City of Secrets

Home or away, summer or winter, nothing beats a good book and I’m currently reading the latest book; City of Secrets by Misha Herwin. It’s a book in which you can lose yourself and become immersed in a tale where dragons and gargoyles gossip. I asked Misha, the author of the Dragonfire trilogy and Clear Gold to tell me more about her new book…

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First and foremost, thank you Barry for hosting me on your blog and giving me the opportunity to talk about my new book “City of Secrets”.

“City of Secrets” is a fantasy adventure aimed at the 8-12 market, but I think that anyone who reads Harry Potter or Philip Pullman will enjoy the book. Like the Oxford of “His Dark Materials” is a place of plots and dark magic, where dragons and gargoyles gather on the rooftops at night to gossip and exchange news.

Making a living in such a city is not easy, but Letty Parker is a resourceful girl who has learned to tread her way carefully through areas ruled by rival gangs and to avoid the Barbary eels who lurk in shadowy corners. Her business, selling pies, is going well − until the street children, who are her friends and customers, start to go missing.

Letty is determined to find out what has happened to them and when the authorities prove less than helpful, for no one about children who are poor, she gets together with her friends, Jebediah Hill, the leader of a gang of pickpockets, and the mysterious Gabriel and they hatch a plan…

This is the first of the “Adventures of Letty Parker” and I’ve had great fun writing it. Bristol is a city I know well and love. I was brought up there and have used some of my favourite places, like The Christmas Steps, in the story. Transferring streets and terraces that really exist to my fantasy world is something I enjoy as I can build on what I know yet make it darker and scarier with a touch of sinister magic.

What I like about Letty Parker is her courage and independence. She might be scared, but she’ll do it anyway and not let any so called authority stand in her way. She comes from a line of great role models, Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables, the Chalet School Girls, Katniss Everdeen and Captain Nancy of “Swallows and Amazons” to name but a few.

We need more of these girls out there. Girls who are prepared to stand up for themselves, say what they think, yet at the same time have a keen sense of what is right and wrong and a fierce loyalty to their friends. This, I hope is the essence of the “Adventure of Letty Parker” series.

And it is not all about the girls. Letty’s friends: Jeb, his side-kick, Mango and Gabriel, her half-human, half-Nephilim guardian, play their parts.

They are all characters that simply could not be ignored. My first view of Letty is at sunset on the wharf at the Bristol docks. “A dark tangle of masts and rigging was etched against the sky and the setting sun stained the water red.” A faint breeze lifts the hair at the back of her neck…

From that moment she was fully formed. The plot came next and needed refining and working on. Next came a great deal of editing and then, finally, Letty Parker was ready to go out into the world.

If you want to know more about her adventures then “City of Secrets” is available on order at bookshops, in paperback and e book at the following places, click the links below.

Barnes and Noble                                Amazon                                           Booktopia e-book

You can find Misha’s Blog here           For information about Penkhull Press click here

October Sunshine and a Kindle

Today I finished reading my book. An actual book. One with pages made from paper and a cover with artwork. I’m not a big reader, managing a book a year, but since arriving in Italy I’ve been gradually getting through the paperbacks I brought with me;. Nothing lends itself better to sitting in the sun than having a book to read, so my intake has increased. To feed this burgeoning new habit I’ve invested in a Kindle. I tried the Sony e Reader a few years back and couldn’t get on with it, so felt resigned to be one of the hard-copy book lovers rather than an e book admirer. But Kindle has changed my mind, yes I do still like the feel and smell of a printed book, but the convenience of a Kindle has so many benefits.

I can carry my library with me as the device fits into my bag alongside all my other gadgets and work related paraphernalia. I can put articles I’m working on onto it and read and review them when I’m away from my workspace and I can download a new book in an instant, no waiting for it to arrive via DHL or any other delivery service that take an aeon to  get here.


Unpacked, set up and synched to my laptop I was ready to enter the digital literary age, my first task was to download my two favourite novels, that I like to have at all times; both unusual choices for man, I guess. The first is Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s novel of unrequited love and loathing amid the wild Yorkshire moors never fails to satiate my need for something dark and brooding, and I can dip in and out reading random chapters when the need takes me.  The second is the Charlotte Brontë classic, Jane Eyre, I was given a copy of this book as a child of ten for an excellent attendance record at Sunday school, and I found the characterisation and plot exciting: yes even as a ten-year old. This isn’t a book I can dip in and out of, so every now and then I re-read it. The last time was back in 1996 during a spell in Croatia just after the Bosnian conflict, I was reading as the plane took off from Manchester heading for Split, when a man in the aisle next to me leant over and thinking he’d be funny said, “He goes blind and his wife’s a mad woman who dies when she burns the house down.” Pretending I didn’t know the story, I remonstrated him him for spoiling my book telling him It was the only I brought with me. His wife then got involved and gave him a harsh tongue lashing and for the remainder of the flight I smiled inwardly as he spent an uncomfortable four-hours sat across the aisle from me.


I continue to download a few other books and then decide to give the device its first outing. It’s a pleasant October day and the sun is shining, making it a sitting outside opportunity. I scroll through the books I’ve loaded onto my Kindle and select one I’ve been wanting to read for sometime. It’s by north Staffordshire author, Misha Herwin; someone I’ve had the privilege to have critique my work. The book is Dragonfire, a story for young adults, first published by Finstock Press in 2008 and for Kindle in 2012.

As I’m sat in the warm Italian sunshine reading I become transported into the world of two teenagers who by misfortune are in care. They have something different about them, gifts that normal teens don’t have: I won’t say here what they are as that would spoil the story. I’m taken down tunnels where strange beings lurk, there’s a great collection of characters including a strange talking creature who is always right, an asthmatic dragon and a small mute boy is thrown into the mix. The story introduces us to bullies turned good and an odd married couple with more OCD issues than I have.

The writing is superb, the pace is constant and written without any padding; those chapters that authors seem to write to get the word count up. Very quickly I find I’ve read a third of the book in one sitting, so I decide to put it down, to save it for another day, but this doesn’t happen and an hour later I’m sat outside, Kindle in hand with Alf asleep at my feet while Olive chases lizards. Suffice to say normally I don’t read quickly but I complete Dragonfire in three sittings. It’s a superb book for teenagers, with no patronising passages or overblown morals, it’s a romp through the realms of fantasy and reality whilst keeping its characters feet firmly upon the ground.


Cover reproduced with permission. © Mick Walters of

So Today I finished reading my first e book and I’m inside the house, downloading more to store on my new electronic gadget. If you’d like to read this wonderful story here’s the link to Amazon and the Kindle version: Dragonfire on Kindle

Man in a Can

As a writer myself, one piece of advice I always give fledgling writers is, read. Read what you have written carefully, read it aloud, put it away for a day or so and read it again. You need to be sure before you submit anything that you have ironed out an imperfections, corrected grammar and given the spelling a good going over. If only in my day to day life I followed my own advice. We’re surrounded by signs, and being in a foreign country you’d think I’d take extra care while reading them. Not a chance.

Now bear with me while I explain the title for today’s entry. There are many foods that can be purchased in a can and cooked within it. Sponges pudding and those dreadful pies in a tin. Today because I didn’t pay attention I came close to discovering just how that steak and onion pie feels inside its tin prison.

A few days back I commented on how the locals are regular visitors to the car wash nearby. So today I thought it’s about time I washed the sand off my car, so It can shine in the sun as I’m pootling down to the supermarket or builders’ merchant. So I’m driving back from Eurospin, the iPod is playing Shangri-La by Nightmares in Wax (Pete Burns, pre-Dead or Alive guise) a song that I always feel has 41 seconds of unnecessary shenanigans at the end, when I pass the car wash. I pull in and glance at the bays, one is taken by a young man who’s power washing his car, another is free and so is a conventional drive in one, designed for the lazier driver. As it’s sunny I opt for the conventional drive in one, thinking I can’t be bothered wielding a shampoo brush and pressure washer in this heat. I glance at the board telling what’s on offer, but I don’t read what’s written I just look at the range of prices. “Ahh,” I say to myself, “Two euro, must be quick wash.” I drive in, the red lights asks me to stop, I insert a coin and press the button, then wait.

The machine rumbled into life and began moving towards me and I waited for the water, only it didn’t come. The lad across the way looked up and shook his head and then went back to his pressure washing. The machine moved over the car with me inside but instead of washing it was blowing hot air, I’d only set it to dry mode. So I sat inside my car on a hot day with an industrial sized hair-dryer above me increasing the temperature inside making me feel like a pie in a tin inside an oven. Next time I’ll take my own advice and read everything carefully.

Needless to say after the young man had left and the dryer had completed it’s actions I drove into a bay and did what I should have done in the first place, grabbed the shampoo brush and did the job by hand.


Macchina senza sabbia