Puzzled! – At the Alhambra

A new strategy game – based on the Towers of the Alhambra

The Alhambra
The Alhambra

Those who know me well, will recognise that I have an insatiable obsession with Spain, and with Granada in particular.

It was my love affair with the city as a student that convinced me finally to return to Spain, not as a tourist, but on a more permanent basis.  Ten years later, and despite the economic doldrums, Spain is still my home.

Granada is even the setting for my current WIP – The Nasrid Charm, so my fixation with the place, its historical and cultural significance has been put to the test – most definitely.

I persistently sign up for more news on the Alhambra, receiving regular blogs and updates on all sorts of events, but my latest find is something a little more extraordinary.

As a self-confessed geek, I couldn’t resist a peek at  a recent offering – a strategy  game based on the Towers of the Alhambra, for fans of board games and strategy alike, or just Alhambra buffs.  Take up your position – North or South – and conquer the opposition.  Can you take control and win the Kingdom?

OK, so the video is in Spanish, but you’ll get the gist easily enough – after all – does not a picture paint a thousand words?

I’ll be picking up the game on my next visit – anyone up for a match?



The Shy Writer’s Cocktail Party Survival Guide

See on Scoop.itWriting in the 21st Century

Confession: For me, the scariest part of a writer’s conference is the cocktail party. There’s no structure. No speaker. No handouts. Instead, hundreds of people who are used to spending long hours …

Lynne Fellows‘s insight:

Your worst nightmare or a great opportunity? Makes me cringe just thinking about it – Help!

See on writerunboxed.com

‘Fraid so – it’s another book review!


Book: Small Things

Author: Joe DeRouen

Rating: 5


Shawn Spencer is attending the funeral of his best friend, whose sister Jenny  swears he was killed by a monster. Feeling guilty for the loss of his friend, Shawn tries to help Jenny with her grief, but comes to see that maybe she is not imagining the monster in the lake. Strange voices in his head lead him to realise that there is something very strange happening in Carthage,  and he believes he may have triggered the whole messy business after breaking into an old derelict house with Tanner shortly before his death. Shawn and Jenny grow closer as more weird  incidents occur, people go missing, his cat is found dead and the voices in his head become more threatening and personal.  As the police are called to investigate, the local sheriff, while still suffering his own loss,  is mystified to explain the events and later becomes embroiled in the plot to catch and kill the monster.

Social context:

Set in a time when kids rode their bikes, went swimming in the lake and generally had the freedom to play by themselves, this story is beautifully reminiscent of the innocence of youth, first love and strong childhood friendships. It is a tale of high adventure, touching sentimentality and fast-paced horror, which defines the very personal quest of a young boy and girl, fighting off evil on their own, but with so much at stake.

Writing style:

This is a very quick-paced novel, the reader is thrown in at the deep end, desperate to learn more about this monster. At times the story is bloody and graphic, the monster’s actions are easily visualised, the danger is palpable and the tension is high. If this were a movie, I’d be hiding behind the sofa on several occasions! There are, however, elements of real-life sadness, grief and pain all mixed in with the emergence of new relationships, recovery and hope for the future. The characters are so well drawn, you can picture them clearly as you fly through the pages, seeking answers and instead finding more unexpected twists.

My thoughts:

Although this is not my usual read, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It was a real page-turner, leaving me totally engrossed and not able to put the book down. I will definitely be looking out for the next book in the series. Thank you Joe for bringing me back over to the dark side!

Another Book Review


Book: Innocent Monsters

Author: Barbara Doherty

Rating: 4,5


Jessica Lynch is a successful author,  her first novel receives great acclaim as she tells the true story of an abusive parent and the psychological impact that ensues. Her sister is her only real friend in life and when she is found dead, having presumably taken her own life, Jessica struggles to cope. Unable to write any more, she rebuffs everyone around her as they cannot truly feel her pain. Finally, she meets a fellow spirit, a sufferer himself yet also holding down a very successful career, and it appears as though her life is getting back on track. The investigation into her sister’s death leads the police to believe she was murdered. Everyone in her immediate circle – her editor, her new boyfriend, even her sister’s best friend – suddenly seem to be hiding a secret, her ability to trust is once more in jeopardy as she juggles her desire to move on with her need for justice.

Social context:

This story is very gritty at times, the author depicts a graphic, yet daunting tale of  abuse from the alcoholic father, sexual abuser and violent husband. There are some very tough issues to handle here – such as child abuse, domestic violence, self-harming –  yet the harsh brutality of the world she depicts  is often counter-balanced by some quite lyrical descriptions and breath-taking imagery. All emotions are laid bare as the characters try to live ordinary lives, tarnished physically and mentally by their pasts.

Writing style: 

The honesty and insight of this story sometimes makes for uncomfortable reading, but the integral plot, the mysterious murder holds it all together beautifully. The pace is very good, the descriptions are vivid and memorable, the characters are believable – even if the detective does remind me of Columbo!

They are occasional typos and grammar issues, but these are not hugely detrimental to the story as a whole.

My thoughts:

This was a real page-turner, I didn’t want to put it down. The tension towards the end was palpable and although I felt I knew who the murderer was, there were too many other possibilities to be certain. I loved the way Jessica got her revenge through her books, her success as a result was inspired.

Book Review


Book: The Rockin’ Chair

Author: Steven Manchester

Rating: 5


When John’s beloved wife Alice breathes her last, he is left to cope, not only with a broken heart but also many broken relationships within his family. Before he can rejoin Alice, he seeks to strengthen those fragile bonds and put his family back together once more. From his personal vantage point of the rocking chair on the porch, he can see how they are all weighed down by their own personal traumas, and with straight talking and honest – sometimes blunt – advice he sets them all on the right path. His final challenge is to repair his relationship with his own son, Hank. who is a chip off the old block, stubborn and often unyielding.

Social context:

The story moves effortlessly between the recent past and present day. Grampa John is very much of an era when life was much simpler, although also much harder, always working on the land and not travelling further than his own neighbourhood. His grandchildren have left the family nest, moving further away and see for themselves the  harshnesses of modern life, being exposed to drugs & alcohol, infidelity and war in foreign lands (Afghanistan). When they return home to Montana, they come to realise that they did not need to leave home to find themselves.

Writing style:

This book is beautifully written, the author creates a wonderful, evocative image of the location and the reader is instantly drawn in. The relationships between the family members are very believable, easy to recognise and understand. You are immediately able to empathise with the characters and feel both their pain and their sorrow. All emotions are laid bare here, you will find yourself smiling and crying, laughing and gasping.

My thoughts:

A glorious read! This book has a genuine river of love running right through it. I simply loved it, it was like watching an episode of The Waltons and Lassie (of course there is a dog with three legs), sometimes it was heart-wrenching but, more often than not, heart-warming. Everyone should have a Grampa John in their life. I wish I did!

Check it out on Amazon now, you won’t regret it!

Dabbling in cover design

and I do mean Dabbling! 

Could I really do this myself?

It seemed possible …

I had an idea of how it should look and I have Photoshop, so theoretically I could do this myself. BUT …!!!

First of all I needed to find the right images to use, some that I could modify to bring my idea to life.

I decided to keep this one for ‘Planet Dog’ really simple, I didn’t want to overcrowd the cover with confusing images, but it had to be a good representation of the story, which is obviously set on another planet.

I needed a starry sky as my background – this photo was perfect!

starry sky

To create my planet, I wanted to find a way of immediately showing that this planet was inhabited by dogs. However, it needed to be the right shape and colour. I dabbled with the idea of superimposing a shape onto an existing image of a planet, but that would require skills way beyond my ability in photoshop.

Eventually, after a long search I found a picture that I could really work with. Funnily enough, it was something really simple – a cookie cutter that created a paw-shaped imprint on biscuits. Yeah, I know – weird or what? Truly inspirational I thought.

So, here it is – the right shape and with an instantly identifiable link to my dog theme.

pawprint planet Now it was time to venture into the unknown – Photoshop!

(Well, not entirely unknown, a photographer friend had been giving me tips for a while now, so I was not a totally newbie.)

With my starry sky background in place, I only needed to work on the planet. It needed to be rotated slightly and a colour change was called for.

I found an image of the former planet Pluto, which features in the story, and attempted to get a similar colour for my planet.

I added an ‘otherwordly’ glow to the final planet and then  it was just a case of placing it within the starry sky and adding the appropriate text.

Once again, the idea was for the text to be clear and legible, but it had to blend in with the overall final image.

Currently, the cover looks like this:

Book Cover
Book Cover

For me, this works well and I am really pleased with my first effort – things may still change, but right now, I have a cover image for my next story. On that note, it’s time to stop pfaffing about in Photoshop and move over to Scrivener!

Let the writing commence!