WEIRDOS OF LONDON is a 47,000-word MG paranormal comedy adventure. It sits somewhere between Lockwood & Co and Who Let the Gods Out, like a chilling Scooby Doo with more heart and less dog. But it follows real-world rules, so obviously there’s no such thing as ghosts, right?
Twelve-year-old Freddie Foster is desperate for a friend, but an accident from his past is getting in the way. He’s become obsessed with Bear Grylls, believing his hero’s survival skills will be a shield against future disasters. He meets Lizzie and Boff, who claim to hunt ghosts, and don’t care if people think they’re weirdos. Boff is the kind of friend Freddie’s always dreamed of, but Lizzie can’t wait to ditch him.
The trio are hired by egomaniac circus owner Aristotle Drax to find three dangerous poltergeists for his new theme park. But Freddie takes pity on the ghosts and sets them free. The ghosts plunge London into a freezing Spirit Winter, threatening to tip the balance between the living and the dead. Freddie must learn to trust his instincts if he’s going to save the city and keep his friends alive.
WEIRDOS OF LONDON has been selected for the 2018 Writementor scheme. It won the twitter pitching contest PeerPitch in 2017 and was a Judges’ Favourite in the 2017 Ink & Insights competition. It was Highly Commended in the Skylark Soaring Stories competition at the 2017 Winchester Writing Festival. Another MG story, CREEPER, took third place in the Peerpitch #1st50 competition, also in 2017. My MG comedy STICKY BEAKS came second in the 2016 Skylark contest and was longlisted for the 2016 Times/ChickenHouse prize. A PB story, THE QUEST, was shortlisted for the 2017 Writing Magazine Picture Book competition. I am a primary school gardening teacher, Oxford graduate, former BBC journalist, and mother to three weirdos.
Exploring London with the children gave me the idea for this book. They see the city differently from grown-ups because they pick up on the strangeness of things. It made me realise London’s endless layers of stories and secrets all exist simultaneously in a child’s imagination – so why not in real life?
The manuscript of WEIRDOS OF LONDON has just been completed and is available as soon as requested.
Weirdos of London – Chapter One
Rain batters the roof like gravel on a biscuit tin. A thick cobweb flutters where the wind hisses through a crack in the attic window. Freddie Foster shuffles along the plank between Grandma’s musty boxes of climbing gear, clambers onto one and twists the rusty latch. It’s snatched from his hand as a gust sucks the window open and freezing rain hits his face.
The ancient TV aerial crouches at the far corner of the roof. He’ll have to climb out there if he’s going to fix it before the end of the programme. He checks his Bear Grylls watch (with twelve feet of parachute cord in case of emergency), there’s only twenty minutes left of Bear Grylls Survival School. If there’s one thing Freddie wants more than anything in the world, it’s to Be The Bear. Or maybe make some friends first and Be The Bear second. He’s pretty sure the two go together.
FLASH. A fork of lightning flickers over the chimneys of London.
“One… two… three…”
The roof beams shudder as thunder rumbles over Grandma’s house. The Bear’s voice echoes around Freddie’s head, “When you start to get scared, that’s when you have to keep going.” It’s crunch time. How badly does he want to see the end of the show? Pretty badly. It’s a whole week until the next one. He grabs the window frame and hauls himself out on the roof. This is no time for thinking. Bear Grylls never wastes any time thinking.
The rain stings Freddie’s eyes and plasters hair to his face. Torrents of water stream down the black tiles and Freddie sees the stupid aerial shaking in the wind like it’s laughing at him. He slides backwards over the window ledge and inches sideways, toes in the gutter, fingers like claws, as he crabs along the roof.
FLASH. The night sky crackles with electricity.
“One… two…” The thunderclap rattles Freddie’s teeth. He closes his eyes, tries to visualise The Bear punching the air, cheering him on, “Dig deep, finish strong.”
When he opens them, it looks for a second like there’s a figure clinging to the TV aerial. Freddie squints through the lashing rain and his legs almost give way. Someone is crouching there, raincoat snapping in the storm like a demented crow. Freddie shuts his eyes again. Breathe. Don’t forget to breathe. He counts to three and opens them. The figure is still there.
But Grandma’s dead. That’s why Dad moved into her house. And if Grandma’s dead, Freddie’s looking at a ghost and Freddie doesn’t believe in ghosts, because they don’t exist. Even in the pouring rain, the hairs prickle on the back of his neck. It must be the static electricity from the thunderstorm.
There’s no such thing as ghosts. There’s no such thing as…
“Hey there, Skinnyribs,” calls Grandma, “nice night for it.”
Freddie lets go of the roof.