Sunday 15 February 2015

Review of THE LEGEND OF FROG by Guy Bass

Image source
They say “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but in this case, you should. Jonny Duddle’s wonderful design says it all - a valiant but incompetent looking frog wields a ray gun while behind him alien bipods blast a fairy-tale castle to smithereens. Onlookers include a spoiled princess, a bumbling wizard and an army of alien invaders.
It seems authors will never tire of re-inventing traditional fairy-tales, and this re-telling of “The Princess and the Frog” is particularly zany and humorous.
Frog, armed with nothing more than a pair of Catastrophe Pants and his trusty stick, Basil Rathbone, is the highlight of the book. Somewhat reminiscent of Kenneth Graham’s Toad (a distant relative?), Frog is an unlikely hero - naive, self-assured and filled with his own sense of “princely-ness”. He stumbles through the book in search of adventure and his kingdom, encountering hilarious situations along the way. He assumes command of a “royal steed” (a sheep) which he names Sheriff Explosion, but the stubborn animal refuses to carry Prince Frog and has to be carried to the castle himself! What awaits there is a classic dĂ©nouement featuring a full on war with aliens. “I’m opening a shop that sells crushing defeat,” announces Frog, “and you’re my first customers!”
The language is as wacky as the characters and the plot. A dungeon is described as smelling like “a cow eating rotting broccoli out of a sack full of old witch’s farts.” This book will appeal to kids who like humour and silliness, though some of the gags are clearly aimed at “Apocalypse Now” fans – “I love the smell of burning life-forms in the morning.” It’s pantomime. And like all good panto there’s something for everyone.

Review first appeared in Inis Magazine

Sunday 1 February 2015

Chicken House Big Breakfast January 2015

Barry Cunningham and some of his talented chickens
It was with a curious mix of nervousness and excitement that I attended this year’s Chicken House Big Breakfast.  I never like the idea of walking into a room full of strangers but I was eager to meet my publisher and editor in person, as well as some other authors.
Event Training run by Author Profile
I was somewhat put at ease by the fact that I had attended an Events Training session the previous day with the wonderful Justin Somper, author of the Vampirates series; and Amy Finegan, voice coach and actor.  They trained us in how to do an author event for schools, libraries or literary festivals.  It was a really educational and fun day. 
But perhaps the best part was meeting the three other Chicken House authors, Chris Callaghan, Linda Davies and Jeannie Waudby.  Jeannie’s debut YA novel is just out, and Chris’ chocopocalyptic MG story is out later this year.  Linda brought along her seven foot longbow as a prop for her reading from her new book, Longbow Girl.  It was great chatting to these guys about their books, their routes into publishing and their hopes and fears for the future.
So at least I knew I’d recognise a few friendly faces the next day.  The event was billed to run from 10:30 to 12, so when I turned up with my cumbersome suitcase (I was flying home straight after) the staff of the Groucho Club must have thought I was staying the night.  I didn’t feel too bad though, when I spotted Linda Davies with her 7 foot longbow!
My book has always been an abstract thing, something which is going to happen, but seeing my book’s cover on my name tag, (or lanyard, as I believe is the correct term – I always make a point of learning one new word everywhere I go!) my novel finally started to feel like a real thing!
Catherine Doyle & Barry Cunningham
It was great to mingle and meet bloggers, the staff of Chicken House, and other Chicken House authors.  Though nobody warned me of the dangers of eating posh breakfast canapĂ©s! One bite into a quail’s egg Benedict and the yolk exploded all over my jumper and shoes.  Fellow Irish author, Sarah Webb, luckily was at hand to help me clean up.  Philip Ardagh then demonstrated the correct way to consume dangerous foods, by downing them in one mouthful.  I think he has a bigger mouth than me.  I’m sticking to Weetabix for breakfast from now on!
Linda Davies
Barry Cunningham then spoke and talked about how Chicken House has gone from strength to strength over the past fifteen years, having their best year ever in 2014.  We had a reading from fellow Irish author, Catherine Doyle, whose book (Vendetta) launch I’d attended the previous week. We also had readings from Longbow Girl author, Linda Davies, and Lisa Drakeford (The Baby).
Then Barry went through all the books to be published in the coming year, including my own, The Black Lotus!  Perhaps for the first time, my book finally felt real.

Thanks to Chicken House and all involved, for such a brilliant event.  And thanks to the quail for that egg!