Cover Reveal and Excerpt from Blood Phoenix: Imprinted by Alisha Costanzo

Quick with a witty comeback, and quick to get into trouble. And that’s just my friend, editor and publisher Alisha. Her characters are all that and more…

Transmundane Press

17797946_10100862514581109_484072270_oDate Published: May 9, 2017

Blurb:

With an old war raging between vampires and shifters, Ria must learn to refocus her life if she’s going to survive.

Her renegade fight was just the beginning. The queen is recruiting new soldiers. Ria’s going on vicious missions with her battle buddy. And her explosive abilities are malfunctioning at inopportune moments.

So now, Ria must forgo her selfish desires to compartmentalize her life, but what’s she to do when she can’t save everyone she wants to? One girl may not be capable of taking down an empire. Good thing Ria’s got help.

Excerpt:

From Chapter Ten:

“I got in a lot of trouble when I was a young vamp. My maker didn’t like it much. Or he liked me too much. Either way, I’m glad the fucker is gone.”

A note of unease hit my chest. “Gone?”

“Yeah, I killed him.”

“And almighty…

View original post 703 more words

Interview with Ali Abbas, author of Like Clockwork

Me, being interviewed!

Transmundane Press

Ali Abbas, the author of Like Clockwork was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. We hope you enjoy his interview; we did.

How much research did you do for Like Clockwork, and how much came from experience?

I worked for the Royal Navy for a while (in a civilian, non-sailing capacity). I picked up a lot about the culture and how deeply ingrained some standards and behaviours are from that time. Knowing my interest in these things, one of my colleagues loaned me a book of naval terms and history – there was nothing to do one an evening in Portsmouth but read it from cover to cover and back again.

In contrast, I knew next to nothing about clock making, the fashion of the time, and of course I had to double check some of the naval facts like cannon sizes and when certain ranks…

View original post 570 more words

The Great Blog Giveaway

Here it is – the first of the marketing promos from my publisher. Time to show the power of the internet.

It’s a raffle for a $10 Amazon gift voucher. With that you could buy a print copy of my book and have enough change to buy something that costs $4. Bargain. Or better yet, a beautiful fob watch, or thrill of thrills an ebook of my short stories.

Actually, Transmundane Press did the whole thing much more beautifully than I could – check out their teasers and giveaways page to see how marketing is done properly.

 

Still here?

OK Here’s the deal, you click on the link. It doesn’t take you anywhere sinister, just my author page (although the picture of two staring women with flames in the background is a bit sinister). That’s it. No need to like or share anything, although I’d be delighted if you did.

There are no restrictions. Family and friends can play, even people who have taken out restraining orders against me.

Get clicking

a Rafflecopter giveaway

lc-cover

And if you made it this far down head over to youtube to see the trailer…

Like Clockwork – the cover

Mark the date: 28th Feb is our target for publication. Since my last announcement my friends at Transmundane Press have been busy coaxing my vision out of the virtual paintbrush of a designer, and here we have it.

lc-cover

Here’s a reminder of what it is all about:

Commander Raymond Burntwood of the Royal Navy has returned to England where he meets the reclusive heiress Lady Ariana Grayhart. After the scandal of a night spent dancing together, Ariana returns home to Northumberland. Raymond’s superiors—seeking information about Ariana’s father—dispatch the commander under the cover of courting the heiress.

All is not as it seems in the Grayhart household. Captain Grayhart is an invalid, the servants maintain a monkish silence, and secrets are layered upon secrets. Everyone has their own agenda, from Raymond’s friend and confidante Du Bois, to the family lawyer Sir Berwick, and Ariana herself.

In the midst of it all, Raymond must unravel the truth of Captain Grayhart’s decline and save Ariana’s reputation and fortune. In doing so, he learns dark secrets about himself that could tear his world apart.

And if that is not enough to whet your appetite here is an excerpt:

Mon ami, you have taken the enemy flagship as a prize.” Du Bois was in fine form that evening. He lounged in the little cubicle of the dark, panelled restaurant and pulled on a cigar, adding to the dimness. The clink of cutlery from the other diners was distant; this was evidently a place for quiet conversation between men of means.

“How so?” I tried not to take umbrage at his statement; my limited financial resources were a testament to my lack of success in taking ships as prizes. My record of sinking the enemy was, in contrast, something to be proud of.

“Lady Ariana Grayhart. She is the only child of Captain Grayhart, whose late wife was the only daughter of the Duke of Wearhaven. The title of course lapsed without a male heir, but she retains the honorific as the granddaughter of a Duke.”

“Of course.” I had no idea about this sort of thing, but a response seemed to be required.

“What that means is she is rich. Rich in the manner of my forefathers.” He ticked off the elements on his long fingers, “Grayhart money from trade and factories, Wearhaven land to invest it on, and of course, the grand weight of the title. Any one of those would be beyond the dreams of a bootstraps boy like you.”

He was not being unkind, what he said was true. I joined the Navy when my mother died. My father was a sailor I had never met, and who had long been lost at sea.

“The Grayharts already owned swathes of your cold country. Edward Grayhart marrying up into the Wearhavens caused something of a stir, but the result is that it makes Lady Ariana a unique catch. Her arrival in London from Northumbria was eagerly awaited, and all the landless second sons were lined up to woo her.” He pointed his cigar at me, “Until you came along.”

I laughed at that. “I had no idea of any of this.”

“That could be what attracted her, someone courting for courting’s sake alone.” He leaned forward and said in a conspiratorial tone, “The young ladies are, of course, agog with the romance and the scandal, as well as being delighted by the removal from the field of an unbeatable rival.”

“Removal from the field?” I laughed again. “You forget that I have been at sea all my life, what do I know of women and courting? Besides, I know nothing of her feelings, nor have I made any proposal to her.”

“Faugh, Raymond, hang your head in shame. In front of all London society, you dance with her all night. You both ignore everyone else. You even ignored me.” That last seemed to hurt him most of all. Sparks flew as he stubbed the cigar out angrily.

“And yet you sit there and claim to have made no proposal.” He gripped my arm, fingers like iron. “You may escape to sea again, and come home to marry the daughter of a baker or a spice merchant. But memories are long for girls, and London will not quickly forgive or forget yesternight.”

Head over to Transmundane’s blog to read another excerpt.

Make sure you bookmark my author site for all the links of where to buy, and follow me on Amazon so that the endearingly enthusiastic retailer can nudge you when the book is launched.

 

END

The Diversity Deal

unity

Diversity and inclusion are wonderful when they work in your favour. In the last week, Muslims like myself have been the beneficiaries of the world’s love and understanding. At airports around the United States people with open, liberal minds have acknowledged that most of us are just ordinary folk. We only want to live and work in peace and free from fear. Owing no allegiance other than our shared humanity these generous and passionate people stood up for our rights and our cause.

I’ll admit that I am conflicted. There are so many sides to what has happened that I am not sure how to reconcile them all. Let me lay them out for you.

Perhaps easiest to understand is that I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love in the face of an act of hate. It is a bright light in a time of encroaching darkness. I salute all those who have given of their time and skill and energy in the cause of humanity. May whatever powers you believe in uplift you.

But this has also left me with a sense of dread. I fear many Muslims do not understand that this is a two-way deal. We may be heartened by the efforts of others on our behalf, but what will we do when it is time for us to stand up and be counted? I have no doubt that the Trumpists are coming for us all. So, answer me this my Muslim brethren:

You want to live in peace, free from fear, with equal rights to your neighbour, and to practice your beliefs without interference. But if that neighbour is from the LGBT community and will not be served in a local store will you campaign on their behalf? That neighbour’s right to live without molestation is the same as yours.

What if that neighbour is a woman exercising her right to choose, and finds herself denied medical care; will you step forward and raise your voice? Her right to choose what to do with her body is the same as yours.

When emboldened fascists daub swastikas on the local synagogue will you be there to wash the walls and help protect your fearful neighbours? Their right to religious freedom is the same as yours.

All the things you want for yourself you have to be willing to offer to others, without stinting or reservation. If you’re unwilling to do that then you are unworthy of any shred of what has been put on the line for you this week.

That deal has embedded in it the Islamic concept of Adl – justice. What you want for yourself you must want for others, irrespective of what they believe and how they want to live. Freedom for Muslims means freedom for non-Muslims. If you aren’t able to sign up that then sign up to Trump or ISIS, they both believe in one law for them, and one law for everyone else. You think I am exaggerating? See if you can read beyond the first few lines of this from Breitbart without vomiting. I couldn’t. The Alt-Right would restrict women’s education in an echo of the Taliban, and it is their poison being whispered into Trump’s ear.

So how do you reconcile the freedoms you are morally bound to protect, if they war with your own beliefs? That, my friends is a test of faith. If you believe that the message we bear is the Truth then trust in it. Welcome everyone and let your capacity to love and accept bring them closer to you. Or maybe you and I just aren’t the same kind of Muslims. Maybe you are a Muslim that takes pride in the bloody history of Islam of the sword. If so, ISIS is waiting for you, what are you waiting for? My Islam is the one of mercy for mankind.

And in that internal argument of faith lies another source of discomfort. There are countries that export terrorism. Decades of Saudi money peddling the spiritually bereft Wahabi / Salafist ideology has created a generation of emotionally and mentally damaged people, willing to believe violence is an answer. In places this monstrosity has replaced mainstream Islamic thinking. My real dissension with the Trump ban is not its existence, every nation has the right to protect its borders and vet those entering for potential threats. But when that ban specifically excludes the nation that provided the 9/11 hijackers I am left aghast. If the ban had been properly consulted on, discerningly targeted and professionally implemented, it might have been a valid policy. Instead it is an act of naked racism, spiced with a toxic dose of Trump’s personal commercial interests.

And that last leaves me with a sense of fear. I live in London. I only have to contend with the backwash of Brexit and Theresa May trying to sell the country to the highest bidder. But I have friends and loved ones in the US. They are people who cling fiercely to liberal ideals, and carry a deep respect for their fellow humans, irrespective of creed or colour. I fear for them, because their chief executive is trampling on every concept of value in pursuit of his own limited interests. The coming battle for America’s soul is one in which there will be casualties, and my friends are people of conscience who will stand and make their presence felt. I fear for them almost as much as I fear for family in Pakistan who live in the shadow of lawlessness and Salafist terrorists.

The Trumpists are coming for us all, and that brings me back to my initial sense of dread. My challenge is to the Muslims – when they have had enough of you and bully the gay man two doors down from you, will you stand watch so he can sleep safely? Will you escort the woman past the baying mob to the health centre, will you link arms with the Rabbi to keep the fascists from the synagogue? If you want these people to stand up for you, you need to stand up for them. That’s the diversity deal.

END

picture credit Nuccio DiNuzzo

My author site

If you want to read more in a similar vein:

Remember, The White Folks Won

The Gates to Common Ground

J’accuse… the Muslims

 

Immigrant Car Wash

Image result for American Hand car wash london

They are Albanian and they never stop working. The queue usually stretches outside the gate, and covers the range of cars from executive cruisers to family run arounds. Their slick processes deal with each equally.

There are no six sigma consultants here, no industrial engineers, but to my eye the method is perfect. Young men swarm over the cars that are being washed, careless of the spray from pressure washers, and practised enough to know they won’t take a direct hit. The roles are well defined: hose, sponges, chamois, windows, vacuum and interiors, but like a Dutch football team from the 70s they can switch, seemingly on instinct, based on the level of demand. When a new car rolls through the gate someone will break off and begin by squirting industrial cleaning fluid onto the brake dust that coats the wheels. The supervisor is the libero, spotting gaps and filling in around his workmates, adding weight to any part of the machine that is slowing things down.

The pricing board has any number of options, but I think everyone buys the standard “inside and out”. The young men don’t skimp, they don’t cut corners and they take pride in their work. I’m not sure anyone would notice or care too much if the guy with the paintbrush didn’t flick over all the edges of the interior trim to get dust out, but he does anyway.

A couple of them speak enough English to understand any special instructions, the rest is done in the universal language of nods and gestures.

My late uncle had a theory that people drive better after they clean their cars. He said it instils a sense of pride that leads to greater care. I don’t see anyone boiling out of the gate and driving like a lunatic, so I have no evidence to suggest his theory is wrong. It has a charm to it, and I want it to be true.

Before the Albanians came the lot had been vacant for years. It was a goods yard once, a relic in this residential suburb, too close to the rail tracks for the property developers to take an interest, and bypassed by modern logistics. For fifteen years it has been a bustling corner of the cash in hand car wash trade. Cars come in one gate dirty, the owners leave the engines running, and the cars leave the other gate gleaming, with the sickly chemical smell of spray wax and cheap air fresheners.

The pricing is rudimentary, always just off a full note. It once was £8, and only a churlish hand took the offered change. It is now £12 and I would guess most, like me, offer £20, take the proffered £5 note, and leave the shrapnel. At the end of every day I bet someone sifts the chrome drum of the vacuum cleaner for coins.

It’s not a unique model of business, and you can find an “American Hand Car Wash” anywhere that a busy road passes a gap between businesses.

I don’t tell my mother I use the car wash. Her first reaction would be: “Save your money, I’ll do it.” That is despite the effects of age and arthritis and, that at barely five feet tall, she would need a ladder to reach the roof of my aging Renault. It is for the same reason we only warily take her to restaurants, and when we do we don’t show her the menu. After fifty years in this country she has not lost that working class, immigrant sensibility of saving every penny, of doing things yourself rather than paying others.

She was born in a mahal, which translates to palace, but is probably better understood as a chateau or stately home, and was the darling child of a proud and ancient lineage. She had a milk nurse. This was in part superstition – none of her preceding siblings had survived infancy – and in part because ladies of a certain stature, like my grandmother, did not nurse their own children.

All of that ended with partition. She left India with half her family to the newly created Pakistan and then she married my father and moved to London. She worked in a factory, a dry cleaner’s, and finally a greengrocer’s stall until my father died. Then she bought a sewing machine and ploughed through her grief, rocking me with one foot and working the machine with the other. Her desk job in a bank, which she retained until my brother and I bullied her into retirement, came when I was about three.

Thrift and hard work are the principles that have stayed with her in that arc from faded aristocracy, near destitution, emigration and now comfortable middle class. There is little in that arc that is unusual or noteworthy; in my corner of London I see it everywhere. The ethnic stores that pepper the high street open early and close late, if they close at all. It doesn’t matter if it is the Polish delicatessen or the Turkish convenience store. Old Gujarati ladies once lined the tills in the supermarket, blue branded jackets over their sarees; now paler faces are mixed in, with broad Slavic features and extra Js and Ks in their name badges. They pull the long shifts and late shifts and just keep going.

All of this cultural melting pot is inside the north London eruv, the hub of British Judaism. No one makes trouble because trouble won’t pay the rent and leave enough to send home at the end of every week. And that home is presently only an abstract concept. There is no going back; there is no option but to succeed. A return, in the rare instances that happens, leaves deep roots and ties here. Despite race, religion or any other distinguishing feature, here becomes home.

This is my home. My daughter was house captain in the local church primary school, my niece sang the hodie in the carol service in our local church (not as well as this though).

More broadly, making this country a home for immigrants matters. Immigrants work, immigration works. It provides weary economies with a supply of labour that is relentless and driven. It provides aging populations with youth and vigour.

Once the immigrants move beyond self-sufficiency, which they must to succeed, they become the source of wealth from which our top-heavy populations will pay for pensions and healthcare. Our task as mature post-industrial economies, hungry for sources of growth, is to harness that energy and determination, to take the skills and talents of new arrivals and use them. Weaving these disparate, different threads into the fabric of our society is a symbiotic act, necessary for our survival and theirs. It should not matter if it is a South Asian junior doctor or an Albanian youth with a burning desire to work all the hours he can, they are resources that want to be made productive.

In the same way disseminating the wealth of knowledge in our universities is to seed the world with its most dynamic workforce influenced by our culture and values. Closing bogus colleges is a valid, if costly policy choice. Restricting student numbers is blinkered short-termism.

That is not to ignore the structurally unemployed amongst our own populace. The decline of heavy industry and the growth in the service sector has left some regions in a spiral of decline. The solution there is different, and independent of creating a welcoming environment for migrants. Structural problems need structural solutions, and that means investment. The country needs an infrastructure that allows employers to disperse from dense metro areas, which they will if connectivity and access make the economics of moving viable. Education and retraining is needed for those whose jobs have disappeared, and those who have known nothing but a generation of unemployment. In the short term that investment will be re-distributive, but the point of an investment is that it pays back.

Today, our beloved NHS would fail without the contribution of migrant workers. But there is a genuine question to be asked: What restricts the educational attainment in certain parts of the country that means our own citizens cannot fill the gap in skills. The question is a supply side one, your Ghanaian nurse is a demand side response. The myth of migrants taking local jobs can only be true if the unemployed of Leicester or Middlesbrough are given the opportunity to gain competing skills.

In contrast, the investment for immigrants is not financial; it is in opening our hearts and minds to the contribution others can make, if we only stop thinking of them as “other” and instead as like ourselves: people trying to build a life for themselves and their families.

The young men at the carwash have changed in fifteen years, just as the faces lining the supermarket tills have changed. The car wash has changed around them. They all wear logoed sweatshirts now, and will change your tyres as well as wash your car. It would be naïve to think all the income goes through the books, but some of it does, where before the whole thing had no paper trail.

The lot, which served no purpose before they took it on, is always busy. They are always busy. I don’t envy them the cold water and back-breaking labour. I’m one generation on, living off the effort my parent’s generation put in. That means I know why they do it. One day their kids will bully them into retiring and grudgingly they will agree.

 

END

If you are interested in my writing check out my author site

Other essays you might be interested in:

Remember, The White Folks Won

The Gates to Common Ground

J’accuse… the Muslims