Category Archives: Uncategorized

Book review: Spells for the Second Sister by Nimue Brown

Merry has written some very lovely things about my novel, Spells for the Second Sister. You can find the ebook over here

Meredith Debonnaire

Book cover has a greenish background, lighter at the top fading to blue mist at the bottom. Large peastalks grow up through it. The same person at different stages of her life is represented, sthe youngest at the bottom and the oldest standing near the top of the page looking at the viewer. She is white, with dark hair and strong eyebrows. The book title Spells for the second sister is across the cover in whiteSo here we are at the start, which is clearly not the beginning, it is just the point at which you have jumped in.

I first read this book back when it was a word document, and I loved it then. Having an actual physical copy in my hands was very exciting indeed! Spells for the Second Sister is rather hard to describe: we follow Kathleen Sylvia West at seven year intervals in her lives (yes you read that right), as she encounters woodlands that are bigger on the inside, strange men in cottages, eats far more cold baked beans than anyone deserves to, and her life becomes increasingly bizarre to the point of absurd. It is an incredibly emotionally touching story, which is a skilled thing to be able to write into absurdity.

Kathleen is a narrator I am definitely a bit in love with. She’s angry, and unreliable…

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Severn sisters…

Mark Hayes – bless him – waded into the madness that is Spells for the Second Sister, and blogged about it. He’s a splendid chap and if you’re into the steampunk fiction side of life, do sign up for his blog.

If you’re looking for the book in question, you can ick it up for free over here –

The Passing Place

Somewhere along the banks of the river Severn there is a small tumbledown stone cottage, with a patchy thatched roof which I suspect the local swallows have been stealing away for nesting material for a decade or so. A small plume of wood smoke from the crooked chimney lets you know it’s occupied rather than abandoned. You know there is a stove below that chimney and something is slowly bubbling away on it…

The garden that has lost a battle with weeds and brambles, if not the war, made it hard to be sure if that was the case. Though the trio of large sunflowers, tied to bamboo canes, should have been a clue. Strange mosses gather on the old stones and an old stump in the middle of the garden has long been given over to interesting fungi, which is either delicious, deadly or both. There is also an…

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Ominous Songs

I am delighted to announce that I’m recording an album with The Ominous Folk of Hopeless, Maine! This is one of the projects I’ve been making vague, hopeful noises about for a few months – not wanting to say anything until I was sure it was happening. As it’s taken a while to go from deciding to do it, to being able to start recording, it is as well that I waited.

Back last year I also intimated that I hoped to be working more with Keith Errington, and that’s now officially and definitely happening, too. We’ve worked together on a number of steampunk and Hopeless, Maine projects at this point and there’s going to be a lot more in the future. He’s a remarkable chap with a huge array of skills and talents and I’ve yet to find something where we don’t collaborate well.

More about all of this over on the Hopeless, Maine blog.

The Hopeless Vendetta

We’re very excited to announce that The Ominous Folk of Hopeless, Maine are recording an album. People have been asking us for CDs for a while now, and we started thinking in earnest about this back in the autumn and exploring what kind of space, studio, and technical support we were going to need.

We wanted to capture the sound of us live and we needed someone to work with who has the gear and also understands the sort of thing we’re trying to achieve. We needed a collaborator we could trust, and once we started looking at studios, and realised Lucas Drinkwater was emigrating, it all got a bit complicated. No one else locally was producing anything that meant we knew they could do what we needed.

And then it all became delightfully uncomplicated, because it turns out that we already had someone in the Hopeless, Maine family with…

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The Circle of Life is Broken – a review

My only complaint about this book is that the title suggests a far more depressing read than is actually the case. I should have known better – Brendan Myers isn’t the kind of philosopher to succumb to despair. It is of course a challenging and sometimes uncomfortable book, but there is also lyrical writing driven by a passion for life and existence, a book written to try and express possible ways forward.

For anyone looking for ways to think about the climate crisis, and to think about what they personally might be able to do, this is a good book to read. There are no glib answers here, there’s no sure fire quick fix and there is a lot of analysis of things that have already been tried and that failed. There’s also an enlightening history of ecological science which will help anyone not experienced in that field to better understand the ways in which we talk about the world and how that impacts on our responses to the crisis. Brendan also explores the kinds of psychological factors and human-created pressures acting on us to keep us where we are, with all the disastrous implications.

I particularly appreciated the way Brendan has tackled both the history and current manifestations of eco-fascism. Hate, as he points out, is not going to save anything or anyone. However, there is a lot of eco-fascism out there and like most kinds of fascism, it often seems persuasive to people at a surface level. The classist, racist, eugenics-oriented aspects don’t reveal themselves at first glance. Any argument that involves blaming poor people for existing will lead us into this territory and it is so important to be alert to where that thinking goes and how harmful it is.

For anyone into philosophy, and anyone who wants material to reflect on, this book has a great deal to offer. It is an invitation to engage, to contemplate, and ultimately, to act. Heartily recommended.

More on the publisher’s website

Messing about with leaves

I have a great love of colour intensity, in art and in life. One of the things I often struggle with in winter is how muted the colours are. However, autumn is rich with colour and I invariably have some adventures with leaves.

Hopeless Necessity

I have a new fiction project on the go – details on the other blog should anyone be curious. There’s also a fair amount of other new fiction from me over there, so if you like that sort of thing, have a poke about for new Mrs Beaten stories and the tale of Barry Lupin.

The Hopeless Vendetta

If you already have a copy of the Hopeless, Maine tarot set, you’ll probably recognise this image as The Wheel of Fate. It was always intended to be a multi-purpose image, drawn for the tarot set but also as the cover of a book that does not exist.

The book that does not exist doesn’t even have a proper title at this stage. The main character is one Necessity Jones, who is an inventor. There’s a mother of invention joke trying to happen here, but it hasn’t quite hatched yet.

The Necessity project started some time before lockdown and then just… stopped. There were lots of reasons. The problem wasn’t really the project, it had more to do with the author being burned out and depressed and having a hard time imagining there was even any point writing the thing. And so it languished in a notebook, unfinished.

It also…

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This sounds like a really lovely project and I look forward to seeing what comes of it as the wheel of the year turns…

The unspeakable thing in the night

This is a recent short story written for the Hopeless, Maine setting. By my standards, I haven’t written much fiction this year, but I’m getting back on top of that, I think.

The Hopeless Vendetta

You lie there awake, listening to the sounds on the roof. Something is on the roof, skidding over the slates. Back and forth it goes. They go. There is no sense in this scrabbling about around the chimneys, and yet you cannot be sure that there is nothing intelligent up there.

All you can do is hope that it is a donkey, again. There is no imaginable way that a donkey could be on your roof because there are no means by which it might ascend. You know this. You have checked extensively. But there has been a donkey on the roof before – you saw it with your own eyes in the uncanny half light of an early summer morning. The donkey looked at you and you expected it to speak, giving some pronouncement to justify its position or identity. It said nothing. How it descended remains as mysterious…

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This is the first full review for my new Pagan book (out next year). Profound gratitude.


Highly recommended. Beyond Sustainability – Authentic Living at a Time of Climate Crisis – offers an insightful exploration of the changes we need to make at the personal and collective levels. It is part of Moon Books’ Earth Spirit series, and will be released on 28 April 2023.

Author Nimue Brown says that, “as a Druid, I’ve spent my adult life trying to live lightly. There is a great deal to learn about what is possible, and what’s effective, and this is always a work in progress and never as good as I want it to be. I feel very strongly about the need for real change and quietly rage about greenwashing and the ridiculousness of ‘offsetting’. Harm cannot be offset”.

The book is economical with words and rich in content. Its introduction reflects that “humans are increasingly a miserable species, caught in ways of behaving that give us very…

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A Semblance of Hope

Please do saunter over and read the whole thing!

The Passing Place

This may be a familiar experience, it may not, but I often find myself intrigued by the idea of ‘another perspective’. Everything I write, everything I read, everything I watch, the world it self and every aspect of life in fact can always be viewed from another perspective.

This included my own past. Something I suspect we all feel at times. there are things I did in the past that had I done something even slightly differently would have changed everything about my life. Events I view now from a different perspective, because I am no longer the person to whom those things happened. I am not my teenage self… So my perspective on the events of my teenage years are not something I look back on now with the same thoughts and views as I had at the time.

As for those I interacted with, how they view those…

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