Originally posted 2020.
I don’t need a Halloween costume this year. I already look like a monster. The medication I’m on to stop my body killing me (condition lamented here) has made my face swell up. Like a moon. It is a well documented side effect actually referred to as ‘moonface’. The same drug is also causing insomnia so I have massive eye bags that extend to what feels like halfway down my face. There’s quite a lot of bandage action across my body too, which adds an air of mummification fun to the whole ensemble.
I’m also pale. Pale like a ghost.
However, being a monster on the outside, in appearance, is nothing to being truly monstrous. While researching witch-hunting in preparation for writing THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, I wanted to find a real monster, a person so enthused for the brutal activity that they could become a focal point for that dark energy in the story. History did not give him up easily. There was no obvious individual in the court documents or confessions. But I hunted him down and finally cornered the rogue in the financial accounts of Aberdeen.
In September 1597 William Dunn, Dean of Guild, was awarded, £47 3s 4d (the equivalent of £6000 in today’s money) for taking ‘extraordinary pains in the burning of a great number of witches’. It was really unusual for someone to be given a large lump sum like this. With the exception of some witch prickers and those who sought to escheat their rich relatives, money was not commonly a motivating factor in the witch trials. William Dunn’s job was being in charge of the public money of the town, so he basically gave the cash to himself. I found you Sir, and I made you smell of rotten fish! If you read the historical notes section of the book, you’ll see that I’ve also cast him as the devil.
So now I’m editing Fireflies and Chocolate and, 150 years later, there is brief mention of the Dean of Guild again. It does seem to be a role associated with making money from the suffering of others, at least historically in Aberdeen.
Moving on from monsters, there are a couple of nice bookish things to mention. The book blogger Rosie Amber is running a Review-A-Book Challenge. It’s open to those who have never written a review and experienced reviewers alike, and is a great chance to get some free books for writing short reviews. THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR is one of the books on offer!
CelebsForSmallBiz over on Twitter are organising a charity auction in aid of Crisis to help homeless people this Christmas. A signed copy of MERMAID is up for bidding there on the 14th and 15th of November.
There’s a review I forgot to mention earlier, being rather distracted by the task of becoming a monster, here from Undiscovered Scotland: “The Mermaid and the Bear is a delight from end to end. There is a superb level of description in the book, that transports the reader back to the sights, sounds and smells of 16th Century life in a Scottish castle.” See the whole review here.
And finally, a spooky wee quote for this spooky old week: