Oathbreaker

If you have a moment, please have a read of my latest novel.  It’s currently available to read for free via Wattpad…Click the book cover below for the link…Thank you so much for your support ♥

~ Oathbreaker is now available to read in full on Wattpad ~

Longlisted for The Wattys 2018 – 31 August 2018
* * * Shortlisted for The Wattys 2018 – 14 September 2018 * * *

Summary

Eleri, priestess of the Green Lady, has waited for so long to marry her tribe’s champion, Celyn. Finally, the date is set for Midsummer’s Eve, when the tribes have gathered in the valley to celebrate the longest day at the stone circle perched up on the hill. But nothing is as it seems…

A glimpse of a bird circling over the stones foretells of doom…and maybe even death.

An oath is made. An oath is broken. And Eleri’s life changes forever…

*

Oathbreaker is a story inspired by ancient history, mythology, and the landscape. Set in the Iron Age, where there is no distinction between history and mythology, and where magic is as real as the ground beneath your feet, Oathbreaker charts the journey of Eleri, Priestess of the Green Lady, and the unusual quest she finds herself forced to make…

If you enjoy historical fiction, myths and legends, fantasy, adventure and romance, you might enjoy this too…

Weekend Writing Prompt #150 – Continuity

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in the comments.

Word Prompt

Continuity

Challenge

 

The challenge is simple: each week you will be given an exact number of words you can use to write a poem or piece of prose.  You can use any format or style you like; go wherever your inspiration takes you.  The only rules are these:

  • your poem / prose must contain this week’s word.  The word does not have to count towards the exact word count total – it can be in the title, or the first letters of the lines of a poem can spell it out – you can be as creative as you want as long as it’s there somewhere.
  • the length of your poem / prose must match the number of words stated in this week’s challenge.  No more.  No less.

Can’t wait to read what you have come up with!


* Whispers and Echoes – an online journal of short writing – is always open to submissions *
Check out the guidelines here

Weekend Writing Prompt Year 1 Anthology: Outcast and Other Words – Read for free here

Interview with Lauren Willmore, Writer and Book Cover Designer

For the last three Fridays I have been posting instalments of an interview with author Crispina Kemp.  This week, we get to chat with Lauren Willmore, writer and book cover designer.  You will have already seen her beautiful work gracing the front covers of Crispina’s The Spinner’s Game series and I think we can all agree, they are stunning…

Let’s get to the interview and meet Lauren.

Interview with Lauren Willmore, Writer and Book Cover Designer

To begin with, for those who have yet to discover your book cover designs and writing, please introduce yourself.

I’ve been writing and designing as long as I can remember. While in writing I stick to fantasy novels, design I vary. I design book covers, but also greeting cards, brochures, wedding stationery, I paint, and bake elaborate cakes (as featured on my blog).

What made you decide to become a book cover designer and how long have you been doing it?

I’ve worked in design for the past nine years but decided to go freelance a year-and-a-half ago. While I have my fingers in a few pies, I wanted to branch out into book covers, as it seemed the perfect way to merge my two passions, writing and design.

When it comes to book covers, how do you go from concept to finished design?

After discussing the book and the writer’s wants, I will put together a concept, usually a rough where artwork will be either sketched out or cobbled with photos, and the text usually in a more finished state, unless it’s to be hand drawn, and then a similar font might be used. At this stage I ask clients to make all the substantial amends, even if they outright hate it and want to start fresh. It’s so much easier to change things now, compared to when the design is created. Once this concept is signed off, I’ll create the artwork either digitally, painted, or drawn (I do all sorts!). Here clients can again make amends, but these should be more like tweaks, say a warmer shade of a certain colour. Anything more dramatic at these stage can add time and cost to a job.

Lauren was kind enough to share the concept cover (above left, showing the book’s original title) and the final cover (above right) for the first book in The Spinner’s Game series by Crispina Kemp.  

How much input does an author usually want in the design process, and does this help or hinder the process?

I think one of the reasons authors favour self-publishing is control over the cover, so it’s understandable that some have such a strong vision of what they want. If you’ve always imagined your world and characters a certain way, it can be hard to see someone else’s interpretation of it. So some authors are very involved in the cover process, and we tweak chin sizes, eyebrow inclines, shades of blonde, till we get the cover spot on. Equally, it’s always fun to be given free reign and have the cover approved first time! I’ve had both!

Of the covers you’ve designed, which is your favourite and why?

My favourite has to be The Pole That Threads by Crispina Kemp. I love its place within the overall series, The Spinner’s Game, but regardless, my eyes are always drawn to it. There are so many hidden details to be found, even the mix of the photographic starry night and the digitally painted heron. Of course I shan’t list all the hidden clues, read the book and discover them!

And which books on your bookshelves (either physical or digital) have book covers that you just love?

The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang. When I saw it on the bookshelf in Foyles, I was immediately drawn to it, and after a read of the blurb I was hooked. And that’s the point of a book cover, isn’t it? It’s a sequel, so I’ve added the first instalment, The Poppy War, to my reading list too. I love its simplicity, the merging of the bird, the girl, and the mist, the stark white and the black watercolour.

Cover Artist: JungShan Chang

Honourable mentions go to…

The new covers for Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I own the old versions, but I’d love these framed on my wall.

Cover Artist: Melissa Castrillon

And… Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. It’s so eerie and beautiful it delayed my reading the book because I kept searching the cover for more hidden depths. It reminds me of Ophelia by John Everett Mills.

Cover Artist: Cliff Neilsen

Not only are you a book cover designer, but you’re also a writer too.  What project(s) are you currently, and / or have been recently, working on?

I’m currently querying my first novel Made of Earth—so fingers crossed there—and completing edits on its sequel Mountains May Crumble. All advice I see says not to work on a sequel whilst querying, but I love the characters so much I couldn’t help myself. I am however, one chapter into a new project, and gearing myself up for the next Camp NaNo when hope to get a good chunk of the first draft completed.

What writing plans do you have for the future?

That probably depends on how successful I am querying! But I love writing, so whatever the future holds I’ll still be tap-tapping away at the keyboard every chance I get.

Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s the first thing you do when you get a new idea?

I’m still defining what my writing process is, it’s been different every time. But I’ve recently been struck by a new idea for a novel. I let it simmer a bit, revisited it whilst daydreaming or showering (I’ve solved so many plot problems in the shower!). I’ve begun jotting down all the ideas in my head, roughing out a plot, doing research, and I recently wrote the first chapter to get a feel for the characters and world. I fall somewhere in the middle of the Plotter and the Pantser, I like to know where I’m going, but I have fun with the journey and take the unexpected turns in the road… even if they lead to dead ends and I have to turn back! I did NaNoWriMo last year, and while I’m not particularly word count orientated, it brought out my competitive streak (competing with the word count graph) and I shot through a first draft. Hopefully I’ll manage that again this April, then the editing begins!

Are you a writer first, then a designer, or is it the other way around?  Or perhaps neither and they hold an equal place in your heart?

In the past I’ve been a designer first. But recently I’ve noticed a change in myself, and where before I used to reach for the paper and pencils, I’m reaching for the iPad to write. In the past couple of years I’ve treated writing as less of a hobby and more as a career. Having Crispina Kemp as my critique partner has really helped with this change. I’m no longer writing alone, I’m sharing my work, finding where my weaknesses lie, and becoming critical in my reading too. And certainly now that I’m querying, I love design, but I’m in love with writing.

Does being a writer yourself help when it comes to working with other writers on their book cover designs?

I think it does, though I can’t offer the opposite perspective. I’d certainly say it helps the writer as I always end up becoming more than just the cover designer. I’ve helped with strap lines, blurbs, and even taken on some to beta read.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Pinterest is always a go to for design. But equally I love browsing book stores, seeing what’s on sale and what new trends are emerging.

If anyone reading this interview would like you to design a book cover for them, what do they need to do?  Is there anything they should think about beforehand prior to contacting a designer? Does it make things easier (for both of you) if the author has some idea of what they want, or do you prefer to work with less restrictions, in terms of cover theme, style, colour choices etc?

I always want to know a bit about the book, especially if there’s anything symbolic that would be great on the cover. The genre and age category are musts. And it’s helpful to know if there are any covers the author has loved elsewhere, so I can get a feel of the style they’re after. I don’t mind whether writers have no clue or a specific idea, I’m happy to adapt and make suggestions. But changes of mind and forgetting crucial information can delay things. Say a cover has a character on it, I’ll need to know all the physical information about that character. Let’s not get to the end of the design and remember they have a different hairstyle, race, or gender (I’ve had two of those!). Amends like that add time and money to a cover design, so do be sure to be clear on what details are critical.

Thank you so much for the interview, Lauren.  It was wonderful to be granted an insight into the design process and to hear about your writing.  We wish you all the best with all future projects!

Lauren can be found over on her website.  

Weekend Writing Prompt #149 – Muddle

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in the comments.

Word Prompt

Muddle

Challenge

 

The challenge is simple: each week you will be given an exact number of words you can use to write a poem or piece of prose.  You can use any format or style you like; go wherever your inspiration takes you.  The only rules are these:

  • your poem / prose must contain this week’s word.  The word does not have to count towards the exact word count total – it can be in the title, or the first letters of the lines of a poem can spell it out – you can be as creative as you want as long as it’s there somewhere.
  • the length of your poem / prose must match the number of words stated in this week’s challenge.  No more.  No less.

Can’t wait to read what you have come up with!


* Whispers and Echoes – an online journal of short writing – is always open to submissions *
Our Current Special Call: Spring-inspired poetry and flash fiction
Check out the guidelines here

Weekend Writing Prompt Year 1 Anthology: Outcast and Other Words – Read for free here

The Somnambulist’s Ball

She dreams in movement
Weaving her way through
Night’s enchantment
A mind that is still
With an eye that sees the dream
A body that dances to the tune
That only she can hear


Written for: Weekend Writing Prompt #148: Somnambulist | The words ended here, at 33, and it seemed right, so I didn’t push on towards 78 for the challenge…

Interview with Crispina Kemp, author of The Spinner’s Game – Part 3

You may have seen the interview with Crispina Kemp I shared a few weeks ago from my book review blog, Sammi Loves Books. Now I get to share with you an epic three-part interview with Crispina, as we talk about her soon-to-be released five book historical fantasy series, The Spinner’s Game.

In Part 1, Crispina answered questions on writing the series, the main character, Kerrid, and where the story is set. In Part 2, she answered questions on magic, mythology and society in her stories. The third and final part of the interview can be found below, where we turn our attention to language, characters and favourite things…

Part 3: Languages and Characters

The terminology you’ve created in the book is interesting. Farfoot, Wolfman, Zeflas…  How did you devise the words?  And what is the difference between Wise-One and a Breathman?

Some terms are logical – at least, I think so. To farfoot is to walk a great distance, to explore the far-lands, to form alliances with distant tribes and open trade routes. And because of his greater experience and knowledge, and his contacts who can be called upon in times of need, a farfoot will make a good chief. In Gushan, the term farfoot has replaced the term chief.

But why is a farfoot also called a wolfman? That’s logical too – at least to me. Beyond and between the encampments, a lone farfooter would make excellent prey for the grey-furred hunters. Yet in the ritual killing of a wolf and the donning of its skin, the wolfman acquires the wolf-spirit’s protection. In like manner, a chief will wear the skin of a big cat, whose spirit then protects the clan against other cats.

The case for the zeflas is different. Zeflas are small disease, polluting, or stinging demons. I changed demon to zefla at the suggestion of one of my early readers for, as she said, in today’s fantasies, demons are something else entirely. But why zefla? It’s a corruption of seraphim. It seemed to fit.

And you’re not the first to ask what’s the difference between Wise-One and a Breathman.

Bargli is a breathman while Serande is a wise-man. Both know how to oblige the divines and to protect against the lesser zeflas. We see the difference when there’s a problem with no stock solution. Then they must consult the divines.

Kitted out in various skins to ensure their spirit’s protection, Bargli spins to entrance – downward, to the Horned One’s Dark Domain, to the begetter of the Six Clans of Gushan.

Meanwhile, Serande squeezes himself into a womblike cave where he downs a disgusting concoction of hallucinogens and drums himself into the all-encompassing Oracular Web. All truths, he says, are found in that Web.

So, I guess we might say, the breathman consults the Father, the wise-man the Mother.

So we’ve spoken of how you invented words, how did you create the names for your characters?

I’ve already said about Kerrid, that her name, inspired by the Welsh goddess Cerridwen, pre-existed The Spinner’s Game.

The others? For many I took inspiration from Sumerian names. Just to end a name in -il, or -li gives it an alien and ancient feel. And likewise, having found Kerrid’s name, I repeated that -id ending: Suenid, the Uissids (pronounced Wizids). But I controlled my passion for ending names in -en, -in, and -an, which I think is possibly a Germanic thing. There are some; Gimmerin for example. Another trick I used was to change a letter or two in an English name. Elizabeth became Erazibat.

But no matter the names used in the beginning, many evolved into something else during the writing process. A matter of rhythm, the flow of the sentence, and has it the right sound for the character? During those early days my brain made adjustments without consultation.

Who was the hardest character to write, and why?

My answer to that is a character from the second book, Lake of Dreams. Urinod.

He’s not the worst of the Uissids, but still he’s not a nice character. One of my beta-readers was offended by him and called him a toxic male. Certainly, he’s a misogynist who can’t abide Kerrid, in his opinion the root of all evil. He’s very much a physical person too; prefers to use his fists not his head – unless it’s to head-butt. And he’s possessive of his position within the Uissid’s hierarchy. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as head-on as that. It would have been easy to paint him all the way bad, but everyone has a backstory that explains how they are. I’d say his comes in one word: Olun, his older brother.

Now a question of favourites: who was your favourite character to write, where was your favourite location and what is your favourite quote from the first book in the series, The Spinner’s Child?

My favourite character to write, both in The Spinner’s Child and The Spinner’s Game is the one character everyone hates. The loathsome, psychopathic Paddlo. I had great fun with him, though several times I had to pull back. Gimmerin holds a close second place. For me, he’s an amalgam of every woman’s despised husband. He does try… truly. But he’s such an egotist.

My favourite location? In The Spinner’s Child, I’d say that’s the Spinner’s Otherworld Web, based on a vision experienced many years ago during meditation.

And my favourite quote? I have several, depending upon my mood. I’ve taken this from Kerrid’s first meeting with Gimmerin.

‘My brothers would fume if they knew I helped you,’ he said.
‘You’d best return to them then. I’m surprised any of Chief Uissinir’s sons care to help. I’m surprised they dare interfere.’
Her shimmer twitched. His flames remained steady. She pursed her lips. And again, her hands wouldn’t be still but rubbed her thighs.
‘Itch, do they?’
She picked at a bead instead.

One final question to bring this three-part interview to a close. If readers take away one thing from The Spinner’s Child, what do you hope that is?

First – and for this, it’s easiest to quote the poet Omar Khayyam: The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on. Nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.

In other words, what’s done is done and can’t now be undone; a sentiment expressed several times in the course of the five books. However, while it can’t be undone, one can make amends and put things right. It’s this which drives Kerrid to complete her journey.

Second: What at first might seem a disability, with acceptance can become a gift. I’ve seen this in my own life, where a speech defect in childhood served as the impetus to develop my writing skills so I could communicate. Yet look where it’s taken me.

If you would like to read my thoughts on the first book in the series, The Spinner’s Child, you can find the review here.

The Spinner’s Game

All five books of Crispina Kemp’s series, The Spinner’s Game, are available for pre-order now, with a release date of 21st March 2020. Follow the link below to her Amazon author page or website for more information.

Connect with Crispina Kemp

Failing to find a place on the space programme – to boldly go – I turned my vision inwards to a study of psychology and exploration of spirituality. This encouraged an outward journey to explore this wonderful world, its peoples, its beliefs, but mostly its pasts. From the exploration I returned with the core of my writing.

But, for the more mundane-minded: For a shy child with a speech problem, the written word came as a release, enabling me to express myself without being asked, ‘Eh? What did you say? Say again?’ I wrote my first ‘proper’ story when I was nine. A gothic offering to scare my friends. Since then, there’s been scarcely a day when I haven’t been busy writing. Novels. The short story form doesn’t appeal to me, although over recent months I have posted micro-fiction on my blog.

In my early teens, I visited Grimes Graves, the Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk. The following summer, I visited Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Thence began a lifelong interest in the archaeology of prehistory. The study of myths and legends seemed a natural progression, and from there to linguistics (despite my inability to pronounce the words).

Resident in Norfolk where my roots dig deep, my regular rambles into the surrounding countryside provide balance to the cerebral… and ample subjects for my camera.

I can be found on crispinakemp.com and my author’s page on Amazon

Next week: An interview with writer and book cover designer Lauren Willmore

Weekend Writing Prompt #148 – Somnambulist

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in the comments.

Word Prompt

Somnambulist

Challenge

 

The challenge is simple: each week you will be given an exact number of words you can use to write a poem or piece of prose.  You can use any format or style you like; go wherever your inspiration takes you.  The only rules are these:

  • your poem / prose must contain this week’s word.  The word does not have to count towards the exact word count total – it can be in the title, or the first letters of the lines of a poem can spell it out – you can be as creative as you want as long as it’s there somewhere.
  • the length of your poem / prose must match the number of words stated in this week’s challenge.  No more.  No less.

Can’t wait to read what you have come up with!


* Whispers and Echoes – an online journal of short writing – is always open to submissions *
Our Current Special Call: Spring-inspired poetry and flash fiction
Check out the guidelines here

Weekend Writing Prompt Year 1 Anthology: Outcast and Other Words – Read for free here

Interview with Crispina Kemp, author of The Spinner’s Game – Part 2

You may have seen the interview with Crispina Kemp I shared a few weeks ago from my book review blog, Sammi Loves Books. Now I get to share with you an epic three-part interview with Crispina, as we talk about her soon-to-be released five book historical fantasy series, The Spinner’s Game.

In Part 1, Crispina answered questions on writing the series, the main character, Kerrid, and where the story is set. The second part of the interview can be found below, where Crispina answers some questions on magic, mythology and society in her stories. Tune in next week for Part 3, when we turn our attention to language, characters and favourite things…

Part 2: Magic, Myth and Society

The story has a rich mythological framework woven through it.  How does Kerrid and her people view and interact with the divine? How easy was it to create the mythology and fables? 

Before there was a belief in the gods, there was a belief in an all-pervading ‘Spirit’, a belief still prevalent throughout our world, and not only in non-technological societies. In fact, it is regaining ground in the West.

But for Kerrid’s people that belief included the notion of agency, known today as animism, in which Spirit, now coalesced into discrete entities, is able to act of its own volition. With the relevant gifts, these discrete entities – divines – might be made to act on the donor’s behalf. But who knows which gifts might oblige them? While knowledge of the more common gifts – e.g. a slop of brew for the Lady of the Hills will keep her sweet and not convulsing – anything out of the ordinary requires a specialist.

And then there are the demons. The role of a demon is to destroy. As Kerrid says, it’s what they do. They cause disease and rot.

I enjoyed creating the myths and fables. Straight from my head? I think not. I have read so much mythology over the years, it’s more likely they’re an amalgamation of many myths, distilled to their essence and simplified.

The first public outing of The Spinner’s Game was in instalment form on my blog where I called it Feast Fables. I imagined the fables not as tales but as ‘things said’ at the time of the feast. At Christmas we talk of Santa, his flying reindeer, his helpful elves. At Easter, we say of the Easter Bunny hiding its eggs. At Halloween, we speak of witches and goblins and the awakening dead. While these have roots in ancient rituals and beliefs, they are not myths. They’re feast fables. And so too with Kerrid’s people. Everyone knew the Lady’s sons had cut up their mother to make the world, but few knew the underlying myth.

Magical rituals make a number of appearances throughout the book. Could you explain a little about how magic operates in this world?

First, with animism, magic is everywhere, and everyone a practitioner… all without them knowing it. For anyone who makes a gift and gets a result is working magic. To Kerrid’s people, this would be as commonplace as for us to switch on a light. But that’s for everyday-everywhere magic. As I’ve already said, sometimes a specialist is needed. A specialist serves as a repository of the tribe’s magic lore – imagine a living encyclopaedia. But more important, the specialist knows how to communicate with the divines (Spirit); thus the specialist can ask what the divine might like.

The other magic in this world belongs to Kerrid and her Asars. It doesn’t belong in this world, it’s intrusive. Moreover, unlike the popular magic where knowledge and use is handed down from practitioner to practitioner, this is an intrinsic force that can’t be acquired. In other words, the Asars are magical beings (but don’t let them hear you say that).

The Spinner’s Child is set in a patriarchal society, where the roles of women are limited.  How do you think readers should approach this aspect of the story?

I’d say we should not project today’s conditions upon the past. They are not at all the same. We have medicines, social welfare, charities, schools, day care centres, food bought in shops, power delivered by pipes and cables. We have longevity and paid employment.

Imagine that your daily food depends upon a successful hunt, or a full fishing net, and what you can gather of fruits and nuts and roots in season (and eggs and insects and lizards). Imagine you’re the one who has to fetch it. And you have two children.

You can’t join the hunt with children in tow – though ‘tis true, you might leave them with the old folk. Except few people survive beyond their thirtieth birthday. Women die in childbirth. Men die in hunting accidents. So, who’s looking after your children while you join with the men in the hunt? Safer for the children if you restrict yourself to gathering. Besides, there’s always good gossip amongst the women. And you need their friendship so they’ll share their food with your children should you be ill.

The scenarios multiply. But always the concern for the children limits what a woman can do. Those children are the future of the family, the clan and the tribe. Yet without access to a healthy reproductive woman, there can be no children. Therefore, the women are valued even beyond the children. For a child might die (until recently, infant mortality was appallingly high) but a healthy woman can bear another.

Such was the origin of patriarchy, though intensified and corrupted into something oppressive with the rise of city-states and standing armies.

Part Three coming next week!

If you would like to read my thoughts on the first book in the series, The Spinner’s Child, you can find the review here.

The Spinner’s Game

All five books of Crispina Kemp’s series, The Spinner’s Game, are available for pre-order now, with a release date of 21st March 2020. Follow the link below to her Amazon author page or website for more information.

As a bonus, she says:

“And I’m now able to offer a full-sized, full-colour map of Lake of Skulls – a high resolution (2048 x 1536 px) full-colour fantasy map on pdf – if the reader sends me proof of pre-order. They should contact me via my Contact Me page on crispinakemp.com”

Connect with Crispina Kemp

Failing to find a place on the space programme – to boldly go – I turned my vision inwards to a study of psychology and exploration of spirituality. This encouraged an outward journey to explore this wonderful world, its peoples, its beliefs, but mostly its pasts. From the exploration I returned with the core of my writing.

But, for the more mundane-minded: For a shy child with a speech problem, the written word came as a release, enabling me to express myself without being asked, ‘Eh? What did you say? Say again?’ I wrote my first ‘proper’ story when I was nine. A gothic offering to scare my friends. Since then, there’s been scarcely a day when I haven’t been busy writing. Novels. The short story form doesn’t appeal to me, although over recent months I have posted micro-fiction on my blog.

In my early teens, I visited Grimes Graves, the Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk. The following summer, I visited Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Thence began a lifelong interest in the archaeology of prehistory. The study of myths and legends seemed a natural progression, and from there to linguistics (despite my inability to pronounce the words).

Resident in Norfolk where my roots dig deep, my regular rambles into the surrounding countryside provide balance to the cerebral… and ample subjects for my camera.

I can be found on crispinakemp.com and my author’s page on Amazon