Tom Harris

Writer of edgy Middle Grade & Young Adult Fiction


October 2012


I have been invited to take part in the Next Big Thing – an online publicity drive for authors. A Blog Hop if you will.

It consists of 10 questions (below) about a work in progress, and after completing those questions it is my task to tag other authors and their blogs who also have new work coming soon.
So, without further ado, here we go…

Q1: What is the working title of your book?

Jackie Jones

Q2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was watching the Christopher Nolan – Batman movies, thinking about alter-egos and thought that instead of writing something about characters with duel personas, I could twist the concept and write about a group of people thrown together who all share the same name. And so the pieces fitted together, a contest, a mystery and 6 Jackie Joneses. I discussed it with my crit’ partners/writing group and they loved the general idea, and so I built the layers from there. Instead of going super hero and other world, it also became rooted in the English Countryside, which has given it a different feel altogether. I blame this on watching too many period dramas and getting caught up with my old friends Dickens and Doyle again.

Q3: What genre does your book fall under?

Middle Grade 9+

Q4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Jackie – My cousin Alex – a budding young actor, he would be perfect for the role! Also does anyone remember Wil Wheaton (Gordie Lechance) from Stand By Me? Love that film and thought it was spectacular when I was a kid and he really does remind me of Jackie…

Jonesy– She would be kind of like Eliza Dushku’s portrayal of Faith in Buffy, that kind of spirit and vulnerability all rolled into one! Yeah that would work.

Wilson– A younger Daniel Kaluuya (The Fades, Kick Ass 2) would be perfect – how awesome was this guy in The Fades – incredible!

Dark – Shaun Evans (Endeavour, The Last Weekend, Silk) – he would portray a scary albino with menace – he’s such a great actor.

Ryder – Warren Brown (Good Cop, Inside Men, Luther) A quiet but menacing chauffeur, I think he’d be brilliant

That is a solid cast right there my friends, now has anyone seen my producer and director? Oh, and I may need a time machine too for this fantasy cast to assemble.

Q5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Jackie (14) gets an invite to compete for a cash prize which could save his troubled family, but his fellow conestants not only share his desire to win, they also share his name.

Q6: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am preparing to send it off to agents after completing my rewrites to see if there will be any interest, but after self publishing The Amber Room, I feel very confident about the possibilities of self publishing again. I really believe in the story and that’s my criteria for self publishing. I just have to be honest about what I have in front of my at the end of my final edit.

I really want people to read this story, I think people would enjoy it.

Q7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About 3-4 months – May-August 2012

Q8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Always a difficult question, so I will look at books I’ve read that have inspired elements of Jackie.

It has a dash of James Dashner’s excellent The Maze Runner about it I would say – what a fantastic book that is! There’s always a little influence from The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series, they are just so influential and the sort of stuff I just love. Marcus Sedgwick is a real inspiration to me as is Neil Gaiman, now I’ve discovered his incredible stuff. I’ve tried to focus on strong character voice to seperate the Jackie Joneses, and there is a great example of how to write voice in the opening chapters of the excellent Blood Red Road by Moira Young, which blew my away when I read it, can’t wait to read the sequel when I get a minute. These are the books that inspired me a lot whilst writing the book.

Q9: Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Whoops! Please see above 🙂 I do get a lot of visual inspiration from movies and TV, as well as reading other books. Nolan’s Batman trilogy, a brilliant British series called The Fades, Sherlock the TV series, Luther, Harpers Island, and all 7 Harry Potter films fuelled the concept and characters. Two movies really inspired the setting – The Descent and The Others.

Q10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

When writing the cave scenes I watched The Descent movies back to back to try and get into the feel of being vulnerable and in the dark. The penultimate game at Heath Hall is set in three rooms inspired by old fashioned board games – guess which ones? Three artists also inspired the soundtrack for these literal ‘games rooms’ – The Doors, The Prodigy and Adele. I also speak about Dartitis, an incredibly frustrating condition for many darts players who suddenly find it hard to release a dart. I encountered this whilst playing in a pub league and it’s bloody terrible! Incredibly sad to see the human machine when it breaks down like this, especially when people are trying so hard to fight it!

So, that’s a bit about Jackie Jones my new book, if you follow the links below you will find other authors who will be answering these questions about their up and coming work.

So next week look out for posts by –

Steve McHugh –

Steve McHugh writes the Urban Fantasy series the Hellequin Chronicles the first book of which is Crimes Against Magic and is available now

Jan Carr –

Jan Carr is a childrens writer working on her debut novel and is a member of SCBWI

Matt Wingett –

Matt Wingett is the writer of The Portsmouth Stories, available now from Amazon.

William Sutton –

William Sutton’s first novel The Worms of Euston Square is a literary mystery set beneath the smoggy  cobblestones of Victorian London and is also availble from Amazon.

Stay tuned for more news on Jackie Jones and a new Deed Verb episode in December.

Also in December, writing begins on The Amber Antidote.

Cheers for dropping by


Deed Verb: The Case of Simon Simile: Episode 6


They stared at the young ghost suspended inside the spirit trap.

“Call no man happy till he is dead!” said Proverb, still trying to ease the pain of the spectre.

“Before I release this kid, just be ready for what may come at us…” Verb said and nodded as he withdrew one of the green vials from inside the Spectre Spirit Level. He tipped it over the ‘Laqueum’ inscription that Simile had scratched into the floor.

One drop landed and slowly the marking melted away.

Verb backed off, holding tight to the vial and stood unarmed beside Proverb – who was only ever armed with wisdom. They stood behind Maleficent, who retracted the glimmering spirit sword from within her jacket.

“There is no pen, mightier than this!” she exclaimed. “This sword has no double edge, if it strikes, it bleeds, and the motion ends with death.”

The trap now broken, the spectre was free to follow the passageways of ancient ancestors that still existed within the walls of these buildings. Yet, the spirit did not run. It did the opposite. It approached them.

Maleficent was poised, sword tilted, ready to strike, but somehow the spirit understood and stopped. Hovering before them it turned, slowly drifting towards the back of the shop. At the wall it paused and beckoned them.

“Try, and trust will move mountains,” whispered Proverb.

“Moving walls would be good, right now…” said Verb as the spectre disappeared through the brick.

Maleficent was already through the front door of the joke shop and out into the fog.

Verb followed.

He saw her turn down the narrow gully beside the building and followed the feint glow of the spirit sword until Maleficent stopped at the far end.

The spectre was waiting for them within the mist that shrouded the wasteland at the back of the shop.

Together the three of them walked in silence down a small set of steps that led onto  a patch of rough grassland, too wild and unkempt to be called a garden.

Verb moved through the fog to the spectre who was holding position above the ground. Verb dropped low and pulled on his fog guard. From inside his jacket pocket he pulled out a light stick and cracked it. Still in a crouch, he held it beneath the ghost, revealing a mound of earth beneath its supernatural aura and a stone slab jutting out of the ground.

It was a grave.

As he waved the light stick through the fog, he could see it was not the only one. This wasteland was some sort of mass grave…

“He’s been seed-planted, Verb!” said Maleficent. “We need to close his circle of life,” she continued, her grip slackening on the handle of the sword.

Verb nodded and handed the light stick to his partner. He pushed his hand inside his jacket pocket and removed the precious angel zippo.

He flicked his thumb down, lighting the flame.

“He who dies for the truth finds holy ground everywhere for his grave,” whispered Proverb, almost in prayer.

“Hang on,” said Verb, pausing and reaching forward.

In the middle of the grave beneath the spirit was a marker with writing scrawled upon it. Verb plucked it from the ground and read it above the flame. There were five names, each beneath the next with a line separating them.






Verb peered up at the spectre, who had now settled beside him. Through the glow of his spirit he was pointing to the name at the top.

“Carl?” asked Verb, swallowing hard.

The spirit nodded and moved back over the grave.

“This list names the flowers beneath,” said Maleficent, taking the marker from Verb.

As she moved across the garden with the spirit sword now sheathed, Maleficent cracked light sticks and threw them down near every grave in the garden.

There were ten plots, with five names on each marked list.

“Fifty bodies,” said Verb. “I’m so sorry, Carl!” he said as he stepped back and flicked his zippo ten times. Each time he did, a dark angel of black flame appeared and flew from the lighter to the graves. Each angel flickered and held position over each grave until he gave the command.

Holding the zippo to the sky Verb called out. “Descend and burn bones so the dead shall pass and return to the flint once their fate has been cast!”

The dark angels scorched into the ground and within seconds Carl’s apparition faded.

They all stood in silence in the fog, until the angels whooshed back into the zippo which steamed and closed shut.

Verb pushed it back inside his jacket and turned to his friends.

“They were the last victims of The Grinner, and I swear to you now there will be no more!” he said, staring into the strangled sky as the three of them turned and disappeared into the fog…


High on a roof-top, one block down from Amusing Avenue, a curious, little bald man retracted his fog-scope. Emerging from the shadows, he picked up the blade he had placed upon the brick wall. “Now it begins!” he muttered through his fog guard…and then he grinned.



Deed Verb: The Case of Simon Simile: Episode 5

Episode 5: The Invitation

Toc… Toc… Toc…

…It was the sound that eventually brought Verb back round; his brain as foggy as the city outside the joke shop window. Simile was gone and had veiled the front window of the store with a thick, black curtain. Fog clung to the small window on the wall behind him that Simile had not covered, creating a funnel of white in the darkness. Verb blinked hard, trying to restore his vision, shaking off the potent cocktail of drugs that lingered in his system.

His hands were bound to his knees by thick rope like someone had turned him into a medieval suckling pig in preparation for a banquet. At least they had stopped before inserting the apple.

As his focus slowly returned, he could see that he was surrounded by a ring of T.N.T. Between each stick of dynamite in the circle was a clock. Simile had removed the hands from the face of every timepiece, yet still they ticked, all in sync. Toc…Toc…Toc…

There would be no anticipation of a countdown. No warning of when he would take his last breath. Yet Verb would not be alone in these moments as hovering above him was the young spectre. Man and ghost, both tricked and trapped by the devious Simon Simile, a.k.a The Grinner.

This whole masquerade had been set up to kill the one man Simile believed could catch him – Deed Verb.

There was little time to ponder bad choices and karma as Verb struggled against his ties and the rope gag that stretched his mouth to match the carved smile on the spectre. Simile was no fool though. A villain of such magnitude was not going to tie one poor knot after carrying out such an intricate plot to trap his prey.

Verb stared down at the wooden floor beside the spirit trap markings, in search of a loose board, a splinter or an old nail sticking out of the floor, but there was nothing. Simile had left nothing to chance.

Maybe if he knocked something over or made a noise, Prophet, would hear him from across the road. It would be simple for Simile to sneak out under the cover of the fog, but surely his able chauffeur would return to check on him. As if his thoughts triggered the action, Verb was caught in the familiar green-tinted glow of an x-ray searchlight, the electromagnetic beams radiating through the small side window of the store. He knew the owner of this device well.

“Maleficent!” he moaned as he was embraced by the electrons.

Help was coming but would Maleficent be too late?

Spectres couldn’t talk, unless they were channelled through those that were born to do so. He wasn’t expecting a response, but something had to be said.

“I’m sorry,” He lifted his head and stared into the faded eyes of the young ghost. It was a feeble attempt to comfort and apologise to this dead child for ignoring his parent’s pleas whilst he was alive. The irony was not lost on him that now his fate and the fate of one of Simile’s many victims were entwined. It was true that this boy was dead, but there was still a chance that he could free his spirit from Simile’s evil trap. If not, the spectre would be locked in this place for all eternity.

There was no countdown clock, no villain reveal and no elaborate confession forthcoming. Simile was gone. He was simply getting rid of a problem, nothing more, nothing less.

When the bang came Verb closed his eyes convinced the shop had exploded, until a familiar silhouette flashed against the far wall. The gothic outline of swishing hair, boots and that long green leather coat widened his eyes and they sparked with hope.

Maleficent ran to his side and cut through the ropes with the emerald dagger that she kept in her boots. As she leaned over him she kissed his cheek and her eyes crackled with electricity.

“Good timing,” he said, flexing his mouth after spitting out the gag. “Your searchlight was most certainly a sight for drugged eyes, as are you of course,” he grinned.

“Well, you are the light in my life, I didn’t want you snuffing out just yet,” she smirked and helped him to his feet.

“I appreciate the sentiment, truly…” he smiled, “but we must make haste.”

“He whom the gods love dies young,” said Proverb.

“Er, thanks, Proverb, but let’s not give up just yet…There may be no hands on these clocks, but we may still have time…”

“Time is the only critic without ambition, they say, but I believe that Proverb was talking to the child, Verb,” said Maleficient, staring into the sorrowful eyes of the spirit locked inside the eternal trap.

The room suddenly fell quiet.

The clocks had stopped ticking.

In the silence, Verb became lost in the electric eyes of Maleficent Metaphor, that held him until the explosion…

Streamers and party poppers erupted as sparklers and Catherine Wheels were set off around the store. The echo of recorded laughter rang out around them until the room fell silent once more. What was this?

If Simile had lured him here for a prank then he had misjudged this villian. But this was not about killing an opponent and taking him out of the game. This was about making him want to play. Rolling the dice. A new game had begun and this was Simile’s invitation to Verb.

“We’re taking the Grinner case, Maleficent!” he said, nodding with conviction. She nodded back, and in that second her eyes seemed darker than even Simile’s warped mind.

Follow the Link for the final installment of the Case of Simon Simile – Episode 6: Closure

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