Dead Diary tells the story of Mathilde, a young girl who has to deal with the usual difficulties of growing up: such as problems at school, not being noticed by that special boy, and having to constantly help ghosts find their peace:
I’m tired. Dead tired. So tired I can barely stay awake to write this. After helping Mr Bircher search for his head all night, I’m a little annoyed too. Dad doesn’t help. He doesn’t know what it’s like for a girl my age, trying to fit in at school as much as possible, and trying to fit in all the dead people. It’s not easy being a soul helper.
And so her diary entries begin. Through the school term, Mathilde will learn important life lessons she will never forget. Realising that ghosts and people are not as different as she thought . . .
Targeted Age Group:: 10-14
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The book was inspired by my love of diary format books, such as Adrian Mole and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Also, my partner was a huge fan of the TV show Ghost Whisperer, and I thought it would be a good idea to create something similar but for a younger audience. As soon as the book title was written down, the story quickly developed from there.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I had the main character of Mathilde in my head for some time. She is inspired by children in my family as well as those strong characters in children’s literature that are a similar age, such as Coraline. The character of Wednesday from The Addams Family came to mind as well. Always have a love for France, I wanted Mathilde to have her family roots in the country.
Monday 12th September
I’m tired. Dead tired. So tired I can barely stay awake to write this. After helping Mr Bircher search for his head all night, I’m a little annoyed too. Dad doesn’t help. He doesn’t know what it’s like for a girl my age, trying to fit in at school as much as possible, and trying to fit in all the dead people. It’s not easy being a soul helper. ‘I know, dear, they can be so demanding those dead ones, but I know you can do it, my little one,’ he’d say. Mum helps when she can, but she is always floating here and there and it’s hard to catch her. We tried her with a mobile phone, but it requires too much mental exertion for a ghost to hold anything for long, so she kept losing it. In the end, we gave up.
It wasn’t Mr Bircher’s fault, though. He is one of the nice ones. It seemed strange at first seeing him with a head – you know when you get use to someone as they are then they get a crazy new haircut or something. It is proving so very difficult to find what will release him. I promised to help all I can, but then Bobby needed to find his penknife he’d had as a child to be released and Mrs Marples needed help finding her lost husband to be freed. So much to do, so little time and I still have my homework to do. Algebra! Ghost help me!
Got to get some sleep and then go to the library tomorrow to catch-up. Tests are around the corner early next year and then there’s the School Ball! He better ask me. If he doesn’t I’m getting the scariest ghosts on him, I swear!
I hope this diary I’ve started for the new school year helps to keep me sane! I love writing, so I think it might.
Have to sleep, so tired, can’t stop yawning . . .
Tuesday 13th September
Here’s an average day in my life:
Day in the life of me (Mathilde)
8.00 a.m. – Usually wake up at this time. (Not weekends, obviously!) I am definitely not a morning person! But school starts at 9.00 a.m. and it’s about a ten-minute walk from home. Takes around fifty minutes to eat breakfast and try to sort my body and face out into something presentable (and more alive-looking than the ghosts).
8.45 a.m. – Set off for school, usually at this time, a little earlier than I need to so I’m not late. Walk through the Woods that some other children also use to get to school, but I’m the only one waving the ghosts away, ‘It’s too early!’ Luckily, many ghosts prefer the night time but then those who lived to wake up at the crack of dawn never get the message that ghosts are for the night, or at least the evening! Nearly a non-zombie by the end of the walk. Helps if it’s a cold day, or a very sunny one, to wake me up!
9.00ish a.m. – Arrive at school (hopefully English is first). Wave to living people, telling them, ‘It’s too early!!’ Try to keep my head down mainly, to not stand out too much. Mixed feelings about school really, love it, but also I don’t sometimes.
1.00 p.m. – Lunch, which for me could be anything with Dad’s preparations. Hopefully does not have too much mould in it today!
1.20 p.m. – Usually spend time in the library for rest of lunch break, thirty-five minutes, before heading back. I love books – the smell, the feel, the covers, oh and the words as well, I like them too! Love all different types of stories, not so much the horror ones or those specifically about ghosts, as they are so, so unrealistic! Bed sheets?! Seriously?! Don’t think so! I like the librarians, especially Miss Mathews, she is lovely and always saves a book for me that she knows I will like to read.
1.55 p.m. – Head back to next class, hopefully English again, or History, which isn’t too bad.
3.30 p.m. – Freedom, um, I mean, end of school. Run home through the Woods, loving the feel of the wind in my hair. ‘Not yet, have to do some homework! But see you soon,’ I shout to the ghosts as I run through them. It always feels so cold, but great when you are running as it really cools you down.
4.45 p.m. – Hopefully (though probably not) finished all my homework but have to stop after an hour of it. Ghost help me, I really need to catch up properly!
5.00 p.m. – Have dinner, usually prepared by myself. (Dad cannot be trusted!) It doesn’t matter what the ingredients are. He always cremates them if he tries to use them for cooking. Mum finds it too hard to hold a whisk for long and, anyway, she doesn’t eat so it would be a bit unfair for her to help. I’m getting really good at cooking, that’s the good bit. Unfortunately, it means more lost time for other things. 🙁 My favourite to cook is Lasagne, yummy. I just L.O.V.E the cheesy, creamy gooeyness! (I am pretty sure it is supposed to be like that!?) At least Dad does the washing-up! He looks great in the pink marigolds that Mum doesn’t use anymore.
6.00 p.m. – Back out to the Woods. I head to the clearing, behind the giant oak tree and a large stone. If you look closely in the moonlight you can just make out the words:
Ghost Helper: from around 6 p.m. most evenings, and weekends from 11 a.m.
I will do all I can to help free your soul.
x Mathilde x
I often have to organise a queue before I get started to help them all. So many! There were eight last night, alone! And two of them were not going to be easy based on their life histories.
7.00 p.m. – Go ‘on location’ (as they say when making films) to help the ghosts, where necessary – that’s most of the time, it seems.
9.00 p.m. – Back home, Dad will not let me stay out any longer even though I am nearly as tall as he is now! Might watch a little TV or, more often than not, read before bed.
10.00 p.m. – Usually snoring loudly, um, I mean, I am usually quietly fast asleep at this point.
No wonder I always feel so tired and have no time! Feeling sleepy again now, just thinking of tomorrow. 🙁
Thursday 15th September
It’s still quite warm at the moment. I heard Dad say it was an ‘Indian Summer’ but didn’t know what it meant so looked it up. Apparently in India they have summers later than us. I think maybe they are too busy in our summer to have it then, so they delay it.
I thought I’d introduce some of my favourite current long-term clients/friends and so, here they are:
Mr Bircher: Mr Bircher is a very nice man, um, ghost-man I mean, or a ghost-who-was-formerly-a-man. Anyway, he is just lovely, even without a head on his shoulders. Luckily, now it’s back in the right place. He always wears a shirt and tie, pin-striped, these days. He tried it in the past, but the tie kept falling off every time he bent over, so he used to have to keep it in his pocket. Ghosts can think of what they want to wear, but it has to be something they wore when they were alive. If they don’t think about it hard enough, they usually find themselves wearing what they had on most before they passed. They can’t wear something that they fit into years before they died, of course. That would just be silly! Anyway, Mr Bircher always wears a suit and tie now, usually a blue suit and he has a very gentle way about him. He is definitely a gentleman-ghost. I wish I could help him, but it’s proving to be a very difficult one.
Mrs Bircher: Mr Bircher’s wife. She was the one that chopped his head off! Not on purpose. It was an accident and she still feels very, very guilty about it. Since she died, she does everything to make Mr Bircher happy. He always says, ‘It is all right, dear. You do far too much already! I know you never meant it.’ (Told you Mr Bircher is so nice!) Mrs Bircher is also a nice lady, and I feel sorry for her and the world of guilt she carries around. I have tried to tell her that it is this guilt which stops her from being free. She will never be able to step into the light until she stops feeling it, but then I know she would never step into it anyway until her beloved Mr Bircher was able to do so too, which might not be for a long time. 🙁
J.P.: I love J.P.! He has never told me what the J, or even the P stands for. Jim, John, Parton, Pinstripes? No idea! He is only slightly older than me, but I’m catching him up now. You do not age as a ghost so I can do this, which is kinda weird, I know, but kinda cool as well. Used to think that some ghosts were more mature than they really were, especially the older adults! In growing up, I now see the error of my ways. Anyway, J.P. (Jasper, no, surely not!) is a ghost and loves it. I’m sure he doesn’t really want my help to be released – he thinks it’s too cool being a ghost. He was a bit of a Goth when he was younger he said, and loves horror stories, so this must be why. He enjoys my friendship, as much as I cherish his. He is a great ghost and friend to match.
Lucy: My bestest friend, ghost or otherwise, in the whole wide world – that is including the living world also, of course. She really is the coolest! She is pretty blasé about being a ghost too, which I love. Quite a tomboy, which I love also! She is always up to something that one! Ha. Known her for years now. She doesn’t have a clue why she can’t be released. As long as she is happy, so am I. Wish I could have met her when she was alive, then at least I could have flicked her hair too. She always does that. If I try it to do it to her, I just go through her hair. Ghost, she’s annoying. I love her! Wish she was at my school.
Ernie: What a little scallywag! He is even worse than Lucy! Always up to some ghoulish mischief that one! He is forever playing jokes on people. Ernie’s young, though, so you can understand. I think he is just bored really. Hope I can help him one day too.
There are lots more and many that are no longer here, which is what they wanted. I remember them all and miss a great many of them. Unfortunately, it would take me all my life to list every one – who are gone but never forgotten.
Saturday 17th September
I’m fed up with school. Fed up with it! If it weren’t for the library, I’d wish I never had to go back there. Every day always the same laughs and sniggers, like yesterday from Amber and her friends. Ghost, she is so annoying and stuck-up, why can’t others see that!?? Oh, look at me, I’m Amber, the prettiest of them all. Look at me I have the best nails in the world! Soooo annoying!!! It’s not my fault my nails are as brittle as dust. A fly only has to land on one and it breaks!
What’s her problem anyway? She never liked me and never said why. Her group of friends tease me, even when she isn’t there.
And I just cannot find time to do it all. Just spent most of the day trying to catch up on my homework and still I’m only half way through! Argghh!! And on top of that I got the ghosts circling my window, saying they need my help! I told them I just couldn’t right now, but I promised I would be back at the usual spot as soon as I could!
I really need a rest. My dad said he would make dinner tonight – he could see I was tired and gave me a hug. Just hope I’m not a ghost too by tomorrow . . .
Sunday 18th September
Just looked at the clock, it’s only 7.00 p.m. and I’m pooped. Did so much today, where to start?
Got up early and did some more of my homework, did more than I thought I would. I think I’m better in the mornings, well, I mean early afternoons. Nearly caught up now, just a few more things to do.
Then went to the Woods and asked them to keep to an orderly line so I could help everyone waiting. Ernie helped, bless him, by leading many of the ghosts to the other side of the Woods, telling them there was someone else that could assist them. There wasn’t! But at least it took the queue down to a more manageable level. The little scamp he is! Ha. Mr and Mrs Bircher helped too as much as they could. They made sure that everyone was patient. Not sure where Lucy was today.
Managed to release five, not bad for a Sunday, eh? I’m glad Mr Meller was one of them (Mr Smeller, Lucy called him), he was so grumpy! Turns out that the only thing he had to do was smile and hey presto he was free. Told him to think of something that made him happy – no idea what it was, but it worked as I thought it might. It sometimes works that way. It only dawned on me this morning to try it with him after weeks of putting up with his grouchy moods! I guess if he smiled at something he can’t be all that bad but that wasn’t the ghost we knew. Miss Herring also got freed. (She always smiled.) Will miss her but know she is happier now. Bobby went as well. Ernie might miss him, I think. Maybe that’s why he left early today. Oh and the Kings also went, as in Mr and Mrs King (not as in Royalty). Turns out that they just had to ghost-kiss to be free. They were always arguing before.
Then raced back home and did dinner for Dad and me, said a quick hi to Mum, who I saw outside doing some gardening. Made us delicious mashed potatoes and sausages – Dad loves it too! Love watching the knob of butter melting on the top before we tuck in. Yummy! I could eat it again right now, you know!
Sunday bath, to point of wrinkly fingers, then did a bit more homework until now. I’m bushed. Not looking forward to Monday! Why can’t the week start on a less painful day, like a Tuesday or Wednesday? Anyway, might watch some TV before I float off to dreamland. Hope he’s in my dreams again . . .
Wednesday 21st September
Need to write more in here! Just not found the time or the will to do so lately. I got the diary from the money Mum and Dad gave me, as I thought it might help keep me organised this school term. I so need to be more disciplined!
School’s been the same. Ghost, I could pull that girl’s hair out! Amber devil-girl. She knocked my tray of food all over the school canteen yesterday. Everyone was looking and laughing as I tried to clear it up. Thank ghost, he wasn’t there! Then Miss Turner stepped in to try to help (she always cries) and made me look even more sorrowful. Mr Palfrey told me off too for it! It was not even my fault! The injustice! I got angrier than I should have with him, which resulted in me doing lines – lots and lots of them. That’s why I haven’t felt like writing in here recently.
I swear it, if the ghosts knew about Amber, they would have her! But I don’t want to tell them. They have their own problems, which I’m trying to help with. I’m sure Ernie would have some wicked ideas. Lucy would kill her. Ghost! That would be hell, what if she died and then I had to help her?! Yeah, I better not tell them. The ghosts know they can’t see me at school and plus they don’ like big groups of people (it does something funny to them).
I need a good book to escape from school. I am going to ask Miss Mathews if she has a book about vengeance, ideally involving lots of hair-pulling!
Thursday 22nd September
Miss Mathews gave me a great book. She said it was the only one she could think of when I asked her. She didn’t say if it had hair-pulling in it but said it would be enriching. It’s called The Count of Monte Cristo. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it! Not sure what counting has to do with it. I’m not really into maths, but I trust her choices. She said it might be difficult to read at first, but I would understand it more each time I read it, especially as I got older. I am not sure if I will commit to that yet, but will see how it goes. I do absolutely love books, after all.
School wasn’t too bad today although that’s probably because I didn’t see Amber and the gruesome gang she hangs around with. I tell you, I have seen ghosts with all sorts of terrible accidents that ruined their appearance, but nothing as scary as them lot. Full of make-up (even though it’s not allowed at school), orange as an orang-utan; fake nails; grotty, malting hair extensions. So, so scary! I used to think Georgina was OK when I was younger – we even shared the same sandpit from time to time. But that was before she started hanging around with Amber’s friend, Linda, last school year.
Thinking of writing a book. If I ever get time!!! Already getting behind with my school homework, again. Luckily, the ghost-count is dropping a little bit, but it’s still non-stop. Think I need a holiday. Mum can’t travel far as a ghost, which makes it so difficult. She keeps popping out of bushes and asking if I’m well. Think Dad might have said something to her! ‘Yes, Mother, I am fine thanks,’ I keep telling her, but I feel her watching me. She’s busy too. What with her gardening and her group, Ghost Ladies United Spirit. She’d always loved meetings, even before the accident. She always wants to change things for the better. Dad said, even as a baby, she had a beret on (whatever that means?!). She thinks the living conditions for many lady and girl ghosts is terrible and wants to fight against it. ‘Why do they always get the old, dilapidated houses, Mathilde? Don’t they deserve a better way of ghost-living?’ I agree with her. I know what she means, not all the ghosts stay long but some do and they are often in old, abandoned houses. No wonder those ghosts do the most haunting. They’re just complaining about the conditions, but humans can’t understand what they are saying!
I do think we should spend more time together, Dad, me and Mum. Dad always keeps himself busy too, but they need to do more together. It ran in the family, it was said, that drive to do things. Always busy bees us Belles.
Friday 23rd September
Meet the Parents
Thought I would write down some more about my wonderful parents, so here goes:
Dad: He grew up in England mainly, but was born in France, the country where my grandparents are from. Sadly never met them, alive or as ghosts. Dad always loved music and machines. ‘M and M’s that’s what your Dad is all about, Mathilde!’ Mum always says that and looks at me to make me laugh. He was a super rocker when he was a teenager in a ‘prog-rock/metal-mechanical fusion band,’ he describes it. Mum tried to explain it to me, but I still don’t understand it fully. It was when Dad (not known as Dad then) ‘jumped off the stage and onto a table while rocking hard with lightning fingers shredding on his axe, that your mother fell over backwards in love for me, Mathilde!’ That was Dad’s version, anyway. Mother just said that when she saw him acting like a headless chicken, she knew he needed help and thought she would offer. Dad can most often be found in his garage/shed. It used to be a place for the family car, but with all the gadgets, tools and the recording studio section, it has been a long time since even the front of the car fit in there. Dad can always be found with a smile on his face, and never lets things get him down. Even when Mum died, and didn’t come back as a ghost for a while, he soldiered on, though I could tell he was really sad inside. Thank ghost, she came back! I think Dad does miss the cuddles, though. Dad also likes reading, but books I would never pick up, or even could if I tried. They are always massive technical manuals on engineering or music. Certainly not a light read. Dad is famous for wearing his outlandish, Hawaiian shirts – ‘hideous’, as mother calls them. She always haunts him if he has one on. He wears them even in the winter! Anyway, I still love him and don’t mind them too much, as they brighten the place up!
Mum: If you thought Dad was different, wait till I tell you about Mum! My dear mother grew up in Scotland and is as ‘wild as its terrain!’ Dad says. From an early age, she was interested in political movements. Joining the school debating society as one of the youngest members and rallying before her parents could catch her. We never see Grandma much, not since Grandad died. It is a long journey to where she lives. Dad goes up sometimes while Mum stays to look after me. Mum likes music too, but more classical stuff. She loves Beethoven: the 5th, the 3rd, right the way up to the 100th! She says she has ‘a much more refined musical taste’ than Dad. I like both Mum’s and Dad’s music (well, I do sometimes). Mum used to write a journal too when she was younger, she told me, which was one of the things that inspired me to write this diary. She ‘always loved the arts,’ she’d say. Also, she absolutely loves gardening. Her fingers are so green, they glow in the dark! It takes her longer to do now and much more concentration, as she keeps dropping her trowel and needs help with moving the wheelbarrow. But she takes great pride in her vegetable arrangements. We hardly ever have to go to the shops to buy vegetables! She used to love baking too, but, unfortunately, she doesn’t do it much anymore. She teaches me when we are both not too busy, all the old family recipes that have passed from mother to daughter over generations. She tries to help out the ghosts as much as she can also, like me, in her own ways, and is forever trying to change the ghost-world for the better.
And that is my crazy parents, that I love a crazy amount!
No wonder I turned out so odd!
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