Why do mince pies no longer look like coffins?
How do you navigate yesteryear’s family games without a fire extinguisher?
Why did Father Christmas trade in his wagon for a sleigh when he first came to town?
Why should you complain if you don’t receive at least one gold ball from the Big Man?
And how do the best Christmas songs jingle our bells?

All these questions that I wanted to answer about Christmas, packaged up in a glossy cover for my new book, Making our Christmas Present: A Merry Journey.

The answers and a lot more will be revealed from 4 November 2021.

This will be a FREE download, which I hope you will enjoy, and I would ask you please please please to take a few moments to post a review. It’s the lifeblood of authors like me, and I would appreciate it very much.

But enough of that!

I wanted to give you here a quick insight into my author thought processes around the book.

I wanted a snappy, Christmassy cover with instant appeal. I don’t know whether I managed that but this is how I got to where I am now.

The book looks at centuries of Christmas, and where the traditional bits came from that individually and together serve up most people’s vision of Christmas. It’s not a history epic or a social commentary or a heavyweight study. The heaviest it gets is fretting over Santa’s belt size…

So I needed light.

I started by thinking about Christmas. There is of course more than one major defining point:

But I fastened onto Santa and how he became the figure we know today – instantly recognisable for the cover, at least today’s version.

I thought about him using an evolutionary cover, something like this, with overlapping pictures merged together:

St Nicholas
Holly King
Santa 2021

Too complicated.

Too serious.

So, Plan B was initiated. A Christmas Kiss – otherwise known as A Christmas Keep It Simple, Stupid

Christmas trees. We all think of brightly-lit and decorated trees at Christmas time…

So why not go for a more sophisticated dark background, and a blurry tree.

Thanks to Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash for the pic

Much better. I like this but it’s a bit tooo sophisticated for a book that’s supposed to be merry while Santa is “Checking it Twice”. That had been the original title. This pic was too serious, looking like it was dressed up for cocktails…

Third time lucky, then.

I went for Christmas trees again, but not just any old Christmas trees. Toy ones, with the addition of a Santa hat on one of them.

I think (hope) that hits the more amusing, whimsical vibe that I’m after, which fits in with my writing style.

And here it is, in all its glory with the new title, the one that will be published on 4 November: on Amazon Books:

Ta – dAAAA!

More playful, less creaking with history, not so blingy…

I hope you’ve found this insight into this part of my creative process interesting

More to come on other stuff soon, and you’ll get it first on my blog…



Alan Camrose

Thanks to Mitya Ivanov, Unsplash

Pagoda moments

Welcome to my Blog

It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a Burmese moment… As a gentle warning, if you don’t like cats (and, in particular, Burmese cats) you may want to look away now.

In the interests of balance, I want to put the limelight on Pagoda. A brief moment on a lazy Bank Holiday…

Her full-on, no-holds-barred, knock-down-drag-out name is, as decreed by the all-powerful Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, is:

Karriewhitchit Aligrea

‘Pagoda’ works better when yelling at her not to rip up one of the sofas.

Chocolate Burmese.

Date of birth: 22 January 2015.

I was delighted to find out that her mother is Karriewhitchit Allthatjazz. Pagoda certainly shows off some syncopated moves when she shreds a rug.

I thought I would run through her main characteristics.

Bloody-mninded. She has right of abode on my chest when I am sitting down and wearing an acceptably comfortable item of clothing. Preferably a wool jumper. She is able to detect me anywhere in the house and home in on me with a purr the decibel equivalent of a large washing machine tackling student washing, or a small light aircraft.

Moving is not an option, otherwise her Bad Side comes out, together with the pointy bits of her, ready to act like a grapnel on the North face of the Eiger..

Unwavering. Whether it’s shoulder-charging the utility room door, dive-bombing the sleeping dog or trying to squeeze through the window shutters, she pursues her twisted goals with Terminator-like efficiency…

…She can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned with, she doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear, and she absolutely will not stop… EVER…

Kyle Reese

Ravenous. Whether stalking her kibble, trying to eat her toy mouse, inhaling her Felix or, best of all, heisting the dog’s food, for one so small that cat has a BIG appetite. I always keep my finhers and toes moving while she’s around me. But wait, doesn’t that make me…LIVE PREY?


Mad. ‘Nuff said.


Elegant. (Evil.) Either. Both. See above.

Sleepy. She’s a cat, what can I say?

Extreme. Whatever she does is at the far end of the cat continuum.

I hope you enjoyed my acrostic moment above.



Alan Camrose

2021 – New Year, New Book

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose

It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, news about my new book…

I have not posted for a month. I have taken the time away not just because of the Christmas and New Year holidays, or That Bastard Virus, or the blues of January. I have just finished the first draft of my new book, and am very excited about it. The working title is “Building Memories”. It’s a supernatural thriller.

A young woman hunts a killer harking back to the Great War and finds they share a hidden parallel world.

I’m in final editing mode and I will then work out what to do next with it.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share the first few lines with you, the lines that introduce Becky Slade, the main character, and her private investigations agency:


Winter in Balham, South London, swathed in glamour; Becky Slade wondered whether she should have put on her best ripped jeans for the victory feast.

Golden trumpets tuned up for the start of her victory parade. Strip-lights in the walkways of the block of flats shone down on her like torches as they flickered into life to light her way. Finishing touches were made to her laurel crown in the fading late-November afternoon.

Case closed.

The sharp tang of cat wafted up to her from the cat box containing her captured fugitive, the latest success for Slade & Co Private Investigations. A yowl of rage from the Thing that seemed like it had eight legs instead of the regulation four, with a wicked barb at each end. Even its whiskers had sharp points.

Becky had needed this win. Funds were short this month, regardless. No stranger to a touch of danger about her finances towards the end of each month, this would be a bit close to the wire even by her standards. When Mrs B – the cat’s owner – later thrust some money in her direction, that would at least allow Becky to fend off her creditors for a while longer without resorting to the Mother Option.

She did not want to go beanie hat in hand to her mother; she had avoided it so far. Too much chance of there being I told you so; why don’t you get a real job, sweetheart? dropped like depth charges into the conversation. And Mother was the good cop member of the parental taskforce…

Building Memories, by Alan Camrose

Any comments would be gratefully received.

I do hope that you enjoy it and want to see more in due course.



Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard

Cuban Cool Cats

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose

It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, some Cuban reflections.

We were in Cuba in February 2020, a lifetime ago. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the cocktails flowed like, er, wine. Like Freddie, we were Havana good time, Havana ball… Far away from where we are right now after these dangerous months.

When I think of Cuba, I think of cars, cocktails and – slightly strangely – cats. At times, they blend together: when we first arrived in Cuba, a 1958 Plymouth ride back in time to La Guarida restaurant in the heart of Havana, its feline guardian in the entrance hall large enough to hold a dance floor, a rooftop terrace housing the open-air Mirador Bar dispensing life-giving Negroni Habanero cocktails – a mixture that includes aged Campari, red vermouth and the perfume of orange rinds. Plenty of ice.

I thought I would share a few memories like that of our trip to bring a little salsa (and, as you will see, heavy metal) back into life for a few minutes as we mingled with the cool cats of Cuba.

La Guarida restaurant in Havana, Cuba
Paladar La Guarida, Havana with a bonus game of Spot The Cat

More cool cats at the Buena Vista Social Club.

You have to smile when you see this much joy

Music is an enduring part of the place. Take a look at a few moments of this street sweeper practising asome moves to the beat of a nearby bar.

A brush with Cuban music

And in Varadero, a table band in a restaurant playing the final notes of some AC-DC…It’s a matter of great regret that I didn’t hit record sooner; too busy head-banging with the rest of the restaurant-goers…

Definitely not A Touch Too Much…

In addition to hearing some heavy rock on a violin in Cuba, I have also been lucky enough – quite a few years ago – to hear Jingle Bells on a sitar in an Indian restaurant in Sri Lanka to get us in the festive spirit.

But it’s best to leave the last words to the cats and cocktails of Cuba:

Please do not park on this cat

The cocktail below is an El Presidente (there are numerous variations, but this one works a treat):

  • 25 ml Bacardi
  • 25 ml White Vermouth
  • 5 ml Grand Marnier
  • Dash of Grenadine
  • Beautifully cut Orange Peel, preferably sliced very thin and in one piece – the one below was from the maestro who served us at El Floridita in Havana

Shake with ice. Pour into a Martini glass.


Harking back to AC-DC, this cocktail is perhaps a Highway to El…



Alan Camrose with beard

Alan Camrose writes books and a blog:

The ties that bind a writer

showing pagoda cat as a kitten

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose

It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, come with me to Myanmar (Burma, as was) and see the origins of one of the characters in one of my books

We holidayed in Myanmar (formerly Burma) in 2012, travelling from Yangon to Bagan, to Lake Inle in central Myanmar, via a couple of bracing air and road trips. The great thing is now we’re able to say that – like Nellie the Elephant – we met one night in the silver light / On the road to Mandalay. No traveling circus to run away from, although we did have our eleven year old twins with us.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the religious dimension of the exquisite reclining Buddhas. Now I’m going to talk about the exquisite Burmese cats there, which delighted and charmed us in equal measure.

Burmese cats in Burma? Who knew? Read on.

We found them at Lake Inle. It’s an almost supernaturally peaceful place of calm water and effortless fishing with nets by wiry boatmen. They work on long skiffs, their practices unchanged over thousands of years, balanced, more like perched, on one leg. Precarious but elegant. Their non-standing leg wraps around a long oar which they use to propel their boats, freeing their hands to manipulate long, thin bamboo poles and silky fishing nets. They look like eerie stick figures in the early morning mist, or complicated semaphore signallers. Magical.

We saw hand-weavers and metalworkers plying their trades in raised bamboo buildings on sturdy poles above the lake. Then we landed at an island jetty revealing the entrance to:

to cafe for Burmese felines in Burma
Afternoon tea for cats. Burmese cats. In Burma.

Do not enter here if you are not a cat-lover, or if you do then be warned (and wear a hat). There are lots of cats. Burmese cats. A silken wave. In fact a heat map of Myanmar would surprise you in terms of hits for Burmese cats, since they died out in Burma in the 1930s. No more Burmese cats in Burma, like no chocolate in a chocolate cake. 

They were re-introduced to their native and spiritual home in 2008/9 from Australia and Britain to re-kindle the flame. Make the world right. Put that smooth, delicious chocolate back where it belongs.

Cat storage platform cat sitting on head
Just passin’ through…

The cats at the Cat Café won our hearts – as well as high ground in the picture opposite. Their now familiar to us complete lack of fear (common sense) of strangers had them cavorting around all of us in no time. 

It was an easy step to acquiring one when we got back to Britain. 


She even now walks on my shoulders – not so much on my head, maybe – in the same no-nonsense way as her predecessors at, a link to the feisty cat familiar in my new book, Lost In Plain Sight. 

What felt like an inevitable starting point for my writing journey: that cat as one of the protagonists, allowing mere humans a periodic glimpse of what it means to be a cat. 

I was acting on the most consistent advice that I’ve seen, apart from the raucous screaming of the words “SHOW, DON’T TELL!” :

“Write what you know”. 

Maybe something about law at some stage. I was a lawyer for a long time. However, for my first project I chose to write about a magical cat who naturally believes that her “owner” is in fact her familiar while they hunt down a murderous demon. With the greatest possible respect, that was a lot more fun than writing legal opinions. 

I hope you read it and agree.



Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose writes books, this Blog and quizzes . His clones help him to find time to do all these things simultaneously. His coffee machine is set to intravenous. His golden retriever, Jasper, is set to Hungry Cute at all times. His cat – Pagoda – is like all cats, she doesn’t help him at all. Even though he is a certified cat-whisperer (more a cat-yeller). Pagoda rules the house with an iron claw. Alan lives with the rest of his family in Surrey. Please do visit him at his website:

Brighton Beach Memories

Brighton Pier across the pebbles

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose

It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…This time, come with me in the company of a psychopath to the seaside for a look around the place that inspired one of my books…

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Brighton hasn’t featured prominently in literature or movies with a few outstanding exceptions that I’ve looked at in this post. (Brighton Beach Memoirs doesn’t count since it’s in a foreign country) I have embedded info about various of the treats in store. Keep it to hand for the better times that are coming.

Pinkie Brown is a psychotic and ruthless underworld figure in Graham Greene’s classic 1938 novel, Brighton Rock (and the classic movie in 1948 (Richard Attenborough), and the re-make in 2010 with among others Helen Mirren – Official Trailer. Pinkie would be an unlikely poster-boy for the Brighton tourist trade. The  brawling tribes portrayed in Sixties Brighton in the movie Quadrophenia wouldn’t be on their shortlist either. (Official trailer)

To give you an idea of the menace that is in this book and the movies, imagine you’re the teddy bear:

Pagoda Cat menacing an innocent teddy bear
Bear in the cross-hairs

On a brighter note, Brighton prides itself on its eclectic cultural scene: a challenging marathon (which I have witnessed, I confess, as a supporter rather than a participant), and the legendary annual Brighton Naked Bike Ride (2019 details) where riders struggle to stow their gear. With the Palace Pier, the towering Needle city observation deck (the British Airways i360) and the barking mad architecture of the Brighton Pavilion, there’s a lot to see.

I have been going to Brighton throughout my life, first with my parents, often to the pitch & putt on the front when I was a kid. I achieved a keen grasp of ’99’ tasting. Then I went with friends, and now family and friends. The city has changed from a more traditional seaside town of ice cream, sticky rock and fish & chips to the newer, more wide-ranging, place to be. I found it was a natural choice for me to use Brighton and its local area as the main backdrop to my new fantasy-thriller, Lost In Plain Sight. I was drawn to it by my familiarity with the place, the excitement that it still gives me to go down there and crunch over the beach and visit the Regency fish restaurant on the seafront for some hake and chips. And an edge to the place, created by the ebb and flow of visitors to the city. Never the same twice.

The West Pier is my favourite landmark in Brighton. Visit the webpage and you’ll see its Goth allure. It used to be an elegant slice of seaside glamour, then fires and the elements conspired to bring it down before its redevelopment, leaving what now looks like a black rib-cage hovering in and above the sea, no longer a counterpoint to the Palace Pier, more a dwindling marker of past glory. 

The sea and the sky danced on the horizon, impossible to tell apart, the view broken only by the brooding, spidery remains of the burnt-out West Pier, soaking up sparkles from the water with grim determination.  

Lost In Plain Sight

Pinkie would’ve attacked it with sledgehammers to finish it off, but it sits there now, reluctantly crumbling into the sea. It’s a symbol of keeping going against all the odds. Like the investigation team in my book. 

Brighton has evolved over the years, its history a backdrop for greasy doughnuts, beer and cults of human sacrifice. Keep it in mind for a future escape during these difficult times. I’ll keep it in mind for future books.

The magic of make-up: Lights…Camera…Joker!

Shows my playful Joker face

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose

It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, come and see me in my make-up studio, also known as my office…

Dressed as Joker in the office, the magic of make-up - nothing to do with my magic cats novel

I absolutely love the Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie. He made me feel sorry for the Joker. Crazy!

Worth his Oscar every day of the week.

It’s been an epic journey for the Joker leading up to this point:

Cesar Romero was fantastic cavorting opposite without question the best Batman ever – Adam West. Cesar was the chortling Clown-Prince of Crime…Among others, the reckless and deranged Jack Nicholson, guilty of chewing up the furniture in Batman.  And the sadly missed nightmare of Heath Ledger’s take. Genuinely unsettling, and brings nightmares even now of his magic trick with a disappearing pencil…

But I think the Phoenix version had the extra dimensions of his aching need for acceptance and terrible mental health issues. All of that seeped into the character so much that even with the horrific crimes that he commits during the course of the movie and his thirst for chaos and destruction, we are still invited not so much to side with him as to at least understand him as a complete character rather than a caricature – an amazing feat when you think about him strutting around in lurid clothes and troubling make-up, the scent of coulrophobia burning your nostrils as you watch.

My stint as a villain (apart from the heinous crime of being a lawyer, that is) amounted to several hours at an office party a while back, heisting beer. You can see the office below…

I recall having taken a conference call that day in my get-up, asking the – very understanding, and amused – client to allow me to conduct the call on speaker, explaining that I didn’t want to smudge my make-up.

Becoming someone else for a brief time is amazingly liberating, as you can perhaps see below – a visit to the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong for tea illustrates that…

Make-up and costume of Joker in Hong Kong

I asked for a table for four in the Clipper Lounge for my wife and the kids. The staff are magnificent there, not even raising an eyebrow – they could have borrowed one of mine – as they showed us directly to our table. I suppose it made it OK because I was wearing a tie?

This feeds through into my writing – the liberation not the need to dress up in odd costumes. Each character unleashed in a book contains – worryingly sometimes – a little bit of me, my family, friends, acquaintances, history. Inevitably. Everything comes from somewhere. All part of my way of understanding the world and me, and me in the world, as part of my writing.

Take a look at my other blog posts: see if they drive you crazy…




Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose writes books, this Blog and quizzes . His clones help him to find time to do all these things simultaneously. His coffee machine is set to intravenous. His golden retriever, Jasper, is set to Hungry Cute at all times. His cat – Pagoda – is like all cats, she doesn’t help him at all. Even though he is a certified cat-whisperer (more a cat-yeller). Pagoda rules the house with an iron claw. Alan lives with the rest of his family in Surrey. Please do visit him at his website:

Appearances are deceiving…

roast chicken hixters restauarant london

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose

It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, come with me on a trip to Cuba and see the coming together of Santeria and roast chicken…

Santeria emporium, Havana, Cuba
Santeria emporium, Havana, Cuba

We wandered round the streets of Havana, Cuba drinking in the sights and some local beer. Our journey led us into a surreal world of crumbling beautiful buildings topped with optimistic modern extensions, watchful street cats, and the mysterious religion of Santeria (the Cuban version of voodoo).

That was a departure from the usual boat-like classic automobiles and challenging-coloured cocktails). 

We discovered a voodoo shop around Calle O’Reilly (O’Reilly Street) in Old Havana. There must be a magic spell over it; I would never find it again, tucked away off the main thoroughfare. The street was named after the unlikely sounding Alejandro O’Reilly, 1st Count of O’Reilly of the Spanish Empire, rewarded by Spain for among other things during the course of the 18th century re-building Havana’s defences after they’d proved to have been set in the wrong place. So, who did your building work last time…?

The exotic emporium was festooned with bowls (for offerings), trinkets, candles and candlesticks, figurines of Catholic saints, necklaces, and coloured beads called elekes. The authentic, sacred versions of elekes are carefully prepared by santeros (think, priests) to reflect and guide initiates in suitable ways; other beads are…just beads.

Elekes Santeria jewellery, magic, voodoo

The religion of Santeria developed undercover as a shadow of Catholicism, when slaves from Africa arrived at their new enforced homes in places like Cuba, and were discouraged from openly practising their beliefs. They used Catholic saints as avatars or proxies to cloak their own style of worship, an intriguing sleight of hand to allow them to continue to follow their old ways. 

Orishas – the Santeria equivalent of selected saints – have specific colours, behaviours and powers associated with them, practitioners emerging from behind the disguise of Catholicism to make offerings of food and sometimes blood (animal sacrifices). The latter adds something of a sinister element to the religion, often over-shadowing its predominantly uncontroversial ways and discouraging open practice.

I made more of Santeria in my novel, Lost In Plain Sight, which portrays a menacing arm of the religion allowing – demanding – human sacrifice, not merely chickens. 

Roast chicken at Hixter

Is this a horrific memento that I stole away out of the back of the Santeria shop allowing me to make an evil Hand Of Glory to strike fear into my enemies and lay waste to their souls?

No, It’s a roast chicken served at Hixter restaurant, Bankside, in London. It’s presented at your table done up like a, er, chicken, including a very fine looking pair of feet. Took me back to our days in Hong Kong, where chickens’ feet are alarmingly popular, espacially when employed to bait foreigners at dinner. 

They’re not for the squeamish, but neither are they a monstrous display of dark magic. The chicken is moist and succulent, run through from the base with an uncomfortable nod to Edward II. 

I picked out this image to illustrate the power of connection and association.

I used the concept of Santeria in my book, albeit distorted and made more alarming by the introduction of higher levels of sacrifice rather closer to home. 

Here’s a passage from my book that talks about it, a taster perhaps, using authentic names but for more diabolical purposes:

EXTRACT from Lost In Plain Sight

The leader intoned in a voice that melted into the African drums and the chant as the chorus writhed in anticipation, all in time with the ancient rhythms: 

‘Babalu-Aye, Oh Lord of Healing, Lord Ọbalúayé, Wise and conquering One,Your Worshipfulness Erinle, Your medical wisdom we need and implore, Lord Esu, Your Tricks and Wit are our Guide, Lord Kokou teach us your Warrior ways, Obatala, help us to create human bodies in your divine image, Lord Shango put your trust and lightning in us, Lady Aje share your bounteous wisdom and wealth, and Mistress Oya, let us know the secrets of your Maagic, we beseech you.’ 

The leader motioned to his entranced entourage, like a king cobra conducting at the Royal Albert Hall. They responded immediately. I am horrified to say that we responded immediately, just far enough away to escape the strangling power of the combination of beat and words and song. The circle of acolytes and spheres tightened; the intensity and volume increased. I could smell its dark ululations, feel the texture of its cloying taste, hear the jangling of harsh colours, even from where we were.  

Religion covered over with religion in the real world, a chicken that tastes wonderful/ looks demonic, and the modification and distortion of reality to provide grounding for some pretty anti-social behaviour in my book. All things that were unexpected for me related to my experiences, woven into fiction because they fitted in with what I wanted to show.. 

Nothing’s wasted. 

Like the chicken (well, maybe those claws this time around)…



Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose writes books, this Blog and quizzes . His clones help him to find time to do all these things simultaneously. His coffee machine is set to intravenous. His golden retriever, Jasper, is set to Hungry Cute at all times. His cat – Pagoda – is like all cats, she doesn’t help him at all. Even though he is a certified cat-whisperer (more a cat-yeller). Pagoda rules the house with an iron claw. Alan lives with the rest of his family in Surrey. Please do visit him at his website: