Tag Archives: Julia Golding

Mystery & Mayhem

Perfect holiday reading if you already like crime, and hopefully also if you haven’t yet discovered it. The Crime Club’s Twelve Deliciously Intriguing Mysteries is great fun.

Katherine Woodfine, Mystery & Mayhem

Twelve criminally minded authors, herded and edited by Katerine Woodfine, offer up youthful versions of traditional crime styles. You have Impossible Mysteries, Canine Capers, Poison Plots and Closed-System Crimes, all equally intriguing and entertaining. Maybe some of the crimes are not as noir as what adults read these days, but there is murder and fraud and all kinds of trickery.

I liked them all. What I especially like is the fact that younger readers get a proper introduction both to crime reading, but also to crime vocabulary. You know, schools don’t always teach useful words such as purloined.

Some are set today, some in the past. Some stories take place in other countries and others right on your doorstep. The ones by authors I know lived up to my expectations, while those by new (to me) writers were great introductions.

Put a copy in the hands of someone young and bored this summer.

Troublesome cats and other airborne coincidences

I own two books bearing the title Cat’s Cradle. One is Nick Green’s soon to be published final Cat Kin book. The other is by Julia Golding, in her Cat Royal series. No, I lie. I believe I also have a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle somewhere.

I don’t mind. If there are only seven original plots, it stands to reason there are only so many book titles as well. Obviously more than seven, but anyway. I doubt Nick or Julia are about to sue each other.

Nicola Morgan has told us about her first novel, Mondays Are Red, which features synesthesia, and its main character Luke. It was published almost simultaneously with Tim Bowler’s Starseeker. Same topic. Same character name. They didn’t sue, either. But when both proceeded to write novels with the fabulous title Apocalypse, one of them changed it. Great minds think alike.

Adèle Geras wrote an adult novel with a similar plot to one by Marika Cobbold. I asked if she knew Marika’s book. She didn’t. It was another of those ‘it must be something in the air or the water’ coincidences. Happens all the time. It’s not plagiarism. Zeitgeist, maybe? (We have to keep in mind the number of plots available in this life.)

When I read Lee Weatherly’s Angel I half thought that she might have been after ‘the next Twilight’ by going for angels instead of vampires. But Lee had the idea 15 years ago, before the world was gripped by vampire fever, and well before all the other angel books we now see in bookshops.

Some writers do jump on bandwagons, because it’s what publishers want. The next wizard, another vampire. And now it’s dystopias. Julie Bertagna barely got the OK for Exodus, because back then dystopias weren’t in. Now they are. And not all of them could possibly have got the idea from reading someone else’s book first.

It takes time to make a book. From author’s idea to bookshop is usually a lengthy process. People don’t plagiarise on a whim. Coincidences happen. Recently I mused about the number of wolves I had reviewed in a short time. There are also several books out now with the name Grimm somewhere in the title.


What I am working towards here, is a troublesome cat. He is causing considerable concern for Debi Gliori. She has a picture book soon out, featuring a cat in Tobermory. The title will be Tobermory Cat. At least it will be if someone in Tobermory stops being unpleasant about it. Debi, who is one of the kindest and most fairminded people I know, has been accused of all manner of things by the ‘owner’ of the name. Not the owner of the cat, mind you.

The links to this public argument can be found on Wikipedia, so I might as well add them here. Link 1. Link 2Link 3 with a reply from publisher Hugh Andrew of Birlinn. TC even has its own facebook page, but I don’t recommend a trip there if you value your blood pressure levels.

I am really, really against bullying.

Apart from the books and coincidences above, I am reminded of another touristy cat at the opposite end of the country, in another picture book; The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley. I imagine that book has not exactly damaged the tourist business for Mousehole. I also imagine this was the idea for Tobermory. The new book could have been called something else. And then the tourists could go there instead.

Co-operation is a good word here. Not that I’d want to co-operate with TC’s ‘owner’ if I had a choice, but before this argument began, just think of the effect they could have had together, for Tobermory.

Could there be more than one Bookwitch? Unfortunately, yes. There are. There were some before I went public, and more have popped up over the five years you and I have known each other. But the point about it is that I sat down and thought long and hard about what to call this blog, and once I’d arrived at the answer, I went online and found I wouldn’t be alone. But I am a Bookwitch, so couldn’t – wouldn’t – have picked another name.

I can co-exist.

Will leave you with one more cat. In fact, I give you a book idea for free. Here is the Linköping Lynx. At this point I must point out I’ve not checked* if there are any other LLs out there.

Linköping Lynx

The more the merrier? Surely one of the seven plots must fit? It’s my firm belief that Lynxes are the next big thing. Remember that some time in 2014 or 2015.


Writing for children

I can’t believe it’s almost five years since my Arvon course. It was one of those things I very much wanted to do, but felt I couldn’t use up funds while there was no money coming in. But I felt it so very strongly that in the end I signed up anyway, when there was just the one place left at Lumb Bank.

Arvon, Lumb Bank

Of course, I didn’t do writing for children. Mine was a sort of non-fiction, general course, which suited me just fine. I see that in this year’s programme they have something for people wanting to get started on blogs and other online writing.

In 2007 I think they offered one, possibly two, weeks for hopeful children’s writers. This year I was impressed to see they do four, and that’s before I discovered it’s actually six weeks. Three of writing for children, two for young adults and one for young people. That’s a lot. It must be due to popular demand, and why wouldn’t people want to come and spend a week in the company of real children’s authors tutoring a group of likeminded budding writers?

I heard about Arvon when Caroline Lawrence reported on having just taught at one of their centres. And I believe she had previously done one of their courses herself. That seems to be the way it is. Lots of current authors have been, and many are now taking up tutoring as the next step.

Just look at who you could rub shoulders with in a kitchen in some beautiful countryside setting; Julia Golding and Marcus Sedgwick, with Mary Hoffman as the midweek special. Or there’s Malachy Doyle and Polly Dunbar, with guest star Anthony Browne. It’s not everywhere you get to hobnob with Children’s Laureates, ex- or otherwise. The two MBs, Malorie Blackman and Melvin Burgess, with Aussie special Simmone Howell. Now that one would be really interesting!

You could have Joan Lennon and Paul Magrs, with yet another Laureate, Julia Donaldson. Martyn Bedford with Celia Rees, and Bali Rai doing the star turn. And finally Gillian Cross and Steve Voake, with guest dramatist Christopher William Hill.

If laureates are your thing, there is always the hope of a week with Carol Ann Duffy, but then you really have to be good. At poetry, I mean. That one is decided on the quality of your poems. Which is not going to be me.

Plus any other kind of writing. All with people who know their stuff. It isn’t cheap, but there are schemes for financial assistance. No internet, and you have to cook your own dinner in groups, so better hope for budding writers who can peel potatoes.

Ms M at Lumb Bank

(We had our own laureate connection – on wall, above – during my week. That’s as well as the house having belonged to a former Poet Laureate.)

Secondary to none

Your comprehensive witch turned ever more school-like on Monday. The very helpful press officer at the Edinburgh International Book Festival had watched me all week, and came to the conclusion that I really do look like a school after all. So I could go to the ball, and all that.

Debi Gliori

Being allowed to attend a couple of schools events in Charlotte Square meant some hasty reorganising of the social/business side of things. But it could be done. We got out of bed really early to have scones and tremendously dense porridge with Debi Gliori. She had the porridge and I had a scone, which was lovely, but no Flora McLachlan scone. It was raining so we sought shelter in the bookshop café. Debi was surprised to find a café in the bookshop, which just goes to show how much she gets around.

We talked of books, especially Pure Dead Magic, with and without scones. New picture books, and old ones too. Books (her own) that make Debi cry. Moved on to fiddling. That’s as in music, not what some unscrupulous people do with their accounts.

Then I had to dash to hear Julia Golding talk about her plentiful genres of books. Is there a genre the woman hasn’t tried by now? And 15 books since 2006? Honestly. She’s a book machine. Julia gave the school classes from Aberdeen and elsewhere a history lesson, and we will never forget Bluetooth now. Nor Thorfinn Skullsplitter or the blood eagling, as once done by Julia’s own teacher. Julia is another one writing about Venice, with her new book The Glass Swallow set there. And she likes being God, apparently.

John Boyne

More dashing. More food. But first John Boyne, who was lined up against the willows to have his likeness taken. Then to the Spiegel tent where Mum Clare from Random fed us. Although in the end there was no tea, as promised earlier. Random water did as well. I now feel I know everything that will happen in their book world for the next six months. Not sure where my reading time will come from. But will want to read. Lots.

Spiegel tent

The schoolwitch ran on to her next schools event with Keith Gray and Patrick Ness who were talking about Losing It with Daniel Hahn. And let me tell you; this was the best event so far. When I normally feel happy to leave after an hour, I could have gone on for twice the time. So could the schools, I imagine, except they had their buses waiting. The reason the talk was so good will have been the combination of the speakers and the topic and the audience. For once, we had an audience consisting primarily of the ones who should read the book. Not babies, not parents. Just teenagers. And – well – me.

Keith Gray

Brave schools which take their young readers to this kind of talk. Patrick and Keith were welcomed like superstars. Keith talked about the varying ages of consent around the world, and the trailer for Losing It was shown. Great trailer. And they pointed out the very recent changes in the law. Seven years ago this talk would have been illegal. Makes you think.

When writing his story for Losing It, Patrick expected it to be ‘toned down’. It wasn’t. Someone who turned down the offer to contribute, did so on the mistaken assumption that it had to be autobiographical. As Keith said, it’s not a book on ‘what goes where and how’.

Patrick Ness

Their advice to the teenagers is to read everything, including rubbish. And for writing they say to write what you yourself want to read. These are two authors who readers really listen to. We need more events like this one.

(Photos by Helen Giles)


Julia Golding is fast. It’s that, or she’s been hoarding manuscripts in her drawer for years, and they’re all coming out now. There have been so many of her books published in a short time, that the witch lost track months ago. I have no hope of reading them all. The latest for me is Ringmaster, and this is Alex Rider for girls. I think this is only right and proper, as the exciting life has been hogged by the boys for far too long.

Darcie is 14 and lives in Nairobi with her boring parents. Except they disappear, and then suddenly it turns out they’re really secret agents (as parents are) and now Darcie has to do their job to get them back. So, totally unrealistic, but who cares? I liked the Nairobi/Kenya setting, and reckoned I could understand the Swahili without the glossary provided.

The plot was perhaps just that little bit too obvious, with stereotypes everywhere. But still, an exciting read, and a step in the right direction for adventurous females. We will happily escape the evil baddies wearing nothing but designer ball gowns any day.

Adventure blog

As I have been going on about the recent return of good, old fashioned adventure stories, it should come as no surprise that I have persuaded the Guardian to let me go on about them on their blog, too.

This is from, very early, this morning. Do have a look, and leave a comment, if only to tell me I’m all wrong.