Monday, 16 October 2017

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist by Bill Condon, illustrated by Dave Atze (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $12.99 ISBN 9781925520590

Reviewed by Sandy Fussell

A wonderful array of crazy, oddball characters fill the pages of this book. Meet Professor Julius Brigg, a brilliant pig with ‘a mind like a steel trap wrapped in bacon’.  Meet Big Charley, a mangy cat, so mean he doesn’t use kitty litter. And Doddie Q Moo, a cow who likes two read signs. “Go back, you are going the wrong way” makes her heart flutter.

Each of the thirteen stories is based on a proverb with a twist such as ‘curiosity chilled/killed the cat’ (poor Big Charley) and ‘every Doddie/everybody makes mistakes’ (you can’t force your family to join a sign reading club). Short explanations of the proverbs are included at the back of the book. The illustrations are as humorous as the text. Imagine an anaconda trying to squeeze an armour-plated armadillo (you can’t squeeze/please everyone) or a father and daughter flea fun day out (the best things in life are flea/free). 


The generous illustrations, large print and use of different fonts will appeal to young, independent readers. This book is humorous and clever, for those who like short stories, a good laugh and lashings of quirky wordplay. It will suit readers aged 6 to 11 years. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Georgie Donaghey on Clover’s BIG Ideas

Being the smallest in the paddock isn’t easy. Clover is always being teased. When three naughty lambs go too far, Clover and her big ideas step in. Discover how Clover shows being little makes her more determined and clever than they could ever imagine.

This is the background to Clover's Big Ideas, Georgie Donaghey's latest picture book, illustrated by Emma Middleton and published by Little Pink Dogs. Here Georgie is interviewed by Di Bates of Buzz Words.

Please tell us about yourself.
I am a full-time working mother with three gorgeous kids, all at various stages of their life. I began writing from a young age, even winning an award in the Sunday Telegraph at the age of eight, for a poem about the dentist.
Life took many turns over the years and my writing was pushed aside while I explored other paths.
After the birth of my first child, 19 years ago, I felt inspired to play with words again and began writing for children. That’s where I have called home ever since. My little writing nook is littered with story ideas, my computer bulging with WIP’s and even more ideas.
My first steps in the world of children’s publishing were with the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) where I served as President of the Sutherland Shire Sub-branch for three years.
It was during my time with the CBCA, I discovered there were many emerging children's authors that needed a voice. They needed somewhere they could share their work, network with others and utilise tools and resources to assist them on their journey to publication.
In 2011, as a commitment to help others and with the assistance of my husband, Creative Kids Tales was born. Now an industry recognised site, CKT has become a valuable resource for Australian emerging children’s authors.
In 2013, I stretched my creative wings and The Author's Shelf hit the airwaves on 2SSR. After a year of chatting with authors like Captain Underpants author; Dav Pilkey, Jackie French, McLeod’s Daughters creator; Posie Graeme-Evans, Andy Griffiths, Susanne Gervay, Kate Forsyth, Belinda Murrell and other extraordinarily talented authors, I decided to put The Author’s Shelf ‘on the shelf’ and focus on my writing. It paid off.
By 2014, my dreams of becoming a published author became a reality; I signed my first contract. In 2015, my first picture book was published with Dragon Tales Publishing. In 2016 I signed my second contract with Little Pink Dog Books for Clover’s BIG Ideas, illustrated by Emma Middleton. Lulu was also re-released this year through Wombat Books. I’ve also re-signed with Little Pink Dog Books to publish my next title, In the Shadow of an Elephant due out in 2018.

How did the idea for Clover’s BIG Ideas come about?                                                Clover’s BIG Ideas will speak to all who have endured teasing at some time in their life. I wanted to share that it doesn’t matter how we look on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Clover showed through her passion, determination, courage and of course her BIG ideas, that by standing up to those naughty little lambs she is powerful.

Who is your target audience for this book?                                                                This book is suited for 3-7-year-olds. I find of the different age groups I share this story with, each takes away something different. The younger kids want Angus to crush the bullies and the older kids like the antics of the three naughty sheep. No matter what the age, they can all relate to Clover. It’s great to be able to share the subtle message of how the words we choose to use on a daily basis can either hurt or heal.

The audiences also love Emma’s illustrations. I am so happy with the added level Emma has brought to this story. Her illustrations are simply divine and tell a story of their own.  The classic style will definitely resonate with lovers of picture books past. 

What aspects did you find challenging about this book?                                              This book hit many firsts for me. The partnering with Emma Middleton, my first publication with Little Pink Dog Books and the wonderful friendship I now have with editor, Emma Cameron.
In my goody bag from a NSW Writers’ Centre Kids and YA Festival a few years ago was a voucher. It was for a kick start mentorship. I sent Clover off to be assessed and the assessor, Emma Cameron loved it! She helped me develop the story and the rest is history.

I loved the whole process of bringing this story to publication. Although towards the end it was both exciting and bittersweet as Emma M and I knew we were getting closer to having our book baby published, but we also knew it would be the end of our partnership for this project.

Peter and Kathy Creamer were dream publishers to work with. They allowed Emma and I to just run with our ideas and were very supportive of every step.

What does Clover’s BIG Ideas offer the reader that differs from others covering similar subjects?                                                                                                 
Clover’s BIG Ideas invites the reader into a world of gentle story-telling and demonstrates that looks are not always what they seem. Clover’s BIG Ideas celebrates friendship and instils the importance of understanding and acceptance.
You can visit Georgie at: georgiedonaghey.com.au     

Title: Clover’s BIG Ideas
ISBN: 976-0-9946269-6-7
RRP $24.99
Age group: 3 – 7 years.
Published by: Little Pink Dog Books www.littlepinkdogbooks.com
Instagram: georgiedonaghey    
Twitter: @CKidsTales



Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Chronicles of Jack McCool: The Amulet of Athlone

The Chronicles of Jack McCool: The Amulet of Athlone (Book 1) by R.E Devine (Bauer Media) PB RRP $14.95   ISBN 9781742459202

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Jack was an ordinary teenager with a regular life until one night, hiding from his brother in the attic, it all changed. Jack is transported back in time to find that he is the Prince of Tara. Not only does this regular school boy have to wrap his head around news of his elite status, he also comes to learn that the Fianna clansmen are relying on him to rid them of the evil High King’s reign.

The amulet that Jack finds in an old wooden trunk in the attic is pivotal to the story, hence the title. (Amulet, noun: 1. a small object worn to ward off evil, harm or illness or to bring good fortune; protecting charm). This gold bracelet permanently attaches itself to Jack’s wrist. Unfortunately, it is missing the six precious gemstones, ‘cut from the mines of the magical city of Athlone’, imperative for its magical powers. Jack soon discovers that all the gems must be replaced for an ancient curse to be broken – and it’s his job to find them! In his quest to seek the valuable gems Jack teams up with warrior Finn McCool, ‘the hero of the book of Irish folk tales he’d loved to listen to his mother read when he was younger’. Jack must find the strength and courage to do things he’s never attempted before and overcome many obstacles including one of the King’s evil and deceitful banshees.

The Amulet of Athlone is suitable for middle grade readers who enjoy tales of adventure and fantasy. This novel is the first in an upcoming six book series to be released over the next six months. An enticing first chapter of Book 2: The Tomb of the Emerald Scarab is included at the end of this book. For further information and exclusive news visit
www.jackmccool.com


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Authors Diversifying

A Q& A with Authorpreneur Hazel Edwards, who has recently taken up a life of crime writing.

You’re best known as the author of the much loved children’s classic ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’. Why have you turned to writing adult crime mysteries?                                                                                                                I’ve always written in a variety of genres, but it’s just that the cake- eating hippo picture books are better known.  Motives interest me most whether I’m writing for children or adults and so mysteries were a natural progression when I was trying to improve my plotting. The technicalities of viewpoint and why someone might have acted in that way intrigues me. Diversity and coping with being different have been common themes in my stories for all ages.  The tension comes from doing something which is different from the values of the society in which the character lives. For a child, the society is the playground. And humour is often a way of coping.

In adult non-fiction, I’ve co-written ‘Difficult Personalities’ with psychologist Dr Helen Mc Grath and that has been translated into Chinese, Russian, Polish, Korean, audio, Braille and even American. ‘Difficult Personalities’ deals with motives but also with strategies. So does our co-written ‘Friends’ book. Writing factual strategies makes a fiction author conscious of outcomes.

Thus crime was the natural progression of extreme motives. But my type of crime writing is ‘softened’ with humour or irony. Often things don’t work out and the bumbling narrator-sleuth is revealed as inept. So getting the tone right is a challenge.
Brief crime or crime-lettes (my term) meant I could use varied settings and different narrator-sleuths. I chose first person, to get the reader onside quickly through the first character they meet. Later, readers may re-consider whether they wish to remain emotionally involved from that character’s viewpoint.

To what extent is ‘brand’ important for an author? What is your ‘brand’?                  In the last decade the term  ‘brand’ has been thrown around, but I was writing and getting published in my late twenties when I wasn’t even aware of the concept.   Authors were writers of the books. They weren’t ‘brands’.  Originally an author was associated with one publishing house and that publisher was the brand. Now authors move with each book, and they are the brand.  Versatility is vital for survival.  A self- employed writer needs a portfolio of skills.

My marketing manager daughter Kim ‘re-branded’ me with a new self -managed website about ten years ago. That was because readers expected I wrote only fanciful hippo books.  But I had a variety of publishers and kinds of books. She wanted to indicate the back-list range and also that I was a conference speaker on subjects such as ‘Writing a Non boring Family History’ or ‘Authorpreneurship’ which related to my non- fiction adult titles. Plus I was moving into diversity issues such as gender with ‘f2m; the boy within’, or ‘Hijabi Girl’. And there was the adventurous Antarctic literature after my expedition experience.

Inbetween, I’d been co-writing with ‘experts’ from different cultures and skills. Readers were getting confused.

Kim isolated my ‘brand’ to three descriptors, ‘Quirky, Issues-based, Authorpreneurial’   my aim is to take the reader into a different world and values (culture) for the length of that story, and maybe beyond, and to be known as an author-speaker as well as a writer. But I decided to stay with the one name.

Have you ever used a pseudonym or considered using one?                                           Yes.  I’ve been 25% of A.K.Aye, four women who co-wrote ‘Formula for Murder’. We chose the pseudonym mainly because our four names were too long to fit on the cover.  A.K.A means ‘also known as’ in police circles. Our collaboration was a fun hobby, until Maryse was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and so finishing the mystery became therapy. We self-published our adult novel to enable Maryse to have her copy.

How long did your current novel ‘Celebrant Sleuth’ take to write?                                About a year. I’d write from 6 am until 8 am every day, even weekends. Plotting was complicated as I was experimenting with new techniques and voices but my brain was clearer early in the day.

Apart from a print book, where would you like ‘Celebrant Sleuth’ to go?                    Television. I’ve had the experience of abortive TV and film options before, and often the project is not completed due to lack of finances. But I think ‘Celebrant Sleuth’ is especially suited to television because of the episodic stories around specific funerals, weddings and diverse cultural and aged groups linked by the celebrant’s role as a problem-solver.

Having a country town as the setting, enables continuity of roles and overlap of the florist, caterer etc.

I’d like an audio version. Plus there’s the niche of  LBTQI readers as Quinn is asexual. And currently same-sex marriage is topical. I did not predict that.

Why have you also released a collection ‘Almost a Crime’ on Kindle?   These were my apprenticeship in self publishing online. The adult short stories were written over a long period and there’s sufficient variety in settings based on places I had researched. Antarctica. French barge. Maximum security prison. Suburban Pokies venue.
As the stories were short, I called them ‘Crime-lettes’ as most suited to time- poor readers who use their devices intransit. A short story read in one trip can be satisfying.

How do you describe your occupation?                                                   Authorpreneur’ on my business card is a talking point.

What is meant by a ‘Hybrid author’?                                                                         One who is simultaneously self and traditionally published. A ‘hybrid’ author can be published by traditional ‘big’ publishers like Penguin Random House with a contract, advance, royalties and the support of distribution and marketing rights internationally. But the writer can self-publish other titles for niche markets or special projects which big publishers consider uncommercial or culturally difficult. Then the author is the publisher and has to handle the distribution but sub- contracts professional editing, cover design etc. Still has to publicise. And pay the bills.

This is NOT Vanity publishing where a na├»ve amateur-writer just wants something in print and an unscrupulous, low quality printer rips them off at a high cost with no quality control nor distribution.   Author publishing is comparable quality but where the writer under-writes the costs. Distribution is still a challenge, but often a speaker-writer will sell at workshops and talks. They have calculated whether there is an existing market before they publish.

Circumstances have changed. The means of publishing digitally is more accessible and faster.

What gives you the most satisfaction in the writing process?                                    The initial idea.

With the exponential changes in the publishing industry, what digital/new skills have you had to learn?                                                                                                                Updating a web-site even when I’m not a visual person. Social media is a challenge. I try to learn one tiny digital skill per day, even if just how to upload the appropriately sized photo.  And the fine line between ego and business PR when sharing life as an author.  Legal stuff like important clauses in contracts. Going to a ‘dummies’ class on updating Ipad skills and how to use photos on various devices for PR.

At a launch, making sure a generic photo is taken of co-authors and book which can be labeled for quick finding, also allowing time for administrivia, deciding which events are strategic and when to say ‘No’.

What proportion of your time is spent in original writing?                                              About 20%

What is your next project?                                                                                         Children’s theatre, and for my existing books to travel into new mediums, especially audio.
********************************************************
Hazel Edwards OAM has published 202 books including ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’ series currently touring as ‘Hippo Hippo the Musical’  ‘Hijabi Girl’ co-written with Muslim librarian Ozge Alkan about a feisty 8 year old who wants to start a girls’ footy team, is her latest junior book. A cultural risk-taker, Hazel co-wrote ‘f2m: the boy within’ a YA novel about trans youth. A believer in participant-observation research, Hazel has been an Antarctic expeditioner .She mentors ‘Hazelnuts’ writers and was a director on the Australian Society of Authors’ board.
 ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author’ is her memoir based on anecdote as a creative structure. Her books have been translated in ten languages and adapted for other mediums. ‘Difficult Personalities’ (PRH) co-written with Dr Helen Mc Grath is available in Russian, Polish, Korean, American and audio.  Currently writing adult mysteries including ‘Celebrant Sleuth’.

MEDIA Resources  (downloadable hi res author photo & bio)
https://hazeledwards.com/book-day-resources.html 


Monday, 9 October 2017

Two Enchanted Tales from Old China

Two Enchanted Tales from Old China retold by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by David Allan (Christmas Press) PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 9780994528025

Review by Wendy Haynes

There are two delightful tales in this picture book. The first tale, The Weaver Girl and the Cow Herd, is about two stars in the heavens that fall in love. Zhinu, the weaver girl, is the granddaughter of the Heavenly Empress, and she separates the two lovers. Niulng is banished to the land of mortals where he is reborn into a farming family and has no memory of the past but feels a connection with the stars. His loyal Ox is no ordinary Ox, and Niulang is guided by his wisdom in search of a bride.

The second tale, The Magic Fish Bones is about a time in the ancient country of Chin, where Ye Xian was left to slave for her stepmother and stepsister after her father dies. Though you could put this story alongside Cinderella; this story stands on its own two feet and has a totally different ending. Ye Xian has a fish with golden scales which she loves and tends too. After a while, the fish grows too big, and she releases it into a nearby pond.  Each day she calls the fish to the edge of the pond and gives it treats.  Her horrid stepmother kills the fish, but the bones are magic.

These stories will linger and would appeal to 6 – 8 years although they are in picture book form. The sentences are long and graceful. Gabrielle's other books include The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, The Garden of Empress Cassia, A ghost in my Suitcase and others.


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist by Bill Condon, illustrated by Dave Atze (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP 12.99 ISBN 9781925520590

Reviewed by Kate Simpson

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist is a collection of 14 short stories for the early reader crowd by prolific children’s author Bill Condon. Tender-hearted animal lovers beware: things do not always end well for our furry, scaly and squirmy friends in this zany collection. However, kids who like a giggle and dads who aren’t afraid of an outrageous pun are likely to find this right up their alley.

Each story is Condon’s humorous take on a different proverb: ‘curiosity killed the cat’, ‘you can’t please everyone’ and ‘old habits die hard’, among others. In the stories themselves, Condon takes substantial liberties with the proverbs (enter the outrageous puns), but he takes the opportunity to explain the traditional meaning of each at the back of the book – perfect for teachers and parents who love a bit of education mixed in with the kids’ entertainment.


The book is liberally peppered with comic illustrations by Dave Atze, which nicely break up the text to make it less daunting for emerging readers. With the longest story covering 11 large-type pages, and the shortest just four, these curly tales are a great choice for readers aged 6-8 years to cut their teeth on.