Guest Post – Magical Mystery Tour by Mark Huckerby


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

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

Praise for Defender of the Realm

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

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

You can find my review of Defender Of The Realm here

Praise for Defender of the Realm: Dark Age

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

Ravenmaster HM Tower of London @ravenmaster1

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


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


Magical Mystery Tour

I love a good ruin.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler

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

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

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


Blog Tour

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


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

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

Happy Reading and defending the country!

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


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

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

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


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


Inspiration for Bigfoot, Tobin & Me

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

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

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

And it can help us heal.

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

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

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

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

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


About Melissa Savage

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

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

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

Or why not follow Melissa on twitter – @melissadsavage


Blog Tour

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


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

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

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Cover Design for One Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman


Today I have a fantastic insight into the cover design process to celebrate the release of One Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman.

One Silver Summer was released on the 25th May 2017 published by Old Barn Books as it set to be a gorgeous summer read.

‘Loved it. A book bursting with my guilty pleasures.’ Sophia Bennett; ‘I loved reading One Silver Summer. It kept me captivated all of Friday afternoon, and all weekend I felt like a little part of me was still in Cornwall, surrounded by swirling mists, galloping along a beach.’ –Natasha Farrant

‘I loved One Silver Summer. A gorgeously swoony tale of first love and beautiful horses set in a Du Maurier inspired Cornwall of rocky beaches and crumbling castles. Perfect for fans of Lauren St John, this fills a gap in the younger teen market for well written, thrilling, romantic stories.’ –Fiona Noble

Looking at that beautiful cover made me curious about the process behind it and how it suited the book so today Rachel tells us just that……


After losing her mum in an accident, Sass is sent to live with her uncle in England. Far from her native Brooklyn, the rocky shores and crumbling castles of Cornwall seem like the perfect place to hide her grief. And when she stumbles across a silver horse in a sunlit meadow Sass feels a surprising sense of peace…only to have it broken by a boy. Arrogant and distrustful, the horse’s trainer, Alex, doesn’t approve of the trespassing American. Yet after a few chance meetings, he begins to feel a connection to the curious girl with the sad eyes, and offers to teach her to ride. Sass never expected to feel anything again – least of all love – but the lessons reveal a far different Alex, and soon their friendship turns into something more. But Alex has a secret – a bombshell about his family that could shatter Sass’s trust…and force him to abandon the one girl who made him believe in himself.


Cover Design

Helen Crawford White and I have worked together for about 100 years at Chicken House. She’s a very patient person. Helen’s also hugely creative. She designs, draws and paints – and is digitally brilliant. She also does ballet. I suppose we work well together because I like covers to be true to the books they represent, but most of all – stand out. The best example of this is Children’s Book of the Year and Waterstones Children’s Prize winner, The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave which not only had a beautiful cover with French flaps and hand-painted colour maps (echoing the heroine’s map-making skills), but we made the design integral to the story, printing the book – unusually – in navy and orange.

So when I was lucky enough to see my own book, One Silver Summer, published by Scholastic Inc. NY and Old Barn Books, I knew there was one designer, I could suggest, who would capture the spirit of the book. Both sides of the Atlantic agreed which never happens!

The cover brief began with a scrap-book on Pinterest:

https://uk.pinterest.com/rachelhickman44/one-silver-summer-by-rachel-hickman/ 

I love it when authors at Chicken House tell me they have a Pinterest page because you get to see into world-building beyond words.

Helen then created a mood board so we could arrive at the right styling:

file:///C:/Users/Win8/Downloads/OneSilverSummermoodboard.pdf

Following this, with a number of composition suggestions:


 

 

 

 

 

 

file:///C:/Users/Win8/Downloads/OneSilverSummercomposition.pdf

For the US market, Scholastic went for hand-lettering and a painterly dip-dyed blue sea and Cornish castle….

….while Old Barn went for a contemporary take on old-school summertime-adventure and romance, borrowing from Daphne Du Maurier, or Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. Most of all, both publishers wanted to capture the atmosphere of a wild and lush Cornwall.

Helen then set about drawing and painting the images, piecing them together on her Mac like a jigsaw.

With the addition of kind endorsements and a cracking blurb, the cover came together. Discussions ensued with the printer about finishes: to foil or use a special metallic Pantone silver. Both! Rose-gold foil edges finish the flowers. Add a shell-pink contrast inside cover with more quotes and an author biog et voila! Team OB even got to see the book on press thanks to CPI in Kent.

You can buy a copy of One Silver Summer here or from your local bookshop!


About Rachel Hickman

Rachel Hickman is a founding Director of Chicken House Books. She wanted to work in children’s books since joining the Puffin Club as a child and has lived that dream for over 25 years. Having worked with some of the most famous names in children’s publishing, including Roald Dahl, Dick King-Smith, Ursula Moray Williams and Posy Simmonds, Rachel has at last put pen to paper for her own first novel of love, loss – and horses. Rachel lives in the countryside in Hampshire with her husband, two children, the dog and, of course, her horse.

You can follow Rachel on twitter – @Hickman_Rachel


A huge thank you to Rachel for a fab post and insight into the cover design for One Silver Summer and to Liz at Old Barn Books for asking me to host.

Have you read One Silver Summer?  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!

Tales Post – The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett – Extract


Today I have a fantastic chapter one extract of a new sci-fi novel which is released on the 1st June 2017 published by Macmillian and I am super excited to be part of the fab blog tour to celebrate it’s release.

The Space Between The Stars is a novel of love, loss and second chances from debut novelist Anne Corlett, perfect for fans of Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

So sit back and relax and read this exciting extract!

I also have a fantastic giveaway!


The Space between the Stars by Anne Corlett is an enthralling novel of love, the choices we make, and what it means to be human. It’s also a dramatic road-trip across the stars, as a woman journeys across a plague-ravaged universe to the place she once called home, and the man she once loved.

How far would you travel to find your way home?

Jamie Allenby wakes, alone, and realises her fever has broken. But could everyone she knows be dead? Months earlier, Jamie had left her partner Daniel, mourning the miscarriage of their baby. She’d just had to get away, so took a job on a distant planet. Then the virus hit.

Jamie survived as it swept through our far-flung colonies. Now she feels desperate and isolated, until she receives a garbled message from Earth. If someone from her past is still alive – perhaps Daniel – she knows she must find a way to return.

She meets others seeking Earth, and their ill-matched group will travel across space to achieve their dream. But they’ll clash with survivors intent on repeating humanity’s past mistakes, threatening their precious fresh start. Jamie will also get a second chance at happiness. But can she escape her troubled past, to embrace a hopeful future?


The Space Between The Stars – Extract

Chapter One

She knew it was the third day when she woke. Even in the twists and tangles of the fever, her sense of time had remained unbroken. More than unbroken. Whetted into a measure of such devastating accuracy that she’d wanted nothing more than to die quickly and be done with that merciless deathwatch count of her last hours. And dying was quicker, according to the infomercials that spiralled out from the central planets when the virus first took hold there. Most people were gone by halfway through the second day. If you were still lingering beyond that midpoint, chances were you’d still be there after the fever had burned itself out in a last vicious surge on the third day. Jamie could taste blood in her mouth, bitter as old coins, and her back was aching with a dull, bed-bound creak of pain. But her bones were no longer splintering in some unseen vice, and there was none of the twisting vertigo that had flung her about inside relentless nightmares. In the throes of the fever, skeletal horses had leered at her, and an organ-grinder who was nothing but teeth and hands had turned the handle faster and faster until it all blurred into nothingness. Her senses were slowly coming back online. She could hear her own ragged, uneven breathing, and she could smell the reek of sweat-stained sheets. She was alive. That realisation brought no leap of joy or relief. There was a nag of unease working its way around the edges of her thoughts.

Survival was something she’d never dared hope for in those interminable days before the virus took hold on Soltaire, when there’d been nothing to do but wait for the inevitable to hit their planet too. The disease’s long incubation period meant that it had already reached every corner of settled space before the first symptoms appeared on the capital, Alegria. The messages from Alegria and the central worlds stopped a week or so before the sickness hit Soltaire. The infomercials had already given way to blunt emergency transmissions. As the days passed, the silences between them grew longer, the messages shorter, less coherent, as though the airwaves were fraying. But by then they knew what was coming. The virus was terminal in almost all cases.

Ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine per cent, one of the ranch hands had said. Jamie didn’t know where he’d got that figure, but it spread and became fact. The day he said that was the day they all stopped looking at each other. How many of them could hope to make it into a minority so staggeringly small? The odds were akin to launching a paper plane off the planet’s surface and hoping to hit a target back on Earth.

Nought point nought nought nought one per cent.

She felt stiff and brittle, like she’d snap if she moved. Her senses had turned on her. She could hear all the noises that her home wasn’t making. The generator at the main house was temperamental, and it wasn’t unusual for it not to be running. But she should have been able to hear the distant hum of machinery from the logging station over at the lake, or the farmhands calling to one another and swearing at the cattle. Instead, all she could hear was the soft, barely-there swish of the station’s turbine, and the squabbling of the immigrant sparrows in the trees behind the croft.

That was it. No human sound.

The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett is published by Pan Macmillan, 1 June 2017, £12.99 hardback.

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


About Anne Corlett

Anne Corlett has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and has won a number of awards for her short stories, including the H. E. Bates Award. She works as a criminal solicitor and freelance writer, and lives with her partner and three young boys in Somerset. The Space Between The Stars is her first novel.

You can find out more about Anne on her website – www.annecorlett.co.uk

Or why not follow Anne on twitter – @ConsummateChaos


Giveaway

With thanks to the lovely people at Macmillan I have one copy of the brilliant book to giveaway to one lucky winner!

I am running this giveaway through my twitter account here!

UK Only

Ends 4th June 2017

Good Luck!


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Anne and to Alice at Macmillan for asking me to be part of this fab blog tour and for an awesome giveaway!

Have you read The Space Between The Stars?  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 – Fab Five Romantic Moments by Darcie Boleyn


It’s that time of year again where I feel all summer-y and want to read all of the romantic summer reads whilst sipping on a glass of wine in the sun.

When I was asked to be on the blog tour for this brilliant adult fiction contemporary romance I instantly fell in love with it’s gorgeous cover and it’s gone straight up the top of my TBR pile.

Summer at Conwenna Cove was released on the 15th May 2017 published in e book by Canelo and sounds gorgeous.

So today for my stop on the tour I have the lovely author herself Darcie Boleyn with five her favourite romantic moments……


Eve has a glittering career, a loving husband and a future. But a terrible twist of fate means she loses it all, and with nowhere left to turn she flees to her Aunt Mary’s home in Cornwall. The last thing on her mind is romance – until she meets Jack.

Jack has seen the worst things people can do to each other and realised he is better off alone. He settles in Conwenna Cove, and saves his affections for the rescue dogs he cares for. But when Eve arrives in the village he can’t deny his attraction to her.

Eve and Jack are both scared to trust, but when they come together it’s impossible for either to ignore their feelings. Can they put their fears aside and learn to love again?

Summer at Conwenna Cove is an emotional and heart-warming holiday read about being brave enough to take a chance on love.


Fab Five Romantic Moments

The scene in Friends, when Rachel is watching the old video of Ross as he prepares to take her to prom, then her boyfriend arrives and Ross is left behind, wearing his father’s tux and holding a bunch of flowers. Then Rachel turns from the TV, crosses the apartment and kisses him. It gets me every time!

Similarly, the proposal scene in Friends featuring Monica and Chandler. I can’t watch it without blurred vision.

When Catherine says ‘I am Heathcliff…’ in Wuthering Heights. It’s a painful, complex, raw love and such a classic line.

When Johnny says ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner…’ in Dirty Dancing. Oh the goosebumps!

My own most romantic moment has to be when my husband dropped to one knee in Times Square, New York, and proposed to me. It was a truly magical day.

You can buy a copy of Summer at Conwenna Cove here

Or why not add it to your Goodreads here

You can also catch a spotlight on A Very Merry Manhattan Christmas here


Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night. Her childhood dream was to become a Jedi but she hasn’t yet found suitable transport to take her to a galaxy far, far away. She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate. Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.

You can find out more about Darcie on her website – www.darcieboleyn.wordpress.com

Or why not follow her on twitter – @darcieboleyn

Or on Facebook here or Instagram here


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Faye Rogers for asking me to be part of this fab blog tour and to Darcie for such a fab post!

Have you read Summer at Conwenna Cove?  What did you think?  What are your fave romantic moments?  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 – Characters by Lorraine Gregory


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

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

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

You can find out more about the #BritishBooksChallenge17 here

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


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

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

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

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


Characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We just have to write them first!

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


About Lorraine Gregory

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

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

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

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


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

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

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Sweetpea – The Playlist by C J Skuse


I am super excited to have our British Books Challenge author of the month for April, C J Skuse on Tales today with a brilliant playlist to celebrate the release of her first adult thriller Sweetpea which was release on the 20th April 2017.

If you’ve not read Sweetpea yet then your missing out!  It’s deliciously thrilling and I loved it!

C J Skuse was our #BritishBooksChallenge17 author of the month for April 2017!

Check out the #BritishBooksChallenge17 Spotlight on C J and her books and find out why people love her so much – here

You can find out more about the #BritishBooksChallenge17 here


About Sweatpea

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

’I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcoholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.’

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.

Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.

From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…


Sweetpea – The Playlist

Music is my co-writer and always has been. Certain songs unlock certain scenes and sometimes have the effect of reimagining scenes in my head. For Sweetpea, a lot of my ‘writing’ has been done on long car journeys – whole scenes conjured up while driving along. And when I’d get home, they’d pour forth onto the screen almost exactly as I’d imagined them (but not as good, obvs – they never are!) Here are 10 songs which leant themselves very well to scenes from my first ever adult novel, Sweetpea

Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac

I heard this song and knew my main character had to be called Rhiannon. Her original name was Tamsin. The lyrics She’s like a cat in the dark and then she is the darkness and She rules her life like a bird in flight and who will be her lover?’ are about a Welsh witch but they just spoke to the exact kind of person I was trying to create – mysterious, sexually-powerful and highly secretive.

Cheap Thrills – Sia

The lyrics depict a woman getting ready to go out for the night to dance and have fun but in my head mean something completely different. ‘Baby I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight.’

Glory Box – Portishead

Insidious, creepy, perfect. And the band are from Bristol which makes them even more perfect. Through this new frame of mind, a thousand flowers could bloom.

Milkshake – Kelis

She’s just reeling them in, all the time … ‘I know you want it, The thing that makes me, What the guys go crazy for. They lose their minds, The way I wind, I think it’s time…’

Them Bones – Alice in Chains

This song gave me my ending, along with a tide of goose bumps when I realised what she was going to do next. *FUN FACT*- I really, really didn’t want the book to end that way. Unfortunately, Rhiannon did. And she always wins.

Daddy Lessons – Beyonce

I could have put every Beyonce song on this list to be honest because she was in my head throughout the whole writing process. The lyrics of 6 Inch and this song in particular really sum up exactly where Rhiannon’s coming from in my mind. She learned an awful lot from watching her dad.

Candy Shop – 50 Cent

I love the predatory tone of this and though the lyrics are obviously about something else, when you apply it to Rhiannon’s predilection for murder, it bears a whole new meaning. Well, it does for me anyway. In Sweetpea, the roles are reversed –

You could have it your way, how do you want it?

You gon’ back that thing up, or should I push up on it?

Temperature rising, okay, let’s go to the next level

Dance floor jam-packed, hot as a tea kettle

I break it down for you now, baby it’s simple

If you be a nympho, I’ll be a nympho

In the hotel, or in the back of the rental

On the beach or in the park, it’s whatever you into…

Nirvana – Dumb

She’s an unhappy little soul in many ways and does what she can to get by. Murder is the troubling addiction to which she clings. ‘I’m not like them but I can pretend, The sun is gone but I have a light, My heart is broke but I have some glue, Help me inhale and mend it with you…’

The Sound of Silence – Disturbed

This song is overflowing with meaning for me and also carries on the flowers theme in a dark little way which I really love. The Disturbed version is better than the original, in my opinion.

…because a vision softly creeping

left its seeds while I was sleeping…

And the vision that was planted in my brain

still remains within the sound of silence…’

Perfect Day – Lou Reed

You’re going to reap just what you sow …

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


About C J Skuse

C.J. Skuse was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels, works as a freelance children’s fiction consultant and lectures in Writing for Children at Bath Spa University. Sweetpea is CJ’s first adult novel.

You can follow CJ on twitter – CeejaytheAuthor


You can find previous posts from CJ on my blog or by clicking on the links below …

Hot Boys In My Books!

Hidden Easter Eggs In Books

I also love this article by CJ of 10 Things I’s Like My Readers To Know here


A huge thank you to C J for such a fab post and embracing the #BritishBooksChallenge17

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

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – All About Violet by Harriet Whitehorn


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

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

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


 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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



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

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

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


All About Violet

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Full Name: Violet Therese Remy – Robinson

Born: London

Birthday: May 29th

Star sign: Gemini

Favourite colour: Blue

Favourite books: Just William, Tintin and Pippi Longstocking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Worst subject at school: Music

Favourite Animal to see at the Zoo: Giraffes

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

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

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

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


About Harriet Whitehorn

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

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

Or why not follow Harriet on twitter – @deedeederota2

About Becka Moor

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

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

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

Or why not follow Becka on twitter – @beckamoor


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

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

Happy Reading!

Spotlight – Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green


Today is my turn on the brilliant Noah Can’t Even blog tour and I am super excited to be spotlighting this debut book by Simon James Green with a fab giveaway!

Noah Can’t Even was released on the 4th May published by Scholastic and from what I have heard already you will be laughing page after page!

So for my stop on this fab blog tour I am spotlighting this fab author, illustrator and book!

Also do check the bottom of the post for an exciting event announcement and giveaway!


Painfully geeky Noah Grimes is desperate to do whatever he can to survive school. He thinks his best chance at social normalcy is to start up a romantic relationship with the wonderful Sophie, but his plans are hopelessly derailed when his best (and only) friend Harry kisses him at a party. And that’s when things go from bad to utter chaos.

You can buy a copy of Noah Can’t Even here or from your local bookshop!


About Simon James Green

Simon James Green grew up in a small town in Lincolnshire that definitely wasn’t the inspiration for Little Fobbing – so no-one from there can be mad with him, OK? He enjoyed a classic British education of assorted humiliations and barbaric PE lessons before reading Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he further embarrassed himself by accidentally joining the rowing team despite having no upper body strength and not being able swim. When it turned out that being a lawyer was nothing like how it looks in Suits or The Good Wife, and buoyed by the success of his late night comedy show that involved an inflatable sheep, he travelled to London to pursue a glamorous career in show business. Within weeks he was working in a call centre, had been mugged, and had racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt. Finding strength and inspiration in the lyrics of Tubthumping by Chumbawumba, he eventually ended up working on a range of West End shows and UK tours, co-wrote a feature-length rom-com for the BBC and directed Hollyoaks for C4 / Lime Pictures. After trying really, really hard, he also managed to write Noah Can’t Even. If you are interested in stalking him, he still lives in London, where he spends a lot of time telling people that Noah Can’t Even is only partly autobiographical, and his mum has definitely never done a Beyoncé tribute act.

You can find out more about Simon on his website – www.simonjamesgreen.com

Or why not follow Simon on Twitter – @simonjamesgreen


Event Alert!

You can catch Simon James Green on tour at the following destinations with the super funny Beth Garrod and Stephanie Kate Strohm and I’m chairing the Birmingham Event!

Come along and watch the shenanigans unfold!

Details here……

Join Simon James Green (Noah Can’t Even), Beth Garrod (Super Awkward) and Stephanie Kate Strohm (It’s Not Me, It’s You) for this hilarious panel as they discuss the importance of funny books and reveal their characters’ most embarrassing moments (and a few of their own!) chaired by UKYABA award-winning blogger Chelle Toy from Tales of Yesterday.

Simon, Beth and Stephanie believe that laughter truly is the best medicine in a world that can be increasingly negative, so sign up and get your cure!

We hope you can join us for a wonderful evening fully of awkward, funny and cringeworthy stories!

This is a free event but seating is limited.
To reserve your seat please call us on 0121 633 4353 or buy your ticket here
Email us at events.birmingham@waterstones.com
Tweet us at @bhamwaterstones
Or speak to a bookseller in store.


GiveawayTo celebrate the release of Noah Can’t Even I have decided to host a little giveaway through twitter!

I have one copy to giveaway to one lucky winner!

Head over to twitter here to enter!

UK Only

Ends 31st May 2017!

Good Luck!


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Olivia at Scholastic and to Simon James Green for having me as part of this fab blog tour!

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

Happy Reading!

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


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

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

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


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

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


Five Favourite Scenes from Dougal Daley

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

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

From Kathryn Evans – the Bra Wrestling Scene:

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

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

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

www.kathrynevans.ink        @mrsbung

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Loretta Schauer – the Rabbit Droppings Scene

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

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

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

 From Louise Jordan – the Escaping Hamster and Crawling Ants Scene

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

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

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

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

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

Stephanie Roundsmith is manager of the wonderful KidsReadWriteReview

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

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

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

Or why not add it to your Goodreads here


About Jackie Marchant

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

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

Or why not follow her on twitter – @JMarchantAuthor

About Loretta Schauer

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

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

Or why not follow her on twitter – @Loretta_Schauer


Blog Tour

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


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

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

Happy Reading!

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