Friday 27 February 2015

Pistachio Promises

I love this post so much. Ever since VegFusion did a dish inspired by Divakaruni's Sister of my Heart, I've wanted someone to turn my book into food.

Kahakai Kitchen, the last reviewer on the TLC Book Tour, did just that. 

Salty, tangy, cheesy, herby, nutty, this is a fabulous dip, with a rich and elegant flavor and a little kick of spice at the end.

Sums up the novel pretty well, I think.

Wrap your lips around Pistachio & Feta Dip.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Five Things

I've just been featured on Chuck Wendig's terribleminds! Five things I learned whilst writing Rosy Hours.

Yesterday concluded the TLC blog tour that began on 2nd February. It's been a fascinating experience. On the whole, extremely positive:

I loved two things the most about Those Rosy Hours. I loved the writing and I loved the characters. It is rare for modern writers to create in-depth complicated, character-driven stories...The writing in Those Rosy Hours is just what you would hope from a story set in the Middle East in the past. Everything feels magical, compelling, and like there are secrets hidden in every corner. - Daily Mayo

This actually happened to my editor:

It's also led to another interview which will hopefully get distribution in a magazine in the US with a circulation not to be sniffed at.

Not everybody was so enamoured. There were a couple of duff reviews, but only one that was really narky. The main gripe appeared to be 'These characters are psychopaths!' Not the first time that's been pointed out. Maybe I should run them past Jon Ronson.

As someone uttered in my defence:

You know what drives me nuts? When a person can't distinguish between a good book and a book with likable characters. 

Gothic fiction was never intended to be comfortable. Thankfully, there's plenty of readers out there who like the book for precisely the same reason this reviewer didn't. And the ones who love it are the ones who throw you your next opportunity, or offer you a leg up. The ones who don't are forgotten as quickly as their reviews. 

Especially with so much else on my plate at the moment.

I've just moved house today. Sitting here blogging whilst repair men finish doing something to the driveway and the landlord's sons move some furniture. I'll probably post more about that soon. My publisher is constantly urging me to get more personal on my blog. I've been resisting, but the other day I was made Country Program Director for a human rights organisation. Based in New York, they work in post-genocide countries: Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda, where I live. 

Me, I like to keep my creative side and my professional side as separate as I can manage. Publishers tend to like an author who has travelled, but most development organisations are suspicious of consultants who write. No one wants another Emergency Sex on their hands.

However, my new boss wanted to mention something about my writing on my profile. He's an actor, so I guess we're getting creative about human rights. I relented there, so I guess I can relent here. This is what I do for a day job.

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Charm Bracelet

"What are your favourite short lines in the book?" my editor, Salomé, asked. "I'm doing a project."


I can't actually remember exactly what I replied now. Something about pink plumed horses riding into hell, and probably catching a glimpse of the future unwritten and turning away.

"Did you get it yet?" She asked, some weeks later.


"I'm not allowed to tell you."

"Then how do I know if I've got it?"


I posted a while back about the beautiful Phantom-inspired jewelry that Stephanie Piro makes. She's so talented. Also a cartoonist. There's this one bracelet (above) inspired by Rosy Hours of Mazenderan (the original spelling in Leroux's novel). I looked for the price when I first saw it, but it had already been sold.

Turns out, Salomé and my dad conspired. My favourite lines were incorporated into the bracelet and my dad bough it for my birthday. I was completely taken aback. Skyped him the other night and he showed me. 

Didn't want to post it out, as things often go missing in the post here. But I'm looking forward to wearing it, and holding the original cartoon from the book review, when next in the UK. So touched!

Audiobook Release

Woop woop! Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran is now available as an audiobook. It should be out on iTunes in the next couple of days, too. You can listen to a sample by clicking Play Audio Sample beneath the picture on that website.

Very excited indeed. Please do check out Emma's site for more of her work.

Also saw this cute app. It's the bibliophile's version of Tinder/Grinder. Helps you hook up with bookstores and authors in your area.

Monday 23 February 2015

Read to Grow, Write to be Understood

These lovely people are sitting on those steps because of me. 

A little while back I made a post about Isaro Foundation (website/Facebook/Twitter). They're a fabulous organisation helping to establish a literary culture in Rwanda. They stock public and school libraries with books (in partnership with Books for Africa), they train teachers in creative writing, and they started the country's first ever elibrary.

I was there last Thursday with my consultancy company, helping them to develop a three-year strategic plan. Really hope to work with them more in the future.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Appeal for Damascene

Please, please, please can you read this appeal for Damascene.

Damascene is my housekeeper here in Kigali, and something awful has just happened to him.

Please help me to make it better.

[UPDATE: Damascene's house is almost complete. I went to take a look and meet his family.]

Friday 20 February 2015


My lovely friend Isaac commissioned this portrait of me for my birthday today! I've never had my portrait done. One of the most thoughtful presents I've ever had. Taken from a publicity shot my cousin Alx (of Hanging the Star) took for my first ever book release. Very good likeness indeed.

Left: Artist Augustin Uwase Right: Isaac

Thursday 19 February 2015

Let the Sun Shine

Karol Bak


I've been hitting my head against a brick wall for the past couple of weeks with my new novel. Things were going swimmingly. Sailed over the 65k mark, headed into round two, when bham! Brick wall. A seemingly insurmountable scene change required.

Doom and gloom descended. It was all shit. The whole concept was crud. No point going on, nobody will ever read it...

(I'm sorry, distracted from blogging by that picture - doesn't she look like cracked crème brûlée?)

Anyway. Finally solved it yesterday. Switched from writing prose to writing poetry and nailed it. Sometimes desperation is a great motivator.

It's now brilliant. Best thing I've ever written! Guaranteed best seller.

Just done a kick-ass strategy workshop with an awesome organisation called Isaro Foundation. Love these guys. Hope to work with them more closely over the next few months. Promoting a literary culture in Rwanda, stocking libraries with books and supporting authors.

[NB: If you're a writer in Africa or the Middle East, check this before April 30th 2015.]

Man, my brain is exploding. My editor's swung me a spot on an impressive website, but I gotta write the article this weekend.

Meanwhile, a lovely lady contacted us to say the book is bloody good (ahfankyou) and will I do an interview for early March, which will be transposed (in part) into a magazine with a 10k circulation! Not sure what the circulation of Writing Magazine was, but I'm just madly amazed I made it into either, yet alone both.

BUT - I gotta write the answers.

Look, alright, I know I wanted to be a writer, but nobody told me how much writing was involved!

There's a lot of pressure to say something interesting. I'm sure I've lived an interesting life. I must have done, I'm typing this from Central Africa. But put me on the spot and I live inside a paper bag I can't find my way out of. That's the point of writing - you have time to think about it. Interviews aren't half so forgiving.

I'm very happy though.

My To Do list for tomorrow:

Wake up
Be 34

Realised I was about 27 when I first attempted to write a novel (Lucid). Haven't done too badly since then, but time does slip by fast. Owe it to myself to cut back on whatever isn't writing and get a move on with it. Certainly don't want to let another three years pass between releases. Not now I've found my groove. 

Ink me, baby.

Tuesday 17 February 2015


Yeah, you know you've got an earworm goin' on right now.

Got let loose on a bubblegum lollipop.

What a fun couple of days. Finally got that interview done with Ghostwoods. Here's me waffling on about me book:

I'm such an ummm-er. Need to work on that.

So, hell, cripes - got a massive grin on my face. 

If you haven't been following on Facebook or Twitter, Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran debuted at #6 on Amazon UK's Fantasy/Historical best sellers list. 

(click to enlarge)

It's just totes amazeballs really. Wasn't expecting anything like that. Need to push it harder in the US now. Busy writing guest blogs between power-outs. Had some incredible thunderstormes in Kigali recently. They don't call this the lightning capital of the world for nawt. 

Anyway - happiness. 

Dad & Marilyn at home in the UK
with a box full of books

Monday 16 February 2015

A Game of Thrones

I inhaled this book through my eyes.

I've been wanting to read it for a really long time. My mad mate Paul introduced me to it yonks ago. I went to stay with him for a few months, went walking in the Scottish hills and catching up on old times.

In between hangovers, he kept disappearing off to his room to watch something, and all I'd hear were gasps and growls and the occasional swear word.

"What you watchin'?" I asked, popping my head round the door, relieved to see he had clothes on.

"Game of Thrones," he replied.

"What of what, now?"

From that moment on I was hooked. Back to back from the beginning to the end of series two or three. Loved every minute of it, amazed out of my conk that something that good was on telly.

I've been watching along like most people, yet my fingers have been itching to turn the cover of the books - or press the kindle forward button. Partly because one of my great pleasures in life is reading a book after I've seen the movie. Some think that's a strange way round, but I like to get the abridged version first, then see what really happened. It feels like being let in on a secret that others haven't been told. You can't be disappointed when you do it that way round. Dexter, Chronicles of Riddick, even Pride & Prejudice - I read them all after watching the films.

Secondly, it's professional curiosity. I'd been writing a fantasy trilogy when this came out. Took one look at it, realised R. R. Martin had nailed every subgenre in that category, and wondered what was left to write. Relegated my MS to the bottom drawer.

Naturally, I wanted to see how he'd written it. How it was constructed.

I was not in the least bit disappointed. Anything that gets recommended by Janny Wurts can't go amiss.

Books like this and Dexter fascinate me. They are just so perfectly written for film. You know this, because, when they do get adapted, barely anything changes. The dialogue's the same, the opening scene - in fact, with GoT, almost every scene. It's so good, it doesn't need alterations. 

I read some really odd reviews a while back, when I was asking how the book measured up to the TV series. Some people who loved the series completely dissed the book, mostly saying there were too many characters and perspectives - it was confusing. 

Amber style - Whatever.

Absolutely romping read. Loved every minute of it. Though I have to hold my hands up and admit, watching the TV series did make me imaginatively lazy. I transposed the cast wholesale and I probably would have puzzled over a few things had I not had such a clear image already.

Haven't read a book that length that fast in quite some time.

Looking forward to the next instalment. My goal is to catch up with the series at least before the last one comes out, if it ever does. I'd be happy if it just went on forever.

Anyway. For variety I do have to intersperse it with other reads. I have the whole of Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci series to get through, plus a couple of books on how to write. Having written a few novels now, I sort of feel like maybe it's time to learn...? Currently On Writing with Stephen King. It takes a lot to be that entertaining when discussing the pitfalls of passive voice.

Anyway - yes, Game of Thrones. Love it in all its forms. Really very little difference between film and book, so if you're just going to sit and watch a re-run, you may as well read it this time round. 

Sunday 15 February 2015

Historical Fantasy #18

What a mad 24 hours it's been.

Yesterday, Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, which I first started blogging about back in May 2013, finally hit the shelves.

I was due to do a Skype interview with my publisher, but it started hailing hard just as I was about to call. I have tin rooves so it sounded like artillary, drowning out any chance of a conversation.

My publisher is based in London, but my editor, who was conducting the interview, is in Spain at the moment. I'm GMT + 2, she's GMT + 1, and by the time we'd finished our interview (20 minutes of Q&A, another 45 minutes of general gassing) the first reviews were starting to roll in from America.

"Have you seen this?" Salomé asked. "You've already got five reviews!"

"Have you seen the UK site?" I replied. "There's nine!"

We watched as they started to rise...

I can't even begin to describe this (which is odd for a writer, usually we can describe everything in between 500-100,000 words). When I first started this post it said Historical Fantasy #56, because it was ranked 56th in Amazon UK's Fantasy/Historical catagory.

I refreshed and I'd climbed to 18!

I'm gobsmacked. I'm up there with Bernard Cornwell, who wrote Sharpe, and an excellent article on writing historical fiction in the 2010 Artists' & Writers' Yearbook, which was hugely helpful in my own endevours. Also, right next to Elizabeth Kostova, whose book The Swan Thieves I recently read.

Amazon rankings are constantly changing, depending on how many sales and reviews you get in a short space of time. This may be the highest I get, but I've never been anywhere close to it before. I am simply over the moon.

I cannot thank my publisher and readers enough for all of their support over the past few months. It's been the best lead-in to launch I've had of any of my books, and the effort they've invested really paid off. I won't blubb into an Oscar speech. Just know that it is hugely appreciated, and that it makes me want to write even more.

Now I truly need to stop hitting refresh and get some sleep.

Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday 14 February 2015

My Funny Valentine

Happy Birthday Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, on official release today.

Read yesterday's post for all the pre-release info and links.

First review already in. Savouring the brief moment as a five-starer before the rankings kick in:

I was enticed, bewitched and gripped, and couldn’t put it down. The evil minx who is the narrator of the story had my sympathies against my better nature. It’s not just the artful story telling and eloquent, atmospheric prose, or the fabulous, sensual descriptions steeped in the customs and history of the time, with majic and mystery thrown in. It’s also wholly original, unpredictable and gruesomely satisfying to the end – a wonderful read! One thing is certain – there will be blood!

Just happened to notice that three of my four novels are February releases. With the exception of Angorichina, published in June, the others run:

  • Georg[i]e - 15th Feb 2012
  • Lucid - 22nd Feb 2012
  • Rosy Hours - 14th Feb 2015

Completely unintentional, and February is also my birthday.


Friday 13 February 2015

Friday 13th

Well... That's it.

Tomorrow Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran goes on official release.

You can stay up-to-date on the Rosy Hours Facebook page run by Ghostwoods Books.

If you run a book blog, you can order a review copy of my work or any of Ghostwoods' publications.

There are also chances to win copies at the following blogs (I'll keep adding to the list until the TLC Book Tour ends on 25th February):

There's also a couple of guest blogs about the background (more to come, check back):

Couple of interviews:

Also launched my own newsletter, and got reviewed by gnomes, of all things!

The blog tour seems to be going well so far. Only had one duff review from someone who didn't like the main character or reference to magic. All the rest have been really complimentary. 

Some of my favourite blogger quotes have included:

There are some books that in spite of reading synopses and promotional materials seem to defy all expectation. Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran is one of those books. - No More Grumpy Bookseller 

I found myself at various times enchanted, revolted, horrified, relieved, exulted and most of all thankful that I’d read a book that challenged me as much as this one did. - Broken Teepee

I especially admired 5 Minutes for Books' review, in which the reviewer admitted that the book was a little dark for her tastes, but still found it in herself to says that it was:

[A] dark tale, fantastically written, sumptous and gorgeous but filled with blood and death... if you want to immerse yourself in a glittering, powerful court where cruelty runs in the veins, this is the book you’ll enjoy.

It takes a lot to see the merits in a book you wouldn't ordinarily read. 

However, my favourite review so far has come from an independent Phan (a Phantom of the Opera fan) on CheriePie's Book Reviews:

The writing was superb, written a bit like prose, yet fully descriptive and engaging at the same time. I truly immersed myself in this book, forgetting where I was and feeling myself walking through the sumptuous palace, the streets of Sari, or wherever else the author happened to be describing... This book will definitely be classified as one of my favorite reads.

I don't think I could possibly have done better than that.

Today is Friday 13th. 13 plays a huge part in Rosy Hours - there are thirteen chapters, and Afsar's birthday falls on the Day of Chaos, thirteen days after New Year. 

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Let's hope the planets align to make people fall in love with this book.

It's totally out of my hands now.

Good luck, little book.

I have loved you.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

That Bites

Marion, why is your kindle cover in the freezer? 
Wanna talk about it? 

Monday 9 February 2015

Indulgently Phantom

It began with a post on the Phantom of the Opera (PotO) Facebook page.

Which led to the question, What would happen if Tim Burton did Phantom...

Outstanding DevientArt by  Muirin007
Follow that link for more Burtony PotO.

Which then begs the question, what if it were manga?

PersonA ~Opera Za no Kaijin~

Or horsified (erm)...

DeviantArt by xXDamselFlyXx
Dragged back to its roots.

Rendered as classic art.

Christine & Erik by Anne Bachelier

Art Nouveau.

DeviantArt by ZhdaNN

Or Disney.... as if I would!

Blood and Roses by Stephanie Piro

At the end of the day, you gotta have fun with it, right?

Phantom of the OPRAH by Muirin007

Heck, Yes by Muirin007

Friday 6 February 2015

Sweet Tooth

Image from A Day to Remember

And so the book tour continues, this time with an exclusive guest post I wrote for Beth Fish's blog, titled Sweet Tooth. I talk about the special sweets and treats mentioned in Those Rosy Hours

There is such a sensual link between food and thought. Hot, spicy dishes to rouse our temper, wine to loosen our tongues, and sugar to sweeten our hearts...

I provide some recipes and links to tutorials for anyone who'd like to have a go at recreating the flavours of Persia. Though go easy on the Halva - I can eat myself sick on that stuff.

I've been lucky in that the last couple of blogs haven't been star raters, which makes them more pleasant to appear on. It's nice to have the book featured without getting a thumbs-up or thumbs-down at the end. 

Beth is still to review it, I think. The guest post was an appetiser. But it seemed to go down well with Booksie's Blog:

Woolley has written a dark historical novel that is full of intrigue, cruelty and revenge.  It poses the question about what one would do for love and whether love is possible or whether it will always be haunted by the spectre of betrayal.  This book is written for readers of historical fiction, fantasy and horror. 

Don't think I'll ever get used to people referring to me by my last name. It's like all authors are members of a football team or something, hanging out in the locker room: "Oi, Woolley!"

Part and parcel of the game, I suppose.

Four down, nine to go... nine and a half, possibly ten if Beth's not through with me yet... 

Bit of a breather. Next one's not out until 11th.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Marketing Rosy Hours: Get a Review Copy

Image by Babak Fatholahi

There's an excellent article written by my publisher all about the challenges of marketing my 'tiny little tyrant'.

If you run a review blog, you can ask for a review copy. There's a link at the bottom of that article.

Second blog review on the blog tour came in yesterday:

There are some books that in spite of reading synopses and promotional materials seem to defy all expectation.

Read the full review at No More Grumpy Bookseller. Another chance to win a copy there, internationally.

Wednesday 4 February 2015


Just to mention a couple of interviews I've done recently. One for the prestigious Riffle Books: 

If you'd like to know more about me, my writing and Rosy Hours, those are good places to start.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

My Room

I was at the airport at midnight waving off my couchsurfer. John stayed with me for a week, before heading up north to Gisenyi and circling back for a couple of nights. He was flying off to South Africa to see family before going on to Madagascar. 

He's been travelling the world for the past five years shooting his project My Room: Portrait of a Generation. After winning a big photography prize, and with some sponsorship behind him, he's been photographing the rooms of 18-30 year olds around the world, contrasting poverty, culture and 'cool'. Article all about it here.

Africa is his last continent before he wraps up the project and publishes his collection of photos and stories. 

It was a real pleasure to meet him. I've always taken in couchsurfers when I've had the space, and I've met some lovely people. Always nice when you can help somebody who is undertaking a personal project, knowing you've been a small part of something.

Me On My Way To Work
Taken By John

Monday 2 February 2015

Let the Blog Tour Begin

Well, Rosy Hours' blog tour began today. It's the first time I've been on one of these, and I must say it's nerve-racking.

A blog tour is where your publisher sends out advanced reading copies to book bloggers, and they post their honest reviews of your work on their website. As with normal reviews, you've never met the reviewers and they have a developed sense of what they like and don't like. The difference being that their review is the only one on display. If they hate it, there's no positive reviews to even out the rating.

All you can do is sit back and wait for opinions to roll in.

Auspiciously, Rosy Hours has thirteen chapters, and thirteen blogs have signed up to review it!

Little spooky.

So far most of the advanced reviews have been good, some have been stunning, and a couple underwhelmed. It's a tricky book, firstly because it's based on a classic novel that already has a cult following, and cult followers always have a strong sense of ownership over the original characters, and secondly because it's very dark. When you send out ARCs, you don't know whether the person who is going to read it likes dark books. If they prefer RomComs and feel-good literature, they're unlikely to give it a thumbs-up.

I am nervous, of course I am. Anybody who's poured six months of typing and almost a year of pre-production angst into something is bound to hold their breath. I hope people will like it, I know some - my publisher included - already do. But I don't mind too much if it gets a few duff reviews.

I don't mind because I know it's good work. If people don't like it, it's likely to be down to the genre, or failing to meet preconceived expectations about how the characters would look or behave. It won't be because the prose are poor quality or the product looks shabby. Ghostwoods have done a truly incredible job.

This is my best foot forward.

I do read reviews of my work, though I'm selective about what I take to heart. It's always amusing to find a literary review by a reviewer with less than a rudimentary grip on grammar. It's also entertaining to see the 'Hell, no!'  reviews. People who feel strongly opposed to something, but refuse to explain why. Thankfully, I've had very few of those in my career to date.

Like any writer, I do so love to hear nice things. There's special satisfaction in knowing your characters are well developed, or that you've managed to surprise someone. Nothing worse than being a predictable writer. There's even more pleasure in reading reviewers who overcame their aversion to the darkness in order to discover that they really loved the story.

Good literature should make you feel something, whether you love it or hate it.

I rarely feel injured by anything anybody says. I'm very much in Voltaire's camp:

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.

I've written a few underwhelmed reviews myself in the past, though nowadays I tend to forgo comment on books I haven't enjoyed in order to focus on those I have. Somebody will love even the worst literature, so why not speak of the merits of literature strongly, that people might find what they enjoy faster?

We all have our preferences.

When it comes to criticism, if something is offered constructively, in kindness, I will listen. But, like science had proven of the teenage brain, when parental wrath opens its mouth, it falls on deaf ears. I take a very philosophical approach to reviews. For every review that states it is too dark and ugly, there are connoisseurs of dark ugliness that realise they have found what they were looking for.

Thankfully, my first ordeal by fire has passed pleasently:

I found myself at various times enchanted, revolted, horrified, relieved, exulted and most of all thankful that I’d read a book that challenged me as much as this one did.


One down, twelve to go.

You can find the rest of that review on Broken Teepee.

If you're in the US or Canada, there's also a chance to win a free copy on that blog.

I'm off to do some press-ups (who am I kidding? I've never done press-ups in my life!) and prepare for the next round.

*quiet voice* I've been advised not to share the blog tour dates in case something ghastly gets said, but here on my blog I feel in safe company. If you would like to bite your nails alongside me, the line-up is here. Celebrations and commiserations always welcomed.