Christmas Offers and Promotions

Update, promotions and offers:

Yes, it’s that time of the year again so I’m updating all the info on my books, including Special Offers and Promotions to help keep down the cost of giving (or treating yourself).

Lying in Wait will be on offer on Sunday 17 November for one day only at a greatly reduced price through BookBlast, where you can find daily listings of Kindle books at rock-bottom prices or for free. (Why not sign up to get your own daily listing of bargain books?)

Lying in Wait is also available on an Amazon Countdown Deal  from Sunday 17 – 19 November, beginning with a low price of only £0.99 (UK) or $0.99 (US), going up in price at regular intervals until it reaches its usual price by the end of the promotion. Get in early for the best deal.

In addition, if you purchase a paperback copy of Lying in Wait from Amazon, you can buy the e-book for only £0.99 or $0.99 through Amazon’s MatchBook programme.

A Bed of Knives is available as an e-book and will be available in paperback from Amazon and all good book retailers by Christmas.  Keep checking my blog for info on Special Promotions for A Bed of Knives over the next few weeks.

A novella for 9 – 13, middle grade children, The Golden Cuckoo is a magical adventure story available until New Year at the reduced price of £1.99 or $1.99.
In addition, if you purchase the paperback of The Golden Cuckoo  through Amazon, you can buy the e-book for only £0.99 or $0.99 through the Amazon MatchBook programme.

Two copies of the paperback edition of The Golden Cuckoo will be offered for free in a Goodreads Giveaway competition also beginning on Sunday 17 November through to 24 November.
Click here to go to the Goodreads Giveaway page  from 17 November and look for The Golden Cuckoo in recent additions.

MEGGIE BLACKTHORN (The first book in the ‘Meggie’ Series)

Meggie Blackthorn is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree  and an Awesome Indies  recommended read. Get it on Special Offer on Wednesday 20th November through The Fussy Librarian, a readers’ site specialising in matching readers to the books they’ll love. Sign up now for books tailored to your particular needs.

If you choose to purchase the paperback version of Meggie Blackthorn through Amazon (available by Christmas), you will be able to purchase the e-book edition for only £0.99  or $0.99 through Amazon’s MatchBook programme.

AND FINALLY, my latest book, MEGGIE BLUE (The second book in the ‘Meggie’ Series)
Meggie Blue, the sequel to Meggie Blackthorn, is now available to download to Kindle at the reduced price of £1.93 and will be available in paperback for Christmas 2013. If you buy the paperback from Amazon, you can get the e-book for only £0.99 or $0.99 through amazon’s MatchBook programme.

The third book in the ‘Meggie’ Series, Jack the Lad, will be published in 2014.


I must have a guardian angel

DSCN2090I can’t believe how lucky I am to be a writer with plenty of time to indulge my passion for books – both writing and reading.  I live in a beautiful corner of the world, in one of the ‘white villages’ of Las Alpujarras in Andalucia, Spain.  From our living room balcony, on a clear day, I can see the distant Mediterranean and, if the sun’s out in the evening, tiny white cruise ships making their way from Almeria towards Malaga, Gibraltar and beyond.  The light hits the mountains surrounding us in different ways at different times of the day and year so the view is ever-changing but always stunning.  Yes, the first time you wake up, look out of the window and see a cloud layer not far beneath you it can be a bit unsettling, but seeing mountain peaks rising from a fluffy, white sea is a spectacular and unforgettable sight.

It gets cold in winter this high up (we’re at 1360 metres above sea level) but the summers are more forgiving than those on the costas, where the temperature often reaches 40C or more.  Here, the evenings are fresher. The very thick walls and small, deeply recessed windows of our house keep us cool during the day, while the windows are thrown wide at night to allow cool night breezes to freshen everything up before the sun comes up for another hot day.

The pace of life is easy, relaxed and stress-free.  Ours is a working village – not touristy, apart from serious walkers who, with grim expressions, large hats, sturdy shoes and walking poles huff and puff past our house to follow the challenging but beautiful mountain walks above our village.  Their expressions of satisfaction when they return, tired, sweaty and dusty, are well worth noting. Since ‘la crisis’ began, with Spain’s severe financial problems and very high unemployment, even worse in rural areas like ours, there are fewer tourists and, consequently, many bars and small businesses have closed.  The people who lived in these villages are a hardy race who have lived through hardship before and who will survive to build a better future for their children and grandchildren when the economy improves.  Meanwhile, we will continue to visit local towns, villages and, especially our local bars, where it is a pleasure to sit and watch the world stroll by.

After a lifetime or working full-time, bringing up our family, dealing with the many traumatic and difficult moments that just about everybody goes through in their lives and surviving a life-threatening illness, I know how lucky I am to be here, now, able to read and write to my heart’s content.

I’m sure I must have a guardian angel watching over me.  Whoever and wherever you are – thank you.

Making it up as you go along

Eleven mornings ago I was lying in bed, day-dreaming, when I was struck by an idea for a new children’s book.  I lay there for some time, turning it over in my mind, trying to decide if I could actually write an exciting fantasy adventure for children aged between 8 and 12 years. I’d never written a fantasy story before never mind one for children, though I have read many over the years.  In addition, I already had two books half-written that I was planning to finish before I started something new.  I understood from other writers that writing for children of this age group is hardest of all, especially since J K Rowling set the bar so very high.

I went about my daily tasks but, whatever I did, that idea would not shift so I gave in, sat down with my laptop and began to write.  Did I know who the main characters were going to be?  No.  Did I have the first idea where the story was set?  No.  What sort of a book was it going to be?  I wasn’t sure.  The only thing I knew for certain was that it involved a cuckoo clock.  I had the clock in my mind’s eye, and the whole story developed from there.

Now, on morning eleven, I have a title ‘The Golden Cuckoo’. I have 12,000 plus words written and the whole project is going very well so far.  Do I have the slightest idea of what happens next?  No, I’m making the whole lot up as I go along and it’s the most writing fun I’ve had for years.  Will it all work out in the end?  Maybe – I do have an inkling of a possible ending, but there’s a long way to go and I have no idea of how I can move my characters there, but I’m going to carry on and see what happens.  Maybe I’ll get stuck, or maybe not.  It really doesn’t matter.  I’m loving every second of this particular journey and I’m not sure I want it to end – at least not for quite a while yet.


Black Friday Books

For the past few years, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of ‘Black Friday’ being the day everyone in the US goes into a frenzy and buys, buys and buys some more stuff for their loved ones for Thanksgiving and the Festive Season (Christmas).  Black Friday hasn’t quite made it to the UK yet, though we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, which seems to be the trigger for the spending frenzy. Now, I’m sure not everyone goes crazy on Black Friday – it’s just another day, right?  You don’t have to do all your shopping on that particular day and, thinking of all those people working to make other people’s Black Friday the best, they’ll have to shop at a different time.  My books are available to download onto your e-book reader 24/7, 52 weeks of the year.  Remember, a good book is not just for Christmas.

Amazon have ads on my account page and, I’m guessing, everyone else’s reminding them about Black Friday, so I hope you’ll be kind enough to spare a few moments while I tell you about my e-books.  They are all available to download from, (and amazon.everywhere else) and from Smashwords in all available formats.

The first is ‘Lying in Wait’:

‘He could just see himself, in a year or so, going back home with his pockets stuffed with cash and his Da, Zach and Ma welcoming him with big smiles and open arms. It would be that grand he could hardly wait.’

But when Malachy Flynn finds himself mixed up with the Conway family in Dublin, he realises that making money isn’t always easy – or legal. Then there’s gang boss, Brogan. No-one messes with Brogan. Ever.

Northumberland farmer Tom Oliver prefers the company of married women, but time’s running out for him when his new dairyman moves to Netherwell Farm with his dangerously attractive wife and her pretty younger sister.

In London, Mal falls in love with Tom’s niece, Jess, but they are forced to flee to Northumberland when his secret past catches up with him.  Revelations and death turn everyone’s lives upside down. Can Mal protect those he loves or will he forever be watching over his shoulder, waiting for Brogan to take revenge?

Next, ‘A Bed of Knives’: Contemporary romance with an edge!

Friendship can get complicated when you start to fancy the guys you hang out with. When Eddie suggests a night out to celebrate the end of their final exams, four friends look forward to the evening with different expectations.
Fast forward five years.  Gina and Rose rescue Spider from living rough in Oxford.

Will their friendship survive the revelations of the following days?

***Not erotica but does contain strong language and explicit sex.***

Finally, ‘Meggie Blackthorn’: Suitable for Middle Grade readers.


Early 1960s – Newcastle UK.  When eleven-year-old Meggie’s feckless Dad doesn’t pay the coal man she takes matters into her own hands. With her younger brother, Jack, she sets off to find the free coal she knows can be found in the pit heaps opposite their village. When she and Jack return home from their adventure, she’s punished.  Does she still love her dad?  She’s not so sure and when she has to make  a choice between going to live with her grandparents at their newsagent’s shop in Newcastle so she can go to the grammar school or staying in Shippon  and going to the local secondary school she decides to leave home.

She soon finds herself in an ever bigger mess. Billy Fish and The Codmother are ripping off Meggie’s grandparents. With her new friend, paperboy Dave Spedding, she tries to help, but finds herself trapped in a dangerous situation.

Growing pains, a new school, dealing with Billy Fish’s threats against her grandparents and coping with long-hidden family secrets stretch Meggie’s resourcefulness and strength of character to the limit.  (66,000 words)

Well, that’s about it from me for now.  Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Festive Season and a Happy New Year to everyone.

Smacking the Trees

Just as temperatures dip a little and the fierce heat of summer subsides, the almonds, which have been clinging to our trees since spring, suddenly pop their velvety green casings and the nuts exhibit themselves like wanton whores just begging for attention.  Leave them too long and the velvety casings surrounding the nuts will harden, making it very difficult to separate them.  The best way to attend to the task of harvesting the nuts is to take a long stick to the trees and to strike the branches sharply, causing nuts to cascade to the ground onto nets already spread beneath the trees, making it much easier to collect them.

Well, it would if we had the sort of garden that lent itself to spreading nets beneath the trees in order to collect the nuts.  It doesn’t quite work that way in our garden. First – I don’t have any nets, but even if I did, they wouldn’t be a lot of use because our garden is almost completely paved, and on a slope, which means that cascading nuts bounce merrily down the slope to disappear into flower beds, under the hedge at the bottom of the garden and into a rather tricky little gully filled with weeds, around which wasps congregate.  Nevertheless, I have to gather my nuts so a few days ago I began smacking our five almond trees with a broken walking pole saved especially for the purpose, dodged almost all of the falling nuts, then spent a long time collecting the nuts from under the hedge, from the flower beds and from the wasp-infested gully. I then had to sort them into two piles; one of almonds inside their husks and another of almonds that had fallen from their husks and were ready for use.  After that came the tedious task of separating reluctant nuts from their husks, which takes hours of fiddly prying and poking resulting in sore, green fingers and an aching back from leaning over a sack and bucket for hours on end.

I now have a lot of nuts to crack – a task usually undertaken while watching Formula One on TV.  This year, though, there are more nuts than ever – far more than I can ever imagine getting through even if the F1 season lasted twice as long.  I know what I’ll be doing through those long, winter nights ahead.  I’ll be watching Strictly Come Dancing to the unsteady rhythm of nuts cracking, six nations rugby will be interrupted by the sound of nuts cracking, on and off the field, nuts will be cracking all through the build-up to Christmas until finally, on Christmas Day, we will be ealting something, nay every possible Christmas recipe that contains almonds.  I must be nuts!

Fiesta / Siesta

The statue of San Pantaleon parading through Berchules

 A shot rings out, waking me from a deep sleep.

Beside me, someone stirs, sits up and moans, rubbing hands over face.

‘Christ! What was that?’

‘It’s started.’

‘Noooooo…’ Lies down, pulls sheet over head.

The sound of church bells crashes through the open shutters and frightens off the sparrows chattering on the pergola outside. Another couple of fireworks, about fifteen seconds apart.  Even though I expect them, their loudness makes me jump. I strain my ears for the sound of the band. Nothing.  No, wait, I can hear the pulse of a distant drum, then a trumpet.  The faint strains of a pasa doble reach me on the still, warm air. They’re on their way.

Day one – Friday, 8:30 am. The annual Fiesta de San Pantaléon, patron saint of our village, begins in Bérchules.

For the next few hours, the band makes its way up and down the steep, winding alleys of the village, pausing from time to time to strike up a loud, jaunty tune aimed at rousing sleepy villagers from their beds. Quiet contemplation in the bathroom is shattered as they stop just outside our window, wait for the deafening crack of the latest firework, and launch into yet another traditional piece.  Every hour, the church bells peal into the morning air, signaling the festivities to come.  No one sleeps in Bérchules on Fiesta Day!

At eleven, a long peal of slightly discordant bells fills the air in honour of San Pantaléon, followed at noon by a service, the Solemne Eucharistía. At the bar opposite the church, table and chairs fill with those of lesser faith waiting for the service to finish, when they are joined by their (mainly) wives and mothers and a buzz of conversation and laughter fills the air. We sit there with everyone else, waiting for the concert  by the Banda de Música, not quite so discordant as the bells. As we listen, the door to the priest’s house opened to disgorge a number of handsome young men of the cloth – so handsome, I felt an inexplicable urge to go to a church service at some time in the relatively near future. Sipping beer, we eyed the clouds boiling up over the crest of the mountains behind the village, hoping they would not result in rain, thus spoiling the main event – the procession of San Pantaléon, due to begin at nine that evening.

After an afternoon and evening of doing nothing but lying around trying to snooze, (the siesta is an essential part of Spanish life in midsummer) we shower and dress for the procession with no thought of going in tatty, comfortable casuals – this is an Occasion, with everyone in their Very Best Outfits. Men, more used to wearing overalls and greasy straw hats on the campo as they toil in the fields appear their best suits, no matter how old or shiny.  Women with carefully coiffed hair, full make-up, super smart dresses and the highest possible heels, in spite of the rough concrete roads and steep alleys that could easily cause injury,  appear as if from nowhere to attend the church service that marks the beginning of the procession.   Young men and women in immaculate casual clothes and young children beautifully turned out for the occasion mill among the non-churchgoers, waiting for it all to begin.

As first the church bells strike nine o’clock then begin a full peal that will last for at least fifteen minutes, the Banda de Música strike up and the first, deafening volley of rockets launches into the sky.  A vibration of sound shudders though the pit of my stomach as thunder reverberates round the mountains surrounding our valley, followed by a rain of  hundreds of spent rocket sticks and charred  cardboard casings.  The smell of gunpowder lingers in a bluish haze, while a team of a dozen village men slowly carry the statue of San Pantaléon from the church to begin his tortuous journey through the main village streets.

By now, the sun has dipped behind the mountains and the electric candelabra flanking the statue on its heavy base are glowing brighter.  The fiesta lights arcing over the streets flicker into life and the procession begins.  The packed crowds in the Plaza de la Iglesia somehow arrange themselves behind the statue: the priests, nuns, local dignitaries and representatives of the police and the  Banda de Música, then the whole lot moves off at a snail’s pace through the narrow streets.  The faithful follow the statue on its journey, while others (including us) sit outside bars drinking beer and sampling tapas, while awaiting its return.  Several more volleys of loud fireworks signal various stopping points on the route, but the best is saved until last.

After a short firework display for children in one of the squares on the way back to the church, the statue, carried by a different set of strong village men, wends its way home. Once back at the church, a barrage of loud fireworks, far more than before, thunders across the valley followed by a wonderfully colourful firework display that fills the sky above the village with magic.  A final volley of loud rockets, and San Pantaléon is returned to his place in the church until next year.

The crowd disperses – some to the open air music that will play in the square beside the town hall throughout the night, others to the stalls of trinkets, toys and foodstuffs, some to eat at the various food outlets and the rest to various bars, or home.  After a few extra beers and a quick look around the stalls, that’s where we head, knowing the all-night music will penetrate through shutters and curtains until it finally stops, followed by a final burst of fireworks, at 7 am.  After that, we sigh with relief, turn over in bed and slide into a deep sleep. One day done, two to go!

Half an hour later, the fireworks start again, the Banda de Música bursts into sound and once again, the peace of our village is shattered.  Day two begins.My favourite event by far of our Fiesta is the horse-riding competition. This takes place on the evening of Day Two in the main village car park, half of which is cordoned off so that the contest can take place.  The  concreted car park, ending in a steep uphill slope, becomes the focus of activity long before the event actually begin. Tables at the bar begin to fill, children line up to take a turn on the bouncy castle and the best vantage points – on top of the recycling containers – are secured by eager teenage boys, hoping one day to emulate the prowess of the riders who begin to gather, with their horses, nearby.

Nothing much happens for an hour or so.  The crowd becomes dense and loudspeakers implore the owners of the two cars parked inappropriately, right in the competition arena, to remove their vehicles – or else!  No one appears and the crowd thickens further. Like the rest, we sit, chat and drink beer.  The Banda de Música tune up and try a few tunes to warm up the audience. A sense of anticipation sweeps the crowd as riders and horses begin to mill around, preparing themselves for the contest.  A wire, along which ribbons, wound onto small rollers and ending in an eyelet about an inch wide and half an inch deep, is hoisted into the air between a convenient lamp post and a metal loop set into the wall opposite. One of the riders trots up to the wire, stands in his saddle and reaches towards the wire, high above his head.  It is lowered to a couple of inches above his outstretched fingertips.  He nods and returns to the starting area. Cheers, jeers, whistles and clapping fill the air as one person arrives to drive his inconveniently-parked car out of the arena then again, louder, as a team of strong men bounce the other car safely to one side.  Several people lean against it. Cigarettes are lit and cans or bottles appear as if by magic. Children waving helium-filled prancing horses with only two legs stop running across the arena and the noise level drops considerably as the first rider gathers his horse for a run.

With much pounding of hooves and flapping of reins, horse and rider race, at full gallop, across the concrete and towards the wire holding the ribbons.  On meeting the slope, the rider rises in his stirrups and, holding a four inch bodkin with a two inch metal spike in one hand and the reins in the other, he makes a stab towards one of the ribbons on the wire.  A miss! Hard on his heels comes rider number two, who also misses.  Number three, on a beautiful pale-coloured horse thunders up the slope, stands in his stirrups at the exact right moment and spears the eyelet of a ribbon with his bodkin. A stream of bright purple silk unfurls behind him as he reaches the top of the slope and raises his bodkin in triumph.  The band bursts into action, the crowd cheers and whistles and the rider ties his trophy onto his horse’s bridle.  The contest is under way.

Horse-riding contest

More riders

After another music-filled, sleepless night and a day-long siesta, we prepare for the Finale – a Flamenco concert.  Now, I like flamenco but my husband does not and it was with huge reluctance that he lined up with me outside the venue. The doors open at 8:30 and those in the short queue are soon inside the cavernous basement of the town hall.  A few rows of plastic chairs fill the centre of the space in front of a tatty red curtain that hangs, hooks missing and not quite closing in the middle.  Behind it, preparations are going on for the performance.  We sit in the back row.  Behind us, more people are crowding into the hall. More chairs are fetched from somewhere else.  When those fill up, someone has the idea of bringing chairs from the school next door and a load of wooden seated chairs with green, metal legs (adjustable for the varied heights of the school children) are grasped by desperate concert goers.  They are soon gone, apart from one which no one seems to want.  We soon find out why. Unbeknown to the guy who, in desperation, takes it and tries to sit on it, one of the four legs is about three inches shorter than the others.  He does not notice until he tries to sit down and is pitched onto the floor just in front of us.

The first flamenco act begins, hardly heard above the scraping of plastic chairs as latecomers say ‘buenos noche’ to everyone they know and take the seats their friends have been saving for them.  Hisses from the rest of the audience soon drive the noise down and we enjoy an hour or so of excellent flamenco singing, dancing and guitar.

When the band take their final bow, my long-suffering husband heaves a huge sigh of relief and looks around expecting everyone to begin to leave.  They sit tight.  We stay where we are through several announcements until, finally, the MC introduces another act.  Disbelief fills my husband’s face as he realises There Is More.  This time, an aging singer with a voice like warm treacle performs impeccably, rousing the audience to heights of ecstasy as she flatters, wheedles and sings songs the (mainly older) audience have known and loved all their lives.

Finally, it is over and my husband hurriedly leads the way out of the venue and towards the nearest bar.  Only after a couple of swiftly downed beers does he regain his equilibrium.  After a few more libations and with disco music filling the night time air with its insistent Latin beat, we head up the steep hill to our house for a final sleepless night.  Fiesta is over.