Category Archives: Fantasy / Urban Fantasy

Guest Post – Top Fictional Vampires by Anna Wilson


Today I have a fab post to sink your teeth into in preparation for Halloween!

Meet Vlad The Worlds Worst Vampire a brilliant new MG children’s book by Anna Wilson which was released on the 7th September published by the wonderful Stripes Publishing.  All topped off with wonderful illustrations by Kathryn Durst.

So today I have the lady herself, Anna Wilson, with some of her top fictional Vampires…..


Vlad is the youngest member of the Impaler family, the bravest vampires that ever lived. But Vlad isn’t very brave at all. He’s even a little bit scared of the dark!

All Vlad wants is some friends and he thinks he knows just where to find them… Human school! So off Vlad goes, along with his pet bat Flit.

But how will Vlad keep his true identity secret from his new friends? Not to mention keeping them hidden from his family!

Life just got a lot more complicated…

A gentle and funny story of a little vampire who wishes he was human – this is DIARY OF A WIMPY KID meets Hotel Transylvania.


Top Fictional Vampires

Mona the Vampire – Nickelodeon

“Here’s a nice normal girl in an ordinary world. Show us your fangs! Hey, Mona!”

I loved watching this series with my kids when they were small. Mona is a child with an extremely over-active imagination – she likes to play at being a vampire with her friends. Or is she playing? The cartoon cleverly switches between what is real and what is imagined while leaving space for the viewer to make up their own mind. What I enjoyed most about the cartoon was that it seemed to say that imaginary play was as real as you wanted it to be – if you believed you were vampire that could defeat zombies, then you were a vampire that could defeat zombies! Mona uses her vampire skills to solve mysteries but also to help her cope with everything from school bullies to annoying teachers. I think she has inspired me in creating Vlad, who admittedly is not as good at being a vampire as Mona, but certainly needs his wits about him when he goes to human school.

Dracula – Bram Stoker

The ultimate vampire! This book was written well over one hundred years ago but is still read by fans of Gothic horror today. The author found the inspiration for his novel in Romanian folktales about a man called Vlad Dracula, nicknamed Vlad the Impaler. Vlad was a man renowned for his cruelty – legend has it that he drank the blood of his enemies to give himself strength. In fact there is little evidence to support this, although it seems he did enjoy having his dinner alongside the still twitching bodies of his slain enemies, which he had impaled on spikes, hence his nickname! Bram Stoker’s fictional character Count Dracula moves from his home in Transylvania to England where he does all the things we’ve now come to expect from vampires: he drinks a young girl’s blood and turns her into a vampire too; he turns into a werewolf and a bat and he has powerful hypnotic and telepathic abilities. He does not cast a shadow or have a reflection and prefers to travel at night when his powers are at their strongest. Some of these ideas have found their way into my own book, Vlad the World’s Worst Vampire, but as the title suggests, my little Vlad is pretty hopeless at all these “vampire skills”!

Twilight – Stephanie Meyer

This four-title series took the book world by storm with the publication of the first story in 2008. Teens fell for the charismatic 104-year-old vampire, Edward Cullen, who himself falls in love with a human girl, Bella Swan. Edward’s family no longer drink human blood, preferring instead to feast on the blood of animals. This means that Bella is not endangered by Edward in the same way as the girls in Bram Stoker’s book are by Count Dracula, and she and Edward are free to pursue their relationship. However, there are trials and tribulations aplenty, especially when other “newborn” vampires with more traditional views come along and try to sink their fangs into Bella to make her a vampire too. My character Vlad struggles with vampire traditions. He hates drinking blood, even though his parents don’t bite humans any more. They have their blood delivered by a blood donor van called Red Cells Express!

The Addams Family – TV series based on the cartoon by Charles Addams

I know, I know – this is not a vampire story! But I had to mention the creepy Addams Family because of the impact the television series had on me as a child. In any case, the little sister Wednesday Addams is so pale and strange she has always seemed quite vampiric to me. The cast of characters is much more varied than in a straightforward vampire tale, though – each Addams family member has his or her (or its!) own unique personality. However, they are all perfectly gruesome Halloween monsters in their own right. From Morticia, the witchy mother, to Cousin Itt, a tiny creature whose body is completely shrouded in hair, to Thing – a speaking, disembodied arm, there is enough here to make sure you don’t want to be watching the show alone on a dark and stormy night. But the show was also incredibly funny, and it was this mixture of the macabre with the amusing that I hoped to achieve my own stories. Also, if you know anything about the kooky, spooky Addams family, you won’t have any trouble at all in seeing where I got the inspiration for the names of some of my characters. Morticia just might have had something to do with Vlad’s mother being called Mortemia, for example. And the crazy personality of Uncle Gomez certainly influenced my creation of Grandpa Gory and Mulch the butler too.

You can buy a copy of Vlad The Worlds Worst Vampire here or from your local bookshop


About Anna Wilson

Anna Wilson is the author of humorous books for children. THE POODLE PROBLEM was chosen as a Richard and Judy Book Club title, and MONKEY BUSINESS and SUMMER SHADOW have been shortlisted for several awards. She lives in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire.

You can find out more about Anna on her website – www.annawilson.co.uk

About Kathryn Durst

Kathryn Durst loves working on children’s entertainment, publications, and media – especially children’s books and television series. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

You can find out more about Kathryn on her website –  www.kathryndurst.com


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Anna for a fab guest post and to Beth at Stripes Publishing for asking me to host.

Have you read Vlad The Worlds Worst Vampire?  Did you enjoy?  What did you love about it?  Who are your favourite fictional vampires?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the post or tweet me on twitter using @ChelleyToy !

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Top Ten YA Books by Cara Thurlbourn


I am over the moon to be part of the Fire Lines by Cara Thurlbourn, a fab new YA Fantasy, blog tour today with a fab guest post from the lady herself!

Fire Lines was released on the 26th September published by Bewick Press and looks absolutely fab!

So for my stop on the blog tour Cara is sharing her top 10 YA Books…..



When your blood line awakens, how do you choose between family and freedom?

Émi’s father used to weave beautiful tales of life beyond the wall, but she never knew if they were true. Now, her father is gone and Émi has been banished to the Red Quarter, where she toils to support herself and her mother – obeying the rules, hiding secrets and suffering the cruelties of the council’s ruthless Cadets.

But when Émi turns seventeen, sparks fly – literally. Her blood line surges into life and she realises she has a talent for magick… a talent that could get her killed.

Émi makes her escape, beyond the wall and away from everything she’s ever known. In a world of watchers, elephant riders and sorcery, she must discover the truth about who she really is. But can the new Émi live up to her destiny?


Top 10 YA Books

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

One of my most recent reads, recommended by my sister and devoured in a day. Totally unputdownable with a huge twist that I didn’t see coming (and I’m usually great at spotting twists!)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

I’m a sucker for an interesting narrator and The Book Thief certainly has that! I also love that against the very serious backdrop of The Second World War, Zusak celebrates books, words and freedom of expression.

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

I was given a copy of this book as a gift when I was perhaps thirteen or fourteen and that infamous first line “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink”, probably sums up all of my dreamy notions of being a writer.

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard 

Another relatively recent read of mine, I love the way Sara Barnard tackles the themes of friendship and mental health. It was also really refreshing to read something where the main focus was on the intricacies female friendship and not a romance.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Just adorable. Eleanor reminded me so much of me that it was almost painful at times. Probably my favourite read of the year.

Rebel of The Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

A fierce heroine and a blend of the wild west and fantasy, what’s not to love?! It also gives me severe cover envy with its sparkliness.

My Sister Lives On The Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher 

It’s quite a few years since I read this book but it still sticks with me as one of those ones that grabs you and doesn’t let go. I love the narrative and the way Annabel Pitcher cocoons her story in themes that are, sadly, very relevant today.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

I listened to this on audio on my commute to work and often had to delay getting out of the car because it was just too good! So atmospheric and full of mystery and intrigue.

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I love everything about this book, from the story itself to the physicality of it. The cover is stunning, the artwork on the pages is to die for and I can’t wait to get started on her latest The Island at the End of Everything.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Still mid-read but I can tell this will be one of my stand out books of the year. Another recommendation/lend from my sister and she’s rarely wrong with her tastes!

You can buy a copy of Fire Lines here 

Or add to your Goodreads list here


About Cara Thurlbourn

Cara Thurlbourn writes children’s and young adult fiction. ‘Fire Lines’ is her first novel and it’s a story she’s been planning since she was fifteen years old.

Cara has a degree in English from the University of Nottingham and an MA in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University.

She lives in a tiny village in Suffolk and has worked in academic and educational publishing for nearly ten years. Cara blogs about her author journey and in November 2016 she crowdfunded her first children’s book. 10% of its profits are donated to animal rehoming charities.

Cara plans to write at least two more books in the Fire Lines series, as well as a young adult mystery series, and has lots more children’s stories waiting in the wings.

You can sign up for Cara’s newsletter, for giveaways, updates and latest releases, here: www.firelines.co.uk

You can also follow Cara on twitter – @carathurlbourn


Blog Tour

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

 


A huge big thank you to Faye Rogers for asking me to host this fab piece and to Cara for writing it.

Have you read Fire Lines?  Did you enjoy?  What did you love about it?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the post or tweet me on twitter using @ChelleyToy !

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Teenage Nightmares by Mark Illis


Today I have a guest post from the wonderful Mark Illis with a fab guest post!

The Impossible, illustrated by Bimpe Alliu, was released on the 27th July published by Quercus and is “a comic-book inspired adventure with a graphic novel twist” that is not to be missed!

Today Mark chats about writing for teenagers and writing his first teenage novel, The Impossible in this fab guest post….


When Hector Coleman and his mates genetically mutate overnight, his life changes in impossible ways.

A comic-book inspired adventure with a graphic novel twist for fans of Joe Cowley, Joe Sugg and Charlie Higson.

Hector Coleman. Just your average angst-ridden teenager, living a normal rubbish life in a normal rubbish town with, let’s face it, a rubbish name. Until his mates start genetically mutating … and everything changes. Apart from his name. And his girl trouble. And his embarrassingly low number of Twitter followers. All those things, unfortunately, stay the same. For now …


Teenage Nightmares

Why does a 54 year old man want to write for teenagers? Because his inner teenager is alive and well, slouching on a bean-bag behind a closed door, smelling of stale sweat, in a bad mood about something, with his head in a book. He used to read The Famous Five, then The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Lord of the Rings, then he moved on to The Wizard of Earthsea, Lord of the Flies, To Kill A Mocking Bird and The Catcher in the Rye. That’s a pretty good reading list and I’d recommend it to anyone. It nourished my imagination, played a big part in turning me into whoever (whatever) I am today, but everything’s changed since then. The range of YA fiction has exploded over the last ten years or so, at roughly the rate of a zombie apocalypse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my children is on her way out of teenager-dom, the other is on his way in, so I’ve read a lot of it in recent years, and I’ve discovered a fantastic new world, one which gives me a thrill of excitement and also a sharp slap of recognition. Somewhere along the way, my inner teenager stirred, lifted his head out of his book, blinked and said ‘Wait, what?’ (Because that’s what teenagers say these days.)

So of course, YA and teen fiction was a pool I wanted to dive into. I wanted to write for my children, I wanted to write for my slouchy, smelly teenage self, and I wanted to explore the preoccupations that have never left me. As an adult I read graphic novels, watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer  and Marvel movies, and read novels like Station 11 and The Underground Railroad, both of which play interesting games with reality. All those influences feed into my writing for teenagers.

Since I crawled out of that bean-bag about 35 years ago, I’ve written four novels and a book of connected short stories, all broadly in the genre of literary fiction. That means that I had most of the tools I needed to write YA, because writing for teenagers requires exactly the same attention to character and language as writing for adults, but I also felt liberated, felt able to introduce a fantasy, science-fiction element. Mutations, aliens!

Writing my first teenage novel, The Impossible, was similar to writing a novel for adults, because it was a precarious journey into invented lives, an attempt to find the unique texture of those lives, to summon up something authentic, to imagine an experience that was never actually experienced. But writing The Impossible also surprised me in two ways.

First, I discovered that I like my teenage characters more than most of my adult ones. I like the challenge of trying to find teenage voices without seeming cringey or weird. I like their enthusiasm and their ennui, their humour and their seriousness (often at the same time), that unguarded, jagged quality which makes them vulnerable. The life buzzing and flickering like electricity in their dialogue.

And secondly, I discovered that writing for teenagers feels at least as personal as writing an adult, literary novel. The Impossible is about teenagers coping with change colliding with their lives. To return to that first question – why am I, a 54 year old bloke, writing about that? Because change collided with my life when I was a teenager. The sort of change that you have to integrate into your life and find a way to use, because the only alternative is to be crushed by it. That’s what I wanted to explore, extrapolate from and – kind of – celebrate.

The garish, weird monsters are metaphors. It’s what makes them effective and familiar and even, in a sense, plausible.

You can buy a copy of The Impossible here or from your local bookshop


About Mark Illis

Mark was born in London in 1963. He bought comics, watched Star Trek, went to see The Clash and loved reading and writing. He had some short stories published at university, and went on to do an MA in Creative Writing at UEA, where Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter were his tutors. That was a good year.

In his twenties Mark had three novels published by Bloomsbury, A CHINESE SUMMER, THE ALCHEMIST and THE FEATHER REPORT. He was also teaching English GCSE part-time, doing research for a charity called Shape, and then working as a Literature Development Worker, ‘raising the profile of literature in Berkshire.’ Exciting times. In 1992 Mark moved to West Yorkshire to be a Centre Director for the Arvon Foundation, after which he started writing for TV and radio. He has written three radio plays and has written for EastEnders, The Bill and Peak Practice. He wrote for Emmerdale for over a decade. He also wrote the award-winning screenplay for Before Dawn, a relationship drama with zombies.

Mark has taught writing in schools, libraries, universities, Reading Prison and Broadmoor Secure Hospital, and has run workshops in Hong Kong and Norway. He has taught more than 30 Arvon courses, has given readings at festivals from Brighton to Edinburgh, Cheltenham to King’s Lynn, and has reviewed for The Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator and Radio 4’s Kaleidoscope. He has recently been working for the charity First Story and for the Royal Literary Fund. He’s married with two children and a kitten and is still living in West Yorkshire.

His fourth book, TENDER, was published in 2009, and his fifth, THE LAST WORD, (shortlisted for The Portico Prize) in 2011, both by Salt.

In July 2017, his first Young Adult novel, THE IMPOSSIBLE, winner of a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015, will be published by Quercus. When teenagers in Gilpin start suffering from strange mutations, someone needs to find out what’s going on. Enter Hector, who’s suffering maybe the strangest mutation of all.

You can find out more about Mark on his website – www.markillis.co.uk

Or why not follow Mark on twitter – @markillis1


A huge big thank you to Emily at Quercus for asking me to host this fab piece and to Mark for writing it.

Have you read The Impossible?  Did you enjoy?  What did you love about it?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the post or tweet me on twitter using @ChelleyToy !

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – A Day In The Life Of Ruth Lauren by Ruth Lauren


Today I am thrilled to be part of the brilliant Prisoner Of Ice And Snow Blog Tour!

Prisoner Of Ice And Snow by Ruth Lauren was released on the 7th September 2017 published by Bloomsbury and is a brilliant MG Fantasy that will keep you gripped page after page!

Today the lovely Ruth Lauren gives us a little insight into her day in this fab guest post….



Valor is under arrest for the attempted murder of the crown prince. Her parents are outcasts from the royal court, her sister is banished for theft of a national treasure, and now Valor has been sentenced to life imprisonment at Demidova, a prison built from stone and ice.

But that’s exactly where she wants to be. For her sister was sent there too, and Valor embarks on an epic plan to break her out from the inside.

No one has escaped from Demidova in over three hundred years, and if Valor is to succeed she will need all of her strength, courage and love. If the plan fails, she faces a chilling fate worse than any prison …

An unforgettable story of sisterhood, valour and rebellion, Prisoner of Ice and Snow will fire you up and melt your heart all at once. Perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Cathryn Constable.


A Day In The Life Of Ruth Lauren

Being an author isn’t the first job I’ve had, but it is by far my favourite. In what other job do you get requests to choose the font for a letter that one of your characters wrote to another character? Or to send along a little voice recording of word and name pronunciations for the audio book narrator? This never happened when I worked in an office, I can tell you. I might write a pitch for an idea, or talk with my agent about next steps, or get something exciting like a book cover or news on a foreign sale in my inbox.

But of course, most days I don’t get an email asking for these things. Most days my inbox is just asking me to rate that blind I ordered or make a dental appointment. And most of the time, after I’ve dropped my kids off at school (that I get to do this every day is another perk of the job), I go home to sit in front of my laptop. Sometimes it really is just sitting, because a lot of my time is spent either daydreaming—when an idea for a new book isn’t nailed down yet—or solving problems, plotting out the trajectory of stories, thinking up twists and how/when to reveal them.

Other times, when I’m drafting a book, I spend most of the day actually writing (and not on the internet at all. Not that.) That could be an outline or some more detailed notes on a specific chapter, but mostly I try to add 1k words a day to whatever story I’m working on. Sometimes I’ll have to set that aside if my editor send a book back to me and I need to do another round of edits, or line edits, or copy edits, or . . . you get the picture, editing is a big part of my life!

And if I’m lucky, some days after I’ve finished my writing work, I get a lovely review from a young person who read PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW and liked it, and then I don’t mind that my inbox told me to make a dental appointment.

You can buy a copy of Prisoner Of Ice And Snow here or from your local bookshop

Or why not add it to your Goodreads shelf here


About Ruth Lauren


Ruth Lauren lives in the West Midlands in England with her family and a lot of cats. She likes chocolate, walking in the woods, cheese, orchids, going to the movies, and reading as many books as she can. She’s been a teacher and worked in lots of different offices, but she likes writing best. Prisoner of Ice and Snow is her debut novel.

You can find out more about Lauren on her website – www.ruthlauren.com

Or why not follow Lauren on Twitter – @ruth__lauren

And Instagram here


Blog Tour

Why not catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge big thank you to Bloomsbury and Faye Rogers for asking me to be part of this fab blog tour!

Have you read Prisoner Of Ice And Snow?  Did you enjoy?  What did you love about it?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the post or tweet me on twitter using @ChelleyToy !

Happy Reading!

Spotlight – The Salvation Project by Stewart Ross


Today, 20th June 2017, is the release day of a new YA Thriller published by Kindle Press, The Salvation Project by Stewart Ross the third book in The Soterion Mission!

The Salvation Project is a fab new dystopian YA that is not to be missed!

To celebrate The Salvation Project release I wanted to shine the spotlight on the book and it’s author.  There will also be a fab blog tour which starts tomorrow with a tour wide giveaway!


Humanity’s hope of salvation lies within a single laptop…

A mutation in human DNA means no one lives beyond nineteen. Scientists working to reverse this pandemic died before their Salvation Project was complete, leaving behind the results of their research in a sealed vault – the Soterion.

122 years have passed. The civilisation of the ‘Long Dead’ is almost forgotten, the Soterion has been burned to ashes, and communities of Constants are tormented by brutal tribes of Zeds. Cyrus, Miouda and Sammy flee their burning city with a laptop rescued from the inferno. They believe it contains the key to the Salvation Project. But its batteries are dead, there is no electricity to power it, and murderous Zeds will stop at nothing to get it back…

You can buy a copy of The Salvation Project here

Or why not add the book to your Goodreads list here


About Stewart Ross

Stewart was born in Buckinghamshire and educated in Oxford, Berkhamsted, Exeter, Bristol, and Orlando, Florida. He taught at a variety of institutions in Sri Lanka, the Middle East, the USA, and Britain before becoming a full-time writer in 1989.

With over 300 published titles to his credit, he is now one of Britain’s most popular and versatile authors. His output includes prize-winning books for younger readers, novels, plays, three librettos, a musical, and many widely acclaimed works on history and sport. Several of his books are illustrated with his own photographs.

Stewart also lectures in France and the UK, gives talks, runs workshops, and visits schools. He is an occasional journalist and broadcaster. His brother, Charlie Ross, is the celebrated auctioneer.

In his spare time Stewart enjoys travel, restaurants, sport, theatre, photography, art and music. He lives near Canterbury with his wife Lucy, and – occasionally – his four children and two grandchildren. Each morning he commutes 10 metres to work in a large hut in the garden.

You can find out more about Stewart on his website – www.stewartross.com

Or why not follow Stewart on twitter – @Booksmyth

Or Facebook here

And also You Tube here


Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Salvation Project by Stewart Ross

The Salvation Project

by Stewart Ross

Giveaway ends June 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 


Blog Tour

You can follow the fab blog tour for this book at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Faye Rogers for asking me to host the spotlight and having me as part of the fab blog tour!

Have you read The Salvation Project?  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 – 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!

Guest Post – Five Books To Inspire Children’s Imaginations By Cathryn Constable


I’m super happy to have a brilliant guest post from the wonderful Cathryn Constable today!

Cathryn is the author of the brilliant The Wolf Princess, one of the bestselling debuts of 2012. It swept the board with gorgeous reviews and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Specsavers National Book Awards.

Cathryn’s second book The White Tower was released on the 5th January 2017 published by Chicken House and is a wonderful middle grade read.

Alchemy meets dreamy reality in this new atmospheric adventure!

Today Cathryn talks about books to inspire children’s imaginations…..


When Livy’s accepted at Temple College, a school for the very brightest, no one is more surprised than her, though she has always felt different. Recently, Livy’s been drawn to the roof, where, among its towering stone angels, she has the strangest desire to fly. But her behaviour is noticed by others, for whom the ability to defy gravity is a possible reality … one that they’ll stop at nothing to use for their own ends.


Five Books To Inspire Children’s Imaginations

Everyone likes to bang on about how reading books (as opposed to text books or just texts) is soooo important for children but they can’t always say why. … My sense is that children who have consumed certain sorts of imaginative books have an adult life that is less grey and featureless and much more subversive as a child who has been allowed to create an intensely personal internal landscape hits adulthood with a sense of possibility and ‘what if?’ They’ve learned how to imagine things differently from how they are currently arranged or presented. There’s a very good reason why totalitarian regimes burn books.

Five books or even writers can’t be enough, though, to build a vivid internal landscape. E. Nesbit should be on any list along with Alan Garner. I would also add Catherine Fisher and Susan Cooper. My son adored Walter Moers… Really, the list is endless… But for those short on time, here are five of the best.

The If Game by Catherine Storr

Of course, I read Marianne Dreams as a child but did not discover this, or the equally unsettling The Mirror Image Ghost until I read them to my children. Storr is such an excellent writer, taking something so small and insignificant as a boy finding some keys which open secret doors into a world he doesn’t recognize but which forces him to confront the truth about his family.

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

I can still remember opening this book and reading that first sentence aloud to my son. ‘It was a dark, blustery afternoon in Spring and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.’ I had a sensation akin to vertigo because it was so surprising and so good. And the book just got better.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

The only American writer to make the list. This is the sort of book that stays with you; a lucid exploration of time and death and the consequences of immortality.

The Wind on the Moon by Eric Linklater

Batty but anarchic. Dora and Dorinda behave very badly indeed but it’s all very funny.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Totally thrilling, unputdownable and frankly very frightening. Part one of His Dark Materials trilogy, these books chart a child’s necessary and compelling journey from innocence to experience.

You can buy a copy of The White Tower here or from your local bookshop!


After reading Theology at Cambridge University, Cathryn Constable went on to work in magazine journalism, writing for Vogue, W, Elle, The Independent, Tatler and The Sunday Times, before realising her dream of writing stories for children. Cathryn is married with three children and lives in London.

You can find out more about Cathryn on her website – www.cathrynconstable.net

Or why not follow Cathryn on twitter – @kateconstable7 


A huge thank you to Cathryn for such a fab post and to Chicken House and Maura for organising!

Have you read The White Tower?  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!

Guest Post – Japanese Fantasy By Dan Walker


Love Pirates of the Caribbean? Then prepared to be swept away by this new swashbuckling adventure series.

Sky Thieves by Dan Walker is released today on the 6th April published by OUP and set to be full of swashbuckling adventure with book two being released later this year.

I’m over the moon to have the author himself on Tales today!

This book looks all the awesome!  Check out this fab book trailer below….

Today Dan chats about inspiration and Japenese Fantasy that inspired Sky Thieves in this fab guest post…


Love Pirates of the Caribbean? Then prepared to be swept away by this new swashbuckling adventure series.

Talented debut author, Dan Walker, creates an imaginative world where thieves sail the skies in flying galleons-an action-packed adventure of epic scale.

Zoya DeLarose has no idea her life is about to change forever when a band of sky thieves ‘steal’ her away from her orphanage, landing up in the clouds, on board The Dragonfly’s deck. There, Zoya discovers a world of meteorite storms, sword fights, midnight raids, floating islands, and long lost treasure. But with a deadly enemy closing in, will Zoya find the strength to face her fears and unlock the key to her destiny, or will she fall from the skies with no one left to break her fall?


Japanese Fantasy

One question asked of every writer at some point is where we get our ideas. There are a few ways, I think. Sometimes, stories pop up like toast from a toaster. The idea for The Hobbit came to J.R.R. Tolkien when he was grading exam papers and came across a blank sheet. Tolkien wrote down the first words that came to his head, (“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,”) and an entire world was born. Sometimes, stories come in dreams. At 16, C.S. Lewis dreamed of a half-man, half-goat creature scurrying through a snow-dusted forest carrying an umbrella and some parcels. Sometimes, stories are based on real-life. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was a childhood friend in all but name.

I got the idea for my first book, Sky Thieves, whilst sitting at my writing desk on a summer’s day, gazing up at the blue sky and wondering to myself ‘what would it be like if there were giant airships flying around?’

But the thing is, this is only half true.

In reality, the genesis for this story came decades earlier, back when I was running around in Bermuda shorts, taking books off my local library shelf, devouring them and going back for more. The genesis came later too, I suppose, when I’d go to the bookshelf in my cousin’s room and steal enough of his science-fiction books to last me the few weeks until I’d see him again. It came from all the films I watched, and the plays and pantomimes I saw, and the video games I played.

For me, computer games have always been a huge influence. Specifically, Japanese games. I can pinpoint the exact date of the start of this love affair. It was early 1998 and I’d hit that age where when my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said ‘money!’ Because of this, I had £40 to spend on a game for the Sony Playstation system I’d bought the year before. The big game of the time was Tomb Raider, the second of which had been released a few months before. Tomb Raider was made by Core Design, a company based in my hometown. Naturally, I planned to buy this. But a chance conversation with a friend at school opened my eyes to another game, one that has come to mean an enormous amount to an enormous number of people since. Final Fantasy VII. My friend’s passion for the game was so intense, particularly with regards to its story, that he won me over. I took my £40, marched to the nearest Woolworths and bought my copy.

This remains one of the best decision I’ve ever made, in that it revealed to me an entire avenue of storytelling I’d likely have missed had I not made the purchase. For those uninitiated, Final Fantasy VII is a role-playing-game, or an RPG, in which the player takes on the role of a character. Specifically, FFVII is a Japanese RPG. JRPGs normally take place in fantasy worlds. But these are not the fantasy worlds of the west – the elves and the dwarves, the trolls and the faeries. These are Japanese fantasy worlds, with exotic environments, strange mechanical weapons, huge mechanoid creatures and airships prowling the skies. The characters in JRPGs are normally young and naïve, tasked with saving the world without the skills to do so. Over the course of the story, they must develop these skills, and obtain the magic boon needed to face the final challenge.

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because it probably is. Indeed, with their young characters and richly-drawn fantasy worlds, JRPGs resemble modern kids stories. Phillip Pullman with his His Dark Materials trilogy springs to mind. But JRPGs have also influenced adult storytelling – with movies like the modern Star Wars films, Pacific Rim, Avatar and the Marvel movies all taking cues from Japan.

Of course, Japanese fantasy stories stretch beyond the confines of video games. Japan has its own fairy tales, its manga books and its colourful anime. It even has its own Disney in the shape of the academy-award-winning Studio Ghibli. I would encourage everyone reading this to explore the Japanese realm of fantasy storytelling.

You never know, in twenty years’ time you might find yourself staring up at the sky, dreaming of those stories you read two decades before, when an idea for a book pops into your head, and a new writer is born.

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


About Dan Walker

Dan lives smack-bang in the centre of the UK, just outside of a city called Nottingham, with his lovely, patient and supportive wife Dominika.

​Dan spent his childhood being dragged up and down the hills of the Peak District, frantically hammering away at computer games and raiding his cousin’s bookshelf for anything with a colourful cover. He later tricked the University of Derby into allowing him admission, before graduating with a degree in English. Since then, he has worked with a procession of wonderful people in bookshops, libraries and schools. He currently helps to run a specialist Autism centre.

​On the rare occasion you find Dan away from the computer, he can normally be found trying to tease a melodious sound out of his guitar, re-reading his favourite books for the eighty-eighth time or fighting off everyone nearby for the last blueberry in the pack.

You can follow Dan on twitter – @sky_thieves


A huge thank you to Dan for such an awesome post and to Hannah at OUP for organising and asking me to host!

Have you read Sky Thieves?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab copies?  Do you like fantasy computer games?   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 – Sweet Elixir by Laura Lam


I am super excited to have been asked to be part of the blog tour for this amazing book, Masquerade by Laura Lam!

Masquerade is the third and final novel in Laura Lam’s Micah Grey trilogy, following Pantomime and Shadowplay, and was published on the 9th March 2017.


 

 

 

 

 

 

I am super excited to have Laura on the blog today.  Each chapter of Masquerade contains an italicised header which relates to the book in some way. Laura dedicated a lot of time to researching and selecting each excerpt and I’m so honoured to be sharing one of them today, with a bit of explanation from Laura on what each means, where it’s from, etc.

If you buy Pantomime or Masquerade & send your receipt to Laura, you can claim a free 10k short story, “The Mechanical Minotaur,” set in the same world. If you buy all three, you can claim 60k of free fiction as well. More details here.


In a land of lost wonders, the past is stirring once more . . .

Gene’s life resembles a debutante’s dream. Yet she hides a secret that would see her shunned by the nobility. Gene is both male and female. Then she displays unwanted magical abilities – last seen in mysterious beings from an almost-forgotten age. Matters escalate further when her parents plan a devastating betrayal, so she flees home, dressed as a boy.

The city beyond contains glowing glass relics from a lost civilization. They call to her, but she wants freedom not mysteries. So, reinvented as ‘Micah Grey’, Gene joins the circus. As an aerialist, she discovers the joy of flight – but the circus has a dark side. She’s also plagued by visions foretelling danger. A storm is howling in from the past, but will she heed its roar?

Old magics are waking. But will the world survive their return?

Micah Grey almost died when he fled the circus with Drystan – now he and the ex-clown seek to outrun disaster. Drystan persuades his old friend Jasper Maske, a once-renowned magician, to take them in. But when he agrees to teach them his trade, Maske is challenged to the ultimate high-stakes duel by his embittered arch-nemesis.

Micah must perfect his skills of illusion, while navigating a tender new love. An investigator is also hunting the person he once seemed to be – a noble family’s runaway daughter. As the duel draws near, Micah increasingly suffers from visions showing him real magic and future terrors. Events that broke the ancient world are being replayed. But can Micah’s latent powers influence this deadly pattern?

The gifted hide their talents, but dare they step into the light?

Micah’s Chimaera powers are growing, until his dark visions overwhelm him. Drystan is forced to take him to Dr Pozzi, to save his life. But can they really trust the doctor, especially when a close friend is revealed to be his spy?

Meanwhile, violent unrest is sweeping the country, as anti-royalist factions fight to be heard. Then three chimaera are attacked, after revealing their existence with the monarchy’s blessing – and the struggle becomes personal. A small sect decimated the chimaera in ancient times and nearly destroyed the world. Now they’ve re-emerged to spread terror once more. Micah will discover a royal secret, which draws him into the heart of the conflict. And he and his friends must risk everything to finally bring peace to their land.

You can buy these books here

If you buy Pantomime or Masquerade & send your receipt to Laura, you can claim a free 10k short story, “The Mechanical Minotaur,” set in the same world. If you buy all three, you can claim 60k of free fiction as well. More details here.


Sweet Elixir

The thing about addiction is that I know it’s what will kill me. It won’t be a carriage in the road, or a common flu, or even the slow creep of cancer. It’s almost certain that Lerium will be what ends me. And there’s a strange, awful sort of comfort in that.

From the anonymous memoir of a Lerium addict, discovered and published post-mortem

Every chapter in the Micah Grey series has a short found document at the start, ranging from a variety of sources: history books, diaries, songs, poetry, and more. It’s basically a sneaky way to add in more worldbuilding and detail about Ellada & the Archipelago.

Addiction is a reoccurring theme in Masquerade.If anyone has read my tie-in Vestigial Tale “The Card Sharp,” it picks up on a lot of threads that are introduced in that novella. Lerium is the fictional drug within Ellada, which has clear parallels to opium in the 19th century. It was only used in very special religious ceremonies in one of the former colonies, Byssia, but Elladans took it and used it commercially because of colonialism. The colonies have long seceded from Ellada, reclaiming their independence, but the damage has been done. There’s another drug that’s sort of a continuation of Lerium as well, and it complicates a lot of character interactions within the final book. A little vague, but difficult to talk about the third book in a trilogy!

You can buy Masquerade or any of the Micah Grey Series here

If you buy Pantomime or Masquerade & send your receipt to Laura, you can claim a free 10k short story, “The Mechanical Minotaur,” set in the same world. If you buy all three, you can claim 60k of free fiction as well. More details here.


About Laura Lam

Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.

You can find out more about Laura on her website – www.lauralam.co.uk

Or why not follow Laura on twitter – @LR_Lam


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Laura for such a brilliant guest post and a fascinating insight into the trilogy!  And to Alice at Pan Macmillan for organising and sending me a copy of this fab book!

Have you read any of the Micah Grey Series?  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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