A letter to my good friend, Discredit Means

“hello!,I really like your writing very a lot! share we keep in touch more
approximately your post on AOL? I need an expert in this area to resolve my problem.
Maybe that is you! Looking forward to peer you.”

I recently received the generous comment above from a person named Discredit Means. Now, there’s a name. If you are a celebrity, and you are about to give birth, take note. If the names of all the bridges, countries, states, terrorist organizations, football teams, and characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are taken up, Discredit Means is the precursor to an inexhaustible supply of noun-verb combinations. Other options include Humiliation Procedure, Ignominy Agency, Ill Repute Mechanism, and Stigma Channel.

When Discredit’s parents were naming him (or her – the message does not make the gender entirely clear), they clearly had his (or her) future in mind. “Our dear son (or daughter),” they said, “may one day wish to become a Bond villain or a private detective in the mold of a cheaply made 1950s crime melodrama. If so, he (or she) will need a name truly fitting this role.” Alternatively, they may have sensed in their son (or daughter) a criminal instinct, and being people of an ironic bent, felt that such a name would offer some small glint of humour in an otherwise dreary day in court.

If only because of the name, I decided to give the comment the lengthy reply it deserved.

Dear Discredit

So glad you like my writing so very a lot. I look forward to our approximate keeping in touch on AOL. I am not sure how approximate keeping in touch works in general. Do we almost send each other e-mails but change our minds at the last moment? However, I am interested in seeing it put into practice. Maybe you could post some examples on your website: fhfkfgsdhsfdlr843jnfjafhaekerj854j.com

Your problem sounds very bad if you may need my expertise to resolve it.  Gosh, maybe that is me. It seems I will have to peer you to find out for sure. Not sure what peering you involves, but I respect your earnest commitment to the practice.

Kind Regards

Compliment T. Paucity

The Plastic Schoolbook-Cover Rebellion

Rant of the Week

Plastic Schoolbook Covers

It is time for my kids to go back to school, and this year, as always, the pressure is on for me to spend half a day trying to wrap their school books in clear sticky plastic sheets that are impossible to apply. The more claims manufacturers of these irritating products make about the supposed ease with which they will slip onto the covers of schoolbooks, the more likely I am to find them stuck to my fingers, nearby chairs and household pets, instead.

Even worse than this is the fact that there is never enough of them and they are extremely expensive. In order to afford enough of this useless junk to cover every school book, we would probably have to give up something quite important for a year, like eating.

Why do I have to do this? The books HAVE covers. Publishing companies don’t operate on the supposition that everyone will add a new cover once they purchase a book. If anything, publishing companies are rather more inclined to add superfluous covers than take away necessary ones. I am constantly wrestling to maintain the outer sleeves of hardback books, which seem to exist only to try to escape. These covers cower needily on bookshelves, trying to bond with every other book but the one to which they belong. Their other favourite spot is the middle of the kitchen floor, where they return time and again, presumably with the intention of causing someone to break their neck.

Moreover, if I may gripe a bit more, I have already paid quite a substantial sum for the schoolbooks, and the supposition that I am prepared to shell out more cash and spend about thirty minutes per book, just so they can look like something my youngest son creates when he plays with sellotape, is too much. This year, I am not going to do it. I am going to have a cup of coffee instead. The books will have to try their hardest to remain intact.

Facebook, I Don’t Care How Jennifer Aniston Stays Fit

Finally Facebook, you have stopped filling my newsfeed with ads for weight loss pills, liposuction services and botox injections.

I will say, I like Jennifer Aniston. She is a talented person whose abundant acting skills appear to have been trumped by an ability to pick roles in the worst imaginable films. But Facebook, it has taken you an inordinately long time to realize that I have absolutely no interest in how Jennifer Aniston retains her unarguably slim and youthful physique. Nor do I care about the fitness regimes of a whole range of other celebrities, most of whom I’ve never heard of (I mean, do you make these people up?).

Nonetheless, it’s good to know that you have moved on from that kind of lazy demographic targeting. I’m interested, do you use people’s age and gender as the sole deciding factor when choosing targets for these ads, or do you peruse their photographs, trying to figure out who could afford to lose a few pounds?

Having realized that I have no intention of clicking on those ads, ever, you are now intent on making me travel, which is a nice thought, very kind of you. I’d love to spend a week in a four-star hotel in the Maldives. Give me the money to do so, and I’ll get booking straight away.

Also, you are now trying to make me sell things on Facebook, because if I’m online, I might as well, right? To save you any more time and effort in this department, I would like to point out that I will sell things on Facebook when hell freezes over, and since I don’t really believe in hell (appealing though it is to imagine certain well-known geopolitical figures swimming about in the Dantean swamp), that is going to take a hell of a long time to happen.

Excuse that terrible pun, but seriously Facebook, in the words of Father Jack Hackett, “Feck off.”

When Writing is Like Juggling (but Without the Financial Rewards or Job Satisfaction)

A little while ago, when I had the luxury of only writing one book at a time, a fellow author and book blogger asked me to describe a typical writing session. I gave her this. I hope it doesn’t put too many people off writing as a career. It’s laugh-a-minute really. And the chocolate biscuit cake is delicious.

A Typical Writing Session:

Having dropped my youngest son at Montessori, I make a cup of coffee and sit at the kitchen table. Chocolate biscuit cake would be an added bonus and helped me a great deal when I was writing The Galian Spear (chocolate is great for the imagination), but the sequel is going to be much longer, and I don’t think my heart and blood sugar levels could withstand that level of abuse again.

I open the laptop and have just scrolled down to chapter three, when a beep indicates that an e-mail has arrived. I open it. The publishers of a book I am editing are asking for some minor changes. Thirty minutes later, having made and dispatched these changes, I open chapter three once again. Before I start writing, I think to myself, “I’ll just check my Twitter account very quickly.” I do so, and discover tweets from several fellow writers asking me to retweet their latest book promotions. Having done this, I notice an interesting tweet from a friend. I respond to it. The friend responds back.

Fifteen minutes later, I open my writing program again. My phone beeps. A text has arrived from my son’s school telling me that his soccer practice has been cancelled. I return to the table. The phone rings. A member of my family has rung for a chat. In as affectionate and calm a manner as possible, I remind them that I am working at the moment and will call them back later. “Working?” they say in obvious disbelief, “What are you working at?” “I remind them that I am writing a sequel to the book I published last year. “Oh, of course, they say, “How is that going?”

Five minutes later, I manage to hang up. I look at the clock. I have one hour and forty five minutes left for writing, maybe just about enough time to finish the first draft of chapter three. I begin writing. Five minutes later, the phone rings. It is the school telling me that one of my children is feeling unwell. Putting the laptop on the shelf so my dog doesn’t decide to chew it in my absence, I get in the car and go to collect my child. When I get home, I get the invalid a warm drink, a book and a blanket and make her a bed on the sofa.

Returning to the table, I discover that the dog has chewed up one of the sofa cushions and knocked my cup of coffee onto the floor. I spend ten minutes clearing up piles of brown, damp fluff in which tiny shards of china have become concealed. Then I search for plasters for the cuts I now have on my palm and fingers. I eventually find the plasters, not in the medicine cabinet as I expected, but in the drawer that normally holds our collection of old remote controls and defunct mobile phones. I treat my wounds, take the laptop down from the shelf and open it up.

The operating system has chosen this moment to install a series of complicated updates at the exact same time that our Internet connection has decided to operate at a speed that would have been considered slow in 1991. I spend twenty minutes looking at a black screen and a message that says “Do not switch off your computer until the updates have finished installing.”

When it has finished, I get myself a fresh cup of coffee and open up the computer again. This time, I switch on the writing program immediately and begin to read over what I had written the last time I had a few scrambled minutes available. Twenty minutes later, I have to collect my son from Montessori. Another writing day is over.

Why Jeff Bridges is Responsible for my Fear of Flying


In the next couple of days, I will be boarding an airplane for the first time in about seven years. This delay has been completely intentional.

Oh, I’ve used a lot of excuses: pregnancy, my smallest son being too small to enjoy the flight, lack of money, isn’t Ireland just gorgeous in the summer, won’t a week in Kerry be just as nice as Spain (it isn’t: not when its drizzling, grey and 10 degrees). That kind of excuse.

They were nonsense. The truth is, and I have mentioned this elsewhere, I am terrified of flying. What I have not mentioned is that it is all Jeff Bridges’ fault.

Years ago, I flew frequently and with blithe disregard for any potential consequences rather than the obvious one of getting where I was going, I flew to England, America, Germany, Spain, France, Austria, without giving it a second thought. I descended on Glasgow once in a minute plane called a Focher that bounced around like a toy being waved about by a small and somewhat boisterous child. I didn’t, as they say, turn a hair.

Now, thanks to the film Fearless, I am filled with panic at the mere thought of flying. Even as I write, my stomach feels as if it is full of snakes.

Let’s be fair to Jeff Bridges. He didn’t make Fearless. Peter Weir was the director, but Peter Weir is not the person who features in my imagination every time I even think of getting on a plane.

In Fearless, Jeff Bridges is traumatized by a plane crash, and spends much of the film trying to overcome that trauma, most notably by getting into a car with Rosie Perez and driving into a wall.

With all due regard for the substantial talents of Jeff Bridges and Peter Weir (who directed The Truman Show, one of my all-time favourite films), Fearless is not a particularly good film. But, its depiction of the plane crash scared me witless.

The most frightening bit, the bit that flashes into my mind whenever I even consider leaving the country, is the bit with Q. Or rather, John de Lancie, the guy who acts Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Not to spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn’t seen Fearless, Q (sorry, John de Lancie) is sitting beside Jeff Bridges when the plane goes belly up; but where Jeff Bridges somehow survives, Q loses his head. Graphically. Chillingly. Horribly.

What I see, whenever I think of being in a plane, is Jeff Bridges, sitting beside a headless John de Lancie.

This is why I cannot fly. Or at least, not without the help of some serious sedative, which I will look up on the Internet as soon as I finish writing this (only joking).

But I am going to Sweden, because my brother lives there, and even if he didn’t live a plane journey away, I would be getting on an airplane this year. The world is a big and fascinating place, and I have run out of excuses not to visit it. I cannot show my fear, either, that wouldn’t be fair on my children, who have never seen Fearless and hopefully never will.




Urgently Needed: A Friend for a Lonely Hen

Silkie the Lonely Hen

Not long ago, Silkie the hen had four friends. Princess Leia sadly succumbed to old age, and Dorothy Vader may have been the victim of a fox, mink or rebel blaster ( it is hard to tell which… all we found of her was a few black feathers). Red-feathered Freddie Weasley (probably still mourning the ironic demise of her twin sister, Georgina) wondered off into the wilderness (the field beside our house) and never returned. Luke Skywalker is still alive. She comes back occasionally, pecks around disdainfully and goes away again. We think she has a clutch of eggs hidden somewhere and clings to the mistaken belief that they may one day hatch.

In the meantime, Silkie, the sole inhabitant of a once lively hen house, is lonely. She pecks around the garden disconsolately. She arrives at the front door each morning and stares up at our windows, giving the occasional mournful cluck. She stands on the porch and makes us feel irrationally guilty every time we get into the car and drive off without her.

Silkie’s loneliness is such that she has taken refuge with the goats. When she is not laying guilt trips at our feet, she sits with them, sometimes sharing their food and probably discussing the fickleness of hens named after fictional characters.

I am writing this, because I am tired of feeling responsible for a hen’s social life and would sincerely like to get Silkie the companion she needs. If anyone has a hen, or knows a hen that needs a new home, please let me know. I will point out that I live in Offaly, Ireland, so offers of hens more than 30 miles away are unlikely to lead anywhere, although the thought is gratefully appreciated.

A hen that lays eggs at least sometimes would be preferable. After all, eggs are why we got the hens in the first place. I feel the irony of that statement every time I buy a carton of them in Aldi.



The Write Life, by Mazie Bishop

Today, I am very honoured to feature a guest post from the lovely Mazie Bishop, a talented writer and blogger.

Mazie Bishop

The Write Life:

I’ve done a lot of posts where I have explained my writing process and experiences but I have never really written anything about the day in the life of a full-time writer. I am constantly being asked about how on earth I balance things out with the different projects, writing jobs and with my normal life and boyfriend. I only have one answer for that, and that is the PRIORITY LIST. You all may be wondering: “What is it, just a To Do List?” but it is so much more than that.

The write life starts the second I wake up; well, the first time I wake up.

6am: I wake up and no matter how hard I try, I can’t get back to sleep. So to prevent waking up the boyfriend I go out and I do one thing that I know will have to make it on to the priority list for the day. Just one thing, whether it’s a blog post, answering emails, writing 1000 words or finishing an order for my etsy store.

8am: Go back to bed for an hour, snuggle up with the man, so he doesn’t wake up alone. (No one likes waking up unexpectedly alone)

9am: Write the list. So what I do for the priority list is I think of everything that I need to do in that day (one day at a time) and I list them in different columns ranked from Crazy Important, Important, and Normal. I spend the rest of this hour eating and getting ready for the day.

10am: The cleaning hour! So that my (sometimes) messy apartment doesn’t distract me.

11am – 2pm: Writing Time. Noon is my personal prime time for creative writing so this is the chunk of time devoted to my personal projects.

3pm-5pm: Work Time. I am a content writer for a company and I write all kinds of articles about e-cigarettes so I spend that time, that I wouldn’t be doing anything else on those articles.

6pm: I usually schedule meetings or emails for this hour, because after dinner is a common time for people to be checking their emails.

7pm: Blog posts for the next week, organizing my orders for flower crowns, getting a couple word sprints in and or just reading or researching, basically is a miscellaneous hour.

8pm: Down time, relax, relapse, reflect. Do some yoga, some meditations, family time, boyfriend time!

And I’m usually in bed by 10 or 11pm just because it’s when I’m naturally ready for bed, but it’s good because it allows me to wake up early and to get ready for the next day. A night as a writer is not a boring one though. So many nights go sleepless and it mostly because the working gears in my head don’t like stopping.

A very important part of being productive is setting goals, and I set both daily and monthly goals for all of my projects. The common mistake that people make when setting goals is setting their stakes too high. If you set your goals at an unobtainable level, you won’t even bother trying to get there. The key is to set obtainable goals so that you can stay motivated!

About Mazie Bishop:
Mazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. A self published author, she also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer that hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and can not wait for her career to start! Currently she is in the process of writing her second novel and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures and read her work or gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com

My #WritingProcess #Bloghop


It seems ironic to discuss my writing process on this week of all weeks. I will not bore you with my technical problems. If you would like to know the details of how my netbook rebelled against my move away from a Big Corporate OS by discarding an entire month’s worth of writing, you can read about it here. For my part, I will remember those lost chapters as the best I ever wrote. Nothing will ever achieve their level of greatness (That’s very easy to say, you might rightly point out, because nobody will ever read them). There is really only one word to say in response to a situation like this, and as a children’s book author, I probably shouldn’t say it.

Before I go on, I shall acknowledge the substantial talents of the person who invited me onto this blog train, Yusuf Toropov, whose novel, Jihadi: A Love Story, is a quarter finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. And rightly so; it is a remarkable piece of work. I feel honoured to be following in his blogging footsteps.

a) What am I working on?

Two novels (as if one weren’t enough work). I am continuing The Galian Spear series with The Sword of Want, and it is going to be longer and more action-packed than the first book. After a visit to 18th-century Dublin, it is now wending its way through the mythical Dark Ages, on the tracks of the elusive Orvin Flint. The Dark Ages are a great era from a writing point of view because it is a time almost nothing is known about. The imagination is free to do anything. (Well, almost anything. If Orvin took out his smartphone and started tweeting, it might seem a bit of a reality stretch).

The reason I am writing two books at the same time is because two publishers have expressed a strong interest in another of my works in progress and to capture this interest before it wanes, I am hell bent on finishing The Frozen Man as soon as possible. The Frozen Man is not a children’s book. It is a thriller set in 2018, and it is quite political, in its own way. It is very different from The Galian Spear, although they have some things in common: They are both set in Ireland, they both have elements of fantasy and they both feature volcanoes, although in very different ways.

b) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think we are all marked by our influences. When I was writing my first book , one writer especially stood out in my mind, E. Nesbit. Nesbit wrote in the 1900s, but she had a very progressive, bohemian outlook for her time, and I think this is why her work has endured so well. I also have always been drawn to books that combine the mundane ordinary aspects of the world with parallel worlds of magic or mythology. This form of magic realism features in my work whether I am writing for adults or children.

c) Why do I write what I do?

My first novel, now titled The Spear of Time, largely arose from my desire to write something for children that they would enjoy. With this in mind, I included many elements that had appealed to me in children’s books when growing up and ones that I knew would entertain my children.  The result is a blend of mythology, time travel, science fiction, adventure and fantasy.

The Frozen Man was inspired by the culture of fear that has arisen in the last decade-and-a-half and been fueled by global events and the people who influence them. I began writing it in 2003 and have continued to add to it over the years. I shelved it in order to write The Spear of Time, but it is an idea that will not go away. Last summer, when Edward Snowden was trapped in the no-man’s land of the transit area of Moscow Airport, a crucial element of The Frozen Man occurred to me, and I realized that the time had come to complete the novel.

d) How does my writing process work?

In one word: coffee. No, two words: coffee and chocolate. Actually, three words: coffee, chocolate, and being anywhere else other than my own home. I know… that’s way more  than three words. I wrote much of the first draft of The Spear of Time in the lobby of a Dublin theatre called The Helix. My primary writing tools, along with my (now treacherous) netbook, were a large cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate biscuit cake. I can no longer write this way, sadly, because if I did, I would eventually be unable to get out of the house in the first place. The chocolate biscuit cake has had to go, but I now have something I didn’t have when I was originally writing the book: a wonderful network of other writers. Knowing others are there, ready to offer support or act as beta readers and give their unreservedly honest opinion, is a great incentive. I especially must mention Richard Gibney, whose encouraging feedback has kept me going at times when I might simply have given up, and Matt Dickinson, who has been both perceptive and extremely honest.

It is now time to introduce next week’s contributors to the My Writing Process blog tour. I have the honour of passing the baton to three very talented writers: Ruth Eastham, Sarah Holding, and Heather Hill. Here is some information about each of them:

Ruth Eastham was born in the north of England and has lived in several different UK cities, as well as New Zealand, Australia and Italy.  Her first two novels, The Memory Cage and The Messenger Bird, between them won 5 awards and were shortlisted for 12 others including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Ruth’s latest book, Arrowhead, has just been released.

Find out more about Ruth and her work at: http://www.rutheastham.com/

Heather Hill – comedy author & mum of five (not the band) is one of a rare kind; the rare kind being a member of the O negative blood group, pitch perfect (therefore unable to fully enjoy the atonal drones of Scotland’s bagpipes) and one of the 0.5% of females that is ever-so-slightly colour blind. She is known to have been prevented from leaving the house with blue eyebrows on at least one occasion.

Find out more about Heather and her work at www.hell4heather.com

Sarah Holding. “Having worked as a postman, an architect, a university professor and an urban development consultant, Sarah Holding is now a full-time children’s author, juggling writing with looking after a family of three children. They live in Surrey in a funny old house with a leaning tower. When she’s not writing she’s singing, and when she’s not singing she’s playing sax in her jazz band. She says she knew there would always come a time when the abandoned island of St Kilda would feature somewhere in her life, little thinking it would be the setting for her first children’s book, nor that her trilogy would join the ranks of a new genre of sci-fi otherwise known as ‘cli-fi’.”

Find out more about Sarah at: Sarah-holding.com

Ruth Eastham, Heather Hill and Sarah Holding will be posting their contributions to the My Writing Process Blog Tour on May 19th.

How I Was Betrayed by my Netbook

My netbook is my primary writing instrument. It is not a good writing instrument. In fact, it’s fairly abysmal, but it does has some redeeming qualities: It is small enough to fit in a handbag, it is too slow to offer much in the way of distractions and the battery lasts more than 30 minutes. This is the story of how my netbook betrayed me, and showed itself to be the corporate stooge I always suspected it to be.

Four weeks ago, I changed the netbook’s operating system from Windows XP to Linux. I had two good reasons for this. Firstly, Microsoft had stated that they would no longer support XP, and my contrary instincts prevented me from responding by giving Microsoft more money and obtaining an upgrade. Secondly, Windows and the netbook had a bad relationship from the outset. With Windows XP, using the netbook, even for something as simple as writing, was not unlike riding a tricycle up the side of Mount Blanc, slow and frequently impossible. So I switched it to a nice, straightforward sounding operating system called Linux Mint.

It worked a treat. Suddenly, I could type more than three words without the netbook pausing for an extended coffee break. I could do more than that. I could open two, even three, programs at once, and the netbook would not come to a screeching halt. It worked so well that I forgot to back up, something I have always done in the past, at the end of every writing session. I WAS A FOOL.

My netbook is clearly a tool of the corporate system that created it. It was built for Windows XP, and it wears its  Windows XP sticker with pride. “Why,” it thought to itself smugly, “should I change? I’m happy with my lack of productivity, my prolonged coffee breaks.” “You have already written one novel on me,” it said, “I expect to take it easy from now on.”

Last Tuesday, I switched on the netbook, ready for another productive day. I waited for it to log in, my head full of ideas to move on from the full chapter I had written the day before (A FULL CHAPTER!). The netbook wouldn’t log in. I switched it off and tried again, and again and again.

I am no technical expert, you understand. I am just someone who likes to press buttons to see what happens when they’re pressed. I don’t accept it when the buttons do not do what they are supposed to. If something goes wrong, I will keep trying to put it right. This is what I did. For the next four days, I wasted more valuable writing time as I tried everything I could to save what I had written. Initially, my aim was to get my netbook working again. Then I would simply have been content to recover what I had written. It was no go. I went onto the Linux help forums, but they might as well have been talking a different language. What am I saying; they WERE talking a different language. Eventually, I had to force myself to come to terms with the loss of the precious files by simply formatting the whole thing, irrevocably deleting everything on it.

So here I am, once again, trying to recreate what I have written in the past month and backing up, almost obsessively this time. I do not blame Linux, you understand. Linux Mint worked perfectly on my system until it decided not to.  Its hard drive wiped and restored, the netbook is also working perfectly again, although I no longer trust it. I suspect that it is just waiting for an opportunity to throw the transition to Linux in my face once again.

Historical Novels: Encouraging Children to Love History

When a collection of new books from the Irish publisher O’Brien Press arrived recently on my desk, I began to think about a children’s literary genre that has a substantial educational value: historical novels.

There is a very famous quote by the writer and philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” An innate belief in this principle led ancient societies that did not have any form of writing to venerate old people for their ability to pass on their knowledge of what had gone before. When we learn history, we are benefiting from a collective version of this, with books replacing the village or tribal elder.

Written history allows us to delve deeper and a little more accurately into the past, but it is never without errors; it is distorted by time and the subjective viewpoints of those tasked with chronicling it. Nonetheless, it is vital. Without an understanding of history, human beings would become trapped in an endless wheel of repeated disasters, all forms of progress lost amid the spokes.

In many parts of the world, great value is given to the concept of democracy. Yet educating people about history is key to achieving an effective working democratic system. If they do not learn about the past, how can citizens learn to recognize the risks inherent in certain political manoeuvres, to see through the sea of fakery that washes over them in the approach to elections, to have any hope of distinguishing the truth from the lies. Given the importance of history in this context, I am constantly shocked by the fact that so many school curriculums do not make it compulsory.

I am not without prejudice in this viewpoint; I love history. I have always loved it. Since I was 11 years old, I have been one of those people who will happily read a history book as if it was fiction. This did not come from nowhere, however. My love of history was completely inspired by fiction, and I believe that historical novels can be a springboard, launching children toward a lifelong interest in this vital subject.

Some of the books that inspired my love of history were not historical novels in that they were written during the times they portray. They included the permanently foggy and fascinatingly grim accounts of Victorian England supplied by Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters, the middle-class Edwardian escapades depicted by the wonderfully imaginative E. Nesbit, and Mark Twain’s portrayal of life growing up in the slave state that was 19th-century Missouri.

Some children may find these books inaccessible at first; nineteenth-century writers tended to be long-winded at best. They are more likely to have their historical interest peaked by novels published since the mid-20th century, which are generally written in a direct and more engaging modern style.

One of the books that played a big role in my own developing interest in history was The Silver Sword, Ian Serraillier’s classic account of a journey made across Europe by four Polish children during World War 2. After I read this book as a child, I went straight to the history shelves of my local library and read everything I could lay my hands on about that seminal war. My interest in this period in history was further inspired by Dawn of Fear, Susan Cooper’s excellent but devastating story of a group of children growing up in London during the Blitz, and I am David, Anne Holm’s highly original and absorbing tale of a boy’s experiences of freedom after he is liberated from the prison camp that is all he has ever known.

I developed an interest in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars from reading two historical novels written several decades after those events: Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Considerably more recently, Leon Garfield depicted the 19th century in a series of wonderfully accessible and entertaining novels that include Smith and Jack Holburn.

There can never be enough historical literature for children. Part of my motivation for writing The Spear of Time has been to use time travel as a technique for introducing children to many different historical periods. This literary genre has not been neglected; I could spend pages writing about all the great historical novels that have been written for children and young adults. Recent excellent additions to this pantheon include Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Sandi Toksvig’s Hitler’s Canary, Eva Ibbotson’s Star of Kazan and Journey to the River Sea, and a whole range of books by Michael Morpurgo, including War Horse, Private Peaceful, and Kaspar the Titanic Cat. There are many historical times and events that have so far been overlooked by this genre, however, which is why the selection from O’Brien Press caught my attention to such a degree. One of these books was Nicola Pierce’s City of Fate, which portrays the Battle of Stalingrad from a child’s point of view. Another was Eithne Massey’s Blood Brother, Swan Sister – 1014 Clontarf; A Battle Begins. The latter especially drew my interest, because I have never read anything about the Battle of Clontarf, even though I used to live there. My review of City of Fate can be found here, and my review of Eithne Massey’s book will be posted soon.

This article was originally published on The Swallows Nest Children’s Books Site. It is reprinted with that site’s permission.

© Safie Maken Finlay 2014