First Blood: Delevan House Review

They say you always remember your first. We are eternally grateful to all our exclusive first readers, and absolutely blown away by the depth  of our…

First Blood: Delevan House Review

The Making of Delevan House #21

Access the playlist Ruthann and Natasha created the first Brazen Folk Horror novel to on Amazon Music or Spotify. Just click! Order Delevan House …

The Making of Delevan House #21

The Making of Delevan House #20

Order Delevan House here.

The Making of Delevan House #20

Possessed and Obsessed

I have been immersed in creativity while juggling the craziness of everyday life and spanners. Over on Brazen Folk Horror, Ruthann Jagge and I have been actively sharing updates with readers weekly for five months now. With only three pre-release updates left to go, our novel launch is imminent!

My adrenaline is at full whack. We have joked about being possessed by our characters, but it’s most definitely an obsession at play too.

For readers who may not yet have picked up a title from either of us and you’d like a sample, then a great place to start before our collaborative novel lands is our debut novellas released just last year.

The New Girls’ Patient, Ruthann Jagge

Jamie Carver is an inexperienced young woman eager to change her life.
Recently certified in nursing, she’s the new girl working at a facility for the elderly.
When her favorite patient dies, the frail woman leaves her a handwritten recipe book as a final thank you.
Dark secrets of Elizabeth’s life hide between the pages.
One evening, a pair of dangerous men intent on learning Elizabeth’s secrets to steal her fortune brutally abduct Jamie and two of her girlfriends.
They trap the women deep in the cellar of a crumbling mansion, where their survival depends on each other. They must unravel a shocking family history before sunrise or die.
Can Jamie rely on her friends, or will she resort to calling on unnatural forces to help overcome her captors and stay alive?

Asylum Daughter, Natasha Sinclair

Bella Mills survived the brutal slaughter of her family by a madman.
Only 11-years-old, she was assaulted and left for dead.
Twenty-three years later, the past returns in the form of her devil, free of his chains.
A disturbing family history full of dark secrets and seduction unfolds as Bella seeks answers.
When she discovers the truth about her mother, locked away without mercy in the notorious Lochwood Asylum, Bella realizes that terrible ghosts of the past hold the key to her future.
Can she escape their power over her?
A novel of psychological horror, and poetic intrigue, sprinkled with the supernatural.
Bella Mills is “The Asylum Daughter.”

From those and those who are already familiar with us as individual writers, you will see that we are wildly different in style. You’ll be amazed how we’ve come together to create our co-written Brazen Folk Horror debut novel with Delevan House. We each brought something new out in the other, creating a collective voice we hope our readers will enjoy. It’s all for you!

The work has been constant, and neither of us has been able to ‘switch gears’ for long from our feisty cast. The anticipated release of Delevan House is only just the beginning.

Now, I really should study! Badb village has unleashed a storm in my head. It needs tae haud its wheelset! Just for a wee while.

In the meantime! Read! Follow! And if you are inclined, please share your thoughts in a review.

Much love and a bit of mayhem!

Natasha )O(

Trust, Value, Editing

I will admit something that, like so many independent writers, can be torn apart. And I also acknowledge there can be pitfalls – some gatekeepers regard this audacious move as career suicide regardless of experience or qualifications.

Not only do I professionally edit works for other writers, businesses and publishers, but I do something else regarded as a grave sin.

I, as a writer, self-edit, and I publish it!

I must be insane, right?

Imagine an artist controlling their art! Ensuring every stroke of the brush is theirs. The absurdity!

Editing is an independent skill in writing. This is a fact. With that, it is true that an editor isn’t necessarily a skilled storyteller and vice-versa. These can be common misconceptions. I have read poorly self-edited work and work edited by so-called editors who were glorified spell-checkers and saw themselves as prescriptive grammarians, thus stripping a piece of style and substance. Editing (in the independent writing and publishing world) is a highly sought-after skill and grossly undervalued.

I have spent much of my life writing and editing across many forms, and when I began publishing books in 2018, I honestly did not consider passing them through an external editor’s desk. Ignorance at the time was perhaps in part to play. I, admittedly, did not consider hiring an editor as part of the process. And now, with a couple of years of publishing experience where I have learnt something new with every title and even when working with others, would I change it? Personally, no.

Why? Well, I’ve worked with editors and writers who take prescriptive approaches, and in such methods, so not hold a place in creative writing. I’ve also been ‘edited’ by terrible communicators who have ignorantly ‘corrected’ spellings of Celtic or Scots words to a form of English, thus destroying critical seeds of the story and publishing their mistakes in my work under my name. An editor’s job is to polish and enhance, to bring out the best in a writer’s work, not diminish their voice and make them look stupid. I’ve learned many lessons from both. In my writing and skilled self-editing, I’d rather make my own mistakes that I can correct than have someone else do it and not take responsibility and rectify their shortcomings.

Rigid, prescriptive processes can have their place when writing for a corporate audience and developing educational materials, in which I have much experience. But artistically, a prescriptive approach to editing has no place; one size does not fit all.

My choice to self-edit is not one I take lightly. As a freelance editor, I am not ignorant about the depth of such a task, and as with any other piece of written material that crosses my desk, I consider, correct and develop: punctuation, spelling, syntax, morphology, overall structure, make cuts of redundancies, tautologies and lines or passages that don’t drive the story forward, and of course, consider developmental opportunities, and the author or publisher’s specified needs and style which I always discuss prior to working with them. I consider the narrative voice and those of the characters to ensure they read authenticity. And another vital component is style — a piece of creative writing should have rhythm and motion, like a great painting or music. If it’s rigid and static, as it would be following a prescriptive approach, it would be stale.

Even with such vigorous attention to my work and my clients, I am not infallible. No editor is, and I don’t trust anyone who portrays themselves as so. Neither should you.

Scotland Banned Christmas

From 1640 to 1958, it was illegal to celebrate ‘Yule Vacations’. Christmas (then called Yule or Nollaig (Gaelic))was banned in Scotland for over 300 years. Christmas was regarded as a celebration held by the Catholic Church. After the reformations to Presbyterianism, Christmas was gradually downgraded until its outright ban. When Act 7, ‘dischairging the Yule vacance’ became legislation on 2nd June 1640, it read:

‘The estatis of parliament, presentlie conveind by his majesties speciall authoritie, wnderstanding that the kirke within this kingdome is now purged of all superstitious observatione of dayes, and heirwith also considering that the keiping of the Yule vacance heath not onlie relatione to that superstitione and may serve to keepe the same in memorie, but also that the keeping of the said Yule vacance heath interrupted the course of justice in this kingdome to the hinderance and heavie prejudice of the leiges thairof, thairfor the saidis estatis have dischairged and simply dischairges the foirsaid Yule vacance and all observation thairof in tymecomeing, and rescindis and annullis all acts, statutis and warrandis and ordinances whatsoevir granted at any tyme heirtofoir for keiping of the said Yule vacance, with all custome of observatione thairof, and findis and declaires the samene to be extinct, voyd and of no force nor effect in tymecomeing. And ordeanes the court and sessione of the colledge of justice and senatouris and memberis thairof to conveene and sit for the administratione of justice without ony interruptione by the foirsaid Yule vacance from the first day of November to the last of Februarie thairefter inclusive yeirlie, and ordeanes the said senatouris and remanent memberis of the said colledge of justice to ryise the said last day of February and to conveene and sit doune againe for administratione of justice to the leiges the first day of June yeirlie, and to ryise the last day of Julii nixt thaireftir inclusive. And also ordeanes the whole remanent judges of inferiour courtis within the kingdome to proceed in thair administratione of justice within thair severall jurisdictiones without any respect to the said Yule vacance and without any interruptione or vacatione by the same Yule vacance, notwithstanding of ony bygone custome of observatione of the said Yule vacance, sieing the samene is now dischairged in maner foirsaid.’

Christmas, as it is now, is less than 100 years old in Scotland. And for many celebrants, it has little to do with Christianity and is predominantly a commercial holiday. There are plenty of seasonal churchgoers who line the pews for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day mass for the sake of their salvation or tradition. Ultimately though, much of the meaning has been lost through rabid consumerism and ego — in direct opposition to the old concepts, regardless of its many guises celebrated globally.

Christianity and Christmas aside, the festival that predates and has stood the test of time, despite changing political and religious landscapes and indoctrination that our children are force-fed — Yule, Nollaig, or Winter Solstice are all celebrated with similar traditions. Though many such as myself, try to limit the greed and heavy consumerist pressures from apparently ‘well-meaning’ folks. As much as followers of the Christian version of Christmas may like to consider certain traditions as ‘theirs’, this is far from true — the feasting, the giving, the tree, colour formations, Yule log burning, the honouring and gratitude, the ‘Angel’ (Goddess), the star (pentacle) are far from Christian in origin. Perhaps that notion, too, feeds into greed and relentless taking.

Today is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. When the night dominates, so we reach and crave comfort and warmth — physical and emotional, and we are grateful for those in our lives who gift that to us and we to them. We share food, stories, ‘gifts’, and gratitude. Whatever you do should be enough without the dictatorship and noise of organised religion or the embedded consumerism.

As a practising pagan (who was Catholic schooled as a child), I celebrate the Magick, the cycle of the earth that sustains and gives us life throughout the seasons. Following the rhythms of the moon, just as the tides do.

It doesn’t need to be a show, on display for nothing other than validation of ‘good’ or ‘love’ suffocated in glitter. It can be quiet, calm, and spiritual, as are the roots of gratitude.

You don’t need to bow to the consumerist devaluation of the season by feeding the jelly-belly man in the red suit with pound-signs sparkling in his eyes, full of ‘cheer’. You don’t have to serve and be judged by a bloodthirsty god whose gift is guilt and the threat of damnation if you’re not ‘good’. You don’t have to feed the beast of judgment and hypocrisy, whether from the judges above or those within your own family.

The banning of Christmas was just another form of control, of course. Another religious and political move to dominate. Oh, how we’ve seen so many of those in this wee country! I don’t support the hypocrisy of Christmas being shoved down anyone’s throat either, it may be less than a century old here, but the indoctrination runs deep. The same could be said of the destruction of Indigenous Languages of Scotland — it’s always about control.

2022: The Year of Birds

Hogmanay nears, as does what can barely be avoided — the annual consolidation, the ‘review’ as we step over the next threshold.

It’s been another year of tumultuous news and events stabbing the air in-house and in close proximity. Health issues have arisen in many, some near and dear, some farther but no less dear to me—several with fatal implications, where time somehow runs faster on the clock. My heart has shattered a few times. Such is the way it goes.

Covid hit my house with a bang. I was pregnant, and the baby, Averey, died inside my womb when I had the worst symptoms. Since our second bout in July, long Covid symptoms have persisted, including with my young children. The year that we hoped to grab some social normality has demanded much push.

One of the many benefits of home educating (not home-schooling) is that the pressure and stress on children not to ‘fall behind’ on a prescribed curriculum and being ‘marked’ by ‘poor attendance’ due to health issues beyond control is absent, avoiding undue pressure on my kids’ mental health, to which almost anyone who has been schooled and has health issues can relate. All public services in the U.K., including schools, seem to be on a steep downward slope, faster than ever before. The unrest is palpable. That being said, home educating isn’t all skipping through the daisies! Many days have their challenges, and being the literal full-time parent and educator is tiring — and that was before the long-covid fatigue. Still, we get each other through, and the alternative isn’t an option.

As always, writing has been a constant. Separate from my creative writing, it’s been my introvert-central-management system since childhood. Sketching is too.

Professionally, I have had the pleasure of editing works by some fantastic writers this year — some serious jaw-dropping, inspiring talent. One of the last short stories I edited had me reaching for my inhaler! That author painted a vivid anxiety, paranoia-ridden piece in their protagonist — I felt it all! The subversive angle of the work while playing off the backdrop was skilfully moving. I was in awe. In the massive catalogue of literary genres, the immense skill some horror writers portray is hugely underrated, all due to that simple label ‘horror’. You’ll find the asthma attack-inducing story in KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Sapphire Edition.

This year Ruthann Jagge and I joined forces and created Brazen Folk Horror to share our collaborative works. We have been sharing weekly updates there and have many more ideas for the future. As with this site, readers can subscribe to receive those updates directly in their mailbox. The debut collaborative novel under our exclusive in-house imprint, Delevan House, releases on the 1st of February 2023, and the second book in that series is underway. I’ve shared before about how I adore working with her. We’ve each had much to contend with this year. At times, we’ve both been swimming against a ferocious tide, but we have prevailed and have created something unique from Scottish and Celtic folk inspiration. You better believe my girl and I are indeed Brazen as fuck.

Getting back into academic study has been challenging to make space for, but somehow It’s been working out, in sacrifice of sleep! I passed my first module and started my second towards my English Language and Literature degree. The second part has been immensely inspiring. I am enjoying it far more than I anticipated. It’s ignited old and new passions for my own language, those that I’ve been surrounded with and the broader scope of the world. I’ve been evaluating how this entwines cultural and individual identity. This leg of the course has lit a few fires.

Onto the books published under Clan Witch this year:

Asylum Daughter — my psychological horror novella set in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m proud of how this piece turned out. I loved writing it and got to exorcise the asylum.

The Crash of Verses by Rafik Romdhani — this is Romdhani’s second published collection. His poetry is among my favourites of recent years. If you have not read him, pick up this book. He is an exceptionally skilled modern poet.

Incesticide: Collected Horror — my second collection of short horror fiction. It includes nine stories featuring urban folk horror, a touch of splatterpunk and fairytale horror twisted with BDSM, among other assorted flavours for those who enjoy a taste of different things.

Clan Witch: Found Shadows, my collection of free verse poetry and drabbles. This brings together small pieces scattered with other publishers and some never before published poems. Not all truth and not all fiction.

There have been other written pieces published throughout 2022 in the form of short stories, poetry, articles, forewords and copy for other titles.

What about the birds? Birds have been a significant and symbolic component in my year. Before the baby was born, magpies started frequenting my garden. They never had before. In truth, I was never a fan of the species. (Largely due to a childhood memory or a magpie killing sparrow chicks in a neighbour’s garden. It was such a brutal attack, not for a meal or anything. It seemed to enjoy causing the suffering and instigating horror in the flock of sparrows screaming at the beautiful beastly creature.) Other corvids, such as their cousin, jackdaws, yes. But never the magpie. Of course, going through pregnancy and loss again, this felt strikingly symbolic. For the longest time, there would be one—a dark omen. One for sorrow… as the months have passed, groups of them now frequent the garden along with the smaller birds, which have their daily routines flying in for a feed and natter. Adopting ex-commercial laying hens scheduled to be slaughtered has been tremendously healing. We brought them home less than two weeks after our loss. Building for them and supporting their transition to domestic retirement felt like a productive and helpful use of grief energy. Then the hens have taken in robins. The birds have been inescapable and have become a significant feature of Delevan House too.

Life and creativity can be inseparable, at least elements of each. Twisting tendrils that reach out to be touched and woven into new patterns.

I am wrapping up, as I didn’t intend on doing this kind of update this year! There you have it, a wee mixed-bag summary of 2022. I best be off again, I’m currently hauled up with an unwell small. Her feverish chattering dreams spill out into the dark in a torrent, and I wish, as many parents do — I wish I could soak up the fever and take all the pains away, for always. But life has so much more of that in store. I will have to be content with holding her for as long as I can and as long as she needs.

The darkness is drawing in, approaching the longest of nights, and I wish for what I always do here and the world over, peace.

Natasha )O(

The Making of Delevan House #18

Wrapping Up Brazen Folk Horror presents the print cover wrap for Delevan House. Isn’t it a beauty! The cover image was created by the immensely …

The Making of Delevan House #18

Editing Software

Author Advice

In times when the costs of everything are skyrocketing, and artists have a hard enough time as is. I implore my fellow writers, even if you’re commanding the mammoth task of editing your own work, do not rely on editing software. It’s a mistake that your work and reputation will suffer for. Can your career afford that? Even premier-rated software is a poor substitute for the human eye and mind. This is especially true of fiction works.

I repeat: Editing software is not a substitute for an editor. It cannot take the place of an editor.

As a freelance editor, I often take on projects where I am the sole editor. Many independent writers, independent publishers and small presses can only afford one editor, whether in-house or by hiring another independent like Word-Refinery. This makes the process different to large house publishers, where multiple rounds are passed through multiple eyes, which incurs greater costs.

In the business of freelance editing, this is where, as an independent, editing software can be a helpful tool. To act as another pair of ‘eyes’ for the independent editor after they have completed their edits.

This is how I utilise such software – as a tool at the end of the more critical manual edit.

This software does not understand tone and the expansive varieties of Englishes. These softwares lack awareness of genre targets. They lack the ability to support the development of a text so that it reads in a way that leaps from the page and is not ‘flat.’ These softwares often apply sensitivity alerts which can strip a piece of its integrity, style and diminish the author’s voice.

Even if you cannot afford to hire an editor, editing software is not a substitute for an editor, even at a premium rate.