Wednesday 17 December 2014

My Second Patron of Reading Visit

Last Friday saw me catching stumbling onto a train at the unearthly hour of 7am, clutching a coffee in one hand and a bag full of notebooks, postcards and various other bits and bobs in the other. I was heading up to Shipley in West Yorkshire to visit Titus Salt School. I'm lucky enough to be Titus Salt's current Patron of Reading and this was my second official visit to the school in that capacity.

By the time I arrived at 9am, I was much more awake, thank goodness, and ready for a busy day talking to Titus Salt's Year 7s about how I became a writer and got published. The students were fantastic, and asked some great questions. The students were also given copies of the latest edition of PassWords, my Patron of Reading newsletter, which I write every half term.

In this half term's edition there was a special mention for the winners of Titus Salt's Summer Reading Challenge, and some fantastic writing by the students themselves, including a poem and the first instalment of a horror story called The Bloody Boathouse.

After a busy lunch break signing postcards and talking to a group of budding writers, I helped some Year 11s film a series of podcasts about how to answer the English GCSE exam questions. The exam has changed a lot since I sat my GCSEs, and it was really interesting to find out what students need to do these days to achieve a high mark.

I also chose a book Christmas tree, one of several made by library staff to raise money for charities chosen by Titus Salt's Post-16 students. In exchange for a small donation, I took home this beautiful tree made from pages of a graphic novel. It now has pride of place on my desk.

It was a wonderful day – I'm really proud to be involved with a school which is so passionate about books, reading and words. And I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next few months will bring!

If you're a school who would like to link up with an author and make them your Patron of Reading, you can find out who's available on the Patron of Reading Website here.

Monday 17 November 2014

Giveaway Winners!

I have consulted and it tells me the winners of the signed copies of THE FEARLESS are…

@_Sandra_R_ and Laura Mary! Hooray!

Congratulations to both of you. Please email me at so I can arrange to send them to you.

Signed prettiness!

Saturday 15 November 2014

The #FearlessHalloweenGiveaway is now closed!

Thanks to everyone who entered. I'll be announcing the winners on Monday, so watch this space.

In the meantime, dear blog readers, please could you send some good thoughts to G-Dog? He's pulled a muscle in his back and is feeling a little sorry for himself. He's a lot more mobile today, though, so hopefully it won't be long before he's back to his usual silly self!

Also biscuits. Biscuits would be good.

Friday 31 October 2014

The Blog Lives! And a FEARLESS Giveaway


A while ago, I announced I was moving this blog to Tumblr. I really like the format and the immediacy of that platform, but having dipped my toe in the water, so to speak… I've realised it's not for me. I don't have time to keep up with it – like Twitter and Facebook, you have to post and interact there regularly for it to be worthwhile. So I've decided that, just in time for Halloween, I'm bringing this blog back from the dead! [insert spooky ghost noises here] And I've given it a bit of a facelift, too - what do you think?

What have I been up to while this blog has been in stasis? Well, several exciting things have happened. I'm still sworn to secrecy about two of those things, but I'll share when I can. What I can tell you is that THE FEARLESS has been nominated for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal - my second nomination in two years. To say I'm thrilled is an understatement.

I'm also working on some new book ideas, but again, they're top secret at the moment. I'm fairly superstitious about my new ideas, and always think if I talk about them too much it will jinx them, so I'm keeping quiet for now. Sorry!

In between writing and the day job, I've been doing plenty of workshops and events - this week, I ran a teen writing workshop at Wirksworth Library, and also took part in a panel discussion and author Q&A at Lincoln High Street Waterstones with Kerry Drewery and Zoe Marriott. Despite suffering from a horrible cold, I had the BEST time. Fellow authors Kendra Leighton and Rebecca Mascull came along to cheer us on and it was so lovely to meet and chat to everyone. One girl told me that THE FEARLESS made her cry all the way through, and another that ACID is the book that's made her want to write dystopian. Sometimes, when I'm struggling through my first (or second, or third, or tenth…) draft, wondering if anyone will ever want to read the words I'm trying to get onto the page, writing can feel like a lonely and frustrating business. To hear such passionate responses from readers really makes me feel like it's all worth it!

A big thank you to Giles, Kirsty and all the staff at Waterstones Lincoln for looking after us so well. BTW, they have limited amounts of signed stock AND swag from all three of us, so if you're in the area, hurry down and grab some before it sells out!

Finally, to celebrate the blog revival and Halloween, I'm giving away two signed copies of THE FEARLESS. It's dark and gruesome and simply perfect for this time of year, so if you want to win a copy, leave me a comment below and/or follow me on Twitter and tweet about this post with the hashtag #FearlessHalloweenGiveaway. The giveaway is international and entries close on Friday 14th November.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday 12 July 2014

I'm Moving!

Or at least, this blog is moving, although I'll be leaving my previous posts up here. I've decided to switch to Tumblr, and you can now find me over at Coffee and Notebooks and Greyhounds, Oh My!

See you there!

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Blog Takeover #2: DARK DAYS Author Kate Ormand's Path to Publication

What's this? Two posts in two days? This blog is in danger of becoming positively active again. Well, there's a good reason that I'm posting today, because today is release day for DARK DAYS by my writing buddy Kate Ormand, a book I've been looking forward to ever since Kate asked me to read an early version after it was accepted for publication.

The future world has been divided into sectors--each the same as the other. Surrounded by thick steel fences, there is no way in and no way out. Yet a cyborg army penetrates each sector, picking off its citizens one by one, until no one is left. Behind the sectors' thick walls, the citizens wait to die. Few will be chosen to survive what's coming; the rest will be left behind to suffer. A new world has been created, and its rulers are incredibly selective on who will become a citizen. They want only those with important roles in society to help create a more perfect future. 

Sixteen-year-old Sia lives in one of the sectors as part of a family that is far too ordinary to be picked to live. According to the digital clock that towers high above her sector, she has only fifteen days to live. Sia has seen the reports and knows a horrific death is in store for her, but she is determined to make the most of her final days. Sia refuses to mourn her short life, instead promising herself that she'll stay strong, despite being suffocated by her depressed mother and her frightened best friend. Just when Sia feels more alone than ever, she meets Mace, a mysterious boy. There is something that draws Sia to him, despite his dangerousness, and together, they join a group of rebels and embark on an epic journey to destroy the new world and its machines, and to put an end to the slaughter of innocent people.

And now, over to Kate…

It’s publication day for DARK DAYS and Emma kindly invited me to share my path to publication. Everyone has such different journeys and I’ve always found it interesting to read about other experiences. So hopefully this will be interesting to someone . . . somewhere!

I wrote two YA novels before writing DARK DAYS. I started querying agents with the second.

I suffered through loads of rejection, which can really knock your confidence. And, like me, I’m sure every writer has considered giving up at some point. Obviously, I didn’t, and to keep myself busy while that novel was out and the rejection was coming in and the disappointment was mounting, I wrote DARK DAYS. It was something I’d been wanting to write for a while, so I got started. And not only was I finally writing the book I’d been looking forward to writing for ages, it took my mind mostly off the novel on submission, and I knew I was moving forward, rather than stuck in limbo waiting for replies.

A few months later, most replies had come in from agents. I had two partial requests along the way that didn’t go further, and a whole load of no! So I considered what to do next—to give that one another go, even though it really wasn’t looking good, or to move on and query DARK DAYS. I moved on.

I sent queries out in batches and kept an organised list to avoid contacting someone twice, and to keep on top of where my book was and how long it’d been there.  I used the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook this time to research agencies and see if I might fit their list and who would be most suited to my work.

I sent to ten carefully selected agents and the waiting commenced!

After a few days I received my first full manuscript request from Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. She was really enthusiastic about DARK DAYS (and still is), and I was delighted when Isabel emailed to tell me she loved the story and was interested in signing. Beyond delighted, actually! I signed in September 2012.

Next came the editing, as Isabel and I discussed the work and prepared it for submission. This took a couple months, then it was time to send out. More rejection followed, as expected, so I started writing another book (THE WANDERERS!).

In February 2013, Julie Matysik at Sky Pony Press made an offer on the title. Now here we are in June 2014, two years after starting DD, and it’s a real published book.  Hooray!

Thank you for having me, Emma!

You're welcome, Kate! 

KATE ORMAND is a YA writer represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She recently graduated from university with a first class BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate discovered her love of reading YA books, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. Kate is also a member of an online group of published writers and illustrators called Author Allsorts. And she writes children’s picture books under the name Kate Louise. You can see more about Kate and her writing by visiting her website ( or on Twitter (@kateormand).

Monday 2 June 2014

Blog Takeover #1: Helen Grant's Top Ten Kickass Heroines

I've got a very special guest on the blog today! It's day one of Helen Grant's Demons of Ghent blog tour, and Helen has stopped by to share her top ten kickass heroines

Demons of Ghent is the second book in the Forbidden Spaces Trilogy; I read the first, Silent Saturday, quite recently, and absolutely loved it. It tells the story of Veerle, a 17-year-old girl who stumbles upon a secret society of urban explorers obsessed with breaking into unoccupied buildings, and when she joins them, finds herself in more danger than she could possibly imagine (you can find out more here). Helen combines a spare, elegant writing style with fast-paced action, edgy characters and a compelling setting – in this case, a bleak suburb of Brussels, which, for me, made a fascinating change from the usual US/UK settings of YA novels. 

So, as you can imagine, I'm very excited that the second novel in the sequence, Demons of Ghent, is being published in a few days' time. I'll share the blurb at the end of this post, but in the meantime… over to Helen!

I always find it really hard to compile Top Tens because I haven’t read all the books in the world (…yet), so there are bound to be some brilliant candidates that I’ve totally missed! These are my personal favourite kickass heroines.

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
Katniss belongs on this list so much that I thought I should just put her there at the top and get it over with. I love her because not only is she strong and capable, but she’s also protective. She’s not a mindless killing machine. She has a conscience. The whole plot kicks off because she tries to protect her little sister – and she does it without thinking, not as some kind of macho display.  

Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre)
It’s harder for a Victorian heroine to get onto the list, because back then things like fainting dead away in the face of danger were considered acceptable behaviour. In spite of this, Jane manages to be totally kickass, especially in the scene where she spends the entire night sponging blood off the badly-bitten victim of some unseen horror, while Rochester rides off to get the doctor.

Jess Tennant (How To Fall)
The heroine of Jane Casey’s two YA crime novels, Jess took my breath away at the end of the first one, How to Fall, because of her frankly outrageous strategy to lure out her cousin’s killer. I’m saying no more in case of spoilers, but…wow.

Mrs Proudie (Barchester Towers)
“She’s not the heroine!” I hear you cry. Well, no. The domineering wife of the Bishop of Barchester in Trollope’s Barchester novels is a character you love to hate, rather than actually love. Unable to be a bishop herself (something still impossible at the beginning of 2014), she nevertheless manages to do the job in all but name. At the end of the Barset books she dies, perhaps literally, with her boots on: she is found dead and rigid, on her feet, clasping the bedpost, and with her eyes wide open.

Cass Hollencroft (The Fearless)
Cass, like Katniss, is motivated by protectiveness, in this case the desire to rescue her little brother Jori from a fate worse than death. Impressively, Cass did not grow up in the dismal world of The Fearless, where you can either spend your time locked up in a fortress or risk being picked off by pharmacologically-created ghouls. She began life as an ordinary girl with a loving family and a pet cat. In spite of this soft beginning she still turns out to be kickass. Respect.

Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Do I need to explain why she’s on the list? Thought not. Probably the most kickass heroine ever.
Circe (The Odyssey)
Circe lives by herself on an island in a palace guarded by wolves and lions. When Eurylochus and his men turn up, she is busy weaving and singing and upon seeing them she invites them in for dinner. So far so cutely domestic. Then she drugs them and turns them into pigs (there’s no such thing as a free lunch, guys). Odysseus, who turns up later, escapes the same fate thanks to some sneaky help from the Gods, but she still keeps him on her island for a year, and when he finally leaves, she tells him to go to Hell – with detailed instructions.

Jo March (Little Women, Good Wives)
Jo would probably be on quite a few people’s lists of kickass heroines, because of her fiery spirit, her disregard for boring social mores and the time she cuts off all her hair and sells it. Personally, I love the fact that she swerves the young, rich, handsome suitor who is prepared to lay it all at her feet, in favour of the chunky foreign dude with the beard and a shedload of integrity. And then they set up a boys’ school.

Ayesha (She)
It’s pretty kickass to be known locally as She-who-must-be-obeyed. As well as ruling an uncharted region of Africa from her stronghold under a volcano, Ayesha is able to kill a love rival by pointing at her and giving her a hard stare. Furthermore (spoiler alert) as the sequel proves, her kung fu is so strong that if she snogs a mere mortal man, he drops dead of it.

Veerle De Keyser (Silent Saturday, Demons of Ghent)
Is it bad to have one of my own heroines? Well, it’s my party I guess. All my books so far have female leads, and out of all of them, Veerle is the one I’d like to be. She’s got far more nerve than I have, and a much better head for heights: Demons of Ghent is full of rooftop shenanigans, and I am terrified if I am more than a couple of metres off the ground. Also, she’s so kickass that at the end of Silent Saturday she goes back into the crime scene to confront the killer.

I love this list – and thank you for mentioning Cass, Helen! Here's the blurb for Demons of Ghent, which I recommend you go and buy as soon as it hits the shelves (I know I will):

People are falling from the rooftops of Ghent. But did they throw themselves off - or did somebody push them?

Veerle has seen enough death to last a lifetime. 

But death isn't finished with Veerle just yet. 

When people start to die in her new home town, some put it down to a spate of suicides. Some blame the legendary Demons of Ghent. Only Veerle suspects that something - somebody - has followed her to wreak his vengeance. 

But she watched the Hunter die, didn't she?

Buy Demons of Ghent on Amazon, Waterstones or The Book Depository
Find Demons of Ghent on Goodreads
Visit Helen's Website and Blog
Connect with Helen on Twitter

Friday 30 May 2014

Guest Post – The Art of Reinvention by Emma Haughton

Hello, lovely blog readers! I know, I know, I've been rubbish about blogging lately (as usual). So to make up for it I've got a very special guest! Emma Haughton, author of NOW YOU SEE ME (out now from Usborne), has stopped by to talk about reinvention. But first, here's a bit about the book…

Three years ago, Hannah's best friend Danny Geller vanished without trace. Not knowing if he's alive or dead, she struggles to move on with a life shrouded in secrets and suspicions... But as hope returns to haunt Danny's family and their desperation is used against them, can Hannah bear to expose the painful truth? Or is it better to live in the dark? A mesmerizing psychological thriller with the most incredible twist you'll read all year.

Sounds amazing, doesn't it? Over to you, Emma!

I’ve been chatting to some online friends about the subject of reinventing yourself. Specifically as a writer. If you want to write in a different genre, or reboot your career, you always have the option of adopting a pseudonym. You can rise, phoenix-like from the ashes, and start all over again with a brand new name. You can even swap genders, a la J K Rowling.

It’s a subject I deal with obliquely in Now You See Me - the idea that people can embark on a whole new life.  I’m not going to say any more, because I don’t want to spoil the book for potential readers, but it is a subject I find eternally fascinating.

And it got me thinking about why people write fiction. I think all of us enjoy the opportunity to reinvent ourselves through our characters. While few authors create characters exactly like themselves, it’s probably true to say that every character contains pieces of their creator - or at least aspects that the writer can relate to. As authors, we get to live out different lives, test drive different choices, put different personality traits through a trial run. It’s part of the fun, inhabiting someone else’s head and world for as long as it takes to write and edit that book.

But beyond writing, I think the idea of reinvention is compelling, however you spend your days. Perhaps that’s why starting over makes for such popular TV. A new house or location, a style makeover, or even just a damn good declutter is something that appeals to most of us, holding, as it does, the promise that we can all shed our skin and start afresh.

As teens we’re very much in flux. We’re trying on different roles, different life options, deciding who we really are and what we really believe. But even in fully-fledged adulthood, very few things in life are fixed. It’s possible to start again and recreate your world at any age, in almost any walk of life. Perhaps that’s why many people dream now and then of disappearing and starting afresh. The idea of beginning again with a clean slate, in a completely different part of the world, can be very appealing.
But of course, walking away from everyone and everything is not something most of us would really want to do. We have bonds, ties, commitments. Abandoning those without a word to anyone is a selfish act, with terrible consequences for those you leave behind, as Now You See Me explores.
That said, reinvention is still open to us. A new job or career, a new friend or lover, a new passion or hobby, even something as small as a new pair of jeans or different hairstyle can breathe life into our jaded psyches, and make the world feel fresh again. Indeed, as a kid, one of my favourite things to do when I was bored or feeling a bit blue was to rearrange all the furniture in my bedroom. It would only take an hour or so, but for days, even weeks afterwards, it made everything feel fresh and different. By doing something simple to jog myself out of the rut I’d got into, I gave a little lift to my soul.

Emma Haughton is a one-time family and travel journalist turned YA writer. Her YA thriller, Now You See Me, is now on sale in bookshops or through Hive or Her second thriller, Better Left Buried, is coming out in May 2015.
Visit Emma’s website at for more details, or connect with her on Facebook at or come and have a chat on Twitter: @Emma_Haughton.