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

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 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.

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'  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!!)

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. 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.

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 ( 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: 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.