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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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:
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?
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:
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?
The Christmas tree is up in the Griffin house and the boys are writing their lists for Santa! (Yes, it’s true, we’ve somehow managed to keep them believing in Father Christmas despite them becoming cynical about pretty much everything else in the world. I have no idea how, but I guess it’s something to do with believing what you want to believe…?)
So here’s a quick post to wish you as much happiness as possible throughout this festive season and to hope you leap any hurdles that might come your way.
Have a wonderful, peaceful time and I hope to see you next year,
Because Christmas isn’t Christmas without:
…a good ghost story – or two (click on images to go to Amazon book pages):
…an exciting fantasy series for younger readers (11-14):
I’m super excited that The Boy in the Burgundy Hood has become my first #1 International Bestseller!
Thank you so much to everyone who supported me by buying and sharing the book during my recent promotion. The result was the top spot in most of Amazon’s Ghost Story categories in the US, UK, Canada and Australia!
I was over the moon on Monday night watching all those little orange ‘Bestseller’ flags crop up. I’ve been publishing novels since 2014 and sales have been good and steady – but this is the first time I’ve ever made #1. It’s what every writer dreams of – and it can be a long time coming!
So thank you again.
I had to do something bookish to celebrate, so I’ve discounted the entire series of The Secret of the Tirthas to 99p / 99c on Kindle until midnight Friday 5th March! Click here to get the offer.
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.
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?
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.