Today I’m reading a short excerpt from The Unknown Realms, the last book in my mystery adventure series, The Secret of the Tirthas. It’s the moment a Venetian boy, Alessandro, sees the hero, Lizzie Jones, emerge from one of the magical portals, or tirthas, with a very unusual – and frightening – companion. I won’t give any more away for those of you who haven’t read the previous books!
If you enjoyed this reading from The Unknown Realms click below to find out more; or, if you’ve not yet started the series, click on The City of Light.
To learn about the magical garden of rooms that inspired the series go here, and about the real City of Light in India go here.
Today I’m announcing a special book sale offer for anyone who wants a paperback copy of one (or more) of my books.
I’ve realised that with the continued impact of Covid-19 on our lives, I’m unlikely to be returning to bookshop signings and other events for a while. This means I have a reasonable stock of paperbacks that I’ve decided to put up for offer.
So here’s the deal… You can order any of my books for the cover price (£6.99 for novels, £5.99 for poetry), with FREE postage and packing in the UK. For the rest of the world, I will deduct the price of the UK postage (about £1.70) and you would need to pay the difference.
On top of that, if you order 3 or more books I’ll also deduct 10% from the total price of the books.
I will also sign copies if you like, and I can do dedications for birthday and other gifts.
To take advantage of the offer, please email your order to firstname.lastname@example.org, with any dedication details etc. You’ll need to pay by a PayPal account – and I’ll need your postal address of course. Here’s a full list of the available books:
My Five Favourite series is focused around the three categories in which I now have books published. The last post was my Five Favourite Creepy Stories, and the next and final one will be Poems. That means this time it’s my Five Favorite books aimed at the audience of my own series, The Secret of the Tirthas. These are mainly pre- and early teens, but with crossover appeal to older readers. They’re books that I think can be enjoyed by the whole family – or at least all of them over nine-years-old!
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
OK, so there’s no surprises with the start. Harry Potter is hardwired into our lives now for a very good reason – it’s brilliant. I’ve chosen Goblet of Fire as my favourite although it’s marginal over the first and all the later ones.
Why do I like this one in particular? I like the fact it’s where it starts to get properly dark, with the fate of Cedric and the proper return of Voldemort. I like the first battle between Harry and Voldemort. (I also like the fact the Quidditch World Cup in the film is set on the Sussex Downs, near where I was born.)
Whilst including Harry Potter is a no-brainer, I will admit something here. When I first tried to read the Philosopher’s Stone I was turned off by one phrase on the first page and put it down… for years. It was only thanks to my wife, a big fan, that I picked it up again, pushed past that section – and then devoured the whole lot in a few weeks one summer.
2. Northern Lights
So I’m getting the obvious out of the way first. Philip Pullman has been a major inspiration in my writing. I like Northern Lights best out of all the books in His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust. I love the settings, the cold north and Oxford spires, the armoured bears, the nuanced appearance of Mrs Coulter – and of course the sharp mind and character of Lyra.
3. Chicken Dance
Now for something completely different. I read this book on my own years ago, and then read it again recently to my two boys. They loved it too.
Chicken Dance is the story of a boy who lives on a chicken farm and gains fame in his hometown by entering them into competitions. Don Schmidt has his own special take on the world, quirky, cautious and observant. Despite poor treatment by his family, he remains the true grown-up – even when events take a strange turn, and he begins to investigate the mystery of his sister who supposedly died when he was born…
I remember my excitement at seeing a Tintin book, King Ottakar’s Sceptre, in a shop in Eastbourne when I was nine. I was staying on a long summer holiday with my grandma. I asked her if I could buy it with my book token but she was hesitant as it was a comic (or graphic novel, as we’d say now…) She eventually agreed and so began my passion for Tintin.
It was hard to select my favourite. It came down to a fight between this one, Cigars of the Pharaoh, and the superb Tintin in Tibet. I chose Cigars of the Pharoah because it was a breakneck adventure and it made me laugh – a lot, especially the eccentric archaeologist, Dr Sophocles Sarcophogus. You can read about how Tintin inspired The Secret of the Tirthashere.
5. The Girl Savage
I love Katherine Rundell and find it hard to select my favourite from excellent books such as Rooftoppers, The Explorer and The Wolf Wilder. But ultimately I think The Girl Savage pips it, particularly for the sheer exuberance of the opening section where tomboy Will runs through the South African countryside, living a wild and free existence. She is loved by her father, and adores every bit of her life. But it’s all about to be shattered by the arrival of a terrible stepmother. Like all of Rundell’s books, The Girl Savage drips with poetry whilst retaining a strong sense of plot and direction.
And now for the ones that got away…
Moominvalley in November. Not really young adult, but I didn’t feel I could leave the Moomins out. I read them when I was eight, but think they appeal up to ages twelve or older. They have a beautiful combination of friendship, strangeness and adventure – surrounded by a wondrous delight in northern landscape and nature.
The Three Investigators – The Mystery of the Screaming Clock. I loved loved loved this series as a kid. They’re now out of print but you can still get them second-hand online – and I keep finding them rummaging around in old book stores. Good news, as my boys love them too!
Skellig – David Almond has a masterful touch for fantasy that subtly encroaches the edges of reality – and of the ability of kids to accept and engage with it. This story of a boy finding a damaged angel in his garage is truly magical.
Earthsea – a wonderful fantasy series from the late Ursula le Guin. The moment in the first book when the young mage Ged accidentally summons a shadow creature is every bit as dramatic as the ‘You shall not pass’ Gandalf-on-the-bridge moment in The Lord of the Rings.
A Library of Lemons – a fantastic book about the relationship between a boy and his father, struggling to cope with the loss of their mother / wife.
And finally, I couldn’t finish without superlative praise for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I read them all in my early teens but think of them as adult fantasy, which is the only reason they’re not in this top five.
If you’re inspired to read more young adult novels, why not check out my own adventure mystery series, beginning with The City of Light. What would you do if you inherited a garden with a portal to India – and found a killer was using it?
I’m excited to be appearing at the Leatherhead Book Festival this Saturday 12th October!
I’ll be reading from The City of Light and showing slides of the real garden hidden deep in the Herefordshire countryside that inspired it. I’ll also be talking about my forthcoming ghost story, The Boy in the Burgundy Hood.
I’m honoured to be in a great line-up that includes Angela Dyson and the Sunday Times bestselling author Sophie Hannah. Sophie has taken up the mantle of writing the new Agatha Christie Poirot novels!
For more information check out the Festival page of the organizers, Book Potato.
2018 was a very full year for my books and writing. In July I published the final volume of The Secret of the Tirthas, The Unknown Realms. Following Lizzie’s journey from her initial move to the Herefordshire cottage with its strange garden of rooms all the way to her final showdown with the demons and their followers at the Fountainhead has been a real delight for me. I never knew just how much the story and characters would grow, and particularly how much I would come to love Lizzie, Pandu, Raj and Ashlyn. A huge thank you to all of you who have joined me on this journey, especially everyone who let me know what they think through reviews and emails. Your support means a lot to me!
Whilst the publication of the final novel might mean the end to readers in English, it’s just the start for readers in China and Taiwan, as the series is being translated by Mandarin publisher Fiberead. In September The City of Light came out on Amazon’s Chinese site and a range of other Mandarin retail sites, followed quickly by The Book of Life and The Dreamer Falls. The final two books are also being translated, so it’s a very exciting time for me.
And on top of all that, I have an Argentinian friend who is now translating The City of Light into Spanish. It’s great to see the series opening more portals in the real world!
In October I also brought out my first book of poetry, Up in the Air. I’ve been writing poems since my twenties, and had quite a few published in magazines such as Poetry Ireland, The New Welsh Review and Poetry Scotland. Up in the Air brought the best of these together, alongside a few unpublished poems. I was over the moon when the collection reached no.8 in Amazon’s Inspirational Poetry category!
I love this quiet period between Christmas and New Year. It’s the perfect time to do some thinking – and in my case, some plotting of the next novel, something with a very different twist.
I hope you have a fabulous New Year – and many thanks again for your reading and support!
People have been asking what I’m up to now that I’ve finished writing The Secret of the Tirthas. So here’s my Autumn Update….
I’ve taken the summer off from writing! After spending the last 4 summers writing and publishing novels (albeit with short hols thrown in), this year I decided to have a break. What did I do? I went here with my family:
That’s Niagara Falls by the way, for those who don’t recognise it. Wow. I mean, wow…
Now I’m back, I’m compiling a book of poetry that I’ve written over the last [mumble…mumble] years. This includes collecting some of the poems that I’ve had published in magazines such as Poetry Ireland, The New Welsh Review, and Poetry Scotland.
It’s fun getting all this together – but it’s not doing much flexing of my imagination muscles. So I’m also thinking about my next book. I’ve got a few ideas swirling around – speculative fiction for young adults and / or grown-ups; another fantasy series for middle grade / teens; something more ‘literary’. Some of these ideas have been around for years, some are entirely new. But what I’m waiting for (or maybe working my subconscious on) is the writer’s eureka moment. That moment every author knows, when they feel that pure excitement and know this is the story they are going to tell because… well, because they have to tell it. It’s too exciting to let it go.
So, besides lots of family time, that’s what I’m up to now. Plus I’ll be doing to a few promotional activities in the real and social media worlds – including a book signing session at Barton’s bookshop in Leatherhead for Christmas on 1st December.
Let me know what you’re up to in the comments section, or send me an email at email@example.com!
In The Secret of the Tirthas, the demons and their followers are desperately seeking to capture the Artefacts of Power. These magical items have gained their power from the devotion of worshippers over the centuries.
Each Artefact in the story is based on a real life sacred object, from a different religious tradition. Here’s a list of them, with the culture or religion they came from:
Nkisi statue – a wooden figure from African shamanistic religion. People drove iron nails in to release the power of the ancestor spirit residing in it.
Hilili Kachina – a raindance doll with a snake hanging out of his mouth, from Native American culture.
The Holy Grail – a chalice containing the blood of Christ from the Last Supper, much pursued by medieval knights.
The Damsel of the Sanct Grael, Rossetti
Easter Island statue(maoi) – over 1,000 of these mysterious statues were constructed by the inhabitants of a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. All the statues look inland, away from the sea. It is thought they represented ancestors, guarding over the islanders.
Easter Island sculptures from the original Garden of Rooms in Herefordshire
Venus– the statue is based on the famous Venus of Hohle Fels, found in Germany and believed to be 40,000 years old. She was carved from mammoth tusk.
Venus of Hohle Fels (Image: Thilo Parg / Wikimedia Commons License: CC BY-SA 3.0)
Green Man – a figure from Western paganism, symbolising the regenerative, mysterious powers of Nature.
Green Man from a Herefordshire church
Other Artefacts in The Secret of the Tirthas:
Yingarna– a goddess of creation, who carried children from different Aboriginal tribes in her many bags.
Shiva Lingam – a holy symbol of Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, carved from stone.
Buddha’s Tooth – there are several teeth relics of the Buddha, including a very famous one in Sri Lanka.