Category Archives: MG

Spotlight – The Never-Ending Birthday by Katie Dale


I am super excited to have been asked to be part of the blog tour for the super fun new children’s book by Katie Dale, The Never-Ending Birthday!

The Never-Ending Birthday was released on the 29th June 2016 published by Macmillan Children’s Books.

A huge thank you to Katie for getting in touch and for having me on this wonderful tour.

For my stop on the blog tour I wanted to shine the spotlight on this fab book, it’s author and share details of a giveaway!


Twins Max and Anni have had the worst birthday ever. Max has missed a vital goal in the football Cup Final and Anni has fallen out with her best friend. Feeling thoroughly miserable, Max and Anni sneak downstairs at midnight and light the candles on their untouched birthday cake and, as they blow them out, they make a wish . . . to redo the day!

When they wake up, their wish has come true! And this time Max and Anni aren’t going to mess things up. But little do they realize that they are going to have to relive their birthday again . . . and again . . . and again.

You can buy a copy of The Never-Ending Birthday here or from your local bookshop!


About Katie Dale

I love nothing more than creating characters – both on page and on-stage! I studied English Literature at Sheffield University, spent a year at UNC-Chapel Hill, followed by a crazy year at Mountview drama school, a national Shakespeare tour, and back-packing through South-East Asia. I love all genres, and am busily working on a variety of projects from novels to picture-books – whilst playing the odd princess/assassin/zombie in-between!

Katie Dale had her first poem, ‘The Fate of The School Hamster’, published in the Cadbury’s Book of Children’s Poetry aged just eight and hasn’t stopped writing since! Inspired by her mother, Elizabeth Dale, who is also an author, Katie loves creating characters, both on the page and onstage. After training as an actress and touring the country as Shakespeare’s Juliet, she was a winner of the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices competition, which launched her writing career. She has published books for toddlers up to teens, and her novels have won several awards and are published all over the world. The Never-Ending Birthday is her second novel for Macmillan Children’s Books.

Find out more about me at katiedaleuk.blogspot.com

Or why not follow Katie on twitter using @katiedaleuk

You can catch a previous Q&A with Katie on Tales here


Giveaway

For a chance to win your very own sparkly copy of THE NEVER-ENDING BIRTHDAY simply answer the following question:

If you could re-do any day, which day would it be, and why?

Email your answers to katiedaleauthor@hotmail.com

Good Luck!


Blog Tour

Catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge huge thank you to Katie for asking me to be part of the blog tour!

Have you read TheNever-Ending Birthday?  What did you think?  What day would you love to live again and again?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Research This Time Was Such A Blast by Tamsin Cooke


Today I am super excited to be part of an awesome blog tour and have the wonderful Tamsin Cooke on Tales with a fab guest post to celebrate the release of her new book Stunt Double!

Stunt Double was released on the 6th July 2017 published by OUP and is an action packed MG read that will leave you wanting more!

Today Tamsin tells us about the research behind the book and some of the exciting things she got up to …..


An action-packed adventure story with an exciting film location setting.


Finn is a free-running black belt, with a talent for acting-but when his big break arrives, it’s not the role he was expecting at all.

Recruited as a stunt double, he’s pushed to his limits-scaling walls at high speed, jumping from dizzying heights, and diving into rocky waters-all without any safety gear. He’s determined to push himself, but as the stunts get more dangerous, the lines between movie and reality are really starting to blur, and it becomes clear that he’ll be luckily to escape this shoot with his life.

A brand new adventure for readers aged 9+, from the author of The Scarlet Files.


Research This Time Was Such A Blast – Delving Into The World Of Stunts

I was incredibly excited the moment I got the initial flash of inspiration for Stunt Double. However it occurred to me that I knew very little about the world of stunts. My knowledge consisted of what I’d read in the papers (where stunts have ended badly) or from a TV programme. For those of you not old enough to remember, ‘The Fall Guy’ was a 1980’s TV show based in America about a stuntman moonlighting as a bounty hunter. Using his knowledge of stunts and film effects, he would track down and catch criminals.

Luckily for me, I adore research. And whenever I get a new idea for a story, I can’t wait to delve into the subject matter, learning everything I can. And this time, it was going to be even more fun because I was entering the world of stunts.

At first, I visited libraries and scoured the Internet. I discovered the different disciplines of stunt performers:

Fighting – Categories: Martial Arts, Boxing

Falling – Categories: Trampolining, High Diving

Riding and Driving – Categories: Horses, Cars, Motorcycles

Agility and Strength – Categories: Gymnastics, Rock Climbing

Water – Categories: Swimming, Sub Aqua

You are required to be qualified to competitive level in six or more of the above categories, one of which must be in Fighting. Plus you must have qualifications in at least four of the groups. That is an awful lot of work and a huge required skill set!

I was desperate to meet a real life stunt performer and was thrilled when Annabel Canaven, a professional stuntwoman generously gave up her time to meet me over coffee and cake. And wow – I think she might be one of the coolest people I have ever met.

Annabel explained how stunts are set up – how it’s all about the planning and the safety. A stunt coordinator has a team of trained professionals and together they create the stunt, which the Stunt Coordinator oversees. It’s a fun, supportive environment, where you have to trust each other.

The film crew record the stunt a minimum of three times using many cameras from different angles. Then the director selects the best shot for editing. On occasion, when it’s a really expensive stunt, you might only get one take. Then the pressure is really on!

Annabel showed me pictures of her rolling down the stairs, dressed up as a stunt double alongside the actor, as well as being set on fire. She also showed me video footage of her free falling sixty feet without any wires or cranes. She lands on a bunch of cardboard boxes. Yes – I did say cardboard boxes. They decelerate your fall.

In fact I have learnt that cardboard boxes are a staple of the stunt world. I was incredibly lucky to visit The British Action Academy, the UK’s only stunt school. It’s run by Andreas Petrides who has been a stunt man for twenty seven years and worked on over 500 productions worldwide. If you think of a film or TV programme- he’s probably been in it or orchestrated the stunt. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Merlin… even Poldark!

He is up there with the coolest people too! Andreas allowed me to wander around while the training took place. I saw what stunt performers sometimes have to wear – the body armour of padding or the jerk vests (vests that connect you to wires allowing you to be jerked through the air). I saw cranes, ropes, wires, mats and of course lots of cardboard!!!

 

During my visit, the trainees were learning how to crash a bike into a car. And the car was made of? You guessed it – cardboard boxes! The trainee had to cycle down a slope, then jump onto the saddle of their bike. (I have to admit – I thought that was a daring enough stunt in itself). Then they hurtled towards the cardboard car (with a mat on top) and just before they made impact, they somersaulted over the top onto a crash mat behind. It looked fantastic. I decided not to have a go, and just took pictures instead!!!

I watched the trainees slide down rope from the vaulted ceiling and be jerked in the air by a wire. They re-enacted a brawl and took turns being flung down a slope rolling over and over.

It made me realise what kind of character you have to be in order to become a stunt performer. You have to be brave, physically capable and also patient. Andreas was telling me how there is a lot of waiting around on set as you have to make sure the stunt is safe. But one of the most important characteristics that hadn’t occurred to me until I met these fabulous people, is that you cannot be reckless. One of the instructors said, ‘They’re stuntmen, not daredevils.’  There’s an old adage then anyone can be a stunt performer once… they just might not live to tell the tale…

You can buy a copy of Stunt Double here or from your local bookshop!


About Tamsin Cooke

Born in Lancashire to a Polish mum and English dad, Tamsin spent lots of the first twelve years of her life in different countries. She learnt to walk in South Africa, roller-skate in Florida and synchronise swim in Hawaii. This has given her a great love of travel which she does whenever possible. She also adores having adventures and seeing wild animals. Since writing Cat Burglar, Tamsin has become fascinated with spirit animals. She’d like to think her spirit animal is a jaguar or a wolf. But her friends tell her it’s a Labradoodle.

If you would like to learn more about Tamsin, please go to her website: tamsincooke.co.uk

Or why not follow Tamsin on Twitter – @TamsinCooke1


Blog Tour

You can follow or catch up on the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Tamsin for such a fab guest post and to OUP for organising and asking me to be part of the blog tour!

Have you read Stunt Double?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab a copy?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Tales Post – Extract From The (Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers) Diary Of Pig by Emer Stamp


My son, Corey, and I LOVE Pig!  We have followed him on his fun filled adventures for a while now and we were over the moon to hear about the release of the new installment The (Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers) Diary Of Pig!

The (Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers) Diary Of Pig was released on the 4th May 2017 published by Scholastic.  We knew Pig’s adventures were going to make us laugh lots….and we did!

For my stop on the blog tour I have a brilliant extract from the new book to get you excited about Pig’s new adventure….


I is Pig. This is my diary and I doubts you will believe any of it. In fact, if you is the kind of farmer what finds it hard to believe unbelievable stuff, you should put it down RIGHT NOW. I wouldn’t blame you. If I was reading it I would be like, ‘Don’t be silly! Stuff like this would never happen to a pig, it’s totally impossible.’ But it’s not. Just ask Duck, or Cow, or Ki-Ki, or Rusty. They’d all tell you. It’s all 1000% true and 10,000% BONKERS!


Extract From The (Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers) Diary Of Pig

You can buy a copy of The (Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers) Diary Of Pig here or from your local bookshop!

You can find previous posts with author Emer Stamp by clicking on the links below…..

Favourite Scenes From The Pig Series

Corey’s Corner – Review – The Seriously Extra Ordinary Diary Of Pig


About Emer Stamp

Emer Stamp is the author and illustrator of The Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of Pig. Emer grew up on a farm in Devon before training in graphic design and working for some of London’s top advertising agencies. She was the Creative Director for the Adam and Eve DDB communications agency, which creates advertisements for clients including John Lewis, Halifax, Cadbury’s and Save the Children. She lives in London.

You can find out more about Emer and Pig here or on the Goodreads page here

Or why not follow Emer on twitter using @emerstamp


Blog Tour

Catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Katrina at Scholastic and Emer for having me on this fab blog tour!

You can find previous posts with author Emer Stamp by clicking on the links below…..

Favourite Scenes From The Pig Series

Corey’s Corner – Review – The Seriously Extra Ordinary Diary Of Pig

Have you read any of Pig’s adventures?  What did you think?  Do you have a favourite moment?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading!

Spotlight – St Grizzle’s School For Girls, Ghosts and Runaway Grannies by Karen McCombie


The second book in the fab St Grizzles series, St Grizzle’s School for Girls, Ghosts and Runaway Grannies by Karen McCombie was released on the 1st June and I can’t wait to dive right in a give it a read!

St Grizzle’s School for Girls, Ghosts and Runaway Grannies is the follow up the first in the series St Grizzles School For Girls, Goats and Random Boys and is a brilliant MG read.

So today I’m shining the spotlight on this fab new book in the series and it’s wonderful author….


When local schools are asked to make a film showcasing the surrounding area, Dani and the rest of St Grizzle’s set to work. But Spencer and his mates at the village school are determined to sabotage the work of the smelly Grizzlers.
To Dani’s surprise, help comes in the form of Granny Viv who has secretly taken up residence in the school’s tree house with Downboy the dog. Together they come up with the perfect ghostly video … but will Granny Viv be able to stay once the competition’s over?

You can buy a copy of this book here or from your local bookshop!


About Karen McCombie

Karen McCombie has written over 80 books full of endearing characters and quirky humour; her series Ally’s World has sold over 200,000 copies. Born in Scotland, Karen now lives in north London. Karen loves her job, but is a complete fidget. She regularly packs up her laptop and leaves Office Number 1 (her weeny back bedroom) and has a brisk walk to Office Number 2 (the local garden centre café).

You can find out more about Karen on her website – www.karenmccombie.com

Or why not follow Karen on twitter – @KarenMcCombie

About Becka Moor

Becka Moor is a children’s book illustrator and storyteller living in Manchester. She studied illustration for children’s publishing at Glyndwr University, graduating in 2012. Since then, she has worked on a variety of fiction books and series as well as picture books.

She rents desk space in a stunning grade II listed building with other creative folk, has an obsession with cats and loves anything a bit on the quirky side.

You can find out more about Becka on her website – www.beckamoor.com

Or why not follow Becka on twitter – @beckamoor


Blog Tour

Catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Beth at Stripes for having me as part of this fab blog tour!

Have you read St Grizzles or any other books by Karen McCombie?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab a copy?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Magical Mystery Tour by Mark Huckerby


Today I have a fab guest post from one half of an awesome dynamic writing duo of a brilliant MG Fantasy series, Mark Huckerby.

Defender Of The Realm: Dark Age was released on the 1st June and is the second book in this brilliant series and I am SO excited to read it!  I was a huge fan of the first book in the series and it left me craving more!

Praise for Defender of the Realm

Defender of the Realm was longlisted for the 2017 Branford Boase Award, and shortlisted for The Brilliant Book Award Nottingham (February 2017) and  Stockton Children’s Book of the Year (March 2017).

Entertaining, gripping and full of action and plot twists”  – Sunday Express 
 
“A thrilling mashup of history and fantasy”  – Kirkus Reviews  
 
“Defender of the Realm is unashamedly fun!”  – Derek Landy, author of Skulduggery Pleasant

You can find my review of Defender Of The Realm here

Praise for Defender of the Realm: Dark Age

“Brilliant sequel to Defender of the Realm a fabulous fantasy for children and adults alike” –

Ravenmaster HM Tower of London @ravenmaster1

So sit back and relax and let Mark share his love of ruins….and some cute baby Mark pictures too……


After the great battle at King Alfie’s coronation, the nation thinks it’s seen the last of the Black Dragon, and Alfie gets busy learning what it means to fill his father’s shoes. But when a band of undead Vikings appears, Alfie, Hayley and the rest of the Yeoman Warders fear that Professor Lock is back to finish what he’s started. 
 
For the epic battle that’s brewing, Alfie will need to enlist help from abroad, as well as from a mysterious new friend who seems to be watching over him…


Magical Mystery Tour

I love a good ruin.

One of my earliest memories is of clambering all over the walls of the 900 year old Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire while my Granddad looked on. A little later, I used to plead with my father to take me to Bodiam Castle in Sussex every weekend; I was convinced that in some forgotten tower I would somehow find a sword that a medieval knight would just have, I don’t know, left lying around. Corfe Castle in Dorset was another favourite and yep, I really thought I might stumble upon a suit of armour tucked away behind the gatehouse as I explored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s become kind of a cliché to depict kids as groaning with boredom as they’re dragged off around castles, abbeys and stately homes by their parents but I honestly loved it. It simultaneously ignited a passion for history and fired up my imagination. Thinking about it, there’s a direct link from my childhood to the Defender of the Realm series that I’ve written alongside my writing partner, Nick Ostler. It’s allowed me to indulge in my twin loves of history and fantasy and combine them, just like I did when I was young.

When Nick and I write, we often talk about the formula of “something true + something new”. It spawned the central idea of the book:  “what if the kings and queens of Britain were secretly superheroes, sworn to protect Britain from monsters and super villains?” The ‘something true’ part of the formula is of course the real history of Britain and the ‘something new’, well, that’s where dragons and stinking zombie Vikings come in. So in the secret history of Defender of the Realm, the Great Fire of London in 1666 was of course started by a dragon and the Spanish Armada was sunk by a giant squid. Dur, as if you didn’t know.

We’ve also applied the formula to the locations in the book, giving iconic British landmarks an enchanted twist as they’re inducted into our fantasy universe. In the book, the Tower of London is of course the home to the Crown Jewels, well the fake ones for the tourists anyway. It’s below ground in “the Keep”, the Defender’s secret base, that the real magical goodies are kept and guarded by the loyal beefeaters. Buckingham Palace is still the home to the monarch, but we’ve added a magical supersonic state coach that runs through a secret tunnel all the way to the Tower of London and the underground base.  Edinburgh Castle is (really) built on the plug of an extinct volcano that of course isn’t so dormant in the fantasy world of the book.

In Defender of the Realm: Dark Age, the second in the series, we’ve had the pleasure of adding yet more locations as we build up our world. Undead Vikings are the slightly whiffy new villains and, are attracted back to the places their forebears raided a thousand years ago, looking for gold. Two cities with Viking history, York and Cambridge feature heavily. One of my favourite chapters takes place on Lindisfarne. Also known as Holy Island, it sits just off the coast of Northumberland and is the site of a lonely monastery and wind-swept castle. In the book, it’s home to a Roderick “Sultana” Raisin, a semi-retired beefeater, secretly charged with keeping a look out from Britain’s coast for supernatural threats. And let’s just say old Sultana is the first UK citizen for a thousand years to get up close and personal with a Viking…

And there’s a personal connection here, too. When I was little, I visited Lindisfarne abbey and castle with my grandparents. I clambered over the walls and probably hoped I’d stumble upon a knight’s rusty gauntlet or at the very least, a secret room leading to a magical world. And thirty years later, writing this book, I kind of got my wish.

Defender of the Realm: Dark Age by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler published by Scholastic is out now.

You can buy a copy here or from your local bookshop!

You can find my review of the first book in the series, Defender Of The Realm here


About Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler

Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler are Emmy and BAFTA-nominated screenwriters best known for writing popular TV shows such as Danger Mouse and Thunderbirds Are Go! 

You can find out more about Mark & Nick on their website www.ostlerandhuckerby.com

Or why not follow them both on twitter using @huckywucky and @nickostler


Blog Tour

You can catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Lorraine at Scholastic for having me as part of this fab tour and to Mark for a brilliant guest post!

Have you read Defender Of The Realm: Dark Ages?  What did you think?  Has this review made you want to go grab a copy?  I would love to here from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading and defending the country!

Guest Post – Inspiration for Bigfoot, Tobin & Me by Melissa Savage


Today I have a fantastic guest post about inspiration from lovely author Melissa Savage to celebrate the release of Bigfoot, Tobin and Me a wonderful new Middle Grade book dealing with grief and moving forward.

Bigfoot, Tobin and Me was released on the 4th May 2017 published by Chicken House.

When I asked Melissa about the inspiration behind the story and following reading her guest post it made me quite emotional…..


Lemonade’s mother named her for her favourite saying: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But now her mum’s dead. After relocating to her grandpa’s place in Bigfoot-obsessed Willow Creek, Lem meets Tobin. Quirky and determined, he’s the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc. and sole investigator for the town. Lem is reluctantly enlisted as his assistant. Together, they try to capture a shot of the elusive beast on film, but what they find is even more amazing.


Inspiration for Bigfoot, Tobin & Me

As a licensed therapist working with children, I have used many different research based techniques to make connections with my clients, and story is one of those tools. I have found narrative work with children to be especially effective to assist them in learning healing strategies and adaptive coping mechanisms. Just as story was important in my life growing up, I know it is important to other children as well, and therefore I choose to write about social issues.

Years ago, there was one little boy I will never forget because of the impact one particular story had on him during a session. This sweet, wiggly, little guy had been permanently removed from his home due to abuse and neglect and was currently living in a foster home. At the very end of our session, I read him a therapeutic picture book about a mistreated kitten who needed a new home because the family who cared for the kitten did not treat the kitten as he deserved to be cared for. This little boy listened to that story so intently, eyes wide and without a single wiggle. When I read the very last line and closed the book, he looked up at me from over his glasses that sat low on his nose and said, that kitten is just like me!  It’s those small miracles in therapy that we hope for, that we have made an impact towards healing. On that day, I knew he felt understood. On that day, he felt that he was not alone. And the tool that assisted me in making that special connection with him was story. And I knew he was finally on his way to learning how to heal.

Story is so many things to us. It is integral to our history and continues to be important to connect humankind today. Story can entertain and enlighten us. It can help to shape who we become and how we fit in the world. Story can give us a sense of belonging and help us feel not so alone in our differences or in the hardships we face.

And it can help us heal.

I’ve been asked if the subject matter of grief and loss in Bigfoot, Tobin & Me is too much for the middle grade reader. In fact, in my work with children and families, I know that many children have either gone through an equally devastating loss themselves or may know someone else who has. At the very least, these children are all too familiar with what goes on in our world today. We cannot shield everything from them and they need our guidance to understand it at a developmentally appropriate level and be guided in their healing process as they learn to sustain their own coping ability. And with that healing, a sustained sense of hope and joy, in spite of the fear and sadness brought on by tragedy.

Most recently after suffering my own difficult loss, I’ve had the privilege to walk beside other children and families who have suffered difficult losses. It was devastating to have to share such sadness with others, yet healing too, because we were not alone. What is it that shapes who we are? Experiences both good and bad. Although no one ever wishes for bad experiences, it is the hardships and the adversity that molds us to be more than we are each time we must endure it. It is in adversity that we grow and learn and change. We become stronger for it, we become more loving and we certainly become more capable. And story is one of those wonderful ways in which we can learn empathy and coping as we bear witness to experiences in books that we have not experienced in our own lives. To shield our children from the realities they will be faced would be a disservice. Loss is one of the most difficult things we will go through in our lives. However, it truly is what is hard that builds our character, forms our strength, and shapes who we will become. And what we become is up to us. What an amazing lesson to teach our children.

Bigfoot, Tobin & Me by Melissa Savage out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

You can also buy a copy here or from your local bookshop


About Melissa Savage

Melissa D. Savage’s first book, The Lost Pony, premiered in her second grade classroom, winning high praise from critics such as her mom. Although the book was hand written and self-illustrated in Crayola Crayons, it was this experience that began her love of writing and to this day she still believes was one of her best works. Melissa continued to create stories growing up, writing different adventures for friends to read and later completed a Master’s Degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Hamline University in Minnesota. She was privileged to be able to receive guidance from amazing authors, educators, and fellow writers who shared their wisdom, experience, and support. Since then, she has been recognized for her work at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in both the Middle Grade and Young Adult Genres. Most recently, Melissa’s debut book, Lemons has been recognized by the American Booksellers Association on their Independent Booksellers’ debut picks of the season list, Indies Introduce Winter/Spring 2017.

Melissa is a writer and a child and family therapist. She has worked with families struggling with issues of abuse, trauma and loss/bereavement. She believes that expressing oneself through writing can be a very healing process when struggling with difficulties in life.  In addition it can be a vehicle in which to honor, celebrate and continue to share the spirits of the special people who have left us too soon. Melissa lives in Minneapolis with her family.

You can find out more about Melissa on her website – www.melissadsavage.com

Or why not follow Melissa on twitter – @melissadsavage


Blog Tour

You can catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Melissa for such a gorgeous and thoughtful blog post and to Laura at Chicken House for organising and asking me to be part of this fab tour!

Have you read Bigfoot, Tobin & Me?  What did you think?  What was your favourite part?  If you have not read it yet have we tempted you to go and grab a copy?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this post or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Characters by Lorraine Gregory


I am super excited to have the wonderful Lorraine Gregory on Tales today to celebrate the release of Mold and the Poison Plot!

Mold and the Poison Plot was released on the 4th May 2017 published by OUP and is a fab MG tale of a character called Mold.

As well as all of this Lorraine Gregory is also #BritishBooksChallenge17 debut of the month for May 2017!

You can find out more about the #BritishBooksChallenge17 here

I really wanted to get to know Mold more so I asked Lorraine about characters in this fab guest post….


He’s got a big heart . . . and a nose to match!

Mold’s a bit of a freak. His nose is as big as his body is puny and his mother abandoned him in a bin when he was a mere baby. Who else but the old healer, Aggy, would have taken him in and raised him as her own? But when Aggy is accused of poisoning the King, Mold sets out to clear her name.

In a thrilling race against time to save Aggy from the hangman’s noose, Mold faces hideous, deadly monsters like the Yurg and the Purple Narlo Frog. He finds true friendship in the most unusual – and smelly – of places and must pit his wits and his clever nose against the evil witch Hexaba.

This is an exciting fantasy story with an array of wonderful characters, including the inimitable Mold, told in a fresh and distinctive voice by a promising new writer.


Characters

Character is everything. Doesn’t matter how great your concept is or how exciting your plot might be – characters are what make it all work, are what make people keep reading. So, as a writer, creating characters that live and breathe and inspire emotion, be it empathy, anger, love or fear, is one of our most important tasks.

The main character in Mold and the Poison Plot was relatively easy in his early creation as I had one of those odd moments of clarity where he popped into my head, voice and all! Of course then I had to dig deeper to find out his whole story and particularly what he most wanted as this would be his motivation for everything he does.

The first layer of what Mold wants is the driving force for the story – he wants to save Aggy, the woman who has looked after him all his life and is now in danger. But underneath that, he’s also desperate to find out who he really is, who his family are and why they dumped him in a bin when he was just a baby.

As the story progresses it becomes clear that Mold is incredibly loyal and will risk himself not just for Aggy but for anyone he feels might need help and this is how he meets Fergus who becomes his very great friend.

My next step then, was to discover what Fergus most wants so that he too has his own arc and motivation. Every character needs one, however small. Sometimes it’s only the author who needs to know what they are so that it can leak into the story and the reader will pick it up without it being blatant. Fergus for example wants a best friend. He’s desperate to find someone, anyone, because a deep loneliness plagues him. This is why Mold’s early defence of him triggers such unswerving devotion.

I applied this same ethic to all my characters -Aggy, Begsy, Iric… they all needed motivation for their actions. They can’t be cardboard cutout’s just doing whatever needs doing to move the story along. They have to have strong reasons for behaving in certain ways and often it’s one of the most tricky things to do well, but it’s worth the brain power to get it right.

It was also really important to me that the antagonists in my book had believable motivations too and were more than just cliche’s. There are several villains in my book, four primary and a few secondary so you can probably tell that I do love a good baddie!

I tried to make sure they all had fleshed out reasonings that again, didn’t all make it into the book, but were clear in my head when I wrote them and therefore lent resonance. Even the worst of my villains had reasons for what they were doing and some shades of grey. None of them are evil for evil’s sake. They’re all the result of their life experiences just as we are in real life. For me, fleshing out characters like that, making them live and breathe beyond the pages, is one of the most fascinating parts of writing.

One way to build up characters is to explore their history. I found it really useful to write a brief history of the world I created. By understanding how Pellegarno was shaped both societally and politically I found much of the motivation for my villains in particular. The majority of that history never makes itself into the book but it’s there in my head, lending strength to the world, making it more believable and underpinning the situation Mold finds himself in during the story.

Sometimes it can take a while for the nuance to come out, for the backstory to develop but everything that you do to improve character improves the story in my opinion. This work is often done in later drafts when the majority of the plot is already in place but motivation is something I think you need to think about as early as possible.

Always ask yourself, why are they doing this? What do they want? if you can’t think of a reasonable answer then they really shouldn’t be doing it, however important it is to the plot!

Weak characters that are placed on the page to serve one purpose and have no agency of their own can impact on the reader’s willingness to believe wholeheartedly in the story. If you lose readers belief through weak motivation or cliche it can be hard to win them back, especially children as they find it exceedingly easy to put down a book and never finish it!

But, if readers relate to a character, if they love them or hate them, they will follow them forever through your story and every blow, every setback, every triumph will resonate. Characters, real, wonderful characters with nuance and heart and depth can open worlds, expose truth, fight injustice, create change, inspire hope, touch hearts, change minds and live on forever in the readers soul.

We just have to write them first!

You can buy a copy of Mold and the Poison Plot here or from your local bookshop!


About Lorraine Gregory

I’m the daughter of an Indian father and an Austrian mother raised on an East London Council Estate. The local library was my source of all books growing up and I never stopped reading if I could help it.

All that reading led to me writing my own stories throughout my childhood and teens while I dreamed of being a proper author one day.

Unfortunately as I grew up it seemed too impossible that someone like me could ever achieve such an ambition and I decided it was better to give up such lofty aspirations. I settled down to a normal life with a job, marriage and motherhood and kept all my stories firmly in my head.
Until that is, years later reading to my son sparked my love of writing once again and I started scribbling my own tales to read to him.

Five years of hard work led to a book deal with OUP for my debut Mold and the Poison Plot, a fantasy adventure about a boy with a remarkable nose…     


A huge thank you to Lorraine Gregory and also Hannah at OUP for organising this post and embracing the #BritishBooksChallenge17.

Have you read Mold and the Posion Plot?  What did you think?  What was your favourite part?  If you have not read it yet have we tempted you to go and grab a copy?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – All About Violet by Harriet Whitehorn


I love a good mystery and Harriet Whitehorn does just that with her brilliant MG mystery series!

Violet and the Smugglers was released on the 9th February 2017 in paperback published by Simon and Schuster and is brilliant for all of those super sleuths out there!

Violet and the Smugglers is the third book in this brilliant series with Violet and the Pearl Of The Orient and Violet and the Hidden Treasure being released prior.


 

 

 

 

 

 

And exciting news…Violet and the Mummy Mystery, the fourth book in this super series is out on August 10th 2017!

I thought it would be great to get to know Violet a little better so myself and Harriet have put together a master plan in the form of this fab guest post….



Meet Violet Remy-Robinson, an amateur Sherlock Holmes in the making…

Uncle Johnny has invited Violet and her friends to spend the summer with him on a sailing adventure around Europe and Violet couldn’t be more excited! But when she suspects that the captain of a boat nearby might be up to no good, Violet needs to put her detective skills into action… Could he be the head of a smuggling ring?

A beautiful package complete with two-colour illustrations throughout from Becka Moore. Perfect for fans of Dixie O’Day, Ottoline and Goth Girl.


All About Violet

I absolutely love lists so I’ve put one at the beginning of each of Violet’s adventures, giving you a little snippet of information about each of the main characters which will hopefully give you an insight into their personality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Violet and the Smugglers, which is largely set in Venice, I tell you every one’s favourite ice cream flavour- Violet’s is mint choc chip, partly because she likes the way the words sound together. And if you’ve read the Pearl of the Orient and the Hidden Treasure you already know that Violet’s favourite foods include cheese and tomato pizza and hot crumpets with melted butter and her favourite possession is her “Best Young Detective Award”.  So I thought it would be fun to tell you some other facts about Violet that aren’t in the books….

Full Name: Violet Therese Remy – Robinson

Born: London

Birthday: May 29th

Star sign: Gemini

Favourite colour: Blue

Favourite books: Just William, Tintin and Pippi Longstocking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best subject at school: Generally Maths and PE, but sometimes History if they are learning about something interesting like Ancient Egypt.

Worst subject at school: Music

Favourite Animal to see at the Zoo: Giraffes

Ambition: Torn between being a spy like James Bond, an explorer or a detective.

Heros and Heroines: Amelia Earhart, James Bond, Nancy Drew and of course, Sherlock Holmes.

You can buy a copy of Violet and the Smugglers or any of the other Violet books here or from your local bookshop!

And don’t forget…..Violet and the Mummy Mystery, the fourth book in this super series is out on August 10th 2017!


About Harriet Whitehorn

I was born and grew up in London, and still live here, which probably shows a great lack of adventure on my behalf.   I spend my time dreaming up new adventures for Violet and working on my new book, which is an adventure for older children set in another world.

You can find out more about Harriet on her website – www.harrietwhitehorn.com

Or why not follow Harriet on twitter – @deedeederota2

About Becka Moor

Becka Moor is a children’s book illustrator and storyteller living in Manchester. She studied illustration for children’s publishing at Glyndwr University, graduating in 2012. Since then, she has worked on a variety of fiction books and series as well as picture books.

She rents desk space in a stunning grade II listed building with other creative folk, has an obsession with cats and loves anything a bit on the quirky side.

You can find out more about Becka on her website – www.beckamoor.com

Or why not follow Becka on twitter – @beckamoor


A huge thank you to Harriet for such a fab post and to Simon and Schuster for asking me to host Harriet on my blog.

Have you read Violet and the Smugglers or any other Violet mysteries?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab a copy?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Five Favourite Scenes from Dougal Daley by Jackie Marchant


Today I am super excited to have a fab guest post from the author of a brilliant ne MG series, Dougal Daley:  It’s Not My Fault!

Dougal Daley:  It’s Not My Fault!  was released on the 4th April 2017 published by Wacky Bee Books and is available in paperback and is illustrated by Loretta Schauer!

So for my stop on this fab blog tour the brilliant author Jackie Marchant has recruited some fab people to share their favourite scenes from the book in this awesome guest post…..


I, Dougal Daley, am dead! Ok I’m not actually dead. But if I’m not careful I soon will be.

 In this first book, football-loving Dougal Daley finds himself at risk from the mysterious creature living in the garden shed. Nobody believes him but as a precaution, he sets upon writing his will – rewarding those who help him and disinheriting those who get on his bad side. Meanwhile, as limbs and windows alike are broken by rogue footballs and unhinged canines, Dougal finds himself in all sorts of trouble. . .and NONE of it is his fault!


Five Favourite Scenes from Dougal Daley

First of all, thanks Chelley for asking me to guest post on your blog.  Always happy to do the honours for anyone enthusiastic about books and reading!

Now, you’ve asked for my five favourite scenes from the first in my Dougal Daley series – It’s NOT my Fault.  So, I asked five random (well, sort of, in that I asked them first to give me their favourite scene – and here they are!  (In no particular order . . .)

From Kathryn Evans – the Bra Wrestling Scene:

“It’s Mrs Witzel’s fault. She really ought to know better than to lean over the fence to stroke the dog while she is hanging up her washing. Especially when she is holding a bra.”

Ah ha ha – we know what’s coming and are already chuckling in anticipation and the scene doesn’t disappoint. Honestly, these books are hilarious – tightly paced and very funny. It’s hard to combine writing slapstick humour with a taut plot but Jackie Marchant does it with fur on. And bras. Annoyingly brilliant. Wish I’d written it.

Kathryn Evans is the author of the award winning More of Me (Usborne) 

www.kathrynevans.ink        @mrsbung

From Jeanie Waudby – the Meeting the Creature in the Shed Scene

My favourite scene is the one in which Dougal closes himself in the shed to prove to his nosy neighbour that there’s nothing in there:

‘The smell was like our dog, but ten times worse. The noise was like the dog’s heavy breathing, but ten times louder. At first I could only see a large lump in the gloom, but then my eyes adjusted and I could see long, shiny black fur. And claws, even bigger than I remembered.’

I like Dougal’s stoical determination to get on with the job of looking after the creature in spite of all the difficulties. His ability to get into trouble at the same time as having such good intentions reminds me of Richmal Crompton’s William books – both are great if you want a laugh.

Jeannie Waudby is the author of One of Us (Chicken House) 

http://www.jeanniewaudby.com/    @JeannieWaudby

From Loretta Schauer – the Rabbit Droppings Scene

I like the scene where Dougal tries to give Mrs Grim a gift of rabbit droppings disguised as chocolate covered raisins.  But he’s caught and made to hoover the car as punishment, which means the cat escapes and is chased by the dog into Mrs Grim’s garden, who comes storming round to complain, slips and breaks her leg.  Dougal is grounded even though none of it was his fault – it was Sybil who tried to give him the rabbit poo raisins in the first place.

Loretta Schauer is the award winning illustrator of the Dougal Daley Series. 

  http://www.lorettaschauer.com/   @Loretta_Schauer

 From Louise Jordan – the Escaping Hamster and Crawling Ants Scene

I think if I have to pick a favourite scene I’ll go for the scene where the hamster escapes and hides behind Dougal’s Perspex boxed ants nest to get away from the cat, which alerts the dog, who picks up the ants’ nest and manages to break the box.  The ants crawl all over Sibble. I love the thought of Dougal giving all the ants names…ant 1, ant 2, ant 3 all the way to ant 196, when he had to stop counting because they all moving around and he may have counted some of them twice!

Louise Jordan is Queen Bee at Wacky Bee Books – publisher of the Dougal Daley Series

  http://www.wackybeebooks.com/  @WackyBeeBooks

From Stephanie Roundsmith, the dog, the zebra crossing and the tights scene:

Dougal Daley is one of the most loved books on the kidsreadwritereview reading scheme. The readable and fun writing style makes it widely accessible for younger readers, whilst the plot and characters keep children entertained from beginning to end.  Most children love the scene where the dog has eaten a pair of Mum’s tights and then squats on a zebra crossing in front of a queue of cars, while they ‘come out of the other end.’  They also love the handwritten notes from Dougal and his friends.

Stephanie Roundsmith is manager of the wonderful KidsReadWriteReview

http://www.kidsreadwritereview.co.uk/ :  @kidsrwreview

Thank you to Kathryn, Jeannie, Loretta, Louise and Stephanie!

You can buy a copy of Dougal Daley:  It’s Not My Fault here or from your local bookshop

Or why not add it to your Goodreads here


About Jackie Marchant

Dougal Daley was inspired by a messy bedroom and a random question from my son about writing a will. Dougal Daley has been huge fun to write about – you wouldn’t believe the disasters that happen around him (none of which are his fault of course)! When I’m not writing I love doing school visits and creative writing workshops. I also take time away from the writing world looking after guide dogs while their owners are away.

You can find out more about Jackie on her website – www.jackiemarchant.com

Or why not follow her on twitter – @JMarchantAuthor

About Loretta Schauer

I originally studied performing arts and have a degree in Dance Performance – well you never know when you need a quick pirouette! I also worked in practical conservation for a long time, and spent many years battling balsam, identifying lichen, and searching for creepy crawlies before I picked up my pencils and paints and began exploring illustrating and writing for children. In 2011 I won the Waterstone’s ‘Picture This’ competition and I now illlustrate full time. However I am still happiest noodling around for fossils and shells on the beach!

You can find out more about Loretta on her website – www.lorettaschauer.tumblr.com

Or why not follow her on twitter – @Loretta_Schauer


Blog Tour

You can catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Jackie for a fab guest post and to Faye Rogers for having me as part of this fab blog tour!

Have you read Dougal Daley:  It’s Not My Fault?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab a copy?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – My Top Five Inspirational Places Or Objects When Writing/Encouraging Creativity by Matilda Woods


I’m excited to be a part of the fab blog tour for a brilliant new MG Fantasy, The Boy,the Bird & the Coffin Maker which was released on the 4th May 2017 published by Scholastic.

#coffinmaker

“A stunning, literary and utterly original debut from author Matilda Woods”

Today Matilda tells us about her Inspirational Places Or Objects When Writing/Encouraging Creativity in this fab guest post……


Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora where fish fly out of the sea and everyone knows everybody’s business. There he makes coffins for the great and small, but being the only coffin maker in town can be lonely. That is until a little boy and a magical bird enter his life and change it forever. But can Alberto keep them safe from the town’s prying eyes and the arrival of a menacing stranger?


My Top Five Inspirational Places Or Objects When Writing/Encouraging Creativity

One of my favourite things about writing is that anyone can do it, no matter how much, or how little, money they possess. Here are five simple (and cheap!) things that help me to get words down on the page.

Pen and Paper (Cost = $5.00)

Words seem to come more freely when I write with pen and paper rather than on a computer. I don’t tend to use this form for an entire draft. Instead, I pull out the pen and paper when I’m really struggling to phrase a particular scene or chapter. All my favourite descriptions in THE BOY, THE BIRD AND THE COFFIN MAKER were first written with pen and paper.

Coffee, Tea and Tisanes (Cost = 10c a cup)

The first thing I do before sitting down to write in the morning is to get a cup of coffee. I’m usually really nervous when I start writing for the day – I’m scared that no words are going to come out – so having a cup of coffee distracts me and calms me down. In the afternoon I tend to switch over to green tea or berry tisanes. I always find that the sign of a great writing day is when I get so caught up in the words that my coffee or tea goes cold!

The Library (Cost = free!)

When I get stuck writing a story I like to leave it alone for a few days or weeks and read something else. I tend to steer clear of reading any stories that are in the same genre as the book I am currently writing. Otherwise, the author’s voice tends to creep into my own work. Instead, I will read something completely different, like a memoir or a Nordic crime novel. Seeing that other people have been able to finish their novel gives me the confidence to keep writing my own.

Candles (Cost = $2.00)

When I am writing a really important scene or one with a lot of imagery, I like to write at night by candlelight. There is something about the warm glow of the light that helps me forget my doubts and just write. A scene always seems to turn out a bit more magical when I have written by candlelight.

A walk (or run) with my dogs (Cost = free!)

From left to right: Hector (the slowest), Watson (the second fastest) and Luna (the fastest)

My all time favourite thing to do when I’m struggling to write is to take my dogs for a walk. I have three and they all walk at different paces. If I’m working on a particular scene I will walk my slowest. If I’m working on the plot I will walk the next quickest. And when I just want to clear my head and forget all about the story I will take my fastest for a run. Without my dogs I’m certain I would go insane!

The Boy, the Bird & the Coffin Maker by Matilda Wood is published 4 May 2017 by Scholastic Children’s Books

You can buy a copy of The Boy, the Bird & the Coffin Maker here or from your local bookshop!


About Matilda Woods

Matilda Woods lives in the Southern Tablelands of Australia, where there are no flying fish, but there is the world’s largest cement sheep. She currently lives with her four chickens, three dogs, two cats and one bird.

You can find out more about Matilda on her website – www.matildawoods.com

You can follow Matilda on twitter – @MatildaWrites


Blog Tour

You can catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Matilda for such a fab guest post and to Lorraine at Scholastic for organising and asking me to be part of the blog tour!

Have you read The Boy, the Bird & the Coffin Maker?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab a copy?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

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