Posts Tagged ‘Author Guest Post’

Democracy, Diversity and YA

Ravinder Randhawaembeauty and the beast‘Problems? Confusions? Contradictions? I got them all and if you’ve got them, then FLAUNT them is my motto.’ Meet Harjinder (aka Hari-jan): ‘A’ level student, supermarket worker and desperate journalist. Feisty and impulsive, Hari-jan can’t refuse a dare and to make matters worse has fallen in love with the wrong boy.
Her best friend Ghazala has taken to wearing the hijab and mentoring racists.
Can Hari-jan battle through the hurdles and win her man?
Can Ghazala work out how to do Good in her own way?
A sparkling, coming-of-age novel about life, love and friendship.

Forget Diary of a Wimpy Kid or The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, read the Diary of Mhairi Black Novice MP, a young woman of barely twenty years, who this month became a fully elected Member of Parliament. Hats off to Mhairi!!

Mhairi’s diary (published in the Herald Scotland) contains the episode in a Westminster canteen, which wonderfully sums up Mhairi and the place she’s suddenly found herself in. First, quite heart warmingly, when she gets her lunch of bread and chips, she gets told off by Rita at checkout for not having something more nutritious, then secondly when she sits down near a table where some of the canteen staff are having their lunch they indicate she should be in another part of the dining room. Dutifully Mhairi picks up her tray and walks towards the other end, when she sees a false partition with a sign saying “MPs only beyond this point.” Mhairi immediately turns around and goes back to sit near the canteen staff telling them “If they want us to be snobby you’d think they would go all out snobby and get a different room instead of a half effort partition?!” The whole table burst into rapturous laughter. Good for you Mhairi!

It may be that I’m being unfair, and am happy to be corrected, but it appears to me that politics is not a subject covered in Young Adult fiction. We have vampires galore, dystopian works, time travel, Harry Potter (a genre in itself), cancer, love and identity and so on, but no trailblazing books about the highest seats of power.

There is great talk of the importance of diversity in YA books. I completely agree that diversity, the free exchange of ideas through the medium of fiction, is a cardinal principle. I would put politics under the banner of diversity, for it seems to be a forgotten and therefore undervalued subject, and yet politics underpins our very existence and governs much of what we can or cannot do, what opportunities, rights and freedoms are available to us.

In Britain, the land of the Magna Carta, which first established the principle of equality before the law, a cornerstone of democracy, we’re lucky enough to enjoy civil liberties that people in other countries are struggling for. These brave and courageous people, for instance the blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to ten years in prison and a thousand lashes – let’s write that again – a thousand lashes – for setting up a liberal website, would be astounded that we don’t value our democracy and therefore our political system (with all its flaws) as a most precious resource.

‘But is there drama in democracy?’ I hear you all asking. Yes, quite simply is my answer. Just look at all the political thrillers, the films and TV dramas set in the ‘corridors of power.’ When they’re well written, whether comedies or conflict, they make riveting watching, or reading.

I accept there’s an issue about age; the political arena is seen as being for ‘grown-ups,’ by virtue of age restrictions. But actually any 18 year old can stand for parliament as long as they can put down a deposit of £500 and are nominated by 10 electors of the constituency. That makes politics into young adult territory.

How many times have we heard people complaining about the young not being engaged with politics. Surely, if their reading doesn’t include books that are set amongst the rough and tumble of politics; the processes, rooms and recesses of parliament; if they don’t have heroes and heroines, villains and thugs who pursue their ambitions in those places, then young people will never become familiar with them or identify them as places where they could be. Politics, and the places of politics will remain distant, difficult and incomprehensible.

We learn from literature: it evokes dreams, sparks ideas, makes known the unknown. I ask YA writers to fling open the doors to those corridors of power so their readers can see themselves there – within the boundaries of whatever story has been created. It can be as full of passion, action, fun or thrills as anything else.

Conspiracies, secrets and devilish deeds can occur as much in those hallowed halls as anywhere (and most probably do); the stakes are high, the prizes are glittering. There’s power to be grabbed and blazing ambitions to be fulfulled. Villains and enemies, the revengeful and friendless, the love-lorn and romantic, the dewy-eyed and innocent, all jostle against each other, pursue their plans, courses, machinations – and many a tangled web is woven and many a drama is created.

Post by Ravinder Randhawa

ravindaRavinder Randhawa is the acclaimed author of the novels Beauty and the Beast (YA), A Wicked Old Woman, The Tiger’s Smile and the short story collection Dynamite. She’s currently working on a trilogy: The Fire-Magician. Ravinder was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Toynbee Hall, Queen Mary’s University, the University of London, and founded the Asian Women Writer’s Collective.
Ravinder was born in India, grew up in leafy Warwickshire, now lives in London and agrees with Samuel Johnson’s saying (though of course, in a gender non-specific way) ‘…if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ Loves good coffee and really good thrillers. To learn more about Ravinda and her work check out her Website (here), Facebook(here) or Goodreads author page (here). Alternatively you can interact with her on Twitter(here)

You can check out the rest of Ravinder’s tour schedule here.

Tour-Wide Giveaway
The prizes include;
3 Paperback copies of Dynamite

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted on:

Self Published Sunday: Glaze by Kim Curran

We are delighted to welcome author Kim Curran to Self Published Sunday. Not only has Kim taken the time to answer our questions, she has also provided us with an excerpt from Glaze and a fantastic giveaway!
GlazePetri Quinn is counting down the days till she turns 16 and can get on GLAZE – the ultimate social network that is bringing the whole world together into one global family. But when a peaceful government protest turns into a full-blown riot with Petri shouldering the blame, she’s handed a ban. Her life is over before it’s even started.
Desperate to be a part of the hooked-up society, Petri finds an underground hacker group and gets a black market chip fitted. But this chip has a problem: it has no filter and no off switch. Petri can see everything happening on GLAZE, all the time. Including things she was never meant to see.
As her life is plunged into danger, Petri is faced with a choice. Join GLAZE…or destroy it.

Glaze is your first self-published novel, was there anything in particular that prompted you to make the decision to self-publish?

Initially, I had hoped Glaze would get your normal, traditional publishing deal. And my agent sent the book out to a handful of publishers with that intent. However, it quickly became apparent that they either had something similar in the pipeline or they had doubts about the market for YASF. Combined with this was my realisation that the topics in Glaze were (sometimes eerily) starting to happen. The social network in GLAZE is accessed via a chip in the brain that creates an optical overlay – and I’d written it before I’d heard a thing about Google Glass. The first chapter features a riot in London – and it was written long before the London riots. And I realised that I was going to have to move super fast to ensure the book stayed topical. And that’s the beauty of self publishing. I was able to move as fast as I liked.

Plus, I really loved the idea of trying a new approach to publishing. And Glaze seemed to be the perfect book to do that with. It’s about disrupting the establishment after all 🙂

Glaze is a truly scary look at social media, where did your initial inspiration come from?

The initial spark came from watching this TED video on the Filter Bubble.

http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles

In it, Eli Pariser talks about how the filter through which we experience the internet is so designed around our personal interests that, in an attempt to be totally relevant, it risks cutting us off from the wider scope of topics. This really scared me, as it’s something I do personally: if someone on Twitter tweets something I don’t agree with, I unfollow them; if someone on Facebook bangs on about topics that don’t interest me, I defriend them. I started to wonder how this might work if it was done on a social level. If all of our relationships with each other and with our society was controlled and ‘filtered’. And so the idea for Glaze was born.

Prior to the start of Glaze, Petri is already socially isolated, how important was this to the decisions she made throughout the novel?

For me it’s Petri’s desire to ‘belong’ that is the main thrust behind the whole book. She’s an outsider looking in on a world that feels out of reach. And in my teenage years (and still today) I felt that intently. Even when surrounded by friends, I felt someone how isolated. And all it would take would be one of those days when everyone seems to have ‘in’ jokes that you don’t get and that sense of isolation could become crushing. And so I wanted the network to become a metaphor for that experience. It’s the ultimate ‘in crowd’!

I liked the fact that they had a physical barrier on the use of social media in schools; do you believe that the abundance of teenagers using smart phones affects their education and social interactions?

That’s a really fascinating question. There’s a genuine fear that our ‘always on’ culture is affecting our attention span and our ability for prolonged thought. But then, people said the same thing about books! Of course, smart phones and access to social media is changing the way we consume information and how we interact. However, whether that change is negative is unclear. I think it’s just change. And that’s a neutral thing.

What I really do worry about, however, are the changes that are taking place in our education system. It feels to me that we’re moving to an old fashioned view of what it means to be educated. Which is to have your brain stuffed full of facts and figures. For me, education is so much more than this. It should be about sparking a passion for ideas and encouraging young people to question their world and what has shaped that (whether that’s history or physics). And it’s this attempt to erode that space to ask questions that I think it the real danger in our schools!

Is there one form of social media that you personally cannot live without?

I wouldn’t say live without – as I do often wish someone would save me from myself and ban me from the internet! But I love Twitter so very much. Since going freelance to focus on my writing it’s become my work chat, my social group and my source of news and gossip.

Glaze, as mentioned above, is a little bit terrifying, I admit that while reading Glaze, I felt a little bit uneasy about accessing my own social media; did you experience this while writing it?

Absolutely! I started to question the motives of everyone I interacted with online. And I got the sense that everything I was sharing online was being watched (because IT IS! ☺ )

This paranoia was combined with the fact that as I was writing it, it all seemed to be coming true! I was sitting in an office in East London when the riots broke out. And that was after having written the riot scene at the beginning of the book. Then all the news about GCHQ started to break. And finally, Google Glass was announced and I started to get seriously worried someone was hacking my brain!

Is there one message you’d like readers to take away from reading Glaze?

Question who is in control of your information.

Which five words would you use to persuade someone to read Glaze?

Argh! This is so hard.

Try a twisty, thinky, tech-thriller. 🙂

What have been the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of self-publishing?

The whole process has been incredible! I thought it was going to be so isolating but the truth is it’s been one of the most supportive and collaborative experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve been really lucky that an imprint called Jurassic London got excited about the idea of Glaze and wanted to publish limited edition hardbacks. And so I was able to work with Jared Shurin – the editor there on that. Glaze was also edited by Amy McCulloch at Puffin, plus I had amazing copyeditors and proof readers. And so I had a team of people around me to help make the book better.

And then, when I reached out to bloggers #TeamGlaze was born and I was overwhelmed by the excitement and enthusiasm. It’s been such a humbling experience and I sort of feel that Glaze belongs to everyone who’ve helped me in that journey.

It’s also been really empowering to take control over my career. Ultimately, all the choices made, have been mine. Which is terrifying, but also really rewarding.

Honestly, the only challenging thing was making the decision to do it. Which was a really tough one. I thought people would judge me and think I’d somehow failed. But the support I’ve had has blown me away.

Can you tell us anything about what you’re currently working on?

I’m just finishing up the final edits on Delete ¬– the final book in my Shifter trilogy. And I’ve started a new book for young adults that I am so exceptionally excited about I can hardly sleep. I can’t tell you much about it, beyond the fact it’s tonally very different from anything I’ve written before. It’s a series of letters between two girls and…actually, that’s all I can say without giving it all away. The working title (exclusive here) is We’ve Only Just Begun. So, watch this space! 🙂

Excerpt

I sit on the least damaged of the seats and start to swing. The rusting chains are damp from the morning’s rain but the seat is dry, which means someone has been here before me. Kiara climbs up on the warped, burnt-out seat and pushes back and forth, her long, dark hair splaying out behind her, then catching her up on the upswing.

We swing in silence for a while.

‘What’s it like?’ she says.

‘What’s what like?’

‘The blank chip. Can you feel it?’

‘Not really. At first, I could see the company logo, floating in my eyes. You know, like when you stare at the sun too long. Three faint triangles drifting around. But I don’t even notice them now.’ I look down. I was hoping that I’d feel something with the chip. Get some kind of feed. The time and date. My location. Something. Anything. But after the logo faded, there was nothing.

‘You know, you’re lucky.’

‘What?’ I look back up at Kiara flying back and forth.

‘Glaze. It’s not all that. I’m thinking of having the chip removed.’

‘What? Why?’

She leaps off mid swing and lands badly. I jump down and try to help her back to her feet. She sits in the mud and laughs.
‘Are you OK?’ I ask, meaning the ankle she’s cradling.

‘No, not really.’ Her smile fades. ‘I mean, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’

I know she’s not talking about her ankle.

‘You remember when I was off school last month?’

‘With glandular fever?’ I say.

‘Yeah, only it wasn’t glandular fever. Unless you can get that from a stomach pump.’

‘What are you on about?’

‘I tried to kill myself.’

She says it like it’s perfectly normal. Like she’d just tried a new nail varnish. Or she has a crush on someone. I find I can’t breathe and slump to the floor next to her.

‘Oh, don’t worry,’ she says, leaning back on her hands and looking up at the clouds. ‘I did a really crappy job of it. Apparently it’s really hard to OD on ibuprofen. Who knew?’

‘Kiara, I… I… Why?’

She closes her eyes and tilts her head back further, as if she were sunbathing. Only there’s no sun out today. ‘The doctors say I’m depressed.’

‘Well, duh!’ I say. ‘Award for stating the obvious goes to the doctors.’

‘I guess. But I always thought being depressed meant feeling sad all the time and not being able to get out of bed. But I don’t feel sad. I just don’t… feel. Anything.’ She sits up again and rubs her muddy hands on her skirt. ‘I used to care about things so much, you know? My art. Music. But now, it’s all noise. And without it I feel empty. And I didn’t want to go on feeling empty.’

‘I wish I knew what to say.’

‘Don’t worry. No one knows really. Mum says I’ll get better soon. That it’s a phase. Dad’s ignoring it, pretty much, trying to carry on as normal. He can’t cope with the fact I’m not his happy little Kiki any more. My doctor wants me to take some pills. “Happy pills”. He actually called them that. Literally. Happy pills. Can you believe that?’

‘And you don’t want to take them?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t really know anything any more.’

‘Has this got anything to do with Pippa?’

Kiara laughs. ‘No. Poor Pippa. Can you imagine her dealing with this?’

I laugh too. But it comes out as more of a groan. ‘Yeah, she’d make a right drama out of it.’

‘No, it’s not her. I can’t even remember why we were friends in the first place. No, it’s just… life, I guess. My life. It really does suck.’

I turn away and sigh. ‘Tell me about it.’

‘I’m sorry I’ve been such a bitch to you lately, Pet. I wanted to tell you, I really did. But…’

‘It’s fine. I get it.’ I hate to admit it, but I’m kind of relived.

We both sit and watch the clouds float past overhead.

‘So, what’s that got to do with having your chip out. I mean, can you even do that?’

‘Apparently there’s a clinic you can go to. It’s not as easy as having it put in. But nothing ever is, right?
‘And you’re going to?’

‘Maybe. It’s weird. Since I got chipped I’ve felt shrunk, somehow. Lost among all those voices. I don’t know what I really think, about anything. You know, what my opinions are.’ She presses her hand to her chest. ‘I’m stretched out in all directions spread too thin. Like a pancake person.’ She laughs again, and this time, it sounds a little more like her real laugh. ‘But it could just be me. Mum did always say I was contrary.’

‘Why don’t you turn it off? Then when you feel better you can go back.’ I can’t get my head around the idea of someone choosing not to be on Glaze. Especially when I know I can’t. Like Ethan.

‘Yeah, but I’d only turn it back on again. I have no willpower.’ She shivers and wraps her arms around herself.

‘You want to come back to mine?’ I say, standing up. ‘Zizi will be there, though. She’s working on some big project.’
‘Won’t she go totally Metro for you bunking off?’

‘Nah, I’ll tell her I’m taking a stand against patriarchal institutions or something.’

‘Your mum’s cool.’

‘Hmm. Too cool.’

‘I have to be home normal time or Mum will call the police.’

‘We still have a couple of hours. And I’ve had enough of the police for a lifetime.’

She takes my hand to get to her feet then tucks it under her arm, linking us together. ‘What was it like? Being arrested?’ Her eyes light up and I realise now it’s the first time I’ve seen them like that in too long.

Kim PicDublin-born Kim Curran is the award-nominated author of books for young adults, including Shift, Control and Delete.
She studied Philosophy & Literature at university with the plan of being paid big bucks to think deep thoughts. While that never quite worked out, she did land a job as a junior copywriter with an ad agency a week after graduating. She’s worked in advertising ever since and is obsessed with the power of the media on young minds.
She is a mentor at the Ministry of Stories and for the WoMentoring Project. And lives in London with her husband and too many books.
To find out more about Kim and her work visit www.kimcurran.co.uk
To view the full tour schedule visit A Daydreamers thoughts here

There is a tour wide giveaway during the tour.
The prizes include;
Hardback copy of GLAZE signed by the author and cover designer
Signed copies of Shift & Control
Glaze Bookmarks
Glaze badges
Meet with Kim Curran or Skype chat if not able to come to London.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted on:

#CountDownTo5thJune: CHICKENS: YOUR ROOST NEEDS YOU!

chicken mission amazonYoung chicken Amy Cluckbucket dreams of escaping from Perrin’s farm to a life of chicken adventure. One day Amy receives a summons to the Kung Foo School for Poetry in Tibet where she learns she is to become part of an elite chicken squad whose mission is to defeat evil predators. It sounds like a dream come true but Amy’s disappointed to find that fellow squad members Ruth and Boo don’t seem to want to make friends. Ruth is too busy inventing things and Boo has problems of her own.
The chickens travel to Chicken HQ to meet their mentor, Professor Rooster, and prepare for ther first mission …
Through a series of egg-citing adventures and hilarious mishaps the three young chickens learn the value of friendship and teamwork. But will they be ready to defeat their mortal enemy, Thadeus E. Fox?

My name is Professor Emeritus Rooster. This is a call to wings.

For too long chickens have been oppressed, ending up on humans’ dinner plates and in foxes’ tummies. Save for a few notable exceptions (I speak of the excellent Fox Busters and the brave determination of Ginger and Mac in Chicken Run), we have also been ignored in literature and film. Our enemies, on the other wing, are applauded. What, I ask you, is so great about Fantastic Mr Fox? The answer is nothing, if you are a chicken.

On the contrary it is we, fellow chickens, who are fantastic. And not just because of our eggs or our delightful singing voices. Chickens are at least as smart as humans. We have our own social hierarchy known as the pecking order. We protect our families and friends. We enjoy classical music and TV. (As you know, the Bird Broadcasting Corporation has been producing egg-cellent shows for over 50 years.) We make nests and roost in trees. We navigate by the sun and communicate over long distances by crowing at dawn. All hen-sational accomplishments, I think you will agree.

With this in mind I have commissioned one of the growing number of humans who are beginning to understand our capabilities – an author known as Jennifer Gray – to write a series of egg-citing adventures about what we can achieve if we put our minds to it. The books tell the story of three ordinary young chickens – Amy, Boo and Ruth – who are trained in combat at the Kung Fu School for Poultry (KFP) high in the mountains of Tibet. Together they form an elite squad whose mission is to defeat bird-kind’s most ferocious enemies. Operating under my watchful eye at Chicken HQ, and with the assistance of some of my brilliant inventions, these chickens mean business. Admittedly they cluck a few things up along the way but the important thing is they learn from their experience – another remarkable chicken trait – and kung through in the end. I trust that their story will inspire you to set up your own chicken cells to protect your roosts, and that one day you too will be immortalized in tales of chicken derring-do that will be passed down from generation to generation and into popular culture.

Chickens: our moment approaches. It is time for all 19 billion of us to stand up and be counted. Do not forget we outnumber humans three to one. Together we can do great things.

Forget Mission Impossible: it’s time for Chicken Mission.

jennifer greyJennifer Gray is a barrister and the author of the Atticus Claw, Chicken Mission and Guinea Pigs Online series. Atticus Claw Breaks the Law is a winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award. Jennifer lives in London and Scotland with her husband and four children, and Henry, a friendly but enigmatic cat.
To learn more about Chicken Mission visit the Faber and Faber website here

Posted on:

Retribution Tour: Top Ten Inspirational Authors

Big Book Little Book welcomes Virginia Brasch as she shares her top ten of inspirational authors.
retribution coverAn eye for an eye. Bailey Russell is an assassin on an Artemis Agency assignment that is both business and personal: take out Amir Fahad, the arms dealer, who killed her partner. She’s put together an ideal plan that includes using herself as bait. Grieving the loss of her former partner and her team’s faith in her she vows the only way this mission ends is in death: hers or Fahad’s.
A dangerous web they weave. British Intelligence Operative, Ben Ambrose, is married to his job. And for the past three months that has meant living undercover as part of Fahad’s crew. Three month’s work blown when he feels compelled to risk his life to protect Bailey and her friends from Fahad’s men.
The best laid plans. Bailey’s plan ruined. Ben’s cover blown. Their entire professional lives consist of lies and subterfuge, but there’s one thing Bailey and Ben can’t hide from each other, their growing attraction. Still, each wants to complete their mission at all costs: personal and professional.
Payback’s a bitch and this time her name is Bailey.

Jane Austen
She sweeps us into the past and teaches us that women don’t have to accept the lot that’s handed them. They’re allowed to dream and reach for goals.

Louisa May Alcott
She too won my heart with Jo March and her desire to write and strive for things otherwise denied her gender at the time.

Sandra Brown
I just adore her writing. It can be gritty and real and pull you in easily. What writer doesn’t aspire to that?

Steig Larrson
In Lisbeth Salander, he creates the ultimate outcast, an almost frightening character who becomes a vigilante and seeker of justice.

Sara Gruen
Water for Elephants was such an amazing book. I cried, I loved it, I borrowed it from my mom and read it in a day and then bought a copy for my in laws. She’s a great story teller.

Sherrilyn Kenyon
Her books take place in our world and yet there’s some serious world building going on in her books. She’s a master at it and she makes it look easy. I love Greek Mythology too so that’s an added bonus.

Johanna Lindsey
If you like historicals and you don’t know her name; well you’ve been living under a rock. The amount of research to accurately write a historical boggles my mind and yet she does it well. And often. She should teach a class on being prolific with so many hit titles under her belt.

JK Rowling
She worked as a single mother on welfare while writing the Harry Potter series. She knew what she wanted and she never gave up. She is endlessly inspiring.

Neil Gaiman
“Make Good Art.”

Dean Koontz
For scaring the hell out of me while I was home alone one summer morning and teaching me how powerful words can be. And making me invest in a nightlight.

Post written by Virginia Brasch

author pic braschVirginia Brasch, author of Retribution, the first book in the Artemis Series is making her writing debut. The married Pennsylvania native has an inherited love of books. Virginia was tired of reading stories about helpless damsels in distress and started writing about her own kind of heroine.
She snorts when she laughs, has an unfortunate fondness for karaoke, a growing collection of books, and is drawn always to the sea. She was also once hit in the head by a small sailboat’s boom and tossed overboard. This taught her the importance of expecting the unexpected. She enjoys dirty jokes and swears like a sailor though claims to be “****ing working on it.”
Virginia is an adventurer who lives a wildly exciting life. Afraid to fly, she travels infrequently. She gets excited to spend a night in reading or snuggle up watching a movie with her husband. She likes hanging out with her mom or tentatively venturing out with girlfriends, lured by promises of wine and laughing until it hurts.
She writes suspense with a romantic kick and fully believes heroines should be a bit brash. For more romantic suspense fun, or just for a chat, you can find Virginia on twitter (@Virginia_Brasch), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/VBrasch), and her website (http://virginiabrasch.wordpress.com/). She encourages readers to go ahead and be a little bit Brasch.

Retribution is LIVE and available to buy from amazon.co.uk (here)

To learn more about Retribution and Virginia check out the other stops on the blog tour (here). Alternativley Virginia is active on Facebook (here) and on Twitter (here).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted on:

Switching To Teens

After producing five books for adults, award-winning novelist Martyn Bedford now writes teenage fiction. Here he explains why he made the switch to a different readership.

never endingWhen a family holiday ends in tragedy, the grieving parents’ marriage is left in ruins and, Shiv, their 15-year-old daughter, is tormented by what happened … and her part in it. Off the rails and unable to live with her guilt, Shiv is sent away to an exclusive clinic that claims to “cure” people like her.
But this is no ordinary psychiatric institution and Shiv discovers that her release – from her demons, and from the clinic itself – will come, if it comes at all, at a bizarre and terrible price.

I have a former editor to thank for my first novel for teenagers – I wrote it because he advised me not to. After more than 12 years writing fiction for adults I had an idea for a story more suited to a younger audience.

When I mentioned it over a pizza one day, the editor shook his head.

“You don’t want to write one of those.”

‘Why not?’ I asked.

He didn’t really give a reason, just shook his head again. With the teen market so buoyant, perhaps he thought I was jumping on the bandwagon, or that I wouldn’t be able to write well for that readership. Maybe he foresaw a “re-branding” problem.

Whatever, I came away from that lunch feeling cross. Like any author, I resented being told what to write – or what not to write (he hadn’t even asked what the story was about!) I decided to go ahead with my teen novel and to hell with him, even if he had just paid for my pizza.

And so I started work on Flip. It tells the story of Alex, a 14-year-old who wakes up one morning to find that his soul (consciousness, spirit, psyche, or whatever you care to call it) has switched to another boy’s body and he faces a life-and-death quest to return to his own skin or be trapped for ever in the wrong existence.

As soon as I had the idea, I knew it was a book for teenagers – not just due to the age of the hero but because of the story’s themes of identity, self-awareness and self-image. As a teenager, I didn’t much like myself. I often wondered what it would be like to be someone else. Someone better looking, more popular, more athletic, more successful with girls. Someone who didn’t have asthma. Real life never made that possible so I created Alex and let it happen to him.

Having decided this was to be a teen novel, the odd thing was that – as I tapped away at my laptop – I never really felt like I was writing ‘for’ teenagers. I wrote in much the same way as I’d always done: I had a tale to tell and characters to bring alive. The only teenager I was writing ‘for’ was the teenager I once was. I just hoped it would strike a chord with today’s teens.

The same is true of my latest novel, Never Ending, about a girl torn apart by grief and guilt after the death of her brother on a family holiday. If I lay down on a psychiatrist’s couch, she might ask if I was really using the book to work through my ‘issues’ of having grown up as an only child.

Who knows? All I can say is, I’ve enjoyed writing these books so much I have no plans to return to adult fiction.

With both teen novels, I have received helpful feedback on various drafts from teenage readers – my older daughter, a niece, a friend’s son and daughter – and from my wife, who was until recently a high-school librarian. But perhaps the biggest thanks are owed to the editor at that pizza restaurant, whose advice is the best I’ve ever ignored.

Post by Martyn Bedford

Martyn Bedford author picMartyn Bedford’s first novel for teens, Flip (Walker Books 2011), won four regional prizes and was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards. His second, Never Ending (Walker), is published on February 6th. He is currently working on a third.

Never Ending is published today by Walker Books. For more information visit the Never Ending Goodreads page (here).

Posted on:

Boys don’t read books about girls…

We are delighted to host Jo Cotterill, author of the stunning middle grade book, Looking At The Stars.

looking at the starsAmina’s homeland has been ravaged by war for many months, but so far she and her family are safe, together. When a so-called liberating force arrives in the country, the family think their prayers for peace will soon be answered, but they are horribly wrong . . . The country is thrown into yet further turmoil and Amina’s family is devastated . . .
Through it all, Amina has her imagination to fall back on – of a better place and time. But can her stories get her through this?

Some time in 2013 there was an online argument among authors and readers about writing ‘strong’ female characters. Why should girls be ‘strong’? asked some people. Why were they supposed to be emotionally strong and assertive above all else? Surely a good three-dimensional character can be strong, weak, confused, angry, wrong, passionate and frightened. When authors write male characters, are they referred to as ‘strong’?

Our society persists in dividing the sexes with a line so thick you can’t see through it. As a mum of two young girls, I see an insidious creep towards the Disney Princess. Many toys are now aimed at boys or girls, as though children should be placed carefully into categories because of their gender. Well-meaning people buy pink purses for my daughters instead of toolkits or Meccano. My five-year-old already has firm ideas about what ‘girls’ like and what she should prioritise. Yet the female of the species is worth more than that! Possibilities should not be limited by gender, and that’s why fiction is important, because it can show a world of options.

There is also a persuasive idea going around that boys don’t read books that feature a central female character. I don’t think this is true for all boys, but I do think society teaches boys that girls are still less important than they are. Why else would boys avoid ‘girly stuff’ and lump female characters in with it? And yet many books written about girls are hugely useful. They teach us about relating to people; about finding inner strength in realistic situations; about kindness and cruelty; about discovering your own talents. All of these are vital skills for real life. Not to mention that girls make up half the population: shouldn’t boys want to read about them?

In Looking at the Stars, Amina and her sister Jenna are the two central characters. They have been living under a very repressive regime that prevents them going to school and forces them to wear headscarves that identify their age. This is not a ‘female issue’; it’s a human issue. And to test out a boy’s reaction to my book, I sent it to a friend of mine. Her twelve-year-old son, an avid reader, sent me this review:

Even after reading the Hunger Games, which had some really sad moments, this is the first book that ever made me cry. Because it was so life-like. I almost felt I was with the characters, on their journey. It is now one of my favourite books. I think it is like…nothing else I have read.

THAT is why boys should read books about girls, and why we should stop assuming they won’t be interested in them. And it’s why I hope lots of boys and girls will read my book.

Written by Jo Cotterill

Jo headshotJo’s first story at the age of five was a festive one entitled ‘Chismas’. After writing a lot of stories about unicorns, she decided at the age of thirteen to become an actress. Her professional acting career was enjoyable but frustrating, so she became a teacher instead, writing stories on the side. Her first book was published in 2004, and she gave up teaching in 2009. Jo now lives in Oxfordshire and fits writing around her young family. She enjoys music and card-making, and is an avid fan of Strictly Come Dancing.

Looking At The Stars was published today by Bodley Head.

Posted on:

A Writer’s Role, A Father’s Responsibility

We are delighted to host the latest stop on Jeff Norton‘s blog tour for MetaWars: Freedom Frontier.

MetawarsThe thrilling final instalment of the action-packed METAWARS series.
With the Guardians and Millennials eliminated, Jonah and Sam are left to fend for themselves. When they discover their enemy, Granger, is also on his own they take the ultimate leap of faith and join forces to survive…and save humanity. The future of the world on and off-line is at stake and Jonah will not stop until he prevails.
Even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

One of my favourite things about walking into a bookshop with my son (Caden, aged four) is when he spots one of my books. “Dadda, look, your book!” he squeals, often accompanied by a feverish pointing and jumping up and down. But the satisfaction is tempered with sadness, since I know he’s years away from enjoying the book himself.

We’re still in the picture books and early readers phase, and while I would never wish this precious time away, there’s a part of me that waits with anxious anticipation when he can read the first MetaWars book on his own. It’ll probably be in about four to five years, depending on what type of reader he develops into, and assuming he’s not in a rebellious phase by then.

But in the books, I paint a bleak picture of the future: global population over ten billion, food and water shortages, resource constraints, and a phenomena whereby most people choose to hide out in a virtual world instead of facing the real one. Beyond the entertainment value of the story – essentially a chase thriller – I wonder if he will ask me why I didn’t do more to change the future? If the world he grows up into starts to resemble the fictional one I’ve created (and scientific consensus suggests that this is likely), then he’ll be right to accuse me of complacency of character and appeasing the forces that damage our environment.

As a parent, part of my job is to project my children from the world, but more and more I wonder whether it’s also my responsibility to create a better one for them to grow into. I don’t think I knew it consciously, but that’s the question that I was grappling with when writing The Freedom Frontier, the fourth and final book in the MetaWars series. What can I do to make the world better for my children? Now that the series is over and I’m due to move onto other projects, the question still lingers.

Caden is four now, and I expect he’ll make his way into the world in about fourteen years or so. That gives me fourteen years to find an answer that satisfies both of us. That’s not a lot of time.

Post by Jeff Norton

jeff nortonJeff Norton is London-based writer who dreams up big, immersive worlds and fills them with page-turning stories and awesome characters. Sometimes he writes by himself, sometimes he creates stories two co-write with his friends.
A reluctant reader as a boy, Jeff strives to create stories that will turn reluctant readers into lifelong ones.
Before writing full-time, Jeff managed the Enid Blyton literary estate. Jeff moved to London from Los Angeles where he’d developed and produced the critically acclaimed interactive movie Choose Your Own Adventure, based on the best-selling books.
Originally from Canada, Jeff lives in London with his wife and two young sons. Norton is the author of the MetaWars saga from Orchard Books. The final installment, MetaWars 4.0: The Freedom Frontier publishes 2nd January, 2014. Find Jeff on the web at www.jeffnorton.com, twitter at www.twitter.com/thejeffnorton and facebook at www.facebook.com/thejeffnorton.

Posted on:

Blog Tour: Echoes In The Glass

We are delighted to welcome Cheri Lasota as she shares some of her favourite quotes from her newly released contemporary romance, Echoes In The Glass.

echoesFinnian bears the scar of an unspeakable crime.
McKenna hides the pain of a terrible betrayal. 
When all their secrets are laid bare, will the truth rip them apart or forever silence the echoes of the past?


Seventeen-year-old Finnian Bell has been on the run for years, but he finally has a chance to rebuild his life while restoring an abandoned lighthouse on the Oregon Coast.  

McKenna Lucas, the lightkeeper’s daughter, is still reeling from the pain of an event that has shattered her innocence. Fear and bitterness have turned her heart from Finnian, but he is determined not to let her go.

The lighthouse harbors dark secrets of its own…When Finnian and McKenna uncover the story of two teens hidden in the tower back in 1934, they discover a shocking connection that bridges time and death.

Favorite Quotes.

Quote 3: They stayed that way.
Still.
Quiet.
Without moving or breathing. A moment when there was no world outside the space between them. He felt wrapped around and within her in a place of beginning and forgetting.

To me, this is what love feels like. The whole world can just fade away and all you see is the one who loves you. With this line, I desperately wanted to capture just a glimpse of what that feels like for my main character, Finnian Bell. He has come through so much to get to this moment in his journey. Most of my beta readers have shed some tears at this point in the story, knowing everything these two characters have been through.

Quote 4: He let go and rubbed his chest, where the gaping hole of grief that had filled his waking hours was both filling and emptying at the same time.

This is probably not the most eloquent of lines, but it was my feeble attempt to capture what was going through Finnian’s mind at the most heartbreaking moment in this novel. I had tears streaming down my face as I wrote it because, at the time, I knew exactly what he feels like as he learns the truth about the two people he loves most: one was an answer to his prayers and the other the revelation of a terrible crime. At this moment, I wasn’t writing Finnian, I was him, and my heart broke alongside his.

To read more favourite quotes and see the other stops on the tour for reviews, guest posts, and excerpts visit the full Echoes In The Glass tour schedule (here)

Posted by Cheri

cheri lCheri Lasota has written poetry and fiction for sixteen years, edited fiction for nine years and recently jumped headlong into design work for enhanced e-books. She has a great love for all things techy, so she finds herself pushing the boundaries of e-book marketing and design at every turn. Her passion for fiction and helping other novelists achieve their goals is without limits.

Her bestselling debut novel, ARTEMIS RISING, is a 2013 Cygnus Awards First Place Winner and a 2012 finalist in the Next Generation Indie Books Awards. Cheri just released her how-to e-book DESIGN AND UPLOAD YOUR EPUB and is currently finishing up her second YA novel, ECHOES IN THE GLASS, set on the Oregon Coast.

Echoes In The Glass is published by Ever-Sea Press and is available to buy now from Amazon (here).

Our thanks to AToMR Tours ( Visit here for more information) for organising this tour and allowing us to be a part of it.

Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted on:

“d-mat”

We are delighted to welcome Sean Williams, author of Twinmaker, as he shares some of his thoughts on matter transmitters. Beam us up Sean!

imageA near-future thriller that fans of the GONE series and Doctor Who will love
Clair is pretty sure the offer in the ‘Improvement’ meme is just another viral spam, though Libby is determined to give it a try.
But what starts as Libby’s dream turns into Clair’s nightmare when her friend vanishes.
In her search for answers, Clair seeks out Jesse – a boy whose alternative lifestyle might help to uncover the truth.
What they don’t anticipate is intervention from the mysterious contact known only as Q, and being caught up in a conspiracy that will change everything.

Here’s a quick quiz.

Imagine a machine that can move you from place to place. Not a plane or a car, but a booth you step into. You tell the machine where you want to go. It takes you there. To you, it seems like no time at all has passed. To everyone else, maybe a minute or two. When the booth at the other end opens you see Stonehenge or your best friend’s house or anywhere else on Earth. Anywhere with a booth.

Would you do it?

Me, I wouldn’t even think about. I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I love it here, but it’s a looooong way from anywhere. At the moment this goes live, I’m in a hotel in Brighton on the other side of the world. It’s taken me over a day’s worth of taxis, airplanes and trains to get here. If I could skip all that in favour of just stepping into a booth (a bit like a TARDIS) and giving it directions, I would do it in a flash. Literally a flash–of electrons and photons rushing along a cable at the speed of light.

Before you decide, let me tell you how this machine works. Let’s call it “d-mat”, for starters. When a d-mat booth closes its doors and the machines start working, what it does is scan you from head to toe, outside in. To do that it uses something a lot like lasers. When it’s finished, there’s nothing of you left–not physically, anyway. That’s all been burned away. But you’ve been scanned right down to the tiniest detail, so “you” now “exist” as a pattern in computer memory. That pattern can be sent anywhere–and sent it is, to the place you want to be.

There, it all runs in reverse. Lasers in the other booth spin and weave an exact copy of you, molecule by molecule–and suddenly, as though by magic, you are back. Most importantly, you are alive. You feel the same as you did back in the first booth. You’re completely unaware of the lasers or the pattern or the cables. You’re just you, in a different place.

Let me ask you the question again. Now you know about the lasers (which really, when you think about it, destroyed you in the first booth) and the fact that what you will be a copy at the other end (not the original you, not one speck) would you do it?

Lots of people wouldn’t. There are so many questions. How can you be sure you’ll be exactly the same? What happens if something goes wrong–the power is cut or your pattern is lost or it’s changed somehow? What if there’s some special part of you–a “soul” or whatever you like to call it–that isn’t copied? Will you only think you’re alive at the other end, but actually you’ll be some kind of hollow zombie?

These are all creepy thoughts.

Me, I probably still would do it. After all, the way we get around today might seem a bit mad to someone not born in our time. We drive or fly in metal boxes with huge tanks full of explosive material over long distances, narrowly avoiding other such boxes full of other people. The slightest collision could see us all killed. We spend huge amounts of money on these boxes, and spend lots of time and even more money looking after them. In return they pump horrible fumes into the air that threaten to make us sick or even ruin the planet as a whole. Wouldn’t we be better off witouth all that, in exchange for a small amount of risk?

Also, the thought of not existing for a minute or so, between being scanned and being rebuilt–is that any different from going under an anaesthetic or being knocked out? Or even going to sleep at night? One moment we’re fully conscious, the next we’re not there at all. We always come back.

One of the amazing things about people is that we think we’re the same person we were when we were much younger, even though we looked and acted very differently, even though most of the cells in our bodies now didn’t exist back then. Why does the thought of being altered in even a tiny way by such a machine give us the heebie-jeebies?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this quiz. But it’s something to think about. Hopefully not late at night when you’re trying to sleep. (You WILL come back. I promise.) Philosophers have been using ideas like d-mat for decades to try to nut out who we are and how we feel about being who we are. I like to do the same thing, but with chase scenes and kissing.

Guest post by Sean Williams

image#1 New York Times bestselling Sean Williams lives with his family in Adelaide, South Australia. He’s written some books–thirty-nine at last count–including the Philip K. Dick-nominated Saturn Returns, several Star Wars novels and the Troubletwister series with Garth Nix. Twinmaker is the first in a new YA SF series that takes his love affair with the matter transmitter to a whole new level.

Posted on:

Self Published Sunday: A Completely Novel Experience

We are delighted to welcome Richard Sterry, author of Stay Away from the Buttercups, to discuss the experience of writing and publishing his novel.

Cover-Stay Away from the ButtercupsIf you are a cyclist, the appeal of the South Downs Way in the South of England is one of the Must Do mountain biker’s rides. To complete the full 100 mile length is one thing but to achieve it 3 times in succession is in a league of its own. The book describes the journey of the Triple ride, which dips into several technical areas that may help you achieve your next cycling quest.
For those who have a dream or a crazy goal, the book takes you on the journey how my crazy goal was conceived, established, planned and conquered. Even when my body was giving up on me for the second time, the deep rooted focus and determination gave me the strength to see it through to the finish.
Along the way many other people joined in with the journey by being part of the support crew, riding with me along the route and following my progress on-line. It is the contribution by all the onlookers and supporters that has made the journey so memorable and worthwhile. I want to thank everyone for volunteering to play their part and helping me to make a piece of history.

Completely Novice

37 hours on the bike with no sleep had physically and mentally broken me. My mind was full of the amazing 300 mile ride yet I was swamped by the emptiness of what to do next.

Writing about my experience provided a soothing release. Describing the journey calmed my mixed emotions and settled my thoughts. Recounting every detail, I pieced together my version of the ride. It looked good to me, but on discussing it with my friend Louise Poynton (a freelance sports journalist) she encouraged me to reshape it and add some colour. Incorporating the chatter from a cycling forum about my ride and the tweets during the event brought my words to life. Adding other people’s account of my crazy challenge gave another perspective.

With my family checking the words for spelling and grammar, I researched how to publish a book. Swamped by the number of choices for fonts, page sizes, margins, page numbers, headings and titles, I did my homework. Obtaining permission from the variety of sources and checking for copyright information added to the complications. I felt certain that a self-publish approach was the way forward for me with the attractive low cost print on demand feature. I had no idea on how well the book would sell.

Struggling to enter the unfamiliar world of book publishing was a challenge. Louise put me in touch with Andrew Sykes who had recently published his book “Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie”. Andrew’s simple and effective message was to start with an ebook on Amazon, then go to the helpful people at Completely Novel to produce the paperback version.

Releasing the ebook after a couple of weeks was an amazing feeling.

Formatting and typesetting the paperback version took a few weeks. I couldn’t create the cover until I had uploaded the manuscript, as the width of the spine was calculated according to the number of pages. How do you design a cover with the most basic of Microsoft software and no artistic talent?

The FAQs at Completely Novel were really informative and my further questions were quickly answered by Anna Lewis, she even helped me get the barcode on the back cover.

Touching and feeling in my hands the first paperback book was incredible. The sharpness of the pages and the recognition of the contents gave me a deep warm smile inside.

Regular tweets gained steady sales of the ebook, achieving 5 Star reviews, whilst my blog received an increasing number of hits. Many of the 200 people mentioned in the book were at the Brighton Big Dog race in August. Launching the paperback version at the race, each rider received a promotional card in their goody bag and flyers were posted around the arena and on the course.

Andrew’s advice was really helpful; I wish I had sought more advice earlier.

My journey into the publishing world was challenging and exciting. Hopefully my book will inspire you to chase and conquer your own crazy dream.

RichardSterrySDWAbout the Author – Richard Sterry
Reading was boring at school and writing was equally dull. I also hated sport and anything involving too much effort, such as homework.
30 years later I became fitter than some elite athletes, I rode a bike non-stop for 37 hours covering 300 miles of the South Downs, then I wrote a book about it.
The transformation is tremendous and I describe in the book my amazing journey and the mental strategies required for succeeding and achieving your crazy goal.
Living in Reigate, I married Fiona in 1989 and our 18 year old twins have just completed their A Levels. In addition to the South Downs, I am often riding around Box Hill and the Surrey Hills enjoying the beauty of the South East of England.
More information about richard and his work cam be found by visiting Richards blog (here) or by conversing with Richard on Twitter (here).

Stay Away from the Buttercups is available to buy from CompletelyNovel (here) and from amazon.co.uk (here).

Posted on: