I’m so excited to be going to the Hong Kong Book Fair next week. Come and see us at the Sweet Cherry Publishing stand at 3B-D16, and enjoy a taste of Ancient Greece in South East Asia! I’m looking forward to meeting Greek mythology fans, both big and small, and seeing some gorgeous children dress up as Greek heroes. Be sure to come along to my talk on being a reading hero. I’ll be discussing my inspiration for Hopeless Heroes as well as passing on some tips to help you become the reading hero of your own family!

I’ve been into Greek mythology for as long as I can remember. Everything is just so amazingly bizarre. Where else would you read about a bloke who has a headache, asks to have his skull split open with an axe, and a fully dressed woman pops out? Or a guy who swallows each of his new-born kids whole, until his angry wife gives him a boulder to swallow instead? The surviving baby grows up in secret, before coming back to make his dad vomit up his now adult brothers and sisters. Sweet!

My parents got me into Greek mythology from a very young age.  Greek immigrants, they were keen for their language and culture to carry on in their new home. I’m so glad. My language skills aren’t as good as they should be, but I’ve been able to pass on my love of mythology to my own children. And now – thanks to my wonderful publisher Sweet Cherry – I can spread the love to a wider audience. With my own humorous twists, that is!

Because I’ve always been a book fanatic, I’ve kept several of my childhood mythology books. Some, sadly, were read so often that they didn’t make it. I’m always on the lookout for new old copies, so to speak. Here are some of the ones that managed to survive the ravages of the ages …

The Legend of Ulysses is a retelling of The Odyssey for kids. Reading it now, as an adult, I’m impressed by how skilfully the author handled it. A lot of the original material is totally Adults Only. I wouldn’t mind having a go at something like this myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hand of Apollo is for slightly older kids. It’s set in modern-day Turkey. It’s about a boy who discovers an interest for archaeology, and learns about the tensions between investigating the past and protecting the present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the cover of one of my old Greek school books. Translated, the title reads History: Mythical Years. It’s kind of cool to read about Greek mythology in Greek, with the help of a dictionary, that is. I don’t know who scratched doodles onto the plastic cover. It couldn’t have been me, surely …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the style of the internal illustrations.  These are six of the twelve Olympians. The pictures look like the old vase drawings. Nick Roberts, my illustrator, had a similar idea. All the characters in the books drawn from mythology are depicted in this way, except they’re funny – very clever!

 

 

 

 

 

It thrills me to think that my Hopeless Heroes series will help get a new generation of kids into Greek mythology. Who knows? Maybe one far off day, an author will put up an old picture of Here Comes Hercules and say it inspired them to start writing 😊

Do you have any old Greek mythology books that got you hooked? Let me know in the comments!

It’s always wonderful to hear children’s views on books. It’s not always what you’d expect! I was thrilled to read this mother-and-son review and I love how it’s split between the adult and child perspectives 🙂

Charlotte, Somewhere

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Today I have an exciting blog tour post with TWO books from the fabulous Sweet Cherry publishers. S and I really enjoyed these.

Here Comes Hercules by Stella Tarkson, illustrated by Nick Roberts

His Thoughts:

I liked the way that Tim broke the vase because it wasn’t a very pretty vase. Tim had a great adventure because he broke it. I liked the adventure. And I liked the way that Hera tried to steal the vase back at the end of the book. My favourite thing Hercules did was flipping Leo across the tree because he is an absolute bully to Tim and it is not nice to be a bully so he deserved it. I liked this book and enjoyed it. It was funny. It made me laugh. If I had to give it some stars out of five I would definitely give it one hundred stars.

My Thoughts:

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It’s not often that authors get to enjoy some glamour. Writing is a lot of hard work, and there aren’t many opportunities to kick back and enjoy the fruits of our labours. So I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked on an email from the Greek Festival of Sydney organisers, and saw that it contained invitations to some exciting events. The official launch at a reception venue overlooking Botany Bay, and a (wait for it!) cocktail cruise on Sydney Harbour! I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

The Greek Festival of Sydney is an annual event that’s now entering its 36th year. This is the first time I’ve been involved, and I’m delighted with the warm welcome I’ve received. I’d sent the organisers a tentative email explaining that my Greek-mythology based books were about to be released, and would they be interested in my running an event as part of the festival? Their enthusiasm and encouragement was wonderful. Within days, plans were being made.

The 11-week long cultural program has now begun. My role’s not until late April, so I’ll blog more about what I’m doing as it approaches. For now, I’ll just say that I’m lucky enough to be able to launch my Hopeless Heroes series at the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum. I’ll also be doing an author talk and workshop at St Peters Library. I can’t wait!

Until then, come along to the festival. It’s run by the Greek Orthodox Community of New South Wales, established 120 years ago. The events are spread out all across town. From concerts, to plays, talks, exhibitions, documentaries, food, dances … the list goes on.

It’s about celebrating who we are, who we were, and where we’re going. Greece and the Greek people have changed a lot over the millennia. We’ve spread across the world and adopted new homes. But some things haven’t changed – we still love life, family, friendship and hospitality! Thank you so much to the festival organisers for the stellar treatment. The champagne was excellent.

My wonderful publisher Sweet Cherry Publishing has arranged a blog tour for the release of my new children’s books. Based on Greek mythology, the Hopeless Heroes series is an action-packed adventure full of heart and giggles. Suitable for ages 7 – 10, the books are being released on 22 February this year. Have a look at the gorgeous trailer! I’m in a lather of excitement just thinking about it 🙂

The blog tour has begun, and I’m very fortunate to be hosted by some marvellous bloggers. It’s running up until mid-March. I’m loving reading people’s reactions! Have a browse through some more of their material while you’re at it. There’s no shortage of articles and reviews to keep you enlightened and entertained!

 

 

A book tag has been created to accompany the blog tour. If you’re into Greek mythology, I’d love you to join in! Do please let me know if you do. I’m looking forward to getting to know more about you and what kinds of books you like!

The best thing about writing for children is getting to see through their eyes again. Once you’re an adult, it’s all too easy to forget how astonishing the world used to be. We’ve seen so much that we tend to get jaded. But when you’re a kid, everything is fresh and sharp and startling. I feel so lucky to be able to write for an audience that’s brimming with enthusiasm. I’m particularly delighted that I can write about the things I love. Greek mythology has always been a big thing for me – thanks to my Greek immigrant parents – and now I can share the love with a whole new generation!

In my Hopeless Heroes series, I get to combine some quirky humour with tales that have stood the test of time. I have to twist them, of course, otherwise I’d be adding nothing new. For instance, we all know the traditional stories about Hercules, but how would he behave if he were here today? Would his super-strong (but not so super-smart) strategies work for tackling school bullies and housework? In book 1 Here Comes Hercules I got to play around with this idea and have a giggle at the same time.

The other question that interests me is: how would it be if we were to suddenly find ourselves in mythical times? In the later books, the setting switches between modern-day England and Ancient Greece. What would it feel like to meet Theseus, Jason and Odysseus? Could I do a deal with the giant spider Arachne, or outwit the three Grey Women who share a single eye?

While I’m writing, all the problems of the modern world fade away. Instead of watching the horror stories we call the news, I can cling onto an ancient vase and travel through time. I get to meet some famous heroes … who are maybe not quite so heroic after all. I encounter bizarre monsters, cross ancient landscapes, solve baffling puzzles, and defy the gods themselves. I only hope they don’t hold grudges …

Fortunately, I get to do it all through a 10-year-old boy called Tim Baker, who in a rather unsettling sort of way is me. At least, he would be me if I were 10, which I’m not. Or a boy, which I’m also not. Except for when I’m sitting at my writing desk – and then I can be anything I want to be!


The theme of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Week this year was ‘Escape to Everywhere’. It felt very appropriate for me personally, as I drove to areas unknown to visit a couple of lovely schools. I left the bustle of Sydney’s inner South and found myself driving along country roads lined with trees and cows and sheep. Luckily there was civilisation not too far away!

I visited Al Faisal College’s Minto and Austral campuses, where I received wonderfully warm welcomes. The kids were adorable and very enthusiastic.

I’ll never forget the questions the youngest kids asked me. ‘Do you like writing?’ was the most common. ‘How long have you been writing?’ was another. ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ was the hardest to answer, because I don’t know. They just sort of … appear. But the most astonishing question I got was ‘How old are you?’ Note to self: do not ask them to guess. Answers ranged from 27 (I happily agreed with that one …) to 60 (nearly passed out …) I guess anything over 20 to them is simply ancient!

 

The older children asked more penetrating questions: ‘How do you deal with writer’s block? (I go for a walk), ‘How old were you when you first started writing? (nine) ‘Do you make much money from writing? (hollow laugh).

I had a marvellous day meeting sparkling children and hospitable teachers. Thank you to Five Senses Education and my publisher at Steve Parish books for organising the visits.

 

Like many Greek Australians, I grew up on a steady diet of Greek mythology. Herakles and Theseus were as familiar to me as Cinderella and Snow White. That’s why I’m so excited to add my voice to the stories that have been told and retold over the millennia. Of course, I had to give them my own little twist … well, rather a big twist …

I’m keen on history and have always been fascinated by the idea of time travel. I’m also a lifelong fan of quirky kids’ books like Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland. Why not mash it all together?

First I had to find the right main character. I didn’t want some cool, tough little dude hurtling around in time and space. I wanted an ordinary boy, down on his luck. Someone who never once expected that he carried the seeds of greatness within himself. Enter Tim Baker.

So how could he meet a Greek hero? I decided to borrow from the Arabian Nights – well, they borrowed baklava from us – and use the idea of the genie in a bottle. Except it wouldn’t be a genie, but the hero Hercules. And it wouldn’t be a bottle, but a Greek amphora (which in later books gives Tim the ability to travel to Ancient Greece).

In this first book, Hercules tries to help Tim with his problems – but although he’s super-strong, he’s not exactly super smart. His attempts to recreate some of his twelve labours in the modern world lead to comic chaos. How do you convince a hero you don’t need his help?

Sweet Cherry Publishing has done a great job and I’m delighted they took the series on. I’m also thrilled with the illustrations by Nick Roberts. I went into a lather of excitement when I saw him depict Hercules the way he’s shown on Greek pottery, complete with heroic poses. Here the hero is wrestling a tiger skin rug … as one does …

I hope kids love reading the book as much as I loved writing it 🙂

Available from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Book Depository, The Nile, Waterstones  and probably some more too!

gormless_gods_invite_london_launch_partyAt the London Book Fair! In case you’re not familiar, the Book Fair is a global marketplace for rights negotiations and the sale and distribution of content. My new publisher Sweet Cherry Publishing are exhibiting there, and they’ll be celebrating the upcoming launch of our new junior fiction series Gormless Gods and Hapless Heroes with some yummy Greek snacks. I’ll talk more about the first book Tim Baker and the Ancient Curse in a future blog, but for now I couldn’t resist sharing this information. As you may have guessed, the series is based on Greek mythology 🙂

 

aliensI’m not being flippant or silly. I really have seen a ghost. In fact, the sighting sparked the interest that led to my writing Aliens Ghosts and VanishingsI was intrigued rather than frightened, and wanted to understand it.

The sighting isn’t discussed in the book. It’s nowhere near thrilling or scary enough to warrant a mention! The book looks at major haunts in historic Aussie locations, such as the convict settlement at Port Arthur, the brutal Old Melbourne Gaol and the notorious Sydney Quarantine Station.

No, my sighting happened in a very humble location – my home. Nobody else saw it, so I can’t call on any witnesses to corroborate me. But I know what I saw.

It wasn’t one of those near-waking experiences, where you could feasibly say it was only a dream. It was in the middle of the day and I was wide awake.

My house is large, modern and open-planned. I was walking from one room to another when I happened to glance towards the front door. The security screen door was locked, but the wooden door was open, letting in a light midday breeze. There, standing near the doorstep, was a young man. I saw him very clearly.

He looked to be in his early twenties. He had blond hair with a longish fringe that flopped over his forehead, with a short back and sides. He was wearing a white shirt and high-waisted jeans. His head was tilted quizzically to the side and he had a gentle smile on his face. Nothing malevolent or creepy – just inquisitive.

I stared at him, wondering what he was doing  there. Was he going to approach the house? Did he want to sell something? Was he collecting for charity? But he just stood there, looking. I was about to approach the door to find out what he wanted, when he vanished. Yep. Right before my eyes!

As I mentioned, I was more curious than frightened. Yes, I felt quite shaken, but that was more a case of confronting the unknown. I had no sense that he meant me any harm. Rather it seemed like he was wondering what was doing there. So … was he a previous occupant, wondering what we’d done to his house? I can’t think of any other explanation!

It got me thinking. Assuming ghosts are real (and if they’re not I’m probably going nuts, which is even more scary!) what are they? Are they fading images being played back on something like a psychic screen? Or are they sentient beings, aware of us and what is going on around them? It certainly seemed like he was looking at me. But who knows?

After all that research, I still don’t understand what that figure was. It’s taught me, however, the importance of keeping an open mind. Scepticism is important, but it needs to be balanced. Maybe it’s okay not to have all the answers, as long as we don’t pretend to understand…

Have you seen a ghost? If so, please share your story in the comments!

 

 

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