Categories
short stories Social anxiety

ISOLOTTERED

The wonderful, amazing, one-of-a-kind Ailsa Abraham, who often goes by the name of Otter, chose me as the winner of her competition at my recent launch party for my new book: Social Anxiety Revealed.

I chose to win one of her short stories. For the topic, I chose a socially anxious otter, of course. Here’s the result, sweet and satisfying and… probably with an underlying message. What do you think?

ISOLOTTERED

Ask anyone what their first reaction to the word “otter” is and 75% or more will say “playful”. This is usually correct. They are one of the few mammals who still play as adults, just for fun, not developing skills but enjoying each other’s company.

This is why a very small female otter was so different. She had been the runt of a very large litter and never gained full mature size so was easily bullied by her four brothers. This meant that she also went without food a lot of the time which didn’t help her growth.

Anxious Otter

She sat on the riverbank, desperately wanting to join in the mud-slide game, knowing how it was played but too timid to try. One after the other, her brothers slid down the mud, cleaving gracefully into the water, emerging spitting and laughing. Her empty tummy turned over. She wanted to slide. She should slide, it was what otters did. It was her right to slide. The rest of the “romp” were casting sidelong glances at her odd behaviour.

Grabbing the moment when her courage was highest and her self-doubt squashed, she launched herself at the mud-slide just as an elderly matron otter was wiggling her bottom to get traction to start off. The two of them became a tangle of legs, tails and frantic squeaking, rolling over and over to make a resounding splash as they hit the river with anything but grace.

The elderly female had produced several litters and was forgiving of the clumsy youngster but the little otter swam away, disgusted with herself. She had tried to join in and had nearly killed someone respected in the community. She would go hunting. She was hungry and the one thing she could do very well was a solo activity. She was happiest when catching fish, finding a concealed spot on the bank and stuffing her belly.

From there is became a fear with her of standing out. She remembered the whole group looking at her in disbelief and never wanted that to happen again. She had a small number of females of a similar age who would tolerate her but in general she kept to herself, which is how the accident happened.

As the others were playing at chasing butterflies and the little otter knew she would just be in the way, trip them up or fall on her back, she wandered off to stray into Man land. She had been told to avoid humans as they were usually trouble and their “rolling feet” were always fatal in the end. She found herself by one of these rolling feet paths and lay, terrified by the monsters as they rushed past. She could smell a good place on the other side of the path, what little she could smell over the stink of their bums! It called to her and she dashed out to cross the path just as a monster appeared out of nowhere. It did not hit her but the rush of air knocked her over and she bumped her head on the hard ground.

When the little otter woke up she was in a very strange place that smelled of many different animals, Man and very clean stuff. Raising her head she saw hard things like reeds in front of her face. Putting up a paw she felt them, cold, solid and immoveable. She was surrounded and trapped by the hard reeds and she began to cry. Next to her, in another set of hard reeds, was a cat. She knew cats. They came by the river to hunt rodents and never bothered the otters. The cat was difficult to place, male or female and its voice was drowsy.

“No cry. All good here.” That was all she could make from its mewing.

“I am frightened. I want my holt. Want my… my …group.” She didn’t say friends because she didn’t have any. The last word came out as a hiccup and she didn’t think the cat would understand.

“I had go-to-sleep-milk. Will be well. Man come touch you. All well.” The cat dozed off again, his head against the hard reeds, so the otter put her paw through them to keep contact. Her fingers rested on his whiskers and she felt comforted. It smelt male but not quite male.

She must have gone to sleep herself then because the next thing she knew a human face was on the outside of the hard reeds, looking in at her and squeaking, softly. The noises made no sense to the otter but the feeling coming off this one with female smell was “mother”. She dared to look at the face and saw no teeth bared but the eyes were squeeze-shut like a cat’s when it is happy. The little otter poked a paw out between the hard reeds and squeaked “lonely” at her. The cat was awake and said

“Good human. Friend. Play nice. No bite.”

The little otter had never bitten anyone in her life, apart from fish, so when the human put a paw in to pick her up, she just curled into a ball and trembled. She found herself next to the female’s chest being stroked and hearing small, comforting sounds. It was like being in her litter with her brothers but she had this body all to herself. She found herself nestling in and being at ease.

***

As soon as I walked into the post-op room and saw Sarah holding the otter, I knew exactly how it would go. It so often did. She was a one-woman walking animal rescue centre and we sometimes wondered how she managed it on her salary. We often paid her overtime in animal food and she said that now her two boys were off her hands she had plenty of pocket money. Perhaps the animals filled the gap left by them.

“Well now…is this an adoption I see before me?” I wondered.

Sarah turned, reddening.

“Sorry, Geoff, she was being unhappy and I had to hold her. Look, she’s quite contented now.”

Happy Otter

“So would I be in her position!” It was a standing joke in the surgery that Sarah’s breasts came around the corner a minute before the rest of her appeared and she laughed, good-naturedly at my jest.

She popped the young otter on the table for me to examine again, gently resting her hands on its neck to stop it running away.

“No damage from the accident but look here, I’m sure her eyesight is poor. She seems uncoordinated.  I wonder if she is a runt that shouldn’t have survived?” I shone the light into the animal’s eyes, then encouraged it to walk a few steps. “I really don’t know if we could risk putting her back, not smelling of vets and a bit wonky.” Sarah’s eyes met mine above the table. We both knew.

“Well, in that case, I’ll take her home with me and keep an eye on her. We don’t have the cage space here for her. If she looks any better I’ll bring her in and if you think it’s right, we can return her to the wild.” Sarah said as she scooped the otter up into her arms, its head on her shoulder again.

“Looking at how she’s taken to you, I doubt very much that she’ll want to.” I turned to leave the room adding, “Take some fishy cat food with you. Your new guest is going to need feeding up, she’s tiny.”

***

The little otter had finally found a friend and in that friend’s house, a new group to which she could belong. Different animals with different handicaps, all a bit wonky but all loved to bits. There she could socialise and feel at home.

 

Categories
Books Reviews

Attention to Ailsa

Today is a special day for us all and especially for one special person: Ailsa Abraham. Today is the launch of her new book, Attention to Death. You’re invited to join today’s launch party.

I have read and loved both of her previous Crooked Cat books and am looking forward to reading this one. The story leads to an issue that has also arisen for Emma Rose Millar and me regarding The Women Friends: Selina.

And Ailsa herself is here to tell us all about this book, which is new in more ways than one. Over to you, Ailsa.

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Hello, Miriam, and thank you for inviting me to talk about my latest release today.

You’re very welcome, Ailsa, as always.

This is a departure from my previous series in magical realism. Here I take off on murder mystery. Why? Erm… limited attention span? Love of variety?

Attention to Death is available from Amazon: http://mybook.to/AttentionDeath

“In Attention to Death, Ailsa Abraham pulls off something I wouldn’t have thought possible – a steamy romance with a twist of murder and a splash of social conscience. A remarkable book that will have you turning pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next.”
~ India Drummond, author of the Caledonia Fae series

17093876_770816756403666_459813296_nFinding a murderer among a group of killers is not going to be easy for two Royal Army Military Police investigators, Captain Angus Simpson and Staff-Sergeant Rafael ‘Raff’ Landen, whose Christmas leave is cancelled for an investigation into a suspicious death on a base in Germany. 
The case is further complicated by unhelpful senior officers who make pre-judgements on colour, creed, race and sexuality. Yet the insight of the investigators helps them uncover a sinister plot, although they too have something to hide: their own fledgling relationship.
Will Angus and Raff be able to solve the murder without giving away their secret?
The best and worst of human nature is represented in this story, which is why it is suggested for over 18s only.

I delved into my past life as an officer in the Royal Air Force and my lifelong friendships with gay men to research this book.  Coming right after LGBT History Month in February, it highlights the problems that men who have to be “in the closet” and the sort of bigotry that causes people to refuse to read a book just because there are gay characters in it, although this doesn’t stop them leaving reviews. Me? I’ve never been too sure. I’m gender-neutral which is why the first thing I wonder on meeting new people isn’t “What do they do in  their bedrooms?”

Read it for yourself and decide. Is it an honest portrayal of two men doing their job who just happen to have started an affair?

About Ailsa

17092169_770817006403641_724394489_nAilsa Abraham  is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman’s Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon. She also writes mystery romance.

She has lived in France since 1990 and is now naturalized French. She enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell’s Angel in town . Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family.  She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care (pirate gear is her favourite!)

Ailsa’s Links

Web-pageAmazon.ukTwitterFacebookLinked-In

Categories
Books

Winner!

Last Thursday, my friend and fabulous author, Sue Barnard, launched her new book, Never on Saturday, published by Crooked Cat. She held a launch party and I was delighted to be given a slot in it.

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During the slot, I announced a competition to win a signed copy of Neither Here Nor There. Contestants had to write a short piece that had some connection with Jerusalem.

Now I can announce the winner, who is…

Ailsa Abraham

Here is her entry:

JERUSALEM

Oh please don’t sing Jerusalem
While puffing out your chest
You don’t care about that place
Cos England is the best.

You make me sick when singing of
Our “green and pleasant land”
Not caring for a second
Of a city in the sand.

While you are belting out the song
The folks out there are dying
But if you shed a little tear,
It’s for patriotism you’re crying

No it was not “builded” here
Your grammar causes guilt
It was in the Middle East
Jerusalem was built.

So think when singing, or abstain
Please, my friend, you choose
But think, if you are singing
Of Arabs and of Jews.

 Isn’t that lovely? Thank you, Ailsa!

Categories
Uncategorized

It’s My Birthday!

BlogBirthdayBannerByAilsa

So my second is odd and half my first (no prizes for working that one out) and Ailsa Abraham created this delightful banner for me. This is how it came about:

Eleven days ago, Ailsa held an online Crone Party (as you do when it’s the day before your birthday). I didn’t know quite what to expect from it, but I came prepared…

WitchReduced… and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Not only that, but I won a prize for the best costume (what costume?) from the Crone Queen herself: one of her books or artwork for my blog. As I’d read both of Ailsa’s excellent novels, I plumped for the artwork and got the banner at the top of this post. Isn’t it brilliant?

It never ceases to amaze me that I know so many people with birthdays in August. Growing up, I was always the only one in my class and consequently (because of the cut-off date in the UK) the youngest. This post is meant to be all happy, so I’ll move on now.

I was born into a different world. Rationing in the UK hadn’t quite gone, although I don’t remember it. TVs were in black and white, which I do remember.

What hasn’t changed? Queen Elizabeth II is still on the throne. The pound sterling is still in use (although shillings and pence are long gone).

FivePoundNoteReduced

 

And Israel, despite most forecasts, still exists.

Me and Jerusalem
Me and Jerusalem

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Author of the Day

Ailsa Abraham is one of a kind. There’s so much I could say about her, I wouldn’t know where to start. You’re better off hopping over to The Bingergread Cottage to find out more. What I can say is that Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum are well worth reading.

Categories
Music

Musical Surprise

Was it coincidence or fate? On Sunday, I came across several references to music.

  • Bracha Bogot shared:

MusicIs

EarWormRemoved

  • And I wondered which pieces of music could become my ear worm. A different one each day, I think. And then I returned to a question I’ve been wondering for some time. Which eight pieces of music would I take if I were to be marooned on a desert island? I often wonder that when I listen to BBC Radio 4’s, Desert Island Discs… not that I expect to ever be invited onto the programme. I haven’t come up with a list yet, but it would be an interesting exercise for another post.
  • I also thought about music in my novels. There is one – probably the next to be completed – that contains quite a lot of references to classical music. I would love to see that one in print, and not just because of the music.

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Author of the Day

Kathy Sharp writes not-quite-real fiction in the Larus Trilogy of novels. She also writes excellent short stories that appear on her Goodreads blog. And she writes song lyrics.

Categories
Books

News of a Book Sale

Sale1

Reduced for one week only from 19.02.2016

What would you give for a world free of war, dependence on fossil fuels, pollution and terrorism? That is the premise for the Alchemy series.

An accidental discovery solving the problem of fossil fuel brings this Utopian vision closer but at what cost? Could there be unforeseen consequences and how dire would they be? Who could fight demons if all established religion had been abolished?

Put aside demons and add two people more doomed than Romeo and Juliet who are forced to fight alongside each other. Mix in some very energetic Goths and an undercover Christian Granny for an explosive result as the stories move at breakneck speed into the near-future blending magical realism with pizza, ritual with slang, deepest hatred with impossible love, shape-shifting with public transport.

Sale2.

Book 1 Alchemy

Book 2 Shaman’s Drum

You can find Ailsa Abraham on TwitterFacebook and on her Web page.

Categories
Books Letters from Elsewhere

Letters from Elsewhere: Auntie Jane and Iamo

Letters from ElsewhereOh my, are you in for a treat this week. Just sit back and get ready to be entertained by the one and only Ailsa Abraham.

Jane_Austen_coloured_versionDear Auntie Jane…

It is a little-known fact that Jane Austen, during the time she was waiting for her novels to become successful, worked as an Agony Aunt on the “Journal for Refined Gentlewomen”. In a recently-discovered trunk of papers the following correspondence was found. I can only assume that one of my characters indulged in a little time-travel to hide his distress and identity.

Ailsa1

It would seem that Iamo continued because her next letter does not change tone.

Ailsa2

We can assume that there was a long gap in communication because the final letter pertaining to this question is as follows.

Ailsa3

goth wedding

BIO – Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France since 1990 and is married with no children but six grandchildren. Her passion is motorbikes which have taken the place of horses in her life now that ill-health prevents her riding. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn’t have all those, I’d have to work for a living, instead of being an author, which is much more fun.”. Her ambition in life is to keep breathing. She has no intention of stopping writing.

both with teaAs Ailsa Abraham:

 

  • Four Go Mad in Catalonia – self-published, available from Smashwords

Twitter – @ailsaabraham

Facebook – Ailsa Abraham

Web page

As Cameron Lawton

Categories
Social anxiety

Dancing – a Metaphor for Life?

On Tuesday, I was a guest author on the The Story Ape’s blog, where I wrote about Israeli folk dancing.

Ailsa Abraham commented:

I started in late middle age with Breton dancing and although exhausting it was such fun to be moving in rhythm with other people. Metaphor for life, perhaps?

The comment got me thinking about my relationship with dancing.

It began at the age of four with ballet. I had private lessons because the class was on Saturdays and I couldn’t join that for religious reasons. But I was allowed to take part in the annual concert, which was also on a Saturday. We walked to the hall because travel wasn’t allowed, and the teacher took the clothes I had to change into and wasn’t allowed to carry. I enjoyed ballet. I would probably have enjoyed the class more than the private lessons. I’d have enjoyed dancing in rhythm with other girls, but religion prevented me from doing that. I took some of the ballet exams. The best remark I got was that I had a very good sense of rhythm.

I don’t remember how I picked up the twist. Maybe from watching it on the telly. Maybe we did it at summer schools. I remember being good at it. I remember dancing it on the last day of primary school.

There were never many occasions to dance while I was at school. A wedding here, a party there. It was something I knew how to do. I watched what everyone else did and copied them. I always had confidence in my ability to dance. They laughed at me when I spoke, but never when I danced.

MeAndTheTribe
Being different (with a dance group in an Indian village)

At university there were several opportunities to dance. I loved them all. In particular, I liked dancing to the Rolling Stones’ song, Brown Sugar. I didn’t know what it was about; I just loved the music. And I loved jumping around in time with the music and in time with all the other dancers. This was something I could do at least as well as everyone else.

People I worked with were surprised to see me dance at all, let alone better and in a more liberated way than most. They assumed anxiety over talking must extend to every other activity. They were wrong.

I don’t know why it took me so long to discover folk dancing in Israel. For once, this was an activity in which I could be in step with everyone else. In everyday life I was always out of step. The only problem is that there’s more to going dancing than dancing. It’s also a time for talking.

My conclusion? Dancing is not a metaphor for my life. It’s a metaphor for what my life might have been.

If this post seems a bit confused, I think that’s because writing it has confused me. In the words of Fagin in the musical Oliver, I think I’d better think it out again. Can you help? Help me get my feet back on the ground? No, Beatles. I’m happier jumping in the air.

Categories
Books

Ailsa’s Books are on Sale

Ailsa Abraham is back on the blog to tell you about a special sale of two special books. I know they’re special – I’ve read them.

YuleFace
Elf yourself!

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TWO DAYS ONLY!

 

YULE LOVE THIS IDEA!

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2CoffeesOrTwoBooksWe celebrate the Winter Solstice or Yule so as my gift to you readers I would like to present – for the two days of 22nd and 23rd December only…..Both books in the Alchemy series at 99p or cents each for an e-book. Come on, less than a cup of coffee? Lasts longer and keeps you awake better!

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Click on the link below to see them on Amazon in YOUR country.

Universal Amazon link – anywhere in the world

 

Plenty of five star reviews and the third one is on the way – grab them while they’re this price!

 

WHAT DO YOU GET?

AlchemyBook 1 ALCHEMY  A world without war? Professor Sawhele Fielding stumbles across an invention that would change the world; something so monumental, it could spell the end of environmental disaster and conflict. With the help of her father, a shadowy figure in the world of international banking, she begins to set into motion the biggest upheaval the planet has seen. But in a changed world, dark forces are threatening the fragile peace. Where modern technology is proving useless, old magic from a bygone era might just save the day. Adrian Oliver, expert in ancient religions is skeptical until faced with incontrovertible proof that ancient evil is abroad once again. How could a Utopian dream of free fuel and peaceful co-existence turn into a nightmare? Iamo, a priest of the Mother Goddess and Riga, a Black Shaman assassin captain, are thrown together – reluctantly at first – to face a threat that nobody could have imagined before “The Changes”.

ALCHEMY is the prequel to Shaman’s Drum which features the adventures of Iamo and Riga through their world in the near future, where the established religions of our own days had been banned.

ShamansDrumBook 2 SHAMAN’S DRUM  England in the near future. Mainstream religions have been outlawed, and the old gods rule again. Iamo has been a priest of the Great Mother and is sworn to celibacy, but his love for Riga, a Black Shaman, a magical assassin, caused him to break his vows. After being imprisoned apart from each other for three years, Iamo accepts an offer to earn them both a pardon and the possibility of marriage. If they survive. Iamo and Riga must discover why demons are breaking through from the other side. Which of the cults are renegades who allow the demons through? Who can they trust? Combining their powers, they face the ordeal with the help of a band of eclectic pagans, spirit creatures, Riga’s Black Shaman brothers, an undercover Christian granny, and three unusually energetic Goths. It’s a tough assignment, but the hope of a life together keeps them fighting.

Star

Categories
Books Interviews

Triple A: Author Ailsa Abraham

I think all human beings are interesting, but sometimes it’s hard to discover the interesting parts. That’s not true of my guest today – ex-biker, shaman, Bipolar coper, expat, caravanner, author, knitter and much more. Her magic carpet brought her to a walled city, though possibly not the walled city she expected to find.

Ailsa on Yamaha

Hello Ailsa. I’m awarding you the dubious privilege of being allowed inside the walls of my world. I’m afraid it’s just me in here, so not much to see.

Rubbish, came to see you and it’s great to be here.

Part of me is now smiling. The other part is thinking: it’s nice of you to say that, but….

You’ve had your own experiences of mental health problems. Is there anything you want to tell us about them? What message do you want to give readers that might change their attitude towards mental health issues?

Yes, I have. The worst was being misdiagnosed for thirty years, which is not uncommon for Bipolars. We don’t present to the doctor when we are up so generally get wrongly-classified as depressives. This results in us not getting the correct medication which makes the situation worse. Since I had the correct diagnosis of Cyclothemic Bipolar things have been much better. It means my mood changes are very rapid over a day or two. Other Bipolars can stay in one phase for months or even a year. I’ll be on stabilising medication for the rest of my life but that is fine.

Message? Yes. Please give people a bit of slack. You don’t know what kind of hell they might be going through and make allowances, especially if they then apologise. I am still hurting very much because people I snapped at when having an extremely difficult time with my Bipolar, won’t accept my most sincere apologies and refuse to speak to me. That is their decision but I still cry about it.

Generally people with mental health problems aren’t dangerous. No, it isn’t easy to cope with someone whose moods change unexpectedly but if you make the effort to manage that, they are very grateful and make loyal friends. We’re just happy that anyone will bother with us. Mental health problems interfere very much with self-esteem so no matter how bad YOU think I am, I’m thinking worse, believe me!

“Generally people with mental health problems aren’t dangerous.” I wish others would remember that, although I understand why it’s hard. When you read that a particular murderer is a loner, it’s easy to imagine that all loners are potential murderers.

You’ve lived in France for a long time. What do you miss most about the UK?

Interesting question. I’ve been here so long that it’s home. The UK is a foreign country and I love visiting but don’t miss it. The Old Feller goes back to visit family and buy teabags which are the only thing we can’t get over here, well, not good, proper ones. I visit my family in Scotland and other friends in England but in general it’s people I miss, not places.

What are you pleased to have got away from?

Overcrowding, pokey rooms and tiny gardens!

Four Go Mad in Catalonia

What’s your connection to Judaism?

Easy. My father and grandfather were Jewish but, like the Old Feller, goy mother so not considered Jewish myself (except by the reformed Synagogue). When my father was dying, a Jewish neighbour looked after me to free mother to go to the hospital. Auntie Wyantie (Mrs. Wynant) talked to me in Yiddish and made me apricot dumplings etc. A lot of that is stuck in my mind.

Tell us a little about magic.

Wow! I could write a short book but it would meet with disapproval from so many other magic-users. OK – in a nutshell it is an ability to control energies. Often it is applied human psychology which means that when people have asked me to “work on” something for them they are more confident that it will go right – the placebo effect. Similarly if I were to tell someone I was exacting justice on them for a wrong done to someone, that might play on their psyche too. I always liken it to any other ability like being musical or able to paint. One can take lessons but it helps to have an innate gift. Also, practice, practice, practice. I hate to think how many hours I’ve spent in meditation trying to control my mind and link into energies.

No we do not need to cover ourselves in odd garments, dance naked or use esoteric paraphernalia. If you really want to know how real witches work, read Terry Pratchett. Weatherwax, Ogg and Magrat are more like my types – a bread knife and a chipped teacup rather than ornate daggers and chalices. Intention is all. I could go on. Remember, however, that where you have three magic-users in the same place you’ll get six different opinions on the same question.

Ha-ha! That sounds like what they say about Jews. How does all that use of magic relate to your novels?

The ones written under my own name, very much. My experiences working with covens and knowing other pagans was essential. I couldn’t have written the books without it and one has to have “lived” it to understand it. There is a high price to pay for manoeuvring energies which is not understood by outsiders. I was involved in pagan religions and so know the rituals inside out therefore the books ring true. The philosophies quoted within are real.

Crooked Cat Books

I enjoyed your two Crooked Cat-published novels very much. What do you have in store for us?

There has been a demand from readers for more adventures of Iamo and Riga from the first two books and I would like to see more of Adrian and Helen who are non-magical but some of my favourite characters. Dagda is kicking me to write a fourth with him as the main character which would be very tempting as a Native American Black Shaman is too good to leave hanging around without a story. I’m also in the middle of writing my comical memoirs of twenty-five years in France. That is going to be self-published for translation reasons but Crooked Cat are being very helpful with it. The title will be “Knitting With Eels” and I hope to have it out by Spring next year.

Thank you so much for coming, Ailsa. You may leave now… if you can find the way out!

BIO – Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France since 1990 and is married with no children but six grandchildren. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn’t have all those, I’d have to work for a living, instead of writing, which is much more fun.” Her ambition in life is to keep breathing and maybe move back to the UK. She has no intention of stopping writing. Her other passions are running an orphanage for homeless teddy bears plus knitting or crochet now that she has had to curtail her activities on her beloved black Yamaha motorbike.

As Ailsa Abraham:

Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum published by Crooked Cat available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Four Go Mad in Catalonia (comical memoir of a holiday) – self-published, available from Smashwords

Twitter – @ailsaabraham

Facebook Group

Website and blog