Engrossing YA -Jo Danilo’s ‘The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook’

It means so much to get a review like this after years of nagging from the little pixie of self-doubt 🙂

Sophie de Courcy and More

I have always admired this author’s writing, and I am really pleased that this novel is now available on Amazon. I only occasionally read YA, but I really enjoyed this one.

Excellent! I was really impressed.

This novel combines lively action, humour, vivid descriptions and characterisation in an expertly woven creepy supernatural adventure alternated with prosaic high school life in a small Yorkshire town.

There is a curse on a house by Tinker’s Wood, and it must begin and end with a death.
When new neighbours move next door to the protagonist Daisy May and her mother, something re-activates it from its decades long sleep.

This is a spine chilling story, and a funny and a sad one. It’s full of action and vivid descriptions, tersely recounted. I was hooked from the moment I read of foul Mr Braithwate, and his habitual saluation to all – with two fingers.

The…

View original post 689 more words

Me, Marie Antoinette and ‘The Moment’

me aged four.jpg

I remember we were at a friend’s house. I must have been about four. They had white blinds hanging in long strips at the windows, and I spent a long time pulling (‘Gently please, Jojo!”) at the plastic, beaded cord, twisting the strips open and closed. Letting the sunlight into the room in bright stripes across the beige carpet.

Then the TV came on. A children’s programme for us little ones to watch. We planted ourselves, cross-legged, on the carpet. The grown-ups were chatting, their existence stripped to knees and feet, hands holding steaming mugs of tea and reaching for biscuits. Faceless. Just background noise.

But on the screen… on the screen was a woman clothed in a dress of cream and gold that came out from her narrow hips and took over the whole corridor of a sumptuous palace. She was like a doll, with white hair piled up high and unmoving on the top of her head, red lips and a black spot painted on her lip. This, the narrator told us, was ‘Marry Ann-twan-ett’ Continue reading

The Pit

I came across this beautiful drawing by Cambodian artist Visothkakvei today – such a clever paper, ink & digital artist – and it reminded me so much of Daisy’s pit in ‘The Curtain-Twitcher’s Handbook’

visothkakvei-optical-illusion-drawings-1

“What’ve you done?”

The whisper came again, and the sobbing started. I ascended a steep slope and found myself standing on the narrow lip of the mineshaft. The wide, circular bowl opened up before me, the steep, grassy sides spiralling down into the blackest of black holes. Bottomless, Will had called it. He had been wary of it, even in the sunshine. Now, below a stormy sky that was beginning to tip rain out, the sides were in shadow and it looked like a yawning mouth. And it was the mouth that was crying. I froze, swaying on the precipice, mesmerised. And then I remembered where I’d heard the whisper before, and the hair on my arms stood on end.

Taken from ‘The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook’ now available for Kindle:

amazon Amazon.co.uk

amazon Amazon.com

See this article on My Modern Met for more amazing work by Visothkakvei.

In Cool Company!

Really excited to see my book languishing besides the likes of these cool crooners in a search for my name on Amazon. I’m not sure what ‘Danilo’ is doing to ‘Vera’ but it looks like he’s trying to shove a daisy up her nose! Aah well, she doesn’t seem to mind.

A translation tells me the title is literally:

‘That you would not have anything to do’

I don’t think we need a translation for ‘A Musica Maravilhosa…’

20170602_113752_resized

 

OUT NOW! ‘The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook’ (Kindle Edition)

OUT TODAY! ‘The Curtain-Twitcher’s Handbook’ (Kindle version). A young adult love story with the odd ghost and some very petulant curtains.

Find it on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Hope you enjoy it – if you do, come back and let me know

For more information on The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook, head over to the book page here.

 

A bit of fun with the Dark Lord!

This one was a homemade job created for a reluctant reader who was also a massive Star Wars fan! It caused another problem – he was no longer reluctant, but couldn’t read for laughing 🙂

DarthVader coverp1

Continue reading

The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook: Tip #4

curtains #4.png

‘When it Might be Time to Change your Curtains’ by Daisy May

Your own personal God of Curtain-Twitching should only provide advice on the subject of curtains. If he starts to interfere in other aspects of your life you should be wary and seek independent advice. In extreme circumstances it may be wise to change your curtains.

Standing back, I checked the mirror. I’d chosen a white. long-sleeved shirt with a conservatively-striped tank top over it, and some black cords. We always had to look smart for Gramps, Mum and I. He couldn’t abide scruffy dressing, coming from an era when people donned their best hat just to fetch the milk off the doorstep. I’d once worn jeans, and Gramps spent the entire visit looking me up and down and muttering under his breath. I wish I’d thought to tell Will. He’d probably have jeans on, and his hair would be all over the place.

I wound my own hair into a rough bun and clipped it up. With this outfit it made me look about forty. I pulled it out and stuck it in a ponytail instead. It was very hard to try and look good to both Gramps and Will at the same time. Maybe I could get away with clean trainers.

I don’t think so,” commented the god with a snort.

‘Since when are you such a fashion expert?’ I bit back, keeping my words carefully in my head. I wasn’t about to start conversing with my curtains out loud. That would be crazy.

Look at my multi-coloured spots. I am the king of fashion,” he said.

 


Taken from The Curtain-Twitcher’s Handbook, in which Daisy discovers the dying art of curtain-twitching is not just for old, nosy people.

OUT ON MAY 31st

For updates, follow The Odd Bit of Writing, or join me on Facebook

The First Ever YA Book?

17th summer

Margaret Daly was seventeen herself when she started writing ‘Seventeenth Summer’. Written by a young adult specifically for the newly-recognised ‘teenager’ audience, this is widely recognised as the first real YA book.

Romance being timeless, the book was last reissued in 2010. It’s available, with a whopping 4.3 star rating, on Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk too.

Here’s the blurb:

A summer to remember…

Angie always thought high school romances were just silly infatuations that come and go. She certainly never thought she would fall in love over one short summer. But when she meets Jack, their connection is beyond any childish crush. Suddenly, Angie and Jack are filling their summer with stolen moments and romantic nights. But as fall grows closer, they must figure out if their love is forever, or just a summer they’ll never forget.

While the romance is pretty chaste and pure, the book was tutted at for portraying teenage desire, smoking and underage drinking and smoking! Tut-tut, indeed. You won’t find any of that in my books (she says with her fingers crossed under the table).

And here’s the new cover:

17thSummerNew.png

There’s just something about that old cover though… Which one do you prefer?

The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook: Tip #3

curtains #3.png

‘How to Save a Life (with just your curtains).’ by Daisy May

In a life-saving situation it is acceptable for the Curtain-Twitcher to give away their position. The person being saved will be so grateful they will forget to be suspicious.

I watched the passenger door of the red Alfa open and my archenemy, Willy McKenzie, got out. He put a hand up to smooth his unruly curls back as they blew into his eyes, and reached into the car to get his schoolbag out. I hid behind my curtain so he didn’t spot me, and grimaced at my subterfuge. It was fast becoming a record Curtain-Twitching week, and I was only a young novice. My grandma would have been proud.

As Willy McKenzie pushed the car door shut there was a sudden gust of wind. It rattled my windows and flung the trees around in the woods at the back. A movement on the McKenzie’s roof caught my attention. The wind had loosened a grey slate. It slid a few inches before coming to rest on the edge of the guttering at the front of the house, where it rocked precariously. Willy McKenzie walked towards his front door. The wind blew again.

I hammered on my window as loud as I could without breaking it. In the spilt second that followed, Willy McKenzie glanced round, I pointed frantically at the roof, he followed the direction of my finger, and the roof slate tipped and started to fall.

Willy jumped back, and the heavy slab of stone smashed into the ground just centimetres from his yellow-clad feet. If he hadn’t moved, it would have smashed directly into his head instead. Maybe it would even have killed him. People died from lesser head injuries.

It occurred to me I may have just saved the life of Willy McKenzie.

He stared blankly at the shards of slate surrounding him, then back up at my window. Smiling shakily, he gave me a small nod, but I gave him nothing in return, watching as his mother rushed up in a sudden panic. Her flowered skirts were blowing a little too high in the breeze.

I saw him tell her ‘I’m fine’, but he was looking at me the whole time. Backing away from the window, I sat on my bed feeling enormously strange. What if I hadn’t hammered on the window? What if I hadn’t been Curtain-Twitching? What if Willy McKenzie had died? Would I be happy about that?

Of course not.

But just because I wouldn’t wish him dead didn’t mean I’d suddenly forgiven him, did it?

Of course not.

Fun, isn’t it?” whispered the god.

“No, actually,” I replied, but out loud this time, and then clamped a hand over my mouth.


Taken from The Curtain-Twitcher’s Handbook, in which Daisy discovers the dying art of curtain-twitching is not just for old, nosy people.

OUT ON MAY 31st

For updates, follow The Odd Bit of Writing, or join me on Facebook

INSPIRATION : The Perfect Gift

This time the inspiration is not a picture, but a whole chapter of history. This story is dedicated to all those who breathed their last breath in ‘the war to end all wars’ – if only that were true – and to the memory of Harry Redman, my great-grandfather, who managed to live through it all. Unlike so many of his fellow soldiers.

War-Silhouette

INSPIRED

Half light. A mist shrouds the muddy trenches and banks in Harry’s small corner of France. In the perfect silence, skeletal trees stand still, holding their breath and playing dead. Like we all should be, thinks Harry. Especially today.

Harry is awake with only an inch of a cigarette and the relentless itch of lice for company. He is first up that day and every day, but only because he can’t sleep. Sixteen nights in a row now, with barely more than an hour or two at the most. And those fractured hours are filled with dreams. Whole passages of the day re-enacted in the dark theatre behind his eyelids. Last night it was Johnson, thrown six feet into the air by a shell, and landing, with his head missing, right on top of Harry. Again and again. Over and over. In his dreams, Harry has time to appreciate the precision of the shrapnel’s surgery, but when he wakes he is horrified by his unconscious thoughts. He misses Johnson’s smiling head, so full of jokes. They all do.

It’s not long before they go over the top into No Man’s Land, the playground of fate. Every time he climbs the ladder he says goodbye to his life, but it doesn’t seem to want to say goodbye back. His thoughts drift from family to sweetheart to all the friends he has lost on these battered fields, and all the friends he still will lose.

Now everyone is awake, and the stench of nervous sweat and cigarette smoke mixes with the sweat smell of death. Time has passed him by again. Maybe he slept after all. The soldiers are wide-eyed and scared. They smoke madly and talk about what they will do when they get back to England. It’s meant to be a lucky thing to do, but Harry can’t see how it makes any difference, so he never joins in.

“It’s my birthday today,” he tells them, uncomfortably aware of a nervous twitch just starting up in under his left eye. “I’m nineteen.”

They pass him a cigarette and clap him on the back. Pearce begins to sing the ritual song, but has trouble with the word ‘happy’, so only manages a couple of lines. Steadman’s watch still works, and he is glancing at it so frequently it must soon be time. Harry blinks hard, his twitchy eye becoming unbearable. He sucks the very last of the warm smoke from the birthday cigarette into his lungs, and stamps the butt into the mud. Perhaps the last butt.

“Right, men. Space out and wait for the signal. Steady pace. No running,” the officer calls out from the far end.

His voice is shaky and Harry thinks what a hard job he has, leading his men into such uncertainty. And for what? A few feet of land? Another hole in the ground?

“I don’t care about England anymore. I just want to live,” Pearce whispers to him.

“I don’t think this is about England anymore.”

“Then why are we here?”

Harry shrugs. He doesn’t know.

And then the officer is raising his hand and the first soldiers are on the ladders and up over the bank, exposing themselves bit by bit to the German guns. Heads, then shoulder, then torsos. ‘Shoot at me!’

Harry’s legs refuse to obey. This always happens. Every time. Pearce has to give him a gentle shove. He’s not sure what he will do if he loses Pearce, because he needs that shove. The momentum carries his body while his mind screams at him to stop. He feels naked as he walks fast, so keenly aware of being breakable. With his rifle clutched to his chest, he concentrates hard on the ice-cold metal of the weapon and tries to forget where he is. With one step he stumbles into a shell crater, with another he nearly falls over a rotting corpse. The sound of the guns is deafening and bullets zip past like angry hornets, inches from his ears.

The fog swirls and shifts, and Harry can see where it’s all coming from in the distance. The German trench, and the brigade’s objective, nearing rapidly. He stares around him. They have never got this far before. How far are they supposed to go? Are they meant to jump down into the German trenches? Of course they are – it’s the whole point of the exercise. And if so, then dear God, let him be hit now. Pounded with bullets is infinitely better than being bayoneted to death. Having to look the enemy in the eyes and discover they are just like you. Scared and shell-shocked, with a heart that beats like any English heart.

He begins to slow.

“It’s my bloody birthday,” he complains to himself.

He wants to put a hand up to the Germans and tell them what an important day it is. Perhaps they will invite him in for sausages and sauerkraut. A mug of beer.

He is smiling when his bullet finds him. It rips through the skin and muscle of his thigh and tears through his femur. It wipes the smile off his face. He feels it go in, looks down and sees a spurt of blood, falls over when his leg buckles. But he doesn’t feel any of the pain. After the initial surprise, he holds onto his tin hat and edges his way backwards, away from the German lines, on his bottom. As he does, his trousers start to work their way down. He stops to ease them up, and laughs out loud. Even when the pain comes, he laughs, flaked out with his head in a puddle of mud.

Pearce is suddenly beside him, crouched as low as he can get. He grabs Harry under the armpits and hauls him backwards. It’s a long way and the shells are screaming all around them, but they make it. Pearce, exhausted, almost throws him down into the trench, and into safety. They look at each other for a long while until the stretcher bearers come to take Harry away. Then Pearce, unable to delay any longer, climbs the ladder back into hell. He turns near the top.

“Happy birthday,” he grins.

Now he can say the ‘happy’ word. Now Harry is homeward-bound.

Harry closes his eyes as the stretcher rocks him back and forth, a baby in a cradle. He feels the fatigue borne of sixteen long nights lap over his body. Finally, he can sleep. His enemies have given him the most perfect of gifts.

(Photo by Frank Hurley)