Believing in the supernatural

file0001298559974As an author, I do a lot of research, but as a very curious person, I do much more. The supernatural has always intrigued me, so it’s not surprising that it creeps into my books – whether I want it to or not! My latest book, Lost in Wonderland includes a character called Shilo who has a very staunch belief in monsters. He’s convinced himself they are very real, so much so that he’s spent most of his life in a mental hospital, whiling away the days being fearful of a monster that he’s convinced took his mother and talking things through with a very understanding imaginary friend.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m a Shilo, but I deliberately created him to represent a significant part of my personality – the believer.

 
I grew up on stories of ghosts and monsters, and I was reading about these creatures long before the internet gave us unlimited access to every witness, urban legend, blurry photo and conspiracy article. I adored the thought that these things existed in our world – as long as the existed outside my line of sight that is! I always found it fascinating that every culture has a legend to do with a vampire, a sea creature, a Bigfoot and even demons. Most dating back to when these countries had no communication with one another and probably didn’t even know of each other’s existence. And it seems everyone I’ve spoken to has ghost stories of some sort that they can tell. I live a ten-minute drive from the famous British castle where Charles Dickens saw the ghost that inspired the Phantom in his book, Bleak House.file0001322029483

 
I don’t know about you, but I have a very open mind about the supernatural; though, not so open that my brain drops out! My analytical side flares up with everything I read – that cold breeze that made you shiver could well be just poor quality window fittings and that lake monster you took a holiday selfie with might well be just an oozing pile of trash floating out to sea. I think we have to wonder, in this day and age with the technology we have at our everyday disposal, why we’re not brimming with irrefutable evidence of the supernatural. Maybe, like me, most of the human race like the idea of it, just don’t want to know for sure that it exists – I mean how would it affect the world if a pack of werewolves were discovered hiding out in a US national park? Worse, that it had been covered up?

 
I’d love to hear your stories of supernatural events and experiences, so please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this blog, I’d love to read them.

My Top 5 favourite TV series based on books.

One of my ambitions as an author is to have my work on screen; I mean who wouldn’t? So, as my work hasn’t been picked up by a lovely TV producer (yet) here’s my top 5 TV shows based on books.


10964Outlander:
I just binged watched this time travel romance series based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. Gritty and sometimes gruesome, this gem of a series sweeps the viewer into an amazing story filled with hunky highlanders, sadistic soldiers and with just a hint of witches and magic. My only gripe is that the heroine, Claire is not as strong as 301082she could be and makes a lot of fundamental mistakes that kind of annoyed me.

True Blood: Although not on your screens anymore, this vampire extravaganza is
definitely worth a watch. They took just enough liberties from the novels to make it interesting for readers and had some truly gorgeous vampires and rugged werewolves in there. Ended with a fizzle rather than a bang (just like the book series!) but hey, sometimes that happens.

13496Game of Thrones: I’m certainly not alone with this one! You really can’t ask for much more in one series: frosted zombies, dragons that are just as cute huge as they were when they were hatchlings, killer knights, mythical magic, and warring factions where there is both good and bad on every side. I’m so looking forward to the next season coming back in April, although we are now getting to the stage where the TV series will be overtaking the books, it will be interesting to see what will h30071appen here.

The Walking Dead: Based on some amazing graphic novels, the Walking Dead has me hooked on their undead and post-apocalyptic anarchy. There was a bit of a lull in the middle (around season 3), and if I’m honest, it almost lost me – but now I’m counting the days till the new season resumes in February. They have some great characters and don’t seem afraid to kill them off either! Edge of your seat stuff!

656War & Peace: Featured on the BBC here in the UK, I have a great feeling about this Tolstoy classic. Sweeping drama drenched with lavish settings, costumes and an amazing cast. It has the potential to take the viewer by the hand and lead them through a turbulent time in history and introduce a whole new generation to this masterpiece of literature.

 
Happy watching, and remember to let me know if you are watching any gems yourself. Nicx

Happy New Year!


file7841341533535Happy New Year!

So, 2017 is here and let’s hope it’s going to be a good one. Although, it’s not all out of your hands. If you feel like you could have had a better 2016, achieved more, done more, been more, then, instead of feeling annoyed at yourself, turn that feeling around to making 2017 better.
I know, it’s easier said than done, right? Even I have felt like I’ve worked hard to achieve very little in 2016. It can be soul destroying and make you wonder why you bother at all, but you just need to remember that your life can turn around in just one event, one meeting or even one decision. You just need to keep trying till you get to that key moment.
As a writer, I know this more than anyone. It took me years to get published, and even now I still don’t feel like I’ve reached that goal to be a professional author yet. But I haven’t stopped trying, and I won’t. I’ll also continue to help other writers who want that same goal as me, guide them on their journeys (something I’ve done for over 6 years now) and give them the support that I wished I had had.

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So, the question that never really get answered in all those self-help books: How? How do you keep going even if you’re tired, depressed, feeling unappreciated or feeling like life is ignoring even your most basic needs? Unfortunately, I think that the answer is different for everyone. For me, I just need to push on regardless, do the whole British ‘stiff upper lip’ trick and hope that all my work will, someday, pay off. The one piece of advice that I can give you, right now, is just to get something done, to take that first step on whatever journey you need to take to get you to the destination if where you want to be. Write a ‘to do’ list and then start ticking those bad boys off. And just remember, a year from now, you’ll wish you had started that journey today.

Happy 2017 everyone – Remember to stop by here on my blog when you can and let me know how the year is treating you and how your journey is going. Nicx

3 things I love about Christmas, and 3 things I hate

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1) I love the opportunity to spend time with family and friends. It’s a great excuse to get people together and have a good catch-up. We all live very hectic lives, and this time of year we can take time out and have a festive cuppa and a good old chat.

 
2) Presents. I’ll say it again, presents! I know it’s a bit capitalist/ commercial, but I’m not above saying that I love gifts and also the chance to buy beautiful things for the important people in my life. I’m a bit of a shopaholic, and I take every gift as a challenge to buy something that I think that person will love, something that shows them that I listen to them and know them.

 
3) The promise of a new year. Christmas heralds a new year and a chance to feel like anything is possible. It wasn’t that long ago that such a time started my writing journey, got me published and saw me start a writers’ group that has helped others along the way too.

1) But I do hate Turkey, There, I said it. It’s dry and has a strong taste to it, but this time of year I’m made to eat it. I can usually choke it down if I smother it in oodles of cranberry sauce, but still, I wish a new meat would emerge as a traditional Christmas meal. Although a few years back my mum branched out for Christmas and bought a bird within a bird, within a bird which turned out to be a culinary sin against nature, so maybe I should be grateful for the white meat devil I know!

2) I can’t stand Christmas decorations. I know, bar-humbug! But they smell funny; they make rooms seem claustrophobic and manic (if not done correctly, and mostly they are not) Competing with neighbours as to who can have the most flashing lights dripping off your house that waste electricity and distract drivers is just crazy. Then add in the cost and time for putting all those tinsel-encrusted decorations up and taking them down… it’s exhausting. Now, I’m not against everything; I love a bit of bunting just as much as the next girl, but a little moderation can go a long way.

3) Christmas cards. I really hate being told what to do, and for years my family forced me to write Christmas cards. What a waste of time, paper, money and thought. I’d much rather see that person and buy theeventing_and_dog_fall_photos_118m a drink and have a proper chat than give them a card of one of four designs I bought in last year’s sale with a scrawled signature in. Yes, as an author I’m still buzzed when I get to sign a book, but having to write fifty cards at once is just wrist numbingly wrong. I always appreciate when someone gives me a card, and I respect other people’s belief in them, but instead of just a hurried pre-bought Christmas message, why not use them to invite that person round for some mulled wine or, if they are too far away, set up a Skype call.

And for no real reason, other than it’s Christmas, here’s a cute dog dressed as Santa!

Merry Christmas to all my readers, and to all a good blog. May your turkey be moist and everyone you love be near enough to hug. Nicx

A Tourist’s Halloween Guide to Bad Blood

g1510984England has a rich heritage and, especially in London, you’ll find it difficult to spit and not hit something centuries years old – BTW, you might get arrested for that, so do check around before letting rip with the salvia!

London is a busy city where there are too many people and far too many construction sites. Our Tube (Subway) is unnaturally warm, and our roads are naturally congested. But none of this matters in my YA horror novel, Bad Blood. It’s hard to care about temperature and traffic when you’re hip deep in snarling smelly zombies.

Bad Blood is told first person from a vampire’s point of view. Britannia is the very essence of Britain; she has protected it many times in the past, and now finds herself taking on that role again to save survivors of a fast-paced zombie outbreak that hits the UK. The first book happens mainly in London – so let’s take a tour of some Bad Blood hot spots:

The Statue of George IV, Trafalgar Square: erected in 1843, this bronze statue of King George IV astride his faithful steed looks out over the world famous Trafalgar Square. Used as higher ground by Britannia when she is sniffing out un-infected humans to feed on, this statue gives her the space and time she needs to locate her next meal.

The Natural History Museum: A beautiful, elaborately designed building established in 1881; filled with knowledge, dioramas and now zombies. Britannia has an epic struggle on her hands here, and not just with the hungry undead hordes that were given free admission!

Madame Tussauds: Originally set up by wax sculptor Marie Tussauds in 1884, there is more blank-eyed scary looking celebrities here than on any red carpet event. But Bad Blood takes you deeper into the bowels of this tourist attraction, delivering you a fast-paced confrontation in the Chambers of Horrors.

Double Decker Red Buses: The Red Double Decker bus is an iconic symbol of London and is used by the vampires and the human survivors to flee the city and also to indulge the vampire’s competitor natures!

Now you know the stops, why not jump onto the Bad Blood bus and let it take you sight-seeing through the zombie ravaged streets of London; the price of admission? Well, Britannia only asks for your blood…

Evernight Teen   Amazon US     Amazon UK   Barnes & Noble   Nook    Amazon Canada   Amazon Australia 

Doing the zombie shuffle – Zombies in YA literature

img_0443_v2I find zombies scary – there I admit it. I always have done. And I can tell you why; we are just one mad scientist away from zombies becoming real. Zombies worry me, and movies aside, they are certainly not new to literature.

I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at school. It’s only when you get into the nitty gritty of this book you realise it was one of the first ever zombie novels. The creature, albeit more sentient than your average ‘braaaains’ screeching shuffler, is a re-animated corpse. Considered a ‘flawed creation’ by Dr Frankenstein, the creature has to contend with some serious abandonment issues, loneliness (after all zombies are pack creatures) and some rather vengeful thoughts. All in all, the zombie in question doesn’t act much like the zombies we’re use to today.

Moving quickly through the years to Carrie Ryan’s Forrest of Hands & Teeth we find Mary, the protagonist, struggling to free herself from a predictable YA love triangle while avoiding the ‘Unconsercrated’. The name of the zombies in itself echoes the book’s theme of religion; but apart from that, they seem to lumber around the forest being said hands and teeth. The zombies provide only one author objective: they are the threat that seeks to harm the main characters. The only zombie character that comes to ‘life’ is the fast and slightly vengeful, Gabrielle – who seems to retain some of her former personality and is hell-bent on killing Mary for allowing her to die.

Darren Shan’s Zom B uses zombies to unite its characters. One of the themes of this book is racism and yob-like behaviour. Although by its title, it’s a zombie book, the shambling flesh-munching creatures serve as danger and a catalyst for character development. They unite the survivors – regardless of their misguided beliefs.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion did something extraordinary with zombies – he made them the romantic lead. The book is written the first person from R’s point of view. It was a bold move that paid off and put zombies in a different light altogether. After that, Lisa Habel’s Dearly Departed also took zombies firmly into the romance genre.

Now it would seem that zombies are not just evolving but contorting into a new type of ‘monster’. Maybe it would be more accurate to say they are going back to their gothic character-driven roots. Who’s to say that if Dr Frankenstein had given his monster a bride that it would have gone very differently for him, and his loved ones.

As a YA urban fantasy writer, I love zombies, and am, to a degree, guilty myself of simply inserting them into my story as a wall of rotting flesh that relentlessly rolls towards my heroes – I did, though, introduce a new dynamic in my series, Battle of the Undead. It’s vampires VS zombies. So what happens when a vampire becomes infected? A Vambie or a Zompire? Find out now with the first in the series, Bad Blood:

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Halloween advice – surviving the zombies!

dsc00127We have a fascination with zombies, in my opinion, they are the most realistic monster lurking in the horror aisles of your local book shop. They are us. They could happen. Vampires, werewolves – well, as Disney put it ‘It’s a small world after all’ so we’d know about them already. In a time when people post what they had for breakfast on FaceBook, these creatures couldn’t hide for long. But zombies …there are more dead bodies crammed into the earth than live ones walking on it.
So how could it happen? Mostly in zombie stories the survivors rarely find out how they ended up nose to nose with re-animated flesh-munching corpses; they’re far too busy trying to stay alive than to discover the undead root of the problem. To me, the most believable way of this happening is a scientifically created disease, perhaps something similar to rabies.

Okay, so it’s happening, the dead are rising. In theory, this wouldn’t be an instant issue; it would probably take 2 or 3 days for the undead crap to hit the fan. In that time you’d see more violent news reports than usual. There would be odd hashtag threads on twitter about attacks and infection. They’d be YouTube videos popping up with alarming regularity featuring police show-downs with crazed, bullet proof psychos. It would be a slow but steady stream of bloody violence.
Now, if hunky British survivalist Bear Grylls has taught us anything, it’s that to survive in a harsh environment, we need to ensure we have three things: food, water and shelter. You need to be fed and rested to be able to keep one step ahead of the zombie hordes so, to survive, your priority would be to find a safe place to hole up, preferably which contains food and water too. We’ve all seen the potential trolley of problems with picking a shopping centre for this – it’s too big, you can’t defend it. So somewhere, perhaps like a small supermarket that’s doors could be barricaded, would work well.
The next question you have to answer is: do you buddy up, or go it alone? There are dangers with either, but I tend to think the buddy system was practicality designed for zombie attacks, so buddy up! Just be cautious and ensure your buddy is someone you can trust. You don’t want to test the theory ‘to survive – you only need to run faster than your friend, than a zombie horde in pursuit!’
So, you have a group of people you can trust; you’re holed up in a defend-able, solid building stuffed with food and drink – now what? Well, to be honest, you wait it out. When comparing a zombie outbreak to a disease of similar ilk, it would all be over after 21 days. After that time, those who were infected will have eaten their whole available food source, they’ll start to starve and, even zombies need food to keep going. After hearing the last animated corpse scratch and moan at your door, you give it another day before emerging. Then with other sensible survivors start to rebuild, and I guess figure out how it all went horribly wrong in the first place.
Just, remember the rules that horror movies have taught us over the years: Don’t open the door for anything/ anyone. Slug anyone who looks like they’re going to panic and rip out through your barricade. Ration the amount of sugary items you consume (Although I actually believe that you can never eat enough chocolate). Always carry a weapon. Check your buddies for infection. And always, always… hang on there’s a new #infection tag infesting Twitter…Right, I’m off down the local supermarket; you can join me if you like, but make sure you get there before I barricade the door!

If you like your zombie uprising with a dash of vampires, then check out Bad Blood today for your Halloween read:

Evernight Teen   Amazon US     Amazon UK   Barnes & Noble   Nook    Amazon Canada   Amazon Australia 

Halloween – Embracing Fear

7BLKIxiN0G0When I was a little girl, I relished gory movies, horror books and ghost stories. Something in me would just come alive – I couldn’t explain it, although it hasn’t been till now that I wanted to.

So what makes us like to be frightened? Why are horror movies and books so popular? I believe it’s down to safe scares; after all a book can’t hurt you (unless someone clocks you with one!) and horror movies show us bloody scenes that, thankfully, most of us will never experience in our real lives. This is taken further by supernatural horrors – the more fantastical the threat, the less likely it is actually to happen. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, mutant ninja turtles (come on, they had weapons, they’re scary!) the odds of any of these creatures being real are slim to none. Serial killers, on the other hand, are very real – personally, I find movies and books like The Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of 100 Corpses, Exquisite Corpse – so much scarier. In fact in a study back in 1998, it was found the ‘seven deadliest movies’ were: The Shining, Scream, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Exorcist, and Poltergeist. 5 out of 7 had serial killers/ mass murderers in!

Part of the appeal of horror is that you also get the relief when it’s over – it’s the sense of ‘I made it’ which can spur you on to put yourself through such blood-curdling ordeals in the first place. When you first start dating someone new a horror movie is a popular venue choice as it also creates a bond with the person you’re with; a kind of shared semi-traumatic event which links you together.

From a biological perspective, the fight or flight response will kick in if you feel fear, but if your brain decides that there’s no physical danger then all you’re left with is an adrenaline rush – no wonder pop up Halloween attractions do so much business!

Also, I think that the era you’re in affects the notion of scariest. Here we are in the 21st century and hasn’t everything been done? Aren’t we just re-hashing and re-developing old movies and book ideas that have gone before? From the list of the 7 deadliest movies 3 of them have already been re-made, 2 have countless sequels and all of them have been spoofed in some way. When you think back to when The Exorcist came out, they were carting out faint-hearted movie-goers from the theatre straight to hospital – could you see that happening nowadays?

Part of my research for my YA urban fantasy, Bad Blood, was on people’s reactions to fear, and something bad and unexpected happening. In a world where zombies are being hacked apart by vampires, I at least wanted part of my book to be based in fact; to have human reactions in a very in-human situation. If you feel like have a safe yet horrifying adventure with a group of human survivors, led by a couple of bickering vampires all hip deep in a zombie apocalypse, then pick up a copy of Bad Blood today and feel free to drop and tell me how you would react if put in this situation; let’s survive it together.

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Rule Britannia – examining the main character of Bad Blood

britBad Blood is a vampires VS zombies horror set in England. Told first person from a vampire’s point of view, I knew as the writer; I needed a certain type of character who could tell the story, engage with the reader and survive the zombie hordes as they drag their rotten asses through the burning streets of London.

Britannia is over 4 hundred years old and was born Brianna. Daughter of a wealthy merchant she lived like a princess and was set to marry the love of her life… when Nicholas the vampire saw her. He kidnapped her, made her a vampire against her will, murdered her fiancé then kept her captive for 20 years in a crazy attempt to woe her. When she was finally free, she swore a vendetta on Nicholas and evolved from spoilt little Brianna to the blood-guzzling, ass-kicking, England protecting, Britannia.

Her lost love was a soldier in his majesty’s service so Britannia declared herself a secret protector of the realm, fighting in every war and falling ever deeper in love with the memory of her dead soldier. That love is reinforced on an almost nightly basis with her daydreams. She might be lying in wait on the roof of a West End Theatre to kill Nicholas’ newest vampire, but be imagining herself inside with her fiancé, enjoying a show. The mirror of a violent vampire dreaming she’s a bored housewife is held up throughout the book and is both an endearing and dangerous quality for a character to have.

She’s spent centuries learning to fight, to use her strengths and weakness as assets. Her favourite book is the Art of War, and she prides herself on winning every battle. She’s competitive, stubborn and amazingly loyal – but all that comes with a price. She still needs to drink human blood to survive, and when she does, she considers it the natural order – she certainly isn’t the guilty type. The vampires in Bad Blood have no glamour abilities. They cannot read people’s minds, and they certainly cannot make a bite in the neck painless. Usually when they feed they kill, but now zombies are fighting with them to be top of the food chain, they’re on a more ‘little and often’ diet and have to change their behaviour to survive.

Bad Blood is fast paced, and both humans and vampires get a lot of horrific problems thrown at them – I had to make sure Britannia was equipped to deal with these problems, to cut them up with her trusty scythes, and shoot them right back to where they came from.

So why not order a copy of Bad Blood today and let Britannia take you by the hand and give you a tour of the zombie-ridden streets of London and beyond. Don’t worry about the undead clawing to touch your pretty flesh; she’ll protect you. There’s only one thing that she asks in return…your blood.

Want a Halloween read? Pick up Bad Blood today: Evernight Teen   Amazon US     Amazon UK   Barnes & Noble   Nook    Amazon Canada   Amazon Australia