Volume 9: K-Pg

K-Pg is the ninth and final volume of All The Pieces. Although it is a sequel, new readers will find that it is self-contained. Reading age is 10-12+.

Darwin’s finches

The story of the eternal battle between Piece Finders and Stone Splitters began five years ago, when I wrote The Cloud Marble. Tamsin finds a chipped, seemingly unremarkable marble in a local sand-pit, and learns how to deal with the advantages it gives her. In the end, she must sacrifice her new-found powers to help a gravely ill schoolfriend.

Subsequent volumes were written to match the reading age of my twins, though such is the speed of a typical child’s development, I was usually just behind the curve. Nevertheless, the books were enjoyed, and re-reading the ‘easier’ ones proved popular.

The first volume was only 7000 words; K-Pg is 40,000. A very different reading proposition.

 

What children like to read

King Sky Rain’s burial temple at Tikal

The subjects that children like to read about at this age are surprisingly complex and challenging. Triggered by what they hear on the news or in conversation between adults, they ask questions about good and evil, justice and mercy, charity and self-interest… and Donald Trump. In mathematics they encounter the infinite and the infinitessimal. They observe the neatness of Euclidean geometry and meet patterns in nature that look as though they must have been designed. In science they visualise the solar system and get their heads around invisible but palpable phenomena such as electricity, force and energy. In their homes they are developing a sense of humour, winning or losing arguments and experiencing ever more complex relationships with siblings, peers and parents. Most have asked about God, and why some believe and some do not. So, it is reasonable to write about more than ‘childish’ things.

The hanging gardens of Babylon

Look at the books that 9 and 10-year olds like to read: Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, all of Jacqueline Wilson, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs), A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket), School for Good and Evil (Soman Chainani), Harry Potter – all present young people in peril who must confront emotionally profound or existential challenges. These books do not leave scars – only hunger for more!

 

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 K-Pg – synopsis

K-Pg (a shorthand term for the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event that occurred 65 million years ago) begins with the discovery by an entertainment company, Involve, that using Hyperiontium in their microchips leads to greatly enhanced virtual reality technology. The CEO of Involve must now find a reliable source of this new element.

Meanwhile Alice Rosebine, chief Stone splitter, and fanatical about ridding the planet of Hyperontium, hatches a plan.  She will send Tamsin Taylor back in time to the moment a 10-mile wide asteroid crashed into Earth and caused the dinosaurs’ extinction. Rich in Hyperiontium, it deposited this element all over the globe. She expects Tamsin to reverse this event.

To get her there, Rosebine must push Tamsin through several periods of history; the Galapagos islands at the time of Darwin’s visit, the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, and Babylon. Rosebine engineers Tamsin’s ‘accidental’ death in each location, this being the only way to generate the emotional intensity required to power the next jump.

Tomas, the resourceful companion who has protected her since she found the Cloud Marble and became a Piece Finder, follows her. But even Tomas needs the help of an older and wiser man… Professor Addison, last seen being subsumed into a meteorite that escaped from the Natural History Museum several years ago.

All characters converge at the hour an asteroid punches through Earth’s atmosphere. The future evolution of Homo sapiens, of all life, depends on the decision that Tamsin Taylor will make.

 

I hope you ALL enjoy it!

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All in one – TWO (volumes 6, 7 and 8)

Announcing the publication of All The Piece 2, the second compilation. It includes Volume 6 – The School in The Sky, Volume 7 – Meadow Bay Fair and Volume 8 – The Coronation of Stephen.

Click the cover picture to explore on Amazon.

Volume 9, ‘K-Pg’ is on the way!

Volume 8 – The Coronation of Stephen

Barely recovered from the adventure of Meadow Bay Fair, Tamsin Taylor is kidnapped and imprisoned in a dank cell beneath the Tower of London. Her captor, Alice Rosebine, plans to steal the Crown Jewels, just weeks before the coronation of a new King. Why does she need Tamsin? What is her master plan? How can she be stopped?

In Volume 8 of All The Pieces we many secrets are revealed – the power behind the throne of Kings and Queens through history; why Tamsin’s mother knows more about Piece Finders than she lets on; how to behead someone without leaving a trace, and who was responsible for blowing up London’s newest skyscraper…

 

 

 

Volume 7 – Meadow Bay Fair

amazon cover

Welcome to the 7th book of ‘All The Pieces’. Here’s the first chapter, where Tamsin (12 years old now) discovers that she is a sharp shooter and spots a prize that she must have…

If you fancy buying it, click on the picture of the cover above.

Chapter 1 – The challenge

The fair arrived towards the end of the summer holiday. Jake (Tamsin’s younger brother) had been waiting eagerly, pointing at brightly painted posters that appeared on walls and fences. But when he read out the details they told him that this or that fair was coming to another town or another borough – never his.

His father, Michael, wondered out loud if the fair would give their town a miss this year; perhaps they hadn’t  made much money last time because of the rain that fell over the bank holiday weekend. Jake asked Tamsin her opinion, but she did not seem particularly interested. She was getting older now, and was excited about other things.

“Will you come with me though?” asked Jake, “If the fair does visit this year.” Tamsin nodded. Of course she would. She wasn’t that grown up!

Tamsin was twelve now. Jake was seven going on eight. It was a year after the adventure of the School In The Sky. Strange though it seems, Tamsin had almost forgotten about it. The importance of what she had discovered – about her future child Annabelle for instance – was too great for a twelve year old to carry about in her head. Her mind had decided to hide that fact away for a while. And the rest, about the sun-funnels, the lasers, the auto-bots… well, who could say, I mean be 100% sure, that this was the future? There was no proof. So Tamsin’s mind dealt with all that she had seen and heard as though it was a long, vivid dream. Easier to forget for the majority of the time.

Tamsin and Jake were already five weeks into their school summer holiday. Other distractions and entertainments kept them busy. The weeks had passed pleasantly. They went away with their parents for a fortnight (not Croatia). They came back. There were two weeks of holiday left. Jake remembered the fair. He looked longingly at the common whenever they walked past; this was where the fair usually set up. One morning he spotted another poster and pulled his mother towards it. Lucy read it before Jake had a chance to get to the end.

“The fair! A ‘vintage’ fair, whatever that means, coming next weekend. Hooray!!” she exclaimed.

“Do you want to go too Mum?”

“Not really, but at least you’ll stop worrying about it now.”

It didn’t matter what she thought as far as Jake was concerned. The fair was coming, and he was going, that was all that mattered.

The following week dragged. Jake saw lorries and caravans arrive and turn off the road onto the common. They parked around the edge and up at one end, next to the trees. Some carried the rides that had been designed to fold up and pack away into much smaller space. Jake glimpsed a spaceship under a tarpaulin, and on the way back from a walk to the river he spotted a huge, scary face being carried off a lorry – part of the Ghost Train he presumed. They built the rides and stalls from the ground up, and by Thursday night the work was done. The rides had an old fashioned look. Metal girders and supports were decorated with elaborate curls and foils. But the suggestion of antiquity was superficial – underneath there were up to date motors and thoroughly modern safety precautions. And not all the rides looked old – a  tall, crane-like structure had appeared from nowhere. At the top was a pivoting chair for two people; a whole ride just for two people! It was too high for Jake to even think about going on it. Not even Tamsin would dare to put herself in that contraption.

During the week Jake kept on asking his parents how much money he would be allowed to spend. He had started receiving one pound a week over the long holiday, and he had saved five. He was worried because he knew that even the simple rides could cost as much as £2.50 or £3.00. Before bed on Friday night his father whispered,

“Don’t worry Jake, I’ll give you the same amount that you have saved, you’ve been a good boy this holiday.” This wasn’t entirely true, but his father must have been in a good mood. So that was £10.00. A very reasonable amount!

The family walked down to the fair at teatime on Saturday. The sun shone. Jake wrapped his hot hand around the five pound coins in his pocket. And Tamsin? We’ve been ignoring her. Unusually, she was thinking about her role as a Piece Finder. This was because the northern edge of the fair was situated just a few metres away from the oak sapling under which she had buried the Red Heart marble. She spotted the young tree but did not stop. The family walked on, towards the fair’s main entrance.

Once they had entered the booming music, the clatter of carriages speeding around metal tracks and the atmosphere of general excitement took hold of her. She was more than happy to be there.

There was discussion about what rides to go on and what stalls to visit. Jake pointed to the flying spaceships, eight of them attached to thick spokes. He knew that small levers at the front allowed the rider to control the height of the capsules. Last time he had gone up and down about twenty times. He had to go on this ride.

“And you Tamsin?” asked Lucy.

“Dodgems please.”

“Later Tamsin. Jake’s a bit too small for them, let’s do something he can go on his own first.”

Tamsin agreed. She would go on the spaceships, but mainly to keep Jake company. They walked towards the spaceship ride and watched the arms swing up and down as the children within each capsule toggled the lever. As the capsules changed altitude a hissing sound came out of the machinery in the centre of the ride – hydraulic pistons powered by a generator that chugged away behind the nearest lorry. Pop music pounded from speakers positioned at the top of the central pillar, music that Jake did not recognise but Tamsin did. The capsules slowed down and settled to ground level in unison. A few of the children looked disappointed and wanted to stay for longer, while others seemed eager to leap out onto the ground before the ride had come to stop, keen to spend their money elsewhere. When all the capsules were empty the young woman running the ride nodded to indicate that they could go on now. Jake ran around; he wanted to go on the same spaceship – a purple one – that he had spotted on the lorry a few days ago. Tamsin walked around leisurely. She was attracted to a copper coloured one. When she climbed in an electric shock, static,  made her jump. It had touched her arm just where the marble tattoo was. She thought nothing of it. It was one of those hot days when static seems to come off anything.

The ride passed uneventfully. Jake looked a tiny bit let down as he climbed out. His capsule had not been very responsive to the movements of his lever, and he had only been able to go up and down five times.

Next – Tamsin’s choice. She pointed to a stall where you fired air rifles at targets.

“Why?” asked her father. “You don’t know the first thing about guns? And they are far too big for your arms.”

“Please!” she said.

“It’s up to you Tamsin,” said Lucy. “We just don’t want you to waste your money. They make these things very difficult to win you know.”

Despite the warnings Tamsin took them all to the rifles. They watched for a few minutes. An older man with a deeply tanned, wrinkled face and sparse wisps of white hair stood to one side as children and adults tried to knock down a series of small, man-shaped metal targets. There were five metal men in each alley. Nobody won anything while they watched.

A man paid three pounds, received three pellets, and took aim. He seemed to know how to hold a rifle. The first pellet struck the metal housing around the man-shaped targets and pinged off somewhere. The second hit the edge of a target but not squarely enough to knock it over on its hinge. The third pellet zinged high into the wooden planking at the back of the stall. He put down the rifle and muttered “Fix! The sights are wonky.”

“All’s fair and honest here Sir!” responded the man who owned the stall.

“Are you sure about this?” asked Jake.

“Yes.” Tamsin handed over three pounds.

“Six pellets for five pounds, better chance of winning,” suggested the man.

“No thanks. Three will be fine.”

She chose an alley, placed the tiny metal pellets in a metal saucer that was nailed to the wooden ledge, and struggled to open the rifle. Her father walked forward to help but just as he approached she succeeded. Having learned how to insert the pellets while watching a few moments ago she now readied herself for the first shot. Her arms were just long enough for her to cradle the barrel, hold the trigger and nestle the stock (the wooden butt) against her shoulder. Then she tilted her head to line the sights up with a metal man. She chose one and concentrated. A tingling sensation in her arm, where the static electricity had stung her, caused her to pause. While she paused the gun remained absolutely still. It seemed to straightforward. She pulled the trigger. The target fell, accompanied by a ringing sound. The second pellet knocked over the second target. Tamsin looked over at her family. Her father was clapping and smiling. Her mother looked worried. Jake’s mouth hung open in confusion or admiration or both. She inserted the third, but before firing she asked the owner what the prize was. He pointed to some plastic buckets on the ground,

“Three hits, anything in the buckets.”

“What about the stuff hanging up there?” She pointed to the larger, brighter tobjects on the walls.

“They’re for the challenge only.”

“What challenge?”

“Ten out of ten. Ten hits from ten pellets. Ten pounds.”

“Just concentrate on getting three!” called her father.

Tamsin fired the third and last pellet. Zingggg! Down went the target. Three out of three. She looked at the buckets and chose a plastic car to give to Jake.

“Hey thanks Tam!” he shouted, surprised by her generosity.

“It’s OK, there was nothing I wanted.” But Tamsin looked back and caught the owner’s eye as the family walked away. She had seen something she wanted hanging on the side wall. A sword – plastic and cheap yes, but interesting. Something about its design attracted her.

They went on the dodgems, the mini-rollercoaster, the inflatable slide, the horse track… and finally the penny slot machines that were housed in temporary hut with low ceilings and mud on the floor. Their money lasted for an hour and a half, and it was now time to go home. Tamsin asked,

“Mum, Dad… I know you won’t agree with this, but I want to do the challenge on the air rifles.”

“Don’t even think about it Tamsin!” answered her father. “It’s a con. You got lucky. Ten pounds, straight into that chap’s pocket. It’s not even down to the accuracy of the person shooting… the rifles are so old and broken it’s impossible to aim straight ten times in a row.”

“But I have my own money. I bought some extra with me.”

Her mother and father looked at each other. There was little argument to be made if their daughter had her own money… except for the fact that it was time to go home and feed Jake before his bath.

“Sorry Tamsin darling,” said Lucy. “But it’s getting late. You’ve had a good time, and it’s a silly waste of ten pounds. You cannot win.”

“I can come back later, on my own…”

“No you cannot young lady.” insisted Michael. “I’m not having you wandering around here on your own…”

“With you then. “

“Oh…” snapped Lucy, “Just go and do it… and quickly!”

They walked back to the air rifles. Jake, although hungry for his tea, was pleased. He had enjoyed the excitement first time. Tamsin caught the grumpy, older man’s eye and stood in an empty position. He waited for another child to finish his pellets (the targets remained upright, no prize), then walked to the front of the stall.

“Ten pellets please,” asked Tamsin.

The man hesitated. “Ten. For the challenge?”

“Yes. Here,” and Tamsin put a ten pound note on the ledge, which was at waist height. The man, who was called Bill McReady, fished around in the pocket of his brown trousers for pellets and delivered a small handful into the metal dish next to Tamsin. He counted them carefully and took four away, leaving ten.

“Ten out of ten, you understand? Not nine, ten.” he explained.

“I remember.” Tamsin glanced at the walls to see the prizes. They did not look particularly good, but the sword was still there, and she would be happy with that. A strange design, similar in style to the structures underpinning some of the vintage rides. Then she told herself off; what chance was there, really, of winning? One in a thousand? One in a million? She regretted handing over the money now. Her family stood behind her. The sun had gone in. Her mother and father were talking to each other about something else entirely. Jake looked bored, it was all taking too long. Better get on with it.

She opened the gun and put the first pellet it. She held it up and sighted the first target.

Zingggg! The target fell.

Number two. Zinggggg!

Three. Zingggg!

Four, five… down they went. All the metal men were down.

“Excuse me!” she called. The man looked up from his mobile phone and came over.

“I’ve done the first five. Can you put them up again?”

Bill McReady looked down at her pellet dish. There were five left. He said nothing.

“Yes. Wait a moment.” He pulled a lever on the side of the metal box and the targets swung up into a standing position once again. Then he shuffled back to the edge of the stall, keeping an eye on Tamsin. She watched him carefully. Something about his expression had caught her attention. He was obviously getting worried that she would win. He tapped his phone. Tamsin could tell that he was sending a text. She took her time reloading. There was a movement to the right. Another fair-hand arrived, a middle aged lady. She had bright blonde hair that had been crimped into waves. They exchanged a few words and watched Tamsin as she brought the rifle up for shot number six.

Zingggg!

Seven, eight – zingggg, zingggg!

The gun felt heavy now. Her young arms were not used to it. As she aimed at number nine the rifle wandered, and it was harder to keep the sights on the metal target. She put the rifle down and rubbed her muscles. When she picked it up again and tucked the butt into her shoulder her arms were shaking. She turned around. Her mother and father were watching carefully now.

“Go on Tamsin. Amazing!” called her mother.

“Go on Tamsin!” echoed Jake. “You can do it!”

She focussed all her energy into her arms. Looking down the barrel of the gun she saw the skin that overlay her muscles twitch with the effort. Her tattoo rested just a centimetre from the black metal. She straightened her arm slightly, bringing her skin closer to the gun barrel. The tattoo tingled again. The target stood in her sights. She pulled the trigger.

Zingggg! Nine down.

The owner moved. He was standing on tiptoe. His head obscured the sword. Tamsin reloaded for the last time.

Zingggg! Ten out of ten.

Tired now, she put the rifle down and smiled at Bill McReady.

“Well done young lady! Incredible. What skill! You must have had practise. Does your family own a shooting range or something? You should have said.”

“Can I have my prize now?” She did not trust this man entirely.

“Of course! Anything that you see on the walls.”

She looked across to the right hand wall. The sword had gone!

“I wanted the sword.”

“Oh, sorry, somebody won it earlier. Anything else though, anything you like.”

“It was there when I started the challenge, I’m sure of it.”

“No I don’t think so young lady.”

Tamsin looked back. Her father was watching passively. Beyond him she saw the blonde hair of a middle aged lady walking away with a plastic bag dangling from one of her hands. She disappeared into the cabin of a large red lorry.

“What’s the matter Tamsin?” asked Michael.

“The prize I wanted has been taken down.”

“Well they’re all the same I’m sure. Just pick something.”

She pointed to a large, cuddly dolphin and received it with a thin smile. She didn’t want it. Bill McReady nodded down to her from his position on the raised boards of the stall.

“Good shooting,” he whispered. He sounded apologetic, as though what had happened was not his fault. Tamsin turned away, and muttered something. He did not hear. It might have been ‘Cheat.

Volume 6 – The School in The Sky

The one where Tamsin meets her granddaughter…

Prologue

France, 2041

 

The two Stone Splitters picked their way across a field strewn with sharp rocks and peppered with treacherous holes. Behind them stood three structures, each part of a nuclear reactor. There was a pale dome (where the energy was released from fuel rods) and two square buildings (where engineers worked to control the energy levels and prevent any accidents).

          The Splitters hurried now. It was growing dark, and with each passing minute it became more difficult to find their way. They had achieved the first part of their mission – to place the last Piece on Earth into the heart of the reactor, where it would be completely destroyed. The last trace of alien material. Once destroyed, there would be no more trouble. That was their task.

          They had disguised themselves as engineers, used their fake passes to gain access to the square building on the right, and during a planned fuel rod replacement they had made their way into the dome through an underground tunnel and planted what looked like a medium sized, grey stone in the reactor. When the reactor was turned on again the last Piece would go up in smoke! The Splitters would have won the long, hard-fought battle to rid the world of this strange, impossibly powerful substance.

          The only other Piece known to have caused trouble in recent times was the Cloud Marble (known latterly to readers of these books as the Red Heart Marble). Despite many searches with specially designed detectors it had not been found. The chief Stone Splitters had come to the conclusion that it had been taken back into space by the last Meteorite to visit Earth.

          The older Stone Splitter, about sixty years old and called Alex, said to his companion,

          “Soon. Very soon. It should be reaching the critical temperature now.”

          “Will we hear anything?” asked his junior, but partner, Frank.

          “No. It will just disappear in a puff of smoke. It’s will be so hot in there, it probably won’t even show up on the dials. Compared to the fuel rods, it’s tiny. Don’t worry Frank. Relax!” As he said this a sound – a crack in the air –  caused them to turn  around violently.

          “RUNNNNNN!” screamed the older man, who was no longer so relaxed. The two of them began to skip across the field even though they could barely see where they were putting their feet. Frank twisted his ankle and ended up lying on his back, crying and unable to move. Alex ran ahead, leaving his partner behind.

          “Help!” cried Frank.

          “No way! It’s going to blow!” shouted Alex, who was by now fifty metres ahead. The sun had set, and he had disappeared into the night. So Frank lay there on the grass –  looking and waiting. Another crack. It hurt Frank’s ears. The domed structure split open and from it erupted a thick line of purest white. It cut across the sky and shot into space. The moon was visible that night, and the Stone Splitter watched incredulously as the light seemed to graze its hazed edge. Then the light faded. The crack in the reactor remained. Alarms sounded. There were distant shouts as genuine engineers ran away from the overheating fuel rods. But there was no explosion. Nobody had died. The Piece had proved too powerful for this fragile, human structure.

          Frank struggled to his feet and found a way to walk without hurting his ankle too much. As he watched the ground for rocks and holes he noticed something. The grass seemed to be coated in a copper coloured dust. It had not been there before the explosion. He knelt down and picked a weed. He held it close to his face and studied the metallic coating. It was everywhere! It was even on his clothes. Even his skin!

          By the time he had hobbled to the edge of the field (where his unhelpful companion was waiting in a van), Frank had collected several rocks and weeds. He did not share his discovery, having decided to experiment with the orange dust on his own. When he was ready he would tell his leader all about it. He had a hunch that this substance was special.

          “Ready?” asked Alex.

          “Yes. Let’s go.”

          The engine started.

          “Thanks for running off,” said Frank, sarcastically. He rubbed his ankle.

          “Don’t be cheeky with me son!”

***

Volume 5 – The Spot and The Spiral

What is the explanation? A lion escapes from London Zoo and appears before Tamsin carrying three exotic birds. It is a mystery, until an astronomer sees the photograph and recognises a stellar pattern. Thus Tamsin and Alejandro are guided to the edge of the galaxy, and into a final battle with the Stone Splitters.

If you have ever climbed London’s Monument, you might just want to go back and check that all is as it seemed!

 

 

 

 

Here’s an except:

Interlude

Alejandro as a child

 

As a young boy growing up in South America Alejandro was always able to look up and see the stars clearly. The skies were rarely overcast, and the altitude at which he lived in the village meant the air was thin and unpolluted. He borrowed his father’s binoculars and learnt how to navigate his way around the constellations. He kept an old star map in his bedroom, and as the seasons came and went he said farewell or welcomed the patterns that moved across the great black playground above him. As he grew older, and read more about the scientific discoveries that astronomers had made, he made up his mind to spend his whole life among the stars. He knew, of course, that he could not actually travel into space (his family were too poor to send him to America or Europe, where he understood that most astronauts were trained) but he instead he made do with working on inventions that would allow him to explore on Earth.

His country, Chile, was special. It sat over a fault line, which is where the huge stone plates that make up the solid surface of the Earth meet.  If and when these plates rub against each other the friction causes earthquakes. Alejandro felt numerous earthquakes as he was growing up, but when he was eight years old he found himself involved in one directly.

He and his family were travelling in their old car on the Pan-American highway, on their way back from visiting a relative in the city of Valparaiso. The ground shook, and a large crack opened up in the road ahead. The car that was travelling directly in front of them did not have time to stop, and it tipped over the edge into a deep hole. Alejandro’s mother managed to brake in time, and their car skidded to a stop. His parents got out the car and led Alejandro away. But as he ran off the road he heard a cry. The family in the car that had fallen into the crack were crying out. Alejandro tugged on his mother’s arm, but she shouted (amid the great din, chaos and panic),

“No! It’s too dangerous!”

But Alejandro pulled his hand away from hers and ran back to the crack in the road. The tarmac was still moving as the shocks continued to ripple through the Earth. On his hands and knees he leant over the edge and saw the car lying on its side. The family within were reaching up through the open windows, but they could not open the doors or climb up the steep rocky sides. Alejandro turned around and saw that a lorry had crashed into the side of the road. Over its cargo was a large, green tarpaulin, flapping free in the wind because the ropes that had held it were all broken. Alejandro ran over, dragged the tarpaulin off the lorry, and unfurled it into the crack. His father was now by his side, and he helped hold it steady. The family down below managed to grab the sheet and pull themselves up. The family’s child held onto his father’s neck like a baby monkey. Soon they stood on the broken road, crying with relief. At that moment the crack widened and their car disappeared forever.

Alejandro looked up to his father. The older man stood open mouthed, scarcely able to believe what had happened, and how close the family, and his son, had been to mortal danger. But he was proud. He held Alejandro’s shoulders then gave him a hug. The tremors had settled, and the immediate danger seemed to have passed. Then he noticed that Alejandro was holding his arm. There was a graze on it, where the weight of the family holding onto the tarpaulin had caused his arm to rub against the edge of the crack in the road. Alejandro had not noticed it at the time, but now it hurt. He rubbed away the grit, the dust and some of the blood. His father handed him a clean tissue, and with that Alejandro rubbed some clean water onto the graze. Nearly all the dust was wiped away, but some did remain. As Alejandro travelled home (his mother weaving slowly through the abandoned or crashed cars) he looked again at the graze. It tingled… and the dust that remained, buried deep in the skin, seemed to have formed a shape – that of a spiral.

All in one!

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This summer I was inspired by a visit to the Roald Dahl museum in Berkshire to write a story for my children, ‘The Cloud Marble’. Then I wrote another (‘The Diamond Rivet’), then another (‘The Meteorite’), and another (‘The Mosaic Tile’)…until it threatened to distract me from real world duties. I have now completed the fifth and final volume (‘The Spot and the Spiral’) of a series called ‘All The Pieces’.

What’s it all about?

Tamsin, age 7, finds a chipped old marble at the bottom of a sandpit. Possession of it makes her smarter at school, a better ballet dancer, and, weirdly, lends the power of speech to the neighbour’s surprisingly judgmental cat. Whatever the marble touches seems to get ‘better’ in some way. When a not-so-close school friend becomes ill Tamsin must decide whether to give her prize away. If Tamsin is to help, she must make her way into central London with nothing more than feline assistance and sneak into a huge hospital…

Subsequent volumes reveal the existence of other ‘Pieces’ (a translucent rivet in the Eiffel Tower, a mosaic tile under the dome of St. Paul’s cathedral) each of which have the potential to impart great power. However, there is danger. Tamsin sets off a minor earthquake beneath London by carrying a Piece fragment into the Natural History Museum. The tube train in which she and her friend’s family are travelling races out of control, and Tamsin must use her newfound skills and intrinsic bravery to avert disaster. The catastrophic potential of the Pieces becomes clearer still when Tamsin is transported to 17th century London and witnesses an explosion in Pudding Lane… With the help of a impoverished French pickpocket called Tomas, and the Chilean astronomer Alejandro, Tamsin must work out what role these Pieces have played in history, and why a shadowy gang called the ‘Stone Splitters’ have been seeking to shatter the meteorite from which the mysterious objects were fashioned.

The 5 volumes are available as separate paperbacks with colour illustrations, but cost £9.99 each (£1.99 on Kindle). A single paperback edition containing all 5 volumes (470pages, but big writing!) is available for £9.99, and this has black and white illustrations.

My Amazon author page has links to all the volumes, and other books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philip-Berry/e/B008EE69WW

I hope you enjoy them!

Volume 4 – The Mosaic Tile

Welcome to the fourth part of All The Pieces.

After discovering the true source of the Cloud Marble, the Diamond Rivet and the potent, havoc-creating fragment, Tamsin waits to be told what she must do. As a committed Piece Finder (with a tattoo to prove it) she has pledged to help protect the meteorite, whatever it takes. Perhaps if she had known what this promise would require from her, she would have been less agreeable!

A talking rocking horse, an almost impossible task in the Whispering Gallery of St. Paul’s cathedral, an ingenious solution to being in two places at once, and a death-defying, ten minute underwater swim (could you do that?!)… this is Tamsin’s most dangerous adventure yet.

 

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Sample chapter: How long can you hold your breath for?

Tamsin sat undisturbed on a bench with a view of the Dead Sea until sunset. She watched the other families leave, and noticed that a few mothers and fathers looked down at her wondering why a young girl was sitting on her own. She found an abandoned English novel, and although it was a bit too hard for her, it kept her occupied. Nobody questioned her.

At sunset she saw movement on the cliff beyond the Dead Sea. A dark figure had climbed up from the rocky shelf beyond. He must have swum from the fishing boat, and had probably used the same ladder to come ashore as Tamsin’s mother. Tamsin now walked around the Dead Sea and up onto the cliff, so that she could look down. She was wrong. The man had come ashore in a small dinghy. This was tied to a metal chain further along the shelf.

From her new position she could see all three men. They were waiting on the cliff, sledgehammers in hand. The few remaining visitors to the island probably thought that they were workmen.

Tamsin watched them tie a rope around a rock. It dangled down to the opening that allowed sea water to enter and refresh the Dead Sea. Leaning over the edge of the cliff, Tamsin saw the opening in more detail. Now she recognised it. This was the cave of her vision.

When all three men had descended to the cave the rope was taken down. Tamsin was not going to be able to use it herself. The only way for her to enter the channel was to approach it from the Dead Sea itself, and this meant swimming into the dark hole that had frightened her earlier. She walked back to the place where she and her family had sat when they arrived earlier in the day. Now she wished she was back in the apartment with them, having tea. She felt jealous of Tamsin2, who would be safe and happy, having taken her place. But Tamsin had started… and she must finish the job.

Tamsin stood facing the Dead Sea. The dark opening was getting harder to see. She strained her ears but could not hear the men.

She had to jump into the water and swim.

She jumped, still wearing all her clothes. The water was cooler now, but bearable. As she approached the opening a voice called to her from the side of the pool. Treading water, she looked around. It was Tomas!

“Hi Tamsin!” he called, “You are brave!”

“I can’t get in there,” replied Tamsin, getting straight to the point. She had no time for Tomas’s games.

“I know. You have to swim underwater to get into the true cave, where the meteorite is. How long can you hold your breath for?”

Tamsin knew this, because she had practised it.

“Forty seconds at most.”

“That’s not long enough. The channel is twisty and it will be dark. You’ll have to feel your way around.”

“So what do we do?”

“We time-freeze it. You’ll have your forty seconds, but they will last for five minutes. I’m outside so I can’t keep it frozen for too long. Too difficult.”

“OK. Do it!

Tamsin took some extra breaths, held it, and ducked her head into the dark water. She trusted Tomas to keep her safe.

swim

She could not tell if time was frozen or not under water. There were no clues, no people to watch or sounds to monitor. Tamsin swam as hard as she could, and after a short while her hands felt the edge of the channel. It was entirely underwater here; if she had tried to swim to the surface her head would have struck rock. There was no air.

She continued, using her feet to propel her and her hands to guide her. The sense of panic that builds up inside you when your breath begins to run out had not yet started. Tomas’s plan was working.

After another minute Tamsin got a little worried. The channel seemed to be going on forever. The water was completely black. Suddenly she felt desperate for air. The time-freeze was over! Yet still she was nowhere near the other end…

Tamsin swam faster, using her hands now instead of just her feet. Her head banged the side of the rock. She had to breathe! She had to!

She began to tumble in the water. Her eyes remained open. There, some ten metres ahead, the colour of the water seemed to lighten. There was an orange glow. The end! But she did not have the breath to get her that far. Why had Tomas broken the time freeze?       Losing consciousness now, Tamsin rolled and floated towards the lighter patch of water. Her feet flapped weakly, her arms continued do underwater breaststroke as best they could. Then her head broke through the surface and she tasted warm, moist air. Her lungs filled themselves hungrily. Her fingers grasped the edge of the rock. For a minute she could not see anything, as her vision was fogged by the lack of oxygen. But she knew she was alive, and she felt stronger with every passing second.

She could now survey the scene. One man stood over a hole in the ground. Two men heaved on a rope that was attached to a pulley. The pulley, fixed to a sturdy metal frame that must have been constructed some weeks before, hung over the hole in the ground, and the same rope descended from it into the darkness below. With each heave the rope moved up a few inches.

hammer

“Keep going!” ordered the man in charge.

After a few more pulls an object appeared at the top of the hole – a metal pincer clasped around a spherical rock. Tamsin recognised the rock. It was as though her vision was now repeating itself.

To her left a fourth man entered the cave. He held a boy by the neck – Tomas! He had been captured. He wriggled and struggled but could not release himself.

“Found this spy!” shouted the man.

“Tie him up. He could be one of them. Has he got a tattoo?” said the leader.

“Let’s have a look.” The man examined Tomas’ arms, then smiled and said, “Oh yes. A nice one. What is it boy?”

“Nothing.”

The man struck him. “Tell me boy!”

“A rivet.”

“Ah. The rivet. I’ve heard about that one,” said the leader, but he did not have time to ask more questions. His attention was focussed on the stone. “Put him in the corner. Let’s get this job done, and finish off what they should have done hundreds of years ago.”

Tomas was thrown to one side. He rolled over, and Tamsin found herself staring up at the back of his head.

The pincers were pulled to one side and released, leaving the meteorite to fall onto the ground with a thump. The men lost no time, and started hammering at the it.

Tamsin touched Tomas’ hair. There was blood on his cheek where he had landed on a sharp stone. He turned around slowly. He didn’t want to attract attention.

“You made it!” he said, overjoyed.

“Only just. I ran out of air.”

“Sorry. The time freeze stopped when they grabbed me. I didn’t see him coming, I couldn’t keep my concentration.”

“Never mind, I’m OK. What do we do?”

“You’ve done the hard part. Just throw the tile at the rock. It will set off a mini-quake. If these men start to split the stone there will be another huge disaster. The worst. We can’t let that happen.”

“I just throw it?”

“Yes!”

“Help me get out of the water. I’m cold.”

“Not yet. Give me the tile. But don’t drop it.” said Tomas.

Tamsin reached into her pocket, which was zipped. The water made this difficult, but she managed to find it and hold it up to Tomas.

“You do it,” suggested Tamsin.

“No. It must be you. Look, it’s glowing, it’s shaking. It knows it’s nearly home!”

“Help me out of the water!”

Tomas put the tile in his own pocket and reached down to help Tamsin. She struggled out of the water and flopped down onto the hard ground, still exhausted from the underwater swim. Once she had shaken off the water from her clothes and swept the hair out of her eyes, she knelt before Tomas and held out her hand,

“Give it to me then. It’s time to stop this.”

An ear-splitting bang caused her to turn round. A new crack had appeared in the stone, under the onslaught of repeated hammer blows. Tamsin took the tile and crawled to within a few metres of the meteorite. It should be easy, she thought, because once she had thrown it the Mosaic Tile should fly towards the meteorite as though attracted by a strong magnet.

She was just about to throw it when the ground moved beneath her knees. The solid ground seemed to be turning to sand. She lost her balance and rolled over…and she couldn’t help screaming! The Stone Splitters heard her. One of them threw down his sledgehammer and ran over. With a powerful arm he picked her up by her hair,

“Another one. Another kid. Why do they get kids to do their dirty work? Too late missy! Just a few more strikes! Now…get away!”

He readied himself to throw her in the direction of Tomas. But they were all distracted by a sudden change. The dark cave lit up, the walls glowed pink, and a squat pillar of pink mist appeared halfway between the meteorite and Tamsin (who was still in the hands of her assailant).  The mist swirled and began to form a shape… a human shape… that of an even younger child. Tamsin stared hard, and began to recognise the shape of the head. It was Jake!

“Quick, throw it to me!” he shouted, once his mouth had been formed.

Tamsin lobbed the Mosaic Tile in his direction. He caught it, and immediately threw it at the meteorite.

“NOOOOOOO….” shouted the head Stone Splitter. The Mosaic Tile landed on the meteorite, glowed red for an instant, and became a part of it. The rumblings in the ground that had been building up grew more intense. Now the earth really shook. All the Stone Splitters fell over. Tamsin was released, and she rolled towards Tomas. Jake turned, smiled, and disappeared into mist as quickly as he had appeared. Tomas and Tamsin slipped back into the water.

“This time we’ll swim together,” said Tomas, “And I promise you won’t run out of time. I can time-freeze and swim at the same time, I’m sure I can.”

They left the cave, and a few minutes later were back in the Dead Sea. Rocks trembled all around them, but they were safe. The mini-earthquake seemed to be limited to the cave. Tamsin and Tomas scrambled up a path to the top of the cliff. They saw the Stone Splitters’ boat at anchor, but it was rocking violently. The quake was causing the waves to build up, and soon the boat began to break up as it was thrown against the rocks. The Stone Splitters had managed to escape from the cave, but they could not reach their boat. Tamsin did not want to think about what happened to them.

The two friends turned away and tried to work out how to get off the island.

 

– – –

Coming soon, the final volume – The Spot And The Spiral; it’s going cosmic…

Volume 3 – The Meteorite

Welcome to the third part of ‘All The Pieces’.

It starts with a simple request – take the stone fragment to the Natural History Museum. Little does Tamsin know that carrying it to within a few metres of a hidden meteorite will cause an earthquake beneath London. She must use all her powers to avert disaster on a tube train, a dramatic event that brings her into the company of Piece Finders and their arch enemies the Stone Splitters. With the help of the pickpocket Tomas she will learn of the meteorite’s crucial role in history, and be transported back to Pudding Lane on the very day that the Great Fire of London started…

 

explosion

Read an excerpt here…

 

  1. The ice pool

Katie and Tamsin were actually pretty good at skating. Being quite short they did not lose their balance often, and the helper-penguins were soon discarded.

Katie’s parents had put on skates too, and they moved slowly around the perimeter holding onto the sides. As they grew more confident one or other of the adults might skate into the main flow of people, but the two children were always ahead, weaving and ducking with ease.

tam skating

However, Tamsin was finding it harder and harder to stay upright as time went on. She had expected it to get easier and easier…who wouldn’t? She kept leaning over to the left and having to straighten herself up again. It was as though a weight was pulling her down. Once she slipped, and because she was holding hands with Katie the two of them toppled.

“Hey, why do you keep falling over?” asked her friend.

“I don’t know. I feel all off balance.”

“Is it your boots?”

“No. I’ll take off my coat. Perhaps it’s got wet and heavy.”

That was a good idea, but when she took her coat off it made no difference. Then she tapped her left hand trouser pocket. Could it be…the fragment?

She twirled to a stop, took out the thin black stone, and realised that it had become a lot heavier. In fact it pulled her hand down. Then it slipped. Her fingers, numb with cold, could not hold onto it any longer.

Katie did not notice (she was busy looking out for passing skaters) but Tamsin watched in fascination as the fragment fell onto the ice and sank. It melted the surface and disappeared.

Tamsin knelt down, desperate to retrieve it, but it was too late. The fragment was no longer visible.

She gave up looking and carried on skating. It had done nothing special since she had brought it home from Paris, and she had come to regard it as no more interesting than a pebble that one might find on the beach .

Round and round went the skaters. Those watching from the other side of the barriers or through the windows of the nearby cafe might have noticed that they seemed to be moving more slowly as the minutes passed. People seemed to be having more difficulty getting round the circuit.

skate puddle

Katie looked down and saw that water was sloshing over her toe-caps. The two girls heard a loud scream and looked across the rink. A parent and child had fallen and were struggling to get up. They were lying in six inches of water. The ice was melting!

People in the middle of the rink tried to make their way to the sides, but by the time the first of them had reached the barrier the ice had completely liquefied.

Tamsin and Katie, still trying hard to skate (or wade) to the edge, now found themselves up to their thighs in water…and the water was warm.

Parents, supervisors and passing tourists jumped into the pool to help the youngsters who weren’t strong enough to help themselves. Katie’s parents  spotted the two girls and came to help them. Soon the four of them were together again, standing outside the rink. Both the girls were soaking wet, but neither of them shivered. The moisture evaporated from their clothes within minutes. The water in the rink evaporated too. There was no steam; there were no bubbles. The liquid had just disappeared.

The base of the rink was now visible. A smooth grey surface on which lay random objects – sweet wrappers, hair clips, a few coins, a single glove, a scarf, and a tiny speck of black…the fragment.

 

High above the now abandoned ice rink a man turned away from his window and returned to his collection of rare stones. He worked in the Natural History museum, and he had observed the entire episode with a great deal of interest.

oOo

Available as ebook or paperback

Don’t miss Volume 1 – The Cloud Marble and Volume 2 – The Diamond Rivet

Volume 2 – The Diamond Rivet

pavementAfter Tamsin saved an ill friend by sneaking into the hospital and dissolving the magical cloud marble in a glass of water, life returned to normal. Until now…

During a family trip to Paris she meets a pickpocket on the Eiffel Tower. He points out a plain rivet, one of millions, but when Tamsin looks at it carefully it seems to rattle in its place. It wants to escape!

Thus begins Tamsin’s second adventure, one that finds her able to measure love on the bridge of padlocks, recreate paintings with the touch of a finger, and risk all by taking the source of these powers from its rightful place…

This book is for 6-8 year olds.

Click the cover picture to explore on Amazon…

 

amazon cover

 

Read a sample chapter here…

 

  1. Don’t touch!

 

Tamsin held Jake’s hand and walked with him through the gallery. They played games, mainly hide and seek, around the benches. Their parents looked at every picture. So many! Some they liked, some they did not. Occasionally one of them would come over and take Tamsin to see a special one. They would talk about it. Tamsin had been given a little notebook and a set of coloured pencils to copy the ones she liked most. This kept her busy, but Jake soon fell asleep when he was put in his pushchair.

“Look at this one!” said Lucy, “It’s so colourful!”

Tamsin agreed. She loved it. The picture showed a circus ring, with a fearless lady standing on a galloping white horse. An acrobat was somersaulting behind her, the ring master was directing it all with a long whip, and the audience stared with awe from their seats in the background. So much speed, and so beautiful!

Tamsin stood as close as she could to the canvas, but a thin wire some inches above the ground ensured that people did not get near enough to touch the paint itself. A guard sat by the door, keeping an eye on the visitors.

“I really like this one.” said Tamsin.

“Stay and draw it if you like.” said Lucy. “We’ll be in the next room. You’ll be fine here.”

So Tamsin settled down on the floor in front of the picture and began to copy it. Because the artist had used thousands of tiny dots to create the picture Tamsin used the same method. Her pencil tap-tap-tapped on the paper.

 touchcircus

A few minutes later she noticed that the guard had left. And, for once, there were only a handful of tourists in the room. Tamsin stood up, leaned forward, and touched the corner of the painting. Her ears were filled with noisy applause. Her nostrils twitched with the smell of horse, sweat and sawdust (which covered the floor of the circus). She felt dizzy and disorientated. The floor beneath her was moving violently. She looked down and saw that her shoes had changed to cracked leather slippers, and that the floor was nothing of the sort…it was a pale horse’s back! Tamsin was in the circus, standing one-legged on the swift, eager beast.   The ring master called out, in French,

“Vite! Vite!” (meaning ‘Faster! Faster!”) Tamsin lost her balance and began to fall to the ground. She saw a look of concern on the ring master’s face.

Just before she landed on the ground the scene changed…back to the calm of the museum. Her finger was no longer touching the canvas. She looked for the guard, and saw a new one taking her place on the chair. Tamsin collected her notebook and pencils and hurried to join her parents.

lastlock

 

oOo