Friday, 24 June 2016

Join me at the 10th UK Shamanic Gathering

Thursday 8th  – Sunday 11th  September 2016

If you feel you have a leaning towards shamanism, as a spiritual path or as a spiritual tool within your own path, then why not join us at the biggest gathering of shamans in the UK? Each year the gathering acts as a meeting place for those interested in shamanism as a living path of spiritual wisdom. It is open to anyone – with any level of shamanic experience – and is held within a friendly sacred circle
Shaman Nicolas Breeze-Wood,
editor or Sacred Hoop and
Doris, our shamanic clown
at the 2015 gathering.
You don't have to have had any formal shamanic training to join the circle - just a willingness to be open-hearted to the spirit world which is all around us. A fine feast of ceremony, workshops, discussion groups, dance and teachings from many traditions with:

Maria Runningwater • Christiana Harle & Martin Wilford • Sika Rose • Amir Korvalian • Trisha Mulholland • Jonathan Weekes • Michelle Easton • Rosemary O’Toole • Annie Spencer & Howard Malpas • Supi • “Doris” The New Age Guru • Nina Milton • Derek Gane • Kate Merriwether • Catherine Brew & Angie McLachlan • Leo Rutherford • Sarah Howcroft • Moira Lake

 check their website here 

The Conference will take place at the green and peaceful venue of Earthspirit, just outside of Glastonbury in the tiny village of Compton Dundon. Lovely accommodation and delicious food are always part of the Gathering experience.  I was there last year, when over 70 people gathered together for this event and found it one of the most happy, friendly and fulfilling experiences I've recently had. This year I'm back with a workshop for participants who also write (or want to) creatively; Writing over the Rainbow Bridge.

listen to a shamanic chant here

the 4 Day Programme includes…

Workshop for those new to  Shamanic Journeying 
or those wishing to Recap: Mari Runningwater 
Lighting the Conference Fire and Opening the Gathering in a traditional
International therapist and profession gardener
 Carrie Thomas
Mongolian/Tuvan way: Christiana Harle and Martin Wilford

Workshops include;
Shamanic Drum Birthing Ceremony: Jonathan Weeks
Gratitude and Sacred Plants as Offerings: Michelle Easton
Wand of Dreams: Rosemary O’Toole
Rites of Passage and Initiation: Annie Spencer and Howard Malpas
Free Me: Unbinding the Gender Binaries: Catherine Brew and Angie McLachlan
Choosing the Right dream: Supi    
Dancing the Dream Body Awake: Trisha Mulholland Plant Spirits and the Sacred Dream: Moira Lake
Shamanigins: “Doris” The New Age Guru                           
Writing Over the Rainbow Bridge - Write Creatively with help from your Spirit World: Nina Milton
Discover the Magic of Ceremony: Derek Gane
The Heart Beat of our Ancestors: Kate Merriwether
Colours Without Names:  Sarah Howcroft
Trance Dance: Leo Rutherford and Sika Rose

Ceremony of Gratitude and Connection: Annie Spencer, Trisha Mulholland 

Regular Discussion Groups, meetings in Home Groups and Meditation and
Movement workshops

The yew tree in Compton Dundon Churchyard

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Chimes by Anna Smaill

I could tell The Chimes was written by a poet, as soon as I opened it and started reading – long before I discovered Anna Smaill has also had a book of poetry published. The language here is lyrical, with the introduction of words that add to its strangeness, the narrative necessarily fragmented and filled with sensory impressions. But it’s perhaps because Smaill is a violinist, that in her first novel, she’s deeply imagined what a world without writing, but full of music, might be like. 

She describes a dystopian future, where Britain’s democratic government has been swept away by a catastrophic event called the ‘blasphony', and replaced with an autocratic, musical ruling elite in Oxford, known as the Order. The written word has been replaced with the ‘Carillon’, a vast musical instrument made from palladium, the ‘pale Lady’, a rare metallic element, which sweeps away people’s memory, leaving them with a life that feels the same each and every day. At times, the pitch of ‘the chimes’ causes physical collapse followed by death

Anna Smaill Photo Credit - Natalie Graham
Simon Wythern has inherited a gift from his mother, who died of ‘chimesickness'. Like her, he can see other people’s memories. Now, he's heading for London, his memory bag over his shoulder and a melody in his head that leads him along…

‘You going in to be prentissed?’ 
I shake my head. ‘I’m going in to trade.’ 
He studies my farmclothes and my single roughcloth bag and is tacet awhile. ‘And a ride back?’ he says. ‘You’ll be looking for one, I suppose?’
I meet his look and there’s nothing in my eyes. I don’t need a ride back. I have a name and a song to find, a thread to follow. But it’s not something to share. With my gaze I dare him to ask again, but he turns to the front and hitches the reins. We go forward and the cart’s bumping goes through me…

Simon joins a pact of urchins, run by a boy called Lucien. They mudlark the Thames riverbank and search ‘the under’, the abandoned subterranean city tunnels, for the Lady, which they can trade for food, not knowing that this trade maintains the Carillon which oppresses them.

Simon’s friendship with enigmatic Lucien becomes a beautifully described love affair, as they begin to piece together the memories Simon’s mother left him, with the memories Lucien has of being a gifted musician in the Order. 

Rather like Pullman’s His Dark Materials, every small child in The Chimes learns to play an instrument and finds the meaning of themselves through the music they make. This creates a focus for the novel, a point we can understand about this complex world; 

I pick up my recorder and I start to play, even though I don’t know how to make the voice that is missing. When I have played all my feeling into the first part of the tune, I still don’t know, but by then it is too late and I no longer care, so I just play it. I play it high and reckless and free so that it flies above all the others. I play it with some of the anger I feel and some that I throw in for extra. I play a voice that has never known anything except for luck and beauty…

The Thames from Oxford to London

It took me a little time to get used to Smaill’s use of music as a controlling, menacing force, but I loved the way she used musical terminology in her character’s speech. Above the story, which starts out as an absorbing read, is a wider theme of shared  memory and how important that is for a cohesive society, and the dystopia she creates is very believable.

But as Lucien and Simon travel to Oxford, bent of destroying the Carillon, the plotting thins and loses its connection with the body of the story. When Smaill needed to ‘up’ the dramatic tension, as we reach the climactic end of the book, her plotting doesn’t quite succeed as well and her rich writing style. I can vouch for how hard it is to create a convincing, plausible and yet thrilling end to a story, tying in the loose ends needed to be tied, while yet not knotting them up too tightly or letting them unravel completely, and keeping the reader believing in the tale and its inhabitants. I wished Smaill had spent a few months sorting out what was wrong with her denouement, but it didn’t stop me enjoying the world she’s invented, the language she uses, and the glorious characters who inhabit The Chimes.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Seven Acts of Kindness for your Favourite Author

Seven Acts of Kindness
 to Show Your Favourite Author
How Much you Love their Books
I’m a reader, as well as an author. I frequent bookshops,
Readers, writers and photographers at the Hay
hang around libraries and love literary festivals (just back from the Hay Festival). I try to get to author’s events. But it wasn’t un
til I became a published writer, that I began to understand just how important is a reader’s support. Before this, I didn’t do much more than pass books I’d loved onto friends, but, if you really love a book, (and especially if you love mine), there is so much more you can do to help your beloved authors – and it’s far easier that you might think. Here are seven little acts of kindness that are quick and free, and could mean so much to those poor, half-starved writers who have grown pale and thin in garrets, while they created the books you love.

Recommend their books!  
Recently, I explained to a new fan who was asking me when number four would come out, that publishers don’t continue with series which aren’t selling steadily. “Oh, my goodness,” she said. “I’ll get my friends to order it.”
Pop into your local bookshop to ask them if they’ll stock the series you’re reading so avidly. Tell them how you loved this book and how you know people in the neighbourhood will too. Take a copy, show them how the cover worked for you.

Be there for them
Events, workshops, signings, readings, launchesit is awful to do one of those,
and find only your sister and a few close friends in the audience. Recently, I held a launch for the third of my series, and the place was packed; so I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone again for taking time out to be there. It was a great day and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Write an honest review. 
Love them or hate them, they are a massive component in book sales. Reviewing on Amazon can really help books you loved rank higher in the Amazon search engines.  My kind reviewers have help me keep five stars for my Shaman Mysteries, reviews like this one for the latest in the series; 
By Sandy on 5 April 2016 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is innovative and interesting. The writing is excellent. The weaving of the Arthurian legends into the book adds quite another dimension to the Sabbie Dare stories. It is mystical and intriguing. The atmosphere of 'otherness' works well. I really enjoyed the smooth transition from what is - to what might be. Hidden among the ancient tales in the mists of Avalon. The plot is complex, and dare I say devious, it twists and turns to the final climax. Nina Milton is to be congratulated on this most original and intriguing story.

Amazon reviews don’t need to be long, but if you end up writing a lot, you could think about sending your review to a magazine you take. Recently I had a lovely review In Indie Shaman, a magazine for modern shamans, which was also kindly posted on Amazon by its writer – here’s an extract:
Beneath the Tor seamlessly blends the mystical with the realities of every-day life into an absorbing and intriguing murder mystery. Set in the West Country, Beneath the Tor is the third of author Nina Milton’s Shaman Mystery series in which therapeutic shaman Sabbie Dare uses her shamanic skills to solve murder mysteries. But the Otherworld rarely gives a direct answer, as discovered by many a contemporary shaman…

Sign up your support.
Your cherished author will have a Facebook Page you can ‘like’, a twitter account you can  ‘follow’ and a website – or, like me,  a blog site where you can sign up to receive each blog as a regular email. My followers have signed up because it prevents them missing out on news and great reviews of other books, as well as hints and tips for writers. Just go to the top of this page and fill in the very short form. And nothing is permanent; you can cancel just as easily.

Ask your local library to carry their books.‎ Bristol Central Library new wing
So long as you recommend my books to others, I really don’t mind whether you get my stories from a library, a charity shop, an online order or a visit to a local bookshop. What’s important is telling others to read too. A friend of mine recently recommended a crime fiction author I’d never heard of, and I’m reading his book, borrowed from the library, but if I enjoy it, I’ll probably buy the next one. Librarians are always on the lookout for new works, so go ahead and ask for them to stock the writers you love.

Share the love on social media!  
Authors rely heavily on social media to spread the word about their work.  When you read something they’ve shared, pass it on, with a share on Facebook, a retweet, or a pin on Pinterest. I get a real buzz when I post something and someone comes back saying - “just reading your book and loving it” - that’s happened several times. And don’t forget the book-loving social media sites, like Booklikes (independent) or Goodreads (Amazon-owned), My most recent review on Goodreads  was by Facebook friend by Sue Hewitt; I was charmed to read this well-written novel full of diverse characters reminiscent of people I have met on my own life journey. Shamanistic elements of the story merge seamlessly with the more mundane day to day lives of these characters. It does not matter whether you believe in the ability of a Shaman to travel between the physical and the spiritual world. For sceptics, suspend your disbelief for a while, and just go along for the ride. The twists and turns of the plot kept me guessing throughout and the various threads are drawn together in an unexpected climax. Thanks so much Sue!

Go really crazy!
I know a doggie-loving fan of  Shiela Webster Boneham's Animals in Focus Mystery Series, who pinned up photocopies of the book covers at her local vets, where she works as an animal nurse. It's up on the board amongh dog food adverts and notices about pet-sitters. I have a lot of lovely support in the pagan and shamanic communities, with people recommending my books by taking their copies to moots and festivals and showing them around. Thanks so much for that!

I use bookmarks to share with my friends and I’m always happy to hand more out (I’m at After all, many authors make little profit from their books - they write because they have a story to tell. Send the ones you admire the most an email saying how much you appreciate their work. Add a picture of yourself reading their book! If you do that for me, I will love you back forever!