Copyright ©2011/2012 Simon Daryl Wood. All rights reserved.

A long-held wish, a forbidden magic spell and a kidnapping propel 10-year-old James Bell and his family into an adventure beyond belief. At the moment of the lunar eclipse on the stroke of midnight the World is to be sold. Armed with only the power of his imagination and the contents of his money box, James must challenge the greed of the mighty Bogus Corporation, a sinister bank and the mysterious Gnomes of Zurich in a race against time to stop the sale and prevent the destruction of childhood.
[Fairy Story] "will make you wish you could go back to the magical time of childhood where anything is possible, as it surely is in this book." Masquerade Crew [4-Star] Review.

"An incredible story. Such an interesting world to dive into, with great twists and turns. A mesmerizing read for young and old." Amazon Reader [5-Star] Review.

"Clearly recognizable strands from many familiar stories deftly woven into a new presentation of sin, bravery, adventure, greed and fear. The modern world of Area 51, cell phones, jets and missiles is mixed with Cinderella almost seamlessly. Like all good stories, a basic morality carries the protagonists down their allotted path to an age-old predictable end (which all good stories do). An end for all with another chapter tantalizingly around the corner." Amazon Reader [5 Star] Review.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Come Into My Parlour [Excerpt]

At Fairweather & Friends Banking House, Laura glanced idly at leaflets on pensions and life-insurance showing carefree goblin families smiling and waving from the covers, while James tried to make sense of the inscription beneath the bank's spider-web trademark—‘Sespa quesh ti panji fesc debru ap’.
He turned to Mr. Chalmers.
"Is it Latin?"
The old magician shook his head.
"Much older. Ancient Goblin. It loosely translates as 'Our Hand in Your Pocket'."
Laura suddenly sat bolt upright.
"What was that?" She listened again, but everything now appeared quite normal. "I’m sure I heard a scream."
James laughed.
"Why would you hear a scream in a bank?"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Superstition [Excerpt]

Normally, Doctor Rogers didn’t consider himself a superstitious man, but in the uncomfortable silence which had suddenly descended upon Daisy Cottage he found himself glancing at his watch. The time was twenty minutes past six. How strange, he thought, recalling a hitherto forgotten childhood memory, that such silences invariably occurred at either twenty minutes to or past the hour.
“This is when witches fly over the house,” he could hear his grandmother telling him. “The time when everyone keeps very quiet so an evil spell won’t get cast on them.”
No witches had flown over Daisy Cottage on this particular evening, but there was magic in the air. If everyone hadn't been quite so wrapped up in their own fears they would have heard the roar of a motorcycle engine and a screech of tires from the street.
The Bell family had visitors.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lost [Excerpt]

Mr. Chalmers stepped into a doorway and took from his pocket a guidebook, its torn and faded covers advertising Mazawattee tea from Ceylon and penny-farthing bicycles.
He looked around for corresponding landmarks, but none were to be seen, and soon he realised the guidebook was hopelessly out of date, describing a time when churches were the city’s tallest structures. He glanced up at the skyline. Now, it seemed, the race for heaven was between fantastical towers of glass and metal.
Since he had been here last the city had changed out of recognition. All the elegant buildings had gone. Where there had once been quiet tree-lined squares, flowered parks and the steady clip-clop of hooves there were now only wide roads choked with infernal, fuming horse-less carriages. The city he had once so loved had been transformed into a swirling cauldron of flashing signs and thumping rhythms that assailed his eyes and ears at every turn.
Adjusting the dandelion clock in his lapel, Mr. Chalmers stepped from the doorway and dropped the guidebook into a litter bin. He sighed. There was little point in clinging to the past, but now he would have to do something he hated more than anything. Ask for directions.
But not before he had dealt with a far more urgent matter.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Relativity [Excerpt]

Mr. Bell returned to where Mr. Chalmers and William were now playing a game with nine crystals spinning in mid-air.
“The children seem to be having a good time,” he moaned. “But all I can see is light and dark.”
Mr. Chalmers made his move in the game.
“But that’s all there is.”
The crystals formed the eight corners of a cube, the ninth at its centre. The object of the game was to get a row of three crystals spinning in the same direction. It was a lot harder than it looked.
“You expect me to live in their imaginary world?”
“Why ever not?” said Mr. Chalmers. “Adults expect children to live in theirs.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Glamour [Excerpt]

“Mortals use Glamour to make themselves more attractive, to present themselves to others as something more than they really are. Fairies do the same, but often for more sinister reasons.”
“Like the old witch in the story of Hansel and Gretel,” said Mrs. Bell.
“But that was just a fairy story,” said Mr. Bell.
“Things adults can’t or won’t believe because they feel so threatened by them often appear as fairy stories.” Mr. Chalmers glanced along the Bell family's shelf of brightly-coloured story books. “Odd, don’t you think, that adults can only reveal their deepest, darkest fears to children?”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Power of Imagination [Excerpt]

Mr. Bell took the Swiss Army knife.
“This is a complete survival kit,” he explained, opening the tools one by one. “There’s a can opener, a pair of scissors, tooth pick, screwdriver, a magnifying glass for kindling fires and . . . oh, yes, even a thingamajig for getting stones out of horses’ hooves.”
William watched in disbelief as Mr. Bell handed back the knife to Laura.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Make believe embarrasses adults.” Mr. Chalmers stifled a yawn. The last few moments had exhausted him. “But luckily, young Charles has no such inhibitions.”
As Laura cut a length of twine, Charles pointed at the knife.
“The screwdriver,” said Laura.
Charles shook his head and pointed to another tool on the knife.
“I don’t know.” Laura prised it open. “It looks like . . ." She stared in disbelief. "No . . . it can’t be.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue [Excerpt]

President Newcombe snapped off the TV in the White House Oval Office.
“Jumpin’ Jehosophat,” he said, “buyers for the World are coming out of the woodwork. Pandemonium Inc. sound like people we could do business with. But who’s this James Bell guy?”
CIA Director Webster busily examined his fingernails. He’d broken a lot of bad news to Presidents over the years, but never anything like this. But, he reminded himself, the truth was the truth.
“He’s ten years old. Lives in Daisy Cottage.”
President Newcombe laughed.
“I’m sure we can persuade a child to see things our way.”

Fat Agnes [Excerpt]

A light was moving towards him through the forest. As it approached through the undergrowth he saw that its source was a lantern fixed to the end of a long wooden staff. It was being carried over the shoulder of a short figure dressed in a hooded cloak.
“Who are you?” asked Mr. Bell as the figure stuck the staff into a patch of soft ground.
“All depends, Squire.” The rough yet genial voice belonged to a man, his face in shadow from the lantern. “All depends. The authorities know me as Ignis Fatuus. Name means Foolish Light, on account of how everyone says I’m two rats short of an epidemic, but I don’t like that name ‘cause people keep changing it to Fat Agnes and that really makes me mad.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Cantrip of Optimum Desirability [Excerpt]

"Less powerful than spells, cantrips were scraps of left over magic which Catchpenny used to enhance the value of his merchandise. The Cantrip of Optimum Desirability ensured that everything got sold for the maximum amount of money a customer was willing to pay. The wealthier or more gullible the customer, the more exclusive, appealing and valuable Catchpenny’s shoddy goods appeared to be."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Machine Stops

E.M. Forster wasn't at all enamoured by H.G. Wells' rosy technological vision of the future. In 1909 he set down his misgivings in a prophetic 12,000-word story entitled "The Machine Stops" in which people do not venture outside their living spaces. They live in a virtual world, wholly dependent upon a global mechanism [The Machine] for delivering their day-to-day needs and means of communication. His was a frightening vision of the future in which he predicted many things, including home-shopping, iTunes, instant messaging and Skype. Forster hinted, too, at the perils of globalization—

"Few travelled in these days, for, thanks to the advance of science, the earth was exactly alike all over. Rapid intercourse, from which the previous civilization had hoped so much, had ended by defeating itself. What was the good of going to Peking when it was just like Shrewsbury? Why return to Shrewsbury when it would all be like Peking? Men seldom moved their bodies; all unrest was concentrated in the soul."

Needless to say, the machine destroys itself and people set out to try to recapture their lost lives. The story ends with a kiss, something you cannot do virtually, and the line—

"Oh, tomorrow - some fool will start the Machine again, tomorrow."

Because we have no Plan-B for the day when our all-singing, all-dancing 21st Century internet age suddenly goes pear-shaped, E.M. Forster's novella should serve as a warning to us all and be made required reading for every ten-year-old girl and boy.