Tag: Return of the Mantra

York Literature Festival

Last week was wonderfully busy, taking the long drive from Exeter to York for this year’s York Literature Festival. It was a fabulous opportunity to take part in a Sci-fi/Fantasy event hosted by the lovely folks of Stairwell Books, joining up with fellow authors for a panel of questions and readings from our array of worlds.

And after we’d told of our earth-bound universes, the floor was open to an open mic, where participants stepped forward to share their works in progress. A fabulously creative collaboration, and a great chance to chat with writers and readers who enjoy stepping out of the realms of the ordinary and into the fantastical.

We drove up to York a day early, with all good intentions for dropping by other events. It was not to be. I had only a vague childhood memory of York, and Kate had never been, so sightseeing beckoned. Watched over by the looming York Minster, we wandered the cobbled streets, munching on old fashioned sweets as we joined the tourist trail. In the museum gardens we came across a lucky find, a display of birds of prey. The owls sat with their regal poise, but my sights rested on the Harris hawk, a bird I’ve never been up close to before. I thought about the sequel to Return of the Mantra, my current work in progress as I await the edits. In the story, a bird’s eye view is seen through the featured hawk. Research, I told myself, as I slipped on the glove and looked into the beady eyes of the hawk perched on my hand.

In other news, I caught a glimpse of the latest poster, where I can reveal the name of my beloved fantasy series – Blood Gift Chronicles.

And now back to work. Waiting for the edits on book 2 gives time to work on book 3 as more lands are revealed.

Happy Reading!

Representation in Fiction

Writing a book is one thing. Marketing a book is quite another. In talking about Return of the Mantra I often reflect on the process of its creation: what inspired me, what the essence of the story is… It’s harder than it sounds. How to sum up the pages into a brief description? Anyone who writes will understand the pains of reducing a story into a one page synopsis, and then a paragraph long blurb. Even now, when people ask what my book is about, I struggle to find those one or two lines to do justice to the story I spent years nurturing into creation.

Cause and Effect

A girl was walking the streets of Exeter dressed as a bee, carrying a placard with the simple message, ‘Tick Tock, Tick Tock’. She was one of hundreds of children and young people, striking from school, marching to the County Hall to deliver their impassioned message: it’s time to declare a climate emergency NOW!

Ask the Author

I remember the days of tape recorders and cassettes, the horrifying sound of the tape being chewed, and the delicate task of winding it back with a pen. And the excitement of opening a gifted multipack of blank tapes, deciding and sorting an order to record. Gran still called the radio a wireless, and TVs sported three whole channels that could time out, leaving you with trade test transmissions.

Happy New Year – 2019!

As evening approaches, I imagine people discussing their resolutions for the New Year. I’m not one for resolutions. Instead I try to stick to the simple motto: keep trying to do better. In life as in writing, with practice, hopefully we improve.

Winter Nights

There’s a cold wind blowing and grey clouds brewing. Time to ‘batten down the hatches’. Apparently, in winter, we actually produce hormones that make us sleepy, designed to restore body, mind and soul. Well, whilst I appreciate cosying up on a cold winter night, my mind still races on. It seems, for me at least, the writing struggles to keep pace with the thinking.

It never gets old, seeing the book I wrote in print. I’m generally hopeless at remembering dates, but 24th May 2018 will likely stick for a long time to come: the date I held my first published book. Since then I’ve ventured out, introducing people to the story of Return of the Mantra. I appreciate each person who has taken the time to let me know how much they enjoyed it. A recent moment of excitement when it appeared as Day 8 of a reader’s book advent list – thank you twitter.

And now I’m working on a sequel; I’ve lost track of how many years ago I started it. The first book was complete, with an ending, but there always was going to be loose ends. I decided to re-visit the characters ten years on (in their world). And as they struggle to come to terms with their own history, a whole new land is introduced. In the planning stages I looked at some of my paintings and had a thought.

The paintings that offered up inspiration were hand-painted mosaics – though at this stage I couldn’t possibly tell what it was that inspired the story!

Desert Mosaic

City Mosaic

Both canvasses are big, approximately a metre square to fill with painstaking detail. Always it comes down to inspiration. So I thought of oases in the desert, the detail of henna, and the vibrancy of Durban amid the grey. It took a total of almost three months to complete the largest, in what felt like a sort of meditation. Tuning out and focusing on the detail is not dissimilar to writing.

Each project goes through the same cyclic process. For the sequel, I’ve thought, I’ve written, I’ve edited and hopefully now I’m on polish. And as I tighten the narrative and fine tune the characters, the world gets sharper in my mind. It’s not a world of black and white, but rather varying tones of grey. And yes, there’s a book 3, although think and write is about as far as I’ve got with that, so a long way to go. But first the polishing of book 2, and hopefully, with perseverance, it will find itself in print, nestled on my bookshelf.

Happy Tuesday!


Sharing Stories


It’s the Monday after Exeter’s first literary festival, and I’m left with the question, ‘Do we stop to think how much we take for granted?’

I’m thinking about the main character in Return of the Mantra; a young woman who grows up in a society where freedom of speech, books, stories and historical truth are controlled.

FantasyCon 2018

Last weekend was busy, with a trip to Chester to attend my first FantasyCon. It was amazing, and slightly overwhelming, to meet so many writers and readers of fantasy fiction. I took the plunge and signed up to the programme, including joining a fantasy reading panel. I read from Return of the Mantra, the part where Suni’s life irreversibly changes after she experiences tragedy. She poses as a boy and heads off to the mines in search of her estranged father, but life at the mines isn’t what she anticipates. Survival will depend on keeping her female identity secret, and on courage as she discovers her connection to ancient gifts passed down in bloodlines from the days of the tribes.


For me, painting is like storytelling; another medium to creatively put down thoughts. I started painting years ago, then when we bought our current house and white-washed the walls, I saw blank canvasses I was driven to fill. As with my first book, Return of the Mantra, thoughts born from time spent in Sudan and South Africa would feature in those canvasses.