Blog Archives

Harriet’s Facts – #ForeverGeek Blog Tour

The White Hare by Michael Fishwick – Blog Tour (Guest Post)

I’m very pleased to introduce The White Hare, and Zephyr to you today. The White Hare by Michael Fishwick is the launch title for Head of Zeus new children’s imprint, Zephyr.

This beautiful hardback book is a lyrically mythical delight. Michael Fishwick, already the author of two novels, Smashing People and Sacrifices has kindly written a guest post on dealing with death in children’s books.

WH cover

Robbie doesn’t want anything more to do with death, but life in a village full of whispers and secrets can’t make things the way they were.

When the white hare appears, magical and fleet in the silvery moonlight, she leads them all into a legend, a chase, a hunt.

But who is the hunter and who the hunted?

Strangely, both my first two novels began with a death, and I’m not entirely sure why. I remember showing the opening pages to my wife, because I was worried her father, who seemed old then, to me, might die as I wrote the book and I didn’t want to jinx it, or him. As it turns out, he’s still very much alive at ninety-six, though sadly my own parents died as I wrote The White Hare, something that took me years to address and some of the effects of which worked their way into Robbie’s own experiences.

When I write I don’t have a target reader in mind. I want you, the reader, to be drawn in and entranced, held captive by the fiction, and I want to create a reliable and absorbing texture. What interests me, above all else, is how we experience our lives as human beings. For me, both in my day job as a publisher and as a fiction author, writing is part of a journey to understand and as importantly feel what those experiences are all about.

In Robbie’s case, I wanted to develop a vibrant and suffering voice, one that is experiencing adversity and facing up to it. I wish that when I was being bullied at school I could have responded with the tough, leathery bravado that Robbie does. Once, I was in the local library and I was just leaving the children’s bit to find my dad on the other side of the building in the adult bit (this was in Dulwich, south London) when some boy who seemed twice my height took my books and put them on top of a van where I couldn’t reach them. He then asked what I was going to do about it. I stood there, my eyes on a level with his stomach, and I knew what I should do, I should drive my fist into his stomach as hard as I could; but I quailed, and ran. My little brother had seen what was going on and scooted ahead, so I found my dad belting out of the library towards me. I’ve never seen anyone box anyone’s ears before or since, but that’s what he did to the bully.

So when thinking about Robbie and his mother’s death I really wanted to get the essence of the relationships and the emotions. A lot was based on my own childhood in south London; my parents then went abroad and I was sent to boarding school, and at the age of fourteen was hauled into my housemaster’s study to be told my beloved aunt had died of cancer. I was fourteen. I had no idea how to respond; I had enough on my plate with the bullying. She was witty and kind and read PG Wodehouse and made me sandwiches with very thin bread when she took me out of school and we sat under the lamplights on Clapham Common in her dark green mini before she took me back. With Robbie, his response was to go wild and burn things; it’s all about anger, an emotion that fascinates me. At that age I think death is incomprehensible. I remember realizing that I would die, again at boarding school with no one to turn to, when I was about twelve. So I just didn’t think about it for a long time. But when writing about Robbie I wanted to get down the essence of the experience on paper. With Fran, who chooses it, it seemed a natural part of the white hare legend, and here I wanted to write about the ruthless brutality of love in one of its aspects (in another it is kind and forgiving, of course). When someone chooses to kill themselves, some react with horror and a lack of forgiveness, but I think of the depth of sorrow and madness and churning feelings that make you not want to exist anymore.

What I am really trying to do in The White Hare is through imagination and empathy find a way of confronting and defying the reality of death, and that whole process begins for all of us in childhood.

 

 

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this story and oddly it reminded me of Watership Down and the film Lady in White in its tonal quality. The image below, a sentence about tears, shows a flavour of the beautiful writing in this book. I would describe the genre as magical realism because it is through the supernatural and mythical elements that Robbie, his friend Mags, his father, and the reader learn more about, and begin to deal with the nature of death. I think I might need to re-read to fully appreciate all the nuances. I liked how Robbie is just friends with two girls and it was refreshing for romance not to be a main element. I also felt the rural and seasonal setting added an certain innocence to which the violent episodes in the book was in stark contrast. It’s interesting to see the author write about his personal experience of bullying and then how that is played out in the book (I’m not sure I entirely agree with the method Robbie uses on occasion). I could really see this as a Sunday afternoon BBC family series, in the vein of Moondial. Gosh this book is bringing back memories. If you like your stories lilting and poetic do give this one a read.

Tears

Huge thanks goes to Blake at Head of Zeus for the copy and to Michael for sharing this story. My opinions are, as ever, my own. Please do check out the tour banner below and head along to the other stops to learn more about The White Hare. I look forward to seeing what other books Zephyr has to offer.

WHITE HARE

 

Shadow Reaper Release Day Blitz – Extract and Read-a-Long – Amos Cassidy

Today is the release day for the novel Shadow Reaper described as a dark urban fantasy with a post-apocalyptic twist.

shadow-reaper-ks-72-dpi

Goodreads link

Kindle download link

What’s it about?

Only the bravest go over the Horizon…

Twenty years ago the barriers between worlds came down and our reality was swallowed up by the Shadowlands. Now we scavenge to survive, until one day there’s nothing left to reap. Starvation is around the corner, but I’m not the roll over and wait-to-die kinda girl. Nope, I’m going further than anyone has ever been and returned to tell the tale. I’m going into the Beyond, and I’m not coming back without a solution.

Who wrote it?

amos-cassidyTwitter Link

Amos Cassidy is the pen name for Richard Amos and Debbie Cassidy. Amos is a 31 year old Diva and Cassidy a 39 year old mother of three; well, four if you include the husband. A common love of all things Joss Whedon, Urban Fantasy, and a tug of war over Jensen Ackles, brought them together, and one cold February afternoon, over nibbles and coffee, their partnership was born.
You can find Cassidy hard at work in her fortress of solitude which has eaten up the majority of her garden, and Amos…well he’s still trying to get the invisibility gizmo he got off a friendly alien in exchange for a pair of earphones to work. Funnily enough he hasn’t been seen around much lately…

Frequent doses of Sugary snacks, coupled with regular injections of caffeine aid in their production of a unique brand of cross genre tales. They are always writing, but are happy to take a break to chat to their wonderful readers, so drop them a line at amoscassidy@yahoo.co.uk, or just pop over to see what they’re working on at amoscassidyauthor.com and they’ll bust out the biscuit tin.

Join in the Read-a-long

shadow-reaper-read-a-long1

Read an extract below

ASH

 

It was a day like all the others, dark as pitch and cold as ice, most definitely not a day to die. So when I came face to face with the Knightmare, I froze, all my training taking a flying leap out the proverbial window. You didn’t get Knightmares on this side of the Horizon. In fact, it’d been over a year since anyone had seen one at all.

The Knightmare stared at me with its slanted, glowing eyes, steam pluming from its perpetually flared nostrils, its equine body poised to attack and then it opened its mouth and screamed.

I remembered how to run.

I ran on instinct, moving through the underground tunnels from memory alone. I could hear it behind me, its hooves thundering against the cracked concrete, its rumbling breath pressing against my ears.

It shouldn’t be here, couldn’t be here, and yet it was.

I realised that if I ran back to Shelter, then I’d be leading it straight home, so I took a left instead of a right at the next intersection. I ran, losing myself in the burning of my lungs and the screaming of my muscles. It was only a matter of time before it got me, only a matter of minutes, because I was losing momentum. I couldn’t keep up this pace much longer.

My eyes stung, my throat grew tight. Man, I was pissed! Nineteen years I’d survived this hellhole, nineteen, and I was going to get taken out by a Knightmare? No way was I going out like that! Besides, if I croaked, then that thing would be left roaming the tunnels. My people would be in danger. I had no idea how it’d managed to get across the Horizon without being spotted by the Eye. I’d have to report this to Blake, get him to look into the security. The small bitey critters that scuttled across were one thing, those were inevitable. Those we could handle, but this was bad, real bad.

Up ahead, the fallen and rusted body of a huge contraption from the time before came into view. I gave a final burst of speed and leapt up onto its metallic body. The Knightmare reared back. One thing about Knightmares, they’re not big on climbing. I blew tendrils of hair out of my eyes, yanked out my scrunchie and then scraped my hair back up into a tight ponytail.

It paced, back and forth, its eyes glistening in the dark. I crouched, tips of my fingers grazing cool metal, and watched it—waiting.

That’s it, just get bored and piss off, you ugly—

“Mansfield?” A shrill whistle. “Where are you, boy?”

What the hell? There was someone down here.

The sound of slow, leisurely footsteps echoed through the darkness.

The Knightmare turned his head to look back up the tunnel.

Shit! Who could be so stupid as to be out here alone?

You are, you twat!

Point.

“Oi! Don’t come any closer,” I yelled. “There’s a Knightmare here. Run!”

The footsteps faltered.

He was probably from the slums, maybe using the tunnels to scavenge like I was. Fuck, I remembered those days, but it was dangerous, too dangerous for someone untrained. I waited, straining to hear the sounds of retreat, yet there was nothing but silence.

Had I imagined the voice?

The Knightmare turned away from me.

No, definitely not my imagination. Those things could smell a human a mile off. Stupid bloody man, boy, whoever it was.

“Bloody run, you idiot! There’s no point hiding! It can bleedin’ smell ya!”

A low chuckle filtered through the air, accompanied by the sound of footsteps.

They were growing closer.

Well, there was no helping some people.

A shape became visible. A man, tall, broad, and slim, wreathed in darkness. My eyes, accustomed to the gloom of the tunnels, could make out only the whites of his eyes surrounding cerulean blue.

“Well, there you are, Mansfield.” The Knightmare whinnied and trotted over to the man, offering his huge head to be petted.

What the crap?

The man tilted his head to look up at me. “Dangerous being out here all alone, little human.” He said the last word as if it were a dirty one.

Mansfield emitted a pleading rumble.

“Mansfield’s hungry.” The man cocked his head and stared at me for a very long time, so long, in fact, that I began to wonder if he’d turned to stone or fallen asleep on his feet with his eyes open. “I don’t think she’ll make a very palatable meal, boy. All skin and bones, that one. Come, we’ll find you something more . . . substantial.”

A chill crawled up my spine. Only one of them could control a Knightmare. A Shadowlander.

He flashed me his even white teeth. “You’re safe for now, human. Crawl off to your hideout and forget this ever happened.”

And just like that, they were gone.

I exhaled sharply and stared at the spot where they had just stood. Something had stood. Something.

What the hell was I doing on top of this rusty contraption?

Climbing down gingerly, I wiped my dirty palms on my trousers and headed home.

 

***

 

I crawled through the hidden passageway that led back into Shelter. I reached the grate that opened up into Corridor 4 and waited, listening. There wasn’t usually anyone about at this time, but you never knew. After long minutes of absolute silence, I knocked aside the grate and slid into the corridor, landing lightly on my feet.

I moved the grate back into place, then pushed in the rusty screws to make them look like they were snug in their holes.

Straightening my shirt and brushing off my trousers, I made my way back to my quarters.

If I thought I’d gotten off scot-free for my little escapade, then I was sadly mistaken.

Clay sat on my bed, his face dark with anger.

Shit.

“What the hell, Ash? What. The. Hell?”

Crap! Time to do some damage control.

I plastered a contrite expression on my face, ready to do the pleading thing, but he held up his hand.

“Don’t even go there. You’re not sorry. I know it, you know it, and the whole fucking world knows it. What I want to know is why. You got what you wanted. You’re a Reaper, so why take these unnecessary risks?”

I felt the first spark of anger. “Why? Because someone has to! The bimonthly reaps aren’t cutting it. Everyone knows it. Someone has to take the risk. Remember the penicillin, the iodine, the—”

“Yes! I remember. You found some important stuff, but—”

“And I didn’t go over the Horizon to do it. I’m not bleedin’ suicidal. I was careful. Nothing saw me and I didn’t see any of . . . them.” Some memory skittered under the surface of my mind but was gone too quick to catch.

Clay rubbed his face with his hand, his shoulders rising and falling in a heartfelt sigh, and I felt the guilt heavy on my chest. I was his burden. His little sister, the one he’d sworn to protect. I didn’t make it easy.

Older than me by five minutes, Clay had seamlessly stepped into our parents’ shoes after they died five years ago. We’d been barely fourteen at the time. Clay had taken their deaths as an inevitability. He’d said good-bye, buried them, and then turned his attention to taking care of me. Sod that! I’d been pissed off and incensed by the unfairness of it because, as far as I was concerned, they’d chosen to die. Food and shelter had been less than a mile away; all they’d had to do was claim it. All they’d had to do was volunteer for the academy, become Reapers, and we would have been clothed and fed and sheltered. But they’d been afraid, weak, and they’d died. Yes, I’d been angry. So angry that I’d done the one thing that they’d never wanted either Clay or me to do. I’d signed up to be a Reaper.

Reaper status meant food. It meant lodging. It meant safety. It had come too late for my parents, but I was determined not to lose Clay to their skewed convictions. Clay couldn’t bring himself to break the vow we’d made to them, though; thank goodness Shelter needed able-bodied men to train in the tech side of things. Clay always had an affinity for building shit, so here we were five years later—Clay a head Technician and me a seasoned Reaper. The tech we had here was primitive, but he managed to keep the lights on and the heat running, and that’s all we could ask for.

“Ashling?”

“Huh?”

“Go to bed.” He stood and moved toward the door.

He was disappointed in me. I hated it. I couldn’t leave things like this between us. As he brushed past, I turned into him, wrapping my arms around his waist. He tensed and then relaxed. His arms wrapped around me and he squeezed me tight.

“Please, Ash, just follow protocol, ’kay?”

I nodded against his chest, and yes, I really meant to keep my promise. I always do . . . until next time.

He released me and ruffled my hair.

“Say ’night to Blake.” I smiled up at him coquettishly.

He blushed. “Will do.”

It was sweet the way those two were still so gaga over each other. They’d been dating for just over a year now, and they acted like a married couple. Clay had even moved into Blake’s quarters, and yet he still blushed when I mentioned Blake’s name.

Sweet.

He pecked me on the forehead and then left me to it.

A yawn ripped through me, and I stretched and threw myself onto my rumpled bed. My quarters were small and boxy, but they were mine. Pictures from old magazines I’d found on my scavenging trips decorated the walls: cars and paradise settings, gardens and sunsets, and lovers holding hands. These were memories that I’d never have. They lulled me to sleep, and sometimes I’d find myself on a beach somewhere, waves lapping at my toes, or maybe in a beautiful garden, the scent of roses sweet and strong in my nose. I didn’t know if what I dreamt held any similarity to how it used to be. How could I? I’ve never smelled a rose or walked on the beach, but the dreams kept my spirits alive, and sometimes he joined me—the man who didn’t speak.

The first time it happened, I was frightened. I mean, some strange bloke walks into my dream and just hangs out? It was creepy, but I soon started to feel okay with it. In fact, he’d become a kind of friend now . . . I think.

My eyelids were starting to get heavy, so I closed them, exhaling long and deep, and let sleep take me.

 

%d bloggers like this: