Welcome Shani Struthers, author of Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story!

Today, I'm thrilled (literally!) to welcome bestselling author, Shani Struthers, who celebrates the release of her latest paranormal mystery, Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story. Chilling shenanigans in a village. The dead are still around. I'm off... ;-)

Welcome, Shani! 

Thank you for hosting me on your blog! My new book, Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story launches today, 24th November, on Amazon and is the prequel to the popular Psychic Surveys series. Featuring two of the Psychic Surveys team – Theo Lawson and Vanessa Patterson – it’s set between 1899 and 1999 and is loosely inspired by a true event.

In my fictional re-telling, Theo and Ness are asked to investigate a town weighed down by the sorrow of what happened 100 years before…

What do you do when a whole town is haunted?

In 1899, in the North Yorkshire market town of Thorpe Morton, a tragedy occurred; 59 people died at the market hall whilst celebrating Christmas Eve, many of them children. One hundred years on and the spirits of the deceased are restless still, ‘haunting’ the community, refusing to let them forget.

In 1999, psychic investigators Theo Lawson and Ness Patterson are called in to help, sensing immediately on arrival how weighed down the town is. Quickly they discover there’s no safe haven. The past taints everything.

Hurtling towards the anniversary as well as a new millennium, their aim is to move the spirits on, to cleanse the atmosphere so everyone – the living and the dead – can start again. But the spirits prove resistant and soon Theo and Ness are caught up in battle, fighting against something that knows their deepest fears and can twist them in the most dangerous of ways.

They’ll need all their courage to succeed and the help of a little girl too – a spirit who didn’t die at the hall, who shouldn’t even be there…

As Theo turned round to face the double doors, she had a feeling that someone - something - was rushing at her, as fleetingly as whatever had been in Adelaide's house. Refusing to let fear get a stranglehold, she turned back, her aim to confront it. A black wisp of a shape, like wood smoke, sideswiped her, before fading into nothing. Staring after it, wondering what it was, something else caught her attention. At the far end of the second room was something more substantial: a little girl, staring at her.

Theo's eyes widened. "Oh darling, darling," she whispered. She took a step forwards, tried to remember the names of the children on the list from earlier: Alice, Helen, Bessie, Adelaide's ancestor, Ellen Corsby perhaps. Which one was she?

She inched closer still. "Darling, your name, tell me what it is."

The little girl's arms moved upwards, she stretched them out, her manner beseeching although she remained mute. Theo tried again, told the child her own name.

"It's short for Theodora. I bet you're called something pretty."

The girl had a dress on; long, brownish, a course material - linen perhaps? Nothing special but if it was her party dress then maybe it was special to her. Her boots were brown too - lace ups, sturdy looking. She was around eight or nine but it was hard to tell. She could have been older just small for her age. Her hair was brown and tangled; she had a mane of it. Everything about her seemed to be brown or sepia, maybe sepia was the right word, as though she'd stepped out of an old photograph.

"I'm here now, sweetheart, I've come to help. You've been here for such a long time. Too long. You need to go to the light, go home, rest awhile."

Up closer, Theo could read her eyes. The longing in them stirred her pity.

"Let me help you," Theo persisted, her voice catching in her throat. As glorious as the other side might be, she still felt it unfair to be felled at such a young age. Often this was a good existence too and it deserved to be experienced fully.

She was close now, so close and still her arms were outstretched.

Harriet - the name presented itself whole in her mind.

"Your name's Harriet. Is that correct? It's lovely, it suits you."

Was that a smile on the child's lips, the beginnings of trust? Soon she'd be able to reach out and touch her. What would she feel like? Cold? Ethereal?

"Darling, I'm here," she repeated, no more than a foot between them. "I'm here."

Joy surged - one spirit had come forward - it was an encouraging start.

Just before their hands touched everything changed. Hope and joy were replaced with confusion as something sour - fetid almost - rose up, making her feel nauseous.

"Don't be afraid," Theo implored. Yet there was nothing but fear in her eyes now. No, not fear, that was too tame a word - terror.

"I'm not here to harm you," she continued. "I'm here to help."

As the words left her mouth, other hands appeared behind the child, a whole sea of them - disembodied hands that clawed at her, forcing her backwards.

"No!" Theo shouted. "Stop it. Leave her alone!"

But it was no use. Her words faded as the girl did. She'd been torn away, recaptured; the one who'd dared to step forward. Theo could feel sweat break out on her forehead, her hands were clammy. She clutched at her chest, her breathing difficult suddenly, laboured. Her heart had been problematic of late, a result of the pounds she'd piled on. She must go to the doctor to get some medication. Struggling to gain control, it took a few moments, perhaps a full minute, before her heart stopped hammering. And when it did, she remembered something else. The girl's eyes - her sweet, brown, trusting eyes - when the expression changed in them they hadn't been looking at her, they'd been looking beyond her. Was it at the thing that sideswiped her? Theo couldn't be certain. She wasn't certain either if that 'thing' was a spirit or much less than that - something with no soul, but with an appetite, an extreme appetite: a craving. Something, she feared, was insatiable.

Author Bio:

Brighton-based author of paranormal fiction, including UK Amazon Bestseller, Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall. Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me, is also available and due out in November 2015 is Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story - the prequel to the Psychic Surveys series. She is also the author of Jessamine, an atmospheric psychological romance set in the Highlands of Scotland and described as a 'Wuthering Heights for the 21st century.'

Psychic Surveys Book Three: 44 Gilmore Street is in progress.

All events in her books are inspired by true life and events.

Catch up with Shani via her website www.shanistruthers.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Facebook Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/p9yggq9

Discover historic London with Emma Rose Millar

Today, I'm delighted to welcome back author, Emma Rose Millar. Her rip-roaring adventure, Five Guns Blazing, is out now. Plenty of drama, passion - and pirates. Well worth checking out!

Over to Emma...

(c) Museum of London 
London - A Forbidden Place Full of Vice and Temptation

We were taken after the final case of the afternoon was heard, on a waggon with ten others, through the cobbled streets, past the ramshackle pie shop, the confectioners and the apothecary. The air was filled with the stench from the sewers, and from discarded oranges and pears which lay blackening on the ground. There were clamorous cries from market traders selling off the last of their wares for the day and the hollow trotting of horses’ hooves upon the stones as they pulled along carriages, in which ladies sat holding handkerchiefs to their faces. It was nearly dusk, and the girls in their gaily coloured slammerkins had already begun to appear one by one, and gather in small clusters which fell open like the petals of a primrose. One of them leaned forward to take a closer look into our ambling waggon; her breasts swelling from beneath her stays like two round dumplings. As she came closer I could see her face was scarred with pox. 
(Emma Rose Millar and Kevin Allen, Five Guns Blazing)

My mum’s from Kilburn in London and my grandparents lived there until I was ten. I used to love my monthly visits to places like St Paul’s Cathedral and The Tower. But eighteenth century London, with its unsavoury taverns, pickpockets and bawdy houses was a world away from the cosmopolitan city of the 1970s. Three hundred years ago London was a murky caldron of vice, whose sights and smells lend themselves wholly to vivid interpretations in historical fiction.

The Great Fire of 1666 had stolen the majority of the buildings and while many were left crumbling and falling down, the rest of the city was rebuilt in a hasty and slapdash manner and families were crammed into rooms above shops with houses being divided and then subdivided. Heavy shop signs jutted out of commercial properties on large iron bars. In high winds the signs would swing so pendulously that they could bring down the whole façade of the building down. Between the hovels and shacks was a labyrinth of stinking alleyways which concealed criminals at their every turn.

Filth ran down the cobbled streets: horse manure, raw sewage, animal guts and household waste. Cesspools collected in puddles everywhere and London was filled with the vile stench of dead dogs, cats and rodents, and to add insult to injury, in wet weather, horse drawn carriages would often splash pedestrians with putrid muck from the gutter. Bodies of those executed were sometimes gibbeted or hung in chains as a macabre warning to all, and cemeteries for the poor had open pits, deep enough to house seven tiers of coffins. They would not be filled in until the pit was full; the stench of rotting human corpses also permeated through the city’s streets.

Drinking water came directly from the Thames whose murky depths were filled with animal remains and debris from ships. As a safer alternative to water, gin shops sprang up everywhere, advertising that patrons could get ‘dead drunk’ for the sum of 2d. It was a wonder anyone survived at all! Disease, primitive medicine and food shortages meant that the mortality rate was high. Half of all children born in the early part of the century died before they reached the age of two. If they did survive, many poor children were packed off to workhouses where they were subjected to backbreaking regimes and abuse. Children would be employed in many occupations including stocking making, domestic service and as chimney sweeps or hawkers.

The population was vast and diverse and for their recreation, London offered an array of entertainment to suit every taste. For sex tourists, a guide book, Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies (1773) told visitors where to find the best prostitutes. So called freak shows featured hermaphrodites, dwarfs, bare knuckle fighting, conjurers, quack doctors and animals who were professedly capable of fortune telling, gambling and arithmetic.
(c) Canongate TV
There was even an art exhibition in Fleet Street which undoubtedly would have outdone this year’s Dismaland; a complete exhibition of historical figures and horrific tableaux, all made out of wax.

With its lawlessness and its colourful characters, the underbelly of eighteenth century London society completely drew me in, immersing me in a world of thief-takers and vagabonds while I was writing Five Guns Blazing. I hope you will enjoy that seedy world as much as I did:

I thought then how strange it must have been for your whole existence, your whole world to be confined to those four walls on Florence Street, shut out from the whole city with its fogs and its sometimes orange skies over St Paul’s Cathedral, pedlars with ribbons stuffed in their coats, pickpockets, drunks, ladies that looked like whores and whores that looked like ladies. Even the view from the dormitory window was as distant and still as if it had been an oil painting hanging on the wall; Danish timber barques drifting on the river with their sails at half-mast and dockers poised ready to drag their cargo onto land. The Danish ships were a queer kind of whisper to the world outside the frame, the river and the sea which had brought them here and a peaceful far off land in the north where waterfalls froze and people spoke in foreign tongues. But there was no outside world here, just this self-contained little realm, with its own rules and doctrines, with our blue flannels and shoes that pinched.

“Have you seen it? London?” I asked him in such a covert way I may well have been asking if he had seen a ghost or a den of criminals. And that was how it seemed now I realised, like a forbidden place full of vice and temptation from which we must inexorably be shut away – for our own sakes.
Five Guns Blazing is now available from Amazon Smashwords!

Discover Anglina with author Emma Stein

Today, I welcome author Emma Stein who tells us more about how she created the country of Anglina for her novel, Into the Void, released through Tirgearr Publishing, and what locations she based it on.

Welcome, Emma... 

I created the different places Horace visits using some of the cultural theories I studied as a graduate student in Art History and my experiences as a non-EU immigrant in Europe.

For example, the society of the very first place Horace visits--and the site of the first catastrophe during his voyage--is based on Marcel Mauss's theories on gift-giving. I had always intended on setting this section of the book on islands because I wanted Horace to travel by ship at the beginning of his journey, but it was only after some friends showed me photographs from their recent trip to Cuba that I decided the islands would be tropical.

The other locations are based on or parody places I have actually lived or places very close to where I lived, and this is reflected in some of the names. For instance, the name "Hansea Brema" is based on "Hanseatic City of Bremen", where I lived at the time I wrote that section (and I liked Bremen about as much as Horace likes Hansea Brema). After I moved to Kiel, which is in Northern Germany, Horace was making his way through my parody of Germany, so I decided to name one of the cities along the way "Kjöl", which is pronounced similarly to "Kiel" despite the different spelling, and base Horace's observations on my parents' evaluation of Northern Germans as being abrupt and impolite.
Find out more about Into the Void at: https://emmasteinbooks.com/into-the-void-1.html
The country of Anglina is teeming with social upheaval, and its officials have found an unlikely national hero in a philosopher and social activist named Horace. The Anglinian government has appointed the effeminate, irreverent, and stubborn scholar to undertake a journey around the world to learn the secret of other countries’ success. Unfortunately for Horace, most of the societies he visits turn out to be drastically different from what he expected, and he repeatedly sends scathing but witty reports about his travels and the people he encounters.

Horace is dedicated to serving his country and takes pride in his assignment, but as his journey progresses, he begins to suffer from isolation and repeated failures at integrating into different societies. Not only does he grapple with bureaucracy, language barriers, and foreign climates, he is also confronted with ghosts from his own past. Incarceration in one of his destinations unleashes waves of self-doubt and an identity crisis, but Horace perseveres in the name of Anglina and out of self-respect. His determination pays off: just as he has all but lost hope, Horace encounters a series of communes whose inhabitants welcome him into their ranks and open his eyes to more a liberal and egalitarian way of life.


Nearing LaHague

Dear Addie,
The tradesmen who have been kind enough to take me on as a bit of useless cargo on their voyage to Boasille are docking at their first port of call tomorrow. From what I have heard, there are some rather willing prostitutes in the city of LaHague who will do anything for a bottle of our good Anglinian gin. That would explain the contents of our cargo hold to some extent, I suppose. “Give’m a swig and they’ll return the favour fives times over...or under or sideways!” is how my cultivated shipmates put it.
If they offered postal services as well, I would have no qualms pocketing a little bottle of gin from the hold and slipping it into a painted woman’s bag, but I believe the poor dears are much better at transmitting syphilis than messages. But if LaHague is as large as my illustrious companions have suggested, I assume there will be a postal service somewhere along the docks.
I am a bit reluctant to stray too far on my own, you see. I imagine the great unwashed on this ship have enjoyed pulling my leg this whole time, telling me horror stories about little “flippity-floppity fops” like myself who vanished as soon as they set foot outside the dock and shipyard area. “First their fineries evaporated into the air, then the powder in their hair. They looked like men then in the face, then disappeared without a trace.”
Aside from chanting that primitive rhyme outside my cabin door at night and otherwise taunting me, the sailors have as little to do with me as possible. At the very sight of me, they spring effeminately to the side and lift imaginary skirts like grand ladies trying to avoid a muddy puddle, and they eye my rather modest cravatte as though it could spray a gale of deadly vapours at them any minute. Even the captain is incapable of shaking my hand in a morning greeting without checking that his gloves are snugly insulating his fingers against the contagious disease of affectation I appear to be carrying. In me, they all see a reflection of what they most fear becoming, or perhaps a reflection of what they already are, but refuse to acknowledge. When one of the unwashed fellows let loose a remark even you would find foul and loose, I retorted that he also must at least enjoy the company of men if he chose a profession where he hardly sees a woman the whole year round. You need not see my swollen left eye to gather that remark did not go over especially well.
I know I have only been away from Anglina for ten or eleven days now, and have really nothing to say with regards to my mission from the Council. Nonetheless, I am still sending you a report, so to speak, lest I become a sloth early on in my journey and fail to shake the persona. After all, I’ve seen no shortage of well-meaning persons appointed to positions or missions, only to fall asleep at the wheel in the lap of luxury. No, I am by no means implying the Council’s manner of governing the country has anything at all to do with my present research on alternative social models. Every member of the Council is as responsible as the next, with the exception of Horace and Addie. Speaking of which, I am aware that you and several of the other members waged bets on whether I would abandon this task within the first week—I assume you waged against me and acted out a scene of me forcing the captain to turn the ship around with your typical drunken gusto.
I hope your bet was smaller than your disappointment.
Due to the social isolation the circumstances have forced upon me, I have had quite a bit of time to reflect upon my undertaking in the name of Anglina. The distances I am going to cover seem daunting now that I have crossed the first leagues, and they have reminded me that developments in the transportation of goods and people has lagged considerably behind developments in the production of both. And this is the easy part of my journey . . .
Buy link on Amazon: http://www.amazon.de/Into-Void-English-Emma-Stein-ebook/dp/B010GEJNIE/
About the Author:

Emma was born near Chicago in 1986 and has lived abroad since 2008. Her experiences in France, Canada, Germany, and Russia influence her work considerably. Theories from Cultural Studies and Sociology form another cornerstone of Emma’s work, and she enlivens what many people would consider dry texts with interpretations that are full of wit and unexpected spins on the order of things. Her penchant for pinpointing the foibles and follies of both herself and her fellows is a fine source for her satires, be they written or illustrated.
Emma has lived in Germany since 2011. She currently resides in Kiel, where she continues to surprise the natives with the historically inspired clothing that she designs and wears.

Discover Jerusalem with author Miriam Drori

Today, I'm extending a warm welcome to author Miriam Drori, who tells us about Jerusalem, the city she now calls home. It's also where her romance, Neither Here Nor There, is set. I'm intrigued!

Let's see what Miriam has to say...

Writing Home

Jerusalem was the obvious setting for Neither Here Nor There. I wanted to write a romance. I wanted to write an unusual romance. I wanted the heroine to have a reason to hold back from throwing herself into a relationship. I wanted to write something I knew about.

Having the heroine come from the haredi community ticked all the boxes. It also made for an interesting topic – one that I was keen to explore. What better place to set my story than Jerusalem, my home town, where I see people from the haredi community every time I leave my house? Sorted, or was it?
View of David's Tower
I wasn’t sure about setting the novel in my home town. Writers often prefer to describe places further away from them, because that gives them a perspective that’s hard to gain in a place they see every day. But I think Jerusalem is such a special place that it can never become mundane, however long you live here.

Also, I had always refrained from setting a story in Jerusalem, or anywhere in Israel. I felt that readers expected any story set in Israel to involve terrorism and the ongoing struggles with our neighbours. I wasn’t sure anyone would want to read a story that didn’t mention this. I wasn’t sure readers familiar with our part of the world only through the news media would believe that there is life outside all the conflict.
Despite this explicit and distinctive setting, I wanted my story to be relevant to readers anywhere in the world. My heroine, Esty, happened to grow up in the haredi world in Jerusalem. But a lot of her experiences could parallel those of anyone who had been brought up in a sect, closed off from the outside world.

It’s also no coincidence that my main characters visit London. This was the city where I was born and grew up. For the novel, I had to picture London for someone visiting this vast metropolis for the first time. As I haven’t lived there for ever so long, this wasn’t hard to do.

When I finished the novel, I still wasn’t sure how readers would react to it. I knew there would be some antagonism because, while I don’t denigrate the haredi community, of my two main characters, one has left it and the other is outside it, so naturally both are not completely in favour of that way of life.

Having received praise from my beta readers and later from many other readers, I think my novel works. Many have learnt a lot from it while enjoying what is essentially a light romance. Others have appreciated reading a story with a familiar background. And I got to wander around my beautiful town and see it through new eyes.


Miriam Drori left London at the age of twenty-three and lived briefly in the south and the north of Israel before marrying and settling down in Jerusalem to raise two sons and a daughter. Following professions in computer programming and technical writing, she now spends her time writing creatively and editing.

Miriam began writing in order to raise awareness of social anxiety. Since then, the scope of her writing has widened, but she has never lost sight of her original goal.


Miriam Drori

Twitter: @MiriamDrori

Neither Here Nor There: a romance with a difference