My Books


Blimey, it’s been a busy few months. Lots of new books out and a new house to boot! I’ve moved.  I no longer have to write in a cupboard. Hooray! Having a window to write next to feels like such a luxury. The only downside is that I’m slightly further away from the kettle. Actually  that’s probably an upside. As well as unpacking boxes I’ve been busy with loads of new books. And quite a few events, too. it was fantastic to meet Nick East, the illustrator of DO NOT WASH THIS BEAR. While I love squirreling away at my work, it’s quite nice to venture out of the scribble cave and meet real people. Can’t wait for our next event together Nick.  Do Not Wash This BearTOM'S TOOTH sam hay
nutcracker june 2016 2Stella 1 CoverToo many nightingalesSTELLA 2 galley


Awesome Early Readers – the Cinderellas of the book shelf

When children start to read by themselves it can be a bit of a leap from picture books with their comforting mix of shorter text and plentiful pictures to full-on chapter books. That’s where first readers come in.first reader

sam child pix 1

Me, when I was learning to read (and to smell the flowers!)

These amazing little story grenades are the perfect books to help you earn your reading wings.

Very much the Cinderella of the book shelves, early readers may not get the glory but they provide youngsters with their first solo shot of literary satisfaction.

With exciting plots, short chapters and lots of eye-catching pictures, first readers provide a fast route to confident reading. I still remember the thrill of completing a book by myself. I felt like I’d been given the keys to the car! (A 1970s brown Mazda 929 Estate with vinyl fake-leather seats, just in case you wondered.)

When you’re a newbie reader, chapter books can feel a little daunting, like considering climbing Kilimanjaro in your flipflops. patriotic-flip-flopsBut early reader books? They’re achievable. You can race up these mountains, flip-flops and all.

I was chatting to a brand new reader in my local library and he proudly told me he’d read 13 books in one week. Fantastic! Who cares what shape, size, length those books were.  That’s the joy of first readers – success is attainable.

Cactus Joe coverI’ve been writing first readers for a few years now. And I’m excited to have two new ones coming out soon: Cactus Joe’s Cowboy Caper  which is illustrated by Daron Parton and Nightingales CoverToo Many Nightingales with pictures by Roger Simo. 

I love the challenge of writing early readers. They’re like mini mind puzzles. You have to distil a big idea with strong characters, a juicy plot and a satisfying end, all in less than 1,000 words. Or sometimes even fewer. (I’ve just written a tiny title called Tom’s Tooth with gorgeous pictures by Melanie Sharp, which has less than 50 words. Brevity is all.) TOM'S TOOTH sam hay

There are so many cracking first reader series to choose from, including Egmont’s Bananas and Franklin Watt’s Race Ahead with Reading series There’s a feast of amazing stories out there to satisfy the hunger that ensues the moment a child starts to take off with reading.

These are some of my son’s favourites. Happy reading!   brick-a-breckcudweed
ninjabread man katrina charman, the football ghosts  

Sam Hay’s First Picture Book

Exciting news! I’ve recently stuck my big toe into the pond of picture books. My debut picture book Do Not Wash This Bear Do Not Wash This Bearwhich is illustrated by the amazing Nick East publishes with Egmont in 2016.

I love picture books. And I don’t think you ever grow out of them; that magical meshing of unforgettable imagery and enchanted text.

Not only do picture books excite, inspire and comfort us, they’re also a catapult for kids into the world of independent reading. Many children will memorise the text of their favourite picture book long before they begin to read it. I’m thrilled to be part of this exciting genre and can’t wait to see Do Not Wash This Bear on the shelves.


Exciting news… Cartridesave Christmas Writing CompetitionI’ve been asked to judge a fantastic new writing competition for kids. If  you, or a child you know, live in the Manchester area, check it out. The themes for the competition are Christmas and Winter and there are some brilliant prizes up for grabs. So spread the word and get scribbling. I can’t wait to read the stories! It’s the perfect boredom-buster for the half-term holidays.  For more details click on the picture or follow this link: 

Martin August 2011

In other news…Happy Halloween! (well, nearly!) As a huge fan of all things ghostly, I’m always excited at this time of year. I’ve ironed my best black clothes and looked out my reddest lipstick. (I’ve already got the black cat!) But this year is even more thrilling, as the final part in my Screaming Sands trilogy has just hit the shelves – Battle of the Beach Freaks!9781846471698 If you like the seaside and the dark side, this one’s for you. Check out the awesome new cover design, too!  US flagMeanwhile, the Undead Pets series is storming around the world.UPETS_ROTHHAMSTER The books are now available in the US, Canada, France, Sweden and South Korea. I wonder if Uncle Charlie has spotted the books on his travels!  Have a great half-term. Sam x




Undead Pets in the USA

Exciting news from the zombie den. Undead Pets are now in the US. The first two titles in the series have just been published by Penguin in the States! With the other books to follow soon. Click on the picture of Dumpling for more information. The series is also now available in South Korea, Sweden, Canada and France. Zombie Pets take over the world! US flagUPETS_ROTHHAMSTER



Don’t put on your make-up in the dark!

I reckon I visited some 500 children last week. And for someone who seldom leaves their bat-cave, that’s an awful lot of smiling! (My face still hurts!It was an amazing week, kicking-off with Monmouth Literary Festival where I worked with a top team of sixth formers from Monmouth Comprehensive, performing an Undead Pets workshop at local primary schools. 

Monmouth Lit festival 2014Then it was on to Leicester for the ‘Our Best Book Award.Our-Best-Book-award-imageWow! What a reception!! Highlights included being mobbed by hundreds of kids for autographs – (who me? Seriously?) and watching pupils perform an awesome Undead Pets zombie tribute dance!  Then it was back on the bus and on to Literally Coventry to meet some keen Undead Pets fans in Waterstones!Coventry Book fest

Phew! What a week! So many highs. No lows. But some valuable lessons learned about life on the road, such as:

1. Do get yourself a good deodorant! Even the bravest among you will probably get the willies when faced with 300 enthusiastic young readers who appear to have muddled you up with someone from One Direction!  (Thank you Leicester Our Best Book Awards. I had the best time EVER!) Remember: sweaty armpits don’t win friends.     

2. Don’t leave your secret stash of Dairy Milk in the car while you’re performing on a sunny day. Treat chocolate like you’d treat a pet dog/child/old auntie. Keep it cool. Rivers of melted chocolate around your gear stick is not helpful when navigating the M42.dairy milk 2

3. Do practise following the Sat Nav lady. This will avoid:  ’does she mean this left, or that one? NOOOO!’ (author now heading the wrong way down the M1!)

4. Don’t put on your make-up in the dark before you set off for your event. You will look like a corpse.

5. Do arrive early. But not so early that you scare the organisers. See above.  

6. Don’t break in your ‘presentable’ shoes on the day of the event. Sore feet and friendly- smiley-face are not friends. 

7. Do have more than one set of ‘presentable’ clothes. By day three the smell may put-off the children! 

8. Don’t be freaked-out by extremely personal questions. How much money do you make? How old are you?

9. Do be prepared to return from your brief moment of glory to the humdrum life you left behind that morning: washing everyone’s pants and cleaning the loo.

What a week!

As well as meeting some amazing kids, I met some astonishing adults too! A special mention must go to the team behind Leicester ‘Our Best Book Award,’  Paul Gobey and Sandy Gibbons. They are doing an exceptional job of bringing books to young people in Leicester. Thank you for including Undead Pets in your wonderful competition!UPETS_ROTHHAMSTER  

And great to meet my new friend Fleur Hitchcock too. As well as being a super author, she’s also a lovely lady. Her new book is out this week and I can’t wait to read it!

Thanks to the fantastic team of sixth form volunteers at Monmouth Literary Festival. I wish I could take you with me everywhere! You guys are going to be running the world soon! 

And thanks to Literally Coventry and Ashley and the team at Waterstones for hosting me and the Undead Pets. 

Saving Sophie

Catch up soon!









Undead Pets Blog Tour

Phew! The Undead Pets are exhausted after a busy week on blog tour! Big thanks to all the amazing bloggers for hosting.  If you missed any of the stop-offs, click on the links below for a catch up. Undead Pets Blog Tour

Check out Serendipity Reviews to find out more about  world building and making sure a series makes sense! 

Then beetle over to Armadillo Children’s Magazine Blog to learn more about amazing Uncle Charlie and why everyone needs a magic uncle.Uncle Charlie 

On Wednesday, they were in the hot seat being grilled by the Young Writers Blog. 

Find out how to cope with a zombie pet at Wondrous Reads.

Discover what scares the Undead Pets at Little Fiction Fascination.

And meet the NOT undead pets – the real animals  behind the characters at Sarah’s Book Reviews.

Thanks again to fantastic bloggers!

Hope the Undead Pets didn’t leave too many crumbs/zombie hairballs/feathers/fluff and muddy paw prints on the soft furnishings!  




Super Furry Undead Pets Fans

Introducing a new group of Undead Pets fans – the Guinea Girls! jilly ruby and boo

Jilly (the dark brown one), Ruby (with the magical red eyes) And lovely Boo (sporting the best hair-doo ever!). These gorgeous guineas belong to eight year-old Bryn and his mum and dad, Jane and Chris.
Jane Ruby Bry Boo Chris Jilly
Bryn’s a big Undead Pets fan and he wanted to share the books with his guineas – especially Gasp of the Ghoulish Guinea Pig!
Bryn and Boo 

Mum Jane, who works at Monmouth Library, says the Guinea Girls are very interested in the books, but they’re not very good at sitting still for long without needing a wee. Not so nice for the person they’re sitting on!

Just like the guinea pigs in the Undead Pets book, these girls have big personalities. 

jilly, bryn and boo

Jilly is friendly and outgoing and a bit greedy. She often overeats! Boo is Jilly’s little sister. She got her name because Bryn reckoned her crazy hair made her look like she’d had a fright. She’s the baby of the gang and runs around – a lot! And Ruby is a laid-back peaceful little guinea, who enjoys a bath and is a great swimmer!  

It’s always fun to meet Undead Pets fans – especially the furry ones! Thanks to Bryn, Jane and Chris for sharing their lovely Guinea Girls. And if you live in Monmouthshire, checkout Monmouth Library this Easter – there’s loads going on for kids. Plus they’ve got a brilliant selection of children’s books that you (and your pets!) will love.Monmouth library 

Other Undead Pets news…  Book 8 – ‘Hour of the Doomed Dog’ – the last instalment in the series – had its official launch date this week. UPETS_HOTDDOGLook out for it in libraries and shops. And so excited to see Swedish editions of the series this week, too.UNDEAD PETS SWEDISH

Trevlig läsning! 


P.S. This is what we’re reading in my house this week.

Me: the Black Book of Secrets by HE Higgins & Collar the Lot by Peter and Leni Gilman

Alice: Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Archie: Kaspar, the Prince of Cats by Michael Morpurgo

James: The Gold Mine Effect by Rasmus Ankersen

Black book of secretsCollar the LotMurder Most UnladylikeKaspa Prince ofGold Mine




Sam’s first blog post

Hi, this is the bit where I keep you up to date with all my latest news. Like how much tea I’ve drunk today, and how many curly wurlys I’ve scoffed.

(So far today: Tea – 4 cups. Curly Wurlys – none. Somone’s eaten them all! *sad face*)

It’s also the place where you might find some ideas for books to read. As well as writing books I love reading them – by myself, with school book groups and with my own kids. These are my kids and the cat, as drawn by Alice.MY KIDS DOODLE 

And here are some of the books we’re enjoying at the moment.


FORTUNATELY, THE MILK – Neil Gaiman - Mum’s away on a business trip and Dad’s left in charge. Unfortunately he forgets to get the milk. This is the funny story of why it takes him so long to get back from the shop with the milk. Lots of laughs. Great pictures. Archie, my son says: This is a great book because the dad time-travels. Great for 6+

WONDER by R.J. Palacio an epic book about a ten year old boy who looks very different – he was born with a facial abnormality – starting school for the first time. Sounds heavy, but it’s not. Great writing, lightly done. Incredibly powerful and uplifting. I love it! So do the kids I’m reading it with. Good for readers age 10+

Check them out!