What Are You Afraid Of? – Podcast with T Fox Dunham and David Walton
NEW EPISODE 115 – CURSE OF THE BLACKTHORN
“Author T. Fox Dunham interviews Australia’s noir and horror writer, Isobel Blackthorn. Isobel answers questions about her writing, the state of women authors in the industry, her thoughts on crafting and shares some insights for new authors. In addition to her interview, she sent the show a haunting tale of an aggressive entity that haunted her in the Cockatoo house, narrated by David Walton. Fox also plays an excerpt from her noir fiction, “Lacquer”, which is featured in the anthology A Time For Violence: Stories with an Edge, available on May 1st from Close to the Bone. It is an anthology of noir and horror stories featuring the best in the industry for 2019.”
When I contacted New Dawn magazine requesting they review The Unlikely Occultist, my biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey, I was anticipating the usual rejection or no-reply. Instead, I received a pleasing email from the editors inviting me to compose a feature piece on Alice Bailey. I embraced the opportunity.
Thanks to the talented team at New Dawn, the result is a beautifully laid out and presented feature piece on a woman who rarely gets an airing beyond her own followers. It is a joy to see my brief overview of Alice Bailey treated in this fashion, but I have received no special treatment. The whole magazine is just lovely!
For too long Alice Bailey has been either maligned or ignored and I think it is time the world knew just how important her body of work and her life’s mission are, influencing healing modalities, psychology, education, the ongoing campaign for world peace and the spiritual ethos at the United Nations. Through New Dawn, more will hear about her, or perhaps reconsider who she was and what she was about. For anyone wanting to know more about The Unlikely Occultist, check some reviews https://isobelblackthorn.com/the-unlikely-occultist-reviews/or click this link viewbook.at/Occultist
Is a book tour worth the effort and the expense? This is a question on the minds of many authors as we think about ways to promote a new release. I have nine novels and a short-story collection under my belt so far, and after struggling for years to find reviewers, I am turning more and more to Book Tour service providers.
It is not uncommon for me to send out two hundred individual email requests for one title. Each of these reviewers I source using online databases and then scrutinise to see if they are available and a fit. Usually, I get a 10-15% take up rate and half of those do not follow through. It is a risky process too, because you may end up with some poor reviews and even one or two DFNs – Did Not Finish – from book reviewers who simply did not like your book, or worse, have no qualms trashing your creative output.
When it comes to Amazon, the idea is that customers leave reviews, but how many readers will do that? Many or most will not be all that confident leaving a book review, even in this age when everyone has an opinion and every company wants your views on their product or service. Only verified purchase reviews count in the algorithm, but all reviews count towards Social Proof that your book is worth buying. This is why us authors are always on the hunt for more reviews. Authors please note not all book bloggers are able or willing to share their reviews on Amazon. If you are looking exclusively for Amazon reviews, you might think twice about a book tour.
I can happily say Rachels Random Resources takes the pressure off tired authors. Her service is excellent, she is highly professional and her reviewers are gracious. I am so impressed, have signed up as one of her reviewers. Below is a list of review highlights from the Clarissa’s Warning book tour. (copy and paste the urls to view the whole review)
“It’s nice to see the gothic genre given a more modern take. Gothic fiction combines mystery, horror, death and romance, traditionally in the setting of a building of Gothic architecture i.e. medieval, but any old, large imposing building will do. The heroine is generally unassuming, naïve but no sissy, and likeable. Claire Bennet from Colchester fits the bill perfectly. She’s had a lottery win and is using that money to buy a wonderful old building on the island of Fuerteventura which she’s admired every year during her summer holidays. It is probably a foolish thing to do, as the house needs a lot of work and it’s a huge leap for an ex bank-employee to take, but Claire is game. She’s even prepared to ignore a warning from Aunt Clarissa who informs her that the astrological and other psychic signs aren’t favourable to this rash venture. However, her warning comes too late. Claire is committed and so ignores anything she doesn’t want to hear.
She embarks on her plans, encountering some pleasant locals and some less so, and slowly her house becomes habitable. She’s forced to move in a little sooner than intended, and some inexplicable happenings began to occur. Claire is rattled, but she’s made of stern stuff and begins to investigate what might be behind it all. She’ll make some alarming discoveries, but also encounter true love.
This book is rich with description and thus we can conjure up the appearance and atmosphere of Fuerteventura in vivid detail in our minds. We quickly get to know Claire by sharing her wry humour and down-to-earth approach as we share her space, mental and physical. Aunt Clarissa is a colourful, eccentric figure but something of a cornerstone in this book, and Paco is another.
It’s an enchanting, exciting read and definitely has you considering whether there’s more than meets the eye in this world of ours.”
“Isobel Blackthorn stole my heart, after she made it drop to my stomach. Her capability of amalgamating horror, romance, mystery and travel had me floored.
The language and presentation of the plot has all the makings of excellent story telling.
I am not saying that it is a story unlike any other. Most haunted house tales do follow a certain line of story development. Despite that ‘Clarissa’s Warning’ is not predictable. The suspense was steadily built throughout the book and the ending was completely out of the blue.”
“This is a suspense filled, spooky story with legends, rumours, danger and romance all playing an integral part in events. If you’ve never been to Fuerteventura, you’ll probably feel like you have after reading this and if, like me, you’ve already visited, you’ll have memories of visits rekindled whilst reading it. The whole community and Claire’s integration into it are shared, as her friendships and even a romance develop alongside the restoration of the property. It is an engaging read that you’re never quite sure just who will survive to the end! The research into the previous occupants of the house, the steps taken to protect herself and the peril she faces make this a story that I enjoyed reading and have no hesitation in recommending to anyone who enjoys a suspense filled paranormal mystery and romance.”
“I liked Claire’s character and was really pleased when she wins the lottery and becomes a woman of great means!! I loved the way that despite not having to watch the pennies, she still does! I also felt quite sorry for her at times as she had no belief in what her Aunt Clarissa had told her, but the local tradesmen obviously knew all about the old ruin and this meant she had great difficulty in getting anyone to work on it without really knowing why!
The story built up slow and steady, giving you plenty of time to take in the other parts of the story, such as Claire’s difficult relationship with her father and her relationship with her Aunt Clarissa. The supernatural part of the storyline was done really well and I did enjoy the spooky things which were happening. I loved the setting of this book, having been to two of the Canary Islands but never to Fuerteventura. The history behind the ruin and the local opinions were really interesting also. A suitably spooky story which was enough to make my hair stand on end and I did love the ending, although I won’t tell you what it is because it will definitely spoil the whole book! Would recommend!!”
“The backdrop of Fuerteventura for this story was just exquisite, with the local cafes, the volcano and the heat. All descriptions adding to this story building a wider picture of where Claire is and the history. To mix it in with the supernatural too was just delicious and cleverly done and adds a lot of tension in the book because it was so contrasting….This is my first read of Ms Blackthorn, but after reading this, getting a taste of her writing, I can safely say it will not be my last outing!”
“This is a fantastic paranormal thriller. You are kept guessing at the person out to get Claire and the haunting.” jbronderbookreviews.com/2019/03/20/clarissas-warning/
“Apart from possibly the ghosts this read like a beautiful love letter to Fuerteventura. I could capture so much of the island reading this even though I’ve never been. I now want to. There is so much attention to detail in this book, not just with the island but the history of the house being renovated and the people linked to it. Also though the renovations themselves. You could really imagine the restoration as it happened over the time period in the book. Everything is just so beautifully written.
It’s a slow burner which isn’t something I normally enjoy but I think possibly because it’s so descriptive I found it easy to follow and allowed myself to be swept along with the story rather than wishing it would hurry up and get to the action. Again credit goes back to the writing to be able to keep my poor attention span involved in the book.”
“While this is a slow paced read, it has depth and detail and triggers imagination. It is vividly descriptive….If you have any interest in history you will appreciate this book.” – Dog’s Mom Visits book blog
“The author had a way of bringing even the smallest character to life, the picturesque detail lets you easily imagine the locals and you get to find out as much about Gloria who run the local café as you do about Claire…This is a gentle slow-paced mystery, which I read fairly quickly. With its mixture of genres, this has got something for a lot of readers. This is the 1st book I have read by this author and checking my kindle I am glad to say I have some more of their books to read.” –
“This was a fun and easy read. It’s not particularly a scary book, and there is nothing that will make you jump. However there is an underlying menace throughout the story that gradually builds up as the tale progresses and Claire becomes in more and more danger… You got a sense of how isolating it would be to move to a strange country all on your own and try to complete a project like this.
Within the novel I especially liked the way the story mixed up descriptions of the island with some history and some supernatural events yet kept things grounded with the detailed paragraphs about the restoration work. By the end you felt as invested in wanting it all to work as Claire did.
All in all this was an easy and enjoyable story that almost needs a category of its own of ‘Cosy Ghost Stories to read by the fire on a cold winters night’ Even if the story doesn’t make you jump the descriptions of the Island will certainly warm you up!”
I am delighted to share my piece on Alice Bailey, World Goodwill and the United Nations, featured in the March issue of Live Encounters Magazine.
Alice Bailey, World Goodwill and the United Nations
“Esotericism is concerned with explanations and manipulations of the inner planes of existence. Alice Bailey’s writings belong to the variant of Western Esotericism known as Theosophy. While the term can be traced back to Neoplatonist Porphyry to describe a combination of the capacities of the philosopher, the artist and the priest, it was Russian aristocrat and Spiritualist Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky who harnessed theosophy when she founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. British aristocrat and former devout Christian, Alice A. Bailey (born in 1880 Alice La Trobe-Bateman) was a second-generation Theosophist in communication with the same Master of the Wisdom as Blavatsky: The Tibetan or Djwhal Khul.
Drawing on Eastern mysticism and Western occult formulations, Bailey wrote twenty-four volumes, most as The Tibetan’s amanuensis, dedicated to informing future generations of seekers of the coming new age of spiritual enlightenment. Written between 1919 and 1949, Bailey’s opus includes works on meditation, esoteric healing, astrology, initiation, the chakras, yoga, education and psychology, along with an abstruse treatise on cosmology, A Treatise on Cosmic Fire. She also provides detailed explanations of the Plan of the Spiritual Hierarchy of Masters for the forthcoming era and instructions to her disciples to make that plan a reality. Much of the writing is impenetrable and alien to non-esotericists. The tone is instructional and dry. There is nothing exotic and enticing in the style and yet many will mention a strange almost magnetic pull once the mind starts to grapple with the meaning held within.
Of all the spiritual and occult teachers of her day, Alice Bailey was one of the most prolific and determined. Her legacy, whilst hidden, runs deep. She is regarded in scholarly circles to be the main theorist of the New Age movement, her teachings informing an early vanguard of writers and practitioners who went on to influence future generations of seekers. Many leading New Age proponents champion or acknowledge her influence. She is also a pet hate among conspiracy theorists, mostly due to her belief in the need for a ‘new world order’ based on ‘a plan’ devised by spiritual masters.
Alice Bailey’s main goal was to purify esotericism and make esoteric practice serve good not evil purposes. She imbued Theosophy with the basic Christian principle of goodwill and believed in the Second Coming of Christ. She exercised her formidable missionary zeal to establish all the foundations necessary to fulfil her vision for a better world…” To continue reading the article:
Students of the Ageless Wisdom brought together for dynamic group work in Twelve Formation.
This is their story…
A story of hope, frustration, and achievement.
This is the story of the Twelves Group and I was the Esoteric Apprentice.
The Esoteric Apprentice is a special book that makes an important contribution to the understanding of esoteric practice when it is aimed at human and planetary betterment. The work in question, Twelves, concerns, in layperson’s terms, a form of ritualised group meditation. Chernikeeff provides insights into the motivations, purpose or intention, the methods and the reasoning behind pure, spiritually focused group work, which serves to put into practice that which was delineated at considerable length in the texts of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey.
Written as memoir in accessible and engaging prose, the narrative is peppered with explanations and quotations, providing the lay reader with a sort of primer, and the esoterically minded with an example of what is achievable through dedication and a commitment to act. Chernikeeff documents twenty years of dedication and commitment in a very human manner. Honesty, integrity and above all humility infuse this short book. The structure and presentation are excellent.
Alice Bailey’s texts were meant not only to inform and help foster inner transformation, they were given as guidance for esoteric practice in all its forms, for the use by those on the right-hand path of love, wisdom and goodwill. Chernikeeff and the Twelves participants are to be commended for their efforts at applying the teachings, captured by the author in The Esoteric Apprentice.
In all, The Esoteric Apprentice is a valuable resource and a must read for all esoteric practitioners who aspire to foster global change for the better.
Harry’s sure that he will marry Nora MacTiernan, no matter what their families say. He’s certain that he will always be there to protect Eddie, the boy his father saved from the gutters of Port Adelaide.
Only the War to End All Wars might get in the way of Harry’s plans…
From the beaches of Semaphore to the shores of Gallipoli, the mud of Flanders to the red dust of inland South Australia, this is a story of love, brotherhood, and resilience.
The Stars in the Night opens on a grieving Harry Fletcher missing his wife, Nora. His granddaughter is helping him go through Nora’s things. She discovers a journal, composed in WW1 and she insists on hearing her grandfather’s story.
After a charming portrait of the old man, Harry – heavy of heart, his mind laden with memories – and descriptions of Semaphore, his childhood, his friends and family, the narrative shifts back to the war. First to Gallipoli and then ultimately to Passchendaele, where Harry and his foster brother, Eddie, live out the day-to-day reality of trench warfare.
The Stars in the Night captures all that World War One was at a very human level, focussing on the before, the during and the aftermath of survivors picking up their lives. This is a story of resilience, of tragedy, of coming to terms, and of love and hope. At times unbearably sad, at others triumphant and even a little funny, the novel paints a picture of war that is intimate, showing how events occurring in the trenches impacted on the lives of a small coastal village in Australia.
Rhoden is careful not to portray her protagonist, Harry, in a stereotypical Aussie bloke fashion. The prose has a distinctly Australian flavour, the tone carrying a hint of Aussie vernacular, but that voice is thankfully not over-played. Rhoden has crafted real men with cares and troubles and shame and big hearts.
Plotting, pacing, characterisation are all excellent. The structure – a patchwork of carefully woven scenes interspersed with letters and fragments of Eddie’s diary – works perfectly. The story is well-researched. Scenes in the trenches are graphic enough and horrifying. Rhoden’s prose comes into its own during the battle scenes:
“Now all his senses were stretched alive. The riven darkness slashed his vision, violently radiant with fire, while the air bucked, furrowed by metal. The noise pushed against his ears and the deceitful duckboards beneath him wore a slimy reptilian coat.”
Such visceral prose that abounds throughout to my mind places The Stars in the Night in the canon of novels set in WW1. This is the smoothest, most unpretentious and laid-bare engaging war story I have read in a long time. Rhoden is a master storyteller, displaying insight, restraint and empathy. Rhoden has crafted a gem of a story that I hope becomes a set text in Australian schools. Unputdownable.
About A Greater God (Superintendent Le Fanu Mysteries Book 4)
Muslims are being murdered and communal tensions escalating
as Superintendent Chris Le Fanu returns, reluctantly, to 1920s
Madras from the Straits Settlements. He comes under fire, literally
and figuratively, as more Muslims and policemen are killed by
revolutionaries in clashes fomented by his boss, Inspector-General
Arthur ‘The Jockey’ Jepson.
As the riots spread, Le Fanu’s trusted assistants – Mohammad
Habibullah and Jackson Caldicott – disagree on both the origins
and the handling of this new crisis. Le Fanu becomes further
isolated as his only government allies, the Governor and the Chief
Secretary, are being transferred away from Madras.
Even more pressure bears in on him when former housekeeper
and lover, Ro McPhedren, falls critically ill in Hyderabad, and
Jenlin Koh, his new love, is listed among those aboard a ship
missing en route to India.
Le Fanu’s entire professional and personal future is at risk as
he confronts these challenges while Britain’s grip on India wavers.
I am new to this series; entering Book 4 might have left me floundering but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself immersed in the world of Le Fanu and India of the early 20th century and brought deftly up to speed. Catch ups are kept brief and to a minimum, just enough to make the reader want to read Books 1-3.
A Greater God is set primarily in Madras, a colourful, heaving, vibrant and exotic city – in many ways another character in the book. The story focussed on a time of considerable political unrest in India with racial tensions mounting between Hindus and Muslims alongside a pervasive resentment towards the British Raj. Stoddart clearly knows his subject, the historical detail peppered throughout the novel demonstrating considerable insight.
The author weaves vivid descriptions of setting and the complexities of the historical backdrop into the narrative, binding a sense of place and the theme of cultural unrest cleverly with the plot. The result makes for a gripping read. Stoddart’s pacing is excellent and there are some satisfying twists along the way. The narrative moves along at quite a clip and never labours despite the historical content. This is quite an achievement and is a credit to the author. The dialogue flows well, too, and I especially enjoyed the witty banter.
Stoddart’s characters are well-crafted and he has a sharp eye for cultural sensitivity. The protagonist, Le Fanu, is well-rounded, likeable and suitably conflicted. He has some major decisions to make while he fends off antagonisms from various quarters. Prejudice is portrayed through the despicable inspector, Jensen, and the Muslim perspective is provided in a personal way through Le Fanu’s colleague, Habi, and his growing concern for his community.
A Greater God will appeal to those who enjoy great historical crime mysteries that are both well-written and intelligent.