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  1. I'm delighted to welcome illustrator Katy Dynes to my blog today. Katy now juggles her illustration work, with making handmade soft toy prototypes, greetings cards and teaching when she can, leading to a very fulfilled working life. She has also just entered the very exciting world of fairs and exhibitions, where her work has also been very well received. Go, Katy!

    katy dynes

     

     

    Katy's Bio

    After studying and gaining an HND in 2D Animation from the Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design (now the Arts University College at Bournemouth) and brief ‘brushes’ with Aardman Animation, Warner Bros and Disney, Katy realised that her passion for ‘creating’ lay in the character design, story telling and setting the scene (sadly, not in the moving image).

    So, moving swiftly sideways and having the extraordinary opportunity to work from home, she doggedly pursued a career in freelance Illustration. Managing a Gallery on a part-time basis, Katy illustrated in the remaining time, gaining and being recommended by clients such as Waterstones, J. Sainsburys, W F Graham, Hotch Potch, Washington Green and De Montfort and Cranfield Universities.

    This work (with personal recommendations) led to a 1 day a week work placement in a local Primary School as an Artist in Residence for 2 years. This amazing stroke of luck gave Katy the impetus, confidence and the finances, to finally ‘bite the bullet’ and freelance fulltime.

    In doing so, she met and worked with many more clients from Harper Collins, Rocket, Folens, County Studio, DC Thomson and co., Jellycat, The MS Trust, Quick Brown Fox, Holy Mackerel, Authors Online, Safe Dreams and Unicef. 

    Super talented!

    Katy's Work 

    Katy has written and illustrated a book, ‘Our Cat Family’ for her Mum about their numerous cats, it was published in 2014 and she has had requests for it ever since 

    Here's the cover, and a larger picture so you can see all the fab cats! Wow! Are all these cats your Mum's, Katy? It must have taken you days to draw all these. 

    cover for our cat family by katy dynes

         full cover for our cat family by katy dynes (2)

    If you'd like to buy a copy, it costs just £6.99 and you can obtain it direct from Katy, contact her via email: 

    contact@kittydinners.co.uk

     

    Here are some projects that Katy has worked on.

    From 'Archies' Rugby Dream' by Katharine James  and 'Lawrence the Lion seeks Work' by Miller Cauldwell

           archies rugby dream - smaller dps 2 with text- by katharine j and katy d.                     painted illustration from lawrence the lion seeks work by miller caldwell

                                                           

      She has also illustrated lots of spreads for dictionaires, such as this Kingfisher.

    dictionary kingfisher- high scan- by katy dynes

     

    I asked Katy to tell us a bit about herself

    What sort of illustrations do you like to draw?

    I love to illustrate animals and big, round eyed, curious children…….I love sketching and drawing from life and take inspiration from the little things that people may miss. Inspiration comes in the form of words, dreams, very vivid colour and every day magic.

    Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

    I love hidey holes, dens and climbing trees and I used to have a pet fox as a child.

    What was your favourite children’s book when you were a child?

    Too many to mention- my Gran taught me to read when I was 3 and after that, I was rarely found without a book or a piece of paper. ‘The Folk of the Faraway Tree’ and ‘The Enchanted Wood’ by Enid Blyton were both favourites- they still are……and when I was 7 or 8, I read ‘Ludo and the Star Horse’ by Mary Stewart which changed my world. After an incident with my hideout- an old van - which was sold with all my books in it - I couldn’t recall the title but have carried the story with me for years- until I finally discovered the book again last year, some 30+ years later

     What’s your top tip for new illustrators?

    Keep drawing every day if possible and do keep sketchbooks for any ideas, no matter how small; you never know when you look back, what the ideas may become! Also always be courteous, persevere and grab every opportunity, no matter how scary……again, you never know who you may meet along the way.

     Author Links

     www.facebook.com/KittyDinnersIllustration

     www.kittydinners.co.uk

     

    Thanks for dropping by and telling us about your fascinating work, Katy. 

  2. A warm welcome to Tracey Mathius, the second author to appear on my Celebrating Children's Books blog. Tracey's first book, Book 1 in her YA  fantasy adventure series - the Assalay trilogy - was first published by the German publisher, Erika Klopp. Tracey has since self-published it in English and also written the second book in the trilogy.

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    Tracey was brought up in Wales (and she guesses it’s not a coincidence that ‘home’ for Gaia and Tal in Assalay is a mountainous region of gold mines and dragons; though she didn’t realise that when she was writing it). She had a less than coherent career of studying history and anthropology, teaching, and working in various offices, before settling down in North London with her husband, three (now teenage) daughters, a fierce tabby cat called Teddy, and a succession of laptops.

     About the Assalay trilogy

     Book 1: A Fragment of Moonswood

    assalay - a fragment of moonswood - front cover smaller

     

     Blurb

    A fateful birthday gift…

    It was a piece of soft white stone. Veins glittered through it like caught moonlight. One face was as smooth as new fallen snow; the other was engraved with a pattern of flowing lines. Gaia traced her fingers along the carvings. After a long time, she looked up at Mai.

    ‘What is it?’

    All anyone knows about the old amulet is that it’s a good luck charm that hasn’t worked. And luck is about to turn worse, plunging Gaia and her brother Tal into undreamed-of dangers and strange discoveries that could change their world for ever…

     You can read the  first chapter here: http://wp.me/P3fzfG-b

     assalay - the singing war -front cover smaller

    Book 2: The Singing War 

    Blurb

     ‘What if they’ve lied to us about everything?’

     In the land of Assalay, the new year brings endless rain, hunger and the ravages of starving dragons. But the powerful families of the Fellowship enjoy a privileged life: secure inside their grand and luxurious houses and confident of their divine right to rule.

    Even for Fellowship children, though, growing up has its problems. Now that he is of age, Leo Philemot must leave home for the year-long apprenticeship that all heirs to the Fellowship have to undertake, while his twin sister Rachel must stay at home and endure the stifling life of ladies’ drawing rooms and tea-parties. For both twins, the year brings a series of unexpected encounters and revelations that makes them question what they have been told about family and Fellowship – and opens their eyes to the realities of other people’s lives.

    As flood, fire and famine worsen, Assalay is ready for rebellion, and opposition to the Fellowship is growing. In this gathering crisis, Leo and Rachel must make life or death choices between old and new loyalties and friendships: between what they have been taught and what they have learned.

    The first chapter is available here: http://wp.me/P3fzfG-d

     

    The books sound fascinating, don't they? Both books are now available in paperback and ebook, and can be ordered through most bookshops, or bought online from Amazon: 

      

    I asked Tracey to tell us a bit about herself

    How did you get started writing?

    By deciding that I wouldn’t.

    I remember the moment very clearly. I was pushing one of my kids in a buggy across Hampstead Heath, and thinking about ambitions and expectations. As a child, I’d written compulsively, and I was good at it and recognised for it. I’d grown up without doing much writing, but with a vague sense that one day I would ‘be a writer’. But I couldn’t, any longer, disentangle whether it was what I wanted to do, or whether it was what other people (parents, in laws, the ghosts of long ago teachers) expected of me. All I knew was that I felt I SHOULD write - and I wasn’t writing, and feeling miserable and faintly guilty about the whole thing.

    So I decided: ‘Forget it. I’m not going to do it. And it’s ok if I don’t.’

    And I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that soon after that psychic jail-break, a collision of circumstances brought me to... a book.

    I was working for the local music school that my kids attended, volunteered to write lyrics for some songs, and rediscovered the sheer delight of playing with words. At the same time, the idea for a children’s story seeded and blossomed in my head. My youngest daughter was about to start school, and I decided to give myself a year to have fun with this story, to play with it, to explore it, to see if I could reach the end. I did, and it was wonderful. The words didn’t necessarily flow – but I loved the sense of discovery involved and the golden moments when a scene unfurled on the page as I had dreamed it.

    That book became A Fragment of Moonswood: the first volume of the Assalay Trilogy.

    I am still writing, and I feel miserable and faintly guilty on the days when I don’t...

    Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

    When I was younger, my mum and I used to fight over the latest book in The Lorimer Saga by Anne Melville. The first time I visited my now-husband’s flat, I found a COMPLETE collection of the Lorimers in his bathroom. I asked, ‘Why have you got Anne Melville’s novels?’ (they seemed an unlikely choice for him). ‘She’s my mother,’ he said.

    Destiny!

    Definitely fate, Tracey. :)

    What was your favourite book as a child?

    This is hard. I read anything and everything: I was a compulsive bookworm. I spent whole summer holidays sitting on my bedroom floor with a book in my hands and my guinea-pig on my lap (as you can tell from the nibbled corners of many of my old paperbacks).

    I loved books about the things I never did; riding, sailing, camping... Among these I adored K M Peyton’s wonderful Flambards Trilogy, which is definitely on my list of all-time favourites. And I still love Arthur Ransome: I collect the lovely hardback editions of Swallows and Amazons, and probably like We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea best of all, though there’s a piratical place in my heart for Peter Duck. Then there are the books that made me cry (and still do): The Secret Garden, Nina Bawden’s Squib, and Louise FitzHugh’s Harriet the Spy (which I think has the mark of great writing, in being able to hold comedy and tragedy in one place...)

    I could go on and on...

    What’s your top writing tip for new writers?

    Don’t talk to too many people too soon about what you’re writing. I think books are like babies: they need a certain amount of time to grow in secret, fed by only you, before they’re ready for the world.  

    Great tip!

    Author links

    Website: www.traceymathias.com

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/traceymathiaswriter/

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/@traceymathias/

    Do visit Tracey's Goodreads page for a chance to win a signed copy of The Singing War. 

     

    Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your exciting series, Tracey.

  3. For the next few months I'm going to be running a weekly blog Celebrating Children's Books. I want to showcase the wonderful work that children's authors and illustrators do, not the big names everyone knows but lesser known authors and their brilliant books. There's a lot of amazing talent out there and I'd like to give it a shout out. And for the very first blog I'm delighted to welcome author/illustrator team - Colleen and Zed Jacey.

    colleen and zed jacey

     

     

    A mother and daughter team, Colleen and Zed have self-published the picture book Odd Job Frog. Colleen did the illustrations and Zed wrote the story. Colleen studied art at college and subsequently completed a specialist course in illustration and design before turning to teaching. Now retired, she has over twenty years’ experience teaching 3-7 year olds. Zed Jacey is the pen name for Zoë Cookson (her initials Z J C). Zoë runs her own public sector management consultancy business. She is also a part-time lecturer in creative writing at the Heart of Worcestershire College, a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and a part-time MA student in ‘Writing for Young People’ at Bath Spa University.

     

    Tell us a bit about Odd Job Frog,  Zoe (Zed)

    Odd Job Frog will make a perfect gift or souvenir of a visit to London or the United Kingdom. An exciting story with an unexpected twist, it is simultaneously entertaining and educational. Gorgeously illustrated with full-colour pictures, Odd Job Frog is suitable for children aged 3-7, both as a bedtime story and for older children to read themselves.

     

     Here's the cover and a sample spread.

    odd job frog             book open to animal pages

     

    Blurb

                 “I’m bored,” said Frog. “Bored, bored, BORED.”

    Frog wants his life to be more exciting
    but all the things he wants to do cost money.
    Where can he get some?
    Are there jobs for frogs in London?

     

     Doesn't it look fun?


     You can buy it here:  Matador

     

     

    I asked Zoe to tell us more about their partnership.

    A mother and daughter team is unusual. How and why did you decide to work together?

    We started working together on school plays when Mum was a Headteacher. I would write the scripts while Mum designed the costumes and directed the productions. When Mum retired and took up painting, this naturally transferred to picture books. I write the words and Mum does all the artwork.

    Whose idea was Odd Job Frog?

    The spark for a story about a frog who wants a job came from a joke in a Christmas cracker. This led to the title and we developed the story from there.

    Do you have a strict working routine?

    Mum likes to paint in a morning because the light is better. I don’t have a routine and have to fit in writing around my other commitments.   

    What advice would you give to anyone thinking of self-publishing a picture book?

    Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved! Also, find someone who can give you an independent view. We’ve found working as a team has really helped. Mum will tell me when the words need re-drafting and I’ll tell her when the pictures don’t work. For example, there’s one picture of the zoo animals in ‘Odd Job Frog’ that Mum painted three times before we both agreed it was good enough. 

    Can you tell us a fun fact about yourselves?

    When my nieces were younger, we used to dress up in Stourport-on-Severn carnival. Mum and I made the front page of the local paper the year we were dressed as Cinderella’s ugly sisters. Were they trying to tell us something

     What’s your top writing tip for new writers?

    The best ideas come when you’re not expecting them so always carry a notebook. Mum and I usually have our best ideas when we’re out walking together and it’s maddening when we don’t have a piece of paper to hand. We had to write one story idea in teeny tiny writing on the back of a receipt. 

    What’s your favourite movie?

    I love tongue-in-cheek action adventure films like the original Star Wars, Back to the Future or Kingsman: The Secret Service. Mum’s not big into movies but enjoys TV, particularly Strictly.

    What do you like to do to relax?

     Mum likes to garden while I love travelling and drinking white wine.

     What do you like to read?

    I’m addicted to reading children’s books, particularly middle grade action/adventure stories. Mum prefers to read non-fiction although she is regularly forced to read the manuscript I’m drafting for my MA.

    What’s the best thing about seeing your book in print?

    It was thrilling when the first copies of Odd Job Frog appeared just in time for the London Book Fair. We weren’t able to go but several friends tweeted us pictures.

    We’ve also really enjoyed sharing the book with children in school and library events. We’ve developed a programme for visits to local primary schools with a lively story telling session for Reception and Key Stage 1, and an interactive session on how we wrote and illustrated our book for Key Stage 2. 

    You can follow Zoe on Twitter

     It all sounds very exciting, Zoe. Thanks for dropping by to tell us about Odd Job Frog.

  4. happy-new-year-1092457__340

     

    Well that's Christmas over for another year. I expect that like me you're feasting on left-over Christmas cake and chocolates and trying to get back into work mode. I hope that 2016 will be a really good year for you all. :)

    It's getting off to a good start for me. I've almost finished the second chick lit book I'm contracted to write for Accent Press. My first one, I DO- or DO I? will be out in May. You've probably noticed that I've been posting the cover and preorder link all over Facebook and Twitter. And just in case you haven't seen it here it is again!

    i do

    Sorry if I'm over-posting , but I am super excited about working with Accent Press. I've got a contract for three books so as soon as I finish this second book I have to start the third one. And amazingly Accent are republishing my backlist - Never Say Forever, The Millionaire Plan and Perfect Summer when the rights revert back to me next month. I'm practically jumping and down with excitement and so grateful to Accent Press for taking me on board like this and to my lovely publisher Stephanie Taylor from  Clean Reads for letting me have all the rights back at the same time. So kind of her. I'll still have Witch Angel:The Spectre of Truth with Clean Reads so will still be part of their wonderfully supportive team.

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    I'm into my second year of being Patron of Reading at Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, working with the lovely, dedicated and very supportive librarian Linda Bromyard to encourage the students to read. If you take a look at the Patron of Reading Competitions page you'll see some of the fabulous entries to the competitions we've run. Over on the Brilliant Reads page are some of the students reviews and check out the POR News page to find out what other things are happening in the school. 

     

    Kat logo

    I  love visiting schools to encourage children to read and write. A couple of years ago I teamed up with my friend and fellow author Ann Evans  to do joint school visits, called KAT - Kids and Authors together (and Karen and Ann together). Here's our Facebook page. The visits have been a great success so far and we hope to do even more this year. We've been asked to run workshops at Evesham's very first Festival of Words so are both very excited about that.

    If you read my blog regularly you'll know that I often feature other authors and their work. For the following few months I'm going to be running a blog Celebrating Children's Books. I want to showcase the wonderful work that children's authors and illustrators do, not the big names everyone knows but lesser known authors and their brilliant books. There's a lot of amazing talent out there and I'd like to give it a shout out. The first blog post will be up this Wednesday so do look out for it and support the authors and illustrators featured.

    That's it, I've waffled on enough. I'll end with a massive thank you to my readers, followers, supporters - I think I have some! I really appreciate you all. Oh and huge thanks to the marvellous free image website pixabay.com from where I get a lot of the images I use for my blog posts. Including this one.

     

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