Stories or Chapters?

‘I initially wrote these as separate stories for children age 8-13 but found that, even though most of the stories can be read independently, there was a definite plot progression which meant that they were best read in a particular order. So it may be that the stories end up being called chapters or maybe I’ll just have a list of titles. Anyway, here’s the stories/chapters/titles in the correct order.’ JK

Contents

  1. Evil Seagulls
  2. Susan Shocks
  3. Bad Television
  4. Talk Talk
  5. Inside the Machine
  6. Ice Scream
  7. The Happysad
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Give your opinion on ‘Evil Seagulls’ story for children

No-one has seen this story until now. The title of the series of stories is Susan Shocks and the first story in the series is called Evil Seagulls (Parts 1 and 2). It’s the first time I’ve written anything for children, previously I’ve published two books for adults. I’m aiming at readers aged 7-10 and I’d really appreciate your feedback either as a comment here or to my email address. jonkenna69@gmail.com

SUSAN SHOCKS

Evil Seagulls

PART ONE

 

One morning, Susan noticed that the seagulls were bigger. She lived in a town by the seaside so she was used to seeing seagulls every day on her way to and from school. Until now, they had all seemed to be roughly the size of, say, a football or a family-size, frozen lasagna. Today, though, Susan pulled back her bedroom curtains to find something perched outside which was much bigger. She’d never seen such an enormous, feathery, beaky creature before, not counting Mrs. Blenckinsop her head teacher.

Craaaaaawwww,” it squawked, orange eyes glaring.

“Hello,” Susan gasped. “Were you that big yesterday?”

The seagull didn’t reply but just scowled. Seagulls are great at scowling.

As she finished her breakfast, Susan mentioned to Mum about the giant seagull.

“Really? That’s nice love,” Mum smiled. “Oh, by the way… have you remembered that it’s swimming club after school?”

Equipped with swimming costume, towel and goggles, Susan and Mum rushed out of the front door of the house, to join Dad in the car. Once they were all belted in, they reversed out of the driveway and hurtled up the street like a spaceship hitting hyperspace.

Susan’s school was surrounded by cars as all the parents tried to drop off their children at exactly the same time. It was a rumbling, chugging, choking, honking mess. Just like Dad.

Mum and Susan jumped out of the car and headed up towards the school. Just then, another massive seagull, similar to the one Susan had seen earlier, fluttered down and perched on top of a road sign. Fat and feathery, the thing swiveled its head to watch them pass by. It looked to be at least twice as big as a normal seagull, maybe even three times as big.

That was the day that Susan was chosen to be class prefect for the week. Being a prefect meant that she would be responsible for helping making sure children kept the classroom tidy and lined up quietly at lunch time, all of that sort of thing. She got to wear the special golden badge on which was stamped ‘CLASS PREFECT’. Her teacher, Miss Balfour, pinned it to Susan’s top and told her that she must take very good care of it and not lose it because it was very precious and important. Susan could see the badge glittering on her chest and she couldn’t stop beaming.

Forgetting about the monster seagulls, she felt like she was the boss of the class with her prefect badge on; as though everyone would do exactly as she said when she was wearing it. She tried it out on Martin Jarvis and Anita Harris. She told them to tidy up their pencil shavings and collect in the number books. They just ignored her though. It seemed like this prefect thing was going to be harder than she’d thought.

After school, Susan went to swimming club as planned. During the lesson, she easily did the breast stroke and the back stroke but when it came time to do the butterfly and the crawl she was slower than the other kids in the club. It was weird but she actually felt like crying. It wouldn’t have mattered of course because the tears would have mixed in with the water from the pool so no-one would have noticed. She didn’t risk it though.

Mum was waiting for her when it finished. Susan knew that she was very lucky to live at the seaside but walking home from swimming club was still a drag because she was always starving. When they reached the beach, Susan took off her shoes and socks and scuttled down the stone steps to the sand.

Suddenly, ahead of her, there appeared three birds. Each was enormous, more the size of an emu than a seagull. They stood there on the beach, staring at her. She was forced to stop walking as they barred her way.

“Hello!” she called to them.

Craaaaaawwww,” one of them called.

“I’m on my way home and I need to get by,” Susan went on, “Is that all right with you lot?”

Six orange eyes looked back at her, unblinkingly.

“If you don’t mind, could you make space for me to get past? The beach is for all of us, not just you.”

The seagulls didn’t move

“Okay,” Susan said, “well, I’m coming through then.”

She began to walk forward. At first the big gulls stayed where they were but finally, as Susan got close, they took flight. One of them launched itself into the air to the left; another swooped off towards the right. The middle seagull aimed straight at Susan. She held up her hands to protect her face. She felt the scary bird claw at her with its beak then shoot into the sky.

“They’re a flippin’ nuisance,” a voice said.

Susan was still shocked by the monster seagulls when she noticed that an odd-looking man had appeared next to her. He was wearing scruffy overalls and had a peaked cap on his head.

“They’ve been causing havoc all season! Bigger than usual, did you notice?” the man said. “I think you’re going to need my help, young Miss.”

“Help? Why?”

“To get your badge back,” he told her.

Susan glanced down at the place where her ‘CLASS PREFECT’ badge had been. There was no badge there, just an empty space. The seagull must have grabbed it in its beak as it had flown past her. If she lost that badge she’d be in big trouble at school tomorrow.

The man grinned. “Don’t worry. I can get it back.”

“Can you?”

“Of course. It’s my job! Chief Badge Finder.”

She frowned.

The man glanced around as if he was about to share a secret, then he pulled forward the collar of his jacket. Pinned there was a shiny, little badge of his own.

‘CHIEF RETRIEVER OF BADGES’

“Good eh? Nice bit of lettering. What’s it say on your badge?”

“‘CLASS PREFECT’”

“Mmm. That’s only two notches down from Prince Charles, isn’t it?”

Susan had a thought. “I’m not really allowed to speak to strangers,” she told him.

“Quite right. Don’t you say another word. Just leave it to me; I’ll get your badge back.”

“Thank you.”

The man winked.

Heading away, Susan looked up toward the promenade where she saw Mum standing talking to another mum.

“Don’t worry!” The man called to her. “I’ll get it back for you. First, though, I just need to find the door.”

“Door?! This is a beach. There’s no doors.”

“You’d be surprised.”

“I’ve walked along here hundreds of times and I’ve never once seen a door.”

“I don’t mean a normal sized door, no, no. I mean a small door; about this big.” With his hands he made an oblong about the size of a shoe box or a packet of supermarket boiled ham.

Susan frowned. “There are no doors on the beach, not even small ones.”

The man froze. He was staring down at the ground. There looked to be nothing else there, only sand.

“There it is!”

She stared where he was staring. “Is it invisible?”

His narrow eyes got narrower. “Doors are often invisible… until they’re opened. Pity I left my tools in the van.”

Susan was just about to head over to where Mum was when she heard him cry out.

“Yes! ”

She was amazed to see that he had managed to open what did indeed look like a small door in the sand. Inside there were switches and dials, buttons and levers. It was like some kind of weird machine.  The man threw himself onto the ground and lay flat on the sand with his right hand delving into the opened door.

“This controls everything,” he murmured. He flicked a couple of switches and twiddled a few dials.

“Everything?! Even seagulls?”

“Oh yes. I just need to type in the right code…”

Susan watched as he pressed some of the keys. Blue numbers appeared on a little display screen. Then she saw him twist a knob. As he did this, something incredible happened. Daylight faded.

What had been a bright, sunny day gradually got dimmer and dimmer until it became first a gloomy twilight then a dark, black night. The man seemed to have switched off the sun by turning a small knob. The two of them and every other person on the beach suddenly found themselves in the middle of the night when, five seconds earlier, they had been in broad daylight.

“Oops!” She heard the man say but she could not see his face in the dark. “Wrong dial. Blast! I left my torch in the van too.”

A second later, the daylight faded up again. He must have turned the dial back in the opposite direction. The other people on the beach looked a bit puzzled. They were trying to figure out how it had been day, then it had been night, and now it was day again all in the space of a few seconds. No-one panicked. You would think that people might panic if the daylight got turned down all of a sudden but they didn’t. Maybe they all thought that they had imagined it, maybe they all thought that they had each had a funny turn.

“I didn’t mean to do that,” the man said, “I’ll try again.”

Hands on the controls under the sand, he tapped in another number and pulled a lever. At first, Susan thought that nothing was going to happen but then she saw it. The clouds in the sky, those white, fluffy pieces of nothing, were changing colour. As he moved the lever the clouds changed from white to green, then to orange, then to pink!

“It’s playing up again,” he grumbled.

Susan felt her mouth drop open in amazement. “You can control the colour of the clouds?!!”

“Noooo….!” He shook his head. “Not just the colour. I can control the shape of clouds too. What shape of cloud would you like to see?”

“Errrm… I dunno… a unicorn?”

Twiddling about with the switches again, he stuck out his tongue in concentration.

Susan held her breath. Was she about to see a bright pink, unicorn-shaped cloud gallop across the sky? Apparently not. Nothing happened.

“Hang on a minute!” the man jumped onto his feet and looked all around. “This is the wrong door.”

Soon, he was feeling the empty air with the palms of his hands, holding them out straight as though he was touching the surface of a glass window. It took him a while to find what he was searching for. Another door flicked open. It was about the same size as the first one but this one seemed to hover in mid-air. He had opened a door in the middle of… nothing!

Inside the door was an array of buttons and dials similar to that behind the first door. He messed about with them, tongue sticking out again. And there it was; a giant, pink unicorn made out of a cloud, galloping across the sky.

“What do you think?!” the man seemed pleased with himself.

“Wonderful!” Susan was staring upward in astonishment.

“Now all we’ve got to do is get back your badge.”

“How come you can do stuff like this?” Susan was still stunned at the sight of the pink cloud unicorn. “How can you open a door in the beach; turn down the sun; change the colour of the clouds?”

He wibble-wobbled his head and laughed. “The sun, the sand, the clouds… It can all be changed, adjusted, shifted… if you know how. Twiddle a dial, flick a switch, type in a number… you can control all of it. And that’s what you want, isn’t it Susan? It’s what you’ve always wanted.”

Susan gave him another frown. “How do you know my name?”

He stared back at her. “I know everyone’s name. It’s my job.”

“What’s your name?”

My name?”

“Don’t you know your own name?”

“Of course I do. How could I not know my own name?”

“What is it then?”

The man laughed nervously; “well, it’s… it’s Mister… Sixty. Pleased to meet you.”

She thought to herself that Sixty was more of a number than a name. “Well, Mister Sixty,” she said, “what I want, what I really, really want is to get my badge back.”

He stood still for a long minute, smiling. “Right then,” he said finally. “Let’s get started.”

Evil Seagulls

PART TWO

 

Susan had told Mum that she’d lost her badge and that a nice man in overalls and a cap had promised to get it back for her. Mum had marched across the beach to the man and asked him about it.

“The gulls have been causing chaos all over the town,” he told her. “We’re used to seagulls being cheeky; pinching the odd chip maybe. But this is something different.”

“He can get my badge back,” Susan piped up.

“Yes, love, but how?” Mum said.

The man reached his hand into the door in the beach again and pressed a few buttons.

Mum was baffled. “What’s that you’re doing?”

A few seconds later something happened above them. From the sky dropped a series of what looked like climbing ropes. They were similar to the kind of ropes that you can climb up in playgrounds or school gyms.

Mister Sixty put his arms around the shoulders of Susan and her Mum, drawing them in so that no-one else could hear. “There’s a rock,” he whispered. “It sticks out of the sea about a quarter of a mile off the coast. The monster birds live on it. There’s nothing on that rock except giant squawking seagulls. We have to go there.”

Mum was horrified. “We’re not going anywhere with you! Have you been CRB checked? I don’t even know your name.”

“He’s the Chief Retriever of Badges; CRB,” Susan offered.

Mister Sixty pushed back his cap. “Sorry to say, this is the only transport I can arrange at short notice. It’s the cuts, you see. They’re charging for green bins as well. We have to swing over there on these.”

Gazing at the dangling ropes, Mum was horrified. “Where did they come from?! Are you completely bonkers?!”

You’re the one seeing gym ropes in the sky, love. Ha ha, bonkers, that’s a good one.” Mister Sixty handed a rope to her and another to Susan.

“There’s no way we’re swinging anywhere on these!” Mum was in no doubt. “There’s not even a safety harness!”

A moment later all three of them were swinging across the wild, seaside sky like three jungle monkeys.

Susan held onto her rope tightly as she went. It was quite a tricky move, actually; you had to concentrate on hanging onto one rope while, at the same time, watching out for the next rope as it got passed back and trying your hardest to grab it. Below them the sea crashed and surged like a big, grey beast.

“Not far now,” Mister Sixty called back as they swung across the water.

The three of them must have been swinging across the sea and sky for ten minutes or so, arms getting unbearably tired, before they saw the black outcrop of rock sticking out of the water. Even from this height they could see that it was peppered with giant seagulls.

Once they had found a place to land that was not in view of the birds, Mister Sixty signaled to Susan and Mum to let go of their ropes. Susan and Mum, miraculously and luckily, landed on their feet. Mister Sixty, who had brought them here, landed right next to them but upside down, his face in a rock pool.

“Everyone okay?” Mister Sixty asked Susan and Mum after spitting out a mouthful of salt water. He had some seaweed stuck on his face like a moustache which made Susan giggle.

“Okay?! Of course we’re not okay!” Mum was livid. “You almost got us all killed! Take us back this minute!”

“But Mum, I have to get my badge back,” Susan reminded her.

They crept across the craggy rock towards the crest of a hill. Peeping over the top they saw nestling hundreds of over-sized seagulls.

“How did they come to be so big?” Susan wondered.

Mister Sixty scratched under his cap. “Good question.”

“Maybe they’ve been twiddling with buttons and dials and switches… you know, like the ones you have.”

“No, no, they’d never be able to get into those control hatches. Only a qualified mechanical engineer and general certified genius like me can do that.”

In the centre of the flock there sat one especially large bird. Lying at its thick, yellow, rubbery feet was what looked like a small shiny object; Susan’s badge. But how could they reach it?

“There should be a control hatch just about here…” Mister Sixty in his overalls was scrabbling about in the gravel at their feet. Susan guessed he was searching for a door similar to those he had opened on the beach. Eventually he found one. As he eased it open, he exposed buttons, dials and levers.

Susan and Mum exchanged glances.

“Ah, here it is!” Mister Sixty stroked a small, round dial. “This has been switched right up to the max! The correct position is down at the minimum. All I need to do is turn it down and the seagulls will go back to normal size. Then we can just walk straight in there and grab the badge.”

But however hard he tried to twist the dial, it refused to budge. “I can’t understand it. It’s like it’s been jammed. Someone must have been tampering with it. No-one’s supposed to mess with these controls except me.”

It looked like the enormous seagulls were going to be staying enormous.

He thought that he might be able to shift the dial by thumping it with a rock. He said that even precision instruments occasionally needed a good whack. Grabbing a nearby stone, he whacked it against the controls a few times. Susan noticed that one or two of the monster seagulls looked round at the noise. Mister Sixty hit the controls with the rock a few more times and more seagulls turned their heads to look over in their direction. None of them got any smaller. They all remained gigantic. Susan tried to tell Mister Sixty to keep it quiet but he was too wrapped up in what he was doing. By this time, some of the birds had started squawking messages to their friends, perhaps telling them that they had heard intruders.

“I can’t understand what’s making this thing stick,” Mister Sixty was grumbling. He hadn’t noticed that the seagulls had heard him bashing the controls and were now starting to shuffle over to investigate.

Susan tugged hard at his sleeve but he ignored her and carried on trying to turn the dial. Mum was frozen to the spot in fear as she watched more and more enormous gulls moving towards them.

Finally, hundreds of the outsized birds were perched on the ridge looking down on the three people hiding amongst the rocks. One of those hundreds was the biggest seagull of all, the one who had been sitting at the centre of the flock. Its shining, orange eyes glared at them.

“It’s no good, I’ll have to reset it back to factory settings…” Mister Sixty grumbled.

By now, Susan was punching his arm to get his attention.

“Ow!” he yelped. “What was that for?”

She nodded towards the line of birds. “L,l,l,look!”

He looked. “Oh.”

And then something really unexpected happened. The biggest of the giant seagulls opened its massive beak and spoke.

Why have you come here?”

Mister Sixty’s mouth dropped open. “How can you possibly speak?!”

The king-size seagull didn’t blink. “We are bigger, stronger, better than before. We have been given powers. We won’t give them back”

“Who gave you these powers?” Mister Sixty asked.

“Mind your own beeswax.”

“You’re scaring people. You’re taking stuff that doesn’t belong to you. That makes it my beeswax.”

The biggest seagull moved towards them. “Bigger, stronger, better…”

    Mum was frozen to the spot, her eyes bulging in their sockets.

     “Never again shall we be hungry, never again forced to beg humans for food.”

“You might be bigger but you’ve also got bigger bellies. You’re going to be hungrier, did you think of that? You’re going to be no better off, mate.”

The gull snarled the best way he could with a beak.

“You can’t change things by shouting and screaming and pinching an old lady’s fish and chips,” Mister Sixty told the seagull. “Change takes centuries. It’s called evolution, big guy.”

As the man spoke, Susan scurried past the line of birds and headed over to where her badge had now been left unguarded. They were all busy glaring at Mister Sixty. None of them had noticed Susan snatch back her badge.

“I’m here to keep things in order,” Mister Sixty was telling the biggest seagull. “I’m the balancer, the fixer… And you’re about to get fixed.”

The seagull leader waved a wing and the rest of the flock began to respond. Launching themselves into the air they rose, soaring into the sky. Then, one by one, they turned back down. They were now heading towards the three humans.

Mister Sixty watched them all hurtling towards him and he couldn’t move. A flock of over a hundred monster seagulls was swooping down on top of him.

But in a second, everything changed.

Every one of the seagulls began to shrink. As they flew, they got smaller and smaller until they were the normal size of seagulls. But it didn’t stop there. They carried on shrinking until they were the size of budgies. Confused, the flock was forced to land harmlessly on the ground, leaving the humans unharmed.

Whirling round to check the control panel, Mister Sixty was astonished to see Susan crouching there. She had managed to turn the dial, the one which he had been struggling to shift; the dial which controlled the size of the seagulls. Twisting it, Susan had altered the size of the gulls from monstrous to minute.

“You did it!” Mister Sixty was beside himself with joy. Peering into the control panel, he saw how she had done it; she had taken the pin of her school badge and jammed it into the controls.

“Oh look at them now,” Susan urged, “they’re so cute.”

She, Mum and Mister Sixty watched as the tiny birds turned and waddled away like Easter chicks.

When they’d swung back to the beach on the gym ropes, Mum thanked Mister Sixty for his help. She seemed a bit droopy as though she was struggling to believe what she had just seen.

Mister Sixty nudged Susan. “Don’t worry, I’ll flick a few switches… she’ll think she dreamed the whole thing.”

Before she and Mum left for home, Susan whispered something to Mister Sixty. “Could you do me one other favour please? Twiddle your dials and flick your switches and make me a brilliant swimmer for swimming club next week. Could you?”

Mister Sixty shook his head. “I’d never do a thing like that, Susan. It wouldn’t be fair on all the other boys and girls in the club.”

“Oh. Right. Okay.” She was disappointed.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter about beating everyone else. All that matters is that you do your best. That badge you got says PREFECT… Not PERFECT.”

“Yes,” she said. “Sorry.”

At swimming club the following week, Susan did great at breast stroke and crawl, as always. When it came time to do the butterfly stroke, she wished she had been able to persuade Mister Sixty to make her into an expert.

Then, to her surprise, she suddenly found that she could do the butterfly stroke easily. Her arms ploughed through the water perfectly and she shot forward like a torpedo; much faster than any of the other children in the group. The same happened when it came to the crawl. Her arms flew round and round like the sails on a windmill. The water was churned into white foam. Her arms were so strong that when she reached the end of the pool she carried on swimming! In fact she shot out of the water and into the air, still doing the crawl. All the staff at the swimming pool and all the parents, crowded round to watch their own children, took an enormous intake of breath at the sight of this little girl with super powers

“Is that Susan?!” they gasped. “Really?! Susan?! What a shock!!”

The Truth About My Library Book

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I’m a supporter of libraries and my local library is brilliant but they made a faux pas with this signed first edition of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair. Look where they stuck their label; right over the signature.

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Doesn’t really matter: Joel Dicker’s bestseller is a good book signed or not. And without the library I would never have read it anyway.

The haunted street

 

I don’t write much here about my own book Ghost Road because I personally hate reading blogs where authors continually try to flog their own stuff. A couple of people have emailed me asking questions about it though so this entry is just to enable me to answer those. Of course if anyone does feel like they fancy trying it I’m always excited to get new readers on board and you can get a copy by clicking on the image  in the right hand side panel.

On the surface, it’s a ghost story but I tried to emphasise the emotional and psychological elements as much if not more than the supernatural. It’s set in a suburban street which is ordinary in every way (traffic lights, signposts, rubbish bins, phone booths…) except one… it’s haunted.

The story revolves around the street’s residents particularly Nat, a young boy who accidentally captures footage of a strange figure on his camcorder; Jake, who hears unexplained noises coming from the empty flat above his own; and Andrew, a middle aged man who fears for the safety of his young daughter when voices come from the baby monitor. It’s fast moving and scary, I hope, but I also tried to make it funny in parts so if you do decide to give it a go, I hope you enjoy.

The rest of this entry I’ll use to answer questions sent to me. Firstly they ask why the pub in the street is called the Lifeboat and has pictures of boats on the walls when it is nowhere near the coast. There is a reason for this but I didn’t have space to include it so it will be dealt with in the second part. That brings me to another question… is there a Part Two? Originally it was going to be a single story told in one novel but I found that I just couldn’t shoehorn everything in and still do justice to each element, so I basically split the story into two. Each part can be read independently of the other and Part One does have a resolution of its own but the overarching story continues over two books.

Another question was about the letters LPI that crop up a couple of times and why I didn’t reveal what they meant. Actually I did reveal it… the answer is in there but you have to look hard for it (hint – it’s near the end). LPI is mentioned again in Part Two. The question that was asked most though was; who is driving the Fiesta with the flame transfers down the side? Again, you may be able to figure that out from the story but it is explicitly answered in the second book. I don’t have a publication date for Part Two yet but I’m hoping it will be next year. I do have another book coming out before that about which I’ll give more details soon but I can tell you that it’s a psychological mystery story set in a hospital.

Thanks so much to all those who have read Ghost Road and taken the time to contact me with comments or questions. I’m really pleased with how well the book is doing and it is all down to you. Also, thanks in advance to those who decide to give it a whirl; please do write in with your opinions and I promise to respond.

James Franco goes home

I just finished reading Palo Alto. It’s a group of short stories about young people who live in this part of California. It’s author comes from Palo Alto and is also known as a successful film actor and artist. For James Franco to write a book must have been a big task.

The book is a refreshing read because it’s approach is honest and unpretentious. The characters are believable and the way they talk rings true. It feels like there’s a lot of the author in there and the fine observations he makes of the little details of everyday life are fresh and perceptive.

You could maybe criticise the book for re-treading old ground and not doing anything that others haven’t already done (e.g. Salinger? Joyce?). But all ground is old ground these days, I reckon (and was already old when both Salinger or Joyce were writing). In that sense, there can never be anything new. But then again, it is new because these are new eyes doing the observing. If we were all defeated by the thought that there was nothing left that hasn’t already been done then no new books would ever be written, no new music would ever be made, no new pictures would ever be painted…

With his background in movies it might have been tempting for the author to write a book which read like it was a film. He hasn’t done that. This is a ‘proper’ book. It’s obvious that, as well as loving films, the writer also loves reading. Personally I thought Palo Alto was honest, emotional, perceptive and entertaining. James Franco’s new big task is to write another one.

I’ve just finished reading Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (below). I’d never read anything by her before but apparently she has written some children’s fiction. It was mainly the tag line ‘A ghost story‘ that made me buy the book. There’s not too many of those about these days; I mean a straight forward supernatural ghost story in the old fashioned M.R. James sense (even my own book Ghost Road isn’t quite that orthodox). The story takes the form of a journal written by the central character Jack Miller who joins an expedition to the Arctic and finds himself marooned in a haunted place alone except for a malevolent presence.

It takes a while to adjust to the slow pace of Dark Matter but once you remember that this kind of book is all about atmosphere rather than action you can really start to enjoy it. And I did enjoy it. Towards the end I really, really enjoyed it. And I actually found it scary. Not many books actually scare me (shock me, yes, but not scare me). This one did. A minute after I finished reading it I thought I heard a strange noise from upstairs. Turns out it was my daughter snoring but for a moment I was actually bricking it! I never do that!

This book contains good, uncliched characters which develop over the course of the narrative, perfect pacing building nicely towards the finale, and description which is atmospheric but doesn’t ramble on needlessly. It doesn’t pander to current fads, doesn’t throw in cheap thrills, doesn’t do the easy thing. My favourite parts were the mysterious ‘bear post’, the relationship between Jack and Gus, the amazing descriptions of the Arctic, and the unfashionably slow pace. If you do read this book I’d advise you to stick with it until the end before you make your mind up. For me, it was only after I’d finished it that I realised how much I’d enjoyed it. And how completely brilliant it is.

WHAT ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT? I NEED RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WHAT TO READ NEXT…

Stephen King’s new book is better than a casserole

Stephen King has a new book out called Full Dark No Stars and I haven’t read it. I don’t like the fact that Stephen King has a new book out which I haven’t read. As soon as I can get my hands on the new book that Stephen King has out I will read it and then be able to proclaim that Stephen King has a new book out and I have read it. Not having read the new book which Stephen King has out irks me because… well, I like Stephen King books.

Actually that’s not entirely true. I don’t like all Stephen King books. I’m not too keen on the Stephen King books which lean towards gross out horror. To me, gross out horror isn’t really horror; it’s just gross. Not being a fan of nausea (don’t ever ask me to go on the Waltzers) I don’t go for gross. If you do like gross then I’m sure Stephen King’s gross out horror books would be right up your street (what’s that one where some creature comes out of the toilet?!). Stephen King knows exactly how he wants a reader to feel and if he wants to gross you out, he grosses you out. But, to me,true horror is a subtler moment of realisation that requires a more unexpected and unpredictable source than a bloke getting his eyes gouged out (although a bloke getting his eyes gouged out has a pretty good pedigree as a horror stimulus; just look at King Lear !!)

The Stephen King books I prefer are those in which the emphasis is on characters. In these, I think he is untouchable. In particular I love his depiction of small town life. I’ve never been to America let alone Maine where many of King’s books are set but when I read his characterisation something rings out as universally true. I also love the Stephen King books where there’s a small number of characters (I know most people love his five inch thick blockbusters with 228 characaters but I’m a bit odd) such as Misery or, my all time favourite The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. He just seems to know what makes people tick and be able to put it down on paper so perfectly.

The annoying thing about Stephen King though for me, as someone who tries to do a bit of writing of my own, is that he’s one of those people who you read and just think to yourself; ‘Bugger! I’ll never be that good!’ That’s not healthy for me. It’s like an aspiring chef trying to make a casserole and straight away running up against Gordon Ramsey’s Coq au Vin. So maybe I won’t rush out and buy new Stephen King book Full Dark No Stars after all. Maybe instead I’ll go out and pick up a lovely Jeffrey Archer. No threat to my casserole there.

HAVE YOU READ FULL DARK NO STARS YET? IF YOU HAVE PLEASE HIT THE TEENY TINY COMMENT BUTTON BELOW AND LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK.

“Have you written a book?!” Yeah. Sorry about that.

I’m still getting a ridiculous, childish kick out of seeing my book in print. It seems to have gone down really well and has sold better than I expected it to (mind you, I only expected it to sell six). Its weird though; the main motivation for writing it was never to make money (just as well; profits are currently running at £14!). It just felt like something I had to do.

People have come up to me in work and said ‘have you written a book?!!’ Family, friends and some people I haven’t seen in years have ordered it after seeing it mentioned on the net (thanks Mark, Sharon and Brian especially!). I was so used to having the book as a private thing inside my head that when people started asking me about it, it felt very strange. Its like someone has just read your innermost thoughts.

A couple of people who have finished the book have asked me about some of the things that are left unanswered (if you’ve not read it, skip this paragraph). Firstly; who was driving the Fiesta with the flame transfers and, secondly, what does L.P.I stand for as it crops up a few times? And of course there’s the obvious questions of why the characters are being stopped from leaving Ghost Road, who is holding them there, and what exists outside? I think its probably best I don’t answer these questions explicitly although the answers are actually all in there. The books I love best don’t offer easy answers but let readers make up their own theories and I wanted this to be a bit like that.

Overall I’m pleased with the book. It was supposed to be a fast-moving, scary and thought-provoking ghost story and so far people seem to have enjoyed it on those levels. I don’t know if writers always feel like this but when I read through I always see things I could have done better or things that I should have put in/omitted. Anyway its too late now; the thing is out there! The only thing I can do now is make a start on the next one!

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BUY A COPY OF ‘GHOST ROAD’ YOU CAN GET IT FROM AMAZON. CO.UK, (AMAZON.COM IN US) FOR £10.99 OR LULU.COM FOR £8.79.

Go to amazon to buy; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghost-Road-Jon-Kenna/dp/1446186903/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1288907087&sr=8-1

or buy for less at lulu.com;

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/ghost-road/12674982