Writer in Residence – Day 2

So here I am on Day 2 as Writer in Residence at Hendra Holiday Park and I’m already overflowing with enthusiasm for all the lovely park details I can include in the third Completely Cassidy book. Yesterday morning, we took the Hendra train around the park (with Henry the Hippo) and visited the soft play area with my little boy. Then we packed up our beach gear and headed to the world-famous Fistral Beach, home of Newquay’s surfing community.

image

We spent the rest of the day here, watching the Roxy surf competition and stuffing our faces with Rick Stein fish and chips and Cornish ice cream. I bumped into fellow writer Lisa Glass on the beach too for a natter.

image

Then it was back to Hendra with an exhausted but happy small boy to jot down some notes for Cassidy 3. There’s loads of fab entertainment in the evenings – maybe we’ll manage to catch that tomorrow evening!

I’m already wishing we had longer here…

Writer in Residence!

Today is the first day of my stint as Writer in Residence at the fantastic Hendra Holiday Park in Newquay, Cornwall. I’m hard at work on the third Completely Cassidy adventure, in which Cassidy goes on a family summer holiday to a holiday park in – you guessed it – Cornwall. So part of the reason I’m at Hendra is for research – there’s nothing like first-hand experience of a place to fire up the imagination. I’m also doing a Completely Cassidy event here on Sunday at 3.30pm and signing books afterwards – I’m expecting loads of talent to appear, especially since Jamie on reception here told me last night that he’s invented some amazing new hula hoop moves that he might show off on Sunday!

image

The sun is shining this morning

I’m really looking forward to finding my way around Hendra – it looks fantastic and I know lots of the park will end up in the book. The Oasis fun pools look amazing – sure to delight my inner Cassidy. I can’t wait to get down to Fistral beach, either, and might even try my hand at surfing! It’s certainly going to be an action-packed few days and I’ll be blogging about it every day.

Terry Pratchett Blog Tour: Wyrd Sisters Review

farewell terry pratchett tourAh, witches of Lancre, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Wyrd Sisters was the second Discworld I read, back when I was sixteen or seventeen, and my first introduction to Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. I was instantly charmed by the idea of three bickering women thrown together by their work, each of whom had their own ideas about how witchcraft should be done. Granny Weatherwax is a traditionalist – a stickler for doing things right, by the old ways no matter what the cost. Nanny Ogg is – well, I suppose you might say she’s more of an organic witch, funny, earthy and often shown as bumbling. And then there’s Magrat – young, inexperienced and determined to prove to herself and everyone else that she’s up to the job. And the job in this case is to help the rightful King of Lancre to fulfil his destiny and resume his place as ruler of the kingdom. Whether he wants to or not.

One of the things I loved about Wyrd Sisters was the way it took a well-known story and poked fun at it. I was studying A Level English at the time I first read the book and took great delight in spotting the familiar landscape of Macbeth (with elements of Hamlet and several other nods to Shakespeare tossed in here and there for good measure.) But what it taught me the most was feminism. Here we had three strong female characters; smart, sassy women who flew rings around everyone else. Granny Weatherwax is irritable but brilliant, with razor-sharp mind I would come admire enormously in time. Nanny Ogg is one of the warmest, funniest Discworld characters ever but don’t let that fool you – she’s fiercely intelligent too. Even Magrat, who seems like a bit of a wet blanket at first glance, comes into her own and does her bit for the coven and for herself. Three women, standing up for themselves and what they believed in, refusing to let anyone disrespect them and demanding that the world (or at the very least, the rest of the Ramtops) pay attention. And I don’t doubt that Wyrd Sisters was a massive influence on my own writing – in re-reading it for this review I could practically see the way that Terry Pratchett’s style had touched and shaped my own. It has everything – a fabulous plot that rocks along, great characters (the kind I am jealous of not having written) a wonderful setting that was close to my heart (having grown up in the Lake District), jokes and puns, and a song about a hedgehog that I still remember now. In fact there are so many fantastic things about Wyrd Sisters that are good and important and awesome that I could spend all day writing a list of what I loved about it. Pratchett’s voice was so fresh at the time and it’s good to know Wyrd Sisters is every bit as readable now as it was when it was first published. It hasn’t really aged or dated.

I recommend Wyrd Sisters to anyone who is just getting started with the Discworld series – it’s a perfect introduction to three amazing women and laugh out loud funny in a lot of places. In spite the humour, there are times when the story veers off towards into more serious territory and you’ll just as easily find yourself with a little something in your eye. Granny Weatherwax is more than just a character to me – she’s a role-model (yes, really) and Wyrd Sisters is a great way to get to know her better. It may not be her first appearance (that’s in Equal Rights) but I feel it’s the book in which Terry Pratchett gave her free rein and let her be the character she was meant to be. Read it: you won’t regret it.

This review is part of the Farewell Terry Pratchett Blog Tour, instigated by Vivienne DaCosta.

We’re Going to Need Books…Lots of Books.

It’s that time of year when we’re looking back at the year that’s been, while simultaneously looking forward to the year ahead. And naturally for readers, that involves books. So I thought I’d do a list of books (not exhaustive) of books I loved this year. They weren’t all published in 2014 but that’s the year I first found them. So here they are, in no particular order:

1) Silent Saturday by Helen Grant
The first book in the Forbidden Spaces trilogy gave me the shivers but I couldn’t put it down. I am a sucker for a gorgeous hero, though, and Kris ticked all the boxes.

2) Now You See Me by Emma Haughton
This slick thriller had me gripped from start to finish – I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. A fab debut.

3) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I loved this sweet love story with a darker undercurrent set in the 80s. Will be looking out for more of Rainbow’s books.

4) The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling
I read this after meeting Sharon in April and absolutely adored the sparky main character, Remy Brunel. A breathless steampunk adventure that I didn’t want to end. Luckily, there’s a follow-up book, The Ruby Airship.

5) Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton
I read this over the Christmas break and fell in love with Kitty and Dylan. A gorgeous romance I wanted to read again the moment I finished it, featuring one of the coolest grandmothers ever!

6) One Wish by Michelle Harrison

I loved Michelle’s Thirteen Treasures trilogy and loved the idea of a prequel even more. This was so beautifully written, I was swept up in the adventure and it fitted perfectly in with the other books – so very clever!

That list could have been much longer, obviously! But I wanted to leave some space for a few of the books I’m looking forward to in 2015. Again, in no particular order, these are:

1) The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone (out February)
2) Seven Days by Eve Ainsworth (out February)
3) The Boy Who Drew The Future by Rhian Ivory (out September)
4) Spotlight on Sunny by Keris Stainton (out March)
5) This is Not a Love Story by Keren David (out May)
6) Urban Legends by Helen Grant (out March)
7) An Island of our Own by Sally Nicholls (out April)
8) Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler (May 2015)
9) Better Left Buried by Emma Haughton (March 2015)
10) When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman (September 2015)

But the book I am most looking forward to in 2015 is my own – Completely Cassidy: Accidental Genius, out in March. It’s been a very long time coming – 2014 was the first year I haven’t had a book out since my first ever book was published in 2010. But I’m looking forward to introducing people to Cassidy, who I hope is a lot of fun – she’s certainly a lot of fun to write! And I love the cover too:

Fiction - CompletelyCassidy - front cover Oct 14

How about you – what books have I missed off my lists? What are you looking forward to reading?

Help Huck Update

I have sad news about Huck, the stray cat we found on the woods on Tuesday night. The vet has told me although they can’t find anything obvious wrong – blood tests for Feline HIV and Leukaemia were both negative, as was the test for infectious peritonitis. But the severe anaemia he has is a life-threatening problem – he simply doesn’t have enough red blood cells and can’t seem to produce more. His stomach hasn’t been stimulated by the injections and fluids they have given him and he has stopped eating. The only option at this point is a blood transfusion, which is horrendously expensive and takes time because cats have complex blood which needs to be typed. In spite of this, I would agree to the transfusion if the vet could reassure me that it would help Huck to recover. But he can’t.

He says he thinks we found Huck too late, and not a day too late – a week or maybe two. He says although Huck’s spirit is strong, his body is too damaged to repair itself. He says it is time to do the kind thing, the ethical thing and although it breaks my heart, I have to agree. So I have given permission to put this poor little darling beyond the reach of pain and loneliness.

I wish with all my heart that Huck had found me earlier. My husband walks in those woods every day and I’m often there with my son. Huck wasn’t there before Tuesday. And so I’m forced to take what comfort I can from knowing that he won’t die alone and cold and hurting. He was looked after for his final hours and will slip away easily. I’ve also been amazed and humbled by the generosity of every single person who shared, retweeted and donated to Help Huck – thank you so very much, you are all superstars who have made this difficult thing so much easier. I’m sorry I’m not able to give you a happy ending.

The vet has kept the costs down where possible so although I don’t know what the final bill will be yet, there is likely to be some money from all the donations left over. With your blessing, I’d like to make this into a little bursary, to help someone whose pet is ill but unable to receive the treatment they need because they cannot afford it.  This way, Huck’s sad story will have a glimmer of a silver lining and will benefit another pet. If no one objects to this idea, I will speak to the vet to see if they have anyone in need of immediate help, or that it is there if the situation arises.

The vet asked me why I care so much about a little stray I didn’t really know. Huck isn’t my cat after all. And I couldn’t answer him (mostly because I was crying) but I think it’s because Huck could have been my cat – he could have been any of ours because we all know what independent souls they are, they wander off all the time and get into scrapes. If he had been mine, I would want someone to find him, someone who wouldn’t walk away, who would do all they could to help him.

We did all we could and I am desperately sad that it wasn’t enough. I’d still do it all again tomorrow.

Help Huck!

imageThis is an unashamedly emotional and heartfelt post. Last night, we found a cat in the woods. He was painfully thin but friendly. He had a mark on his neck where his collar used to be and was clearly somebody’s pet. We rang the RSPCA, who advised us that they couldn’t help and perhaps we should just leave him to fend for himself (no judgement for that – they cannot help every stray and financially, it was the most sensible advice. Anyone who knows me will understand that I couldn’t just walk away – it was cold last night and his miaows were so sad). So we named him Huck, after the homeless guy in Scandal, and he spent most of yesterday evening curled up on my lap, purring, clearly just enjoying being cared for again. And inevitably, he stole my heart.

Today, we took Huck to the vet. The vet couldn’t find a chip. There was more bad news – Huck is dehydrated and anaemic and has something called Gut Stasis, which are all treatable. He needs tests for Feline HIV and Leukaemia, and then more tests after that before he can get antibiotics and treatment. And all of this is going to cost a lot of money. I can pay for some but not all of this – I have a toddler and a teenager, a dog and lots of rabbits, not to mention a husband (and we all know how expensive they are). So I am asking for your help. Can you spare a little cash to help Huck? If everyone chips in a little bit, we can raise the money for the tests – £500 – in no time.

Why do I care so much?

I have been an animal lover all my life and had my own cat until recently. She lived until she was nineteen and if she’d ever been lost and lonely and hurt, I would have wanted someone to care for her. Although ultimately Huck may be beyond help, I would like to give him a chance – he is such a loving, friendly cat. I’d love to help him get better and reunite him with the family I know are missing him. And if we can’t find them, I’d like to find him a new home. If you’re an animal lover too, you’ll understand.

How will the money be spent?

Treatment for dehydration, gut stasis and fleas. Initial tests for Feline Aids and Feline Leukaemia (these cost over £300) plus follow up tests (infectious anaemia and peritonitis) and treatment if needed. Fingers crossed, we’ll get Huck better and if we can’t find his owner then we’ll rehome him with a new family. But if the worst happens, I’ll do the kindest thing and ensure he doesn’t suffer any more,even though I know that will be hard and heart-breaking. I can’t afford to do this on my own – I’ve already committed some money but I need your help to pay for the rest.

How can I contribute?

I’m hoping to set up a Just Giving page but I need to check they will accept the campaign first so for now, watch this space. If Just Giving can’t help, I will do Paypal or Eventbrite or something. Rest assured the money will go to helping Huck and anything left over will go to The Cat’s Protection League.

EDITED: Just Giving have approved the Help Huck page – if you’d like to donate something (and small is fine, it all helps) you can find it here: http://www.justgiving.com/yimby/HelpHuck

I’ll post regular updates and pictures on Twitter (using the hashtag #HelpHuck – please do help retweet to get the word out) and ensure everyone knows how Huck is doing. Ideally, we’ll then start a Help Huck Get Home campaign. But before all that, you’ll get the warm feeling from knowing you did a kind thing – you helped Huck.

Thank you.

Who I’d Haunt by Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne is on the blog today and she’s got an excellent idea:

If I could haunt anyone…I would throw a ghost house party instead

So I’m a ghost. Why would I waste precious ghouling hours haunting living people when there are so many brilliant dead people I can now hang out with?

I would find a haunted house and throw the best party the underworld has ever known.

All my favourite authors would be there. Hunter S Thompson would deffo be up for it. Roald Dahl could do a reading. Jane Austen and I could gossip about Mr Darcy in the bogs. And I’d corner Enid Blyton in the hallway and ask her why she called characters ‘Dick’ and ‘Fanny’ in the Magic Faraway Tree.

I would invite all the ludicrously-attractive dead people and it wouldn’t be weird to fancy them anymore because I’d be dead too. I’d try dragging James Dean into a pile of coats and chat up River Phoenix in the kitchen.

And, at my ghost house party, all my favourite dead characters from books would magically turn up too. Sirius Black and I could play a drinking game, Dumbledore could tell me wise stuff(must not mention ALL the dead Harry Potter characters, though I want to), Beth and I could watch Little Woman on Ghost Netflix and sob together.

Oh, yeah, and Finnick from The Hunger Games would have to be there – because YUM.

Thanks, Holly – Lucy from My So-Called Afterlife most definitely approves!

Holly’s latest book is Soulmates:

soulmates

Every so often, two people are born who are the perfect match for each other. Soulmates.

But what if meeting your soulmate is earth-shattering – literally?

After a chance meeting at a local band night, Poppy and Noah find themselves swept up in a whirlwind romance unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. But with a secret international agency preparing to separate them and a trail of destruction rumbling in their wake, they are left with an impossible choice between the end of the world, or a life without love.

Find out more about Holly on her website or catch her on Twitter @holly_bourneYA

Who I’d Haunt by Luisa Plaja

I’m welcoming the wonderful Luisa Plaja onto the blog today and she’s deploying the multi-haunt:

I’m a greedy potential ghost, me. I don’t want to haunt just one person. I’d like to haunt book-lovers everywhere. These are my kind of people. I want to know which books they pick up when cost isn’t a factor, when they’re free to choose whichever books they fancy on any random day. For all eternity. Yes, I think it would be fun to haunt a public library.

Doing a quick search online tells me that I may not be alone in this desire. This site lists the 10 most haunted libraries in America, and the first of the libraries it features actually has a ghost cam trained on it, so you could even be haunted from the comfort of your own armchair many miles away, in between chapters of a good ghost story. This combines my love of books (and my nosiness) with my love of technology, so it’s a solid win for my ghostly-presence-to-be.

Closer to home, I’ve heard some spooky stories from the staff at my local library that have made my hair curl! Or maybe that was just the damp weather. But still…

This ghost says, “Boo!” with a silent ‘k’ on the end.

Ooh, haunted libraries…sounds right up my street! Thanks, Luisa!
KDLHfinal-small
Luisa Plaja is the author of funny, romantic novels for teenagers. Her latest books are Diary of a Mall Girl, the story of a 15-year-old resident of a shopping centre, and Kiss Date Love Hate, where a girl finds she can change her life and loves through the settings of a computer game.
 Catch Luisa on Twitter @LuisaPlaja


Who I’d Haunt by Emma Haughton

Emma Haughton is joining in the haunting fun today and she done what we were all thinking:

Okay, so I’m going to take a bit of poetic licence with this. If I’m a ghost, I’m dead right? And if I’m dead, I’m going to assume I can go back and haunt anyone, anytime. Cos this is ghosts we’re talking about, and ghosts can do whatever they want. At least in my afterlife, they can.

So, I reckon I’d go back and haunt myself. You know, my younger self, before I died. I’d go back and bug the hell out of me – in a nice, not-too-scary way – until I opened my eyes and ears and listened to what my wiser, dead self had to say. And it would all be stuff like ‘It’ll all be okay’, ‘You’re doing fine’ and ‘This isn’t your fault’. I’d be the most comforting phantom in the whole of the afterlife. I’d be the spectral embodiment of encouraging.

But I’d also be the Ghost of Tough Love. And the main thing I’d do is appear at all those moments when I could have started to write, and didn’t, cos I was too scared. Honestly, ghosts don’t frighten me half as much as the fear of failing at the one thing I ever really wanted to do – only most of my life I haven’t been brave enough to admit I wanted to do it.

So I’d go back as a friendly – but stern – apparition and I’d say: ‘Get on with it. You can do it. Stop running away from writing. Have some faith. Knuckle down and do the work.’

Sort of an ethereal life coach. Tough, but firm.

Thanks, Emma! The Ghost of Tough Love sounds amazing!

Emma is the author of YA psychological thriller, Now You See Me

NowYouSeeMe_frontcover_green

Three years ago, Hannah’s best friend Danny Geller vanished without trace. Not knowing if he’s alive or dead, she struggles to move on with a life shrouded in secrets and suspicions… But as hope returns to haunt Danny’s family and their desperation is used against them, can Hannah bear to expose the painful truth? Or is it better to live in the dark?

“It’s not him. The body in the water. It’s not Danny.”

     I waited for the impact, for the news to sink in, to flood me with elation. But there was nothing. Only numbness.

     This was good news. So why did I feel so defeated?

     Then it hit me.

     A darker, deeper, buried part of me had been hoping all this was finally over.

Visit Emma’s website, connect with her on Facebook or join her for a chat on Twitter: @Emma_Haughton