Pigs really can fly!

I’ve always liked the idea of flying pigs. A long time ago, when I wrote my first book, SPILLING THE MAGIC I created a unique world for flying pigs to live in. For me, in essence, that is the true magic of books. You get to go anywhere you want, real or imaginary, and you get to do anything you want when you get there. How fantastic is that? Since that first book, I have written books of comic fantasy, high fantasy, ghostly fantasy, grown-up fairy tales and magic realism – for children and adults. It’s been great fun and a wonderful adventure.

However, I have now retired and no longer write. With any luck my books will always be around in some form, for those of you who wish to find them. To leave my fingerprints, the ghost of my presence upon these pages I thought it might be fun to preserve my blogs, particularly those which in some way help describe the creation of my work, as they may still be of interest. (That is why the blogs that follow on from this one, still remain.)

To the readers who have enjoyed and appreciated my books over the years I give my heartfelt thanks. Ours was always a partnership (because a book without a reader is no book at all). I count myself blessed. And please do remember, pigs really can fly…




(For a more comprehensive list of my archived blogs follow this link: Goodreads)


It’s World Book Day! Read something for Fun!

Read something for fun? Of course! Reading IS fun! And today is World Book Day so you don’t need an excuse. Pick something up and give it a read – just for fun. You like novels? Read one of them. You like comics? Read one of them. It doesn’t matter what. The choice is yours. Fiction, faction, dictionaries or bus tickets! Poetry, recipes, maps or timetables! Magazines, tittle-tattle, love-letters or shopping lists! Short stories, long stories, history books or haikus! As far as I’m concerned, anything goes.

What am I reading for fun? I’m reading John Grundy’s HISTORY OF NEWCASTLE. (That’s the city in the North of England.) It’s a quick wiz through time: all the way from Roman Britain to the present day. Where’s the fun in that? Well, my favourite fact so far is about the guy who built the very first castle in Newcastle (giving the place its modern name). The year was 1080 AD. The man in question was one, Robert Curthose. What’s in a name? I’ll tell you. Curt means short, and hose means stockings. The founder of Newcastle was nicknamed Shortstockings! His father – a certain William the Conqueror – used to make fun of his son because he wasn’t very tall… It made me smile.

Happy World Book Day! Have some fun of your own…

Today is the Centenary of the birth of the author Roald Dahl

One hundred years ago today the author Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff, South Wales. A man I consider to be the greatest children’s storyteller of his generation. Encouraged by C S Forester, who he met on active service during World War II, he began by writing short stories for grown-ups – I remember as a youngster being glued to the TV watching, Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. I still own a copy of his complete short stories. Dahl also wrote successful novels and even co-wrote the screenplay for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. However, there’s no doubting, his children’s books are his enduring legacy.

The secret of his success…? In truth, there was no secret. Quite simply, he wrote children’s books for children. He had a uniquely inventive child’s eye, and created his stories in a language that was only ever meant for them! (A talent you either have or don’t have.) Who has read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, Matilda (my own personal favourite), The Twits or Fantastic Mr Fox and not been thoroughly delighted? And if you have not, perhaps it is time for you to look inside yourself and find your own child-within.

Happy Birthday Roald Dahl. And many whizzpopping returns.

Matilda by Roald DahlCharlie and the Chocolate Factory A Play by Richard R. GeorgeThe BFG A Set of Plays by David Wood

In Search of the ‘Voice’ of a Book

The ‘voice’ of a book…? Call it voice, call it style. Call it meter or rhythm. Every book has its own shape, uses its own literary palette; a language specific to the author or work in question. It’s part of what makes a book unique.

Mind you, finding your own ‘voice’ is not an easy matter for an author. So once it’s found most writers do tend to stick to that singular delivery. If it works, use it. Though, of course, there are many ways to deliver a story, and I’d like to use my own work as an example.

When I’m working on a book that requires me to tell the story from the point of view of someone watching the action – in other words when I’m writing in third-person – the style and delivery I use is my own, personal storytellers ‘voice’. I’ve written three books in this manner, among which THE BRUGAN is a good example. It’s a humorous fantasy adventure for older children, but with a particularly sad underlying theme… that of personal loss. In the early planning I did consider allowing the central character to narrate her own story, but decided that, to help soften the emotional blows, I should tell the story on her behalf, in third-person. Here’s how THE BRUGAN begins:

Sarah Lemming? What is there to say about Sarah Lemming? Her name gives nothing much away.
Sarah Lemming is as thin as string, with granny knots for knees. Her face is as pale and lumpy as a plate of yesterday’s cold rice pudding. She’s got this wild frizz of bright red hair that’s about as easy to comb as a roll of barbed wire fencing – it makes her look as if she’s in a permanent state of shock. And you should see her on the move; it’s like watching a mistimed explosion of fireworks. She’s all gangly arms and legs, jerky fits and starts and streaks of red hair. About as graceful as a broken stick thrown for a dog!
No, Sarah Lemming is not a pretty sight. The gawky stage, her mother calls it. Plain ugly, say the boys at her school.
She’s the kind of girl who gets left standing on her own in the school yard at break times. You’ll know the sort. Twelve years old and as dizzy as a teapot lid. The original loopy-loo who should never be listened to! Or, at least, that’s what everyone’s always telling her – even the grown-ups.
Why? Take your pick.
It’s on account of her being mad. It’s on account of her having just far too vivid an imagination. It’s on account of her seeing things she should not see. You know. Things that nobody else can see. Things that don’t exist. Things that aren’t really there.
Like what?
Well, like the Brugan.
The Brugan?
Ah yes, the Brugan. The Brugan was a . . . The Brugan is a . . . The Brugan . . . (Forgive the hesitation. It’s just that it’s not always easy to explain the seemingly impossible.)
Put it this way. When was the last time you met a creature so flighty he could stop the whole world from turning, stop it dead, and for no better reason than he felt like it? A creature so wild, so dangerous, he could switch off the sun – click! Who could take your school (for example) and turn it into a medieval castle, change his mind and turn it into a supermarket, change his mind again and turn it into an overgrown tropical rain forest. And do it all in a single draw of breath!
And this is no joke. This is serious stuff. For real, and meant. Every word of it.
Of course, even Sarah Lemming didn’t really know who or what the Brugan was the first time she met him, or understand his truly awesome power. If only she had done—!
Ah, but wait. There’s no point in us getting carried away with the Brugan . . . not just yet.
This will not be making a lot of sense to you, not be sounding at all likely, perhaps? And maybe you’re already thinking, Sarah Lemming must have made the whole Brugan thing up, just to make fools of everyone? Either that, or else she really is as mad as they all say. Yes, well . . . that’s not her fault. And you’d do well to give her the benefit of the doubt, to take what you’re told the best way you can.
First off, her story does not begin with the Brugan. You might almost wish for her sake that it did. But no. Sarah Lemming’s story begins, sadly, with a death . . .

So, there we have me, the author, telling a tale in my natural storytellers ‘voice’. However, when I’m writing a book in which I want a narrator to tell their own story – in other words when I’m writing in first-person, from the point of view of the narrator – my approach and delivery changes. I create and allow the narrator to write in a voice and manner that is unique to them and their own particular set of circumstances. So the delivery of the story is quite different each time; in written language, in rhythm, and in literary palette. I’ll give you two examples:

My very first book, SPILLING THE MAGIC, was written for older children, and is told ‘first person’, from the point of view of a bright, imaginative but largely uneducated young lad from the North of England (where the beginning of the book is set). I wanted him to speak in his local everyday language; to bring a sense of immediacy to the tale. His descriptions are inventive, if he’s not too concerned about his grammar… The book begins:

Want to know a secret, a big’un? Well, do you? I was never much good at keeping secrets. Not whoppers like this.
What can I possibly know worth telling, I can almost see you thinking? Well, I know . . . I know that pigs can fly. I know that real dragons are vegetarians. I know that lots of things aren’t what they seem to be, and that proper magic works. And, I know that you can help save a whole world from being snuffed out to nothing, without even knowing that you’re doing it.
Yeah, go on – laugh. Daft fairytale stuff. Well, do you know something? I couldn’t care less whether you believe me or not. And if you’re still interested you’re just going to have to get on with it. Start right at the beginning. The summer before last, the day I was sent with my sister, Mary to stay with The Stringers.
You see, if we hadn’t been sent to stay with the Stringers, there would have been nothing to tell . . .


It was a stinking hot morning. The kind that sends buckets of sweat dribbling down the inside of your shirt. And the air was too thick to breathe. I had to chop it up into little bits and suck it between my teeth just to swallow it. Well, nearly.
The rotten bus had dropped us off at the bottom of Lemington Hill. We – Mary and me – we wanted to be at the top of the hill. Some holiday this was going to be.
‘I still don’t see why they couldn’t have taken us with them,’ Mary said. She was sulking. She had been sulking ever since leaving home. I swear, if I hadn’t picked up my suitcase and walked away, I would have thumped her.
‘I don’t want to hear it again, Mary,’ I said, and attacked the hill with giant steps. Row after row of tiny red-brick houses and grubby little corner shops crammed the hillside. Windows and doors were slung open all over the place – it was so hot even the buildings were panting for breath.
Dad had said their holiday was a sort of second honeymoon – for Mam. ‘You know Billy, after her bother and the hospital and that.’ He had given me one of his knowing looks that was meant to explain everything, but didn’t. ‘The Stringers are canny enough. And you won’t mind not going with us just this once – will you?’ Another knowing look, and a touch of his nose with a finger. I ignored his fib about the Stringers, pretended to understand, shook my head and touched my nose. Grown-up stuff.

Many years later, when I came to write GRAYNELORE – a fantasy novel for grown-ups – I once more found myself wanting to use a narrator to tell the tale. But, in contrast to the young lad of SPILLING THE MAGIC, this time around the narrator is a grown man and a very different proposition. He’s a killer, a thief, a liar and, as we come to discover as the story unfolds, he’s also fey… a faerie. More than that, his world is the imaginary fantasy world that is Graynelore. The rhythm of the narrator’s speech, his rich, sometimes complex use of language, and the other-worldliness of his descriptive tone are all deliberately used to reflect this. Here’s how GRAYNELORE begins:

I am Rogrig, Rogrig Wishard by grayne. Though, I was always Rogrig Stone Heart by desire. This is my memoir and my testimony. What can I tell you about myself that will be believed? Not much, I fear. I am a poor fell-stockman and a worse farmer (that much is true). I am a fighting-man. I am a killer, a soldier-thief, and a blood-soaked reiver. I am a sometime liar and a coward. I have a cruel tongue, a foul temper, not to be crossed. And, I am – reliably informed – a pitiful dagger’s arse when blathering drunk.
You can see, my friend, I am not well blessed.
For all that, I am just an ordinary man of Graynelore. No different to any other man of my breed. (Ah, now we come to the nub of it. I must temper my words.)
Rogrig is mostly an ordinary man. The emphasis is important. For if a tale really can hang, then it is from this single thread mine is suspended.
Even now I hesitate, and fear my words will forever run in rings around the truth. Why? Put simply, I would have preferred it otherwise.
Let me explain. I have told you that I am a Wishard. It is my family name… it is also something rather more. I say it again, Wish-ard, and not wizard. I do not craft spells. I do not brew potions or anything of the like. No. My talent, such as it is, is more obscure. You see, a Wishard’s skill is inherent, it belongs to the man. You either possess it or you do not. (Most men, most Wishards do not.) It cannot be taught. As best as can be described, I have a knack. Rather, I influence things. I make wishes, of a kind.
Aye, wishes… (There, at last, it is said.)
Forgive me, my friend. I will admit, I find it difficult, if not tortuous, to speak of such fanciful whimsy. Make what you will of my reticence; measure Rogrig by it, if you must. I will say only this much more (it is a caution): by necessity, my testimony must begin with my childhood. But be warned: if I tell you that this is a faerie tale – and it is a faerie tale – it is not a children’s story.
Please, humour me. Suffer Rogrig Wishard to lead you down the winding path and see where it takes you. There is purpose to it. Else I would not trouble you.

There you have it then. I hope you can see that as I strive to give each of my books their own identity, the search for the correct ‘voice’ is an essential part of my creative process. The rhythm of the words, the vocabulary, the very punctuation, are not simply perfunctory tools used to carry the tale but are always an integral part of the telling of the story.

Books referred to in this blog:
Fay by Stephen MooreSpilling the Magic by Stephen MooreGraynelore by Stephen Moore

In Search of an Other-World?

How do we get to an Other-World? We chase a white rabbit down a hole. We climb through a looking-glass. We step inside a wardrobe. We receive a letter enrolling us into wizard’s school. We sprinkle faerie-dust. We fall asleep and dream. Or perhaps, just perhaps, we turn the first pages of a book and find ourselves already there.

And does this Other-World have a name? It seems it has so very many names. Is it Wonderland, or Narnia? Is it Middle Earth or Hogwarts? Is it Earthsea or Gormenghast? In my own GRAYNELORE, the narrator – one, Rogrig Wishard – becomes enamoured of the fey and finds himself in search of the Faerie Isle; an Other-World within an Other-World…!

Whatever we choose to call our favourite Other-World, so many of us – authors and readers alike – are fascinated by the very idea: of that space, that secret place, that Other-World that surely exists, must exist, just out of sight, just on the other side of our imagination, where adventure is to be found, truth spoken and all our questions answered… if only we can find a way to get there.

It’s safe to say that the use of an Other-World is a staple tool for most fantasy writers; it is certainly one of mine. Look upon my written canvas, listen to my song, turn the pages of my books, read on… beguiled by the Other-Worlds created for you there. Let me show you things that cannot be seen in any other way. Reach beyond the far corners of the universe. Let me attempt to explain the unexplainable, answer the unanswered question. Let me help you to make sense of it all… when we live in a world that so very often makes such little sense. Let me show you the inside, the other side, the makings of my mind. Let me draw you my emotions. Let me help you to escape, or to find your way home again…

Some of the Other-Worlds referred to in this blog:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollThe Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7) by C.S. LewisThe Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3) by J.R.R. TolkienHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1) by J.K. RowlingThe Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le GuinGormenghast (Gormenghast, #2) by Mervyn PeakePeter Pan by J.M. BarrieGraynelore by Stephen Moore

When real life imitates fiction


Way back in 2006, in my book FAY, I wrote about a Town Council sending in bulldozers to clear a village’s garden allotments; with the intention of building on them, and in the process ending a traditional, cultural way of life that had spanned centuries. This was a fictional tale, but over the years I’d become increasingly aware of the continual urban development that had seen my home city gobbling up mile upon mile of green field sites as it relentlessly expanded. I had seen farmland, and livelihoods, disappear and former rural villages literally swallowed up by the urban sprawl, losing their historical identity and individual way of life. It’s a long, slow process, but it is relentless and continues to this day. Indeed, very close to where I live no less than three thousand houses are due to be built over the course of the next decade or so… on what is now green field and green belt sites.

To be fair, my home city is not the only villain here. It’s a story that is being played out in almost every developing town and city in the country, if not the world. And, of course, we do need more housing and more places of work for an ever expanding population… It is how this can be achieved sensibly, which is the point in question. There’s always more than one solution to a problem. Better use of brown field sites for example. And what about the estimated one million properties that currently stand empty in the UK… unused, unloved, often forgotten by their absentee owners?

Let me get back to FAY. What follows is a short extract. We see the scene through the eyes of a young lad called Thomas Dobson, as he comes upon the destruction of his own beloved garden allotments:

I’ll tell you, the allotments were ruined. I could have cried. They had always been such a magical place for us kids, a world of makeshift wooden hovels you could explore forever. Greenhouses built out of old front doors; some of them still with their number and knockers on them. Rooftops made out of corrugated iron, some out of carpet, or pieces of kitchen linoleum. Cack-handed brick chimney stacks, with tin funnels held in place with rusting coils of chicken wire, so the gardeners could light themselves fires and have brew-ups on freezing cold winter days. And each plot was quite different from their neighbour, so that together they looked to me like a giant’s patchwork quilt. Some, a blaze of colour as the summer flowers came into bloom. Some planted out with neat rows of green vegetables. Others were nothing more than patches of grey soil, where the earth had been turned over in preparation. A couple, knee-high with wind-driven weeds, where the gardeners had been too long absent.
Mind you, that didn’t matter now. Now, all the allotments looked exactly the same. All of them, smashed, ruined, obliterated. Bulldozed into mountainous heaps ready to be burned or carted away to the rubbish tips. There was a huge great brute of a machine, with caterpillar tracks and a massive shovel front, standing just where the first line of greenhouses should have been. There were deep furrows behind its tracks where it had cut heavily into the ground. Everything the machine had crossed was crushed beyond recognition and churned into mush.

And where, you may ask, does real life imitate fiction? Let me tell you. My home city has an historical Town Moor; land set aside, and in the guardianship of the Freemen of the city, that has very strict rules to its use and development. It is a sanctuary of green fields among the chaos of iron, steel, brick and concrete that is the modern city. Anyway, on one small part of the Town Moor there is a particular garden allotment (garden plots that have been there since the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign of World War Two) and if I take a bus to the city I go past them… What did I see only a few weeks past? Bulldozers and diggers among the allotments raising them to the ground, exactly as Thomas Dodson described the Oldburn allotments in FAY. You might imagine; my heart sank. I could not let the moment pass.

I did a little bit of digging around (forgive my pun) into the allotment demolition, and fortunately, on this occasion, I can give a little sigh of relief. Among other reasons, the City Council has explained that the demolition is taking place because of possible toxic wastes, notably asbestos, thought to be present in some of the temporary structures plot holders historically built on the site. The allotments will be fully re-established and improved upon for the use of the local community. And for that, I shout hoorah! If I shall also keep a very wary-eye…

Our world around us is always in a constant state of change. But let the changes we make be the right changes, and for the right reasons.

Fay Fay

This e-book edition of Fay is published by Crossroad Press and is available from all good e-book stores including:

Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com  Barnes and Noble  Kobo

Taking tea with the author, Eva Ibbotson

April 2016, marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of my very first book, SPILLING THE MAGIC. A fantasy adventure for older children I’m still rather fond of, full of flying pigs and floating mountains and, of course, spilt magic…

I’m lucky. Being an author has given me many happy memories. This particular anniversary brings to mind one of my favourites and concerns an author friend of mine. (I’m certain, Eva Ibbotson, would not mind me repeating it.) The year was 1996. SPILLING THE MAGIC was just about to be published, and the now late, great Eva Ibbotson graciously agreed to endorse it. I was overwhelmed, and so proud. I still am.

What’s more, as we both lived in the North of England, she agreed to meet me. So, one fine autumn afternoon, we met for tea, in the old cafe of the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne. I remember, as we had never met before, we each agreed to arrive carrying a copy of our latest book so that we might recognise each other… I can still see her: a small, refined, slightly built old lady, with fine grey hair, and sharp, inquisitive, not to say mischievous, eyes. She seemed to relish our meeting, and thought it was great fun to meet up with a – comparatively – young stranger! She spoke with great warmth and kindness, and together we happily shared our thoughts about our writing, and about our hopes and future aspirations. Though she was, of course, by far the more senior talent!

At that time Eva Ibbotson was already a successful author, writing both for children and adults, and there was much more to come from her. I recall, she confided in me – most modestly – that she still had one great unfulfilled wish, and that was to write a book that might be considered a timeless classic, perhaps in the way of, THE SECRET GARDEN. Well, we drank our tea, signed and exchanged our books, wished each other well and went our separate ways. Over the next few months we wrote to each other occasionally and met up again briefly when she attended a bookshop event for SPILLING THE MAGIC.

It was in 2001 that Eva’s children’s book, JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA was published. From the moment I picked it up off the bookshelf and began to read I was enthralled and knew I was reading something special. I remembered back to our conversation over tea, and I realised… Eva’s wish had at last been granted: she had written her classic children’s novel. (Indeed, it was not to be her last.) I wrote to her and I told her so, and received a gracious and typically modest reply.

JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA went on to be a huge success, and an award winning children’s book. Today, rightly acknowledged by many as a modern classic.
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Sadly, Eva Ibbotson is no longer with us, but her books live on. If you do not know them, you must go and take a look. As for SPILLING THE MAGIC, I’m pleased to say, in its own quiet way, twenty years on, it too is still around…

Spilling the Magic by Stephen Moore

“Graynelore” Paperback Publication Day! (Stephen Moore gives a reading)

Digital StillCamera

I’m so very pleased to announce that today my fantasy novel GRAYNELORE is published in paperback! (HarperVoyager Publisher). I’ve been a children’s author for many years. Finally, here is my debut novel for all you grown-ups… in paperback!

As you may well know, the ebook of GRAYNELORE has been out for quite a while now, but I must admit, there’s nothing quite like holding a brand new paperback…

To celebrate the event I’ve recorded my first public reading from the novel. I hope you enjoy it:



How might I best describe GRAYNELORE?

GRAYNELORE is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Murder, blackmail, theft and blood-feud are all part of daily life. Faerie tales are myths, strictly for the children. Why then does Rogrig Wishard – a hardened fighting-man – suddenly start hearing voices and seeing faeries for real? What makes him embark upon a seemingly ridiculous quest to restore a Faerie Isle to the world? Is he mad or simply faerie-touched…?

It’s a story of divided loyalty. It’s an epic fantasy, a blood-soaked mystery, a grown-up faerie tale. And, in its own twisted way, a kind of love story…



Graynelore is published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook). Available from all good bookstores including:

Amazon.co.uk   HarperCollins   Barnes & Noble   Amazon.com


It’s the time of year to de-clutter the bookshelves

January is traditionally a time for new beginnings. We all make our resolutions. We turn over a new leaf. We plan that trip to the gym. We tidy up our lives. At least we try. And in that spirit of renewal I thought it was time for me to de-clutter my bookshelves (or at least to take a second look). I am, after all, an author. I write some of those books we keep on our shelves. I am also an avid reader and collector! But there comes a moment when you must take stock, and for me, this is it!

All around the house, the shelves are groaning under the weight of books. Books lie piled in the corners of rooms. The cupboards are bursting. The spare room is full. The attic is full. Books lie abandoned on bedside cabinets, under the bed, on coffee tables, even in the kitchen…

What can I say? I’ve always found adding books to my collection very, very easy. I love books. Their design, their texture, their smell! I love the very experience of turning over pages. And I love getting lost within the written word, as the storytelling lures me down the winding path that leads to adventure, discovery, enlightenment and new worlds…

And of course, like all readers, I have my favourite authors and favourite books. If I look up from my keyboard and turn my head towards my “favourites” bookshelf I can read names like, Tolkien, Dickens, Philip Pullman, Robert Westall, Robert Louis Stephenson, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchet, Ursula Le Guin, C S Lewis, George Orwell, Laurie Lee, and oh, so many more. Then there is my second “favourite” bookshelf in my office (only there because my first “favourite” bookshelf is full up.)

Well, I think you get the picture. (And I haven’t even mentioned my “invisible” books – my ebooks – or my antiquarian collection.)

There are lots of reasons collections get out of hand, because there are lots of reasons we keep books. There are books I love so much I simply must have them around me. And not in only one edition either! For example, I have at least four editions of Treasure Island, and three editions of A Christmas Carol! There are the books I constantly return to. The books I will never get tired of re-reading. There are the books I wrote myself (oh yes, they too are on my bookshelves) and the treasured books given to me by my fellow authors. There are the books I grew up with, old and worn, and there are the brand new books by authors I’ve only just discovered (always a delight). There are books both fiction and non-fiction. There are dictionaries, there are biographies, histories, art books, graphic novels, comic books, poetry…

But enough procrastination! It’s now time to do something about it.

How will I go about my de-clutter? Where will I start? Well, what about those books which are merely trophies? You know… the books we all keep on our bookshelves to impress, or simply because we think they should be there? Am I truly ever going to read that ancient copy of “— — —–”? And what about the books I’ve bought on a whim, always meaning to read, but just never quite getting around to them? Or the books that were given to me as gifts because friends and family were certain I would like them, yet they remain forever unread. Then there are the books I have inherited, the books I’ve been given for free, the books I keep simply because, well, because I collect books.

As I begin my task I shall ask myself only one question. “Do I need this book?” Wish me luck. Or try it yourself. (I’ll let you know how I get on.)

Here are some of my favourite books that will be staying on my shelves…
Treasure Island by Robert Louis StevensonThe Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1) by Douglas AdamsSkallagrigg by William HorwoodHis Dark Materials (His Dark Materials #1-3) by Philip PullmanThe Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3) by J.R.R. TolkienSophie's World by Jostein GaarderRedwall (Redwall, #1) by Brian JacquesCider With Rosie by Laurie LeeAnimal Farm by George OrwellThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1) by C.S. LewisThe Star of Kazan by Eva IbbotsonThe Call of the Wild by Jack LondonHowl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1) by Diana Wynne JonesGraynelore by Stephen MooreThe Machine-Gunners by Robert WestallThe Andromeda Strain by Michael CrichtonThe Nature Of The Beast by Janni HowkerA Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens

Sometimes it’s difficult to write, even for an author

What am I saying? Sometimes it’s difficult to write? I’m not talking about technique. I’m not talking about, so-called, writers block, or self doubt. We – authors – are full of self doubt! But we only have to look back at our own previous successes* to remind ourselves of our abilities. No, this is something else. The struggle of creativity itself, if you will. Let me explain…

At the moment I’m having problems; progress on my current project is very slow and thin, and I’m beginning to ask myself questions. Does the book I’m trying to write actually want to be written? More so; does it need to be written? Mind you, even as I type this, I can already strike out the second question. Need? Need is not the driver. Once my books are written they always seem to find their own natural place in the literary hierarchy. Sometimes, they may have something important to say. Sometimes they do not… and are written purely for the excitement and pleasure of the adventure.

So, if my problem is a basic creative struggle, what then is the solution? Sadly, there is no magic wand here. Only my gritty, dogged determination to keep at it: to make words; to turn those words into sentences; to keep turning those words into sentences until I reach the very end, no matter how difficult. Then, at least, I’ll know the answer to my first question. It’s either do that or give-up! And I don’t ever intend to give up.


*My latest success…?



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The beginning of a book is a very important event

The beginning of a book is a very important event. How so? It’s the hook that pulls a reader into the story… or fails and loses them forever. The hook might be the first sentence; the first paragraph or page even. Occasionally, a little more… No matter. This is where a reader takes the bait or lets it go to search elsewhere.

Personally, I love the start of a new book. It’s exciting. The journey has just begun. Everything is still to come. So…where might a book of mine begin? What’s the action, the event, the moment in time that needs to be revealed first? In truth, no two books are the same. The example I’m going to give is my foreword for “Fay”. There could be no other beginning, it’s integral to the reading of the whole work… though it’s too great of a spoiler to explain why here…

The arc of a rising sun lifted above the clouds, broke free, bleaching the morning sky silver-white.
With it came a momentary breeze, turning the leaves of a tree, tossing them restlessly. A disturbed red squirrel skittered between its branches searching for a safe refuge among the new summer foliage. A pair of anxious blackbirds, nesting there, began a fierce argument and sprang noisily into the air.
While deep, deep within its boughs, another life, another far more ancient spirit stirred and wakened.
She began to stretch, reaching up, through trunk and branch, through twig and leaf, into every last corner of her beloved tree. She relished the slowly gathering warmth of the new day she discovered there.
However, just as the wind quickly stilled, just as the squirrel and the quarrelling birds came quickly to rest again, so too did she. And mindless of a world outside, she drew back deep within herself and gave in once more to an ageless, peaceful slumber.

This ethereal, languid other-worldly event either intrigues us, or it passes us by… The first words and first action of Chapter One is in deliberate contrast:

It began with an argument.
It happened just outside, on our front doorstep in Collingwood Terrace. It wasn’t long after they closed down the local Glassworks, the day the bulldozers moved in to flatten the Oldburn allotments. I thought all Hell was breaking loose. There was my mum, and there was my dad, and they were going at each other like a pair of wild tomcats. This was one of their real Bad Do’s…

Did I get it right? You decide. You’re either hooked, or you’re not…



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‘A Christmas Carol’ is a classic Christmas novel everyone should read at least once!

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is one of my favourite books of all time, and never off my bookshelf. First published in December 1843 it was an instant success, and has remained so ever since. The story is simple, and yet brilliant. It’s the tale of a bitter old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, and a life-changing transformation that comes about when he’s visited by four Spirits over the course of one very creepy Christmas Eve. It’s a wonderfully heart-warming, yet deliciously spooky tale, if ever two such contradictory descriptions belonged in the same sentence. This is Dickens at his best. He was both a master storyteller and a master of characterisation. Indeed, the characters of this book are so well known to us all through endless television and movie adaptions – from the joyous Fezziwigs (my personal favourites) to the ailing Tiny Tim, and the put-upon clerk, Bob Cratchet – we have perhaps become just a little too familiar with them.

This is ghostly fantasy storytelling of the very highest order. And while the book may well be over a hundred and seventy years old, its language and simple structure means that it is still easily read today. It’s short, effectively a novella, and if originally written for adults I’m certain it will appeal to readers of all ages.

So come on, it’s Christmas, forget the movie adaptions and take a look at the original book. It will reward you. Or why not make this your family Christmas ghost story and a ‘live’ event? Switch off the television/laptop/cell-phone. Huddle around the Christmas tree – mulled wine and sweet mince pies in hand – and give yourselves a real treat!

Merry Christmas everyone…

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens

The unfair facts of life, for sleepyheads

Explain this to me, if you can… Why is it that when I wake up in the middle of the night, no matter how long or hard I try, I simply cannot get back to sleep again… My head refuses to switch off! I begin to plan the day ahead of me, in every minuscule detail (a day that is already planned!) Then, I find myself writing… mentally composing dialogue; or developing story-lines… Things that don’t need to be done right now: things that can quite happily wait until the morning! And hours later I’m still lying there wide awake…!

Then, suddenly, the alarm clock goes off! Yet it’s only now, with the morning beckoning, and the house around me bursting into life, that the miraculous happens. The minute that alarm clock goes off, how easily I can turn over, pull the blankets over my head, close my eyes, and sleep… Why is that?

Congratulations to David Almond, winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award 2015

I was delighted to hear that David Almond’s book, A SONG FOR ELLA GREY has won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award 2015. It is thoroughly deserved!

I first met David Almond way back in 1998. We were both attending a promotional event at our then publishers. I remember telling him proudly that I was about to release my third book, TOOTH & CLAW, and he, in all modesty, told me he was only on his first, SKELLIG. Well, as the cliché goes, the rest is history. In truth we both did well enough out of those books. Though of course, David’s SKELLIG went on to be a huge international bestseller and award winner. Later adapted both for the stage and screen it is rightly considered by many a modern children’s classic.

What can I say about David Almond’s work? He is a master of his craft. He writes beautifully, and lyrically. He has a natural affinity for his readership, instinctively aware of their concerns, their preoccupations and their delight in the universe. His work is always socially aware, and if it often has a spine-tingling edge of magical realism about it, he never shies away from dealing with real-life issues, the real world his protagonists find themselves confronted with. Indeed, he is one of the most important authors for young people writing today.

And what of A SONG FOR ELLA GREY? I would not be giving anything away to say that it finds its inspiration in the classic tragic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. However, the rest I will let you find out for yourself…

Once again, congratulations David Almond.

A Song for Ella Grey by David AlmondSkellig (Skellig, #1) by David Almond

What’s the growing debate about ‘Young Adult’ books?

Currently there seems to be an ongoing debate, among both authors and readers, about the very nature of ‘Young Adult’ books. What’s the argument? Put simply, is the ‘Young Adult’ tag an age guide for readers, or is it something more: a book genre in its own right? Now this is giving some authors a dilemma when it comes to the placing of their books. In marketing terms, do they belong on the ‘Middle Grade’ shelves or on the ‘Young Adult’ shelves, or somewhere else entirely? And does it matter?
Historically, certainly when I wrote my first children’s books there was no ‘Young Adult’ bookshelf. Bookstores used age ranges to distinguish between books. Akin to: Ages 0-3 years, Ages 4-7 years, Ages 8-13 years, and ‘Teens’. After that everything else was assumed to be for ‘adults’.
Bookstores were simply trying to steer their readers to age appropriate material. I figure, they still are, if the ‘Young Adult’ section has replaced the ‘Teen’ section. What the bookstores are not describing is a genre of books. However, there is a growing assumption that ‘Young Adult’ books must contain certain key ingredients: sex, vampires and/or the paranormal, and love triangles! And without these essentials authors are not writing for ‘Young Adults’ at all!
Give me a break, please! Naturally publishers and bookstores want books that sell. And if sexy vampire books, or the paranormal, or romance is currently in vogue for a certain readership, then of course, they are going to favour that type of book. And naturally, some authors are going to lean towards writing that material if it gives them some possibility of actually selling their work. However, this does not define ‘Young Adult’ fiction.
Reading tastes vary enormously, and are always changing… even for ‘Young Adult’ readers. It only takes an author to come up with the genre-busting goods. (There’s usually at least one genius in every new generation.)
My advice to readers…? As long as you know where to find the books you want to read there is no problem.
And my advice to worried authors…? Stop thinking narrowly, and get on and write the books you really want to write. Too scared that your work will not find a market? Honestly, nothing has changed in that department over the years. Fact: most books written never reach the printed page. Fact: most books published – printed or digital – don’t sell well. (Bestsellers are the tip of the iceberg.) Fact: the vast majority of all published works eventually disappear from the bookshelves. (Or, in today’s world, are doomed to lie, lost and forgotten for all eternity, in the e-book virtual graveyard…) These are the book-facts of life folks! So stop your worried debates and simply write…
For me, writing books is a thrill, a joy, and a massive adventure. That’s why I’m on this journey. If I am in essence a fantasy writer, the story always comes first. Not the age range, not a set of ingredients, certainly not market forces. May it always remain so… Indeed, if the day ever comes when it does not, then that’s the very day I’ll stop.

Tooth and Claw (H fantasy) by Stephen Moore
Suggested readership: young-adult

Words Alone Are Not Enough

11th November is Armistice Day – also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the anniversary of the end of the First World War on 11th November 1918.

I was a child in the 1960’s, early 1970’s. World War Two was my parent’s experience and their point of reference. My toys were the plastic soldiers of that war. In our schoolyard games ‘Gerry’ was an enemy and we played at ‘Japs v English’. To me, World War One was already just a vague, somewhat distant, historical event. There were family stories: of aging great aunts who were lifelong spinsters because they’d lost their sweethearts in ‘The Great War’. There were sudden gaps in Family Trees, and fading old photographs of strangers I couldn’t place… Of little interest to a young boy who was always a daydreamer; with his head stuffed full of men landing on the moon, and the next TV episode of ‘Dr Who’ or ‘Star Trek’.

At Grammar School I was taught history out of dry, dusty old text books and – uninspired – forced to memorise, as best I could, the events of British history including World War One. It made little impression.

Then, in an English lesson, the teenage me was introduced to the war poems of Wilfred Owen. Suddenly the lights came on! Not only did I find a poet who actually had something to say and a reason to write about it, but I also began to see and understand the true reality of the events he was describing. His poetry touched me deeply. It still does. In Owen’s own words, ‘The poetry is in the pity.’ He spoke of real experience; of ordinary men, not heroic armies. He spoke of the everyday incident, not of great battles or glory. And he wrote plainly, honestly, graphically; brutally where brutality was the truth.

The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen

Today, more than a hundred years on, what might be the best memorial to the millions who died in World War One, and to the countless others whose lives were forever scarred by it? Sad to say, Mankind has never learnt the lessons of war. Perhaps we as individuals can do no more than this: live our lives the best we can. (Don’t underestimate the challenge.)

Words alone are not enough…

The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen by Wilfred Owen

“The flame that gives the greatest light also casts the longest shadow.”

It’s one of those amazing experiences for an author, when one of your own book characters suddenly comes out with something uniquely profound. Perhaps even a universal truth? (I wish.)
The title quotation comes from “Spilling the Magic”, a fantasy novel for older children. The words belong to a character called Idrik Sirk. In the amazingly strange world of Murn, where mountains float, dragons are vegetarian and pigs can fly, Idrik Sirk is a Spellbinder (a particular kind of wizard if you will). He’s also dead. He’s also a skeleton. His words come from a conversation he has with Billy and Mary – the book’s main characters – when they come blundering into his tomb. (I did tell you Murn was strange.)
A slightly longer version of his words read;

“…The flame that gives the greatest light also casts the longest shadow. Look about you. Look! Light and dark. There’s never one without the other…”

Idrik Sirk is giving us a warning. At first glance, it appears to point directly at the nature of good and evil in a dangerous world. But take another look, there’s also something else. The flame that gives the greatest light also casts the longest shadow:

He is describing the inevitable consequence.

How often we see this in so many walks of life… If there is always a winner, there are ever so many more losers. If there is only one “best”, what does that make of all the second bests, but shadows? If we call one man “king”, what are we calling all other men? If all eyes look only upon the beauty in the room, all else goes unseen. (And that is our loss.)

Can there possibly be so much in one simple sentence? Perhaps I should just leave you to think it over…

Spilling the Magic by Stephen Moore

Suggested Readership: Older Children / Middle Grade

Music that has inspired my fantasy novel ‘Graynelore’ (2)

As a fantasy author, when it comes to my influences they are many and varied and are just as likely to come from art, music, or popular culture as they are to come from any literary or imagined source.

I’ve already talked about the origins of my unifauns in Graynelore; how they are characters inspired by a lyric in a song by the rock band, Genesis. However there’s another song from another band that has haunted me over the years, ultimately becoming the inspiration for Dingly Dell, the homeland of Rogrig Wishard; the reiver, anti-hero and narrator of Graynelore.What was the band? Lindisfarne. What was the song? ‘Dingly Dell’ (of course). Written by singer/songwriter, Alan Hull, it’s the title track from Lindisfarne’s 1972 album of the same name.

Lindisfarne are famous for their enormous crowd-pleasing songs, with highlights that include; ‘Fog on the Tyne’, ‘Clear White light’, ‘Meet Me on the Corner’, ‘Lady Eleanor’ and the like. Their musical sound is an interesting brew; a kind of folk-rock, just occasionally, edging towards progressive rock. If neither label truly does them justice. Alan Hull is one of my favourite songwriters: his thoughtful, poignant, ‘Winter Song’ being my most favourite of all.

Among Lindisfarne’s many songs then, sits ‘Dingly Dell’. When I first heard it, back in 1972, it truly cast a spell upon me. With a spare, musically sparse verse, that is both haunting and lyrical, it finally lifts and broadens out into a truly magical chorus line… Only to end again with pathos, and an almost fey-like organic silence. It’s a beautiful, mesmerising song, both for its music and its lyrics. If I could choose a theme tune from this period of music to go along with Graynelore, this would be it.

The air of haunting beauty, the feeling of almost spiritual loss, the fey, other-worldly nature – the very magic – says it all for me. So, there we have it. And that is why you’ll find Dingly Dell in Graynelore.



GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager. Available from:

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Music that has inspired my fantasy novel ‘Graynelore’ (1)

“Can you tell me where my country lies?” said the unifaun to his true love’s eyes.”

These enigmatic lyrics are the first line from the song, ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’, a track on the 1971 Genesis album ‘Selling England by the Pound’. (A personal favourite of mine, it has accompanied me for most of my adult life.)

My influences, as a fantasy author, are many and varied, and are just as likely to come from art, music, or popular culture as they are to come from any literary or imagined source. This particular song lyric has always intrigued me. Images of folklore and faerie abound in the early prog-rock music of bands such as Genesis. But what on earth is a unifaun and where did it come from? As far as I’m aware there is no unifaun in any existing story or traditional folk tale. I have always assumed that the lyricist (Peter Gabriel) was simply playing with words, and brought together, unicorn and faun to create a new word of his own making: unifaun. It’s a wonderful creation which has stayed with me ever since I first heard the song. As a fantasy author, I have been waiting for the day when I might include a unifaun in one of my fantasy worlds, and that is why you will find unifauns in GRAYNELORE…

In fact, two of my most favourite characters in GRAYNELORE are my unifauns; Sunfast and Fortuna. They are glorious fey creatures, who, in human form, are sensual beauties in the extreme. Instinctively a pair, in their natural state they have cloven hooves, a main of finely braided goat’s hair, and a single golden horn. Their story – not to give too much away – is poignant, and essential to the central plot of the book.



GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager. Available from:

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Who were the real Border Reivers?

In my fantasy novel GRAYNELORE I took the historical world of Sixteenth Century Border Reivers, twisted it to my own ends and used my fictional version as the background to my tale. Subsequently many readers have asked me to tell them something more about the real Border Reivers. So:

In the Borderlands that lie between Scotland and England there are many families who can still claim direct ties to the original Border Reivers. Surnames such as Charlton, Armstrong, Elliot, Graham, Fenwick, Robson, Bell, Kerr (my own link), Milburn, Forster, Douglass, Riddel… oh the list goes on and on! (So please forgive me if I haven’t included yours in my example.) These were family groups who lived in the region, roughly between the Fourteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (historically unsettled times in Great Britain). Their allegiance was first and foremost to their families and their surname, rather than to their kings or countries. And their lifestyle was one of constant raiding and blood feud. In essence, theft, kidnap, blackmail, pillage and murder were all considered just part of their daily lives. Their strongholds were Castles, for the rich few, Peel Towers, fortified tower houses [see above] and Bastle Houses, simple fortified farmhouses [see below] many of which can still be seen today.

How had this strange state of affairs come about?

In late Medieval Britain a big political power struggle was played out between the Crowns of England and Scotland. The issue of sovereignty finally coming to a head in the Sixteenth Century with the dispute between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. In a sense, while the Crowns were embroiled upon their endless bloody conflicts it suited both sides to have the borderlands of their kingdoms in a state of constant lawlessness. The area was a kind of buffer zone or no-man’s-land that made government, by either side, extremely difficult.

Politically the Borders were divided into Marches and there were Wardens who were meant to keep the law, but it was an obvious breeding ground for trouble. When their world around them was constantly at war and their lives an endless struggle, who could blame the Reivers for trying to get by the only way they knew how? The Reivers preferred to settle their own disputes and lived out their lives by their own bloody rules.

What became of the Border Reivers?

In truth, the Border Reivers were not a major part of political history (one reason so few of us have ever heard of them). Rather, theirs was the largely unwritten history of ordinary men; a fate, sadly, I fear most of us are condemned to. When the Crowns of England and Scotland were finally unified after the death of Elizabeth I, having a lawless borderland no longer suited the politicians… During the course of the Seventeenth Century many of the Reiver families were effectively neutralised. By rule of law, death sentences, deportations; and that old political trick whereby some of the more influential families became a part of the ruling political establishment.

But theirs is an important story. It’s part of my family history and maybe yours too? There are many reminders of the Reivers. On the ground, you can still find good examples of their stone Peel Towers and Bastle Houses. While the list of Reiver family names goes on and on… and can be found worldwide! Then there are the words they popularised in our dictionaries: notably, blackmail and bereavement! Oh, and let’s not forget their unbridled, if sometimes misguided, freedom of spirit!

Hadrian's Wall

Where can you find out more about the Border Reivers?

Let me say emphatically, I am not a historian. I’m a writer of fantasy fiction. Mine is only a personal reflection on how I see the Border Reivers! If you want to know more about them, why not visit the borderlands of England and Scotland for yourself, with their museums and amazing historical sites? [see above] For further reading I recommend two books: my favourite, The Border Reivers by Godfrey Watson and The Reivers by Alistair Moffat. Oh, and let’s not forget the amazing Reiver tales to be found in the original Border Ballads, famously collected by Sir Walter Scott.

Graynelore by Stephen MooreThe Border Reivers by Godfrey WatsonThe Reivers The Story of the Border Reivers by Alistair MoffatThe Complete Poetry of Sir Walter Scott The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, The Lady of the Lake, Translations and Imitations from German Ballads, ... Harold the Dauntless, The Wild Huntsman... by Walter Scott

Where did the Idea for “Graynelore” come from?

Graynelore is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Faerie tales are myths strictly for the children! Why then does a hardened fighting-man, who likes to solve his problems with his sword, suddenly start hearing voices and seeing faeries for real…?

I’ve just dipped your toes into the world of my fantasy novel Graynelore. But where, exactly, did I find the idea?A few years ago I had a most revealing conversation with my mother about her family roots. I discovered, to my amazement, that my ancestors include infamous 16th Century Border Reivers.

Who? The Border Reivers were inhabitants of the English/Scottish Borderlands; family groups who considered theft, kidnap, blackmail, murder and deadly blood-feud as all part of their day job. While the crown heads of England and Scotland were engaged in endless bloody conflict over sovereignty that reduced the borders to a virtual no-man’s-land, ordinary folk were effectively left to get by as best they could. And if that meant turning up on your neighbour’s doorstep and beating the hell out of them to take whatever little they possessed (up to and including their lives) then so be it! Reiving, as it became known, was a way of life for close on three hundred years.

What’s my connection to the Reivers? Well, my mother’s family name is Kerr, and they originally hailed from the Scottish Borders. Let’s be blunt. The Kerrs were notorious Reivers back in the day! With blood-feud a speciality! If one fact about them tickles me: unusually, the Kerrs were left-handed. It meant they fought with their swords left handed and built their defensive tower houses with left-handed spirals to their staircases. It just so happens I’m also left handed. I like to think it’s in the blood.

You’ll not be surprised. I was instantly intrigued by my infamous ancestors. What author worth their salt would not want to write about them? And so, the idea was born…! I only had to find the right story to tell.

I took the historical world of the Border Reivers; their way of life, their society, their homes, their landscape, their goods and their chattels. In true Reiver fashion I stole it all, misused and abused it and made it my own. I like to think of it as twisting history. (And, with my own family links, I’m just a little bit proud of that.)

However, there was an issue to overcome: I’m an author of fantasy, not historical fiction. To satisfy the writer-within-me I had to combine the two; fantasy with my own version of Reiver society the bedrock to stand it upon.

Where did my fantasy storyline find its birth? I’ll tell you. One hot summer’s day I was sitting in a beautiful garden overlooking the Welsh coast. In the middle distance, out upon the sea, I could see the Isle of Lundy. There were warm currents of air rising off the sea, twisting and turning, and as is the way on hot summer days, they slowly obscured the scene, until at last Lundy Isle disappeared. There was only the sea, and the endless blue sky. Of course, it was a simple trick of the eye. But in that moment I knew I’d found the idea I was searching for. This wasn’t Lundy Isle at all, but the Faerie Isle. Sometimes there, sometimes not, ever moving…

And so began a long and winding journey of research and creative adventure that ultimately lead me down the path to my novel, Graynelore.

Mind you, at the outset I had to make one further inspired leap of faith. You see, up until this point, all of my books had been written for older children (and I’ve been writing for almost twenty years!) However, I knew that if I was going to write authentically about Reivers, the story might well be a faerie tale, but it could not possibly be for children. A Reiver’s world is naturally brutal, sometimes cruel, and often graphically blunt. Graynelore had to be my first novel strictly for grown-ups. And so it is.



GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook):

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The Voice Behind Graynelore

Graynelore largeThere are many ways I could introduce you to my fantasy novel Graynelore. I could explain the birth of the idea that brought me to write it. I could describe the nature of its twisting fey storyline. But I would prefer to begin with the man who narrates the tale. A man who not only lends his very distinctive voice to the story but who is also the sole source of our knowledge concerning the world of Graynelore… Without him there would be nothing to tell.

You see, Graynelore is narrated by the central character of the story. The book is graphically written in his unique turn of phrase and coloured by his very individual way of thinking. Who is he? Well, I can do no better than to let him introduce himself in his own words:

“I am Rogrig, Rogrig Wishard by grayne. Though, I was always, Rogrig Stone Heart by desire…. I am a poor fell-stockman and a worse farmer (that much is true). I am a fighting-man. I am a killer, a soldier-thief, and a blood-soaked reiver. I am a sometime liar and a coward. I have a cruel tongue, a foul temper, not to be crossed. And, I am – reliably informed – a pitiful dagger’s arse when blathering drunk…. You can see, my friend, I am not well blessed.”

In short, Rogrig Wishard is a typical man of Graynelore. Once you’ve met one, believe me, you’ve met them all!

The world he grew up in is lawless, and dominated by its graynes, its feuding families. It’s a world where everyone who isn’t family is an enemy. A world where, theft, blackmail, kidnap, murder and pillage are all considered an acceptable part of daily life. And do you know what? Rogrig Wishard likes it that way. He’s used to settling arguments with his sword. Everything is so clear cut that way! When his Graynelord tells him to fight, he fights. It’s a world he understands.

His father was murdered in a blood feud when he was a child. He is used to cold-blooded killing and he’s used to death. His grayne is his family. Man or woman, they’re his friends, his work mates, his right hand in a fight, his drinking partners and his bed-fellows. Indeed, to put it none too politely, they all piss in the same pot. Just don’t talk to him about love, and leave faerie tales to the children!

Mind you, if Rogrig Wishard was only the callous, stone hearted reiver described here, there would be very little story to tell. Fortunately, he’s a more complex character than initially meets the eye. There’s another side to this man. If it’s a side he’d rather not have, and certainly would never discuss. You see, Rogrig Wishard is faerie-touched. He has ties to a forgotten fey kin that can only be found outside of his grayne. And there are fundamental parts of his true nature that can only be fully revealed by him turning his back on his old family, and finding a new cause to fight for; one he could never have foreseen; one that includes faeries!

So, he’s a fighter then, and an opportunist; a stubborn thief and a mischievous liar… A man, more than a man, very much at odds with himself! Might the revelations, the insights, the unlooked for personal journey he’s forced to take, finally melt the heart of the reiver who would prefer to call himself, Rogrig Stone Heart? Well, I guess that’s to be seen. Graynelore is a truly twisting epic fantasy.

And there I think I must stop! I’ve told you enough about the man who gives his voice to Graynelore. And I want to leave it to him to tell you the tale…



GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager (Paperback and ebook). Available from:

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“Graynelore” Publication Day!

Graynelore largeI’m excited and extremely pleased to announce that today is publication day for my fantasy novel GRAYNELORE (Publisher: HarperVoyager). I’ve been a children’s author for many years. Finally, here is my debut novel for all you grown-ups!

 GRAYNELORE is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Murder, blackmail, theft and blood-feud are all part of daily life. Faerie tales are myths, strictly for the children. Why then is Rogrig Wishard – a hardened fighting-man who solves his problems with his sword – suddenly hearing voices and seeing faeries for real? What makes him embark upon a seemingly ridiculous quest to restore a Faerie Isle to the world? Is he mad or simply faerie-touched?

If he’s going to make any sense of it he’s going to have to go right to the source – the faeries themselves. But that’s easier said than done when the only information he has to go on is from bards and myth.

How might I best describe GRAYNELORE?

It’s a story of divided loyalty. An epic fantasy. A blood-soaked mystery. A grown-up faerie tale. And, in its own twisted way, a kind of love story…

Graynelore large

GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook).

Suggested Readership: Grown-ups

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IN CONVERSATION: Fantasy Authors Nancy K. Wallace and Stephen Moore



As part of #VirtualVoyager – a week-long celebration of Harper Voyager’s digital authors and their books, I had the good fortune to talk with my fellow author, Stephen Moore, from across the pond, in England.

[Q] StevStephen Mooree, you and I both write for children and adults, does the inspiration for books for those audiences come from different places or activities?

[A] That’s a great question, Nancy. You know, for me, the ideas come first. From there I can usually see the path the resulting story will take and the audience it might best be aimed at. Which means, essentially, the inspiration for books for what are very different audiences – children and adults – comes from very different places. For example, the inspiration for Graynelore came about when I discovered I have a direct historical family link to the infamous 16th Century Border Reivers. Family groups who lived…

View original post 1,691 more words

Graynelore: The landscape of the book

Graynelore large

With the publication of my new fantasy novel GRAYNELORE less than two weeks away I’m excited, and I wanted to tell you a little bit more about it, but without giving too much away. I thought the landscape of the world I’ve created was a good place to start.

I remember reading a comment made by Robert Louis Stephenson explaining just how important he considered a map to be, when he was writing a story. It gave him a visual way of making sense of the fictional landscape he wanted to describe. It’s why you’ll always find a version of his map at the front of Treasure Island.

I guess I feel the same way about GRAYNELORE. In my imagination I can clearly see the landscape I’m writing about in the book.

What does Graynelore look like?

In the novel, Rogrig Wishard – the narrator – gives us a unique description of his world and I close this piece with that extract. However, what I want to do here is give you my own personal impressions of the landscape of Graynelore. The images I can still see in my head, even now.

In my mind’s eye, Graynelore is made up of two major islands – a mainland and a Faerie Isle. The greater landmass is an island perhaps the size of Wales, if not the shape! Rather, its outline best resembles a kind of broken cheese scone. It’s generally oval, but very irregular and badly misshapen. Can you see where I’m going here? The second island – the Faerie Isle – is very small in comparison. If the Graynelore mainland really was a cheese scone, then the Faerie Isle would be the small knob of butter that went with it!

As to their actual physical detail, then of course the mysterious Faerie Isle should rightly remain shrouded in secrecy. Whereas the mainland, where the majority of the book’s action takes place, is more easily described. I can clearly see the Blackheaded Mountains; the sprawling mountain range that sits at the very heart of Graynelore, neatly separating the North from the South of the country. The North beyond the mountains is almost entirely taken up by a vast void, a wasteland, named simply The Great Unknown. It’s a region of little importance to this story. (Mind you, who knows about the future and things still to come, eh…?) Rather, it is the South of the country that requires my description.

The Men of Graynelore have split the South into four regions, called Marches, each loosely belonging to the principle Grayne, or family, who live there. Powerful men live in great Peel Towers. While poor men live in small Bastle Houses scattered about the countryside. There are no actual borders marked on the ground. No walls, no fences. In fact there’s hardly a man among them who truly knows where one March ends and the next begins. (Nor do they care!)

The majority of the land is broad rough fell-land, and rudely exposed rolling lowland hills (reminiscent of my favourite English county, Northumberland). And it is endlessly dissected, across its entirety, by the countless streams and tributaries that make up the River Winding. In fact the River Winding is so extensive its name is used to describe all running water throughout Graynelore.

In the central lowlands you’ll find the treacherous Mire; a huge area of swampland and boggy fen, where no road is permanent, no footstep assured, and no man safe. While off to the north east, below the mountains proper is a large expanse of woodlands called The Withering; a woeful, poor and sickening landscape.

Finally, where the long coastline of Graynelore meets the Great Sea, its cliffs, its rocks and beaches, are cut, bruised and battered, crudely shaped and rubbed smooth by an eternal pattern of wind and rain and storm.

And if my rough description seems to describe an overly terrible or desolate place, I beg to differ. It’s the perfect landscape for my grown-up faerie tale.

Here’s Rogrig Wishard’s description of Graynelore:

To look at, Graynelore was always something of a paradox. It was a beautiful land and yet ugly. It was often glorious and yet as often vague and unimpressive. The Great Unknown in the far north was a world set apart. While the black-headed mountains, at Graynelore’s heart, stood up like the spokes of a great fallen wheel, with the hard fought summit of, Earthrise, the hub, at their centre. The burden of time may well have blunted their edges and reduced their heights but they were no less a formidable adversary. It takes a brave man, or perhaps a fool, to attempt to scale their heights. Looking to the south, where the mountains fell away, and the wheel was broken, there was a great vista, a broad open plateau, only hindered by stretches of feeble, withered woodland – The Withering – that chequered and fringed the otherwise, seemingly endless landscape. Beyond this, came the more gentle rolling hills and shallow vales of the southern marches. And if the lowly hills could not hinder you, if the trees did not stand in your way, there was always the mud, the clarts of the stinking bog-moss to stop a man’s progress, the mire to swallow up the unwary horse and rider. Or else the never ending waters, the countless threads of the River Winding that cut the great open lowland fells and moors into uneven pieces across the majority of its face. To my mind, it was always a lonely, endlessly wind-scarred earth. A difficult land to love; it left no easy place for men or beasts to hide or find welcoming shelter. Yet it was mine by my birth. And if I were to admit that my heart’s meat has always been divided, then surely that land must take its due share.

Graynelore by Stephen          MooreStephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE. Published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook.)

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Judging a book by its cover: Graynelore

Graynelore large

This week marks HarperVoyager’s (my publisher’s) official reveal of the cover for GRAYNELORE my new fantasy novel for adults. What better way to celebrate than to tell you something more about the cover’s creation. For if every book has its story, then surely, so too does every book cover.

GRAYNELORE is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Murder, theft, blackmail and blood-feud are all part of daily life. Faerie tales are myths, strictly for the children! So why then is Rogrig Wishard – a hardened fighting man who prefers to sort out his problems with his sword – suddenly hearing fey voices and seeing faeries for real? GRAYNELORE is a strange world indeed.

And how best to capture that on a book cover…? If my books are akin to my children, then their covers are akin to the faces of my children, can there ever be a perfect image? This cover for GRAYNELORE was designed by the talented Cherie Chapman, part of the design team at Harper Collins, and she’s done a great job!

Let me describe it to you. We can see an armed man, Rogrig Wishard, creeping tentatively through a very murky and jaundiced-looking woodland glade. And he is moving in company with a strange band of crows. The designer has deliberately scratched and defaced the overall image emphasising the gritty, truly eerie fey-like nature of the scene portrayed. It’s a wonderfully moody and brooding other-worldly image. Perfect for a grown-up faerie tale! Whatever the designer’s exact intentions, I see it as representing a particular moment in the book; one where Rogrig and his company are travelling through a forest called, The Withering. In The Withering danger lurks at every turn. The men of Graynelore are up in arms and attack is not only likely but imminent – and from any quarter. More so, as neither Rogrig nor his companions are quite what they seem to be. You see, they are fey… faerie-touched in a world where their discovery would bring about certain death.

I will leave my description there, for you to ponder…

Graynelore by Stephen          Moore Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE. Published by HarperVoyager (Paperback and ebook.)

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Why, when it comes to the written word, is property not property?

Accuse me of thinking too far ahead, but, how can it be fair, that in the 21st Century landed gentry can still earn income from land inherited from a distant 13th Century ancestor and yet, the descendents of an author looses the right to any income from that author’s work only 70 years after the author’s death?
Why should the descendents of say, Charles Dickens or Robert Louis Stephenson, to name but two, not benefit from the work of their ancestors? (After all, the publisher still benefits; the booksellers too; and the tax man.) Because an author decides to plough the written word, rather than plough the fields of England should not be to their disadvantage.
Now, the laws of all countries surely differ, and I can only speak as an English layman. But I still cry,unfair!
No doubt someone will attempt to persuade me of my ignorance. Land is, after all, land…physical property. A book is just…a series of ideas that have been written down, thus…intellectual property. I say, if there is a difference between these examples, there is also an obvious similarity; they are both property. So, I cry again, unfair!.

Oh, I’m forgetting, for us airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky creative types our work is our vocation. (Isn’t it amazing how often that word, vocation, is used to excuse poor reward for ever so many jobs and professions…?) Writers are, surely, only interested in leaving an artistic legacy to their heirs…?

Fay by Stephen          Moore

Every good book needs a good editor (Part Two)

I’ve just spent the best part of the last four weeks working on the edits of my fantasy novel, GRAYNELORE. There were some very long days, and there was often very little sleep. But all in all, the editing was much as I expected it to be – and just how I’ve described it in Part One of this blog! Yes, there were times when I had to think hard about the editorial comments made, but there was nothing I could not agreeably handle.

For those of you who might wonder exactly how the editing of a book is conducted, let me explain. There are three basic stages:

The Structual Edit

This is where the editor queries the story of the book. Is everything there that needs to be there to tell the story in the best possible way? Is anything missing? Indeed, is anything not needed? Is anything underwritten or overwritten? Is the pacing correct? Is there anything in the manuscript that might not be understood by the reader? All good and important stuff…. This is the longest stage in the editing process (well, at least it is for me). As all editing queries are informed suggestions – not commands – it often takes me as long to come to the conclusion that a particular editorial comment is not valid as it does to revise the text when I agree with a query.

The Copy Edit

This is where the copyeditor checks the manuscript for consistency and clarity in its written English. For example, are all the character/place names spelt the same throughout the manuscript (a simple, not uncommon, error)? Is the punctuation consistent? Is the writing style consistent? (In GRAYNELORE a narrator tells the story and he has his own very individual voice!) Does the use of English say what the author means it to say? This might all sound terribly dry and dull, but oddly enough, I enjoy this process, and my copyeditor was excellent; particularly at understanding the individual nuances of the narrator; and at uncovering the occasional accidental mistake made by the author.

The Proof Read

This is a final chance to check the manuscript for literal errors – typesetting mistakes and the like. You might well ask, after all the checking that has already gone on can there still be errors in the text? Well… yes. Nobody is perfect. Not the editors. Certainly not the author! It takes a skilled and careful eye to spot the last few typesetting mistakes that still lurk unnoticed among any manuscript. And if we’ve all come across the missing punctuation or misspelt word in the books we’ve read, rest assured; the author and the editors have done their level best to get it right.

And now that the editing of GRAYNELORE is complete and the manuscript has been returned to the publisher for the very last time, was the process worth it? Unreservedly, yes! GRAYNELORE is a better book for it. And I can be heartened by that, for I will not see the manuscript again until it appears in its finished published form…

Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE. Published by HarperVoyager  (paperback and ebook).

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“Fay” by Stephen Moore: story, themes and landscape

‘Thomas, I’ve seen her again…the faerie! She’s in one of the gardens of the empty houses. At the back of Lesbury Terrace.’ Jenny Flynn was looking horribly serious again.

‘What? Oh, ha, ha, ha! Don’t make me laugh! A faerie at the bottom of a garden?’

‘But it’s true, Thomas. It’s true…’

Do you believe in faeries? Dangerous, real live, flesh and blood faeries? Thomas Dobson doesn’t. When the local glassworks closes down and the workers lose their jobs he thinks it’s just bad luck. When developers move in and bulldoze his favourite playground – the garden allotments that are his dad’s pride and joy – he thinks it’s just one of those things. When people get hurt, go missing and worse, it’s just the way things are. It’s got nothing to do with silly faeries…But what if he’s wrong?
Maybe it’s time to start believing.

And so, reads the blurb I originally wrote for the first edition of, FAY. As far as Thomas Dobson and Jenny Flynn are concerned, FAY is a simple fairytale. But a fairytale with a real, live faerie: a dryad, whose tree is bulldozed by workmen. Unfortunately, damaging the tree, damages Fay. Ultimately, its death will bring about her death. And a dying faerie is a dangerous wild creature. The children come to believe that to save their village from disaster, it’s up to them to save Fay, if only they knew how…

FAY is a simple quest then, and its story can be enjoyed for just that. Then again, is it really such a simple tale?

The action takes place in an urban post-industrial village, Oldburn, an ex-mining village that has just lost its last large employer with the closure of the local glassworks. And worse, with the promise of new development, it’s suddenly a community threatened with the loss of its own identity. What the village sees when Fay emerges from the wreck of her damaged tree, is the personification of their troubles. She is the cause; and the symbol of the changes thrust upon them. She is to blame. Intriguingly, almost everyone who sees Fay sees her quite differently, depending upon their point of view. At once, she’s a scruffy teenage girl, or an ugly old hag. She’s a beautiful young woman, a dubious stranger, or a threat. What she is not is a faerie…

There are other symbols at work here, too. Such as the image of the towering, but long redundant, eighteenth century glasshouse cone…the only remnant of the glassworks saved from the bulldozer. And, as you’ll often find in my work, I have created a make-believe world out of the elements of a real landscape. Its fictional geography belongs to the North East of England. The glasshouse cone, for one, exists and stands upon the banks of the River Tyne.

FAY then, is magic realism, and is perhaps more firmly grounded than some of my fantasy adventures. First published in 2006, it’s a book that has appealed to all readers, from the age of about ten, up.

So, I’ll ask you once again…Do you believe in faeries?


Fay by Stephen          Moore

Suggested Readership: Older Children / Young Adult

Every good book needs a good editor

As I write this I’m only hours away from receiving my editorial notes for my latest book, GRAYNELORE*. How do I feel about that? I’m excited – I actually like the editorial process, if I’m also anxious and just a little bit daunted. As yet I don’t know the size of the task that lies before me. What if my editor has suddenly found me out? After all these years, I’m not a writer at all…! And my book is such an awful mess it is beyond my skill to put it right? (I assure you, this is not very likely to happen. After all, my publisher does actually want to publish my book!)

I’m often asked: “But it’s your book! How can someone else simply come along and tell you to change it?” It’s a common misconception of the editorial process. In truth, that’s not how it goes. Could you, for example, ever imagine making a movie without a film editor?

Let me try to explain how the editorial process actually works. I must begin by saying that every book I have ever written has benefited from the process. I would go further and say, there is not a book in the world that could not be improved by a good editor. No author is perfect. No book is perfect.

An editor has exactly the same goal as the author. They simply want your book to be the best that it can be. They don’t want to re-write it, they don’t want to own it. When I write a book I’m creating a new universe: and I’m doing it all inside my head. When I come to write it down, I try my very best to get it right, to tell the story in the very best way I can. With nothing missed out and nothing superfluous to the tale.

Now, when an editor reads my book, they have never been inside my head. They only have the written words to go on. Those fresh pair of eyes can spot where perhaps some essential piece of information has been accidently omitted, or perhaps where too much is given away too early in the plot. They can see where the text appears unclear in its explanation. Or where the text has been overwritten or underwritten making the pacing of the story unbalanced. Many, many small things, that if put right will make the book all that much better.

And, of course, an editor can also see all the things that are absolutely right! And they will often tell the author so, which my sorely wounded ego gratefully welcomes.

Doesn’t the author have any say in this process? Well, yes, naturally. Author and editor are on the same team! And if no author is perfect, then neither is any editor… and they don’t pretend to be. (Not the good ones). Editorial comments are informed suggestions, not commands! An author is entitled to disagree. There may well be a little anguish (usually on the part of the author). There will certainly be discussion. And there will be resolution. Though never compromise… where the proverbial race horse becomes, inevitably, the proverbial donkey. Indeed, the editorial process works in favour of the author. And to give one famous example, using perhaps my favourite book of all time, it is why Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic work is entitled, ‘Treasure Island’, and not, as he would have had it, ‘The Sea Cook’.

But for now I must stop! Something important has arrived in my mail box. Wish me well. I’ll let you know how I get on…

*Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE (published by HarperVoyager in paperback and ebook).

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Stephen Moore’s ‘Graynelore’: A book’s journey towards publication

If writing a book isn’t difficult enough, once written, a book’s journey towards finding a publisher, particularly a traditional publisher, is surely a dramatic story all in itself. I thought I’d share some of my experiences as I approach the publication of my first fantasy novel for adults, GRAYNELORE.

Let me amuse you with a little historical detail. I began writing children’s fantasy books in the early 1990’s. (That would be the ‘olden days’ to many of you, and it makes me sound like a dinosaur!) Firstly, it must be said: getting a book published has never been easy. I remember the odds when I started writing were something like one hundred to one. That’s one book published for every one hundred books written. Mind you, the publishing industry was a very different animal back then! Most of the large publishers were still independently owned and to approach a publisher you simply wrote them a polite letter, informing them that you had written a book, and asking if they’d care to take a look at it.

In this way my very first book, ‘Spilling the Magic’ ended up on the slush pile of Hodder Children’s Books and, in due course, was accepted for publication. (A process that perhaps sounds far easier than in fact it was.)

I published books with Hodder for several years. Though in that time the industry went through a fundamental change. The large independent publishers began to buy up one other, until eventually a handful of parent companies came to own almost all of them. A situation we still find ourselves in today. And, as the publishing houses became corporate bodies, the very way they did business altered. The major publishers largely stopped accepting unsolicited work direct from authors, instead relying on agents to bring new work to their attention. To land a major publisher authors now had to first find themselves a good agent (no mean feat in itself). Indeed, my last children’s book (to-date) was finally published by a small independent Scottish press in 2006.

In the following years the publishing industry was in for yet more major upheaval with the arrival of the online retail giants, such as Amazon, and then later, the revolutionary ebook. Large chains of traditional bookshops began to disappear as online retailers took an ever greater share of the market. And authors found themselves suddenly faced with a new choice: self-publishing! This heralded the rise of indie-published authors who began to compete with the traditional publishers, and a state of market you are probably very familiar with.

That is, no doubt, a simplified and potted history, with many omissions (all of them mine). Anyway, it was in early 2008 that I began to have ideas for a new work, which finally became a completed manuscript called, ‘Graynelore’ in late 2010. (The writing of the book is another tale for another day!) As you can imagine, I found myself faced with a very different publishing world to the one I had last dealt with. If in the end, I decided to continue down the traditional publishing route. I spent almost a year approaching agents with my manuscript: writing letters, providing synopsis upon synopsis… and in return receiving rejection upon rejection. To be fair to those agents we must remember; they have to earn their living on the backs of the author’s they decide to champion. It’s all a gamble! It’s all educated guess work! And they don’t always get it right. Agents are looking for books that they believe have a chance of becoming best sellers, not simply books that are good enough to be published. (The difference is crucial.)

After a solid year of rejections, I – as a relatively successful published author – was beginning to think that I’d maybe penned myself a stinker! I was even toying with the idea of calling it a day as a writer… Then, in 2012 the publisher HarperVoyager (the fantasy/scifi imprint of HarperCollins) decided to open a short window of time in which they would accept unsolicited manuscripts from un-agented authors. Something they had not done for almost a decade. There were very strict guidelines to follow and only two weeks in which to make a submission. Which I duly did…

Time passed. The date by which a decision was to be made on my submission came and went. The publisher had made it very clear: if I heard nothing by this date then I was to assume that my submission had been unsuccessful. Oh dear… Another rejection!

Or so I thought…

More time passed. Actually a very long time passed. It was in early 2014 that I received an email from HarpVoyager. They were, after all, very interested in publishing, ‘Graynelore’. If I was still interested in being published by them!

Why the huge delay? It is remarkable: in that short two week time window for open submissions, way back in 2012, the publisher had received almost five thousand manuscripts. Five thousand! With the very best of intentions, they had landed themselves with the monster of a task!

Out of those original five thousand manuscripts, to my knowledge, they found a total of just fifteen that they wanted to publish. And so, cutting a long story short, a deal was finally made between us. And very soon now, I will have a brand new book out!*

As I come to the end of this tale, it’s worth taking a second look at those submission figures… Of around five thousand submitted manuscripts only fifteen were finally accepted. I make the odds of success something in the region of: three hundred and thirty to one. That’s one book to be published for every three hundred and thirty written. It makes you think…

*Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE (published by HarperVoyager in papaerback and ebook).

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Can you ask an author to review their own books…?

Surely the very idea is perverse? The nearest I ever get to my own review is when I’m asked, in all innocence, which of my books is my favourite…? My answer is always the same: the book I am writing now. (But that is another tale.)

I, the author, gave my books life. I know their faults and their perfections. I understand them. They are mine. Would you ask me to choose between my own children? At times, as I wrote them, I struggled desperately; I loved them, I hated them…I spent endless days, endless nights, making them the very best I could. I was always their meanest critic and their greatest champion. And once conceived I fought furiously to bring them into the world. I know that dark battle…the between times…when my work remains only a manuscript, not yet a book. That brutal fight towards publication…the anxious wait…the rejection…oh, the rejection…And I know the joy, the sublime joy, of their birth.

And yet, there it is – the offer is always open – each time I look upon one of my books on an internet bookstore, or on a book-reader’s site, such as Goodreads. Would I like to review my book? Would I like to tell the world what I think? How many ‘stars’ would I give it? Those beautiful stars…

It is curiously tempting…only I have, so far, always resisted.
Could I possibly be unbiased…? I think not.
Could I possibly tell the truth…? Yes.
Will I ever do it? I might…maybe…then again…

Fay by Stephen          Moore

Stephen Moore’s ‘Graynelore’: publication dates confirmed!

It’s been a very long time coming, and I’m ever so excited! I can now reveal the publication dates of my new fantasy novel, ‘Graynelore’.

‘Graynelore’, the ebook will be published by HarperVoyager 13th August 2015.

‘Graynelore’, the paperback will be published by HarperVoyager 16th February 2016.

And just in case you can’t wait to know what it’s all about, I’ll leave you with this little teaser:

Rodrig Wishard is a killer, a thief and a liar. He’s a fighting man who prefers to solve his problems with his sword.

In a world without government or law, where a man’s only loyalty is to his family and faerie tales are strictly for children, Rodrig Wishard is not happy to discover that he’s carrying faerie blood. Something his family neglected to tell him. Not only that but he’s started to see faeries for real.

If he’s going to make any sense of it he’s going to have to go right to the source – the faeries themselves. But that’s easier said than done when the only information he has to go on is from bards and myth…

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Who are children’s books written for?

There’s an obvious answer to this question, of course. But here’s another notion for you…Children’s books are written for all readers.

Might I explain? When I first began to write, which was back in about 1994, I didn’t have a clue who I was writing for, if not myself.

I grew up with a profound love of art: the sticky, wet, colourful, practical side of art. I wanted to make art. I did; eventually becoming quite a successful graphic and exhibition designer (he says modestly). As a kid, I read heavily illustrated English and American comics. The likes of, “The Beezer” and “The Beano” on one side and Marvel Comics “Astounding Tales” on the other. Any ‘real’ books I read drew me to them because of their illustrations first, not their words. That’s how I met one of my favourite books of all time, Robert Louis Stephenson’s “Treasure Island” (which, incidentally, is why it gets a name-check in my first children’s novel, “Spilling the Magic”.)

So, it was always art for me. (If, technically, I did write my very first ‘book’ aged 9, when I broke my leg and spent three months up to my thigh in plaster. It was called, ‘My Farm’, an undoubted classic…thankfully lost to history.)

Anyway, it was always art for me… Until, one extraordinary day, I began to get ideas with words in them…! To be honest, at first, they puzzled me. What was this? Poetry…? Songs…? Nah! What then…?

In the end, I found myself writing a story…that began to turn itself into a book. The book was called, “The Spellbinder”. When I knew I had the beginnings of a book, I sought out other authors, and it was only then that it became clear I was writing a children’s book. Eventually, “The Spellbinder” became my first published book, though it went through a name change and is better known as, “Spilling the Magic”.

OK then…I didn’t begin by trying to write a book for children. I simply wrote…I still do. So, who are children’s books written for?

For me, what marks a book out as a children’s book, is that it’s written in such a way that a young reader can understand and enjoy it. With content appropriate for the youngest readership you want to attract. But there is no upper age limit.

The very best children’s books are fulfilling reads for everyone! Children’s books are written for allreaders.

Fay by Stephen          Moore

Stephen Moore signs a new book publishing deal!

Please forgive me for being a little excited, but I’ve been keeping this a secret within my inner circle for quite some time now, and I’m almost bursting! But I can, at long last, reveal it to you all. Yes it’s true! I have indeed signed a new book deal! It’s exciting for several reasons:
To begin with, it means I have a brand new book coming out very soon. My first in a long while. It’s also wonderful that my publisher is none other than, HarperVoyager, – the fantasy/sci-fi arm of HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest publishers – for which I thank them most sincerely.
And if that isn’t excitement enough, my new book is extra special in another way. How so? Well… Grown-up followers of my children’s books have been nagging me for many, many years to write something especially for them. And guess what? Now I have! You see, my new work is my very first book for adults!
It’s a fantasy novel entitled, ‘Graynelore’. The ebook will be published this summer and the paperback in early 2016. (Publication dates to follow soon!) Over the coming weeks and months I will, no doubt, be telling you all about ‘Graynelore’. For now, I’ll simply leave you in anticipation…

Some of my favourite books are not the best books in the world.

True! Some of my favourite books are not the best books in the world. Let me say, to begin with; there is no such thing as the perfect book… mine included… (and if that doesn’t cause an argument, a debate at least, nothing will!) But count your blessings, I say! Trying to say exactly what we want to say and trying to say it in the best possible way is exactly what authors strive to do. And that’s irrespective of why we are writing… to entertain, inform, educate or whatever. It would be a conceited author (nay, a fool) who ever thought their work was anywhere near perfect: and that author would be heading for a fall.
Are there masterpieces? Yes, absolutely. Overlooked books that deserve a better readership? Definitely, yes! Massive best sellers that are, to put it politely, stinkers! Oh, yes… ever so many! (Whoever said life was fair?)
Can there be a reader, who hasn’t gotten part way through a book only to find themselves annoyed at the author for leading them that far into their work, just to abandon them there… the book has lost its way, lost its interest, or become meaningless? Hmmm, I know I have. Sometimes I forgive the author and carry on; if I feel the work, so far, has meant something to me in some way. Quite often though, I don’t; particularly with authors, or indeed with publishers, I think should know better.
Mind you, the author didn’t mean to do that to you. So let’s try to take a balanced view… If the author could be a better author, then; could the reader be a better reader? (Oh oh, I can feel another argument coming on.)
Make better reading choices. All readers, from kids to grown-ups are maybe guilty here. Don’t take on something you’re not ready for… it might be the nature of the writing style, the complexity of story… even the length of the book. Don’t read something just on someone else’s, say so, or because the cover looks similar to something else you’ve already read, or because there’s a great big advertising campaign telling you that you must. And if you get part way through and just can’t go on… Then stop.
Pick something else… there’s always something else.

Tooth and Claw (H fantasy) by Stephen          Moore

What’s prog rock got to do with my books?

I recently spent a brilliant night watching the prog rock band ‘Yes’, who are in the middle of a world tour. (And live music being one of my favourite things.) What has that got to do with my books?Well, I’m often asked about my influences. So, take a look at my “Spilling the Magic” – first published 1996 – where you’ll find the amazing landscape of Murn, with its ninety seven multi-coloured floating mountains. The inspiration for which came, in part at least, from my memories of the superb illustrations of Roger Dean, creator of the logos and artwork for many of the ‘Yes’ albums during the 1970’s… my growing-up years. I remember going to a lecture given by Roger Dean – I was probably about 17 at the time – and seeing, first hand, many of his original illustrations. It’s always stayed with me, though it would be at least another twenty years before I began to write…
Spilling the Magic by Stephen          Moore

“The Brugan” by Stephen Moore. The plot, story & landscape

I want to talk to you about my older middle-grade / young adult fantasy “The Brugan”, which means… starting with a SPOILER ALERT! If you’d rather not know any of the ins and outs of “The Brugan” before you’ve read it… shut your eyes and leave now. (Come back when you have read it.)

As an author I get asked a lot of questions (no doubt you’ll recognise them). Where do you get your ideas from? What about the plot? The story…? The setting…? What came first…? And so on.

I wrote “The Brugan” back in 1998. The idea came to me not long after the death of my father. I wanted to see if I could write something that might include the theme of bereavement in a meaningful way. The permanent hole the loss of a loved one leaves in our lives; the thumping body blow it deals us knocking our world out of kilter. But wait up… Don’t I write fantasy adventure for older children?

Well, “The Brugan” has more than one thread to its story. The basic plot is simple. A twelve year old girl – Sarah Lemming – finds a mysterious Brugan’s egg. She hatches it. And unleashes the mischievous, not to say deadly, Brugan upon an unsuspecting world, a world in which he does not belong. And now she has to find a way to get him safely home. It’s a quest then… a fantastic, magical adventure that can be read simply for that. With all the hokum, the weird and wonderful characters, and furious action that goes along with it.

But then there’s that other theme… If we discover that the Brugan is physically lost because he is stuck in Sarah’s world, then we also discover that Sarah is lost too. Physically lost, because her mother has up and moved them into a new home, in a place she does not want to be, with the beginnings of a new family, she does not want. But more importantly, Sarah is emotionally lost. Her father has died; her relationship with her mother is broken; her relationship with her mother’s new boyfriend none-existent. It’s as if there’s a solid wall between them all. (Look carefully and you’ll also see the symbolism in the story.)

As is the way with all tales, there’s more to it than that… themes of loss, betrayal, love, hate, chaos, magical mischief and mayhem, all colliding… successfully.

And what about the setting…? I needed “The Brugan” to be grounded firmly in a real world. So I chose the English Lake District… I lived in the heart of the Lake District for a number of years. It’s a most rare and beautiful environment… a very special place. For hundreds of years it’s been a magnet for creative people of all types… most notably, the Nineteenth Century “Romantics” including the poet, William Wordsworth. And then there’s me… For those of you who know the country you might guess at some of the true origins of my fictional landscape.

Of all the characters in all my books Sarah Lemming is a particular favourite of mine. I’m proud of “The Brugan”.

Suggested readership: older-children/ middle-grade / young adult

The Brugan





“The Brugan”, a fantasy for children, or everyone?

My children’s fantasy, “The Brugan” was originally published in 1999. I’m pleased to say, it’s available again as an ebook. (Published by Crossroad Press in most formats). Among all the characters in my books, if I’m allowed to have favourites, then Sarah Lemming is one of mine.

Sarah Lemming feels lost. She’s twelve years old and her life is a horrible mess! Her father is dead. She detests her mother’s new boyfriend. And now they’re all moving into an ancient ruined cottage, that’s slap bang in the middle of nowhere!

And then there’s the Brugan! When he comes crashing into Sarah’s world she just knows that nothing will ever be the same again. He’s ugly. He’s smelly. He’s a vile shade of green. The grown-ups don’t even believe he exists! And it’s not that he means to be bad; it’s just that the Brugan is lost too! And his mischief is more dangerous, more powerful, more deadly than anyone could have imagined.
Can the Brugan ever find his way home? More importantly, can Sarah…?
Praise for “The Brugan”:

‘. . . Bringing together real scary things (such as a new father and a new baby) and unreal scary things (supernatural beings) is no mean feat. Terrific book.’ The Observer
‘It is an extraordinary book filled with adventure, mischief and magic in the air.’ Book Review
‘. . . An excellent book and I’d recommend it to everyone.’ Mizz

I wrote “The Brugan” firmly for older children (Middle Grade). If over the years, it has been discovered and taken to heart by readers of all ages… I Thank you.

The Brugan by Stephen          Moore

The Brugan

RIP Terry Pratchett

John Ayliff

Witches Abroad coverI first read Terry Pratchett when he was a hot new thing that everyone was reading, before he became a beloved institution that everyone always read. I’m pretty sure my first of his books was Witches Abroad. Through my teens I devoured the new Discworld books, as well as Strata, The Dark Side of the Sun, the Nomes series, and Only You Can Save Mankind. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book as quickly, as hungrily, as I did some of the Discworld books; my brother and I would read them so quickly that our parents commented that we couldn’t really be appreciating them, reading them that fast. But we were: that’s why we read them that fast. The first time I ever used the internet (back when that was a hot new thing), the first thing I searched for was “discworld”. I got a fansite with a…

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“Dead Edward” a ghostly fantasy…

“My name is Edward. Edward Gwyn Williams. I’m a school boy. I’m fourteen years old, near enough. Let me tell you something— I will always be a school boy. I will always be fourteen years old. I AM DEAD. Edward Gwyn Williams is dead.”

That’s the beginning of “Dead Edward”, my ghostly fantasy novel for Older Children/Young Adults. Edward thinks he has a serious problem; after all, he’s just died! But he’s about to find out that being dead is the least of his worries when he discovers that Eternity, of all things, does not last forever!

So, this is Edward’s story. Not the story of his life… but the incredible story of what happened to him afterwards.

Where did the idea for “Dead Edward” come from? I’m a writer of fantasy who loves inventing new worlds. I also like ghost stories, and I couldn’t see any reason why ghosts shouldn’t have a fantasy world all for themselves: A world, with its own problems, dangers and delights… but outside of the traditional afterlife of Heaven and Hell. We all speculate about what might await us beyond death. I’m not doing that here. Rather, this is Dead Edward’s afterlife. This is scary fun…

Dead Edward Cover

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Does the length of a book really matter?

There seems to be a growing debate regarding the length of books… Are longer books better? Are shorter books, somehow, short-changing readers? Speaking as an author my response to both questions is a straight forward, no! And that is regardless of the genre or the audience I am writing for.

Let me explain. For me, it’s not a case of making a book a certain length – short or long – rather, it’s about making a book the length it needs to be to tell the story I want to tell. Be it short or long; does not matter. Either lengthening a book with unnecessary stuffing to make it artificially longer, or under-writing a book to make it artificially shorter are both unforgiveable crimes in my eyes. In the end, it is the quality of the story being told that counts not its length.

I do feel for the reader who is so enamoured of a short book that they are sorely disappointed when it comes to its end, wishing that it could go on and on… However, all good things must come to an end! And as long as that end is in the right place for the story being told, I’m happy with that. Because I also feel for the reader who struggles through the pages of an over-written over-long novel, desperately wanting to know how the story turns out, but only wishing that it would hurry on up and get there.

Once upon a time, when all books were printed, there were good practical reasons for artificially making certain types of book a certain length. For example, to physically make and bind a printed hardback book at a particular size meant an exact number of pages being needed to make the exercise economic. No printer or publisher can afford to print blank pages or to throw away excessive amounts of waste paper. Of course, today, with modern printing techniques and the benefit of the ebook revolution this is no longer a good argument.

So, certainly, the length of a book matters… I could not agree more. Every book has to be the right length! And that is all part of the author’s craft.

Below are my shortest and longest fantasy books to-date. (Suggested readership: Older Children/Young Adult )

FayTooth and Claw

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Where did the idea for “Tooth and Claw” come from?

It has been exactly one year since I wrote my very first blog. To celebrate I’m revisiting that blog with new material that gives a little more insight into the birth of the idea that lead me to write my epic animal-fantasy, “Tooth and Claw”. I hope you enjoy it.

The one question, above all others, I’m always being asked as a writer is… Where do you get your ideas? So, when talking about my most successful book to-date, ‘Tooth and Claw’ – originally published in 1998, and the first of my books re-released as an e-book – where the idea came from is a good place to start.

Firstly, I’ve spent most of my working life in the creative arts; as a designer, and as an author. I’ve always played with ideas and I can often catch them completely out of thin air! (Lucky me!) However, sometimes the source of an idea can be pinned down… to an event, or a place, or an experience. And just as often, to this simple question… What if?

The idea for, ‘Tooth and Claw’ is a, What if?

For many years I shared my home with a cat. She was a sleek, fine-boned tortoiseshell called, Jenny. During the day, she was a lazy, sleepyhead; a good-for-nothing house cat. But in the late evening she would wake herself up and make her way slowly to the front door; where she would cry at the top of her voice until I came and opened up the door to let her out. As the door was opened Jenny would change. Suddenly purposeful, she would stance boldly. Her tail would stand upright. Her ears would prick and her nose would twitch as she began to take in the sights and sounds of the outside world. Then, when she was good and ready, she would dart out into night. The domestic cat was instantly gone, and the wild hunter took her place. She never hesitated, she never looked back. She was more than happy to leave the safety and comfort of the house behind her. Why? Because she was confident that when she returned to the house in the early morning I would always be there to let her in again. I would feed her and pamper her, and she would have a deliciously soft bed to sleep upon. And so it was…

Every night, year upon year, Jenny went through this performance. And every morning I was always there for her.

And then, one night, as she left, I asked myself a question… What if? What if, tomorrow morning I was not there to let her in again? What if the house was empty; closed up and locked against her? What would she do then? What would become of her?

This was where the core idea for, ‘Tooth and Claw’ was born. Only the idea was to grow much, much larger…

You see, around the same time, I went on holiday with my family to Oludeniz, a small extremely beautiful beach resort, in the Fethiye district of South West Turkey. (It boasts its own blue lagoon.) While we were there we took it upon ourselves to walk to the nearby hill-top town of Kayakay. However, Kayakay was a most unusual place. It was, in fact, a true ghost town… Completely abandoned in 1922, after the Greco-Turkish War, its buildings were all still standing, largely intact. I remember the stonework of the empty buildings standing out starkly against the hillside. I remember its silence, its stillness… The monumental emptiness of it all was quite overwhelming… if strangely peaceful too. It was an experience I have never forgotten. Indeed, it helped set the stage for “Tooth and Claw”.

No longer was it to be the story of just one cat locked out of one house. Instead, it became the story of all the cats and all the dogs across a whole city (if a very British post-industrial city). All of them; abandoned on a single night, when the human population is suddenly evacuated, and forced to leave their pets behind.

Ultimately, the story became the struggle of those abandoned pets to survive… alone. And the beginning of an epic adventure…

Tooth and Claw

Suggested Readership: Older Children/Young Adult

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Hello everyone, from Stephen Moore

Hi folks. This is where my blog on my website begins… When I blog it’s exclusively about writing! Mine and the world of writing in general, with the odd book review thrown in along the way… As I’m a fantasy author, I’ll talk about my own writing experience, what I’m currently up to, and I’ll debate any current writing issues I think relevant.

For a long time now I’ve been blogging from my Goodreads platform, so this is a change for me. It’s my intention to deliver my blog from both platforms for now. As well as new material, I may also update and re-publish some of my existing Goodreads back-catalogue if I feel there is value in it for readers on my website.

To give you something to be going on with, here’s a link to my current Goodreads blog for you to check out. And thank you so much for taking the time to look this way. Please feel free to leave a comment!