Category Archives: UKMG

Tales Spotlight – My Dad The Earth Warrior by Gary Haq

 


My Dad The Earth Warrior was released on the 5th June 2018 published by Gazzimodo and will have you chuckling.  It also has gorgeous illustrations by Mark Beech and designed by Mandy Norman!

So today I am shining the spotlight on the super funny book and it’s author Gary Haq….


One boy.
A geeky dad.
A freak accident!

Dad wakes up from a bump to head claiming to be an Earth Warrior sent to protect Mother Earth – and is soon up against a ruthless energy tycoon.

Hero is forced to go along with Dad’s new persona. And when Gran mysteriously disappears, Hero and Dad embark on a dangerous rescue mission.

Can Hero save Gran and his old dad back befor it’s too late?

My Dad, the Earth Warrior is an extraordinary heart-warming and funny tale of a Dad and son on a thrilling mission to save Mother Earth! It is a story of personal growth, environment and discovering the warrior spirit that lies in all of us.

A funny, heartfelt, quirky middle-grade adventure that will appeal to fans of Frank Contrell-Boyce, Phil Earle and David Walliams. 

You can buy a copy here !


About Gary Haq

Gary Haq is a human ecologist with over twenty years of supporting the development and implementation of environmental policy in in Africa, Asia and Europe. He is a researcher at a prestigious global environmental think tank. He is the author / co-author of five books and has written numerous academic papers and policy reports. When he’s not involved in his own ecoadventures, he likes to write, read, learn languages and explore new cultures. Gary lives in York, England, with his wife and their young daughter.

You can find out more about Gary on his website – www.garyhaq.com

Or why not follow Gary on twitter – @DrGaryHaq

Or Facebook – www.facebook.com/garyhaqauthor


A huge thank you to Hannah Cooper for asking me to host!

Have you read My Dad The Earth Warrior?  What did you think?  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading!


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Guest Post – 5 Books About Being Different by Rob Stevens

 


Today I have a fab guest post from the super Rob Stevens!

Lucky Break was released on the 3rd May 2018 published by the fab Andersen Press and is an hilarious comedy of errors that also touches on unlikely friendships, grief and mental health.

Today Rob shares his top five books about being different….


Leon’s twin, Lenny, had the best imagination in the world. He could do a back flip from a standing start and tell rude jokes nonstop for hours. But a year ago Lenny died, and Leon’s family hasn’t been the same since.

When a new boy, Arnold, starts at Leon’s school, he has no idea what to think: Arnold doesn’t understand jokes, sarcasm is lost on him and he can be completely blunt. Leon has never met anyone like Arnold before, and an unlikely friendship blossoms. Before long things start to get seriously bonkers, and the two boys are breaking windows, accidentally holding up a bank and getting arrested after a disagreement with a baguette.

But amidst all this madness, can Awkward Arnold actually help Leon to sort his life out?


5 Books About Being Different

My new book, ‘Lucky Break’ is about an unlikely friendship between Leon and Arnold, who is far from your typical teenager. As their friendship develops, Leon learns that the very characteristics that make Arnold so different are the same ones that make him so special.

Here are my five favourite books celebrating children who are struggling to fit it.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The original in this hilarious series about the angst-ridden teenager who would go on to become Prime Minister

Wonder – a moving story about a boy who is destined to stand out because of the way he looks

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – The brilliantly funny and moving story of an autistic boy investigating the death of his neighbour’s dog

Lion – an incredible story about Saroo’s journey from being a street kid in India to growing up in an adoptive family in Australia

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – because you can’t be much more different than being a boy wizard!

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


About Rob Steven

Rob Stevens is a British Airways Captain who does most of his writing in hotel rooms around the world. His first book, ‘The Mapmaker’s Monsters: Beware the Buffalogre!’ was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2009.


A huge thank you to Rob for a fab guest post and to Harriet at Andersen for asking me to host!

Have you read Lucky Break?  What did you think?  What are your favourite part?   Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Guest Post – See Life In The Secret Deep (Sea What I did there?) by Lindsay Galvin

 


I am HUGELY honoured to have the wonderful Lindsay Galvin here on Tales today with a brilliant blog post to celebrate the release of her debut novel, The Secret Deep.

The Secret Deep was released on the 2nd August published by the amazing Chicken House and is beautiful and gripping and will keep you enthralled throughout.

I’ve known Lindsay mainly via twitter for a few years now and when I heard that she was getting her debut published I was so over the moon for her so to have her featured on my blog today is very special indeed.

Find out more about sea creatures in this fantastic guest post….


About The Book

When Aster wakes alone on a tropical island, she has no idea what has happened, why she is there, or where to find her younger sister, Poppy. Meanwhile Sam, who once met the sisters on a plane, makes links between the mystery of their disappearance and suspicious happenings in his own life. In a stunning dual narrative, the truth unravels with devastating effect – and the answer lies in the secret underwater world surrounding the desert island, populated by the beautiful and the impossible …


See Life In The Secret Deep (Sea What I did there?)

I have always been fascinated by animals in the wild and am the biggest David Attenborough fan. Even more so since I spent so much time diving in the waters around Thailand when I lived there ten years ago. Researching sea life for The Secret Deep was a joy… and a form of legitimate procrastination. Introducing some of my sub aqua stars and what they mean to story:

Manta Ray 

I can’t wait for you to meet the giant oceanic manta rays in THE SECRET DEEP. I’ve never come across a story that featured these gentle giants and would love to know if you have. These blanket shaped beauties can grow up to 7 metres across with a weight of 1350 kg but their size isn’t the only thing that makes them perfect for the story.

Manta (and mobula) rays have the largest brains of all 32,000 species (approximately) of fish known to date. They display intelligent behaviour.

One test of intelligence is to find out if an animal can gaze into a mirror and know it’s themselves they see. Gorillas, leopards, dogs, and cats, for example believe that their reflection is just another animal looking back. Nonhuman animals that have been observed to pass the mirror test include bonobos, chimps, dolphins, elephants, and some birds. And manta rays.

In all my scuba dives I have never seen a manta and diving with them is on my bucket list. They are so different to us, yet have huge brains and who knows what they are thinking? In THE SECRET DEEP they represent a link between wildness and humanity and how it is possible for there to be harmony between living things no matter how different they are. A lesson that certain characters in the story certainly need to learn…

Seahorse

Seahorses have a reputation as cutest animals in the ocean and I am lucky enough to have seen them in the wild, so can confirm this. They are famous for mating for life and the male seahorse carries the babies. But what I love the most is that new baby seahorses, each about the size of a little finger nail, find other baby seahorses and float together in small groups, clinging to each other using their tails.

So adorable it hurts; I had to include them in THE SECRET DEEP.

When main character Aster rescues a seahorse that floats free of its family, what she actually needs to learn is how to rescue herself.  Look though…there’s four seahorses in this photo and they are…ridiculous.

Puffer fish

When divers first discovered beautiful patterns on the seabed; intricate concentric circles raised in the sand that look like mandala designs, no-one could figure out what had made them. Turns out it was a tiny puffer fish, building a nest of sand to attract a mate. And I got to thinking that if this fish could do that, than anything is possible if you swim deep enough. When I first saw these amazing creatures on BBC footage I knew they had a place in my story.

Look closely and you’ll see the dinky builder right in the centre of his sand palace.

Shark

I would love to write a story one day where sharks are friends. Because they are beautiful, endangered and unfairly maligned. But THE SECRET DEEP is not exactly that story. They are magnificent creatures but fearsome predators and can’t be blamed if certain characters in books rudely wander into their territory smelling distinctly like dinner…

Jellyfish

I spent some glorious hours (I’m a sea-geek, okay?) finding out about these beasts. Box jellyfish are gorgeously terrifying with their four eyes, ability to follow their prey and deadly sting. I mean, why create characters you adore if you aren’t going to confront them with a lethal jellyfish swarm?

I could go on. What are your favourite sea-creatures and why? I would love to geek out with you.


THE SECRET DEEP is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

You can buy a copy here or from your local bookshop


About Lindsay Galvin

Lindsay was lucky enough to be raised in a house of stories, music, and love of the sea. She left part of her heart underwater after living and working in Thailand where she spent hundreds of blissful hours scuba diving. Forced now to surface for breath, she lives in sight of the chillier Sussex sea with her husband and two sons. When she is not writing, she can be found reading, swimming or practicing yoga. She has a degree in English Language and Literature, is fascinated by psychology and the natural world, and teaches Science. Lindsay hadn’t written creatively since childhood until the idea for her debut novel The Secret Deep splashed into her mind, and now she’s hooked.

Connect with Lindsay on Twitter: @lindsaygalvin

Find out more at lindsaygalvin.com and chickenhousebooks.com


Blog Tour

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


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

Have you read The Secret Deep?  What did you think?  What are your favourite part?  What are your favourite sea creatures?  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Spotlight – Baker Street Academy by Sam Hearn

 


Grab your super sleuth hats as I am hugely excited to be spotlighting the amazing Baker Street Academy by Sam Hearn in todays post!

Baker Street Academy was released on the 2nd August 2018 published by Scholastic and includes journal entries, letters, newspaper clippings and a detective dossier. It captures the fun and frustrations of school, and promotes friendship and teamwork.

So today I am spotlighting the book and I also have a fab giveaway…..


About The Book

Welcome to Baker Street Academy, where there’s always a mystery to be solved! Told through Watson’s diary, a top-secret detective dossier and energetic comic-strip illustrations, this introduction to Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters will have every young super-sleuth hooked! Luckily Sherlock Holmes is on the case, with his friends John Watson and Martha Hudson. No crime is too big, no villain too cunning – especially if it’s James Moriarty. This time, Sherlock and the gang are up against a centuries old curse…

The books include journal entries, letters, newspaper clippings and a detective dossier. It captures the fun and frustrations of school, and promotes friendship and teamwork.

This introduction to Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters will have every young super-sleuth hooked!

You can buy a copy of Baker Street Academy here or from your local bookshop!


About Sam Hearn

Sam Hearn has illustrated numerous books for children, including the Harvey Drew, Abominators and the Awesome Animals series. This is the first fiction series that he has written and illustrated


Giveaway

With thanks to the lovelies at Scholastic I have 5 copies of Baker Street Academy to giveaway to 5 lucky winners!

You can enter via my twitter here!

Bonus points for any super sleuth photos!

UK Only

Ends 16th August 2018

Good Luck!


A huge thank you to Emily at Scholastic for asking me to host and for the fab giveaway!

Have you read Baker Street Academy?  What did you think?  What are your favourite part?  Are you a budding detective?  Share your best detective pictures!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Henry VIII by Claire Fayers


Today I am super excited to have the wonderful Claire Fayers on Tales with a brilliant guest post to celebrate the release of Mirror Magic!

Mirror Magic was released on the 14th June 2016 published by Macmillan Children’s Books and is set to be a magical adventure.

Today Claire chats about Henry VIII in the fab guest post….


Welcome to Wyse, the only town left in Britain with a connection to the magical Unworld.

When Twelve-year-old Ava meets Howell on the other side of a mirror, the two are quickly drawn into a mystery to discover why the enchantments that link their towns are disappearing.

But it’s hard to distinguish between friends and enemies when magic is involved and Ava and Howell soon learn that it can be very unwise to mess with mirrors…


Henry VIII

Mirror Magic imagines a world exactly like our own but with one big difference – magic exists. Fairy mirrors connect us to the Unworld where the Fair Folk have promised to provide magical goods and services to anyone who asks.

The story starts in 1842, when most mirrors have stopped working and only one small town on the border of Wales and England still has access to the Unworld. The Wyse Weekly Mirror (expertly designed by Jess at Macmillan Children’s Books) gives an insight into daily happenings in the last town of magic.

But what of other time periods?

What might newspapers at the time of King Henry VIII have looked like, for example, if the King had had magic?

King Blames Unworld for Lack of Son

Following the birth of a daughter, King Henry VIII has blamed the fairy Unworld that he did not have a son. ‘Somebody has placed a fairy curse on me,’ he said, whilst glaring at his wife, Catherine.

The Queen denies this. Fairy magic cannot change reality and no spell exists that will turn a boy into a girl.

King Weds Unworld Wife

King Henry has shocked England by marrying his Unworld mistress, Anne Unboleyn, in a secret ceremony. The Pope has declared the marriage void, saying that the King’s previous marriage was not properly annulled. Even the King cannot just summon a fairy through a mirror and order an enchantment to unmarry him.

The King responded by saying that even if his marriage to Catherine of Aragon is still technically in force, the church doesn’t say anything about Unworld wives and therefore he can have as many as he likes.

Henry’s Son is a Daughter

Another scandal today as King Henry’s three-year-old son turned out to be a daughter. Queen Anne Unboleyn admitted that she has been using fairy enchantments to disguise the girl as a boy.

Prince Edward has now been renamed Princess Elizabeth.

Anne Boleyn Executed – Or Was She?

Anne Unboleyn, supposedly executed for treason against the King, may have escaped back to the Unworld instead.

Nobody knows, but as the King has already announced his next marriage to Jane Seymour – a woman of low birth but human at least – it is unlikely that we will be seeing Anne in England again.

Pope Rules Against Unworld Marriages

Marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman, ruled Pope Clement VII. Marriages therefore cannot take place between humans and Fair Folk.

King Henry has responded that he will marry anyone he likes, and he has proved it by annulling his marriage to his latest queen, Anne of Cleves, and preparing to marry yet another Unworld wife, Catherine Unhoward.

Fairytale Wedding Has Nightmare Ending

Another Unworld wife has betrayed the King. Queen Catherine Unhoward was found to be already married to an Unworld farmer. It is not know whether the King was more angry at the fact of her marriage, or the lowly status of her Unworld husband. The Queen tried to defend herself using the King’s own argument that Unworld marriages don’t count, but she was beheaded yesterday.

The King says he doesn’t intend to marry again.

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Take Vital Elixir™ twice a day and you too could have all the wives you want.

You can buy a copy of Mirror Magic here or from your local bookshop


About Claire Fayers

Claire Fayers was born and brought up in South Wales, an area of the country sadly deficient in dragons. Having studied English at University of Kent, Canterbury, she built a successful career writing short stories for women’s magazines until the lure of magic became too much and she wrote The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North. It was selected for Waterstones Book of the Month and shortlisted for the FCBG Children’s Book Award 2016, and its sequel, The Accidental Pirates: Journey to Dragon Island, was published in 2017. When she’s not writing, you’ll find Claire at her allotment. Mirror Magic is her third book with Macmillan Children’s Books.

You can find out more about Claire on her website – www.clairefayers.com

Or why not follow Claire on twitter – @ClaireFayers


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Claire for such a fab guest post and to Karen asking me to be part of this fab blog tour!

Have you read Mirror Magic?  What did you think?  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Writing Inspirations by Christopher Edge


Today I am over the moon to welcome the fab Christopher Edge to Tales to celebrate the release of The Infinite Lives Of Maisie Day.

The Infinite Lives Of Maisie Day was released on the 5th April 2018 published by Nosy Crow and is another brilliant MG scientific jam packed adventure from the author of The Many Worlds Of Albie Bright and The Jaime Drake Equation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So today Christopher tells us a little about his writing inspiration in this fab guest post.

So sit back and enjoy …..


How do you know you really exist? It’s Maisie’s birthday and she can’t wait to open her presents. She’s hoping for the things she needs to build her own nuclear reactor. But she wakes to an empty house and outside the front door is nothing but a terrifying, all-consuming blackness. Trapped in an ever-shifting reality, Maisie knows that she will have to use the laws of the universe and the love of her family to survive. And even that might not be enough… A mind-bending mystery for anyone who’s ever asked questions. From the author of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and The Jamie Drake Equation. Cover illustration by Matt Saunders.


Writing Inspirations

Actually, I doubt it was to the day, but it was thirty years ago when I made the fateful decision to bunk off school and go along to a book signing by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean instead.

I was fourteen years old, just starting my GCSEs at a rather bleak comprehensive school in Salford. This was the kind of school where the P.E. teacher forced you to do press-ups in an icy puddle at the start of every lesson, Woodwork and Metalwork were mainly concerned with the production of concealed armaments, and Chemistry lessons a constant battle for control of the gas taps between the kids who wanted to blow up the Science block and those of us who wanted to live. It wasn’t the kind of school where authors popped in to chat about their latest books and reveal the secrets of the writing life.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know about authors; my brain was full to bursting with their names. I was the Incredible Book Eating Boy before Oliver Jeffers had even drawn him, devouring the shelves of my local library. J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, John Wyndham, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Cormier, Ursula Le Guin. With every book I took out, a new favourite author could be discovered and I’d then eagerly seek out everything that they had written.

As well as books I loved comics, a passion born from my paper round. As I waited for the newsagent to load up my delivery bag, I flicked through old DC and Marvel comics on a spinner at the back of the shop, the worlds of these four-colour heroes a welcome escape from the slate-grey streets. Then when Saturday came around, I’d spend every penny of my wages on these comic books: Batman, Detective Comics, Daredevil, 2000AD. That newsagent must’ve loved me!

After a while though, I’d finally depleted his stock of comics and had to look further afield for a fresh source. I’d seen an advertisement in the pages of 2000AD for a comic shop called Odyssey 7 in Manchester. So one Saturday morning, leaving the paper shop with my wages in my pocket for a change, I jumped on the bus into town to search out this shop. Trudging down Oxford Road, I turned into the shopping precinct at Manchester University and entered an Aladdin’s Cave.

Odyssey 7 didn’t just have a single spinner filled with comics; it had boxes of them running down the central aisle of the shop. Flicking through them, I could see comics about every superhero I had ever heard of and dozens more that I hadn’t. Along the walls were posters, magazines, and on a section of shelves filled with large, glossy books, something called graphic novels. That’s where I discovered Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.

I can’t remember what initially drew me to this book. Maybe it was the illicit promise of the title that appealed to my teenage mind. But when I picked it up and started to flick through the pages, I was entranced. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was like nothing I had ever read before. In black-and-white and without a superhero in sight, it was a story about childhood told in the most remarkable way. This wasn’t a comic book, this was something else. Leaving behind the handful of Batman comics I’d already picked up, I took the book to the counter and bought my first graphic novel.

Over the next week I must have read Violent Cases more than a dozen times, each time finding some new detail to obsess over. For those who haven’t yet read it, I won’t give away too much, but something in this story sang to me. Its depiction of the narrator’s memories of his childhood: a fuzzy and confusing world, where adults lied and the threat of violence was never far from the surface, fascinated and troubled me at the same time.

The next Saturday I was standing at the counter of Odyssey 7 again, and, using the same logic that had served me so well in the library, asked if they had any more books by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. The man at the counter pointed me in the direction of a couple of new comic books, Black Orchid and the first issue of something called The Sandman, and then he told me something that changed my life.

“They’re coming in to do a signing next week.”

I looked up at the poster in the shop window. Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean would be signing copies of Violent Cases, the book that had blown my mind, next Friday afternoon. It was incredible – here was a chance to meet a real live author and a fantastic artist too. There was only one problem. The only way I’d be able to get to the signing in time would be to bunk off school at lunchtime. I think the time of the signing was 2pm, enough time I reasoned to get the bus into town, get my new favourite author to sign my books (I’d now bought the first issues of both Black Orchid and The Sandman as well) and still get home before my mum got back from work. That way I could pretend that I’d been in school all day, just like normal.

That was the plan. When Friday arrived, I sneaked out of school as the lunchtime bell rang and caught the bus into town. But arriving at Odyssey 7 just before two in the afternoon, I discovered my plan’s first flaw. Outside the store a queue snaked across the shopping precinct and out onto Oxford Road. (Remember, this was a signing for his very first book – Lord knows what kind of monstrous wyrm a Neil Gaiman signing queue looks like nowadays!) Joining the back of the queue I slowly started to worry. With the speed the queue was moving at, there was no way I’d get back home in time to pretend I’d been in school all day. If I stayed put, I was going to be in trouble. Big trouble.

Standing around me in the queue were trench-coated university students, their comic books and graphic novels tucked under their arms. I was still wearing my school uniform, my copy of Violent CasesBlack Orchid and The Sandman shoved in the depths of my school bag. This was the only chance I’d ever have to meet the extraordinary people who had created these stories. I stayed in the line

Eventually, sometime after four I think, I made it inside the shop, the remnants of the queue now snaking around the central aisle and back up to the counter where two guys were seated, patiently signing each book that was thrust in front of them. They didn’t look much older than students themselves, but the face of one of them was strangely familiar. From my bag, I dug out my copy of Violent Cases and turned to the first page. There, staring out at me in black and white was the same face. This was Neil Gaiman.

It’s funny, I’m trying to remember now what happened next, but my memories are turning out to be as fragmentary as those of the narrator of Violent Cases. I don’t really remember getting to the front of the queue, can’t recall what I said when I handed over my books to Neil and Dave to be signed. But when I finally stepped out of the comic shop and started walking back to the bus station and the inevitable mountain of trouble I was in, I remember thinking one thing: I wanted to be a writer.

You can buy a copy of The Infinite Lives Of Maisie Day here or from your local bookshop


About Christopher Edge

Christopher Edge is an award-winning children’s author whose books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

His novel The Many Worlds of Albie Bright won several children’s book awards including the Brilliant Book Award and was also nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, as was his novel The Jamie Drake Equation, which was also selected by The Times as one of the best children’s books of 2017. His latest novel The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day was chosen by The Times as their Children’s Book of the Week and has been described as ‘out-of-this-world, edge-of-your-seat AMAZING!’ by Lauren St John.

His other books include the critically-acclaimed and award-winning Twelve Minutes to Midnight trilogy of historical mysteries, and he is also the author of How to Write Your Best Story Ever! and How To Be A Young #Writer, inspirational guides to creative writing for children and teenagers.

You can find out more about Christopher – christopheredge.co.uk

Or why not follow Chris on Twitter – @edgechristopher


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Christopher for a brilliant guest post and to Antonia and Nosy Crow for asking me to host, be part of the blog tour and of course for sending me a copy of this fab book!

Have you read The Infinite Lives Of Maisie Day?  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 above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Writing For The Page vs Writing For The Stage by Guy Jones


Today I can’t wait to share a brilliant guest post from the wonderful Guy Jones in celebration of his gorgeous debut The Ice Garden.

The Ice Garden was released on the 4th January 2018 published by the lovelies at Chicken House as will sweep you away into a gorgeous middle grade world.

Today Guy chats to us about writing for the page vs writing for the stage….


Jess is allergic to the sun. She lives in a world of shadows and hospitals, peeking at the other children in the playground from behind curtains. Her only friend is a boy in a coma, to whom she tells stories. One night she sneaks out to explore the empty playground she’s longed to visit, where she discovers a beautiful impossibility: a magical garden wrought of ice. But Jess isn’t alone in this fragile, in-between place …


Writing For The Page vs Writing For The Stage

I think it was the writer Simon Stephens who likened playwrights to sculptors and novelists to painters. There’s something in that. Anyone who has ever been to the theatre will instinctively know when a line is overwritten – when it says too much. You can feel it go clunk in the auditorium. You can feel the audience squirm a little. So, like a sculptor, the playwright constantly chisels away at their slab of raw material until what’s left is the most economical way possible of saying what they want to say. The novelist, on the other hand, builds up in layers. An initial sketch is added to, coloured, scratched at, and textured until it resembles the thing that its meant to be.

The analogy isn’t perfect of course (and I spend just as much time cutting in novels as I do in plays), but it does feel just about right to me. Novels are broadly a process of addition while plays are one of subtraction. And this isn’t simply a dry, technical point, or a matter of word-count. The two mediums have inherent differences, one of the most important being that while a novelist writes directly for their audience – the reader – a playwright does not.

A playwright writes firstly for the director, actors and designers who will actually create the work that the audience see. Their work is mediated and built upon in ways that they may never have been able to visualise. For example, no stage set I’ve ever imagined looks even ten percent as good as what a professional designer came up with. And while the characters in my novel, The Ice Garden, still look the same in my head as they ever did, those in any plays I’ve written now look oddly like the actors chosen to play them.

Consider this line:

‘You made it at last,’ said Alice, her eyes flicking down to her wrist and mouth tightening.

 It’s fairly clear that someone is late and Alice is unhappy. So how could we do the same thing in a play?

ALICE              You made it at last. (She checks her watch and frowns)

 An actor or director would hate this (and you, as the writer). It’s their job to fill in the gaps, not yours. Just write ‘You made it at last…’ and let them worry about how to interpret the line and communicate the character’s intentions to the audience. You never know – Alice might actually be delighted, and that could take the scene in a far more interesting direction. Chisel away, in other words. Do less. A play script is a blueprint, not a finished building. It can’t be. Ever.

This doesn’t mean that writing a novel is a solitary pursuit. The input of trusted readers is invaluable. And an editor like the fantastic Kesia Lupo at Chicken House can fundamentally change the way you look at your story and raise it to levels that would have been impossible alone. But a published novel is the end point – it’s all the audience gets. Beyond the novel is only what the reader adds themselves, through their own imagination. A play script, on the other hand, is only the start…

THE ICE GARDEN by Guy Jones, out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

You can buy a copy of The Ice Garden here or from your local bookshop!


About Guy Jones

Guy was born in Botswana, grew up in Bedfordshire and now lives in St Albans with his wife and step-daughter.

He spent a decade writing for the theatre, including the West End musical Never Forget, before finally knuckling down to write a book.

The Ice Garden is his first novel.

Connect with Guy Jones on twitter @guyjones80 and find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com


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

Have you read any of the The Ice Garden? 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 – Stalwart Companions: The Detective And His Assistant by Robert J Harris


Today I am over the moon to be part of the brilliant blog tour to celebrate a brilliant mystery!

The Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries: The Vanishing Dragon by Robert J Harris was released on the 22nd March 2018 published by Kelpies and is the second book in this super sleuth series!

So today I have the man himself Robert J Harris telling us all about the detective and his assistant in this fab guest post….


One day Arthur Conan Doyle will create the greatest detective of all — Sherlock Holmes. But right now Artie Conan Doyle is a twelve-year-old Edinburgh schoolboy with a mystery of his own to solve. Artie and his friend Ham are hired to investigate a series of suspicious accidents that have befallen world-famous magician, the Great Wizard of the North. It seems someone is determined to sabotage his spectacular new illusion. When the huge mechanical dragon created for the show vanishes, the theft appears to be completely impossible. Artie must reveal the trick and unmask the villain or face the deadly consequences. The cards have been dealt, the spell has been cast, and the game is afoot once more!

Robert J. Harris, author of The World’s Gone Loki series and Will Shakespeare and the Pirate’s Fire, brings the young Conan Doyle to life in the second book of this ingenious new detective series.


Stalwart Companions: The Detective And His Assistant

It’s impossible to imagine Sherlock Holmes without the faithful Dr John H Watson at his side. Watson’s main function is to serve as the narrator of Holmes’ adventures. In this way we see Holmes through the eyes of a normal – but by no means dim – person who may lack Holmes’ eccentric brilliance but has other admirable qualities. He’s brave, honourable and – rather importantly  – he’s actually a very good writer.

By employing Watson as narrator, Conan Doyle keeps us outside Holmes’ mind. If Holmes were telling the stories, we would be able to follow his thoughts at every stage, and this would ruin the effect of his astonishing deductions. If the story was told simply in the third person, then the author would be cheating by keeping the main character’s thoughts hidden from us.

The fact that we follow the story from Watson’s point of view means that we share his bafflement at the bizarre cases as well as his amazement when Holmes reveals his deductions and solves the seemingly impossible mysteries.

But Watson serves another function. His stolid personality acts as a compliment to Holmes’ quirky character, and their relationship adds hugely to the richness of the stories.

In order to retain the spirit of the original Holmes stories it was important that the hero of The Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries should have a companion; and so his friend Edward “Ham” Hamilton was born. He acts as a counterpart to Artie. While Artie’s keen to plunge into mist-covered graveyards in search of adventure, Ham would much rather be at home eating cakes. When Artie’s imagination causes him to come up with wild theories, Ham injects a sensible note of skepticism.

Throughout The Gravediggers’ Club Ham is dragged unhappily along behind the energetic Artie until he finally digs his heels in and refuses to continue. It’s at this point, in one of my favourite scenes, that Artie explains why he needs his friend and cannot solve the case without him. After this Ham becomes a more active agent in the investigation and by the end of the book he arguably becomes the true hero of the story.

In The Vanishing Dragon Ham is now suggesting that perhaps in the future the pair of them might become professional investigators. Artie doesn’t seem to see this as a practical plan for the future. But when the magician John Henry Anderson hires the boys to investigate a mystery, it looks as if Ham’s idea might not be so fanciful after all. Ham even comes up with his own plan for solving the impossible theft that sits at the heart of the book.

Later in the novel Ham even has a crack at writing up their adventures as Watson will one day record the cases of Sherlock Holmes. It is comically clear, however, that he does not have Watson’s literary gifts.

As with Holmes and Watson, the relationship between Artie and Ham adds hugely to the richness of the stories and I’m looking forward to watching both characters evolve as the series continues.

You can buy a copy of The Vanishing Dragon here or from your local book shop!


About Robert J Harris

Robert J Harris was born in Dundee and now lives in St Andrews with his wife, sons, and his dog. He is the author of many children’s books, including Will Shakespeare and the Pirate’s Fire, and Leonardo and the Death Machine; and he is the creator of popular fantasy board game Talisman.


Blog Tour

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

#ArtieOnTour


A huge huge thank you to Robert for such a superb guest post and to Sarah at Kelpies for asking me to host!

Have you read any of the Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries? 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 – Writing Through Grief And Loss By Geoff Mead


Today we are celebrating this gorgeous book by Geoff Mead and Sanne Dufft, Bear Child.

Bear Child was released on the 22nd February 2018 published by Floris Books and is simply gorgeous through and through.

Today Geoff chats about writing to cope with loss in this wonderful, beautiful guest post…


‘Now that people live in towns and bears live in the woods, have you ever wondered what happened to the bear folk?’ At bedtime Ursula asks Daddy to tell her the tale of the bear folk: special beings who can choose to be either a bear or a person, depending if they want to catch a fish or read a book. Bear folk live extraordinary lives, he tells her. They are strong and clever, kind and loving, adventurous and creative — just like her. Will I ever meet one?, Ursula asks. Perhaps she already has… Bear Child is an inspirational story of parental love, belief and embracing individuality. This beautiful picture book weaves together Geoff Mead’s charming words with Sanne Dufft’s ethereal illustrations to create a truly timeless folktale.


Writing Through Grief And Loss

All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them.

 So said Out of Africa author Isak Dinesen, in a 1957 New York Times interview. She knew a thing or two about sorrow, having lost her father to suicide, her husband to divorce, her health to syphilis, her lover to a flying accident, and her beloved Kenyan farm to bankruptcy.

When my wife Chris became ill in 2013 and died a year later from the effects of a brain tumour, I wrote – as Dinesen herself had written – because the story was all I had. Telling it was the only way I knew to bear the sorrow. From that impulse to write, came two books: a children’s story, Bear Child (Floris Books) and a memoir, Gone in the Morning: A Writer’s Journey of Bereavement (Jessica Kingsley Publishing).

In a sense, Bear Child is a love letter to my wife. The character of Ursula is exactly how I imagined Chris had been as a child. I wrote the story as a gift for her when she was already very ill, to celebrate her fiercely independent spirit and her lifelong love of bears, and to give her an image of homecoming that she could turn to as she came to the end of her life. After a spell in hospital, she died peacefully at home and Bear Child was one of the last things we spoke about.

Chris loved the story and it has been thrilling to see how Sanne Dufft’s illustrations have perfectly caught its joyful, life-affirming energy.

About a month after Chris died, I found myself writing poems and short pieces about my experience of grief for no other reason than a deep-seated need to express my feelings. Profound loss shakes us to our very core: we lose not just the person we have loved but also our own sense of identity. In the vortex of grief, everything is out of kilter: time itself becomes disjointed. I found that by writing, I could hold memories more lightly, pay more attention to what was happening in the present moment and capture fleeting glimpses of hopes and dreams for the future.

Bereavement and loss are inherent in the human condition. Much is known about our generalised pattern of response: shock – denial – anger – bargaining – depression – acceptance. Yet each person’s experience is unique. Each of us has to navigate our own way through the terra incognita of grief. Writing from our own experience enables us to honour this journey and to chart the course we have taken, even if we don’t know where we are going. I published Gone in the Morning, not to provide expert guidance but simply in the hope that readers struggling with their own bereavement might feel less alone.

In the three years since Chris died, I have written stories, poems and regular blog posts and all this writing has served me well. None of it has diminished the pain of losing her. Rather it has heightened my experience of grief and deepened my understanding of how conscious mourning keeps things moving. I have gone through the whole gamut of emotions, but I’ve never felt stuck. Piece by piece, I have negotiated the narrative wreckage of Chris’s death and begun to re-story my life.

Who are the bear folk and what makes them special?

Bear Child is an inspirational story of parental love, belief and embracing individuality. This beautiful picture book weaves together Geoff Mead’s charming words with Sanne Dufft’s ethereal illustrations to create a truly timeless folktale.

Follow the rest of the #BearChild blog tour with Floris Books on Twitter and Instagram.

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


About Geoff Mead

Born into the post-war baby-boomer generation, Geoff was the first member of his family to go to university (and the first to drop out). He quickly returned to complete his studies in mediaeval history after a salutary period washing cars for a living. With not much idea of what he really wanted to do, he cut off his shoulder-length hair and joined the police service which he left three decades later as a chief superintendent.

During those years he did pretty much everything from walking the beat to directing national police leadership programmes and from commanding a police district to training with the F.B.I. in Virginia, U.S.A. En route he also found time to train as an organisational consultant, complete an MBA,a postgraduate diploma in Gestalt psychology, and a PhD in action research.

He has worked as an educator, executive coach and organisational consultant for nearly two decades in the boardrooms of blue chip companies, universities, public sector organisations and government departments. In recent years he has specialised in board development, group facilitation and the use of story and narrative in organisations. Geoff is Director of Narrative Leadership associates – a consultancy using storytellng to help develop sustainable lreadership.(www.narrativeleadership.com)

He was on the faculty of the Prime Minister’s Top Management Programme and has co-designed and led national leadership programmes for the Cabinet Office. He has published a wide range of book chapters and articles on aspects of organisational and leadership development, action research (and latterly on storytelling) in professional and academic journals.

Geoff has four grown up children, five grandchildren and an entirely unreasonable love of Morgan sports cars. He divides his time between his late wife’s house in the Cotswolds and Lyme Regis where he dreams and writes in sight of the sea.

About Sanne Dufft

Sanne has illustrated many children’s picture books, including The Shepherd Boy and the Christmas Gifts. She won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators European Conference Portfolio Content 2015. Her first authored book Magnus and the Night Lion will be available from Floris Books later in 2018.

You can find out more about Sanne on her website – sanne-dufft.de

Or why not follow her on twitter – @DufftSanne


Blog Tour

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

#BearChild


A huge huge thank you to Geoff for such a superb guest post and to CJ at Floris Books for asking me to host!

Have you read any of Bear Child? 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 – 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!

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