Friday Barnes Girl Detective by R A Spratt, Book Review by Jill Smith

Friday Barnes Girl Detective cover

Book Review by Jill Smith©Aug18

Title: Friday Barnes Girl Detective

Author: R A Spratt

Publisher: Random House Australia

Friday Barnes is the youngest of five children. She’s not a happy child and she tries very hard not to be noticed by anyone. Her parents are very systematic and an unexpected child nine years after their youngest of four planned children was entering high school, was not in on their agenda. However, they discovered they could just manage to fit in a birth, after a PowerPoint presentation her mother gave when her waters broke. Then her parents and family continued to live their lives as though Friday did not exist.R A Spratt at Somerset best

By the time Friday was eleven she was so good at being unnoticed by everyone that she discovered she had a problem. She was going to have to go to high school.  Friday was cleaver and well read. She loved to read everything, particularly detective stories. Her Uncle Bernie was the only relative she knew who she could ask for advice. He was an ex-policeman who babysat her once a week and turned on the reality TV for her to watch when he was there. He was an insurance investigator and he had a problem with a case he couldn’t solve. Friday had tried various ways to get out of going to high school so when her uncle shared his problem she offered to solve it to gain the $50,000 reward.

R A Spratt bio picNow you would think being awarded $50,000 for solving a baffling crime would be a blessing for Friday. She decided to spend the money enrolling in the most expensive boarding school in the whole country. Her motives were practical. The school was based on profit-making and she would be able to bribe the PE teachers so she would never be forced to run a cross-country again.

As you can tell Friday was socially inept because she’d kept herself so distant from everyone to remain unnoticed. This created a new problem for Friday. She’d never been nervous about starting school before, and she’d never had to conform to wearing a uniform. Her brown cardigan was usually a way of ensuring she was ignored. At this school, she realised it made her stand out.Friday Barnes alternate cover Girl Detective

I won’t go on with the rest of the plot except to say that it’s full of hilarious situations. I chortled through the whole book. I was thoroughly impressed by R A Spratt when I saw her deliver a constant stream of engaging chatter to a group of students at Somerset Literary Festival. Rachel Spratt is bold, loud and over the top. This is the start of a series by this comedy writer. I could hear the author’s voice in every sentence and will happily recommend this book to any adventurous young adult.

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The Ten Penners out and about…

The Ten Penners out and about…

burleigh-heads-ss-MarionThe Ten Penners represented by Marion and Jill will be at Surfers Paradise State School on the 27th August.

We’re looking forward to again presenting our books and having a bookmark making exercise with an engaged audience of children.

Burleigh-heads-ss Jill

It should be another fun day!

We’ll be taking some friends with us to explain where we get ideas from for our characters.

Here’s Red Beard


Red Beard

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Romance writer Ally Blake…

On the 7th July 2018 at Broadbeach Library I attended a Romance Writing presentation by Mills & Boon author Ally Blake.
ally blake at Broadbeach LibraryWriting tips have a way of being applied to all genre’s so I really enjoyed the information she shared.
It was comprehensive covering all the components that create a romance novel.
What is a romance novel?
What’s the Big Idea?
Plotters and Pantsers
Once Upon a Time
Character, Character, Character
He Said, She Said
Goal, Motivation & Conflict
Sensual Tension
The Black Moment
Long Dark Night of the Soul
“I Love You”
Happy Ever After
The End
As the workshop was a powerpoint display and all covered by copyright I can only say that it was in depth and could easily have gone on all day with her audience lapping up everything Ally had to say. So naturally, I asked Ally if she would agree to do an interview with me so I could share some of her insights with my readers.

1 – When did you start writing?

The moment I picked up a pen. English was my favourite subject at school.  I did a double English major at Uni. I’d write even if nobody read a word of it.

2 – Did you always write romance?

Always.  Love to write it, love to read it, love to watch romantic movies and TV shows too.  Bliss!


3 – Do you have an agent?


4 – You admit to being very organised, has this been a developed writing habit you’ve formed over the years?

Oh no, I’m completely disorganised and distractible.  Which is why I am veeerryyy interested in being organised. So much so I’ve done talks about it. And run a website and a Facebook page called The Organised Writer. I am constantly on the lookout for ways to be more efficient. To squeeze more value out of my writing time.

5 – Do you have a special writing place?

Cafes.  I consider them patrons of the arts.  I’ve never had a problem renting a table for a couple of hours for the price of a coffee.  My local now gives me staff discount 😊.  Libraries are brilliant too. Somewhere to plug in for as long as you need and all those words surrounding you to uplift and inspire!cover-FakingItToMakingIt-AllyBlake-HarlequinKiss-200px

6 – Mills & Boon editors, do they recommend changes? Or, are you now able to hand over a more polished manuscript, after having written so many books.

I’m working on book 37 right now and I can honestly tell you every book is different.  My last book has very little in the way of revisions – pretty much “it’s a little too long, so cut a bit, please.”  The book before that needed a whole ending re-write. (And those editors of mine know what they are talking about.)

But I loooove revisions. To me, that’s where the real work is done. The honing and tightening and polishing and plucking off all the threads of the story until a cumbersome, overworked,under-conditioned collection of concepts and one-liners become a neat and shiny totality.

7 – You mentioned your contracts are two or three books at a time. Was the first book a once only acceptance or did they indicate a series should follow?

As soon as my first book was bought their next question was “What’s next?”  A publisher is not looking for a one book wonder. They are looking for a career author they can invest in and build.

ally blake bio pic8 – Have you changed your style of writing to suit Mills & Boon?

Not a jot!  I was born to write fun, flirty romcoms and so that’s what I do.

9 – Would you ever consider writing another genre?

Sure, if the idea grabbed me enough.

10 – Where do you see yourself in ten years time?

I don’t really ever like to think that far ahead.  The same reason why I don’t plot.  If I know how the story is going to end then it’s no longer interesting to me.  So, as Hagrid said, “What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.”

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The books I bought at Somerset 2018

A-Corner-of-White coverThe first book I bought at Somerset,

I’ve already read and reviewed and it’s on the Book Reviews Children’sYA-older tab:-

Jacklyn Moriarty bio black and white

A Corner of White by Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

The second book I bought was:-

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

cath crowley picBrief Goodreads review

This is a great YA book.

I love how Cath Crowley introduces imperfect characters in perfect ways. Their faults and frailties making them who they are, the guys may appear though, their exterior may be rough and ready, burly and bullish, but underneath they are poets and artists, while Graffiti Moon coverthe girls, maybe highly strung and intense, over the top and dizzy, but underneath creative and caring giving depth to all the characters.

The reader is drawn into the world of graffiti artists, out of control parties and a dark night in the park being attacked by some very bad people. Cath makes real the young people who are celebrating finishing year 12 complicated. Growing up is never easy.

The third book I bought was:-

Goodbye Mr Hitler by Jackie french coverGoodbye, Mr Hitler by Jackie French

brief Goodreads review

This was a moving and gruelling tale. The story shows howfrench-jackie-bio pic love can replace hate even after it has been ingrained by torture and mistreatment. I’ll have a full review shortly.

The Fourth book I bought was:

Friday Barnes Girl Detective coverFriday Barnes Girl Detective by R A Spratt

Goodreads brief review

I’ve just finished Friday Barnes Girl Detective and chortled R A Spratt bio picthrough it. As R A Spratt spoke to her audience at Somerset I knew I’d love it. Rachel Spratt is bold, loud and over the top, but Friday Barnes prefers to be ignored and to go unnoticed.

I’ll have a full review shortly but will happily recommend this book to any adventurous young adult.

Books I’ve bought and read since Somerset

girl saves boy by Steph Bowe

girl saves boy steph bowe novel coverWho would know that Nina doesn’t have a normal family? Why would Spencer even suspect Nina of being anything other than an enchanting new girl at school? This story revolves around how Nina and Spencer keep their daily lives secret.

Nina hates the life she has. She’s counting down the days until she reaches eighteen and can leave her family for good. She doesn’t want to keep doing what her crazy mother wants her to do. She doesn’t want her younger brother to be going through the same brainwashing. Her father is a good teacher and he loves teaching. Why does he let her mother call the shots? She literally wants them to continue to rob banks. She trains Nina and her brother to pickpocket and break and enter cars. Nina feels the strain of constantly moving towns when all she really wants to do is settle down into a normal house, with normal friends going to a normal school. She really does like Spencer but she always has to be on guard. No one can know that the family she is part of, is one step ahead of the law. She also knows they are only in this town for four months, so it’s no good getting too involved with anyone.
Steph Bowe bio pic 2
Spencer has a normal family, school and home. His gregarious and wild friend Bridie, sticks with him through thick and thin, except when they go out and Bridie goes for the latest Base guitarist in the band. His sister Monica hasn’t spoken a word in months only communicating through Conversation Hearts. His father is like a walking zombie. All happened after arguments between his mother and father and his mother leaving them to live in Fiji with a younger he-man. Then he meets Nina, and he thinks things are starting to look up. He’s shattered when she leaves one day out of the blue.

The collision course Nina and Spencer are on moves this story to the next level and makes it a real page-turner.

Steph is young herself and draws on her own experiences to write close to the bone adolescent feelings. I loved this book and will now go to read her other two books, Boy Saves Girl she wrote when she was fifteen, and Night Swimming her latest release in 2017

The next event I attended was a View Club Literary Luncheon with Josephine Moon and Jenny Old who wrote McAllister which has now been re-released as Back of Beyond.

I purchased The Beekeeper’s Secret by Josephine Moon as I’d already acquired a copy of McAllister at a Gold Coast Writers meeting. I’ve yet to read this.

Brief Goodreads review:-  The Beekeeper’s Secret by Josephine Moon

the beekeeper's secret josephine moonThis is a delightful book about family conflict, guilty secrets and appalling cover-up of sexual misconduct by Catholic Priests. The book reads like one best friend chatting to another.josephine moon bio pic Its charm and the comparison between bees and people a tangible cohesive layer to the story.

I’ll have a full review shortly and will endeavour to read all of Josephine Moon’s books.

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My day at Somerset – Part Five

It’s July and I’m posting the last entry of my day at the Somerset Literary Festival in March 2018. Thank you, readers, for bearing with me, (I’ve started a new job and the training and learning period has been full time.)

R A Spratt drawing on whiteboard at SomersetTo round off a marvellous day, I rushed from the marquee on the oval up to the room that used to be the Library now called the Senior Learning Centre, and I knew it had air conditioning and comfortable seats. I arrived before the children and took a place at the front of the room. Rachel Spratt was setting up. The first thing she did was draw a sketch on the board of Nanny Piggins. I admire anyone who can draw and my heart cheered. Her young daughter was drawing smiles on the whiteboard.

Summary of my day at Somerset 15th March 2018 – Part Four By Jill Smith©July 2018

1.45 to 2.30 R A Sprattspratt-rachel-bio pic

R.A. Spratt is about to launch the first book in her new series The Peski Kids, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach. The story of siblings who have to stop fighting with each other for just long enough to fight crime. R.A. Spratt also wrote Friday Barnes, Girl Detective, an eight-part series set in an exclusive boarding school with deeply eccentric staff and students.

She also wrote The Adventures of Nanny Piggins, a nine book series about an impossibly glamorous flying pig who ran away from a circus to become a childcare worker and flagrantly ignore all contemporary theories about healthy eating. R.A. Spratt enjoys getting hate tweets from exasperated readers who claim to be dying of frustration due to the cliff-hanger endings. R.A. has written for 32 different television shows. Even she has trouble remembering what they were all called.

R.A. Spratt lives in Bowral, Australia with her husband and two daughters. She has three chickens and five goldfish, and a desperately needy dog.

The children were younger than in previous sessions and Rachel was loud and grabbed their attention from the start. Before she began the session I whispered to her daughter ‘I bet she’s a great mum!’ She agreed with a nod. 

The Adventures of Nanny PigginsRachel started by saying she was fabulous, that they should all know that from the start.

Then she explained that she was a children’s writer and TV writer.

She asked the audience if they knew who Nanny Piggins was?

There was a lot of giggling and affirmative answers.R A Spratt at Somerset

She then asked – who likes books? – who’s your favourite author? She went on to explain about Nanny Piggins. She likes to make the titles self-explanatory – like Nanny Piggins Saves Christmas. She read a little of the story. Then she introduces the characters – Derek, Samantha and Micheal. Pink Pig is 4 feet tall but Boris is a 10-foot dancing Bear!

R A Spratt at window SomersetWhere do you get your inspiration from? – Her answer to her own question is that you should treat your brain like a compost bin. Chuck in an idea and it can come out as something you can use.

She got one idea from an awards night, her brother was getting an award. The Deputy Headmaster asked if there was anyone who could play the piano.  So she wrote a story that showcases Boris as a ballet dancer.

She brings out her props her ukulele and flute.  She runs to the window to yells out at the window. The audience found this hysterical.

She loves Jane Austin, Robin Klien – Halfway across the galaxy turn left!

How does she use her imagination? She does school presentations and works from home she loves dates and chocolates.

Never let having terrible ideas stop you writing. She’s had seventeen books published already and the next one is about to be published.

Brother is rich and she always runs him down. Lots of emotion and drama in her life with a conflict between brother or sister.

So one kid in the audience asked Rachel – how many years have you been crazy?R A Spratt at Somerset best

She baulked briefly then went on in a more serious vein. Comedy writers are really good at lateral thinking, sometimes they cover painful parts of their life. She had a hernia as an infant and was in constant pain. It made her process information differently.

She picked up her ukulele and sang.

She concluded by saying it’s super important to think creatively. Whatever you do in life is problem-solving. Think of all the possibilities.

As the audience left the room I grabbed the chance to say thanks for a wonderful session and get my copy of Friday Barnes Girl Detective signed. This was my last session and I knew when Rachel goes to the bookshop there would be a cue to get her signature. I left the school happy for another dose of writing inspiration.



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My day at Somerset Festival – Part four

I went to my next session after lunch in Marquee 3. It’s always an experience in the marquee’s on the oval as it’s either sweltering hot and desperately uncomfortable or wet, muddy and sweltering hot. So having been a Somerset veteran I knew what to expect. As for the presenters, I wonder what they think. I’d met Cath before and was early enough to re-introduce myself and enthuse over finally buying ‘Graffiti Moon’, which I promptly asked her to sign. I’ve already done an interview with Cath that you’ll find on the ‘Interviews Gals’ tab. As you can tell I’m a bit fan of this creative talented lady.

Summary of my day at Somerset 15th March 2018 – Part Four By Jill Smith©June 2018

Cath Crowley bio pic12.45 to 1.30 Cath Crowley

Cath Crowley is a young adult author published in Australia and internationally. She is the author of The Gracie Faltrain trilogy, Chasing Charlie Duskin, and Graffiti Moon. In 2011, Graffiti Moon won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult fiction, the Ethel Turner Award for Young People’s Literature, and was named an Honour Book in the Children’s Book Council, Book of the Year. Cath lives in Ballarat, Victoria. Title List includes; Take Three Girls, Words in Deep Blue, Graffiti Moon.

Graffiti Moon coverCath introduced herself as an author for usually fourteen-year old’s plus. Explaining her books ‘Words in Deep Blue’ and ‘Grafitti Moon’ are for this age bracket. She also admitted that she is nervous public speaking.

Graffiti Moon is about a girl in love with Shadow who she’s never met. Ed is Shadow. It’s the last night of year 12 and the group of teenagers are planning to celebrate, and maybe deal in a nocturnal activity they don’t usually do. What Show does is art. The story is about the importance of art.

Graffiti Moon cover 2In Melbourne you are allowed to be a street artist, taggers just tag their names. Cover designs can change, the yellow can is the first.  The other cover is more about the art.

In school, Ed was not very good at English. He could hardly read and relied on his friend to do the words to go with his graffiti, so Poet was his night roaming cohort.

Cath needed strategies for the book, to figure out how to plot and plan how these boys would go out at night.

Falling in love can be dangerous. Art can change peoples lives. So she started with the characters.

To get a feel for her characters she drove around at night to a park near home. She got a bit lost and ended up meeting four guys who came out of nowhere, they were covered in tatts who wanted her to sign a form saying she was their mum so they could skip school.

The idea of a nighttime poet spraying poems became the voice of a character which the catalyst for the book.cathcrowley-39

She had a phone call from a graffiti artist and questions came to mind. What would it feel like to be an artist? He hadn’t told his mum about and he had an alarm but slept through it and was busted. Blue – the colour of hope was on his hands.

The graffiti artists she met would tell her their ideas for stories and she would write them down. They thought the stories were dumb, but they weren’t.

Lucy – vibrant colours – glass blowing shapes. The idea for her interest in glass blowing came from Prince Ruben Drop, you can look it up on YouTube – always forms a teardrop in ice water, top of teardrop won’t break but the tail falls apart.

Ed is tough, but pick on his reading and he gets upset.

Jazz appeared in the book when she was writing it.

cath crowley picWhen you get a red pen marking had enough respect to go through and correct. That’s the first edit. She got stuck on a girl in the basement. She deleted it then rewrote it. She deleted the whole book and rewrote it.

Cath said Phillip Pullman and J. K. Rowling inspire her. Then invited questions from the audience.

Q. What made you decide to write?

A. She was always telling stories and wrote letters to her brother.

Q. Why did you call the book Graffiti Moon?

A. While teaching I started an editing course. She was interested when her friends started talking about their characters like they were real.c

Cath finished up by saying she won’t write anything she doesn’t want out there.

Feeling – dreaming all the time. She moved to the country and found writing late. Now she dreams of writing.








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My day at Somerset … part three

Continuing my summary of my day at Somerset Celebration of Literature March 2018, it’s now June but I have fond memories of the day. The session after Jackie French was after a short break in the Great Hall and it was a stimulating panel session. I try to do a panel session as I usually only get the one day so try to get the most out of it by seeing as many authors as I can. There was a Literary Lunch at 12.30 but that wouldn’t allow me time for the next session I wanted to go to so I stuck with the panel session. A panel usually means several authors in one session, in this case, three – Megan Daley, Steph Bowe and Nikki Parkinson with a competent host asking the important questions to set up the Q&A.

The Panel Session was on Blogging

Summary of my day at Somerset 15th March 2018 – Part Three By Jill Smith©June 2018

11.15 to 12 PANEL – Story Telling in the Electronic World – Megan Daley, Steph Brown & Nikki Parkinson

daley-megan-somerset bio picMegan Daley is passionate about children’s literature and sharing it with young and old alike. She firmly believes that YA literature is far better than adult literature and that picture books are works of art which should adorn the walls of art galleries and libraries. Megan is a Teacher Librarian and was recently awarded the Qld Teacher Librarian of the Year by The School Library Association of Queensland.

parkinson-nikki-somerset bio picNikki Parkinson is a former journalist-turned blogger and author. She blogs at award-winning fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog, Styling You. Her first book, Unlock Your Style, was published in 2014 by Hachette Australia. Styling You won the 2015 Queensland micro business Telstra Business Award.

bowe-stephanie-sommerset bio picSteph Bowe was born in Melbourne in 1994 and now lives in Queensland with her family. She is the author of Young Adult novels Night Swimming, Girl Saves Boy and All This Could End. She is a Stella Prize Schools Ambassador for Queensland and a 2016 May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Fellow.

The MC introduced herself and the session by asking the question – How do you make money from Blogging? How did you start?

STEPH – I started book blog at 14, doing interviews with writers, started as ‘Hey teenager of the year’ – now it’s just in her name.

NIKKI – is now ten years into blogging, journo for 20 years, had started a website for a business going to start but then went into blogging, she would write make comments and chat. She grew an audience –

MEGAN – her blog was a grief gift to her brother who’d died, she’d just had a baby, she enjoyed the engagement with an audience, writing review and connecting, she has a UQP book soon to be released, a teacher librarian.

MC – Do you write for the audience or does the audience find you?

NIKKI – a bit of both

STEPH – Writing about what you’re passionate about

NIKKI – the weird little rambles tell the audience who you are

MEGAN – it’s a balance between reviews and rambles, share a part of yourself

MC – How do you establish your voice?

MEGAN – it starts about what you write about, blogging is a discipline

NIKKI  – something you have to keep feeding, a blog is your home base to the social media, rules change

STEPH – not thinking much of the clutter, it’s still storytelling, it’s a way to develop and express your own ideas

NIKKI – Youtube, Twitter, Podcasts all link back to the blog as its the base

MEGAN – own the content on the blog, not social media

STEPH – Websites you may have posted on might have gone under but on your own blog you can reshare

MEGAN – my blog is a platform for a catalogue of my work

somerset logo 2018MC – Asks the audience – How many read a blog every day? How many use a blog as a base? (after an impressive show of hands to both questions) Asks the panel -The money side of things – What is the background of the commercial side of blogging?

NIKKI – Very few are persistent and consistent enough for many years. YouTube, Instagram link to the blog and build a community by building an engaged audience taking them back to buying your products. I was approached by earning from my blog with sponsorships, online store and affirmative market then wrote a book.

MEGAN – This is my experience also. I didn’t know about affiliate links. I get a small percentage of my income from freelance writing UQP. It’s all about increasing income streams and it takes time.

STEPH – I started at fourteen and never made money out of my blog. I used it as a stepping stone, writing book reviews, getting books from authors. I’d written a novel and authors online recommended an agent. The online community gave me a way to promote books engaged with book blogging. I didn’t directly make money from writing, mainly teaching, related to writing and speaking about writing.

MEGAN – other bloggers get affiliate sales, reviews on her page, Elliot Awesome, incoming books.

NIKKI – Blog about what you’re into.

MC – When can blogging go bad? As a Lawyer, she asked the panel about words and content issues. 

STEPH – No, my tip when writing online – never put anything online that you don’t want your Nan to see. People really exist.

NIKKI – Yes, keep it clean, the internet is forever, even if you take down a post, you can still and will encounter criticism and it will affect you. Ask yourself, could I say that to someone’s face?

MEGAN – I taught social media online and met many friends online. She’d been Trolled badly, she thought it wouldn’t affect her but it did.

NIKKI – you don’t expect to have insults hurled at you. Set the tone, delete if not getting good comments with without being judged.

MEGAN – much the same with me, I’ve grown and learnt from being online.

MC – Blogging is fantastic, have friends, have a voice, you can moderate when your readers are giving feedback.

NIKKI – three strikes and your out.

MEGAN – blogging is a real discipline and an amazing platform.

NIKKI – showcase your case on your terms

MC – time for questions.

Q – Is it reliable?

A- Read blog but comment on FaceBook or another platform, be flexible and have good content.

 Q – Whats the next best thing?

MEGAN – create your own niche, you bring to it your offer on your blog.

NIKKI – be yourself.

STEPH – write about your obsession. I always wanted to be a writer, that’s my passion.

MC – in summary, read many people’s blogs, try your own with professional settings, none of us knows where it can lead.

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