billing, and the rest of the series and plot sort of knit itself from there!

Willow: Demi is a relatable and likable protagonist but Leo is a star. What made you choose a chameleon as a character rather than any other animals?

Emma: He’s such a huge favourite with readers! I remember reading about chameleons during the whole Demi becoming the main character stage and thinking how cool it would be for her to have a pet. He was originally a snake that could breathe fire, but then I was reading about chameleons and figured the changeling aspect was very fae. Leo especially has very interesting depths what with him being from Faerie, but he’s still growing and developing his awesomeness.

Amber: Trevor adores jelly babies. What’s your favourite writer’s snack?

Emma: Mine would definitely be Skittles, although I don’t have them too often these days. I have a serious coke zero addiction though, so nine times out of ten there’ll be a can somewhere nearby! Strangely, it seems to calm me down rather than hype me up on caffeine, so I find it helps with focus when writing.

Willow: What has your writing journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Emma: I started out writing pony stories at the tender age of 9. They were awful, but in my teens I moved onto loving fantasy and have been dreaming myself away ever since. The logical option was to start writing them all down, and all I wanted to be when I was younger was the next Sir Terry, Neil Gaiman or Anne Rice. I don’t think I’d change anything on my writing journey though, but I would definitely recommend anyone going into publishing a book (trad or indie) to focus on promotion and marketing very early on in the process. I think there are some traditionally published authors who still get a lot of help, advertising done and events set up for them, etc. but with self-publishing, it’s all down to you. I love the control element of that, but it can get a bit overwhelming when there’s nobody to fall back on if things get hectic or tough. This is why the writing community is an absolute treasure overall though, as everyone’s been so lovely!

Amber: Great role models. The Enchanted Emporium loves all of them. What is your writing routine? And do have a favourite writing or reading place?

Emma: My routine is basically write notes in any spare gaps, draft in evenings and downtime, and edit when you absolutely can’t avoid it any longer. I’ve now also mastered the art of convincing myself that I’m not actually editing, I’m just rereading because I love the characters so much and tweaking as I go. And in all great honesty my bed is my favourite place to write – curl up with my many pillows, my dog and a coke zero on ice and simply lose myself in whatever story I’m working on!

Willow: We have several customers who are writers. Do you have any advice for new writers?

Emma: A first draft doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t even have to really make 100% sense. It’s literally just you getting the shape of the story and the odd bits of dialogue out of your head and onto the page. Writing can be daunting when you think of it as this great project and start wondering ‘can I even do this’, but of course you can. Anyone can. That first draft won’t likely get you an agent or tons of readers, but you work on it, hone it, change it, dramatically pretend to bin it a million times, and slowly it takes shape. If you put the work in, and writing is a lot of work if you intend to write for publication, the story will come. I know there are also a lot of people who just want to write for fun, but I think this is how we should all start. Explore, experiment, play with it!

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Emma: I’m terrible with choices! I think I’m getting better with my ability to say no, and I sleep okay, so I suppose I’d choose the confidence one – to see what that would feel like. Most of my ‘writing self’ is online, which is much easier to handle and project confidently than in real life, so a confidence candle might just give me the boost to do more outside type things too!

Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit? Where would it take you?

Emma: I’m trying to think of something, maybe from childhood, but I recently got back from a Barcelona holiday and I would give anything to go back right now, but maybe with my dog. To nearest the estate agents! Or I would go back to one of the lazy summer days from my teens where all I did was read and write and still believed the magic places I was reading about could maybe be real somehow.

Amber: The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have you had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Emma: I think even the ghosts and ghouls would look at me and say ‘eh, too much flapping’ – I once went to the London Dungeon and was so paranoid about people jumping out that I screamed at a half-costumed woman coming out of a store room, startled the life out of her. We did do the whole ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ thing at a sleepover once though, and the girl did get fairly high in the air before we freaked out and dropped her. I also use tarot cards and pendulum for meditative thought fairly often – no guarantee there’s anyone listening or guiding, but you never know…

Willow: I’ve never attempted group levitation but people have varying results and you’ll have to browse our selection of tarot and oracle cards before you leave. They’re useful tools. If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Emma: The ultimate question, and I still don’t have an answer! I’ve done flying in Virtual Reality before and that was an amazing sensation, so I think I’d say flying. Ooh no, I would be able to know any language. I’ve been agonising about learning Finnish recently and also now want to learn Spanish, so being able to do that superpower-style would be amazing.

Amber: What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Emma: Oh, there are so many great fantasy books out – Mina and the Undead (Amy McCaw) was a brilliant YA read with a 90s vibe and New Orleans vampires. The Autumn Moonbeam (Emma Finlayson-Palmer) books promise to be great for younger readers and I’m sure Toby and the Silver Blood Witches (Sally Doherty) needs no introduction! Also, The Unadjusteds trilogy (Marisa Noelle) is dystopian but the genetic engineering fantasy element worked really well. Ooh and look out for Where Fate Whispers (E.G. Tudor) – technically adult but works well for the YA readers who like Throne of Swans and similar! Okay, I got carried away…

Willow:  Our reading list has just got bigger. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?

Emma: *Inserts shameless plug for Arcanium book #3 without giving any spoilers!* I think fantasy and romance often go hand in hand, something about the wide-ranging ability of being able to dream maybe. Keeping it clean, I think the relationship in Where Fate Whispers (E.G. Tudor) was lovely, and I’m really excited there’s going to be a second book. Same with Mina and the Undead (Amy McCaw). Sometimes I do go back to reread old favourites as well though, and the last one of those was the Wicked Lovely (Melissa Marr) series which has multiple romantic plotlines!

Willow: More books to try and self promo is more than allowed. What are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Emma: The plot is top secret, but I can say that I’m focusing on the final two books (4 and 5) of the Arcanium series, plus some adult fantasy. I’ve also been writing a portal fantasy series of 4 trilogies which has wavered between adult and YA for years, so I’m hoping to focus on those and get those published next. But Arcanium first, although once people read book 4 they might not be talking to me… (it resolves in book 5 I promise!)

Amber: They sound great and you’ll have to pop by again with updates.

Willow: You must. Thanks for the chat and here’s some complimentary tea that tastes just like cola and an application form. I’ll keep you on file in case of emergencies or Amber breaks more rules than usual.

Author Biography

Photo of Emma Bradley white woman smiling with hair scraped back into a ponytail. Wearing a black hoodie.
Emma Bradley

Emma lives on the UK south coast with her husband, her plant collection and a very lazy black Labrador who occasionally condescends to take her out for a walk. Aside from creative writing studies, an addiction to cereal and spending far too much time procrastinating on social media, Emma is still waiting for the arrival of her unicorn. Or a tank, she’s not fussy.

Social Media

Website: www.emmaebradley.com

Twitter, TikTok: @emmaebradley

Instagram: @emmabradleybooks