Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The journey has begun: Fabergé and Anastasia

The journey has begun: Fabergé and Anastasia: It would have been Peter Carl Fabergé's 166th Birthday today and I learned so much about him and his beautiful Fabergé Eggs while writing Se...

Fabergé and Anastasia

It would have been Peter Carl Fabergé's 166th Birthday today and I learned so much about him and his beautiful Fabergé Eggs while writing Series II of the Anastasia books, starting with Anastasia and the Imperial Egg Hunt.  Each Fabergé Egg was individually crafted for the Imperial Russian Tsar to give as a gift to his wife.  The tradition began with Tsar Alexander III and continued with his son Tsar Nicholas II.  Peter Carl Fabergé created the most unique, elaborate, jewel encrusted gold Eggs that each held a surprise.  The surprise was usually a gold object or objects and were equally as intricate as the Eggs that contained them.

Eight of the Imperial Fabergé Eggs are still missing, however Anastasia may have found them in Series II.  You would need to read the books to find out where they were all hidden and if she solved the mystery!

The first time I heard of Fabergé was from a Danielle Steele book, believe it or not.  Within her romantic stories was often reference to historical events and facts, including Fabergé Eggs, Titanic and the Vietnam War, among other things.  As a young teenager I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to own a Fabergé Egg and, as I have been learning, the dream may easily become reality if I could only find one of the real, missing, eight Imperial Fabergé Eggs!  Not only would I be very happy I would also be a very wealthy lady!

Writing these books has been a joy because of all the things my research is teaching me.  I was never a history fan at school, in fact I only ever got positive feedback from my teacher for my drawings of King Henry VIII's wives!  But I can see now why people get excited and interested in things from the past.  As history now has some relevance to me I am beginning to find it more and more fascinating.

Happy 166th Birthday Peter Carl Fabergé and thank you for helping make history very interesting for me!

Friday, 25 May 2012

The journey has begun: The art of conversation

The journey has begun: The art of conversation: Writing is a great thing to do and I realised today how I pretty much write everything in my life.  Anastasia stories, texts, emails, tweets...

The art of conversation

Writing is a great thing to do and I realised today how I pretty much write everything in my life.  Anastasia stories, texts, emails, tweets, facebook updates, shopping lists and Internet orders.  There are probably loads more.  I am aware that I am a lazy conversationalist preferring to write everything in a text, etc.  It is a worry that I am losing the art of verbal conversation and I'm sure that is a common thing for most people these days. 

Whatever happens though I refuse to abbreviate words in text messages.  I would rather send 3 texts in 1 than end up with something like this: "Gr8 2 cu 2day.Hv lvly wkd."  Actually I now see the benefit but it is too late for me as I would probably spend hours figuring out abbreviations for things so I'll keep to real words.

I do spend a lot of time talking with my children.  We went for a lovely walk in the woods earlier and chatted about where the fairies might be hiding, which paths to choose and the difference between dog and horse poo(!).  It's reassuring that I can converse so easily with those that are four years old and under!  I'll make more effort with grown ups I've decided.  Don't get me wrong I don't live in a world where my lips are sealed outside the house.  I have had some interesting chats with other preschool mums - could probably write a book about some of the stories in fact!

It does seem easier to talk to someone over the phone as they can't see your face and you can look as awful as you like and even be wearing your pjs-they'd never know!  Today I had to make a telephone call because the company I was ordering from online said items in my size out of stock.  They helpfully provided a number to assist in this event.  I called them and a friendly young man (how old do I sound!) assisted me.  I managed to explain what I wanted by quoting an item number.  It was an order for a bra and I realised how awkward I felt telling a complete stranger my bra size!  It's funny because he kept asking me to repeat my surname but he never forgot my bra size!

I guess the message here is, well there are three: (1) Make more effort to converse the old fashioned way; (2) Spend less time writing; and (3) Remember you only have to tell a man your bra size once!  He will never forget.

Here's to a lovely,chatty weekend.  I may be on a phone near you soon :)

Monday, 21 May 2012

It's that old devil...

Ok so I'm experiencing a familiar feeling... self doubt.  I am beginning to think, 'who am I trying to kid, I'm a stay at home mum and I think I can make a career out of writing!' but you know I guess it was going to happen.  I honestly don't think I've had this feeling so far in my journey writing but it's like reality has hit home. 

I've always been very determined, tenacious I suppose, and this has helped me get through life so far.  I've always had this need to prove something and feel like I have achieved something I can be proud of. The problem, with someone like me, is that I'm constantly trying to find that itch that I can't quite reach! 

Then I remembered wanting to send a letter to Blue Jeans magazine, when I was 10 years old, desperate to win the star letter in an edition of the magazine that I loved.  So I wrote a story based around something I knew.  It is said 'write about what you know' so I did.  My older sister, Lynda, had once lost a tooth and placed it expectantly under her pillow.  In the morning she was hopeful for some monetary gift to make the gaping hole in her gum line worthwhile.  Instead of a shiny, gold coin (let's be honest in those days probably silver!) she got a note.  It was handwritten and read something like this: "Thank you for your tooth however we don't have any coins at the moment so we will have to owe you." It was signed 'the Hairy Fairy'.  I wrote a story about it and sent it to Blue Jeans and forgot about it until my mum called me over to say I had a letter.  It was from Blue Jeans magazine and I had won the star letter!!!!!  I had been awarded £5, which was a lot of money in those days especially to a 10 year old!  The pride I felt when my mum took me to the bank to cash the cheque was amazing!  They wanted to change the story slightly which I never quite understood.  They added, 'my Dad's got a big, red beard.'  As if this would explain somehow that he was a hairy fairy - seriously!  Mr Bailey, my teacher at the time, made me read it aloud to the class!

I guess I am learning that you can write about what you don't know as long as there is some basis that you do know about and I guess there is something of me in Anastasia.  The first two shortest stories, Anastasia and the horses of Boughton Lodge and Anastasia and the Mounted Regal Rescue, introduce a girl that I knew could develop into someone special and by the time she reaches Anastasia and the Russian Field she certainly has experienced and learnt a lot.  I too am developing all the time and also learning all the time and realising that you can't just write a story - you need to research, research, research and research some more.  Imagine if I'd had the Internet in those days the time I may have spent looking up the tooth fairy!

Now I must google 'what is the going rate for a tooth these days?' in readiness for Ella's first tooth loss. 

So I guess I need to take a page out of Anastasia's book and embrace my new challenge.  The ironing can wait!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Harry the Hug Monster

Ella keeps asking me when I am going to get a job and why she doesn't have a nanny or childminder like other children.  Nothing like making you feel like you're doing something wrong!  So in an effort to prove to her that I write stories about Anastasia and get paid for it I suggested we write a story together.  I have shown her my various pages, book listings on Amazon, read her bits of Anastasia and the Russian White Stallion, etc. however she remains unimpressed.  I popped out to the shop the other evening and this is the resulting story that we wrote based around a conversation she had with her daddy.  Ella is four years old.

Harry the Hug Monster,by Ella Phillips

 One day my mummy went to the shop so I asked daddy, "Where has mummy gone?"  He replied, "To the shop." 

 I asked him, "What will she see?"  Daddy replied, "What do you think she will see?"  I said, "A monster."  Daddy said that mummy wouldn't see a monster.  I knew daddy was joking but I wasn't.

 Mummy came back and I asked her, "What did you see mummy?"  Mummy said, "I saw a monster!"  "Were you scared?" I asked her. "No," mummy replied.  "What did he look like?" I asked.  "He was a big, purple monster!" mummy said, "and he kept hugging people."

 "Did he hug you?" I asked.  "No," said mummy.  "Why?" I asked her.  "Because I didn't want him to," she replied.  "Why?" I asked.  "Because I didn't want purple fluff in my mouth!"  Mummy did a funny face and pretended she was spitting purple fluff out of her mouth. 

 I keep looking for Harry the Hug Monster but I can't seem to see him.

 The End.

She did make me laugh when she said that 'daddy was joking but she wasn't'.  Bless her.  We may have a budding writer on our hands yet. Maybe she will inspire me with some content for my stories!  Jason did mouth to me on my return to the shops 'say you saw a monster' so she wasn't disappointed that my shopping trip had no excitement!

We have today bought a new swing for the garden.  Ella loves it and I am more comfortable with it now is has been cemented in and doesn't lift gently in the breeze!!

Happy days :)

Friday, 18 May 2012

Where to start

I feel quite emotional about completing two series of the Anastasia stories and I am just so pleased that it's not over yet.  This would have been the end of them and I would have been left wondering what to do next so when Fergus suggested I write another series I was really happy.  Then when he suggested another two series I was very chuffed!  I did fear that my ideas for the character might dry up however she will be growing up and moving on from Boughton Lodge and the wonderful horses to become a full on detective so there's a whole host of opportunities for the young sleuth.

Now I need to get organised.  There will be a new cover and this time a photo so I need to find a model of around fifteen years old with light brown long hair!  She needs to resemble Anastasia Romanov but I'm thinking creatively and maybe a shot from the back with a profile?  I don't think I know anyone locally who fits the description so may have to resort to stopping random people!  I may end up in my own crime story if I'm not careful so will hope that someone I know knows of someone who will be perfect.  Any suggestions let me know!

It's been a long week and Amy's sleeps are changing so I will have less time to write in the daytime the way it's going.  I'll do it when I can around her sleeps and use my evenings a lot more.  The weekends are invaluable especially if Jason takes the girls out for a couple of hours so I should still find a good number of hours to work with.

I am feeling nervous everytime I think about Series III and it makes me feel a bit jittery but, like a performer about to go on stage, without nerves I wouldn't be giving it my all.  On with the show...

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The eve of a new chapter

So here I am writing the final story of Anastasia Series II and I am excited and a tad nervous about Series III.  I hope this doesn't come across in the wrong way but I know that with every story my writing has got better and better.  I become truly engrossed in the characters and the story lines.  They kind of take over at times and I become like a woman possessed and must appear in need of the loo - I suddenly think of something fantastic to add to a story and I race off to type it.  Yes, I have a note book and pen, as every writer should, however I know that when something is there it is there and has to be typed immediately and then the rest follows!  I am loving the journey and it is just that, a journey.  Along with the characters, I am also developing in so many ways and I can only hope my adventures don't end for a while.

It's funny what can evoke memories of significant things in your life and it has always been said that music can do that.  Earlier this evening I was watching Britain's Got Talent, recorded from last night, and I can honestly say I really enjoyed it.  You could see how far each act had come with that added confidence from being selected for something that was beyond their wildest dreams.  It kind of resonates with me for obvious reasons.

When the huge choir came on and performed I found it quite moving to watch.  I could imagine being in the auditorium and hearing it there.  I imagine it must have been fantastic.  It made me think of someone I haven't thought of for a long time. 

This person is a lady that was my teacher at junior school, Mrs Cooper.  Mrs Cooper was everything a teacher should be.  She was fierce enough to command respect but wasn't cruel, she had 'Dennis the Dap' to put fear into everyone (obviously no longer allowed but I never saw her use it ) but above all she had the ability to make you feel like you could achieve something.  I must have been around eight or nine years old and I remember her giving me a book to take home to read.  She knew I was a fast reader and that this book should be manageable.  The book was huge and I found it daunting but I was aware that she had the confidence in me to suggest I read it and that alone felt amazing. 

My Dad (he was a carpenter by trade) carved her a beautiful wooden name sign for her cottage with bevelled edges and curved lettering (I won't say the name of her cottage here in case it somehow gets linked up) and she was quite overwhelmed but I think my parents even realised she was a great lady and one of the best teachers.

So why did a choir make me think of Super Cooper (I remember making up a song about her with Shane Hofton and Sadie Knight where we reworded Abba's Super Trouper!)?  Well she also ran the choir and she taught us all to smile with every performance.  She took us to the Cheltenham Festival where we sang and read poetry.  From memory the song was 'Bessie was a black cat' and the poem was 'Jabberwocky'.  We didn't win but I know that every single one of us felt inspired by the experience and we all left with aching jaws from smiling throughout our performances! 

Mrs Cooper I salute you :)     


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Getting over a block

Well I have played around with my blog page and added subscription and follower options and a pic of the current Anastasia cover.  I will be using a new cover for Series III and will add it once I have one!  Let me know what you think of the page and feel free to subscribe/follow!

'Anastasia and Kit's Coty' is coming along well now.  It's very exciting and there are dangers and thrills for our heroine, Anastasia, and her friend, Charlotte.  Kit's Coty is a mysterious place situated on Blue Bell Hill in Kent.  It is alleged to be haunted so why not visit there one night and find out if it really is?!

All of the Anastasia books, apart from the first two (Anastasia and the Horses of Boughton Lodge and Anastasia and the Mounted Regal Rescue), have historical fact in about Kent and most have historical information about Imperial Russia.  I have loved the research for these stories as I have been learning something new with every story.  For example did you know the Duke of Wellington refused to sleep in a bed on his return from army duties instead choosing a camp bed (Anastasia and the Cinque Ports)? And the real Anastasia Romanov was an excellent photographer?

Every story is set in Kent and they are a great way to learn more about Kent's rich history and indeed learn more about the Russian Revolution, our own rich Royal history, the first Kent Vikings and smuggling gangs of old. 

Series III will be moving away from Kent so I will be researching into other areas, cities and countries. 

Right then, back to work on 'Anastasia and Kit's Coty' and the nasty Burham Boys gang.  I'm afraid they may have messed with the wrong girl on this occasion!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A morning in the life of a freelance writer

I've been managing really well to fit writing ebooks around other things but then I'll have a day like today where I struggle to focus.  When I started writing for Fergus I was churning out two stories a week!  When I have an idea then I am off on a whirlwind typing adventure and I love it.  It has slowed down a little and I'm on maybe one a week.  I need to finish Story 19, Anastasia and Kit's Coty, however my mind doesn't seem to be cooperating!  

Anyone who has worked with me in the last ten years will know that I am ridiculously organised and am a queen of multi tasking.  It's been a strange transition as a stay at home mum after having a career and it's so fantastic to have something to focus on other than being a mum.  Any mum will know what I'm talking about!  I'm also a 'try anything once' kind of gal and that often means I flit from one thing to another so I am determined that my relationship with writing will last.

It's Ella's long day at preschool today and Amy is having a long sleep so I should be writing the story.  The morning was so rushed getting us out to preschool.  Ella wouldnt cooperate so we were almost late, well we were late but they are always late opening so it worked out!  Then I went shopping and had a doctor's appointment.  Came back to unpack shopping, feed Amy and I then put her to bed.  I sit down to write my story and I just can't think of how the story will go.  I have had this before so I know it will come but it's so frustrating when you have this time pressure to get it done when you can.  Amy will wake any minute and I'm sat here typing my blog!

I do think though that if I had set times to write then it probably wouldn't work so I will continue as I am for now as it's been working quite well.  I get a lot of writing done at the weekends when Jason is home as he takes the girls out to the supermarket or somewhere for a couple of hours.

I think today I am just a bit tired from waking all night with thoughts of Anastasia in my head and wanting to get on with the story because I love to see how it's going to end.  I've done a ton of research so really just need let my imagination spark.

Amy's awake now thanks to our noisy letterbox and an unwanted pizza menu!  Hey ho back to being a mum I go.  Next blog will be very positive and full of news of how the story is nearly complete (I hope!)  

Monday, 7 May 2012

A quote from Fergus

Rachael Phillips has been commissioned to write two further series of Anastasia jointly with Fergus Wilson.  In all this will be forty ebooks in total. 

Anastasia Romanov has grown older and is now a Private Detective.  She is assisted by a Hungarian called Laszlo Laszlo formerly in the Russian Army where he served in Afghanistan and later as a Paratrooper in Chad with the French Foreign Legion.

Series II is almost complete with two more stories to go.

Rachael Phillips has proved a prolific writer.  Her choice of subject with co-writer Fergus Wilson is very specifically aimed at what children want to read in Childrens' Fiction and what adults wish to read in Adult Fiction.

Welcome to the world of crime writing with Rachael Phillips and Fergus Wilson

How it all started - a little background!

My journey as a writer began by accident.  After I had my first daughter, Ella, I wanted to let her know just how much she meant to me and I wrote a short story all about the meaning of her name (it means fairy maiden by the way!).  Then I wrote other stories about other children's names.  This was in 2008.  I entered a TV Mumpreneur competition on the advice of my friend, Karen, who loved my stories and I got selected! (Thanks Karen!)  I didnt win however it made me realise that I did have a talent to write.

Over time I began to write poems and other short stories but struggled to find an agent or publisher so it got put on the back burner for a while. 

Then one day I decided I wanted to find some work I could do from home so I joined a freelancer website and began to bid on typing jobs or anything I felt I could do.  Purely by chance I spotted a job for a children's writer and I applied for it.  There were some very experienced, published writers applying but I decided I had nothing to lose and sent a gutsy application bid.

I got a rejection email and was quite annoyed because of some of the content so I fired off a reply stating how I had more stamina than most and I would continue to work hard to get my writing published.  I then received another reply saying that I had in fact been selected and a computer glitch meant that I received the rejection message in error!  It does make me laugh when I think about the things I emailed that day.  I was already in a bad mood following a turkey collection incident at Sainsburys so I had really vented it out in my message!  This was Christmas Eve 2011.

I had a meeting in the New Year with Fergus and his wife, Judith, who live in rural Kent and I began writing two very short stories for him.  He liked them and commissioned me to write 6 more stories which were longer.  At the beginning he had said that the stories should be about Anastasia and the horses at Boughton Lodge.  I quickly developed the character and she became a detective with a new friend she had made, Charlotte.  Together they began to solve crimes as Kent's own mounted, junior police force.  As things progressed, Fergus' had some fantastic ideas and characters to input and I loved making a story around these.

Once Series I was complete, Fergus asked me to write another 12 books to be Series II.  The stories got even longer and I found it incredibly exciting to write and realising how far the characters had come.   

I began to feel a bit sad that it was all coming to an end when I received a request from Fergus to write more stories.  So Series III and Series IV will happen. I am so excited and cant wait to share my journey with you all and that of Anastasia of course!