“Be prepared to learn a lot about the culture while you follow Amanda on her adventure.”—Laura Best, author, Bitter, Sweet
“What a great way for a young person to learn about a culture and to be inspired to experience other countries themselves.”—Irene Butler, author, Trekking the Globe with Mostly Gentle Footsteps
Amanda receives a postcard from her best friend, Leah, and is surprised to learn that she is in Malta with her aunt. Reading between the lines, she senses Leah is in trouble. Desperate to help her, Amanda travels to Malta with her classmate Caleb and his parents.
Amanda is intrigued by this exotic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, full of colourful history, sun-drenched limestone fortresses, stunning beaches and fascinating birds. But…who is killing the protected birds? Who stole a priceless artifact from the museum? And why is Leah acting so strange? She couldn’t possibly be involved in these illegal activities, or could she?
Join Amanda and her friends as they visit ancient temples, an exciting falconry and the enchanting Popeye Village, as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Sleeping Lady.
Be sure to read all the books in this exciting Amanda Travels series! 1. Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask 2. Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting 3. Amanda in England: The Missing Novel 4. Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone 5. Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music 6. Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind 7. Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action 8. Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady
I received a copy from NetGalley and am pleased to leave an unbiased review.
This is a lovely middle grade novel that whisks you away to the island of Malta. I’ve never been but have heard a lot of rave stories about Malta and Amanda in Malta made me want to visit!
I loved the adventure aspect in this particular story, author Darlene Foster did a great job in creating a captivating and exciting story. Amanda sets off to find her friend Leah who disappears, and later the Sleeping Lady artifact goes missing too!
There are many great scenes in the book which will appeal to children: The Popeye Theme Park in Malta, (I loved Popeye as a child!) Marsaxlokk, (a charming fishing village,) the bird sanctuary island – Filfla, boat trips, island hops, Falconry centres and details about the eye of Osiris and dangers of anaphlaxtic shock!
It is also quite educational in places too.
There are humorous passages to make you laugh. I am sure this would appeal to youngsters and some young at heart adults too!
How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.
How are Ceri and Drew coping with this enforced isolation?
We are Ceri Williams and Drew Neary and we co-write supernatural thrillers. Our first book “The Clockmaker” is a novel set just after WW2. There is a third member of our team – our illustrator Priscila Arandez who produces our cover art.
Our second novel “The Perfect Child,” will be released some time after COVID-19 finally releases us from it’s grip.
The biggest difference to my day in lockdown, is that my children are now at home 24/7. As a parent this offers a lot of challenges but also opportunities. Firstly, the children have to be kept safe, schooled and given plenty of exercise time. I found that establishing a routine really helped–so we do our schooling, then it’s exercise time- usually a walk in the sunshine to somewhere green and leafy. After that we have free time where the children usually play and I get some writing done. Then it’s evening mealtime and we sit down and watch a DVD, play a board game etc.
I always carry a pen and note pad or my Dictaphone with me during the day. So when moments of inspiration strike, I can record them for later use and they are not lost nor fade from memory. So far, even though my writing time has drastically reduced, it’s been quite an enjoyable, positive experience.
There are so many hours in the day, so the writing has to be reduced – but it’s always there, on a smaller scale bubbling away in the mind, being recorded, kept in pockets for a later day.
As co-writers, the major downside of lock down is no face – to – face meetings. This, I really miss, but we have to be sensible and follow the guidelines, so it just means more chats on the phone and on Facebook.
I am less disciplined than Drew and only write when the muse occurs. It is harder now that we are apart as writers, but we send each other pieces of writing and that often kick starts my own writing process. I am solitary by nature and so these weeks of isolation aren’t unusual. But lack of choice to go out, see friends and especially loved ones has been very hard for me, as it has for millions globally.
We greatly miss our author visits to shops, libraries and book clubs. Not only is it a chance to promote and sell our book, but we are very sociable people and it’s fantastic to meet and engage with fellow readers and book fans.
There is no real way around this current situation as authors promoting their work. Social media of course-Twitter, Face book etc, are all tools to promote, meet new people and talk but for me it’s just not quite the same as meeting people in person. One of the questions we are often asked on our visits or interviews, is how do you co-write? Is it difficult? Is there conflict? Oddly, it is a very smooth process based on respect for each other’s ideas and individual styles of writing.
We both write either independently (and prior to this lockdown) together. Then amalgamate, discuss next steps and repeat the process.
Ceri is brutal with the editing which happens primarily when we are both satisfied that the story is all down.
So at the end of the day, lock down has put us all into our little personal bubbles.
The Clockmaker is the first in an upcoming series of gripping supernatural books by Nottingham based Ceri Williams and Drew Neary.
Widowed in World War 2, Annette and her young son face a completely different life as they exchange the devastation of post-blitz London for the slow pace of a small village. The house they have inherited is old, its bones still settling, creaking noises in the dead of night and the murmur of scritch-scritch in the walls. Located outside the village of Lochnagar, it’s been empty for many years.
The unfolding of how the Clockmaker made his plans, his meticulous preparations and macabre creations, all builds up to a series of gruesome, horrific murders. These have just one end in view: his release from that which has held him captive for centuries.
“The Clockmaker is a character in the much larger Novel – Optics. When we put some extracts on our website, we received acclaim, and requests to develop the minor characters further. That was when The Clockmaker was born,” comment debut authors Ceri and Drew. The authors are currently arranging a series of book launches around the local area and have engaged various local writing groups with their debut.
A chilling supernatural novel with characters you’ll come to care for, The Clockmaker will interest anyone who fears the dark – and what might lie in the shadows… DREW NEARY became interested in history, science fiction/fantasy and conspiracy theories in his teenage years. This prompted him to write short stories over the years. He is also a fan of tabletop gaming.
CERI WILLIAMs has always loved language, and after a 5 year stint in advertising and journalism, now writes supernatural horror and fantasy.
The Clockmaker is their first book and forms part of an upcoming series. PUBLICATION DATE 28th May 2018 ISBN: 9781788034586 Price: £8.99
A few of our reviews for The Clockmaker
I enjoyed this book. It has some Gothic, is a bit historical, has some supernatural and a touch of horror. This is not a gore book but a clever unravelling of a story where the human characters are not the most unnerving.
“It was brilliantly written with a selection of both historic and atmospherically creepy terms, and the conclusion was both surprising and satisfying to the tale as a whole. A great Gothic thriller.”
“There’s nothing I can say about this book apart from Brilliant. Great story very well written with characters the reader cares about. Read it.”
“An amazing Gothic thriller set in the Scottish Highlands with cinematic type prose that hooked from the beginning. One of the most well- written books I’ve read in a while.”
“Absolutely loved this book, the writing is beautiful, like poetry sometimes. Thought the story very gripping. A little bit dark and a little horror would recommend this to anyone who loves books and good writing. “
Atmospheric and chilling! “If you like creepy, supernatural horror, this is the book for you. Brilliantly alarming; kept me awake half the night! Well written, great settings, absorbing themes and characters. “
The writing was exceptional, the characters alive and real, the Clockmaker terrifying. I found it hard to put down, A Gothic thriller that will keep you awake at night! Wonderful characters and setting and a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Beautiful yet insanely creepy. First of all, this book is very well written. The prose and the descriptions of London, war-ravaged Berlin, and most impressively Scotland, all created a beautiful aura that had a slow-burning undercurrent of horror beneath it. It takes a little while to figure out just what type of creature the villain is, but the authors left little clues throughout the early pages to create suspense. This is part historical and part something else. It’s a wonderful read.
Thank you so much to Drew and Ceri for being my guests.
Well, I’m intrigued by the sound of The Clockmaker and the apparent effortless of the teamwork involved. Now let me see, I have a thing about clocks…. and I love the supernatural… I do enjoy a novel set in WW2…
I’m sure you enjoyed this interesting blog post too. Do comment below I’d love to hear your thoughts on The Clockmaker.
Coronavirus: Time to Write, But the Ideas Don’t Seem to Come
I’m lucky – I live in a small town on the edge of countryside where no-one’s told the Spring about Covid-19 and I have a good-sized garden. It must be very difficult and very hard managing in a small flat trying to home-school children and keep up with the home-working…
As an amateur author everything seems to rest on the ideas coming in my head. I spend many hours remodelling and replotting and rewriting, but it always seems to start out with a vision that appears in my head: people there in great clarity. I can’t hear what they’re saying but I can tell by their body language what their relation is whether it’s conflict or love or compassion that’s driving them. It’s that revelation that forms the starting point and the passion that compels me to write, whatever happens to the words in the slow process of finalising the script is secondary.
Perhaps it’s that nothing measures up to the colossal scale of what it going on about us, perhaps it’s that there is enough drama in everyday life and on TV and on the media now to quieten whatever produces the visions, perhaps it’s just a temporary break, a lockdown of ideas. I try to start out on something, but find it hard to take the words anywhere and look forward to resuming normal life when I hope the writing will come back to me.
On my walks, I spend time thinking about what the world After Coronavirus will be like and how it will differ from the past. We must rebuild and we must rebuild better. The pandemic has brought us face to face with so much that doesn’t quite work in our world and also shown us the neighbourliness and the quiet acts of generosity and of self-sacrifice that all of us value.
One of the objectives of fiction is to help us understand our lives together, through imagination, compassion and empathy, and to visualise how things could be different. My most recent novel “Blood Ties” is set in the under-world of people-trafficking and forced labour. The characters strive to change or ignore or acquiesce in the issues hidden in plain sight all round them.
Here’s an extract:
Argon Road slants off the North Circular to the trading estate behind Ikea.
‘You’ll wait for us? Ten minutes?’ I hand over an extra £20.
The door locks click and he’s off.
I pull my coat tight and look round. The air’s damp from the river and smells of diesel fumes and tarmac.
Two-storey corrugated iron sheds line the road, each with its compound, behind a three-metre metal fence. Harsh yellow streetlights clustered in fours on forty metre poles cast midnight shadows. I feel like an intruder in a giant’s world. A huge lorry with blank sides like a moving fortress glides past, the driver invisible in the cab. In the background the roar of the A406 is continuous, here there’s the pulse of solitary engines and the occasional shout and clatter of iron crates, but no movement I can see.
I shift closer to Nic but she’s concentrating on the torn packet, holding it out in front of her as if it’s a map and she expects to see landmarks. I shade my eyes to look for numbers on the buildings.
The letters SPM in lime-green neon, superimposed on a golden bullock, shine out from a scaffolding above a one-storey shed at the end of the row.
Nic’s ahead of me, I half run to keep up with her.
I can’t catch my breath.
‘Slow down, we’ve got to keep together.’
‘That’s it,’ she says again. ‘Don’t you see – they outsource. No forced workers actually in your restaurant.’
‘Nic, it’s just a business. Come on, you need to get home. We’ll sort out your pills.’
The windows along the side of the shed are ablaze with light. I smell the sour salt smell of blood and see people moving around inside. The fence is higher than the one for the next compound, and the gates are locked. Nic stands back, checking it where it turns a corner. The air’s chill on my face and I start to shiver inside my overcoat. She doesn’t seem to notice the cold.
She hooks her fingers into the wire mesh above her head and hoists herself up. I grab at her belt.
‘Don’t be a fool. That’s razor-wire on top.’
‘Lend me your coat.’
Her shoes are too broad to get a foothold. I catch her as she slithers down. She stumbles backwards against me and I get my arms round her.
She pauses for a second, leaning back into my chest. She’s so cold. I open my coat and wrap it round her. For a few moments neither of us moves. I could stand there, like that, forever, they’d find us frozen in the morning. She stirs and rattles the fence.
‘Thanks Dad. Let’s go.’
I take her hand.
‘I’ll see if I can get a cab on the main road.’
Peter Taylor-GoobyNew in April 2020: Blood Tiesa social policy novel of love and conflict set in the Britain of inequality, populism, Brexit and people-trafficking. Available from all Ebook stores, £1.99, paperback out in August.
Thank you for being my guest Peter. What an interesting extract. Thank you for sharing and for joining us to talk about your experience during this time.
Wishing you health, happiness and success with your novel.
Saving the world is easy: all Eden has to do is die.
Seventeen-year-old Eden East’s life is perfect… until her soul is bound to her worst nightmare. Then her parents are brutally murdered, and everyone’s a suspect, including her best friend.
As her world spirals out of control, a charismatic Siren, from a past she can’t remember, returns offering help, hope, and a heap of distractions.
Eden must put aside her grief to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder. In a race against time, can she break the binding to her enemy before he destroys her and her world?
Three lives. Two murdered parents. One deadly choice.
Keepers is the debut YA fantasy novel of Sacha de Black. I enjoyed the premise of the novel – a society that does its utmost to achieve a sense of balance – and found it to be an unusual and highly imaginative idea.
It’s a YA novel with stacks of opportunity to deliver emotional feelings, (the main protagonist Eden East is young and has to cope with a lot.) I won’t divulge too much here for fear of spoiling the novel.
One of Black’s great strengths is her ability to write physical attraction between two individuals so well! Wow, loved those parts! I’d say that Trey was one of my favourite characters in the book. I can imagine him as a very worthy candidate for the title ‘book boyfriend!’ And I really enjoyed Victor too! There is a love triangle of sorts as Eden is bound to Shifter Victor Dark and can’t bare to be, but Victor wants Eden like mad.
There were parts of the story where the author’s ability to write engaging prose, and dialogue took flight and her writing made me go wow, this is amazing. I see great potential in Black’s writing.
What I didn’t like:
A minor point (it may just be me!) There’s a glossary of terms in the front matter which took me out of the story a bit to begin with. I would have liked these terms added individually as short postscripts at the bottom of each relevant page.
This is a confident debut, with interesting world building and potential for further conflict and interest in book two. Definitely a recommendation.
Welcome To Kyrosmagica! So lovely to see you Esme.
MJ: Tell us about your life Esme.
Esme: I’ve had two lives, and both are hard to understand. In my past life I appeared to be free but never experienced freedom. I felt trapped in my body and my mind didn’t feel that it fitted, like a puzzle piece trying to correspond to the wrong shape. My mind rebelled; I self-harmed. Now that I am a prisoner in the mirrors of Amelina’s house, I can’t self-harm. I can’t do anything. I’m a victim of a curse but I’m not the only victim.
MJ: Why did you self-harm?
Esme: Everyone expected me to be perfect. I couldn’t cope. The pressure kept building up and up. It was my way of dealing. My personal punch bag.
MJ: That makes me so sad. I wish I could help you.
Esme: I know you do. You feel my pain and wrote about it in your novel.
MJ: I tried to do it justice; I hope in some small way I succeeded.
Esme: You did. But can we talk about something else? This is making me anxious.
MJ: Of course, is it okay to talk about the curse? Or is that off-limits?
Esme: No, that’s okay.
MJ: Who else was a victim?
Esme: Amelina’s dad.
MJ: What about the rest of the family?
Esme: They’re trapped too but they’re not prisoners. Hey, wait a minute. They are prisoners in a way… sometimes you don’t have to be a prisoner to feel like one.
MJ: It must be a really sad story…
Esme: Yes it is, but it’s also much more. There’s light and laughter, darkness and shadows. Many magical threads tangle this story together, like many loves, and yet there are no real lovers.
MJ: It’s no romance then?
Esme: Read the beginning and you might think it’s a romance but read the end and you’ll know it’s not.
MJ: It sounds puzzling…
Esme: Yeah, it’s meant to be. Each chapter starts with a numbered puzzle piece instead of a chapter heading. Then there’s an awesome Tanka poem teaser.
This is my favourite from Puzzle Piece 12:
Think you know someone,
No, you don’t know anyone,
We’re all cheerleaders,
Carrying our false pompoms,
The mirror captures our truth.
MJ: A teaser… interesting… Are you a poetry fan?
Esme: Hey! All artistic and tortured souls love poetry.
MJ: I love poetry!
Esme: Oh! Ha Ha… That means you’re a deep thinker.
MJ: I am. Talking about deep thinking… If you had a twin, what would you say to her?
Esme: I have a twin, inside me. It’s like there are two people in my brain. One’s happy, one’s sad, a yin and yang twin…
MJ: I wish I could make you whole and happy. Perhaps I might write your freedom…
Esme: Could you? Pleeease. But make sure that you write my freedom beyond the prison of my mind. Don’t send me to the land where shadows live.
MJ:Sigh. I wish I could promise that, but I haven’t finished book two yet and I have no idea what will happen in book three!
Esme: You authors have a wicked sense of power…
MJ: Yes, it is true dear Esme. You are without a doubt the most challenging character in my book and that is why I love you so…
Esme: Ahhhhh, thank you!
I hope you will love Esme as much as I do. She might make you sad but there is a young person like her out there somewhere. Self-harm is a growing problem in our young people. Let’s not bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. Speak out about mental health issues, fight to take away the stigma. Help someone you know who is suffering, it’s the little things that mean so much.
Please feel free to comment and share.
The illustrations of the Creature and Esme will appear in black and white in the paperback book due to be launched April 2018.
This weeks prompt words from Colleen are cover and precipitation and the challenge is to use only synonyms. I’ve chosen cloud-burst for precipitation and masquerade for cover.
This weeks prompt words from Colleen are cover and precipitation and the challenge is to use only synonyms. I’ve chosen cloud-burst for precipitation and masquerade for cover.
And the following is an extract of Puzzle Piece 28: Leanne’s Warning from my YA fantasy novel – The Curse of Time Book 1 – Bloodstone which is currently on special offer price, so grab a copy!!
I knocked and waited to enter. The door creaked open. I took that as my invitation to slip through the opening and breezed inside. As before, my eyes searched out the sparkling crystals, and for a moment I almost forgot why I’d come. I stood motionless, in awe of the surrounding beauty. In the corner, I spotted Leanne, unpacking new stones that must have recently arrived. As I watched Leanne at work, the crystals freed themselves from her protective hands. They flew across the room, whizzing, creating a trailing rainbow of spectacular light, and sound. In no time at all they found their allotted places, embedding themselves with ease in the walls. At last, I drew my eyes away from this amazing sight. I turned to face Leanne. ‘I need to speak to you.’ ‘What can I help you with?’ replied Leanne, in a dream-like voice. ‘Recently things have been happening that are beyond my usual level of acceptable peculiarity. I wondered if you could help.’ Leanne’s eyes widened, and she nodded her head. I explained about how my new paint set seemed to have a mind and purpose all of its own. I described the strange events that had happened since I used my aunt’s gift. She listened but made no comment. I stomped my foot and thought I would burst with frustration at her lack of response. ‘Leanne, what shall I do?’ ‘Embrace these events.’ Cupping her hands together, fingertips touching, Leanne rocked on her heels. She turned back to her unpacking duties. ‘Whatever do you mean?’ I wailed, shocked at her response. ‘This is happening for a reason. You must not be fearful, Amelina. Welcome, all that’s happening, and the truth of who you are will dawn on you.’ The room was quiet except for the rustling of paper as Leanne unwrapped the remaining crystals. I listened but was unsure what to do next. I walked over to the wall of gems, ensnared once again in the magical beauty they exuded. Three crystals twinkled more brightly than the rest and caught my eye. I carefully removed the Black Obsidian, the Bloodstone, and the Merlinite and weighed each gem in the palm of my hand. An aura of light burst from the stones and encircled me. Each crystal’s field of energy exploded in a kaleidoscope of colour and joined together forming a solid beam of brilliant intensity. I felt an invisible energy force rush through me shooting all the way into my fingers. I glanced down, and my fingertips were glowing, the brightest pink I had ever seen. I had never felt such raw power. I could tell something beyond my comprehension was taking place. I staggered back, filled with wonder, and my mouth dropped open. The experience made me feel complete as if something elemental had been missing from my life all this time, until now. I had no doubt these crystals were the perfect choice to give me the answers I was seeking. I stumbled over to Leanne who winced from the brightness of my aura. I gently handed her the gems. She inclined her head and pondered over my selection. ‘Interesting… such a choice of crystals, Amelina. I’m sure these gems will set you on the right path towards discovery.’ The sound of rain falling outside, followed by rumbles of thunder, interrupted my thoughts. The cottage darkened, highlighted only by flashes of lightning. The crystals lining the cottage walls shrank into their protective spaces, their colours dull, seeming to hide from the sudden approaching storm. Leanne’s face darkened, mirroring the impending storm. Thunder boomed above causing her to pause for a moment before she continued. ‘You must take extra care with these stones, for all three hold immense power. Guard the Wizard Stones, the Black Obsidian, and the Merlinite. Keep them safe, and remember, the power they may unleash could overwhelm you.’ The luminosity surrounding me swirled and intensified. I swallowed and asked my question carefully. ‘How?’ Leanne peered at me from the darkness. ‘These are Wizard stones. She pointed to the gems still cupped in my hand. Used without care they can drive you mad, make you hallucinate, or even provoke seizures.’ Her forehead creased and her eyes blinked as the lightning flashed through the windows. ‘You must protect them from damage, taking particular care to avoid scratches, blows, harsh chemicals and extreme temperature. Cleanse the Bloodstone Crystal if it comes in contact with anyone else.’ ‘What happens if I don’t follow your instructions?’ Leanne leaned in close to my face and whispered, ‘The crystals will become impure, open to evil manipulations, wielded by darkness and used by black-hearted, devious souls.’ I whispered back a scared, ‘I promise.’
I’ve now entered the AuthorsDB First line contest as well as the cover contest.
I figured nothing ventured nothing gained.
I entered the first three lines of my prologue:
Most people would call our existence strange, but this is more than that, this deserves a headline. We’re not spectacular enough to feature on the national or international news, but we warranted a column in the local newspaper headed by seven not so lucky words: Missing Father Returns After Weird Aging Phenomenon. I’m glad that our short-lived fame died and the paparazzi, (what a joke,) got bored with us.