Archive for the ‘General’ Category

YALC / LFCC 2016

Just a quick post about YALC this year, before I forget to do it! My two previous visits have been very much YALC focused, but this year Beth wanted to spend some more time downstairs in LFCC, and was interested in getting some signatures – it made for a busy two days!

(For those who for some reason don’t know, YALC = Young Adult Literature Con and LFCC = London Film and Comic Con. The former has become a permanent part of the latter!)

It was a Friday and Saturday visit for me his year, and on the Friday I met the lovely Tanya (@thefoundbird) and we were able to spend most of our time up in the YALC area, plus some time down in LFCC. We both met lots of authors and got lots of books signed, plus listened to Patrick Ness talk about he upcoming A Monster Calls film. We saw the latest trailer, and I can not wait to see it.. although I know I’m going to cry!

On Saturday Beth and I spent a frantic day running up and down between floors, trying to fit in some signings for her, and the bookish things I needed to do. For me, more authors were met and more books signed, whilst Beth spent some of her hard earned money to meet some actors from Game of Thrones. They were all lovely, and wrote nice messages for her, which are all now up on her wall.

As others have said, YALC has grown and improved every year. It now takes the whole upper floor, and is full of authors and publishers.. and BOOKS – lots and lots of lovely books! There were even proofs being given out, and the ones I managed to get were all great!

One thing which does shine out as you explore both LFCC and YALC is how adorable the authors and publishers are. Authors will sit and sign books for free, and are always happy to talk – I even managed to meet up with a couple of authors whom I wouldn’t be able to meet on the Sunday at their official signings. The publishers have great deals, and the afore-mentioned proofs, and there’s a BIG Waterstones stall! A book lovers heaven! 🙂

Am already looking forward to next year!


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Mr Perfect Cover

Writing for Reluctant Readers

If you’ve always loved books, it can be hard to imagine what it’s like to struggle with reading.

Yet millions find it an uncomfortable experience. Rather than being drawn in by characters or voice, they’re constantly aware of tracking words on paper. Rather than being transported into the story, they struggle to get past the physical experience of holding a book and staring at a printed page.

After ploughing through a few paragraphs of a thick middle grade or YA novel, they give up on ever making it to the end.

The last few years have seen an explosion of Hi-Lo books – books with a high interest level and a low reading level – to cater for such readers.

I wanted to get involved with Badger Learning’s Teen Reads because I was impressed with the variety of their series. They weren’t stuck in predictable reluctant reader territory like dinosaurs and football. They seemed to publish interesting stand-alone titles for teenagers that just happened to have been written in a very accessible style.

I wasn’t given a set of rigid rules when I started writing for them. I tried to use simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and they checked the reading level when I was finished.

There’s no particular formula for hooking a reluctant reader any more than there is for hooking any other sort of reader. But I’ve found that establishing an everyday situation and quickly introducing a supernatural or fantastical element can work well.

The characters will be desperate to find out what’s going on. And hopefully the reader will be too, carrying them to the end of the slim volume and giving them the achievement of having finished a book.

My latest Teen Reads title is Mr Perfect, which is about a girl who is sent to test whether a robot can pass for human. It ties in with a lot of things in popular culture at the moment, such the Channel 4 drama Humans, but it’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time.

On a more selfish level, writing for reluctant readers has allowed me to switch between genres in a way I might not be able to if I only wrote full-length novels. So far I’ve written sci-fi romance, folk horror and humour.

The Teen Reads series runs to 36 books now. I really hope we can show struggling readers that books are part of the world of entertainment, along with apps, games, vlogs, TV shows and everything else they’re into. Everyone should have a bit of reading in their cultural diet.

Tim Collins is the author of over 40 books, for both children and adults, including the Wimpy Vampire series, and the Dorkius Maximus series. You can find out more on his official website.

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Looking for feedback please…

As part of running my book forum, I love running competitions. It helps readers get new books, and it helps the publishers and authors get word out. However, I’m having a bit of trouble working out the best way to do this.

I often go for the simple option, and run the competition on the forum itself. This has the bonus of rewarding the forum members, but doesn’t reach that wider audience, and entries are often low.

Twitter does reach a wider audience, but then I get fed up with the accounts which are obviously set up just to win competitions… I’m trying to get books out to readers after all. Plus, if you’re not on twitter, you’re being left out.

This morning I set up a rafflecopter account, and went through the process.. only to find that I can’t post it on wordpress because I don’t host it myself.

So… to the people who enter book competitions.. which type of competition do you prefer to enter? Do you like the simplicity of a ‘Retweet and follow’ on twitter? Do you like or dislike rafflecopter (personally, I’m not keen)? And what are you willing to do to enter.. would you follow a new twitter account, sign up to follow a blog, join a forum?

Plus, is it enough of an incentive to simply win a book, or are you looking for signed books, extra swag etc?

To those of you who offer competitions.. what is your method of choice? Twitter, Rafflecopter, blog comments.. or something completely different? Do I really need to run an amalgamation to cover everyone, or is there an easy solution out there?

Thank you! 🙂


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Review Books

I’ve collected together the main books which I have to review at the moment. From the top down..

Amity and Sorrow – this one is from the new Headline imprint, Tinder Press. This one isn’t out for a while, but I did make a start the other day. And if this one is anything to go by, it’ll be an imprint worth watching!

Neptune’s Tears – from Piccadilly Press. Since taking the photo I’ve manage to finish this one. It’s an interesting sci-fi tale for teens, will link to full review once done.

Poltergeeks / Katya’s World / The Assassin’s Curse – these three were sent to me from another new imprint, Strange Chemistry. I’m really excited about these books, and about Strange Chemistry in general, as they seem to have some great looking titles lined up. I’m half-way through Poltergeeks, and as loving it so far.

Deathless – this is from Corsair, yet another brilliant imprint. I’ve reviewed a few for them now, and they’ve all been good, and I love this author’s children’s book.. I’m excited to see how she handles an adult’s book.

Struck / This Is How It Ends – both from amazon vine. I’ve read some of TIHIE, but it’s failing to grip me.

The Dog Stars – a surprise send from Headline. 🙂

I guess I need to get one with my reading!

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I’ve probably just confused people on twitter, so this is an easier way of doing it! Over on my forum, we have quite a few author interviews, and in the past we ran ‘Featured Author’, where we invited an author to register and hang around for a month whilst we threw questions at them! 😉

This feature became quite hard to organise, and I ran out of time for it all. Recently I’ve restarted ding interviews, but I much prefer to do these if I’ve read one of the author’s books – I prefer to make them personal, instead of a list of stock questions.

I’ve also tried this week to do the Featured Author section a little differently, making it more informal. I’ve renamed it ‘Author Chat’, and the duration of each can vary, depending on how busy the individual author is.

See the various ideas in action here – http://www.bookclubforum.co.uk/community/index.php?/forum/28-author-interviews-and-forum-visits/

I’m aware that the more popular authors tend to be too busy for little forums like mine, and I’m also very keen to help newer authors get themselves known. However, I’m concerned that my forum members may not chat to authors if they haven’ read their books, or heard of them.

I’ve asked the forum members about it, and you can read about that here – http://www.bookclubforum.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/10526-question-for-you-all/. What I also want to do is collect some opinions from authors, publishers etc – but you don’t need to register on the forum to give me your feedback.

Please leave me a comment here, or tweet me. I really want to know what everyone feels, so I can provide something everyone will appreciate and enjoy.  Would you be interested in popping in for a couple of weeks, and chatting to the forum members, and would it bother you if the response was low? Publishers, is this the sort of thing you would encourage your authors to get involved in?

All thoughts and ideas appreciated! 🙂

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James is the author of Hollow Pike, one of my top reads this year. He’s also very passionate about reading and writing, and he’s shortlisted to be Queen of Teen! James was kind enough to answer a few of my questions…

Q. Let’s start at the beginning.. what can you tell us about your book, Hollow Pike?

A. It’s been described as ‘Mean Girls with witches’, which works for me. It’s about a girl called Lis who moves to a small town called Hollow Pike only to discover it has a dark history. She think the witchcraft rumours are nonsense, but when a girl is murdered, she starts to think she might be next…

Q. How long have you been a writer for?

A. I’ve written for years. I used to write stories for my Grandma and then later wrote music reviews and interviews for papers and magazines. Hollow Pike was my first attempt at a novel.

Q. So what was your inspiration for Hollow Pike – where did the ideas come from, and how did they develop?

A. I really wanted to write about school. I think anyone who went to school will recognise Hollow Pike. Moreover, I wanted to write about people like me and my friends – I wasn’t seeing characters like us in other YA books.

The supernatural has always fascinated me too. The idea that in very ordinary villages, there are mysterious happenings! As the novel developed I looked to things like The Crucible and The Malleus Maleficarum for inspiration.

Q. There are some great characters in your book – go on, be honest, are they based on anyone you know?

A. Absolutely! All of the characters are versions of my friends or composites of people I know. That’s what writers do -beg, borrow and steal!

Q. Considering the success of other books, were you not just a tiny bit tempted to add a vampire? 😉

A. Not in this one. I do hope the vampire genre can come back post Twilight though as one day I’d love to tell a vampire story. But not this one, no!

Q. What comes next for you – will we hear any more from Hollow Pike, or are you moving on to other things?

A. I’d love to go back to Hollow Pike and explore the town in more detail at some point, but the next book will be something completely different. It’s still for YA readers and is even twistier and turnier than Hollow Pike.

Q. You’ve been shortlisted for ‘Queen of Teen’, tell us a little more about the award, and what it means.

A. The Queen of Teen is great because it’s all voted for by young readers. It doesn’t take itself too seriously either. The winner gets an ACTUAL CROWN.

Q. What would it mean personally to you if you won.. what would you do with the title?

A. It would be fantastic because I really hope that Hollow Pike (and my next book) captures what it’s like to be young. Getting an award from young adult readers would be a seal of approval.

If I won, I’d be able to visit schools as ‘the Queen of Teen’ instead of ‘another author’, which would be great because I could share my books and love of reading far and wide.

Q. Do you enjoy attending events, chatting to readers on twitter etc, and how important do you think this is?

A. I really do. Writing can be a solitary career so getting out and about is hugely important. For authors, Twitter is the watercooler.

Q. Finally, what do you like to read yourself.. who are some of your favourite authors, and who’s on your bedside table right now?

A. I am a YA reader AND writer. I love the pace and edge of YA books. I love Patrick Ness, Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman and Maureen Johnson. At the moment, I’m reading Miss Peregrine’s Home of Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs.

James would be thrilled if you could vote for him at www.queenofteen.co.uk/vote

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