Monday, 9 November 2015

OUT NOW: Modern Magic

Modern Magic hit the stores today and I couldn't be prouder to be part of this collection alongside three other amazing romance authors.  In case you need a reminder to help you decide whether it's for you, here's the blurb:

What if Cinderella ditched the prince's ball and sent her fairy godmother to find love in her place?
Suppose a streetwise hero hired to steal an all-powerful Genie (stuck in a flash drive rather than a brass lamp) for a tech company ended up running for his life with the CEO's gorgeous, intelligent daughter?
Or what if the bed that a certain golden-tressed girl accidentally napped in belonged to the hot and famous middle brother of a notorious boy band?
Can you envision the sparks that might fly if a bitter and downright beastly wheelchair-bound woman propositioned a handsome bookseller to stay with her in exchange for her rare book collection?
This spellbinding anthology features modern and sexy spins on four classic fairy tales that will enchant you by Jennifer DeCuir, Stephanie Cage, Andrea R. Cooper, and Nancy C. Weeks.
Sensuality Level: Sensual

See the book at Amazon US or Amazon UK

Monday, 2 November 2015

Guest Post: Stage Names and Pen Names

The other day Steve and I were talking about how authors and actors choose pen and stage names, and I was very interested in what he had to say, so I invited him over to my blog to tell you more about the subject.  Steve blogs about musical theatre at  Welcome!  

What Would Your Stage Name Be?

Tonight Matthew I'm Going To Be xxxxxxxxx!
Did you ever watch that TV programme ‘Stars in their eyes’ where members of the public impersonated their favourite pop star and got made up to look like the star? Which celebrity names did you dream of being if you ever got to utter those famous words ‘Tonight Matthew I’m Going To Be!’?

Quick Quiz
Have you ever watched a TV sitcom with Jennifer Anastassaki in the lead role?
Have you ever watched a film directed by Allan Konigsberg?
Have you watched a film starring Julie Roberts?
Have you been blown away by the dancing of Virginia Katherine McMath and Fred Austerlitz?
Have you sung along to songs written by Reginald Kenneth Dwight?
Have you read a crime novel by JK Rowling?
Are you sure it is a no?

Celebrities Real Names
I was reading ‘Parcel Arrived Safely – Tied With String’ the Autobiography by Michael Crawford star of Phantom of the Opera and TV show Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em where I found out that Crawford was not his real name.
Stage/Pen Names are something the world of entertainment and writing have in common and it left me wondering what celebrities real names were and what they had changed them to.
There are 4 main reasons why people end up with a stage name.

Similar Names
People have to change their name because there was already someone with the same name in their field of work.
Michael’s real name is Michael Ingram and as his agent was telling him he needed a different name a Crawford’s biscuit van was passing by and Michael pointed and said “That will do. I’ll be Michael Crawford’
Julie Roberts found out there was another actress with the same name so changed her name to Julia Roberts and then found fame with Pretty Woman.

People change their name to hide who they are to stop people finding out who they are in real life.
Ronny Barker who wrote many of the sketches for the Two Ronnies did not like people prying in to what he was doing so he used to write the sketches under the name Gerald Wiley as he did not want all the fuss.
Also there are those that hide their name as they want to be successful in their own right and not on the back of their previous fame like JK Rowling has got a pen name of Robert Galbraith for her latest crime novels.

More Recognition
There are those that have celebrity names to make them more recognisable.
For celebrity real names mentioned at the top of this post such as:
Jennifer Anastassaki,
Allan Konigsberg,
Virginia Katherine McMath and Fred Austerlitz and
Reginald Kenneth Dwight.
They are much better known by their stage names of:-
Jennifer Aniston,
Woody Allen,
Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire and
Elton John.

Married people have the dilemma of do they change to their married name or keep using the name that their audience already knows.
My wife writes under her maiden name Stephanie Cage, because her first book had already been published under that name before our wedding.
Singer Victoria Adams now uses her married name of Victoria Beckham and somewhere in between the actress Demi Moore uses the surname of her first husband even though she has had another 2 husbands since.

Character Names
Unfortunately some people as much as they try with keeping their real names or adopting stage names get associated with a character they played/wrote about and for ever more will be known as:-
The woman who wrote Harry Potter’ - (JK Rowling),
Alan Partridge is in that!’ – (Whatever character Steve Coogan plays on TV or in a film),
Him with Orville’ – Keith Harris and
Phantom Frank’ (Whenever Michael Crawford is discussed).

Your Stage/Pen Name

So do you have a Stage/Pen Name? What is it and why did you change to that name?
If not what stage/Pen name do you dream of calling yourself?
Or are you happy with the name you have got?

If you are wondering what the title to Michael Crawford’s book is referring to, let me enlighten you.
It is to do when he was born and his father wanted to send a telegram to his parents but did not want the whole world to know so they agreed that the message would either say ‘Parcel arrived’ if it was a girl or ‘Parcel arrived tied with string’ if it was a boy.

Thanks to Steven Bisby for this guest post, and don't forget if you're a fan of stage and screen, check out his blog, or follow @wheresthatmusic on twitter! 

Images by

Sunday, 1 November 2015

OUT NOW: Perfect Game

Just in case you missed it, here's a quick post to let you know that the Perfect Game 'box set' - six sporty stories in ebook form - is now out.  Alongside my dancing romance, Perfect Partners, there's the first of Rachel Cross and Ashlinn Craven's exciting formula one stories, High Octane: Ignited.  I loved it so much, I immediately had to go and download the rest of the series! Plus four other stories of sports stars getting their happy-ever-afters.  All for less than the price of a coffee! 
Here's the official blurb: 
Playing the field comes easy to these six successful athletes who are at the top of their games, but lasting love is harder to find. Watch them meet their perfect matches in these adrenaline-fueled sports romances. Are you game?
  • Full Strength: When an injury derails goalie Shane Reese, he takes it badly, and the new team shrink, Allie Kallen, has to help him get his head back on straight. Allie sees through his bravado to the real fear beyond it - and what she sees reminds her of the past she's running from. Falling in love isn't in their plans, but they can't keep their emotions on ice.
  • Trade Off: Traded and jaded, catcher Ben Border is considering stepping out from behind the plate . . . until he runs into former flame Scarlett Dare. The sexy marketing executive still sends him into a fever pitch, but is she willing to trade Fortune 500 success for a happily ever after?
  • The Bull Rider's Brother: Lizzie Hudson is enjoying a rodeo weekend to start her summer when James Sullivan, the cowboy who got away, walks back into her life. Can he learn to redefine family before she gives up on him and marries another?
  • Perfect Partners: London's latest hit dance competition television show throws Lisa Darby and Redmond Carrington into each other's arms. The problem? They're former flames who aren't looking for a repeat performance. Can they stay in step with their goals and ahead of their past?
  • The Rebel's Own: In high school, a cruel prank left shy Kennedy Bailey pregnant and alone. Now grown-up and gorgeous, she won't let anything stop her from saving her five-year-old son's life when he's diagnosed with leukemia. Even if it means confronting his father, NFL quarterback Ryan Carville, who just wants a second chance to show he's a man worth loving.
  • High Octane: Ignited: Cassidy Miller was living her dreams as an EMS helicopter pilot, but it all came crashing down. The last thing she needs is to get involved with a British Formula One driver who thrives on risk. Sexy daredevil Ronan Hawes has no room in his life for anything but winning. From Brussels to Abu Dhabi, Texas to Germany, their relationship navigates the dangerous turns of life, love, and racing.
See this book on amazon US or amazon UK

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Halloween Blog Hop

Halloween is a great excuse to dig out Nightmare Before Christmas and all my favourite spooky stories, so my contribution to the Halloween blog hop is, in no particular order, my seven favourite magical books (or series - a sneaky way of not quite having to narrow down to seven books) of all time. How many have you read?

Follow the hop for more fun, great books, and awesome prizes.  And make sure to read to the end for a chance to win a sneak preview of a magical collection, as well as a hop-wide prize draw for $50 or $100 in Amazon gift cards.  

Tamora Pierce: Alanna (Song of the Lioness series)
Along with 'Little Women', this is one of my most read books ever.  The story of a girl in a magical land which, sadly, reflects our own in having certain expectations of how boys and girls will behave.  Alanna doesn't want to be a lady and learn to dress prettily and walk nicely.  She wants to fight the bad guys, and both she and her twin Thom are gifted with powerful magic, which no doubt helps when they decide it's time for her to live her destiny... by dressing as a boy and forging a letter from their father, sending Alanna to the palace, dressed as a boy, to become a knight of the Realm of Tortall.  A knight's training would be a huge challenge for anyone, and more so for Alanna, as she cannot allow even a hint of her true identity to emerge.  A brilliant, inspirational story, still as relevant now as when I first read it in my teens.

Maria Snyder: Study series and Glass series
I have loved every one of Maria Snyder's books I've read (to date, the Study Trilogy - 'Poison Study', 'Magic Study' and 'Fire Study' - and the Glass Magic Trilogy - 'Storm Glass', 'Sea Glass' and 'Spy Glass').  The Study series is a perfect study (bad pun, sorry) in how to create an ongoing story around two characters, with emotional Yelena and logical Valek providing the perfect foil for each other as political tensions mount and loyalties are tested.  But for sheer magical brilliance, I'd pick the Glass series, which follow apprentice glassmaker Opal Cowan as she delves into the bizarre magical secrets behind the making of 'orbs', glass shapes used to contain and channel magical powers.

Jane Lovering: Vampire State of Mind and Falling Apart
Halloween wouldn't be halloween without vampires, and I find Jane Lovering's quirky take on the tradition irresistible.  Because if there were vampires in England, there would most definitely be a whole council department governing Otherworlder behaviour, complete with bizarre bylaws and an unhealthy fascination with paperclips.  But when dark forces threaten the stability of the peace agreement, the official bureaucracy can only do so much, and naturally it's down to junior council employee Jessica and her friends to save the day.  'Vampire State of Mind' is funny, feisty vampire fiction for grown-ups, and 'Falling Apart' is just as compelling. If you don't already know Jane Lovering, you're in for a treat - she was Romantic Novelist of the year 2012, and her latest e-book, 'I Don't Want to Talk About It', has been shortlisted for the 2015 Love Stories awards.

Anything by Guy Gavriel Kay
No, that's not the title of a book, just a reflection of how much I love this underrated fantasy author.  A true poet and painter with words, he's also a meticulous researcher (I think I once read somewhere that his first book, 'A Song for Arbonne', was based on his researches for a PhD in Medieval history - but with added magic!)  Then there are the beautiful 'Sailing to Sarantium' and 'Lord of Emperors', set in a whimsical version of the Byzantine empire, and 'The Last Light of the Sun', a powerful and moving take on oriental culture.  And although he's not the most prolific of writers, a new book comes out every few years, and I've just seen that one is due next year: 'Children of Earth and Sky'.  That's one for the pre-order list, then!

Patrick Rothfuss: The Name of the Wind
Patrick Rothfuss is another author of epic fantasy, although he writes even slower than Guy Gavriel Kay, with the annoying result that we're still waiting for the third in the trilogy, and if you search for his books on amazon, you'll find that after the first three books (two novels and a novella) you're looking at George R R Martin instead!  Still, this is a fantastic, epic powerhouse of a novel, with one of those brilliantly contradictory heroes who holds the world at arm's length yet is never afraid to wade in and right wrongs.  Think Han Solo roaming a world created by David Eddings, written with a writing style to rival Tolkein, and you won't be far wrong.

Rhoda Baxter: Please Release Me
I was looking for a ghost story for Halloween and my first thought was Susan Hill's Woman in Black, but since I think everyone's already read it, I'm going to swap it for a less well known recommendation.  I love a good ghost story, especially one with a clever twist, which is why I recommend Rhoda Baxter's brilliant 'Please Release Me' - not so much a spooky story, as a stunning year-round romantic read, where the spin on the classic love triangle story is that one of the lovers is a ghost - but she's not dead yet, just released from her body as it lies in a coma - so maybe there's still a chance for her.  This kept me guessing to the very end.

...And now for something completely different - the only non-fiction book on the list.

David Angel: How to Cast Real Spells
Because when Halloween has everyone thinking of magical traditions, it's interesting to know what current thinking is on the subject of magic, why and how it works, and how it fits in with other popular theories such as the Law of Attraction (talking of which, it isn't a book but I love this post from LOA guru Jeannette Maw suggesting an easy way to bring magical energy into your life... and hey, it involves cookies, so what's not to love?!). Billed as 'The Secret of Making Practical Magic Work', David Angel's book gets behind the specifics of spell-casting to the theoretical underpinnings of most magical beliefs, and what they might mean for anyone wanting to incorporate magical rituals into their life.

So that's my seven recommendations for this Halloween. And here's one more magical book I couldn't resist mentioning.

Modern Magic
 I'm so excited about the release of Crimson Romance's anthology of modern fairy tales.  My story, Music to her Ears, is more of a straightforward romance with fairy tale underpinnings, but Andrea Cooper's Fairy Trouble is definitely magical enough to qualify for a Halloween choice.  And Nancy C Weeks recreates the genie from Aladdin as a super-powerful computer program, reminding me of Asimov's dictum that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.


The anthology isn't out until November 9th, but it is up for pre-order on Amazon, and if you comment below, you could win an Advance Review Copy.  One commenter will be picked at random, but make sure you leave your email address or a way of contacting you (drop in some random spaces and write 'at' instead of '@' if you want to be sure that spam-bots won't pick up the address).  I'd love to hear whether you've read any of these, or which other magical favourites you have!

PLUS click through here for a chance to win:
(1) $100 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card

Friday, 23 October 2015

Trying Something New: A Thunderclap

For the launch of Modern Magic, my fellow Crimson Romance authors and I are trying something new to us: a Thunderclap campaign.  I've supported a few of these recently, including a very successful one for Jane Holland's fantastic thriller, Girl Number One. (You can read about her Thunderclap campaign on her blog here).

All it means is you agree to allow the app to post a one-off message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram on a specified date about the book, and as the campaign only runs if at least 100 people support it, the internet becomes a 'perfect storm' of book news for a few minutes - hence the term 'Thunderclap'.  Although the initial posts only last for a few minutes, it can have a lasting effect on how many people are aware of the book.

Our Thunderclap for Modern Magic is here and we would love you to click through and support it!

If you want to know more about how you could use Thunderclap to promote your book or cause, their FAQs are here.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Update: Coming Soon...

Just a quick update to let you know that both the sports anthology Perfect Game and our lovely fairytale collection, Modern Magic, are now up for preorder on Amazon Kindle.

(Perfect Game contains my ballroom dancing romance, 'Perfect Partners', which you may already have read, plus five other spicy sports romances)

(Modern Magic contains my brand new twist on the Goldilocks story, plus three other fun twists on traditional tales from fellow Crimson Romance authors)

Friday, 9 October 2015

Cover Reveal: Modern Magic

I'm so excited that Crimson Romance, who published my first full-length novel (Perfect Partners) have picked my contemporary fairy-tale retelling, Music to Her Ears, as one of their 'quartet of fractured fairy tales'.  The anthology is due to be released a month from today (on November 9th). It's a privilege to be featured alongside three very talented authors and it was enormous fun working out what a certain fairy story would look like if it took place in the present day with three human brothers in place of the bears.  I love the cheeky fairy-tale cover.  What do you think?  


What if Cinderella ditched the prince's ball and sent her fairy godmother to find love in her place?

Suppose a streetwise hero hired to steal an all-powerful Genie (stuck in a flash drive rather than a brass lamp) for a tech company ended up running for his life with the CEO's gorgeous, intelligent daughter?

Or what if the bed that a certain golden-tressed girl accidentally napped in belonged to the hot and famous middle brother of a notorious boy band?

Can you envision the sparks that might fly if a bitter and downright beastly wheelchair-bound woman propositioned a handsome bookseller to stay with her in exchange for her rare book collection?


“So, tell me about yourself … Goldie, is it?”
Hannah pulled a face at that most hated of interview questions.
Kayleigh kicked her under the table, and she hastily rearranged her features back into a mask of blandness.
Actually, it’s Hannah. Hannah Loxley. I’m twenty-four; I live in Surrey. I worked as a PA for three years, in London, and recently moved into marketing, but I’d like to get back to being a PA.” She wasn’t lying— just being a little selective with the truth.
Hannah. Not Goldie?”
That’s my nickname,” she explained. “As Kayleigh said, we’ve known each other since school. Nobody else gets to call me that, though.”
Hannah gulped as she realized she’d just laid down the law to a major celebrity. And a major hunk at that. Even on this small screen, his charisma was obvious. Though he presumably hadn’t been expecting Kayleigh’s call, and it was late in the day, his dark hair was perfectly slick, and his dark navy suit jacket sat smoothly over a perfectly ironed striped shirt. Altogether too perfect for Hannah’s liking, but she wasn’t looking to date the man, just get a job and a roof over her head.
Noted.” Jamie’s face softened as he laughed at her, but in an instant, the cool mask was back, as he carried on speaking. “Bear with me a moment, if you don’t mind. I’d like my brothers to speak with you, too. Mike! Bill!”
A rumpled head of equally dark hair joined Jamie on the screen.
This is my youngest brother, Bill,” Jamie explained, as if she hadn’t seen them on screen a dozen times and even giggled drunkenly over their gorgeousness when they appeared on the big New Year’s countdown show on television. She remembered Kayleigh and Sharon practically coming to blows over whether suave Jamie or casual Bill was the more attractive. Hannah had diplomatically refused to join the fray, though if she had, her vote would have been for the middle brother, Mike, in any case.
This is Hannah,” he went on, “not, under any circumstances, to be referred to as Goldie.” From the way Bill’s eyebrow twitched, she had the feeling he was looking forward to finding out what happened if he uttered the forbidden nickname.
Hi, Bill,” she said, then winced inside. She couldn’t have sounded lamer if she tried. Is there anything you want to ask me?” she added.
Has big bro given you the third degree yet?”
Not at all,” she replied politely. She could imagine him doing so, though.
Oh well, I’m sure Mike will when he gets here, so I’ll hold off for now.” Bill gave her a grin clearly intended to charm.
Will what?” came a voice from off camera.
Bill put his fingers to his lips, gesturing to Hannah that she shouldn’t tell him what had been said.
Will give the lovely Hannah the third degree,” Jamie spilled the beans.
There’s a difference between asking a few simple questions and giving someone the third degree. If one of you had thought to ask ‘the lovely Kiki’ a few simple questions last week, we might not be searching for a new personal assistant this week.” The speaker, presumably Mike, got louder over the course of this speech, as if he was coming closer to their webcam, but he still remained out of view.
“Oh, sure,” Jamie said, his lips curling. “Because she was so going to tell me she was on the run for conning little old ladies out of their life savings, if I’d only asked her a few simple questions.”
Without warning, Jamie’s face shot out of view as he ducked a mock punch. The figures on screen shuffled around, and this time there were three. And what a third.
Yes, Hannah thought, he was definitely the most attractive of the three.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Cover Reveal: Tell, by Alison Merritt

Wow!  Tell (Book 3 in The Heckmasters series) by Alison Merritt has a stunning cover and an exciting premise.  Read on below to find out more... but be warned... the book is not out until March 2016.  Still, you can always add it to your Goodreads shelf so you don't forget, and in the meantime, check out books 1 and 2 in the series (all links below).

Half demon, all woman strong enough to love him.

Knowing the day will come when his demon blood will overcome his humanity, Tell Heckmaster has been searching for a miracle. Something, anything, to counteract the spell. So far, he's come up empty.

Just as the town of Berner has finally found peace, Tell's worst fears manifest. Strange, new powers are tearing at his finely honed control. Putting everyone-including the pretty seamstress he's kept at arm's length-in terrible danger.

Sylvie Duke has everything she needs. Everything except Tell, who doesn't seem to own a lick of sense. His resistance only strengthens her resolve to stay by his side, driven by a nameless inner knowing that without her, all will be lost.

Reluctantly, Tell is forced to admit that the closer he is to Sylvie, the better he's able to quell his demon. But when a cryptic warning from an old ally tips the balance, nothing-not even love-may be strong enough to protect Berner from the raging fires of hell.

Warning: Contains a woman who can handle a hatchet with as much skill as a needle, and a man whose touch can transport her to heaven. Or hell. Accidentally, of course. Readers may wish to invest in an asbestos suit. Potholders just aren't going to cut it.

Add it on Goodreads:

About the Author:
A love of reading inspired Allison Merritt to pursue her dream of becoming an author who writes historical, paranormal, contemporary, and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. It's not unusual to find her lurking in graveyards, wandering historical sites, or listening to ghost stories.

Allison graduated from College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri with a B.A. in mass communications that's gathering dust after it was determined that she's better at writing fluff than hard news.

Social media links:

Read the first book in the series: Wystan (The Heckmasters)
Buy links:

Read the second book in the series: Eban (The Heckmasters, Book 2)
Buy links:

Thursday, 24 September 2015

News: Sports Anthology

If I'd had to place bets on the likelihood of anything I ever wrote appearing in a book on sports, I'd have placed it up there with the likelihood of me landing on the moon.  I don't do sports.  My husband is mad about football and tennis, but my involvement is generally limited to sitting in the same room as the football on TV, with headphones in, reading or writing.

However, despite the total lack of hand-eye coordination which prevents me from getting involved in ball or racquet sports, I do love to ice-skate, swim and dance.  And it's that last interest which led to my inclusion in Crimson Romance's forthcoming sports anthology: 'Perfect Game'.  

I don't do competitive ball games, but I do love competitive dance - I danced for my university teams while studying for my BA and Masters, and although I no longer compete, I still love to dance whenever the opportunity arises.  Some years ago, fuelled by my obsession with 'Strictly Come Dancing' (the UK's equivalent of 'Dancing with the Stars'), I imagined a TV show where dancesport met dating, and the result was my story of romance in the competitive dance world: Perfect Partners. I'm thrilled that it's earned a place in the anthology alongside other more conventional sports such as hockey and Formula One (and that incredible only-in-America sport, rodeo!)    

Perfect Game releases October 26th - until then, these books are available for sale as individual titles and you can read them for free on Kindle Unlimited. 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Book Review: Under a Blood Moon

Under a Blood MoonUnder a Blood Moon by Rachel Graves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Under a Blood Moon' is a highly entertaining debut novel which blends dark elements with a light chick-litty feel in a similar way to Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books. I love stories which explore how supernatural elements would fit into the structures of our everyday world, and the heroine Mallory's role within the Baton Rouge Supernatural Investigations Department puts this book squarely into that category.

With the book coming from The Wild Rose Press, I was expecting more of a romance, but as it turns out, Mallory's relationship with Jakob, a six hundred year old vampire, provides plenty of heat without detracting from the pace of the detective story, and her friendships with others from the supernatural community are much-needed light relief from the dark events which follow from the initial zombie attack. When supernatural powers are thrown into the mix, human politics and interpersonal relationships get even more complex, and Rachel Graves spins this into some superb sub-plots and comic scenes.

The core of the story, however, remains Mallory's fight against the forces of darkness. As the region's only Death Witch, Mallory has some formidable powers of her own, but with her opponents including not just mindless zombies but voodoo practitioners and rogue werewolves, she faces some daunting challenges. As the bodies pile up and the motives get murkier, Mallory and her colleagues must use all the powers at their disposal to find and expose the true villains, putting their own lives at risk in the process.

Dark and dangerous, yet full of humour, the world of Mallory Mors is one I definitely hope to see more of.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Djinn and Tonic has a cover!

It's official! Djinn and Tonic has a cover! Not at all what I expected, but I love it, and it fits the magical theme of the story perfectly. Thanks to Kim and all at The Wild Rose Press. Oh, and in case you're curious, here's the blurb:

As fashion photographer Sal Purdew sets up her studio for a special shoot, she wishes for the perfect male model, and he appears. Sal just wants to win at the Alternative Fashion Awards, but her model, Ashtad, is a djinn with the power to grant her wishes and turn her into anything she wants to be. From the pretty English town of Whitby to a tropical beach, Ash whisks Sal away on a magical trip neither of them can forget. When Sal finds herself falling for Ash, she has to decide: do they have a future together, or will his magic always come between them?

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Pride of Donny

Just to say it was nice to see such a good turnout at Doncaster Pride today.

And a random vintage American cop car at the local gala.

And cupcakes. Cupcakes are always good!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Free today (July 27th): Phoenix Contract by Melissa Thomas

Title: Phoenix Contract
Author: Melissa Thomas
Genre: A New Adult paranormal fantasy
Published on:  June 15, 2015

Centuries after the fallen angels left heaven to live among humans, their Nephilim descendants dwell in secret, hidden from the modern world. Once, a charismatic leader known as the Phoenix led their people, but he vanished centuries ago. The few surviving Great Houses are in decline, bickering over petty rivalries while a handful of faithful warriors battle to keep the forces of evil at bay.
Eighteen-year-old Aiden McLachlan devotes her life to her studies and pursues her lifelong goal to become a full-fledged Watcher. But everything she knows of her life is a lie and everyone a liar. Through a strange twist of fate, she finds herself caught up in an ancient prophecy.
The stars predict the rebirth of the Nephilim leader, but the mystery must be unraveled or the Phoenix cannot rise. With a soul-eating demon, a coven of ancient vampires, and a hardheaded Celtic warrior competing to subvert the Phoenix, Aiden doesn't know where to turn or who she can trust.

“I won’t help you,” Matthew said, “no matter what you do to me.”
“Oh, but I think you will,” Daniel disagreed. “Once I turn you, then you’ll be more than happy to help.” Lightning swift, the vampire lashed out and seized Matthew’s wrist, forcing the priest’s arm down.
Matthew cried out in pain as Daniel squeezed his wrist until his hand opened and the crucifix dropped to the ground.
Aiden shouted and swung her crucifix around to protect Matthew, but she was too slow. Daniel dragged Matthew away and thrust the priest toward his minions.
“Hold him,” Daniel said.
Immediately, the carrot-topped boy and the policewoman caught hold of the priest.
Aiden expected Daniel’s attack, but that didn’t prepare her for the vampire’s speed. Daniel rushed her, progressing so fast his contorted face filled her vision. She kept the crucifix level and aimed for the vampire’s eyes, but Daniel caught hold of her wrist with disturbing ease. Then he twisted her arm, causing a wrenching pain in her shoulder. Against her will, Aiden bent over to avoid having her arm torn from the socket. She lost her grip on her crucifix.
“Let her go!” Matthew shouted. “She’s done nothing.”
Daniel immobilized Aiden, ignoring her struggles. He forced her head to the side and exposed her throat. “Oh, I don’t think so. I want you to suffer, Matt,” he said. “As a self-styled Lord of the Night, I’m rather pleased with the revenge I’ve concocted. So I’m going to eat your pretty daughter and make you watch.”

All of the serial parts of Phoenix Contract (Parts 1-5) are FREE on Amazon Kindle on July 27th.

Links to individual parts:
Phoenix Contract Part One:
Phoenix Contract Part Two:
Phoenix Contract Part Three:
Phoenix Contract Part Four:
Phoenix Contract Part Five:

Link to Boxed Set (Parts 1-5):
$2.99 on Amazon  Kindle:

Author Bio and Links:
Melissa Thomas breathes life into her dreams, bringing imaginary characters and fantasy worlds into our reality. She loves her characters so much they become her alter-egos, enacting the exciting adventures she envisions for them. She is a resident of San Francisco, California and adores the picturesque city by the bay. Her hobbies include surfing and scuba diving.

Phoenix Contract is her debut novel.

You can learn more about Melissa at

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Book Review: The Boleyn King

The Boleyn King (Boleyn Trilogy, #1)The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful piece of historical fiction following from a clever premise: what if Anne Boleyn had a son who lived? The story follows that son, William, and others of his court including his friend Dominic, and royal ward Minuette. Surrounded by the struggles of power, can the three retain their integrity and friendship?
The details of the Court are beautifully drawn, and the invented history blends seamlessly with the true past to create this compelling first instalment in a trilogy. I look forward to reading the other two books - my only annoyance was the feeling that the ending was just a little too inconclusive in order to leave the way open for the sequel.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Skin Deep (Flash Fiction)

This story was written in response to Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenge.  The random phrase generator gave me 'pencilled collarbone' and 'Skin Deep' was the result. 

The first time I saw Lydia, I thought she had tattoos. A dragon snaked down her left arm, its tail disappearing under the sleeve of her surprisingly ladylike summer blouse. On her right forearm, a sailing ship danced over the waves, and a fairy forest grew up her calves.
“That'll be four ninety-five.” Her voice was as delicate as her wrists.
I handed over a fiver, then smiled my thanks as she returned my change. I took my tray to the nearest table and listened as the next five customers complimented the designs. She smiled at each one as if it was the first time she'd heard the comment.
The Copper Cauldron wasn't the kind of place people went back to. On the road from somewhere to nowhere in particular, it scraped by on passing trade, while the occupants of the few local offices ate their brown bag lunches on the bench outside in summer, and at their desks in winter.
I'd been enticed in one morning when I was running too late to make sandwiches on my way to the office. A week later, I was enticed back by the memory of Lydia's gentle smile.
This time, her left arm was encircled by a complex band of Celtic knotwork. A snake swallowed its tail around her neck, and a butterfly perched on the rose which grew on her right forearm.
For a moment, I let myself entertain the notion that I'd misremembered the pictures, but I knew that wasn't the case.
I took my tray to the counter, handed over the right money, and walked to what had already become 'my table.'
During the time it took me to finish eating my plate of lasagne, six people went through the till. Four of them commented on the tattoos. She smiled at each of them, and never corrected them. Maybe it didn't matter. They were just passing through.
When I finished eating, I checked my watch. I had seventeen minutes before I was due back at the office. I pulled out my pen and sketchpad, and sketched the rough forms of a dragon, a sailing ship and a fairy curled in the branches of a tree. I took my pad to the counter and showed it to Lydia. She knew exactly what I was asking.
“They're drawn with pen,” she explained. “I give art a chance to live, to be seen. It takes about a week to wash off.”
I thought about this, and she looked at me as if she, too, was thinking.
I smiled. I liked the idea of giving art a home and I was fascinated by the pictures' impermanence. Each drawing was fresh and new, like sand sculptures which you knew would be washed away by the tide.
“Would you like to draw for me?” she asked.
I wanted to say, “You're beautiful,” but my tongue locked up. I nodded. Perhaps I could draw it instead.
“On Saturday?”
I nodded again. She pushed a piece of paper into my hand.
“Come to this address. Bring a sketch of what you want to draw.”
I looked the address up on the street plan when I got home that night. It was a few streets away from the café. I left early for work the next day and detoured by Lydia's address to make sure I wouldn't get lost on Saturday. Even if I hadn't had the house number, I'd have known which was Lydia's house. Coloured butterflies fluttered up the windowpane and metal flowers crammed the terracotta pots on the balcony.
I thought about her butterflies and flowers all day at work, and that evening I began sketching Lydia's slender figure, the way I imagined it looked without the prim blouse and skirt. I filled her body with mountains and rivers and trees. Foliage twined down her arms, with bees and butterflies feeding from their nectar. Quicksilver fish flitted through the silken waves of her seas, and a hummingbird hovered in the delicate hollow of her neck.
When I arrived on Saturday and showed her the picture, she smiled.
“It's beautiful,” she said. “But you can't do that.”
I lifted her hand and traced the blue vein from her wrist up her slim, translucent arm. Once again, she knew what I was saying, without words. And she answered me without words. She closed the curtains, and in the glimmer of a dozen tea-lights, she unbuttoned her blouse and dropped it to the floor, revealing her small, perfect breasts. Then she unfastened her skirt and pulled it away to display the angry patchwork of scars criss-crossing her stomach.
“You can't make this beautiful,” she said.
I reached for the pen and showed her that I didn't need to. When I finished, each silvery scar was a branch or a vine, and the forest of her ravaged body became home to a multitude of living things. My pictures told her that, while they lasted, she was the whole world.
When I finished, she stood in front of the mirror and looked at them for a long time. Then she turned to me and drew my hand to her, and I traced the lines of the breeze along her pencilled collarbone and kissed the rose that nestled in the curve of her hip.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “For making me beautiful.”
I shook my head, denying her praise.
That was the moment I always remembered, after the tide turned, when the butterflies and the metal flowers appeared in the window of the charity shop and a plump brunette took her place at The Copper Cauldron: my sudden fierce anger at the world for letting her believe that because of her pain, she wasn't beautiful.

Monday, 20 July 2015

One Giant Leap for a Writer?

Who doesn't love a good robot story?  I wonder if anyone else remembers those yellow-jacketed Gollancz editions of Asimov's short stories?  I used to borrow piles of them from the school library along with my Chalet School and Sweet Valley High books (I was always an eclectic reader).  So when I saw the call for short stories for Darkhouse Books' anthology of science fiction stories based on the future imagined at the 1939 World's Fair, I knew I had to have a go.  The result was 'The Robot who Smoked', my homage to 'I, Robot', 'AI' and all the other robot stories that have made me think hard about what it means to be human. 

Originally I thought the anthology was coming out in June, so I've been twitching with impatience since then to see the other stories.  (Believe me, those I've read so far were worth the wait).  Editor Andrew MacRae has been a pleasure to deal with, and has finally picked the best possible launch date for our leap into a hypothetical future: the 45th anniversary of the moon landing. I'm delighted because I like to imagine that being a writer is like being an astronaut: constantly pushing new boundaries to explore places you've never been before.  

This anthology certainly takes its readers to some dramatic places.   My favourite so far is Wenda Morrone's dark, beautiful story 'The King Contest', which takes the reader to a future in which radiation poisoning is destroying humanity's ability to reproduce, leaving the King and his cloned First Minister with some difficult choices.  With a troubled teenager at its heart, this short story gives The Hunger Games a run for its money.  And that's my favourite only from the first three stories, so I can't wait to see what the rest of the book has in store.  If you're curious too, buy links are below for US and UK readers. paperback and kindle paperback and kindle

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Book Review: The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I downloaded The Paper Magician on a whim for no better reason than that I was short on fantasy reads and liked the title. I started reading and was instantly addicted. Ceony is a wonderfully kind, funny, likeable heroine. She's feisty and independent (traits which cause her no small difficulties) yet with plenty to learn from magician Thane, to whom she is apprenticed. Being forced to be a Folder (paper magician) when she wants to be a Smelter (iron magician) is maddening, and her attempts to make the best of the situation are both endearing and humorous.

As Ceony gets to know magician Thane and becomes more involved in his life, the secrets which emerge lead to some thrilling adventures, as she quite literally explores Thane's heart. I found those scenes the least convincing of the book, but then Charlie Holmberg set herself a huge challenge with them and I still thoroughly enjoyed this very strong first novel of the trilogy. The human characters, both heroes and villains, are convincing, but the character who really captured my heart was Fennel, the animated paper dog. I want to see this book filmed - I mean, this stuff is what CGI was invented for!

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Thursday, 14 May 2015

Book Review: Silk for Susannah

Silk for Susannah is a delightful short romance, which would be sweet even if it were entirely fictional, but is given an added dimension by the knowledge that it’s based on the real life of Shakespeare’s daughter.  Like the film Shakespeare in Love, it plays off our endless fascination with the Bard of Avon, and evokes a strong sense of time and place. 
Silk For Susannah: Shakespeare's Daughter (Quick Summer Reads Book 1) 
From the first page, we are transported back to Stratford in the summer when Susannah first makes the acquaintance of the young doctor John Hall, and has to persuade her father, the famous playwright, to support the match.  Evocative and charming, this is a light, quick read but demonstrates the same strength of historical detail as Victoria Lamb’s powerful young adult novel, Witchstruck. 

Free on kindle unlimited, and currently only 99p to purchase, what better way to try out a new historical novelist if you've not yet got to know Victoria Lamb's books? 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Book Review: Girl Friday

Girl FridayGirl Friday by Jane Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s ages since I’ve read anything by Jane Green but when a copy of Girl Friday crossed my path and I read the blurb I was instantly hooked. I’ll read anything that features a writer as one of the heroes, and I wasn’t disappointed by Robert McClore, thriller writer extraordinaire and boss to Kit, the recently divorced heroine who is currently rediscovering the worlds of working and dating after too long focusing exclusively on her role as wife and mother.

The bond between Kit and her two friends, Wall Street wife Charlie and yoga teacher Tracy, is brilliantly drawn, and the book has a lot to say about the dynamics of female friendship, as well as post-divorce dating.

So far so predictable, but the secrets kept by Kit’s family and friends ensure that the story develops in a way that’s anything but obvious. Is Steve the romantic computer entrepreneur the answer to Kit’s prayers, or is Kit’s friend and mother figure Edie right to suspect he’s too good to be true? What’s really going on in Charlie and Tracy’s lives, and who’s the mysterious woman who appears outside Kit’s window one day?

All in all, Girl Friday is an easy, fun read which definitely lives up to my memories of the early Jane Green books and makes me wonder why I haven’t read more of the books in between.

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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Wild Rose Press to publish 'Djinn and Tonic'

There are few better moments for a writer than finding out that an editor has enjoyed your story enough to want to share it with the world. Maybe one day it'll get old, but after two novellas and one novel, it certainly hasn't yet. I've just signed my third contract with The Wild Rose Press, which I'm delighted about because I think they did a great job with my first two novellas, 'Desperate Bid' and 'A Santa Next Door.'

My first two Wild Rose Press novellas were straightforward contemporary romances, but this one is a bit of a departure, because although it's set in the present day, it also contains a paranormal element, in the form of a djinn, or genie, who appears in response to the photographer heroine's wish for the perfect model for her photo shoot. What would you do, I wonder, if a perfect man materialised out of thin air - literally - in your studio? If you've followed along with my occasional Sunday snippets, you might remember Sally's reaction. If not, you can find it here.

Sally soon discovers that she'll have to be careful what she wishes for, as a momentary impulse to take off for the beach on a sunny day results in a dizzying experience in this snippet, and comes to terms with the discovery here.

The next steps are to work on edits and a marketing plan, so it'll be a while before I have a release date.  And there will be at least one major difference in the final version - so, sorry to all my friends who have fallen in love with 'Wulf', because he's about to have a name change to something  more fitting for a genie, probably of Persian origin!  Oh well.  I'll just have to keep Wulf in reserve until I find a suitable story for a Nordic hero... watch this space!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Book Review: Ascend

Ascend (Trylle, #3)Ascend by Amanda Hocking
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Ascend' is a fantastic conclusion to the Trylle trilogy, and brings together all the threads that were tangling messily at the end of 'Torn'. Wendy's planned wedding, her lingering feelings for Finn and growing attraction to Loki, the looming death of her mother Elora, Queen of the Trylle, and the ongoing quest of her father, King of the Vittra, to take over the Trylle kingdom. Of you've read and enjoyed the rest of the trilogy you won't be able to resist this exciting, dramatic and fast-paced finale.

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Book Review: Torn

Torn (Trylle, #2)Torn by Amanda Hocking
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's some time since I read 'Switched' but it was easy to slip back into the believable world of the Trylle.  The book certainly opens with a bang, as Wendy is kidnapped by the Vittra in an exciting sequence. She escapes surprisingly easily, although the reason for this later becomes apparent.

Perhaps the rest of the story doesn't quite live up to the excitement of the opening, but there are twists and turns aplenty and I was kept reading on to see how Wendy will manage to balance love and duty in what rapidly becomes more than a love triangle: there's Finn, the handsome tracker to whom she's always been attracted; Tove, the kindly Markis she's supposed to marry to save her kingdom; and finally, Loki, the dangerously attractive Vittra who was instrumental in her escape.

I loved the magical world of the Trylle, and the Princess-diary-ish strand of Wendy learning to adapt from being an ordinary teenager to livnig as the heir to a kingdom. My only complaint was that we're kept hanging until book 3 for so many of the conclusions, but that's not uncommon for the second in a trilogy.

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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Book Review: The Scandalous Duchess

The Scandalous DuchessThe Scandalous Duchess by Anne O'Brien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't tend to think of myself as a fan of historical fiction, but lately every time I pick up a historical read, I love the escapism and the intensity of the story. Anne O'Brien's 'The Scandalous Duchess' is no exception. Lady Katherine is a fabulously strong, scrupulous heroine, so it's surprising to find her lured into an ongoing affair with the powerful, seductive Duke of Lancaster. More surprising still are the twists and turns in their longstanding relationship. I loved the historical detail and most of all the sense of a very private love constantly challenged by public standards and scrutiny. Still very much relevant today.

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