I am so excited to share an update on a project I have been working on.
As well as my novels and short stories, I have been crafting an educational series of books for younger children.

The series is called ‘Beautiful Garden’, a collection of fun factual books about the incredible diversity in our gardens, parks, woods and countrysides. Books about different birds, insects, wildlife, seasons and flowers to help bring to life the magic of nature.

The first series to be released will be The Bird series, with my first book already on an illustrator’s desk to help bring the magic to life. So exciting (interview with an illustrator coming soon)! But why am I doing this? Well, I have a huge passion for nature and actively encourage it into my very own garden.


There is so much we can do in the tiniest of areas that would positively impact wildlife. I believe the first step is to understand, or at least take the time to understand nature and how it helps you and everyone you know directly. Knowing a tree allows you to breathe or that bees pollinate over sixty per cent of our crops so we can eat should blow your mind. But it should also make you realise that we need nature. We need plants, insects and birds. We need to understand. And, with a bit of knowledge, you will start to see there is always something magical happening in nature.

Introducing children to this magic as early as possible and giving them as much exposure is vital in the hopes to keep a healthy balance with our ever-dwindling natural world. And where better to start than our own back gardens, windows or tiny patios. So if reading one of the books in my series makes someone want to feed a bird, plant something in a pot or stick a bulb into the ground…then that can not be a bad thing at all, can it?

And as always, thanks for reading.

Some days your life becomes dark; fading black,
Because all you see is that.
People ask if you are feeling blue?
Oh, how you wish that were the colour you could choose.
Strength, what you had has gone, lost.
Breaking glass becomes tougher than rocks.
The tight grip on life you held, aside to wither,
Those once surrounding you in warmth now make you shiver.
Oh, to wish you were merely feeling blue,
Thoughts blackened, clouded, yet so clear in view.
And if one could say anything, anything that could be spoken,
You would taunt, I’m not nor near being broken. 
Spirit low yet valiant is the demeanour,
You are a warrior—keep fighting the battle in your arena.

-Xander Panteli

Smile when you wake,
Feel favoured you have woken,
To hear the whistling winds, or bird song sung and spoken.
Cast aside yesterdays woes,
Today you start anew,
Move hate so very far away; tomorrow may not come for you.
Do not compete for riches,
Nor compare enemies, friends, neighbours,
Lend hand to those less fortunate away from threats and dangers.
Do not judge nor force or blind,
Persons without your vision,
Instead, aid in search of keys to help unlock their prison.
And through the noise, the loud, loud noise,
From opinions thrown your way,
Silence those which vex the soul, or cloud a summers day.
Soon you’ll reach the troubled path,
The one which lays uncharted,
Take the unforeseeable step but take it lionhearted.
And when you stand within the cluster,
Yanked and tugged by fray, 
Rise, calm, steady yourself, forbear being dragged astray.
As those who wish to steal your time,
Delivering no wisdom in return,
Fleeting foot will serve you well and tool you, greater learn.
But lend an ear to those that speak,
Stories should be heard,
Ineffectual lips or slurs carry essential words.
Circumspect the bestial leader,
Extorting from the light,
A blinding eye still sees the truth even when out of sight.
Fill not yourself with promises,
Which enslave you to your oath,
The tidal wave of onus washes away the seeds of growth.
And when you lose and lose you will,
Do not dishearten by defeat,
Stand again, sword and shield for fear culls the weak.
And when they cast you from the pack,
To feed the hungry wild,
Return you shall from untamed lands leading the exiled.

-Xander Panteli

I remember as a young child, my Grandpa sitting on the end of my bed in the Isle of Wight telling me bedtime stories. Stories of the wars, but with his unique twists and funny sound effects.

How I loved his stories. Stories of war to a child are fascinating, filled with heroes and adventure. Guns to shoot the enemies from afar, imaginary grenades lobbed into fortresses to blast away the enemy, and remaining survivors hoisting the white flags as you overrun the defences.

That was the child me, in the playground for many years with my friends, lobbing grenades. The child me never understood how horrific war was.
It is as you get older, you understand the unique twists and the funny sound effects were to dampen the devastation, hide the horror and cushion the child’s imagination. A heroic war story to some was a living nightmare to others.

I openly admit how fascinated I am with the written language, the formation of words, the importance of articulation and the power behind the pen. And how I wish I could write a piece of poetry myself about this day, but how can I? And why would I? When I can leave it to the likes of Wilfred Owen.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, chocking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

– Wilfred Owen

Lest We Forget

And as always, thanks for reading.

for a brother (in-laW) I never got to meet.

I see you, not through my eyes, but in others.
They share your memories which now are mine, only if a name I hear.
Your voice unheard, but perhaps a glimpse of you in my sons.
Perhaps?
A brother who I did not meet but a brother all the same.
Unforeseen circumstances lay the shame.

The pen within scribing last words, and those words no one will ever hear.
Knowing a heart beats no more, ordered by the mind rings the bells and illuminates the lighthouses.
The sound is deafening.
The lights are blinding.
The blackness sits and the silence tolls.
Emotions burning coals.
How is it we only know when it is too late? The time we can never get back.
We all sadly miss that.

The tree which took J.R.R Tolkien and you fondly still grows.
In spring the leaves show.
In May we still go.
A family tree which roots the divide between you and I, so we remember you.
A physical you.
A you who you will always be.
A brother, a son, an uncle, a cousin, a friend, a memory, a smile, a thought, a laugh… a reminder.
I will remember you, through my mind, and through the eyes of others.
Still loved, still missed and always remembered.
Rest well, wherever you may be.

-Xander Panteli

We all do it, and we all do it daily.

You have probably told a story already today without even knowing it.
We share gossip with friends, tell our families what we have done today or even daydream.
These are the beginnings of stories ready to be told by you.

Does this mean anything? Probably not, but it’s good to write. A very common question asked within the writing world is…

‘Where are you getting your ideas from?’

–asked by many

There is no real answer to this. But what I would like to say as an answer is, What are you doing that is not giving you ideas? Yes, answering a question with a question doesn’t always give you an answer, but it could help eliminate an unanswerable question. Does that even make sense?

I believe ideas for a story are so ingrained, you just need to let them out. When I write I don’t allow myself to think, I allow myself to flow. Whatever word is coming from my head to keyboard I let it come out, and I do this every time regardless of how crazy it sounds.

So the answer I’m trying to say is… LET IT HAPPEN!
But know this, with every fiction book, an element of non-fiction helps spur it on. Get yourself something that is real and then twist it, stretch it, pull it until it becomes fiction and BAM! You have just created a character, a scene or even the front cover of your story!

Here’s another example using Jack and Jill, who went up the hill to fetch water. Two children, going up a hill for water – seriously how simple is that? You have seen people walk up and down hills a million times before I bet and never thought anything of it – but let’s change up a little.
And how do we change that? By asking ourselves, ‘What if…?’

What if… Jack stood at the bottom of a hill looking up at the haunted wishing well, rumoured throughout the village.

What if… Jill noticed Jack was missing one night and knew where her brother would be. I’ve always said his curiosity would get the better of him, thought Jill.

What if… Jill was right?

Jack stood at the bottom of the hill, looking up at the well. He could hear Jill panting from one hundred meters behind him.
‘Don’t do it, Jack,’ she said.
Jack barely glanced back at her and instead began to climb the hill.
‘Damn it, Jack, we were told not to go up there.’ said Jill.
Jack stopped. He turned to his sister and held a hard stare.
‘Why are you even here?’ he asked, angry she had found him. ‘I told you never to follow me. Now you will get us both caught.’
A low growl rolled out of the well. Jack turned suddenly, Jill dared not to look, but couldn’t resist. A moon-grey mist swayed out from the well, coiling itself around the hanging bucket and pitched roof.
‘Is that supposed to happen?’ asked Jill, knowing the answer already.
‘That is why I am here.’ replied Jack. ‘Whatever you do, make sure you don’t scream.’ Jill nervously nodded silently. She took Jacks hand, squeezing it tight. Jack looked at his hand. Girls are such wimps, he thought.

They walked up together. Halfway up, Jill looked back. The outer forest glowed in the moonlight. The autumn dew which glazed the needles of the pine trees shone like a lake.
‘It’s cold,’ Jill said, who could now visibly see her every breath. But it was not the night which hosted the chill.
Jack ignored her. He questioned his courage as they got closer to the well. No, this is what young boys are supposed to do, he thought. We go to places we are told not to go and return with our tongues out blowing raspberries. The other boys won’t believe me though, but I will just come here again, with the gang next time. Yes, that is what I will do.
He felt Jill’s grip tighten. He looked at her face and thought he saw a ghost.
‘You look petrified,’ he said to her. ‘Go back home. This is boys stuff.’
‘You’re the only boy stupid enough to come here.’
‘And you are the only girl dumb enough.’ Simulationously they stuck their tongues out at each other.
They stood side by side, no more than three meters from the well. Everything was calm, perhaps too calm.
‘Told you there was nothing to be afraid of.’ said Jack.
The bucket on the well lightly swayed with a slight creak when it rocked. Jack and Jill looked at one another and took another step closer. The bucket then swung like the bell of a town crier.
A ghost-like figure screeched out of the depths within. Jacks eardrums burst in an instant, and Jill’s eyes leaked blood. Both stiff as a board, frozen in fear. Jills nails dug into Jack’s hand like an eagle.
A final shrill from the ghost caused Jack’s knees to buckle. He stumbled back and tumbled down the hill, Jill still attached followed after.
They were found the next morning with stone-white skin, both with broken skulls from the fall.
They were buried together, Jill still attached to Jack’s hand, as no one in the village had the strength to prise them apart.
Their tombstone read:-

Here lies Jack and Jill,
Who went up The Hill.

We can ALL tell a story of any sorts. Good, bad, long, short… can’t we? So why not tell one, and let that imagination fly.

And as always; thanks for reading.

…Is it really mightier than the sword?

We’ve all heard the quote before, right? In case you haven’t—

“The pen is mightier than the sword”

Edward Bulwer-Lytton 1839

Ta-Dah!

But what does it mean?
Well, for me who has had the last thirty years or so to sit and think about it, which I have, I’ve developed my own understanding of the phrase.

Unlike today, I never had google at my disposal, (which I feel has destroyed many peoples ability to think, but that is another post in itself) to check what it meant or why it was said, but I had heard it. 

A pen, mightier than a sword? What a fun thing to think about.

Myself, and maybe many others, see it as a physical Vs mental battle. If you haven’t then please read on. Battle, however, may be a strong or even wrong word to use, but as I associate a physical sword with the physical harm it can cause. It’s hard for me not to see it this way.

So here’s my thinking…

A sword causes physical pain, whereas a pen (unless you’re James Bond) causes emotional distress. So this is how I get to my physical vs mental battle theory.

Taking that into account it is the reason why I say: –

A pen can orchestrate your life, whereas a sword will end it.
And a pen can cause your heart to sink where a sword will sink into your heart.
A pen can cause you to overthink whereas a sword can stop you thinking, literally.

So where am I going with all this?
Well, both battles are hard to deal with, but I believe the hardest between the struggles sway in favour of the pen, inflicting the most and worse kind of damage which to me is mental damage.

In a simple way to explain it without diluting the severity too much, my examples sound like this…

 Sword: You are at war, you fought well, but you were stabbed in the back (you know how that feels already) straight through the heart. You never saw it coming, and the wound is a mortal one. The suffering caused is physical.

Pen: You come home from work, there’s a note on the table. You open it and recognise your partners’ handwriting instantly. Wonder what this is?

 “I’m breaking up with you, I’ve blocked your number, don’t try to call me, I’ve moved on!”

Ouch, that would hurt, right? I would even go to say that is precisely how a sword through the heart would feel, I mean, you may have experienced how much it hurts being stabbed in the back before, and there was never a sword, knife or dagger present at that time of pain, was there? 

If you can see the difference between these two genuine incidents and give yourself time to think about it, you will know why the pen is such a big deal, yet it’s not dealt with seriously enough.

Our minds are like theatres, and our imaginations love to perform. Words allow the theatre to open the doors and pull the puppet’s strings. But allowing words this kind of access has a high price to pay, especially with how easily they are to throw around and even more so in recent years.

With the introduction of social media, we are throwing billions of words daily into the web for others to see and read.
Some combinations of these words are cries for help. Some are to make you laugh, others to make you think or to manipulate the way you think, and some are just there because we like to let the voice inside our heads be heard.

Whichever one it maybe they all in some way open the curtains to the theatre of our minds. Sometimes we have a full audience to share it with, but other times we are playing to rows of empty seats.

And that is how some of the mental damage can occur. Do we have the strength to get through it? And if so what will the impact be from the next mental hit we take? A boxer can sometimes take a blow to the head, but after a few? You’ve all seen it.

The reason I have also adopted a writing approach is that I think the pen and paper have been the most important inventions ever. The problem is, and will also be the problem is how we use it. If you seriously think about what it allows you to do, it is mind-blowing, literally. But that is another blog topic on its own which I will visit.

But, with the research today it points to 1-in-3 adults have, or will suffer from mental health issues with the scale closer to 1-in-2 than 1-in-4.
It’s alarming. And having spent the last 30 years mulling over this quote, I believe the pen is a big factor towards the mental struggles many face today.

So when you next combine a group of words, think about what it really means to say what you are about to say and how that combination will pull apart the stage curtains in the reader’s mind. This is why in my mind, the pen will always be mightier than the sword.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

Digby and Yates: The Lost Signal

Below is a little sneak peek from my Digby and Yates, short story series coming soon. Digby and Yates, are two humorous unorthodox detectives solving serious crimes. The first story in the series is called The lost Signal, and this is the crime that they need to solve.

All names, characters, incidents are nothing other than the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any thing or one in this universe and beyond, dead, alive, buried or frozen in time is entirely coincidental.

I hope you enjoy, and as always, thanks for reading.

Prologue

Tobias Lebwaski held a coal-black briefcase in his right hand tighter than a constrictor as if his life depended on it, which it did. It was Friday 11:00 pm, and everything was running to schedule. It would always run to schedule when Tobias was on the job. It’s why the agency called him for service in the first place.

The assignment Tobias returned from before receiving the call was very different from the Swap Over he was on now. Wednesday at 11:45 pm he was lying unseen on a rooftop in the North of England staring down the scope of a suppressed sniper rifle. At 12:17 am, he fired a single bullet at a target just over six-hundred meters away in a car which had been blocked deliberately by unexpected roadworks, just how it was supposed to happen. The shot blew a hole in the drivers head large enough for Tobias to know he was D.O.I. Dead on Impact. That night Tobias slept well as he always does after every assignment.

For the past eight years, he has been married to Silvia Lebwaski. She has never asked him once what he does for a living. They have a son and daughter, Nick and Grace, and lived seven miles outside of town. Still, if you knew this about Tobias, you wouldn’t be alive long enough to repeat it, nor would you discover his address led to a cleaning cupboard in a derelict factory. Such was the backstories of the special forces.
His real name was Simon Leto, a single man who had a small flat in the city and had no time for relationships that lasted more than one night.

At 10:58 pm he left The Rabbit Foots, a pub, knowing each step that would follow. He spent the last half-an-hour planning them with precision while drinking a double whisky with ice. His only distraction was from two young drunks babbling about their luck with women since The Foot became their new local. Tobias hated that kind of talk, as did Simon Leto. Hell the pair of them hated talk in general. Loose lips sink ships and knowing his newest assignment was at the wharf the words held their weight.

Friday 11:00 pm, and he was where he wanted to be, looking down Forfent Avenue holding his briefcase in his right hand. The night was cold, the mist hung, and several street lights were out of function. It was earlier that day, Brian Brown, the electrician from the electrical company who was hired to cut the wrong cable completed his part of the job. He wore persuading overalls and an  I.D card so convincing he could have fooled himself. However, special forces working for the same agency never met one another nor did they know any other job roles which may assist their own. Tobias never knew if he met a convert during his time, but he was smart enough to know when he saw the work of one.
The moonlight cast perfect shadows to navigate the street mostly unseen. 

He needed to walk shy of two-hundred-and-twenty meters to reach his drop off point by 11:02 pm. If the handover went to plan, which Tobias knew it would, Don Tugger and his crew will soon be caged like budgies. A well overdue siege, but the only man trusted to pull off the job had just become available. Tobias Lebwaski was that trust.

At 11:02 pm, he stood outside a boarded-up abandoned house. From the inside pocket of his navy suit jacket he took out a mobile phone which he would dispose of in a bin three streets away where Josh Martin, a bin man would collect the bag and throw it in his dustcart at 11:15 pm.
Tobias typed the number he memorised from his assignment details last night at the safe house and hit dial.

The explosion which followed, ending Tobias Lebwaski’s life at 11:03 pm, was heard several miles away. He was identified by the local police three days later when his right hand was discovered fused with the handle from his briefcase in a garden from the opposite street.

©Xander Panteli 2020

We sow our seeds in fields we know,
And hope our children grow.
We use the tools we have been shown,
And help our children grow.
We cast an eye towards the locust and hope they do not show,
Let our children grow.

Cracks upon our land do show,
We hope our children grow.
Nurture seeds the way we know,
We help our children grow.
We cast an eye towards the defending scarecrow,
Protect our children grow.

The locust swarm we did not know,
Protect our seedlings withered row.
Nets and fleece shield the bitter snow,
We use the tools in which we know,
We hope our children grow.

Our fields have changed our seeds remain,
But more they need to grow.
Our tools duly rust, in scarecrow we must trust,
The old no longer grow.
Wells dry hopeless, signs of locust,
I hope our children grow.
The rake, the plough, the fork, the hoe,
The fields, the tools we used to know,
No longer help our children grow.
Will the locust go? Can we scare the crow?
Our children they must grow.
For the field we used to know,
Let swarm the locust, murder of crow,

Let our children grow.

-Xander Panteli

How it all began.

With my first novel, currently with beta readers to find if there are any major plot holes, pacing issues and no no’s, I thought now is a good time to give a quick backstory on how this novel came to be before I share all the juicy bits.

I started writing this adventure sixteen-years ago. It was a strange time in my life. I was angry, upset and had suppressed many more emotions from the passing over of a much loved one.

How I usually expressed myself was through poetry, but this time something was different.

When I eventually sat down, and those who know me are aware how difficult this is, for me to actually sit, a “What if?” question popped into my head. I assume it came from the whirlwind of emotions and experiences I was having at the time. But the question was along the lines of ‘What if A had to do B otherwise it would result in E?’ (not giving away spoilers!) And then whoosh.

I clacked away at the keyboard like Jessica Fletcher at her typewriter smashing out the next murder she wrote mystery, desperate to discover the answer to my what-if question. 

When I eventually stopped, I was blown away.

I discovered two things that day. One, I was a Pantzer, a writer who writes by the seat of their pants, but that held no interest to me at that time as I have only recently discovered that is my style. But more mind-blowing was the second thing. I had my first chapter staring back at me.

Winston was born.

So now, not only did I know how the story would end, I then knew how it all began. What I didn’t know was how my characters got to the end. Seriously, how do they? The only way to find out is to write, and I couldn’t wait.

But something got in the way. Life.

I never finished the journey, but not a day passed (maybe one or two) where I hadn’t had some thought about these characters and their journey. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to discover their journey? Or perhaps other things needed my attention than my story?

However, my mind never stopped ticking. I wrote beginnings to several other novels, a few short stories, children’s rhyming books, poems and more in-between. 

Then came the start of 2019, and four young bouncing boys later, I decided enough is enough. I’m getting older, I’m wasting time, and I have to finish a novel; at least one of them. The desire inside was burning, and so I heeded the call, again.

I put my hand into my bucket-load of stories, and before I had a chance to pull one out, Winston slapped me across the face.

I had to find out how Winston and his friends got to the end.

Every day since early January 2019 I have found time to write, even if it is only for five minutes at night after the kids are asleep, or five minutes at the crack of dawn when the kids are still sleeping. Crazy, I know however I won’t make an excuse not to write anymore, and what happened during the year which passed, I did not expect at all.

The Wand of Neverfail grew from a single novel, into an epic saga. And soon you will be able to enjoy the first novel of this story I have to tell.

Until my next update on the series, and as always, thanks for reading.