Sunday, 18 March 2018

Introducing OCULUM, a middle grade dystopia

Dancing Cat Books | PRE-ORDER NOW

Oculum (noun): Latin for eye; in architecture, a circular
oculus allows light through the top of the Roman
Pantheon and similar ancient domed structures.

Oculum aperui: I opened an eye.

I could NOT be more honoured to announce that my
middle grade dystopia, Oculum, is coming out soon from Dancing Cat Books

Here's the synopsis:

"I'm Mann, just Mann."

The world is slowly recovering after environmental collapse, and the children of the automated, domed city of Oculum have begun to awaken. Miranda, William and the 998 other children wake to tend the fruit trees and gardens behind the thick, opaque walls of their world. Some speak quietly of Outside, which is forbidden. Until William finds a door ...

The children outside the dome of Oculum — Mann, Cranker and others raised by Grannie — live in the rubble of the old destroyed city. They live with hunger, hard work, and stories about a time before the fall, of buggies without horses, light without fire and magical fruit called "peaches." But it must be lies, until one day Mann and Cranker get close enough to the ancient dome to find a door...."

I absolutely love the amazing cover of Mother of Miranda1 holding out a peach, by Emma Dolan. Thank you Emma! 

Thank you also to Barry Jowett and Marc Cote at Dancing Cat Books for inviting me in. And thanks once again to my intrepid editor, Allister Thompson, who was there from beginning to end (and that's eleven books we've created together now). 

More to come about Oculum in the weeks ahead, but for now ... love and peaches.

Oculum is available SPRING 2018 
For Media and Preview Copy Contact 
PRE-ORDER a copy now

Saturday, 17 March 2018

OCULUM, coming Spring 2018!

Dancing Cat Books | PRE-ORDER NOW

Introducing OCULUM, my new middle-grade dystopia, coming from Dancing Cat Books, April 2018. 
Here's the back cover copy:

“William, you cannot go out that door. You have no idea what’s out there. If there IS anything out there!”

So says Miranda1 to William1 in their perfect, domed world of Oculum. They are the oldest children of the one thousand chosen, raised by robot Mothers, taught to read, write and tend the fruit trees, but in a closed world without love or freedom.

Then one day, William1 finds a hidden door. What awaits Outside?

A destroyed ancient city of rubble, where orphaned children like Mann and Cranker live rough with only Grannie to feed and protect them. It’s a world without beauty or fruit trees, plagued with death and hunger.

But change is coming, if only Miranda1 and William1 can find the way out of Oculum …"

New author photo! No one LIKES taking author photos,
I don't think, but this one is OK. 

Oculum is available SPRING 2018 
For Media and Preview Copy Contact 
PRE-ORDER a copy now

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

A few tips on writing horror for middle grade readers ...

The ghastly truth about a giant hand...

A rainy night, a haunted highway, a mysterious monster...

Are you brave enough to enter the curious maze? (Not everyone comes out)...

An evil twin, a haunted mirror, and strangers who whisper BEWARE THE OTHER...

Screaming mermaids, zombie pirates ... and do you hear the distant drums?

By September 2018, there will be FIVE books in the Weird Stories Gone Wrong Series

In creating this award-winning middle-grade horror series over the past few years, I've learned a thing or two about writing horror for younger kids, ages 8-12. It's fun, but there are also some considerations that I learned along the way. So here, for your amusement (and elucidation!) are some thoughts on writing horror for kids. These aren't "rules", just the template we built for this series as we went...

1. No weapons (or sharp objects) on the cover. Apparently, you can scare them silly inside (there is an illustration of a cannon and a War of 1812 soldier holding a bayonet in Carter and the Curious Maze), but no weapons or sharp objects on the front cover! Parents and grandparents buy the books, generally, and weapons might turn them off.

2. No bloodied children. Sure, you can have a soldier running through the maze dripping blood (yep, Carter and the Curious Maze again), but not kids. You can, however, have slightly singed kids smolder from the massive Grand Magazine Explosion, for some reason. But we decided that bloodied children are just too gory for this age group.

3. Adults can be creepy, but not parents. These readers are young, 8, 9, 10. They may be reading scary stuff for the first time. Giant, dismembered hands, monsters whispering outside the car, time-travel mazes, evil twins are all pretty scary, so I just couldn't make the parents in their world scary, too. I think that might be a story for a slightly older reader. There are ghost adults though (Myles and the Monster Outside), a green-goo wielding doctor (Alex and The Other), and even freak show adults. But the parents and grandparents in my series are rock solid.

4. To swear or not to swear. 
You know, I have NO problem swearing in real life (probably, I swear a little too much when it's needed), and I allowed my now-grown kids the occasional swear when the situation demanded it. But I just can't bring myself to swear in a middle-grade book. I get about as harsh as "stupid" or "shut up." Parents, librarians and teachers have told me they appreciate the restraint.

The name of the series is Weird Stories Gone Wrong. Weird has gotten me through a lot of sticky plot holes in this series. Weird is totally okay in a horror story, in fact, I think weird makes a horror story better. If there are no weapons on the cover, no children dripping blood or cursing like sailors (or zombie pirates), and despite whatever else is going on, they can rely on their parents or caregivers ... I think you can make all the other aspects of the story as weird and scary as you like.

Whispering strangers, creepy aliens, a town gone crazy with green, shimmering eyes, screaming mermaids, a ghost walking a lonely highway looking for his lost dog, a giant, dismembered hand ... the sky's the limit. Just no bloodied children, or sharp implements on the cover! (The Mermaid Queen is rocking that bone sword in Blackwells and the Briny Deep, chapter twelve, though.)

For more Blog Posts on Weird Stories Gone Wrong
PRE-ORDER Book 4, Alex and The Other, Coming MARCH 31/2018
PRE-ORDER Book 5, Blackwells and the Briny Deep, Coming SEPT 23/2018