Archive for the ‘How to Write a Children’s Novel’ Category

Paranormal Delights! The Shadow of the Swarm: Book 2 in The Morrow Secrets Trilogy

July 8th, 2014
The Shadow of the Swarm

The Shadow of the Swarm

5 Stars! Another cracking story from Susan (Amazon)

I loved the first book and couldn’t wait for this one, I was not disappointed. It is just as intriguing, sinister and riveting as it’s predecessor. The characters are excellent. I like the way Tallitha is plucky but can also feel nervous…it’s much more real than a hero who is all gung-ho and brave. The shroves repulse me….can’t imagine why anyone would have them in the same house…I can smell them from the description….yuck! It is well written and holds ones interest all the time.

As with the prequel Susan leaves us with a cliff hanger of an ending…now we have a year to wait for the final book….that is my only criticism!


Caedryl, Lapis & Muprid5 Stars! A brilliant sequel! (Amazon)

…This is the second of Susan McNally’s Morrow Secrets books – the first one came out last year – and it’s just as good as the first one. It’s centred around the same main character and she’s joined not only by lots of the other characters from the first book but by new ones too. They’re all brought brilliantly to life and have more fantastic adventures. I don’t want to give anything anyway but there are some new locations which are unlike anything I’ve encountered before – spooky gothic indeed. Read it!..

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Posted in Creepy, Gothic Fantasy Trilogy, How to Write a Children's Novel, Paranormal, Supernatural | Comments (0)

Gothic Dreams…

September 8th, 2012

Oh I wish I’d had some Gothic dreams, please let me drift off to the land of nod… Last night I couldn’t sleep, plot lines from Book Two going round in my head, characters developing a life of their own, demanding to be in the story… not yet I cried!  Then more eternal questions…How to resolve the conundrums of book one ?

This week I had many good writing days. The words flowed and I became immersed in developing at least three great sub-plots in Book Two but the corollary to that is that I have to write at 1am! Not good for the body clock.. So it goes something like this..I go to bed, try to sleep, toss and turn and these pesky characters flood into my brain… ‘why not have me doing this?’ and ‘what about me?’ ‘ what about letting me back into the story, please, I could creep around Winderling Spires and do this…’! So much so that I have to get up and start writing, bleary eyed and unable to sleep until the wee hours.. Until I can decant my head of all the competing  ideas ( like wasps trapped in a jar buzzing round my brain) and put the errant characters back to bed. They are becoming like small naughty children, refusing to go to sleep until they get what they want!

The Morrow Sisters, Edwina & Sybilla in the Crewel Tower

The Weird Morrow Sisters, Edwina & Sybilla

Those weird Morrow sisters – Sybilla, Edwina, and Agatha have been particularly tiresome in the early hours.

How will they shape the story? Are they a bit witchy? What are their powers?

It’a my own fault. When I started writing, I sought the the wise words of the established writers, their tips about how to develop characters. Their advice was to imagine your characters in any situation, get to know them inside out, even the wicked ones… So of course I did just that and can’t get the blighters out of my head!

Now I’m beginning to understand how writers become obsessed, drive themselves mad… so I either harness the beast or go for a long walk on this beautiful nearly-autumnal day… and put those irritating sisters out of my head… for now. This must be the creative writing process – it has me in its thrall.


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Posted in Creative Writing Process, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, How to Write a Children's Novel, Susan McNally, The Morrow Secrets | Comments (0)

You Tube Video & Radio Broadcast about Writing “The Morrow Secrets”

August 23rd, 2012


You Tube Video & Radio Broadcast about Writing “The Morrow Secrets”

The Old Dark House of Secrets at Winderling Spires


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Posted in Being An Author, Best Children's Fiction, books for 9-14 year olds, Creative Writing Process, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, How to Write a Children's Novel | Comments (0)

Interview with the Author Jo Marshall Creator of “Twig Stories”

August 18th, 2012

Writing Fiction – Interview with Jo Marshall Author of Twig Stories


Jo Marshall

Welcome to the Fantastic Book Blog, Jo….

Jo: Thanks, Susan. I’m delighted to know about your fun mysteries for middle-school readers, The Morrow Secrets, and to be hosted on your blog.  We write for the same age group, and they are great fans, don’t you think?


Susan: They are fantastic and wonderful to write magical stories for!

Jo is an author of Twig Stories.  The first book is Leaf & the Rushing Waters and the second is Leaf & the Sky of Fire.  Her third book is due out this Thanksgiving, and that is Leaf & the Long Ice.  Jo is an indie author with Createspace.


Q1. Have you always wanted to write? Tell us about your beginnings as a writer.

I wrote my first books when I was five years old about Siamese cats.  I cut up little pieces of notebook paper, stapled them together, and drew all the pictures, too. It took me over 50 years to try doing that again.  And I need a lot of very skilled people to help me do it now. But I always had it in the back of my mind to write and publish one day.


Q.2.What has inspired you?

My daughter Ali Jo’s concern about wildlife vanishing in our region inspired me.  She was in 4th grade, just learning about climate change, and worrying about it a great deal.  To help her understand the reality of it, we made up stories about Twigs (stick creatures) fighting events like wildfires, bark beetles, and shrinking glaciers.  We also wanted to find a way to help nonprofits struggling with wildlife protection and forest conservancy.  It’s our pleasure to now share our royalties with organizations involved with those issues and climate change research.


Q3. Tell us about your books, what genre are they? Who makes up your target audience?

Twig Stories are ‘eco-literary’ similar to Beatrix Potter’s in that the characters are fantasy set in a natural world.  Our world is the Pacific Northwest – volcanoes, rainforests, glaciers, and beautiful creatures.  Usually kids from 4th to 7th grade find them fun to read.  Adults like them, too, for the stories and conservation themes focused on a warming world and adaptation to it.


Q4. How did you come up with the plot lines and create the characters?

Oh, most of that is Ali Jo’s adventurous and funny mind at work.  I took her wild ideas, and enlarged upon them.  Of course, I added more drama and mystery, as I’m sure you did with The Morrow Secrets.  I enjoy reading mysteries, and that ‘puzzle-working’ aspect is definitely a huge part of Twig Stories.



Q5. Did you take writing classes before you started? Tell us about your creative journey…

Actually, I was the Legal Assistant to two General Counsels for nonprofits at their national headquarters in Washington, D.C. for many years, so my writing was extremely disciplined.  We fought injustices in the world through litigation, but in a dispassionate way with legal suits.  But every night I sat with my daughter for an hour at bedtime, and read stories – funny ones and classic literature – so there was that influence, for sure.  I also read stories 0ne-on-one with elementary school readers as a literacy tutor for about six years, so I learned what kids hated to read, and also loved to read.


Q6. What advice would you give to someone who wants to write fiction?

Do it.  No, seriously, writers learn by re-writing over and over, and showing others what they wrote to gain better insights on what they are trying to say, and how they can best say it.  Just do it.


Q7. What key lessons have you learned about the creative writing process that you can share with others? (Your Top tips)

Number one is to show your work to others, and don’t have a thin skin about their remarks.  Go back to the drawing board, and start over, if you must.  Second is to write in a routine, but take breaks.  It’s during the breaks that the best ideas pop into your head.  Third is to remind yourself why you are doing it.  It helps when you feel defeated.


Q8. Tell us about the publishing route you have opted for? Did you go with a traditional publisher or did you self-publish?

Several agents and publishers were interested in Twig Stories.  None could guarantee the stories would be in print within 3-4 years, or that I could choose the illustrator.  After a few months of the same responses, I removed the manuscript from consideration, and researched the best indies out there.  I wanted my daughter to actually see the books before she reached high school. Createspace was far above all others I discovered.  They had the best royalties (which I share with nonprofits), and they set up the books for me not only as paperback, but also on Kindle.  And they distribute worldwide.


Q9. What lessons did you learn from this experience that you can share with others? (Your Top Tips)

Use Preditors & Editors (P&E) as your best research tool to find a decent publisher.  Find out if your book is a good fit for what they offer.  For example, I’m a tech moron, so I have to depend on a design team to set up my books – cover and all.  Also, find their limitations.  Can they do color illustrations?  If you narrow down your list, then do two things: buy a few of their books, and email their authors to ask about their experiences.  One last piece of advice is to read every Community Forum (especially Createspace’s) before you decide.  The best advice if given by other indies.


Q10. If you could change one thing to help indie-writers what would it be?

Be prepared for the fact that many stores will not pick up indies yet.  So I’d change the mind-set of ‘book-buyers’ for these stores, and their market.  I’d like them to set up a screening process to consider indies.  Createspace offers distribution worldwide through the big distributors, Ingrams and Baker & Taylor, but whether or not the book buyers will look at an indie book is another matter altogether.


Susan: Thank you so much for being a great contributor Jo and every success with your books.


You can find Jo’s books here…….


Twig Stories website:     

Jo Marshall email:            

Facebook Author page:

Facebook Book/Fan page:

Amazon Author page:    

Goodreads Author page:




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Posted in Being An Author, Best Children's Fiction, books for 9-14 year olds, Creative Writing Process, How to Write a Children's Novel, Teen Fiction | Comments (0)

How To Write A Children’s Novel

August 7th, 2012

Listen to my radio interview with Viv Oyolu on the Dream Corner Radio Show about

the creative process of writing the fantasy children’s story, The Morrow Secrets.

The rambling house of Winderling Spires

The interview includes ideas and tips on how to write children’s fiction, the new e-book phenomenon,

the ups and downs of self-publishing and how to develop your approach to characterisation.

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Posted in Being An Author, Best Children's Fiction, Gothic Fiction, How to Write a Children's Novel, New Children's Adventure Story, Self Publishing Tips, The Morrow Secrets | Comments (0)

How to Create Great Characters in Your Book

August 7th, 2012

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. You have to write the book you want to read otherwise it won’t be fun and will feel like very hard work. So choose the subject you’re really interested in, that grabs you each morning and makes you want to get at that computer and begin typing. For me it was writing an exciting children’s fantasy adventure story, with strong female characters and a wealth of strange creatures. I had to create my own mythical world where some very odd things happen. A beguiling mystery with secrets to be unearthed. It’s only when you find your genre, the one you want to inhabit and have to inhabit that your characters come alive.

The Morrow Sisters, Edwina & Sybilla experimenting with their perfumes.
The Weird Morrow Sisters, Edwina & Sybilla

These characters begin to inhabit your mind… You can imagine them and their reactions in many different circumstances and how they will react. I know what Marlin, the sly old shrove will do in any situation and I know how Ruker the brave Skink will react.

I believe once you really know these characters, the dialogue flows easily between them. That’s not to say that you don’t need to re-read your scenes time after time, because you do. I can always improve a passage by re-reading it, often speaking aloud and listening to how the dialogue sounds. Is it natural? Is it too verbose? If it is then cut it.
Character continuity is very important. If Neeps (one of the Skinks) has blond hair when he is first introduced into the story… he can’t have brown hair later on ( unless he’s dyed it!) Keep cards with all your characters idiosyncracies, then you don’t have to keep going back to find them in your book. The colour of their eyes, the way they walk and their mannerisms are all recorded on your index cards. ( XYBS5SCSVMWU)

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Top 10 Children’s Books of all time

August 5th, 2012

Winderling Spires

I spoke to a number of 10 to 14 year olds about their favourite books of all time and this is what they came up with ( in no particular order):   Then you can tell me which books you have loved the most! Just blog me here…

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe by CS Lewis

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner

Charlotte’s Web by EB White

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

The Hobbit JRR Tolkein

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

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Posted in Being An Author, Best Children's Fiction, Creative Writing Process, Gothic Fiction, How to Write a Children's Novel, New Children's Adventure Story, Research, The Morrow Secrets | Comments (0)

Radio Interview with Susan McNally Author of The Morrow Secrets

August 5th, 2012

This is the link to the radio interview where I talk about the writing process, the ups and downs

of self-publishing and how to sustain creativity.

Winderling Spires

 If you know someone who is interested in writing fiction please share the link with them.

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Posted in Being An Author, Best Children's Fiction, books for 9-14 year olds, Creative Writing Process, Gothic Fiction, How to Write a Children's Novel, Improving your SEO, New Children's Adventure Story, Self Publishing Tips, The Morrow Secrets | Comments (0)

How to Write Fiction: Radio Interview with Susan McNally author of The Morrow Secrets

August 5th, 2012
Winderling Spires
Listen to this radio interview about how I began writing fiction, my top tips on sustaining
the creative writing process and the ups and downs of self-publishing.
Tell me what you think!
Please share with anyone you know who is interested in becoming a writer.

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Posted in Being An Author, How to Write a Children's Novel, Self Publishing, Self Publishing Tips, The Morrow Secrets | Comments (0)

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction!

August 1st, 2012

I had a gap between finishing The Morrow Secrets and starting the second book in my trilogy… about a week! Then I got caught up in my website, how to do a blog, self -publishing and all the other things you have to do by yourself to be an indie-writer! I didn’t know there was so much stuff to do apart from write my books. Now of course I know differently and try to divide my time between actually writing book two in the series and publicising book one… and that’s hard.

So now book two is underway, which tips would I like to remind myself of? Here are some of my favourite ones.

* Sometimes you have to kill off your favourite children… that means at times you may have to write a character out of the story because he/she doesn’t work anymore.

* Don’t give up writing, even when you’ve had a bad day just keep going and it will come right… write more, not less!

* Read books all the time in your genre and outside of it. Observe what writers do – how they write dialogue; build tension and create great characters that leap off the page

* Good dialogue flows from knowing your characters inside out, how they will react in any situation. You don’t really know them until they begin to inhabit your head space !

* Continuity is key. You don’t have to remember every one of your character’s idiosyncracies … keep note cards on each character, different themes, any activity that is repeated ( for me it was Tallitha’s trances) and key events that you refer to in the plot.

* This is a good one. Take no notice of the criticism people you don’t respect. But take notice of the criticism from people you do respect. Have a thick skin, you’ll need it.

* Defend your work. You know best how it was meant to be. It’s your story, your characters, just love them! That’s why self publishing is so good – no one can tell you to change a character’s name.

* Most importantly – write the book you want to read. If you don’t love the story, no one else will.

* Writing is never a quick win. It takes a lot of time and patience. If patience doesn’t come easily …try and acquire some.

* Characters will grow and evolve as you write the book.. be prepared to change them!

Most of all, enjoy yourself! When the writing really flows being an author is the best ever.. it transports you to a magical world all of your own creation. Treasure it…


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Posted in Being An Author, books for 9-14 year olds, Fantasy Trilogy, How to Write a Children's Novel, Magical Adventure, Self Publishing Tips, Writing | Comments (0)