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Isle of Wight Story Festival 2021 17th – 20th Feb

Hi everyone, just a short post to say I’m part of this year’s Isle of Wight Story Festival. I’ll be giving a reading and mini workshop based on my book Nekromancer’s Cage, and reading some of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry poems.

The festival is completely online this year, as most other literary festivals have been, which means it can be enjoyed by everyone. Along with myself, there’s plenty of other authors taking part plus oodles of fun stuff going on including shadow puppetry, story telling, arts and crafts, nature themed workshops and much more.

If you’ve been home schooling, tuning in to the festival would be a great way to keep kids excited about learning during half term!

All events can be found on the festival’s Youtube channel here, and below is the complete programme:

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The Origin Stone…Cover Reveal!

Hi everyone, I’ve had another update from my publisher, Next Chapter, about the re-release of The Origin Stone (for those who don’t know, the publisher who had it previously closed down just after Christmas, and as Next Chapter have published all my other books, they were pleased to give it a new home).

I don’t have a release date yet, but they did send me the new cover design – and it took my breath away. It’s simply an amazing piece of design work, and the image of Emily is exactly how I’ve always pictured her. I also love how she’s positioned at the entrance of a tunnel; I really feel it signifies the journey she has yet to come, and oozes atmosphere.

Honestly, I was almost in tears when I saw it, I was so impressed and overwhelmed. I’m hoping such a wonderful cover will finally give it the attention I (and my publisher) feel it deserves:

image (57)

Poetry

A little tale

Dark lets down its itching feet

to wriggle its toes in the springy grass.

It waves to Moon, who winks her encouragement,

and then it rushes down the hills to dance in the glades,

to leap onto roofs and chimney pots.

All night long, it can be seen merry making,

laughing with owls and chittering after bats,

but after so many hours of leaping about,

weariness rushes over it

and up to its bed it goes, dragging its feet back

under the orange sky.

Reviews

Book Review, Artania: The Pharaoh’s Cry by Laurie Woodward

Laurie Woodward is a fellow Next Chapter author (previously, they were called Creativia Publishing) who writes middle grade books the same as I do, and when I read the synopsis for the first book in her Artania series, I was so intrigued I had to grab a copy for myself.

The basic premise for the Artania series is that art is alive and the creations there have their own realm – Artania itself – that is under threat from monsters that want to wipe out all the hope and creativity from the world so they can take over Artania for themselves.

The denizens of Artania, fearful of losing their home, reach out to two young boys who have been prophesied to save them, both of whom have a passion for art but come from drastically different backgrounds: Bartholomew Borax III, whose mother is the head of a bleach company and has such an obsession with cleanliness that he has to hide his art from her lest she declare it unclean and confiscate it, and Alexander DeVinci, a cool kid who moves to a new home with a larger room for him to paint in where he spends most of his spare time, much to his mother’s sadness when he becomes so absorbed in his work that he rarely speaks to her.

As the plot gently unfolds by the switching of viewpoints between the two boys with each chapter, I found I sympathized most with Bartholomew, as his mother is so strict about him staying clean and presentable, and not picking up germs from anywhere, that he really has no interaction with other kids his age at all. When she reluctantly agrees to let him go to a public school, he is very much an outsider and knows none of the social nuances most of the kids in his class use, and it’s only when he draws a detailed portrait that he gains any sort of respect from them.

Alex is very much the opposite of Bartholomew – confident, lots of friends, easygoing parents etc, but his problems begin when his mother becomes seriously ill, and he blames himself for prioritising art over spending time with her. This neglect for art and the negative emotions around it are what the monsters feed on, making them stronger. Yet when the boys are summoned by the Artanians and learn to be friends, Bartholomew manages to help Alex rekindle his love of art.

As this is book one of a series, it only covers a small part of what the boys have to do to save Artania, focusing on a group of pharaohs who have been kidnapped by the monsters. Because of this, a lot of time and detail is spent building up their world, and it’s clear that a lot of research has gone into this book. Many of the characters are true to Egyptian mythology and history, and I actually learnt a bit while reading.

The characters’ motivations were all crystal clear, and I did find myself rooting for the boys when it got to the nitty gritty of the story. I did, however, find the pacing a bit too slow for my liking, but that’s just personal taste – I like fast paced middle grade that doesn’t let me rest, and this just didn’t have that factor. But the idea behind it was still fresh and well thought out.

I don’t know whether I will continue with the series, as despite the strong writing and plot, I can’t say it gripped me as much as I’d hoped it would. But I imagine it will be a firm favourite with many middle grade readers.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good read.

 

Official blurb:

Young Bartholomew isn’t allowed to go to school, play outside or make art, so he sketches in secret. When Bartholomew meets the skateboarding artist, Alexander DeVinci, he’s yanked into a mythical realm of living paintings and breathing sculptures: Artania.

The two soon learn that the strange world, where everything seems to be possible, is on the verge of destruction. With Egyptian gods and goddesses by their side, they face daring battles and narrow skateboarding escapes.

But can they defeat the evil Sickhert’s army, and bring art back to the world?

Artania

Poetry

Shuffle Huffle

It’s been a while since the spark of my mind

and the images it carves in the grain of my imagination

have wanted to come freely out through my fingertips

and drip into inky life on the page.

Usually, I have to drag them. Wrap my hands around their horns and heave

to get them moving. But of course, that only makes them more stubborn.

I show them pictures of the tumbleweed rolling across my notebook,

pick up handfuls of dry soil

so they can see how barren it’s become.

Guilt-tripping them all the way until they grumble into a slow shuffle

one by one, and cause ink blots everywhere as they do so.

But today they danced out to a waltz,

a festival of colours and gowns and painted masks

because I chose to let them take control of my fingers

and make the shapes they wanted to,

and not force them to bend into mine.

Poetry

Ladies, please!

‘Ladies, please

the patient needs her rest,

stop bothering her with these trivial things!’

 

‘It’s not our fault, madame, she’s doing it herself.

She won’t sit still

no matter how many tasks she completes

 

I’ve never seen anyone procrastinate from resting!’

The maid bustled over to the weary girl perfectly

content in organising her affairs.

 

‘Now madame says you must retire to your bed

so please consider, for my sake,

to lay down your head

or at the very least

 

settle down with a cup of tea

and observe the birds flitting about the trees.’

 

The girl raised her head,

considering her brain’s suggestion,

and ignored it once again.

Poetry

Faces in places

Faces glance down on us when we’re not looking.

Knotted mouths with noses in the air, hands

above their heads, pointing, staring,

laughing at how small we are

compared to their lengthy limbs

that could scoop us up if they could move at all.

The ivy beards cover their mouths,

fungi hiding their tears of mirth.

 

Poetry

Three trees

Arms outstretched, chest up

arched like the curve of a crescent moon,

the train of her long moss gown

sinking deep into the leafy mulch.

 

The light catches between its arms,

a diamond sparking in the rainbow wood.

Long legs fold into a bench,

fit for the white dusting of the sky.

 

He crouches into a ball, the circle

his body makes a seeing stone, a hole

for all to gaze through, penetrating the distance

to the other side. The trees wave back.

Reviews

Book Review: Waking Beauty by Brittlyn Gallacher Doyle

Waking Beauty is a retelling of the classic sleeping beauty tale, but as with all good retellings, it has a twist:

Aurora Claire (or just Claire, as she prefers) was always told that she would fall under a sleeping curse for one hundred years on her sixteenth birthday – a curse bestowed upon her by a vengeful dark fairy. She lived with the knowledge that everyone she knew would be dead by the time she woke up, and her life was filled with half-friendships and loneliness because of it. Yet she had her fairy gifts – grace, beauty, creativity, wit, sweetness, song – to make up for it. So on that fateful day, she climbed the tower where the dark fairy was waiting with the spindle that would send her to sleep for a century, and pricked her finger just enough so that a single drop of blood was spilt.

Fast forward one hundred years.

Waking in her tower from an age of nightmares, she finds the handsome prince who was foretold, along with his tall and awkward knight. She and prince Damien hit it off right away – he’s everything she’d ever hoped for – but the way his knight, James, seems to regard her with constant disdain makes her feel ill at ease. However, when they leave her tower, she is overjoyed to find that the rest of the castle has been asleep just as she was, and everyone she knows, including her parents, are waking up as well. Wedding plans are soon underway, with much discussion of alliances between kingdoms. A perfect future with a perfect prince, whose charm appeals to everyone. Almost too much so.

Yet after only a few days, a servant is found asleep, and no-one can wake him. Then another is found, and another. The curse appears to be returning, and Claire has no idea why. What’s more, her fairy gifts are disappearing too. She stumbles ungracefully, freckles sprout on her nose, and her hair is a fright. Nor can she keep her mouth shut at James’s obvious distaste for her. Where did her sweetness go?

As panic spreads around the castle, Prince Damien and James volunteer to seek out the fairy who altered the dark fairy’s original curse from death to a long sleep, in order to find a way for the curse to keep from taking hold again. Claire, feeling responsible, insists on coming along, and though James argues that she will slow them down, Damien uses his charms to quiet his friend and allows her to come along. Claire and James bicker incessantly, but after a while, she realises that she finds it much easier to talk to this disapproving, quiet knight than her beloved prince, and dares to even consider him a friend…

First of all, I love that this story focuses on what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up, and that it’s not an immediate happily ever after.

The characters are well written and likable (when they’re supposed to be). Claire’s development from prim princess who has always followed along with what everyone expects of her to a confident young woman who is capable of making her own choices is exceedingly well done, and as the story progressed, I liked her more and more. Damien I was suspicious of straight away – no-one is ever as perfect as they appear, and towards the end, his behavior really made me grind my teeth, as it was supposed to. James reminded me very much of a character from one of my favourite fantasy series, not just in appearance, but personality as well. He likes Claire for who she really is, not what her fairy gifts make her out to be, and the back and forth between them was full of wit and humour.

The book also ended brilliantly, in a way that was satisfying but not overly convenient. The narrative is from Claire’s point of view, so I could really get inside her head, which I felt worked well for the plot as a whole.

Waking Beauty is definitely a book I’d recommend for anyone who loves fairy tale retellings with exciting twists, strong female protagonists and good character development, plus more than a dash of romance (which is odd for me, because I’m not normally a romance fan.)

Kat out.