Why Sparky made me cry!

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know I’m a big fan of Sue Wickstead’s bus themed picture books. Not only are they based on the real play buses which were around when I was younger, but she writes so nicely. This is an old-school, gentle, tale of inclusivity and it made me cry. I love it. In fact I’m welling up again just writing this.

My only niggle with Sue’s earlier books was they were quite text heavy for the age group, but this one is absolutely spot on.

There are not enough straightforward inclusivity tales for younger readers, and the fact this is based on a real story makes it even better. If you are wondering, the real buses were designed to be accessible for disabled children and the slide was originally intended to be a fire escape giving a fast exit for them. This book should be in every reception classroom.

And Princess Anne, who was a patron of the original project has a copy of it. Fabulous!

Author Bio

Sue and I at a very cold Crawley WordFest

Sue is an author and a teacher and has written six children’s picture books, all with a bus included somewhere. Having been able to share her first book, ‘Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus’, she decided it was time to think about writing a book for younger readers.

Blurb

Sparky isn’t your typical double-decker bus. Behind the dragon and magical paintings, she’s full of fun and adventures for all children. Jump aboard to find out what makes Sparky so special.

Purchase Links

You can order on Amazon UK or US , or you can get a FREE 3D bus template with book orders from Sue Wickstead’s website or if you message her https://www.suewickstead.co.uk/

Get in touch

Facebook: -Author Page https://www.facebook.com/storiesSue/

Facebook  -Playbus page https://www.facebook.com/BewbushPlaybus/

Twitter https://twitter.com/JayJayBus

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jayjaybusbooks/

Web site : www.suewickstead.co.uk

Babushka – cover reveal

My sister and I adored the set of brightly painted Russian dolls we had as kids and my sister carried the “baby” around with her everywhere. I did have to google what Babushka meant – apparently it’s Russian for old woman or grandmother. Anyway, when this cover reveal landed in my inbox I got all nostalgic. Our set is long gone, but I found this image which is exactly how I remember them.

Blurb

Babushka hadn’t been in her homeland since she was a child. She went to the church with a suitcase, and the whole way, Babushka thought about how she would feel in Ukraine after so many years. She sang, and then she prayed. Amen. But Babushka was thinking of her trip instead of the Lord’s grace. After a long time pondering what to expect—if she would feel a sense of belonging—Babushka arrived in her homeland. Babushka had a lot of fun, but she felt like something was missing. She was homesick. “Babushka is Homesick” is a story about memories, family, and the true meaning of the word “home.”

“Babushka is Homesick” is the second children’s book in the Babushka Series. Everyone has their own stories, history, and the desire to belong. The first book, “Tell me a story, Babushka,” is a best-selling new release in Children’s Multicultural Literature on Amazon USA (Aug 2019), in which kids and adults will enjoy fun adventures and identify their own stories.

This folktale is ideal for ages 4-11 and perfect for teachers.

Purchase Links:

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0848BP2SH

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0848BP2SH

About Carola Schmidt

Pediatric Oncology Pharmacist & award-winning author of children’s multicultural literature, such as Babushka Series, and children’s books about cancer, such as Chubby’s Tale: The true story of a teddy bear who beat cancer, and Bald is Beautiful: A letter for a fabulous girl. Springer Nature author with several scientific books published on pediatric oncology.

Twitter: @_CarolaSchmidt and @LovelyBabushka

Facebook: @MyLovelyBabushka

Argentina, polo and a dash of romance

This series is like catnip to me: travel, adventure, horses and a dash of romance. It’s literally my dream combo. I recently reviewed the Sweetbriars pony series for kids, so this time it’s a grown up horsey treat, but I must stress, you do not need to know anything about horses or polo to enjoy this series.

The series is based on the author’s own experiences and as it’s written in the first person and reads like a travel journal, I had to keep reminding myself that it was fiction.

The Polo Diaries starts with a list. I love a list, and this one is particularly funny, especially the order of priorities.

I connected with the narrator from the opening lines. She’s very Bridget Jones (it’s always a relief when a big claim in the blurb turns out to be 100% accurate) and I’m pleased she is older (at a mere 41) than the stereotypical mid-thirties romcom character. She’s a typical horsewoman – despite repeated broken bones, she can barely wait to get back in the saddle. Given I’ve skied with my arm in plaster cast, and yesterday was debating with a 9yo who has fractured her shoulder from a fall and is banned by the doctor from riding for a month, how long she really had to take off, I can totally relate to this. NOTE – this should not be considered medical advice – you must always listen to your doctor!!

The second book follows on so I would suggest reading them in order. The feeling of “home” when she lands back in Argentina is so strongly described, I’m practically packed and on the next plane to Buenos Aires.

Now I’m looking forward to reading more books by this author. You know when people ask you which author you’d like to invite to a dinner party, I’m definitely putting Roxana Valea on my wish list. Or perhaps we could just meet for a Campari and orange …

The Polo Diaries

Single in Buenos Aires, The Polo Diaries Book 1

Roxy plays polo… but dreams of love.
 Forty-one-year-old polo player Roxy arrives in Argentina with a to-do list that includes healing from a polo injury and falling in love with a handsome Argentine. From polo boots to tango shoes, the adrenaline of riding horses to glamorous after-game parties, Roxy learns to navigate this unfamiliar landscape with the help of new friends who teach her to take life as it comes. But will she find true love? Over three months in Buenos Aires, nothing goes according to plan, and yet, all the items on her list mysteriously get ticked off in the end. Just not the way she had imagined.

Fans of the Bridget Jones series will love the blend of humor, travel, and romantic comedy at the heart of Single in Buenos Aires, all topped off with the unforgettable flavor of life in one of the most sensual and passionate cities in the world.

A Horse Called Bicycle, The Polo Diaries Book 2

Roxy found love . . . but is it enough? 
In the second instalment of the Polo Diaries series, polo player Roxy goes back to Argentina a year after the events in Single in Buenos Aires, filled with dreams of settling down with the man she loves. This time, once again, Argentina is full of surprises and things are not what they appear to be. Or maybe they’re exactly what they’re meant to be, as a fortune-teller informs her.

Roxy takes a leap of faith and follows her dreams once again. She spends time at glamorous party venues of Buenos Aires and travels to the rough and wild pampas. Along the way, Roxy’s friends support and champion her quest for love, but when things get out of hand, Roxy realizes she needs to listen to her own inner voice and must make a hard choice. Two paths open in front of her, each one with far-reaching consequences. Which will she choose?

Author bio

Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.

As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–traveling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.

Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.

The Polo Diaries Author Photo

 

https://www.roxanavaleaauthor.com

https://www.facebook.com/RoxanaValeaAuthor/

https://www.instagram.com/roxanavalea_author/

https://twitter.com/roxana_valea

 

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07T8C3TN6/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Single-Buenos-Aires-Polo-Diaries-ebook/dp/B07T8C3TN6/

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B082P34YPF/

US – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B082P34YPF/

Script writing tips for kids, and a new book

I’ve previously reviewed Starchild #1 by Vacen Taylor and the sequel, The City of Souls, is out now. Vacen is an interesting author because her background is in scriptwriting and I think this comes through in her fiction. She has very kindly agreed to have a chat and share some secrets, plus her tips for getting youngsters started with screen writing AND there’s a giveaway to win all four books (but you’ll have to scroll down for that).

The City of Souls Cover

How does your scriptwriting background influence your fiction writing?

Writing scripts requires a very different style of writing and requires different formatting. The other thing to remember in scriptwriting is there are no internal thoughts, so sensory details need to be found in the character’s actions but also be found in visible and audible emotions.

In screenwriting the writer would be working to reduce the details but be visual and emotional, writing as succinctly possible. Remember a feature-length screenplay is 110-120 pages in comparison to a novel which could range from 40, 000 to 100,000 pages depending on the age group and genre.

This understanding can be great for learning how to write tightly, but it can also encourage a writer to write so tightly that it fits into the reduced amount of pages. I often feel that this is a reason why my novels flow so fast because I have learned to write so tightly. So, it can be negative in some aspects.

When you write scripts, a writer is also thinking about budgets and settings. Both make a massive difference in whether the film or television series would be feasible to produce. When I participated in a short course in screenwriting, I quickly learned there was a lot more to think about when writing a script. I had to develop a script from a source text and on a tiny budget. These parameters played a significant part in my reasoning for everything; for example, the time of day or night, due to lighting cost, the sun is free!

Alternatively, when a writer is creating a novel, it is not essential to think about the cost of a budget or setting that might be a condition in filming. This freedom means when a person is writing a novel there is more room to be super creative with creating worlds. That doesn’t mean fantasy concepts don’t end up on the big screen, but they are more expensive to make, and budget considerations will drive the film’s end product. Whereas if I were writing a fantasy script, I would have to be continuingly thinking about budget and setting costs amongst other things.

 

Which character in Starchild are you most like and why?

These days I would say Mia, a resilient, self-confident and independent woman. Working with young people in my day job in the field of alcohol and other drugs, I believe a vital skill in supporting young women and men is to be resilient and independent myself. Role modelling is an important part of this work alongside a sound education and understanding how to link theory with practice and in many cases real life lived experiences.  It’s also vital to maintain empathy for others around us and in the community. Which is part of the reason some of the characters are empathic to others, but I would hope people see the contrast between the empathic characters and those who lack empathy in the series.

 

What do you include in your character profiles? 

I use a character profile sheet. Each sheet has everything from necessary information on it like, name, age, birthplace, gender and nationality. In another section, I concentrate on hair colour, eye colour, height, tattoos, scars etc. The next section includes information on a personality like, best and worst trait, secrets, enemies, what they like or don’t like. I also have a part for family, parents, siblings, boyfriends, partners and pets. Other information I include is a friends list, jobs, standing in the community or school setting.

 

You’ve built a very detailed world. What was the inspiration?

I have always been interested in energy. But the type of energy I am referring to within the series is found in the body. In the back of the book the powers of the nations are divided into 7 types from a particular source spot on the body. This is based loosely on the Chakra or energy points or nodes in the body. Forming the powers from this source inspired me to write the story. I gave each spot a strength, but with that, I realised I would be dividing the nations. It’s something like how the world of today is divided into countries and the country’s people. Which also inspired me to bring children from different nations together and along with that a mysterious child attached to a prophecy. From then on, it would be about friendship, courage, change and doing what is necessary to help each other. The Age of Akra is only a glimpse of the whole story. By the end of the third book, Long has changed a great deal and so has Akra.

 

What are you working on now?

I am working on three YA novels. One has been adapted from my short story, The Returning which was published as a shortlisted entry for the Queensland Writers Centre. The other two, first, being an apocalyptic and the other a paranormal both still requiring the ability to create unique spaces and settings that surround the characters.

 

Other than your own (of course), what are your favourite MG fantasy reads?

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly. And I’m looking forward to reading Far Away by Lisa Graff

 

There are lots of creative writing competitions for children, but do you know of any that specialise in scripts?

I am aware of many here in Australia. Here are a few.

ATOM Awards http://atomawards.org/  for Primary and Secondary students.

CinéfestOZ Short Film Competition https://cinefestoz.com/festival-program/cinesnaps/short-film-competition/ Encourages South West [WA] Western Australia n students 13-18 years old to explore the medium of film and use multi-media formats for production.

FlickerUp https://flickerfest.com.au/how-to-enter-flickerup/  National competition for primary and secondary school students or film-makers under 18 years old.

Sydney International Festival of Films by Children https://www.bardicstudio.com.au/festival-information

Thank you for inviting me to answer your questions. J

 

Back to the book. Here’s the blurb …

A gripping forest adventure full of mystery, betrayal and courage.

When a new sealer boy joins the journey, Mai, Long, and Akra are confident their challenges have come to an end.  But as they embark on their journey once again, they find themselves having to escape from the clutches of dangerous enemies.

They travel to Naroan – the forest lands of the soulbankers, the regulators of life and death. Against the backdrop of rules and suspicion, the children are challenged with unravelling the mystery of the Silvershade, which has been calling to Akra from the moment he arrived in the forest city. But Long is tormented by his doubts – he must face a deadly power from the Underworld before it takes him into the darkness.

Will the dark pebble take Long along a road of no return? Or will his friends find a way to help him?

Giveaway

Starchild - Giveaway Prize

Win a set of all four books …

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494320/?

If you can’t wait for the competition, here are the purchase links

https://www.odysseybooks.com.au/titles/9781922200129/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07GPRK289

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07GPRK289

Author Bio

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.

 AND IF YOU”D LIKE TO SEE WHAT VACEN LOOKED LIKE AS A CHILD, YOU”LL NEED TO SIGN UP TO THE #KIDSCLUB  Join the free #kidsclub

 

Social Media Links –  

Facebook  – https://www.facebook.com/Vacen-Taylor-Author-233611656699562/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/vacentaylor/

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com.au/vacentaylor/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/VacenTaylor

Hopping corn science experiment

I just had to share this cool science experiment from the fabulous Suzie at StemSpark. Is it just me, or is this like making your own lava lamp? Love, love, love it!

Anyway, here are Suzie’s easy peasy instructions …

You’ll Need a clear glass container popping corn water baking soda white vinegar food coloring (optional)

Instructions 1) Fill your glass container with water and add a couple drops of food coloring.

2) Add your baking soda and stir well until it is all dissolved.

3) Add a small handful of popping corn kernels.

4) Add the vinegar and watch the corn start to hop up and down!

Hopping Candy science experiment

The corn will hop up and down repeatedly in your container for over an hour.  It’s so much fun to watch (mesmerizing would be the best word to describe it). The experiment creates a great opportunity to talk about gases, liquids, and solids with your child.

Basically, the science behind the activity is that when the baking soda and vinegar combine, they react to form carbon dioxide (CO2) gas.  The gas forms bubbles in the water, which enclose the corn kernels.  The bubbles lift the kernels up to the surface, and when the kernels get to the surface, the bubbles pop, and the kernels sink again.

Story telling on Spirit FM

Most of you will know I ran an illustration competition for kids earlier this year – it’s a great way to engage readers and the community – and I’m passionate about getting kids writing, so I was really excited when I heard local author Lynne Healy had teamed up with radio station SpiritFM with a unique creative writing competition.

97B6CCB4-8F90-400C-A6CE-04261544DDD6

Here’s Lynne to tell us what happened …

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to win an advertising package with Spirit FM, our local radio station. As I have created Birdham Bear to inspire children to find and express ‘their unique’ I thought a fun way to use it would be to run a creative writing competition for children in West Sussex. The brief was simple: children aged 11 and under were invited to write a short story, up to 500 words, on anything that inspired them.

Spirit were very impressed with the number of entries. Judging was a challenge as the stories were all so unique. In the end it was easy to choose Willow as the winner. She was one of the youngest entrants and her story was simple and fun with a delightful message of kindness that both. Birdham Bear and I loved. We also both agreed that we’d love to blow bubbles every time we speak!

The radio presenters recorded her story.
https://www.spiritfm.net/win/creative-writing-competition/

Dog behaviour for kids

It seems our entire class sprouted new puppies over the summer holidays. Some are well behaved, others somewhat less so. When we got our dog several years ago, we spent a lot of time setting boundaries and he’s a super chilled, very happy, child-friendly boy. We struggled with recall, well he is a terrier, but got there in the end with only one instance of an early morning sprint down the street in a semi-clad state after an escapee pup who had promised he only wanted out for a pee – luckily no photos exist!  Our rules include things like:-

  • we always go out of a room/ house before him (to establish that we are in charge, not him)
  • he isn’t fed from table (we can actually put a plate of sausages on the floor and he won’t touch them)
  • he isn’t allowed to jump up on visitors (not everyone likes dogs)

In the excitement of an adorable cute puppy joining the family, I totally understand that isn’t easy for children to understand why they can’t do some of these things, although by the time the pup is fully grown it becomes obvious.

Written by experts, Home Alone Harry is the perfect book to help young children understand both the HOW and WHY of dog training. I absolutely love it! If you have young children and are welcoming a dog into your house, you need this book.

And even better, it’s the first in a series of four. I can’t wait.

Home Alone Harry Cover

 

Blurb

Harry is a mischievous young dog, adored by his family, Dad and Mum, Maisie (8) and Max (5). When the family leave him on his own he creates chaos. Dad demands, “That bad dog must go!” Alone and sad in bed that evening, Max asks, “Can anyone help?” How will the Thunkies respond to his call?

Purchase Link – https://shop.thunkies.com/

 

About the authors and illustrator

 

Jerry Rhodes AUTHOR bio

Jerry Rhodes’ life-long research and teaching is the inspiration behind ‘Home Alone Harry’, this first book in a series for children featuring the cartoon characters, Thunkies®. After completing his degree and teacher training at Oxford University, Jerry’s career as a school-master was cut short by polio. He changed course to a management career in industry, discovered his talents for creativity, and formed his world-wide consultancy to collaborate with international organisations. A special project with Philips led to the discovery of ‘Thinking-Intentions’, to which he has now given the playful name, Thunkies®. Jerry writes his books from his weather-beaten old farmhouse in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds.

Rachael Messiter AUTHOR bio

Rachael Messiter, a Dog Listener, uses the approach known as Amichien® Bonding pioneered by Jan Fennell. Rachael has her own practice, Talking Paws, based in Staffordshire. Previously she lived with wolves for close on two years in Colorado, USA, to learn how packs work. She has identified a group of issues that dog owners experience that are due to the well-meaning but flawed behaviours of owners, rather than ‘nuisance’ dogs. How to properly avoid and resolve such troublesome issues will be the theme of each book in the series Thunkies® love Dogs.

Nicky Hill ILLUSTRATOR bio

Nicky Hill is an illustrator and storyteller from Winterbourne near Bristol. Her artwork is featured throughout the Thunkies® Love Dogs books, bringing a bright, vibrant style that captures the imagination. A great lover of animals both wild and domestic, Nicky also illustrates and writes her own series of books about ‘The Wotton Pack’; a group of inquisitive pooches who spend their days and nights having many adventures. She currently lives with her own pack of three dogs in Wotton-under-Edge, a small town in Gloucestershire, where she also co-runs the shop called ‘The Collective’.

 Social Media Links

Website – https://thunkies.com/

Shop – https://shop.thunkies.com/

Facebook – @thunkies

Instagram – @thunkies

Pinterest – thunkiesteam