Thursday, 20 July 2017

Guest post from Megan Cutler - the author of The Island of Lost Forevers

I am very pleased to host Megan Cutler on her Blog Tour!
Megan is the author of the Island of Lost Forevers, and a paperback version is now available. I've got my copy and I'll be reviewing it soon.  

Welcome Megan.


When I first decided to self-publish, my budget was extremely limited. My husband was new to his teaching career, we had a mortgage to pay and, since I wrote full time, I wasn't making any money. I knew I needed to find a way to create a cover, and I did have some artistic friends. But (and it's a big one), I didn't want to ask for free art. I know how important it is for artists to make money off their work, whether or not we're friends.

Luckily, one of said artistic friends was looking for help with her own self-publishing tasks in the form of editing and we were able to devise a trade. I described the concept I had in mind - a floating island featuring the book's iconic bathhouse perched atop it, based on old vector-style artwork. And my cover artist Beth created a gorgeous piece of artwork that expressed the idea far better than I even described. I adored it and happily showed it off.

One of the hardest lessons I learned in the early years of my self-publishing journey is that a book's cover is massively important - more than anyone probably wants to admit. People are going to judge your book by its cover, no matter how fantastic the story and its blurb are. And when I imagined the initial Island of Lost Forevers cover, I made a lot of rookie mistakes.

First and foremost was that the cover didn't fit my genre. I had chosen a faded, illustrated look in a genre that favors bright colors and vivid images. Strike one. Most fantasy covers on the market right now either feature extremely detailed paintings or photo manipulations rather than simple, stylistic artwork. Strike two. And most fantasy covers also include characters on the cover. Three strikes. Bad me.

None of this was Beth's fault, of course, because she was simply doing what I asked. By the time I finished writing all three books in the trilogy, it was obvious I was going to need to rebrand the covers. After a lot of feedback from more knowledgeable authors, and a lot of sifting through the covers of popular books in the fantasy genre, I came up with a new concept. Having recently discovered stock photo sites that could be used to create commercial images, I was ready to create the book's new look.

But I will admit that I don't have as much photoshop skill as I would like. In swooped Beth to my rescue, once again executing my concept on a level that I never could have reached on my own. I probably owe her the soul of my first born, at this point. Especially after a discussion in which I asked for brightness when I actually wanted saturation - because I am a real design dummy. But after some stern lessons on stress points and text movement, Beth created the masterpiece you see here and I couldn't love it more!


Is the island paradise or does a nightmare lurk beneath the surface?

When a mysterious island appears off the coast of San Francisco, two intrepid academics risk everything to discover its secrets. Catilen Taylor has struggled all her life with the ability to sense others' emotions. Damian Cooke studies an ancient art he calls 'magic.'

The island boasts an idyllic retreat, ruled by the enigmatic Sentomoru, who invites them to share the wonders of his bathhouse. But as the travelers strive to unravel the island's secrets, Catilen senses danger stalking their steps.

Neither Catilen nor Damian know how long the island will remain on Earth. If they can't solve its riddles quickly, they may be trapped wherever it goes when it vanishes.

Would you like the chance to win a free signed copy of the Island of Lost Forevers? 
Follow the link to enter - Giveaway

Megan grew up in a small town in central Pennsylvania where books offered an easy escape from the mundane life of a rural highway town. In 2003 she married the love of her life and moved to Canada. Megan started writing full-time in 2011 and has since published four novels and several short stories, including the Mystical Island Trilogy. Her characters keep her up late and wake her up early, but she loves them anyway. 
Learn more at megancutler.net, or connect to Megan via Facebook and Twitter 


Monday, 17 July 2017

And another great giveaway/sale! Free and 99c books.

This is the month of Summer Giveaways - or Winter Giveaways if you live in the southern hemisphere!

Follow the link to get some great books from lots of different genres. This is a different giveaway to the one I blogged about a couple of days ago. Enjoy!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Super Summer Reads Giveaway!

The Super Summer Reads Giveaway is now live!

Book Hub is offering you the chance to download a stack of free books (some from Amazon and others directly from the author) plus free chapters and discounted books.
If you decide to enter - Good Luck!


Sunday, 9 July 2017

Beansprout, my fantastic heroine!

Beansprout is one of my favourite characters. She's Tom's 14 year old cousin, and we meet her at the beginning of Tom's Inheritance, when she helps Tom search for his granddad and ends up in the Other with him. In fact it's Beansprout's curiosity that mean they cross to the Other in the first place. Her real name is Rebecca, but she's never called that, instead called Beansprout on account of her lean and lanky frame, and her pale red hair.

Beansprout loves the Other, and is excited to learn all about it and the fey who live there. Consequently she gets frustrated with Tom who finds the whole experience underwhelming at times. But she also knows Tom well, and always manages to pull him out of his moments!

She's brave, resourceful, kind and funny, and her character grows and changes as they journey through the Other. For her, the Other is a place of wonder. When Tom wants to go home, she wants to stay.


In Twice Born, Beansprout becomes interested in magic, and is impressed with Nimue's powers. She helps Nerian, a shaman, to resurrect Merlin, and is amazed by the feeling that magic gives her. By the end of Twice Born she's decided on a new path.

In book three there's a lot more happening for Beansprout, and I'm enjoying developing her character even more. I'm still working on a title for the new book, but it will be released in February 2018.

Interested in reading more? Tom's Inheritance is free through Instafreebie, and Twice Born is available now in ebook or paperback through Amazon.

And all sign-ups to my newsletter get a free short story of how Tom's granddad Jack met Fahey and started the whole adventure.

Next week I'll talk about Woodsmoke, Tom's hunter friend from the Other.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Who is Tom, my captivating lead in Tom's Inheritance and Twice Born?

I thought it was about time that I wrote about my main characters, other than the Arthurian ones! I'll start with my leading man, Tom.

Tom is 16 years old (15 when we first meet him in Tom's Inheritance), and is a descendant of King Arthur.
Obviously he has no idea he's related to King Arthur until he's summoned to the Other and the Lady of the Lake springs it on him, along with the news he has to wake Arthur up from his long sleep on the Isle of Avalon.
It's fair to say that Tom's a bit grumpy when we first meet him. His parents have split up and his granddad has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. He has a younger sister, Amy, who lives with his mother, and he lives with his dad in his granddad's cottage.
He sets out to find his granddad with his cousin Rebecca, more commonly known as Beansprout. I have no idea where that name came from, it just popped into my head! But more on Beansprout next time.

Tom, despite his grumpiness, is a very determined character who does not like to be defeated. His stubborn attitude gets him into trouble, but also gets him out of it. He's also very loyal to his friends, and amused to find out about his link to King Arthur.

And he's brave, so he plunges headlong into things before thinking of the consequences. His need to help Brenna sees him stuck inside an Under Palace, trapped with murderous Woods Sprites.

Like a lot of teens, he's confused about his future and what he should be doing, and his stubborn streak doesn't help his decision making.

The heart of my books is about friendships, so his friendships with Beansprout, Woodsmoke, Brenna and Arthur, are important. He looks up to Arthur, but is also a bit awestruck by him, and doesn't want to disappoint him. This leads to trouble!

Tom grows and learns by his mistakes, and Twice Born sees lots of changes in Tom. In fact Twice Born is about change for all the characters. They test each other's strengths and weaknesses.

I'm currently writing book 3, and Tom keeps growing and maturing.

Book 3 teaser - we learn a lot more about the Forger of Light who made Excalibur, and find out the true history of Galatine, Tom's sword that used to belong to Gawain. For more info on book 3 subscribe to my newsletter here for advance news. You also get a free short story on what happened when Tom's granddad, Jack, first met Fahey.

And to finish, what else about Tom?
He's a big reader, and loves history and maps, which helps in Twice Born. 
He plays chess, and is pretty good at it.
He does not like horse riding.
He learns to sword fight, and shoot a bow and arrow.
He does not like magic, or trust it.

Currently Tom's Inheritance is free through Instafreebie



Thursday, 22 June 2017

A free copy of Tom's Inheritance through Instafreebie!

For a limited time I'm offering Tom's Inheritance free though Instafreebie - ebook only.

Tom's Inheritance is the first in my series about Tom and King Arthur

The Fey, the Lady of the Lake, and a summons to wake King Arthur. Tom’s life will never be the same again. An exciting fantasy adventure full of magic and danger.

Tom’s life is pretty ordinary until his grandfather disappears, but then everything changes. He starts dreaming about a mysterious woman who tells him, “It is time,” but he has no idea what she’s talking about. Then a package arrives from his grandfather, and strangers appear in the woods. Tom and his cousin, Beansprout, decide it’s time to investigate, and they accidentally cross to another world.
There Tom meets the woman who has been appearing in his dreams - Vivian, the Lady of the Lake. She tells him that he must travel to Avalon and wake King Arthur from his enchanted sleep. Something dark is stalking the old forest and Vivian needs Arthur’s help.
Tom’s search for King Arthur puts him and his friends at risk, because the Other is filled with danger, magic, and powerful fey. And if King Arthur and the ancient stories are real, then so are ancient enemies. His future seems bound with Arthur’s, and his life may never be the same again.
A magical tale for older children and all lovers of Arthurian legend.
This is the first book in the series.


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Book Reviews - Three Witchy Tales!

I don't know about you, but I have eclectic reading tastes (except for dedicated romance, it's just not my thing), and a few weeks ago I had a craving for witchy tales.  I read three pretty much back to back. Two were good, and one was not. I'll start with the good ones.

The first is called The Language of Spells by Sarah Painter.

Gwen Harper returns to her hometown after her great-aunt dies and she inherits her house, but her great-aunt had magical powers, and so does Gwen. Her magical powers, which she has for years tried to suppress, now return - the Finding as she calls it. She wants to sell the house, but she can't for a while, and she finds she has to stay in the house, forcing her to deal with an odd neighbour, a fractured relationship with her sister who resents magic, and an ex-boyfriend.
In many ways this story revisits familiar themes, but it's told well. The writing is good, and the characters are engaging, and I was keen to keep reading.
Tension is raised by the actions of the increasingly unpredictable neighbour, and also the relationship with Gwen's ex, and her hometown.
If you want overt magic, spells and fantasy, you'll be disappointed, as this is far more subtle, seeking to integrate magic into everyday life. I liked this subtlety, it made magic more believable - if that makes sense.
This is the start to a series and the sequel is also out, The Secret of Ghosts, but told from Gwen's niece's perspective - or so I understand. Highly recommended.
Link to Amazon

The second book I'm reviewing is called Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen


I also really enjoyed this book, again for the subtlety of the magic woven throughout the book. It's far more magical realism than fantasy.
The story revolves around the Waverley family - Claire, Sydney, and Bay. The family is known throughout the neighbourhood as being odd, and they have a garden with magical properties.
Claire keeps to herself, other than running a catering business. Her magical powers are used in her cooking and the way she evokes certain emotions. When a new neighbour moves in, she is forced to reconsider the way she lives.
And then to complicate matters her sister Sydney returns with her daughter. Sydney left home years before and wants to put magic behind her, but when she returns it throws up all sorts of emotions for Claire. Sydney is on the run and wants to keep secrets about her past, but again she has to come to terms with who she is and her family legacy.
Both sisters have to reconsider their relationships, their choices, and learn to accept their differences.
There's something for everyone in this - some mild romance, mystery, tension, and magic. The story is well paced, and moves between the two sisters' point of view. It's well written and the characters are believable, and I want to visit Bascom, North Carolina where it's set! 
The sequel First Frost is out, and it's on my 'to read' list.
Link to Amazon

The third book is called Any Witch Way You Can by Amanda M Lee

I really wanted to like this book. It's about three cousins who live together in a cabin in the grounds of their ancestral home. Their mothers/aunts all live together in the big house and run a B&B.
Bay is the main character - the editor of the local newspaper. When a dead body is found in a cornfield the cousins have to investigate, and they find it has similarities to murders committed several years before.
The family are well known in the community for their witchy powers and the cousins run a magic, mystic, new age shop.
Sound good? It's not. It's told in this breezy, tongue in cheek tone, which would be OK, if not for the constant, wearing, repetitive banter between the main characters. And I mean constant. It gets in the way of any real characterisation or plot, and the whole thing became tedious and annoying. I gave up half way through, and skipped to the end just to find out what happened.
There's not much magic for a book about witches. It's talked about a lot, and the attempt is to ground it in the familiar, but it felt secondary and tacked on. Bay sees spirits, and there's a lot of talk about hexes, but that was it. As I mentioned earlier, I'm happy with subtle magic, but this was not that type of book. There was a suggestion of romance with a muscled biker, but again not much happened there either.
I will not be reading any more of these, but to be fair they seem a popular series, so the style suits some readers!
If you're interested, here's the link to Amazon

Monday, 5 June 2017

Competition time - The One Stop Fiction Multi Genre Giveaway

This is another great chance to win some books from diverse genres, including a paperback copy of Twice Born


Enter here  - One Stop Fiction Multi-Genre Giveaway Competition

1st Prize Winner Takes All

2nd Prize Winner gets top 5 eBook Titles of their Favourite Genre.

Open worldwide until the end of June 2017.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Two Book Reviews: One is travel escapism and other adventure escapism!

At Home in the Pays d’Oc: The story of two accidental expatriates by Patricia Feinberg Stoner

I do enjoy reading about someone's experiences moving to a new place, especially when this place is warm and hot, and somewhere I'd like to be!
This is a lovely stroll through Patricia’s life in the Pay d’Oc when she and he husband bought a holiday home, and then decided to move there permanently – for a while - all because of a dog!
It’s a very humourous look at their attempt to live in France, absorbing its customs and peculiarities. Or as I call it, living the dream! Although it doesn’t come without some difficulties, funny though they are, animals included. Patricia describes house renovations and negotiations with the french legal system, conquering the language, dealing with a difficult neighbour, and getting involved in local customs. Patricia writes with a warm engaging tone, great to read if you fancy an escape in the sunshine.
A very enjoyable read  - highly recommended!

You can buy it here Amazon


My second book review is a classic tale of adventure, treasure and revenge on the high seas!
Gage Finley has long had an obsession with the wreck of the pirate ship Scavenger after he found a flintlock on the ocean floor that belonged to the captain. It's an obsession that has ruined his relationship with his daughter, and sees him regretting lost time with his family. When more evidence turns up of the wreck he mounts a search, but an old adversary wants to beat him to it. He has to decide who he can trust, not only with the treasure but with his life.
This is a well told story, with believable characters, an engaging story line, and a very unlikeable psychopath. The action is broken up with some nice moments of reflection and banter, and some great female characters have lots of action too. If you like your fiction fast and furious, this is for you!

You can buy it here - Amazon

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Countdown Deal on Twice Born starting Friday 2nd June

Twice Born is dropping to $0.99 on Friday June 2nd on Amazon.com, until June 5th when it goes up to $1.99 US.
You have 1 week to buy at a discounted price until it returns to $2.99 on Friday 7th.
It's had some great reviews so it's a great chance to grab a discounted copy. I'll send out a reminder nearer the time.

This is to coincide with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Author and Artist Faire starting tomorrow on the 29th May - I'll be popping in on Friday 2nd, I'll update later in the week.

Here's the blurb -

Tom is finally back in the Other, and once reunited with King Arthur he joins the search for the missing priestess, Nimue. Their investigations suggest she is deliberately hiding, but why? Arthur is convinced that Merlin is involved, and puts them all at risk to find him, especially Tom. 
In this fast-paced race across the Other, Tom encounters strange beasts, ancient gods and dragons, and finds friends nor foes aren’t quite what they seem. As Tom’s life is threatened, will he have the courage and skill to survive?

Sunday, 21 May 2017

About a Girl - and what Chris Cornell means to me.

Reading Festival 1992


Reading Festival line-up 1992
It has been raining heavily all weekend, the sky grey and low, the grass now invisible under large pools of mud. Our clothes are wet, tents are flooded, and people have been reporting to the first aid tent with trench foot. I can smell wood smoke, cannabis, damp earth, and curry.
We stand in the heaving damp crowd, steam rising from us into the dark night, gazing in anticipation towards the illuminated stage; white light against the dense black of the heavy cloud filled sky. There are thousands of us pressed together, pushing forward, jostling for position, good natured, excited, drunk, stoned, clutching plastic pint glasses of lager, hurriedly finishing the dregs, knowing that in minutes they will be dropped and crushed underfoot, or hurled high overhead, as the surging crowd behind us will swell forward when Nirvana appear on stage. We decide to get closer and edge forward through the densely packed bodies, squeezing into non-existent gaps until we stumble into space, the stage looming large above us. Figures move across the stage and guitars emit strange squeals as they are tuned. As one we become still, we watch, we wait.

It’s a powerful feeling when you find your tribe; the sense of belonging that this manifests is all encompassing, but also grounding. You’ve found your place in the world, and it now makes a little more sense. The Reading Festival in 1992 was the sixth time I’d been, and it was a regular on the calendar, but my journey to Reading and the sense of belonging I felt to those people and the friends I went with, started years before, in the late 80’s when I walked into a club called JB’s. I was on the cusp of adulthood and I was thinking how very boring I was, how conventional, predictable, and how unless I did something my life would slide into banality and I would begin  my decline into a boring middle age, regretting lost opportunities. This probably sounds dramatic, but I remember it distinctly.

And then JB’s happened

As I pay my entrance fee and push into JB’s I get a weird rush of excitement; I’ve never been anywhere like this before. JB’s is a small squat building on a dishevelled car park behind an abandoned store called Pathfinders. Outside I could hear the muffled thump of the bass guitar and drums, but once inside the sounds become clearer and I can hear a deep voice singing.  The corridor beyond the entrance runs alongside the main room where the DJ plays and the stage is set up for bands. It’s a wide corridor which opens into alcoves for people to stand and talk, and there’s a kiosk at the end selling chips and burgers. We have to push through groups of people, and I can smell patchouli oil as I squeeze past. I’m here with my friend Jen, she follows close behind me. The bar stretches along the back of the main room and it’s crowded at the counter. There’s a band playing, the air is smokey, and I can feel my boots sticking to the floor where beer has been spilt. Although the corridor is brightly lit showing the peeling paint and patchy floor, the main room is dark, the corners lost in shadows. Everyone looks different. There are punks, hippies, and the odd rocker in the crowd, and they all look slightly unkempt. Some Goths are standing in front of the stage wearing lots of black, paisley shirts, and chelsea boots, and the women and men  have strong make-up on. They are watching the band, Fields of the Nephilim, but I watch them. Wide-eyed I look around the room at people talking and laughing as they lean against the walls, cigarettes and beers held casually in their hands. It is completely unlike any other club I’ve ever been to. I feel as if I have come home and found my future all at the same time.

I had found what was to become over the course of the next 10 years, my JB’s family, a term that all of us use for that particular special time in our lives.  I was 18 or 19 at this time, and my sister’s boyfriend - who I knew from school - was forming a new band, and he asked me if I wanted to sing, a sort of backing singer, in a sort of punk band. Had I ever wanted to be in a band and sing? No. However I saw this as something I would regret not doing, so I said yes. Soon it seemed that everyone I knew was either in a band or knew someone who was, and I was surrounded by music. One of the first gigs we played was in JB’s.  After 2 years, numerous gigs, and a double-life of work and touring,  I felt disillusioned. We weren’t playing the type of music I wanted to, and it seems they were disillusioned with me. I left the band, feeling more liberated out of it, able to immerse myself in Grunge.

Grunge – defined by Wikipedia as a sub-genre of alternative rock which is characterized by a sludgy guitar sound, and in which the performers and fans wore second hand clothing and looked generally unkempt - had an energy that was incredible, the antithesis of other things happening at that time; birthed out of the eighties, the big shoulder pads, eighties hair, glossy make-up, Dynasty, Dallas, and all that seemed false and unnatural. In 1987 a band called Green River broke up and former members went on to form Mudhoney, and Soundgarden released the  Screaming Life EP. 1988 saw the release of Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff EP, and 1989 saw the release of Nirvana’s first album Bleach.

Mudhoney
I travelled on the train to London, with my mate Ferg, to see some bands we were just starting to hear about - Mudhoney was headlining, and Soundgarden was supporting (I think) - it may have been Nirvana - sometimes I lose track. And there was a third band whose name escapes me. Regardless, it was brilliant. The gig, like many others, was played in a dark, cave like venue, where the sounds of soaring guitars bounced off the walls and moved right through me, as if I were raw. I could smell the excitement; we all knew this was something big, something new and unseen before. For four years only the initiated knew about these Grunge groups, and then in 1991 Nirvana released Nevermind, Pearl Jam released Ten, Soundgarden Badmotorfinger, Mudhoney Every Good Boy deserves Fudge, and Hole Pretty on the Inside. What a year. I nearly starved because I spent all my money on gigs.

I threw myself into life, wanting to experience everything. These years are a floating mirage of images, places, and people, and they are mixed up in no particular order, layered one on top of the other -

Being awake all night and seeing the dawn rise  in shades of violet and lemon in a cloudless sky over the fields of Glastonbury Festival,  a few hundred people straggling across the landscape, as if survivors from an apocalyptic event. Black coffee sweetened with honey warming my hand in a plastic cup, a blanket draped over my shoulders for warmth, my friend Adele saying, “Where can we go now?” Finding a tent with tribal drummers sitting cross legged in the middle, their rhythms moving through my feet and into my heart. We follow the smoke rising on the hill. It drifts lazily from the fires which smoulder in front the Teepees in the Greenfields,  the air so still, so calm, I feel I am trespassing on sacred ground.
Driving through the Black Mountains of Wales to a free festival, the sky full of cloud, mournful with mist, wind, and steady rain, sinking into the grey and green of the hills which rise menacingly on either side of the road. A man suddenly lurching onto the bonnet of my car, all dreadlocks, boots, and army jacket. 
Running unleashed with my friend Jen around the streets of Ludlow, a small market town, both dressed as old blind women, with wild hair and costumes, leading a pantomime donkey, drumming up trade for our small theatre group of 9, all money raised going towards camping and beer.
Turning up at my parent’s house, my mother in despair.  My hair is pink, I’m wearing stripey tights, a short skirt, very large jack boots and a fake leopard skin coat. She rages, “I haven’t brought you up in a lovely house and fed you and sent you to school to have you looking as if you had been dragged up on the streets. What will people think?!” I yell, “I don’t care what anybody else thinks, and neither should you!” 
Me dancing wildly on several dance floors in many clubs, shaking my hair, my limbs, my beads and bangles, and feeling unfettered. 

I marvel at my energy levels, I certainly don’t have them now, because for years I never stopped going out. I survived on sometimes three hours sleep a night, napped in the afternoon, and settled into a weird circadian rhythm in which I would sleep for a day and half every 10 days. I did so much I’ve lost track of what I did when. The only thread of normality was my job as a nurse, around which everything else fitted. My aim was to live life to the fullest, as it is meant to be lived; to be grabbed, embraced, and celebrated. Grunge was our source. We dived in and kept swimming to the energy filled vortex at the centre, and like a dark star it kept us there, entranced, for years.

Chris Cornell
And for thirty years those musicians have stayed with me; we have grown together. Our rough edges have perhaps smoothed, and that raw energy has ebbed a little, but still the sentiment remains. This brings me to Chris Cornell. Lead singer of Soundgarden, Audioslave, and solo artist. I’ve seen him play with Soundgarden a few times, and also perform his acoustic shows. Hearing Jesus Christ Pose for the first time was electrifying. I had goosebumps. I clearly remember thinking, this is what music is supposed to be. Mudhoney’s Touch Me I’m Sick had that same grab-you-by-the-throat energy. While other band’s popularity (for me), have ebbed and flowed, Chris Cornell has been a constant. His quality, sincerity, vulnerability, and that incredible voice, have stepped doggedly along beside me, so to hear of his suicide the other day was devastating.

I have always known what a privileged youth I had. The luck of being in the right time, at the right place, that enabled me to have these fantastic experiences. This weekend has been one of introspection, reflection, celebration, and sadness. RIP Chris Cornell, missing you already xxx.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Who was King Arthur?

Well that's quite the loaded question. That, and did King Arthur exist at all?

The Fictional History
King Arthur's tale is fantastical, its origins lost in time. A very brief summary is that King Arthur ruled in the 5th and/or 6th centuries in Britain, when he defended Britain against the Saxons, as the Romans had all but left Britain. He united the different leaders, and led Britain into peace. He also had a a wizard, Merlin, who advised him, a powerful sword called Excalibur that protected him, a beautiful wife called Guinevere, a castle called Camelot, and many knights who supported him. King Arthur and his knights fought battles, quested the Holy Grail, and were engaged in many other adventures, many of which involved magic, dragons and the fey.

How did the story begin?
Arthur first entered the popular imagination when Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote The History of the Kings of Britain in 1136, many years after his supposed existence. It's fair to say that it's a pseudo-history, and that as well as describing Arthur as a King, he also suggests that Britain was founded by a descendant of the Trojans. It is Geoffrey who describes Arthur as being the son of Uther Pendragon, and who writes of Merlin and his prophesies. He also writes that when Arthur is mortally wounded at the battle of Camlan, he is taken to Avalon for the healing of wounds. But, Geoffrey's story was essentially political. He gave Britain a classical origin, set against the decline of the Roman Empire. Arthur stepped forward to rescue Britain from the Saxons, and was a symbol of power, which appeased the Norman rulers of Britain and gave them an origin myth.


Image by Aubrey Beardsley
Geoffrey's story was only the start. It caught the imagination, and was the basis for all of the other tales that followed. In 1165 Chretien De Troyes, a Frenchman, further embellishes the story by introducing Lancelot and Camelot, and then in 1180 he introduces the Holy Grail. In 1225 the Vulgate Cycle expands the story of Arthur and the Holy Grail, but in 1470 Malory writes Le Morte d'Arthur, combining the French and Latin stories, and turns it into one cohesive whole. He has the sword in the stone, the Lady of the Lake, Excalibur, and Avalon. And what was happening when Mallory's story was released? Henry VII, the Tudor king, was ascending the throne, and it was useful to claim a link to King Arthur through blood, to try and justify his power grab after defeating the Plantagenets, Richard III. He even named his first son King Arthur, but he unfortunately died at the age of 15.

When Caxton prints Malory's text in 1485, the story became standardised. The edition on the left has the gorgeous artwork of Aubrey Beardsley. And so the stories continue, rising in popularity, and resurging at certain points in history, now in film as well as print.

What did Geoffrey base his stories on? 
The character Arthur is mentioned in two earlier histories by William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon. And there are snippets of tales that mention Arthur in the Black Book of Camarthen, The Book of Taliesin, and the Mabinogion, (and others), and no doubt these would have been recorded from oral tales. But surely the Arthur of the dark ages was far from the Arthur described in the medieval romances.

There are many books trying to identify who Arthur really was, and where the stories take place. There seems to be general belief that Arthur was not a King, but a warlord, and a powerful leader of men. There's an argument for Wales as the original place where Arthur lived, but of course many argue for Cornwall and Glastonbury, places which also capture the glamour of the tales - Tintagel and Glastonbury Tor. The Welsh arguments however are very persuasive, and as anyone who has been to Wales knows, the landscape is fantastic.
King Arthur statue at Tintagel.

And now?
What can't be doubted is the hold that King Arthur has on the English imagination. Even now there are hundreds of books still written about him, mine included, and a new film is coming out this year. And this week in the news, is the statue that has been erected in Tintagel. I love it!

It is interesting to note that he also has a hold on the British monarchy too. England's current heirs to the throne, Prince Charles and Prince William, both have Arthur as a middle name.

Non-Fiction Book Reviews - The Durrells of Corfu by Michael Haag, and Bali Daze by Cat Wheeler

The Durrells of Corfu by Michael Haag

Years ago, when I was studying for my English O'Level, we studied My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, and it was hilarious. It was that book which made me aware of Lawrence Durrell and his writing, so that when I saw Monsieur, the first book of the Avignon Quintet out in bookstores I snapped it up, and as you know, that set off my life long love affair with Lawrence Durrell.

Anyway, this book takes you behind the scenes of the time the family spent on Corfu. It starts with an overall view of the family and what happened before Corfu, and at the end follows up what happened to them afterwards. I already knew a lot of what's in this book, but that's because I've done lots of reading around Larry, but there were some interesting facts that were illuminating. For example, money wasn't the main reason the family moved to Corfu, it was concern over Mother's drinking - she often took to gin when she was depressed and lonely. As Larry and his wife Nancy had already decided to go to Corfu, it seems they felt it important to keep an eye on her!

For those who haven't read much background on the family, you'll find it interesting, and also a little disturbing to find out just how much is fictionalised in a supposed non-fiction account of the family on Corfu. Recommended!

Here's the Amazon US link -

Bali Daze by Cat Wheeler


During my week in Ubud, Bali, I popped into the Ganesha Bookshop on Jalan Raya - Ubud's main road. It's a great little bookshop with a good selection of books, postcards, and prints, and it was there that I picked up Bali Daze. The book's about Cat Wheeler's decision to live in Ubud - a pretty brave move after 10 years living in Singapore.

The book is made up of lots of short vignettes about Cat's experiences on the island, originally written for the Bali Advertiser, and since compiled into this book. The stories are mostly personal, but also cover ecological, educational and health issues. They all offer a fascinating insight into living in Bali, and the mindset of the Balinese. It's also very funny! Cat writes in an engaging and warm manner about her Bali experiences, and it's clear she loves her life on the island. It was lovely to read about places I recognised.

If you fancy an island armchair escape, I highly recommend this book. Here's the link to Amazon.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Galungan Festival in Bali

Penjor lining the Jalan Kajeng
When we arrived in Bali last week, I noticed something that I had never seen before. There were long, beautiful bamboo streamers decorating all of the roads across Bali. Our driver, Gede, told us they were called 'penjor', and they were erected to celebrate Galungan.

Galungan happens twice a year, in April and November, and celebrates the triumph of good over evil. This year the festival started on the 4th and finished on the 6th April. It is celebrated by raising the penjor outside every household, by slaughtering pigs for communal feasts, and by baking traditional rice cakes.

The shrine, and dragon's head.
Gede informed us that the the penjor represents a dragon. The long curving bamboo streamers represent the tail of the dragon, while the shrine at the bottom represents its head. The shrine is filled with offerings of food, flowers and incense. The dragons conquer evil and keep it from arriving in Bali, the tail linking the mountains on the interior of the island, to the head on the beaches.

Kuningan marks the end of the festival 10 days later. We were lucky enough to see the penjor, because they remain up for a month and one week (if I remember Gede correctly). They were due to be removed just after we left.

The tail of the penjor

The legend goes that Galungan commemorates the Balinese victory of the Hindu God of thunder, rain and lightning, Indra, over the Balinese king, known as Mayadenawa, who denied his subjects the worship of Hinduism. He was so powerful, no-one could defeat him, and it took all of Indra's power and his magic arrow to finally kill him. The  site where he bled to death became a freshwater spring, the current-day site of the Tirta Empul Temple - the Holy Spring Water Temple, which is very beautiful; we visited it a few years ago. The penjor therefore also represents Hinduism and wisdom.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Read Self Published Blog Tour - Things you probably don't know about me...

Thanks for joining me on the Read Self Published Month Blog Tour!
Today instead of talking about my two books, which you’ll find on my books page, I thought I’d share a few things about me.

A million years ago I was in a band
Supporting PWEI
Well, 30 years ago actually, in a little place called Stourbridge in the West Midlands in the UK. It just feels like a million years ago. It was in the late 80’s and indie bands were everywhere. My sister’s boyfriend, Jon, was starting another band and he asked me if I wanted to be a backing singer. Despite the fact that I had never been in a band before, or had any aspirations to be in one – I was never someone who sang into a hairbrush in front of the mirror - I said, “Oh alright then.” This was just after I had promised myself to say yes to things in a bid to make my life more interesting. As a strategy in providing excitement to life, I can recommend it.

So, at some point soon after I found myself in a practice studio called the Fridge, warbling into a mic, and wondering what on earth I was doing. This state of confusion, excitement and nerves, was to last for 2 years. It involved practice sessions, eventually gigs in front of actual people, and increasing popularity. The band was called Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.

Me, on the left obviously, in my goth moment in Neds
 At that time there were a few Stourbridge bands, and The Wonderstuff and Pop Will Eat Itself were two of the biggies, and we were lucky enough to support them. There were fun times – free passes into lots of gigs, and not so fun – touring with a load of blokes, but after two years my time was up. My final gig was at the Hummingbird in Birmingham, now called something else, playing third support to the The Wonderstuff who were headlining, and Jesus Jones. I confess that while I am creative in many ways, music is not one of them. However, I do enjoy a good SingStar session 😊

They went on to do pretty well, releasing an album, performing on Top of the Pops, and still do a Christmas gig every year back in the UK.

At this point Grunge was creeping onto the horizon and I was a big fan. This led to a very hectic period in my life of seeing more gigs, going to festivals, pubs, and virtually living at my local indie club JB's - the original on King Street. Good times...

I acted in a theatre group in Birmingham
Now with acting I was on more familiar ground. I had acted before in a few local amateur dramatics my mother and neighbours were in, and was prone to impersonating the teachers that taught us in my nurse training, so joining a theatre school was lots of fun. Our couple of years of evening classes and small productions culminated in a summer of street performances of a translated French farce – I forget the name. I played an old crazy lady with blacked out teeth called Clotilde, I think, while my friend Jen played my old and ancient old crazy lady friend. There were about 7 of us, and we had a pantomime donkey. The old crazy ladies’ role involved running around the streets drumming up an audience, with donkey in tow, as well as having parts in the play. We performed in band stands and village greens, all money made going on alcohol and food. The culmination of our summer of fun was a performance at Ludlow festival. I wish had a photo to share, but I don’t. We ended the summer with a party at Cecelia’s house – out excellent rear of the donkey – it was epic and went on til dawn, and that’s all I’ll say on that. And thanks to Pete Tulk, our illustrious director; it was a summer I’ll never forget.
And yes, I still act occasionally when we enter NZ’s 48 hour film competition. It’s in the blood darling.

Lawrence Durrell is my writing God
Lawrence Durrell
He’s certainly not for everyone, but I think he’s brilliant. I first discovered his writing when I was 18 – just before I joined Ned’s. I read Monsieur first, the first book in the Avignon Quintet, and it was like nothing I’d ever read before; it’s an excellent meta-fictional series. After racing through those I had to read more, but was convinced his other books couldn’t be as good. Wrong! The Alexandria Quartet is stunning. Mountolive is my favourite book out of the quartet, hence the name of my publishing house, and my alter ego on Pinterest and Instagram.

One shelf, but there's more!

I’ve read all of his books, including his travel books, and have collections of his writing, and commentaries on his life and writing. In fact, reading Lawrence Durrell was one of the reasons I joined Ned’s. His stories are populated with colourful places, colourful characters, and different ways of being, and they prompted me to look at life in a way I never had before. I wrote a short autobiographical piece on him for a memoir paper I did for my English degree. I’ll think I’ll publish it here and share it.


I garden as obsessively as I write and read
The decked path garden
Gardening is a family obsession. My late nan, my mom, and my sister all love(d) gardening. There’s nothing quite like the Spring when furtive green shoots are stirring, and I become frantic to get into the garden to weed, plant, mulch, prune, and dig new beds. Writing takes a back seat during Spring.
I live in a very pretty place called Pinehaven, about half an hour out of Wellington NZ, and our house is on the edge of the bush. As a necessity, gardening involves the wilful destruction of saplings which shoot up everywhere, and the steady clipping back, or sometimes hacking back, of everything native. If I didn’t garden regularly here our section would be completely reclaimed by the bush.
I spend lots of money on gardening, so am now planning a greenhouse – I had one in the UK and miss it. We also have a spa pool. I recommend them, especially after a hard day in the garden.
The top garden, early spring


Yoga is the new black
Also becoming close to an obsession. I rearrange my entire working week around my Wednesday lunchtime, work-based yoga class, as well as doing sessions at home. Downward dog, upward dog, crow, bow pose, dancers pose, Warrior 1, 2 and 3, and happy baby, among many other poses, are all familiar words now in my vocabulary. If you like yoga you’ll like Bali. I’m going in a couple of weeks to stock up on my yoga gear, as well as many, many, other things I’ll be buying in Bali.


And to finish off
I’m a very impatient driver, and behind the wheel I swear a lot. I now drive a Nissan Skyline 3.7 GT, which indulges my impatience.

Sacha
Leia
I own two cats, Sacha and Leia. Sacha arrived first nearly three years ago, and is calm and independent, and sleeps on my bed properly at night without whining in my ear. Leia arrived on Christmas Eve, and is a grey tabby bundle of insanity, who still does not understand that 3.00am is an inappropriate time to lick my face to wake me up.

I love holidays abroad, especially Asia, but love being at home and pottering too. Our home is an eclectic mix of colour, pictures, books, and stuff!

I do not have children, by choice. Motherhood was not for me.

And of course, I write. One day it may actually make me some money, but of course I do it for love 💗.  Thanks for joining me today, and if you'd like to hear more from me in the future, please sign up to my newsletter (you'll get a free kindle copy of Tom's Inheritance), or subscribe to my blog. In a few days I'll be posting about King Arthur.

The next blog on the tour is https://mackenzieflohrblog.wordpress.com, the author of Rite of Wands.

And if you'd like to see more of Read Self Published Month, check out this page - https://zachchop.com/read-self-published-month/

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The One Stop Fiction Action & Adventure Giveaway!

If you love action and adventure books, follow the link to enter the competition! Every entrant will be able to download 7 free ebooks, mine included - Tom's Inheritance - and will be in with a chance to win 8 paperbacks by well known authors!

https://onestopfiction.com/competitions/action-adventure-competition-2017-04



Good Luck!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Book Review - Murder in Absentia by Assaph Mehr

I’d heard lots of good things about this book, and I’m pleased to say I was not disappointed!

This book is a detective story set in ancient Rome, but there’s a twist - magic is part of everyday life. When a young man is found dead by what seems to be a forbidden rite, Felix is hired to investigate.

Felix is an engaging and dogged investigator, with a lot of cheek and wit. I loved the mix of magic and the real which was well executed. The world is fully realised, and although some detective stories can plod as we follow the protagonist through the investigation, this didn’t. There was plenty of variety, a chance to explore other places, and other sub-plots which fleshed out the story. There’s also some intriguing back story which I’m sure will be expanded on, along with some very interesting characters.

Highly recommended, and I’m looking forward to reading the next one. I’ll have to check out some of the short stories too.

For more info on Assaph Mehr check out Goodreads, and his website.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Vivian, The Lady of the Lake, and Nimue.

The Lady of the Lake by Lancelot Speed
I was going to talk about Nimue and Vivian separately, but their stories are so entwined, that to separate them would cause confusion and repetition. Especially for me.

The Lady of the Lake is a figure of mystical connotations, evoking, for me at least, someone who isn't quite human, who belongs to the Other on the magical Isle of Avalon, surrounded by a wide still lake covered in mist. This makes her a liminal character, sitting on the boundaries of the real and the magical, accessible, but only just. She controls access to Avalon, and all of the mysteries the Isle encompasses.

It is the Lady of the Lake who gives Excalibur to Arthur, rising from the lake to hand him the magical sword that will unite Britain. In other versions she sails across the lake in her stately barge, bearing Excalibur. This prompts questions. Who is she? Where does Excalibur come from? Who made it? Where is Avalon?

The Lady of the Lake is given several names by different authors, either Vivian, Vivien, Nimue, Ninianne, or Nivian, among others, and appears most often in the medieval stories. In the Morte d'Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory uses two figures, one unnamed, and the other called Nimue. It is Nimue who has an important role in Arthur's court, able to influence others, including Arthur. These characters appear at important moments in Arthurian tales. Another character in Mallory, Nyneve, a similar character to the Lady of the Lake, saves Arthur twice from attack by Morgan. The Lady of the Lake, in her various incarnations, and other characters, including Morgan, escort the injured Arthur to Avalon.

Walter Crane
In the Lancelot-Grail cycle she appears as Vivian, and falls in love with Merlin, refusing to give him her love until she has learnt all his magical knowledge. She then traps him in a tree, a stone or a cave.

Other Lady of the Lake activities include stealing Lancelot when he was a child, and then curing him when he went mad. She enchants Ettarde, a lady who has spurned Sir Pelleas, one of Arthur's knights, and while Ettarde eventually dies of a broken heart, Nimue marries Pelleas and lives happily ever after. I think it's fair to say that these are very human activities, and just goes to show that mystical beings seem to have the same frailties as mortals.


In Tennyson's Idylls of the King, Vivien is quite the minx, and after a cat and mouse game of love and deception, tears and anger, pleading and luring Merlin with her wiles, Vivien learns the charm she has been desperate to know. This charm when uttered, "with woven paces and with waving arms,/ the man so wrought on ever seem'd to lie/ Closed in the four walls of a hollow tower,/ From which was no escape for evermore."

Merlin and Vivien
After a storm in Broceliande wood, Merlin "overtalk'd and overworn," finally reveals the charm, and immediately Vivien seals him into the hollow trunk of a giant oak which has been split by lightning, and "he lay as dead, /And lost to life and use and name and fame." And she takes off, leaving him forever. There's a fantastic description of the charm in this poem, some of which I have used at the start of Twice Born.

The Lady of the Lake's origins possibly stem from a water deity, which were very popular in Celtic societies, and are emblematic of life itself.

So you can see why I've talked about Nimue and Vivian together! I have kept them as separate characters in my books. Vivian is the mortal, but powerful Lady of the Lake, who lives on Avalon and who obtained Excalibur for Merlin and Arthur. Nimue is a witch and priestess who lives on Avalon with Vivian. It is Nimue who has the ambiguous relationship with Merlin.

In my future blogs I'll look at Avalon and Merlin, but I think the very next exploration of the Arthur legends should be about the man himself, King Arthur.



Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Garden House by Linda Mahkovec


This is a really good read;  a thoughtful narrative with a mystery at its heart.
The story is about Miranda, a fifty year old woman whose children have left home,  leaving her feeling a little lost.  She has a great husband and a beautiful house and garden, and she clearly has creative abilities, but somewhere her creativity has fallen away, buried under day to day living, expressed only through cooking and her beautiful garden. 
Into this period of change comes a young man called William, who moves into her garden house as a lodger over the summer. As he stays with them she experiences strange dreams, and comes to believe that they’re linked to their lodger. As she watches him she becomes more and more suspicious of his activities, and wonders if he’s quite as harmless as he seems.
I enjoyed this novels well-paced plot and the thoughtful introspection of the main character, Miranda. It had a lovely dreamy quality to it in places, and reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, but without the ever changing point of view. Miranda is an empathetic character and is consequently easy to sympathise with.  She is well drawn and believable, and the author shows restraint and balance in the story telling.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received this book, although the premise was intriguing, but it’s been an unexpected pleasure!
I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book, through Reading Deals, so I could give an honest review. 

You can read more about the author here.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Morgan Le Fay

Morgan Le Fay by Sandys Frederick
A couple of weeks ago I posted about the three main witches in the King Arthur tales: Vivian - the Lady of the Lake, Morgan Le Fay, and Nimue. I thought it would be interesting to explore all of them in more detail, starting with Morgan (also called Morgana or Morgaine).

She's generally identified as Arthur's half-sister. In the popular version of Arthur's conception, Merlin uses magic to make Uther Pendragon look like Igraine's husband. Uther gains entry to the castle, and believing Uther to be her husband, Gorlois, Igraine sleeps with him, conceiving Arthur. She already has two daughters, Morgause and Morgan Le Fay.

What I like about Morgan is her complexity. Morgan is portrayed as a skilled healer, a practitioner of magic, and then a witch, as her story becomes darker and darker through the years. It has been suggested that her abilities as a healer may stem from her origin in Celtic mythology as a Pagan Celtic Goddess, Modron. Modron's father, Afallach, was the God of the Celtic Otherworld, Avalon, and Modron had nine sisters who all lived on Avalon. Morgan has also been associated with the Morrigan, a triple-aspect divinity representing life and death, but the link is tenuous.

As well as healing, Morgan's powers include shape-shifting, flying, the ability to live beneath the water, and the ability to control animals, including dragons. Merlin's teachings increase her magical powers. And of course she is linked to the faeries and the Otherworld through her name Le Fay.

Her relationship with Arthur is complex and changeable. Jealous of his power, and resentful of his purity, she plots to kill him with her lover Sir Accolon, aiming to steal Excalibur and the throne. When Accolon loses, Morgan throws Excalibur's scabbard into the lake. This scabbard also has magical properties, stopping the loss of blood from injuries, or preventing death from loss of blood. The scabbard is lost forever. But later in life she and Arthur meet again and they reconcile, and when he is close to death, she and her sisters escort him to the Isle of Avalon where she uses her healing powers on Arthur. There he sleeps until he is needed. Other authors have her bear a son with Arthur, called Mordred, or sometimes Mordred is her nephew, and it is with Mordred that she attempts to steal the throne. Confusing!
The Last Sleep of Arthur by Edward Burne-Jones

But the layers and retelling of the stories and the characters are part of the beauty of the Arthur myths; they also tell us a lot about the times they were written in. Morgan first appears in the Vita Merlini by Geoffrey of Monmouth, she later appears in the stories of Sir Thomas Mallory, Chretien De Troyes, and The Vulgate Cycles.

When I was searching for a good villain for Tom's Inheritance, and a character that was strongly linked with Arthur, Morgan was the natural choice because of her links with the Otherworld and her fey blood. I almost wish I'd kept her around!

If you fancy reading a book with Morgan at the centre, I recommend The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

MTW Book Review - Gate 6... Murder at Black Oaks by ED Degenfelder

My last review for MTW 😡 and sadly no author interview, but nevertheless, a great book!

This book is actually the second in the series, the first one being Unkindness of Ravens which also has some great reviews. However when I read Gate 6 ... Murder at Black Oaks I didn't have any problems following the story.

This story follows the main character Madeline Abbot and the two police offers, Scott and Isabelle, from the first book. Madeline has inherited Black Oaks, a run down mansion, from her parents. However the ownership is contested and then her ex-husband is found murdered at the house. In addition there's the riddle of whether a hoard of gold is hidden somewhere in the house, and it seems there's quite a few people out to get it.

The story is told from multiple view points, and is a fast paced read that keeps you hooked from the start. There are a couple of sub stories running along too, as well as the simmering romance between Scott and Madeline.

It's well written and the characters engaging, so now I'll be checking out the first one.

If you enjoy mystery, action and romance this book is for you!

See more on Goodreads