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I got my proof copy of The Origin Stone!

Hi everyone, just a quick post to show off my gorgeous proof copy of The Origin Stone.

As I mentioned in a previous post (here), The Origin Stone has been quite a few years in development, and now that I can finally hold it in my hands as an actual book – well, I really can’t put into words how completely amazing and astounding that feels.

There were many, many times when I thought it would never get published, but I refused to give up on it. And my stubbornness paid off!

Here it is in glorious paperback form:

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Isn’t it wonderful?

At the moment, pre-orders are only for the Kindle version, but the paperback will be fully available at the end of March when the book is released!

Uncategorized

Pre-orders are up for The Origin Stone!

Hello everyone!

My latest book, The Origin Stone, is being released on March 31st this year!

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Here’s the first page as a sample:

Part of the reason we moved was because of our animals.

Our old house wasn’t big enough for them, especially when we got our nanny goat, Mrs. Swanson, who wandered next-door one day and ate our neighbour’s washing. Unfortunately, the old bat came home early and saw the mess. Furious, she threatened to have her taken away from us. Ru, my older brother, attempted to ease her anger by explaining we’d named Mrs. Swanson after her, but it made the situation much worse.

For three tense months, we looked for houses big enough for us, but nothing was in our budget. Then Great Cousin Maggie died, leaving the house empty, and several weeks later when her will was being carried out, dad got a letter saying she’d left it to him.

We all thought it was unusual, seeing as dad hadn’t been in much contact with her, but we were desperate by then, and moved in without question. He and mum fell in love with it straight away. It’s big enough that she’s now got her own home studio, and dad’s client base has expanded dramatically. Even Ru loves it, giving him six acres of land to explore for his bug obsession, including the woods at the back of the garden.

I’m the only one that hasn’t taken to it yet, but Ru keeps suggesting the move just stressed me out more than I thought. I hope so. I don’t want my uneasiness to bring them down too.

The clock chimes in the hall, and our young crow, the Grand Vizier, who’s snoozing on his perch in the corner of the room, opens one eye and looks at me. I hold my arm out to him and he flies over, landing gently on my shoulder. I scratch behind his neck, relishing the silkiness of his feathers. “Ravenswell. Ravenswell,” he croons to me softly. I blink at him; that’s the name of the house.

“You learnt that already?” I say, holding up my bowl of noodles for him to snatch some as his reward. “Everyone else really is settled here, aren’t they?”

 

Pre-orders are now up, so if you’re looking for a new young adult read full of mysterious creatures, conspiracy, parallel worlds and a race against time, check out the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NCD1DM4

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Merry Weather

At first, I didn’t see her. She was caught between two bushes, tangled up in cobwebs, spindly branches and the lacy trim of her silvery blue cape. I did hear her, though. Cursing so much that I thought a group of drunken sailors had strolled around the corner from the pub in town.

But no. All the swearing was emanating from a tiny fairy, red in the face from her efforts to untangle herself.

If it wasn’t for the fact that she saw me and gave such a scowl that my legs automatically wanted to run for the hills, I might have laughed. Instead, I mumbled an offer of assistance while pulling my most solemn expression, and stepped forwards to help. My fingers slipped in my attempt to de-cobweb her and I ended up jabbing her in the head. She bit me for that. Straight through the skin, so that a bead of blood rose from the puncture wound and stained her clothes. I winced, but her long frenzy of expletives detailing every inch of my incompetence drowned it out. Then she wept, equally as loud, about the state of her clothes and how they were positively ruined.

I think it was supposed to make me feel sorry for her, but in actuality it made her terrifying hold on me weaken enough to simply pinch her roughly out of the tangled mess, tearing her cloak completely. She wailed even more. I pointed out, bluntly, that she was free and if she hadn’t have been wearing the ridiculous thing, she probably wouldn’t have ended up in that state in the first place. In answer, she took a small stick from the top of one boot and jabbed it at my nose. Hot sparks shot out the end, singeing my nostril hairs. I let her go in disgust and watched her zoom away, emitting the wettest raspberry I’d ever heard. At least, I hope it was a raspberry…

Short Stories

Turn Around

The sound of footsteps rouses me from my sleep, heeled shoes running along the hall. My clock reads three in the morning. Obviously, she’s just got back from one of her parties.

It’s unusual for her to go straight to Rich’s room, though. Usually she needs to vomit or sober herself up first. I can’t complain, my room is right next to the bathroom, and if she’s missing out that particular ritual tonight, that’s fine with me.
I hear his bedroom door open with a bang. There’s a startled cry, followed by raised voices. I can’t help it, I have to go and look. I slip the covers off my legs and slide out of bed, making no noise as I tread on the soft carpet. My door creaks as I open it but I doubt they can hear anything above the racket they’re making.

I carry on along the hall, reaching the door to the master room and resting my ear against it. The tapestry on the wall flutters. I start, but realise it’s just a breeze. I turn my attention back to the door.

‘Don’t give me that rubbish, Richard, I know you’ve been sleeping with her!’ Michelle slurs. I bend down to look through the keyhole and see her standing just in front of his bed. Her make-up is smudged and her short green dress has a dark stain on it, probably red wine.

‘Sleeping with her?  Don’t be ridiculous, she’s my brother’s widow!’ he says from somewhere beyond my limited view. By the mini bar, I’d guess.

‘That never stopped you before. I know you had a thing for one of your cousins.’

‘Michelle, please, we were children, and she was a very distant cousin anyway.  Believe me, there’s no other woman in my life more important to me than you. Haven’t I proved that several times over?’

‘Oh yes, you buy me jewellery and clothes and ship me off on expensive spa weekends, but that’s not love, is it?’

‘What more do you want? You know I work all week, and on weekends I see you as much as I can.’

There’s silence while Michelle ponders his words. I can almost see the thoughts trying to swim through her befuddled mind and come to a sensible conclusion, but then she screws up her face and lets out a nausea inducing wail. Again, the tapestry next to me quivers. I examine it, wondering if her astounding vocal talents are causing some kind of tremor effect, but then the tapestry is still.

‘You liar! You don’t need to work at all, you own two companies! They bring in all your money,’ Michelle says, at last stopping her awful noise.

Now I know it’s wrong to judge someone’s intelligence on a single sentence, especially when they’re so plastered it’s a wonder they can even talk at all, but good god, woman, have you no concept of running a business at all?

‘Companies need to be maintained, my dear. I can’t just hire someone else to oversee how they’re run, that’s how things go wrong.  Indeed, that’s how I managed to buy them out in the first place.’

‘Well, you could at least cut down your hours, instead of spending all your spare time with her.’

Mentioning me, again? Where had she got that idea?  As Rich said earlier, I’m his brother’s widow. Now that Jon’s gone, I have no other family apart from my brother Markus, who’s employed here as Rich’s butler anyway, and since I was already familiar with the house and grounds, Rich asked if I’d like to live here too. It’s true I like him, but not in any sort of romantic way.  I see him as another brother, nothing more.

‘Listen to me, Michelle. What makes you think I’m having an affair – with Jody, too?’

‘I’ve seen the way you look at her, the secret smiles, the twinkle in your eyes. Oh yes, I’ve noticed. I also found one of your shirts smelling of that sickly sweet perfume she wears.’

‘I can explain that. The shirt had a hole in it, and you were busy, so I asked her if she could mend it for me. As for those so called secret smiles, you know perfectly well that Jody and I are good friends and we share lots of jokes about how similar I am to Jon.’

I can hear the sorrow in his voice as he mentions his brother. Jon’s death was so sudden it cut both our hearts to pieces. It’s scarcely a year since his funeral, and Rich is the only one who I can share my pain with. How does Michelle expect us to act, when we each need to be consoled by the other?

‘You really expect me to believe that this is all because of Jon? Get over it, Rich, he’s dead. I’m not, so pay attention to me!’

Something made of glass shatters on the floor, I see shards of it skitter towards Michelle’s feet. Her jaw is hanging slack in shock. Rich must have smashed a bottle. How he stopped himself from throwing it at her after that remark, I’m not sure. I certainly wouldn’t have held back. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that I know barging in would only make things worse, I’d have punched her already.

‘Get out.’

With those two words, Rich projects enough authority to make even Michelle obey. She scuttles towards the door quicker than I can move out the way, but as it opens a pair of slender arms grab me and pull me behind the tapestry. Michelle stampedes past without any idea I was ever there.

I turn in the darkness, sensing that I’m in some kind of narrow corridor. Someone’s standing close to me. I catch a whiff of spiced aftershave. ‘Markus?’

‘Who else would it be, little sis?’ he replies, lighting a candle so that I can see his clean-shaven face. He nods to the surrounding area. ‘Being a butler does have its privileges. You get to know about all the secret passages in an old manor house like this.’

‘What are you doing here this late? Or early, I should say,’ I ask, remembering the time.

‘Same as you. I was curious about what was going on with those two. I never expected her to go that far, though,’ he says. ‘Breakfast tomorrow should prove to be interesting.’
Breakfast is indeed proving to be interesting. We’re all seated together in the dining room while Markus, dutiful as ever and with no indication that he has any idea of what went on last night, brings our food.

Michelle looks ill, but that isn’t enough to stop her giving me filthy looks. Rich, in his seat at the head of the table, catches her in the act and dryly announces how fine the weather is today. I cast my gaze out the window; it’s grey and stormy.

Abruptly, Michelle stands up and takes out a cigarette from the silver case she always keeps on her person. She lights it, and taking a deep drag, walks around the table to stand beside me and exhales the lot in my face. I cough and waft it away with the newspaper.

‘Is there something you want to say to me?’ I ask, getting up too. I hold my hand up to silence Rich as he starts to say something. I know I shouldn’t react to her childish behaviour, but frankly, after what she said last night, I’m ready to have my say.

‘You could put it that way, yes. I know what you’ve been up to with my husband.’

‘Really? Then perhaps you should tell me so that I can know too.’

She sneers. ‘He’s having an affair with you.’

I snort. ‘An affair? How original. When did this supposed affair take place?’

‘Don’t play innocent with me, Jody. Your perfume is all over his shirt, and ever since you got here he’s been distant from me.’

‘Michelle, when I came here Jon had just died. Rich was in pain just like me. Of course he’s been distant. As for his shirt, it’s just like he told you last night, I mended it for him.’ Okay, that last part wasn’t wise.

‘You were listening? How dare you eavesdrop on us! I bet you had your ear to the door listening to every word we said. You must have been hoping that I’d split up with him so you could move in like the snake you are and have him all to yourself!’

‘Michelle,’ I say in a pained voice, ‘for the last time, there is nothing going on between myself and Rich. Believe me.’

‘Believe you? Why should I? You think I’m an idiot, nothing more than white trash. You’re so bad at hiding it that I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone knows how you feel about me.’

‘Alright, it’s true that you’re not the type of person I can like easily, but I’ve never thought of you as trash.’ Though I do think she’s and idiot. I try my best to get on with you, but you certainly make it difficult when you go around accusing me of everything. Last week it was spilling paint on your new carpet, and now this.’
‘Jody, you are one patronising b—‘

‘Michelle, will you keep your mouth shut and listen for a change? Jody-and-I-are-not-having-an-affair-!’ Rich interjects, speaking through clenched teeth.

‘You’re wasting your breath, Rich,’ I say.

‘You’re both lying,’ Michelle hisses, proving my point.

‘Why would we lie to you?’ I say.

‘Why? Why? Because you think I’m just some silly tart and Richard just thinks I want his money, so stop insisting that there’s nothing going on between you two and own up. I’ve seen you walking around the grounds together, arm in arm—’

‘They’re not lying, Michelle. You’re just so paranoid that you’re seeing things that aren’t there.
She whips round to see Markus standing by the door with a tray of tea. His knuckles are white; he’s gripping the tray hard. I frown. He’s angry. Markus never gets angry.

‘What would you know?’ Michelle spits at him.

‘Jody would never do such a thing. She’s still in love with Jon, even if he is dead. However, seeing as you’re so bent at wanting to accuse someone, perhaps you should accuse me.’

I notice the colour drain from Rich’s face. What’s going on here?

‘Markus, perhaps you should just serve the tea and let me handle this,’ Rich says quietly.

‘Oh, no,’ Michelle says. ‘I want to know what he means by that.’

‘I mean what I said. Maybe you should accuse me of having an affair with Rich. After all, it’s true. He’s just too shy to admit it,’ Markus says bluntly.

Well, that’s a surprise. I also feel like a lousy sister. Markus knows so much about me, and I thought I knew everything about him. Yet I had no idea he was gay. How could something as important as this have slipped by me?

I do know this, though: Markus has always had great timing. The horror on Michelle’s face at her sudden revelation will stick with us for years, and I think even Rich was glad when she left the manor barely ten minutes later with her suitcase fully packed.

Honestly, how he ever ended up with her in the first place I’ll never know. At least now he and Markus can actually be happy. And, for the first time since Jon died, I think I can be too.

Short Stories

Shadow Water (second draft)

Eight hundred years I’ve been here, separated from the outside. Every day, I gaze through the wall of ice to the tree covered mountain beyond, and wonder: how is it that no-one knows the ice- and myself- are here?

Travellers and merchants regularly drive past in their wagons, but they never even spare it a glance. Of course, any horses and livestock they have with them all give the ice as wide a berth as their masters will allow, but the humans pay them no attention except to encourage them onwards.

Sometimes I think I understand, for though my original and current form is human, I have lived the lives of many species in between. It was only as my first human life closed to an end and my form quite unexpectedly changed into a beast- an arctic fox, I think- did I see this icy wall for what it truly is. Layer upon layer of hardened Shadow Water, barely an inch thick, yet as resistant as ice of eight feet.

The curious thing: Shadow Water is never of natural origin. It is always drawn up by those who seek it, and those who seek it have not once revealed themselves. In any case, who raised it isn’t important. Now, why it was raised, that’s the real question. But no matter how long I ponder it, I can’t come up with an answer. The Shadow Water encloses nothing but a few rocks, petrified trees and a large, vacant cave (which, I confess, I have lived in for several centuries. I know, I know, there aren’t any predators here and the temperature is constant, but the cave has a rather ‘homey’ feel).

I straighten up sharply; the ground beyond the wall crunches as someone hurries over the ice covered flora. It’s midwinter out there, and though I can’t tell exactly how cold it is, for nothing, not even a breeze permeates the Shadow Water, it’s clear that the conditions outside are in no way ideal for the young boy scurrying towards me. Barefoot and dressed in rags, I have to wonder how the sorry creature survived the distance between here and the village. Curiously, he isn’t shivering. In fact, he seems to be ignoring the weather completely.

Now he’s a few feet away. I wait for him to crash into the Shadow Water, but he doesn’t. Instead, he stops, raises his head as though to examine the sheer scale of it, and smiles. What’s with this kid? You’re not telling me that, after all this time, someone can actually see it?

The boy places his hand flat on the Water. It hisses, and a boy-sized hole appears in it. He steps through; I stare at him.

He stares back, taking in every detail of my slim, naked body (when you live alone for as long as I have, the modesty of normal humans seems foolish). He laughs, and gasping for breath, says, ‘You’re really here! I was afraid you might have perished long ago, before I had a chance to retrieve you!’ His jubilation is so great that he starts dancing around in a circle.

‘Forgive my interruption,’ I say, slightly irritated by his loudness in my normally quiet enclosure, ‘but may I ask just one thing? Who the hell are you?’

The laughter dies on his lips. ‘You don’t know? I thought they explained everything when they brought you here.’

‘Brought me here? I remember being hit on the head, bound and gagged, and then waking up here with the Shadow Water fully formed and cutting me off from everything. It was a long time ago, mind, but I know there were certainly no explanations,’ I reply bitterly.

‘Oh. That wasn’t quite how I’d planned it at all. Perhaps I should start from the beginning. I am your master, Phin, and I had you brought here to protect you. The Shadow Water was for your benefit, I never meant for it to cut you off from the world— at least not for this long.’

‘Yes, eight hundred years is rather a long time,’ I say sourly. ‘And what do you mean, you’re my ‘master’? I’m no servant, kid.’

‘Guardian, then. And I’m no child. I’m what’s known as a Rememberer; so are you.’ He notices me shiver and turns back to the hole he made in the Water. He runs his hand down it and it seals shut again like a zipper. I goggle at him.

‘A Rememberer? You do realise that I have no idea what that means? And if you are my…guardian, then why did you leave me here for so long?’

‘Well, firstly, a Rememberer is a being who lives through the ages, taking many different forms and keeping watch over the world to try and prevent mistakes being repeated. There aren’t many of us. Including myself and my own master, you’re the only other. You were so young back then and living so close to the war zone that I had to keep you safe. It was only supposed to be for a few weeks, while we helped negotiate a treaty between the nations. But I was captured instead, a slave until the final descendant of my imprisoner died.’

My mind is spinning; I have to sit down. How can he possibly think that I can just take this all in, after so many years of silence? ‘Even if I am a Rememberer…I’ve been trapped in here, unable to see the world. What possible use can I be to you?’

‘Are you joking? You must have been staring through this Water every day for centuries. You can see the mountains, the town, what travellers come and go, any diseases that ravage the flora and fauna— the knowledge you’ve built up must be substantial. Far more than I have gained in that period. So, will you come with me out into the world? We do need you.’

He holds his hand out to me. After all these years, I can finally leave this place. I look around, and then back at him. I take it.