Guest Post: Author Siobhan Curham on Creating Authentic Teen Characters in YA Fiction…

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moonlight dreamers

We are super excited to welcome Siobhan Curham, author of new release YA novel The Moonlight Dreamers, to the Shelf, thanks to Walker Books Australia.  We reviewed The Moonlight Dreamers earlier today on the blog, and now Siobhan is with us to share some tips for all you budding YA writers on how to create authentic teen characters.

Take it away Siobhan!


HOW TO WRITE AUTHENTIC TEEN CHARACTERS

Siobhan Curham

 I guess the first thing I would say if I were advising someone on how to write authentic teens is:

don’t be patronising.

The way some adults talk about teens it’s as if they’re describing some kind of alien life form – full of suspicion and fear. Or they treat them like over-grown children. It’s like they’ve forgotten that they were ever once a young adult!

Which brings me on to my next point:

remember what it’s truly like to be a teen.

When I think back to my own teenage years I remember it being a pretty intense time; a time of so many ‘firsts’. First love, first exam stress, first job, first holiday with friends, first time living away from your family, first alcoholic drink, first hangover, first adult choices.

I also remember it being a pretty scary time. You don’t yet have the benefit of decades of experience and so, when things go wrong, it can be hard to have faith in the belief that, ‘this too shall pass’. The pain of a break-up, or a failed exam, or the death of a loved one, or your parents’ divorce can be overwhelming and it can be really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

On the other hand, young adults aren’t jaded by decades of experience, so they’re able to embrace life and new ideas with freshness and optimism. I’m reminded of this every time I give a talk in a high school or run a workshop for teens and I find it so inspiring. It’s definitely something I try to inject into my teen characters.

There’s a quote by the writer e. e. cummings that I think perfectly sums up the teenage years:

It takes courage to grow up and become the person you really are.

This idea is at the heart of my novel, The Moonlight Dreamers. Yes, the teenage years can be scary, and yes, it’s hard to become the person you really are, when society, the media and the internet might want you to be something you’re not. But if you can find the courage to be your true self and dare to dream your true dreams, then what a great life you’re creating for yourself.


We’d like to say a big thank you to Siobhan for sharing her wisdom with us and for providing such an uplifting read in The Moonlight Dreamers.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Dragonfly Song Blog Tour: Guest Post by Wendy Orr…

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DragonflySongBlogTourGraphic

We are very pleased to be participating in the blog tour for YA historical fiction adventure Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr.  Following on from our review yesterday, today we have Wendy here with us to discuss what it’s like to have your book turned into a film, which is what happened to Wendy’s Nim’s Island books.  Before we get stuck in, here’s the blurb for Dragonfly Song from Allen & Unwin:

Abandoned by the priestess of the island at birth, Aissa is an outcast, surviving by her wits

Dragonfly Song

Dragonfly Song (Wendy Orr) Published by Allen & Unwin 22nd June 2016 RRP: $16.99

– until she joins the acrobatic bull dancers who are sent away to compete on the island of the Bull King. A gripping and powerful adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.

There are two ways of looking at Aissa’s story. She’s the miracle girl who escaped the raiders. Or she’s the cursed child who called the Bull King’s ship to the island.

The firstborn daughter of a priestess is cast out as a baby, and after raiders kill her adopted family, she is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute. Called No-Name, the cursed child, she is raised a slave, and not until she is twelve does she learn her name is Aissa: the dragonfly.

Now every year the Bull King takes a tribute from the island: two thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in his royal court. None have ever returned – but for Aissa it is the only escape.

Aissa is resilient, resourceful, and fast – but to survive the bull ring, she will have to learn the mystery of her true nature.

A riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure from award-winning author Wendy Orr.

And now I’m going to hand over to Wendy Orr – her novel Nim’s Island was the inspiration and basis for the 2008 film of the same name starring Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler and Abigail Breslin.  Welcome to the Shelf, Wendy!
Orr Wendy, preferred author photo, credit Roger Gould

Wendy Orr         (Photo credit: Roger Gould)

What is it like having your book turned into a movie?

An emotional roller coaster – and just like any roller coaster ride, I can now only remember the thrills.

It all started when an independent Hollywood producer, Paula Mazur, got Nim’s Island out of the library for her eight-year old son. She emailed me a few days later, painting me a beautiful picture of the family listening to the story – and asking for the rights.

I was lucky enough to know nothing about how hard it is to get a movie made. She was so passionate that I always believed it would happen, even when things looked bleak – and of course, there were some bleak times in the five years between that first email and the red carpet. And because we quickly became friends, and once it was optioned I became a consultant on the script, I knew what was happening, every step of the way. It was a very intense time, intellectually (there was a lot to learn!) and emotionally.

Probably the luckiest thing of all is that Paula contacted me before three other queries came in. None of them seemed to have any particular feeling or insight into the book, but I could easily have signed anyway – and the film would probably never have been made. A film like this, that doesn’t fit the mold – one article claimed it was the first adventure feature film with a young girl hero – needs a passionate advocate.

Actually there was lots of luck. Like Jodie Foster wanting to play Alex Rover. Jodie Foster is a reader, and Nim’s Island was the book that got her oldest son into reading. She fought hard for the part – and changed what I’d imagined as a quiet little movie, into something big. The amazing thing for me was that she looked so like my concept of Alex. The brilliant Abigail Breslin signed on as Nim, and Gerard Butler as her dad Jack and Alex Rover’s fictitious hero. Gerry Butler is better looking than my Jack, but I coped with that.

The first time I arrived on set, Abbie/Nim was running through the rainforest with Fred on her shoulder. It was exactly as I’d written the scene in the book; there was something surreal about seeing it happen in flesh and blood (and TV monitors). I met one of the two sea lions who played Selkie, which tipped my emotion right over the edge – I cried so much that Gerry Butler interrupted some publicity shoots to ask if I was all right.

Then we had the premieres. One at Sea World in Queensland, with Jodie Foster and Leah the pelican who played Galileo, and one at Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, with all the cast and crew (minus the animals), blue ‘island’ ticker tape blown down the road, and thousands of screaming fans. But the biggest thrill was simply seeing the film, to see the characters from my head come to life on the screen.  I had the same reaction watching Return to Nim’s Island, which was much more loosely based on Nim at Sea – but Bindi Irwin was still so definitely my Nim, and the plot line was so true to Nim’s spirit, that I forgot it wasn’t the story I’d written.

It’s the ultimate expression of letting your story fly free to make its own way into the world.

 Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $16.99, available now

Thank you Wendy for sharing your experiences with us here on the shelf.  Dragonfly Song is available now and the perfect way to escape on an adventure if you aren’t lucky enough to be travelling somewhere exotic yourself these school holidays!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing Scribble, I Am Doodle Cat and Author Kat Patrick (+ a giveaway!)

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doodlecat

I am so pleased to be helping to introduce a brand new kids’ publishing imprint today – Scribe’s new addition, Scribble!  It’s always exciting to get a snifter of brand new books on the horizon and today I’ve got a little ripper for you…as well as an interview with the author and a chance for TWO lucky readers to win a copy of I am Doodle Cat!  But more of that later. Let’s meet Doodle Cat! Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

I Am Doodle Cat and I am one very proud drawing. I’m red like a really ripe tomato. Sometimes I find it hard to choose between dancing and clawing the rug so I just do both at the same time. I make long lists of the things I love because it’s important to remember what makes you happy. I’ll help you spot the magic in silliness and the greatness in pretty much everything. Also, my best friend is a pangolin. Let’s be pals.

From the bright, energetic endpapers to the cheeky catalogue of loves, Doodle Cat is one book that is certainly going to appeal to mini-fleshlings.  Although there is no traditional plot here, Doodle Cat’s list of things that he loves were varied and unexpected enough to provoke giggles (the cat method of bathing), raised eyebrows (maths) and more than one slightly confused facial expression (farts and lentils) from the oldest mini-fleshling in the house.  Doodle Cat is a bit of a prankster I suspect, and his unconventional ways are ably illustrated by Lauren Marriott, who manages to put an enormous amount of character into even the most desultory of Doodle Cat’s bottom-wiggling dances.

The book also features short sections of commentary from Doodle Cat himself at the end of his litany of loves, which are quite lyrical and inspiring in their way.  I suspect that once kids get a glimpse of Doodle Cat, he will remain in their memories for quite some time. Since we first read the book, the older mini-fleshling has developed some basic narrative drives of his own, piloting first Doodle Dog (a dog who loves to eat green things, including green ants) and Doodle Fly (a work in progress).  But I get the sense that Doodle Cat probably loves being a muse, too.

Did I mention that I Am Doodle Cat has already won the Scholastic New Zealand Award for Best Designed Children’s Book?  Well it has!

Thanks to Scribble, I am able to offer TWO readers the chance to win a copy of I Am Doodle Cat!  The giveaway is open internationally and to enter, all you need to do is click on the Rafflecopter link here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ts & Cs are in the Rafflecopter form. Good luck!

I know you’re itching to find out more about the creative genius behind Doodle Cat, so read on to find out Kat Patrick’s answers to some tough questions from the Shelf!

Doodle cat, with his catalogue of loves, seems the antithesis of world-famous Grumpy Cat.  Do you think Doodle Cat’s positive outlook will inspire Grumpy Cat (and cats generally) to be less grumpy?

Sadly, no. The magical thing about cats is that they only do exactly what they want to do. We’ll drop Grumpy an email, though. Will let you know how it goes.

Your name is Kat and your main character is a cat. Coincidence or fate?!

Narcissism! Kidding, no. Fate.

How did you first meet Doodle Cat?

As he was zooming past on a paper aeroplane.

What was the first thing you did when you found out you’d won an award for Doodle Cat? Now that he’s had a taste of success, does Doodle Cat count book awards amongst his loves?

Messsaged Lauren in disbelief. I don’t think we’ll ever fully comprehend that that our little kind-hearted jerk is becoming so famous. Hope it doesn’t go to his head, but also: so what if it does. He’d probably just do few zooms around the house before going back to his ice cream.

What can we expect next for Doodle Cat?

Bit of trouble, but mostly fun.

Given our loveable natures and aesthetically pleasing visage, would you ever consider writing a book featuring Gargoyles?

Yes! Maybe she could play the bass guitar in Doodle Cat’s band.

You heard it here first! Perhaps Doodle Gargoyle is in the works!

Thanks again to Scribble for letting us share in the launch of this exciting new venture.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Blind Servitude: A Haiku Review of a Modern Day Fable (plus an Author Interview!)

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It’s Mad Martha with you today with a special treat! I have a sweet little indie title for your perusing pleasure, made all the sweeter for its having an Australian author (yippee!).  Stay tuned after my review to meet David Chattaway and find out the inspiration behind this engaging little tale.

Blind Servitude by David Chattaway follows the story of Eli, a young boy who, along with his family, has lived his whole life in an underground mine, toiling for an unseen overlord.  When Eli accidentally discovers a secret passage that may lead to freedom (or certain death!) he is excited to tell his family.  But at the same time Eli is uncovering the mine’s secrets, a siren is sounding elsewhere in the mine – a siren indicating that his mother will never be returning from her work shift.  When Eli’s brother and sister are abducted in the regular “harvest”, Eli is more determined than ever to get his father to listen to his plan to find the secret tunnel and see if it leads to escape.  Along the way, Eli will have to dodge the guards, particularly the sadistic “Savage”, evade the creepy “Shadow” lady and rely on his father, blind old Jeri and his mysterious, silent friend Peta in order to risk everything for a slim chance at freedom.

blind servitude

Dwelling in darkness

cage bars built from despair

Will hope find a way?

Blind Servitude is a reasonably short story that has a definite feel of the old-time fable about it.  Eli, the young boy at the centre of the story, is the unlikely hero, shifted from the complacency of his everyday life collecting and repairing tools for the workers by a desire for something more, something adventurous.  He alone has the courage to believe that his mother and siblings may not yet be lost to death, after his discovery of a tunnel that shouldn’t exist, given what the mine-dwellers have always been told.

The story unfolds fairly slowly, given the short length of the book, and this isn’t an action-packed adventure story by any means, despite the fact that there’s climbing and breaking and entering and pursuit by malevolent creatures all bound up in this small package.  Instead the suspense builds slowly, all the time reflecting Eli’s personal growth as he faces challenges that cause him to question everything he has ever known and chases after a slim hope that there could be something better awaiting all the mine-dwellers provided they are prepared to risk letting go of their unhappy, but predictable lives.

The characters aren’t particlarly developed as individuals, but each plays a significant role in Eli’s journey, particularly the guard whom Eli calls the Savage.  The Savage is almost the personification of the mine-dwellers’ misery, subjugating the people  through violence and threats in order to uphold a system that is unjust and ultimately unproductive for all but those at the top of the chain.

Overall this is an ethereal tale that will have you reflecting on the power of hope and the playing-off between risk and reward.

David Chattaway has kindly offered two readers (Australian residents ony) the chance to win a print copy of Blind Servitude.  To enter, simply click on the rafflecopter link below where you’ll find Ts & Cs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Now it’s time to meet the generous and talented creator of this tale! Welcome, David, to the Shelf!

 

Blind Servitude is a thoroughly thought-provoking tome! Where did the inspiration for the book come from?

I wanted to write a story which was uplifting and had a positive message. It started as a very short story, focusing on a family’s desperation to escape an underground prison. Initially the story was far more science fiction with Aliens being the prison guards. As I began typing the story evolved and changed and I was left with a tale of a boys journey from darkness to light.
A lot of the characters seem to be flawed in one way or another – was this important to you when creating them and how does it impact on the way the story unfolds?
 
The story is about hope and overcoming adversity, but the characters are real and their situation is somewhat hopeless, especially at the beginning. I wanted the reader to relate to Eli, understanding the reasons that drive him to continue but also appreciating that he is challenging the nature of the world he had lived in.
Why did you choose Eli as your protagonist? Was it essential that he be young in order to accomplish his quest?
 
The story is dedicated to my Godson Eli and it was written for younger readers so I wanted to make the protagonist be young. One of the important aspects to this story is Eli convincing his father to believe his reasoning for escape and I felt that trusting someone young, especially when you’re almost blind and surrounded by danger was a message in itself. Eli represents the child in all of us, the innocent and trusting part which believes everything will be okay, that no matter how dark your life is that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Who is the perfect reader for Blind Servitude and is there a particular message you’d like them to take away from the story?
 
The book is suitable for both young readers and the young at heart…
– Trust your instincts and believe in good prevailing. Seek the truth and never give up! That is the message of this book.
If you had to sum the book up in one sentence, how would you describe it?
 
Blind Servitude is the tale of a young boy’s journey to find his courage in a world where fear is used as a weapon and love is the only light.
Have you got any works in progress that we should watch out for and do you plan to feature gargoyles in any of your future writings?
 
I’ve completed the first draft of a paranormal fantasy novel named Mal’akh. It’s a story about Angels and Demons, good versus evil… it will be book one of a trilogy I have planned.

 

So there you have it.  You can find Blind Servitude on Goodreads here and for those whose literary appetite has been whetted, Bruce will be featuring another of David’s books on the blog in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.
Until we meet again, may the light of hope never be blown out,

Mad Martha

 

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Behind the Fairy Tales: Interview with Author, Becca Price

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Have you ever wondered how authors come up with new ideas when writing about old favourites? Of course you have. Well now you have the opportunity to get the answer to that burning question – hurrah! Becca Price, author of Heart of Rock, a modern fairy tale featuring gargoyles (that you can read more about here) has kindly answered some of my burning questions about her work.

Becca has written a number of books featuring her own modern fairy tales and you can find out more about them at Wyrm Tales Press, but for now, sit back, imbibe your favourite beverage, and find out more about writing new stories in an old, old genre.

It seems that there are lots of retellings of traditional fairy tales around at the moment – how difficult is it to come up with original ideas for your modern fairy tales?

I have always loved fairy stories, but as I grew older and more sophisticated, I saw some of the patterns in the Grimm Brothers and Andrew Lang stories that I hadn’t seen before: brave, bold men, and domesticated women who need to be rescued. Rebellion against those stereotypes also informs my writing.

I’m a science fiction and fantasy fan, and I figure that fairy stories are the gateway drug to JRR Tolkein and other fantasy books written for adults. I have heard that people don’t read stories to their children anymore, and that kids today read less than my generation does (too many other bright shiny forms of entertainment vie for their time and attention). I wanted to write stories that might be more modern, more relevant to young children than Cinderella and Snow White are, but would still have that archaic, fairy-tale feeling about them that I loved so much myself.heart of rock

What was it about gargoyles (apart from our stunning good looks, of course) that made you choose them as major protagonists in Heart of Rock?

Heart of Rock had it’s genesis in a couple of interesting events. The first was when a minor acquaintance from the Society for Creative Anachronism appeared at my door looking for a place to stay for a few days. As a guesting gift, he brought my then-husband a gallon bottle of sake; for me, he brought a plaster-of-paris classical gargoyle (you know, the kind that looks rather lilke a distorted pug dog with wings, and a fierce expression and a half-opened mouth showing teeth.) I’d never given much thought to gargoyles before then, I admit, but I was absolutely charmed by this one, and he stayed with me for years.

The second part of the story is that, after my divorce from my then-husband, I stayed with some friends for awhile while getting back on my feet. Their little girl, Gillian, suffered from severe night terrors – she would (still asleep) sit up in bed and start screaming and giving forth heart-rending cries. If you’ve never experienced someone who had night terrors before, they’re just as scary for the people around the child as they are for the child.

So one night, I took my gargoyle, and put it by the side of her bed, and told her the first part of the story – how nightmares (Night Mares – intentional pun) were brought by magical creatures in the night, that they looked like horses with flaming eyes, mane and tails, but that gargoyles could fly after them and nip at their heels and drive them away. (this part of the story was inspired by a friend who had a chow-chow, which the Chinese had bred to fight invading horsemen a long time ago – that was the origin of the breed, and my gargoyle did look a bit like my friend’s chow only not as hairy. For the record, Dominic was the sweetest dog you could ever hope to find in reality.)

Oddly, that was the end of Gillian’s night terrors, but she wouldn’t give me back the gargoyle, and has it to this day in her room – and she’s in her mid-20s now. I’ve never found anything like it to replace it, which saddens me.

So that was the origin of Heart of Rock.

I got interested in gargoyles, and decided that, in spite of their ugly and sometimes frightening appearance, they should be an old race, much given to a love of beauty and seeking wisdom. I decided that there needed to be a story about why so many places have gargoyles carved up high on roofs where they really can’t be seen, and figured that they were there to guard the city against Night Mares and other evil creatures, and to serve as watchmen for enemies. And that was the genesis of the third part of the story came about.

Then I got to wondering – what if two kingdoms both needed the same magical talisman, and their needs were equally pressing – most fairy stories tell about the hero finding the magical talisman and stealing it away from the monsters who guard it and taking it back – but what if the “monsters” weren’t evil, and needed it for their own reasons? and needed it equally as important as the putative hero needed it?

And there was my story.dragons and dreams

Why did you choose to write for younger readers?

Why do I write fairy stories? well, Albert Einstein said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy stories.” I have two children of my own, now in college, but when they were little, I would tell them stories to help them get to sleep . If I read picture books, they’d be involved in looking a the pictures, and wouldn’t go to sleep. That’s why my original books were unillustrated – I wanted the children to be able to see the pictures in their heads. Both my kids tend to be… idiosyncratic, let’s say, and the standard fairy tales and children’s stories bored them (although my daughter liked Paper Bag Princess). My son likes dragons, so there had to be dragons in some of the stories, but not the fierce man-eating kind, because I didn’t want him to have nightmares. My daughter was afraid of the dark for awhile, and that’s the genesis of The Dark, in my firstcollection, Dragons and Dreams.

So I had all these stories written down in my computer, and never did anything with them until a cousin looked into self-publishing her father’s WWII experiences, which he’d written down as a sort of therapy (The book is called Bailout over Normandy, and is itself fascinating – I seem to come from a long line of story tellers) I figured that I should look into self-publishing through Amazon, and it turns out that I have a friend who is a fabulous artist (Todd Cameron Hamilton) and I sent him my first book, and he came back with a lovely painting for Dragons and Dreams, and has done the covers for me for most of my other books.

And one thing leads to another. Writing one story gives me ideas for another one, and some how they keep coming.fairies and fireflies

Do you have any projects on the boil right now that we should look out for? (And are there any plans to feature more gargoyles in your future works?!)

My immediate goals are to get illustrations for my other books. I’ve stumbled on a wonderful artist who is illustrating Fairies and Fireflies for me, and I hope to get that one out by July. I have a second set of butterfly-fairy stories cooking, but I don’t know when I’ll have time to write them. I’m also working on a fairy tale collection called “Quests and Fairy Queens” that may contain more gargoyle stories.I hope to have Quests out by the end of the year, as well as a few more stand-alone stories.

My beta readers, and other reviewers have told me that there needs to be more to Heart of Rock than the relatively simple fairy tale it currently is. One of my goals, for maybe this year, for maybe early next year, is to expand the current story into something maybe 20,000 words long, aimed at late middle-grade, with more chapters and more details.I’m not sure whether I’ll keep the same name for the longer version or not – but I definitely want to expand on the gargoyles, make them more individuals and characters in their own right.

But yes, there will be more gargoyle stories – they’re too fascinating to leave alone.

Hurrah! We agree. Too many gargoyle stories is never enough.  We of the shelf thank Becca for her time and for telling us all about how her ideas get from brain to book.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Review and Author Spotlight and GIVEAWAY!: Ghost Hand…

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Morning all! Today I have a YA paranormal for you with a *gasp!* original premise! (Sorry, cynical Bruce came out for a moment there. I’ll stuff him back into an out-of-the-way cupboard in my psyche.  That’s what happens when you let too many emotions out at once!).  Now, what was I saying? Oh yes, Ghost Hand by Ripley Patton, was published in 2012 and not only do I have a review for you today, but I also cajoled Ripley Patton into answering some questions about the book for your continued book-related intellectual growth.  And even better than that, Ripley has kindly offered to give away a SIGNED paperback copy of Ghost Hand to one lucky winner…in the US. (Sorry, Non-US-dwellers. But read on anyway to find out about a great book and author, and a sneaky special offer!)

I first came across Ghost Hand when it was released in 2012 and immediately put it on my to-read list. The premise struck me as sufficiently different from other YA fare around at the time, and I couldn’t help but have a giggle at the thought of having a ghostly hand that had a mind of its own. I remember thinking at the time that the premise could either be executed with great skill, thereby drawing me in and ensuring the suspension of my disbelief, or executed with great clumsiness, thereby drawing me in and ensuring the suspension of my bladder through laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

I am pleased to say that Patton has achieved the former with this book for me. But allow me to give you a brief overview of the story.

Olivia has PSS – that’s Psyche Sans Soma to you and me – a rare medical condition which means that instead of a flesh and blood hand, Olivia has a hand-shaped pocket of energy attached to her wrist. Up until now, Olivia’s biggest problems have been trying to fit in amongst her peers with her ghost hand, and dealing with her father’s recent death from cancer. When Olivia’s hand suddenly takes on a life of its own at school, reaching into a classmate and causing her to fall unconscious, things begin to spiral out of control. Along with mysterious new boy Marcus, Olivia discovers that there may be others out there interested in what her hand can do – and they’ll do anything to bring Olivia under their control…

ghost hand

Ghost Hand is a thoroughly enjoyable, action-packed, suspense-filled ride from start to finish. Patton had me hooked straight away with Olivia’s down-to-earth (and slightly sarky) narration. The weird ghost-hand action starts in the first chapter and despite experiencing a few periodic giggles at the oddity of having a ghost body part, I was pretty much able to suspend my belief right from the word go. The world building has been nicely accomplished by giving out information about PSS and the political rumblings behind it slowly, with the reader finding out essential information as Olivia does. The interactions between the characters are believable, and while this book does have some teen romance (Bruce’s pet peeve #1), it didn’t detract from the story because it unfolded in a natural, guarded way and was never the main focus of either of the two characters’ attentions.

I was also very impressed by the suspense that Patton has generated here. There is a lot of chasing/running away going on in this book and Patton has managed to imbue a real sense of danger and fear into the action. I also appreciated that the story didn’t resort to wildly unbelievable actions by the teens – when they are forced to defend themselves, they behave with all the misfires and mistakes that one would expect from a young person untrained in reconnaissance and combat. Overall, this was a great read and I’m glad I got around to it, albeit a little late. That’s why we have TBR lists, I suppose! Book two of the series, Ghost Hold, was released in 2013, so on to the list it goes.

Now it’s time for you to find out more about the brains behind this enticing series! Read on to discover Ripley’s answers to our deeply probing questions, and then enter the giveaway at the end.

PSS is such an interesting concept – where did that idea spring from?

The idea for PSS came from an actual medical phenomenon known as Phantom Limb Syndrome in which people who are amputees or were born without a limb can still feel or sense the physical presence of that missing limb. I have a friend who is an amputee, and one day when I was visiting him and we were walking in his back yard, he said, “You know, I can still feel the grass between my toes on the foot that I don’t have. And sometimes I still get a cramp in the middle of the night in the leg that I don’t have.” This was such a fascinating concept to me that I asked myself “What if these phantom limbs really existed? What would they look like and act like? What power would they hold? And how would society react to those who possessed them.” That is how PSS came into being. But at first I didn’t have a name for it. A nurse friend of mine came up with the term Psyche Sans Soma which loosely translated from Greek means”Life without flesh.” And I guess I did a good job of making it a convincing birth defect because readers often tell me that they stop mid-read to go look it up on the internet to find out more about it.

If you had to have a PSS part, which do you think would be the most useful?

I think a PSS hand would be pretty handy. But I also think that a major point of the books is that no one gets to choose a birth defect or the physical challenges and characteristics they are born with. And all the extreme politicking and curfuffle made about such things is really pointless and causes a lot of unneeded agony. All that aside, it is fun to discover what PSS parts the characters have in the books, and what those parts can do.

The YA market is certainly booming at the moment, especially in the paranormal genre – how difficult (or easy!) did you find it to get your idea considered for publication?

I don’t think it is ever easy to get your book considered for publication. The process is made difficult on purpose. I had a New York City agent interested in GHOST HAND early on, but by the time I had the manuscript finished, she’d left the business. I then shopped it around for about six months and it was read by several major agencies but not accepted. Ultimately, I decided to publish the book myself and I’ve published the entire series that way. I raise an advance by offering pre-orders of the books through Kickstarter. In fact, I’m just finishing up a Kickstarter Project this month for the third book in the series, GHOST HEART. Then, using the pre-order funds, I hire a professional cover designer, editor, and formatter and prepare the book for publication. And those who back the project get their e-book and signed paperback copies of the book before the general public.

So what’s next for Olivia and her crew? What can we expect from PSS #3 (or #2 for those of us who haven’t read it yet!)?

Well, in general and without risking spoiling anything, I can promise that things get harder. A writer’s job is to make their characters miserable, I’m afraid. Of course, there is more exploration of what PSS is and how it works. There is more delving into the main characters and what makes them tick. The romance between Marcus and Olivia has a bumpy ride, but what is real love without some struggle? There is a cliff hanger at the end of book two, literally. In book three, GHOST HEART, I explore the point-of-views of two main characters besides Olivia, one of them being Passion. Finally, I think you can look forward to Olivia coming into her own and embracing the power of herself and her hand.

Have you got any other projects on the boil, or anything we should keep an eye out for in the future?

If you haven’t heard, I believe there will be a fourth PSS Chronicles book, though I expect it to be the last. The plan after that is to write another YA series, dystopian fantasy this time. The concept for it is really unique and based on yet another bizarre medical phenomenon. That series is the one my kids, both teens themselves, talk about wanting to read the most so I’ll write it for them. I love series and I love to read YA, so why not write the stories I want to read myself?

 

Why not indeed! I’m quite astounded that no publisher was prepared to pick up such an original, readable book. Ripley mentioned the Kickstarter project that she has running to get book three in the PSS Chronicles published.  If you’d like to help out and make this book a reality, you can find out more at this link here.

Also, if you want to read Ghost Hand, now’s the time because it is available for FREE on Amazon and Kobo RIGHT NOW! But not for much longer. So after you enter the giveaway, run over there and download it. Shoo!

 

So now the giveaway. Here’s the details:

* One winner will receive a signed paperback copy of Ghost Hand.  The giveaway is only open to those with a United States mailing address.

* The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a new winner is chosen.

*We won’t be held responsible for any packages lost in the mail or otherwise undeliverable. Sorry.

*Only verified entries will count. We’ll check. So be honest.

click to enter button

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

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Night of the Perigee Moon: Lantern Review and Author Spotlight…

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Greetings and salutations to you, my beloved associates in the pursuit of all things literary!  It’s Mad Martha with you today to provide you with a Lantern review of a fun and feisty new middle grade read featuring magic, mad cousins and monstrously large moons.  I give you Night of the Perigee Moon by Juliet Jacka!

Juliet is a Kiwi author.  And by Kiwi I mean that she hails from New Zealand, not that she is a cute, endangered, brown flightless bird with particularly advanced claw dexterity and a passion for literacy.  Although that would also be cool (and worth reading about).  We at the shelf love Kiwi authors. In fact, in a spectacular display of UnAustralianism, we are prepared to admit that we have a sneaking suspicion that New Zealand is an actual utopia, but until we can get Mad Martha stowed away in a suitcase heading for that delightful nation, we can’t confirm this positively.  Until then, we will continue quietly instigating the chilli-bin revolution. Join us, won’t you?

But back to the topic at hand! Once you have feasted your eyes on my poetical evaluation of this book, you can find out more about the author, who was brave enough to answer some (slightly self-centred) questions from Bruce AND THEN enter to win one of TWO PRINT copies of the book – woohoo! Since you are no doubt hyperventilating with excitement over all of that information, I will refrain from mentioning that the giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY, lest you pop a valve and have to be rushed to the hospital. If you would like to enter the giveaway, you can click this link here.  So let’s get to it.

Night of the Perigee Moon follows young Tilly Angelica in the days leading up to her thirteenth birthday.  Turning thirteen is exciting enough, but in Tilly’s family, the thirteenth birthday also marks the time when young Angelicas take ownership of  a shiny new magical ability.  Poor Tilly is dreading this however, and just wants to be normal kid and have a normal party – not a whole host of crazy, magical cousins, uncles and aunts turning up to celebrate her “changeover”.  If that were not enough to worry about, Tilly’s grown-up cousin Prosper (an enchanter) seems to be behaving in a rather sinister fashion.  Along with her cheeky younger brother Fergal, twin cousins Ninette and Pippi, and house cat Kit, will Tilly be able to take control of her emerging talent and use it to her advantage?  Or will creepy cousin Prosper use the power of the Perigee Moon to change Tilly’s life forever?

perigee moon

Twelve.

So much

safer than

thirteen for some

kids.

Night of the Perigee Moon felt to me like something Enid Blyton might concoct were she writing today.  It has that classic feel of a fun kids’ story full of magic, reasonably innocent adventure and a plot to be foiled close to home.  All that’s missing is the ginger beer, but there’s plenty of other food-related mayhem instead!  This book is going to be read and re-read by the younger end of the middle grade bracket and would be perfect as a read-aloud for a grade four or five class.  The real action with Prosper and the perigee moon takes a little while to get going because the first third of the book is devoted to Tilly as she waits for,  discovers, then begins to tentatively use, her talent.  When the action starts however, it is a non-stop ride to the end of the book, involving bell-wearing dogs, mad fighting bats and my personal favourite, spectacular home-made millinery.

Fergal, Tilly’s brother, is a joy to read about as his ingenious and hilarious antics turn the tide for Tilly against cousin Prosper, and Tilly’s best friend Olivia is exactly the kind of person you want in your corner when you have some embarrassing secrets to divulge.  There is also a scene involving some highly imaginative insults that you’ll want to pop in your back pocket for when the appropriate situation arises!  All in all, we on the shelf recommend Night of the Perigee Moon for confident readers (or as a pre-bed read-together) for all those seeking to find the magic in the ordinariness of family life.

If you’d like to win a copy of Night of the Perigee Moon, simply fill in the entry form in the rafflecopter link here.  The giveaway is open internationally, so all residents of planet Earth should be fine to enter.  Good luck!

Now just who is the mastermind behind this fanciful romp, I hear you ask.  Well, allow me to introduce you to Juliet Jacka!

Juliet Jacka was born in Wellington. She spent her university years in Dunedin, and then headed to Canada and the UK.Juliet Jacka (small)

She’s now back in New Zealand living in one of Wellington’s hilly suburbs in a red house by a railway line with her husband and two young girls.

Juliet has wanted to write for years, in large part inspired by her love of Margaret Mahy’s young adult books. Escaping the call of writing would have been hard, as she comes from a family of bookworms and crossword fanatics.

She started writing junior fiction stories when she was on maternity leave with her first daughter (who was luckily a good sleeper).

Juliet now juggles writing with work and family life. She has a BA in English and a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism.

To find out more about the brains behind Tilly’s adventures, we forced Juliet  to answer some of our inane, burning questions!

What was it about this story that compelled you to tell it, rather than any other ideas you had floating around? And are any of your characters based on anyone in real life? (Creepy cousin Prosper, maybe?!)

I’m a huge fan of books with magic and mystery in them, and got hooked by the idea of creating my very own magical world. It was jolly fun too – I had heaps of fun dreaming up weird and wonderful talents for the Angelicas.

I don’t know any creepy cousin Prospers in real life. Which is good. He’s a proper slime ball!

Did you ever consider a role for some gargoyles in Arial Manor? And do any Angelicas have any talents related to gargoylery?

Interesting idea! I’m sure Fergal would have fun getting up to mischief with a gargoyle or two. His changeover is coming up soon after all … he might just be a contender for an Angelica with a gargoylery-related talent.

What sparked your interest in the perigee moon phenomenon? Do you think there’s any truth to the rumour that people (and creatures) tend to go a bit mad in the presence of a full moon (especially a really BIG one)?

I was busy trying to get my baby to sleep one night when I noticed that the moon was bigger than usual. I did some research – and aha! It was a perigee moon.

From there I started wondering about the things that could happen when the moon is extraordinarily large. Although I was busy juggling work and two small children, I kept sneaking in moments to write about magic, mayhem and talking animals.

I think any excuse to go a little madcap comes in handy, so yes – of course I think there’s truth to the rumour that people (and creatures) tend to go a bit mad in the presence of a full moon. Especially a really, really BIG one …

What were some of your favourite books as a kid?

It’s great this question says“some” instead of “one” (the last favourite book question I had to answer asked me to pick one – mean!). Some of the some include: The Tricksters and The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery,The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner and The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien.

Your story is an award winner – congratulations! Do they give you some kind of plaque or trophy for the award? And if so, where do you keep it?

It’s a fancy certificate with my name written on it in curly writing. I’m going to frame it and stick it on the wall.

So there you have it! Thanks to Juliet for putting up with us.  I should probably also mention that Night of the imagePerigee Moon would perfectly fit into category three – a book with a specific time in the title – of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge. Quite frankly, I wish I’d thought of that while I was reading it and I would have been one up on my challenge books. Never mind.  If you’d like to find out about the Challenge, simply click on the attractive button over there.

Now, go and enter the giveaway. Shoo!

 

Mad Martha

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