My first 5* Amazon review for The Weave came out today. Hopefully this is the start of many!
Reviews are one of the biggest influences on a reader’s decision to purchase and help the author’s Amazon rankings. For an author they also help to provide an insight into the reader’s likes and dislikes; to improve their storytelling and hence produce even better books.
In this extract from fantasy novel The Weave, author Richard Pease has come to a writers’ retreat in France to try and break through writer’s block. He finds the retreat – the Nonesuch Club – for the first time.
At night the maze of narrow streets and dark alleyways seemed forbidding. Tall houses on either side of the streets leaned drunkenly against each other, many with a first-floor storey overhanging the street below, looming, somehow threatening.
He shambled around the deserted streets with no particular direction in mind and found himself approaching the church via the Rue de Penitents Blancs. ‘I’m white and I’m very penitent,’ he shouted wildly, ‘so what are you picking on me for?’
In reply a jagged shot of lightning ripped across the sky followed by the rolling crash of thunder. It began to rain – at first huge spattering drops and then a skin-soaking, flesh-numbing torrent. Another shot of lightning, the street lights flickered, died plunging Richard into blackness. Not a shard of light to be seen – no glimmer through the closed shutters or lead-latticed fanlights, just blackness. ‘Oh yes, oh yes, very funny,’ he cried…
He swivelled this way and that like a pointer dog casting for a scent. In the end he turned blindly to his right and slowly crept along the cobbled street. He muttered to himself. ‘If that was the Penitents’ Rue then I’m near the church and…’ but he was too befuddled. He gave up trying to work it out. Instead, holding his hands out in front of him he shuffled forward. At one point he was convinced he heard footsteps behind him and a flicker of fear grew. He tripped and stumbled on the cobblestones.
Under the shelter of an overhanging roof he stopped and peered into the darkness behind him. He saw nothing. The rain poured off the roof spattering the pavement and splashing up the hems of his jeans. He looked behind him again and, in the flash of another lightning shot, thought he could make out a dark figure. Nervously, he began to shuffle forward again. He took just a few steps when he felt a touch on his shoulder. Whipping round, a trailing tendril of wisteria hanging loose from a house wall brushed his face.
Thoroughly unnerved he panicked and turned down a side alley. He had no idea where he was. Again he felt a touch on his shoulder and he broke into a blind run, stumbling and splashing through the stone gutter that ran down the centre of the alleyway.
Then he saw it… just a glimmer of greenish-blue light ahead. Gasping, he half-ran towards it. He stood in front of huge wooden gates.
Above the gates an old-fashioned oil lantern glowed dimly. On one of the gates a large bronze knocker in the form of a grotesque spider glimmered in the light. He hesitated then reached out for the knocker.
That’s it for now. My debut fantasy novel The Weave now available from Amazon.
In The Weave, the witch Ombrine uses a number of herbs and plants to create her potions, curses and magical deaths. Here is a scene from the book where, in 1605, she is teaching Oskar some of her herbal lore. She was particularly fond of using Wolfbane and Belladonna.
“Over the next few days she taught him how to make …
The Dream Maker, made from a blend of Wolfbane, belladonna and the tiniest pinch of Datura, which acted on body and mind to fire off images and illusions drawn from the darkest, deepest emotions within a man’s soul.
‘You have to be very careful with Datura,’ she warned him, ‘since it is several times more poisonous than the other two… unless of course you want your victim to die a terrible death.’ She paused, giving him a gleeful smile.
‘You remember that captain in Hamburg? I slipped him a little too much after we parted him from his cargo of silk. A mistake on my part, I admit, but I am not one to have regrets. He was a coarse, base creature. No loss to anyone. I confess, I laughed when he hauled himself to the top of his ship’s mast thinking is was a ladder to God and then threw himself off, believing he could fly with the angels. Yes, this is one to be careful with.’
Then there was the Standstill, made primarily from monkshood and used to excite the blood and brain. Paralysis of the body swiftly followed but consciousness remained…”
Wolfbane (aka Monkshood) with its striking blue cowl-like flowers is highly toxic and has been used in times past for both hunting and warfare. In ancient & Chinese medicine, Wolfbane was used to slow the pulse and act as a sedative. And should you have a sudden need to detect a werewolf it is said that if you hold the flower under the chin of the alleged werewolf and a yellow shadow appears you know you need to get that silver bullet ready. Alternatively it used to be the fashion that you wrapped up the seed of Wolfbane in a lizard’s skin and wore it around the neck, as protection.
Belladonna has many names including Witch’s berry, Banewort, Black Cherry, Deadly Nightshade, Death’s herb, Devil’s Cherries, and Fair Lady. You can guess what a poisonous herb it is just by reading these names, While Belladonna is beautiful plant it is also quite deadly. It induces among other things hallucinations, psychic dreams, delirium and a seriously painful death.
Its common name- Belladonna – comes from an ancient cosmetic practice. Apparently women used drops made from the plant to dilate the pupils – an effect considered to be sultry and sexy.
Datura, also known as Devil’s Trumpets is a beautiful plant rather than a herb. It is highly toxic, hallucinogenic and deliciously scented. Due to the combination of chemical substances it contains, Datura can induce, among other things, delirium which usually incorporates the inability to tell reality from fantasy, muscle stiffness and temporary paralysis and memory loss.
So what does Oskar do with his new-found knowledge and skills? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
Personally I didn’t mind them at all until I had to do some research for my forthcoming novel The Weave. I had no idea of the number of different varieties nor of the nasty habits some of them possess. However it was all good stuff to help me create the Amarellos – my own genus of tiny scuttling spiders that have a part to play in the book.
For a bit of fun I’ve put together a list of the ten most dangerous spiders in the world (working up from 10 to 1) that gave me the inspiration for my fictional ones. Arachnophobes look away now!
At 10 we have the Hobo spider – a member of the Funnel-Web spider family but definitely not to be confused with the Australian Funnel-Web (see later). Opinion is divided as to its degree of nastiness but it is not thought to attack unless guarding themselves or their egg sacs. Seems reasonable.
At 9 we have the Camel spider – which is not actually a true spider more a look-alike. They live in very dry climates; can grow to 12-15 cm (5-6 ins). Legend has it that they use their distinctly nasty choppers to clip hair from humans to line their underground nests.
The Camel spider
Number 8 is the Yellow Sac spider whose tummy colour ranges from beige to yellow. Their venom is supposedly necrotic – that is it causes damage to and kills off flesh.
One snippet I found mentions that some of them like the smell of petrol encouraging them to weave their webs in the canister vent of cars – notably Mazdas. This is not A Good Thing and Mazda issued a voluntary recall.
At No. 7 is the Tiger spider – a species of Tarantula. Their legs can grow up to 10 ins in the females. They come out at night and rather than use a cobweb they ambush their prey, roll it in silk and start to munch.
At 6 is the Mouse spider – so-called because once upon a time they were thought to dig burrows similar to mice. Despite the meek and mild name they are said to be as dangerous as the Aussie Funnel-Web.
Number 5 is the Six-eyed Sand spider loaded with a nasty sac of necrotic venom which can cause life threatening wounds, particularly if the venom spreads.
Number 4 is the Redback spider – a member of the widow spider family. The female is more dangerous than the male who often, after serving her needs, gets guzzled. The lady of the species has a red stripe on the upper body and a red or orange streak underneath. Its two fangs bite into the victim then she wraps them up in silk and sucks out the liquefied insides. Lovely.
Number 3 is the Chilean Recluse spider; brown with markings that form the shape of a violin – hence its other names – Fiddleback or Violin spider. They hunt at night, leaving their webs and have a penchant for a dry, quiet neighbourhood like woodpiles and sheds. Ominously it is frequently found in houses.
Number 2 is the Sydney Funnel-Web spider, native to Australia, around Sydney. A nibble from this lovely can cause serious injury or death in humans if not treated. It comes in several colours – blue-black, brown or plum.
And number 1 in the line-up is the Brazilian Wandering spider. Aggressive and venomous, striped, hairy and long-legged (4-5 ins) it has striking red jaws which it displays when miffed. True to its name it wanders on the jungle floors but it searches for a quiet des. res. during the day time wherein to hide. Sometimes it is called the banana spider as it is occasionally found in banana shipments.
So there they are, venomous, villainous but generally only when disturbed. But take heart they are not spread all over the world. It seems to me that South America and Australia have drawn the short straw when it comes to poisonous spiders.
“When struggling author Richard Pease joins a writers’ retreat and finds himself tangled in a centuries-old web of intrigue and deception he has more to deal with than writers block…like escaping with his life.”
I thought that you might like to see the cover for my book The Weave. Hope you like it. Should be out in November.
So what do you think? If you saw the cover in a bookshop or on-line would it intrigue you or would you give it the go-by?