Category Archives: Children’s books

Researching for my Novel.

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I often mention, joke, that I buy so many books because I need them for research. Generally, I really do love to have books on hand to either answer questions or to get some inspiration. I know the wonders of the internet has helped me numerous times but having a break from the computer and opening up a book has been more helpful. The novel I’m writing is set in a big Cornish House with woodlands and forests; includes magic- folklore-first life on Earth and climate change. See how many books I can investigate?

9781909263659Every Sunday I work in the Children’s department of the bookshop and  recently, I was organising all the new stock in the delivery when I came across- Briony May Smith’s debut Children’s book; Imelda and The Goblin King. A gorgeous illustrated book and such a great story. It reminded me of why I’d love to read as a young girl. I grew up in the countryside and spent most of my young life sitting in trees and running about in woods and farms. Even as I child I was inclined to write from my imagination. (As do most children.) My diaries had occasional words like- Went to School-came home- went out again-but my stories, they  could go off on a tangent. I used to stare at books like this one.

imelda-and-the-goblin-king-interior-briony-may-smithFiction after all, comes from inside our minds; also mixed up with life’s experiences. Our writing is a blend of likes and dislikes, applying them to characters and fictional situations and relationships. Some customers love the Sci-fi and Fantasy section or fiction in general. While others can’t abide it, preferring instead to go upstairs in the shop to the non-fiction department. The grown up section I call it. But non-fiction plays a huge part in fiction. It’s where I go to get all the facts I need to write my fantasy. Briony’s book with all the stunning visual inspiration and folklore, connects me back into that first desire to see and hear magical stories and characters in books. All genres connect to each other. Think of all the books Briony may have read and studied over the years to inspire her. Colours- art- illustration- trees-flowers- baddies-You get the idea.

Next: Looking at books about the first life on Earth. Richard Dawkins and Yan Wong’s; The Ancester’s Tale. 9781474600569Dazzling four billion year pilgrimage to the origins of life. Remarkable encounters with fellow animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. I’m not an academic, and certainly no expert on the subject, but I love the language and words, which help sections and chapters find their way into my brain. Other times I read the same sentence over and over but nothing happens. Still love it. Early history of this planet is a huge love of mine and I’m still getting through this and I will take my time learning from it. (Four billion years! Still nothing.) This is the new Revised and Expanded Edition, just released. Highly recommended.

James Lovelock: GAIA: A new Look At Life On Earth. My protagonist certainly has strong interests with the planets ecosystem, but she’s not quite Gaia. 9780192862181I’m very late reading this book, it’s been around since the late seventies, but I have a 2009 edition and I’m following it very well. Lots of updated thoughts, information and preface. I have a lot of images of the planet in my own novel that involves the characters evolving from the first cells of life so this book gives me lots of ideas and thoughts on the world as a living self-regulating entity. I find it fascinating. Well- worth having a copy of this on your shelf, if not for writing, then a interesting discussion. (Fight!)

MrFOx-story-of-life-bookI want to finish, (although I have loads more research books) with another children’s book. The Story of Life: A first book about evolution. Authors- Catherine Barr and Steve Williams. Illustrated by Amy Husband. story_of_life_spre_3246931b

I couldn’t help but notice this lovely book. How could I refuse to buy this!  Look at these little faces! Actually, a bit of lighter relief education doesn’t hurt anyone as I learnt quite a lot from this book! (Funny enough I could follow it quite well!) Please buy this for your child or for yourself. Really educational and fun and another great illustrated kids book. Until next time…enjoy your books. I’d love to hear what your researching!

My Interview with James Daunt Of Waterstones.

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James Daunt 03/10/13As a bookseller and a writer, I love the publishing world. What more could you want then being surrounded by shelves of  the most amazing  stories and creative talents pulled from very interesting minds and peoples experiences. After performing on stage for years, I’ve slowed down to combine my creative nature with the story telling world. I  can now sit at home and have the cat on my lap and a coffee beside me while working on my own. To me that is absolute heaven.

In the last few months, I’ve been taking a full time Professional Writing MA at Falmouth University, ( I’ve just passed!) and whilst working in Waterstones part-time,  I managed to interview James Daunt, Managing director for my Industry module.

I really wanted to talk about the survival of the book industry, maybe a question he’d been asked numerous times, but because I feel strongly about the physical book and so do many customers, I knew it wasn’t a question he would be bored with. I wanted to speak to the man himself and confirm what I’d been witnessing in the shop.

Me: ‘How have you managed to keep the bookshop on the High Street against the ever-growing market of the e-book?’

JD: The e-book has it’s natural place. It can be appropriate for travel, for saving space in the home, the green point of view and the digital book is cheaper, making it a finance choice for the customer. Amazon is all about pushing the digital book because they are interested in what they can sell beyond that. But publisher’s recently took a stand against the price of Amazon’s digital’s prices and took their books off the Amazon site and renegotiated, led by Hachette, Macmillan and Harper Collins, to conclude that the publisher sets the price of the digital book. This allows publishers to keep the price to a level that doesn’t distort the market in favour of digital. This is a huge significant development because Hachette had for almost six months been locked in a bitter dispute. This means the publisher has gained back some control with their sales with the physical book. Amazon still have a monopoly on many books with publishers, and we all know about the corporate tax that they avoid by registering in the EU and avoids paying the tax it should in the UK. Waterstones and other business’s have to pay a high level of rates that online businesses don’t, and it has affected many businesses not just Waterstones.

Me: What about the physical book? Are people still buying enough physical books to keep the shop and other book shops open and why would they come in to Waterstones if you could buy cheaper elsewhere?

JD: You have to make Waterstones an interesting and attractive shop. So you make people come into them more, buy books and come back. If you sell better books your customers read them quicker and come back for more. An old system that’s been changed in the way the shop looks, is that the Publishers use to pay a premium for their chosen books and Waterstones would put them in the shops exactly how the publishers dictated, Waterstones sold slots and campaigns were created. This meant the shops all looked the same. We made a huge decision to change this, it took away an incredible amount of income for Waterstones but it meant they have the decision on what’s going to sell, displayed and what gets chosen for The Book club and The Book of the Month.

I also think this gives a greater chance to other authors who might not have been otherwise selected as the chosen title with the publishers.

Waterstones has the choice of what books to campaign, and now they are selling better books, the shops are individualised to suit the market area they are in, and the bookseller is ‘handselling’ the books Waterstones decides on. It’s organic.

I asked if the publisher missed that level of control, if they were unhappy about it. But he said that because the books Waterstones are choosing are selling well, and the publishers aren’t paying Waterstones for the marketing, it’s working out for both sides. Of course, my experience of being an independent bookseller, I know that making a shop welcoming works.

I enjoyed listening to someone who obviously enjoyed not only his job but the product he sells. (Yes he earns more than me!) But I have found the human nature of the need for a physical book fascinating.

I don’t believe the book will disappear. I think they are so much part of our DNA and culture that they will always exist and there will always be a need, an appetite for them. Most of the customers I speak with are book fanatics: to hold a book is a kinaesthetic experience, and you find people buy them even if they don’t have the time to read. (Or is that just me?) This is what brings people back, encourage them to come and see and pick books that have been carefully selected and chosen for every genre on the market.

I asked James Daunt what Books he loves to read.

JD: The classics are still excellent and continue to stand the test of time, but I read quite a lot of the new literature so that I can talk to the customers about those books in the shops.

Change and evolving with the market seems to be the focus and that the bookseller is the key to saving the physical book. I’m just very glad that the book is still here. (I’m going to buy some more now!)

Pogles Wood, Castles and Watch With Mother.

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9781909829022I’ve bought a new book.

The art of Smallfilms.

Smallfilms was the work of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. No doubt some of you will know these wonderful creations. The Clangers, Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine etc, and all of them became part of the Watch with Mother series.

The book is filled with wonderful photographs of the original puppets and the pictures are fascinating.

My favourite is Pogles Wood. The first series was originally called The Pogles, and only broadcast once due to the BBC’s thoughts that the witch and the storyline rather too scary for children. It was quite dark, filmed in black and white but I remember loving it.

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My castle lamp in the garden

I had a bedside lamp in the shape of a castle when I was small. (In the garden now.) At night I was convinced tiny people came out of it while I slept. The Pogles only confirmed it was true.

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The original witch from ‘The Pogles.’

Look at these puppets! It could be nostalgia on my part, but after watching the first three episodes last night, after many years, (cough) I still think the films are remarkable. The old black and white stop motion matures the strangeness and delightful story lines. The narrative of The Pogles is odd but brilliant for a child, so natural you wouldn’t stop to think about it when you were young. Like the Teletubbies!

The magic bean was the first episode, and introduced the magic plant that came to stay with Mr and Mrs Pogle, and even though the films were old, I had to keep watching more to find out what happens.

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Mrs Pogle

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Pipin and Tog

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Mr Pogle with the magic Plant that came to stay

I can’t help looking at the puppets in the Smallfilms book, and feel a deep sense of affection for them. It’s where my love of dark and atmospheric magical story-lines began. I recommend this book for anyone who grew up with these wonderful children’s programmes.

It’s always good to go somewhere you love!

My recent purchases.

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Welcome to my Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Cafe. Here I will be reviewing upcoming and present book releases and I will include many books that I just had to buy. Which is quite a lot. Here are the first four delights.

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The lovely Neil Gaiman has just released two re-imagined fairy tale books. The first is “The Sleeper and the Spindle”, the magical combination of Mr Gaiman with Chris Riddell’s wonderful Illustrations – enhanced with metallic ink: this is a spectacular and magical gift. It’s a real mix of the Sleeping Beauty- Snow White kind of tale.

The next is “Hansel and Gretel”, a visually stunning re-imagining of the classic fairy tale, beautifully illustrated by the award-winning Lorenzo Mattotti. Who better to retell the Brothers Grimm’s greatest, and perhaps darkest, fairy tale? Coupled with breathtakingly haunting illustrations, both books weave a more evocative, dark, captivating story, funny and clever. Gorgeous.

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I have to mention I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan and I can rely on any book he writes to deliver the goodies. These books do not disappoint me: I could almost just hold them and be happy. Actually I do, so I am quite happy.

Archangel’s shadows“, Nalini Singh.

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From the author of The Psy Changeling series, comes the latest novel in her Guild Hunter series. If you love dark Fantasy books like me then you must read these. I devour her stories, and I can see this one looking at me, waiting for me to read it. Going to be savoured.

The next “Saga” Volume four came into the shop today, and I had to buy it. A fantastic Graphic Novel from Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

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Brian Vaughan has had a fantastic career and has written for a number of publishers, Vertigo’s “Y: The Last Man” and also wrote for the TV series “Lost”. Fiona Staples is a wonderful, talented artist, I absolutely love her style, and together they have produced one of my favourite Graphic novels.

“Saga” is exceptionally dark and twisted and a dark sense of humour, but a comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s very funny but very ‘adult’, so beware! Enjoy.

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