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Posted in Writerly Wrangling


A murderous martian is hunting spookynatural-obsessed Vinny and his extra-terrestrial sidekick, and it’s gonna take an offbeat band of misfits, a couple of lawless capers and a whole bunch of detention to beat him.

ASTRO is perfect for fans of Dashe Roberts’ The Bigwoof Conspiracy and Ross Welford’s The Kid Who Came from Space, with a super-fly serving of The Goonies.

It’s 1994! Vinny (11) is crazy-for-cocoa-puffs about aliens, The X-Files is his favourite tv show and he genuinely believes the truth is out there. When an alien spacecraft crash-lands in his back-garden, he envisages little green men. What he gets is a straight-talking, cantankerous spaceslug called Astro.

Spaceslugs have been coming to Earth for decades, so when Astro arrives, he expects a spectacular welcome party, or at the very least – a fruit basket. Instead, he gets a warm satsuma and the knowledge that his fellow astronauts have been destroyed by a genocidal, lilac fedora-wearing, extra-terrestrial lunatic called Murtlap Indigo. He doesn’t just destroy the spaceslugs, he has a weapon that zaps away their personality, leaving the victim a mindless Earth slug. With the ability to disguise himself as a human, Murtlap Indigo could be anyone.

Vinny and Astro team up with an unlikely bunch of misfits. They call themselves the Da Vinci club. Together, they battle against Murtlap Indigo: heisting the underground vaults of the Space Museum, stealing a Spitfire, flying to the Bermuda Triangle, and landing a whole heck of detention.

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

WINTERHOUSE by Ben Guterson

Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms―most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to care for, and even Winterhouse itself?

Winterhouse blurb from Ben Guterson’s website

Book Cover: Winterhouse by Ben Guterson, with illustrations by Chloe Bristol

I absolutely adored this book! It has all the magic ingredients that made me devour it in a matter of hours! Firstly, it’s set in a sprawling mansion chock-full of mystery. And there’s an epic library; like, Beauty and the Beast epic. There are clues to find and puzzles to solve. There’s something a bit ghostly going on. Plus, you’ll find sinister characters around every corner, and everyone seems to have a secret. This book is quirky and eccentric and dark and creepy. I tried my best to unravel the clues, but it had me guessing until the end. Hands down one of my favourite reads of the year so far!

Here are the bookylinks:

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in Short Stories

Fall Writing Frenzy 2020

The Challenge

Pick one of the Fall images (provided) and write a 200 word-max piece inspired by that picture.

Image (9) courtesy of Unsplash

My Entry: SKELETON CAREER DAY (195 words)

Blustering into the dingy café, the skeleton plonked his weary bones on the chair.

“How did it go?” said his rickety friend. “Did you share your ambitions?”

The skeleton leaned towards the candle in the centre of the table and his eye sockets lit up. “I told her I wanna be a crash-test dummy! I wanna save lives with my bones.” He waved his scraggy hand in the air, painting a picture with his phalanges.

“And?” His friend rubbed his hand-bones together. “What did she say?”

The skeleton hung his skull. “She said I didn’t have the stomach for it.”

His friend thoughtfully tapped his chin. “I thought you wanted to be a stand-up comedian?”

 “I did, but she said there’s not a funny bone in my body.” He gloomily swigged his pumpkin-spiced latte, which cascaded through his bones and puddled by his metatarsals. “I even volunteered to be part of a skeleton crew—”

“Oof, not many of those about.”

“What can I say? I was desperate!”

“So, what did she mark you down for, in the end?”

The skeleton slumped and rubbed a bony hand over his bony pate. “The usual. Halloween decoration.”

Posted in MG Book Recommendations


Mr Willy Wonka is the most extraordinary chocolate maker in the world.

And do you know who Charlie is? Charlie Bucket is the hero. The other children in this book are nasty little beasts, called: Augustus Gloop – a great big greedy nincompoop; Veruca Salt – a spoiled brat; Violet Beauregarde – a repulsive little gum-chewer; Mike Teavee – a boy who only watches television.

Clutching their Golden Tickets, they arrive at Wonka’s chocolate factory. But what mysterious secrets will they discover?

Our tour is about to begin. Please don’t wander off. Mr Wonka wouldn’t like to lose any of you at this stage of the proceedings . . .

Blurb from Penguin Books

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Book Cover

I’m going to try not to get too misty-eyed here, because Roald Dahl is my HERO. And Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is my FAVOURITE. Everyone should read this book, at least once!

I remember going to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, as much as I remember my first day of school, or when I got my Sports Day ‘participation trophy’, or when I broke the class fish. Roald Dahl’s books are a PART of my childhood; they held my hand through my growing-up-ness.

And when it comes to Dahl’s books, nothing gets my tummy rumbling more than his gloriumptious, scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Factory! There’s lickable wallpaper, hot icecream, A CHOCOLATE RIVER! It all starts with those five golden tickets: five chances to enter a world of pure imagination.

I’d give anything for a Golden Ticket… ANYTHING!

FUN FACT! Did you know that in 1971, Roald Dahl received a Christmas card from a real-life Willy Wonka! He was a postman from Nebraska, and no doubt, was inspired to write to the author after the release of the amazingly splendiferous Gene Wilder movie. And Roald Dahl kept the postcard tacked to the wall of his writing hut.

Here are the bookylinks:

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

THE MAKER OF MONSTERS by Lorraine Gregory

Brat has always lived in the isolated castle on the island, taking care of the vicious creatures that his master creates, waiting in terror for the day when they are ready to be put to use.

But then the unthinkable happens.

The monsters get out.

Now Brat must overcome his fears and venture out into the world he has hidden from his whole life.

For the fate of everyone rests on his shoulders alone.

Blurb from Lorraine Gregory’s website
Book Cover: THE MAKER OF MONSTERS by Lorraine Gregory

This book really knocked me for six. I’d stumbled upon it in the wonderful world of Twitter and pounced. It was in my library faster than you can say, “Aaaaah! Monster!” And when I started reading it, I didn’t stop.

The Maker of Monsters is my kind of book. It’s fast-paced (Rhosgobel rabbits, fast) and there’s more action than you can shake a stick at. The whole book is a rip-roaring rollercoaster, dragging your emotions through heartache, hope, kindness… and MONSTERS!

Think ‘Frankenstein’, but with a sugar-rush.

The characters are so well-imagined that within a few pages I felt like I’d known them all my life. Sherman and Tingle, two of the sweetest monsters, were my favourites. I spent the entire book wanting to take them home with me! This book is a must-read.

I laughed, I shed a tear; The Maker of Monsters has it all.

Here are the bookylinks:

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in Writerly Wrangling

Hahahaha! “Smile” and “Laugh” synonyms

The first draft is usually when I confetti my manuscript with laughs and smiles. And the first edit is when I’ll search through each instance and either delete, look for an alternative or bestow it with the honour of being allowed to stay. Yes, I could cut out so many stages if I just applied this ruthlessness to the first draft, but what can I say – my first drafts are messy and this is my process. 🙂

I’ve made this infographic for when you want an alternative word, especially when you still want to say e.g. “she laughed” but are looking for a more expressive word.

Smile and Laugh Synonyms

Here’s a 2020-centric tip (and let’s hope it’ll only apply to 2020!): With us wearing masks when we’re out and about, it’s the perfect time for a little people-studying. It’s amazing how much we watch someone’s mouth when they talk to us, so it’s natural for we writers to transfer that to the page with smiles, laughs, smirks and frowns. But the necessitation for mask-wearing has meant we need to translate body language differently.

Next time you’re on the bus or in the supermarket, study people’s behaviour when you think they’re smiling or laughing (try not to be too obvious!). What do you see? What other quirks and characteristics are they exhibiting? Maybe they’re being expressive with their hands? Or their shoulders shake? Or they’re fanning away the onslaught of happy tears? Keep a bank of mannerisms in your writer’s notebook and you’ll always have it to refer to for new and imaginative action tags.

Here are the links to more in the Synonym Series:

Happy Writing, Writerly Friends.x

Posted in MG Book Recommendations


JUNE, 1905.

Helena and her parrot, Orbit, are swept off to Cambridge when her father is appointed clock-winder to one of the wealthiest men in England. There is only one rule: the clocks must never stop.

But Helena discovers the house of one hundred clocks holds many mysteries; a ghostly figure, strange notes and disappearing winding keys… Can she work out its secrets before time runs out?

Blurb of The House of One Hundred Clocks by A.M. Howell, from the author’s website.
Book Cover of The House of One Hundred Clocks by A.M. Howell

Edwardian setting, creepy house, one hundred clocks and THEY’RE NOT ALLOWED TO STOP. Yep, The House of One Hundred Clocks had me hooked from the off.

There’s a Hitchcock-level of tension in this book. You’re kept in a constant state of suspense. You know that the clocks can’t stop and at many points during this read I found myself hoping they didn’t. It’s not often that I’ll read a book and hope that nothing happens! But the characters were so well portrayed, that I very quickly connected with them and put myself firmly on their team.

Add to that, the evolution and trappings of Edwardian society: glimpses of invention, of poverty, and rising feminism, all carefully woven into the story, makes this a must-read for all. Here are the bookylinks:

Here are the bookylinks:

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in Writerly Wrangling

Now, look here! “Look” synonyms

“Look” is my nemesis when it comes to editing the first draft. My characters are always ‘looking up’ or ‘looking down’ or ‘looking here’ or ‘looking there’. Most of the time, I’ll search for ‘look’ and delete the reference entirely. It’ll go on the pile of culled words and I’ll find a new action for my character. But sometimes, the action is right.

I generally go through each use of the word ‘look’, and decide whether a better word can be used. I’ll ask myself questions of the scene and the character’s motivation. For instance, there is a world of difference between, “she glanced”, “she gazed”, and “she glared”. Yet, each example gives a much fuller picture in your mind than “she looked” ever could.

It seemed only fair that I share this infographic with fellow serial lookers. It makes the third in my Synonym Series. Here are the links to the others:

“Look” Synonyms

Happy Writing, Writerly Friends.x

Posted in MG Book Recommendations

BOOK SCAVENGER by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold’s attackers make them their next target.

Blurb from Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s website
Cover from the Book Scavenger website

When I read the blurb, I knew I was going to love this book.

At late-o’clock, when I should have been asleep, I was devouring the first few chapters of this book. I entered a world of scavenger hunts, cryptic clues, weird and wonderful literary types, and general bookishness, and honestly, I never wanted to leave.

The moment I truly fell in love with this book, was when I met Steve. He’s James’ cowlick. And the minute I read that, I grinned. This was my kind of book! Those little injections of humour were the icing on a fabulous book-cake for me.

Joining Emily and James on their frenzied hunt around San Francisco for the next clue, was fun. It was hectic, edge-of-your-seat fun-fun-fun, where you always have someone on your tail so you push-your-neck-out-to-keep-a-fraction-ahead kind of fun. It is adventure with a capital A. I am head-over-heels in love with this book, and now I want more.

Here are the bookylinks:

Happy Reading, Readerly Friends.x

Posted in Writerly Wrangling

Going Somewhere? Here are some walking synonyms.

This is part two of my Synonym Series! The first part talked about using ‘said’ in dialogue and offered a graphic of synonyms. You can find that here. This part talks about going places.

This is an easy one to tackle on the line edit and it’ll do wonders to liven up your Work In Progress. Do a word search for all instances of “walk” in your manuscript. Sometimes, “walk” will be just fine. Don’t try and shoehorn a more complicated phrase when a simple one works best. However, a red flag, should be when “walk” is followed by an adverb.

“She walked quickly” can become, “she raced” or, “she darted”. Both are much more succinct and dynamic examples to describe the action.

Similarly, “she walked slowly” can become, “she lumbered” or “she ambled”. You can see how it adds another dimension to your phrase: “lumbered” suggests that she has the weight of the world on her, like every step is heavy. Whereas, “ambled” is a little lighter, like she is aimless. That’s the beauty of a stronger word. It can convey so much more than “she walked slowly” ever could!

Here’s a handy little infographic of synonyms to help you on your way!

“Walk” synonyms

Happy Writing, Writerly Friends.x