Sunday, 3 November 2019

The Best Things Come In....

And it's here! Finally! 18 months after publishing the first in my Daughter of Kali series, I have just released the last book in the trilogy.

Infernal Destiny is now available on Amazon, almost four years to the day since I left Aljazeera to try my hand at writing young adult urban fantasy. And I don't regret that decision for a second. Writing fiction is the best fun you can have that a) isn't bad for your waistline and b) doesn't involve having to shower afterwards.

What's that, you ask? Have I made any money out of it?

Sweetie, if I'd made any money I would be writing my next book on a yacht moored up in the Med somewhere.

But it's not all about the money., is it? It's about the endorphins. And also, self-discovery.

For example, I have learned that I have quite a gruesome turn of mind sometimes. There's a lot of blood in the last instalment of my trilogy. A lot.

I'm also rubbish at self-promotion. I do the obligatory ads on Facebook and shout-outs on Twitter and Instagram, but to be honest, marketing is not my thing. So I am quite content to tell you guys about my book and... er... that's it really.

Choosing my book covers is one thing I have definitely improved at. Like the goddess Kali, my first book Awakening has had several incarnations.

Interestingly, it took me a year to write and publish book 2 after book 1, but only 6 months between books 2 and 3.  I'd be really interested to hear from other authors whether speeding up is common. Are we just getting the hang of it? Or are we getting less picky? Maybe writing books is like having children. You're really, really paranoid about the first one - but after that, you relax.

Or so I hear. How would I know? I have more books than kids.

Daughter of Kali: Infernal Destiny is available on Amazon. Click here and check it out.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Thrills and Chills

Hallowe'en is nearly upon us, like a scary shadow looming out of the dark.

And what better way to celebrate the spooky, the macabre, the downright frightening, than with a spine-chilling book on the scariest night of the year.

Below, I've listed some of my top picks of the horror books I read in my youth, usually at night under the bed-covers with a torch so my parents wouldn't yell at me to go to sleep. 

Back then, they scared the willies out of me. Do they stand the test of time? I'll let you be the judge. Read them alone, if you dare....

Salem's Lot (1975)

Stephen King is the master of horror. People normally point to The Shining or Carrie as his scarier tales, but for me it was his second novel that did it. Vampires! Taking over a town! The horror stayed with me for a long time.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1974)

Laird Koening wrote this gripping thriller about Rynn, a 13 year old girl who lives alone and murders people who threaten her. You actually end up rooting for her - but in 2015, readers voted her the 20th most evil child in literature. Psychologically creepy. 

The Rats (1974)

A classic of the 'killer creatures' genre. Giant mutant rats run wild devouring people and pets alive. Contains graphic details of mutilation and death. 10/10 for gross-out material. And it spawned three sequels. Can't say fairer than that.

Squirm (1978)

Man-eating worms on the loose! Okay, it doesn't sound great - but if you like your horror shlocky and gross, this is the one for you. Wierdly, this was a film first and then became a book. Not on a par with James Herbert or Stephen King, but it's a short read, and has some decent squirmy moments.

The Pan Book of Horror Stories (1959-1989)

My horror bible. A gruesome British series of short horror stories collected into thirty volumes. The anthologies cater to all tastes from the macabre, to the chilling, to the horrifically violent and feature tales from such famous authors as Peter Fleming, Bram Stoker, and L.P. Hartley.

There's also a fair bit of carnage in my latest book, 'Daughter of Kali: Infernal Destiny.' Those who have read the first two in the series will know book 2 ended with my main character, Kaz Deva, being taken over by a part-demon part-goddess supernatural force. And to say it's bloodthirsty is an understatement...

Infernal Destiny will be published on Amazon on 24th October. Reviewers and bookbloggers can claim an advance copy at StoryOrigin in exchange for honest reviews on Amazon and Goodreads by clicking here and requesting a free download.

Happy Hallowe'en! And remember... sometimes when things go bump in the night, it's not always nothing.... bwah ha ha ha haaaaaaaaa

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Why Am I Here?

Do you ever get that feeling that you shouldn't be where you are? That you've managed, through sheer luck, to achieve something good but any minute now someone's going to find out that you don't deserve it?

I get that feeling a lot with my writing. Every time I offer a book for review, or create a Facebook ad, or tweet a link to it on Amazon, I can't help feeling like a fraud. Who am I to say you should read this? What if you hate it?  What if it's terrible? What if I can't actually write, and I'm just deluding myself?

Maybe you recognise the feeling? A reluctance to believe that anything you do well has value?

This is Imposter Syndrome and it's amazingly common. A study found it affects some 70% of individuals at least once in their life. It's linked, among other things, to perfectionism and a fear of being unsuccessful.  It's also prevalent among high-achievers and women of colour. So, that's pretty much all the boxes ticked for me, then.

Take heart people - we're not alone. Some incredible figures have suffered with Imposter Syndrome, including  Neil Armstrong, Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, and the author Maya Angelou who once said: “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’” This from someone who won multiple awards!

So apparently what we Imposters have to do is this: 
1) Recognise that sometimes, yes, we will do and say stupid things. IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!
2) Change your internal rules. You have just as much right to ask for help as the next person.
3) When you succeed - give yourself a pat on the back. Don't feel guilty - you earned this!

Here endeth the pep talk. By the way, I have a new book out, a humourous short story called Soul Quest. It's a 100-page fantasy novella which will hopefully appeal to fans of the late great Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. 99p/99c on Amazon, or free to my newsletter subscribers.

I'm still feeling the effects of Imposter Syndrome so I'll just say it's, you know, okay, if you like that kind of thing. Click here to buy. Or don't. It's probably not that good.

Daughter of Kali books 1 & 2 on Amazon now. Daughter of Kali book 3 coming soon. Sign up to my newsletter for news of releases

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Animal Magic

Meet the animals who’ve been disrupting my writing this month.

The gorgeous horse at the top there is Lexi, my 15’2 mare. She’s beautiful and sweet, and was bought for my daughter to ride in XC competitions – that’s cross-country to non-horsey types.

Unfortunately, soon after we bought her, despite a full 5-stage vetting before purchase, it became clear Lexi was suffering from tightness on one side, making it hard for her to bend and stretch. Pretty crucial if you want to soar across jumps.

Normally when a horse finds it uncomfortable to be ridden, they kick up a fuss as they’re being saddled. Some bite, some buck, some run away. Lexi is such a patient mare she never did any of those things so it took a while to spot. When she tossed her head around and swished her tail, we put it down to youth and exuberance.

Thankfully, we had her checked out by a fully qualified equine physiotherapist. She spotted the problem right away; Lexi was stiff through her neck and back, probably as a result of being broken in too young and having a badly-fitting saddle before we bought her.

She’s now had ultrasound and massage (yes, there is such a job as horse-masseuse!) and is much more limber.

But my animal woes were not over. Meet Freddy.

He’s a young swallow we found flapping around pitifully on the roadside during a family holiday in the Lake District. Freddy had damaged one of his wings, and was unable to fly. So back he came to the holiday cottage with us.

I was supposed to be using this break to put the finishing touches to the third book in my Daughter of Kali series. Needless to say, taking care of Freddy took precedence. (I should add, I have no idea if Freddy is an appropriate name. It could be Frederica for all I know, but the kids named it and it stuck.)

We spent two days trying to tempt Freddy with seeds and grains before discovering what he really likes is insects. The livelier the better. Wriggly mealworms and skittery crickets go down a treat. You haven’t lived till you’ve hand-fed creepy-crawlies to a hungry bird.

Freddy put on weight, his wing seemed to get stronger, and by the end of the holiday he was managing short flutters across the room. He’s now with a lovely foster family being prepared for his return to the wild.

And so finally, I can turn my attention to the third book. It’s very nearly finished, it just needs some final tweaking and polishing.

If only I can get a few days to myself without an injured animal to deal with…

Daughter of Kali: Infernal Destiny will be published later this year. Books 1 and 2 available on Amazon now.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Enjoy the Trip (not)

I’ve never been particularly graceful. I did ballet and tap dancing as a child, but alas, I had all the footwork skills of a drunk centipede. As I got older I tried Zumba and aerobics. The women around me soon learned to keep a safe distance. So it wasn’t a great surprise when I managed to fall down the stairs this week.

I missed my footing because I had piled up a load of Amazon boxes at the bottom of the stairs. Damn you Amazon, and your one-click ordering.

As I bounced butt-first down the last three or four stairs, I had time to reflect that I had turned into my mother.

Mum came to stay for the Easter holidays. After precisely one day, she tripped and fell downstairs. I should point out, before you start questioning the safety of my staircase, it has not one but TWO handrails and is a perfectly normal set of steps. It’s just that my mum was doing what she always does – carrying books, glasses, cup of tea and a crossword puzzle as she headed to the kitchen. So she couldn’t save herself when she slipped, because her hands were full. It was not my stairs’ fault, I promise.

My poor mum broke her hip and spent Easter in hospital. This was possibly a more stressful experience for the hospital staff than my mum, who during her long medical career was a Midwife, Nurse, Ward Sister and Nursing Tutor. My mum knows hospitals like the back of her hand. She knows best practice, hygiene protocols, and ward systems. And boy, she wasn’t going to let these nurses take any shortcuts.

Mum was out of hospital within five days of her hip replacement. That has to be some kind of record. I’m sure it wasn’t because she told them all how to do their jobs. Well, probably not.

I should say here how amazing the British health service is. From the paramedics in the ambulance who took mum to hospital, to the admitting staff in A&E, to the orthopaedic doctor, to the ward nurses - yes, even the junior nurse who bore the brunt of mum’s wrath for suggesting she change the dressing on an open wound in a crowded ward and risk cross-contamination – they all do a fine job under difficult circumstances and with far fewer resources than they should have. No wonder Donald Trump keeps making jokes about buying it.

Luckily, I did not break my hip, though I do have a rather attractive bruise on my thigh and am now shuffling around like a poor imitation of Marty Feldman’s Igor. 

Note to self: stop ordering Amazon parcels. Or at least, stop piling them up at the bottom of the stairs.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Star-Spangled Visit

Donald Trump came to town this week. Britain rolled out the red carpet, the Queen was prevailed upon to meet POTUS and FLOTUS, and Theresa May extolled the virtues of the ‘best alliance the world has ever known’.

I spent several hours in a news studio pontificating on his visit. Was he interfering in British politics? Did he really just suggest the NHS could form part of a ‘phenomenal’ trade deal? And what was the secret assignation he had with Nigel Farage, spotted leaving the US ambassador’s residence?

Trump dearly loves the pomp and ceremony laid on for his visit. Yes, he may have been snubbed by several politicians who declined invitations to meet him; even Meghan Markle got out of it by playing the exhausted new mother card. (Perhaps she thought one person loudly demanding her attention was enough). But meeting with the Queen (“a fantastic woman”) and being the guest of honour at a State Banquet in Buckingham Palace clearly soothed all ills.

Meanwhile protesters were denouncing him as racist, misogynistic, and divisive. Not that Trump was aware – when asked at a press conference what he thought of the demonstrations, he dismissed them as ‘fake news’.  

Trump is rather like a battering ram, pummelling his way through diplomacy, shattering global agreements and throwing out whatever thought hits his brain at any given moment on Twitter.

Perhaps there’s a bright side. Perhaps it’s the wake-up call the world needs, a warning that we have to stand together to maintain the international order against such destructiveness.

But failing that, there's always humour. The Trump Baby Blimp inflated over London during his visit is British satire at its best. Apparently, it’s now joined the ranks of Dame Helen Mirren and Sir David Attenborough as a ‘national treasure’.

Who knows what Trump thinks of it? In his book, it’s probably fake news too.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Totally Triggered

My daughter is currently revising for her GCSEs and says she’s ‘triggered’ by the upcoming exams. This is urban slang for a negative emotional response, like fear or panic. “Don’t be daft,” I say. “Just do your best. That’s all you can do.”

Wisely, I opt not to point out that she spent five hours coming up with a revision timetable instead of actually revising. And now that very same timetable hangs, limp and unloved, on her wall, totally forgotten while she revises whatever catches her fancy. “I’m not in the mood for Russian History,” she says dolefully, sliding her book closed. To be fair, no-one’s ever in the mood for Russian History.

I remember my exams at sixteen – O Levels as they were then. I’m sure I revised for several hours a day, but when I mention that to the offspring she rolls her eyes. Apparently revising for too long is counterproductive. It’s supposedly far more efficient to do just half an hour of one subject and then move on to the next.

Half an hour? That’s not revising. That’s basically reading a couple of paragraphs and deciding it’s time for a snack. Though I suppose half an hour is an aeon of time to today’s snapchatting instagramming teenagers. Thirty minutes to them is probably the equivalent of a long weekend to us.

The one thing I’ve tried to be alert to is my daughter’s mental health. According to a Girlguiding report in the UK last year, more than two thirds of girls and young women said exams were the biggest cause of stress in their lives. Mental well-being is talked about much more openly these days and it is something we've discussed in our household. Some headteachers are concerned that tougher GCSEs are potentially damaging the mental health of our kids. Arguing about revising doesn’t make this any easier - there’s obviously a delicate balance between pushing them to do well, and pushing them too hard.
With the husband working away from home, it’s been left to me to gently encourage my daughter to revise regularly and consistently. Okay, maybe not so gently. Apparently you shouldn’t make sweeping statements like: “You’ll regret it when you open those grades in August,” or “I revised seven hours a day when I did my exams.”
But now that she’s got into her stride, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how diligent she can be. She's working hard, and I know she's smart. I’m just trying to silence that little voice at the back of my head saying “if only she’d started sooner…”
Anyway, one way or another, it’ll all be over in a few short weeks. Then we can all relax.
Until the results in August. Gulp.