5 Scary Reads for the Halloween season

5 scary reads for Halloween

If you want to get into the mood for the Halloween season, nothing tops a scary read, or two.

Whether your preferred scares are ghosts, vampires, re-animated corpses, demonic, or psychological, I have a book to suit.

The Graveyard Book

the graveyard book by neil gaiman

The Graveyard Book is aimed at a 12+ readership but, in my opinion, readers of any age over 12 would appreciate this story of how a boy finds family in the most unexpected of places.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts.

There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.

Neil Gaiman weaves his usual wit and magic in this wonderful, spooky read.

Haunted

As you can probably tell from the title, this is a ghost story, told wonderfully by the author James Herbert.

David Ash, a psychic investigator, is invited to Edbrook, a remote country house, where an alleged ‘haunting’ is taking place. There he meets the Mariell family – two brothers, Robert and Simon, their younger sister, Christina, and their aunt, Nanny Tess.

Ash is renowned for his dismissal of all things supernatural, having exposed many fake mediums in the past as well as invariably finding natural causes for so-called psychic phenomena. He has a deep psychological reason for refuting such unearthly occurrences.

But at Edbrook there is a mystery which cannot easily be explained.

If you want an old-fashioned, creep-up-on-you-slowly ghost story, Haunted is the read for you. There are even two follow-up novels, The Ghosts of Sleath and Ash.

Frankenstein

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of my favourite books of all time.

Most of us are familiar with the Frankenstein trope in some form or another, whether it’s Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster or Herman Munster. The actual novel, however, is a well-penned tale of one man’s arrogance and the consequences he faces, the struggle and abandonment faced by the monster, vengeance and gut-wrenching heart-break.

And if you were in any doubt, I’m on the monster’s side.

Rosemary’s Baby

I came across a battered copy of this novel when I had a Saturday job in a local shoe shop. We had a small cupboard of a staff room that overlooked the busy, shopping street below. I found Rosemary’s Baby stuffed under the window-seat. When I asked the other staff members, none of them said it was there’s so it became my lunchtime read.

Rosemary and her husband Guy move into an old New York City apartment building with an ominous reputation and only elderly residents.

Neighbours Roman and Minnie Castavet soon come nosing around to welcome them; despite Rosemary’s reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises that she keeps hearing, her husband starts spending time with them. When Rosemary becomes pregnant, the Castavets start taking a special interest in her welfare.

As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castavets’ circle is not what it seems.

Rosemary’s Baby is a short read but a good one.

Edgar Allan Poe

Yes, I know that isn’t a book title, but there are so many Halloween-worthy reads by this author. Look out for:

  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue
  • The Pit and the Pendulum
  • The Masque of the Red Death
  • The Tell-Tale Heart
  • The Raven
  • Hop-Frog

Those are only six scary Poe reads but there are so many more.

So there you have it – five (or more) scary reads for this Halloween season.

Have a thoroughly spooky time.

Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles is on the way

book 2 of the haven chronicles is on the way

I can officially announce that Burning Chair Publishing have offered me a publishing contract for the second book in my YA fantasy series.

On 14th September, I happily emailed my signed publishing contract back to Burning Chair and began the process of editing my manuscript after receiving feedback from Pete and Si.

So what’s the process and the plan for Book 2 from here?

  • What I’m doing at the moment is editing my novel in response to Pete and Si’s feedback. Once finished, I’ll email that off to Burning Chair (version 2).
  • As you can see, my novel is still known as Book 2. I need to come up with a book title.
  • Burning Chair will create a developmental edit document and email it back to me.
  • I’ll then edit my manuscript and email it back to them (version 3).
  • Burning Chair will carry out a copy edit to check for inconsistencies.
  • More editing on my part, then back to Burning Chair (version 4).
  • In discussion with Burning Chair, the book cover design process will begin.
  • Once the content of the manuscript is agreed on and we have a book cover, Book 2 will be sent out to beta readers.
  • With the feedback from the beta readers, I’ll make final changes to my novel (version 5).

The plan is to publish Book 2 at the start of 2021, unless we can get through the whole process above in time for publication in mid November (who knows?).

What can you expect from Book 2?

Steve and his friends will be forced to face the consequences of their actions in Haven Wakes. The world of the Haven Chronicles series – both magical and work-a-day – will be expanded beyond the city of Caercester. A new threat will raise its head, dragging Steve and the others back into danger.

If you want to know the inspiration behind the first book in the series, have a look at this article from last year.

Follow my writing journey of Book 2 on my Twitter account.

3 female authors for International Women’s Day 2020

3 female authors for international women's day 2020

So it’s International Women’s Day 2020 and there have been all kind of celebrations of inspirational women over this past week.

This year’s theme is ‘An equal world is an enabled world’ and within that, one of the missions is to ‘increase visibility for women creatives’.

So here I am, doing my bit, by telling you all about 3 female authors who have inspired me over the years.

Mary Shelley

I came to Mary Shelley through studying her novel Frankenstein as part of my Literature degree course and while the novel itself and Mary’s writing have always been a source of inspiration for me, her personal life – supporting her husband, bringing up her child mostly as a single parent and carving out a career for herself as a writer and editor – was even more inspirational.

Here was a woman who wrote science fiction long before it was commonly recognised as a genre. She wrote extensively, not just in the number of works but in the formats they took – novels, plays, travel writing, children’s stories, articles – but sadly she is only really recognised for Frankenstein.

Sheri S Tepper

I can’t actually remember the first book I read by Sheri S Tepper because I’ve read so many of her novels. Sheri was another prolific novelist, but also a writer of novellas, short stories, poetry and articles.

The main genre she wrote in was science fiction but in my favourite novel of hers, The True Game (actually a trilogy bundled into one physical book), she skilfully combines science fiction with fantasy.

Sadly, Sheri died in 2016 but she left a lengthy collection of fictional works that I’m still working my way through.

Erin Morgenstern

I’m a slow reader. This isn’t down to the speed of my reading but rather the juggling act between work and family. I snatch reading time when I’m waiting at school to collect my son and just before I go to sleep.

So when I had a whole week to read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern while away on holiday with my family in Corfu a few summers ago, it was an absolute joy.

Hands up, this is the only book I’ve read by this author, but The Night Circus grabbed me by my swimsuit straps and wouldn’t let go.

Erin’s writing is as magical as the story that unfolds in her novel, and I have high hopes for future novel.

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What about you? Which female authors have inspired you?

Author Interview with Heather Blanchard

author interview with heather blanchard

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you not only a fellow author but long time writerly friend Heather Blanchard. Heather writes about magic, mystery, folklore and the supernatural.

1. When did you first call yourself a ‘writer’?

I don’t think I really embraced the word ‘writer’ until I was actually writing my first book. I always considered myself a writer but I had a bit of imposter syndrome around actually calling myself a writer to other people. Usually people respond with lots of questions and I wanted to avoid that. 

2. Tell me about your books.

My first book, Dark is the Sea, is about a girl who moves back to her hometown in Scotland and discovers that she is a hereditary witch. And because of this, she is in danger from someone who hunts her kind. She has to learn how to protect herself and harness her powers before it’s too late. This book was very much inspired by sleep paralysis that I had experienced in the past, as well as my own fascination with both witchcraft and Scottish folklore.

My next book, The Song of the Mists, is also set in Scotland and again has elements of witchcraft and folklore, but it is about a woman who is investigating cases of mysterious deaths at a local sacred site that has links with fairies and ancient magic. It is inspired by missing person cases I’ve read about that were rumoured to be fairy abductions.

3. What inspires you to write?

Stories about the supernatural inspire me the most. I’ve always been excited by the more mysterious side of things. Witchcraft and the occult, history and folklore. The strange history of places feeds me lots of ideas. 

4. How important is research to you when writing a book?

As soon as I get that spark of an idea then I dive into the research. I love academia, especially the research aspect of it, so research is both important and exciting to me. I collect books on folklore and magic. The trouble for me, is recognising when research is turning into procrastination.

I usually do thorough research for a couple of weeks to see where the thread leads me, so to speak, but after that I get to work on the outline and the actual writing. If there’s anything that needs further research, I make a note to come back to it after the first draft.

5. When and where do you write?

I predominately write at home. I like quiet and my own space with few distractions. And also access to my vast collection of herbal teas. If I’m not working in silence then I like listening to storms or film scores.

I have a lovely desk that I’ve set up but more often than not, I end up writing on the sofa under a cuddly blanket with one of my dogs lying on my feet until they give me pins and needles.

I do travel a bit, and when I do, I like to work in cafes or communal work spaces with headphones on and lots of coffee!

6. Plotter or pantser?

I’ve tried both but I’m definitely a plotter. I enjoy writing character bios and drawing maps of the settings and house plans. I write a short synopsis for each scene, that way, when I sit down to write each day I have a framework to work with. I’m a fan of fast drafting paired with a detailed outline. 

7. Putting aside the writing for a minute, what is your favourite genre to read?

I read widely in all genres, but my favourites are Gothic, magical realism and horror/supernatural. I love Gothic so much that I did a Masters in Gothic literature and film a few years ago. I’ve noticed a lot more Gothic novels in the market recently, so I take it I’m not the only one who’s a fan.

8. Any advice for writers just starting out?

Making daily writing a practice is key. Writing every day breaks through procrastination as well as helping to hone your craft. I recently read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport and it encourages the idea of working undistracted for a set time each day and to be more aware of what your distractions are.

Looking up things on my phone is a deadly wormhole of time suck for me, so now I try and schedule in time to check my emails and social media, and when it’s time to work, I use the Forest app. It stops me from picking up my phone, because if I do, my virtual tree will die. Instead, I keep a notepad next to me to scribble ideas to look up later.

I’m a bit obsessed with reading books on productivity and creativity. I think it’s important to try out different methods and see what works for you. It’s a bit like Goldilocks – something will click in the end. 

9. What books are you working on now or planning for the future?

I have a few ideas swimming around. I’ve written a couple of first drafts of books but they didn’t work out for me at the time, though I may return to them in the future. Right now I’m working on The Song of the Mists which will be released later this year. I’d love to write a vampire novel one day, but my vampire wouldn’t be a romantic figure! 

You can find Heather on:

Twitter: @H_Blanchard_

Instagram: @h_blanchard_

Facebook: @heatherblanchardauthor

Her website is darkisthesea.com

5 things to do when the words won’t come

5 things to do when the words won't come

It’s been one of those weeks when the writing is slow, and the brain fog thick. I have articles to complete for a client and the first draft of my novel to get on with. I know the words are somewhere in there but they’re reluctant to make themselves known.

Is this writer’s block? Surely not. I don’t believe in writer’s block, not really, but my brain has certainly been resistant to getting much writing done this week.

So when the words won’t come, here are 5 things I do to kick through that brick wall.

Check that I’m getting enough sleep

When I was in my twenties, I could cope with 3 or 4 hours sleep on a regular basis. Nowadays, I desperately need at least 7 hours, preferably 8, every night.

If I don’t get enough sleep, I can cope for maybe a couple of days, but after that the brain fog drifts in and everything seems more difficult to do.

Is brain-fog from a lack of sleep getting in the way of your writing? If so, make a promise to yourself that you’ll get at least 7 hours every night. You may have to re-organise your life a little, but try it for a week and see how much better you feel.

Drink water

When I need a boost of energy, I could reach for a coffee or a sweet snack, but I don’t. In fact, I tend to avoid those things as much as I can, and drink plenty of water instead.

I know, water is boring. It doesn’t taste of anything. It’s not frothy or fruity, or mildly interesting. But it’s good for you. Fact.

When your body is dehydrated, one of the first things to be affected is your brain. It just doesn’t work as well.

So whenever I’m having problems getting any kind of writing done, the first thing I do is have a big glass of water, and then another.

Change the record

Generally, I like to write in silence but when I need inspiration, I use binaural beats music. It’s the kind of soundtrack you might usually associate with meditation. I don’t know the exact science behind it, but it always helps me to get writing again.

If that isn’t for you, then you might prefer:

Get my message straight

What am I trying to say with my writing? If this is a non fiction article, what are the main points I need to include? If I’m working on a novel, what happens in this chapter and why?

I open a separate Word document, or grab a pad and a pencil, and plan out what I want to get across.

Take a break

If none of the above work, I step away from the keyboard and do something else for a little while. It might be as short a break as it takes to brew a cup of tea, 10 minutes to unload the washing machine and put on a new laundry wash, or 20 minutes to walk the dog.

When I return to my keyboard, my brain has usually come up with a solution or at the very least  refreshed itself enough to begin to get the words down again.

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What about you? What do you do when the words stay away?

P.S. It worked and I’m now in my writerly muse’s good books again – articles written and a couple of chapters too.

9 books to buy

9 books to buy

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re full-on into shopping mode in time for the festive season. One of the best presents, in my opinion, that you can give is a book.

I suppose I would say that as a writer, but I’m not flogging my own novel in today’s blog post. Instead, I want to share nine novels that have stayed with me long after I turned their final page.

For children and teens

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book begins in a very dark way – murder. It introduces us immediately to the assassin, the man Jack and the peril that our protagonist, Bod is in.

Gaiman’s portrayal of Bod as a child, at different ages, is completely believable. In fact, the whole book, although strange on the surface (a child living in a graveyard among ghosts and ghouls) uses the familiarity of family, childhood, and growing up to bind the story together.

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

I was introduced to the ‘Skulduggery Pleasant’ books when my son found the first book in the series at our local library. Back then, I would still read to him on a night-time. I think I probably enjoyed the book as much as my son did.

Skulduggery Pleasant is the dead wizard detective pictured on the cover who, along with 12 year old Stephanie, investigate her late uncle’s death.

Magic, danger and, well, more danger and magic. What more could you ask for?

Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks

This is the first in the Word & Void trilogy and tells the story of a 14 year old girl called Nest who has strange powers, magical animal friends, and a quest to protect the children in her neighbourhood from demons and the like.

Running alongside Nest’s story is that of a Knight of the Word, John Ross, come to Nest’s town to protect her and the world from the encroaching Void.

For fantasy lovers

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I love novels where an adult remembers what befell them as a child, and that is exactly what happens in this fantasy novel.

‘Ocean’ has Gaiman’s quiet, beckoning tone of storytelling, drawing you in until you have to know what will happen to the characters.

It’s a story of regret, bitter-sweet reminiscence, and the courage of a child who is wonderfully but terrifyingly out of his depths in a discovered world of magic.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This is a novel of magic, illusion (magical, mechanical and emotional), gameplay and love, set at the turn of the twentieth century in Europe and the USA which leaves you with more questions about the circus than you started with.

The circus arrives without warning.
   No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and  billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The ‘Word Wizard’ Terry Pratchett is no longer with us but his writing was so brilliant and prolific that I’m sure he’ll continue to have and attract an audience for decades more, if not forever.

‘The Colour of Magic’ tells the adventures of unlikely hero and terrible wizard, Rincewind.

I love the world that Pratchett created in his Discworld novels. I mean, who wouldn’t want luggage with legs and a mind of it’s own?

For those who love the classics

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I came across this book through my studies and it has stayed with me as an example of great writing ever since. Mary Shelley became an inspiration to me too, not only as a writer, but as a creative pioneer, and an incredibly strong woman.

Forget the Boris Karloff Frankenstein’s monster or Herman in the Munsters, this classic novel is a story of arrogance, struggle, abandonment, and heart-break.

I’m on the monster’s side, by the way.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

‘The Moonstone’ is told through the eyes of members of the family affected by the Moonstone’s seeming curse, their elderly butler Gabriel Betteredge, the family solicitor and the retired policeman Sergeant Cuff.

Considered to be the first detective novel, ‘The Moonstone’ describes the days and events before, during and after the theft of the fated diamond.

This novel is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a gem of a read whether you enjoy crime fiction or Victorian novels or both.

Curtain by Agatha Christie

My final book is an old battered copy of the last ever Hercule Poirot novel. This book belonged to my parents but I didn’t read it until I was an adult. This is by far my favourite Agatha Christie novel, if the only one that ever moved me to tears.

Set in the same country house as the first Poirot novel, ‘Curtain’ sees Hercule old and ailing as his loyal and long-time friend Arthur Hastings does his best to help his friend discover ‘whodunnit’ before Poirot takes his last breath.

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So there you have it, my nine recommended books to buy for your friends or family, or just for yourself, this Christmas.

Happy shopping!

The inspiration behind Haven Wakes

The inspiration behind Haven Wakes

If you ask what inspired me to write Haven Wakes, I’d have to say…

Hang on, let me think for a moment. Hm. This could take a while.

Well, I suppose the first thing was:

Magic

Ever since I read my first fairytale, I’ve been fascinated by magic – magic witches, magic beasties, magic wands and books – and just how a world rich in magic would operate.

In Haven Wakes, magic is hidden from the non magical world, kept in protected areas where magic-users can live with a level of freedom and acceptance. It’s part of their DNA but it comes at a cost.

So that’s the first – magic. What else inspired me?

Colourful folk

My childhood was spent ricocheting between Leeds, where my mum came from, the homes of various family members in Scotland (my father’s birth-country), and York where we lived.

In Leeds, I would meet the people of my mother’s past. There was the little old lady who lived in one room with her grown-up son and a gathering of cats, having filled the rest of her large terrace house with junk shop finds.

There were the elderly couple whose narrow home squeezed into a gap in a terrace of houses. She was tall with rosy cheeks, big arms and a warm, overflowing sense of humour.  He was small, quiet, and a man of the earth, always happiest in his garden.

The Scots were just as colourful. There was the auntie who would send me home after each visit with a gift of dolls or jewellery,  the uncle who would catch crabs in the harbour to the music of his portable radio, and the other auntie who would tell me tales of Nessy the monster and how to call her.

All of them were magical to me.

The travelling salesman and the dark fairy

I wrote a story called The Crystal Prince many years ago and where I might have left the story gathering dust on a shelf, two characters from that tale always called to me to re-write them.

One was a travelling salesman called Hartley Keg. He’s the kind of person who makes you smile, even when you don’t want to, who always has the right gadget to hand for any dilemma, and who carries a force of personality that speaks of authority and trust.

The other was a dark assassin, dangerous and intent on her mission. Even though she was a villain in the original story, she was always one of my favourite characters. I pulled her out of my writerly filing system, re-writing her for Haven Wakes as a dark fairy reluctantly on the side of our hero.

What will the future bring?

I live in a house of technology-fiends with gadgets galore, and that’s before you even think of computers.

My teens are the generation that has grown up with computers and mobile phones and VR just there. Whereas it was something new, at some point, to me and their Dad, they just accept all of that tech as a normal part of life.

During my lifetime, there have been so many technological changes in a relatively short period of time. Computers have gone from room-sized, to possible to fit on a desk, to small enough to sit in your palm. Phones used to be big, clunky, resin monstrosities. Nowadays everyone, including me, seems lost without their hand-held, fit it in a pocket, mobile phone.

Cars talk to us and soon self-driving cars may be the norm.

My inspiration for the futuristic world of Haven Wakes came from the thought of where these technological advances will take us. Robots? Fabrics that change colour at the flick of a switch or the brush of a hand? 3D printed food outlets? You’ll find all of that in my book.

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So there you have it, all the things that inspired Haven Wakes. I’m sure there are others too, but these are the main ones.

Magic

Colourful folk

Hartley and the darkling

Thoughts of future tech

And now Haven Wakes will serve as inspiration itself for book two in the series. But that’s another story, quite literally.

7 facts about how I write

7 facts about how I write

When my publisher asked me to create a blog post to explain how I write, I thought, ‘that’ll be simple to answer, I just…

And then it struck me. There’s no just about it. The act of writing, in fact, the whole process of writing, isn’t just anything. It’s complicated, and meandering, and sometimes a complete mystery.

So instead of discussing the whole mysterious and mystical machination that is writing, I broke it down into 7 facts about how I write.

I think

Or is that daydream? What I mean is that before, during and after the act of writing, I do a lot of thinking about my story. I have this whole internal conversation going on most of the time.

It might be

  • snippets of conversation,
  • or where the story is going next,
  • or changes I need to make to a chapter,
  • honing a description,
  • or even the name of a character.

Long before I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, the action of writing begins with a thought.

Brainstorming

This is probably my favourite bit of the writing process. Before I begin to write, before I work out the plot or what will happen in each chapter, I have a mahoosive brainstorming session where I throw all of my ideas about a story down onto paper.

I use an A3 art pad so there are no lines to limit my scribblings. I write down

  • the title of the novel, or ideas about what the title might be
  • conversations between characters in my novel
  • characters – whether they have a name or not
  • settings
  • questions the book should answer
  • things to include to get the story where it needs to go
  • plans for future novels in the series so I know what path to follow
  • if this happens, then what? scenarios
  • topics I need to research
  • mythological beasties
  • spells and other magical details
  • character descriptions and backgrounds
  • details about the world my story is set in
  • problems I need to solve in my story
  • clues I need to reveal
  • locations of off-stage characters
  • character family connections

and anything else I need to know before I can begin to write.

It’s only when I’ve regurgitated all of those details that I can begin to build the story.

Later on, I’ll use my brainstorm chart as a reference tool to return to too.

I’m a devoted plotter

I’d love to be one of those people who can just begin a story with no plan, but I always write myself into dead ends and plot holes.

I make a plan of the different stages in the story (what will happen in the beginning, middle and end) and then carve the middle section up into anywhere from three to five sections.

Then I plot the path of my story in a sequential manner (this happens, then that, then that, and so on until the end).

Now, comes the fun bit, working out exactly how I’ll present my story:

  • Do I want to start the story-telling at the ‘beginning’ mentioned above, or do I want to start the story later?
  • Do I want to jump back and forwards a little?
  • Do I want to reveal everything, or will some scenes be shown through witness statements or clue-solving?
  • Is the story revealed through one person’s experiences or two simultaneous character paths?
  • Finally, does my story end with the ‘end’ mentioned above, or does it go on further?

I’m a firm believer, however, that plotting should always carry a level of flexibility. After all, when a character decides that they want to walk rather than take the train, they’re usually right.

Where I write

I generally write at my computer in my study. I say study, it’s actually the dining room and my desk is the dining table. My family have long since given into the fact that my need for a devoted place to write and work is more important than their need to eat around a table. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to afford a garden office, or at least a shed.

I tend to switch between typing and handwriting my story, depending on my mood. If I’m struggling over a chapter or section, then making that change usually helps.

Very occasionally, I’ll write in the garden or at my local coffee shop, but generally I find those places too distracting to get any work done.

I don’t wait for inspiration

I’ve learned this lesson from working as a playwright and copywriter with client timescales to meet. I can’t just wait to be in the mood to write or have some wonderful idea to write about. If I did that, I’d rarely get any writing completed.

If there’s writing to do – whether it’s for a copywriting client or the next chapter of my work in progress – I have to just park my bum, pop on my glasses and get on with it.

Boring but true.

20 minute bursts

My writerly brain works best if I write for twenty minutes at a time. Why? Well, twenty minutes allows me to get quite a large chunk of writing done but doesn’t allow me to get bored or distracted. I end my twenty minutes still enthusiastic about my writing and wanting to return to it after my break.

I also find that taking a break allows my brain to cool off enough to solve any problem I may be having with my writing and/or plan out how to continue when I get back to it.

Reading back

When I return to a piece of work after a break, I read back over what I wrote during the previous twenty minute burst. This serves a number of purposes:

  • It reminds me where I left off.
  • It gets me back into the same tone of voice and pace of writing.
  • It allows me to check that the last twenty minutes weren’t wasted and that I didn’t get off track.

It might take a little extra time to read back but it always helps me to continue with whatever I’m working on.

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So there you have it. This is some of how I write.

Visit my Books page to find out exactly what my novel is about.

Inspiration: Roald Dahl Day 2019

roald dahl day 2019

Around the time I decided that I wanted to be a writer and actively began to write stories, I discovered the books of Roald Dahl.

It began with the wonderful Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The book was bought for me as a gift and although it wasn’t the kind of story I’d read before, the back cover description drew me in:


I was 9 years old, and this book was about chocolate and adventure. What wasn’t there to like?

I finished the book in a matter of days and begged for more. A friend of my father bought me the next instalment of Charlie’s adventure, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Those two books began a lifetime love of the writings of Roald Dahl. Over the years, I’ve bought and read all of his children’s books and passed most of them on to my own children.

Dahl has a wonderfully dark imagination, mixing scares (evil aunts and murderous witches) with children who are brave and often at odds with their circumstances and lives. There’s fantastical settings (like a giant peach) and real-life relationships (Danny the Champion of the World).

Today is Roald Dahl Day. Whether you’re a child, a parent, a teacher or just a grown-up who likes great writing, there’s all kinds of good stuff to be accessed on the Roald Dahl website. Have a look.

5 reasons I write Fantasy

5 reasons I write fantasy

Since I first wrote a fantasy story, back when I was a child, I have always been drawn to this genre, both as a writer and a reader.

Let me tell you why.

Seeing beyond the mundane with a writer’s eye

I don’t think I’m the only writer who does this, but I’ve always looked at the world from a curious, searching and to an extent alternative eye.

When I look at a photo, it’s the quiet background details that stand out to me, such as the reflection cast on the window glass behind the family posing for a holiday snap or the half hidden gateway beyond the beautiful garden.

My inspiration is often drawn from a ‘what if’ mindset. What if the family were unaware of the shadowy presence that stood just beyond the photographer’s shoulder? What if that half hidden gateway led to a world of mystical wonders?

My ‘what if’s always lead me to fantastical scenarios and magical characters.

It’s all about the magic

By definition, fantasy stories must always include some element of magic, be that magic spells, magical artefacts or mythical creatures.

I suppose my love for magic began with the fairytales I read as a child. There was the fairy godmother in Cinderella and her transformation of the pumpkin (to a carriage), mice (to footmen and horses) and of our heroine herself, the curse cast over Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, and the little mermaid’s transformation into a human.

Magic opens up so many more possibilities for a story, like a magical doorway to escape through, runes that imprison, and mystical healing powers (all of which you’ll find in Haven Wakes).

Fantastical beasties

There are countless mythological and magical animals in fantasy stories to write about or use as a basis to invent a new animal.

There are mermaids, and goblins, and giants, and dragons, and… I could go on forever. Alongside those childhood fairytale favourites, I also read a lot (and some more) of mythology stories.

My mind brims over with fantastical beasties to include in my stories, and I love them all – even the dark and sinister ones.

Fantasy spans all age groups

You’ll find fantasy fiction written for all of the readership age groups. There’s the Harry Potter and Skulduggery Pleasant books for the younger readers. Fantasy-loving teens can enjoy books by writers like Cassandra Clare and Suzanne Collins. For adults (young, new or more mature), there are plenty of fantasy novels like the Game of Thrones novels, the Terry Pratchett Discworld books, and The Night Circus.

Haven Wakes is written for an 11+ readership but I also have ideas that would work better for teens, and others that would definitely be for mature readers. Writing in this genre doesn’t limit the age of my potential readership.

I keep coming back

I’ve read plenty of other genres, especially as a literature graduate, and I’ve tried my hand at writing outside the fantasy genre (I spent two decades writing murder mystery plays) but the genre that I return to time and time again as both as a reader and a writer is fantasy.

It’s where I feel most at home. It’s the genre I read when I need to escape the hardships of life, and the genre I write when at my most inspired.