Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Writing Words - 5 reasons why #UKYA unpublished and published authors should attend YALC.

YALC is happening this week! If you have had your head buried under a mountain of books you might have missed the excitement brimming over on social media about this ever growing annual event. But if you don't know what it is, let me help you. 
YALC stands for Young Adult Literary Conference and will basically feature the biggest gathering of YA authors, publishers and agents in the UK. If you write YA, this is the place to be! Not convinced?
OK, well let me try a little harder by giving you five excellent reasons why you should attend YALC if you write YA. It doesn't matter if you are published or you are not, you need to be at YALC because:
  1. You can pitch to agents. If you are seeking representation, this is an ideal opportunity that won't cost you anything, to sit and talk face to face with some of the UK's finest agents and pitch them your idea.  There will be a different agents doing talks every day. Julia Churchill will be there on Friday, followed by Danielle Zigner on the Saturday and Louise Lamont on the Sunday. 
    Agent Julia Churchill
  2. There are three whole days jam packed with writing workshops taught by some of the best YA writers in the UK! It would cost you a fortune to have this many classes with so many brilliant writers, yet at YALC it all comes within the price of your ticket. You can learn to write using the Tarot with Anna McKerrow, which I loved last year. There are screen writing classes, as well as writing fandom. 
  3. You get to breathe the same air and listen to some of YA's finest talk about their writing. UKYA writers like Carnegie winner Sarah Crossan, Holly Bourne, Malorie Blackman and many others. Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell will also be on hand to illustrate live, which is definitely something worth seeing. And on top of that you have some of America's finest such as New York Times Bestseller, VE Schwab, David Levithan and Maggie Steifvater. 
    New York Times Bestselling Author, VE Schwab
  4. You can find out what's new in the UKYA publishing industry. There will be a couple of talks every day where you will find out what it's like to work in the publishing industry. You can also find out what you need to do to get published. 
  5. It's an ideal opportunity to network. Not only will you get to meet authors, but you will also meet the people who work in publishing as well as many of the book blogging community. There will be a huge amount of people who will want to talk to you about your book!
    Super bloggers!
    There are lots more reasons why you should attend, in fact I could probably go on and on and on about it right up until the event, but I must stop now because I really need to pack ready for my three day stay in Olympia!!! If you do come, make sure you say hi if you see me! And good luck - YALC could be the start of your publishing career!

Monday, 25 July 2016

Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe

In times of sadness or distress, I have often sought the comfort in the idea that the best is yet to come. To me, the 'best' doesn't have to be the glitz and the glamour of some star-studded, bright-lights premiere where I'd walk down the red carpet in a custom Vera Wan ballgown everyone is screaming my name. The 'best' can be a steaming hot cup of coffee early one November morning when it's still dark outside and all I can see when I look up is the fluorescent amber glow of street lights against the slow rise of dawn. 

Published by Scholastic in June 2016
Pages - 272

An inspiring, uplifting and sympathetic story about sexuality and self-acceptance, Lucy Sutcliffe's debut memoir is a personal and moving coming out story. In 2010, at seventeen, Lucy Sutcliffe began an online friendship with Kaelyn, a young veterinary student from Michigan. Within months, they began a long distance relationship, finally meeting in the summer of 2011. Lucy's video montage of their first week spent together in Saint Kitts, which she posted to the couple's YouTube channel, was the first in a series of films documenting their long-distance relationship. Funny, tender and candid, the films attracted them a vast online following. Now, for the first time, Lucy's writing about the incredible personal journey she's been on; from never quite wanting the fairy-tale of Prince Charming to realising she was gay at the age of 14, through three years of self-denial to finally coming out to friends and family, to meeting her American girlfriend Kaelyn. 
I'd never heard of Lucy or Kaelyn before reading this book, but I felt like I got to know them so well, that I found myself tuning into their Youtube channel. Lucy comes across as a really lovely girl when reading about her life and that is only echoed when watching her videos. 
The book is autobiographical and deals with Lucy's experiences with coming out. We see her from a young age, realising that she felt differently about boys to her friends and watching it dawn on her that she was a lesbian. She is honest about her fears in telling her friends and family the truth. We also see her blossoming relationship with Kaelyn, which is really sweet and it was lovely to see a long distance romance develop. 
I can see why this book will be popular as so many teens watch Lucy and Kaelyn's channel. Their determination and devotion to helping others be comfortable and truthful about their sexuality will make their fans desperate to read this book. 
Personally I would have liked to know more about Kaelyn and Lucy's developing relationship as it felt the book dealt more with her past than her present and their relationship. However, I'm positive many teens will really enjoy this book and come away with something. It really is an important read which will help many teens confront their own sexuality and their fears about coming out. I would highly recommend you go and watch the girl's on their Youtube channel once you have read the book as they are really are fabulous to watch. 

Author Information
Co-star of the popular YouTube channel Kaelyn and Lucy which documented the long distance relationship she had with Kaelyn Petras. She and Kaelyn finally came together in August of 2014, ending the long distance element of their relationship.

She graduated from Plymouth College of Art and Design in 2014 with a degree in Film Arts

She works as a freelance film editor and author. She and Kaelyn's channel mainly focuses on advice videos for LGBT youth.

She was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire to parents Sharon and Roger Sutcliffe.

There is a tour-wide giveaway! 3 copies of Girl Hearts Girl for 3 lucky winners!
Participants must live in UK or IRL.

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Don't forget to catch all the the other stops on the blog tour. 

#ReviewMonday with KM Lockwood - Cogheart written by Peter Bunzl

Malkin pressed his forepaws against the flight-deck window and peered out. The silver airship was still following; gaining on them. The purr of its propellers and the whoosh of its knife-sharp hull cutting through the air sent a shiver of terror through his clockwork innards.
The fox tore his eyes away and stared at his master. John’s ship, Dragonfly, was fast but she had nothing in the way of firepower. The silver airship, by contrast, bristled with weapons. Sharp metal spikes stuck out from her hull, making her look like some sort of militarized porcupine.
Just then, Dragonfly’s rudder shifted, and she pitched as John twisted the wheel into a one-eighty turn to swoop back past her pursuers.
The silver airship shrunk away, but within seconds she’d swung around to follow. She began closing in once more; her propellers chopping through the clouds, throwing dark shadows across their stern. When the two airships broke into a patch of blue, she fired.
A harpoon slashed across the sky and thudded into Dragonfly’s hull, the point piercing her port side.

Cover and inside illustrations by Kath Millichope and Becca Stadtlander 
(some images via Thinkstock)
384 pages in paperback
To be published 1st September 2016 by Usborne Books

Introduction from Cogheart.com


Introducing… Lily, Robert and Malkin
When thirteen-year-old Lily’s inventor father disappears after a routine Zeppelin flight, Lily’s determined to find out the truth behind his disappearance. But she’s not the only one searching for him; there are silver eyed men in the shadows who will stop at nothing to find him.
With Robert, the local clockmaker’s son, and a cantankerous clockwork fox called Malkin, Lily travels to London, where they discover that she holds the key to the mystery…
A mystery closer to Lily’s heart than she could have ever imagined.
So you are, or you know, a confident young reader. You’re looking for adventure, thrills and lots of peril in the stories – but you want the main characters to be brave and resourceful enough to meet the challenges. Perhaps you have read or watched some of Jules Verne’s stories. Perhaps you like steam-driven machinery and Victorian engineering. Perhaps you have older friends who love Gail Carriger’s books – and you’d like something like that, without the soppiness romance.

Well, Cogheart is just right for you. It’s chock full of intriguing characters, both human and mechanical. There’s a wind-up fox, grumpy and loyal; an adventurous orphaned girl and a kind, brave boy. They are pitted against murderous villains, treachery and deceit – all in a riot of well-imagined steampunk settings.
If you like desperate peril, can cope with genuine sadness and loss, and don’t mind a few shocks along the way, this will suit admirably. The point of view shifts between the three main characters, and it is quite long – so it’s not suited to a beginner. But the pace rattles along through 26 mostly short and snappy chapters.
I don’t imagine it’s the last we will read about Lily, Robert and Malkin: Usborne certainly feel this debut could start off a classic series. (I do hope the rather wonderful Mrs Rust, Miss Tock, Captain Springer and Mr Wingnut make an appearance in Book 2 due 2017.) At any rate, this first tale would make a glorious animation – check out the moving cover on the Cogheart mini-site to see what I mean. 
Fantastical, immersive – and yet with real heart.

K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed-and-breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You're always welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Inspire Me! The inspiration for “Magpie Soup” by Dave Cousins.

To celebrate the publication of the collaboration, Stories From The Edge, I'm so pleased to welcome Dave Cousins back onto the blog, to tell us about the inspiration behind his story in the book, Magpie Soup. 
Hi, Viv—thanks for inviting me back to Serendipity Reviews. 
Long time visitors to the blog might remember “15 Days without a Head”—my debut novel for teenagers published back in 2012—it’s where Mina, from “Magpie Soup”, made her first appearance.
She wasn’t supposed to have a huge role in that story, but the moment I started writing about Mina, I knew she was going to be important to Laurence and Jay’s story. She was one of those characters who came to life on the page. I liked her irreverent take on life, the way she gently teased Laurence and was more than happy to join Jay in his crazy six-year-old world. Mina offered the brothers friendship, help, and someone to trust when they needed it most.
Which was great—but it also gave me a problem. “15 Days without a Head” wasn’t supposed to be about Mina, it was Laurence and Jay’s story. The term ‘killing your darlings’ will be familiar to anyone who has reached editing stage with their writing, but this time it really hurt. I had to sit Mina down and, as diplomatically as possible, remind her that she was only supporting cast. Of course, she took it better than I did—but that was the moment something sparked into life somewhere in the dark depths of my subconscious—the idea that Mina deserved her own story.
I travel a lot visiting schools, libraries and book festivals, and most sessions end with a Q&A. I’m always touched when someone asks if there will be a sequel to one of the books—when readers want to know what happened next for Laurence, Jay and Mina. A few people even told me that Mina was their favourite character, and each time they did, that spark glowed a little brighter.
In “15 Days” Mina and her dad have recently moved down from Yorkshire. We know that Mina plays in a brass band and that her mum has died. I decided I wanted to go back and explore Mina’s life before she meets Laurence and Jay. 
For me, stories are centred on characters—I’m interested in people—how they cope with what life throws at them. Losing a parent at a young age is going to be a life-changing experience, so I decided to set the story on the morning of Mina’s mum’s funeral. Then I sat down and started writing, and waited to see what would happen.
That’s how I like to work—discovering the story as I write. I follow the characters, listen to what they have to say, and watch what they do. It’s not the most efficient method, and can take a long time with lots of false starts and dead-ends. Many times I’ve written tens of thousands of words before I realise there simply isn’t a story to tell, which is frustrating. But this method has also provided some of the scenes and ideas I am most proud of—they grew organically from the writing and would never have occurred to me had I sat down and tried to plot them out. Not that I’m saying plotting doesn’t work—far from it. Once I discover the story I’m trying to tell, I have to find structure and balance among the mess on the page—but that comes later.
Following Mina on the morning of her mum’s funeral led me to a song. Mina needs to feel her mum’s presence in the room full of sombre people in dark clothes, and plays one of her mum’s favourites. It’s a song Mina grew up with—knew all the words to, without ever consciously learning them. There’s a line in the song about eating soup with magpies in! It struck me as an idea a child would pick up on—the younger Mina would have wanted to know if people really made soup from magpies—like the blackbirds baked in a pie from ‘Sing a song of sixpence’. Mina remembers her mum’s explanation—
“You told me that magpies fill their nests with shiny things they like the look of, and that magpie soup was the same: a combination of all the things you liked, so it was different for each person who made it. You said it didn’t matter if the ingredients didn’t really go together—because how could it taste bad if it was made up of all my favourite things? I have to say, you set yourself up for disaster with that one, Mum.”
That was the spark. The rest of the story grew from there. By the end, Mina is able to come to terms with her mum not being around anymore because she realises that her mum will live on in her memories and all the things she taught Mina—like how to make Magpie Soup.
Mina’s mum’s favourite song is ‘Fortunately Gone’ by The Breeders—you can listen to it here.
“Magpie Soup” is from the new Young Adult anthology “Stories from The Edge”, a collection of gripping, thought-provoking tales by eight award-winning UK YA authors. 
From the perils of online chat rooms, doping in sport, racism and terrorism, to gender and self-esteem issues, love, life and death, “Stories from The Edge” isn’t afraid to ask some big questions. Sometimes frightening, often funny, always brutally honest, these stories will take you to where the shadows are darkest and the ground drops away. The question is, are you prepared to look over the edge?
Out now in paperback (£5.99) and eBook (£1.99) Please visit http://edgeauthors.blogspot.co.uk for details.

For more information on Dave Cousins, visit http://www.davecousins.net

More Stories from The Edge Blog Tour posts here:

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison

Alice Silver had never met anyone who had killed before, but that changed on the day Dorothy Grimes walked past the window of Alice's favourite coffee shop. 

Published by Simon and Schuster on 28th July 2016
Pages -352
What happens when a tale with real magic, that was supposed to be finished, never was? This is a story about one of those stories . . . 
Midge loves riddles, his cat, Twitch, and ‒ most of all ‒ stories. Especially because he’s grown up being read to by his sister Alice, a brilliant writer.
When Alice goes missing and a talking cat turns up in her bedroom, Midge searches Alice’s stories for a clue. Soon he discovers that her secret book, The Museum of Unfinished Stories, is much more than just a story. In fact, he finds two of its characters wandering around town.
But every tale has its villains ‒ and with them leaping off the page, Midge, Gypsy and Piper must use all their wits and cunning to work out how the story ends and find Alice. If they fail, a more sinister finale threatens them all...
I may be completely biased, because I love everything Michelle Harrison writes. Ever since reading The Thirteen Treasures, I've hailed Michelle as the new Enid Blyton and I still stand by my words. She weaves fantasy with ease into a contemporary setting. 
This book is pure magic! I love that there is a book within the book! This tale brings to life, Alice's characters from her stories. Some are lovely but many are menacing and out to get what they want. For them to return to the story, Alice must finish writing it. When Alice disappears, Midge, Alice's younger brother, struggles to search for and save his sister. He must help her to return the characters back to the fictional world. 
The characters effortlessly spill out of the story into real life. I thought it was excellent how they believed themselves to be alive and really felt their shock  and fear on realising they were just characters from a story. I loved Tabitha, the talking cat, who loves a good cup of tea.
There is a real darkness to this tale, which is very much a signature of Michelle Harrison's style of writing. Her characters are never sweet or innocent. Dorothy Grimes is seriously scary!
The prose is intricately plotted and bursting with descriptive passages. I am in awe of Michelle's plotting abilities. 
The book reminded me how much I loved Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. If you are a fan of Inkheart, you will really enjoy this book.  

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Guest Review @bysarahbaker : Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman

My sister doesn’t use the word disappear, but that’s what she means. She squats barefooted by the side of the swimming pool and says, “Go to your room, Skye, and stay there until I say.”

Published by Scholastic, May 2016 
272 pages in paperback.
Cover by Sean Williams @seanmwilliams
Summary from Amazon:
Skye is looking for an escape from the reality of last summer when her sister died in a tragic accident. Her parents think that a camp for troubled teenagers might help her process her grief. All of the kids at the summer camp have lost someone close, but is bringing them together such a good idea? And can everyone at camp be trusted? When Skye starts receiving text messages from someone pretending to be her dead sister, she knows it's time to confront the past. But what if the danger is right in front of her?
Lying About Last Summer is a fast paced YA thriller that deals with the death of a sibling in a moving and very skillful way. We follow Skye’s journey through her grief as she attempts to come to terms with what really happened to her sister, Luisa. 

Part of her mourning process takes her to Morley Hill, an activity-led bereavement camp for teens, and it’s here that she begins to receive text messages from someone pretending to be her dead sister. With plenty of potential suspects surrounding her, from the incorrigible Danielle to the possibly too good to be true Brandon, and Joe, the caring hunk with hugs and advice on tap, Skye’s paranoia reaches tipping point. 

The adventure camp setting is a clever device to highlight the very different and subtle ways in which teens grieve and it’s both realistic and refreshing. The characters are vivid, funny, often witty and all are very well drawn, with some even coming to feel like old friends by the end.  Similarly, Skye’s struggle to come to terms with Luisa’s death lays bare her internal battle when it comes to responsibility. You wonder all the way through if it’s grief driving her fears or something else.  

The story is well crafted with hints of romance, and tentative, fragile friendships jostling for space between the present and the past. With plenty of twists and turns, Lying About Last Summer is a gripping thriller with sinister undertones that’ll keep you guessing right till the end, and rooting for Skye all the way. It’s a perfect summer read. Just make sure you’ve got time to read it in one gulp, because you won’t want to put it down.

Sarah Baker has worked extensively in film, with roles at Aardman Features and the Bermuda Film Festival, and as Story Editor at Celador Films. She has also been a writer and blogger for vintage fashion magazines. Sarah currently lives in London with her son. THROUGH THE MIRROR DOOR is her first book, a time-slip novel for 9+ that’s perfect for fans of Emma Carroll, Katherine Rundell and Robin Stevens.
Website: bysarahbaker.com
Twitter: @bysarahbaker
Instagram: @bysarahbaker
Pinterest: pinterest.com/bysarahbaker

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

YA from my Youth by Claire Hennessy

To celebrate the publication of Nothing Tastes As Good which was published by Hot Key Books last week, I'm pleased to welcome author, Claire Hennessy onto the blog to talk about the YA books she grew up with.
My imaginary version of adolescence was incredibly American. Even though there were a handful of Irish and British and Australian YA writers, it was the Americans that called to me. I wanted to be in a high school clique. I wanted to be jealous of the cheerleaders. I wanted to go on dates. I maybe even wanted to be in the chess club (never mind that I couldn’t play chess!).
In my pre-teens I’d discovered the magical world of the Sweet Valley universe, devouring titles from the Twins, High and University series. If you’ve never read a Sweet Valley book, here’s what you need to know: Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are identical blonde twins with eyes the colour of the Pacific. Jessica’s a sociopath. Elizabeth isn’t much better but disguises it by acting ever-so-caring. They are stalked, kidnapped and proposed to (often by princes or jewel thieves) on a fairly regular basis. Oh, and they’re always falling in love with each other’s boyfriends, and the best way to wake anyone from a coma is to get Jessica to talk to them and tell them they’re allowed on the cheerleading squad. 

Thinking myself too cool for these books as I entered my teens (despite their fabulous ridiculousness), I hunted down creator Francine Pascal’s other projects. One was a set of trilogies about the beautiful, rich Caitlin, featuring much melodrama and implausibility. I adored them. The other was a trilogy she’d actually (gasp!) written herself, rather than relying on ghost writers. The Victoria Martin trilogy begins with ‘My Mother Was Never A Kid’ (also published as ‘Hangin’ Out With Cici’) and follows a troublemaker fall back in time and meet her teen mother, and learn about mistakes and taking responsibility. The following books explore summer jobs – one as a mother’s helper who’s being seriously taken advantage of, the other as a summer camp counsellor who’s fallen for her best friend’s boyfriend – and are both funny and poignant. I may have read them a couple of hundred times. 
Other American writers I turned to had written for kids as well, so it was an easy step up. Beverly Cleary’s ‘Fifteen’ is a very honest and also innocent look at a girl’s first boyfriend and all the hopes that go with that, while Judy Blume’s ‘Here’s To You, Rachel Robinson’ is an incredible look at a thirteen-year-old overachiever struggling with a difficult family situation. I wanted to have a boyfriend who would drive me around! Or one with a chartreuse jacket with a dragon on it. (You had to be there.) I also loved Paula Danziger’s writing – so funny and so good on recognising that kids and teens go through some really difficult stuff, but also inspiring them to stand up for themselves. ‘This Place Has No Atmosphere’ is about a popular girl who moves to a tiny colony on the moon in 2057 and learns a lot about herself – I’ve reread it over and over. I’d love to write something like it one day (there were some bad scribbled imitations in my youth which I think have fortunately vanished into the ether).
And weirdly, now that I think about it, because I am kind of a wimp, I was obsessed with Christopher Pike. ‘The Last Vampire’ series was a firm favourite, but I also loved his standalones – you always knew that a ‘Slumber Party’ would lead to no good, or that a ‘Weekend’ away was doomed (expect angry teenage girls, dark secrets, and murder). I adored the books of his that explored stories – ‘Last Act’, in which a play a group of teenagers are putting on has a sinister echo to their real lives, or ‘Master of Murder’, where a teen horror writer (using a pseudonym so that his classmates have no idea he’s the author) uncovers the secrets of a local murder through his new book. ‘The Midnight Club’, about a group of terminal patients telling stories and fables that reveal their secrets, is absolutely haunting, while ‘The Starlight Crystal’ is basically a look at the entire history of the Earth and the universe and blew my mind a little bit. 
I’m not sure how much any of these books directly fed into my writing but the one thing they did absolutely instil in me was a sense that teen books were awesome. That they could handle tricky issues while still being funny, that they could be dark because teens could handle it. That they were a space where a lot of cool stories and intriguing characters were hanging out. They still are. 
Published by Hot Key Books on July 14th 2016
What happens when you give in to the voices in your head?
Annabel is dead. And she's not happy about it. Despite having strived to be 'lighter than air' back when she was alive, the consequences of that yearning haven't quite sunk in yet. 
Julia Jacobs is fat. Which Annabel immediately notices when she's assigned as Julia's ghostly helper (don't even think about calling her a guardian angel). And as her helper, Julia's problem seems pretty obvious to Annabel. Fat = problem = unhappy. Sorted. 
The only trouble is that whatever is causing Julia to overeat is hidden deep within her. Annabel will have to get to know Julia to uncover this secret and 'fix' her. Annabel can become the voice of reason, Julia's source of strength. 
Except. . . all this time spent in someone's head has got Annabel thinking. Not just about food, but about her family too. And that maybe happiness can mean more than eradicating all the flesh from your bones.

To find out more about Claire Hennessy