Saturday, October 27, 2012

Memory's Wake - an Illustrated Novel

Being a curious creature, I asked author/artst Selina Fenech about the experience of creating her first full length illustrated novel, "Memory's Wake". I was lucky enough to read "Memory's Wake" in manuscript form, and found it both enchanting and exciting to find a "new" author to enjoy. I have found three or four new, or new-to-me, authors in the indie publishing world over the last couple of years, and hope to interview others soon as well.
Now, over to Selina, to tell us how "Memory's Wake" came to be...

My illustrated young adult novel Memory’s Wake has been through many incarnations before it was completed. It started life as a comic book script, then I had plans to turn it into a story with illustrations, much like the illustrated Stardust by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess. Then finally I decided that it should be a proper full length novel.

 When I started writing it as a full novel, at first I was adamant that I wouldn’t illustrate it. I knew while I was writing that I didn’t want to create a book that relied on illustrations, or that was thought to be relying on the illustrations. I’d also read that a lot of people didn’t like pictures with their novels, since they liked to imagine what the characters looked like on their own. So right to the very final draft, I wrote the book as though it wasn’t going to be illustrated. Of course, when I reached that point, I changed my mind.

There were a few reasons why I chose to illustrate the novel after all-
1. Because I’m an artist. Illustrating is my “day job”, so I wanted to have a go at illustrating my characters and story world. I enjoyed painting them so much I’ve done over 45 illustrations for the book. It also meant I didn’t have to pay an outside illustrator, and I knew that the illustrations would appeal to people who were already fans of my artwork style. This has been a good thing and a bad thing. I’ve had a lot of fans of my art mention that they didn’t think the story would be very good and only bought the book for the art. Fortunately, they had said they were pleasantly surprised and loved the story too!

2. Because the story is a fairytale of sorts and has lots of fairytale references. Memory’s Wake suits being illustrated because of its genre. I also have another story which I didn’t illustrate because the other story (about super-powered teens) just didn’t suit being illustrated in my opinion.

3. Because why should teens miss out? Lots of kids books are illustrated. Even a lot of adult books, particularly in the fantasy genre are illustrated. But there’s a gap between them where books just don’t have pictures. I don’t see why teenagers have to miss out. As a teen I loved illustrations and stories, and had to turn to comic books to get my fix of both together. I’d love to see more illustrated books of all genres become available for all ages!

Of course, Memory’s Wake is going to be a trilogy, and having illustrated the first book I’m committed now to illustrating all three books! It’s a lot of work, but luckily it’s a labour of love.

Thanks so much, Selina, for taking the time to enlighten me (and other readers). Below are some links for anyone interested in finding out more about Selina and her work.
Selina Fenech - Portfolio Website

Fairies and Fantasy Pty Ltd - Selina's Online Art Store

Memory's Wake - Illustrated Fantasy Novel by Selina Fenech


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Meet Cynthianna - author of The Fixer-Uppers

Today I have some curly questions for Cynthianna about her new romance The Fixer-Uppers.

Hi, Cynthianna, and welcome to Spinning Pearls. I have some curly questions about your writing, and especially your new release The Fixer-uppers.

Q.“The Fixer-Uppers” is an enticing title. Which came first, the title or the storyline?

A. That's a good question! I remember I was watching the baggage handlers at an airport when we were coming home from a trip several years ago. I thought, "A hardworking guy like these guys would make a good hero for a romance story." So from there, I developed the character of Mike, the baggage handler, and then Cassie, the single mom bakery manager, sort of came to me as the perfect heroine for Mike. After that point, I had to come up with a place for Cassie and Mike to live in, and the idea of a house that's a "fixer-upper" seemed the most logical. Characters led to the storyline that led to the title. :)

Q. In your sig file you suggest Unique and original handmade gifts for that hard to please nerd in your life: Could you tell us a little about this?

A. Smiling Assassin Productions is our creative workshop. My husband is a talented author in his own right, A J Matthews. He's also a wonderful miniature sculptor/painter who makes all kinds of original science-fiction/fantasy and steampunk inspired artworks. He takes on commissions and has made all sorts of fun items like bookends and figurines for fans of Doctor Who and other sci-fi shows/fandoms. Be sure to check out some photos of his work at the web site.

Q. I noted your characters thought of themselves “in like” rather than “in love”. That’s a wonderful concept for a romance; much nicer than the more common “instant dislike” thing. Did you intentionally write a feel-good romance in reaction to reading one too many at-one-another’s-throats stories or do you go on a case-by-case basis?

A. I always let the characters tell me what their relationship is going to be like. Cassie and Mike are strong characters and have definite opinions about themselves and each other. Both of them are nice, ordinary people--the type of people you meet every day at work and play. They find that they share similar experiences with members of the opposite sex (their exes treated them poorly) but at the first, they're not sure they're ready for a new relationship, so they tell themselves they're "in like" and promise to be friends. Of course, the physical attraction can't be denied and sparks fly sooner not later... but I don't want to give away all the plot here, so please buy the book and find out for yourself! ;)

Q. How do you find sweet romance faring with so many lines tilting towards the spicier alternative?

A. It is sort of in the background, but I don't think it's totally out of the picture, yet. Lots of readers enjoy a good ol'-fashioned romance without graphic sex, so I hope in The Fixer-Uppers I've given them some sympathetic characters and a storyline they can relate to and really enjoy without the fear of being overwhelmed with situations they may find personally not to their tastes.

Q. OK – you’re the casting director in your dream movie. Who gets to play Mike? Who do you cast as Cassie?

A. For Mike, I've always thought Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame would be perfect. He's sort of tall and blond. For Cassie, I'm not sure. She's a redhead, so she needs an actress with spirit and vivaciousness. Who would you suggest? ;)
Hmmm - Anne Hathaway maybe? Thanks so much for visiting Spinning Pearls…

Thanks for having me here as your guest, Sally!
Here are some links from Cynthianna, including a link to the book in question!

Like my author page on Facebook:
Join me at Twitter:
LOVING WHO now on Kindle and in print:
When you least expect it, love happens!
Check out a novel by Cynthianna:

Unique and original handmade gifts for that hard to please nerd in your life:

Defeating the Slushpile Monster, a funny writer's how-NOT-to!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bronte and her Telepathic Dog

Meet Bronte and her telepathic dog! They're the stars of the new book by Aussie Brian Curtin. I caught up with Brian in September and asked him a few curly questions about the book.

Hi, Brian; 

Q. Bronte comes across as a very convincing twelve-year-old. How did you go about getting the voice and tone right?

A. I am not quite sure of what you mean by voice and tone. I wrote it as I thought a twelve-year-old and a dog would talk.

Q. Kosta sounds like a Greek name. Did you name Kosta in the story after anyone or anything? Or did the name just pop into your head?

 A. Bronte and Kosta are real I have known Bronte since she was three years old. Actually she now has Kosta 2 as Kosta 1 died.

Q.  How did you come up with the idea of a polyglot telepathic psychic dog?

A. I am not real sure. I started this book when Bronte was twelve she is now fourteen going on fifteen. I didn't start it as a publishable book; it was only some thing I wrote for her only. She is like a daughter to me. When I really got into it I began to like it and so I refined it and submitted it. When I got the idea of telepathy I searched the internet to see if I could find anything like it. I didn't want to copy anyone's idea. When I found virtually nothing I thought it might be worth writing.
Q.   Kosta was an astronomer once. Did you research stars for the story, or did you use knowledge you had already?

A. Yes I researched the stars. I had a lot more information about stars and there distances from earth and the name of the stars in the Canis Major Constellation, but I cut it I thought it might be an over-kill.

Q.  Any more adventures planned for Bronte and Kosta?
A. Possibly, but at the moment I am working on a book for my daughter Katelyn called Katey and her Possessed Budgie. She is only six months older that Bronte and they are friends.

I took the photo on the cover and that is Bronte and Kosta. Tina at DD doctored the photo and changed my lettering. During the photo shoot Kosta would not pose as I wanted him to so I superimposed him into it. Bronte is a Ballet Dancer and would be the right age at the moment to play Liana in my first book if they made a movie or ballet of it now. She has won a lot of trophies in Ballet. I didn't write OnePlusOne on Bronte's dancing ability that book was started before she took up dancing.

Thanks Brian! I always love to know how books come to be written.

Bronte and Her Telepathic Dog is a lovely follow up to Brian's previous ballet romance One Plus One Makes One, which is also available from Devine Destinies. Follow the link below to find out more, or to buy a copy of Bronte and Her Telepathic Dog for the doglovers and stargazers in your life...

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Bushland Lullaby Blog Tour...

Bushland Lullaby is here!

Hello and welcome to the Bushland Lullaby blog tour. I am delighted with my new picture book - or should I say, with OUR new picture book, since illustrator Lisa Stewart's work is a good part of the charm. This is a lap-book - ideal for bedtime reading. The pictures are in soft pastel and each shows a dream-like image of a bush baby going to sleep. Bushland Lullaby is a rhyming picture book, and falls into a gentle rhythm when read aloud.

Below are details about the book, and the associated contest. Blog-tour venues will be added very soon.

Asleep in a gently snoozing ball
 Little possum's soft and small. 

Author(s)Sally Odgers
PublisherScholastic Australia
Date of Publication01/09/2012



Everyone who comments on this post goes in the draw to win one of three PDF e-books
Please state your preference when commenting.
Writing a Picture Book Text
Finding Farholt
Writing a Manuscript Proposal

Tour dates:

Spinning Pearls 1/09/2012   (

Writing for Children with Peter Taylor 3/09/2012

From Hook to Book with Chris Bell 7/09/2012(

Kids' Book Reviews with Tania McCartney 8/09/2012

Reading and Writing with Dale Harcombe 12/09/2012

School Magazine with Jackie Hosking 18/09/2012

Writing Children's Books with Robyn Opie Parnell 23/09/2012

Angela Sunde at on 02/10/2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Year With Marmalade

Today I have Alison Reynolds visiting at Spinning Pearls as part of her tour with her amazing picture book A Year With Marmalade.

Hi Sally! Thank you for inviting me to the lovely Spinning Pearls.

I was wondering why picture books are such a popular genre to write. My publisher asked me to write a picture book with a background of the seasons and A Year with Marmalade emerged. But could I have written it as a chapter book? I don’t think it would have worked half as well. The juxtaposition between the words and illustrations is half the music.

5 Reasons to write picture books

  1. They’re short. BUT this does not mean they are easy to write. Mem Fox took 2 years to write the 487 words of Koala Lou.
  2. You can achieve a clarity and simplicity that is hard to maintain over a longer piece of work.
  3. They can look and feel fabulous. I love the textured trunk on the cover of A Year with Marmalade. Many picture books are actual works of art.
  4. It’s fascinating to have an illustrator interpret/add to your story.
  5. Both small and big children love them. For many of us, picture books are our first exposure to literature. Picture books are fun!

Do any other writers out there like to write picture books? Why?

Thanks for hosting the A Year with Marmalade tour, Sally.

Looking forward to seeing your new work Bushland Lullaby soon!
Thanks, Alison... Now, see below for a competition and the other stops in the blog tour.
Marmalade’s personality really shines through in Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie's newest picture book A Year with Marmalade. Share your favourite picture showing your cat's personality to win.
The winner will receive a signed copy of A Year with Marmalade and a copy of the picture book Lighty Faust the Lion, a book about a much bigger cat.
Share your favourite picture of your cat by uploading it to author Alison Reynolds’ Facebook page at or email it to Alison as a low res jpeg file at and she’ll upload it on her website
Entries close on the 1st of September
Follow the tour!
Blog Tour
7th  August  Dee White
9th  August  Karen Tyrrell
11th August  Tania McCartney
13th August  Pass It On
14th August  Kathryn Apel
17th August  Dale Harcombe
20th August  Peter Taylor
22nd August  Susan Stephenson
23rd August  Robyn Opie Parnell
27th August  Sally Odgers
29th  August  Angela Sunde
31st August Chris Bell

Monday, June 25, 2012

Today I welcome Catriona Hoy, author of The Little Dinosaur, to Spinning Pearls.

So - I hear you had a blast at the Little Dinosaur launch? Will you tell us about that?

Hi Sally, thanks for having me over here today. Yes, it has been a hectic couple of weeks but it was great to see everything finally coming together. It was a bit scary a few days beforehand as suddenly the numbers of rsvp’s doubled and it looked like possibly 200 people were coming! I started to panic about whether I had enough food or wine and made a few extra trips to the shops. I did have an awesome cake made by Cecilia, a multi-talented lady who I teach with.

The key to the success of the whole event was the choice of venue. I held it at the Monash Science Centre, where many years ago the whole story began when I interviewed fossil preparator Lesley Kool for a series of articles for Pearson’s magazines. The Science Centre was very supportive and it was just the ideal venue. Dr Pat Vicker-Rich works there and it is her daughter Lleaellyn that the particular dinosaur in the story was named after. Pat welcomed everyone to the Centre and then Lesley Kool spoke about her work. She had everyone enthralled and was just as inspiring as when I first met her many years ago. There were lots of dinosaurs and fossils for both young and old enthusiasts to admire. The science centre were also very helpful with advertising and I can’t praise the entire staff highly enough.

How did the Monash Science Centre get the dinosaurs on display? Did they set out to obtain them, or was it serendipity?

The Science Centre is open to the public and has an educational focus. When I first began chatting to them about holding the launch, they were planning for a new exhibition. It was a bit of serendipity and a lot of hard work over the weekend on the part of the staff but they managed to get some of the display up and running for the weekend. In particular Corrie and Wayne were putting things together all Saturday and Sunday. It worked well for all of us, I got a great launch and they were able to show the centre to people who didn’t know about it. In particular they had a model of a Lleaellynasura.

A lot of people  think of dinosaurs as being HUGE. Why do you think the little ones get so little press?

Much of the books about dinosaurs in the past have been about Northern Hemisphere dinosaurs. That was one of the reasons I wanted to write this book, about Australian dinosaurs. They were generally smaller and had particular features which has led them to be called ‘polar dinosaurs.’ Back in the Cretaceous, what is now Australia was much further south and was joined on to Antartctica. However, because the whole planet was warmer, the area actually supported a wide variety of life. Some of these little dinoaurs had features such as large eye sockets which suggest they could see in the dark. It’s nice to see them get their time in the sun, in a manner of speaking!

In the early days of paleontology,  scientists often put the bones together incorrectly. Do you know any examples of how they eventually got things right?

Sally, it’s not just paleontology…all of science is like that. It’s a constantly changing world where a hypothesis is proposed and tested, accepted and then suddenly some new evidence comes along which challenges everyone’s ideas. Each new discovery teaches and leads us to re-evaluate our world and I think that’s a great thing. So perhaps nothing is ever ..’right’…merely ‘righter?’ When I was interviewing Lesley, she told me a story of a little mammal bone which was found at Inverloch, which caused a lot of controversy because it showed that mammals existed far earlier than scientists had supposed. It surprised me that some dinosaurs had feathers. I know that in the process of working out how bones go together paleontologists look at the sites where tendons and ligaments would join and work out how they would move, compared to animals living today. It’s a fascinating story and made all the more difficult because full skeletons are rare. Often it is only a few bones or parts of bones.

Thank you for having me over to chat today Sally. Some great questions and hopefully your readers will want to find out more. There are some Australian dinosaur facts in the end papers of The Little Dinosaur but lots of great information on websites out there such as the ABC. Some of your readers might like to check out this site. and there are also teachers notes available on the publishers website.

 Follow the tour!

The Little Dinosaur Blog Tour Dates

Wednesday June 6, 2012
Robyn Opie Parnell

Wednesday June 13, 2012
Sally Odgers

Wednesday July 4, 2012
Jackie Hosking

The Little Dinosaur
Launch Dates:

Sydney Saturday 30th June, 2012
SCBWI conference
5.30pm Friday29th July

Tasmania Saturday 14th July, 2012
Fullers Bookshop, Launceston

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Donna Smith's Billy Cart Derby Tour

Today we welcome Donna Smith of Jelli Beanz Publishing for a pit stop on her Billy Cart Derby tour.  Donna is talking about language development.

Language Development in Children.
It is interesting to know that research shows us that children do in fact have an innate biological clock of sorts which triggers the development of language acquisition.
The biological trigger usually appears at around the age of eighteen-twenty months of age. This innate trigger tends to be a universal occurrence. Research studies show that children from various cultures and countries experience the same onset of language speech in children at the same age.
What does  vary however is the rate and depth to which the language develops once the onset has commenced. The onset of language itself begins well before the child needs language skills. Often babies from around six to eight months will begin to babble syllables and single utterances. True language of speech is classed as the stage to which two words are joined together clearly.
This cannot be brought forward by repetition. Language speech development will not emerge before it is programmed to emerge.
Studies show us that this not triggered by external factors. The child will begin to speak regardless of environment. The triggers for development tend to be associated with a growth spurt of the brain. To understand the brain growth spurt, let us look at the brain at birth. The brain contains millions/ maybe billions of cells and weighing around 300 grams. Not all of the cells are connected at birth; this is what makes the brain light in weight. The brain itself does not develop any further cells after birth; however the growth spurt changes are evident in the weight mass. Between birth and two years of age the brain increases from around 300grams to almost 1000grams (1 kilogram). This is the result of the cells interconnecting. It is at this point that studies show, language begins to develop.
A common myth is that parental intervention of direct teaching including expansion and corrections by imitation and repetition, is not only fruitless, but it can also prevent the natural progression of language develop in their child.

Expansions are often done unconsciously by parents/ adults.
For Example:
Child: Want spoon.
Adult: Do you want a spoon?
Child: Want spoon.
Adult: Say, I want a spoon.
This type of corrected speech can hinder the child’s progress. Parental expansions do not teach a child to speak. Studies show the children acquire the utterances and words themselves naturally. Those children in an environmental ‘rich’ situation (meaning exposed to talking, children learn a high percentage of their speech from just listening, and exploration) will progress more quickly with a greater vocabulary. Those children that lack the surrounding stimulus of speech and listening can begin to fall behind to language progression.
Direct teaching with correction and expansions and or repetitions does not kick start language development in children. Research shows that those who try to ‘coach’ their children actually interfere with their natural development.
The best model you can set for your child is to speak to them ‘normally’, in a natural manner. Children will extract the grammar themselves and their speech will develop naturally when they are individually ready. The more stimulation (sensory) that you provide your child, the richer environment your child will have to draw upon. Children reach regular ‘milestones’ at certain ages and innate behaviour will take its natural progressive course.
Helping children develop a love of books and reading:
There are many ways that parents can help children develop a love for reading and books. The most enjoyable way is sharing. Sharing books together and enjoying the journey they take you on is a wonderful way to spend time with your child. Escaping into another world, taking wild balloon rides, walking in space with space animals, being a mighty king of a large castle and kingdom or a beautiful princess who rides in a pumpkin are all wonderfully exciting adventures you can share with your child.
There are many ways you can help your child enjoy reading and books:
1) Show a keen interest in your child’s reading and what they are reading.
2) Let your child choose books that they are interested in.
3) Books, comics, magazines and fliers are materials that children can read.
4) Joining your library is wonderful experience for children. Borrow books regularly; make it a part of your week.
5) Instead of buying lollies for treats, buy your child a book and suitable comic book. Children can never have too many books.
6) Sit with your children when they are reading and prompt them to tell you about the characters in the story and what they enjoyed most about the book.
7) Let your children draw characters and write about their favourite stories. This will also develop their comprehension skills.
8) Get to know the book. Show your child the author and illustrator names, the spine, back blurb and talk about the title of the book. Look at the book’s illustrations and discuss what the story might be about and who the characters are.
These are a few ways that you can share reading with your children and help them to develop a love of books.
           Reading together is a special time you and your child can spend together without any distractions. Make it part of your daily routine and enjoy the experience together.
“my favourite thing about books is that you go on a magical adventure every time you read a story. I like all books thick long ones and thin short ones.”

Jazmine 9 yrs.

Jelli-Beanz Publishing
'where imagination comes to life'
Submissions email:

Follow the Tour!

24th May – Launch 
25th May – Helen Ross ( The writing process)
26th May – Billy Cart Derby educational materials 
28th May – George Ivanoff  (Character Development)
29th May – Angela Hall of Blue Dingo  (Fundraising in schools)
30th May – Library Visit
31st May – Sally Odgers  (Importance of Literature for Children)
1st June – Sylvie Blair  (Cover design and artwork)
1st June – Donna Smith  (Trailer production)
2nd June – Library Visit
4th June – Blog tour close.