New Digital Books Add Another Dimension to Reading

iTunesArtwork.225x225-75Doctor Frankenstein’s Other Monster is written by Nigel Gray and illustrated by Craig Smith, and was first published by Random House in print form.

Recently, this book was made into to an iBook and audio book, and a whole new dimension has been added to the reading experience.

Doctor Frankenstein’s Other Monster is a kid’s book about someone who just wants to belong, but is hounded out of town because he’s different.

Frank is just like any other kid – he wants a friend to play with, but everyone is scared of the way he looks and people react towards him with fear and anger.

SS_1_DFOM_Chpt_One_1024x768.480x480-75Finally, Frank the little monster finds someone who doesn’t care what he looks like, someone who just wants to play.

The issues faced by Frank could easily relate to a classroom discussion about the plight of today’s refugees in Australia – or issues of exclusion and bullying.

Doctor Frankenstein’s Other Monster uses fabulous humour in both the text and illustrations to provoke readers to think about the themes behind the story.

This modern take on Frankenstein’s monster hilariously reprises Mary Shelley’s original novel, following the same themes of a search for companionship, and – sadly – of rejection. Frank Junior finds the world to be a very unfriendly place, but happily he has been imbued with qualities that are able to see him through the awkward times.

SS_2_DFOM_police_1024x768.480x480-75What’s also great about this book is that it has a lively narrator (Erick Mitsak), and the whole text is accompanied by amazing sound effects from a violin – specially created to meld with the text and pictures.

Doctor Frankenstein’s Other Monster provides a truly engaging experience which reminds the reader that there’s more to reading than just what you can see on the page – that reading can be a multi-sensory experience.


The music and violin by Veren Grigorov evolved spontaneously during the book’s development process and they help capture the mood of the story.

SS_3_DFOM_tanks_1024x768.480x480-75The violin provides a happy melody as Frank goes out to play, and hopefulness as he hops on the bus. Then there’s the more sinister sound of the police coming, and the arrival of army and marching soldiers. Finally at the end, there’s the happy violin that seems to be almost dancing as Frank plays with his new friend.

The music gives Doctor Frankenstein’s Other Monster an extra dimension. It adds tension and vitality that work harmoniously with the illustration and text.

More about Doctor Frankenstein’s Other Monster is available here.

You can find out more about Nigel Gray here and Craig Smith here.

For me, Doctor Frankenstein’s Other Monster is a great example of how multi-media can be used to create a  complex and complete experience for young readers and listeners.

cover.225x225-75PICTURE THIS 

Picture This takes readers through the fascinating step-by-step process showing how Craig Smith created his amazing pictures for Doctor Frankenstein’s Other Monster.

It’s extremely visual, and everything is explained in simple steps, which is great for new illustrators like me.

This book covers the complexities of creating even the most simple illustrations and explores topics like:

  • research
  • style
  • movement
  • type of person
  • clothes
  • persona
  • point of view
  • facial expressions
  • body language
  • scale and size
  • techniques
  • background
  • adding colour


10.480x480-75I have a five year plan to one day illustrate my own children’s books and Picture This got me thinking about illustrating in a completely different way.

07.480x480-75Picture This takes you through the stages of planning a drawing and working out what questions to ask yourself as an illustrator to help you identify what you’re trying to achieve, and to help you achieve it.


There are simple, easy to follow steps, and Picture This can be downloaded to your iPad,making it a great tool for student illustrators.

Find out more about Picture This here.




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanks to everyone who won a place in the Heat Anthology in our Summer Writing Competition, and has sent in their final stories.

Unfortunately there have been some delays because I’m still waiting on edited stories from some contestants.

As I’m heading to Nevada at the end of next week, it might not be possible to publish the anthology before I go, but providing the stories come in the next couple of days, I will endeavour to do the best I can.

Thank you for your patience.

Happy writing:)


Tuesday Writing Tips – Stay Calm and Keep Writing

IMAG4714It has taken me a long time learn to be patient about my writing, but I feel like I’m finally getting there. Hard as it has been for me to accept, the fact is that writing and getting published is a long term process that can’t be hurried. You just have to stay calm and keep going. It takes as long as it takes and that’s just the way it is.

My SCBWI Nevada Mentorship has been an amazing ride and it’s far from over yet. I have hopes to be published as a result of the mentorship, but no expectations.

For me, I’ve already achieved so much.  My verse novel manuscript has gone from an initial draft of 17,000 words to the current version of around 50,000 words – and I know that there’s still a long way to go.

I have a plot that I’m reasonably happy with and two characters that I feel I know almost as well as my own children.  There are still scenes to develop and places where I know I can make the words work harder.

IMAG4710My goals for the project were to hone my verse novel writing skills, learn more about global readers and find an international publisher for my book.

I feel like I’ve already achieved the first two goals. My mentor, Ellen Hopkins has been truly amazing with her helpful, encouraging and perceptive feedback. Under her guidance, my characters have gone from admired acquaintances to close family members.  She is pushing me to be the best writer I can be.

So I guess my point to all this is that nothing happens overnight in the world of writing and publishing. We have to just keep calm and keep going.  We have to be patient.

My verse novel Hating Ric started out life as Street Racer back in 2008 (I’m still debating about which name I prefer). Here are some of the steps I’ve gone through to get it to its current stage.

2008 – First draft and another three drafts completed.
2009 – Rewrote in prose as an experiment to see if I liked it better – I didn’t.
2010 – Back to writing in verse. Queried with a couple of agents with some positive feedback but realised manuscript wasn’t ready – back to the computer.
2011 – Good friend Svetlana Bykovec wanted a YA novel to make into a book trailer. Here’s the result.
2011 – Attended the SCBWI LA conference and did a verse novel writing workshop with Ellen Hopkins
2012 – Many more drafts
2013 – Apply for SCBWI Nevada mentorship to work with Ellen Hopkins.
2014 – Finish the novel and submit it to agents (I’m still working on that one.)

I’m off to Nevada again on 20th April for the next part of the mentorship.

It’s going to be great to catch up with my mentor and all my writing and illustrating buddies again.  I’m looking forward to finding out how everyone else is going with their projects, and I’m going to be attending  a session on how to write a query letter and synopsis – definitely things I need to perfect.

IMAG4962Don’t be disheartened that things aren’t happening fast for you in the publishing world. Stay Calm and Keep Writing.

Writing is like a good wine it has to have time to mature – it can’t be rushed. Eventually, I’m hoping to send Ric off into the big wide world, but not until I’m absolutely sure that he’s ready.

If you have tips on what keeps you going with your writing, feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)



Author/Illustrator Blog Travelling Etiquette

I love having authors and illustrators visiting my blogs.

Many are new creators and first time visitors, and it’s wonderful to hear all about their work and journeys.

But like many aspects of this publishing business there are no rules/guide books to help you when you’re making that first visit to someone’s blog.

IMAG4716So I thought I’d cover some of the main things in today’s post to help authors and illustrators in their travels around Cyberspace.

  1. Try to keep your posts to under 800 words. Readers are very time poor.
  2. Send your materials well in advance of when you are appearing on someone’s blog so that they will have time to post it – allowing for technical difficulties, internet meltdowns etc.  At least two weeks in advance is helpful.
  3. Send pictures that are more than 500 pixels but less than 2000. Send these in JPEG format. Include pictures of you and your publication/s.
  4. Make sure all the links in your post are correct and working. It helps the host if they are already hyperlinked.
  5. Familiarise yourself with your host’s blog so that your content is relevant.
  6. If you’re on a blog tour, include a blog tour schedule with links to all the blogs on tour.
  7. Be polite and appreciative - your blog host is promoting you and your work for FREE.
  8. If you want to run a competition, always ask the blog host first, don’t just assume they will do it. Most blog hosts are very time poor and competitions can take a lot of time to run.
  9. If you want to run a competition, offer to pick the winner yourself, and don’t ask your host to send out your book as a prize. Readers prefer to receive signed author copies, and blog hosts don’t always have the time or resources to post your books out – particularly when the competition winners could be international. Your publisher may be able to help you with this.
  10. Share the blog post on your social media outlets – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram etc. This not only provides additional promotion for you, but it also gives the host’s blog some exposure and if they know that you are putting in some effort too, they will be more likely to invite you back.
  11. Don’t use the same material for different blogs – readers will get bored with it – try to vary the content from blog to blog.
  12. Include information about where your books can be purchased.
  13. Include links to your website/blog/youtube/book trailers etc.
  14. If your host has agreed to review your book, they should get it at least four weeks in advance of the review appearing – even if you have to send them a copy personally and not wait for your publisher to do it.  Books take time to read and your blog host will feel more favourable towards your book if they have not been put under intense pressure to read it.
  15. Look at blog travelling in the same way as real travel. It’s supposed to be a fun adventure for everyone involved.

I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have any others, feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)




It’s Never Too Late to Set Writing Goals

IMG_0015Yesterday I was chatting with my crit buddy, Alison Reynolds about all the things we plan to do in the next 6 to 12 months.

We are both the kind of writers who always have a lot of projects we’re working on at once – so it’s easy to get distracted from what we’re supposed to be working on.

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverIn fact, sometimes we have so much going on that it’s hard to know what to work on first.

For me, having too many things to do can be a source of procrastination – not knowing where to start causes me to not to get much done at all.

At the moment I’m working on my sequel to Letters to Leonardo, my SCBWI Nevada mentorship novel, a new chapter book series, my YA trilogy and a couple of picture books.  It’s kind of the way I work sometimes – chaos:)

That’s why I need to sometimes look to the horizon, look beyond the thing I’m currently working on and plan the journey ahead.

Lake Taupo at SunsetAlison’s list had a similar number of WIP to mine – a similar lack of direction.

So, while we sat in a cafe overlooking the Yarra river, we set our writing goals for the next six months to try and keep our projects on track.


  1. Be specific about what you want to achieve.
  2. Identify the steps you will need to take to achieve this – split your goals up into achievable  stages.  For example, first draft, critique, edit first draft, write next draft, write next draft, write synopsis, write query letter, identify potential markets for your work, submit, follow up etc. Set a deadline for each of these tasks.
  3. Be flexible – don’t be afraid to change your goals according to circumstances. For example, when my feedback comes back from my mentor, I’ll be going back to working on my mentorship novel.
  4. Talk over your writing goals with a writing buddy. This can help you get things in perspective and work out where your priorities are.
  5. Set goals that inspire you. Your goals have to be meaningful.
  6. Commit your goals to writing – this makes them more ‘real’.
  7. Share these goals with someone – this makes you accountable for achieving them.
  8. Regularly review and update your goals.
  9. Set some goals that are very easy to achieve – this will give you a sense of satisfaction – something to ‘tick off’ – something to give you incentive to keep going.
  10. Set short term and long term goals that can be measured. Short term goals might be things like how many hours you are going to devote to your writing each week. Long term goals would include submission and editing deadlines that you set yourself.

If you have any other goal setting tips, feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing and goal setting:)


P.S. if you are looking for a crit buddy, you may find one here:


What Happens When You Lose Your Muse?

I went to the SCBWI Melbourne gathering on Saturday afternoon and came away feeling inspired and happy after spending time with my ‘tribe’ – a wonderful group of kids’ book writers and illustrators.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen on Saturday night, something happened that I knew was inevitable, but it still came as a shock.

My muse, my Molly went to sleep and didn’t wake up.

I was glad she went peacefully, but was totally devastated to lose her.

Molly inspired many blog posts – so many words. She used to sit outside my study window and when the words wouldn’t come, I could look at her instead of a blank screen.

She would give me one of her gentle bleats and somehow my creative inspiration and thoughts would return.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMolly and I have shared so much – walking Puff dog and Charlie cat, crowding around the campfire, sitting on the deck on cold mornings and watching the clouds drift over the valley.

Then there was the Molly rescue in the recent fires, the time I left the car boot open and she jumped in, and the day I found her clomping around the lounge room when somebody accidentally left the front door open.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMolly has been so much part of my life for so long. She came to us when her previous owner was tragically killed in an accident so we’re not sure how old she was, but we estimate she was at least 12 or 13, possibly older.

IMAG2137She was a goat with a sense of adventure, a sense of humour, a sense of kindness and an excellent judge of character – she didn’t like mean people.

IMAG2168I was worried at first that the words would pass with Molly, but they haven’t. In spite of my deep sadness, I am feeling more inspired than ever to write.

Although Molly has gone, she will always be there  - not just in the stories I plan to write about her.

IMAG2163I have realised that a muse isn’t something tangible that you can see, touch and feel close to.  A muse has a spirit. A muse is in your mind and heart.  A muse is in your soul – in the place where your deepest creativity comes from.  You are connected to your muse in a way that can’t be broken.

IMAG0744Your muse never leaves you no matter what.

it’s just that sometimes you have to look harder, try a little harder to find it.


Tuesday Writing Tips With Marmalade and Alison Reynolds – Writing a Sequel

A-Year-with-Marmalade_cropped2Today I’m very pleased to welcome my good friend and writing buddy, Alison Reynolds.  Alison has a new book out and it’s a sequel to her bestseller, A Year with Marmalade (also illustrated by the very talented Heath McKenzie).

A new friend for Marmalade once again features the wise and independent thinking Marmalade.

Marmalade is a bit of a favourite of mine so it’s so great to see his adventures continuing, and I’m in the middle of writing a sequel to my book, Letters to Leonardo so I was very interested to read Alison’s tips on writing Marmalade 2.


UnknownTo help Alison and Heath celebrate the release of their brand new book, I’m offering a manuscript assessment of the first chapter of a chapter book for one lucky winner.

All you have to do is  comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A new friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials DW.

The more you comment, the more chances you have to win.

More information about the other great prizes on offer is available here.


Alison and Heath signing books

Alison and Heath signing books

Dee, thank you so much for hosting me here. A new friend for Marmalade was a very special book for me to write.

Toby is different from Ella and Maddy. He wants to be friends with them, but doesn’t know how to gain their friendship. Ella and Maddy aren’t mean to Toby but they exclude him because they’re not sure how to handle his exuberance, and Toby doesn’t have the social skills to know how to fit in.

Marmalade immediately accepts Toby as a friend, and doesn’t even notice that he’s a bit different.

I wanted to celebrate Toby’s special qualities – his exuberance and unique way of seeing and doing things. I wanted to show that once the girls were prepared to accept Toby’s differences, that they could all be good friends.

I leapt at the chance of writing a sequel for A Year with Marmalade. I love that cat!


  1. Come up with a totally new concept from Book Number One. Keep it fresh.
  2. If self-doubt creeps in  about whether you can write a book as good as Book Number One, don’t think about it and just start writing. You’ve done it once and you can do it again.
  3. Make sure that your sequel isn’t too similar to book one. I wrote a list of cat actions so I didn’t use all the same words that I used n Book Number One to describe Marmalade.
  4. Don’t change the characters too much in the sequels so you have continuity in the series.
  5. Hope and wish that Book Number One does well enough so you are asked to write a sequel. Then hope and wish that Book Number Two does well enough so you are asked to write a sequel. Then really hope and really wish that there is a Book Number Three and it does …


I love picture books like A new friend for Marmalade where themes of friendship, tolerance and adaptability are woven into the story and the actions of the characters so seamlessly that readers are absorbing important messages without feeling as though they are being preached to.

I can’t be completely objective with this book because Alison is my crit buddy, and I’ve seen this story grow from the gem of an idea into the beautifully told and illustrated book it is today.

But the themes in this book and the setting are universally recognisable. And the rhythm of the language makes it a great book to read out loud.

“A whirlwind cartwheeled through the sandpit. Maddy scowled and Ella frowned”

So few words, yet the scene and its characters are easily established in the mind of the reader. To me that’s the essence of a great picture book.

Readers will enjoy the sense of fun in A new friend for Marmalade, expressed both through the text, and the lively and appealing illustrations.


Lovers of the first Marmalade book will enjoy A New Friend for Marmalade, and this book is bound to guarantee this cute ginger cat a legion of new fans.


Marmalade is padding off to more great blogs. You can visit him here:

11th Dee White – review and post

11th Chris Bell – post

12th Angela Sunde – interview with Heath

12th KBR – book giveaway

13th Boomerang Books – Post with Dimity Powell

14th KBR Guest post

14th KBR Review

14th Sally Murphy – Meet my book

15th Buzz Words – Interview

17th Ask the Bean Counter – Mr X

17th Pass-it-on Post and Review- Jackie Hosking

18th Ask the Publisher – Kay Scarlett