Z is for zzzzzzzzzzz

4709333171_f71bb5ea72Ok, I admit it, this blog challenge has finally beaten me.  I went through a whole raft of z words from zephyr to zits but I just didn’t have the energy to be inventive.  So, goodbye A-Z challenge, it’s been a blast.  I struggled some days to get to as many blogs as I wanted to visit and to leave comments in as many places as I wanted to, and I apologise to those I missed.  By the same token, I’d like to thank everyone who forgave me and visited me despite this.  See you all next year!

Right, I’m off to bed for the next month…

Y is for Young Adult

There are lots of reasons why I write and read YA. I don’t write or read it exclusively, but it seems to dominate my choices at a subconscious level.  Whenever I put fingers to keyboard for a new story, invariably, a teenager appears. Maybe it’s because I’m drawn to young people in life (or people who have a young outlook).  Maybe it’s because I have a misguided attachment to my battered old Converse which means you’ll have to prise them from my cold, dead feet, regardless of how embarrassing my kids find it. Maybe it’s because I’m clinging stubbornly to my own lost youth. I’m not sure I can really say why I lean towards YA – you might as well ask why I like the colour green.2392464731_548fbbb10d

Whatever Freud would have to say, I love to write characters of this age.  They escape the constraints that dictate the actions of the rest of us. There’s a whole new world opening up for them, endless possibilities still to be written.  I write younger protagonists from time to time under a pen name and, while they have just as much fun, mostly I have the watchful eye of a parent or guardian to take into consideration.  Young adult protagonists have more freedom to go out into the world on their own but without the burdens that adults have. It’s a time of massive transition – of finding yourself, who you really are, what sort of person you’re becoming – and for me, that’s so exciting.  With a young adult protagonist you can pursue emotional arcs that you can’t with any other age group.

Another genre is fast emerging in the book world too, that of New Adult.  This genre is one I’m currently trying to write in, and I have to say that I’m finding the challenge exciting.  It’s taking me out of my writing comfort zone and allowing me to explore some of the themes that Young Adult only begins to touch on in more depth.  I’ve heard it said that this genre is just an excuse to let teenagers in books have sex, but I don’t agree.  I think that YA stories can and do already do that.  By the same token, I think that NA stories don’t have to be limited by sex either.   Just as adults don’t spend all their waking hours thinking about it, there’s no reason why New Adults have to, and nobody complains when being presented with a book about adults where sex does not happen.  Mine is still very much a work in progress, and it’s hard to say how it will turn out, but I’m having fun experimenting!

X is for Xavier

I’ll be honest, I had sat for some time last night writing a completely different post for X. One of those from-the-heart, frank posts that looked decidedly ill-advised when I read it over again in the cold light of day.  So, as a much more lighthearted treat, I thought I’d introduce you to Xavier Bettencourt from Runners.  Xavier is a somewhat enigmatic character at the start of the book; there is lots we dont know about him and his motivations aren’t always clear.  One thing is certain, he doesn’t like Elijah very much and the distrust is mutual.  Perhaps something to do with the conversation that Elijah overhears concerning himself at their first meeting.  Luckily for Elijah, things with Xavier aren’t always what they seem.


The stable was damp and inhabited by a skeletal, disgruntled looking horse which snorted indignantly at their arrival but, after a fuss from Rosa, decided they were welcome after all.  Two of the three stalls were unoccupied and obviously unused; Xavier noted that, although they were cleanly swept, there was no straw down.  On a bracket hung a wire basket with a supply of clean dry straw, which Xavier spread around in one of the vacant stalls for them to lie on.  It pricked them through their clothes but smelt inviting and safe.  Rowan fell asleep almost immediately, as did Sky, after finally agreeing to entrust Elijah’s care to Jimmy.  Jimmy did his best to make Elijah comfortable, but his limp form failed to respond to any of Jimmy’s anxious manoeuvrings. 

Xavier, who seemed to have taken on superhuman qualities, was adamant that he was going out to search for food. ‘Did you pick up those tokens?’

Rosa nodded and reached into her backpack, extracting the booklet that had been the cause of so much misery.  She tossed it to him.


‘Where are you going to use them?’

‘If there’s a stable here with a live horse, then there has to be a house nearby,’ Xavier reasoned.  ‘I’m going to find it and see if I can get them to exchange these for something.  It’s a risk, but we don’t have any choice.’

‘You’re surely not going now?’

Xavier nodded, his square jaw set with grim determination.  Rosa was too tired to argue. 


A couple of hours later, Xavier stumbled in with a small cloth bag.  Shaking Rosa gently, he showed her the bag as she rubbed her eyes, struggling to wake. 

‘Where did you get that?’ 

‘Quite a walk actually – there’s a cottage.  It’s in a bit of a hollow, which is why we never saw it before.  They were nice people.  Only had eggs to spare, though.’

‘But,’ Rosa began groggily, ‘we can’t start a fire in here…’

‘I know.  We’ll have to eat them raw.’  Xavier steeled himself, at the same time pulling a brown, slightly feathery, hen’s egg out of the sack.  Tipping his head right back he cracked it into his open mouth and swallowed it in one, shuddering.  Rosa looked horrified. ‘This is not the time to be squeamish,’ Xavier scolded. 

‘Didn’t they ask you any questions?’ Rosa asked as she accepted an egg from Xavier and held it as though he had given her a hand grenade.

‘Yeah.  I felt a bad about lying to them really. They are a bit too trusting. Anyone else would have robbed them blind.  They asked where we were staying. I was sort of straight with them.  I told them I was with a group of soldiers on exercises and we got separated from the others, so we were sheltering in the stable, just for tonight, and we’d move on in the morning. Just in case they came noseying, really.’

‘I thought you said they were nice.’

‘That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t report a gang of kids hiding out in their stable, though, does it?’

‘We don’t really look like soldiers.’  Rosa forced an ironic laugh.

‘No,’ Xavier agreed, ‘but hopefully I was convincing enough that they won’t come to check.  It’s quite interesting that they believed me so readily – don’t you think?  Puts a new slant on what Jimmy told us about the CMO.’ 

‘Or perhaps they thought you were seventeen.’

‘Perhaps.’ Xavier shrugged. ‘Anyway, I told them the horse was ok with us. That seemed to settle it really.’  He glanced over at Elijah, who was shivering in his sleeping bag, his eyes moving rapidly under their lids. ‘Give me a hand to get one of these inside him.  He’s not going to last otherwise.’ 

Rosa gently pulled Elijah’s head onto her knees and tipped it back without resistance. She pinched his nose while Xavier cracked an egg and poured it into his gaping mouth, stroking his throat like he was giving a dog pills.  Elijah gagged and it dribbled back out, the yolk running down his chin.

‘We’ll just have to try and keep him hydrated, it’s the best we can do for now.’ Xavier grimaced.  ‘His breath stinks. We’ll wake the others.  They need to eat sooner rather than later.  Plenty of time for sleep afterwards.’

You can check out the Runners page on Goodreads if you want to know more.  Or, ya know, you could add it to your shelf… or something…

W is for Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey

Yup, you guessed it. I love time travel! Not actual time travel, of course, though that just imagine that!  I love the idea of it. And, as I’ve said so many times before, the endless possibilities for story telling, the way the concepts it presents can tie your brain up in delicious knots. Things can get pretty complicated when you time travel, as I have found when trying to write it. It’s been done so often now, that it can seem a tired idea,  but over the last few years I’ve seen it used in some very unlikley ways to make it all shiny again. Take The Time Traveler’s Wife. Who saw that coming? But what a brilliant reinvention of a well-loved trope. I’ve seen it pop up in chick lit, and in some of my favourite non-sci-fi shows such as Life on Mars. Heroes and Misfits showed time travel as a super-power.  I wonder how many more versions we will see?

And now for the real reason that we are discussing time. Over to you, Doctor…

V is for Villains

This is a short post and really to pose a question:  Why do villains in stories always laugh?  Or smirk?  Or cackle evilly?  Why do they display any hint of merriment when they are contemplating or have committed some dastardly deed?  Being evil might be funny, but it can’t be that funny, surely.  Even in a room full of people, Merlin’s Morgana in series 3 had a face that was permanently stuck in an evil grin the moment anyone wasn’t looking.  Sometimes when they were looking.  If you are doing something underhand, save your laughter and concentrate on hoodwinking your victims good and proper.  All Uther had to do was turn around at the wrong moment and she’d have been toast.  It’s not that I have a problem with villains finding their villainy amusing in moderation, but I just don’t get where this whole idea that they have to laugh all the time started.  Was it with moustache twirling baddies of the silent movie era who, presumably, had to grin and twirl their moustaches to show their badness because they had no dialogue and rubbish, crackly film?  Does anyone else know?  I’m even guilty of doing it myself when I write baddies, perhaps because the idea is so ingrained in me that I just can’t shake it.  It seems to be a particular malady in fantasy writing as a whole.  I need help to kick the chipper-baddie habit.  Anyone want to form a support group?

Watch out for the smirk count in the corner. Enjoy!

U is for Unlikely Hero

Not only the title of a Hoosiers song (just sharing a guilty pleasure moment there) but also my favourite sort of hero.  From lovestruck Cyrano to sociopath Sherlock to ‘scrawny, specky git’ Harry Potter (I wish I could claim that but blame it on the Weasley twins) everyone loves an underdog (which also begins with U).harry

Why do we look to the least likely heroes to save the day?  What is it about them?  Maybe they remind us of ourselves.  It takes a hobbit to save Middle Earth when there are warriors and elves all around.   Maybe hobbits are like us – real people. And maybe it’s healthy to root for the hobbit.  Maybe it reminds us that we don’t have to sit idly back when injustice is around us, that everyone can make a stand, no matter how insignificant they may seem.  The difference is, in real life there are often things beyond our control to change, even with the most determined will.  In fiction, we can achieve our aims through our protagonist.  And the more like us they are, the more we take the journey with them.

In any story, you can bet that I’ll be rooting for the overlooked geek, the quiet, unsung hero toiling away in the background, the socially awkward non-entity… the unlikely hero of the tale.  Maybe because they’re just like me.

T is for Tethering Titles

Regular visitors to the blog may know that I have a soft spot as big as New Mexico for Jack Croxall’s Victorian adventure, Tethers. I ‘met’ Jack on Twitter last year when he was still writing it and right from the first mention I was intrigued. The book promised to be everything I grew up loving: heart stopping, swashbuckling adventure with kids at its heart, set in an era steeped in romance. I looked forward to its release with a mixture of excitement and trepidation; it would have been the disappointment of the year if it hadn’t been good!tethpurp-211x300

My fears were unfounded and I loved it. But that’s not the point of this post, so I apologise for digressing. The point is that Jack’s title, Tethers, was intriguing just by itself. In fact, without gushing, it was a work of genius. As I began to lose myself in the tale, I just knew that somewhere along the line, it was going to be significant. So when the moment came to reveal that significance, it was such a gratifying one that I almost punched the air. It was so important to everything that the book was about and that made it perfect.

Titles are funny things. Some people struggle with the title more than anything else, often using a working title for as long as possible. For me, a work in progress doesn’t feel like a real book until I have a title for it. I often find, in actual fact, that the title is one of the first things that occur to me. For one book I recently began, a title that popped into my head actually dictated the whole premise and kick-started the draft! However the title comes, for me, it’s usually one of the first things put in place. There have been occasions where books I’ve written have had a title that was changed at the last minute, though. Sky Song was initially called The Cosmic Canvas (taken from a line in the book) until a friend wrinkled her nose and mentioned that it made her think of hippie Neil from The Young Ones. After that, I couldn’t get the association out of my head and the old title had to go.  Another novel, Runners, went through about four titles before it was settled.

Titles are not only significant in terms of telling you what to expect from a book or linking into the plot, but they can dictate whether the book sells or not. This sounds extreme, but I believe it to be true. Unless highly recommended, if I see a book whilst browsing and I think that the title is boring, I pass it by. I realise that everyone’s concept of boring is quite different, so, obviously, this will be subjective according to each reader. But the point I’m making is that it needs to be clever/intriguing/witty/romantic – whatever will pull at the heart strings of your target audience. This may sound obvious, but it doesn’t seem to be to everyone. I would point here to Snakes on a Plane. Either someone had their tongue firmly in their cheek, or their imagination had gone for a city break. Whatever you think about it, I have never seen, and do not intend to ever see this film, simply because the title puts me off.

I realise that I might be setting myself up for a massive fail here as lots of people point to my book titles and scoff.  In which case, all I can do is point you to Tethers to prove my point.

If you want to find out more about Jack or his book, you can click the following links…




S is for Sky

People seemed to like my Runners excerpt for R.  So, because there’s nothing quite like milking the cow dry, I thought I’d treat you to another one.  Sky is one of the teenage girls in Runners.  She’s softly spoken, a gentle soul who sees and hears things that others don’t.  She’s the quiet backbone of the group, the moral compass.  This excerpt tells you a little more about her:

Elijah woke in the early hours of the next morning.  He lay quietly, listening to the sounds of regular breathing and the occasional shuffle or cough of his companions as they continued to sleep.  He couldn’t tell what time it was and remembered bitterly that he no longer had his dad’s old watch.  A shaft of dazzling sunlight blazed across the ceiling from a gap in the boarding at the window, so he guessed it was after dawn.  He also mused, staring lazily at that bright streak, that if it was too hot, he may not be able to get away after all – at least – not right away.  Looking across at Rosa, who was curled in a sleeping bag with a hand tucked under her chin, her hair spread gloriously across the pillow, he didn’t feel entirely sorry about that.  The others were all in sleeping bags too, making him the only one with a mattress.  He wondered idly who usually took the mattress when he wasn’t there. 

He felt at his head; the swelling had subsided and it didn’t ache so much now.  Pushing himself up, he unlaced his boot and felt inside.  Satisfied, he began to re-tie it when the morning peace was shattered by a piercing squeal. Sky bolted up, golden hair flying behind her and eyes wild.  She stared at Elijah, panting heavily.  Rosa groaned and half opened her eyes, and Elijah saw a tattered cushion fly from Xavier’s direction at Sky’s head.  It missed and bounced across the floor.  He mumbled, ‘not again’ before flipping over and closing his eyes.  Oblivious, Sky continued to stare at Elijah with a terrified look, until he felt compelled to speak. 

‘Are you ok?’ 

At this, she seemed to snap out of her trance. She nodded weakly, and then lay down again to stare at the same dazzling bolt of sunlight that Elijah had been watching all morning.

‘Looks hot today.’


‘Still thinking of going?’ 

‘I should really.’

‘Why?’  She sat up and looked at him squarely.  He shrugged.  Then, without the least sense of absurdity or irony, Sky said: ‘I had a premonition.’


‘Just now.’

‘A premonition?  Are you joking?’ Elijah could tell by the earnest look on her face that she wasn’t.

‘It was about you.  You were floating face down in a river and we pulled you out.’

‘Cheers.  Don’t tell me any more, eh?  What makes you say it was a premonition?  Couldn’t it be a dream?  You were asleep… it could have been a dream…’  Elijah wasn’t sure he liked the way this conversation was going. He had been there five minutes and already this weird girl was having visions of his imminent demise. As if he didn’t have enough to worry about.

Sky shrugged. ‘I just know.  I have them all the time.’ 

‘Don’t listen to her,’ mumbled Xavier, half-asleep from across the room, ‘she’s mental.’

You can check out Runners on the Goodreads page or even add it to your shelf, y’know, if you wanted to…

R is for Runners… what else did you think it was going to be for?

Yay!  I’ve been desperate to get to R so that I could share an extract of Runners with you.  Runners is a YA dystopian novel set in a near-future Britain (about 100 years, is that near-future?).  Runners is the name given to kids who live on the streets, and the novel follows a gang of these kids as they battle to stay alive.  As if that’s not bad enough, they stumble upon a secret guarded by a powerful man, a secret that will threaten their lives and the very existence of their entire world. Here we go…

Xavier leaned against the wall of the alleyway and folded his arms.

‘We’re not taking him with us.’

‘But, Xavier –’

‘There’s enough of us as it is.’ He cast an appraising eye over the unconscious boy.  ‘I don’t trust him.’

‘How can you say that?  You don’t even know him.’  The speaker was a girl with long, blonde hair.

‘I don’t need to know him.  He’s a Runner.’

‘We’re Runners!’

‘That’s different.’


‘It just is.’

The boy on the floor groaned.

‘He does look in a bad way,’ said a second boy. ‘He might die if we leave him here.’

‘Not my problem,’ Xavier said.

‘Jimmy’s right,’ the girl cut in.  ‘What if you had said that about Rowan?  Think of all the ways he’s helped us out since we met up with him.  Maybe this kid could do the same, maybe he’d be good for us.’

Xavier nudged the boy with his foot, but he didn’t stir. ‘I doubt it.  He looks as though he’d just eat everything we have and then scarper.’

The girl looked down at the injured boy with a pained expression.  ‘Please, let’s just take him back to the cottage.  I couldn’t bear it if I found out something had happened to him and we could have helped.’

Xavier sighed.  ‘Alright then. But don’t blame me if he steals everything you own once he wakes up.’

‘I don’t own anything,’ the girl smiled.

‘You two can carry him if you’re so desperate to get him back.’ Xavier threw a last glance at the figure on the floor and then turned to leave.


When Elijah came to the second time he felt better, as if he had just woken from a good night’s sleep.  His eyes remained closed while he savoured the sensation.  Some instinct he couldn’t name told him he wasn’t in immediate danger.  When his eyes finally opened, he could see that he had been taken indoors.  Instead of concrete hardness beneath him, he was lying on something lumpy – but soft, at least.  As he pushed himself up to investigate, his head reacted to the change in position and exploded with pain.  He clapped his hands to it, holding himself until the pain subsided into a pounding throb.  Gingerly, he felt the spot where the blow had struck.  His hair was matted and sticky. Inspecting his fingers, he recognised what could only be his own congealed blood.  As he dropped his hands to wipe them on his trousers, he looked up and found two faces near his, watching him with a mixture of concern and curiosity.

‘D’you think he’s ok?’

‘Dunno, looks a bit rough still.’

‘You could check him.’

Elijah looked from one to the other.  In a weak, hoarse voice that he hadn’t expected from his own mouth, he interrupted: ‘I am actually here, you know!’

The boy addressed Elijah uncertainly.  ‘Sorry… um… how many fingers am I holding up?’

‘How many am I holding up?’  Elijah raised two fingers of his own in a dubious salute.   The boy’s frown changed into a broad grin.  It was such a disarming grin that, despite himself, Elijah couldn’t help a small smile in return.

The boy was about Elijah’s age, slim, taller than him, brown haired with a floppy fringe.  It was a frank, honest face; the corners of the boy’s mouth had a natural upturn which gave the impression that he was constantly suppressing a grin, and lively brown eyes added to the air of mischief.

Elijah’s gaze flicked briefly to the girl.  She was about his age too; blonde, blue eyes that spoke of summers past, with a melancholy to them that made Elijah wonder just how long she had been running.  Judging by the way she was dressed, in jeans that looked far too large tucked into battered lace up boots, her wrists covered in coloured beads and fabric bracelets in varying states of decomposition, he figured it was quite a long time.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked Elijah.

Did he lie?  He stared dumbly at her, not knowing what to say.  She smiled patiently.

‘You’re ok here.  Maybe you should just lie down again.  D’you want some water?’  Elijah nodded. ‘I’m Sky,’ she continued.  ‘And this,’ Sky gestured toward her companion as she crossed the small room for a plastic bottle of water, ‘is Jimmy.’

Jimmy grinned in acknowledgement and pushed a hand through his fringe.

Elijah took a chipped mug of water from her.  It wasn’t cold, but it was clean and fresh.  ‘How long have I been here for?’  Elijah sipped again, his eyes not moving from them.

‘Well,’ began Jimmy, ‘we found you yesterday afternoon…’

‘And it’s about four now,’ completed Sky, looking at a nurse’s fob watch pinned to her grubby jacket, ‘so about a day.’

Elijah was going to ask how they had found him, but Sky anticipated the question.

‘It’s a good job you’ve come round before Xavier got back.’ She glanced at Jimmy as she spoke. ‘We saw two guys at the precinct before you got there.  We were out looking for stuff in this boarded up store and we saw them hanging around in that alleyway.  They looked a bit dodgy, so we hid and waited for them to go.  Next thing we see you come along with another boy and get clobbered.’  She looked suddenly pained. ‘They went through your pockets… and they took your rucksack. I’m sorry we couldn’t…’

Elijah stopped listening. He remembered that he had been running. He remembered what he had been running from…

Runners is due for publication 8th June by Immanion Press.  You can check out the Goodreads page here.

Q is for Quirky

Oxford Dictionary:  having or characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits or aspects

Urban dictionary:  something that is strange/not normal but coolboosh

Quirky is a label you hear used a lot these days.  Quirky singers, quirky actors, quirky writers.   But what does it actually mean?  I think I know what quirky looks like if I see it, but I couldn’t tell you what marks it out as such if you asked me.   I’m actively drawn to quirky, both in art and in real life.  I think I might be a little quirky, although to say so might be the equivalent of the most boring person in the office shouting ‘I’m mad, I am!’  And if I knew exactly what is quirky and what isn’t, I’d be able to say it more certainly.

So why are we suddenly so aware of quirkiness?  I suspect we’re no more eccentric than we ever were before, only now eccentricity is greeted with an indulgent smile instead of being whispered about over the garden fence by the neighbours.  The difference is, it’s cool to be quirky, in the same way it’s now cool to be a geek.  It’s possible the two go hand in hand.

Ok, I admit it, this is another one of those posts where I’m losing my way.  And is also a thinly veiled excuse to include a photo of The Mighty Boosh, because I love them.  And they’re quirky.  I think…

So, how do you define quirky?