E=M…. something or other….

untitledI’ve always been fascinated by science, so it’s a crying shame that I’m too dim to understand how it works beyond a really basic level.  I read ‘layman’ books about science and I watch those TV programmes full of pretty pictures (or equally pretty professors… *cough…. AMAZING*…) that real scientists point at and laugh, and that’s about as far as my understanding will stretch.  My book, Runners, has a little bit of science fiction weaved into it which is integral to the plot, though, and I enjoyed the research I had to do for that, so when Runners was released and people began to comment on that aspect of the story, it got me thinking about the way science is used in fiction, not just in a sci-fi way, but in a more general way. Things that get me thinking generally lead to a blog feature, so I put a shout out on Twitter to see if any of my lovely and super-clever writer friends had any ideas on the subject.  Today I’m happy to announce that this coming week my blog will be dedicated to the musings of four such people.  The lovely thing about all these posts is that they each cover very different areas: Jack Croxall will be talking about parallel universe theories, Rebecca Bradley will be discussing the computer age and mobile technology, Dan Thompson will provide a fascinating insight into the psychology of phobias and Eleanor Reynolds will give us her views on the evolution of the horror genre including a look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  I also have a blog tour scheduled to stop next week, so Thursday will see Clare Davidson talk about her new book Reaper’s Rhythm.

It looks as though it’s going to be a packed one, so I hope to see you around!

No heckling please, I’m only a poor author.

speechOn Monday I went along to a local school to talk about writing and publishing. I had been invited by the school librarian of Haywood Engineering College, a lovely lady who is as passionate about literature as anyone I have met (and she’s also named Sharon, which can only be good!). Sharon emailed me to ask whether I would be happy to talk to year seven. Talk to year seven? I can do that, I thought with a modicum of confidence. Two hundred year sevens, Sharon said. Ok, I can still do that, I thought, with slightly less confidence.

I made up cue cards so that I could remind myself of everything I wanted to say on my ten minute introductory talk. I carefully chose a passage of Runners to read that didn’t contain too much dialogue (doing voices is not my forte) and I rehearsed it. I thought about all the questions I might get asked at the Q&A afterwards.

Was I ready? Was I hell!

After a brief chat and a cuppa, lovely Sharon led me into the hall where I’d be meeting the kids. With row upon row of chairs laid out, it was at that point I realised that two hundred was a lot more than I’d imagined. It’s ok, I thought, I’ll keep it together. Then the kids started to file in, a class at a time. I was getting more nervous with each row of chairs that filled. Then I was introduced and it was time to talk!

In the hours beforehand, I had carefully gone over a succinct and chronologically correct version of my life and career, I had even prepared a few jokes to throw in, and the reminders for each bit were on my cue cards. But as I started to talk, my brain decided that it couldn’t read cue cards – I kept looking at them but the words on there didn’t mean anything. My clever little introductory chat turned into an outpouring of breakneck speed and I missed almost everything important out, especially my jokes. We were supposed to view the Runners trailer next but as we all know that technology hates me, the sound wouldn’t work. We went to a reading instead, which I’m sure I rushed through even quicker than the intro, and then went back to the trailer (phew, a break!) and then came the Q&A. This was where it got fun!

I loved the question and answer session. I was really worried that none of the audience would have anything to ask me and we’d be staring each other down in some sort of High Noon scenario, but I needn’t have been. The kids were fantastic, hands shot up all over the place with brilliant and funny questions (are you rich, are you famous, how long does it take to write a book, will you write a book with me in it?) and before I knew it I was bouncing around the hall like an over-excited chicken trying to not to miss anyone and trying to come up with the best answers I could.

The school very kindly supplied lunch (yum, good choice by Sharon) then I went into a class to help with a creative writing session. We took our cue from the Runners extract I had read out to talk about dystopia and utopia and, once again, the discussions and ideas coming from the kids were lively and interesting and in some cases hilarious. I haven’t had so much fun in ages.

I felt so welcomed by the school, its children and staff, that I needn’t have been worried or nervous. Next time I do an author talk I’ll be ready to enjoy it.  A big thanks goes out to Haywood year seven for being amazing!

Dreams can come true…

You can add Runners to your bookshelf on Goodreads

You can add Runners to your bookshelf on Goodreads

Six years ago I had a very strange dream in which a group of teenagers trekked across a barren landscape on a quest. I woke in the middle of the night and wrote it all down, each kid somehow a real, fully formed person that just squeezed out of my head and onto the notepad. I didn’t know what the quest was; all I knew was that they were on a great journey. A bit like the one Runners began the very next day.

I’m sure in lots of guest posts over the coming months, I’ll be talking about the characters of the book, what influenced the plot and setting, what I think about who is the strongest/ most reliable/ my favourite. So this post is going to be about the journey that the book has taken from my head that night to publication, for that has been a quest in itself.

I’d never actually finished writing a book before, though I had attempted many over the previous years. I was just coming to the end of the first year of my English and creative writing degree. I started the book straight away and worked on it during the summer holidays in between reading texts for the new term that would follow in September. I had an old cranky desktop computer which promptly died at around chapter four, so I resorted to carting the book file around on a memory stick between different computers at the university library and at my brothers’ houses. I worked whenever and wherever I could. At that time my daughters were still young so their care had to be factored in somewhere too, which often led me to work late into the night after they had gone to bed. It seemed that, for the first time, a book was just not going to leave me alone until it was out. By the time the new term had begun I had a first draft, which I nervously printed out and took to show my friend, Louise (an extremely talented writer herself) who was in the same creative writing class as me. I expected her to make up some sort of excuse, or give me a vague ‘it was good’, but she brought the manuscript back a matter of days later and told me she loved it. Still, I thought, she’s being nice to me because she’s my friend.

But I got the bug, I wrote another book straight away (which became Sky Song) and I was just addicted to writing more and more stories for a while so Runners sat on my memory stick (you’ll be relieved to hear that I got a new computer from my student loan too!). Then I saw a competition run by Chicken House for new novels. I entered Runners. My friend was convinced that I was going to win. I didn’t, but it did go past the first stages and that, considering the sheer number of entrants and that, really, looking back, the draft was far from complete, was an encouraging sign. So I worked on it some more and sent it to another competition. This time it made the long list. I knew it wasn’t finished. I rewrote it again. I tried a few agents but got the inevitable rejections. I gave it a new title (it wasn’t called Runners at first) I tried a brand new publisher who was calling for full manuscripts and they wrote a fantastic email saying that they had read it and that it was a ‘well written and heart-warming tale’ but, unfortunately, it wasn’t for their list.

Then university got more demanding and I had other creative writing projects to do for my degree and Runners got forgotten. I’m ashamed to say that I lost faith in it – perhaps I was mistaken, perhaps it really wasn’t all that good. Every so often my friend would remind me of how much she loved it and she’d tell me I ought to be submitting it again but I worked on other things. Just before my university course ended in 2009 I began to help out at Immanion Press as an editor; soon I was taken on with pay and it began to take up lots of my time. Shortly after that, I graduated and I had to get a day job too and so writing took a back seat for a couple of years.

Fast forward to 2012. Two things happened at the same time and my life took a surprising but wonderful path. Firstly, I met another local writer, Mel Sherratt, who had been self-publishing, very successfully, on Amazon KDP and gave me so much advice and support about it that I had the idea to self-publish Runners. Then, just as I was preparing to do that, Immanion Press, who had never published Young Adult before, decided they were going to create a Young Adult list and offered me a contract for Runners. With the ego boost, I started to write again, lots and lots. The Sky Song trilogy became my first foray into self-publishing instead and I’ve loved every minute of the ride so far.

Some things are undoubtedly meant to be. I’m convinced (as I’m an incurable romantic at heart) that my silly little dream might just be the start of something wonderful. It certainly changed my life.

If songs could be blurbs…

You know when you sit and daydream about your new book and imagine a montage in the film version that you’re absolutely certain will be made one day, then you make a mental note of the music that would be playing over the scene and decide that you’ll insist the film’s producers approach the band in question and pay them any amount of money they ask for that song?

Oh, so that’s just me then? Well, the first time I heard this song the lyrics immediately resonated with me because they were so reminiscent of the scenes where Elijah is travelling the road with his friends in Runners. Enjoy!

Trailer Trash

Today is all about book trailers. I’ve been looking at trailers for other books for a while now and I love the idea so I finally decided to set aside the time to make one of my own for Runners. You select some images, a tag line, some music, and stick it all together – I mean, how hard can it be?   You’re sighing now and rolling your eyes heavenward and you’d be justified.  Misguided doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The music I want is something like this…

or this…

but what I find is available that I am allowed to use sounds mostly like this…

And don’t even get me started on photos! Free and also royalty free downloads are as about as easy to find as a unicorn in Birmingham, but not nearly so much of a delightful surprise when you do. Then there’s the problem of converting everything you want so that it will all go onto the same software, setting up a YouTube channel… My lack of skill with anything technical is now legendary so you don’t expect me to be good at this, do you?

A twenty minute job is turning into twenty days. Don’t you dare laugh when you finally see it.

The ones that got away…

There’s some feverish activity going on chez Sant this week.  Number one on the list of jobs is final preparations for the release of Runners, my first traditionally published book.   Some of you may know that Runners is actually the first novel I ever wrote (or finished, at least) way back in 2007.  So it seems like I’ve been waiting for this moment forever, the moment where I finally get to see it in print and hold and stroke its pretty cover and… well, you get the picture…

The inside of the book has been set and needs a final proof read. I have my fabulous editor, Louise Coquio to thank for that.  The cover has been chosen after a very long period of procrastination and a lot of hard work from everyone involved.  I need to bestow huge thanks on our model, Erin, who braved soggy forests, rain, rampaging stags and swarms of bees to pose for us.  And I need to thank my lovely designer, Kath Hickton, who has spent hours bringing the photos to life.  I can’t show you the final choice yet, but I can show you some of the ones that almost made it.  I hope you like them…




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…

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.