Tag Archives: Guest Post

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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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 – Endings & Beginnings by Victoria Williamson


Today I am over the moon to have the lovely Victoria Williamson on Tales with a fab guest post to celebrate the release of The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle.

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle was released on the 19th April published by the lovelies at Kelpies and is set to be a beautiful moving story that will keep you gripped until the last page.

So today Victoria chats about endings and beginnings in this fab guest post…


Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she’s lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn’t the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out. When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you love.

Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson’s stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked ‘where do I belong?’


Endings and Beginnings

‘In the beginning…’

‘Once upon a time…’

‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…’

Growing up, writing the start of a story seemed easy. I’d just pick one of the standard phrases copied from a fairy story or a film, and I’d be off on my adventure straight away without having to worry about character backstory or beginning with a bang.

Writing as an adult is a little trickier.

There are so many prescribed ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ for writing fiction it’s amazing any of us get the first paragraph of a book written at all! Most of the advice focuses on what we’re not supposed to do:

• Don’t begin with a lengthy scene setting
• Don’t start with character backstory
• Don’t start with a description of past events
• Don’t start with an ordinary, everyday situation

And one of the biggest ‘don’ts’ I’ve heard a million times:

• Don’t start with a character other than your protagonist

So how do you begin a story when your book is dual narrative and your two main characters are equally important?

In The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, both Caylin and Reema tell the story from their own unique perspectives.

Caylin has lost her grandparents, and with her mother’s depression turning to alcoholism, she resorts to bullying other children for money and stealing to keep food on the table. She longs for the past when her grandparents were alive and she was part of a loving family. Her grandmother was a talented athlete, and Caylin keeps her memory alive through her passion for running.

Reema runs to remember too. She’s lost everything in the Syrian war, including her older brother Jamal, and she’s struggling to fit in and feel safe so far from home. Her memories of running through the streets of Aleppo after school with Jamal are bound up in the headscarf he bought her, and she clings on tightly to this as a symbol of everything she has lost and hopes to recover.

The way I chose to unite these two very different girls and begin their story, was by creating a metaphor for them, in the form of an injured urban fox they care for and come to call Hurriyah – ‘Freedom’ in Arabic.

Despite their different cultural backgrounds, both girls have suffered loss and are searching for a sense of belonging. Hurriyah’s own sense of loss over her dead mate, destroyed den and injured leg which prevents her from running, hunting and caring for her vulnerable cubs mirrors the girls’ struggles to overcome their own sad experiences.

So Hurriyah begins their story for them, her poems woven through the narrative to remind the reader that the girls want to feel both the safety of a permanent, settled home life, and the freedom to be themselves.

The ending of The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle however, proved harder to write. Not because I wasn’t sure how to wrap up the story, but because it’s always hard for an author to let go of characters who have been a big part of their life for so long. It’s almost like saying goodbye to old friends you’re never going to get a chance to talk to again.

One of the things all of my favourite books had in common when I was a child was the sense of loss I felt when I reached the last page and the story ended. Despite the serious issues involved, Caylin and Reema’s story is an adventure, and I’d like my readers to relate to these characters, and to feel invested in their quest to save the foxes and win their school a medal in the sports competition. I suppose the test of whether my book has had the intended impact on the reader is if they feel a little bit of the same sense of loss as me when they reach the last page and find they’ve come to end of Caylin and Reema’s journey too.

But I also wanted to end on an uplifting note. Hurriyah the fox’s refrain from the start of the story: ‘This is not home. It hurts,’ morphs into something far more hopeful at the end of the book when both Caylin and Reema realize that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you love.

That’s why I chose to end the story with an ellipsis instead of a full stop. The book may be stand-alone without a planned sequel, but the journey isn’t over for Caylin, Reema and Hurriyah. They’ve found friendship, belonging, and the sense of freedom they’ve been searching for, and so despite the fact that the book has ended, their adventures are only just beginning…

You can buy a copy of The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle here or from your local bookshop


About Victoria Williamson

Victoria Williamson grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked as an educator in a number of different countries, including as an English teacher in China, a secondary science teacher in Cameroon, and a teacher trainer in Malawi.

As well as degrees in Physics and Mandarin Chinese, she has completed a Masters degree in Special Needs in Education. In the UK she works as a primary school special needs teacher, working with children with a range of additional support needs including Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, physical disabilities and behavioural problems.

She is currently working as a full time writer of Middle Grade and YA contemporary fiction, science fiction and fantasy, with a focus on creating diverse characters reflecting the many cultural backgrounds and special needs of the children she has worked with, and building inclusive worlds where all children can see a reflection of themselves in heroic roles.

Victoria’s experiences teaching young children in a school with many families seeking asylum inspired her debut novel, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, an uplifting tale of redemption and unlikely friendship between Glaswegian bully Caylin and Syrian refugee Reema.

Twenty percent of her author royalties for The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle are donated to the Scottish Refugee Council.

You can find out more about Victoria’s books, school visits and upcoming events on her website: www.strangelymagical.com


Blog Tour

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


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

Have you read The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle?  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 – Aunty Vimala’s Rules by Savita Kalhan


Today I am over the moon to have the lovely Savita Kalhan on Tales to celebrate the release of The Girl In The Broken Mirror!

The Girl In The Broken Mirror was released on the 1st May 2018 published by Troika Books and this fab YA is set to break your heart.

Today Savita is sharing a fab extract / guest post from the book with Aunty Vimala’s Rules….


Jay’s creative writing exercise is to write a fairy tale, to end with they lived happily ever after . But the way her life is panning out she s not sure it will ever reach that stage. She and her mother are moving in with distant relatives, and they have super strict rules for girls. Jay is expected to have only Indian friends, if she has any at all. How can she see her school friends, Chloe and Matt? But this is only the beginning of a nightmare for Jay. When her life implodes, how can she hide the shame and how will she find a way to keep going?


Aunty Vimala’s Rules

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today and being part of the amazing fourteen stop blog tour! It’s so exciting to be here – and to have a new book out! I’m thrilled that The Girl in the Broken Mirror is in readers’ hands. It was published by Troika Books on May 1st and I still haven’t stopped smiling.

The Girl in the Broken Mirror is about Jay, who’s fifteen, and a terrible trauma that happens to her. It’s about her journey after the trauma and how she finds help. It’s also about a huge culture clash – Jay has had a liberal upbringing, but suddenly she has to move in with distant relatives who have super-strict ideas of what a girl can do and cannot do. Imagine having to live there for a few years, with little contact with your own family, and where school is the only freedom you are allowed.

That’s what Jay, the main character of The Girl in the Broken Mirror, is faced with!

Jay moves in with her Aunty Vimala at No 42 Primrose Avenue. She has been given the room in the basement, and her mum has been given the room in the attic. She’s also been given a huge set of rules…

Aunty Vimala’s Rules

Girls must be able to cook.

Girls must do all the cleaning and washing.

Girls must dress demurely.

Girls must not talk to boys.

Girls should not go out – no sleepovers, no hanging out with friends, no wasting time.

The rules are out of place in the UK in the 21st Century. They should be out of place everywhere.

Aunty Vimala’s Other Rules

Never wash your hair on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays.

Never leave your shoes upside down.

Never taste the food you are cooking with the stirring spoon.

Never shake the pickle jar when you have your period.

Never whistle after six o’clock.

These are just a few of Aunty Vimala’s other rules. They are part religious, part tradition, and part superstition. And all of them are alien to Jay and her upbringing. She struggles to fit in with this new lifestyle, but at the same time she knows that she has to – her and her mum have nowhere else to live.

Thank you so much for inviting me here today.

I hope you all love the book

You can buy a copy of The Girl In The Broken Mirror here or from your local bookshop!


About Savita Kalhan

I was born in my grandparent’s home in a small village in the north of India. The family home has been transformed into an amazing charity hospital, which is pretty cool. I moved with my parents from that small village in India to a small town in Buckinghamshire when I was 11 months old. No, I’ve never got used to the cold or the damp or the rain!

I went to uni in Aberystwyth, where the winters were colder and the seas stormy, and got happily stuck there for a few years before heading to London and life as an impoverished batik artist, before taking the plunge and getting married in Manila. Then I headed off to the desert heat of the Middle East where I lived and taught English for several years, read like a demon, and started writing.

I’ve never stopped writing. I hope I never do.

Now, I’m in North London, with a view of the woods, a stone’s throw from my allotment where I fight a daily battle against the onslaught of an army of slugs and wrestle with plotlines, and the tennis club where I slug a few balls, and my writing shed at the bottom of the garden where I write.

Savita loves to hear from my readers and she is happy to answer any questions about herself or the book!

You can find out more about Savita on her website –  www.savitakalhan.com

Or why not follow Savita on twitter –  @savitakalhan.


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Savita for getting in touch and asking me to host this fab post.

Have you read ?  What did you think?  Was it what you expected?  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 – I Was Born For This YA Playlist by Alice Oseman


Today I am super excited to have the phenomenal Alice Oseman on Tales to celebrate the release of her new fantastic YA, I Was Born For This.

I Was Born For This was released on the 3rd May 2018 published by Harper Collins Children’s and the reviews that I’ve already seen prove that this is a book not to be missed!

Also check out these beautiful redesigns of Alice’s two previous YA books…..as well as being fantastic they are simply gorgeous!

 So today Alice is sharing another song from her #YAPlaylist for I Was Born This Way and I am sharing a song from my playlist too….


The third novel from the phenomenally talented Alice Oseman – one of the most talked about YA writers in recent years.

For Angel Rahimi life is about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything she loves – her friend Juliet, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band with his mates is all he ever dreamed of doing.

But dreams don’t always turn out the way you think and when Jimmy and Angel are unexpectedly thrust together, they find out how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

A funny, wise, and heartbreakingly true coming of age novel. I Was Born for This is a stunning reflection of modern teenage life, and the power of believing in something – especially yourself.


YA Playlist

Alice

Heavydirtysoul – Twenty One Pilots

I included a Twenty One Pilots song in my I Was Born for This playlist because they’re one of the closest bands to how I imagine The Ark sound! Also, ‘Heavydirtysoul’ has lyrics that reflect some of Angel’s feelings towards The Ark. “Can you save my heavy dirty soul” is completely how Angel feels towards The Ark – she looks towards them to solve all of her problems by distracting her from thinking about anything in her own life.

Chelle

Buddy Holly by Weezer

Believe it or not it took me a long time to pick just one song to feature on this post.  Like many of us music to me is so symbolic of different moments in time throughout life and represents so many different feelings…. feelings of love, hurt, friendship, breakups, a particular time and maybe a particular memory.  For me that is what the song Buddy Holly by Weezer represents.  In fact it encompasses and reminds me of so many of these feeling and memories that it makes me feel quite emotional listening to it now a days.

I was 14 or 15 when this song came out at the time I was very much into grunge idolising Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl from Nirvana with all of my teenage angst and then this funky fun rock song came along and I was so on board that fandom!   It was one of the first songs I learnt to play on the guitar with my friend Katie and we even plucked up the courage to enter a competition playing and singing along to it.  The two of us up on the stage with our amps, microphones and guitars nervous, but loving life.  Unbelievably we came second place!  This song gave me the confidence to pursue music and singing further whilst I was at school leading me to do things I never would have imagined myself doing including auditioning for the school musical where I got given the lead part.  To this day I don’t know how that even happened.  It is a confidence I have never really had or felt since if I am honest.

Further into my Weezer fandom it would follow me through first loves, breakups, sadness, hurt and times of laughing, smiling and sitting in my room learning the riffs to play along with Weezer on my guitar.  So many memories from one song and one band.  This is was nostalgia feels like.

It’s amazing what music can do and like Angel in I Was Born This Way maybe music did distract me in a way and give me the most wonderful memories some of them good and some of them bad but most of all memories that I want to cling onto forever and that I wouldn’t change for the world!

You can buy a copy of I Was Born For This here or from your local bookshop

You can check out Alice’s full YA Playlist for I Was Born This Way here


About Alice Oseman

Alice Oseman was born in 1994 in Kent, England. She completed a degree in English at Durham University in 2016 and is currently a full-time writer and illustrator. Alice can usually be found staring aimlessly at computer screens, questioning the meaninglessness of existence, or doing anything and everything to avoid getting an office job.

Alice’s first book, SOLITAIRE, was published when she was nineteen. Her second, RADIO SILENCE, was released in early 2016.

You can find out more about Alice on her website – www.aliceoseman.com

Or why not follow Alice on twitter – @AliceOseman


Blog Tour

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

#IWasBornForThis

#IWBFT

#YAplaylist


A huge thank you to Nina Douglas for asking me to take part in this fab blog tour and to Alice for sharing the insight into the song from her playlist.

Have you read I Was Born For This?  What did you think?  What would be on your YA Playlist?  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 – Why I Love Edinburgh by Sophie Cameron


Today I am excited to have the brilliant Sophie Cameron on Tales to celebrate the release of Out Of The Blue!

Out Of The Blue was released on the 22nd March 2018 published by the lovelies at Macmillan Children’s Books and is a story that will stick with you long after you have read it.

With the book being set in Edinburgh today Sophie chats about why she loves Edinburgh so much in this fab guest post!


When angels start falling from the sky, it seems like the world is ending. For most people it doesn’t. But for Jaya the world ended when her mother died, two weeks before the first angel fell.

Smashing down to earth at extraordinary speeds, wings bent, faces contorted, not a single one has survived and, as the world goes angel crazy, Jaya’s father uproots the family to Edinburgh, intent on catching one alive. But Jaya can’t stand his obsession and, struggling to make sense of her mother’s sudden death and her own role on that fateful day, she’s determined to stay out of it. Then something extraordinary happens: an angel lands right at Jaya’s feet, and it’s alive.

Set against the backdrop of the frenzied Edinburgh festival, Sophie Cameron’s Out of the Blue tackles questions of grief and guilt and fear over who we really are. But it’s also about love and acceptance and finding your place in this world as angels drop out of another.


Why I Love Edinburgh

Edinburgh and I have a bit of a yo-yo relationship. I moved there for uni at 18, went to Quebec for a few months, back to Edinburgh, moved to France for a year, back to Edinburgh, Spain for the summer, back to Edinburgh, Germany, Spain, back to Edinburgh… and now I’m in Spain again, where I’ve been for the past year and a half. I have no idea where I’ll be in five years time, but Edinburgh is my favourite city in the world and still feels very much like home.

Here are five of the best things about it, in my opinion:

 1. The architecture. Even after spending so much time there, Edinburgh still amazes me with how beautiful it is. The Old Town especially is full of incredible buildings, and there are lots of interesting details to look out for. It’s not very built up, either, so you get some great panoramas – my favourites are the views from Calton Hill and North Bridge, especially at dusk.

2. Green spaces. Living in other cities made me really appreciate how many green spaces there are in and around Edinburgh. There’s the Meadows, Arthur’s Seat, Inverleith Park, the Botanic Gardens, Leith Links, Princes Street Gardens, Blackford Hill… They’re some of my favourite spots in the city, and quite a few of them are mentioned in Out of the Blue.

3. Walkable. I love walking, mostly because I’m too lazy to do any other exercise. Edinburgh is pretty perfect for walkers: small enough that you can get lots of places on foot, but big enough that it still has tons to see and do. If you’re visiting it’s really worth leaving the centre and taking a walk to Stockbridge, the Dean Village, Morningside or the Shore if you can.

4. The Fringe. A lot of Edinburgh locals hate the Fringe (and it is very frustrating having to wade through crowds of tourists just to get to Tesco) but I love it. It feels like the whole world arrives in Edinburgh for those three weeks, and amongst a lot of not-so-great stuff, you can find some really incredible shows. The chaotic atmosphere fit perfectly with the crazed behaviour of the angel chasers in Out of the Blue, and it made the book really fun to write.

5. Literary city. Time some fun facts: Edinburgh was the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, has the largest monument to a writer (Sir Walter Scott) and the only train station named after a novel (Scott’s Waverley). It also has the amazing Edinburgh International Book Festival, a great writing community and is home to lots of amazing authors. Just writing this has made me want to move back!

You can buy a copy of Out Of The Blue here or from your local bookshop!


About Sophie Cameron

I grew up in the Black Isle in the Highlands of Scotland. I spent around ten years in Edinburgh, did a few stints in Canada, Germany and France, and am now living in Barcelona.

My all-time favourite books include Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Naive. Super by Erlend Loe, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, How to be Both by Ali Smith, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, and More Than This by Patrick Ness.

When I’m not reading or writing, I’m usually studying foreign languages or watching inordinate amounts of TV. Other stuff I like includes: cats, tea, Duolingo, cats, Eurovision, Céline Dion, taiyaki, postcards, Catalan pop music, sudoku, empanadas, cheese.

I’m currently working on my second book, which will be published by Macmillan Children’s Books in 2019.

You can find out more about Sophie on her website – www.sophie-cameron.com

You can also follow Sophie on twitter – @toomanysophies


A huge thank you to Sophie for a brilliant guest post and to Macmillan Children’s Books and Nina Douglas for asking me to host!

Have you read Out Of The Blue?  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 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 – The Five Best Bits Of Being A Debut Author – And The Five Worst by Rowena House


I am absolutely over the moon to have the brilliant Rowena House on the blog today to celebrate the release of her debut novel The Goose Road and the fact that Rowena is our debut of the month for our April #BritishBooksChallenge18!

The Goose Road was released on the 5th April published by the wonderful Walker Books and is a brilliant historical fiction read that will take you on the most wonderful journey.

So today Rowena talks to us about being a debut author in the fab guest post…the best bits and the worst….


France 1916. Angélique Lacroix is haymaking when the postman delivers the news: her father is dead, killed on a distant battlefield. She makes herself a promise: the farm will remain exactly the same until her beloved older brother comes home from the Front. “I think of it like a magical spell. If I can stop time, if nothing ever changes, then maybe he won t change either.” But a storm ruins the harvest, her mother falls ill and then the requisition appears… In a last-ditch attempt to save the farm from bankruptcy, Angélique embarks on a journey across France with her brother’s flock of magnificent Toulouse geese.


The Five Best Bits Of Being A Debut Author – And The Five Worst

Best bits

 You did it!

 At last all that effort is rewarded. The doubt is gone, that gnawing fear: will I ever make the grade? Hell, yes. I’ve got a book out there! It gets a bit knackering, punching your fist in the air, but basically that’s the feeling.

Clever, creative publishing people believe in your creation

Discussing the inspirations for The Goose Road on social media recently brought home forcefully something I’d rather forgotten amid the nitty-gritty of copy edits, proof reading, building a website etc.

Angelique’s story is my take on a largely ignored side of life at a truly terrible time. I’m talking about how serious life can become for young people, and how sad, funny, strange and cruel.

I’ve had the privilege of spending years thinking about these things, and wondering how a peasant girl might, conceivably, have found the strength to deal with everything the First World War threw at her.

Now clever, creative people in the publishing industry are backing my imagination with their money & expertise – which is fantastic.

You’ve met – and continue to meet – amazing people

If there are lonely, tortured writers in garrets out there, I suspect they’re mostly trying to get some alone-time from all their writing mates, and tortured about how much time they spend on Twitter.

Because one of the very best bits about becoming a debut author is taking part in the wonderful world of writing communities online and in real life.

I’ve met an ocean liner’s worth of fascinating people over the past eleven years (which is how long it’s taken me to get here) many of whom I hope will remain friends for life.

 You’ve served your apprentice. Lack of confidence now is self-inflicted

This one is probably personal as I tend to be over-confident as a person, which might be a mask for deep-seated fears and phobias. But, hey, I’ve got a book out. My neuroses can damn well get back in their cave.

Seriously, though, there is so much first-class, detailed, free advice available to writers that whatever your worry, help is invariably on hand.

Even if you don’t own a library of writing advice guides, there’s always support online. Try Emma Darwin’s impeccable blog, This Itch of Writing. Each time I’ve run into a problem, this site has offered me a considered, practical, do-able solution.

The next book will be better – and cheaper to produce

Confession: I’ve spent in excess of £10,000 on training, research and travel in my quest to get published. I like learning, I loved taking an MA in creative writing (my biggest expense) and I find the buzz of writing festivals energizing.

Also, I wanted to research The Goose Road thoroughly, which meant four research trips to France. Which I could afford. Just.

From now on, it’s me and the laptop and writing in my spare time while earning enough to fill in that £10k hole in my pension savings, and supporting my son through university.

That’s going to be tough. As a freelancer, I could dedicate my time to whatever I wished. But I’ve learnt so much that I know I can do it again – and better.

 Worst bits

 Time

 Getting published takes forever. Your need the patience of heaven’s entire communion of saints to survive this process with any sense of equilibrium – which I don’t have. Frankly, the waiting drives me nuts.

 Grand Old Duke of York syndrome

Getting a debut novel published is an achievement, a pinnacle moment. For the last eleven years I’ve been marching up to the top of this hill…

So yeah, it’s downhill now for the foreseeable future. And that’s because of…

The money

I’m a breadwinner – and writing, famously, don’t earn you no bread.

As a member of the National Union of Journalists since 1983, I’m shocked at the level of pay for writers in the UK. The Society of Authors calculates that currently the average income from a single work of fiction is £6,000.

Naturally, I don’t yet know how well or badly my debut novel will sell, so the following figures are for illustration only – as I keep trying to reassure myself.

The Goose Road took me the full-time equivalent of approximately 15 months to write: three months research, six months for the first draft, three months for a structural edit, and another three for post-contract copy edits etc. and unpaid promotional work. Given a five-day week, that average income of £6k would work out at £20 a day.

Which is about the same as illegal migrants earn picking tomatoes in southern Italy. Seriously. There was an article in The Guardian a couple of months back about illegal migrant tomato pickers in southern Italy. I did the maths.

The opportunity cost

Every moment I spend writing, I’m not doing something else. Like being with my family, walking the dog, earning a living, or campaigning to save African elephants or British badgers. I’ve made my choice. I won’t ever get that time back again…

So how do I know if it was worth it?

A debut is by definition a new thing. Untried and untested. Potentially weak, short-lived. Forgettable. How will I ever be able to judge if it was worth all the time, effort and resources it took to birth it?

The early reviews have been kind, for which I’m hugely grateful, but we live in a capitalist age; publishing is a business. So success – and with it the chances that Book Two will also make it into the shops – depends on sales as well.

Yet every experienced author I’ve ever come across tells debuts not to worry about sales: that way lies madness, they say. Get on with your next book, they say. It’s the only thing in your power.

So maybe this is the worst bit about being a debut author: that you’re still on the same road you’ve been travelling for years. There are new horizons, yes. But no guarantees whatsoever.

You can buy a copy of The Goose Road here or from your local book shop!


About Rowena House

ROWENA HOUSE spent years as a foreign correspondent in France, Africa and then again in Europe before turning to fiction. She visited the WW1 battlefields of the Western Front repeatedly to research her prize-winning First World War short story, The Marshalling of Angelique’s Geese (WAR GIRLS, 2014) and again for her debut novel, THE GOOSE ROAD (Walker 2018). Her fascination with the Great War, the trenches, and the appalling artillery battles of the Somme and Verdun began at school when studying the war poets, Wilfred Owen in particular. As an adult, she experienced war first-hand as a Reuter’s reporter in Ethiopia, and saw its terrible impact on civilians. Now settled in the English countryside with her husband and son, Rowena holds a Master’s degree in rural economics and another in creative writing, and mentors fiction writers alongside her journalism and storytelling.

You can find out more about Rowena on her website – www.rowenahouse.com

Or why not follow Rowena on Twitter – @HouseRowena


Giveaway

With thanks to the lovely people at Walker I have 5 copies of The Goose Road to giveaway to 5 lucky winners!

I am hosting this giveaway through my twitter here

UK Only

Ends 20/04/2018

Good Luck!


A huge thank you to Rowena House for such a fab guest post and to Jo Hardacre for asking me to host and sending me a copy of the book!

Have you read any of the The Goose Road?  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 – Point Horror vs. Stephen King – How The Two Faces Of Teen Horror Influenced Savage Island by Bryony Pearce


Today I a SUPER excited to be sharing a post from the wonderful Bryony Pearce to celebrate the release of another book in the brilliant Red Eye Series, Savage Island.

Savage Island was released today, the 5th April 2018 published by Stripes and if you love YA Horror then this is the book for you!

Also Happy Book Birthday Bryony!

So anyone who knows me knows I am a huge nostalgic Point Horror fan and I was so happy to find out that Bryony also loved Point Horror!  Find out how it influenced Bryony in this fab guest post….


Prepare to be scared out of your wits with a brand new Red Eye.

In SAVAGE ISLAND, Lord of the Flies meets Saw as Bryony Pearce takes the reader on a perilous game of survival of the creepiest. A gripping YA horror, full of fast-paced action.

When reclusive millionaire Marcus Gold announces that he’s going to be staging an “Iron Teen” competition on his private island in the Outer Hebrides, teenagers Ben, Lizzie, Will, Grady and Carmen sign up – the prize is one million pounds each. But when the competition begins with a gruesome twist, the group begins to regret their decision. Can the friends stick together under such extreme pressure to survive?

When lives are at stake, you find out who you can really trust…

Red Eye is the killer YA range from Stripes publishing, a modern day Point Horror that gives the genre a chilling update for a new generation of fans.


Point Horror vs. Stephen King – How The Two Faces Of Teen Horror Influenced Savage Island

My younger sister, Claire, has always loved all things terrifying. While some people were being stretchered out of Saw, my sister considered it fairly tame (I’ve never seen it and never will).

I, however, am a wimp. As a child I watched Jaws and have never been able to watch anything with sharks in. Ever. Again.

If you try and say “Candyman” to me, I’ll freak out and run for my life. It’s not funny!

I am a voracious reader though, and despite my initial allergy to all things scary, as a teenager I did discover Stephen King. For me it was Eye of the Dragon first, and then I devoured everything else he ever wrote, including the Bachman Tales (I’m reading Sleeping Beauties at the moment). The only time I was ever sent out of class was for reading The Stand while my teacher was taking the register (to be fair she was late and once I’m into a book there is little that can get my attention, so I blame her for this injustice).

Having no problem with Stephen King, I decided, one bookless day, to try one of my sister’s Point Horror books.

Point Horror was a series of horror novels, similar to Goosebumps but aimed at a slightly older, teenage, audience. Stephen King was written for adults, so I was expecting to find Point Horror an easy read. Scary only for my little sister and her friends. Sleep over thrills. I had forgotten at this point that my sister considered Freddy Krueger to be light comic relief.

I read one Point Horror book.

I still have nightmares about it to this day!

In this particular novel, the name of which escapes me, the main character ends up buried alive.

What?

I’d been reading Stephen King, where in almost all of his novels, the main character defeats the bad guy. Reading King is about finding out how they solve the problem, how they get out of it, how they defeat the monster.

But in this, the monster won! The character, who I’d become attached to, woke up inside a coffin, scratching at the lid and screaming until she ran out of air. The end.

What?

That is where I learned was proper horror was. Stephen King, in my view writes fantasy – where the status quo is restored. True horror, for me, is the removal of all hope.

I’ve avoided it since.

And so, to Savage Island.

When I decided that I was going to write a horror novel, I drew on Stephen King, because he’s the master and because I’ve read everything he wrote and internalised his lessons. He writes wonderful supernatural creatures, but he also writes terrifying men and women, who are the real monsters – the ones you can’t immediately see.

Monsters are real … They live inside us. And sometimes they win. (Stephen King)

I intended that Savage Island should include all of the things that make Stephen King’s novels great for me:

Subversion of expectation (What’s in the box?)

Gore (that bit with the tooth!)

Using our own fears (being hunted in the dark would be pretty scary for anyone, but I also include being unable to escape and amateur dentistry)

Suspense (foreboding, tense atmosphere and jump scares)

Emotional connection to the characters (I hope my characters come across as real people, who you love to root for)

A twist (the whole thing was a what?)

But because I was writing horror and for me, true horror is the removal of hope, I drew on Point Horror too. And I hope I’ve managed to write a book that leaves you hiding under the covers, just like that Point Horror book for me.

By the way, no-one got buried alive in the making of this story.

You can buy a copy of Savage Island here or from your local book shop!


About Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce was a winner of the 2008 Undiscovered Voices competition and is the author of ANGEL’S FURY and THE WEIGHT OF SOULS, winner of the Wirral Grammar School Award – Best Science Fiction. She has written PHOENIX RISING and PHOENIX BURNING for Stripes. Bryony lives with her husband and two children in a village in Gloucestershire.

You can find out more about Bryony on her website – www.bryonypearce.co.uk

Or why not follow Bryony on Twitter – @BryonyPearce


Previously On Tales…

You can find previous post featuring Bryony and her books by clicking on the below links!

Cover Reveal – Phoenix Rising by Bryony Pearce

Guest Post – My Favourite Literary Pirates by Bryony Pearce

Tales Q&A with Bryony Pearce

Tales Quiz – Which Character From Phoenix Burning Are You?


Blog Tour

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

#SavageIsland    #RedEye


A huge thank you to Bryony Pearce for such a fab guest post and to Charlie at Stripes for asking me to be part of the blog tour and sending me a copy of the book!

Have you read any of the Savage Island?  What did you think?  Did it scare you?  Have you read any of the other books in the Red Eye series?  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!

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