14 May 2019

How My Own Past Life Regressions Inspired The Path Keeper

When NJ Simmonds got in touch and asked me to join the blog tour for The Path Keeper I was excited - there has been so much buzz about this book! When she offered to write a guest post I was even more excited. Read on to find out how NJ Simmond's' own past life regressions inspired The Path Keeper. It is fascinating.

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How My Own Past Life Regressions
Inspired The Path Keeper

by NJ Simmonds
The first sentence of this guest blog is going to be a strange one, so brace yourselves… 
The first time I got a glimpse of one of my past lives I was sleeping beside the engine room of a pearling ship heading for Darwin. 
Fifteen years ago, following a messy break up from the guy I thought was ‘The One’, I found myself saying goodbye to London and heading for the other side of the world having left behind a job I loved, a house that was half mine and a man that had broken my heart. My backpack was heavy, but not as cumbersome as the emotional baggage I long-hauled all the way to Oz. I told my parents I’d be visiting a friend in Perth and I’d be back in six to eight weeks’ time. I didn’t return to the UK until fourteen months later. 
Aged twenty-five, I was one of the oldest backpackers among the many trudging their way across the giant island. It’s cliché to say I went in search of myself, but whether I set out to discover who I truly was or not – I found a lot more than I bargained for. I set in motion a life that has since been tinged with magic. 
During those long months of cross-country coach trips, I read avidly on all manner of mystical beliefs. I learned astrology, became a reiki healer, joined a coven of women who met every week to meditate with crystals, and befriended a woman who spoke with angels. A few months into my trip, one blistering hot day as I meditated on the base of Uluru, I realised my previously career-driven London life had been nothing but a dark veil smothering a world of energy and light I never knew existed. It was like cleaning dirt off a window and watching the sun shine through. 
So… Back to my past lives. 
After three months of selling pearls in Broome, a town in Western Australia so secluded it’s actually closer to towns in other continents than its own country, I was offered a lift north, five days on board a pearling boat which I shared with six questionable sailors and their cook. In the day I sunbathed, and at night we drank rum, played cards and laid on deck staring at the stars. One night I was very seasick and was told to sleep as far below deck as I could find to reduce the affect of the swell. Finding myself on a narrow mattress beside the incessant rumbling hum of the engine room, the stench of diesel and oyster shells clinging to every inch of my body, I decided to meditate - reasoning that a past life regression meditation might be an effective way to distract the churn of my stomach and the tides swirling around in my head. 
At this point I held no firm beliefs about the afterlife and didn’t expect anything to happen. Brought up a Catholic, I knew all about God and Heaven and angels. But I’d also been a member of the London school of Psychic Studies. I’d had the odd ghostly experience in my childhood, and I’d seen a lot of stuff I couldn’t explain – so I was open minded, although unconvinced anything would come of it. 
I can’t logically explain what happened next. 
I saw myself as a teen girl in ancient Rome. Barefoot and simply dressed, I was stirring something in a clay pot over an open fire atop the crest of a hill. I kept looking over to what appeared to be Florence (in real life I’d been to Florence a couple of years earlier and inexplicably knew my way around, I’d even remarked at the time how familiar the city felt). As a poor Roman girl I waited, anticipation and excitement churning in my guts as my mother and baby brother busied themselves in our small holding behind me. I knew soldiers were on their way, and with them came the opportunity to feel important. Every few months, as they marched through our village, the locals would tend to them, help them regain their strength, and then they would leave. Every time it filled with me purpose yet left me bereft, over and over again. In that fleeting glimpse of another life (and I’m no historian, so the things I saw were totally new to me) I also recognised that two people from my current life had been there as well, instantly understanding what their role had been then and now.
That night I couldn’t sleep. As I lay on a sweaty mattress in the belly of a pearling boat that rolled through the waters like a drunken whale, I wondered what my vision had meant. Was it an allegory or visual representation of my real-life issues? Was it a dream? An overactive imagination? Or a load of old nonsense? 
I never considered it again until I went on to have two more visions (one through meditation and one through a healer). When the idea of The Path Keeper came to me seven years later in 2012, it made sense to me that an eternal love would involve past lives – and that’s how a handful of different stories began to intertwine and merge into a three-book series. In the sequel Son of Secrets, we see Ella’s past life in 5BC Tuscany, inspired by that tiny snapshot of a lonely Roman girl. That’s when I began to research this possible place and era – and things got weirder. 
I Googled and found the same village I’d imagined myself in, the view of Florence exactly as I’d seen it. The town is called Fiesole and was in fact one of the biggest Roman footholds in Tuscany back then. I’d never heard of it before I’d seen it in my vision and then online. The pots and cooking utensils, the clothing I wore and even the house all matched my memory. Coincidence? A latent memory from something I’d learned at school? Luck? Regardless whether I have ever lived before, it sparked one of my favourite parts of the series and became the backdrop of how Ella and Zac first met. 
Regardless of your beliefs, as a writer, ideas will reach you in the strangest of ways. The Path Keeper may be an urban fantasy romance set in London, with plenty of city grime and contemporary scenes, but it also has an esoteric theme that will have you questioning religion, angels, past lives, fate, the power of crystals and soul mates. And as the series continues, there’s more on the history of witches (another past life memory set in 1613) and the concept of the devil. 
Yes, these are big and contentious subjects to discuss in a fictional novel, especially when writing older YA, but the series isn’t a reflection of my beliefs or a didactic message. It’s just a story of mostly made up stuff I thought was interesting and fun to throw together. Accused of being ‘ambitious’ and ‘brave’ in various reviews –it’s also rubbed plenty of people up the wrong way. I don’t mind, books are meant to make you feel strongly one way or another. 
I’ve always dreamed of seeing my book in a bookstore window, but I never imagined fifteen years ago, as I ran away to the other side of the world with nothing to my name but a dusty backpack and a head full of questions, that I was setting off down a path that would lead me to now. During those sun-drenched wanderlust days, the seeds of my first book were planted, and that tree hasn’t stopped growing. I saw a different world that night on the pearling boat, and I have since created many more worlds of my own. 
Maybe we’ve all lived before, maybe we haven’t – but it’s been a hell of a lot of fun writing about it.

Every blog tour in the blog has a letter. Collect them all to spell out the answer to this competition question: What does Zac get in the sequel SON OF SECRETS that's very out of character? Prize info and entry details will be posted in The Glass House Glass magazine on release day 28 May 2019. Check out today's letter and competition graphic below. 

10 May 2019

Book Beginnings #68

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.

I am currently reading Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans.

Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans cover

I understood. I really did. This was a chance. Our only chance. It was this or die.
Yeah so I am hooked, right from this first line.

I love the way that already, right from the start, tension is building. It's amazing. There's something subtly sinister right from the start.
Safe? What was I thinking? Bert had warned me: people like us were never safe.

This is a switch in narrators, and I really like how it's done in this book. At this point, both narrators are super unreliable, and I don't know what to trust and I haven't figured out what's going on. What I can say is that it is so sinister and eerie, and I love it.

What are you reading this week?

08 May 2019

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto *AD Gifted

Ink Road Books sent me a free review copy of Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto.

First I fell in love with the stunning cover, then I fell in love with the incredible story. I absolutely loved Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto and you should add it straight to your TBR. It is slow to start, but stick with it and you will be blown away.

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto coverAdd to Goodreads button
I had a sister, once…

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders - legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire - until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders - even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken. 

Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, secrets, adventure, strength, phoenix.

Where there is will, there is possibility.

07 April 2019

Sleep by CL Taylor *AD Gifted

Avon Books sent me a free review copy of Sleep by C.L. Taylor.

Sleep by C.L. Taylor is one of those books that will keep you reading long past your bed time. I was quickly dragged in to the story and couldn't stop reading.

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All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Guilt, blame, isolation, recovery, mystery.

Sleep starts with a bang and a crash. It's a fast paced read that I couldn't put down, and I loved how invested in the story I was. I pretty much read it in a single sitting.

I loved the secrets in the story - it meant I was never entirely sure about who to trust and what to believe, and I kept wondering about all of the motives. The pressure of the setting was amazing - everything felt very insulated and heightened. I loved the atmosphere of the island and the hotel.

Anna was a fantastic character, I felt like I admired her quite a bit. I liked her resilience, her drive, the way she was always fighting and doing her best.

I really enjoyed the ending, how everything came to a head. I was correct with my guess, although I didn't quite imagine the why! I liked that I was challenged a bit and that it wasn't super-predictable.

No. It doesn't hurt there. It hurts here, in here, inside my head.

03 April 2019

The Boy Who Steals Houses by CG Drews

I am absolutely delighted to share a guest post from the amazing CG Drews, a blogger I greatly admire for their ridiculously funny posts and discussions, and an author who knows how to break my heart into a million tiny pieces.

The Boy Who Steals Houses is out tomorrow and trust me, you need it in your life. It's dark and complicated and so full of love, and it will probably break you a little so have tissues at the ready.

The Boy Who Steals Houses by CG Drews cover

5 Key Inspirations For The Boy Who Steals Houses

My stories always begin with a collection of wishes and schemes, of puzzle pieces that I need to sort through until they fit together. I don’t get hit with a full book idea at once. For me, it’s more like a being handed a collection of oddly shaped keys and shown a row of crooked, smudgy doors – and then I’m left cramming keys into locks until I get that magical click and my story begins to take shape.

It took me a few months to fit all the keys into their rightful locks before I was ready to write The Boy Who Steals Houses. Today I’m going to share five pieces of inspiration that sparked the story. (And, yes, you have to let me have this key metaphor because my protagonist, Sam, is a collector of keys…so it works ok. Let’s do this.)

“He puts his wishes into small metal keys and tucks them in his pocket to keep him breathing.” – The Boy Who Steals Houses

1. Goldilocks retelling.

I’m wildly fond of writing retellings, because you get a bare bone framework as a starting place, but you also have limitless possibilities on how to twist the classic tale into your own. I knew my version of Goldilocks would be genderbent + in a modern contemporary setting.

2. I wanted a story with siblings.

Sibling stories are pretty much my favourite things to read (and write). I have a large collection of siblings myself (five of them, to be exact) so writing the dynamics and shenanigans of big families comes naturally to me. When I started putting together The Boy Who Steals Houses, I wanted to have two brothers with a very intense but complicated relationship. Sam and Avery absolutely need each other…but they also fight. A lot. And just in case two starring brothers isn’t enough – let me introduce you to the De Lainey family, who end up absorbing Sam into their lives. They have seven kids and are loud and messy and catastrophically loveable.

3. A little bit of thieving…

Because the original Goldilocks was a bit of a thief. She just kind of walked into a house and ate all their food?! The audacity. With Sam, I made him into an apologetic thief – one who hates his life, but is powerless to stop the cycle that drives him to steal.

4. Food counts as inspiration, right?!

If you looked over my original outline you would see zero notes about writing lots of food into this book. And yet there are so many caramel brownies. Like…so so many. My true confession?! I was home alone for the weekend I was drafting and cooking is Not Fun when you’d rather be writing. I kind of existed on brownies. (Shh, no judgement. I am not sorry.) So, yes, I literally wrote about brownies because I was eating them. The imagination is, um, strong with this one?

5. Finding your place in the world.

A key (ha! I cannot stop using this word) theme I wanted to explore was: searching. Sam is searching for a place to fit in the world. He’s searching for a home, but more than that – he’s searching for a family. He loves his brother Avery so fiercely, but Sam is the one who props them up and keeps them going. He wants to collapse into someone else’s arms and be held up, just for a whisper of a moment, and this book is about if he can find that. And if he finds it, can he keep it, when he has left a trail of bloody sins in his wake?

02 April 2019

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke *AD Gifted

Bantam Press sent me a free review copy of Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke.

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke was such a fun read, I read pretty much the whole thing in a single sitting and didn't want to put it down. This book is super romantic, full of fun, and it feels slightly epic in scope.

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Destiny doesn't happen by accident . . .

When Justine Carmichael (Sagittarius, aspiring journalist and sceptic) bumps into her teenage crush Nick Jordan (Aquarius, struggling actor and true believer) it could be by chance. Or it could be written in the stars.

Justine works at the Alexandria Park Star - and Nick, she now learns, relies on the magazine's astrology column to guide him in life.

Looking for a way to get Nick’s attention, Justine has the idea of making a few small alterations to the horoscope for Aquarius before it goes to print.

After all, it’s only the stars. What could possibly go wrong...?

Source: Review Copy

5 Word Review: Astrology, friendship, deception, connections, love.

I quite liked the way that the story played with astrology and lent so much sway to it. The story did have a bit of a written-in-the-stars feel, especially with the way so many smaller stories converged.

I loved Justine. Her character is so steadfast and hardworking, eagle-eyed and smart. I really loved her duplicity and the way that once she knew she wanted to get closer to Nick she started to engineer it. It didn't come across as manipulation in the story, which it so easily could have done.

The writing is gorgeous and full of description. I would say that it's almost overly flowery at times, but it suits the story so well that it doesn't seem fair. It's lyrical, vibrant, and rich. When I was reading Star-Crossed I felt more like I was watching something play out rather than reading it, and it meant that I finished it quite quickly.

Star-Crossed is deeply romantic, almost like a rom-com, so full of love and misunderstandings and unexpected yet fun consequences.

31 March 2019

A Date With A Book *AD Gifted

Walker Books sent me a free review copy of The Hand, The Eye & The Heart by Zoë Marriott.

Zoë Marriott is one of my auto-buy authors. She writes it, I buy it, I read it, I love it. The Hand, The Eye & The Heart has been on my TBR since it was announced, so when it came to reading it I had plans.

My plan? To date the book.

What does this entail? Me devoting myself to the book for a while.

And when it's as amazing as The Hand, The Eye & The Heart, that's an easy thing to do.

The Hand, The Eye & The Heart by Zoë Marriott cover

Step One: Introduce Yourself

This is it. It's happening. You're meeting for the first time.

Examine the cover, read the blurb, peek at the praise, let your imagination run wild with your expectations. Move the book from side to side so the gorgeous turquoise foil catches the light, because you're a book magpie and it's shiny.

Step Two: Get to Know Them

This is where you dive right in. Grab yourself a cuppa and a snack, get comfortable, because it's going to get intense. This is where you start your journey.

Sip your dragon pearl green tea and gasp at the intensity of the first chapter. Feel your heart racing and your mind whirring because this is the most awesome start and obviously the sign of good things to come.

Step Three: Figure It Out

Or try to. Because you're addicted to stories and the characters, this book in front of you. You mull over the story so far and what you want to happen next and what could happen. You start to maybe catch a feel, and you know you might get hurt. But it's exciting and new and you need to go on.

Step Four: Get Lost

Or, you know, get so caught up in the story that you forget everything else. Your tea goes cold, your snack is uneaten, you can't put the book down. But it's amazing, and you're so invested. You love the rich setting, the intricacies of the world, the visual writing. The characters feel almost like your friends, and you need to know what's going to happen to Zhi.

Step Five: Reflect

I don't know about you, but I had an excellent time. Definitely going to do that again. The whole date was a success and now I need to think, because this review will not write itself.

Time to completely unwind with a bath...

Relaxing Bath Soak

What you need:
  • A small gauze bag or disposable tea bag
  • 1 tablespoon oats
  • 1 tablespoon Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender

Put it all of the ingredients in the bag, secure the top tightly. Draw a hot bath and drop the bag in, move it around every so often to help the salts dissolve and the oils in the lavender diffuse.

Aaaand... Relax.

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