Friday, 17 March 2017

Skin Deep Chapter One: Little Town



Beau scrunched up his eyes in stubborn denial of the sunlight streaming in through his bedroom window. It couldn’t possibly be morning yet. He’d only come to bed a few minutes ago after an extremely undignified fight with a stubborn hen who refused to return to the barn. His eyes had been closed for five seconds, tops. He hadn’t even been out long enough to dream.

The shrill cry of a cockerel blasted through the thin walls of the country house Beau and his family had moved to last year, confirming that it was, indeed morning. The cockerel’s mischief-making mate was no doubt pea-cocking around the barn in celebration at her victory; Beau had once again had no rest and she would soon be back in the open air, harassing the horses and keeping the other birds in line. 

Admitting defeat, Beau groaned and threw back his threadbare blanket. The novel he had hoped - in vain - to finish last night lay untouched on the nightstand. Beau looked at it wistfully before getting up. He splashed some cold water on his face and torso from the pitcher in the corner of his room, avoiding his no doubt exhausted reflection in the cracked mirror hung in front of it, then pulled on a clean shirt and pair of trousers and headed through to the small family kitchen. 

It was neat, but compact. Hardly big enough for the seven person family who had to squeeze around its worn oak table for meals three times a day. Two baguettes remained on the counter from yesterday and Beau fired up the aga before sprinkling them with a little water and putting them on to heat. He filled the tarnished copper kettle to the brim with water and placed it on the hob, leaving it to boil while he attended to the house’s animal occupants. 

The farm animals’ feed was kept in a cosy store beside the back door and Beau refilled the buckets with a yawn, making a mental note to head into town later to purchase more feed. Their supplies were dwindling yet again. 

“Come on then, Hellions,” he called out cheerfully as he entered the barn. “Breakfast time!” He flung the doors wide open, allowing the animals access to the small but well maintained farmyard beside the house. As he’d predicted, the hen who had caused him so much trouble last night was the first through the door. She nipped his boot affectionately before helping herself to the feed that he had started to scatter around the yard. 

“Good morning, nuisance,” he told her with a fond smile. “Who are you going to terrorise this morning?” As if in answer to his question, the hen took off across the yard, chasing down another hen who had brazenly attempted to approach the cockerel. The morning was fresh, but dry; the sun that had woken Beau gleamed down on the yard, illuminating the dew coated spider webs. 

Once the animals were fed and watered, Beau returned to the kitchen where the kettle was whistling merrily. He took it off the hob and started making tea. Once he was done, he took the bread from the aga and put it in the centre of the table with a small slab of butter, an almost empty pot of homemade jam and seven plates. It was a meagre breakfast, but there was nothing that could be done about that. Milk, at least, was plentiful, having been provided by the family’s cow yesterday. Milking her would be his next job for the morning, once he’d had something to eat. 

Beau rang the brass bell by the door before taking his place at the table, tearing off a chunk of the warm bread and biting into it. He left the butter and the jam untouched. 

He was halfway through his breakfast when the rest of his family appeared. His father looked grateful as always. He was moving stiffly today; the injured leg that prevented him from helping Beau to run the farm must have been causing him more trouble due to the growing coldness of the weather. Beau made a mental note to put a hot water pan in his bed tonight. His three younger sisters - Rose, Clara and Estelle - took their seats with fond smiles in his direction, although tiny Rose struggled to hide her dismay at how little food was on offer. Her tiny bottom lip quivered as their eldest brother, Louis, seized the last of the jam, slathering it over his own disproportionately large chunk of bread without a thought for the others. Gabriel took an equally uneven portion, throwing Beau a look of disgust as he spread crumbs all over the table. 

“Is this all there is?” He complained loudly. 

“I’m not a magician, Gabe,” Beau replied, tearing off some of his remaining bread and handing it to Rose, who had already finished her own portion and was looking around hungrily. “I can’t fashion breakfast from thin air.”

“What about the eggs you collected yesterday?” Louis grunted, pouring himself another cup of tea. 

“I’m taking them into town to sell so that I can put breakfast on the table tomorrow morning.” Beau struggled to keep his tone even as he spoke to his brothers. 

“Get some croissants,” Gabe demanded. Rose and Clara’s eyes lit up, but Beau shook his head. 

“Do you have any idea how much they cost? It’s croissants for three of us, or bread for all.”

Louis laughed, tipping his head back so that his brown curls fell away from his eyes. “So long as I get to eat, I don’t care.”

Gabe, meanwhile, was glaring at their father, his green eyes glowing. “I miss the town. We were never hungry once we finished breakfast there.”

Louis laughed once more. “Only hungry for another eyeful of that maid. What was her name again? The one that always bought you extra pastries?”

Gabe shrugged, grinning. “As if I bothered to learn her name. I was too busy staring at her-”

“Gabe!” Beau admonished, cutting across him with a pointed glance towards the younger girls. 

Gabe shrugged him off, getting to his feet. At six foot, he barely fit under the kitchen ceiling. “If there’s nothing else to eat, I’m going back to bed.” Louis sloshed down his cup of tea, letting the cup crash back to the table with a loud belch before following his brother out of the room. 

“Do you need any help this morning, Beau?” Grey-eyed Estelle, the eldest of his sisters, though still Beau’s junior by four years, asked once their elder brothers had left. 

Beau hated delegating jobs to his sisters, who should have been playing with dolls and teddy bears instead of working on a farm. He shook his head, ruffling Rose’s strawberry blonde hair fondly. 

“I’ve got it, thanks. You three should go outside and play. There’s not much nice weather left this year; make the most of it.”

“You’re sure?” Estelle checked, although her eyes glanced hopefully towards the door.

“Of course.”

With identical grins, the three girls rose and headed outside, where their excited cries and chatter soon filled the air. 

Beau’s father looked at him and sighed. “I’m sorry-“ he began, but Beau cut across him. 

“Ignore them. They’re brutes. It’s not your fault that storm destroyed all of your ships. And I think we’re doing French society a favour by keeping Gabriel and Louis tucked away here where they can’t do as much damage. You don’t need to apologise to me for anything.”

“Except the loss of your happiness,” his father gazed towards the door as he spoke, where the girls could still be heard playing joyfully. 

Beau shrugged. “I wasn’t really any happier in town.”

“Too busy dreaming of adventure?” His father asked, smiling. 

Beau sighed. “I just want something… more than this. Not that I even know what it is I’m looking for.”

“If anyone deserves to live out their dreams, Beau, it’s you. I only hope I can somehow give you the opportunity to escape this place.”

Beau smiled sadly at his father before getting to his feet to clear the breakfast things away. Adventure. Escape. Those were dreams for someone without six other hungry mouths to provide for. Beau knew that he would be stuck on this farm for the rest of his life, his books the closest to adventure he was ever going to get. 

To keep reading, make sure you follow me on Wattpad and add Skin Deep to your reading list. Updates every Friday.


Friday, 10 March 2017

Skin Deep: one week to go

To celebrate there being only one week to go until I post the first chapter of my Beauty and the Beast retelling and the release of the new film, today I am sharing the Wattpad cover art and the first few paragraphs!

A tale as old as time with a rather different twist. When Beau's father steals a cursed rose from the garden of a terrifying beast, Beau bravely offers to take his father's place in servitude. 
Cursed to appear in the form that will terrify the beholder most,  Brielle doesn't know what to make of the new addition to her castle.
But the pair slowly learn that there is more to the other than meets the eye. After all, beauty is only skin deep.


Beau scrunched up his eyes in stubborn denial of the sunlight streaming in through his bedroom window. It couldn’t possibly be morning yet. He’d only come to bed a few minutes ago after an extremely undignified fight with a stubborn hen who refused to return to the barn. His eyes had been closed for five seconds, tops. He hadn’t even been out long enough to dream.

The shrill cry of a cockerel blasted through the thin walls of the country house Beau and his family had moved to last year, confirming that it was, indeed morning. The cockerel’s mischief-making mate was no doubt pea-cocking around the barn in celebration at her victory; Beau had once again had no rest and she would soon be back in the open air, harassing the horses and keeping the other birds in line. 

Admitting defeat, Beau groaned and threw back his threadbare blanket. The novel he had hoped - in vain - to finish last night lay untouched on the nightstand. Beau looked at it wistfully before getting up. He splashed some cold water on his face and torso from the pitcher in the corner of his room, avoiding his no doubt exhausted reflection in the cracked mirror hung in front of it, then pulled on a clean shirt and pair of trousers and headed through to the small family kitchen. 


What do you think? You'll be able to read Skin Deep on my blog and over at Wattpad. I will post the rest of the first chapter next Friday, so check back then to meet the rest of Beau's family.



Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Next Together

The Next Together by Lauren James


How many times can you lose the person you love? 

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. 

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? 

Maybe the next together will be different... {goodreads summary}

Time travel, romance and an action-packed adventure - what more could you ask for in a novel?

"I don't think there are any true heroes. Just people who ignore their survival instincts long enough to do something incredibly foolhardy."

When Kate meets Matt in a university biology lab, he seems strangely familiar - right down to the Scottish accent she's expecting before he even opens his mouth. The more time they spend with each other, the more they get the sense that they have done this before. Many times. The Next Together follows Kate and Matt as they find and lose each other across various timelines. A brilliant blend of sci-fi, action and romance, The Next Together is a novel not to be missed.

"All throughout history they had been doing this, finding and loving each other and then being ripped apart before they even had a chance to live."

I particularly loved the way the different time lines weaved together; James' ability to keep track of all the threads and keep the pace moving was superb. 

"She had been here before. She knew she had, except she definitely hadn't."

My favourite parts of TNT were the really cute emails/texts/fridge notes between 2019 Katherine and Matthew which were often used to start the chapters. They were funny and gave a great insight into the characters. 

"This conference is everything I want in life: sun, sand and four talks a day about health and safety."

I'm really intrigued to see what happens in the sequel - The Last Beginning (which is a brilliant title!) - as I'm not really sure where the story will go next. 

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Fairytale Retellings

While I continue working on Skin Deep, I wanted to share some of my favourite fairytale retellings on the blog, as there are so many brilliant ones out there.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer


Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.  {goodreads summary}

Why would I recommend it? Because this series is a sci-fi retelling of not one, but four different fairytales! Meyer weaves the original tales into her work in unique and surprising ways. 

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas


When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.  {goodreads summary}

Why would I recommend it? This is a very loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast but it has some brilliant moments. The sequel - A Court of Mist and Fury - is superb.

The Forbidden Wish


When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.  {goodreads summary}

Why would I recommend it? This is a novel about friendship as much as romance and Khoury's storytelling is superb. 

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse?
At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy's gift -- the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse -- once and for all. {goodreads summary}
Why would I recommend it? Because it's funny, lighthearted and enjoyable from start to finish. 
Beastly by Alex Flinn


I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.
  {goodreads summary}

Why would I recommend it? Because it puts some interesting twists on the original. The modern setting works really well. 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don't.
As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down? {goodreads summary}
Every Maas book I read is better than the last. If you haven't read any of her novels yet, I can't recommend them enough; she is a superbly talented author. The plot, the characters, the romance... I honestly can't decide which detail of this series I enjoy the most.

“The world will be saved and remade by the dreamers.”

I loved the inclusion of all the characters from the novella series (which should definitely be read along with the full length novels, as they contain so many important character details). It emphasised just how rich and detailed Maas' world building is and prevented the jarring inclusion of too many new characters this late in the series. 

“You will find, Rolfe, that one does not deal with Celaena Sardothien. One survives her” 

And then, of course, there was the ending. Maas - Queen of the cliffhanger - delivered a Court of Mist and Fury worthy twist that will ensure I'll be thinking about this novel until the conclusion to the series comes out. 

“Even when this world is a forgotten whisper of dust between the stars, I will always love you.” 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Skin Deep: Inspiration and Planning

A few months ago I posted a little bit about my next short story, Skin Deep, which is a gender-reversed retelling of Beauty and the Beast. My plan is now complete and I'm ready to start work on chapter one, so I thought I would share a little bit of information about my inspiration and initial planning. 

After I'd got my initial character ideas down in Scrivener, my next job was to find and read the original fairytales. The most famous version of Beauty and the Beast (besides the Disney film) is by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, but this is an abridged version of an original tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Both are worth reading, although they are rather different to Disney's interpretation. Skin Deep will use aspects from both tales, as well as a lot of new elements, just like Mirrored Snow and Princess Charming.

As well as my reading research, I also started to put together a Pinterest board. I make these for all my stories as I find them a really helpful way of compiling my ideas. The images are also be really helpful when I come to work on my cover art. You can take a look at my Pinterest board for Skin Deep below. It contains a few hints of what's to come. I'll be posting the first chapter on the blog before it goes on Wattpad, so keep an eye out for future updates!


Saturday, 7 January 2017

PopSugar 2017 Challenge

Despite failing miserably at last years, I'm still going to give the 2017 challenge a go. I will try to update the list below as I go along. You can find out more about the challenge here

A book recommended by a librarian
A book that's been on your TBR list forever {Snow Like Ashes}
A book of letters
An audiobook
A book by a person of colour
A book with one of the four seasons in the title
A book that is a story within a story
A book with multiple authors
An espionage thriller
A book with a cat on the cover
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym
A bestseller from a genre you don't usually read {American Gods}
A book by or about a person who has a disability
A book involving travel {A Gathering of Shadows}
A book with a subtitle
A book that's published in 2017 {Carve the Mark}
A book involving a mythical creature {Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them}
A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile {Harry Potter - I'm due a series re-read!}
A book about food {The Weekend Baker}
A book with career advice {Structuring Your Novel}
A book from a nonhuman perspective {interesting... not sure what to try for this one}
A steampunk novel
A book with a red spine
A book set in the wilderness
A book you loved as a child {HP counts twice if I'm reading multiple books in the series, right?}
A book by an author from a country you've never visited {Way Down Dark has been sat on my Kindle for a while now}
A book with a title that's a character's name {Anna and the French Kiss}
A novel set during wartime {Margot & Me}
A book with an unreliable narrator {I love these! This is a great excuse to find a really good one}
A book with pictures {one of the many, many picture books I will be reading this year...}
A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
A book about an interesting woman
A book set in two different time periods {The Next Together}
A book with a month or day of the week in the title
A book set in a hotel
A book written by someone you admire {The Cursed Child}
A book that's becoming a movie in 2017 {I will need to do some research for this one as I can't think of any off the top of my head}
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas {An Easter story? Or a spooky Halloween read?}
The first book in a series you haven't read before {This Raging Light}
A book you bought on a trip

It's a really interesting list! There are some extension ones this year too, but since I usually struggle with the basic list I won't look at them quite yet. I've tried to fill in some of the gaps with novels I'm already planning to read. I will update with reviews as I go. 

Are you taking part? Let me know in the comments if so and please post your ideas for some of the categories.