Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween: an American Perspective

In 2011, I was living in Oxford. I am an American, and have always loved Halloween. One of my earliest costumes was literally a handmade costume that my mom helped me make, which was of my imaginary friend. Sure, all the kids in kindergarten laughed, but the thing even lit up- it was cool.

While in Oxford, I was drafting School of Deaths, a book about Grim Reapers, and I was excited to see what Halloween would be like in Europe. I figured with all the old castles and history, Halloween would be huge.

October rolled around and some of the stores put out Harry Potter costumes.  Blenheim Palace, which is where the Churchills are from, and its right next to Oxford, advertised a "haunted experience".

photo I took at Blenheim

Now, when I went to high school we loved the haunted forest.  It's a 2 hour walk in the dark through various themed areas. The best is where the volunteers jump out of the trees with actual chainsaws- scares kids' pants off. And the clown part- freeeaky.

At any rate, I get to Blenheim, and go on the train outside the palace, where they've got one two-foot deflated looking scarecrow with "boo" written underneath.  That was it.  That was the Halloween there.  The "haunted experience" (and I asked) was a kids' show which I walked in on for two minutes, then walked out of- it was a puppeteer- and not at all what I call "scary".

It turned out that Halloween wasn't big in England at all- at least not in Oxford.  Sure most of the "kids" got dressed up and stayed up all night - but they did EVERY night- it's a college town after all.  Maybe it's because Guy Fawkes' Day, which is HUGE, and frankly awesome, was only a few days' later, but Halloween in Oxford was a letdown.

my American housemates and I carved this

Still, the seeds of that experience led to the final story of School of Deaths.  How would you feel at a school for reapers?  Perhaps America's only a pale shadow of what's really out there... 

Dull Weather and Historical Research

The weather was dull today so I made myself comfortable indoors with some historical non-fiction. I'm researching Brussels on the 14th and 15th of June, 1814 and the famous ball held by the Duchess of Richmond. I'm beginning to visualise the scenes, the officers who did not have time to change and joined their regiment still wearing ballroom slippers. And I can almost here the drums, bugles and bagpipes calling the men to arms. I've made notes and know how to begin the next chapter of Monday's Child, the follow on novel from my published novel Sunday's Child, which is on special offer from Amazon Kindle until the 31st of October.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On Writing Monday's Child

Another 6,000 words or less to write and I will finish Monday's Child the follow on novel to my traditional Regency Novel Sunday's Child published by MuseItUp Publishing.

I wrote the first draft of Chapter Twenty-Nine, a crucial chapter, from the heroine's point of view. I revised it, edited it and realised part of it needed to be from the hero's viewpoint. I've finished the chapter and think it works much better.

A little more research and then I can write Chapter Thirty. Phew!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sunday Musings: October 26 2014


Hey there, Everyone!  Hope you had a great week and are having a fun weekend.

Are you familiar with the saying...everyone loves a bad boy (girl)? I've even heard friends say...the bad guy's the best part. Or actors saying playing the villain is more fun.

Have you guessed what we're musing today?

...your favourite villain...type of villain.

Think Dracula. Think Hannibal Lector. Think the jealous husband/wife.

Type of villain...paranormal, psycho, spur-of-the-moment


Let's see how our Musers' conversation went this week:


I love villains who are gray, who do what they do for a reason. Sometimes it's even a good reason, but their methods are still evil and unconscionable. The ones who you want to root for, but can't...or maybe you sometimes do. :-)

I also love the really, REALLY evil ones like the Sheriff of Nottingham in the BBC Robin Hood. Sometimes, you just need a good "bad guy."

I like really dark villains -- Dracula vs. Wolfman, who does not want to be what he is.  A serial killer vs. John J. Doe, who shoots someone during a holdup and carries on from there.  I also like villains with a personality.  I loved the Sherriff of Nottingham on the Richard Green Robin Hood series (the characterization, that is) and also the orc commander in the final Lord of the Rings movie.

...Antagonists, usually villains, are needed to provide the protagonists with a challenge. An opponent with some depth/personality adds to the challenge and interest.  I'm definitely not talking hero worship of the bad guys.


My favorite villain these days is definitely from the Game of Thrones series. The head of the Lanister family. Lord and protector - the father. He was as unscrupulous as they come but everything he did, every devious manipulation, was for the good of his family line. Although he is probably in whatever hell they have on GOT I'm sure, he was no doubt the ultimate statesmen and leader.

I like villains with personalities, even if they're crazy. One of my favourite villains is Mordred, in different Arthurian books and movies. He always has an intriguing past and often isn't really a villain, such as Mordred from Mary Stewart's book The Wicked Day. In this book, he is devoted to Arthur but gets into bad circumstances due to his ambition, even though he has good intentions. In other books, such as T.H. White's The Candle in the Wind, Mordred is the villain, but we can see what has corrupted him to be so.

And if TV shows count, then I find that Once Upon a Time does a great job characterizing their villains, such as the evil queen, Regina, who turns out to not be a villain after all (or is she...?) and Rumpelstiltskin, who certainly has villainous tendencies, but is too unpredictable to be counted as a villain or a "good guy" (I wouldn't go so far as to call him a hero).


Patrick Bateman from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis is one of the most chilling villains that I have come across. Outwardly he is the all American dream, handsome, suave and a successful investment banker. Yet behind closed doors he is a sadistic rapist and a serial killer. The most chilling thing is how close to home the character is. If, like me, you have worked in a corporate environment you will have encountered these men and women; the vacuous, materialistic type boasting about having the latest model of car, this season's Manolos or designer taps in their remodelled bathrooms. Yet the hole in Bateman's soul cannot be filled by consumer items and he murders for sexual pleasure, because a cash machine told him to do it or once just to see if he might like it. He epitomises the lofty heights of high consumerism when people become as disposable as possessions and the rich sit outside the law. Even when Bateman confesses he is not taken seriously due to his perceived standing in society. An over the top and utterly terrifying villain.

Arnold Avery, the villain in Belinda Bauer's award winning Blacklands is another character that has made a dark impression on me. Bauer weaves a wonderful narrative in which some of the scenes are written from the point of view of a jailed paedophile serial killer. She takes us right into the psyche of a killer to the point where it is uncomfortable to read yet she never has to resort to shock for effect. Every one of Avery's actions is laden with meaning. For example even the simple act of rubbing a plaque leaves the reader horrified as he becomes aroused in simply touching the commemorative name plate inscribed with the name of one of the children that he has murdered. Unlike Bateman he is a subtle and understated but chilling villain.

DAWN KNOX, author

I think there's something wrong with me! I don't like villains at all. The only sort of villain I could appreciate is a person who at first appeared to be a villain and later turns out to be a good guy. The character who came to mind, is Robin Hood, which is interesting because I see that two other Musers have given the Sheriff of Nottingham as their favourite villain!
I don't like nasty people, so I don't like reading about them but I look forward to reading the other Musers' posts too as I feel I'm missing out on something!

Personally, I love the paranormal villain best.  Darth Vader... Voldemort...   Those two are my all-time favorites!  I love that they are so powerful and hard to overcome.  For me, the good vs the evil really depicts heaven and hell, God and Satan, etc.  It is very powerful.  They are the forces we encounter in our own lives daily only personified into fictional reality

However, Hannibal Lector is also very intriguing.  I am morbidly fascinated with the serial killers.  I like them to be have maybe a touch of humanity left (Dexter).  I want to understand how and why their mind functions - but I love the suspense as well.   I like the mystery element - trying to figure it all out and make it make sense. 

Villains - Like Dawn, I like villains that sneak up on the reader. You don't realized they are a bad right away.
That and villains that do it for all the right reasons.
I want to sympathize a bit with the villain, not detest the ground they walk on.
They are fun to write and play with.  I enjoyed writing the scenes in the third book in my saga.

I'm not overly fond of villains myself, but we need to have them to add tension and interest to our stories.  The ones I like the best are the ones the hero, or preferably the heroine, has the honor of administering the beating they so richly deserve.  Unfortunately, life rarely imitates art and villains in the real world so often don't get what they deserve.  Since I am very much an "eye for an eye" kind of person, I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of a story when the bad guy finds out what goes around comes around, as the cliche says.

Funny you should mention Hannibal Lector. He's just the sort of cringe-worthy villain I love to hate. Since you need a villain/conflict to make the story more interesting, his character would be at the top of my list. Witty, charming, even likeable in a twisted sort of way. Hannibal is the kind of guy who keeps you on your toes. The type you would never, ever want to let your guard down around. The kind who can make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.


My favorite antagonist in the written word: Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She's believable--as are most of Jane Austen's characters--in her selfish ambitions and encounters with Lizzie Bennet. But you can sort of see her point of view, in wanting the best for her daughter to the point of threatening Anne's competition. It's when you can see the antagonist's side of things and/or empathize in some way, that is when the character starts to breathe...for me, at least. Another villain I enjoy is Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter books. She makes me think of aspartame: sickly sweet yet poisonous!

My favorite antagonist in the movies is Mrs. Elton from Gwyneth Paltrow's "Emma" (yes, I know, based on the book by Jane Austen, which I haven't finished reading.) She's just so--over-bearing and annoying, that I can't help but laugh at and despise her.

So, for me, a villain doesn't have to be outright scary to be effective. Give me someone smart who has a good motive, and I'm in!
Thanks for joining us and see you next week!
 If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

Special Offers - Last Week - Historical Novels

Special Offers – Final Week
MuseItUp Publishing is celebrating its 4 Year Anniversary with 50% to 80% OFF specials until the 31st October.

The Link is.

My historical novels are included in the special offers.
Far Beyond Rubies. 50%off  £1.90   $3.09
Tangled Love. 50% off.  £1.84   $2.99
The Captain and The Countess 50% off  £1.90   $3.09
Sunday’s Child  80% off  £0.77p   $1.25
My novels are set in the early 18th & 19th centuries.
Visit to read the first three chapters of each novel and view the book trailers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Anti-Autumn Post

I’m a summer girl. As such, I hate to see summer end. That means (sorry in advance to everyone who loves this season), I kind of hate autumn.

Okay, maybe ‘hate’ is too strong a word. But I definitely dread fall. Maybe it’s because, except in summer, I’m always cold. Maybe it’s because I don’t like it when the big yellow bus comes to take my little loves away. Or maybe I just really dislike the thought of winter. Whatever the reason, for years, I’ve dreaded autumn.

However, this year is a little different. For medical reasons, I’m now homeschooling my son. I don’t have to get up before dawn to see him off. I get to spend every day working with him and enjoying his company. We’re learning things together, and it’s a true joy.

Maybe autumn isn’t so bad.

Maybe I’ll just sit here in my window seat and appreciate the beauty of the season.

PS: Deep down, I guess I'm not really an autumn hater. After all, I've set two books during this season! Check them out: Dream Shade (YA paranormal mystery set during Halloween and discounted 80% this month) and The Sound of Sirens (paranormal mystery set during Thanksgiving and discounted to $0.99 next month).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sunday Musings: October 19 2014

Pepper Approved

What book scared you?

Why and How.


Yup, it's October. People like and don't like Halloween for a variety of reasons. So we're digging into that fear.

So, why did it scare you.

And how did the author do that.

Now, I have to go to Clive Barker's BOOKS OF BLOOD series. That man freaked me out. His mind freaks me out. However, there is one book which I have never, ever, been able to finish GERALD'S GAME by King. Nope, just the idea of being handcuffed to a bed in the middle of nowhere with no one around but a dead body. Yup, never finished that book.

Oh, and for the record...editing THE DOLLMAKER by our Justin Robinson, and Michael Infinito's 12:19, yeah, let's just say...yeah...uhm...did not edit at nighttime.

Onward to our Musing Family...

Well, Halloween doesn't scare me, never did, although I must admit as I grew older, opening the door late at night to strangers wasn't entirely comfortable for me.  So, once the little ones started looking a lot like the much older ones, I turned off the lights and didn't answer the door.

As far as how the author scared me... not sure where you're going with this, but the only book I read that scared the crap out of me was the Barbara Michaels'  story, "Ammie Come Home," not because there were monsters per se, but because it's a old fashioned haunting and entirely within the realm of possibility.  Another good old fashioned ghost story is "The Uninvited" dates from the 40's I think and was made into a movie.  Highly recommend both reads for those of you who like the genre.  Otherwise, as far as what else scares me, I tend to be bomb proof.

Halloween was never an event in my family.  Currently, I love seeing the small children (and dogs) in their costumes.  Since I live in an apartment building, I don't see trick-or-treaters.  For sure, no one will buzz any strangers in late at night.

I can't recall offhand every being scared by any fictional story or movie.  I immerse myself in good ones, but somehow the hair does not stand on end.  Nonfiction will increase the heart rate on occasion.  I know what I read happened and that it can happen again.


I’ve always LOVED this holiday.  As a child my mother would round us all up and we’d go to the houses that gave out huge chocolate candy bars.  Also loved this holiday as a bilingual teacher.  The next day is Dia de Los Muertos-Day of the Dead.  I loved the whole ceremony of sugar decorated skulls and remembering our loved ones that had passed by decorating altars with their photos and things they loved in this life.  It’s a day of celebration and remembering.

Now on the scary movies?  I’m not much into graphic, guts, and blood movies but rather the psychological horror ones.  Loved the original Japanese version of THE RING.  Creepy, spooky.  Just the way I love them.  Also the mini series IT by Stephen King freaked me out big time when it first aired.  To this day I HATE clowns.


Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None had me pretty good and terrified at the tender age of fifteen. Without giving any spoilers (spoilers are the worst!)...there are multiple murders done according to a children's poem. To take something innocent and then morbidly twist is just so wrong, it is definitely a good way to give me the creeps. Also, the characters were relatable enough that the suspense of "who's next?" and "how will their murder fit into the poem?" was enough to have my heart racing.

But the real kicker was the ending. After finishing the book, I left my room in a daze. I thought I was home alone, when my twin sister jumped around a corner and shouted "Boo!" Yeah, I screamed bloody murder. She thought it was funny--until SHE read the book late at night and ended up sleeping on my floor because she didn't want to be alone. Haha! Poetic justice

DAWN KNOX, author

The first story I had published was a horror story, so it seems strange that I dislike scary stories and never read them. The last book that I remember which frightened me was the 'Magic Faraway Tree' by Enid Blyton which a teacher read to us at school. I think I was about seven years old! I became completely engrossed in the strange world the author created and I remember being disturbed that the characters repeatedly put themselves in danger. I associated so completely with them, I experienced the fear I would have felt, had I been with them in reality. I also read 'Rosemary's Baby' by Ira Levin when I was a teenager and I seem to remember I found it frightening but strangely, I can still recall details of the 'Magic Faraway Tree' but nothing of 'Rosemary's Baby'.

Thanks for joining us and see you next week!

 If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at