Saturday, 31 December 2011

Things that make New Year's Eve fun

What with today being the last day before 2012, I thought I'd list out some things that might make a good New Year's Eve.
  1. Alcohol (I threw a party one year, and I've never seen my fridge so full of alcohol - it's never been like that again, either)
  2. Auld Lang Syne (can't see the New Year in without that traditional song)
  3. Food (whether at a party enjoying nibbles, or having a snack at home to make sure you stay awake until midnight, food is always good :)).
  4. Winnie the Pooh stories (bear with me on this - when my sister and I were little,  and my parents went out to a New Year's Eve party, we'd end up at my grandparents. Their neighbour always came in to see the New Year in with them, and my sister insisted on telling her a Winnie the Pooh story… every year! It became as much of a traditional for a while as wishing everyone a Happy New Year!)
  5. Someone to kiss at midnight (not necessary, but can be nice - even if it's the cat. Actually, thinking about it, maybe the cat is a better choice.)
Do you have anything to add to this list? I'm sure there must be lots more.

Whatever you're doing tonight, hope the New Year brings you lots of good things.

Image: Idea go /

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Tangled Tides - Karen Amanda Hooper

Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs, #1)Tangled Tides by Karen Amanda Hooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On her eighteenth birthday, Treygan turns Yara into a mermaid against her will… and that's just the beginning. Tangled up in an underwater world of mysterious merfolk and secretive selkies, Yara discovers both sides want her for her ability to fulfil a broken a promise and open the sealed gateway to their realm, but they are battling over how it should be done. The selkies want to take her life, but the merfolk want something far more precious...

I'm stingy with my 5 stars, I admit it, but this book certainly comes close. If I could award half stars, I would. As it is, I've got to settle on 4, but I do believe it deserves more.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It starts fast, with just enough time to introduce the main characters, before Yara is whisked away. As a new mermaid, we learn about her world along with her, the author adding information as it is pertinent to the story. I never felt as though I was being given a history lesson. The author's attention to detail, while never overstepping into the realms of the description detracting from the story, paints a stunning underwater world, with a hierarchy and a history - all the details needed to believe a place is real, including the mythology behind its creation.

Yara was very easy to like. A stubborn, compassionate girl, who wouldn't just take Treygan's word for anything in the beginning, she ultimately grew into a character who had the strength and courage to help everyone, if only she could summon it.

I loved watching Treygan change from being exasperated by Yara to letting his feelings for her grow, despite the side of her she didn't know - the side that would keep them apart.

I was also intrigued by Rownan. I think part of me expects a clean-cut villain, but I can't even describe Rownan as a villain. The author created a very rounded character, with strong motivations, that helped me understand why he acted the way he did… even when I didn't like it.

The plot kept up the pace, with moments of action interspersed with moments of learning and character development. I got to halfway and didn't want to put the book down. By the final third, the story hurtled on to a conclusion the author cleverly kept hidden from the reader, despite the first person POV.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy, some romance, and has a love for all things under the sea, real or mythological.

Amazon: (UK) (US)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Night Before Christmas

"Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

Merry Christmas, everybody!!

And to all of you who don't celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Image: digitalart /

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Flash Fiction - Casey and the Christmas Present

As we're only a few days from Christmas, I thought I'd be festive, and give you all a bit of Christmas flash fiction. This story features characters from my novel, "Casey and the Hereafter".

Casey is an unusual fourteen-year-old with some unusual friends, one of which she's decided to buy a Christmas present for. But what do you get for someone several millennia-old whose job involves erasing information from a book?


Casey stared into the shop window. The edges were framed by sparkling lights and potential Christmas presents littered the base, surrounded by a pile of white stuff, which she guessed was supposed to be snow. A book about some celebrity… a board game… a cute grey teddy...

Gah! She swung away from the window and walked up the street. She could just imagine Az’s face if she gave him a teddy bear: “Well, he’s great, love, but I’m not sure what I’ll do with him when I get back. Perhaps the Ferryman would like something to cuddle.”

She shuddered. The thought of those bony fingers wrapped around the soft toy, those empty eye sockets staring at its grey fur… Another shiver rippled through her. Yes, OK, everyone needed a little love, but the Ferryman was a walking skeleton! “And don’t you tell me I’m discriminating against the dead, Az,” she mumbled, and shoved her gloved hands further into her coat pockets.

The breeze kicked up, whistling through her jacket. Was that laughter? She rolled her eyes. Trust him to be listening.

So, back to her problem. What did a mere teenager get an all-powerful being that already had everything he could possibly want – except perhaps time?

Hmm… Time. She could work with that.

A few day’s later, after bundling her parents and that golden-haired demon known as her little sister, out to do some late-night Christmas shopping, Casey knelt on her bed, peering out the window. Fake icicles dripped from roofs, lights twinkled in trees, and a bunch of carol singers walked from house to house.  She hummed along to, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.

Her lightbulb flickered. She glanced at it. It dimmed, grew brighter, and died, cloaking the room in shadow. Beneath her, tiny quivers vibrated through the bed. Her chest of drawers shuddered, and the ornaments on her bookcase jangled together.

Casey returned to the street view and tried to suppress a smile. The guy had to make an entrance, didn’t he?

The mini earthquake came to an abrupt halt and light returned to the room.

“Ever heard of a door, Az?”

A deep chuckle came from behind her. “Most people expect the dramatics, Casey, love.”

“Doesn’t drama take more of your time?” She turned.

A man, who appeared to be in his late twenties, rested against her wardrobe, arms folded, as though he was part of the furniture. His pristine suit shone bright white on one side, while the other did its black-as-night thing. The grin stretched across his face spluttered into a frown. “Don’t get me started, love.”

He unfolded his arms and sat on the bed. “What with expectations and a rise in violence, I need all the time the Bosses can give me. Or, maybe just a way to pause it for a while.”

He gave her a wry smile, and she tried to look sympathetic, holding back the grin that wanted to make a break for it. Az was going to love the gift!

“I got you a present.” She pushed the small, gift-wrapped box towards him.

Az’s brows vanished into his black hair. “A present?”

“Goes with this little thing called ‘Christmas’. A season of giving? You might have heard of it?”

“I know what Christmas is, love, but we’re usually not involved with human affairs like these.”

“Well, consider yourself involved.” She grabbed his hand, and slapped the gift on his palm.

Az’s expression mirrored her sister, Lily’s, whenever Casey did something remotely nice for her.

She sighed. “It’s a present, not one of Marcos’s special packages. You see this?” She gestured to the wrapping. “It’s called ‘wrapping paper’”.

His eyes narrowed. “The Ferryman hasn’t been for a visit for a while, has he? Shall I fetch him?”

A shiver went through her. “That’s playing dirty, Az, but, fine. You open it when you want. I’ll just sit over here, and be all angelic sweetness and silence.”

Az’s mouth pulled up at the side. “I doubt you’re capable of that, love, but thanks for the laugh.”

Casey scowled, which only increased Az’s grin. She gave up trying to hold onto the expression when he removed the red, Christmas tree-dotted paper, and opened the little box.

Would he like it?

He extracted the small chrome object, and scanned the white face with its black numbers, followed by the large button on the top. One brow quirked. “A stopwatch?”

She nodded. Good? Bad? Not getting it at all?

“I’m the Angel of Death, love. Not an athlete.”

Not getting it at all. “You’re a jerk. Turn it over, will you?”

He twisted the stopwatch to view the back, and his eyes scanned the inscription engraved there: For someone who needs to stop time every now and then.

She held her breath.

A smile curved his lips, tenderness softening the lines on his face. He caught her gaze, and, for once, his eyes weren’t black holes of nothingness. Light sparked around the edge of the iris, and warmed the emptiness. “Casey, love.” His voice came out husky, none of the usual magnificent resonance. “It’s perfect.”

Monday, 19 December 2011

The magic of lights

When I was a child, I loved the Christmas tree lights. My mother, despite her dislike for Christmas and putting up decorations, would eventually get round to putting up the tree each year (this is why it happened all in one night - I think she wanted it over and done with ;) ). It stood in a corner of the room, brightly decorated, and, every evening, when it got dark, my sister and I were allowed to turn the lights on.

These lights were multi-coloured. Not plain white, or silver, or blue. They were red, and pink, orange and green… (and no, I'm not about to break into that rainbow song ;) ). I loved the way they lit up the tree and glistened off the tinsel.

As our artificial tree had a high base, I would spend a few minutes of most evenings lying on the carpet on my back, head beneath the branches, staring up at the lights through the green. To me, it seemed I'd entered a fairy land, and anything was possible.

Something happened a few years ago that put my love of Christmas on hold, but this year found me struggling to put my own tree together, spreading out branches, creating a bizarre pattern with the tinsel, and hanging up tree ornaments I'd gathered years before.

The best part?

Turning on those lights.

Still multi-coloured, still shades of red and blue and orange lighting up my tiny hall and playing over the plain cream walls. My tree isn't high enough for me to stare up through its branches, but something about those lights is still magical to me.

Do you find anything magical in Christmas decorations? Or do you have any ornaments for your tree that have special meaning to you each time you hang them?

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Favourite memories of Christmas

As Christmas is only a week away, I got to thinking about Christmasses of the past, and found I had lots of fun memories. Here are some of them:
  1. All my grandparents and aunts arriving Christmas morning, ready to stay with us until the day after Boxing Day. I loved having my family around.
  2. Going to bed at night to a plain house, and coming down the following morning to decorations and a tree in the living room. It was a present all in itself :).
  3. Playing cards with my family in the evening, and my sister (somehow in charge of my Nan's cards) speaking for Nan: "She's sticking."
  4. Watching my grandparents fall asleep, one by one, in the lounge after a very filling dinner.
  5. My nephew telling me quite early last year's Christmas morning that: "Father Christmas has come."
What about you? Do you have any favourite memories? Things that make you laugh, or feel warm and fuzzy inside?

Image: Idea go /

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A writer's retreat

While I could mean a retreat from writing here (and sometimes that sounds like a good idea), I'm actually talking about a place to go to write, or paint, or read, or just be you for a while.

Where is this absolute gem, you ask? I'll tell you (because I'm nice like that).

It's in a tiny little village called Sheepwash, near Okehampton, in Devon. I know for a lot of my friends outside the UK environs this is rather a long way to go, but if you're ever visiting…

Anyway, I've had trouble getting into my rewrite with all the distractions of everyday life intruding. I'd booked a holiday, but, inevitably, if I stayed home, I'd find chores to do. My plan was to get away completely - escape - and concentrate on my writing for a few days.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Season of giving

The lovely Murees Dupé, over at Daily Drama of an Aspiring Writer, was kind enough to give me the Liebster award! I'm really touched. Thank you very much, Murees!

With this award, you have to do the following:

  • Copy the award onto your blog.
  • Thank and link to the person that gave it to you.
  • Forward it to five bloggers that have less than 200 followers.
  • Comment on those five peoples' blogs to share the good news.

So, here are the people I would like to have this award. If you already have it, or simply would prefer not to have it, that's not a problem, but I think you all deserve it:

Thanks again, Murees!

On another note, Cherie Reich is hosting a giveaway on her blog. A professional freelance editor, Cherie is offering the following:

3 - 1st page critiques
2 - 10 page critiques
1 - 25 page critique

You have until the 21st December to enter, so don't miss out on this great opportunity. Thanks very much, Cherie!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Gods and Goddesses in Norse Mythology

In celebration of Coral Moore's book, "Broods of Fenrir", and the fact that I recently finished Ali Cross's book, "Become", here are a few gods from Norse mythology. (In case you're wondering about my choice, Norse mythology features in both books :).)

  1. Odin - Chief god, and the most powerful in Asgard. The world was created by Odin and his two brothers. You can tell him in pictures, because he only has one eye (he traded the other for infinite wisdom - think I'd rather have the eye and a steep learning curve ;)).
  2. Frigg - Wife of Odin and queen of Asgard. Goddess of marriage and fertility. Her name means "beloved one".
  3. Thor - Thunder god, the god of storms. Son of Odin and Fjorgyn (Earth). Strongest of all the gods, and known to be ill-tempered. He owns a hammer, called Mjolnir, which can hit any target, and always returns to him.
  4. Freyja (also known as Freya) - Goddess of love, lust, beauty, sorcery, and death (busy girl!). Daughter of the sea god, Njord, and twin sister of Freyr.
  5. Loki - Trickster god. He was not an Aesir, but Odin took him in and made him his blood brother. Hence, why he lives on Asgard. Not to be trusted. Full of mischief, and heads towards evil as time goes on.

So, there you have it, and here endeth today's lesson in world mythology ;). What myths do you like reading about?

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Guest post by Coral Moore: Werewolves in Mythology

I'm excited to welcome Coral Moore to my blog today. I was fortunate to meet her while she was writing her new novel, Broods of Fenrir, which has roots in Norse mythology. Here's the blurb for the book:

Shapeshifter Brand Geirson was raised to rule the Broods of Fenrir, but he refused his birthright. Instead, he killed their brutal leader–his own father–and walked away. For hundreds of years he’s avoided brood society, until a werewolf kills an innocent human woman and Brand finds himself dragged back into the violent politics of the shapeshifters. When the two brood women who mean the most to him come under threat, he must take up the throne and risk becoming the kind of vicious bastard his father was, or let the broods descend further into chaos–taking the friend he swore to protect and his lover with them.

Now, I'll let Coral tell you about the influence of mythology on her werewolves.

Monday, 5 December 2011

SantaFest 2011!

Laura over at Daily Dodo had the wonderful idea of a blogosphere-wide Secret Santa on Friday. Yesterday, in collaboration with Loralie at Apathy's Hero, she made it a reality!

The idea is to create a gift that's all about your creativity and not money. So, for example, a gift could be a piece of short fiction, or a photograph, etc. Everyone who wants to be involved signs up to the Linky List, and then chooses who gets to create a gift for who. Everything remains anonymous.

I love this idea! I think it'll be a lot of fun to create a gift for someone in the blog community, and nice to be involved in such a wide-reaching Secret Santa at the same time :).

If anyone else would like to join in, just hop on over to Laura's site, and sign up by the 12th December (next Monday). There's more information over on her site too.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A few UK cities

I'm not really one for cities. To me, they usually look like a haven for concrete. However, I've found a few across the UK that are the exception, and here are some of them.
  1. Edinburgh (beautiful architecture, rich history, and close to stunning countryside)
  2. Cambridge (a mixture of modern and historic, urban and rural, it's hard to believe Cambridge is missing anything)
  3. Oxford (another example of the seamless blending of history and modernism)
  4. Bath (stunning Georgian architecture and golden stone, gorgeous views, and a real sense of history - that would be Bath in the picture :))
  5. London (despite being the capital, it manages to have havens of peace in the many parks, a river in the Thames, a theatreland unrivalled in the rest of the UK, and lots of amazing buildings dating back hundreds of years)
What about you? What cities do you like? And would you prefer to be a rural- or urban-ite?