Why write reviews?

I have two questions. First: What was the last great book you read? Second: How did you hear about it?

I don’t know what the answer to the first question is, there are so many amazing books out in the world. But, I’m willing to bet that the answer to the second question is: someone recommended it to you.

A book recommended to me, and one I recommended to others.

This is especially true for child-readers. I can vividly remember pushing my favorite books on my friends and gleefully borrowing theirs. Rushing home after school to read what all the fuss was about. Kids don’t care what the current bestseller is, they care what their friends are enjoying. (Although, I imagine sometimes these things go hand in hand.)

When I don’t have any recommendations from friends and reading buddies though, a heartfelt review, is the next best thing. A good review has often tipped me over the edge into buying a book, and if I love it, I go on to recommend it to all my friends as well. If you like a book and want to support the author, leave a review (on amazon, goodreads, your blog) or recommend it to your friends. It makes all the difference in the world!

(psssst…in case I was too subtle….please go on amazon and review my books…thank you)

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School Visits

I wrote a post a few months ago about how much fun I had visiting schools and talking all about Alice Jones, writing mysteries and creating fantastic new detectives with some amazing student sleuths.

So I am very excited to now have an official School Visit page on my website. So if you are a teacher, or librarian, or student who wants me to come give a talk or lead a writing workshop check it out!

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My bright new business cards!

As the daughter of teachers, I know that schools don’t have a dedicated author visit budget (wouldn’t that be wonderful) so while I do charge for in person visits, I also offer free 30 minute Skype Q&A’s for classes that read one of my books.  (Also fantastic if you’re a school on the other side of the Atlantic-America, I’m looking at you!)

If you are interested, please get in touch. You can contact me here. And if you know a student, teacher or librarian who you think would be interested, please pass my details along. Hopefully I will see some of you soon!

 

Happy World Book Day!

Happy World Book Day Everyone! 

Since The Ghost Light came out in January, I’ve been having a lot of fun visiting schools and talking all about my love of mysteries and maths and the amazing Alice Jones. It’s been a new experience for me, since when my first two books came out I’d just had a baby, and so far it’s been fantastic!

Feeling like a super-star!

I’ve been so impressed by all of the students I’ve gotten to meet: Their questions and curiosity is so inspiring. And I have a feeling I’ve met more than a few future authors.

A skill anyone hoping to become a writer needs, is the ability to create compelling characters. One of my favorite bits during a school visit  is when a few brave volunteers dress up and I and the audience use their costumes (and our imagination) to turn them into a unique detective.

We give them strengths (are they brave? smart? well-prepared?) and weaknesses (a good character needs some flaws) and a special crime solving skill, Then we imagine what kind of crime they might come across? What clues would they notice that others might overlook? And  how will they be challenged by their weaknesses?

So far I’ve seen:

  • A detective with amazing eyesight, who is so sleepy she can barely stay awake.
  • A detective who is an expert horse rider, but who can’t swim (the students decided dropping a vital clue at the bottom of the swimming pool would be the perfect challenge)
  • A master of disguise with horrible fashion sense (we thought a mystery in a fancy-dress shop would be perfect!)

I’m off on another visit today, and I can’t wait to see what detectives we come up with!

Pick a prop. What does it say about your detective?

If any of you are interested in developing your own detective, here’s the worksheet that goes with the exercise. I’d love to see who you come up with. Happy Sleuthing!

Creating characters-or-Listening to the voices in my head.

When I’m writing, one of the first things I like to do is get to know my characters. I spend time daydreaming about who they are. Do they have hobbies? What kind of food do they eat?  What was the absolute worst most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to them? What are their dreams and fears? I’ll spend a long time doing this, jotting down notes. At first I get a lot of things wrong, but eventually my characters start to develop a life of their own. And that’s when they start talking to me.

I’m not joking.

When a character takes shape I can hear her shouting at me in the back of my head. (I imagine a more polite character would gently clear her throat to correct me in the nicest way possible, but I haven’t written one like that yet).

‘No!’ they holler. ‘I wouldn’t wear that! Not enough pockets!’

-or-

‘That might be how you walk down the street, but not me! I have way more rhythm than that!’

Here is the first real thing Alice Jones said when I asked her to introduce herself:

My name is Alice Jones. I’m a detective. I’m also a schoolgirl. In fact, if you were to draw a Venn diagram labeled Fig. 1: Alice Jones, it might look something like this:

AJVennIgnore that small circle in the corner. That’s not important!”

 

Of course, once she said THAT I just had to know what that Little Miss Friendship business was all about. I also knew Alice was real and ready to move out of my head and into a book of her own.

 

My Inspiration: The Patiala Necklace

Happy December. I can’t believe 2016 is almost over already!

Alice Jones: The Ghost Light is coming out next month (5 January!) and I thought it might be fun to ‘lift the curtain’ and share some of the things that inspired me while I was writing this mystery.

In her second case, Alice investigates a possible haunting at an old theater. While looking into the theater’s history, Alice discovers a fabulous diamond necklace went missing the same night a fire nearly destroyed the building. The necklace was called The Midnight Star, and it was never found.

I looked at a lot of pictures of famous necklaces while I was plotting The Ghost Light, but the second I saw The Patiala Necklace, I knew I’d found ‘the one’.

The NecklaceThe Patiala Necklace was designed by Cartier for Maharajah Bhupinder Singh in 1928. It took three years and 2930 diamonds to create (962.25 carats of diamond!). The square yellow (tobacco colored for you fancy people) diamond pendant is the De Beers diamond and is the seventh largest diamond in the world.

It is a stunningly beautiful bib of jewels and I was entranced the moment I saw it. But, as I did more research, I discovered there was another reason to be inspired.

 

Like The Midnight Star in Alice Jones: The Ghost Light,  The Patiala Necklace mysteriously disappeared from the royal family’s treasury in 1948. No one knows who took the necklace (or if the family sold it off on the quiet), but it resurfaced in a second-hand jewelers in London in 1998. All of the large gems had been removed from their settings. Cartier bought the necklace and spent the next two years restoring it to its former glory.

Like Alice, I spend a lot of time wondering just where the Patiala Necklace WAS for all that time. And how did it come to be in that second hand jewelers? It makes me wonder about all the other missing treasures out in the world: Where are they hiding right now? And who will find them? Maybe, it will be me.

 

Alice Jones: The Ghost Light

The second Alice Jones book is finished. Well, sort of.  Writing is a long process that involves A LOT of rewriting, editing, tinkering and back and forth between me (the writer) and my editors (the lovely Rachel and Kesia from Chicken House). I wrote about the many (many, many to the power of ten) stages of the editing process here.

BUT, the biggest hurdle for me is getting that first complete draft and making all the major changes to make sure the plot works, all the clues are there and no characters fall out of the book at the halfway point. And THAT task is done. Now it is on to the fun tweaking and tidying and adding more spooky bits and all the math analogies Alice loves to use.

image002It also has a glorious cover, designed by Helen Crawford-White.

Alice Jones: The Ghost Light is all about the mysterious goings-on at The Beryl Theater. Della is convinced an evil spirit is haunting the show: Alice doesn’t believe in ghosts and sets out to find the human behind the disturbances. As Alice investigates The Beryl’s past, she discovers another unsolved mystery, the disappearance of a fabulous diamond. Could the two cases be connected?

Alice Jones:The Ghost Light will be published January 2017. (So I better get back to fixing up all the details!)

The Impossible Clue gets an American Cover

I love getting new covers for my books!!!

One of the most exciting things for me when my first book, Dreamer Ballerina, was published was seeing all of the different covers it got in different countries. (You can see them all here.) And now it’s Alice’s turn.

Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue will be published in the US January 2017. It’s still a long ways off (I wrote about the lengthy publishing process here and here), but I’m excited to share the fab American Hardcover illustration. It was designed by Melissa Manwill (you can see more of her work here) who did an amazing job capturing the story.

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Isn’t it stunning?!

If you’ve read the book, you’ll see all sorts of clues in the illustration. If you haven’t you can pre-order your copy of the American edition  OR if you can’t wait, you can get the UK edition right now! (What’s the difference? Well the UK edition has a lot more U’s in it, and a lift instead of an elevator, and pavements instead of sidewalks, but the story and the solution are the same!)