Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

With Love (From Me to You): 3 for 1 Valentine's Special

I’ve received a number of queries from readers wanting to know if and when I plan to re-release my contemporary romance box set, With Love.  Well the good news is, I’ve decided to do another limited release for this Valentine’s Day at a special low price – three books for the price of one.  But it will only be available at this price for one week.

Click cover for free download
What’s more, I’ve replaced my award-winning romance The Apple Tree  - since this is now available free from Amazon and other retailers - with one of my personal favourite stories, The Nightclub, a contemporary romance laced with suspense.

The Nightclub concerns two stepsisters on the run from a bad home situation.  The older, Laura does her utmost to support herself and her younger sister (who dreams of being a famous singer) and keep a roof over their heads, but finds this far from easy in London.  In desperation she accepts a job as a hostess in a nightclub to earn extra cash.

The nightclub is Ferriby’s, which was once one of London’s top entertainment venues, but since the death of Guy Ferriby, has deteriorated in his brother Mel’s hands.  Now Mel needs to lie low for a while and persuades the youngest Ferriby brother, Julian to take temporary charge of the club.  As Julian strives to restore the club to its former glory, he begins to learn the extent of the problems he has inherited – problems that place him, his club, his new hostess, Laura and her younger sister, Bibi in extreme danger.

The other two contemporary romances in the set are the bestselling Wishful Thinking and also Shopping for Love.

A struggling single mother and a pop-icon turned Hollywood star meet in unusual circumstances. Fate drew them together but the intrigue and trappings of stardom threaten to unravel love's ties.

They shop for others out of kindness and naturally fall in love; but he is still raw from his painful divorce and she is his children's teacher.  Add to the mix a spiteful ex-wife and scheming ex-boyfriend and love may have too high a price tag.

For more information on these and all my titles, or to read excerpts from the stories, please visit my website:

The above books can still be purchased individually, but why not take advantage of this special offer, this week only - With Love, from me to you.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Is your book ever finished? Letting go of your baby. #selfpublishing

One of the best things about self-publishing is the freedom it gives you to go back into your book and tweak it, change it, improve it, amend it, and oh boy, do I take advantage of that!

I think of my stories as something organic and always open to change.  Sometimes a reader might ask a question about something they need clarifying, or make a comment that has me seeing a situation in a completely different way.  Perhaps something occurs to me in a flash of inspiration, and I realise that should have been in my story… or needs removing from it. Sometimes (to quote one of my early characters) people simply change their minds.  How easy it is in these days of e-books and self-publishing to go back to that finished book and make those changes.  But I sometimes wonder if this is sensible, if I should just say 'enough is enough' and focus only on new ideas.  I also wonder if other authors do this.  

I enjoy revisiting my stories and tweaking them, polishing them, hopefully improving them so new readers might have a better experience of them.  Perhaps I should leave well alone, but I doubt  I could if I tried.  Just recently I came across a poem that almost shouted at me from the computer screen.  It could have been written for one of my characters and I simply had to go back to my very first story and do a bit of rewriting in the light of that poem. There’s always room for improvement and I'm convinced an author’s work is never really finished.  But should it be?  

Authors often refer to their books as their babies, and, as all mothers know, your child continues to be your 'baby' throughout his or her life.  Are our stories that much different?  I’d love to know if others find it easy to bid goodbye to their projects once they’ve hit those magic words: Publish my book.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Two Must-Have Short Story Collections from author JennyTwist

Everyone who knows me knows how highly I rate Jenny Twist’s storytelling, so I was delighted to receive two short story collections recently.   These are available for Kindle and in print – and I think would make excellent Christmas gifts for any book lover, young or old. Here are my reviews of them:

Six Tales of Christmas

You can't fault Jenny Twist's writing and this magical Christmas collection is up there with the best of her work. Six festive stories written in Twist’s inimitable style would make a great gift for anyone this Christmastime.

Almost everyone must know or recognise an Elaine and therefore sympathise with everyone in the first tale, especially Uncle Albert, so no prizes for guessing who gets the last laugh in this uplifting story. The short nativity story will bring a smile to everyone’s lips, while I defy you not to shed a tear when you read how and why Jamey must go into battle with an alien. Home for Christmas, Marion and The Magic of Christmas are three unusual stories that will stay with you and make you think long after you’ve finished reading them.

When you read Ms Twist’s stories, you need to keep an open mind, expect the unexpected, and relax in the certain knowledge that you’re always in for a highly enjoyable read.

Tales from the Dark Side

I’ve read one or two of these stories before in different, multiple author anthologies, but since Jenny
Twist’s stories are so eminently re-readable, I was very happy to see them – along with some exciting new ones – put together in this collection.

In Uncle Vernon, we meet the larger than life McCaffrey family, with old Granny McCaffrey living on cornflakes and ham sandwiches (and probably not being able to tell the difference between them), the well-intentioned big Da and his strapping sons and daughters, down to 10 year old Bridget, "tiny and dainty, as if there hadn't been quite enough material left when it came to making the last child and she had to make do with what was left over from her much bigger brothers and sisters", and the one-eyed cat Genghis.

Oh, and let's not forget the eponymous uncle, who inhabits the cellar at Halloween and who, according to Janice McCaffrey is only "half-programmed". It's hardly surprising that Gary's girlfriend, the prim and proper Alison, spends half her time in a daze - and that's not just because she's in love with Gary! No, indeed, Uncle Vernon has much to answer for.

Twist's special magical dolls’ house, in A Victorian Dolls’ House took me straight back to my own childhood and my beloved dolls’ house with its precious inhabitants.  I used to think mine came to life at night as well. This haunting story is one I'm not likely to forget in a hurry. The very chilling The Man with no Face and Catch Me If You Can affected me similarly. They both stirred up old childhood memories and felt very personal to me, becoming stories I know I will want to keep to mull over and re-read. The final story, Turning the Clock Back, is probably the most disturbing, making me think of that old adage ‘be careful what you wish for’, but how can anyone not sympathise with Agnes, the devoted mother?

Jenny Twist’s writing is flawless, often poetic and sometimes prophetic, and it cannot be denied that she is a consummate storyteller. Both these collections offer a sample of some of her best writing, and I highly recommend them.

It's definitely time for me to bring out all five cats for both of them!

Six Tales of Christmas is available from Amazon. Just click: (US)  or (UK)
For Tales from the Dark Side click:  (US) or  (UK)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: A Glimmer of Guile by Mary Patterson Thornburg

I was first introduced to Mary Patterson Thornburg’s work by my excellent friend, Jenny Twist, so I already knew I was onto a winner.  I wasn’t wrong.  The author totally captivated me with her writing in Uncle Bud’s Health Mine and the Girl Who’s Going to Fix the World and I couldn’t wait to read more from this exceptionally talented writer.

When I received A Glimmer of Guile, I got stuck in immediately and lost myself in a new fictional world.  What an adventure.  Here is my review:

Having thoroughly enjoyed the short story ‘Uncle Bud's Health Mine and the Girl Who's Going to Fix the World’ by this author, I was delighted to receive ‘A Glimmer of Guile’ as a gift.

To start with, I found the title intriguing, as I’m sure was intended, and although I don’t read a great deal in the fantasy genre, this story held me entranced throughout.  This was partly due to Thornburg’s excellent writing, which has a beautiful lyricism to it compared to most modern writers, but without superfluity.  It makes me think of painting on silk as opposed to board or canvas – full of delicate and smoothly flowing lines.

It’s impossible not to love the colourful characters with their exotic names who parade the pages of the story.  Vivia, young heroine is sent out on a daunting quest which few would be brave enough to face.  The friends (and enemies) she meets on her journey are so interesting, they could each command their own story, but they all help move Vivia’s dangerous quest – and the story - forward to its satisfying and tightly-woven conclusion.  At its heart is a quiet, but sincere, love story complicated by the life decisions Vivia has to make involving her mentor, Raym. 

By the time I’d finished reading, I’d become so immersed in the fictional world and the characters, that I felt quite bereft to leave them.  There was a hint of sadness about the determined Vivia that made her endearing – a worthy heroine. I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this story; it will appeal to readers of all ages, and I highly recommend it.

So no prizes for guessing how many cute cats I gave it!

About Mary Patterson Thornburg
Mary Patterson Thornburg has been a reader of science fiction and fantasy for decades, and her writing hero is Ursula K. Le Guin, who towers over those genres in her great gift of invention, her beautiful and lucid style, and her moral wisdom and courage. In addition to A Glimmer of Guile, Thornburg has published a second novel (The Kura), short fiction, poems, and literary criticism. Her short story Niam's Tale won the 2011 SCBWI Magazine Merit Honor Certificate, and two of her stories received honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (2006, 2008). 
She lives in Montana with her husband, Thomas Thornburg.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Earth Mother Rules! Guest Author Post by @JennyTwist1

In the beginning God was . . . a woman. At least according to the great classicist, Robert Graves.
Very little evidence for prehistoric religion has survived into the 21st century. What there is consists mostly of small figurines, assumed to be votive offerings, and of these many are too worn to ascertain the gender, but where we can they are invariably female. Nevertheless, this is hardly enough evidence to be confident that we are interpreting it correctly.
There is, however, another source, as Graves pointed out. There are the myths.

It is unfortunate that in modern usage the word myth has become acquainted with falsehood. In reality it doesn’t mean that at all. Myth is, broadly speaking, the history of the tribe.
Most bodies of myth contain a creation myth, usually wildly imaginative, some rules for living and some explanations for why things are as they are. The rest, as they say, is history.
It is easy to suppose that stories passed down by word of mouth in illiterate societies must inevitably be changed beyond all recognition through a process of ‘Chinese Whispers’. Not so. Illiterate societies have strategies for remembering which we have lost, the main one being to put the story in poetry or song. It is no coincidence that the Greek myths are in rhyme.
There have been many studies demonstrating the effectiveness of this, but one proof familiar to most of us is that of Schliemann's discovery of the ancient site of Troy through following the ‘directions’ in Homer’s Iliad, itself a rendition of an ancient myth.

Graves’ comprehensive study of Greek myth concluded that prehistoric Greek society was not only matrilineal but matriarchal. Helen was abducted not because she was the most beautiful woman in the world, but because she was the queen of Sparta. Paris was attempting to lay claim to her kingdom.
Graves postulated a system where the queen, priestess to the Earth Mother, rules the tribe with her consort, the sacred king. He points out how often in Greek myth the king is killed. He is slain accidently by a discus, he is torn apart by hounds, he throws himself off the cliff, he is murdered by his own son or his wife’s lover. Graves believed this represents an annual ritual sacrifice of the old king and his replacement with a new king, chosen by foot race. This new king undergoes a rite of rebirth, which involves him appearing as if newborn, from under the skirts of the queen. Sometimes the new king is himself responsible for the sacrifice of the old king. Thus Oedipus is the epitome of the sacred king in that he kills his father and marries his mother.
For a demonstration that the sovereignty lies with the queen and not the king, we need only refer to the myth of Odysseus, who returns home after the battle of Troy to find his wife besieged by suitors. If this were a patriarchal society, there is no sensible reason for them to want to marry the queen. We know she and Odysseus have an adult son, Telemachus, who would naturally inherit the throne. In a patriarchal society she would have no wealth of her own, nor would she have much worth as a wife, since she must surely be past child-bearing age. Therefore we must deduce that her value lies in the fact that she is the queen. The next king will not be her son, but her consort.

So here we have a picture of prehistoric Greek society. It is a society ruled by women and presided over by a Goddess, the great Earth Mother. Women make all the decisions. Women perform the magic rites. Women speak to the all-powerful goddess.

So what happened?

The general consensus of opinion is that for thousands of years women were believed to be magical because they brought forth life and nobody knew how they did it! We think that mankind’s discovery that there was a connection between sex and the creation of children (not that obvious when you think about it) changed everything. The knowledge a man was also essential to the creation of a child meant woman was stripped of her magic. It also meant that if a man was to be certain that his children were his own, he had to strictly control his woman’s sexuality. She must be prevented at all costs from having sex with any man but him. And so the subjugation of women began.

The Dorian Greeks ruthlessly suppressed the cult of the Earth Mother, supplanting her with their own Sky gods, the Olympians. They went to such lengths as to make the priestesses wear beards or the new priests wear women’s clothing in an attempt to smooth the transition. The Earth Mother, however, refused to die.
Classicists have pointed out the many similarities between the Sky Goddess Athena and the Earth Mother, most telling being her affinity with snakes. Her cloak has snakes running inside the hem; and she is often depicted holding one of the snakes by the head as she goes into battle. She wears the head of Medusa, the snake-haired Goddess, on her shield, and many of her statues show a snake at her feet or coiled behind her shield. Furthermore, despite Zeus being supposedly Top God, Athena seems to hold far more interest for the myth makers. She has far more interaction with mankind and gives them many of the skills to promote civilisation. She has also taken to herself attributes that rightfully ought to belong to other, male, gods. She is the Goddess of War, despite there already being a God of War, Ares. Indeed, she has taken on so many functions that we would expect to be the province of the Top God that Zeus seems to be reduced to having no special function at all, apart from being able to wield a thunderbolt.
It is not difficult to imagine which deity was most revered by the people.

You could make a case for all the Sky goddesses being one or another aspect of the Mother. Hestia, in particular, Goddess of the Hearth, has many attributes of the Mother; as does Demeter, the giver of corn and presider over the cycle of life and death. But these are all really just aspects of the same goddess. The Earth Mother is often represented in triad – virgin, nymph and crone. Of the six Olympian goddesses, Athena and Artemis are virgins, Demeter and Aphrodite are nymphs and Hera and Hestia are crones.

And there is yet more evidence to link the beliefs of Classical Greece to those of the prehistoric era.
The oracles were the most magical of the human agencies in the classical world, prophesying what was to come and guiding the Greeks in all their affairs. You would imagine the Sky gods would have been keen to wrest control of the oracles from the Earth Mother. Yet the most important oracle, that of Delphi, was not a man, but a woman. The oracle was nominally dedicated to Apollo, but she herself was a woman, and she was called the Pythoness.
It seems the Earth Mother was not entirely dead.

But these days, surely, I hear you say, the Sky gods reign supreme with Jehovah and Allah dominating. Well, on the surface, yes. But you need only scratch the surface to find a different story. I live in Spain, a Catholic country. Ostensibly we believe in God the father; his son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost (a being of such little substance that I suspect it was invented just as a way of making up the triad). Not a female in sight.
Yet there is a holy figure of far more apparent importance than these. I know of no boys in Spain named Jehovah (although there are a few named Jesús). Yet more than half of the little girls born in Spain are called after the Virgin Mary. If they are not actually called Maria, then by one of her other titles. Dolores, for instance, comes from Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, Our Lady of Sorrows; Carmen is from Nuestra Señora del Carmen; the name of my own friend and neighbour, Reme, is short for Remedios, Our Lady of the Remedies.

It is our tradition to carry holy statues through the streets as part of the celebrations for religious holidays.
Yet Jehovah, the supposed Top God, is noticeable by his absence. I have never seen a statue of him in any Spanish church. What about Jesus, then, so beloved of modern Christian cults? Well, he has a presence, but it is insignificant compared to the omnipresence of Mary. Even at Easter, the most important event of the whole ecclesiastical year, and one which is entirely dedicated to the sacrifice and rebirth of Christ, you would be forgiven for failing to notice Him. Visit any Spanish city during Holy Week and you will see umpteen statues of the Virgin paraded through the streets, with just the occasional statue of Jesus.

It is to Mary that the old ladies pray. They only pay lip service to the Sky God.
They pray to Mary, the Virgin, the Queen of Heaven; Mother Mary, the woman who brought forth a son without the benefit of man; Mary, whose son was sacrificed for the good of mankind and who was reborn as the immortal king. Surely Mary is none other than the Earth Mother, who survives despite thousands of years of suppression.
And perhaps it is no coincidence that the priests of the Christian church still put on women’s clothing to perform their sacred rituals.

The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!

About Jenny Twist:
Jenny Twist left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and an escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
In 2001 she and her husband moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.
Her published novels are Domingo's Angel – a romance set in Spain, Take One At Bedtime – an anthology of short stories, All in the Mind –  about an old woman getting younger and The Owl Goddess – a fantasy/SciFi about how the Greek gods were actually spacemen. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How do we Stop Terrorism? By Guest Author @JennyTwist1

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester the thrust of the election campaign has changed. The media are beating Theresa May over the head for her lack of foresight in cutting the numbers of police and re-examining Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on terrorism.
These attacks have made it clear how vital our police force is in dealing with terrorism, and the general consensus of opinion seems to be that we should increase their numbers as soon as possible.
What is less clear is what we should be doing to try to prevent these attacks in the first place. More of us are coming to believe that the policy of waging war in the Middle East is not working and is very likely exacerbating the situation. As the extremists are driven out of their bases they seem to be concentrating their focus on radicalising young people and persuading them to wage these attacks on their host countries.  It is difficult if not impossible to completely prevent these attacks, although the security forces have done a sterling job in identifying and preventing a substantial number.
We should also see what we can do to change the reasons for terrorism.
In the first place, let’s re-examine our foreign policy. Since warfare isn’t working, maybe we should withdraw. Furthermore we should surely stop the supply of arms to the Middle East. The UK is the world’s second biggest arms dealer, and delivers its bombs and guns to 22 of the 30 countries on our government’s own human rights watch list. Time to stop. These weapons are being used against our own forces.
I know that many have expressed the view that it makes no difference to the terrorists. That they will hate us and want to exterminate our culture whatever we do, but common sense dictates that our policy of beating them into submission is unlikely to endear us to them. And what is the logical conclusion. Genocide? Do we go on bombing them until there are none left?
Hundreds of thousands of innocents are being killed in this tragedy. Let’s stop it now.
There is one other point. We know that warfare doesn’t work but we have very little evidence that anything else works either. The only case I can think of is that of the IRA, which was largely funded by America. When America was itself hit by terrorists, the funding dried up. We tried talking to the IRA instead of shooting and imprisoning them. The terrorism stopped.
Statistically one case is useless, but maybe it demonstrates that this approach is at least worth a try.

Please bear this is mind when you go to the polls on Thursday. And for God’s sake DO go to the polls. We need every vote we can get if our people are to be safe. 

About Jenny Twist

Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.

She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history, at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.

She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.

In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and attempting to do fiendishly difficult logic puzzles.

She has written three novels - Domingo’s Angel – a love story set in Franco’s Spain and harking back to the Spanish Civil War and beyond - and All in the Mind – a contemporary novel about an old woman who mysteriously begins to get younger and The Owl Goddess.

She has contributed short stories to many other anthologies, of which two – Doppelganger and Uncle Vernon have been released as short ebooks.

Other works include the Mantequero series: novellas about a Spanish mythological figure, and An Open Letter to Stephen King & Other Essays, a compilation of non-fiction essays and articles.  Her latest novella, The Minstrel Boy, was published in the anthology Letters from Europe in 2016.