announcing the Lost in Time audiobook!

I am very pleased to announce that I have found a collaborator to work with me to create audiobooks of both Lost in Time and Shadows on the Border! Lost in Time will be released at the beginning of March.

Callum Hale is doing an absolutely fantastic job-the characters are leaping off the page. You can hear a sample of his work below and if you’d like to sign up for a review copy, please do scroll down to the bottom of the page to sign up!

Lost in Time

Lew’s life is pleasantly boring until his friend Mira messes with magic she doesn’t understand. While searching for her, he is pulled back in time to 1919 by a catastrophic magical accident. As he tries to navigate a strange time and find his friend in the smoky music clubs of Soho, the last thing he needs is Detective Alec Carter suspecting him of murder. London in 1919 is cold, wet, and tired from four years of war.

Alec is back in the Metropolitan Police after slogging out his army service on the Western Front. Falling for a suspect in a gruesome murder case is not on his agenda, however attractive he finds the other man.

They are both floundering and out of their depth, struggling to come to terms with feelings they didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. Both have secrets that could get them arrested or killed. In the middle of a murder investigation that involves wild magic, mysterious creatures, and illegal sexual desire, who is safe to trust?

Sign up here for a review copy. They’ll go out at the beginning of March and ideally we’d like them back by the end of the month-ish.

booktrailer: the flowers of time

I’m quite proud of this, actually!

The Flowers of Time has been a long time coming. I first started mulling the idea of writing about plant-collectors a couple of years ago when I read a newspaper article about Europeans stomping round the world in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ‘discovering’ new plants. I knew I wanted Ella Fortune (from Lost in Time) to have her own book and it seemed like the kind of thing she might do in the 1920s after she’d finished being an ambulance driver in France and started a newspaper. Initially I thought this might be it.

However…when I started writing, the characters didn’t want to be in the twentieth century at all, they wanted to be in the 1780s. This was a completely new era for me and cost me a lot of research-time. I relied heavily on ‘Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India‘ by Shashi Tharoor for background, plus ‘She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen: British women in India 1600 – 1900‘ by Katie Hickman about women in India and ‘The Honourable Company: a History of the English East India Company‘ by John Keay. I recommend these three as giving a reasonable overview of the pre-British Empire period. I also did a lot of reading about the Victorian flower-painter Marianne North ‘A Vision Of Eden: The Life And Work Of Marianne North‘ and found ‘Among the Tibetans‘ by Isabella Bird illuminating.

So then. Having dealt with the change in time-period, I started out with Jones, who I knew was non-binary and Edie, who’s sexuality can best be described as ‘pragmatic’. And as their journey over the mountains progressed it became clear that Jones was probably demi/gray asexual, as well. And then the paranormal intruded, which I find it often does once I start writing. And by the time I got to the end, I was in a real twist about how they were going to get their happy ending and be able to come back to England as a couple and both be settled in their own skin.

Anyway. Here it is. I hope you enjoy it. You can buy it here.

the flowers of time

The Flowers of Time will be published by JMS Books at the end of February! Pre-order here! Or listen to me read an excerpt!

A non-binary explorer and a determined lady botanist make the long journey over the high Himalayan passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? It’s a trip fraught with dangers for both of them, not least those of the heart.

Jones is determined to find out what caused the unexpected death of her father whilst they were exploring ancient ruins in the Himalayas. She’s never been interested in the idea of the marriage bed, but along with a stack of books and coded journals he’s left her with the promise she’ll travel back to England for the first time since childhood and try being the lady she’s never been.

Edie and her brother are leaving soon on a journey to the Himalayas to document and collect plants for the new Kew Gardens when she befriends Miss Jones in London. She’s never left England before and is delighted to learn that the lady will be returning to the mountains she calls home at the same time they are planning their travels. When they meet again in Srinagar, Edie is surprised to find that here the Miss Jones of the London salons is ‘just Jones’ the explorer, clad in breeches and boots and unconcerned with the proprieties Edie has been brought up to respect.

A non-binary explorer and a determined botanist make the long journey over the high mountain passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? It’s a trip fraught with perils for both of them, not least those of the heart.

boxing day and the hunting of the wren

Here in the UK, it’s Boxing Day. In my household it’s a more relaxed Christmas Day, where we eat left-overs and play with our new toys. The name comes from the tradition of giving your servants and tradesmen a ‘Christmas Box’, either food, gifts or cash.

Samuel Pepys talks about contributing to the boys box against Christmas at his shoemaker in 1663:

Thence by coach to my shoemaker’s and paid all there, and gave something to the boys’ box against Christmas.

although he makes no mention of anything relevant on the 26th itself. A few years later, in 1668, he moans about boxes having cost him a lot of money this year.

In 1710, Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, complained:

By the Lord Harry, I shall be undone here with Christmas boxes. The rogues of the coffee-house have raised their tax, every one giving a crown, and I gave mine for shame, besides a great many half-crowns to great men’s porters!

It was pronounced a Bank Holiday day by Queen Victoria in the second half of the nineteenth century, but there’s been an association with alms-giving for centuries before Pepys wrote about it- the 26th is also St Stephen’s Day, the Feast of Stephen as per the carol. St Stephen was the first Christian martyr. He was in charge of handing out alms to the poor and when he got cross with people for not contributing enough, they stoned him to death. So Pepys and Swift got away lightly, really.

On the Isle of Man and in parts of Wales and Ireland- the Celtic edges of Europe- it’s also the day of The Hunting of the Wren. These days no wrens are harmed during the enactment of the ritual, which goes back to pre-Christian solstice celebrations and the story of the Goddess Arianrhod. Ren means King/Queen or Lord/Lady in Welsh, which gives more context to the story.

In my area the traditional Boxing Day hunts still meet with their red coats and their hounds and are countered by now equally traditional saboteurs.

I am curled up by the fire watching Mr AL and Talking Child play Super Mario Odyssey and considering whether to eat more cold roast potatoes.

Happy festive season.

disambiguation: mince pies

Proper British Mince Pies ™

You need:

  • Mincemeat
  • Plain Flour
  • Butter
  • Lard or vegetable shortening
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Wine
  • 12 muffin muffin-tin

Step 1

Procure mincemeat. THIS DOES NOT HAVE ACTUAL MEAT IN IT.

It usually comes in jars and if you can’t find it locally, you can make your own. Mary Berry, who is a veritable saint among food creators, has a good recipe.

NOTE: In Ye Olden Tymes, mincemeat DID actually have meat in it. In Tudor England, this was often mutton or perhaps beef. There’s a traditional recipe from 1591 here.


Step 2

Make (or buy) pastry

You can use shortcrust or puff pastry. We use shortcrust because it’s easy to make, especially since I prefer things to be gluten-free:

  • 8oz plain flour
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 oz lard (or vegetable shortening)
  • pinch of salt
  • splash of cold water

Put the flour in to a bowl and chuck in the lard and butter, cut in to lumps. Take the knife and keep cutting the fat, so that it gets covered in the flour. Then rub it in gently with your fingertips, lifting it up out of the bowl and letting it fall back in, to get air in it. When you have a bowl full of crumbs, add a table spoon full of cold water and use the knife to mix again, to start it sticking together. Eventually, you’ll need to use your fingers again. Don’t make it too wet, but if you do, you can add a bit more flour.

Stick it in the fridge for half an hour and have a glass of wine whilst you grease the muffin tin and wait for the oven to heat up to 220c/gas mark 7.


Step 3

Compile your pies

  1. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface. Use a pint glass to cut circles and put them in your muffin tin, pressing them down.
  2. Put a tea-spoon or two of mincemeat in each of the 12 little pies.
  3. Use a smaller glass to cut a smaller lid for your pies. Or a cookie-cutter in a star or similar. Or you can make lattice strips for the tops. Or stack a little a pile of almonds on the top of each one. Or a couple of slices of apple.
  4. Arrange your lids on top of your mincemeat. Glaze with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Cook for about 15/20 minutes.

DO NOT EAT IMMEDIATELY AS THE MINCEMEAT WILL BE THERMONUCLEAR IN TEMPERATURE AND BURN YOUR TONGUE.

We sometimes eat these with no topping, sometimes with cream and sometimes with custard. Custard is a whole different can of British Worms that I will address on another day.