Saturday, 26 September 2015

Blood moon mania

As autumn colours start to glow in the countryside, I for one will be looking upwards for a sighting of a rare and dramatic blood red “supermoon”.

Some religious types are busy recalling a sentence in Book of Joel, which is claimed to be portentous in a year when there has already been a total solar eclipse. ‘The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord comes.’ Ooh.

Actually, I thought the March eclipse was imore than just a little creepy when the sunlight dimmed on a bright spring morning. Oddly enough, this coincided with the timing of 'Last Spring', the second mini-book on a seasonal theme. Hmm.

I’m loving the Gothic images all over the press, ingenuously hinting at all manner of sensationalist forebodings of doom, while pooh-poohing them. Just like I’m doing!

Well, it’s the first time in 30 years that a lunar eclipse has coincided with the moon at its closest point to the earth.

“Blood moons” have been regarded as ill-omens by the superstitious. I’m particularly intrigued by Monday’s event as it is the culmination of four total eclipses at six monthly intervals, known as a “tetrad”.

In the States, pastor John Hagee who hails from Texas, notes that this has happened only three times in the past 500 years and claims it is likely to herald a “hugely significant” world event.

His best-selling book, named imaginatively, ‘Four Blood Moons’, states that the last three incidents were each associated with a globally significant religious event. Far be it from me to say that such events are happening all the time. Here are the contenders:

1493 – the expulsion of Jews by the Catholic Spanish Inquisition
1949 – the establishment of the state of Israel
1967 – the six-day Arab-Israeli war.

The vampiric colour change, so I am assured by astronomers, is due to sunlight being scattered by the earth’s atmosphere. That sounds rather dull, but the effect should be fascinating, if a little unsettling.

Now on Amazon Kindle
Whatever happens – and doomsday prophesies aside – there’ll be lots more waffle about perigees and phases, and yet more photos of a rust-red globe suspended in inky sky.

We’re currently in Mid-Wales and it really will be blinking dark at 1.10am when the eclipse starts. There are bats galore and we hear owls every night.

Not that I’m nervous. Not me.

I’ll just be standing out there in the pitch black in my nightdress and wellies, not thinking about werewolves or creatures of the night or anything. No, no, no. Just staring a blood red moon.

Sinister, or wot? 

By Pamela Kelt


EQUINOX, part four of a supernatural quartet, is now out on Amazon Kindle.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Equinox: a strange journey into self-publishing

Today sees the release of my supernatural thriller, Equinox. It's a longish short story set in the Cold War, when weird things start happening in a secret lab one dark September night.

The conclusion to a seasonal quartet of tales, this is also another delve into historical fiction with a chilling twist.

Much fun was had researching uranium mines, Enigma machines, the average temperatures in Omsk and how to create a makeshift explosion.

It also marks my first venture into self-publishing, the paid variety.

Oh boy, those forms. Amazon author pages, tax forms, correspondence with the IRS, Kindle forms ... Had some fun with those. As one who has a specialty in misreading questions, I'm amazed I got it out there in time for the autumnal equinox - 23 September, in case you're wondering.

Exciting times lie ahead, for I'm polishing Machiavelli's Acolyte, a dark tale of murder and mayhem in deepest, darkest Bohemia in the early 1700s. Then, I've reacquired the rights to four other titles that rather got lost in Canada. Long story.

Keep an eye open for re-releases of Half Life, Dark Interlude, Ice Trekker and The Cloud Pearl.

Before I crawl back into my cave to rejig all those blinking blogs and links, do check out the book on Amazon.

To whet your appetite for some Cold War paranoia, there's a short creepy video. Love doing these!


Finally, a big thanks to Rob for all the technical stuff. Magic.

By Pamela Kelt

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Equinox - out soon

EQUINOX by Pamela Kelt. Out soon on Amazon - the dramatic conclusion to a seasonal quartet of short stories that are so long they became novellas.

Russia, 1951.
‘First we drink. Then we save the world!’

A Cold War enigma takes its revenge

One autumn storm. One malfunctioning device. One bottle of vodka.

Could this be the end of the world?

I'll let you know ...

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Cold War paranoia and mystic moons

Picture research is one of my favourite pastimes.


Here are some of the photos I tripped over while researching the 1950s Cold War background for Equinox, the 1951 sci-fi tale with an enigmatic twist, you might say. The short story will be out on Amazon and Smashwords to mark the autumn equinox.

Do join me for the online launch on FB.


If you have a moment, pop over to my Pinterest page for some classic Cold War photographic paranoia.


By Pamela Kelt

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Supernatural quartet


Equinox is the fourth part of a crazy collection of short stories on a seasonal theme.

It all started many years ago when a colleague of mine with the astonishing moniker of Piero Bohoslawec, of the Bath Evening Chronicle as it was then, challenged me to write a Christmas ghost story.

Prevarication descended and I never got round to it.

Last year, I suddenly realised I would have preferred a Winter Solstice theme. So, off I went and wrote A Walk in the Park, scaring myself rigid into the process.

Last Spring was the vernal offering, a crazed tale of deranged fairies set in 1920s Warwickshire, which I followed up with Midsummer Glen, a mad mythological mystery, moving to 1930s Scotland.

So, what to do for autumn to round off the quartet?

Each story was historical and I seemed to be moving forwards, so I ended up in 1950s Russia. Omsk, to be precise. Time for some paranoid Cold War sci-fi!

Actually, my husband Rob should have more credit for this one. It’s set in a secret Soviet institute, with strange goings-on in the basement. I can hear the 1950s soundtrack in my head.

Equinox introduces the anxious Arkady and his stoically mysterious comrade Yakov, a quirky caretaker with a past.

The tag line ‘First we drink, then we save the world!’ was inspired by my former boss Barry, who did a bit of skydiving in his day, often in the Ukraine.

I know! Bonkers, or wot.



By Pamela Kelt

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Equinox - coming soon


Tomorrow marks the countdown to Equinox, the fourth part of my seasonal quartet. Here's a preview ...


EQUINOX

by Pamela Kelt


A Cold War enigma takes its revenge


One autumn storm. One malfunctioning device. One bottle of vodka.

It doesn’t take much to end the world.

OUT SOON ON AMAZON and SMASHWORDS

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Midsummer Glen - the cocktail

Elderflower cordial? Grapefruit juice? Well, this might work. Variations on a theme are definitely allowed.

Full rcipe on the cocktail blog.
http://aquarterpastcocktail.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/midsummer-glen-cocktail.html

By Pamela Kelt

Seasonal inspiration

A literary friend is hosting a short blog about how Midsummer Glen and other recent short stories came about.


Take a visit to Linda's 'Reader's Entertainment' to read my guest blog 'Sun, moon and stars ...'

Thanks, Linda! Druids unite.

By Pamela Kelt

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Screen test

How valuable are book trailers?

Well, after spending a few hours doing my latest one for a supernatural mini-book, I'm trying to justify the time.

I put Midsummer Glen on Smashwords as a free story, and it's heading for a hundred downloads in a couple of days. That's super.

Now that the video is on Youtube, will I notice an increase?

Frankly, even I don't, I'm not sure I care. It was fun to make and concentrates the mind wonderfully.

It gives you a new perspective on the cover - does it work? Choosing the music is time-consuming, but I felt more equipped to chat about the book, having thought long and hard about the atmosphere. In general, the creative process is a welcome antidote to other forms of PR. Sorry, I hate filling in author bios, composing quizzes, offering prizes and all the rest of it. I'm not even a regular blogger, these days. I just ping out a little post when I feel like it! QED.

Back to the trailer. Halfway through, one finds one has to produce more images - screenshots, et cetera - and condense the story into cinematic soundbites. All grist to the mill for future PR. You also spot author profiles and other online snippets that could do with updating. To my horror, I discovered (actually my husband Rob discovered), that Youtube had switched off all my other trailers and set them to private. Honestly!


Finally, I feel it really comes into its own by the time you do the credits. In fact, it's heartwarming to see all your titles in one place. It certainly made me feel as though I'd achieved something, for writing can be such a solitary and even soul-destroying caper.
 

Midsummer Glen is book three of a seasonal quartet. Having seen how the three now look with their respective online presences, I'm fired up to complete the last one. Early, I hope! Gotta leave time for the vid.

So, early this week, I insisted to myself that I come up with the fourth title of the series - and I've even sorted out the plot.

Watch out for EQUINOX for autumn. And yes, I already have the music, which I find is the perfect place to start. Without giving too much away, it has a bonkers, 1950s sci-fi 'creature feature' feel, which should help set the tone.


By Pamela Kelt

Monday, 15 June 2015

Stones of a certain standing

Summer Solstice is a well-honoured tradition in many cultures and the quintessential image for most is Stonehenge.

But there are so many other stone circles, and over the past twelve months, I’ve been adding some to my collection. My first experience was some years ago, when we took a trip to the spectacular Ales Stenar, a megalithic monument in Skåne in southern Sweden (pictured above). The 59 boulders form the outline of an oval stone ship, eerily stranded on a treeless headland. We were there in May, and dozens of skylarks fluted above us in a dazzling, blue sky. Our daughter, Lauren, was under two and enjoyed the trip from the comfort of the kiddie backpack. 

My recent fascination was revived by another family trip, this time to Avebury late spring last year, where we spent a happy afternoon stalking around the mysterious stones against the backdrop of pale yellow fields and blue skies worthy of an Eric Ravilious landscape. I wonder if subconsciously his painting Runway Perspective somehow inspired the story ...


A few weeks later, I had the good fortune to take a trip to see the ancient stones and monuments of Kilmartin Glen in Argyllshire with my daughter, Lauren, a History of Art graduate who has developed an interest in all things medieval. 
  
Our favourite site was Temple Wood, an intriguing stone circle in a magical place even if your name doesn’t have Celtic origins. It simply begged to be written about, and I hope I’m forgiven for changing the name to Ivy Cross in my latest short story, Midsummer Glen.
Well and truly hooked, we headed yet further north to Aberdeenshire, which is littered with prehistoric stones. The Easter Aquhorthies not only had the coolest name, but the most mystic circle, with its nine stones, eight of granite and one of distinctive red jasper.


And just last month, after being inspired by a wacky episode in season three of the BBC’s Father Brown series which is filmed not far from here, I realised there was a stone circle within a 40-minute drive. Off we headed to the infamous Rollright Stones. It is an atmospheric ancient site located on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border and consists of three main elements, The Kings Men stone circle, the King Stone, and the Whispering Knights. They say if you go round the circle, counting the stones, and try again, you never get the same number. We tried and I have to agree. 


Experts reckon there are 77 stones of heavily weathered local oolitic limestone, which were poetically described by William Stukeley as being “corroded like worm eaten wood, by the harsh Jaws of Time”, which made “a very noble, rustic, sight, and strike an odd terror upon the spectators”. Although I’m a circle aficionado, I was particularly taken by the Whispering Knights, a group of stones huddled conspiratorially together in a nearby field. 

Where next? I still haven’t got to Stonehenge yet, but the Hebrides beckon. 


Captions: Ales Stenar, photo by Anders Lagerås
Avebury
Temple Wood
Easter Aquorthies
Rollright Stones
 
Midsummer Glen is now free on Smashwords. It is book three of a seasonal quartet. Book one is A Walk in the Park, while book two is Last Spring. Look out for the final book, Equinox, due in September.

By Pamela Kelt

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Midsummer Glen - sneak peek

Here's the cover of the latest short story ... Midsummer Glen.


I'm just doing the final formatting before putting it up on Smashwords. It'll be FREE. I'll post the link soon.

Midsummer Glen is the third part of a seasonal quartet, inspired by the astronomical solstices and equinoxes.

Here's the blurb so far: 

June 1939 ... 
Hitler’s shadow is falling over Europe. But young Alistair McCompton is heading for a very different war ...
The destiny of mankind is at stake, and there's not a bomb in sight.

As you can deduce from the title, the story is set in Scotland, inspired by a wonderful trip to Kilmartin Glen.

More in a few days ...

By Pamela Kelt

Friday, 1 May 2015

If I May ...

So, it's May 1st. Lots to celebrate ...

Especially proud of 'Last Spring', a supernatural short story now reaching more than 200 downloads ... It's free, of course, but still.

A Supermoon. A solar eclipse. A vernal equinox. All happening on a single night ...

What on earth could go wrong?


Extract:

Richard added some shading to his sketch of the churchyard. He wished he’d brought his watercolours to capture the subtle blue and green hues of spring. Perhaps he would return tomorrow ... He put down his pencil and glanced around the familiar churchyard, dazzling in the crisp March sunlight, and took in the scented air.  

Above him, a crescent moon was still visible. 

His gaze lighted on the familiar double gravestone: one larger cross, with a smaller one tucked into the base. 

Lichen was beginning to form on the familiar lettering. The new lychgate had begun to weather in, he thought, but it wasn’t as quaint as the old one. The repairs to the church door were all but complete. It was hard to think that a whole year had gone by since last spring.

***

Already working on the sequel ... Midsummer Glen. I'll post the cover soon.

By Pamela Kelt

Download here.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Translating the language of flowers


Since writing The Lost Orchid, I’ve become an avid reader of botanical history. It’s astonishing how many fabulously illustrated books there are to download free, from exquisite Middle Ages manuscripts to Victorian tomes by mad plant enthusiasts.

A few weeks ago, I tripped over some delightful books on ‘the language of flowers’, a fad revived in Victorian times when blooms were used to send a coded message to the recipient, expressing feelings that could not be spoken aloud in polite society.

Such ‘talking bouquets’ or tussie-mussies became the de rigueur fashion accessory.

Delightful books blossomed, such as Kate Greenaway’s evergreen 1883 collection of plates The Language of Flowers (although the poetry at the end is a little sentimental for my taste).

Certain blooms are well-known for their significance (roses for love), but there are lovely subtleties, such as the fact that a yellow rose means infidelity.

However, I was astonished by how many of the meanings had a darker side. Daffodils, for instance, were described by Greeks as a deathless lily flower that grows across the plains of Hades, presumably because of their pale yellow colour. Daffodils were also believed to be the favourite food of the dead.

Hemlock, as you might expect, has a sinister meaning – ‘you will be my death’, but tamarisk means ‘crime’, while the charming hellebore refers to calumny. Of course, the ancient Greeks associated it with demons or possession. Perversely, perhaps, it is said to provide protection and a vase of hellebore brought into a room will bring tranquillity to an unpleasant atmosphere.

If you receive a scarlet auricula, you are accused of avarice, while the white cherry Tree means ‘deception’. A golden kingcup suggests ‘desire for riches’, and crowsbill is envy. Even more sinister is dragonswort, meaning horror, nettles accuse one of ‘slander’, the humble scabious means widowhood, while the humble yarrow signifies ‘war’. 

Of course, the symbolism of flowers goes far beyond the Victorian practice, but once you start looking into this quirky language, so many images take on a new meaning. We recently visited the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest, and one painting in particular resonates with floral significance, Woman in Purple Dress (1874) by Pal Szinyei Merse. The cowslip at her feet is the flower of Freya, goddess of love (along with other legends, one of which features in Last Spring). Alternatively, it could mean ‘pensiveness’ or ‘winning grace’, if you believe Kate Greenaway. She holds a buttercup, which could mean ‘I am dazzled by your charms’, or ‘ingratitude’, so one wonders if the artist had conflicting feelings for the female subject. She herself is seated in the middle of a flowery meadow, dressed in a gorgeous gown as colourful as a flower herself – the ‘modest violet’, perhaps?  

It turns out the lady in question is the young wife of the artist. Critics regard the female figure as not being in harmony with the landscape, and indeed, it was painted in the artist's studio. It is ironic to note that his wife divorced Szinyei in 1887 and died at the age of 101.  

Last Spring dabbles in the language of flowers, but beware! This is a supernatural story with a twist that would have given Victorian flower fans a touch of the vapours. 




By Pamela Kelt

Friday, 20 March 2015

Spooky eclipse, Warwickshire-style

I’ve been reading about the eclipse, supermoon and vernal equinox for weeks while working on a supernatural mini-book, so this morning found me on my doorstep, coffee in one hand, camera in the other.
 

My husband Rob had the secret device, a sheet of silver foil with a hole in the middle. 


By 9am the light was already dimming. It was more like an autumnal dusk than a bright, spring morning - although the birds were singing madly.


We managed a couple of tiny shots of the moon moving over the sun, then ... the brainwave. Rob fished out the binoculars and a sheet of white paper. Bingo.
The strange double crescents were like goblin eyes ...


It's all rather curious, because I'd planned my quartet of calendrical stories to coincide with the winter solstice, vernal equinox, summer solstice and autumn equinox before I even knew of the momentous celestial event this march.

Spooky.

LAST SPRING
A supernatural story for the vernal equinox
Unearthly goings-on in a very English churchyard. 


 By Pamela Kelt

Thursday, 19 March 2015

A supernatural story for spring

One chilly day just two weeks, we finally visited St Peter ad Vincula, a mammoth piece of Victorian architecture in the tiny village of Hampton Lucy.

The gargoyles alone are worth a visit, but the whole edifice is breathtaking, with its stunning stained glass, floral flooring and archetypal English churchyard (see a previous blog posting).

It’s a must for fans of the Gothic, and inspired the second in a seasonal series I’ve been doing. The newest title, Last Spring, is set in the late 1920s, when three celestial phenomena coincide ...

A Supermoon (although they didn’t call it that in those days), the vernal equinox and a total solar eclipse.

Sound familiar? You'll see why I wanted to get it published before March 20!

I used my own photo of the grotesque carvings for the cover, btw.


If you fancy a chilling story this March, you’ll find Last Spring free on Smashwords, along with part one, A Walk in the Park.

 
By Pamela Kelt

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Out soon: 'Last Spring' - short story by Pamela Kelt


Here’s a sneak preview of the cover of my latest story, Last Spring.

In fact, at 10,000 words, it’s more of a mini-book – and it’s just out on Smashwords.

It’s the second in a quartet of supernatural stories inspired by the key events of the calendar year – the winter solstice, vernal equinox, summer solstice and autumn equinox.

Richard Lucy is a book illustrator, living in the quiet, Warwickshire village of Hinton Charlecote (inspired by a recent visit to Hampton Lucy).

Despite his hay fever, spring is his favourite season – until this year, when strange start happening in his rural idyll.


A Supermoon ... a solar eclipse ... a vernal equinox. All on the same day?
What on earth could go wrong?

Each tale is has a vintage, botanical theme, featuring new characters from different eras.

A Walk in the Park was the beginning, my response to a challenge to write a Christmas ghost story.

It’s a Victorian/Edwardian winter’s ghost story with a romantic theme. Set one midwinter afternoon, it introduces Lilian Ravenscroft, a ladies’ companion, with aspirations ...

The moon. The stars. One malevolent entity. A supernatural romance of astronomical proportions.

Death will never be the same again.


For a taster, there’s a mini trailer on Youtube.

By Pamela Kelt

Sunday, 8 March 2015

A touch of the perpendiculars

I only needed to go a few miles down the road to come across this magnificent piece of Gothic inspiration.


St Peter ad Vincula is a towering piece of English Perpendicular architecture in the tiny village of Hampton Lucy.

Commissioned by the Lucy family, it was built 1822 - 6 and a wonderful piece of Gothic inspiration.

For church enthusiasts, the nave was designed by Henry Hutchinson and the tower by Thomas Rickman. The chancel, porch and apsidal sanctuary were added in 1858 by Sir Gilbert Scott. The east window is by Thomas Willement and depicts the life of St Peter.

Pevsner describes the church as ‘a very good example of early 19th-century church architecture, the richness of which is due to the generosity of funding’.

A typically academic understatement.

I was particularly taken by a botanical link. The theme of the current book in progress, The Blackfern Conspiracy, is all about mad plant collecting in the 19th century. 

It transpires that the son of the local blacksmith in Hampton Lucy was a plant hunter, who worked for the famous Harry Veitch. His travels were mainly to China and Japan, where he endured mixed fortunes. He was particularly good at finding new trees, such as Daphne genkwa and Abies mariesii.

Curiously, there is a plethora of the most wonderful floral imagery in the stained glass windows. Who was behind this? More research required!

In the meantime, I’ll need to find an excuse to go back, perhaps on a sunnier day, to capture some more of those floral motifs in the stained glass.

But there’s another mystery, too. Apparently, some of the stained glass from Coventry Cathedral was dismantled before the Blitz and ended up in Iceland, where it became highly prized. However, it transpires the glass was actually spirited away to Hampton Lucy, and it’s only just been rediscovered.


This little tale of intrigue has all my favourite ingredients, but there are still some loose ends ...


By Pamela Kelt

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A walled garden in spring


The walled garden at Guy’s Cliffe is beginning to show signs of spring.


I joined as a volunteer in October last year, and have been keeping a photographic record of its progress. In September, I visited as part of the Heritage Weekend and got hooked!

Visit my GCWG Pinterest page for a six-month visual archive.


Today, there were school visitors and a team of conservationists – quite a bustle. The highlight for me was the discovery of a baby newt.
If you’re interested, there’s a new Guy's Cliffe Walled Garden website under construction.


The reason I went in the first place was because I was interested in Guy’s Cliffe house which inspired Gothic adventure, The Lost Orchid. As there was a plant nursery across the road, I decided to write a botanical mystery, little knowing there was a walled garden just a few yards away. Even more uncanny is the fact that Bertie Greatheed, creator of the garden, was a fern fanatic. 

I’m currently working on The Blackfern Conspiracy, the sequel to The Lost Orchid, which takes a fictional stroll through the Victorian passion for ferns, or pteridomania.

I’ve succumbed to a bout of the mania myself – and here’s the Passion for ferns Pinterest board I’ve been compiling.
 


Orchids ... ferns ... what next?

Hint – I shall be moving further north.

By Pamela Kelt