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Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who’s already bought this book, reviewed this book, checked it out from a library or spread the word about it. I appreciate you all SO MUCH! (And please do keep writing reviews on Amazon and elsewhere – they help so much!)
So I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to say thank you…and here it is.
For anyone who’s bought my book since it came out, who’s pre-ordered it or added it to their Goodreads TBR list, who’s written a blog entry about looking forward to it or reviewed it on Amazon or elsewhere:
There’s one particular set of lines in my book that my acquiring editor at Bloomsbury quoted when she explained why she wanted to publish it in the first place. They’re lines that apply to an awful lot of us – even the ones who haven’t started out with real, visible dragon scales.
And Jenn Reese turned them into a sticker design for me! (Just click on the image to see it full-size.)
So: No matter where you live, if you’d like a sticker (or 2 stickers, one to keep and one to give away!), just email me at steph @ stephanieburgis . com (deleting the spaces in-between the words) with your postal address. There’s no immediate limit to this offer – I’ll send them to any individual who emails me and asks, until I finally run out of them! 🙂
And for some more good news: I just got the official confirmation that Dragon is going to be published in France, too! It sold in a two-book deal (with its sequel, my spies-and-fairies book, coming next!) to Gallimard Jeunesse. Hurrah! My fierce dragon-girl heroine will be roaring in three languages. 🙂 (It’s being published in Germany in August!) I don’t have a publication date for the French edition yet, but I’ll add that to the webpage as soon as I find it out.
(But whoops, that all got a lot more rhyme-y than I’d intended. Sorry! I’m a little bit giddy right now, as you can probably tell. But the book itself doesn’t rhyme, I promise! 😉 It’s not that sort of book at all, as you can tell if you read the first chapter.)
It all started late one night, about 2 years and 4 months ago. I’d finally, finally gotten my younger son (still a baby) to sleep, so I’d turned off the light and was just starting to fall asleep myself (and oh, I DESPERATELY needed that sleep, by then!)…when suddenly an opening and a heroine flashed simultaneously into my mind.
A delicious opening.
A wonderful, fierce dragon-girl.
A passion for chocolate.
I couldn’t wait. For the first time in months, I didn’t even care about sleep!
I jerked upright, opened up my laptop, and with the light from the screen casting an eerie glow through the darkened bedroom, I started to type.
Once I’d finished writing down the first scene, I went to bed smiling, with all the different characters playing through my head all night long.
I am so happy that I finally get to share them with you guys!
The Bookseller calls it an “irresistible fantasy adventure”; School Library Journal calls it “a delicious fantasy treat that will satisfy readers who hunger for feel-good tales that pack a girl-power punch, like Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted or the movie Moana“; and in a lovely, serendipitous book-birthday gift, the UK’s Reading Agency has just selected it (in an announcement made today!) for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge (a program my own kids take part in every year through their local library – so I am REALLY excited to see my book on this list)!
You can find The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (or request it) at any physical bookshop in the UK, and you can order it from any online bookseller. I’m afraid there’s a little longer still to wait for Australians (who will get it on March 1st) and North Americans (who will get it on May 30th)…
…But if you do read it now, will you please let me know what you think? I have been waiting SO LONG to talk about it with you guys! I want to know who your favorite characters are! And what your draconic passion would be! (Trust me, that question will make far more sense once you’ve read the book. I promise!)
And if you’re able to take the time to write even just a very short review on Amazon or elsewhere, I will be so very grateful. ALL reviews, good and bad, make such a huge difference to a book’s success!
And I ALWAYS love seeing pictures of the book out in the wild. 🙂
Sadly, my poor 8-year-old is home ill today, so I can’t go out to celebrate the official book birthday. But I can’t wait for the launch party on Saturday – I’d love to see any of you guys there! And today, I’m having a yummy at-home party courtesy of my agent, as you can see. Mmmmm! The perfect way to celebrate this chocolate-filled book.
Thank you guys so much for celebrating with me. Chocolate to everybody!
It’s been a tough couple of weeks, between my horror at so much of the recent political news (in both the US and the UK) and my personal grief over losing our sweet old dog, Maya. We will never, ever forget her.
But there are some really wonderful things happening this week for our family…and one of the most important ones happened this weekend. Meet Pebbles! (And as always, if you click on the picture, you can see a larger image.)
Pebbles is about two years old, and we found her through Usk New Start Cat Rescue. She has an amazing purr, she loooooves being petted – and our whole family feels very lucky to have found her.
She was nervous at first but has gotten more and more relaxed and comfortable every day. Unfortunately, tonight will be her first trip with us to the vets, for a vaccination and also treatment for a minor eye infection – I hope it won’t be too much of a shock/betrayal for her! Please cross your fingers for us – and if any of you are cat-owners, I’d love to hear about your favorite cat toys (or see pictures of your pets)! While we were waiting to collect her, I asked friends on Facebook (in a public post, visible to everybody) to share cat pictures and cat stories, and it turned into a really lovely thread – definitely worth checking out if you could do with some adorable cat pictures right now!
Meanwhile, my wonderful local Waterstones is gearing up for my upcoming launch party in the most amazing ways!
The official UK publication date is February 9th (this Thursday!), but it’s already in stock at lots of Waterstones and Foyles branches and online bookstores – and I would love to know whether it’s in stock yet at independent bookstores too! If anyone glimpses it on a shelf in any shop or library, please let me know – or better yet, take a photo and send it to me! I would LOVE to see those pictures.
I finished the first draft of my first adult romantic fantasy novella (Snowspelled) last Friday, so now I’m working on my new short-short story about Kat’s mother (on commission for the winner of my last charity auction item!), and then I’ll leap back into my next MG novel, which is all about grumpy princesses, goblin girls, and really annoying older sisters who think they rule the world (because they do).
…or at least, I will if I can convince Pebbles that she should let me use my hands for writing instead of typing. (You wouldn’t believe how long it’s taken me just to type this blog entry! Silly kitty…but very, very soft kitties with loud purrs can be very persuasive about things like this, as I’ve discovered in the last few days.)
I’ve always loved my local Waterstones and felt really lucky, too, in how supportive they’ve always been of my books. It’s an incredibly warm, welcoming environment in every way, and my family visits it at least once a week as readers, so of course it was the natural place to host my launch party for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart.
And OF COURSE I had to head straight in to town this afternoon to check it out in person!
I am in awe of the staff member who created this chalk art, replicating the front cover of the book so perfectly. And the way it felt for me to see it there, filling up that familiar blackboard over the counter in the shop I’ve been visiting with my family and loving ever since I first moved to Wales 7 years ago…
It felt amazing. It feels amazing.
I am really, really lucky to have such a wonderful local bookstore, and such a supportive one, too.
And naturally, I can never walk out of a bookshop without a new book for myself, too! I’ve been hearing wonderful things about Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch for ages, and just check out how gorgeous this cover is. How could I resist?
It’s 3 weeks and two days until the launch party. (We discussed the food for it today, and oh yes, there WILL be chocolate!)
Alas, yesterday’s hot chocolate experiment was such a disaster, I’m not even going to report the fine details here (except to say: TEN CARDAMOM PODS IS DEFINITELY TOO MUCH)! On the upside, though, my 8-year-old has volunteered to join with me in the experimentation process, making his own search for a new favorite hot chocolate recipe – and I have to admit (with mingled pride and envy) that his own hot chocolate experiment yesterday was FAR better than mine! Still, we’re both planning to do some fine-tuning today with our next round of experiments when he gets back home from school.
(If you want some context for this quest for hot chocolate perfection, check out the blog entry I posted this weekend. I WILL come up with a perfect pair of new recipes, I swear it!)
And check out this fabulous piece from The Guardian that was forwarded to me by Joanna Murray! The writer, Felicity Cloake, rounds up lots of different hot chocolate recipes using various approaches, then offers her own favorite recipe. I don’t think it would work for me because of how little I personally like milk chocolate – but if you do like milk chocolate, you should definitely check it out! And I loved reading about all the different methods.
Our Christmas tree is still sparkling in the corner of our living room, five days later. It was a lovely, busy Christmas with the kids – and I got all three of my knitted gifts finished in time. Whew! 🙂 Now I’m knitting a scarf for myself with the lush, gorgeous cornflower-blue wool that Patrick got me for Christmas, which fills me with utter delight. (I only ever knit in the autumn and winter, but oh do I love knitting during those seasons! Total stress-relief – especially when the wool is this soft and rich and beautiful.)
Since the kids have been off school and we’ve been celebrating Christmas with the extended family, I’ve only managed to sneak-write little bits and pieces of my new novella (Snowspelled) at a rate of about 50 words a day – just enough to keep me in touch with the project (and slowly but surely move along the fun kissing scene I’d started just before the holidays). But this morning I woke up with a massive realization:
Eeee! And: eep! I have SO MUCH of my heart wrapped up in this book. I really hope you guys will like it!
It’s a strange feeling to have three novels come out within 10 months. I felt as if Masks and Shadows had only just come out when Congress of Secrets arrived at the beginning of November. (And hurrah, I was SO pleased to see both of them on this list of 7 Must-Read Historical Fiction Books of 2016!) Now I’m already excited and nervous about The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, my return to MG fantasy. It’s been a very, very lucky publishing year for me.
It’s been a lucky time for me as a reader, too. Just check out my Christmas book haul!
I’ve already started Game of Queens, and it is fabulous – the kind of rich, fascinating history book that makes ideas for new stories spark on almost every page.
It’s our last week of work before the kids’ school holidays begin…and of course, we’re also frantically gift-shopping at this time of year! In case you are, too, it seemed like a good moment to start posting my totally subjective, personal lists of favorite books I read this year. (Also, I just like looking back on them!) So here is my first list – all MG novels I utterly adored, in no particular order:
Sally Nicholls, An Island of Our Own
When I asked for recommendations of books that were filled with real comfort and joy, Frances Hardinge & Terri Trimble both recommended this one, and they were absolutely right. In terms of voice, overall feel and sheer charm, this book felt like a contemporary MG version of I Capture the Castle. Totally enchanting, heartfelt, and full of warmth, with wonderful characters and such a fun story. I loved it!
(ETA: A reader on Facebook pointed out that this isn’t available in the US, so I wanted to let you guys know that you can get it from The Book Depository with free worldwide delivery.)
Ronald Smith, Hoodoo Hoodoo has one of the most fabulous narrative voices of any MG novel I’ve read in a long while. It is SO delicious and compelling, and I love the way the (creepy) magic is worked so seamlessly into the everyday life of the characters! This whole book is gorgeously creepy and magical.
Note: I really mean it about the creepy bit – I had to put it down at one point because I couldn’t read it at night! (I am a horror wimp) – but the characters are all SO wonderful, the story is so much fun and the magic feels so real, I HAD to go back to it afterward, no matter how much I knew it would scare me. (I just made sure to read the rest of it earlier in the day! 😉 )
Natasha Farrant, Time for Jas
An absolutely beautiful conclusion to one of my favorite-ever MG series. When I finished reading, I literally cried even though it wasn’t a sad ending – I was just so full of emotion! I loved this book SO MUCH. It’s funny – sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious! – and zany and fabulous, with one of my favorite-ever big, quirky literary families (who wouldn’t want to hang out with the Gadsbys? they’re so much fun!), but it’s also a book that really profoundly looks at the questions of why we make art and how creativity works. It’s a deeply compassionate look at complex, sometimes incredibly painful and yet still loving family dynamics, and what it’s like to be someone who doesn’t fit in to the norm, and and and…
Anne Nesbet, Cloud and Wallfish
This book is utterly BRILLIANT. It’s exhilaratingly smart and fun, a wild ride from the very beginning, when 11-year-old Noah is picked up from school in Virginia by his parents only to be told his name isn’t really Noah, he isn’t really 11 after all, and they’re heading to East Berlin (this is set in 1989, when the Wall was still up) IMMEDIATELY, using an all-new set of names and a made-up history he urgently has to memorize….oh, and that from now on, he can’t ask any questions, because SOMEONE will always be listening from the moment they arrive in East Berlin!
It’s a fascinating and enormously fun story full of secrets and codes and mysteries, the setting is incredibly rich…and oh, the emotional developments as Noah makes a true friend in one of his neighbors and is drawn into her own painful and mysterious story!
This was an utterly compulsive read from beginning to end, I enjoyed every moment of it, and again, the ending made me cry in a very, very good way.
Jewell Parker Rhodes, Bayou Magic
Beautiful magical realism full of rich family relationships, strong women and girls, and beautiful writing. It isn’t fast-paced, but it is luscious! I looooved dipping into it a bit at a time and I always came out of each reading session feeling better about the world.
Emma Carroll, Strange Star
Magical, creepy, and so beautifully written and immersive. I devoured it within less than 24 hours! As someone who’s always been fascinated by Mary Shelley, I personally loved the masterful way Carroll built real history into her drama (and played with echoes of Frankenstein, too!), but this book would be just as much fun for someone who’d never heard of the Shelleys in their life. The voices of the characters are utterly compelling, the story is exciting and scary, and even when I was most filled with dread, I could not stop reading.
Sheila Grau, Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions
This book is full of wacky, funny, gross-out fun AND an enormous amount of real heart, and I loved it. Runt Higgins is a non-morphing werewolf who was left as a baby at Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions for his own protection. Now – in hopes of finding his parents again – he’s trying out for the elite Junior Henchman training program, with the help of his wonderful group of friends, including Frankie, a Frankenstein-style created boy whose head pops off when he gets too upset, Syke the hamadryad who can swing from tree to tree, and the crowd of sweet, shuffling zombies for whom Runt’s become responsible. The characters are all fabulous and very funny.
It’s such a great mixture of fun and humor and genuinely creepy moments, and what carries it all through is Runt’s true sweetness, his unstoppable optimism and his deep love for his created family. I enjoyed every minute of this book SO MUCH.
Lucy Worsley, Eliza Rose
I absolutely devoured this book, a delicious historical novel set in Tudor England, with a fabulously sharp and spiky narrator who is the cousin (and rival) of Henry VIII’s ill-fated wife Katherine Howard. The truth is, I’m not sure exactly which genre to class it in, as it breaks some of the “rules” of children’s literature – it looks from the cover like an MG novel, and starts with Eliza at 12, but by the end of the book she’s 20 and has been dealing for years with the questions of how to operate in a licentious and brutal court. There aren’t any explicit sex scenes, but the issues discussed are certainly adult…as, of course, teenage girls were expected to be in that era.
It’s all incredibly addictive, smart and entertaining and perfectly handled. I loved that Worsley let her heroine be sharp and unlikeable at various points, with her pride getting in the way of her own good. I loved Eliza’s voice – and oh, I swooned over her romance! And the historical era is conveyed beautifully throughout. I was already a huge fan of Worsley’s historical nonfiction, and now I can’t wait to read her next novel too!
This is going to be a very scattered post, because I am feeling scattered at the moment! I spent the end of last week getting ready to host a kid-birthday party in our house (which had gotten VERY SCARY with accumulated mess after several months of constant Deadline Mode). Then it was time for for a nice family visit, and then my kid’s actual birthday afterwards…and now we’re packing to get ready for a family trip to London, huzzah! Best of all, this trip will include a publishing party (for me and Patrick, not the kids).
I know, I know. There are people in the world – or at least, in London – who can say the words “Oh, I’m going to a London publishing party” with ennui or even with chagrin.
I cannot. To say the least. It’s almost impossible not to bounce as I say it, even when I’m saying it to myself!
But I do wish I could say those words to my teenaged self! Or even to my seven-year-old self, since that was the age I was when I realized I wanted to be a professional writer.
And look what I also got to see in the last week: the Bloomsbury UK kids’ catalogue for January-June 2016. Do you recognize that front cover???? 🙂
I was very, VERY happy to see my fiery dragon-girl making her way out into the world like that!
If you want to read a (signed!) early copy, don’t forget that there’s still one up for offer on the Authors for Refugees auction! Since a whole bunch of extra authors, editors and agents contributed new stuff over the last week, the auction’s deadline has been extended to 8 a.m. (UK-time) October 1st. Whether or not you’re interested in my ARC, you should definitely check out the auction as a whole!
Now I need to get back to packing for tomorrow’s trip…which includes desperately trying to unearth fancy-dress items that I haven’t used for months! (Oddly enough, in my normal life, there aren’t all that many times when they come in handy! 😉 )
But first, since it’s Wednesday, I’ll share with you guys, too, the teaser quote that I put up on Twitter today for Book Quote Wednesday (#bookqw). The word for the week was “long”, and since Congress of Secrets is coming out in less than 5 weeks (!!!!), I thought I’d share my first teaser quote from it today:
(The whole concept of CoS began when I thought: wouldn’t it be fun to make the powerful, manipulative, ruthless woman the heroine of her own book? And guess what: it WAS fun! 🙂 I can’t wait for you guys to read the first big excerpt on The Book Smugglers tomorrow.)
Hey! Would you like to get a signed ARC of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (complete with gorgeous chapter header illustrations by Freya Hartas) AND help refugees at the same time? You can bid here to do that – and also check out all the other fabulous offerings (from manuscript critiques to books and CDs and more) at the Authors for Refugees auction. It’s open until Monday, September 26th, and it’s supporting a really, really important cause.
I’ll post a real, longer blog entry soon, but today I’m racing to get through my last polish of my MG spies-and-fairies book so that I can send it to my editor within the next few days. Please wish me luck!
It’s the beginning of the school year here in the UK…almost. That is, my older son started school last week, but my younger son won’t start for real until next week because his lovely, nurturing new nursery believes in staggered starts. That’s wonderful in many ways…but this starting schedule has been a bit of a nightmare for a working parent with a big book deadline coming soon and no scheduled childcare this week. Oops!
In other words, I’ve been a bit stressed-out. Over the last five days I have managed to revise 109 pages out of my 212-page manuscript, which counts as a definite victory…but now I’m FLOPPED. (Literally, on my bed, as I type.) And I am behind on eeeeeverything else! So if you’re someone whose email I haven’t replied to, or whose manuscript I should have already critiqued, I can only say: I am SO SORRY. It’s not you (or your manuscript), it’s me. It is very much me.
But! At least I’m over halfway through this revision (we’ll call it Draft 1.2) of my MG spies-and-fairies book. Which I love! And it’s been a great excuse to eat a lot of chocolate. 😉
This is also, thank goodness, the season of The Great British Bake Off, which Patrick & I watch every week with absolute addiction (sometimes holding hands for mutual support because it is SO TENSE)! In general, I’m not a fan of reality TV shows, but this one I absolutely adore, and it’s also a great reminder of one of the best things about being a writer: we can always revise. No one’s expecting me to write a perfect novel in three hours (or in a single draft) and be judged on it! I can keep on rewriting and polishing every book until I’m happy with it, and Paul Hollywood will NOT stand next to me me giving me skeptical looks as I work.
My next newsletter will go out in early October…and one newsletter subscriber (from anywhere in the world) will win an ARC of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart! So if you’re not already a newsletter subscriber, sign up here to become a subscriber and enter the giveaway. (People who already subscribe will automatically be entered into the giveaway without any need to do anything extra.)