What´s it like to live with blood cancer?

Joshua Stedford was 16 when he got the diagnosis. His life changed.

This is Joshua´s story, told with his own unique wit and searing honesty. Read, in this first installment, how it feels to go from being a normal kid obsessed with the Xbox and school, to a cancer patient.

Josh continues today as a patient at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London and would love to hear your thoughts on his work.

Click here to read the first part of The 25th Hour of the 8th Day.


COLD FIRE to be published Spring 2018

COLD FIRE, the second book in James Hartley´s popular Shakespeare´s Moon series for young adult readers, will be published by Lodestone Books in Spring 2018.

The novel, which tells the story of a group of friends at St Francis´ School who become involved in the plot of Shakespeare´s Romeo and Juliet, also features the story of a young schoolmaster from Stratford Upon Avon who arrives at the school four hundred years previously.

“I´m thrilled Lodestone have decided to publish Cold Fire,” the author, James Hartley, said.

“I know readers are going to enjoy finding out more about the history of St Francis´ and I think they might be surprised at how Romeo and Juliet´s story is told.”

Cold Fire forms the second “act” in the series. The first, The Invisible Hand, is currently stocked at the National and Globe Theatres in London and in bookshops all over the world.

It has proved a global hit with teachers and students, telling the story of children at a literary-based boarding school, St Francis´, who become involved in the plot of Shakespeare´s Macbeth.

Heart of Winter, a short story prelude to The Invisible Hand, is available free from Smashwords and Eve´s Christmas, a seasonal tale, is available for Kindle.

Creative Will, a national competition James is running in conjunction with Shakespeare´s Schoolroom, Stratford-Upon-Avon´s newest tourist attraction, gives young writers the chance to get their names into Cold Fire as one of the characters. The competition runs until the end of this month.


William Allen (Will) was a Year 10 student at St Anselm’s College on the Wirral in England. At the beginning of Year 9 he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.

Although he missed periods of school during his last year (2016) for radiotherapy, Will was always eager to attend whenever he could. Even in the latter stages of his illness, Will would always contact his teachers asking for tasks and work to do. He wanted more than anything to be back in school with his friends.

Will´s stories, published on their own page, were written during his struggle with his brain tumour. His mother said he really enjoyed writing the stories, despite what he was going through.

Sadly, Will passed away just before Christmas 2016.

As you´ll see from what you read, Will was a writer. He loved words and had a talent for them. He left us these stories.

His page is dedicated to all writers, especially young ones, like Will, who want to see something they´ve written published.

Send all stories, articles, comments and scraps to me at


and I´ll publish as many as I can.

If you are under 18, please try and include a contact number or address for a teacher or parent, especially if you want your photo or name published.

Use the drop down menu up above or click on a cover to go to the story you want. If you want your story included here, write now!




Amazing Art inspired by The Invisible Hand

It´s a humbling and strange experience to walk into a school and see the walls lined with drawings of characters you´d only ever seen before in your mind, but this morning, at Orvalle School, I had that very experience – a boy was it a mind-blower.

Here are some taster pictures of what I saw – I also read poetry and watched a play based on the book. I was very humbled and moved and inspired!

Click on any picture to go to the main gallery.


Inspiring young writers with the magic of Shakespeare

James Hartley with Charlotte Bean, 9, and Annabelle Froud, 10.

By Ben Lugg, Stratford Herald, Stratford-Upon- Avon

An imaginative author is hoping to use the magic of Shakespeare’s Schoolroom to inspire local schoolchildren to take an interest in creative writing and the Bard.

James Hartley’s new novel, The Invisible Hand: Shakespeare’s Moon Act I, follows the time travelling adventures of two teenage boarding school pupils, wrapped up in the story of Macbeth.

Earlier this month James hosted a special creative writing taster workshop at Stratford’s Guildhall, during which pupils were invited to take part in a competition with a very special prize.

Older pupils will be able to submit entries for a short story competition, whilst younger ones will draw scenes from Shakespeare’s plays.

The winning entries will win another workshop from James for their whole class, but just as importantly, the author has promised to include the winning pupils as characters in his next book.

He intends to write another four novels in the series, each based around a different Shakespeare play.

James’ visit is part of a project called Creative Will, which is intended to nurture creativity in local schoolchildren.

James said: “I want to use the inspiration that is in this building to encourage the children to take an interest in creative writing. I thought the children were fantastic at the taster workshop, really engaged and imaginative, they always come up with new and different ideas. Children’s imaginations are endless.

“I believe passionately in the power of creativity, which can help children in so many different ways with their learning.  And there is no stronger influence on the craft of storytelling and language than the legacy of Shakespeare.  For young minds we need to make Shakespeare relevant, approaching it with the same energy and passion that the Bard himself had.  I’m very excited to be working with Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, which as a writer and English teacher is one of the most exciting places to visit imaginable.”

Sarah Jervis Hill, from Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall, added: “We want to bring to life the inspiration that has lived and breathed in the Schoolroom for hundreds of years and rekindle the magic from when Shakespeare not only attended school here, but also had his first professional theatrical experiences.  We’ll be doing this through a programme for children called Creative Will, which hopes to nurture and develop creativity in lots of different ways.

Sitting Where Shakespeare Sat

Shakespeare´s Schoolroom is a fantastic, evocative tourist attraction right in the heart of Stratford-Upon-Avon, and that´s where I was, launching a new, nationwide competition, last week.

The Schoolroom, which includes the Guildhall – most of that longblack and white building behind me – was where Shakespeare was taught. I was back there with a group of local schoolchildren to launch a new competition. Full details can be found here.

Can´t wait to start reading the entries – winners get their name in Cold Fire, the next Shakespeare´s Moon book (about Romeo and Juliet) – so please share if you know anyone between the ages of 11 and 17 who might want to take part.


“It was emotional and shocking, and one of the better cliffhangers I’ve ever read…”

A review of THE INVISIBLE HAND from Carchardon Books, Australia.

Hartley has provided a perfect gateway for children and teenagers to experience Shakespeare from a young age. Shakespeare isn’t remedial literature and certainly difficult at times, but with a strong character and a realistic environment, Hartley has created a conduit that gently introduces complex themes that parallel the life of a young teenager. While some of Shakespeare’s more severe themes are sacrificed to appeal to a more juvenile audience, a strong sense of mystery, a time-travelling twist and an unexpected conclusion come together to satiate the reader’s expectation.

The historical aspects of the story resonate strongly, and with each shift back to Shakespeare’s past, I found myself giddy with anticipation. Hartley’s simplistic prose captures the aesthetics of an ancient world with surprising ease, and scenes of endurance flow with a nature flair that left me in awe. Timeless scenes from Macbeth are reiterated with hypnotising exposition, and some curious and titillating theories—such as the reason behind Lady Macbeth’s lack of children, and the motive of the three witches—are proposed to keep the gears in the reader’s mind turning. These theories add relevance to the narrative, and with the focus on a younger audience, they offer a critical point of view that will encourage readers to think outside of the box, a mandatory skill when approaching Shakespeare.
Although the modern school scenes are grounded in out reality, the castle itself is no less mysterious. When Hartley takes the reader on an expedition through the school, there is a reminiscent quality that harkens back to Rowling’s Harry Potter, which offers moments of tranquility between the madness of the past. A small romance also blossoms between the two core characters, and it’s sweet sprinkle of sugar that adds just enough to the story without taking away from the focal narrative.
At the risk of nitpicking, I have two minor complaints I must bring to the table. Firstly, I would have loved for more time to have been spent in the past, delving into extended Shakespearean elements. Secondly, the age of the characters while in our world is far too limiting. At the tender age of thirteen, they are allowed to be more curious toward their mysterious circumstances, though it also stretches the imagination too thin. Sam, our main protagonists, often acts far wiser than any adults around him. Perhaps if they had been a few years older, with a little bit of expected maturity, it wouldn’t have caused such a dissension. I understand their ages are intended to reflect the target audience, which keeps this issue a minor one, and it never reacts corrosively upon the rest of the story.
The conclusion was excellent, and while I was convinced I had unravelled the inevitable twist early on, I was still taken by surprise—a rarity for a young adult novel. It was emotional and shocking, and one of the better cliffhangers I’ve ever read. The epilogue also offers a charming and poignant taste of the narrative to follow, and I have to be honest: I’m excited! Hartley has established a complex and intriguing world with many threads neatly woven together, and his adept ability to tell a convincing frame story should allow future instalments to impress in all the right ways.
This book earns four stars easily, with full stars for its great World Building, Story and Writing Style.
Buy THE INVISIBLE HAND from Amazon US or Amazon UK
Read 3 Chapters FREE at INSTAFREEBIE.COM here.

World Book Day

Had a brilliant World Book Day, starting at the Oak Centre for Young People, which is part of the Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital and has wards run by the Teenage Cancer Trust. Was an absolute pleasure to meet some of the talented young people being treated there and talk books and ideas with them. This is me with Ella Hallpike who, like everyone at the Centre, does a brilliant, brilliant job.

After that it was on to Box Hill School, my old stomping ground for some workshops with Year 7 and 10 students, making up stories and enjoying their imaginations. Again, inspiring stuff. Many thanks there to Miss A, Ms B and Sam B – and everyone at the school, which is a great place in a lovely part of the country.


Yes, indeed! It´s now available everywhere!

Yes, now you, too, could be as thrilled as my kids with this fantastic, internet-smashing news. This morning I had to force them to put the book down so they could go to school and learn about less interesting, useless things! Grab a copy before Amazon breaks and you are left with a feeling of gut-clenching desolation.

They´re actually thinking, “Now maybe dad´ll shut up about it”.

If you´re still undecided and fancy the bookish equivalent of window shopping – or if you´re just plain tight – you can read 3 free chapters at Instafreebie or join nearly 900 people at the Good Reads Giveaway or – sod it! It´s Friday! – you could buy the damn thing from Amazon UK here orAmazon US .

It´s also in many good bookshops and a few disreputable ones, plus there´s a few copies lying about my house if anyone wants them. I live in Madrid so warn me first if you´re coming. I´ll put some coffee on. Be warned, though, Spanish coffee is strong. Which reminds me, I´ll have to clean the bathrooms later.

If you´re still reading, what´s the weather like where you are? And what about Trump, eh? And those seven new planets? Imagine if this exact post is being read by someone there – how depressing would that be?

Get onto Facebook to win a signed copy which I will kiss for luck before I send out – and you can also win 50 pounds, dollars or baht for a charity of your choice.

Remember, all new subscribers to my page get sent a FREE St Francis´ School story. The form is to your left. It´s well worth it. The story is nuts and it makes some of the stuff in the book make sense.

Young Writers!  Give up now, while you can. Do something worthwhile! No, I´m joking: look out for new competitions to be posted here shortly. Sign up to my newsletter to make sure you don´t miss out. Keep writing. Keep reading.

Is anybody out thereeeeee?