Publication day for The Secret Battle

It’s publication day today for The Secret Battle, Pamela Rushby’s gripping middle-grade historical novel, set in Brisbane in 1942. It’s a fabulous, fast-moving read, centred around the adventures of nine year old newspaper seller as he becomes inadvertently caught up in the tensions between Australian and American servicemen which will result in a deadly riot–and change Roddy’s life forever.

To celebrate the book’s publication we’ve created a short trailer which we hope you’ll enjoy.

Cover reveal for The Secret Battle!

We are delighted to reveal the stunning cover for our forthcoming title, Pamela Rushby’s The Secret Battle, a fabulous middle-grade historical novel set in Brisbane in 1942. The cover is designed by Authors’ Elves. Isn’t it stunning!

The book will be published on October 4th.

Here’s a bit about the story:

Nine-year-old city newspaper seller Roddy becomes involved in the infamous Battle of Brisbane in 1942, when American and Australian servicemen fought against each other, rioting in the streets of the city for two days.

When Roddy helps an American serviceman who’s been involved in the fighting, he never expects that the battle will become covered up – a wartime secret. Never to be reported in the newspapers he sells. Or that his actions will result in a new life for him after the war – all the way to the USA.

A fast-moving historical novel for middle-grade readers by multi-award-winning author Pamela Rushby.

First review for Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect

Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect, by Phoebe McArthur, has just received its first review, in Read Plus, with the reviewer, Carolyn Hull, recommending the novel. Here’s a short extract:

This book has been written in the style of a Trixie Belden mystery – a young girl who can solve problems and crimes with only the help of other kids. It will appeal to young readers who love a mystery story...

You can read the whole review here.

Publication day for Charlie Chaplin!

We are delighted to announce that today is the official publication day for Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect! Written and illustrated by the dynamic mother-daughter duo who create books under the joint pen-name of Phoebe McArthur, it’s an exciting middle-grade mystery set in a picturesque Australian country town, and features a bright, spirited heroine in the Nancy Drew/Trixie Belden mould, but with a very contemporary twist. And it’s enhanced by fantastic, atmospheric black and white illustrations.

Congratulations to the talented Phoebe McArthur duo–we are delighted to be publishing this fabulous book! And we hope lots of readers will love it as much as we do.

Phoebe McArthur on writing Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect

Next Monday will see the official release of the new Eagle Books title, Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect, a gripping contemporary mystery set in the picturesque country town of Gulgong in central west NSW. And today, as we wait for the big day, author Phoebe McArthur tells us something about how the book came to be, the influences on the story, and the research that had to be done…Enjoy!

Writing Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect

So, Phoebe McArthur is the nom-de-plume for a mother-daughter writing team. Generally one of us writes the initial draft of the story and then sends it to the other one for editing/adding/rewriting.  In the case of Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect, the daughter (me) of the  team, wrote  the  story  and  the mother (hereafter known as ‘Mum’) was the one doing the edits and additions. Whenever we’ve got a completed manuscript we can’t tell who wrote what!

I can’t remember if I started with Nancy Drew or The Famous Five, but I’ve always loved mystery stories. Recently, I came across one that I’d started writing when I was about 8. It’s very embarrassing and the punctuation is atrocious.

A little while ago, I was given inside information that a publisher was after a ‘Trixie Belden’ style middle-grade novel. Yay! This was right up my alley! Originally, with Charlie (whose name was Meg for the first few drafts) was moving into a tiny house with her mother. It changed to an old post office when I realised that so many of Australia’s original post offices were now something else.

After a meeting with the publisher (who was encouragingly excited) I headed off to Gulgong to check out the Pioneers’ Museum (her suggestion). And yes, it was perfect! I took a lot of photos, which ended up being perfect for Mum to use as the basis for her illustrations, ate a LOT of food and didn’t write a single word. However, plot was bubbling away in my mind.

I grew up in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. It is rumoured that there are tunnels under the main street between one of the pubs, the big hotel and the bank. Apparently these were for visiting royalty to be able to move around and not be bombarded by the masses. While in Gulgong, I almost fell down a hole in the main street. It turns out that it is used to deliver barrels of beer to the pub. How boring! So, for the story that hole became an entry point to a labyrinth of secret tunnels that run under the town of Gulgong. To the best of my knowledge this is something I’ve made up, but I’d love it to be true! Almost all the Famous Five stories have secret passages and tunnels, so I simply had to add them into Charlie Chaplin.

I also have a memory of Mum telling me that we’re secretly descendants of Queen Victoria. Something about one of her sons and a maid and someone being sent out to Australia to avoid a scandal. How true that (or my memory) is, I have no idea, but it made its way into the book, nonetheless.

One thing I was determined not to have in the book was romance. One thing that I love about Enid Blyton mysteries is the lack of mushy stuff that gets in the way of solving the mystery. I get very annoyed when the main characters get distracted by their feelings and end up in a lot more trouble because of it. I put up with it in the Nancy Drew books, because (most of the time!) the romantic aspects didn’t encroach on the overall storyline, whereas in the Trixie Belden books I found it to be forced. Thankfully Mum fully agreed with that decision and we now have a book that we are very proud of!

We are working on our next few projects together — concurrently, of course! Life isn’t as fun if it’s not as full and busy as humanly possible!

Great new review of The Girl in the Mirror

There’s a lovely new review of our Davitt Award-winning title, Jenny Blackford’s The Girl in the Mirror, on writer Jonathan Shaw’s blog. Here’s a short extract:

In what seems another lifetime, I was professionally immersed for something like 15 years in literature for children of primary school age – the brilliant range of writing arrayed between little children’s picture books and beginners’ chapter books at one end and YA fiction at the other. I haven’t read a lot of it since. The Girl in the Mirror reminds me of what I’m missing.

You can read the whole review here.

https://shawjonathan.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/girlinthemirror.jpg

What the Davitt Awards judges, and Jenny, said at the awards ceremony

At the 2020 Davitt Awards ceremony the other day, presenter Sue Turnbull read out the judges’ great comments on Jenny Blackford’s prize-winning book, The Girl in the Mirror, after Val McDermid announced her win. That was followed by a short speech by Jenny herself. We thought readers might be interested to see the transcript, which follows, courtesy of Sisters in Crime Australia. And remember, you can watch the whole thing here.

DAVITT  AWARDS CEREMONY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2020.

SUE TURNBULL: This year 12 crime books competed for the Davitt for Best Children’s Crime Novel. 4 were shortlisted.

 VAL MCDERMID: And the Davitt for the Best Children’s Crime Novel goes to JENNY BLACKFORD for The Girl in the Mirror (Eagle Books, an imprint of Christmas Press)

 JENNY BLACKFORD is an award-winning Australian writer and poet. Her poems and stories for adults and children have appeared in Asimov’s, Westerly, The School Magazine and many more Australian and international journals and anthologies. She won two prizes in the Sisters in Crime Australia Scarlet Stiletto awards 2016 for a murder mystery set in classical Delphi, with water nymphs. Eagle Books published her spidery, ghostly middle-grade novel The Girl in the Mirror in October 2019. It’s based on a story that originally appeared in The School Magazine. Pitt Street Poetry published her third poetry collection, The Alpaca Cantos, in April 2020.

 SUE TURNBULL: This is what the judges had to say:

“Separated by more than a hundred years, and brought together through a mysterious mirror, Maddie and Clarissa provide comfort and wisdom at a time when they feel desperately alone. The girls band together to defeat a creeping evil that threatens the lives of their families. The Girl in the Mirror is a refreshingly contemporary time-slip mystery. Maddie and Clarissa are intensely relatable with their shared frustrations at the way in which they are dismissed by the adults in their lives. Jenny Blackford has captured the pains of early adolescence – loneliness, fear, uncertainty – in a gripping mystery that is perfectly pitched to the middle readers who will love it.”

Over to you JENNY.

JENNY BLACKFORD:

“I’m so delighted! The Sisters in Crime do an amazing job of encouraging and supporting Australian crime readers and writers. In 2016 I won two prizes in the Scarlet Stiletto awards, run by the Sisters in Crime, for a murder mystery set in classical Delphi, and that has certainly encouraged me to write more crime fiction and poetry. And now this, the Children’s Crime Novel Davitt for The Girl in the Mirror. Thank you, Sisters!

“I must thank Christmas Press Commissioning Editor Beattie Alvarez, who pulled my submission out of the slush and turned it into a real book. Eagle Books is the adventure story imprint of Christmas Press, based in Armidale and run by Sophie Masson, Fiona McDonald and David Allan. Huge thanks to them all. They were the perfect publishers for my mix of crime, ghost story and mystery, with added spiders. The design of the book is amazing, thanks to Beattie and Fiona – there are tiny redback spiders on every page, and gloriously creepy black and white illustrations sprinkled through it. And thanks to illustrator Liz Anelli, who launched it at MacLean’s Booksellers and at Maitland Library.

“My friends and family have been admirably patient whenever I’ve stopped doing whatever I was halfway through and looked blankly into space. Many of them have also helped with proofreading and editing for many drafts of the manuscript – especially my husband Russell.”

Very exciting news!

PRESS RELEASE

September 27, 2020

Christmas Press is absolutely delighted to announce that Jenny Blackford’s fabulous middle-grade novel, The Girl in the Mirror, which we published in our Eagle Books imprint in 2019, is the winner of the Best Children’s Crime Novel category in the 2020 Davitt Awards.

The Awards, which were presented by legendary Scottish crime writer Val McDermid in a virtual ceremony yesterday, Saturday September 26, featured a shortlist of 24 books across six categories. You can find the video of the ceremony here.

Prestigious annual awards with a 20-year history, the Davitts are run by the Sisters in Crime Australia literary organisation and showcase the best crime novels by Australian women writers.

The Girl in the Mirror, an enthralling mix of murder mystery, time slip and ghost story, is the debut middle-grade novel of acclaimed poet and short story writer Jenny Blackford. Illustrated with atmospheric black and white pictures by Fiona McDonald, the novel has received wide acclaim, with reviewers praising its ‘clever storytelling’ (Buzz Words), ‘silky smooth prose’  (Compulsive Reader) and its ‘enjoyable and revelatory’ qualities (ReadPlus). As Geoffrey McSkimming writes in the back cover quote, it is truly a ‘spine-tingling winner.’

Publishing director of Christmas Press, Sophie Masson, said, ‘Jenny initially submitted her novel to us some time ago in one of our open submissions period, and it immediately caught the eye of our commissioning editor Beattie Alvarez, for its haunting atmosphere, gripping narrative and sharp, evocative writing. We loved working with Jenny and are very proud to have published The Girl in the Mirror. We warmly congratulate Jenny on this very well-deserved win and thank the Davitt Awards judges and Sisters in Crime Australia for supporting the best in crime fiction by Australian women writers.’