Lots of news to share. Earlier this year, I was invited to join Sterling & Stone, a vibrant story studio with twenty story creators involved. We consult and work together on various writing projects. I just finished a 3-book sci-fi, alien invasion series set in Kenya. Definitely outside of my usual writing zone. I learned a lot both from the actual writing and also from the feedback from the studio. It’s been an amazing experience so far, and I’m super excited to see how things unfold in 2020.

Sterling & Stone has also asked me to co-lead their new cozy mystery line. I couldn’t be happier! I’ve finished the first book in the modern-day cozy mystery series about a family of witches living in a colonial mansion on a tea estate in Tea Town, Kenya. The series is much more in line with the Society for Paranormals with lots of quirky characters and zany humor. I’ll share more as that series unfolds.

Getting back into cozy mysteries has reminded me how much I love and miss Miss Knight and her crazy, quirky family: her husband Mr. Timmons; her two brothers (Tiberius the Popobawa, Drew the werewolf); the she-demon Koki; and the rest of the crew. And of course, we can never forget Nelly, her possessed flying horse. So I’m contemplating to dip my toes back into colonial Kenya with a continuation of the Cozy Tea Shoppe series. If I do, it’ll be in April or so. So stay tuned for that.

And finally, I want to share with you a great Christmas gift for all of you cozy mystery readers: a mega-sale! Each book should now be priced at 99c from 15 to 22 December (including the 3-book boxset for Society for Paranormals, if you haven’t already read those books). Sadly, the promo is only available for Amazon users. Sorry about that! Hop on over to Amazon to pick up some great deals in time for the Christmas holidays.

Next week, I’ll be traveling to Israel to visit my son who is doing a year of voluntary work at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa. I’ll be thinking of all of you while I enjoy a much needed family holiday.

Happy holidays and Happy New Year!

PS: What adventures would you like Miss Knight to have next?!

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I went to Madagascar with my family for a week. Amazing experience. Beautiful country. And no, we didn’t meet King Julian of movie fame (the awesomely obnoxious lemur from the animated movie Madagascar).

Feeding lemurs

But we did meet some lemurs up close and personal. And boy, do those creatures like to move it, move it! They can certainly leap around. A few even landed on our shoulders (true story).

Hey there, Kermit

We also encountered another jungle resident. Leeches.

Insect vampires about the size of an inch worm. Except not as cute or cuddly or slow. Oh, and here’s a fun fact: jungle leeches can move FAST. They aren’t inching along, that’s for sure.

I’ll wait for you to make a mental note of that fact.

So there we were – husband, daughter and me – hiking through a national park. Minding our own business. Taking only photos. Leaving only footprints and a banana peel.

My daughter screamed.

A leech had landed on her hand.

Before we could act, react or run in the opposite direction, she scraped her hand against a tree trunk. A few attempts dislodged the little bloodsucker.

Disaster averted. Until…

I casually rubbed my hand against the back of my neck.

You know that moment when you realize something nasty? Like you just stepped in fresh dog poop with your brand new shoes on the way to a wedding. Or the electricity cut before you finished boiling water for your morning tea.

Yeah. That feeling.

My fingers brushed against an inch-length, worm-like creature. The leech took the hint and immediately leaped onto my hand.

Wrong hint.

I yanked my hand forward and began shouting, “Leech! Leech!” The word echoed through the jungle as I flicked my hand and tried to brush the disgusting little insect off me.

Remember that factoid about how speedy those suckers are?

It dodged my efforts and wove in between my fingers faster than my eyes could track. (I’ll pause here to let you shudder in fascinated horror.)

My husband shouted at me to come down the path so the guide could help me. The guide was crashing through the underbrush to try to reach me. My daughter was jumping up and down in shared disgust and terror, hopefully crushing other leeches under her boots.

I began hitting my hand against a tree trunk. No way was I walking down the path. Because I knew the minute I stopped pummeling my hand, the leech was going to sink its little fangs into my skin. And I’d take a bruise over a bite any day.

The guide came into view.

The leech paused in its mad dash around my hand.

I took the opportunity to scrape my hand against the tree. The rough bark must’ve snagged the leech. Or maybe the critter got tired. Don’t know. Don’t care. As long as that sucker was off me, I was good. Traumatized. But good.

I compulsively checked my neck and hairline for any other unwanted guests. I made my daughter and the guide check as well. Then I pulled the hood of my rain jacket over my head and tightened the drawstrings.

We continued to hike. Humidity and heat increased. That jacket stayed on, fully zipped up. No way was I exposing any more of my skin than absolutely necessary.

Apart from that, it was a great trip! Here’s a few more photos for your viewing pleasure.

Tomato Toad
Chameleon on steroids, held by my daughter
Stairs into the jungle
Jungle village

No, this isn’t a mommy blog, but I do get asked from time to time what it’s like raising kids in Kenya. So here goes… For the most part, it’s pretty similar to anywhere else.

You feed them healthy-ish food (sausage and popcorn count, right?); clothe them (shoes are overrated); provide them stimulating activities (re-runs of The Lion King movie until my head explodes); expose them to nature (tell the dogs to chase them around the house); and give them kid-appropriate tasks (like climbing on the roof to clean out the gutters).

But there are a few differences.

We have the benefit of house help, which means there’s one more adult the kids can run to. The kids have to compete with the monkeys for the ripe fruit on our trees. Lions and zebras don’t excite them, but sighting raccoons in Vancouver sent them into spasms of joy as did the large gray squirrels. Those furry critters are WAY more interesting than what we have at home.

They’ve visited rural villages and urban slums, and know that wealth comes in many forms. One of the best forms? One time, we were staying with a family in a village in Western Kenya, and my kids were super impressed the family owned a goat. The lack of electricity and indoor plumbing only added to the wow factor because kerosene lamps and pit latrines are part of the adventure.

Speaking of electricity or lack thereof – the kids learned pretty young how to light a candle and to not open the fridge door when the electricity was off. Bugs and bats don’t bother them, which is a good thing considering we don’t have netting over our windows.

But really, it’s not much different from anywhere else in the world!

It was a dark and stormy night… Seriously, it really was. This year, Nairobi’s weather has been all sorts of crazy, and a few nights ago, it hailed and rained and hailed some more. So what’s a girl to do but curl up with a cup of tea and a good book! Fortunately, my tea cabinet is now organised and fully stocked for all occasions. 

Now the singing part – I don’t sing. But wolves do, as my four dogs like to remind me at regular intervals throughout the day and night. And the next Lion Shifter story involves a wolf. (Who says cats and dogs can’t get along?!) As with all my Paranormal Africa books, this one has a lot of reality woven into the fiction.

It’s going to be a night to remember, and not in a good way. When election violence combines with the storm of the century, Nairobi becomes an even more dangerous city than usual. A Wolf’s Song (the last in the Lion Shifter series) is now singing to great reviews. Find your preferred store here

Over the past several months, I’ve been involved in an experiment. Well, three actually. Cowriting; Writing in a new genre; and Rapid release. I learned a lot from all three, but I’m definitely not doing two of them again.

Writing in a new genre (paranormal romance): The Lion Shifters series was a fun change, and I needed a change. After writing ten books in the Society for Paranormals series plus several free short stories and a novella, I was tired. So I decided to try something different that was still in the world of Miss Knight. 

Writing romance taught me a lot about relationship building and character-driven agendas, so that was awesome. But I’ve decided the genre itself isn’t my thing as a writer. The romance genre expects a certain format to the overall story line, and that’s just not my style. It was fun, and now I’m moving on…

Rapid release: After finishing the Lion Shifters series with my coauthor, Su Boddie, I decided to experiment with a book release a month. Oh, word, that’s no joke. There’s a lot that goes into producing a book, from the initial idea to writing the first draft, editing and re-editing, cover creation, blurb preparation and marketing. A lot of energy, time, resources, thought, time, energy… You get the picture. 

Fortunately, all the books were finished and ready to go before I launched the rapid release. However, there were still a number of actions required before you, dear reader, could purchase the book.

And to do all that every month for five months in a row, on top of other life activities (day job, family, eating, sleeping etc)–GASP! Way too much. Plus it meant that most of my emails were about the next release, rather than the conversations I like to have with all of you.

So what’s next, you ask? To finish off the Lion Shifters series, I will be releasing Book 5 next week and a box set of the first three books a few weeks later. And then I’m going to ponder the options. Any ideas? Let me know!

In the meantime, A King’s Pride is 99c to celebrate a blog tour I’m doing. Enjoy!

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