Of Course You Realise… About Pe’a tattoos

** Warning, this post does contain a naked bottom — although you can barely see it because of the tattoo. Just thought I’d warn you right at the outset, in case it’s early where you are and you haven’t had your morning coffee yet, and you’re not quite ready yet for the sight of a bottom, tattooed or not **

I came across this in one of my random googling sessions one night when I couldn’t sleep and I thought it was fascinating. The Pe’a is a traditional Samoan tattoo for men, that covers the body from the waist to the knees. The detail is such that a quick glance and you’d think it was just a piece of skintight clothing.

The pattern with its amalgamation of small details and lines actually reminds me a little of the tangles that Sammy (she over at Bemuzin) does – although obviously not using the same canvas!

As you can imagine it’s an incredibly painful experience and it can take from a few weeks to several years to complete. The master tattooist does the tattoo using handmade tools made of bone, tusk, turtle shell and wood. I can’t imagine what the rate of infection must be to do such a huge tattoo with such rustic tools!

Tattoed men are revered for their courage (which is fair enough considering what they’d have to put themselves through) while men without a Pe’a tattoo are called telenoa which literally means ‘naked’. To start the tattoo process and not complete it due to pain or the inability to pay the master tattooist (it’s a very expensive process) is a mark of great shame.

Women have an equivalent tattoo but it’s a lot more delicate, more like a filigree along the thighs. The women’s tattoo is called Malu. 

Both the Pe’a tattoo and the Malu tattoo are a point of pride and are viewed as hallmarks of manhood and womanhood respectively.

I really have to take my  hat off to these men and women who have the patience and pain threshold to endure these tattoos — they’re absolutely stunning and a beautiful part of the Samoan heritage. But I have to admit, I don’t think I’d ever be able to put myself through that. I think I’d have to be a telenoa. 

How about you, have you got any tattoos? Seen any particularly amazing or crazy ones? Do you think you’d be able to get such a huge tattoo or would be a telenoa like me?

Some Incredibly Exciting News!

My book, The Viper and the Urchin is finished! It is now a Thing That Exists, and that Thing (or rather the ebook copy for now) is available for pre-order on Amazon at the very bargain pre-launch price of $0.99. It will be properly out in the world late July. To say that I’m excited is an understatement of epic proportion, and likewise about being nervous.

D’you want to see the cover? Here it is in all its full-sized glory:
assassin_fullWhat do you think, do you like it? It’s by Ravven, and I’m so pleased with it! And not just because of my very childish excitement at seeing my name on the cover.

The story’s steampunk but set in a world of my creation — the tropical city of Damsport. There’s a bit of mystery and humour thrown in there for good measure too. Here’s the blurb:

The Viper and The Urchin

Being Damsport’s most elegant assassin is hard work. There’s tailoring to consider, devilish poisons to concoct, secret identities to maintain… But most importantly, Longinus has to keep his fear of blood hidden or his reputation will be ruined. So, when a scrawny urchin girl threatens to expose his phobia unless he teaches her swordsmanship, he has no choice but to comply.

It doesn’t take long for Rory to realise that her new trainer has more eccentricities than she has fleas. But she’ll put up with anything, no matter how frustrating, to become a swordswoman like her childhood hero.

What she’s not prepared for is a copycat assassin who seeks to replace Longinus, and who hires Rory’s old partner in crime to do away with her, as well. Rory and Longinus must set their differences aside and try to work together if they’re to stop the copycat. But darker forces than they realise are at play, and with time running out, the unlikely duo find themselves the last line of defence against a powerful enemy who seeks to bring Damsport to its knees.

All very exciting stuff!

I actually wanted to ask you all for some help at this point. One of the most important things for a new book is word of mouth and early reviews. With that in mind I’m looking to give away a number of free advance copies of the ebook in exchange for an honest review. If you like the look and sound of the book, or if you’re feeling generous and want to help me out, I’d really love to send you a free copy. Just let me know in the comments or at cfjeanjean@gmail.com

You can also read the first chapter here if you want to get a better feel for the story first.

Or, if you’d rather wait for it to come out next month, here are the links where you can find it:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

I have to admit writing this post really wasn’t easy – it’s an uncomfortable thing to put yourself out there and ask for help so publicly. I fretted and fussed over writing it, and then I remembered a piece of advice Carrie mentioned a while back: “you have to put on your big girl pants and get it done” (or something along those lines – I’m paraphrasing here.) So I put on the big girl pants and wrote the post. If you must know, my big girl pants aren’t that comfortable, but I’m slowly getting used to them…

Love-Hate challenge

Sammy tagged me in a fun challenge: to list out ten things I love, ten things I hate and ten blogging buddies I’d like to involve in the challenge. How could I refuse?

So here are ten things I love:

  • Breakfast in France with hot chocolate, home-made jam, baguette, and a croissant (no surprise for anyone who ready my A to Z posts)
  • Opening a cardboard box that contains a delivery of books
  • Old libraries
  • Drinking Pimms on a sunny summer afternoon in England
  • The smell of popcorn on entering a cinema
  • Early mornings when the air is fresh
  • Exploring new places with the Hubs
  • Badgers
  • Red Velvet cake
  • Sitting around and talking about nonsense with family or close friends

Ten things I hate:

  • People revving their car or honking their horn outside our bedroom window
  • Rudeness or any lack of manners
  • Shoes that hurt my feet
  • Spinach and coffee (not necessarily together. I hate them independently too, although I imagine they’d be even worse together!)
  • People who wear so much perfume/cologne I can taste it when I walk past them
  • Intolerance
  • Being rushed or running late (I’m that person you see at the airport, sat at the gate two hours before the plan is due to take off)
  • Spiders
  • Ironing
  • People who are always negative or complaining

Ten blogging buddies I’m tagging:


D. Wallace









Over to you guys!

Birth of an Internet Hypochondriac

Most days, I’m a completely normal person, and I deal with minor aches and pains like a regular human being. And then every so often, the Google Fever takes over, and then this happens:

I start off with something minor, like a headache. Nothing to be worried about – headaches happen all the time right? I continue with whatever work I’m doing.

A couple of hours pass, and the headache is still here. It’s distracting me from my work, and I’m feeling restless, so to pass the time for 5 minutes, I google my headache.

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“It could be your eyesight,” Dr Google informs me.

Well, I am mildly short sighted, but I hate wearing glasses. Dr Google informs me that I might be damaging my eyes. Maybe my eyesight is worsening — I need to book an eye test. Click-click-click — glaucoma.  Oh dear, there’s a history of glaucoma in my family. Click-click — glaucoma causes blindness. Dr Google tells me that once the damage has been done it can’t be fixed. What!? I’m going to go blind?

Click-click — research blindness and ways to cope with it. Click-click. Consider sending Poppy to a seeing eye dog school in anticipation of the days I won’t be able to see. Realise that unless Poppy is a superdog with a super long life, she’s unlikely to still be around by that time. Moment of sadness as I imagine life without our Popmeister General. Click-click — the longest living dog died at 29. I’m cheered at the thought of twenty odd years with the Popnoodle.

I get a hold of myself — “don’t be ridiculous, you’re not going blind and Poppy isn’t dying. Get back to work.” I close out the windows, but wait, there is something I missed, telling me my headache could be due to stress. Well, I’ll click on that quickly – only 5 minutes. I mean, I don’t think I’m stressed, but there’s a test that will tell me for sure. I might as well take it.


Oh god! Apparently I am stressed! Maybe stress is getting in the way of my writing. Maybe it’s having other negative impacts on my body — everyone knows that stress is bad for you. Google stress. Click-click-click — nausea. Click-click- bowel cancer.

“Have you been bloated?” asks Dr Google. Well, yes sometimes. “Have you lost weight?” Yes, but I thought that was a good thing. “No, you could have bowel cancer.”


Image from Flickr

Say what now? Anxiety and stress go through the roof (guess that test was right after all). Google bowel cancer. Click-click-click — horrific articles on cancer in general. But what about my headache? Click-click. What if it’s a brain tumour?I did smell burning toast once but no one else could smell it and there was no toaster on. Click-click. A brain aneurism? Click-click-click. Oh my god what if —

Luckily the Hubs calls at this point to say hello. I tell him that although it’s not even 10am, so far I’ve faced my inevitable blindness, signed Poppy up for seeing eye dog school, mourned her death, found out I was possibly chronically stressed, diagnosed myself with bowel cancer, and with a brain tumour, or an aneurism, or possibly both (if this was Grey’s Anatomy, it would definitely be both).

“Or maybe you just need to drink more water and take a paracetamol,” says the Hubs.

Oh yeah, that too. Why doesn’t Dr Google ever start by saying that? Honestly, it always takes you to the most extreme, awful illnesses. We have a little laugh at how ridiculous I was being, and after hanging up the phone, I close down google, get some water and get back to work.

But wait, on my way back from the kitchen, I notice that Poppy hasn’t eaten her food yet. That’s weird, she normally wolfs it down. Maybe I should check with Dr Google, just to be safe….



Full disclosure, I’m not *quite* that neurotic. I’m mildly more normal (but only mildly) — creative license in the name of telling a story and all that. Dr Google has diagnosed me with a number of serious illnesses, mind you, but thankfully I’m still the picture of health. Unless being a hypochondriac is considered a mental illness. Might have to google that… 😉

How about you, have you ever googled your symptoms? Do you find yourself turning into an internet hypochondriac? Or is it just me?

An Interview with Bard Constantine

Today’s interview features Bard Constantine, and we talk about his book Troubleshooter as well as Dieselpunk and making up slang.

The interview is part of a series of posts where I talk to writers about the interesting things they dig up during their research process. If you know of an indie writer who you’d be interested in seeing featured in this kind of interview, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do!

Thanks for taking part in this interview Bard, and for being on the blog today! Could you start by telling us a little bit about the Troubleshooter series?

Thanks, Celine. The Troubleshooter started off as a quirky little experiment at a writing site where I created a story using my writing peers as characters. After I finished it I realized I could adapt it into an actual novel. It’s basically an ode to the noir private eye films and stories, but I took that gritty tone and lingo and placed it into a dystopian future. So it’s a mixed-genre novel, ranging from noir to cyberpunk and dieselpunk as well.


Could you explain what dieselpunk is, and are there books you’d recommend (on top of yours of course!) for anyone who is new to the genre but wants to explore it?

There are many definitions of dieselpunk, but to me it takes on the era of the World Wars, the Jazz Age—that turning point in history when the world changed. Then it gets ‘punked’ by adding in a speculative element, whether it’s science fiction, supernatural, alternate history, or the like. Good examples of dieselpunk would be Indiana Jones, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the Bioshock video games, and even recent films and shows like the first Captain America and the Agent Carter TV series.

As far as books, I greatly enjoyed the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfield. The Dragonfly series by Charles A Cornell is highly enjoyable as well. As far as a visual medium, the book Diesel City features a collections of iconic work by Stefan Prohaczka. There are other novels out there, many waiting to be discovered. The Troubleshooter novels aren’t dieselpunk at its purest, but the elements are definitely there and a major part of the story’s personality.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 07.28.10

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 07.30.02





One of the striking things about Troubleshooter is the language used: Mick Trubble has all sorts of colourful expressions, which I really enjoyed! How did you research the way he speaks, is he based on expressions from a particular place or era? And could you give us some of the more unusual/amusing expression you’ve come across while researching that?

The slang used in the Troubleshooter is a blend of old expressions and personally created ones. Many of the expressions were used in hardboiled novels and films (guns are ‘heaters’, girlfriends are ‘molls’, you kill someone by ‘filling them with daylight’, etc). Others I either adapted or created from scratch to fit the story (dying is called the ‘New Haven Blues’, hovercars are called ‘skimmers’, flying cars are called ‘floaters’, bounty hunters are ‘Nimrods’, etc).

I did a lot of research online to capture the phrases that would really cement the New Haven mood and feel, create a world different from other tales of dystopian futures. The blend of old with new is what sets the Troubleshooter novels apart from its contemporaries and much of that is the lingo spoken by the characters.

As far as favorite expressions, I liked coming across words I’d never heard of, like ‘darb’, which means high quality or outstanding. The term ‘glad rags’ is a favorite of mine as well, which simply means stylish clothing.

My personal favourite is ‘getting fitted for a New Haven trench coat’ (which means getting killed).

There are quite a wide range of weapons in the story, some fictional and some real — can you tell us about the more exotic weapons/forms of combat you’ve come across in your research?

It was pretty fun to research and create the weapons for the story. The truth is there are so many weapons that have already been created that I didn’t even know existed. For instance, Mick Trubble’s backup piece is a gyroscopic handgun that fires miniature rockets. That was something actually created in the 60s, called a Gyrojet. Other weapons I created from scratch, like the biogun, which is powered by the individual’s own body. Like the story, the weapons are a blend of old and new. So gangsters still tote Tommy guns, albeit modified with threat detectors and X-Ray scanners.

What other research have you done for both the Troubleshooter, and its sequel A Most Dangerous Dame? What was the most interesting thing you uncovered?

I’d have to say it’s the historical research. In order to make the setting authentic, I end up researching a lot of different things, from Parisian burlesque theaters to Greek diners. The second novel features more of that kind of intimate detailing, since we’re past the breakneck pace of the first novel. I also love to feature different types of dialect and slang with the introduction of new characters. The second book features encounters with the Mafia, so I had to learn some of that Borgata lingo and try to make it sound natural. I also created an Australian hacker, which led to some fun Australian slang/lingo as well. I’ve always loved diversity, and New Haven is a melting pot of different backgrounds and cultures, like a futuristic New York or Los Angeles. Researching the little details pays out large in making the people and setting natural to the readers.

Anything you want to say to the readers?

I just want to thank those who have taken a chance on the Troubleshooter novels. I greatly appreciate it and love the feedback, so don’t hesitate to let me know how you feel. Writing these books are great fun, but it wouldn’t make a difference without the readers that pick it up. I hope to keep entertaining you for a while with this series.

Thank you for taking part Bard!

The Troubleshooter is available on Amazon here

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 07.37.3730’s noir meets science fiction in this action packed tale of a man whose job description is shooting trouble.

Mick Trubble has two major problems: a past that he can’t remember, and a price on his head. So when a mysterious dame shows up with a proposition to recover some stolen goods, it’s all in a day’s work for a man with nothing to lose.

But this is New Haven, where nothing is as it seems. It’s a dystopian melting pot of slick men and cool dames, hard gangsters and smooth players. It’s a dark, multi-layered city where the rich dwell above in flying vehicles and bright lights, while the disadvantaged fight over the remains in the gritty streets. There are secrets buried behind sealed doors and the minds of men and women who won’t hesitate to kill in order to protect them.

So when Mick’s case uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the entire populace, he has to rely on his connection, allies, and sheer cunning in order to put the pieces together and stay a step ahead of catching a case of the New Haven Blues.

The Troubleshooter is a what you get when you take a 30’s pulp detective like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe and drop him in a Blade Runner environment. A blend of noir, dieselpunk and sci fi, it’s sure to please readers of mixed genre tales and action lovers alike.



10 Favourite Screen Characters

Sarah over at The Old Shelter tagged me for a fun challenge: to make a list of my ten favourite screen characters. If you want to see Sarah’s list, it’s here, she’s got some great ones in there and quite a few films that I hadn’t heard of before, so it’s well worth a look.

I sat down and wrote down my favourite characters, and then I found that I had reached twenty. Oops. It’s been real hard work cutting it down to ten, let me tell you, but here they are now, and in no particular order.

1) Leon – from Leon: The ProfessionalLeon breaks my heart every time. Although that kind of character (deadly assassin with a heart of gold) has now been done to death, for me Leon remains the ultimate embodiment of the kind. It’s the contrast of how methodical and cold he is with his work, layered with an incredible childish innocence, and a heart-breaking devotion to the things he loves: his plant and Mathilda.

2) Nikita – from La Femme Nikita.From drug addict caught holding up a pharmacy, to a death sentence, to a second life as a spy / assassin. Again another Luc Besson classic, although this one is in French. It is, by the way, a world apart from the remakes and TV shows that have been based on it (in my mind it’s a million times better), and if you haven’t seen it I really recommend it.

It was filmed in the late 80s and I think it was was well ahead of its time (and even ahead of our time now) in how it portrays a female assassin. The thing that I love about Nikita is that she’s real. She’s tough when she needs to be, she’s seductive, but she’s also vulnerable, at times genuinely afraid, and the sliver of normal life she tries to carve out for herself is touching in its mundanity.

3) Cyrano de Bergerac from the eponymous film. It’s my favourite book, my favourite play and my favourite film. I’m not a huge Depardieu fan normally, but in this he is sublime. His witty repartees are spot on, and he really does justice to what is for me one of the most complex and tragic characters.

4) The Dude – from The Big LebowskiA bit of a departure from the previous entries, this one.

The problem I had with The Big Lebowski was narrowing the choice down to one character. They’re all awesome, funny, weird… And I love me some weirdoes. But really, it had to be the Dude (real name Jeffrey Lebowski). I mean what’s not to love? A bowling enthusiast (to relax he lies on the floor and listens to recordings of bowling strikes), he wears jelly shoes, goes to the supermarket in his dressing gown, has a thing for white russians (the drink, not the ladies. Or maybe the ladies, who knows), and he comes out with such amazing lines that I could just quote them all day long. It’s a film I’ve seen more times than I can count, and that I’ll no doubt watch many many more times.

5) Melvin – from  As Good As It GetsAnother great weirdo. He has Jack Nicholson’s eyebrows for starters so what’s not to like? He’s rude, racist, sexist, impatient, obsessive, has no social skills to speak of…. And he also finishes the film with one of the most romantic lines ever delivered. He’s funny and likeable despite his many, many, many flaws, and he goes through one hell of a heart-warming transformation.

6) Coco Chanel – from Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky.The film focuses on an affair between the two when, after World War I, Stravinsky is in exile in France. They’re both geniuses in their fields, both defining influences on 20th century tastes, and the meeting (and clashing) of these two forces of natures makes for a great story.

In the film Coco is portrayed as a cool, smart, extremely confident woman, in full control of herself and her career. She isn’t always portrayed in the most flattering light, she’s hard and unforgiving, even calculating and down right cruel — but she comes across as an absolutely fascinating woman. I like that there is no apology, no attempt to glaze over her flaws or try to make her “nice” or give her a sob story to try and justify her being the way she is. The film is unapologetic, and so is she. It’s another french one, and it’s really worth a watch. On top of two great performances from the lead actors, it’s visually stunning — from the art deco interior of Coco’s house to the costumes

Igor Stravinsky also has to get a mention because he’s played by Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen is a Danish actor and one of my favourites (it’s his eyes — he has the eyes of a mourner). Igor as a character is no patch on Coco but the dynamic between the two is electrifying, and Mikkelsen is as ever a genius actor. He also gets serious kudos for playing a Russian composer in a French film, acting in both languages, considering he doesn’t speak either. He also plays the piano in the film, and again doesn’t play it in real life.

7) Eve – from Only Lovers Left Alive

Eve is a real refreshing change from the usual femme fatale/sexy vampires that have saturated our screens for the last few years. She doesn’t glitter, she isn’t vampy — she’s extremely well read, she’s complicated, sophisticated, smart and otherworldly. In short she’s Tilda Swinton, another actress I adore.

Adam and Eve have been married for centuries, and they love each other in a simple and completely unconditional way. Of course they’re not like your average couple (they feed on blood, she lives in Tangiers and Adam lives in Detroit. The film is beautifully shot, slow and moody, and it gives a completely different take on the very done (and over done?) vampire idea. 

10) Indiana Jones and Han Solo.

I refused to chose between the two, and they’re both played by the amazing Harrison Ford, so I reckon they work as one entry. They’re the best rogues out there, and they were both my first cinematic crushes. I don’t think it would be fair to ask a girl to chose between them!

9) Wall-E – from the eponymous film. Who doesn’t love Wall-E? What gets me about Wall-E is how attached we become to him and how much we know about him, without ever hearing him speak: the first third of the animation has no dialogue. Few characters are powerful enough to remain interesting without any dialogue for so long a period of time. And it’s not like for that first third of the film he’s interacting with a whole bunch of other characters, either. Wall-E’s captivating simplicity is what, for me, makes him one of the greatest.

10) Ofelia – from Pan’s Labyrinth. A movie that superimposes the horrors of war with the magic and darkness of fairytale — Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favourite films. Ofelia is the heroine of the film, and what I love about her is the strength of her belief and her courage. She’s caught up in two dark worlds far beyond her control and her years, facing hugely difficult choices along the way, and she remains true right to the very end. For me she’s the ultimate embodiment of a hero on a quest — and she’s a ten year old girl.

The Faun also deserves a mention — he’s a fascinating character in his ambiguity. He’s both good and evil and it’s never quite clear what his agenda is.

Lastly, the eagle-eyed among you will have noted the absence of The Princess Bride, a film I have mentioned frequently on this blog. The thing is that I can’t chose just one character over the rest. They come together as a whole package to create a film that, as a whole, is genius. Take them apart, break them down, and it doesn’t work quite so well. So I’m slipping in a side entry, if you will, for the entire cast of the Princess Bride.

What bout you, who are your favourite film characters? Let me know in the comments, or if you’re up for it take part in the challenge!

I’m tagging a couple of other bloggers who I think would enjoy this challenge, but there’s absolutely no pressure to take part if you would rather not. So if you fancy it, over to you Sue, L.MarieC.D. Gallant-King, Mel, and K.L. Schwengel !

An interview with Sara Snider… and the drinking habits of laundresses

Today I have a great interview for you guys, featuring Sara Snider. She’ll be talking to us about her book, The Thirteenth Tower, and sharing a wealth of interesting facts from her research — the weight of women’s clothing in the 19th century and the drinking habits of laundresses, for starters.

This interview is part of a series of posts where I talk to writers about the interesting things they dig up during their research process. If you know of an indie writer who you’d be interested in seeing featured in this kind of interview, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do!

Right, without further ado, here’s the interview, hope you guys enjoy it!

ThirteenthTowerCoverThanks for taking part in the interview Sara! Could you please start by telling us a bit about your book?

The Thirteenth Tower is a fantasy novel about Emelyn–a seventeen year-old orphaned girl–who joins up with a pair of Magisters (wizards, basically) on their journey northwards to stop a menacing creature of magic. The Magisters promise to tell Emelyn of her parents, but, of course, it’s never that simple. The journey north is a bumpy one, with lots of magical happenings and things to discover, much of which is about Emelyn herself.


What kind of research did you do to create the world your novel is set in?

When I first started writing the book, I imagined it taking place during a time similar to the Victorian Era. (In actuality, though, the setting is probably closer to the 18th century rather than 19th ). Emelyn also starts out as a servant, so a lot of the research involved these two things. I spent a lot of time reading about Victorian domestic life in general as well as the various types of servants, their wages, duties, etc. It’s a fantasy world, though, so all of this was just to get an idea of a way of life from past days, which could serve as a foundation for me to tweak and build upon.

What was the most interesting thing you found about Victorian domestic life?

Laundry day was a big deal and very disruptive. Servants had to get up earlier than normal to heat the water. Soaps were mostly ineffective, and so clothing had to be scrubbed and boiled. Sheets had to be wrung out by hand, which was physically taxing. If the weather was bad, the laundry would need to be hung indoors to dry, which then meant living in dampness for days. Apparently it was desired to have so many spare bed sheets and undergarments that laundry would only need to be done maybe eight or nine times a year. Wealthier households hired a laundress.

Laundresses, in addition to their pay, expected “perks,” which was usually beer three times a day and gin and water at night. I’m not sure why this delights me. (It delights me too! Then again I’d want beer and gin too if I had to handle people’s undergarments all day)

Photo from Wikipedia

Crinolines, or hoop skirts, (all the rage in the 1850s) tended to catch fire and were a “fairly common” cause of death among women. Household guides recommended keeping a heavy woolen table cover or piano shawl nearby to quickly extinguish such fires. Thankfully, these skirts fell out of fashion about a decade later. But, honestly, I’m kind of amazed and baffled it took that long.

Additionally, women’s clothing was heavy. By the end of the 19th century, a fashionable woman typically wore about 37 pounds (17 kg) of clothing. That’s more than three bags of the cat food I typically buy. Seriously, I’m trying to imagine strapping three of those bags to my body and then go gallivanting around. Combine this with the fact that women were often malnourished (certain foods were considered “unfeminine” as was having a healthy appetite) and it’s no wonder that women were prone to fainting.

The part about women’s clothing is incredible, both the weight and the fact that it was fairly common for women to catch fire and burn to death. All I can say is thank god we get to wear trousers nowadays!

Taking a specific item you researched, could you tell us what pushed you to research it and how you weaved it into your story? 

Well, along with all the Victorian domesticity, I also briefly researched weapon fighting–with a staff, specifically. There are no swords in the book. All weapons are staves (well, there is one spear, but that’s really just a staff with a pointy end).

One interesting tidbit I took from this research was the practicality of such weapons. Everyone has access to a stick or club, which can’t always be said of swords or other weapons. I worked that detail into the story when another character—Corran—is telling Emelyn about how his dad taught him to fight with a staff, and his reasons for doing so.

That’s quite unusual to have a fantasy novel without swords — fantasy is usually pretty sword heavy. Did you deliberately decide not to feature any swords?

It was a deliberate decision to leave swords out, because, like you say, fantasy is typically quite sword heavy and I always wanted to write a story that was perhaps a little bit different from other fantasy books out there. In saying that, though, I do think the lack of swords fit the story (and wasn’t just me being contrary for the sake of it). We have the Magisters, who use staves primarily to help them with their magic. Then there’s Emelyn, who, as a housemaid, doesn’t have a weapon at all. For Corran, having him use a staff seemed to fit with his carpentry background and pragmatic father. Of course, this doesn’t mean that swords don’t exist in the world, because they do, and will even make an appearance in the sequel, along with a couple other types of weapons.

Did you come across any useful websites or books when looking into all that you mentioned above?

I like to buy books on the subjects I research, so that I can have them for future reference. For this project, here’s a list of books I read: (You can click on the book covers and it will open the relevant amazon page)

The Complete ServantInside the Victorian Home Victorian EnglandFighting with blades
















Forager Handbook

Oh, and I nearly forgot the book about foraging, since a lot of the story is spent wandering in a forest: The Forager Handbook: A Guide to the Edible Plants of Britain, by Miles Irving

And then, of course, there’s the Latin dictionary and grammar books that I used to help create plant names (one of the characters is a bit of a botanist), but I feel like I need to stop with the books because it’s getting out of hand. Those books I already had, though, from when I took a couple Latin courses during my university studies.


That’s a fantastic reading list, thanks for sharing all that! So how do you go about starting a new book, does the research inform the story or does the story guide the research?

The story definitely guides the research. Whenever I come across something I feel I don’t know enough to write about, that’s when the research starts. Most of the research I do is for inspiration, though. To try and get enough information about a time or a thing so that when I create my own version of it, hopefully it’s believable.

Well it definitely works, there’s a great sense of place to The Thirteenth Tower, it’s part of what I enjoyed about it. Thank you again for taking part in this interview Sara, and for sharing all that with us! 

The Thirteenth Tower

ThirteenthTowerCoverIn adversity lies strength beyond imagining.

Abandoned as a baby, young Emelyn’s life as a housemaid in the quiet village of Fallow is unremarkable—and empty. That is, until a host of magical creatures arrives and inflicts terrible misdeeds on the townsfolk. Inexplicably immune to their enchantments, Emelyn joins a pair of Magi intent on stopping the cause of the trouble—and who claim to know of her parents, promising Emelyn answers to a lifetime of questions.

But the answers Emelyn seeks prove to be more elusive than she hoped, and the world outside Fallow more perilous than she imagined. Magical creatures roam the land over, attacking yet another town before coming after Emelyn. The key to her survival—and finding her family—lies deep within her, if only she can conquer her doubts and believe she is more powerful than she ever dreamed.

In a journey that explores facing one’s fears amidst the uncertainties of an unknown world, The Thirteenth Tower is a magical tale of discovery, growth, and of love’s enduring strength.

You can buy The Thirteenth Tower at AmazonApple, or Kobo

Of Course You Realise… about the prevalence of theft among penguins

It’s a bit of a random title, I know. I wanted to introduce you guys to a another series of blog posts I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but first I have to tell you a little story about ‘Of Course You Realise’, which is going to be the name of the series.

I was 22, and my new boyfriend (now husband) was taking me down to Cornwall to see his parents for the first time. On the way, we stopped to have tea with the Hubs’ godfather, Talbot. We weren’t there for long, but in that short time Talbot told me about his time in the theatre, about when he was a physchiatric nurse, and then a tapestry weaver, and what it was like to work with an old fashion spinning wheel. As if all that wasn’t interesting enough, Talbot’s life partner had been John Lennon, cousin to the John Lennon you’re thinking of. Talbot quite possibly remains one of the coolest people I’ve ever met.

Very sadly, Talbot passed not long after, and I never got to meet him again. But my family-in-law often mention him, and one things that keeps coming up is how much he liked to talk about topics that interested him, so that if something came up in conversation, he’d say “Well, of course you realise –” and then reveal an entire wealth of knowledge on the subject or recount some fascinating anecdote.

Now I don’t for a moment pretend to have Talbot’s extensive knowledge, but I do have something else: an addiction to googling things. Every so often I lose myself in a vortex as I click through website after website and read random articles about all sorts of things. Don’t get me wrong, not all of it is highbrow (if you look at my last google search it was ‘Charlie Hunnam Height’. If you must know it’s because I love Guillermo Del Toro so I was googling his latest film, Crimson Peak, in which Charlie Hunnam stars, and through a very logical progression of thought, I wondered how tall he was), but some of it is quite interesting.

So I thought I’d share with you the interesting and random tidbits I come across during my googling. And I’ll start as Talbot did, by telling you “Well guys,Of Course You Realise….

….That thieving is rife among penguins. Seriously.

I can’t remember how I came across this video, but brace yourself for a look at greed and corruption amongst the penguin population during nest building season…

I love the cold, over the shoulder glance the thieving penguin gives! And the fact that it isn’t an accident, he’s clearly waiting for the other one to leave before stealing stones. He’s a proper, hard core thief!

An interview with Charles Yallowitz

Today I have my very first author interview — I’m incredibly excited! For those who missed the opinion poll, this is the first interview of a series I’m planning, talking to writers specifically about the research they do / have done to write their books.

Charles Yallowitz is my first guest, and we discuss his new short story, Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, as well as the diet of peacocks! I hope you enjoy it 🙂

Hi Charles, thank you so much for being on the blog today! So first tell us a little about your new short story. 

rsz_fullres-_300dpi_imageMy newest release is entitled Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, which is a fantasy adventure short story. The adventure focuses on Ichabod Brooks who is a man known for taking dangerous jobs to put food on the table for his family. As he says, he has to make a living and his wife doesn’t want him getting lazy in his old age. He takes a job to clear out an abandoned village that has become infested by bizarre monsters. Unfortunately, things aren’t what they seem and Ichabod finds himself working a job that he didn’t bring the best gear for.

Haha, I had to chuckle at the line about Ichabod’s wife not wanting him to get lazy! 😉 So tell me, what research did you do to write the story — could you share the most interesting fact that you discovered in your research?

With Ichabod Brooks, I did basic research on medieval weaponry and the effects of certain injuries on people. Since it’s only 27 pages and I have several longer works under my belt, I didn’t have anything really unique to delve into. At least nothing that compares to when I had to research peacocks for Legends of Windemere: Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. This was the last novel that I published and I had a scene where peacocks were part of the scenery. I took an hour to research what they ate and how good they were at flying. The most surprising thing is that I found out they eat snakes, which I had to put into the scene somewhere. Being a fantasy author, a lot of my more interesting research stems from spontaneous curiosities.

I had no idea peacocks ate snakes! I had to google this a bit further, I had no idea peacocks were so badass. As it turns out not only do peacocks eat snakes but they even like eating poisonous snakes. Peacocks will actually encourage a snake to strike out until it exhausts itself, and they then home in for the kill. They’re also quite happy muching poisonous plants — I mean really why eat regular food when you can challenge yourself by ingesting venom!?

So Charles, how do you weave the research you do into the fantasy world and story you’re creating? 

Since the biggest part of research for Ichabod was combat-related, I had to make sure I was having characters move naturally. No acrobatic leaps by dwarves or heavy lifting by the slender huntress. So I always had to stop and think about the motions of battle. This involved standing up to slowly move myself to see if I could even come close to bending center ways and sketching out a few stick figure storyboards on napkins. I wanted the fighting to seem believable even if it was against fictional creatures. An example of this is when a character is injured, which gets closer to spoiler territory here. Without going into details, I wanted this person to get hit in a certain spot. Something didn’t feel right and I did a little research to find out that it was highly likely that the wound would bleed the character to death. That wasn’t what I was going for, so I had to find another spot to use. That sounds a lot more meticulously malicious than I thought.

That’s awesome that you go as far as acting out certain aspects of a fight to see if they’re possible. I wonder how many other writers do that? Do you have any resources that you turn to when you need to do a little digging?

I own a baby naming book, an encyclopedia of magical creatures, and an encyclopedia of imaginary places to help with research. To be honest, I’ve yet to use that last book, but I got it for five dollars. These are what I use for a lot of the pre-writing research, but I do grab them if I need a monster or character name on the fly. For information like the peacock diet and medieval weapon usage, I look for YouTube videos and simply plug the question into a browser. Many times I start with Wikipedia, but I try to confirm what I read there because I don’t entirely trust it. Mostly because I have a few friends that used to enjoy messing around with the articles










Thanks for sharing that, the Dictionary of Imaginary Places in particular sounds quite interesting! And lastly, what’s your research process like when you start a new series or story? Do you start with the research as a way to inform the story and worldbuilding, or does the story guide the research you’ll have to do?

Story tends to guide the research since much of what I’m doing is being made up as I go along with the planning. At first, the only things I really look up are names and weapons. These two things tend to be the more defining parts of my characters when starting out. For example, Ichabod Brooks uses a bow, Luke Callindor (from big series) uses twin sabers, and Nyx (big series) has enough magic to level a small town. The physical appearance comes next and this is just picking coloration and unique markings. Research turns up again when I choose clothing because I have no real sense of fashion. This involves a lengthy on-line search or thumbing through magazines for inspiration. After all of that, I grab information from various places as I need it such as architecture, environments, animal habits, and even going back through my own notes. One of the ‘benefits’ of working with a non-Earth world is that I can make up a good amount of the information as I go along. All I have to do is keep it consistent.

That’s great. Thank you so much for taking part Charles, that was great! 

For anyone interested, Ichabod Brooks and the City of Beasts is now out, and you can find it on Amazon, by clicking here


In a time of heroes, a man will take any job to provide for his family.

Ichabod Brooks has earned a reputation for taking the jobs most men and women fear to challenge. This reputation has brought him to the charred remains of a small village nestled within the hills and forest of Ralian. The ruins are a source of strange monsters that terrorize the countryside and repeatedly elude the local guards and hunters. The few brave souls who have entered the creatures’ lair have yet to come out alive or dead.

The chances of survival are slim, but that generous payment is too much for Ichabod to resist. After all, a man and his family have to eat.