Summer of magic

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The day of the Summer Solstice dawned…and it rained all day…didn’t stop us having a fire and dancing though! Sometime you just have to dance in the rain! DSC_0298DSC_0301DSC_0307

I also had a rather damp day, foraging through the Long Wood with an expert forager, Jade, looking for herbs and plants to eat and make vinegars and pickles. DSC_0279DSC_0280I have a notebook with notes in and I walk along looking at the ground now saying, ‘Ooo there’s plantain’ or ‘Ooo that’s self heal’ but have yet to put any ideas into practise. I’d love to go on another walk in the autumn.

On the new moon, I helped one of my neighbours with a small ritual, keeping him positive and looking for work after the misery of redundancy. He’s had a lot more interviews since and if not successful, is being told why, rather than just the fact he didn’t get the job.

I’ve begun writing a Witch Lit novel, a light hearted look at the life of a hedgewitch, juggling work and parenting as well as her own emotional well being. I’ve a week off this week so I’m well on the way to finishing it.

We created our own magic at the Lampeter Food Festival, filling the grounds of the university with music and dancing. 13701245_10153561592555672_7997562574212675563_o

It is almost Lughnasagh, a day to give thanks for the abundance of the fields and the plentiful food we eat. The fields glimmer in the sunlight, golden grain swaying in the breeze. As we light our fires and shine the light, it’s time to think of others who have less than us and share the love…5% of my shopping trolley goes in the local Food Bank box and at this time, I try to give more.

I hope you’re enjoying a magical summer. Blessed Be xx

Summer of writing

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In June, I joined a new group on Facebook, asking for short stories for an anthology. As you may know, I put myself on a one year course from September last year, to explore short stories again and after attending a great workshop by Rosie Dub of Honno Press, I had my first one accepted for publication in an anthology. I’ve had a lot more since then and have enjoyed honing the skill of writing a cracking short story so, I was intrigued by this new ‘shout out’ as the genre was Witch Lit. New to you? I’m a writer and I hadn’t heard of it so I had a think and came up with a definition of my own and wrote my first Witch Lit short story called Last Chance for Love.

A publisher had shown interest in putting an anthology of Witchlit stories together in lieu of publishing Witchlit novels. We shared our stories on the group offering help and advice and so, with this support behind me, I decided to write a Witchlit novel.

My first attempt was not good. I tried to change my writing style so it was a clunky, clumsy read and the storyline was too vague. 10k words in, I gave up…and broke my toe. This was it, I had no excuse not to write and with a big pad of paper and my trust fountain pen, I scribbled ideas and drew circles, linking ideas together until one jumped out at me and I began to write.

Today, I’ve written two thirds of the book and with a week off next week, I’m looking forward to completing it.

So what did I choose as my definition of Witchlit?

Chick Lit is a genre of fiction which consists of heroine-centred narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists. These women live in a modern world, coping with work and home life and the genre often uses lightheartedness and humour.

My Witchlit novel’s protagonist is Lizzie Martin, who lives in Romford with her thirteen year old daughter Rowan, works as a receptionist and typist. She clothes herself from the charity shops in vibrant, joyful colours with matching headbands she makes herself, attempting to hold at bay the emotional angst of an ex-husband whose girlfriend is barely out of her teens, a mother with the sensitivity of a crocodile and the big bad world from which she tries to protect her daughter. Colour is Lizzie’s armour. On her thirty eighth birthday, she is requested to bare all. There is hope though. At the bottom of the garden is a little wooden shed that Lizzie calls Sanctuary. Behind the oak and rowan trees, within its warm and welcoming walls, Lizzie surrounds herself with magic…one day, a candle spell or another, a conversation with a goddess. She consults her Tarot cards and some day, she will paint in that shed.

This month I also published the third book in the Standing Stone Series – The Gathering. Linked together across space and time, Rachel, Candy and Fern each work towards ‘a gathering’ of their own, guided by the goddess Rhiannon.

The Gathering - SMALL(1)You can buy all my books via my author pages at

http://www.amazon.com/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1365459567&sr=1-2-ent

I do hope you’re enjoying the Standing Stone Series…just wait for book five! This young man seems to be enjoying it. I spotted him at a Steampunk event we were dancing at and asked if I could have a photo.

DSC_0284 At this same event, I bought myself a present…I know it’s a children’s book but it’s beautiful. DSC_0285

Research is still ongoing with the third book in the Lilith Trilogy, Angels and Demons…I save it for rainy days I can spend in the library. I’ve written fewer short stories this month, only managing to submit one so far but there are only so many hours in the day.

I would love to hear your thoughts about Witch Lit. I love the idea of a light hearted, fun read where I can empathise with a protagonist but laugh with her too and know all along, that she’s a Hedge Witch like me.

 

Summer of dance

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13692988_10153561590635672_4965015085609723190_oTribal Unity

We began our summer, dancing at The Three Horseshoe Inn, Llangeitho. We were warmly welcomed and we thoroughly enjoyed our first dance outing.

13528430_10154418410354739_3392390366723899125_oAt the beginning of July, we were welcomed into the Wee Crafty Folk family at their Steampunk Extraordinaire, at the Blaenavon Ironworks. We danced in the sun 13559002_10153651712746700_6105772231861420128_othe rain and the wind 13592700_1758587191066436_4345694993005621029_n on a tiny stage 13582071_862262727212696_7293021555466940758_o and some bumpy ground. We made new friends 13528627_255460211502108_8729822987007473526_o13438956_10154326978680850_5101103827962123973_n13580516_748663858569317_4559449785190045217_o13528436_679809571849_581917443817173174_oand welcomed our newest Tribal Unity Wales performer! (She came to support us and Ashley had kindly offered to take photos so we persuaded her that it was a good day to dance:-))

Last weekend was the Lampeter Food Festival and the rain kept away again! 13693039_1363739183641733_703608656464810052_oWe danced two half hour sets in the entertainment tent plus audience participation and we loved every minute. 13701245_10153561592555672_7997562574212675563_o13765668_10153561595495672_2563386093820760471_o13731820_10153561600885672_335389288742989006_o13692978_10153561600715672_3681990756507417176_o13708338_1363739186975066_5349987637826492300_o13719506_10153561594605672_2555305949072770709_o13737576_10153561597910672_7474765846159049178_o

This Saturday is the Cardigan Bellydance Festival and we’re dancing at a birthday party on Sunday.

Classes are officially finished so my toe will have a week to rest (did I tell you I broke my toe? It’s been a painful month as well as a wonderful one!) and then I’ve two lessons to teach before the music festival on 13th August at the Brynog Arms in Felinfach. Tribal Unity Wales will be performing there between 3pm and 6pm and that will conclude our summer of dance…if the sun shines on a Sunday, of course, there will be impromptu dancing and picnicing in Cribyn!

For more information about Tribal Unity Wales, go to the Tribal Unity website. http://www.tribalunity.co.uk

You can message Deana for lessons in Essex via the website. You can message me here.

Enjoy the rest of summer and dance!

http://www.wendysteele.com has a Tribal Unity Wales page and you can view our performances via the Youtube page of Halo Quin https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAubabZ0MNYMtzHpCFqjM1A

 

The Truth….about Peter Jones, author, actor, speaker and Good Guy

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Me smallToday I’m welcoming Peter Jones to my blog to share his writing secrets and a few truths about how he ticks. We met almost nine years ago, two nervous newbies turning up at Billericay Writer’s Group and we’ve been friends ever since…and not just friends but writing buddies, supporting each other on a perilous, slippery journey along the ever changing path of publishing.

Peter’s first novel, The Good Guy’s Guide to Getting the Girl, followed his immensely successful non-fiction title How to do Everything and be Happy, and rocked the charts alongside Nick Hornby and Helen Fielding. His latest novel, The Truth about this Charming Man, is a rib tickling, page turning cracker, available now as a super summer read.

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1 How do you write? Is everything plotted, planned to perfection? Do you ever change tack as you go along or always stick to a pre-made plan?

I usually start with a plan – some kind of simple bullet-pointed outline – and then write around it. As the book emerges I might tweak the outline (as new ideas occur to me, or – more likely – the original ones don’t quite work), but I’ll definitely update my various spreadsheets that track when each scene of the story takes place, and my daily word-count. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

2 Do you have a writing ritual? Meditation, certain cup for your tea, writing trousers?

Yes: Get up. Eat breakfast. Sit my bum in the chair (around 6am on a good day) and get writing.

No facebook. No emails. No shower, or bushing my teeth. I have to get my writing brain going FIRST.

Never mind whether I ‘feel like it’ – or whether I’m particularly inspired. I sit myself down… and write. Anything.

At some point I’ll get washed and dressed – during which I’m still writing, albeit in my head. Then it’s back to my computer. And I can normally keep going (with frequent breaks to make more tea) until eleven, maybe twelve. At that point my brain turns to jam. Only then do I look at facebook. If some of my facebook posts seem particularly ‘jammy’, now you know why.

If I get stuck, or wake up with a total lack of motivation or energy, then I’ll give myself permission to write dialogue. Just dialogue. No punctuation, no description, no speech tags – just a line from one character, followed by a line from another character. Basically I just have a conversation with myself on the page. And sometimes I can spend the entire morning writing nothing but dialogue. BUT… the following day I go back over what I’ve written and fill in everything else – speech tags, description etc. It’s a little like laying bricks on one day and adding the concrete the day after… but despite being counterintuitive it seems to work. Sure, often the dialogue changes; sometimes I end up deleting whole chucks because a ‘look’ says it all – but that’s ok; in those two days I usually write more than I would have done had I tried to write ‘properly’.

3 Aside from writing, what makes you tick? Tell us 5 things about yourself we probably don’t know.

  • I once appeared on the front of the TV Times magazine
  • For a while I worked for Barclaycard and went by the name of Mavis
  • I fainted in the school sex-education video. Twice.
  • My favourite beverage is Champagne.
  • I recently played the part of a monk, a space-cow, and a voltine (a kind of space-wolf) in an audio episode of Doctor Who (with Colin Baker, and other people).

4 If you were stranded on a desert island with shelter, food and water, what 5 items would you want with you?

  • Some kind of solar powered generator.
  • My iPod.
  • My iPod speakers.
  • My electric toothbrush.
  • A lifetime supply of toothpaste.

5 On said island, what 5 books would you take and why?

  • The biggest copy of the Bible I can lay my hands on – preferably a Kings James version with very thin pages. It would make excellent kindling.
  • Some sort of deserted island survival guide, possibly by Bear Grylls or someone similar
  • 101 Delicious Deserted Island Recipes – or similar cook book
  • A Nigella Lawson cook book. One with lots of pictures. Of Nigella.
  • Erm… is it possible to have a second Nigella book?

6 Off the island now, which famous person would you like to have dinner with?­

Gosh. Well I’d like to say the Dalai Lama, or someone like that – but truth is I’d really like to meet singer songwriter Nerina Pallot. I love her music. Really great lyrics.

7 Your current writing projects?

I’m currently in the middle of my third vaguely romantic, comedic novel which I hope to be out in January 2017. Also, I’ve been promising an update to my guide to online dating How To Start Dating and Stop Waiting for quite a while now – and it’s almost ready. Almost.

8 Other published work and links….feel free to add as many as you like.

My latest novel, The Truth About This Charming Man, came out just a few weeks back and is part of Amazon UK’s June Summer Promo (which means you can get it for a mere 99p). It’s the story of William Lewis – wanna be actor – and… well… rather than me tell you, switch on the sound and watch the thirty-second movie promo by clicking the big play button in the image below (or here if you can’t see any image)

You can find more about me and my books at peterjonesauthor.com – and you’ll also find me lurking on facebook and twitter

 

Thanks Peter, more tea and flapjack?

The Path to Success

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Life in Wales was to be just that…a life, not an existence. When the weather allowed, we wanted to immerse ourselves in the landscape and create a home, surrounded by our four acres of land. Self sufficiency was another aim, using the wood on the land and planting new trees for the future was the first step; creating a vegetable patch, the second. My card for this month is II Wands and I embraced its message, gathering up the spark from the ace, propelling me along my chosen path and fulfilling my dreams of my life in Wales…and then reality hit me like a truck, out of control on the ice road…my partner and I have to work as well.

1655477_912692688801104_1676088900175960390_oThough we’ve been in our house since November 2013, without a roof and with major work needed at the house (heating, bathroom, sceptic tank), setting up my partner’s wood floor business in Wales is in its infancy so working away is the only option. Without him here, I’ve done my best, but this weekend was our first opportunity to make a real difference. On Thursday, I borrowed a strimmer from a neighbour, keen to get a headstart as the weather was dry and sunny.

I trimmed as far as the lead would reach but no extension lead could be found in the house. I read about using a white vinegar and salt solution to kill weeds and decided to douse the grass and weeds growing through our decking. I carried the two gallon can outside five times, liberally dousing the area. The following morning, I checked to find it had made no difference. I cleared nettles, barrowed stones and filled the holes on the driveway. I burned half the cleared bramble, twig and nettle pile, until the ash in our tractor wheel fire threatened to seep from its metal safety and a few spots of rain began to fall.

DSC_0157My partner came home. I’d cleared away brambles and nettles at the front of the house, dragging out the beech tree branches ready for chainsawing, splitting and barrowing…and then the chainsaw refused to work.

My head said ‘Forget it, you’re both tired. Give up,’ but my heart said ‘No way!’

Our fabulous neighbour lent us a chainsaw. Between strimming the driveway, extension lead having been extracted from partner’s car, I moved a dozen barrows…until we realised the piles in the wood barn were not going to work and we needed to move the wood we were using now. ‘You’re tired!’ yelled my head. ‘It needs to be done, you can do it’, assured my heart. By the end, my biceps were buzzing, my back screaming but the resulting wood piles were magnificent…and then it rained.

We worked in the rain on Sunday morning. I cleared nettles from around half our apple trees, my partner mowing without the grass boxes on as they clogged every five minutes and still it rained, a thundery downpour forcing us indoors. Just after four o’clock, the sun came out and we cleared the final uncovered logs from the front grass and finished mowing around the house.

Returning our borrowed tools, we sat on the riverbank with a cup of tea. DSC_0132

 

Whether its people or circumstances, we get knocked and buffeted on our path. Doubts creep in, as does the fear, both of the future and of failing. Only you can commit. Only you can turn a dream into a reality.

 

 

Giving up is hard to do

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I’m giving up. I won’t be formatting my own books. Why is giving up so hard to do? Admitting one can’t do something is seen as a sign of failure by others but, for me, I’m giving up because it’s the right thing to do.

I’m a lucky girl. I live in an amazing place. DSC_013813083146_1733798136878675_2778952018034820534_nNow the weather is dryer, we’ve work to do on the house and byre. Last year, the farmer who bought the rest of the land originally attached to our house grubbed out the old hedges and laid new ones, dumping half the wood in our field. We’re working through that to keep us warm next winter. DSC_0155My partner chainsaws the wood and I follow behind, picking up the logs, stripping off the branches and loading them into the car. A drive from the field to our drying barn and then the wood is barrowed to its new home. Our beech tree had to be taken down last year and much of the wood became grassed over as we battled to get a roof on our house and save the byre. DSC_0157Stripping away the old grass and twigs for the bonfire and making piles for my partner to chainsaw has become a priority to stop brambles and nettles spreading across the field. Once clear and the old broken fencing dug out, this area can be mowed. DSC_0159We’ve old baths to make raised planters and an old conservatory to recycle into a greenhouse. On top of all this, I teach dance which I love and write the stories in my head that insist on being told and attempt to market them to readers to enjoy.

So is giving up and paying someone to format my books a sign of my failure? A month ago I read a blog post about what you need to do to be a successful writer and it made me angry. The gist of the post was that if you don’t give up your life, put aside the things you enjoy and spend every waking moment on social media, you don’t care about your writing.

12998745_1725523984372757_3935931874685187204_nMy life makes me the person I am, the person whose head is full of stories and who loves to inspire others with books and dance. Working on my house and land is a challenge and I’ve learned many new skills. So you won’t find me on social media all the time and I won’t be formatting my own books. I will be living my life, inspired by my environment and the people I meet and focussing on what I do best.

 

Welcoming Summer

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We drove through the lanes to the Llandeilo Book Fair on Saturday, in glorious early morning sunshine. Bluebells crammed the verges and every tree shone with new buds.

13112709_1733318316926657_893385158_oIt was an exciting day. Fans arrived with books already purchased that they wanted me to sign and I met face to face, authors who I’ve interacted with online. Though nervous, I relished the opportunity to share my feelings about magical realism and had lovely feedback after my talk. Sharing with others the inspiration behind my writing was a great way to focus on the future months, the summer ahead and as the crowds faded away, ideas flooded my mind.

Beltane marks the beginning of Summer, welcoming her back after the long months since Samhein. It’s time for ideas from the spring to bear fruit and flourish and as the sun shines, we can look forward to warmer days and longer evenings. 13112704_1734030426855446_828396087_o

My partner and I burned nine of the sacred woods on our riverbank while the dusk chorus rang out in the trees above us. Heron flew up from the river, red kite circled overhead and two ducks arrived to canoodle by ‘the island’. We pulled out burning logs and leapt together, renewing our commitment to each other and setting a date to be handfasted, 21st June 2018.

And we’d love to welcome our friends and family that day to the byre. With only a dry afternoon, we worked hard painting soffit board and dobbing out with lime mortar. 13083146_1733798136878675_2778952018034820534_n13100813_1733798213545334_8576026526738222226_n13133115_1733798256878663_1985447357781358626_n

In the months to come as we work on our house and byre, we’ll be inspired, however tired we are, as we work towards completing our home for midsummer 2018.

Bright Beltane blessings for the Summer ahead.

 

I’m going to a book fair

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After months of organisation and planning, the Llandeilo Book Fair is tomorrow.

The idea of Christoph Fischer, fab author, prolific writer and one of the first people I ever ‘met’ on social media, has blossomed into an exciting day for book lovers of Wales.

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Not only can you meet the authors, there are talks and readings, as well as a workshop, a children’s writing competition and food courtesy of the fabulous Caffi Iechyd Da.

I’ve struggled to get organised for my first book fair. DSC_0123

I decided to make the banner to go behind me, recycling material and scrounging card from the shops in the high street. I resurrected my sewing machine from a box upstairs, finding a couple of button boxes along the way.

I wrote my talk and organised promo. I was on schedule…and then was felled by a debilitating virus.

Apart from a niggling cough that won’t quite go, I’m happy to say, I’m well again. My banner is ready, to the best of my ability and I’m packing my plastic boxes today.

Tomorrow, I’m meeting authors, most of whom I’ve only ‘met’ online but whose books I have enjoyed. I’m giving my first ever talk ‘Fantasy and magical realism…it’s all fiction to me’ and will be standing proudly behind my table as book lovers from all over Wales congregate on the Civic Hall.

The magic starts at 10.30am. Come and join us.

A garden on a riverbank

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One of the compromises when we bought our new home was the lack of a garden at the back of the house. Previous owners had done their best to bring some colour into the few square feet directly around our home but the brambles and weeds had run amock, strangling the few daffodils that tried to emerge and embedding themselves deep in the stones around the house. There’s a raised lawn on one side of the house but the moles adore it and apart from letting the snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils grow through it and giving it the occasional mow, it’s not what I call a garden. Behind the house is shady, facing north so our riverbank, a short walk down a treacherous slope, is our garden.

The riverbank at the end of Bramble Avenue

The riverbank at the end of Bramble Avenue

While we struggled with no heating, hot water or a bathroom when we arrived in Wales, the riverbank and cutting away the brambles to reveal it, became our sanctuary. DSC_0007It was hard work, two years of it, but when we finally broke through to the end, we were the first people to step on that part of the riverbank for over 20 years.

DSC_0008In some parts, we cut the brambles across the whole width of the bank but in the middle section, we created Bramble Avenue, leaving the natural habitat for the wildlife.

One day I felt an urge to cut a new path down to the river, to the right of a beautiful old tree. We uncovered a magical beach in the bend in the river. Even in the coldest weather, it’s a beautiful spot. DSC_1222 DSC_0046

It’s a great place to write, drum and contact the spirits of the land.

Last weekend, we planted more willow. We tried with willow from Essex, donated by a friend but we waited too long to put it in. We planted some last year but have yet to see any signs of growth so, we’ve planted the new willow in between, hoping it will encourage the other! DSC_0128DSC_0129DSC_0130The ground is boggy on this part of the riverbank so the new willow, which is already sprouting, should really take off.

The plan is to create a covered path to the beach and a dome beside Pan’s Grotto, which will have access through to the end of the riverbank. With the sun still shining, my partner trekked back to the house for tea and sustenance while I attacked brambles with my trusty secateurs. We adjourned to our shelter on the river bank. DSC_0132

Bluebell leaves are gushing from the dead leaves all along the riverbank. The red kites have returned to the same nest they hatched a chick in last year and they’re calling as they circle overhead. The kingfisher whizzes past our noses as we drink our tea, adding a splash of jewel to the muted tones of the riverbank. Robin sits on the handle of my barrow, checking my work and waiting for the nuts he knows are in my pocket. That’s what I call a garden.

 

The book that changed my life

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More than ten years ago, I was struggling with life. My daily battle with depression was compounded by debilitating and fatiguing IBS. I was dancing Egyptian belly dance but feeling stuck and uninspired. A new lady came to dance class and loaned me a book. It changed my life and the rest, as they say, is history.

Violet Mary Firth, aka Dion Fortune, penned her first short stories in 1919, as a way to bring spiritualism, psychism and inner awareness to readers, otherwise unfamiliar with these practices. Two of her novels, Sea Priestess and Moon Magic greatly influence Doreen Valiente, in many people’s opinion the resurrecter of modern British witchcraft, and it was the first of these books I opened all those years ago.

I devoured every page. My magical practise, until then, had been purely personal but Sea Priestess opened up new possibilities, especially the opportunity to share, heal and inspire, not only through my writing but my dancing as well. In 2007, I created Phoenix Bellydance and began teaching Egyptian belly dance. Over the four years I taught in Essex, I was able to teach and, hopefully, inspire over 300 women and girls.

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At the time, my first novel was underway and I spent 3 years (30 minutes in the car every day waiting to pick up my children from school), writing and editing. ‘Hubble Bubble’ was about an English teacher who lived her life through her passion for literature. I was wordy, over 100k but it started me on the path I follow today. The characters were vivid and the imagery exciting…I just needed to learn how to plot and write story more effectively.

For three years, I taught dance, practised self healing and gathered holistic healing experience. The premise for my first novel ‘Destiny of Angels – First book in the Lilith Trilogy’, ‘what if a traumatic childhood experience sent a woman on a different life path?’ inspired me to write my first novel about the use of magic, contacting other planes of existence and the Qabalah, in our physical life on earth.

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Although my books are fantasy, the characters are real, living live like you and I, falling in love, raising children, finding new jobs and moving house. Relationships are an important element in my novel, often unconventional and sometimes surprising. ‘Destiny of Angels’ relies on the strength of friendship, as Angel’s friends help her dispel the hurt of the past. In ‘Wrath of Angels’, Angel’s love for Aidan is tested, as is her self belief and self worth.

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Bringing magic, inner awareness and affinity with nature into my stories brings them to life. In ‘Sea Priestess’ and ‘Moon Magic’, Vivien Le Fay Morgan, the main character, is both of this world and ‘other worldly’ and this other dimension, almost a secret side to her personality, fascinates me and is always with me as I write.

The three women in The Standing Stone books, inspired by my arrival in Wales, appear to live ‘ordinary’ lives across three different points in time but, all three are searching for something. Even Fern, the only one who already has a connection to the goddess through ritualistic nature worship, is seeking more. In Home for Christmas, they are guided by Binah, the Great Mother, the dark goddess who stands proudly beside Chokmah on the left hand pillar of the Qabalah Tree.

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My only foray into non-fiction is ‘Wendy Woo’s Year- A Pocketful of Smiles – 101 ideas for a happy year and a happy you’, written at the request of friends who kept telling me to write down my tips to combat depression and bring peace and self healing to your life. The book is often practical, sometimes spiritual but never religious, occasionally witty and full of ideas to bring a smile to your day.

Have you read a book that changed your life? Be lovely to hear from you.