Monday, 16 June 2014

World Cup Wonder

The World Cup has well and truly begun!  If you are a football fan you will be glued to the screen for every game and I can visualise many parents trying to find ways to amuse their children during the matches.  It's been interesting in our household to watch the girls asking their Daddy questions about the teams, etc.  Ella, my eldest daughter, approached me earlier with a pouty, sad face saying, "Portugal didn't score 1 and Germany got 4!  And we've got Portugal at our school!"  The schools in our area, and probably around the country, have been allocated a team to watch out for during the World Cup.  Maybe it's the Education Authority attempting to get our children interested in the 'Beautiful Game' because, let's face it, in many households they may not get a choice!

Now I personally am not really watching yet but I am sure that if England do well I, like many other English people, will 'jump on the band wagon' so to speak and suddenly take an interest.  I used to be an avid football supporter and knew the dates of every fixture, every team member, what strengths each player had, etc.  But for some reason I lost interest and I'm not sure when that happened...

So with the build up to the start of the World Cup recently something happened and it wasn't what I expected.  Maybe it was the thought of endless nights of football being on the television absorbing the attention of many.  Or maybe it is just a coincidence.  But I suddenly felt really inspired...

To those who follow me closely on my blog, twitter or my facebook page you will have noticed my lapses with the world of social media and blogging.  I don't know why this happened but I do think I needed a little time out.  So I have been a bit like Czechoslovakia in the 2014 World Cup: absent!  Maybe the players were too busy reading about Larry the Liger in Prague to bother training hard enough to qualify... who knows?!  I have been gathering my thoughts after completing a series of ten Larry the Liger stories.  I have written so many stories over the last three years, with the Anastasia stories too, I think mentally my brain needed a little respite break. 

I think I also needed to work outside of the house as my writing journey has kept me within these four walls.  So recently I have been working in a job that is very, very part time, helping out with exam invigilating at a school.  I was hoping for inspiration and was looking forward to working with real people around me again!  It's been a positive experience and I look forward to doing it again in the future.

So back to my point about the build up to the start of the World Cup, well I really wanted to share more of my writing for children again.  I had done a reading of one of the Larry the Liger books to a preschool in a nearby town and they listened wonderfully and enjoyed the stories and some asked me, 'Where are the pictures?' despite me having large Larry poster boards to pique their interest.  I explained the images were in their heads and many got this concept and described some things well.  I think it started a little cog in my mind that began to whirr from that moment on.  My stint of working outside the home also made me realise that I enjoy the world of writing and sharing stories for children.

I wrote some children's poetry a few years ago which I only ever shared with family or close friends.  I read through them once again recently and realised I had to share them and they had to be picture books.  Now, don't get me wrong, I wrote Larry the Liger stories as chapter books because I wanted to spark the imagination of the reader with the descriptions and this has been received well with young readers.  When I read to a local primary school last year they loved the stories illustrated purely by the text.  It was magical to see.  The poetry I am speaking of now, like Larry, would also be enjoyed by children of all ages because the poems encourage awareness of the world around us.  With Larry his image was burned in my mind from the lovely covers illustrated by Des Campbell and I know my eldest daughter could visualise everything as she read the stories and that is Larry's gift.

But... to produce a picture book would be wonderful and do you know what?   I may well to do it!  I am in talks with Des about working together again and I have such a good feeling about it.  I will obviously let you all know about this new writing journey and I am really looking forward to sharing news with you all... 

As if my renewed motivation wasn't enough Larry the Liger has been selling well, very well indeed!  He is currently number 1 through number 8 in the chart on Amazon for Children's books>Animals>Zoos!  Maybe it's because parents everywhere are downloading the stories to keep their children occupied during the World Cup or maybe it is just Larry's time to shine.  Whatever the reason it feels grrrreat (sorry!)  So all that effort, all the hard work I put into not only researching and writing those stories but also the hours of marketing are finally paying off. 

It is a wonderful feeling and for those of you who aren't sure what that might feel like... well it's a bit like how many would feel if England win the World Cup!  My writing journey is continuing and I'm taking a gentle bend in the road in my stride.  Good luck World Cup teams.  Come On England!  And Go Larry!

(While spell checking this post it did strike me as ironic that the blog spell checker does not recognise the words 'blog', 'blogger' or blogging'!)

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Evolution of a Poet-like Species - Guest blog by Lorna Riley

Poetry is for you
 by Lorna Riley

You know those hedgehogs on Madagascar that aren't actually hedgehogs?  Even though they look like hedgehogs and act like hedgehogs.  And probably smell like them too… 
But, they're not hedgehogs at all, they're tenrecs - a whole different species altogether.  Well, I'm a tenrec poet.  Although, I wouldn't be offended if you ever mistook me for a real one, quite the opposite.  But, I promise you, I'm not.  I evolved on a completely different island, cut off from the world of poetry since I left school; occasionally coming up with the odd ditty that I didn't take very seriously, whenever the fancy took me.  Until, I decided to start writing down a story that had been milling around in my head for quite some time.  Just to see what happened.  That story turned into an 80,000 word novel, which wasn't bad.  It wasn't Thomas Hardy, but, considering the fact I'd never done it before, it wasn't bad.  Anyway, ever since then, I've been well and truly bitten by the writing bug and I couldn't stop now, even if I tried.  And, actually, I have no idea how I ever managed to get through life without it.

So, when my gran saw an advert for a free writers' day at the local library, she phoned me up to tell me all about it.  And I went along.  Several local authors were there, offering their advice and insights into how to get published.  Unbeknownst to me, a local poet called Longfella had also been invited.  He shared a number of poems, including A Girl Like, Y'Know, which you can watch by clicking on the following link:  
A Girl, Like, Y'Know by Tony Walsh, Longfella (some strong language so please check with an adult if you are under 16 years old)

Which made me cry like a colicky baby at bedtime.  He also performed one called Poetry is for You, which was particularly significant because I took him at his word.  And he's right, you know.  Poetry isn't just for the higher echelons of the intellectual superiors.  It’s for you.  And me, too.

The story doesn't quite end there, though.  At that writing day, I also made two new friends - Tara and Sarah.  A few days later, Tara sent me a message to tell me about an alternative open mic night at The Snowgoose called Speakeasy.  Where you can share almost anything, including poetry.  It all sounded a bit daunting to me, but I figured I would just go along and see what it was all about.  Now, I don't know what you imagined when I described Speakeasy, but I'll tell you what I imagined - a room full of women with flowery skirts and dangly earrings, giving off an aura of intellectual prowess.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  They were, and are, the loveliest bunch of ordinary people (women AND men) from all sorts of backgrounds who invited me warmly into their group.  Not a flowery skirt in sight.  And, nowadays, I only need half a pint to get up the courage to share what I've written!  Honestly, I can’t recommend the experience highly enough, should you ever fancy giving it a try. 

So, one day, when a poem popped into my head completely of its own accord, I decided to let it take me on a journey.  And that is how my picture book for 3-6 year olds, Sir Nibbles, The Famouse Cupboard Raider Extraordinaire, was brought into being. 

But, no matter what, don’t ever be fooled.  I may act like, look like and possibly even smell like a poet, but I'm a tenrec poet.  That's all.

About Lorna Riley
Lorna Riley was an average mother of two… until one fateful day when The Stories, mischievous little creatures that they are, crept into her brain whilst she was sleeping. And she’s never been the same since. Sir Nibbles, The Famouse Cupboard Raider Extraordinaire, is Lorna’s first foray into self-publishing and, with the help of the fabulous illustrator John Balsley, it should be ready later on in the Spring.
If you’d like to say hello, here’s Lorna's website and she can also be found twittering here. Sir Nibbles is on Facebook and is due to have his own website later on in the Spring, too.


Monday, 24 March 2014

In readiness for Easter... a taste that is not chocolate!

Spring is here and it is my most favourite season.  Watching as the blossom magically appears on the trees and those regal daffodils raising their noble heads to nod politely to all that pass; it can't be beaten.  I love seeing the new growth and that's not just limited to flora and fauna.  Children apparently grow the most in the Spring and looking at my girls I can totally believe it - they are definitely shooting up and blossoming much like the other beautiful offerings from mother nature all around.

Spring has been lovely so far.  My beautiful Mum has been staying with us for the last week.  It has been so, so lovely to have her here, for the girls to spend time with their Grandma and for me to spend time with my Mum.  These times are very precious and even more so since losing Dad.  The best moments have been the ones I am not supposed to be included in; the ones where I can indulge as an observer.  Listening or watching from another room while my Mum plays with the girls or shows them a video of one of them as a baby she has on her phone.  They adore their Grandma and it's been such a great start to Spring.  Sadly she goes home tomorrow but we will be visiting her very soon and taking her away with us to Brixham for her 65th birthday.  Brixham is very special for Mum as it is a place she enjoyed often with my Dad.  It will be a privilege to look out over the boats with Mum just as she did with Dad for his 65th...

To honour such a wonderful season, and to share some Spring positivity with you all, Larry has decided to roam free!  One of the Larry the Liger stories will be free for two whole days so make sure you catch him!  Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th March The Magical Sports Day will be free to download from Amazon.  You don't need a Kindle to read it either as Amazon have a host of free reading Apps for almost any platform, so go and get a taste of Larry before all that chocolate appears magically in your homes! (Then magically disappears just as quickly!)  As Spring is so magical it seems appropriate to share a story with a touch of magic!  Larry is a very, clever liger for choosing it...

Not only is a Larry the Liger ebook free but I am also going to be releasing, tomorrow, a very limited number of copies of The Easter Liger in print, for sale, via my facebook page: so check out the page and give it a like if you like!  Please be aware there are a very limited number of copies of The Easter Liger so I will have to work on a first come, first served basis so please look out for the details which I will release tomorrow on my Facebook page.  I look forward to sharing Larry in print!  It is actually really, really exciting!  He he!

Enjoy the Spring everyone and the chance of new growth.  I wish you all a season full of new opportunities, a bloom of happiness, and bluebell carpeted tidings of comfort and joy.

Happy Spring!

Links to The Magical Sports Day are here:
US and all other Amazon territories.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A Lost Liger has been spotted...

Hi everyone I wanted to warn you all that a big cat has been spotted in the mountains in Prague.  Some are saying it looks like a lion and some are saying it looks like a tiger but I am inclined to think it may be a liger!

You can find out all about this lost liger in Larry's latest story which is now available on Amazon to download!  In Larry the Liger - the Lost Liger, Larry runs away and ends up in an unknown place with unknown animals.  I hope you will join him on his final adventure where he aims to help children the world over learn about staying safe and being kind to others.

I love Larry and I hope you all do too.  Go and catch that lost liger before the poachers get him....
and all other Amazon territories

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Running away

It is something most people have thought about at some point in their lives: running away.  Who knows how many Reginald Perrins there really are.  As an adult sometimes the pressures of life and the responsibilities it brings can make some yearn for freedom and to get away from it all.  This is why that two week holiday/vacation is so important to so many.

I often wish I could be a child again - free to play and have fun as most children should be.  Free of the burdens that adult life can bring.  But then I recall times as a child when I wanted to run away too...

My mum often regales me with her recollections of me attempting to run away.  She says how well I must have been brought up because my small vanity-style case was always packed with clean underwear, slippers and clean nightclothes oh and my toothbrush!  I'm not sure where I thought I was going, so ill prepared, but I was very young and never made it past the garage at the end of the garden...

I asked my mum why she never ran after me and she laughed and said, "I could see you from the kitchen and I knew you would always come back!"  Which I did!  I can't recall why I ever decided to run away but it would have been something very insignificant, I have no doubt, as I certainly had no cause to run away.

Sadly there are children who feel they have no other choice than to run away.  Their home lives are possibly unbearable as they have to deal with treatment no children should...

According to The Children's Society, Make Runaways Safe campaign, 'every five minutes a child in the UK runs away from home'.  They also state that 'over 100,000 children in the UK run away every year'.  These are alarming statistics.  It is encouraging that there are such campaigns doing such wonderful work to help our vulnerable young.

With each Larry the Liger story, I touch upon issues children often have to deal with including bullying, fitting in, making friends, accepting others, starting school, understanding dangers... 

The final story: Larry the Liger - the Lost Liger, finds Larry making a decision because he feels he has no other choice.  He feels unwanted and unsafe so he runs away.  Just like that.  Just like countless numbers of children do each year the world over...

In The Lost Liger, Larry finds himself in strange surroundings and realises the animals he meets do not always have good intentions towards him.  He also wishes he had not run away but he has no idea how he can go home.  The story follows the young, liger cub as he tries to cope with being away from home.

I hope this story will help children understand the realities of running away.  I also hope children will learn there can be great dangers 'out there'.  This story is suitable for children, and adults, of all ages.  It has no real violence but very mild threat to highlight some of the dangerous situations Larry faces so far away from those that love him.

Larry the Liger - the Lost Liger is coming very soon.  I hope you will all share news of this new release with families and friends everywhere.  I would love to think the Larry the Liger series creates an opening for families to discuss sometimes delicate subjects.  We can all help our children learn and we should all do our best to keep our children safe from harm...

Happy reading everyone and I look forward to saying "Larry the Liger - the Lost Liger" is now available on Amazon to download.  I promise it will be very soon :)

You can download the other Larry the Liger stories here: UK US

You can support the great work of the Make Runaways Safe campaign and the Children's Society here:

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Goodbye my Larry, goodbye my friend...

The time has come and I have to say I am feeling quite emotional about it.  I have almost finished the final Larry the Liger story.  A lot of love went into bringing the little liger to life and I am proud to say I wrote the ten stories.

It's always amazing how a simple idea can turn into something wonderful.  I had a good feeling about Larry ever since Fergus suggested we write about a liger cub who was abandoned outside a Prague zoo: Larry the Liger - his father was a lion, his mother was a tiger!  The stories pretty much flowed from me and Larry's character grew and grew, as will he!  Once I had the illustration for Larry by the talented Des Campbell I really felt like I knew Larry.  He became one of my children and got lots of attention from me when I was able!

I think, as a writer, once you feel that flow and the writing comes naturally then you know you are onto a good thing.  I had a spell of writer's block last year but that wasn't Larry's fault and once I sat myself back in position with my bacon crisps the magic returned once again.  To feel the words flow from your finger tips is a gift from somewhere unseen.  It makes me truly appreciate the opportunity I have had to work with little Larry.

So the last story in the Larry the Liger series, number ten of ten, is nearly ready but I need to do some final editing as it is a little longer than I would like for a short, chapter book but then this final story (currently unnamed!) will be published to Amazon for download.  I am very excited and also sad that this is the end of Larry's journey. 

I can honestly say, "Larry it has been a true pleasure and I will miss you very much.  Should the world beg for more then we can pick up where we left off."

Release date coming soon - watch this space.  Share the Larry love.  His journey is coming to an end...

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

2014: well hello there!

A delayed Happy 2014!  We have said farewell to 2013 and I have been racking my brains to try to remember how I spent those 365 days!  It all seems a bit of a blur...

2013 for me was a period of adjustment and acceptance.  Adjusting to life without Dad and accepting he is no longer physically with us.  It is hard to believe Dad was gone a year on 19th December 2013.  We had all those first milestones since Dad's death to contend with and I am assured each special date will become easier to bear.  I truly hope so and will have to take others' words for it...

2013 was the year I turned 40.  Another thing to adjust to.  Turning 40 definitely had an effect on me!  That, and no longer having my Dad, converged into deep thinking and over analysing.  Thankfully I have accepted my new, middle age and am embracing it.  Yes, I know, I am still young, blah, blah, blah... but sometimes it takes certain things to become defining moments and it certainly doesn't hurt to stand back and take a good look at yourself so long as you don't overdo it!

So what did I discover?  I overanalyse.  I worry about things too much.  I worry, far too much, about what others think of me.  I am a day dreamer.  I complain too much.  The list was growing until I realised that all the negative, self focus was doing me no favours whatsoever!  I began to look at the more positive traits I possess (there are some honestly!) and realised this is something I need to do more often.  I spend so much time worrying about my family, others, and numerous, other, insignificant things, that I often overlook someone very important... me!  Yes I am important and realising this has made me feel much more focused on doing positive things with a more positive outlook.   

I am determined to embrace 2014 and use the convenient timing of a New Year to kick myself up the rear and stop messing about dwelling on things I cannot change.  I am determined to spend time on those that lift me and bring out the best in me because sadly often the issue with how you feel is the effect of those around you...

I'll share some of my positives from 2013.  Writing eight Larry the Liger stories and self publishing them on Amazon with some great reviews received.  Being invited to a local school to hold an Assembly all about Larry the Liger.  Watching my youngest start preschool and take to it like a dream :).  Watching my eldest daughter go into Year 1 and thrive under the pressure of proper school work :) - hard for children of this age as Reception is still a little like preschool and Year 1 is a bit of a shock for them I feel.  Spending more, quality time with my family as we never get this time back.  Performing in New Wickham Court Players' spring production of 'Small's Talk' and the panto 'Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood'.  Admiring my mum for getting out and about as a new widow and learning to make choices alone (she made some really good ones I might add).  Spending some quality time with my mum and catching up with family at Christmas time - so valuable and lovely.  There have probably been many more positive things but at this moment they are tucked away in my memory for me to say, 'oh, yes, that happened!' just after I publish this blog!

So how has my 2014 been so far?  I have been working on the final Larry the Liger story, number 10 in the Series.  I began this story a while ago but ended up writing the Winter Surprise as I couldn't seem to finish it.  With fresh eyes and a rested brain the words are flowing once more and I am very excited about the final story.  Each story can be read independently of the others but there are recurring characters which make the entire series lovely to read too. 

For those who haven't met Larry the Liger: his father was a lion, his mother was a tiger!  His adventures begin when he is abandoned outside Prague Zoo.  With great reviews I can safely recommend these stories to you all.  They are short, chapter books so will appeal to independent readers but are equally lovely as read-to stories, for younger children, too.

I really cannot wait to share the final Larry the Liger story with you all and thank everyone who has read the stories so far.  I hope you enjoy the final story as much as the other nine.  It will be available for download very soon.

So here's to a positive 2014!  May your year be filled with happy moments, wonderful memories and lots and lots of time to read.  Larry's journey is almost complete...

and all other Amazon territories.