Guest Author Marjorie Mallon – The Curse Of Time

Today I have a visitor to the blog. Marjorie Mallon, author of the newly-released YA novel, The Curse of Time, is here to discuss her book and the inspiration behind it. I met Marjorie two years ago at the inaugural Bloggers Bash, where we were among the first to arrive. We’ve always caught up at subsequent Bashes, and I always enjoy our conversations. I’m thrilled that she’s realised her publishing dream and wish her much success!

Welcome to the blog. You’ve recently published your first novel, The Curse of Time. How does it feel to be a published author?

Amazing, but surreal like I’m dreaming, I’m still getting used to the idea!

What was the inspiration behind the story?

There are so many inspirations behind the story but the main ones are:

Light – represented by the beautiful crystal grotto at Juniper Artland in Scotland – The Light That Pours Out of Me by Anya Gallaccio

Time – Dr John C Taylor’s striking Chronopage clock on King’s Parade in Cambridge.

I had the honour of meeting Dr Taylor on the 11th of September. It’s the first time I have ever met an inventor; it was such an amazing experience. Dr Taylor is a rare individual with an extraordinary mind, creativity and vision to create such a stunning clock. I am in awe. Here is my photo of Dr Taylor and I by the clock.

My other sources of inspiration are:

 Art and painting – at the time of writing the first drafts of The Curse of Time my daughter was studying GCSE Art and her enthusiasm for art gave me the idea of art coming alive, forming characters and visual puzzles for the reader to wonder about.

Oscar Wilde’s, The Picture of Dorian Gray – preserving beauty at all costs.

Photography and Shadows – My interest in blogging meant that I’d taken lots of photographs. For some odd reason I’d photographed shadows and that became my next focus.  With this in mind I created a mysterious, shadowy male central character, Ryder.

Myths, Narcissism, mirrors, and deception!

The book is set in Cambridge. What is it about the city that appeals to you as a writer?

Cambridge is a University City with many beautiful buildings and settings to explore and discover. My favourite locales mentioned in the novel are: Kings Parade (home of the wondrous Chronopage,) the Round Church, and a couple of places that have either burnt down under mysterious circumstances – The Chinese restaurant at Caxton Gibbett, or sadly closed down – Clowns coffee shop. Oh, I forgot to mention that the main character Amelina goes on crazy detours to the crystal encrusted cottage and a ‘spirit walking’ escapade to Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh!

The Chronopage, featured on the front cover, is a real instrument. Tell us more about it, and how you got permission to use the image?

The Chronopage is homage to a functional form of modern art created by the esteemed inventor Dr John C. Taylor OBE. Dr Taylor had a remarkable vision to create a clock that worked in a new, extraordinary way. It had to be durable, sculpted in gold and stainless steel but above all else it had to capture the viewer’s attention to pause, stare and discuss. Each time I pass the Chronopage I am drawn to the motion of the Grasshopper escapement, enthralled by its greedy desire to eat time! You can find out more about the wondrous Chronopage on his website.

I approached Dr John C. Taylor’s publicity department regarding the possibility of using the image of the Chronopage on my front cover. The founder Tina Fotherby asked to read my manuscript. I was thrilled when permission was granted for me to use Dr Taylor’s photographs in my publicity and on the front cover of the book.

And what about the mysterious black cat? I hear he has his own Twitter account now.

The mysterious black cat exists in real life, even though I have not seen him for a long time. He arrived in our garden one day and like the Grasshopper he demanded my attention. I have never seen such a cat – a mini panther with the sleekest black fur, superhuman strength, a desire to be petted and admired but only on his own terms. He refused to sit on my lap but loved attention. I could swear to this day he belonged to a witch. He crept into our garden via the country park woods. I would observe him fascinated by his strange antics. On three separate instances I saw him doing extraordinary things I couldn’t explain. On one occasion, he disappeared from my sight without a trace, another time he appeared on our second storey balcony whining for someone to rescue him. I was astonished how he had managed to climb so high. The one time I picked him up he struggled against me and I was astonished by the strength in his feline body. I swear someone had cast a spell on a young fit man and turned him into a cat!

I called him Shadow and found a black cat model to portray him via a fellow blogging friend Samantha Murdoch.  Samantha’s son Alex Marlowe is a budding photographer and had taken some wonderful photographs of Lily, so Lily became my black cat supermodel! I now have a twitter account @curseof_time dedicated to Shadow the cat and to all things Curse of Time.

The Curse of Time is book one – how many books are you planning to have in the series?

I haven’t quite decided but I have the skeleton of Book two which I have entitled The Curse of Time – Golden Healer. I am hoping to have enough material for three books in the series.

When it comes to writing, are you a planner or a pantser?

I am a total pantser; my planning is minimal, which is problematic as I end up doing a ridiculous amount of editing, moving scenes around and the like.

What does a typical writing day entail?

I always write in the morning. Often I wake up with a flood of ideas and rush off to write them down while they are still fresh in my mind. When I am in the writing zone it is difficult to interrupt me, I tend to be obsessional! I have been known to burn the dinner and ignore people talking to me. I even begrudge a trip to the toilet!

What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working hard on my promotion of book one  but I hope to have some time soon to work on book two. I’m a member of Cambridge Writers and we get together once a month to critique each other’s work so I hope to take along another chapter for feedback soon.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I’ve entered The Curse Of Time in the WritersDB first line and cover contest. To find out more or if you’d like to vote for me, click here.

Thanks for coming to visit, Marjorie, and for giving us some insight into your creative process and inspiration. The Curse Of Time is now available on Amazon, and you can find out more about Marjorie on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Goodreads.  She also has a separate Twitter account dedicated to her new release, and runs the Author/Blogger Rainbow Support Group on Facebook.

 


More about Marjorie

I am a debut author who has been blogging for three years. My interests include writing, photography, poetry, and alternative therapies. I write Fantasy YA, middle grade fiction and micro poetry – haiku and tanka. I love to read and have written over 100 reviews.
My alter ego is MJ – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheros! I was born on the 17th of November in Lion City: Singapore, (a passionate Scorpio, with the Chinese Zodiac sign a lucky rabbit,) second child and only daughter to my proud parents Paula and Ronald. I grew up in a mountainous court in the Peak District in Hong Kong with my elder brother Donald. My parents dragged me away from my exotic childhood and my much loved dog Topsy to the frozen wastelands of Scotland. In bonnie Edinburgh I mastered Scottish country dancing, and a whole new Och Aye lingo.
As a teenager I travelled to many far-flung destinations to visit my abacus-wielding wayfarer dad. It’s rumoured that I now live in the Venice of Cambridge, with my six foot hunk of a Rock God husband, and my two enchanted daughters. After such an upbringing my author’s mind has taken total leave of its senses! When I’m not writing, I eat exotic delicacies while belly dancing, or surf to the far reaches of the moon. To chill out, I practise Tai Chi. If the mood takes me I snorkel with mermaids, or sign up for idyllic holidays with the Chinese Unicorn, whose magnificent voice sings like a thousand wind chimes.


The Curse Of Time

On Amelina Scott’s thirteenth birthday, her father disappears under mysterious circumstances. Saddened by this traumatic event, she pieces together details of a curse that has stricken the heart and soul of her family.
Amelina longs for someone to confide in. Her once carefree mother has become angry and despondent. One day a strange black cat and a young girl, named Esme appear. Immediately, Esme becomes the sister Amelina never had. The only catch is that Esme must remain a prisoner, living within the mirrors of Amelina’s house.
Dreams and a puzzling invitation convince Amelina the answer to her family’s troubles lies within the walls of the illusive Crystal Cottage. Undaunted by her mother’s warnings, Amelina searches for the cottage on an isolated Cambridgeshire pathway where she encounters a charismatic young man, named Ryder. At the right moment, he steps out of the shadows, rescuing her from the unwanted attention of two male troublemakers.
With the help of an enchanted paint set, Amelina meets the eccentric owner of the cottage, Leanne, who instructs her in the art of crystal magic. In time, she earns the right to use three wizard stones. The first awakens her spirit to discover a time of legends, and later, leads her to the Bloodstone, the supreme cleansing crystal which has the power to restore the balance of time. Will Amelina find the power to set her family free?
A YA/middle grade fantasy set in Cambridge, England exploring various themes/aspects: Light, darkness, time, shadows, a curse, magic, deception, crystals, art, poetry, friendships, teen relationships, eating disorders, self-harm, anxiety, depression, family, puzzles, mystery, a black cat, music, a mix of sadness, counterbalanced by a touch of humour.


 

Wednesday Wander – Singapore

It’s Wednesday, and time for another wander. This week I’ve been inspired by a book I just finished reading, Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians. When I say I read it, I mean I picked it up to read on Sunday and didn’t put it down again until Tuesday, when I’d finished. It was a delicious, decadent, funny read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was also set mostly in Singapore and so, in honour of that, I’ve decided to wander back there again.

Some of the action in the book is set in and around Orchard Road, the famous shopping thoroughfare. Thought to have taken its name from the nutmeg, pepper and fruit orchards the road once led to, Orchard Road is now home to gleaming shopping centres and the finest names in fashion – I did joke to my husband that there must be some sort of law that you have to have a Louis Vuitton store every 500 metres, because there were so many along there (not that I went into any of them). Interestingly, many of these shiny new buildings are built over what used to be burial grounds, with Chinese, Sumatran and Jewish communities all having graveyards along the road during the 19th century.

When we visited Singapore it was just at the turn of the Year of The Dragon, so there were decorations everywhere. We had a few days there, stopping over on our way to live in the UK, so we wandered through the heavy heat and gleaming buildings, eating icecream and marvelling at the variety of architecture. There was a little bit of shopping, of course, and we also visited the famous night zoo, watching elephants sleep under the stars.

Looking back at my photos of this visit made me realise the way I take photos has changed since I started blogging. Most of my older photos have people in them, so I won’t share them – I’ve chosen to mention my family only in passing on the blog, as they prefer it that way, and so do I. So now, whenever I go anywhere, of course I still take lots of photos with people in them, but I also take plenty without, making sure I capture enough images for whatever blog post I have in mind.

Anyway, I digress. This is the famous Marina Bay Sands building, with its rooftop bar and infinity pool complete with palm trees. It’s also where the final scene in Crazy Rich Asians takes place, so it seems appropriate to end this post here. Oh, and you can’t see it, but there’s a Louis Vuitton store in there, too.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – An Italian Villa, Tuscany (eventually)

Each week, when it’s time to write another Wednesday Wander, I cast around in my mind to see where I want to go. It’s usually a feeling that inspires me – perhaps the weather reminds me of somewhere I’ve visited, or I find a photograph, or see something on TV or online. This week I thought – Monaco. I haven’t wandered there as yet, though I remember it well. All pink sky and blue sea, roads cut into precipitous green hillsides, the scent of blossom and the glamour of the casino at Monte Carlo, me desperately trying to put together something approaching a sophisticated outfit from the rather less-than-sophisticated contents of my bag.

And yet, when I went to the photo album to grab the photos I definitely remember taking, there was nothing there. Zilch. Nada. I suppose it’s because of the technology of the time – it’s been over twenty years since I was there, and my (pre-digital) camera only worked sporadically on that trip. But at the time I didn’t really care, too taken with the sights I was seeing. I still feel the same way about travelling, keen to take everything in, but I usually end up with about three hundred photos as well, easily able to edit the ones that aren’t so great. And I guess that’s what happened here – the photos I took in Monaco didn’t work out for some reason; they were blurry, or I managed to get a thumb or some hair in the shot (happened more often than I like to think), so I decided to discard them when I got the prints.

There are other places I’ve visited where I’ve taken no photos at all – the Sistine Chapel, for example. If I remember right, we were told not to take any photos as we were herded through the many rooms leading to the chapel, at one point climbing out a window and walking along scaffolding, then climbing back in through another window (I am not making this up), an interesting exercise considering the crowds of people visiting that day (the Pope had just canonised four new saints). Leighton House, in London, is another place where interior photos are forbidden – I don’t know why, exactly.

Anyway, I have no Monaco photos. So, instead, I’ll just wander to this lovely Tuscan villa on the outskirts of Florence. Once a private home, it was reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman. One night, as I was returning to my room, I walked along the darkened hallway… to see a young woman gliding towards me, her long hair flowing back. My heart almost stopped until I realised it was a young Japanese woman, also on her way to her room. The hall lights were on a timer and had switched off just at that moment, adding to the eerie feeling. For all that, it was a gorgeous place, the manicured gardens and old stone walls reminders of a time past.

So this week, perhaps, was a bit more of a meander than a wander, but thank you for coming along with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Sad Break-Up…

How is everyone this Monday?

We’ve just had a lovely warm weekend here in the UK, a real taste of summer (or perhaps all the summer we are going to get, according to some!). I’ve been out and about quite a bit lately, visiting some wonderful places, but have one small problem. My iPhone has decided, for some reason, to stop talking to my iMac (or maybe it’s the other way around). There’s no apparent reason for the break up – they were getting along just fine until one day, they weren’t. Now it’s all ‘Do you trust this computer?’ and ‘Enter your passcode’ requests, as though they’ve never met before, and I’m not sure how to bring them back together again.

It’s a bit annoying, as you can imagine. Not change-my-life annoying, but certainly frustrating. I use a lot of photography on my blog, and I take those photos on my phone. So the fact that these two erstwhile good friends are now on the outs puts me in a tricky position. I have to email and post and try to slide my images in through some sort of electronic back door, and frankly, I don’t want to do it anymore. I had a chat with a young man at the Apple Store, who felt it might be something to do with two-step authentication, but I’ve turned all that off and it has made no difference.

Whatever has happened between these two is serious indeed, so I’ll be spending some time over the coming days trying to make peace. If anyone else has ever had this problem, and knows any sort of negotiating tactics that might work, please let me know. I’d love to get them back talking again.

Oh, and I’ve just sent the manuscript for Under Stone, Ambeth Book Four, to my lovely editor, Esther! Huge sigh of relief…


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Wednesday Wander – Ancient Rome

I spent most of today wandering around Roman ruins and a museum with a group of children from my daughter’s school. I saw some wonderful mosaics, coffins complete with skeletons, and dozens of finely made Roman artifacts.

So, for my Wednesday Wander this week, I thought I’d take a trip back to where it all began. Where an empire was formed that reached east and west, controlling territory as far away as this misty small island (and possibly further still, if the stories about South American shipwrecks are true).

ancient-rome-2This, my friends, is ancient Rome.

Well, it’s what’s left of it, anyway. I took these shots from a viewing platform overlooking all that is left of that mighty city – the ground level is far lower than that of modern Rome, which is why I appear to be so high above the ruins. I quite like how all the fallen columns seem to have been gathered and placed tidily together – I don’t know whether they’ve been reinstated in the intervening years, but it did seem to me as though work was ongoing at the time.

ancient-rome-1Another thing that struck me, as I looked at these photos, is how much digital photography, particularly on our phones, has changed the way we record things. I took these photos with a regular old film camera, back in the days when you had to drop the film off and wait to see if any of the shots were good. Film wasn’t cheap and I was travelling on a budget, hence why I have only three shots of the city, rather than the eight thousand or so I’d probably take today.

ancient-rome-3I remember Rome as a city of contrasts – full of great beauty and history, yet crowded and dirty. I also visited ancient catacombs along the Appian Way – went underground and saw ancient tombs and painted shrines, roped off areas leading who knows where. I have no photographs of this at all.

I think I might need to go back to Rome…

Thanks for joining me on another Wednesday Wander – see you next time!


You can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ, plus check our my Facebook Page, Instagram and Pinterest page for book info, photos, blogs and more…

Jack Of All Trades

IMG_0893I was thinking, the other day, about all the different jobs I’ve had. Apart from four months off after having a baby and a couple of months after university when I moved cross-country, I’ve worked pretty much continuously since I was fifteen.

So here, in no particular order, are all the different paying jobs I’ve had:

McDonald’s server

Strawberry Picker (a low point)

Retail Sales: Clothing, high-end shoes, leather goods

Visual Merchandiser – Full time and freelance

Fashion/Promotions Model

Admin Manager

Design Studio Manager

Golf Course Social Club Manager

Accounts Receivable

Signage Designer

Banquet Server/Bartender

Barista

Martial Arts Instructor

Hair Salon Assistant Manager

Print Production Manager

Talent booker

Art Buyer for an Ad Agency

Photography Producer

Gallery Assistant

Receptionist

Freelance Artist

Hmmm. That’s quite a long list. I am *ahem* a bit older than fifteen now, and I have moved around a bit, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve tried my fair share of different jobs. However, none of them ever ‘took’.

Until now.

For the past ten years or so I have had the same job: writer. And I love it. I love the challenge of working with words, of finding the correct tone for each piece, wrestling the pieces into place so that I speak with my own voice, or that of my client. I love writing stories and sharing them, and consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to do so. Sometimes it pays quite well, and at other times I can work weeks for a pittance – but I enjoy all of it.

I don’t know that there’s much of a point to this post, other than the fact that I tried lots of different things until I found what it was that I really wanted to do. And, the thing is, I was doing it all along. One of my best friends from university, when I told her I was writing a book, said, ‘but you’ve always been a writer.’ Funny that she could see what I could not. So I look back on each of my different roles as learning experiences. Sometimes the only thing I learned was that I never wanted to do that job/work with that person again, but it was a lesson, nonetheless.

Perhaps we only come to things when we are ready for them. I know all the jobs I’ve had gave me different skills and made me the person I am now. They also gave me life experience to draw upon when writing stories, and taught me what I didn’t want from my life. It was one of my former employers who first took a chance on me, asking me to write something for them. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

So how about you? What unusual, awful or wonderful jobs have you had?

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You can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ, plus check our my Facebook Page, Instagram and Pinterest Page for book info, photos, blogs and more…

 

 

Picas – Turning Photography Into Digital Art

This past week I’ve been playing with Picas, a new filter app for my phone. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen a couple of shots I shared there.

The premise of the app is, according to the description, that it ‘combines deep neural networks and artificial intelligence to automatically redraw photos into famous art effects.’ The filters are based upon famous paintings: Munch’s The Scream, Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Hokusai’s Great Wave are all represented, along with many others.

So, how does it work?

Well, the deeper programming mysteries will have to remain just that for the time being, but basically, when you open the app, you have the option to either take a photo or access your photo library. Once you’ve chosen an image you’re taken to the filters screen, where you can scroll through the different filters and apply them, only saving the amended images you want to keep.

img_3827And there are some pretty cool effects. Here’s a photo I took of some red shoes (thinking about the cover for A Thousand Rooms). I then applied a few different filters to get the following:

img_3838 img_3837 img_3836 img_3835

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are some photos of me. First I added a Snapchat filter (see note on copyright below), then I added the Picas filters to get different effects. It only took a few minutes to do, and I think that, if you played around with costumes and make-up, you could create an image to suit just about any genre.

img_3805 img_3808 img_3809

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, I think that Picas has some great effects, and I really enjoyed playing around with my photos. I was a little disappointed with the Klimt filter, as I would have loved to be changed into one of his glorious golden paintings, but at the same time, I appreciate there are such things as copyright laws, so the filters are designed to give your images the same feel as the artworks, rather than converting them to fake masterpieces.

img_3849And, speaking of copyright, there was one caveat I forgot to mention on my Prisma post, and the same would apply here. If you use a filter for a photo which is then used for commercial purposes (ie a book cover), it’s worth checking with the app provider that there are no copyright issues involved in doing so. As for Picas, I’ve already done that bit for you – a quick email exchange with app creator Miya assured me that, once the filters are on your photos, they’re yours to use as you wish.

So. Another great little app full of options for creating cover designs or promotional images, or even just having fun with holiday snaps. It’s easy to use, and it’s free. Available now for Android and i0S.

Note: I was approached by the creators of Picas to provide an honest review and I thought, why the hell not? This is my blog, after all 🙂