Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Recommendations For Fans of Sherlock

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish

I love the current spate of detective stories coming out, particularly in MG - here are ten books and series that would be perfect for fans of Sherlock!

1. The Sesame Seade trilogy, written by Clementine Beauvais and illustrated by Sarah Horne - one of my very favourite MG series because they're so much fun to read! Love the heroine and the illustrations are gorgeous.

2. Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens - 1930's, boarding school, mystery? All my favourite things in one book!

3. Storm and Stone by Joss Stirling -  Excellent plot and characters whom I really warmed to as the novel progressed, combined with a strong romance.

4. Laura Marlin Mysteries by Lauren St John - Fabulous locations and a fantastic heroine make this a great quartet.

5. The Glass Bird Girl by Esme Kerr - Cleverly-plotted mystery with a great heroine and an interesting array of secretive suspects. I think this could be a brilliant series!

6. Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer - I love this clever, witty mystery, and Fletcher Moon is fabulous.

7. Harper Madigan: Junior High Private Eye by Chelsea M Campbell - This Junior High 'film noir' is a really fun read, with some fantastic world-building as Campbell has a blast creating a corrupt school where the PTA are the villains and Madigan is a maverick investigator who reports not to a long-suffering boss, but to the Vice Principal.

8. Five Find-Outers series by Enid Blyton - For my money, better than either the Famous Five OR the Secret Seven!

9. Three Investigators series by Robert Arthur - I loved the junkyard they used as HQ, and the mysteries here were always cleverly plotted! Stuttering Parrot is a real favourite of mine.

10. Bernie Rhodenbarr series by Lawrence Block - A rare adult rec from me here, but Bernie's comic capers are utterly outstanding. 


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Recommendations for The Siobhan Dowd Trust

Kate from the Siobhan Dowd Trust got in touch with me yesterday asking for some recommendations for books to send to schools - the brief was top 20-30 classic and contemporary, with a wide mix, and a note on degree of sex/controversy to be able to make teachers and librarians aware of this.

The Trust is currently running an incredible competition where one school will win £6000 worth of books and two runners-up will win £3000 worth of books so they're hoping for lots of recommendations - and if you know of a school who HASN'T entered it, please let them now that Friday 2nd May is the closing date!

I can never resist a challenge so jumped at the chance to give this a go - I'm NOT great with classics (all the older books I really love have fallen out of print!) so said that I'd do 10 pre-2000, 10 2000-2013, and 10 from this year. (This then ended up as 12 each, because I'm hopeless at narrowing stuff down.) Please note, while ALL of these books are absolutely wonderful and I'd strongly recommend them, they're not necessarily my absolute favourites from the time period - partly because that changes pretty much every day and partly because I was trying to make sure I got a wide mix. I've also left out the massive stuff that I'd expect schools to be pretty sure to already have - Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Fault in Our Stars, and so on, as well as recent prize-winners that I'm assuming are likely to be on their radars.

Kate is really keen to kick off a discussion, so if you want to comment on my choices (I think there may be a few controversial ones!) or if you're interested in picking your own, it would be great to hear from you! Leave a comment (or if you're posting on your own blog, leave me a link so I can check it out!)


Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken - Sprawling alternate history series which starts with The Wolves of Wilougby Chase, as two children and a goose-boy try to foil a governess's evil schemes, moves to London with Black Hearts in Battersea - where Simon, the goose-boy, is caught in a mysterious plot to overthrow the king - and goes all over the place in future volumes. The first four books, in particular, are spellbinding, and Dido Twite, the street-urchin central to most of the sequence, is a superb heroine.

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander - Set in Prydain, a world based on Welsh mythology, this is a great 5 book sequence and the last two books are two of the best I've ever read. In particular, the climax is an all-time favourite which had me in tears

Junk by Melvin Burgess - Yes, it's about drug use, there's sex, and it's very hard-hitting. It's also brilliantly written and was a deserved Carnegie winer.

What Katy Did series by Susan Coolidge - My favourite of the acknowledged classics, this has wonderfully warm characters, and I love Katy and her sister Clover's relationship, in particular.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper - Part of me feels that I should go for more variety than having two classic fantasy series, but how can you leave either this or Prydain out? An amazing fantasy series which ties in Arthurian legend to the present day. Breathtakingly epic, and bears up to repeated rereading.

The Dark Behind The Curtain by Gillian Cross - Not one of Cross's better known novels, but this story about a group of schoolchildren putting on a production of Sweeney Todd only for terrible things to start occuring is eerily brilliant.

The Runaways by Elizabeth Goodge - Recently reprinted, this story of family, friendship and redemption is magical in more ways than one.

Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner - Brilliant chase story with lots of strong characters and wonderful descriptions of Berlin between the wars.  

Watchmen by Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons - Bleak and thought-provoking; surely the greatest ever graphic novel? One for more mature teens. 

The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E Nesbit - Perhaps less likely to be in school libraries than The Railway Children or Five Children and It, Nesbit's first children's book may be my favourite of all of hers. Warm, funny, and a great story of family.

The Magician Trilogy by Jenny Nimmo - I appear to be flooding this list with Welsh/Welsh-inspired fantasy sequences, but I can't leave this out either. First book The Snow Spider is one of the only books I can think of which works superbly on two levels - I read it as a brilliant adventure when I was a child, and as a moving study of grief as an adult. The other two books are nearly as good.

Mike at Wrykyn/Mike and PSmyth by PG Wodehouse - While Wodehouse is most famous for Jeeves & Wooster and Blandings, his school stories are also excellent. These are perhaps my favourites, and over a century after first publication holds up really well.


You Don't Know Me by Sophia Bennett - One of the best YA contemporary stories I've read in years, exploring media manipulation, cyber-bullying, body image, romance, friendship, making choices, and doing it all with incredible heart and a wonderful cast of characters. Oh, and an ending that made me want to turn cartwheels down a crowded train carriage.

Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter - Four brilliant central characters with a great friendship between them make this spy school series a fantastic one.

Love In Revolution by BR Collins - I can never really review this; I just incoherently ramble "OMG READ THIS NOW!" Wonderful love story between two girls falling for each other during a revolution. Perhaps the most outstanding book of last year for me. (And last year was AMAZINGLY good.)

GONE series by Michael Grant - Six books, and a ridiculously high number of completely enthralling character arcs. The development of the teens - both super-powered and normal - as they try to build a working society while trapped in a dome where everyone else has disappeared - is outstanding, over the course of all six books. (Or less, in some cases - given the amount of deaths here it's NOT one where you can afford to get too attached to characters!) Super-gory in places.

Have A Little Faith and Keep The Faith by Candy Harper - Two of the funniest books that I've ever read. Brilliant stories about a great group of friends. The ultimate mood-busting books.

Dept 19 series by Will Hill - This Dracula-inspired vampire thriller is almost certainly my favourite ongoing series; I can't wait for book 4 in June! Gory.

Wereworld series by Curtis Jobling - Brilliant epic fantasy which is another where lots of characters develop superbly over a sextet of books; lead Drew, half-brother Trent, friend Hector and love interests Gretchen and Whitley perhaps being the five best.

Pantomime/Shadowplay by Laura Lam - Enthralling fantasies which deal wonderfully with issues of sexuality while also having strong plots and brilliant characters. I cried, a lot.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - Grieving girl caught between her dead sister's boyfriend and the new guy in town. Utterly heartbreaking and lyrically brilliant. Contains sex, drugs and strong language.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales - An emotional, sometimes brutal, but ultimately hopeful read with an amazing voice. Sex, some strong language, suicide attempt.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - One of the all-time great tearjerkers, this book about two female friends in WWII, a pilot and a spy, one of whom gets captured by the Nazis, absolutely broke me. Incredible.

The Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey - This series about an orphan helping a monster-hunter who's one of the most fascinating characters I've ever seen starts well and gets better and better. VERY gory. I felt I needed a stronger stomach to really enjoy the first one (although actual teens seem to have had less issues than me.)


Sesame Seade series by Clementine Beauvais, illustrated by Sarah Horne - Clementine's brilliant plotting and characters make this a great read, Sarah's fabulous illustrations are the icing on the cake. This girl detective series is massively good fun.

Girl With A White Dog by Anne Booth - Feels hugely important. Hard to say too much as I'm petrified of spoiling it, but the 9-12 year olds this is aimed at MUST read it. It floored me completely, to the point I went out and bought three copies. (And don't actually know who has any of them, I was so desperate to get them into people's hands!)

Magic Marks The Spot by Caroline Carlson - Pirates + magic + gargoyle = huge amounts of fun.

Bone Jack by Sara Crowe - A deeply disquieting tale which mixes old legends with thoroughly modern problems. This is really, really special.

Boys Don't Knit by TS Easton - Absolutely hilarious comedy with a stunning voice for the narrator and a vividly realised cast of characters. REALLY strong language and a 50 Shades of Grey parody included.

Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison - Story of two teens trying to lose their virginity before going to university is another staggeringly funny one. Sex, obviously, and strong language here.

Fifteen Bones by RJ Morgan - Gripping story of gang violence feels incredibly real and has brilliant characters. Very strong language.

Trouble by Non Pratt - A book about a pregnant teen but so much more - massive amounts of heart, brilliant characters, and both narrators have superb voices.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe - Stunning story of the relationship between two girls, one of whom is investigating the other's death. Lead character Sophie is coming out of rehab after kicking a drugs addiction. Breathtaking, probably my top 5 of all-time.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith - Bisexual love story mixed with the end of the world and an invasion of giant bugs. Lots of sex, violence, and a writing style that you'll either love or hate. Personally, I absolutely adored it.

Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton - Completely charming and absolutely adorable, this romance between two girls is one of the loveliest books of the year. It's great to see a really happy LGBT story.

Roomies by Sara Zarr/Tara Altebrando - Gorgeously sweet story of two girls who become friends via e-mail when they find out they're rooming together at college. A lovely tribute to friendship in all its forms.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Recommendation: The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle

Title: The Bubble Wrap Boy
Author: Phil Earle
Obtained: Via NetGalley in exchange for consideration for a review
Genre: YA contemporary
Highly Recommended
Out 1st May 
Tiny Charlie Han is an outsider at school, whose only friend is Sinus, a fellow outcast. At home, he suffers from an overbearing mother and a quiet father who won't stand up to her. But Charlie believes that ''everyone's good at something'', and when he finds a special talent for skateboarding, it might be the start of something special - if his mum's constant need to keep him safe doesn't get in his way.

I'm not absolutely sure if I'd describe this as Phil Earle's best book yet, partly because he's consistently excellent and partly because it's so different from his others that I've read - Saving Daisy and Heroic - that it's hard to compare them. What's definite though, is that it's my personal favourite of the three. I admired the tough issues that both of those two dealt with and found both of them gripping, but this is written with a lighter touch and it's the kind of book which I really love to read.

Charlie is a fabulous main character - warm, clumsy, well-meaning, and optimistic despite his problems - and there's a great supporting cast as well. I thought one of the most interesting things was seeing his friendship with Sinus change from what seemed a really shallow 'friendship of convenience' with neither of them having anyone else to hang around with to something much deeper. I also thought Charlie's mum was especially well-portrayed - at first I couldn't believe how overprotective she was of him, but as we find out more about her past it makes total sense.

The skateboarding scenes, as Charlie first struggles to get to grips with the board and then discovers a surprising talent, are brilliantly written and exciting as well as funny. And even though it's lighter than Phil Earle's previous books it's still an emotional read in places, as Charlie meets one particular character who has a huge effect on him. It's definitely a book that will move you as well as make you laugh.

All fans of teen contemporary novels should definitely check this one out!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Recommendation: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Title: Tease
Author: Amanda Maciel
Obtained: Borrowed from Debbie at Snuggling on the Sofa
Genre: YA contemporary
Very Highly Recommended
Out 1st May (but hey, if you can't wait that long, I saw a few copies in Foyles on Charing Cross Road the other day!)

I was unsure about reading Tease because I’ve said many times in the past that I have strong preferences for likeable main characters, so a story about a girl accused of bullying another until she committed suicide isn’t really my usual idea of a good read.

Thankfully, a couple of people whose opinions I really respect and generally agree with persuaded me to give it a try – especially when Debbie at Snuggling on the Sofa offered to lend me a copy. This is a brilliant character-driven story which is one of the most powerful I’ve read all year. There’s an old saying ‘’Everyone is the hero of their own story’’ and it’s clear that in lead character Sara’s eyes, at least at the start of the book, this applies to her. She considers herself the real victim in all of this – a chilling, but totally believable, lack of empathy which makes her fascinating to read about. As the novel progresses she becomes a much more complex character, through her interactions with summer school classmate Carmichael, her therapist and solicitors, and her family.

It’s also a thought-provoking and important read. Particularly realistic is the lack of knowledge Sara’s parents have of what she’s doing to victim Emma, especially in cyberspace. As for what she is doing? Yes, it’s clearly bullying but perhaps what’s most hard-hitting is just how common some of these types of acts are. I know as a former secondary school teacher that things like the events of the novel are nowhere near as rare as we’d like them to be – although thankfully the consequences aren’t normally this terrible. (The ease in which the girls set up social media profiles for Emma is scary.)

Highly recommended to teens; I’d also hope teachers and parents take a look.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Top Ten Characters Who Would Be In My YA Action Hero Team

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

This is a v quick one - I mentioned it yesterday and people seemed interested but I'm too snowed under to write more than a very brief description of my team!

1. Brianna (GONE series by Michael Grant) - Super speed, super-cool.
2. Sesame Seade (Sesame Seade series by Clementine Beauvais) - Massively intelligent girl detective.
3. Hilary (Magic Marks The Spot by Caroline Carlson) - Pirate.
4. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins) - Archery expert.
5. Larissa (Department 19 series by Will Hill) - Vampire.
6. Harry Potter (Harry Potter series by JK Rowling) - Super-powerful wizard.
7. Drew (Wereworld series by Curtis Jobling) - Werewolf.
8. Tancred Torsson (Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo) - Storm-bringer.
9. Mr Crepsley (Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan) - Vampire, the old guy every team needs.
10. Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer) - Criminal mastermind.
Who would be in your action hero team? Or what was your own Top Ten Tuesday this week? Leave a comment and/or a link!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Joint Interview on Hybrid Publishing Part 2

This post was originally scheduled to run yesterday for Lucy's fabulous UKYA Day, but I ended up cutting it in half because it was so huge! Check out part 1 here. (And don't miss the OTHER brilliant UKYA Day stuff - look at Project UKYA and the hashtag #UKYADay on Twitter for all sorts of great talk about UKYA!)

I think one of the most interesting things about the last few years in publishing has been the rise of self-publishing to the stage where it's now seen as a viable option for many authors, including those who also have contracts with publishers for other books. I spoke to four of these 'hybrid' authors - Keris Stainton, Kim Curran, Laura Lam and Siobhan Curham - about the challenges and rewards of self-publishing, and why they chose to do it.

3. Siobhan, Keris - did you hit any roadblocks on the way to self-publishing? Kim, Laura - have you had any issues yet, or are there any that you're expecting/fearing hitting? Any advice you'd give to other people planning on self-publishing?

Keris: Only that I kept thinking the formatting was too hard and putting it off. When I actually came to do it, it was surprisingly easy. The main advice I'd give is to read Catherine Ryan Howard's blog/book. (The book is called Self-printing and it's slightly out of date - self-pub stuff moves fast. She's updating it soon, but it's still absolutely worth reading.)

Kim: The only roadblock was my own sense of shame in making the decision. I thought people would look down on my decision and see it as a failure. When in fact, the opposite is true. I've had nothing but enthusiasm and support from everyone. People in publishing know how these things work and that not every good book is going to find a home. People who don't work in publishing don't care who publishes it, as long as they get to read good books!

My advice would be to get a designer, or at least a talented amateur to do your cover. A professional cover is a clear sign that you are not just shoving any old shit up on amazon! I would also say get a professional editor and proof reader if you can afford it. (Especially proof reader as my attention to detail sucks!)

On that note of affording – self publishing will cost a little. But you should never spend more than you're going to get back. I gave myself a small budget and have stuck to it. Because otherwise, I'd have gone crazy and created an augmented app and TV ad and god knows what for the book. No one which would have sold a single copy!

Siobhan: Like Kim, I really struggled with the formatting - I am a bit of a technophobe and although I've heard that actually, once you get your head round it, it's quite simple, I couldn't get to grips with it at all and I got really stressed that the book would look rubbish. But then I found out that there are loads of people out there who will do it for you for a small fee. I self-published a free e-book for victims of bullying last year, called Finding Your Inner Cherokee (you can download it here) and I used a designer called Jane Dixon-Smith for the formatting and she was brilliant - her website is here.

Laura: I’m still in the very early days of things, so I haven’t come across many yet. I’m mainly worried that I’ll put the stories up and no one will want to read them – the short story market is smaller. I’m still unclear of the best way to market and ensure people who enjoyed Pantomime & Shadowplay will learn that there are more stories out there if they want to pick them up. At the same time I am really enjoying having control and being able to plan when the stories will go up, how they will look, etc.

I’ve been researching and learning a lot. There are more authors self-publishing so I’ve been able to get advice from them. I’ve also learned a lot from the self-publishing forum in AbsoluteWrite. Arm yourself with knowledge and know that it won’t be a totally smooth ride, but it should be an exciting one!

4. I started reviewing about 5 years ago and at that point self-publishing wasn't really something I could have imagined all that many established authors doing. There seems to have been a huge change in this over the last 5 years with far more considering it - what changes do you think we'll see in the NEXT 5 years when it comes to self-publishing?

Keris: I think the hybrid method is going to become a lot more popular. Like Notting Hill Press and Novelicious Books. Editors, cover designers and a promotional platform, but much higher royalties. Also I think it's something more authors will at least try. I don't think anyone needs to be either/or anymore. We can do both.

Kim: Self publishing is gaining more and more respect. While at the same time budgets in traditional publishing are shrinking and shrinking – advances are lower than ever and with smaller marketing budgets sales figures are dwindling. Which means that self publishing is now considered by many a 'safer' bet.

As for the next 5 years, I think you'll see traditional publishers putting out fewer books (I think part of the mess the industry is in is because they're publishing too much) but pushing those books harder. They'll focus on big sellers and award winners. I think they'll put out beautiful looking books, as a reaction to the growing ebook market. All of this will leave the midlist authors having to look elsewhere, which means more and more of them will turn to self publishing.

However, there's already a big issue of finding the good stuff from the dross within the self publishing market. And the model with any new 'trend' is that the quality will get worse first and then get better. So I can imaging more services popping up to act as curators of quality (the way the Amazon White Glove programme – which I'm publishing via – aims to do).

More online only imprints will start up with offer cover and editing services to authors. Sites dedicated to crowdsourcing the best self published books out there with grow. Bloggers and other independent review sources will become more important. I'm really excited to see how the power of word of mouth with become more important again, as without a publisher to push books, it will be down to people to discover them for themselves. (I can write a VERY long essay about the lost act of discovery!)

I can also imagine that just as with the music industry authors will make less money from the selling of their books and more from tours and talks, etc.

I think we'll also see more experimental publishing models, and people going back to the cliff hanger serialisations of Dickens and Dumas, etc.

And of course, as they've always done, storytellers will react to new technology as it emerges. I can already imagine people creating stories that are integrated into the real world with tech like Google Glass.

The downsides will be that there will be more copyright issues as without a legal dept to back you up authors will be more vulnerable to being pirated and copied.

But in general, it's a really exciting time!

Siobhan: I think Kim's response sums up perfectly why it is such an exciting time to be a writer. When I first became a writer you were completely dependent upon finding a literary agent and traditional publisher - and completely reliant on the publisher for publicity and marketing support. Now, we can do everything ourselves if we want to. It's still lovely to have the support of a traditional publisher - but publishers are finding it increasingly difficult to sell books, or even get their books into the stores. I for one, am so happy that I'm no longer dependent on this happening - that it's now possible for me to write, publish and promote a book all by myself. It is a really exciting time!

Laura: Over the next 5 years, I think the e-book market will only grow. And I think Kim has hit the nail on the head. I am a midlister at the moment, and while I still plan to trade publish and hope for a larger deal and bigger marketing budget for those books, I also think it’s good to self-publish on the side. I write relatively quickly, and some of my quirkier projects might do better self-published. I might not sell as many, but I’d get a higher percentage per sale and also regular payments, rather than one or two a year as is the case with trade publishing. For writing, I think have diverse income streams is key to surviving. Trade publishing (and all the side benefits that can come with it, such as film options, translation deals, etc), self-publishing, school visits, teaching and mentoring – all together, it could eventually build to a decent wage.

I also think that yes, self-publishing can really help the author understand more about the publishing industry, which at times can seem perplexing and confusing. By being involved in every step of the way, it’ll help our trade published books as well, and also we’ll understand more of what those publishers do. It does put more power back into the authors. If a book is turned down by a publisher, or if you don’t agree with the publisher’s view of the book, then you can walk away and still get that book into the hands of readers. That is a very good option, and I’m very glad it’s available.

Kim: That's a really interesting point, Laura – about how self publishing will help us learn more about the market. I've certainly felt as if I've looked behind the curtain a bit.

I've also found that my normally paper-thin skin has toughed up, because I won't have the barrier of my editor between me and the reviews (I normally never read my reviews) because I'll have to be on the ball when it comes to what's happening over on Amazon!

Thanks again for taking the time to talk to me, everyone - it's been brilliant!

Keris Stainton is the author of Della Says OMG!, Jessie Hearts NYC, Emma Hearts LA and the upcoming Starring Kitty. She self-published As Delightful As A Carrot earlier this year. You can find her on her website, her blog and Twitter, while she co-runs the fabulous UKYA website.

Kim Curran is the author of Shift, Control and the upcoming Delete. She is about to self-publish Glaze. Find her on her website and Twitter. If you want to join the blog tour for Glaze, head here to get in touch with Faye from A Daydreamer's Thoughts about it!

Laura Lam is the author of the Micah Grey series, Pantomime and Shadowplay. She is about to self-publish short stories set in Micah's world, the Vestigial Tales. Find her on her blog and Twitter

Siobhan Curham is the author of numerous books for adults as well as YA novels Dear Dylan and Finding Cherokee Brown and series Shipwrecked (second book, Dark of the Moon, out in June) and non-fiction guide to dealing with bullies Finding Your Inner Cherokee. (Download that one FREE here!) She will soon be self-publishing her backlist of adult novels. Find her on her website, her Twitter and her Life Coach and Mentoring site Dare To Dream.

Friday, 18 April 2014

UKYA Day: Joint Interview on Hybrid Publishing - Part 1

Okay, this is one of the features I've been ESPECIALLY looking forward to sharing with you for ages, but have been holding off because it's such a great one that I wanted to save it for UKYA Day.

If you don't know about UKYA Day, firstly, where have you been? And secondly, check out the awesome Project UKYA and the hashtag #UKYADay on Twitter for all sorts of amazingness today.

I think one of the most interesting things about the last few years in publishing has been the rise of self-publishing to the stage where it's now seen as a viable option for many authors, including those who also have contracts with publishers for other books. I spoke to four of these 'hybrid' authors - Keris Stainton, Kim Curran, Laura Lam and Siobhan Curham - about the challenges and rewards of self-publishing, and why they chose to do it.

1. You've all gone for different journeys to self-publishing. Keris self-pubbed a non-fiction quotes collection; Siobhan, you self-published Dear Dylan before Electric Monkey picked it up (and I think I'm right in saying you're self-publishing again this year?); Kim, you've written a novel unconnected to your Shift trilogy, and Laura, you're doing stories set in your wonderful world of Ellada from your Micah Grey trilogy. What made each of you decide to self-publish?

Keris: Mine was mostly just for fun. People had been telling me for years that I should put my kids' quotes in a book and I'd seen books like Preschool Gems and even Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, so I didn't think it was too far-fetched. I knew it wasn't something a publisher would be interested in, so I thought self-publishing would be a way to actually get it out there and also a way for me to test self-publishing out, because it's certainly something I'd like to try with a novel at some point. 

Kim: I started writing Glaze after Shift went out on submission to publishers (in 2011). When I got the deal for Shift and the next two books it kind of went on the back burner. When I returned to it in 2013, I realised that so much of the stuff I was discussing in the book was prescient to the point of creepiness! It opens with a riot – and this was before the riots in London. It essentially predicted Google Glass – before there was so much as a TED video about it. And all the revelations about GCHQ too. Anyway, it was so very relevant to NOW that my agent and I decided that if we exhausted the traditional publishing route the book might not come out for 18 months. By which time it's relevance would be flagging. (We did try a few publishers who confirmed this – they either had something like it coming out or they didn't think SF YA had a market).

So, I decided to get the jump on traditional marketing by publishing it myself!

It was a really exciting idea to me also because my day job is in advertising and I have a network of friends who are designers and marketers. And here was a chance to put my 15 years' experience to the test and make all of the decisions about the marketing and the design of the book myself. And as I have the publishing network too, I was able to ask professional editors, copy editors and proof readers to work on it, ensuring the book was as polished as if it had been traditionally published.

Just as I was set to announce my decision, I got chatting with Jared from Jurassic London. He was really excited about the book and emailed me the next day saying 'welcome to the terrifying world of my enthusiasm'. Between us we cooked up the plan for him to publish a limited ed hard back of the book, while I handled all the ebooks and paperbacks myself. This has proven a wonderful experience. I get the joy of still working with a publisher and having someone to bounce ideas around with, while ultimately staying in control (in my experience, all writers are control freaks to some regard). The fact it's also being 'traditionally' published by Jurassic London means I will be able to enter the book into awards as well. So WIN WIN.

It does make explaining the whole thing a little complicated though, hence this unnecessarily long answer!!

Siobhan: I initially turned down a traditional publishing deal for Dear Dylan to self publish because the publisher wanted to water down some of the issues it covers. I was really concerned that this would really weaken the book and so I withdrew it. Self publishing felt very liberating as I was able to publish it exactly how I wanted. It also freed me of the pressure of having to do well to keep my publisher happy. I'd written the book to try and help young adult readers going through the same thing as the main character, Georgie. It was never a 'career' thing. So I gave the e-book away for free on my website. I also sent copies of the paperback to book bloggers and they were so lovely and supportive. They all reviewed Dear Dylan despite the fact that it was self-published and this gave me the confidence to enter the book for an award. In a fairytale ending (or beginning!) it won! 

Dear Dylan ended up going to auction and was traditionally published in 2012 - without any changes being made to it. Although I've since had three further YA novels traditionally published, and have two more coming out next year, I've decided to go back to self publishing again too. I'm starting by publishing my backlist of adult novels (originally published by Hodder) as e-books. I love the freedom that self publishing gives the writer and the sense that you have complete control over your writing career. And I could really relate to what Kim said about working really hard on the marketing and design aspects to make sure the quality is just as good as traditionally published books...

Kim: Really fascinating, Siobhan! I think we're going to see more and more writers turning down publishing deals for reasons like this. It should mean that the power is back in the author's hands – as for a really long time it's been 100% with the publisher. Wonderful to hear that your book ended up getting the recognition it deserved too!

Siobhan: Thanks so much Kim - and yes, authors having more power over their work can only be a good thing. Happy days!

Laura: For me, I wanted to put up some supplementary stories set in the same world as Micah Grey starring the secondary characters, such as Drystan and Cyan. The world of Ellada is large, and I wanted to show more of it through others’ eyes. However, I wanted it to be pretty easy for people to get them, and so self-publishing on Kindle seemed like a good plan. I didn’t want to go on the query merry-go-round for magazines, and also two of the stories are likely going to be more novella-length, and there aren’t many markets for them, except in the e-book market. I also think my books have appeal to both adults and teens, and as the shorter stories are a bit more adult in nature (not erotica!), it might help bring new readers to the Micah Grey series. I’ll be able to control pricing and do occasional promos, see sales figures, and generally be more in control. I find that very exciting.

2. People often think of self-publishing as a rather solitary occupation, and Kim, I know you responded to John Green's thoughts (which JG clarified here) on this fairly recently. How many people are involved in the creation of your books? On a possibly-related note, how do your current publishers feel about them?

Keris: Three friends read mine and gave feedback on the order of the quotes, pointed out typos, repetitions, etc. I also put the proposed covers up on Facebook and got feedback there. If/when I self publish a novel, I'll use an editor and a cover designer. I don't know how my publisher feels about As Delightful As a Carrot - it's not really the same audience so it's not really an issue - but I did check with my agent before publishing it.

Kim: It feels like I've had more people involved in the publishing of Glaze than any of my other books! Or at least, I've had more direct contact with those who have been involved.

So, in order of involvement: my team of beta readers, including my husband, Laura Lam, Lou Morgan and James Smythe – who gave amazing feed back before the book went anywhere.
My agent, Sam Copeland.
My art director partner, Regan Warner – who designed the cover.
Jared Shurin who is publishing the limited ed.
Amy McCulloch who edited it.
My copy editor and proof reader.
Then all the bloggers who've signed up to #teamglaze (50 people at last count) -
note from Jim; this interview happened a while ago so #teamglaze may well be even bigger now, especially with the brilliant Faye from A Daydreamer's Thoughts running the blog tour!
Author friends who have given cover quotes.
And finally my friends across Twitter and Facebook, who are really getting behind me with this. I feel this enormous sense of good will about what I'm doing!

Most of this wouldn't be possible without social media. And the irony that the book is about the powers of social networks isn't lost on any of us!

Siobhan: I don't find it lonely at all as, like Keris and Kim, I still have a team of people working with me. I use professional designers for my covers, because, despite the saying, we do all judge a book by its cover. And I make sure my self published books are traditionally edited too - this is vital! It's also lovely involving people via social media. Like Keris, I put some recent cover designs up on Facebook for feedback.

Laura: Like others, I have a great support network. I’m still in the early stages of planning things – all stories are at least in first draft, and I’m sending them out to beta readers for initial feedback. I have a friend I’ve known since we were wee pre-teens helping me with artwork and design. Kim and her advertising experience has been invaluable already. My husband will help me format, and my friend Shawn is helping with blurbs and some marketing. I’ll hire an editor for all four stories at once before they go up. I definitely want to have a professional, slick product just as good as anything trade published.

By being traditionally published first, I have a great network of bloggers (such as you, Jim!) who have been really supportive and happy to help spread the world closer to the time. When I announced that I was putting up these Vestigial Tales, I had an excellent response from people that really helped me feel that this was the right decision. I have a small but very loyal reader base, and I’m hoping more stories will help that base grow.

My publisher does not mind, as these stories may result in more sales of Pantomime & Shadowplay, the first two books in the Micah Grey series. It’s also looking more and more likely that one of my works in progress will be self-published, and so this will be a great learning experience prior to doing that.

Thanks so much for the fab answers, everyone! Check back tomorrow for part 2.

Keris Stainton is the author of Della Says OMG!, Jessie Hearts NYC, Emma Hearts LA and the upcoming Starring Kitty. She self-published As Delightful As A Carrot earlier this year. You can find her on her website, her blog and Twitter, while she co-runs the fabulous UKYA website.

Kim Curran is the author of Shift, Control and the upcoming Delete. She is about to self-publish Glaze. Find her on her website and Twitter.

Laura Lam is the author of the Micah Grey series, Pantomime and Shadowplay. She is about to self-publish short stories set in Micah's world, the Vestigial Tales. Find her on her blog and Twitter

Siobhan Curham is the author of numerous books for adults as well as YA novels Dear Dylan and Finding Cherokee Brown and series Shipwrecked (second book, Dark of the Moon, out in June) and non-fiction guide to dealing with bullies Finding Your Inner Cherokee. (Download that one FREE here!) She will soon be self-publishing her backlist of adult novels. Find her on her website, her Twitter and her Life Coach and Mentoring site Dare To Dream.

Recommendation: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Title: Roomies
Authors: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Obtained: Bought
Genre: YA contemporary
Very Highly Recommended
Out Now

Roomies tells the story of two girls, EB and Lauren, who are about to move into college together to share a room. It's not a college tale, though - it takes place before they get there, as they get in touch and start to open up to a stranger about their lives, hopes and fears, while always remembering this is someone they're going to be meeting in real life and spending a lot of time with very soon.

It always surprises me how few YA books are about friendship, considering what a massive part of the teen years it is. That's not to say there aren't books that do friendships really well - it's been discussed in various blogs fairly recently and there are several that capture either pairs of friends or groups of mates brilliantly. (For pairs, I LOVE Karou and Zuzana in Laini Taylor's novels, Taylor and Lucy in Second Chance Summer, and Stella and Ruby is Stephanie Guerra's Torn.  For groups, the quartet in Ally Carter's superb Gallagher Girls series, the guys in Tom Easton's Boys Don't Knit, and the boys and girls in Candy Harper's Have A Little Faith are all fabulous.)

But there's definitely a lack of books which are ABOUT friendship, compared to all the romances out there, which seems really weird, because there's surely a huge amount of potential there. Thankfully, Roomies goes a long way towards redressing the balance because it's a stunning portrayal of friendship in all its forms. There's the developing friendship via e-mail between the two title characters, the changing friendships they each have with the people they're leaving behind when they go to university, and even the way that their relationships with their parents change as they take their first steps away from home.

All of these are captured brilliantly. It's the central one which is the focus of the book, as the title suggests, and Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando really seem to get how difficult it is to form a friendship online, having to judge what a person's saying from their words alone without the benefit of tone or body language. EB and Lauren open up to each other more and more as the book goes on, but is it possible to be really good friends with someone you haven't even met? This raises a very interesting question - I consider myself to be quite close to various people I've met online, going back nearly 10 years in one case, but I think I probably feel closer to those I've met in person than those I've solely talked to over the internet. (Which doesn't mean I don't really appreciate those of you I haven't been lucky enough to meet yet, of course!)

It's also a staggeringly cute book. And I feel that's going to sound incredibly dismissive, but it's not meant to be. I think 'cute' is massively underrated and I wish there were more people writing it this well. As well as the friendships, the two romances that develop between EB and Lauren and their new love interests are gorgeously written and it's one of those books which leaves you just really hoping that everyone gets a happy ever after.

Oh, it has some fabulous supporting characters, as well. I loved Lauren's big, somewhat unruly, family - particularly her parents, who are amazing! - and Zoe holds a special place in my heart as she's cool, popular, and surgically attached to her iPod. Kind of like me, if I was cool and popular.

All in all, this is a must-read, probably the only must-read to come out of the US so far this year apart from Tess Sharpe's Far From You.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Weirdos vs Bumskulls Cover Reveal

After moving down to London last year, one of the first bookish events I was able to attend was the launch of Natasha Desborough's hilarous Weirdos vs Quimboids. I was thrilled to be sent the sequel recently - I'm halfway through and loving it, so I'm extra-excited to bring you the cover today as part of a mass reveal - especially since some of my favourite bloggers are also involved in this one.

Weirdos vs Bumskulls in out on May 8th - not long to wait! If you love this cover as much as I do, maybe you could tweet about it using the hashtag #bumskulls!

So, without further ado, click 'read more' to see it in all its glory!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Recommendation: Keep The Faith by Candy Harper

Title: Keep The Faith
Author: Candy Harper
Obtained: Received from publishers in exchange for consideration for a recommendation - thank you!
Genre: YA Contemporary
Massively Highly Recommended (This isn't technically ON my rating scale, but still...) Out 24th April

Warning: Slight spoilers for Have A Little Faith below.

Faith is back, and trying to pick between the awesomely wonderful Ethan and the gorgeous but not all-that-interesting Finn (my bias, not hers!) Other stuff is happening but there's little point going into details about it because let's face it, with characters like Candy Harper's they could be doing ANYTHING and it would still be amazingly good.

A bit of background, before I start this review. Have A Little Faith was one of my favourites of last year, to the point where I've bought ten copies - as presents for family members and to give and lend to other book reviewers so they can see for themselves how wonderful it is. It's also one of the only books published last year that I've reread - and the only one I've read three times. (It's just as wonderful third time around as it was at first.) Oh, and there's a hefty quote from my review of the original decorating the back of this book. (See below!)  So you might say I had high expectations of this one.

Were they met? Absolutely, and then some! It's another brilliantly funny read with dozens of hugely quotable lines.  It's taken me three reads of the first book to realise just why I loved it so much, though. Yes, I knew from the start that it was a hilarious read, and this is just the same - I raced through it, with a huge grin on my face right the way through. But behind the laughter, it's the characters and the way they behave towards each other which are strong enough to lift it above some of the other really hugely funny books I love.

Faith is one of my all-time favourite lead characters. She's bratty, self-centred, surprisingly violent, and argumentative. But she's also clever, resourceful, good to her friends, knows what she wants, and goes all out to get it. The other characters are also wonderful - Lily, who has a great heart and an interesting, if slightly bizarre, way of thinking, is my personal favourite, but everyone else is superb  too. Special mention goes to Mrs Webber; I love seeing realistic teachers with actual senses of humour. Oh, and Ang and Elliott may be the cutest couple ever.

But I think the absolute best thing about both this, and the first book, is the relationships. Not the romantic ones - Finn vs Ethan is a no-contest, and it's fairly obvious that Faith doesn't need either of them. But the friendships here are perfectly formed. The central quartet of Faith, Megs, Lily and Angharad are brilliant because their interactions seem so realistic. They're loyal to each other, they help each other out, and when they argue, they sort it out by talking to each other and being honest - Megs with her jealousy of Lily in book one, one particular conversation between Megs and Faith here. It's not only a staggeringly funny read, but the strong yet subtle message about the importance of honesty with your mates makes it one that teachers should be shoving into students' hands as quickly as they can.

Similarly, the family relationship Faith has with her parents, brother and granny is outstanding. They irritate each other, they don't really understand each other at times, but there's a massive amount of love there - which shines through particularly in a birthday celebration between Faith, Sam, and their mum and dad.

When it comes to light, funny reads that will never fail to make you smile, this is one of the best of them all. 

Candy was kind enough to give me a great guest post last week on her influences for the two books.

Check out the quote, my longest ever on a cover - many thanks to Sophie from So Many Books, So Little Time for letting me use her picture as my copy is currently elsewhere.