MEGA MEGA TOUR POST

Posted by James Dawson on February 22, 2015

23058143Hello all! To celebrate the launch of UNDER MY SKIN, I’ll be popping up all over the UK over the next few weeks with some lovely author friends.

This year, I’m using my tour to discuss the limited nature of female role-models and poor representation of young women in books, music, TV & film. It’s gonna be a LAUGH RIOT.

Here’s where and when I’ll be, public events in sexy bold.

MARCH 2 – BRIGHTON – Brighton schools

MARCH 3 – LIVERPOOL – Liverpool schools and Waterstones Liverpool 1 with Lisa Williamson and Abbie Rushton (7pm)

MARCH 5 – GLASGOW – WeeWrite Festival and Glasgow Argyll St Waterstones (7pm)

MARCH 4 – EDINBURGH – Edinburgh schools

MARCH 9 – LONDON – National Story competition at London School of Economics with Anthony McGowan and Kate Kingsley

MARCH 10 – OXFORD – Oxford Waterstones (5pm)

 

It’d be lovely to see you there, of course there’s NOTHING scarier than the bit before you go on tour and worry no-one’s going to show up.

 

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2015 LGBT YA

Posted by James Dawson on January 29, 2015

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Hello all!

SO! Yesterday I attended A PLACE AT THE TABLE, Inclusive Minds conference for diversity in books. Every delegate was to pledge to do ONE THING right away. This is my ONE THING. It’s only a small thing, but I hope it does its bit.

As you may have noticed, 2015 is a BUMPER year for YA titles featuring LGBT characters. This is unequivocally a GOOD THING. Some of these books are better than others, but that is, of course, subjective. Some of these books are ABOUT being LGBT, some of them are not and just happen to have LGBT characters. Both are good.

I’m a-gonna miss some titles here. I’m not an expert, I’m just very lucky to get sent some proof copies and stuff. Please add more in the comments box or tweet them at me and I’ll amend. Note – this is books released in the UK in 2015 to keep it nice and clear. Also let’s get me out the way first.

  • ALL OF THE ABOVE – James Dawson
  • THE ART OF BEING NORMAL – Lisa Williamson
  • I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN – Jandy Nelson
  • READ ME LIKE A BOOK – Liz Kessler
  • THE ACCIDENT SEASON – Möira Fowley-Doyle
  • SIMON VS THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA – Becky Albertalli
  • LOVE HURTS – Various
  • THIS IS NOT A LOVE STORY – Keren David
  • UNSPEAKABLE – Abbie Rushton
  • THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST – Holly Black
  • HONEY GIRL – Lisa Freeman
  • HOLD ME CLOSER (THE TINY COOPER STORY) – David Levithan
  • ANOTHER DAY – David Levithan
  • THE DARK LIGHT – Julia Bell
  • THE BIG LIE – Julie Mayhew
  • WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND – Robin Talley

Now what’s the ONE THING that you can do? Well! If you’re a bookseller, STOCKING these titles is vital. I would be so saddened if I heard talk like ‘well we’ve already got enough LGBT titles’ or ‘LGBT titles don’t sell’. Stories sell, not sexualities. Each of those books tells a DIFFERENT and UNIQUE story. Can you imagine if we limited numbers of straight relationships in books? The shelves would be empty. That’s eleven titles. How many straight love stories are on the shelves? This said, do NOT segregate these books into a LGBT section. A nice display maybe, but they belong in the YA section.

If you’re a reader, you can BUY these titles with actual currency. I know! What’s the good in whingeing about the lack of diversity in YA books if we then only buy Divergent with four different cover variations? If people DON’T buy LGBT YA, bookshops will think there is no market for it. If bookshops won’t stock them, publishers will stop acquiring them. 

Authors! Be bold! Tell stories about all different types of humans. I got a bit feisty yesterday. While there is ALWAYS a place for authentic voices from minority backgrounds, we must be mindful that people from minority backgrounds are not aliens. As humans from humanity we have more similarities than differences. I do not want to write white gay men forever and no one questioned how I fathomed straight characters. I’ve never been straight but it was EXPECTED that I would ‘get it’ because of ‘privilege’. Frankly, I expect a straight writer to ‘get’ being gay, and if you don’t, ask. This said, I think the publishing industry SHOULD and MUST seek out writers, editors and other staff from minority backgrounds. It’s very important, but ALL OF US should be doing our bit to portray the world as it actually is.

Lots of little things add up to change.

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PHBC – THE WATCHER BY LAEL LITTKE

Posted by James Dawson on January 13, 2015

2564599What’s it all about?

Soap addled fangirl Catherine Belmont is a huge fan of glossy, two minute drama ‘Lost River’ until the events of the show start to come true! As her lookilikey ‘Cassandra Bly’ is stalked by a mysterious figure, so is Catherine.

Stalked by a mysterious figure?

Indeed. Catherine is secretly filmed, left numerous roses, presented with balcony DIY, spooky phone calls and haunted by whispering. It’s all to do with her mum’s old shag.

The Girl

Sadly, Catherine takes us firmly back into the April Fools territory of TSTL – Too Stupid To Live. OK, girl, we all loved a bit of Sunset Beach back in the day, but we didn’t all write to Annie Douglas for a signed photograph. Oh, wait, I actually DID do that. Even so, I didn’t get her haircut, practice a British accent and start running to an electrical goods shop to watch over lunchtime. Also, her level of non-commitment to cheerleading makes me question her commitment commitment.

The Love Interest

A feeble love triangle sort of thing is brewing with Catherine/Cath/Cathy/Cassandra and boy-next-door Wade and handsome newcomer Travis.

Wade says stuff like: ‘I like watching you, Cath.’ Creepy.

Travis says stuff like: ‘Oh boy…I’ve stained your carpet.’

Slim pickins. Worst OF ALL THE BOOKS EVER, Travis has some sort of shady backstory WHICH WE’RE NEVER TOLD. Never. No clue. Answers on a postcard, pls. Fuck it. In the end, Catherine decides to send 14 of her eyelashes to Dr Carlton Wyatt at Lost River ER anyway.

The Gang

As well as the boys we have reliable best friend sort, Liz and Regina Georgesque Britny, whose name I couldn’t see without thinking of Brinty from the Nekci Minij Show.

lwren-scott-dark-gold-long-sleeve-tie-neck-blouse-product-3-15111383-364875085_large_flexFashion Faux Pas

Some key 90s fashions for Catherine include: ‘A full, flowered skirt and rust coloured blouse’ and full marks for ‘a pair of black pants and a gold shirt.’

Dialogue Disasters

OK are we ready for this: He fingered through the ring…

‘But how could it slip off my ring?’

He held out the ring to her

‘Britny took the key from your ring.’

‘You must have been watching the day Britny gave that key to Travis and he put it on his ring.’

‘The key to the cabin was on my ring.’

Some Mild Peril

All very standard PH. A breathy phone voice just isn’t what it once was. And it’s all ‘a little far fetched’ as Wade points out at one point.

Body Count: 1 (historically)

Did The Best Friend Do It? ‘Surprised, Cath?’ No. Not in the slightest, Liz.

Is It Any Good?

Well no, not if we’re honest. The soap opera concept is a fresh one but the issue with seeing what’s going to happen before it happens is that you know what’s going to happen. The most intriguing part for me was the back story with Catherine’s mother and TJ, although the reveal is so crushingly predictable I had scarce fucks to give. I can’t even with how Travis and Wade watched Lost River, went searching for a cemetery and got to the cabin in the woods in under two minutes. Unforgivable though is never finding out what happened in Travis’s past.

Over To You

Just one question this month – what the fuck is up with Travis?

 

Epilogue

It’s with a sad little heart I have to announce this is the final PHBC from me. It’s a lovely problem to have, but I’m just too busy with paid writing to do free writing any more! I know! Boo! But the most important thing with a book club is that as soon as it starts to feel like an obligation, you must stop at once. I gift it to you though. We’ve trolled nineteen titles now and some of us (Paul) have been here from day one. If someone else wishes to take over the mantle, I’m more than happy for the group to continue and I’ll drop in and out if I have time.

What have we learned? Teenage readers are perhaps drawn to different elements than adult ones – repetition and pattern being big draws. The ones I loved as a teen (Dream Date, Camp Fear) haven’t aged as well as some of the ones I wasn’t so sure about (The Yearbook, The Cheerleader). We learned Caroline B Cooney is a legend. We established RL Stine is as good now as he was then and that Collect Call is as good as we remembered The Cemetery being awful.

We can all agree that The Forbidden Game is still the undiscovered Twilight of its generation and that, I think, was my highlight.

Love you all – check out Under My Skin in March. Like Point Horror, but weirder and pinker.

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SATANVILLE – THE BEGINNING

Posted by James Dawson on January 5, 2015

SATANVILLEWHAT IS SATANVILLE?

Satanville is a fictional CW show. It’s a favourite of Sally Feather, Stan Randall and Jennie Gong, the main characters in my new novel UNDER MY SKIN.

You can now read the novelisation of Satanville – The Beginning on Wattpad.

It’s a companion piece that allows you, the reader, to join in with a fandom that appears throughout Under My Skin.

 

DO I NEED TO READ IT?

No. You don’t need to read Satanville to appreciate Under My Skin and vice versa. It’s just for fun. I love American YA so much, and this is my homage to it. I am also fascinated by new social medias and wanted to use Wattpad in a different and creative way that wasn’t just giving away odd parts of a novel.

 

WHAT’S SATANVILLE ABOUT?

Well, no spoilers, but it’s about a New England town called Statenville. Recently orphaned Taryn Van Pelt is about to discover the town has a dark secret and is torn between gallant Zeke Bianco and darkly mysterious Dante Carruthers.

 

HOW WILL IT WORK?

A new chapter will appear on my WattPad each week in the run up to the release of Under My Skin on March 5th. But you can dip in and out at your leisure or read en masse when it’s all online. It doesn’t directly correspond with the book. Sally and her friends are on season 4 – this is the pilot episode as it were.

You can get started right now - the first chapter is LIVE!

 

To ensure you get one of the gorgeous PINK editions of UNDER MY SKIN, you can pre-order now

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FYI

Posted by James Dawson on December 9, 2014

This should help avoid any  messy confusion in the future:

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 11.32.24

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PHBC: NIGHTMARE HALL – THE SILENT SCREAM BY DIANE HOH

Posted by James Dawson on November 13, 2014

310894What’s it all about?

Jess Vogt is a freshman at Salem University but quickly discovers her off-campus house, Nightingale Hall, was the scene of a tragic suicide the previous summer. What’s worse, Jess starts to believe her purple room which is purple may be haunted by dear, departed Giselle – not the supermodel.

And…

Jess starts to question if Giselle’s suicide was even a suicide at all. That’s right…Jess thinks Giselle was murdered! I KNOW!

The Girl

I think it’s important we try to understand Jess. By that I mean HOW THE HELL DO YOU PRONOUNCE HER NAME? Does it rhyme with yacht? Does it rhyme with yoghurt? Is it like Voight?

Jess is one of the better PH girls. She has a wry sense of humour and loves pizza. While not especially complex, we get the sense Jess is independent and laid-back. Certainly not the most irritating character we’ve met. Although she does have ‘navy blue eyes’…REALLY?

The Love Interest

This month the honours go to photographer/fishing enthusiast Ian Banion and his early top-knot. As Ian’s also a suspect he’s frustratingly vague, but you can’t knock a guy who takes you out for a Chinese every once in a while.

The Gang

As The Silent Scream is basically a whodunnit, we have a classic rag-tag bunch of housemate subjects.

As a side note – with the exception of Dee in The Forbidden Game have we read ANY other characters of colour? The large cast of TSS really highlights how hideously white the Point Horror world really is.

Back to this lot. We have rich boy Jon; uptight, bitchy Cath (‘Those suits are the ugliest things I’ve ever seen. Even on people with good figures’); possibly trans Linda; poetic Milo and charismatic handyman Trucker.

Even without reading the book, you can guess who the killer is from the list, right?

0bc5c24149470157339889aebfd915beFashion Faux Pas

In a new category for November, let’s check out those fashions!

Jess sports khaki shorts and sandals not to mention a curious I IS A COLLEGE FRESHMAN sweater that almost made me hate her. Ian, although apparently heterosexual does sport ‘faded denim cut-offs’. Cath and Jon win for their preppy ensembles: ‘perfectly creased, navy blue slacks’. Nice.

However, lets take a moment to envisage Cath’s ball dress: ‘Cath’s dress was like a pale blue cloud’.

Dialogue Disasters

Ian: ‘Nice smile.’ I SO wish Jess and replied ‘I’ll give you the number of my dentist.’

Jon. Poor Jon. Although Jon is meant to be cheesy so Hoh knows what she’s doing. ‘I was too busy having a great dream about Kim Basinger’

‘After all, my major is parties, sports…and women.’ Jon’s Salem’s Dapper Laughs.

Milo: ‘I’ve written some of my best poetry while I was sitting on the riverbank, fishing.’ Well haven’t we all?

Some Mild Peril

TSS is a game of two halves. The supernatural stuff is genuinely chilling. We all KNOW there is nothing scarier than ghost photography and Giselle appearing in Jess’s passport photos gave me the willies (quiet at the back). The dips in temperature and nightmarish visions are effective. I’m even OK with the slightly hokey ending.

Where it’s less good is the standard PH fair of ripped up swimming costumes, missing essays and (most stupidly) worms in a drawer. How does a worm crawl up your arm? ANSWER ME THAT?

Body Count: 2

Is It Any Good?

I really enjoyed TSS, far more than I thought I would and much more than our last Hoh offering, The Funhouse. Tellingly, I really want to order a load more Nightmare Hall outings as I seem to remember they all vaguely linked back to TSS in some way. I definitely read The Scream Team and The Wish back in the day.

The only critique is that the killer is so obvious. No amount of casting suspicion on Milo made me think for a second it was anyone other than the real killer. For me, I would have made Ian the killer. Or Linda could have revealed she was Giselle’s BF before her transition. That would have been perfect.

Over to you

Q – Did Giselle push Mrs Coates down the stairs? If so, why?

Q – What does Linda see in Milo? What does Jon see in Cath?

Q – What precisely do you think went down between Giselle and Milo in the past?

POINT HORROR BOOK CLUB will return in 2015…

 

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WHY I CHARGE FOR SCHOOL VISITS

Posted by James Dawson on November 12, 2014

Durrington High, SussexHiya! I am troubled by a thing, so I’m a-gonna write a little blog about it. It’s not a rant. I’m calm, I promise. *Rubs rose petals against cheek demurely*

love doing school visits. They break up the week, the get me out of the flat, I get to work with young adults who are inspirational and often hilarious. I also love doing school visits because they supplement what I earn for my writing, enabling me to buy fripperies such as food and warm clothes. I don’t wanna sound like a buttmunch (no-one likes a buttmunch) but I like to think I am good at school visits too.

Now while 95% of schools and librarians I work with are a dream to work with, today a school approached me to do a visit and then pulled out when I told them my (perfectly reasonable I add) fee because ‘we can get someone for free.’

*Takes soothing breath*

Now, clearly I’m not starving. I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time – for now – but the money I earn from school visits is a very welcome bonus. I know a lot of writers depend on this additional income. Let’s face it, there’s only one author on JK Rowling money, and that’s JK Rowling. Advances, in the most part, are not enough to live on.

The way I see it, on a normal working day I’m either writing, researching or editing. If I take a school visit that’s essentially a day off work. Like most working people, I can’t really afford to have a day off work. The sooner I get stuff written, the faster I get paid by my publisher.

Initially I really wanted to be able to do school visits for free because I love them and enjoy them, but I simply can’t afford to. I think IF the day comes when I could afford to, I wouldn’t, because I don’t ever want to undercut the authors who rely on this income. Good lord, if I’m ever one of the lucky few who can afford to do events for free, I shall still change and donate my fee to the wonderful First Story.

Some people will no doubt be saying, ‘what about book sales on a school visit?’ Well. In some schools you can shift a lot of books, but that rather depends on how much money the pupils have to spend doesn’t it. Some kids don’t have £6.99 to spend and I wouldn’t want to do a HARD SELL school visit in order to make it worthwhile. Furthermore, even if I moved a hundred books at every visit, royalties would take YEARS to find their way back to me (if they ever did at all).

So it would be disingenuous of me to say “I wish I could do school visits for free’, because I think writers should be treated like any other freelancer. No-one expects a plumber to come out to a school for free.

I’ll always be a teacher at heart and I KNOW the impossible budget constraints of working in schools and I sympathise, but I do have to charge for visits. I hope teachers and librarians think I’m worth it *Loreal hair flip*.

And as for authors. Be neighbourly. Don’t undercut your fellow authors in the name of self-promotion. That shit be shade.

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PHBC: THE BOYFRIEND VS THE GIRLFRIEND

Posted by James Dawson on October 13, 2014

The Boyfriend The Girlfriend
Cover 176400 

 

 

 

 

girlfriend
What’s it all about? Borderline sociopath Joanna Collier sees AMATEUR DRAMATICS fan Dex fall off a cliff only to be surprised and horrified when he APPEARS to come back from the dead.What is the terrifying truth? Bet you can’t guess. Scott ‘Scotty’ Singleton soon regrets a weekend blowie with whispery redhead Shannon. That’s right, she’s a grade A bunny boiler. Lock up your pets! No, for realsies.
The Girl? As both titles this month are from the Godfather of Point Horror, we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that neither lead character is typical.Joanna is a less self-aware Regina George. Hands up if you’ve ever been personally victimised by Joanna Collier? 

She leads Dex on, and treats new love interest Shep like a fashion accessory.

 

Stine hints at some major mummy/daddy issues, going some way to explain Joanna’s attitude problem. I don’t see any other author getting away with it.

Likewise, very few PH titles (The Yearbook) led with a male lead.The Girlfriend is no more and no less that a YA retelling of Fatal Attraction, and that’s no bad thing. 

However, it’s hard to tell if we’re meant to like Scotty. I think we’re meant to, but he does cheat on Lora (who is actually better than most PH girls – testament to Stine’s excellent dialogue).

 

Like Gone Girl’s Nick Dunne, this Golden Boy has it coming.

The Love Interest Dex is your standard Bad Boy from the bad side of town, except he’s not especially bad – just a bit stalky. It’s hard to understand what he sees in Joanna.Shep is a Golden Retriever of a character, but does grow a pair for the final (and demented) showdown and tells Joanna where to go. Lora (although perhaps too good to be true) is well realised. She loves Scotty but has a life of her own. Her sardonic take on her privileged life feels real.Her only misstep is her VERY fast forgiveness of Scotty at the end, he’d have been DEAD TO ME.
Dialogue Disasters This is RL Stine! There aren’t any obvious zingers, but please prove me wrong in the box below. ‘Bender’‘Fluffernutter’
Some Mild Peril Dex climbing in through Joanna’s window, and his lurking could be perceived as scary I suppose. The problem is, Dex isn’t very scary.Less would have been more, I feel. Shannon’s relentless pursuit of Scotty is effective. Scotty’s powerlessness is chilling.Stalking is a real threat, and this isn’t a bad portrayal – even if the climax is ludicrous.
Body Count 0 2 (animals)
Is it any good? Erm…Joanna is a welcome addition to the PH world – she’s truly hateful and a bold choice. It’s a shame she doesn’t get her comeuppance.I’m also a big Mary fan. Yes, the twist is obvious and I wish she hadn’t been quite so unhinged but I like the idea of her plotting against her frenemy. The Girlfriend feels slightly more like a PH than The Boyfriend and is better for it. Shannon is more believable than Dex, although it’s a shame she’s so one dimensional – I wish we knew more about her background.
Over to you! 1. Which title did you prefer and why?2. If you HAD TO, Dex or Shannon?3. Who’s a bigger shit? Joanna or Scotty? 

Next month we graduate high school and head to NIGHTMARE HALL – THE SILENT SCREAM by Diane Hoh.

 

 

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THE DAWSON DIVERSITY TEST

Posted by James Dawson on September 23, 2014

54bc20e4d07d91d73b756929fc0619a4Official_christinanew-breaking-dawn-pic-jacob-black-26896688-1391-2165OK! So last week I did this big speech for the Children’s Book Circle. It’s REALLY long, but you can read it HERE. In a nutshell, I asked the children’s publishing industry if they’d make a nice spreadsheet recording how diverse their books were.

Why? This was not, you may be surprised to learn, a 1984 Big Brother plot to invade the privacy of Google or some such. I just think there’s so many fantastically diverse books out there but we don’t have any evidence. So when someone stands up and says books aren’t diverse enough, we really have no idea.

That said, a recent American study found only 3% of children’s/YA books featured a black character, so maybe we DO need to try a bit harder on both sides of the editor’s desks.

After the speech, lovely agent type Hannah Shepherd suggested I devise an EASY system for checking a book’s diversity credentials much in the style of the BECHDEL TEST for feminism. Now the Bechdel test is not perfect – after all the loathsome SUCKER PUNCH passes the Bechdel Test, but it certainly isn’t feminism friendly. What I’m suggesting here isn’t perfect either, but if a book were to fail you might wonder WHY.

It wouldn’t tell you anything about the WRITING or HOW MUCH YOU ENJOY IT, it would merely tell you how diverse the book is.

I suggest, like the Bechdel Test, a three stage system.

Think about the book you just read. Select the three MOST IMPORTANT characters.

1. Is at least one of them female?

Women are not a minority group as such, but this is important because we must acknowledge the voice and stories of female characters are as important and valid as those of male ones.

2. Does at least one of the three lead characters fall into one of these groups?

  • A person of colour or from a minority culture i.e Gypsy/Roma/Traveller, migrant groups.
  • LGBT or queer or curious or asexual or gender fluid.
  • Physical or mental disabilities inc. mental illness.
  • Low socioeconomic background.
  • A faith group.

This is important because, as minority groups, the voices and stories of people from these groups are seen less in mainstream media. This is silly because while we are in very few films, TV shows or books, we do exist in quite large numbers. We buy books, we read books. We want to read books about people like us.

It isn’t enough to have a minority character on the outskirts of the plot – this reinforces the idea that culture is for and about one type of person. That’s why it has to be one of the three main characters.

3. Are the minority characters represented in a non-tokenistic, fully-rounded way? Do they reinforce stereotypes about that group?

Stereotyping occurs because we tell one type of story about a group. If we continue to perpetuate myths, groups continue to be dehumanised making prejudice and discrimination more likely.

Like I said, this test isn’t going to work every time. I do however think that it’s helpful. It’s an aid-memoire to me, an author, to ensure I am helping, not hindering understanding of minority groups. I also think it would help editors and agents reflect on the makeup of a novel.

I mean, this does and doesn’t matter. I KNOW it won’t improve the writing. I KNOW it won’t make the book more FUN or PAGE-TURNY. I KNOW most readers really don’t care one way or another. I mean half of the Harry Potter films fail the Bechdel Test, but I still love them. But I care as an author, and speaking to people since the talk last week, I think the industry cares too.

For LOLZ lets take a look at some recent hits:

The Fault In Our Stars: PASS (Augustus has a disability but is still able and sexified.).

Twilight: PASS (Jacob is Native American and while CLEARLY Native American people are not mystical werewolves, many white characters are also mystical).

The Hunger Games: PASS (All three characters are from poverty but are capable, intelligent and skilled).

Divergent: Hmm…depends on whether you select Christina as one of the three main characters.

As a reader, I doubt this will come in very handy although there are lots of people who actively seek out books with diverse characters because they like reading about a variety of characters. As authors, editors and agents, though, it might come in handy! Use it as a tool, DON’T take it too seriously. There will be no book burning here!

In fact, I bet MOST books will pass – and that’s down to the excellent work of authors and editors. If we were to look and films and TV shows with the same test, I imagine mainstream media would be doing far worse.

 

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POINT HORROR BOOK CLUB NEWS

Posted by James Dawson on September 8, 2014

Hello readers! Unfortunately I’m on a super tight deadline, so our RL Stine compare and contrast extravaganza shall have to be pushed back to OCTOBER. Sorry kids! Ah well, this gives you extra time to read both titles!

Get searching for your copies of THE BOYFRIEND and THE GIRLFRIEND!

 

James xxx

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