Bound to the Monarchs Chapter 1

This is the first chapter of my book, Bound to the Monarchs. For content warnings please go here.

Chapter One

The sun was setting over the mountains of Herdoona as Vitoria continued down the Boundary Road. She glanced down at the clock on her dashboard. Two hours until darkness. Two hours to get safely to a sanctuary.

She drummed her fingers against the steering wheel and drew a deep breath. When she got to the refuge perhaps she would be able to breathe a little easier. Perhaps the knot in her chest would ease a little. Perhaps she would stop feeling the inexplicable pull towards Palici, the shifter lands. Perhaps, but she wasn’t confident.

Her journey was taking longer than she’d anticipated. She’d agreed to meet Mira on the last day of the lunar cycle. At the rate she was going, she would be lucky if she made it. Maybe she could send a bird from the next refuge, ask Mira to wait for her. Not for the first time, she wondered if she was making a mistake. Was she really moving to a region that didn’t even have cell phone reception?

Vitoria kept her eyes on the road ahead. The mountains of Herdoona loomed to her left, the forests of Palici beckoned from her right. Ahead was nothing but wide-open road. She hadn’t passed another vehicle for hours. The ones she’d seen earlier in the day had all taken shelter at the last sanctuary. She should’ve stopped with them but she had a deadline to keep to.

She looked down at her navigation system. An hour to the next refuge point. She should make it before the sun set. A chill ran down her arms and she turned the heat up. What if she didn’t make it?

No. She would make it. There were nearly two hours until nightfall and she was only an hour away. She would make it.

She felt a pull on the knot around her heart and forced her eyes to remain on the road. She wouldn’t look towards the forests. Wouldn’t think on why it felt like they were calling her home. Home was in Calibrai. Home was what she’d left behind. Home was where she was going to.

Sorcery was supposed to come from Herdoona, so why did she feel the pull from the shifter lands?

Lights flickered up ahead and she glanced back down at the navigation system. There shouldn’t be anything there. No street lights. No buildings. Nothing.

Bang!          

She instinctively raised her hands to her ears. Brighter light flared and her heart jumped into her mouth.

Marauders. It had to be marauders. They would see her pointed ears and know she was a Solviso and that would be it. She pulled her hair out of its ponytail and smoothed it over her ears. Throwing her hands back onto the steering wheel, she hunched over and gripped it for dear life, slowing her van, but not stopping.

No one stopped on the Boundary Road. Not this close to darkness.

What should she do?

Red, orange, and yellow lights danced in her path like a joyous monster. A fire.

She couldn’t continue ahead.

Knowing only that she had to avoid marauders at all costs, Vitoria turned her van to the right and put her foot on the accelerator. She drove over the verge and into the overgrown grass, towards the forest. She glanced into her mirror. Nothing behind her. The marauders probably didn’t even know she was there. The van bounced as she bounded over bumps, her teeth banging like castanets. The boxy vehicle wasn’t made to drive off road. She pulled out onto a wide dirt path and drove into the forest. She felt a jolt to her chest and her breath caught. She gasped in air and the feeling receded, the knot around her heart disappeared, and it felt like a cocoon had formed where the knot had been. She looked down at her navigation system. She was on the Free Land, two miles from the border of Palici.

She turned off her engine, unbuckled her seatbelt and checked the locks. Her hands trembled and she inhaled deeply. Safe for now. The automatic dome light clicked off and she reached over to the glove compartment and pulled out her torch. Dim light spilled from it. She should get some sleep, get on the move when the sun rose.

Another check of the door locks and she could settle in. Climbing out of the only seat in the van, Vitoria stooped over to avoid hitting her head on the ceiling. The wan light from her torch illuminated the little home she had made for herself in the back. A large mattress filled most of the space, blankets and clothing piled on top of it. Three battered cardboard boxes sat at the foot of her bed. One box for clothes, another for food, a third for all the sentimental crap that she couldn’t force herself to part with. She picked up the bag by her chair and slung it over her shoulder. Bottles, some empty, some full of water, littered the floor, and she kicked them out of the way as she made her way to the bed. She kicked off her shoes and lowered herself onto the soft pallet.

If she had made it to the refuge she would have spent some time reading, but the light from her torch was dim and she had to save the power. She reached into the bag. Her gun was still there, loaded and ready. So close to the border of Palici, home to the Demalyn, the shifter designation, and it was all she had to defend herself. And her walking stick, if it came to it. She hoped it wouldn’t. Last time she’d had to use her walking stick as a weapon she’d damaged it and she didn’t have the money to replace this one.

She put her bag next to the bed and clicked off the torch, resting it next to her head. In the morning, she would make her way back to the Boundary Road. The Demalyn would never know she’d been there.

 

*

 

Vitoria surfaced into a dream. It had to be a dream, because she’d never been inside a room so lavish. The ceiling soared, the painting of the goddess Lencura was barely visible from the ground, and she only recognised her from the distinctive red and gold robes she wore. People sat in groups of three, all wearing gold sarongs, chests bare. She followed their gazes to the front of the room. The golden thrones atop their dais looked like something from a fairy tale. Two people sat there, a King and a Queen, she assumed.

As she regarded them, Vitoria’s heart sped up and her skin flushed.

They were magnificent.

The King’s long black hair fell in a braid down his back, his skin was tanned from the sun, and his dark brown eyes surveyed the room. The Queen’s auburn hair fell in soft waves over her bare, sun-bronzed breasts, her green eyes defiant and fixed on a man with tawny brown skin and grey hair, who was standing at a podium.

“The war is over,” the man was saying.

“We are quite aware of that, Prime Minister,” the Queen’s words were clipped. “Having fought in the war ourselves.”

“The council thinks,” the Prime Minister continued. “That it is time you found your third mate. We mate in threes because that is how the goddess intended it, and she intended it this way so we would have the necessary balance in our relationships and in our rule. As the ruling monarchs-”

“Your concerns are noted,” the King interrupted. “My mate and I will retire for the night and we shall return to this after dawn.”

“What is there to return to?” The Prime Minister asked. “You must find your mate. Surely you mean to use traditional methods? What is there to discuss?”

“We will return to this after dawn,” the Queen said firmly.

She rose gracefully and her mate followed suit. The King took the Queen’s hand in his and she entwined their fingers together. The King glanced towards the Queen. She held her head high as they left the room, her gaze fixed ahead. She looked cold, composed, in control.

Vitoria walked behind them, invisible through the silent room. They ascended a grand staircase and walked through one of the many doors that lined the corridor. The King locked the door behind them and Vitoria glanced around the room. It was a large bedroom with a four-poster bed in the middle. Imagine sleeping on that. It was probably soft and warm and nothing like the mattress she was used to sleeping on.

She turned back to the monarchs. The King pulled the Queen into his arms, she wound hers around his waist and pressed her face against his chest.

“Don’t cry, my love,” the King said. He stroked a hand down her bare back.

“Perhaps we should have remained soldiers.” The Queen’s voice shook.

“Perhaps, but no one refuses the honour of becoming monarchs.”

“They shouldn’t have chosen us, they should have chosen someone who was properly mated.”

“They weren’t all properly mated before they became monarchs.”

The Queen looked up at the King and Vitoria could see tear tracks on her cheeks. “They were all properly mated before they reached thirty solar cycles. Every single one of them. And I am to be thirty-three at the end of this solar cycle, and you shortly after.”

The King placed a kiss on the Queen’s shoulder. “We’ve been good monarchs. We brought peace to our lands and prosperity to our people,” he said.

“Good monarchs, save for our lack of a third mate. We have failed, Antonio. Failed our people. Failed our mate who is out there somewhere alone, without our protection.”

“The other monarchs didn’t come to power in the middle of a war, Matilda. If we had time to travel, as they had, perhaps we would be mated.”

Matilda shook her head. “The goddess is supposed to bring our mate to us. Perhaps they are right, perhaps we are not blessed by the goddess or fit to be monarchs.”

“They didn’t say that.”

“They implied it.”

“We brought peace to our lands. We have rebuilt cities and towns. Our people have food. They are safe and happy, and if that is not a blessing…”

He stopped talking abruptly and raised a hand to his chest. Matilda pulled away from him and placed her hand over her own heart.

“I’ve only felt this once before,” he said. “The day I knew you were my mate.”

“Our mate,” Matilda said. “We must go to her.”

 

*

 

Dim dawn light filtered into the van, waking Vitoria from a dream. Her mind was groggy as she pulled the duvet up over her eyes and for a few blissful moments enjoyed the comfort of her bed. The remnants of the dream lingered, leaving a warmth that spread from the cocoon around her heart and permeated her entire body. She wanted to stay exactly where she was. If she moved she might lose that feeling. When she moved it would be back to the real world. She tugged at a thread of memory, but the more she tried to remember her dream, the further away it seemed.

The dream was gone. She was back in her van, sleeping on an old mattress, wishing for a real home where she could lock the door and know that no one would be able to get in. Somewhere where she had neighbours, where she knew her surroundings. She would have that. When she reached Malita, she would have a home and neighbours, and everything that she’d had before her father had passed over. She ignored the voice that told her that her neighbours would be Dengara, that they might not accept a Solviso, and that her surroundings would be dark for half of each solar cycle. It was still better than living in a tiny van with nothing but her gun for protection.

She sat up and turned onto her knees. She gently placed one foot flat and tried to put her weight onto it. When she was confident that she could do so without injuring herself or falling, she stood up. She glanced around the room, looking for her stick. She needed to remember to bring it to bed with her. Just because her joints were fine the night before, didn’t mean they would be when she woke. She picked up her bag and hobbled over to the stick.

She slid out of the van, squinting her eyes to protect them from the bright morning sun. She winced slightly as all her weight was placed on her bad ankle. Not that the good one was much better. She stayed close to the vehicle while she relieved herself. It wouldn’t do to wander out in the woods. Who knew what she would find there?

She climbed back up and into the seat and strapped herself in. The morning meal could wait until she was back on the road. She had to make up for the lost time. Whatever had been on the Boundary Road the night before seemed like less of a threat than the feeling that had taken root inside her. The feeling that told her that she had to go further into the forest and onto the Demalyn lands.

She was a rationalist. She followed logic and science, and although the Demalyn were known as a fair and just designation, she would be a trespasser on their land.

She turned the key. The engine made a noise and then nothing happened. She tried again. Nothing.

“Shit!” she shouted as she banged her hand against the wheel. “Not now.”

There was nowhere to go for help. It was too far to walk to the next refuge and even if it had been closer, it wasn’t safe to walk along the Boundary Road. She climbed back out, ignoring the pain that was spreading from her right ankle all the way up her leg. She pulled up the hood and looked inside. What the hell was she going to do? She didn’t even know what she was looking at.

She turned around, glancing about as though someone would magically appear to help her, but there was no one there. Which was a good thing. Who knew what they would do to her if there had been someone there? She climbed up into the driver’s seat and tried again. Nothing.

She turned on her navigation system and zoomed out, looking to see if there was anything nearby. There was a settlement, by the size of it a large town or a city, through the forest nearby. She would have to cross over into Palici, the region belonging to the shapeshifting Demalyn, and walk through the trees. And when she got there? Maybe they would help her. Maybe. Her instinct, if that was what the overwhelming urge to venture into Demalyn territory was, told her to go with that plan. That they would help her.

She grabbed her bag, locked up her van, and began to walk through the forest towards Palici.

 

*

 

A couple of miles into the forest, Vitoria’s right ankle ached, both hips throbbed, and her hand had stiffened around the walking stick. As much as she hurt now, she knew that she would be in agony in the morning. She had to keep going. If she stopped, she might never start again.

The forest was dense. Some light filtered through the canopy of leaves, enough to see by, enough that she couldn’t justify using the limited power of her torch. She would need it when night fell. Though they were in the hottest part of the solar cycle, it was cool in the forest and a breeze brushed over her bare arms. She wished that she’d grabbed a shawl from her van, but she hadn’t imagined that it would be cold further into the forest. She looked down at the navigation system. She was on track to get to the city, but there was no way that she would make it by dark, not at the rate she was going. What if she had to sleep in the forest?

Fear burned inside her. What was out there in the forest? She’d read a lot about the world outside of Calibrai and if she remembered rightly, the wild animals of Palici posed no danger to people. She still didn’t want to spend a night in a cold, dark forest. She had some food and water in her bag, along with her gun and a little money, but nothing that would keep her warm.

Something howled behind her. She couldn’t tell how far away it was and she turned to see if it was close. Nothing there. She picked up her pace, adrenaline overwhelming the pain in her body. She stumbled, twisted her left ankle – her good one – and fell. Pain shot up her right leg and she whimpered. A growl came from her left and she turned her head.

Amber eyes stared out from the darkness, another pair of green eyes appearing next to it. No. It wasn’t darkness. That was their fur. She placed her walking stick against the ground and tried to pull herself up. Her legs gave way immediately. Low growls and hisses echoed around her. She tried to drag herself away. There was no way she could out-crawl them. Even if she could stand, even if she wasn’t injured, she couldn’t outrun the Demalyn. No Solviso, even the non-disabled ones, could. She looked ahead and more Demalyn appeared. Big cats, dogs, bears.

She was surrounded.

 

Available now on Amazon.

Bound to the Monarchs Available for Pre-Order

3D 1Blurb

Millennia ago, the people of Lencura were split into designations dependent on their abilities. Vitoria is a solviso. Others consider them the weakest of the designations but Vitoria knows she’s stronger than people think. Sure, she can’t fly, shift, or conjure magic but her blood has healing properties that the other designations covet and she knows she can use that to her advantage. She’s aware of the dangers that lurk outside of her region and that the other designations would do just about anything to possess her blood but when her father’s death leaves her homeless she’s willing to take the risk for the chance of a better life.

When Vitoria encounters marauders on her way to start a new life in the northern region of Malita, she’s forced to take a detour. Her van breaks down on the border of the shifter lands and she follows her instinct, venturing into the forbidden shifter territory. Better to take her chances with shifters than marauders. Vitoria is placed under the protection of Queen Mathilda and her mate, King Antonio. Mathilda and Antonio’s dominance awakens a passion in Vitoria that she never knew she possessed and she wonders if she might be the third mate they’ve been looking for.

When a dignitary from a neighbouring monarchdom kidnaps Vitoria and offers her anything she could ever want in return for her blood, she realises the only thing she wants is to be Mathilda and Antonio’s. Her monarchs will do anything to get her back but Vitoria isn’t sure what they really want: her or her blood.

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CONTENT WARNINGS (includes spoilers)

Continue reading Bound to the Monarchs Available for Pre-Order

2015 in Writing

I start 2016 feeling pretty good about things. 2015 was, overall, a good year for me. Here are my low points and my high points.

The Lows

There have (thankfully) been very few lows this year. Of course there have been plenty of rejections but isn’t that to be expected?  Each rejection feels slightly easier than the previous one so in many ways the rejections are good too and they make me appreciate it when I get an acceptance.

The real low for me this year with regard to writing was receiving some really bad advice at the beginning of the year from two separate sources. The first was during a writers retreat. I paid to have a one to one session with the writer in resident who spent the majority of the session talking about herself and promoting her own books and then advised me to change the genre of my novel. I am a romance writer. I write romance and not fantasy because I want the relationship to be the primary focus of what I write. Romance is what I enjoy reading, it’s what I enjoy writing and it’s what I’m going to keep writing. Part of me felt amused by the session because I have met lots of really successful writers on the many writers retreats that I have attended who are (generally) all humble and incredibly generous with their time and advice while she was being paid to help me and was clearly just there to feed her own ego. The other part of me felt really low about the whole thing and it put a downer on what had been a really lovely retreat. However, it did make me put the novel down and write Mistress so that was a good thing.

The second piece of bad advice came from a company who I had previously had good experiences with. They had a new editor and I agreed to try him out. He sent back the critique of my novel late and it was just a critique of romance novels in general. He kept describing my novel as a supernatural thriller, even though I had said that it was a romance novel. He made bitchy comments about the kinds of women who read Fifty Shades of Grey and then explained to me what (in his opinion) women should want to read and why romance novels oppress women. That’s right, an editor mansplained to me why women should not read romance novels. The company gave me a refund so at least I didn’t lose anything financially. This really highlighted for me the importance of getting feedback from the right people. Romance is a distinct genre, it doesn’t play by the same rules as other genres and there is absolutely no point in getting feedback from people who don’t understand it. Like everything though, something good came out of this. It prompted me to join the Romance Writers of America.

The Highs

There have been so many highs in 2015:

  1. Getting Mistress Published
  2. Joining the Romance Writers of America
  3. Finding a Great Critique Partner
  4. Casa Ana Writers Retreat
  5. Greenacre Writers Retreat
  6. Swanwick Writers School
  7. Having Secretly Submissive Accepted for Publication
  8. Finally Letting Someone I Know Read Something I Wrote

 

Mistress and Secretly Submissive

Earlier this year my short story, Mistress, was published in Summer Love, an anthology of lesbian romance stories published by Ladylit. This was so exciting for me. It was the first story that I have ever had published and I got to see my name (not my real name of course) in print. And one of the reviewers on amazon said nice things about it. In my excitement I allowed two people who I know in real life to read it. The first was a writer friend whose own style of writing had inspired me to write in first person so it seemed natural to allow her to read the result. The second was a friend who convinced me to send her the story while I was drunk. I woke at 3AM, sobering up and in a panic. I may never look at her without blushing again.

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I usually write paranormal/urban fantasy romance. Mistress was the first  contemporary romance story that I have written and I enjoyed writing it, getting it published and working with Ladylit so much that I just had to submit something for their next anthology which just so happened to be a BDSM themed lesbian romance anthology. I wrote Secretly Submissive and that was also accepted for publication and will be published some time in the new year. Sadly, there are currently no open calls for submissions from Ladylit so I am back to working on my novel (which is a good thing of course!).

Romance Writers of America

I think that joining the Romance Writers of America is probably the best thing that I have ever done as far as writing goes. As I said earlier, I love romance. Lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, monogamous, polyamorous, fantasy, historical, contemporary…if it’s romance then I am interested. When people meet me it’s not what they expect of me. I am a professional, I am analytical and straight speaking, I like facts and statistics, research and evidence based practice. I like talking about politics, the care system, public family law, domestic violence and disability. I am an introvert through and through and the things that I enjoy talking about often lean to the darker side. People assume that my taste in fiction reflects those interests. I used to tell people that I read non-fiction, which is a half truth. I read non-fiction and I read romance. Nothing else. Now I tell people the truth, I love romance novels. I like reading something with a happy ending. I like creating stories where no matter what happens you know that everything will be alright in the end. Other people do not always get that.

Other members of the RWA do get it. It’s a whole organisation of people who love romance as much as I do. Everyone there takes romance seriously, no one there suggests that I should take out the romance and turn my book into a fantasy novel. It feels like a safe space full of people (mostly women) from diverse backgrounds who all love romance and in general are very supportive of other writers. Writers in general are supportive of each other, romance writers especially so (I could be biased).

The RWA is of course not just a safe space for romance writers, it is also (and perhaps primarily ) a great resource for romance writers. There is so much information on their forums and their website and I have found it more useful than every other writing website that I have used combined. As I said earlier, romance is a distinct genre and sometimes the advice and information available on general writing websites just isn’t relevant.

One of the best things about being a member of the Romance Writers of America is their critique partner match up. I found my wonderful critique partner Sharon Buchbinder on there. After the bad experiences that I had at the beginning of the year I was quite nervous about letting someone else read my novel but she has been amazing. She is honest but encouraging, she gives great advice and sympathy when needed. I think I have learned more from her about writing than I have from anyone else and I feel so blessed to have found her. However, probably the best thing about having her as a critique partner is that I get to read her stories too. If you haven’t read them I would highly recommend doing so. Kiss of the Silver Wolf was one of my favourite books of 2015.

Writers Retreats

My first retreat of the year was to the wonderful Casa Ana. Casa Ana is in a tiny village in Spain. There are no distractions, just lots of supportive writers, good food and beautiful views. This retreat was a really productive one for me. I did a lot of editing, met a lot of great people and  ate a lot of great food. For more information about the retreat, read my review.

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My second retreat was the  Greenacre Writers Retreat. Greenacres Writers Group have regular retreats at St Katharine’s. I plan to write about it in detail at some point soon. It was one of the most enjoyable retreats that I have attended. I can’t say it was the most productive because I spent so much time talking to interesting people that I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped. I didn’t feel bad about this though because I got so much out of talking to the other writers. I am really looking forward to attending more of their retreats in the future.

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Swanwick Writers School

When I attended Swanwick I planned to update my blog daily with information about my day but by day three I was having so much fun (and drinking so much wine) that I didn’t actually manage to update my blog after that. I had also planned to write a review after but the week was so full that writing a review was too overwhelming. It really was one of the best experiences of my life. To quote a friend, “The flowers are too bright, the people are too nice and nothing here seems real.” It really does feel like stepping out of the real world into some kind of writing utopia. I can’t wait for next year.

2016

I am so excited for 2016. I know that this is going to be another great year and I can’t wait to see what it holds for me.

Happy New Year!

Writing Retreat: Casa Ana

In February of this year my search for the perfect retreat for writers took me to the beautiful Casa Ana. I found it on google and was immediately drawn in by the photographs of what can only be described as paradise. Of course, I conveniently forgot about my fear of heights and ignored the fact that this beautiful house is on a mountain. Casa Ana is a 400 year old family home that Anne (the owner) has restored to it’s former grandeur. Although the house has been modernised, it has been done in keeping with the historic feel of the village. Casa Ana only runs three writers retreats per year. For the rest of the year it offers bed and breakfast accomodation, walking holidays and (new this year) cookery courses. 

Getting There  

Casa Ana is located in a tiny village called Ferreirola on La Alpujarra (the southern slope of the Sierra Nevada). When I say this village is small I am not exagerating. Many of the buildings in the village are empty. I can’t remember exactly how many people live in the village but it is less than 50. This makes Ferreirola the perfect place for a writers retreat. Quiet, isolated, peaceful. You have to search far and wide for distractions!

  
Casa Ana is located 90 minutes from Grenada Airport and two hours from Malaga Airport. There are buses that go to nearby towns and villages but no public transport going directly to Ferreirola. Anne is able to arrange taxis for an additional cost and I booked a taxi through her.  The taxi was provided by Kitty. She met four of us at the airport and drove us up the mountain to Casa Ana. I was very grateful for her slow, careful driving when it came to the narrower roads, which also seemed to be the roads with the steepest drops.

    

The House
I booked the smallest room in the house so I was surprised to find myself in a spacious single bedroom with a decent sized ensuite bathroom. The room was clean and comfortably furnished. Many writing retreats do not seem to have ensuite bathrooms so I was pleased to find one that did. The ensuite consisted of a shower, toilet and sink and like the rest of the room was a good size. There was plenty of storage in the room with a wardrobe, some shelves and a cupboard in the bathroom.  

The bedrooms and bathrooms all have underfloor heating. In addition to this, electric heaters are available in the rooms. Wifi is available in the common areas and in some of the bedrooms (including the room that I was in).

  

 Most of the bedrooms open directly onto the courtyard and do not connect to the other rooms in the house. I loved this because it made it feel more private. Some writing retreats can feel like everyone is on top of each other but this is absolutely not the case at Casa Ana. 

  I don’t know why this photo is so small but this was the entrance to my bedroom. 

In addition to having your own bedroom with a writing desk, there is a dining room with a big table that is good for writing on, a guest lounge and kitchen (with breath taking views) and lots of outdoor areas to write or relax. Tea and coffee is available in the guest kitchen and there is a selection of soft drinks, wines, beers and chocolate available for purchase. There is space to store food and drink in the fridge or cupboards.

     The Retreat Experience

The evening that we arrived at Casa Ana, Anne gathered us all in the guest lounge and we had nibbles and prosecco. This was such a lovely welcome to the retreat and it gave everyone the chance to get to know each other and to get to know Anne. Wes, Casa Ana’s chef, cooked dinner three nights each week and one of the nights was the first night. It is worth visiting Casa Ana just for the food! If I liked cooking i would definitely be booking myself onto one of his cookery courses. It was like having a michelin stared chef preparing a private dinner. 

Breakfast and lunch is provided every day. Our meals were prepared mostly by Christof and I think that his cooking rivals Wes. Meals are at set times but on the few occassions that people missed meals, it was easy enough to just put some food aside for them. Breakfast and lunch are both big meals at Casa Ana and there was often food left over for us to eat in the evening.

The retreat is very well structured with set times for quiet writing time, broken up by meals. Twice per week there is the option to read your work to the group. I only took part in this once but really enjoyed it. It is completely optional and there was no pressure to join the group or read anything if you do join the group. The group that I was there with was very supportive but obviously this will depend on who else is at the retreat. 

On the evenings when meals aren’t provided there is the option to walk into Mecina, a slightly bigger village with a disproportionate amount of restaurants, including a vegetarian one. The walk to Mecina terrified me. It is dark (the kind of dark that you don’t get in cities) and it is on a mountain (did I mention that I’m scared of heights?). Food there is really reasonably priced (you can eat for 5 euros) and you will receive a warm welcome at whatever restaurant you choose. When I go on retreat I prefer to stay in the retreat and not go out for something to eat (although I did really enjoy my trips into Mecina) and in the future I would be better prepared and bring more food with me. There is plenty of space to store food and there is access to cooking facilities on the nights that Wes doesn’t cook so it is possible to remain at Casa Ana and eat there. There is a supermarket but it is about an hours walk (I didn’t go there so this is based on what other people told me). Taxis can also be booked.

You can have laundry done once per week during your visit. The room is cleaned three times during the two week stay. There is an accessible room available. If anyone has dietary needs these can be catered for. 

My two weeks at Casa Ana were incredibly productive. I completed the second draft of my novel and wrote a short story while I was there. I made some great friends and met some inspirational writers. 

Costs

Rooms cost from £300 per week for a two week stay. This includes breakfast and lunch.

Taxi prices depend on if you share or take a taxi alone. From Granada it costs up to 65euros and from Malaga it costs up to 105euros.

Dinners prepared by Wes cost 60 euros per week.

This is probably the best value writers retreat that I have found so far. 

The Perfect Retreat?

This is certainly a perfect retreat. If I could pick Casa Ana up and put it at sea level, it would be my perfect retreat. There is nothing (other than the height) that I didn’t love about this retreat. It was well structured, the facilties were of a high standard, the food was excellent and there was chocolate available at all times. 

The next retreat is in November. Book now, places go quickly.