Sunday, 3 July 2011

++++ Three Good Books Published in the US in July 2011 ++++

book cover of 

The Wizard of Dark Street 


Shawn Thomas Odyssey
Shawn Thomas Odyssey - The Wizard of Dark - Published by Egmont - 26 July 2011

Oona Crate was born to be the Wizard’s apprentice, but she has another destiny in mind.

Despite possessing the rare gift of natural magic, Oona wants to be a detective. Eager for a case to prove herself, she wants to show her uncle—the Wizard of Dark Street—that logic is as powerful as magic. But when someone attacks the Wizard, Oona must delve even deeper into the world of magic to discover who wanted her uncle dead.

Full of magic, odd characters, evil henchmen, and a street where nothing is normal, 
The Wizard of Dark Street will have you guessing until the very end.
Eleven-year-old Neela dreams of being a famous musician, performing for admiring crowds on her traditional Indian stringed instrument. Her particular instrument used to be her grandmother’s—made of warm, rich wood, and intricately carved with a mysterious-looking dragon.
Sheela Chari - Vanished - Published by Hyperion - 26 July 2011 
When this special family heirloom vanishes from a local church, Neela is devastated. As she searches for it, strange clues surface: a teakettle ornamented with a familiar-looking dragon, a threatening note, a connection to a famous dead musician, and even a legendary curse. The clues point all the way to India, where it seems that Neela's intrument has a long history of vanishing and reappearing. If she is able to track it down, will she be able to stop it from disappearing again?
Gillian Neimark - The Secret Spiral - Published by Aladdin - 26 July 2011
It’s just another boring Wednesday in May for ten-year-old Flor Bernoulli of Brooklyn, New York. As soon as school is out she hurries to the popular Sky High Pie Shop down the block, owned by the wonderfully mysterious Dr. Pi. But when she gets there, her life changes forever. Dr. Pi reveals he is actually an ancient wizard, in charge of a very special cosmic fire that keeps nature in balance. Without him, every single thing that has the shape of a spiral—from seashells to galaxies to the inside of your ear—will cease to exist. Flor wonders if Dr. Pi has lost his mind, but then two tall blond strangers from another planet show up, hoping to steal Dr. Pi’s fire for themselves. The adventure of a lifetime has begun. As she travels in time and travels in space, Flor learns that only she has the magic to help Dr. Pi protect the fire, save the spiral, and keep the world spinning just as it should.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Cornelia Funke - Who is Jacob Reckless - Blog Tour Post

File:Reckless funke.jpg

Welcome to Cornelia Funke's blog tour for the release of Reckless in paperback. Having read this book nearly a year ago, I would suggest that if you haven't already read this book then you should certainly put it on your summer booklist. To find out more then why not view my book review . . . . . 

I would like to send a big thank you to Cornelia for finding time to write this post and to Tina at Chicken House for arranging this event. I hope you enjoy reading about and finding out more about Jacob Reckless.

Who is Jacob Reckless?

Well, I guess first of all Jacob would say that it’s a stupid question and next, that it’s nobody’s business.

But – as I irritate him anyway by sending him off on impossible and sometimes lethal adventures – I will nevertheless try the answer.

Jacob is what I often wish I could be (and I guess that’s true of most of us). He doesn’t think too much, he acts. He is completely fearless (with some exceptions that surprise him as much as they surprised me). He is quite selfish and not very responsible. In fact, he manages to run away from responsibilities and duties quite successfully most of the time, which gives him a freedom we all, from time to time, desire. But Jacob is less selfish than he thinks he is. He is actually the friend you’d like to have by your side when you’re meeting a ruthless Goyle or man-eating witches. Jacob will save you … while pretending he is terribly annoyed that he had to.

He is a hero who doesn’t give a damn about being a hero. Jacob is not interested in medals. He only fights for his own cause or for a friend or brother. He is not very interested in money and is definitely not interested in power – which is something I like about him very much. I hope he’ll get better at considering the consequences of his actions though. He has found some powerful treasures and not thought enough about what the people he has sold them to will use them for.

I sometimes wish that he would use all that strength and courage for a better cause but, on the other hand, we all know how difficult it is to decide what that better cause should be. Nevertheless…  he may have to start thinking a bit more – oh, I see him frowning! Yes, Jacob, I still know more about your story than you do

So… Heroes… What is a hero anyway? Someone who does something truly unselfish and risks his own wellbeing to help or rescue others? Yes… but, quite often, heroes are used by those in power to achieve goals that don’t deserve their heroism. In our world I believe the greatest heroes are often those without the guns. It takes far more courage to fight the darkness of our world without the comforting reassurance of a weapon. But because we know that, and because we wish we could erase evil with a bullet, we sometimes love to slip inside the skin of someone like Jacob who doesn’t even think about good or evil, who doesn’t even try to save the world but suddenly finds himself doing it anyway. And has fun doing it!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Graham Brown - The Mayan Conspiracy - Book Review

  • Pages 528
  • Published By Ebury Press
  • Date - 23 June 2011
  • Age 13+
  • Isbn 978-0091943080
A coveted treasure. A perilous mission. A dangerous secret that could change the world...

Former CIA-agent Hawker has been black flagged by his own government andInterpol and the State department have issued a warrant for his arrest. All Hawker wants to do is find a way back home that doesn’t involve a prison sentence or a body bag.

Government operative Danielle Laidlaw is his way out. She needs a pilot and a security consultant for her mission to discover the lost Mayan city of Tulan Zuyu. In return for his services, she promises Hawker his life back.

But as an unseen enemy stalks the rainforests, leaving battered corpses in its wake, they are about to discover that they are not the first – and they are not the only people looking for Tulan Zuyu and the secrets it may hold.

This book first came to my attention when the publishing company asked me if I would like to review it. After reading the synopsis that they sent I was definitely interested and couldn't wait to feast my eyes on a copy. This book is by a debut author from Arizona, who appears to have a passion for reading books by Michael Crichton and Stephen King. He also enjoys television shows like the X-files and Lost. Therefore, it is perhaps of little surprise that this book combines many of these styles and themes.

From the very first page to the last, this book is an action-packed crescendo of story lines. Particularly the high-fuelled, military-action combat that takes place in the jungle. This really works well as it gives another slant to the plot.

The story has many great moments that incorporate some unusual and vivid monsters. These are the products of a purely wild imagination that certainly made the story both engrossing and enjoyable. The detail and the character dialogues within this story are as enthralling as the action.

The mythological parts of the story are based on real elements of the Mayan culture. These give a fantastical twist to the story but still retain some realistic elements. They give a very insightful vision into the Mayan creation, some of which are based on the legend taken from the ancient text of the Popul Vuh-writings - these are the Mayan version of Genesis.

The mystery and conspiracy angles, although hardly original, aren't too over the top or implausible. The story as a whole remains exciting and compelling throughout - not all of the revelations are blatantly obvious.  

This book was so enjoyable that I rattled through the 500 pages like a sub machine gun on auto. It's a really gripping read as it has many different themes all wrapped up into one story. It certainly receives the thumbs up from me.

This is definitely a great start for such a new talent. The author's new book Black Sun is already out in the US. Hopefully, I might get my hands on a copy as soon as I have finished writing this review. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

++++ Some Great Books Published - July 2011 Book Post++++

book cover of 

The Eternal War 

 (TimeRiders, book 4)


Alex Scarrow
Alex Scarrow - TimeRiders: The Eternal War (Book 4) - Published by Puffin - 14 July 

Liam O'Connor should have died at sea in 1912.
Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010.
Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2026.
But all three have been given a second chance - to work for an agency that no one knows exists.
Its purpose: to prevent time travel destroying history . . .

A time wave has struck that alters the entire history of the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln has followed Liam into the present from 1831 - and now the world is in a dangerous state of limbo . . .
If the TimeRiders can't return Lincoln to the past, the Civil War will never end. Can Maddy persuade two colonels on either side of no man's land to cease fire long enough to save the future?
book cover of 

Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx 

 (Jake Ransom, book 2)


James Rollins

James Rollins - Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx - Published by Orion - 7 July 

An ancient and priceless ruby - the Eye of Ra - has been found beneath the Egyptian sands in the Valley of the Kings. Legend has it the jewel holds immense power, but it has fallen into the wrong hands - which means trouble for Jake and Kady Ransom, and a new action-packed adventure as the pair are catapulted into an ancient land of shifting sands, dark magic and dangerous enemies . . . Can Jake and Kady survive and outwit the Skull King himself?
book cover of 

Wolf Blood 


N M Browne

N.M Browne - Wolf Blood - Published by Bloomsbury - 4 July 

A Celtic warrior girl is held captive and enslaved by a rival tribe. When fever takes her only friend she knows she must escape, but she runs straight into the path of two Roman foot soldiers. Thinking they will kill a warrior instantly, the girl disguises herself as a beggar and asks to share their fire. Using her gift as a seer she discovers that one of the soldiers is not what he seems. Celtic blood courses through his veins too, but there is something else. He is a shapeshifter - a Versipellum. He shares his soul with that of the wolf. The girl needs to reach the leader of her dead friend's tribe, and the boy must escape the Romans before they discover his true nature. Their only chance of survival is to help each other. But what will happen when their powers are combined?
book cover of 

Six Days 


Philip Webb

Phillip Webb - Six Days - Published by Chicken House -  4 July 

In a ruined future, an extraordinary artefact from the past lies buried. Everyone wants it. But why? What is it? And how can it save them all? For scavs Cass and Wilbur, slaving to dig it up, there are no answers. But when two strangers from another time turn up claiming to know about the lost relic, their world will change for ever. Six Days. If you thought you knew how the world began ... think again.
book cover of 

Island of Thieves 


Josh Lacey

Josh Lacey - The Island of Thieves - Published by Andersen - 7 July 

Buried treasure. Ruthless gangsters. An ancient clue . . .

Our Captayne took the pinnace ashore and I went with hym and six men also, who were sworne by God to be secret in al they saw. Here we buried five chests filled with gold.

Tom Trelawney was looking for excitement. Now he's found it. With his eccentric uncle Harvey, he's travelling to South America on a quest for hidden gold. But Harvey has some dangerous enemies and they want the treasure too. Who will be the first to uncover the secrets of the mysterious island?

book cover of 


 (Phoenix Files, book 1)


Chris Morphew
Chris Morphew - Arrival (The Phoenix Files) - Published by Scholastic - 7 July
Luke is having a rough year. When his parents split up, his mum drags him to Phoenix, a brand-new town in the middle of nowhere. But Phoenix is no ordinary town. There are no cars, no phones and no internet. Luke thinks this is as weird as it gets. Then he discovers that someone is plotting to wipe out the human race. Phoenix is suddenly the safest and most dangerous place on earth. One hundred days remain until the end of the world ... not something Luke thought would ever be HIS problem.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Curtis Jobling - Wereworld: Rage of Lions Book Trailer

                                book cover of 

Rage of Lions 

 (Wereworld, book 2)


Curtis Jobling

  • Pages - 432
  • Published By Puffin
  • Date -  7 July 
  • Age - 11+
  • Isbn - 978-0141333403 

Young werewolf Drew Ferran is the future king of Westland. He has the makings of a great warrior - but first he must master the blade and the beast. When Lady Gretchen is abducted by the Werelion Prince Lucas, Drew and his friends embark on a perilous chase to stop the prince fleeing to his homeland of Bast. As Drew encounters terrifying new Werelords along the way, he is led to the exotic city of Cape Gala, where the forces of Onyx, the Beast of Bast, await. Now Drew must summon all of his courage and strength - because the Catlords are ready to attack...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Ransom Riggs - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Book Trailer

book cover of 

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 


Ransom Riggs
  • Pages - 352
  • Published by Quirk Books
  • Date - 7 June 2011
  • Age 
  • Isbn - 978-159744761
A combination of both conspiracy thriller and supernatural horror, this takes a young, spoilt teenage boy in American as the protagonist. His grandfather tells him stories of his experiences in WW II, including being evacuated to a mysterious island off the coast of Wales with other children – who are not normal children. One can fly, another can create fire, yet another can turn invisible. The boy listens raptly to these stories, but on becoming older decides these are just the ramblings of an old man to impress his grandson – until his grandfather is brutally killed by an unknown, horrific assailant, and the stories suddenly become real. Determined to follow his grandfather’s history, the boy travels to the island to discover the truth, and pitches into a world where what should be fantasy breaks violently into our reality, taking him on a journey from gathering unease to outright terror

For fans of X-Files conspiracy-type thrillers, horror novels, and with echoes of The Mabinogion and the books of Alan Garner, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children also contains photographic clues scattered throughout the book, a page-turning plot full of twists, turns, sly characterization, and fully realized worlds, both ours and others, making it a book sure to appeal to your readers!

20th Centuary Fox have just bought the film rights for this book, and a film should be out in 2013.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Tobias Cooke - Ben Street: Secret of the Lost Soul Pt. 1

  • Pages - 272
  • Published by Pen Press
  • Age - 10+
  • ISBN - 1907499806
Ben Street The Secret of the Lost Soul
by Tobias Cooke

Ben Street, a talented twelve year old singer and dancer, arrives at the same school about sixty years later and the ghost of the murdered pupil tries to make desperate contact with him. Ben mysteriously starts acquiring strange kinetic powers and knows he must find out why. Hilarious supernatural situations in class and in school show rehearsals are the result!

The first in a new series of teen mystery books from Tobias Cooke is packed full of suspense and adventure. “I wanted to convey the contrasting lives of kids from poor and rich backgrounds. How activities like street dance can break down social barriers,” says the author.

“The ultimate purpose of the book is not only to encourage reading, but to generate sales and funds for a Philanthropic reason. If it can do well, over time I would like to set up a charitable foundation to help young people with the cost of university education,” adds Tobias.
Ben Street has already received praise from readers of all ages, who love the character’s mix of stage performance, humour, mischievousness and magic. The scene has been set for book two...

“I was taking Spielberg's advice in producing this by writing it initially for myself to enjoy. It is the book I would have chosen to read as a kid.” Tobias Cooke

Tobias Cooke has lived a real life mystery through his work as a criminal lawyer. Born in Oxford in 1961, he studied Law at Kingston University and completed his legal training in Sussex. Tobias spent a brief spell in Australia with his family, before returning home to Worthing to begin work on his first book. He already has a sequel planned for the Ben Street series.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Caroline Lawrence - Western Mysteries blog tour stop #11 - Picturing the Wild West

It's so fantastic to be asked by both the publishing companies and authors to host so many blog tours at the moment. However, today's great post is by the brilliant author Caroline Lawrence, who is particularly well-known for her popular Roman Mysteries. 

Caroline is promoting her new series which is centred around a wild western detective theme. This story will have your heart in your mouth almost around ever corner and every page that you read. 

I would like to both welcome and thank Caroline for writing such a great post. I have to say that I particularly like the first book cover option due to its appealing quality and the great use of colour.

Thanks to Nina at Orion for organising this blog tour. I hope you all have a great weekend.

Picturing the Wild West

My new series is called the Western Mysteries, but its just as much an historical novel as a Western. In other words, my fictional characters interact with real people in a real place at a specific time.

My real place is Virginia CityNevada Territory and my real time is September 1862. Think Dickens in Deadwood. Or the Famous Five as Forty-niners. This rough and ready mining town exploded into existence with the discovery of silver veins deep in the mountain. All the buildings youd associate with a Western town came into existence; first in canvas, then wood, finally brick. Virginia City still exists, and has kept a lot of its character. You can still visit a dozen saloons, the fire station, the courthouse and jail, even a big old music hall. And archaeologists have even done an excavation on the site of one of the saloons. They found fascinating artefacts like spittoons, beer bottles, oyster shells, coins, buttons and bullet casings. This was a read frontier town where almost everybody carried a firearm. Somebody, maybe Mark Twain, said that at night you could read by the light of gunfire.

So how to devise a cover that reflects the gritty, menacing, blackly funny world portrayed in my books?

My first idea was to design a cover based on one of the old Dime Novels much beloved in the American West? Like a Dime Novel our cover could show an exciting scene from the first few chapters. My hero, a 12-year-old named P.K. Pinkerton, has found his parents scalped and murdered by desperados disguised as Indians. He has to get out of town fast, so he leaps onto a passing stagecoach, scrambles up on top and makes himself as flat as a postage stamp. My publishers and I thought this would be a great scene for the cover, as it is exciting and comes early in the story. We referenced real stagecoaches as well as scenes from Red Dead Redemption and came up with this.

This cover (above) is exciting, but it doesnt quite convey danger and menace of the story. Or the deadpan humour. Or its grittiness. We were also worried that it might seem too babyish. With drinking, smoking, gambling and gunplay, this book is definitely not babyish.

One of the things I love most about writing historical fiction is the research, getting the details of the culture right and especially the artefacts. So I considered putting some of the guns on the cover. Maybe a spittoon and playing cards, too. Then I had the idea of using a document of the time: a deed for a silver mine. A newspaper front page. Or a WANTED poster!

The WANTED poster format seemed perfect; straightaway it says Western and outlaws. My husband and I created an image for P.K.s face by using the photo of a Native American child, then stretching it to make him (or her?) look older, then ramping up the contrast, then adding a period hat, then drawing it. I did the first four steps and my husband Richard did the drawing. The solemnity of the childs face tones down the jaunty alliterative title Deadly Desperados. The sun bleached colours and distinctive typeface suggest a specific time and place. And the word WANTED is both a subliminal suggestion and a tantalizing hook.

Does it work? The folk over at Fixabook like it. But as for kids and their parents, only time will tell. And Ive just heard that my American publishers have independently come up with the idea of P.K. clinging to the top of the stagecoach, but from a slightly different angle. Watch this space.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Garth Nix & Sean Williams - Trouble Twisters - Book Review

book cover of 



Garth Nix and 

Sean Williams                                    

  • Pages - 326
  • Publisher - Egmont UK
  • Date - 6 June 2011
  • Age 10+
  • ISBN: H/B 978 1 4052 5857 9
  • ISBN: P/B 978 1 4052 5856 6

Twin siblings Jack and Jaide discover they are pivotal to a secret supernatural organisation that protects the earth from marauding Evil! Portland might seem like a quiet coastal town, and their grandmother is perhaps no dottier than anyone else's, but it soon becomes apparent that the strange things going on around them are anything BUT ordinary. It's all very well discovering that you suddenly have magical powers, but when you don't know exactly what they are, or how to use them, then facing impending peril doesn't seem like a very good idea at all...

It's not that long ago that I mentioned the lack of good books being published within the fantasy genre. However, a couple of weeks after this post, this particular book popped up in my mail box. Imagine how happy I was to see this book - it made my week.

This is the first book to be published in a series of five books. It's an amazing collaboration between two of the finest authors that Australia has to offer. Two amazingly talented authors, who have written so many great books in the fantasy realm, and sold millions of copies around the globe. This book is a dream come true for some of us. 

From the very start, the reader is marched down the fantasy garden path, but with a mysterious edge that captivates the imagination. The story moves from normal to totally bizarre within just a matter of minutes. Twins Jake and Jaide see their house suddenly explode, their dad disappear and themselves being shipped off to crazy Grandma X, of whom neither have met before! 

This was a great start for me and I found that the story just got better and better. It is a great amalgamation of ideas from both authors. It is packed full of petrifying moments, magic, talking cats and many memorable moments. One of my favourite scenes included a mass of possessed rats trying to drive a bulldozer! This to me, highlighted one of many pure fantasy magic moments, that should be read and appreciated many times over.

This is a must read for all fantasy book lovers. It will take you away from reality and place you into a bubble that is fuelled with imagination. This is a great read that will appeal to both boys and girls as it incorporates many strong role models throughout the story. Great stuff and more to come in this thrilling new series.

If you're interested to find out and understand how the collaborative writing process works between two major authors. Then take a look at the youtube video below, as the two authors discuss how the story took its shape and the writing process in more detail.


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

New Children's Books Published in the US - June 2011 - Post One


Elise Broach - Missing on Superstition Mountain - Published by Henry Holt -  21 June 2011 

A legendary gold mine, mysterious deaths, and a foreboding mountain set the stage for a new mystery from bestselling author Elise Broach. The Barker brothers--ages 11, 10, and 6--have moved from Chicago to a small town in Arizona that seems like the most boring place on earth. Boring, that is, until they discover that the mountain they are forbidden to explore--appropriately called Superstition Mountain--is keeping some pretty big secrets. Searching for their missing cat, the boys stumble across three human skulls, and with their new neighbor Delilah, they set out to solve the mystery of who died, and how.

Age 9-12

Jacqueline West - The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere - Published by Dial - 30 June 2011

Hair-raising adventures can be found close to home this summer. Soon after 11-year-old Olive Dunwoody moves into a rundown Victorian mansion with her nerdy mathematician parents, she realizes something isn’t quite right. It's full of oddities like strange paintings hanging on the walls and a trio of talking cats lurking in the shadows. While Olive's parents busy themselves solving math problems, she decides to work out the mysteries of the dusty old pictures by plunging headlong into the world on the other side of the frames. But, will she be able to escape the hidden dangers of Elsewhere? Age 9-12

book cover of 

The School for the Insanely Gifted 


Dan Elish

Dan Elish - The School for the Insanely Gifted - Published by HarperCollins - 21 June 2011

Daphna Whispers is insanely gifted.
At age two and a half, she composed her first sonata.
At age eight, she completed an opera.
And now, at eleven and three-quarters, she is orchestrating a piano rhapsody.
With a rÉsumÉ like that, it's no wonder she is a student at the prestigious Blatt School for the Insanely Gifted. But as sixth grade draws to a close, Daphna's mind is far from the upcoming "Insanity Cup" competition. She's preoccupied by her mother's disappearance two months ago.
When a mysterious man breaks into Daphna's small New York apartment, Daphna discovers that her mother's disappearance wasn't a random accident. Her mother knew something—and now somebody is after Daphna. What starts out as a simple fact-finding trip to the basement with her friends spirals into an international expedition. And while Daphna hopes to uncover the secret of her mother's disappearance on her global trek, the last thing she expects to uncover is an outrageous secret about the Blatt School. Age 9-12


book cover of 

The Ascension 

A Super Human Clash 

 (New Heroes, book 5)


Michael CarrollMichael Carroll - The Ascension: A Super Human Clash - Published by Philomel - 30 June 2011

They'd done it. Not only had Roz, Abby, Lance, and Thunder survived their first battle with a super villain, they'd defeated him. Krodin was dead, and they had saved the world. Now everything could go back to normal-good old, boring normal. School. Parents. Friends.

But three weeks later, the world suddenly changes. The United States is under martial law, the people are little more than drones, and where Central Park should be there now stands a massive glass-and-steel building, home to the all-powerful Chancellor.

In Michael Carroll's follow-up to the acclaimed Super Human, the world has been remade in the Chancellor's image, and it's about to get much much worse. Only this young band of heroes has a chance of stopping him, but can they return the world to what it was, or will they be stranded in this alternate world forever? Age 12+

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Helen Stringer - The Midnight Gate - Blog Tour - Fantasy, Reality and Belladonna Johnson.

It has been a real rush to get this post up in time as part of The Midnight Gate blog tour, but here we are . . . . finally! Thanks to Helen for getting this post to me to highlight and promote this eagerly awaited second book, which has just been published by Feiwel and Friends (early May) in the US. However, it is due to be published in the UK at some point, but no release date has yet been confirmed. 

I hope you enjoy Helen's post on Fantasy, Reality and Belladonna Johnson.

Life is full of little ironies. You know, things like moving to Los Angeles to go to film school and get into “the business” and then ending up writing books instead. Books set in England…where I haven’t lived for decades. 

So here I am, two books into a series set in a place that I visit quite frequently but is slightly frozen in time for me. For example, the school that Belladonna and Steve attend is based on my old school in Liverpool, which used to be three Victorian houses joined together with rickety-looking passages, and one block-like new building. Last time I was home, I drove by the old place and barely recognized it – the houses were still there but the old netball courts have now vanished under a mass of even newer buildings. I hope the assembly hall is still the ballroom from one of the houses (with the rotting plaster stars on the ceiling that I mention in Spellbinder), but I doubt it.

Some friends back in the UK expressed surprise that I set my books there and not here in the US, but they shouldn’t be – distance has a way of clarifying the memory. Things that we might not notice when they are part of our everyday experience become so much more significant when we are far away. 

Take cold, for example. I live in California now and have done for many years. Cold for me these days is anything around 70°F (20°C), which isn’t actually cold at all.  When I go home in the winter I not only feel really, really cold, I’m also much more aware of what it is to be genuinely freezing. Sitting in California, with its tediously cloudless skies, I get positively nostalgic about leaden skies, unrelenting rain and the ability to see your own breath. Which is why Spellbinder is set in the north of England in October and Midnight Gate the following February. (The coldest I have ever been was staying at my sister’s in Liverpool one February – the pipes froze and the indoor plants had frost on them!) 

The same thing applies to places. Most of the places in the books are based on real ones in the UK, sort of conflated into a single imaginary town. There are huge chunks of Liverpool, mixed with Kendal (which has some fantastic street names) along with various additional bits of Cumbria and North Wales. Morcambe Bay will be coming into play in book three. Seeing them all in my mind’s eye rather than out of the window allows me to focus on details, the essence of the places, rather than being overwhelmed or restricted by the reality.

And then there’s language. When I was trying to break into the entertainment business I spent years absorbing the idioms and rhythms of American speech in order to write believable American dialogue. With Spellbinder I had to write English characters again, so the Americanisms had to go. This was surprisingly difficult!  One of the things I did was return to British spelling to sort of get my mind in the groove, but as my main publisher is here in the US, we still had lots of discussions about which “Britishisms” were acceptable and which had to go because readers wouldn’t understand them. For example, in the books Steve plays football, so there was a rather lengthy exchange about whether that should be changed to “soccer” for the US. In the end they decided it didn’t really matter and stuck with “football” (thank goodness!). Elsie’s Edwardian expressions caused some controversy, too. “It’s a bit of a rum do,” in particular!  Of course, you’d think that this would make dealing with the UK publisher easier, but no – they noticed all the “Americanisms” that somehow still snuck through. You can’t win!

The story I am working on at the moment is set here in America. It’s about 100 years in the future, but still recognizably the remnants of the contemporary USA. I’m back to the American language I spent so long learning, but sticking with places other than the one where I currently live, relying instead on my memories of Century City, Lake Tahoe and Virginia City and the endless ribbons of road between them all. Places that, for all their familiarity, somehow feel much more fantastical than anything in Spellbinder and Midnight Gate, including the Land of the Dead.

Book cover and artwork are by the amazing David Wyatt Images are subject to copyright.