Tag: Books

The Emperor of Mars: Book Giveaway and Sneak Peek

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In case you didn’t see it on Twitter and Facebook, I’m doing a giveaway for the so-far ONLY signed Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) of my second book THE EMPEROR OF MARS (I may sign one other ARC closer to publication, but that will be it, so one day this will be worth millions*.)

*Or not.

ANYWAY…

THE EMPEROR OF MARS is the sequel to SECRETS OF THE DRAGON and takes place eight months later.

Here’s the blurb:

A missing Martian. A sinister plot. A French spy.

If Edward thought life was going to be easy in Tharsis City, he was very, very wrong. The moment he intercepts a thief escaping from Lady Harleston’s townhouse, he is caught up in a terrible scheme that threatens the whole of Mars.

Soon he’s fighting off vicious sea serpents, battling a small army of heavily-armored thugs, and trying to unpick an impossible mystery. Meanwhile, Putty has declared war on her new governess, a war that, for the first time in her life, Putty may be in danger of losing.

Edward doesn’t know whom he can trust. Will he make the right choice? Or will his family – and his entire planet – fall victim to the treacherous Emperor of Mars?

Join Edward and his family for a whole new, exciting adventure on Mars.

And here are some of the internal pages from the book, with art by Jeremy Holmes (who also did the cover):

See the pages in full size.

(Do note, though, that the ARC is an uncorrected proof of the book, so there may be minor differences in the text and artwork between the ARC and the final version, and a couple of pieces or artwork aren’t in the ARC. But that’s what makes it special, right? ;) )

The giveaway is on goodreads and is open worldwide from April 24th to May 11th, 2017. Go and enter right now and be one of the first to get the book.

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.)

Book Review: Congress of Secrets, by Stephanie Burgis

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The year is 1814, and the Congress of Vienna has just begun. The Emperor Napoleon has been defeated, and the great powers of Europe have gathered in Vienna to carve up Europe among themselves. Along with them have come the powerful, the deposed nobility of old Europe, and the opportunistic, hoping to grab power and wealth for themselves. Amid glittering balls, parties, and salons, the great of Europe meet, plot, and position themselves.

Into Vienna come Lady Caroline Wyndham, a wealthy English widow, and charming con man Michael Steinhüller. Both of them have secrets. Caroline was born Karolina Vogl, daughter of a radical Viennese printer. Caroline’s father was arrested by the secret police and her childhood was cruelly stolen from her by dark alchemy in the cells of the secret police.

Michael, meanwhile, was once the apprentice of Caroline’s father. Neither has seen the other since their childhoods were shattered, and both have returned to Vienna with plans of their own, Caroline’s to save her father, and Michael’s to pull one last con before he retires. Neither of them expect to encounter the other, and when they do, both their plans will be in danger, and so will they.

I’ve said before that a really well-researched piece of historical fiction can be as full of wonder as the most inventive fantasy or science fiction novel, and this historical fantasy proves that. Every scene comes alive with wonderful, vivid, and sometimes alien detail that make you feel like you’re really there. I lived for six months in Vienna, and in Congress of Shadows, I really felt like I was back there, strolling around the first district or through the royal palaces. This is lush and all-enveloping.

The characters, too, are incredibly involving and well-conceived. From the moment you first meet Caroline, Michael, and the third main character, Peter Riesenbeck, you are swept into their stories, their fears, their desires, and their plans. But it’s not just the main characters who are so believable and enticing. There is also a whole array of historical figures – from the quipping Prince de Ligne and the paranoid Emperor Francis to the manipulative head of the secret police, Count Pergen – and fictional counterparts who leap off the page.

The story is fast paced and increasingly tense as Caroline, Michael, and Peter’s plans begin to crumble in the face of the dark alchemy wielded by Count Pergen.

This is a fantastic book and I have no hesitation in giving it five stars. I loved Stephanie Burgis’s previous historical fantasy, Masks and Shadows, but Congress of Secrets is even better.

5 stars!

Buy Now: Indiebound | Book Depository (international) | Amazon U.S. | Amazon UK

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.

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!

Book Review: Masks and Shadows, by Stephanie Burgis

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The year is 1779, the place is the Eszterháza Palace in Hungary. The famous castrato singer Carlo Morelli is travelling to the palace as a guest of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, but he is not the only one. He’s accompanied by a famous alchemist, Ignaz Von Born, and a man he suspects to be a spy. Already arrived at the palace is the recently widowed Charlotte von Steinbeck visiting her younger sister, Sophie.

But there are plots brewing at the palace. The Habsburg Emperor and Empress are about to visit, and there are forces at work who will stop at nothing to assassinate them. There is blackmail, alchemy, and betrayal, and not everyone is who they seem to be.

Masks and Shadows is a historical fantasy set in an unusual location with characters who are quite unique. If you’ve read Stephanie Burgis’s previous middle grade books, you’ll know she has a knack for convincing, lively, three dimensional characters with complex motivations, and in this, her first adult novel, she has been able to create some of the most interesting characters you’re likely to read in a fantasy novel, from the castrato singer, Carlo Morelli, playing a role he no longer believes in to Charlotte von Steinbeck, the very proper young widow who is forced to confront the scandalous fact that her younger sister, Sophie, is the very public mistress of Prince Esterházy. Then there are the members of the prince’s opera company who are unwillingly caught up in the plots and Sophie’s husband, a member of the prince’s guard, unsuccessfully trying not to regret the deal he made that allows his own wife to be the prince’s mistress.

Add to those the real historical characters in the book: Prince Esterházy and his wife, the princess forced to live in the palace alongside the prince’s mistress, the composer Joseph Haydn, and a host of others and you have a setting that is rich and highly believable.

This is an enormously well-researched book, full of colour and atmosphere, but it’s not one of those books where the author feels the need to pile all the research on you. The story is fast-moving, touching, tense and enormously involving. You will genuinely believe you are in the Esterháza Palace along with these wonderful and conflicted characters, and the story won’t let you go until you reach the desperate finale.

This book draws heavily on opera and the opera company contracted to Prince Esterházy. I am not a fan of opera (to say the least) and know pretty much nothing about eighteenth century Hungary but everything about the story thread of the company trying to put on a performance of Haydn’s new opera for the visiting royals while being unwittingly caught up in the various plots and under threat of disapproval from the unforgiving prince caught me up and enthralled me.

Masks and Shadows is the kind of book that utterly absorbs you and drags you through the conflicting emotions and dilemmas of its rich cast of characters.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy, historical fiction or romance.

A brilliant and unusual book.

5 Stars

Buy Now: Indiebound | Wordery (International) | Barnes and Noble | Amazon US | Amazon UK

New Middle Grade Books for 2016: January – June

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A little while back, I blogged about new middle grade novels coming out at the beginning of 2016 by debut authors. Because you can never get enough middle grade, here’s the next batch of awesome, exciting, brilliant books that are due to hit the stores in the next few months (and one that’s out already but didn’t get included in the last roundup).

So, here we go:

Lizzie and the Lost Baby, by Cheryl Blackford

Published: January 12th, 2016.

Cheryl Blackford’s debut novel is set in England during World War II and told from the dual perspectives of ten-year-old Lizzie, a homesick girl evacuated from bomb-blitzed Hull to the remote Yorkshire valley, and Elijah, a local gypsy boy. When Lizzie discovers an abandoned baby, her dangerous friendship with Elijah is put to the test. Will Lizzie be able to find the baby’s parents? And if she does, can she and Elijah remain friends in a world clouded by prejudice and fear?

I lived for a few years in Yorkshire, and a wonderful setting for a book it is. This book is out already, so don’t hang around. Go get it right now!

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

The Maypop Kidnapping, by C.M. Surrisi

Publication: March 1st, 2016

In the coastal village of Maiden Rock, Maine, Quinnie Boyd’s teacher has disappeared. Quinnie thinks it’s a kidnapping case, but her mom, the town sheriff, just thinks the teacher has left town. Still, Quinnie’s going to follow her instincts that something’s wrong.

Her investigation takes her through a damp and smelly marsh, a lobster pound, and more of Maine’s messiest places. She even gets help from her glamorous new neighbor, Mariella. As the girls hunt for clues around Maiden Rock, they encounter a cast of unlikely characters. And if Quinnie’s hunch is right, the search may lead them right into danger…

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez, by Robin Yardi

Published: March 1st, 2016

Life is confusing for Mateo Martinez. He and Johnny Ramirez don’t hang out anymore, even though they used to be best friends. He and his new friend Ashwin try to act like brave, old-time knights, but it only gets them in trouble. And last night, two skunks stole Mateo’s old trike.

Wait—two skunks stole his trike?

Mateo is too big for that rusty kid toy. He has a cool, shiny new bike anyway. But Mateo also has a neighborhood to protect. And he’s about to begin a big, stinky quest to catch the thieves in the middle of the night!

As Mateo protects his neighborhood, he also learns a few things about growing up and letting go.

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

The Eye of Midnight, by Andrew Brumbach

Published: March 8th, 2016

I’ve been particularly looking forward to this one.

On a stormy May day in 1929, William and Maxine arrive on the doorstep of Battersea Manor to spend the summer with a grandfather they barely remember. Soon after they settle in, Grandpa receives a cryptic telegram and promptly whisks the cousins off to New York City so that he can meet an unknown courier and collect a very important package. Before he can do so, however, Grandpa vanishes without a trace.

When the cousins stumble upon Nura, a tenacious girl from Turkey, she promises to help them track down the parcel and rescue Grandpa. But with cold-blooded gangsters and a secret society of assassins all clamoring for the same mysterious object, the children soon find themselves in a desperate struggle just to escape the city’s dark streets alive.

This book has been described as a cross between Indiana Jones and the The DaVinci Code.

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

The Lost Celt, by A.E. Conran

Published: March 15th, 2016

Written in the voice of Mikey, a fourth-grader who believes that eating crunchy things will get your neurons to fire, The Lost Celt follows Mikey’s adventures after a chance encounter with what he thinks is a time-traveling Celtic warrior.

With the help of his best friend Kyler, and clues from his military history book, Mikey tracks down the stranger, and in the process learns about the power and obligations of friendship.

Full of heart, The Lost Celt throws a gentle light on some of the issues facing our veterans and their families, but it’s the humor and infectious camaraderie throughout this book that makes it so memorable.

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

The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society, by Janet Sumner Thompson

Published: April 1st, 2016

When her best friend’s house is threatened with foreclosure, young Annie Jenkins is full of ideas to save the home: selling her appendix on eBay, winning the lottery, facing down the bankers … anything to keep Jason from moving. But Jason’s out-of-work dad blows up at the smallest things, and he’s not very happy with Annie’s interventions, which always seem to get them into more trouble.

But when Annie tracks a lost treasure to Jason’s backyard, she’s sure the booty will be enough to save Jason’s family. Pirate treasure in the Midwest seems far-fetched, even to Annie, but it could be the answer to all their problems. Now all she has to do is convince Jason. As the two hunt for answers and the pressure gets to Jason and his family, Annie discovers that the best-laid plans aren’t always enough and there are worse things than moving away.

Goodreads | Indiebound | Amazon | Author Website

Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters

Published: April 5th, 2016

Definitely a candidate for the most awesome book title of the month.

Xander Miyamoto would rather do almost anything than listen to his sixth grade teacher, Mr. Stedman, drone on about weather disasters happening around the globe. If Xander could do stuff he’s good at instead, like draw comics and create computer programs, he might not be counting the minutes until the dismissal bell.

When spring break begins at last, Xander plans to spend it playing computer games with his best friend, Peyton. But little does either boy realise that they are about to be thrust into the biggest adventure of their lives — a journey wilder than any Xander has ever imagined, full of weird monsters even worse than Lovey. To win at this deadly serious game they will have to rely on their wits, courage, faith, and especially, each other. Maybe Xander should have listened to Mr Stedman about the weather after all…

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

The BFF Bucket List, by Dee Romito

Published: May 3rd, 2016

Ella and Skyler have been best friends since kindergarten — so close that people smoosh their names together like they’re the same person: EllaandSkyler. SkylerandElla.

But Ella notices the little ways she and Skyler have been slowly drifting apart. And she’s determined to fix things with a fun project she’s sure will bring them closer together — The BFF Bucket List. Skyler is totally on board.

The girls must complete each task on the list together: things like facing their fears, hosting a fancy dinner party, and the biggest of them all — speaking actual words to their respective crushes before the end of summer. But as new friends, epic opportunities, and super-cute boys enter the picture, the challenges on the list aren’t the only ones they face.

And with each girl hiding a big secret that could threaten their entire friendship, will the list — and their BFF status — go bust?

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

The Distance to Home, by Jenn Bishop

Published: June 28th, 2016

I love this cover!

Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They’re headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.

This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?

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

That’s all for this edition. What a fantastic variety of new books. Don’t they look awesome? Don’t forget to pre-order them or ask your local library to do so.

Good reading!

Secret Countdown: Six (Other) Books for 2016

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Nine Days To Go

I’m blogging every day about writing, books, inspiration, and maybe the odd story until SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB is published on January 12, 2016!

Today I’m talking about six fantasy and science fiction books that aren’t Secrets of the Dragon Tomb and that I’m looking forward to in 2016.

Bounders, by Monica Tesler

Middle Grade Science Fiction

Publication date: January 5th, 2016

You don’t get a great number of pure science fiction middle grade books, but Monica Tesler proves that they can be done extremely well. This is the story a group of children bred to be “bounders”, who can leap through space and who are recruited to Earth’s expeditionary and defence force.

Generations ago, undesirable genetic traits were bred out of humanity, but now that diversity has been found to be useful, and the genetic traits have been reintroduced for this select group of children, producing a neurodiverse group who have trouble fitting in but whose talents are essential.

The book shares some of the same science fiction space as Ender’s Game and Starship Troopers, but it brings its own unique take on the training of children for war. There are mysteries, adventures, danger and a very cool world in which to play, as well as a unique take on space travel.

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

The Eye of Midnight, by Andrew Brumbach

Middle Grade Fantasy

Publication Date: March 8th, 2016

On a stormy May day in 1929, William and Maxine arrive on the doorstep of Battersea Manor to spend the summer with a grandfather they barely remember. Soon after they settle in, Grandpa receives a cryptic telegram and promptly whisks the cousins off to New York City so that he can meet an unknown courier and collect a very important package. Before he can do so, however, Grandpa vanishes without a trace.

When the cousins stumble upon Nura, a tenacious girl from Turkey, she promises to help them track down the parcel and rescue Grandpa. But with cold-blooded gangsters and a secret society of assassins all clamoring for the same mysterious object, the children soon find themselves in a desperate struggle just to escape the city’s dark streets alive.

This book has been described as a cross between Indiana Jones and the The DaVinci Code. Exciting!

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

Masks and Shadows, by Stephanie Burgis

Historical Fantasy

Publication Date: April 12, 2016

The year is 1779, and Carlo Morelli, the most renowned castrato singer in Europe, has been invited as an honored guest to Eszterháza Palace. With Carlo in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy’s carriage ride a Prussian spy and one of the most notorious alchemists in the Habsburg Empire. Already at Eszterháza is Charlotte von Steinbeck, the very proper sister of Prince Nikolaus’s mistress. Charlotte has retreated to the countryside to mourn her husband’s death. Now, she must overcome the ingrained rules of her society in order to uncover the dangerous secrets lurking within the palace’s golden walls. Music, magic, and blackmail mingle in a plot to assassinate the Habsburg Emperor and Empress–a plot that can only be stopped if Carlo and Charlotte can see through the masks worn by everyone they meet.

This is an utterly unique historical fantasy. It’s incredibly lush and entirely involving, with characters you genuinely won’t forget. I found myself completely immersed in the 18th century world, full of princes, plots, and opera. Don’t miss it.

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

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, by Jennifer Maschari

Contemporary Middle Grade Fantasy

Publication Date: February 23rd, 2016

Ever since twelve-year-old Charlie Price’s mom died, he feels like his world has been split into two parts. Before included stargazing and Mathletes and Saturday scavenger hunts with his family. After means a dad who’s completely checked out, comically bad dinners, and grief group that’s anything but helpful. It seems like losing Mom meant losing everything else he loved, too.

When he follows his sister into a magical world he finds it is identical to their own with one key difference – Mom is alive. But this idealized other world holds terrifying secrets, and he’ll have to defeat monsters both real and imagined or risk losing himself, his sister, and the true memory of his mother forever.

This is a touching, emotionally powerful middle grade contemporary fantasy.

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

Where Futures End, by Parker Peevyhouse

Young Adult Science Fiction

Publication Date: February 9th, 2016

Where Futures End is a novel made up from five interconnected short stories. The first story is set right now (or very close to now) and the subsequent ones step into the future, developing the story up to some unstated point over a hundred years from now. Our universe has somehow intersected with another universe, and a very few people can cross between them, weakening the barrier between the universes.

Over the course of the five stories we experience the lives of different characters – some of whom are able to cross between universes and some of whom aren’t – as the intersection alters both universes, as technology advances, and as global warming begins to take hold.

So what’s so great about Where Futures End? Well, first up the structure is not easy to pull off. Different characters? Different time periods? Different voices? Not an easy thing to manage, and something that could go terribly wrong. Well, it doesn’t. It works beautifully, and rather than losing narrative drive, the end of each story leaves you wanting to read the next to add more pieces to the puzzle. Each adds another layer, revealing more about what was going in the previous stories while developing its own story.

Ambitious. Clever. Gripping. You should add this one to your wish-list right away!

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

Occupy Me, by Trisha Sullivan

Science Fiction

Publication Date: January 21, 2016

Trisha Sullivan is one of the most intelligent, insightful, and imaginative writers working in science fiction today. It’s an absolute delight to have a new science fiction novel from her after almost six years.

A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world. Breathtaking SF from a Clarke Award-winning author.

Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over.

And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.

Note: This is published in the UK right now, but you can easily order it internationally from Amazon or Book Depository.

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Author Website

That’s it! There are plenty more great novels coming out in 2016, but these six look particularly appealing.

One Month To Go! (And celebration giveaway)

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There’s a giveaway at the end of the blog entry in case you want to skip all the rest of it

It’s exactly one month until SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, my first novel, is published!

(Yes, you can pre-order it now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | See all stores)

I’ve been waiting for this day for a long, long time. If you’ve never actually tried to get a book published, you might not realise just how long it can take to get it out there. Here’s how it went for me.

I actually started writing the book in late 2007 and finished the first draft in May 2008.

Then, what with revising, querying agents and more revising, submission to editors and more revising, selling to wonderful editor Christy Ottaviano, and much more revising, plus publishing schedules, production, getting illustrated and designed and all of the rest of it, it will be finally published in January 2016, just over eight years after I started it.

Not all books take this long, of course, but some can take even longer.

Sometimes I get questions about how I came up with the idea for SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, and I want to say, It was almost nine years ago! I have no idea!

The truth is, like most of what I write, it kind of condensed out of a whole cloud of ideas, images, inspirations and random chance. I can point to a whole bunch of influenced:

  • Watching Pride and Prejudice with my wife (the Colin Firth version, of course)
  • The art of nineteenth century French artist Albert Robida
  • A love of outrageous science fiction ideas
  • Doctor Who, Indiana Jones and Tintin
  • Dinosaurs! (Lots of old pulp SF stories had dinosaurs. We need more of them!)
  • An obsession with Ancient Egypt
  • Too many years studying physics at university
  • Probably a whole bunch of things I’ve forgotten

What I ended up with is a thrilling adventure story set on Mars in 1816, full of weird inventions, strange creatures, mummified dragons, an alien culture, and a very proper Regency British society.

The great thing about writing something like this, particularly for a Middle Grade audience, is that there’s genuinely no idea that is too outrageously out there. As long as you can make it work coherently, you can have clockwork robots, pterodactyls, dragons, and pretty much any alien creature your imagination can come up with. You can throw in heart-stopping adventures, desperate peril, and funny characters, and you don’t have to care about whether it’s proper literary or fashionably cynical. You can just make it fun! Man, I love this kind of stuff!

Enough of that, Patrick! Give us a taste!

Well, since you insist…

(Or you can just skip ahead to the giveaway!)

The Opening…

Chapter 1: A Complete Disaster

Mars, 1816

I was dangling from a rope, fifty feet up the side of a great pillar of red Martian rock, with my arms buried in a sopping curtain of tanglemoss and bury-beetles trying to build a hill over my head, when I finally realized I had chosen the wrong summer vacation.

My friend Matthew, Viscount Harrison’s son, had invited me to spend the summer with him. But no. I’d decided to come home instead.

What an idiot.

Right about now, Matthew’s family would be settling down for their tea or going for a quiet stroll in the warm afternoon air. In the evening, when the glitterswarms rose from the depths of the Valles Marineris to spread like a cloth of gold across the sky, they would raise a toast to King George, like any normal family on British Mars.

What they would absolutely, definitely not be doing was swaying dangerously halfway up a giant stack of rock, hunting for an angry bushbear.

This hadn’t exactly been my plan when I got up this morning.

What I had planned was to get my latest copy of Thrilling Martian Tales, lock my bedroom door, and be left alone until lunchtime. I’d finished my chores and even made a great big “Do Not Disturb” sign for my door to keep my little sister, Putty, out.

In the last issue of Thrilling Martian Tales, Captain W. A. Masters, British-Martian spy, had been left hanging by one hand from a mountain temple while the tyrant’s dragon swooped down upon him.

I’d hardly been able to sit still all month, waiting to find out what would happen in the next issue. If I had been Captain Masters, I would have waited until the dragon was almost upon me, then launched myself onto its neck, clambered onto its back, and battled the tyrant riding it. But Captain Masters always did something unexpected. Today, I would find out what.

Or I would have, if our malfunctioning ro-butler hadn’t wandered off, taking the mail with him.

I caught up with the ro-butler just in time to see him coming down the attic ladder carrying three parasols and a wig stand, but no mail. So, with a sigh, I climbed up into the horrific chaos of our attic to see where he might have put it.

I didn’t find my Thrilling Martian Tales, but what I did find was an infestation of crannybugs. The tiny creatures had snuck in during the night and built their little glass palaces under the rafters. Now they were hanging out their miniature silk flags. Soon, they would be multiplying.

I put my head into my hands and groaned.

Matthew had every issue of Thrilling Martian Tales, back to the rare issue no. 1 with the free clockwork death spinner that Captain Masters had used to destroy the Emerald Tyrant’s flying palace.

I’d never even read that issue. And there wouldn’t have been any crannybugs in Viscount Harrison’s house. If there had been, I wouldn’t have had to deal with them. Viscount Harrison’s valet would have sent out to Isaac’s Xenological Emporium for a consignment of catbirds to chase the crannybugs right back out of the attic. Or, if Isaac’s was out of catbirds, he might have sent the automatic servants up to the attic, armed with dusters and drills, to clear away the crannybugs’ palaces, and hope the creatures would leave in a huff.

But no. Here I was instead, while my family tootled about in their own little worlds, leaving it all to me.

Any normal family would do something that would actually get rid of the crannybugs, before they ate completely through the rafters and collapsed the roof down on top of us all.

Not my family.

My family is not good at that kind of thing. They wouldn’t notice the crannybugs until the house collapsed and they were sitting there in the dust and rubble, wondering what had happened.

Which left it to me to save us all from complete disaster, as always.

That was why, an hour later, Putty and I found ourselves on top of one of those pillars of rock, searching through the thick curtains of tanglemoss for the only thing — other than a catbird — that could clear out an infestation of crannybugs: a bushbear.

The bushbear is an evil-looking creature, all spikes and tongues and damp, moldy fur. It lives deep in the wet, slimy folds of tanglemoss, only peeking out at sundown with tiny, bloodshot eyes. If you can drag it into the daylight, it curls up tighter than a hedgehog and you can take it back with you to deal with the crannybugs.

Bushbears try to eat crannybugs, but that’s not what bothers the crannybugs. What they really don’t like is the bushbear’s horrible appearance and general bad temper. Put a bushbear nearby, and the crannybugs get so offended they move out.

Of course, first I had to find one, and that was turning out to be harder than I’d hoped.

From up here on the pillar of rock, I could see the whole of Papa’s estate. The house itself was a great, sprawling mess of a building on the shores of the Valles Marineris. To either side, thick stands of fern-trees whispered and chattered to each other whenever the wind blew, but in front of the house, the lawns stretched down to the water, and good English oaks lined the drive.

Right now, the lawns were being covered by stalls and trestle tables for Mama’s long-planned garden party, which was due to take place tomorrow afternoon. Ridiculous, fake native Martian hovels were being erected on the edge of the fern-trees, and workmen were arguing over the half-finished, towering dragon tomb that Mama was having built beside the water’s edge just for the party. Beside it, a steam lifter stood motionless, its enormous arms spread wide, puffing steam from its mouth into the clear sky.

The dozens of pillars of Martian rock behind the house formed a maze of gullies and dead ends. Mama had wanted them flattened so she could have a proper, carefully designed wilderness like the one on her father’s estate, but Papa wouldn’t hear of it.

Which was a good thing, because without the pillars, the blankets of tanglemoss wouldn’t grow, there would be no bushbears, and we wouldn’t be able to do a thing about the crannybugs that would soon collapse the house around our ears.

So, as I said, Putty and I were on top of a pillar of rock. Although, when I said “on top,” I meant Putty was on top, looking after the rope, while I swung halfway down with the rope around my waist, clawing through the thick moss.

I tried to imagine myself as Captain W. A. Masters, battling my way to the lair of a tyrant of Ancient Mars. Except Captain W. A. Masters would have a helichute or sharp-clawed grip-gloves and would swing easily down the precarious rock face. He certainly wouldn’t have to rely on Putty keeping him safe.

There’s something you should know about Putty. First, her name isn’t Putty. She’s my little sister, and her name is Parthenia, but “Putty” fits her far better. Putty is nine years old, three years younger than me. She is incredibly enthusiastic and as impressionable as wet putty. Show her a new idea, and she’ll throw herself into it like a diver from the top of a cliff.

A month ago, for instance, she met a photonic mechanician and spent the next few weeks poring over books about photonic capture and emission devices. Before that, she read an article by the celebrated xenologist Frank Herbert Kynes and decided to dedicate her life to the study of sandfish. She even got halfway through building a sandfish containment tank in the corner of her bedroom before she encountered the photonic mechanician. And before that… Well, you get the idea. Right now, Putty had decided she was going to be Papa. This was one of her more common obsessions. At least once a year, she turned herself into a little doppelgänger of Papa, complete with tweed jacket, disheveled hair, and eyeglasses she didn’t need, to Mama’s complete despair.

The other thing you need to know about Putty — and this one is much more important — is that she’s very easily distracted. Which might make it seem odd that I would be hanging fifty feet up in the air, suspended only by a rope that Putty was looking after. Well, it was odd. But the chances of me being able to persuade either of my older sisters, Olivia and Jane, to do anything so improper and unladylike were slightly less than zero.

Which left me with Putty, who was at least enthusiastic.

“I say, Edward.”

I shoved my way free of a fold of tanglemoss and shook the damp from my face. Putty was looking down at me.

“Are you holding that rope?” I shouted.

A guilty look crossed Putty’s face, and her head disappeared. A moment later she reappeared. “Yes,” she called.

“What is it?” I said. I dug one hand deep into the tanglemoss, just in case.

“Is that a pterodactyl, do you think?”

Keep reading chapter 1 on the Macmillan Website

Now give us something free! Please!

The Giveaway at Last

Okay, okay here’s a completely unique, never-to-be-repeated, extremely attractive giveaway. I’m giving away the following to one person:

  • A signed hardcover of SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB
  • An awesome mug inspired by the book (I have one of these for drinking my tea, and it is awesome, but yours will be the only other one … in the world
  • A bar of delicious Omega Dragon chocolate from Black Mountain Gold in Wales

Here’s a picture of the prizes:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All art in this blog post by Jeremy Holmes. Copyright Christy Ottaviano Books. Used with permission.