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 COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED - CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNER, ASHLEY MARTINEZ **

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?  


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?

Excerpt:

“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.