Finding Your Personal “Click”

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There are some places in the world that are just personal magic. Different people find their own in different places, but when you find yours, there’s an internal click of recognition and all the accumulated tension floods away, leaving space for real imagination and creativity to take its place.

Over the years, I’ve visited a lot of really beautiful places, many of which work that magic for many other people, and all of which I’ve deeply enjoyed. But the first time I ever visited Wales’s Gower Peninsula, four years ago, I felt that unmistakable click like a key unlocking a secret door inside me.

Nowadays, we try to go there as a family every year. If we were rich, I’d buy a cottage by the coast and go there as often as possible. As it is, we rent a caravan for one weekend every summer that we can, and it’s the best weekend of my year every time. Whenever I stand out there in the waves looking out across the ocean, I feel all the accumulated stress of the year slip off from my shoulders, carried safely far away by the sea water while I’m there…and I feel that unmistakable “click” of creativity being unlocked inside me and letting my imagination out.

Before we went away this time, I was feeling really stressed and also just tired in every possible way, to the point where I wasn’t even sure that this year’s trip was a good idea; I had no energy to spare, whether physical or emotional. Not only was I physically and mentally exhausted, but I’d hit the point where I felt creatively drained. I could keep on working productively on the stories that I’d already begun, but I was feeling so exhausted that I’d hit that awful (and horribly familiar) stage where it seemed honestly implausible that I’d ever think of any new ideas again. (I knew that wasn’t really true, of course – I have been at that stage before! – but the feeling was still strong and hard to combat while exhausted.)

Then we reached the Gower, I stepped onto the beach…and ohhhhh.

By the time we left, less than 48 hours later, I’d written down two new MG novel openings in my notebook. One of them is just fine; the other one has that unmistakable spark, the feeling of simmering magic and so much potential, that makes it a story I will love; a story that will build a whole new world inside me.

I came up with both of those stories on the beach, looking out across the water. On one of those days I had to wear a raincoat, and thick mist hid the cliffs in the distance; that didn’t matter. Creativity just flooded through the air for me, whether or not it was raining, as the waves swept against the sand.

What makes particular places click for particular people? I don’t know. I grew up visiting much sunnier and equally beautiful beaches on the Pacific, lined by palm trees, and they were wonderful. I’ve swum in deliciously warm ocean water in Florida, and I loved that, too.

But for some reason, it’s the wooded, cool and misty Gower Peninsula in Wales that turns the key in my creative heart and lets my stories out like nowhere else I’ve ever been in my life.

Now I have a new story waiting to be told in a few months, and the magical world behind it is building itself in my subconscious. When I left home on Friday afternoon, I was still worrying at the projected edits for my next book, determined but deeply uncertain about how to handle them; when I came back from the Gower, the uncertainty was gone. I could see the new turns of the story stretching out inside me.

This morning, I woke up to find amazing fan art for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart waiting in my email inbox: my characters (Aventurine and Silke) looking fierce and fabulous and perfectly captured on the screen. I was filled with recognition and delight at the sight of them.

It’s definitely time to start writing again. Now, after this weekend, I’m ready.

I’d love to hear about the places that feel magical for you guys, too.

The Best Kind of Overwhelming


Last week was busy and overwhelming in the best possible way.

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart came out in the US and Canada!

I did an event at the Hay Festival with the fabulous Sibéal Pounder! (It was SO MUCH FUN, and I loved meeting so many kids who love dragons too! You can see more photos here.)

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart was named one of the Best Books of the Month (ages 9-12) by!

I picnicked at our local castle with my kids!

And I finished writing the short story that I’d promised to my Con-or-Bust auction winner. (It’s called “Shadow Duet,” it’s a followup to Masks and Shadows starring Carlo & Charlotte 18 months later, and I’ll be sending it out to my newsletter subscribers next month – sign up here!)

Now I’m resting and figuring out how to tackle my edits for the 2018 sequel to Dragon, which will star a fantastically smart, story-spinning heroine named Silke whom I adore…and whose name you may recognize if you’ve already read Dragon! :)

(Of course Aventurine will also be a major character – but this next book is going to be Silke’s story and told from her point-of-view. My editors and I are still brainstorming a real title, but the way we’re referring to it is as my spies-and-fairies adventure! So you can make some educated guesses about the plot based on that. ;) )

Oh! And as part of Dragon‘s North American blog tour, I’ve blogged over at Nerdy Book Club about Finding Your Passion – something that’s VERY important to the dragons in my novel! – and why I love reading and writing about ambitious girls.

Happy Tuesday!

A Dragon’s Book Birthday

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US Cover art by Petur Antonssen

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is out in North America today! I am really, really happy about this.

This book is full of fierce girls, dragons, friendship and utterly delicious chocolate. It was such a joy to write, and I really hope it will bring joy and comfort to everyone who reads it.

You can read Chapter One on my website now, and of course you can buy it, too! (I hope you will.)

If you see it on a North American bookshelf, will you please take a picture? I really want to see it there!

I would love to hear what you think of the book once you’ve read it. And if you can take five minutes to post an honest review on Amazon after reading it, I would be incredibly grateful. Even a one-line review is really helpful!

Don’t forget to pick up a hot chocolate recipe on my website so that you can drink while you read! I’ll be celebrating at home today with two of my favorite birthday gifts, which seem very, very appropriate today. (Just click on the photo to see a larger image!)

This is my first new MG novel to come out in North America in over four years (!!!), so this is a VERY big day for me. And oh, you guys, this is such a book of my heart – full of hope and love and dragons and chocolate! I am so excited to FINALLY be able to share it with you. :)

Lakes, Rom-Coms, Love Lists, and More

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I’ve spent the last three days in a cottage by a lake with Patrick and the kids, and it was absolutely wonderful. I spent the morning of my fortieth birthday drinking coffee by the lake, we visited a fun dinosaur park that afternoon, and I am VERY happy with my pile of birthday books:

I’ve already finished tearing through the Breaking Cat News collection (my favorite comic in the world! I got a Breaking Cat News cocoa mug for my birthday, too), and I’m in the middle of Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek, which is really, really fun. (It’s about two fabulously nerdy teen girls both having their own romances in the middle of a con – how could I not have fun reading it? It’s making me feel hugely nostalgic for the time when Patrick and I used to go to a lot of cons together – if you’re an f/sf geek like we both are, it really is a romantic thing to do!)

I also spent one of my days by the lake devouring Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, which was just amazing – the best romantic comedy novel I’ve read in ages, and now one of my favorite rom-coms ever. You can read my full review here.

It was a gorgeously relaxing, refreshing long weekend away, but now we’re home, we’ve retrieved Pebbles from the (very nice) cattery where she stayed while we were gone, and at this moment, she’s purring on my chest, so all is feeling Very Right With the World. :)

And I’m guest-posting today on the Ms. Yingling Reads blog, talking about the “love lists” I use when I come up with new books.

Only one more day until The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart‘s US/CA book birthday!

Talking About MG and Birthdays of Various Sorts

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Today I’m really honored to be part of a panel on MG fiction over at The Book Smugglers with three amazing authors: Sheela Chari, Uma Krishnaswami, and Mark Siegel. I absolutely adored Sheela’s new MG suspense novel Finding Mighty (see my full review here!), Uma’s Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh is a wonderful, girl-powered MG historical with fabulous characters, and my 8-year-old is currently devouring Mark’s new MG graphic novel, The Sand Warrior.

I’ve been friends with Sheela for years (and yes, she really is every bit as warm and smart and lovely as you would hope from reading her books!), and it was great to meet Uma and Mark through this project. Reading the roundtable is basically as close as you can come to seeing a conference panel with all four of us together (since we’re currently scattered around the world)! I really hope you guys enjoy it. Read it here.

And of course…it’s just five days (!!!!) until my next MG novel comes out in the US and Canada! I love this graphic that Bloomsbury US made for it:

I can’t wait for you guys to meet my fierce dragon-girl. Within the next five days, I’m going to be having two kinds of birthday – my own (milestone) birthday (I’ll turn 40 while enjoying a family holiday!) and my book’s birthday just a few days later – and I have to say, if I was forced to say which one I was more excited about…well, as much as I do love chocolate birthday cake, my dragon-girl’s book-birthday might just win. ;)

(However, that being said… I may be turning 40 this week, but apparently I’m not completely mature after all, because when I had to choose between being sensible about packing by opening presents BEFORE we left on our holiday, or demanding that all of my presents be brought along, wrapped and hidden, for me to open on the day of my birthday itself…of course I went for Option 2. Birthdaybirthday! Wooot!)

Sticking to my Own Lane (or not!) and Some Good News

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Thanks to Paul Weimer’s generous invitation, I’m guest-blogging over at Skiffy and Fantasy with a post on Switching Between Lanes as a writer who hops back and forth between two genres.

Here’s a brief snippet from the opening:

I think that every writer who’s ever read publishing advice online has probably come across at least one article on the importance of “branding.” Apparently, to be really smart, writers ought to be figuring out the one thing that they’re best at — or the one thing that connects the most with potential readers — and then sticking to it no matter what, so that fans will know exactly what they’ll get from every new novel by that author.

I know I sound a little snarky in that description, but I’m actually not arguing with it as a strategy. I’m sure that it is a smart, practical way to build a successful career.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been much good at sticking to my own lane….

Read the full blog post here (especially if you’ve ever wondered why I don’t just pick one genre and stick with it!).

US Cover art by Petur Antonssen

And in very, very good MG news…

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart has been selected as a Kids’ Indie Next pick (in the age 9-12 category) for Summer 2017! Woooot! These are the books recommended by independent bookstores around the country, and I am incredibly honored that Dragon is among them – and in fabulous company!

You can click on the cover image in the 9-12 category to read the full blurb from the bookseller who recommended Dragon for the list, but even just the first line of her recommendation makes me very happy:

“Have your hot chocolate ready before you start reading this book, because I guarantee you won’t want to stop reading to make a cup once you’ve begun this delightful (and delicious) tale of friendship and growing up.”

Yay! There are only 12 days to go until Dragon roars into North America. I am nervous and excited and impatient for you guys to all finally meet my fierce dragon-girl heroine!

Happy Thursday!

Books, Bubbles, and Other Kinds of Magic

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I’ve hit the point where I’m desperately counting down the days (and hours and minutes) to our first big family holiday of the year (less than two weeks to go!), so in other words, it has been A Week (to say the least), but here are some of my favorite moments from it:

1. Devouring Sally Nicholls’s upcoming YA suffragette novel Things A Bright Girl Can Do, which was utterly fabulous, immersive storytelling – by far the best historical novel I’ve read in ages – and written with wit and warmth and wonderful characterization throughout. You can read my full Goodreads review here.

2. Visiting our town’s new local comics-and-figurines shop with my boys, who broke into cries of glee when we stepped inside. This place could have been made for our family! Patrick and I have already promised each other to make a return visit together while the boys are at school, so that we can actually take time to browse for our own delights. (I’ve already spotted a Black Widow figurine that I just might need… ;) )

3. Reading an ARC of Cressida Cowell’s truly magical upcoming MG novel The Wizards of Once with my eight-year-old. It’s less light-hearted and slapstick than the early How to Train Your Dragon books (which I love) but it is genuinely, thrillingly full of magic and wonder, and my older son and I are both loving it. My biggest challenge has been keeping to my vow to only read it with him and not cheat by reading ahead on my own!

4. Signing contracts for the French edition of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. Oh, and seeing the gorgeous German cover, too! So far, this book has sold in seven languages, which is a first for me, and it’s incredibly exciting.

5. Blowing bubbles in the back garden with my kids last night. The garden is bursting with flowers, it’s been lovely and warm here, and watching the bubbles fly up high in the early evening light felt really magical.

What about you guys? What are some of your highlights from this week?

Dragon Trailer!

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It’s less than four weeks until The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart comes out in the US and Canada…and look what just had its official début over at the wonderful book blog Random Musings of a Bibliophile?

The all-new book trailer!

Will you go and watch it and then (in comments over there or here) please tell me what you think? I love it so much!

It was made by Lodestar Author Services, and they were wonderful to work with.

You can pre-order the book right now at Barnes & Noble, IndieBound,,, and more…

(And of course, if you’re in the UK or Australia, you can buy the published version already! Waterstones/

And, um. Without getting too specific about things I can’t talk about yet in public…

There are some strong reasons on my end for why it would be really, really good to get some healthy pre-orders and sales within the next week. So, if any of you guys were thinking of buying the book at any point, now would be a REALLY good time, and I would really appreciate it! (And I truly hope to be able to tell you guys soon why this timing is important.)

But most of all: Eeee! Yay for that lovely trailer. I love it!

(My 8-year-old loved everything about it except that there wasn’t a full movie to go with it. He said, “PLEASE can you ask Uncle Dave [who works in Hollywood] to make a movie of it?” I said, “I’m afraid that’s not really in his hands, sweetheart…” He said, “Well, but you can always ASK!” Well… ;) In other words, our whole family loves this trailer!)

Adventures, a Story Auction and a Giveaway

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In the last five days, I’ve led two writing workshops of my own, taken my kids to two more workshops, had a fabulous castle adventure and gone to the cinema with them, and visited the Bristol Aquarium as a full-family trip. So in other words, it’s been an excellent set of school holidays for all of us…

But now, like Pebbles, I am ready for a nap. ;)

However! I’ll be back to my usual writing routine tomorrow, and as of today, you can bid to win a brand-new short-short story written by me about any character from my novels – winner’s choice! This is part of the Con-or-Bust auction, which raises money for fans of color to attend fantasy & science fiction conventions. Bidding is open from today until May 7th, and there are many, many fabulous options to bid on. Find mine here!

This exactly how I came to write my short-short story “Flying Magic” last year – the winner of last year’s auction wanted a story about Kat dealing with her own kids. It’s also how I wrote my longer story “Forbidden Magic” – that particular auction winner wanted a story about Kat’s parents when they were young. Both stories were so much fun to write! I can’t wait to see which character this auction’s winner will choose.

I also managed to do just about all of my editing for my adult romantic fantasy novella, Snowspelled, over the past couple of weeks. (Right now I’m just proofreading with the help of some fabulous beta-readers and making a few last niggling line edits.) The final cover and blurb (and pre-order links!) won’t be ready to share until June, but you can add it to your Goodreads shelf now.

And speaking of Goodreads…

Patrick’s fabulous second novel, The Emperor of Mars, doesn’t come out until July, but you can enter a Goodreads giveaway for it now! It is SO much fun, and can certainly be read as a standalone adventure – but why not read Book One first? (Clockwork butlers, pterodactyls, girl inventors and dragon-tombs! <3 <3 <3 ) Either way, the giveaway is international, so enter now!

Happy Monday. :)

Art, Truffles, Books and Events

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It’s been a busy, chaotic set of school holidays – but then, I’m not sure we’ve ever had any that weren’t! Still, the kids and I have been doing Family Art Club almost every day,* we got to hang out with wonderful relatives last week, and I’m still eating the delicious Easter chocolates that Patrick gave me yesterday. (Charbonnel et Walker pink champagne truffles! Bliss!)

Also, I’m finished with all of my major rewrites of Snowspelled (my romantic fantasy novella for adults). Now I’m just playing around with minor line-edits and trying to catch any final typos and inconsistencies, with the help of wonderful beta-readers…and, of course, Pebbles, who always helps with everything (at least when she’s not walking in front of my laptop screen, telling me to stop writing and START PETTING HER)! ;)

Snowspelled won’t be coming out until September, so I’ll wait a while before talking much more about it here, but: I am so looking forward to sharing this one with you guys! (If you want to make sure to get all the details of it ASAP, you can sign up to my newsletter.)

And! It was a sign of just exactly how chaotic our school holidays have been that it was a genuine shock today to realize that the North American edition of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is coming much sooner than I’d realized – May 30th is only 6 weeks from tomorrow! Woooot! (And eep!)

Next week, I’ll be giving away my very last ARC of it in my newsletter. If you’re a North American book reviewer/blogger/librarian, you can still request the e-ARC from Netgalley. And of course you can read Chapter 1 here and order the book from anywhere in the world!

I really, really hope you’ll enjoy meeting my fierce dragon-girl heroine!

And right here in Wales, I’ll be leading a fantasy & science fiction writing workshop for teens and adults as part of the Abergavenny Writing Festival this Friday. You can buy your tickets here! I’ll also be leading a dragon-themed workshop for younger kids at the Abergavenny Library on Wednesday from 2:30-3:30.

So it’s a busy week all round, but in a really good way. I hope your week is full of good adventures!


*Re Art Club: I am not one of those authors who is also a wonderful artist. But one of the great joys of having kids, for me, is letting myself do things with them that I made myself stop when I was younger because I didn’t think I was good enough. It turns out – shock! surprise! – that it’s *fun* to draw, even though I don’t draw well, when I just relax and let myself enjoy the process.

There is probably an important lesson in that…and maybe sometime when I’m a little less busy, I’ll let myself actually think it through. ;)