Where is Trotterwell?

With the blatant exception of her hometown of Trotterwell, every location that Argana visits is from the real world. They’re places that I’ve been, and that I love. But you may be less familiar, so I’ve drawn this map to help you out. Although there are more villages and sites of note than shown, this has the broad sweeps.

To give you an idea of scale, it’s around 20 miles from Buxton to Bakewell. But the roads are narrow and there’s a sheep around every corner, so it takes longer to drive than you’d imagine!

Also, I was inspired to draw it because my fantasy author mates have brilliant maps in the front of their books, and I’m envious 😉

Map of Peak District showing location of Trotterwell

Oh, and this marks my first use of the zoom plugin. Give it a go!

The thing about covers

As you probably guessed by now, I do my own covers. I do my own tiling in my house, too. I could get someone in, and they’d do a better job in half the time, but I’m really driven by wanting to know how something is done. And now I know a lot about how to do tiling, and even more about how not to do it, and 100% enough to appreciate someone else doing it.

Original cover for paranormal in the peaks. Argana, McGillyCuddy and Berkshire looking pensive
First cover

I’ve changed the cover to Paranormal in the Peaks 3 times, which is way more than I’ve ever had to re-do the tiling. When it was first published, it looked like this. It even had a different name! I’d got a subscription to depositphotos and wanted actual pictures of the peak district. In my mind when I visualise my characters, they’re as real as you or I, but I couldn’t find any photos that looked like any of therm. And although they look photorealistic in my head, I know the stories have a pulpy, comicy vibe. So, I drew the three most prominent human characters and chucked them on the cover.

Dust hands, job done.

By the time I’d got to releasing The Devil in Derbyshire, I’d had plenty of feedback that the cover was off-brand. Not off-brand for me, but for the genre. People didn’t know what it was, and that was maybe putting off potential readers. Wanting to revamp it, I did what I hadn’t done the previous time. I looked at a bunch of genre covers. Argana’s a young protagonist with a bunch of allies and there’s spooky goings on … it’s urban fantasy, right? They’ve got dark, single figure covers with sparks of magic and stuff. Yeah, I can do that.

Argana Zeit pressing her fingers into a swirl of magic while Max stands guard.
Second cover

That cover did better. It looked something closer to professional, and it got easier to persuade new readers to take a punt on it. But something was dawning on me – AZ lacks many of the major tropes of successful urban fantasy. None of the main characters are vampires, were-wolves, zombies, plant liches or any other urban fantasy regulars. Nobody dies or shags on-page.

On the other hand, everyone lives in a quaint village where they all more or less get on. Plus, she has a dog and solves whatchamacallits. Ah. This is Cosy Paranormal Mystery, isn’t it?

Argana and Max looking puzzled in front of peak district hills, with tentacled monsters in the background.
Third cover

And Cosy Paranormal Mystery covers have an altogether different look. Dark purple or blue backgrounds, exaggerated illustrations without anything that could be described as perspective. Not a photo to be seen. Cheerful, chunky fonts.

Here we go then, round three. But maybe, like the bathroom tiling, I’ll pay someone to do it next time. You learn from your mistakes? Yes, well, you can learn too much 😉

The Horror in the Hills

She’s impetuous, imperfect and impulsive, and he’s fearless, focused and furry. These traits propel Argana Zeit and her ghost-hunting dog Max into every mystery the town of Trotterwell has to offer. Unquiet phantoms, mischievous pranksters, restless hordes of fae, keepers of the dead and, naturally, a tribe descending from the ancient pre-Celtic Britons … they’re all here. Because this is the haunted heart of the Peak District, and what you’ve heard is true: There’s horror in the hills.

Put on the kettle, and dive into this spine-tickling collection of Cosy Paranormal Novellas & Novelettes.

Collects these adventures:

    • Argana Zeit and the Lathkill Ghostherd
    • Argana Zeit Bothers the Boggarts
    • Argana Zeit and the Monster of Minninglow
    • Argana Zeit Evades Halloween
    • Argana Zeit and the Quantum Experiment

    Available on Amazon: UK link https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0C9YFH8B8 and US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C9YFH8B8

    Is the future optimistic with utopian romance?

    There’s a lot of bad news out there, I won’t enumerate it all, I’m sure it hasn’t passed you by. And sometimes I think, I’d like to write a story set in a world where it’s all turned out well. But that’s a hard sell. If there’s a utopia, something must always go wrong. There’s the first murder in a hundred years. It turns out to be built on the blood of innocents. The government is infiltrated by lizards. You know the drill.

    Which is when it occurred to me that there’s one genre that doesn’t require any of these systemic failures. Romance. The sky isn’t going to fall and stop Betty meeting Benny. An army of robots haven’t come to bleed the nutrients from Kal, Zak and Jay’s polyamorous collective.

    And now I kinda want to see a romance where the background is a near future utopia, where he’s a cloud seeding pilot and she’s a carbon sequestering engineer and they’re a translator for the cetacean initiative. The future has worked out just fine and the only question is who fancies who, and will they live happily ever after?

    AI generated image of cloud seeding sky pilot

    Removing the single stories

    I’m taking my short stories down off of Amazon. Just the individual ones, they’ll still all be available as collected editions, which represent better value anyway.

    In theory I’m doing this because I’m concerned that a plethora of short books will confuse new readers. But secretly it’s because it confuses me to have to keep track of them all. That and I changed cover styles several times, and it’s all just messy!

    It’ll take a little while to sort out, so if you happen to have collected most of them and just have a couple of gaps to fill, now is your moment.

    Why Argana Zeit?

    I wrote a submarine horror novel. It took three years and genuinely gave me nightmares, which was possibly my first clue that I wasn’t cut out for penning terror. I duly sent it off to agents that I admired, or at least had heard of, and waited for the advances and royalties to roll in.

    As that wait grew unaccountably longer, I figured I’d write something short, as a bit of a pallet cleanser. I’d been watching Columbo* and really wanted to do something with clues in it. I had this paranormal investigator character from a comic I’d half drawn years earlier, so I blew the dust off, and threw her in a story. That was Argana Zeit and the Haunted Busker.

    When the replies finally came in on the submarine novel, they were all delightfully polite variations on ‘this is very imaginative, but you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing’. I rediscovered that manuscript recently, the same way you find a rotting vegetable at the back of the fridge hiding behind the cheese box, and about as appetising. I’m eternally grateful that no one was foolish enough to publish it.

    But that’s okay. I enjoyed writing Argana so much I came up with another seventeen adventures, and probably more by the time you read this. They’re undeniably cosy stories, set in a green-leafed world where nobody ever dies on camera, the swearing is mild, and the paranormal threat is undermined by the chaotic humour of the background characters. It’s this way because – the aforementioned nightmares aside – when I started writing in 2020, I needed an antidote to the strong possibility that the world was about to end.

    It didn’t, though, and fortunately neither has Argana Zeit.

    *It’s to Columbo that Argana owes her terrible driving and tactically dishevelled look.

    The Devil in Derbyshire

    The Devil in Derbyshire: Weird Tales of Argana Zeit Volume 2

    Argana Zeit dreams of the day she can give up her day job and get paid to save the world … or at least, her corner of it. There’s a curdling strangeness in her hometown of Trotterwell. Poltergeists defraud the dead. Shopkeepers curse their customers. Mortal rivals set moles on one another. The local magician has been hexed. And naturally there’s an eldritch horror masquerading as the devil.

    Beset by mysteries, Argana Zeit and her dog max are going to get the chance to prove themselves … but can they?

    Features the cosy mysteries:

    • Argana Zeit vs the Mole Marauders
    • Argana Zeit and the Cursed Tattoos
    • Argana Zeit and the Educated Dead
    • Argana Zeit Saves Halloween
    • Argana Zeit and the Wolf Moon

    Available on Amazon, here in the UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0B12R9239

    and here for US readers – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B12R9239

    Argana Zeit Bothers the Boggarts

    In the haunted and forgotten hills beyond Sheffield, the sheep are dying. Tourists report blue lights bobbing like marsh gas. A legion of mischievous spirits, quiet for generations, is rising. Paranormal Investigator Argana Zeit and her dog are going to need all their wits about them as they try and uncover the cause. But with a city to save, figuring out what’s riled the boggarts is only the beginning of their troubles. Can they quell the insurrection?

    Argana Zeit and the Ghostherd of Lathkill Dale

    The dead have their shepherds, nudging them steadily toward the light. That’s no easy task in leafy Lathkill Dale, where lost souls curdle in the darkness of the abandoned mines below. Here a ghostherd will seize a unique opportunity, one that will pit its limitless empathy for the departed against its callous disregard for the living.

    There’s going to be trouble. And Argana Zeit will be right in the middle of it.

    With three lives on the line, can she solve the riddles of the past before she reaches the river’s end?