Raise your glass to medieval monks

I finished my third novel this week, pressed send, yay me. I was hitting a wall about a week before I finished. I was juggling too much, and pulling 2am nights just to write. Enter a sore throat and cold. My lovely guy plied me with lemon juice, but then decided I needed something even more medicinal, so arrived home with a bottle of Chartreuse. One shot, gargle before you swallow… cured the sore throat immediately. Anyone who has read my novel Trouble Brewing will be aware of my interest in medicinal spirits.

Here’s a piece I wrote about Chartreuse for my publisher’s blog.


Anyone who says alcohol is never the answer doesn’t know much about it. I don’t mean downing a carton of Heineken. A bottle of Pinot, while often quite lovely, won’t be of much benefit. But there are certain liqueurs out there that will fix your health problems, solve your emotional issues, and some will even clean your house. (No, not really, but after a few shots you won’t care about housework anyway.)

How do you find these magical liqueurs? Look no further than the medieval Christian church.

Monastic communities had to be independent, so to do this they needed to provide a service that paid. Brewing booze funded their meditative life. But they couldn’t just distil any old drink. Everything they did had to benefit both their physical and spiritual wellbeing. Any drinks they made needed to be nutritional and medicinal. And all these drinks were developed with their spiritual development in mind. It’s meant to make you feel differently. It’s called “spirit” for a reason.

Take Chartreuse for example. The first records of this powerful healing liqueur dates back to 1605 when an ancient alchemical manuscript was handed over to a monastery near Paris by a marshal of artillery to King Henri IV. The manuscript was called The Elixir of Long Life. The recipe was so complex it took the monks over 100 years to decipher the ingredients and learn how to compound them. In the early 1700s the manuscript was taken to the La Grande Chartreuse. Here, Brother Maubec spent his monastic life trying to unravel the secrets of the elixir, only passing on his knowledge on his deathbed.

Chartreuse is still produced by these monks. Only three monks know the 130 medicinal herbs and flowers that go into Chartreuse. All three monks know only a third of the secret recipe and all have taken a vow of silence.

I’m pretty sure the guys making Coolabah cask wine don’t take their job this seriously. But there’s good reason for it.

Chartreuse is a herbal tonic that has been perfected over centuries. Each of the 130 herbs, roots and flowers that go into it have been chosen for their healing properties. It can alleviate everything from digestive issues to respiratory infections. It is a tonic for the body and an elixir for the mind. It is not only a cure for insomnia, but also gateway to other realms via your dreams. And for those who know their liqueurs, Chartreuse tastes great too.

So treat yourself, drink Chartreuse. And when you do, raise your glass to the monks who made it. It’s good for you.




5 great places to search for Fairies


I’m up to my eyeballs in Fey folk at the moment, as I write my new book. I do love all things magical, and Fairies are right at the top of that list. I’ve travelled the world and seen some very strange things … Here are 5 great places to search for Fairies.

  1. Lake Bled, Slovenia: Bled’s tiny island, the only island in Slovenia, is steeped in magic. One legend says the lake was originally a meadow until the fairies called up the forces of nature and flooded the whole region, leaving only the hill where they danced jutting out of the water. Drifting across the lake towards it, it’s easy to believe that the island is still home to all sorts of mythical creatures.
  2. St Andra, Austria: This tiny town in eastern Carinthia is a favourite of mine. The woods that surround it are filled all sorts of magic, from Witch burning circles, to stone circles and fairy houses—mostly found if you step off the walking tracks. Locals told me that the “Mother Goddess” is still revered, and you’ll find evidence of this all over the fields and forests.
  3. Monhegan Island, USA: This small, rustic island 10-miles from the coast of Maine has always been a haven for artists… and fairies. Scatted throughout the forest and underdeveloped hiking trails are fairy houses. This is an absolute jewel of a place, and a must-visit for any fairy-loving family.
  4. Japan: Japan’s forests and mountains are filled with all sorts of nature spirits. I love their mythical creatures, especially the tanuki, which isn’t a fairy, but certainly magical. Elementals and fey folk are hidden in every rock, every tree in Japan… but you can also see some incredible fairy creatures on the streets of Tokyo. “Fairy Kei” fashion has been popular for years. The Japanese have an amazing street fashion culture, the Fairy Kei style being just one of the many “tribes” found in Harajuku.
  5. Cornwall, UK: No Fairy World Tour would be complete without a trip to Cornwall. There are countless places to search for little people here—the whole county is steeped in magic. My favorite is St Nectan’s Glen near Tintagel. You won’t see fairy houses, but you might just see orbs of light, so have your camera ready!

Want to read more about St Nectan’s Glen and Cornwall? Read my novel Trouble Brewing, which is set in many fabulous places, Cornwall included.

Want love? Drink this witchy brew

First choice for all good witches
First choice for all good witches

Binding someone to you in love doesn’t need to be too much toil and trouble. No need to hover over a cauldron and sacrifice small amphibians. The uninitiated should never cast a love spell and expect a positive response—spell energy returns to sender three-fold, and it’s not always pleasant.

Instead, to win someone’s heart, crack open a bottle of the Italian herbal liqueur, Strega … literally translated as WITCH.

The liqueur itself packs a punch at 40%, with 70 different herbs including Ceylon cinnamon, Florentine iris, Italian Apennine juniper, Samnite mint, and saffron, which gives the drink a happy yellow hue. It’s a great winter tipple, and also fabulous to pour over desserts.

Strega is the stuff of legends. Distilled in Benevento, Italy, a town famous as the meeting place for all the witches of the world. It was at one of these witchy meetings that Strega came into being, devised as a drink that would tie lovers together forever.

The secret to any love spell is this—both parties must be willing participants. Early on in our relationship, I bought my guy a bottle of Strega. Then, as I poured him a glass, I told him tales of Benevento, the witches, and the power of the titillating tipple.

“Drink this and we’ll be bound in love for lifetimes.”

“How many?”

“I don’t know. A few. Want it or not?”

He did. He tossed it back with a wink. And every year since, on our anniversary, we share another shot. The poor bugger has no chance of escape now.

So all you would-be witches … don’t meddle in magic. Instead, call upon the spirits for some help with your love life, and make that spirit Strega.

Want more sporty spells? Check out my book Trouble Brewing.

The drink for lovers!
The drink for lovers!