Monday, 30 April 2012

Get to Know St. Crescens!

St. Crescens is the fictional Caribbean island inhabited by the characters in Jessamine.  Come get to know this beautiful island in the Leeward Antilles!

Background:  Archaeologists have determined that the Siboney were the first to arive on the island of St. Crescens more than 2,000 years ago. They had apparently moved on by the time Chistopher Columbus landed on the island in 1493 because he reported meeting only the Arawak Indians who then populated the islands.  The island changed hands frequently between the Spanish, English and French  but the island came permanently into English control in the late 1600s. The island became independent in 1965. The population of St. Crescens at the last Census in 2010 was 32,000. The capital of the island, Wolverton, is on its south-western shore where the best natural harbour is located.  Previously, the economy was based on fishing and agriculture but tourism is now the island's main revenue earner.

A traditional fishing boat.
Geography: St. Crescens is a volcanic island whose highest peak, Warner Mountain, is 1, 750ft. It is named after Thomas Warner, the first governor of the Leeward Islands. The island has numerous beaches.

People and Society: The people of St. Crescens are known as St. Crescians. People of African descent make up 89% of the population, mixed 5%, whites 3% and other, including Middle Easterners, 3%.  The majority of St. Crescians are Christians - Methodists 42%, Anglicans 25%, Church of God 12%, Pentecostals 7%, Roman Catholics 4%, Hindus 3%, Muslims 2%. Five percent none or unspecified.

A religious sect marches through the capital

Government: St. Crescens became independent from Great Britain in 1965 but the Queen remained its Head of State and it joined the Commonwealth.  The island later revoked its Commonwealth status in 1983. The United People's Movement, headed by Rufus Carrington, has been the governing party for the last thirty years.  Other parties include the St. Crescens' Movement Party and the newly-formed People's National Party headed by Julian Hylton. Elections are held every four years.

To learn more about St. Crescens, connect with me on Twitter and look out for #VisitStCrescens.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

My Sugar Apple - Snapshot Saturday

It's Snapshot Saturday again!  Snapshot Saturday is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Today I'm sharing photos of the sugar apple growing in my yard. The sugar apple fruit has a lot of seeds but the flesh is sweet and creamy - like a natural ice cream.  In fact, it's best eaten cold!

The fruit on the tree.

A close-up.

And this is what it looks like, when opened.
The tree doesn't grow very tall but it's good bearer and I can expect quite a few more fruit, maybe as many as twenty, before the end of the year.  (Unless a hurricane passes through, of course, and then all bets are off!)

Friday, 27 April 2012

White is for Witching - The Spring Into Horror Read-a-Thon Continues

So as you know by now, I'm participating in Castle Macabre's Spring Into Horror Read-a-thon this week.  The Read-a-Thon is hosted by Michelle, also known as The True Book Addict and there are giveaways and lots of twitter activity so feel free to jump in - it's not too late!

So far I've finished The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and now I've moved on to White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi about another house with possibly evil intentions!  The writing is very different - it doesn't have the same brooding Gothic vibe but it's definitely a good read so far!

This is the Goodreads blurb -

In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. Lily is gone and her twins, Miranda and Eliot, and her husband, the gentle Luc, mourn her absence with unspoken intensity. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter apples in the garden when the branches should be bare. Generations of women inhabit its walls. And Miranda, with her new appetite for chalk and her keen sense for spirits, is more attuned to them than she is to her brother and father. She is leaving them slowly -
Slipping away from them -
And when one dark night she vanishes entirely, the survivors are left to tell her story.
"Miri I conjure you "
This is a spine-tingling tale that has Gothic roots but an utterly modern sensibility. Told by a quartet of crystalline voices, it is electrifying in its expression of myth and memory, loss and magic, fear and love.
I'll probably post an excerpt so you get an idea of the writing later today.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Haunting of Hill House - an excerpt

I've finished my first Spring Into Horror read-a-thon book!  Yay!  There's an excerpt below - this was a creepy book about a horrible house.  I'll do a review this weekend.

"It knows we're here," Eleanor whispered, and Luke, looking back at her over his shoulder, gestured furiously for her to be quiet.

It is so cold, Eleanor thought childishly; I will never be able to sleep again with all this noise coming from inside my head; how can these others hear the noise when it is coming from inside my head? I am disappearing inch by inch into this house, I am going apart a little bit at a time because all this noise is breaking me; why are the others frightened?

She was aware, dully, that the pounding had begun again, the metallic overwhelming sound of it washed over her like waves; she put her cold hands to her mouth to feel if her face was still there; I have had enough, she thought, I am too cold.

"Purest love," Theodora said madly, "purest love." And she began to giggle again...

Now we are going to have a new noise, Eleanor thought, listening to the inside of her head; it is changing.  The pounding had stopped, as though it had proved ineffectual, and there was now a swift movement up and down the hall, as of an animal pacing back and forth with unbelievable impatience, watching first one door and then another, alert for a movement inside, and there was again the little babbling murmur which Eleanor remembered; Am I doing it? she wondered quickly, is that me? And heard the tiny laughter beyond the door, mocking her.

"Fee-fi-fo-fum," Theodora said under her breath and the laughter swelled and became a shouting; it's inside my head, Eleanor thought, putting her hands over her face, it's inside my head and it's getting out, getting out, getting out -

Now the house shivered and shook, the curtains dashing against the windows, the furniture swaying, and the noise in the hall became so great that it pushed against the walls; they could hear breaking glass as the pictures in the hall came down, and perhaps the smashing of windows. ...Holding to the bed, buffeted and shaken, Eleanor put her head down and closed her eyes and bit her lips against the cold and felt the sickening drop as the room fell away beneath her and then right itself and then turned, slowly, swinging....Somewhere there was a great, shaking crash as some huge thing came headlong..."  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Monday, 23 April 2012

Springing Into Horror!

This week I'm participating in Castle Macabre's Spring Into Horror Read-a-thon hosted by Michelle, also known as The True Book Addict.

If you're not a big horror fan - no worries, she's counting speculative fiction, too.

For my part, I'll be reading The Haunting of Hill House.

This isn't actually the version I have but I like this cover better. My Penguin version is with the house seen behind the gate.

This is the Goodreads blurb - First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers-and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Island Roosters - Snapshot Saturdays

One of the things most visitors to the British Virgin Islands remark on, is the number of chickens all about on the streets.  The pictures below were taken near our cruise ship pier.

This rooster looks like he's trying to figure out the signs, doesn't he?

And here he is again...

I think he was looking for a sign that read "Roosters Welcome!"

Snapshot Saturday is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Lucky Se7en Meme Blogger

Thanks Paulita for the Lucky Se7en Meme blog award!

As part of the award, I have to go to page 77 of my current work in progress, scroll down to line 7 and copy down the next 7 lines or sentences.  I've tagged 6 (I know, I know it should be 7) authors to do the same thing so we can keep this going.

This is from an as yet unnamed paranormal/horror manuscript I'm working on -

Mark looked uncomfortable.  “Got better uses for his officers, I guess.”  He became absorbed in rubbing a dent in the countertop. 

“Huh.”  Something didn’t add up but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  I wondered if I’d become a bone of contention between him and his boss.  It stood to reason; there was no way the Chief could be happy about Mark going from surveilling me to suddenly playing house with me.  I don’t know too much about law enforcement but that would seem like one of those things higher ups frown on. 

And now for my nominations:-

Tara Chevrestt

Delaney Diamond

Anita Davison

Empi Baryeh

Diana Bold

Myne Whitman

OK, I know that's six, not seven but I'm new to the whole blogging writers thing and I live on a tiny island where meeting writers who blog doesn't happen every day so bear with me. 

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Memories of Syria

Today for Snapshot Saturday I'm sharing a few more of my pix from my Syria trip.  At a time when the country is being torn apart by clashes between the government and activists, it's important to remember Syria's long and illustrious role in the history of humanity.  (OK, I'll get off my soapbox now.)

This Roman-era auditorium had awesome acoustics.
When a couple of us went down, those who stayed high in the stands could still hear them clearly without them having to shout.

Our guide took us into the hills overlooking Damascus for a magical sight of the city in the evening. The green lights are the lights from mosques.

I found it interesting that signs depicting Hafez al-Assad and his son, Bashar al-Assad,  the present President, were everywhere.

These industrious girls were shelling peas in the restaurant near the entrance to Ugarit.

Snapshot Saturday is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Exerpt from Jessamine - Enjoy!


She draws nearer, nearer.  I can feel her in the air…a disturbance, a shiver…like how I know when rain is coming long before it sweeps in from the sea beyond Headley Point.  She is coming, and we will speak.  We have a lot in common, we two, though she is alive and I am not.


The heat body-slams me as I emerge from the plane; a heat like the island is on fire, the flames around the corner, just out of sight.  I don’t know how I will stand it but Julian is waiting for me in the Arrivals area.  Back in Philly, his complexion was close to mine, but the Caribbean sun has burnished his skin to a deep coffee.  He looks good.  The smile on his face broadens as he looks at me.  He raises his open arms.
I drop my bags and run to him.  I hold him tight, and I breathe deeply, loving the musky man-smell of him. 
“Is this all your stuff?” he asks, looking at my two suitcases and my carry-on.
“They will do until the container gets here.  The shipping company promised me three weeks.”  I have not let go of him.  I’ve not seen him in six months, and I’ve missed him as much as I’d miss my eyes were a thief to take them from me in the night.  He kisses me, and I know he knows everything I’m feeling.  A little smile plays around his mouth as if this knowledge is a secret sweet to him.
He nods to a man in a red polo shirt who picks up the suitcases and follows us to the car.
“Yo, Mr. Hylton.”
“How’s it going, Mr. Hylton?”
            People watch me and call out to him as we walk over to the airport’s small parking lot.  Julian waves to them, answering some by name.  Their expressions range from calculating curiosity to mischievous lechery.  Foreign women are seen here either as status symbols or sexual doormats.  Julian blames it on tourism.
            “Do you know everyone now?” I ask to distract myself.  I have never lived in a city of less than a million people, and I think that will probably be the hardest adjustment.  St. Crescens’s thirty-two thousand worry me.
            Julian laughs.  “Not everybody.  Most, though.”  His tone is super-confident.  It is the way he sounds when he talks about the new political party he has formed with his friends.  I do not share his confidence but I’ve just arrived and I’m an American.  I’m terrified he’s making a mistake.  He’s come back to St. Crescens to live after twenty-one years in the States and now I have followed him here, playing the dutiful wife, but my thoughts are clouded with doubts.
            He points his remote at a shiny, silver Land Cruiser which beeps a response as the porter takes my suitcases around to the back.  I finally release my hold on my husband and walk around to climb in the passenger seat.  The Land Cruiser is new, its leather interior pristine, the dashboard daunting in its precise array of instruments.  In the rear-view mirror, I see Julian peel a couple of purple-colored dollars from his clip to pay the man.  The St. Crescens dollar is worth half of the American but St. Crescians, as they call themselves, are very proud of their money. 
            “How’re Dad and Mother July?” he asks, as he gets in and starts the car.  Mother July is his pet name for my mother, July Sommers.
            “They’re fine.  Mom went crazy at a rose sale a couple days ago.  She bought off probably their entire stock of white ones so now she’s stumped about just where she’s going to put them all.  She wants to be able to see them from the house.”
            He nods.  “Below the patio would be a great area.”
            I visualize the stone patio with its wide curving steps that lead down to a grassy area and the garden beyond. 
“Along the path, you mean?”
            “No, right below the patio.  Along the wall.”
            He’s right.  The dark gray of the wall’s stones would be the perfect backdrop for the potent beauty of white roses.
            “I’ll tell her you suggested it.  You know she respects your taste.”  It’s true.  My mother often turns to Julian when making decisions about the house.  A graduate of Stanford’s School of Architecture, design comes naturally to him.  He has a gift for it.  After he did Senator Langley’s home in Sag Harbor Hills thirteen years ago, a whole new high-powered crowd sought out his services, and his fees went through an already high roof.  This is the reason why none of our friends understand why he’s given everything up to return to a small island they only heard about through him. 
            “You know, there’s been a lot of development in the capital since you were here last,” Julian says.
            He brought me here eleven years ago, before we were married, and I haven’t been back since.  Not because I didn’t like the island.  I just found it hard to find the time and coordinate my schedule with his.  Now, I stare out the window as we head up one of the island’s steep hills.  The lush, direct beauty of the island, its towering hills, the shining emerald growth, the aquamarine of the sea shading to indigo as it deepens and disappears into the horizon; these are the things of which my memories are formed. 

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Supernatural Caribbean - The Dead

The Caribbean has a rich supernatural tradition which few writers have explored in their books, Nalo Hopkinson and Marlon James being among the notable exeptions.  My upcoming release, Jessamine, features a ghost and makes references to a few supernatural practices or beliefs so I thought I'd do an occassional series on some of the more common ones.  Today, I'm taking a look at practices and beliefs surrounding the dead.

As a child growing up, I often heard about ghosts or Jumbees from family and friends but I don't think anybody took these stories too seriously.  Not in the light of day, anyway.  At my elementary school, for example, I had to walk through an Anglican graveyard to get to school but I don't recall ever being afraid.  Playtime was often spent playing tag as close to the graves as we could get away with before teachers noticed.  Jumbees were the ghosts of the dead but there wasn't anything to fear from them during the day.  At night, though, many people, particularly those in remote areas, closed all their windows and doors to keep the Jumbees out.

A hundred years ago, blacks in the Caribbean used to regularly put food and drink on graves so the dead wouldn't go hungry but, as time went on and the influence of Christian missionaries strengthened, this practice, like many others that hearkened back to Africa, faded away.

Some practices survive, however.  In Jamaica and a few other Caribbean islands, the tradition of Nine Nights (or now Seven Nights) also known as Dead Yard or Set Up, is not just a chance for survivors to celebrate the life of the departed and eat a lot of good food.  It's also the way to give them a proper send-off so they won't stick around.  Basically, it's a wake which is held every night from the time the person dies until the ninth night.  People sing hymns, pray and talk about the deceased.  Lots of food and drink are shared out and, as you can see from the video below, a good time is had by all.  I imagine the kind of Set Up a dead person has depends on what they were like or on who their survivors are - the first picture suggests a very different Set Up from the one filmed in the video.
After the ninth night, the dead person's mattress may be turned to the wall to signify to the spirit that it's time to move on.

I found this image on the web at Corbis Images.

Hmm, looks like fun, doesn't it?

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Palmyra on my Mind

Join me for today's Snapshot Saturday, a great meme,  sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

A few years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Syria so, with everything that's going on over there, I thought I'd post my own memories of a beautiful country with an amazing history. The pictures below are three I took while in Palmyra, the ancient city, whose queen Zenobia stood up to the might of Rome and founded her own short-lived empire.  Syria is not on the usual tourist track so our contingent was only one of two there that day. The ruined city's stark beauty and awesome desolation are inadequately captured.

Palmyra is also known as Tadmor and is mentioned in the Bible.
The area is now a World Heritage Site.

This man drove up to the site on his trusty motorcycle
and proceeded to hawk earrings and necklaces.

According to our guide, statues of gods may
once have been showcased within these pillared boxes.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

I See You!

It's Cat Thursday once again. Cat Thursday is hosted by The True Book Addict and is a fun meme for all cat lovers. 

Romulus peeps in at me!

Romulus likes to slip outside through one window, scramble down to the ground floor and then come up the steps to this window to beg to be let in so he can repeat the whole exercise again.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

First Chapter Tuesday!

Today I'm participating in Bibliophile By the Sea's First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesdays on first paragraphs that drew you in...

"There were four of us - George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency.  We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were - bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course.
"We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it.  Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that he had fits of giddiness too, and hardly knew what he was doing.  With me, it was my liver that was out of order.  I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed various symptoms by which a man could tell when his liver was out of order.  I had them all."  Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome

I was in Collins Bookstore and picked this up, flipped it open and began to read.  I found the idea of these three lounging around enumerating their ills hilarious and bought the book.  That was years ago.  I still have Three Men in a Boat and I periodically re-read it when I want a good laugh.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Winner of Miss Peregrine's Home Announced!

This is just a quick note to announce that Debbi Cocchio has won the Giveaway of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  Yay, Debbie!  (I've sent you an email requesting your mailing address so please look out for it.)

Thanks to all who participated!  I'll be giving away other books soon so keep tuned!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

One more day left for my giveaway of a hardcover copy of Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children.  Remember, entries are open to anyone from anywhere!  See the rules below.


A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very peculiar photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience....Miss Peregrine's children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow - impossible though it seems - they may still be alive.

Rules for the Giveaway are simple:-
1. Follow me here on my blog or
2. Follow me on Twitter. (if you do both that's two entries)
3. Leave a comment with your email addy telling me what you've done.

You also get a bonus entry if you blog about this giveaway or tweet it and then email me the link. (eugeniaoneal [at] gmail [dot] com) This giveaway will end tomorrow, Monday, 2nd April, so enter today.

Open internationally!