Tag Archives: Tree Magic

Temporary Offer: Tree Magic ebook only 99p

I couldn’t resist sharing this publicity picture with you. My publisher Impress Books created it and chose their favourite endorsements. Write a review on Amazon and you may see your name in print too! The paperback version comes out in 3 weeks (1st March).


The Secret Cure for January Blues

ski-hut-treeIt’s a cold, clear day. The winter sun casts long shadows and the sky is frigid blue. Spring is aeons ahead and Christmas was aeons ago.

You could be sad. You were sad until a minute ago: you were staring glumly out of the window and trying to remember the hope of summer.

But you’re not sad anymore because you’ve just noticed the tree.tree-angouleme-jan-17

It’s the same old tree that has always been there. It seems it’s been there forever. You never really looked at it before and you don’t even know its name.

But today you’re looking because – check this out – it’s undressed. Its sleeping branches are silhouetted against the blue sky and you can see every detail of its structure, every woody member of its body. It is stunning! How come you never noticed it before?

Hang on: it’s not alone. There are naked trees everywhere. The countryside is an exhibition of natural statues, each one unique, each individual beauty an open hand stretched towards the sky.

dscn1751Look at them: go on. Get outside and admire them. Because this mass nudity won’t last forever. In a couple of months they will wake, dress in lime green leaves and hide behind them, like Eve in the garden of Eden.

Once you start looking, you won’t be able to stop. You may pull out your phone and take a couple of photos. You might even push your morning schedule to one side, go out with your camera and start collecting.


Before you know it, you’ll be out there in the early morning fog; in the freshly fallen snow; at midnight under a full moon. You’ll rush indoors for your camera when you’re walking home at night and spot a silver birch, its white bark reflected in the moon.

You’ll be dashing from field to field, from park to park, eager to add to your collection before it’s too late – before green spring arrives and your eyes turn to the flowering ground bursting into pinks, blues and yellows.

January blues? Huh, the only blues you’ll see now are those of the sky.

dscn0940I feel a little like those undressed trees this month: bared to anyone who cares to look. That’s what it’s like when your debut novel is out there for anyone to read, for anyone to criticise.

I’ve been lucky so far. The radio interviews and twitter chat shows featuring Tree Magic have all been positive experiences. As for the personal messages I’ve received – well, they’ve made all the hard work worthwhile.

I’m amazed by the glittering 5-star reviews posted on websites. These reviews make a big difference, even if they’re only one sentence long. So thanks enormously to those of you who have enjoyed Tree Magic and posted a comment. This has also helped with January Blues.

It is no doubt thanks to these lovely comments that I now have some exciting news to announce: *drumroll* my publisher has decided to publish a paperback version of Tree Magic. YIPPEE! My dad will be able to read it!

The paper book will be out on 1st March 2017 and you can pre-order it on Amazon here. My publicist at Impress Books is having lots of brilliant ideas for publicity projects.

But don’t worry: I’m not going to witter on about Tree Magic forever. I have lots of plans for blog posts this year that don’t mention writing at all, including interviews with three people who contribute in their own particular ways to our local culture here in Poitou-Charentes.

I hope Tree Magic will continue to inspire readers as much as naked trees inspire me. You can find updates on Tree Magic’s progress by clicking on the Tree Magic News tab at the top of this blog. And if you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what you thought.

Meanwhile, open your eyes and go tree-hunting to chase away those January blues.

#SundayYA – 22nd Jan 2017

c0eiiebwqaepd2uI’ve been invited as a guest on the Twitter chat show #SundayYA on Sunday 22nd January 2017 at 6pm British time (7pm French time).

I’ll be tweeting about Tree Magic and trying to answer the host’s questions…

Look who else is there in January: the wonderful Emily Barr and Sara Barnard. I’m honoured to be listed below them.

Come along and tweet your own questions, or just read the tweets as they appear live on the #SundayYA thread (click on ‘Latest’ at the top to see a running commentary, or use a tool such as Tweet Deck).

You’ll have a couple of weeks to read Tree Magic before the show as it’s released on 9th January 2017.

Look forward to seeing you there.

Meanwhile, I wish you the very happiest Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

What Killed the Radio Star?

profiteroles-recadreAccording to the song playing in the restaurant in Angoulême on Friday lunchtime, it was Video. A strange coincidence, I thought, to hear that song today of all days. Radio killed the Tree Magic star, more like.

Luckily, I had profiteroles to cheer me up.

You know when someone makes a witty remark or asks you a difficult question, and you come up with some brilliant repartee – five minutes too late? Or how you leave an exam and forget everything except the questions you couldn’t answer?

helen-millarThat was exactly how I felt after my first ever radio interview. Helen Millar, the host of RCF Charente’s weekly English programme, AngloFile, had invited me to come and talk about my novel Tree Magic. Here’s a picture of her. She was a lovely host: friendly, reassuring and interesting. And there were no difficult questions. As she’d assured me beforehand, it was just a chat.

The thing is, on radio you have to keep talking. And talking is much more difficult than it sounds: talking coherently, in any case. As Barry Gornell recently said at the Cognac European literary festival, writers don’t talk: they listen and watch (though he actually spoke very well). I would include ‘think’ in his list of things writers do. I’d also add that if writers were good speakers, we wouldn’t go to all the bother of writing in order to communicate.

Helen talks admirably, which I guess is just as well for a radio host. But she is also a writer, which completely disproves the point I just made. Damn. I thought it was a good point, too.

Helen is known as Rosemary Mason for her professional writing. As Rosemary, she was a founder writer on East Enders. She has written stage and television plays, was a production assistant at the BBC and a screenwriter in residence for Thamesdown Borough Council. She launched a media writing degree, taught screenwriting and became Head of School at Southampton Solent University.

I should have been interviewing her!

Instead, a friendly technician, Fabrice François, set us up and we galloped through 26 minutes of air time, including me reading from Chapter One of Tree Magic. It passed so quickly that I forgot to thank my publisher (sorry, Impress Books). I forgot to say what Tree Magic is about, and that there is a prologue before the first chapter. I forgot to talk about the legend of Amrita Devi, on which the novel is based. But I did manage to refer to my writing groups and the Charroux and St.Clémentin literary festivals (well, OK: I did forget to say they are bilingual).

Not only is Helen a writer, she also runs an informal writing group near Marthon, to the east of Angoulême. This meant we were able to discuss a whole range of writerly issues, from inspiration to deadlines to short story competitions and writer’s block. We talked about how training as an engineer – which I did – can affect your language skills. And we chatted about the effect of nature on writing.

But each time I began to answer a question, we seemed to bifurcate right and left into fascinating themes such as what happens to hippies and punks when they grow up. Was it just an impression, or did I never actually answer a question she asked? Perhaps that’s just me being engineery…

In any case, it was wonderful to meet another local writer. The RCF (Radio Chrétienne Francophone) studio was a cosy, informal series of offices staffed with smiles. I was even offered a piece of cake. Once the red button stopped glaring at us (well, at me), we continued chatting about writing and Helen told me more about the family history on which she’s currently working. Writing certainly hasn’t killed this radio star.

logoYou can listen to AngloFile every Tuesday from 6:30-7pm and on Saturdays at 11:30am. My interview was first broadcast on Tuesday 29th November and will be repeated on Saturday 3rd December, as well as on Tuesday and Saturday during the Christmas break.

If this post hasn’t put you off, you can even click on the RCF web page here and listen to it now.

And if you’d like to pre-order Tree Magic, you can do so on Amazon and other online bookseller websites. Many thanks!

Tree Magic available to pre-order

cwa5iacweaqami0I’m pleased to announce that my YA novel Tree Magic is now available to pre-order from Amazon and other ebook websites. It will be published on 9th January by Impress Books’ digital-first imprint Watchword ebooks.

“13-year-old Rainbow travels from England to France, through secrets, fears and parallel worlds, to discover whether her ability to communicate with trees is a gift or a curse.

“Will she find her place in today’s scientific society? To find the truth, she must also find herself.”

You have until the end of today, 9th November 2016, to win a Tree Magic prize on Twitter at @ImpressBooks1. Just retweet and follow the pinned tweet at the top of the page to qualify.

Many thanks for your support.

YA Booktubing

At the beginning of September I learnt about a special event happening in Cognac. When I read the programme, I immediately cancelled all my appointments. No, Mika wasn’t coming to visit. Nor the Queen. And it wasn’t another street theatre festival.

The event was called ‘Lire l’Europe with the Chippendales’.

Exciting, no?

OK, I admit it was just ‘Lire l’Europe’, or ‘Read Europe’ in English – a literary conference without a Chippendale in sight, organised by the Littératures Européennes team. What excited me was that the afternoon session, entitled ‘From Classics to Booktubing’ would be devoted to discussing Young Adult (YA) fiction.

In case you didn’t know, I have written a YA novel: Tree Magic will be published by Impress Books’ Watchword imprint in January 2017. When I wrote the original story and sent it off to a competition, the judge placed it as a runner-up and suggested I rewrite it for the YA market. Which I did.

Between then and now, I’ve read quite a lot about YA fiction in the English-speaking world. So I was fascinated to find out if the French approach is different. Off I went to Cognac’s auditorium, my notebook under my arm, to meet the European Literature festival organisers and learn about lectures ado.

Gérard Meudal

Gérard Meudal

The morning was spent with Gérard Meudal, a French literary journalist who often comes to Cognac to host author events. He also happens to be Salman Rushdie’s French translator. He has a very accessible way of talking about books, and took the audience through a description of all the novels featuring at the European Literature festival (17th-20th November in Cognac – see my blog post). I now have a very long list of books I want to read.

On stage in the afternoon were an author, a publisher and a bookseller. The author was Anne Percin, who writes both YA and adult novels, notably the bestselling series Comment (bien) rater ses Vacances / son Love Story / etc. She also teaches in a secondary school. The publisher, Sylvie Gracia, publishes the DoAdo imprint at Rouergue and also writes for adults. And the bookseller was the dynamic Pauline Fouillet from Ruffec’s ‘Livres et Vous‘. Finally, to keep the ladies in order, Gérard Meudal took the chair.

Pauline Fouillet in 'Livres et Vous' bookshop

Pauline Fouillet

What is booktubing?” was the first question addressed. Pauline explained that it’s where you use YouTube to tell your viewers about your favourite books. It’s popular with teenagers. The panel agreed that this obviously worked better as a teen marketing tool than a review in Le Monde.

What makes a book YA rather than adult?” Anne replied that the way of writing isn’t different at all: she applies the same intensity and the same attention to quality. The protagonist’s age often makes the difference. If he/she’s a teenager, the story is more suited to younger readers. It’s not always clear to her, however, as the theme also plays a role. Anne delves deeper into a theme with adults than with teenagers. With YA fiction, she just scratches the surface.

Sylvie said that she has tried writing for teenagers, without success. She told us an anecdote about a discussion with children’s author Hélène Vignal, in which they came up with the concept of a mental age: some people keep the maturity and imagination of a child or teenager all their lives, which means they lean naturally towards children’s or YA books. This obviously made the audience chuckle.

Anne Percin ©Tina Merendon

Anne Percin ©Tina Merendon

Anne pointed out that what’s great with teenage characters is that they are going through a pivotal moment in their lives, through an existential crisis. This is attractive for an author wanting to explore character.

Do teenagers read books?” According to Pauline, 70% of teenagers read. In her experience, children start to read less in 6ème (Year 7: 11-year olds) and this only starts to pick up again in 3ème (Year 10: 14-year olds). At around 20 years old, the people who read when they were children come back to reading. This is unlikely to happen for those who didn’t read when they were young, or whose parents didn’t read to them. The panel agreed that out-loud readings are very powerful. They give the audience a taste for reading and help sell books.

At what age do teenagers pass from YA to adult fiction?” At Rouergue, many books are on the border between adult and teen. Sylvie finds that at 15 years old, teenagers will be reading both types of book. Pauline added that what is more important than age is the type of reader: either teenagers are big readers, in which case they will move towards adult books, or they’re occasional readers, and will prefer YA. For Anne, there’s a ‘doudou’ (cuddly toy) effect with YA books. She cited the example of some young men at a reading who bought her latest adult book because they had fond memories of her YA novels.

How do teenagers choose books?” Pauline told us that when parents come to her bookshop to buy a book for their kids, she advises them to come back with the kids in question. When a parent chooses a book, there is already a barrier to reading it. Pauline added that at external events she always takes a selection of YA books if it’s an adult event, and adult books for YA events. This is because adults are moved by teenage themes. Anne suggested this is also because there is more liberty in the YA themes available during a literary season – adult books tend to have similar themes for each season.

Word of mouth works best with teenagers (including booktubing). Films and TV have a ‘carrot’ effect: teenagers turn to the books afterwards, seeking the extra details that aren’t in the films. Classic advertising by adults has little effect on them. For Anne’s bestselling series, she created a Facebook page for her protagonist – which would be unthinkable for adults, but which worked well for teens. Teenagers are interested in the characters, not the writer.

What criteria do teenagers apply when looking for a book?” Aha: this was interesting. Pauline said that they often ask for something that’s not too long. Girls like true stories at the moment – vampires and werewolves are old hat. True stories enable them to learn about subjects they feel uncomfortable discussing with their entourage. However, boys buy more books. Sylvie added that thick books and series do have their place, as teenagers also like to plunge into the familiarity of a story world.

Sylvie Gracia ©Melki

Sylvie Gracia ©Melki

Are ebook sales higher for teenagers than adults?” Sylvie replied that this medium doesn’t work well with French teenagers, because you need a credit card to buy on the Internet and teenagers don’t have one. What’s more, it’s difficult to tell if an ebook is short or long, and therefore booksellers find it hard to recommend according to the type of reader.


I didn’t regret cancelling my appointments to listen to these wise words (even if there were no Chippendales). I now know I have a teenager’s mental age. That explains a lot. The next question is how many shopping trips will it cost me to persuade my kids to booktube about Tree Magic and set up a Facebook page for Rainbow?


Tree Magic

“Thirteen-year-old Rainbow discovers she can communicate with trees. But that’s just the beginning.

Her magic hands can shape trees at will, but her gift is dangerous and has fatal consequences. An accident that leaves Rainbow in a coma leads her mother to make a confession that will change Rainbow’s life forever.

Are her abilities a gift or a curse? Can Rainbow really trust her mother?

From England to France, through secrets, fears and parallel worlds, Rainbow’s journey to understand her powers takes her beyond everything she’s ever known.

To find the truth, she must also find herself.”

DSCN2202I didn’t write this. I mean, I wrote the book Tree Magic but I didn’t write the blurb you’ve just read.

It’s a strange feeling when someone else writes a piece based on your own work.

Unlike a review, in which the reviewer is giving their opinion from outside the book, this blurb has been written from the inside. It’s written by a reader who is interpreting your story and wants to share it with other readers. Up to now the only person who has done this is me.

So who did write it?

My publisher!

Ooh…Shivers down my spine. Yes, I’m excited. A novel is a bit like a child, and when someone takes an interest in your child it makes you happy. Unless it’s the police, of course. Or an unsuitable boyfriend – you know: tall, dark (why dark? Isn’t that hairist?), handsome, rich, fun. (In case you’re wondering, he’s unsuitable because your daughter will fall for him and then neglect her studies).

Rainbow has interested several people since she first knocked on the door of my imagination and demanded to be let in. To begin with I let her into the hall, where she asked for a short story – this was back in 2005. I read Rainbow’s story to my writers group, Lumineuse. Later, one of the writers (Christine) told me she could almost see Rainbow beside me.

Rainbow liked this. “See!” she said to me. “Now you’ve got to let me sit down and have a drink.”

She ignored my protests about not having sold my first novel (novel Zero) yet, pushed her way into my living room and demanded a novel of her own. These teenagers. They’re all the same.

Like the model mother I try to be, I negotiated that she could have a small novel as long as she took her feet off my coffee table and helped with the washing up.

She shrugged. “Whatever,” she said. impress post asleep

But the small novel shot up, in the way teenagers do, and became a full size novel.

Rainbow had her own bedroom by now. She would play loud music and order pizza for dinner. She was great company – when she wasn’t sulking about me having to go out and earn a living and deal with real life.

In the end, she decided my house was too small for us both. She wanted to go into the world, which I guess is natural. I’d taken her to meet my writing friends over the years, but now this wasn’t enough.

We wrote off to find her a place with an agent or publisher. Some were interested and encouraged her to keep trying, though they didn’t have room for her. She was interviewed several times, won a runner-up position in a competition and, at one point, was even offered a place.

This didn’t work out, though, and I think she became a little depressed. These poor kids spend years studying, only to find there are no jobs at the end of all the hard work.

Then, one day, an interviewer asked to see her for longer than the standard three minutes. She took her whole self along and gave everything. The publisher liked her. Rainbow liked the look of the publisher. We negotiated. Rainbow yawned – she was a bit bored by all the nitty-gritty, real-world stuff – and we came to an agreement.

So my Rainbow is due to fly the nest. I’m leaving her in the capable hands of a nice young man (Tall? Dark? Handsome?) at Impress Books.

Hence the terrible pun in the blog post title… my apologies if you’re groaning.

Click the following links to find out more about Impress and their ebook imprint Watchword. You can sign up to their blog, discover their authors, see a silly photo of me, read a quote from my editor – and, around January 2017, you’ll find Rainbow sitting on the shelf beside the other Watchword ebooks.