About Me

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Stockport, United Kingdom
Angela Cater is a writer, illustrator and self-publisher. Her books are published by Tabby Cat Press. She is the writer/illustrator of "The Adventures of Sailor Sam" and "A Perfect Nest for Mrs Mallard."

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Great Snowball Escapade - Jan D Holiday

Wilhelmina has had a rotten Christmas, thanks to her mean cousin Bud coming to stay. Things don’t get any better when she returns to school – not only is Bud in the same class, but she has to sit next to him! Bud is the school bully. He dictates who is allowed to play and where, he fights with Wil and her friends, deliberately gets her into trouble with teachers and her Mum, and there is no getting away from him because now he lives in her home!

Bud’s parents are going through a divorce, and Wil’s Mum encourages her to be understanding and nice to Bud, but that’s not easy when he’s so mean.

“The Great Snowball Escapade” has a believable and likeable heroine and children will easily identify with her and the situations she finds herself in. The book is effectively illustrated throughout with simple line-drawings.

Do Bud and Wil finally sort out their differences? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Interview with Jan D Holiday, Author & Illustrator

How did you get started?
In 1983 I started writing seriously when a friend asked me to read a few pages from a historical romance she was writing. I told her what I thought about it and she asked me to help her write the book. We did finish it and sent it to an agent who was kind and sent the manuscript back with a detailed account of what was wrong with it - and there was plenty wrong with it! My friend went on to other things while I found that I loved writing and did not want to stop.
Did you always want to be an author?
No, I didn't. My father was a writer too. He wrote every weekend for as long as I can remember, though I never thought of writing myself when he was alive, apart from one rainy day in sixth grade which I spent writing a story and enjoyed doing so. But I was so self-conscioius about my spelling difficulties that I didn't think I could write seriously.

What type of stories do you write and how many books have you written?
I have written many short stories which I like writing. They are quick to write and I find it fun to compact everything into one small story that can stand on its own. I have found that my love is writing children's stories and doing the illustrations myself. I have ten stories written that need illustrations and two are teen novels that are yet unfinished. I have two published books so far.
How do you know that an idea is worth following?
I don't know. I just start working on a project and researching the topics I need to know about to write the story and in most cases, I finish it.
How do you create your characters?
I really can't say. They just come to me and none of them are based on people I know.
How long does it take you to write and illustrate a book?
That always depends on what is going on around me. As I said earlier, most of my stories I wrote a while ago, but I think most of them took a few months and even up to eight months for the longer stories.
My newly published book, The Great Snowball Escapade, is a chapter book for 6 to 8 year olds which I wrote in 1989. I just finished the illustrations which took about 6 months fitting them in around my family, work, cooking and pets (who all come first).

Have you had any formal art training?
Not really, although I had art for 4 years in high school and have taken many art classes along the way.
What's the hardest thing for you to draw?
People. I have to study faces for a long time and even then I might get them wrong.
Do you have any hobbies that you like to do besides writing?
Yes, I love reading, drawing and painting, and I play a little piano (very little) and gardening. I enjoy making things grow. I have found that hobbies can take me out of my problems. Sometimes you need to stop thinking about your problems to get perspective on them. Hobbies can do that.

What are you working on right now?
I have just finished The Great Snowball Escapade and will be starting paintings for another of my stories soon. It is a story about a boy who wants a puppy but gets a dog that is older. It's what they do together that makes them pals.
Do you have a website and a place where readers can purchase your books?
Yes. My website is Book Garden Publishing and both my children's books, Janoose the Goose and The Great Snowball Escapade can be bought at Amazon and B&N, as well as ordered in many bookstores.

If you could give one piece of advice to every new writer, what would it be?
The best advice I can give is what I was told by writers and English professors I have met. Edit, edit and re-edit. Editing is one thing authors must take seriously, never overlooking its importance.
Please call back in a few days time for a review of Jan's latest book.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Cloud Seekers by Robert L Calixto


As a child, I frequently saw pictures and faces in the fire, cracks in the ceiling, and the garish 1960's patterned wallpaper or curtains. So, it is easy for me to identify with the Cloud Seekers.

The book encourages children to look beyond the obvious and to use their imagination. The story is simply written and easy to read for beginners.

Illustrator, Russel Wayne, has done a great job at depicting the six culturally diverse friends and there is likely to be a character that each child will identify with - whether they are an animal lover or a lover of biscuits! The images in the clouds are recognisable whilst still remaining 'cloud-like.'

The book opens up possiblities of discussing types of clouds (I was always fascinated with the different names and trying to identify the different kinds) and how clouds are formed so could be used as part of such a lesson.

Available from Halo Publishing

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Interview with Robert L. Calixto - Author and Dreamer

Robert L Calixto's first book, "The Cloud Seekers: A Pirate Ship in the Clouds" will be published by Halo Publishing during the first week of March.

What type of reading inspires you to write and what kind of books did you enjoy most as a child?
To find inspiration to write, I try to read anything and everything I can get my hands on, includingonline sites like Wikipedia and various blogs. Lately, I've been reading a lot of biographies of great-minded people, especially writers like E.B. White, Roald Dahl and Oscar Wilde. As a relatively new writer, I find E.B. White's life story a great beacon for aspiring writers. I also have a collection of inspirational self-help books that I have collected over the years. I spent my childhood in Manila,Philippines until I was eleven years old. My parents seldom read children's books to me, so I had to catch up in my early teens in America. I still enjoy reading some of the great children's classics like 'Charlotte's Web', 'Alice in Wonderland' and every by Dr. Seuss to my children. These books always seem to loosen my imagination. I have to also mention that in my early teens, I used to enjoy reading my Mom's Reader's Digest subscription. I was addicted. I couldn't wait for those little things to come in the mail and read them from front to back. There were a lot of inspiring stories in those mags!

What is the inspiration behind the Cloud Seekers?
The Cloud Seekers is quite special. As a young child growing up in the tropical islands of the Philippines, during the rainy seasons I spent countless hours on the corrugated metal roof of my grandmother's bodega-style house, staring at the clouds. There was a particular day when it all got started. Just before I turned six, as one of my earliest memories, I remember my entire family plus several cousins spending an entire afternoon looking at the clouds; seeing faces, animals, cars, hearts, and a really huge barge, amongst other things. In the first book of the Cloud Seekers series, I turned the barge into a pirate ship. I still remember going up to the roof by myself, constantly trying to find "things" in the clouds. When my family migrated to America, the clouds just weren't quite the same. To this day, I still have a habit of looking up at the clouds. As a son of immigrant parents, I equate the experience of cloud seeking as a metaphor for finding a better life. I shared this childhood experience in the back of "A Pirate Ship in the Clouds", called "A Cloud Seeker's Story". A friend read the story and she convinced me to include it in the book. I'm very glad that I did.

What do you think is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
To create a character, you have to start with a theme for your story. That's a major part of the foundation of your story. The characters suport that theme in their actions and words. And of course, your characters have to be believable. To be believable, a character has to be someone that anyone and everyone can identify with. In my book, all of the characters are children between the ages of five and nine. They all have very distinct personalities and even dress the parts, so they are much easier to identify with. There's a cowboy, a princess, an athlete, an artist, a sweetheart, and a well-rounded boy (yes, he's well-rounded in every sense of the word!) Purposely, I set a goal early on so that each character would be easily identifiable to any child reading the book. Diversity and acceptance was the theme. I'm quite sure I covered all bases. To create believable charactes, you really have to be very consistent, in the way they talk, the way they move, and even down to 'how the girl with a sweetheart personality holds her teddy bear'.

What is your creative process? How do you set about writing and illustrating a book?
First of all, I can't draw even if my life depended on it, so I had to find the right illustrator to bring my vision to life. With the Cloud Seekers, I described as much detail on each page as I possibly could. I think that is you're going to collaborate with an illustrator, it's so much better to over-describe than to under-describe. It will make life so much easier for your illustrator. Also, I think it's very important to know what you want before you start. Then give the illustrator as much freedom to express his originality and genius on the page without losing your original idea.

From the very beginning, I told Russel Wayne, illustrator for the Cloud Seekers that I absolutely loved his style. The only criteria I asked for in return was that he needed to love my story as much as I loved his drawings. If he only 'liked' it, then we couldn't go on. I wanted us to be equally passionate about the project and I think that shows in the book. It would be ideal if that happens in every one of my children's books. I can only hope.

As for my creative writing process, I use the three classic components to ocmplete my story; the theme, the characters, and of course the story. Most new writers think that the story is the most important thing. Without an engaging theme and memorable characters, you won't have much of a story. These foundations are crucial to any story. It's what people hold onto, forever. In writing a story, for me there simply aren't any rules. Sometimes a great story comes to mind and I build my characers around that, and sometimes vice-versa. It really doesn't matter what comes first. You just have to knwo how or what to wrap around an idea. You can come up with a great title, and if you wrap that title with great characters and a great story, then you're on to something. I don't set rules for myself. I just let my imagination run free and hopefully I can express it as best I possibly can. You have to have a lot of faith in your abilities if you want to become a great writer. Like E.B. White says, "Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar."

Describe your work area.
I have a small office in my house, about 7 feet by 8 feet, with a window overlooking the backyard and a fairly big desk that takes up half of the room. It's my own little writing space.
Does reader feedback help you?
Yes it does. I'm at a point in my life where my ego doesn't rule me. I can take any feedback or criticism, asl ong as there is reasoning behind it. I like listening to other people's opinions becasue most people's intentions are usually positive and helpful.

What has been your experience with publishers?
I've only really dealt with my current publisher so far, since this is my first formally published book. At this point, I'm very happy with Halo Publishing International. They are a small sized self-publishing company and there's always someone there to communicate with. Their art department is truly phenomenal, I might add. I'm really happy with the way the book has turned out.

Is there a web address where we can see some of your work?
The Cloud Seekers is at http://thecloudseekers.com/ and my other writings are at http://robertlcalixto.weebly.com/

What are you working on now?
I am currently working on the drafts of another children's book called "The Earth is a Taco." I'm also finalizing the draft of the Cloud Seekers' second book of the series, called "Meet the Cloud Seekers." When I worte The Cloud Seekers, I wrote eight stories. My original goal was to publish them all at the same time, as a series. But with time and financial restraints, it'll have to be one at a time. I can't wait for all of them to see the light of day.

What advice do you have for someone who likes to write and would like to make a living from it?
First learn as much as you can about writing and the publishing industry. Knowing which direction to take helps you focus on your destination. And that destination is your finished manuscript. Once you're finished, the second challenge is to get it published. Then onto the next project. Remember that from one project to the next you'll grow, you'll evolve, you'll improve. Most people never get the first book done because they think everything has to be perfect. "Life is an inevitable process of growth and transformation," I once read. There's a lot to be said for having a 'body of work'. I mean, I love writing children's books. I'd say it's my favourite genre, but I also have many other book projects in the works which are not only for children. I can't wait to get those done too.

How do you set about publicising and selling your work?
The way I see it, marketing is the second half of any of my book projects. Afte ryou've come up with your finished product, whether it's self or traditionally published, you still have to promote it. I love the challenges of marketing your own art. I think it is a lot of fun. I plan to do book signings, radio or tv interviews, cable advertising, school presentations and readings, and lots and lots of internet marketing. sharing your art is like sharing your light with the world!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Interview with Shelina Ishani, creator of the Jazzy series

What kind of books from your childhood inspired you to write?
There are many books from my childhood that have inspired me to write the Jazzy series. The most memorable one is the Twinkle short stories. This was a great series about a young girl, Twinkle, who with the help of her puppy, Lulu was involved in many adventures. I remember looking forward to reading the stories every week.
What was the inspiration behind the Jazzy series of books?
The inspiration behind the Jazzy series is my three year old daughter, Jenna. Jenna is an animal lover just like Jazzy. All the pets in the Jazzy series are out own pets, thanks to Jenna. Puppy is our 16 year old cat. Snowball is our 8 month old dog. Furry and Precious are our budgies and Shue was our goldfish who recently passed away. So, yep, our house is full of pets. I love animals and so do my kids. I feel that kids learn unconditional love and kindness when growing up with pets.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
I feel that for a characer to be believable, the read should be able to relate to it. I created Jazzy because I felt that there is a lack of books depicting the power of animals in a child's life. Research has indicated that children who grow up with animals learn to be kind and gentle adults. This is exactly what I am trying to achieve with the Jazzy series.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
Well, I hope so. I know my kids enjoy me reading stories to them. So far, I have read the Jazzy books to my son's preschool class, a mixed group of kids and my older son's third grade class. All of them really enjoyed the stories. Next month, I'm booked to read in two elementary schools in Edina, MN. So...I really hope that I am a good story teller.
Does reader feedback help you? How do you obtain this?
I really appreciate reader feedback because after all, it is the readers that I am trying to relate to with the Jazzy series. I rely on the reader's feedback on the type of story, the illustrations, the media tha tI use to illustrate with and the font that I use. If my readers enjoy the books that I have created, then I feel that I have achieved success. So, I strongly feel that reader feedback is critical in this field. I obtina reader feedback firstly from the most critical group ... my family. My husband and three kids show me no mercy when they read one of my books for the first time. I then pass it on to extended family, friends and neighbours. Once those suggestions have been incorporated, I get the first proof of the book which I pass on to reviewers, librarians and teachers. Then the final copy is done, I ask fellow authors to post review of the books on Amazon.com and on my website. So, it is a long process but it is totally worth it.
You are one of a growing number of self-published children's writers/illustrators. Why did you decide to take this route? Is it difficult?
I did a lot of research prior to deciding to self-publish my book. The thing that attracted me to self-publishing is that you can have the freedom of when to make your work available to the market. For instance, I published Jazzy's Lovely Christmas just prior to Christmas. I also like that the books can be printed on demand, so inventory is not an issue. Finally, I also like that the author has more control over the entire publishing process.
Self-publishing is difficult. I am not very computer savvy. So, my husband had to teach me the programs for illustration and layout. Also, he was kind enough to help me design and set up the website.
How do you create your illustrations?
First, I sketch the illustrations on paper. I then scan them and perform touch ups in Adobe Illustrator. Finally, I add colour to the sketches using Adobe Photoshop.
What is the hardest thing for you to draw?
The hardest thing for me is people. But I think I am slowly getting better at it.
Do you ever work with other authors or do you prefer to only illustrate your own work?
As of yet, I have not worked with any other authors, but I am certainly open to the idea.
Describe your workspace and how you work.
My workspace is the kitchen table. I usually get all my work done once the kids go to bed.
Do you have a website where we cn see some of your work?
All my books are posted on my site both as slide shows and as PDF files. The site is http://www.jazzyseries.com
How do you set about promoting and selling your books?
I do a lot of networking online. Some of the sites that I have found useful are the children's writers' group on Yahoo and Jacketflap.
What are you working on now?
I am currently workingon three short stories (not Jazzy related) and the fourth book in the Jazzy series which will hopefully be ready in time for Father's Day.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

An ideal series for beginner readers

The Jazzy Series by author/illustrator Shelina Ishani

The Jazzy series of stories is aimed at the under 5s who are just learning to read and are perfect beginners' books.

In the first story Jazzy and Puppy, we meet the young girl Jazzy and her imaginatively named cat 'Puppy'. Puppy follows Jazzy everywhere until one day when she suddenly goes missing. Jazzy finally tracks her down and finds a litter of kittens.

The second book, Jazzy Gets a Dog, introduces us to many more of Jazzy's pets. After pestering her parents, she finally gets to go and choose her dream puppy and has one more pet to love.

In Jazzy's Lovely Christmas, Jazzy wishes to buy a special Christmas present for each of her pets and is disappointed to find that everything costs far more than the money she has. Her mother explains that there is one gift she can give her pets that costs nothing at all - love. Jazzy comes to realise that love is the real meaning of Christmas and that there are some things that money can't buy.

All the stories are very simply written and easy for a young child to follow and understand. The repetition of names and words allows for learning to read. The illustrations are bright and appealing to children.

All the books are available from Amazon and signed copies can be ordered from the Jazzy website.