Monday 19 September 2016

This Blog Is Officially Retiring…


You may have noticed I haven't posted on here for a while. Sorry! What with writing, workshopping and co-organising UKYACX with Kerry Drewery, I just don't have time to blog any more. I've also been taken on as a writer in residence with First Story for 2016-17, so I'm going to be busier than ever now!

So in order to preserve my sanity, I've decided to officially retire this blog. However, I'll be leaving it up so you can read all my previous ramblings about writing and life. And I'll be regularly updating my Facebook page, so you can keep up with me there, on Twitter and on Instagram.

A big thank you to everyone who's read my blog since I started it back in 2011 and I hope I'll still see you around online!

Image © stevedepolo via Flicker. Licensed for reuse via Creative Commons.

Monday 29 February 2016

Coming Soon – BROKEN SKY by L.A. Weatherly and CRUSH by Eve Ainsworth

As usual, my TBR pile is so huge it's on the brink of collapse. I guess I could stop buying books and borrowing them from the library, but where's the fun in that?! Sometimes it's hard to know what to read next, but recently, I was lucky enough to get an early look at not one but two amazing UKYA books coming out this week, so I thought I'd share them with you .

The first is L.A. Weatherly's BROKEN SKY (The BROKEN trilogy #1), published by Usborne. Here's the blurb:

Welcome to a ‘perfect’ world.

Where war is illegal, where harmony rules.

And where your date of birth marks your destiny.

But nothing is perfect.

And in a world this broken, who can Amity trust?

Doesn't it sound great?

This is a hard book to sum up without spoilers, so I won't try, but I'm certain readers are going to love it. Just like L.A. Weatherly's bestselling ANGEL series, there's action, danger, a daring heroine, a wonderfully believable and heart-rending romance, and also aeroplanes and a plot as twisty as they come.

But what makes this book really stand out is its setting – BROKEN SKY's 'world' is an alternative version of the USA, with everything wrapped up in a cool 1940s vibe. It's richly imagined, full of satisfying detail – it's one of the most original and brilliant YA novels I have ever read. I can't wait for the next installment in the trilogy!

Love hurts … but should it hurt this much?

Reeling from her mum’s sudden departure, Anna finds the comfort she needs in her blossoming relationship with Will. He’s handsome and loving, everything Anna has always dreamt of.

He’s also moody and unpredictable, pushing her away from her friends, her music. He wants her to be his and his alone. He wants her to be perfect.

Anna’s world is closing in. But threatening everything is a dark secret that not even Will can control…

I loved Eve's debut novel, 7 DAYS, and I predict that CRUSH will establish her, quite rightly, as one of the UK's top contemporary YA writers. As with 7 DAYS, which dealt with bullying, CRUSH looks at the novel's central issue (this time, a controlling relationship) from both sides, with huge amounts of empathy and understanding. The story is realistically and sensitively told, helping the reader to understand the reasons for Will's behaviour without condoning it. This book takes a realistic and unflinching look at controlling relationships, yet doesn't glamourise or excuse what Will does to Anna.

It's also highly readable, and Eve keeps up a sense of tension and menace which pulls you through the story at a breathless pace.

This is an important and thought-provoking novel, and I hope it finds the wide readership it deserves.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Why Libraries Matter

Last year, as part of the YA Shot blog tour, I wrote a piece about why libraries matter for the lovely Sofia over at The Reading Fangirl. Today is National Libraries Day, so I thought I would repost it (with some minor edits for clarity) here:

Forget Hogwarts. Never mind Narnia. When I was a kid, there was only one place where magic really happened. In this place, I could go anywhere. I could be anyone. I could fly; I could make myself invisible; I had superpowers.

That place was my local library.

As soon as I stepped inside, I entered another world, intoxicated by the scents of paper and ink. I never knew what I might find – what worlds I’d find between the covers of the books that waited for me there. And even better, I got to take that magic home, and it didn’t cost me a penny. For a child with a reading habit like mine, the library was a lifeline, feeding my book addiction and filling up my brain with stories and experiences and life.

Later, as an adult, I got a job in a library, and now had the chance to see life from ‘the other side of the desk.’ I was also an aspiring author, writing stories of my own. I spent every day surrounded by books, by authors, by words. That familiar magic filled the air; I took it in with every breath. When I was supposed to be shelving books, I’d find a quiet corner in which to read. Between customers, I’d scribble ideas down on old receipts and tickets and request cards. I’d look at the books on the shelves and daydream about seeing my name on a book spine one day.

But there was more to it than that.

The stereotype of the library as an archaic, dusty institution, inhabited by stern, bespectacled librarians saying SHHH! every time you so much as breathe persists to this day. But that’s never been my experience, even as a child. The library I worked in was a cheerful, welcoming place. We had author events, storytimes, readings and more. And best of all was seeing children come in – some already keen readers like I had been, others just starting their first uncertain forays into the world of words.

I’ll never forget the fourteen year old boy who “didn’t read”, only, after we recommended a list of authors to his frustrated mother, he did. Or the kids devouring their favourite series who came running in every week to see if the next book had arrived.

I was able to volunteer to help out at events like the Big Book Bash, an annual celebration of books and authors for young people in care. I was asked to join a team of writers for a website that recommended books to young people. Later on, I was lucky enough to set up two writing groups – one for adults, and one for children (which I still run after we were adopted by Writing East Midlands), passing on my love of words to other people and – I hope – encouraging them to find their own magic in writing. After I got a book deal – much to the surprise of my colleagues, who I’d more or less kept my writing a secret from, never daring to dream I might actually get anywhere with it – I had two book launches at two different libraries on the same day.

But libraries aren't just about books. Mine certainly wasn't. There were the people working their way through their family trees. People who came in to use the computers to do their work, type up CVs, look for jobs or simply keep in touch with far-flung friends. People who needed information, who needed help, and it was us they came to – I hope that most of the time, we were able to give them what they needed.

This is why libraries matter. They are important to me on a personal level, but it goes wider than that, too. I know the difference libraries make to people because I’ve seen it – and I know what a difference they made to me.

We must look after our libraries. They are truly democratic – a space for everyone – and they need to stay that way.

Thursday 31 December 2015

2015 - A Year in Books and Words

Oh dear. I haven't kept my promise to myself that I would try to start blogging more regularly again. To be fair, this is due to circumstances mostly outside of my control – on a personal level, 2015 has been a very difficult year for reasons I'm not going to go into here, and I'm going to be glad to see the back of it. This has meant blogging (and keeping up with the internet in general) has often been the last thing on my mind because I simply haven't had the energy to do it.

But lots of positive things have happened too, so as it's New Year's Eve, I thought I'd do a bit of a roundup. Here's what's been happening…

Writing Update
I've had several emails lately asking me if there's going to be sequels to ACID and The Fearless. I do have ideas for stories which follow on from them, so never say never, but at the moment, the answer is no. However, that doesn't mean I'm not writing! After parting company with my old agent last November, I spent this year working on a project I'm really excited about, and in October I signed with Ella Kahn at DKW Literary who loves the book as much as I do.

In other news, ACID made this list of the best ever YA sci fi books on the Huffington Post book blog, and The Fearless has been nominated for the 2016 Concorde Book Award - the winner will be announced in March, so watch this space!

10 Books read in 2015
I have read SO MANY amazing books this year and still have a TBR so huge it's on the brink of collapse. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favourites:

1. The Boy Who Drew the Future by Rhian Ivory
Two haunting parallel storylines, one set in the past, one in the present, about Noah and Blaize, who can both predict the future with their drawings. What happens when the boys' stories intertwine and tragedy threatens? Evocative and beautifully written, this is a book which stays with you for a long time.

2. Frail Human Heart by Zoe Marriott
The conclusion to the stunning The Name of the Blade trilogy. Mio has banished the monsters sent by the Goddess of Death, but to do so she had to make a terrible sacrifice. Can she save the human world  or is the apocalypse inevitable? Packed with emotion, adventure, mythical creatures and gorgeous descriptions, this is one series I was very sad to be leaving behind.

3. The Wanderers by Kate Ormand
Flo has spent her life travelling with the circus. She – and all the other performers – are shape shifters, and use the circus as a way of hiding in plain sight in a world that mistrusts and misunderstands her kind. But can she keep hiding, or is her secret about to be revealed? A more-than-worthy successor to Kate's debut, Dark Days, this is a thrilling and romantic read.

4. When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman
Ella wakes up one morning to find she's not Ella any more. Well, she is – but a different Ella. She looks different, her friends are different, even her past is different. What's happened to her? Her quest for answers leads to a very surprising – and totally unpredictable – discovery. The ending really surprised me too – it's extremely clever. You won't be able to put it down!

5. Urban Legends by Helen Grant
Another final book in a trilogy I never wanted to end. Veerle is trying to live a normal life after the terrible events that have taken place recently. But a group of storytelling friends are disappearing one by one, and a killer is on the loose… Utterly gripping, I was reading this through my fingers! Easily the most terrifying instalment of the series, and it contains a plot twist that will have you screaming out loud at the page.

6. Name Upon Name by Sheena Wilkinson
On the Western Front, war is raging. But there is conflict going on closer to home as well. In Ireland, political tensions are reaching a head, tensions which threaten to tear fourteen-year-old Helen's family apart. Name Upon Name will make you cry, smile, and above all, think - I cannot recommend it highly enough.

7. Stonebird by Mike Revell
Liam's grandmother has dementia, and although Liam wants to make things better and keep his family from falling apart, he can't. Then he finds a gargoyle in an old church, and things begin to change… Stonebird is not only a sensitive look at the effects dementia can have on a family, but expertly weaves together many different plot threads and two different times to create a powerful and magical story which will appeal to readers of all ages.

8. The Secrets of Sam and Sam by Susie Day
This book features the Sams from the Pea books, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the twins better. They both love being a twin, but who is Twin A, the best twin? And why does everyone seem to be keeping secrets – including the Sams themselves? A delightful look at family life and the complications of being a twin and trying to find your own identity.

9. An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls
Holly, Davy and Jonathan have been struggling since the death of their mother, and it's only Jonathan's hard work that's prevented them being taken into care. Then their wealthy, eccentric great aunt falls ill, and gives them some clues that send them on a real-life treasure hunt that might just solve all their problems… Another heartwarming look at family life, with an old-school style adventure at its heart. I loved it!

10. In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll
Bundled off to stay with her grandmother while her brother gets a longed-for heart transplant, Alice feels left out and alone. The only thing she likes about staying with Nell is the wood at the bottom of the garden. But Nell, flying in the face of strong local opposition, is determined to cut the trees down. Can Alice change her mind? And who is Flo, the mysterious girl in the red coat who appears one day but doesn't go to her school, and who no one's ever heard of? I'm a big fan of Emma Carroll and really enjoyed this book, her first venture into contemporary fiction

10 Books I can't wait for in 2016 (Blurbs are from Amazon unless otherwise stated):

1. Cell 7 by Kerry Drewery (September, Hot Key)
From the Bookseller: Hot Key Books has acquired YA novel Cell 7 by Kerry Drewery, set in world where sinister reality TV has replaced the justice system. In the book, a teenager called Martha is accused of murdering Jackson Paige, a self-made millionaire. Like all the other criminals in the story, her fate will be decided on by the public, who will choose whether she lives or dies. Hot Key’s editor-at-large Emma Matthewson acquired the world rights in all languages in a three-book deal from Jane Willis at United Agents, and will publish in autumn 2016. “Cell 7 is a gripping story that imagines a fully realised world of today but with thought-provoking questions about the death penalty and the effect of modern media in our daily lives,” said Matthewson. “There is tension, action, romance and amongst all this Kerry retains the wonderful ability she has to prompt teens to ask questions about the world around them.”

2. Crush by Eve Ainsworth (March, Scholastic)
Anna's new boyfriend Will seems perfect in every way. But soon, a darker, controlling side to Will emerges. Can Anna escape before a dark secret, beyond even Will's control, threatens to crush them both? I've been lucky enough to get hold of a proof of this book, and it blew me away.  Like Eve's debut, 7 Days, Crush is told from both the point of view of the abused and the abuser, giving a fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking insight into why people behave the way they do. This is a brilliant second novel – Eve Ainsworth is going from strength to strength with her writing, and I can't wait to see what she does next.

3. Boy X by Dan Smith (February, Chicken House)
Kidnapped and drugged, Ash wakes up on a remote tropical island. His mum - a genetic scientist - has been imprisoned and infected with a deadly virus. Where is he, and what's he doing there? He sets out to cross the jungle to find out and rescue his mother. Soon he realises he's quicker and sharper than before. But there's something else ...why are the animals watching him, and how can he use the jungle to his advantage?

4. Lifers by Martin Griffin (April, Chicken House)
Fear haunts the streets of Manchester: a schoolgirl has disappeared. Preston is drawn to investigate, exploring the city in the hunt for his missing friend. Deep in the bowels of a secret scientific institute, he discovers a sinister machine. Captured and condemned to a cavernous space filled with problematic teens, Preston is determined to escape - but this is no ordinary jail. Friendships are forged and lives lost in a reckless battle for freedom, revenge - and revolution.

5. Ride by Lisa Glass (June, Quercus)
Seventeen-year-old Iris has returned to her hometown of Newquay. Leaving behind her promising surfing career. Leaving behind Zeke, the boy who changed her world. She's happy to get back to her old life, her friends and family. She wants to rediscover her passion for surfing. But Iris soon realises it won't be that simple. Because while summer romances might only last the season, first loves never truly leave you.

6. Cuckoo by Keren David (August, Atom)
Jake is an actor - a teenager who had a regular role in one of the UK's best-loved soaps until his character, Little Riley, went upstairs to his bedroom and never came down again . . . Jake clings to the hope that the writers will bring his character back (they didn't kill him off after all); but as time passes, and finances dwindle, reality starts to dawn. His family situation is hard. His dad has anger issues that have led to his recent redundancy, his mum cares full-time for his severely autistic older brother, and now they're struggling to pay the rent. Suddenly, Jake feels his acting career is crucial for their financial security and well-being. The pressure mounts for him to succeed - and home doesn't feel like home any more: it feels like a powder-keg waiting to explode. Cuckoo is a novel about the roles we play when we don't fit in anywhere, and finding unlikely solace when home is the least welcoming place of all.

7. Barefoot in the Wind by Zoe Marriott (July, Walker Books)
A retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in fairytale Japan. I don't have many details for this yet, but I know it's going to be awesome!

8. The Deviants by C.J. Skuse (September, Mira Ink)
Described as the Famous Five meets We Were Liars… I can't wait!

9. The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge (January, Nosy Crow)
When Albie's mum dies, it's natural he should wonder where she's gone. His parents are both scientists and they usually have all the answers. Dad mutters something about Albie's mum being alive and with them in a parallel universe. So Albie finds a box, his mum's computer and a rotting banana, and sends himself through time and space to find her...Quality commercial fiction, well written with real heart and adventure.

10. Electrigirl by Jo Cotterill (February, Oxford University Press)
Holly Sparkes is just your average 12-year-old, that is, until she's hit by a bolt of lightning. Now Holly is EXTRAordinary. Like a human battery Holly can generate a massive amount of electricity in seconds, which could come in handy if she's ever going to solve the mystery of her best friend's disappearance. Because when you're dealing with the likes of Professor McAvity and her mysterious CyberSky corporation, you need all the help you can get! This exciting story includes black and white graphic novel style illustrations by Cathy Brett.

There's also going to be a new book by Rhian Ivory called Matchgirl, a contemporary retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl which I'm very excited about, and I can't WAIT for Justin Cronin's City of Mirrors either… but I'd better stop here or I'll be going on about books all day!

UKYA and UKMG Extravaganzas
In February 2015, Kerry Drewery and I organised the first ever UKYA Extravaganza at Birmingham High Street Waterstones. It was such a success that we decided to do it again in Nottingham this October – and have a MG (Middle Grade) Extravaganza as well! With the help of the fab Paula Rawsthorne (our MC) and Jo Cotterill (who helped gather all the MG authors), the events featured over 60 authors between them over two weekends. You can see photos and read all about them over on the UKYA Extravaganza Facebook Page. And we're doing it again! In 2016, the UKYAX and UKMGX will be held in Newcastle. Details to follow soon!

School Visits and Workshops
I've done lots of school visits this year, including my first ever visit to a primary school, working with Year 5 at Hatfield Primary in Sheffield to produce writing about jungles. It was a lot of fun! I did another module with Ellis Guilford School in Nottingham about writing thrillers, which included a visit to Bletchley Park, an incredible place. More recently, I attended the East Midlands heat of the Kid Lit Quiz at Lady Manners School in Bakewell, and I'm looking forward to several upcoming workshops and visits in the new year.

I also branched out with my workshops this year and started working with my husband, Duncan, who is an artist. We did some Making an Artist's Book workshops for the Derbyshire Literature Festival at Alfreton and Chesterfield library, helping people create a piece of writing, then illustrate it with simple printmaking techniques. You can find out more about these workshops here.

In May, I accompanied 25 students from my Patron of Reading school, Titus Salt School in Yorkshire, on a residential weekend to Malham, where we made films based on stories created on a visit earlier in the year. You can read all about it and see photos here, and catch up with all my Patron of Reading activities on my Patron of Reading page on this blog.

I've also been asked to return to Titus Salt as their Patron of Reading for a second year – hooray! My first visit for the 2015-16 school year was in November, where I worked with students on journal-writing, retelling the Alice in Wonderland story and even making up a story about a gorilla farm on Mars! You can see my latest Patron of Reading Newsletter here, which includes the story and a recommended reading list for students in Year 7.

So, that's been my 2015. I have no idea what 2016 will bring, writing-wise, but I hope I'll have some good news to share at some point. In the meantime, a very happy New Year to all my blog readers, and I'll catch up with you again soon!

Thursday 1 October 2015

YA Scavenger Hunt Autumn 2015!

The YA Scavenger Hunt and my giveaway have now closed! Out of 131 possible entries, tells me the winner is entry number 116. Congratulations to Sandi Turla! A signed copy of THE FEARLESS will be on its way to you very soon.

Hi! Welcome to this stop on the YA Scavenger Hunt. You’re currently hunting on TEAM GREEN!


Directions: Somewhere in this post, I’ve highlighted my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on Team Green, then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 4, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
To find out more about the hunt, see links to all the participating authors and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.
There's some exclusive bonus content from me hiding somewhere on the interwebs! Somewhere on this leg of the hunt is a deleted scene from THE FEARLESS. When you find it, come back over here and enter the BONUS giveaway listed below. But first, here’s some bonus content from the fab author I'm hosting – Beth Revis!

Beth Revis is the NY Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series. The complete trilogy is now available in more than 20 languages. Beth is also the author of The Body Electric and several short stories. A native of North Carolina, Beth is currently working on a new novel for teens, tentatively scheduled for 2016.

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Thanks so much for hosting me, Emma! Today I'm talking about The Body Electric, a stand alone sci fi novel that's near to my heart. This story is about Jack and Ella, two people in the futuristic society of  of New Venice. Eagle-eyed readers will see a few allusions to Godspeed and Amy and Elder from my first trilogy, Across the Universe, but here are a few fun facts!

1. A big part of my inspiration came from Philip K. Dick novels, most notably Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Total Recall. I named my main character Ella Shepherd as a nod to Dick's Electric Sheep novel.

2. The story is set on the island nation of Malta, a real island in the Mediterranean (the "boot" of Italy is kicking it). But the main city is a made-up place called "New Venice." I named it that because the city uses solar glass, an idea I'd come up with years ago while watching a glass-blowing demonstration in Venice.

3. The main boy character is named Jack, and Ella's mother is named Rose. I came up with these named after watching an episode of Doctor Who (the "Are you my mummy?" episode) which features Jack and Rose...but a lot of people think it's an allusion to Titanic!

4. One of the scientists whose name is on a placard in the labs Ella goes to is named "Martin"--the same last name as Amy's father in Across the Universe.

5. Ella's godmother is name Jadis White. This is from my favorite book, The Chronicles of Narnia because the actress who plays her in the latest movie, Tilda Swinton, had exactly the right look for that character in my book. I rarely pick actual people as models for my characters (the only other exception is Molly Quinn, who is the model I used for Amy).

Thanks for reading a few of the little clues and allusions I added to my book. I hope you check it out--and make sure to stop by my blog in the hunt for an extra giveaway!

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Read the book that Publisher's Weekly called ""addictive"" and that kept USA Today guessing until the very end. By the NY Times bestselling author of Across the Universe!
You can have the perfect past...for a price. In this exciting sci fi thriller, one girl uncovers the truth in a world where you can't trust your own memories.
The future world is at peace.
Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift--the ability to enter people's dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother--to help others relive their happy memories.
But not all is at it seems.
Ella starts seeing impossible things--images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience--and influence--the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love--even though Ella's never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing...
Someone's altered her memory.
Ella's gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn't even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella's head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings.
So who can she trust?
This YA SF action and adventure book is suitable for all readers teens and up who love mysteries, thrillers, and futuristic novels. DON'T MISS THIS EXCITING YA SCI FI THRILLER!

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To win a SIGNED hardback copy of THE FEARLESS, find my hidden content somewhere on this hunt. Then come back and comment with the answer to the following question:
How many flights of stairs does Cass go down to get to her mother?
For an extra point, follow me on social media or like my Facebook page. Please tell me where you followed me (and your username on that platform) in your comment so that I can count it!
Here are the links to my twitter, facebook and instagram!
 * * * * *
And before you go, here are 3 writing-related facts about me:
My writing assistant is a crazy greyhound called G-Dog.
I wrote my first novel when I was 13, in maths lessons with my notebook hidden under my work.
My favourite writing outfit is pyjamas and thermal socks. It's all about the comfort…

Ready to move on to the next stop on the hunt? Then make your way over to CJ REDWINE!
Good luck!