Category Archives: Guest Post

Guest Post – The Worst of Germs by Gwen Lowe

Today I am over the moon to have a fab post from Gwen Lowe author of Alice Dent and the Incredible Germs!

Alice Dent and the Incredible Germs was released on the 1st March 2018 published by the lovelies at Chicken House and is set to be a fab laugh out loud middle grade!

Today Gwen chats to us about the worst germs…..

When Alice Dent gets a cold, she has no idea how much trouble it’s about to cause. Because this is no ordinary cold: it comes with some seriously weird side effects. For a start, Alice can’t stop giggling and every animal she meets sticks to her like glue! But when the mysterious Best Minister for Everything Nicely Perfect and his scary masked henchmen come to take her away, Alice realizes her troubles are only just beginning …

The Worst of Germs

In my other job, (the one where I’m a doctor fighting the spread of nasty diseases), I sometimes get asked which germs are the worst.

It’s a good question, but almost impossible to answer. You see, what we worry about professionally might surprise you. It’s not usually the exotic diseases that cause the most problems, but the everyday bugs surrounding us.

In some ways we think a bit like Mrs Dent, Alice’s mother in Alice Dent and the Incredible Germs. Mrs Dent always thinks in terms of what nasty infection she might catch from anything. Unlike us though, she takes this to extremes and puts in place ridiculous and drastic control measures. Nevertheless, the science underlying her fear is real.

For example, if Mrs Dent could bring herself to shake hands, she would check that the offered hand had been properly washed after using the toilet. Hands can carry a zoo of faecal germs, including E. coli O157, a nasty little microbe causing diarrhoea with blood in up to half the people made ill and serious kidney failure in around 1 in 10 infected children. As a double whammy, it spreads very easily – even from people who feel perfectly fine.

Then there’s campylobacter; a common cause of tummy upset. People shrug it off as “just food poisoning”, but it often puts sufferers in hospital, may cause painful arthritis, and occasionally causes serious paralysis that can last for months. It is easily avoided by not washing uncooked poultry and correct cooking, but I imagine that Mrs Dent would take the precaution of treating raw chicken like deadly poison every time she handled it.

So you might guess how she would feel about salads – excellent for passing on all sorts of germs. I imagine that rather than just washing salad leaves well, Mrs Dent would banish all lettuce from the house.

Mrs Dent certainly knows that the most infectious diseases (measles, flu and chickenpox) are spread by coughs and sneezes. It only takes a short conversation with someone in the early stages of the illness and wham, you’re exposed. I tend to glare at anyone coughing near me who doesn’t cover their mouth (and swiftly move seats), but the only real defence is vaccination. If these viruses are circulating there’s nothing else you can really do to dodge them (except perhaps to stay at home like Mrs Dent and banish all visitors).

Whilst we’re at it, there are lots of other precautions you might take to avoid catching horrible diseases. I could suggest only swimming in boringly rectangular pools well away from any toddlers (helps to avoid cryptosporidium), never touching furry animals (list of diseases too long to mention) and banning reptiles (may carry salmonella).

Still, that would take all the pleasure out of life, and I’d hate to do that. To be honest, unlike Mrs Dent, I’m happy to swim, shake hands, pat dogs and cook poultry: I just wash my hands well afterwards!

ALICE DENT AND THE INCREDIBLE GERMS by Gwen Lowe out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

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

About Gwen Lowe

Gwen Lowe is a consultant Public Health doctor in Wales who describes her job as being like a medical detective. Working with a special team, she has to urgently discover what is making people ill and then stop it before anyone else gets ill too. Previously, she has been a hospital doctor and a GP as well as a hotel washer-upper, a restaurant table clearer and a postwoman. Married with a daughter, over the years she has found herself spending time with ever-changing pairs of rescue guinea-pigs, the school rats, elderly hamsters and other little creatures.

You can follow Gwen on twitter – @gwenllowe

A huge huge thank you to Gwen for such a superb guest post and to Laura at Chicken House for asking me to host!

Have you read any of Alice Dent and the Incredible Germs? What did you think? What was your favourite part? 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 – What’s At The Heart Of Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy

Today I am super excited to have the brilliant Vashti Hardy on Tales to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Brightstorm!

Brightstorm was released on the 1st March 2018 published by Scholastic and is set to be a thrilling adventure!

Today Vashti talks about what’s at the heart of Brightstorm in this fab guest post…

Twins Arthur and Maudie receive word in Lontown that their famous explorer father died in a failed attempt to reach South Polaris. Not only that, but he has been accused of trying to steal fuel from his competitors before he died! The twins don’t believe the news, and they answer an ad to help crew a new exploration attempt in the hope of learning the truth and salvaging their family’s reputation. As the winged ship Aurora sets sail, the twins must keep their wits about them and prove themselves worthy of the rest of the crew. But will Arthur and Maudie find the answers they seek?

What’s At The Heart Of Brightstorm (the character wants vs needs)

At the heart of every story are the things a character thinks they need and want, and the thing they actually need which they are unaware of, otherwise known as the lie and the truth. The story will have a tension between these things and the character arc and theme both centre on the inner conflict between this lie and truth.

When Arthur Brightstorm learns of the death of his father, he feels he’s lost the future, because of the way he’d seen things working out in life for the three of them – Ernest, Arthur and twin Maudie destined to sail sky-ships together as a family with Arthur navigating as second in command. This is exacerbated by the fact that Maudie’s future still seems so certain to him – he can see the gap that she fills in the world as her talents mean she is destined to be a great engineer, but for himself, Arthur can only see the gap left by his father’s death. What Arthur has to learn however, or his ‘truth’, is that his future is not lost it is just different, and he now needs to learn to ‘sail his own ship’. As Harriet tells him:

‘Control is an illusion. We never know what life will throw at us. You are the master of your destiny, Arthur, and you can still do those things. Your father is still with you inside.’

So whilst Arthur chases what he wants (the truth of what happened to his father), he also finds his inner truth even though he wasn’t looking for it; what he really needed was to learn that he still had a future, albeit a different one, but he had to go on the journey to see that he could continue to achieve this dreams in a world without his father. And by going on that journey he also finds something unexpected – a new unlikely family in the crew of the Aurora.

If you’re writing a story and are a bit stuck, try thinking about what your characters wants and needs are. Think about the tension between them and hopefully you’ll be well on your way to unlocking that all important story heart!

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

About Vashti Hardy

Vashti Hardy is a copywriter who lives near Brighton with her family. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Chichester University and previously studied on the Creative Writing Certificate at Sussex University. Very active on Twitter, she is an alumna of and mentor at the Golden Egg Academy.

You can find out more about Vashti on her website –

Or why not follow her on twitter – @vashti_hardy 

Blog Tour

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

A huge huge thank you to Vashti for such a superb guest post and to Olivia for asking me to host and be part of this fab blog tour!

Have you read any of Brightstorm?  What did you think?  What was your favourite part?  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 – Our Fantasy Coven by Katharine & Elizabeth Corr

Today I am excited to be part of The Witch’s Blood Blog Tour to celebrate the third and final book in the trilogy!

The Witch’s Blood by Katharine & Elizabeth Corr was released on the 8th March 2018 published by Harper Collins Children’s Books and is a must for any fantasy fan!

Today Katharine & Elizabeth are talking about their fantasy coven in this fab guest post…

Just who can you trust when no one around you is who they seem?

The final spell-binding book in THE WITCH’S KISS trilogy by authors and sisters, Katharine and Elizabeth Corr.

Life as a teenage witch just got harder for Merry when her brother, Leo is captured and taken into an alternative reality by evil witch Ronan. Determined to get him back, Merry needs to use blood magic to outwit her arch-rival and get Leo back. Merry is more powerful than ever now, but she is also more dangerous and within the coven, loyalties are split on her use of the magic. In trying to save Leo, Merry will have to confront evil from her past and present and risk the lives of everyone she’s ever loved. Given the chaos she’s created, just what will she sacrifice to make things right?

Our Fantasy Coven

‘Being a witch meant becoming familiar with hundreds of years’ worth of spells and techniques and history. Merry understood the necessity, sort of. She had to be able to cast spells with the other witches so she could become a full member of the coven. Witchcraft was a team sport. Or at least it was supposed to be.’

Merry, our main character in The Witch’s Kiss trilogy, has a love/hate relationship with the coven that she (sort of) belongs to. Excluded initially because her mum refuses to let her practise magic, Merry starts training to join the coven in The Witch’s Tears, but she chafes against the rules and restrictions. And the other coven members aren’t entirely comfortable being around Merry either, especially as her power grows. Still, the coven has an important part to play, for good or ill (no, we’re not going to tell you which!) before the end of The Witch’s Blood. We rather like the idea of having a bunch of powerful witch friends to hang out with, so we’ve decided to put together our own Fantasy Coven (limited to eleven witches, because it’s the closest we’re likely to get to picking a fantasy football team).

Granny Weatherwax (The Discworld books, Terry Pratchett)

One of our favourite Discworld characters, illustrated here by Paul Kidby. Granny Weatherwax is wise, really powerful, sharp as a scalpel, and always does the right thing. Not necessarily the nice thing, mind you. She would be brilliant as our coven leader and would have no trouble keeping the more morally ambiguous members in line.

Nanny Ogg (The Discworld books)

The brown sauce to Granny’s bacon sandwich. Nanny would be the one to keep an eye on the coven’s younger members, and she’d be sure to supply plenty of interesting ‘refreshments’ for those late-night coven meetings.


We’re plumping for the Angelina Jolie version here because a) she’s much nicer than in the Disney cartoon, b) she has cheekbones to die for and c) has wings. Super useful for when your broomstick breaks down.

Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter books, JK Rowling)

As the brightest witch in her generation (or probably almost any generation, let’s face it), we think Hermione would get on really well with Granny Weatherwax. Plus, we’d really like
to see Hermione as part of a team of powerful witches without any of those annoying (and, let’s face it, less talented) wizards hanging around.

Merry Cooper (The Witch’s Kiss trilogy)

Merry doesn’t have Hermione’s application and love of studying, but she is really powerful and she’s determined to take care of the people she loves. Definitely someone we’d like on our side.

Meg (from Meg & Mog, Helen Nicoll/Jan Pieńkowski)

Meg’s spells don’t always go to plan, but we’d still love to have her in the coven: for starters we’d get to pet Mog, which we’d love as we’re both cat people. Plus Meg has all the traditional witchy paraphernalia: cauldron, broomstick, black boots, black dress and pointy black hat. The quintessential witch.

Willow (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Super loyal, bookish and fun to hang out with, we think Merry and Willow would get on like a house on fire. Both witches are extremely powerful and at times find if difficult to exercise due restraint: but ultimately both seek to use their power to protect the ones they love. And you can’t blame them for that. Also, being in a coven might help Willow stay on the right side of the line when it came to magic; she has been known to dabble in some very dark spells…

Glinda the good witch (from The Wizard of Oz, L Frank Baum)

Glinda’s outfit choice literally makes pink the new black. We’d like our coven to be as blinged up as possible: sparkly ballgowns and jewel-studded broomsticks all the way. No sneaking around secretly for us! Also, unlike some of the other witches in our coven, Glinda has impeccable manners. She’d be useful when diplomacy is required.

Sally and Gillian Owens (Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman)

Confession time: we haven’t yet read the book on which the Sandra Bullock/Nicole Kidman film is based. Still, from the film version, we think these highly talented siblings would be good coven members: just like Merry and Leo, they’re absolutely devoted to one another, working best as a team. Plus, they have fabulous hair, a keen fashion sense and would certainly – along with Glinda – inject some much-needed glamour into the coven. Not a wart in sight.

Arianwyn (The Apprentice Witch, James Nicol)

Arianwyn is a little bit like Mildred Hubble: she gets off to a slow start, magically speaking. Failing her witch’s assessment, she’s sent off to the remote village of Lull to start life as an apprentice, somewhat in disgrace. However, just like Mildred, there’s much more to this resilient and courageous young witch than meets the eye. Not only is she fiercely loyal, considerate and kind, it turns out she’s way more powerful than anyone realised. All in all, she’s a real sweetie – the sort of witch who would definitely have your back.

Witches we definitely WON’T be letting into the coven: Jadis (aka the White Witch from the Narnia books by CS Lewis), Nancy Downs (The Craft) and Bellatrix le Strange (Harry Potter). We just don’t think any of them are really team players… But what do you think? Who would be in your fantasy coven?

Thank you so much to Michelle for being one of our blog tour hosts!

You can buy a copy of The Witch’s Blood here or from your local bookshop!

About Katharine & Elizabeth Corr

We are sisters and best friends (try writing a book with someone else and you’ll see why that last bit is kind of important). After spending our childhood in Essex, we now live ten minutes away from each other in Surrey. We both studied history at university and went to work in London for a bit. Then we stopped working to raise families, because somehow we missed the memo explaining that children are far more demanding than clients or bosses. When we both decided to write novels – on account of fictional people being much easier to deal with than real ones – it was obvious we should do it together.

Stuff Katharine likes: playing instruments badly; dead languages; LOTR; loud pop concerts; Jane Austen; Neill Gaiman; Loki; the Surrey Hills. Killing off characters.

Stuff Elizabeth likes: sketching, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, cinema, long baths, kitchen discos, Terry Pratchett, Thor, London. Saving characters.

Stuff we both like: YA / non-YA fantasy and science fiction,Star Wars, Star Trek, each other (most of the time).

You can find out more about Katharine and Elizabeth on their website –

Or why not follow them on twitter – @katharinecorr and @lizcorr_writes

Previously on Tales….

You can catch previous posts by Katharine & Elizabeth Corr by clicking on the below links…

Our Favourite Literary Curses

Our Favourite Magical Moments In Literature

Blog Tour

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

A huge huge thank you to Katharine and Elizabeth for such a superb guest post and for being so lovely to invite me onto the blog tour!  Also a huge thank you to Jess at Harper Collins for having me and sending me a copy of the book.

Have you read any of The Witch’s Kiss Trilogy?  What did you think?  Who would be in your coven?  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 – How I Found Baver and Angel by Amy Wilson

Following on from the fly away success of her debut novel, A Girl Called Owl last year I am honoured to have the magical Amy Wilson on Tales today to celebrate the release of her second YA books A Far Away Magic.

A Far Away Magic was released on the 25th January 2018 published by the lovely Macmillan Children’s Books and is set to whisk you off your feet.

Today Amy is chatting about her characters Angel and Bavar and how they came to be in this fab guest post….

When Angel moves to a new school after the death of her parents, she isn’t interested in making friends. Until she meets Bavar – a strange boy, tall, awkward and desperate to remain unseen, but who seems to have a kind of magic about him. Everyone and everything within Bavar’s enchanted house is urging him to step up and protect the world from a magical rift through which monsters are travelling, the same monsters that killed Angel’s parents.

But Bavar doesn’t want to follow the path that’s been chosen for him – he wants to be normal; to disappear. Fighting one another as well as their fears, Angel and Bavar must find a way to repair the rift between the worlds, and themselves, before it’s too late . . .

How I Found Baver and Angel

The first thing I knew about A Far Away Magic was that it had Bavar in it. He’d been in my mind for years, ever since I’d seen the tall, stooped figure of a boy leaving my local secondary school, alone and hiding behind his hair.

The second thing I knew was that Bavar lived in a huge old creepy house, where ancestors called his name from the walls. There was an aunt, Aoife, and an Uncle Sal, and there was magic.

Bavar and I had quite a few starts together before we found the right story. In my very first attempt, his words came to life around him, letters floating like little clouds everywhere he went. I kind of liked that idea, but it didn’t lead me anywhere. So we were stuck. He just mooched around in my head, for a long time, while I became increasingly interested in how we see others, how we perhaps think we know a person, solely based on how they look, the way they walk and talk, and how many of us carry our scars and differences on the inside.

That, I think, is how Angel came about. She looked like a perfectly normal girl, but she’d been through something that made her as different as Bavar, only instead of that being an external thing, it was internal. From the outside, they might look like Beauty and the Beast, but in fact they are both beautiful, and both beast. It’s when they come together that they begin to sort that out for themselves; to challenge the monsters, and the world’s perception of them.

As soon as Angel came in with her own dark backstory, Bavar and I were moving. She brought the fight, and the desire for change, and she gave Bavar a reason to do the same, and she brought the fight to me too; I had to find a way to make it all okay for them – at the very least, for them to be okay with them.

You can buy a copy of A Far Away Magic here or from your local bookshop

About Amy Wilson

This is me, with my cat Ivy on my shoulder (!) and with my headphones on, mid-writing. I quite often write with music playing, and I wear my headphones even if the sound is off, because it blocks out some of the background noise and helps me to feel like I’m in my own world.

I spend a lot of my time at home writing and looking after various animals and children. I’ve always loved to write, and I feel very lucky that now, after quite a few years of bashing away, it is my job.

I have a background in journalism and live in Bristol. I’m a graduate of the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing. A Girl Called Owl was my first novel, my second, A Far Away Magic, is out now, and I’m now working on my third!

You can find out more about Amy on her website –

Or why not follow Amy on twitter – @AJ_Wils

A huge thank you to Amy for such a fab post and insight into her characters.  Also a huge thank you to Jo at Macmillan Children’s Books for asking me to host.

Have you read A Far Away Magic?  Are you intrigued?  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 – Inspiration by Emma Craigie

Today is my stop on the fab #YAShot2018 Blog Tour and I have been paired with the wonderful Emma Craigie! YA Shot is an author-run, author-led Young Adult and Middle Grade festival that raises the money and resources to run a year-long programme pairing libraries and schools for free author events to foster a love of reading, inspire a passion for writing, and encourage aspirations to careers in the Arts. We believe in equal access to books and opportunities for all – YA Shot brings UKYA and UKMG authors together to pursue that goal, supporting libraries and young people across the country.

So for our stop I wanted to get to know Emma and her books a little more and to find out a little about her inspiration….

The cutter came last night. I recognized her: her black clothes, her narrow face and the yellow whites of her eyes. 15-year-old Zahra has lived in England most of her life, but she is haunted by memories of her early childhood: the warm sun and loud gunfire, playing with her older sister in the time before “the visitors” came. It is hard to make sense of everything that happened, and it feels impossible to talk about, but when three eerily familiar women arrive unexpectedly for tea Zahra realises that the dangers of the past could still destroy her. What Was Never Said is the powerful story of a girl navigating the demands of two very different and conflicting worlds; a tale of surviving loss and overcoming fears.

Helga’s childhood as the eldest of five children in Germany’s First Family has been a gilded one, accompanying her parents to parties and rallies, moving between the city and their idyllic country estate. But the war has changed everything. And now, as defeat closes in on the Germans, Helga must move into a bunker in the heart of Berlin with her family and key members of the crumbling Nazi leadership – to be with their beloved Hitler. There is chocolate cake for tea every day with Uncle Leader, but Helga cannot help noticing that all is not well among the grown-ups. As each day passes, her underground world becomes increasingly tense and strange. There are tears and shouting behind slammed doors, and when even the soldiers who have been guarding them take their leave, Helga is faced with a terrible truth. Perhaps her perfect childhood has not been all that it seemed…


What Was Never Said is the story of a teenage girl who has to confront a painful past in order to protect herself and her younger sister.   Zahra and her family have come to England to escape war, but there are secrets in the family, and as her parents’ plans become clear, Zahra realises her new life is no longer safe.

The idea for What Was Never Said came into my head on a Saturday morning in July in 2012.  I was sitting in a huge auditorium in Bristol University when a skinny boy stepped across the stage in front of a long row of adults – health and legal experts from across the world – and came to the front holding a hand mic.  The hall fell silent as he began to speak:

You don’t understand how weird it is to be standing here as a MAN, yes, not a boy, a man, from my community, talking about Female Genital Mutilation.  Believe me, Somali men never talk about womens bits, even amongst themselves.

The audience laughed uncomfortably.   I squirmed inwardly.  I had met this boy a couple of times. His name was Mukhtar Hassan, he was 14 years old and a member of Integrate Bristol – –  a group which facilitates campaigns by young people.  Integrate had organised this conference,  the first ever international conference about Female Genital Mutilation, and my immediate feeling was that they had got it wrong.  Muhktar’s words were embarrassingly slangy.  “Bits” made me cringe –  not a word, I felt, which should be spoken in such a formal setting.   I held my breath, hoping things would get better.

I had met Muhktar, his older sister Muna, and the other young members of Integrate when I was doing research for a novel about a group of young friends from different religious backgrounds.    Like many young people in East Bristol they came from a Muslim Somali background – a community where FGM is still often practised.   I was really interested in the boldness and clarity of their campaign.   I didn’t know much about FGM but I soon learnt from them.  FGM is defined as non-medical surgery on the female genitalia. There are a number of different types, all of which cause tremendous pain, bring a risk of infertility and death, and deprive women of sexual enjoyment.   FGM has been carried out in some parts of the world for thousands of years, and is estimated that there are over 200 million women and girls alive today who have undergone some form of it.  It  The World Health Organisation estimates that there are 3 million girls at risk of FGM every year.   These young people were – are – determined to end it and had brought together international experts to determine how that could be done.

Muhktar continued on the failure of Somali men to talk about ‘women’s bits”:

… perhaps thats the problem.  Too many people have been quiet for too long.  But the point is IF FGM is to stop, and it HAS to stop, then everybody, regardless of gender or race, has to take a stand.  I stand here as a brother, a cousin, a son, and a future father… hopefully.  I also stand here as a friend and a human being.

I breathed out. The audience applauded loudly.  Muhktar had not got it wrong.  He had got it completely right.  He had made us uncomfortable and challenged us to overcome that discomfort.   Up to this point, I thought, like many people, that FGM was a bad thing, but that it was not my problem.   Muhktar changed my perspective.   If a 14 year old boy could stand up in front of hundreds of people and talk about “women’s bits” , I could stand up too.   Suddenly the centre of my novel shifted.   I had found the story which I needed to tell.

Chocolate Cake with Hitler is a novel which tells the true story of the children of the Nazi Joseph Goebbels.

Chocolate Cake With Hitler also started with a sudden realisation.    I had long known that at the end of World War 2 Hitler hid in an underground bunker.  I remember picturing it when I was a child, imagining Hitler lying flat in some kind of coffin shaped rabbit hole, hiding from his advancing enemies.   It must have been shortly afterwards that I heard of the fact that Eva Braun, his wife, was with him, as I can remember trying to squeeze her into this imagined bunker.   But it was much later,  long after I understood that the bunker was a concrete network of rooms, full of soldiers and secretaries, and cooks and nurses and doctors, that I learnt that there were six children down in the bunker with him.  And when I realised this, I couldn’t believe it was so little known that there had, at that point, never been a book about them.

There were five girls and one boy, aged between 4 and 12.  The children of the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda.   10 days before Germany surrendered, they had decided to show their loyalty to the Fuhrer by joining him underground in Berlin.  They knew the defeat of Germany was inevitable – but that was not what they told the children.   They pretended that they were joining their leader so that they would be with him for the imminent victory celebrations.

I started reading every account I could find of Hitler’s bunker.  The children rarely got a mention.  The person who gave them most attention in her account of her days in the bunker was one of Hitler’s secretaries, Traudl Junge.   There was a particular paragraph in her memoir, Until the Final Hour, that haunted me, and was the inspiration for telling the story of the Goebbels children from the perspective of 12 year old Helga.

Junge wrote that during their time in the bunker the children were on the whole “happy and cheerful…”  They spent their time playing in the bunker corridors and once a day drank hot chocolate and ate chocolate cake with Hitler, often singing German folk songs to him.  Junge tells us, “They knew nothing of the fate awaiting them, and the adults did all they could to keep them unaware of it… Only the oldest, Helga, sometimes had a sad knowing expression in her big, brown eyes… Sometimes I think with horror that in her heart the child saw through the pretence of the grown-ups.”

I was the oldest of five children, and I remember being 12.  It was an odd age – my younger brothers and sisters suddenly seemed very childish, but my parents and their friends were no more interesting to me.  I could hardly bear to imagine a world in which the parents were planning to kill you, and none of your siblings had any idea.   But then I couldn’t bear not to.








You can buy a copy of Emma’s books here or from your local book shop!

Chocolate Cake With Hitler was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie medal and the Financial Times / Authors Club First Novel Award.

What Was Never Said was also nominated for the CILIP Carnegie medal and is a White Raven Book. 

About Emma Craigie

Emma Craigie is a writer and teacher.  She lives in Somerset.

Her most recent novel, What Was Never Said, was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016 and selected for the White Ravens Catalogue .

You can find out more about Emma on her website –

Or why not follow Emma on twitter – @craigieemma


With thanks to the lovely people at Short Books myself and YA Shot have a copy of each book to giveaway to one lucky winner!







You can enter via my twitter here

UK Only

Ends 10/03/2018

Good Luck!

Blog Tour

Make sure you follow the rest of the fab YA Shot 2018 Blog Tour!

A huge thank you to Emma for such a fab post which has made me super intrigued to go and grab these books and to Short Books for the giveaway.  Also a huge thank you to YA Shot for having me and for pairing me with Emma.

Have you read any of Emma’s books?  Are you intrigued? Are you going to YA Shot?  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 – How Sunflowers In February Came To Be by Phyllida Shrimpton

Today I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to have the lovely Phyllida Shrimpton here on the blog with a fantastic guest post all about the amazing Sunflowers In February!

Sunflowers In February was released on the 8th February 2018 published by Hot Key and everything about it looks absolutely stunning and perfect!

As Phyllida Shrimpton is our #BritishBooksChallenge18 debut of the month I also have a brilliant giveaway!

So sit back and find a little bit more about Sunflowers In February…..

Lily has died in a car accident. The trouble is, Lily’s really not at all sure she wants to ‘move on’ . . . This funny, heartbreaking novel is perfect if you loved John Green or The Lovely Bones.

Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road.

She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. And very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance, arrive and she sees her own body that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead.

But what is she supposed do now?

Lily has no option but to follow her body and sees her family – her parents and her twin brother – start falling apart. And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . .

A moving, startlingly funny and yet achingly sad debut novel from a stunning new talent.

How Sunflowers In February Came To Be

Two things happened thirty eight years ago when I was fifteen years old.

One, my English teacher told me I would write a book. Two, I woke one morning knowing instantly that the vivid dream I’d just had would form the plot for said book.

Why did I wait thirty eight years to write it and get it published? It’s easy…severe procrastination served with a dollop of no confidence! In the words of Joan Konner, “Procrastination always gives you something to look forward to.” Hence I lived by that very motto, telling myself, ‘yeah one day I’m going to write a book!’ followed immediately by ‘but what if that book is rubbish?’

So what happened to force me into ditching the negatives? Basically, The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver happened. I suddenly realised that other authors were treading dangerously close to my I’m dead but I’m still here idea and if I didn’t get a move on I’d have to ask the sleep Gods to give me another dream to work with.

Although containing a few hot topics such as bullying, drugs and gender, Sunflowers in February focuses mainly on life, death and mindfulness. I have often wondered, what would any of us do if, faced with death, we could live one more day but at the expense of someone we love? Would we take that day, but want another after that? Would we do all those things we always think we’ve got time to do? Would we then have the courage to give it up and face the unknown?

 “I wish I had the chance to die knowing I have really lived”

The whole book is really an extension of that one line, uttered by my protagonist Lily, who is watching her own funeral. It is a letter to my fifteen year old self, and one which I wanted to pass on to my own teenage daughter and any young readers who may find themselves reading Sunflowers in February.

You can buy a copy of Sunflowers In February here or from your local bookshop

About Phyllida Shrimpton

Disastrous cook, chaotic parent, disorganised wife, terrible giggler, and survivor of writing a book from underneath a 60kg Newfoundland lap-dog.

You can follow Phyllida on twitter – @shrimpyshrimpy1


With thanks to the lovely people at Hot Key I have 3 copies of Sunflowers In February to giveaway to 3 lucky winners!

You can enter this giveaway by my twitter here

UK Only

Ends 28th February 2018

Good Luck!

A huge thank you to Phyllida for a brilliant guest post that has made feel so inspired and to Imogen and Tina at Hot Key for embracing the #BritishBooksChallenge18 debut of the month and giving me some fab books to giveaway!

Have you read Sunflowers In February?  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 – Top 5 Mythical / Legendary Creatures by Sinéad O’Hart

Today I am thrilled to have the wonder Sinéad O’Hart on the blog to celebrate the release of her debut novel, The Eye Of The North.

The Eye Of The North was released today, 8th February 2018, published by the lovelies at Stripes – Happy Book Birthday Sinéad!

Basically if you like brilliant MG adventures then this book is perfect for you!

So today Sinéad is chatting about her Top 5 Mythical / Legendary Creatures in this fab guest post….

Emmeline Widget has never left Widget Manor – and that’s the way she likes it. But when her scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself being packed off on a ship to France, heading for a safe house in Paris. Onboard she is befriended by an urchin stowaway called Thing. But before she can reach her destination she is kidnapped by the sinister Dr Siegfried Bauer.

Dr Bauer is bound for the ice fields of Greenland to summon a legendary monster from the deep. And he isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The Northwitch has laid claim to the beast, too.

Can Emmeline and Thing stop their fiendish plans and save the world?

A dazzling fantasy adventure, perfect for fans of ROOFTOPPERS, THE UNCOMMONERS and A


Top 5 Mythical / Legendary Creatures

Growing up in Ireland, I was raised on stories of the Fair Folk, or the Sídhe – the fairies who lived under the oddly-shaped hills you sometimes see in the middle of fields. Farmers avoid them; they’re never built on; cows are not allowed to graze on them. This is all because of the power of the Fair Folk who, despite their name, are not fair at all! Some say that when the Milesians drove the old gods out of Ireland, the Fair Folk were the few who got left behind. But who knows the truth?

I also love Norse mythology, and one of my favourite mythical creatures from that tradition is Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse belonging to Odin, the leader of the Norse gods. Odin was also called the All-Father, among lots of other names. I always thought it would be amazing to have a horse with eight legs – surely he’d be able to run twice as quickly as an ordinary horse! The Æsirsmounts in The Eye of the North, horses who are able to run on the surface of the ice (and do lots of other marvellous things, besides) are based on the idea of Sleipnir, Odin’s magical horse, though none of them (that I know of) have eight legs…

Dragons have long been one of my favourite mythical creatures. I love Smaug, the dragon in JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit – but the first dragon I ever ‘met’ was Falkor, the luck dragon, from Michael Ende’s book The Never-Ending Story. It was made into a fabulous film when I was a little girl, and I loved watching him in that. I love the power and majesty of dragons in the Western tradition, and I particularly enjoy the fact that they’re seen as symbols of good luck and joy in the Eastern tradition.

I love giants. I don’t know why: perhaps it’s because I’m short and I wish I wasn’t! In the medieval texts I studied at university, there was a story about a giant who is kind and loving and compassionate towards animals, despite being huge and terrifying to look at. His outside doesn’t match his inside, and it was a lesson not to judge people by how they look. In Norse mythology, giants are skilled builders. And, of course, there’s Hagrid! Who doesn’t love him?

One of my favourite books of all time has a unicorn called Findhorn in it, and another film I loved when I was a small girl is also about unicorns. It was based on a book, too: Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. There’s something wonderful and awe-inspiring about unicorns; they’re so beautiful, yet they have the potential to be deadly. They’re the wildest creature I can think of!

You can buy a copy of The Eye Of The North here or from your local bookshop!

About Sinéad O’Hart

Sinéad O’Hart was raised in a small house full of books in the south-east of Ireland. She has a degree in Medieval English and has had many careers (including butcher, bookseller and university lecturer) before finally following her dream of becoming a children’s author. She now lives in County Meath, near Dublin, with her husband, their daughter, and an ever-expanding book collection.

You can find out more about Sinéad on her website –

Or why not follow her on twitter – @SJOHart

Blog Tour

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

A huge thank you to Sinéad for such a fab guest post and to Beth at Stripes for organising and asking me to host!

Have you read The Eye Of The North?  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 – Characterisation by Ella Harper

I am over the moon to have the wonderful Ella Harper on Tales today to celebrate the release of If I Fall her new adult contemporary romance.

If I Fall is published in ebook by the lovely people at Canelo and is an unputdownable and emotional novel about love, loss and friendship.

So today Ella shares a fab guest post about Characterisation…..

I’m really sorry for what I’m about to do…

It’s fifteen years since graduation, and Connie, Jonas, JJ and Layla have managed to remain close despite the odds. They’ve supported each other, but are some things too big for friendship?

Connie is desperate to maintain the veneer of perfect family life.

Jonas is feeling the pressure at work.

Layla’s career is unravelling thanks to her ill mother

JJ’s past is catching up with him.

When they stumble and fall, who will be there to catch them?

A truly powerful and unforgettable story of love, friendship, and real life, If I Fall is perfect for readers of Alice Peterson, Amanda Prowse and Lianne Moriarty.

Praise for Ella Harper:

‘You won’t be able to stop reading’ Heat Magazine

‘Such a beautifully heart-breaking novel, written with such poise, strength and power.’ The Writing Garnet

I couldn’t put it down. I went without sleep to finish this book… If I Fall would definitely make my 2018 must-read list‘ Writerly Ways

Highly recommended, but be prepared for tears!’ Stardust Book Reviews

‘This book was heartbreaking but beautiful…Such a joy to read, while holding back tears’ Til Then Smile Often

‘Only very rarely does a book come along that captures me and engages me as much as this one did… But don’t despair, the ending was uplifting and filled with promise’ Bookish Bits

‘I finished the book with a whopping big lump in my throat but with joy in my heart’ JaffaReads

‘Wonderful, heart-breaking and poignant… The story touched me to the core with its deeply moving plot, beautiful characters and a unique, inspiring and insightful plot’ Read Day and Night

‘A great book to curl up with’ Daily Mail

‘I had tears in my eyes’ Bookworms and Shutterbugs

‘A beautiful emotional story… I shed quite a few tears while reading this book. It’s a marvellous must-read’ With Love for Books

‘I have a feeling this book will stay with me for a long time’ Lilac Mills

‘Warm, perceptive and razor sharp. It’s everything you want from a novel’ Veronica Henry


Back in the day, when I was first writing (as myself, Sasha Wagstaff), I used to have detailed notes about all of my characters. And when I say ‘detailed’, I really mean that. I would devote pages and pages to my characters – where my character shopped, what perfume they wore, their fashion sense, their food preferences.

Now, I spend just as much time working out who my characters are, but I keep neat, concise notes – roughly half a page long – which I check and add to as I’m working through the novel. I think the difference these days, is that I am more in tune with my characters once I’ve invented them. The one thing I spend a great deal of time deciding upon is the names of my characters. I use a really good baby naming book and I enjoy finding the right names for my cast. I was able to use far more flamboyant and unusual names in my earlier novels as they were escapist and set in glamorous locations, but for my Ella Harper novels, I use more relatable, normal names. But they still have to be absolutely right! Occasionally I start writing the novel using a certain name and decide halfway through that it isn’t sitting right for whatever reason and have to dig my baby naming book out again.

But apart from the name issue, I do find that my characters form themselves in more mind more readily now and I don’t feel the need for such detailed notes. I am aware mentally of each character’s personable style and behaviour and they feel very real to me from the off-set. If anything changes about them as I’m writing, I jot it down, but by and large, I flesh them out at the beginning and get their back story laid out. I remember when I was writing ‘The Years of Loving You’, I struggled with writing the present day and my very lovely editor suggested that I didn’t write in chronological order for once, but wrote the entire past and back story first. It was a revelation as I am a very ordered person and that seemed bizarre to me – but it worked! Once I had written the past, the present became obvious and clear to me and I knew who my characters were and how they would act in the present day. The beauty of a fabulous editor!

But I think the most important part of characterisation is making sure that each character is real and relatable to the reader. That their actions and thoughts are authentic. This is more important than the perfume or aftershave they might wear, although that may get a brief mention. Each character should be true to themselves and act in a way that seems fitting with the personality and history described. I miss my characters when I finish a novel – and I mean that, genuinely. I get very involved in their lives and they are real to me. And then I start all over again with a new novel…

You can buy a copy of If I Fall here

About Ella Harper

Ella Harper learned foreign languages, and imagined she might eventually get a glamorous job speaking French. After climbing her way up the banking ladder, Ella started idly mapping out the beginnings of a novel on an old laptop. When she realised her characters were more real to her than dividends and corporate actions ever could be, she left her job to become a writer.

You can follow Ella on twitter – @Ella__Harper

Blog Tour

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

A huge thank you to Ella Harper for such a fab guest post and to Ellie at Canelo for organising and asking me to host!

Have you read If I Fall?  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 – My Writing Process by S.D. Robertson

Today I am over the moon to have the brilliant S.D Robertson on the blog with a fab guest post to celebrate the release of his new uplifting adult fiction book, Stand By Me,

Stand By Me was released on the 11th January 2018 published by Avon Books and is set to be a beautiful heart-breaking tale that you won’t want to put down.

Today S.D Robertson is sharing an insight into his writing process in this fab guest post….

They’ll always have each other…won’t they?

Lisa and Elliot have been best friends ever since the day they met as children. Popular, bright and sporty, Lisa was Elliot’s biggest supporter when the school bullies made his life a misery, and for that, he will always be grateful.

Twenty years later, life has pulled the pair apart and Lisa is struggling. Her marriage is floundering, her teenage kids are being secretive, and she’s so tired she can’t think straight. So when Elliot knocks on the door, looking much better than she remembers, she can’t help but be delighted to see her old friend again.

With Elliot back in their lives, Lisa’s family problems begin to improve – he’s like the fairy godmother she never had. As their bond deepens, she realises how much she’s missed him, and prays that this is one friendship that will last a lifetime. But sometimes, life has other ideas…

A heartwarming story perfect for fans of Keith Stewart and Jojo Moyes, that will leave you with a tear in your eye but hope in your heart.

My Writing Process

One of the things I’ve been asked about most frequently since becoming a published author is my writing process.

This is something that seems to fascinate a lot of people, but particularly keen readers and would-be novelists.

I can understand why, as in creating a work of fiction you are essentially making something out of nothing, which sounds a bit like magic.

There is an element of that, to be honest, especially in those moments of inspiration that appear out of nowhere and slap you around the face, often when you’re least expecting them.

I imagine most authors have experienced these at some point. I certainly have and, at their best, they’ve literally sent shivers of excitement down my spine about the thrilling, fresh new direction I can suddenly see for my work in progress.

Who knows where these flashes of ingenuity come from? It’s great when they appear, though. It’s right up there with seeing the product of your imagination on a shelf in a bookstore and hearing from a reader who loves your work.

Now I wish I could tell you that whole books are written like that, in a frenzied flood of dazzling prose and unique ideas that leap fully formed out of your fingers.

Sadly, that isn’t my experience so far in the years I’ve been writing novels. For every eureka moment I’ve enjoyed, there have in contrast been many hours of hard work, frustration and perseverance.

And that in a nutshell is my experience of the writing process: lots of blood, sweat and tears with the odd joyous moment of punching the air.

Starting a novel is easy. Lots of people have done that. Finishing it is hard, which is why I always have the greatest respect for anyone who’s got all the way to the end, whether it goes on to be published, self-published or (hopefully not) just to gather dust on a shelf somewhere.

So how, as an unpublished would-be novelist, do you make sure you cross the finish line? Here are my five top tips:

  • Start with some kind of plan. It doesn’t need to be that detailed, but try to have at least a start, middle and end in mind.


  • Keep character profiles to refer back to, adding to them as you go along.


  • Write as often as you can, preferably daily.


  • Always look forward. Avoid the temptation to read back what you’ve already written, unless absolutely necessary, until you’ve reached the end.


  • Don’t overthink the writing process or you’ll never end up actually writing. I find it’s best to get on with it and watch things unfold around you. It won’t always be easy. In fact it will often feel like hard work, but if you keep at it you’ll hopefully encounter a few moments of genuine inspiration along the way. If not, at least you’ll have a finished manuscript to polish. And let’s be honest, without that, your chances of becoming an author are zero.

You can buy a copy of Stand By Me by S.D. Robertson here or from your local bookshop!

About S.D.Robertson

Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his role as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist.

An English graduate from the University of Manchester, he’s also worked as a holiday rep, door-to-door salesman, train cleaner, kitchen porter and mobile phone network engineer.

Over the years Stuart has spent time in France, Holland and Australia, but home these days is back in the UK. He lives in a village near Manchester with his wife and daughter. There’s also his cat, Bernard, who likes to distract him from writing – usually by breaking things.

His third novel, Stand By Me (Avon, £7.99), is a heartwarming story about the power of friendship. It is published on 11 January 2018.

You can find out more about S.D Robertson on his website –

Or why not follow him on twitter – @SDRauthor 

Or Facebook here

Blog Tour

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

A huge thank you to S.D. Robertson for such a fab guest post and to Sabah at Avon Books for organising and asking me to host!

Have you read Stand By 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 – Letting My Nostalgic Spirit Run Free by Martin Stewart

Today I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to have the amazing Martin Stewart here on the blog with a fantastic guest post all about the amazing The Sacrifice Box!

The Sacrifice Box was released on the 11th January 2018 published by Penguin and I can confirm that it is just pure brilliance!

As Martin Stewart is our #BritishBooksChallenge18  author of the month I also have a brilliant giveaway!

So sit back an enjoy a little about The Sacrifice Box and it’s amazing nostalgia…..

An atmospheric, chilling page turner from rising star Martin Stewart, reminiscent of Stand by Me and Stranger Things.

Sep, Arkle, Mack, Lamb and Hadley: five friends thrown together one hot, sultry summer. When they discover an ancient stone box hidden in the forest, they decide to each make a sacrifice: something special to them, committed to the box for ever. And they make a pact: they will never return to the box at night; they’ll never visit it alone; and they’ll never take back their offerings.

Four years later, a series of strange and terrifying events take place. Someone broke the rules, and now everyone has to pay.

But how much are they willing to sacrifice?

Letting My Nostalgic Spirit Run Free

Having begun its life many years ago as nothing more than a feeling I wanted to capture, it’s beyond thrilling to see The Sacrifice Box out in the world. This is a story of friendship, of togetherness; of the power our fears wield in the dark corners of our souls ― and of the importance of a good mixtape. This is a world of high-tops and Choppers, of Walkmans (Walkmen?) and big hair.

This is the small-town world of Hill Ford, 1986.

The setting fits my character, because I’ve always been prone to nostalgia. Crippling nostalgia, really. I only replaced my childhood Christmas stocking a couple of years ago because it disintegrated (I’m thirty-five years old). I have a custom-built cupboard in my living room for my childhood games consoles: Megadrive, SNES, Playstation (just Playstation, mind ― this is before they were given numbers). Most of my Desert Island Discs would be hewn from the rock of my teenage memories: Oasis, The Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics, Radiohead… (as I write, prompted by this reverie, I’ve just put The Lightning Seeds on Spotify).

I am very much chained to my past.

The Sacrifice Box was, first, a title. Its growth from that point was driven by the image of young people finding an ancient box, filling it with (seemingly) innocuous stuff and discovering that, whatever they give it, the box wants more.

 But there was a problem ― this was a MG story. Ten-year-olds might make a friendship sacrifice of this nature, but not fifteen-year-olds. So the story had to change shape, and it did so with a pleasingly gothic twist: the group would make their sacrifices in the past, lose touch ― and years later, those seemingly innocuous offerings would come back to hunt them. A sacrifice made during a brief, intense, forgotten summer friendship felt just right ― and that’s where my (crippling) nostalgia came in.

Because what I had now was a story that felt a little like The Breakfast Club reuniting to fight the Gremlins, and I found that the tropes of classic 80s stories fit the story I had in mind: intense friendship, kid-centric horror, an unlikely small-town gang facing a threat their parents know nothing about…

I set the story in 1986, and I was able to let my nostalgic spirit run free.

I found it a lot of fun. Nostalgia is driven by comfort, after all ―we remember how free we once were, how unburdened by the concerns of high school and uni and work. The clothes are funny, the haircuts funnier, and the summers never-ending. Our past is known and, therefore, safe.

But danger lurks in our pasts, too, because everything is sharpest when we’re young: arguments, infatuations, self-regard, fear, laughter ― stories. Young lives are lived on a keen edge.

So, who better to write for than young readers?

I hope that you, young readers, love these characters ― Sep, Arkle, Hadley, Lamb and Mack. I hope you love the adventure, as the box tightens its grip. I hope you’re afraid to read the book on the train, for fear of snorting with laughter. I hope you’re afraid to read it in bed at night, for fear of a tap on your window…

There’s just one question left:

What would you sacrifice?

You can buy a copy of The Sacrifice Box here or from your local bookshop!

Or listen to The Sacrifice Box Spotify Playlist here

About Martin Stewart

Before I was a writer, I was a caddie, barman, recycling technician, wine advisor, university lecturer, and English teacher. My time in the classroom inspired me to turn my pen towards writing for younger readers, and now I love visiting schools to help students develop their own writing, and to encourage them to pursue their creative ambitions. As a writer, I’m interested in the stories that take place in the shadows, and exploring the tension between laughter and fear. I love the work of John Steinbeck and Philip Pullman. More than anything else, I love to edit, because that’s where the real writing gets done. You can read about how I became a writer here. As a human being, I’m interested in spending time with my partner and daughter, running on the beach with the dog, trying to make the perfect Old Fashioned, cooking with eggs, re-watching my favourite films as often as possible, and listening to podcasts whenever I can.

You can find out more about Martin on his website –

Or follow Martin on Twitter – @martinjstewart


With thanks to the lovely people at Penguin I have 5 copies of The Sacrifice Box to giveaway to 5 lucky winners!

You can enter this giveaway by my twitter here

UK Only

Ends 4th February 2018

Good Luck!

Previously On Tales…..

Click on the below links for previous post with Martin Stewart here on Tales Of Yesterday!

Tales Post – An Alternative “Easter Egg”

A huge thank you to Martin for a brilliant guest post that has made want to go and revisit everything 80’s and to Simon at Penguin for embracing the #BritishBooksChallenge18 author of the month and giving me some fab books to giveaway!

Have you read The Sacrifice Box  What did you think?  What was your favourite part?  What are your nostalgic memories?  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!

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