Looking for criticism

Today, I have a favour to ask of anyone who reads fantasy and has about ten minutes to spare. I have a book, several in fact, but one in particular that I am pretty proud of. I’ve been sending it out to literary agents for months now, and their enthusiasm for the story is underwhelming to be kind about it. None of them has asked to read more than the sample pages, and about half haven’t replied at all.

The last agent said what she didn’t like about it (the first ten pages) was that she found it hard to follow. Now, I wrote it so I know what it’s all about. If I think it’s easy to follow, that could be just my natural bias and knowing what happens on page eleven. What I would really really love, would be for a handful of volunteers to read the first ten pages and tell me honestly what they think.

What it’s about: ‘Shadows in the Tide’ is the first part of ‘Ys’ a historical fantasy series set among the windswept fjords of Norway and the horse-running plains of Ireland in an alternate Ninth Century.

The story centres on Una One-Eye, daughter of a sea wolf, and Fiachra, the household’s Gaelic thrall, both gifted with some of the magic that has survived the Rök, the breaking of the world, and both cursed with its mark, the sapphire eye, impossible to hide from the fishmen Guardians who are collecting the magic to free their master, the Beast.

If you would like to help out with a bit of brutal honesty, just leave your email in the contact form and I’ll send you the first ten pages. Thank you!



Review: Abomination

I must post this enthusiastic review of ‘Abomination’ which made my day when I saw it yesterday. I’m really pleased to know that this reader got a lot of fun out of the book.


Fantastic Apocolyptic Sci-Fi/Horror Thriller, June 19, 2017


Amazon Customer

This review is from: Abomination: (A Young Adult Fiction Novel) (The Pathfinders Book 1) (Kindle Edition)

‘Abomination’ is the first book in ‘The Pathfinders’ series by Jane Dougherty. I will start off by saying that I immensely enjoyed this apocalyptic novel. It was dark, gritty, and raw and had me completely pulled into the story. ‘Abomination’ is a fantastic read which is very well written and the story (even though apocalyptic /post-apocalyptic has been done before), is very original and engrossing.

One of the first things I noticed, was seeing parallel elements from ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding, and I feel has elements in common with ‘The Walking Dead’ also. As I’ve mentioned above, it’s simply a very dark and brutal book. I would not hesitate to recommend it to young adults, as that is that is also the intended audience. There is strong language throughout the book, so those who are very sensitive, should be forewarned.

The story starts off quite harmlessly, but things go down the drain very quickly for Carla and Tully, as they are hurtled through a wormhole five years into the future just as the end of the world is beginning. Unfortunately, this just takes them out of the frying pan and into the fire. There they must battle against blood-thirsty youngsters, gangs, mutated animals and against other characters which I will only describe here as supernatural or demonic (i.e. the Burnt Man).

It is a story of adapting oneself to a new environment and dire situations while still trying to hold onto one’s values and to rise above the despondency and cut-throat ways of the gangs who have had to live through five years of hell and destruction. Just as in ‘Lord of the Flies’, any semblance of society has fallen apart and the youngsters are not concerned with growing food or following rules (except their own twisted law), but are only interested in fighting and with attaining/holding onto power.

‘Abomination’, isn’t just about the struggle of humans against nature and other humans, but is a struggle against mutated animals and supernatural forces which wish to destroy the world. These elements, due to spoilers, will not be talked about in this review, but needless to say, ‘Abomination’ is an action-packed supernatural thriller which borders on horror.

What makes this story believable, are the actions of the characters in the book. The characters act in a very believable and natural way, which pulls us in as the reader and makes us feel for these characters. Furthermore, the author’s writing style is easy to read and her descriptions pull the reader in and fully immerse them in this experience.

The book ends with a very good cliffhanger which just makes me want to pick up the second book, ‘Devastation’, in order to continue the journey with Carla and Tully.

‘Abomination’ is an action-packed apocalyptic novel which borders on horror. Due to its original take on the end of times, and for the superb writing style of Jane Dougherty, I highly recommend this book to others who enjoy supernatural thrillers. I would absolutely love to see this book get a movie deal or even better, a Netflix series, as I believe the story would find a huge fan-base across wide audiences.
Happy reading!

If you feel compelled to rush off and get a copy, a simple click will open the wormhole.





Book review: Gone to Earth

Last night I finished reading ‘Gone to Earth’ by Mary Webb, a classic study of good versus evil, light versus darkness, and humanity versus ignorance and destruction. It was written during the First World War, and Webb’s horror of the wanton massacre of human life is what powers this novel. Foxhunting symbolises the abject depths to which human kind can sink. Hazel is the pure and unheard voice that cries out against it.

It was poet friend Candice Daquin who urged me to read this book. In fact, she urged me so much she actually sent me a copy! This, she was certain, was a book I would love. How well she knows me! I’d give the purchase links but I think you’ll have to track down a second hand copy, as it doesn’t seem to be still in print. Not awesome enough, I suppose.



There are words to describe ‘Gone to Earth’ like beautiful and exquisite, but none of them do justice to the poetry of Mary Webb’s writing. Hazel Woodus is more than simply the untamed young girl caught between the desires of two men and the indifference of another, she is the spirit of nature, innocence and all that we as human beings seem to have lost. She is the earth, one with the trees, the flowers, sister to her beloved Foxy and protector of all things suffering, in pain, or fearful. Reddin, the amoral, insensitive and cruel master of the local big house wants her, and so does the parson, hidebound by his interpretation of good morals but as passionate to have her as Reddin is. Neither understands her, neither even tries, but both exercise a power that pulls her in opposite directions until she breaks.

In this brutal, cruel, man’s world, a girl has no protector but her father and her husband if she is lucky. Hazel’s father is a musician, wrapped up in his own talent, his own creations, and barely notices his daughter. Her mother is dead and her female relatives dislike her and disapprove of her wild ways. Because Hazel is wild. She has been grown like the roses grow and the animals injured by human cruelty that she rescues and cares for. Her God is a distant force that might or might not be there, like the storm might break or pass on the other side of the hills. Her desires are limited to the same desires as Foxy, the cub that survived the jaws of the foxhounds, symbol of death and destruction—to have enough to eat, a warm place to sleep, and the whole of nature to walk in and wonder at.

This portrait of the Shropshire countryside of the end of the era the First World War destroyed, is a contrast between the peace and beauty that Hazel sees and Reddin’s red raging world of blood and death. There is no place for fragile innocence like Hazel’s in the world of men such as Reddin and his cold, calculating manservant, Vessons, nor even of Marston, the clergyman husband whose eyes are only opened to the simple truths of Hazel’s world vision when he renounces his God who is, he finally realises, the God of Reddin, the huntsmen, the soulless farmers, and the killers of all that is beautiful.

I read an author interview recently in which the author was asked who was her favourite female heroine. I now know that Hazel Woodus would be mine.

Book review: A Wrinkle in Time



This is a warning. If you are an unconditional fan of Madeleine L’Engle, you might prefer to go straight to the poetry section and skip this.


I wonder has anyone else had this experience, of rereading a book from childhood, remembering it as one you really loved, and discovering that you don’t really like it at all? A few years ago I gave A Wrinkle in Time to our youngest, shoved it into her reluctant hands with great insistence. “You’ll love it,” I said. “It was one of my favourite books when I was your age.” She flipped through it and abandoned it after the first few chapters.

When I found it in the pile of books for the charity shop, I snatched it back, determined that I would read the poor thing if nobody else wanted to. I settled into it happily enough, remembering the ‘dark and stormy night’, Charles Wallace’s little legs not touching the floor, Meg, ungainly and moody, and mother struggling with household chores, bringing up four kids, and earning a living. I remarked to husband, that this was top-notch children’s writing—great scene setting, atmospheric and endearing. Why couldn’t modern writers use this kind of vocabulary, I enthused, and take a tip from L’Engle and keep school out of it. What normal kid is such a glutton for school that she/he wants to read about it for fun?

My memories ended there: the witches and what comes after had left no mark at all, worse, I was starting to have doubts. For me, it starts to get wobbly when Calvin turns up and I have the impression that rather too much of the attention is diverted away from Meg to him. The impression grows that Meg has been relegated to a spectator role when they set off after the lost father, and she is continually either having her hand held, or being comforted, or supported physically in some way by Calvin. When they go through the wrinkle, it’s Calvin’s hand she holds, not her beloved baby brother’s who she lets drift off into oblivion. She stands between the two boys, having her hand held while the six year-old pipsqueak gives lip to the adults, or Calvin decides what’s best.

Then C.W. drops the ‘Jesus Bomb’ and the wobbling gets critical. When we enter the totalitarian state it’s clear that we have a Cold War line up with God on the side of the good guys and the Dark Fella on the side of the Commie Bastards. When our intrepid threesome, holding hands, tripped their way into Stalin’s office to be interrogated by the KGB, I lost interest.

It was while I was wondering if it were possible to reach into a book and give a kid’s backside a good twilting that I made an unfortunate connection. Is it just me, or do C.W. and Meg bear uncanny resemblances to Stewie and Meg from Family Guy? Is it intentional? Once the idea wormed its way into my head, I’m afraid I was just waiting to discover if their long lost father was going to turn out to be Peter Griffin.

Unfortunately, he’s not. He is boring and slightly wet. Meg has turned into a hysterical fifty year-old, Calvin sulks, and the only good thing is that they’ve dumped the brat in Stalingrad. I don’t care what happens to any of them. I know that there’s going to be a happy ending with angels and flying ‘beings’ and the IT (Lenin aka Satan) will be defeated as a result of the nebulous ‘fighting’ that has been going on by the forces of righteousness, and there will be neither rhyme nor reason to it.

This book has been compared to the Narnia books. Don’t believe it. C.S. Lewis’s writing is beautiful, the plots are well thought out, and his world-building is superb. L’Engle’s world-building is as convincing as the cardboard scenery in a school theatre and the plot is feeble, the language flat and dull. While Narnia’s Christian element is unobtrusive (except to adult readers), A Wrinkle in Time is as subtle as a punch in the face.

I hate writing this, but it has bothered me, having a pleasant memory completely dismantled. Other childhood favourites I have reread with pleasure, but as far as I am concerned, A Wrinkle in Time has had its day, and does not have what it takes to make it a classic.

In the Hall of the Mountain King

Bernadette at Haddon Musings asked if I would like to post a short excerpt from one of the Tales from the Northlands, so I will. This piece is from In the Hall of the Mountain King. Jussi, youngest son of a fisherman  despairs of marrying Solveig, the blacksmith’s daughter.

Jussi knew perfectly well that he had been foolish to set his heart on Solveig. Her father, the blacksmith, was hoping for a rich son-in-law. But Jussi was counting on Mundi Iron-Hands’ indulgence—that he would never marry off his daughter without her consent. Jussi had always hoped that Solveig liked him enough to insist with her father. But he could never tell with her. He knew she liked him, but she liked other things too. Things Jussi couldn’t give her.

He’d taken his black humour with him to meet Solveig, knew she’d have taken the cows up to the high pasture, out of sight of the blacksmith, his forge and her nosy brothers. He needed to hear her say she would have him whatever fate his father had reserved for him, just to see the light in her eyes and know that she saw deeper than the callouses on his hands and the tears in his kyrtill. He had caught up with her and the red cows but she wouldn’t sit and talk. She was often like that though, always on the move, picking daft flowers or watching the way an amber bead glinted in the sun.

“A fisherman? Don’t make me laugh. You’re a nice boy, Jussi, but you’ll never be more than a poor man, and your wife will spend her life in the stink of fish guts. Her clothes will never be free of the smell, and nor will her husband.

“Is that all you care about? How things smell?” Jussi had asked angrily.

Solveig had laughed, that infuriating, silvery laugh that made the hair at the back of his neck stand on end. “I care about how things smell, and how they look and how they taste. I care about the touch of fine linen against my skin and thick furs to wrap me up warm in winter.” She had spun round, her short cloak flying about her like a banner and revealing the tight corn-coloured plaits wound round her head. “I care about having combs for my hair and necklaces of amber and garnets.” Her face was suddenly serious. “But most of all I care about having a man who will look after me and stay with me, and not leave me a widow with bairns to feed and a cold bed to cry in.”

“But I wouldn’t leave you!” Jussi’s indignation had spilled out on the verge of anger.

“And how many fishermen are swallowed up by the sea? And how many raiders never come home to hear the songs of their exploits?”

“I’d be careful, I’d never take risks.”

Solveig had looked at him with sadness welling up in her eyes. She had reached out and taken his hands in hers. “But you would, because you would have no choice. A fisherman’s life is hard. He must go where the fish shoal. Even when the sea is wild and the winter cold bites, his bairns will need feeding. I won’t love a man to lose him, Jussi. I want to keep him for always.”


If you’d like to read what happens to Jussi and Solveig, Tales from the Northlands is available at



at only 99c/p. A steal 🙂


I had a message this morning telling me that I was shortlisted in the Irish Imbas Books Celtic Anthology competition!


I’m thrilled to bits to get this far. This is the kind of story I love writing and it’s so gratifying to know that other people (competition judges, no less) have enjoyed reading it.

I’ll post when I hear who the winners are.