Category Archives: Blog entries

The Lady in the Moon Moth Mask – Out Now!

Out today! The Lady in the Moon Moth Mask, Book 4 of The Secret of the Tirthas, is available to buy now on Kindle.

The paperback & other editions (iBooks, Nook etc) will be out in the next 2-3 days.

The perfect summer read!

You can order your copy here:

The Lady in the Moon Moth Mask


Map of Rowan Cottage’s garden of rooms

The Lady in the Moon Moth Mask is the fourth and penultimate book in The Secret of the Tirthas. The cover is currently being designed, and I’m aiming to publish it early next month. In the meantime, here’s the (slightly edited) Prologue as a taster.

Prologue

Suddenly, she was awake.

For a while Lizzie stared up, her nose still tucked under the duvet, watching the strip of moonlight that slanted across the ceiling. Then she reached a hand out into the cold and checked her phone wondering whether, with the clocks yet to go back, it might be nearly time to get up.

2.44. Back to sleep, Jones.

She shut her eyes and lifted the duvet over the top of her head. She could sleep forever. It was half-term after all.

But instead of falling asleep again, her mind began to wander. She found herself thinking of that first night she’d slept in this bed, almost a year ago, when she’d sat up and looked out of the window and seen the full extent of her great-uncle’s garden for the first time. His magical, rambling garden of rooms, with its neatly-clipped hedges criss-crossing in the moonlight, the narrow rill in the distance with the yellow folly, the Tower, at its end.

Why did she wake up?

Oh no, why had that question popped into her head? She wished her mind was a bit more rational and orderly. Why did it have to… why did she wake up?

She hadn’t heard anything in her sleep, had she?

She listened carefully, keeping as still as she could. She held her breath.

Nothing, no wind, not the hoot of an owl. Nothing.

So why did she wake up?

A little knot formed in her stomach. Suddenly everything felt strangely familiar, like she had already been in this time and place, experiencing this exact same sense of weird… apprehension… before.

Deja-vu. It was deja-vu.

Why?

She looked at the curtains, pale grey in the moonlight.

Look out the window? Don’t think so, not this time…

The feeling passed, and she relaxed slightly. She turned over and closed her eyes.

5, 4, 3, 2…1! It was no good. She pushed back the covers, sat up in her pyjamas, and pushed the curtain out of the way.

She didn’t even need to look around the hedges and rooms, her gaze fell straight on to the gleaming vision in white halfway down the garden, standing near the silver brook.

‘Oh my God!’ Lizzie sucked in breath.

Who was that? What was she doing out in the cold?

Squinting her eyes, Lizzie tried to make out more details of the woman. Yes, she was wearing a dress, a long white dress, that was what was so bright, reflecting the moonlight. But her face was… turned away. She was looking at the back of the woman’s head, at her short, or possibly tied-up, hair.

She felt a burst of panic. What was someone doing in the garden? She knew, her whole being knew from her hard-won experience, that nothing good, and almost certainly only something absolutely terrible, could come of this. What was she going to do?

And then her alarm ratcheted up to a whole new level as the woman began to turn around.

Lizzie’s eyes widened. There was something strange about the woman’s appearance, her face seemed large, somehow rigid, growing in brightness as it turned towards the moon hanging somewhere above Rowan Cottage, as it turned towards…Lizzie.

‘No!’ Lizzie whispered, as the woman fixed her shining face on her.

Moments passed, as they stared across the garden of rooms at each other.

After a while, Lizzie realized why the woman’s face seemed so stiff, almost mechanical – she was wearing a mask!

She couldn’t make out what type of mask, but it was both dark and shiny at once, with splayed out edges bigger than the woman’s face. Although, with all she’d experienced, who knew? Perhaps she was looking at some strange beast, why not an ogre with a gigantic head?

Why was the woman staring at her like this?

‘Don’t just stand there,’ Lizzie muttered. ‘Do something, won’t you?’

As if in response, the woman vanished.

Polesden Lacey – English Country House inspiration for my next book

The Lady in the Moon Moth Mask, the forthcoming book in The Secret of the Tirthas, takes place in a fabulous country house based on Polesden Lacey, a property near Dorking that was almost bequeathed to the Queen but ended up in the hands of the National Trust.

My wife and I take our boys there on a regular basis, as they love amongst other things getting their hands on old stuff, grandfather clocks, the chickens when they’re not away on holidays, and, appropriately, the stone griffins. Plus the grounds are huge, and beautiful, so there’s plenty of space to run around.

I always wanted the series to be very diverse, with equal parts mystery and action, and a strong contrast between the exotic and well-known. After Lizzie’s harrowing ordeal in the Cameroonian jungle in The Dreamer Falls, I decided to revert to a gentler setting, with the emphasis once again on mystery and intriguing characters.

After watching an excellent BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (and then reading the no-less-brilliant book) I knew Lizzie’s story leant itself to the same kind of set-up. So I did some research and took a lot of photos of the building, uncovering more of the absorbing story of Margaret Greville, who bought the house with her McEwan’s inheritance (‘I’d rather be a beeress than an heiress’), and who held regular country parties for socialites from London and the wider Empire.

Portrait of Margaret Greville, Polesden Lacey

Margaret Greville collected ‘people with the unerring eye of a stamp-collector’ according to the Evening Standard, and her guests included European Ambassadors, Earls and Countesses, writers and poets – and Maharajahs. A perfect mix for an intense and suspenseful story, in which Lizzie is left wondering whether guests are who they say they are – or whether they are demons in disguise, come searching for a lost Artefact of Power.

The Lady in the Moon Moth Mask will be out in the early summer. The final book in the series (currently with numerous working titles!) will be out early next year.

Margaret loved her dogs, all of whom ended up in Polesden’s famous pet cemetery.

World Book Day & the ‘Magic of Children’

I’ve just spent the last two days being reminded of the magic of children.

Yesterday I attended a ‘Better Start’ conference in Blackpool, looking at the role the whole community plays in bringing up healthy children. There were some inspirational speakers, including Trevor Hopkins who spoke about all the things that make people feel safe and happy. His long list ended in spirituality, religion and magic. Remarking on how many in academic spheres often criticise him for adding magic he stated (here I paraphrase): ‘Well, you all know children. Children are magic.’

Today is World Book Day, and I was given an opportunity to see again the magic of children when I undertook my first Author Visit to Class 3 of North Wheatley Primary School. I did a short reading, after which I was preparing myself for blank faces – only to experience quite the opposite. For the next half hour – and then again after break – I was answering dozens of interesting and intriguing questions from these bright and lively pupils. Should Lizzie have gone through the portal? Would I have gone through the portal? (And then I was caught out by ‘what’s your favourite song’!) I was bowled over by the depth of thought that the children applied to their reading.

The morning finished with the children writing storylines for adventures through their own portals, and once again I was massively impressed by their imagination and creativity. Thanks to the Head teacher, Joanna Hall, for inviting me and special thanks to the class teacher, Kate Bailey, whose preparation made the session a real pleasure.

My Top 10 Books of 2016

What a year 2016 has been!

Thankfully, there are books to keep us happy. So here’s a round up of my favourite reads from the year:

  1. Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

To think, I wasn’t even going to buy this. I needed a third book in a 3 for 2 at Waterstones, I was in a hurry, and this was being promoted. A piece of good fortune, and proof that we should always challenge our reading habits.

Here’s what I said about it on Goodreads:

A profound portrait of an individual and a community. The vignette-style chapters of characters who are emotionally damaged, close to illness and death, combines with the rough beauty of the Maine landscape to create an oddly affirming account of what it can mean to be alive. Olive Kitteridge is scathing, no-nonsense, pragmatic; and completely invested in her garden, the blooming of her tulips.


2. The Crossing, by Andrew Miller

This book isn’t exactly long, but it takes you on an amazing journey. In the character of Maud, the author has created someone both mysterious and scientific, rooted in the world. When she’s met by tragedy her journey alone across the Atlantic, one moment calm and the next terrifyingly wild, is gripping. I wasn’t so sure about the ending, but this seems to me a resonant book for our times.

3. Serafina and the Black Cloak, by Robert Beatty

A great adventure mystery story for middle grade / young teens, set in the rambling Biltmore estate and the dark woods surrounding it.

4. The Music of Chance, by Paul Auster

I read Moon Palace by Paul Auster many years ago and didn’t get on well with it. Then last year my wife bought a secondhand copy of The Book of Illusion in a lovely little bookshop in Alfriston. I read it and was an immediate convert (even re-reading Moon Palace, which I enjoyed much more this time).

Here’s an excerpt from my Goodreads review of The Music of Chance:

Don’t expect any answers. This story of two unlikely companions being undone through a game of cards with two equally unlikely partners just gets darker and darker…. Nashe, the hero, is a rationalist, but his burning of two wooden figures of the guys who beat him and Pozzi and inflict the ‘punishment’ of building a wall on them opens up all possible explanations, even supernatural. I loved this gripping book, although in the face of so much deftly handled ambiguity, the ending felt like too easy a way out.

5. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

A lot of my reading is inspired by what I’m going to write next. I’m currently drafting the fourth book of The Secret of the Tirthas, The Lady in the Moon Moth Mask, set in a country house. The novel has a strong mystery element, so I thought it was time to read my first ever Agatha Christie novel.

My only criticism of this fantastic book is that I would have liked more of it. More detail about the characters, more description of the setting. It almost defines ‘pared down’. But it’s brilliant nevertheless.

6. The Magician, by W. Somerset Maugham

Again for inspiration in my current writing, I reread this classic by Somerset Maugham. It’s an absorbing gothic tale of the tragedy that overtakes young lovers when they come across a vain, malicious and darkly ambitious Occultist in 1920s Paris.

7. Rilke’s Book of Hours, tr. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Reread over the Christmas period. It’s the one period in the year most of us get (at least some) time to reflect on life. I haven’t read any of Rilke’s other poetry, and I normally struggle with poems that are totally abstract – but I was struck by how some of the images in these poems relate to the need for an observer to shape the world. I read The New Scientist magazine and, as the universe gets increasingly weird and less likely the more we discover about it, I like how poetry written a hundred and fifty years ago can still resonate with current theories.

8. Wild Swans, by Jung Chang

I finally got around to reading this amazing book. Here’s my Goodreads review:

This is a whirlwind story, focusing around the tragedy of China throughout much of the last century through three generations of women. The greatest havoc is wrought by Mao Zedong and his wife, particularly through his Cultural Revolution in which young people are pitched against teachers, intellectuals and artists in a highly successful attempt to divide and rule. It’s like Lord of the Flies meets real life. Read this book, especially if you don’t know much about China – it’s an education.

9. The Siege of Krishnapur, by J.G. Farrell

I loved this book about a siege that reflects the physical and metaphysical crumbling of the British Empire in India. As the residents of the compound try to maintain their routines under increasingly desperate circumstances it’s darkly humorous, at times reminiscent of Carry On Up The Khyber.

10. Doctor Who: Ghosts of India, by Mark Morris

I haven’t read a Doctor Who book since I was about 10 years old, but was glad to return to them with this one. Having written my first novel about India, I couldn’t resist this title when I saw it in a secondhand bookshop. Here’s an excerpt from my Goodreads review:

India just after the second world war is masterfully depicted, with the hope, mystery and exuberance nicely balanced against the ominous clouds of coming strife with partition. The adventure has a good blend of villains, from the ghastly white ‘half-dead men’ to crazed Army Majors, crocodiles and cobras. The meeting of Gandhi with the Doctor is wonderful, and it’s left to Donna to draw parallels – and the Doctor to highlight the one key difference between them. A fun ride, with a pointed note of sadness at the end.

That’s my top ten from 2016. Let’s hope 2017 proves a good one – or at least a little bit less tumultuous than 2016.

Happy New Year!

A Year in Writing

Season’s greetings and a huge thanks to everyone who has supported me this year, particularly to bloggers, bookshop owners, festival organisers, and above all readers.

I’ve had a great year, and here’s a few highlights:

In January, I received my first review from an American blogger, Maureen, on her Hands Full Mama site. It’s an excellent site for reviews of children’s and YA books, and I was really pleased by Maureen’s write up: “I loved the way that Indian culture, religion, and mythology was incorporated into the plot. I also liked the mystery element…an exciting story.” If you want to read the full review – and perhaps subscribe to Maureen’s blog – you can do so here: The City of Light (Secret of the Tirthas) by Steve Griffin

The Dreamer Falls, Book 3 of The Secret of the Tirthas, came out in July. In the words of one reviewer: “I enjoyed the book very much. The author writes crisp and clear prose and has a gift for description. Above all he can tell an absorbing story. Although aimed at young adults this series can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.” Silversmith, 5-star review, Amazon UK

In October I was interviewed by the award-winning US children’s author, Cheryl Carpinello, on her blog – you can look at that here http://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/meet-mg-english-author-steve-griffin.html

I did my second book signing at Barton’s Bookshop in Leatherhead in November. I can’t praise the owner and staff of this wonderful independent bookshop highly enough. Professional, friendly, funny – and always full of useful advice and insight into my writing. If you live locally please go there to buy all your books.

I had my first local radio interview at Dorking’s Pippfest in September, and in December I had a stall at my sons’ school Christmas Fair – yet more opportunities to meet and chat with readers.

In November I started a free promotion of the ebook version of The City of Light, which led to some high Amazon positions (#6 in UK, #13 in US), and the first Amazon number 1 in Germany. My mum is half German, so maybe there’s something in my storytelling that has particular resonance with our German cousins!

Right now, I’m halfway through writing the fourth book of The Secret of the Tirthas, The Lady in the Moon Moth Mask, and loving every minute of it. It’s set largely in an English country house, based on Polesden Lacy in the Surrey Hills. Plenty of mysteries, leading to some big surprises – and a very unexpected alliance…

I hope you all had a good year, and wish you all the best for 2017.

 

 

 

 

The City of Light’s first Amazon no.1!

The City of Light has reached its first no.1 spot in the Amazon charts!

2016-11-20

OK, let me qualify that for a moment.  It’s no.1 in Germany, in the chart of free children’s books in English. It also got to no.6 in the equivalent UK chart, and no.13 in the US at one stage, kept off the top spot by The Jungle Book, Treasure Island, and some books on Minecraft.

Anyway, it’s a start – and thank you to all those German readers who are downloading my book!