Posts tagged Susan Brocker

Some fun writing rules

Hi everyone, I hope you all had a great weekend. I was lucky enough to see the comedian Lenny Henry on Sunday night, which was a lot of fun. I’m still in a light mood, so thought I’d share some fun rules on writing. The biggest part of a writer’s life is checking and rechecking work for grammatical mistakes and other errors. I have a fun list next to my computer screen which helps me with this. Here are some pointers:

 1.        Don’t abbrev.

2.         Check to see if you any words out.

3.         Be carefully to use adjectives and adverbs correct.

4.         Don’t use no double negatives.

5.         Just between you and I, case is important.

6.         Don’t use commas, that aren’t necessary.

7.         Its important to use apostrophe’s right.

8.         It’s better not to unnecessarily split an infinitive.

9.         Only Proper Nouns should be capitalized. also a sentence should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop

10.       Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

11.       Avoid unnecessary redundancy.

12.       A writer mustn’t shift your point of view.

13.       Don’t write a run-on sentence you’ve got to punctuate it.

14.       A preposition isn’t a good thing to end a sentence with.

15.       Avoid cliches like the plague.

16.       1 final thing is to never start a sentence with a number.

17.       Always check your work for accuracy and completeness.

 

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The Witch, the Wardrobe and the What?

I read about a study carried out recently which found that fewer children these days know about famous characters from classic children’s books. When questioned, some kids thought Aslan was a giraffe and that the wardrobe led to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Very few had heard of Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Jemima Puddleduck, or Pippi Longstocking.

The study suggested the characters are unknown due to the rise of TV and video games. But interestingly, only half had heard of Harry Potter despite being the star of hit movies! I’d love to know from you avid readers out there if you’ve heard of these characters, and what are some of your own favourites from classic books? I’ve always loved Heidi, and now I have a goat herd of my own I can play at rounding goats up on the hills…

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Al Capone and the seven basic plots

I live on a small farm with my horses and many others pets. I recently bought another horse whose name is Al Capone. He’s a beautiful jet-black boy with a small white star and looks to me more like Black Beauty than Al Capone! But his name really intrigued me. I knew that Al Capone was an infamous American gangster back in 1920s Chicago. I looked him up in the library and found out all these fascinating facts about him and suddenly I had an idea for a historical novel rattling around in my head.

But before I got carried away, I thought I should check first that other stories hadn’t already been written about him. I discovered that quite a few children’s books have indeed been based around him, including one intriguing title called Al Capone Does My Shirts! So I decided not to write this story as it’s already been done.

Then I remembered reading an article once about how all stories can be reduced down to seven basic plots:

1. Rags to Riches

2. The Quest (I thought about my own The Drover’s Quest)

3. Voyage and Return

4. Comedy

5. Tragedy

6. Rebirth

7. Overcoming the Monster (I thought about my own Saving Sam)

What makes stories unique is how the authors tell them. So, even if a hundred books have been written on Al Capone, so long as I approach the idea with a fresh and interesting angle it really doesn’t matter. Think of the books you’ve read lately – can you fit them into the seven basic plots above?

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Our War Horse, Bess

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Have any of you seen the recent film The War Horse, based on Michael Morpurgo’s brilliant novel? I still haven’t worked up the courage to go and see it because I know it will upset me too much. The main reason is that not long ago I researched and wrote the true story of New Zealand’s very own war horse, Bess.

During World War One, New Zealand sent over 10,000 horses to fight in the war. But unlike the war horses in the film, most of our horses were sent to the Middle East to fight in the desert. They took the men into battle and had to face searing heat, thirst, hunger, and weariness but they never failed their masters. Of all the horses that served throughout the entire war in the Middle East, only one came home. Her name was Bess.

 I read many of the diaries and letters of the soldiers, called Mounted Riflemen, who rode, lived, and sometimes died with their horses and it was very moving. They became very attached to their horses because they shared so much. I’ve heard the film is moving too; did any of you see it?

 

 

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Some writing tips

For those of you who love writing, I thought I would share some tips that have helped me on my own writing journey:

* Write about what interests you and then your passion will shine through in your writing.

* Great stories involve the main character facing a problem or obstacle and overcoming it through their own efforts. The main character grows and changes as a result.

* Great stories need great characters. Characters must be both interesting and believable. And remember your main character shouldn’t be perfect: even Batman has his weak spots.

* Use all the five senses when you write; describe scenes or action using sight, hearing, touch, smell, and even taste.

* Use strong and interesting verbs. Instead of “he walked to school” what about “he trudged to school” or “she skipped to school”; they convey more emotion and meaning.

* Show, don’t tell in your stories. For example, if your character is unhappy, don’t tell your reader by writing “Susan was unhappy.” Instead show how Susan is unhappy: for example, “The tears tumbled down her cheeks.”

*Start your stories with a great hook that will make your reader want to continue reading. And end chapters with a cliffhanger or a question not answered so readers want to turn to the next chapter to find out what happens.

* Writing is a craft: the more you practice it the better you’ll get!

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Ideas for stories are all around us

Often when people discover I write stories they want to know where my ideas come from. I tell them that it’s from the things I love and the things I’m interested in. When I wrote The Drover’s Quest, I’d already read many history books about the West Coast gold rush days and I was interested in what life must have been like “back then.” I remember reading about a group of bush bandits called the Burgess gang who murdered gold prospectors, and from there a germ of a story festered in my mind until The Drover’s Quest formed.

 

This has been true for many of my books. An idea will bubble away and slowly grow. I always keep a notebook to jot down these ideas. For example, a haiku (poem) at the site of an old Japanese prisoner of war camp near Featherston in the Wairarapa inspired another book I wrote called Dreams of Warriors. The haiku reads:

 

Behold the summer grass

All that remains of the

Dreams of Warriors

 

Not many people today know that NZ had a POW camp in World War 2 where we imprisoned captured Japanese soldiers. This story is about a special friendship that grows between a Japanese prisoner and a New Zealand girl, born out of their common love of horses. Do any of you have a favourite book with this familiar theme of unusual or unlikely friendships (for example, the pig and spider in Charlotte’s Web)? My favourite of all time is The Snow Goose, by Paul Gallico.

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Boom towns and wild mountain roads

Hi again after some wet and blustery days up here in the North.

I thought some of you might be interested in a few of the fascinating facts I learnt about our history while researching The Drover’s Quest. For example, did you know that during the heady West Coast gold rush days of the 1860s, Hokitika was one of NZ’s biggest towns? It was chock-full of pubs (at one count 84 hotels lined Revell Street), dancing halls, and gambling dens and home to colourful characters like Fenian Jenny who liked to dance in emerald green petticoats, and diggers with funny names like Johnny the Rat and Alex the Greek.

 The road through Arthur’s Pass had only just been completed, linking the goldfields to Christchurch. About a thousand men had hacked out a route through the rock and thick bush, using only pickaxes and shovels. It was a hair-raising journey across that early road. In those days, Cobb and Co was King, with many people travelling by coach across the treacherous Pass to get to the wild West Coast. I read amazing stories of runaway coaches and horses hooning down steep mountainsides, or else crossing raging rivers like the Waimakariri in flood, or the Taramakau, nicknamed the Terrible Cow. Exciting days!

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The Drover’s Quest by Susan Brocker

Our June Star Author, Susan Brocker has just released a fantastic new book called The Drover’s Quest.  It’s filled with Susan’s favourite things, including history and animals, and it’s set in New Zealand in the 1860s.

Rumour is flying around the west coast gold fields that Tom McGee has struck it rich and found a nugget of gold as big as a man’s fist. So no one is surprised when next his campsite is found wrecked and abandoned. Men have been killed for a lot less on the tough goldfields of 1860s New Zealand.

But one person is convinced Tom is not dead. His headstrong daughter, Charlotte.  Solving the mystery is not her first task, though. First, she must get to the coast. A skilful horse rider, she disguises herself as a boy and joins a cattle drive across the Southern Alps. To survive the dangerous drive over Arthur’s Pass and to keep her identity hidden from the vicious trail boss, she’ll need the help of her dog, her horse, and her father’s friend, Tama. She knows she can do it – she has to – but what will she find? And will her new American friend, Joseph, help or hinder her quest?

Charlie is in for the ride of her life – and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

If you love stories set in the past, stories about animals or stories with lots of adventure then The Drover’s Quest is the book for you.  The story starts in Christchurch and the characters travel over Arthur’s Pass to Hokitika on the West Coast.  These are my favourite parts of our beautiful country and I’ve travelled the route they took many times so I could see it clearly in my head.  It’s a route that is very quick and easy to travel today but was very rugged and dangerous in the 1860s.  There is a very tense part in the book where the drovers are taking the cattle down the Otira Gorge (it had me on the edge of my seat).

I really liked the characters, especially Tama and Joseph who bring different cultures into the story, and Scar because I couldn’t figure out whether he was good or bad.  The animals are also important characters in the story and they are incredibly loyal to their masters.

Reserve your copy in the library and stay tuned to find out more about The Drover’s Quest from our June Star Author, Susan Brocker.

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Our own “Wild West” story

Hi everyone! It’s wonderful to be invited along to chat to you all and I’m looking forward to sharing a bit of my writing journey with you. As you can see from the books I’ve written, it’s obvious where much of my inspiration comes from! I’m animal mad, and that includes all animals – dogs, horses, wolves, cats, I love them all, and many of them pop up in my books. I also love learning about our fascinating past so often I try to weave history into my stories as well.

This is certainly true for my latest book, The Drover’s Quest, which is set in the 1860s gold-mining era. It’s the story of a headstrong girl who disguises herself as a boy so she can join a cattle drove across the Southern Alps to find her missing gold-digger father. During this time, many cattle were driven from Christchurch to the West Coast over the newly formed Arthur’s Pass to feed the miners. Charlotte (“Charlie”) has many adventures and mishaps riding her horse and working her dog across the wild mountain pass.

This story was inspired by the horses in my life and the trekking I do for pleasure. I love riding through the bush and having fun rounding up our pet cow, Bubbles, on my horse. And horses feature largely in our pioneering past. They were the main form of transport of course, but they were also used to move vast herds of cattle and sheep across the land. In some ways, our history in the late 1800s was similar to the taming of the “Wild West” of America. Rugged pioneers, bush cowboys, gun-toting outlaws, and desperate diggers feature in our past too. In The Drover’s Quest, many of these colourful characters gallop through the pages. I hope you’ll enjoy their journey.

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Meet our June Star Author Susan Brocker

Our fantastic June Star Author is New Zealand author, Susan Brocker.  Susan has written a wide range of books for children and teenagers.  Some of them are non-fiction about topics like wildlife conservation and natural science.  Her favourite books are stories she’s written about her favourite things, such as horses, dogs and animals of all sorts.  She loves bringing history alive and making it exciting.

We have lots of Susan’s books in the library, including Restless Spirit, Brave Bess and the Anzac Horses, A Wolf in the Wardrobe, and her latest thrilling historical story, The Drover’s Quest.

Thanks for joining us Susan.  We look forward to hearing all about your books and your writing.

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June Star Author Competition

Our fantastic June Star Author, Susan Brocker has been writing some great posts about her stories and giving us some cool writing tips.  One of her books that Susan has been talking about is her latest book, The Drover’s Quest, a historical story set in 1860s New Zealand.  It’s a fantastic book and you can read my review of it here on the blog.

We’re starting our monthly Star Author Competition again this week with your chance to win a copy of The Drover’s Quest by Susan Brocker.  Thanks to HarperCollins NZ we have 3 copies to give away.  All you have to do is leave a comment, with your name and email address, telling us:

What is your favourite animal story?

This competition has now closed.  The winner is Tierney.

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Star Guest – Susan Brocker talks about The Wolf in the Wardrobe

As a writer, I’m often asked where I get the ideas for my stories. The idea for The Wolf in the Wardrobe came from our very special pet dog called Yogi.

My dog Yogi

Now Yogi is a real character. He is a long-haired German shepherd, an impressive looking boy with a shaggy coat and thick mane. Yogi loves playing with kids and near us live four boys who often hang over our fence calling out, where’s the wolf today. Can we play with the wolf? And they’re right; he really does look like a wolf!

So this got me thinking, what if Yogi was really a wolf and not a dog? Imagine the troubles that could bring! So gradually, the idea for a story unfolded of a cheeky boy called Finn who finds an injured wolf who has escaped from a circus. Finn has always wanted a dog of his own, so he decides to smuggle the wolf home and keep her hidden in his wardrobe. But not all goes according to plan. A quirky story of intrigue and adventure unfolds as Finn battles to save Lupa the wolf from the clutches of a creepy clown.

I loved writing this story. It was a lot of fun, especially the bits I wrote about Finn’s wonderful and funny Nana. I also learnt a great deal about wolves and the conservation efforts to save them in the wild. For instance, did you know that wolves now run free in Yellowstone National Park in the United States, and you can visit them there and see them if you’re lucky. I was lucky enough to go there last year just after I finished the book and met lots of amazing wolves. Many of them are rescued wolves like Lupa who now live in sanctuaries where they are safe from poachers and hunters.

I hope you enjoy The Wolf in the Wardrobe as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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The Wolf in the Wardrobe by Susan Brocker

When Finn comes across a car accident, little does he realize that his life is about to change forever.  The huge, injured animal he discovers is no dog – but a wolf, escaped from the circus that he went to with his Dad.  Finn knows that he must save the wolf, Lupa, and prevent her from returning to the circus and the sinister circus clown, Cackles, who torments her.

Finn takes her to the vet and they patch her up, but then he has to figure out how he will pay the vet bill.  Where will he hide her and how will he feed her?  When Finn’s Nana discovers Lupa in the wardrobe, he thinks he’ll be in big trouble, but his Nana thinks Lupa is her old dog Molly and she only wants to keep her safe.  Meanwhile, Cackles the Clown is hot on their trail and will stop at nothing to get Lupa back.  But Cackles doesn’t even like wolves though so why is he so determined to get her?

The Wolf in the Wardrobe is a great story about a boy who will do whatever he can to protect his animal friend.  Finn gives up the things that he loves so that he can earn extra money to help Lupa and learns all that he can about wolves to help take care of her.  Finn’s Nana was my favourite character, because she made me laugh and even though she would forget who Finn was sometimes, she’d help him to care for Lupa.  I also liked the character of Cackles because he was so sinister and creepy.  If you like books about animals or just a story with great characters, you’ll love Wolf in the Wardrobe by Susan Brocker.    Recommended for 9+    8 out of 10

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Dreams of Warriors by Susan Brocker

Cover imageDreams of Warriors is about a girl called Bella whose dad is off fighting in the war and to make matters worse there’s a mad horse who’s got a problem but when help comes Bella needs to be wise.

I love it!  It’s a great book  and I hope you enjoy it.   Ages 10-14.

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