Tag Archives: mumsnet

School daze.

Two minutes into her first day at Big School and my daughter gets a big graze on her knee. Off we go to the medical room for some tender care from a helpful teaching assistant. Of course, only water is used to wash the grit out – it’s been a longstanding policy of schools not to use antiseptic creams. As a former Health and Safety Rep at school, I have never really understood why there’s such a broad brush approach. The usual reason is that some kids react badly to creams. My view is that if they help stop bugs getting into a wound then use them. I’d happily sign a form to that effect.

Many years ago, while still teaching, I was advised/ordered not to use Vaseline ON PAIN OF DEATH … and woe betide any teacher who slapped on a plaster.

Things must have changed a bit as Isla got a plaster – phew – which kept her new white socks clean… and she hobbled off to join her new class. Accidents will happen. And the plaster came off painlessly in the bath later that evening.

A few days later, she was back in the centre again after a passing boy decided to give her a push. She said she was just walking along in the playground when it happened out of the blue. Not sure why bigger kids want to target little ones – it seemed like a spur of the moment thing, not sustained bullying. That said, if a kid pushes lots of different children then there’s probably some issues – and need for tissues. At the end of school, Isla showed off a fresh plaster covering her new graze on a graze. Ouch.

Chatting to other parents, the consensus was that ‘these things happen.’ Children get pushed, mud gets thrown, etc. It is part of playground life and kids have to get used to it. I suppose whether this becomes an issue or not is down to how much time school staff have to be detectives.

I remember it sometimes took ages finding out who had done what during a break time, with valuable lesson time used up in the process. Based on my knowledge of the children I could generally get to the truth. It was then a matter of deciding if the situation was serious enough to tell the parents. Some were desperate to hear about every tiny incident, while other were extremely relaxed.

I suppose, as a Dad, I am somewhere in the middle. I don’t want to go up to the Office every time something happens, but I’d like to be informed about the big stuff. There is a system in place just for that. Texts are sent to parents when head injuries, fractures, etc occur. And stickers are sent home saying that a child has received medical aid that day. All very sensible.

Bad stuff happens in schools and outside of schools. It’s how we respond to it that matters.  That way bullies get dealt with effectively. A recent study suggested that bullies who get away with bullying grow up unaffected by their actions, while victim-turned-bullies have issues.

BBC Bullying Damages Adult Life
Warwick University – Bullying Studies

Obviously those bullied  have problems too, often with self-esteem and confidence which can lead to lack of job promotion and suchlike.

I’m writing this happy in the knowledge that my daughter is in good hands. She knows that the staff are there for her if she has a problem. I just have to pick up the phone. I shall try not to. The last thing my daughter needs is a Dad peering through the window and trying to solve all of life’s ups and downs for her. Far better for me to stand behind the white line and let her get on and deal with stuff her own way. I suppose all this is really about me letting go. Not easy after 4 and a half years.

Isn’t that what life, and school, is all about?

 

Cereal Mash-Ups – a tasty way to start the day

Youngsters today mash up their music, mixing two tracks to make a third.

Well, oldsters like me mash up their cereal. I have done since my student days when I discovered that Alpen tasted better mixed with sugar puffs. These days I push the boundaries and mix porridge oats, mini-shredded wheat and shreddies – shreddies as in extra-fresh out of the box rectangular pieces of malty goodness rather than extra-stale off the floor underpants.

Sometimes I break new territory and add AllBran to the cereal mix. Though I think things tend to go pear-shaped when five cereals are mixed together. Too much wheatiness in one bowl for my liking – a sure fire trigger for IBS – Irritable Bowl/Bowel Syndrome?

Sometimes I really do mash my cereals up (before adding milk) to recreate that bottom of the packet experience. There is nothing better than pouring on a crunchy wave of crushed Weetabix/Shredded Wheat/Bran flakes, etc., then flooding the bowl with milk. I never use skimmed milk – makes the whole thing too unappetising. I try to ensure that one of the cereals I’m using has a certain sweetness to enhance the other cereals. Though there are exceptions such as Rolled oats + Puffed Wheat + All Bran = slightly bitter, crunchy texture.

Other mighty mash ups include:

Rolled Oats, Bran Flakes, Cheerios (for extra sweetness)
Muesli, Cornflakes and Rice Crispies (for extra crunch)
Cheerios, Sugar Puffs and Frosted Flakes (for an extra trip to the dentist!)
Mini Shredded Wheat, Curiously Cinnamon, Rolled Oats (for extra spice)

Now my daughter has cottoned on to the benefits of creative cereal making. Each morning I put out five or so cereal packets and she selects her favourites du jour. This morning starred Rolled Oats, Shreddies and Cheerios. The Cheerios are actually Morrison’s own brand which lowered the goodness a little. Why are the supermarket own brand cereals always full of extra salt and sugar compared to the original brands?

I spend ages comparing the packets to see if an own brand is better. This is made harder when portions are deemed to be 30g or 45g. I have to browse the 100g column and compare from that.

As I said earlier, my preference is to have only one sweet cereal in the mix. I offer a word of warning. Never add a chocolate cereal to any others. The chocolate seeps into the milk and turns everything chocolately – not a nice chocolate taste but a sickly over sweet one – as if I’m licking a bar of cooking chocolate.

Today I noticed we had run out of Bran Flakes, the mini-shredded wheat had gone stale (thanks to our new £2 containers from ASDA that don’t shut properly) and the Honey Hoops are soft. It doesn’t bode well for tomorrow.

Scrambled egg on toast will be on tomorrow’s morning menu. With added beans and mushrooms. All mashed up. Mmmmm.

I wonder what the wee one will make of that?

 

 

 

Arggh. Not another Dad Blog!

My we’re all at it now. Not long ago a few embarrassed Dads were lurking in the corners of Mumsnet or NetMums or whatever Mums-focussed site existed at the time. Everything on the sites was Mum-this and Mum-that, with the occasional nod to Dads.

A few years ago, when I read comments by Mums about Dads they could be broken down into the following categories;

  • Useless Dad – who wouldn’t know one end of a baby from the other, even if it pooed on him.
  • Absent Dad – who wasn’t there for the child and could therefore go to hell in a handcart.
  • Absent Dad – who was there for the child, but only on Tuesdays and Fridays, or whenever ‘the other woman’ let him out.
  • Cool Dad – who could do everything with babies apart from give birth – eliciting pangs of envy from Dads (and Mums).
  • Cocky Dad – who thought he knew everything and ended up handing back a screaming toddler before sloping off to the Pub.
  • Doppleganger Dad – who would act the same as his Dad did – resulting in a child who knows the times tables up to 12 even though everything is in decimal these days.
  • Grumpy Dad – who never seemed to enjoy the time he has with his child, preferring to be on the golf course or watching paint dry.

There were other examples that slipped my mind. Most of the Dad stereotypes centred on Dads being a) useless and b) not as good as Mums.

This was mirrored by adverts on TV where the joke was always on the hapless Dad. I can’t stand those type of adverts – mainly because they are created by all-male advertising agencies who are trying to pander to the female demographic – not realising that women are actually smarter than them – and can see through the product-pushing tosh.

Okay – so why was there such a knocking of Dads on Mum orientated sites?  I suppose the obvious point is that women have been dealt a poor hand over the years. There has been rampant sexism against females who have been repressed at home and work. Even now there is not equal pay in the workplace for qualified women – and I suspect that the ‘glass ceiling’ is still causing quite a few bruised foreheads.

Maybe it was to do with men encroaching into territory where Mums feel they have a natural superiority – borne out of everything that comes with giving birth. Mums know best is often said – probably true, but now Dads were trying to chip in too.

Or maybe it has to do with women being fed up with having to justify themselves, such as always being subjected to glossy magazines – and their depiction of what is ideal in a woman. You know, stick thin twigs with bodies – airbrushed to perfection. Images that men see and wonder why they are not borne out in reality. A woman who has just gone through child birth has enough on without having to worry if her skinny jeans still fit. Which brings me onto Barbie. Arghh!

Tonight my daughter bemoaned the fact she did not have Barbie’s long blonde hair. That hers was ‘rubbishy brown’. I pointed out that Barbie’s hair wasn’t real and felt horrid, whereas hers was soft and a beautiful natural colour.

Barbie. Where do I start?

  1. Barbie has ridiculously small feet that are unbelievably bendy, with a hole in the sole. Ouch.
  2. Barbie’s limbs look like she has been stretched on a mediaeval rack. Her weedy legs are longer than mine!
  3. She has moulded on pants to cover up her dignity. Okay, I get the idea that she has ‘rudey bits’ but such modesty is at odds with her desire to flaunt her boobs. No nipples I note – so breast-feeding is out then, eh Barbie?
  4. Barbie has a freaky wide-eyed stare that implies she is about to go off and boil a few bunnies.
  5. Barbie elicits unreal benchmarks for what is beauty.
  6. Barbie has some words stamped on her back – Ouch again.
  7. Barbie can’t hold things with her hands – she can just karate chop at things.
  8. Barbie’s head swivels 360 degrees which is something I’ve only ever seen in horror films.
  9. Barbie was launched – born – in 1959 which makes her 54. She looks like she has had tons of plastic surgery, but then again, she is plastic.
  10. Barbie is a formidable role model regarding jobs. She has done everything over her five decades. She’s been an Ambassador For World Peace, President, Astronaut, Palaeontologist, Cashier and Cow Girl – the list is endless. Amazing what you can do without any joints.
  11. Barbie is a bully who is distorting my lovely daughter’s idea of what is good in this world. My wee girl is a star!
alan dapre copyright my wee star

My Wee Star – photo (c) alan dapre 2013

Ahem. Moving on.

About two years ago, I started my Dad blog with little fanfare. In fact, I wrote a hurried little post that I hoped no one would notice. No one noticed. Seventy five posts later and I get a small but steady stream of readers. I look at other blogging Dads and envy their ability to stick to task. One writes about the practical sides of being a Dad, another about what it is like to bring up children as a widower, another about life with twins, etc.

I tend to ramble on about the funny things my daughter says, or moan about not getting enough books published. If I have nothing to say then I’ll review a book or come up with tips on Writing for children. I suppose I write what resonates with me. I try to have one eye open for the reader but as I feel that I don’t have an audience as such that I am free to witter on any way my keyboard takes me.

But one thing I am proud of is this. I’m proud to be a Dad – and delighted to show that Dads can be sensitive without being weak, kind without spoiling, nurturing without smothering, educational without dictating, and fun. Without fun then parenting is nothing. Mums and Dads should not seek to differentiate each other – we should play up our similarities – how much we love our children, wish them to grow into happy, well-rounded individuals who care for each other and the world about them.

So this is not another Dad Blog. It is my Dad Blog.

I’m the Daddy.

(And Mummy’s fab too!)

How To Write For Children – Tips by Author Alan Dapre

I’ve had around 50 books traditionally published in a range of genres. Can’t remember the exact number but some have been plays for teenagers and younger children. Other books tied into characters on TV (such as Brum) and were joke, puzzle, activity and story books. More were picture books or adventure fiction for school age kids. If you look at my website you’ll see examples.

Despite writing in a range of formats, I’ve been able to see similarities in my work and my approach to the books. Here are some of my thoughts – a helpful list rather than a definitive ‘if you follow this, you will be published’.

1) Read the genre you are aiming at. Immerse yourself in the relevant books. I used to think that my writing would somehow magically be diluted and weakened by reading the work of other writers. The opposite is true. I was able to pull their words and structures apart, agree (or disagree) with what I read, and get a sense of how the format worked.

I never felt like slavishly copying a certain style – I simply read so much that stuff filtered into my own writing. No man is an island and no writer can honestly say they have not been affected by something they once read.

2) Grow up surrounded by books. This is riffing a bit on my first point. Obviously you can’t go back in time and surround yourself with books but it really does help if you have had a childhood love of reading. Fiction, non-fiction, who cares. Just getting words into you is a positive benefit. Obviously, if you have been starved of this as a child then grab loads of second hand books, trawl libraries and steal from friends (well, ask nicely actually).

Get yourself a real feel for narrative and story, for text and picture layout. It’s never too late. Books gave me a fantasy retreat from some rather dire stuff that was happening to me in Children’s Homes. Books created amazing worlds that I could inhabit for a while. They energised and enthused me and helped me become literate, confident and, er, me.

3) Get empathy with how kids think. Watch and you will learn. The secret here is to listen to the way children talk and think. Resist the urge to step in – any interaction from you will screw the dynamic and truth of what you are seeing.

By hearing children converse you will become aware of the rhythms and patterns that children adopt. It will make your own writing sound more natural. Children tend to say only what they need to say. They may repeat phrases and rework their sentences as they speak – go with their flow. It’ll make you a better writer.

4) Love your work. There is no point writing something and getting all worked up about it before the ink is dry. I tend to write my stories in chunks then go back and edit. This can work but only if I know the plot, the characters and have got myself to a stage where I can write without fear. If I am too uncertain then it shows in my writing which gets edited to death. Best to write a chapter and edit afterwards than write a paragraph and edit that.

Rash editing can simply be masking your lack of preparation or understanding of the story or characters. If you ever think your work is rubbish then it will be. Be constructive and pull out what works. Look for the strengths. Print it off, go for a walk, come back and read it at arm’s length. If you think it is going nowhere then stop and start writing something else. The urge to get back to that piece of work will return.

5) Buy a load of sticky Post-It notes (other makes are, of course, available). When I have a story idea – be it a picture book or prose, I always start by drawing the main story arc. It gets me into the characters – and stops me from fussing too much with the plot.

I draw ACTIONS – nothing else. If a character is not doing something then they should not be in your story. Stories are about DOING. Post-Its can be easily rearranged, drawn over, replaced, etc. They are brilliant. You can do the same using virtual notes on your computer desktop or tablet screen. Trust me, it works.

6) Don’t get scared or defeated. Life for a writer is tough. You are always going to have knock backs. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sent something to a publisher for it to be rejected but then that publisher comes up with a very similar idea not long afterwards. Part of me says it’s coincidence – it’s probably just bad luck. For every rejection send your stuff out to three, no ten, more publishers.

7) Your work is probably as good as the next man/woman. Who is to know why someone gets lucky and is published. It could be that they have written the best kids’ book EVER. Or  they were the best of a bunch and had approached the agent/publisher at the right time. I think the key is to build relationships. Get known as a hardworking, imaginative writer and your reputation will stand you in good stead.

I read rubbish kids books all the time. I roll my eyes and despair how something so awful could make it into bookshops. That’s life. It doesn’t mean your work is bad. Hey, we can’t all be at the right place at the right time.

8) Publishers don’t always know best. I’ve had books rejected by one publisher only for them to be accepted by another. Keep trying.

9) When you get rejections – and you will – channel your writing energy into new projects. Following a rejection, I resolved to take some ownership of some of my ideas and created my Wee Panda Bear Books – Cuddle Muddle, Wiggle Jiggle & Eggy Leggy. Out of despair comes creativity.

eggy leggy, wee bear, alan, dapre, panda

Eggy Leggy – Wee Bear Series

9) Be nice to everyone. A) It’s a nice thing to do and B) You never know who is on the way up. Publishers and Editors and Agents move about, get promoted,  lunch together, etc. Some may talk about you – most will not. But if you stick in their minds as that rude individual who needs a slap then you probably won’t be getting much paid work in the future.

10) Write. No, really. Write as much as you can. Don’t show it to anyone – just write. If you want to get involved in a Writers’ Class then fine. But be aware that your words will be filtered through the minds of others and you’ll probably start rewriting to please other people. Not a good idea when an idea is so raw it’s bleeding out of your ears.

By all means listen to constructive criticism by someone you respect who has just won the Nobel Prize For Literature. Personally, I’d rather just write my own stuff and see what happens. When you write, magic happens. Doors open. People smile and the world is a better place. You can quote me on that.

These are my own thoughts. I hope you find them useful.

Good luck.

 

[If you want to use any of the above blog for non-commercial reasons then feel free to do so – but mention my full name. Link back to my blog please. Anything else? Simply click ‘Comments’ & drop me a line.]

Bad things come in threes.

1) Today I woke up with conjunctivitis. Irritating.

2) Yesterday I was diagnosed with chilblains…to match my arthritis. Thus confirming I am officially an old git.

3) The day before that the hard drive in my Mac computer became an ex-hard drive. To paraphrase Monty Python it has kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible!

So there you have it. Three bad things. Wow, this old saying is really accurate. Er…

4) Last week the washing machine broke down. Springs shattered and smashed the insides. It too has kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain etc.

5) Just after that a lump of hard core rock flew from the back of a highway maintenance lorry and bounced on my car as I was driving in the fast lane. Left a nasty dent in the bonnet and an even nastier dent in the wallet.

6) The car key snapped in the ignition. Needs to be repaired. £170, I kid you not.

7) My wife has a really bad back at the moment.

8) Daughter has a cold.

9) This damn ipad turns the numeral eight into a smily face.

10) Dog now has arthritis too.

11) It snowed so much the builders could not work on our house for three days.

12) A recent storm caused two big leaks…the Nationwide Building Society sent an assessor in high heels who would not climb a ladder to check the roof or even climb up into our loft because of Health and Safety regs. She said to get a roofer out (at our cost) and she would study his report with a trained eye to see if it was wind damage or poor workmanship. Judging from a bit of paper rather than going up and seeing for herself. Bonkers.

13) Oh I can’t be bowhere’d writing anymore because this ipad is correcting everything I say with women kind of devilishly inaccurate autocorrect software that I have to go back ancharacter every two minutes…see what I mean? Unreadable.

Okay then. Bad news indeed comes in threes…or fours, fives, sixes, hundreds, thousands, all eternity… You name it.

Bad news actually, and very obviously, comes from the point you want to start remembering it. I could go on but the bad news is in have to go to the Mother In Law’s house today…and she can’t walk after knee surgery. Bless.

Have a good day, y’all.

UK 2013 Budget stigmatises Stay At Home Dads…

A Budget to help “those who want to work hard and get on” tweets George Osborne. Really?

Okay. I teach my daughter all about fairness. I try to be fair myself. I like to think the Govt will be fair too. I thought the centre-ish LibDems would be too.

Until now. Every time I see the smug, privileged faces of George Osborne and Danny Alexander I want to throw something at the computer.  Osborne tweeted that the March 2013 Budget was for those who wanted to work hard and get on, which Danny reiterated in a recent interview with The Telegraph.

Danny boy says it is economically beneficial for mothers to return to the workplace. Sexist idiot.

And therefore NOT economically beneficial to the household finances if they stay at home. Despite the fact that a stay at home Mum or – heavens forbid – a Dad who brings up their child is benefitting the country. Why? They are more likely to nurture a stable, balanced individual who will bring in lots of lovely cash for MPs to spend on second homes and give to poor bankers.

Now I have never taken a penny in benefits – bar child tax credits – btw WHICH I SPENT ON MY CHILD and her Nursery provision.  But – according to The Telegraph –

‘a traditional British family with a stay-at-home mother that is classed by the OECD as well-paid – earning more than double the average wage – will pay 40.5 per cent of their earnings in tax, compared with an international average of 38.6 per cent.’

This is unfair. Hey, two working adults will be able to have credits despite despite earning up to £99,000. While a couple with one working adult and a stay at home mum/dad don’t get benefits at a £60,000 ceiling. Meaning one couple gets a rather stonking tax break, along with their dual tax allowances. I appreciate that £60000 is a lot. So is £99000. My point is that putting a wedge between parents at home and those at work is divisive and UNFAIR.

Either we all get the same tax break or we don’t.

All the recent changes have done is stigmatise me and others who stay at home and care for our children. People who don’t have kids will say that any credit for parents is unfair, ignoring the point that grown up children pay taxes too.

I don’t have ten kids and claim masses of benefits. I have worked for years and paid into the system. I chose to stay at home and bring my kid up. According to Danny’s logic I obviously have done something very very wrong. I am a naughty lazy daddy who does not want to work hard and get on and therefore must stand in a corner. I am sorry I am depriving the Exchequer of money for it to spend on wars and propping up a banking crisis caused by bankers.

Hey, you would have thought that stay at home Dads caused the triple dip recession by lounging about with the stay at home Mums.

I have paid my way by drinking loss of coffee in Starbucks – well, if Starbucks pay their taxes. I have regularly eaten in Morrisons on their Dads, er, Kids Eat Free deal – I mean, that is classy food at £2.95 a head – and probably much better than the subsidised food they get in the House Of Commons or at State Banquets.

I am guilty of wanting to spend time with my daughter, to build a bond and to guide her as she develops through early childhood. I am guilty of forgetting that having children is a sin and that we should all keep our legs crossed and let the human race die out – or at least the plebs.

If Danny & George and David & Nick want to pick a fight they picked on the wrong person. Sadly they don’t think I exist.  I am a stay at home Dad after all – not a Mum.

Politicians? Have they ever done a day’s work? Oh Balls to the lot of them. Mind you, he’s probably just as bad.

 

‘Eggy Leggy’ – new picture ebook by Alan Dapré

Well, ‘Eggy Leggy’ has finally rolled out.

My pre-school age picture ebook – ‘Eggy Leggy’ – tells the tale of a curious Panda who finds a giant egg outside.  Suddenly Eggy Leggy sprouts legs and runs off.  Wee Bear eggcitedly gives chase. Soon Eggy Leggy surprises Croc then sails over Snail, buzzes by Bee and bounces on Hippo. When Eggy Leggy gets stuck in a tree Wee Bear hatches a plan to set her free.

'Eggy Leggy' is book 3 in my Wee Panda Bear Series

If you have read the previous ebooks – ‘Cuddle Muddle’ and ‘Wiggle Jiggle’ then you will be familiar with Wee Bear and her colourful adventures. ‘Cuddle Muddle’ was all about hugs and bedtime fears. ‘Wiggle Jiggle’ explored birthdays and surprises.  ‘Eggy Leggy’ deals with issues such as making friends or being curious. It ends with Wee Bear helping shy Eggy Leggy come out of her shell.

I’ve illustrated the book to appeal to young readers, and the vibrant colours look great on a tablet computer screen. Anyone with a Kindle Fire will be able to  download a copy easily from Amazon stores. It can be viewed on the Paperwhite and on Mac or PC computers using the Kindle For Mac/Kindle For PC software.

I’m already getting great feedback, indicating these books are perfect for parents who want a quality ebook to share with their young ones. Rolling eggs and Easter are made for each other. Why not have a wee read yourself? 🙂

***

Other books in the Wee Panda Bear Series:

‘Wiggle Jiggle’  – available on Amazon (UK link)

‘Wiggle Jiggle’ – available on Amazon (US link)

Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle  (UK link)

Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle  (US link)

 

To be (free) or not to be (a free ebook) …

on Amazon …

Well, I made my ebook ‘Cuddle Muddle‘ free for two days last week and plugged it on some Freebie sites, Twitter & Facebook, taking advice from some ‘so called’ ebook Gurus. One had a list of 50 freebie sites and I dutifully accessed some of them, putting my details in a few days before my book was due to go free on KDP Select. Some of the sites required a listing on the Free day so I got up early and did that chore too.

Now the fun started and I watched my KDP reports page to see how many people were downloading a free copy. After a slow start my book began to go from 220000 up to 6000 and then to 2000 in the Free Book rankings. By the end of the two days it had peaked at 715. So what were the scores on the doors for my KindleFire colour picture ebook for preschoolers?

600 + downloads.

Now I was pretty pleased with that especially as I made a cack-handed fist of self-promotion on Twitter. So after the two free days were over I attempted some analysis.

I reckoned most of the downloads came from the Freebie sites so I wouldn’t be getting many sales of the companion ebook  ‘Wiggle Jiggle’ from that. Those who buy freebies tend to, er, buy more freebies. It takes a lot to convince readers to part with their dosh when so many good (and bad) ebooks are freely floating around the web. By all accounts about 50000 are released each day … which makes my position of 715 not bad at all.

So how come I did okay? I also reckon some downloaders are only interested in how I managed to create my Fixed Layout ebook and have downloaded it to pick it apart with their software.

So how many downloaders will buy my next book and be interested in any others? That is the real question and I’m erring on the pessimistic side here. That’s probably realistic. I am lucky to have a track record in traditional publishing and that has helped with creating an interest, if not a buzz, but I don’t expect to break any sales records – just yet!

I thought it would be fun to see how many ebooks these gurus are selling. I was surprised to discover that all the ones I had read were selling books ranked lower than 2 million. Yet their sites acted as if they were storming the charts and selling millions. I guess it is wise to always question the advice you get on the web.

In a few weeks time I will probably make another ebook free and see how that goes. When my KDP select time is up in two months I will probably duck out of it and promote my stuff on my site and with sellers other than just Amazon. I don’t like having my eggs all in one basket. No one knows how the ranking/sales algorithms work. I certainly don’t.

What also struck me as my book lodged at number one in the Animals>Bears category in the Free list was the dross that was being bought alongside in the Paid list. Really badly drawn books with dull narratives were coining it in. Most had a low price point so I guess that readers were just having a punt, but a few were priced high and still selling.

I could see that these ones had the same sort of Tags and these Tags were liked, and that must help get the book’s ranking up.

It’s all just a game really, and one that doesn’t pay off for the professional picture book author and illustrator. Personally I like dealing with a traditional publisher who can offer editorial advice and an advance. Such deals are never easy to come by but they are always worth having.

I shall continue creating ebooks while writing my ‘traditional’ books – and it’ll be interesting to see how this ever changing ebook market pans out. If you have any comments feel free to drop me a line by clicking ‘Leave a comment’ below.

 

Creating a Fixed Layout Kindle Children’s Picture eBook – some tips by Alan Dapre

NOTE: The Template under discussion here is no longer available.

This post was first published on Dec 10, 2012.

If you are familiar with my blogs you’ll know that I occasionally write about my experiences in creating ebooks. Recently Amazon published Cuddle Muddle by Alan Dapré , a free flowing epub for the b&w Kindle (update:  if you click the above link and download now the ebook has been reworked for KindleFires & is backward compatible with the b&w kindles).

Now that the KindleFire is here I decided to create a fixed layout ebook of my Wee Panda Bear story ‘Wiggle Jiggle’.

I studied the Kindle Fire guidelines but they seemed quite complicated … so I had no option but to scour the net for a decent template.

I found a company called U-DO-IT which makes templates for children’s books and graphic novels. Better still, there is a template which includes region magnification. This means that when text is double tapped it is enlarged in its own box and therefore stands out. Very useful for children’s picture books.

The KF8 Region Magnification template is well constructed, with advice in grey text throughout, and follows the Amazon guidance for region magnification KindleFire books.

I have made my own flowable epubs using other templates so I was kind of familiar with the folders and structure. That said, this is for a fixed layout template so there are definite differences and it is wise to follow the instructions carefully.

One point to note is that helpful guidance is in the UDOIT DOCUMENTATION folder in the form of the index.html document.

It is good that the advice in the tutorial movies is clear and can be stopped and rewound at anytime, though you will use each movie as and when you need one.

It took a moment or two to understand how to format my images and where to put them etc but the advice is there. I just needed to read it all, not just jump in.

After compiling my ebook (i.e. assembling the images at the right size and resolution, added text, setting the layout and look of the region mag boxes, etc) I dragged the content.opf file to Kindle Previewer where I could check for errors.

For me when I got the odd error it meant that a photo was put in the wrong place or I had not put the correct path to it – my error. It helps to make sure that the info in the style.css matches what you put on xhtml pages. A bit of common sense meant I soon sorted issues out.

The resultant mobi made automatically by the Kindle Previewer is found in the Compiled-content.opf folder.

I then went to the KDP site and added my new book title. I entered the details, wrote a description, added an ISBN in my case, verified my publishing rights, added categories & uploaded a cover. (By the way – the tutorials show how to make a cover the right size – all very helpful). I now easily uploaded my Kindle Previewer mobi.

Amazon works some more magic and flashes up the words ‘Upload and conversion successful’. To preview their converted mobi I downloaded it – ‘Wiggle+Jiggle.mobi” – by clicking ‘download book preview file’. I now had it in my downloads folder and could double click it and have a look at it in Kindle For Mac. It worked perfectly.

Amazon has accepted the story and I  have it for sale online. Just click my ebook’s title – Wiggle Jiggle – to go to Amazon –  where you can download it at a great price. 

The whole process of making an ebook for KindleFire was vastly simplified by using this KF8 region mag template. It works. If you have any questions then it’s easy to fire off a comment and get a helpful, slightly grumpy sounding, response.

Please note I am not getting paid to blow U-DO-IT’s trumpet regarding the template – I’m just happy it worked well for me, and is a good tool for authors who don’t want to pay hundreds to get a digital book created. Reckon the template creator owes me a pint for all the traffic he gets.

Update May 30th, 2013 – I have now also created my third ebook – ‘Eggy Leggy’. :)

Update June 21st, 2013 –  Sadly, I am unable to offer advice to anyone stuck using the current updated U-DO-IT template. I have not used it so cannot vouch for its usefulness. The template I used did work for me but involved a lot of head scratching before I got it. The software maker has provided detailed info but it takes some getting used to. Best to read his comments section and then write your own.

I am getting lots of hits on this article. Please buy and download my ebooks -feel free to  take them apart to see how well they are made.

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Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle  (UK link)

Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle  (US link)

Cuddle Muddle Author Alan Dapre

Cuddle Muddle Book 1

‘Wiggle Jiggle’ –  available on kindle (UK link)

‘Wiggle Jiggle’ – available on kindle  (US link)

Wiggle Jiggle Author Alan Dapre

Wiggle Jiggle Book 2

‘Eggy Leggy’ –  available on kindle (UK link)

‘Eggy Leggy’
 – available on kindle  (US link)
Eggy Leggy - picture book by Alan Dapre

Eggy Leggy – picture book by Alan Dapre

 

‘Wiggle Jiggle’ – new picture book by Alan Dapré (for Fixed Layout Kindle Fire/HD/Paperwhite)

In a few days ‘Wiggle Jiggle’ will be up on the Amazon Kindle Store. ‘Wiggle Jiggle’ is the follow up to ‘Cuddle Muddle’, and the second ebook in my Wee Panda Bear Series.

I decided to make this one a fixed layout book for the Kindle Fire (standard and HD) and Paperwhite. It should work on the older black and white e-ink Kindles as Amazon makes the mobi files backward compatible.

‘Wiggle Jiggle’ will initially be available from Amazon Stores. At some point I will make an epub version for other platforms. I will also make a fixed layout iBook version for people with iPads and Apple macs.

‘Wiggle Jiggle’ is the story of a Wee Panda Bear who discovers her coat is too tight. Why? She has grown an inch in the night. It’s her birthday but no one comes to visit, so she sets off to find her missing friends. None of them are in and she trudges back, full of gloom, to her room … where she gets a brilliant Birthday surprise.

This story sits well with its sister book ‘Cuddle Muddle.’ Both feature an adventurous Panda Bear who gets into all sorts of muddles. Of course, the stories always end with a heartwarming cuddle.

My Wee Panda Bear Series echoes the way that young children interact with the world, through chance discoveries and bold investigations. Whenever there is dramatic tension in the stories I introduce humour and warmth, not to mention friendly characters and big HUGS.

So I am hopeful that I can soon get this book out to its rightful audience, such as preschool children and anyone who loves a well written, thoughtful and cuddly tale.

Here’s a sneak preview of the cover.

Wiggle Jiggle - by Alan Dapré

Wiggle Jiggle - by Alan Dapré (available for KindleFire/Paperwhite and e-ink kindles)

Wiggle Jiggle!

 

Sky fall does not rhyme with Crumbles.

Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
Face it all together
At skyfall
At skyfall

Nice try Adele, but to my ears Sky fall does not rhyme with Crumbles. The dessert you need is Trifle.

I’m just playing with words. I suppose some may say it’s a forced (or oblique) rhyme with an imperfect match in sound & that Adele is playing with cadences and intonation. 

Fair enough, I had to Google the lyrics as I couldn’t remember them myself.

I have a habit of misremembering the words in songs:

Bon Jovi – thought you sang … ”It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not.”
Actual Lyric: ”It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.”

Billy Ocean – thought you sang … “When you go and get stuffed.”
Actual Lyric: “When The Going Gets Tough.”

Oasis – thought you sang … “You’re gonna be the one at Sainsbury’s.”
Actual Lyric: “You’re gonna be the one that saves me.”

I’m sure there are many more. Adele sounds like she was ‘Chasing Penguins’ not ‘Chasing Pavements.’ And don’t get me started on Queen and Bohemian Rhapsody.

Queen – “Spare him his life from his warm sausages.”
Actual Lyric: “Spare him his life from his monstrosity.”

Maybe I should listen more or turn the volume up? To be honest I tend to focus on the music and let the words wash over me. I listen to a lot of music when writing and I prefer the songs with few lyrics otherwise I find myself humming them and getting distracted.

Yesterday I organised the tracks on my computer and synched them to my iPad so I now have 20000 odd songs to choose from. That’s a lot of lyrics to remember so maybe I shouldn’t feel too bad when I get the words wrong.

By the way, a misinterpreted phrase that’s given a new meaning is called a Mondegreen. This word was created by Sylvia Wright in her essay called ‘The Death Of Lady Mondegreen.’ Not many people know that. Er, nor did I …

thanks Wikipedia*.

 

*Take with a pinch of salt

 

 

Lost your Blogging Mojo?

Well, it’s been a while since I last blogged.

The reason is that I lost my blogging mojo. It happened after I’d spent countless hours in front of the computer trying to boost my profile on the web – joining sites for Authors, asking for reviews, sending out PR mail shots, updating my website etc … but for what?

Sure, I got  a few more hits.  But I missed spending precious ‘daddy’ time with my wee daughter. I began to wonder if I had virtually run myself ragged online for virtually nothing. You see, Google’s algorithms are deliberately mysterious and vague and after so much effort I saw precious little change in my page rank, visitor numbers etc. And precious little of my girl in the evenings … though to be honest she is usually all over Mum when she gets home.

As a writer it is important to write the stuff that really matters but I was finding myself writing publicity articles and reviews. Stuff that might improve my rating online but will do nothing for getting my work out to a publisher. The rise of the net has left writers with immense opportunities but immense challenges too. Time is limited and we have to use it wisely. So – I ducked out of the net and wrote two stories and now I am pleased to say they will be published next year by Pearson. Always great to get another book out and these stories will be a fun read for Primary Age kids.

My next mission is to get ‘Wiggle Jiggle’ out as a picture story eBook for Kindle and Mac – it’s the follow-up to ‘Cuddle Muddle’, starring Wee Panda Bear. I aim to make it suitable for Kindle Fire as well as the iPad, Nook etc. More steep learning curves to climb. And more time away from actual writing and illustrating. The act of getting a book self-published online involves image resizing, html coding, knowledge of software such as Sigil, Photoshop, KindleGen and iBooks Author … the list goes on.

Meanwhile I am still hoping that a fantastic picture book story I have written for youngsters will get commissioned. A very well known illustrator is keen on doing the drawings but I need a publisher.  A bold, funny, energetic publisher willing to publish my bold, funny, energetic prose.

At the moment,  many traditional publishers  are just using the big names, and tried and tested formulas. There is fear in the air and money is tight. They stick to their lists, not willing to risk anything – which is why so many of their previously published books are being digitally scanned and flogged on eReaders,  just to make a quick buck. The online book market is saturated with these books and ‘amateur scribblings’.

Professional children’s authors who are not Julia Donaldson or J.K. Rowling are caught in the middle. We want to write books that get read in print … or on eReaders … by loads of children. But to do that we really need to be noticed. Getting our books seen and bought on the likes of Amazon is hard. There is so much competition needed. So much Time needed. So much luck needed.

Which is why I walked away for a bit and spent time with my family and wrote the stories I wanted to write.

And why I will still keep writing this blog – when it feels right. Oh, and probably when I have a new eBook to plug. 😉

 

 

Daily Mirror Daily Mirror? Alan Dapre in the news

A few weeks ago, a photographer came round to my house to take a publicity photo on behalf of the Daily Mirror. The UK newspaper features a business Q & A page called Biz Bureau and its editor wanted a photo of me … looking windswept and interesting.

This all came about because a few months ago I sent off a question about ebook publishing. The photographer took quite a few pictures though he seems to have left the better ones in his camera 😉

Here’s the link to the Daily Mirror article which featured my question & ugly mug. It was actually published on Wednesday 25th July and I missed it … despite being dragged past a stack of unsold Daily Mirrors in Morrisons’ supermarket by my daughter … towards her favourite Tractor Ride.

The Biz Bureau editor Tricia Phillips answered my question about how best to publish/publicise my ebook. Her advice was to use Kindle Direct Publishing –  good advice for anyone who has not tried self-publishing on Amazon before.

Actually I have already used KDP before. It was an easy process and worth doing as Amazon is the biggest online ebook seller. So I did not learn anything new but – hey – being in the Daily Mirror is a great bit of publicity for my preschool picture ebook Cuddle Muddle …

Cuddle Muddle by Alan Dapre, as featured in Daily Mirror 26 July 2012

… and I don’t mind ending up as yesterday’s fish & chip wrapper.

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If you wish to view or download Cuddle Muddle, please click one of the links below
Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle now (UK link)
Cuddle Muddle‘ – interactive iPad version with movies  (UK Link)
‘Cuddle Muddle’ – (US Kindle link)

 

From Pigs to Pirates – blog by Alan Dapré

Bye bye Peppa Pig. Hello Jake and The Neverland Pirates. There you have it – my daughter dropped a coin into a well near our house and made a wish. ‘I wish that I was Jake.’

If we had known of this fervent new found devotion to Disney’s animated hero we might have bought her that Jake costume from the Disney store last month. Even though it looked like overpriced tat. She had to make do with a second hand Snow White dress (not worn as yet though).

I really like the writing on Peppa Pig; it is witty, part-tailored for adults and well animated. The stories are rich and varied with a pleasing simplicity. The only thing I didn’t like was Peppa’s serial bossiness which verged on rudeness. Her merciless teasing of George did not show her in a good light but probably reflects sibling rivalry.

The trouble is that children do copy what they see and for ages my girl has refused to eat cucumber, lettuce and tomato thanks to an episode where George goes ‘bleurggh!’ to the said veg. Even though he eats them in the end that part has missed my daughter by. A full year later and she is now nibbling on pieces of lettuce … pieces only visible through an electron microscope … it’s a start though.

I shall miss Daddy Pig who is always being the fall guy and blamed for many mishaps. I shall not miss Mummy Pig’s ineffable smugness. In nearly all of the episodes she is always annoyingly right. Arrgh. I cheered when she finally got covered in a heap of fallen leaves. Daddy Pig snores, burps and scoffs his way through most stories which is probably a bit too close to home.

As for Jake, well he has that irritating brightness and shoutiness that you also get in Dora The Explorer. I like the energy and pace of these US shows but the fake joining in gets my goat. ‘Hooray we did it,’ shouts Fake, er Jake, when he pretends that my daughter has chosen the right path. He’ll look straight into the camera and say, ‘Which path do we take? A B or C ?’ and stand there for a bit and then say, ‘You did it. You chose C!’  – when in reality my daughter is off somewhere riding the dog and I am tidying up for the tenth time that morning. ‘No I didn’t,’ I growl at the TV. ‘I just picked up a soggy biscuit.’

Peppa Pig at least doesn’t pretend she has a relationship with the tv viewer. She simply gets on with her irritating bossiness and it’s up to us whether we want to watch. Unlike Mickey Mouse who hogs the screen like a tin pot dictator  – ruling all he sees with an unfailing smugness and ego. Mickey is never wrong, unlike poor Donald who has been the victim of Mickey’s cockiness for the past sixty years. Mickey has all the attributes of a sociopath, content to have Minnie, Daisy and Goofy running about at his beck and call. When he expresses sincerity it comes across as scripted and unfelt.

Hang on. These are just tv characters that exist in a 2D world for children to enjoy. They are not created wholly for adults, more for the child within. Thank goodness that children move onto other shows, leaving familiar characters behind. I am not sure I could last another second of Little Einsteins with their convoluted, unfunny, excruciatingly awful plots and tedious animation. There. I have said it. At last I can get the frustration out. There must be a solution to all this that will stop me getting so stressed.

The Off switch? Of course …

Now where did my daughter hide the remote? Under the sofa, by the bike or in the flower pot?

In the flower pot!

You did it!

 

10 rubbish ways to get yourself a publishing deal.

 

10 – Posting your manuscript through J.K. Rowling’s front door.  She probably has a bin under the letter box flap. Or a paper-loving dog.  Or an island retreat somewhere else less rainy than Scotland.

9 –   Asking your best mate’s friend’s aunt’s mother’s cousin’s sister in law to ask her best mate’s friend’s aunt’s mother’s cousin’s sister in law if she would like to publish your book.  She won’t. You’re virtually related.

8 –  Slipping a copy of your manuscript into Richard And Judy’s shopping trolley. It’ll just get eaten.

7 –  Nominating yourself for a Nobel Prize in Literature in the hope it will get you noticed. According to Wikipedia, ‘Each year the Swedish Academy sends out requests for nominations of candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Members of the Academy, members of literature academies and societies, professors of literature and language, former Nobel literature laureates, and the presidents of writers’ organizations are all allowed to nominate a candidate. However, it is not permitted to nominate oneself.’

6 – Be an ex-Royal and write tales about a helicopter.  Too late. Been done.

5 – Get a good seat at the Olympics and wave your homemade cover at the camera when Usain Bolt goes past. You mean you actually got a good seat at the Olympics… ?

4 – Streak at the World Cup with  your first chapter tattooed on your bottom. Not a bad way to get noticed but it depends on how big your bum is.

3 – Write your book on a pinhead and get it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Already been done.

2 – Invent a really dreadful personal illness/childhood and write some dreadful Misery Lit that will get Grannies crying dreadfully. Actually that’s not a bad idea.

1 – Write an engaging, funny, sunny children’s e-book and put it on Amazon and try to get it noticed by the general public above the heaps of cleverly marketed soulless dross. Not gonna work unless you are J.K. Rowling (see 10)

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If you wish to have a peek at or download Cuddle Muddle, an engaging, funny, sunny children’s e-book, please  click one of the links below
Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle now (UK link)
Cuddle Muddle‘ – interactive iPad version with movies  (UK Link)