Sunday, 11 December 2011

Some of my glossary for Babel

This enables you to read Babel if you have not first read The Prophecy. This gives you a small flavour of the world in which both stories take place.     

Glossary for Babel

Abel Stansted  
Abel is a Z Zoner. He and fellow Z Zoner Menjit Crossman drive the supercraft that takes Kaleem to Zandra. Z Zoners are quite resourceful. Menjit and Abel are able to help Kaleem when the supercraft breaks down. They use a form of teletransportation to get Kaleem on to Zandra.  

Alistare Rogerin

Alistare is a good friend of Kaleem’s and one of his former students.  He lives on Zandra. He is a mathematics expert. He has a very similar, easy-going nature to that of Pierre LaFontaine, Kaleem’s good friend on Terrestra. 


This is the name of the individual transporter on Polynket. It seats up to four people and moves in such a way that the occupants feel as if they are flying. It needs no driving. Autofliegs do not follow fight paths but always fly in a straight line to their destination. When two Autofleigs meet, they dance around each other until they find another straight line.  


Babel Prophecy

This is a prophecy about a special Peace Child. It says that the Peace Child’s mother will enter the place where the poorer people live, carrying a copy of The Tower of Babel book. The woman will be pregnant. There are two oddities here: on Terrestra in 3500 babies are grown in test tubes. Few people own books and even fewer can read Wordtext.
Marijam, pregnant and frightened, indeed enters the Z Zone, carrying a copy of The Tower of Babel by Davina Patterson. She calls her son Kaleem.
The prophecy further states that the Peace Child born to this woman will save the universe. Kaleem’s strange dreams seem tied up with the tower of Babel. 
Kaleem, however, cannot take the prophecy seriously and his mentor, the elder, Razjosh, also seems ambivalent about it.   

Ben Mariah

Ben Mariah is a Z Zoner. He is the same age as Narisja and a good friend of hers. He has the official function of story-teller in the Z Zone. This is a highly respected role there. He is a good friend to Narisja, and also becomes a good friend to Marijam and Kaleem.    

Black Tulpen

These are gigantic black tulips, grown with considerable difficulty, on Zandra. They are the symbol of lust. If you fancy someone, you send them a bunch of Black Tulpen. Girls can send them to boys – or girls, and boys can send them to girls or boys as well. It can cut out a lot of awkwardness.
However, this is not the case for Kaleem. Tulla Watkins sends him some after their first meeting. Kaleem feels unable to take up the offer, much as he’d like to, as he is new to the planet. He has to return the gift.
This actually causes much awkwardness between them.

Charlek Smithin

Charlek is Kaleem’s one human prison guard on Zandra. He and Kaleem actually become great friends. Charlek is with Kaleem when he meets his father for the first time.
Charlek is quite fond of romantic encounters with young women. 

Chief Makisson

Makisson is the chief of the elders.


Citadel of Elders

Elders live in the Citadel. This is a luxurious dwelling place where every comfort is catered for. At the time of the poison cloud, the elders lived in a cave that was full of crystals. This seemed to give them intense energy and allowed their minds to become brighter.
After the poison cloud disappeared and a new Citadel was built on the surface of Terrestra, the crystalline atmosphere was replicated… by using crystals. There are no walls at right angles in the Citadel. Even the shape of the place adds to the energy.
Guests are allowed in the Citadel, even to stay overnight, but only at an elder’s invitation.


This is a technologically advanced chair. It actually moulds itself to the person sitting on it and hovers at exactly the right height so that the occupant’s legs may rest at exactly the right angle.
Unusually, the comfisessels on Terrestra are more advanced than those on Zandra.    


This is a little like our Parliament. However Members of Council are elected by proportional representation. When a member is switched-off or gets fed up of being a member of Council, anyone can put themselves up to replace him or her.  There is no party culture. After all, Terrestra is a one-world planet.  It comes down to personalities.
There are two levels of voting within the Council, however. Some votes are open to all members, and some just to Heads of Service.           

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Ben Alki

The Ceremonial Temple was as silent as ever, just like it always was before the switch-off ritual. Ben Alki Mazrouth took a deep breath. He didn’t mind this moment so much. He found it magical in a way, waiting for this most solemn of ceremonies to begin. Everything was as it should be. All the metal and veriglass fittings had been polished so that they reflected the bright lights from the chandeliers back up to the high ceiling. He cast an eye along the rows of plush comfisessels. They were hovering gently, waiting for the well-wishers to come and sit on them. He made his way over to the big plastikholz doors, which looked so solid they could convince you they were the really heavy wood like in the Citadel of Elders. He took another big breath and then opened first the right hand door and then the left. The mourners were waiting for him.     
They all filed in and sit down. He was used to the sad faces. He had served as the celebrant for one hundred of these rituals now. He knew just how impressive that was for someone as young as him. It was probably time he stopped though it was easier just to carry on. At least now he knew what to expect.
They sat down in the comfisessels, which swung and tipped to and fro a little, seeking a balancing point. One or two of the well-wishers whispered to each other. Others just stared, looking at nothing in particular. They all sat rigidly, some on the edge of their sessels, others picking imaginary fluff off their ceremonial purple tunics.
Ben Alki heard the tiny bleep which meant that Kemnat had arrived.     
“All rise to greet the departant,” Ben Alki called.
The family members were the first to get up on to their feet. They were followed soon after by the good friends in the outer rows. Those watching through the veriglass windows were already standing. There had not been enough room to offer them floating comfisessels or even old-fashioned hardsessels. The departant was one of the most popular elders Terrestra had ever known. On the dataserve concealed beneath his lectern Ben Alki could see the crowd outside. They were watching via the huge dataserve screens.  Suddenly they became quiet and pulled themselves to attention as the soft notes of an eccolute began to play a requiem-like melody. The curtains on the rear wall of the Temple silently glided open. The enormous bed, covered in drapes made from silks and satins and other old-world materials, and known as the Resting Place Entrance, slid into place.
Ben Alki saw the look of sudden shock in the eyes of the departant’s immediate family. That always happened, even if they were old enough to have been to many departure ceremonies. Most of the recent ceremonies had been for older departants. So, the people who had attended were older too. They’d pushed the age back for compulsory switch-off. After so many deaths from the Starlight Racer pandemic there was not so much need. Oh, he’d listened to all  arguments from those who thought that they should now let nature take its course but Ben Alki didn’t quite see how it would work. Apart from those who had succumbed to the Starlight disease, Terrestrans were a pretty healthy lot. Especially the Elders, who were so well looked after.
The woman at the end of the front row caught his eye.  He’d seen that look before as well. They hated him for what he did. Everyone knew that switch-off was inevitable, yet when it came to it, they didn’t want it to happen.
The woman’s eyes were red-rimmed and swollen as if she had been crying. Ben Alki guessed she must be the former attachment of the departant Elder.
Just as well the ones who are going don’t look like that, thought Ben Alki.
Of course, they didn’t. They were heavily sedated. Had been for days.
The side door slid open. Ben Alki didn’t like to think too much about what was actually about to happen at this point. This was just a job, he told himself, a highly paid one at that. He let his thoughts drift over to what he would be doing that evening. He might watch some sport on the dataserve or he might go along to the recently refurbished New Laguna nectar bar. Sophia Arkland might be there, if he was lucky.
The attendant guided the aged elder in. The old man looked fine. You would not know he was drugged up to the eyeballs. He looked with it and relaxed. The counsellor had obviously done his job well, convinced him that this was the right thing to do and that he had much to be proud of.  Ben Alki wondered what Kemnat Elder had selected for his life show. He’d have a lot to talk about for sure.
The attendant had now parked the hoversessel in the middle of the small platform. The elder was smiling at his family and friends. He looked as if he was being kind, but Ben Alki knew it was just the effect of the sedative drug he’d been given – even though it was true that Joshran Elder was a kind man.    
“Joshran Kemnat, Elder of Culture and Education, inhabitant of Terrestra, do you agree to the termination of your stewardship?” said Ben Alki. 
“I do,” replied the elder.
“And do you account to that stewardship every aspect of your life, including the physical, the intellectual and the spiritual, and of all those aspects of which you have charge including the personal?”
“I do,” replied the elder.
“Then it is fitting that the ceremony of departure may take place. Who is to bear witness?” The words came from Ben Alki’s mouth without him having to think. What am I really talking about? he asked himself.    
“We are,” said a man and a woman standing near the red-eyed woman.
Ben Alki guessed they might be Kemnat’s children. He passed them the small tablet dataserve and they pressed their palms to it sensors.
“Joshran Kemnat,” said Ben Alki “please make your way to the Resting Place Entrance. The reposant will be administered shortly.” Ben Alki turned to the dataserve. “Privacy settings,” he commanded.
The thick black curtains slid across the veriglass windows. The screen showing the crowds outside went dark, but seconds before the sound was disconnected Ben Alki heard a loud scream, followed by someone shouting “Don’t go, Johsran! We need you!” Hysterical sobs began just before the sound from outside went dead.
Up until now, all the fuss about Joshran Kemnat had seemed to Ben Alki just like some dramatic pageant, the beginnings of a movie. But no, what he had just heard was grief – raw, genuine and utter grief. His concentration slipped a little and the feelings he always managed to ignore during these ceremonies now began to take over. That had never happened before. He’d never known as much about the departants as he did about Joshran Elder.  
He pulled himself up sharply and began to move closer to the family members, whilst the attendant who had helped the old man on to the stage now helped him into the large bed.
“In a few moments my colleague will inject the reposant,” Ben Alki said to the well-wishers. “You will then have about forty minutes to say your goodbyes. He will suffer no pain. He will gradually become sleepy and will drop into a short coma.”   
The medic was already standing in the doorway. Ben Alki nodded to him. The man in the white tunic made his way over to the over-sized bed where the attendant was now helping the old man from the comfisessel into the Resting Place Entrance. Two other attendants were getting ready the gifts which the Elder had chosen for his near ones.
Ben Alki liked to keep well out of the way at this point. This may be his hundredth ceremony, but this part really spooked him. Besides, this was a really important last intimate moment for the family and close friends.
He went into the little side-room which had one-way veriglass. Malthus Smid, the annihilation operator was already there. 
“Won’t be another one for ten days,” said Malthus. “What are you going to do then?”
Ben Alki shrugged. That was definitely one of the perks of this job – especially since the Starlight Fever had done much of their work for them. You only had to work when you had to work. There were lots of days off; it was a sort of compensation for having to do a job that only a few were prepared to do. Most people would find it thoroughly gruesome and it was never discussed in polite society. As they were so well paid, Malthus and Ben Alki and the other employees of the Ceremonial Temple could afford to do really interesting things in all that spare time.
Ben Alki found himself thinking about Sophia again. Spending some more time with her would be a good idea.
“Do you think they will stop this?” asked Malthus. “Now that we’re not quite so crowded?”
Ben Alki did not know. Anyway, the vaccines and antidotes being sent from Zandra were working so well that they would soon be back to normal.
“I mean,” continued Malthus. “Now that we’re trading with Zandra, we might start trading with others and then we’d start catching all sorts of things and we’d start falling down like the Z Zoners do.”
Ben Alki shut his eyes – partly to think better, and partly so that he did not have to watch what was going on inside the Temple.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “I really don’t.”
Part of him wanted this whole business to stop; he’d decided some time ago it wasn’t actually right – he was actually helping with a murder. Another part of him worried about what he might do to earn a living if it did stop. At just nineteen, he was able to live a very nice life, thank you very much. He had no qualifications. It was not that he was not bright – no he prided himself on being pretty clever. But he enjoyed being lazy. All he’d had to do was learn to keep his face nice and serious. That had not been a problem. He really looked the part – tall, thin and with a rather long face. He was such a cynic anyway.
Mind you, next to Malthus, he was quite a saint.
“Oh sacred elders, look what he’s giving her,” cried Malthus.
Ben Alki opened his eyes and looked through the one-way veriglass. The youngest of the well-wishers, a girl who looked about eighteen, was kneeling at the side of the old man. He was handing her what looked like a permanent attachment robe.
“You don’t think the old guy’s offering to attach to her, do you? I mean, look well if they’re going to have sex. It has been known you know.”
“Shut up,” said Ben Alki. “He’s probably telling her he approves of her boyfriend.”
One by one the mourners made their way up to Elder Kemnat. Ben Alki was amazed every time at how calm the departants seemed. Okay, he knew about the drugs, but even so.     
“Oh, come on, lulus,” shouted Malthus. “Let him go to sleep. Then we can zap and compost and then we’re out of here. Should I change the air?”
The last of the well-wishers had made their way up to the Resting Place Entrance. Soon the elder would become sleepy and then he would slip into the coma. Reducing the oxygen in the air often speeded that process up, though the well-wishers never noticed the difference.
Ben Alki shook his head.
“Let him go in his own time,” he said.
“Boring,” said Malthus. Then he settled down. Both of them stared through the window. They watched the old man talking to his friends and family. It was clear he was getting tired. He closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep. The well-wishers gradually stopped talking. A few minutes later, there was a tap on the door. Ben Alki opened it.
“He’s in the coma now,” said the medic. “I think we’ve got about ten minutes.”
Some of the well-wishers were weeping. Two sat on the bed with the Elder and stroked his hair. The rest just stood solemnly around the Resting Place Entrance, looking a little awkward, not knowing what to do.
“Respiration slowing,” said the medic, looking at his wrist dataserve. “Heart arrhythmic. Life signs weak.”
They say it’s peaceful, thought Ben Alki. But how do we really know what is going on? He could be still conscious, just paralyzed. Oh, he knew about all the research, how they’d measured the brainwaves and how there’d been no evidence of any pain or fear. But where had they got that idea from about going down a tunnel towards some light? Why on Terrestra was he doing this job?
“Death has occurred,” said the medic suddenly.
“Let’s go!” cried Malthus.
Ben Alki now made his way out to the people he must now think of as mourners.
“Our loved one has now gone,” he said, putting his solemn voice back on. “Please now say your last farewell. In a few minutes, we shall complete the ceremony in full view of the public.”
He turned to the man who had been named as Chief Mourner. “Let me know as soon as you are ready,” he said.
There was a mumbled conversation now amongst the mourners. The man Ben Alki had spoken to nodded his head.
“Ladies and Gentleman,” said Ben Alki. “Will you now make your way to your places?”  He turned to the dataserve.
“Public settings.”
The curtains behind the mourners drew back so that those behind the veriglass could follow the final part of the ceremony.
“Friends, relations, fellow Terrestrans,” said Ben Alki. “Our beloved Joshran Kemnat has now departed from us. We ask you to salute his body as it now makes its final journey to its last resting place. We invite you then to celebrate with us the life of this extraordinary man.”
He pressed the black key that only the dataserve at the Temple had. The large bed with the body of the elder slid back towards the hidden laser furnace and the curtains closed back around it. Even before the curtains had shut the lasers would have sanitized the Elder’s body and the grinders would be turning him into compost. He could imagine Malthus crying out with a great ”Yeah! Zap and mulch him baby.”  He could just make out the faint high-pitched sound which told him the lasers were already working. Or maybe it was the mulchers he could hear. He hoped that none of the mourners could hear it. He guessed not. In fact, he was fairly sure he only imagined it himself.
It was time for him to go. The new master of ceremonies, the one who was going to compeer the show to celebrate Kemnat’s life was already walking on to the stage. Ben Alki had volunteered to do this once or twice, to be the one who would celebrate the departant’s life. They’d turned him down.
“You have just the right type of face for the first part of the ceremony,” they’d said. “And we never let the same celebrant do both halves. We don’t want the celebrations to get mixed up with the mourning.”  
Ben Alki decided not to stay to watch the movie clips and hear the speeches and testimonials of those who had known the elder well. They’d been right. How could he celebrate the life he’d just helped to end? 
He made his way to a transporter deck. He would go to the New Laguna bar. She just might be there.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Nick's Gallery

This one went out of print earlier this year. I'm revising it and sending it out again. or I might just put it on Kindle. Not really sure how well YA does on Kindle.
I'm bringing it up to date. Naturally, in this scene the camera will become digital. But I will still have to find an excuse for Barney to go to Tesco's.

Chapter 1

“There you go.”
Mr Fletcher carefully swung Nick into the wheelchair. Barney shifted  from one foot to the next. He never knew whether he should offer to help when Mr Fletcher was getting Nick out of the car. He always wanted to do something. But it was clear that Mr Fletcher knew what he was doing. 
“You can wheel him in if you like,” said Mr Fletcher.
“Oh no he can’t,” shouted Nick. He pulled the lever in the arm of the wheelchair  and it whizzed forward. Barney went to open the front door. But he was too late. Nick somehow managed to drive straight at the door, so that it was flung open. Barney winced as it crashed back into the chair. Nick took no notice. He jiggled the controls again. He was frowning slightly and his tongue was poking out a little way between his teeth. Then the chair jerked forward so that it pushed the door again. He accelerated through.
“Come, on, what’s keeping you?” shouted Nick through the now closed door. Barney shook his head and grinned. Then he walked slowly in.
The wheelchair whirred along. Nick was already at the end of the long corridor when Barney got to the other side of the door.  Barney watched his friend stop the chair and then jiggle the controls on the arm rest. The chair pivoted to face the door to Nick’s room, and then Nick did the trick with the door again. This time, though,  the door stayed open. The magnet on the wall held it in place. Barney stood and stared for a moment. How did he manage it?
“Are you coming then?” shouted Nick. "Come on."
Barney shook his head and then made his way into Nick’s room. Nick was already nudging the edge of the drawers with his wheelchair.
“In there,” he said, nodding his head towards the top drawer. “Close the door will you? I don’t want any-one else to know.”
Barney opened the drawer. He took the sketch book out and the small tin of  water colours.
“Get the water,” commanded Nick.
Barney pushed Nick up to his desk. He spread the plastic sheet out for him and arranged the latest picture so that Nick could get to it easily. He unscrewed the tube of white  and then opened the lid of the tin.
“Hurry up with that  water, man!” Nick’s face was going red. That always happened when he got frustrated.
Barney hurried over to the sink with the jar. He had just filled it and carried it back,  when there was a knock on the door. Barney covered the picture with a sheet of kitchen paper and opened the door. Mrs Fletcher was standing there with a tray of  drinks and biscuits.
“Thank you, Barney,” she said.
Nick sighed.
“Mum. Do you mind? Barney and I have got things to do.”
“You need to drink, love,” Mrs Fletcher replied, quietly. “Barney, do you think …”
“Yes, it’s alright, Mrs Fletcher. Really.”
Mrs Fletcher nodded and smiled. Nick pulled a face.
"I grew out of baby cups a long time ago," he said, pointing to the invalid cup.
Barney walked over to the tray and took the cup.
"Don't let it get to you," he said. 
Nick didn’t resist as Barney held the cup up to his lips. He even managed to lift his hand up to the cup so that it looked as if he was actually holding it.  He tipped a little of the fluid into Nick’s mouth and then straightened the cup up as he waited to hear Nick’s laboured swallow. At last it came. Then he was able to tip a little more into Nick’s mouth. Slowly, slowly, the cup emptied. Barney took a few sips of his own drink to keep Nick company.
Then Nick seemed to be struggling. There was a strange rasping noise in his throat. He was trying to swallow and couldn’t. He rolled his head from side to side in frustration. Barney  pushed him forward and thumped his back.
"Come on now," he shouted. "Swallow."
Barney’s heart was racing. This was happening more and more often now. One day …. – no that didn’t bear thinking about. Then all at once,  Nick hiccoughed and he was breathing freely again. He giggled.
“Stop doing that, you monkey,” said Barney, cuffing him on the arm.
Nick giggled again.
“Want a biscuit?” Barney asked.
Nick nodded. Barney broke a piece off one of the soft short cakes.
“Here,” he said, placing it in Nick’s mouth. “Chew it properly.”
“Yeah,” mumbled Nick.
Barney  moved the kitchen paper back from picture. He stared at the small boats which seemed to bob up and down in the wind swept harbour. How could someone like Nick do something as clever? In fact, how could any-one?
“Did you take the film out?” Nick asked.
“Yes, said Barney. “I’ll take it in on the way home. Twenty-four hours be okay?” 
“Twenty-four hours will be fine,” said Nick dryly. “But make them BIG!”

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Build a Book Phocopiable Resource

I have delivered several succcessful workshops using these materials and am now happy to share these ideas with other writers and other teachers. This resource is currenltly available on Amazon, the facilitator's manual being available on Kindle. A hard copy of the latter will be produced soon as will a downloadbale copy of the former.  
Build a Book Photocopiable Resource

The Build a Book Workshop is a step-by step guide for teachers and writers, that shows you how to organise creative writing workshops with a difference and with a very tangible end product. Your students can see their work turned into a book that has a spine and can sit on a shelf, raising money for charity at the same time.
This photocopiable resource makes conducting the Build a Book Workshop even easier. It contains:
·         Checklists for the organisers
·         Planning sheets
·         Prompt sheets for students
·         Templates for marketing materials
·         Templates for permission slips
·         Templates for letters    

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Build A Book

A manual  for teachers and writers who would like to organise a really interesting writing workshop for students. This workshop enables your students to actually produce a real book. The manual is available on Kindle. 
Inspire your students and enable them to build their own book.
This step-by step guide for teachers and writers, and the photocopiable resource that goes with it, show you how to organise creative writing workshops with a difference and with a very tangible end product. Your students can see their work turned into a book that has a spine and can sit on a shelf, raising money for charity at the same time.
Students can:
·         Improve their writing
·         Write with a purpose
·         Learn about commerce and enterprise
·         Engage with the local and wider community
Teachers and writers learn how to:
·         Plan and organise your workshops
·         Get the best writing out of your students
·         Maximise the impact of your book
·         Build a book with little or no financial outlay
. 35
. 89 160


The Build a Book Workshop is about getting your students to create a book in a limited amount of time. They look at the whole process of how a book is made: writing, editing, selecting, designing, illustrating and marketing. This workshop enables students to see what is involved in producing a book and motivates them to start and to complete a piece of writing. 
They actually produce a book. It becomes a tangible object that sits on a shelf. You may also opt to have the book as an e-book and a web site if you wish. 
This process is very adaptable and can easily be used to build a book in a day, two days, a week, a month, a term or a year.
Some work needs to be carried out behind the scenes, some of which is quite technical, and this guide shows you how. If the technical work is too much, we also show you ways of getting help with that as effectively as possible.
Everything described in this manual for teachers is based on the experience of producing anthologies of children’s writers with schools. All of the books have supported a charity – in two cases this was the schools own library - and in all cases students’ confidence in their writing has increased.    
The Build a Book Workshop can be extremely cross-curricular and offers your students opportunities to:
·         improve their writing
·         understand the world of publishing
·         work collaboratively
·         understand the wider community
·         support the wider community
·         understand how businesses work
·         improve their IT skills
·         take part in an enterprise activity

This manual contains a step-by-step guide to setting up a Build a Book Workshop and making sure that a book is produced at the end of it. There are several choices at each stage of the process. It is probably a good idea to read it from cover to cover to start with and then work through it section by section when you have a clearer idea of your workshop shape. 
You may also order a book containing photocopiable resources from our web site. You may purchase this as a hard copy or as a PDF file. Also a template for formatting your book is available from our web site.