Starchild: The Age of Akra and a giveaway

I was immediately drawn to the cover – like a Beast Quest for slightly older readers.

The Age of Akra Cover

It’s short – only 142 pages. With my own debut, Eternal Seas, which is 183 pages, I was told by several editors that it was too short for MG fantasy, but I’ve not had any complaints about the length (well, apart from people wanting the sequel), so I tend to disagree with these rules. In fact I’d say it’s great for more reluctant readers, and if we’re honest, we all like a quick read every now and then – it doesn’t need to be War & Peace. The concept is the “chosen one” and from the prophecy at the start, it throws you straight into the world and the action. I loved the world building and the landscapes – I can see the author’s screenwriting skills coming through. The characters are appealing – even though I’m not a middle child myself, it connected me with the family straight away. Overall, it’s a quick, fun read. Enjoy!

The blurb

The foreshadowing of a dark future threatens the seven nations. Mai is selected to train with the mysterious elemental master Sah Dohba who will prepare her to become the protector of the desert lands.  Her brother Long, steps forward to travel with her as her chaperone to the Valley of a Thousand Thoughts.

A chance encounter brings them together with Akra, the Starchild.  The trio travels on into a battle with the elements. Sandstorms. Deadly creatures. Starvation. Then a chance meeting with powerful earthfollower, sets them on a new path where they must each find the strength to face a terrifying foe from the Underworld.

 

Giveaway to Win all 4 books of the Starchild Series by Vacen Taylor (Open internationally)

Starchild - Giveaway Prize.png

Enter here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494277/?

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

And if you don’t win the giveaway, here are the Purchase Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07GPFV2PY

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07GPFV2PY

 

About the author

Vacen Passport Size 2

Vacen Taylor is a children’s author with a portfolio of screenwriting and stage play achievements.  A selection of her poetry has been published in Art and Literature Journals. One of her plays was selected to be part of the Playwrights Program 2017 and then directed and performed as a performance reading at HOTA (previously the Gold Coast Arts Centre).

Her feature film script received a special commendation for Best Unproduced Screenplay titled Grandfathers at the British Independent Film Festival in 2018.  The logline can be found under Special Commendations for Unproduced Screenplays here.

Her TV pilot for a series (teleplay) was selected as a semi-finalist in the Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition in Los Angeles, CA. This pilot was listed in the top 50 for the Cinequest Screenwriting Competition in 2018.

She presented the first mental health panel at OZ Comic-Con in 2017. This panel was a fantastic opportunity to discuss openly and honestly about artists and their mental health to help support wellbeing, foster connectivity and provide a culture of support.

In 2018 she presented the panel, ‘An artist’s guide to creative happiness: How to strengthen your creative performance’ at Oz Comic-Con in Brisbane. Her panels are extraordinary opportunities to explore ideas with people who are currently working in the industry. She aims to discuss subjects like individualism, the community, mental health, wellbeing, happiness, creativity, co-creating and self-awareness which often leads to interesting questions from the audience.

What else does she do? Vacen is also a creative workshop facilitator and proficient in, teaching, speaking and concept creation. Guest Speaker. Workshop Presenter. Creative Panel Facilitator. Mentor. Support Worker. Counsellor. Social Welfare Advocate.

 

Happy birthday Agatha

I grew up on a diet of Agatha – the books and films. To join in her week long birthday celebrations, I asked cosy crime writer and Agatha expert, Isabella Muir, about Agatha’s childhood. It turns out we share some of our favourite childhood books – I’m actually about to re-re-read The Phoenix and the Carpet. And did you know she was home educated but her sister wasn’t? Interesting. Anyway, over to Isabella …

Agatha Christie – a child of her time

Young Agatha Christie (Miller)

As we are about to celebrate the birthday of Agatha Christie – that famous Queen of Crime – I’ve been reading about her childhood – what would life have been like for the young Agatha – strange to think that she lived her first ten years in the 19thcentury!

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on 15 September 1890 into a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Torquay, Devon. She was the youngest of three children born to Frederick Alvah Miller, an affluent American stockbroker, and his Irish-born wife Clara.

Agatha’s sister, Margaret was also born in Torquay, eleven years earlier and her brother, Louis, who was born in New York, while Frederick and Clara were on a business trip, was ten years her senior. When Frederick’s father Nathaniel died, he left his daughter-in-law Clara £2000 and it was this money she used to buy ‘Ashfield’, a villa in Torquay where her third and final child, Agatha, was born.

Ashfield was a much loved spacious home, with well-kept gardens, a conservatory ‘full of wicker furniture and palm trees’ and a greenhouse.  The gardens became Agatha’s playground, as although Agatha’s sister, Margaret, was sent to Roedean School in Sussex for her education, Clara decided Agatha should receive a home education.

Clara believed that starting education too early was not a good thing, suggesting: ‘…no child should be allowed until it was eight years old, since delay was better for the eyes as well as the brain.’ (from Agatha Christie: a biography by Janet Morgan.

But Agatha had different ideas! By the time she was five years old she had taught herself to read and went on to enjoy books by Mrs Molesworth, including Christmas Tree Land(1897) and The Magic Nuts(1898). She also read the work of Edith Nesbit, including The Story of the Treasure Seekers(1899), The Phoenix and the Carpet(1903), and The Railway Children(1906). Once she was a little older, she moved on to reading the verse of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll, which inspired her at the age of 10 to write her first poem, ‘The cowslip’.

The Cow Slip

There was once a little cowslip and a pretty flower too. But yet she cried and fretted all for a robe of blue.

Now a merry little fairy, who loved a trick to play, just changed into a nightshade, that flower without delay. The silly little nightshade thought here life a dream of bliss, yet she wondered why the butterfly came not to give his kiss.

 

Agatha grew up at a time when wealthy families employed servants. Her ‘wise and patient’nannie, ‘Nursie’, took on the main responsibility for Agatha’s upbringing in those early years, while ‘Five-course dinners were prepared daily by Jane, the cook, with a professional cook and butler hired for grand occasions…’

Nursie took Agatha off to dancing classes and her parents taught her arithmetic, which she loved, and she learned to play both the piano and the mandolin. She also had a passion for dogs – one of the earliest known photographs of Agatha depicts her as a little girl with her first dog, whom she called George Washington.

From her early years it was clear that Agatha had a love of language and a vivid imagination. Janet Morgan describes her as being ‘fascinated by words and phrases’. She had little or no contact with other children until the family decided to spend winters in Europe.  This was a time when upper middle-class families found it cheaper to let the house out in England with its cold climate, and enjoy the benefits of warmth and sunshine in southern France and Italy – even though they would be paying to stay in hotels. It was here she started to form friendships, as well as gain a good grasp of French and a love of travel that would stay with her throughout her life.

Her father was often ill, suffering from a series of heart attacks and when he died in November 1901, aged just 55, money was tight, but Clara and Agatha continued to live together in their Torquay home.

Agatha and her mother, Clara, lived a relatively comfortable life.  In her biography of Agatha’s life, Janet Morgan writes: ‘There was a comfortable order and predictability to life…her world was private and safe.[…] She was given responsibility for amusing herself and looking after her animals and birds…

However, Agatha later claimed that her father’s death marked the end of her childhood, as in 1902 she was sent to receive a formal education at Miss Guyer’s Girls School in Torquay.

Up until her father’s death Agatha and the rest of her family were fortunate to enjoy financial comfort.  Even after that time, the financial struggles they experienced were nothing compared to many during the late Victorian era who were not so lucky. This was a still a time when the fear of the workhouse loomed large for anyone who was unemployed and living in poverty.

But the spark of imagination that was evident from Agatha’s very early years led on to her prolific output of novels, short stories and poetry.  She wrote more than sixty detective novels, as well as romance under the name of Mary Westmacott and her own autobiography, which was published in 1977, after her death. She started writing as a child and continued into her eighties. No wonder then that she is said to the best-selling author of all time, outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible.

It has been fun researching Agatha Christie’s life, which I was inspired to do as I developed my Sussex Crime series, which introduces readers to the fictional world of Janie Juke, the young librarian and amateur sleuth who sets out to solve crimes and mysteries.

It is Agatha’s wonderful detective, Hercule Poirot, that Janie Juke sets out to emulate as she develops her sleuthing talent in the sleepy seaside town of Tamarisk Bay.

This blog post is one of a series, which leads up to Agatha Christie’s birthday and national #cozymysteryday on 15th September, as I enjoy the opportunity to be Chindi’s ‘Author of the week’.  Chindi is a network of authors, both traditionally and independently published, based largely in West Sussex.   Between us we publish a wide range of books, from historical and crime fiction to romance and children’s books, from humour to self-help.

To find out more about the great Queen of Crime and help to celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday, then look out for the other blog posts in the series:

Agatha Christie and Isabella Muir  https://isabellamuir.com/blog/

Agatha Christie and the sixties  https://patriciamosbornewriter.wordpress.com/daily-blog/

What is a cosy mystery?  https://www.carol-thomas.co.uk/blog/

The good, the bad and the ugly  https://samefacedifferentplace.wordpress.com/

Investigating the past  https://rosemarynoble.wordpress.com/

Agatha Christie and Janie Juke https://isabellamuir.com/blog/

And as a present to you, on Agatha’s behalf, I am pleased to announce that the first book in my Sussex Crimeseries – The Tapestry Bag– will be available on Kindle for just £0.99p for one week only – grab it while you can!

Plus, there’s more! You can get a free copy of her novella, “Divided We Fall“, when you join here

Isabella Muir is the author of the Sussex Crime Mystery series:

Isabella Muir 3D COVERS x 3

BOOK 1: THE TAPESTRY BAG

BOOK 2: LOST PROPERTY

BOOK 3: THE INVISIBLE CASE

Her latest novel is: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN

She can be contacted via:

Twitter: @SussexMysteries

Facebook: www.facebook.com/IsabellaMuirAuthor/

Website: www.isabellamuir.com

Or on Goodreads

 

 

 

Does an eccentric childhood feed a funny author?

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that I’m a bit of a Robin Bennett fan, so when I spotted he’d published an autobiography, I was first in line for a copy, and I wasn’t disappointed. If you like autobiographies and are prepared to peek inside a very eccentric English upbringing, give it a go. Anyway, he very kindly agreed to answer the million and one questions I had. Here’s what we chatted about …

 

With your rather eccentric background, I’m picturing you writing in a treehouse or a bunker. Please tell me you don’t write at a very boring desk in a very boring office!

Out of necessity, I’ve trained myself to write pretty much anywhere and everywhere: airports, trains, pubs and, once, three days at Reading Crown Court. A large chunk of my writing is currently carried out lying full length on the backseat of the car whilst I wait for children to finish clubs.

Given you hop between fiction and non-fiction, kids and grown-ups, what should we expect next?

I’m just finishing up on a (mainly) rhyming book inspired by Boewulf and Hunting of the Snark (it is called ‘Lief the Lesser and Hell’). It’s set about 10,000 years ago when the land mass between modern Europe and the British Isles was swept away by a tsunami. It is about the journey a boy and a girl take when they end up on a log together and wash up in what would be today’s Kent. Neither like each other much. Until they do.

Any plans to do an audiobook? Would you narrate it yourself?

I was asked but scheduling was tricky over the summer, so it might be for early 2020. I’d love to have a crack at narrating myself.

Some of your fictional characters are a bit bonkers. Are any of them inspired by your family?  And if so, do your family know!?

Ha ha! A lot of my characters are based on family, but I honestly don’t think they would notice. I think the thing is most of them see themselves as very normal, which is what makes it so funny (some of the time).

Would you share a childhood photo of yourself, ideally in a sinking fishing boat, clutching a rather unfortunate duck? I know this might require a trip to the attic so you may be gone for a while but I’ve got my fingers crossed you reappear eventually.

I’ll do my best, although a combination of boarding school and parents who did not go in for pictures much means I have very little. This is me with my big brother, Charles ,who is holding Judy, the Cairn terrier who was partner-in-crime (and often instigator-in chief) for most of the things we got up to.

Mums Book Blast - 1. charles me and our cairn judy

I have to say, I approve of his dog – here’s my Cairn terrier looking like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

Lexi's dog

 

If you’d like to check out the book, here’s the details …

Blurb: If life gives you lemons, add gin

Life’s a Banquet is the unofficial but essential ‘guide book’ to negotiating your way through life – through education, family life and business, to relationships, marriage, failure and rejection.

Aged 21, Robin Bennett was set to become a cavalry officer and aged 21 and a half, he found himself working as an assistant grave digger in South London – wondering where it had all gone wrong.

Determined to succeed, he went on and founded The Bennett Group, aged 23, and since then has gone on to start and run over a dozen successful businesses in a variety of areas from dog-sitting to cigars, translation to home tuition. In 2003, Robin was recognised in Who’s Who as one of the UK’s most successful business initiators. Catapulting readers through his colourful life and career, Robin Bennett’s memoir is an inspiring tale.

 

Purchase Links:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lifes-Banquet-Robin-Bennett/dp/1912881683

UShttps://www.amazon.com/Lifes-Banquet-Robin-Bennett/dp/1912881683

 

Biography

robin_bennett_author_entrepreneur

Robin Bennett lives in Henley on Thames, Oxon. He is an author and entrepreneur who has written several books for children and books on the swashbuckling world of business. His documentary, Fantastic Britain, about the British obsession with magic and folklore, won best foreign feature at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards.

 

Robin says, “When the world seems to be precarious and cruel, remember that the game is to never give up – there’s everything to play for, and it will all be OK.”

Unusual encounters with a goddess

Whilst I mainly blog kids books, activities and family life, now and then I throw in something totally different that I just had to share. And today is definitely off-beat.

Oshun front .indd

The cover of The Oshun Diaries drew my eye, and it’s a captivatingly written non-fiction account of a reporter’s encounters with, and search for, a goddess and cult(ure) in Nigeria and the US. It treads that fine line between profoundly spiritual whilst still remaining highly accessible – no mean feat. I urge you to take a look (and there’s a link to win a copy below.)

I’m rather at a loss for how to describe it, so you’ll have to take a look at the opening section – are you hooked? I was!

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Giveaway to Win 5 x PB copies of The Oshun Diaries (UK Only)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494265/?

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.+

Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.

I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Blurb

High priestesses are few and far between, white ones in Africa even more so. When Diane Esguerra hears of a mysterious Austrian woman worshipping the Ifa river goddess Oshun in Nigeria, her curiosity is aroused.

It is the start of an extraordinary friendship that sustains Diane through the death of her son and leads to a quest to take part in Oshun rituals. Prevented by Boko Haram from returning to Nigeria, she finds herself at Ifa shrines in Florida amid vultures, snakes, goats’ heads, machetes, a hurricane and a cigar-smoking god. Her quest steps up a gear when Beyoncé channels Oshun at the Grammys and the goddess goes global.

Mystifying, harrowing and funny, The Oshun Diaries explores the lure of Africa, the life of a remarkable woman and the appeal of the goddess as a symbol of female empowerment.

You can check out the trailer here Trailer

About the author

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Diane Esguerra is an English writer and psychotherapist. For a number of years she worked as a performance artist in Britain, Europe and the United States, and she has written for theatre and television. She is the recipient of a Geneva-Europe Television Award and a Time Out Theatre Award.

She is previously the author of Junkie Buddha, the uplifting story of her journey to Peru to scatter her late son’s ashes.

She lives in Surrey with her partner David.

 

Calling all budding entrepreneurs

You’re never too young to set up your first business, whether it’s the lemonade stand on the street or some fancy gaming app. My son has several business ventures up and running including break-time haircutting services for his friends at a bargain £3 (compared to £10 at the local barber shop). Sadly, the business plan collapsed as school were rather less than impressed by the resultant mullets and mohicans, but I was secretly quite chuffed with the initiative.

I’ve got a Creative Writing Workbook coming out in October, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in the non-fiction world recently and was excited to be offered a chance to review the Creative Genius Journal.

Creative Genius Journal cover

 

The blurb says

With 9 challenges that build the skills to help inform and develop a child’s resilience, imagination, improve their creativity, encourage drafting, sketching, reviewing and self-correcting of information and ideas. These are important, as alongside problem solving and working with others, they are the skills they will need for their futures.

But to my mind, it offers even more; it encourages those first steps towards launching a business. The activities include things like design a piece of apparatus for an adventure playground (the next Dyson?), or create a character to advertise a new drink (very Sir Alan Sugar/ The Apprentice). Each challenge draws in lots of aspects but they’re broken down into fun, manageable chunks.

GIVEAWAY TIME!

I want to have a go myself, but I’ve resisted and have a pristine copy to give away to one lucky reader (UK only, sorry).

You can enter here …

https://kingsumo.com/g/kd8d0c/creative-genius-journal

About the author

Susan O'Coonnor

Susan has taught for over thirty years in schools and colleges and has produced maths games and written several books for children and teenagers – ‘Mighty Memory Tricks’, ‘High Five Jive’, ‘Be Positive’ and ‘Creative Genius Journal’. These practical books are fun but have genuine educational benefit. Currently, she is writing for Bloomsbury Publishing.

 

Rocking the art

We’re well into the summer holidays now, so I thought it was time for some arts and crafts. Given the amazing weather, it had to be outdoorsy too, which means ROCK ART! My extended clan ranges from 5 to 15, so finding activities for all can be a challenge but this was a huge hit with everyone (including granny and grandpa).

We gathered the rocks on a hike (we’re currently up in Scotland and hiking daily, to some teenage mutterings). The 5 year old had ambitious plans that left his dad looking like Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill in Greek mythology. The others had more modest sized selections. Back home, we decorated them using these

  • acrylic pens – I got a multipack plus silver and gold extra. The black ran out first, so next time I might get a spare as it was used to outline everything (I hadn’t realised that).
  • “>modge podge – we used the gloss finish but you can get matt if you prefer.

Several hours of painting and varnishing later, we had a large collection.

We then wrote the details of the local rock art FaceBook group on the back of each rock, to encourage people to share pics of when they found them, and hid them across the area (hike number two with absolutely no complaints from the teenagers). Just search for “rock art” to find the local group.

Here are some examples where we have hidden/ found rocks but there are loads of groups

Aboyne Pebbles & Rocks

Hidden Rocks Chichester

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The next morning, I woke to demands of a repeat of the activity – result! More hiking, more art. Happy families 🙂

There was huge excitement as several rocks were spotted over the next few weeks and the finders very kindly shared pictures of their finds on FB, but sadly most of the rocks vanished without a trace. We consoled the kids with the fact that their art work was so good people wanted to take it home as treasure. If you do find any rock art, I would urge you to share a snap with the FB group as it really makes the kids’ day.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Exciting new YA cover reveal

This is upper YA so older than the books I usually spotlight, but I’m a fan of Madeline Dyer so maybe you are looking to top up the teenagers kindles (or your own) before you go on holiday. All I’m going to say to introduce the series is
SHE WAS MADE TO BE A WEAPON…
So hot off the press, here’s a sneak peak at the cover …
You’re going to have to scroll down …
It is a reveal after all …
It’s worth it …
Bonus! I’ve put it next book 1 in the series coz I think they’re a great pair …
Dangerous Ones 1
Dangerous Ones 2
Title: This Vicious Way
Series: The Dangerous Ones, book 2
Author: Madeline Dyer
Genre: Dystopian / Action & Adventure
Audience: Upper Young Adult / New Adult
Publisher: Ineja Press
Cover designer: Molly Phipps at We Got You Covered Book Design