I'll update this page every few months, so you know what I'm working on right now.
9 Feb 2020
I've just returned from a short trip to Bilbao and San Sebastian, the Basque country in the north of Spain. We enjoyed pintxos, txakoli (the local wine), modern art at the Guggenheim and a beautiful day on the beach by the Bay of Biscay. Very unusual hot weather for the first week of February! More thoughts and pictures here.
I found some story inspiration in a painting, Anselm Kiefer’s The Land of Two Rivers, where the Tigris and Euphrates meet. It looks unremarkable in the photos, but in real life, it is more like a sculpture that draws you into the rusting, salted water. I am just starting to consider where it might fit into my next ARKANE thriller but the seeds have been sown … In the meantime, I have been working on a non-fiction project over the last few months but I am back to Map of the Impossible now, so that should be ready before the northern hemisphere summer.
22 November 2019
Winter has set in here in Bath so I'm wrapping up warm for my walks along the canal. I've started writing Map of the Impossible, Mapwalker #3, and I've been doing some research around places to set the adventure.
My fiction writing has taken a backseat to some other work-related travel. I was in Las Vegas for a conference recently, and you can check out my thoughts and pictures from The Strip here.
22 September 2019
We're just back from a long weekend in Lisbon researching the history of the Portuguese Jews who fled the city after expulsion and persecution. We also found mummies in a library behind a ruined convent, as well as the best pastel de nata in the city! This will all tie in (somehow!) to my next ARKANE thriller which is based around the Portuguese Age of Exploration.
2 August 2019
Map of Plagues is out now!
A city threatened by an ancient plague. A love across borders. A desperate choice that could break their worlds apart forever. Join Sienna, Finn, Mila and the Mapwalker team as they hunt for the Map of Plagues across the Borderlands and into the Uncharted.
I had a couple of gin and tonics to celebrate 🙂 and I'll be back to writing soon. Map of the Impossible will complete the trilogy and I have some ideas for that, but first, I have some research to do for the next ARKANE thriller which will be around the Portuguese empire. We're heading to Lisbon in September so watch out for pictures from there.
3 July 2019
I've just got back from Spain where I was at my Dad's 70th birthday along with my (many) siblings. Sun and sangria on tap 🙂 plus a short trip to the medieval city of Girona. You can see all the pictures on Instagram @jfpennauthor
Map of Plagues is edited and with my proofreader. Now out on pre-order – will be available from 1 August 2019.
I'm also now blogging and podcasting at BooksAndTravel.page. In a recent episode, I talked about my time at Oxford: Decadence, Discipline, and Dreaming Spires.
23 May 2019
I've just moved house so life has been a little crazy!
I finished the first draft of Map of Plagues just before moving in, so I'm about to start my edits … as well as enjoying the beautiful views across the valley.
(Bath, Somerset, UK).
9 April 2019
I'm still working on Map of Plagues, and have also started thinking about the next ARKANE thriller. I spent last week in Amsterdam doing book research. Click here for my album on Flickr.
I've also launched my new site, www.BooksAndTravel.page, where I have a new podcast and blog sharing stories from my own travels and also those of other authors.
I'm 25,000 words into Map of Plagues, the next Mapwalker Dark Fantasy thriller. You can find some of the images inspiring me on Pinterest here.
A Thousand Fiendish Angels, narrated by me (!) is now available in audiobook, and I've also recorded my short story, The Dark Queen as well. We've had some beautiful spring weather recently. The picture right is from a walk along the canal near where I live. More pics here on Instagram @jfpennauthor.
After the launch of Valley of Dry Bones, I needed a break! I spent December in New Zealand and the Gold Coast, Australia for some family events.
Now I'm back in Bath and have been recording A Thousand Fiendish Angels in audiobook format, so you can expect that soon. I'm planning on starting the next Mapwalker book in February.
An ancient prophecy.
An occult secret.
The power to raise the dead.
Valley of Dry Bones is out now in ebook, print and Large Print editions. Coming soon in audiobook and Hardback editions.
17 September 2018
Valley of Dry Bones is just back from my editor! I have some changes to make before it goes to some expert beta readers to check the details around New Orleans and San Francisco. It's available for pre-order and now begins the preparation for publishing on 23 October, 2018.
21 August 2018
I'm just shy of 50,000 words for Valley of Dry Bones, ARKANE #10 and heading towards the finish line for the first draft! Then I'll be onto editing.
I've just written a scene at the library of the San Francisco monastery and basilica in Lima, Peru, where the Spanish Conquistador, Pizarro, set up his city.
I'm 25,000 words into Valley of Dry Bones now, and weaving together the Catholic history of New Orleans and San Francisco, with the Hand of Ezekiel relic and ideas around voodoo, zombies and raising the dead. It's a lot of fun to write, and as usual, I am finding some fascinating history that ties into a story I thought I was making up 🙂
For now, click here for my Pinterest Board where I collect pictures of my research as I write.
4 July 2018
I thought I'd finished the research for Valley of Dry Bones, but then I visited Palma on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca. I discovered that Junipero Serra, a 13th century Franciscan monk whose relic I saw in Mission Dolores, San Francisco, was born and educated there. I ended up visiting the village of Petra, where he was born and now I have a whole lot more for Morgan Sierra to do! The picture (right) is a statue of Junipero with a First Nation child outside the 13th century church of San Francisco in Palma. Very cool synchronicity as I was there for a yoga retreat with no idea of this until I discovered this statue!
11 June 2018
I'm just back from Madrid and Toledo in Spain, where I (finally) finished the research for the next ARKANE thriller, current working title, Valley of Dry Bones. I'll be tying together medieval Spain, New Orleans and San Francisco on Morgan and Jake's next adventure which should be out Fall/Winter 2018. Click here for my photo album on Flickr.
13 March 2018
I've just spent a (rather wet) week walking on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I finally got to visit the Duomo where the relic of St Andrew is kept – and which featured in Stone of Fire when Morgan Sierra has a motorbike chase in the winding streets. You can find all the photos here on Flickr or a selection on Instagram.com/jfpennauthor. I'm back into the screenplay for Map of Shadows, so a busy few weeks ahead.
I finished the draft of the screenplay and am going on a screenwriting course next month when I will finish it and then submit it to agents. Exciting!
In the meantime, I have just published The Dark Queen, a supernatural thriller short story. It's based on an exhibition about sunken Egypt that I visited a few years back. You can see all the pictures that inspired the story here on Pinterest.
18 Jan 2018
I'm currently adapting Map of Shadows into a screenplay, which is a fascinating process. The big difference is that on the screen, you can't see inside the character's head, so you can only ‘show' what's happening in the exterior world. The character must be revealed through action and dialogue, not interior thoughts. I've been considering similar feature films, and I think it shares similarities with coming of age fantasy thrillers like Divergent, along with the magical aspects of a split world and the importance of friendship like the Harry Potter books and films. Once the script is finished, I'll be looking at the next ARKANE novel.
I'm back from my travels – San Francisco was great, and I then had a week on the wild and windy Oregon Coast at a writer's conference. Suitably moody, misty picture to the right! I got my proofreading edits done on Map of Shadows though and it is available for pre-order now. It will be out in ebook and print on 12 Dec 2017. Not long now! I've been collating ideas for the next ARKANE novel and also some more short story-starters. Lots of fiction planned for 2018!
19 October 2017
I'm in San Francisco researching the next ARKANE thriller. You can see all the photos here. Pic left is me at the Grace Cathedral outside their replica Ghiberti doors. The original are in Florence. In writing news, Map of Shadows is with my proofreader so that will be out before Christmas.
A short story of mine, The Dark Queen, has just been published in Feel The Fear, an anthology of dark stories out now. The story opens as an archaeologist scuba diver descends to a sunken city off the coast of Egypt in search of the statue of an ancient goddess …
I've just got back from the Dolomites in northern Italy, where we had a walking holiday in the mountains. I was thrilled to find a jewelled skeleton in the local catholic church, presumably one of the martyred saints. My fascination with relics is amply explored in Crypt of Bone, and I'm always interested in what I find in obscure churches! Click here for the whole Dolomites photo album.
11 August 2017
I've finished the first draft of the Map book (working title), a dark fantasy novel based around the themes of cartography and the meaning of borders. It opens in Bath at an antique map shop just around the corner from me and some of the main action occurs in The Circus, a circular Georgian terrace near where I live and one of the most famous locations in the city.
I'm really pleased to have the draft done, as it's been a hard book to write. The first in a new series and really expanding into a different world, so a lot more to make up! I'll be editing the draft in the next few weeks and then sending it to my editor. I'm planning to have it out before Christmas, and will have a title and cover in Sept/Oct.
23 July 2017
I've just got back from NYC where I attended Thrillerfest, the biggest international conference for thriller writers. I met lots of great authors and also managed to do some sightseeing. You can see some of the pics here on Flickr. I was a finalist in the Best Ebook Original award but (unfortunately) I didn't win. Maybe next time! I'm now happy to be back in Bath and will get on with writing the Map book. A fun trip but good to be home.
12 June 2017
I've (finally) started writing my new series, working title Map Book 1. As I write, I'm collecting ideas and images in Pinterest. Click here to see the Board. I'm excited to be delving into new topics and learning new things, and creating a fantasy world just off the edges of our own.
5 May 2017
American Demon Hunters: Sacrifice is out now in ebook, print and in audio. It's a fast-paced supernatural thriller set on the train from Chicago to New Orleans … yes, the very one we took as four authors traveling together! Our experiences make up a good part of the book's plot, except perhaps for the demons and the cursed skull!
5 April 2017
I'm super excited to announce that Destroyer of Worlds is a finalist in the International Thriller Writer awards for Best Ebook Original! This means a lot to me as it is recognition for writing and judged by a number of big-name thriller authors. I'll be going to New York in July to the Thrillerfest gala dinner and (hopefully) will collect the award 🙂
27 March 2017
I'm on a writing trip in New Orleans right now! I took a train with 3 other authors from Chicago and this week, we have co-written a book together which will be out in April 2017, American Demon Hunters: Sacrifice. It's set on a train from Chicago to New Orleans 🙂 I've also done some fun tourist stuff in New Orleans including lots of cemeteries and a voodoo tour, the House of the Rising Sun, an airboat and then separately, a kayak, into the bayou. There were lots of ‘gators out, and I even got to hold a baby one. So cute (at that size!). I'll be doing an ARKANE book around my research here too. Heading back to Bath today. You can see all my photos from the trip here.
14 Feb 2017
I'm currently in New Zealand, warming up with some much-needed sun after a chilly winter in England. You can see my pictures on Instagram here.
I'm not doing too much work, to be honest! But I am still working on the outline and research ideas for the Map series. End of Days is out now in ebook and print, and coming soon in audiobook.
21 Jan 2017
I'm still in the thinking and research phase for the Map series – not sure what it will end up being! I'm also preparing for the launch of End of Days. Coming soon!
Here's a wintery Bath shot from my regular walk along the canal.
12 December 2016
I've started researching a new series idea around maps and cartography which is fascinating! I've been buried in gorgeous print books, some shown right, and writing copious notes and ideas. Those stories will be a while off, but in the meantime, I have finished the edits on End of Days, so that will be ready for publication 31 Jan. We also made some videos of Israel – here's a walk around the Old City of Jerusalem, and here's a video montage of the longer trip including the Dead Sea, Bethlehem and Megiddo.
8 Nov 2016
I've been away for a month in the US for conferences and then in Israel for a book research trip. I re-visited many of the places that feature in the ARKANE books and also found some cool new locations for End of Days, which I'm currently editing. Progress has been slow because of all the traveling, but it will be all the richer for the extra material. Here's the full album of the Israel trip.
2 Oct 2016
I'm currently writing the last few chapters of End of Days, which definitely features snakes 🙂 You can see some of the pictures that inspired the story here on Pinterest. I'm also heading to Israel in the next few weeks and will be doing some research to add to the book, as well as taking lots of pictures, which of course, I'll be sharing here! I'll also have the book cover ready to reveal soon too.
4 Sept 2016
I spent Friday at the Wellcome Collection library in London, researching the plot for End of Days. I had a lot of fun with story ideas and I start dictating the first draft tomorrow. I'll also be working on cover designs as I am now more sure of the major locations. The Ishtar Gate, shown left, originally from ancient Babylon and now in Berlin, is definitely in the short list 🙂 This is going to be one kick-ass adventure!
20 August 2016
Just a quick update to say that the ARKANE box-set 1, featuring Stone of Fire, Crypt of Bone and Ark of Blood, made #121 on the USA Today Bestseller list! Thanks so much for your support 🙂
12 August 2016
Very little work being done 🙂 But it's been wonderful weather so we had a few days down in Devon on the south coast of England. Walking, kayaking, lots of ice cream! (More photos here).
August is the month when English people stop work and make the most of the summer, before September brings conkers (horse chestnuts) and blackberries and a return to work … back then with an update on the next book!
20 July 2016
I've started working on outlining End of Days, ARKANE #9 and also considering ideas for how my various series will continue. I'm also currently recovering from the Race to the Stones, 100km walk over a weekend along The Ridgeway, one of England's oldest tracks. It was amazing but also very painful! You can see more pics here. In terms of reading, I've just devoured Daniel Silva's latest, The Black Widow, and also Susan Ee's Penryn series, which reminded me of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I also loved.
29 June 2016
I finished the short story based on Sunken Egypt – it's called The Dark Queen and you can see the pictures that inspired it here on Pinterest. Apologies though, as it won't be coming out until end 2017 in an anthology. Now that's done, I'll be starting the research for End of Days, and I also have some ideas around a pagan trilogy. Now I live in the west country of England, I feel the pull of the area to that type of writing …
3 June 2016
This week I went to an exhibition on the Sunken Cities of Egypt at the British Museum, which was fantastic! I've been commissioned to write a short story on fear and I'll be setting it under the sea at the sunken city, amongst the dead … The British Museum has now featured in several of my books. Blake Daniel works there in the London Psychic series, and Day of the Vikings is set there, inspired by an exhibition on the Vikings in the UK. It's a fantastic place and highly recommended if you visit London. In the next few weeks, I'll be working on a screenplay adaptation of Deviance, and also writing this short story.
13 May 2016
I'm just back from 2 weeks in southern Spain, a much needed rest after the launch of Destroyer of Worlds. We had a few days relaxing in Malaga and then a week's walking in the Alpujarras, south of the Sierra Nevada mountains (as I am in training for 100km walk in July), then a few days in Granada, the capital of the old Moorish kingdom. You can see all the pictures here on Flickr. I've already written about Granada and Cordoba in Gates of Hell, as I have been before, but it was good to visit with new eyes. I am always fascinated by Spanish Catholic churches and the graphic depictions of martyrdom that form part of the altars. Ideas sparked and you may see some of these emerge in End of Days, ARKANE #9.
I've also been reading a lot – books on eschatology (the end of the world), both religious and scientific, as well as a history of Babylon. I have pages of notes that will eventually turn into a book. For fiction, Jonathan Maberry's latest, Kill Switch, which is based on HP Lovecraft's Cthulu mythology, and Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes.
21 April 2016
Destroyer of Worlds is out today in ebook and print editions. A launch day is always a roller-coaster and I am always thrilled to see the first reviews coming in. The core idea for this book started way back in 2006 when I visited India for the first time and saw a statue of Shiva Nataraja in Delhi Museum. Sometimes a story takes a while to emerge … but I'm thrilled this one is finally here. We have a video this time – click here to see it on YouTube.
15 April 2016
I was back in London for the Book Fair this week, which was a whirlwind of speaking and industry meetings. To be honest, for a travel junkie, I am a little over hotels! I only got back from Austin a few days before heading off again … but hey, I loved being in London! You can find pics from the trip on the Facebook page. The image left is Southwark Cathedral and the Shard, both of which appear in Deviance, with a modern statue of a Roman soldier in the foreground, a nod to the original roots of the area.
I haven't done much writing, but I have been reading. I can recommend John Connolly's latest, A Time of Torment, and also The Teacher by Katerina Diamond. I also found some cool books coming later this year at the Book Fair – Jerusalem by Alan Moore and a hardback version of Atlas Obscura, which gives me a lot of ideas for my books! I'm also excited about the launch of Destroyer of Worlds, which will be available in ebook and paperback on 21 April 🙂
29 March 2016
I'm in Austin, Texas for a writer's conference but also getting some tourism in. I visited James Michener's memorial at Texas State Cemetery on my first morning. His book, The Source, is one of my favorites and still inspires my love of Israel. It was gloriously sunny and I ended up walking for almost 20km around the city, taking photos of the great street art. You can see all the pics here.
18 March 2016
Edits are all done on Destroyer of Worlds and the book has gone to my proofreader 🙂 It's now available for preorder as an ebook on all stores (links here). It was my birthday last week and we went back to London to see some friends. I think the addiction of the big city has finally worn off, and I am really enjoying living in a place where I can get some solitude. I'm in training for the Race to the Stones, and have been doing some big walks along the canal. Here's a glimpse of some recent sun … spring has arrived … I'm heading to Austin, Texas over Easter for a conference so I'll post some pics there in the next few weeks.
8 March 2016
Just back from a weekend in Edinburgh. It was freezing but gothically beautiful 🙂 Here's a pic from the Castle walls to the city. I'm starting research on a new trilogy based on Pagan England. Lots of fun! I'm waiting to get Destroyer of Worlds back from my editor and then will get that ready for release. Also exciting, Risen Gods is now available on audio, and the narrator did a great job with the Maori pronunciation!
25 Feb 2016
Celebrating today as I just sent the manuscript of Destroyer of Worlds to my editor 🙂 I'm very happy with the book, lots of adventurous fun 🙂 so hopefully you will love it too … coming mid April …
15 Feb 2016
A little late on this as I'm sick again, which is a pain! But last week was great as I finished the first draft of Destroyer of Worlds and also attended a 2 day workshop in London on adapting novels to screenplays. So my first screenplay will either be Deviance or One Day in Budapest. Into editing this week for Destroyer. Reading this week, Hotel Arcadia by Sunny Singh and Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz.
5 Feb 2016
Almost finished the first draft of Destroyer of Worlds, and this week I wrote a scene in Fort Kochi, down in Kerala, where one of the oldest population of Jews in India live. They also have these amazing triangular fishing nets (as pic left). We cycled around that area in 2014 and visited the synagogue which makes an appearance in the book. I'll have the draft done by the end of next week and will then start the edits.
I've been listening to some Sanskrit chanting of the Rig Veda as I write, which is strangely relaxing. [Listen here on YouTube]. I've also been reading a personal memoir of India, In the Land of Shiva by James O'Hara, which has given me a lot of great local descriptions.
29 Jan 2016
I'm back into writing hard on Destroyer of Worlds although I'm still trying to shake off a night cough … and it's still raining! There are hints of spring in the early crocuses and daffodils but it's too early for warmth. I've written a scene at the Taj Mahal this week, a place I visited back in 2006 and I found my old diaries and used some of my descriptions from back then in the story. After all, Morgan Sierra is really just my alter-ego 🙂
This week, I've read Curfew by Phil Rickman which is about a small town on the English/Welsh border threatened by an ancient evil that is only held back by the ringing of the town bells every night. But what happens when the bells can't be rung … I've actually had a story whirling around about English occult things so perhaps that will be next on the list after Destroyer …
It's freezing cold and raining in Bath, and I've been ill this week. Still ill with a fuzzy head so I haven't written very much. Although I did write a scene set in the Ellora Caves, which are amazing! (see left)
I read Hitler's Angel by Kris Rusch, on the Nazi theme as we've been watching Man in High Castle on Amazon Prime. Both excellent. Also related to Destroyer of Worlds as Himmler was fascinated with Indian culture so there may be an edge of Nazi stuff in the book 🙂
15 Jan 2016
I'm deep into writing Destroyer of Worlds now, at 21,000 words and I've been researching Mumbai and Goa on the west coast of India for some of the settings. I haven't been to either place but I really want to just jump on a plane and go there now! You can find the latest Pinterest images here, which is where I store my inspiration as I write. This week I read Written In Fire, the final book in the Brilliance trilogy by Marcus Sakey, a futuristic thriller.
8 Jan 2016
This has been my first week writing with dictation and it's gone a lot better than expected, although I look like a crazy person walking around the park talking to myself! I have 10,000 words done on Destroyer of Worlds and the cover is being done as I write this. My aim is to get fitter as I write in 2016, so I'm pleased with progress so far. I also put out an audio (with transcript) about my creative process.
It's still really warm, with crocuses, daffodils and snowdrops out in the park near my house in Bath – very early spring. The house left is in the park where I walk.
I'm reading Harmony Black by Craig Schaefer, as I really enjoyed his Daniel Faust books. It's an FBI thriller with supernatural twist.
1 Jan 2016
Just returned from Prague after a quick break in between Christmas and New Year. My holidays usually revolve around interesting things that might end up in books 🙂 We visited the Jewish graveyard and synagogues, as well as Sedlec ossuary at Kutna Hora, which I used in my book, CRYPT OF BONE. It was great to finally see it in person after researching online for that book. You can see lots of photos here.
I've been reading a lot of thrillers by Indian authors and trying to get my head around the Hindu pantheon – it's complicated 🙂 But I'm getting there and aim to start writing Destroyer of Worlds next week. I am also moving to dictation because of increasing problems with RSI, so initial word count is likely to be slower, but could improve 🙂
18 Dec 2015
It's really mild here in Bath so we've been doing some walking, along the canal and up into the hills around the city. Any excuse for a roast dinner and a pinot noir afterwards! I also discovered that Charles Dickens lived just around the corner from me back in 1840. The plaque is on the left 🙂
I've started writing down research notes for Destroyer of Worlds, ARKANE #8. I'm watching a number of DVDs as well – Sacred India, Ganges and Story of India with Michael Wood. Although I've been to India twice before – once in the north around Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and once to the south west through Karnataka and Kerala – my history knowledge is patchy and I'm also immersing myself in Hindu gods and mythology. I love to start my books with real places and real culture and religion and then spin the story off from there. I find the story in the research and this deep dive is one of my favorite bits of writing.
I've just finished James Rollins' Bone Labyrinth – he is one of my favorite writers, blending science and action adventure. This one wasn't one of my favorites, but still a good read.
11 Dec 2015
I'm in one of those thinking phases where plot are ideas are swirling around. I'm waiting for that moment when it bubbles over so much that I have to write it all down! I sent my short story in for the Stephen King competition. It's over by end Jan, so I can share the story after that.
We've just booked to go to Prague between Christmas and New Year, and I am super excited about that. I've been once before, years ago, and it's one of those places that sticks in your mind. I'm looking forward to doing some research for Destroyer of Worlds and of course, I'll post my photos. [Photo right is Flickr Creative Commons Misty Prague]
I've been reading some old Daniel Easterman books this week, including The Seventh Sanctuary – the author now writes as Jonathan Aycliffe and I just finished The Talisman, which features a Babylonian statue of a horned god that is transported back to the British Museum … Super reading if you enjoy some archaeology and ancient religion in your thrillers!
27 Nov 2015
Risen Gods is out now and I'm pleased with the initial reviews. It is very fast-paced and I'm glad to get it out of my ‘writing system.' That volcano story has been brewing for many years, since I first walked over the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand back in 2001.
I've written the first draft of the short story for the Stephen King competition. It's inspired by the Christmas market over the pagan spring of the Celtic goddess Aquae Sulis and right next to the medieval Abbey in Bath. It also features this angel, which crawls down the front of the abbey in quite a demonic fashion! I'll get it through some edits next week and then submit it. As it's in a competition, I can't publish it myself until that's over. I'll let you know how it goes 🙂
I also started writing down some initial ideas for Destroyer of Worlds, researching some cool places for settings and starting on the first scene plotting.
20 Nov 2015
I'm finishing the final edits and design on Risen Gods, a dark fantasy thriller, to be published 1 Dec.
I went to the Bath Abbey today and took some pictures in preparation for a short story I am starting next week, to be submitted to a competition in the UK Guardian, judged by Stephen King, my writing hero! Click here to see the pics on Flickr.
I'm also starting to think about Destroyer of Worlds, the next book in the ARKANE series.