Saturday, 15 November 2014

Taking a Step from Motivational Non-Fiction to Magical Fantasy

This week I watched my non-fiction book How I Changed My Life in a Year reach the number four spot on Amazon's Best Seller list for self-help. 

I hit the 'screenshot' button so fast I nearly dislocated my finger.  Within thirty seconds I had uploaded the photo to my Facebook page to share my news with the incredible people who have supported me throughout my writing journey.

The experience of self-publishing this book has been so rewarding.  I continue to receive emails, tweets and messages from people telling me how much they enjoyed reading it and how it has helped them in their life.  Priceless.

On Thursday I hit my 50,000 word target for NaNoWriMo and I had to switch my writing brain from motivational non-fiction to young adult fantasy. 

I have always had a passion for fantasy books, films and TV shows.  During the lowest point of my life there was one young adult in particular who taught me I could survive to live another day - Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer.  She certainly knew where to shove the pointy end of a stake!

I waited in line for Sarah Maas's new release and I devoured Veronica Roth's series during many late night read-a-thon's.  On my last visit to London I stopped at Blackfriars Bridge just so I could tweet Cassandra Clare to tell her I was there!  Any fellow young adult fans will resonate with my neurotic passion.

When I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2013 I used the month to write the first draft of my own young adult fantasy novel that had swirled around my brain for a number of years.  Having the structure of a deadline and regular write in's helped me to finish and earn my winner badge.  This year I worked on book two in the series.

When I hit the 50,000 word mark after last years competition I put the manuscript away until the New Year.  When I felt ready to read what I had written I took the time to re-work sections and enlisted the help of a professional proof-reader and copy-editor.  It took the rest of the year to get the book polished and I now have a company working on the cover design ready for publication.

My ultimate dream is for my debut fiction book to do as well as my non-fiction title.  I know I have plenty of hard work ahead of me but that's half the fun of marketing.

To test the waters I wanted to share an excerpt of my young adult fantasy fiction with you all.  I know the target audience for my books are thirteen/fourteen year old girls but hey, we were all young once!

I welcome your feedback (positive and constructive) so please don't be shy and leave me a comment.

Here goes.  Welcome to Guardians of the Dead...


Her lungs threatened to burst as she ran, but she pushed herself to keep moving regardless of the pain in her joints.  How could she have been so foolish?  The signs had been there.  The crippling headaches had forewarned her of what was to come but she hadn’t heeded the warnings and now she was running for her life.

The old church loomed before her, a humongous sandstone building that, under the light of dawn, appeared to be bleeding from the concrete that sealed the large blocks of stone.  The gothic spire soared into the sky, its ornate carvings disfigured by the wind and rain that had hounded it for centuries.  If she could make it to the doors she could bind the lock, and cast a spell to prevent anyone getting out.     

She had sworn to protect the town which slept around her, its inhabitants safe in their beds.  Her own husband and daughter slept soundly, oblivious to her mission.

Her frantic mind calmed as she thought briefly of her daughter.  At just six years old she could hold her own against any classroom bully, bright as any scholar and yet she showed no sign of inheriting her family’s power.  She was a little girl, special in her own unique way but she was no prophecy child.  They had been wrong.

Now, as she ran for her life, she feared she may never set eyes on her sweet child again.

The gravel path crunched underfoot as she hurried along to the gaping mouth of the church entrance.  Solid oak doors, highly decorated with concentric circles, stood before her, their iron handles caked in rust from centuries of neglect.

The church, once the thriving centre of Hills Heath’s community until the disappearances began centuries ago, was now a derelict monstrosity, a haunted mausoleum that the local authority were too afraid to rip down.

She skidded to a halt, dropping to her knees and pulling her heavy coat collar around her neck, protecting herself from the chill of the early morning air.  She tried to relax her posture as she cast the protective circle, her heart pounding in her chest as she hurriedly traced the shape in the dirt.  Her fingers crackled as blue fire caressed her hands, spreading along each digit until flames danced in her upturned palms.

Pushing her power out, she raised it from the earth, letting it rush through her in a torrent until a lightning bolt escaped and arched towards the wooden doors.  Using all her concentration she carved the spell into the wood, splinters of oak breaking off as the blue fire cut deep.  Looping the flame in a crescent, she chanted under her breath, drawing her power from the nature surrounding her.  She had to prevent them from setting foot in her town.  In her world.  Time stood still as she heard them approach from behind.  The world spun as she realised she was too late and they were already here.  The protection spell collapsed as her face smashed into the heavy wooden doors.  She tasted blood and wiped her mouth with her sleeve.  Shaking her head to try to clear her vision, she stood, sweeping her arms around her, an athame nestled in the palm of her hand.

The dawn mist swirled through the churchyard, cloaking the gravestones. A large shape stepped out from the smog; a tall, muscular man dressed head to foot in black with a golden phoenix emblazoned across his armoured breastplate.  His hooded cape was drawn up over his head, disguising all but the hard set of his jaw.  From beneath the swathes of black fabric a deep rumbling laugh reverberated across the churchyard.

‘I have need of you, witch.’  He spat the words at her as he stepped closer, his hand resting on the hilt of the sword hidden from view beneath his cape.

She glared at the huge man.  With her dagger raised between them she stood tall with her chin held high.  ‘My name is Myanna.’

His laugh held no warmth as it echoed in the eerie silence, her blood pounded in her ears, and the tiny hairs on her arms stood erect.

‘I don’t deal in pleasantries.’  He snapped his fingers and two men approached, similarly dressed save for a smaller red phoenix on their armour.

They circled either side of her, cutting off her escape routes.  She backed away until her shoulders touched the oak doors.  Still clutching her athame and holding it at arm’s length she fumbled with her free hand to find the iron handle behind her.  There was only one way out.  She would have to go through the church.

Planting her feet squarely on the compacted gravel she flung her dagger at the man to the left, striking him in the shoulder as she swung open the wooden door, smashing it into the advancing man on her right.  She pivoted on her left foot and slipped through the door, pulling it closed behind her, whispering a sealing spell to slow them down.  The inside of the door charred and smoked as the magic took hold.


The interior of the church smelt musty, the years of decay permeating the walls and floors.  She was in the nave, an enormous room with vaulted ceilings and rows of wooden pews that faced a raised stone altar.  Strings of cobwebs laced across the seats leading to the platform.  No-one had stepped foot in there in over two centuries – no-one human anyway.  She hurried past the baptistery, once the centre for all the town’s christenings, but the font had long since dried up.

She searched along the back wall, running her hands across the stone looking for another exit.  An opening in the darkest corner of the church led to a wrought-iron staircase.  The stairwell was cloaked in darkness and descended further than her eyes could see.  She faltered briefly, unsure if stepping onto the first rung would lead her into more trouble or point her to an escape route.

The heavy front doors of the church smashed open and the men stormed through the entrance with a bloodcurdling cry.

Her time was up.  She placed her foot on the first rung and took a step down, then another…


  1. Oh definitely hooked already, Shelley, and I'm certainly no 13/14 year old! After all Harry Potter was for 'children' but how many adults, including me, adored those books.

    Wish you every success with Guardians of the Dead - looks like it's going to be a great read x

    1. Thank you so much Sue. I was another Harry Potter fan so I totally agree with you. Age isn't important when you have a thirst for reading ;)

  2. This was a winner for me. Opened with a bang and kept me reading. I'd keep going. Hope Myanna makes it.

    1. Thanks Judith. I won't spoil it for you but...mwhahaha (evil plan laugh!) ;-)

  3. Great opening - straight into the action! Can I point out a little nit-pick in case any budding builders are among the readers, though? It should be mortar not concrete between the sand stones (as in bricks and mortar).

    1. Thank you Douglas. Nit-pick' s are always welcome, especially from a master. Yours made me chuckle though as I had the exact same comment from my dad! In fact I was given the full history of concrete over dinner!