Stephen Moore’s ebooks are half price at Smashwords until 11 March!

For readers of my older-children/young-adult fantasies, I thought you might like to know that until 11th March you can buy my ebooks at Smashwords.com for half price!

These titles are included in the sale (just follow the links):
Tooth and Claw by Stephen Moore https://www.smashwords.com/books/view…
Skin and Bone by Stephen Moore https://www.smashwords.com/books/view…
Dead Edward by Stephen Moore https://www.smashwords.com/books/view…
The Brugan by Stephen Moore https://www.smashwords.com/books/view…

Happy reading!

Tooth and Claw by Stephen MooreSkin and Bone by Stephen MooreThe Brugan by Stephen MooreDead Edward by Stephen Moore

Advertisements

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

Fay

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

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

“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

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

Book Giveaway of Stephen Moore’s ‘Tooth and Claw’! (First Edition)

2015 marks the publication of my first fantasy for adults, GRAYNELORE (HarperVoyager August 13th) also making it my first new published work in any category for several years. As part of the celebrations, throughout the coming year, I will be offering a series of Book Giveaways from my back catalogue. This Goodreads* Giveaway is the very first.

What am I offering? Well, these are nice prizes. I am giving away TWO copies of TOOTH & CLAW, my best-selling title to date. So there are two chances to win. These are perfect, collectable, FIRST PRINTED EDITION copies (Hodder, April, 1998), from my own private collection, and they will be SIGNED by the author!

TOOTH & CLAW is a compelling epic animal fantasy. Mankind has gone from the city, abandoning their pet animals to fend for themselves. Leaving arch-rivals – the cats and the dogs – to fight with tooth and claw! The laws of Men are no more. And in the wild there is only one law… survival!

This Book Giveaway is live until 4th September 2015. To join in, simply follow the Giveaway links below and enter. And the very best of luck to everyone!

ENTER GIVEAWAY at Goodreads.

Tooth & Claw0022Suggested Readership: Young Adult

Not a Goodreads member? Missed out this time? Don’t worry, between August 13th 2015 and August 13th 2016 I will be offering similar exclusive Book Giveaways via my website. So keep a look out.

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

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

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

Free ebook in return for honest reviews

I’m looking for fresh, up-to-date and honest reviews of two of my children’s books. In return, I’m offering a free ebook to reviewers, available in either of these formats: Mobi (Kindle) ePub (Sony / Nook / iPad / Kobo).

The books are: “Tooth and Claw”. An epic animal fantasy adventure, recommended for young adult readers. And “The Brugan”. A fantasy adventure, recommended for older children / young adult readers.

If you are a book reviewer and would like to participate please send me an email via my contact page. Please choose only ONE title to review in the first instance. Mark your message either; REVIEW TOOTH AND CLAW or REVIEW BRUGAN and tell me your preferred ebook format.

What do I expect from reviewers? A totally honest review, to be posted by you on some/all of these platforms: Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, perhaps on your own site or other personal favourite, if you’d be so kind. I’m looking at a sensible time scale of around four/five weeks from book receipt to review.

Tooth and Claw

The Brugan

“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

“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

Kobo   AmazonUK   Barnes&Noble

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

Kobo   AmazonUK   Barnes&Noble

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

Kobo   AmazonUK   Barnes&Noble