Thursday, 9 August 2018

Sink or Swim? Create Space Vs KDP Select

There's speculation going around author circles that Create Space (CS) might be winding down. Have you heard it? What would it mean to you if your favourite print-on-demand (POD) service went out of business? Would you move over to Amazon's KDP Print (KDPP) as Amazon encourages you to do each time you print a Kindle book? Or do you feel honour-bound to stick it out and, watching the bow of the CS ship tip under the weight of the rising water, only scramble to the hull at the last seconds of the last minute when the end is inevitable?

Jump now or wait until there's no choice? 

I asked myself the same question.

I jumped.

And I have to say I'm really happy I did. In a moment I'll tell you why I don't think you should wait, I share with you the pros and cons I found and why I wouldn't go back even if I could (the move is apparently irreversible; there's no going back).

So, before that, I must give a quick shout-out to the Sell More Books Show, where twice recently this matter was brought to my attention. The show is my favourite author news podcast. Presenters Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen - the most up-to-date duo in the author world -  discuss 5 top-tips and 5 top news stories each week. (As a 'by the way', the next top show I listen to for news is likely The Creative Penn by author Joanna Penn, who, if you don't know her, usually does a news item or two in her awesome weekly podcast).

Back to the matter in hand. Running round the park and listening to Episode 220 (other recent episodes on CS/KDPP are 223 and 226), I  listened to Jim and Bryan ponder on whether the Amazon-run company was winding down on the back of yet another Create Space service being discontinued and discuss if they should move from CS to KDPP before it came to the crunch. After all, both companies apparently use the same printing press, the same staff, the same materials that go into the print books. With many of the author services no longer available was there so much difference between the two?

Well, yes, there is. But not necessarily what you're thinking. I've swayed the other way.

Jim and Bryan said they thought it might be a good idea to start moving over, especially if you have a lot of books. They both said they would start that day. Jim even opened KDPP and talked the listeners through how to transfer from CS to KDPP. It sounded simply enough. I decided there and then, even if I only had one paperback (The Popish Midwife), I might as well start finding out how to use the latter. After all, I hadn't used any but the POD service. I hadn't used the CD service nor the printing of larger numbers of copies for book signings. 

It was as simply as it sounded, and within a lickerty-split it was all done and I clicked the publish button. Did I worry about it? A little. I had heard from some that Amazon 'did' Kindle brilliantly, but to go with Create Space for print copies. It made me a little nervous that I might be cutting out too soon. Perhaps I should stay with the company that best did the job they were created for. A frisson of concern whenever I saw in the Kindle community boards the guy's 'signature' saying KDPP: good for ebooks, terrible for print. However, after the transfer was made I quickly saw some pros for moving over.

First thing I noticed was the pleasure of seeing some little grey blips appear in the KDP Reports - my paperback sales right next to the Kindle sales.

Paperback sales show up next to ebook sales

As well, the paperback sales totals were added to the monthly totals at the bottom of the page. Brilliant! I no longer had to add up totals on two different sites - ebook and KU reads on one and paperback on the other - I could see them all on one page! Bonus!

Royalties for ebook and paperback sales in one place.

The next thing I noticed was one of the biggest and most important things for anyone using AMZ ads - the paperback showed up in the drop-down list of books you can advertise!  Anyone who's been using the ads knows that if your paperback's listed on CS, you can't advertise it through the AMZ ads for some reason. But suddenly, what had been denied was now available to me - I could advertise not only my Kindle, but my paperback, not one ad to cover both.

Why is this so important?

The paperback now appears on the
drop-down book choices
  1. For starters, when you advertise the paperback with a 'Sponsored Ad', you can specifically use more paperback titles within your genre as relevant keywords.
  2. I found book title keywords that are paperback-specific are more effective at selling paperbacks. This might seem obvious, but actually seeing it in action was great. I presume it not only makes the ad more relevant to paperback readers since it will more likely appear on the pages of paperback books but also takes the reader to their preferred paperback version rather than the ebook.
  3. I believe that often, when you create new AMZ ads for the ebook, the new one kinda cancels out the old one. Unless the old one really got going, the ad seems to favour the new one. However, since both are now listed through Amazon, because the paperback is a separate listing from the ebook, when you advertise the paperback it seems to be treated like a totally different product and doesn't supersede the Kindle ads. I haven't advertised long enough to be sure, but I believe the initial findings show that that gives you two products instea of a single title, either of which might be purchased by the reader, in effect doubling your impressions and increasing your sales. Certainly, both my paperback and Kindle sales have increased since I've been able to advertise The Popish Midwife as two individual products.
One downside (but not really a downside as you're still one ahead by being able to have an extra ad for the title) is that you can only create Sponsored ads (the keyword ones) but not the Product Display ads, probably because they are mostly shown on Kindles and Kindle Aps on mobile phones. The product display option isn't available.

The other downside might be that you haven't got the option to do the bulk-buy thing to send to book-readings/signings or to clients in advance. Joanna Penn said on one of her recent episodes that she sells paperbacks to Amazon through CS (though maybe she might change over to KDPP  if she knew the advantages of advertising the paperback) but also uses Ingram Sparks for all other outlets, and also for discount books and bulk sales. I'm still in the process of setting this up, so make your own enquiries to double-check this. Some podcast interviews interviewing Ingram Sparks staff members I've heard have, however, seemed to have confirmed it.

So that's about it. To sum up, my paperback sales have gone up (more than double), mostly I think, due to being able to advertise them separately, and I believe it's also helped my ebook sales. Also, I can now see all my royalty information for each title on one page on the Kindle Reports website. Very useful. Just being able to advertise the print book is great, having had that version sit and take only pot-luck views before. Now I can actually send readers to the version they prefer, using keywords more related to paperbacks, making it more likely they will be interested in the paperback than the kindle, so marketing is more focused to the reader likely to buy it!

The advantages, in my view, outweigh the couple of disadvantages for me, because I don't use the other services. If you do, you might want to think whether you would miss the above advantages of CS. But, though we don't know if the rumours are true, it might be best to prepare for that change find other outlets (eg Ingram Sparks) to provide the services not (yet?) available in KDPP. Perhaps there are some books more suited to one than the other. These might be the best to consider for moving over and trialling the sister-company for yourself. Personally, I'm loving the move and the increased sales. Worth thinking about, even for loyal CS fans and I won't be going back.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Readers' Favorite Bronze Award for The Popish Midwife!

Whoo hoo! Take a load of this - my very first award! 

For immediate release: Reader's Favorite recognizes "The Popish Midwife" in its annual international book award contest.

The Readers' Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries, ranging from new independent authors to NYT best-sellers and celebrities.

 Readers' Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the "Best Websites for Authors" and "Honoring Excellence" awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.

We receive thousands of entries from all over the world. Because of these large submission numbers, we are able to break down our contest into 140+ genres, and each genre is judged separately, ensuring that books only compete against books of their same genre for a fairer and more accurate competition. We receive submissions from independent authors, small publishers, and publishing giants such as Random House, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, with contestants that range from the first-time, self-published author to New York Times bestsellers like J.A. Jance, James Rollins, and #1 best-selling author Daniel Silva, as well as celebrity authors like Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty), Henry Winkler (Happy Days), and Eriq La Salle (E.R., Coming to America).

 "When the right books are picked as winners we pay attention. We will be spreading the word about Readers' Favorite." --Karen A., Editor for Penguin Random House Readers'

Favorite is proud to announce that "The Popish Midwife" by Annelisa Christensen won the Bronze Medal in the Christian - Historical Fiction category.

 You can learn more about Annelisa Christensen and "The Popish Midwife" at where you can read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.

 Readers' Favorite
LLC Media Relations Louisville,
 KY 40202 800-RF-REVIEW

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Return of the Rhyme

What on Earth can my two books, The Popish Midwife, and my latest book, A-Z Monsters (not) For Bed have in common? Looking at the two covers and the content, I would quite understandably expect your reaction to be, 'Absolutely nothing!' and, presented with these two books, I'd probably give exactly the same reaction. In fact, two more different-seeming books there could not possibly be!

image: The Popish Midwife
Book cover: The Popish Midwife

image: A-Z Monsters (not) For Bed
Book cover: A-Z Monsters (not) For Bed
Just look at them. One, a historical novel, closely based on a true story, researched, written and researched some more over a matter of years. The other, what appears from the cover to be some kind of light-hearted children's book.

See? No connection.

Or is there...?

Of course there is. You knew that. Otherwise why would I be telling you all about it! :-D

So, what's the connection? It's rhyme. Allow me to share the tie with you...

During my time researching The Popish Midwife, one of the things I most enjoyed was the seventeenth century coffee house and broadsheet satire, which made comment on anything and everything at the time. Nothing was sacred. Coffee houses and Taverns were the hotbeds of community news everyone slept in on a regular basis. There, amongst the smoke rising from clay pipes and burning rushlights or candles on the wall, could  be read leaflets, broadsheets and newspapers about current affairs; and imbibers of dishes of coffee or cups of ale could catch up with gossip along with all the other regulars.

Elizabeth mentioned in
"A Message from Tory-Land"
The broadsheets were designed to be accessible to anyone who could read, with many a wood-cut image, annotated by little details, including labels of who a figure was, or some words they might have said. The writing was often in the form of columns and verses. They more often than not mercilessly mocked politicians, murderers, social figures and religious figures alike, anyone of interest from high to low. And they were often written in rhyming couplets. I presume this rhyming style made the news easier to read, being given in small bite-sized pieces, but I suspect there was also a second reason they were so popular, that rhymes are notoriously more memorable than straight sentences. A man reading the latest in the coffee house or tavern could go out into the street or home and remember all his favourite bits to recite to anyone he wanted, often verbatim.

I found out so much about Elizabeth Cellier through broadsheets and leaflets of satire and jolly rhymes, which I fondly imagine the writer having a riot of a time creating, laughing and guffawing over as he came up with each new idea and line, making the reading of long passages so much more fun and entertaining because, of course, news was openly considered entertainment back then. The wittier the better. Even life-and-death stuff, which is obviously very serious, was given a dash of hilarity to it. It helped to deal with the much harsher life events in a way that the living could feel comfortable with.

For instance, from the broadsheet A Message from Tory-Land (above left), there is information spilling out of every single verse, and covering religion, politics, murder, trials [Verse 7 is dedicated to Elizabeth Cellier]:

But dear Madam Celiers intrigue did miscarry,
You see that 'tis dangerous to be unwary,
these Hereticks must by all means be destroyed,
And all the Church Rights by us be injoyed,
Yet if we arm us, ram us, damn us
these Heretick Dogs will find Ignoramus,
Still it miscarries, it tarries, it varies,
Yet never were days so blest as Queen Maries.
[note: Queen Maries = Queen Mary's]

How rich is that! The voice of someone who lived through that time, their opinion on Cellier right there, right then. Through this verse, she was immortalised.

and here's another:

The author of Satire Upon the Jesuits (below right) definitely doesn't have such a fine tuned sense of rhythm and rhyme as the author of A Message from Tory-Land, but he (or maybe, in secret, a she) certainly can ridicule and insult along with the best of them. He derides Catholic ceremonies of taking communion, casts aspersions on the priests, reflects popular opinion that Cellier, being a midwife, is as great a bawd, a whore, as all other midwives. That he brought her in to this verse is comment on how infamously she was tied to the fate of the Jesuits on trial and to the Popish Plot. [The lines re Cellier are highlighted by me.]

Elizabeth Cellier mentioned in
"Satire upon the Jesuits"
'Hey jingo, sirs! What's this?' 'Tis bread you see;
'Presto begone!' 'Tis now a deity.
Two grains of dough, with cross, and stamp of priest,
And five small words pronounced, make up their Christ.
To this they all fall down, this all adore,
And straight devour, what they adored before-
 'Tis this that does the astonished rout amuse,
And reverence to shaven crown infuse,
To see a silly, sinful, mortal wight
His Maker make, create he infinite.
None boggles at the impossibility;
Alas, 'tis wondrous heavenly mystery!-
 And here I might (if I but durst reveal
What pranks are played in the confessional:
How haunted virgins have been dispossessed,
And devils were cast out, to let in priest:
What fathers act with novices alone,
And what to punks in shrieving seats is done,
Who thither flock to ghostly confessor,
To clear old debts, and tick with Heaven for more.
Oft have I seen these hallowed altars strained
With rapes, those pews which infamies profaned;
Not great Cellier,* nor any greater bawd,
Of note, and long experience in the trade,
Has more, and fouler scenes of lust surveyed.
But I these dangerous truths forbear to tell,
For fear I should the Inquisition feel.
Shoud I teall all their countless knaveries,
Their cheats, and sams, and forgeries, and lies,
Their cringings, crossings, censings, sprinklings, chrisms,
Their conjurings, and spells, and exorcisms,
Their motley habits, maniples, and stoles,
Albs, ammits, rochets, chimers, hoods, and cowls;

So much commentary, so many oft-spoken opinions; one can't ask for a more thorough summary and condensed view of the emotion and reaction of the the society. This richness made it so much easier to understand the different aspects of the seventeenth century society.

We politically- and socially-correct people of today might have great trouble laughing at other folks' misfortunes in this way (and would probably get sued if we did!). Even to elude to something being funny, for instance, that certain politicians in the highest places might be double-dealing or siding with the enemy to the risk of the country, might elicit a strong reaction. Laughing about it would be seen as expressing that it's of no consequence, belittles it in many a person's eyes. It could be considered a tad too frivolous. Such serious subjects should be discussed and and thought about with gravity and solemnity... unless, of course, you're a stand-up comedian. And even then, there are those who would take offence at your making merry over a serious matter.

Centuries ago, the way it was told and passed on was paramount. If it wasn't told with horror and excitement, it should be told with humour and memorable words if the news was to spread far. I expect those good at making up these broadsheet rhymes would probably have built quite a reputation for themselves, and possibly even been employed to write with the sole intention of getting the subject matter throughout the kingdom. Word of mouth wasn't quite as widespread as previous centuries, but it was still strongly relied on. Even more so in ancient times...

Going back centuries before, to the Ancient Greeks and probably earlier, famous poetry, like the Iliad and Odyssey, were also written in verse, the tempo of which is kept moving by the short lines, and the names and events made memorable by repetition of description (twenty five-twenty six thousand of them! If I were to write a similarly long verse about Elizabeth Cellier, for instance, I might always call her 'the bold and brassy midwife', and that exact expression would be used each and every time mentioning her.). There was a reason for this. Back in the days when not everything was written down, and long stories were told by oration, there had to be easier ways for the storyteller to remember it all. Yes, some details changed each time of the telling, but most of it was remembered in chunks of ideas.  When Alexander Pope translated The Iliad in the early eighteenth century, he used heroic couplets. Why? Not only because they were all the rage during the Restoration, but also they are very pleasing to the ear, and memorable.

In the way songs are. In fact, back then, many stories were sung to music by travelling story tellers.

So, this is where I come back to A-Z Monsters for Bed, which I wrote in a concentrated poetry-writing period almost two decades ago. I was going through some difficult life-stuff at the time, much like now, and I found that writing humorous story rhymes were not only good at focusing the mind, but they also entertained me while I wrote them. Twenty six rhymes reflecting upon, and animating through story, various traits and characteristics that might be considered bad/monstrous (many of the monsters have such names as Scurulous, Cantankerous, Xenophobia). Only one - Quantum Querulous - was not a full story but a short limerick/riddle. I found the high concentration of rich language was wonderful to play with, and a story that might have taken a thousand words could be reduced to a fraction of that, to maybe one or two sides of A4.

But, most of all, I found one could conjure sharp images with a well-chosen line, a twist of word order, an evocation of a whole idea encompassed in a phrase, and the rhyme-ends helped to keep together ideas. Re-reading those rhymes, I understood how pleasing they are to write, how enjoyable and animated they are to read. For instance, a few years later, my young niece enjoyed one of the story-rhymes so much, she learned it by heart to recite at school (apparently it went down well). When I was working in my son's school, I read some of the rhymes to the ten-year-olds, and they loved them. I mean, really loved them. They were engrossed and smiling, and remembered particular bits of them afterwards. To me, this is an indication of how much easier and more fun it is to learn in such a way, and I can't help thinking what a shame it is that rhymes as a form of poetry, and rhyming stories in particular, have gone so out of fashion.I believe that kids these days might find them refreshing.

I know there are still many authors that do write children's rhyming books, but it seems to be mostly for the very young. What about the older children and adults who would get so much out of the funny verses? I decided, I'm going to bring rhyming back. Ok, not on my own, but I'll start by writing more of it (I'm working on a book of Halloween story-rhymes I hope to release for Halloween 2017). And I will discover as many works of this art as I can, and share them with all who are interested on a separate page of this blog. I hope to encourage in you, the older reader, a re-discovery of the fun of rhymes too. If you do, please share with me in the comments below, and share with everyone else you can:

Bring Back Rhyming!

The other bonus, by the way, is that in this time-focused society, where we are all overwhelmed with the many things we should do, and have to-do lists growing out of our finger tips onto many pages (mentally or otherwise), so we never feel we have time for anything, the shorter story-rhyme is a perfect solution to give you a giggle during your coffee break, or share reading with your child later...

Finally, I'll leave you with a rhyme for the coronation of King William III (William of Orange) and Queen Mary when King James II escaped to France in 1689. I hope you can read it.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Rhianna Lynch: Advocate for the World

I don't know why it's taken me so long to get around to doing this post. I should've done it years ago! My post is not only about an amazing person, but I'm proud to say, she's my daughter too. It's about time you met Rhianna.

Rhianna Lynch

To get to know Rhianna, I'll take you back a few years, when Rhianna was fifteen. She was a quiet, but hard-working, student at school, achieving good grades and looking to be set for A-levels and university. But, then, anxiety set in - anxiety about school, friends, work, you name it she had it. She became so anxious about school, she couldn't go in. Her anxiety turned to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which became so severe she would take several hours to simply get up in the morning, get dressed and come downstairs. Then, it would take further hours to do anything, like having breakfast and readying herself to go out. School became something that just wasn't going to happen.

Even with the help of a home tutor, Rhianna found it difficult to study, and when it came to taking her GCSEs, there wasn't a hope in Hell of getting in to school, so she took the exams at home. Unfortunately, there was so much stress related to sitting them, she took very few. It looked like A-levels and that prospect of university were out. She couldn't go back to studying any time soon.

But, Rhianna, being Rhianna, was determined to be useful, She loved animals more than anything, and wanted to help with rescuing them. She wrote to many rescue centers to volunteer, but most wouldn't, or couldn't, take her because she was too young to volunteer on a regular basis. The minimum age was sixteen, they said. Turned away from one after another, Rhianna determinedly plodded through the list she had of local places, until - jackpot! - one center wrote back that, although they were unable to take her on, there was a new place in Kent which was extending out from its London base to create a new center in High Halden: The Retreat Animal Rescue.

The Retreat Animal Rescue logo

Rhianna contacted the center and was invited to visit. As it turned out, the place was so new, they had only just moved there. Many of the animals had no enclosures, so ran around the farm buildings together - what an amazing sight to see dogs, geese, pigs happily mixing with ducks, goats, chickens and turkeys! They really didn't mind. The dogs, Billy, the founder, told us, were often the breeds that people considered dangerous, even though the actual dogs themselves had never been a problem. Some of the dogs, though, had been a problem, maybe even bitten someone, but they were all equally treated with love and kindness, and the place has a no-kill policy, so no animal is put down unless in irreversible pain. Every bird and mammal had a name. Each animal was seen as unique with a right to happily live out their lives. The only thing asked of volunteers was that they respect all animals by not eating meat or animal products on the site. That was easy. Rhianna had been a vegan for some time at that point.

Being one of the first volunteers at the Retreat, Rhianna was privileged to not only watch the center develop, but be part of that process too. It wasn't long before she decided what she wanted to be 'when she grew up' - she wanted to run a rescue center like the retreat. Twice a week, she came home with stories of the animals - some happy, some sad. She loved the animals dearly, and cried when one had been so maltreated it died, or when they became critically ill with the diseases they often had on arrival. Many of these animals came to the place in a very bad shape. Some had been privately owned, but many had been kept in small cages or pens to be eaten by people. Most had sores on their skin; birds were raw where they'd lost feathers; many had foot diseases where they walked in their own muck. I was actually witness to some new arrivals once, and it was the saddest thing to see animals that had been so ill-treated, yet the happiest thing watching them run free for the first time in their lives!

The Retreat Animal Rescue, High Halden, Kent
So, two years on, and Rhianna had many a tale to tell about running such a place. There were incidents of animals getting dumped at the gate, or awful gales that blew the chicken coup into the fox run (you can guess what happened there!) or a fire that burnt a barn down, killing many of animal friends. There were happy stories too. Like when someone managed to save two thousand ducks, or a goat that would've been slaughtered slowly with a knife for some religious festival or other. The center was soon brimming with recuperating animals. Incidentally, I helped out a couple of times there, and even though I do a very manual job, which includes a lot of lifting of equipment, I can tell you, I was a weakling compared to my daughter. She could shovel and carry with the best of them!

 Unfortunately, OCD hadn't finished with Rhianna yet, and there came a bout where she couldn't leave the house again. Once she was able to get it under control again and venture back out into the world, and look for work, still wanting to work with animals, she volunteered at a doggy daycare place closer by. Why volunteer, you might ask? Well, not able to be consistent, she didn't feel yet able to commit to regular work, so considered it unfair to take the place of possibly more reliable workers. However, she still managed to go there for several days a week, getting there on her itty-bitty ('It-might-be-slow-but-it-only-takes-a-few-more-minutes-to-do-the-journey-than-you-take, mum!') moped, whilst still going back to the Retreat whenever she could on the weekend.

Animal Pen-Pals logo
It must've been sometime around then, in 2014, that Rhianna started her Twitter account Animal Pen-Pals. She wanted to raise awareness of some of the issues surrounding animals. Like the people she worked with at the Retreat Animal Rescue, she strongly believes every life has value, and no animal should suffer at the hands of people.  She started tweeting about issues close to her, about animal welfare and abuse, always adding the web address to give those who feel the same way, or who are ready to take the next step, the information they need to help them. She wanted to provide information about how to do it rather than tell people they should do it.

She then did something I've always thought incredibly brave for someone suffering (on top of OCD) with diagnosed Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and shying from social interaction - she ordered a whole bunch of leaflets from animal welfare charity organisations and headed into the nearest town.

Many people have this image of vegans as hard-nosed extremists, in-your-face about the morality of every aspect of your life. I once waited for Rhianna to finish handing out the leaflets. A more different image she couldn't have portrayed. She stood quietly to the side of the road, not looking anyone in the face, so one almost didn't notice she was standing there. Not once did she push herself on someone. Not once did she go up to someone and hand them a leaflet. I've never seen anything like it. People actually came up to her and asked her for the leaflets! And they asked her about vegetarianism and veganism and why she was giving out the leaflets. If asked, she did, of course, talk to people. And there were folk who told her they would think about reducing meat, and one even chucked away the burger he was eating as he walked away. She would come home with the pile she'd taken with her gone. Each time she went out, she took more with her, and often came home empty-handed.

Me with my daughter, Rhianna Lynch
at the Climate March, London 2016
On top of this, she started braving up to support other causes she believed in. Her first ever protest was outside the New Zealand embassy with 15 other people, delivering a petition to protect the 55 remaining Maui dolphins.That was followed with protests about the cruel slaughter of the diminishing taiji dolphins and environment marches amongst other things - each time having to deal with so many anxiety issues - going out without support, catching a train, finding her way to the locations the protests/marches took place, conversing with others at these events. Every part of these things, fears and anxieties most of us learn to overcome, was a battle for her. And yet she did them anyway, such was her strength of belief, will and character. I know I couldn't have done it when I was her age.

Meanwhile, trying to save the planet and life on it, she often posted about the issues close to her on Facebook, and was overjoyed when told by a couple of friends they were going vegetarian or vegan, and by another that, because she'd re-posted a PETA article about how to help a turtle across the road, and what to do if you see an injured one, a follower was able to know what to do when he came across a turtle and so was able to save its life. What most people don't know about my daughter is that she regularly suffers from depression and suicidal thoughts, at which times she feels she is worse than useless, and that the world would be a better place if she didn't live in it. Everything she does, every life she saves, every person or animal she helps... that all gets forgotten, and she only believes herself to be a 'bad' person. I've always thought how strange it is that one of the nicest, most caring, considerate, pro-active in saving the world person could so negate everything she does!

Rhianna tells me, for every person that goes vegetarian, 30 land animals' lives are saved each month (so, fish excluded). Veganism saves more, but even doing the 'Meatless Mondays' makes a huge difference. So, for her, even if someone only cuts meat on one day a week, it's better than never changing habits. Not only does it save lives, but the environment too, not even starting on the health and financial benefits a person can gain. So, let's talk about the fish thing, and the environment, and Rhianna's latest campaign, for which she had a respectable social reach of nearly 1.5M people.

Rhianna's interest in fish, marine life and the effects of our treatment of the oceans developed further with her involvement in saving threatened mammals, such as the taiji dolphin and whales. She came to realise it wasn't only the mammals that were dying out there, but fish too. But then, who cares about fish? They're just food, aren't they? They're just insignificant creatures that swim up and down in a robotic manner, aren't they?  Not according to research, Rhianna says. She's read books and articles, watched videos, spoke to others about marine life, and became more convinced than ever that we as a human race have seriously neglected a rich part of the ecosystem. Not just the environment they live in, but the animals within it. Well, as someone who respects all life - the miracle of something actually living, breathing, reproducing, rather than being inanimate mineral - I still thought of fish as kinda stupid creatures that, if you put them in an aquarium, were quite happy to swim back and forth, because they know no better and care less. Rhianna tells me I should read a book called What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe.

What a Fish Knows by Jonathon Balcome
'Honestly,' she says, 'one of the reasons I believe it would be good for people to read the book is that most people think fishes are unthinking, emotionless animals, but they are actually capable of complex thoughts and emotions, and their lives, which matter to them, deserve protection.' She started her recent #OceanDeadline Thunderclap campaign at the beginning of January 2017, and her Pledge to eat less fish or go fish-free before 2050! soon afterwards. Both aiming at raising the issues of fish in the public eye. Then she emailed hundreds of charities which might care about those issues and twenty or so big ones said they would support her and helped her develop her Thunderclap pages.

Unfortunately, it's easy to say you'll add your support, another thing to actually do it. Though some charities gave her feedback about her original page and helped her improve it, Rhianna was disappointed when none of the charities that had pledged their support followed through, even with some friendly reminders. She reduced the 'minimum needed to send out tweet' to 100, believing, without the support she had been banking on, she would never achieve her original goal. Nevertheless, she didn't give up. She continued to tweet and contact folk about the campaign. She passed 100 supporters and raised the goalpost to 150. Then 200. The supporters (she thanks profusely!) kept coming.

And then disaster struck... for her campaign at least. The whole point of a Thunderclap is to have everyone tweeting and posting the #OceanDeadline hashtag on social media, with the aim to hopefully have it trend for a while, and catch folks' attention. Rhianna picked the day - 8th June - to coincide with World Oceans Day, to tell people particularly about the fish aspect of the oceans. Of course, what can never be predicted is politicians and politics. Theresa May chose 8th June for a General Election. Well, once announced, we didn't hold out much hope for the #OceanDeadline to trend, but it had been started, and she would finish it. On the day, of course, politics understandably took the trends by storm. I knew Rhianna was waiting by the computer at home, hoping beyond hope that her hashtag would trend for even a minute. As it happened, it didn't. Even with 265 supporters, her hashtag really was a drop in the ocean of election tweets. To say she was disappointed is an understatement, after all her hard work.

But, when I got home from work, expecting to be faced with pessimism and depression, Rhianna said, 'Next year I'll start the bar at 250! It's too important a topic to give up on, just because success didn't come first time round.' Then again, how do you count success? Having 265 supporters and a social reach of nearly 1.5M is no mean feat for a campaign in its infancy. What do you think? If you think such efforts to make a difference in the world are goals worth going for, please find Rhianna at Animal Pen Pals on Twitter and give her a little support.

Proud mum of Rhianna Lynch

Rhianna with our dogs, Jazz & Sparky

Monday, 3 April 2017


Today is a special day, one I've been waiting for. Maybe you've been waiting for it too if you've seen what's coming...
Yes! It's here. Read My Mind magazine is here, and it's free!

Lots of competitions (most of them free) for writers, artists, illustrators, lyricists... this is our community magazine, where we come together to enjoy music, film, travel, history, literature and all manner of uplifting things. It's where we can support each other and celebrate each other and the life we are part of.

Want to check it out? Go no further. Here is the first copy (you can subscribe for free below the magazine):

Welcome to Read My Mind The Blogger Magazine by International Authors


(see magazine for further details of entry)

cover by McGrath House 

Win a place in Read My Mind's anthology supporting The Amar International Charitable Foundation 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

New Magazine: Read My Mind

With spring arrives a new magazine, as fresh and positive as the season

April 4th 2017. Mark this date in your calendar. I can't impress on you enough how excited I am about the date. This is the date of the first ever Read My Mind magazine, the brainchild of Lily Amis, a talented artist, editor, producer and author who's had an extraordinary life. Last June, I interviewed Lily for Script Alchemy about her unusual background. Since then, she has designed a beautiful magazine, with the idea that it should be full of interesting articles to entertain and educate you, a collaboration of international bloggers to bring together the creative community and, most importantly, a magazine especially for the world's creative community. Read on...

Not only full of articles to enrich your life and be an oasis of positivity in a world of uncertainty and disillusionment, Read My Mind also contains tantalizing snippets and facts to inform you - perhaps you'll find an interesting tidbit to tell your friend or workmate over that most important cup of mid-morning coffee: elevenses.

Let me introduce the blogger team and the columns they write:

Lily and Sima of nasSima-design, surrounded by the
Read My Mind magazine contributor team

Publisher, Concept, Editor-in-Chief, Head Writer and Layout: creative mother-daughter duo :  website: nasSima-design 
The Travel of Mind: Bibiana Krall ( on Twitter)
The Publisher MindRachel McGrath (on Twitter)
The Literature Mind: Elaine R.Chissick (on Twitter)
The Historical Mind: AnnelisaChristensen (on Twitter)
The Life of my Mind: Angel M. (on Twitter)
Trevor’s Mind on Hollywood: Trevor Pacelli (on Twitter)
The Inspirational Mind & LilyWoods Mind: Lily Amis (on Twitter)
Grants Mind on Life & Grants Mind on World Sport: Grant Leishman (on Twitter)
Music Judges:
Welsh Singer James Kennedy (on Twitter)
Swedish Singer Carl Lindquist (on Twitter)
British Composer James Oldrini (on Twitter)
Magazine Cover: McGrath House (on Twitter)
Magazine Trailer: Bibiana Krall
Magazine Editor: Lily Amis, Grant Leishman and Angel M.

and one more very important contributor - you!

'Er,' I hear you say, 'I have no idea what you're talking about. I haven't sent anything in.'
'Yet,' I say, 'but you will, once you find out about our super competitions.'

And I'm right, right?

In this first issue, there are not only plenty of great reads for you to discover new authors, music, artists, movies, history and other exciting finger-on-the-pulse stuff, but also the chance for you to be one of those discoveries. The launch issue has eight, yes eight, competitions to inspire you to join in... before I go further, how about subscribing now, so you don't miss these fantastic opportunities?

So, like I say, one of the top ideals of Read My Mind is for this to not only be inspirational, and be a beacon of enjoyment in a sometimes dismal world, but to also give the creatives among you - authors, writers, songwriters and artists - the opportunity to light up other readers with your own inspiration. There is a contest here for everyone. There's a contest here for you. You only need subscribe (again, I emphasize, for free, and you can always unsubscribe if you don't enjoy it - we're that confident you will) and immerse yourself in another world for a while.

Artists: Look out for the Society 6 Artist Contest
Lyricists: Find the Song Lyric Contest
Authors and bloggers: Check out the Writing Contests
Readers: Competitions for you too 

Did I say, most of the competitions are either free or nearly-free to enter? It might be unusual in this costly world of ours, but it's true. we don't want to make money off our friends. There are enough businesses and people out there ready to do that.) We want to make this our gift to you, the reader. The only condition on entry is that you are a subscriber. In case you missed that link...

And for winners of our exclusive contests (see Grant's post for details of some of the competitions), you will be featured in this glamorous magazine for everyone else to admire!

This is going to be BIG!

Check out the videos to get a feel for what it's all about! (Oh yeah, and if you haven't already, subscribe so you don't miss out :-) )

The Official Read My Mind Video

You have to see this very cute video by Lily for Read My Mind
April 4th
Subscribe Now

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Interview: Farloft the Dragon

Interview with Farloft

Well, I never thought I’d be interviewing such an unusual guest, but this particular one caught my attention (he's impossible to ignore). When I heard he was visiting my friend, Theresa, I just had to grab the opportunity, pull him aside and ask things I’m dying to know on the subject of his life with dragons. How is he such an expert on the subject? Short answer, he is one.
Meet Farloft the Dragon.

Farloft Blowing Heart Shaped Smoke Rings
(Artwork: Bluekite-Falls)

Hello, Farloft. Before we start, I have to say, thank you for allowing me some of your valuable time here (Ehm...might I ask you to please face away from me when you talk. Your breath is still hot from that last outburst.)
Farloft: There are many misconceptions about dragon, Milady. Let me illuminate you right now with one. First off we do not breathe fire unless we want to. *huffs over Annelisa’s head making her hair drift* And, my breath smells a bit like cinnamon, don’t you think?

<sniffs deeply> Actually, now you mention it, Farloft, of my favourite spicy smells, cinnamon. Breath this way as much as you want, just no fire please.
So, let's start with how you first met our mutual friend, Theresa Snyder, your biographer and scribe. She tells me you met in a different time and place. Can you tell me something about this other dimension? And how do you find her each time she is reborn?
Farloft: We originally met in Kerth. She was the daughter of the Captain of the King’s Guard. Her older brother was my best friend and he introduced us when she was about five years of age. I tell about our lives together at that time in my chronicle Dragon Memories, Dreams &Reflections.

Dragon Memories, Dreams & Reflections
(Cover Art: Sarah Hyndshaw)

Theresa insisted we have tea and I wear her bonnet. I have loved her ever since.
As to how I find her each time she reincarnates; I feel her soul when it is reborn. *ruffles wings and shakes wedged head* It is as if we are ‘heartbound’. My clan can fold time and space, so I zone in on her and ‘jump’. That is also how I come each month to visit her and Tweet.

Farloft drinking tea wearing
Theresa's bonnet
(Artwork: Bluekite-Falls)

I did wonder how you did that. Another thing, you seem to have an affinity with humans. Tell me about James, and why you adopted him rather than returning him to the humans he came from?
Farloft: At first it was a matter of necessity to keep him safe and free from harm. Later, we became so attached to one another that I wanted to have him around permanently. He had no family and, since there had been a change in his circumstance (which I cannot go into here without revealing what you humans call ‘a spoiler’), it was inevitable that I should adopt him. *grins*

As he seems to have adopted you. I understand you don’t get on so well with all humans and some cause you and the kingdom a heck of a lot of trouble. You don’t get a peaceful time, do you! Perhaps you’d like to tell me something about the people who make your life so difficult. And, then, how about sharing some of the ways you like to grab yourself some peace in between battling these wizards, kings and dragon hunters?
Farloft: There is good and bad among all clans of humans. I guess you don’t call them clans, do you? In any case, I have met good and bad wizards, good and bad kings, and even, though it might seem impossible, I have met bad and good dragon hunters. And, for good or bad, you humans all have short lives, so we dragons mostly outlive the bad that arrive and we mourn the good that depart.

Peaceful times for me are spent with my family, sunning on the rock ledge above our cave entrance. I love watching the younglings fly and passing on my wisdom to them with regard to life and its pursuits.

Farloft above his cave at sunset
(Artwork: Bluekite-Falls)

I know what you mean about the good and the bad... there is always a mix of both; it's something we have to accept. Thinking of the good, I know from Theresa, you’re not the only dragon who pops in and out of our dimension and visits her.  Would you like to introduce some of your friends? Where do they hang out when they’re not visiting here?
Farloft: Theresa has met an inordinate amount of dragons on Twitter. They all seem to hang out there. That is why I chose to come visit her once a month to chat with the friends I have made and meet the new dragons she has met while I was gone. We do a Dragon Selfie each year. This is the one from 2016. *chuckles* As you can see we have loads of fun.

Dragon Selfie
(Artwork: Kitsooki)

Wow, so many of you. And what splendorous creatures you all are. I would give anything to be at one of your conventions and see you all together like this! But, I gather not all dragons are as friendly as your friends of The Last Kingdom. Thinking of 'the bad', didn’t I hear something about how one of your old companions turned up and caused havoc? That must’ve been quite upsetting for you. What happened?
Farloft: Thrax was always a bit impulsive. We were young when we were friends. I was fresh out of the nest and we adventured together. It was our misfortune that a dragoness came between us. Dragons are long lived and therefore often hold grudges for a very long time. That was the case with Thrax. I wish we could have resolved the issue without violence, but when he involved my family I had to put an end to it. *deep frown furrows brow* I tell our story in vol. 4 of my Chronicles, Too Many Dragons.

The Farloft Chronicles Vol 4
Too Many Dragons
(Cover art: Sarah Hyndshaw)

Such a shame, to hold a grudge that long. Talk about constantly blowing on embers that should've long died out! Oh, that reminds me, when my daughter heard I was interviewing you for Script Alchemy, she insisted I ask you:
'Does breathing fire ever give you a sore throat?'
Farloft: On the contrary, breathing fire clears the throat of a dragon. I tell the story of how my clan members learn to breathe fire in my Farloft’s Storybook. It is quite a sight to see the younglings practice. *grins toothily*

Little Dragon
(Artwork: Bluekite-Falls)

Aw, cute. 
Well, health was something I hadn’t thought of before. It has me thinking, what other health hazards does a dragon have to deal with?
Farloft: As to other ailments, my clan is not susceptible. Being around humans, I have on occasion caught a cold, but I have very intense healing powers and I'm over it in no time.

Looking at that youngling above, I don't think he's going to be blowing his own trumpet for quite a while yet, not when he's still struggling to blow a smoke ring. What about you, though - I hear you might want to toot your horn? You don’t have to answer this if it isn't true, but I’ve heard rumours you might be visiting Hollywood in the near future. Can you give us a hint - is it true? If it’s all hush-hush, please feel free to say so, but... are you planning on breaking into the film industry?
Farloft: *tilts wedged head and winks* I am not at liberty to speak about it at this time. However, if you have my autograph in one of my books, you should keep it safe in your hoard. It might be worth something in the future. *grins toothily*

Ooo...that sounds very intriguing. I'll be keeping an eye on your Facebook page to make sure I don't miss anything.
Before you fly off, I have to tell you, Farloft, we’re all very proud of your friend, Theresa. It’s great that she’s chronicled some of your exciting stories. Will you be sharing any more with her? If so, when might the next story of The Farloft Chronicles be available? Also, can you tell me why you asked her to write them for middle school children, when the stories would be a delight for adults as well? Certainly, I know of a couple of young’un who’ve loved them, but I believe their parents did too.

The Farloft Chronicles
Farloft: My original Chronicle was written for Theresa’s nephew, who was nine years old at the time. That is why the books were initially written for middle school children. But dragons are loved by everyone, so when Theresa published my Chronicles they found an audience with the adults who read them. As time has passed I have even dictated a hatchling book for the little tots you humans have. It contains coloring pages. I like to think Theresa and I have built a collection of Dragon Stories for All Ages. *sticks out chest with pride*

Thank you so much for sparing some of your precious time, Farloft, and apologies to our friend Theresa for hijacking you the moment you came to visit. 
Before you go, would you mind sharing some details where people can find your excellent stories, or where they can chat with you personally (I know you appear regularly on Twitter… it would be great if you tell us something about this and anywhere else people can find you.)

Theresa Snyder and Farloft the Dragon
Friends across time
Twitter: I will be here on Twitter with Theresa Snyder the last Friday of each month
Facebook: Keep track of my progress in show business on my Farloft the Dragon page (Hollywood Here I Come)
Website: All my books are on Theresa’s Website: Theresa Snyder: Farloft Chronicles