Monday, July 15, 2019

Some Fresh Ideas

Seeing a Real Underground City

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two months since I completed the first draft of my third children’s book about the magic game ‘The Tenth Gateway.  I’ve been on holiday and it’s given me some fresh ideas.

For instance, we visited Turkey and saw lots of amazing sights and met many friendly people. When we visited the ancient underground city of Derinkuyu near Goreme it reminded me of my fictional underground home for the gnomes in my book ‘The Spy’s Door’. It was several stories high and filled with twisting tunnels and myriad small dwellings and proved to me that people (and magical beings) can survive for long periods underground.

My photo could only capture a tiny glimpse of this amazing place.

Developing Characters

I have realised that some of my characters need further development. They are a bit wooden and their personalities not sufficiently differentiated. After seeing Derinkuyu I can better imagine who might live in such a place. So I’ve decided to focus on Gwulfud (the gnome), review his dialogue and strengthen his characteristics.

We also visited places on The Baltic Sea and parts of Scandinavia. I loved the fairy tale castle at Schwerin in the north of Germany but the only castle I have included in my stories so far is the forbidding fortress castle of Malefic, the evil magician. I’ll keep the Schwerin image in mind for a future fantasy tale.

Do you have any special places that have inspired you?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A First Edit

Mapping the Magic Game

I have managed to complete the first edit of the first draft for my third book about The Tenth Gateway. I found a lot of inconsistencies and over use of some word and phrases. I still find it difficult to think of another way of saying ‘he said or she said’!

The edit was also very useful in helping me to think about the geography of the world of The Tenth Gateway. Maps like the one pictured and Robert Louis Stevenson’s map of ‘Treasure Island’ gave me the idea.

Whilst I have the picture of the world of the magic game in my head I decided to draw a map of what it could look like. This has been really helpful as I realised that some of my directions and descriptions of the topology didn’t make sense. So I’ve had to re-write those bits.

I’m about to go on holiday for a few weeks. This will give me the opportunity to review the story again with fresh eyes when I return.

Book Promotion

My books are available for purchase online. It’s very difficult to know how many people find it via the different sites plus my own web page and social media.

A positive approach taken this year by Austin Macauley Publishers is a combined book promotion opportunity with a number of book fairs across the world. I’ve signed up for a few of them for ‘The Spy’s Door’ – so cross my fingers someone will see and like my book.

Austin Macauley Marketing have also sent me some promotional materials – book marks, post cards and posters.

If anyone has read either The Tenth Gateway or The Spy’s Door please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


The Tenth Gateway

I loved receiving this review of The Tenth Gateway from the 8 year old grand-daughter of a friend of mine. It reads:

“It’s a great and interesting story. I feel as if I could relate to Sophie. Loves to win but is told not to show off. I likey! (PS – in case you were wondering, I too have a lively mind. All of the characters seem to come to life in my head.”

I am now holding my breath waiting to hear what she says about ‘The Spy’s Door’.

Pinnacle Book Achievement Award

I'm pleased that I have received acknowledgement of my writing by the National Association of Book Entrepreneurs (NABE) - based in the USA. I have just received notification of the award for best book in the Category Children's Fantasy for 'The Spy's Door'.

Sophie and Jun - the two lead characters in my books - have become very real to me. I'm glad that others are enjoying reading about their adventures.

It's always nice to receive positive feedback don't you think? Especially if it's from the children for whom the book was written. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Some Of My Story Favourites


In my second book – ‘The Spy’s Door’- I created a nasty character called Perscrutor. He is Malefic’s master spy whom the book is named after. I enjoyed writing his ‘scenes’ and while I knew he couldn’t be a focus in the third book (writing in progress) I wasn’t ready to let him go. So, I’ve woven him into the story in book number three – albeit briefly.

Another character that I like in ‘The Spy’s Door’ is Gwulfud – the gnome who leads Sophie and Jun to gateway seven. He doesn’t say much but he’s got quite an important role in the third book.

The guardian of The Seventh Gateway is ‘The Gatekeeper’. He has a strange head and the illustration I’ve included in this blog provided the inspiration of what it might look like. 

This head is actually made of bronze and is Celtic from the 1st century BC. The source is ‘The Celts’, by John Davies, Cassell & Co, UK, 2001


Many of the settings in my stories spring from my imagination, some from various illustrations, and I’m sure lots draw on the books that I’ve read and the films that I’ve seen over the years.

In both ‘The Tenth Gateway’ and ‘The Spy’s Door’ I have the children finding their way through dense forests. They meet all sorts of magical beings and dangerous creatures.  I like to think of these forests as being very mysterious – just like this illustration I also found in the John Davies book.

Many of the settings in my stories spring from my imagination, some from various illustrations, and I’m sure lots draw on the books that I’ve read and the films that I’ve seen over the years.

In both ‘The Tenth Gateway’ and ‘The Spy’s Door’ I have the children finding their way through dense forests. They meet all sorts of magical beings and dangerous creatures.  I like to think of these forests as being very mysterious – just like this illustration I also found in the John Davies book. What inspires you?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Dialogue - Pandora's Box

Conversations and Body language

I’ve just completed the self-paced online course ‘Fiction Essentials: Dialogue’ developed by the Australian Writers’ Centre. I’ve found it really helpful.

I was worried about my characters being a bit flat and I think that I’ve now gained a better and more explicit understanding of how characters come to life through dialogue. The course provides a good checklist to review what I’ve written in the rough draft of my third children’s book.

Because it’s the third book of the trilogy about the magic game ‘The Tenth Gateway’ I want to ensure that the characters continue to be of interest and that the main ones have developed over the course of the story. In particular I want to check my use of ‘paralanguage’; for example, facial expressions and body language. Reviewing my use of speech tags in this context will also be important.

Slang and Idioms

I try not to use too much slang in the dialogue but I include a bit here and there because it’s how we speak. I looked up some common contemporary English slang and a lot of the words are already out of date.

“Cool’ still seems to be in fashion, ‘yucky’ still describes something unpleasant – not ‘sick’ which now means really nice, terrific, great!. And ‘wicked’ now means something really good (rather than bad). Of course I’m also trying to keep up with words for technology.

This led me to think about idioms. They’re lots of fun as well although I’m not sure if I can use them in my book Some of the ones I like include:
·      A bigwig
·      Cheek by jowl
·      To get cold feet
·      A load of old codswallop
·      To get someone’s goat
·      To over egg the pudding

My book ‘the dictionary of idioms and their origins’ includes hundreds of sayings.

The English Language – a mystery

One of my characters – Edward –is a child from the nineteenth century. Do I have him talking 21st century style or do I try to make him sound a bit old fashioned. In Melvyn Bragg’s book ‘The Adventure of English’ he writes: “In the nineteenth century at least eight hundred and fifty six different grammars of English marched into print.”

I think I’ll just use a few words here and there.

So the issue of dialogue opens up ‘a can of worms' !!! What do you think?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Starting the Edit

Taking my time with Book Three

I can't believe that it is now 18 months since I started writing the third book of my trilogy about 'The Tenth Gateway'. There are so many distractions added to a lot of procrastination.

I’ve now finished the first very rough draft. There are 11 chapters but I'm not sure if that's what I'll end up with. The last chapter is really only notes.

The Edit Begins

Instead of being bogged down on the ending I decided to go back to the first chapter and begin the first edit. After all this time I’ve forgotten much of what I’ve written.

So far I have reviewed chapters 1-4. I’ve stopped at this point today because I’ve had to write this blog. I’ll finish the other draft chapters over the next 2 weeks. That’s the plan anyway.

I think some of the draft reads very well but in some areas there’s still too much narrative and not enough dialogue (the ‘show don’t tell’ that I’ve learnt about in my creative writing short courses), and some of it is still has blanks in the story line.

What I am Looking For

In this first edit I wanted to check that the story flowed, that my main characters are behaving consistently and that the imaginary enchanted world has continuity with the first two books. I also want to check that I’ve used appropriate names for any new characters and creatures. As I’ve mentioned before I find selecting or making up names very difficult.

In the second book, ‘The Spy’s Door’, I created the character of Perscrutor, the evil magician’s master spy. I wanted the children playing the magic game to have  new challenges but I also wanted to add more danger and mystery to the story.

Creating More Mystery

Perscrutor’s network of spies is still in place in the third book. It's difficult to know who they are (recollecting Agatha Christie, but of course no where near as clever). So I now want to check that this theme in the story creates enough mystery as the children play the magic game.

I still think my main characters are a bit flat, so I’m grappling with how to make them more interesting. I’ll let you know how I’m getting on with this challenge in my next blog.

Is this something you also find difficult or do you have other stumbling blocks?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

On Finding a Special Book

This week, when I was browsing in one of my local bookshops I came across a fascinating little book called: ‘Images in the Margins’ by Margot McIlwain Nishimura; published by J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2009.

Fascinating to me because it opened my eyes to all the interesting creatures, tales and symbols found in the pages of medieval European illuminated manuscripts. I’ve always looked at the beautiful text and large initials and I can’t believe I never noticed all the other things –serious and amusing - contained on the pages.

What caught my eye are a couple of categories which have reminded me how far back our interest in folk tales and popular entertainment goes. Themes that I am trying to capture in my children’s books.

Children's Games

Children’s games must have been important in the Middle Ages as they are a main subject depicted in the manuscripts. There are illustrations of children playing checkers, chess and an early form of bowling. There are other games now lost to history including a rough game called ‘hot cockles’. A person hides their face in another player’s lap while another player hits and pokes him. The player will only be freed if they know who their attacker is. It’s a good thing this game died out.

It seems that fantasy was popular in the Middle Ages as it is also a major category in the manuscripts. There are creatures with the heads of humans and the bodies of animals, unicorns and griffins and other strange creatures.

Reynard the Fox

The book includes a manuscript which depicts that cunning creature ‘Reynard the Fox’.  Apparently stories about Reynard were very popular. Wikipedia tells me the stories can be traced back to the twelfth century. I had no idea these tales went back so far.

This unique little book is stuffed full of fascinating information and I’m already thinking about how to weave some of it into my children’s books.

I’m now going to find out a bit more about the character ‘Reynard the Fox’ and also learn what other stories were popular in the Middle Ages. Do you know of any?

Some Fresh Ideas

Seeing a Real Underground City It’s hard to believe that it’s been two months since I completed the first draft of my...