Archive for June, 2014

How I Wrote Police Horses

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Guest Author: Katie Clark

Webs picWriting has been a passion of mine from the time I was a little girl. The first piece I remember writing was a song—and looking back, it was ridiculous! But I was so proud of that song, and I remember strolling through my leafy backyard, singing it to myself over and over.

As I became an adult, I continued writing. Writing children’s books happened by accident, but I quickly discovered I loved it! When the opportunity to write , a segment in the We Work! series with Bearport Publishing, came along it was a no-brainer. I had written lots of nonfiction pieces for kids’ magazines, as well as a handful of other nonfiction children’s books.

My first order of business was digging up any information I could find about police horses. This included how they’re chosen, the way they’re trained, what’s required of them, where they live, and more. It was a frustrating process, because I could find very little information on the subject.

That’s when I realized I needed to do a personal interview. The thought made my bones shake! I liked writing because I could do it alone, at my own pace. Speaking with someone else would likely be an inconvenience for the other person, and no one would want to help me—at least this is what I told myself.

Since the contract had been signed, though, I had no choice. Racking my brain, I remembered an online friend who worked in her local sheriff’s horse division several years ago. She was happy to help me, and we set up an email question and answer.

This personal interview gave me a wealth of information! Not only that, but Police Horsesmy friend was thrilled to talk about something that had been an enjoyable part of her life. With her help, the book was finished and sent along to my editors at Bearport.

The editors loved it! They didn’t even ask for any changes.

The interview process was such a hit, in my opinion, that I was happy to try it again for Animal Actors, my next book with Bearport. I searched for anyone who might be in this business, but I couldn’t come up with a solid lead. In fact, after emailing several different types of experts I never secured a single interview. Bummer!

Throughout the process I definitely learned an important lesson—not everyone will say “yes”, but the ones who do will make the whole process worth it. When you know you have a credible source, it’s so much fun to turn in your completed manuscript with a shiny expert endorsement. If you’re on the brink of writing nonfiction, I encourage you to step out and seek those expert interviews. It’s worth the jitters!

About Author:

Katie Clark’s published works include multiple children’s books, including A Tour of Your Muscular and Skeletal Systems, Animal Actors, Police Horses, and more. She is anticipating the release of her first YA science fiction novel, Vanquished, through Pelican Book Group. She is available for classroom visits and Skype chats to discuss her books. You can learn more at her website,

The Serious Side of Crime Fiction

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

BlueShould a mystery writer use her novels to explore societal problems? I’m not talking about rants, or didactic treatises—I mean using the novel as a way of highlighting issues?

When I began imagining The Last Death of Jack Harbin, I intended to write about a badly injured war veteran whose tenuous will to live comes from his strong relationship with his war veteran friends and his loving father. As the book progressed I realized that I had more to say about war and its effect on people than just the commentary on Jack’s physical and mental damage. Although Jack’s plight was central to the book, I wanted to explore something more complicated, and more subtle than who goes to war and who doesn’t, or who gets wounded and who doesn’t. I wanted to address the matter of guns.

In the Last Death of Jack Harbin, Jack says of his brother, who is a gun dealer, “(He) didn’t have the guts to go off to war himself, so he’s arming for his own private little war.” I think one reason many men (and it’s mostly men) make a religion of gun-worship is that they never fought in a war and they feel they missed a chance to prove their “manhood.”

The strutting and posturing of men with guns may serve them well when there are true enemies to face. But these days, with fewer men serving in war, I think a lot of men feel compelled to make up enemies. They find reasons to fear “others”—people who don’t look like “us,” donsfsf’t have traditions like “us,” and don’t believe like “us.” The stand-your-ground laws are written with the idea in mind that every person you come in contact with is a potential enemy. I’m reading Walking into the Ocean by David Whellams and ran across this line: “… (Peter and Tommy—both inspectors) were tired of weak men using guns to indulge immature fantasies about tough guys.”

In The Last Death of Jack Harbin there is a sub-plot about a religious cult of men who deal in guns, proving their manhood by instilling fear in their members, controlling “their” women, and abusing children. It’s a mockery of civil life. To settle their differences, two of the men have a shoot-out. It’s a pitiful affair, meant to be humorous in the book. But I hope that people understand the seriousness behind the humor. These men suffer from arrested moral development.

I intended this stark contrast between the gutsy, badly damaged Jack Harbin, who has faced real enemies despite his fear, and the uptight, terrified cult members who imagine enemies everywhere. And I intended the contrast to extend to Samuel Craddock, the hero, a man of integrity and courage, who knows a phony when he sees him and has no patience for it.

In the beginning I asked if mystery writers should use their platforms to explore societal issues. My answer is that it’s not only okay; for me, it’s imperative.

About Author:

Terry Shames grew up in Texas and is the author of the Samuel Craddock mystery novels A Killing at Cotton Hill, The Last Death of Jack Harbin, and Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek (Seventh Street Books, October 2014), set in the fictional town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. A resident of Berkeley, California, Terry is a board member of Northern California chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Find out more about Terry and her books at

Guest Author: Michael Knaggs: Reviewing ‘Catalyst’

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Michael KnaggsThree brothers, leaders of a brutal gang who are terrorising a council estate in East London, are confronted in a crowded pub by a mysterious stranger, who lures them to an isolated street and shoots them dead.

The subsequent euphoria of the residents is picked up by the national press and the story is exploited by the Opposition Party, primarily Tom Brown MP whose constituency includes the estate. Tom has built a reputation as a champion of law and order, and leads the fight to implement a New Justice Regime (NJR). He is supported by his Assistant, Grace Goody, his Party Leader, Andrew Donald, and Shadow Home Secretary, Jackie Hewlett; and by a local campaigner, George Holland, who embarks on a tour of the country to rally support for radical change.

One person steadfastly against these reforms is Tom’s wife, Maggie, a high profile Human Rights activist, and their relationship suffers badly during his crusade, a situation which pushes him closer to Gracataylstce.

The killer is eventually caught. But who is he? And why did he take the risk of publicly singling out the brothers for execution?

Now, with their nemesis off the streets, the gang sets out for revenge, targeting George for his outspoken condemnation of their activities and uncompromising proposals for their demise. They descend in large numbers on the quiet village where he lives, armed and ready to kill.

Meanwhile, Andrew Donald is pursuing his own agenda …

My choice of subject for the story of ‘Hotel St Kilda’ – of which  ‘Catalyst’ is the first instalment – originated from a piece I wrote over fifty years ago whilst at Hull Grammar School. The story drew critical acclaim from my peers in the third form (I guess that’s year nine in Modern English) and was included in a school magazine. I’m not sure whether this fact established me as a published author half a century ago. I think probably not. That short tale, spanning a few hand-written pages, is essentially the basis of Chapter Two of the first book, and from there the story developed as I wrote it around the skeleton of the plot. In fact, my intention was to produce a single book, until the words ran away with seemingly lives of their own, multiplying as they went, to produce a surprisingly long saga, resulting in a trilogy, of which the second book, ‘Heaven’s Door’, is due to be released later in 2014.

Catalyst’ contains themes of politics, crime and the military with family drama at its heart.

About Author:

Michael Knaggs was born in Hull in 1944. He moved to Thurso, Caithness, in 1966 to work as an Experimental Officer at Dounreay Atomic Power Station, and relocated to Salford in 1968 to complete a degree in Applied Chemistry at the city’s university. From 1970 up to his retirement in 2005, he worked for the Kellogg Company, the global breakfast cereal manufacturer, latterly as Human Resources Director with responsibility for pay and benefit policy across Europe.

Michael lives in Prestwich, Manchester, with his wife, Carol. Their passion is hill-walking and they undertake at least one long-distance walk each year. They have two children and two grand-children.

On Writing Three Broken Promises by Monica Murphy

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Guest Author: Monica Murphey

Karen_MonicaBioPic I must be honest. Writing Three Broken Promises, the third book in the One Week Girlfriend series, was probably one of the most difficult books I’ve ever worked on.

Why, you ask? There were all sorts of factors. The first one being pressure, since this was the first book I wrote for my editor at my publisher, Bantam. You see, I self published the first two books in the series (One Week Girlfriend and Second Chance Boyfriend). When you self publish, it’s almost as if you’re writing for yourself and the readers. That’s it. Once I sold the series to Bantam and discussed my plans for the third book with my enthusiastic editor, I thought I had a good handle on it. I could do this, I told myself.

Instead, I froze and worried. A lot. Over what my editor would think, what others at the publishing house would think, the marketing team, the publicity team, the readers…

And this couple, specifically Colin, they weren’t talking to me. I wrote Colin as a stubborn, mysterious puzzle poor Jen has a hard time understanding. I could totally sympathize with Jen because I felt the same exact way—I didn’t understand Colin. He wasn’t “speaking” to me, which is ridiculous because I’m the one who created him!

Beyond that, I also struggled with the issues I gave Jen. I likeThreeBrokenPromises new couple RED to tackle hard subjects (sexual abuse, prostitution, and addiction, just to name a few) and I worried how readers would view Jen and the choices she made. They aren’t easy choices and they might make some readers uncomfortable.

I guess you can tell that I worried far too much about this book in general. All the worry and stress had me so tied up in knots I froze. I fought for every one of those words and that’s not always the case when I’m writing a book. But Three Broken Promises was a mighty struggle, one I hope to not experience ever again.

The struggle, that is. Not the book itself. I think it turned out pretty good despite my problems. Jen and Colin are a couple who speak to readers and I love that. This journey I’ve gone on as I wrote this series has been an interesting one, a journey that has changed my career and life.

What I’m trying to show by revealing my struggle is that writing isn’t always easy (and every writer reading this is nodding in agreement) and that every book is different. I figured after all of this time (I’ve been writing professionally for eight years), I would have a system that I follow for each and every manuscript. That is so not the case. It changes with every single book.

I think that’s what I love about my profession the most. It’s constantly changing, it’s a constant challenge.

And I’m more than up for it.

About Author:

Monica Murphy is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series. She writes new adult and contemporary romance for Bantam and Avon. She also writes romance as USA Today bestselling author Karen Erickson. A native Californian, she lives in the foothills below Yosemite.

It’s Time to End The Big Lie

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Guest Author: Tanya Selvaratnam

tanyaAt the age of thirty-seven, after my first miscarriage, my doctor consoled me saying, “You have time.” In fall 2011, when I was forty, as I was recovering from a third miscarriage, my doctor said, “The biggest factor is going to be your age.” I wondered, How do we define time? Less than three years had passed.

With all my pregnancies, I was struck by how suddenly they progressed from feeling real, like there was definitely something growing inside me, to feeling unreal. I felt like someone had died, but no one had. I felt like I was sick, but I wasn’t. My quest to become a mother began to feel quixotic.

 As I tried to understand what I was experiencing physiologically and psychologically, I was struck not so much by the lack of information but by the conflicting and misleading stories out there. We see celebrities and people around us having children in their late thirties and forties, but we usually don’t know the struggles they went through to achieve that goal. When I opened up to my friends, I was surprised to find that almost everyone had a story to tell about miscarriage or infertility—their own or a friend’s.

Like most women, I grew up without ever really learning basic facts about the impact of delaying motherhood. I remember being told how babies were made when I was in fifth grade. I raised my hand and said, “Is there any other way?” I was taught how to avoid pregnancy and getting STDs, but no one ever told me what would happen to my fertility as I got older. I knew that fertility declined especially after the age of thirty-five, but I didn’t know how steeply. At the age of fifteen, a woman has a 40 to 50 percent chance of conceiving naturally per cycle, but after age thirty-five, she has a 15 to 20 percent chance; and by the time she’s forty-five, she has a 3 to 5 percent chance.

The phenomenon of delayed motherhood is one of the defining trends of our time, a radical shift between my generation and the generations before. In 1970, one in 100 births were to women thirty-five and over. In 2006, it was one in twelve. Meanwhile, the number of women ages forty to forty-four who remain childless, either by choice or circumstance, has doubled in a generation: in 1976, it was one in ten; by 2006, it was one in five.

The desire to have biological children has fueled a booming IVF industry, with global revenues topping $9 billion. By 2020, that number is expected to surpass $21 billion. In the United States, only fifteen states mandate some form of insurance coverage for fertility treatments. In this context, where you live and how much you make impacts whether you can pursue them, and even when one can, treatment is far from guaranteed. As much as 80 percent of IVF cycles worldwide fail.

I decided to write a book that I felt I needed and that I hoped would helpthe big lie others. I believe we need better education and we need to advocate for a better future. Recently I saw a new documentary “Sex(ed)” by Brenda Goodman about the history of sex education in America. I was shocked to discover that only 22 states mandate sex education, and of those 22, only 12 require that the information conveyed be medically accurate. That means some young people are being preached to about abstinence-only behavior and are being told that if they have sex before marriage, they will die.

The lack of adequate sex education extends to fertility knowledge. A Fertility Centers of Illinois public survey in 2012 showed that 28.1 percent didn’t know that fertility declines rapidly in women after age thirty-five. In addition, 68.4 percent of survey respondents weren’t aware that as part of a couple, both men and women are equally likely to be infertile. The results of a study by Dr. Jessica Illuzzi of Yale University School of Medicine and her team released in January 2014 in the journal Fertility & Sterility affirm this prevalent lack of awareness. As NPR reported, the majority of the 1,000 women surveyed had big gaps in knowledge, especially when it came to risk factors for infertility and birth defects; only 10 percent of respondents knew the optimal time to try to get pregnant.

Having been through my experiences, I want to make sure that other women are better prepared. I want them to have fertility facts at their fingertips and to think about their future fertility before it’s too late. I want women to know there are many ways to become a mother, and also that there are many ways to find fulfillment aside from being a mother. I want women to think carefully about why they should or shouldn’t pursue motherhood. I want them to be supported more in that pursuit by their partners, families, communities, doctors, insurance providers, and governments.

By nature, I’m an activist. I believe in turning adversity into action. I believe everything we do, no matter how small, can make a difference. Through my struggles to have a child, I learned a lot, and I am hopeful that the ideas I propose in The Big Lie will lead to a better reproductive future and better future in general for all women, and men too.

About Author:

Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer, producer, actor, and activist based in New York City. She is the author of The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock. Please visit to download a free copy of The Big Lie’s educational toolkit companion. Tanya’s writing has been published in Vogue, Bust, Paper, xoJane, Huffington Post, Pop and Politics, the Toronto Review, Art Basel Magazine, the Journal of Law and Politics, on Women’s eNews and CNN. She received her B.A. and M.A. in Chinese language and history from Harvard University. 

Food & Sex: The Two Lures of The Marriage Trap by Jennifer Probst

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Guest Author: Jennifer Probst

Jennifer Probst 1 with watermarkRecently, one of my friends commented to me on a common theme in my books. She mentioned I have a skill at creating incredible sexual tension and scorching love scenes. I beamed and thanked her. Then she said, “You really love food, huh?”

When asking her to explain further, she laughed and told me most of my books have food mentioned. She also said she was always hungry during and after reading one of my books.

I always knew when I crafted my marriage to a billionaire series I wanted to incorporate my passions. When a writer does that, the work takes on a life of its own, shimmering off the pages with a reality that lures in the reader.


I come from a tight knit Italian family and food has always been the cohesive element to our gatherings. It is both soothing and satisfying. Pulling that into a romance novel adds an extra delicious layer for the reader to enjoy.

The Marriage Trap is one of those books that wrote itself. The tension and chemistry between Maggie and Michael crackled even before I began their story. I enjoy writing a tortured alpha male, but what made Trap even more special to me was my ability to write a tortured heroine. Underneath Maggie’s sexy, confident exterior is a broken woman. She needs Michael, but it’s a long rocky journey to get her to admit it. With Michael, I needed to balance an extreme alpha male with a tenderness and patience needed to court my heroine. How do I keep them together throughout the book?

A fake marriage. Lots of sexual tension. Oh, and food.

Their dialogue, foreplay, and conflict revolves around the lure of sex, and Maggie’s battle to fight it. One of my favorite ways to torture my characters and my readers!

But with Marriage Trap, I also included the sensual element of food. Michael is the head of La Dolce Famiglia – the family bakery empire founded by his mother, Mama Conte. One of my most vivid scenes readers have told me they love is when Maggie is forced into the kitchen by his mother to cook pasta. She battles to conceal her inability to cook, and what happens is both humorous and touching. When she serves Michael, there is an emotional element of surrender that dances beneath the surface. Here’s a tease:

“What are we making?” she asked with fake cheer.

“Pasta. We shall eat a quick dinner before the rest of the marriage trapfamily arrives, then put out pastries and coffee. You know how to cook pasta, Margherita?” Relief relaxed her tight muscles. Thank God. Mama Conte picked the one meal she excelled at. She often cooked pasta late at night and knew how to get it to the perfect consistency of al dente. Maggie nodded. “Of course.”

Satisfaction flickered over the older woman’s face. “Good. We need a few batches. I’ve already gotten the ingredients.” The massive countertop held flour, giant eggs, oil, rolling pins, and a variety of other equipment. She glanced around for the box of ziti and a pot to boil the water in as Mama Conte handed her an apron. Maggie wrinkled her nose at the odd choice of clothing just to stick something in water, but what the hell. When in Italy…

“I am sure you cook pasta differently in America, so you may watch me first, then prepare your batch.”

Confusion fogged her brain for a moment, and Maggie refused to give in to panic. Where was the blue box? What was she talking about? In growing horror, she watched as wrinkled hands moved like lightning cracking eggs, straining yolks, and mixing everything in a bowl. The flour was dumped in the middle of a large board, and slowly, Mama Conte poured the wet stuff in the middle and began some kind of ritual that blended it all together. Like magic, dough suddenly appeared, and she kneaded, stretched, and danced over the blob for endless minutes. Completely fascinated by the hypnotic ritual, Maggie couldn’t believe this stuff would end up looking like anything you could actually eat. Never breaking the rhythm, Mama Conte glanced toward her. “You may begin when you are ready.”

Oh. Shit.

Reality hit her as she stared at the mass of stuff piled in front of her.

Homemade pasta! She had to make the actual dough? There was no heavenly box to open, or a jar of sauce to heat up. The stakes were much higher than she thought, and Maggie felt the beginnings of an attack nibble on her sanity.

She breathed deep. She could do this.

No way would she be broken by a lump of dough and an Italian mother just waiting to pounce. She’d show them all.

When you sit down to Mama Conte’s table, you are treated to a visual feast of food in all its forms and textures and tastes. Food is a staple in life, as is sex. Combining them together made this book…


About Author:

Jennifer Probst wrote her first book at twelve years old. She bound it in a folder, read it to her classmates, and hasn’t stopped writing since. She took a short hiatus to get married, get pregnant, buy a house, get pregnant again, pursue a master’s in English Literature, and rescue two shelter dogs. Now she is writing again.

She makes her home in Upstate New York with the whole crew. Her sons keep her active, stressed, joyous, and sad her house will never be truly clean. She is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of sexy and erotic contemporary romance. She was thrilled her book, The Marriage Bargain, was ranked #6 on Amazon’s Best Books for 2012. She loves hearing from readers. Visit her website for updates on new releases and her street team at

This Granny Flew A Spitfire!

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Guest Author: Ellie Dean

clip_image002[2]It’s not often that a writer can leave the confines of the office, or the restrictions of a deadline, so when the opportunity arises to do some research for a novel, the chance to escape for a while is irresistible.

Some Lucky Day is the fictional story of Kitty Pargeter who joined the Air Transport Auxiliary to become one of the few brave pioneer women who flew Spitfires, Typhoons and Oxford transport planes from the factories to where they were needed. The story follows Kitty and her fighter pilot brother Freddy through the terrors and excitement of a world at war, and the devastating accident in an Oxford transport plane that will force Kitty to re-evaluate her life and the dark future that now looms. But the love and support of Peggy Reilly and the family who live at Beach View Boarding House renews her spirit, and she is determined that one day she will be back in the cockpit of a Spitfire.

There were 166 women pilots, and 15 gave their lives in the service of their country. They were extraordinary women who rose to the challenge of an extraordinary time and proved they were more than worthy of being called heroes. But official British government recognition didn’t come until September 2008, when all surviving veterans were awarded a special Veterans Badge in a ceremony at 10, Downing Street.

Intrigued to know more about them, I went to the Maidenhead Heritage Centre, which proved to be a treasure trove of precious uniforms, log books, charts, diaries, letters and photographs which told the stories of these women’s fearless determination to do their bit for the war effort. But the best part of my day of research was climbing into the Spitfire simulator, and charting a flight from Maidenhead to Hastings on the south coast. Now I understood the thrill of flying, of being able to execute victory rolls and looping the loop. It was true that the Spitfire was a woman’s plane, for it was comfortable, speedy, and easy to handle, and I finally managed to land safely, if a little erratically on the grassy runway of Shoreham airfield.

That day was an eye-opener, for not only had I learnt so much about the women of the ATA, but I had also gained a certificate to prove that this granny had flown a Spitfire.

About Author:

Ellie Dean is the best-selling author of The Beach View Boarding House series which is set during WW2 on the southern coast of England in the fictional seaside town of Cliffehaven.  Ellie was born in Australia, but now lives in a tiny hamlet set deep in the heart of the South Downs in Sussex, England, which offers the tranquility so necessary for an author. Ellie married her childhood sweetheart eleven years ago, and together they share two daughters, three sons and six grandchildren, who are scattered all over the world.

Latest Book, Some Lucky Day to be published August 14th 2014.

The English Murder Mystery is Alive and Well!

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Guest Author: Lesley Cookman

ME1The thirteenth book in my Libby Sarjeant Mystery series came out as an e-book and in print last month. This genre has been my favourite since I began reading my parents’ books at the age of nine, but I was frequently told it was no longer popular, but my publisher took a chance on me – before the first book was complete – and suggested it be the first in the series. How right they were.

Subsequently, the self publishing boom has seen many people following suit, and some are good enough to have been picked up by traditional publishers like mine. So the genre is far from dying.

In the United States, although authors there are also told “the market’s not what it was” there is a healthy industry in the “Themed Cozy”. Quilting mysteries, bookshop mysteries, coffee shop mysteries, all types of culinary mysteries, cat mysteries, dog mysteries – the list goes on. I Different Place Covergather that they are not all of each author’s own choosing, rather they are suggested – characters and all – in some cases, which I wouldn’t like at all. But all of them are in the tradition of the Golden Age British Detective stories, the best known of which, of course, are by Agatha Christie, although I prefer her contemporaries, Margery Allingham, Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and the wonderful Anglophile Cater Dickson/John Dickson Carr.

Luckily for us, with the advent of the ebook, all these great names are now easily available to download, and specialist publishers are obtaining the rights of all the backlists. Their sales prove that there is, indeed, a market for this type of crime novel, which is what they all thought they were writing – just Crime. It is only latterly that we have been categorised into Noir, Police Procedural, Historical and, of course, the dreaded Cozy.

So when I began my first Libby Sarjeant book, Murder In Steeple Martin, I was just writing Crime, the sort of book I wanted read. I loved the village settings and closed communities of those old books, and I wanted to do the same, although my characters have far more aids to detection these days, with their electronic devices and access to the internet. And it soon became apparent that other people wanted to read them, too, and shortly I had a solid fan base, most of whom know the books and characters better than I do!

So here’s to the English Murder Mystery – may it live forever!

About Author:

Lesley Cookman lives near the sea in Kent. She has four terrific grown up children, a small grandson and an even smaller granddaughter. Apart from the Libby Sarjeant series, she has written features, short fiction, pantomimes, one musical, and her book How To Write A Pantomime is now in its third edition. In a previous life, she trained in drama and she still occasionally appears at her local theatre.


A Mouse and A Giraffe In Love…Why Jeanne?

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Guest Author: Jeanne Willis  

JeanneWillis_byJustineStoddart_e2818Why not? I’ve always been fascinated by love stories that go against nature, whether they’re fictional or otherwise, romantic or maternal; the eye-witness account of the lioness who put all carnivorous thoughts aside and adopted a fawn, the legend of Tarzan brought up by apes, King Kong’s doomed relationship with diminutive Fay.

It’s the stuff of classics; the Beast falls in love with Beauty; we know he’s punching way above his weight and weep. The Little Mermaid yearns for earthly love but hasn’t got a leg to stand on; anyone who has a heart- broken or intact- can relate to it.

It’s a recurring theme of mine. I can’t explain why, but looking back over the hundreds of books I’ve written over the last 30 years, I realise I’ve unwittingly explored the theme of impossible love on several occasions, most controversially in a picture book called Tadpole’s Promise. Published in the eighties and still in print, it has also been sold to the Greek market not as a children’s book, but an adult tragedy.

The plot is simple but potentially shocking so bear in mind that I wrote this when I was eighteen and hadn’t kissed many frogs:- A tadpole and a caterpillar fall in love- fair enough, we can’t help who we fancy- but alas, she makes him promise not to change. Unfortunately, he can’t prevent metamorphosis any more than she can. His broken promise breaks her heart and they go their separate ways. When they finally emerge into their fresh adult forms, the frog fails to recognise his first love and eats the butterfly. But hey, that’s life. Kids get that and have been known to laugh. Adults gasp and recoil. I once had to lend a trainee teacher my hanky.

Never Too Little To Love is a much gentler approach to the subject fornever too late to love the youngest child. Again, it’s a love affair between two very different species, only this time it’s stature that gets in the way of romance; how can a little mouse ever reach high enough to kiss the towering yet deeply attractive giraffe he has fallen in love with when he can barely see over a cup cake?

The answer my lovers is paper- engineering. Over a series of right-hand pages cut like steps, ingeniously designed by someone far better with the scissors than me, the mouse builds an increasingly wobbly pile of household objects to climb up, including a match box, a melon, a cup, a cabbage, a candle, a clock, a cake and pair of stilts. Sadly he completely ignores Health and Safety regulations and as is often the case, he almost reaches the object of his desire, only to be dashed to the floor in an undignified heap along with his hopes and dreams.

But love conquers all.  If the mouse can’t come to the mountain, the mountain must come to the mouse; a pop-up (or rather, a pop-down) besotted Tina-Too-Tall bends over and gives him a kiss, which just goes to prove that even if you’re Tiny, you are never Too-Little to Love. Something well worth remembering if we ever feel small and unloved, no matter how old we are.

About Author:

Jeanne Willis was born in St Albans, Herts. She wrote her first book when she was 5- a very slim volume about cat care- and produced a weekly comic called “Quimbi” for the neighbours’ children with her sister, who illustrated the stories. Jeanne had her first picture book published in 1980 by Andersen Press and now written over 250 books including educational, novelty, poetry, novellos and teen novels. She is married with two children and lives in North London.

Jeanne is an award- winning children’s author with over 30 years experience, published internationally across all age groups.  Awards include the Nasen for “Susan Laughs” North East Award for teen novel, “The Hard Man of The Swings” published by Faber. Shortlisted for the Whitbread / nominated for the IBBY in 2004 for Naked Without a Hat, the silver Smarties for “Tadpole’s Promise” and overall winner of the Sheffield and Red House Award for “Who’s in the Loo.” 


For the Love of Small Towns

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Guest Author: Lucy March

LaniDianeRichMy husband and I have been house-hunting recently. When we first moved back to the Central New York area, all we knew was that we had to be in a good school district for the kids. Outside of that… we weren’t really sure. So we started looking around, visiting the towns I’d known when I’d lived in the area before.

Then… we found it.

“Oh my god,” my husband said as we wandered around the sidewalks in the lovely village we’d decided to check out that day. “It’s Nodaway Falls!”

Now, having grown up in upstate New York, I based the magical town of Nodaway Falls on my experiences in a number of small New York towns. I loved the village life, the way everyone always knows each other (and hence, is always in each other’s business) and just the feel of a little community sort of tucked out of the way. Add magical powers and hot guys, and I’ve got a book series. But I hadn’t been thinking of any one village in particular, although the more we walked around the town, the more I reconsidered.

“There’s Happy Larry’s!” he said, pointing at a square, squat brick building with two very small windows. And it was Happy Larry’s – almost exactly as I’d envisioned it, with the exception of the second story where Cain, the conjuring bad boy from Tennessee, holed up for a while.

“And there’s Treacher’s grocery store!” And lo and behold, there was a tiny little nightgrocery store, pretty much just as I’d envisioned Treacher’s. In this town, instead of a waffle house where everyone hangs out, it appeared to be a hardware store, but still… it was a pretty close match considering I’d never so much as visited this town before writing the books. The town actually *felt* like Nodaway Falls. If, late at night, a scorned woman magically created pool balls from thin air and threw them at her cheating boyfriend, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised.

So, we’re buying a house in the village, and we’ll see what magic erupts there. In the meantime, for anyone who wants to visit, just grab a copy of A Little Night Magic, and you’ll be right there with us!

About Author:

Lucy March is the alter-ego of NYT and USA Today Bestselling author Lani Diane Rich. She teaches storytelling at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She podcasts about storytelling from her business,, where she also aids independent authors in self-publishing their books. She lives in the Syracuse area with her two  daughters and her husband, Alastair Stephens.

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