Sadly, over the lockdown period, I lost my beautiful Dalmatian Lucy. Back in 2019, I started writing a story featuring Lucy, and the Crazy Pointer, Petra too. When Lucy died, it seemed like the story had too but I decided it would be nice to continue it and finish it in her memory. And so I did. The manuscript is now with illustrator, Steve Hutton, being prepared for its artwork which I'm so excited about!
Yesterday, I advertised for some beta readers aged 5 - 8 to give the manuscript a read and let me know their thoughts, since they're the target market. I was amazed by the response - there were lots of willing helpers and all of the available spaces were snapped up within minutes. One of them was extremely keen - eight year old India's feedback came back to me the same day. She said "It is perfect. It was a nice read that made me feel happy. I would recommend it to my friends." Updates on the book's progress will follow.
In my other life, I work at Keswick School as an English teacher and school librarian. In December 2019, my Kids' Lit team became the UK National Champions in the sport of reading and bagged their place as the first team through to the prestigious World Final which would be held in New Zealand in July 2020. Preparations immediately began to raise the money for the flights and we got ready to represent the country as Team GB against the most well-read youngsters from around the world.
Then it was cancelled.
In March, just before schools were closed and the country went into lockdown, it was announced that for the first time since the Literature Quiz for Kids was launched in 2003, the final was cancelled. Not postponed, but off. Not happening. At all. Ever.
The four members of the UK team; Niamh McMullin, Adrian Megan, Will Harrison and Bertie Cook, not to mention their coach - me - were all devastated that the once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity was not going to happen.
Obviously it was the loss of the chance to compete in the World Final itself, but it was so much more than that. There was allsorts organised for the teams in New Zealand: from a visit to Hobbiton, to meeting each other and to the gala dinner on the final evening. When we heard it was all off, we couldn't believe it.
Just days after the announcement, schools in the UK closed and, like all other children in the country, the four team members were stuck at home, unable to see each other or commiserate with each other. But as the date of the trip drew near, it was decided that something still needed to be done to mark the occasion and remember their remarkable achievement.
A quiz was set up for the team, using Zoom to allow everyone to compete, sadly against each other, rather than with each other. I set the questions for two of the rounds, but each team member also ran a round: coming up with the questions and delivering it themselves. Although it wasn't a World Final, it was still great fun and I was very impressed with the questions the students came up with. There were quite a few I couldn't answer, which just shows how well-read they are!
At the end of the quiz, the result was very close with Adrian beating Niamh to the winning post by just half a mark! For more information about the Kids' Lit Quiz, visit https://www.kidslitquiz.com/home.php
Amber's Pony Tales is now officially a trilogy! The first three books in the series are available in Kindle - soon to be a box set - and the paperback of Book 3 (Trusting Molly) is due out by the end of the month.
This won't last long though as Book 4 is heading off to be edited on Monday 13th July and I'm hoping it can be released in time for Christmas 2020. Then it'll be a quartet!
Now that things look like they're getting moving again, I've been working on some new content for my mailing list subscribers that I'll be sending out weekly. First up was a secret prologue for Book 1. It's not in the books and is only available direct from me. BREAKING NEWS - I'll be writing a secret prologue for all the books, exclusively for the subscribers. So if you'd like access to this totally free bonus material, just head over to the homepage and sign up on the form there.
It's been a month since I sadly lost my beautiful Dalmatian, Lucy, suddenly and unexpectedly. It was, and still is, heartbreaking to lose a member of the family and it's inspired me to write a story in her memory. It's called 'The Dalmatian That Lost its Spots' and is a story of loss, hope and finding friendship in unexpected places. Speaking of finding new friends, I've got a new friend in the form of my new Dalmatian puppy, Lady Bluebell (Bella) who has just joined the family. Here begins a new chapter.
Today I would have been at Badminton Horse Trials for the first time, and as well as enjoying watching the sport in this beautiful weather, I'd also have been launching 'Trusting Molly' with Equestrian Bookfair.
So sad that this couldn't go ahead, but there's good news relating to the fourth Amber's Pony Tales story. This book features the Pony Club sport of tetrathlon. I decided to ask the Tetrathlon Chairman, Tim Vestey, if he'd read the story to check the content relating to tetrathlon, since it's over 20 years since I last did one myself. Not only did he agree, he contacted me to say he'd enjoyed the story! So that's made me pretty happy!
This week I saw a Twitter based writing competition from CBC - Curtis Brown Creative. This is a creative writing school led by Curtis Brown Literary Agency. The task was to start with the line 'It happened on 29th February...' and write a mini-scene that created intrigue. I decided to enter as I thought it would be interesting to see what on earth I could come up that would create intrigue in the limited number of characters allowed in a Tweet.
It was difficult! It's surprising how writing with limited words is so much more difficult that without a word limit! It's a great task as it really forces you to choose words carefully, while still thinking about the effect you want to create. I couldn't believe it when I discovered that my entry had been chosen as the winner, and my prize is a place on one of Curtis Brown's writing courses.
I'm delighted to be able to announce that the third 'Amber's Pony Tales' book will be launched at Badminton Horse Trials this May. All of the books, including the new one, will be available from Equestrian Bookfair's trade stand. I'll also be attending on Sat 9th May to do signing sessions at 10.30am and 3pm. I can't wait!
What a year it’s been! I could never have predicted how things would turn out, even just 12 months ago.
In 2018, I discovered two floppy discs with the manuscripts for two pony books I’d written in 2004 / 2005. At the end of the year, after lots of editing, I was writing to agents and publishers in the hope of getting the books into print. Now, as 2019 draws to a close, the first two books are published and out in the world, the third is complete and will be released in 2020 and book 4 is fully formed and ready to start being put onto paper in the New Year too.
Here are my first-year-as-an-author highlights:
Thank you to anyone who's read the books, reviewed them, contacted me personally about them, entered the competitions, joined my mailing list, been a beta reader, and any other way you’ve been involved in this wonderful, exciting adventure with me. I wish you all the best for 2020 and remember to keep your eyes open for the third book!
After a difficult few years with Charlie's behaviour - becoming so strong to the point of bolting - and discovering that this wasn't due to badness or naughtiness (he was diagnosed with bone spavin - arthritis - in his hocks) things seem to be getting better at last. After 18 months of very light work, he's been back to the vet and his arthritis has settled. He is now happy in his work and back to his old self - slightly opinionated but safe as houses. He's been to a few Eventer Derbies this summer as he loves cross country and is a careful show jumper too. This weekend we tried some Arena Eventing and he was amazing. I'll have to take care with him, compete at a lower level than we were before and listen carefully to how he's telling me he's feeling, but it feels so good to be able to go out and have fun together again. He's only 12 so I was devastated when I thought he may never be able to compete again. He's so brave, bold, careful but also safe, he's my horse of a lifetime!
In November 2019, PONY magazine featured Amber's Pony Tales stories as their Facebook competition.