Monday, 27 May 2013


Yes, sometimes life surprises you!
     I should perhaps quickly add that, unlike Burly, I've had a few nice surprises this past week but the stunned expression he's wearing is pretty familiar!
     The first nice surprise was that Emmy, a young Burly & Grum fan, sent me a copy of a picture she'd coloured in which is absolutely gorgeous (see below) - I love the colours she's used. I often give away postcards of Burly & Grum pictures and children love colouring them in. That's one of the beauties of Rob's drawings - children can go wild colouring them in and I'm always suprised at how innovative and imaginative the results are. I'm thinking of doing two things - creating a colouring-in book and also having a gallery on the website of the children's pictures. Watch this space!

     Two more nice surprises were added to the list when I was asked to visit two schools - Our Lady and St George's Catholic Primary School Walthamstowe on Monday, 10 June and St Joseph's Primary School Thame on Monday 3 July. The first school is holding an Eco week starting 10 June so it will be a great opportunity for me to talk about animals and our responsibility in looking after them and their environment (in a fun way of course!). Details have still got to be tweaked but I have to say I'm really looking forward to both visits because I love working with children, they're so enthusiastic about writing and learning!
     Another great suprise was that downloads of all books really picked up on Smashwords (a site I use to post my books). The Birthday Surprise and The Halloween Adventure are FREE to download from Smashwords and you are more than welcome to download them onto your reading device, just click on the links above - Smashwords makes it very easy. So thank you to everyone who has downloaded them and I hope you enjoy the stories :)
    This week has been fairly relaxed week so far, but then it has started off with the luxury of a Bank holiday and I'm feeling very chilled (horizontal as my son would say) but even so I'm confident I'll be able to take lots more surprises so please, bring them on!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Introducing an inspiring young author - Olivia Miller

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Mark Miller, children's author and discovered that his daughter, Olivia, is following in his footsteps - she 
co-authored 'Sons of The King' with him and now has many more plans....

You must be so proud to see your name next to your father’s on the front cover of ‘Sons of the King’. Can you tell me what the story is about?
Olivia: I am proud. It’s about three brothers who have a life changing turn and go their own separate ways for many years until they meet their destiny. There are thieves, sword fights, haunted forests and aliens. 

 ('Sons of the King' is available in paperback or ebook)

That sounds really exciting!! Can you remember how old you were when you first wanted to help your father with his books?
Not really. I think I was between seven and nine because I remember wanting to help illustrate some of his other books a while ago. My third grade teacher liked my writing in class, so my dad asked me to write a story with him.

Can you tell me how you work together?  Do you sit down and do some the writing yourself or do you talk to your father and tell him what you’d like put in the story?
A little of both, but I do most of the editing. I have final say on everything after he writes it.

Do you have any say in the characters?  If so, where do you get your ideas from?
Yes, I named all of the characters and towns. Some of the characters are ones I created for a story I tried to write on my own.

Did you help to design the cover of ‘Sons of the King’?
Partly. We work together.

Olivia and her father working well together!

Do any of your brothers and sisters like to write?  And what do your friends think about the fact you’re  a published author?
Some of them, and at that, not very much. My little brother wrote a story about the video game Minecraft. My older brother started a story, but he is always busy on the computer talking to his friends. My friends think it is pretty cool that I’m an author.

Do you help out with Authors in thePark and get to meet other writers?  It must be lots of fun!
I helped set up tables once and I do meet some of the authors. I get to be in the October show and that will be fun!

What kind of books do you like to read and who are your favourite authors?
I love fantasy books! Besides my father, my favourite author is J.K. Rowling.

I love JK Rowling too!  What is your favourite subject at school? 
Reading. Technically, it is my second favourite subject, but art class was cancelled.

I can't believe art class has been cancelled and I hope it gets reinstated soon :)  You’re obviously very creative – what else are you interested in as well as writing?
Reading and art. I love both a lot.

Have you got any plans to write and publish your own books?  If you have, can you tell me all about it!
I do. I have an idea for a children’s picture book. It was inspired by some tinfoil statues I made.
 Tinfoil Girl by Olivia Miller

Well I'm looking forward to reading the book when you've finished it - a story inspired by tinfoil statues has to be exciting!

Thank you for letting me answer some questions. It made me feel special.

Thank you so much for coming on the Burly & Grum blog Olivia, it has been an absolute pleasure and I know you're going to be a great inspiration to other young writers all over the world!  Keep on writing and keep on drawing :)

You can find out more about Olivia by going to her Goodreads page 
Additional links to find out more about Mark Miller and his work:  or

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The things we do for our kids...

I am so happy I feel like doing a few backflips - woohoo! Yes, I finally have my laptop back!!! My son asked if he could borrow it for a couple of weeks because he needed to write up his end of year university assignments and I said yes, sure son, no problem. I had no idea how difficult it would be for me - I felt like an addict, roaming around the house, waiting for him to have a coffee break so I could sneak in and have a look at  my emails. I've really missed coming home of an evening and sitting down and writing, and my Burly and Grum social networking has all but disappeared! He'd better get good grades after all the agony he's put me through (oh, and a job so he can save up for his own laptop would also be good...) 
     My social networking and writing may have disappeared over the horizon but I've been busy in other ways, I've been editing 'Unlucky Dip' (print version), talking to some lovely teachers who would like me to come along to their schools and work with their students, and I signed up to NetGalley for a month to see if I can build up some reviews for 'Beyond the Forest' - so if you want a free children's book in exchange for a review, just pop along there! 
     It's nearing the end of the day and here I am, a big smug smile on my face feeling as though I'm back on track! Thank goodness for that :)

Saturday, 4 May 2013

An interview with the Empyrical Mr Mark Miller

Today I have a very talented children's author, Mark Miller, as my guest. Mark lives in Florida with his wife Traci and their four children. The books that I've read in his Empyrical Tales fantasy series are extremely well written, have strong, positive characters and to top it all they're very exciting and action packed! He is brimming with energy, ideas and enthusiasm for writing so I was keen to ask him all about his own writing, starting at the very beginning....
What inspired you to begin writing?
I joke that it is genetic. My father refers to himself as an “old newspaper man” and he named me after Mark Twain. I guess it was inevitable. I have been writing, in some form or another, since grade school.

I love the fact that your father named you after Mark Twain! He passed on his love of words to you and now you’ve passed on your love of writing to your children because I believe they’ve helped you with your books. What kind of input do they have and will we be seeing any books from them in the future?
My youngest daughter, Olivia, and I co-wrote Sons of the King. It is a sci-fi/fantasy about faith and destiny. She had a lot of creative input; naming characters and places. Some of the dialogue and writing is entirely hers. We shaped the plot together and nothing went to print without her approval.

Empyrical Tales is a wonderful series of 3 books, can you tell us more about them and why you love writing fantasy so much.
The Empyrical Tales are only just beginning. There will be eight books when the story is complete. I originally wrote it for my children and based the characters on them. It has grown so much since then. The basic idea came from what might happen to the fairytales and myths of my childhood after “happily ever after”. Characters and creatures of myths, folklore and fairytales from all cultures and parts of the world have come to live in Empyrean with my own unique twist. As to why I love fantasy, I grew up on it. Star Wars and Narnia are among my favourite stories. In the United States, and probably the world, the early 1980s had to be one of the best times for the fantasy genre and I was at an impressionable age.

What has been the most exciting part of being a published author? 
I’ve done some special events. Authors in the Park has been about the most fun. Still, the most exciting times are when I get to interact with students. My adult readers are great, but young readers always seem to have a unique point of view. I love being in the classroom and watching kids’ reactions.
I know we’d all love to know a bit more about Authors in the Park and how you became involved in it.

Authors in the Park (AIP) came about as a result of meeting two wonderful authors, Janet Beasley and Jean E. Lane. I had the honour of becoming an executive member of JLB Creatives ( and things exploded from there. We wanted to do something different than a typical library show or one-author signing. AIP is intended to showcase a variety of local and independent authors. Janet, Jean and I present our books at the shows, but we try to take a backseat to the other great authors in attendance. Please like us at to see our upcoming events and find links to participating authors. We have four themed events each year: Spring Into Art, Picnic with an Author, Booktoberfest and the Christmas Spectacular. Each event will have anywhere from ten to thirty authors and they are different each time. You never know who might be there next! The next event will be on July 6th at Gilbert Park in Mount Dora, FL from 11AM to 1PM. One of our local churches will be doing a fund raiser selling hot dogs, so guests will literally have the opportunity to sit down and have a “Picnic with an Author”.

You also combine a lot of charity work in your work and your life in general.  Do your beliefs influence your writing and, if so, how?
Again, it’s about the kids. The charities that I work with are all about helping children. I have four of my own and have been blessed with generally good health. I’m not a millionaire philanthropist, but I try to give back when I can. With the One series (, I donate 100% of my author proceeds and encourage the other authors to do the same. All of them have been great and eager to be a part of it. Yes, my beliefs do influence my writing. I have always tried to have positive role models and good morals on display. It has grown to be a bigger part of my writing in recent years.

What do you do to prepare for a writing session?
Prepare? Are we supposed to do that? I usually write when the mood strikes. Sometimes, it is two in the morning, or a typical Saturday afternoon. I have tried to write on a schedule, but that seldom works out as planned. As close as I come to preparation is the research I put into each project. I do outlining and plotting, but the physical act of writing is very spontaneous.

Does writing get easier with each project?
Yes and no. I try to challenge myself. I get a little more ambitious and learn new things. Some days, it flows and I surprise myself, like an athlete getting “in the zone”. Other days, it is difficult to stay off Facebook.

Is there an author (past or present) that you would really like to meet?
Is there one I wouldn’t want to meet? Every author that I have encountered has a story. I enjoy meeting them and hearing their tales, trying to put myself in their shoes. There are some inspiring authors out there that haven’t quite made it big. I’m pulling for them. Of course, I would like to meet my namesake. I wonder if I could hold my own against his wit? Tolkien would be another. And of course, Stephen King. He came a long way and that journey is inspirational and motivational for an up and coming author.

If you could talk to your former self, what advice would you give him?
Funny. I talk to myself a lot anyway. I would probably say things like “Listen to your wife more. Be patient. Have faith.” I wouldn’t say I have ever felt like giving up on writing, but I have had days when I haven’t felt like writing. It is a slow process to build a body of work and get people to recognize your name. Our society is so much about instant gratification that the publishing process can be slow and frustrating. I find a lot of satisfaction in writing when I am doing it to help others, like Authors in the Park.

Are you currently working on any other projects?
I am always working on something. The Empyrical Tales Book IV, Small World Global Protection Agency #3, Defective Amish Detective short story series. Working with JLB Creatives, this has been one of my busiest years in terms of author events and book signings since being first published. I have to give a huge amount of credit to my wife Traci. She makes most of what I do possible and she is my muse.

What is the last thing you read? Did you like it, hate it?
I have weakness for zombie stories. I read World War Z and the Pride & Prejudice & Zombies prequel. I found them both entertaining. I am also in the midst of both Janet Beasley’s Hidden Earth Series Volume 1: Maycly and Jean E. Lane’s Lill and Mewe and the Secrets of Mars. Both are delightful stories and great for kids – lots of inspiration and education. It is a treat to read an author’s book, then be able to turn to them in the seat next to you and ask a question or give a compliment.

Those books sound great - I'll have to read them, thanks for the tip! Tell us about your latest novel and your plans for the future!
My newest story is called Promise of Tomorrow. It is a serialized novel. Volume 1: Salvation is available now in eBook. My publisher, Helping Hands Press, has been doing this format for about two years. Recently, Amazon added a category for it. Basically, each month, I write a volume of the story until we get about ten volumes, which is roughly the equivalent of a full novel. I can’t say much about it without giving away the big surprise of Volume 2: Discovery. What I can say is that it is my first stand-alone, serious attempt at Amish fiction. It gives me a chance to reach an entirely new audience and affirm my own beliefs at the same time. On the side, I am editing and revising The Empyrical Tales Book IV: The First Queen. I am also assisting my daughter Olivia with a new project and trying out a few other ideas.

Mark - thank you so much for being a guest on the Burly & Grum blog. We all think you're a great inspiration for writers, you're always trying to come up with new ideas and are very encouraging and generous to up and coming authors. We wish you all the best and I'm sure your future in writing will be wonderful!

Thank you so much for the opportunity to appear on your blog. Please visit and give me a like at

You can see my full catalogue on Amazon at