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Tom Harris

Writer of edgy Middle Grade & Young Adult Fiction

Month

January 2017

Brain Feeding: A Monster Calls

An utterly compelling read, its tone reminiscent of a classic fable in parts, A Monster Calls is one of those rare books that you wished you’d never read, so you could read it all over again.

It tells the story of a young boy battling far bigger fears than the most gruesome and terrifying of all monsters – the reality of his Mum, losing her battle with cancer…

Its roots are fixed in the mechanics of a troubled young mind, where imagination and fantasy become barriers to the harshest of all realities. Yet Ness doesn’t dwell on the loss as many of these tales often do. It’s not a story that grinds you down and makes you wish you’d never wallowed in it – it’s quite the opposite.

It’s a beautiful concept delivered with simplicity, respect and elegance.

The origins of the story were the brainchild of talented YA Author Siobhan Dowd, who before her tragic passing wrote some fantastic fiction of her own – The London Eye Mystery in particular, which is back on my reading list – but Ness takes up the baton here and produces something truly special in completion.

The atmospheric illustrations of Jim Kay add so much for me too, as a huge graphic novel fan, I would definitely check out this illustrated version if you haven’t already.

Read it on your own, read it with your kids, take it down the park and read it to anyone who’ll listen. You can’t fail to be inspired by something as stunning as this.

This is exactly what I mean by Brain Feeding

Truly outstanding

*A Monster Calls is available from Blackwell’s Bookshop in Portsmouth & via Amazon

#RISE: EP7: EATING DAD

They want me out there. Think that they can lure me to them.

Dad always warned me about two for one deals.

My heart is breaking as they take a bite from his shoulder. The flesh tears. He smiles through it all and then he’s gone.

I just watched my dad get eaten. Part of me hears the ping of a message, but I can’t take my eyes off what is happening. What is wrong with me?

I shake it off as they snarl, their bloodied muzzles taunting me at the glass. I can smell the metallic crimson, wafting through the broken rubber seals.They’ve torn him to pieces.

They may have done this, but I know who’s truly to blame…

Crowley.

He’ll pay for this.

I stare into their dead, congealed eyes as I pull the curtains closed on reality and I dart back to my laptop.

A new message. J is back online.

I know about the field.

How? What? I don’t type the words, cause my hands are still trembling…

It is some time before I reply…

Okay.

Okay. Let’s meet.

Meet?

Let’s meet. You don’t have long.

Don’t have long? What does he know?

What happens when I turn 14?

There’s no reply to that. Maybe he doesn’t know.

Meet at the field. Meet in 4.

I sit back in my chair and this time it isn’t Crowley’s government hackers who break the connection. It’s me.

I slap my laptop shut and bag up what’s left of my life.

I take one last look at the curtains, imagining the horror playing out beyond the window and with tears rolling down my cheeks, I take a deep breath and head for the door…

#RISE

#MARIGOLDS

Word of the Year: 2016

Every year, per annum in fact, Oxford Dictionaries come up with a ‘Word of the Year.’ I’m not sure if the adjudication panel hold a reality-style word-off series of auditions or not, but the word of the year for 2016 is an adjective and is…

POST-TRUTH

‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’

So, why of all the words in all the world, that had to walk into our lives, did they choose this one?

It won’t have escaped your attention that 2016 has been a year dominated by politics with the EU/Brexit Referendum & the U.S Presidential election. It is in this area that has seen a spike in the usage of the word, and its association with the phrase – Post-truth politics.

So there you have it.

The Word of the Year, 2016, is post-truth…

you-cant-handle-the

There are plenty of other words they could have come up with in my eyes, but hey, this is a family show, right?

Who will be the ‘Word of the Year’ in 2017?

Do words get nervous at awards ceremonies? I bet Agitated and Alarmed do.

 

#RISE EP6: ‘J’

24 hours is all I have. Happy Birthday, Anderson.

Not heard from the others for a few hours now.

No contact. It’s like Crowley and his hackers have stopped the feed.

Broken our connection.

Whilst I can still get word out, I will. Thought I’d get a message back before now, but sad to say I was wrong.

I’ve bolted my door with ten locks. Dad got them off the shed door after Mum attacked him. She’s already started to gnaw at her own chains, but it’s doing nothing but break her teeth.

Yeah, it’s come to that. Dad has her chained up now, but I’m not naïve enough to know he had no choice.

I know she’s gone. She never really came back. That was just politics. To get our vote.

I’m locked in my room. Dad is in his, with just an adjoining door between us…and Mum, well Mum is chained up in front of the telly, like she’d want to be. Dad still puts the soaps on for her…Some family, huh?

Crowley would be proud of us. He’s still everywhere. On the news. On every channel at least once a day. No-one sees the PM now. Crowley speaks on her behalf. We won’t see her again, that’s certain.

There’s a flicker on my screen. Incoming. A sign of life…but I’m distracted by the bumps and thumps at my window.

Syd from next door. Her face plastered against the glass. Her smile says come out and play. Her eyes say I want to eat you! I get up and draw the curtain. She’s not herself.

When I return to the screen, there’s a message. Life.

Hello. I’m J.

The cursor flashes slowly at me, with fingers hovering over the keys I type…

Hello.

Who is this? 

Anderson.

You’re a disciple.

It’s not a question

The others. Crowley has them.

I pause. Can’t move. I knew it would come to this, but not without a final showdown. The disciples v’s Crowley, that was how it would end, but now…They are gone and I am alone. I know there’s Dad, but he’s not as alive as he used to be…

The cursor flashes. A new message…

Did you hear me, Anderson?

What do I say? Thanks for the update…?

As my fingers rest upon the keys, choice is taken from me…

They’re here. Got to go. J.

The screen goes blank. I rush my fingers over the keys and break the connection.

Still going. Still fighting…and that’s when I hear three taps on my window.

I get up. Know I shouldn’t. I hover at the curtains. Draw them back.

Syd and Mum. Mum unchained.

She’s gnawed through her own arm to get out, but it’s much worse than that…there’s a third person with them.

‘Dad?’ I whimper, and his cheeks stain with tears to see me, as our eyes meet for the last time…

 

#RISE

#MARIGOLDS

Goodreads: My Year in Books 2016

To balance your writing and reading is essential for any writer. It can be a real challenge, with too much of one and not enough of the other leading to a – in the style, if not the words of Dr Emmett Brown – a Transverse Imbalance in the artists Flux-Capacitor!

So I settle on 40 books a year, hoping that 25-30 of them will be enjoyable enough to allow me to rate them above 3 stars on Goodreads. I don’t tend to leave ratings of 1’s and 2’s or even finish those books I’m not enjoying. Life is too short, especially when there are so many great books to jump into. Everyone hits a bad streak though and I had my share of stuff that didn’t really work for me, but there were some belting reads within the duds.

Though it wasn’t at all planned, in this last 12 months, I’ve returned to some old classics, such as Watership Down, beautifully scribed and imagined by the recently departed Richard Adams, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and the Legend of King Arthur & his Knights by James Knowles.

I took my annual trip back to Hogwarts of course, sinking into Quidditch Through the Ages, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Vol’s 1-4, leaving me to complete the set again in 2017, and of course we were treated to something new from J.K, with The Cursed Child screenplay, which I’d been eagerly anticipating, especially as Jack ‘The Fades’ Thorne was involved, and it didn’t disappoint.

2016 was also the year when I gave up a portion of my life to immerse myself in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, and as an avid fan of the TV series, I loved the first book, what an epic journey, and I shall venture on another next year without doubt.

In terms of graphic novels, Mark Millar’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was a highlight, as was Volume 7: Endgame of Synder & Capullo’s Batman New 52 series. I’ve not read nearly enough good ones this year, having hit the buffers on a couple of series that I tried out. I’ll be wading out a little further in 2017 with a graphic novel fest planned for Jan.

At the end of the year I became embroiled in a Victorian phase, as inspiration for a round of edits I was working on with a new novel of mine – a Steampunk fantasy tale called The Sweep. This led me to receive a ghostly Christmas visitation from Mr Dickens, and the discovery of the works of local authors, Victoria Leslie and William Sutton, who have now invaded my reading time and both are most welcome again…as friends and great authors who I share the city of Portsmouth with.

So throw in some Goosebumps, some Peculiar Children, a spot of cricket, a Watchman, a Buddha, a Spear, a Sanctuary and some Prudence…and that’s my year in books.

If you want to see my full list, then here it is – Tom’s Goodreads Challenge List 2016

goodreads-challenge

Now for 2017! What Crackers shall await us all!

Here’s wishing you all a Happy New Reading Year!

Tom

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