Tag Archives: early years chapter book

George’s marvelous medicine

For over a year I’ve struggled to get my eldest to read independently. To be honest that’s not entirely true as he’d happily jump into reading Star Wars encyclopaedias at the drop of a hat. However, with the encyclopaedias he’d put them back down after a page or two.It was pretty clear that we needed to track down a book that really spoke to him.

With p4 and the step up in reading it brings on the horizon I realised that he’d need to get more accustomed to longer stretches of reading than he had before. I hunted for books that would pique his interest but every time we simply find another story for me to read to him and his brother (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing).

We hunted and hunted, I trailed him through a serious number of bookshops over the past few months. Then, about a month ago we took a trip to Glasgow, walked in to Waterstones, and with the promise of a comfy seat and a chocolate he finally reached a decision; George’s Marvellous Medicine.

Picking the book in person had its own charm to it and I think the setting definitely helped. However, the general idea of a boy messing with a grouchy granny seemed to catch him straight away.

It was a favourite of mine when I was his age but I’d forgotten how good it was. George is precocious and empathetic, and also a bit of a chancer. To be honest I think it was a good match for my son’s personality. On top of this the granny (the recipient of the medicine) is a whole new character once you look at her from an adult’s perspective.

My son read the first few chapters aloud but he’s starting to just grab his book, curl up, and read. Last night he skipped bedtime story and just brought the book into bed with him to read by torchlight. The book geek in me couldn’t be happier, but on top of this I know that what he’s doing will make the change in reading level this year all the easier to keep up with.

It’s a simple book that has been expertly crafted by one of the greatest story tellers I’ve read. Our new challenge will be to find the right book to follow it, but I’ve a feeling that the Roald Dahl back catalogue will keep him occupied for a while.

What were your favourite books when you first started reading? Can you remember any of them still? Let us know in the comments below.

As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

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The woods in the cabin

stair-type-diagonal-concrete-and-glass-house-18-thumb-970xauto-28307I’ve been asked a few times about Mick’s cabin. It’s described it as having the wood growing out of it and I imagined a really natural feel to the whole place. In my mind I wanted to give the impression that Mick had camped in the woods and then just decided to just extend his stay indefinitely.

I didn’t really imagine Mick’s cabin being so modern but this one is still really cool. You can click through on the link (just click the image) to see more pictures of this amazing home.

Ordinarily a writer would research these sorts of pictures before writing but I already had a pretty clear image in my mind when I started. All the same it’s nice (and a bit weird) to be able to find pictures that feel like they’ve somehow poured out of the books. I hadn’t really expected something like Mick’s cabin to be real.

595643074d2041dd79504696786e89b8The open fire is one of my favourite mental pictures; thinking of Sparky napping on a thick cosy rug beside the fire while the others discuss their plans. I found this image and instantly thought it captured the feel of that part of Mick’s cabin, even though I pictured a chimney hanging above it it’s still amazingly close to what I had in my head.

Other than that there was the tricky issue of how to deal with trees inside a home. These images are pretty close to what I was thinking.

living-the-highlife-adults-treehouse-5-photo-080601010521oWhen I thought of trees growing everywhere one of the more unusual things was how a kitchen would work with branches in the way. This picture is very similar to the idea I had for Mick’s kitchen and it’s nice and neat (no banging your head while you make a coffee) whilst feeling really natural. This is a good match for the site of Fynn’s growing coffee addiction and Tam’s (slightly aggressive) introduction. By the way the link I’ve attached to the image file takes you to a really cool page about ‘grown-up’ tree houses (it’s well worth a look).

Here are some more ‘forest in the cabin’ pictures from the moonworkshome site. Just to close off this wee post. Let me know if this is similar to what you pictured when reading the books. All the best, John

castle-in-the-trees-photo-5-photo-080601002142o 47ab3092929974b6b992420bd40cecf2

Some summer holiday reading

Kindle_UnlimitedIf you have a kindle (or something that can run the kindle reader app) then you can get hold of both of the Jack Reusen books (and a whole heap of books by other authors too) by signing up to a month’s free trial of Kindle Unlimited over at Amazon, here’s the link.

Once you’ve signed up you’ll see that both of the Jack Reusen books come up as free, so you can read the whole adventure so far, for nothing.

Jack Reusen and The Fey Flame‘ introduces you to the land of Fey, as creatures (and other things) make their way through to the ‘matter-world’ (basically our world). Jack and his family have to discover a way of closing a collection of ‘breaches’ between the two worlds to make their world safe again.

‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘ is a slightly different kind of cover with blurb and barcode 2 trimmedadventure. People are losing their ability to dream. Every night more and more people lose the certain something that makes human beings so good at solving problems and creating things; the spark of dreams. Jack discovers that he could be the key to understanding what’s causing this change, and he may even be the only person who can solve it and bring back the dreams and imaginations of hundreds of people.

I hope that both of the Jack Reusen books give you and/or your kids something to enjoy over the summer holidays. Let me know what you think, all the best, John

And…they’re off!

cover with blurb and barcode 2 trimmed

Another wee sample of Karen’s artwork

Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘ is ready! The artwork is done, the text has been edited, all files have been sent off to the printers, and now comes the waiting. (Though the wait won’t be too long for the kindle edition, which I’ll have ready sometime tonight.)

The process for print editions is fairly simple; first they send me a digital proof (which I expect to receive sometime early next week). After this comes approval of the proof, which is kind of an odd thing to do actually; basically I send them an e-mail saying ‘yes I like my own book, send me lots’. Once I’ve told them I like my book it can take seven to ten working days for them to to print up a bundle and send them to me.

I’ll probably end up posting a lot of updates on Facebook and Twitter once I’ve got a tracking number, so if you follow either account expect to see lots of posts about UPS on the day the books head my way.

To be sure that you get hold of one of the first copies you can pre-order one by leaving a comment below (they’re £6.99) and you can either pick them up at Fun Junction, get me to deliver them to you personally, or if you’re further away I can post one out to you.

Writing this book has been a totally different experience than the last one. Knowing that people have read the first, that some readers might be emotionally invested in certain characters (no I haven’t killed anyone, nor do I plan to), and knowing that there are many more books planned, has meant that I’ve had to be very careful with this one.

There are some scenes that had to be big and dramatic and they change characters in ways that might take them a couple of books to recover from. That’s what all these big delays have been about (I originally planned on having the book out in April). The trickiest part has been the fact that two key story lines run from just one early scene involving Fynn and Thea.

They come out of the event changed, but getting the balance between developing a character in that way, and just all-out changing them is difficult. Every change I made to that one scene (you’ll see what it is soon) had a heavy ripple-effect throughout the book, at times it was like playing Jenga with a sledgehammer. After a lot of work I think I’ve got it right and I hope you guys enjoy the journey that both of these characters go on.

Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘ is darker than the Fey Flame (though not by a lot), my proofreader/editor left me a note about three quarters of the way through the book that simply read ‘this is freakin’ scary!’. Don’t let this put you off though. I’ve left a lot of the scarier scenes open in a way that lets the reader fill in the gaps with their own imagination. This way, readers at my eldest son’s age (seven in a few weeks) will likely find these parts a lot less frightening than their parents.

Overall the story is based around what the world would be like if people didn’t dream, imagine, or come up with new ideas. Some of this is a little scary but mostly I wanted to deal with how important imagination is for everyone. Jack has to navigate a city that doesn’t dream and it doesn’t look like a nice place to live.

I’ve said before that there are ‘zombies’ in this book, but they aren’t undead, flesh-eating monsters; they’re innocent people who are sleep-walking through life and have lost something important because of it. Jack goes through a crisis of confidence but we all know that in the end he’ll have what it takes to help them.

Thea hasn’t been left out either; she gets to be an action hero in this book. Her fight scenes were some of the most enjoyable things I have ever written (though you’ll have to get a fair bit through the book to see them) and I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of girl she develops into in future books.

Sorry for the long post, as you can probably tell, I’m a little excited about launching the latest Jack Reusen book. I really hope you like it (when the books finally get here). I’ll keep you updated here and on the Facebook and Twitter accounts about when to expect them. In the mean time I’ve got a school book talk to prepare for. I’m off to Comrie Primary on Monday (my school between the ages of five and seven) and I’m really hoping the children there enjoy their introduction to Jack and his friends.

All the best, thanks as always for reading, cheers, John

A word explosion for your enjoyment

Not a real post here (too busy editing), just sharing this word-jumble (from wordle) that features all the most popular words in ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’ (size=frequency). It might give you an idea about some of the content.

spark of dreams word jumble4

Running tally of progress: final edit=p132 of 275 (don’t worry this bit doesn’t take that long), cover is done (thanks to Karen) but I’ve got a couple of minor tweeks to do once I have finalised page numbers (matching spine to book width). Once these are done the book will be good to go. I’ll pop a wee update after tonight’s editing session to keep you posted. Off to edit now, wish me luck, John

Spinning a web

wpid-imag1532_burst001_1.jpgAs you all know the book is progressing; it’s on final draft, lined up for printers, and just being amended for corrections from proofreaders. I’ve been freaking out recently at the realisation that I’m creating a book series rather than just an individual story.

When I first started out writing the Jack Reusen books I had the most basic plan, intended to turn in to just one book, but as ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ come together I realised that I’d gathered together a lot of information in the background that translated into other stories.

Having an entire world to create is obviously a lot of fun, however it’s also huge challenge. I hadn’t realised when I started how much I was going to have to know about my own world. Even at this stage I’m having to think ahead by quite a bit, to make sure I don’t make a mistake that closes off a good story later on. It’s hard leaving room for something to happen in future books without feeling vague or, worse still, leaving readers with too many unanswered questions.

Book one came with a few big questions but by the end of it most of them seem to have been answered. Book two is definitely a different animal as Jack’s world expands and we start to learn more about how the various kinds of magic he encounters work, a lot of questions arise that might not be answered for another two or three books.

When I think about it I realise just how many of the plots for later books rest on what happens in this book; not only am I leaving seeds for ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’, I’m coming to realise that ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’ has become something of a launching platform for an entire book series.

The formatting is done, some key issues are being debated over with my proofreaders, and the book is already in the kind of shape it needs to be to be send off to the Printers. It’s almost time and I’m sorry that you’ve all had to wait for so long, please bare with me, there really isn’t much left to do.

If you have any questions about the books, or about the writing process in general feel free to leave a wee message in the comments below. All the best, John

Almost time…

wpid-imag1530_1.jpgThere are two big reveals to share tonight: a sneak-peak of the cover for ‘Jack Reusen and The Spark of Dreams’, and on top of that I’m sharing the title of the very last chapter, it’s that close to completion!

I’m so sorry for the long wait, editing has been a tough run this time round. I did something with one of the main characters that I wasn’t 100% happy with, unfortunately it was quite early on in the book so changing it has had a ripple effect. ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’  is looking to be ready around a month later than the April release promised at the back of ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’. To everyone who has been asking about it, I am so sorry for the delay, and thank you for all the support you have all shown so far.

As for the book cover I hope you like the wee snippets shared in this post. I put out a call for an illustrator a few weeks ago and an illustrator called Karen MacAllister came forward (pop over to her illustrator website and her blog to find out more about her work). She showed me some great wee preliminary sketches and we took it from there and, thanks to Karen we now have a really dynamic and intriguing cover.

wpid-imag1532_burst001_1.jpgTo be slightly annoying (building anticipation a bit), I’ve decided to only show small portions of Karen’s finished work. I thought it’d be more fun to share the finished article once the book is out.

I need to point out that Karen’s advice and knowledge were almost as valuable as her artistic skills in creating this cover. She really knows her stuff and de-cluttered my original plans to produce something that catches the eye and draws you in and I absolutely love the colour and tone she’s put into it.

I’m going to edit like a lunatic over the next couple of days, the book is all but done but I want to really do this justice (it isn’t easy getting the balance right in zombie scenes for kids). So many readers have been so supportive of this next leg of Jack’s adventure that I don’t want to let them down. Hopefully the story within will have the same draw as Karen’s fantastic cover.

As always thanks for reading, I’ll try and visit here more frequently over the next few days with updates so you should hopefully hear more soon. All the best, John