Justin Saban Plays Harmonica for Barney The Rock Show Audio Book

As with the other fantastically talented people who have helped me produce graphics and audio book versions of my Gwubbins the Witch stories, I was thrilled to have the input of Justin Saban.

Justin is a very talented all round musician who offered to help when it became apparent that I had written a story about a chicken who played the harmonica, without thinking it through.

When it transpired that Justin had a harmonica it was a godsend, and he generously agreed to come and play it for me so that it could be recorded for the story ‘Barney the Rock Show’.

Justin Saban, all round musician

Justin plays guitar and harmonica, recording for Barney the Rock Show Audio Version

We had a brief meeting where I showed him a simple blues song I had lifted from an album that was lent to me when I was sixteen. I think I had rewritten some of the lyrics as a search on YouTube did not match my version. Thus we worked on a song called ‘Travellin Man’, although it was based on the song ‘Hear me Talking To You’.

I had been shown how to play the blues two days before Justin arrived to help out. So I knew that I could not really handle the guitar part, as, to my surprise, if you haven’t truly mastered bar chords, playing the blues is very painful.

Justin instantly understood my predicament, took over the guitar part, allowed me to sing him the song unimpeded by finger pain, and recorded the guitar part for me.

Justin was able to picture my story and give life to the character called Daphne (the blind lemon chicken) who plays the part of a diva performer on her harmonica – flashing the diamonds in her beak as she plays the blues from her perch on the stage.

It was inspiring to have such a clever musician pay attention to my work and help bring about the audio version of Barney the Rock Show. This project will continue over the winter months of 2015, and I would like to thank Justin for taking the trouble to create excellent material which has kicked us off with a bang!

Justin Saban is the brains behind Latent Lemon Studios, based in Luton, UK where he is a Producer, Recording Engineer and designer of Audio Effects. He likes dogs, beetroot and making music.

https://www.facebook.com/latentlemon/

Writing About Music and Theater

Ella Jo discusses why she has chosen her subject matters.

In this post I explain why I think it is important to write about the theater and a rock show – examining their cultural significance.

There is a real life politician who would ban rock bands. (West Tyrone, Ireland). This is a revelation. At present I am writing a story about a dog who joins a band and plays rock shows. Is that bad? Plenty of people enjoy rock music and plenty of kids like to play air guitar now and again, even if they never bother to learn an instrument. The most base reason is that rock music is pure fun. Having recently watched a BBC docu charting the history of rock music, I think I gained a balanced view on the genre. It has been degraded in recent decades, but it is not dead.

I entertain the notion that most music is credible. It benefits the individual, (making it or just listening) and it benefits society as well. It is therapy, poetry, an outlet for anger and passion and much more. Music nurtures the youth and cradles the adult. It resonates deeply within each individual; your musical taste informs the world about you, and it makes for dancing!

As a music lover it seems natural to write stories about music and performance. In the world of insipid, competitive, shallow, farcical, celebrity culture many young people do not realize there is so much more to it. I am no expert, I just know that music was my crutch, and my inspiration, and it worked like therapy on different levels.

I am excited by music in an historical context. Such an ethereal substance is hard to measure and substantiate and bears controversy – I mean the idea that vocal harmony did not exist until the church invented it seems preposterous to me, yet this is believed by many.

Music and performance is art – an integral part of human culture. So I make no excuses for taking my characters to theaters and rock shows. If I must face bigotry it harks back from a Victorian age when actresses and singers were frowned upon for dressing up and wearing makeup – the connection with ‘working girls’ is obvious. I view it as a class issue. I understand how Puritanical and Victorian values have influenced English society. When these conditions dominate performing arts cannot thrive. Music and drama becomes distorted and smutty. In modern times the arts could thrive, if only the funding would allow.

My function as a writer is to preserve cultural life where music and expression is like cultural glue. It has a history, it binds, it attracts good things/people and bad things/people. It is a metaphor for life! I refuse to be embarrassed by harmless fun. I am perfectly aware of my responsibilities.

I believe that the history of music and folk culture is just as important as any other type of history. Unfortunately this ‘culture glue’ is not celebrated fully by the modern education establishment. School music in the UK tends to be religious – still singing hymns written in the 1800s.
Easter Passion Plays were amongst the earliest expression of drama in England. Ordinary people enacted the crucifixion in the streets. (1110 – The first performance of a miracle play in England given at Dunstable Priory). Before Christianity there must have been pagan rituals where Shamanic ‘acting’ bound people with natural events. Clearly today, we observe how dramatizing a story reinforces the culture, as in the school nativity at Christmas. However nonsensical, the children love to act. In the 11th century the Mummers plays introduced the new concept of doctors and war propaganda with the Saracens. This form of performance could have been discovered from Middle Eastern traditions of story-telling, interwoven in native traditions by the homecoming crusaders.(Hence St George- a Turkish figure makes his first appearance and is so thoroughly absorbed that he now signifies Englishness!)

The English seemed to have a rich, unfettered love of music and country dancing until the 1560s. The church clamped down on what must have been memories of pagan festivals, eventually eradicating them along with freedom of artistic (or any) expression. The Puritans (mainly from the 16th-17th Century) banned dancing and were strict about music, if they had it at all. Life was stuffy, uncomfortable and boring. I view the Puritans as fundamentalists who crushed the human spirit. No festivals, no outward expression of gaiety, they lacked generosity and spied on one another for religious misdemeanors. Superstitious and stupid, their restrictions must have been dreadful.

The theater survived (this was the time of Shakespeare) but many plays from that time have have been lost. Luckily the Puritans couldn’t keep it up for long. The world moved on and eventually the Morris men emerged, although there seems they had no place for women. As the industrial revolution began to destroy the old ways, Music Hall came into its own as singalong and sheet music was popular – it was commonplace to have a piano in the house. Classical music was well established by then, but seemed to be another marker of class as Empire building split the upper from the lower class in a different, but just as exploitative Victorian system.

We still have cinema which over took the music hall and still forms a bridge between modern cultures. Big band music kept peoples spirits up during the 2nd world war, then music went electric!

Pop music I believe is misnamed. It is popular folk music with its roots in American Slaves music. Recording technology captured Rock n Roll, then there was a songwriting explosion from the Beatles in the 1960s to the beginning of rave culture. After that I think pop music has been pulped by corporations and the original art form is lost in a commercial rampage. Popular ‘folk’ music is all at sea as the internet age tries to scramble a new format for true artists to be heard in the 21st century. (The West End/Broadway shows still run but very few ‘hit’ songs seem to emanate from them in recent years).

So for me, those decades from the 60s to the 90s make up an important musical heritage. My personal aim is to champion music in this form – with all of its variations.
Why it is good to be a musician
Creative thought – when composing tunes and musical parts, and writing lyrics.
Joining a band makes a person learn team work.
Playing to a live audience and recording – teaches self discipline, confidence and perfectionism.
When things go wrong – learning how to control ego and narcissism.
My reason for writing about Theater, Music and Rock Shows is to reflect the fact that music flows like a cultural spring, that it stimulates personal growth and is pure fun.

So no apologies to the prospective MP of West Tyrone. It appears that she would throw gay people into prison as well. We should cover her in chocolate and leave her up a mountain until she can laugh at herself. Thankfully she is in the minority. I am free to weave my stories around precious cultural icons that survived the Puritans and the Victorians and that are bound to be re-invented for a future fated to be influenced by technology. Or maybe not. Humans are strange, there are still brilliant buskers and genius musicians who would rather play around a campfire in a field.

We may yet be driven back to the roots of street plays and old fashioned story telling. Whatever happens, my characters will be there, howling, yodeling and rocking out with pure joy – even in West Tyrone.

Gwubbins the Witch Stories For Children by Ella Jo Street

Aside

Ella Jo talks about her series of Children’s Books, A Witch Called Gwubbins.

“My latest project is writing children’s fiction about a witch called Gwubbins. I wanted to write stories that I would have enjoyed reading as a child, and created a character who makes mistakes and embarks upon adventures!

I have enjoyed writing and honing the story-telling skills that even simple children’s tales require. Four stories are now available, and I am presently working on another.

I am delighted to collaborate with illustrator Mary Lou Springstead who has supplied the artwork for the first three e book covers. A gallery has been set up on line for children to send in their pictures relating to the Gwubbins stories.”

Three stories about Gwubbins the Witch

Three stories about Gwubbins The Witch by Ella Jo Street

Click below for the link to Gwubbins The Witch Website!

GWUBBINS THE WITCH WEB SITE IS HERE!

“The Exploding Birthday Cake” is an introduction to the world where Gwubbins lives and the reader meets her closest friends, the Pirate Twins and the Wonky Wizard. An audio version is planned with accompanying music and songsBirthday Cake link

“Gwubbins Winter Adventure” is for older children – of up to about twelve. I envisage this story as a sparkly Christmas movie and plan a part two where the characters have another adventure in a magical underground ice world.
Characters in this story: Gwubbins, The Wonky Wizard, The Pirate Twins, Mittens the Sheep, The Iceman, The Rover Raven Winter Adventure link

Gwubbins has a Winter Adventure

Gwubbins has a Winter Adventure

“Barney the Musical” was really fun to write – the epitome of Gwubbins magic going awry and the comedy effects this has on the musical. The tale of Gwubbins sister, Alidusta, and her celebrity dog Barney, really comes alive in the audio book version and I am planning another story to feature them in the future.
Characters in this story: Gwubbins, The Wonky Wizard, The Pirate Twins, Mittens the Sheep, Alidusta (Gwubbins’ sister), Barney the celebrity dog, Barney The Musical link

“The Zombie Pirate Children” is for older children. The story features Blackbeard the Pirate and was written to explain where the Pirate Twins came from. It is a fast moving plot through time and space – the fiction is magical, but the truth behind the 16th century slave trade is revealed as Gwubbins must save the Pirate Children from that unforgiving world.
This story will make a fantastic adventure film, as it deals with many different levels. There are issues of trust, bravery, cleverness, cruelty, and friendship, as well as magic. Even though they are provided with clues, the characters have to trust in fate to lead them to their destination.

The settings are clearly identified, and easy to relate to, (Shambala – a utopian world where they go to find wisdom, then Liverpool in the year 1717, followed by a sea voyage and a remote island). Journeys between worlds and through time are provided by the Time Turtle and they witness space through the turtles eyes.

The plot involves other strong characters such as the escaped slave called Nebulous, and figures from history such as Sir Isaac Newton. Interspersed with magical creatures and events, the ending is a literary soup of pirate speak and zombie threats.

Children with fair reading ability will enjoy this edgy story and learn some history from it. The shanties and pirate language are based on authentic material. Also, nobody dies.

Characters in this story include: Gwubbins, Wonky Wizard, Pirate Children, Mittens the Sheep, Professor Rowrick, Nebulous the escaped slave and master mariner, Sir Isaac Newton, Blackbeard and his pirate crew. Magical creatures:- The Hairy Hand, The Rover Raven and Ethel the Dragon.  Zombie Pirate Children link

The Zombie Pirate Children

A Gwubbins the Witch Story called The Zombie Pirate Children

FIND THE ZOMBIE PIRATE CHILDREN E-BOOK HERE!

MORE ABOUT GWUBBINS THE WITCH STORIES BY ELLA JO STREET

The Exploding Birthday Cake – This story can be enjoyed by children as young as four and as old as ten.
This is the first story (and the shortest) about Gwubbins the witch, and her long standing friend the Wonky Wizard. The tale is set in Gwubbins house where she is hosting a Birthday Party for her good friends and neighbours, the Pirate Twins.

The story is related by a little mouse who lives under Gwubbins’ stairs and he tells us what it is like in Gwubbins world. This story illustrates Gwubbins personality, how she means well, but sometimes makes magical mistakes.

At the Birthday Party, Gwubbins’ friends notice that the cake she has baked for the Pirate Twin’s birthday is behaving strangely. There is a huge explosion and the aftermath is messy. Gwubbins must do some magic to clean up, then find out why her cake exploded. The Pirate Twins are very forgiving and all is revealed in the end.

Gwubbins makes a Birthday Cake

Gwubbins makes a Birthday Cake

Find the Exploding Birthday Cake HERE!

Gwubbins Winter Adventure should appeal to children between the ages of 8 and 13 years.
All seems safe as Gwubbins sets off into the wintery forest with her sledge to look for firewood with her friends. But when the weather takes an unexpected turn for the worse a snow storm prevents them from finding their way home.

Gwubbins uses her special intuition, and follows her twitchy witch’s nose through the snowing woods until she makes a stunning discovery. Deep in the ice is a cave where the companions take shelter, but this is the domain of a mysterious being. While the friends sleep they are studied by this being who sails into the cave across an underground lake.

The friends are already suspicious as this lake does not reflect peoples noses. But when they wake up a breakfast has been provided, and despite being rather peculiar the friends think this is an act of kindness.

When the mysterious figure appears again from the lake they wonder if the encounter is dangerous. In the depths of the ice all will be revealed.

This story is a fast paced and includes dialogue, allowing the children’s characters to ask questions. Thus the story provides smart explanations interspersed with humour, an entertaining combination for inquisitive children. Find The Winter Adventure Here!

Barney The Musical – for children aged four to eleven
In this humorous story, Gwubbins is invited to see her sister star in a musical with her celebrity dog, Barney. At the theater Gwubbins is seated in the audience with her friends, the Pirate Twins, the Wonky Wizard and Mittens the Sheep.

Gwubbins tries to magically improve the show, with disastrous effects. The singing becomes yodeling, the music becomes jazzy and the dogs all misbehave and forget that they are celebrities for a while. The actors keep dancing, but Barney loses his spots and tries to run away in embarrassment.

Barney The Musical about a celebrity dog who sings at the theatre

Barney The Musical about a celebrity dog who sings at the theater

Find Barney the Musical HERE!

The show becomes a terrible mess, and Gwubbins and the Wonky Wizard need to put things right before the end. The audience is unsure whether it likes the unusual music and peculiar singing – only at the very end will the reader know if the show is a success or a terrible flop.

This story provides an insight into the world of theater, and allows children to grasp the concepts of acting and performing whilst enjoying an entertaining storyline.

The audio book is a delight (1 hour duration).

Find Barney the Musical AUDIO BOOK here
Beware – Barney the Musical contains some growling!

Zombie Pirate Children – For older children – eight to twelve years
Accompanied by the Wonky Wizard, Gwubbins searches for the Pirate Children who are marooned on a remote island.

Gwubbins must learn her destiny and find clues to locate the Pirate Children. She visits a wise Professor in the magical land of Shambala who directs her to planet Earth in the year 1717. The friends arrive in a dangerous world where they meet Nebulous, an escaped slave, who takes them to Liverpool.The Wonky Wizard finds them a boat and they prepare for a sea journey.

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo Street

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo Street

Find the Zombie Pirate Children ebook Here!!!

Once at sea Nebulous discloses the dark truths of slavery in the sixteenth century, and reveals some magic of his own. They encounter a terrifying sea monster but are assisted by magical beings – a strange hand and a special bird.

With the help of these creatures and Nebulous, who is also a master mariner, they find the Pirate Children, but all does not go to plan. There is an out of control dragon on the island and the children’s trust needs to be won over. Then, just as things begin to work out, the pirates appear on the horizon. Blackbeard, the most fearsome pirate of all, is returning to claim the children and his treasure – and he needs to be stopped.

When the pirates land on the island there is much pirate talk and singing of shanties. The Pirate Children bide their time, then give Blackbeard the scariest night of his life. The story reaches a gripping climax as Gwubbins and her friends use all their powers to scare away Blackbeard and set the Pirate Children free, which is no easy task.

The pirates are fearless, but the Wonky Wizard hatches a plan, if they can just pull it off!

This story includes words from original sea shanties and authentic pirate talk. There is a section at the end where the reader can look up the meanings of words spoken by real pirates. Also at the end there is a list of people in this story who really lived – with an explanation of what they did and what happened to them – especially Blackbeard and other pirates that are mentioned in the story.
The illustrations for the first three Gwubbins stories by Mary Lou Springstead are subject to copyright. Please see the Gwubbins website for more information.

The Gwubbins website has a picture gallery enabling children to exhibit their own pictures inspired from the Gwubbins stories.

Zombie Pirate Children – A Gwubbins the Witch story – Now Available!

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo StreetFind this story here

A story with Zombies, Pirates, a witch, a wizard, a dragon and an escaped slave…..

Ella Jo began publishing a children’s series called ‘Gwubbins the Witch’ in 2013. The stories feature a well meaning witch who’s magic sometimes goes wrong. This is most apparent in the story about an exploding birthday cake, and the root cause of the confusion in the story ‘Barney the Musical’. But these endearing characters also embark upon journeys and adventures, as in the entertaining ‘Gwubbins Winter Adventure’ – and again in this latest work, ‘The Zombie Pirate Children’.
This is Ella Jo’s fourth Gwubbins the Witch story, which sees Gwubbins and her friends embark on an epic journey through space and time.

‘Its been a hell of a start to the year’ Ella Jo says, giving this interview from her home in the English Countryside. ‘In 2014 there was a music album to wrap up and the Zombie Pirate Children to finish. It took a lot of effort but both projects have been completed and they were a lot of fun’

Whilst her latest album, Almost Anglo Saxon was released in January 2015, Ella Jo’s latest Gwubbins the Witch story, ‘The Zombie Pirate Children’ was released at the beginning of February 2015.

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo StreetClick here to purchase from Smashwords

‘I spent all of 2014 writing this Gwubbins story to explain how the Pirate Twins came to live in Gwubbins village’. Ella Jo explains. In a nutshell this is the story:

‘The Twins were abandoned on an island with other Pirate Children by Blackbeard in 1717 and they sent a message in a bottle asking for help. Gwubbins gets the message but needed a mechanism to travel through time and space – and it came in the shape of a Cosmic Time Turtle who swims across universes. Gwubbins visited the mysterious land of Shambala to learn her destiny to help her find the Pirate Children. When she reaches Earth she meets an escaped slave who takes her to Liverpool where they encounter Sir Isaac Newton. By helping him formulate one of his famous theories, Gwubbins and her friends acquire a ship to search for the island where the Pirate Children are marooned.

On the sea journey they encounter a Kraken, a hairy hand and a Lucky Licky Lollipop – all helpful in their own way, but for all the magical assistance – when Gwubbins finds the Pirate Children they find it very hard to trust her. A dangerous dragon must be placated, then, as they make ready to leave, the pirates turn up. Blackbeard has returned for his treasure and to steal the children away.

They need to figure out how to frighten Blackbeard away – I wont spoil the end, but there is plenty of Pirate Speak and Zombie threats as the finale of the book unfolds.’

‘The book was written for older children between 9 – 14 years. This is because the story encompasses the true history of 18th century Liverpool and the slave trade. I wanted to weave real, gritty history into the story and allow a wider view on those times. It was a challenge to tackle such a grave period and make it palatable, but this explains why the Pirate Children were in danger – and Blackbeard was a genuine character in that world.

So despite writing about Zombies and Pirates, the book has to be pitched to older children because of the real history that it contains, which I find quite ironic. The characters experience the delight of Shambala one moment and the stink of Liverpool the next, and out at sea, in un-chartered waters, magic creeps in. But this story has been written for kids in the modern world, and the Time Turtle was bound to influence events…’

Ella Jo goes the extra mile at the end of the book to explain the words used by the pirates.
‘I found the words used in pirate slang, and for the genuine sea shanties they would have sung. I also included a list of all the real people who feature in the story, so at the end the reader can see who they were and what they did – from Sir Isaac Newton to Blackbeard the Pirate’

It is a truly gripping yarn – and an audio book will be produced for The Zombie Pirate Children in the near future.

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo StreetThis ebook can be found here