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Bye Bye Fabled Beasts


I just put a Fabled Beasts event up on my website diary (Falkirk Waterstones, Sat 16th July, hope to see you there!) at which I will probably read from First Aid For Fairies or perhaps Storm Singing, then chat about fabled beasts and how to write adventures.

I do lots of Fabled Beasts events. I really enjoy them. And I’ve just realised that I’m about to stop doing them.

I thought I’d said goodbye to Helen, Yann, Rona and the other Fabled Beast Chronicles characters a few years ago, when Maze Running was published.

But I’ve just realised that the real goodbye is this summer.

Because, even though Maze Running was published a few years ago, whenever I’m invited to speak to pupils or readers of the right age group, I always start my event with a reading from the Fabled Beast Chronicles, then a chat about how I wrote Helen’s adventures (unless I’m specifically asked to do something else by the organisers.) But that’s all going to stop. Very soon. August, in fact.
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I’m really really really excited that the first book in the Spellchasers trilogy is coming out in September. And I’m so looking forward to introducing readers to Molly, Innes, Beth and the other characters, and the danger I put them in, and the magic that surrounds them.

But doing lots of Spellchasers events means I won’t be doing Fabled Beast events any more.

If I visit a P5 class next autumn, I will be reading from Beginner’s Guide to Curses. Next spring, I will be reading for Shapeshifter’s Guide to Running Away. And from autumn 2017, I will be reading from Witch’s Guide to Magical Combat. As soon as the first book of the trilogy is launched, Spellchasing will be my default event. Obviously if I’m specifically asked to do a Fabled Beasts event, for a class who are doing a project on it, for example, I will be genuinely delighted to do that. But otherwise, all my adventure novel events will be based on Spellchasers.

And that’s fantastic.

But it is also a little bit sad.

my favourite reading...

my favourite reading…

I’ve just looked at my calendar. I think I’m doing two more events where I will read from the Fabled Beast Chronicles. That’s only two more times that I’ll be able to read my favourite scene from all four books (the cave scene from Storm Singing, with the definitely vain and possibly murderous mermaids.)

Only two more times. And that’s it. Then it’s all about Molly and curses and shapeshifters and spellchasing. And it’s good bye to fabled beasts and centaurs and phoenixes and minotaurs. Sigh. But, if I hadn’t wanted this, I should have kept writing the Fabled Beast series, and not allowed myself to get excited about any other ideas. But I wanted to meet new characters, I wanted to play with new magic and new dangers. This was my choice. So, I should stride ahead cheerfully into the Spellchasers world, and not look back to the Fabled Beasts world.

But it does feel a bit odd. There are lots of books I’ve written that I almost never read from now. Books that I’m really proud of, but that I hardly ever revisit. However,
the Fabled Beasts series has been the backbone of most of my events, for my whole writing life. Moving on to Spellchasers is the start of something new and exciting. But it’s the end of something too…

I’m really keen to introduce lots of new readers to the world of Spellchasers, so you can meet Molly, Innes, Beth and Atacama. And the toad (not that we know who the toad is…)

But I do hope that, once in a little while, I get the occasional excuse to read from a Fabled Beast Chronicles book too.


Archive for the 'Readers' Category

Spellchasers – a chance for you to bring the story to life before anyone else!


Any book has at least two phases of life, maybe a bit like a caterpillar and a butterfly. Or in the case of my new trilogy, like a tadpole and a toad…

For me, as a writer, the book is most alive when I’m writing it, when I’m living inside the story, when I’m making decisions about what happens next, when I can still make changes.

IMG_2523And with my new book, Spellchasers: The Beginner’s Guide to Curses, that phase is very nearly over. I will get one more chance to look at it, not to change my mind about character names or fight scenes or magical plotlines, but just to check that no apostrophes have gone for a walk and that no spelling mistakes have snuck in. After that, my role as this book’s writer will be over.

After that, it’s up to YOU!

After that, the book is only alive when you are reading it! (Or telling people about it, or drawing scenes from it, or acting it out in the garden on a sunny day, or imagining what might happen next after a cliffhanger, or wondering how you would cope if you had a magical curse thrown at you…) That’s when the book is at its most alive.

Normally the book would snooze for a while, in between me writing it, and readers reading it. The book would be waiting for the printer and the marketing people and the distributors and the book reviewers and all those other vital people to do their things.

But this particular book is so bouncy and alive, that it refuses to take a nap at all.Spellchasers #1

And so, Floris have decided to let a few, a very select few, readers have a look at Spellchasers: The Beginner’s Guide to Curses several months before it’s in the shops.

A few keen readers will get a chance to see a very early copy of the book (so early, it might not even be wearing its jacket…)

And you could be one of those readers!

All you have to do is tell my publishers why you want to get a sneak peek of the first Spellchasers adventure, and the winners will be the people who write in with the most creative reasons.

Here’s are all the details: the closing date, the email address, all of that sort of stuff.

So, if you want to bring Spellchasers: The Beginners’ Guide to Curses alive before anyone else, now’s your chance!


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Revealing – The Spellchasers Trilogy!


I can finally tell you all what I’ve been working on for the last three years. It’s a trilogy of adventure novels, called the Spellchasers Trilogy, and here’s the first cover:

Spellchasers #1

What do you think? (The artwork is by Jordi Solano, and I think it’s fab!)

As you can see, the title of first book is:
The Beginner’s Guide to Curses

And I can reveal that the second and third titles are:
The Shapeshifter’s Guide to Running Away
and The Witch’s Guide to Magical Combat

I’ll be able to show you the covers for those soon (I hope!)

I can’t give you many details about the three novels just now, though I will almost certainly drop a few hints in the next few months. I can tell you there will be magic, and danger, and witches, and shapeshifting, and riddles, and chases, and a mysterious toad. And the story is set in Speyside, where I grew up.

The Beginner’s Guide To Curses comes out in August this year, The Shapeshifter’s Guide To Running Away will be published next spring, and The Witch’s Guide To Magical Combat will appear the autumn after that. So, they will all be out within about a year…

But if you think that’s far too long to wait, my publishers Floris Books are very kindly allowing a handful of young readers get a sneak peek of the book before it’s published, so if you’d like to read an early copy, head on over to Discover Kelpies blog, where I give a bit more info about the story, and where you can apply to get an early look at The Beginner’s Guide To Curses.

Now I’m off to finish the third book! (Just adding a bit more magic, and a bit more combat…)


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Is writing a book just like telling a big lie?


The best question I’ve been asked by a young reader at a book signing this year:

“Is writing a book just like telling a big lie?”

I answered, “YES! Yes it is! It’s fantastic! And you completely get away with it, because you’ve ADMITTED you’re telling a big lie! Because that’s what ‘once upon a time’ means…”

“Making stuff up is lying,” I said cheerfully, “and I’m quite open and clear and delighted about that! So yes, writing a book is exactly like telling a big lie!”

And my answer made him happy. (Or, at least, made him go away looking thoughtful…)

But was my answer correct?

Do I really think that I’m lying when I’m writing a novel?

Because, in my heart, I believe I tell the truth in my books. I set up a system of magic, and I stick to it rigorously. I create characters, and I let them do what is right for them (which is often extremely inconvenient.) I sometimes have discussions (arguments!) with editors, when I’m fighting for what feels TRUE for that story. I might say “no, we can’t do that, because Yann would never do that, or Helen would never say that.” And my editor knows what I mean – even though these characters are just words on a page, they still have to act consistently, in a way that seems true to the reader.

So there is truth, in that long, extended, totally made up lie.First Aid for Fairies

For example, at the very end of First Aid for Fairies, one of my characters does something extremely brave, essentially sacrificing himself to save his friends from a monster. I set that scene up. I sent the monster after them, I locked the door to block their exit. I created the (entirely fictional!) situation. But I couldn’t have forced the character to make that choice, to do that dangerous and brave thing. That could only happen, and could only feel true within the huge lie of the novel, because he was a character whose loyalty and bravery we already believed in.

And in the novel I’m finishing just now, I have a huge decision to make, about a choice the main character is going to make at the very end of the story. But even though I’m the writer, I’m not going to make that choice. Molly is going to make that choice, because it has to be the choice that is true to her, true to the character that I admit I’ve made up, but who has become real over the course of the three books I’ve written about her.

So, yes, a novel is a lie, but I think it’s an honest lie.

It’s also a lie that a writer puts a lot of effort into making convincing, at exactly the same time as admitting it is a big lie… (Look at this shiny cover! Look at these chapter headings! This is a story! It’s not real!) But we still need our stories to feel real, to feel true.

That’s why I do so much location research, to make my books seem real. Even if I’m writing about magic spells and monsters, I need the book to have convincing settings and characters. I need the lie to feel true, so that you the reader care about the story, care about the characters, and keep reading to find out what happens next. Because while you are reading, it feels real. Even though you know it’s not real. It’s a big lie, and you know it’s a big lie, but you still enjoy it!

If it didn’t feel real, because you know that location and you know the cave doesn’t go that deep into the earth, or the castle door doesn’t look like that, then suddenly you’d be reminded that it was a big lie, which would knock you out of the story.

So that’s why even though a novel is a big lie, and even though I ADMIT it’s a big lie, I still make sure it’s a convincing big lie…

If stories are big lies, then they are big lies that we as writers make as true as we can, and big lies that we as readers seem to need…

Right, I’m off to write another chapter of a great big huge exciting lie… What a brilliant job!


Archive for the 'Readers' Category

What Lari’s Doing Next… (Which is actually what Lari did earlier this year and last year and the year before!)


One of the weirder things about being a writer is the long delay between writing a book and the publication of the book. I have completely finished writing the words for at least (counting on my fingers) five books that won’t be out for months or even years, because they are still being illustrated or edited or just sitting waiting patiently in a queue to be published.

That means that when I finally launch a book, and chat to readers about that book, it might be a couple of years since I finished writing it. (And yes, I do reread my books before publication, so I don’t sound like I’ve forgotten them!)

It also means that there can be long gaps between new books, which makes it look like I’ve stopped writing (I haven’t), or lots of books at once, which makes it look like I’m suddenly churning books out (I’m not! I am just writing sort of steadily, most of the time…)

My most recent book (The Tale of Tam Linn, still one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever held in my hands) came out last year, and I’ve had a bit of a lull at the start of this year, but it’s all about to heat up again. I have quite a few books appearing on shelves in the next year or so, and I’m really excited about all of them.

So, here’s what next. Ranging from a book so nearly ready that we’ve actually got a cover, to a novel that I’ve not even started yet…serpent

Serpents & Werewolves, Stories of Animal Shapeshifters from Around the World.
Another collection of my favourite myths and legends, this time about shapeshifters. There are serpents and werewolves, but also dragons and swans and frogs…
This book is very nearly ready (look, we have a cover already!) and it will be published on the 10th of September 2015.

I’m also working on another collection of stories in the same series (along with Girls Goddesses and Giants, and Winter’s Tales). Wild Horses, Wings and Warriors (still a provisional title) will be a collection of horse myths and legends. No pony club stories, but lots of thundering hooves and battles! And perhaps a centaur.

tam-linnBut there’s more! Next spring there will be another Kelpies Traditional Tale picture book, illustrated by the amazing Philip Longson, who also illustrated The Tale of Tam Linn. I am so happy to be working with Philip again, and I can’t wait to see what he does with the monster in this story…

And even more… VIKINGS this time. breaking
The lovely Cate James and I, who worked together on Breaking the Spell, have another Frances Lincoln collaboration on the way.The Dragon’s Hoard is a collection of Viking sagas. There will be dragons, battles, boats and swords. And a swan. Also a zombie. (I didn’t expect the zombie.) I’ve finished the words, and Cate is working hard on the pictures, so this should be out in autumn 2016.

And still more. I’m also writing novels. Probably three novels. Possibly a trilogy. Likely to be set in the North East of Scotland. But whatever happens with all those probablies and possiblies and likelies, there will definitely be magic and danger.

So, that’s what’s next. I’d better get back to writing the books for 2017 and 2018…


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Why I don’t dress up for school Book Weeks


I spend a lot of time answering questions and encouraging story ideas from school children dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2, various princesses, Mathilda, Frodo, centaurs (hello Yann), purple fairies (hello Lavender), Dorothy, Alice, the Cheshire Cat and an impressive number of Boys in Dresses.

Why? Because I’m often invited to schools during their Book Week and they often decide that the day I visit in the best day to Dress Up As Your Favourite Book Character. Which is lovely! I get a kick out of saying: great idea Gandalf, or fantastic question Hermione…

I don’t just speak to school halls filled with book characters on World Book Day or during Book Week Scotland, because lots of schools sensibly hold their book weeks at other times of the years. (It’s hard to get an author at short notice in early March and late November!)

When I’m standing up in front of pupils in fabulous costumes, I sometimes feel guilty that I haven’t dressed up myself. It’s not as if I don’t have favourite book characters…

But when I’m doing an author event, I am never just one person. I am me, obviously, chatting about how I write. But I’m also lots of other characters, when I’m reading from my own books, and when I’m telling the stories which inspire me.

For example, earlier this week, I visited an Edinburgh primary school filled with pupils (and teachers) in brilliant homemade outfits. I was just wearing my usual boring black and grey clothes, so I felt a bit underdressed! But in few hours I spent at the school, I was:

A mermaid
A girl drowning in a cave
A girl falling down a mountain
An untrustworthy magician
A Viking hero
A bossy king
A scared boy
A monster eating a bull
A shape-shifting demon (which involved brief moments as a caterpillar, a T Rex, a lion and a buffalo)
Several really annoyed gods
And a ten-armed Hindu heroine
(and that’s just what I can remember!)

Dressing up as Durga might be a bit distracting...

dressing up as Durga might be a bit distracting…

And I suspect it’s easier to be a lion and a mermaid and a god, if I’m wearing boring jeans and a cardi, rather than dressed as Gair from the Power of Three, or Annabeth from The Heroes of Olympus, or Janet from Tam Linn, or Francesca Greenwood’s amazing Durga from Girls Goddesses and Giants

So, that’s why I don’t dress up for all the Book Weeks I get invited to! But I’m always happy to see your costumes…

(And yes, if you’re wondering, getting to become a god, a heroine, a monster and a caterpillar even briefly as part of a normal working day, is one of the many reasons I love my job.)


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Adventures can inspire poetry


I love to see stories written by school pupils after my adventure-writing workshops, but it’s also really special to see stories or poems or plays or pictures from kids who have read the books rather than met me at an author session. Because what they’ve created hasn’t been inspired by me bouncing up and down like a daft thing in a classroom, but by the words I write on the page.

So I was delighted to receive this poem, inspired by the Fabled Beast Chronicles, from Virginia Curtis, age 10, who lives in the Cheviots:

Wing beats slow and steady,
My selkie friend asks are you ready.
Centaur cantering along behind,
Minotaur shouts this world is mine!

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Fairy flys up to me,
Says, look over there, it’s him we seek!
Fawns, urisks attack and scare us,
Dragon roars I’m not a bus!

We are flying away,
We are all shouting, Hip,hip,hooray!
Wolf-person howls in the distance,
Which monster will stricke next? Giant ants?

Isn’t that fantastic!

My favourite line in the poem is probably ‘Dragon roars I’m not a bus’ because to be honest, I did sometimes use Sapphire the dragon as a handy mode of transport, and also because I am REALLY missing Sapphire as I write my new adventure, because without her, it’s much harder to get my characters around!

But I also really love the line ‘Which monster will strike next? Giant ants?’ I’m not considering a giant ant as a baddie at the moment, but for as long as I’m writing there will always be another monster and an other adventure, so that’s a brilliant line to end on.

I love seeing art or words inspired by my books, because it allows me to discover how readers see the characters. I know who the characters are in my head, and that’s what I try to put down on paper, but when readers read the books, the characters and stories come to life in a different way inside their heads. Stories about the characters (or haikus, or floorplans for selkies’ houses, or wanted posters for the minotaur – I’ve seen them all) are a great way for me to discover how readers experience the characters.

That’s why I love reading poems from readers, and all the other wonderful things readers send me!

Thanks so much to Virginia for letting me put her fabulous poem on the blog. (Please keep writing!)

 


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The only thing I hate about being an author…


I love being an author. The best bit is writing stories and adventures, but I love lots of the other bits of being an author too. I enjoy redrafting and I really love working with editors. I love meeting readers and talking about my books too.
But the one bit of being an author that I really don’t enjoy is …
getting my photo taken!
At family birthday parties and on family holidays, I avoid being in photos (usually by taking them) but at book launches and book events, and for newspaper articles and book festival programmes, I find myself grinning at a camera on a regular basis.
That grin can get painful after a while. I bet it never looks natural.
And my hair… I always forget to brush it
And my clothes… I only have a couple of tops which are tidy enough to wear in public so they appear in rotation in all the photos…
So, I really don’t like getting my photo taken.
But now I’ve found the best way to do it. Share the picture with a DRAGON! Because then hardly anyone will pay any attention to me.
Or even better, share the pictures with a DRAGON and lots of school pupils, because then noone will pay any attention to me!

And I made this discovery during our recent Dragon Tour. The Fabled Beast Chronicles have splendid new covers, and the clever marketing people at Floris came up with the idea of a dragon tour to publicise the new covers. So Nuria designed and created a dragon costume for her car, and we drove to various schools all over Scotland and the north of England, then dressed the car as Sapphire at each school.

We started at Pirniehall School in Edinburgh, where we learnt how to dress a dragon VERY fast.
Pirniehall pupils

The same day, we flew up to Forthview Primary, where every single child from P1 to P7 came out into the carpark to pat and stroke and feel Sapphire’s scales and teeth!
forthview

Then we went to the Strathearn campus in Crieff, and children from Crieff Primary, Muthill Primary and Braco Primary schools met Sapphire.
strathearn

Then our longest journey – up to Arduthie Primary in Stonehaven, where it was so windy we had to anchor the corners of the flames down with children!
Pupils at Arduthie (2)

Then we took the Fabled Beast Chronicles to Cumbria, first to Hunter Hall School which has RED SQUIRRELS on its school tie!
Hunter Hall pupils (2)

Then to Armathwaite School, where the amazingly confident and creative children spent the whole of their morning break and most of lunchtime playing with Sapphire
Pupils at Armathwaite 6 (2)

We might take the dragon tour to a couple of other parts of Scotland, once Sapphire has had time to recover (and dry out) but in the meantime: thanks so much to every school we visited, you were all fantastic! (And a huge thanks from me to Nuria – well done for creating such a wonderful dragon, and for all your wonderful dragon navigation!)
Nuria with Sapphire

But to be honest, I still don’t like getting my photo taken…


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Fabled Beast Chronicles – the shock of the new


The First Aid for Fairies series has a new name and a new set of covers!

And I’m not sure how I feel about that. I really love the covers of the books that I’ve been reading and talking about for years, and I’ve got so used to them that it’s hard to imagine those stories and those characters wearing any other covers.

But even though I still do a double take every time I look at the new covers, I think I’m already falling in love with them too. (Anyway, the new covers aren’t available until September, so I have plenty of time to get used to them!)

So, here they are, complete with their new name: Fabled Beasts Chronicles.

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The incredible artwork is by Manuel Sumberac, and the covers were designed by the very talented Leah McDowell. And they are certainly very glossy, very professional and absolutely fantastic.

The inside pages of the novels are also newly snazzy, with fancy chapter headings:
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This means that First Aid For Fairies And Other Fabled Beasts has now had THREE covers in its seven year history. Here they are:

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I’m going to be honest, and say that I never really liked the original cover for First Aid For Fairies And Other Fabled Beasts. I was sort of fond of it, because it was the cover of the very first book I ever had published. But I never thought it was right for the story. It seemed too pink and fluffy and girly and young for the cover of a book with minotaurs and snakes and battles in the dark of the night…

However I really did love the silhouettes and colours of the next set of covers. Also, these are the covers that most readers know, because from Wolf Notes onwards these covers appeared with each new book in the series.

But Floris Books wanted to bring all the books together with a series title because, after all, the First Aid For Fairies And Other Fabled Beasts series is quite long and unwieldy.

So, they came up with these new covers.

I’m going to admit I don’t even know who some of the characters ARE in the covers. Though to be fair, that was true of the first set too. Who is the bloke in the cloak on the rock on the Wolf Notes cover? Is he a one of the Celtic heroes? I’ve never been sure…

WolfNotescover (1)

So, on the newest First Aid cover, which of the girls is Helen, which is Rona?
fabled beast chronicles First Aid

I don’t know. But that’s ok. The covers are there to draw readers in, to give them a flavour of the adventure and magic inside, to attract their attention and to intrigue them enough to pick the books up and open them. And I think these covers do that job brilliantly.

My favourite is the Wolves Notes cover, with that incredible sword standoff between the wolves and Lee and Helen. (At least, I think it’s Lee and Helen. They’ve got excellent hair, whoever they are…)

fabled beast chronicles Wolf Notes

Which is your favourite new cover, and how do you think they compare to the previous covers? And do you associate other favourite books with specific covers, and get a shock when the publishers decide to update them?

Please let me know!

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Patron of Reading at Forthview Primary


I am delighted to announce that I am now the Patron of Reading at Forthview Primary in Edinburgh!

In three very packed events last week, I chatted about books and stories with EVERY SINGLE CLASS in the school (more than 400 kids in one day) and I was really impressed by their passion and their imaginations and their brilliant questions.

I was also extremely impressed that parents turned up to each session and sat at the back of the hall (they got chairs, the pupils sat on the floor…) watching as their kids discussed books and reading, and came up with story ideas.

That was particularly important because what the school really want to achieve is a Reading Community, where everyone – pupils, teachers and families – share their enjoyment of books and reading for pleasure.

I am a huge fan of reading for pleasure (I do it myself as often as I can!) but I’m also a huge fan of writing for pleasure, making stuff up for pleasure, and playing with stories for FUN!

So when I visited, the nursery and P1s read The Magic Word and brought a toy pony to life with some magic ingredients and a bit of stirring.

The P2s and P3s read Never Trust a Tiger and helped a tricksy little rabbit escape several times from a hungry cobra.

And the P4s to P7s read a bit of Storm Singing from the Fabled Beasts series, and worked out lots of different and dramatic ways to rescue someone from a cliff edge.

I also met some of the teachers, some of the parents, and some of the council and library staff who will be working wit the reading community. And I heard about lots of the brilliant ideas the school are coming up with, like a reading group for dads.

And I want to go back! I want to go back and chat to smaller groups about what they love reading, what they love writing and possibly give them sneak previews of what I’m writing too. And that’s the great thing about being Patron of Reading – I will go back!

It’s amazing to be invited to be part of such an ambitious project, and I’m really looking forward to it!

Thanks Forthview Primary, and hope to see you again soon! (Keep reading! And keep away from cobras and cliff edges…)

Here are some pictures of the launch:

photo 3 (2)
I think this was when I asked who loved stories! (Or it might have been when I asked for ideas about how to escape from a cobra. They’re resourceful kids in Forthview…)

photo 1 (2)
This is inspirational headteacher Mrs Littlewood talking about how much she loves reading.

photo 5

This is me grinning like a loon in front of a table of books.

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And finally, a slightly odd picture of me either doing a wee dance, or pretending to kick a tree trunk into a pit to save a tiger.