Thursday, 29 August 2013

FREE pony book for 3 days only!!

I have just launched my Gemma Pony Book series onto Amazon, available for kindle. Although the books were previously published in Scandinavia and Germany, the stories have been updated and this is the first time they have been available in the English language. 

The 4 novella series is a fast paced read for children and teenagers. 

Fun, action-packed and full of drama, the stories will appeal to pony loving teens.
Girls, boyfriends and plenty of ponies!

In the first story of the series, you’ll meet pony-mad teen Gemma Carlton and her feisty new pony Fireworks – along with Gemma’s long suffering boyfriend, Steve, her friends Fizz and Kath and best mate Callie - plus lots of ponies.

They want to raise funds for the new horse rescue centre by organising a Pony Club Dance at the community centre but then a gang of vandals cause trouble, the horses are in danger and Fireworks goes missing – and to make matters worse, Gemma soon suspects her best friend Callie is secretly going out with the gang ring leader!
Will she find Fireworks? Will she lose her friendship with Callie? And after everything that happens, can life ever be the same again?

Other titles in the Gemma series:
Gemma and the Tattooed Horses
Gemma and the Black Colt
Gemma and the Disappearing Showjumpers

For 3 days only, Book 1 of the series, Gemma and the Pony Club Dance, is FREE to download.  

Click links to buy.  

Monday, 26 August 2013

Interview with Vikki Thompson for What the Dickens


Just been interviewed for the excellent What the Dickens by the wonderful Vikki Thompson, who asked some thought provoking questions related to a recent survey about children's reading habits and e-books.  

Here is the link.  

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Sneak preview of covers for Gemma Pony Book Series!

Further to my post about clearing out cupboards and getting on with the 4 kindle books that need formatting, I have been working my little butski off and managed to get 2 of the books done.  Phew!  Two more to go.  As always, I experienced a few hiccups and it is always interesting to see how different the format looks on each kindle reader - working better on the basic kindle and the Paperwhite than the kindle Fire. 

Anyhow, my ambitious plan was to launch all 4 titles in my Gemma Pony Book series for children and teens SIMULTANEOUSLY.  I have a tendency to make things difficult for myself....

So here is a sneak preview of the first draft covers (they have been tweaked since then) from my brilliant designer Klaus Hartleben.  Hopefully I will get the final edits done for Books 3 and 4 before the end of the Bank Holiday weekend.  

And once my cupboards are emptied, I shall no doubt fill them up again fast!

Related post:

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Writing Dreams

Recently I’ve been having a recurring dream about clearing out cupboards, in which I have a selection of cupboards full of stuff to sort out and organise.  I think this is about not doing the things I should be doing  - like formatting the 4 books for Kindle which have been on my to-do list for months now.  It’s preying on my mind but life seems to conspire against me so that whenever it seems I will get the time to do it, something happens.  Sigh.  Cupboards and drawers (not the knickers variety!) appear often in my dreams – usually, in the dream, I am about to move house and have left everything until the last minute and realise that I haven’t even made a start on the cupboards and it is the day of the move!  Arrgggh! 

And on the subject of dreams, I realise that I have, finally and by default (redundancy) realised my childhood ambition  – I am now, officially, a full time writer.  It’s taken nearly 40 years and I think I’m so busy trying to keep on top of everything that I haven’t actually celebrated. 

So if you always wanted to be a full time writer, don’t be discouraged if it hasn’t happened yet.  Because, one day, it will. However long it takes.  

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Vision and the Voice Part 1 at Creatabot

Today I'm over at the brilliant arts webzine Creatabot, discussing the writer's voice - what it is and how it evolves (or not!)  - and drawing comparisons with the singing voice.

"If I admire a writer, it will be for two reasons.  Firstly, their vision and the ideas expressed and explored.  I came to sci-fi late in life but I am astonished by, and drawn to, visionaries such as Asimov and Philip K. Dick and their prophecies.  Secondly, I am attracted to elements of style, structure and craft.  Sarah Waters, Lydia Davis, Mark Haddon, Frank Cottrell Boyce are wonderful examples.  You don’t always find vision and execution in the same piece of work but when you do, it is sheer joy....."

(Click link to read on)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Wise words

photo Roger Hyland

“In my view, time does not heal.  It's more that unhappy memories retreat and are submerged as life carries on.  They lose their intensity, like clothes that fade after much washing, but they never disappear, and can be triggered, re-surfacing again with surprising force - especially as we get older and perhaps spend more time reflecting on our lives. Even if we can develop a wiser perspective, that ball of sadness is still there.”

These wise words are from one of my dearest friends, Patrysha, who I have known since I was 18 years old. 

I heard an interview with Peter Andre after his brother died of kidney cancer at the end of 2012, in which he observed, “You don’t get over it, you just get on with it.”

In a recent conversation with a friend who also lost both her parents to cancer, she spoke of “carrying” the impact of this indefinitely.  It’s a good way to put it. 

A while back, I wrote a post called Writing What Haunts You.   

What haunts me is the way both my parents suffered before they died.  Doing all I could to help, support, care for them and fight for them. Ultimately feeling totally helpless.  This haunts me constantly.

But I have not found a way to write about it. 

I am currently reading a book called How We Grieve by Thomas Attig, after coming across the following quote:

"Grieving is a journey that teaches us how to love in a new way now that our loved one is no longer with us. Consciously remembering those who have died is the key that opens the hearts, that allows us to love them in new ways."  Thomas Attig, The Heart of Grief

Loss, grief and the heart are key themes in my most recent trilogy for teenagers, which began with  Always in my Heart (Stabenfeldt), continued with The Heartbreak Horse and concludes with The Forever Horse, which I was working on this morning.  So although I feel I have not yet unlocked my grief, perhaps I have been indirectly exploring it without even realising it.

Eventually, perhaps, I will find the key.  I am certain that it is through writing that I will do this.

“She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.” George Eliot

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Reading: A safe fix?

Stories can provide us with thrills, puzzles to solve, tears, joy, laughter, fear; taking us through a kaleidoscope of emotions and virtual experiences.  Escape from reality. In short, reading can give us a safe high.

I used to get my adrenalin fix, my escape, from dancing and music, and that is my preferred drug.  But reading does an effective job, transporting me to places I would never travel - past, present and future.  And at the same time I am learning - about the world, people and myself.  I can't think of any other equivalent form of escapism. If only it were the universal drug of choice.

Related post:

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Ideas, critical thinking and young people

I have signed up to be a judge for the annual Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Contest for 6th Form students. As their website states:

Debating matters because ideas matter. This is the premise of the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Competition for sixth form students which emphasises substance, not just style, and the importance of taking ideas seriously.
When the Institute of Ideas launched the competition in 2003/04, it aimed to present schools with an innovative and engaging approach to debating. Topical debates and a challenging format appeal to students from a wide range of backgrounds, including schools with a long tradition of debating and those with no experience at all.
I'm quite nervous about being on a judging panel but keen to support anything that encourages young people to think, to back up their views and to question the world we live in.

Related post:

Monday, 5 August 2013

Beginnings and Endings

Sark.  Photo by Roger Hyland

I have come to the conclusion that there are no beginnings or endings, simply a continual passage of time, which I used to see as linear, then circular and, finally, as a figure of eight - the infinity symbol, moving back and forth between past and present into the future...

I like to play with this concept when I write.  Beginnings are always scary but exhilarating.  A bit like a plane taking off.  The start of the journey into the unknown. Endings are different.  They need to be satisfying, both to write and for the reader.  They don’t need to tie up all the loose ends, because life isn’t like that.  And when you think you have finished, you often find that the perfect ending is actually the perfect beginning.  And vice versa. 

I use this idea when I teach creative writing workshops.  It encourages fluidity; an open-minded approach to the creative process and the realisation that it is organic.

Elastic infinity (photo by Jane Ayres)

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Cuddly Pony Party!

What I like about social media is the way you can make connections and learn about the amazing things that other people are doing out in the big wide world. I came across Cuddly Pony Party on Facebook via a childhood horsey friend, and I absolutely love the idea. and wanted to know more.  So I contacted Karen Perry, an equine and canine therapist who started it all and asked her some questions.  If only Cuddly Pony Parties existed when I was growing up! 

Tell us about Cuddly Pony Party - where did you get the idea, and how did you make the idea a reality?
We moved to our dream property, an old brick 1950's house, not very inspiring in itself, but the view from the bathroom window took our breath away; five acres and a dreamy orchard. I knew Daisy had to grow up with ponies! She was 6 months old when we moved in, my imagination went into overdrive, and Cuddly Pony Party was born!!  I've worked within the equine industry since 1982 as a groom, manager and instructor, and have run my own equine therapy business since 1995. Cuddly Pony Party is a family run business.  My mum, chief assistant, is a retired primary school teacher and my dad, also a retired school teacher, is our photographer. And my 6 year old daughter Daisy helps care for the ponies at home and at the parties! We bring the ponies to children's parties, where they can groom, cuddle and fuss the ponies. They can brush their beautiful blonde manes and tails, and decorate them with sparkles and glitter and ribbons! Then they can each have a ride on their favourite pony, supervised at all times by experienced handlers. The birthday boy or girl will receive a birthday card and rosette from the ponies!

Did you encounter any challenges?
Getting insurance was the biggest challenge. Most insurance companies said, “Ponies? Children? Parties? On your bike!” Thankfully, I persisted, and eventually found a company who took the risk.

Also, finding ponies who looked cuddly and adorable but had the right temperament. Not all ponies love children......! Twinkle was first to arrive and was totally well behaved when I tried her. Got her home and she trampled chickens and dogs who dared venture into her field and bit Daisy! Luckily, we persevered, and now she is THE most amazing pony and Daisy’s best friend! Bubbles we found in a riding school near Peterborough. We liked him as he whinnied to everyone and was used to kids and dogs all over him. He did come with bad riding school habits, he has to stop for many toilet breaks, and he hates going away from the other ponies, but he fits in really well here and adores being adored! He is always the first to speak to me when I open the back door in the morning!

Can you tell us about the ponies?
The tiny guys, Nutkin and Scrumpy, have only been here 18 months. I bought them unseen from their lovely breeder in Berkshire. They arrived on a racehorse wagon in the dark and sleet two days after Christmas. We shuffled them into their field, only to find they had escaped by the morning! Tango, our Belgian Shepherd, was delighted; he seriously thought I had bought him a sheep for Christmas,(Scrumpy was small, white and fluffy) and he herded them back into the field and has stalked them ever since! It has taken them a while to grow into their role as Cuddly Ponies, although Nutkin was always over friendly and sitting on our laps! She was the first to enter the house and join us for breakfast! Scrumpy was wild and scared for the first year, and I despaired of ever finding a role for him, but he clicked this year and at Belton Horse Trials he met the public like an old pro, kissing small girls and falling asleep whilst having his mane plaited! We couldn’t do without him now, and yes, he has been in the house too.......!

Have you always been a pony lover?
I have always been pony mad from an early age. My parents are unhorsey and we lived in a suburb of Nottingham, so having a pony was never an option. I couldn't even have regular riding lessons until I was 12! To get through this pony-less existence, I used to write madly, bashing away at on old typewriter, in a totally different world! On paper I could be Lucinda or Henrietta, who lived in the country with any number of horses and dogs around me. I must have written 8 or 10 "books" like this, but I hated people to read them; it was as though they were prying into my private thoughts. I am lucky enough now to be living my dreams for real!

Has social media helped with your marketing?
Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising but Facebook has been amazing. I am a technophobe, so I have been slow to catch on! I try to update the ponies’ Facebook page once or twice a week and I know I have a lot of young Cuddly Pony fans who regularly check out what the ponies are up to and where we are going to be next. It’s a wonderful way to keep in touch and advertise what we are doing. I also have a fantastic web site which one of my equine therapy clients designed for me, with purple stars tumbling down the page. They magically turn to snow in the winter months! I have yet to discover Twitter.......!

And when it comes to books, who/what do you like to read?
I am an avid reader, although I seriously struggle for time these days! Even now my favourite books have an equestrian link somewhere! You can’t beat a good book for decent escapism, and thankfully I never want to escape too far from horse and pony chaos! All my life my favourite author has been KM Peyton, who wrote the fabulous Flambards trilogy. She was instrumental in my childhood escapism, as some of her books about horseless children seemed to totally be made for me. Even now, her books like Fly By Night and The Team are brilliant reads.

I also love Fiona Walker, author of great big horsey and doggy romps, ideal for holidays! And I am hugely enjoying, for the second time, working through the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, a very funny crime writer. Laugh a minute and not a horse in sight, who would've thought it?

Links for Cuddly Pony Party

I’m Karen Perry, somewhere in my forties, equine and canine therapist by day, carazy pony lady at weekends!! Live in a 1950's building site with 5 acres in the beautiful Vale of Belvoir! Dependents - Daisy, my gorgeous 6 year old daughter, not only the inspiration for the Cuddly Pony Venture, but also a huge part of it! She is up at 6.30am with me to help work the ponies, she rides and shows Twinkle and she is brilliant helping the children at parties! Also Tango, our faithful Belgian Shepherd. Nearly 12 now but always our shadow, eager to help lunge ponies, hoping one day we will buy him his own sheep......!

Friday, 2 August 2013

What do running and writing have in common?

I recently came across an excellent piece about running and writing in Ideas Tap, in which the writer Luiza Sauma looks at the parallels between the two pursuits.

"Writing is a lot like running. Both take enormous amounts of will power and stamina. Both are rather solitary. The more you do them, the better you become. Running and writing are activities that many of us dread, but once we’ve got going, they can fill us with joy, excitement and lust for life."

Click below to read the complete article.
I've written a few posts about the connections between writing and running. So what do I now think they have in common?

First and foremost, they are HARD. Really hard. Well, I find this to be the case. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy both running and writing and they compliment each other well. Running is great for allowing head space to create and ferment ideas. Running also gets you away from the desk and laptop, which ensures you get fresh air and move your limbs. Otherwise you would be glued to the chair for hours on end until your body seizes up.  I have sometimes had 12 hour sessions at the desk - not very healthy.

In an ideal world, I plan to structure my day around running and writing but have not achieved it consistently.  I have short bursts where I do manage it and then I feel really pleased with myself - especially if I get up at 7am, enjoy the relative quiet of the world and make my heart work and then, after showering and eating porridge, I still have the rest of the morning to get on with work. 

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