Where did I get the idea for my first childrens book?

  The Runaway Schoolhouse, or the idea for it, simply didn’t appear in a light bulb moment. It sort of crept up on me. I was working as a Children’s Athletics Development Officer for 20 hours a week. I was part of a team of three. I loved the three years that we travelled the highways and byways, (some of them in circles as I frequently got lost) to promote kids to get active. The three of us were and still are passionate about the advantages of taking exercise no matter your age. Anyway, the most frequently heard comment on a Monday morning from a class of kids, was, “I wish I didn’t have to come to school.” I heard it so often that I began to play with the idea of what would happen if they arrived but all was not as it should be.

Until one day I casually asked, “what would you do if the school was not here when you arrived!”

The look of disbelief, followed by pure joy at such a possibility,  was enough to convince me it was a mad idea, but mad enough for a book.

And so it began a three-year stint of writing, editing, sending out letters searching for an agent, publisher or any passing alien to show an interest in my whacky book.  And it is a little crazy.  Here is an excerpt:


CLEARIE was learning to make the most of every moment. He liked sitting on the smooth sand but a tiny part of him envied those with fingers and toes because he longed to experience the tickling feeling of sand and water. Still, he reasoned, this is an adventure.

He didn’t like the conversation between the adults who remained outside discussing the “problem.” They considered taking him apart and carrying his bricks back onto the hillside or getting a giant crane to move him. Both methods sounded nasty to him.
He tried to ignore them by concentrating on the sound of fish jumping in the water and birds hopping about on the sand; but he found that their loud voices carrying on the wind, made it impossible.
You would think with all their education they would question WHY I moved.
He waited to see what would happen next.
To his amusement, Mrs Brown got on her knees beside his front door to peer at the gap beneath his floor. He wondered if she were silly enough to think he had grown feet! When she stood she realised her knees were sandy and complained loudly about the horrible, gritty feeling. Clearie wondered what gritty felt like.
At breaktime, he noted that the children, unlike the teachers, were barefoot on the beach, but they put their shoes and socks back on their feet when they went back to class.
Clever children, silly teachers, he thought.



A Muddled Tale

An interlude in which Always-Right-Knight has his say.


I love the witch. I cannot explain it.  For a witch she is sassy, sexy and all woman.

Despite my golden-haired, blue-eyed appearance, I do lack confidence with women in particular diva witches. And this poses a problem in my pursuit of the Scrumptious witch.

I have spent days writing the perfect Sonnet. Then I climbed to the top of Hill top peak to pick the bluest flower I could find. Finally I snagged some purple label freshly brewed beer, the one that sparkles and crackles.

Armed with my gifts I trudged about the town searching for her. I was tired, not thinking of anything but her when I happened upon her.  I am human and the sight of a near naked witch with a body worth dying for was too much for me. I jumped in and then zap I found myself in a dark place of dreams and nightmares.

When I awoke it was to discover the world had moved on, my diva was no more and I was in an alien place. Giant man-made dragons and machines roared across the sky and land. The place stank like no other. The houses were like palaces. Towers of glass and teeming hordes of people fill this place.

Strange to say, I love it. Better still they love me.


A Muddled Tale Continues….

A Muddled Tale

Part 3: It is a weird world – Three  Knights in a new world..


When the awkward problem of no clothing was solved, they came to a heart stopping decision. It was made in their usual manner by holding a group discussion. This meant a very meandering path was taken before the point was clarified. The conversation went something like this:

“These clothes are very soft,” Grouchy muttered as he ran his hand gently up and down the shirt fabric.

“Not very manly nor fit for a Knight. They don’t clank or need polishing.” Sleazy whispered. “But I agree they are warm and don’t make my skin itch.”

“Yes. But they are not normal but neither is this world. That hut looked like nothing we know.” Lazy beckoned and they moved closer. When they were in a tight huddle he whispered, “we are under a spell. Be very careful of what you say and who you say it to.”

“I agree, we are in a world of magic and mystery. We are not afraid. We are knights – we have to stick together.” Grouchy gave a nod and stood very tall and proud.

The decision was made. Even though they were strangers in a strange world they would act knightly and stay together.

Two minutes later they split up to search for food or a means of transport. They would meet at the foot of the mountain close to them at dawn next morning.

It is not necessary to go into the tedious frightening details of how badly they each fared. Enough to say when they returned to their meeting point, none of them carried any food or had a horse or cart with them.

Grouchy was shaking. Sleazy rendered speechless. Lazy was jabbering like an idiot.

They walked to a small stream. After taking a drink Grouchy declared it to be tainted. Then they ate berries which they found growing in a nearby hedge. Sleazy thought they were sour and too bitter.

Lazy said, “we are neither Goldilocks nor the three bears. I think they are fine.” He ate his fill which left the hedge pretty empty.

Night was descending on the mountain in an abrupt manner. By the time Grouchy lit a fire  it was dark and cold. Sleazy dumped a bundle of sticks on the ground and crouched low. He said, “there is something peculiar happening. Lazy was spinning on his head. One minute he was dancing on the spot the next he was spinning on his head.”

Grouchy frowned, “I have had a peculiar feeling all day, like I should be providing a better place for us to stay. I have this itch to make the ground more comfortable and the fire bigger to warm us all.” He jumped to his feet. With a screech of horror he said, “I’m turning into a girl.”

Sleazy nodded. “It is as I thought . We are bewitched. I know this because I have been counting non-stop all day long. We need to hide.”

Grouchy considered his words carefully. “To be in disguise and untraceable we should take new names.”

Sleazy allowed this thought time to roam and wander through his head.

Lazy danced into view. He performed a neat pirouette and said, “I have this desire to dance. I am crazy or ill.”

“No,” Grouchy said, “you are under a spell.”

Lazy searched the landscape around them. Briars and gorse were mingled with brambles and small trees. “Who put us under it? And where are they?”

Sleazy explained their theory on the event. “We should change names. I would like to be called Liam.” Lazy declared.

“I am George, ” Grouchy said.

They both turned to Sleazy. He wrinkled his nose and thought for a long time. “I am Sam.” With a deep furrow spreading across his forehead he admitted, “though it will seem strange to be called that, why don’t we stick to our initials?”

So they became G, S, L.

“We need to get moving as far away from here as possible.” G said.

“In the morning, would be fine with me.” S said to L only to find L had twirled out of sight.



Bob’s Diary: Why me?


The trouble with being such a sociable charismatic dog is simple, Maria keeps putting me in stories. Here is a short one. ( I’ve met Molly. She is cute and she feeds me jelly babies.)

Children’s Story: 500 words.


Chasing the snow dragon.


Snowflakes twirled and danced about Molly. ” I love snow,” she said.

“Woof” Bob said jumping around her.

Molly whispered, “Quiet Bob. A  Snow Dragon might hear us and run away.”

The dog nudged her hand with his nose. He tickled Molly, making her giggle.

They began their search in the garden.

No Snow Dragon.

They walked through the gate, looking right and left. Molly walked past Gran’s kitchen door. They looked in the garden shed, even behind the coal bags but didn’t find a Snow Dragon. They did meet many birds and Gran’s fat cat.

They walked to the front garden. They met the postman. “Hi Molly. Where are you going?” he asked.

“We are going to catch a Snow Dragon.” She whispered.

“Well – don’t let him catch you.” He said.

“No. We won’t.” Molly told him.

Bob looked behind every tree.  Molly looked at the bare branches.

No Snow Dragon.

“Not even a squirrel, Bob.” She said.

Molly looked behind them. The snow was falling onto the ground covering her footprints. She couldn’t see her house. “Let’s go home,” She said.

Molly made a snow ball. She threw it. “Go get it Bob,” She said.

He sat and watched it land.  Molly sighed. Bob never chased tennis balls.

“Lets make a snowman instead.” She began by making a small ball and then dropped it on the ground. As she rolled it along the ground the snowball changed from being a round ball into a wobbly, wonky shape. It was big and getting bigger.

Bob helped by staying out of Molly’s way. She pushed her snowman into the garden saying, “I’ll finish you after tea.”

It was warm inside. Molly felt tired. She forgot about her snowball but told dad about her search for a Snow Dragon.

“I think there are no Snow Dragons,” she said. Molly felt sad.

“Maybe they are shy, creatures. Perhaps you should send an email to one and see what happens.”

“What would I say?” She liked this idea.

“That you believe in them but you would love to know what they look like. Wait then and see what happens. Granddad always said, they were magical creatures.”

Molly wiggled her nose as she thought about this. “Let’s do it, can you help please?”

The email was sent and Molly went to bed.

Next morning she got up and peeped out the window.

Her heart jumped for there in the garden was a large dragon. He was white and very still. Molly raced outside to see him. “Its a Snow Dragon.” She said to her dad who came to look at it.

“But Dad, how did he get here?”

“Molly you did say you would love to know what they look like, didn’t you?”

Molly nodded her head. “I did. Now I know they are amazing.And he chased my snowman away. ”

Dad took a picture of the snow dragon.

It hangs on Molly’s bedroom wall in case she forgets what they look like.


Bob’s Diary: The hunt for Mudpile Wood

The thing is: I love cakes. So, I persuaded Ellie who loves to find stuff to help me find Mudpile wood.  (It didn’t take much persuasion, just a tennis ball.)

pic one in wood

I kept telling the dumb dog we were looking for a particular tree, but she kept doing laps of the wood.


Eventually I had to tell her: Stop! Listen there are cakes under this tree!

ellie in wood

That changed everything – the search became a blur.

bob in wood running

Until: Yay!


We found it!

Now I just have to wait for that Ogre Breeze and his fairy friend who makes delicious cakes to show up!

They will never spot me, can you?

bob in hiding behind tree

The Disappearance


“I’m going to be on TV.” Fred announced.

“Why?” Emily asked, four years younger and interested in everything.

“I will be in the talent show.”

“Good for you Fred.” Dad said, puffing out his chest and sitting up straight.

“I must buy a new dress.” Mum looked dreamy.

Emily didn’t get it. So what if he could pull a stuffed rabbit out of a hat? Everyone knew it was a trick.

“I can do real magic, not play magic like Fred, ” she said.

“Course you can, princess.” Dad said.

Emily scowled. Why did no one believe her?

The house became a frenzy of magic. It was practised every day in every room. Dad would appear and say, “how about a card trick Fred?” Then he would watch and wait, applauding and giving encouragement.

Emily retreated to reading her favourite stories about Tir Na nOg.

One afternoon mum asked, “Who is your assistant Fred?”

He stopped pulling hankies from his hat to consider this problem. “I don’t know. Do I need one?” He squished up his nose and thought about it. “Stupid me, all the best magicians have an assistant.”

“There are a lot of girls in your class. I bet one of them would love to help.”

Fred scowled. He didn’t like girls. They giggled, didn’t play football or basketball. “No, I think they are busy doing dancing and other girly stuff.”

Emily began to creep out of the room. “Emily could do it.” Fred turned and grinned at his sister.

Mum smiled, “great we should check your party dress. Maybe it needs a few bows or ribbons,” mum dashed from the room. Emily supposed her mum was happy to have a job.

With Emily by his side, Fred began to expand his variety of tricks. “I have a great finale planned Em.” He told her one afternoon.

She had to admit he was good. But she knew she could be better. “Will they expect everything to be perfect?” She asked.

“Of course.” He said.

The morning of the show they arrived at the television centre. Emily brought her favourite book with her and loads of snacks.

Fred looked at her. “We might be on first.”

Shaking her head she answered. “Not with my luck.”

He scowled at her.  Then gave her hand a pat, “You will get your chance to show off on TV when you are eleven. It’s only a couple of years.”

She smiled then said, “I don’t think I will have to wait that long.”

“Remember to do everything the way we practised.”

“Don’t worry I will make your act spectacular.” Emily said. “Jelly baby?”

Emily sat and watched the other contestants arrive. She was impressed with a tall thin lady with two small terriers. “Do they do tricks?” She politely asked.

“No.” the lady said. She smelt of lemon soap.  The dogs sat at her feet watching and waiting.  “They sing in harmony.”

One of the dogs belched.

“Great.” Emily said. And picking up her book she began to read it.

One by one the contestants were called. Emily didn’t give the elderly man with the chainsaw much hope of winning.  “He won’t be able to start that thing.” She said.

She was correct. His face was bright red as he left.

“I think the man with the guitar will win.” She said listening to him strumming on his guitar.

Fred scowled. “Thanks, what about me?”

“You Fred, will be spectacular.” She smacked her lips together.

When it was time Emily straightened her dress, fixed her brightest smile on her face and walked into the room behind Fred.

“I will perform magic for you this afternoon. I will be helped by my charming sister, Emily.” Fred said.

Emily gave a courtesy and beamed. The audience clapped and someone whistled. They like me. This thought carried Emily through a perfect rendition of the hankies from the hat trick, the water pouring into a paper bag trick. Fred puffed his chest out like his dad did.

He’s a twit. I can do magic. This thought landed in her head and would not be shifted.

She heard Fred say, “In a minute I will ask Emily to stand in this box, which,” he tapped it, “is solid.”  He faced the audience, “there is no escape. Would a member of the audience check it out please?”

An elderly man shuffled from his seat and inspected the box. Emily thought he might kick it. “It’s solid.” He said and went back to his seat.

Fred pointed at Emily and then at the box. She could feel her temper rising. I’m tired of being bossed around.

Inside the box, Emily relaxed. She could no longer see Fred. It helped. Unfortunately she could hear him.

It was enough.

“Now I will spin the box slowly. When I open the door we will discover Emily is no longer there. Instead she will appear from behind the curtain.”

When Fred opened the door the applause was deafening. “Isn’t he great?” mum breathed. She looked across the stage waiting for Emily to appear.

An hour later they were still searching for her.


Seventy years later Fred lay on his death bed. “I would give anything to know what happened to Em.”

As soon as he uttered the words, she appeared.  “I told you I could do magic, why didn’t you listen?”

“I missed you. Where were you?”

“I missed you too. Though Tir Na nOg is spectacular. I think we could use a play magician. That is why I came. Would you like to come with me now?”

Fred gave a nod.

When the nurse came to check on him, he was no longer there.