Friday, 30 March 2012


Today I have entered two writing competitions as their deadlines are whilst I will be in Tenerife.  The first one is the Final Chapters competition where I have sent my two poems 'Obsidian' and 'Song of Memories.'  The second is the undiscovered@novelicious competition for an unpublished chick-lit novel by sending them the first 3,000 words of my romantic comedy 'Death of a Rockstar.'  This is the novel that I wrote as part of the last NaNoWriMo challenge, with editing of course.  Fingers crossed that I hear back from one/both of them.

I am still chugging away at my YA fantasy novel 'Thorde: The keeper of the Trysk' for the Strange Chemistry competition (deadline 16-30 April).  I still have to finish (has to be between 60-90,000 words) and edit it before this date and I also have to write a brief biography of the main characters, a brief biography for myself, a paragraph or two about my intentions/inspiration and a one-sentence summary of the novel.  I think this will give me plenty to ruminate over whilst I am sunning myself on those beaches.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

100th post

I can't believe I reached 100 posts already, it doesn't seem like two minutes since I started this blog, but in this time I have attended many writers workshops, wrote so much more fiction and poetry, entered lots of competitions and even won one of them.  Long may it continue.

Yesterday I went to see The Hunger Games at the cinema with my friend Bev.  It was a really good premise and I could easily picture how a world could end up like the one Katniss Everdeen is living in.  There are several districts and two youngsters are chosen (one male, one female) to take part in the 'hunger games' where the 24 of them compete (to the death) against each other to be the winner on a televised programme (a bit like Big Brother).  I thought new actress Jennifer Lawrence was excellent, as was Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, but I thought the most on-screen presence was engendered by the great Donald Sutherland (the baddie obviously), Woody Harrelson and surprisingly, a very good supporting role was produced by Lenny Kravitz.  The YA novel that the movie is based on is part of a trilogy written by Suzanne Collins first published in September 2008 and I enjoyed the movie so much,, I have purchased the trilogy to read whilst I am on my holidays.  I go on Saturday and will be there for two weeks, so there will be no posts in that time.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


Found these free-to-enter competitions (in order of deadlines):

31 MARCH 2012
Final chapters competitions, 2,500 words of prose or 40 lines of poetry (up to 3 entries can be submitted via email) -

3 APRIL 2012
First 3k words of an unpublished chick-lit novel - See

18 APRIL 2012
Dead ink flash fiction competition, 400 words or less -

22 APRIL 2012
Leeds by the Tale, first person story 100-1,000 words about a profound event that changed your life to:

27 APRIL 2012
The flashtag competition, up to 500 words story, email to:

30 APRIL 2012
Womans Own Short Story competition 1-1,300 words -

12 MAY 2012
Short story contest, theme 'games' maximum 200 words including the title to:

* * * *

Went to see Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol today and it was a fantastic action film.  I know that you have to suspend belief with these things, but what fun.  I was sort of sad that they killed off Agent Hanaway really quickly (the gorgeous Josh Holloway from Lost and the Cool Water ads) but the film was fast-paced and held my attention throughout.  I thought Simon Pegg was really good in it - he had several excellent humourous lines - and I especially loved the Burj sequence.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Childrens picture book

Following on from winning the childrens picture book competition in writing magazine, I have looked back at my the last picture book that I wrote prior to entering the competition with a view to editing to get it ready to send to a publisher.  My children had wanted to draw the illustrations for the book, but having got half-way through, they lost interest and now I am not sure whether I should sent it without illustrations as I assume the publisher would issue me with an illustrator any way.  What do you think?


The pizza-making devil was a happy little soul

That did not please his parents, for that was not his goal

He was supposed to be a bad one, evil through and through

Making horrid things happen, to you and you and you

They tried to teach him tricks and naughty little spells

To give bad luck to people or make them feel unwell

But he knew he didn’t want to do, what they said he must

He just wanted to roll and bake the perfect pizza crust

The toppings were his favourite part, so different to create

They were the tastiest pizzas ever placed upon a plate

They soon became World-famous and he was making lots of money

But still he missed the smiles of his Daddy and his Mummy

He couldn’t think of what to do, to show them he had vices

Then he stumbled across the way – garlic, herbs and spices

With red hot chilli peppers and all the things he’d got

He made a new range of pizzas, ‘little devil spicy hot’

The coughs and splutters came as the happy faces gurned

He saw to his delight, that his parents had returned

So if your parents’ choice, is not what’s right for you

Do what makes you happy, as that’s the thing to do

Be like the Pizza-Making Devil, happy with his lot

Baking pizzas all day long, for people who like them hot

Friday, 23 March 2012

West Side Story HGS review

Took the family to the Heckmondwike Grammar School production of West Side Story last night.  The daughter of one of our friends was a Jet (and she was really good in her dancing part and looked gorgeous in her 50s dress), but there was also another girl my daughter knew who was a shark and my son knew the lad who played A-Rab from his scout troop.  It was a fantastic show and I thought that the stand-out singing performance was from Kasia Howley who played Anita, but that the icing on the cake for me, was provided by the orchestra who were playing off the back of just four rehearsals - they were amazing.  Well done Leanne, Emma and Ben.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

World Poetry Day

Yesterday was World Poetry Day (amongst other things) and in honour of that I thought I would share my newest poem with you:

Warm bath

The bars cannot close him in

Laughter contagious as life’s joy explodes

Bananas dipped in chocolate

Melted by the warmth of his sun

A snow tiger lost in the sunflowers

An open book yet to be explored

Love reliable as the phases of the moon

Safe in the warm bath of his eyes

Already my talisman with no need of words

The rhythm to the beat of the tides

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Pall Bearer chapter three

The Detective and the Mortician

Detective Tony Munroe came into the room like a tornado ripping through a small and isolated town.  His prey wheeled around in shock and Tony confronted the mortician, the latest evidence at the forefront of his mind.  The newspaper in his hand was held aloft like a ticking time bomb and he poked his finger repeatedly onto the picture that accompanied the article as if he was personally punishing it for being in existence.  With a rough and growling voice, he demanded to know what the now cowering man thought of it.

The mortician looked down over the Detective’s shoulder to the headline that ran ‘Pall Bearer’s third victim identified’ and his heart sank.  Then the picture caught his eye and he reeled visibly.  The last time Russell had seen that face it had been blue with decay and red with dried blood.  The moment he opened that box was etched onto his consciousness in a way nobody should have to live with.  The first time he had received a box it had been a hand, then a foot and, he had to be honest, when the third time it had been a severed head, he had hoped that all of the parts had belonged to the same person.  But he had been wrong, so wrong.  The Detective had informed him that all three were from different bodies and now even the papers were dubbing the killer ‘The Pall Bearer’ because he was leaving the body parts at his funeral parlour. 

He studied the Detective’s face as he continued to rant.  This was not good, not good at all. 

He was certain of it now.  The man thought he had done it, or at the very least was somehow connected to who had.  This was great, just great.  He rolled his eyes because in some strange way he found it wryly amusing.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that the maniac was sending them to his mortuary, without the police thinking it was him.  He pulled himself up sharply.  He must be losing it; nothing about this situation was funny.  He knew how Richard felt now but luckily for Richard, he was out with Fred at the moment, supposedly sorting out things for the Lester funeral and Russell suspected the cop would be in a hurry to get back to the station once he’d seen the box and would be long gone well before they got back. 

He spied the brand new box from the corner of his eye and for a moment, seriously considered not drawing the Detective’s attention to it.  After all, in the mood he appeared to be in, he might just decide to go ahead and arrest him anyway.  But his conscience got the better of him and he turned away from the still ranting Detective to go and retrieve the brightly wrapped parcel that had been waiting for him when he arrived this morning.

“There’s been another one,” he said slowly as he retrieved it from its place upon the counter, “I haven’t opened it this time.  I thought you might want the honours.”

Only then did the irate Detective close his mouth and take the parcel from him.  His prime suspect looked decidedly calm.

Tony looked down at the box and ran his fingers across the ribbon that led to the bow.  He knew it would not contain fingerprints.  None of the others had.  He also knew that even though the outside screamed present, the contents could not have been more opposite.  This time the killer had used wrapping paper that was blue and the smiling cartoon penguin that made up the pattern somehow looked sinister even to his experienced eye.  The penguin knew what or, more appropriately who, was in the box.  The silver bow glistened under the light and Tony gently eased the label out from under it.  The penguin smiled benignly at him and he swiftly turned it over, intrigued as to what the killer had to say this time, but he wasn’t going to do it here, not in front of him.

“Have you read it?” he asked watching for any signs that could give away his guilt, like sweating, altered speech, anything.

“Not this time, no.  I thought you should see it and I didn’t want to touch it any more than I had to.”

He still looked calm enough, Tony thought, and he certainly wasn’t sweating, which for such a large man was surprising, especially in this heat.

Don’t you ever open up the windows in this place?” Tony questioned, amazed that anyone would want to feel so oppressed.

“No.  I take security very seriously.” Russell drawled as he eyed the box in the detective’s hands.

Tony raised his eyebrows.  Secure, right.  Because someone leaving boxes like that on his doorstep would really make him feel safe.

“I need to take this back to the station, but don’t think we are done here.” 

No, they weren’t done and both of them knew it.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Cleckheaton Writers Group

Really enjoyed our meeting last night.  Our new member Daniel very bravely read out a section of his biographical piece which was very descriptive and evocative.  Neil shared with us the prologue to his novel 'The Wormhole Effect' which he will shortly be entering into the Good Housekeeping novel competition - fingers crossed for you Neil - it is a very good sci-fi story with a fantasy twist.  Dawn read out chapter 43 (yes, that's right, chapter 43) of her novel The Sun Charm which was brilliant as usual - I am totally loving her fantasy quest.  She is really cracking on with her novel to get it to first draft stage and I am hoping her example may spur me on to get one of my longer pieces to first draft stage.  Well done Dawn.  I showed the group my 'congratulations' letter and my book and then read out my prize-winning short story to Daniel and Neil who had not heard it before.  I will not be at the next meeting in a fortnight, as I will be on my holidays, but I hope that the group will give me feedback.

Monday, 19 March 2012


I don't know if you remember me posting that I had entered a 'How to Write a Children's Picture Book' Competition which appeared in the Writers' News Writing Magazine (deadline 5 March 2012)?  Well, I just received a congratulations letter informing me that I have won this competition.  My prize is a copy of 'How to Write a Children's Picture Book and Get it Published' by Andrea Shavick and my entry will be published in a future edition of Writing Magazine (my guess would be the May edition).  The competition was to write a story about bedtime in no more than 250 words which would be suitable for a children's picture book and I sent in my story 'No Bear For Bedtime.'  I am so very pleased and happy to have won and cannot wait to see my story published in the magazine.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Pall Bearer chapter two

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to all my followers that are Mum's - have a fantastic day.  I had breakfast in bed (with a bacon and egg sandwich with heart-shaped toast), got bought some lovely chocolates and had a leisurely bath without interuption - bliss.  Off to visit Mum and Mum-in-Law and then back home to watch DVDs of my choice and eat a M&S meal cooked by my family.

Here is the next chapter of my crime novel.  Chapter three to follow shortly:


Chapter Two                                      NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN TO READ

A murder in the present

Paul Barstow was beginning to whistle, secure in the knowledge that all was well with the world.  He had dropped off his nephew and for once the parents of the bewildered little boy had not been arguing.  He fervently hoped that his idea of taking the boy out for little treats, whilst they tried to work on their failing marriage, was working.  He knew all too well how hard it was to fix a marriage when the truth of an affair has surfaced like an enemy submarine intent on destroying all in its path.  He had not been able to save his own marriage, but maybe he could lay that ghost to rest by being instrumental in saving his brothers’.  While he made his slow progress to the supermarket, he tried to file away his own painful thoughts and concentrated on hoping that because it was the wife who had strayed, instead of the husband; it might just be possible for them to move on, after all, it wasn’t just the two of them.  He smiled; little Mark might just be the glue that could hold them together.  It might have been very different if he and Andrea had kids of their own.  He still wasn’t altogether convinced that it wasn’t why he hadn’t succumbed to Faye’s advances in the first place. 

As he negotiated the tight parking space, he did not see the man two rows back, watching him from behind dark sunglasses.  Nor did Paul see him upon his return to the car. 

Paul lit a cigarette as he got behind the wheel, knowing it was always the perfect way to forget things he didn’t want to think about.  Even the mundane task of the weekly shop had not deterred him from ruminating over his ruinous affair, but as the nicotine began to flow through his veins, he began to relax once more.  The drive was slightly quicker than normal, due to his trip with Mark enabling him to miss the dreaded rush hour and he smiled to himself as a stray thought occurred to him - the Oldroyd's would be wondering where he had got to.  They were like a neighbourhood watch all by themselves and he hoped the nosey old crones had already left for their ritual early evening walk.  They were prone to peering into his apartment on their way out and if he wasn’t in, he wouldn’t have to pass pleasantries as usual. 

He was not in luck.  As he pulled into his allocated space, he saw them locking their door and he knew that as he was the only tenant around at this time, they were sure to waylay him.  Inspiration struck.  He hurriedly exited the car and grabbed all his shopping bags out of the boot.  It was a struggle to shut it after, but at least this way he had the excuse he needed to make a quick getaway.  He nodded his hello to them as he made his way to the steps and they paused to watch him labour under the weight of the heavy bags.  He spat out his cigarette in order to mumble,

“Can’t stop, sorry, these are kind of heavy,” as he watched them warily. 

The old couple stepped over his still-lighted cigarette and tut-tutted in disapproval, but thankfully, went on their way. 

He watched his cigarette as the dark embers slowly began to extinguish in the cold night air and as the light faded from it he congratulated himself on his lucky escape. 

He made his way up the front steps and put one set of bags down upon the top step to fish his car keys from his pocket.  He pressed the car alarm without turning around, satisfied at its reassuring electronic signal and unlocked the door.  He retrieved the bags from the step and pushed open the door with his foot.  Off balance and caught totally unawares, Alex’s strong push sent him careering to the floor immediately.  Prone and helpless he was an easy target.  As Alex moved to kneel on his back, he kicked the door with his foot and he heard it click reassuringly closed.  Paul struggled to retrieve his arms from the weight of the bags and Alex knew he had to act quickly.  He leaned forward to force the man’s prone torso more into the floor and held his head at both sides, pressing it relentlessly into the carpet.  As he began to struggle less and less, Alex carefully moved his hands to around his neck, gradually cutting off his circulation.  The skin felt so right as the pulse began to slow beneath his fingers and Alex sighed with pleasure as the body grew limp beneath him.  Paul never even saw the face of his killer.

Alex sat back satisfied with his own work and feeling like a weight had lifted from his shoulders.  Moments later he stirred into action.  He had to move the body quickly.  He had seen the old couple leave and he could not know for sure when they would be back.  He couldn’t move the shopping bags for fear of fingerprints so he surveyed the room analytically. 

First, to wrap the body, he pulled down one side of the curtains from their rail and placed it onto the floor.  He saw the body was held by the shopping so he kicked at the hands until they were free of the bags and then lifted the body onto the curtain.  He slowly encased the body within it and lifted it over his shoulder.  A quick glance outside assured him of his anonymity and he carefully stepped over the six pint milk container that was rapidly emptying its contents.  He did not want to step into the pooled liquid and leave betraying footprints.  The exit to the car and the stowing of the body passed without incident and Alex began to feel more at ease.  He did not want any witnesses and as he looked in his wing-mirror, he was secure in the knowledge that the milk flowing gently onto the top step was the only evidence that could indicate his actions.  Now he could go home.

The meagre light was fading when Alex drove into his garage.  He knew time was not on his side if he was to finish the task.  He checked the automatic garage door was secure before opening the boot, pausing to turn to the small door in the back of the garage and open it wide.  Taking the body into the small room, he dumped it unceremoniously onto the floor and pushed a tatty-looking filing cabinet to one side, before returning to the car.  Once the boot was closed and the car locked, Alex retrieved his toolbox, re-entered the room and shut the adjoining door to the garage.  The panelled wall behind the filing cabinet did not show any clue as to its real purpose as a door and when he opened it, the dingy room beyond called to him.  Hurrying now, he threw in the toolbox and pulled the body into the centre of the confined space. 

Pulling the light-cord as he passed, he secured the door and began to uncoil the curtain from around the body.  He knelt down beside it and opened up his toolbox.

He looked down into the face of his despised victim and contemplated which token should be removed.  The eyes of the dead man stared glassily back at him and he momentarily considered the eyes, but he just as quickly dismissed the idea.  He needed to keep them for the man’s soul to make its way to Hell.  He smiled as that thought hit home and he surveyed the rest of his quarry.  He began to remove the clothing and piled it neatly in the far corner of the curtain; socks, trousers, shirt, until finally, the wedding band from around his finger.  He returned to the hands, considering their long length and the damage that he knew they had done in their lifetime.  A flashback of the moment in the Park when the child had been betrayed played in his mind and he pulled the saw from the toolbox.  No longer would these hands be a weapon and the fiery flames of Hell could not be fanned back without them. 

He placed the saw next to the toolbox and retrieved his most treasured possession; the battered tin his Mother had given him to keep his toy soldiers in.  He removed the lid and placed the hand across the open tin.  He held the hand fast whilst he began to saw and with the first rent of flesh, the tainted blood collected in the tin like a sacred fluid flowing to cleanse him of his sins.  The saw snagged a little when he got down to the bone, but his determination saw him through.  Once it was done, he repeated the process over again until he had both hands dissected. 

He placed them onto the curtain beside the body and the clothes and picked up the tin.  Carefully he replaced the lid and carried it gently to the small sink in the corner of the drab room.  Alex opened the lid and placed it behind the cold tap and placed the plug into the plughole.  Slowly he allowed the blood to flow from the tin into the sink and then he placed his hands within it.  He clasped and rubbed his hands together, washing himself until his hands were glistening with bright red blood.  Only then did he remove the plug and watched fascinated as the blood slowly circled around the hole, before disappearing into the abyss.

He turned on the hot tap and ran his hands beneath the water.  Long after the water had become searing, Alex continued to wash his hands until the red of blood was replaced by the red of burning skin.  He used the last splashes of hot water that he could stand to remove the blood from the tap and then turned it off.  Placing the lid behind the hot tap he ran the cold tap into the sink and rinsed out the tin.  He didn’t want it totally clean like his hands, the tarnished tin reminded him of all the good he was doing.  Finally, when all traces of blood in and around the sink were gone, Alex dried his hands upon his jeans and walked back to the garage.  A pile of boxes were stacked in one corner and Alex selected a small one and then opened up the bottom drawer of the battered filing cabinet.  The drawer was stuffed full of brightly-coloured children’s Christmas wrapping paper.  He thought for a moment as he surveyed them and then selected the blue one with the penguin motif, somehow it seemed appropriate for the man with the cold blue fingers.

Once safely back in the room, he placed the hands into the box and sealed it carefully with cello tape.  He cut the wrapping paper and carefully sealed it around the box, taking great care to ensure neat edges and precisely folded flaps of paper at each end, until the box was gaily wrapped in the blue paper.  He then returned to the open filing cabinet drawer and selected a silver bow from within its contents.  Once back at the box, Alex placed the bow to one side.  From within the toolbox, he withdrew a pen and a small blue label and as he turned it over in his hand, he thought carefully about what he was going to write on it.  He didn’t want it to be too easy, yet it could not be too hard.  People needed to know that evil was among them and that he was saving them from it.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Pall Bearer chapter one

I am well in to chapter six of Thorde now and having had a stressful trip to the shops for Mothers Day (why is it that Mum's when you ask them ahead of time what they want for the Day they can't think of anything, then a couple of days before, drop the 'perfect present' bomb on you which involves trying to locate a hard-to-find item with no time left to order from Amazon where it can be located easily and at lesser cost?) because everyone seems to have decided to shop today, I am in a frazzled state of mind.  Those followers that know me well, will know that I have injured myself and am finding it hard to walk at the moment (I was told to rest but you all know how that goes), so I think discomfort and worrying that it will not be fully healed before my holiday in a fortnight, has left me less than my usual sunny self .  I did manage to find the elusive item at last, so I can be sure that my Mum will be happy tomorrow thank goodness.  My slight grumpiness reminded me that my new followers may not have seen my crime novel 'The Pall Bearer' about a serial killer who is leaving evidence of his crimes at the local mortuary.  So, for those of you that haven't, I am posting chapter one today.  I will post the next two chapters in later blogs.     STORY NOT SUITABLE TO BE READ BY CHILDREN


CHAPTER 1:            

The Park has eyes

The rain on the car windows, reflected in the shadowed light, spread outwards like grasping fingers slowly inching toward him and the park seemed to have a filmy shroud hanging loosely over it.  He shivered, but not from the cold.  It was not the best weather to come to the Park, but his Uncle never seemed to notice the weather apart from to wrap him carefully in yet more layers of clothing.  His mother always said that he was ‘neither salt nor sugar and would not melt’, but sometimes Mark wished for a different Park.  This one was scary and he always felt like someone was watching him from the shadows of the trees.  Watching and waiting.

As usual, the Park was empty and as he walked towards it hand in hand with his Uncle the wind blew the swings and moved the see-saw, causing an eerie long creak to commence and cease in rhythmic time to the sound of his foot steps drawing closer and closer to them.  The empty swing pitched forward and back, seemingly with a life of its own, and the sense of foreboding grew stronger within him.  He clutched his Uncle’s hand more firmly and tried to banish the childish thoughts that the swing already had an occupant and that he just couldn’t see them.  Without a word, he was swept up into the seat and the chill in the air increased as he was pushed gently by the hand and the wind alike.  It was exhilarating, almost like he was free and flying through the air, rather than just being sat on a swing and a part of him wanted to laugh.

He could feel the eyes on him though; from somewhere beyond those trees.


The swing’s movement caught his eye before he even heard the child’s laughter.  It was a movement that distracted him from his purpose.  He turned to watch them, secure in the knowledge that he couldn’t be seen.  He had time to watch a while.

The child was very young and was wrapped up against the cold, but Alex knew from experience that some things could get in no matter how well you guard against them.  The man pushing the child was tall and thin with a gaunt look about him and even though the weather was biting, he wore no gloves.  His hands were long and so were the fingernails.  He still thought it was surprising how many of them had a penchant for long fingernails.  His hands looked blue and veined with the cold.  Alex smiled wryly with the chill of inner knowledge.  If the man wore gloves then he would not feel his touch upon the child and Alex knew all too well that it was the sensation of skin upon skin that contained most of the pleasure.  The child was too innocent to sense the danger.

The man was looking down at the child with an air of detachment and Alex guessed that he was probably family, but not close.  There was nowhere more dangerous than within the bosom of the family, where things may be seen but can be easily dismissed. 

‘Uncle Johnny was their favourite; Auntie Ruth always bought them such lovely things’…no-one ever guessed that there might be a hidden agenda, least of all the child.  Then again, thought Alex, maybe some did, but it made it easier for them if someone else was their victim now.  But he knew that even if they had moved on, you could never be safe, never forget.

“Higher!  Higher!” the child cried as the swing began to slow.  The man was consulting his watch.  Alex was already forming scenarios.  Were the parents coming soon?  Was he meant to return by a certain time?  Did he have time to touch?  The scowl on Alex’s face deepened and he moved closer, leaving his task half finished.

With one big push of the swing the child was silenced and the man informed the child that it was nearly time to go.

“Aw, do we have to?” Mark whined as he was just beginning to enjoy himself.

Alex paused as he turned away with his back to the Park.  The child pleading was like pouring salt upon a wound.  He knew how it played out but he wanted to change it.  Change it for the child; change it for all innocent children like he’d once been.  And he could.  Now he could. 

He watched as the man reached up in order to place the child upon the ground.  He held him in such a way that the many layers of clothing ruched and raised.  Alex saw him reposition his hands.  To anyone else it looked like he was securing a safer grip upon the child, but to Alex it was an invasion.  A slight of hand that had dark connotations but, he wondered, did he have the time for this distraction?  Was it safe to leave the task unfinished and unattended for long enough to…and there, the man lingered upon an exposed slash of skin for a little too long before he released the child.  He watched him run to the slide for the last go that the man had promised.

A quick glance around confirmed to Alex that the Park was still occupied by others.  There were only a few but if they were to wander towards the copse rather than towards the car park...he turned towards the trees resignedly and began to walk back to the safety of the shadows.  Maybe he was wrong this time and if he wasn’t, he would see them again.  This was Alex’s place.  He would be back and so would they.  There was always next time.

The child called his Uncle and begged, “Just one more time, please?”

Alex halted and reeled around as though he had been shot.  It was that one pleading word.  He reassessed his surroundings.  There were no dog walkers.  They were always the most likely to head to the woods.  There were no courting couples either.  Just a couple of solitary pensioners feeding the ducks and, of course, the man with the child.  The decision was made.  He would follow and soon he would be burying more than just the one body.

Friday, 16 March 2012


The main benefit to being off my feet at the moment (long and boring story) is that I have got more chapters done on Thorde and I have been reading the excellent book 'Becoming a Writer' by Dorothea Brande which was kindly lent to me by my fellow Writers Group member, Dawn.  It is such an insightful book and I definitely recognise that I am a combination of two of her 'writing types' and am, as I had suspected, my own worst enemy when it comes to my writing.  A highly recommend this book if you want to kick-start yourself writing again.


She touched the small round box that her aunt had given her and smiled.  The inlay was well-worn yet ornate and it was easy to see that in its day it would have been quite a handsome piece.  Expensive too no doubt, but its value meant so much more to her than currency.  It was a symbol of how it had once been.  As she stroked the worn edges, the memories assailed her and she was transported back to a time when her family was together and happy.  They had not been a large family but closer than it would have appeared to the casual observer.  The advantage to being the youngest was she was able to overhear things that she should not have done, but it had been useful when the change came.

The box had been passed down through the generations and it had been a poignant time for her when at last she had been given it at the train station.  How her aunt had managed to keep it for so long amazed her and she was not sure she could be so circumspect.

She looked around and carefully replaced the treasure to its secret hideaway.  No-one in the cramped carriage had even looked her way, but she felt a small prickle of fear as she scanned their faces.  They were all the same.  All quiet and resigned, but she had her one small beacon of hope burning in her pocket.  She could keep going as long as she still had the box.  She had to; she was the only one left.

The train shuddered to a halt and everyone slowly made their way to the exits without a word.  It was like seeing sheep in the fields at herding time and she guessed that this was very similar.  As she made to alight from the carriage she saw the gates and they were far more imposing than the men that stood in front of them.  The fear settled in the pit of her stomach as she paused slightly in her steady pace towards the entrance, but the crowd slowly eased her back to movement once more.  As she passed through the gates her head remained downcast, avoiding all eye contact; and the box entered with her but who knew whether it would exit in the same way.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


I had a fabulous weekend trip to Paris with my oldest friend Shanti.  We stayed at a little hotel just around the corner from Notre Dame and an easy walk away from The Louvre, which we visited on the Friday and had brunch at Cafe Marly which looks onto the square.  We had a delicious steak dinner that night followed by creme caramel, where we met a lovely couple from London.  On the Saturday we visited The Sacre Couer and had another delicious lunch a little walk away from the artists quarter.  That night I ate some delicious veal and a warm chocolate melt-in-the-middle pudding and on the Sunday we visited the Eiffel Tower and another lovely cafe near the Pompidou Centre for lunch, before heading off to Gard du Nord and ultimately Charles De Gaulle Airport.  We fit quite a lot in for such a short trip.  I thought I would share some of my pictures with you all:

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Cleckheaton Writers Group met in the Library last night and we were pleased to welcome our newest member Daniel Bridgman.  Daniel shared some of his writing with us (a short prose piece and some poetry) and we shared some of ours with him (Dawn shared the first chapter of The Sun Charm and I shared the first third of the first chapter of Quantum Worlds) which illicited much debate and feedback.  I am looking forward to hearing more of Daniel's work at the next meeting on Monday 19 March 6-8pm.

I have learned today of two local writing events taking place this weekend and thought I would share this information with my followers:

MEET NOVELISTS JENN ASHWORTH (Cold Light author) and EMMA JANE UNSWORTH (Hungry the Stars and Everything author)
FRIDAY 16 MARCH 2012 7.30PM HEBDEN BRIDGE LIBRARY Tel: 01422 288040


Both events are being organised by Anna Turner who can be emailed at:

For more information on The Calderdale Ted Hughes Writing Competition see:

Thursday, 8 March 2012

THORDE: The keeper of the trysk Chapter Three

As I am definitely going to Paris with my friend this weekend, I will probably not be posting anything on my blog until I get back (get back Sunday night, but probably won't post until Monday), I thought I would post chapter three today.  It is short, but hopefully sweet....


Can anyone else hear that screaming?

It is harder than you might imagine, to try and hold a conversation whilst flying under a wyvern, if the sound of its wings doesn’t muffle the words, the air whistling past does.  We had tried for a while, but as soon as it became obvious that all we were going to get were sore throats, we stopped trying to bellow to each other over the noise.

Looking down wasn’t an option either because the sky was still dark and we were going so fast, I think it would have all been just a blur any way if I could have seen anything.  Then again, maybe it was best not to know where we were, because that way I couldn’t panic any more than I already was.

Yes, back at the castle we were destined to come under attack at dawn, but being held in the clutches of a wyvern flying at top speed was not such a picnic either.  I could not get the image of it dropping me out of my mind and although I was clutching on for dear life to my shield and sword, I was convinced that at any moment I was going to lose them or my helmet.  The way things were going, I was definitely going to need them some time soon.

It was hard not to think about how the wyvern had understood me.  Was I really a Dragon Master?  I had never even seen a wyvern egg, let alone a real fire-breathing adult and I was sure that I would have noticed if a Mystic had given me powers.  There were few Mystics now, the Arberians had seen to that, but I know there are some out there somewhere, but surely if I had come across one and they had gifted me powers, they would have mentioned it?  I would also like to think that the truth-seekers might have mentioned that I was going to be snatched into the claws of a wyvern and flown off into the night.  I laughed out loud; clearly I wasn’t important enough to warrant a conversation, let alone a vision.

My stomach lurched as the wyvern suddenly plummeted downwards in what seemed to me like a death fall.  I didn’t know how far away the ground was, but I prayed silently that it was not jagged rocks or freezing sea beneath us.  Then I suddenly realised that water was probably the best option as this thing was going to land and I am no expert, but I assume they land on their legs.  Because it was dark I had no chance to judge distances enough to jump off at the last minute even if I could untangle myself from these sharp claws.

Before I had chance to come up with a good plan, or for Saran to try and shout any advice, we were unceremoniously dropped onto the waiting padding of a large hay bale. 

I readjusted my helmet and picked up the shield and sword that I had dropped in the slight fall and searched for Saran in the darkness.  He was further along the hay bale but intact.  This was strange, because I could definitely hear screaming.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


Have just finished my second chapter of Thorde: The keeper of the trysk (only three more to go before the deadline of 16 April) and thought I would share it with my followers:


The call of the wyvern

I quickly adopted the stance of my new friend because so far he knew better what to do than I, and peered out from under my shield and sword.  The wyvern was swooping down with fire streaming upon the shield of my companion.  I could not tell if he was okay, so I yelled to him,

“You alright under there?” and I hoped that an answer would be forthcoming.  I was under no illusions; I would need him if I wanted to get out of this.

“Yeah, but now I know what a pig must feel like on a spit; it’s so hot under here.”

I was amazed that he was still alive and not burned to a crisp, but at least it proved that cowering under these things was the way to go.

“Try and distract it or something and then I can attack it whilst it chases you.”

“Oh yeah like that was a good idea?” I mumbled under my breath, I mean, I was sorry that it was aiming at him, but then again, I was glad it wasn’t raining fire down on me.  Not to mention the teeth glistening behind the waterfall of fire.  However, Saran had helped me, so to show willing I came out from under the cover of my shield and held up my sword in my best knight stance.

“You leave my friend alone,” I yelled and tried to ignore the fact that my sword was shaking.  To my surprise and obviously Saran’s, the wyvern suddenly closed its mouth and I distinctly heard him drop his weapons. Before I had any time to register this fully, the thing landed next to me and to my shame, I took one look at it and began to run like I have never run before. 

I didn’t make it very far of course, it was a lot faster than me and it had wings, but as I cowered before it waiting to die (and yes, I had my eyes closed), I hoped that Saran would be able to do something, anything, to help me.  I could feel its hot breath on my face and I knew that any minute now I would be burned to a crisp - or it could just rip me to shreds with those nasty-looking claws, or eat me, its choice I guess.  As the buzzing in my ears (fear I suppose) accelerated, I heard another noise,

“Do that again,” I heard distinctly.

“Do what?” I answered, sure that this was not what I wanted to be the last thing I heard before I died.

“Tell it to stop.”

Had he lost his mind?  I opened my eyes to tell him just that, when I stupidly looked up.  The wyvern was looking down at me with its huge jaws open at me with its head off to one side.  But it didn’t look like it wanted to eat me; it looked like it was waiting for me to say something.  Well, obviously I had lost my mind too, because before I could stop myself I found myself saying.

“Yes stop that, we haven’t done anything to you.”

The magnificent creature bowed its head and leaned forward, looking for all the world like it was acknowledging my request, before raising its eye level to mine once more.  Now I was certain that I had gone mad.  What was the last thing I could remember as being true?  When the knights had forced the helmet, shield and sword upon me, I think.  Well, that explained it.  I had got so scared that I had lost my sanity, or I had fallen asleep and was having some crazy fear-induced dream that I would wake up from soon.  I closed my eyes and opened them again, but the wyvern and Saran were still there.

“You didn’t say you were Dragon Master,” Saran exclaimed and his face told me that this time (and probably the only time, so I ought to make the most of it) he was the one in awe of me.

“I didn’t know I was,” I admitted reluctantly (well, I knew it wouldn’t last).

“We definitely stand a better chance with a wyvern and a Dragon Master, even an inexperienced Dragon Master, on our side,” he crowed as he ran to my side, “surely the great army of Arberia cannot deal with that so easily.”

“If the truth-seekers are to be believed, we are going to need more than one wyvern to stop them,” I sighed, “what we need is a plan.”

Suddenly the wyvern let out a mighty screech that hurt our ears and rattled the very teeth in our heads.  Saran and I tried to cover them to block the noise in order to lessen the damage, but in our distraction we did not notice it move.  In a flash, we had been grabbed by each of the vast talons and we were being lifted away from the castle. 

“What did you do that for?” Saran yelled at me over the sound of the wind and the wings beating.

“I didn’t do anything, it did,” I shouted back.  I was holding on tightly to my shield and sword but I wasn’t sure whether the helmet would stay on my head.  Saran looked quite relaxed considering the circumstances and he glanced down,

“It looks so small from up here,” he announced as he looked at the shape of the castle disappear into the night, “I never thought I would see it from this angle.”  He was grinning, he was actually grinning.

“Yeah, who thought we’d ever fly,” I mumbled sarcastically, not really caring whether he heard me or not.

“We are flying!” he bellowed and I suppose if I wasn’t quite so frightened of the beast actually dropping me, I might have found it fairly exciting too. 

I mean I wasn’t dead, I wouldn’t have to fight now and it appeared that I was not just a stable-hand after all.  I was a Dragon Master.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


Had a very busy weekend.  We visited the grandparents and then went for a delicious meal at our friends Jeff and Lisa's on Saturday.  Lisa made home-made carrot and coriander soup with homebaked bread, beef stroganoff pasta and brandy-snap basket with vanilla ice-cream, cherries in a brandy sauce, melon balls and bourneville chocolate scrapings - yum.  On Sunday we saw the grandparents again and went to watch the Manchester United match at our friends Kevin and Ajs house.  Was excited to learn that my friends Claire and Martijn have moved to their very first home (i.e. not rented) and that a short trip to Paris with my friend Shanti is in the offing (there will be no postings over this weekend if it comes off).

All that yummy food put me in mind of a poem I wrote as part of the Morley Writers Festival last year (inspired by a slice of citrus fruit of all things), so for my new followers I thought I would post it again:

Under your skin

The tang of bittersweet memories lie on her tongue
like a secret too painful to share.
The points of the ends rise towards the sky
praying to a Deity that never hears.
Green means new life or mistakes of old
and both mirror distances past.
If you touch it can bleed.
Seep through your fingers and staining,
leaving evocative rivers of absolution
washing away impotent guilt.
Like you it will wither in sunlight,
turn brown in disparate places.
Some that will show and others hidden,
unless you want them to be seen.
It balances precariously on the surface,
not quite flat but curved in on itself.
Shadows leaching away from its centre
blurring at the edges.
You could immerse it and change
its purpose in this life,
in turns sweet or sour or both.
But that would take a decision
and setting it free
from the prison under your skin.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

THORDE: The keeper of the trysk

I am really enjoying writing my new YA fantasy novel for the competition that has an April deadline (5 chapters and a synopsis to be sent) and am now well into chapter two, so I thought I would post the first full chapter on my blog.  Chapter two to follow shortly (I hope you like it):



Be careful what you wish for

They were coming at dawn.  The elders had consulted with the truth-seekers and they had foretold of a mighty battle.  The enemy would come on their mormoths and their fearless warriors would ride upon the scaranx.  I had heard tell of these creatures many times around the fire.  Tales of their size, ferocious teeth and claws bigger even than wyverns, which could snap a man in two or cause the blood to leave your body quicker than a river when it bursts its banks.  It was said that they had a ring of fiery fur around their necks and the devastation that their long tails could bring with its spiky ball at the end was legendary.  I had heard of many men that had died that way.  As if that was not enough to chill my blood, the truth-seekers also prophesised that the sky would flood with the beating wings of the pterodyls carrying men who could swoop down upon all with swift and terrifying accuracy.  I was eternally grateful that I had not been born a truth-seeker (to have to live with visions and futures that you could not alter was a heavy burden) but not being one held no comfort either.

I know what you are thinking?  How do I know so many things that only Kings and trusted servants would know?  Am I born of noble blood or work high up in the castle echelons?  Hardly!  Or do I hang around like a thief in the night, watching and waiting to hear things I should not be privy to?  Well no, that’s not it either; I am just Thorde, the keeper of the animals.  Now I’ll bet you are thinking ‘that’s nothing’, but I assure you I use my position to its full advantage.  The Knights all use my services and I even have full access to the King’s noble steed, the highest honour someone like me could have.  That’s how I find out all the things that I do and sometimes, like now, I really wish that I didn’t. 

They have told the people, obviously they have, because they have to be ready for battle, but they have not told them who and what are coming, only that they are.  The King has told them that they come and that all must fight and when I say all, I do mean all.  They thrust a helmet upon my head and gave me a sword and a shield.  Me, who has never held a weapon in my life and the worst thing is, I know what’s coming and I know we don’t stand a chance.  Mormoths are bad enough, I’ve seen them, they stand three times taller than our strongest stallions, but pterodyls and scaranx, well, the best weapons a man can have in his armoury other than a wyvern.  I can only hope that their truth-seekers have not mastered the language of the beasts, only the truly gifted can do that.  But what if they have?  What if they have a firetalker?  We can use the boiling oil, the flaming arrows, all our best defences from behind the castle walls, but to have the power of fire in flight, that is a weapon indeed.

For now the dark covers our world like a comforting blanket, but it will not be long before the tendrils of light reach out across the sky.  I glance down at my shield and sword for what seems like the hundredth time and I feel the helmet slide forward on my head.  It doesn’t really fit properly, but then it wasn’t made for me.  I don’t want to think about who it was made for or why I could now be the new owner because that had lots of possibilities and none of them could be good.  It did not do to dwell on these things.  What I need is a distraction for I now know for sure that I am not going to get any rest this night.  Nothing calms me like the company of horses.  Most animals hold an attraction for me, but horses were the most calming and I knew, the most understanding.  For they, unlike me, had seen many battles.  I know it isn’t a distraction exactly, but surely it was better to be forearmed and forewarned in this battle, because hiding or fleeing is not an option.  There are eyes everywhere and the castle is locked down like the fortress we now needed it to be.

I make my way carefully to the stables.  I pass many sleeping comrades and I envy them their rest.  But I was by no means the only one awake at this ungodly hour.  Many were sat staring into space, the fear etched plainly on their faces.  From what I could see in this section of the castle, we were a very rag-tag bunch indeed, hardly a match for the Arberians.

I could hear the snorts and gentle neighs of the horses before I could see them and I knew that they felt my need and were welcoming my presence.  I held my breath as I entered the stables, ready to leave at a moment’s notice if it turned out that I was not the only person here.  I did not want anyone witnessing what I was about to do.  I had long ago learned the language of the horses.  It was a fascinating and complex method, but once you broke down the basics, you could indeed converse with them.  What seems like random neck, head, ears or even mouth movements to the average person, is in fact a form of communication that could yield more than just a friendship with one of God’s most beautiful creatures.  We understand each other completely and some of them I count as my closest friends.  You don’t come into contact with many people in my job, well, people that would want to talk to someone like me anyway, but in my experience horses can be a lot nicer than the majority of people, so I didn’t really feel like I was missing out.  In many ways I was far luckier than most.  I had a job, which meant I had enough money to eat well most days and I had a roof over my head, but this meant that I wasn’t as invisible as most, so I was instantly seen as a potential fighter when news of the battle necessitated new recruits.  That, and the fact that I had no parents to stand up for me, had sealed my fate, as it had many others.

Peros was the first to greet me.  He was the tallest and strongest of the horses and as such, you won’t be surprised to learn that he is the King’s steed.  He is as black as the darkest night and his mane is as long and luxurious as any fine maiden’s hair.  His proud neck touches mine and I close my hands at my sides as I acknowledge his greeting.  At this, my nerves begin to abate and I feel calmer than I have since I learned the terrible news.

Silently we converse and I learn more of the mormoths, the scaranx, the pterodyls and even the Arberians, well, Peros’ opinion of them anyway.  Unsurprisingly, it was not good.  When he exhales with his ears pressed right back into his head and I look deep into his eyes, I swear I can almost see the battle where he lost his brother even though I know he was never there.  Arros had been a brave stallion.  He had stood a couple of hands smaller than Peros, but had matched his brother in many ways.  He had told Peros of the scaranx, for he too had never met one in battle.  Arros had learned through trial and error the techniques needed to escape with your life when faced with such a foe.  Unfortunately, there had been nothing Arros could do against the power of the wyvern and he had not stood a chance.  I knew the fear of Peros matched my own.  Although the truth-seekers had not spoken of the wyverns, this weapon could not be ruled out.  There were those among many tribes that harnessed this gift.

Over what seemed like an age, Peros and his friends taught me all they knew.  I had received lessons from them before, but never had it been so vital.  I thanked them for their kindness and Peros advised me to seek out a human who might be kind enough to show me the basics in the way of battle.  They could not help with swords and shields and although I thought I knew what to do with the shield (you hold it in front of you and use it to stop someone from killing you right?) I had absolutely no idea how to wield a sword.  I had seen the Knights jousting, which I knew looked terrifying (and that was not even a real fight) but I had never actually held one until now.  I knew I did not have much time.  The truth-seekers had spoken of dawn and it may take time to find someone suitable. 

I had already spent much of the night conversing with my friends and their council would be invaluable, but I knew this was just as important.  In my haste to leave the stables without being seen, I tripped over my own sword and ended up sat in a pile of something foul-smelling.

“Well, that’s one way to try and get the enemy to not want to come anywhere near you,” I heard from the shadows before a skinny boy showed himself in the meagre light from the small torch he was holding.

Rising in as dignified a manner as I could manage, considering the circumstances, I faced him with a pithy reply hovering on my lips, when I saw him swing his sword in a perfect arc and aim it directly at my chest.  I took a step back in alarm.

“No, I think you’ll find it’s not working,” he said before bursting into laughter, even though he was trying to hide it behind his free hand.

To my immense relief, he retracted his sword, placed it against the stable wall and held out his hand.  Hesitantly I took it.

“Sorry about that, I just couldn’t resist.  Anybody would think you had never held a sword before.”  The twinkle in his eye broke my composure; after all, I am sure I did look pretty stupid.

“That’s because I haven’t.  Nor a shield, or wear a helmet,” I laughed and shook his hand warmly.  Let’s face it, I could probably do with his help; he, at least, looked like he knew what he was doing.

“Ah, that explains it then.  Well, let’s see what we can do about that.”

He came closer and pushed my helmet back and tilted it slightly.  I could see much better now and although it still didn’t fit, it no longer felt like it was going to fall off my head at any moment.

He handed me my shield and sword and then wielded his own in a very convincing manner.  I copied him as best I could and then I yelped as his sword connected with mine and I felt the power of it reverberate up my arm.

“Ow,” I yelled thinking that that would make him stop, but he only came at me harder.  I danced around like a jester trying to field the blows with both my shield and sword and every time his weapons collided with mine, I felt it down to my very bones.  My arms were getting more and more tired and I swear the sword and shield seemed to get heavier.  I was out of breath and sore and more frightened than before because it seemed I was definitely not cut out for this.

“Saran,” he shouted over the sound of our swords colliding.

“What?” I yelled back dodging a particularly low blow.  If I didn’t know any better I would think he was trying to distract me.

“Saran’s the name,” he qualified as he easily dodged my feeble attempt at getting a blow in whilst he was answering the question.

“Oh, Thorde,” I answered, “nice to meet you I think.”

To my relief, all of a sudden my new friend stepped back and lowered his weapons.  He had a large smile across his face and I had to mentally convince myself that he wasn’t laughing at me.

“Not bad,” he murmured and I felt myself blush at his kindness; I knew I was rubbish, but it was kind of him to say that.

“Tried my best but it’s obvious I am not going to last very long in this battle,” I admitted and I put my shield and sword down so that I could rub my arms where they were aching like they were on fire.

“You’ll do alright,” he said, “you fielded all my blows well to say you’ve never done this before.  You need to build up your stamina because you are out of breath already and I can see that your muscles need working more-“

“Well that’s not going to happen is it?  They’ll be here at dawn.”

“We better keep at it then,” he smiled as he pointed his sword at mine, “pick them up.”

I reluctantly did as I was bid and we began again.  He was good and I was awful and the concentration on his face seemed to intensify the more blows that I fielded.  I was beginning to worry that he actually wanted to land one.  My arms were stretched with the weight of the shield and sword and my lungs felt like they were bursting out of my chest and for a moment I thought that I might be better off if a wyvern came and got me before the warriors arrived; at least that way it would be quick and therefore more painless.  As I thought this, my opponent swung his sword and it connected with my helmet before I had chance to stop it.  My head felt weird and I could hear a strange swooshing sound in my ears.  To my amazement, my new friend stepped back and swung away from me his shield and sword raised in protection.  That was when I saw it, even through my hazy vision, it was unmistakable.  A wyvern, flying towards us with its mouth wide; the swooshing sound was its wings and he seriously looked like he was going to let loose with the flames.  I know they say be careful what you wish for, but this was ridiculous.