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!”
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.