Book Recipes

How to Write Gothic Fiction

Friends! My debut novel, The Shadow in the Glass, has officially been released and it is a SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER.


YES BRUV (image:

This is totally wild.

What this means for the blog is that at the moment I have to focus on publicity stuff for the novel, so it’ll be mostly book-related content while I sort out stuff for interviews etc. But! I’m not going to leave you all in the weeds because I have a rare treat for you – me, actually being serious for once when I tell you how to write a book!

Below you will find my genuine tips on how to write gothic fiction. I don’t even talk about capes once, so you know I’m being serious!

Hopefully some of you who come here for writing advice will find this useful. I’m only giving tips on gothic fiction, but there’s a whole host of other writing videos on the channel, so do go ahead and check them out!

Book Recipes

Book Recipes (Sorta): How I Wrote The Shadow in the Glass

Time for another book recipe! This one’s going to be a little bit different. It is now LESS THAN THREE WEEKS until my debut novel, The Shadow in the Glass, is released and I am being TOTALLY chill about it, you guys.

Up to this point all my book recipes have been extremely silly and not at all meant to be taken seriously. But it occurs to me that some of you might be interested in a book recipe for a real thing that you can hold in your actual hands in less than three weeks. LESS THAN THREE WEEKS. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Here’s how I wrote my book!

I was always one of those kids that was really into fairy tales. Like, really into fairy tales. I remember when I was in primary school we used to have a couple of old hardback books of fairy tales and folklore in the library – I read them both cover to cover, and I remember being way more interested in the dark, weird original stories than the adaptations I saw on the TV. I remember being fascinated by how many different versions there were, and there was definitely a point in my childhood where I was convinced that this meant that way back when, they had actually happened.

Fast forward about ten years, to when I first had the idea for what would eventually become The Shadow in the Glass. I’d always known I’d wanted to be a writer and this had all been bubbling away at the back of my mind. One night I had an incredibly vivid dream: in it, I saw the moment where Eleanor, my Cinderella analogue, met her fairy godmother. In the novel, the fairy godmother appears as a woman with all-black eyes, but in the dream, I saw her for what she really was. (And it was, of course, incredibly spooky.) Suddenly I had this magnetic idea in my head, and try as I might I couldn’t drag my thoughts away. (Also, I was a little bit pleased with myself because that’s how Mary Shelley got the idea for Frankenstein.)

We just have SO much in common (image:

The plot of the novel took shape really quickly and I knew that I wanted to write this book. But at the time I was seventeen, and I knew that I’d need a certain amount of emotional maturity to tell the story I wanted to tell. It’s always been a pretty dark story and I wanted to make sure I could do it justice. Also, I decided on a nineteenth-century setting pretty quickly and I knew I’d need to do a lot of research. I had other writing projects on at the time (nothing serious, but all practice is good practice) and after a false start I decided to let the project sit for a little bit.

I completed the first proper draft in my second year of university, when I was twenty. I was studying history and after a year or so of my degree I felt a lot more comfortable with the research side of things, so I decided to go for it. I made myself a little chart where I could only cross off the day if I’d written a thousand words or more, and added an insulting note for myself at the bottom to try and motivate myself. That part didn’t work, but the chart did, and after a few months I had a completed first draft of my manuscript.

This was my approach to motivating myself for many years. (mage:

This is where my friends come in. I printed out the draft, tied it together with some string and some cardboard to make it a bit sturdier, and then I asked four of my friends to read through the paper draft and make some notes on it for me. When they’d finished, I went through the draft myself with a red pen, scribbling wildly, and used that as a basis for my rewrites. I made them do this for me several times over a few years and I’ve still got all the paper drafts. (They’ve got stuff drawn on them, it’s great.)

By this point I’d graduated and had just got my first job in fiction. Trying to get into publishing was hard work and I didn’t really have a lot of time for writing, so I didn’t work on the book much. I was an unpaid intern for about a year, working in central London, so pretty much all my brain space went on trying to find a job. But when I was settled, I started to think about writing a bit more seriously. I’d always had projects on the go but they were more for me, rather than anyone else. But I’d started to reach the point where I was ready for some more professional feedback and I decided I wanted to try and get an agent.

My first attempt didn’t go great – I approached about three agents, realised I’d contacted them from a very stupidly-named email address, and then immediately had an idea about how I could make my book much better. So I wrote another draft, got a better email handle and tried again.

Motivational cats were necessary. (image:

That’s when I met Chloe! Chloe is my agent and about three months into my search, she made me an offer of representation. She had quite a few editorial notes for me, which was exactly what I was looking for, and after another couple of drafts I was ready to go on submission. From there, things escalated very quickly – I was on submission for about a month or so, I think, before I received an offer from HarperCollins. It was way sooner than I was expecting!

From there, it was a lot more editorial work, some of which I’ve already talked about on this blog. I think in total it was about four or five passes, spread over roughly a year and a half. This was about what I was expecting – working in publishing gives me a good idea of how the schedule looks from the other side, so I knew I’d be in for the long haul! I’ll try not to repeat myself too much about what it was like to be edited as I’ve talked about it before, but one thing I really wish I’d done was factored in a few more breaks. I wanted to make a good impression on my editor for the first pass and agreed to turn around my structural edit in four weeks – I did it, but I pushed myself so hard that I ended up giving myself a chest infection and was laid out for like a week after that! Thankfully, this all happened before the pandemic, but I definitely learned that lesson the hard way.

Now all the editorial work on my book is complete, hard copies have been printed and I’m currently gearing up for my publicity run – I’ve had to film some things, which I guess means I’m fancy now? I’m also working on my next book as well, although hopefully, that won’t take quite as long to write. I’ll be pretty busy over the next few weeks so blog service may be patchy and book-related but hey. I wrote a book! I’m excited about it! And I want to share that with you.

And I am, because this otter told me so. (image:

Happy reading! (In three weeks. Or just, y’know, generally. You don’t have to read my book, of course, but it’d be really cool of you if you did.)

Book Recipes

Book Recipes: How to Write a Slasher

Time for another book recipe! As it’s spooky season we’ve gotta do a scary one, and what is scarier than a bunch of gratuitous murder? (Don’t answer that.) Put down some newspaper before we start, all the blood is just going to ruin those floors.


  • One perfectly normal yet suspiciously virginal girl
  • An assortment of friends to be killed off
  • A quiet, normal town, where nothing bad could ever happen
  • Absolutely no phone signal
  • Buckets of blood
  • Some token adults to doubt everything our lead says
  • Power cuts
  • Too many knives


  1. Welcome one and all to our quiet, normal town where nothing bad could ever happen! It’s a beautiful, normal day and our suspiciously virginal heroine is doing beautiful and normal things with all of her expendable friends.
  2. Notice something on the news about an escaped serial killer – but it’s probably fine. The police will definitely catch him.
  4. But everything’s fine! Everything’s so fine, in fact, that the virginal heroine and all her friends are going to a party.
  1. The virginal heroine shows how sweet and innocent she is by not doing drugs/sex/alcohol/anything fun.
  2. Friend #1 gets murdered! But like, privately, so the screaming doesn’t start yet.
  3. Gosh everything sure is normal at this party. The virginal heroine is having a nice, normal time and – hey, has anyone seen Friend #1?
  4. Friend #2 wanders off, for plot reasons.
  5. Aaaaaaaaand they’re dead.
  6. Oh no! The bodies of Friend #1 and Friend #2 are discovered! Guess we’d better call the police.
  7. But it turns out the police are more concerned with underage drinking than with a LITERAL SERIAL KILLER why does this always happen
  8. Friend #3 and Friend #4 sneak off to Makeout Corner because this is the perfect time for that.
oh no who could have seen this coming (image:
  1. Our virginal heroine starts running away! But, like, uselessly. She never takes a torch or a phone and heads directly to the nearest creepy landmark.
  2. Kill Friend #5 because we’re only allowed one survivor.
  3. The serial killer is chasing the virginal heroine through the woods! Oh no, what will happen! Why is this chase scene going on for such a long time!
  4. It’s time for the heroine to fight the serial killer so I guess this is it, time to say goodbye to our beloved –
  5. Huh. She won.
  6. OR DID SHE????

THE END. Just kidding, it’s not the end, there’s like twelve sequels because the serial killer never, ever dies.


  • You’ve gotta give your serial killer a theme, there’s just so many of them these days that they need to stand out.
  • Nobody ever gets like, quietly smothered. Anyone who dies in a slasher basically becomes a human blood fountain, so feel free to get creative.
  • Gotta have a blonde teen screaming!
  • The police never, ever, ever do anything useful until right at the end. And frankly, even then it’s a bit touch and go.
  • Never, ever close your curtains, unless you’re setting up a jump-scare.
He loiters behind every curtain, it is the law. (image:
  • If in doubt, throw in a power cut.
  • Always back into darkened rooms without turning around, it’s totally fine.
  • Everyone, with the exception of the serial killer, is sexy. Look it’s no good getting murdered if you’re not also hot.

And here’s one I made earlier…

“Omigod, Chrissy, will you hurry up? We’re going to be late!”

Amanda’s voice was coming through Chrissy’s bedroom door. Chrissy stumbled, relatably, as she tried to put on the six-inch heels her friend had leant her. It was no good. Plain ol’ Chrissy Butler just wasn’t built for killer heels. She was going to have to change her costume.

“Just a minute!” she called, kicking off the shoes and running over to her wardrobe. There had to be something in here that she could wear to the big party on campus. Everyone was going to be there, even though the Dean had said parties were banned since the Disco Murderer had escaped from the asylum. Not that the Disco Murderer was ever going to come to Quietsville. It was such a normal town, nothing ever happened there.

“Hurry up!” Amanda snapped. “I wanna get some beers before we arrive. We can’t show up empty-handed, everyone will think we’re so lame.”

“OK, OK! Just let me…”

Amanda barged in. “Are you changing? Don’t you dare. And what happened to the heels I leant you?”

Chrissy fiddled with the hem of her too-short dress. “I just wasn’t sure if they were really me…”

“Oh my God, Chrissy, it’s a costume party!” said Amanda, rolling her eyes. “It’s not supposed to be you! Look, leave the heels off if you want but that dress is too cute. Come here, I’m gonna draw some peace signs on your face.”

Chrissy slipped on her flats with relief and sat on the edge of her bed. Amanda pulled out the body glitter. “Do you really think this is a good idea, though? I mean, the Disco Murderer has only just escaped…”

“It’ll be fine,” said Amanda, drawing cartoon flowers on Chrissy’s legs. “He’s not gonna waste his time in Quietsville. Nothing ever happens here.”

Chrissy glanced towards the window. It was dark out, but all the lights were on and her curtains were wide open, according to long-standing Quietsville tradition. She thought, just for a second, that she saw something moving out there, but she was sure it was just the wind. This was Quietsville, after all. It wasn’t going to be anything interesting.

Amanda finished drawing on her and hauled Chrissy to her feet. “Let’s go already! Chad is going to be there and I need to be making out with someone else before he arrives.”

They set off. But almost as soon as they left the dorm, they stopped.

Someone had slashed the tyres on Amanda’s car. Three long scratches ran down the side of the driver’s-side door, and there was something red dabbed across the bottom of the window. Chrissy looked over her shoulder, a little nervous. Surely it wasn’t…

“Oh my God!” Amanda yelled, “I can’t believe this! Chad’s put ketchup all over my car!”

“Are…are you sure it’s…”

“This is so typical of him,” Amanda ranted, as Chrissy noticed a funny smell in the air, almost like iron. “I’m so glad I dumped him. Come on, let’s get the bus.”

They went to the bus stop. A peace sign had been drawn on the timetable in red paint; it was still a little gooey. They got off outside an off-license and went inside to buy beer, and as they entered the store Chrissy noticed that strange smell again. Also, the cashier was slumped over the counter and there was a funny dripping noise coming from the other side. Amanda tried to wake him up, but he wouldn’t budge. In the end, Chrissy placed the money underneath his outstretched hand – which was oddly cold, but then again the aircon had been blasting all day – and felt very grateful that she had exact change.

“If I was that tired I’d just go home,” she said, as they left. “Oh hold on, Amanda, you’d better wipe your feet. You’ve got some ketchup on your shoes.”

Amanda gritted her teeth. “God. It’s like him to keep on ruining my life even after we broke up.”

They walked into campus. It seemed darker than usual, Chrissy thought. But everyone had really got into the spirit of the party. Red peace signs were daubed on all the walls, odd-looking decorations hung from distant trees, and someone had written fun slogans in party glitter saying things like HELP and THE DISCO MURDERER IS LITERALLY HERE. Chrissy thought maybe that last one was going a bit too far, but she always appreciated attention to detail.

At last they came to the dorm where the party would be held. The music was blaring and people were singing along – really, really loudly, Chrissy noticed, and also very high-pitched, and also without seeming to know any of the words or the tune or the rhythm. In fact, if she didn’t know any better, she would’ve said it sounded like screaming.

Amanda grinned at her. “Ready? Oh man, this is going to be the best night of our lives.”

They went inside.

My full book-cookbook can be found here. Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.

Heh heh heh. (image:
Book Recipes

Book Recipes: How to Write a Superhero Novel

Time for another book recipe! This one’s on how to write superhero novels so it’s not written by Jo, it’s written by the mysterious superhero Long Sharp Nails Girl. Who could she be??


  • One relatable hero in any of the following flavours:
    • Brooding and dark
    • Wide-eyed farm boy
    • Wise-cracking
  • Gamma radiation
  • A theme for your powers which must be adhered to at all times
  • Rooftops
  • A spunky heroine to be rescued
  • Expendable henchmen
  • One prone-to-monologuing villain
  • Spandex
  • A big city which is definitely not New York, dear me no


  1. Introduce your relatable hero! He lives in Not-New-York and he’s just like us. Gosh, look at him normally living his normal life.
  2. And here’s the spunky heroine. She’s an independent woman who won’t need to be rescued in Step 19.
  3. Oh no! Gamma radiation!
Dun dun DUUUNNN. (image:
  1. Your relatable hero has now developed very specifically-themed powers! Have some wacky shenanigans as you try and get to grips with them.
  2. Your relatable hero suddenly notices how much crime there is in Not-New-York! If only there was someone who would do something about that…
  3. Briefly cut away to introduce the villain, monologuing while staring out over the city.
  4. Time for your hero to dress up in spandex and fight crime!
  5. Turns out Not-New-York loves it when vigilantes regularly beat up criminals! Feel smug as everyone wonders who that mysterious masked man is.
  6. But uh-oh, the spunky heroine is getting suspicious!
  7. Get into a variety of Hilarious Scrapes while trying to protect your secret identity.
If you don’t turn into a desk you’re doing it wrong. (image:
  1. What’s this? One of the expendable henchmen has left A Clue!
  2. Your investigation points you towards the villain, but that can’t be right. Surely no-one who spends their days staring at the skyline and saying things like “this city is a plague” could be bad.
  3. Brood about stuff on a rooftop.
  4. Have a confrontation with the spunky heroine! She is convinced she’s found out your secret identity, but a transparent lie throws her off the scent. Phew. Close call.
  5. Have an oblique yet threatening conversation with the villain. It’s foreshadowing.
  7. Time for the heroine to get kidnapped!
  8. The villain broadcasts an ultimatum to the city. Oh no! What shall our hero do?
  9. Have a final confrontation on a rooftop, that’s what. There’s a fight, the villain is defeated, the heroine is rescued.
  10. The city is saved! Coincidentally, so is the heroine. I guess you’re dating now?

THE END. Serve on a rooftop, of course.


  • If you ever want to have a scene where your hero is just thinking about stuff, it’s gotta be on a rooftop. That’s the law.
  • Feel free to add in an elderly mentor to dispense incredibly specific-to-the-plot advice. Bonus: in a pinch you can kill them off, to add some motivation!
  • The police never, ever do anything useful.
  • Your villain is either a superpowered evildoer who wears a cape OR a besuited billionaire who nobody ever, ever suspects. There are no other options.
But he seemed so normal! (image:
  • Don’t forget to smash up a major landmark in the final fight!
  • Gamma radiation causes superpowers and not sunburn and this is Scientific Fact.
  • Your hero must have a specific theme for their powers and it is your duty as an author to make as many relevant puns as possible.

And here’s one I made earlier…

Dirk Mann stepped into the luxurious penthouse apartment, trying to play it cool. All around him were shiny floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and sleek black furniture. Beyond the glass was the sprawling mess of Cityville, the glittering skyscrapers and old tenements crowded side by side, an enormous statue of a woman not holding a torch in the distance. Gosh, he thought, there’s nowhere quite like the Big Orange.

“Ah, Mr Mann. Do come in,” called a voice.

Dirk started. For a moment, he’d almost forgotten why he was here. Hugo De Vlish was standing at one of the windows, staring out over the city. He was dressed all in black, his double-breasted suit neatly buttoned up, a thin smile on his face. At once, Dirk’s nerves came rushing back. De Vlish was head of one of the largest surveillance companies in the country and, if the tiny cameras Dirk had uncovered in his double life were anything to go by, someone was stealing his technology. He had to find out what De Vlish knew. Hopefully this interview would throw some light on the situation.

“Do take a seat,” said Mr De Vlish, not turning away from the window.

“It’s awful nice of you to let me interview you, Mr De Vlish,” said Dirk, setting up his recording equipment on a shiny black coffee table.

“You’ve made quite a name for yourself, Mr Mann,” said De Vlish. “It’s not often I come across a reporter of your calibre. I’m sure you were dying to meet me but I assure you, the feeling was mutual.”

Dirk started recording. “So,” he began, “your company is –”

“Tell me,” De Vlish interrupted, “what do you think of Lamp Man?”

Dirk froze. Surely De Vlish hadn’t uncovered his secret. Dirk had been so careful about keeping everyone in the dark. He always made sure to keep his Power Lamp in his backpack, where no-one would see it. Nobody knew that six-foot-three ice-blond Dirk Mann was actually six-foot-three ice-blond Lamp Man. He had a mask and everything.

Dirk put on a dismissive face. “The vigilante with the torch?”

“Yes. I bet you’d kill to get an interview with him. I know I would.”

“Oh, no. I think vigilantes are a menace.”

“And yet, Mr Mann, a vigilante is just what this city needs. Pitiful, isn’t it? To think that the once-proud Cityville should ever sink so low. Perhaps we should just start over.”

Dirk started fidgeting. “Right. So, your surveillance company. Any…any issues there, lately?”

“Perhaps,” De Vlish continued, “someone should just plant an elaborate network of tiny cameras all across the city, gather the data over a period of several months, and then set the whole thing on fire.”


“This city is a plague. Sometimes the only cure is to burn it out.”

Dirk frowned. This wasn’t exactly an illuminating conversation. “Are there many diseases that you can cure with fire?”

De Vlish laughed. “All of them, my dear Mr Mann. All of them.”

Dirk nodded. “I suppose you’ve got a point there. So, um, Mr De Vlish, if I could just draw your attention to –”

Draw? As in ‘hung, drawn, and quartered’? My, how imaginative you are.”


“How disappointing. I could just murder an assistant with a little imagination.”

Dirk fumbled with his notebook. “Are you offering me a job?”

De Vlish smirked out of the window. “The last job you’ll ever need, Mr Mann.”

“Oh, well, thank you, but I quite like being a reporter, so –”

“Trust me, you’ll be dying to take this job. You’d kill for these benefits. Murder.”

“Sorry, what was that last part?”

De Vlish coughed. “Nothing. Shall we continue?”

Dirk frowned. Hugo De Vlish was a pillar of the community. He’d built schools, hospitals, museums. But Dirk had learned to trust his newfound instincts and, so far, the Power Lamp had never steered him wrong.

Something didn’t seem right here.

My full book-cookbook can be found here. Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.

Heh heh heh. (image:
Book Recipes

Book Recipes: How to write YA Fantasy

It’s time for another book recipe! This time we’re looking at YA fantasy, which is actually one of my favourite genres so I’m going to be extra-cruel to compensate. Hope you’re ready to choose between two cute boys and save the kingdom – it’s time to get started!


  • One princess protagonist
  • One love triangle containing a clearly superior option
  • The Kingdom
  • Magic powers which you’ll only get the hang of right at the end
  • A masked ball
  • Disguises
  • One royal advisor who is clearly going to betray the protagonist
  • A thing you have to get, for plot reasons
  • Swords


  1. Introduce your protagonist, the loveable and headstrong princess of Kingdomland. She just wants to abdicate responsibility and have fun, but without, y’know, actually abdicating.
  2. The kingdom! It’s in peril!
  3. The trusty royal advisor sends our princess protagonist off on a quest to retrieve a thingy that can fix everything. Boy, I sure am glad they’re on our side.
  4. BUT you’ve gotta take these two boys along, one of whom is way hotter than the other.
  5. Also: in disguise!
  6. Start the quest and have some shenanigans!
  7. Oh no, the princess is having trouble with her magic powers! If only she could master them in time for the inevitable step eighteen showdown, but that’ll never happen.
  8. Have a swordfight with the superior love interest! But like, a fun swordfight. It’s sexy.
Exhibit A. (image:
  1. Sneak around some more.
  2. Throw a bone to the other love interest, even though we all know the princess is never, ever going to go for option B.
  3. But what’s this? Some plot news about the thing you must find!
  4. Turns out the thing you need is being held at this super-fancy masked ball and that’s the only time you’re going to be able to steal it, guys, I guess we’re just going to have to sneak into the party oh no
  1. Dance with the superior love interest at the party and have a tense conversation about your feelings…
  2. …but don’t resolve anything because look! It’s that thing we need! Sure is annoying that it turned up right before we confessed our love.
  3. Successfully steal the plot thing by the skin of your teeth. Don’t be at all suspicious that it’s only step fifteen, it’s probably fine.
  4. Get back home only to discover that oh no, the trusted advisor has betrayed you! Scream “I trusted you!” as you’re dragged off to the dungeons.
  5. Break out of the dungeons.
  6. Time to confront the advisor! Listen to them monologue for a little bit, it’s only polite.
  7. Master your innate magic powers just in time to defeat the advisor!
  8. Hooray, the kingdom is free! Assume your rightful place on the throne while flirting with the superior love interest. Prepare for pointless boyfriend drama in the next book.

THE END…of book one. Come on, you know it’s a trilogy.


  • Your protagonist is always, always a princess. I don’t make the rules.
  • Your characters have always got to fight with swords, because swords are the weapons which allow you to have the most amount of tense mid-fight banter.
  • It is vitally important that the superior love interest is not someone who a princess could feasibly marry. Because then, it is Forbidden.
  • You’ve got a few options to choose from if you include the king and queen:
    • Conveniently arrested and/or killed off the second the advisor’s plot gets going
    • Stern and forbidding
    • Stone-cold idiots
  • Looking for a way to spin out some drama? Throw in an arranged marriage!
  • Never, ever, ever let anyone confess their feelings and start a happy relationship unless we’re less than twenty pages from the end of the book. Unless you’re going to kill them off, in which case that’s fine.
  • The superior love interest is, mathematically, the one who does the most amount of smirking.
  • Your heroine must own a piece of plot-significant jewellery.
…I’ll allow it. (image:

And here’s one I made earlier…

“Stick to the plan,” I hiss, as we pass through the glittering archway that led into the ballroom of the Chateau de Plôt. “Just like we practiced, remember?”

“Relax, Princess,” says Card, smirking from behind his mask. “I made the plan.”

I blush and try to look like I belong in the ballroom. It should’ve been easy – I’m a princess, you’d think I’d be used to these things. But I’ve always been more interested in strategy and riding than dancing and polite conversation. I’m not exactly the perfect princess that Kingdomland was hoping for.

But maybe I’m the one they need.

Gwillem trails along behind us. “I still don’t think this is a good idea, Mac,” he whispers, staring at the glittering chandeliers. “What if we get caught?”

“We won’t get caught,” I soothe. “Besides, this is the only way we can get to the Stone of Destiny. We’ll be fine, Gwem.”

“Actually, my name is –”

“Mac’s right,” Card interrupts. “On any other day the Chateau is a fortress, we’d never get in. But tonight is the Feast of the Forgotten, where the whole kingdom is allowed inside. And it’s traditional to wear masks as well, because, y’know –” he taps his mask “– forgotten.”

“I just wish we could’ve brought our swords,” Fwem mutters. “I’d feel a lot better with a sword.”

Me too. But I can’t say that aloud, because proper ladies of the Chateau aren’t allowed to have swords, and who knows who might be listening. Also, I don’t want to look like a chicken in front of Card. He’s a bandit who made his living on the streets; I bet he’s never scared.

“It’ll be fine, Fillum,” I say. “I promise.”

“Actually, my name’s not –”

“And in the meantime,” says Card, leading me onto the dance floor, “let’s have some fun.”

“Card!” I hiss, blushing. “What are you doing?”

“Blending in,” he murmurs, smirking, “like you said.”

“The whole idea is that we’re not supposed to draw attention to ourselves! This wasn’t part of the plan!”

“Princess, no mask is going to stop you from being at the centre of attention. You’re too gorgeous to get away with that.”

I blush as the music starts and Card puts a hand on my waist. I’m sure he doesn’t mean it. I’m too tall, too lean, with too much ebony hair cascading in perfect ringlets down my back and eyes that hover mysteriously between sapphire and violet. Besides, I dressed so that people wouldn’t notice me. There’s the mask, of course – finely wrought in blue and silver – and I made sure to pick a dress that a lady of the Chateau might wear, so that I wouldn’t stand out. It’s a little low-cut, sure, but surely the wide sweeping skirts and tiered petticoats fit right in. I don’t really look like me at all – apart from my necklace. I’d never take that off. It’s a black onyx pendant which I’ve had since I was a baby, and somehow it always feels warm. I wouldn’t feel right without it.

Card leans forward and whispers into my ear, jolting me out of my reverie. “Would you relax? You’re standing like a plank of wood.”

“I’m not – sorry.” I hoist a smile onto my face and try and look like I’m not nervous.

“I thought princesses were supposed to be good at dancing.”

“Yes, well, not princesses about to commit theft,” I snap. “Besides, princess has nothing to do with it. Girls like me won’t ever feel good on the dance floor.”

He smirks, and whirls me around into a perfect dip. “You feel pretty good to me.”

I blush, again. It’s so embarrassing. Everyone’s looking at me – or rather, at Card, who’s tall and handsome with brown hair and glittering grey eyes and oh my God, did I just call Card handsome?

We straighten up. Something in his face has changed. The music is still playing, but Card stands still, holding me close. He brushes a lock of hair behind my ear. “Mac, I –”

The music comes to a sudden stop. The dancers part to reveal a man – tall, well-dressed, with a glittering cape draped over one shoulder. It’s Betrand de Malausoire, Lord of the Chateau. From somewhere off in the crowd, Phlegm – I never did catch his full name – is trying to wave me over, but I can’t move without Lord Betrand noticing. For some reason, his eyes are fixed on me.

“It has come to my attention that we have a very special guest tonight!” he announces, beaming around at the crowd. He extends his hand and holds it out to me. “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you: Macchiato Ursine de Candelabra, Princess of Kingdomland.”

The ballroom bursts into applause.

I gulp. Oh no.

My full book-cookbook can be found here. Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.

Heh heh heh. (image: