Friday, 28 October 2016

Litsy - My Updated Thoughts

I posted about Litsy back towards the start of the year (exactly 8 months ago today, actually!) and thought I'd blog today to talk about some of the changes made since then. I have to admit, I dropped out of using it much over the summer due to being incredible busy, but I've been back to it a lot recently. (My interest was renewed a lot by the Android version being released, which seems to have really added to the amount of people I know using it - particularly superstar Julianne who is the most Litfluential person I know (for NOW; I'm aiming to overtake her by the end of the year!)

Julianne's impressive stats!
For my first thoughts, you can read/reread that post here

Thoughts since then - the app still looks pretty much the same when you load it up - with the home/search/add/notifications/profile icons still forming the bottom bar. The home page shows featured posts now on occasions as well as those from people you're following. This doesn't happen anywhere near enough to be annoying (and in actual fact I'd be quite keen for them to show MORE featured posts, or at least give you the option of seeing more, just to boost discoverability a bit and make it easier to find new people to follow!) I've been featured once for my Riverkeep post, and Julianne was featured for her I'll Give You The Sun review.

Search is still decent and seems to have most things although there are a couple of surprising omissions - Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens, released last week, isn't on there yet (despite me trying to get it added via the cool 'tap here to suggest a book' link at the bottom of the search page.) I'm slightly confused as to when books are meant to go up - I'd originally thought it was only already released books on the app, but it already has Katherine Webber's 2017 release Wing Jones (under the US title The Heartbeats of Wing Jones), amongst a few other upcoming books I've seen. 

The big changes made have really improved it - notably, there's an increase in character limit from 250 to 451 which seems much better. I feel I'm able to put together a decent review in that length (the app was inspired by 'shelf talk' cards in bookshops, and you can definitely see the similarities here.) Hashtags have also been added and while they don't seem to be being used THAT much there are some fun ones there - I'm especially enjoying #booktober, run by the brilliant Real Life Reading. As well, you now have three stacks you can add books to - as well as the previous 'to read' and 'have read' there's a 'reading one', the contents of which show up at the top of your profile page. 

One thing which I don't think HAS really changed much, but which I hadn't explored properly last time around, is the picture editor - there are a ton of cool things you can do, from Instagram-type filters to blurring out text to show small parts of quotes, changing focus, and other touch-ups - very cool.

I still want to see more ways of browsing the app, but it's a really fun experience which I definitely feel combines the best parts of Goodreads and Instagram. 

I also want to take this opportunity to share details of my #UKYANov hashtag which I'm going to be running on Litsy AND Instagram in November. Rather than a daily prompt, this will have a prompt every three days, but I'm hoping people will stick to UKYA books when posting their pictures. It should be a fabulous way to spread some love for amazing UKYA authors and books - it would be brilliant if readers wanted to join in!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Gravity Blog Tour: Andy Briggs on Things He's Learned While Writing The Inventory Series

I enjoyed Iron Fist, the first book in The Inventory series by Andy Briggs, so I'm looking forward to reading the recently-released sequel - and have been enjoying the blog tour for it! This is a great post by Andy on what he learned writing Gravity.

Writing a new book is always an educational experience for the author. No matter how well you know the characters or the subject matter, there is always something that will surprise you. The life of an author really is one of complete bafflement combined with the wise teachings of hindsight.

The first lesson I learned while writing the series is one that I think all authors should embrace, and it should be the staple of any “How to write novel” manual. It’s this – whatever deadline your editor gently coerces you into, always add an extra four weeks as a “cushion”. This accompanies another pearl of wisdom: never deliver your manuscript to the publisher on a Friday. There is nothing more soul destroying that rushing to make that deadline… only to receive an “out of office” reply almost instantly. At that precise moment you will realise those two days over the weekend were when you would have had that Eureka moment over the plot point you’d been stumbling on.

Specifically, with the Inventory series, which revolves around the lofty world of high technology, it was surprisingly difficult to come up with an amazing gadget or gizmo that somebody hasn’t already attempted (often with dismal success, but they gave it a shot).  People were building flying saucer shaped aircraft in the 60s, flying cars have been done already, and a quick check on the internet will show you half a dozen hoverboards. Of course, none of these real world gadgets are quite as efficient or as cool as you’d want them to be… but it just goes to show it won’t be long before we have them in our lives.

In this series, more than anything else I have written, I discovered that you can never really know everything about your characters. In my first series: HERO.COM and VILLAIN.NET I felt comfortable with those characters and over the eight books, I felt as if I knew them very well. With TARZAN there was the weight of history behind these characters, so I had a good sounding board on how they would behave and react. However, with this series I started out with an idea of how Dev, Lot and Mason would be – and they all decided to run in different directions, leading me to some very intriguing character arcs that hadn’t occurred to me while planning the stories. In fact some of the secrets in the original ending of IRON FIST were pushed into GRAVITY – and some of those have since been pushed into book 3 (out next year!) – because the characters ended up taking me on a different adventure than the one I’d intended.

As a screenwriter I diligently plot stories out before I write them. I have to know exactly where each scene is taking me, and that is how I have always written my books. However, when it came to GRAVITY I tried a more ‘freeform’ approach. I knew what the story was, and my final destination – but because IRON FIST had taught me that the characters were now dictating the pace of the secrets I was revealing, I thought I would do less plotting upfront and see where it took me. I have to be honest, I was worried with this new approach – but in the end I found it a hugely enjoyable experience… and something I intend to do again.

Gravity (The Inventory #2)
by Andy Briggs

Eeek! Think that’s a monster? Nope: it’s a person. What terrible weapon could do this…? Errr – well, that used to be top-secret. Problem: it’s not quite so secret anymore. Dev messed up big time the day he let the ruthless Shadow Helix gang into the Inventory. What is the Inventory, we hear you ask? Well, it’s the secret lockup for all the deadly battle tech the world is NOT ready for. Which is why letting it get nicked was a REALLY BAD IDEA. Now the Shadow Helix have Newton’s Arrow: a terrifying weapon that messes with gravity, causing … well, you get the picture from this book’s cover. Dev and his mates HAVE to get it back – even if it means crossing the entire globe. To stop this evil, no trip is too far!

Information about the Book
Title: Gravity (The Inventory #2)
Author: Andy Briggs
Release Date: 6th October 2016
Genre: MG Sci-Fi
Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Paperback

Author Information

Andy Briggs is a screenwriter, producer and author of the, and Tarzan series. Andy has worked on film development for Paramount and Warner Bros, as well as working with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee and producer Robert Evans. With a strong social media following, Andy tours the UK regularly, doing festival, school and library events. 

Tour Schedule
(Banner Below)

Monday 17th October

Tuesday 18th October

Wednesday 19th October

Thursday 20th October

Friday 21st October

Saturday 22nd October

Sunday 23rd October

Monday 24th October

Tuesday 25th October

Wednesday 26th October

Thursday 27th October

Friday 28th October

Saturday 29th October

Sunday 30th October

Monday, 17 October 2016

Shadow Magic Blog Tour: Joshua Khan on Willard Price's Adventure Series

The Shadow Magic blog tour, organised by the fabulous Faye Rogers, is wonderful - it's great to be on it today with a fantastic Joshua Khan guest post as part of my irregular Classic Children's feature!


Number of books: About twenty or so. Volcano Adventure. Amazon Adventure. South Sea Adventure. Tiger Adventure. You get the idea.

Availability: Still in print with Red Fox.

The Premise: Hal and Roger Hunt are sons of a big game hunter turned conservationist. They travel the world catching wild and rare animals for parks and zoos. They often have to battle poachers, gangsters and rivals, as well as the beasts they’re after and the environment, always harsh, always deadly.

Why I Really Like It: They were awesome adventures! Filled with peril, exotic locations and great banter between Hal (older, wiser) and Roger (the joker). It was my first taste of animal conservation, and probably why I spent my twenties travelling, all in an attempt to follow in Hal and Roger’s footsteps.

Best Books: Probably Cannibal Adventure because it was the only one of their books I owned, so read and reread that plenty of times. I used the library back then an awful lot.

Who It Will Appeal To: Everyone! It’s very mid-grade, and given that it was written in the 1960s will come across quite dated to an adult reader, but nevertheless its heart is in the right place, its intentions are noble, and the read is thrilling.

Others By The Same Author: I think he wrote something else (interjection from Jim - he did, his autobiography My Own Life of Adventure is a fascinating read) but there are plenty of books in just that series to keep you busy.

Thorn, an outlaw's son, wasn't supposed to be a slave. He's been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they're headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.

Lilith Shadow wasn't supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

Release Date: 6th October 2016

Genre: MG Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic

Format: Paperback

Author Information

Joshua Khan was born in Britain. From very early on he filled himself with the stories of heroes, kings and queens until there was hardly any room for anything else. He can tell you where King Arthur was born* but not what he himself had for breakfast. So, with a head stuffed with tales of legendary knights, wizards and great and terrible monsters it was inevitable Joshua would want to create some of his own. Hence SHADOW MAGIC. Josh lives in London with his family, but he’d rather live in a castle. It wouldn’t have to be very big, just as long as it had battlements.
*Tintagel, in case you were wondering.


Wednesday 5th October

Thursday 6th October

Friday 7th October

Saturday 8th October

Sunday 9th October

Monday 10th October

Tuesday 11th October

Wednesday 12th October

Thursday 13th October

Friday 14th October

Saturday 15th October

Sunday 16th October

Monday 17th October

Tuesday 18th October