Getting Praised for Daydreaming

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Though, like a lot of writers, I write mostly because I love telling myself stories and getting immersed in worlds of my own creation (otherwise known as ‘daydreaming’), a bonus of making the stories available to others is the feedback.

When somebody totally gets what you were trying to say, understands how your world works, and bonds with characters you gave birth to, it’s like a little bit of sparkly magic.

Here are two favourites out of all my favourite reviews – one by a journalist, and one by someone who is so completely my target audience. With thanks to Hilarie and Georgina.

I hope you don’t mind a little bit of showing off. I don’t do it very often 🙂


The Blackwood Crusade

The Blackwood Crusade BookBook Review by Journalist, Hilarie Stelfox, published in Huddersfield Daily Examiner

“I was hooked from the first few pages – and mightily relieved to discover that it is extraordinarily well written by someone with a finely-tuned sense of humour. In fact, it’s every bit as good as any fiction for the young I’ve read in recent years, including the novels of JK Rowling and Eoin Colfer. As well as being a natural storyteller, Jo never patronises her readers, an attribute that will endear her to teenagers. Nor does she shy away from the odd bit of violence and unpleasantness, another plus for young readers.”

READ MORE HERE

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The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook

Curtain Twitchers Cover“I read this book in three chunks, over a period of two days! I was hooked to the story and literally could not put it down! It’s the perfect read for many teenage girls like myself what with it covering dilemmas we can relate to and also including the interesting element of the ghost story that leaves you desperate to read on to find out what happens next.

I fell in love with Daisy the main character almost instantly and could relate to her throughout the book, I didn’t see the ending coming at all it took me by surprise and completely blew me away! I felt so emotionally attached to both Will and Daisy throughout the book and found myself almost in tears on a few more occasions in the book.

It was by far one the best books I’ve read in a while, for the reason that not only did it have a phenomenal story but it took me on a journey with the characters as I felt I knew them so well and not many authors i know can portray this skill to take the reader on an journey and make them feel emotionally involved with the story but Jo has done this flawlessly and the book has been lingering in my mind since…

Definitely up there in my top 10 best reads and I have already recommended it to two friends, and passed it on to one of them already 🙂 5 stars!!!!

READ MORE HERE

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Featured Photo Credit: Comfreak

11:42 – One Boy, One Girl, One Road, One Long Night, One Long Nightmare

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Here’s the prologue from my new book, a scary YA Paranormal Romance – Groundhog Day… but on a dark street… with a murderer.

NOW

She sits beside me on the sofa, close but not quite touching. Her hand rests, clenched, on her knee, inches from my own. I daren’t reach for it because I know she’ll flinch. The lights from the TV illuminate her face and flash like fireworks in the darkness of her eyes, reminding me of another place, different lights. I lean back so I can watch her without her knowing.

We’ve only been officially seeing each other for a few weeks and I’m trying my best to act cool about it. It’s incredibly difficult. She sets off explosive charges inside me with just one look. My heart is constantly stuck in my throat. Every rare smile I win from her is a small victory. Continue reading

The Stuff of Nightmares!

What’s the first nightmare you ever remember having? The first time you woke in a cold sweat, pulling your covers up to your nose and staring around your dark bedroom, completely terrified? This was mine…

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The Mr. Tickle nightmare came out of nowhere when I was about four years old, but looking back at the text, it’s hardly surprising. And now I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who had this particular nightmare.

SPOILER ALERT: This is how Mr. Tickle ends… Continue reading

Owl Wanted for Ocean Voyage

Here’s Bella, all ready to go to sea in her beautiful tomato-red boat.

She could be waiting a while for her owl though. We don’t actually have ‘owls’ in New Zealand. We have ‘Moreporks’ – so called because they don’t say ‘twit twoo’, they say ‘more pork’ ☺

Maybe you need to ditch the honey, Bella, and go with some apple sauce.

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear

The Sad Case of the Bathroom Mosquito

Bathroom Mosquito

In the last few weeks, I’ve been kept awake by a multitude of marauding mosquitoes. They suck so much of my blood I’m always surprised to find I’m alive in the morning, and that the mosquitoes still look so tiny when they should have the most bulbous of bellies.

But, despite this nasty, nightly feasting, I can’t help feeling sorry for Morris the Bathroom Mosquito.

Don’t get me wrong; I hate the little buggers as much as anyone. As concrete proof of this, here is a poem a teenage version of me, driven half insane with fury, wrote in the middle of the night on a holiday in Wales with my friend, Sophie. Continue reading

Shining Armour Loses its Shine

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The old fairy stories are not known for their strong female roles. Off the top of my head, there seem to be four main types of women who constantly appear:

  1. The young, beautiful damsel who is good at heart, but doesn’t seem to have a mind of her own and often makes foolish mistakes…. usually because she is lovesick.
  2. The middle-aged wife who can’t stop nagging, and essentially exists to make her husband and children miserable.
  3. The old hag who turns every bad situation into a far worse one.
  4. The wonderful fairy-godmother sort, who is always magical because she is far too good and sensible to be a normal human woman.

And then there are the handsome knights, selfless and brave heroes, charging in to rescue the damsels, silence the nagging wives and destroy the evil hags.

But damsels can handle themselves if they ignore their self-doubt, nagging wives are usually only nagging because they’re not being heard, and as for old hags… they are our mothers, aunties and grandmothers, and deserve some care and respect, goddamit!

With International Women’s Day upon us again, and the female half of the planet rising up to be heard, we continue to correct the imbalance that has been perpetuated since before the time of fairytales. The last thing a damsel needs in this kind of fight is a knight in shining armour to sweep her off her pretty little feet. She needs a knight who will fight at her side to make the world a better, and more equal place for everyone.

Fancy a new kind of fairytale where the hero is a strong female? Well, I wrote one. Just for people like you 🙂


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One Great Photo: Skate Girls of Kabul

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‘Skate Girls of Kabul’ by Jessica Fulford-Dobson

I popped this photo in my Pictures folder a while ago now, and keep seeking it out because I love everything about it; the mix of colours, the cheeky grins, and the unexpected source of all the fun – the scribbled-on skateboards. Afghan Girl Power!

In her book, Jessica, the award-winning photographer, says: “It’s hard not to think of Afghan girls skateboarding as a remarkable and quirky clash of cultures. But when you see these girls in their beautiful, bright, flowing clothes tearing around the skate park, often yelping and shrieking with laughter, your preconceptions drop away. You realize that however unusual it may seem, they’re doing what comes naturally to them. As with girls anywhere in the world, once you give them the chance to do something they love, each one begins to discover her own personality, her sense of style and how to express it.”

Read more about Jessica Fulford-Dobson and ‘Skateistan’ here.

For the writers among you; it’s just begging for a great story to go with it 🙂

Sequel Cliches: A Character Chat

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Daisy and Will had a hard time in ‘The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook’, they really did. What with restless ghosts and an age-old murder-mystery, uncomfortable high-school shenanigans and a terrible family tragedy, they didn’t get much of a break.

So to call them back and make them go through even more seems so, so cruel! In two minds as to whether or not to inflict another helping of torture, I thought it would be good if they talked it over first. And so they did…   (Contains Spoilers!)

DAISY: “We have to fall out.”

WILL:   “What?”

DAISY:  “It’s our second book together. We have to fall out in this one.”

WILL:   “Why?” Continue reading

‘Do Not Mistake Love for Happiness…’

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Within a few moments, the kitchen hands had a fire lit. Free and unburdened by work, there seemed to be a magic about them tonight on the Eve of May. Sparks seemed to fly from their hands as if they were witches.

The kitchen girls produced food as if from nowhere. Their hands were empty and then suddenly full. Of things like a whole clove-studded ham, freshly baked loaves, mincemeat pies and honey cakes.

The washerwomen unfurled the largest of blankets, which seemed to float over the glade like a ship’s pennant before landing in the perfect picnic square.

The cleaning girls pulled wooden sticks from the fire and touched them to a million candles in a million lanterns. They peppered the clearing and hung about the trees, as bright as captured stars.

The village girls arrived bearing jars of jams and pickles, and jugs of ale from the tavern, their cheeks rosy and warm from the walk through the dark woods. They greeted the castle workers with whoops of joy and tender embraces. Most of them were related, after all. Mothers, daughters, aunts and cousins.

Catalina was awestruck. She had never seen anything so magical or so perfect. It was hard to connect these people with the downtrodden, subservient characters that ordinarily toiled in her world.

Someone showed her to a space on the blanket. Another handed her a silver goblet, full to the brim with ruby red wine. She drank half of it down immediately. The youngest serving girl, Joan, approached her, goaded by all the others. She brought out a crown of hawthorn blossom from behind her back.

Dropping a curtsy, she said: “We wish to crown you the May Queen, my lady.”

“Me?” Catalina replied, delighted. “It would be the greatest of honours.”

She rose up onto her knees and bowed her head solemnly. Joan placed the blossom crown on her head and everyone clapped.

“What do I have to do?” Catalina asked Maude, her nursemaid.

“You have to start the proceedings,” Maude replied. “Oh, look, my daughter’s here!”

And then Maude abandoned her. But Catalina had been waiting for many years for Maude to abandon her, so she didn’t care one bit.

“What do we do first?” she called out to the nearest girls. “And can we please do everything?”

But nobody had chance to answer her because, just then, there was a strange rumbling noise in the glade. There was a lot of ‘shushing’, and the women fell quickly silent, listening hard. Catalina stared along the hidden path to the right of The Tree as the rumbling came closer.

“It’s Boboli!” A washerwoman exclaimed.

She was greeted with disbelief.

“It can’t be…”

“Don’t be ridiculous…”

“He isn’t due this year…”

But the rumbling came nearer and, just as Catalina’s eyes were burning with the strain of staring, a black horse walked into the clearing pulling a black covered wagon, on which was written in gold the legend ‘Boboli ~ Who Knows All That Is Worth Knowing’. Continue reading

Begging Letter #4: Tree-Climbing Sheep

In the 15th Century, Blackwood is plagued by malicious faeries, as everyone who lives there knows. Everyone except the Lord of Blackwood, that is, who refuses to believe there is such a thing…

Petition presented to Thomas the Castellan by Marcus Meadows:

Mr Meadows lost three of his sheep while out grazing. When he returned through the woods he found all three sheep stuck high up on tree branches. It took him all afternoon to free them. He demanded a full investigation.

(The Lord of Blackwood was informed of this petition and dismissed the claim as foul play. Mr Meadows was asked to go away and think about whether he had recently offended anyone.)

Looking back through the archives, there are hundreds of petitions from the villagers to the Lord of Blackwood (via his Castellan), begging him do something to make their village a safer place. The Castellan does not even pass many of them on. We can read from this that he knows very well what his master would say if he presented them. The gravity of the matters mentioned in the petitions varies and, indeed, some could be attributed to vivid imaginations at work. Other, like the tragic case of the Crumb family in 1413 are harder to dismiss.

I will be sharing some of the appeals with you here (edited for the modern reader). You can make up your own mind.

by Dr Melchior Williams (Co-Author of ‘The Blackwood Crusade’ a medieval fairytale based on his discovery of the intriguing Blackwood Archives)

Engraving: ‘The Lost Sheep’ by Sir John Everett Millais


‘THE BLACKWOOD CRUSADE’

(Paperback and Kindle) is available at AMAZON.COM and AMAZON.CO.UK

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