• An A-Z of the Supernatural: E is for Eternal

    Whilst the word eternal doesn’t itself bring to mind the supernatural, if we substitute in the popular synonym immortal, the image that immediately springs to mind is a vampire. Immortality is the first word many people use to describe a vampire, followed by the wish that they, too, could live forever. But is this really the case? Given the choice, would you honestly choose to never die?

    Eternal is a word with endless meaning. It stretches to infinity, and yet is uttered without thought of exactly how long our intentions are meant to last. When you say you will be eternally grateful for someone’s help, is this what you really mean? Or are you simply emphasising how grateful you will be?

    Ageless is another synonym of eternal, but I tend to disagree with this. Even if you could live forever, you would still age, albeit at a much slower rate. Yet when this word is used to convey beauty, it is the highest compliment anyone could pay, as it implies that no matter your age, you will always be beautiful.

    Always is another term for eternal, and one frequently used with forever, when in theory they mean the same thing. Using words in such a way heightens the emphasis behind what it is you are trying to say or convey, making that person sit up and listen to you.

    One famous heartbreaking quote in Harry Potter encompasses this word. When Dumbledore asks Snape, ‘After all this time?’ Snape simply replies, ‘Always.’ This is in reference to his love for Harry’s mother Lily, and no matter your thoughts of Snape, your heart goes out to his unrequited love.

    Eternal is most often used when we talk about love. It is how we express our true feelings for someone, how we tell them what they mean to us, how we make a promise that we will try our best to keep. In Titanic, the final words between Jack and Rose use another word which implies eternity:

    Jack: Never let go.

    Rose: I’ll never let go. I’ll never let go, Jack.

    Using the word never in such a way, Rose is making a lifelong, or eternal, promise to Jack that she will live her life to the fullest, even though she will be living it without him, the man she is in love with.

    When I named Eternal Bonds, it was with more than just love in mind. I wanted to convey the everlasting nature of friendship, of loyalty, and of strength. But strength can have positive and negative connotations. The strength Antony shows when faced with adversity is an enduring part of his personality, yet the sacrifice he makes to save Becca highlights the power the Sirens cast over him, a power which is indestructible.

    Indestructible when viewed as the port in a raging storm is a perennially enduring place of strength. But turn that around and have an indestructible comet racing towards the earth, and suddenly this relentless threat has us praying for our lives.

    Another way of looking at the word eternal is in reference to always being remembered, or never being forgotten. The most famous of all memorials of this kind is the eternal flame burning beside the tomb of John F Kennedy in Arlington Cemetery (pictured). Is this a symbol of Jackie’s undying love for him, or is it a reminder to the world of his loss, or is it both?

    The unending, ceaseless, abiding fascination with eternity is timeless and will continue, unfading beyond our time on earth.

    But going back to my earlier question of whether you would really and truly want to live forever, I refer to the tagline for the movie we all hate to love, Twilight:

    When you can live forever, what do you live for?

    ’Til next time,

  • An A-Z of the Supernatural: D is for Dracula

    Those of you who know me, know that Dracula is my favourite book of all time—although I have only read it once (there are far too many books to read one multiple times!). What you may not be aware of is he is the first man I fell in love with, at the tender age of 9. In those days, my dad was a big horror fan, and he shared his passion with me, introducing me to Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price. I remember watching Dr Phibes over and over again. That is, until I saw Frank Langella play Dracula, and I fell head over heals in love. The Count stole my heart and is the only man to keep it, unequivocally.

    I didn’t read the book until much later but was equally taken with the Count’s loneliness and his constant—and fruitless—search for a bride… until he met Mina. In her he saw someone he wanted to share in his eternity; all she had to do was die. And that’s where his plan fell apart, as Jonathan and the boys were having none of it. She was a married woman, for goodness’ sake!

    For me, Dracula is the greatest love story ever told, but many people disagree. Coppola, however, clearly saw what I saw when he brought Stoker’s story to life, and I watched with tears in my eyes as Gary Oldman declared his love for Winona Ryder:

    ‘You will be cursed as I am to walk in the shadow of death for all eternity. I love you too much to condemn you.’

    I remember sitting in the cinema and saying out loud, ‘How romantic’, much to the horror of my fellow filmgoers!

    But what is more primal, more erotic, more sensuous than the sharing of each other’s blood? Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t partake is such acts (not in this day and age, anyway), but to have another person’s blood running in your veins, so to speak, is as close as you will ever get to that person.

    Dracula—and vampires—has always been the epitome of love and eroticism for me. When he looks into your eyes and draws you in, his allure impossible to ignore, you fall under his spell and surrender your will to his without question. Isn’t this what people would have you believe true love does—that total surrender, regardless of the consequences?

    It takes a very gifted actor to pull off the role of Dracula. It isn’t about being good looking; it’s about having the ability to draw your audience in, to have them nodding their assent before you’ve even uttered a word. I have mentioned two actors who have this in spades, but the other one who I feel deserves a mention is Rudolf Martin. For those Buffy fans amongst you, you will know who I am talking about. I remember vividly the night I watched this episode—how my heart raced, my breath caught, how I pushed forward out of my seat, unable to tear my gaze away from his as he beckoned to me (well, it was Buffy, but camera angles and all), and how I reached out towards him, willing to do whatever he asked. THAT is the power of allure, and THAT is what any actor needs to master if he is to do justice to Dracula.

    It was this power that captured my imagination, and coupled with eternal life, drew me towards the darker side in my writings. Thus, when I saw that stone sarcophagus at the back of that village church in Shropshire, it was no surprise to me that its occupant, Antony Cardover, would be a vampire, a man cursed to be such because of the betrayal of the woman he loved.

    I always said I could never write a love story, yet everyone tells me that is exactly what I have created with the Bonds series. This gave me the confidence to remove the paranormal element from my stories and write a more contemporary love story, complete with a wounded hero, just like Antony.

    Dracula has the right mix of strength and vulnerability that is attractive in a man, the threat of danger adding to his appeal, and he is the benchmark to whom all my male leads must measure up.

    Frank Langella was my first love, but Dracula will always be my one true love.

    ‘Til next time,

  • Step Back, Nurture, and Evolve

    As I sit and write this, we have turned the clocks back, preparing ourselves for the darker, colder days of winter, at the same time as Wiccans prepare to celebrate their new year.

    Samhain, which translates to summer’s end, is the biggest celebration of the Wiccan year and was the most important Fire Festival of ancient times. As the nights well and truly draw in and the mists swirl, the ground hardens, the rusty leaves fall and turn to mulch, life is withdrawing to the warmth of its cocoon to rest and rejuvenate, before reaching for the sky once more in the spring.

    Samhain marks the third and final harvest of the year and long ago, farmers would bring animals in from the fields, deciding which ones they would house and keep warm and fed over the winter, and which they would slaughter to provide themselves and their families with sustenance over the frigid months. The farmers used to drive the animals through twin fires to purify them, believing the fires drove away the evil spirits that lurk at the transition of the year. If you grow your own fruit, veg and herbs, now is the time to harvest them, as it is bad luck to leave any crops out past Samhain, as they are seen as offerings to the dead, which is thought to lead to a poor harvest the next year.

    The dead are another important part of Samhain tradition. Today is the day the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest, allowing the dead to walk amongst us. It is time for us to honour these spirits and celebrate the lives of our deceased loved ones. To do so, set an extra place or two at the dining table tonight, with some food, and place a photograph of those you want to remember nearby, inviting them to join you.

    Long ago, Samhain was the day ghosts returned from the fields, shivering and cold, seeking food and shelter in their former homes. The hearth was always the centre of any home, and spiritually it is seen as the meeting place for the upper world of the living and the lower world of the dead.

    If you do not want to share your home and evening meal with the wandering spirits tonight, then carve a spooky face into a turnip or pumpkin and leave it outside your house, to scare away any negative spirits and discourage them from entering your home.

    If, on the other hand, you still want to show respect for the wandering dead, leave food for them outside, giving sustenance to those who have no place to be. A candle in your window will help them on their way, just as apples buried in the garden will sustain them on their journey.

    The modern world tradition of Samhain, or Hallowe’en as it is more commonly known, is to dress up in costumes to go to parties or go trick or treating. But the costumes hold a deeper meaning for those who believe in the thinning of the veil. You see, not all the spirits that wander on this day are good; the veil does not discriminate, allowing all to roam. Traditionally, people wore costumes to scare away any negative, unwanted spirits. Some would dress as ghosts to trick the spirits into thinking they were one of them. Others would dress as the deceased, skeletons, ghouls, or ghosts to honour the dead and step into the shoes of the deceased for one night.

    For those who use divination, scrying is particularly powerful at this time, as the lifting of the veil allows for a more accurate insight into the unknown and the future. If you have a Ouija board, now is the safest time to use it, or hold a séance, because the spirit world is open to everything. Always show respect, though, and don’t mess around with the spirits; it will backfire!

    Samhain this year, as I’ve mentioned, coincides with the turning back of the clocks (in the UK) and in a few days we will have the dark moon of November. It is all symbolic of the darkness we are heading into as nature dies or goes into hibernation, remaining hidden until spring. But death is a celebration as the wheel of the year turns and the circle of life ends. There is no life without death, as death provides the nourishment for new life to form, creating essential balance.

    When faced with any ending, we look to the new beginnings it creates. The end of the year brings with it the start of a new one. Old life dying brings with it the knowledge that new life is evolving somewhere within the hardening earth. When outer life decays, the inner life of the spirit is stronger.

    This is the time the triple goddess is in her crone phase. With her provision of the harvest over, she acts as wise woman, giving us wisdom and magical power. The sun god is making his descent into the underworld, which is what lifts the veil between us and the spirit world. The triple goddess now swallows the sun god, bringing darkness through the land, allowing the shorter, darker days of winter to take over, until life and the triple goddess as maiden returns in the spring.

    This theme of descent also applies to us in our own lives. At this time, we withdraw into our own underworld, facing our fears, and discovering our latent talents. It is a time for reflection and resolution, for making changes and plans, ready to put them into action in the spring. It is also a time to heal and restore, to nourish and nurture your body and your soul.

    For me, this is a time to burrow down and stay warm and cosy, to spend time doing things that give me pleasure, and to think about my next steps. Once the dark nights come, I have no desire to venture out after dark, content to curl up with a book and a cuppa and enjoy the tempestuous season from indoors.

    Maybe I was a hibernating animal in a former life, but more likely, I am responding to the cycle of life. After all, we can’t be on the go all the time; all batteries need time to recharge.

    ‘Til next time,




    (Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash)

  • Times are a Changing…

    … and I’m not merely referring to the seasons, although I have no doubt the two are related.

    As we’ve moved through Mabon, or the autumn equinox, the day where both day and night are the same length, we start to prepare ourselves for the colder and darker nights to come. Like the plants and wildlife, we too return to ourselves, to rest and nurture, ready to burst into life again at Ostara, or the spring equinox.

    Now is also the time of the year we need to let go of things we’ve been clinging on to, and a time when projects come to an end.

    Coupled with Mabon, we have had the Harvest Moon—September’s full moon. It represents the time of the year when we are harvesting the crops the summer months have nourished, a time when the earth cools and we want to spend more time indoors. It is also a time when our emotions are all over the place after a busy and sometimes stressful summer. Again, it is a time to regroup and prepare for the colder months to come.

    So, have you noticed a change in your life or emotions?

    I have…

    Not only are my emotions in turmoil, but I feel I am at a crossroads, that the universe is presenting me with a choice, one that will change the course of my life.

    I reconnected with my spiritual advisor recently, for no other reason than my inner voice said it was something I needed to do. He was expecting my call, as he too had been advised. When I sat before him and asked him why I was there, he simply said, ‘Because your awareness of the weird seems to be growing.’ Now, by weirdness, he meant the spirit world. Before I left the house, my inner voice told me to take my witch’s tarot cards and my pendulum with me. A clairvoyant advised me to buy the tarot cards a few years ago, advising me I would know why when the time was right. The pendulum—a lapis lazuli crystal—was a birthday gift from a friend a couple of years ago. So, that morning, I began my education of divination; a tool used by witches for many purposes.

    But it isn’t only my awareness of the weird that is changing; my writing is changing too. If I’m honest, this change started at the beginning of 2020, when I embarked on a journey to find the real me. You may be rolling your eyes at this, dear reader, but when you have lived a life pleasing others, it isn’t difficult to see how I could lose sight of who I truly am. The journey resulted in me penning my first contemporary romance novel; something I said I could never write, because I have never known a happy ending. But I have learned, this doesn’t stop me from writing one!

    I am being completely honest with you when I say that writing the romance is the most excited I have ever been to write anything. A sign? I like to think so, and I am seeing where this change takes me.

    I talked about projects coming to an end with the Harvest moon, and this is also something I have been doing. The script for BONDS is now complete, and it is time to move on to the next stage—finding a producer or director to bring it to life. I have also completed the BONDS series of novels, the final volume ETERNAL BONDS being published on Bram Stoker’s birthday, 8 November.

    I’ve even expanded my repertoire of music I write to. As you may be aware, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell III has always been my go to album, due to the myriad emotions that run through the songs. Recently, my inner voice has shown me an album with a similar range of emotions, and one which suits the light. As I write this, Natalie Imbruglia’s White Lilies Island is playing in the background.

    So, from a writing point of view, I feel times are changing. That doesn’t mean I have left the darkness behind, far from it; I have THE HEADHUNTER in the works, after all. It simply means, at the moment, I am drawn towards the light.

    ’Til next time,

  • I’ve hit a wall…

    Does this happen to you, dear reader? Do you push yourself and push yourself, ignoring all the signs, until BAM! Your body pulls the rug out from under you? This is exactly what happened to me last week.

    Despite all the signs over the last month or so—depression, exhaustion, irritability, even poorer sleep than normal, inability to concentrate—I continued my relentless drive towards my dreams. My hours have been longer, my “to do” list busting at the seams, my sense of achievement non-existent. That’s not to say I had achieved nothing, because I had, lots, but the euphoria waned as I headed towards the wall.

    I knew I’d hit it last week when I had lunch in Chester with a friend. I was back early afternoon, with plenty of time to get on with the masses of things on my “to do” list, but I said to myself, ‘I can’t.’ I uttered these same two words to another friend when we went to watch Candyman a couple of days later, and to my mum that same evening. Both asked, ‘You can’t what?’ To which I replied, ‘I just can’t.’ And that’s the nub of it—an inability to articulate the extent of how I felt.

    To reiterate the fact I’d hit that wall, I awoke on Saturday morning with a blacking swollen eye—a sty, the worst I’ve ever had, and the overwhelming evidence that I was (and probably still am) run down. Part of me still wanted to push it aside and power through but as I thought about sitting down and reviewing the screenplay for Bonds, creating more chapters for The Headhunter, or even writing this blog, my whole body screamed, ‘NO!’ Instead, I picked up a book, disappeared into the garden with Stoker on his harness, and lost myself in other worlds. I say plural as I read more than one book. And that’s how I spent the bank holiday weekend, intermingled with walks and my current favourite Netflix shows—Jane the Virgin (Rogelio rocks!) and Chesapeake Shores (go Bree!). And, you know what? It was fantastic. I feel restored, relaxed, recharged, and, best of all, my black eye has gone.

    This has been a stark reminder that it’s okay to be driven and have dreams I am striving towards, but it’s also okay to take time out, and when my body hints it needs that time, I need to listen.

    So, as the seasons start to change and I come into my birth month, I also come into my new year. And the item at the top of my list of resolutions is to take better care of myself. Don’t get me wrong, I am soooooo much better than I used to be, but I have slipped back into my old patterns of working until 10/10:30 at night, denying myself that vital time to rest and recharge.

    On bank holiday Monday, as I sat in the garden and wrote this blog, I took another huge step, and one that was a tad scary—I let Stoker off his lead so he could explore the garden without a tether and build his independence. Those of you who have cats will understand the fear I held—what if he disappeared over the fence and didn’t come back? But, I have to let him explore the world; I can’t keep him cooped up forever. Besides, I’m hoping the other two will finally stop grumbling when he can go outside on his own—still a month away. Supervised independence is the stage we’re at.

    Now, you may have noticed I dropped in a couple of bombshells earlier—screenplay and The Headhunter. Seeing Bonds on the silver screen is a dream I’ve had since I first wrote the book almost ten years ago. This month. It’s taken a step closer to that dream as the awesome Danielle Fray has turned my screenplay structure—a project eighteen months in the making—into an actual script. We have some work to do to streamline it, but I cannot express how excited I am to see my novel, my structure, turned into a script for a movie!

    August also marks the month I finally finished polishing Eternal Bonds and put it up for pre-order; its release date marking an important date in any horror lover’s calendar (November 8), which meant I could finally create again. This may sound strange, but as an author AND a publisher, writing stories isn’t the only thing I have to do. In fact, this year, writing stories is something sorely lacking as I’ve been focused on getting Eternal Bonds ready for publication, as well as other aspects I group in with the publisher side of my life (a topic for another blog).

    So, being able to sit down last weekend and open the file on my next WIP was a feeling like no other (I shiver as I recall the bubbles of excitement!). The Headhunter picks up where Eternal Bonds leaves off in a way, as it follows Ellie Lawrence as she embarks on her own journey. The Headhunter is the first in the Ellie Lawrence series and is a novel I started after I’d initially published Bonds but put aside when readers demanded a sequel to Bonds. As you know, a sequel turned into a quarter, but now I can return to The Headhunter and complete the story, which has changed somewhat since my initial concept.

    Before I sign off to relax, I wanted to tell you about one of the books I read (or finished reading, to be more precise) over the bank holiday weekend. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a novel recommended to me by one of my best friends because she said, ‘Kya reminds me of you.’ Intrigued, I picked up the book and read about Kya, a girl abandoned by her family at seven, who had to learn to look after herself, growing up alone and uneducated in the marshes. She kept to herself, studying the marsh and its wildlife, looking out for them as they looked out for her. She was taught to read by Tate, the only person she allowed herself to love, but who left her like everyone else in her life. I won’t say any more about the book, as I don’t want to spoil it for you. All I will say is that it is a beautiful story of the strength and resilience of one little girl to grow up and live the life she wanted, regardless of what the townspeople thought of her. And this is why my friend said Kya reminded her of me—because I know who I am and what I want and I live it, because I stand by what I believe in, because I don’t form opinions or beliefs to please others only to be true to myself, because I am fragile (dainty fingers, tall, lean) to look at but strong and resilient inside, because I am authentic to who I am, because I keep to myself and dip my toe into being sociable. She said she has no doubt I would have adapted and survived in a similar situation to Kya.

    It just goes to show how friends see things in you which you don’t see in yourself. I’ve felt a little lost recently, but my friend’s words—reiterated by another friend a few days ago—reminded me of who I am and how I always march to my own beat 😊.

    ’Til next time,


    A time I return to over and over, reminiscing and remembering different things. What am I talking about? The best holiday I have ever had, and one I would NEVER do again! I know you’re puzzled by this oxymoron, and I will explain… I promise.

    It’s hard to believe it is twenty-five years since I embarked on the best holiday—and the best experience—of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have had many memorable holidays since, but maybe it’s because it is not an experience I would have touched with a barge pole had I known the full details; I am so very glad I didn’t know.

    1996 was a momentous year for me in many ways. It was the year I lost my beloved grandma (the first of my grandparents); it was the year I earned a First Class Honours degree in Business Studies and Accounting (completed mainly at night school whilst working full time); it was the year I broke off my engagement to a psychological abuser and finally walked away; it was the year I embarked on a new career with a top five accountancy firm; and it was the year I turned twenty-six.

    The previous year myself, Pam and Anna had sat in the university canteen and discussed marking the end of our degree courses with a trip to the USA. We wanted to do a Trek America style holiday, so we could see as much of the country as possible. There were so many options to choose from, but Pam and I outvoted Anna on a tour which encompassed a visit to Graceland, a place I had wanted to visit since I was a child. The trip was for three weeks, but we added a further week to go up to Canada, taking in Toronto, Niagara, and Montreal, all via Greyhound bus. Pam said she would sort everything out, and I thought nothing of it; she was my best friend after all, and I trusted her implicitly.

    It wasn’t until we were setting off from the New Yorker hotel in NYC that I found out why she had taken full responsibility for booking the trip. As the tour guide informed us we were heading to our first campsite in Washington DC and wouldn’t arrive until after dark, I said, ‘What do you mean, campsite? I’m not sleeping in a tent.’ To which he replied, ‘Well, I don’t know where you’re gonna sleep then, as this is a camping holiday.’ ‘PAM!’ I screamed. ‘You told me we’d be staying in youth hostels.’ ‘What? You wouldn’t have come otherwise,’ she mildly replied.

    And she was right, I wouldn’t. So traumatised was I by Guide camp many moons before, I swore I would never camp again. Aside from the best holiday ever, I have stood firm on my rule and have no intention of ever breaking it again. I know you don’t get this, but think about it. If you’re thrust into a situation you wouldn’t choose, you have to deal with it. Given the choice, a hotel and a comfy bed with en-suite bathroom (a must) win every time.

    During those three weeks, I showered with every insect known to man, slept in the open under the stars, woke up with the tent floating in the middle of a flooded field, and tip-toed back over tent ropes in the early hours in high heels and a short dress. I thank Pam for the deception she pulled off—magnificent. The only time we had a hotel booked—because there were no campsites—was in New Orleans, but I never used it, except to change clothes in, as New Orleans was a city most alive at night.

    The trip took us from NYC to Washington, out into the Smokey Mountains, down through Nashville and Memphis to New Orleans, then to Panama City Beach and Florida, before working our way back up the east coast through Savannah and Charleston, with our big night out being in Atlantic City, before arriving back in NYC.

    We did so much on the trip, and I kept a journal of most, if not all, which I called The Diary of an Inexperienced Traveller. It’s handwritten and filled with postcards, pamphlets, ticket stubs, and the most important thing of all—memories. I’ve decided to type it up, although I haven’t started yet! It will be minus the keepsakes, of course, but it might make you chuckle at the things we did and said. You will have to join my Reader Club though if you want to have a read, as it will form part of a future newsletter.

    The memories the trip evokes are myriad and far too many for one blog, but some stand out even after two-and-a-half decades.

    This was my first trip to NYC (I returned for my 40th birthday in 2010) and it was fleeting, but I got to see the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, although we had no time to go inside. Their sheer size took my breath away and I remember lying on the ground so I could get a full photograph of them—I couldn’t. I also remember there being a fountain between the two towers, with a beautiful sculpture in the centre. We, of course, snapped the obligatory photo.

    After the sheer height of NYC, Washington DC seemed very flat and very white—all the buildings appeared to be made from marble! We wasted much of the day queuing to get into the National Archives to view the Declaration of Independence, meaning it was a rush to get to the other sights. I wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial  and the eternal flame at JFK’s grave. Whilst in Arlington Cemetery, we were lucky enough to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.









    Another memorable part of Washington was our tour of the J. Edgar Hoover Building (FBI HQ for those not in the know). When we got to see the arsenal of weapons recovered from some of the biggest names in US criminal history, the guide held up a rifle and said, ‘And here is the weapon Lee Harvey Oswald used to assassinate JFK.’ I piped up, ‘Allegedly’, drawing a sharp intake of breath from everyone and a ‘Not here!’ from Pam.

    Believe it or not, Washington had the filthiest campsite of them all, requiring shoes in the showers and a no touch policy on as many surfaces as possible. It still makes me shudder thinking about it!

    My favourite place was Graceland. I’ve been an Elvis fan ever since Mum and Dad bought me a three LP set called American Trilogy for my thirteenth birthday (I still have it in the loft somewhere), and so visiting Graceland was a dream come true. As a mansion it is pretty small, hidden behind the famous gates on the hugely busy thoroughfare that is Elvis Presley Boulevard. It was horribly commercialised then, so I dread to think what it is like now. But all that disappeared once I set foot inside those gates, put on the headset and stepped inside the house. I was transported to another time and place, listening to friends and family bring the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll to life before my eyes as I roamed from room to room. So moved was I by the tour, I was in tears by the end. That day was 19th July 1996, my dad’s fifty-ninth birthday, and I remember calling him from Memphis to wish him Happy Birthday!

    As I said, New Orleans was a city most alive at night, the streets teeming with people and vibrating with music. We were warned not to stray from Bourbon Street, as New Orleans was dangerous at night. The city introduced me to bourbon via a drink called a Thunderbird which they served in slurpy cups, like you get soft drinks in at the cinema. It was also the city where I met Lawrence, a New York guy with a thunderbolt tattoo on his thigh. We strayed from Bourbon Street to enjoy iced coffee and a little privacy to chat.

    Panama City beach in Florida is a place I’ll never forget, as it is where I got Taz—my first tattoo. It was a dare, a choice between a reverse bungee and a tattoo. So, there I was, midnight in a tattoo parlour, straddling a bench, a pillow between my teeth, as my alter ego was tattooed onto the only non-sunburnt part of my body (another blog, another story). I remember having to stay up all night, as I had to clean it every few hours. The first time I did was about three in the morning in the campsite washroom. Suffice it to say, I remember little after peeling off the blood-soaked dressing. One of the girls from the tour group found me passed out on the washroom floor an hour later!

    The last night of our trip was the only time we got dressed up, as we went to Atlantic City for a night of drinking and cavorting. A group of us settled in a bar, which I remember had sharks in tanks around the room. We were thinking we’d found the most boring bar ever when the clock struck nine, the lights went down, and the bar staff stripped off. What a night! Soon a semi-naked server was feeding me—mouth to mouth—a drink called an orgasm, which was served in a test tube. The night was then turned over to a parade of male strippers (think Chippendales), and Pam decided it would be hilarious to tell the DJ I’d just got engaged… All I can say is I have never been so mortified in my life. The stripper, however, was a gentleman, told me he wouldn’t do anything to humiliate me, and told me to relax and enjoy myself, which I did!









    To finish the night, we ended up with a police escort back to the campsite as we’d missed our lift and none of us knew which campsite we were in!

    I could go on, as the more I reminisce, the more I remember, but you’ll have to wait until I release my diary 😉.

    So, over to you, dear reader. Do you have a holiday you would class as your best ever, or is it just me? I’d love to hear your tales, so please get in touch.

    I had hoped my fiftieth birthday trip would eclipse this one, but that is yet to happen, thanks to Covid. But, then again, it isn’t about replacing memories and experiences, it’s about building on them.

    ’Til next time,

  • An Enlightening Event, or a Bad Omen?

    As we reach the summer solstice and we leave our lights off as long as we can—or is that just me?—to bask in the glory of daylight until almost midnight (if you’re lucky!), it calls to mind another auspicious event we have been lucky enough to experience this month; a solar eclipse, or partial eclipse, to be more precise.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but I actually missed this eclipse. Yes, I forgot but, in my defence, it was cloudy, as is usually the case. I say this because whenever I have got overly excited about seeing a supermoon and make plans on how best to view it, Mother Nature has become coy and closed the curtains on me, so you can understand why I subconsciously didn’t rate my chances of seeing this eclipse… and forgot.

    I have been lucky enough to see many solar eclipses in my lifetime, some full and others partial, but they haven’t always filled me with the excitement and wonder they do today.

    The first eclipse I remember was whilst I was at primary school, so it would have been the late 70s. No one had told us it was going to happen; maybe because the teachers didn’t know… I remember it gradually getting darker and darker in the middle of the day until the day turned into night—it was a total eclipse—at which point panic set in. I’m not sure if there was any screaming, but I do remember hiding under the desks with everyone else until daylight returned.

    At some point, I must have been educated on the phenomena, as the next one I remember, I viewed from my back garden with a handmade pinhole projector made from cardboard; the pinhole focusing the sun’s rays onto another piece of card, revealing the eclipse. These were the days before eclipse glasses, when we had to work hard for what we wanted! I remember the bubbles of excitement and light-headedness I felt as I watched the sun disappear behind the moon, as though hiding, before treading the boards once more as the star of the show.

    I have seen many solar eclipses over the years, including one when I was away on holiday. I can’t remember where I was, but everyone in the street stopped and looked to the skies. I didn’t have the correct eyewear to watch it, but it was a pretty amazing experience as silence descended and everyone drew still; all in awe of the celestial event.

    But solar eclipses—full or partial—haven’t always been viewed in such a positive way. Mostly, eclipses are portentous and viewed as bad omens by many cultures. Before the advent of science and astronomy, where we learned of the movement of the planets, the sun, and the moon, many beliefs were formed as to the cause of an eclipse.

    In ancient cultures, animals were largely blamed for the disappearance of the sun. The Vietnamese told of a giant frog devouring the sun, while in Norse culture wolves were to blame, and in China it was a celestial dragon. The Chinese word for eclipse—chih or shih, means “to eat”. Hindu culture had a more elaborate story, telling of the deity Rahu being beheaded by the god Vishnu for drinking Amrita (the gods’ nectar). Rahu’s head flew into the sky and swallowed the sun, thus causing an eclipse. They believed the only way to get the sun back was to make enough noise to scare away the demon who had stolen it.

    Another story about the gods came from the ancient Greeks who, you won’t be surprised to learn, believed an eclipse was a sign humans had displeased the gods, making them angry and prompting them to bring disaster and destruction upon the earth.

    Native Americans had more elaborate stories still. The Pomo believed an eclipse was caused by a bear who started a fight with the sun and took a bite out of it. After taking the bite and resolving the conflict, the bear met the moon and took a bite from it too, causing a lunar eclipse. The Tewa tribe believed an eclipse represented an angry sun who had left the skies to go to his home in the underworld, while the Inuits believed the sun goddess Malina walked away after a fight with her brother, the moon god Anningan. The solar eclipse occurred when Anningan caught up with Malina.

    Of course, with the advancement of science and astronomy, we are well aware of what causes an eclipse, but that doesn’t stop people believing them to be bad omens, bringing death, disaster and destruction.

    One misconception which remains in some cultures is that an eclipse is dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn children, with many cultures ask young children and pregnant women to stay indoors during an eclipse. In India, people fast during an eclipse, believing food cooked during an eclipse to be poisonous and impure.

    I don’t know about you, but I love all the stories and folklore surrounding events such as this, as it adds an air of mystery and wonder that science has taken away. As a storyteller, such folklore forms the basis for great tales, and it would be a shame to lose all that in the practical application of science.

    For me, eclipses, supermoons, shooting stars, and any celestial event remain full fascination; something no amount of science will ever take away.

    ’Til next time,

  • Heaven or Hell?

    Or somewhere in between?

    As I write this, we are a day away (in the UK) from further easing of lockdown measures, when we will be able to go for a meal indoors, mix with other households, go to the cinema, theatre and other events, and start to get back to some sort of normality—as is the chosen phrase. But do you want to, dear reader? Or, like me, will you be taking things slow?

    I live on my own, have no partner, and work for myself; everything is reliant on me, including my two cats—Jasmine and Texas. I have spent the last year following the rules, doing what I’ve been asked, wearing my mask, keeping my distance, and accepting the vaccination; all because I believe in doing my bit, doing what’s needed for the good of all.

    I am not naïve enough to believe I know (or can get hold of) all the knowledge, information, and facts, as I am NOT a scientist, advisor, or specialist, and so will NEVER know the reality of it all and so, rightly or wrongly, I trust in the powers that be. I also have consideration and respect for other people. I know people who have been hit by this virus, so I know it is real, with far-reaching consequences for the future.

    I also know that not everyone feels or has behaved the same as me, so why, after being so careful over the last year, would I throw it all away by rushing out and resuming the life I had before the pandemic? The short answer is I wouldn’t, and I won’t.

    I have always had a love of the arts; my diary filled to bursting with concerts, theatre trips, and cinema visits. My view of all the things I held so dear, though, has changed during the pandemic. The thought of being amongst thousands of people who may or may not have done as they’ve been asked fills me with horror. I would be risking my entire livelihood for that concert, show, or opening night movie, and that is a risk I am not willing to take, not for a very long time.

    That’s not to say I won’t take tentative steps; these are some of the things that nourish my soul, after all. I will venture back to a socially distanced cinema, but it will be during the day when fewer people are likely to be there. To be honest, I’ve always preferred an empty cinema, as there is nothing to distract me from what I have come for—to see the movie!

    Another tentative step I will take is to go for a meal with a friend (or several meals, as I have more than one friend!) provided, of course, that friend has followed the rules and has or is going to be vaccinated. For the rest, it will be al fresco, with masks!

    One of my other great loves is travelling. The world is such a big and beautiful place and whilst I have been lucky enough to see a great deal of it, there is still so much I want to see. When I will get on a plane again is another matter. To be in an even more confined space with people I don’t know, with no way out, is a situation I have no desire to be in. For me, vaccination passports are the way to go. Even then, until the world gets this virus under control, I am in no rush to travel.

    The last year has taught me many things, including the fragility of life, the value of good friends and family, and how everything I need I already have inside myself. I have learned the sheer pleasure of solitude and reclaimed past-times I’d let slide due to the hectic pace of my life. I have nurtured my garden into my private oasis, and I have discovered the best creative space within my home. I have no desire to leave any of this behind, so for me it is about finding a balance.

    Some people have accused me of being afraid of the virus. I’m not. I respect it. What I am afraid of is those who refuse to see what’s staring them in the face.

    As a horror writer, I choose the analogy of the zombie apocalypse, with those who refuse to accept what is, staring at the zombie chewing on their arm and saying, “It’s not real”.

    In answer to my question though, dear reader, the lifting of lockdown is, for me, somewhere in between.

    ’Til next time,

  • My Lockdown Year

    It’s hard to believe a year has passed since all this began, a year none of us could have foreseen. I, like many others, believed it would be resolved quickly, allowing me the big 50th birthday celebratory holiday I had planned. Alas, this was not to be.

    Like everyone else, my life changed overnight. I went from a frenetic life with no time to myself, to having all the time in the world. Many people would be (and probably have been) paralysed by fear at this prospect, but I wasn’t—not deep down—as it was the pause I have needed for a long time, to allow me to take stock, and it was the pause I’d asked for.

    Before all this happened, during the winter of 2019/20, I was at a low ebb. All I wanted was to crawl under a rock, alone, for a few months. What the universe delivered was somewhat different, but it gave me the breathing space I needed. My life and outlook have changed over the last year, and it has all been for the better.

    The time away—as I like to call it—has given me time to step back and look at my life and the way I’ve been living it, and to consider what and who are most important to me. I used to think filling every spare moment of my time with activities was how to get the most out of life. I was wrong. All that did was stop me from seeing, stop me from breathing, and stop me from dreaming.

    I gathered the courage to let go of the things that no longer gave me pleasure—the radio show, the book club, teaching yoga, and make room for what does—writing. Oh, and how my creativity has bloomed during lockdown! At long last, I now have a daily writing routine and a specific creative space in my home, complete with an antique writing desk gifted to me by my late aunt.

    In 2020, I published the second volume of my short horror stories—Darkly Sinister; I finished penning and typed up (I write longhand) the last volume in the Bonds series—Eternal Bonds, which will be out later this year; I wrote—from idea inception to first draft, the first volume of a contemporary romance series—Chasing Rainbows; I wrote a twenty thousand word storyline for a novel—The Secret of September Cottage, based on a short story I wrote many years ago; I wrote another twenty thousand word storyline for a novel—David & Goliath, based on the life of a new and intriguing acquaintance; I wrote and am redrafting the screenplay structure for the film/TV version of Bonds; and I have picked up and am finishing a novel I started to write a few years ago, based on the story of Ellie Lawrence—a character in the Bonds series—called The Headhunter, which is based on a short story my dad wrote when he was at school.

    As well as the creative side, I have changed how I interact with readers in newsletters and on social media, bringing a more personal touch to my writing, showing people a little more of who I am as a person, not merely what I write.

    Speaking of friends, the last year has proved an interesting time to reflect on the people in my life. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others have remained constant, becoming even more special to me. I have even reconnected with the two people who know me best in the world. Sami and I grew up together, meeting at age four and being a daily presence in each other’s lives until our early twenties, when our paths took us in different directions. I met Pam as I consolidated three years of my remaining night school degree into a year full time. She and I hit it off straight away—my mum saying we were like sisters—and shared our twenties and early thirties with each other before, again, life took us down different paths. I am forever grateful to have found them both again.

    As a person living alone, lockdown has been an interesting and challenging time. Being prone to depression, I have had my dark abyss times, but I have learned to rely on my resilience, willpower, and desire to thrive to get me through. The year has given me time to fully step into the real me, to no longer be afraid of showing people who I am or of being who I am, to finally learn that living my life on my terms is what matters. Through the help I sought prior to the pandemic, and with my continuing fascination in astrology, I have learned so much about who I am and what I am here to do, the puzzle pieces having finally fitted together.

    For the first time in my life, I have taken my foot off the gas and allowed my body time to recharge. Self-care Sundays have become an invaluable part of my life and I am very protective of this downtime. My time to recharge and unwind has allowed me to reconnect with my inner bookworm. I may not devour books at the same rate I did when I was younger but disappearing into worlds for hours on end is a pleasure I had long forgotten. Being kinder to myself is a valuable lesson, and I have reaped the benefits, for it has given way to a freer and more creative me.

    Don’t get me wrong, the last year has been a tough one in many respects. I lost a beloved aunt early in the pandemic and the burden of the funeral, the eulogy, probate, and the support system for my uncle, all fell to me. Lockdown made what is the hardest time of all even harder, but it highlighted my inner strength and resilience. Not seeing my parents (I live in Wales, they in England) has been worst of all, especially as my dad’s mental health is suffering, putting a lot of stress on my mum. Regular phone and video calls have helped us keep sane, and Mum and Dad will be my first port of call when all this is over.

    For a person who used to be terrified of being alone, jumping from one relationship to another or going out with the wrong men to avoid being by myself, the prospect of spending any length of time completely isolated should have filled me with terror. Yet, a year alone is exactly what I needed to gain perspective, and it has taught me a great deal about myself. I have learned my time is precious, and I will be choosey with how and with whom I spend it in the future. I have also learned to be alone is a pleasure and a gift, and I do not need anyone else to make me happy. Whoever I choose to share my life with will be there because I want them to be.

    I should add, I haven’t been entirely alone during lockdown. Jasmine and Texas (my furbabies) have kept me on my toes, making me more enslaved to them than I already was!

    Texas (7) and Jasmine (14)

    For everything this break has given me, I have found happiness and contentment in solitude, and I am in no rush to change this.

    ’Til next time,

  • Friends for Life or Just for Now?

    On the eve of the February full moon, I was about to get into bed when my eye was drawn to the bookcase I have recently moved into my bedroom – due to a damp issue in the conservatory. This bookcase is filled with photo albums and scrapbooks of the places I have been and the things I have done in my life. I reached out and pulled an album at random from the shelves, my subconscious deciding eleven thirty at night a fitting time to reminisce.

    As I turned the pages, my eyes were filled with images taken two decades ago, of my best friend Pam’s wedding – at which I was a bridesmaid in bottle green, the birth of her two sons – one of whom I am Godmother to, and my hen do for my short-lived marriage. These images sent me to an album of photos that mark the best holiday I have ever had (and Pam’s too, as it turns out) when me, Pam, and another friend embarked on a month-long tour of the east of the USA and parts of Canada.

    The bottle-green bridesmaid, June 1999 (my feet were sore!)

    The memories made me think about Pam and how close we once were, and it made me sad for whatever forced us apart. I made a promise there and then to contact Pam the next day, to see if she fancied catching up. I did, and she did.

    My hen do in Manchester, September 2002.

    The following night, Pam and I settled in for a lengthy phone conversation, catching up on the two decades of each other’s lives that we’ve missed, and vowing to make damn sure we miss no more. When I asked her if we’d fallen out (as I couldn’t for the life of me remember) she laughed and said, ‘No way!’; life simply got in the way as we chose to walk along different paths.

    I should add at this point that the day of the actual full moon (after my photo album splurge, but before my call with Pam), I watched my usual full moon update on YouTube, only to learn the February full moon was in Virgo and sitting in the middle of my 7th house, which is all about relationships with others and sociability. Were mystical forces at work, therefore, the previous evening as my subconscious directed me to a particular album of whose contents I had no recollection until I opened its cover?

    The subject of friendship has been on my mind a lot during lockdown, as I have found people I believed to be close friends fall by the wayside or become more distant, while others have come to play a bigger role in my life. The pandemic has affected us all differently, and for me has caused me to reassess who and what is important – friends being a huge part of this.

    Friendships change over time. The fierce and loyal friendships of childhood often give way to the more casual ones we experience in our adult lives. Depending on where your life has taken you, few people can claim to still share the same bond with the childhood friend they once had to be prised apart from.

    Recently I watched Firefly Lane on Netflix, a series (and book) which tells of a friendship fostered in childhood and enduring through good times and bad, through betrayal and misfortune, until some still unknown event drove them apart.

    The show brought to mind my childhood friend Samantha – or Sami as she preferred to be called – whom I met not long after my family moved into the home my parents still live in. I remember being outside in the driveway when she walked up to the gates with a boy in tow (another friendship, and a whole other story!), and they stopped to say hello. We were 3 or 4 years’ old – remember, this was the 70s! Sami and I became the best of friends, spending every waking moment together throughout primary school and high school. Am I still in touch with her now? Sadly, no. So, what drove us apart? Life, what else? Plus, there was a little disagreement in that I grew tired of only seeing her when she wanted me to cover for her, as she disappeared off to do something she wasn’t supposed to. Or that is the limit of my recollection, anyway. I have tried and failed to find her since, so, Sami, if by some miracle you are reading this, please get in touch!

    Me and Sami in the early 80s

    For girls who had shared so much, it was a sad ending. We were so close that my first proper boyfriend was the best friend of her boyfriend, and when they split up, I was obliged to end my relationship. I was heartbroken, but my friendship with Sami was more important than my relationship with a boy – we were 14. Things turned sour after this as we fell in with the wrong crowd, but that’s a whole other story!

    I was lucky enough to get a second chance at a close friendship when I met Pam. I was in my early 20s by this point and had quit my banking job to go to university full time to finish the degree I’d started at night school (I got a 1st Class Honours degree, in case you’re interested!). I don’t remember the exact moment we met, but I know it was during a “Women in Management” lecture (or some other class beginning “Women in…”) – this was the 90s. Soon we could be found breakfasting each morning in our booth in the canteen, eating toasted teacakes and drinking mugs of tea, sharing breaks, lunchtimes, and getting together out of university – Pam’s boyfriend, now husband, was very tolerant. Pam and I were so alike my mum often commented we were more like sisters than friends.

    Pam and I shared many life-changing events – deaths, graduations, marriages, births – and it was the life-changing events all adults face that took us down different paths until we eventually lost touch… until now.

    As my friendship with Pam faded, another – unexpected – friendship began – this time with a man. John remains to this day my oldest (in length of time not age – as I hold that baton!) friend, and we share a special bond that I have had with no one else in my life. Despite him now living on the other side of the world, our friendship endures, and it was John whom I chose to share my big 50th birthday holiday with (or I will, when we can travel again!). John and I know each other inside out, which is rare for a friendship forged in adulthood, and I know, no matter where life takes us, we will always be there for each other.

    Friendships change once we enter the murky world of adulthood, or this is my experience, anyway. Gone are the times of inseparability and whispered secrets, replaced with hastily arranged meals and welcome glasses of red. Not that these friendships are any less valuable than those of our childhood, they are simply different. My circle of friends, all nurtured since I settled in Wales, holds a very special place in my heart, and I hope they will always be part of my life.

    But I am a realist and have been around long enough to understand the transient nature of adult friendships. Once your situation changes – be it a move, a job, a relationship, a club, or a class – often your circle of friends changes too. I know this because it has happened to me on many occasions as I am one of life’s roamers (Thursday’s child). Some friends I have lost because of something I did or didn’t do, and those stung until I remembered an old saying I’d read about friendship: There are three types of friendship – friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime.

    It has taken me a long time to realise that losing touch with, or simply losing, friends, is not a reflection on me, but more that those friends have done what they came into my life to do and have now moved on.

    For those who are meant to stay, no amount of time or distance will ever break the special bond between us, because true friendship does last a lifetime.

    The Cat’s Meow, New Orleans, July 1996.

    Now it’s your turn. Tell me about your longest friendships. Are you still in touch with your childhood friend? If so, have you both moved away or are you still living in the same place? Whatever your friendship stories, get in touch and tell me; I can’t wait to read them!

    ’Til next time