Author of YA Fairy Tales, Horror & Paranormal Romance

Author of YA Fairy Tales, Horror & Paranormal Romance

Monday, 30 March 2015

How to grow bookworms. My response to, "How do you get your children to read?"

It never takes long in new company for me to be labelled a bookworm, and my book obsession has manifested in our two daughters. Rossetti age 7 (In Year 2 of Primary) and Beatrix who is nearly 3.

Stock photo from morguefile.com
It is with a mix of both intense pride and a smidge of social embarrassment that they explode into  jumping whoops of exaltation at the mention of going to the bookshop before exclaiming loudly (and a tad over-dramatically) that they LOVE the bookshop!!!!!

In the three years of school gating (yes, I've made it a verb) and parent wine nights, my past life as a secondary school English teacher and my new life as a full time author and English GCSE / A-Level tutor, has repeatedly led to me being cornered and having the following desperate pleas whispered into my ear,

"How do you get your children to read?"
"How do you enforce the school reader without a meltdown?"
"How have you got your kids so interested in books?"
"Do you think my child needs a tutor to help them catch up? Do you tutor primary?"

It's at this point, I shuffle uncomfortably. You see, the image they have is that I sit with my children night after night, dutifully enforcing our 20minute recommended school reader before filling out the reading journal with detailed National Curriculum assessment speak. They imagine that my girls are subject to their own personal English tutor and therefore, no wonder they must be 'excelling' in their reading.

But all of those assumptions are rubbish; including the 'excelling' part - because after all how is it really measurable? (Despite incredibly complicated government matrixes that try to give the belief that it is.) The truth is, what I do to get and enforce my children to read is NOTHING.

In fact, we go for weeks and weeks and weeks without ever getting the school reader out of the school bag. The reading journal is filled in sporadically; perhaps an entry every three or so months: In fact we're still only on our second journal (when most others are on their fourth) and that's only because we lost one.

BUT THIS IS HOW WE HAVE NURTURED A LOVE OF BOOKS...
  1. We ignored the school's insistence on phonic decoding of sounds, and waited patiently for sight reading to flourish, knowing in our hearts that decoding is NOT reading. (There's a full blog post coming on this soon)

  2. We paid no attention to our daughter's reading level in Reception and Year 1 or Year 2 except to celebrate and encourage when she went up a level (because she'd been made to believe it mattered and we love a celebration in our house.)

  3. We reassured Rossetti repeatedly in her moments of tearful frustration that the reading would come and told her she mustn't force it. We told her to leave it and go and play for a while.

  4. We didn't over-correct her when she misread a word. We let her get to the end of the sentence and figure that out for herself; there was usually chocolate minstrels around or biscuits and hot-chocolate, because when you're starting to read, it takes a lot of energy.

  5. If she wanted to read her school reader and do a 'formal' reading session, we always made the time - even though I'd rather spoon out my own eyeballs.

  6. We take our children in to the bookshop at every opportunity - and when funds are tight, this means the FARA charity bookstore, where you can pick up a children's book for little more than a bar of chocolate or a soft drink. There's also the amazing facility of the library - but there is something about the total possession of a book that makes it even more special, especially if you want them to access their own home library on a whim.

  7.  We allow them to choose free reign in the children's section, without interference, any book they take a fancy to, whether that is fiction, non-fiction, comic books, or in Rossetti's case, a science book. (The girl is crazy about science and apparently unicorns are "scientifically improbable!" - a hard thing for a fairy tale writing mummy to accept. )

  8. We constantly challenge comments about gendered books and give sadly required 'permission' for my daughters to select what they want to read rather than what they believe they 'should'.

  9. We provide huge book baskets for their rooms, which sit alongside their toy box - and when they get full, we get another. There is no notion of 'Too Many Books'.

  10. We fill our days with telling stories, writing them, and drawing them. We watch films and T.V and talk about characters, and allegory, and symbolism. We snigger naughtily at rude words and high five 'big' words - we value the idea of stories and why we need them in all forms.

  11. Our home is full of books and they see us reading in bed, on the bus, in the park, in the cafe - it's just what we do. It's now just what they do. How do you expect your child to see the value of reading when you don't model it yourself?
Rossetti is not the 'best' reader in her class, in that she has not yet attained her longed for goal of being a FREE READER, like some of the other kids. But at home A FREE READER is exactly what she and her sister are - and what they've always been.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Tales from The Rookeries Asylum I - New Nurse

Welcome to the first posting of  Tales from The Asylum, a blog #FlashFiction project of short stories, all less than 2000 words (a 5-10max read). The stories are inspired by location of The Rookeries Asylum, which features in The Meadowsweet Chronicles. I hope you enjoy this short little read. It's called 'New Nurse'. Don't forget to sign up to the blog for updates on the stories to follow. You can read about this blog project in the introductory post, and you can find in the right sidebar a live-link table to other stories in the series as they appear.

Tales from The Asylum I: New Nurse
(1951)

The bus dropped me off in the village of Heargton. The Asylum, I had been told, was just a short ten minute walk through the village on the East Road. The Matron had neglected to inform me that the way would be little more than a mud track through a creepy wood. I looked down at my once pristine white nurses’ shoes and sighed. Mud-spattered was not the first impression I had intended to make. I hoped she would put it down to youthful ignorance rather than carelessness.

My mother had cried when I’d left for my first day in my new job. She’d had noble and romantic notions of me being a modern day Florence Nightingale; falling for some heroic soldier who I helped heal in both body and soul, not spending my days tending to the violent and criminally insane.

I shivered with the quiet fear that was unravelling in my stomach. The wind wound its way through the trunks of the tall Scots Pines creating an eerie, mournful moan. As I walked, it became a chorus of other pitiful cries – those of human relics. I looked at my watch, knowing exactly what time it was. I had planned my journey meticulously. But there was something in the shadowy gloom that made me question momentarily if I hadn’t somehow been tricked. It read two p.m.

The Rookeries grew from some haunted looking dolls’ house into a Victorian redbrick monstrosity. Gothic revival in style, the whole thing was decorated like an over the top wedding cake, as if somehow they could hide the ugliness incarcerated within from the outside world. I wasn’t fooled. There was something sinister about the florid stone floristry – as if it might contain a hundred deadly vipers.

I rang the bell and waited. I didn’t have to wait for long. It was opened by a squat woman with a sour mouth. Her eyes coldly and slowly appraised me from head to toe. Her lips twisted at the sight of my shoes. There was something in her look that made me feel naked, as if I were little more than meat on a butcher’s counter.
   “You’re late,” she said by way of welcome.
I glanced down at my watch. It was three minutes past two.
   “I’m sorry,” I said doing my best to hide my irritation with a look of contrition.
   “Well, you’d better come in. Doctor Mappin is waiting for you,” she said, turning her back on me and leading me into the cave-like hallway.

I scanned the room, taking in the heavy oak furniture and black and white tiles. It looked like the hallway of a country house, rather than an asylum, although I was soon to learn that like everything else I had seen of the place so far, it was a front to the inner horror.

A scream came from somewhere deep inside the hospital and startled me. As if the nurse had eyes in the back of her head, she said,
  “You get used to the noises after a time.” She led me up the sweeping staircase and along a corridor of glass windowed offices. Some of them had a row of sorry little metal chairs outside, which I guessed were for waiting relatives. I was instructed to take one of them outside an office which had the title of MATRON painted in gold on its window. The nurse walked further down the corridor before knocking on what I presumed must be the office of Doctor Mappin. ‘Strange’ I thought, that I should not have been asked to sit on one of the chairs outside of his office.

*

“The girl has finally arrived.”
Doctor Mappin peered over his papers. His half-moon glasses glinted in the afternoon grey winter light.  
   “Good, good.” He nodded.
Nurse Mary waited for the doctor to enquire more, but his attention was clearly drawn to whatever reading material he was holding.
   “She seems quite perfect. I’m sure that she will meet his specific requirements,” Mary said, trying to engage the doctor.
He flicked her a look, and Mary thought she saw the slightest shudder run through his shoulders. Doctor Mappin was essentially a good man, although The Rookeries Asylum was a world within a world in which the usual laws of good and bad were somewhat skewed. He was certainly, of the four doctors that worked here, the best of them. Mary had heard the rumours amongst the patients and other nurses; she’d walked past the locked rooms. No signs instructed, ‘No Entry’ but the keys could never be found.
   “Quite,” he said dismissively, although Mary knew that it was not disinterest but an unwillingness to be too deeply involved in the dark matter.
   “So shall I call her in?”
   “No. Take her straight down to him.”
Mary’s forehead crumpled. “But won’t she find that… strange, doctor?”
  “I really think that is the least of her problems, don’t you?”
Mary nodded and padded silently out of the room.

She smiled at the girl, whose name escaped her. It didn’t matter. In some ways it was better for her not to know. The Matron would take care of contacting her parents; informing them that she hadn’t turned up for her appointment and that her job offer had been withdrawn. They might contact the police and trace her steps as far as the bus station but that would be it. The Rookeries was owned and protected very powerful people.


*

The nurse came out of the office and smiled at me. It was the first time she had smiled since we’d met. I preferred her scowl; there was something over sweet about her smile, as if her teeth were fashioned of sugar cubes. She apologised on behalf of the doctor, who was ‘very busy’ and had requested that she show me around. She informed me that I was to work primarily with one of their patients; the son of a very wealthy family, although he was not, as he would no doubt claim in his conversations, a prince.
  “No, no, no – imagine the scandal!” she exclaimed in such a way that I immediately suspected that the man may be a prince. “The poor man suffers from delusions of grandeur – he’s very convincing.”

I nodded sagely, hoping that my inexperience and excited curiosity was not too obvious. “Why is he here?”
She flinched, and I wondered what horrible malady the man must suffer to make even an experienced psychiatric nurse recoil.
   “He has…” she struggled with her words, clearly not wanting to tell me and yet feeling compelled to answer a question she’d been asked. “Perhaps it would be an interesting exercise to see what your own assessment is after you meet him.”
Excitement flared. “But he’s,” I cleared my throat, “he’s safe for me to work with, yes?”
   “Aubery is a perfect gentleman,” she reassured.

She pushed open the door and we stepped into the twisted soul of the building. It was a soul made of iron bars, soiled stiff calico and tears – some silent, some screaming. I couldn’t help but look in at the wretched creatures held in their cells. Regardless of their crimes, there was something inhumane and cruel about their plight. My presence caused a ripple of eerie catcalls and outpourings of desperation. As if sensing my horror, the nurse explained,
   “This ward is for the most criminally insane. They are here because their crimes are so awful that Satan himself would have reservations over allowing them in to Hell. Don’t let them move you to pity. If you knew their stories, you’d feel entirely different. Female nurses never work in here. Only the Matron and I are allowed access so that we might tend to Aubery.”

My instincts started a quiet warning. Questions whispered in my mind. Why was I ‘allowed’ here? ‘Why was Aubery so close to such monsters if he wasn’t a monster too?’ My nerves jangled and I felt small the small prickle of sweat on my palms.

At last, we reached the end of the corridor and the nurse rummaged her chatelaine of keys before inserting a large metal key into the lock of the barred door. One through, she locked it behind her, adding to my mounting paranoia. Here, the corridor was flanked either side with wooden doors that were still clearly cells but which offered more privacy than the ones in the previous section. She guided me down to the end and I wondered how often I would have to make this journey before it became part of normal. Here there was silence behind the doors, and I wondered if in fact they were inhabited at all. I wasn’t sure what was worse – to be locked away surrounded by the cries of the tormented mad, or to be cocooned in silence.

The nurse knocked on the door and I was surprised to see that on invite she simply turned the handle and entered: the patient apparently free to enter and leave his room as he pleased.
   “Mary,” he greeted with a voice like a velvet ribbon. “How nice of you to call.”
I smiled inwardly. At last I knew the nurse’s name, and she had been right about his gentlemanly sense of delusion. I stepped into the room behind her and saw how it was far more like an apartment than the cold brick cells I had seen on my journey so far. There were heavy velvet drapes at the barred window, which even at this time of the day, were drawn against the sombre afternoon light. The man, who was unnervingly handsome, was reclined on a threadbare chaise and dressed as if he had raided the clothes rail of the local amateur dramatics society.

Mary turned to me, beckoning me forward and I saw his eyes swivel towards me, giving the unnerving impression of a lizard. He smiled approvingly, and it seemed simple good manners to hold my hand out in greeting, even though it was the very last thing that nursing protocol demanded. I sensed Mary moving towards the door and looked to her for clarification as to what it was I was meant to be doing.

She was already half way out – her body slinking through the closing gap of the door.
   “Enjoy your meal, Aubery,” she said as the door clicked behind her.
I looked to the man and saw him smile. We had not brought a tray of food with us and as I scanned the room, I could see no other lunch set out. I backed towards the door, not taking my eyes off the man on the chaise. His impossibly pointed teeth bit down onto the cushion of his lips, and a flare of hunger flashed through his eyes.
   “Come, little lamb,” he crooned, swinging his legs off the chaise and patting the seat next to him. “Let me tell you a story before I dine.”

The realisation of my fate struck me so hard that I felt physically winded. I tried the door handle, but it simply rattled in my hand, stubbornly refusing to turn. I pummelled the door with my fists until they burned, crying out for Mary – but Mary was gone, and with her, all my hope.

Tales from the Asylum. A collection of short stories exclusive to the blog.

For those of you who have read 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles' you will be aware of a sinister little building tucked away deep in Raven's Wood, called 'The Rookeries'.

Built by the wealthy and powerful Ravenheart family as a hospital for the local village of Heargton, it caught mysteriously alight just a few years after its completion in 1879. Rebuilt, it became an 'Institution For the Criminal Insane and the Morally Dissolute; housing highly dangerous criminals in the basement floors, the wretched figures of the mentally ill and deranged on the lower floors, and a maternity suite on the top floor.

Through ages of cutting edge experimental psychiatric medical and psychological experimentation, 'The Rookeries' became stained with the sadness and sorrow of many souls. The Rookeries, a literal Hell on Earth, was made worse by the evil and wickedness of the doctors and staff, who turned a blind eye, or actively indulged, in strange paranormal practices that unleashed dark and evil forces within its many walls.

Now, in the twenty first century, it is said that the ghostly cries of the patients can still be heard winding through the skeletal pine-trees, despite The Rookeries being nothing more than a ruinous ramble of rooms and long forgotten relics.

Today sees the very first post in a series of short stories (each no more than 2,000 words and taking no longer than 5-10minutes to read) based on tales from The Rookeries Asylum of Heargton. They are #FlashFiction pieces; experimental outpourings of creativity that might one day, in one form or another find themselves woven into the Meadowsweet Chronicles, but more than likely wont.

Today's tale is called 'New Nurse' and you can read it here.

If dark and suspenseful horror is your thing, then hopefully you will enjoy this little series. Don't forget to drop a comment in the box and sign up to the blog so you don't miss out on any of the series.


You can find out more about the Meadowsweet Chronicles at the official website www.katiemjohn.com

Friday, 27 March 2015

My Hope For You Is, Love.















For my daughters, Rossetti & Beatrix


My hope for you is, love.

Love, which when your hold your arms out wide,

Cannot be contained between two palms,

But which can be pressed between two hands.

Love, which when you look to the sky,

Cannot be seen in the clouds,

But which is the air of each breath you breathe.

Love, which when you watch them sleeping,

Cannot be blind to the imperfections,

But sees in them perfection.


Copyright 2015 Katie M John. www.katiemjohn.com All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Help! Everybody Is Doing Better Than Me! #Authorchat

You know those days - you're trying desperately to focus down on your WIP, the deadline is looming, it's the next book in the series and you've been trying to crack on with it, but you find yourself constantly heading over to Facebook and Twitter, where you're assaulted with all the brilliance of your author friends.

You're pleased for them, genuinely you are, but it makes you question yourself even more. You look longingly at their Facebook posts; citing new glittering 5 star reviews, becoming finalists in The Best Indie Book on The Planet; there are pictures of them at signings and conventions, and in the local press, and you....

...well you feel like you're treading through mud. You've worked just as hard, just as smart. You've done everything that every writing and publishing blog has told you to do - but the sales are quiet, the reviewers all see completely buried under TBR piles and, worse of all, you're plagued by thoughts of quitting.

Well don't - don't ever give up, because 90%* of success is down to sheer bloody mindedness.

TOP 7 TIPS FOR BREAKING THE CYCLE OF GLOOM - (because 5 wasn't enough and it's not as complicated as 10!)

1. STALK (clearly in a non threatening or creepy way) your author buddies by visiting ALL of their social media platforms; maybe they are doing something that you aren't - it's easy to be standing so close to the trees that you fail to see the forest. Maybe you're missing something really obvious - like not properly engaging with your readers. (Make notes! I'm serious, this is like homework.)

2. REVAMP your blog, your website - create a logo, update your bio: remember you are a professional and maybe your 'tiredness' is being reflected in the state of your social media platforms. Who wants to visit and engage in a blog that hasn't been updated in a month, or a website where everything seems so static?

3. PLAN; make it pretty and use coloured pens. It doesn't matter if you never look at it again, but it will help you focus on your end goals and remind you of all that marketing stuff you already know but aren't putting into practice.

4. RECONNECT with your fan-base, your author community, your FB page followers. It can be really difficult when your esteem is low to keep a public face. Many of my author buddies are introverts - myself included, and one of the recurring patterns I see is a negative self-fulfilling cycle of disconnection. Because we feel that we aren't as shiny and glittery as our fellow authors, we retreat.

5. ADMIT it, you know there are flaws in some aspect of your publications; it maybe the blurb, cover, ending, you've never quite been happy with. Change it. Simples!

6. GIVE to others and the karmic nature of the universe will come full circle. If you don't feel that you have much to shout about your own work, then showcase and spotlight your buddies. Cheerlead and support them. Become a totally engaged member of the author community and watch as the love is returned.

7. WRITE your WIP. A lot of the most successful indie writers out there are doing so well because they have momentum. By writing a lot, and getting more publications out there, they've got more to talk about, there's more energy, more excitement for potential readers to engage with. It keeps their marketing profile fresh and energised. It also keeps readers invested.

Now these tips are not coming from some kind of sanctimonious self-appointed expertise, (heck, I've even made some of the stats* up) but they come from my own broken ego. It's hard, and the longer you've been doing it, the harder it becomes in some way. It can be hard to maintain the youthful optimism of when you started out, and things are getting tougher.

Thanks for stopping by. I'd love it if you shared your own tips for pulling yourself out of the inadequacy doldrums. Let's connect and engage :) x

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Spotlight on Alison Clarke: Author of 'The Sisterhood'

It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Alison Clarke and her Midgrade / YA novel, 'Sisterhood'. I had the privilege of working as part of Alison's editorial team at Little Bird Publishing House and I wanted to tell you why I think this book is so special.

'The Sisterhood' is an epic style fantasy, designed for younger teens. It's not this in itself that makes it special, but it's the beautifully unique take that Alison has taken on such an established and institutional genre.

I love fantasy, I always have - anything with dragons and fae is my thing. What I love about Alison's novel is how she challenges so many of the long established norms. Oppie is not only a great role model in that she is a girl with a big heart and a lot of courage, but she is also from a cultural and ethnic background that is sadly under-represented in the fantasy genre. The whole story, as the title suggests, is about the importance and power of female friendships regardless of age, colour or ethnicity, a message conveyed by the fabulous range of different mythical creatures who come together to overthrow a fearsome oppressive force.

This book is a beautiful read because if offers such optimism. Through the use of established and newly invented myth structures, Alison manages to tell a tale that is both inspiring and thought provoking.

"It is exactly the kind of book that deserves to be read snuggled up in bed with our daughters at bedtime."


Oppie and Aurie (Oppie's best friend who happens to be a dragon) are a beautiful example of true friendship. Their quest to over throw evil is a powerful metaphor for the darkness that our daughters face in the modern world.

It is available on all eBook platforms and also in paperback.

Kindle and Paperback links
U.K Amazon link http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00SCJPSSU
U.S. Amazon link http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SCJPSSU

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Cover Reveal & Giveaway


COVER REVEAL




ABOUT THE MEADOWSWEET CHRONICLES

The Meadowsweet Chronicles is planned to be seven book series (insert nervous giggle here) although it might end up being more. I wanted to write about the things that I love; folklore, ghosts, witches and all kinds of paranormal activity. By planning a seven book series, it allowed for the scope needed to mash up all those important influences; from 1970’s classic occult films and novels like ‘The Wicca Man’, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and Herbet’s ‘The Cottage’, to a childhood full of Scooby Doo and later a teenage obsession with the whole American Gothic – one I am pleased to say I have not outgrown.

In this way, The Meadowsweet Chronicles is a complete homage to all I love about the horror genre. Primarily set in a small sleepy English village and centring around two warring covens, (The Meadowsweets and The Ravenhearts), the arrival of the quintessential American heartthrob and naughty New York party boy brings a delicious opportunity to mix up English country folklore and fairytales with the good old American horror vibe.

It’s an ambitious task, which is why each book is probably topping the 100,000 word mark, making them ‘truly’ epic in scale – but despite originally planning for each one to be around half that size and written in half the time, the weaving of such respected folklore and genre tropes has taken a lot more wordage than originally anticipated.

The series sits somewhere between Young Adult and New Adult. The youngest character in the book is sixteen, but most of the characters are at that really complex age of eighteen and nineteen, when they have fully emerged from childhood but not quite into adulthood. There is a strong undertone of romance running through the books, because primarily that is what adult human relationships are about – trying to find a connection with somebody. In each of their own ways, the characters of the series are searching for this connection.


BETA readers are currently requested for 'Vengeance' - Special BETA reader present / swag packs will be gifted for book lovers who are prepared to read and comment (as well as pick out type-errors and other horrors missed by the editor) I am looking for 10 BETA readers who will each receive an eBook edition of Book One 'Witchcraft' beforehand. International.
 
 
GIVEAWAY

For a chance to win 1 of 5 beautiful handmade, Tibetan silver and semi-precious stone bookmarks and signed postcards, all you have to do is copy and paste the following Tweet on to your twitter timeline.

Giveaway & Cover Reveal  'Vengeance' (#2 of The Meadowsweet Chronicles) Katie M John @Knight Trilogy www.katiemjohn.blogspot.com #YA #giveaway

(International - snail mail - winners picked at random next week and notified via Twitter and in comment box here)

(Added 23/03/2015) BTW - if you don't have a Twitter account, and would still like a chance to get your hands on one, then drop a comment in the comment box below.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Testing the waters. Is there space for homegrown indie YA authors at the one and only UK YA book con?

So this morning I have been brave. I've been optimistic, I've ignored my own perceived fears of being found out a fraud, a charlatan, a quack, and to be honest I'm a little nervous.

Being an indie author in England is a complex thing. After all, we are the home of Shakespeare and Austen and other megaliths of literature. Even our children's books are 'serious' reflections of the wider social and institutional attitude to education, moral fibre and aspiring intellectualism.

Until last year we, England didn't even have a YA book convention - yes, you read that right; in fact I'm not sure there were any book conventions of any kind except for a few brave souls in the crime writing community (who had spent years, neigh, centuries, seeking acknowledgement that their genre was actually of value - BTW it's one of my favourite genres and the one I probably read the most) and the Romance community who made a strike in this direction with the Second City Signing event that started last year in Birmingham.

Don't get me wrong, there are 'Literary Festivals', these are events where a lot of Pimms is consumed, the book reviewers of the broadsheets get to have a nice champagne and smoked-salmon canapĂ©-eating jolly (whilst hob-knobbing with some of the literary stars of the moment) and readers get to listen to hour long amusing 'lecture' style talks about various authors' approaches and influences, after which, a polite queue forms to have their first edition hardback signed. It's all terribly lovely, and just to socially mix it up a bit, they now provide yurts for families to camp over in a nearby field - they come with a wood-burner and mini-fridge for the G&T. There's a lot of linen and wicker at these events.

Trust me, there are no swag bags, sharpie doodles, t-shirts, and handmade offerings of love at these events. The very thought of a 'market style' convention in which authors and readers chat, hang out, have fun, exchange gifts is thought really rather "vulgar".

This is why the first reader, author convention I am attending is in the USA. That's right, I've had to book a stop off 12 hour flight and pay several thousand pounds to hang out with authors and readers that I have built up relationships with over the years - and I don't begrudge a penny of it. I am thrilled to be attending UtopYA

Just as I was thrilled to discover that at last, finally, the idea of a BOOK convention (not a literary festival - although being English, it has still failed to shake it's need to validate worth by being called the YALC (Young Adult LITERATURE convention) *rolls eyes* ) has taken root in England - and it looks awesome. It looks almost like the kind of reader, author cons that I yearn for from the States. The convention runs parallel to the London Comic-Con and ran for the first time last year; it was hailed such a success that it is running again this year.

It was implemented by the Children's Laureate, 'Malorie Blackman' in conjunction with Book Trust and sponsored by Waterstones book shop. (All heavy weights in the 'literary scene' ) The line up, being one of a kind on English soil, is phenomenal - I mean there are some YA author megastars coming, including a line up of hugely successful American authors, Cassandra Clare being amongst them. The line up also includes "TV personalities turned authors".

So the question is, how are they going to respond to the rise of the indie author? Is YALC going to make space for the home-grown indie who has shared Amazon bestseller space with some of the traditionally published YA authors? Well watch this space - I'll keep you posted.

All I can say, is that I'm going to put the champagne in the fridge in hopeful optimism. Either way, that part of the plan is going to work for me.

Find out more about he YALC here http://www.londonfilmandcomiccon.com/index.php/yalc

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Count Down To UtopYA 2015 - One English Author's trip of dreams.

This is the first post on a series as I count down to my trip to UtopYA in Nashville, Tennessee, 2015.

So I've never been to The States, and I've never been to a Convention - hell, I've never even done a personal author event, so after several years of getting the a bad case of the jellies every June, when I saw my Twitter and Facebook feed fill up with pictures of my lovely author homies all meeting up, I knew that had to change.

Thanks to the friendship of the amazing Carlyle Labuschagne (a fellow author whose energy and kindness I admire beyond measure, and the friendship with the lovely
Carol Kohnert Kunz over the years through Facebook and Twitter) I made the plunge to book the tickets -- purposefully ignoring my total phobia of dying, I mean, flying!

Not only that, my general in for a penny, in for a dollar attitude, also saw me make a bid to do one of the Xchange of ideas talks. (Don't tell them that I had to bang off my proposal twenty minutes before the GMT deadline) Now this should be okay, despite my general aversion to public displays of confidence, as I have spent the last fifteen years of my life 'presenting' the cannon of English and American literature to many disinterested, and fortunately far greater number of interested teenagers in my previous life as a secondary school level teacher. (High School to you U.S folks)

So my Xchange of ideas is going to be a truly 'Cutural X-Change,' as I talk about some of the essential differences an English Teen (YA) writer of Arthurian romances and English teen experiences faces when trying to break into the American market. I have a feeling (a hope) that it's going to involve a lot of laughter, humour and awkward questions.

All I've got to do now is somehow organise my thoughts on Wellies, Jumpers, Under-age drinking and promiscuity into some kind of functioning ten minute talk. No problem, it's a very long flight to Tennessee so I've been told.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Meadowsweet Series.

 
I've spent most of the first three months hidden away in the writing cave, writing the sequel to 'Witchcraft' the first of a seven book series, called 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles'
 
'The Meadowsweet Chronicles' is a YA / NA paranormal, occult, horror series that combines my love of American and English witchlore. To be honest it's a complete personal indulgence, and plays with ideas, tropes and stories that I have loved for as long as I could read.
 
Blending the American Gothic with English Wiccan folklore, it is a rich mash up of ideas and characters, with a genre medley of romance, ghost-stories, good old fashioned horror and detective fiction; a collage of all the things I love to read.

Originally the title of the second book was always going to be 'Witch Hunter', but after the way that Book One ended, no matter how I tried to make the cover work, it didn't. I realised that it was because the title wasn't right.

So, after many sleepless nights, the new title of Book Two of The Meadowsweet Series is called 'Vengeance', which is far more fitting considering the terrible tragedies that befall the characters in Book One.
 
So, if you've missed the whole 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles', here is a little spotlight to help you get up to speed.
 
The second book, 'Vengeance' is due to be released at the beginning of May, just in time for my trip over to the States to attend UtopYA.
 

Witchcraft
 
Ever since its earliest days, the small English village of Heargton has been steeped in the occult. Tales of witchcraft and paranormal activity have been part of the local folklore for generations. Some people blame the lay lines that intersect at the very centre of the village, others blame a terrible curse.

700 years on, Heargton Village still holds dark secrets, and when one of the village girls falls victim to a terrible ritual killing, the old superstitions resurface.

At the heart of these whispers are the Meadowsweet sisters. All beautiful, all charming, all eccentric, but it is the middle daughter, seventeen-year-old Fox, who captures the imagination of American newcomer Jeremiah Chase; a deviant New York playboy sent to live with his Aunt in the Chase ancestral home of Coldstone Hall. A place that has its own grisly history.

But, as Jeremiah discovers the history of the Meadowsweet Sisters, the Chase family history is also unearthed, leading Jeremiah to understand that good and evil are not always on opposing sides.

A tale of witchcraft, demons and ghosts, blending traditional English folklore with the American Gothic.
 
Jeremiah Chase?
The character of Jeremiah Chase is a playful deviation from the usual Paranormal Romance protagonist. An exiled New York playboy and deviant, he finds himself sent to his eccentric aunt in the village of Heargton. The juxtaposition between his old metropolitan Hampton's lifestyle, and the life he is cast into in the village of Heargton, couldn't be further apart. It is this contrast that makes Jeremiah so interesting to create.
 
Of course, it is no coincidence that his aunt is in Heargton and it isn't long before he comes to understand that his family's incredible wealth and power is as much to do with their blood legacy as it is to do with their capitalist appetites.
 
Romance?
The story is essential about the awakening of the three Meadowsweet sisters, and so naturally there are elements of sexual and relationship discovery. Swan Meadowsweet is nearly nineteen, Fox is seventeen and Bunny is just about to turn sixteen. As such, they are emerging into the adult world, so although 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles' is not primarily a boy-girl kind of story, there are strong tensions, confusions and undercurrents of romance running through the storylines.
 
Available
 
eBOOK
Amazon worldwide http://amazon.com
 
PAPERBACK
 
or you can buy direct from http://thelittlebirdbookstore.com and that way you get a signed copy and some thank you swag
 
REVIEW COPIES AVAILABLE FREE TO BLOGGERS. If you have a blog and have space in your TBR tower, then drop me a line via the contacts page and I'll send you over a free PDF copy.
 
 
WIN WITCHCRAFT WINE CHARMS.
Just drop me a comment in the comment box at the end of this post stating what appeals to you about 'Witchcraft' and I'll pick at random one person to receive a free Witchcraft Bookmark (I'll leave it a couple of weeks until I select)

 
 
 

Monday, 15 December 2014

New Year Writer Resolutions

In light of the whole Facebook / Amazon craziness that has been going on over the last six months, I am making some New Year writer resolutions. Primarily, they involve going back to old school. Here are my sketchy plans, 

1) to free myself from the dominance of Amazon by freeing myself of all KDP select ties. The promotions have not reaped the harvest they promised; not at theprice of exclusivity.

2) to revisit, grow and nurture my Smashwords account - this was an amazingly good platform for me in the early days; I used it to experiment with shorts of different genres, keep my writing fresh and feed readers kindles with freebies and newbies. Going to learn to format my books according to the guide - which is a bit of a shitter.

3) To ensure that I have exploited as many digital platforms as possible, using Draft2digital to make it easier in first instance.

4) I am going to be bold enough to ask for book signings in my local bookstores.

5) I am going to spend more time writing and a lot less time promoting.

6) I am going to totally cull my Twitter account because somewhere amongst the madness I have lost my true circle of friends and fans - my timeline is so cluttered with strangers (lovely though I'm sure they are)

7) I am going to keep my blog full of lovely spotlights and intros of some of the great people I meet on here; I am going to nurture a supportive, cross promotional relationship. I am going to buy your books, review them and cheerlead.

There will be more - but in essence, I'm going to look back to move forwards. 2015 is going to be amazing. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Review of The Hobbit #3: The Battle of The Five Armies

Last night I attended, as a red (or should I say green) carpet guest, the worldwide premier of The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies. Wow- what an amazing and phenomenal event. I cannot communicate in words the awesome (word used in its original form) atmosphere, the energy or the pure insanity of the occasion.



Fans had been queuing for days just to be allowed into the cordoned off viewing area, and boy, had some of them made an effort; from elves, to dwarves, to Gandalf himself. Flanked by 50ft screens showing dramatic highlights, and surrounded by the most incredible music, the stars of the show (and us mere mortals) spent a good hour just hanging on the green carpet and taking in the spectacle. As I got to meander between celebrity after celebrity, it felt like I was walking through Madam Taussauds only everyone was alive. However, I did manage, despite being totally overwhelmed and starstruck, not to make a complete idiot of myself by asking for selfies with the gorgeous Orlando Bloom (yes, he is still that beautiful close up) or by asking for a snog with the handsome Benedict Cumberbatch (As hubby was there, might have ended up in a 'bit' of a scene' LOL)

Taking our seats, we got ridiculously excited about the host box of goodies, all with a Hobbit theme, which was really cute. I especially enjoyed the Chilli rice crackers, amusingly called 'Smaugeon Firecrackers'

With the stars of the show seated, our 3D glasses on, the film literally exploded (almost uncomfortably) into life with scenes of the monstrous incarnation of greed and evil, Smaug, the dragon obliterating the town of Laketown and displacing its inhabitants in what is almost biblical in its sense of exodus. As buildings crashed around us, and numerous extras struck the 'I'm scared witless' poses direct to camera, the hero soon emerges, Bard the bowman, played by Luke Evans is both an incarnation of rugged hyper-masculinity and new-age fatherhood.

With a strong moral about the love of gold and its ability to corrupt even the most good of heart, The Battle of The Five Armies relies more on an intricate tapestry of morals, fables and allegories than good old fashioned narrative. Yes there is a plot - a small one, extended out miraculously into over two hours worth of film, but it is pretty basic, with an element of love interest, which felt as if it had been sort of thrown in there just for something to actually be happening other than battle scenes (which I suppose given the title, is a legitimate major concern for the film.)

There are some strange moments in this film, which can only be likened to having eaten some kind of Middle-Earth mushrooms and going on some crazy trip. On at least two occasions we are lurched forward into some weird, sliding, blurring film moments (made somewhat more sea-sickening by the 3D glasses) in which, quite honestly, I wasn't entirely sure what in Middle Earth was going on! As best I could work in my slightly over-stimulated mind, was that some ethereal equivalent of FBI squad turned up to busted the incarcerated Gandalf free from his bleak and dreary incarceration.

Now, I'm not going to go and give any more details about the actual events of the film - because I don't want to issue spoilers, but what I will say is the following;

This is epic cinema at its most epic. It is completely consuming, and with the 3d element it makes you feel (in a way I have yet to with any other 3d film), completely part of the action. The sheer scale of this film and its cinematography is almost utterly overwhelming and the boundaries between reality and fantasy are completely erased.

It's not much of a plot to sustain a 2 hour film on, so if you're looking for an intricate plotl ine with twists and turns, it's going to disappoint on a level - but what is lacking in narrative structure, is more than made up for in the incredible sense of action and excitement. It is captivating, purely for its sense of scale, and is a fitting finale for what has been an incredible artistic endeavour. Jackson is likely to collect a whole armful of Oscar nominations for his efforts, of which he rightly deserves.

There is no doubt having listened first hand to Steven and his actors, that the LOTR team have been a dedicated and passionate bunch. The translation of Tolkein's epic fantasy was certainly a challenge, especially when being made for such a fan base.

Would I watch it again? I'm glad that I have. It was definitely worth the viewing - and I can't recommend strongly enough to go and see this is the cinema (it needs the scale and the surround sound) but for me personally, there just wasn't enough actual 'story'. I tire easily of fight scenes, impressive as these are. However, for many viewers, I imagine that this is the very thing that will make it a great and much loved film.

Overall, I would rate The Hobbit: Battle of The Five Armies 4 stars out of 5, but I would offer a standing ovation and a whole universe for Jackson and his tenacious pursuit in completing an 'impossible' challenge. Bravo, Jackson. Bravo!



Thursday, 6 November 2014

'Dust' by Sarah Daltry


I am so excited to announce that my author friend, Sarah Daltry has her new YA Fantasy book coming out today. I've had a sneak preview and I love it. As you know by now, I never send out negativity, but if I don't like something, I just keep quiet - so you know that if I'm posting this, I really love it. 
'Dust' was a refreshing read for me because I don't 'normally' read pure epic style fantasy (aside from my recent dalliance with the 'Game of Thrones' series, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect - what I got was a really captivating escape into a world I could completely believe in. I'm no expert in fantasy genre, but I get the sense that this is going to appeal to a much wider audience; there are elements of dark fairytale, quest and also paranormal romance but without the paranormal - LOL. 
It's a great opening to a whole new genre, and after reading 'Dust' I am going to be far more adventurous in my choices.

Sarah's storytelling is also delightful. The narrative flows easily, and her world and character building are really skilled. I highly recommend this novel, and I am really looking forward to reading more of Sarah's YA focused books. 

It's out TODAY on launch promo price for just $2.99  (a positive bargain for a rainy weekend read)

AMAZON UK LINK
AMAZON USA LINK


     BLURB for ‘Dust’


"I was once the type of person who was impressed by starlight; the type of person who would dance beneath glass ceilings and let the world swim in its loveliness. The sky reminds me of the parties we used to throw – parties like the one last night. The memories bring back the trill of harps and endless ripples of satisfied laughter. Now, though, when I try to recall what I felt, all I hear is screaming.” 

In a world ravaged by war and oppressive forces of evil, a princess must fight to claim her bloodright and save her people.
 When the princess, Alondra falls for the beautiful, blue eyes of a hooded stranger, it awakens in her a taste for freedom and an escape from her duty.
 But her parents have other plans; they have a Kingdom to protect and Alondra must marry to ensure the peace between nations. Only what happens when your parents choose a cold-hearted assassin as your betrothed?
As lies, illusions and long hidden vendettas surface, the princess has to confront a very secret history. One that makes her realize that she not only risks losing her liberty, but of everything she has known and loved. 

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY.

Sarah Daltry is a varied author, known best for the contemporary New Adult series, ‘Flowering’, a six-title series that explores the complexities of relationships, including how we survive the damage from our pasts with the support of those who love us.  

As a former English teacher and YA librarian, Sarah has always loved Young Adult literature and 'Dust', an epic fantasy novel where romance blends with the blood and grit of war, is her second official foray into YA, following the gamer geek romantic comedy, 'Backward Compatible'. Most of Sarah's work is about teens and college students, as it's what she knows well. 

Sarah’s passion in life is writing; weaving tales of magic and beauty. The modern and vast social networking world is an alternative universe that she makes infrequent trips too, but when she does, readers will find her attentive, friendly and happy to discuss the magic of stories and reading. Stop by and say hi @SarahDaltry.

Sarah has moved back and forth between independent and traditional publishing. Her first novel, 'Bitter Fruits', is with Escape, an imprint of Harlequin Australia, and she signed with Little Bird Publishing in the spring of 2014.

Publisher: Little Bird Publishing http://www.thelittlebirdbookstore.com
Author’s website: http://sarahdaltry.com
Author’s Twitter handle: @SarahDaltry

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