The wait is almost over!

Happy Friday folks! Our wonderful authors have taken your votes and written the final chapter, but you won’t be able to see which was the winning result until 1pm! Are you as eager as us to read and find out what happens?

Why not write a mini book review in the comments or let us know which adventure you’ve been part of?

Total Votes : 67

THE ZONE – Final Chapter!


Today, the final chapter of THE ZONE will be published, and you can find out what happens to Jack and Lizzy and whether they succeed in their mission.

We left them in a pretty desperate state at the end of Chapter 4. The thyratron – the device they were supposed to deliver to the Resistance in York – has been stolen. Who has it? The man calling himself Luke, or the Nazi he met at York Station? Who should they follow? Or should they split up and follow both?

At one o’clock this afternoon, you can find out which vote won, and how the story concludes.

I’ve really enjoyed writing this story. Chapter 4 – Train Trouble – was particularly satisfying because I’ve always loved reading books or watching films set on trains. One of my favourite films set on a train is The Lady Vanishes. It’s an old black and white film and it’s full of suspense. I recommend it!

Thank you all for reading The Zone and casting your votes each week. Thanks also to those who’ve taken the time to write to me on the blog. I love hearing what you have to say and I try to write back to everyone. I’ll still be here after you’ve read the final chapter so feel free to tell me what you think of it.

If I was a pirate…

How would you feel about being a pirate like Captain Jessica Jellybeard? Excited to be in charge of a fantastic big ship and all your crew? Or nervous about ending up in places like the Island of Fear?

If I was a pirate I would eat…

If I was a pirate I would wear…

If I was a pirate I would say…

If I was a pirate my ship’s name would be…

If I was a pirate I would sail to…

Being a pirate back in the day was probably full of dramatic escapades, but it could often be very scary and maybe even dangerous. So what exactly did they do? Watch this video to discover some crazy facts about pirates…

Frozen in Time

By the early hours of 25th August AD 79 the ash and pumice that had been falling steadily on Pompeii was several metres deep. The town lay in ruins. Most of the people had fled, but some remained, taking shelter wherever they could.

Shelter would not save them however, as the worst was yet to come. As the Volcano lost its force, the dense cloud collapsed, then surged down the mountainside. This was called a pyroclastic flow, a tidal wave of super-hot ash. It swept over Pompeii. All the people who were still there died instantly.

If you are lucky enough to be able to visit Pompeii you can still see some of these unfortunate people. They were frozen in time when they died. Many of them are lying as if fast asleep, curled up with their hands over their faces. The most tragic of all is the sight of whole families huddled together.

They look like they were turned to stone, but that’s not exactly true. When archaeologists first excavated the site in the 1800s, they found spaces inside the hardened ash. They soon realised that these spaces were left by human bodies, bodies which had long since decomposed. They poured plaster into the holes and made casts, so what you see today are actually mirror images of people frozen at the point of death.

What about Marcus, his father and Poppeia? Are they going to end up like this? How are they going to escape? Everything will depend on the choices he makes – or, that is, YOU make… Choose wisely, and remember – one good turn deserves another.

Bringing the FACTS into FICTION

In THE ZONE, my story about a fictitious Nazi occupation of Britain, I’ve tried wherever possible to refer to actual history. For example, I researched the real-life Nazi occupation of France to help me imagine what an occupied Britain might be like. Actually, this is what gave me the story’s title. The Nazis called the part of France they ruled Zone Occupée, or Occupied Zone, and the southern, unoccupied part was called Zone Libre, or Free Zone. Like the Free Zone in my story, the French Zone Libre was ruled by a government friendly to the Nazis, so it wasn’t really free at all.

The British Free Corps, the army that controls the Free Zone in my story, really existed. It was a Nazi-run army made up of British prisoners of war. They only managed to recruit about 54 men in total, and it never had more than 27 men at any one time. But in my world, I’ve imagined that it would be much stronger.

Franz Six

The British Free Corps. The Free Zone. It’s funny how that word ‘Free’ keeps cropping up. It’s a powerful word, which the Nazis used to try and persuade the conquered that living under occupation isn’t so bad. I don’t think people would be so easily fooled though.

I’ve also referred to real people in my story. For example, Franz Six, the man who rules the Zone in my story, was a genuine Nazi official. If the Nazis had invaded Britain, it’s likely he’d have been put in charge, or have a senior role.

John Amery

Also, John Amery really existed. He was a British fascist who actually gave the Nazis the idea to create the British Free Corps. He was convicted of treason after the war and came to a sorry end. In my story, he becomes the ruler of the Free Zone.

I always think, with alternative history stories, the closer you can base them on real life, the more powerful and believable they are.

The Last HOURS of Pompeii

How have you been enjoying The Last Days of Pompeii? Can you imagine what some of those strange rumbles that Marcus has heard might be like?

Here’s a video that lets you journey through the last few HOURS of Pompeii and watch as Mount Vesuvious takes the city over with ash.

The Education Show

If any of our teachers or schools will be attending The Education Show in Birmingham this week, we would love to see you! Come by stand E81 to hear about what new developments we are working on for this year, future books and give your own feedback!

What would it be like to live in the Zone?

I hope everyone’s enjoying the story so far. It’s been quite a challenge for me to imagine what life might be like under Nazi occupation.

There are those, like Jack and Lizzy, who try to fight against it.

But I’m sure there would also be many others who decide to accept the new situation and try to make the best of it.

And then there are those, like Ted Robins, who try to profit out of the situation – uncovering people’s secrets and then threatening to tell the Nazis if they don’t pay him.

As an author, I generally try not to make judgements about the characters in my stories. I prefer to let the reader decide. But with Mr Robins, I’m sorry but I have to say it: I hate him!

What would you do if you were living in the Zone? Would you act heroically, risking your life to resist the Nazis? Or not? I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t.

Just please don’t be like Ted Robins!

Chapter 3 is launching this afternoon. I hope you enjoy it. Write and tell me what you think.

The story of Pompeii

Ever since I was a boy I’ve been fascinated by the story of Pompeii.
Not just because it’s to do with Ancient Rome, which I find interesting enough. Not just because of the erupting volcano, or the fact that an entire town was swallowed by ash and preserved for two thousand years. It’s much more than that. Think about a town full of ordinary people going about their lives, full of everyday worries and plans and dreams. Their lives were turned upside down one afternoon in AD79, when the nearby Mount Vesuvius literally exploded.
We know quite a bit about the eruption. This is thanks in part to archaeology, and the town being so well preserved. It is also thanks to a man called Pliny the Younger. He wrote a first-hand account of the eruption. His father, who was called Pliny the Elder, set sail with the Roman fleet to try and save as many people as he could. He was one of the ones who perished as the ash came falling down heavily all through the day.
You can still visit Pompeii. You can walk its streets. You can sit in its forum and gaze up at Vesuvius. You can even wander inside the buildings people used to live in two thousand years ago. That’s why I find it so interesting. It’s those ordinary people I think about. There must have been countless stories of heroism and sacrifice.
Pompeii is a place where we, the people of the 21st Century, can find a link to those ordinary people. And maybe even realise that we’re not all that different!
Pompeii on the afternoon of 24th August 79AD was an extremely dangerous place to be, (as you will soon see!). Marcus already faces enough danger. I’m not sure how he and his imprisoned father are going to escape. What do you think?