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
 

Friday, 12 September 2014

It's been a while! School holidays, reading and somewhere beneath the sea...

It certainly has been a while since I last wrote a blog post for which I apologise to those who read my blog!  Bizarrely, while I have been away people are still reading older posts which is great and it is nice to see there are regular readers and new ones too.

So what have I been doing for the last few months?  I honestly cannot account for all the time because it is all a bit of blur if I am honest (mummy brain - all mums will understand this!).  I have been writing bits and bobs but certainly not writing as voraciously as I was before.   I suppose I have been keeping my hand in.  The school holidays with young children make it difficult to focus on anything for too long but I have been jotting down ideas and writing some poetry.  I have also been setting the wheels in motion for a new project or rather an old one revisited! 

A few years ago I wrote a series of poems for children but after numerous rejections from agents (seemingly the only route to decent publishers at the time) I put them on the back burner (not literally as that would be silly especially as they are on my laptop!).  However, since mid-May Anastasia and Larry the Liger ebooks have begun to sell and sell very well indeed.  There were always some sales but never at such a consistent level and I know most of you will have seen my Facebook page posts (www.facebook.com/rachaelphillipsauthor) about this.

When I worked with Fergus on the Anastasia and Larry the Liger series' it was the first I had heard of self publishing on Amazon.  I was unsure of whether this route to market would be a success however I was willing to put in the hours of formatting, cover creating and uploading to try it out.  Then the many hours of marketing on social networking sites and websites followed, often so many it would cause arguments in our house as I was spending almost my entire weekends writing and marketing.  Something had to give so I backed off a little and harmony returned to the household (well most of the time anyway!).  School and preschool visits were a pleasure; sharing Larry the Liger with children and seeing their reactions was fab.


 
I have recently instructed the extremely talented illustrator, Des Campbell, who also created the Larry the Liger illustrations, to create the visual interpretations of my poems. 
The preliminary sketches are just brilliant and I know I have found the perfect illustrator.  He interprets what I want and brings to life the words even better than my own imagination could!  I know the illustrations will bring joy and fun to children and to adults who read the books with them.

So what has inspired me to venture into picture books?  Well, during the long, school summer holiday period we went on a road trip and camping adventure that took us through four different countries.  I knew the long car journey would be tough for a 3 and 6 year old so I loaded my Kindle with all things suitable for the girls.  I made sure Larry the Liger was on there for Ella and some picture ebooks for Amy as she can't yet read.  The Kindle Fire is such a great device for reading and is wonderful for viewing images.  The Kindle Reading App can be downloaded to any tablet, smartphone, iPad and pc so the potential reach for ebooks is phenomenal!  I highly recommend it. 

I was very pleased to receive an email a few weeks ago about the new Kindle Kids Book Creator App.  Having never uploaded an ebook with images inside I was unsure how to go about it.  It isn't as simple as inserting an image as the text and images are uploaded separately however I won't bore you!  So the new App is just what I need hopefully and I look forward to trying it out.  I will let you all know how it goes and if it is as easy as it sounds!

As for the last few months well I can say this: I am amazed at the Euro Tunnel!  The journey was so quick and was over before I knew it.

What a great way to travel: under the sea!  Jason shook his head every time I said amazing which was quite a lot!  We were leaving England and arriving in France in a flash and soon driving through France, Belgium and Holland.  I can also say that 5 nights camping isn't for me but I would do a shorter stint because the girls loved it.  It was great to camp in a foreign country along with people of a variety of nationalities.  Ella made some lovely friends even if they couldn't communicate effectively!  Despite language barriers they still managed to play hide and seek, have fun in the playgrounds and collect pine cones in the woods.  It was rather idyllic in many ways.

I also had the pleasure to take Ella to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End.  She loved it, as did I, although the music is certainly not as memorable as either of the movie versions.  The staging was amazing and it was a visual treat and yet another inspiration for visual books!

Schools and preschools are now back in session which means I have some time once again to do what I love: writing.  My head is brimming with ideas and inspiration from our summer which is exactly how it should be.

The journey, and the next chapter, has begun....

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: www.facebook.com/rachaelphillipsauthor 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:
UK www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00DPWAAZA
US www.amazon.com/dp/B00DPWAAZA 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....

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ID6YSTM
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ID6YSTM
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:
http://www.tinyurl.com/c4totfu UK
http://www.tinyurl.com/bnxc42r US

You can support the great work of the Make Runaways Safe campaign and the Children's Society here:
http://makerunawayssafe.org.uk/