Somerset 2017 – Wonderful Wednesday summary …

Yes, it rained and the ground was squelchy! Yes, it was hot in the marquees! Did I mind? Not a bit. It was a great day. I only wish I had been able to go to more sessions.

Robet Newton Somerset 2017I started the day with Robert Newton, a firefighter and writer who said he could see himself retiring from firefighting but never from writing.

He never wanted to be a writer growing up but when his brother moved overseas he wanted to keep in touch so he started writing letters. Life was a bit boring so he’d send stories of embellished childhood memories. His brother said, ‘these are good, you should do something with them.’ That was the only encouragement he’d ever had for anything other than sport. It was the start of his obsession with writing and creating characters first. His books published to date are: RunnerWhen We Were TwoThe Black Dog GangSaturday Morning, Mozart and Burnt ToastMr Romanov’s Garden in the SkyThe Khaki KidMy Name Is Will Thompson, for children all developed to tackle difficult subjects in a way kids can relate to. He was a very engaging speaker. The picture above is of him signing the book I purchased from his works.

Nadia Sunde Sorting Hat Somerst 2017Next session was in the Great Hall and I was able to enjoy the oh’s and ah’s of a large audience of rapt students as Nadia Sunde wove a magical spell in her session playing the role of Professor Francesa Falconette Exploring the Magical World of Harry Potter.

Needless to say, it was a spellbinding session.

Nadia Sunde Somerset 2017The rain departed for enough time for me to leave the Great Hall and walk down on the sodden oval to Marquee Three to go to my next session with Kim Kane.


Kim, having being trained as a lawyer, had all her notes on hand. A few images and videos to share Kim Kane Somerset 2017snippets of where her inspiration for stories came from, along with a very old shoe. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about ‘time slip’ novels and how she researched her books. I fear some of the students may not have been so engrossed, but for me, Kim delving into research and where different information led her and affected her writing was fascinating.

As was the case in all the sessions, and has been my experience of Somerset Celebration of Literature that I’ve experienced over the years, the children as the best questions.

Rachael Craw goodreads bio picThe next session was after a lunch break and back in Marquee Three this time to see Rachel Craw. She did delve into the writing process itself. She loves strong female characters and found her first book huge and unwieldy, only being reshaped when she was encouraged by manuscript assessors, who later became editors and then her agent. The result is a series starting with Spark (Spark, #1)Stray (Spark, #2)Shield (Spark, #3)Kill Switch (Spark, #1.1)The Book That Made Me as one of the anthology contributors, Black Room (Spark, #2.1)Scar Tissue (Spark, #3.1). She has trouble letting go of a story and tends to keep editing until the book is forcibly taken from her by her agent. Her stories are coming of age tales with strong drama. I hope to read the whole series in the future.

From then I hurried onto Marquee One to see Soraya Nicholas who writeSoraya Nicholass stories for
younger children about horses in her ‘Starlight Stables’ series. I was particularly interested to hear what she had to say as my granddaughters are mad about horses. I was as surprised as she was when her grade three little people audience were led in to hear her talk. Soraya had pictures of her horses and explained how her covers were photos of three girls and three horses depicting her characters. She loves writing and to keep the image of the characters and personalities of her horses in mind she has a wall of pictures beside her when she writes.

Her books are Pony DetectivesBush Bolts,  Starlight Stables: Bush Bolts (Book 3) Starlight Stables: Saving Starlight (Book 4)Gymkana Hijinks, and Saving Starlight

I bought five books on the day and I’m nearly finished reading ‘Starlight Stables’ Pony Detectives.  I will give this to my granddaughter shortly after I’ve written a review.

That was all the sessions I attended on the day, however, I met and spoke to other authors when in the book tent, or just at the coffee shop. I bought one book because I liked the cover – Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee. I took the opportunity to get the author of that book to sign it too, that was another treat.

The Sending -The Obernewtyn Chronicles – Book Six by Isobelle Carmody, Book Review by Jill Smith


isobelle carmody profile picAs with all of The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody, this book is difficult to describe briefly. It is simply another episode in the journey Elspeth Gordie is making in the Quest she has been set upon since the first book. Interwoven with her many talents including self-healing, she continues her journey.

This book is divided into three sections. The first is heartwarming in that at Obernewtyn as Guildmistress, her true love Rushton, Guildmaster to Obernewtyn finally returns. They consummate their love and forge a link between them.

The second part of the book is her journey away from her home and life at Obernewtyn and all those she loves. It is a heartbreaking journey she takes with her old and fey cat Maruman, and Gahltha the stallion, both who travel on the dream trails with her as her guardians. This journey takes them to meet up with a pack of wolves who also form a part of Elspeth’s Quest to stop the before time computer machines Sentinel being woken and permanently destroying the world already blighted by the taint of the Great White.

The third part of the book sees Elspeth reunited with those she loves and gives her courage to continue her journey. Her band of friends all learn more about the Quest during a journey across the black lands led by the wolves, facing illness due to the taint and frightening encounters with carnivorous, bat-like creatures along the way. Tthe sending coverhey learn more about themselves, and the journey each of them made to reach this point and to be at Elspeth’s side on this perilous journey.

As a writer, who has been to courses and had been told many fundamentals about writing, one being ‘to limit the number of characters in a story’ as it’s confusing to readers; this book and whole series, does not adhere to that theory, with over five pages of characters listed. All the characters form layers over layers pushing the story further with Elspeth Gordie as the main character.

I found the ending frustrating as the hook leaves the reader gasping to read the next book. After 750 pages this is no small tome.  I eagerly await the final chapter in The Red Queen.

Happy Australia Day 2017

cooyar-coverWe’ve had a sleep in and now getting ready for an Australia Dayimg_1543 party at friend Sandra Rogers who is launching her book Cooyar. I’ve read and reviewed this already, check out 2nd January post.

The car and house are decorated, flags abound. We’re ready for sausages on the BBQ, lamingtons, Anzac biscuits and everything Australian.

Have a great day everyone!  Stay safe! Enjoy the celebrations!

Interview with Belinda Murrell

Courtesy of The English Tour blog

No prizes for guessing I love good Australian authors, and when this popped into my inbox I had to share it. Particularly, as I was so engrossed with a speaker at Somerset Literary Festival last year, that I didn’t realise the person next to me was Belinda Murrell! It was only when some children came up to her after the session and asked her to sign some books that I realised I missed an opportunity.

Author interview with Belinda Murrell

Belinda Murrell writes children’s fiction – both junior readers and for older children. Belinda kindly offered some insights into her writing:


1.    What does your workspace look like?

I live in an on old Victorian house near the sea with my husband Rob and three children. I am lucky enough to have a beautiful office at home, which is lined with hundreds of books, has a fireplace and looks out over my garden. My dog Asha keeps me company, sleeping in front of the fire. It is a gorgeous place to work – sunny, calm and quiet.

2.    Who or what inspires your work?

As a children’s author, perhaps it’s not surprising that kids are my greatest inspiration. Initially it was my own three children Nick, Emily and Lachie who inspired me to write books for them. Now however I am also inspired by readers who love my books and children I meet. One of the greatest inspirations is receiving hundreds of emails, drawings and letters from children who love my books. They tell me what they love about each book, and beg me to write more. I also spend several weeks each year on tour – speaking at literary festivals, schools, bookstores and Book Week events. Each year I meet thousands of children and I love talking with them, discussing what they enjoy about books, what interests them and intrigues them. Many of my ideas for books are triggered by conversations or experiences I’ve had with children.

3.    What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

I have four tips which all begin with P! They are:

Passion – write what you love. Write from your heart. Don’t try to follow trends. Write for yourself.

Persistence – there are so many writers with talent, who write extremely well. But to succeed as a writer you need bucketloads of determination and tenacity. Succeeding as a writer can only be achieved through lots of hard work over many years!

Practise – write constantly. Write every day. Take a notebook with you everywhere and fill it.

Pack your bags – travel the world and have amazing adventures. Work at various jobs, volunteer, experience life, fill your notebooks with sights, people and experiences.

4.    What was your reaction when you found out that your first manuscript was going to be published?

Utter joy! I screamed and cried and laughed. It was definitely one of the most exciting days in my life. My agent rang to tell me the news. My family all came running to find out what was going on. Then I rang my sister Kate (who is also an author). She was as thrilled as I was and we celebrated with French champagne. Despite all the excitement, I couldn’t really believe it was true until I first saw my name on the cover of a book in a bookstore.

5.    What dreams do you have for your writing career?

To keep writing books which kids love. To stretch myself and keep getting better as a writer. To challenge myself and try different genres and styles.  I have been incredibly lucky to have a career as a writer doing something I love so much. I work with a fantastic team at Random House who are so talented and supportive. I get to spend time with lots of extremely gifted and inspirational authors. I am now writing my twenty-first book, yet I still get very anxious when I finish a new book and am waiting for my publisher to read it. Will she like it? Is it any good? Writing can be a solitary and often difficult job. Yet opening that package with your book straight from the printer is still one of the best feelings in the world.

And a quick biography:

Belinda Murrell is an internationally published, bestselling children’s author. Her 21 books include The Sun Sword Trilogy, a fantasy-adventure series for boys and girls aged 8 to 12. Her time-slip books – The Locket of Dreams, The Ruby Talisman, The Forgotten Pearl, and The Ivory Rose – have been shortlisted for various awards, including KOALAs (2013, 2012 and 2011), CBCA Notable List and highly commended in the PM’s Literary Awards. Her new book, The River Charm, is based on the thrilling adventures of her ancestors. For younger readers (aged 6 to 9) Belinda has a new Lulu Bell series, about friends, family, animals and adventures growing up in a vet hospital. <;

The Ten Penners inspiration..

shock-horror-gasp-cover.jpgLast Saturday The Ten Penners had a wonderful and busy meeting.

James Blomberg the son of our Lorraine Blomberg who created the covers of both ‘Shock, Horror, Gasp’ and ‘Fan-tas-tic-al Tales’. She contributed stories including ‘The Big Squeeze’, a novella, and the memorable ‘Tree of Trolls’ a rhyming story with illustrations to mafan-tas-tic-al-tales-covertch.


James brought in a large art folder of works she created during her lifetime. Several ready to be put into production as children’s picture books. We suggested ways James might be able to get her work published and that we would certainly hold her memory dear.

We intend to dedicate our next anthology to Lorraine.

Here is one of the intricate and memorable illustrations she created. I have a story idea that might go with this and be added to our next book.

lorraine b drawing king ted.jpg

Happy New Year 2017 here we go…

032Happy New Year!

I have big plans for 2017 not the least of which is a trip to go overseas for a double celebration of my 60th Birthday and my lovely husband and I being married for 40 years.

Naturally, I will continue to read and review books. Write more, read more, edit more all the while learning. I believe a writer is on a continual learning curve. Meanwhile, I work to earn the money to be able to travel.

The following is a book review of ‘Cooyar’ by Sandra L Rogers, another talented Australian Author who has published many other books in quite different genres including Beyond Armageddon, It Begins But Never Ends, An Unbelievable Life – Authorised Biography of Lynn Santer.

cooyar-coverBook Review by Jill Smith©Dec16

Title: Cooyar

Author: Sandra Rogers

Publisher: Zeus Publications

I loved this book. I had to re-read the first chapter after I got to the end.

It’s a beautiful story about the joys and hardships of living on a property in central Queensland. Cooyar is vividly brought to life, the dust and the flys, the rough life and the love that develops on the soil.

Frances is the property owners head-strong daughter. She loves Cooyar and going to boarding school to make her a young lady is Jess and Malcolm’s only sacrifice. They are pleased with the result when she comes home for her fourteenth birthday party. The head stockman Will is her best friend. He understands the connection Frances has with the land.

Their link with each other becomes heightened as they grow older. They kiss just once when Frances delivers the evening meal for the stockmen. Granny sees them kiss. Disapproving she sends Will on a holiday to Darwin to be with his Aboriginal family.

The drought that cripples the country breaks with a flood. As often happens in Australia the extreme conditions dictate the lives of those choosing to live on the land. Frances returns to the farm to find Will has returned to help. They consummate their love for one another.

Frances returns to her city life and Will joins up to fight in the WWII. When sandra-rogers-piche is reported missing and believed dead, she impulsively marries a sailor, Arnold Smith who is deployed on the HMAS Vampire which is sunk. Arnold is rescued and returns to Australia where they settle down on their own cattle property Wongadoo and raise their son Barry. But they are not destined to live a happy life.

I loved the real life feel to this story, particularly the end which is very fitting.

Sandra has returned to writing with a book that is memorable and a joy to read. I hope she will continue to write more heartrending Australian tales.

My Year in books 2016 Goodreads

The following list does not include unpublished manuscripts I’ve read for writing friends.the-ten-penners-nov-16

I’m now reflecting on the year and how much I have accomplished and how much more I hope to have done. It’s been one of those learning curve years. Most of the books I’ve read have been for my own enjoyment, a couple because they were recommended to me and are in a genre to my usual choices. I’ve come a long way in 2016 and learned to protect my heart along the way. I’m enjoying re-editing Dual Visions to make it the book it always should have been. My mentor Robyn Burrows is a wonderful help.

The Ten Penners Aug16 Writing has always been my passion and I’m enjoying writing new stories for the next Ten Penners Anthology.

My New Years plan is:

1 To see the publication of The Ten Penners anthology

2 To re-release Dual Visions with it’s follow up book Vashla’s World

3 To work on Microworld the 2015 book I wrote during NaNoWriMo

4 To do NaNoWriMo in 2017

Now it’s in writing I have to fulfil these aims. (don’t I)

Whoops, almost forgot. My wonderful hubby and I are going overseas mid-year so there will be a travel journal too.

Goodreads 2016 –
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Dragon Tales by John Patience

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13 pages
Dragon Tales: A Book of Dragons
by John Patience
1,000 pages
The Stone Key
by Isobelle Carmody
The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody
218 pages

One Christmas Eve by Corinne Fenton
One Christmas Eve
by Corinne Fenton

it was amazing

5.00 average

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The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody
The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody
it was amazing
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
Dragon Harper by Anne McCaffrey
The Blue Day Book by Bradley Trevor Greive
Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord
The Surfer and the Mermaid by Tim   Baker
Ice Breaker by Lian Tanner
Word Hunters by Nick Earls
The Peony Lantern by Frances Watts
really liked it
Alice-Miranda on Holiday by Jacqueline Harvey
Writers On Writing by Joe Mynhardt
Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra by Karen Tyrrell
Check on Me by Andrew Daddo
Exploring Anzac by Southern Short Story Writer...
Bushland Lullaby by Sally Odgers
Kate's Choice by Laura O'Connell
A Simple Mistake by Andrea Grigg
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Ballyhoo and Babble by MS Julie R Baythorpe
Meet The Megafauna by Elaine Ouston
Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle
Captured -The Mystery of Nida Valley by Elaine Ouston
Song Bird Superhero by Karen Tyrrell
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
it was amazing
Heaven Tempers the Wind by Hazel Barker
Dane Swan by Dane Swan
Unmentionable! by Paul Jennings
A DRAGON in the SNOW by Darryl Greer
One Christmas Eve by Corinne Fenton
it was amazing
Cooyar by Sandra L Rogers
Soft on the Devil by Robert Lampros
Ten Apples Up On Top! by Theo LeSieg
There's a Wocket in My Pocket! by Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Dragon Tales by John Patience
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
Disney Fairies Storybook Collection by Parragon Publishing
The Pagemaster by David Kirschner
it was amazing
Pony to the Rescue by Jeanne Betancourt
You can easily add books to this list by setting the Date Read for each book to any time in 2016.

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You read 40 out of 40 books.

Congratulations! You’re really good at reading, and probably a lot of other things, too!

Soft on the Devil book review

Another review for The Book Review Directory tab…


AUTHOR: Robert Lampros

Review by Jill Smith©Dec16

soft-on-the-devil-coverIan Phillips is an ordinary kind of guy, at twenty-four he works in the local Earth Way grocery store. He is very keen on promoting the good quality merchandise. He works hard and gets a promotion. Things are looking up when he meets Amy and a relationship blooms.

All this is a backdrop to his deep faith, reading the bible daily, and trying to figure out what happened to Cindy Myran, a woman who lived in his apartment block who disappeared. Everyone thinks she’s was dead. Ian wasn’t so sure. She turns up at his place, afraid of being followed and asking for help to get to Bradson City. She was supposed to be dead already. Was this his robert-lamproshallucination? He had to find out more.

This is an unusual tale, all in the first person. I find it difficult to write in the first person. There is always something I want the reader to see that’s in the next person’s point of view. Robert Lampros has pulled this off admirably. I have to say I expected a different outcome but the ending was fitting.

Goodreads bio:

Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction who lives in St. Louis. He earned a Bachelor’s in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. His books include Fits of Tranquility, Afternoon, Last Year’s Resolution, and Undivided Lines.

Joyful Christmas wishes

christmas-elf-2016-copyThis little Christmas Elf wants to wish all those who’ve helped me on my writing journey through 2016 to have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year Season.

I’ve read and reviewed lots of great books. Discovered that writing groups are fun to be part of but not necessarily if you are on the committee. The Ten Penners are a very big part of this journey. Writing stories for children has been a delight, and our new anthology is coming together nicely for 2017 publication.

I’ve gained a mentor in the wonderful Robyn Burrows and newrobyn_lee_burrows_bio pic insight into my writing perspective.

My husband has been my strength and a rock to cling to when I’ve learned people like me have marshmallow hearts and they are easily squashed. So I have to be stronger and more resilient.

christmas-decos-2016I love Christmas with the lights and goodwill messages and hope that the next year will bring joy and delight to all those I know and love.

The world has become a more frightening place in many ways, but, I truly believe the humanity of the world will overcome the evil and hostility that exists.

So to all my readers and followers I wish you heartfelt joy for Christmas and the New Year. May you enjoy your family and appreciate and love them always.



One Christmas Eve book review


Title: One Christmas Evone-christmas-eve-covere

Author: Corinne Fenton

Illustrator: Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

This is a truly delightful book and one I will be giving my granddaughters this Christmas.

Award winning Corinne Fenton has skillfully written a charming story about a girl going to Luna Park with her Grandfather. The illustrations are magnificent and the thought that Bella had been given one silver coin for the ride she chooses is a bit magical. I simply love the joyful feeling the book evokes.corinne-fenton-and-marjorie-cf-with-one-christmas-eve

Corinne has again been awarded the accolade of having Myers Melbourne and Brisbane put her book in their window as their Christmas window display.

Corinne describes the book on her blog:

The story is of a 7-year-old girl called Bella who visits Luna Park with her Grandpa on Christmas Eve 1968. Grandpa gives her a silver coin to spend on whatever ride she chooses – then Bella sees the beautiful carousel – ‘Would it be enough for just one ride?’

myer-windows-2016The back story is that Bella is of Italian descent and while her parents are in Italy visiting relatives, Bella is staying with her grandparents who live near Luna Park.

The book celebrates Christmas, family, caring for one another and people settling in Australia and of course, the magic of Christmas.