Monday, 10 October 2022

In the Snake-Dragon's Claws ... continued to the end of Chapter One.


‘Mum told me I could make a lantern, a Halloween lantern, Alice,’ Thomas said, his big, brown, sparrow-eyes full of fun. Then he pulled away from me, his socks around his ankles, and hopped along a chalk line on the playground, wobbling a bit. 
When he said the word mum, I felt the misery flaring up inside me again. My mum wasn’t going to help me make a lantern. Mum wasn’t there anymore. ‘We’ll go when I’m ready,’ I said.

But why should I go home? Even if my stepmother hadn’t found out what I’d done she’d be fussing over Thomas and his lantern, and Dad would be too tired after work to bother with me. I blinked away angry tears and kicked more stones across the playground. That morning, my stepmother told me I couldn’t go trick or treating. That I shouldn’t knock on strangers’ doors and give them a fright. But the village was so small there weren’t any strangers, and she hadn’t lived in our village for very long, so what did she know about it? She said the neighbours had organised a Halloween Walk instead. A sort of ghost hunt. There’d be baked potatoes, hot dogs, and a bonfire with fireworks in the church field afterwards. I pretended I wasn’t listening to her, although I was secretly thinking I might go to the field for a hot dog and watch the fireworks when their silly walk finished. I wasn’t going to wander around the village with the grown-ups, looking for ghosts that weren’t there.

‘It’s cold,’ Thomas said, ‘can we go home now?’ He swung his shoe bag around and tried to jump over it. ‘You’ll be colder still if your mum takes you on that walk,’ I snapped. He was right. It was very cold, you could see your breath, but I was in no hurry to take him home. By now, my stepmother must have discovered what I’d taken. 

I shivered, hitched my rucksack onto my shoulder, and heard the church clock strike four. The chimes sounded muffled through the mist. I could just make out the tower above the row of cottages at the end of the street, and that gave me an idea. I’d built a den in the woods behind thechurch. I could stay there until my stepmother calmed down a bit.

‘All right, put that piece of paper in your shoe bag, and I’ll take you to the beginning of our street,’ I said. ‘You’ll have to go the rest of the way by yourself. I’ve something I must do first.’

‘What is it? What have you done? Have you been naughty again, Alice?’

I took no notice of him. The playground was filling up with a soft, grey blanket, and soon it would be hard to find my way through the woods to my den. ‘Come on,’ I said. I grabbed his hand, hurried him down the path to the school gate, and through the drifting fog I saw two little ones with their mum.

‘Look, they’ll take you home, Thomas,’ I said. ‘They live in our street, a few doors down. Go with them, your mum will be worrying.’

He shook his head and I thought he’d say no, but he just put on what I call his smacked puppy face, and that always made me feel rotten.

‘Go on,’ I said, giving him a push.

He walked away, dragging his feet. It took him ages, and when he caught up with them, I had to wait while they did extra kerb drill, just to make sure there was no traffic coming. I was nearly frantic inside for them to hurry up, but at last they crossed to the other side of the lane and the thickening dampness swallowed them up. I sighed with relief, hurried along School Lane, and was passing the turning into the High Street with its few shops, when I thought I heard footsteps on the pavement behind me. I looked nervously over my shoulder, and fearing my stepmother was out searching for me I began to run.

I didn’t stop until I reached the church, the last building on the edge of the village, opposite the old coaching inn. I could see the blurred shape of Tong Church, sprawled on the top of the grassy bank, its narrow windows sightless black holes in the thick stone walls, and the bell tower soaring above my head. At the bottom of the steep bank was a low stone wall with a row of small, metal bollards on top of it. They were looped together with a heavy, spiked, iron chain. Beyond the gate, with its metal archway and rusty lantern that didn’t work, was the path up to the church, cut deep into the bank. On top of the bank, on the opposite side of the path from the church, were dusty yew trees, their boughs sweeping the grass.

They looked very old. Some of the branches had knitted together, making a narrow passageway underneath as they grew. If you crouched down, ducked your head, and didn’t mind the scratches, you could push through the tunnel. I called it my secret way. No one could see me from the lane, and it was a quick route to the churchyard and the back porch.

I hesitated, rubbing my hands together. The damp air was seeping into me. Although I had my school blazer under my anorak, I wished I’d put on my jumper. Then I remembered I’d climbed through a hedge, made a hole in the knitting, and hidden it under my bed. I stared nervously up at the wooden boards in the bell tower. I knew bats lived there and often swooped for insects on summer evenings. Would they dart out and stab their claws in my hair? I was being stupid. I’d been up to the church lots of times, inside it on school study visits, and the bats had never attacked me. Just because it was foggy, and nearly dark, it wouldn’t be any different. The bats were probably hibernating, anyway. I kept telling myself there was no need to be afraid. I could be over the wall, up the bank, and through the yew tree tunnel so fast nothing would catch me, but I wasn’t so keen to do it in this fog.

I started to imagine there was someone in the trees waiting to get me. If I listened, I could usually hear the cockerel on the weathervane creaking as the wind turned it around, but there was no sound from the top of the spire. Even the muffled roar from the motorway across the fields had stopped. When I’m on my own and scared, I sing a bit of my favourite school hymn about being valiant and fighting giants. The sound of my voice and the words make me feel braver. I opened my mouth, but I was so nervous no sound came out, just a squeak. Maybe it would be safer to take the path up to the church instead of the yew tree tunnel. It seemed blacker than ever inside those trees, and the church tower looked threatening and about to fall on top of me.

Just for a moment, I wanted to go home and have my tea. But the thought of what would happen to me when I got there made me shiver, and I grabbed hold of the ice-cold links of the iron chain, took a deep breath, and shouted ‘No lion can him fright He’ll with some giants fight Hobgoblin and foul fiend To be a PILGRIM!’

I was so nervous I jumbled up the words of the hymn, but it didn’t matter. With the noise I made I didn’t feel so scared, and yelling PIGRIM, I clambered onto the wall and fled up the bank into the yew trees. Then charging headfirst through the spiteful branches, as if all the evil creatures in the world were after me, I ran towards the patch of grey light at the end of the tunnel and with one bound leapt into the silent churchyard. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2022

In The Snake-Dragon's Claws 

Chapter One (continued)... 




ISWG - October

It’s time for IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group Post). IWSG an online writers group was started by Alex J CavanaughDo visit the IWSG website for some friends you could link with. 

October 5 question - What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?

Interesting question. I don't have a favourite genre as yet. I'm hedge hopping, moving from writing books for children to writing two stand alone novels and a series for adults. But I think my favourite genre is magic realism or just downright fantasy, being an avid fan of Neil Gaiman and learning so mucn from his books. Perhaps the best characteristic is the freedom that fantasy offers. The unending landscape, the endless creativity that genre offers, and I can't wait to begin my fantasy series, set in two worlds, about a young woman who works in a second hand bookshop and is one of the rare people who can see events that took place in the past as if they are happening now. 

I have downloaded an old drawing of the bookshop to give me inspiration from the Alamy group where photos and old drawings can be purchased.

 

Thursday, 8 September 2022

I.S.W.G. September


the September 7 question - What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

Member of IWSG  The genre I avoid, preferring to stay safe with my older children's books, is romance. And that is rather silly, for the most frequently bought books are romance.

copied from the magazine Fortune...

Among the most popular and bestselling genres over the past year and a half has been romantic fiction. For book lovers, it’s not hard to figure out why. Similar to another top-selling fiction genre during the pandemic—mysteries and thrillers—romances follow familiar (if not predictable) structures and employ routine tropes. Both genres also have signature but reliable endings: Murder mysteries almost always reveal the culprit and (oftentimes) dole out a bit of justice, while romances traditionally result in a “happily ever after.”

In other words, the predictability of these novels makes for literary comfort food, one that many readers craved in abundance during some very turbulent times.

Yes, I am being silly, but I suppose I get my 'literary comfort food', as the writer of the extract puts it, by writing for children.  


Monday, 15 August 2022

In the Snake-Dragon's Claws - a book for 8 to 11 year olds.

The book was published as 'Thin Time' a long time ago, and as I have been unable to go to schools as visiting author, due to the virus and now being full time carer, I am putting it on Amazon next month. 

It was written in response to girls asking at a Bamburgh Castle book signing (I was signing 'First Wolf' which is set there) 'Why do you always have a boy hero, why not a girl?' and this book is in reply to their requests.

Unfortunately, the title was a failure. I've thought much more about titles since. I took it for granted that as my other books sold well, it did not matter about the title. But I found out the hard way that it does matter a great deal. 

So I am re-issuing it on Amazon (in UK and in other parts of the world) with the new title, and already there is a good interest! And I am informing anyone thinking of buying one, on the cover and inside the book, in the paperback and Kindle version, that it was previously published under the old title.

As my grandson James is very kindly re-building my website, I have returned to blogging, and I am working on a new book, I thought I might add the beginning of the Halloween story and maybe someone might be kind enough to comment. 

I have plans to write another Task Bearer book in the series, again in the real village of Tong, but set in the time of Charles the Second who escaped from Cromwell in the vicinity of Tong village. And I shall of course include Fymm, the dog from the tomb, who is centuries old, as mentor to my girl hero. 

1. Weird Things Begin to Happen 

I’m looking for Fymm now that the early frosts are nipping my fingers and toes, like a bite from his small sharp teeth. It’s nearly a year since I last saw him, and I’m worried and excited too. It won’t be long before Thin Time is here again.

I think I’d better say who I am before I tell you what happened when I met Fymm for the first time. I’m Alice Griffin, I’m nearly ten, and I’m telling you my name because that’s what got me into trouble, and it’s the worst trouble that ever happened to me. Well, the worst so far and I’m lucky to be alive.

If I’d gone straight home from school, it wouldn’t have happened, but after my mum died, and my dad married again, home wasn’t the same anymore. Now I had a stepmother and a five-year-old stepbrother, and he followed me around all day and wouldn’t leave me alone.

Then my stepmother started shouting at me for nothing. Whatever I did made her cross. So, I did things to annoy her, and that got me into loads more trouble, and just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did, a lot worse.

It was after school at Halloween that the weird things began to happen... 

Sunday, 14 August 2022

What would you do?

 My son Richard most weekends, either climbing dangerously or kayaking wherever he can find white water, but I can’t persuade him to stop taking risks.


Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Available in all Amazon stores and as a Kindle in many online stores.   

River Dark - Book Two - Ironbridge Gorge Series Paperback, Kindle and Nook format. 

Joshua's one chance of finding work at the stables comes to a horrible end when the head groom at the hall accuses him of causing the riding accident to Sir Edmund Atterley. Unable to prove his innocence, Joshua runs away and searches for the one person who might be able to save him from prison, his best friend Sam, first mate on the Severn trow, the Emily Grey. Accompanied by Matt the stable lad, a servant girl Daisy, a small boy he thinks is a ghost, and a runaway dog called Rags, Joshua must make a decision that will change his life forever. 

      


In the Snake-Dragon's Claws ... continued to the end of Chapter One.

‘Mum told me I could make a lantern, a Halloween lantern, Alice,’ Thomas said, his big, brown, sparrow-eyes ful...