Wednesday, 17 October 2018

THREE STRIKES and a new book deal!

Hello! It's been an amazing few weeks, which I'll write about here soon, but I wanted to let you know about 2 of the most amazing things that happened recently:

THREE STRIKES is now out in the world! This collection of novellas features The Twins of Blackfin by me, The Darkness by Lucy Christopher, and Matchgirl by Rhian Ivory, and it is the perfect chilling pre-Halloween read (even if I do say so myself...)

If this sounds like your kind of thing, you can order a copy from Firefly Press with free P&P, or from any other good bookseller, or order it from your local library.

You can also come and see us talking about the book in Waterstones Birmingham on 24 October - the event is free, you just need to book a ticket. You can also watch a video of me talking about The Twins of Blackfin riiiiight here.

Also -- ALSO -- my new book deal was announced! Harrow Lake, my dark psychological thriller/horror novel, will be published by Penguin Random House Children's in 2020! Puffin UK acquired the UK/Commonwealth/translation rights, and Kathy Dawson Books bought North American Rights, and I couldn't be more thrilled! Check out the announcement in The Bookseller, and I'll post updates here when I have them. The way this all went down was pretty incredible, and I'll tell the whole story in my full wrap-up later this month.

For now...

Kat out x

Friday, 31 August 2018

Summer Wrap-up!

Hear that tiny, melancholy violin? That's me, lamenting the end of summer. After growing up as a Dire Hayfever Sufferer (picture a girl with frizzy hair, red eyes, redder nostrils, staring angrily through her bedroom window -- yeah, you get it) being an adult who does NOT suffer with hayfever anymore makes me want to frolic in the sun. FROLIC. Hence my melancholy at the passing of summer... but it has been a belter. Here's what happened.

Writing-wise, I spent a good portion of the last 3 months editing 2 manuscripts -- THE TWINS OF BLACKFIN, which is my novella for the THREE STRIKES anthology (out 11 October, preordering is for winners, thank you thank you), and HARROW LAKE, a novel I seem to have been working on for decades now.

I also started 2 new manuscripts (though one was actually a reworking of an old one) which were both kind of magical, fun, Welsh-legendy stories, and which got a bit overshadowed by the editing. But now that I'm pretty much done with the edits (I think? Because there could always be more. ALWAYS.) I can get back to drafting.... and so naturally, I have a completely different story idea that's calling to me, and I can't decide what to do. So, here we are.

There have been some pretty epic adventures since my last update -- into caves, up mountains, through forests; finding ruins, exploring castles, and even going out on a boat to eyeball some seals. It's all over on my Insta if you want to check out my adventures, or you can just wait to see these things gradually appear in future books. ;) In any case, I'll just put a couple of my fave pics here for you to see...

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And of course I went back to the circus, as I do every summer, and sat there fizzing with Blackfin-ish excitement. Doubly so this time, because I'm looking forward to a new instalment in the Blackfin story coming out in just a few weeks! Excited, me? YOU BET YOUR WHOLE ASS.

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Summer also saw the advent of YALC, which I attended, and it was a blast. Not only did I spot Jason Momoa, but I also got to sign copies of my books at the Firefly Press stand. And I bought lots of books. And there were samplers of THREE STRIKES flying off the stand like owls from a certain school for wizards. But mostly Momoa.

Reading-wise, I didn't get through as many books as I planned, and have adjusted my Goodreads goal so it doesn't feel like it's on my case all the time: "YOU'RE 4 BOOKS BEHIND YOUR GOAL, LOSER" etc. This is what I read over the past 3 months:

I usually do a rundown of each book, but as this is a 3-month update I'll just highlight my standout faves from each category.

Young Adult: THE SUMMER OF US is Cecilia Vinesse's sophomore novel, and a gorgeous story about 5 friends who go interrailing across Europe, growing apart and falling in love in the process; and the hilarious BOY MEETS HAMSTER by Birdie Milano is about a boy who goes on holiday with his family and best friend to a Butlins-esque caravan park where his crush on the boy-next-caravan is constantly being scuppered by someone in a giant hamster suit.

Graphic novel: MILK FOR THE UGLY (motion book) by Kate Redesiuk and Anna Podeworna was a real surprise find for me. I downloaded an app called Madefire where you can read motion books (a new thing for me) and this was a freebie I downloaded because the cover art was cool. Well, the story is awesome -- about a social worker who calls to check on an elderly woman and finds her living with a collection of 'uglies', which she guards so they won't get out and infect the world. It was really disturbing and brilliant at the same time, with fantastic artwork and a great soundtrack that definitely added to the experience.

Adult: SILVER SILENCE by Nalini Singh. I've been a huge Nalini Singh fan for years -- I think this is about the 30th of her books that I've read -- so knew I would love this one. Silver Silence is the beginning of a new story arc in the Psy-Changeling series. I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction to the bear-shifters, and getting to know more about the Mercants and the various threats dawning in the Psy-Changeling world. Can't wait to get my hands on OCEAN LIGHT and see what the water changelings are up to...

Looking ahead, I'm hoping the autumn will bring lots of new words and adventures, and I will resume my usual monthly updates from now on. I'll also get back to baking now that GBBO is on and the heatwave is off. In the meantime, this is how I will be starting September.

ReadingIN ANOTHER LIFE by Laura Jarratt

AudiobookingSAINTS AND MISFITS by S. K. Ali

Singing along toBABY by Bishop Briggs

Watching: GBBO, X Factor, and Riverdale -- #Bugheadforever. WHAT?

For now...

Kat out x

Friday, 20 July 2018

THREE STRIKES has a cover!


Stopping by briefly to say that the cover for THREE STRIKES - the anthology of novellas featuring stories by my, Lucy Christopher, and Rhian Ivory - has now officially been unleashed, and here it is!

Isn't it pretty? I'm so excited to see the finished print version, which should be sometime before its release on 11 October. If you'd like to preorder a copy (please, please do!) you can order it direct from Firefly Press, from Amazon UK, or from any good book retailer.

If you'd like a little teaser for THE TWINS OF BLACKFIN...

Visiting her best friend's grave at midnight, Bo sees the young people of Blackfin walking the streets in a trance, as though they're looking for something. An eerie voice calls to them, but who does it belong to? Where is the mysterious door it wants them to find? And can Bo avoid falling under the voice's spell herself?

On a completely different note, if you're wondering where the heck my June wrap-up post was, I decided to take a small summer break from the blog (this post notwithstanding), so prepare for a mammoth update in early August when I'll be giving the lowdown on things like YALC, advance copies of THREE STRIKES, what I've been writing and reading all summer, and various adventures involving castles and spooky islands and cemeteries and such. You know what to expect by now, right??

Anyway, back to my WIP, where I'm currently working out the logistics of being cursed to always tell the truth. Fun times.

Kat out x

Sunday, 3 June 2018

May Wrap-up!

In May I celebrated 4 whole years as a published author, as BLACKFIN SKY was published on the 14th May 2014 (I say 'celebrated', but I actually only just realised it this second). And soon there will be another instalment in the story of Blackfin - THE TWINS OF BLACKFIN which will be out in just a few short months as part of the THREE STRIKES anthology, wheeeeeee!

On that theme, I've been told there will be a draft cover for THREE STRIKES coming soon, which is very exciting. It's like seeing an e-fit of your imaginary child's face, or something less ghoulish. Anyway, if I'll be seeing it soon, then it will no doubt be out there in the world not long after that. Expect a special blog post when that happens.

Writing-wise, I've been working on 2 projects for the past month: the new witchy novel, and an old MS I'm sort of dusting off to see whether it might have legs. I've also been putting in some research because the witchy book has an historical thread to it, and although I'm screwing with history a little bit (and why not?) I want to at least get the key historical markers in the right positions before I drop-kick them out of the park. I think I just mixed some metaphors there. Go with it, it'll be fine.

As part of my research, I got to go on a few adventures. First I went to Harlech Castle, because I'm all about the castles.

And I went back to Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey, because it's stunning. Also book-relevant.

View from the ruin of Dwynwen's chapel on Ynys Llanddwyn

And I visited a 5000-year-old burial mound, as you do. Also book-relevant.

Quite a mound.

Another fun thing that happened this month: I bought a book-inspired necklace from Literary Galaxy which has just launched. This one was inspired by The Cruel Prince which I have yet to read, but I just loved the necklace.

Speaking of books I haven't read... I had quite a meagre reading month in May. I only read 3 books.  These are they:

EVERLESS by Sara Holland is a YA fantasy series-opener about Jules, a poor teen girl who lives in Sempera -- a land where a person's lifetime can be used as currency. To try and get herself and her father out of debt, Jules takes a job working in Everless, home to an aristocratic family who chased Jules and her father out of town when Jules witnessed a crime as a little girl. Lots of secrets, lies, and political intrigue made this my favourite read of the month.

DAMSELFLY by Chandra Prasad is a Lord-of-the-Flies-esque thriller about a group of private school teens whose jet crash lands on a desert island. It's a survival story, though the main threat doesn't come from predatory animals or starvation, but rather from one particularly nasty member of the group and an unknown stranger they call 'The Enemy'. There were lots of cool elements to the story, but it kind of goes from zero to WTF without much explanation. Bonus points for the creepiness of having the dead pilot's glass eye watching over the group the whole time, though.

(DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME by Kate Karyus Quinn starts out weird, and gets weirder and weirder as it goes along. Gardnerville is a place where nobody dies or gets sick, but that comes with a price: every four years, some murderous urge takes hold of the Gardnerville teens. That was what happened to Skylar's sister Piper four years ago: she led a bunch of people down to the railway bridge and made them jump off. She's been locked up in the reformatory ever since. Skylar has spent the intervening years living in a pill-induced haze, but now it's time to face her own fourth year, and face her sister again. I liked this one a lot initially, but the narrative skipping back and forth through time lost me, and I ended up taking a long while to finish it. Top marks for weirdness, though.

And that's it for my May reads! I'll leave you with a snapshot of how I'm starting June:

Reading: OUTCAST by Robert Kirkman

Audiobooking: THE FIREMAN by Joe Hill

Singing along to: NUMB by Meg Myers and KILL V. MAIM by Grimes

For now...

Kat out x

P.S. Some of you might be receiving this blog post by email if you subscribed to my blog in the past. If you'd rather not get these emails in future, please click on the linky thing to unsubscribe. I don't even know how to access the list of subscriber emails on Blogger, so you won't be getting any emails from me except these blog posts, should you so desire. 

Monday, 7 May 2018

April Wrap-up!

Spring is here! FINALLY. Time to shuck the author fleeces in favour of author T-shirts that should probably have been binned several stains ago.

As if by magic (or the magic of being released from the SADs) I am now deep into my new writing project, which is a story about a magical, witchy island and the folks who have been banished there. Unusually for me, I'm setting parts of the story in real places in Wales, which means I'm sneaking out and poking around ruins etc. in the name of research, not just my usual morbid curiosity. The novel also has a historical (or alt-history, technically) strand to the narrative, and so I'm making good use of my local libraries to do proper bookish research, because lawd knows History was not my best subject at school. I dropped it at 14, so that probably tells you all you need to know.

But while I'm out gathering facts and ideas and making notes, I'm using this fabulous notebook which was a gift from Dawn Kurtagich (horror author extraordinaire). It feels like a Special Notebook, so I'm going to make sure I use it to write a Special Book.

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Reading-wise, I slowed down a bit in April, but still managed to fit in 5 reads. These were they:

Let's start with the 3 YAs.

THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY by Laura Steven was a hilarious and brilliant feminist novel about Izzy O'Neill, a girl who is videoed having sex with a senator's son on a garden bench and becomes the focus of slut-shaming vitriol after it gets posted online and goes viral. Izzy herself is a delight -- funny, fierce, sex-positive, independent, and completely fallible, vulnerable, and human at the same time. I'm really looking forward to the sequel.

ALLEGEDLY by Tiffany D. Jackson is about 16-year-old Mary who is living in a group home after being released from 'baby jail', where she was sent for killing a baby (allegedly) when she herself was only 9 years old. But did Mary do it? I listened to the audiobook of this, read by Bahni Turpin, and it was twisted, gripping, and brilliantly performed. Jackson has a new book coming out soon called MONDAY'S NOT COMING, and I can't wait to get hold of that.

SOME QUIET PLACE by Kelsey Sutton (a recommendation and birthday gift from my critique partner & pal Jani Grey - thank you!) is a paranormal about a girl who can't feel emotions -- instead she sees them embodied all around her, particularly the enigmatic Fear, who is intent on solving the mystery around how Elizabeth ended up this way. This book is beautifully written, with that classic YA paranormal feel about it.

Per my reading goal for 2018, I also read an adult book and a graphic novel in April.

WYTCHES by Scott Snyder is about the Rooks family who move to a new town following a terrible trauma, but soon find themselves facing even more darkness as something evil lurks in the forest just beyond their property... The story in this was fantastic, with brilliant illustrations throughout that totally sucked me in. I'll be continuing this series for sure.

Finally, I listened to THE SILENT COMPANIONS by Laura Purcell on audio, which was a creepy, atmospheric treat. Newly widowed and pregnant, Elsie moves to the dilapidated estate of her late husband and finds herself facing local superstitions, fear, and a history of unexplained deaths on the property. Interspersed with Elsie's Victorian narrative are diary entries from one of the previous owners of the house, dating back to 1635. Tying the 2 together are the peculiar wooden figures -- the silent companions -- the first of which Elsie finds in a locked attic, and which looks a lot like Elsie herself...

And that wraps up my April reading! Aside from that and working on my new manuscript, I managed to go on a couple of adventures last month. It started with a trip to Penrhyn Castle...

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...continued with a visit to a lake that lies beyond a secret door...

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...and ended with a torch-lit walk through an abandoned bunker. The stuff of horror movies, I'm telling you.

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I also had a baking first -- I made bread! -- and it was pretty decent. I post my baking adventures on Instragram (step-by-step in my Insta story) every weekend if you want to follow along.

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I'll leave you with a snapshot of how I'm starting May:

Reading: (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME by Kate Karyus Quinn

Audiobooking: EVERLESS by Sara Holland

Singing along to: FERAL LOVE by Chelsea Wolfe and VENUS FLY by Grimes ft. Janelle Monae (both perfect accompaniment to my new WIP, in case you want to see what the vibe is...)

For now...

Kat out x

Monday, 2 April 2018

March Wrap-up!

Despite what the snow would have you believe, we are now well and truly into spring, and the year is flying by. So with that note of existential dread at the inevitable plodding forward of time, here's what I got up to in March. 

With St. David's Day falling on World Book Day (1st March), I naturally had to recommend some excellent Welsh books - these are they:

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I also made some decent writing progress last month, in that I turned in 2 manuscript revisions (the first was the Blackfin novella which comes out this October; the other was a full-length novel I've been working on for over a yeeeeear). 

Now I'm awaiting feedback/further edits for those, and as everyone tells you to distract yourself from waiting by working on The Next Thing, I've been dabbling with some new novel ideas. One is a manuscript I actually started a couple of years ago and set aside -- it's a magic realist YA set in Wales (I know, it surprised me too). Another is a fantasy that will require tons of research because there are historical elements to it, and a bit of rewriting of history. (That one might not end up going anywhere, but for now I'll let it tiptoe forward and see if it starts to run under its own steam. I'm not sure this analogy works, but feel free to edit it out by sharpie-ing a line across your computer screen if you hate it.) The last couple of story ideas are in the just-in-my-head stage of inception, so I'll leave them alone to congeal into something workable or fade away on their own. (Yeah, you can sharpie that too.) So I'm very much dabbling at the moment, and feeling quite unproductive. My house is pretty clean, though.

Reading-wise, I picked up steam in March, managing to read/listen to 8 books, and bringing my Goodreads goal back into the realms of possibility. This is what I read:

I'll start with the YAs. THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig came out a couple of years ago and has been on my TBR pile ever since I saw its gorgeous cover and heard it was about time-travelling pirates. It was a quick, fun read, with gorgeous descriptions of Hawaii and the historical places Nix and her crew mates visit in search of the map that will lead them back to her mother. 

THE BELLES by Dhonielle Clayton was one I listened to on audio (narrated brilliantly by Rosie Jones), and is about a girl called Camellia and her Belle sisters, who are born with the power to control beauty -- something everyone in the kingdom of Orleans craves above all. But there are dark secrets lurking beneath the beautiful facade, and Camellia quickly finds that being the queen's favourite Belle comes at a very steep price. This is the first in a series, and I'm really looking forward to the sequel. 

HOPE by Rhian Ivory is such a wonderful book! I breezed through it, which is a tribute to the skilful way the author handles some heavy subjects, such as grief, dealing with having your future plans derailed, and PMDD. It's a brilliant portrayal of a smart, resilient girl learning to handle all that life throws at her, and coming to trust and depend on herself. 

UNEARTHED by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner is the first in a new sci-fi trilogy with strong romantic leanings (audiobook read by Steve West and Alex McKenna). This first book was like Tomb Raider in space, and I really enjoyed it -- which was no surprise, as I loved the authors' earlier sci-fi romance series (These Broken Stars, etc.)

BOX OF DEMONS by Daniel Whelan skirts the line between MG and YA, and is about 14-year-old Ben who has spent his entire life tied to a box with 3 havoc-wreaking demons inside. When an angel appears offering to rid Ben of his demons, he unwittingly sets out on a path that might just bring about the apocalypse. This story is set in North Wales where I live, and it was an absolute delight seeing the landmarks described with the trademark self-deprecating humour of a local.

Moving on to the Adult books... THE SECRETS OF GASLIGHT LANE and DARK DAWN OVER STEEP HOUSE by MRC Kasasian are the last 2 books in the Gower Street Detective series, and I'm positively forlorn that there are no more. (Also because of the way it ended, although I won't say any more about that.) I listened to the entire series on audio, read by Emma Gregory, and it was an absolute joy -- at times farcical, sometimes very dark, but always massively entertaining, and with little nods to Sherlock Holmes peppered throughout. If you like historical mysteries with humour, you should give this series a go.

Finally, as per my pledge for the year, I read another graphic novel this month -- the excellent THROUGH THE WOODS by Emily Carroll. A series of short horror stories, this is not only utterly engrossing, but stunning to look at. Easily one of my favourite graphic novels to date.

And that's all I read!

Aside from writing and reading stuff, I went on a few adventures. Some in the snow...

A post shared by Kat Ellis (@katelliswrites) on over a Victorian aqueduct...

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...and a few in my kitchen (by which I mean I've started to experiment with recipes, I'm not leaping across my countertops in a cape.)

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I'll leave you with a snapshot of how I'm starting April:

ReadingSOME QUIET PLACE by Kelsey Sutton

AudiobookingTHE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY by Laura Steven

Singing along toMAKE ME FEEL by Janelle Monae and WHITE FLAG by Bishop Briggs (both pretty fierce and empowering, tbh).

For now...

Kat out x

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

February Wrap-up!

We have rolled into March on a wave of snow-melt, so it's time to recap what happened in February.

Writing-wise, I was working on the first round of edits for THE TWINS OF BLACKFIN, the novella which will be out this October in an anthology of novellas called THREE STRIKES. In case this is the first you're hearing about TWINS, it's a prequel to my debut YA novel, BLACKFIN SKY, and focuses on some weird and spooky events which took place immediately after Sky's death (that's not a spoiler, I promise - Sky has already died at the start of BLACKFIN SKY!) It has been so much fun working on another story set in that peculiar town, and I really hope readers will love it.

Because I think music helps set a mood for a story really well, here's a track I'm listening to a lot at the moment, and which I think has a definite TWINS-feel. It's also a really cool video, though not plot-related ;-)

I read another 4 books in February, and these are they:

THE ROANOKE GIRLS by Amy Engel was a weirdly addictive novel about Lane and her cousin Allegra, who spent one summer together as teenagers at the Roanoke homestead, and now - 10 years later - Allegra has gone missing, and Lane returns to Roanoke to find out what happened to her. The subject matter (incest/child abuse) was very dark, but told in such a compelling and evocative way that it doesn't feel like the grim story it really is. I listened to this on audio - read brilliantly by Brittany Pressley - and could hardly put it down. I'm glad I made this my adult-category read for the month.

Neal Shusterman's THUNDERHEAD is the second in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy (I had thought it was a duology when I started this book, and am consequently gutted at having to wait a year for the conclusion). If you enjoy vast dystopian landscapes and fascinating, flawed characters, and you haven't yet picked up SCYTHE, then you definitely should. It's set in a post-mortal age where disease and natural death no longer exist, so to keep the human population from exploding, an organisation called the Scythedom have been established to 'glean' lives according to a quota. But Scythes aren't infallible, and two young trainees, Rowan and Sitra, find themselves in danger when they uncover the deep vein of corruption running through the Scythedom.

I picked up THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough thanks to a recommendation from Miss Print, whose reading recs I always take seriously! This was a historical romance with an element of fantasy (always a good thing, I think). It follows Flora - a young black woman from Seattle who dreams of flying in the footsteps of Amelia Earheart, and sings in a jazz club by night - and Henry, an orphaned young white man living off the good will of his best friend's affluent family, and dreaming of a future that isn't the one that has been so neatly laid out for him. And of course there are Love and Death, two figures locked in an eternal game, each with their chosen player - waiting to see which will triumph: love or death? This was a beautifully written story, and as I was reading it I could just imagine it all playing out like an old black and white film.

Finally, as promised, I snuck in a quick graphic novel. THE BEAUTY (Vol. One) by Jeremy Haun, Jason A Hurley, and John Rauch is about a sexually-transmitted disease with a difference: it's a disease everyone wants, because it makes the infected person beautiful. That is, of course, until a terrible side-effect begins to kick in... After a few months of neglecting graphic novels, this one was a brilliant one to get me back into the swing. The artwork is stunning, the storyline was smart and fast-paced, and I actually think I'll pick up the next volume in this series, which is a first for me!

Other than writing and reading, I had 2 nights out in Manchester - the first to see Highly Suspect playing at the Academy (they were AMAZING), and the second to watch comedian Dane Baptise with my sister (also brilliant). I had a couple more Welshy adventures, too - exploring Anglesey with my husband, where we visited historic Beaumaris Castle and visited the cemetery on Church Island; and walking at Llyn Brenig, which was bloody freezing. Here are a few pics from our adventures:

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And then the snow came...

I'm actually keeping up with my unofficial resolution to post every day on Instagram, so if you don't already follow me there and would like to see more of my adventures/reading habits/cats, then... well, follow me.

That's it for now - I'm heading back into my writing cave to work on edits for what I hope will be my next book. Fingers crossed, eh??

Kat out x

Friday, 2 February 2018

January Wrap-up!

Welcome to the first wrap-up of 2018. January is now over, so congratulations to all who participated in Dry January (of which I was not one...) and here's to spring being just around the corner!

I read 4 books in January:

All pretty covers, right??

My first book of the year was Sarah Alderson's CONSPIRACY GIRL - a fast-paced thriller with a strong romantic aspect I was very much on board with. The book was also a birthday present from my wonderful friend Jani Grey, who obviously has excellent taste.

18-year-old Nic Preston survived the home invasion which ended with her mom and stepsister dying 2 years ago, but now it seems someone has their sights set on Nic again. Enter FBI-academy-dropout-turned-charming-hacker Finn Carter, and soon the bullets and sparks are flying everywhere. This was a really fun, quick read, with loads of action and intrigue.

Next up was THE CURIOUS TALE OF THE LADY CARABOO by Catherine Johnson, which has been on my TBR pile forever (I'm determined to make a dent in it this year) and was honestly my favourite read this month. It's a beautifully written historical novel about the affluent Worrell family and the mysterious young woman who comes to live at their stately home, purporting to be a princess from a distant land. The story shifts perspectives between Caraboo herself and the two Worrell siblings, one of whom is beset with a yearning to gad about Europe for a year or so like his friends rather than have to study/work, and the other who is determined to fall in love. Caraboo has much deeper secrets than the Worrells, and it's fascinating watching the characters become woven together before the threads all begin to come apart. It's a great book; I'll definitely be reading more by Catherine Johnson.

INDIGO DONUT by Patrice Lawrence is another book I've been looking forward to, since reading ORANGEBOY last year. This novel takes a step away from the more thriller-y aspect of ORANGEBOY, telling the story of Indigo - a girl raised in the English care system - and Bailey, a boy who wants to help Indigo reconnect with her family even though his own home life is looking a bit frayed. I really enjoyed this, and found Indigo and Bailey's relationship quite moving, tbh. I listened to the audio version, read by Ben Bailey Smith, who is an excellent narrator.

Last on my list this month, THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING by E. K. Johnson. I was so intrigued by the setting/premise of this story. Due to Queen Victoria changing the rule of succession to the British throne so that the eldest child - not the eldest son - inherits the crown, there have been knock-on effects across the globe: the British Empire is the greatest power on Earth; the Americas are seen as a wild and uncivilised place; and Victorian etiquette/manners have survived into the modern age, setting God and technology side by side. I thought this was quite a marvellous set up for what I felt sure would be an exciting and mind-bending story... but it turned out to be a quiet and uneventful romance that worked out very neatly for the three central characters (one of whom is next in line for the throne, btw. It doesn't really matter.) This one left me with tepid feelings, but that could be my fault for expecting something different.

So far I haven't met my goal of reading one adult book a month (though I DNF-ed one), so I'll try to read 2 in Feb. And a graphic novel - I have a few lined up that look pretty amazing.

Other than reading, I have of course been writing. I'm revising a manuscript at the moment, and it's dark and creepy and magic-realism-y (it took me a stupidly long time to work that out) and I'm both enjoying working on it and excited for it to be DONE. This book feels like it has been gestating for half a century at this point. Anyway, here's a pic I found that inspired the setting and backstory:

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I also went on a ghost hunt with my sister, Alex. We visited Plas Teg in North Wales, which is an amazing old house with plenty of nooks for ghosts to hide in. If they were there, they hid a bit too well, though; although we had lots of fun looking for them, no ghosts appeared. Maybe my sceptic shield is too strong, who knows? In any case, it's great writing-fodder, and here are some pics/video clips from the night:

I'll leave you with a snapshot of how I'm starting February:

Reading: THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough

Audiobooking: EDITING EMMA by Chloe Seager

Singing along to: AND SAINTS by Sleigh Bells and LOS AGELESS by St. Vincent

Kat out x

Monday, 8 January 2018

My 2017 in Review

2017 was a hell of a year, generally speaking. Ugh.... the world. But you know about all that shit-show, so I'm going to stick to the good stuff.

I got some writin' done in 2017. All in all, I completed 2-3 manuscripts in 2017 (I'm still revising one of them), and started a fourth. For 3 months, my writing was funded by a Writer's Bursary from Literature Wales, which I was incredibly fortunate to be awarded so I could work on a novel idea I had submitted to them back in 2016, for a YA thriller set in small-town Indiana. But before the bursary period began in April, I also tried my hand at writing a Middle Grade novel, which although it ended up terribly, was at least something new.

No writing is ever truly wasted... isn't that what they say?

So, the first half of the year was off to a decent start, writing-wise. And it was topped off rather nicely by getting a new deal with Firefly Press to write a novella for their forthcoming title THREE STRIKES, which will be a bind-up of 3 novellas -- by Lucy Christopher, Rhian Ivory, and me! Mine is called The Twins of Blackfin, and as you may have guessed, it is set in the same world as my debut novel, BLACKFIN SKY. The novella is actually a prequel to the novel (though it can definitely be read as a standalone) and focuses on a girl named Bo, who finds that all the young people in the town have started sleepwalking late at night. I won't say any more about it now (I'm terrible at realising what's spoilery and what's not with my own stories), but I hope you'll pick up a copy of THREE STRIKES when it comes out in October.

I said I'd stick to the good stuff, but for the sake of not appearing more productive/competent than I am, I will add that I experienced my first real bout of writer's block in 2017; it lasted months, and I was convinced until quite recently that I had forgotten how to write.

I've decided not to do that again.

I read quite a bit. Although I didn't quite hit my Goodreads Challenge target of reading 80 books in 2017, I came close with 76. Most of those were audiobooks, which I listen to when I go walking. Of those 76, there weren't many that I didn't truly enjoy.

For the most part, you can check out my Wrap-Up posts from last year to see which books I read and my thoughts on them, but I did slip a bit toward the end of the year, blogging-wise, while I was on deadline.

So, these were the missing books --

My absolute favourites were the MRC Kasasian books (the first 3 in a very funny and sometimes dark historical mystery series), and the final Lockwood & Co. book (so sad that it's over, but the way it ended lets me believe, at least a little, that there might be more in future...)

Looking ahead, I'm keeping my goal at 75 books for 2018. Keep it doable, yo. (Words to live by.)

I got out into the YA community. In real life and everything. In April, I went to see Angie Thomas at one of her UK events to promote THE HATE U GIVE. She is just as phenomenal as I expected from reading the book.

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May was the month I went on my 3rd writing retreat. It was organised by the wonderful Dawn Kurtagich, along with brilliant writer pals Tatum Flynn and Jenn Faughnan. This one was in mid-Wales, not far from Powys Castle, in a gorgeous little cottage in the middle of freaking nowhere.

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In July I went to YALC in London, and got to hang out with Tatum Flynn again, and catch up with some other wonderful writing friends & watch the Saturday panels. I also spotted Alyson Hannigan and Kristian Nairn (the chap who plays Hodor on Game of Thrones) down in the Comicon hub. I missed the part where Benedict Cumberbatch walked in on Non Pratt having her head shaved -- about which I will be sad for all eternity -- but I had a belting time at YALC nonetheless.

The last event I went to was in October, when Phil Earl came to Prestatyn Library. I loved his talk about how he got into writing and the inspiration behind his books, and I picked up a signed copy of BEING BILLY while I was there.

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I also had some good stuff happen in my personal life. I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary, and my 10th blood donation (not related.) I cut off 14 inches of my hair to send to the Little Princess Trust, which makes wigs for children undergoing treatment for cancer, and other situations that might cause hair loss. I also made a big effort to become more healthy, so changed my eating and exercise habits. I now feel sprightlier than a golden retriever, so I think it was definitely worth making the change.

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And that's my 2017 in a nutshell.

Looking ahead... Going into 2018, these are a few things I want to try and achieve:

- Get my latest YA manuscript ready. Like, really ready. Finished, you might say.

- Blog more consistently.

- Stick with the healthier lifestyle thing.

- Get back into Twitter - at least for #UKYAchat nights (I've been very quiet there lately, and I miss it.)

- Read 75 books, including at least one adult novel and one graphic novel per month.

For now...

Kat out x

Monday, 4 December 2017

Firefly Christmas book bundles

Just ducking my head in here quickly to say that BLACKFIN SKY and PURGE are available as part of Firefly Press's Christmas book bundles offer, where you can get both of my books as well as the first 2 instalments of Sarah Govett's gripping trilogy THE TERRITORY for just £22.

There are loads of other fab books in the deal, too -- check out the details here, and grab some last minute Christmas presents --> CLICK FOR AWESOMENESS

I promise a proper blog update soon with all the details about what I've been up to (in short, I've been working on 2 big writing things) and alllll the books and audiobooks I've read/listened to over the past couple of months.

More soon!

Kat x