"And above all watch with glittering eyes the world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." - Roald Dahl

27 February 2014




This is a very big deal. I am revealing - for the very first time - a piece of my full-length novel. It is the first book in a series which is aimed at the older teen and upwards. It is set in contemporary Cape Town and takes the characters into a strange new world, where the reader gets to witness the coming of age of all of these characters. The story incorporates elements of fantasy, adventure, mystery, suspense and, my favourite, magic.

I am still in the process of getting this novel ‘out there’ and will keep you all posted on the progress.

This snippet is at a critical point during the first chapter and the event described below is the catalyst for the entire series.



It was a cold Friday morning, being the middle of July. It wasn’t raining – yet. Afton was the first up at 5:30am, as was the norm. She went through her usual routine. While getting the breakfasts and lunches ready in the kitchen, she turned on the TV in the lounge to the morning news. She couldn’t see the TV from where she was, but she could hear the latest bulletins being read. At that time of the morning, though, they were still broadcasting news from the day before, with the newest news only on from six a.m.

“Good morning, Sleepy,” she said as she heard familiar footsteps walk up behind her. She turned round with a smile to greet her husband.

No one was there.

For a second it felt as if her heart had skipped a beat and her palms instantly started sweating. She could have sworn she had heard footsteps right behind her. She stood frozen for a few moments, the butter knife clutched tightly in her right hand.

“Gill?” she called out.

“Yes?” he called back, still in their bedroom. Goosebumps immediately covered her entire body.

“Nothing,” she replied.

He was still in the bedroom. She must have imagined it she told herself. It wouldn’t be one of the children. They waited until the very last microsecond before getting up to get ready for school. She slowly turned back to the bread board, and applied margarine to another slice of bread.

But she could not shake the sinister feeling that had taken hold of her. Something did not feel right. Just to be sure, she’d check on the children, she told herself.

Jasper was still in bed, but awake. As a rule he only got up after having snoozed his alarm three times.

“Good morning. I’m awake,” he automatically said, as his mother popped her head around his door. This was a regular occurrence.

“Good morning. Just checking,” she replied, and went over to Piper’s room.

To her surprise, Piper’s bed was already made. Piper enjoyed going for morning runs, but never in winter and never without letting at least one of her parents know. Afton walked down to the bathroom. Perhaps she was already in the shower. Lately, since the cold weather, the mornings had turned into shower-wars between the siblings.

She opened the door and stuck her head inside. No one was in the bathroom.

She went to the master bedroom, where Gillion was just on his way out.

“Good morning,” he smiled and kissed her forehead, then immediately asked what was wrong.

“Did Piper go for a run this morning?” she asked, praying that he would say ‘yes.’

“She didn’t say anything to me. Why?” he asked, with rapidly growing concern. Afton sprinted back down the passage without responding, calling out their daughter’s name frantically.

She burst back into Jasper’s bedroom. He was just getting up.

“What’s going –” He didn’t get to finish his sentence.

“Where’s Piper?” asked Afton, breathlessly, just barely getting the words out.

“Is she not in her room?” asked Jasper innocently.

“No, she’s not in her room!” she shouted in response, and then ran back to her daughter’s room, with her husband and son close on her trail.

She looked underneath the bed, Gillion flung open the wardrobes, and Jasper ran to the window, which was still shut. There was no sign of Piper.

Gillion then ran to the front and back doors. They had the habit of leaving both sets of keys in the doors at night as an extra precaution. They were still there. The doors were still locked from the inside.

“Was the alarm still activated this morning when you got up?” he asked his wife.

“Yes it was, but –” She stopped mid-sentence. A chill ran down her spine.

“But what?” Gillion asked impatiently.

“I thought I heard footsteps in the house this morning.”

For a few seconds the remainder of the Cameron family stared at each other in fear. Could this actually be happening to them? Had their daughter become a statistic? They all scattered once more, each one making a concerted effort to find her both inside or outside the house, no matter how improbable. But there was no sign of her anywhere. Breathlessly they all converged on the kitchen once more.

In a pained voice, Gillion eventually stated what was becoming glaringly obvious.

“Piper’s been taken.”

Thanks for reading!

Carmen x

20 February 2014

What is the Ideal Writing Space?

Sometimes it's easy to underestimate the importance of a good writing space. Some people are flexible and are able to write in any setting and on any device. Others are more reluctant to change places and prefer familiar surroundings and devices. I'm somewhere in-between.

When my husband and I relocated to Gauteng, for a long time I actually wrote while sitting on top of / in bed, my laptop perched on a square wooden board - we were scared that it would overheat. I would write for a bit, then inevitably either start watching TV absently, or fall asleep, with the bed being so cosy and all. Needless to say, I didn't get very far.

My modest writing desk
Then I bought myself a little table and fold-out chair. At first I left it in our bedroom, but there were just too many distractions. I decided to move it to our guest bedroom, which was not very large and had a double-bed standing in it. But my table and chair just about squeezed in, and I made myself comfortable. This is actually where I wrote and completed my first full-length novel, The Kindling. (You'll hear more about that soon!) I think my husband felt sorry for me, though, sitting as cramped up as I was. Often he'd tell me to sit in the study and work on the home pc when he wasn't in there studying. I tried this once or twice, but I just wasn't comfortable. I couldn't concentrate. The chair wasn't high enough, then it was too high. The screen was too big. I got distracted by his academic posters on the walls. I gave up and moved back to my cramped space and was much happier - squashed, but happier.

Last week, my husband surprised me. He said that we could move the bed out of the guest bedroom (we don't get sleep-over visitors that often) and just bring it in when we needed it. He also bought me a brand new bookshelf (the old one was literally falling apart) and has basically turned the spare room into my very own writing room!

Truth be told, I would have been happy to continue with things as they were, but in my new writing space I feel like I actually have enough space to keep all my ideas in. I feel so much more organised and motivated. I suppose, in a way, I feel like I now have no more excuses for not writing.

I understand that not many people have this luxury. We don't have any kids yet, so we have a bit more space to play around with. But even in limited spaces, find a little nook where you feel comfortable and make it your own. You need a place where you can be alone with just your thoughts and the characters in your novel.

What is your ideal writing space?


6 February 2014

Which Books / Movies are you Obsessed With?

Have you ever watched the movie Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts? He was the guy who came up with all those crazy theories about what the government was covering up. Anyway, you'll remember that he had this (crazy) obsession with J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. In the movie he says when he sees a copy, he has to buy it. If he doesn't see a copy, he has to  find one and then buy it, just to feel normal. I put the word 'crazy' in parenthesis, because I don't think it's crazy at all. I'm sure there's many people out there who feel that way about something.

For me, it's books and movies / special dvds. Even if I don't read or watch it all the time, I need to be able to go to my bookshelf or TV stand and just see it there. That makes me feel comfortable. I go into a little bit of a panic if it's not where it should be.

My taste is eclectic, and my husband sighs loudly when I pop certain DVDs into the player. In fact, he has made it clear that some movies can only be watched when he is not home. (The same goes for certain music, but that's another story for another day...) One in particular which springs to mind is The Mummy (the first one). Don't judge me, okay. I love that movie! I also have to have my copy of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables with me, wherever we live,  which I first read when I was about eighteen, as well as the stage version with Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean. It has to be the one with Colm Wilkinson. I have to make sure that I have Life is Beautiful, which I watch in Italian and read the subtitles (I can't stand the dubbed voices). Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Henry James' The Europeans also always goes along. I also watch the Winona Ryder/Christian Bale version of Little Women at least once a month, by the way. There's my Douglas Adams, Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie, Charlotte Brontë, Dan Brown (yes, Dan Brown), etc. that live on my bookshelf constantly. I have also recently discovered the joys of Jasper Fforde and Jim Butcher. Quite eclectic, as you can see. I just feel lost without them.
My list goes on - Dead Poets' Society, naturally. Empire Records is a gem. “Not today - not on Rex Manning day!” Hook with Dustin Hoffman in heels and Robin Williams in tights; Tangled; The Witches; anything by M. Night Shyamalan and of course, anything by Tim Burton, although I admit that I found Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, just a tad scary. But look, it's a Johnny Depp/Tim Burton collaboration. Chances are very good that I'd watch it again. 
So coming back to Mel Gibson in the movie, his 'obsession' was portrayed like it was a psych condition. Maybe it is, but I think it's a psych condition which is perfectly acceptable. (Along with writers listening to the voices in their heads!) I love my books and I love my movies and I certainly wouldn't have it any other way. They make me happy.

So which books / movies are you obsessed with?

Would love to hear from you! Share in the comment box below. J