Christmas Gifts

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I’m excited to tell you that both books are out in time for Christmas (they’ll make great stocking fillers for your children, with the added bonus of giving you a bit of peace and quiet over the festive season, so that’s got to be worth a go!) and they are available here:

Rise of the Dragons:  Kindle,   and in paperback via Amazon .

The Seelie Princess:  Kindle,   and in paperback via Amazon .

You can also find them in Goodreads

Personally, I love to have a ‘proper’ physical book to hold and read, as well as enjoying the ability to do so on the Kindle. As you may have guessed, books are rather important to me!

I’m laying out the plot for the finale of this series and am currently working on a book for older teens – AKA young adults! – and it’s a totally different kind of story about a year in the life of a 14 year old girl and how she deals with the things that life throws at teenagers nowadays. It’s full of humour, (for one thing, her Nan puts a post on a social media site that goes viral and leads to an unexpected change for the girl) but also deals (sensitively) with more serious matters that a lot of families have to cope with. My readers (in this age group) are currently loving it and I’m being called on to hurry up and finish as they want to know what happens! Always a good sign for a book! I’ll post a snippet at some stage, so you can let me know what you think.

So, until next time, take a look at the books and, (if you want to,) grab a copy of them for your children.

Happy reading!

Speak soon,

Jill

Rocky

Four years and eight months ago my daughter and I went into our local pet shop for supplies for our cat. As usual, she disappeared off to look at the various smaller pets that are sold there, while I chose what we needed. She soon came running back, quite distraught, and dragged me over to a small cage that had a huge sign on it: ‘FREE to a good home.’

Inside, removed from his brothers and sisters and therefore completely on his own, a tiny fluffy marmalade and white hamster sat with his back to us, shivering in the corner. I looked at the other cages where tiny hamster families snuggled and played together, then I looked again at this creature that had been so ignominiously isolated from the others. ‘Why?’ I asked myself, my heart going out to this little bundle, just as my tender daughter’s heart already had.

I had no plans on having another hamster. We’d already had one; Harriet, who had lived for a respectable three years, so we’d been there, done that and cried when she left us to cross the rainbow bridge along with the gazillions of other creatures that make their way there on a daily basis. I didn’t want another one. Not really.

“He’s only got one eye, and the other’s no good, so he’ll never be tameable,” a gloomy voice told me. I turned to see one of the proprietors of the pet shop. “The others were trying to kill him, that’s why we took him out. I think it would have been best to leave him in there. Survival of the fittest and all that. No-one else will even look at him. He’ll only last about six months anyway. A hamster with one eye has other things wrong. Who’d take that on knowing they could never hold it or play with it?”

It turned out that we would. The tiny creature turned round and we could see the space where his eye should have been. His other eye was glued shut. A fierce protectiveness shot through me and I was determined he’d have the best six months a one-eyed (if not totally blind) hamster could have.

The man put him in a small cardboard pet transporter box, and then had to get another, slightly bigger one, as this tiny thing immediately started to chew his way out. By the time I’d paid for his bedding, (he needed special stuff to protect his remaining eye – and obviously this cost twice as much as the usual sawdust and fluff!) food and a new water bottle, we needed a third…

I drove us home like a bat out of hell, sure that he’d be running loose in the car long before we got there. Funnily enough, by the time we were halfway back, he’d settled down. He knew he was on to a good thing, obviously.

So Rocky came to live with us. I called him that because I thought a tiny thing with the odds stacked against him needed a big name. He may have been tiny, and he may not have had his sight, but he was one determined creature. He sat patiently (okay, probably in utter shock at being touched) while I cleaned up his remaining eye and as I gently wiped it clean, it became apparent that he had some sight after all. After that, when I opened the cage to feed him and he spotted my enormous (to him) hand coming his way he would turn his head to one side, raise his front paws, lay on his side and make this God-awful screeching noise. It scared the heck out of me the first time he did it, but by the end of the first week he’d stopped screaming and had begun to sniff my hand instead. Within a fortnight he was taking food daintily from my fingers and stuffing his pouches until they bulged and made him look twice, if not three times, his actual size.  Then he’d squeeze his way back down the tube and hoick it all out again, hiding it in various places for another time. Within three weeks he was up in the top cage, his little face stuffed between the bars, waiting for me to bring him titbits. If I was ever late in getting to him, he’d rattle and gnaw on those bars until I did. Then he’d open his mouth, ready to take his favourite foods and would reach out his tiny paws to touch my fingers and daintily take whatever I offered. He rattled and gnawed against those bars every night from then on, sometimes hanging from them upside down, or just by his teeth. He got himself into some really odd positions, and made me laugh regularly. I’d lay in bed at night listening to him until the sound was so familiar I couldn’t sleep without it.

After we’d had him for about a year the cat, frustrated at Rocky’s nocturnal antics and the fact that he was up too high for him to get to him, made a superhuman leap and knocked the cage down. I found it, empty, the following morning while the cat sat with a smug grin on his face, toying with Rocky’s playthings. Upset, I shut the cat out of the room while I cleaned up, all the time believing that Rocky was no more.

As I sat having a little cry a bit later, trying to console myself with the fact that he’d had an extra six months on top of what had been predicted for him, a slight movement caught my eye. From a hiding place between the freezer and the wall, a gap of about an inch, Rocky was waiting patiently for me to notice him. How he had found the gap and squeezed into it I will never know, but he let me pick him out and put him back into his little home quite happily. I locked the cat out of that room at night from then on, but Rocky had developed the taste for adventure. Somehow his little hammie brain recognised that if he pushed against a certain part of the bars he could shift the top and escape. It took me AGES to discover how he was doing it! In the meantime, he found the cat biscuits and developed a liking for them, leaving various trails as he pulled the bits out and took them to whatever hidey-hole he had decided on, on that particular night. He was always waiting for me behind a piece of furniture in the morning – I just had to figure out which piece he was behind. Oh, what fun I had pulling out units and hunting him down…! To be fair, when I found him he was quite happy for me to put him back into his own home for his daytime sleep, but he could never quite bring himself to let us give him a proper cuddle, and would squeak and struggle against it.

Once I learned how he was escaping I bought another cage for him, and that put a stop to those escapades. (I know, what a spoilsport!) But when I put him in his little rolling exercise ball he would work his way around the rooms until he found the kitchen and the cat’s bowl where he would try to pinch the food through the tiny slits. At night, he went back to gnawing on the bars, trying frantically to escape on a nightly basis, and back I went to drifting off to sleep listening to his rattles and smiling to myself.

Fast forward another three and a half years and our one-eyed chance rescue had reached four and a half years old – somewhat better than the six months life expectancy he’d been given! Rocky was finally slowing down a bit. He still asked me for food every evening, and he still lulled me to sleep with his nightly gnawing noises, but now it wasn’t for as long. He was spending more time sleeping, and it happened so gradually that it took me a while to realise – perhaps because I didn’t actually want to.

On Tuesday this week he waited until I called him before he came out to see me, moving stiffly and with a slight lurch in his steps as he gently took the food I offered him and helped him to take a drink. He did the same again on Wednesday.

Last night he didn’t come out at all. I opened the top to his bed and softly called his name, gently stroking his old man’s fur as my eyes began to leak. He dragged himself up and lurched down to his feeding area, then, for the first time ever, he crawled back and onto my hand, where he curled up, breathing very slowly. He was saying goodbye in the only way he knew – by allowing me to cuddle him.

I held him and stroked his little warm body as I told him what a grand boy he’d been. How I was glad we’d rescued him, how he’d proven himself to be the most wonderful pet and how much fun he’d given us. I told him I was glad that he’d lived for so long and that I hoped he’d been happy with us; then I laid him back in his bed, covered him with his special bedding to keep him warm and told him I loved him. Stupid, I know, saying all of that to a hamster. But he knew. He knew.  And he went to his final sleep knowing, four years and two months older than we ever anticipated.

Sleep well, my brave little one-eyed boy.

Rocky

Snippet from Rise of the Dragons – enjoy!

Sam, Clary’s best friend from Worbread village school, flung open his front door, a huge smile on his face.

“Hey Clary!” he yelled happily, before the door had fully opened. “Just how did you manage to save yourself yester…” his voice trailed away as he realised that it was not, in fact, Clary who stood on his doorstep, but rather two large bald men who smelled vaguely familiar, although Sam could not put his finger on what the smell reminded him of.

“Can I help you?” he asked politely, stepping back into the house and pushing the door until it was open just enough to stick his face through.

“Is your mother home, son?” one of the men said, stepping towards the half open door uninvited.

“No, she’s popped to the shops.  She won’t be long.  Do you want to come back in about ten minutes?” Sam told him, holding on to the door and stepping further back into the house as the man approached the top step.

Both men shared a knowing look that made the hairs on the back of Sam’s neck stand on end.

“No, that won’t be necessary,” the second man sneered, just as the first man made a lurch towards Sam who, eyes now wide with alarm, ducked completely back into the house and slammed the door.  It was a heavy door and it swung shut on the fingers of the first man, effectively trapping them in the door jamb.

Sam heard a shout of pain and a lot of bad words.  Grabbing his keys, wallet and phone, all of which were on the hall table near the door, Sam stuffed them into the back pocket of his jeans, then ran for the back of the house.  He peered out of the back door and, when he was sure that there was nobody there, quietly opened it and took off down the garden, leaping over the bottom fence onto the path that led between the neighbouring back gardens.  He turned right towards the park.  He thought he stood a good chance of outrunning anyone who chased after him as he was naturally athletic due to all the football he played.  Sure enough, he heard shouts behind him just as he reached the end of the path.

Sam sped up.  Ducking left, he raced straight along the edge of the field that led to the wooded area rather than towards the play park which was filled with little kids and their mothers.

Two boys from his old school were on the field kicking a ball around.  They were two boys that Sam’s mum did not want him to play with as they had a bit of a bad reputation for causing trouble.

“Hey Sam! Wanna play?” one of them shouted as Sam tore past them.

“Not today, mate!” Sam called back, not slowing down in the least and not even looking to see which of them had shouted.  His mind was racing furiously.  Who were those men? They were obviously trouble, but why?  He hadn’t done anything wrong, had he?  What did they want with him and – Sam now remembered – why did they smell like old dragon breath, Mrs De’ath?

He could still hear the sound of voices shouting after him and he put more pressure on his legs to run faster still.  He pulled away from the field and headed into the woodland without slowing.

The two boys who had been playing football, whose real names were Oscar and Connor (but who liked, for reasons of their own, to be called ‘Big Oz’ and ‘Cannibal’) watched Sam fly past them without looking their way.  They looked back to where he had come from.  In their heads, the only reason a boy ran like that was because trouble was looking for him.  Sure enough, they saw two large bald men running furiously after Sam, one of them clutching one hand in the other and cursing loudly.

“The old kneecaparooney?”  Cannibal whispered to Big Oz, who nodded and grinned evilly, picking up the disabled arrow-shooting slingshot he’d hidden in the longer grass.  He’d nicked it from his dad earlier that morning.  His father, being highly aware that his son would love to fire the arrows and would probably get into a whole heap of trouble, had removed the whisker biscuit arrow rest and hidden the arrows themselves, just in case.  The two boys had found a pile of ball bearings in the back of the garage and intended shooting rabbits with them when the little kids had gone, but this would be much more fun!

Rise of the Dragons is available for pre-order.

Release date 31st October 2015

Pre-orders for Rise of the Dragons

Hi!

Hope you’re all well and looking forward to Halloween?

It’s happening! Rise of the Dragons is available for pre-order on Kindle with a release date of 31st October. The paperback version will be available on the same day and I’m quite excited about it, to say the least!

You may remember that in The Seelie Princess, (don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you’ve not read it yet as it gives a big clue to the ending…!) Clary escaped from the clutches of the terrifying Unseelie and fled to the safety of the Seelie Empire.

In Rise of the Dragons, the merciless Unseelie, enraged by her flight to freedom, go after her best friend, Sam, in a bid to lure her back to Earth.

Meanwhile, on Earth, all Sam wants is to find out if his best friend is alive. With the help of a couple of most unlikely allies, he has come up with a plan to enable him to both find Clary and keep out of the way of the evil ones.

Will the strange rock he picks up in their old teacher’s house be able to help him? Or will it unleash a force that could cause the deaths of thousands?

In Unseelie, only one person knows the truth: the dragons are not extinct…

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