Wednesday, 17 December 2014

'Tis the season...

'Tis the season... of preparations!  I have been busy preparing for the big day and also for Ella's 7th birthday.  December is a busy and expensive month!  Ella's party is booked for Sunday so this week I have been making up lovely, sweet filled, cellophane cones with ribbon.  I have also been working on ways to promote the print and eBook versions of Things with Wings and Things with Wheels books along with the print version of Larry the Liger - the Winter Surprise.  It is hard to find the time with Amy only doing part days at preschool.  Luckily it is still relatively easy to hide the, yet to be wrapped, presents...

'Tis the season... to be jolly and I have been trying my best to do that for the girls.  I have decked the halls - it really is looking a lot like Christmas!  I got the tree from Anthuriums which is a local business in Coney Hall, West Wickham, here in Kent.  They have some beautiful things in their shop.  A recommended place to visit http://www.anthuriums.co.uk/

Here are some sneak peeks of my efforts from our home:


 I have also been baking festive treats for the school cake sale and for the girls to decorate which was actually great fun and I enjoyed it much more than I expected!  I do love a bit of creativity!






'Tis the season... to remember those who are no longer with us.  I think of my Dad often especially at this time of year.  I know he would want us to be happy and smiling so I am doing my best.  On 19th December it will be 2 years since we lost him to Mesothelioma: asbestos cancer.  It is hard to believe it will be 2 years since we last saw, hugged and spoke to him...  It will also be Ella's 7th birthday.  Oh how I wish the two weren't on the same day but I will reserve some time to think of my Dad before being fun and happy mum for Ella.  She is looking so grown up and asking more challenging questions!  I am sure my Dad would have loved her growing character and humour!  We all miss him dearly...

'Tis the season... to be thankful.  Since losing Dad I have been much more aware of how difficult this time of year is for many people.  When Dad passed away I was very fortunate to have a loving husband to comfort me and friends and family near and far who offered kind words and a helping hand.  It is difficult to be away from family at such times so I am thankful for those who have helped me through it.  My girls were a fabulous distraction and I am very thankful to be mummy to such lovely, happy and intelligent girls.  I am thankful for Ella's progress at school and so proud .  I love she shares my passion for reading, writing and all things creative.  I am thankful Amy sleeps better at night now she is 4 years old and has such a fun personality.  She is a very popular little girl at preschool.  Long may it all continue!  I am thankful for the summer success with the books.  Anastasia and Larry the Liger both had bestsellers in the kindle chart in their relevant categories.  I am thankful mostly to have a happy and healthy family...

'Tis the season... of kindness.  This year I really felt a need to help others who were alone or had very little.  The Christmas season highlights loneliness and harshly reminds many of how little they have.  I think of those who are homeless or have young children and little or no money.  This year I decided to donate to two charities who do important work for such people.  I donated to Crisis http://www.crisis.org.uk/ instead of sending out Christmas cards to friends on Facebook.  They help homeless people and do some amazing things at Christmas and all through the year.  I still sent some cards out to those who are not on Facebook but it was my wish to help others this year.  My true friends know what they mean to me and were understanding about the lack of a card.  I also donated some toys and baby equipment to a charity called Hestia who help out those who are struggling in many areas of life (unable to add a link as it wasn't working properly however please contact me if you want to find out more).  I think back to my childhood Christmases and how my parents always made it special and exciting.  If only we could make Christmas happier for everyone...

'Tis the season... to be around those we love and we will be spending some time with our families this Christmas which I am looking forward to.  New memories to be made, lovely food, silly games, wine and song... hopefully, will be on the cards.  Family is so important and I hope I am instilling this in my girls so they will value and look after one another when their mummy and daddy are gone.  I hope they continue the special Christmas traditions we all love at this time of year.  Stockings at the end of the bed on Christmas Eve to be filled by Santa.  Main present: in the lounge which we all enter together on Christmas morning so we can all see if the big fella has been.  Leaving a mince pie for Santa, a carrot for the reindeer and a glass of milk (yes, we are very sensible!), going to church on Christmas Eve for Christingle...

'Tis the season... of magic.  I remember the magic of Christmas as a child and I am so grateful I was lucky enough to have that.  I am so happy both my girls still believe in Father Christmas and also understand the true message of Christmas.  I love that both their school and preschool Christmas performances are based around the Nativity.  How lovely it is to see all the children working together and having fun... mostly!  A child's reaction to the magic is why I love to write for children.  I love their reactions to the books.  I love that Ella's class erupted into chaos, vying to point out the extra thing with wings in Things with Wings!  Apologies to the teachers!  I loved making the Portable North Pole (PNP) videos for the girls and seeing their reactions to Father Christmas saying their names.  I really enjoyed making the new grown up video for Jason and seeing his reaction when Father Christmas told him 'how remarkable' I was, he he...

'Tis the season... to relax, hopefully, and enjoy not enduring the madness of the school run in the morning, getting everyone out of the house on time and remembering everything, and the rushing to before and after school classes and clubs.  I am looking forward to chilling out with my girls once school and preschool break up; watching Home Alone, The Nativity, Polar Express and other festive gems.  I am looking forward to Christmas Eve and hearing all about Ella's and Amy's visit to Daddy's office in London.  I wish his workplace luck, I truly do, he he...  I am really looking forward to having all four of us together for Christmas.  I can't wait for Jason to finish work on Christmas Eve and having a few days off.  How precious that time is...

'Tis the season... of Christmas.  Hooray!  It is 8 sleeps until the big day and I can't wait!  I wish you all a magical, peaceful and happy Christmas, and here's to a healthy, happy and successful 2015.  The Phillips' 2014 Christmas journey has begun...

  






Tuesday, 2 December 2014

It's that time of the year...

I had such a busy week planned out.  I was going to work exam invigilating, I was going to work on marketing the books.  I was going to do a major tidying operation of the house as it is in chaos.  I was going to organise where I am with everything.  I was going to start the task of preparing the next book for kindle and print....

The best laid plans, and all that!  Amy has been ill since the weekend and mostly requires me to sit with her and get her various things every few minutes!  I am jumping up and down, feeling confused, wondering when I will get anything done that I had planned.  I had to let down the school I was meant to be invigilating at; another reminder how being a full time mum makes re-entering the working outside the home market difficult with young children.  I do, however, feel quite grateful that I am here with her and that she is being comforted and looked after.  I am lucky to be able to do that.

So I am going to accept the mess of the house.  I am going to ignore pages of artwork and random songwriting sheets scattered in every room of the house.  Ella's latest is a song she made up called Espanasho.  A self confessed made up word and it is actually quite funny.  One of the lines 'Spanish is good but English is better' is a little worrying and I really do wonder where she gets these things from!  I am happy to have creative girls though - Ella wants to be my illustrator one day...

I can finally, today, say Larry the Liger - the Winter Surprise is now available in print on Amazon.  It looks really good and is a lovely chapter book for readers.  Written to encourage a child to see the images in their mind, as many of my favourite books did as a young reader, it is a heartwarming story of friendship and the importance of being with family and friends at Christmas time.  If you want to take a look the links to the book will be at the end of this post.  Here is the cover, an image I am sure most will recognise from my Facebook page.


Things with Wings has been well received as a print book which is great.  It also looks amazing on the Kindle.  I am very excited about Things with Wheels, which is the second in the series and is going to be ready in print hopefully sometime this week.  I am just awaiting the print proof.  I love Des' illustrations.  He really brings the rhymes to life and has an amazing ability to interpret what I want and create an image beyond my expectations.  If you haven't seen the Things with... books yet, ebook or print, then I really recommend you consider it.  Feedback so far has been fantastic.  These books are great for children of any age as the images, and the extra thing to find on each page, will hold their attention.  Don't dismiss these books for confident readers either as they are fun books the whole family can enjoy. 


Right then, back to nursing duties.  I will add the links below.  If you fancy sharing news of the books I would really appreciate it.  Wishing you all a great week and hoping the sickness lurgy leaves you and yours alone! 

The journey into the print world has begun...


Larry the Liger - the Winter Surprise UK
Larry the Liger - the Winter Surprise US
Things with Wings UK
Things with Wings US
Things with Wheels ebook UK
Things with Wheels ebook US

My facebook page



Sunday, 23 November 2014

It has landed...

Finally I have managed to produce a print book that looks great!  I had issues with Larry the Liger - the Winter Surprise so had to remove the print option however this will soon be available again in print. 

Things with Wings is now available to order in print from Amazon!  It is also being sold in other book stores however I do not know which ones are selling it at the moment so Amazon is the place to go.  Things with Wings is a lovely illustrated rhyming book all about things with wings.  It is written in a fun way to hold the attention of fidgets young and old!  The illustrations by Des Campbell are fantastic and he has written a guest blog post which you can take a look at to show his illustration process. 

Things with Wings is the first in the Things with... series and the next in the series is coming soon: Things with Wheels.  I am very excited about finally entering the realms of Createspace to create a print version of Things with Wings.  It has been a stressful learning journey that I would not have been able to achieve without Des' assistance.  A lot of work has gone into creating a picture book and hopefully this will be apparent when you see it!  The layout is slightly different to the kindle version as it is mostly double page spreads so the illustrations are nice and big. 
 
I am very proud of my new series and can't wait to hear what people think of the illustrated rhymes. 

Things with Wings will make a fantastic stocking filler so why not check it out.  I am hoping to get the Winter Surprise in print very, very soon - it is a lovely, heartwarming seasonal story.  It really is a magical time of the year.

The journey is moving on...



Things with Wings can be downloaded as an eBook or ordered in print from all Amazon territories.  Just edit the following link for your country.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Things-Wings-1-Rachael-Phillips/dp/150325318X/ref=sr_1_2_twi_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416766056&sr=1-2&keywords=Things+with+Wings

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A guest blog by the very clever Des Campbell, Illustrator and custard cream fan

"Hi, my name’s Des and I’m the illustrator for the Things with... series of books that the talented (I think  that’s what it says, I can’t read her writing) Rachael Phillips has written. I’ve been asked to share my process for bringing an illustration to life.

Before I go to bed at night I leave out some paper, pens and some colouring pencils and elves appear and produce a completed illustration ready for the morning when I wake up… oh, wait. That’s how I get my shoes repaired. Cobblers, you cry!!! Easy, tiger. It’s just a story!!
Well, I thought it was just cartoonists that like to read about how cartoonists do stuff but if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t get out much and enjoys this sort of thing then prepare to have your socks blown off. What’s that? Quickly, go and put some on.

Having read through the text for the book and enjoyed a few cups of tea and a sizable quantity of custard creams I produce a series of very rough ideas. I then draw these up into something that matches what I can see in my head and get these emailed to Rachael. Two cups of tea and rather a lot of custard creams later, Rachael responds that the sketches are wonderful and I can go ahead on the finished artwork.
 
 

The sketches, having been scanned into the computer are then brought into my favourite computer program in the world, (until they invent a custard cream program) Corel Painter. The process for all these illustrations is the same so for this example, bats, the sketch is enlarged to the size of the finish artwork. I then “ink” over the sketch using a Wacom tablet. No brushes or pens were harmed in the making of these illustrations, the inking is done digitally using a couple of “brushes” in the program that mimic actual real media. One big benefit of inking this way is that I can separate foreground and background elements, which is a huge plus if I then colour the lineart in a different colour.

After more tea and custard creams (you can see a pattern forming, can’t you!!) I then add the colours, using different “layers” for the background, bats, and effects. The moon, added towards the end, is just a circle coloured in a colour very similar to a custard cream now that I think about it!!! I then added a soften filter to give it that moony look.
All the shading, shadows and highlights are added next until the illustration has a more painted look.

Once I’m happy with it (I’m never happy, no illustrator ever is) I “flatten” the image and send it off to Rachael who, I’m sure, thinks I’ve trained a monkey to do these illustrations but then thinks, life is too short, it’ll do!!!

After eating so many custard creams I start to feel guilty and watch Silence of the Lambs on DVD to cheer myself up. The above process is repeated for each illustration and people with shares in biscuit manufacturers jet off to Vegas to spend all the extra money I’m providing for them!!!
So there we have it. Anyone still awake, please turn the lights off and put the empties out for the milkman. Time top put the kettle on…  

Des Campbell"

 If you want to see Des' fab work in the completed book you can download 'Things with Wings' www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00PLZS3OE  Print version coming very soon.
Des also created the cover artwork for all the Larry the Liger stories! 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Things with... excitement!

It has been a while since I wrote a blog post but I have been very busy making preparations for something exciting... 

It's a double whammy for news today!  I have finally ventured into the realms of Createspace and Larry the Liger - the Winter Surprise is now available to order from Amazon as a print book.  It is also available at other stores and I hope to arrange for local libraries to lend it too!  In case you aren't familiar with this story it is a lovely winter's tale where we find the liger cub wondering who he will play with as all his friends go inside for the winter.  There is a surprise in store for little Larry which makes for a magical ending to this seasonal story.  Not sure it can compete with the Sainsbury's Christmas Ad though!  It is available now on all Amazon territories IN PRINT (in case you missed it!!)

www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00GY15HIY
www.amazon.com/dp/B00PLZS3OE

 
The second bit of news is brand new excitement as I am finally unleashing my new series of illustrated rhyming books on the world!  I wrote the Things With... series when my first child was a baby and she is now almost 7 years old so they have been a long time coming, you could say.  I am very proud of these rhymes and they mean a lot as my late Dad got to read them.  Sadly he only got to read one of the ten Larry the Liger stories...
 
Things with Wings is the first illustrated rhyming book in the series and is available to download as an eBook from Amazon.  I am working on the print version and will let you know as soon as this is available.  It will look fantastic in print as it is beautifully, and humorously, illustrated by the talented Des Campbell, who also illustrated Larry the Liger.
 

 
With Things with Wings you can share a rhyming adventure learning all about winged things.  The illustrations and rhymes are great fun for any age group so it makes for a great book to read to the children.  Each illustration has an extra thing with wings to find so it should engage most children... and adults!
 
I am very happy to have finally got Things with Wings published on Amazon.  I really hope you check it out and I would love to know what you think.  The next in the series are coming soon along with the print option. 
 
www.amazon.com/dp/B00PLZS3OE and all other Amazon territories
 
In other news I have been planning parties and making party bags.  I have been preparing party games and buying party food.  My youngest daughter, Amy, was 4 on Wednesday and it is her party tomorrow.  She is very excited and I can only hope all my planning pays off and makes it a seamless 1 1/2 hours!   My eldest daughter, Ella, is 7 in December so I have been buying lots of sweeties to make lovely sweet filled, cellophane cones with lots of ribbon!  I am enjoying being creative once again.
 
What a great way to end the week.  I hope you will join me by reading my new creation in Things with Wings and why not order the print version of The Winter Surprise too.  Happy weekend everyone.
 
My next journey has begun...
 
 

Monday, 22 September 2014

At long last...

"Well at long last Anastasia was NUMBER 1 in horses on Amazon through the weekend and until the early hours of this morning! Rachael’s first book, The Horses of Boughton Lodge, has made it after about two years and eight months! It ousted “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell and that is some achievement indeed! Well done to Rachael!

Horses is the most difficult category to conquer in my opinion, for what it is worth. It really is so competitive!

When I was a schoolteacher with Primary children there was a Story Time period every day. The book most sought after was Black Beauty and I can envisage my Primary School colleagues, years after my retirement, are now reading Anastasia. Not just one but 17 of the first 32 listed. The list runs for 100 books but Rachael has the following positions 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31 and 32. That is some going!

Beauty is as Beauty does! You may have heard it somewhere before dear reader.

I am delighted for Rachael’s success and I know if her late father had still been alive he would have been so proud of her. I am so very proud of her and I do wish her well in her next venture as a solo author.
 
Fergus"

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Fergus writes... about a fantastic journey, inspiration and the world of writing


It has been a fantastic journey with Rachael and I am delighted she is to revisit her previous work and have it illustrated. Rachael and I have been together now for approaching three years and based on the latest figures, from a couple of days ago, she has the top aggregate sales figures for all her books for animals on Google. Rachael has 44 books and the gentleman who was the leader had, I believe, half Rachael’s sales but for just one book. Rachael’s total sales based on last week are double.
What have I contributed to Rachael’s success? Well practically nothing as far as Larry is concerned. The Story starts before Rachael was born, back in 1967 in the Basel Zoo in Switzerland. I was about 18 at the time and working as a Courier taking school children on holiday from England to Austria but doing the return run from Basel to Innsbruck where they were shooting The Sound of Music at the time.

Having a half day to kill I treated myself to a visit to the Basel Zoo where I found a Liger! I thought a spelling mistake! I spoke to a lady zoo keeper who knew the history. 'His father was a Lion! His mother was a Tiger!' she said. Where did he come from? Bohemia was the answer. Hence the Mad Professor from the Prague Zoo!
That’s my contribution full stop. The rest is all Rachael!

From 1967 until late 2012 I carried the idea around in my head for about 45 years! Rachael was working on Anastasia The Epic when I visited her and to be honest I was too scared to mention it in case she was not receptive. However, I plucked up the courage; how wrong can you be? Larry was born on 1st December 2012 and is now part of the considerable collection of Rachael’s books on Amazon.
Perhaps a few words of encouragement might help would be authors and here I am targeting mothers with little children at home. Many mums want to get into print. That is very healthy but a few words of caution might assist. Identify a story that is going to sell! That is the businessman in me coming out. Is the product marketable?

The Acid Test is sales!
We started with Anastasia as a young girl. She is still 16 and has been for the past 2 years! If you are marketing a series then the cover has to be easily identifiable.

If you are writing horsey stories for girls then you will have considerable competition. “Black Beauty” – what a great name! Anna Sewell sets the standard. “Polly Rides to Town” will never compete with “Anastasia and the Palomino Foals”, “Anastasia and the Russian White Stallion”, “Anastasia and the Puppy Farm”. You must capture the reader in the title. Then you must recapture her in the first sentence. ”A magnificent Palomino pony stood outside Polly’s house”. What a great start! Compare with “Polly was preparing her picnic to ride to ….” I have fallen asleep already!
Take time to consider the market. Horse books for young girls is an extremely competitive market? Could it make a film or TV Series? Have that in the back of your mind? Is it merchantable like Larry the Liger?

Your family must come first? Do you have enough time? Ask yourself this? Will it interfere with family harmony?
Neither Larry nor Anastasia have a bad thought in their heads. They have old fashioned values of good and bad!

When you write books you must write books people wish to read! Rome was not built in a day! It has taken about three years for Rachael to get to where she is today.
Children must be literate and numerate. That is the key to a successful life.

If you produce a book that gets children reading you will have done a considerable service to the education of primary children.
Fergus Wilson