Tuesday, 1 December 2020

December Tidings

 'Tis the season of good cheer. Not that we've had much to cheer about in 2020, have we? But now with news of one or more coronavirus vaccines on the horizon, next year is already promising to be better.

For my readers, I have a gift. The first book in my paranormal romance duology, Kingdom of Salt, is free to all from December 2nd to 5th inclusive. If you like fantasy kingdoms, feisty heroines, smouldering guys and slow-burn romance you can download your ebook by clicking on the cover.

AND as an added bonus, the sequel Realm of Sirens is now available to order. Click below to be taken to your local Amazon site. It has a good old Happy Ever After, which I think we all need more of right now.

It took me longer than expected to get the sequel out, I'll be honest. It was harder to be creative with all that's been going on. Not just coronavirus - I've also been hooked by the US Election. Whatever you think of Trump's presidency, it's never been short of drama, has it?!

I've also been watching a lot of Netflix. Some great series are on right now - The Queen's Gambit was a favourite, and I'm part way through the second season of The Mandalorian. I'm also enjoying Star Trek Discovery. Star Trek is one of those series that has managed to constantly reinvent itself, both on TV and on the big screen. 

I suspect reinvention is what a lot of us will be doing next year. How we work, how we shop, how we learn, how we spend our leisure time. Let's hope 2021 is a better year for all of us.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

It's Aliiiive!


I love October. Starbucks breaks out the Pumpkin Spice Latte, the lawn is covered in a red-gold carpet of leaves, and the spooky-shaped chocolate goes on sale in time for Hallowe'en.

I'm guessing Hallowe'en is going to be a little different this year. No door-to-door trick or treating, which is a shame as the whole coronavirus-mask aesthetic really lends itself to Hallowe'en. Scream, Mike Myers, Jason - all fabulous horror movies where the chills are intensified because the slasher is wearing a mask.

What's your favourite horror movie? Comment below. When I was little I loved the old classic Hammer Horrors, featuring the likes of Dracula, Wolf Man and Frankenstein's Monster. 

Then in the eighties, as a teenager, Freddy from Nightmare On Elm Street scared the bejesus out of me. 

These days, wolves and vampires are way sexier. Even Frankenstein's monster got a makeover in 2014 when he was played by the easy-on-the-eye Aaron Eckhart. 

So in the spirit of monsters-who-aren't-really-evil, here's a selections of books in Kindle Unlimited to prepare you for Hallowe'en. Vampires, wolves, dragons, demons, witches, you name it. And if you're not in KU, most of them are the price of a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with whipped cream! Click below for the bundle.

Happy Hallowe'en!

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Genie Magic


My latest book is available for pre-order on Amazon! 

Mark of the Djinn is an urban fantasy romance chock full of magic and adventure, inspired by the stories of Aladdin and the Arabian Nights. It features Samira, a snarky pickpocket who has a strange ability to control the air, making her a super talented thief. And her nemesis Dhav, Prince of Ashfahaan, who doesn't trust her one bit but has to work with her to stop an ancient enemy from returning.

Prince of Persia meets Indiana Jones with a big splash of romantic tension - suitable for young adults and above.

Mark of the Djinn is scheduled for release on 31st August. But my newsletter subscribers can get their hands on a FREE review copy before then.

If you haven't already, please sign up to my newsletter for reviews/samples/giveaways. The form is at the bottom of the blog post, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Djinn or djinni, as any fantasy aficionado knows, is another word for 'genie'. They entered our lexicon with the popularity of tales from One Thousand And One Nights, also known as the Arabian Nights, which gave us the likes of Aladdin and Sinbad. 

Everyone will be familiar with the big blue genie from Disney's Aladdin, voiced by the late great Robin Williams. But who remembers these other magical lamp and bottle dwellers?

'Shazzan' was an American animated TV series that ran 1967-68. Shazzan was a genie who helped two kids who flew around on a magic camel. As you do.

'I Dream of Jeannie' was a romantic comedy series starring the gorgeous Barbara Eden as the eponymous Jeannie, a 2000 year old genie, and her master, an astronaut played by Larry Hagman. It ran for five seasons on NBC as a rival to ABC's Bewitched. Countless  arguments have been had about who would win a magical battle - Jeannie or Samantha?!

And my favourite...
This was my staple Saturday morning TV treat in the early seventies. Little known fact: the voice of Corey, the kid who finds Jeannie's bottle, was provided by Mark Hamill (AKA Luke Skywalker) in his first voice-acting job.

My genie is a little more sassy and streetwise than the ones above, but the inspiration for her obviously comes from my childhood! 

Mark of the Djinn is available for pre-order now. Click here to grab your copy. Thanks for your support!

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Magical Beasts

Why do we love magical creatures so much?

Every country and every religion has its share of legendary beasts. Some of them are cross-cultural – dragons, or versions of dragons, turn up nearly everywhere. Human fascination with mythical creatures has persisted for centuries.

My love affair with magical animals started with Carbonel, a witch’s cat who could talk to you as long as you were holding the witch’s broom. Then there was Mr Tumnus in CS Lewis’s Narnia – a faun (part human, part goat) -  and the glorious Fledge, originally a cabby’s horse called Strawberry who was given wings by Aslan (a talking lion, obviously).

Maybe this is what we love about them. The ability to be more than just an ordinary creature. Maybe we all wish we could sprout wings or breathe fire. And maybe it also explains why we love vampires and werewolves so much.

Originally they were created as creatures of horror – let’s face it, Nosferatu was no-one’s idea of a romantic date. But they later morphed into love interests. These fantasy figures of terror became the heroes, not the villains. Even the less aesthetically-pleasing supernaturals have had a makeover of late. Terry Pratchett made an orc a hero in one of his last books, ‘Unseen Academicals’.

In writing, fantasy tends to go through trends. Maybe it’s witches and werewolves one year,  vampires and fae the next. But the fascination persists with creatures that are more powerful, more beautiful and more seductive than we are.

I’ve put fantastical beasts into all my books so far. My last book, Kingdom of Salt, was based on mermaids. My latest urban fantasy Mark of the Djinn is due out in August. It not only features a – the clue’s in the title – magical djinn (or genie), but there’s also another mythical creature which plays a small role. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it’s a legendary beast that fascinated me when I was a kid.

 If you want to get your hands on an advance copy of Mark of the Djinn, do sign up to my newsletter by clicking here.

 What are your favourite mythical creatures? 



Friday, 22 May 2020

The Day(s) The Earth Stood Still

Children, Tv, Child, Television, Home, People, Boy
It’s official – Groundhog Day exists, but without the entertaining presence of Bill Murray. The lockdown continues with mind-numbing tedium, so much so that I have trouble remembering if I’ve brushed my teeth, am constantly plundering the fridge, and wonder if anyone notices when I wear my pyjamas all day (answer: no.)

Online schooling, Zoom chats, Google hangouts and House Party are now an accepted part of daily life. The husband and I even share meals via Skype. (I should point out, he’s in Qatar and I’m in the UK. I haven’t banished him to another room because I’m sick of him). What on earth would lockdown have been like with out the internet? Thank you, Tim Berners-Lee – you envisaged a world where everyone would communicate freely with everyone else, and here we are. Bet you didn’t think a virus would underline your monumental contribution to the world.

And thank goodness for streaming services. Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video et al must be making daily ritual sacrifices to their entertainment gods for the massively increased revenue generated by coronavirus.

So what are you watching to beat the lockdown tedium? I know many people have blogged about what to watch, but I’m going to jump on the bandwagon. Because I'm bored and I have nothing else to do.

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Star Wars: The Mandalorian and Clone Wars, what we know - CBBC ...For Star Wars afficionados, this is set after the events of The Return Of The Jedi when the Empire has fallen. For those who aren’t nerds, it follows the adventures of a supercool bounty hunter in a galaxy far, far away. Mando is a warrior who abides by the strict rules of the Mandalorian Code (“it is the way”) who brings in the universe’s Most Wanted for a living. Then he’s tasked with delivering a ‘package’ which his moral compass won’t allow him to hand over. No surprise, when his client has ‘EVIL’ practically stamped on his forehead. Oh, and the ‘package’ turns out to be a Baby Yoda. You don’t have to be a Star Wars fan to enjoy this.

Sex Education (Netflix) 
Review: Netflix series 'Sex Education' - The YorkerAh, the agonies of 16 year old Otis, whose sex therapist mother constantly tries to have frank chats with him about masturbating and intercourse. In a twist of fate, he ends up as a councillor to his fellow school-goers thanks to the business skills of his secret crush, badass Maeve. Warning – some scenes are excruciatingly embarrassing to watch with your teenage kids and it’s probably not suitable for under 15s. But it’s a glorious series, funny, moving, utterly absorbing, with outstanding performances by the cast.

Goliath (Amazon Original)
Goliath TV Show - Season 1 Episodes List - Next EpisodeBilly Bob Thornton won a Golden Globe for his performance as a washed-up attorney, his glory days behind him, who suddenly finds himself in the middle of a high-octane case that threatens those around him. Thornton plays the anti-hero Billy McBride perfectly, a beguiling mix of fiercely intelligent lawyer and low-life scumball in this clever, twisty legal drama.

After Life (Netflix)
Join Ricky Gervais in the Cast of Netflix Drama 'After Life 2'A dark comedy from Ricky Gervais, who plays Tony, a man sent spiralling into misery and depression after his wife dies of cancer. If that sounds like a downer, don’t worry. There are enough laugh-out loud moments to save this show from being a maudlin tearjerker. It explores grief, yes, but also hope and humanity.

The Good Place (Netflix)
Did THE GOOD PLACE fork itself? - Dans Media DigestAnd the total opposite of After Life is The Good Place, a feelgood comedy about heaven and hell. It follows the adventures of Eleanor, the kind of person who sells fake medicine to the elderly for a living, who ends up in heaven. A clerical error, surely, and she spends most of season 1 trying to hide the fact from angel Michael played by the fabulous Ted Danson. But then there’s a twist…. A heart-lifting piece of escapism about a band of lovable misfits trying to become better people. What’s not to like?

So what are YOU watching to beat the boredom?

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

We Got This

We’ve now been under lockdown restrictions here in the UK since March 23rd, and it’s amazing what becomes important when your freedoms are curtailed.

Balconies and gardens. Open spaces. Internet. Board Games. Joe Wicks.

The coronavirus crisis has shown us who we are. And by and large, we have not been found wanting.
Yes, there are those who refuse to believe social distancing is something that applies to them, that a day at the beach with mates is perfectly okay during a pandemic crisis. I do not understand those people who put others, including our health workers, at risk.

But they are the exception, not the rule. Even with the temptation of sunny weekends, most of us are abiding by the rules. And it makes me so proud to see how we, as a nation, can come together when it counts.

When the call went out to help relieve pressure on the NHS, we didn’t shirk. More than 750,000 people signed up to join the "volunteer army" - three times the government's original target. And thousands of retired doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers offered to return to work during the coronavirus crisis.

We have a ways to go. Every day we eagerly scrutinise the figures to see if our sacrifices are ‘flattening the curve’, but the crisis won’t be over anytime soon. Many of us have lost loved ones, and many of us will continue to do so. The US is just starting to realise the full extent of what’s to come.

But as of now, it does seem as if Italy and Spain, the worse affected European countries, have managed to control the relentlessly upward trend of new cases. South Korea has largely contained the spread of the virus. And China, where it all started, today reported no new coronavirus deaths at all.

Even when the deaths stop, the economic hardship will continue. Jobs lost, industries shattered, and a global recession almost inevitable.

But if there is one thing we should take from this, it is the indomitability of the human spirit. We never give up. We never give in. We will not go quietly. We will come out of this stronger and better.

We are human. Hear us roar.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Love In The Time Of Corona

Well that escalated fast.

As of today, there are 216, 822 cases of coronavirus infections globally, and 8908 deaths. By the time you read this, those figures will be outdated. Schools have closed, flights cancelled and countries put on lockdown.

It is, without doubt, an incredibly scary time.

Here in the UK, as with every other country, the predictions are of rapidly increasing death tolls, unbearable burdens on the health service, and dire economic consequences.

We cannot escape the fact that life is going to look very different for all of us. But let us remember - this world has been through incredibly difficult times before and we've made it through.

We've faced the plague, the Spanish flu, two world wars, the threat of nuclear armageddon, 9/11, and various economic disasters. We'll get through this, too.

So in the interests of positivity, here are some developments I've gleaned from news reports and facebook, which I have fact-checked and which offer much-needed hope.

  1. China has closed down its last emergency coronavirus hospital in Wuhan. Not enough new cases to support them. 
  2. A team of hundreds of scientists has identified 50 drugs that may be effective in treating patients
  3. Dutch researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center claim to have found an antibody which may help treat or prevent coronavirus.
  4. A 103-year-old Chinese grandmother has made a full recovery from coronavirus after being treated for 6 days in Wuhan, China.
  5. A medical centre in Cleveland, US has developed a test that gives results in  just 2 hours, not days
  6. Good news from South Korea, where the number of new cases has dropped sharply.
  7. Italy is hit hard, experts say, largely because they have the oldest population in Europe and their young mingle more often with the elderly.
  8. About 35 companies and academic institutions are racing to create a vaccine
  9. One of these - Boston-based biotech firm Moderna - is just about ready to enter human trials
  10. Plasma from newly recovered patients could be used to treat others infected by coronavirus

Two more facts to hold onto: The WHO says the vast majority of people who get coronavirus (80%) experience only mild symptoms, and the survival rate is being put at between 96 and 98%. It could even be more than that, because we know not all cases of infection are being counted.

Courage, everyone. It will be a bumpy ride, but we'll get through it side by side (even if we're standing two metres apart and wearing masks)