Today, Friday 20th November, is the day my new book is launched! The Dalmatian that Lost its Spots is a book that is very close to my heart as it has my own dogs taking the lead roles as main characters. During its production, I invited people to help me make decisions when it came to the cover, blurb and title. There's a lot to consider when creating a book's all important cover and it was good to hear what other people thought.
Firstly, the cover art. I asked Steve, the illustrator, to re-create a scene from the book, where Lucy is all alone in the dark, looking up at the stars and wondering where Petra is. At this point in the book, Lucy has lost her spots, so she needed to be drawn without them. I worried about how people would respond to a Dalmatian book with a non-spotty dog on the cover, but the response was good. Those I asked said that it matched the title well and that the dog appeared to be glowing. Some said that she looked ghostly. The purple night sky was said to look magical. All good! One thing that was mentioned a few times was that the dog looked somewhat heavier than a Dalmatian usually looks. All I can say is that Lucy was pretty large and stocky for a Dally and Steve used photographs of her when drawing her, so that's why! As the book is about Lucy, I wanted the illustrations to look like her, as much as possible.
Then, the title: there was a choice between The Dalmatian that Lost its Spots and The Dalmatian who Lost her Spots. Although some preferred the second option, suggesting that it had a warmer feel to it, I chose the first title as those in favour felt that it was more mysterious and more neutral than the second.
Next, was the font for the title and whether or not to leave all the words white, have spots in the words DALMATIAN and SPOTS, or just have spots in the word DALMATIAN. The last option got by far the most votes as people generally thought that this one matched the title best.
And finally, the blurb: blurb 2 was preferred so that's the one now printed on the back of the book. I also asked Steve to put the four main characters in each of the corners and to include a spotty border. You can't have a book about a Dalmatian without some spots somewhere!
Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond, vote and comment. I love having reader involvement in the production of my books, so I hope you love it as much as I do!
Due to Covid, I haven't been able to attend many schools to deliver author visits this year, which I've missed, as I love visiting schools to talk about books and creative writing.
On my last school visit, to Braithwaite Primary School, the teacher used the experience as an opportunity for the children to practise their writing by penning a report about it for the local newspaper. The one below was printed in 'The Keswick Reminder':
On Monday 12th October, Helen Haraldsen, a teacher and librarian from Keswick School, came to visit us for feedback on her next story. Helen is an author who has written a series of books called ‘Amber’s Pony Tales’. She came in to ask about the book she is writing now, called ‘The Dalmatian That Lost Its Spots’ for feedback and constructive criticism as it is aimed at children. Helen read some of the story to us and we gave her some advice. I thought it was brilliant. She showed us some different types of font for the front cover. My favourite part about Helen’s visit was when we were asked to choose a name for the wasp character. I thought of a really good name called Bombajohn!
My next school visit is at Stanwix Primary School in Carlisle. I'll be delivering my 'Tale of Two Shoes' session to Year 3 pupils and I can't wait!
I’m available for pre-Christmas author visits as well as 2021 bookings. My new book, ‘The Dalmatian that Lost its Spots’ will be out on 1st December. Sessions are available for years 1 to 6. To request more details, email email@example.com
I’m also running a competition for a West Cumbrian primary school to win a 2021 visit. Details are available on the competitions page.
I've teamed up with fellow pony book author, Amanda Wills, to celebrate the launch of her new book with a competition especially for Amber’s Pony Tales readers!
Amanda, author of the Riverdale Pony Stories, has recently published the tenth book in the series, Edge of Danger.
To mark the occasion, Amanda is offering one lucky Amber’s Pony Tales reader the chance to win a signed copy of the latest Riverdale adventure.
All you have to do be in with a chance of winning Edge of Danger is subscribe to Amanda’s readers’ list. That’s it!
Just click on this link, fill in your email address and your name will be popped into the hat so Amanda can pick a winner.
The result will be revealed on 4th October.
As I'm launching 'Amber's Pony Tales' Book 3 - Trusting Molly - on World Animal Day, I invite you to join in with my #WorldAnimalDayChallenge to help me spread the word about brilliant books animal lovers would enjoy! Send me a photo of yourself and your pet with an animal book that's had an impact on you (by Sun 4th Oct). Perhaps it helped you to learn about animals, to see things from their point or view, or it inspired you in some way. Send your pictures and stories to me by emailing me here and I'll showcase them on social media.
Get involved to show you care about animals for World Animal Day on October 4th 2020
I'm absolutely loving being able to get back out to a few events with my lovely horse, Charlie. A fortnight ago we did an Eventer Derby at Greenlands Equestrian Centre, organised by Northern Equine Events and it was fantastic. Charlie (AKA Colehill when he's at competitions) stormed round with a double clear and came equal 7th in a big class. I was delighted! But yesterday was even better when he was placed 2nd in another big Eventer Derby class at Dalston. It's just great to be able to get out and have some fun again. I'm hoping to get one more in this season - a Hunter Trial, also at Dalston next month. Can we make it a hat-trick of clears? Watch this space!
I have recently been contacted by the Fell Pony Heritage Trust www.fpht.co.uk who asked if I'd be interested in using my books to help support them in their aim to protect and promote the breed.
The trust are based here in Cumbria. Their vision is to establish a Fell Pony Heritage Centre in the Lake District to protect the Fell Pony breed characteristics and preserve the working practices for future generations, while also supporting the traditional stewards of the breed - the Cumbrian hill farmers.
You can get involved with supporting them and/or being a part of the team to share in their values. Photographers and journalists interested in helping with further promotion of the Fell Pony and raising awareness of the breed, please contact them.
You can also support the trust by buying beautiful quality photographic prints of the Fell Pony in their natural environment, author-signed copies of 'The Spirit of the Fell Pony' book and signed copies of the first two books in my 'Amber's Pony Tales' series from their online shop. All sales of my books ordered through the fpht will donate 20% to the trust to help fund their projects.
Happy anniversary to Greenholme Clyde - the first Amber’s Pony Tales cover star.
It’s been a year since I started out as an author and the Amber’s Pony Tales series began. As such, lots of first anniversaries keep popping up. On 6th August 2020, it was the anniversary of the day I met Clyde the Fell pony – the winner of my first ever Cover Star Competition.
One of the things I love about being an author is getting to share my love of both books and ponies with young people. Running competitions has been one of the best ways to do this. When Katie Trotter, Clyde’s owner, saw the Cover Star Competition advertised, she knew exactly which picture she would be entering in it. It’s a great picture, but Katie didn’t count her chickens - she knew the hardest part would be gaining enough votes to win the competition due to a few of the entrants having a large social media presence.
But, much to Katie and her family’s delight, Clyde did win, and before the book came out in print, I arranged to travel up to Scotland to meet my new model and his family. Katie said, "I was really excited to meet Helen, although I was a bit nervous too that Clyde would be cheeky that day. But luckily, he was a good boy!"
The day couldn’t have gone better. We enjoyed a trip to a local beach to watch Katie and Clyde have a gallop about, followed by a lovely afternoon tea in the garden with the whole Trotter family. It was like meeting up with friends, rather than strangers. We’re even hoping to be able to visit again in the future. Clyde will soon be reprising his role as ‘cover star’ on the cover of Book 4 and super-talented photographer Katie took the picture of him that will be used.
Katie is very excited for Clyde to be back on Book 4 of the Amber’s Pony Tales series and is really looking forward to reading the next book when it is released.
At the moment, I’m running the Cover Star Competition again to find a horse or pony to appear on the fifth book in the series. So what’s it like to see your pony on the cover of a book? Katie said, "I have loved having a cover star pony as he is like a superstar. I love when I open the new PONY mag and see a picture of the book with Clyde's face on it, and the news articles Clyde pops up in occasionally.
Katie has read both of the first two books in the series and said, "the books inspired me not to be scared to help people when they need it, and to always put Clyde's safety first."
The competition to find the cover star for Book 5 is open until the end of September. Details of the horse / pony I’m looking for, plus terms and conditions and how to enter, are available on the competitions page of this website.
Clyde and Strawberry are all set for their next modeling job on the cover of Amber’s Pony Tales Book 4
Strawberry the pony is the latest cover star competition winner to appear on the cover of an Amber’s Pony Tales book after winning the Book 3 competition. She is now the model for Molly, the main pony character in the series’ third book, ‘Trusting Molly’. The book was due to be launched at Badminton Horse Trials in May, but sadly this was cancelled. The book has still been released on Kindle and the paperback will be out by the end of August 2020 (fingers crossed!)
Meanwhile, I've completed the fourth book in the series and the cover design process for Book 4 will begin in mid-August. It will feature Strawberry as Molly, but Greenholme Clyde, the first cover star winner will also appear again too, representing Honey the Fell pony.
The pony’s owners are both looking forward to seeing their equine friends on the cover of a book again, during a season where there hasn’t been much else to look forward to. Clyde’s owner, Katie Trotter, was gearing up to compete at some of her favourite events: The Royal Highland Show, North of England Show and Blair Horse Trials, before everything ground to a halt in March. She’s now hoping to get back out and do some working hunter and showing before the end of this season, and would also love to take Clyde on a sponsored ride as it’s something she’s never done and she’s sure Clyde would love it.
Myla Postlethwaite-Todd, who just got Strawberry last October, is disappointed to have missed most of her first season on her new pony. She was keen to make a start with her. She’s recently been able to get out to some cross country training and is hoping to take part in her first Eventer Derby at Greenlands Equestrian Centre in August as well as some summer showjumping.
I'm now writing Book 5 in the series, which will feature some new characters, both horse and human. The cover competition for this book is open now until 30th September. Details about it are available on the competitions page of this website.
Coming soon: 'A Tale of Two Shoes'. My new story for younger readers was inspired by a single leopard print high-heeled boot I spotted lying in the undergrowth on a woodland walk!
It got me thinking about all those single shoes you see lying around, abandoned in the unlikeliest of places. How did they get there? Where is their partner?
I challenged my writing group to come up with a story told from the point of view of a mirror, a clock or a shoe. And I wrote my own, which became 'A Tale of Two Shoes.' It's about a pair of children's shoes who get separated and have to learn how to live without each other during their time apart. It was actually quite tricky to write and I got stuck several times!
After writing this story, I've become more aware of the lost shoes I see littered around the countryside, all alone without their pair. What's their story??
If you see any lonely, single shoes, please take a picture and send it to me. Genuine cases of abandonment only please - don't set a shot up!! I'd like to put together a wall of lost shoes and explore their stories too. Please send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org
Amber's Pony Tales inspire a young reader to develop her riding for the benefit of her pony
Ten-year-old Vivien Williams got her copy of Little Pearl, the first book in the Amber’s Pony Tales series, after she won a writing competition I organised during lockdown. Not only was she the winner of the ten-and-under category, PONY magazine (which has just won Children's Magazine of the Year in the Newspaper and Magazine Awards 2020) chose her ‘Shetland Shake’ story as the overall winner. Read Viv's story here
The Amber's Pony Tales series is written about my own ponies that I had during my childhood. Back then I was just starting out and knew nothing. I wish I’d known some of the things I know now at the time! I thought the stories would be a good opportunity to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the last 30 years with the young readers and riders of today. As I’m writing about my own memories, I devised a writing competition during lockdown to ask people to write about a memory of their own, associated with horses and ponies. The entries were fabulous. Some were very deep and spiritual, while others were more light hearted.
Vivien’s entry was chosen as the overall winner out of the three age categories as it was such a funny little story about how the application of a little too much shine spray on her Shetland pony resulted in a show day disaster. PONY magazine featured Viv’s story on their website and she also received an Amber’s Pony Tales book bundle, which included the first book in the series.
During lockdown, Viv has enjoyed time at home with her new pony Cadlanvalley Seren. As soon as she can, she wants to rejoin the Pony Club as a centre member to learn from a more experienced pony than Seren, who is still young. She’s been inspired by reading Little Pearl to develop her riding for the benefit of her pony. Her mum, Seona told me, “Little Pearl really struck a chord with Viv. She loves stories but hasn't always been a confident independent reader. The combination of story and information has just grabbed her in these books. She isn't particularly competitive, so the focus of the stories appeals to her a lot - she said that after reading Little Pearl, she thinks she should go back to Pony Club and learn more so she can help Seren. She read me her favourite part, when Amber asks if she can join the Pony Club, again recently, and said that's how she feels!”