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Monday, 31 December 2012

Last post of 2012

I always feel a bit strange on the last day of the calendar year. The optimistic part of me is going "Oh, maybe next year will be better. Maybe (insert year of choice here) will be THE year."  The year you win the lottery, sell a million books, meet your future mate without running in terror because you're commitment phobic. The usual, right?
The rational part of me says quietly - "You realise this is a man-made break in time, right? Right? Put that egg-nog down and LISTEN, damnit." Then rationality wanders off to sulk in a corner and we can enjoy the rest of the evening.

There's this peculiar mixture of hope and nostalgia and the realisation that Tempus Fugit, and doesn't need the help of a bunch of sparkling alcohol to do so. Once you get to a certain point in life, time doesn't just fly. She straps your butt to a high-powered rock and lights the fuse.

I don't make resolutions for the new year. I have a few goals I'd like to achieve, but resolutions are fixed and brittle, like glass rods on a beach, and tend to shatter when the tide comes in and circumstances change. Goals are flexible, and you can move them when you need to.

I think about the people gone, the opportunities missed, the goals achieved. The highlights and lowlights - the stuff that broke my heart and the things that made me think there might actually be hope for the human race. Then I put them into my memory box for the past year, and close it. I'll come back to it a few times over the next few years, I reckon, and some of those memories will still be bright and shiny and probably bigger than what they really were - some things grow bigger in the dark - and some will have lost their sheen. They'll be dusty and cracked and hard to focus on. Some will have shrunk to nothing, and I can take those out and dispose of them without a twinge of guilt or remorse.

I think about my blessings, as my mom would say. I look at them and sort them out, and folks, I have a lot to sort out.

There's the material stuff, that internet sages tut over and reckon can't buy you happiness, but go a very long way to not making you miserable. I have food in my belly, clothes on my back, a roof over my head. I have books and art supplies and internet access, and a job that pays for all that stuff.

I have a body that functions pretty well when it isn't falling over it's own two feet, and a mind that still gets pilots the body okay, even if my family think I'm a little strange. (But it's okay to be strange, as my mom explained to me the other day, because you're one of those arty people. Arty people are different. Moving right along, then.)

I have my writing, which is huge, because writing makes me happy in a way that chocolate can't even touch.
I have my artwork, which is pretty good stress therapy, and more supplies than some small craft stores. (I love painting, and probably always will, although I don't need it the way I do the writing. There are moments when it feels more important than others, but it doesn't feel like I need to finger paint to stay functioning. Miss a few days in front of the keyboard, though, and I get very, very cranky.)

I get to say I love you a lot. To family, to a couple of friends. Out of everything listed, that's the biggest blessing, I think. If you offered me the winning jackpot for the lottery on one hand, versus the people I care about on the other, the people win.
Because everything else is just stuff. It's shiny baubles that decorate space in your life. It's a way to flash what you have on a material level, it's our way of validating ourselves - get the latest smartphone, the newest Wii, the best new coffee machine - and feel successful. And it's pretty and shiny and a socially acceptable way to rub your enemy's nose in the fact that you've beaten them, and in the end it means pretty much nothing. In less than year, that stuff ends up obsolete, or the T&Cs change and turns that shiny new phone into an albatross.
People, though, especially people who value you for who you are and not what you can do for them - you can't buy that.

I am lucky. I am blessed. For 2013, I wish the same for all of you.

Sunday, 30 December 2012


Got a couple of easy recipes for you today. The first is the gingerbread sauce - it takes about 5 minutes or so and is brilliant with meat and poultry. I wouldn't try it with fish; I think it would totally overpower the delicate meat.

Gingerbread sauce:

7 or 8 ginger biscuits. (You can add more, but this sauce makes up a pretty big batch, and it thickens fast.)
1 tablespoon butter
250ml light cream or milk (I've used both. The cream just makes it a bit richer.)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Fresh rosemary sprig
Splash of hot water if the sauce thickens to fast.
Optional extra: Gingerbread syrup - you can get this off of Amazon or from food suppliers in the UK. It's advertised as coffee syrup, which it's great in, but also works for anything you want to add flavour to. I believe you can buy it in stores in the USA, but could be wrong - however you can still get it on-line there.

Break the ginger biscuits up and put them in the pan on low heat with the butter. They start to disintegrate fast.
Stir in the cream, salt &  pepper, syrup if using, and the rosemary sprig. Continue stirring. If the sauce thickens to much, thin it out with some hot water.

Time : 5 or 6 minutes.

The sauce can be frozen, and it keeps in the fridge for about 4 days. It works great with red meats and game poultry.

Easy Eggnog:

I'll be totally honest here - I rarely measure the alcohol strictly. The usual raw egg warnings apply, although I've read a few stories claiming that the alcohol kills any potential salmonella bacteria off. How true that is, I have no idea.

The quantity below makes a pretty big bowl. Feel free to adjust to suit yourselves.


250ml light cream (Heavy cream can be used, it just takes longer to beat the mixture, and it will be a lot thicker)
1 x tin light condensed milk (This is the diet version. You can use normal condensed milk, but it's a helluva lot sweeter)
6 eggs, separated (not mandatory, but beating the whites separately makes the mix a lot frothier)
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup Rum
1 1/2 cups Brandy
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Optional Extra : About an inch of vanilla pod, split open & scraped. Cinnamon gives this a nice warm kick as well.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until creamy.
Add every thing else except the egg white, beating after every ingredient for a couple of seconds.
Beat the egg whites separately until frothy, and fold into the main mix. Stir gently until thoroughly mixed, and pop in the fridge until ready to serve.

Time: About ten minutes, unless you drop eggnog mix into your shoe and have to hop to the bathroom in the middle of things to wash your toes.

No idea on the lifespan of this; it's never lasted longer than 48 hours because we drink it too fast. I've seen recipes that recommend ageing it for a week, but since I don't really want alien life forms spawning in my fridge, that idea doesn't really appeal.

On a slightly more serious note - there's a good bit of booze in this, and it will affect you, so if you're driving, don't over do it. I like you guys in one piece.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Moments of Ow, or Friday as it was.

Today was special, even by my standards, for the sheer quantity of whoops moments.

I got up and zombie-shuffled to the kitchen for my coffee. I use a little plunger thingy since I'm the only one in the house who mainlines filter coffee. There's a bit of trick to it: you put the coffee in,  top it up with hot water, and wait for a few minutes. Then slide the plunger down slowly unless it meets resistance, in which case you draw it up again and wait some more. For some reason there was absolutely no resistance this time around, so the plunger moved a lot faster than it should have (probably because a bleary-eyed yours truly was clutching it like a teddy bear), and the result was impressive. Coffee grinds on the kettle. Coffee  grinds on the tab (missed the sink totally). Coffee grinds in my hair dripping onto my nose. Pretty much no coffee left in the plunger.
Take 2: Put the kettle on again while I washed my hair. Got back to my bedroom and put the mug down on the floor. Forgot it was there. Tripped over my own two feet and knocked the mug over.
Take 3: Get back to bedroom with 3rd cup clutch to breast like holy grail. Start sipping coffee. Someone bangs on the front door. Wear coffee. Open door looking like semi-rabid, dripping wet wolverine. (That courier company may find themselves looking for a new driver. Poor guy looked terrified. Sorry about that.)

At that point I said sod it and went back to bed for an hour (I love holidays. I can reboot my days on holidays. Kind of.)

Take 4: Tried coffee again. Part of delivery was a milk frother. Coffee was fine. Ceiling ended up with milk froth trailing off it like lace. There was also milk froth in my eyebrows and left ear. The froth left in the cup was great.

Take 5: Finally had a full cup of coffee. With milk froth, and no incidents. Encouraged by this, I decided to put my storage cubes together. The reviews on Amazon reckoned it took about 15 to 20 minutes to put together.

He. Hehe. He.

Approximately 2 1/2 hours later, the tally is as follows:

1 x throbbing nose (not broken, for which I am thankful.)
1 x throbbing wrist (which was what I bitch-slapped myself with) with tooth marks. (It was a genuinely impressive slap, ok?)
1 x complete inability to follow instructions that appear to have been designed and written by a drunken moose with ambitions to install an inter-dimensional time rip in my living room.
1 x near-miss with the window when the 2nd or 3rd attempt imploded and fired 3 plastic connectors at high velocity across the room.
1 x mark on forehead where 4th attempt imploded and I didn't duck fast enough.
2 x spare connectors. Have no idea where they go, and I've given up looking.
1 x 1/4 quarter bottle of honey mead, which got me through the construction process after the bitch-slap moment. Currently feeling no pain.
Several very amused twitter buddies, who followed the whole process via my tweeted howls of desperation.
1 x storage cube organised.

Never again. Anyone who ever encourages me to do DYI work will be referred back to this post.

I am waiting to get feeling back in my various body parts before I decide whether I can write or not. I'm hoping so - there is still a lot to work on and I really want to get through it before heading back to work next week - but as the mead wears off I feel like I've been mud-wrestling a chimp, and part of me just wants to climb back into bed and whimper gently until the sun rises.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Ravens snippet

Anyone up for another snippet of the next Crescent book?

The usual warnings apply - this is still going through editing/final re-writes, so the scene below may or may not change. At this point in time I rather like it, so odds are it's going to make the final cut.

To set the scene - Vianna and Neill are undercover investigating a very disturbing case - and things are about to go pear-shaped.

Strong language warning applies.


‘Vianna, where are you?’
Lady Vera covered up her stumble with an airy remark about provincial cobblestones, and snarled back down the mind-link at Tarmien.
‘I’m about to have tea with one of the creepiest bastards I've ever met in my life. Why?’

The creepy bastard offered his arm to ensure against further stumbles. With a well-concealed sigh, she fluttered her eyelashes at him and accepted.
‘Where is Neill?’
‘Stalking next to me looking majestic. Why?’
The wolf rolled a beady eye at her and let his tongue loll out in a toothy grin. Vianna shot him a brief mental vision of a good fur coat.
‘Don’t let any of them touch him.’
‘I’ve already warned him off. I told him he bites strangers.’
‘Not good enough. Can you get out of there?’
‘Not without causing a fuss.’
Her escort had steered her into a small tea-room, enjoying the bowing and scraping his entrance caused.
‘Then cause one.’

The creature escorting her – she refused to think of it as a man – held a chair out for her to seat herself, then reached down and patted Neill on the head while she was distracted by her skirts.

The mind-link ripped apart.

Vianna was thrown backwards, the dainty little chair beneath her splintering into so much kindling. Her nose and ears were streaming blood.

Neill was screaming, still in wolf-form. The councillor that had stroked his fur was on his knees beside him, screaming as well. The wolf had torn his hand off at the wrist, but what dribbled out was thick, stinking black bile instead of  blood.

The other patrons in the shop cowered at their tables, unsure of what was going on.

The wolf screamed, and screamed, and screamed.

Vianna tried to move and realised her skirts were tangled and twined around her legs. She ripped the hated mass of silk away from her legs and kicked them free, then crawled over the splintered mess that had been her chair to reach Neill.
She felt wood and nails claw into her flesh and ignored it. The only thing that mattered was her heart, screaming on the other side of the table.
She crawled into a pair of legs and start to push around them, frantic.
She snarled at the alien voice in her head – that wasn’t a mind-link, she had no idea what that was – and she didn’t care.
*If you touch him he will die.*
*Get out of my way!*
*He will die, hawk. You will both die. Hear me, damn you.*
*I’m a healer. Now get the fuck out of my way.*
*You cannot heal this.*
*Fuck. Off.*
The legs stayed where they were, immobile, enfolded in soft cloth. A cloak, Vianna realised. Whoever or whatever this was had on a cloak. It was spattered crimson from where she had run into it.
The voice sighed into her mind. *This is pointless.*
And Vianna realised that there was a blade, rising so swiftly she couldn’t track it.


The blade fell.

The silence in the room choked her, followed her down the spiral into unconsciousness.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Menu

I'm writing this while I wait for the roast potatoes to finish up, so I'll probably have drool marks on the keyboard by the time I finish.

To be totally honest, I'm just not all that keen on turkey, so I've gone for some ox tongue with trimmings. I love tongue - it's a mission to make, but it's pure meat, with no bone to worry about. Once it's skinned, there's no waste at all. I'll probably eat off this for the next week.

Today's Menu:

Brown Mushrooms with lychee, in a garlic, thyme, butter & wine sauce.

Creamed spinach

2 cheese cauliflower  cheese

Ox tongue basted in lime & lemon marmalade, with a gingerbread sauce.

Potato & garlic roasted in duck fat

Yorkshire pudding

Dessert :

Warm cherry pie & cream

Side drinks:

Honey & Apple Cider
Honey Mead
Cherry Coke (yep, I'm a barbarian. Also known as, eat & drink what you like, and not what people tell you you should like.)

Chocolate (made from scratch yesterday, with lime & lemon & real vanilla flavouring)


Where ever you are, and what ever you eat today, enjoy it! Merry Christmas, everyone.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Best Books of 2012 finale - part 3 - & free Quarter the Moon Download

Right folks - it's Christmas Eve here in the UK. Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful time, and best wishes for the next year.
Quarter the Moon, the first collection of the Basement Blues series, is free to download from December 25th up until the 30th. Merry Christmas!

M Ruth Myers - Maggie O'Sullivan series. A series following a pre-WW2 female detective, with a wicked dose of humor and definite style.

Jeffrey Poole - The Bakkian Chronicles. This through-the-portal fantasy is fast becoming my new comfort read, with outlandish situations, BNP's (Bugs of Nightmarish Proportions) and totally laught-out-loud situations. I dare you to finish these books and not have a smile on your face.

Lilith Saintcrow - Jill Kismet series. The only issue I have with this series is that they aren't all on kindle, and I already have 5 bookcases overflowing with tree-format books. Following a female bounty-hunter in a world where demons and shifters are real and nasty, this is top stuff. Gritty, hard, in-your-face-action.

B. Throwsnaill - Hemlock & the Wizard Tower. Following the adventures of Hemlock, a cut-purse, who discovers she has more power than she ever expected, this is a great traditional fantasy ride. So far, two books in this series, and I'm definitely hoping for more!

Rob Thurman - Cal Leandros series. I'm also enjoying the Trickster series & Basilisk Brothers books by this author, but the Cal series is what I keep coming back to. An ingenius take on the dark elf myth, with lots of blood, guts, gore and attitude, and some pretty strong language. And a puck that stops the darkness becoming just a little too dark.

G. David Walker - Everything. Although he only has a few books up at the moment, I'm hoping he releases a lot more. This author combines traditional fantasy with stunning, intricate twists of sci-fi. Some very powerful stuff, and it delivers more than one sucker punch twist that the reader doesn't see coming.

Sweet Dreams - Various authors. Full disclosure on this one - one of my stories is in there (zombie pot-plants - you've been warned!) and a fair number of the authors mentioned in this and the previous two best books round-up. The folks involved donated their stories to raise funds for a young woman with terminal brain cancer. In August, we achieved the goal of sending her on her dream holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia, and it wouldn't have been possible without people like these writers giving their time and stories. You guys, every one of you, humbled me with your kindness and spirit of giving, and made me proud to part of your community.
And despite my own possible prejudice, there are some of the best shorts I've got my grubby little hands on in there, ever.


So there we are. My personal list of the best books I've read this year. If you click those links, I hope you enjoy them. While I'm doing the sappy stuff (it doesn't happen often, so enjoy it), I'd like to thank my readers - both of the books and this blog - for making this an awesome year.

Let's hope 2013 rocks us out of the ballpark!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Best books of 2012 - part 2

** Edit note: This post was slightly delayed due to me donning my superhero tights and making Cthulu my bitch in order to avert the apocalypse, and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I forgot my password and couldn't publish the bloody thing. 

Let's jump straight back into this shall we - same rules as the first post: these are the best books I've read this past year, no matter their original publishing date.


Ultracool resource of the week - check out the Why Authors are Crazy Tumblr. If you know anyone who writes, you'll end up giggling through these pages.

Richard Herley - The Penal Colony. A futuristic thriller set on an island turned prison. Bleak, dark, and powerful, with more than a touch of Lord of the Flies. The author has a number of books out, and all of them are good, but this one hits the possible genius level for me.

Allyson James - Storm Walker series. Paranormal/urban fantasy with some ultra-steamy scenes. Definitely not grandma safe, but the characters are fascinating and the world-building intoxicating. And the MC like bikes, tattoos, and shares her first name with me. I'm hooked.

Jason McIntyre - Everything. I started with the Night Walk Men a little over a year ago, and it's a deeply disturbing, beautiful little story. None of these are light or easy reading; and if you want something to flip through while your brain switches off this author isn't for you. If you want something that shakes you, with an occasional side of gore and violence, and makes you close the book when you're down feeling slightly stunned, then get everything you can. (Word of warning - if you write, you may find yourself whining at your keyboard afterwards and wondering what the hell you are doing wrong.)

Jason McKinney - Dog World. Still one of the most bleakly disturbing werewolf stories I've ever read. There are no happy endings here, and no cute or fluffy romantic escapades. This is a brutal, horrifying look at apocalypse via werewolf, with a good dose of black humour thrown in, and by far the most unique take on the genre I've read. I can't wait for the sequel.

Darynda Jones - Grim Reaper series. Hysterically funny paranormal romance series with a side order of steam - and the best t-shirt quotes I've ever come across. I hope this series continues for a long, long time.

Stacia Kane - Downside Ghosts series. An alternative future where ghosts are real, and very, very dangerous. Warning on this one - the MC is a junkie, and there is no brushing over the harsh realities of addiction in this series. For me, it's part of what makes for compelling reading. If you have issues reading about drugs, leave it alone. If you take the chance though, it's an extremely gritting, compelling series with a strong horror and romance element.

Lee Killough - Garreth Mikaelian series. Cop turned vampire series with an interesting take and some great characters.

Stephen King - 11.22.63. I preferred this to The Dome, which I struggled to get into. 11.22.63 reminded me strongly in places of The Dead Zone. It has that same sense of nice guy trying to make good in a strange situation, and for me it just rang all the bells.

Naomi Kramer - Deadish. This is one of the funniest shorts I've read in a long time. Lots of strong language, so if you don't like the F-bomb, avoid - but if you want to grab it, it's currently free on the kindle store. Paranormal Ghost humor.

Michael Langlois - Bad Radio. One of the strongest debut novels I've ever read, this is a great take on the immortality trope, with lots of action and very likeable characters. When someone can take a fantasy precept and ground it so strongly in reality it seems utterly plausible, they've got my attention.

Stant Litore - The Zombie Bible series. If you only read one zombie story in the next year, make it one of these. For my money, the first - Death Has Come Up Into Our Windows - is still the best, probably because it was such a unique concept - retelling biblical scenes and characters with zombies. And the ending is simply heart-breaking. That's the thing - these books aren't about the zombies so much as the people dealing with them and it's compelling, powerful story-stelling at its best.


That's it for now folks - I'll post the 3rd and final list just before Christmas. In the meantime, happy reading!

Monday, 17 December 2012

We should remember victims, not perpetrators

I was going to do a post on my team Christmas party, which involved laser quest, my tripping over my own two feet, and the best Long Island Iced Tea I've ever had.

This happened Friday night. On Friday afternoon, at work, I saw brief glimpse of a school shooting in the USA, and my first reaction was  'Another one? Sheesh!'  Saturday I crawled out of bed and saw that it was so much worse.

See, the problem is that we are used to high school shootings happening in the USA now.  It seems like every year or so a kid picks up a weapon and decides it's time for payback, and marches into his (or her, but interestingly enough most of these involve young males) high school and shoots the hell out of everything he can find. Then you get talking heads rounded up by the media for their fifteen minutes of fame, and hysterical finger-pointing at everything from movies to video games to music to books to gun legislation, all of which ignore the fact that what it boils down to is someone losing their shit, and deciding to take a bunch of people with them. If you're going to die, might as well be famous, right?

What happened Friday is worse for a couple of reasons. The majority of the victims were small children, and as a species we're hardwired to protect them. (I'm not counting the aberrations of sexual predators or abusers in this.) We protect our young. Simple. End of.
So when a man forces his way into a place where they should be safe, and opens fire with a rifle, every rational person reacts with horror and outrage. (Westboro Baptist Church doesn't count. There is no rationality there, just bile and darkness.)

The guy that did this on Friday didn't even have the dim excuse of revenge on his peers. There were no cheerleaders laughing at him for asking them out on a date; no jocks giving him wedgies in passing in the halls.
I have no idea what the motivation was. Until it is found, discovered, and released, anything regarding that side of things is speculation.

The media have never acknowledged their part in creating this celebrity killer culture. But on Saturday, there were reporters shoving cameras and microphones into the faces of kids that had just been led out of a killing field. Every tear lovingly focussed on by the camera, every bewildered look recorded.
There were media pages devoted to celebrity tweets about the incident. There were interviews with profilers, shrinks, and anyone who could be loosely associated with any of the speculation around what had happened - and this was Saturday, well before the coroner had finished his heartbreaking work, long before the crime-scene teams had left the school.  Every news cast, every web page, mentioned the shooter by name and age, before his ID had even been confirmed.
They've released the names and ages of the victims, but I doubt in 6 months time anyone who didn't live in that town or didn't know them personally will remember who they were. The name of the shooter (which I'm not typing here. Just. Not.) will be remembered for years.

The finger pointing and speculation and misinformation started Saturday. I imagine it will only get worse over the next few weeks. What will be in very short supply is common sense and rationality; emotive perspectives are rarely crippled by either.

News stations will look at the music he liked. If it was metal or hard rock, they'll get at least another trashy headline out of it. If he liked violent PC or video games (and someone please show me an interactive game aimed at over ten year olds that doesn't involve violence), they'll get another few rounds of professional talking heads on. If the guy liked fantasy RPG or anything like that, I imagine the conservative channels will have a collective orgasm talking about family values and Our Deteriorating Society.

And they will all miss the point.

If the shooter was mentally ill, and previously diagnosed (not always as easy as it sounds), then you have 28 people dead because of gaps in a chronically unstable health system.

If he was not mentally ill, then the only blame falls on the person who planned this. The guy who picked up three different guns, a whole bunch of ammunition, and strapped on a ballistics vest. The one who forced his way into an elementary school and started firing.

There is a lot of talk about gun control again. There always is after one of these. The problem is, humans are very, very good at killing. They banned handguns in the UK after a similar massacre in a primary school in Dunblane in 1996. It means that most guns are now carried by armed police and very dangerous criminals. Then they banned carrying knives because there was spike in knife assaults. The problem is, people are still killing each other. Kids are still killing kids.  In the past couple of years in the UK, there have been mass stabbing attacks, assaults with bats, pipes, automobiles and bombing attempts.

Tighter gun control will probably be a good thing, if the USA can figure out how to make it uniform, and legislate it properly. Since every state has different legislation on gun control, how that could be effectively implemented is a different story, especially when politicians will seize the opportunity to oppose anything proposed by a different party or outside influence.

I don't have a solution to this, and I've got no horse in this race - my friends in the USA are safe, my family is nowhere near there, and I don't live there. But for what it's worth, I have a couple of observations.
We are a species that thrives on conflict. We demand it in our entertainment, from books, to comics to movies to theatre. Our media gorges on it. Our politicians revel in it. But worse than that, we find excuses for it. We blame exposure to violent games and t.v. shows for "influencing" the guys that pick up weapons and start using them on others who can't defend themselves, instead of stepping back and realising that most of the time they made that choice. They planned it, they dressed for it, they chose to pick up a weapon and use it on the targets they selected.

Whatever the fall out is from this, the accountability belongs to the shooter. Feeding the desire for fame - or infamy - by remembering his name over those that died? That belongs to the rest of us.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Best Book/Author Round-up of 2012 - Part 1

As promised, I've put together a list of my favourite books from 2012. Some of them are indie authors, some traditional. Some of the indie folks I know through social media like Twitter & Facebook, the rest wouldn't know me if I did the Funky Chicken on their keyboards. Some of them you'll probably know, a lot (I hope) will be new adventures waiting for you to discover them.
Not all of these were published in 2012, but that's when I read them, so they make my list. What they have in common is that I loved their stories. I'd also say that I discovered at least 70% of them through free book uploads and ended up buying everything I could get my grubby little paws on and afford to buy in my budget. (My budget rules are simple - I can't afford to pay more than £4.99 for a book, and that only happens if I'm feeling very optimistic and my bank manager hasn't send me love-letters in pretty red ink for a few months. The average price tends to be lower.)

One of the best resources for new indie books has been Scot over at Indie Book Blogger. Be warned, once you click that link you're going to lose a few hours, but it's very much worth it. The blog is constantly updated with give-aways, author interviews and guest posts, and it's put me onto some truly amazing authors.

So - I'm going to try to keep this alphabetical by author surname, with a brief description of the genre and what hooked me about the series or book. I'll try to link straight to on the author name (bear with me, gentle reader, for I have the uncanny ability to nuke the internet and/or my computer, but I'll try. Ahem.)

I'm also trying to keep it only to the very, very best (all my opinion) which means a few very good books might not hit the list, but if I don't, I'm going to be writing this list until 2013. So I'm selecting the
books that grabbed me by the heart and mind and often, funny bone, and made me wish I'd never reach the end of the story.

Part 1 of the list is below for you - Part 2 coming soon.

Ben Aaronovitch - PC Grant Series. This is an urban fantasy series set in London, with a great wallop of humour, moments of darkness, and a fresh take on the genre. Addictive.

Ilona Andrews - Kate Daniels Series. Post-magic-apocalypse action with some real laugh-out-loud moments. I've picked on the Kate series because they are just some of the best out there, but I've never read a book or story by these guys that didn't totally rock my world.

Thea Atkinson - Water Witch. A nicely dark fantasy tale, with elements of romance and a good deal more gore than I expected when I started. I've referred to Thea Atkinson elsewhere as one of the most elegant writers I've ever come across; this story points out why beautifully.

Philippa Ballantine - Order series. I picked up Geist and was blown away. Creepy, dark and gorgeous world building. There is nothing cute and fluffy in that first book, and I loved every word.

C.L.Bevill - Bubba Series. This series falls under comedy mystery, I guess. It's a great feel-good series, with characters I thoroughly enjoyed.

Naomi Clarke - Deva Chronicles. Urban fantasy with a good dose of mad scientist action thrown in, plus strong romance elements. The main character is flawed, headstrong, and great to follow.

Charles Colyott - Randall Lee series. Mystery series following an acupuncturist and martial arts expert who seems to fall into trouble a lot. So far, only two books in that series that I can find, but great reads.

Richard Crawford - Soul Mate. As of right now, that first book is free. Hit that button if you like spooky, intense stories that linger.

Joseph Garraty - To Rule this Broken Earth.  Garraty  took a step away from his previous horror, sci-fi and urban fantasy mode and went into fantasy with guns blazing. There's a strong element of what I'd call cowboy fantasy in this, and it just floored me. (By cowboy fantasy I meant the feel of outdoors, rough-and-tumble-Wild-West with magic, not Brokeback Mountain.) Once again, I'd recommend everything you can get your hands on by this author. Strong language warning, but it's dark, gritty, Oh-crap-I-didn't-see-that-coming stuff, and in between he can break your heart in a single sentence.

Kelly Gay - Charly Madigan series. Great alternative reality/urban fantasy cop series. Fun sense of humour and high stakes make this a must read.

Glynn James - Diary of the Displaced series. If you like dystopian fiction/nightmare alternative reality, get your hands on everything you can.

Amanda S. Green - Nocturnal series. Following a cop who gets turned into a shapeshifter, this is a great ride. Often stories about shifters "passing" as human are clumsily done; this one makes perfect sense and a lot of fun to boot.

There you have it folks - the first part of the best of 2012 list. I'll post part 2 in about a week for you. In the meantime, if you have recommendations you'd like to share, mention them in the comments.

I did promise a quick review of my writing plans for 2013, so here goes:

The WolfSong follow-up is starting to shape up nicely (several re-writes down the line). Although I'm not going to make my Christmas deadline (sob), it's the first book I'll be releasing next year. Apologies for those of you waiting for it, but I want to make sure it's worth the read, and hopefully you'll think it was worth the wait in the end.
In the meantime, and if my PC co-operates and remains on the planet for the next few weeks, I'm hoping to release a new collection of short stories very soon.

The next Blue Moon Detectives book is called Fur Thing. I'm aiming for release of that one in the second quarter of the year, between April and June. There are another two Blue Moon books planned over 2013 as well, beta readers willing and happy.

Overall, 2012 was a great year for me. A few nasty migraine attacks & other assorted Moments of Life mean I didn't hit my publishing schedule as planned, but that's not always a bad thing. If it means the final writing product is better (and I think it will be), then that's actually a very good thing.

Until next time folks, when if I can figure out how the GIF thing works I can present highly public evidence of my ability to fall over my two feet. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Festive stuff

Since I'm spending this festive season at home for the first time in years, I decided I wanted a tree. Since I never get the point of killing a living tree to stash the corpse in my lounge (not to mention the mess as it sadly sheds needles all over the place), I decided fake was great.

It arrived Saturday. It's short, black and slightly lop-sided. It has built in lights and runs off a battery pack, so I won't add to the electric bill which is a very good thing - if I could figure out how to generate my own power in a rented flat, and fork two fingers up at the utility company, believe me, I'd do it - and my cousin has sniggered at it ever since. I love it.

Last Sunday we headed up to HobbyCraft. They've just opened up a branch in my little town, which bodes ill for spare money in the future. I ended up under-spending on my budget, which was a first for me, so I left feeling slightly virtuous. I grabbed some cinnamon sticks and a twig wreath base, and some pop-up glitter stickers which I think are actually for cards, and I made my own little Yule wreath:

Despite the fact that I ended up discovering why my mother never let me play with glue much (I had a butterfly stuck to my ear at one point. No idea how. They have sticky pads, and I swear I never put it near the blasted staff.) I reckon it came out quite well. I got the little berry bundles from the cheap shop across the road because it just needed a touch of something, and stuck them through the twig base. Then I sprinkled it with a few drops of essential oil - clove, cinnamon and orange - and it's now on top of my little dwarf tree:

I'm going to wrap a box in some bright paper and stick the tree on it, so I feel a little less like Alice in Wonderland when I stand next to it.

I've got my eggnog ingredients and my meat pre-cooked, so all I'll need to do is fix the gingerbread sauce and vegetables on the day.


It was snowing this morning - no photo's of that, because I was too busy trying to find my ice-grippers (no idea where I put them). I hauled out the snow boots and used those, but because I'm utterly useless at walking on snow, the normal 7 minute walk took me nearly twenty. On the way to the train station I got passed by two little old ladies (one on a walker), and elderly gent who appeared to be wearing slippers, and a guy walking his dog. I'm pretty sure the dog was laughing at me.

I still did better than my first year of navigating the snow in London, which consisted of:

1) Lurch
2) Swear a bit
3) Wall
4) Lurch
5) Lamp post
6) Wander how the hell everyone else is doing this?
7) Lurch
8) Postman

Thankfully it was the first day of snow that year too, and the Postie took being dive-tackled at waist-height by a shivering, swearing, apologetic South African rather well. He picked me up (after some persuading - by this time I was hugging his knees and whimpering), and got me to the edge of the road, and rather sweetly explained that I needed boots with a decent tread in them.
Today, all I kept feeling was walker-envy.

The commute was horrendous. By the time I got to work I had been snowed on, stood on, and dive-bombed by a pigeon, all of which equalled one grumpy little worker growling at her PC this morning. The trip home was slightly better, apart from the kid that had an accident in the carriage on the way home. (Said accident being of the unbelievably smelly variety. Which he announced, by screaming, just in case everyone's nose was malfunctioning.) Unfortunately, this occurred three stops from where I had to get off, and the now squalling toddler was headed to the same station. I've rarely been so grateful for fresh air, never mind how cold it was.

The snow had totally melted so although the pavement was cold, it was navigable, and I got home, discovered that fried cauliflower is bloody amazing as a hot-dog topping, and defrosted in the bath.

Next post: I'm going to do a round-up of some of the best books I've gotten my paws on this year, and some of my own book plans for 2013.