Ollie’s Magic Bunny Blog Tour

Happy Tuesday!

Today I have the utter joy of hosting author Nicola Killen and we’re getting a tour around her studio. I’m really nebby so I absolutely adored reading this post when it dropped into my inbox! 

Ollie blog tour

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Hello and welcome to my studio tour!  This is the place where I worked on the story and illustrations for Ollie’s Magic Bunny.  

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I share a space with two other artists – it’s a converted garage on the side of a photographer’s studio.  The door to the studio is very grey and boring so it’s hard to imagine what’s inside!

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Tada! Here’s my workspace. I’m quite embarassed to be showing you round when it’s SO messy.  I’m always untidy, but when I’m in the middle of working on a new book (like I am now), it gets even worse!  As you can probably see, I’ve got two desks: one for sitting at my computer, and one for standing at when I draw and paint.

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On my computer desk I have an iMac, and I use a wacom tablet with it.  I also have a very comfy chair and most importantly, there’s a heater next to my desk!  As it used to be a garage, the studio can get very cold at times. I always have lots of lists of things to do on my desk – I like to be able to tick things off!  

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I usually stand up when I’m painting or drawing.  I have a drawing board in the middle of the desk, which is hidden by my lightbox at the moment.  There’s an A3 scanner tucked underneath this desk, as well as sketches, boxes of books and some portfolios too.  I used to have lots more postcards and pictures up on the wall, but they keep falling down and it’s very hard to reach to put them back up!  You may also have noticed my Studio Stegasaurus which lives on this desk – it roars when you squeeze it. I’ve had the anglepoise lamp since I was at school so it’s lasted a long time!

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This is all the brushes, dip pens and inks which I’m using for the book I’m working on.  

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Then, squeezed into the corner, is my bookcase.  It’s got lots of my books in it, as well as reference, sketchbooks, paperwork and some of my childhood favourites too!

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I’m not sure I should show you this photo! When I opened the cupboard, I was worried that everything was going to fall out . . . It’s chock full of materials, inks and paper. Tidying it is on my lists of things to do!

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That’s all of my space, but we also share an area just inside the door where there’s a big plan chest with a very useful cutting mat on top.  I store a lot of my artwork and paper in the drawers here. I’m preparing some Ollie’s Magic Bunny themed activities today so have been using the cutting mat – but I will need to clear it up later in case anyone else wants to use it!

Thank you for letting me show you around my studio space – I hope you’ve enjoyed having a look around and sorry about the mess!

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I hope you guys enjoyed that as much as I did! It’s fascinating to see where people work and their process! I’d love to snoop in everyone’s workspaces! Check out my review of Ollie’s Magic Bunny here: BOOK BLOG: Nicola Killen

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Proud

This year sees the release of one of my most hotly anticipated books, another brilliant anthology from the wonderful publishers Stripes. This year it’s an anthology to celebrate all things pride… and I’m not going to lie, reading it made me VERY proud.

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Today, I have the absolute honour of hosting one of the authors from the anthology, Michael Lee Richardson, as he talks about his top 5 queer teams. You’re in for an absolutely brilliant blog post, so get yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit! 

‘The Other Team’

Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin talks about biological families and logical families, the idea that we have the families we’re born into, and the families we make of our friends. For me, being queer is as much about our friendships and the people we choose to surround ourselves with as it is our romantic and sexual relationships. 

Queer friendship is one of the themes I wanted to work into ‘The Other Team’, the story I wrote for Juno Dawson’s Proud anthology.

With that in mind, when I was asked to write something for the #ProudBook blog tour, I wanted to focus on my favourite queer teams and my favourite queer teammates – so, without further ado:

Michael Lee Richardson’s Top 5 Queer Teams!

The Crystal Gems

I’m a huge fan of Steven Universe – at this point, figuring out which Crystal Gem someone is most like is basically its own form of zodiac sign – and I love the dynamic between the Crystal Gems: Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl and Steven. The fact that they compliment each other, celebrate each other’s differences, and make room for each others quirks and eccentricities is pretty inspiring, as is the fact that they know how to have a good argument and still be there for each other at the end of the day. In the real world, the fact that the Crewniverse – the team behind Steven Universe – is full of queers is also pretty inspiring!

The Fab Five

When I heard Netflix were remaking Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I was skeptical – the series had its place in the early 2000s, but it felt like we had moved on by 2017. Relaunching the show as Queer Eye – not all the makeovers are with ‘straight guys’ – was a good starting point, but the team Netflix put together was the key to the show’s success. Jonathan Van Ness is my favourite, obviously (when I wrote Alistair from ‘The Other Team’ flicking his ‘hair’ off his shoulders, I was definitely thinking of Van Ness!), but I love them all, and they all bring something unique to the team – not just in their skills, but in their personalities and personas, and it’s nice to see a diverse bunch of queer men working together (especially when it’s for the benefit of other queers).

House of LaBeija

Nothing speaks to the idea of logical families better than houses, part of the drag and ballroom customs which started in Harlem in New York and have become a staple of queer scenes all over the world. From the language – shade, reading, fierce, realness – to the fashion to the dance, ballroom’s influence on queer and mainstream culture can’t be underestimated. I’m particularly fond of the House of LaBeija – Crystal LaBeija, the founder of the House of LaBeija, is often credited as having started ‘house’ culture, and her successor Pepper LaBeija makes a star turn in the legendary drag documentary Paris is Burning.

Babysitter’s Club

Okay, so they’re not canonically queer – but one of the things Proud has made me revisit is the idea that, before LGBTQI+ YA was a going concern, we had to ‘queer’ our YA for ourselves, and there’s no way you could tell 11 year old me the every single one of these girls (and Logan Bruno, boy babysitter) wasn’t queer! The ‘theory’ checks out, too – Ann M Martin, author of The Babysitter’s Club, is queer, and came out publicly after the series was finished. 

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh

Slightly cheating, this one, as I said being queer teammates was more about friendships than romantic relationships – and Helen and Kate are both! Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh met playing for the England and Great Britain hockey teams – they married in 2013, three years before becoming the first same-sex couple to win an Olympic medal when Team GB won Gold in the women’s field hockey tournament in 2016.

For me, any blog post that celebrates Team GB, The Fab 5 and drag queens in the same blog post is an ABSOLUTE winner. A massive massive thank you to Michael for taking the time to write a blog post for me! I LOVE it so much. 

My review of Proud is coming in the next week or so, so make sure to keep an eye out for it. I promise you this much though… it is EXCEPTIONAL and I can’t wait to shout about it from the rooftops!! 

Why don’t you go celebrate some other brilliant #Proudbook content by checking out the rest of the stops on the blog tour? I have absolutely loved how this blog tour is celebrating all things pride related. 

proud blog tour

A massive thank you to the people of Stripes for sending me an early copy of the book and for inviting me on the blog tour. It’s been an absolute honour to shout about this book everywhere! I can’t wait for it to be released into the wild so everyone can enjoy its majesty! 

S x 

 

BLOG TOUR: Will You Catch Me?

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting author Jane Elson on my blog as part of the blog tour for Will You Catch Me? 

Will You Catch Me Cover Image

“Nell Hobs lives with a tortoise called Bob Marley, guinea pigs Asbo and Chaos, goldfish Beyoncé and Destiny, gerbils Fizz and Tyrone, Aunty Lou the Hamster … and her mum, who drinks too much. Nell does everything she can to be a good daughter so that her mum will stop. But when things get really hard, Nell stands on her head. Everything looks better upside down, don’t you know?

Nell wishes she knew who her dad was. When new teacher Mr Samuels makes history come alive and tells the class the story of Nell Gwynn, the Orange Girl who became one of the first actresses on the London stage, Nell is captivated and is determined to dress up as an Orange Girl for the Costume Parade. She hatches a plan with her best friend Michael: a way to make her dad step forward and claim her. Will she succeed?”

With a Little Help From My Friends: The highs and lows of friendship for the child of alcoholic

Oh, the complexities of schoolgirl friendships! Especially Years 4-7, it’s such a complex thing, often invisible to the adult world.

For children who have an alcohol dependent parent making friends in school can be nearly impossible. How can you have a sleepover or even have someone home to tea when mum or dad might be drunk?

Nell Hobs in my book Will You Catch Me? has a mother who is alcohol dependent and she has fallen out with best friend, Chantal Smith before the story even begins.

‘Chantal and I used to be friends, only she kept wanting to come round to my flat and I just couldn’t have her there, not with my mum the way she is. Chantal kept on and on about coming round, so I started ignoring her and now she hates me.’

Nell’s new best friend is Michael, a looked after child, who lives next door to Nell on the Beckham Estate with Aunty Lou. His mother has had a nervous breakdown and is being taken care of by relatives in Jamaica. His father is a busy business man who rarely sees him. These two vulnerable children stick together like glue. He is the perfect friend because he knows and understands the situation with Nell’s mum.

I had a lot of fun creating Michael. He is a genius and wants to be an inventor when he grows up. He is constantly taking things to pieces for his inventions and causing havoc! His wardrobe, the lock on the bathroom door, his school chair and so on. Michael is flamboyant in his dress preferring waistcoats, bright spotty patterned shirts and bow ties to trainers and tracksuits. This makes him stand out and he is bullied by the Beckham Street Boyz, the gang on his estate and the T Crew from the neighbouring Tarkey House Estate. Then one day he invents a remote control for the school clock and they get out of maths 45 minutes early. Michael, becomes a hero! He has earned respect and is nick named Prof M. Nell and Michael can now walk about the estate freely.

The complexities of school life are hard as fitting in seems to be the way to survive. Anyone who is different and stands out from the crowd has a rocky ride at some stage in their lives but often go on to achieve great things.

Nell and Michael’s friendship is strong, beautiful and I hope touching to my readers. Nell is not perfect; she is so driven by her desire to fix her mum and find out who her dad is that she fails to notice how much Michael is missing his mum.

She is also bossy and tells Michael what to do which leads to a dramatic climax to the story but I won’t spoil the ending of Will You Catch Me?. I loved writing about Nell and Michael’s friendship. They became my friends as I wrote the book and now that it is finished and out in the world I miss them dearly.

I believe that every child has the right to see themselves reflected in a book. I feel Will You Catch Me? is the most important story I have ever written. Not every one of the 2.6 million children who have a parent who drinks too much, like Nell does, is lucky enough to have a friend like Michael.

Nacoa- the National Association of children of Alcoholics- has a message. You are not alone. This week is COA Week- Children Of Alcoholics Week to raise awareness for children like Nell in Will you catch Me? If you are reading this and are one of those children, please phone The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics helpline number is 0800-358-3456 to talk to someone in confidence.

The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics (Nacoa) has a message for children like Nell. It is ‘You are not alone’. Their helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk

A massive thank you to Jane for writing this post and an equally big thank you to Fritha for asking me to be part of this blog tour!

Check out the rest of the blog tour, I know there promises to be some more brilliant posts coming up!

Will-You-Catch-Me_Blog-Tour

S x

Friends Tag: Aoife edition!

Hello friends!

Today, my lovely Irish friend Aoife (yes, her of Pretty Purple Polka Dots fame!) is here to give her answers to my Friends tag. I’m loving seeing posts for this tag, so please feel free to join in – I’ll take your posts on my blog, or post your own answers on your blog! Either way, I’m loving all the answers so far! (Check out THIS post for more information!)

So I best hand you over!

Ross: Seems harmless, but problematic – Name a book you had problems withImage result for stags mabennettStrangely, I have read a few books recently that didn’t go down very well with me. I could have picked any of them, but I’m going to go with STAGS by M.A Bennett.

(Hello, just me… I have not read this yet!)

Monica: neat and tidy – Name a book/series that ends satisfyingly
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Simon vs the HomoSapiens Agenda. OH BLUE!

(Me again, I couldn’t agree more. This book is adorable!)

Chandler: funny and relatable – Name a firm fave
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Holly Bourne
has cemented herself as one of my all time favourite authors. She is incredible at not just telling important stories about mental health, but making them funny and relatable.

Phoebe: reliable and friendly – An author you always rely on

If you haven’t read Isabelle Broom yet, make sure you pick up one of her books – pronto. Keep your passport nearby too; all of her books involve travel, and they have some amazing settings.

Rachel: she grows on you over time – Name a book/series that’s grown on you over time
Image result for still me jojo moyes
I felt that Still Methe final book in the Me Before You trilogy, started off a little slow. I did enjoy it once it got going, and I thought it was a good end to the series.

(I BLOODY loved Me Before You… I didn’t enjoy the second book so much. I’m still on the fence as to whether I want to read this one… this could be convincing me!) 

Gunther: always there, always ignored – A book you’ve had on your TBR forever
Image result for the c word lisa lynch
Good God, I have books that have been on my TBR for years. I try to knock them back as best as possible. This month I will read The C Word by Lisa Lynch as my Beat the Backlist year-long challenge.

Carol and Susan: keeping it diverse – An LGBT+ book you love/hate/wanna read
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At the moment I’m reading Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. I’m not too sure how I feel about it, I’m not really sure I like the narrator’s voice in this!

A massive, massive thanks to Aoife for popping by to answer my Friends Tag! You should go check out her blog – Pretty Purple Polka Dots.

Let me know if you want to join in!

S x

BOOK BLOG: Jan Eldredge

Hello friends!

Today I have an absolute treat for you. Jan Eldridge, author of the brilliant Witch Girl, is here to talk about weaving inspiration into a story! I hope you enjoy this post, I loved reading it and am very grateful for Jan taking time to write such a brilliant blog post! Hearing there’s a sequel to Witch Girl also made me VERY happy! 

WEAVING INSPIRATION INTO A STORY

By Jan Eldredge

Inspiration is everywhere. It can strike at any time, and often where you aren’t particularly expecting it. It’s when you take that flash of an idea, brainstorm it a little, then merge it with some other interesting ideas, that you generate an exciting new book concept. It’s a bit like weaving a magic spell, and it was this process that brought WITCH GIRL to life.

I’m a huge fan of spooky, magical stories for kids. In fact, I seldom read grownup fiction. My towering stack of books-to-be-read is made up of children’s fantasy adventures. I especially love monsters and ghosts and all such eldritch things that go bump in the night. So much so, that the shelves in my home office are filled with encyclopedias and field guides featuring mythical creatures from around the world.

A few years ago, while I was browsing through a used book store for more supernatural reference books to add to my collection, I came across an old dictionary of superstitions. As I thumbed through its pages, I was instantly captivated. Inspiration struck, and I knew I wanted to write a story incorporating some of those fascinating beliefs.

It went without saying, that this story about superstitions would have to contain ghosts or monsters. Having grown up in Louisiana where belief in the supernatural runs deep, and where strange occurrences are a natural phenomenon, my home state felt like the perfect place to set such a tale. I knew in my gut I had the ingredients for a unique and exciting book. All I needed was an interesting protagonist to add to the mix.

At the time, I’d been reading, and very much enjoying, some middle grade fantasies about young apprentices, but all the apprentices in those books were boys. The idea of making my adventurous, superstitious monster-hunter a girl was another one of those elements that just felt like a perfect fit. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do much character brainstorming. My protagonist, Evangeline, as well as her Gran, quickly formed in my mind, as though they were real people I’d already known. Even Evangeline’s sidekick, Julian Winterbourne, didn’t take much work to develop since he was heavily inspired by my son.

Armed with a cast of quirky characters, some intriguing story elements, and a strong gut feeling, I set about writing the kind of book I love: a spooky, adventure, mystery with dashes of humor, a story for kids, but one that teens and adults will love to read too.

I’m now in the process of writing the sequel to WITCH GIRL, and I’m keeping my eyes open for the next strike of inspiration that I can weave into Evangeline’s witchy world.

WITCH GIRL by Jan Eldredge out now in paperback (£6.99, Scholastic)

              @JanEldredge  www.janeldredge.com @Scholasticuk

S x

BOOK BLOG: Peter G Bell

Today, I have the utter joy of hosting author Peter G Bell on my blog, talking about the story opening in The Train to Impossible Places. You’ll also get to hear about his wonderful main character, Suzy, and her rationalist beliefs and how these relate to the action of the story and the reader. Hope you enjoy!

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Reason Vs Weird

Most of us would love to discover that magic is real. Imagine if you came downstairs one night to find a trans-dimensional train, crewed by fantastical creatures, waiting to whisk you off to uncharted realms were anything was possible. You’d be thrilled, right?

   This is exactly what happens to Suzy, the main character of The Train To Impossible Places. And she is not thrilled at all.

   On the contrary, she feels positively offended. Because, as an eleven year old rationalist, she knows full well that magic can’t be real, and that trolls can’t exist. The laws of physics are sacrosanct. In short, the train shatters her understanding of the world. How she chooses to deal with that will determine both her fate, and the fate of everyone she meets on her adventure.

   I made Suzy a rationalist because I knew the train and its crew were going to be fairly anarchic and unpredictable, and I wanted a main character who would push back against that. In doing so, Suzy keeps the story grounded, even when she’s out of her depth (which is most of the time) and always asks the questions the reader needs answering.

   When it comes to science, the trolls’ rule of thumb is this: the laws of physics are all well and good, but as soon as they become inconvenient, a dash of magic is needed to help grease the wheels. This is fuzzics (like physics, only fuzzier), and it drives Suzy up the wall. Sometimes literally.

   I’m no sociologist, but I suspect many of our culture’s current problems stem from the conscious uncoupling of reason from the other human faculties; a nasty habit we picked up during the Enlightenment, and which has been indulged to a greater or lesser extent ever since. On the one hand, this culminates in people choosing to dismiss the valid spiritual, philosophical and emotional foundations of so much human experience. On the other, it leads to a suspicion of empirical knowledge, which opens the door to all manner of charlatans eager to present us with “alternative facts”. Neither condition is good for us.

   That’s why, in the midst of all the fantasy elements, I made sure never to undermine Suzy’s belief in science. It is never shown to be untrue – on the contrary, she uses Newton’s Laws of Motion to save herself from danger at one point – but she also discovers that science isn’t the neat and tidy solution to all life’s problems that she thought it was. She is never tempted to reject it, but she does have to expand her thinking beyond it and, to her credit, that’s exactly what she does.

   She makes room in herself for a broader perspective. And that’s what sees her through in the end.

You should definitely check out The Train to Impossible Places! It’s such a great story and the cover is JUST EXCEPTIONAL. 

Massive thanks to Peter for this blog post! I love getting an insight into authors and their characters – authors really do know their characters inside out! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Tilly and the Bookwanderers

Today I have the ABSOLUTE JOY of hosting Anna James, author of the incredible Pages and Co on my blog as part of her blog tour. She’s here today to talk about her writing soundtrack. 

Without further ado, I hand you over to Anna and that amazing book of hers!

 

My Writing Soundtrack for Pages & Co

I listen to music whenever I’m drafting, but I cannot listen to music with lyrics of any kind as it instantly distracts me and I can’t concentrate on my own words. Instead I listen to a lot of classical music, especially film soundtracks. Here is some of the music I listened to while writing Pages & Co, and the music that most influenced the book.

Dario Marianelli

Dario Marianelli is my favourite modern composer; he wrote the scores for films including Atonement, the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, and the Mia Wasikowska adaption of Jane Eyre. He writes beautiful, soaring orchestral music that I find instantly get me into the right head space for writing magical adventures. A favourite is Briony’s theme from Atonement as it comes complete with typewriter sounds to really get you in the writing mood.

The Planet Earth Scores by Hans Zimmer

This is along similar lines to Marianelli; the music for these TV series is epic and inspiring, and if I’m ever struggling to focus and to get immersed in the world of Pages & Co I use music like this to stir my emotions and remind me of the power of good art. It helps make the outside world melt away, and encourages you to try and create something worthwhile.

Rabbit & Rogue by Danny Elfman

The first book that Tilly bookwanders into is Alice in Wonderland, when Alice takes her to the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and she visits the Queen of Hearts croquet game later, as well. When I was looking for music to write these scenes too I stumbled across the score from an Alice in Wonderland ballet that had been created, and scored by Danny Elfman that I’d never heard of before. The quirky but lovely music is absolutely perfect to write Alice’s brand of nonsense to.

Soundtracks for existing adaptations

In Pages & Co, Tilly visits several well known children’s classics, and the useful thing about classics is that they’ve often been made into multiple screen adaptation which means there are multiple soundtracks out there. Not all of them are quite right, but I listened to the scores for the recent Alice in Wonderland films, some of the music from the Anne of Green Gables TV series, and even some of the songs from the Muppet version of Treasure Island while I was writing scenes from those books.

The Maze Runner

One of the specific pieces of music that I associate with writing Pages & Co is the finale music from the first Maze Runner film. It’s an urgent, heroic, and beautiful piece of music with real pace and tension and I listened to it on repeat while I was writing some of the scenes towards the end of the book where stakes are high, and Tilly ends up in a dangerous situation in a book she’s wandered inside. I rarely listen to soundtracks all the way through, because they shift and change too much tonally, but I pick and choose tracks to create playlists for different beats; quieter emotional moments, tense action scenes, or cosy bookshop scenes to help me get in the right frame of mind.   

A massive thank you to Anna for such an amazing blog post! I’m off to listen to some of these myself! I love the idea of a writing playlist. 

If you want to see my review of Tilly and the Bookwanderers, check it out here

If you’d like to go and buy this amazing book (you really should, because it is exceptional), it’s out now! 
Amazon
Waterstones

S x

Guest post: Eirlys Hunter

Hello there!

Today I have the pleasure of hosting author Eirlys Hunter with a blog post all about her new book, The Mapmaker’s Race, and the inspiration behind the setting of the story!

The Mapmakers' Race Jacket lowres

The setting of The Mapmakers’ Race

You won’t find the landscape of The Mapmakers’ Race on any map, but elements come from Wales, and the South Island of New Zealand, which are about as far apart as they can be. It’s fun playing god and piecing together the landscape that a story needs from different places.

The journey the mapmakers undertake is roughly like crossing the South Island of New Zealand from east to west. First of all up a long, straight-ish river valley, slowly getting higher and higher, then over serious mountains and steeply down to the sea on the other side.
Eirlys Hunter
I could never walk as far as the Santander children, but I did walk a famous New Zealand track called the Milford Track with my family a while back. The waterfall that the mapmakers discover is based on the Sutherland Falls, which comes on Day Three of the Milford track. When we were there it hadn’t been raining so we could walk right behind the waterfall, which was an extraordinary experience that I gave to Francie. The scale of the landscape, and the endless zig-zags up one side of a valley, over the ridge and down to the valley floor below are also Milford-ish. But the treeless valley is based on a place in Meirionnydd, Wales, and so is the landscape near the end of the children’s journey.”

THE MAPMAKERS’ RACE by Eirlys Hunter out now in paperback (£6.99, Gecko Press) 

Find out more at geckopress.com 

twitter: @geckopress

Check out more details about the book below:

The Mapmakers' Race Jacket lowres

“Four children temporarily lose their parents just as they are about to begin the race that offers their last chance of escaping poverty. Their task is to map a rail route through an uncharted wilderness.

They overcome the many obstacles posed by nature-bears, bees, bats, river crossings, cliff falls, impossible weather-but can they survive the treachery of their competitors?”

The One With the Debut

Hello my comrades!

Today is a very exciting day.

Today I get to debut something I’ve been working on FOREVER. I had this thought a while back and my lovely friend Andrew (of Pewter Wolf fame) was a more than willing participant of my tag… 

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Yes… you see that right! I have come up with prompts for lots of the characters on Friends. I am absolutely in love with this tag. 

Without further ado… over to Andrew!

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I LOVE Friends. Yes, I admit that this show has huge problems (let’s not get me started on this as I can go on a huge rant about the fat/sexist/homophobic/mental health jokes among other things), but Friends is one of those shows I enjoy watching hugely!

So, when I was asked to be involved in this tag, I JUMPED at the chance (though I had to really think them over while I was holiday in Cyprus. Plus, I kept emailing Steph, going “Wait! What about Emily? What about David? Or Richard? Or Mike?! NO WAIT! WHAT ABOUT JANICE?! I MUST HAVE A QUESTION FOR JANICE!!!” which I fear might have pushed her over the edge! I mean…)

But enough of the gifs! Let’s get my Friends game on, play “I’ll Be There For You” by the Rembrandts on full blast and get this party started!

Ross: Seems harmless, but problematic – Name a book you had problems with

Oh Ross… I’m sorry, but I have such hatred for this character. I have no idea what happened or why. I mean, at the start of the show, I wanted him to get Rachel! But, somewhere during series 3, he turned into such a dingbat twit, but that I was screaming at Rachel to “Run, Rachel! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! YOU DESERVE SO MUCH BETTER!!!”. Plus, when he had his mental health crisis in season 5/6/7, I hated how it was played for laughs, and not addressed.

*deep breaths*

Yes, I have strong feelings!

Anyway, a book that I have problems with. Oh, I have loads. Every book I read, I have always have problems with. But I can’t think of any. I want to say Harry Potter for some unknown reason. I think that, when Deathly Hallows ended, it’s ended right (to me). But from when it end (2007) to now, things have happened that has left me questioning the series, the author and Warner Bros and the morales the books put forward.

I LOVE the book series, but everything else that’s around it has left me feeling uneasy…

Monica: neat and tidy – Name a book/series that ends satisfyingly

Monica is one of the few characters that I liked and was rooting for to get her happily ever after. I wanted her to get married, have kids and be happy so the fact the show ended where it did with her makes me very happy.

Ooooh! This is a hard one to answer. The first thing that popped into my head was the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. I remember reading Clockwork Princess, and feeling really happy with the ending as it ticked all the boxes, even the ones I didn’t think were going to ticked as it would go against something else. But it just worked and I had such fun reading this trilogy that I must reread it in the near future!

Chandler: funny and relatable – Name a firm fave 

I’m always conflicted on Chandler as, while I love his character and am glad that he and Monica get together (I rewatched the earlier seasons and it’s clear as anything at he and Monica were going to get together), I kinda wish his character was gay or bi as it would open up stories for him and other characters.

Name, am not sure what you mean by firm fave (book? character? author?), I’m going with book and, even though I admitted with Ross that I have faults with Harry Potter series at the moment, a firm fave of my is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s always been a favourite of mine (though this might have changed due to a reread of Goblet of Fire), but both these books make me so happy to read and I always got to them when am in a slump.

Phoebe: reliable and friendly – An author you always rely on

I adore Phoebe because she doesn’t give a damn on what other people think of her. I wish I was more confident and more happy in my own skin like her.

I’m not sure how to answer this, but seeing as I have read auto buy authors in the past and gone “Oh dear”. But a handful of authors break this, and one of them is Garth Nix. I adore his writing and his Old Kingdom series always feels me with joy when I read them.

The same goes with Kathy Reichs. She’s one of the few crime writers I read and I adore!

Rachel: she grows on you over time – Name a book/series that’s grown on you over time

Rachel’s character development over the ten seasons makes me weirdly happily. I think her character has the most growth out of all the main six.

Oh, this is a interesting question as I can name one series and one book for this.

The series is Melinda Salisbury’s The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy. I remember reading the first and, liking it, but not loving it. The second – The Sleeping Prince – grew on me, but when I read The Scarecrown Queen, I became obsessed!

As for book, it was a book I read on holiday. Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince. I started reading it and, for the first 20-30%, I kept pausing and going “Wait, what?” but as the book became more complex and the characters became more flawed and twisted, I was became to enjoy myself more and more. And now, I need Wicked King!

Joey: looks good on the outside – A book whose cover is better than its contents

I like Joey, though I do think the writers made Joey dumber as the seasons go on. If the early seasons, he’s very street-smart. But in the later seasons, he becomes a bit of the dumb sex addict jock of the group.

Plus, we’ve all been stung by wanting a book that looks super pretty but when you read it… Oh, hell to the no!

Gunther: always there, always ignored – A book you’ve had on your TBR forever

Oh, Gunther…

I’ve started to do regular culls so the book that has been on my TBR the longest always changes. Though, not on my kindle. The eBook that I had for the longest time without reading is Witch Child by Celia Rees. I’m not sure why I haven’t read it yet, I would blitz that within two or three days!

I think the physical book that always appears and disappears on my TBR over the past few years is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It’s been one of those books I’ve always wanted to read, and I always buy a copy, only to give it away several months later. I always chicken out as everyone LOVES it. But I was given it this Christmas as part of Book Blogger Secret Santa and I am determine to read it this year. I WILL READ THIS DAMN BOOK THIS YEAR, SO HELP ME!

Carol and Susan: keeping it diverse – An LGBT+ book you love/hate/wanna read

I really wished the show used Carol and Susan more! But they’re used at the start and then are only mentioned (and I get why but still, Ross and they have a child together!!!)

I’m always wanting to read good LGBT+ novels, and I have been mostly lucky to read books that make me hugely happy – Simon vs the Homo-Sapiens Agenda, Simon Can’t Even, A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Carry On, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Half Bad, Release, Every Heart A Doorway, Malec (well, I only read the first 3 Mortal Instruments, but I rooted for them more than I did Jace and Clary!) …

And there are so many more I want to read – Noah Could Never, Call Me By Your Name, A Closed and Common Orbit, Running with Lions, books 2 and 3 in the Wayward Children series, all Adam Silvera and so many others that I can’t remember off the top of my head. I just hope these are wonderful and won’t break my poor emotions…!

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If you’d like to do the Friends tag, I’d love to host your post here on A Little But A Lot, but I am also more than happy for you to post it on your blog, just credit me and link back to this blog post! 

Enjoy my friends! Let me know if you want to feature on my blog with this tag!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Candy

Hello!

Today I have the absolute joy of introducing you all to Lavie Tidhar, author of the amazing ‘Candy’ released a few weeks ago (7th June) from Scholastic. Lavie is here today to talk about his brilliant novel Candy and the inspirations from film noir. I hope you all enjoy his post and go check out the rest of the posts on the blog tour! 

On Candy and Film Noir

A few years ago I watched the movie Brick, written and directed by Rian Johnson. What Johnson did that was so clever was to take the hardboiled formula – the hard-bitten detective, the femme fatale, informers and cops, corruption and mystery – and transpose it into a high school. It wasn’t played for laughs – it was perfectly straight-faced and very noir, and I thought it was great!

I love the hardboiled formula. It has certain quirks and ticks that you expect, certain beats to hit, but at the same time the fun is in somehow subverting the expectations, of using the skeleton frame to tell a story not necessarily concerned much with the plot. The point of it, as Raymond Chandler once said, is that you can read the story even if the last eight pages are missing. In other words, it really isn’t about the solving of the mystery (like in the old Golden Age English detective stories) but about the people and the place they live in.

In my adult books, I often use noir and hardboiled motifs in one form or another. The truth is, I find great delight in parodying the style. I love starting a book on a variation of the “femme fatale walks into the detective’s office”. In Candy, the detective is 12-year old Nelle Faulkner, and the client is Eddie de Menthe, a cynical candy bootlegger of the same age. Already, the expectations from the scene are turned. And I love writing hardboiled dialogue. As Nelle says early on: “The truth was I was out of pocket money again, I was behind on my luck, my hat was older than I was and I needed a job even worse than I needed a caramel fudge.” There’s a certain rhythm to the prose even – especially when – you parody it. And there’s actually a lot of humour in Chandler, too. It’s impossible to do it like Chandler did, of course, but at his best the lines simply sing.

Candy takes these adult tropes and throws them into the world of children. It’s funny – but not to the kids themselves. For them the game’s the game – to quote The Wire. For them it’s serious and real. The stakes are high. And just like in the best noir novels, the adult world is revealed as compromised.

“Growing up was serious business,” Nelle reflects at some point, “and so was candy.”

I think the very best children’s writers know this. They know the darkness that lies just out of sight, there on the edge of vision. Growing up isn’t easy. And becoming an adult means compromise. What I love about the hardboiled detective is what I love about Nelle Faulkner. She believes in doing the right thing. Whatever the cost. She believes in fairness, she believes in justice. She wants to make the world a better place.

And I had a ridiculous amount of fun packing in as many classic references as I could get away with! Not just Raymond Chandler – whom Mayor Thornton is named after (Thornton was Chandler’s middle name) – but at various points you might spot a hidden reference to The Godfather, Goodfellas, Justified, The Big Lebowski (itself a brilliant parody of Chandler, of course) and numerous others (even I forget which!). And there’s a pie fight – there should always be a pie fight!

So my hope, too, is that the book works both ways. That it works for kids, but will have an extra dimension for their parents, too. It certainly does seem to be an unusual take, or so I’m told.

But you know what? Ultimately, I just had so much fun writing it, that if nothing else I hope that’s what comes across.

Check out the rest of the posts on the blog tour! Watch this space for my review of Candy coming! Spoiler alert: I loved it!

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S x