Five stars for Tree Spirits

5star-shiny-web

A few months ago I posted the news that the first two books of the Agnil’s Worlds series had both been awarded five star reviews by the Readers’ Favorite site. Readers’ Favorite have two systems for reviews; one paid for and one free. I am not happy about paying for reviews as I feel that the reviewer might well feel obliged to give a good review. On the other hand, asking for a free review is more likely to be unbiased, especially if you don’t know the reviewer at all. So it was for the free reviews that I submitted the first two books and, more recently, book 3, Agnil and the Tree Spirits. Yesterday I was delighted to receive notification that the review was ready and had been posted to Readers’ Favorite and once again I was thrilled to see that the book had been awarded a fabulous full-fat FIVE STAR review! And what a review it was!
I am reproducing it here in full:
Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite

Agnil and the Tree Spirits (Agnil’s Worlds Book 3) by Susan Navas is the third book in the series of Agnil. In this magical story, we see Agnil being asked to help the elves whose world is threatened by the Navigator, who is destroying the world by dirtying it and polluting the clean places. Agnil wants to help the elves, but at the same time she is facing problems at home. This book takes the reader on a whimsical fantasy ride while it teaches about real world issues like dwindling forests, pollution and exploitation of minerals.

The book begins with Cranus approaching Agnil for help to save the beautiful elf world. Woven around environmental issues, the author’s tale enchants young readers with fantasy and adventure that will capture their attention until the very end. I liked the concept and the message that is conveyed and the fantasy part will pull readers into the story effortlessly. It is a perfect story for read aloud sessions in classrooms and libraries as it deals with a relevant topic. The beautiful illustrations add to the pace, action and drama of the story. The author’s writing style is fluid and there is an element of surrealism in her way of describing situations, and the depiction of characters makes the story captivating. The illustrations are also unique and they complement the characters and scenes in the book well.

Vote for Agnil!

If you have been following my blog, you’ll already know that The Rise of Agnil has been nominated for The People’s Book Prize and that this is a really important national award. The book is now on their web site and will be there until the end of February. I’m incredibly excited about this! To progress through the stages of the award needs you, the readers, ordinary members of the public, to go and vote on the web site. You will have to register and will be sent a password allowing you to vote.

Vote!From The People’s Book Prize web site:

“The People’s Book Prize is the democratic Book Prize voted exclusively by the public aimed at finding, supporting and promoting new and undiscovered works. It is the public who choose Britain’s Next Bestsellers.

Supported by Patron Frederick Forsyth CBE the Award consists of prizes in three genres – fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature. Leading up to the ceremony titles are showcased on www.peoplesbookprize.com and the books which receive the most votes go forward as finalists with three authors emerging as winners. In addition, The Beryl Bainbridge Award for First Time Author is given in honour of TPBP founding patron and an award for Best Achievement for outstanding content to the author whose writing has led, or could lead to benefitting the community.”

Please help support me and vote for The Rise of Agnil!

Children’s author ‘book bombs’ bookshops

On Saturday, Charlotte Moore, the illustrator of the Agnil’s Worlds series, and I had a bit of elvish fun when we went into Cambridge to commit a feat of derring-do (or should that be daring-do?). I secretly planted the copies of The Rise of Agnil on the shelves of two bookshops while Charlotte took photos.

The Rise of Agnil has been available from Amazon since last December but so far can’t be bought from any high street bookshops.

Photo bombing is when someone unexpectedly or unintentionally appears in a photograph. I called it a book bombing because I put the books somewhere they would not otherwise have been found. I wanted to highlight the difficulties faced by indie authors and publishers in getting their books stocked on the high street. If anyone wants the books I have planted they can have them for free. I will refund the price paid in the shop if the purchaser contacts me.

book bombing

Should children read the classics?

I was recently involved in a discussion about which classic books children might love. I felt a little uncomfortable answering and I’ll explain why. As you probably know, until recently I was a primary school teacher and in many of our classrooms in Key Stage 2 we had a selection of the classics and they were hardly ever chosen by the children. Why is that? Times have changed.

Firstly, the language in the classics is very old-fashioned and in some cases I would describe it as archaic. Language is a living thing, constantly changing, and these classics use words and phrases that children nowadays no longer use nor understand. If you ever find yourself reading an old book to a child, count how many times you have to stop and explain what something means. Stopping to explain is important so that the meaning is not lost but if you stop too often it will interrupt the flow of the story and the children may lose track of the plot.

Children like books to be pacy and/or be humorous. They are surrounded by fast-paced media and like their books to be the same. The old classics  tend to be wordier and slower in pace; they had a lot of leisure time to fill in those days with little else by way of entertainment. These days there are many other things that many children would rather be doing. If we want children to love reading we have to give them books that fit their world.

Speaking of worlds, think LTWTWabout how much the world has changed in the last fifty years or so. Children then led quite different lives to now. Yes, we might feel a little sad at the passing of that world and it’s lovely to reminisce but we can’t pull back the past. Many of the classics portray a world they just can’t identify with. I’m going to partially exclude fantasy books from this, though. I learnt a valuable lesson last year. I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to my class last year and, quite frankly, I was very concerned before I started reading it that they would find the book too old-fashioned. However, it’s a book I love and it fitted perfectly with the work we were doing with the children, so I was willing to give it a go. Yes, I had to stop and explain now the language now and again, but the beautiful fantasy world of Narnia that CS Lewis created is still as magical to today’s readers as it was to children who read it when it was first published. Fantasy seems to stand the test of time.

So do the classics have no value at all for today’s younger generation? I’m not saying that at all. There are still ways they can enjoy those stories, if not in their original form. Look out for simplified versions of the books which children might find easier to digest. It may go against the grain for us to read them ourselves but at least they will have access to some of that wide and wonderful array of classic literature, and just maybe, they will be enticed to read the originals when they are more mature.

Another way forward is to look at more modern classics. Children still adore the likes of Roald Dahl, for example, and my personal favourite is Matilda. There are many others too. Look for authors like Michael Morpurgo (Kensuke’s Kingdom) and Michelle Magorian (Goodnight, Mr Tom). But it’s good to also look out for lesser known authors; those without the marketing budgets of the big publishing houses behind them. I know that you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you weren’t interested in the Agnil’s Worlds books, giving me, a relatively unknown author, a crack at giving children stories I hope they enjoy, and I am very grateful for that. Will the Agnil’s Worlds books stand the test of time and become classics? Who knows, they are fantasy books, after all. Thank you for sticking with me and enjoy the ride for now. Some exciting times are looming!

 

The People’s Book Prize

Several weeks ago my publisher, Ant Press, submitted The Rise of Agnil to The People’s Book Prize Awards. This is a national competition aimed at finding, supporting & promoting new and undiscovered works. With Founding Patron, Dame Beryl Bainbridge and Patron, Frederick Forsyth, this is quite a ‘big deal’ for me. So imagine the huge excitement at Agnil’s Worlds this morning when I found out that The Rise of Agnil will be showcased on the People’s Book Prize web site  for three months from the 1st December. It means that the book has been accepted into the awards and would get through to the next round on the strength of public votes. I guess I will be canvassing for votes like crazy from that day!your-vote-counts-300x251

The next stop on 2014 WIP blog tour

A few days ago I was tagged in the 2014 Work in Progress (WIP) Blog Tour. This gives authors the chance to share some little tasters from their current Work in Progress. I was tagged by the lovely Janet Givens who has written a fascinating book called At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir. Luckily, I do happen to have a Work in Progress. Called Agnil and the Centaur’s Secret, it’s Book 4 of the Agnil’s Worlds series.

 

The rules for the WIP tour are simple: 

  1. Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.
  2. Write a little about and give the first sentences of the first three chapters of your current Work In Progress
  3. Nominate four other writers to do the same.

*****

Chapter 1

Morning

Agnil looked at her reflection in the mirror and tied her hair back into a ponytail, revealing her slightly pointy ears. Today was the day. She couldn’t go on living a lie.
She’d known for months that she was half-elf and that her mother was alive. The thought of talking to her dad about it was troubling her but now it was becoming urgent. Her dad knew that his missing wife was an elf, and immortal, but she’d been gone so long, he believed he’d never see her again. He’d told Agnil she was dead. He had no idea that she’d found her mother.
Now her dad had a new girlfriend and Agnil would need to lie to her as well. Besides, Agnil wanted her mum and dad back together again so they could all live in Aberrian together. She wanted a happy-ever-after fairytale ending.

Chapter 2

The ‘Tween World

Agnil’s mother, Estil, looked even more beautiful than Agnil had remembered her.  Long chestnut coloured hair framed her face and a simple golden circle sat on her head entwined with ivy. The old tree spirit, Cranus, grinned and his deeply furrowed face crinkled even more. They had prepared some lunch. The table in the low-beamed room was laden with food as if they were expecting quite a crowd.
“Are we in Aberrian?” she asked.

Chapter 3

Caroline

“I can’t ask her!” Agnil frowned defiantly and turned to her mother, “I don’t like Caroline and I don’t want to even pretend to like her!” Estil put an arm around her daughter, drawing her close.

*****

And the four writers I will nominate for the 2014 WIP Tour, in alphabetical order, are:
OK, those of you who can count will notice that there are only three but they were chosen to give a you tasters of a variety of genres. Alison is currently writing her first book, a memoir. Jane writes YA fantasy and has several WIPs on the go at the moment. She has written a series called The Green Woman as well as a number of shorter novellas which give the backstory of various characters in the series. Lisa (L.D. Cullen) has written her first children’s book, The Ability Kids and K-9 Agency in “The Case of the Peanut Butter Bandit”.
None of the three are under any obligation to play tag, but what a great way to introduce people to new books and authors!
Please do visit their sites and find out about their work.
So, here goes: “Tag: Alison, Jane and Lisa. You’re it!”

Free until Friday!



OK, so maybe I’ve gone a bit crazy, but with half term coming up in the UK I thought that maybe some of you like might a free read to introduce you to the Agnil’s Worlds series. So, if you haven’t already got it, pop along to Amazon and grab yourself a copy of the Kindle version! It’s free until Friday the 24th October so tell all your friends to grab it too, while you all can!

Don’t forget I can even sign Kindle copies of your books. All you need to do is pop along to the Authorgraph site and request it. It won’t cost you a penny!

free till Friday

The Magic of Forests

What is it about forests? It’s no secret that I love them. In Germany, where I spend a lot of time, the area I visit is full of them and I love walking there. In early autumn picking mushrooms and later watching the leaves turn from green to all the glorious shades of gold and brown. In winter driving along narrow roads, forest on both sides, passing through a tunnel formed by the boughs of trees laden with snow. Sometimes we try to walk through as silently as we can in the hope of catching sight of a passing deer. I always take my camera in an attempt to capture some of their enchantment. I find them both enthralling and inspiring.
forest1
The forest symbolises somewhere wild, where you can escape civilisation for a while, yet it is full of hidden dangers at the same time. Even the act of picking mushrooms is fraught with danger unless you know which ones are safe to eat!

toadstool

Definitely not for eating!

In ancient times forests covered much of Europe, and Germany still seems to have retained much of its woodland, while here in East Anglia, where I live, they are few and far between. Have we become too ‘civilised’?

In 1812, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm published their collection of German fairy tales, commonly known as Grimms Fairy Tales (or Grimms Elfenmärchen in German). Of course, in Grimms tales, the forest is always present. It’s the place where Hansel and Gretel find the cottage of the wicked witch and where Little Red Riding Hood comes across the wolf on her way to her grandma’s house. Forests appear in many myths and legends too. Take Robin Hood, for example, where the outlaws hide in the forest. Story tellers throughout the ages seem to be obsessed with them and I suppose I am no different.

In each of the Agnil’s Worlds books, the forest plays an important role. In ‘The Rise of Agnil’, it’s the place where Agnil meets the strange old man who comes to play such an important role in her life. In ‘Agnil and the Wizard’s Orb’, the Frozen Forest of Boreas is where Agnil and Estil are placed in mortal danger. By contrast, the forest of Lilurrian in ‘Agnil in the Tree Spirits’ is in danger itself and Agnil’s quest is to save the home of the tree spirits.

If you are interested in reading more about the symbolism of forests in fairy tales, look no further than this article by Justine Gaunt.

 

 

All photos by me!

An experiment

Right now I feel like some mad scientist pouring strange chemicals into test tubes, mixing them carefully and trying to come up with a magic formula! Let me explain. I love my books. I believe Agnil has some wonderful stories to tell so I’m sad if children don’t get to hear about her just because I’m not published by one of the major traditional children’s book publishers. I want her to reach a wider audience.

mad scientist

Amazon offers some opportunities for authors who only sell their ebooks through them. One of those is to make them available for loan, rather like an online library, through Kindle Unlimited. Until very recently, this feature has only been available in the USA but it has just come to the UK too so I felt it was the right moment to try this experiment. At the moment, Amazon are offering Kindle Unlimited on a 30 day free trial and it will normally cost £7.99 a month to borrow as many ebooks as you want from their vast collection. Think of it as a Spotify or Netflix for books!

For the next three months at least, we have withdrawn the e-book versions of Agnil’s Worlds from all other online retailers to enable the books to be available through Kindle Unlimited. We’ll watch carefully and see how it goes. Will it enable Agnil to reach out further into our world? Only time will tell! Watch this space but follow this link if you want to read Agnil’s Worlds for free!