Tag Archives: young adult books

And the novella is live!

Bazinga!

Never Grow Up - High Resolution

Never Grow up is available now on Amazon. Remember I told you ’bout it the other day?

“It’s a funny, upbeat coming of age story about Jude, a tomboy who never wants to grow up. She just wants to live. It’s a quirky little read, filled with letters and texts and lamenting teen rants with an optimistic little sister, a swiftly changing best friend, a despairing dad, a jet-setting older sister and a band called The Manic Flamingos.

This sweet tale is told in just over 21,000 words.”

I also told you it’d be up for 99p, and it is. Alternatively, ask me for a copy! I’ll happily oblige. ❤

Cover Reveal: LEAP!

Wahooo!

Did you have a good Christmas and New Year? We at the Bloomfield household did!

In fact my year has started off rather well. Not only did my invoice for my last month of 2014 look *fantastic* considering I had a whole 2 weeks off, plus time off for Christmassy-related stuff, but I also just ordered a new cover this weekend and it’s ALREADY HERE.

Yes! That’s right! Those ugly MS-Paint place-holder covers are almost totally gone. I wish I’d never bothered with them in the first place but I couldn’t resist. I  was too excited to get the books up on Goodreads.

So once again I found myself shopping at Goonwrite.com, by far the best value for money I’ve ever come across for covers, and amazing quality too. I ordered my cover on Friday night – paid for two, in fact, because you get a discount and the dude is happy to keep a “credit” on file for you so that you can browse his new range of covers as and when they come in – and found it in my inbox this morning.

Is that amazing service or is that amazing? Hot-dawg.

I don’t know why I’m talking like that. I’m British. Must be all that sparkly customer servicey stuff I’ve been blathering on about. 😉

Without further waffling, here’s the sexy cover for LEAP!

Leap - High Resolution

Leap was such a tough one to find a cover for. I wanted it to have a retro-feel without being too camp, and most of all it needed to feel like a modern novel about the past, as opposed to a novel stuck in the past. Kat is definitely a modern 17 year old, despite its settings in 1997 and 1979, and the cover needed to reflect that.

There’s also the love-story elements and the concept of a girl being caught between two places; both in terms of time-period and in her personal life. She’s at a crossroads physically, emotionally, mentally – the whole shabang. Remember being 17? Yeah, that!

So it took a LOT of thinking outside the box to try and figure out how to pull all those elements together. It took me forever to actually stumble upon this cover, which I think is just perfect. It’s moody, it’s reflective, it’s contemporary, and it’s even complete with retro-looking clothes – almost fancy-dress style, which is perfect – and the model looks really rock ‘n’ roll. I particularly love her hair-do; it gives the impression of belonging to two styles and two eras, right? Get it?!

Another thing I loved about the model is she’s such an individual. Kat definitely prides herself on being a smart cookie who lives her life a little on the edge. She’s an A-grade student from a council flat in Peckham, who befriends a pair of punks from 1979 and sits in the loos with them smoking and drinking tins of Party Four. *Believe* me when I tell you how tough that was to personify visually.

You’re beginning to understand why I chose a stupid picture of a record player for the place-holder cover, right? Riiiight.

So there we have it. I hope you love the cover as much as I do, and here’s hoping it inspires more readers to click the ol’ “to read” button on Goodreads! That is, when I add it, of course. Gosh. I wasn’t born for administrative jobs, I can tell you that for nothing, duckies.

Ciao,

Ava

Double Cover Reveal!

W00p!

So it’s about time I got a shift-on with my books, and the place to start in terms of marketing, what with the books themselves being written and semi-edited – some written years ago, in fact – is with the covers.

Now, I have gone on quite a journey in terms of covers.

For a while I convinced myself that, seeing as my grand plan was to just get the book out there and get some reviews, I didn’t want to “over do it” by dressing them up as…you know, books.

Stupid, isn’t it?

I actually now realise that was my lack of self-confidence talking. Somewhere inside me was that evil voice saying, ‘What’s the point in dressing it up? It’s still crap. You can’t polish a turd, love.’

We’ve all got the Evil Voice inside us. Some are better at ignoring it than others, and I’m afraid I’ve always been particularly weak to it, even though I do truly believe in my work. It’s probably why it’s taken me so long to consider self-publishing to be an option for my hard-to-place works. Before, it just seemed like failure. I now see that a book being difficult to sell doesn’t make it bad.

Anyway, so there I was, convinced I had no right to pretty-up my work and spend money on it, so for some ridiculous reason, that converted to making some “simple” covers. Long story short, that was not working out. I’d made many attempts at making my own covers in Gimp,and they just looked like cut-and-paste collages, so I abandoned anything complicated. But even when I copied some “minimalist” covers that I loved, the best I could produce was some MS paint lookalikes that didn’t transfer well to the story at all. At all.

Problem was, I knew I needed good covers. I just had no budget at all, and the only “affordable” cover artists I’d found were, let’s say, uh…a bit shit. I wouldn’t ever name names – I can’t remember them anyway, because they were just Google results – and I know everybody has to start somewhere, but most of the pre-mades and even custom covers were overpriced for what wasn’t a very professional job. In fact most of them were down-right shoddy. Perhaps I wasn’t searching in the right places; perhaps I didn’t ask the right people. How these awful examples transferred to making my own awful covers, I’ll never know. Remember: Evil Voice.

So I was pretty down in the dumps about it all, until I stumbled upon Humble Nations. I was in love with the quality and style exhibited throughout this guy’s portfolio, and though he doesn’t appear to specifically make products for YA books, he does absolutely everything in between. His designs are such that you can think outside the box. There’s no “YA” tab, sure, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great YA covers. The pre-made designs – of which there are hundreds – are very much symbolic, in that they aren’t all completely “literal” covers, although for some genres that require that, there are covers to suit.

He was my wish-list cover artist before I realised he did pre-mades, and after that, I was stoked. Seriously, go check out the prices on pre-mades. Amazing, right? Considering what the shoddy people charge, you can get a pro on a budget. If, however, you do have a budget for custom covers, it’s still the best place to go, in my opinion. Judging by the details on his website, the custom process is quite intimate between him and the author, so you work together to build the perfect cover, with concepts and several mock-ups to choose from.

Well, it was the best place for me, anyway, and each to their own.

So, after adding my crappy “minimalist” covers to Goodreads, I waited. Turns out not a lot of people like to add books with crappy covers to their “to-read” lists, and in truth, I wouldn’t add mine with covers like that either. A friend of mine said it’s vital because, even if they’re “okay” covers and not necessarily bad, it just doesn’t ignite much faith into the author and their book if there’s no effort in the window dressing. She was so right. I’d convinced myself that it was okay to skip probably the most important aspect purely because I was afraid of making that step. Oh, and the budget, of course. Mustn’t forget that.

When people did start adding my books, however, I picked the two most popular – which, unsurprisingly, was the darker, grittier two books of the four I’ve listed; Honest and All Girls Cry – and chose them to get covers first. When I find covers that match my other two books on my perusing, then I’ll go ahead and update those. There’s no rush, though. They won’t be available for a while, but I’m working on it.

I’m actually toying with the idea of getting Honest ready to come out around Halloween, what with it being a dark story, but we’ll see.

Anyway, I am just so stoked about the covers. I love them. For the first time, I actually managed to find covers that I felt expressed not just the story but the tones  of the stories; the atmosphere. That was really, really important to me. I didn’t want them to look like typical YA novels and I’m certain they look every bit as awesome and unique and above all, professional, as I’d hoped they’d be.

So without further ado – here they are! 😀

All Girl Crys - High ResolutionHonest - High Resolution

For me, I loved how the artist could take seemingly non-cover-pictures and make them work with the right font and the right style of genre/title in the pre-mades. For example, there’s a cover of a cheesy-looking guy with glowing white teeth and folded arms. You’d think that’d make a silly romance cover, or something – but the artist made it work by giving it the title “The Smug Shit”. Now it looks like a hilarious, anecdotal memoir or maybe a quirky business management book, or something like that. He just seems to have this insight into what photographs actually should convey, rather than what you’d initially expect them to convey.

The point is, for me, this graphic artist – and any great cover artist, I’d imagine – just communicated to me. I think that’s what I’d been missing before; that aspect of an artist’s work speaking to me. I guess to enjoy your own work, you need to be open to persuasion and allow yourself to be “spoken” to, or to receive that “Calling” to a particular graphic designer.

Oh, and it’s also important to remember that the Evil Voice is an idiot, and unhelpful, and that they can just go shove a sock in it.

The Books that Made Me

Getting to knoooow you…Getting to know aaaaall abooooou-

 

Enough of that.

 

So given that this is a new blog, I think it’s a cracking good idea that I reveal just a few tidbits about me to get you, the reader – yes, you – interested. Maybe we’ll find some common ground, or maybe we’ll discover that we have absolutely NOTHING in common. But, none the less, you shall know a little bit more about me. And that’s a good thing.

ME, me, meee.

 

A little idea I had was to include a few books that “made me”, as in, books that inspired me growing up. Would you like that? Yes?

Well then, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin.

 

I discovered what an “author” was when I was about four, I think – around the same time I realised what books were, and that there were lots of them and that I could live thousands of different exciting lives all whilst sitting still. By the time I was about 6, I think, I had decided that the author life was for me. Before then, I’d just thought that books came down from space and that authors were people who sat on different moons and sort of showered them down from the galaxy – not real, living, normal people like me.

For a start, how on earth did they get all those bazillions of words down into a book? Why was their handwriting so neat? What happens if you made a spelling mistake?

Of course, I didn’t realise that publishing was a business which required a team of people to write, edit, polish – not to mention all the ghastly slush pile processes, the agents, the rejections and the acceptances.

So it was with this in mind that, when I was about 9 or 10 years old, I attempted to “write” my own “book”. I’m sure I attempted it a few times by folding bits of paper, but that didn’t work – the paper unfolded, got stained and, anyway, I could only fit about three words on it. No, it was after I fell in love with my first “favourite author” that I got hold of a red, hardback notebook with lines and margins and started my own novel in biro.

It was a Jacqueline Wilson rip-off. Yes, you’ve guessed it. My first favourite author was Jacqueline Wilson, and this – I think – was my favourite book:

 

illustratedmum

 

The Illustrated Mum.

Jacqueline Wilson was probably my first introduction to realistic children’s writing – stories about highly imaginative, colourful kids who are living dramatic, gritty, honest and shocking lives.

And they were lives we, the kids, could relate to.

Sometimes it was because we recognised the characters – such as the illustrated mum herself, who is fun, and fantastic, and vibrant, but suffers with Bipolar Disorder (or manic depression) and can be every bit as awful as she was brilliant. Poor Dolphin is caught between loving her mum so much it hurt and recognising, as she gets older, that her mum is not well. Her mum isn’t reliable. Worst of all, her big sister, Star, is growing too old to put up with it anymore; for her, the magic is wearing off, and the sisters are growing apart.

Sometimes it’s because we recognise the kids – like Dolphin, who still loves somebody blindly and fiercely, even when it hurts. Or like Star, who isn’t such a baby anymore, and can’t help seeing the darkness in the people she loves.

That’s deep stuff for a kids book.

I think it was at this point that I realised I wanted to write about deep, meaningful subjects; about young people dealing with real-world issues. Though I did dabble in the odd bit of fantasy – like Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice, for example – I escaped into worlds that felt familiar. Not necessarily in terms of subject – JW’s stories often revolve around the foster care system and council housing, which I never directly experienced, though my friends did. But in terms of emotional impact, I was definitely there with them.

JW’s work – all of her books, in fact, which I gobbled up fast as you could say NICK SHARRATT (every kid recognises those cartoon characters a mile off) spoke to me on that intimate level, and every character became a new best friend who was whispering in your ear, telling you their secrets.

#

 

So as time went on, I started to read more “Grown up” books alongside my Jacqueline Wilson books – and all the others from the library, of course, which my dad took me to seemingly all the time. In fact if there was one thing my dad would usually agree to buying me, it was a book. It was our most prominent bonding experience, that.

After reading the Sugar Secrets series:

sugar secrets

I started to become more open to books about teens, and sex, and smoking, and drinking and the like. Of course, still being a whipper-snapper, I wasn’t actually *doing* any of these things, and so it made it all the more exciting to read about.

Being a bit shy, grungey and anti-social (black nail polish was to become black hair, black boots, black everything later on!) there was something really alluring about friendship books, where break-ups were the end of the world and every summer was full of drama, snogging and mystery. They were brilliant novella-length books that, much like JW, could be gobbled up one after the other like Smarties.

Delicious, delicious Smarties.

So then, after a tip-off from a pal of mine, I became even MORE open to outlandish books full of drama, sex and scandal, and I discovered…

This.

flowers

 

Flowers in the Attic.

 

V C Andrews, to this day, is one of my favourite authors. I recently finished the first two books of the Casteel series and loved them every little bit as much as I loved this. Although dear, talented Virginia Andrews died before she could write any more, the franchise has branched out to include hundreds of ghost-written novels of the same ingredients – the gothic mystery, drama and tension that we all came to love.

But of course, none of them could hold a candle to the originals.

Flowers in the Attic was the first guilty-pleasure book I ever read, and I was 12. Seeing my undying passion for these books, my mum rushed out and scooped up the rest of the series from a charity shop – something she still does for me today!- and I gobbled them up, yes, like Smarties.

Flowers was the first gothic romance I’d ever read, and it was filled with hate-filled lust, misery, torment – you name it. Cathy and Chris Dollanganger were my saints and I loved them, even when their dark brother/sister relationship turned a little weird while they were locked up in that attic loft with their little siblings, Corie and Carrie.

Yep, this is the one you’ve heard about – the incest story.

V C had these wickedly amazing talent for developing characters to the point where their confused, weird, erotic relationship had a twisted sense to it. After all, they were just children locked in an attic, and as those children grew into adults, they became dependant only on each other. They created a surrogate family for themselves in the lofty attic rooms of Foxworth hall, the gothic mansion where they were trapped by their own wicked mother.

All right, it’s weird, and kind of gross- but that’s the beauty of FICTION!

Every dress, every hair style, every meager meal they were fed under lock and key – all were described so beautifully that even the paper flowers which decorated the attic became a vast and looming garden. Every Ballet step by Cathy was a gorgeous, moonlit performance. Everything was dark, and troublesome, and undeniably beautiful.

It was also full of sex – with details, too, which my 12 year old mind was just going crazy for. You can imagine.

The swan-shaped bed that features in the later books would forever haunt me – as seen in the film Sunset Blvd, actually – and be a dream of mine to this day. I must have a swan-shaped bed.

 

Even though Flowers was never considered a gothic romance of the calibre of, let’s say, the Bronté sisters – whom I also love and adore, by the way – it was a novel that took the world by storm. Even when it was released around 30 years ago-ish, thousands and thousands of teenage girls, or almost-teens, like me, were going mad over this novel.

And they still are to this day.

#

 

So, though there were arguably many, many books that made me, I think those were my earliest influences that stand out for me. Later, of course, I would read things like The Beach by Alex Garland, and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and many other beautiful, dark and mysterious books.

And they would all fuel one desire within me: to write gritty realism from the point of view of teenagers and young adults.

Naturally, like all authors, published and not – I’m still learning, and still searching for that dark story to tell.

 

But those are the books that took me there, and will be holding my hand all the way.