Bronzed and beautiful!

Bronze medal

Following closely on the heels of the lovely five star review for Agnil and the Centaur’s Secret from Readers’ Favorite, I received another email from them yesterday giving me a gentle nudge to check my author page on their web site.

We noticed that you have not logged in to your Author’s Area yet to read our September 1st contest update which explains how your book did in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest. It is our pleasure to inform you that your book did place in the contest.”

I’d entered the contest towards the end of last year and promptly put it to the back of my mind, where it remained buried under the untidy heap of my busy life.

I eventually managed to login and discovered that The Rise of Agnil, book 1 of the Agnil’s Worlds series, had won the Bronze award in its category, Children’s Fantasy/Sci-fi.

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The 2015 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries.

Readers’ Favorite has become the fastest growing book review and award contest site on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors.

In addition to reviewing for some of the biggest names in the literary industry, as well as the first time independent author, they host a respected award contest which features entries from new authors to NYT best-sellers, as well as celebrities like Jim Carrey and Henry Winkler.

Sadly, I won’t be taking a hop, skip and a jump over to Miami for the awards’ ceremony in November (A pair of elf wings might have helped me!)  but I hope to be celebrating at home with a glass of something bubbly sometime soon.

Last chance to vote!

invitation

I got back from holiday a few days ago to find my invitation to the awards ceremony for The People’s Book Prize waiting for me. It’s so exciting to even be a part of this! Next Wednesday, the 27th May, I will be heading to London in my posh frock, carrying a copy of The Rise of Agnil. invitationAs you can see the awards are being broadcast live on Sky News, starting at 20:20.

The voting session for finalists has now begun and ends on Wednesday the 27th. Even if you voted in the first round, you can now vote again on the special finalists page of The People’s Book Prize web site . You will be directed to register on the site and sent a password. The whole process is fairly painless and should only take a minute or two of your time. I’d really appreciate the support of all friends of Agnil. Please help her to win this important book award! It means a lot to me too. 🙂

World Book Day in Spain

signing

I was very lucky to be invited to Sage College in Jerez de la Frontera for World Book Day last week . The children were involved in book related activities all day. Sage College is a British school with a majority of Spanish pupils being taught in both English and Spanish. Years 5 and 6 had been reading The Rise of Agnil and all of Key Stage 2 had written fantasy stories for a competition. I had to judge the stories written by upper Key Stage 2. It was quite a challenge as the native English speakers clearly had an advantage both grammatically and with the range of vocabulary that they were confident in using. How could I judge a story written by an English speaker against that written by a child for whom English was not their native tongue? The ‘teacher’ in me discussed things with the ‘author’! I decided I would have to choose the winners based on the story idea and shape as well as effort, and that little spark of indefinable something that caught my eye. All those shortlisted had the dubious pleasure of having their photograph taken with me.

All the stories the children wrote were presented as little books and put on display.

The winners!

The winners!

Out of those shortlisted it was even more difficult to choose the winners, but in the end I did and on the afternoon of World Book Day I gave out the prizes – books, of course!

Year 3

My first ‘duty’ in the morning was to lead a workshop on characterisation for the Year 5 & 6 children. They played Character Trait Charades, where each small group was given a character trait which they had to act out for the other children to try and guess the word they had. The complete list was displayed on a slide for them to refer to. They had to use action, behaviour, expression and speech to explain the word, but they couldn’t use the word itself. After the game they created Wanted posters for two ‘criminals’ whose pictures I displayed on another slide. This is a simple activity I would have normally used with younger children in the UK, but it was appropriate on this occasion, given the level of their English.

Workshop with Years 5 & 6

Workshop with Years 5 & 6

After break the Years 3 & 4 children were brought in and I read them the first chapter of The Rise of Agnil. This was followed by a question and answer session. I was impressed with their confidence in asking really interesting questions, some of which really made me think!

In the afternoon, once the prize-giving was finished, the children were all involved in putting on short plays based on well-known fantasy stories which they performed in front of their parents in the patio of the school. It was incredibly well coordinated and everything ran like clockwork – no mean feat – all credit to the wonderful teachers there that worked so hard to pull the day together.

A view of the patio at Sage College.

A view of the patio at Sage College.

Watching one of the performances.

Watching one of the performances.

While all this was going on I was left to sit on the throne they’d prepared for me, signing all their copies of my book!

My throne for the day!

My throne for the day!

A pile of books to be signed.

A pile of books to be signed.

Visiting the school and working with their lovely children was a wonderful experience. I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the staff for making me feel so welcome and special thanks to Emma Bell, the teacher that invited me and organised everything.

Like buses

My blog posts are like buses – you wait for ages and then, suddenly, two come along at once! Regular readers will be aware that The Rise of Agnil was nominated for The People’s Book Prize a while ago and I spent a while twisting people’s arms to vote for the book. Well, it’s time to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who did because the book has made it to the finals! It’s been a nail-biting few days as I’ve waited for the end of the month to pass, signalling the end of the voting session and rushed to the web site this morning to check. I don’t know if my publisher has been sent an email as she’s currently travelling but I have also sent her a message. I feel like I’m bursting at the seams with excitement!

Thank-You

To add a little more to the thrill, The Rise of Agnil has also reached the finals of The Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards . The winners of this award will be announced in one month but I’ll have to wait until May to hear about The People’s Book Prize as there is one more voting session for another selection of books.  Stay tuned in to catch the news!

Agnil poster

On the horizon…

 

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Firstly, I’d like to wish you all a belated happy new year! The exciting news is that just about visible on the horizon we can see a new adventure coming soon from Agnil’s Worlds. Just a few days ago I sent the manuscript for ‘Agnil and the Centaur’s Secret’ to Ant Press, today I signed and returned the contract with my illustrator, Charlotte Moore, so it’s all systems go! Over the next few weeks there will be little teasers in the form of first chapter, illustration and cover reveals, so watch your inbox closely as the launch date approaches.

Remember, there’s still time to vote, or ask all your friends to vote, for ‘The Rise of Agnil’ in The People’s Book Prize awards. The books with the greatest number of votes from the public are put through to the finals. The voting session for my book finishes at the end of February. I’d really appreciate it if you could spread the word! I just heard today that my local paper is going to run a piece about it next week so every little helps!

The Rise of Agnil

There is also a new feature of the web site. I’ve spent the last little while preparing a literacy plan and accompanying Powerpoint file for use in primary schools, specifically Key Stage 2 (7-11 year-olds).  The plan focuses on the first book of the series, ‘The Rise of Agnil’. The two week plan has been written with the new literacy objectives for  Years 4 and 5 in mind but could easily be adapted either for another year group or in any other way. It’s merely an example and not meant to be used without adapting to your particular class of children. To download the files, please visit the teachers page.

Vote for Agnil!

Vote!

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!

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

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

toadstool

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.
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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!