Summer Sale this week!

Less of a blog post, more of a quick heads up that most of my back catalogue of books are on Kindle Countdown Sale this week (starting 15th July)!

That means the prices start low (99p/99c – one is even free!) and gradually increase to normal over the next few days. So if you fancy a ghost story with a shock, a zipping adventure mystery for teens, or some poems to quietly mull on the beach, head over to my Amazon page now.



Enough said, shipmates, you know the score… ⚓📚😉

Enjoy your summer!

The Origins of the Tirthas…

My new novella, Swift – The Story of a Witch, heads back in time to tell the tale of the mysterious origins of the Tirthas and of the even more mysterious woman who finds them…

The origins of The Secret of the Tirthas

So, for the first time in 4 years, there’s a new chapter in my fantasy adventure series, The Secret of the Tirthas! Here’s more on how I came to write it:

Creating a world…

Building a world with a supernatural element that can sustain a whole series of books is a complex process. This is true even when that world is mostly the same as ours, and involves only a few differences – in my case, the Astral Realm and Tirthas, or portals, with all the strange beings they contain. Before I began writing The City of Light, I wrote an intricate explanation of how the Tirthas were created, involving an ‘umbilical’ cord from the original landmass, Pangaia, to the Astral Realm, tectonic shift, and more ‘modern’ ideas such as ley lines.

I created a backstory going back centuries to how the demons and other supernatural characters were created in the mythical plane of the Astral Realm. From here, they could come down on to earth via the Tirthas and wreak havoc (or whatever else they felt like doing!) On top of this, there was the obscure ‘summons’ of the place known only as the Unknown Realms, which exerted its strange pull on these beings. (The Unknown Realms seemed a good metaphor at the time for the fading away of a more mysterious, religious view of the world – although I’m not sure that’s fading at all now!)

It all necessitated a long timeline involving the main characters and their ancestors, and explaining which had magical natures, and what it meant for them.

A mysterious woman appears…

One of the most interesting of these characters was Hattie Swift, a distant relative of Lizzie’s, who plays a small but vital role in the series. Hattie turns up out of nowhere at the village pub one night in a summer storm . She’s derided as a witch by the locals – but thanks to one man, a Quaker, she finds the safety and space to explore the magical woodland glade through which she entered the world. And soon Hattie discovers the fantastic portals that exist there, in what will become the garden of rooms Lizzie explores a century later. But alongside wonders, her discovery leads her into great – and potentially mortal – peril…

So grab your copy on Amazon now to read Hattie’s story and discover the origins of the tirthas…

Swift – The Story of a Witch: Out Now!

Swift - The Story of a Witch out now

I’m excited to announce that my latest book, Swift – The Story of a Witch, is out now!

It’s a double first for me – my first novella, and my first prequel. It’s the story of the mysterious woman who created the garden of portals that Lizzie explores in The Secret of the Tirthas. Here’s what it’s about:

When she materialises in a woodland glade, Hattie Swift knows she’s special, a witch from beyond this world. But why is she here?

A chance encounter with an honest man leads to marriage and a new life in the cottage by the magical glade where she entered the world. She begins to create a garden and uncover the mysterious portals hidden there.

But soon she finds the terrifying creatures that exist through the portals, including the fearsome Jiangshi and worse. Will she live long enough to discover her fate? And at what cost to her husband and family?

Swift – The Story of a Witch is an action-packed prequel to The Secret of the Tirthas fantasy-adventure series, in which the origins of the magical garden of portals is revealed…

Get your copy now!

Swift – The Story of a Witch: Cover Reveal

Today I’m revealing the cover of my forthcoming book, Swift – The Story of a Witch. It’s a prequel novella to The Secret of the Tirthas fantasy-adventure series and it’s… pretty different to most of what I’ve written so far.

Swift - The Story of a Witch: The Secret of the Tirthas prequel

Here’s a few facts about it:

– at just over 100 pages, it’s my shortest book yet – but that doesn’t mean it won’t pack a powerful punch!

– it takes place 130 years before Lizzie moves to Rowan Cottage with her mum in The City of Light (Book 1 of The Secret of the Tirthas)

– it’s told in the first person, from the point of view of a witch who materialises in a woodland glade – a place that is to become the magical garden of portals in the series

– it’s got some scary, non-human villains, a couple of whom you’ll have already met if you’ve read The Secret of the Tirthas

– it’s got a higher ‘magic setting’ than the rest of the series – this witch can throw a lightning bolt out of her fingertip!

– whilst it’s a prequel to The Secret of the Tirthas, it’s quite different in tone – the main character is a young woman, so it should appeal to older readers too (‘New Adult’ as well as ‘Young Adult’ and, in fact, pretty much any old ‘Adult’!) To draw a cheeky comparison, it’s a bit like the difference between the The Secret Commonwealth and His Dark Materials by one of my heroes, Philip Pullman

– it’s at heart a story about how fate can trick and doom love – and everyone loves a storyline like that, right?

Swift – The Story of a Witch is in final draft and will be out just as soon as I’ve received and checked the proof. Anything between 2-3 weeks!

If you want to catch up on The Secret of the Tirthas in the meantime, the whole series is now available as Box Set on Kindle! Check it out here:

The Magical Garden that inspired The Secret of the Tirthas

At the heart of my adventure mystery series, The Secret of the Tirthas, is a magical ‘garden of hedged rooms’, buried deep in the English countryside. What a lot of people don’t know is that the garden was inspired by a real garden in Herefordshire, owned for a while by my wife’s parents.

Designed and built by a former resident, the one-acre plot had 26 hedged and bordered rooms, filled with fountains and sculptures and themed around special places on the planet – as well as more obscure references such as ‘Miss Day’s Garden’ and ‘Akademia’.

My wife and I spent many happy weeks staying there in the little two-bed cottage, exploring the garden and the fabulous countryside around it. It didn’t take long before the idea for a cluster of portals in the gardens, connecting to the places they represented, came to mind. I copied a few – Easter Island Garden, Gothic Garden, Miss Day’s Garden – and added more of my own (Indian Garden, Rainbow Serpent Garden, Master-of-Nets Garden). And soon overlayered it all with a young girl’s voyage of discovery – of the world, its evil, tortured choices, her father’s true nature – and of herself.

Enjoy all five novels of The Secret of the Tirthas at a bargain price in a new Boxed Set on Kindle (click link below).

Plus… coming soon… a surprise prequel novella to the series, about a witch and the mysterious origins of the garden of rooms… Watch this space!

Catching a glimpse

I’ve just released a Box Set of The Secret of the Tirthas, my adventure mystery series for ages 11+. Over the next week or two I’m planning a few posts about the people and places that inspired me to write it. Today, I want to focus on Kashi, or Varanasi, the first portal that Lizzie discovers in her garden.

Catching a glimpse - man doing puja in Kashi

Of all the things that impressed me most about Kashi, it was the ordinary people going down to the river each day and dropping off the final step, or ghat, into the broad, flowing river Ganges. There was a practical reason for it – they would wash and some would even brush their teeth in the water. But then many would finish by cupping their hands in the river and lifting the water up above their shoulders, facing towards the rising sun.

Men bathing in the Ganges at Varanasi

I found out that this was their morning puja, or worship, and the aim was to catch a glimpse of blue and shining Shiva, whose city Kashi is. I found this astonishing, inspiring, the way the religious, the sacred, was woven into day-to-day life.

And what an idea. Poetry to me is an attempt to catch a glimpse of deeper meanings, attune to a resonance that is in us but seldom heard, rarely understood. It’s a way of surprising ourselves, of using words to sneak a peek at something that is both nebulous and more solid and important than anything else we think about in the midst of our normal, everyday lives. And here were these people, making that transcendent shiver a part of their daily routine. This was an integral part of the City of Light, and I was awed.

You can get a copy of The Secret of the Tirthas Box Set here:

The Secret of the Tirthas Box Set available now!

FOR THE FIRST TIME – TOGETHER IN ONE BOX SET – ALL 5 BOOKS OF THE SECRET OF THE TIRTHAS!

What would you do if you inherited a garden full of magical portals – only to find a killer was using them?

The Secret of the Tirthas Box Set available now!

NOW – TOGETHER IN ONE BOX SET – ALL 5 BOOKS OF THE SECRET OF THE TIRTHAS!

The Secret of the Tirthas follows the thrilling adventures of Lizzie Jones as she explores a garden in a remote corner of England that hides mysterious portals, or tirthas, to exotic places all over the world. The tirthas take Lizzie to Kashi, the Indian City of Light, the eerie swamplands of Louisiana, and the treacherous jungle of Cameroon – and many more amazing places.

But soon she finds the power of the tirthas is being exploited by hideous demons and their servants, trying to prevent their summons to the shadowy Unknown Realms. Can Lizzie and her new friends – the elephant rider, Pandu, and police inspector, Raj Faruwallah – stop them before they achieve their evil ends?

The ultimate binge read, The Secret of the Tirthas is a breath-taking adventure mystery series, perfect for lovers of His Dark Material and Harry Potter.

What readers say about The Secret of the Tirthas:

“An entertaining and exciting book… I can’t wait to read the next adventure!” The Guardian on Book 1, The City of Light

“I started reading this book last week and could not put it down”

“A thrilling, fast paced and wild ride… filled with portals, secrets, mystical creatures, demons, magic, Wicca, and a mongrel of a dog named Mr. Tubs”

“The plot was original and unpredictable and I loved the characters, especially Lizzie”

“I was enthralled by the fluidity of the writing and the vivid descriptions of Kashi”

“A great read for children and adults alike and very reminiscent of books I loved as a child such as The Secret Garden, Tom’s Midnight Garden, the books of Alan Garner and, of course, The Chronicles of Narnia”

“The writing is pacy, precise and evocative… a wonderful mystery book for anyone, not just kids, who likes to read about history, myths, legends and paranormal creatures”

“By far the best middle grade series I have read in a long time”

“The best book I’ve read this year.”

“A fantastic finale that really gripped us to the end!”

THE COMPLETE SERIES INCLUDES ALL 5 BOOKS IN THE SERIES:

The City of Light

The Book of Life

The Dreamer Falls

The Lady in the Moon Moth Mask

The Unknown Realms

Get your copy for HALF the price of the individual books here:

The Best Ghost Mystery Stories

So you don’t want to sleep tonight, do you?

My final list of books that I’ve prepared for Shepherd.com is the best ghost mystery stories.

best ghost mystery books

Why I love horror stories

We try and pretend the world is not mysterious, in the vague hope of exerting some control over our lives. But that’s a doomed endeavour. Everything will always slip away from our grasp, plummeting into a chasm that we can only fill with two human responses: awe or terror. Sometimes – perhaps most often – both.

This is why I’ve always preferred the gothic and sublime to the classical and ordered. Both are necessary, but the gothic like the church spire always points to the infinite, to the profound mystery that envelops us. That’s why I’ve liked horror movies and books ever since I was a kid. You’re forever clutching at a cushion, guessing – or rather fearing – what lies ahead, just around that corner…

And that’s why I started writing ghost stories, books that major in suspense and make you realise, as Stephen King’s narrator says in Bag of Bones, that “reality is thin, you know, thin as lake ice after a thaw, and we fill our lives with noise and light and motion to hide that thinness from ourselves.”

My favourite ghost mystery stories

So if you’re hankering after a shot of terror (often with a smidgeon of awe thrown in), check out my best ghost mystery stories here. And if you think I’ve missed a treat, let me know your favourite ghost story in the comments below. (You can also check out my other book lists for Shepherd, the best books with portals for children and young adults, and the best books with nature poems to make you think and feel.)

And while you’re here, why not take a look at my own ghost mystery stories, The Boy in the Burgundy Hood and The Girl in the Ivory Dress – the two standalone novels in The Ghosts of Alice series, about a young women who has a very strange connection to the dead:

The best books with nature poems

Is spring filling you with inspiration and making you want to discover some of the best books with nature poems? Then this post is for you!

I began writing poetry in my twenties when I was doing environmental studies at Stirling University. At the weekends I often went hillwalking in the Scottish Highlands with friends. Inspired by the majestic scenery, I picked up a copy of Wordsworth and began reading poetry for the first time since my English degree. Soon after, I began to write my own poems.

nature poems mountains

When I got a job in South Wales I started sending poems to magazines such as Orbis and The New Welsh Review. Coming downstairs one Saturday morning to find a letter accepting three poems in the latter – along with a payment of £60! – was one of the best moments of my life. It gave a massive boost to my confidence as a writer.

A few weeks ago, I was approached by new book recommendation website Shepherd to share my favourite books on subjects I write about. I created my five favourites for ghost mysteries, books with portals for children and young adults – and for poetry books with nature poems that make you think and feel. I write all kinds of poetry, but I particularly love poems about the nature and landscapes of Britain.

So why not check out my list here, which includes books by awesome poets including Ted Hughes, Alice Oswald, Sherry Ross and Barbara Lennox.

And you can always check out my own collections if you love nature poetry:

The best books with portals for children and young adults

Best books with portals for children and young adults

I was asked by the people at new book recommendation site Shepherd to share my favourite books on things I’m passionate and write about. As many of you will know, The Secret of the Tirthas is about Lizzie Jones, a teenager who inherits a magical ‘garden of rooms’ deep in the Herefordshire countryside and then discovers each of the rooms has a portal to a special place on the planet.

I always thought it would be great if you could step outside your back door and travel instantaneously to somewhere on the other side of the planet. And, of course, portals are a neat analogy for the power of the imagination.

So my first selection of books for Shepherd is my five favourite books with portals for children and young adults. They include books by Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman and you can check them out here.

Do you like portals in books? If so, which are your favourites?