Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Elves (and books) on the shelves...


For the first time in a few years I am feeling very festive!  It is a hard time of year for many and also for my family.  Despite the sadness that inevitably comes with the start of December for me, I definitely have a seasonal, warm glow about me and I think this will be the best Christmas we have had for a while.  We have decked the halls with all things Christmas and it makes me very happy.   The girls helped with some lovely paper chains (with a little help from their Granny and Grandad on a recent visit) and it really does look a lot like Christmas in our home.

I have also been working on a new venture.  This year I decided to get an elf for the girls, to make the build up to Christmas more fun.  It also means an added bonus of the elf being Santa's eyes and ears as he reports back to the North Pole every night.  I wrote a poem to introduce our elf and got some great comments from friends which prompted me to make them available to all.  My elf letter pack was born.  I added a goodbye letter and a special 'North Pole' stamped envelope so the children who receive the welcome letter truly believe!  I love the elf letter packs and it has been a pleasure to help families bring some magical fun into their homes too.  Orders are still coming in which is great and it's still not too late to start the elf fun.  Full details of the packs can be found on my Facebook page, click here for a look. www.facebook.com/rachaelphillipsauthor

It has been a great year for book sales.  This year I introduced all books in my new series: 'Things with...', a series of four illustrated, rhyming books.  So far there are Things with Wings, Things with Wheels, Things with Eyes and Things with Legs.  These are all available in eBook and print formats.  They are still new and finding their feet but I have learned from experience books take a good two or three years to become established.  I look forward to these books matching my Anastasia and Larry the Liger sales!  Anastasia Sheer Elegance (Anastasia Series IV) is particularly popular as are many of the Larry the Liger titles.  Larry the Liger - the Winter Surprise is also available in print, just like the Things with... series.

I can never forget how my professional writing journey began and I am so grateful I spent those hours of searching for freelance work and eventually finding a job for 'Children's Writer'.  It all began Boxing Day in 2011 and gave me the chance, thanks to Fergus, to explore my passion for writing and use my overactive imagination.  I wrote voraciously and easily spent 10 hours+ a day writing; I simply could not stop once the faucet was opened!  A few months after, I slowed things down for the sake of my sanity and family!  What an amazing time it was and a true journey... 

I still write a lot but lately I have been working on the elf letter packs, and, among other things, commissions of poetry and readings.  I have been privileged to write poems for funerals, charity events and weddings.  Poetry is my current favourite thing and I would be happy to work with others on important speeches, readings and poems in general.  Please ask if this is something you feel I could assist you with.

It is hard to explain the passion I have for writing and the way the words flow from me is magical... a bit like our elf, Tiny :)

Since I started writing this blog in 2012 I have had over 17,680 views of it!  I want to thank all of my followers and regular readers for sticking with me; I really appreciate your support.  

I may not get a chance to write before Christmas so I will take this early opportunity to wish you all a wonderful Christmas time and a peaceful, healthy and happy end to this year, 2015.  I will try to pop in before 2016, a leap year no less, commences.

The seasonal countdown has begun, enjoy the journey...

All my books can be found by clicking below:


Friday, 2 October 2015

What do you do all day?! A ramble about adapting to change...

So what do I do all day now I have all this free time with both my girls in school?  A question being put to countless numbers of stay at home parents whose youngest has just started school; you can spot us a mile off...

If you, like me, have days when you are in a supermarket alone during office hours but excluding lunch time, take a look around at the customers.  Where I live the demographic is mainly: elderly/retired individuals; mums (and sometimes dads) with baby/ies, toddler/s, both; limping people who are currently signed off as sick; and, finally, the category on which I am focusing, the mournful looking women (and sometimes men) with a wistful, faraway look in their glazed eyes who spend a good five minutes looking at the choice cuts on the 'butcher' counter (now they have time)...

Yes, while we all focus on preparing our children for school we really should be focusing on preparing ourselves!  Amy has adapted remarkably well, as it seems have all the other children.  All parents are quickly discovering that four year olds can exude an air of confidence and arrogance, with rolling eyes thrown in to ensure we are under no illusion that we are their sole care provider...

Gyms are packed to capacity, not with new members but with all the parents who have simply not had the time, and no longer have the excuse not to go.  Countless new, small businesses spring up on Facebook offering a variety of useful services.  Job vacancies stating 'term time only' or 'part time hours' are inundated with applications; HR staff everywhere nod knowingly to one another...

I started writing this blog earlier today and stopped to collect the girls from school.  Ironically, while I was there, a mum asked me, 'So what are you doing with yourself now Amy is at school?'  I answered her and told her about the blog post to avoid any unintentional offence!

In my case I am definitely feeling I have more time and I am adapting to it... slowly.  I am working on things for the charity I volunteer for, Bromley Brighter Beginnings.  I am still gathering material for my latest work in progress, a book relating to pregnancy (if anyone fancies contributing let me know!)  I will work harder to market my other books.  I am aiming to do a spot of decorating now the sticky hands are bigger and more occupied with reading books and doing homework instead of preschooler pursuits like decorating walls with non-washable colouring implements.  The school day provides an opportunity for a coat of paint to dry at least!  I will have exams to invigilate in the future and, who knows, a possible new career to get my teeth into...

So here I am, at my laptop, reflecting on the last eight years since I stopped my career in HR to be a full time mum, having moved to an area where we knew no one and feeling too unsure to entrust anyone else to look after my first born child.  Eight years on and I have self published over 40 books and been busy raising two happy, intelligent girls.  I have built a network of lovely friends and childminders, on hand to help me with childcare or grown up time.  I will never regret the day I gave up my career as I have grown and achieved so much on my journey as a mum, a writer and a volunteer.  And, yes, as a stay-at-home mum with little ones at home I was often asked then too, 'What do you do all day?!'  

While I, and most mums I know, had been craving more 'me' time, now it is here it feels a bit empty and strange.  I am not one to sit around for too long though so I am embracing my latest journey and looking for my next adventure.  I might see some of you there...

This post is dedicated to all the hard-working, stay-at-home parents who are adapting too.  Enjoy the journey, it has only just begun...





 






Friday, 17 July 2015

Flying high with emotion!

Hi all.  This is a quick post as it is an emotional, and busy, day today!  My youngest daughter leaves her Preschool so I will shortly be attending her Leavers' Ceremony.  I am donning large sunglasses to hide evidence of blubbing!  I can't believe this chapter in Amy's life is over....

I wanted to remind you all that the first book in the Things with... series is free from today!  It is free until 21st July so please download a copy.  You can download a free Kindle reading App if you don't own an e-reading device and it is great for downloading books, magazines and all sorts of things!

Things with Wings is an illustrated rhyming book with extra things with wings to find on each page.  


The series is lovely and designed to encourage your child to engage with the world around them.  Reading is wonderful and sharing a picture book with your child is priceless.  I hope you enjoy your free read.

I am off now to get emotional.  Wish me luck!...


Things with Wings:
UK  www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00PLZS3OE
US  www.amazon.com/dp/B00PLZS3OE
and all other Amazon territories.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Come fly with me... for free!

It is a busy time, what with preparations for holidays, the end of school year collections, arranging final play dates and attempting to get done all those things that may prove challenging with the littlies at home for over six weeks!

It is hard to believe another school year is coming to an end.  Even my 7 year old thinks it went quickly!  What a great age to be with the excitement of juniors to look forward to, and for my 4 year old the start of school in September.  They are both very excited.  I have been extremely organised this year and bought all the uniform in readiness for September.  I now have the joyful task of name-labelling each and every garment...

To mark the end of the school year, the start of a well earned break for all those children and hardworking teachers, and the release of Things with Eyes, I am running a free eBook promotion of the first book in the Things with... series, Things with Wings.


Things with Wings will be free to download from Amazon from Friday 17th July through Tuesday 21st July 2015!  This rhyming book will encourage children to engage with the world around them.  There are lovely illustrations and an extra thing with wings to find on each page!  A great book to share on long journeys and when you are in need of a positive distraction for your children.  Trust me, I know how hard travelling with children can be!  A loaded up tablet, kindle or smart phone can help immensely as part of your holiday activities and travel distractions.  The links can be found below.  If you would like to share this promotion I would really appreciate it!

I hope you have some lovely things planned for the school holidays and I hope I have helped a little to keep your children amused.  Happy reading and enjoy your journey into the Things with... series, for free!


Things with Wings:
UK  www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00PLZS3OE
US  www.amazon.com/dp/B00PLZS3OE
and all other Amazon territories.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Eyes down for a full house....

It has been a while since I last added a post and I will attempt to recall what I have been doing for the last few months!  It is great to see my blog receiving regular views despite the lack of input on my part!  It's been a busy few months...

I started a new part time job earlier this year, at a different local school, still invigilating exams.  The work is seasonal so I work for a few weeks then have a few months off in between.  It is a stressful time for students when they come to sit their final exams.  I truly hope they all achieve what they set out to.  It's a privilege to witness such a crucial time in their lives.  The rest of the exams team are lovely and this job is working well alongside my main role as mum of two young children.  

I have also begun volunteering for a local charity called Bromley Brighter Beginnings (BBB).  I was inspired to join their amazing team since following their Facebook page and seeing the great work this charity does.  It is fantastic to see how they help local families, often in dire need.  They help tens of families per month, who are referred to them via health visitors, social workers, midwives and other local agencies, and provide them with things many of us take for granted: baby clothing; baby supplies; moses baskets and cots; pushchairs; crucial personal items a mum needs after giving birth; and much, much more.  If you are in the Bromley area and want to help or wish to help with a donation it would be much appreciated.  Here is the link to the Facebook page where you can check out current appeals: www.facebook.com/pages/BromleyBrighterBeginnings/  Why not become a supporter and join the Facebook page?  Even the smallest donations help enormously.  The website is here: www.babypacks.org.uk/ The difference being made to families in need is extraordinary and the supporters who donate so readily are wonderful; every one is appreciated.

I have also been busy with my beautiful girls.  Ella received an amazing school report and Amy achieved her ASA Level 3 in swimming with Flippers Swim School.  Amy starts school in September!  We went along to her introductory session recently and it was lovely to finally find out who her teacher will be and which of her friends from preschool will be in her class.  Ella is very pleased with her teacher for next term; a sporty man with a whistle permanently hanging from his neck.  Ella said he is fun and she is looking forward to next term, which is all that matters really.  It has been an amazing journey being a full time mum and I have to come to terms with the end of Amy's preschool journey and the beginning of her journey into full time education, while Ella joins upper school/juniors.  Both girls are very excited and I am feeling a tad emotional these days as it is all change.  No more spending a lot of time with my youngest; it will take some getting used to...

Otherwise, I have finally got round to adding the final book in the Things with... series: Things with Eyes.

This is the fourth book in the series and the final one, unless I write more.  Des Campbell has done yet another fabulous job of illustrating my thoughts and ideas.  If you aren't familiar with this series, they are illustrated rhyming books with facts about lots of different things, creatures, animals, objects and more.  The books are a lovely way to engage a child in the world around us.  I received a fantastic review for Things with Wheels and wanted to share:

"Daddy H reviewed Things with Wheels (Volume 2)
5 out of 5 stars For every parent who has a preschooler through a 2nd ... 
For every parent who has a preschooler through a 2nd year student of elementary school, this book is a MUST HAVE for your home library. I home school and use a guided reading series, and we worked this into our repertoire."

This review is from Amazon.com and it is great to see that one of my books is helping children to learn about a variety of things with wheels to promote their wider learning.

Things with Eyes is my 46th book!  I can't believe how much I have written since my journey began 3 1/2 years ago.  I have also written numerous poems, some for commissions.  I don't think some understood how I could write so much, however so much has changed in the time since my journey began and it is the emotional journeys in life that spurred my writing on, and probably kept me going...

Well, it is almost time for the schools to break up for the long summer holidays so I shall be busy being a full time mum and hopefully making memories for my girls to cherish.  Don't forget to load up your tablets, Kindles, smart phones and other e-reading devices with books to keep your children amused in a positive way during long journeys. 

Feel free to comment on how you intend to spend the summer holidays, I may well be looking for inspiration!  Here's to a summer of fun, sunny days, happiness, good health and memories to cherish! 

My next journey has begun... 



Things with Eyes is available now in eBook format: 
and all other Amazon territories

Now also available in print! 
UK www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1515033945
US www.amazon.com/dp/1515033945
and all other Amazon territories and Createspace.com


Friday, 20 March 2015

It's got legs... (what solar eclipse?)

Hooray! I am finally back on my writing horse and am working on new things (literally!) which is wonderful.  I think I have been in hibernation this winter.  The sights of daffodils and blossom have awakened me.  Spring is my most favourite season, especially when it is sunny.  Not the best day to expect sunshine what with the eclipse and all that.  Sadly West Wickham decided not to take part and filled the sky with clouds instead!  It's a shame as I slept through the last one in 1999 (heavy night..slept in...those were the days).   Apparently it looked a bit like this!


















Bring on the new growth I say.  My girls are shooting up much like the flora of the season.  They continue to get bigger and before I know it September will be here and my youngest will be starting school.  What will I do with all those extra hours?  Well, I will write, write, write and continue my seasonal work at a local school.  I am not one to sit back, wondering what I should be doing, so I imagine I will end up embroiled in a new challenge to fill any gaps.

For now I will continue to work on my 'Things with...' series of which there are now 3 books!  Things with Wings, Things with Wheels and now Things with Legs are all available on Amazon.  Things with Legs is coming soon in print too.

I love the illustrations Des creates: I am very thankful I found him.  And to think it all started with Larry the Liger.  He is a talent and a very patient man!  I think this book is the first where I have not had issues with formatting the book ready for publication.  Each new series brings with it new challenges and lots to learn.  I am pleased I have persevered with it all.  I hope Des is too!

Des is currently preparing the illustrations for Things with Eyes which I am really looking forward to seeing (pardon the pun).  Then it will be a complete series, however I may consider producing more if they prove popular.  Sales are steady and borrows have increased which is a sign of the uptake of Amazon Prime.  I am happy the books are out there and are being read.  It's always fab to hear feedback and a girl at Ella's school loves to tell me, every time she sees me, that her younger sister loves hearing her read Things with Wings aloud.  They enjoy looking for the extra thing with wings in each picture.

Engage them in books young, I say, and be happy you have helped your little ones understand the world around them a little more.  Amy is preparing herself for school it seems by wanting to write words, and her joy when she reads a word she knows is contagious.  I guess there was little chance I wouldn't have two avid readers on my hands!

Spring is here and it's official after 28th March weekend when our clocks will 'spring forward' in the UK.  I am looking forward to more daylight and, hopefully, lots of vitamin D.  Bring on the spring journey....

Things with Legs:
UK www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00UTR7HQO
US www.amazon.com/dp/B00UTR7HQO 
(and all other Amazon territories)


 

 












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...