Saturday, 22 November 2014

Fungi Foray

A couple of weekends ago I signed up to go on a fungi foraging trip with the foraging expert from River Cottage. I love fungi anyway - one of my obsessions is taking photographs of the stuff. Plus mushrooms are tasty and foraging for free food interests me.

So we all met up at Kingcombe in Dorset and headed out into the countryside.Our guide, John Wright, would stop to show us interesting fungi and tell us all about it - how to identify things and whether or not it was edible.

This is him on the right telling us about, I think, honey fungus. I have a friend who is a gardener who'll tell me how evil honey fungus is so I was already familiar with that particular one! It kills trees, so not good. And I think it's quite hard to get rid of.

It was quite cold out - no rain but lots of mud so we all had our wellies on. We wandered all over the place looking for fungi and putting specimens in our baskets. Then we came to a really boggy area and was warned that we might get stuck so to be careful. I headed off and took a few photographs of various fungi - bracket fungi and a couple of others that I can't actually remember the name of. I decided not to follow my friend as the way she was heading looked really boggy, so I set off on my own.

Big mistake. It wasn't long before I was stuck fast and sinking. There was bog inside one of my wellies and I could not get out. Luckily, another member of the group spotted me and called for help. The photo on the left is one my friend took (she was too busy laughing and taking the photo to help!) of John Wright and several others hauling me out of the bog.

Once rescued, I spent the rest of the day wandering around with a squelchy, boggy welly! Oh, and shortly after this, I then fell in a badger set and had to be pulled out of that, too.

But, once we got back to the centre, there was yummy tea and lots of cake and goodies waiting for us. So I sat and filled my face and changed out of my wellies.

An informative and fun day.

Small part of the day's haul

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Guest Post by Teresa Edgerton


(Ha! You all thought I was going to talk about writing, didn't you?) 

The Christmas season is almost here.  As far as the retailers are concerned it is here; they’re already putting out their displays.

And I'm not ashamed to say it: I love Christmas.  I look forward to it all year, and when it comes it brings me moments of tremendous joy.

Now you can be sure that the minute I announce that I love Christmas, someone, somewhere is thinking, "I don't do Christmas.  It's just too commercial."  And if I state my love of Christmas on a forum or at a large gathering, there will be two or three people who feel obliged to tell me this with weary cynicism.

But this is how I look at the weeks before Christmas:  Either I can see shops and stores preparing to lure me across their thresholds with every nefarious wile at their disposal. Or I can think, "This is the time of year when I go out searching for treasures and delights to give my loved ones."  And I find that second way of looking at it far more rewarding.

To be honest, it doesn't always work out that way.  There have been years when I could hardly afford to buy gifts for anyone.  Years when I couldn't scrape together money for Christmas presents until practically the last minute ... and had to fight the crowds the last few days ... and then stayed up long after midnight wrapping presents on Christmas Eve ... and then had to get up again at some ghastly early hour because the children were bouncing around in their beds eager to race to the tree and see what Santa had brought to them ... and then I spent the whole day utterly exhausted ... and then—

Well, I didn't say it was easy to keep up the Christmas spirit, did I?  But that doesn't mean that it's not worth the effort.

The same years when the money was short and circumstances were difficult have provided me with some of my best Christmas memories:  Like the first year we were married, when my husband and I could barely afford a tree, much less decorations, so we bought the smallest and cheapest fir we could find and adorned it with tangerines and paper snowflakes that I cut out of typing paper.  Or the year when my husband wept for joy because Gwyneth, just one-year-old, was filled with wonder at the discovery that she could put her hand inside a stocking and bring out ... a tiny Raggedy Ann doll.  Or the year when we spent many happy weeks secretly making gifts for the children ourselves:  puppets from me, and a puppet theater and a castle from John.  Or the year when there was no money for presents at all, but we could at least put up the decorations we had been collecting over the years, and Daisy (cynical, unsentimental Daisy) walked into the house, looked around, and exclaimed, "I love Christmas!"

Christmas, I believe, has this wonderful habit of becoming what we choose to make of it, what we are willing to take the time to make of it.

I've had relatives say to me, "We aren't having Christmas this year.  We can't afford it."  But for me, I can't afford not to have Christmas.  It is the time of year when I feel most alive.  There have been years when it lifted me above poverty, sickness, and grief.

Some of the same people who have no time for Christmas have no time for fantasy.  (OK, I'm going to talk about writing after all.)  They think it's simple escapism.  One day at an SFF convention I heard someone say dismissively, "It's easy to write a fantasy novel.  All you have to do is make everything up."

Yes, all you have to do is make up a world (it may be a world that bears a close resemblance to our own but it isn't quite, or it may be a world completely new that didn't exist until you thought of it), a world with mountains and seas, cities and towns, laws and customs, penalties and pleasures, and then breathe life into it all, and write a story that will delight you, whether it delights anyone else or not, and do all that with love and care and every last bit of imagination you can put it into it.

As writers of fantasy, we can write escapism and/or we can write something that tips the world on its head and provides a clearer vision of the way things really are. (The two are not mutually exclusive.) 

Remember when you were a child playing in the grass and you tumbled over and looked at the world upside-down?  How different it all looked, how fresh and new!  Yet it was the same old world, nothing had actually changed; you were just seeing it all with fresh eyes.  Then you rolled back over and everything looked ordinary again ... but there had been that moment when the grass was greener and the air brighter, and the people hung downwards with their feet on the ground and their heads in the sky.

And we can take that moment with us and remember it for the rest of our lives. 

As we grow older, we spend a lot of time looking down at our feet, so that we can keep them firmly on the ground where we’re told they belong.  But sometimes we need to be reminded that we also live with our heads in the sky, and take a long breath of that fresher, brighter air. That's what fantasy can do for us.  

Fantasy is another one of those things that has a habit of being whatever we are willing to make of it.  It can be complex and subtle and filled with mysteries much deeper than magic.  That is one kind of fantasy. Or it can be slick and gaudy and not mysterious at all. When we come across that kind of fantasy we could say, "I don't like this.  It's too commercial."  But what has that to do with anything?  If it gives someone joy to write it and someone else joy to read it, then what is wrong with that? 

As for escapism, if something gives us a few hours respite from the dull realities of our everyday world, restores our true vision of that brighter world that exists all around us, and refreshes our spirits however briefly, then why should anyone quarrel with that?  

Joy is a strange thing.  We all find it in different places.  Sometimes we have to hunt for it.  Sometimes it takes us by surprise.  Sometimes we have to create it for ourselves.  And it isn't always easy.  But why should it be? 

Teresa Edgerton is the author of eleven novels and numerous short stories spanning the fantasy genre, writing under her own name and her pseudonym, Madeline Howard. She divides her time between writing her own fiction and freelance developmental editing, helping new writers to polish their manuscripts and improve their skills. Her epic fantasy series The Rune of Unmaking (writing as Madeline Howard), and the genre-bending Goblin Moon (writing as Teresa Edgerton) are available at Amazon and through other online outlets

You can find Teresa at:


Note from Em...

I'm very grumpy about certain holidays - Halloween and Guy Fawkes night in particular, but I love Christmas. Love it! 

I'm very happy that Teresa joins me on my blog to share her love of Christmas.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Fixing the Hole by Katherine Halle

Today I'm joined by my Dreamspinner sister, Katherine Halle. Like me, Katherine is a novella author!
 Hi everyone!
I want to thank Emma for having me here today. This is my first novella with Dreamspinner so I'm pretty excited.
One of my MC's is Riley. Riley is twenty-eight, owns his own business and lives with his father. (It's cheaper and his father needs a bit of looking after – or so Riley thinks!). Riley is a bit of a chatterbox and basically would not keep his mouth shut. It was loads of fun to write him and he and Steve (the other main MC) got along like two peas in pod.
Steve is a lawyer and his best friend Dale says he only talks when he's in court. Except Steve doesn't go to court a whole lot. Like ever. Riley talks enough for both of them though and Steve is surprised to find it charming instead of annoying. It doesn't take long for him to imagine evenings at home, sitting in the living room, listening to Riley chatter on about the events of his day.
It's funny, it took me a while to realize it, but Riley reminds me of my kid. My kid is a total chatterbox. Could talk the leg off a dog! Flits from one subject to the next and really does not stop talking from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep. At times, it can be exhausting. There are many times I say to my husband, "My ears are full." Or I tease my kid, "You've used up your allotted words for the day. If you speak anymore you will be using tomorrow's words and therefore will have to remain silent tomorrow."
Despite all that and despite the fact that I really cannot write with all that chatter in the background? The house is almost too quiet when he is at school. So go figure. Anyway, writing Riley turned out to be a joy and I hope these two characters give me more of their story down the road because I would love to see what they're up to in about a year. And find out if Steve's ears eventually filled up.
Thanks again to Emma for having me today!


Heavy rains and strong winds slammed an uprooted tree through Steve Crowell’s roof, leaving a gaping hole to match the one in his heart. After his ex left him for a younger man, Steve’s not sure he’s ready to handle another disaster. His best friend highly recommended the contractor, but the man’s already late, and when he shows up with his music thumping, Steve isn’t impressed—until Riley steps out of his pickup truck. Personable, gorgeous Riley talks a mile a minute, which Steve finds both ridiculously endearing and terrifying. Piecing together a heart isn’t as easy as fixing a roof, but Riley might just be the right man for the job.
I was just about to look at my watch again when I heard a pickup truck come rattling up the driveway, loud pop music blaring from the open window.
Silence reigned when the engine cut off. I watched as a wiry young man opened the door and stepped out. I looked him over and took in the muscular legs shaped by a tight pair of jeans. My gaze roved over muscles barely contained by a fitted, army green Henley, finally landing on bright green eyes set in a young face under a military-style buzz cut of brown hair.
"Hi." The young man strode forward, his hand outstretched. "I'm Riley Jones and you must be Steven Crowell. Sorry for being late. My dad tried to convince me to make him eggs and bacon instead of the oatmeal he should be eating for his heart, and he wouldn't let up until I promised to make him a big breakfast this weekend."
Confused by this outpouring of information, I found myself stupidly saying, "Breakfast?"
"Yeah, my mom died when I was in junior high, so it's been the two of us for so long that I just never moved out. I mean, I was gone during college, but then I came back, started my contracting business and it was just cheaper to live with him than get my own place. Then he had some heart trouble and if I don't make him eat right, he'll just eat burgers and fries or those god-awful frozen dinners all the time. And wow, sorry, I just keep talking, don't I? Why don't you show me what you need done, Mr. Crowell?"

Buy Links:
Katherine Halle is known as the “Queen of Happy Endings.” She firmly believes that no matter what the obstacles, what the struggles, or how much angst is involved in the journey, that the ending should always be a happy one.
 Katherine’s love of the written word started at a very early age with repeated demands of “read to me” to any who would listen. It was only natural that writing would follow. As a child, she could often be found daydreaming, thinking up fanciful stories and writing them down. Now she does it on a laptop. Much faster.
 Katherine’s favorite animal is her dog. She likes books, movies, and quirky television shows, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Hart of Dixie. She loves cooking and watching cooking shows. She has lived in both Europe and the United States and loved both. When she’s not writing or plotting, Katherine enjoys spending her time listening to music, reading books written by other people, and being with her family.

You can find Katherine here:

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Otherworld release day

So, Otherworld by me and Liz Powell, is released from Torquere Press today!

Archetypal English toff William "Liam" Barnes is in big trouble. He's borrowed money from Irish gangster Davey McGrath with one simple proviso: get the prism from Matthew Luttrell - seducing him if he has to - and bring it back to him. But the prism isn't with Matthew, and Liam makes a decision he can't undo, meaning he's now twenty thousand pounds in debt to a vicious gangster and has no idea where to find the prism.

That is, until he meets stoic Irishman Jim Henvey, the real owner of the prism, who has a cruel demi-goddess of a mother on the warpath for him. Liam and Jim quickly find themselves tied up in each other's messes, and with more than just the mortal world out to get them, is there any way they can find their way out of a battle between dimensions together and still have time to figure out their feelings for each other? Or will they sink deeper into trouble?

I'm going to talk about locations used in the novel. There are a few different settings we used, some real, some not.

Liam's hometown, Charham, is fictional. It's set in Devon, which is a county in England's West Country, where I'm from. It's loosely based on my hometown - the market scene near the beginning of the novel takes place in my town's High Street where they have market day every Saturday. Then there's Ramsgate, in Kent - which is south east England. Ramsgate is real. It's a picturesque seaside town with a thriving fishing industry - perfect for Jim and his family.

Cork, where Jim hails from, is also real. It's the name of a town and county in the south of the Republic of Ireland. I have an Irish friend (though he's from Donegal, not Cork) who helped me with a lot of the Irishisms in the novel. The little Irish village of Ballinbrook in Cork, is fictional.

And then there's the Otherworld. The "in-between." Fictional? I guess we won't know until we get there.
Morning came and went. Liam woke late and cursed himself, knowing Jim had probably already gone out with his father on the boat. He'd just have to catch him on the way back, that was all, so he walked to a supermarket, brought himself a packet of cigarettes, a pasta salad, and a newspaper and strolled back to the seafront.
He peered into an arcade and watched two young lads kicking a penny drop machine until they set the alarm off, then they barged past him as they raced away from the owner and ran down the street, laughing.
He walked a little farther and sat down on a bench overlooking the sandy beach. The harbor was to his right, and he gazed at it for a little while until the wind caught at his newspaper and he had to snatch it up before it lost pages. He folded it in his lap and weighed it down with the pasta salad, cracking open the lid and pulling a face at the ridiculous little plastic fork.
He ate, watched people go by, smoked a cigarette, and looked up at the time on the town's clock tower, too lazy to pull back his sleeve and look at his watch. It was 1:30 p.m. and he had no idea if fishermen returned to harbor to eat their lunch.
The local paper was vaguely amusing if only to see how the other half lived. An article on oiling seagull eggs from the previous edition had apparently sparked letters to the editor in this one. Mrs. R. Fisher seemed to think it barbaric and actively encouraged the gulls to her garden, while Mr. V. Langley said the birds were a menace and needed to be shot.  

Otherworld is published by Torquere Press. Buy it here
You can follow me on Twitter: @emizzy. Or visit my website:

Also by Emma Jane:
The Queen's Guard - a short story published in Torquere's Men in Uniform anthology
Compulsion - a short story published in Dreamspinner's Hot off the Press anthology due for release November 2014
Shuttered - a novel published by Dreamspinner Press, due for release December 2014

Also by Liz Powell:
Hunted - a novel published by Manifold Press