Special Guest Post by Martha Begley Schade, Author of Galway Fairytales: The Merlin Woods Series

Available  from Amazon UK 

This children’s fairytale book aims to motivate young readers to strengthen their social skills. It is best suited for children age 9 to 12 years old. With charming and educational celtic stories about relatable animal characters living in the Merlin Woods in Galway on the West Coast of Ireland, the characters all find their way through difficult topics that children have to face.

Can’t life be simply wonderful!  

After several hard, soul-destroying years, I stumbled across a whole new aspect in life that I would never have dreamed about. It turned my life around and I would love to share this story with you: How I became a published author at 57 years of age! Who knows where this will lead to for you?
I guess now, looking back, it was a natural development. The seventh child in a family of ten in rural Ireland, we occupied each other. We were a gang. Conversations at the dinner table could be loud and intimidating for any visitors. If you ever got “airtime”, your story had to be quick, concise and very entertaining or mob-attention quickly moved onto another.
As the saying goes: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. My father was always noted for entertaining others with his stories. His visitors would spend hours with him in our garden and they loved it. Or after Sunday mass… while we patiently waited to go home, all squashed together into our old Ford Anglia Estate. 
My mother was a very quiet, extremely patient woman and she loved my father. But stories, we quickly learned, was a way to get to communicate, entertain, exchange ideas, make friends, form bonds or check out common understandings. And so it was, that storytelling was obviously going to an important parenting skill when I became a mother myself.
How did it all start? 
Well, … with a bet. My younger son, then 16, wants to be a writer. He felt that he needed a new laptop to write. When I asked him whatever happened to a pen and paper, he simply said I had no idea what it entailed to be a writer. Like a red rag to a bull, I took on the challenge and we made a bet that I wouldn’t have a book written in two weeks.
Once again, I leaned back on my formative years, took out any storytelling skills I had, polished them up, sat down and wrote “Flappy. The Pigeon Who Overcame Bullying”. 
Where does an author get their material?
Years ago, this story had been the result of a bad day I was having with the children. It had been raining for quite some time, and being Ireland, that timeline referred to weeks. The boys couldn’t go out and had cabin fever. It was difficult keeping them occupied. So I promised to tell a story but needed their help. I started with one line and then asked them what happened next. The results were amazing. 
Children by their very nature are limitless in their creativity. I suddenly had a pigeon who had really long wings that flapped too loudly. My son, who was being bullied in school at the time, took over. He described how the pigeon felt and how awful it was. In this way, my son was verbalising his own experiences. We listened. We empathised. He felt understood. Imagine my surprise when he then came up with the idea how the pigeon got out of the situation.
I guess that is why the story never left me. Always at the back of my mind, this was the book I was going to write. If it could help my son to develop coping skills or a new perspective, then it may well help others. There is something very fulfilling in thinking your work has a purpose. A mission. 
What did I enjoy most about becoming an author?

It was enlightening. When I started to advertise the book, I began to have the most amazing experiences. Young, old, it didn’t matter. All could recall bullying. All had their story to tell. 
But something bothered me. With all these stories people told me about being bullied when younger, I had to ask myself, who were the bullies? The only conclusion I could come to was that often WE are the bullies and don’t realise the impact we are having on others.
As humans we do categorize and try fit others into our perceptions of life. If they don’t fit, we reject them. The pecking order I think it is called. Many of us want to be top-dog, the kingpin, the dominant one. If the other doesn’t fit our picture of acceptable, it is so easy for us to fall into bullying ways. 
Understanding the mission of my stories

I suddenly realised the importance of the book! Educational. Educational about the impact that bullying has and how it can be any of us. Giving children the story of Flappy has been an eye-opener. Now, I’ve been an engineer, I’ve been a senior manager in the headquarters of a huge multinational company, I’ve trained people all over the world, I’ve developed policies to be adhered to in all corners of the world – but nothing, simply nothing I have ever done before has meant so much to me as this book.
I have travelled to schools, nervous as anything, and enjoyed storytelling sessions with the book, Flappy. There too, the results amazed me. The children got it! They related with the poor bird and understood how they too could be exhibiting bullying behaviour. It isn’t always the other people who carry out bullying, the others who are racist… the children understood that they have the propensity to be these people too.
The world is a small place and we are all human.
However grateful I have been to see how my book has gone to distant places such as Kuwait, Japan, Australia, United Arab Emirates, and more, it was the opportunity to donate books for fundraising towards a group of medical professionals who travel to countries and provide life-changing operations to people who cannot afford them. 
The very idea that because my book exists, someone somewhere will probably be able to walk again just fills me with a sense of doing something so right. The sense of being partially instrumental, albeit only slightly, in humanity helping humanity, was good for the soul.
Exciting times

None of these developments took place overnight or were foreseeable. They just happened at random and always caught me by surprise. One of my favourites was at the book launch of Flappy. In the story I include a Princess and her father, the King of the Claddagh.
The Claddagh is an area of Galway City that is unique and is probably best known because of the Claddagh ring. Galway is known since medieval times as the City of the Tribes and in the Claddagh they still have a tradition of voting one local person to the lifelong position of being their King.
When I held the book launch, my first ever, people came from all corners. But can you imagine the absolute thrill of seeing the real King of the Claddagh come through the entrance, accompanied by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Galway? Believe me, I was speechless for a change. Really chuffed I can now claim to have a Lord Mayor and a King attending my book launch. I’m not sure how many authors can claim that honour.
How did it continue? 
After Flappy, there followed the stories of Billa and Buster, The Golden Key of Wisdom, The Listening Tree and then finally, Emily and Tristan. They deal with issues such as depression, teamwork, kindness, guidance, friendships and more. Each book has a list of discussion points and fun facts about the relatable animal characters in the story.
At a minimum, these books are good readers for children aged 6 – 12 years, but my wish is that the books are used by adults with children as a platform where these topics can be discussed, golden memories created and coping skills developed. 
How would I describe my writing journey? 

I would describe it like a disco ball. You know the one with the thousand little mirrors all reflecting light? Each mirror was an experience that filled me with joy along the journey. Whether it was the fact that I could be a role model to my son who wants to be a writer, breaking down barriers in his mind to the possibilities or whether it was the people I met. All these combined joys helped catapult me out the hard years I had recently put behind me – and that I did through the books, put bad times firmly behind me.
So, when Tony offered me to guest blog on his website, I had to write my story. While the mission of my books is to educate children on social issues they have nowadays, the mission of this article is to encourage absolutely everyone to write. 
Besides being a wonderful experience, there is a story to tell in each and every one of us and there is always someone who needs to read your story, whatever it may be. I want to encourage you to get writing and create your own disco ball. The journey alone is worth it. Believe me.
 Martha Begley Schade
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About the Author

Martha%2BBegley%2BSchade - Special Guest Post by Martha Begley Schade, Author of Galway Fairytales: The Merlin Woods Series

Born in Ireland, Martha Begley Schade, B.Sc., MBA has over 25 years of experience in Quality and Production Management, working globally with a focus on German, Austrian, Swiss and Italian Automobile supplier industries. Further qualifications include: ISO9000 Certification Auditor, EFQM Assessor, Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma, Training and Business coach and more. Martha is a born storyteller, having grown up with the tradition in the family. While running her own online training business called Business Online Learning, she also turned her hand to authoring children’s books. Rising to a challenge she has now completed five individual books and one compilation book “Galway Fairytales”. These are all educational in nature, addressing social topics that affect children nowadays. Find out more on Facebook and Twitter @GalwayFairytale 

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.