Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Another Wednesday is upon us...

...So it must be time for a snippet! Who's up for a bit of murder?

(Also Lola and I have a lot of feelings about carpets in bathrooms).

Sunday, 26 July 2015

"A good home must be made, not bought."

Joyce Maynard

We're still searching for the perfect new vivarium for Ket after his most recent break-out. He spent a few days curled up in his hide ignoring us after his re-capture, but now he's been fed a couple of times and shed his skin, he's back to his normal, curious self.

Seen here watching me watch him to make sure he isn't plotting a new escape.

We're contemplating moving both tanks to a different place in the kitchen so they both get a bit more daylight, which would incidentally also free up space for another exotic pet of some description...I'm leaning towards a tarantula still; Kyle quite fancies a chameleon. But that's for later. In the mean time, while we were out investigating new vivs yesterday, we decided to redecorate Remic's tank a bit (as a reward for being too stupid to escape himself).

King snakes are pretty active, inquisitive, and energetic, and we like to revamp Rem's tank every few months to give him new things to explore and do. A couple of weeks ago we treated him to a new climbing log, which he much appreciates:

Seen here perfecting his Loch Ness Monster pose
Yesterday we decided, in addition to the new log, we'd get him some new ornaments to appreciate.

The new hide is made of real wood, whereas his old one was some synthetic blend. We decided to replace it as the real wood has a rough surface for him to rub against when he's shedding (the inside of the old hide was too smooth to be useful). The fake plant is just for appearances, and the skull is because...Well...

Metal as fuck
 Because this dope loves anything he can knot himself up in. Ket has a dinosaur skull that he's very fond of, so it seemed only fair Rem had a skull of his own to play with. He does love it - every time I walk past the viv, he's slithering through it. I think this will have to be a permanent addition to the tank.

Oh, and just so you don't think it's all about the snakes at the moment, here's a picture of Fergus enjoying some quality time with a blanket.

His tastes are very singular.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Guest Blog - Claimed by the Bruin with Libby Bishop!

I love a good shifter story and bears make for a change of pace for me! (I usually lean towards wolves and cats). Looking forward to reading this...How about we let Libby take over and give us a teaser?

Shifter politics can be a real bitch. 
Mara Kane is a twenty-six year old woman who happens to have bear blood. She can’t shift…yet. But that doesn’t stop Lee Underhill, an exiled bruin, from taking his revenge out on her. After all, it was her father who played the largest role in him being exiled from the Clan and Northeast pack. Lee’s demands are clear—if she isn’t married and mated to a bruin in her clan in three days, she has to marry the bastard’s son. 

The hell with that. 
Ramsey McGregor is the son of her Clan’s alpha, and one day he’ll take his father’s place. When he finds out what Lee is forcing on Mara, he, as well as her father and his, decide to do the only thing they can to keep her with them—marry her to him. No territorial council would ever dispute the union. But can he soothe Mara’s nerves enough to bring on a true mating? Or will the Clan have to fight Lee and his people to keep her with them?

Read on for an excerpt!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Wednesday Snippet - Oath Breaker

It's always fun when my characters reveal things about themselves that surprise me. Imani tends to do that a lot. (And I feel like this quote is a sentiment she would completely agree with).

Sunday, 19 July 2015

"The road to Hell is paved with works in progress."

 Philip Roth

Last year, before we moved house, I junked my old laptop. This was not something I did lightly as, despite the fact that it barely worked anymore, it had a lot of sentimental value for me. For one thing, it was the first big, expensive thing I ever bought for myself. For another, it represented a fair few years of writing. Some of it published, a lot of it not published, and a lot of that not even finished. Deciding which unfinished projects were worth transferring to the shiny new laptop was hard work. After all, some of those projects were unfinished for a good reason - they sucked. Did I really need to take up space on a new laptop with sub-par stories?

On the other hand, I love cannibalising stories. I often snatch descriptions, characters, or plot threads from abandoned projects to re-use in new ones. What didn't work in one project may be the missing puzzle piece in another, and that means I really dislike scrapping anything completely. So in the end I kept quite a few of them.

And this year I've finished two of them after all - BLOOD WITCH and THE SEA WIFE. Yay! That still leaves me with a few abandoned projects that I open up every now and then and tinker with. There's the story about the banshee halfling asked to investigate a rash of werewolf murders. And the one about the woman who discovers she's a reincarnated naga priestess. There's something about a retiring superheroine, a little thing about a barghest that's already inspired a plot thread in Oath Breaker, and a few other odds and ends. 

Sometimes I really want to write but I don't know what I want to write. I just start having vague, flitting thoughts like hey, I should write about gargoyles. That's generally when I'll open up an Abandoned Project - sometimes it's a good way to just shake something loose and refocus. Last night I was tinkering with the banshee story. I have a good feeling about that one...

...But that's for later.

Pssst...Amber Morgan has a new book out! It's got bikers, romance, and a snake-handling cult that may or may not have been inspired by both my obsession with Southern Gothic tropes and my beloved dopey king snake, Remic.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Snippet Day! Oath Breaker!

Right! Now that THE SEA WIFE is done and dusted (until editing time!), I'm back to work on Oath Breaker. I missed my witchy girls, and now I'm starting to get into the meat of the story, I'm excited about all the threads I'm weaving and all the trouble I'm causing for Lola and Tristesse. Read on for a taster!

She'd always known Tristesse could hurt her, if she wanted. She'd just never thought she would want to, not since their very first meeting. It was easy, far too easy, to be seduced and pretend that Tristesse was all velvet and silk. It was too easy to ignore the steel underneath.

Monday, 13 July 2015

So That Selkie Story?

It's getting published! Evernight said yes to THE SEA WIFE, and it's scheduled for publication some time in September. Yay! Proof that spending ten years on a story can pay off (although, obviously, it's not the best approach).

More details as I get them, but for now, here's the (unedited) blurb:

Charley and Nessa are from two different worlds. Nessa is a selkie and Charley is all too human. When selkies and humans fall in love, tragedy can follow. For Charley and Nessa, that never seems to matter when they're together. But when Nessa's seal skin is stolen, the lovers uncover all the reasons humans and selkies should stay in their separate worlds.

Friday, 10 July 2015

"Look before you leap, for snakes among sweet flowers creep."

This guy. This fucking guy.
German proverb.

About three or four weeks ago, I was changing the snakes' water and commenting to Kyle that Ket had been particularly shy recently. He's always the more reticent of the two, so it's not unusual for us not to see him for a few days. But even by his hermity standards, he seemed reclusive. When we carefully poked around the tank for him, we found out why.

He'd escaped.

Let me stress that both snake tanks have very good locks on them. Ket has form for escaping and after his last, six-month-long stretch of freedom, we have been positively paranoid about those locks. The tanks are never left open unless we have the snakes out. The snakes are never left unattended. How he escaped was, and is, a mystery. I would swear blind there was no way he could get out, but he was gone.

And we were devastated. I mean, one escape is bad luck, but two? I felt guilty, irresponsible, and extremely worried about the possibility of Ket and Fergus running into each other (last time Ket escaped, Fergus was still living with my parents). So we did what we did last time: we tore the house apart looking for Ket. To no avail. Never underestimate how many nooks and crannies your house has that are snake-friendly and inaccessible to you.

The next step when hunting down a lost snake is to leave flour across the doorways at night, so you can see if he's been exploring the house under cover of darkness. Here's the thing though - snakes stick close to walls and floorboards; they don't like being out in open spaces. So the probability of him merrily making his way from room to room or heading upstairs was pretty slim. It's much more likely that he'd shelter behind a bookcase, under a floorboard, etc. We tried the flour trick anyway, but if Ket was slithering around at night, he was avoiding the flour.

The next-next step is to lay a trap, in the form of a big, empty coke bottle and a dead mouse. Yes, sorry, it's not a pleasant trap. The idea is your hungry snake will crawl inside to eat the mouse, then be too lethargic and big to squeeze out again. Here's the thing about that though - adult snakes can go several months quite happily without eating. And in the summer, leaving dead mice around the house in coke bottles is not the best. But we tried anyway, pretty much knowing it wouldn't work, and we were right.

There are other options. Stuff crumpled-up plastic bags into all those snake-friendly nooks and crannies, then wait for dark and see if he comes out and disturbs them. You could even try leaving his tank in the middle of a room and see if he decides to head back there for a nap. But what you need most is patience. As we well know, what with the whole "six months of freedom" adventure Ket had previously been on.

But you know, when your beloved pet is lost, it's really hard to be patient. And we're having a heatwave here in the UK - windows and doors have been open day and night. And as patient and hopeful as we wanted to be, we had to accept there was a strong possibility Ket had found his way outside and was having a happy life as a wild snake.

Devastating. But impossible not to think about.

Earlier this week we reluctantly started to discuss what to do if Ket didn't show up again. Kyle wanted to move Remic into Ket's tank (after cleaning it thoroughly) as it's slightly taller and Rem loves to climb.

Rem is highly susceptible to plastic bags, unlike Ket
I wanted to put that off as long as possible, just in case, but agreed Rem would be happier with those extra few inches of climbing space. So. Here comes the plot twist.

Last night after dinner I emptied the kitchen bin, as is my wont. I then opened the cupboard under the sink to get a new bin bag.

And there was Ket.

I mean, right there. On top of the bin bags, apparently enjoying a bit of urban exploration. As I did not expect to see a snake in my cupboard when I opened it, I screamed. Ket startled. I grabbed him, In the wild, something grabbing a snake unexpectedly is probably a bird of prey and that snake is dead. Their reactions are therefore extremely fast. Getting hold of him at all was pure luck on my part. Thus ensued a tense stand-off with me on my knees and my head in the cupboard and Ket halfway down a gap at the back of said cupboard. I'm terrified of hurting him by hanging on, but I'm terrified of losing him by letting go. And snakes are strong, okay. Really strong. There was no way I was going to force him out of his hidey-hole.

By this point, Kyle is behind me demanding information and I am having a massive adrenaline surge because yelling man + freaked-out snake = angst. I managed to get a better hold on him and with a combination of raw determination and lots of ridiculous baby talk, I eased Ket out of the cupboard.

Yeah, no, he was pissed off. Terrified too, I'm sure. I'm lucky he didn't simply thrash his way out of my grip again. So now I've got my hands full of angry snake (and Ket is so chilled-out normally, I felt like I'd grabbed hold of the Incredible Hulk) and Kyle is rushing to unlock Ket's tank, refill his water dish and generally give me somewhere to put this flailing bundle of scales.

"It's okay, baby," I tell Ket. Ket does not believe me. Ket bites me. "You little shit!" I cry, more affronted than hurt (corn snake bites are not painful but they are insulting). But it's fine! The tank is ready! And Ket shot in and hid under his dinosaur skull while we locked the tank and exclaimed "oh my god! Holy shit! What are the odds!" over and over for the next hour.

So. Ket's Second Grand Tour ends. I almost certainly did not get up three times in the night to check he was still in his tank. Tonight we'll see if he wants to eat and over the weekend we'll check him out properly, once all three of us are a bit calmer. We noticed some superficial damage to his scales, which will sort itself out when he next sheds, but we'll both feel better if we can take a proper look at him and make sure all is well. Hopefully this weekend we'll also get down to our local exotic pet shop and look into a new tank for Rem, so we can then move Ket into Rem's current digs. It's a newer, studier tank, and although we still haven't worked out how Ket escaped in the first place, it doesn't seem worth keeping a tank which has proved not to be snake-proof.

And that, my friends, was my Thursday evening.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Guest Blog - An Insightful Interview with Olivia R Burton

I have an extra-special guest blog for you today! Not only am I featuring my friend Olivia R Burton's new release, RATTLE, but I'm handing the blog over to her and my glamorous assistant, Fergus. You may remember that Olivia interviewed Fergus for her blog a while back. He really appreciated the platform to share his views about monkfish and has kindly returned the favour by sitting down with Olivia and asking some hard-hitting, topical questions.

But first, a little bit about RATTLE and Olivia.

Finn's a failure—at necromancy and life in general. "It's not my fault," he'd insist, looking deep into your eyes as he lifts your wallet. You'd catch him, of course. Because he's a failure.

Veruca, on the other hand, is competence personified. She has to be, working as a Reaper directly under the Prince of Hell. When Finn shows up in a stolen sport coat and uses Veruca as cover from his murderous mistress' glowering goons, she finds the one thing she may not be so good at: resisting Finn's handsome face.

Olivia lives just outside Seattle, WA and spends most of her time thinking about cats, vegan food, and action movies. You can find her most commonly on Twitter:  or at her blog: If you enjoyed exploring the Preternatural PNW in RATTLE, check out a little bit more of it in MIXED FEELINGS.

And now...Fergus and Olivia get to the heart of important issues.

Fergus seeking out important issues
Fergus: Olivia, hello. Don't touch my things. Everything is my thing. Now, I've noticed a sharp decline lately in the amount of tuna mayonnaise being made around the house, and I assume this is a global problem. I don't like it. It means there's none for me and I have to make do with meat and biscuits, and I only get those at certain times of day, which is oppressive. How does RATTLE address this tuna mayonnaise shortage?

Olivia: I can’t say RATTLE addresses the tuna mayo shortage directly, but it does touch a bit on the haves vs the have-nots. One of the main characters, Finn, has grown up rough, and has likely had very little tuna mayo in his life. Veruca, his lovely partner, has grown up in luxury and so could afford only the best tuna mayo. I think you’ll really identify with Finn, especially since you both occasionally pilfer things when no one’s paying attention.

Fergus: That actually leads nicely into my next question. Now, at night during the summer I like to sleep in the bush in the garden in order to keep the neighbour's dog from breaking in and stealing things, as he seems to be planning to do. Just this morning he stuck his head in the back door as I was eating, which was a worrying new development. What tips could Veruca give me on household security?

Olivia: Because Veruca is so wealthy she’s able to assign a lot of her security responsibilities to her friend and employee Donald. He has the ability to read emotions and therefore tell when people are lying. This can come in quite handy when dealing with those who might have ulterior motives. Perhaps, since the magical type of empathy isn’t real, you could try studying dog behavior in order to assess the neighbor’s pooch more effectively. I’m sure there are many books on profiling of canines that would be helpful in your vigilant efforts to keep your biscuits safe.

Fergus: Thank you. I will consider making the people teach themselves about dogs. When I bring dead things home, everyone screams and tries to take them away from me. When Finn brings dead things home, this is  "magic" and nobody calls him "a little shit." Don't you think this is unfair?

Olivia: Absolutely! At the start of RATTLE, Finn is likely less skilled and less experienced with the dead than you are, and yet he gets a pass. I think this really speaks to our superficial society and how beautiful people get special treatment. Because of Finn’s incredible good looks, he’s able to get away with a lot that us ordinary folk would not. 

Fergus: This is sad, because I also am handsome, but everyone says I am really a gremlin, which is oppressive. Recently someone left a bowl of strawberries and cream unattended in the living room and I put my face in it, and then they just gave me the cream because I had earned it with cunning and skill. Do you agree?

Olivia: I definitely think you deserved the cream more than whomever left it unattended. Clearly your drive to consume cream is greater than theirs, and they’ve proven themselves unworthy. 

Fergus: Exactly. Now, one last question. Sometimes I cough like I'm going to bring up a fur ball, but I don't. Do you feel this is a metaphor for publishing? What advice would you give struggling cats in my position?

Olivia: For me, not hacking up a furball as a metaphor is closer to writing than publishing. There have been many times over the years where I was certain I had words to get out and yet, no matter how hard I tried, there just didn’t seem to be anything in me. The only advice I have for that is to get out and try to stimulate yourself to loosen things up. Take a walk, sniff some flowers, steal some cream. Even if it won’t help you get something out, it will at least give you a fresh perspective on things and, at the worst, you’ll have gotten some exercise, smelled some flowers, or eaten some cream.

Fergus: And at the end of the day, how much cream we eat is really all that matters. Thank you, Olivia. Now please leave immediately, because people upset me.


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

We Interrupt This Story to Bring You...A Different Story, I Guess?

No Oath Breaker snippet this week because I've been waylaid by selkies. Yes. I mentioned recently that I had a selkie story knocking around my brain, and I think that persistent knocking combined with the heroic amounts of megalodon books I've been reading lately just pushed this story front and centre.* And since I don't plan for it to be more than 14-15k, I figured I'd get it written and out of my mind before getting back to Oath Breaker.

The Sea Wife is really a story I've been trying to write since I was at university. I wrote a story then for a critique group about a doctor who finds a woman on the beach claiming to be a selkie. I left it pretty open-ended as to whether she really was, and the story was okay-ish received by the group. I liked it, but it was not a story to "do" anything with except make up part of my coursework.

Still, the selkie thing stuck with me and last year I attempted to re-write it, figuring that ten years on, I could put a different spin on it, that my writing skills would hopefully have improved since 2004, and that I could make this a story to "do" something with.

And then I got bored of it and shoved it away and started working on BLOOD WITCH and that ended very well.

But still, this story was knocking at my brain. I re-read it and realised I got bored of it because the plot I was developing was very similar to that of THE BEAST OF BIRCH HILL, and I think one should only write so many stories where "regular human meets shapeshifter, romance ensues." I decided if I was going to write The Sea Wife, I still needed to find that different spin. And now I think I have.

I'm about halfway through the first draft, and I have four days off work starting tomorrow. My goal is to have this story done, dusted, and submitted by next Wednesday so I can go back to Oath Breaker (I've left Lola in a rather sticky situation and it would be rude not to get her out of it). So no snippet, because it's a short piece and everything would be spoilery. Instead, I'm sharing a couple of tracks that have been helping me get The Sea Wife finally out of my head and into the world.


*Because of the sea theme, not because this story also has giant sharks in it. So far...