Tag Archives: Catriona

Introducing: STAR BRIGHT!!

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You didn’t think it was ever going to happen, did you? Well, it finally did! May I introduce (drummmm rollllllll):

STAR BRIGHT!

That’s right, Book 4 in The Septimus Series is now out for your reading pleasure!

What’s it about, you wonder? Well, there’s this guy called Jamie, and…

Be careful what you wish for on a star – you just might get it!

Jamie has no idea what he wants to do with his life, but being thrown into a whole other world is NOT on the list of options. Living in a magical medieval realm looks so much easier in a video game…

Fortunately, he meets Cat, who has been in this exact predicament herself, and Daarshan, a curiously clumsy guy who helps him navigate his new surroundings. Will they find a way to send Jamie back home? And just what is that mystery surrounding Daar?

Here’s a little preview of some of the first chapter:

CHAPTER 1

“Here, try some of this,” Kaden said, rattling a small plastic pill bottle at Jamie.

“What is it?” Jamie drained the mug he was holding and plopped it on the sales counter. Coke tasted weird when you drank it from a coffee cup—or maybe it was the combination of the tequila with the dregs of the rum bottle they had dumped in that gave it that odd flavour; Jamie wasn’t really sure. The tequila was all gone now too.

[…]

The cat purred, and he leaned into Jamie’s hand so hard he pushed it right into a stack of display boxes, toppling them over.

One of them fell on its side, the lid popping off. A couple of blue stones rolled out onto the counter. Yes, two—there were definitely two. Jamie only had to make a little bit of an effort to focus his eyes to see that there were two, not four, or maybe even si-six. The cat batted at them with his paw. They were round and smooth, a deep blue with a white pattern like a star in the centre. “Those are cool,” Jamie said, [and he] divided what was left of the coke between his mug and Kaden’s tumbler.

[…]

He morosely stared into his mug; the coke had only filled it a third of the way. “Is there anything to top this up with?”

“Lemme see,” Kaden said. He was rummaging around under the counter, and now emerged somewhat unsteadily. “Score! Check it out!” He triumphantly held up a turquoise glass bottle. […]

“Ah.” Jamie nodded. … The room started to wave up and down at the edge of his vision. He tipped his head back and forth, and the effect intensified. Pretty crazy. “So, what’s in that there thing?” he said, pointing his mug at the little pill bottle sitting beside the cash register.

“Oh, yeah, that,” Kaden said, “‘s just some pills. I think those things can give you a pretty wild trip; …” He popped the top off the pill container and shook two bright red tablets out onto his hand. “So, you up for this?” He tantalisingly waved his palm under Jamie’s nose.

“Not without something to wash it down,” said Jamie. He twisted the cap off the gin bottle, splashed a generous portion into his mug, and some into Kaden’s tumbler. Only a bit of it spilled on the counter. Not much at all. Probably no more than half a cup.

“You take the red pill,” Kaden intoned, “you stay in Wonderland…”

Jamie grabbed one of the pills from Kaden’s hand and stuck it into his mouth. “C’mon, you too!” he said around the tablet on his tongue.

Kaden followed suit, then raised his glass.

“…and I’ll show you how deep the rabbit hole goes!” they chanted in unison, clinking their cups together. They dumped the drinks down their throats, stared at each other for a moment and then burst into giggles.

“But what if I wanted the blue pill?” Jamie said. His head was spinning a bit—was that from the pill?

“S-sorry,” Kaden said, “n-no can do. You c-c-could try the s-st-stones, they’re b-bl-blue.” His eyes rolled back in his head, and he crashed to the floor behind the counter.

Jamie tried to lean over the counter to check if Kaden was okay, but then thought better of it. Too much spinning.

The cat, from his perch on the side counter, gave Jamie an inscrutable look, then reached out his paw and gently tapped the two blue stones, making them roll in Jamie’s direction.

Jamie looked at them. They seemed to almost give off a bit of a pulsing light. Blink, blink, blink… Kaden might have a point.

“But they’re stones, Crookshanks,” Jamie said, “not pills! You can’t swallow stones, nope, no siree.” He put down his empty mug and picked up the stones, one in each hand. He held them in front of his eyes—yes, he could still keep them in focus, yup, uh-huh—then held them out to the cat. … “Or maybe, maybe they’re magic, and you have to say a spell to make them work? Might be worth a shot.” The cat blinked, and Jamie made a face. “Yeah, you’re right—I don’t actually know any spells.” He stared at the stones whose white stars were twinkling at him from their shiny blue depths. And then he had an idea.

“Star light, star bright,” he chanted,

“First star I see tonight,

“I wish I may, I wish I might

“Have the wish I wish tonight!”

He giggled. Wishing. You had to make a wish. So he did, and then he moved the two stones in his fingers towards each other. Closer, closer, closer—and they touched.

Everything around Jamie started to swirl—a giant counterclockwise dance of blue light and colour whirled around him. He lost track of which way he was facing, of left and right and up and down, and then he no longer knew where he was at all.

What? Swirling blue light? Where have we heard that one before? Is he going to end up in …

But no, no spoilers. If you want to find out, get yourself over to your favourite ebook vendor and grab a copy! The paperback won’t be far behind; it’s already available on the US and European Amazon stores, and Amazon.ca should come online within a few days.

And that’s Life, the Universe, and STAR BRIGHT!

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Filed under Star Bright, The Septimus Series, writing

Cat, a Bowl and Lots of Red-Heads, or: What’s This Septimus Thing, Anyway?

I was just re-arranging this website a little bit – posting the links to the recently published stories in one place, consolidating the books in the sidebar into one link – and it occurred to me that some of you folks who’ve come to reading my blog lately might not be all that familiar with this whole turquoise-coloured “Septimus Series” thing. For example, if you were to come from all those fairy tale stories I’ve posted recently to reading “Lavender’s Blue”, my Septimus short story, you might find yourself a little puzzled – it’s not a fairy tale; but what exactly is it?

So, for those of you new to the Septimus world, here’s a little intro. The nickel tour to Catriona’s life, as it were. For those of you who’ve followed Cat’s adventures all along, you might enjoy this little refresher.

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It all started a number of years ago, when Catriona McMurphy, an ordinary 21st-century librarian, was in a museum in her hometown of Greenward Falls. She looked into a turquoise-coloured pottery bowl, and all of a sudden everything went swirly and blue around her. Next thing she knew, she found herself in a forest, in a whole other world.

This is a world that has no electricity, flush toilets, internet or cell phones – but it does have magic. Subtle, gentle magic; nothing that involves waving wands or throwing around sparkly curses, but that permeates the very existence of the people of this place.

Cat soon found out that she herself has some of that magic – in her case, an ability that is called “The Knowing”, a strong intuition bordering on clairvoyance particularly about the people she loves. One of those people turned out to be a tall, red-headed potter by the name of Guy, who is a member of the Septimus family, the most prominent group of people with special gifts in the town of Ruph, descended from the seventh son of a seventh son.

When Cat first met Guy, literally lying at her feet, he had a small red-headed daughter named Bibby, possessed of a double dose of “The Knowing” and a charm that wormed itself irresistibly into Cat’s heart. A few years down the line, Catriona’s life is, let’s just say, not short on red-heads of various sizes and descriptions, and she has her hands and her heart full keeping them all in order, and getting in some time to read the odd book at the town library of Ruph, too.

And of course there is always something that throws a wrench in the works – ordinary life in Cat’s world is never all that ordinary. A speechless young boy and a plague of mice – a girl bullied by her sister, and a new kind of clay that seems to have special properties – a teenager that has dropped in from Cat’s old world and desperately wants to get home… There is usually some knotty problem that Cat needs to solve in between stoking the hearth fire and keeping Ruph’s library books in order.

If you’re wondering just what Cat’s new world is like, there are descriptions in the books, of course, but roughly speaking, in technology and climate it’s very similar to pre-industrial Europe. Of course with there being some magic, they have options that your 17th-century Englishman didn’t have – for example, closed stoves with attached water heaters, so Cat can still have a nice hot bath without having to lug a cauldron to the fireplace first. They also don’t have antibiotics, but there are wise women who know their way around a herb patch and the odd person with healing power in their hands, which is just as good.

If you want to get a taste for Cat’s world, give “Lavender’s Blue” a read (it’s FREE!). And if you enjoyed that, dip your toe a little deeper (because you taste with your toes, don’t you?) and get a copy of Seventh Son (also FREE!).

If, of course, you’re already a die-hard fan of Cat & All the Red-Heads, there’s only one thing left to tell you: STAR BRIGHT IS COMING SOON! Honestly, Book 4 in the series is written, and is being edited as we speak. No exact release date yet, but it’s coming! As soon as I know when, you’ll get to see the snazzy new cover so you can start drooling in anticipation.

Life, the Universe, Cat and the Red-Heads. Welcome, or Welcome Back, to the Septimus World.

 

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Filed under books, Cat and Mouse, Checkmate, Seventh Son, Star Bright, The Septimus Series, writing

Just Sayin’…

I was watching a TV show yesterday, one that’s set in the Shetland Islands (and is, incidentally, called Shetland. What a coincidence). Anyway, there was a character in that episode named Catriona. You know, just like Cat in my Septimus Series. Nice name, right?

But then, to my great shock, I heard the name pronounced “Katrina”. Cat-REE-nah. Oh dear. I’ve always pronounced it Cat-ree-OH-nah. Have I been mispronouncing my own character’s name all these years?

I’m a bit of a stickler for correctly pronouncing people’s names. I am, with great regularity, on the receiving end of first-name mispronunciation, my name being Angelika. Now, if you’re German, you’ve just mentally pronounced it like this: Ang-GAY-lick-uh – hard g, emphasis on second syllable. That’s good. But if you’re English-speaking, chances are very high that you’ve said it like this: An-jel-EEK-uh – soft g, emphasis on third syllable. For some reason, most English-speaking people do it that way – I don’t know why. If it’s spelled with a c, Angelica, they say An-JEL-lick-uh, which I much prefer. My best guess is that with the k spelling, they see it and go “Eeep, foreign! Must be pronounced weird,” and that’s what they come up with. Or maybe they’re thinking of the only other English word that ends with “-ika”, which is “paprika”, and model the twisting on that.

Anyway, point being is that I want to pronounce people’s names correctly, even if they’re fictional people I’ve invented and named myself. So I was a little dismayed to hear Cat’s name said very differently from how I’ve always done it. To be honest, if the name is going to be pronounced Katrina, I’d just as soon have it spelled that way – and I wouldn’t have chosen that name for Cat. It’s a nice name and all, but I like Catriona better.

So I looked it up – thank you, Google and Youtube. And to my relief I found that my mispronunciation is actually a legitimate way of saying the name. Cat-ree-OH-nah. You can also go with Cat-REE-oh-nah (like Hermione, Her-MY-oh-nee), so there are actually three different ways of saying it. The Gaelic is Cat-REE-nah, but the version with OH in it is legit too – it’s more of an American pronunciation, which works because my Cat is meant to be American (with Canadian or maybe Scottish grandparents – hey, maybe her mom named her Cat-ree-OH-nah, and her grandmother, who raised her and was a bit of a stickler, always insisted on Cat-REE-oh-nah? That only just occurred to me.).

Now, don’t get me wrong – if you’ve been reading the Septimus books, and you’ve mentally pronounced Cat’s name as Katrina, that’s perfectly fine by me. As long as you like my Cat, and make her your own, that’s wonderful, and you can pronounce her name any way you see fit. Incidentally, the same goes for Guy – I say it as “guy” (as in, “That guy is a potter,” which is where his name originated), but if you want to say it the French way, “ghee”, feel free.

Life, the Universe, and Ways to Say a Name. But Steve is always Steve.

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Here’s a picture of Steve (St-EE-v) and his cousin Alfred (ALF-red).

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Filed under The Septimus Series, this and that

Sourdough Bread

In Chapter 5 of Cat and Mouse, Catriona learns how to bake sourdough bread. It’s been a while since I’d done it myself, but I recently got some sourdough starter from a friend, so I had to give it a try. It turned out great. Here’s what it looked like in my kitchen, with relevant passages from Cat’s process by way of explanation. Of course, my dishes are ordinary boring plastics, not lovely stoneware crockery like Cat’s, and I have to admit to using electric appliances for both the kneading and the baking, but following Cat’s method you should come out with about the same results. (Oh, and don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers for the book in this passage. Other than that Cat learns to bake, but I’ve already told you that.) So here we go:

CAT MAKES SOURDOUGH BREAD

from Cat and Mouse, p. 39-45

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Sourdough in the jar

“Very well. Sourdough first.”
Ouska picked up a stoneware crock from the shelf above the fireplace, brought it over to the heavy deal table in the middle of the kitchen, and took a large brown mixing bowl from the top of the Welsh dresser. The dish, about twenty inches in diameter at the top and eight or ten inches high, was a heavy pottery piece; Cat smiled as she recognised her husband’s handiwork.
She took a look into the sourdough crock. It contained a slightly bubbly-looking slop that looked not unlike the porridge that she had made too runny that morning. “This smells a bit like beer,” she said.

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The sponge after rising overnight

“That’s the sourdough working,” said Ouska. “Sometimes I’ve used some of Uncle’s beer leaven if he had any extra; it’s much quicker to make bread with that, it rises faster. But this works, and it’s simple. Usually he needs the leaven for his beer.”
“Leaven? Oh, I think we call it yeast where I’m from. So you don’t use that then? I thought you had to have it for making bread.”
“No, there’s enough leaven in the air. But you have to catch it and feed it before you can use it; I’ll show you later.” Ouska poured some of the sourdough into the bowl, then took the salt cellar from the cupboard and sprinkled a few spoonfuls into the bowl. She pointed Cat to the flour bin that stood in the corner. “We need about two scoops of flour,” she said. Cat opened the bin and saw a large wooden scoop stuck in the top of the wholemeal flour that filled the bin halfway.
“That’s a nice bin,” she said, “is it new?”
“Yes, we just had it built. …” Ouska said as she brought the big mixing bowl over to the bin. Cat dumped a couple of measures of flour in.
[…]
[Ouska] put the mixing bowl back on the table and rolled up the sleeves of her blouse. “Now. This is where the real work begins,” she said as she plunged her hands into the flour in the bowl and began to stir the mess with both hands. “Here, give it a try,” she said, rubbing the sticky dough off her fingers.
Cat stuck her hands in the sticky batter. “Ooh, gooey!” she said, and squished the dough through her fingers. “This is a good workout for the hands!” She mixed and stirred until none of the dry flour was left. Ouska sprinkled in additional flour until the dough was no longer sticky.
“Now, move the bowl over a bit,” said Ouska. She scooped a handful of flour from the bin and sprinkled it on the surface of the table, then took the lump of dough from the bowl and smacked it on the table. “Ever done any kneading before?”

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The kneaded dough

“A bit,” said Cat. She grasped the dough and started rolling it towards her.
Ouska chuckled. “You’re kneading like a potter’s wife,” she said. “You don’t need to make a nice little roll of it like your man does with his clay; with bread, it doesn’t matter how you handle it, so long as you do it hard.” She tore the lump of dough in half and showed Cat what she meant.
“Oh, I get it!” said Cat, and fell to it with vigour. “Phew, this is hard work,” she said, “but satisfying!” She lifted the dough lump and smacked it on the table so hard the crockery on the dresser rattled.
“Hah, well done,” said Ouska. “It will rise nicely if you keep that up.”
“So the harder you whack it, the better it gets?”
“That’s about the size of it,” replied the older woman.
“So, Aunt,” said Cat, pummeling, squishing, and pounding the dough, “there was something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
“Yes?” said Ouska, looking up from her kneading.
“You know, being an Unissima—do you sometimes have special dreams?”
“Dreams?” The older woman took Cat’s piece of dough, smacked the two lumps back together, kneaded them into a ball, and put it in a bowl on the warming shelf by the stove. “That’ll need to rise for a few hours now,” she said. “What kind of dreams do you mean?”

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The dough after rising for about three hours

[…]
“There,” she said, handing Cat a jug, “we need to feed the sourdough. Get it about half full of warm water, would you?”
Cat collected the water from the tap in the bathroom behind the kitchen. […]
Ouska mixed the water with some more flour into the remaining sourdough in the crock … [and] put the sourdough crock on the warming shelf beside the mixing bowl. “Now,” she said, “by tomorrow it will have worked through nicely, and we can make another batch of bread if we need to. So that’s all there is to bread making, other than rising and baking it.

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The shaped bread ready to rise for the second time

[…]
“Okay,” said Cat, “so let me write down the bread recipe. […] About three or four cups of sourdough?”
“Yes, about that. And as much flour to start with, and then however much it takes to make a firm dough. Don’t forget to write down the salt; it’s a mite bland without it.”
Cat copied it out.
“How long does it need to rise?” she asked.
“Oh, a few hours. Until it’s about twice as big as it was.”
Let rise until doubled in bulk, Cat wrote.
“Then what?”
“Then punch it down, shape it, rise it again, and bake it.”

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Fresh out of the oven

“For how long, and how hot?”
“Well, at middling heat, until it’s ready—”
Cat snorted. “Yeah, right. You sound like my grandmother. I’d ask her how to do something, and she would say ‘Oh, it’s easy, you just do it!’”
Ouska smiled. “Well, then, perhaps half an hour or so. You have to keep turning it in the oven; I’ll show you.”
Cat finished her recipe sheet:
Bake for half an hour at moderate h-
“Drat!” she said, “ink blot! And I was doing so well, too!”

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Yes, it tastes as good as it looks.

Now, if you want to know what the deal is with those dreams Cat is talking about, you’ll just have to read the book, won’t you?

Life, the Universe, and Sourdough Bread. We had it with French Onion Soup – maybe Cat’s family did too?

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CHECKMATE!

Aaaaaand – HERE IT IS!! Please welcome:

CHECKMATE!!

Toddle on over to the page, where you can choose from a profusion of links from which to get your very own e- or p-(paper)copy of the newest instalment of the Septimus Series.

Here’s what you’ll find under the snazzy cover:

Rhitha’s life is miserable – but then she meets Bina.

Rhitha’s sister has been bullying her all her life, for no reason that Rhitha can see. But when they move to Ruph, there is a new friend in Rhitha’s life: with the help of Bina and her unique powers Rhitha begins to see that there might be more going on in her family than meets the eye. There is a secret nobody suspected…
Things come to a head between Rhitha and her sister in a clash that draws in everyone around them. Are the peculiar forces at play in Ruph responsible for fanning their conflict? Who is the mysterious stranger that appears at Grandmother’s door in the middle of the storm? And can Bina help Rhitha find the strength to stand up to the bullies and become who she is meant to be?

Read it, and then leave a review! Or just let me know what you think (good or bad) – I want to know!

Life, the Universe, and a New Book Baby. Isn’t it beautiful?

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CHECKMATE has a Due Date!

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We have a due date! One for the newest book baby. No, it’s not a due-back-at-the-library date, it’s the day Checkmate is going to be officially released: February 19th!

That’s not much more than a week away. Are you excited? Yes, you are, very excited indeed. Because you can’t wait to read about the further adventures of Cat, Guy, and Bibby (who’s now called Bina, seeing as she’s no longer a little kid – if you haven’t yet read “Lavender’s Blue”, go over here to find out about it). And there’s this new kid, Rhitha – what’s going on with her and her family? Why is her sister being so mean to her? You’ll find out soon…

So mark it on your calendar: next week Friday you can go online and get your very own copy of Checkmate. Or, even better, you could hop over to Amazon or Smashwords right now and pre-order the ebook, then you’ll get it delivered the moment it’s released!

Just nine more days!

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More New Stuff, and a Surprise

You know how I’ve been promising Book 3 in the Septimus Series for quite some time now? Well, it’s getting close – really, really close! And just to whet your appetites, heeeeeere – DRUM ROLL, PLEASE! – is the amazing, snazzy, mysterious and oh-so-promising COVER (once again designed by the great Steven Novak).

May I introduce: CHECKMATE!

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And of course you want to know what the book is about, don’t  you? Yes, you do. Here’s what:

Rhitha’s life is miserable – but then she meets Bina.

Rhitha’s sister has been bullying her all her life, for no reason that Rhitha can see. But when they move to Ruph, there is a new friend in Rhitha’s life: with the help of Bina and her unique powers Rhitha begins to see that there might be more going on in her family than meets the eye. There is a secret nobody suspected…

Things come to a head between Rhitha and her sister in a clash that draws in everyone around them. Are the peculiar forces at play in Ruph responsible for fanning their conflict? Who is the mysterious stranger that appears at Grandmother’s door in the middle of the storm? And can Bina help Rhitha find the strength to stand up to the bullies and become who she is meant to be?

I know, I know – there’s nothing about Cat or Guy or Bibby in this blurb. Or is there? To find out, you’ll have to wait just a tiny little bit longer, because I have another surprise for you that’ll help explain – and that one is going to be free! A special treat, from me for you, to shorten the wait.

Life, the Universe, New Stories and Surprises.  Just a few more days!

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Filed under Checkmate, The Septimus Series, writing