Category: Books

The Emperor of Mars: ARCs and First Pass Pages

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The Emperor of Mars is on his way. He’s been planning this for a long time, plotting, scheming. And now he is one step closer.

Yes, he has made it to Advance Reader Copy (ARC) status and First Pass Pages.

Here are *my* ARCs looking excessively handsome.

And here is our new cat, Pebbles, tolerating (just) being put in charge of a copy.

So what does it look like inside? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here it is. This is the first page, along with a new character, George Rackham.

If you can’t read that first page, this is what it says:

Chapter 1: The Trouble with Vine-Mining

I was twenty feet underground, surrounded by glowing blue sandfish crystals, with my head jammed in a beetle-vine warren, when I realized that vine-mining wasn’t for me.

I had seen the notice pinned up outside the local office of the Imperial Martian Airship Company:

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!
ROOT OUT BEETLE-VINES!
SAVE LUNAE CITY!
SIGN UP TODAY!
BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

Perfect, I’d thought. What a great idea.

I had never been so wrong.

You might have thought that living in the middle of Mars’s biggest desert would mean that you never got wet…

* * *

I’ll post the rest of the first chapter closer to publication day (which is on July 18, 2017, since you asked).

I’ve been working on the First Pass Pages (basically, a printout of the ARC), fixing up any last errors, tweaking the odd bit, smoothing things a little, but the ARC is pretty close to what the published book will be. There are typos and a few other minor errors, but the story is the same.

While we’re all waiting for the final, finished book, if you want a chance to win a signed ARC, keep an eye open. I’ll be posting a giveaway in a few weeks time.

Until then!

(Note: cover and the internal illustration above are by Jeremy Holmes.)

2016 Year in Review

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Apparently, this is the end of 2016. I didn’t see that coming! I’ve only just got used to it being this year. I must have done something during the year, right? Right? Right.

Here’s my writing-related stuff from the year:

Published my first novel!

Yes, at last. I’ve been wanting to be a novel-writer since I was a teenager, and despite not really writing during my 20s, I never gave up wanting, and this year, my first book finally, finally came out (I actually sold it at the end of 2012, but it’s taken this long to be published).

SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, in case you don’t know, is a “modern pulp” science fiction adventure for kids, and I love it.


Published a linked novella

I also published a novella set in the same world as SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB. THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS takes place a year before SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and features different characters, and it’s aimed slightly older, but it’s still the same mixture of humour, action, adventure, mystery, and over-the-top ideas.


Revised the sequel

The sequel to SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB will come out in July 2017. It’s called THE EMPEROR OF MARS, and it takes Edward and his family on an even more outrageous and deadly adventure. I did a pretty big rewrite of it over the summer, and then the copyedits this autumn. I’ve also seen the internal illustrations for it by the intensely talented Jeremy Holmes, and they are amazing!


Wrote a new book

The book that will be going out on submission in the new year is (currently) called THE MYSTERY OF FIRELAKE HALL. It’s set in 1932, in England. My agent, the wonderful Jennifer Laughran, described it as “A little bit Agatha Christie meets Clue meets St Trinian’s meets WW1 meets MAGIC!” It also has wolves, because, you know, why not?

I actually wrote a version of this quite a few years ago, but it didn’t work, so I ripped it up and completely rewrote it this year, which is the first time I’ve ever done that with a book, and I think it worked!

Pitched a third SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB book

To be brutally honest, this book probably won’t happen, but I have an outline and an opening in case it ever does, and the first two books tie everything important up, I think, if it doesn’t. One day, maybe!

Whew

Okay, when I put it like that, it makes it seem like I really did manage some stuff this year despite having young children (the younger of whom is only in school 2-1/2 hours a day).

Now, I need a new book or two to write in 2017!

What did you do this year?

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb – New Cover

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Hey folks. Fantastic news. SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB will have a new cover when it comes out in paperback on July 18th, 2016. I liked the hardcover version, but I think the paperback catches the book better. No need for me to waffle on about this. Here it is:










As with the hardcover, the art here is by Jeremy Holmes.

Find out more about the book here.

Book Quote Wednesday

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So, some writers (including me) on Twitter have been doing “book quote Wednesday” (#bookqw), where each week we post a quote from one of our books that includes a particular word. (Thanks to Mindy Klasky for running this.) It occurred to me that not all of you actually follow me on Twitter, so I thought I should post here too. (I’ll actually do it on the right day after this.)

Here are the ones I’ve done in the last couple of weeks.

“Might”

Here’s my quote using the word “might”, which comes from my novella The Dinosaur Hunters.

“Work”

And for the word “work”, from Secrets of the Dragon Tomb:

I have no idea what the word is going to be next week, but maybe I’ll chose one of my forthcoming books instead.

Now, go check out everyone else’s quotes. There’s some fantastic stuff there, whatever type of books you like.

Achievements Unlocked

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Today I got to finish writing two books in one day. How often does that happen?

Okay, I’m spinning this a little.

I finished my last major edits of THE EMPEROR OF MARS, which is the sequel to SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and sent it off to my editor. There’s still the copyediting and the proofs (and possibly more proofs…) but that’s it for any big changes. Basically, the way the book is now is the way it is going to be when it’s published, other than the odd fix to sentences here and there.

THE EMPEROR OF MARS is set eight months after the events of SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and features more deadly danger, thrilling adventures, and terrible peril.

As a celebration, here’s the opening sentences of THE EMPEROR OF MARS:

The Emperor of Mars

Mars, 1817

I was twenty feet underground, surrounded by glowing blue sandfish crystals, with my head jammed in a beetle-vine warren, when I realized that vine-mining wasn’t for me.

I had seen the notice pinned up outside the local office of the Imperial Martian Airship Company:

Volunteers Needed!
Root Out Beetle-Vines! Save Lunae City!
Sign Up Today!
Before it’s too late!

Perfect, I’d thought. What a great idea.

I had never been so wrong.

The book is out on July 18th, 2017, but advance copies will obviously be out sooner. Keep an eye on this blog if you want to know when you’ll get a chance to win one. :)

My Work-In-Progress, which I have also “finished”, is the first draft. That means, of course, that it’ll have to be rewritten many times, and so it could be completely, utterly different when it actually is published (and, of course, it might not get published at all). But here is a very brief taste of the opening. This may or may not be in the final version.

The Mystery of Firelake Hall

London, England, 1924

On the day that Miss Wellington was given the job of governess to the Stone children, she learned two absolutely unshakeable rules.

Firstly, nobody – absolutely nobody – talked about magic in the Stone household.

More on this one if and when it progresses!

New Middle Grade Books for 2016: April – September

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Time for a bunch more great-looking middle grade books coming out this year. I blogged books coming out from January to April and from January to June. Now it’s time to look at books coming out from April to September. (Yeah, the dates overlap, because I don’t always know about books far ahead of time.)

All of these books are by new voices in middle grade, debut authors in other words.

Here we go again!

Treasure at Lure Lake, by Shari L. Schwarz

Published: April 12th, 2016.

An epic adventure—that’s all Bryce wants this summer. So when he stumbles upon a treasure map connected to an old family secret, Bryce is determined to follow the clues to unearth both, even it means hiking in the wilderness in the middle of nowhere. Bryce must work with his bickering brother, Jack, or they may never see the light of day again!

This one is already out, so no need to delay. Get it now!

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Author Website

Artifacts, by Pete Catalano

Published: May 17th, 2016

Jax and his friends have been planning the summer of a lifetime at Camp Runamuck. However, when one of them is facing summer at a school desk for failing English, they watch those plans crash and burn!

At the last moment they’re given a way out. An extra credit assignment to find several fake artifacts for a fairy tale display their teacher is presenting at the local library. But soon they realize that they’re searching for one real artifact that can rewrite fairytales. Now they’re in a race against actual fairytale villains to get their hands on it first.

Imagine The Goonies meets Peter Pan.

This one has also been out for a while so you should have no trouble finding it!

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Author Website

The Voyage to Magical North, by Claire Fayers

Published: July 5th, 2016

This is already out in the U.K. I know that, because I’m reading it right now, and very good it is too! Those of you in the U.S. have to wait a few more days. :D

Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past–if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she’s spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.

When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship the Onion. Before you can say “pieces of eight,” they’re up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists.

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Author Website

Sticks & Stones, by Abby Cooper

Published: July 12th, 2016

Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just “cute” and “adorable,” but as she’s gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like “loser” and “pathetic” appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like “interesting,” which she’s not really sure how to feel about.

Now, at age twelve, she’s starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying “I know who you are, and I know what you’re dealing with. I want to help.” As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Author Website

The Last Cherry Blossom, by Kathleen Burkinshaw

Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan’s fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden fom its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.

This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture.

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Author Website

The Rat Prince, by Bridget Hodder

Published: August 23rd, 2016

The dashing Prince of the Rats–who’s in love with Cinderella–is changed into her coachman by the Fairy Godmother on the night of the big ball. And he’s about to turn the legend (and the evening) upside down on his way to a most unexpected happy ending!

I don’t often enjoy fairytale retellings, but this one looks like enormous fun. Can’t wait.

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Author Website

Howard Wallace, P.I., by Casey Lyall

Published: September 6th, 2016

Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace lives by his list of rules of private investigation. He knows more than anyone how to work with what he’s got: a bathrobe for a trench coat, a makeshift office behind the school equipment shed, and not much else—least of all, friends. So when a hot case of blackmail lands on his desk, he’s ready to take it on himself . . . until the new kid, Ivy Mason, convinces him to take her on as a junior partner. As they banter through stakeouts and narrow down their list of suspects, Howard starts to wonder if having Ivy as a sidekick—and a friend—is such a bad thing after all.

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Author Website

The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee, by Erin Petti

Published: September 6th, 2016

Eleven-year-old Thelma Bee is never bored. In fact, she has curiosity and adventure in her blood. She spends her time running science experiments, practicing Spanish, and daydreaming about exotic landscapes. But Thelma gets more than she bargained for when a strange woman sells a jewelry box at her father’s antique shop.

That night, a ghost kidnaps her father, and the only clues are the jewelry box and a word the ghost whispered in her ear: “Return.” Now it’s up to Thelma to get her dad back, and it might be harder than she thought—there’s someone wielding dark magic, and they’re coming after her next.

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Author Website

Poppy Mayberry, The Monday, by Jennie K. Brown

Published: September 13th, 2016

What if your teacher could read your mind just because she was born on a Thursday? Or the kid next to you in class could turn back the clock just because he was a ‘Wednesday”? In the quirky town of Nova, all of this is normal, but one thing is not—Poppy Mayberry. As an almost-eleven-year-old Monday, she should be able to pass notes in class or brush her dog, Pickle, without lifting a finger. But her Monday telekinesis still has some kinks, and that plate of spaghetti she’s passing may just end up on someone’s head. And if that’s not hard enough, practically perfect Ellie Preston is out to get her, and Principal Wible wants to send her to remedial summer school to work on her powers! It’s enough to make a girl want to disappear…if only she were a Friday.

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Author Website

The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes, by Wade Albert White

Published: September 13th, 2016

A thrilling debut novel where fantasy and science fiction meet, dragons aren’t as innocent as they look, and nothing is quite what it seems.

Anne has spent most of her thirteen years dreaming of the day she and her best friend Penelope will finally leave Saint Lupin’s Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children. When the big day arrives, a series of very curious happenings lead to Anne being charged with an epic quest. Anne, Penelope, and new questing partner Hiro have only days to travel to strange new locales, solve myriad riddles, and triumph over monstrous foes–or face the horrible consequences.

Packed with action, humor, and endless heart, this debut novel marks the first volume in an irresistible and original fantasy series.

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Author Website

That’s all I’ve got for now. I will probably do one more of these round-ups for the end part of 2016. But check on the books from this list and the previous ones. There’s great stuff there.

The Dinosaur Hunters: Out Now

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Today, my new novella, THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS, was published. I’ve been really looking forward to sharing this with you. For me, this story was just pure fun. I wanted to throw everything I love about science fiction adventures into my story: strange, alien civilisations and technology, spies, mysteries, deadly peril, adventure, and, of course, dinosaurs. Who wouldn’t want write a book like that?

THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS is set in the same world as SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB but it takes place a year earlier, and it’s entirely a stand-alone novella.

Buy now: Amazon | Kobo | Nook | Smashwords (all formats)

Here’s the blurb:

Mystery, murder, and adventure on Mars…

Mars in 1815 is a world of wonders, from the hanging ballrooms of Tharsis City to the air forests of Patagonian Mars, and from the ice caves of Noachis Terra to the Great Wall of Cyclopia, beyond which dinosaurs still roam.

Sixteen-year-old Harriet George has never had the chance for an adventure. Now her older sister is determined to marry her off. Harriet can’t think of anything worse.

Meanwhile, her brother-in-law, Bertrand, has a problem. He’s never been much of a police inspector. As far as Harriet knows, Bertrand has never caught a criminal in his life. But now the famous jewel thief, the Glass Phantom, has come to Mars, and Bertrand has been given the job of tracking him down. If he fails, Bertrand will lose his job and the whole family will be ruined.

Harriet will not let that happen.

So she comes up with a plan: she will capture the Glass Phantom herself. Even if that mean that she and Bertrand have to follow the thief’s intended victim, the Countess von Krakendorff, on a dinosaur hunt in the perilous Martian wilderness. But there is far more going on in this expedition than mere robbery, and the dinosaurs are not the greatest danger.

If Harriet cannot solve the mystery, her family won’t just be ruined. She and Bertrand may not make it out of the wilderness alive.

Buy now: Amazon | Kobo | Nook | Smashwords (all formats)

Or you can read the opening right here.

The Emperor of Mars Cover

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The cover for my second novel, THE EMPEROR OF MARS, kind of snuck its way out into the world last week without telling me. So, it’s time to officially give it its freedom here.

Without further waffle, here it is in its full glory:

The cover art is by Jeremy Holmes, just like for book 1. I think it’s great.

THE EMPEROR OF MARS is out on January 10th, 2017.

You can pre-order it now: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository (International)

Add on Goodreads

New Novella: The Dinosaur Hunters

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Hey folks. Exciting news for me! I have a new novella coming out on June 16th, 2016. It’s called THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS, and it’s set in the same world as SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and THE EMPEROR OF MARS, but it takes place a year before SECRETS and is a completely standalone novella.

Ever wondered where the dinosaurs were in SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB? Want to find out more about Regency Mars? Can’t bear to wait for THE EMPEROR OF MARS to come out? Wondering what all the fuss is about? Here’s your chance to find out!

You can pre-order THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS now from Amazon, or buy it from most ebook stores or my website on June 16th.

Pre-order: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | Amazon Australia

Or: Add on Goodreads

If you have a review blog or site and you’d like a review copy, please send me a message!

Here’s the blurb!

Mystery, murder, and adventure on Mars…

Mars in 1815 is a world of wonders, from the hanging ballrooms of Tharsis City to the air forests of Patagonian Mars, and from the ice caves of Noachis Terra to the Great Wall of Cyclopia, beyond which dinosaurs still roam.

Sixteen-year-old Harriet George has never had the chance for an adventure. Now her older sister is determined to marry her off. Harriet can’t think of anything worse.

Meanwhile, her brother-in-law, Bertrand, has a problem. He’s never been much of a police inspector. As far as Harriet knows, Bertrand has never caught a criminal in his life. But now the famous jewel thief, the Glass Phantom, has come to Mars, and Bertrand has been given the job of tracking him down. If he fails, Bertrand will lose his job and the whole family will be ruined.

Harriet will not let that happen.

So she comes up with a plan: she will capture the Glass Phantom herself. Even if that mean that she and Bertrand have to follow the thief’s intended victim, the Countess von Krakendorff, on a dinosaur hunt in the perilous Martian wilderness. But there is far more going on in this expedition than mere robbery, and the dinosaurs are not the greatest danger.

If Harriet cannot solve the mystery, her family won’t just be ruined. She and Bertrand may not make it out of the wilderness alive.

The Dinosaur Hunters is a thrilling adventure set in the world of Secrets of the Dragon Tomb.

Pre-order: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | Amazon Australia

Or read the opening:

The Dinosaur Hunters

Mars, 1815

Harriet George had been dressed as a boy for the last week, and she still wasn’t sure her brother-in-law had noticed.

“The thing is, Harry old thing,” the Honorable Bertrand Simpson said as he hunched morosely over his twelfth cup of tea that morning, “disguises are such dashed confusing things. Can’t tell if a chap is a chap or, you know, another chap.” He stirred his tea listlessly.

It had never been entirely clear to Harriet how her brother-in-law had managed to work his way up to the post of Inspector in the Tharsis City Police Service. As far as Harriet could tell, Bertrand had never solved a single case in his entire life.

Unfortunately, Harriet suspected that she wasn’t the only one who had figured that out. It was the only reason she could think of as to why Bertrand had been given the job of capturing the Glass Phantom. The Glass Phantom had evaded police forces in France, Austria, Britain, and Chinese Mars. He’d helped himself to the Crown of Charlemagne from under the nose of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard and had stolen the Orlov Diamond from the Imperial Scepter of Catherine the Great. No one with an ounce of common sense would risk their career tracking down such a notorious and difficult-to-catch jewel thief.

Which was why Bertrand, who wouldn’t have recognized an ounce of common sense if it had fallen into his morning tea, had leapt on the offer like a piranha-mouse on a stray muffin.

Bertrand came from a good family – his father was the fifth Baron Heatherstone – but his family’s estates on Earth had long ago been sold off to pay their debts. Bertrand’s father had brought the family to Mars to seek his fortune on a new world, but it hadn’t made any difference, and Bertrand scarcely had a penny to his name. In his position, he should have married a young lady with a good dowry. Instead, he’d married Harriet’s older sister, Amy. If it hadn’t been for Bertrand’s job, Harriet was certain they would have starved within the year.

And then, five years ago, Harriet and Amy’s parents had died, and Amy and Bertrand had taken Harriet in. She knew it had been hard for them, and she knew they’d given up a great deal for her. She owed them everything.

When Bertrand failed to catch the Glass Phantom, he would lose his job and it would be an absolute disaster for them all.

Harriet would not allow that to happen.

“You know, the Glass Phantom might not actually be in disguise,” Harriet said, trying to cheer her brother-in-law up. “I mean, why would he?”

Bertrand groaned. “That makes it even worse. If he’s not in disguise, how am I going to tell who he’s not disguising himself as?”

Which, Harriet thought, summed up rather neatly why her brother-in-law never actually caught anyone.

Enjoying it? Pre-order now: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | Amazon Australia

I’ll post more of the opening closer to the publication date

Don’t forget that if have a review blog or site, you can ask me for a review copy. Please send me a message!

A Quicky…

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A lovely review for SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. It’s wonderful when a reviewer really gets your book.

Readers might as well check all disbelief at the door and just embrace this look at a nineteenth-century British Mars that has solid hints of steampunk and features dangers aplenty to excite a kid hooked on spy tales. Such a kid is twelve-year-old Edward, who has been waiting his whole life for something like what he reads in Thrilling Martian Tales. Adventure comes in a rush, as a kidnapping, a much-desired water abacus, a metal assassin, and a mysterious cousin who may be a good guy, bad guy, or just bumbling fool all fall into Edward’s lap (and into the lap of his gender-defying little sister who aids him more than he’ll ever admit). Indeed, it quickly becomes clear that to save their family, Edward will need the skills of his more clever younger sister, his more socially graceful older sister, and his more adept cousin, even if he wishes he could be a solo hero like in the stories. The dialogue is snappy, and the characterization is historically plausible while still giving room for the characters to react to being on another planet. Science fiction meets classic adventure tales in this quirky novel, and it’s a real treat to know that it’s the first in an intended series. Fans of Reeve’s Larklight (BCCB 2/07) will embrace the premise, and readers will happily return for the next entry to see what happens next on Mars.

April Spisak, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books