Sunday, 28 June 2015

Midsummer Mystery

What a wonderful way to spend a day! A big room full of young mystery fans and their parents. Four other great mystery writers all giving talks and workshops - and in between - sitting chatting, having fun, eating cakes and comparing notes. A wonderful venue in the lovely seaside town of St Annes on Sea, organised by the amazing Storytellers. Inc bookshop. And, if that wasn't enough, a mystery-play written especially written for the day, with actors playing the parts, and the authors all joining in as the suspects.









Thursday, 28 May 2015

Here Be Dragons - a new book and a competition

It's exactly one week to the official launch date of The Dragon Path, the second book in the Secrets of the Tombs series.

In this adventure, Cleo and Ryan head off to an archaeogical site near Xi'an in China. But before they leave, Cleo's grandmother charges them with a mysterious mission; to return a jade ring to a terrible place she calls 'the dragon path'. The problem is she doesn't tell them where or what the dragon path is. Completing the quest leads to dangers Cleo and Ryan could never have imagined . . .

At the heart of the story is an old film taken in China in the 1930s that shows some very disturbing goings on.  As so often is the case, the idea came from a half-heard news story on the radio.  Film of nine old missing Dr Who episodes had been found in Nigeria (apparently by a man who makes it his job to search for long lost episodes of old British TV shows, nicknamed 'The Raider of the Lost Archives'). The idea of something caught on film that had been missing for years was the starting point for the whole plot . . .

To avoid disappointment,  I should, however, mention that Dr Who does not feature in the book in any form!

But here are five things that you will find in the The Dragon Path . . . 

1. You'll find out what the First Emperor's recipe gentlemen were trying to cook up (and why so many of their ingredients were poisonous).

2. You'll meet a Giant Chinese Salamander and discover the strange noise it makes.

3. You'll find out about the codes used by Napoleon to communicate with his generals.

4. You'll discover a tiger tally just like this one in the Shaanxi History Museum in Xi'an and find out what it was used for.



5. You'll find out which number is thought to be the unluckiest in China.

If you would like to win a signed copy of The Dragon Path and this original doodle of a Chinese dragon by me (as drawn for National Doodle Day last year!) all you have to do is answer this one simple question:

What is tetraphobia a fear of?



E-mail your answer to me at helen@castlekey.co.uk by 13th June. All correct answers will be put in a hat and I'll draw out a winner. Good luck!

Luckily the illustrations in the book are done by a real illustrator - the wonderfully talanted Leo Hartas (who also illustrated the Adventure Island books)






Saturday, 9 May 2015

Book Jam Smiles

If books make you smile St Ives was the place to be today!

I was lucky enough to take part in the first St Ives Book Jam in 2012 - a fantastic all-day free book event for children, supported by local schools, libraries, booksellers and businesses -  and so I was thrilled to be invited back again this year.
Beatrice and Erin - there were lots of lovely smiles like these at St Ives Book Jam
It was great to see how the event has gone from strength to strength - the Corn Exchange was buzzing with book-related excitement (literarally - the mascot is a giant bumblebee - of the furry dressing-up kind, not a real one, I should add!) There were all kinds of author and illustrator workshops going on . . . some of the children were there all day and had been busy collecting autographs on the special cards that had been handed out.


 It was a treat to talk to children about Adventure Island and Secrets of the Tombs. Today's workshop focussed on settings, and there were some brilliant great ideas for places for stories, including a rainforest full of wildlife and a crashed rocket on a distant planet. Thank you to everyone who came along. I really enjoyed meeting you and chatting with you about reading, writing and what my next books might be about.

And don't forget, if you were at the workshop and would like to send in your idea for an island and a scene set there (maximum 500 words) I'd love to see them. A signed book is waiting for the writer of my favourite exciting setting!

Thank you to everyone involved in Book Jam for making it such a great event.




Saturday, 25 April 2015

A weekend of talks

I don't know about you, but I love going to author talks.

Last weekend was the Cambridge Literary Festival -  a great chance to take a little break from writing (the third book of the Secrets of the Tombs book is keeping me pinned to my desk) and to be inspired by some fabulous authors.

On Friday evening I went along with a friend to see Mary Portas, who was very funny and talked movingly about her childhood. Saturday morning it was a real treat to see the wonderful Judith Kerr - author and illustrator of classics such as The Tiger who Came to Tea, Mog and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

Next came a lovely lunch with fellow writers and illustrators - all members of SCBWI.  What could be better than catching up with all our news over delicious food at a sunny window table?